Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Week 8 - two marinated salads

Well, I once again missed the deadline to order produce from the CSA this week. But I took this opportunity to shop at the farmer's market near my workplace, where a neighborhood farm was selling the most adorable and perfectly-round cherry tomatoes that I couldn't ignore. The kale at the co-op also looked great and cheap (and, ok, the reason I really went there was to buy mozzarella cheese). I've never gotten on the raw kale salad bandwagon, even though I'm a huge fan of eating vegetables raw when all of your human nature and inclination would tell you to cook them (raw beet salad? yes! cabbage in everything? yes! shaved asparagus? (isn't there a better way to refer to this? but) yes!)

So this marinated kale salad is for those of you out there who are all like:

whenever somebody mentions raw kale salad.

I'm excited about both recipes because there's no massaging of kale involved (no, I don't want to rub my fingers all over the food I'm about to eat or possibly serve to others, thank you) and both use marinating to improve the flavor. This also solves a few issues I sometimes have with salad, which is that it generally can't be made in advance and stored, and that even on days when I'm being good and craving a salad, the prospect of washing, spinning, chopping, etc. seems daunting. But now! Just reach in to the fridge and scoop out two tasty helpings of salad, pack them up for work, and enjoy!

Marinated tomato, basil, mozzarella and chickpea salad:

This is a take on the caprese salad, but the ratio is very heavily skewed toward chickpeas for some more protein and to make this into a more substantial, meal-type salad. If you double the amount of tomatoes and mozzarella or halve the amount of chickpeas, that would bring everything back into balance. (If you're doubling tomatoes and cheese, though, double the amount of dressing as well). Of course you can eat this salad without marinating it, but it's seriously a 100% improvement if you wait.

-1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, or about 2 C of chopped/mixed other kinds of tomatoes
-1 small shallot
-4 oz fresh mozzarella (watch this carefully, in my experience fresh mozz often comes in 8 oz portions. Not that too much cheese would be that big of a problem...)
-1 25 oz can of chickpea, or ~2.5 C
-handful of basil leaves (enough to fill 1/4 C sliced)
-1/2 tsp coarse salt
-1/4 C olive oil
-2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
-black pepper to taste 

Rinse and slice tomatoes into halves or quarters, depending on their size, so that they're bite sized. Try to slice along the core of the tomato (down the middle), so that all the "guts" stay in place. Peel and slice shallot in half, and then into very thin half-moon slices. Slice cheese into cubes, roughly the same size as your tomatoes. Chop basil leaves into thin ribbons -- the easiest way to do this is to stack the leaves, roll them up on the long side into a thick roll, and slice perpendicularly with a sharp knife. Open the chickpeas and drain and rinse very thoroughly. Add everything to a large bowl or Tupperware where you'll be marinating the salad. Combine remaining ingredients in another bowl and whisk to emulsify/combine. Taste to see if the salt and acidity is right. Err on the side of more oily and more salty. Pour dressing over the tomato mixture in the bowl, stir gently to combine and cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours, keeps for several days. Bring back to near room temperature before eating, because sometimes the olive oil can solidify in the fridge a bit.

Marinated kale salad:

This is more a technique idea than a singular recipe. You can easily do this with whatever dressing combo you like. I will say that if you want any add ins that would get mushy or weird if stored in the salad (croutons, nuts, seeds, cheese etc) you should not include those in the marinade and just top the salad as you serve it. Fresh or dried fruit or cooked beans should be fine though.

-1 bunch kale, any type
-about 1/2 C of your favorite dressing. I use my Dijon vinaigrette from this post

Chop kale into ribbons as thin as you can get them, removing the leaves from the stems if the stems are tough. Rinse and drain well. Pour dressing into the bottom of a Tupperware or bowl or large mason type jar with tight-fitting lid (make sure the container is large enough for all of your kale). Add kale to the Tupperware and seal. Turn upside down so that the dressing collects on the lid, then turn right-side up. Shake the Tupperware a bit so that the dressing gets distributed evenly. Refrigerate for at least a few hours, keeps well for a few days. It's a good idea to remove the Tupperware and shake or stir every once in a while so it marinates evenly.

Once again, stir and bring this to room temperature before serving because olive oil may separate or solidify a bit in the fridge.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Week 7 - escarole and chickpeas

Sometimes you just need spaghetti. There's something about it, it's so comforting and delicious and filling and somehow exactly the right shape. But I also have this food guilt complex where I would never, despite my love for spaghetti, sit down to a whole bowl of it without any supplemental vegetables, and yet I really prefer pasta dishes to be as plain/with as few ingredients as possible. Hence the "side veg" I've written up here. As a vegetarian, many of my meals are actually comprised of a few different "side veg" dishes that compliment each other. Rather than one stand-out protein I'll aim for a few different dishes with smaller amounts of complementary proteins.

I served this alongside a spaghetti with a quick sauce of garlic sauteed in olive oil and butter with a small splash of white wine thrown in, plenty of salt and pepper. Nothing is more satisfying to me than a big ol' fork-full of spaghetti, picturing, as I eat, the lustrous flowing spaghetti tsunami of Strega Nona: 

Hem. But I really do love escarole and chickpeas cooked this way. In my mind, it's essential to cook chickpeas from dried for this dish, because you use their cooking liquid (which, Mark Bittman taught me, tastes *incredible*) to add flavor and body to the greens. You could easily serve this on top of the spaghetti or another pasta or grain if you're not a weirdo like me, or it's delicious eaten as a main dish on its own. It's also tasty cold, in my opinion, if you're not in a hot foods mood because, oh, it's the middle of summer in Philadelphia.

Escarole with chickpeas:

-1 medium bunch of escarole, mine was ~1 lb
-1 C dried chickpeas, picked over for stones or broken beans and rinsed quickly in cold water
-2 cloves of garlic
-parmesan rind if you have one handy
-1 lemon
-salt and pepper to taste
-generous glug of olive oil
-parmesan or pecorino romano cheese as garnish

Place chickpeas in your largest pot, and fill to around 3/4 of the way full with water. Add parmesan rind if you're using it and one of the garlic cloves, peeled but left whole. Bring the chickpeas to a boil, and leave to boil for a full two minutes. Stir, cover the pot, lower the heat to "low" or whatever heat setting leaves you with constant, mild bubbling, and cook until the chickpeas are soft enough to bite in to but still firm, probably around 40 minutes but it can really depend on the age of your beans. At this point, when they're just beginning to soften, add a palm-full of salt to the pot, stir, and cover again. Chances are, that was the halfway-point in cooking the beans, so it will probably be another 30 - 40 minutes before they're ready.

In the meantime, remove the core or end to your escarole bunch (this step is very important to properly rinse the escarole of dirt or sand) and slice into approximately 1 inch strips. I do this by holding the butt end and cutting the whole bunch in half, then turning the newly-flat side down on the cutting board and slicing perpendicular at 1 inch intervals. Rinse well with cold running water and leave to drain in a colander in the sink. Mince the remaining garlic clove and set aside. Juice the lemon and set that aside as well in a small bowl. This is usually the point at which I start cooking the pasta I'm going to serve with.

Taste the chickpeas after the 30 or 40 minutes have gone by since you added salt. If they're ready and at the texture that you like, slowly and carefully add in your escarole. It will seem like it won't all fit at first, but by that miraculous property of cooking greens they'll shrink down in volume by like 2/3 or something. Cook greens until tender, about 2 minutes. Reserve a small amount of cooking liquid, you'll only use a tablespoon, and then drain the greens and chickpeas together. Add a generous amount of olive oil to the same pot back on the stove on low heat, and cook the garlic you set aside before until fragrant. Add the 1 TBSP of reserved cooking liquid, a generous amount of salt and pepper, and cook stirring frequently until the volume has reduced some. Add the chickpeas and greens back to the pot and stir until the greens and beans are evenly coated. Top with lemon juice (although, this will discolor the greens slightly and make them look brown-ish as they look in my picture at the top of this post. If that bothers you, save the lemon juice until you're ready to serve the dish) and sprinkle with cheese to serve.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Week 6 - fresh pea hummus

I hope you're not averse to eating green foods, because this amazing hummus combines two foods I love: fresh English peas and tahini. I could eat tahini by the spoonful (I won't, but I could). Unfortunately, this is a recipe I don't think you could make without a food processor. One thing you might do is use the peas in a salad (cold potato salad with peas??), and make a lemon and tahini dressing. Fresh pea hummus doesn't taste exactly like real hummus with chickpeas, but it doesn't taste completely different either. It almost tastes like you dipped some peas in hummus, if that makes sense. Very summer-y, and great with cucumbers or carrots dipped in, and of course pita bread.

I adapted this recipe from Smitten Kitchen's smooth hummus. I can't say that my version was "ethereally smooth" but it was absolutely delicious! 
Fresh pea hummus
-2 C fresh peas, shelled
-2 cloves of garlic, or less to taste
-1 lemon
-1/2 C tahini
-1 tsp salt
-1/4 C warm water
-olive oil for serving 

Fill a small sauce pan halfway with water and bring to a boil. Fill a bowl that will hold all of your peas with ice water. Add peas to sauce pan, cover and cook for no longer than 2 minutes, or cooked to your liking (but err on the side of 'al dente' because peas can get mushy quickly). Quickly remove from heat, drain and add to ice water bowl. Stir until peas are ice cold, and drain again. Coarsely chop garlic and add to food processor bowl with peas. Run food processor for one full minute, stopping occasionally to scrape down the bowl. Add remaining ingredients except for olive oil, and run food processor for another full minute or until the texture and consistency is smooth and to your liking. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil over the top. 

Keeps well in a tupperware or bowl in the fridge for a few days, with a thin layer of olive oil over the top and plastic wrap on top of the oil. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Week 5 - omelet, watercress and cucumber salad with Dijon vinaigrette

Another week of nothing all too special, mostly inspired by these gorgeous fresh eggs I got from the CSA this week. An omelet and a salad is one of my favorite summer dinners, because it's filling but the stove only has to be on for a few minutes. The dressing I show here is pretty much the only one I make, I just love mustard so much. You can play with the proportions depending on how strong you like the mustard flavor or how thin or thick you prefer dressing to be. I made a side salad for this meal with watercress and a peeled and diced cucumber, both from my CSA.

Onion omelet:

-1/2 yellow onion
-2 eggs
-1 tbsp unsalted butter
-1/4 c cheese or more grated (optional/to taste; I didn't use any this time around)
-pinch salt (less if you're using a salty cheese like Parmesan)
-fresh ground pepper

Slice onion into very thin half moons. Crack both eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork until one uniform color, thinned out and slightly airy. Add pinch of salt and pepper. Melt butter in nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Once melted, add onions and a small pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes or until about 2/3 of the way cooked to your liking, stirring semi frequently so they don't burn. Turn heat down to low and cook for another 30 seconds. Pour egg mixture into the middle of the bowl and tilt pan around to evenly distribute onions and eggs around the pan. Cook undisturbed for two minutes. Run a rubber spatula around the edges of the pan very gently to help the middle cook evenly. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the surface if using. Keep an eye on the stove and cook until the eggs are as wet or dry as you prefer. I like eggs runny, probably cooked on low this way just for 4 or 5 minutes until just the minute before they're completely set. Turn heat off and shake pan gently, omelette should come loose from the pan. Slide out of the pan and onto a plate, folding it over on itself.

Dijon vinaigrette, for watercress and cucumber salad:

-1/4 C olive oil
-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice, or white wine vinegar
-1 tbsp creamy Dijon mustard
-1 tsp or more to taste of finely diced shallots

Mix all ingredients together and stir vigorously with a fork to emulsify and combine. This keeps pretty well in the fridge for a few days in an air tight jar or Tupperware. I didn't include salt in this because some mustards are really salty, but obviously add salt and pepper to taste.

Week 4 - bonus pie!

Well, I accidentally forgot to order more vegetables from my CSA in week 4 because I missed the deadline for orders. Lucky for me, my parents were visiting over the weekend and shared some delicious local strawberries, cherries and rhubarb they had bought on the way. It was just enough for a mixed fruit pie, one of the best things about Summer. This was an opportunity to try something I've been eyeing for a while, which is an all-butter crust with some almonds incorporated. I really love almonds in combination with cherries, and often when I'm making a cherry pie will add a little almond extract to the filling. So, I wrote you a novel about how to bake a pie.

This crust recipe does use a food processor. The only way I can think of to incorporate almonds without one is to purchase almond meal, which is blanched almonds pre-ground into a flour-like consistency. I prefer the food processor way, because almond meal doesn't seem like something I would use regularly and it's easy enough to make yourself in small batches. You can easily use a regular pie crust here, or bake this filling with a crumb topping instead. But, I thought I'd share my recipe in case anyone else finds themselves with a fun assortment of very ripe fruits.

Almond pie crust:

Follow your preferred double-crust pie crust recipe, but replace 1/2 C of the flour with finely ground blanched almonds (not roasted ones). I always make my pie crust in the food processor, and use Mark Bittman's recipe. Be sure to flatten the dough into two discs and wrap well in plastic wrap, chill two halves separately for at least 30 minutes.

Strawberry Cherry Rhubarb pie filling:

-6 C of strawberries, pitted cherries and rhubarb, in any kind of ratio although I would only add one or two rhubarb stalks
-juice of 1/2 of one lemon
-1/4 C cornstarch
-2 tbsp sugar, more if you like sweet filling or are using sour cherries or lots of rhubarb

Cut tops off of strawberries and chop until they're approximately the same size as your cherries. For me, lots of the strawberries were very small so I left them whole. Pit the cherries (this part's a real pain unless you have a cherry or olive pitter, but! you can use a drinking straw and it works pretty well!) and leave whole unless they break as you're pitting them, or are really large. Peel any stringy edges from the rhubarb and slice into very thin slices. Toss all fruit in a large bowl with remaining ingredients except cornstartch, stir and taste for salt and sugar. I always err on the side of less sugar, but I had some feedback that this pie was not sweet enough so I might be crazy! Add cornstarch, stir and let sit while you roll out the bottom crust.

Assembling the pie:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take one of your dough halves from the fridge, and place on a clean, floured counter or large cutting board. Flour your rolling pin and gently begin to roll out the dough. You're looking for something as much like a circle as you can possibly get, and it needs to be at least 2 inches wider than the circumference of your pie plate. About 1/4" thickness. Re-flour your rolling pin and the top of the rolled out dough just barely, then roll the dough up over the rolling pin and doubled over itself. Carefully pick up the pin and dough, and unroll over the pie plate so the dough is centered with at least 2 inches overhang, and clinging to the sides and bottom of the pie plate. Trim to 2 inches all around with scissors or a sharp knife. Put whole pie plate in fridge or freezer covered with foil or plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out while you roll the second crust in the same way you did the first one. Leave on the counter while you take out the pie pan chilling in the fridge or freezer, and take the filling that was resting and dump the entire contents of the bowl (soupy stuff at the bottom and all!) into the bottom crust. Mound the fruit slightly higher in the middle. Now do the same thing you did before with the top crust, and gently unroll it over the filling. Again trim to a 2 inch border. Take the top crust and gently fold it over the bottom crust and press down into the rim of the pie plate to seal the pie. You can crimp it with a fork to make a stronger seal, or pinch the dough to make a sort of frilly edge like I did. Cut four small slits in the top crust to vent the pie while it bakes. Brush a very thin layer of milk over the crust and sprinkle extra sugar over the top crust.

Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then lower oven temperature to 375 and bake for another 40 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the crust is browned on top and bottom (having a glass pie plate is the best for checking this!). If the crust seems to be browning too fast, cover gently in foil while the pie finishes baking.