Monday, September 18, 2017

Last Call and First Alarm

An alarming scientific article says changes in the atmosphere due to changes in the climate have robbed or reduced the nutrients in our food. There is no there there. Essentially our food is the mechanism that transforms solar energy into fuel that powers our body and pollutants in the atmosphere are significantly interfering now. Likely, supermarket food is fast becoming useless, pretty but nourishment free. Best bet remains your local farmer: if there's any nutrients the ground can supply that food will have them.

This said, time is running out for the watery vegetables and fruits of summer. So here are a few delicious goodbyes to superior farm fresh produce. And of course, easy does it. You can make a meal of them, as the photo suggests. What you see are fresh corn fritters, farm fresh heirloom tomato sliced and salted, chard stuffed baby peppers, roasted cherry tomatoes atop goat cheese on olive bread, figs wrapped in prosciutto, Armenian green beans (see Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking and earlier blog posts on green beans) and olives. All together leaves room for chocolate torte. ;o)
NOTE; This is a very vegetarian post.

Himalayan Sesame Cucumbers
Another recipe from my cookbook in progress: The Himalaya: A Cook's Tour
 Serves 4-6

2 ripe med slicing cucumbers, peeled, split and seeded or 4 Persian cucumbers
1 tsp coarse including kosher salt
1 tbsp (heaping) sesame seeds (if you can find roasted that speeds this up)
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 large lemon, juice only
1 sm green chili, seeded and minced
1 tbsp mustard oil or 1 tbsp veg oil with 1/8 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
optional garnish: a handful of chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Dry roast the sesame seeds in a small nonstick frying pan if they are not already roasted. Cool slightly and grind them to powder (a coffee grinder is perfect) or smash them in a mortar.

Cut the cucumbers into 2” lengths, then slice off thin strips into a medium bowl.
Blend in ½ tsp salt and let the cucumbers stand for 15 minutes. Drain off any water that’s accumulated and pat the cucumbers dry. 
Blend in the ground sesame, turmeric, lemon juice, minced chili, and the remaining ½ tsp salt.
 Heat the oil in a small pan. Fry the fenugreek seeds about 30 seconds until they start to color. Pour the oily seeds over the cucumbers.
 Optionally garnish with the cilantro and serve.

Provencal Tomato Soup
An oldie but always goodie because it's so simple, so yummy, so pure in nourishment and it freezes well to boot.

Serves 4-5

2 lbs. fresh tomatoes, skinned (optional) and chopped
2 lg. onions, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 mildly hot small pepper minced or pinch of chili pepper flakes
2 tbsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper to your taste
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley (5-6 sprigs)
Optional garnish: buttered garlic croutons

In a medium sized heavy gauge casserole, heat the butter and olive oil together until the butter melts. Stir in thyme and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add onions, bay leaf and a pinch of ground black pepper. Stir to blend and sauté over medium low heat until the onions are soft and glistening.

Add the tomatoes and hot pepper and mix well. If the tomatoes aren’t juicy, add ½ cup water to avoid burning. Cover and simmer on low for 20-25 minutes, until the tomatoes become soupy. (If the soup is too thick and pasty, add either another ¼ cup of water or dry sherry if you’d like.)

Remove the bay leaf and remove from heat. Your choice: blitz the soup into a puree or eat it chunky. Stir in the parsley.  Adjust salt and pepper to your taste and serve with or without garlic croutons.

Imam Bayildi 
I'm repeating this famous Turkish eggplant dish I posted in the book How to Fix a Leek ... because right now just about all the featured ingredients, especially eggplants, are piled high at market stalls.

For 8

4 small eggplants, the large Japanese work fine (about 1½-1 3/4 lbs)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp best quality extra virgin, first cold pressed olive oil
2 med onions, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
6 lg garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled* and chopped
¼ cup (about 1/3 bunch) parsley leaves, chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
juice of ½ lemon
½ -3/4 cup water

Image result for imam bayildiCut stems off eggplants and peel strips of skin off at 1” intervals, for a striping effect.  Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Make a deep slit lengthwise through the fleshy side of the eggplant (the non-skin side), being careful not to cut all the way through and puncture the skin. If any of the halves do not lie perfectly flat on the skin side, slice off a tiny, thin piece so they do. Salt the exposed flesh, turn upside down and put on paper towels for 30 minutes to drain out the bitter juice. Rinse and dry.

In a very large skillet, heat the ordinary olive oil over high heat until it’s crackling or smoking. Put in the eggplants, flesh side down, and fry until golden brown, about 4-6 minutes depending on heat capacity, burner size and size of pan. Remove and drain on paper towels. Lightly salt.

In the same skillet, heat ¼ cup quality olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic. Sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently so nothing burns. 

Pour the contents of the skillet into a medium-size bowl. Add tomatoes, parsley, dill, pepper, pinch of salt and 1 tbsp quality olive oil.  Blend well.

Arrange eggplant halves slit side up in the skillet. Carefully stuff each slit with as much onion mixture as you can and then cover all exposed eggplant with it. Sprinkle lemon juice over all eggplants.

Put 1 tbsp quality olive oil into the skillet. Add ½ -3/4 cup water, enough to cover the entire bottom so nothing will burn. Cover the skillet (use foil or a cookie sheet if you have no lid) and simmer over low heat until eggplants are soft, about 50-65 minutes, again depending on how big the burner is relative to the skillet. Check every 10-15 minutes to see if you should add water because there’s no juice in the bottom.  Cool to room temperature. Pour any remaining skillet juices over the eggplants to serve.

Small Peppers stuffed with Cheese and Chard
Overwhelming just now the amount and color of peppers pouring into farmers' markets before frost. Usually I stuff mine with rice, dill, pine nuts, lemon zest or tomatoes. Sometimes I stuff them with orzo, tomatoes, parsley and tuna. This is a carb-free lighter version with surprisingly zesty flavor.

Serves four to six.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large bunch chard, trimmed, stalks and leaves finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed and minced
2 mild red chilies, deseeded and very finely chopped (roasted ones are even more yummy)
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
3 tbsp pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/3 c shredded or grated mozzarella
2 lbs mixed baby peppers (ie, about 20 baby peppers)

Heat the oven to 400º. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, then for 15 minutes fry the chard, ¼ tsp salt and a generous grind of black pepper, stirring often, until the stalks are soft and starting to brown. Add garlic, chili and oregano, fry 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Cool, then stir in the pine nuts and cheeses.
Cut a little V from the stalk of each pepper down almost to the base and scoop out and discard the seeds. Stuff each pepper with the chard mix, then lay them all cut side up on the lined baking pan. Roast 20 minutes, until the peppers are soft and caramelized. Cool at least 10 minutes and serve warm or later at room temperature. (These make great picnic and boat food.)

Roasted Tomato Sauce (Achar in Nepali)
Another treasure from the collect of recipes in The Himalaya: A Cook's tour
It beats ketchup! Great with omelets, dumplings, baked potatoes and fish, for starters.

2-3 sm/med not so juicy tomatoes (avoid heirlooms and try Romas for this)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
½” piece of ginger, peeled
3 dried arbol chilies or one small fresh hot red chili pepper
½ tsp. tumeric, ground
1/3 bunch cilantro, leaves only
1/8 tsp. salt (more if you like salt)

Roast the tomatoes(a toaster oven at 450º works just fine) on a tray until they blister and the skin starts to peel off. Remove from heat and cool enough to handle. Core and peel.

In a blender or small food processor combine all the ingredients and puree until they form a thick sauce. Taste for salt and adjust.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Easing Into Autumn, emphasis on ease

HIgh tide has hit farmers markets bringing what I call "the but season." It's all too much and we really can't cook or eat any more BUT it might not be there next week so we'd best buy, prepare and preserve what we can. It's that time of year I call great gorge   Here from around the world--remember, everybody cooks because everybody needs to eat-- are a few spectacular and spectacularly easy ways to indulge in the astonishing bounty. Seven recipes mean a treat every day of the week.

Glazed beets with their greens
From Central Asia comes the silky molasses glazed red beet with its greens, a new taste sensation that's...well sensational!  The recipe requires pomegranate molasses but the $3-4 investment in a bottle will be worth it because you'll make this again throughout winter.
Serves 4

4 medium beets with greens
2 tbsp butter
1 sm red onion, thinly sliced in disks
4 garlic cloves, smashed and slivered
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves or 1 tsp dried
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Separate beets from their greens. Wash and coarsely chop the greens. Peel the beets and cut each into slightly larger than bite sized wedges, maybe 4 per beet.

Melt the butter in a lidded sauté pan large enough to hold the beets in one layer. Add the onion and cook until it softens, 3-5 minutes. Add the beets in one layer and sprinkle on the garlic. Drizzle the molasses evenly over the beets. Season with salt to your taste. Add water to about 3/4 of the beet depth. Do not cover the beets. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan, reduce heat to simmer and cook 20 minutes or until the beets are almost tender to a fork. Remove the lid, raise heat again and boil off the water until you see beets covered in a syrupy glaze.  Scatter the greens over the beets, reduce heat to low, cover the pan again and cook 5 minutes.  Uncover. Add the tarragon and freshly ground black pepper to your taste. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.

Pasta with browned zucchini and mint
This Sicilian one dish meal, a new way to treat zucchini, can be thrown together in about 20 minutes if you start boiling the pasta water when you start frying the zucchini. 

Serves 4
2 lg zucchini
2 garlic cloves, smashed and sliced
scant 1 c good quality olive oil
1 lb pasta of your choice
1/2 tsp dried oregano
pinch red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint

Slice the zucchini into 1/4" thick disks and half these.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. While that's happening:
in a med/lg skillet, heat the olive oil and over medium heat fry the garlic 45-60 seconds just until it's fragrant. Don't brown it. Scoop it out and mash it and save it for the final moment.

Fit as many squash half moons into the pan as you can in one layer and fry on both sides until each is blistered and golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to lift them out onto paper towels. Season with salt and continue frying in batches until all the zucchini has been cooked.

Cook the pasta with lots of salt until it is al dente. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, get the pasta into the pot with the oil still warm from zucchini frying. Coat it carefully. Then using a slotted spatula move the pasta to a serving bowl or plate. Season well with salt, pepper, oregano and pepper flakes. Stir in half the cheese and most of the mint. Top with the zucchini, more freshly ground black pepper, the remaining mint and cheese. 

Serve with a fresh tomato/basil salad.
 Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
You can freeze these in little snack bags, that is if you don't eat them all first. I used the Juliet plum shaped tomato which is close to a regular paste tomato, less juicy, so it roasts really well.  If you don't freeze them, you can put each atop a cracker or crostini of goat cheese or paté, throw them over pasta or into rice, lay them on the cream cheese smeared over your bagel or roasted eggplant salad on olive bread, lots of etc.

There's no exact recipe for this, just a method--and it couldn't be easier. Cut each tomato in half or in three, place the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, season with sea salt and drizzle with olive oil. Optionally you can grate one clove of garlic over the tray. Roast at 350º 45-60 minutes until they are soft and fragrant.  Cool to freeze. In a closed container with a bit of olive oil added, they will store in the refrigerator about a week.
Bhutanese Pork with Bok Choy and Cauliflower
This is one of my Himalayan recipes, tasty and simple.

Serves 4

1 medium sized cauliflower, cut into florets
1 c water
2 tbsp corn, mustard or canola oil
1 med/lg onion, peeled and quartered
2” fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 large jalapeno or small Serrano chili pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
3 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced into thin strips
1 lb pork filet cut into thin strips (use shoulder, country rib or boneless chops)
1 tsp crushed chili flakes
¼ tsp ground star anise or ½ star crushed
2 teaspoons salt
3 large bokchoy, cut into strips
2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
for garnish: 1 bunch cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

In a medium saucepan, combine the cauliflower florets and 1 cup water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook 3-4 minutes until florets just start to soften. Remove from heat.

Break the onion layers apart. Heat the oil in a large wok or sauté pan over medium/high flame. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilies and stir-fry 2-3 minutes until they soften slightly. Add the pork, crushed chilies, star anise and stir-fry another 3 minutes to brown the pork. Add salt and continue to stir-fry until pork is cooked through and not pink anywhere. Add bokchoy. Drain the cauliflower keeping the water, and add along with up to 1 cup of that water. Blend everything and continue to cook 5 minutes until everything is soft and cooked through. Squeeze in the orange juice. Taste to adjust salt and crushed chili flakes to your liking. Add the cilantro leaves, stir to blend and serve with Bhutanese red rice and cucumber/cheese salad.

Silky soft butter Potatoes
Another winning dish from Central Asia and one of my favorites because it's so easy, tasty and comforting. Goes with just about anything too. Pictured are the perfect size potatoes, available now!
serves 4

3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 1/4 lbs waxy (e.g. Yukon gold) new potatoes, scrubbed
3 garlic cloves thinly sliced
Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper or cracked peppercorns
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill

 Cut the unpeeled potatoes into 1/2" thick disks.
In a large frying pan, heat the butter with the oil until the butter is totally melted. Add the sliced onions and sauté on med/low heat until they are soft and golden. Go slowly so they don't burn. Stir in the potatoes and coat them with the butter/oil and onions. Season with salt to your taste (more is better), put heat on simmer, cover the pan with a lid or foil and walk away. Let the potatoes simmer 45 minutes, checking occasionally that they are not burning. Add butter if necessary. IN the end, stir in the fresh dill and black pepper. Serve and savor the happiness this dish brings.
Green bean and mashed potato cake
This is great for kids.
Serves 4 –6
1¼ lbs potatoes, ideally 3 the same size
1 lb green beans1 tsp ground thyme
100g parmesan cheese, grated
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and black pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp olive oil
Fine breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350º. Scrub, but don’t peel, the potatoes. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil,  reduce heat to simmer and cook until tender. Drain and cool. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Add the beans and thyme and cook about 8-10 minutes or until the beans are starting to feel soft but remain firm. Drain well and chop into small, rough pieces. You can use a scissors as well as a knife.
Once the potatoes are cool, peel and mash them. Mix the mash with the cooked beans, cheese, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Oil the cake tin, using more olive oil if you need to, then dust it with fine breadcrumbs. Scrape the mixture in, level out the top, sprinkle with more breadcrumbs and zigzag the top with a drizzle of olive oil. Bake 50-60 minutes, until the cake is slightly puffed up and golden on top.
4 Let it cool 20 minutes before running a blade around the edge and then turning it out on to a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Peach, plum or fig butter cake
You can whip up this classic European coffee cake without much effort and delight everyone with your expertise. You can also freeze all or part of it. Use whatever fruits you have too many of. I used peaches one day, figs the next--a change from always using plums.

serves 8 but you might get 10 slivers if you need to

For the butter cake:
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
3/4 cup white or better turbinado (raw) sugar                                  
2 extra large eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
pinch of salt        
1 tbsp light brown sugar
2 tbsp melted butter

For the fruit:
Peaches: 5-6 small or 4 large ones, cut into petal like thin wedges.
    Season the cake with ½ tsp ground nutmeg, ¼ tsp ginger and ¼  tsp ground cinnamon. Sprinkle flour over the peaches to absorb their juices. Sprinkle a little fresh lime juice over them, then pinches of cardamom.
Figs: 6-8 fresh figs thinly sliced (maybe 3 slices per fig)
    Season the cake with a pinch of ground cloves, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground cardamom and sprinkle 1 tbsp lemon juice and  ½ tsp anise seed over the figs.
Plums: 8-10 sm/med fresh plums cut in half and pitted. (don’t worry if the halves look ragged.)
   Season the cake with ½ tsp ground ginger and a pinch of ground cloves. Sprinkle 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice and pinch of ground cinnamon over the plums.

Preheat over to 350º. Lightly butter an 8, 9 or 10” spring form pan.
In a mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add flour, baking powder, salt and eggs. Beat well. Spoon thick batter into the prepared pan and with a spatula level the top. It will be gooey.
Arrange fruit around the top: the peaches like daisy petals, the plums skin side up, the figs anyway you wish. Season accordingly.
Mix the melted butter with 1 tbsp brown sugar and spread this over the fruit.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before releasing from the spring form pan.
  To freeze, double wrap in aluminum foil and slip into an airtight freezer bag.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Fritter Away the end of summer

The current tsunami of colorful fresh produce can feel overwhelming. You just can't eat it all and it ends up staring at you, daring you.  An easy and tasty way to polish it off is in a fritter, or pancake if you prefer. There are all sorts from the traditional Eastern European potato latke (pancake) to the beloved Venezuelan corn meal pancake known as arepa  and its sibling, the Rhode Island johnnycake. Fritters make a splendid vegetarian meal but they are fried food. If you have a problem with that, you can bake them. You need to oil a cookie sheet because oil is what conducts the heat into the fritter. You need to brush the top of each with oil and you need to bake them at a high heat, about 425º.  Some fritters freeze so you can enjoy them later.

Greek zucchini fritters, aka

What you see in the photo is a bit of a cheat: I had only a small zucchini but a leek which also makes fritters so I put them together. The leek fritter wants lemon, the zucchini yogurt so I've got both here. Here's the zucchini recipe plain and simple: everybody loves these.

2½ lbs zucchini, grated(about 4 lg ones)
1 red onion, grated
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2-3 tbsps fresh mint, finely chopped
2 eggs
1½ cup feta cheese, grated
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups fine breadcrumbs
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsps parsley, finely chopped
oil for frying
Use a grater to grate the zucchini and place them in a colander with some salt. Squeeze them with your hands to get rid of the excessive water. Leave them for 30 minutes and squeeze them again.
Into a large bowl add the other ingredients and mix well with your hands, until combined and the mixture is firm enough to make balls or patties. Add breadcrumbs as needed.
To fry: In a pan, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan, and heat the oil into medium-high heat.
Dip a tablespoon in some water and spoon out some of the mixture into the hot oil. Repeat this procedure until the surface off the pan is comfortably filled. You should dip the spoon in the water every time, so that the dough doesn’t stick on it.
Fry the kolokithokeftedes for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until nicely colored. Place them on paper towel, to absorb the extra oil.
A healthier alternative is to bake patties. Preheat the oven to 425º, oil the bottom of a baking tray and form patties with your hands. Place on the baking tray and brush the top with some olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip and bake another 10-15 until all patties are nicely brown. Serve hot or room temp with fresh cold yogurt or tsatsiki.

 Corn meal corn and chili fritters

I made these up to use up two ears of corn that had been in the fridge 4 days. I used packaged "masarepa", the white corn meal specific for  arepas but I believe regular fine ground yellow corn meal will also work. What you see in the center is a sauté of multicolored peppers which are overflowing right now at farmers' markets. It's actually a delectable and very versatile Basque dish known as Piperade. It's possible and wonderful to serve a sunny side up egg atop these pancakes or guacamole or Mexican green salsa made from tomatilloes and avocado..

 makes 12-15 fritters
1 c masarepa or fine corn meal
1 c water
1/2 c milk
1 lg (not jumbo) egg
1 sm green chili minced or 1/4 tsp chili powder
2 ears of corn, cooked and the corn cut off the cob
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
Sea salt to your taste (probably 1/4 tsp)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp very finely chopped cilantro leaves

 Preheat oven to 375º.
Combine everything in the order listed in a med/lg bowl, mixing steadily as you go. You should have a thickish dough that doesn't really run. Coat the bottom of a large skillet or a griddle with a layer of corn oil and put it over medium/high heat. When the oil is hot (try dropping a tiny bit of water and see if it sizzles), using a soup spoon, make round pancakes, as many as fit in the pan with room for you to flip them. Cook until bubbles form at the top. flip and cook until both sides are equally browned. Drain on paper towels. Put in a single layer on a large cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Cool slightly to serve.
Bulgarian leek fritters
I am reprising this recipe because these fritters are fabulous hot or at room temperature. People gobble them up. They are best with a squeeze of fresh lemon. With a hearty tomato or full on panzanella salad,  they make a great luncheon.
Makes 12, serves 6-8

6 lg leeks, white and light green parts only
1 tbsp fresh chives, minced
2 eggs, beaten
½-2/3 cup dried breadcrumbs
1 tsp coarse sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp corn or canola oil for frying
1 lemon

Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and crosswise and rinse to clean.
Put leeks in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil.
Lower heat to simmer and cook uncovered about 25 minutes, until leeks are soft.
Drain well. Wrap leeks in a heavy towel to squeeze out as much excess water as possible.

Coarsely chop the leeks. Put in a bowl with the chives, salt and pepper. Stir in the breadcrumbs. (Enough to take up any remaining moisture in the leeks.) Blend in the eggs. 
Make 8 patties that are about ½ inch thick.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Arrange the patties in the pan so they don’t touch (you may have to do this in two batches) and cook until brown on the bottom side, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook another 1-2 minutes so both sides are evenly browned. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

Serve with a squirt of lemon juice and a wedge of lemon.
Optionally sprinkle minced fresh flat leaf parsley on the plate.
Can be served warm or cold.

Tomato Fritters

1 1/2 lbs ripe plum or cherry tomatoes, grated or finely chopped
3 scallions, white and tender green parts, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 Tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped
Pinch of cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1¼ - 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour or fine ground chickpea flour, as needed
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp extra virgin olive oil
Vegetable oil for frying (olive oil has a low smoke point but you can use it for the flavor by mixing a bit into corn or canola oil)

In a large bowl, mix together the grated or chopped tomatoes, scallions, herbs, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Combine 1¼ cups of the flour and the baking powder in a small bowl and add it to the tomatoes, mixing well. Add the olive oil. Add flour if necessary to give the mixture the consistency of a thick batter. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Cover the bottom of a large heavy skillet with 1” of oil. Heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, drop a tablespoon of the batter at a time into the skillet and fry the tomato fritters on both sides until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels. Serve hot.

Buttery Corn and Chive Fritters
These are fancier and fussier but mighty delicious if you dare them.
serves 6

1 1/2 c corn kernels  (4-5 lg ears)
1/2 c milk
1/3 c fine corn meal
1/3 c unbleached white flour
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 lg eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper, lots
1/2 c chopped fresh chives
1/2 c ghee for frying

Put the corn kernels in a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk, corn meal and flour.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs and yolks. Stir this carefully into the dry corn mix. Add salt, pepper and chives.

Heat a large skillet over med/high heat and add the ghee when it's hot. Using a soup soon, drop the batter into the skillet and quickly flatten and shape into a small round pancake. Fry 2 minutes on each side or until they are both golden brown. Remove from skillet and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Keep this in the oven at 225º until all the fritters have been fried. Serve immediately, maybe with a dollop of creme fraiche.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

More Quick, Easy and Tasty Fixes for Farm Food

A few more simple, elegant and extravagantly yummy recipes for the end of August and start of what feels like autumn. Some will help you preserve the bounty into the chill of winter. Coming next: zucchini and its summer cousins.

 Zesty Corn and Chili Pepper Chowder with chorizo
 A quick, tasty and very comforting soup that's all about the end of summer. Serves 4-5

3 lg ears corn, shucked clean
4 sm/med (2") new potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into bite-size pieces
2 tbsp butter
1" piece of chorizo, coarsely chopped
1 sm red onion, minced
1 lg celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 sm poblano pepper, diced
1 sm green chili pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 tbsp chopped red pepper or pimentos (roasted red peppers)
pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried sage
salt to your taste
2 c vegetable broth or corncob water
12 oz can evaporated milk unsweetened
handful chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Cut the corn off the cob and save in a bowl. Put the cobs in a pot, cover them with 2 cups water and bring it to a boil. Lower heat and cook 5 minutes while you proceed with the soup. This will give you flavored corn water for the soup if you don't have broth.

In a medium/large heavy gauge pot, melt the butter. Add the chorizo, onion, celery, poblano and chili and red peppers. Sauté on medium heat until the veggies start to soften, 3-4 minutes. Add the seasonings and potatoes. Stir to blend. Add the corn kernels and blend. Pour in the broth or corncob water, bring to a boil, lower heat to med/low, cover the pot and cook until potatoes are soft, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the evaporated milk. Leave on the heat just long enough to warm it in the soup, don't boil. Remove from the heat, add the fresh cilantro and serve immediately. It also tastes good the next day because the flavors really mingle.

Armenian Vegetable Roast
I'm reprising this because it's always so appropriate. Carrots, celery, fennel, cauliflower, cabbage, purple onion, yellow squash and red peppers roasted til they char and release their sugars, topped with tomatoes, roasted, then topped with fresh dill and mint. Colorful, picturesque, very tasty nourishment. Great beside whatever you grill.

1 sm cabbage, sliced into 3 wedges (keep the core in – it’s the best bit)
1 med/lg carrot,  peeled and thickly sliced
1 zucchini thickly sliced
2 lg celery sticks thickly sliced crosswise
1 med red onion peeled and quartered
1 sm cauliflower stalks and florets, chopped
1 med red pepper  cored, deseeded and roughly chopped in strips
3 tbsp olive oil
pinch of ground cinnamon
1 beefsteak or other large firm tomato thickly sliced
1 tbsp fresh dill chopped
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper to your taste

Preheat the oven to 425º. Place all the vegetables except the tomato in a large roasting pan. Pour over the oil and season well with salt and pepper and pinch of cinnamon--just a hint. Mix everything together with your hands and bake for 30 minutes until the edges of the vegetables start to char.
Arrange the tomato slices on top, season with salt and pepper and continue to bake another 15 minutes. Sprinkle over the chopped dill and serve.

Peach Pecan Chutney
This sweet and sour recipe is for a small batch of 3-4 4oz canning jars. Double it if you'd like or have a pile of peaches to preserve.
7-8 small local peaches, pitted and chopped
1/3 c chopped pecans, roasted
1/4 c raisins, preferably white but dark will work too
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
pinch ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cinnamon
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1/4 c raspberry vinegar (if you don't have use balsamic and throw in a few raspberries or blueberries)
1/2 c brown or raw sugar
Put everything in a stainless or ceramic pot, bring to a boil and boil away until it starts to thicken. Seal in sterilized jars.  Enjoy all winter with roasted turkey or chicken or beside a grilled cheese sandwich.

Tomato Pie
This is a recipe from Italy.

(Serves 8)

Oil or butter, for greasing

1 packet chilled short crust pastry (or make your own)

Flour, for dusting

4 tbsp wholegrain mustard

8 large tomatoes (about 2 lbs), thinly sliced

2 tbsp grated gruyere cheese

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350º placing an oven rack in the lower part of it. Grease a 9” detachablebottom tart pan. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface until it is large enough to line your tart pan. Spread the mustard on the bottom of the pastry case. Place some sliced tomatoes around the edge of the case, making sure they overlap, then fill in the middle.

Sprinkle the cheese over the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, then drizzle with the oil.

Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake on a low oven rack 40 minutes. Take the tart out of the oven and carefully slip off the outer ring, leaving the tart sitting on the base. Return to the oven on the baking sheet for another 5–10 minutes so the sides get really crisp.

Wild blueberry muffins
These are the best ever blueberry muffins because they're packed to the gills with fresh wild blueberries. Recipe makes 10-12.

2 c wild blueberries (these are the small ones)
1 stick butter plus 1 tbsp to grease muffin tins, cut into pieces
2/3 c sugar (a pinch of brown adds zip)
2 extra lg eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
optional: 1/2 tsp orange flower water
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch salt
2 c unbleached white flour
1/2 c plus 1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp white sugar mixed with a pinch of ground cinnamon for topping

Using butter, heavily grease 12 regular muffin tins (that's 2 tins of 6 muffins). Preheat oven to 375º.
In a mixer or mixing bowl, beat the butter til it's fluffy. How fluffy determines how high your muffins rise.
Beat in the sugar and keep beating to keep it all very fluffy and light in color. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla, optional flower water, baking powder and nutmeg. Make sure everything is combined. Very slowly beat in 1/2 c flour. Then get out a spatula and hand fold in another 1/2 c. Add the milk and fold it in with the spatula. Add the remaining flour and carefully fold it into make dough. Fold in the blueberries.  Using an icecream scoop, fill the muffin tins about 1/4" below the top. sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top of each muffin. Bake at 375º 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the tins 10 minutes, then remove the muffins from the tin.  These can be frozen wrapped in tin foil and then put into freezer bags. 

Roasted Eggplant salad
I've made this up as a combo of Romanian eggplant and traditional baba ganoush. It needs a small bulbous eggplant, maybe 4-5". Serve with fresh pita or flatbread or spread on deli rye. It should delight up to 6 people.

1 sm Italian eggplant (the bulbous kind)
1/2 sm red onion
1/4 tsp ground Aleppo pepper or a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tbsp tahini
2 garlic coves
a 1/4" wide, 4" long strip of green bell pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp top quality olive oil

If you have a grill char the eggplant slightly. I use the gas burner of my stove on medium for 5 minutes, turning the eggplant with tongs once or twice.  Roast the eggplant in an oven at 450º til soft: about 20 minutes. Cool. Remove the skin. Put the eggplant in a food processor and add everything else. Process into a paste, not a drooling puree. Adjust seasonings to your taste and enjoy.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Back in the Kitchen: Simple summer gourmet, August

Fruits and vegetables are flowing at high tide through farmers' markets everywhere. It's hard to know what to pick and sometimes harder to figure out what to do with it when you get home. So here are some really easy "fixes" you can treasure for seasons to come. Next time: tomatoes, beets, eggplants, fruits..

Korean Carrots
Now is the time to take full advantage of all those gorgeously colored carrots: purple, yellow, bright orange and red.  Grab a few of each because this is really picturesque and delicious when you do--as you can see. And there's hardly any calories to make you worry about bathing suit images.

for 6
7-8 med/lg carrots of all colors
1/4 c rice wine or cider vinegar
3-4 tbsp honey (you want the sweet and sour to match so you have to taste and figure it out)
1 small green chili, seeded and minced
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander or coriander seeds
Sea salt to your taste.
Chopped cilantro.

Using a peeler, peel the carrots, then continue using the peeler to create long wafer thin carrot strips. You can do this over your serving bowl.  Let the carrots sit a few minutes and then squeeze down to remove any water in the bottom or the bowl.

While they are sitting, in a dry frying pan toast the sesame, cumin and coriander seeds or powder for 2 minutes until the seeds turn brown and you can smell their fragrance.  In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar and honey. Pour the vinegar/honey over the carrots, then stir in the seeds, minced chili and salt. Let this sit a few hours so carrots absorb the powerful flavors--which means you can make it way ahead.  Garnish with cilantro to serve.

Roasted Cauliflower with chimichurri
I try to buy the smallest whole cauliflower in the pile so it roasts quickly and doesn't leave leftovers. There are too many other veggies waiting to be enjoyed. You can make the chimichurri--Argentina's favorite steak sauce, essentially parsley with vinegar, while the cauliflower is roasting. For this particular preparation I prefer the bright white traditional cauliflower for its striking contrast with the powerful green sauce.

To roast a cauliflower, remove all outer leaves. If it is small, you can leave it whole. If it's large, cut out the core and pull apart the florets.  Put the cauliflower on a baking sheet, sprinkle it with olive oil and sea salt and roast it at 450º until it starts to feel tender. How long depends on whether you use the whole cauliflower which obviously takes much longer, or the florets, whether you do it in an oven or toaster oven, with gas or electric but in general think about 12-25(the whole shebang) minutes.

Chimichurri, Argentina’s famous parsley steak sauce  
Make Ahead. The chimichurri can be refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.

1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley (leaves of 1/2 bunch) 
3 tbsp red wine vinegar 
4 large garlic cloves, minced (2 1/2 tbsp) 
2 tbsp oregano leaves 
2 tsp crushed red pepper 
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a food processor, combine the parsley, vinegar, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper. Process until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and pour the olive oil over the mixture. Let stand for at least 20 minutes.

Celery Date Salad
I'm posting this again two year later because it's still so perfect in every way right now: crisp, crunchy, colorful, cool and cooling.

serves 6
8 celery stalks, thinly sliced on the diagonal. Chop the leaves too.
6 fresh dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/2 c roasted almonds, halve. Whole is okay too.
1/2 sm red onion, diced
2 tsp minced fresh mint leaves
pinch red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 oz shaved Parmesan cheese 
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 c extra good olive oil

Combine celery and leaves, dates, almonds, onion and pepper flakes in a serving bowl. Moisten with the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cheese and olive oil and lastly stir in the mint leaves.
Darjeeling Green Beans with Sesame, salad
This is a recipe from the cookbook I'm working on: the Himalaya, a Cook's Tour gives an ordinary vegetable extraordinary oomph and character. People will notice. Best of all, It's simple, quick, tasty and remarkably nutritious. Little wonder it's a summer favorite in the Himalaya.

1 lb fresh green beans

1 tbsp + 1 tsp sesame seeds

1-2 green chilies (Serrano)depending on how hot you like

1 tbsp mustard or corn or canola oil

salt to your taste

juice of 1 lemon

Cut the green beans on a slant into 1 ½ pieces. Put them in a pot, cover with water, add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and cook 5-8 minutes until the beans are just tender. Add water if necessary. Drain. Put into a serving bowl.

Dry roast the sesame seeds in a small frying pan. Grind to a fine powdery paste.

Half and seed the chilies. Then carefully cut them into very thin long strips.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the chilies. Fry 3 minutes until they start to get crisp. Pour the contents of the pan over the green beans. Put 1 tbsp sesame paste, salt to your taste and the lemon juice on the beans and blend everything. Let it sit at least 10 minutes before serving so the flavors merge.

Seriously tasty corn chowder
Sooner or later you've got to stop gnawing on all those delicious cobs summer brings but still want to eat corn while it's fresh from the farm. And sooner or later there's a cool night or a rainy day. So here's the perfect no sweat soup, a glory of New England.
  Serves 6

2 tbsp butter or ghee
1 sm piece salt pork or Spanish chorizo (if you want fire in the flavor)

1 lg onion, peeled and diced

1 poblano pepper, roasted, skinned and diced

1 Serrano or other hot chili, seeded and diced

1 tbsp dried sage

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground chipotle chili

1 tsp cracked or freshly ground black pepper

3 cups corn kernels (4-5 fresh ears)

3 celery stalks, cleaned and diced

2 cups water

3 medium potatoes (any color), peeled and cubed

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp. diced pimento (roasted red pepper)

2 cups vegetable broth

12 oz. evaporated milk (not sweetened)

4 oz heavy cream

For garnish: chopped fresh chives, chopped fresh cilantro, shredded jack or cheddar cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds

Cut the corn off the cobs and put the cobs into a pot with 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer while you work.

Melt butter in a medium soup pot or casserole. Add meat, onions, poblano and chili peppers, sage and oregano. Sauté over medium heat until onions are golden brown, about 6-8 minutes.

Stir in coriander, chipotle chili powder, black pepper and celery. Continue to sauté 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Puree one cup of corn with 1 tbsp vegetable broth and add to the pot, stirring to blend. Add potatoes, salt and the rest of the vegetable broth. Blend ingredients, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add 2 cups corn kernels, pimentos and if you have boiled corncobs in water, remove the cobs and pour the corn-flavored water into the soup. If you didn’t do this, simply add two cups of water. Continue to simmer covered on medium low heat for 5-8 minutes. (You don’t have to be exact.)

Taste for salt and adjust to preference. Stir in evaporated milk and heavy cream. Cook over medium low heat uncovered until the soup is warmed thoroughly. Do not bring to a boil once the milk and cream have been included.  Stir once to blend all flavors.

Ladle into large soup bowls and garnish with any or all of the ingredients listed above. 

And lastly here's another repeat performer because there's always zucchini to use up:
Zucchini Flan
1½ pounds zucchini, thinly sliced

 Salt and pepper

4 eggs

2 ½ cups milk or half-and-half

 Pinch of grated nutmeg

1 tsp chopped thyme

 A few torn basil leaves
1 tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley 

2 tbsp butter for greasing baking dish

4 oz grated cheese, such as Gruyère or Jack

Heat oven to 375º. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add zucchini and blanch for 1 minute. Drain and spread zucchini out to cool on a towel. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Beat eggs and milk with 1/2 teaspoon salt, then add nutmeg, thyme,  basil leaves and parsley.

Butter a 2-quart low-sided baking dish, and arrange blanched zucchini over bottom. Scatter cheese over zucchini, then pour in custard.

Bake for 30 minutes or until custard is still a bit jiggly, but an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool to room temperature before serving.