7.31.2011

Summer Duet: Corn & Blueberries


I'm a huge fan of salsa accompaniments for grilled meats. Especially unique juxtapositions of sweet and savory (think peach & pepper, mango & avocado, jicama & watermelon...) Ever on a quest for new combinations, I have recently been intrigued by several versions I've stumbled across that pair fresh corn and blueberries -- two seasonal stars right now. I got my hands on the freshest produce I could find and after schucking and de-cobbing several ears of corn I tasted a spoonful of the raw kernels. Ah, the glory of fresh summer corn. The sweet juiciness that erupted in my mouth nearly made me stop my production and eat the entire bowl. But I wanted to test the power of corn and blueberries so with much restraint I added a dose of the small blue bombs to the mix. The pair visually reminded me of a corn and black bean salsa that I repeatedly make in warm weather months, but my tastebuds knew better as both the corn and berries sang in a harmony of light sweetness. Both too fresh to be tainted by any form of cooking, I left them raw and took the salsa a few steps further. To the sweet duo I added chopped fennel and red onion for crunch and tang, and showered the group with fresh basil and mint. A sprinkling of feta added salty notes to balance the sweetness, and the flavors were united under a cloak of balsamic and olive oil. For this meal I wanted to pair the salad/salsa with a meaty accompaniment. The answer came in the form of mushrooms -- grilled portabella caps brushed with balsamic -- which provided a perfect vessel on which to top the salsa. Tossing it with chunks of grilled chicken is another great option and it is also perfectly delicious on its own.

GRILLED PORTABELLA CAPS WITH SWEET CORN, BLUEBERRY & FENNEL SALSA

Ingredients:

1 cup Fennel
1 cup Blueberries
2 cups fresh sweet corn, cut off the cob
1/2 cup Red onion
2 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
3 Tbsp Feta

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl combine corn, blueberries, fennel and onion. Sitr in olive oil and balsamic along with fresh herbs. Top with crumbled feta and put in refrigerator to chill.
2. Heat grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Lightly brush portabella caps with olive oil and balsamic and place on grill, gill side down.
3. Grill 3-5 minutes until well done (nearly charred) -- time will vary depending on the level of heat. Flip mushrooms and grill for an additional 3 minutes on the other side. Mushrooms should be tender and juicy.
3. Remove mushrooms from heat and assemble (a generous) 1/2 cup of salsa on top of each cap to serve.

7.30.2011

Potluck Brunch


Requirements: portable, serves a crowd, summery, refreshing, tasty, brunch appropriate.

In deciding what to bring to our Food52 staff potluck brunch this morning, my first instinct was something cold and refreshing because (1) the feast was outside in Central park and (2) the temperature was expected to climb to the 90s before noon. My mind immediately lept to gazpacho, the perfect summertime soup to cool your engines. But, is it brunch appropriate? The great thing about the time-honored meal that sits in limbo between breakfast and lunch is that almost anything goes. Which fosters endless possibilities in both sweet and savory realms. Yet, I didn't know how I felt about having my usual gazpacho recipe at 10 AM (...too savory) so I decided to switch it up with a sweeter base. Staying true to the traditional red color, I employed strawberries in place of tomatoes, with cucumber chiming in as a mild veggie component. Lime juice and green onions give it some tang, with pungent cilantro and spicy notes of cayenne pepper emerging from the depths. Sweet, savory, spicy, tangy, crisp, and seedy -- the textures and flavors of this soup are multi-dimensional in a way that allows each component to have its turn in the spotlight. But I really love how the texture of the strawberry seeds comes through at the end, reminding you of the fruit that has the starring role.



STRAWBERRY GAZPACHO

Ingredients:

2 cups cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, then coarsely chopped
4 cups strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 green onions, the root end and any dry tips cut off, then coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup cilantro

Directions:
Combine all in food processor or blender. Texture should be slightly coarse. Best served cold; allow to refrigerate overnight for the flavors to enhance.


In an effort to provide a filling accompaniment for my gazpacho I turned to a more typical brunch fare: an egg frittata. A recipe from Martha Stewart Living magazine for a Ricotta-Chive version provided a starting point for my own recipe, though I departed from her version to incorporate my own flair. I adopted the use of ricotta dollops, but replaced the chives with a blend of finely chopped green onions and cilantro. To the ingredient list I added pepitas and feta, sprinkling them over top of the frittata in the final minutes of baking. A simple roster of ingredients that melds beautifully and yields a delicious result. (Note: I made the frittata the night before and served it cold the next day -- it is tasty both hot out of the oven or as cold leftovers).


RICOTTA FRITTATA

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil
10 medium eggs
1/3 cup green onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
sea salt
pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425
2. In a medium bowl combine eggs, green onions and cilantro; season with salt and pepper.
3. Heat olive oil in a 10 inch cast iron (or ovenproof nonstick) skillet over medium heat. Add egg mixture and dollop ricotta over the top of the eggs.
4. Allow eggs to set for 2-3 minutes before transferring the skillet into the oven.
5. Bake for 10 minutes.
6. Pull the frittata from oven and sprinkle pepitas and feta over the top. Cook an additional 4-5 minutes or until eggs are set and pepitas are toasted.


7.27.2011

Two-Tone Tapenade


I first made this tapenade on vacation when I had an urge to find an alternative for the salsa and guacamole that had been dominating our cookout appetizers. On a whim I threw two kinds of olives and two types of grilled bell peppers into the food processor with some herbs, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, concocting a red and green paste with intense Mediterranean flavors. Deep, earthy and fresh, it's a perfect spread for a crostini. It can also be used as a topping for meat, poultry or fish, or to adorn your favorite pasta.


TWO-TONE OLIVE AND BELL PEPPER TAPENADE 
[Yield: about 2 cups]


1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup almond-stuffed green olives
1 red pepper
1/2 large green pepper
4 Tbsp red onion, minced
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh parsley



1. Cut bell peppers in half and remove seeds. Broil pepper halves for about 15 minutes until charred and soft. Place roasted peppers in brown paper back, fold back and allow them to sweat for about 10 minutes to loosen the skins.

2. Peel peppers, discard skin and chop roughly. Add peppers, olives and remaining ingredients to a food processor and pulse until combined. Adjust seasonings to taste.

7.26.2011

Fast Fix


It's always a challenge coming home late after a long day of work, feeling ravenous and slightly crabby, with no leftovers and no inspiration for dinner -- finding a combination of ingredients with your fridge contents can either yield a delicious discovery or be a total bust. Tonight, the fridge greeted me with a host of ingredients that spurred my ingenuity -- I decided to put a twist on the egg & veggie scramble that often typifies my quick home-alone meals. I entered the meal knowing that eggs would be the protein component because of their speedy cook time, but was inspired to try something different when I saw the tofu that was tucked away in the fridge. I joined egg whites and tofu in a marriage of white, pairing them with another power couple: kale and spinach. I added grape tomatoes to make the dish less two-toned and incorporated a hefty dose of thyme and crumbled feta, hoping that the flavors would somehow work. It was actually even better than I expected; the tofu gave extra density to the egg base and the kale provided a sturdy leafy component. The thyme was the perfect herb to round out the dish, while the tangy feta and juicy tomatoes provided sporadic bursts of flavor. It's by no means fancy, but when you need something quick whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner, this combo hits the spot.

KALE, SPINACH AND TOFU SCRAMBLE WITH TOMATOES, THYME AND FETA

Ingredients:
[Serves 1 hungry person]
2 tsp minced garlic
1-2 cups kale
1+ cup spinach
1/2 cup diced soft tofu
2 egg whites
1/3 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 Tbsp thyme
1 Tbsp crumbled feta, as garnish

Directions:
1. Saute kale and spinach in medium skillet with garlic until wilted.
2. Push greens to one side of the pan and add egg whites to empty side. Let eggs set briefly before scrambling with kale and spinach. Add tofu and combine with greens and egg. Cover for several minutes until eggs are cooked and tofu is heated through.
3. Add grape tomatoes and a few additional minutes until warmed through.
4. Mix in thyme and gentle fold in crumbled feta before serving.

7.17.2011

Don't Judge a Smoothie By Its Color



In a world where smoothies have notoriously been fruit-based, vegetables are making a push for equal presence in the blender. Though we are palatally-inclined to favor a blend of berries over a puree of raw spinach, who's to say that veggies and fruits can't compliment each other?

Move over strawberry, kale is banana's new smoothie partner in this green concoction that is both delicious and packed with nutrients. Kale gives the smoothie a verde hue that might look unappealing to some smoothie traditionalists, but the veggie brings a wealth of vitamins, not to mention antioxidants, fiber and anti-inflammatory benefits to the blend. Banana is the unassuming fruity foil, at once smooth, sweet and potassium-rich. Creamy lemon Greek yogurt contributes both protein and zest, making this smoothie a perfect summery treat or a post-workout replenisher.


KALE-BANANA SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

2 cups kale, packed and torn
1 small banana
1 container lemon Chobani Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

Directions:
1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender.

Hint: For an extra chilled treat, use frozen bananas. Swapping some cucumber for part of the kale is another refreshing variation.

7.15.2011

Week of Bulgar



I haven't made bulgar in a while, mostly out of laziness. I usually get home at night, ravenous, and head straight for the quick-absorbing grains (think couscous, quinoa or a whole-grain penne if I'm in a pasta mood). None of this wait-an-hour nonsense that comes along with cooking bulgar. (Patience is something I am short on). But on afternoons where I have time to throw some boiling water over those little grains and let them perk up in the fridge before dinner time, I opt the bulgar route and it always delivers. I had an urge to revisit some of the tasty bulgar salads I have in my repertoire this week, so I mustered up some patience and got creative...

The great thing about grain salads is that they are endlessly adaptable and always complex in flavor and texture. I don't think I have ever made the exact same one twice, but that is not to say I don't have my favorites -- one version that I always come back to pairs fresh cherries and pistachios -- a killer combo. With some cherry abundance this week I ran with that idea, throwing in some fresh dill and fennel and drizzling it all wth a sweet lemon-honey dressing:



DILL BULGAR SALAD WITH CHERRIES, FENNEL & PISTACHIOS


1 cup uncooked bulgar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and cut in quarters
1 cup fennel, roughly diced
3 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped finely
1/4 cup roasted pistachios, chopped
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ginger

1. In a medium bowl combine 1 cup bulgar with 1 cup boiling water. Cover and allow to sit for an hour or more until water is absorbed.

2. In a small bowl combine lemon juice, olive oil, honey, coriander and ginger; set dressing aside.

3. Combine bulgar with cherries, fennel, dill and pistachios. Drizzle with dressing and stir to coat. Serve cold or at room temperature.







Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks loosely inspired my second bulgar salad of the week. Her version uses quinoa as the grain base and features currants, zucchini and dill -- a trio that I found both intriguing and seasonally appealing as summer squash abounds in the Farmer's Markets. A perfect recipe to use up my remaining dill as well. Instead of grating the squash as Heidi did, I sauteed it slightly to make it tender and threw in diced cremini mushrooms to add meatiness to the dish.

BULGAR WITH CURRANTS, SUMMER SQUASH AND DILL

1 cup bulgar
1 cup water
1/4 cup dried currants
1 zucchini, finely diced
1 yellow summer squash, finely diced
1 cup cremini mushrooms, diced (optional)
1 lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, quartered and finely sliced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
feta or goat cheese, crumbled, to taste




1. Combine bulgar and currants in a medium bowl. Add 1 cup boiling water; cover and let sit for 1 hour until water is absorbed.

2. While bulgar is resting, heat oil in a medium cast iron skillet. Add zucchini and yellow squash (about 2 1/2 cups total) and saute until tender but not mushy. Remove from skillet and add mushrooms with another splash of olive oil. Saute for several minutes until fragrant and soft. Add mushrooms to bowl of squash and set aside.

3. After bulgar has sit for an hour or more, combine with sauteed zucchini, squash and mushrooms.

4. Quarter a small red onion and thinly slice, allowing it to rest in ice water for about 15 minutes to cut the pungency before draining and adding to bulgar mixture.

5. Zest one lemon and stir it to the bulgar along with 2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice, 2 Tbsp olive oil and fresh dill.

6. Serve cold or at room temperature topped with crumbled feta or goat cheese and additional dill for garnish.