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.