Monday, August 31, 2009

Dips and Spreads in the Food Processor

It's been a summer tradition to spend an afternoon with my friend Terrin making good use of our food processors. The first year it was because T had grown a massive quantity of basil in her backyard and now we just do it for fun. Yesterday we made four different spreads.

The first was edamole, which I've posted about before. This was actually our least favorite of the day. It's okay, but really mild after the crazy flavors we'd been sampling. This will be good with some carrots and cucumbers for a light appetizer.

The second was traditional basil pesto.

Basil Pesto
lots of fresh basil (fill up the food processor)
2 big hands-full of toasted pinenuts
1 big handful grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lemon
3 cloves garlic
olive oil

Add all the ingredients (except olive oil) and pulse in processor to combine. Turn processor to "on" and stream in olive oil until it gets a smooth consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Next up was hummus - the easiest one, in my opinion! And so much cheaper than buying those little pre-made tubs in the grocery store.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
juice and zest of 1-2 lemons
3-4 cloves garlic
salt and pepepr
most of 1 small jar of roasted red peppers
olive oil

Mix all ingredients (except oil) in processor to combine, then turn on and stream in oil until the hummus is a silky creamy texture.

Finally, my favorite of the group - olive tapenade. Zesty and shockingly purple, a little goes a long way. It's delicious.

Kalamata Olive Tapenade
1 container (approx 1.5 cups) pitted kalamata olives
1 tsp anchovy paste
2-3 cloves garlic
juice of 1 lemon
olive oil

Same method as the other dips - mix ingredients until chopped then stream in the oil until the tapenade is thick and spreadable.

Here are the final products - from top to bottom: 3 tubs hummus, and 2 tubs each of pesto, tapenade, edamole. And the best part is that all of these spreads freeze very well for use into the fall and early winter.

Sesame Kale

I always make my kale the same old way...with onion, nutmeg, salt/pepper, and balsamic vinegar. It's delicious but I started to feel pretty uninspired and boring. So here is a new twist on kale, with a more asian flair.

Sesame Kale
sesame oil (1 Tbsp)
1 garlic clove
kale, cut into strips
1 Tbsp water
salt and pepper
soy sauce
sesame seeds
sauteed mushrooms (optional)

Heat the sesame oil and garlic in a hot skillet for 1 minute. Add the kale and water, cover and cook for 1 more minute. Stir and re-cover and cook for 2 more minutes. Add salt/pepper, a dash of soy sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

I added mushrooms to mine and served it with an over easy egg. It's easy, fast, cheap, and good.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

BLT and Corn/Zucchini Salad

I know the tomato posts are getting a bit tiresome. Really, I understand. Especially for those poor souls who don't like tomatoes. But those tasty little buggers are so yummy right now that it feels almost criminal to not gorge myself on them.

What's the best way to enjoy a late season heirloom tomato? In my opinion, it's in a BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato for those who live under a rock). There are many philosophies on the perfect BLT - some include avocado, others include peanut butter (it sounds weird, but it tastes delicious), and I know many people who leave out one or more of the main letters. I prefer an FBLT (fake bacon, lettuce, tomato) and have on occasion used the additions listed above.

This version has 2 layers of tomatoes - gifted to me from my friend Ang and her magic garden. Mayo on both slices of toast, a layer of red tomato, fake bacon, field greens, a layer of green zebra striped heirloom tomato, and the top piece of toast. Perfection in the summer.

And the side for this perfect summer sandwich is a completely made up salad. I had one ear of yummy sweet corn left in the fridge. I used that with some garden fresh zucchini and a couple more of those yummy heirloom tomatoes. The salad was a little bland overall so I added some salty crumbled feta cheese at the end and it was fabulous.

Corn and Zucchini Salad
1 ear sweet corn, kernels removed from cob
1 fresh zucchini, diced very finely
2 small heirloom tomatoes, diced
1 small shallot, diced finely
1 small handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
handful crumbled feta cheese

Mix all ingredients together and serve with your FBLT. Or BLT and A, or BLT and PB, or however you like your BLT.

The leftovers of this salad are going to be mixed with the last little bit of cooked quinoa I have in the fridge for a complete workday lunch for tomorrow.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Panzanella Salad

This summertime weather is perfect and overdue. It feels like early July with low humidity and lots of sunshine. But it's actually late August which means lots and lots of fresh tomatoes. Tomatoes are one of my top 3 all-time favorite foods (mushrooms and fresh mozzarella cheese being the other 2). And good grief, when tomatoes are in season they can knock your socks off.

This is a panzanella salad, which is basically a rustic bread and tomato salad. Sounds weird but it tastes amazing when you use top quality ingredients. And it tastes even better with a glass of chilled white wine on your back deck while the sun sets.

Panzanella Salad
6 slices day-old ciabatta bread
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 Tbsp capers, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
4 large fresh local tomatoes, diced
5-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Brush the bread with olive oil and grill on a grill pan until charred. In a large bowl, soak diced onion and capers in the red wine vinegar and dijon for 3-5 minutes (this helps mellow out the sharp onion flavor). Cut the grilled bread into cubes and add to the onion mixture with the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, and healthy drizzle of olive oil. Gently toss with your hands or tongs.

Many recipes for panzanella instruct you to let the salad sit for 30 minutes for the flavors to meld together but I ate this right away (topped with some grated parmesan) and it was fantastic. I like it when the bread still has a crunchy texture, but it's also good after it sits and the bread gets all soggy and takes on the great tomato/basil/onion flavors.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mexi-Hippie Chow

I love mexican food, but it doesn't always fit into my green and lean lifestyle - what with all the fried chips, flour tortillas, and loads of cheese. But today I have discovered a way to enjoy the flavors of mexican food without the guilt or massive calories.

I have no idea what to name this meal. I don't even know if I can call it a salad. It's sort of like beans and rice, and it sort of like a fresh salsa, and it's sort of like a corn and tomato salad. Except that it's not really like any of those things at all because it's SO much better.

I started with a craving for fresh sweet corn and local tomatoes. Then I got in my usual kitchen frenzy and started adding spices and leftovers from the fridge (yeah, those grilled carrots and pattypan squash that were used in a sandwich and frittata are FINALLY all used up).

Here's what the first version of my dinner looked like.

It tasted delicious - I can't even describe how crisp and sweet the corn is right now. Combined with perfectly ripened Minnesota-grown tomatoes it was a great combination. It's also got the veggies, black beans, onion, lime juice, cumin, and chili powder. But it felt like eating salsa with a fork and it just seemed kind of...incomplete.

So I cooked up some Inca Red Quinoa and added diced avocado and it made all the difference in the world. The final result was so fabulous I couldn't believe I made it myself. It had all the flavors I love - spicy from the serrano, sweet from the corn, tangy from the lime, earthy from the beans, and a nice crunchy pop from the quinoa. The only problem is that it doesn't look all that pretty in the bowl so I figured a name like Mexi-Hippie Chow was suitable.

Mexi-Hippie Chow
1 ear fresh sweet corn, kernels cut from ear
1 large fresh tomato, diced
1 can black beans, rinsed
1/4 red onion, diced finely
leftover grilled veggies
1 serrano chile (I left all the seeds in)
juice of 1 big lime
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper
tiny drizzle olive oil

Mix all the above ingredients together and serve over cooked quinoa (use directions on package) and top with diced avocado. Enjoy guilt-free!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Grilled Vegetable Frittata with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Some people do extreme things for good reasons. For example, over 2,000 people will be walking 60 miles for breast cancer over the next 3 days. One of those people is my friend Jill. We needed to load her up with heart healthy vitamins, minerals, and proteins for her big walk so we made this great dinner tonight.

I've posted before about my love of frittatas. I think they are fabulous and versatile, while also being a very lean dinner. This version was made with farm fresh eggs that Alicia had obtained. The egg whites were completely clear and the yolks were almost neon orange...that is a fresh egg. And you could taste the difference in the final product.

Once again, I used a hodgepodge of leftovers to make this meal (that's the best part about frittatas!) but the extra something special was the tomato sauce. Since we were doing this frittata Italian-style (with veggies, basil/oregano, and mozzarella), it seemed a tomato sauce was an appropriate condiment. Plus, tomatoes are in season and delicious right now!

1/2 small yellow onion, minced
any vegetables, diced (I used fresh asparagus and leftover grilled zucchini, pattypan squash, and carrots)
8-10 large fresh eggs
3/4 cup water
1 large rounded tablespoon garlic scape pesto (if you happen to have it on hand) Or, any fresh or dried herbs you may have.
salt and pepper
cheese, any kind (I used diced fresh mozzarella and finely shredded parmesan)

Sweat the onion over medium heat until soft in a large oven-safe skillet. Add vegetables and cook until soft (or if they were pre-cooked like mine, just until heated through). Meanwhile, crack eggs into a bowl, add water, garlic scape pesto or herbs, salt, and pepper and whip until bubbly. Add to skillet. Cook over medium-low heat until halfway done (bottom done, top still runny). Add cheeses to top and pop in the oven until done, or until it doesn't wiggle when you shake the pan. You may need to broil it for a couple minutes at the end to brown the top of the frittata. Let cool for a few minutes before cutting a piece. If you do it right, the frittata puffs up so it's almost like a souffle, light and fluffy. If you're feeling sassy, serve with fresh tomato sauce (recipe follows), a nice green salad with balsamic vinaigrette, good bread, champagne, red wine, and girl talk.

Fresh Tomato Sauce
1/2 small yellow onion, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
4 large fresh roma tomatoes, diced
olive oil
salt, pepper, and any fresh or dried herbs

Sweat the onion in the oil over medium heat until soft (about 5 minutes), add garlic and cook another minute. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, and dried herbs (if using fresh, wait until the very end to add them). Cook over medium-low heat for approximately 20 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and most liquid has cooked out.

This sauce is great on pasta, pizza, eggs, or even just plain bread.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

There was a tornado today that touched down a few blocks from my house. How exciting! Thankfully nobody was hurt, but it caused lots of damage on Portland Avenue and my drive home was...interesting. Most of the streets were closed so I had several extra blocks to drive. During this extended commute, I was racking my brain for ways to use up the rest of the veggies in my fridge. These are the final veggies left over from Marney and Colin's CSA box I got last Friday. I of course didn't want to start the oven so that left grilling on my grill pan as the best option.

I cut all the veggies in planks, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled until there were beautiful char marks on both sides. Here are the pattypan squash, zucchini, and white and orange carrots post grilling.

What to do with these beautiful veggies? My first thought was to make a sandwich so I decided to use the veggies that way. I grilled a thick slice of ciabatta, added a layer of leftover garlic scape pesto and the grilled veggies then topped with fresh mozzarella and avocado. Leave it on the grill for a few minutes with the heat turned off and some tinfoil or a lid to melt the cheese.

It was fantastic all together and it made me wonder why it's so hard to find sandwiches like this in restaurants. It's not difficult, it's not expensive, and it tastes great. It's the kind of sandwich that requires a knife and fork (therefore making it appropriate for dinner - not lunch).

On the side, I shredded up a beautiful little red cabbage that came in the CSA box and used this Bobby Flay recipe for red cabbage slaw which was a perfect companion to my grilled veggie sandwich.

Just looking at the photo of this sandwich makes me want another one right now.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Quick Zucchini Saute

Hello there. I'm feeling pretty repetitive lately because I re-made the Mustard-Dill Fish recipe again this week, but with salmon. So, my recipe below should be modified to say it will work with ANY fish, not just white fish. Because the salmon was pretty fricking good with the tomatoes and mustard and dill.

The real story here, however, is the quick zucchini saute that I served on the side. It was pretty fantastic, and just about the easiest thing to make. Ever. I have a cheapo mandoline that I got at Target for $10 so I was able to make very cute matchstick julienne pieces of zucchini. But it would work just as well with a box grater or food processor with grater attachment, or even just slicing really small.

Quick Zucchini Saute
1 fresh zucchini, julienned or grated
1 fresh yellow squash, julienned or grated
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 handful slivered almonds
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the almonds and toast until golden. Add the zucchini and yellow squash and cook for 60 seconds. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I made this side dish again this morning to bring to work for lunch - and, instead of cooking the zucchini for a minute, I just ate it raw (and substituted roasted/salted sunflower seeds for the almonds). And it was STILL delicious. I'm sure it's due to the quality of the fresh local zucchini that makes it taste so good. Only for a limited time will zucchini be this good in MN so I will be eating this constantly for the next week or two!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mustard Dill Fish

Someone recently told me this was her favorite thing I'd ever cooked. I've only ever made it twice before and I don't know why I don't make it more often because it's so simple yet fancy enough for entertaining.

Marney and Colin came over last night for dinner (it had been much much too long since the last time I'd had them over) and I whipped up this dish. It would work with any firm white fish - the original recipe called for catfish but I've used cod and wolfish (similar to cod), and I think it would be excellent with halibut. Another reason it tasted so good I think is the farmer's market cherry tomatoes that were at the peak of their ripeness.

We were so excited to eat this meal that I forgot to take a nicely presented photo. So, I was nearly done eating when this photo was snapped.

Mustard Dill Fish
any firm white fish filets
1/4 cup dijon mustard
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp fresh dill
1 container cherry tomatoes

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Mix dijon with 1 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp dill. Brush half of mixture on top of fish. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat on the stove.

Cut tomatoes in half, add 1 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp dill, and salt and pepper. Set aside.

When skillet is hot, add fish mustard-side down. Salt and pepper the other side of the fish and brush on the rest of the mustard mixture. Cook approx 4 minutes on each side and remove to plate covered with tinfoil to keep hot.

Add tomatoes to the same skillet and cook on high heat for 1 minute. The tomato liquid will mix with the mustard in the skillet and make a delicious sauce to serve over the fish.

Serve with a crisp green salad and great wine.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Raw Beet Salad

If colorful food is healthier, I've been doing very well recently. From that big green dinner to the gazpacho, I've been consuming a freaking rainbow this week. Today's salad is no exception.

I found this recipe for a raw beet salad from Chocolate and Zucchini and was excited to use my Farmer's Market goodies in it. I added fresh dill and flat leaf parsley and topped it with crumbled goat cheese. I normally think of cooked beets as similar to potatoes (filling and kind of starchy) but raw beets are light, fresh, and crunchy. I liked it, but do miss the sweetness and depth of flavor you get from roasting or boiling beets.

It's hard to tell how vibrantly purple this salad is from my poor photography, but I can assure you that it was stunning.

I plan to use the leftovers to saute for a minute or two in some olive oil and have a warm shredded beet side dish with fish later this week.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer Gazpacho

The very best part of summer, culinarily speaking, is tomatoes. Fresh in-season tomatoes taste a zillion times better than the junk you get in the grocery store mid-winter. My favorite way to eat them right now is in the form of gazpacho - that cold tomato soup that tastes like sunshine in a bowl. My recipe is made up, just things dumped together with no real measurements. Each time I make it the ingredients are different depending what I have in the kitchen - I might use scallions or add red bell pepper or red onion. It's fun to enjoy the different tastes each time.

Summer Gazpacho
Updated August 4, 2012:  I love this recipe and make it a lot every summer.  This recipe is super easy to whip up in a food processor or blender.  Sometimes I even use cherry or grape tomatoes because it's even sweeter.  And I've added the red wine vinegar to the ingredient list - it adds a lot to the final flavor.

4 large in-season tomatoes, diced (I used a combo of local regular red, yellow, and heirloom tomatoes)
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 medium shallot, diced very finely
1 clove garlic, minced finely or grated on a microplane
Juice of 1/2 lemon
6 large fresh basil leaves, minced
Small bunch of chives, minced
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all this together - and, if you want to go no further, you have a great bruchetta topping or fresh sauce for pasta or pizza or grilled fish. But, if you dare, you can add vegetable juice to turn it into gazpacho. I like Bolthouse Farms brand Vedge juice. I added just enough to have a good soup consistency.

Served alongside hunks of crusty baguette and local sharp cheddar cheese and this is a summertime lunch to be thankful for.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Big Green Dinner

I'm baaaaaack! Thanks for hanging in there! I had a really wonderful lake vacation for the first four days of my time off. The rest of the time was spent reading and visiting with family and friends because the weather was not very cooperative!

I'm happy to report that I was able to eat very well during my 2-week hiatus, thanks mostly to a little farm about 2 miles from our cabin which had different produce each day available in coolers on a picnic table with a coffee can available for payment on the honor system. It was pretty cute. Let me just tell you about the English peas...we bought the last 2 big bags ($3 each) and shelled them while drinking a lovely chilled rose wine on the deck overlooking gorgeous Lake Lida. I sauteed them with olive oil, shallot, salt, and pepper. They were amazing with a BLT (with tempeh bacon).

We also got wax beans and fresh lettuce so I had a makeshift Nicoise one fabulous day for lunch. All in all, it's the best I've eaten on vacation (other than trips to NYC!) minus one unfortunate incident with Nacho Cheese Doritos.

So now I'm back in Mpls and itching to get back into the kitchen and with a new zest to eat as locally as possible, thanks to a vacation reading of Barbara Kingsolver's awesome book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Today I went to the Midtown Farmer's Market and picked up a big variety of local produce, including lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, beets, onions, dill, basil, and zucchini! Then I hit Seward Co-Op for my favorite local goat cheese, heirloom tomatoes from Wisconsin, and other essentials.

After I perused my haul of newly acquired local food, I put together what I think is a gorgeous plate of food, that tastes like heaven.

Here's what it is:

Green Sandwich
Baguette (from Rustica Bakery in Mpls)
Herbed goat cheese (from Stickney Hill Farms in Wisconsin, local herbs, and a very NON-local lemon)
Green Zebra Striped Heirloom Tomato

Green Salad
Local lettuce
Very good quality balsamic vinegar**
Sunflower seeds

Then cover the whole plate with salt and pepper and a good drizzle of very good quality extra virgin olive oil**

**NOTE: The best quality that fits into my budget these days is Lucini brand, which is absolutely worth the splurge if you can afford it.

With a glass of perfectly chilled white wine, this was delicious!

I plan to post more new recipes in the upcoming few days to use up all those lovely local veggies I have so stay tuned!