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Rainbow Chard

10 Jan

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I’m amazed when I open up the farm box and see a bunch of rainbow chard. The vivid jewel tones provoke an exclamation of nature-awe, “How did that happen?!?” Like a stain glass window, the stems range from turmeric yellow to scarlet, tangerine, smokey plum and emerald. Not only did Mother Nature make it beautiful, she packed it with nutrients like vitamins A and K, iron, dietary fiber and phytochemicals.

I wanted to treat my rainbow chard with the same deft elegance, and use it as a gift wrap for rustic Italian flavors. With a “root-to-stem” approach, I sautéed the chopped stems, which are similar in texture to celery, then I added in onion, garlic, pine nuts, capers and basil. The blanched leaves were to both cloak to keep the tilapia filet tender and add earthy flavor, in a deceptively simple way to get dinner on the table. Serve with steamed farro for a complete meal.

Rainbow Chard Roasted Tilapia with Pine Nuts

Serves 4

1 bunch Rainbow chard, leaves torn from stems, stems chopped

Olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/4 cup toasted pinenuts

4 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons

pinch of red chile flakes

4 tilapia filets

Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper

Heat an oven to 350 degrees. Bring a stock pot filled with water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and the rainbow chard leaves, blanching them for 1 minute, until slightly wilted. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Heat a large skillet, then add the rainbow chard stems and onion. Cook until the vegetables soften, then add the garlic, and continue to cook until vegetables just begin to brown. Turn off the heat, stir in the pine nuts, basil and chile flakes, then season with salt.

Season the tilapia with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place a filet on top of a rainbow chard leaf, then a quarter of the vegetable filling. Fold the sides of the chard leaf over the filet into a tight envelope. If the chard leaf does not cover the fish, then roll in a second leaf to cover. Continue with the remaining tilapia filets.

Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish, then place the chard-wrapped tilapia in the baking dish. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the the tip of a paring knife can easily pierce the tilapia, meeting no resistance. Serve immediately.

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Green Beans, Zucchini and Maui Onions

15 Aug

DSC00934After years of happy vegetable eating, my darling daughter has gone into a full blown white hunger strike. If it isn’t noodles, butter, Parmesan cheese or a chicken nugget, I am up against negotiations that include ipads, playdates and the silent treatment. I’m making a stand instead of making two meals, and like any revolution, the going is getting tough.

I have a two pronged approach to getting Bella on the same plate at the family table: making a dinner composed of a protein (grilled, sauteed or baked), a starch and a vegetable. This approach is embraced by our entire family, as we love a good grilled flank steak or roasted chicken served with a some perfectly grilled vegetables or roasted potatoes. To combat my need to be “cheffy”, I’ll make a fruit chutney or chimichurri to serve alongside, which, of course, will be completely snubbed by the Princess of Refined Starches.

The second approach is to make a braise that can be deconstructed by Miss Picky. For example, with this Braised Chicken with Summer Vegetables and Herbs de Provence, she can pick out green beans, zucchini and chicken, which I’ll serve along with a side of her favorite pasta, as long as it is whole grain, and the dinner table becomes less battleground, more family friendly, for everyone.

DSC00937Braised Chicken with Summer Vegetables, Lemon and Herbs de Provence
Serves 8

Ingredients:
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
1 pound zucchini, cut in half length-wise, then into half moons
Olive oil, salt & pepper
1 pound chicken thighs
2 tablespoons flour
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups good quality chicken stock
2 sprigs each, rosemary & thyme, and 1 bay leaf
1/4 cup fresh herbs finely chopped: parsley, tarragon, and basil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and cut into wedges

Method: Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add a bit of olive oil to the bottom. Sear the green beans until browned, season with salt and pepper, and remove from the pan. Heat a bit more olive oil, sear the zucchini until browned, season with salt and pepper and remove from the pan.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper, lightly toss with flour, and heat more olive oil in the Dutch oven. Put half of the chicken in the pan and brown, then turn to brown the opposite side. Remove from the pan, then brown the remaining chicken. Remove from the pan.

Add the onion and garlic to the pan, and brown, stirring occasionally. Add wine to the pan, then stir to bring the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine until slightly syrupy, then add the chicken stock. Put the chicken back in the pan, add the rosemary and thyme, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, then place the lid on the pot and cook for 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and fork tender.
Pull the thyme and rosemary sprigs from the braising liquid. Add the chopped fresh herbs, lemon zest and juice, the tomatoes and the browned vegetables back to the pot, stir together and taste for seasoning.

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Sweet Potatoes, Maui Onions, Carrots, Cilantro

3 Jul

turk chileTurkey chile is my favorite go-to family dinner, topped off with tortilla chips, cheese, green onions and sour cream. I love the endless versatility, possibilities that go with the seasonal flow. This time I made it with Northern California sweet potatoes, but as the warm summer days produce sweet red bell peppers, I’ll swap those in. I always use organic black beans in my chile, but my friend and cooking partner, Stephanie, insists that no chile is complete with any less than three beans; black, kidney and pinto. I’m a big fan of a limey hit of fresh cilantro, stirred in at the end.

As you can see, my turkey chile is so popular that I make it in 4-cup containers, ready to deliver hearty, delicious comfort to friends who need a quick, nutritious dinner on the fly. All they need is their favorite chile toppings, and dinner is served.

Turkey, Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chile
Serves 6-8

Olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons chile powder
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
1 pound lean ground turkey
4 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups peeled and diced sweet potatoes
2 cups chicken stock
1 22-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Toppings such as cheese, sour cream, avocado, salsa, chips, green onions or hot sauce

In a large pot, heat olive oil, and add onion, peppers, garlic and carrots. Cook vegetables until slightly browned and soft, then add chile powder and cumin. Stir with vegetables and cook for 2 minutes. Add the ground turkey, salt and pepper, and stir, breaking up the meat into small pieces and cooking until browned. Add the black beans, sweet potatoes, chicken stock, and the tomatoes with their juices and cook until liquid reduces and the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in cilantro, season with additional salt and pepper if needed, and serve with desired toppings.

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Romanesco Cauliflower, Oregano and Spinach

2 Jun

PuttanescaIn The Seduction Cookbook, I wrote a recipe for puttanesca, adoring the sensual quality of the fragrant, salty, briny sauce and the legend that its origin was a siren’s call to lure sailors into salons of pleasure. Now it’s a favorite of my family, and a perfect base to fortify with vegetables. Be ready to be transported, it also makes your kitchen smell like an Italian coastal town.

Puttanesca Sauce with Romanesco Cauliflower, Spinach and Oregano
Adapted from The Seduction Cookbook
Serves 4

1 head romanesco cauliflower, cut into florets
Olive oil
Fresh ground pepper and kosher salt to taste
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 anchovy filets, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 15-ounce cans whole tomatoes with their juices, pureed in a food processor
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 pinch red chile flakes
1 bunch spinach, cleaned and chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Season the cauliflower with olive oil, pepper and salt, and roast in the oven until browned and tender. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat a large stock pot and add olive oil. Cook the garlic, anchovies and onions until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, oregano and chile flakes, and bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the tomatoes thicken and sweeten, about 30-40 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, then stir in the cauliflower. Season with pepper and salt, and serve over pasta, fish or chicken.Puttanesca 2

Green Cabbage & Cilantro

21 May

For 15 years, I worked almost every Sunday in a restaurant, rising early after a crushing Saturday night in the same said restaurant, weary to the bone. Sunday morning diners don’t particularly understand the concept of bone-weary restauranteurs, they are aggressive and cranky, demanding to rise above the mob for immediate coffee service.

Sunday on the Boat2

This is my Sunday now. Except it doesn’t always look like this. Sometimes I walk down to the fish market, and never without a tad of flirtation with the plastic-aproned fishmonger, my Sunday looks like this:

mussels with cabbage and cilantro

cilantro and cabbageOr perhaps this. Just add cabbage and cilantro from the farm box, possibly a chilled glass of wine, and you’re on your way to a perfect Sunday.

Mussels, Clams and Cockles with Green Cabbage, Cilantro and Coconut Curry

Serves 4

1 can coconut milk

2 garlic cloves, grated

1-inch section of peeled, fresh ginger, cut into slices

1-2 tablespoons green curry paste

4 cups of shredded cabbage

Small bunch of cilantro stems and leaves

1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce

3 pounds live shellfish, such as mussels, clams or cockels

Juice and zest of one lime

In a Dutch oven or skillet with a fitted lid, heat 2 tablespoons of  the fat cap of the coconut milk (when you open the can, there is a thick layer of coconut oil that has risen to the top.) Reserve the remaining coconut milk. Add the garlic and ginger, heating until fragrant, about a minute, then add the curry paste, cabbage and half of the cilantro stems and leaves. Cook until the cabbage starts to wilt, then add the remaining coconut milk, fish sauce and shellfish. Cover the pan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer (liquid should still be moving) and cook the shellfish for about 3 minutes. Use a large spoon or ladle to stir the bottom layer of shellfish to the top, and cover again, continuing to cook until the shellfish starts to open. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice and zest. Eat immediately, discarding any shellfish that didn’t open.

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Maui Onion, Carrots, Broccoli, Celery, Cilantro

8 May

stir frySimplicity requires finesse, a lesson I learned from my best friend’s ex boyfriend’s Chinese father about stir frying. In collaborating on vegetable stir fry, I was ready to throw everything into a hot wok, when he stopped me, organizing everything into neat categories designed to make the most of the vegetables, creating the perfect balance of crunchy and tender. First come the aromatics: ginger, onion, garlic quickly flashed in smoking hot vegetable oil until fragrant, then the most firm vegetables, such as celery and carrots, stirred quickly to sear. Next the medium-firm veggies, like peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, snow peas, and last, the tender greens like spinach, bok choy and cabbage. At last, a quick toss in a seasoned liquid. With this blueprint, you can adapt to any farm box delivery or cooler drawer, and even add in protein like browned tofu, shrimp or chicken.

Brown the tofu well, then pull out of the pan before adding the vegetables.

Brown the tofu well, then pull out of the pan before adding the vegetables.

Farm Box Stir Fry with Organic Super Firm Tofu and Brown Rice

Serves 6

For the stir fry sauce:

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 pinch red chile flakes

For the stir fry:

1/2 pound of super-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes

vegetable oil

1-inch knob ginger, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup green onion, minced

1 cup firm vegetables, such as Maui onion, carrots, celery, chard stems

1 cup semi-firm vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms

1 cup soft vegetables like spinach, chard leaves, bok choy, cilantro, cabbage

Mix the stir fry sauce, and use half to marinate the tofu cubes for 30 minutes. Drain the tofu, reserving the sauce, and pat the tofu with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.

Heat a wok or large skillet until very hot, then add vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the tofu and brown until golden, then remove from the pan onto a paper towel to drain.

Add additional oil if needed, and cook the ginger, garlic and onion, stirring very quickly to prevent burning. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, then add the firm vegetables, continuing to stir. Cook the firm vegetables for about a minute, until they turn brightly colored and start to sweat, then add the semi-firm vegetables. Stir to combine and cook for an additional minute. Add the remaining vegetables and cook for another minute, stirring to combine, then add the stir fry sauce and the tofu. Stir to completely coat the tofu and vegetables, then serve.

Celery and Bok Choy

19 Feb

Korean stew 1Asian flavors are in my top five favorite; sensual, balanced, clean and simple. I’ve never trained in Asian cookery, although I’ve devored cookbooks, dined in high and low establishments and even stalked a few chefs, all in the name of research. Ginger and soy, scallion and chile all make my way into dishes, which are only authentic by honest desire. I can only hope that my American asthetic can properly respect the ancient dishes they are fashioned after. This dish is a riff on a recipe I found in Food and Wine, and it can be endlessly changed with the seasons of the farm box. The key is to cook the base of the stew and let it hang out in the refrigerator for a night or two, then braise the vegetables (Napa cabbage, carrots, radish, or like I used, bok choy and celery) separately, or even pop some pickled summer vegetables on top.

Korean Beef Stew with Soy Braised Bok Choy and Celery

Serves 6

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 pounds boneless short ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 medium onions, quartered through the core

6 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

2 large jalapeños—halved, seeded and sliced 1/2 inch thick

1-inch section of ginger, skin removed and cut into 6 rounds

1/4 cup soy sauce, plus a splash for braising the vegetables

1/4 cup organic sugar

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 quart beef stock or low-sodium broth

4 baby bok choy bunches, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 bunch of celery, trimmed, celery leaves retained, stalks cut into 1-inch sections

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Steamed brown rice, and toasted sesame oil for serving

In an 8-quart Dutch oven, heat the oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper and sear the pieces over moderately high heat until richly browned all over, working in batches. Remove the meat from the Dutch oven and pour out most of the fat, leaving only a tablespoon in the pot. Add the onion, garlic, jalapenos and ginger, and sauté until the vegetables soften. Add the soy sauce, sugar, wine and stock and stir. Bring the liquid to a boil and add the meat back into the pot. Reduce to a simmer and place the lid on the Dutch oven. Cook for 2 hours, until the meat is very tender and pulls apart with a fork. Cool and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Remove the meat from the refrigerator and skim the chilled fat off of the top. Heat over low heat until warmed through. In a large skillet, heat enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add the celery and bok choy. Sear the vegetables very quickly, about 2 minutes, until they are a vibrant green, then pour a dash of soy sauce over them. Cook until the soy sauce has coated the vegetables, and then add them into the beef stew. Put the cornstarch in a bowl and whisk in a 1/2 cup of cooking liquid, then whisk it into the stew, cover and let simmer for 2 minutes.

Spoon steamed rice into bowls. Ladle the stew over and around the rice. Top with the reserved celery leaves, a drizzle of sesame oil, an