Kale, Summer Squash, Corn and Red Peppers

18 Aug

DSC00045More summer in a pan. This succotash can be tweaked in so many ways, using whatever you have ready to pick from the garden, from the farmers market, or your CSA box. I like to serve it with roasted chicken, and for an even more effortless summer meal, why not just pick up one from the market? Or serve it up as a one dish Meatless Monday Main, adding edamame or lima beans to pump up the protein.

Summer Succotash

Serves 6

Ingredients:

olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup diced bell pepper

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 cups summer squash, such as yellow crookneck, zucchini, or pattypan

1 bunch of kale, washed and dried, ribs removed, chopped

1 cup of fresh corn kernels

1 cup frozen edamame or Lima beans (optional)

1/2 cup good quality chicken stock or broth

Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

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In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering over medium high heat. Add the onions and peppers to the pan, stirring, until the vegetables soften, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, thyme leaves and summer squash, stirring to incorporate, and cook until the squash starts to soften and the vegetables brown. Add the kale, corn and edamame or Lima beans, if desired, and stir together. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the kale wilts slightly, about 1 minute. Add the stock or broth, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until slightly reduced and vegetables are tender but crisp, about 3 minutes. Stir in the basil, season with additional salt and pepper if desired and serve.

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Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

4 Aug

DSC00443Ahh, summer parties. White tents, breezy dresses, a lemon drop or rose in a frosted glass. Tapas, simple to nibble on, just one or two perfect bites. What sings summer? Garden fresh tomatoes and basil.

Tomato & Basil Mini Tarts with Mozzarella and Pinenuts

Makes about 24 miniature tarts

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Ingredients:

1 portion of prepared pie dough

4 ounces of mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes

1 pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in half

6 basil leaves, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons toasted pinenuts

Olive oil, salt & pepper

Instructions: Heat an oven to 350 degrees. Coat two mini muffin pans with olive oil or vegetable spray. Roll the prepared pie dough into a flat round, about 9-inches in diameter. Using a 2-3 inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into 24 small disks, re-rolling the pie dough if necessary to cut more rounds. Place the dough rounds in each cup of the mini muffin pan. They don’t need to be perfect:

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In each pastry cup place a few cubes of mozzarella and two or three cherry tomato halves. Mix together the basil, garlic and pinenuts with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, then put a portion of the mixture on each tomato tart.

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Drizzle each tart with a bit more olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until the pastry dough is browned and the tomatoes are soft and bubbly. Serve immediately, or at room temperature.

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Broccoli, Peppers, Summer Squash

3 Jul

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I was impressed with a friend’s choice for a “cleanse.” She wanted to get back on track with better eating choices, and started a program that, when it came down to the details, was just sensible eating: lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and no dairy. She asked for help with weekly food prep, so we whipped up a big batch of Turkey Chile with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans that sings with bright notes of cilantro and brims with good fiber. Then we made a veggie-centric tomato sauce to serve over quinoa and brown rice fusilli. Last, we put together one of my favorite grain and vegetable dishes that can utilize whatever is in season and transform into a whole meal with the addition of grilled chicken or a humble can of white organic beans. It’s a getting-back-to-basics formula: whole food=whole body=healthy happy lifestyle.

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Whole Grain Blend with Summer Vegetables and White Beans

Serves about 8 as a side dish, 4 as an entree

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 cup of broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 cup of diced red bell peppers

1 cup of diced zucchini

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced onion

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cups of brown rice blend (with quinoa, barley, millet, etc.)

4 cups of water or vegetable stock

 

1/2 cup of chopped basil

1 can organic white beans, rinsed and well drained

Method: Heat a large Dutch oven or skillet with fitted lid over medium high heat until warm, then add half of the olive oil to the pan. Continue to heat the oil until it is warm, about 30 seconds, then add the broccoli, red peppers and zucchini to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, then cook until slightly browned and softened,  stirring occasionally. Remove the vegetables from the pan when they are cooked through but still crisp-tender and set aside.

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Sautee the mirepox and rice together until they are toasty and tasty.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, allowing it to heat, then add the carrots, celery and onions. Brown and soften the vegetables, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic and the rice blend, continuing to stir to toast the garlic and rice, about 30 seconds. Pour the water or stock over the rice mixture, season with salt and pepper, give one final stir, and bring to a boil. Once the rice mixture has come to a boil, cover the pan with the lid, placing slightly ajar to allow a bit of steam to release. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice mixture is tender but still firm. When rice is cooked, allow a resting time of 10 minutes with lid fully fitted, then remove the lid and fluff with a fork.

Fold the broccoli, red peppers, zucchini, basil and white beans into the rice blend. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Recipe notes: This is fantastic as a side dish to roasted or grilled chicken, with or without the white beans! It can be updated with whatever fresh, seasonal vegetables that you have on hand. In the winter, it is delicious with browned mushrooms, butternut squash, sauteed kale. The key is to cook the seasonal vegetables through, then remove them from the pan, and add the mirepox (carrots, celery, onion, garlic) and rice, then the fully cooked vegetables. That way, nothing gets overcooked and soggy!

 

 

 

Valencia Oranges and Thyme

31 Mar

 

Flank SteakWe are a grill-loving family. Whatever the season, the ingredient, the occasion, we love to torch up the gas and load up the grate. Everything tastes better when it’s cooked outdoors over fire, it’s quick as a snap and clean up is no problem.

My friend Stephanie makes this flank steak, marinated in a plastic bag with tons of garlic, huge sprigs of herbs (how amazing is that? no chopping, just fragrance and flavor) and sliced red onions. If you’re the one to put it on the grill, she shouts, “Don’t shake anything off!” She’s vehement, and will repeat the order incessantly until you understand: Every stick of thyme and hunk of aromatic must stay on the roast while it grills. What happens is that a gorgeous, charred, pungent crust forms on the meat, and burnt little bits of flavor intensify what is already succulent and divine. It’s pretty smart, so I borrowed it, added some orange peel and juice from my farm box to make it my own, and practiced my “no shaking” growl. If you serve this up with chimichurri sauce you’ll double the flavor magic.

Grilled Flank Steak with Oranges, Thyme and Garlic

Serves 4

1 flank steak, trimmed

1 Valencia orange

1 bunch of thyme

1 head of garlic, cloves separated, skin removed, pressed flat with the side of a chef’s knife

Olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper

Place the flank steak in a gallon bag with a seal. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off of the orange, avoiding going too deep and reaching the bitter pith. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice, adding to the bag along with the orange peel. Add the garlic cloves and a good drizzle of olive oil to the bag. Generously season the steak with salt and pepper.

Seal the bag and refrigerate for 2 hours or as long as 24. Remove the bag from the refrigerator a half hour before preparing the grill. Heat a gas or charcoal grill, or grill pan, to medium high heat (about 400 degrees.) Place the steak on the grill, retaining as much of the herbs and garlic in the marinade on the surface of the steak. Cook until char marks form, about 5 minutes, then turn and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Steak will be cooked to rare to barely medium rare. Move the steak to the cooler side of the grill, pour remaining marinade over the steak, and cover and cook to desired temperature, about 5-7 minutes for medium rare, 10 minutes for medium. Remove from the grill and rest for 10 minutes, then slice into very thin slices across the grain to serve.

 

 

 

 

Green Beans and Tomatoes

27 Feb

green beans with sundried pesto2Our family was hit hard with the bug. Just like the mighty sequoias we had visited the week before, we went down in a huge way. Standing one moment, felled the next. One after another. It was urgent and devastating and all encompassing, but after we headed into recovery, we all had the same experience: Nothing tasted good. We craved little but water and tea. We checked in with our appetites and reviewed our greatest hits: Lasagna? Meh. Roasted chicken? So complicated. Salad? Forget about it, too much chewing. The one thing we had in common is that everything we tried tasted like cotton candy, cloying and sweet, even without the presence of sugar. The flavor note that finally struck for us was umami.

Umami is that distinct savory, earthy flavor that is found in glutamate-rich foods. We found that miso soup and avocado rolls survived our whacked-out palates, a soup of coconut broth, fish stock, bok choy and packaged potstickers,  and, surprisingly, this dish of roasted green beans, sundried tomato pesto and charred cherry tomatoes.

 

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Green Beans with Sundried Tomato Pesto and Charred Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in half (about 3 cups)

Olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, drained of oil

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the green beans on a sheet pan evenly, and season generously with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven, turning occasionally, until the green beans brown slightly and turn bright green, about 20 minutes. Green beans are ready when they are tender, but crisp.

On a separate sheet pan, spread the tomatoes on the pan evenly, and season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until the tomatoes start to char and pop, and the juices start to caramelize, about 30-40 minutes. Shake pan occasionally to redistribute tomatoes and char evenly.

In a food processor, mini prep processor or blender, combine the sundried tomatoes, garlic, thyme, balsamic vinegar along with a glug of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning.

To serve, gently combine the green beans, charred cherry tomatoes and sundried tomato pesto with a set of tongs. Taste for seasoning, place on a large platter and enjoy.

green beans with sundried pesto

Zucchini and Rainbow Chard

15 May
Cooking the rainbow chard ribs and onions to fill the grilled zucchini boats

Cooking the rainbow chard ribs and onions to fill the grilled zucchini boats

Need some inspiration? When you’re cooking seasonally, it can be challenging to see the same ingredients at the farmer’s market, but sometimes you have to think outside of the (CSA) box. The items in this recipe could have easily been a pasta sauce or chile, but turned into a one-dish meal, easy to prepare in advance and throw in the oven on a busy week night.

I made several of these zucchini boats to share with my friends

I made several of these zucchini boats to share with my friends

Grilled Zucchini Boats with Rainbow Chard and Turkey

Serves 4

2 large zucchini (or 3 small)

Olive oil, salt and pepper

1 cup diced onion

1 bunch of rainbow chard, ribs torn from the leaves, well washed

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 pound ground turkey

1 teaspoon each of fresh chopped thyme and oregano

1 15-ounce can of organic diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

When you grill the zucchini, just lightly char them.

When you grill the zucchini, just lightly char them

Heat a grill or grill pan. Trim the ends of the zucchini, then split lengthwise into halves. Using a spoon, gently scoop the seeds from the center of the zucchini, being careful not to go too deep or break the “boat.” Season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place zucchini on the grill and cook just to mark with grill marks, then turn to mark the other side. Do not allow the zucchini to soften or overcook. Remove from grill and place in a 9 X 9 baking dish and set aside.

Drizzle olive oil in a large skillet and add onions, cooking at a low heat until onions soften. Meanwhile, slice the ribs from the chard into 1/4-inch slices and add to the onion. Stack the leaves of the chard on top of each other, roll into a cylinder, and slice thinly. Add the chard leaves and garlic to the onion mixture, and cook all of the vegetables together until soft. Add the ground turkey, thyme and oregano, stirring to break up the turkey into small pieces. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, then continue to cook until turkey has browned, stirring occasionally.  Add the canned tomatoes, and stir together, then bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, until the tomatoes start to taste sweet and thicken. Taste for additional salt and pepper.

Drape the turkey sauce over the grilled zucchini

Drape the turkey sauce over the grilled zucchini

Place the turkey mixture on top of the grilled zucchini and top with Parmesan cheese. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to bake the zucchini boats, or heat oven to 350 degrees and bake with an aluminum foil cover for 20 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and continue to bake until the cheese melts and browns, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow the dish to rest for 5 minutes, then serve.

You can turn this into a vegetarian dish by substituting cooked lentils for the ground turkey. Vegan? Leave off the cheese

You can turn this into a vegetarian dish by substituting cooked lentils for the ground turkey. Vegan? Leave off the cheese

Meyer Lemons & Oregano

13 Apr

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I don’t truss my chickens. I know that it breaks cardinal rules of roasting whole birds. Long ago, I learned to truss, and never saw a difference in cooking time, tenderness or flavor, so I stopped. Yes, I prepare my birds with lots of love, massaging them with salt and oil, letting them rest before and after roasting, rubbing them with piquant herbs and ample seasoning. But tying them into straight-laced submission stopped making sense. Now I roast in a whole different, flagrant method: First, I cut out the backbone, and the wings, which I freeze to make stock later. Then I place them spread eagle on a flat roasting rack on top of a baking sheet. The only way I can describe this method is by calling it “slutty.” I mean it in the fondest of ways, like the girl who didn’t always follow the norm in high school, but got everyone’s attention and definitely made us trussed up girls wish we were a bit bolder. I can guarantee that its immodest display exposes the bird’s skin in a way that makes it succulent, crisp and golden, a definite goal of the most popular girl in class.

Slutty Lemon & Oregano Roasted Chicken

I use Meyer lemons in this recipe, but if they aren’t available, any other type of lemon is suitable. If fresh oregano is not available, use a good quality dried oregano and reduce it by half. The chicken cut is similar to a spatchcock method, without being pressed flat, search a YouTube tutorial online if you’d like more information. Chicken cut in this method roast more quickly than whole birds. In addition, taking the chicken out of the refrigerator for 15 minutes brings it closer to room temperature and lessens roasting time. You can use any combination of herbs, such as rosemary, sage, or thyme, and any type of citrus zest, like orange or lime that you wish.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 whole 4-pound chicken

Olive oil, salt and pepper

Zest of one whole Meyer lemon

2 tablespoons of fresh oregano

Directions:

Place chicken, breast side up, on a large cutting board (I prefer plastic so I can wash and sanitize it in the dishwasher.) Remove the wings by cutting at the joint, either with a kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife. Turn the chicken breast side down, then cut along the backbone, either with a pair of kitchen shears, starting at the thigh and working up toward the neck, or using a very sharp chef’s knife. Put the backbone and wings into a plastic freezer bag and freeze to make into stock at another time. Turn the chicken and cut the backbone out on the opposite side. Place the chicken breast side up on a flat cooking rack inserted into a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper, over the skin and underneath the chicken.  Allow chicken to come closer to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 375. Zest the skin of the Meyer lemon, mince the oregano, and distribute over the skin of the chicken, rubbing in to coat the breast, thighs and underside of chicken. Cut the zested lemon into wedges and distribute in the roasting pan. Once oven is heated and the chicken has warmed up a bit, place the chicken in the oven and roast for 75 minutes, or until the skin is brown, the juices between the thigh and breast run clear when pierced with a knife, and the thigh registers at 160 degrees with a probe thermometer.

Remove the chicken from the oven and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Rest for 10 minutes, then slice to serve.

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