August 19, 2014 Tzatziki Sauce

DSC_8546aIt’s a deliciously creamy sauce or dip based on yogurt, cucumbers and dill, and yes the Greeks do have a word for that, tzatziki. Pronounced in English, zat-zee-key, it is a traditional Greek “meze” or something to whet the appetite. I serve it with chicken, fish and vegetables. Tzatziki is also great as a sauce with gyros or wraps.

Until the last several years, you would have needed to drain the yogurt for several hours before proceding with the recipe. With the advent of Greek yogurt, that step is eliminated. “Greek style” yogurt is strained to remove the whey, the watery part. The term “Greek” is not regulated and some yogurts are thickened with cornstarch and milk protein concentrates. Read the label, Greek yogurt should contain only milk and live active cultures. In Greece, sheep’s milk yogurt is traditionally used in tzatziki, I have read that it is sweeter and richer than cow or goat’s milk yogurt. If you are using regular yogurt it needs to be drained in a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth for about four hours to obtain the thicker texture of Greek yogurt.

Grated cucumber, garlic, dill and sometimes mint are added to the yogurt base. Peel and seed the cucumber before grating. I use a teaspoon to make one long scoop down the middle to eliminate the seeds. Keep the cucumber in halves, they are large enough to shred on a box grater without hurting  your fingers. Put the shredded cucumber in a strainer over a bowl and sprinkle a little salt on it. This will drain out some of the excess liquid. I squeeze out the rest of the liquid by putting the cucumber in a clean cloth dishtowel and wringing it out. Alternately, squeeze the cucumber in your hands. This is an important step to ensure the sauce does not become watery.

The dill and mint should be fresh and if I am adding mint I will wait until right before serving since just picked mint can overwhelm the dish. Tzatziki is a versatile sauce that combines the slightly sour tang of yogurt along with the cool refreshing flavors of cucumber, dill and mint. It’s a great addition to your summer menus.

Tzatziki Sauce

Makes about two cups

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 c plain whole or 2% milk yogurt, preferably Greek
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3/4 c peeled, seeded, and grated cucumber
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 t chopped fresh dill
  • 2t finely chopped mint (optional)
  • 2 t extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Put the cucumber in a colander over a bowl and lightly sprinkle with salt. After a half hour wrap the cucumber in a clean cloth dishtowel and squeeze as much liquid out of it as you can. Alternately, squeeze the liquid out with your hands.
  2. Add the chopped garlic, cucumber, lemon juice, dill, and olive oil to the yogurt mixture. Stir to blend and season to taste with salt. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours before serving.
Make Ahead Tips

The dip can be made up to a day ahead.

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August 17, 2014 Tomato Gazpacho

DSC_8572aSummertime in a bowl, liquid salad, just two of the descriptive names for that summer favorite, gazpacho. Our tomatoes are finally starting to ripen along with a healthy crop of cucumbers. I think I read about fifty recipes and finally settled on my own combination of vegetables. I used some purchased tomato juice, but as the tomatoes from the garden become more plentiful, I will use them to make my own juice.
I skipped the traditional stale bread and went very easy on the olive oil. I did use my best Spanish sherry vinegar for this refreshing soup that originated in the Andalusian province of southern Spain. I didn’t blanch, peel or seed any of the vegetables. I did hand chop them for uniformity of size and blended just a little bit of them to enhance the tomato juice base. Flavorful vine ripened tomatoes are key to this recipe. It’s also a good time to use your not so perfect specimens that won’t make it in your tomato salad. The peppers in my gazpacho were purchased, but it won’t be long before I will be picking them from the garden. A jalapeno pepper is nice also to add a little extra heat.
Make gazpacho a day ahead if possible. The flavor only gets better from sitting overnight in the fridge.
Full of sun ripened flavor and packed with nutrients, this low fat chilled vegetable soup is the perfect refreshment for hot summer days.

Tomato Gazpacho

Serves six

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2c plum tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/2c finely chopped red onion, soaked in ice water for 15 minutes and drained
  • 2c cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 1/2c bell pepper cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 small clove of garlic, chopped finely
  • 2c tomato juice
  • 1/4c sherry vinegar
  • 2T flavorful extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 dashes of green Tabasco sauce
  • 1T  Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Directions

  1. Place tomatoes, onion, cucumber, pepper and garlic in a bowl
  2. Add the tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, Tabasco and Worcestertshire sauce. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. Transfer two cups of the mixture to a blender or food processor and pulse the machine on and off to coarsely puree the contents. Return the pureed mixture to the bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least six hours or preferably overnight before serving.
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Vine ripened tomatoes either from the farmers market or your own garden make this a special treat.

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Ingredients, chopped and ready to go.

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August 5, 2014 Blueberry Cinnamon Basil Sorbet

ADSC_8346Summertime is the prime season for fresh berries. Our local season begins with beautiful “red to the core” strawberries in early to mid June. When our raspberry bushes were thriving, I would see the first luscious berries on the thorny bushes around the fourth of July.  I could always count on a call from my mother about mid July, letting me know the blueberries were ready to pick on the bush on what once was my grandfather’s property.

This year the call letting me know it was time to pick blueberries was from my brother. He is maintaining the grounds as we get ready to sell my parents house and adjoining property. This would be my last opportunity to pick from this healthy and prolific bush. I was rewarded with almost a gallon of berries after an hour’s picking. Along with the usual fare like muffins and bar cookies, I was anxious to try my hand at a recipe for sorbet.
The article in the June/July issue of Fine Cooking was contributed by Zoe Francois. Probably best known for her Five Minutes a Day bread books and her blog, Zoe Bakes, she offers a basic formula for sorbet that allows you to choose from endless combinations of fruits, spirits and add ins. She also tackles the common problem that you might encounter making this frozen treat, ending up with a sorbet that is too icy or too slushy.

In a professional kitchen you would use equipment like refractometers and saccharometers to achieve the correct balance. Ms. Francois shares a simple trick for the home cook to see if you have the correct ratio of sugar syrup to fruit puree. Gently place a clean fresh raw egg in a tall container filled with the sorbet base. If the egg sinks, add more of the sugar syrup, if it floats with only a quarter size piece of eggshell in view, your ratio is correct. I must emphasize fresh when it comes to the egg you are using. As eggs get older they contain more air, and might float regardless of the sugar content of your mixture.

Borrowing from the typical combination of blueberries and cinnamon that you would find in a muffin recipe, I added some spicy cinnamon basil and a pinch of ground cinnamon to infuse some extra flavor into the blueberry base. Be sure the flavors in your base are assertive, freezing the mixture will make it less intense. A little citrus juice, lemon or lime, and a pinch of salt will help intensify your flavors.
The hardest part of the recipe for me was finding that tall narrow container. Putting a raw egg into a clean blender jar, filled with the sorbet base seemed too risky because of the metal blade. A vase? Maybe, but the ones I had were too big. I finally found a clean tall take-out container that didn’t have any residual odors. I only needed an extra tablespoon of simple syrup to make the egg float properly. Another trick for getting a creamy sorbet is to blend the smallest amount, only one-eighth of a teaspoon full of guar gum into the strained fruit base. Guar gum is a natural emulsifier from the seed of the guar plant. Use it sparingly, too much and it will turn your frozen treat stringy or gummy.

Another great find came from this article for me. After many years of looking for container that I had visualized in my mind but could never find in stores, there it was, an insulated long narrow container with a non slip base that would make scooping ice cream easier. I purchased mine from Williams-Sonoma but Sur La Table is carrying them as well. On line reviews are mixed at this point, hopefully they will improve.

The berries made a delcious sorbet, my next assignment is to get my hubby to make cuttings from this bush before the house is sold so that we can continue the tradition and one day have a blueberry bush of our own.

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Beautiful ripe berries.

Blueberry Cinnamon Basil Sorbet

From Fine Cooking Magazine

Makes 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 1c. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. light corn syrup
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 lb. fresh blueberries
  • 1-2T fresh lemon or lime juice
  • Pinch of salt (or more)
  • 2T finely chopped cinnamon basil
  • 1/8t ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. guar gum (optional, but makes for a creamier texture)
  •  1 fresh raw egg, in its shell, washed and dried

Directions

  1. To make the sugar syrup, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small pot over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until all ingredients are combined and sugar granules are thoroughly dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator until cold, about 30 minutes.
  2. In a blender, puree the blueberries, lemon or lime juice and a pinch of salt. Taste mixture to correct flavors. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds. Place in a covered container and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
  3. Put the blueberry puree, 1 c. sugar syrup, 2 tablespoons packed basil leaves, ground cinnamon and guar gum, if using, in a blender. Strain mixture, once again, to remove any remaining seeds.
  4. Check the density of the sorbet base by gently lowering the egg into the container with a slotted spoon. If it sinks, remove it and stir in and additional 2 T of the sugar syrup, repeating as necessary until the egg floats just below the surface with a quarter-sized exposed area of shell. When density is right, pour sorbet base into a covered container and refrigerate until very cold, at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
  5. To freeze, pour base into an ice cream maker and run according to manufacturer’s directions. Sorbet too hard to scoop? Let it sit 20 minutes in the refrigerator before serving. Sorbet will keep up to two weeks.

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The blueberry puree.

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It floats! Only a quarter sized piece of egg should be showing.

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My new favorite container and Cutco ice cream scoop.

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July 27, 2014 Braised Swiss Chard with Raisins, Olives and Capers

DSC_8313aMove over broccoli, step aside tomatoes, the research has been completed and the new ranking of the powerhouse fruits and vegetables is in. Researchers at William Patterson University in conjunction with the CDC did a study of 41 fruits and vegetables ranking them by the 17 critical nutrients they contain. The foods were scored by their content of fiber, potassium, protein, calcium, folate and important vitamins. Following watercress and Chinese cabbage is our bronze medal winner, Swiss chard. Chard is a good source of vitamins K, A and C as well as potassium, iron and fiber.

We have been long time fans of chard, it is our choice for a cooked green in the summer after the heat causes our spinach plants to bolt. I think many people shy away from chard because it has two distinct parts, the leaves and the stems that need to be cooked separately. Many recipes avoid the stems but that is unfortunate since the stems can add texture and color to the dish. Two of the varieties we grow, Rhubarb, has bright red stems and Bright Lights has stems in almost neon shades of pink, yellow and orange. Although they will fade a bit, I prefer to simmer the stem sections in broth or water to maintain optimum color. Remember to cook chard in a non reactive pan, like spinach it will discolor if cooked in aluminum or unlined iron.

This preparation is one of our favorites that we have enjoyed for years. The earthy assertive flavor of chard combines nicely with Mediteranean flavors of garlic, capers, olives and raisins. I like to plump raisins in warm water for just a few minutes before adding to the recipe. I cut the stems of the chard into slightly smaller pieces than most recipes call for, the stems will cook quicker and will retain their color.

Farmers markets will be your best source for chard this time of year. Wash well in several changes of water. For a more detailed explanation about the preparation and cooking of chard, please look at this post.

As for the rankings, the word powerhouse equals nutrient density. Higher ranking foods provided more nutrients per calorie. Watercress scored a perfect 100, chard not far behind with 89.27. Broccoli and tomatoes? 34.89 and 20.37 respectively, reason enough to add chard to your diet.

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Braised Swiss Chard with Raisins, Olives and Capers

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 2lbs chard, washed, leaves and stems separated
  • 11/2c chicken or vegetable stock (water is okay too)
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1T capers, rinsed
  • 2t chopped garlic
  • 1/4c raisins (dark or golden)
  • 1/4c chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1/8t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2T toasted pine nuts
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A very attractive “mis en place”.

Directions

  1. Cut the chard stems away from the leaves. Cut chard leaves into rough slices and set aside. Cut stems into 1/2 inch pieces. Combine stems in a large non reactive saute pan with stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer over low heat for about 8-10 minutes until softened. Check an individual stem piece to see if it is at your desired doneness. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl and keep warm.
  2. Add the olive oil, capers, garlic, raisins, olives, red pepper flakes to the saute pan. Bring to a simmer and add the reserved chard leaves, in batches if necessary. Cover the pan and cook for 2 minutes, or until wilted. Uncover the pan and continue to simmer over low heat until the leaves are tender, 8-10 minutes. Add the reserved stems and toss with the ingredients in the pan. Increase the heat to evaporate any remaining liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.
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The neon colored stems of Bright Lights chard.

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July 22, 2014 Silky Zucchini Soup

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A fellow shopper and I were comparing notes as we waited in line at the farmers market. “I don’t like zucchini,” she commented. I didn’t have the chance to ask her, but I am always curious to know what exactly it is that makes someone dislike a certain food. Is it the taste, the texture, the smell, did they suffer through a poor preparation of it, or perhaps a bad childhood memory?
Zucchini, in many recipes is the canvas for the flavors of what is cooked with it, garlic, basil, tomatoes, cheese. I can understand someone disliking seedy, watery baseball bat sized zucchini that is tasteless and pulpy. But just picked small to medium zucchini have a light delicate flavor and a nutty quality to them. Maybe zucchini is not a nutritional powerhouse but it is low in calories and contains folate, potassium and vitamin A.

Zucchini is at the forefront of this recipe courtesy of Grant Achatz, a surprisingly low-tech offering from one of the masters of molecular gastronomy. We had the pleasure of enjoying a multiple course meal at his restaurant, Alinea, on a trip to Chicago several years ago. No need for a refractor or an immersion circulator to master this quick and very simple recipe. This pale green soup with dark green flecks has a creamy silky taste that belies the fact that the only dairy in the soup is one tablespoon of butter. Since the flavor of the zucchini is the star, choose homegrown or farmers market zucchini. The recipe is vegetarian, but could be made vegan just by replacing the butter with olive oil. Good both hot or cold, garnish the soup simply with finely shredded zucchini.

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The daily harvest at the peak of zucchini season.

Silky Zucchini Soup

From Food and Wine magazine

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1T unsalted butter
  • 2T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2lbs zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2/3c vegetable stock or low sodium vegetable broth
  • Julienned raw zucchini for garnish

Directions

  1. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until softened, 7 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the stock and 1 1/2 cups of water and bring it to a simmer; cook until the zucchini is very soft, about 10 minutes.
  4. Working in two batches, puree the soup in a blender until it’s silky smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Serve the soup hot or chilled, garnished with julienned zucchini.
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Saute zucchini until softened, about ten minutes.

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Add stock and water, bring to a simmer and cook until the zucchini is soft, about ten minutes.

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July 20, 2014 Pickled Coleslaw

DSC_8207aAnother day, another pickle. This time it’s pickled coleslaw, a way to eliminate the mayo and make it picnic basket friendly. This slaw can be stored in the fridge for up to ten days. The cabbage in this coleslaw is turnip cabbage, or as it is better known, kohlrabi.
Kohlrabi is a member of the Brassica family, like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. The  tasty bulbs are low in calories, a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C and fiber.

Kohlrabi is crunchy, a little bit sweet and can have the spicy kick of a radish or turnip. I peeled and shredded the little space alien looking veggies along with a few carrots in the food processor. Toss the shredded kohlrabi and carrot with some kosher salt to extrude as much water out of them as possible. After about ten minutes, use your hands or wrap in a clean kitchen towel  to squeeze as much water out of the kohlrabi as possible. The less water left behind the crunchier the slaw will be.

The original recipe called for white vinegar and pineapple juice. I had white balsamic pineapple vinegar and the sweet, slightly tart flavor really complimented the kohlrabi nicely. Add some pineapple chunks just when ready to serve. Goes great with fish, as a taco topping or even with hot dogs!

Pickled Coleslaw

Adapted from Fine Cooking

Makes 2 1/2 quarts

Ingredients

  • 9c shredded kohlrabi
  • 1/2c shredded carrot
  • 2T kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal, if using Morton, use a little less)
  • 1/4c pineapple balsamic vinegar or white vinegar
  • 3/4c pineapple juice (fresh is best)
  • 1c fresh pineapple in small dice

Directions

  1. Toss the kohlrabi and carrot in a large bowl with the salt. Let sit at room temperature for about ten minutes.
  2. Wring out as much moisture as possible from the vegetables with your hands. Transfer the vegetables to a dry bowl.
  3. Add the vinegar and juice and toss thoroughly. The slaw can be served immediatley or placed in quart jars and refrigerated up to ten days.
  4. Add fresh pineapple right before serving.
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Kohlrabi and carrots ready for trimming and peeling.

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Kohlrabi and carrots after being salted and wrung out.

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Add pineapple right before serving.

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July 13, 2014 Pickled Beets and Pickled Beet Hummus

DSC_8128aPoor maligned beets! With descriptors like, they taste like dirty socks, mud and even wood, it’s no wonder they have a bad rap to overcome. Unlike former president George H.W. Bush who disliked broccoli, our current president is on the record as a beet hater, thus they are not grown in the White House garden.  Well all I am saying is “give beets a chance!”
Over the last few years I have developed a growing affection for beets.  In addition to the traditional Detroit Dark Red we have been growing the candy striped Chiogga (kee-oh-ja) and the bright orange-yellow Golden beet.We grow small crops of a row or two in succession all throughout the season. Beets pulled fresh from the garden have a sweet, rich and yes, earthy flavor.

I like to take small beets and either julienne or thinly slice them raw for salads. Roasted beets are good either sliced or cut in wedges on a bed of baby greens with orange supremes, goat cheese and toasted walnuts.
This summer I found myself with too many beets to use in a short amount of time. I decided to pickle some so they can be enjoyed over the course of several weeks. Pickling, simply put, is a way of preserving in a vinegar or brine mixture. The acid in the vinegar slows bacterial growth and the beets keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

I chose a recipe from Fine Cooking magazine that used both red wine and red wine vinegar. As with any recipe, use a red wine as well as a red wine vinegar that you would be happy to drink and cook with on their own. A word of warning, red beets will stain your fingers, if you want to avoid that, wear disposable gloves when working with them. They taste great right away and even better once they have a chance to chill in the fridge. You can enjoy them on their own or add a few along with their liquid to brighten up a hummus recipe. Don’t forget, the beet greens are good to eat. Remove any large stems, blanch in boiling water for about 2-3 minutes, Drain well and saute in olive oil with some chopped garlic and red pepper flakes.

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Wine Pickled Beets

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. trimmed red beets (about 5 medium)
  • 1 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 whole allspice berries
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

Directions

  1. Put the beets in a 4-quart pot, add water to cover, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the beets are crisp-tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  2. Peel and halve the beets. Slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick and distribute among three 1-pint jars or other sealable nonreactive containers.
  3. In a 2- to 3-quart nonreactive saucepan, bring the wine, vinegar, orange juice, sugar, allspice, cloves, and salt to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the liquid over the beets to cover. Let sit, uncovered, at room temperature for 2 hours to cool and pickle the beets. Serve, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Make Ahead Tips

The pickles can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 6 weeks

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July 8, 2014 Borlotti and Green Bean Salad

DSC_8039a-copyOur beans, both pole and bush varieties, are still a few weeks away from being ready to harvest so I couldn’t resist the green beans I spotted at the farmers market. The shelling beans we are growing are months away from being ready to harvest but I still had some left from last season.  I combined the green beans from the farmers market along with our dried borlotti beans for a simple bean salad.

Borlotti beans, labeled by the source we use, Seeds of Italy as Borlotto, are also known as cranberry beans and the very serious moniker, French Horticultural beans. They are an attractive addition to the garden. Their bright magenta colored pods with white streaks give a hint to the creamy white beans with cranberry red spots that wait inside.

Borlotti are a shelling bean which means the outer pod is inedible and must be removed. They can be used fresh, or dried for later storage. They have a wonderful nutty flavor and a creamy texture. Shelling beans need a long time to dry out. I learned that the hard way. The first year we had them, I thought they were sufficiently dry and stored them in canning jars. Much to my dismay, weeks later when I went to use them I discovered they were moldy. I learned my lesson from this and now allow sufficient time and space to achieve a totally dried bean. A dehydrator could speed up this process.

Some recipes call for only a few hour soak before proceeding with a recipe. I always try to soak dried beans overnight for the best results. In this case, one cup of dried beans became two and a half cups of soaked beans. After the soak drain and rinse the beans before proceeding with the recipe. The pretty spots on the beans are gone as soon as you cook them and they turn a pinkish brown color. Nothing can compare to the flavor of fresh cooked beans, they are sweet, creamy and delicious. If you have time restraints and choose to use canned beans, I prefer Goya beans as a substitute in this recipe.  Add chopped basil just before serving for the freshest taste.

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Borlotti and Green Bean Salad

Serves six

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried large  beans, I used Borlotti, well rinsed and soaked overnight
  • Several sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 large clove garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut in half
  • 1 small carrot, cut into several pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 salt-packed anchovies, filleted (or 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets), rinsed, patted dry, and finely chopped
  • 3 T. red-wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. small tomatoes cut into quarters
  • 1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into pieces if large
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

  1. In a deep, heavy-based pot, cover the beans with 6 to 8 cups cold water. Add the thyme, garlic, onion, carrot, and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Cover and cook until the beans are tender, about 90 minutes; let cool in the broth.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the shallot, anchovies, vinegar, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until well combined. Drain the white beans and add them and the tomatoes to the bowl. Toss to coat the vegetables well with the dressing. Let stand at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours.
  3. Cook the green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and spread on a paper towels to cool. When ready to serve, add the cooled green beans to the white beans and then the basil, tossing well after each addition. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
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A bowl of freshly shelled Borlotti beans.

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The beans are almost three times their size after an overnight soaking.

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Combine the drained beans with onion, garlic, carrot and a few sprigs of thyme.

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July 4, 2014 Turnip Slaw

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In the winter months turnips are mashed, glazed, braised, roasted, and bathed in nutmeg scented white sauce, but what to do with the humble root in the summer months? I love to add crisp sweet turnip slices to top a green salad along with our spring harvest of carrots and radishes and here in a delicious turnip slaw.

Japanese Hakurei turnips are pure white and delicately sweet. They should be harvested when they are about the size of a large radish and when they are small there is no need to peel.

I combined the Hakurei turnip with the more traditional purple top turnips It took ten turnips of various sizes, from a golf ball to a tennis ball to make one pound for this recipe. I left just a little of the purple on for color contrast and added some baby carrot thinnings from the garden for additonal color. Grating the turnips in the food processor made it easy, they were too small to make a decent hand cut julienne. Drain the turnips and squeeze out any excess liquid before adding the vinaigrette.

I love the smell of toasted cumin seeds and they add their own smokiness to the slaw. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet, tossing occasionally until they turn a shade darker. You could crush the toasted cumin in a mortar and pestle if you desire to really bring out the flavor.

A harvest of Hakurei turnips. The greens are good sauteed with garlic.

A harvest of Hakurei turnips. The greens are good sauteed with garlic.

Turnip Slaw

Serves four to six

Ingredients

For the slaw

  • 1lb turnips, tops and root ends trimmed, peeled if necessary
  • 1 medium carrot, washed and trimmed

For the dressing

  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1/3c fresh orange juice
  • 1t grated orange peel
  • 3T fresh lime juice
  • 1T minced shallot
  • 2t honey
  • 1t toasted cumin seed
  • 1/2t or more chipotle pepper powder (optional if you like a little heat)
  • 1/2c vegetable oil
  • 1/4t fresh ground black pepper
  • Additional kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Fit a food processor with the grating disc and shred the turnips and carrot.
  2. Drain vegetables of any excess liquid. You can let them sit over a fine colander or better yet, place vegetables on a very clean cloth dishtowel, gather up the ends and give a good squeeze. Place the grated turnip and carrot in a large bowl.
  3. Combine in a medium bowl, garlic, salt, juices and peel, shallot, honey, cumin and chipotle pepper if using.
  4. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until well blended. Season with pepper.
  5. Pour about a half cup of the dressing over the vegetables. Toss to coat. Taste and season with additonal salt and pepper. Add additional dressing if needed. Chill for an hour to allow the flavors to blend.

 

 

June 27, 2014 Grilled Chicken with Chermoula Sauce

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As a lover of all things related to food and cooking, I am especially pleased when I discover something new, at least new to me. In the tradition of herb and olive oil based sauces like pesto and chimichurri, chermoula is a sauce that originates from Morocco and other North African countries. It is a tangy blend of fresh herbs and spices, lemon and olive oil.

It is traditionally used to season fish but pairs equally as well with chicken or grilled vegetables. It can be both a dry spice mixture or more commonly, an herb sauce. I used it both ways in this recipe. First, as the rub for the chicken and then as the sauce to serve with the chicken. If you like, preserved lemon peel or a pinch of saffron would be a welcome addition to the mix. If you don’t like cilantro, either change the proportions of cilantro and parsley or eliminate it altogther. Traditionally, like pesto, this was made in a mortar and pestle but a mini food processor makes quick work of the recipe. I cooked these indoors on a grill pan, if I were cooking on an outdoor grill I would prefer whole chicken pieces.  Friendly to many diets, chermoula is a sauce worth discovering.

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Chermoula Sauce

Serves four

Ingredients for marinated chicken
  • 4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 4 T fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 4T olive oil
  • 1t ground cumin
  • 1t ground coriander
  • 1t garlic powder
  • 1t sweet paprika

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Ingredients for the Chermoula Sauce

  • 2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  •  1/2 c coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 c coarsely chopped parsley (flat is my preference, but curly works too)
  • 1 T + 2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 t sweet paprika
  • 1/2 t ground cumin
  • 1/4t cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/8t saffron threads (optional)
  • 4 -5 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1.  Trim all fat and sinew from chicken breasts. Place chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap and with the flat edge of a mallet, pound to an even thickness, season generously with kosher salt. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil and spices to make the marinade. Put chicken pieces inside a Ziploc bag or plastic container with a snap-tight lid, pour marinade over and let chicken marinate in the refrigerator 4-6 hours, turning bag occasionally.
  2. To make the chermoula sauce, put chopped garlic, chopped cilantro, chopped parsley, lemon juice, sweet paprika, and ground cumin, cayenne and saffron (if using) in food processor and pulse to combine. Add the 4 T olive oil and pulse just enough to get it mixed in, then taste to see if you want the other tablespoon of oil and add it if you want a milder sauce. (Don’t over-process; the mixture is not supposed to be smooth.) Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. To cook the chicken in a grill pan, spray grill pan with nonstick grill spray or brush with oil and preheat grill pan to high (you can only hold your hand there for a few seconds at that heat.) Let chicken come to room temperature while the pan heats.
  4. To get criss-cross grill marks, lay the chicken top-side down at a diagonal across the grill pan and let it cook until well-defined grill marks are showing, about 3-4 minutes. It’s okay to lift a corner to check.  Turn the chicken so it’s going the opposite way at an angle to the grill grates and cook about 3-4 more minutes. Then turn chicken over and cook 4-5 minutes on the second side, or until chicken is firm but not hard to the touch.Serve chicken hot, with Charmoula Sauce spooned over.

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