25 May 2015

Last-minute cookout ideas to celebrate the beginning of the summer season!

Happy Memorial Day to you all here in the States, and happy start to cookout season everywhere in the Northern hemisphere (I hope)! Perhaps you already have your party well-set with a menu you devised three weeks ago and a fridge full of all the ingredients you need to get through the day.  Jerks.  Or perhaps you are still getting ready to make a last-minute run to the store and hope to be back before your firsts guests arrive. As I head out the door to do this very thing, here are the summery staples I'm looking for, and the very easy things I plan to do with them:

Mangoes are so totally not from here, but somehow that doesn't seem to matter anymore.  I see them in the stores all the time.  If you can buy them early enough to let them ripen, there's nothing better than fresh mango slices sprinkles with chili powder and dressed with a little lime juice.  If you're buying them for use today and they're still on the tart side, try this refreshing Vietnamese Green Mango Salad (underripe yellow mangoes work well, too).

Meat for grilling is ubiquitous at Memorial Day Cookouts.  Please don't limit yourself to burgers and hot dogs.  It doesn't matter what you do to them, they are SO BORING.  Visit the DFT archives for tips on grilling amazing shrimp, pork, or some very special vegetarian patties

Fresh green beans are coming into season now, and they make a great addition to a vinegary, mustardy potato salad that can be served at any temperature.

Rhubarb and strawberries go so well together.  Try them in a slab pie, even easier than a regular pie with some puff pastry on hand.

Rhubarb & Strawberry Slab Pie

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 pound rhubarb, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Make the filling: In a large bowl, toss together rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, flour, cardamom, and vanilla. Set aside.

On a floured work surface, roll one sheet of puff pastry out to a 12” x 16” rectangle and place in greased jelly roll pan that's 10" x 14" x 1". Fill with prepared fruit and brush edge of dough with a bit of water. Roll second pastry sheet out to an 11” x 15” rectangle and place on top of fruit. Seal the dough together, tuck excess into pan, and crimp the edge. Cut vents in the top and bake until the crust is golden and the center is bubbling, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

22 May 2015

A month of brunches: week 4

This hash can serve as a complete meal, or it can be supplemented by eggs or a meat of your choice.  You can chop it all up in a food processor and make patties out of it or keep it chunky, and you can fry it up in a pan or roast it in the oven.  So, there's plenty of time to make Bloody Marys and visit with your guests.  Oh, and it also keeps and reheats well.  But don't use Chef Mike--he'll just make it all soggy.

Sweet Potato Hash

Serves 4

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
8 oz. white mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp coconut or olive oil
2-3 cups of spinach or kale
1 medium apple, diced
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1 handful of walnuts or pecans
Salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
hot sauce for serving

Heat a dry, large skillet over medium-high heat and toast the nuts, stirring constantly until they are brown and fragrant.  Set aside.

Lower heat to medium, wipe out the skillet, add the oil, and return to the burner. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften.  Add the sweet potatoes and mushrooms, season with salt, and cook until potato softens, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, greens, apple, and cinnamon and cook until greens are wilted and apple is soft. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the toasted nuts.  Serve warm with organic eggs, chicken, sausage, nitrate-free bacon, or another source of protein if desired..

19 May 2015

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad

Throw some grilled fish in here for a bigger meal, but this makes a great light lunch or late-night dinner as-is, and nothing says spring like fresh, light meals!

Leftovers work great as spring roll filling.

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad

Serves 3-4

For the dressing:
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 cloves finely minced garlic (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons finely minced serrano or jalapeno chile
3 tablespoons fish sauce

For the salad:
8 ounces rice noodles (can substitute udon, ramen, or angel hair pasta if you prefer)
6 ounces white mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped
4 cups chopped spinach
4 medium carrots, cut into short, thin matchsticks
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons minced green onion (from 2 to 3 stalks)
4 tablespoons chopped peanuts
Lime wedges for serving

To make the dressing, whisk all ingredients together. Will keep well covered in the fridge for several days.

Cook the rice noodles according to instructions. Drain, rinse well with cold water, and drain again.
Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, and then the mushrooms and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the prepared dressing. Cook for 5 minutes, or just until the mushrooms are soft.
To serve, toss cooked noodles with several tablespoons dressing. Toss the spinach with a tablespoon of dressing, and set atop the noodles. Add carrots, mint, cilantro, and green onion to taste. Top with warm mushrooms, peanuts, another drizzle of dressing, and a squeeze of lime
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15 May 2015

A month of brunches: week 3

I love quiche, but it doesn't always stay with me for very long.  This crustless version is amped up with plenty of protein from the quinoa (and all that cheese!), and is just as good at room temperature as a not-sad desk lunch on Monday.  You can also bake this magical mixture in muffin cups for an easy finger food at parties or a freezer-friendly breakfast on-the-go. 

Crustless Quinoa and Greens Quiche

Serves 6

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch Kale or mustard greens, stems removed and cut into ribbons
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
3 ounces cream cheese, cubed
4 eggs
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9" pie dish with butter. Rinse the quinoa. Combine the quinoa and water in a pan. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat and then reduce to a simmer. This will take about twenty minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, start to caramelize the onions. Heat the olive oil in a large saute on medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions. Slowly cook until the onions are soft and browned.

Remove the onions from the pan, and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add the kale or mustard greens into the hot onion pan. On medium heat, cook until wilted and bright green, about two minutes.

Add the greens, quinoa, garlic, cream cheese and cheddar to the mixing bowl. Stir the ingredients so that they are pretty much evenly distributed (it's OK to have some little clumps of cream cheese here and there).

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and mustard with a dash of salt. Pour over the quinoa mixture. Stir until the egg clings to the greens. Add more salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture in the prepared pie dish. Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden and the pie has started to pull away from the edge of the baking dish.