Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Corn, Chard and Tomatoes: Late Summer Farm Fresh Lunch

Fresh from the farmers' market for a guest lunch: sliced heirloom tomatoes with basil and chives, diced cucumbers with red onion rings, dill and cider vinegar, and as the centerpiece a galette (free form pie) of chard, corn off the cob and red peppers held together by fresh ricotta and made magical by mint. Richer than you can imagine! A memorable feast of colors, textures and tastes accompanied by a bottle of dry Rosé. With a fresh blackberry clafoutis for dessert.

Here's some how-to:

Corn and Chard Galette
serves 6 because it's rich

1/3 c cornmeal
1 1/2 c all purpose white flour
1 stick unsalted butter, in pieces
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 c olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
3-4 tbsp bubbly water

In a food processor or mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, butter and olive oil. Whiz or blend with a mixer until the mix looks like coarse meal. Add the vinegar and 3 tbsp bubbly water and whiz or blend to make a dough. Add the extra tbsp of bubble water if you need it. (This, the vinegar and the olive oil make a very flaky crust.)

Put the dough between two pieces of parchment paper, lightly flour the bottom one and the top of the dough, and flatten into a disk about 1" think. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.  (You can do this a day ahead.) Remove 10-15 minutes before you want to use it.

Eventually you will also need 1 egg and 1 tbsp whole milk.

2 tbsp good quality olive oil
1 lg sweet onion, minced
1 bunch chard leaves (removed from stems), chopped
4 ears of big kernel corn, corn off the cobs
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 sm fresh red chile, seeded and minced
6 pitted Kalamata olives, sliced thin
pinch of ground cinnamon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
1 lg egg yolk
9 oz fresh ricotta
3/4 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 400º.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Sauté stirring until onion is soft, about 3 minutes. Add chard and continue to cook until it's tender, maybe another 3 minutes. Add the garlic, corn, chili, olives 1/2 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir once and remove from heat. Add 1 tbsp mint.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, 1/2 c Parmigiano, cinnamon, 1 1/2  tbsp mint, egg yolk, 1/2 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper. Blend well. Add the chard mix in the skillet and blend everything together. Set aside and make the crust.

The dough should have been on the counter for at least 10 minutes. Add a little flour to the bottom piece of parchment and the top of the dough. Cover the top with parchment again and roll the dough into a round about 12-14" wide.  Make sure it isn't sticking to the parchment. Add cornmeal if it is.

Slide the dough from the bottom piece of parchment onto a lightly buttered baking sheet. If you can't get it off just put it on the parchment onto the baking sheet. Discard the top sheet of parchment.
Spread the filling thickly on the dough leaving a 2" perimeter. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmigiano and chopped mint leaves.  Fold the edge of the dough up and over the filling about 1 1/4". If it's too sticky, refrigerate the whole thing 5 minutes.

In a small dish, whisk an egg into 1 tsp whole milk and paint this "wash" all over the exposed dough. Bake the galette at 400º until the crust is golden brown, 40-50 minutes. When you remove it from the oven, sprinkle sea salt on top and let it cool at least 10 minutes before serving.  It's also fine at room temperature.


3 cups blackberries                 1 tbsp vanilla

1¼ cup milk                             1/8 tsp salt

1/3 cup sugar                           2/3 cup sifted all purpose flour

3 extra large eggs                    1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 7-8 cup pie plate or baking dish. Put all ingredients except blackberries in a blender or food processor and make into batter. Spread blackberries all over the buttered baking dish and pour the batter evenly over them.  Bake 1 hour or until the clafoutis is puffy and brown and a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool slightly before serving. Sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve.  Eat the leftovers for breakfast
Cucumber Salad
for 4

Peel and chop 2 big slicing cucumbers into a medium bowl. Cut a small fresh red onion into rings and half rings if they are large. Combine with the cucumbers. Add 3 tbsp chopped fresh dill, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Season with 3 tbsp cider vinegar and 1 tbsp olive oil.  Like that more or less.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Chard: this wallflower can shine

Even with a vivid rainbow of stems and leaves as big as ancient Egyptian fans, chard gets overlooked in favor of its heartier green cousins: kale and collards. That's a frying shame. Those fooled by its plain Jane appearance won't get the nutritional wallop that propels chard right to the top of any must-eat list. Those enormous leaves are packed with Vitamins K, A and C, full of manganese, potassium, iron, calcium, Vitamin E and dietary fiber. It seems particularly effective in preventing digestive tract and lung cancers. It helps keep calcium in the bones, regulates muscle tone, strengthens eyes, and preliminary animal research also suggests chard may protect the kidneys of diabetics. How can you pass this up?

Well, so you don't, here are a few simple, tasty ways to prepare those big green leaves:

for 4

3 tbsp dark raisins                     3 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb chard, stems off                  2 tbsp minced onion

3 tbsp fruity olive oil                   3 tbsp pine nuts

Soak raisins in warm water (add a dash of rosewater if you dare). Put chard into boiling salted water 5 minutes. Drain well.  Return to the pot with just enough water to cover, a pinch of salt and 1 tbsp olive oil. Bring to a boil on medium heat, lower heat and cook 10 minutes. Drain and coarsely chop the chard.

Drain raisins. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté garlic and onion until soft. Add chard, drained raisins and pine nuts. Season with salt and black pepper to your taste. Sauté 5 minutes. (You can make this ahead because it will be tastier when reheated.)

Gratin of Hearty Greens
Enough extra-virgin olive or butter to generously cover the bottom of a large pan
3 medium onions, halved and sliced thin
3 bunches of hearty greens such as kale, chard or collards (try one each or two kale and one chard if collards aren’t available)
4 cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled, and minced
Sea salt
1 pint heavy cream
4 ounces grated cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gruyère
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

Place a large heavy-bottom pot over low-medium heat, add the onions, and let them sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft.
Meanwhile, prep the greens. Remove the stems that run down the center by holding the leaf in one left hand and slicing down each side of the stem with a knife. By the time you're done, you'll have two piles: one of stems and one of leaves. I apply a whole-beast ethos to vegetables, and consider greens stems to be highly flavorful. So bunch the stems in a pile and slice them finely, crosswise. Set aside. Now chop the greens and set them aside, too. The point of separating them is to give the stems a head start cooking, as they take a little longer.
Preheat the oven to 350º.
Now the onions should be soft. Add the chopped garlic and stir for a minute or so, until it has released its fragrance. Add the chopped stems and a pinch of salt, stir to mix them with the onions and garlic, and cover the pot. Let them cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Now add the greens and another pinch of salt, using tongs to carefully mix in with the sautéed veggies in the pan. Add about a half cup of water (or stock) to the pan, and turn heat to high until the water begins to boil. When it does, turn heat down a little bit, and let the greens simmer, covered, stirring occasionally until they're nearly tender but still a little al dente. At that point, remove the lid and let them cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid in the pan has evaporated.
Turn off the heat, taste, and add a little salt if necessary. Arrange the cooked greens in a casserole dish large enough to comfortably fit them all. Pour the cream over. Sprinkle the cheese all over the top. Give it a vigorous lashing of black pepper. Bake until the top is well-browned (30-45  minutes). Serve hot. This dish can be made a day or two in advance and reheated in a 350 F oven just before serving. Better yet, cook the greens until they're tender and then store them in the fridge until the big day, when you bake them off with cream, cheese, etc.
Vegan variation: Replace the cream with coconut milk and replace the cheese with bread crumbs (or slivered almonds) .

Swiss 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 
1/8-1/4 tsp (to your taste) red pepper flakes 
1 jumbo egg (or two small eggs) 
1 cup grated Pecorino, Parmigiano or Asiago cheese 
¼ cup unbleached flour 
2 tbsp balsamic or Jerez vinegar 
pinch 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 spring form ring.
To serve, cut into wedges and garnish with black olives.

Chard and Sorrel Bakeserves 6-8

1/3 c olive oil
1½ tsp caraway seeds
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2+ lbs plum tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped
1¼ lb chard, washed, leaves and stems separated, leaves roughly chopped, stalks finely sliced
4.5 oz (roughly ½ c) sorrel, roughly shredded**
1 ½ tbsp mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 ½ tbsp. dill, roughly chopped
8 spring onions, cut into ½” pieces
8 0z feta, roughly crumbled into ¾” pieces
¼ c pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1 c Greek yogurt
2 ½ tbsp parmesan, finely grated
5 ¼ oz coarse polenta (fine polenta will do, if you can’t find coarse)
**if you don’t have sorrel use 1 tbsp lemon zest
Heat the oven to 400º. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large sauté pan for which you have a lid, then fry the caraway and garlic over a medium-high flame for a minute, stirring most of the time. Add tomatoes, chard and ½ tsp salt. Cover and cook 15 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the chard has wilted and the tomatoes have broken down. Remove from heat and stir in the sorrel, mint, dill, spring onions, feta and olives.
Put the eggs, yogurt, parmesan, remaining oil, polenta, ¾ c water and ½ tsp salt in a large bowl and mix to a thick batter. Pour half the batter into an 8 x 12” ovenproof baking dish, so it completely covers the base, then spoon the greens evenly over the top. Pour over the remaining batter – it won’t completely cover the greens, but that’s OK. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until risen and dark golden-brown on top, leave to stand for 10 minutes, and serve hot.

Palestinian black-eyed peas with chard
Serves 4

For the beans
1 leek
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves
¼ tsp chilli powder or chopped dried chilli
2 cans black-eyed peas
1 cube vegetable soup powder
pinch of ground nutmeg
½ lemon
½ lb bunch chard

For the herb smash
1 lg bunch fresh cilantro
2 green chilies
2 garlic  cloves
¼ c shelled walnuts
1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
2 tbsp good quality olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon

Fill and boil a kettle and get all your ingredients together. Put a large saucepan on the stove.

Wash and finely slice the leek. Add to the saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil and cook for a couple of minutes until soft and sweet. Finely slice the garlic and add with the chili powder or dried chili and cook 2-3 minutes, until the garlic begins to brown. Add black-eyed peas with their liquid, the cube or powdered soup and 1 c boiling water from the kettle. Bring to a simmer. Add nutmeg, squeeze in the juice of half the lemon, add the squeezed lemon half to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, strip the leaves from the chard stalks. Finely slice the stalks and add them to the pan, then finely shred the leaves and put to one side.

Put all the ingredients for the herb smash into a food processor and blitz to make a smooth grassy paste. Season well with salt and pepper.

Once the peas are soft and the liquid has reduced to a thick soup-like consistency, stir in the chard leaves, season well with salt and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. Scoop into deep bowls and spoon over the herb smash.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Height of the Harvest Farm to Table Fundraiser

for 100:
Armenian Vegetable Roast
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 and very tasty nourishment. Just add a pinch of cinnamon.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Go Fish

It's hot and everybody's tired of cooking, making the kitchen hotter. We're smart enough to be eating watery melons, berries and vegetables like cucumbers we don't have to cook, to replenish the water our body loses sweating. So how about something else watery, that doesn't need long to cook? How about fish! 

It just so happens they're most plentiful in summer, drawn by the warmer waters of the northern hemisphere. They're quick and easy to cook. Digesting them won't overheat our metabolism and make us perspire even more. Plus they're less caloric than meat. So go get fish. There are often vendors at your local farmers' market.

Here are a few ways the rest of the world enjoys hot weather fish. You can too, making a whole meal by adding a cucumber salad or cold soup.

Crete's Fisherman's Soup
Serves 4
2 1/4 lbs medium potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 turbot (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

 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 to each  Serve with toasted baguette or warm pita.

Three Chili Fish with Tahini
 serves 4
4 halibut steaks, on the bone (or halibut fillets, skinless and boneless)
¼ c olive oil
2 mild red chilies, halved lengthwise, seeds removed and cut into ¼” pieces
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 dried ancho chili, trimmed, seeds discarded and torn into ¾” pieces
½ tsp Aleppo chili flakes
2 1/3 lbs plum tomatoes, blanched, skins removed and then flesh roughly chopped into 1/4” dice
4 tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed, to serve
cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, to serve
For the tahini sauce
4 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
Lightly season the fish with 1/3 tsp of salt.
In a large sauté pan with a lid on, heat oil over medium-high flame. Add the fresh chili and fry for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, caraway, ancho and Aleppo chili, and fry for a minute more until the garlic starts to turn golden-brown. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and 1/2 tsp of salt. When the mixture is boiling, turn the heat down to medium and simmer 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the sauce is thick. Lay the fish in the sauce, cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining the tahini and lemon juice with ¼ c water and large pinch of salt.
Gently lift the fish out of the pan and keep warm. (It may have released a lot of liquid during the cooking, turning the sauce runny, in which case increase the heat and let it bubble away until thick again.) Divide the tomato sauce between four shallow bowls, top with a piece of fish, dribble over a generous helping of tahini sauce, sprinkle with the cumin and cilantro leaves, and serve.

Mexican Snapper Veracruz, easy version
serves 4

4 white fish filets (haddock, cod, snapper, pollock)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 c olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, diced
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
14 0z box/can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp capers
2/3 c chopped pitted black olives

 Preheat oven to 350º.
Wash and dry the fish. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with olive oil. Put half the garlic and onion on top.
Lay on the fish filets. Cover with the tomatoes and rest of garlic and onion. Blend into the tomatoes the spices, capers and olives.  Cover the pan with foil. Bake 20 minutes. Uncover and cook another 5 minutes. Test to see that fish flakes, that it's done.  Serve topped with freshly chopped cilantro leaves.

Moroccan Trout stuffed with Dates
serves 4

4 medium trout, boned but whole
3/4 c chopped dates
1/4 c cooked rice
1 onion, finely diced
1/3 c chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 c blanched almonds, chopped
3 tbsp butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350º.
Rinse the trout and pat dry. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
In a medium bowl, combine dates, cooked rice. 1/2 onion, cilantro, spices, almonds and 1 1/2 tbsp softened butter. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Blend well.
Spoon this stuffing into the trout. Heavily oil or butter 8 sheets of foil. Double up to make four and lay one trout on each one. Brush the remaining butter over the trout and season it with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Top each fish with some of the remaining chopped onion. Close up each foil packet tightly, sealing the edges.  Place on a large baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Remove fish to serving plates and dust each with a pinch of ground cinnamon.

Cantonese Steamed Fish

Serves 4
1+ lb firm white fish fillets like sea bass or cod, or a 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.

Turkish Fish with Harissa and Olives
serves 4

1/4 c flour for dusting
1/2 c olive oil
4 white fish fillets (cod, perch, snapper)
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
14 oz box/can chopped tomatoes
2-3 tsp harissa
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 c pitted black olives
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 c chopped flat leaf parsley

 Season the flour with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and dredge the fish filets in it.
In a heavy, large frying pan, heat 1/4 c olive oil. With heat on medium, add fish filets and brown 2 minutes on either side. Remove to a platter.

Add remaining olive oil, heat and then add onion and garlic. Cook until soft, 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes, harissa, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Cook 10 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Remove bay leaves. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Return the fish to the pan, add olives, then cover the fish with the sauce. Cook 2-3 minutes so fish is thoroughly cooked. Remove cinnamon stick. Add lemon juice and parsley. Serve.