Thursday, July 29, 2010

Week 7: Tabbouleh

This week, we kept the food preparation simple: fresh peaches; corn on the cob; zucchini and squash simmered in tomatoes; and a batch of tabbouleh.

Tabbouleh is a dish that invites experimentation. You can alter the grains, the proportions, and the mix-ins. But no matter exactly how you make it, tabbouleh is a vehicle for using up parsley. This recipe is heavy on the herbs and leaves out both cucumber and tomato, which tend to give off a lot of water as tabbouleh sits.

(I cobbled this together from several recipes, the origins of which are unknown)

1 cup coarse-grain bulgur wheat
1 cup boiling water
1 bunch (4 ounces) parsley, washed and dried in a salad spinner
1/2 bunch (2 ounces) mint, also washed and dried
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced red bell pepper
6 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
1/2 cup chopped, pitted Kalamata olives (go ahead and splurge on good ones)
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Place the bulgur in a bowl and stir in the boiling water. Cover the bowl and set it aside to let the bulgur absorb the water, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely chop the parsley and mint leaves, discarding the stems. Pulse the leaves in a food processor if you wish, but be careful not to puree the herbs.

Drain the bulgur if it hasn't completely absorbed the water, then mix in the remaining ingredients. Store in the refrigerator until serving.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Week 6: Dill Bread and Quick Pickles

dill bread bread and butter pickles

As much as I would like to "go with the flow," I'm not a spontaneous/spur-of-the-moment/sure-whatever kind of gal. So I love it when a plan comes together. Friday afternoons, as I clean the vegetables in my share, I begin to map out the week's cooking. It's something of a "free association" exercise.

Hmmm. Look at that heaping bunch of dill. What am I going to do with that? Dill ... Pickles! OK, I have pickling cukes in here, so that's easy. Oh, and I could make fish. If I marinate some salmon steaks in dill and garlic, and throw them on the grill, we could grill the squash and zucchini at the same time. Lettuce ... will be good for salad, and we'll boil the corn. That leaves me just the arugula and the chard ...

A little research online and Hey, here's a recipe for dill bread. That ought to go great with salmon, and it'll use up that container of cottage cheese and ... oh, oh, oh, this is perfect: a couscous salad that uses dill and scallions and arugula. Score! That leaves me just the chard ...

So it goes, and so it went. This week I boiled corn; put up a small batch of pickles; baked dill bread; invited friends to partake of dill bread along with grilled salmon, zucchini and squash (plus an eggplant, purchased separately); threw together couscous salad and lettuce salad; and ate cold salmon leftovers with aforementioned salads. As of this writing I still have the chard, but inspiration will come to me by dinner time. The remaining dill has been planted in the garden, as the dill heads were dropping pollen on my kitchen counter.

The Dill Bread recipe was found on Smitten Kitchen and it was, indeed, great with salmon. I made minor changes: swapped all-purpose flour for the bread flour; cut the onion back to 1/4 cup; took the option for honey over sugar; and used low-fat, small curd cottage cheese.

As for pickles, I have made three kinds of quick pickles in the past two weeks. Oddly enough, none of the recipes include dill. The Daikon and Carrot Pickle, mentioned in passing last week, is reminiscent of cabbage health salad. It's a traditional layer in a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, which would typically feature pork, but we had it instead with leftover Passover brisket. Make note that daikon radish smells more cabbagy as it pickles.

Pictured above are Bread and Butter Pickles from The Hungry Mouse. I'm liking these more the longer they sit in the brine. Still, my preferred recipe for a sweet-sour pickle is this one:

Freezer-Safe Quick Pickles

You can make this recipe with pickling cucumbers or regular cucumbers, sugar or Splenda. Defrosted pickles keep most of their crunch, though I have not tried freezing pickles made with a sugar substitute.


7 cups sliced cucumbers (pickling cukes preferred, but not mandatory)
1 cup sliced onion (optional; sliced scallions work, too)
1 cup diced green pepper (optional)
2 cups sugar (or Splenda; see note above about freezing)
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp celery seed

Combine the vegetables in a bowl or freezer container. Mix together the sugar, vinegar, and spices. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Pour over cucumbers. Refrigerate. Pickles are ready to eat in a couple of hours and can be safely frozen.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More Americana

Details of last week's Americana evening, with blog posts from hostess Doves and Figs and fellow guest Good Cook Doris.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Week 5: Summer Succotash

Photo courtesy of Doves and Figs

The invitation instructions were deceptively simple. An Americana-themed party. Pot luck dinner. Bring a dish that represents America to you.

Oh, soooo many ways to interpret that. I considered, and rejected, a whole raft of kitschy American recipes -- you know, the ones promoted by food manufacturers and featuring Jell-O or Cheez Whiz or condensed cream of mushroom soup. I took a pass on any elaborate construction projects or subtleties. I'm just not going to make a replica of the Statue of Liberty out of marshmallow treats, PVC pipe, and green fondant. (However, should this idea appeal to you -- if only for the "ick" factor -- you can find the how-to video here.)

I finally decided on succotash, for multiple reasons. Here's a dish that prominently features a New World crop, has strong regional associations, and evokes (for me, at least) pre-Colonial America and Thanksgiving. From a practical standpoint, succotash can sit out at room temperature on a buffet table for hours. It's a fun word to say. And I just plain like it. That this week's share included corn and green beans made my Summer Succotash recipe all the more appropriate.

Succotash fit in well among the pot luck offerings at the party. The interpretations of Americana included the nostaglic (daisy-shaped sandwiches with pimento cheese, a la 1917); regional foods (Southern mac and cheese pie); riffs on classics (vegetarian baked beans and gourmet sliders); a lot of blueberries (muffins, cornbread, pie, tarts, and cobbler); and plenty more stuff.

"Plenty more stuff" characterized our week. In addition to succotash (I made a batch for home, too), we ate CSA raspberries and blueberries out of hand; worked through most of an enormous head of Romaine lettuce; whipped up a zucchini-crusted pizza; made quick pickles from cucumbers and -- separately -- daikon radish (daikon was new to us; I'll have to post more about this another time); sauteed collard greens; and marinated summer squash and zucchini for a salad.

Summer Succotash
(adapted from The Boston Globe)

1/2 pound fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 ears of corn, kernels sliced off
1 large red onion, diced
3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts kept separate
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

In a pot of gently boiling water, cook the beans for 2 to 4 minutes, until they are just tender. Drain the beans in a colander and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the corn and onion in the skillet about 3 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften, stirring occasionally.

Add the beans and the white parts of the scallions to the skillet. Cook about 2 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are cooked through to your liking. Off heat, stir in the parsley, green parts of the scallions, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Week 4: Spinach Calzone, and Other Good Stuff

Some weeks, inspiration comes slowly. Other times -- like this past week -- the cooking just comes together.
  • Curly parsley + fresh mint + SWISS CHARD (sorry, had to shout that) = Swiss Chard Spanakopita Casserole
  • Green cabbage + kasha + kitchen staples (onion, mushroom, carrot) = Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage
  • Spinach + cheeses + pizza dough = Spinach Calzone
  • Summer Squash + parsley + canned beans + tomatoes = Vegetarian chili
  • Red leaf lettuce + arugula + squash + radishes = a week of salads
The kids favored the calzones, so I feature that recipe below, but I do want to point you to the Swiss chard and cabbage recipes.

Swiss Chard Spanakopita Casserole is a Cooking Light recipe, available here. A construction note: If you can't find large sheets of phyllo dough (mine were only 9 by 14 inches, not the 18 by 14 inches specified in the recipe) just use a 9-inch-square pan. Layer the sheets of phyllo dough perpendicular to one another in the pan, so all sides are covered and the phyllo can encase the filling. Score the assembled casserole into nine pieces before baking.

The stuffed cabbage recipe, aka East European Style Cabbage Rolls in Sweet and Sour Tomato Sauce, comes from Blog Appetit. This one is not hard, but it has several steps to it: prepping the cabbage leaves, preparing the filling and sauce, assembling the rolls, and finally baking everything together. Bookmark this one for cooler weather. For the uninitiated, kasha is buckwheat groats; you'll find it in the kosher food section of your supermarket. For those familiar with kasha, note that the recipe calls for cooking the kasha the way you would for breakfast cereal -- not coated with egg to keep separate granules. The result is a solid filling that holds together when you spoon it onto the cabbage leaves. I might tweak the sauce a bit the next time I make this, but overall this was a satisfying meal.

The calzones were inspired by the coupon I had for a free pound of pizza dough -- and the just-right amount of spinach that came from the farm. You can use any commercially prepared or homemade dough, of course. The spicing is a bit different from what you might expect, but it worked. I have to thank Caboodle for staging and taking the photo of her plate.

Spinach and Cheese Calzones
(by way of Venetto's Italian Recipes at That's My Home)

1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups coarse chopped fresh spinach (about 1/2 pound)
1 cup lowfat ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (2 ounces)
1 pound pizza dough
Extra olive oil (for shaping dough)
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal (for baking tray)
1 cup marinara sauce (for serving)

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and cover. Cook onion over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook uncovered for about 1 minute, then stir in the spinach and cook until it wilts, about 2 minutes.

Place the vegetables in a bowl and let them cool a bit. Stir in ricotta, spices, egg yolk, and feta. If you wish, you can prepare the filling several hours ahead and refrigerate, but return it to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle a large baking sheet with cornmeal.

Cut the dough into four equal pieces. Pat or roll each piece out to about a 7-inch circle. I found it was necessary to have a little olive oil on my pastry mat to keep the dough from sticking. Spoon a quarter of the filling onto half of each circle, leaving a margin around the edge. Fold over the dough to make half-moon shapes and press the edges with the tines of a fork to seal. Transfer filled calzones to the baking sheet. With a small, sharp knife, make two or three slashes in the top of each calzone to let steam escape. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown. Serve with warmed marinara sauce for dipping.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Week 3: Beet Salads, Cooked and Raw

Excuse me a moment while I finish a yummy sandwich: Hummus, cucumber (nom, nom, nom), radish and arugula on whole wheat pita. Dang, I'm going to have to make more hummus to go with the leftover vegetables.

It's been a busy week in the kitchen of Chez Swiss Chard -- temporarily dubbed Hotel de la Chard over the weekend for Caboodle's belated birthday sleepover party. Aside from the party cooking (pasta and salad dinner, chocolate souffle cupcakes, breakfast buffet with pancakes and home fries), the CSA-specific rundown went something like this:
  • Steamed peas
  • Grilled zucchini and summer squash
  • Plenty of salad (Romaine, arugula, mixed salad greens)
  • Stuff added to salad (radishes, summer squash)
  • Stuff added to sandwiches (radishes, lettuce, arugula)
  • Raw beet salad
  • Braised greens (collards and beets), and ...
  • 2 Chocolate zucchini cakes (wrapped and frozen for later this summer)
I like the fact that beets are a two-for-one deal. If you need ideas for the greens, remember that beets are related to Swiss chard, and you can use the greens in much the same way.

Having received beets both this week and last, we tried out two very different takes on beet salads. We'll start with Week 2's salad, pictured above. (We made just a half-batch, enough for 3 or 4 servings.)

Beet Salad With Oranges and Beet Greens
(adapted from Bon Appetit)

Leftovers taste fine, but the vibrant color fades with refrigeration.

6 medium beets, washed and trimmed, greens reserved
2 seedless oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 sweet onion, peeled and sliced thinly
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Roast, steam or boil the beet roots, depending on your cooking preference and how hot it is in your kitchen. Cool, then peel the beets, and cut into wedges. Coarsely chop the greens, discarding the stems. Cook the greens in a large pot of boiling water until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, cool, and squeeze out any excess moisture. Combine the beets and greens in a bowl. Add the orange segments and sliced onion. Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, and garlic; dress the salad. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

This week's salad:

Raw Beet Salad
(adapted from a Mark Bittman recipe, via Serious Eats)

1/2 lb beets
1/2 lb carrots
1/2 onion
1 Tbsp minced ginger root
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel the beets, carrots, and onion. Combine them in a food processor and pulse until chopped, or grate the vegetables separately. Place in a bowl and add in the ginger. Combine the mustard, oil, and lime juice, and add to the salad, tossing to coat. Mix in the cilantro. Adjust the seasonings and serve.