Thursday, June 30, 2016

Early Summer Bounty

Whipped up, pulled together lunch for a friend, from scraps and farmers' market veggies in the fridge.
Roasted asparagus with freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Roasted golden beets with blue cheese crumbles, toasted walnuts and red onion
Celery, date, almond salad with fresh mint and Parmesan cheese
Fresh pea hummus (the tastiest healthiest yum of the moment)
Watermelon, feta and Kalamata olive salad with fresh chives and parsley

To roast asparagus or beets, drizzle them lightly with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Place on a lined cookie sheet or toaster oven tray and roast at 450º until soft: asparagus 12-15 minutes depending on thickness of spears, beets 1 hr or more depending on size of the beets.

Fresh pea hummus recipe published last year at this time: basically a bit of onion and garlic sauteed in olive oil, add 1-2 cups freshly shelled peas and enough water or broth or pea water (boil the pods in water for 10 minutes) and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes or until peas are just soft. Drain any excess liquid still in the pot. Add a tbsp goat cheese, salt and pepper, chopped fresh mint and either 1 tbsp tahini sauce or 1/4 c cooked white beans.  Puree in the pot with an immersion blender or put in a processor and whiz.  Super over the top yummy served on fresh baguette with a smear of mascarpone.

Celery date salad posted earlier too.

Been very busy teaching seven year old kids to cook.  Plan to post more helpful material  in another day or two.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Spontaneous combustion

I'm on the run between a Dharma retreat, cooking several meals for the Bhutanese lama leading it, and a panel discussion on Himalayan food for the Museum of Food and Drink. But I still run to the farmers' market. No guarantee what I'll find so no preconceived ideas. Just serendipity. Hopefully anyway.

this week I found a small cauliflower, the last and least in the basket, and a magnificent bunch of red beets. I immediately sauteed the beet greens with fenugreek, garlic and ginger, salt and pepper. I roasted the beets, realized I had some sour cream in the fridge and thought: borscht! Why not. I have all the ingredients at hand: butter to sauté an onion and tsp of dill seed, a grated large carrot, grated cooked beets, a dab of tomato paste, salt, pepper, a tsp of vinegar and vegetable broth. Twenty minutes later, a tbsp of fresh lemon juice and into the bowl with a dollop of that sour cream, a sprinkling of freshly chopped chives.  Hot and hearty.

I could've pureed the borsch to drink it cold from a tall glass. But the weather wasn't right.

I roasted that cauliflower head whole at 450º with olive oil and salt. Had the bright idea to use up sagging parsley by making chimichurri--parsley, vinegar, garlic, crushed chili flakes, salt and pepper plus enough olive oil to  make it a sauce. Painted the cauliflower with the chimichurri for a very colorful and tasty dish.

Quick, easy spontaneous combustion.  May everyone all eat and be well.
Back soon with recipes for a Bhutanese lama.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Rhubarb: if ya got it, flaunt it

Last weekend, a chronically laconic, almost obsessively silent farmer I pass at a particular market happened to have rhubarb prominently displayed, standing up bunched by the pound in a metal bucket. $3 a bunch sent me into reverse. "Just one?" the farmer said drily.

"I'm trying to curb my enthusiasm," I said, surprised this yes/no grunter was actually speaking. "I've learned to love rhubarb and keep buying it to find things to make and I've gone so overboard I have to restrain myself. I'm trying anyway."

"I love rhubarb!" he said with great aplomb. "When we were kids, we used to pick it in the field, pour salt on and eat away.  I should really learn more things to do with it. It's wonderful food."

Who know rhubarb could get a grump going? A sour vegetable make a farmer not sour any more? Well, in his honor, here are a few things to learn to do with rhubarb, a wonderful--and very nutritious tonic food.

 Tomato Rhubarb Sauce (sweet and sour, great on fish)
can serve 6
1 1/2 lbs rhubarb
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped OR
 3 c boxed chopped tomatoes
1 c dry red wine
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp lemon zest
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Clean the rhubarb and cut the stalks crosswise into 1 1/2" chunks. Put in a saucepan and just barely cover with water (maybe 3 c). Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until rhubarb has dissolved into almost puree. If you prefer a chunky sauce, remove a few pieces before they melt and hold them.

Warm olive oil in a sauté pan. Add tomatoes and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until they reduce to a thick sauce, about 15 minutes. Add the wine, honey and zests. Blend well.

Blend the rhubarb and tomato purees in one pot and simmer uncovered over low heat about 20 minutes or until sauce is thick and rich. Add back the chunky rhubarb pieces if you saved them.  Season with cinnamon, salt and pepper. Add honey if the sauce is too sour.  Serve over a firm fleshed poached or steamed fish such as sea bass, cod or salmon.

Rhubarb Meringue Pie
from Nigella Lawson
Serves 6-8
For the pastry
5/8 c all purpose white flour
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
½ c orange juice, iced
For the rhubarb and meringue
2 lbs rhubarb, untrimmed weight

Juice of ½ orange
2 extra large eggs, separated
¾ c sugar, plus another ½ c
2 tbsp all purpose white flour
1 ½ tbsp. butter, melted
¼ tsp cream of tartar
To make the pastry: measure the flour into a bowl and add the butter. Put this in the freezer for 10 minutes so it’s very cold. Then put the two in a food processor with the double blade or into a food mixer with the paddle attached, and switch on (at slow to medium speed if you’re using the mixer) until the mixture resembles oatmeal. Add, tablespoon by cautious tablespoon, the iced orange juice. Go slowly, adding iced water if needed. (Remember you will be using the other half of the orange’s juice for the filling, so keep it.)
When the dough can be formed into a ball, stop, roll it into a ball in your hands and then press it into a disc, wrap with clear cling film (Saranwrap) and put in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Roll it out and line a 9” and deep flan/quiche tin. Put back in the fridge if possible for about another 20 minutes and preheat the oven to 350º. Bake blind until the pastry looks cooked but not brown.Remove from the oven and cool completely. Do not turn off the oven.
Trim the rhubarb and chop it into roughly ½” slices; if the stalks are very wide and chunky then cut them in half lengthways, too. Put them in a saucepan with the orange juice and heat briefly, just until the rawness is taken off them. Remove and drain (but keep the liquid).
Separate the eggs, putting the whites aside for the meringue, and beat the egg yolks in a bowl. In another bowl, mix ¾ c sugar with the flour and melted butter. Add the yolks, and enough of the orangey-rhubarb liquid which came off the rhubarb in the pan earlier to make a smooth and runny paste. Squeeze in more orange if you need more. Put the rhubarb mix in the baked pastry shell and pour the sugary, egg mixture over it. Put in the oven and bake until just set, 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks, add most of the remaining sugar and continue to beat until they are glossy. With a metal spoon, fold in the remaining sugar and the cream of tartar. Spoon this over the hot rhubarb pie, making sure it is completely covered and there is no place, no gap where some rhubarb can bubble up through and over the meringue. Use the spoon to bring some of the meringue into little pointy peaks if you like. Sprinkle with about 1 tsp  sugar and put back in the oven for 15 minutes until the peaks are bronzy and brown on top.
Eat it still warm.

Braised Rhubarb
Makes 4 cups
1 ½ lb. rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2" pieces on an angle
1 cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup honey
½ tsp. kosher salt
8 green cardamom pods
2 star anise
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
1 ½" piece ginger, peeled and thickly sliced crosswise
Yogurt or vanilla ice cream, for serving
Heat oven to 400°. Mix together rhubarb, orange juice, honey, salt, cardamom, star anise, vanilla bean and seeds, and ginger in a 9" x 13" baking dish. Bake, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is tender, 14–16 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Serve over vanilla ice cream.

Salmon with Rhubarb Watercress Salad

1 tbsp juniper berries
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 lightly smoked salmon fillets (if you can't find them, normal salmon is fine)
2 tsp olive oil
1 orange
2 stalks rhubarb, shredded into thin batons
large handful watercress leaves
¼ c extra virgin olive oil

To start the salad, slice the top and bottom off the orange, then cut away all the zest and pith. Holding over a bowl, cut the segments free by slicing between the membranes, catching all the juices and segments. Add the rhubarb to the bowl, then allow to stand for 15 min.
Roughly grind the juniper berries and peppercorns using a pestle and mortar. Put the salmon on a baking sheet, rub the flesh with oil, and spread the crushed juniper mix on top. Heat the grill to medium and cook the salmon for 6-7 min, making sure the rub doesn’t burn.
To finish the salad, add watercress and extra virgin olive oil to the rhubarb and orange, give it a good stir, then serve with the salmon.

Rhubarb Slaw
Serves 2

Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp orange juice
1 tsp granulated sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 fennel bulb, trimmed so the tough outer stalks are removed
2 stalks of rhubarb
2 large radishes, washed

In a medium bowl, mix the lemon juice with the orange juice, sugar, salt and pepper to your taste. Trim the fennel down to its small innards minus the core. Reserve its fronds.
Using a mandolin, cheese slicer or julienne gadget, slice the rhubarb, radishes and fennel into the thinnest strips you can manage and cut these in pieces. Toss them in the seasoned lemon juice to pickle them slightly.
When ready to serve, add the fennel fronds as garnish.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Another Scallion recipe: Chinese

Simplicity itself, Cantonese cooking, from Ken Hom.
I couldn't find the recipe while posting the other day. Sorry.

Steamed Fish with Scallions and Soy

Serves 4
1+ lb fillets from firm white fish like sea bass or cod, or l whole fish like turbot
1 tsp coarse sea salt or plain salt
2 “ fresh ginger  finely shredded
5-6 spring onions finely shredded
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp peanut, canola or corn oil
2 tsp sesame oil
fresh coriander sprigs, to garnish
If you are using a whole fish, remove the gills. Pat the fish or fish fillets dry with kitchen paper. Rub with the salt on both sides and set aside 30 minutes. This helps the flesh to firm up and draws out any excess moisture.
Set up a steamer, or put a rack into a wok or deep pan, and fill it with 2” of water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Put the fish on a heatproof plate and scatter the ginger evenly over the top. Lower the plate of fish into the steamer or on to the rack. Cover the pan tightly and gently steam the fish until it is just cooked. Flat fish will take about 5 minutes to cook. Thicker fish will take 12-14 minutes.
Remove the plate of cooked fish from the pan and sprinkle with the spring onions and the light and dark soy sauces. Heat the two oils together in a small pan. When they are hot and smoking, pour the hot oil on top of the fish and garnish with the coriander sprigs. Serve at once.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Show off Spring Onions

Also known as scallions, spring onions are at high tide right now, plump and reasonably cheap. I tend to prefer the organic because the scallion is a bulb. It grows in the ground and what grows down there tends to absorb far more pesticide, fertilizer, fungicide and bacteria that what grows in daylight and air. But take your pick.  Just try to get them with roots attached as this keeps them fresher. H ere are a few ways to enjoy scallions right now--with this caveat: they are an anti-coagulant so those on coagulating medication should stay away.

Korean Scallion Pancakes
serves 6-8

2 c unbleached all purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
Sea or Kosher salt
10-12 scallions, halved lengthwise then cur crosswise into 1" pices
2 tsp any vegetable oil (try not to use distinctive olive oil)

Heat oven to 200º. In a large bowl, whisk flour, eggs, 1 tsp salt with 1 /12 c water.
Gently fold in the scallions. Let this batter sit 10 minutes. It should look thick but pourable.

Heat the oil in a 10" nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour 3/4 c batter into the hot skilled, swirling continually to get the batter to the edges. Use a rubber/silicon spatula to help. Cook 3-4 minutes until golden brown on the bottom. Flip and cook the other side about 2 minutes more until it is also golden brown. Transfer the finish pancake to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat this process, adding oil if necessary.

to serve, cut each pancake into wedges.

Dipping Sauce
1/4 c soy or tamari sauce
1/4 c rice vinegar
1 tbs sesame oil (Asian)
1 tbsp thinly sliced scallions
1 tbs packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger root
1 lg clove garlic, finely minced or grated
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Combine and mix all these ingredients in a small bowl.

Swiss Chard Tart
Serves 6-8

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1½ lbs Swiss chard (you can mix red and green, for you need two bunches)
4 scallions, cleaned, sliced lengthwise in half then chopped
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 sherry vinegar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
extra scallions for garnish.

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 scallions and 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. Whisk 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  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 slices of scallion and black olives.  

Arugula, Date and Plum Salad with Scallions and Mint
sharp and sweet with many textures and colors--and nutrition benefits.
serves 4
Combine 4 large handfuls of arugula, 4 fresh pitted dates chopped, a large and firm black plum pitted and sliced thin, 4 scallions diced, 1 tbsp chopped walnuts, 2 salad turnips quartered and sliced thin for crunch, 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan and 1 tsp minced fresh mint leaves--all tossed together. Dress with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 3 tbsp good fruity olive oil, a small garlic clove smashed, salt and pepper. (Use only as much dressing as you like.)

Jamaican Red Peas and Rice (spicy rice with coconut and red beans)
serves 8 
1 tbsp corn or canola oil
1 garlic clove, minced
3 scallions including greens, thinly diced
2 cups white rice
1 14 oz can coconut milk, shaken
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh
1 small Scotch bonnet chili (you can eliminate if you don't like hot food)
2 13-15 oz cans kidney, pinto or other small red beans , drained
pinch of salt and twist of freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy saucepan with a tight fitting lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and scallions.
Sauté 2-3 minutes until they are soft. Don't burn. Reduce heat if necessary.

Add rice, coconut milk, 1 c water, thyme, Scotch bonnet pepper if using, beans and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stir well, cover tightly, reduce heat to simmer or very low and do not disturb for 20-25 minutes, until all liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender. Add black pepper and more salt if necessary. Fluff and serve.

East Asian Summer Rolls

For the peanut sauce:

3/4 cup natural-style creamy peanut butter

1/3 cup water

3 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 1/2 medium limes)
4 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp chili-garlic paste
1 medium garlic clove, mashed to a paste
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl.

For the summer rolls:

24 medium shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled and deveined
4 ounces dried rice stick noodles or rice vermicelli
16 (8-1/2-inch) round rice paper wrappers
1 cup mung bean sprouts (about 3 ounces)
1 bunch fresh mint leaves off the stems
1 bunch fresh basil or Thai basil leaves off stems
16 small fresh cilantro sprigs
1 medium English cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/4-by-1/4-by-2-1/2-inch sticks
3 medium scallions, quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 2-1/2-inch pieces (white and light green parts only)
8 Bibb lettuce leaves, cut in half
Optional: 2 serrano chilies, stemmed, halved, seeds removed, and very thinly sliced lengthwise into 32 strips

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until bright pink and just opaque, about 1 1/2 minutes. Drain in a colander and run under cold water until cool. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and place on a cutting board. Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, halve each shrimp horizontally. Place in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
Place all of the ingredients in separate containers and arrange them in the following order around a work surface: rice paper wrappers, shrimp, rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint, basil, cilantro, Serrano chilies (if using), cucumber, scallions, and lettuce.

Place a clean, damp kitchen towel on a work surface. Fill a medium frying pan or wide, shallow dish large enough to hold the rice paper wrappers with hot tap water. Working with 1 wrapper at a time, completely submerge the wrapper until it is soft and pliable, about 15 seconds. Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on the towel. Working quickly, lay 3 shrimp halves in a row, cut side up, just above the center of the wrapper, leaving about 1 inch of space on each side. Layer a scant 1/4 cup of the rice noodles over the shrimp, followed by a few bean sprouts, 2 of the mint leaves, 2 of the basil leaves, 1 sprig of cilantro, and 2 pieces of serrano, if using. Place 4 of the cucumber sticks and 2 of the scallion pieces on either side of the noodle pile. Roll one piece of lettuce into a cigar shape and place it on top of the noodle pile.  Fold the bottom half of the rice paper wrapper over the filling. Holding the whole thing firmly in place, fold the sides of the wrapper in.  Then, pressing firmly down to hold the folds in place, roll the entire wrapper horizontally up from the bottom to the top.

Turn the roll so that the seam faces down and the row of shrimp faces up. Place it on a rimmed baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and fillings. Leave 3/4 inch between each summer roll on the sheet so they don’t stick together, and replace the water in the pan or dish with hot tap water as needed.