Monday, July 30, 2012

Cannellini and Kale Ragout

The first of our kale has finally arrived!  For some reason this was one veggie I worried about the most from our CSA.  I have no aversion to leafy greens.  Salads are a lunch time staple and whenever I have time, a huge handful of spinach usually finds its way into a breakfast scramble in the morning.  But knowing kale's reputation as a super food, I was worried the others in the household may turn up their noses at this superfood.  A friend's kale chips had not been terribly well recieved last summer...

So starting simply, I tracked down a dish that had all of the appeal of a hearty Italian soup.  This vegetarian friendly dish fit the bill and ended up well liked by everyone.

adapted from recipes at Epicurious and Cooking Light

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil 
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 zucchini, quartered and cut into1/2-inch slices
6 cups chopped trimmed kale
1/2 cup water or vegetable broth
2 (16-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
salt and pepper to taste

for the croutons
8 - 3/4-inch-thick slices of day old French bread
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp garlic powder

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 400.  Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil.  Sprinkle generously with garlic and thyme.  Place in preheated oven and toast, flipping once, until golden brown, about 8 minutes.

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.  Add garlic, onion and crushed red pepper to same pot; sauté over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or until onion is tender and garlic is fragrant.   Add the zucchini and saute for  2 minutes more.   Add kale, and broth, tomatoes with juice, and beans.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the kale wilts, and the beans are heated through, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

 Ladle ragout into shallow bowls. Garnish with 2 croutons and serve. 

The Review:
Some had there doubts about the kale.  Others weren't sure the dish was fitting given the heat of the day.  All opinions were swayed upon trying the dish.

The balance of acidic tomatoes with the smoothness of the beans actual made the dish quite refreshing, even in our terrible summer heat.  I was not a fan of stand over the stove while the stewn cooked, but I would gladly sit down to a bowl of this ragout on another hot day in a heartbeat.  

The crouton truly sealed the deal on this dish for me.  Though I've always been a sucker for sopping up broths and gravies with crusty breads.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Very Veggie Spinach Dip

For me, a summertime snack usually involves some sort of dip.  Hummus, salsa, spinach dips, sour cream or yogurt based concoctions, peanut butter, oozy-cheesey doesn't really matter.

Nor am I too terribly picking about what I use to scoop up the dip.  I know most days I should be reaching for the fresh veggies or whole grain pita.  But let's face it, sometimes chips are in order.

I had chips in mind when I came across the inspiration for this spianch dip.  But after trying it, I was completely content with big bowl of blanches veggies to enjoy this with.  It seemed to be a crowd pleaser across the board...regardless of our guests' snacking preferances

Adapted from recipes at Knorr's and Peas & Crayons

yeilds about 2 cups

The Ingredients:
6  cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1 large zucchini, grated
1 pkg vegetable soup mix
1 cup Greek yogurt (or strained plain yogurt)
1 cup sour cream
2-3 scallions, diced

The Process:
Zap the spinach in the microwave for 3 minutes.  Stir and return to the micorwave for an additional 2 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Drain off any liquid and squeeze dry. 

In a large bowl, combine the spinach with the remaining ingredients.  Stir until well combined.  Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and chill for 2 hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Serve with chips or veggies of your choosing.

The Review:
I adore spinach dips.  Doubly so if the spinach is fresh.  Something about the stringy consistency of many frozen variety of spinach out there always throws me a little.   Frozen will work in a pimch here...use 9-10 oz but be sure to thaw and drain teh leafy greens really well!

Overall the dip was a huge hit with everyone that tried it.  If you can be patient enough to let the dip sit for more than 2 hours, even better.  After chilling the veggie loaded concoction seemed to reach it's peak of flavor once it hit room temperature (and that certainly didn't take long given the toasty summer we've been having!)

Have you noticed how cream-based vegetable concoctions--coleslaw, cucumber salads and the like--have a tendency to weep and pool the liquid over time? This dip surprised me, especially considering the water heavy zucchini shredded into the mix.  The next day very little liquid had separated out.  It didn't last much longer for us to find out if it would.

Most of our guests at the evening BBQ gobbled the dip up with nothing more than basic salty potato chips.  Ross preferred the heartier tortilla chips as his vehicle of choice.  Me?  Carrots and snow peas, surprisingly...though I did have my fair share of salty potato rounds as well.

Veggie soup mixes are a staple in my pantry for slow cooker roasts and stews...I'm surprised it took me this long to try it in a dip...the recipe is right on the package after all!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Balsamic Bacon Broccoli

Have broccoli in your fridge?  Tired of steamed, bland side dishes?  Then get that bright green veggie out of your fridge, now.  Seriously.  If this doesn't appease the veggie averse, or spice up the typical veggie blahs, I'm not quite sure what else will work...

the recipe is my own

serves 2-3

The Ingredients:
4 strips of bacon
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 broccoli crowns, cut into florets
1 broccoli stem, cut into coins
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

The Process:
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, fry up the bacon unto crispy.  Remove the bacon to paper towels to drain, reserving the dripping in the pan.

Add the garlic and onions; saute until fragrant and tender, 2-3 minutes.  Add the broccoli, vinegar, water and red pepper flakes.  Cover and steam until the broccoli is tender and vibrant green,  adding more water as necessary.

Chop up the bacon and add it to the skillet.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot.

The Review:
Fast, easy, bacon-y and full of veggies.  Yum.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Trio of Beer BBQ Sauces

Ross just turned thirty.   Pretty traumatic.  I crossed that line a little while back myself and found the best source of comfort is to surround yourself with good friends.  We did just that, by throwing a backyard BBQ.  Our tiny Weber grill cannot hold that many burgers or brats at one time, but that wasn't going to stop me from throwing together a  few barbeque sauce options for the poultry offerings.

Those of you who know us or who've read along for a while are away of our beer obsession.  Ross has been home-brewing for well over a year now.  We had three brews on hand for his party...a honey kolsch, a raspberry wheat and a Belgian-style blonde.  It was only fitting that the sauces follow in suit.

So for your next BBQ I present to you three sauces:

Root beer BBQ sauce adapted from Michele's Woman Cave
Stout Sriracha BBQ Sauce courtesy of the Beeroness
Carolina Mustard and Ale sauce inspired by recipes at beerbeque and yummly

yields about 1 1/2 cups
The Ingredients:
1 cup root beer (Sprecher or other brewed options work really well)
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or more to taste)

The Process:
Whisk together all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat until well combined.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce is reduced by about 1/3.  Chill until ready to use.

Keeps refrigerated in sealed jar for 2-3 weeks.

yields about 1 1/2 cups

The Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup ketchup
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 - 2 tsp sriracha
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup Stout (such as Guinness or Bear Republic Big Bear Black Stout)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp onion powder

The Process:
 Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and saute until tender and fragrant, abut 1 minute.  Whisk in the remaining ingredients.  Simmer until thickened, 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Chill until ready to use.

Keeps refrigerated in a sealed jar for 2-3 weeks.

yields about 2 cups

The Ingredients:
 1 cup mustard
2 Tbsp honey
3 oz beer (of the malty variety)
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

The Process:

Whisk together all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat until well combined.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce is reduced by about 1/3.  Chill until ready to use.

Keeps refrigerated in sealed jar for 2-3 weeks.

The Review:
 The root beer sauce was the clear winner among our friends, though I was partial to the deeper flavor and heat of the stout sriracha sauce.  The mustard seemed to be a more acquired taste.  We tried all three with wonderful success on grilled chicken. 

After the birthday BBQ, the rest of the root beer sauce found its way into a crockpot full of shredded chicken.  The meat was incredibly juicy, and dripping with sauce.  The root beer does shine through, even withthis much meat.  Though the overall flavor note is sweet, with just a spicy hint of ginger.

The Stout sriracha yielded a much deeper color and a much richer flavor.  Straight out of the jar, the BBQ sauce had a potent amount of heat.  Once slathered on the chicken, though, all of the flavors mellowed out, without one standing out among the others.  You probably wouldn't know there was beer in the sauce if you hadn't bee told.

The mustard sauce is still awaiting its second trial.  A glorious cut of pork butt roast is currently thawing on our counter for dinner.  A mustardy sauce seems only fitting...

But really, can you go wrong with any home made barbeque sauce?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ina Garten's Creamy Cucumber Salad

Growing up, cucumbers didn't appear in our fridge very often.  When they did we'd often find them sliced and lightly salted in a bowl on the counter a few days later.  As a kid, I loved to sneak a slice or too.  Cool, salty, crisp.  Inevitably little fingers would snitch another.  And another.  We knew our mom was waiting for the cucumbers to weep enough to mix up her classic creamy cucumber salad.  By the time we were done, there was barely enough cucumber left for one serving.  But I don't ever remember being reprimanded.  I think she enjoyed the lightly salted slices just as much as we did.

Beyond the cucumber, onion and sour cream, I have no idea how my mom prepared that summer time favorite.  I suspect if I got her to talk me through the recipe the result would read "a dollop of this,  a dash of that."  Sometimes those are the best recipes.

Perhaps I should have picked her brain before searching online for another creamy cucumber salad.  I found one at foodnetwork which seemed acceptable.  But as with other attempts of Ina Garten's recipes, I greatly reduced the amount of salt and dressing used.  The dish is good.  Not Mom's, but still good....

adapted from Ina Garten's recipe at foodnetwork.

serves 8-10

The Ingredients:
2 lbs cucumbers (2-3 medium), thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
kosher salt
1 1/3 cups Greek yogurt
1/3 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice
1/3 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
pepper to taste

The Process:
Combine the onions and cucumbers in a large sieve or colander.   Generously sprinkle with salt.  Toss to coat.  Place the colander over a bowl and set in the refrigerator to drain for 4 hour or over night...the longer the cucumbers can weep, the less soupy the salad will be in the long run.  Discard any liquid that collects in the bowl.  Pat the cucumber and onions dry, removing some of the excess salt.  Set aside

In a large bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, sour cream, vinegar and dill.  Add the cucumber and onions; toss to coat.  Season with pepper and salt to taste.  Refrigerate for at least one hour prior to serving to allow the flavors to mingle.  Serve chilled.

The Review:
Wow, Ina.  This recipe after modification was near perfect.  Highly reminiscent of my mother's.  I cannot imagine how soupy the dish would have been had I not cut back on the the quantity of yogurt and sour cream her recipe called for.  More tzatziki than salad, I suppose.

Nit picking aside, this was indeed a close recollection of mom's classic summer dish.  Cool.  Refreshing.  Pack with crunch, yet mellow and creamy.  It is a perfect accompaniment to spicier grilled dishes...serving as a palette cleanser.

The was not a favorite of many at our BBQ, however.  Those who tries it enjoyed it.  But a lot was left over at the end of the day.  And it is not a salad that keeps particularly well.  The next day the leftovers had wept a salty pool of cucumber tears...even after having drained them a full 6 hours before assembling the salad.  Draining off some of the liquid we found the cucumbers still maintained some of their crunch.  Only the flavor was not as wonderful as it had been the day before.

No wonder my mom made the dish one cucumber at a time...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

What sort of dessert do you request on your birthday?  For me, the cake of choice was usually yellow with chocolate frosting.  Apparently great minds think alike.  After much poking and prodding Ross finally requested a specific dessert.  Low and behold, it was the classic yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

I knew any old box mix would not do the big day justice (sorry Betty Crocker and Pillsbury!)  The cake had to be made from scratch.  Thankfully a post from Liz at the Skinny Chick Can Bake caught my eye.

Holy heaven, is this cake a winner!

adapted from Martha Stewart via That Skinny Chick Can Bake

yields one 2-layered cake

The Ingredients:
for the cake

1 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2  cups cake flour 
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter ( 2 sticks), room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk

for the frosting:
1 lb semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
6 Tbsp cocoa powder
6 tablespoons boiling water
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks),  room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
The Process:
for the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter two 9-inch cake pans.  Line the bottom with parchment paper.  Butter the parchment and dust the entire pan with flour.  Set aside. 
In a medium bowl sift together the flours, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
In a large bowl cream together the  butter and sugar until fluffy and well combined, about 4 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each is well incorporated before adding the next.  Mix in the vanilla.
With the mixer set to low, add one third of the flour at a time, alternating with the milk.  Mix well after each addition.
Divide the batter between the two prepared pans.  Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  
Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes.  Invert the pan to remove the cake from the pans and peel off the parchment paper.   Allow to cool completely on wire racks.
for the frosting:
In a large microwaveable bowl, melt chocolate in microwave, stopping and stirring at 30 second increments until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Set aside to cool to room temperature, about 15 not skip the cooling, especially on a hot day.  The frosting will not be a spreadable consistency otherwise.

Whisk the cocoa powder into the boiling water until smooth.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and powder sugar until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla.  Add cooled chocolate and mix until well combined.  Add cocoa mixture and beat until the desired consistency is achieved.  

Assemble and frost the cake as desired.

The Review:
Ross had the privilege of sampling as I mixed everything.  It was his cake after all.  I had to ensure it would meet his approval.  Upon sampling the batter he exclaimed, is that the frosting! It's so good!"  The wheels are churning for later.  Has anyone ever attempted a cake batter frosting before?

The cake itself baked up beautiful and sat eagerly awaiting it's chocolatey covering.  

Here I ran into a few problems.  The recipe as written is not the problem in the slightest.  The problem stemmed from the sheer quantity of butter on a sweltering July day.  No amount of cooling outside of the refrigerator was going to keep the frosting from turning soupy during my feeble attempts at frosting (I'm getting better, but man, what I wouldn't give for an off set spatula!)

The problem I ran into with chilling the ingredients between steps was it cooled off TOO fast.  Rock hard to soupy to rock hard again.  I managed.  And the cake looked stunning in the end.  The finish beauty hung out in the fridge until the big moment.  I broke 4 candles trying to poke the candles into the chilled frosting.  30 candles ablaze, the frosting wasn't so stiff anymore!

But even better than the look of the cake was the taste. Having sampled along the way, I warned people about the sugar bomb they were about to partake in.  Only a few heeded the warning.  Everyone loved it.  There was nary a crumb left.  Only it is truly, very rich and very sweet.  A little bit goes a long way.

Next time...cupcakes...

Some of us need the built in portion control.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bobby Flay's Creamy Coleslaw

Coleslaw is tricky for a crowd.  Everybody has their favorite.  Sometimes it's a vinegar base.  Some prefer a creamy dressing.  Traditional green cabbage?  Or a cacophony of color with purple cabbage and carrots?  How about a touch of fennel for that slight anise touch?  Shredded or chopped?

So many options!  There is no way to please them all.  So what do I do in times like this?  Make something I want.  After all, I will be the one stuck with any leftovers after the picnic or potluck is over.

My favorite?  Creamy classic cabbage slaws with just of bit of carrots for color.  I prefer my veggies shredded...chopped salads seem to get too soggy too quickly.  The favorite coleslaws of my youth were KFC (of all places...a rare treat in our family) and my mom's.  I don't have either recipe, but this one from Bobby Flay hit that nostalgic flavor high.

I blame the celery salt...

adapted from Bobby Flay's recipe at

The Ingredients:
1 medium green cabbage, finely shredded
2 large carrots, finely shredded
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced (optional)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp sour cream
2 Tbsp onion, grated
2 Tbsp sugar, or to taste
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp dry mustard
2 tsp celery salt
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The Process:
Combine the shredded cabbage and carrots in a large bowl. In a separat4e medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, onion, sugar, vinegar, mustard and celery salt.  Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat.  Add more salt, pepper, or sugar to taste,  if desired.

The Review:
I suspect one reason coleslaw remains so popular at picnics is the ease with which the dish comes together and the relatively low cost for a huge amount of salad.  I'm guilty for making it on both accounts.

We had a beautiful head of cabbage in our CSA box this week.  And the temperatures had been for too warm to warrant cooking with it.  This slaw was cool and refreshing...bonus points for not being overly dressed, either.  Nothing seems to ruin a good cabbage as much as a soupy slaw.  Two days later, while the colors were not as vibrant, the coleslaw still packed plenty of crunch.

And I do truly maintain that the key to this recipe is the celery salt.  Most people couldn't quite place it, but once they knew, it made perfect sense.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Punjabi Greens

The last few CSA boxes we've received have been blessed with gorgeous root vegetables, even in the midst of the drought the farm has been facing.  A few of the season's plants are beyond reviving...lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower....  The peas have given up.  The fennel has bolted.  It is a rough year for them.  Yet still they have managed to provided an astounding and tasty array of vegetables every week.  Never have I felt to connected to th4e food I prepare, nor so grateful for all of the hard work that goes into preparing it!

But the root veggies...beets, turnips, radishes!  They are small, sweet and such an amazing treat.  When we opened our box we were treated to an added bonus.   We were given the plant root and all  So many tasty greens!  These would not go to waste.

Rather than sauteeing them up with garlic as I am usually wont to do, I turned to an Indian cookbook to see what other recipes may avail themselves to these dark leafy greens.  I'd had wonderful luck with Paleek paneer and hoped for similar inspiration.

The recipe I fell upon was Sarson Da Saag...Punjabi Mustard Greens.  No mustard greens were to be had, but the jist of the recipe is the same.

adapted from the Everything Indian Cookbook by Monica Bhide

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1 lb assorted greens (mustard, collard, turnip, beet)
1/4 lb fresh spinach
1 small turnip, diced
3 cups water or vegetable stock
2 Tbsp ghee or oil
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste *
2 Tbsp cornmeal
salt to taste
butter for serving

*if you cannot find ginger-garlic paste, mince together equal parts fresh ginger and fresh garlic

The Process:
Combine the greens, spinach and turnip in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat.  Add about 2 cups of water or stock and bring to a boil.  Cook until the turnips are tender, about 12 minutes.  Remove from heat and drain any liquid.  Allow the vegetables to cool slightly.

Using a food processor or bleder, puree the vegetables into a thick paste.  Set aside.

Heat the ghee or oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the ginger-garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the pureed vegetables and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Sprinkle in the cornmeal and stir well to combine.  Add salt to taste.

Add the remaining water or stock to the skillet and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 25-30 minutes, adding more water or stock as needed to prevent the dish from dryin gout.

Serve hot, garnished with butter.

The Review:
The dish is traditional served up alongside a large plate of makki di roti.  I can certainly see why!  The creamy greens just scream to be scooped up by an accompanying  flatbread.

This is comfort food at its best.  The preparation brings out all of the best of these leafy greens, without weighing down with too much cream or butter.  I adore creamed spinach and other hearty Southern dishes, but on some sweltering days the extra dairy is just too much.  This dish was so incredibly filling, but light at the same time.

The original recipe called for frozen greens...thawed and drained.  I only had fresh on hand.  Either way this dish is a treat.

I do believe I have found my new favorite go-to recipe when I have extra greens on hand.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Chilled Cilantro Green Bean Salad with Almonds

East meets West in this lovely cold green bean salad.  With the scortching hot days we've been having, I've little desire to stand around in my kitchen.  Perhaps I'd have a different view if the overworked window unit actually had any affect in our house on days like this.  But until the luxury of central air is added to our home, I've little choice but to endure the heat.

One of the joys of this salad is the short amount of time needed over a heating element.  Only a quick blanch in boiling water.  Toss with the other ingredients and serve. Think of is as a chilled green beans almondine with a ginger sot dressing and generous helping of cilantro.  Asian-influenced green beans?  Ginger-soy dressings? I do seem to repeat myself, don't I?

recipe courtesy of NPR

serves 4-6

The Ingredients:
1 lb slender green beans

1 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
2-3 scallions, finely sliced on the diagonal (use both white and green parts)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

for the dressing:
2 inch piece of fresh ginger,  minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

The Process:
Wash the green beans and trim away the stem ends

Prep an extra large bowl or the basin of the sink with cold water and 1-2 dozen ice cubes.   Set a colander near at hand.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.  Once the water comes to a rolling boil, add the beans and cook briefly: 1 or 2 minutes for thin haricots, 4 or 5 minutes for more mature beans.  Once the beans turn vibrant green but are still firm, drain quickly into a colander.  Immediately submerge the colander into the ice bath to shock the green beans, preventing them from cooking further.   Agitate them briefly to evenly chill (about a minute). Remove the colander from the ice bath and allow to drain. 

Once the beans have drained, slice them on the diagonally into 1  to 1-1/2 inch pieces

To prepare the dressing, pound the ginger and garlic into a paste using a mortar and pestle.  Or mince them together as finely as you can, and mash with the side of a chef's knife or the back of a spoon.   Add to a large bowl and whisk in the oil, vinegar,and soy sauce.. Add the blanched beans, scallions and cilantro; toss to coat. Sprinkle with almonds.  Serve chilled or room temperature.

The Review:
After many a hot green bean dish, this salad was a treat.  Slightly blanched beans are incredibly sweet and still hold onto their amazing crispness.  Too often have I bit into an overcooked bean and lamented the lack of that pleasant snap.  Watch them beans, particularly thin fresh ones, take little more than a blink of an eye to cook.

Another concern...toss the beans only immediatley before serving.  I learned this the hard way from a three bean salad.  Three hours after prepping the salad, the taste was still fresh and fragrant, but the green beans had turned a unappetizing shade of olive from soaking too long in the vinegar.  Lesson learned.

This salad did not last long at all.  I hope yours is equally as successful!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Spaghetti with Rainbow Chard

For a quick and light weekend lunch, pasta is always near at hand in our household (I really should consider making some pasta from scratch one of these days.)  Thankfully tomato sauce isn't the only option available to the hungry eater.  This veggie and garlic topping was was inspired by the beautiful bunch of rainbow chard that came in the CSA box 

the recipe is my own 

serves 3-4

The Ingredients:
8 oz uncooked whole wheat spaghetti
2 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 green onions, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1 Tbsp fresh basil, minced
1 bunch of rainbow chard, stems and leaves separated
salt and pepper to taste
splash of red wine
Parmesan cheese (optional)

The Process:
Cook the pasta al dente, according to package directions.  Drain and set aside

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onions.  Saute until the garlic is fragrant and tender, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, parsley, and  basil and cook until the tomatoes begin to break down.  Stir in the chard stems, simmering until tender.  Add a splash of wine and season with salt and pepper.   Add the chopped chard leaves and stir until wilted.

Toss with pasta.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve hot.

The Review:
This may not become a fast favorite for spaghetti...or greens for that matter.  But this prepartion was a refreshing change of pace for both.  How freeing not to have to rely on red sauce for pasta.  And plain greens sauteed with dull after a while.  The humbrum and routine can really bring a person down.

The vibrancy of the chard stems truly is a pick-me-up here...and the colors did not diminish in cooking. Beautiful deep greens; glowing pinks. yellows and oranges.  All kissed with the bright red from the tomatoes.  Next time around I'd likely use a squeeze of lemon juice instead of that splash of wine.  A touch more garlic and ground pepper may be in order as well.

The leaves of this particular batch of chard were on the larger side.  As a result the greens were a bit tougher and more bitter than I would have liked.  But I nit pick.  Spinach, kale, or greens of the mustard, turnip or collard variety would probably work equally as well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sorrel Risotto

I still had a handful of sorrel left over.  I know a lot of dishes are out there for this lemony herb...but nothing was striking my fancy.  Taking my cue from the half a stick of sorrel butter I had left from a previous recipe, and Ross' request for risotto as a side, I dove into this dish head first and hoped for the best.

One interesting mater how much sorrel I added, the bright green arrow-shaped leaves will cook down to nearly nothing.  Nothing but flecks.  You could have just srpinkle the dish with a smattering of dry herbs and it'll look all the same for it.

It make me curious to see how it fairs in a soup...

adapted from the basic risotto directions from Village Harvest

serves 6-8

The Ingredients:
4 Tbsp sorrel butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
1 1/2 cups short grain rice, such as arborio
5 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 bunch (10-12 leaves) of sorrel, minced
salt and pepper to taste

The Process:
Brown the onion in the oil and butter in a 2 qt saucepan over medium heat.  Saute until the onion is tender and beginning to brown.

In another saucepan, bring the stock to a gentle simmer.  

Add the rice to the onion, butter, oil mixture and stir until well coated.  Add just enough stock to cover the rice.  Bring to a simmer and stir frequently.  As the rice absorbs the stock, add the remaining stock, one ladelful at a time...adding the next addition as the previous is absorbed.
One minute it's there...

After about half of the stock has been added, stir in the minced sorrel.  Continue to add the stock as before, stirring frequently.
The next, it's gone.

Once the last of the stock has been absorbed, remove the risotto from the heat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Allow the risotto to rest for five minutes before serving.

The Review:
Remember the classic chicken rice a roni?  Yeah.  This is that.  Only so much better.  The sorrel disintergrates into almost nothing.  Leaving only little specks of its former green glory behind.  And an incredibly subtle flavor.  No...not quite a flavor, but an enhancement of the onion and stock.  With a hint...the near indecernable suggestion of the notes left behind from a wine reduction.

It is elegant.  And simple.  A nostalgic rice treat.  But now for adults...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Roasted Chicken with Sorrel

I'm not sure where I first encountered it.  An article on food in my youth.  My sister experimenting with roast chicken.  A snippet of a cooking show.  But I was hooked the moment I discovered the trick...

Herbs layered under the poultry skin.  The skin glistened...all golden and crisp...and through it, a beautiful arrangement of bay leaves, parsley and thyme.  I continued this little tip off and on as I experimented with roasting chicken and turkey.  Turkey was more frequently used, as the breast provided a much larger palette than their smaller poultry cousins. 

When two bunches of fresh sorrel arrived in my CSA box this was my first idea.  Well...after poking around in my cookbooks and online t learn more about sorrel.  Driftless Organics describes the leafy herb as having a lemony flavor.  Elsewhere it is described as similar to kiwi fruit or sour strawberries.  Tasting it, I can certain detect these comparison...but something more.  a bit peppery...almost grassy.  Even a hint of raw rhubarb.  That tang immediately paired it with chicken in my mind.

Many of the recipes I found when researching sorrel were for soups.  And most recipes seem to come to us via the UK. Oddly enough, I found a recipe at the BBC providing a roast bird, just the way I hoped...rubbed with herbs and stuffed with lemon.  The key being herbs slathered under the skin, of course.

Adapted from Steve Wallis' recipe at the BBC

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1 - 3 lb roasting chicken
6 sorrel leaves, finely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
1 lemon, quartered
2 bay leaves
1 bulb fresh garlic
1 bunch fresh thyme
salt and pepper

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 375

Combine the butter and sorrel in a bowl.  Mound the sorrel butter on a square of wax paper and roll into a log.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Starting at the neck end,  loosen the skin of the bird from the breast, being careful not to tear.  Generously spread the butter under the skin and all over the surface of the bird (you will use about half of the butter).  Reserve the remaining butter for a later use.  Place the lemon, bay leaves, garlic and thyme into the cavity.  Truss the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. 

 Place in a roasting pan, breast side up.  Roast, uncovered, for about 60 minutes or until juices run clear and the internal temperature reaches 160.

Remove the chicken from the oven and turn the bird breast side down to allow the juices to run into the breast meat. Cover loosely in aluminum foil and leave to rest for 15 minutes in a warm place, reserving the pan juices to use for gravy, if desired. 

Transfer the bird to a carving board, carve and serve.

The Review:
A tasty bird, to be sure, but sadly this chicken was largely forgettable.  Oh, the meat was tender and succulent (do people even use that word any more?  Succulent?)  Juicy through and through.  Sadly I've had many a crisper skin.  Lesson learned...hotter oven.  I've made enough roats chicken to know not to set the oven below 400.

The flavor hinted at citrus and lemon, but in a vague, teasing way.  I hoped the sorrel would impart more favor.  Turns out, as lovely as the sorrel butter was, most of the dish drew its character from the lemon and garlic stuffed into the cavity.  Will I try it again? Probably.  But with a higher heat and a bit more help from basics like salt and pepper.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Picnic Pesto Pasta Salad

A few days ago I got fed up with arugula and turned a huge bunch of it into a very tasty pesto.  However, it is also a very potent pesto.  So its consumption has been slow.  Thankfully, a picnic party presented itself.  Potluck style.  Perfect.

Presto...Picnic presto pasta.

The salad recipe is my own, using Driftless Organic's arugula pesto recipe

serves 8-10

The Ingredients:
16 oz dry farfelle, rigatoni or other pasta of your choice
2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup pesto
1 1/2 cup fresh or previously frozen peas
1 large red bell pepper, cut julienne
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup green olives, sliced
2 Tbsp capers, drained
salt and pepper to taste

The Process:
Cook the pasta al dente and drain.  Transfer to a large bowl and toss with olive oil.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.  Serve chilled or room temperature.

The Review:
The secret to this dish is truly in the pesto.  So use your favorite variety.  I am a huge advocate of homemade whenever possible...that and I had a ton of leftover pesto...but many a store bought variety with suffice.  I love the salty, briny flavors added by the olives and capers, coupled with the sweet crunch of the peppers and tomatoes.

One of the best things about dishes like this is its adaptability.  Throw in whatever veggies you want...broccoli, artichoke hearts, zucchini...

Or a bit of meat?  Why not.  Leftover rotisserie chicken or even bites of salami would work wonderfully.  

Everybody has a favorite combination..

What's yours?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Yogurt Banana Muffins with Streusel Topping

This is not a healthy muffin.  I know, I know!  But it uses yogurt!  Half the flour is whole wheat! It uses fruit and wheat germ! How can it not be healthy!  Well...the stick of butter certainly doesn't help.  Or the sugar.  Never mind the fact that's it's mostly a carb bomb...

Okay, these may be a more healthful version than many out there...particularly among the pre-packaged varieties.

But don't be fooled.  These aren't health food.

Know what, though?  I don't care.  They're still darn tasty.

I had started out with a recipe at, but honestly was so taken aback by the amount of butter and sugar I almost started over with another recipe.  Thus commenced a lot of tweaking.  Less sugar...and using more brown sugar than granulated.  Halving the amount of butter.  Increasing the yogurt.  Adding some spice.  And a streusel topping.  Still not a healthy muffin.

muffin recipe adapted from Sharon at and BHG
topping adapted from the BHG Cookbook

yields 12 muffins

The Ingredients:
for the muffin:
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt
1 cup ripe bananas, mashed (about 2-3)
3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
Tbsp wheat germ
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon 

for the streusel topping:
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

The Process:

Preheat the oven to 400. Lightly grease a 12-count muffin tin (do not use baking liners...they will stick). 

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Mash in the bananas and yogurt.   In a separate bowl, sift together the flours, wheat germ, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Add the dry to the wet, mixing until just combined.  

For the topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Pour the batter into the muffin liners, filling about 2/3 full.  Sprinkle the streusel generously over the top.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the tin for 5 minutes.  Serve warm.
The Review:
I won't say these are the best ever banana muffins out there.  Far too many muffins already lay that claim, and I know I'm no pastry chef.  But they are a favorite by far. 

The muffin texture was unlike many a quick bread I've tried.  It was less crumb and more bread like.  Spongy and soft.  Wonderfully moist.  The banana flavor was not as strong as other banana breads.  Which I personally loved. 

These will be a regular use of those over ripe bananas from now on.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Arugula and Garlic Scape Pesto

Enough with the arugula, please!  Every week for the past month we've been blessed with an incredibly large bag of the peppery greens.  But there's only some much of it I can handle!  Our farm has promised this to be the last bunch (for a while, if not for the season).  The ridiculously hot and dry weather that part of the state has been dealing with resulted in the arugula all coming ready far before expected.

This batch, this possible last bundle, was full of large mature leaves even more fragrant then baby greens we'd been treated to earlier.  Taking the farm's suggestion, I turned this last bunch into a pesto. 

recipe courtesy of Driftless Organics

yields about 2 cups

The Ingredients:
1 cup garlic scapes  cut into 1" pieces
 2 cups chopped arugula, lightly packed
1/2 cup almonds, toasted
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

The Process:
Combine everything but the oil in a food processor and pulse into a coarse paste. Add oil in a thin stream while the processor is going. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week or freeze.

The Review:
Now that you have that bright green concoction, how do you use it?  First I tried a spoonful and was wowed by how the usually subtle flavor of the scapes came forward.

Next we tired is tossed with pasta.  A little bit of pesto went a very long way.  The flavor was bright and grassy...rounded out with the rich, but not overwhelming garlic.

How else?  Straight up with fresh veggies.  Not bad...but the strong flavor of the pesto was a bit much for the delicate red pepper and snap peas.  WAY too peppery served with raw radish, but worth the try.

Spread on buttered bread and broiled?  Amazing.

Mixed with a bit of cream cheese and scooped up with celery...a much better alternative with raw veggies than served straight up.

So many many things to try.

I'm a little disappointed I didn't start making pesto with the arugula earlier!