Sunday, June 27, 2010

Two Summer Salads to Shop for at the Farmers Market

We had two of my favorite summer salads for dinner tonight, thanks to yesterday's sourdough loaf and lots of fresh parsley from the farmers market and basil from my daughter's herb garden. Round out a plate with a mound of lightly dressed baby greens and you have a lovely summer meal.

Here are those recipes...

Print recipe only here

Serves 4-6

1 English cucumber
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
½ red onion
2 ripe red tomatoes
1 clove garlic, pressed
¾ cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
2 T good olive oil
3 T balsamic vinegar
½ # good sourdough bread, day-old
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Prep and transfer to a large mixing bowl:

Cucumber - peel and halve it lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Slice about ¼-inch thick.
Peppers - slice into thin strips, about 1-inch long
Red onion - thinly sliced and chopped
Tomatoes - rinse and cut on a plate to save the juice. Remove core and seeds and chop into 1-inch pieces.

Add remaining ingredients except for bread and toss gently.

Slice the bread into 1-inch pieces and add, gently turning. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. If it seems dry, add more oil or vinegar. If too wet, add more bread.

Let sit, covered, at room temperature for a couple of hours before serving. It will be too soggy the next day, so plan on eating it all the day you make it.

Summer Chicken Salad
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Serves 4-6

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
olive oil
white wine or champagne vinegar
fresh basil and fresh parsley
grape or good cherry tomatoes
pitted kalamata olives

Preheat oven to 400°

Rub 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts with a bit of olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes, until cooked through. Allow to cool completely.

In a bowl large enough to contain the chicken, combine:
3-4 T olive oil, best you've got
2-3 T white wine or champagne vinegar (I like the Colavita label)
1-2 shallots, minced
2-3 T fresh basil and parsley, finely chopped

When cooled, tear the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and add to the bowl with the dressing. Add:
¼ cup pitted kalamata olives
½ cup grape tomatoes, rinsed

Toss together, add kosher salt and pepper to taste and serve. You can also make ahead and refrigerate, but it's best served at room temperature within several hours of being made.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Big Mac vs Chipotle Burrito

This - from The Atlantic - was a thought-provoking read.

The thing is, consumers aren't usually informed about the nutrition information of the foods they consume. And when they are informed, it doesn't always mean that what they will make healthier food choices (see Calorie Postings Don’t Change Habits, Study Finds from the New York Times). Which is why I think the only way to make dietary changes on a large scale is to prevent bad habits from forming in the first place. If a new generation of children consumes less high-fat, sugar and sodium foods the population of people who enjoy eating healthy foods will increase. I'm recalling that study of lab rats who ate too much junk food and got addicted to it. If we drum into our kids that Doritos and Big Macs are no good, if we stop buying them Doritos and Big Macs, it would reduce consumption of same. My daughter's fifth grade science class watched Food, Inc., and it's made an impression. Do we want to make an impression or make the same mistakes?

If you do want to be more informed about what you're eating when you eat out (and I would still advocate cooking your own food), sites like The Daily Plate are a great resource. It's not just for diabetics and dieters. I used it through Livestrong this time last year when I felt I had no idea how many calories I was consuming in a day. It was really helpful, and it didn't take too long for me to have a better sense of how my meals and snacks stacked up. For example, my standard Chipotle order (Chicken Fajita Bowl with peppers, pico de gallo, corn salsa and lettuce - note there's no sour cream or cheddar) comes in at 479 calories, 42 grams of protein, 13 grams of fat, none of which is saturated, 50 grams of carbs, and 1850 mg of sodium (over 75% of the daily limit). It's an improvement, to be sure, from the pork burrito in the Atlantic piece, but, still a very dense meal. Green gluttony is still gluttony.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Small Plates for Summer: Bruschetta

Sangria got me thinking about small plates - my favorite way to eat all summer. Preparing a variety of items is a great way to cook from your CSA delivery or market selections and gets your family trying some new things. Like last year, when we had our first taste of garlic scapes.

Bruschetta - which is pronounced with a hard K in the middle, something like Bruce-ketta and nothing like Bru-Shedda - is a favorite smackerel in the Pinch kitchen. I keep baguette slices in my freezer, which, when brushed with a bit of olive oil and baked, make lovely crostini. Kalamatas are also kept in constant supply year round, so bruschetta with Tapanade are a common enough occurrence, no matter the season. Once Roma tomatoes start looking good at the market, though, they get chopped up with for my favorite seasonal bruschetta. Here's that recipe:

Roma Tomato Bruschetta
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Baguette, sliced diagonally
Olive Oil
Pastry brush or baster - optional but helpful tool

4 Roma tomatoes, sliced, seeds and pulpy insides removed and finely diced
1 clove garlic
1-2 T red onion
1-2 T fresh parsley or basil
2 t olive oil
1 t red wine vinegar
Pinch kosher salt

First, make the crostini. Preheat an oven or toaster oven to 350.

Slice the baguette diagonally into 1 cm-think slices. Allow for 2-3 slices per person.

Using a pastry brush or baster, brush both sides with olive oil.

Bake about 10 minutes or until crispy and nicely browned. Turn over slices and bake other side. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, use a serrated utility knife to slice tomatoes into 1 cm-thick slices. Remove seeds and pulpy insides and finely dice. Transfer to a small mixing bowl.

Chop red onion and parsley (or basil, or both) and add to tomatoes. Use a garlic press or finely chop the garlic and add. Add olive oil, vinegar and salt and stir to combine everything. Allow to sit for 20 minutes or until ready to serve.

At point of service, top each crostini with the Romas and enjoy immediately.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Better Sprouts

Bean sprouts are something I would have on hand all the time if they weren't so spoil-happy. They're really hard to source in a pristine, white, crisp condition. Past their prime, they're soggy and brown and do not resemble anything you'd care to eat. Unfortunately, this is usually how I find them at grocery stores - looking at least 2-3 days old.

DIY spouting is something I haven't done in a number of years. On a recent grocery run at Whole Foods I came across mung beans and a sprouting jar - basically a glass jar with a mesh lid. I have no idea what became of my spouting lids so I picked up a new jar. This new jar is huge - kind of silly, really. My old system was a series of lids (to accommodate draining of different sized sprouts) that fit standard mason jars. But my new one works well, too, and I do like the stainless steel strainer. My old lids were plastic.

The basics of sprouting include gathering the beans and equipment, allowing the beans to soak overnight and then rinsing and draining 2-3 times per day. I started with 2 T of mung beans, which should yield about one cup of sprouts.

The photo above shows mung beans following their overnight soak. To their right are the dry beans. I took that photo yesterday. This morning when I inspected the sprouting beans, they had dried and sprouted little tails. This is today:

I rinsed them and put them back in a dark corner on my kitchen counter. In another two days they should be ready to eat. I haven't made pad thai in awhile, so that's how I'll use the harvest. Other good ways to use bean sprouts are for gyoza and atop Asian soups like Chili Ramen.

Any sprouters among you?

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Summertime Sangria

I love those moments when you need to make something last minute and miraculously have all the ingredients on hand. It must be that I’m still affected by the all the years I lived in a remote mountain town. Even though most everything you could ever need was available in town it was hard to justify a town trip (which included a round trip elevation drop and climb of 2500 feet) just because you needed a lemon. To this day my pantry looks like it was stocked by a survivalist, and I now live within two blocks of an epicurean swap meet.

It was the case yesterday, when I endeavored to make sangria, that I was pleasantly surprised to have nearly everything Emeril said I needed. I adapted his recipe by reducing the sugar, increasing the Grand Marnier and omitting the Brandy. My liquor cabinet was not stocked by a survivalist - no brandy, cognac or grappa to be found. The resulting drink was light and refreshing. Now I want to have a tapas party...

Summertime Sangria
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Serves 4-6

1 (750-ml) bottle red wine
1/3 cup Grand Marnier
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 T sugar
1/2 orange, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1 apple, cored and cut into eighths, and sliced
1 (750-ml) bottle sparkling water, chilled

Combine everything but the sparkling water in a large plastic container or glass pitchers. Stir well, cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve, add the sparkling water.

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