Sunday, July 15, 2018

Summer in France

For something new and different, I pulled some classic summer dishes from my 30-year-old collection of French housewife recipes, and translated those described as not much time, trouble or cost. They all feature one of the fruits or veggies piled high right now at farmers' markets everywhere.  Enjoy!

Stuffed Zucchini in Provence
This is exactly how the recipe reads. I would add a tsp of Aleppo chili pepper or chipotle pepper to the meat mix because I like the stronger flavor. The French would probably gasp.

serves 4 -6

1+ lb lean ground beef
1/2 lb pork sausage meat (not in the casing)
5 good looking med/lg zucchini
2 med green bell peppers
4 ripe tomatoes (juicy ones are best)
6 shallots, peeled and diced
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 egg
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
1 tsp chopped tarragon leaves, fresh or 1/2 tsp dried
scant 1/4 c olive oil
Sea salt to your taste
Freshly ground black pepper

 Preheat oven to 350º.
Lightly coat the bottom of a sauté pan with olive oil. Salt the sausage meat and brown it in the oil.
While that's happening, put the ground beef in a bowl with salt, pepper, shallots and garlic. Mix well. Add to the pan with the sausage meat, blending everything well. Add the thyme and tarragon. Sauté over low heat 5 minutes to brown the beef. Remove from heat. 

Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the zucchini, salt it and bring the water to a boil. While waiting, cut the zucchini in large pieces, at least 2" and using a knife, hollow them out, leaving 1/2" flesh around the rim. (See photo) Blanch the cut zucchini logs in the boiling water 1 minute. Remove the zucchini with slotted spoon and drain well. Throw the tomatoes into the water quickly, then remove, run under cold water and slip off their skins.  In a small bowl, smash the tomatoes into a mash.

Wash the peppers, cut in half to remove the seeds and cut lengthwise into the thinnest strips possible.
Carefully blend the egg into the meat mixture.

Lightly oil a baking platter you can serve on and cover it with the mashed tomatoes. Put the pepper strips on top all around. Salt and pepper to your taste.
Fill the hollow zucchini logs with the meat mixture. Top each with a sprinkle of olive oil and arrange over the tomatoes and peppers. Bake 25-30 minutes, basting at intervals. Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley. It would probably be delicious and vivid with a grated carrot salad filled with fresh chopped parsley. (See Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking for the French carrot salad.)

Melon Surprise
This one is categorized as very fast and very simple--and dietetic!
serves 4

2 med cantaloupe or similar melon
2 peaches
1 doz cherries (I say you can substitute raspberries or blueberries)
1 doz strawberries
2 tsp sugar
4 oz creme fraiche
4 oz fromage blanc (this is any soft white cheese a bit thicker than creme fraiche)
garnish: chopped fresh mint leaves and a sprinkle of ground nutmet (this is my idea; it's not in the recipe)

Clean the melons with a damp cloth. Cut each in half and scoop out the seeds. Using a melon ball scoop or similar, carefully scoop out the melon flesh without cutting through the skin. Leave 1/4" flesh on the skin. Peel the peach and cut it into bite-size pieces. Half the cherries to remove the pits. You won't have this problem with raspberries or blueberries.  Wash and dry the strawberries and cut in half lengthwise.

In a small bowl combine the creme fraiche and fromage blanc with the sugar and whisk into a soft cream. Put a tbsp of this into the bottom of each melon half, then fill the melons with all the fruits. Put the rest of the cheese mix on top. Refrigerate 2 hours and serve garnished with mint leaves and nutmeg if you choose.

Stuffed Eggs Latour
This one is categorized as gourmet.
serves 4-5

6 extra large eggs. hard boiled
3 oz. mushrooms
2 oz. chicken breast meat, cooked
2 oz cooked ham
2 tbsp + 1 tsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp creme fraiche
1 tbsp Port
1 sprig sorrel or a few pieces of arugula or three spinach leaves
handful chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp Gruyere cheese grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste

 Preheat oven to 300º.
Peel the eggs. Carefully cut in half lengthwise and remove the yolks without injuring the white casing.
Clean and dry the mushrooms, remove the stems and finely chop the caps. Dice the chicken, ham. sorrel (or substitute) and parsley.

Melt the butter in a medium heavy gauge casserole pot (think Le Creuset type) and brown the mushrooms over med heat. Stir in the meat and herb mix and continue to sauté 3 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Remove from heat. Stir in the Port and creme fraiche. Add the egg yolks and blend everything carefully.  Fill the egg whites generously with this stuffing and top each with a sprinkle of Gruyere cheese. Arrange them on a platter that's ovenproof and slip them into the oven 4-5 minutes to warm them and melt the cheese.  Serve immediately while warm. (I say they would look terrific on a bed of freshly sauteed greens.

Poached Peaches
These are called Peaches a La Cardinal and there's no liquor so the kids can enjoy them.
Serves 6

6 ripe but firm peaches that look pretty
1 c sugar
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lemon, juice only (I personally prefer lime)
1/2c currant jelly

slivered almonds toasted or toasted pecans for garnish

Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the peaches and bring the water to a boil. Drop the peaches in 30 seconds to blanche. Carefully remove them and run them under cold water immediately. This should allow you to easily slip off the skins. Handling carefully, place them in a large glass bowl or compote dish.

In a saucepan/pot, combine the sugar, lemon juice and vanilla with 1/2 liter of water. Bring to a boil and stir only with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar. Cook until you get syrup. Take out 1/2 cup of the syrup. Plunge the peaches into the remaining syrup and cook over low heat 8-10 minutes to soften the peaches. Remove from heat, carefully get the contents of the pot back in the glass bowl/compote dish and cool down. Cover tightly with cling wrap and put in the fridge for 1/2 hour.

While they cool, in a small saucepan, over low flame, heat the currant jelly with the reserved 1/2 c syrup to get something you can pour.  Remove the peaches from the fridge 10 minutes before serving. When ready to serve pour the currant jelly mix over each one evenly and garnish with the nuts.

Soup for all Seasons
This soup is a vegetable medley pureed and this is the time of year when you can conceivably get all the vegetables so I include it here. There is an accompanying note that says not to worry if some are out of season. Just carry on with what you have. Use fresh veggies. You will notice there are no spices. If you don't have sorrel, add a squirt of lemon juice for the sourness sorrel provides. The actual soup color is green, not yellow as the bad photo suggests.

serves 6
1/3 lb young carrots
1/4 lb turnips
1 yellow onion
4 small leeks, white part only
5 cabbage leaves
1/2 lb green beans, smaller is better
1/3 lb shelled fresh peas
6 lg spinach leaves
6 lettuce leaves
small amount of sorrel
2 tbsp unsalted butter
handful fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Wash and dry all the vegetables. Peel the carrots,  turnips and onion and remove the green parts of the leeks. Cut the carrots, turnips, onion, leek and cabbage leaves in thin strips. In a heavy gauge casserole, melt the butter over low heat. Add the carrots, turnips, leek, onion and cabbage and sauté to soften. Season with salt and pepper. Add 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil, cover the casserole and reduce heat to low. Cook 1 hr. Add the peas, green beans, spinach leaves, lettuce and sorrel. Add a pinch of salt. Continue cooking another 20 minutes. Pour the contents of the casserole into a blender or processor and purée into a thick well blended soup. Put in back in the casserole to reheat a minute. Serve in individual bowls garnished with fresh parsley. A garlic crouton wouldn't hurt.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Simple Summer Party Food

The universe set our daily temperature to broil and I was heading to a community center birthday party where everyone was asked to bring something to the table. So I did a little rehearsing for an island lawn wedding reception next week: easy, elegant, exciting.  Zucchini is one of the most ubiquitous and cheapest veggies in farmers' markets right now so why not jazz it up?

Greek Zucchini Fritters to serve with tsatsiki or minted yogurt
You don't have to stand over a hot pan frying fritters. The secret is to bake them on large oil covered trays in the oven. You get the same end effect plus quick clean up if you use parchment paper on the trays. So here's my oven baked version of Greek zucchini fritters: Kolokithokeftedes. Among all the food on the tables, these were the first to disappear totally. What's so terrific is these can be served hot or at room temp.

makes about 60 medium (2") sized and about 80 mini ($.25 size) fritters.

2 1/2 lbs zucchini, grated (you can buy the big baseball bat ones for this)
2 sm red onions, grated or chopped in a processor*
3 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped*
10 oz. feta cheese, crumbled is best but you can cut up a block*
1 tbsp lemon zest*
Freshly ground black pepper to your taste*
2 tsp dried oregano*
1/3 c cooked cannellini (white) beans*
salt to your taste *
2 c fine breadcrumbs
2 tbsp good quality olive oil plus 1/2c for baking
2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped*
2 eggs

*you can combine all this in a food processor and smoosh it all at once: easiest way.
                                                         Preheat oven to 425º.   

Put the grated zucchini in a colander with a pinch of salt and let it drain for 30 minutes.
Squeeze the zucchini or use a potato masher to get out all the water you can.
In a large bowl blend the grated zucchini with all the chopped ingredients * above. Stir in 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 c breadcrumbs. Add the eggs and 1 c breadcrumbs and blend everything into what feels like a tight paste.  Use more white beans or breadcrumbs if the mixture feels too watery.

Line 3 large sheet pans with parchment and liberally oil the parchment: the oil is what will cause the baking fritters to "fry." Using a round teaspoon or similar, scoop out batter, roll into a ball to tighten and then flatten into a pancake. Mini should be the size of a quarter; otherwise 2" at most so they can be easily picked up without utensils. You don't have to leave much space between the fritters as you place them on the oiled baking sheet. As soon as one sheet is full, put it in the oven and continue until all the mixture is gone.

Bake at 425º about 20 minutes until you see the dark brown or black on the bottom edges indicating crispness. remove tray from oven and flip the fritters over. continue to bake another 10 minutes or until they are crisp on both sides.  Remove from the oven. Let the fritters cool 5-10 minutes. With a spatula move them to your serving plate.  Serve with tsatsiki or minted thick (i.e. Greek) yogurt.

Apricots Stuffed with Mascarpone
I made this up in a pinch when people stopped in for drinks and I didn't have any nibbles to put out. I did have a few apricots hanging around waiting to be a tart and I had some mascarpone left from making a caviar pie and bingo! With some crushed salted almonds on top, they were a huge hit.  So I made them again, only this time for the large crowd, I cut the apricots in quarters instead of the original better looking halves.

1 apricot for every 2 people for small party or 1 for every 4 people larger group
1 tbsp rosewater
6-8 roasted salted almonds, crushed or chopper processed to little bits
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  2-4 oz  mascarpone, depending on how many apricots you use (containers are usually 8 oz.)

Wash and dry the apricots and cut them in half lengthwise. Remove the pits. Put them in a large shallow bowl and sprinkle the rosewater over them. Let them sit 10 minutes to absorb it. Meanwhile take the mascarpone from the fridge to soften it.

Turn the apricots cut side up--the pit indent should be on top. Using a small icing spatula fill the indent and cover the top entirely with mascarpone. If you are serving them in halves, arrange these on your serving platter.  If you need to cut each half, do it after you've put on the mascarpone and arrange the quarters on your serving platter.  When every apricot has been finished, sprinkle on the nutmeg and then the crushed nuts.  Refrigerate if you are not serving within the hour.

Hummus with Ginger, Cinnamon and Chili
This was recently posted by Yotam Ottolenghi: hummus with Indian spices for a new taste sensation that adds pizzazz to what's become ho-hum trite.

2 14 oz cans cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2" fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tbsp good quality olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
6 thin strips lemon peel
Sea salt

1/4 c olive oil
1 red chili, deseeded and sliced as thin as possible
1 lg garlic clove, peeled and sliced very thin longwise
1" fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced longwise
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp cilantro leaves, finely chopped

In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, 2" ginger, olive oil, 1 garlic clove, 2 tbsp lemon juice, the peel, salt to your taste and 1 tbsp water. Whiz 2 minutes into a smooth paste, stopping twice to scrape down the sides.  

Heat the 1/4 c olive oil in a med sauté pan over med heat. Over med/low heat sauté the chili, garlic, ginger and cinnamon stick 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Continue until the garlic is light brown. Using a slotted spoon remove these solids from the oil and sprinkle with salt. Save the oil.

Arrange the hummus on a large plate. With the back of a wooden spoon create a large well into the center. Spoon the hot oil into the well and drizzle the remaining tbsp lemon juice into it. Top the hummus with the fried cinnamon, ginger et al. Then top everything with the chopped fresh cilantro leaves. Serve with pita or flatbread. For those panicked about gluten, serve with cucumber disks cut on the diagonal so they're oval.

And finally, if you are out of time and out of ideas but need something spiffy in a flash, get yourself a quart of fresh farm strawberries--do not buy supermarket strawberries as they are grown in poison gas. Get yourself some creme fraiche. Wash, dry and hull the berries. Put the creme fraiche in a shallow dipping bowl and put the bowl in the middle of a basket or serving platter. Pile the strawberries around it.  Garnish with fresh mint leaves. You'll be the hit of the day.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Simple Summer with Meatballs

It's hot. It's sticky. Nobody wants fireworks in the kitchen. Summer 's here and the cooking is easy.
Vegetables and fruits galore to choose from. Picnics, potlucks and parties happening. Pick right at the farmers' market and you can cobble together just about anything on short notice.

For instance, a small head of cauliflower. Coat the top with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt, then roast it at 425º until it's lightly brown and crisp, maybe 20 minutes. While that's happening make up some cilantro pesto. Put in a food processor or chopper: 1/2 c cilantro leaves, 1 clove garlic, a good amount of freshly ground black pepper, 2 scallions chopped, sea salt, 6 pine nuts and 1 tbsp ground parmesan or asiago cheese. Whiz it to smithereens, then keep whizzing as you add enough good quality olive oil to make a sauce.  Now: you can pour this over the cauliflower or you can break the florets off individually and serve them beside a bowl of sauce for dipping and you can do either one hot or cold.

Baby bite sized potatoes are available in colors. Think 3-4 per person. Olive oil a baking sheet and put the amount you need on it. Sprinkle the tops with more olive oil and pinches of sea salt. Add a pinch or two of dried rosemary and roast the potatoes at 450º 10-12 minutes. The outside should be very crunchy and the inside meltingly soft. If you need an extra minute to achieve that take it.  Serve warm with more sea salt and some fresh rosemary or at room temperature surrounded by your favorite dips: e.g pesto, French onion, salsa verde, skordalia.

Greek meatballs with mint and cinnamon served room temperature are always a treat. You can use beef
or lamb but beef probably works better for them.
makes 20 golf ball sized meatballs

1 lb very lean ground beef or lamb
1/4 c finely chopped fresh mint leaves (spearmint may be too strong)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 sm red onion, minced
lots of freshly ground black pepper
sea salt to your taste
1/4 c olive oil plus 2 tbsp

Preheat oven to 350º.
Combine everything but 2 tbsp olive oil in a bowl and using your hand blend everything. If the mixture feels loose, add a few breadcrumbs. Make golf ball sized meatballs or smaller and place them as you go on a baking dish oiled with the 2 remaining tbsp olive oil.  Bake at 350º until browned all over, 30 minutes. Cool. Serve at room temperature on a bed of mint or oregano leaves.

Spaghetti with Lemon and Basil
I think of this as the summer version of my lazy cook favorite: cacio e pepe, spaghetti with pepper and cheese. It's about as easy as cooking gets and as tasty. It's what to make when you can't think what to make and don't want to run to the market.
Serves 3-4

1/2+ lb bucatini or spaghetti
3 lg lemons
2/3 c good quality olive oil
1 c freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste.

Boil the spaghetti in heavily salted water until it's just past al dente.
While it cooks, juice the lemons and get 1 tbsp zest.  In a medium bowl whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil.  Drain the spaghetti in a colander. Pour the lemon/oil mixture into the hot pot it cooked in and with a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the cheese. It should start to dissolve making a creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Stir in the warm spaghetti and shake the pot so every strand is coated. Stir in the lemon zest and chopped basil and serve immediately.

And finally an old favorite from Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking,

Chard Torte

Serves 6-8

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1½ lbs Swiss chard (you can mix red and green, for you need two bunches)
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground or cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 jumbo egg (or two small eggs)
1 cup grated Pecorino, Parmigiano or Asiago or Pecorino cheese
¼ cup unbleached flour
2 tbsp balsamic or Jerez vinegar
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400º.  Oil an 8” spring form pan or quiche dish.
 Wash the chard and trim away all the thick stems, even up the back of the leaves.  Chop the leaves into small ½” pieces.
 Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the chard, reduce heat to medium, and sauté, stirring until the chard has wilted.  Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg. Blend in the cheese and flour. Stir in vinegar and nutmeg.
 Combine the cheese mixture with the greens, carefully blending so everything is evenly distributed. Spoon everything into the oiled pan or dish, spreading it evenly, leveling the top.
 Bake 10 minutes at 400º until it is firm. (You might want to put a cookie sheet underneath to catch leaks.) Remove from the oven and cool two minutes before undoing the springform ring. 
 To serve, cut into wedges and garnish with black olives.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Something Fishy

In these hotter, brighter times weather wise, it's best to eat lightly and watery, watery to replace the moisture you sweat out. That 's why Mother Nature is delivering all the water-filled berries, melons, cucumbers and tomatoes now. And why those who like their protein from animals instead of beans and dairy turn to those creatures of water: fish. And hopefully turn to the fishmongers who show up at farmers' markets, if not the local brick and mortar ones.  (Be careful with the quality and labeling of supermarket fish no matter what name is on that supermarket, hint hint.) So here are a few things you can do with all the fish in season. I'll serve more in a later post.

You can also adapt the season to fish you can get year round. For instance, last night for a gala birthday celebration, I made fresh pea hummus from mint, scallions and mascarpone instead of the goat cheese always in the recipe I post--just did that again recently. I slathered it on strips of smoked salmon, which I rolled up and garnished with fresh chive flowers. Those colorful, lip-smacking rolls were gone in seconds!

Fisherman's Soup from Crete

Serves 4
2 1/4 lbs medium potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
1 turbot or similar (around 4 lbs), scaled, gutted and cut into 5 pieces, including the head

1 1/2 c tomatoes, chopped
2 celery sticks
4 bay leaves
1 2/3 c extra virgin olive oil
3 c water
Juice of 2 lemons
Parsley leaves
4 langoustines or prawns or meat of a 1 1/4 lb lobster

 Use a lidded saucepan that will fit the potatoes snugly in a single layer at the bottom of the pan. After adding the potatoes, add the fish, followed by the tomatoes, celery, bay leaves, salt, olive oil and water. The liquid will only partly cover the fish. Put the saucepan over a high heat and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid and continue to boil another 20 minutes. Shake the pan every so often, but never stir the contents. Before you turn the soup off, make sure the potatoes are soft. Add the lemon juice and parsley leaves, then give the pan a final shake. Turn off the heat, add the langoustines or prawns and let it sit for 15 minutes before serving.
To serve, use a slotted spoon to carefully transfer the fish to shallow bowls. Divide the soup and potatoes into bowls. Add a langoustine or prawn or piece of lobster to each  Serve with toasted baguette or warm pita.

Basque Hake or Cod Piperade

Something else from my old recipes for French housewives collection, touted as quick, simple and cheap. Piperade is the Basque delicious combo of bell peppers, onions and garlic perfect on just about everything.

serves 6
2 lb thick oval piece of cod, haddock, or other white fish like halibut or turbot (see photo)
1 green bell pepper
2 red bell peppers
1 yellow or orange bell pepper
6 large tomatoes or a lg 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
3 med red onions
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp unbleached white flour
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme or 3 sprigs fresh
1/3 c olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise and clean out the seeds and pith. Wash, dry and cut them into thin strips. If using fresh tomatoes, plunge them into rapidly boiling water 10 seconds, then remove, run under cold water and slip off the skins. Chop or smash them into pieces. If using the can, start here.
Peel the onions and slice into thin disks. Mince the garlic.
Cover the bottom of a heavy gauge casserole with lid with 3-4 tbsp olive oil and warm over low heat. Add onions and peppers. Sauté 3 minutes to soften. Add the tomatoes, garlic, thyme, a pinch of salt and bay leaf. Cover the pot and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom.
While that's happening, wash the fish and pat it dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the flour on both sides and season with salt and pepper.
Coat a sauté pan or skillet with 2-3 tbsp olive oil, warm over med heat. Put in the fish and brown it 10 minutes.  Flip it over. Pour the pepper mix over the fish and cook another 20 minutes. If you like your fish very well done cook it 25. Remove the fish to the center of a long high sided serving platter and surround it with the piperade to serve. Garnish with either chopped fresh flat leaf parsley or for a more peppery taste, with chopped fresh cilantro.
Basil flavored Aegean Seafood
serves 4-5
 1/4 c Greek olive oil
3 tbsp dried basil
1 bunch scallions, cleaned and chopped
2 lbs canned (cooked) whole roma or Marzano tomatoes with juice
1 tbsp fresh parsley minced
1/4 c dry white wine
1 lb small cooked and peeled shrimp
1/2 lb scallops, rinsed and dried
1/2 lb white fish like haddock, scrod, flounder
1 1/2 lb cooked lobster meat
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 lb feta, crumbed
salt and pepper
garnish: chopped flat leaf parsley and chives

In a small casserole, heat the olive oil over med/low and add dried basil and scallions with a dash of freshly ground black pepper. Sauté 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add tomatoes with juice, minced fresh parsley and white wine. Cook 5-7 minutes until bubbling hot. Stir. Add the fish. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 7-8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and fresh basil. Cook 2 more minutes. Cover the top with the feta and cook only until it starts to melt. Remove from heat and immediately ladle into a serving bowl or high sided plate. Garnish with fresh parsley and chives.

Palestinian shrimp
serves 6
1 kg (2 1/3 lbs) fresh shrimp, peeled
3 sm red onions, diced (about 1 1/2 c)
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 c pine nuts, silvered almonds or raw cashews
2 tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
2 Serrano chili peppers
1 26 oz can diced tomatoes (or 6 fresh tomatoes skinned and diced)
6 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
1 c water
2 tbsp sesame seed

Preheat oven to 325º.
Put the peeled shrimp in a dry sauté pan or wok on med/low heat 3 minutes until the liquid they release evaporates and they are pink. Remove from pan and hold.
Coarsely shop the chili peppers and crush with 1/2 tsp salt into a chunky paste. Chop dill and garlic together as finely as you can.
In the pan shrimp were cooked in, add olive oil and heat over med. Add onions and sauté until soft and translucent, 5-8 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and blend. Add diced tomatoes, spices, crushed salted chilies, water and the dill/garlic mix. Blend well with a wooden spoon or spatula. Simmer 10 min.
   While that's happening, toast the nuts and sesame seeds or fry them in 1 tbsp olive oil: either way.
Stir shrimp into the sauce. Pour the contents of the pan into an earthenware or other oven casserole dish. Cover with the toasted nuts, sesame and chopped parsley. Cover the top with foil or a lid. Bake 10 minutes. Remove foil/lid and bake 2-3 minutes until the top is crusty. Serve with bread and green salad.

Moroccan Fish Soup
serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1/8-1/4 tsp chili flakes depending on your tolerance
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp saffron threads, soaked for at least half an hour in boiling water
1 preserved lemon, pulp scraped away, rind finely chopped OR zest of 1 lemon
2 boxes or cans of plum or Marzano tomatoes drained and chopped,
1 ½ lb boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
1 c white wine
1 ½ lbs cod loin or red mullet or similair, skinned, cut into 1” pieces
1 lb mussels, scrubbed and cleaned

To serve:
handful of1 fresh dill, chopped
Croutons like this.
Handful cilantro leaves finely chopped
Greek yogurt
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil mixed with 2 tbsp harissa (that’s North African hot sauce)

large croutons or fresh crusty bread

In a large frying pan for which you have a lid, warm the oil over medium heat, then gently sauté the onions, garlic, coriander, chili, oregano and a good pinch of salt until everything is very soft, 8-10 minutes. Turn the heat up to med/high, stir in the soaked saffron along with its water, the preserved or regular lemon, tomatoes, potatoes and wine. Simmer 12 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the sauce has thickened slightly. Season to taste. Reduce heat to low.
Lightly season the fish with salt and pepper. Very gently with a wooden spoon fold it into the stew. Scatter the mussels over the top and put on the lid. Cook over low heat 4-5 minutes, then check to see if mussels have opened. If they haven’t, continue cooking until most do. Discard all that don’t.
Spoon the stew into bowls and garnish with dill and cilantro. Serve at the table with the yogurt, harissa oil and croutons or fresh crusty bread.

Bluefish in Cinnamon Orange Sauce
This is a tasty winner because the orange magically removes the oil from the bluefish and imparts surprising flavor. Most of us are not used to having cinnamon and orange on our fish but it's very worth doing. And this is one of the easiest recipes ever.
serves 4-5

3 tbsp olive oil
2 lg onions sliced into thin rings, keep them apart
1/2 c white raisins plus another 1/4 c of raisins or currants, apart
3 tsp freshly grated orange peel
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 c orange juice plus 2 tbsp more, separately
1 1/2 lbs fresh bluefish fillets, rinsed, drained and patted dry
Garnish: orange slices and minced fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350º. Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with olive oil. Make a layer of onion rings from 1 onion, top it with raisins and 1 tsp orange peel, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 c orange juice. Lay the fish fillets on this bed. Cover them with another layer of onion rings, 1/4 c raisins or currants, 2 tsp orange peel, pinch of ground cinnamon, 1 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp orange juice. Cover the dish with foil and bake at 350º 30 minutes. Uncover. Garnish with orange slices and parsley to serve.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

World Peas

 The most versatile and tasty spring into summer fresh vegetable may be the garden pea, sometimes called the English pea. Twas the English who discovered peas because South Asians of the Raj loved their split peas, their green dal, every which way they could eat them. British botanists had the idea to bring those peas home and began experimenting with getting bigger peas in that pod. Thomas Jefferson was a great enthusiast who joined the experimenting by growing all sorts of "garden peas" at Monticello, bequeathing us those luscious fat green pearls in today's pods.

Like its South Asian dal cousin, the English pea is remarkably nutritious. It's also mighty tasty whether quickly steamed with mint leaves or, as some prefer, a lettuce leaf or two, or mashed into a vivid sauce for poached or steamed fresh salmon. Here are a few ways people love fresh garden peas right now.

Italian Peas with Tiny Pasta
This is a favorite from my Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking book, an antique southern Italian recipe made with tiny tubes of pasta meant to resemble rosary beads. The ideal pasta, happily available in supermarkets, is ditali, also called ditalini. In a pinch, use the shortest macaroni you can find. But remember, this is peas with pasta: there should be twice as many peas as rosary beads. The final dish, which has neither sauce nor cheese, is surprisingly fingerlicking, especially when the peas and parsley are fresh from a farmers’ market or your garden. And btw, I learned making this dish how flavorful pea pods can make water so save them and boil them up for really good veggie broth.
Serves 3 (double to serve 6)

1½ lbs fresh shelling peas in the pod
2 soft lettuce leaves (red lettuce works great)
¼ tsp coarse sea salt or other salt
1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley (you will need a dozen sprigs)
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ cup vegetable broth
¼ tsp freshly ground or cracked black pepper
¼ tsp sea salt
1cup rosary bead pasta

Wash peapods carefully in cold water. Shell them, saving the pods. Put the pods in a large saucepan or small stockpot with lettuce and cover with 1 gallon of water. Bring to a boil and add coarse salt. Cook over medium low heat for about 20 minutes.  You are trying to get highly flavored cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, rinse and dry the peas. Remove the leaves from the parsley sprigs and coarsely chop them. (A small food processor works as well as a cleaver.) Discard the stems.
Remove the pea pods and lettuce from the boiling water, saving the water. Bring it back to a boil and put in pasta in. Cook according to package instructions, which should be about 12 minutes.

In a medium size heavy gauge saucepan or casserole, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped parsley and garlic. Sauté 1 minute. Add peas, black pepper and salt. Cover the pot and cook 5 minutes.
 Add broth to the peas, cover the pot and cook over low heat about 15 minutes or until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the peas. Blend well. Cook 1 minute over low heat. Add more salt and/or pepper if you wish and serve immediately in shallow bowls.

Fresh Pea Hummus
I've posted this favorite before but it's especially appropriate here because the recipe uses green garden peas like chickpeas. This is a very refreshing bagel spread or nosh on a cracker. You can instead of goat cheese use plain Greek yogurt to get more of a thick sauce, which is yummy on freshly poached or steamed salmon. And what a colorful eyeful! In the photo left it's on baguette with pieces of smoked salmon topped with fresh pea shoots.

2 cups shelled peas (more or less 1 lb shelled peas)
2 bunches fresh green onions, roots off and stalks trimmed (do not remove all the stalk)
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil 
1/3 c chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, another 2 tbsp for garnishing
Freshly ground black pepper to your taste
Sea Salt to your taste
4 oz creamy soft unflavored goat cheese
1/2 cup cooked cannellini beans, drained
pinch of nutmeg

Chop the scallions coarsely.
In a medium/large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium flame. Add scallions and garlic and sauté 1 minute or until scallions start to soften. Be careful not to burn garlic. Lower heat if necessary. Add the shelled peas and shake the pan. If it's too dry and they want to stick add another tbsp olive oil. Add 1/2 cup water and cook over medium heat 3-4 minutes until peas start to soften. Add the parsley and cook another minute.  The peas should be soft but not soggy or losing color. Drain off any excess water and pour the contents of the pan into a food processor. (if you have an immersion blender you can keep the peas in the pot, okay). Add the mint, salt, pepper, goat cheese and beans. Quickly puree into a thick paste. If it's too thick, add a tbsp or two of olive oil. Sprinkle on a pinch of nutmeg.

That's it.  You can serve this with or on sliced cucumbers--a very cooling dish. You can spread more creamy goat cheese on a slice of baguette and top it with a smear of the pea hummus and a sprinkling of chopped mint leaves. You can use this to fill radicchio leaves--the lower half or smear it on a lavash, top with mascarpone and salmon roe, then roll up the lavash into a large cigar. Now cut it into serving size pieces. In a pinch you can just stick a spoon in and enjoy all the freshness of spring.

Veal Stew with Spring vegetables
This is from my collection of old French housewife recipes. It's categorized as "not much time to make", simple to do and relatively cheap. How perfect is that!
serves 4-6

3 lbs veal flank or stew meat
1 lb baby carrots
1/2 lb baby turnips
1/2 lb baby white or cippolini onions
1 tomato, skinned or 2 tbsp boxed/ canned diced tomatoes
2 lbs fresh peas in the pod, shelled
1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley
1 c white wine
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 lg bay leaf
 2 tbsp sugar
 2 tbsp unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste

If you have veal flank, cut it into thick slices.
In a heavy gauge casserole melt 1 tbsp butter over medium heat. Salt the veal and add it to the hot pot. Sauté until the veal is browned on all sides. Stir in the sugar and flour with a wooden spoon. Add the wine and 1 c hot water. Add the bay leaf and a good helping of freshly ground black pepper. Stir everything well to be sure the flour gets into the liquid evenly. Lower heat to simmer/low, cover and cook 1 hour. Add the tomato. 

While the veal cooks, cut the carrots into thin disks and quarter the turnips. Blanch them along with the onions, peeled,  in boiling water. Drain well.
Melt the remaining butter in a saute pan. Add the carrots, turnips and onions and saute 15 minutes to soften them. Add to the veal pot. Add the shelled peas and cook the stew uncovered 10 minutes. 
If you've used slices of flank, lay them on a platter and top with the veggies and sauce.
If you've used stew meat, put it all into a large serving bowl.
 To serve, garnish with chopped parsley.

 Aloo Mutter or Matar
This is how the Indians who introduced the Brits to the split pea turned around and prepared the Brits' garden peas: with potatoes and curry spices! It's one of the most common Punjabi dishes now. Madhur Jaffrey has a unique recipe for making this with yogurt sauce in her initial cookbook: A Taste of India.

3 med boiling potatoes, in bite size cubes
1/2 lb shelled fresh garden peas
1/3 c chopped or strained tomatoes
2 onions, diced
2-3 tbsp mustard, sunflower or corn oil
1 green chili, seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp (heaping) cumin seeds
2" fresh ginger, peeled and grated
3 garlic cloves, peeled, mashed and minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala 
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt to your taste
handful freshly chopped cilantro leaves

Heat the oil in a sauté pan or wok, using enough to coat the bottom. Put in the cumin seed and saute over medium heat until they crackle, 30-45 seconds. Add onion and green chili and continue cooking until onion is soft and translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add ginger and garlic. Sauté stirring 60 seconds. Add the tomato and stir. Cook 2 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, garam masala, turmeric and salt. Cook over med/low heat until the oil begins to separate from the rest of the sauce. Add the potatoes and peas and cook 2 minutes. Add just enough warm water to cover the potatoes. Cover the pan (foil if you have no lid) and cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, adding water if necessary--8-10 minutes. Taste and adjust salt if necessary. Put into a serving bowl and garnish with the chopped cilantro leaves.
Serve with basmati rice and/or flatbread. Goes well with a plain omelet or roast chicken.

Cold Pea Soup with Tarragon and Mint
serves 8
6 c chicken or veg broth
1 sm onion, peeled and stuck with 2 cloves
1 garlic clove
1 tsp tarragon leaves
3 lbs freshly shelled peas (this means about 5 lbs in the pod)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 c heavy cream or Greek yogurt if you want less calories and a slightly tart taste
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint

In a med soup pot or large saucepan, combine the broth, onion, garlic, tarragon and peas. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook just until the peas are tender, 8-10 minutes max. Remove onion. Season the soup with salt and pepper.  Pour the pot contents into a food processor or blender and purée. Stir in the cream or yogurt. Chill and then serve garnished with the mint leaves.

Risi e bisi
So this is how northern Italians, specifically Venetians, serve peas: with rice not pasta. It's a famous dish whose name translates: rice and peas. People also argue endless about whether it should be soupy or dry or how close to risotto it is. Also whether or not it should, like this recipe, contain bits of pancetta or be vegetarian. Do your own thing and love it.

 2 lbs peas in the pod
1 tbsp unbleached flour
1 tsp coarse salt
1 med celery stalk, cleaned
10 sprigs flat leaf parsley, leaves only
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
4 oz pancetta or other unsmoked bacon, in tiny pieces
1/2 c dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste
3 c beef stock
2 c Arborio or similar Italian rice
To serve: 3 tbsp unsalted butter
scant 1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Shell the peas. Fill a bowl with enough cold water to cover them and stir the flour into the water. Add the peas and let them soak 30 min. Meanwhile wash the pods, put them in a large pot with 4 c water and the  coarse grained salt. Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook 50-60 minutes.

Drain and rinse the peas. Finely chop the celery and parsley together on a board. 
In a med saucepan/pot, heat the butter with the oil until the butter is melted. Add the pancetta and sauté over med/low heat 5 min. Add the celery/parsley mix and cook 5 more minutes. Stir in the peas and continue cooking 5 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to your taste, then the wine. Cover the pan and simmer 20 minutes. The peas should be cooked but firm. Remove from heat but let pot stand covered.

Remove the pea pods from the cooking water. Add the beef broth and heat toward boiling.
Into a large heavy covered casserole, carefully pour the juices from the pea pan. Over med/high heat bring them to a boil and quickly stir in the rice. Sauté 3 min. Now start ladling one ladle at a time the hot peapod broth into the casserole, stirring so the rice absorbs it. Keep ladling once the rice absorbs the last and continue until almost all the liquid in gone except 1/4 c. Add the peas and pancetta to the rice with the last broth mixture. Taste and adjust salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheese. Blend and serve immediately.


Monday, June 11, 2018

Salads for a Summer Meal

Produce is coming faster and fuller into farmers' markets as the days heat up and get longer. Nature is telling us to put away the roasters and braisers and heavy pots. It's time to be raw. And light and watery. Plus with all that heat and light, who wants to stand around cooking when you can just get out the cutting board and have a meal in minutes? Please notice how Mother Nature is providing lots of water filled fruits and vegetables now that we're sweating and need hydration.

So here are a few composed salads to serve for summer lunch. A few of them I just found in an old collection of French recipes, as in these are in French written for French housewives.

Shrimp, Mango and Avocado Salad
This becomes a major meal when served with fried plantains and tortilla chips.
Serves 3-4

6-7 oz smoked or cooked small shrimp (they should be peeled in the package)
1 med avocado, peeled
1 yellow mango, ripe, peeled
4 scallions or 1 sm red onion
1 sm serrano pepper, seeded and minced
2 extra lg eggs, hard boiled and peeled
1/2 c sm green olives with pimento stuffing
16 sm grape or cherry tomatoes (bite sized)
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only, coarsely chopped
3-4 oz. arugula or watercress or frisee
1/4 c fresh lime juice (probably 1 1/2 limes)
1/2 c good quality olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste

Cut the avocado and mango into bite-sized pieces.
Slice the scallion into thin disks, the red onion into very thin rings
Cut the eggs in half lengthwise, then cut each half into two or three wedges
To compose this salad: lay the arugula or watercress on the bottom of the serving plate or individual plates.
In a medium/lg bowl, combine the avocado, mango, scallions/onion, shrimp, pepper, olives, tomatoes and cilantro.  Mix them up.
Whisk the lime juice and olive oil together and pour as much as you prefer over the salad.
Arrange the contents of the bowl on top of the greens. Surround with the egg wedges. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Salade Henriette: chicken with apples, watercress and cheese
This is one of my old French housewife recipe finds. It's listed as "dietetic."

Serves 4
2 Granny Smith apples
1 bunch watercress, very green and crisp, washed and dried carefully
2 cooked chicken breasts
4 oz Gruyere cheese
1 lemon, juice only
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 doz fresh chives
2 tbsp chervil OR fresh tarragon and parsley, finely chopped
1 sm red onion
1 tsp French/Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste
1 sm lemon, in very thin slices for garnish

Wash the apples. Cut them in quarters and remove all seeds and fibrous core. Then cut the quarters into small pieces. Cut the cheese into small cubes. Shred the chicken and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Slice the onion into very thin rings. Chop the chives.
In your salad bowl, put the mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil to make a creamy dressing. Put in all the salad ingredients you've prepared and carefully blend with the dressing.  Garnish with lemon slices and serve.

Vietnamese Cabbage and Chicken Salad
One of my all time old favorites, included in How to Fix a Leek and Other Food From Your Farmers' Market. The flavor combo is always wins new fans. Photo is not of my salad; the photo is borrowed.

For the dressing which you make first

2 chilies, seeded and minced   
3 garlic cloves, minced              
1 tbsp sugar                                 
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar             
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 tbsp corn or vegetable oil
3 tbsp fermented fish sauce (nam pla)
1 med onion, sliced in very thin rings
Combine all ingredients into a dressing and let stand 30 minutes.

2 poached, shredded chicken breasts without skin or bones
4 cups shredded green or white cabbage  
1/2 c fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 c shredded carrots                              
1/2 c fresh cilantro leaves, chopped                                 

Combine all but cilantro in a serving bowl and blend in the dressing. Garnish with cilantro to serve.

Salade Claudine: ham and apple with cucumber and tomato
This is another of those French recipes listed as "dietetic."
Serves 4

1 cucumber
2 ripe tomatoes
1 Granny Smith apple
2 thick slices of ham
1 c fromage blanc or quark or any fresh white cheese soft enough to whip (thin cream cheese)
1 lemon
2 shallots
1 celery stalk, preferably from inside so it's not stringy
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves or 1 tsp dried
Fresh flat leaf parsley for garnish, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste

Peel and slice the cucumber into very thin disks. Put them in a sieve with a pinch of salt for five minutes to get some of the water out.  Cut the tomatoes in quarters and lightly salt them.
Cut the apple in quarters, remove the seeds and pith, then slice the quarters lengthwise into thin half moon wedges. Squirt a bit of lemon juice on them so they don't brown. Dice the celery.  Remove any fat from the ham and slice it into thin strips. Mince the shallots and garlic.

Put the white cheese into a large salad bowl and whip it to aerate. Keep whisking while you add the lemon juice. Add freshly ground black pepper to your taste. Dry the cucumber slices. Add all the salad ingredients to the bowl, the tarragon and parsley last. Carefully blend everything. Refrigerate 10 minutes before serving.

Asparagus with Eggs and Smoked Salmon
This is a great way to use the less costly smoked salmon bits you often find at fish and farmers' markets. It's best when asparagus is fresh in season so you get tender stalks that cook quickly.
serves 4
2 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
2 bunches tender medium thick asparagus--try to get uniform stalks
2 tsp small capers, drained
4 oz smoked salmon bits or slices cut into bits
1 sm red onion, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp best quality olive oil
8 slices day old baguette
soft herbed white cheese like Boursin or any soft, herbed goat or sheep cheese

Put the bread slices on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with a tiny amount of olive oil. Toast them in a 325º oven until they are brown and crunchy. You can do this ahead and store them in an airtight tin.

Cut the tough ends off the asparagus spears and put them in a large pot of boiling salted water on medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until they are tender but NOT mushy.  Drain and dry. While they are still warm, cut them in half, put them on a serving plate and drizzle with the olive oil. Salt them lightly. Sprinkle the capers and salmon bits over the top. Season everything with freshly ground black pepper.  Grate the eggs over the top of everything.

Slather the soft white cheese on each crouton like bread slice and arrange them around the rim of the salad plate. Serve and enjoy!