June 30, 2013

Lemon Salsa

Lemons have been a love of mine ever since we bonded over the 1977 Miss America Pageant. It was late summer and my ten-year-old self was contentedly watching the show in my family's screened-in porch (rooting for Miss Minnesota who actually WON that year and had a hairstyle I would attempt to emulate for years to come). 

During a commercial break, I dashed into our kitchen to look for a snack. It was too early for my dad's nightly pan (more like a schooner) of popcorn, but he was in there washing dishes from dinner. I immediately sought out ice cream or chips (ha! no luck finding that with an older sister who could quickly and furtively seek and destroy any morsel of junk food that made it into our earth mother's house). So my dad squeezed a half a lemon into a mug, added some salt and pepper and gave me a carrot to dip. Skeptical, I said thanks like I was OK with this option and took it back to my cushion in the porch. 

By the time the contestants were gliding around in the evening-wear portion of the competition (you have to appreciate the commitment of these athletes), I was on my third carrot and my mouth felt like a dry sponge. I had discovered my new favorite flavor - salty lemon

Lemon Salsa

This salsa is salty lemon wonderful with punches of herb and onion. It's a riff on Nigella Lawsons' recipe. Goes well with chicken, fish, couscous, lentils, and probably carrots and the Miss America pageant.

Lemon Salsa

Makes about 1 cup

2 lemons
Dash red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (basil, chives and parsley)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon flaked sea salt

1. Slice off pointed ends of lemon and set flat on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut away the peel and pith. Cut into 1/4 inch chunks, place in a bowl and pick out seeds. Squeeze juice from peelings into bowl. Repeat with second lemon. Add red wine vinegar.

2. Toss in minced onions, herbs, olive oil and salt. Mix and let stand for an hour at room temperature before serving. 

June 22, 2013

Sticky Spicy Green Beans

We're doing a little remodeling - unifying our kitchen and family room in true 1990's spirit by taking down a wall and building a huge island. We're in the demolition phase which makes it challenging to cook due to the plaster dust floating around. The voices from the pair of carpenters doing the work have become my kitchen soundtrack. They're nice, unintentionally funny guys who forget I'm there and sound like Lucy and Ethel when they're trying to figure something out. Makes up for the mess.

So my cooking has become more simplified, to say the least. These beans are inspired by a a dish my friend brought over to share. She used cashews as the sauce catcher. I'm using french green beans. Incredibly addictive flavor - sticky, salty, spicy and just the right amount of sweet.  The ingredients are few - beans, chili paste, lime and (a new one for me) kecap manis,  a thick sweet soy sauce.  Find it at an Asian market, Amazon, or come over and borrow some from me if you're in the neighborhood. Hard hat optional.

Kecap manis - Indonesian ketchup

Sticky Spicy Green Beans

Serves 2-4 as a side 

1 lb. french green beans (haricot verts)
4 tablespoons kecap manis/sweet soy sauce
2 tablespoons chili-garlic paste
Juice from one lime

1. Mix kecap manis and chili-garlic paste together in a small bowl.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of neutral oil (like canola) in a large saute pan or wok until very hot. Add beans (make sure they're dry to prevent splattering) and saute for about 5 minutes, tossing around until they're blistered and a little shriveled (you may have to do these in batches depending on the size of your pan). Drain on paper.

3. Pour off excess oil, wipe out pan then add beans back in along with the kecap manis and chili-garlic paste. Saute for a minute, squeeze the lime over and cook for another minute or until thickened. Serve hot or at room temperature.

June 8, 2013

Roasted Mushroom Farro Salad

Mushrooms are flourishing right now. Rain, cool rain and more cool rain equals lots of fertile damp ground for these delicious little fungi to thrive. Facebook is full of people showing off their foraging bounty "What do I do with all these morels?!" Morels can run up to $40 per pound at local markets so this akin to finding cash moldering under your trees in the backyard. No luck in my tiny patch of city green, but it got me thinking about mushrooms and how good they are - meaty and substantial. I can't bring myself to pay up for portabello, shiitake or morels but I found some reasonable organic white and cremini varieties at my co-op and jumped on them. Farro is a perfect earthly compliment, the parmesan gives it a salty bite and the parsley and lemon freshen it up. I made this for a party and had leftovers the next day with some sliced sausage hot off the grill. Even better and highly recommend this for you meat eaters.

Roasted Mushroom Farro Salad

Mushroom Farro Salad

Serves 4 (makes 3 cups)
Adapted from Merrill at Food52

1 1/2 cups pearled farro, toasted (optional)
4 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1. Roll farro on a clean damp towel to remove any dust.

2.  Toast by heating a heavy skillet over medium heat, adding farro and shaking periodically until fragrant and somewhat darkened (5 minutes).

3. Heat water and salt until boiling in saucepan. Add toasted farro, stir and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for approximately 25 minutes or until al dente (don't overcook - gets mushy). Drain, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and spread out in  a shallow platter or sheet pan. Cool. 

Roasted Mushrooms and all the rest

2 lbs fresh mushrooms (white and cremini)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 shallots, sliced thinly
3 ounces parmesan, crumbled*
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 475ยบ

2. Wipe off mushrooms and trim stems flush with cap. Toss with 1/4 cup olive oil and salt and place on sheet tray lined with parchment, stem side down. Roast for 25 minutes then flip and cook for another 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle slice into 1/4 inch slices.

3. Saute shallots in a little olive oil over medium-low heat until soft (10 minutes).

4. Combine mushrooms and shallots with cooled farro, parsley and parmesan cheese. Squeeze juice from half a lemon over along with remaining olive oil, toss and serve.

* An easy way to "crumble" hard parmesan to to put it in the food processor fitted with the blade and pulse it. You should get tiny little nuggets.

Roasted Mushroom farro Salad

June 5, 2013

Ramp Buttermilk Dressing

ramp buttermilk dressing

Escarole, dandelion, mache, kale, leaf. Bitter, curly, spiky, squeaky, crunchy, earthy. I love the wide variety of greens I can find at the Co-op and Farmer's Market these days and I love the fact that I can buy them separate and create my own mix (the prepackaged spring mixes sold in a box are so often laced with little wilted or rotting troublemakers). So I grab bunches of whatever looks interesting and fresh, rinse them in ice cold water, wrap them in a clean towel and stash them in the refrigerator while I work on a dressing.

I'm big on vinaigrettes but sometimes I want a creamy rich counterpoint to the slightly bitter (but in a good way) greens. Buttermilk dressing fits the bill. Today I had ramps (a seasonal onion that looks like a scallion with a purple tinge and taste like an onion crossed with garlic) so that was the start. The rest follows a pretty standard formula...buttermilk, mayonnaise, sour cream and whatever herbs are on hand. This would also make a great dip, just use less buttermilk to achieve a thicker consistency.

Ramp Buttermilk Dressing

Makes appx 1 3/4 cups

3 ramps, white and green parts finely chopped (appx. 3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnasie
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (more to taste)

1. Put 1/2 cup of buttermilk and rest of ingredients in a bowl and whisk (or in a jar and shake). Add more buttermilk until you get the consistency you want. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired.

2. Chill for at least one hour.

June 1, 2013

Grilled Caesar Panzanella with Smoked Trout

Grilled Caesar Panzanella with Smoked Trout

I debated whether or not I should post this. It's not perfect but it has a lot of good qualities. Kind of like that boyfriend your friends kept saying wasn't right for you. You just need to get to know him...he's really sweet when we're alone. What's great about this salad is the flavor of smoked trout with the caesar dressing, the hunks of grilled bread and the crisp lettuce. However...gotta say...the grilled cherry tomatoes were not wonderful. So skip those and we can call it a keeper. A cross between a panzanella and a caesar. You want the smoked fish to be the flaky kind (like the boyfriend), not the wetter lox version.

Grilled Caesar Panzanella with Smoked Trout

Serves 4

1 baguette or similar to make 4 cups croutons
1 head romaine lettuce or arugula
1 cup cherry tomatoes
4 ounces smoked trout or salmon
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted (optional)
Parmesan cheese. shaved with a vegetable peeler

1. Preheat grill
2. Cut baguette into 1 inch slices, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill until marks appear and as much char as you like (just a few minutes per side - watch carefully).
3. Thread tomatoes on skewers and grill, turning when marks appear.
4. Tear lettuce into bite sized pieces and put into a bowl with grilled croutons. Toss with dressing and top with trout, walnuts and additional parmesan shavings.

Caesar Dressing
Adapted from Ina Garten

1/4 cup lemon juice
2-3 anchovies (packed in oil)
1 garlic clove
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise or 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1. Combine all ingredients except oil in the blender and process until combined. With machine running, slowly add oil until emulsified, then add grated cheese.

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