Saturday, August 23, 2014

Summer Vegetable Fried Rice with Egg

Fried rice is my go-to dish when I have a bunch of leftover cooked rice in the fridge. You can throw almost anything into it, so it's a great way to clean out extra or aging veggies in the fridge or use whatever the garden is producing in bulk. The vegetables listed here are what I happened to have on hand, but feel free to mix it up. You can throw in diced leftover steak or shredded chicken, chopped bacon, etc., but I also like this version, with a fried egg on top. This makes a good sized batch - we had a few servings leftover after feeding my family. I suggest only frying up as many eggs as you are sure you will serve in the first round; you can also cook a few more later if you need to, or you can cook them up fresh for the leftovers.

Canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp grated ginger root (optional)
1 pint shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1-2 sweet peppers, diced
1-2 hot peppers, seeded and diced (optional)
1 large carrot, diced
1-2 medium summer squashes or zucchinis, diced
4 cups cold cooked rice (white or brown)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup cashew or peanut pieces, lightly toasted (optional)
1 cup Thai basil leaves or cilantro (optional)
1 egg per serving

Heat a little canola oil in a wok or large skillet. Add the onion, ginger (if using), and shiitake mushrooms and stir-fry over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the remaining veggies and continue to stir-fry until tender by not mushy. Drizzle in a little soy sauce if the vegetables are sticking too much to the bottom of the pan.

Add the rice to the pan, breaking it up with your fingers if it is clumped. Stir to mix with the vegetables, then drizzle with the soy sauce and make sure it is well combined. Stir in the nut and Thai basil or cilantro, if using. Cover the fried rice and set aside.

Fry enough eggs to place one on top of each serving. Sunny side up makes an attractive presentation, but over easy is fine, too. Ideally the yolk should remain at least somewhat gooey so it can mix in with the fried rice as you eat.

Serves about 6.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tomato-Balsamic Grilled Vegetables

The tomatoes sort of melt and disintegrate as you grill the vegetables, turning them into almost a light sauce that mixes well with the balsamic vinegar flavoring.

1 medium eggplant, peeled, quartered and sliced 1/4-inch thick (or 2 medium Asian type eggplants)
2-3 medium zucchini or summer squashes, sliced 1/8-1/4-inch thick
1 ripe sweet bell pepper, halved, seeded, and sliced cross-wise
2-3 Roma type paste tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped fresh basil for topping

Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle with vinegar and oil and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Grill vegetables in a grill basket over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and pleasantly charred in places. Serve topped with a generous sprinkle of basil.

Serves 2-4.

Curried Green Beans and Cashews

This is my six-year-old's favorite green bean preparation and I have to agree that it's good.

You can leave the green beans full length or trim them into 1-2 inch lengths for easier handling. You can speed preparation of the dish by lightly steaming the green beans first if you like.

Canola oil
1 lb green beans, stemmed
1/2 cup cashew pieces, lightly toasted
1 tsp garam masala (or curry powder if that's what you have)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a little canola oil in a large skillet. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix well. Saute over medium heat for several minutes, stirring frequently, until the green beans are tender. Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Roasted Tomatoes and Peaches Over Polenta

Peaches and tomatoes share the same season, and they go well together in several contexts, a balance and counterpoint of tangy and sweet. Here they are combined with sweet roasted red onion over polenta, with a sprinkling of feta, fresh basil, and pine nuts to top it all off. Feel free to throw a fried egg on top if you like.

5-6 cups chopped fresh paste tomatoes, seeded and cored
2-3 medium peaches, sliced into slender wedges
1 medium red onion, sliced lengthwise
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups coarse cornmeal
4 cups water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup crumbled feta for topping
1 cup chopped fresh basil for topping
1/2  cup lightly toasted pine nuts for topping

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine the tomatoes, peaches, and red onion in a 9x13-inch baking pan. Drizzle with good quality olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then toss to coat. Roast for 45-60 minutes, stirring once or twice (the longer you roast them, the more liquid will cook off).

While the tomatoes and peaches roast, prepare the polenta. I have taken to making mine in my rice cooker, but to make it on the stovetop, bring the 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the cornmeal and stir in the salt. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened to desired consistency.

Serve polenta in bowls, topped generously with the tomato and peach mixture. Add feta, basil, and pine nuts at the table.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Red and White Potato Salad with Dill

New potatoes are coming out of the ground right now, and they make for a truly excellent potato salad. This one combines red and white potatoes for the visual effect, but feel free to use all of one kind (I suggest red in that case).

3 lbs new potatoes, washed but not peeled
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
Black pepper to taste
1/3 - 1/2 large red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2-3/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup good quality olive oil

Cut the potatoes into bite sized chunks. Boil in a large pot of salted water until nice and tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain cool to room temperature. .

Place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Combine the vinegar, salt and pepper and drizzle over the potatoes, tossing gently to coat. Let sit for 5-10 minutes so the potatoes can absorb some of the vinegar.

Add the onion, parsley, and dill to the potatoes and mix gently. Drizzle with olive oil and gently toss to coat. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Serves 6-8.

White Currant Sorbet

We got just enough fruit off our white current bush this year to make this sorbet. It was experimental, and I was pleased with the result. The full depth of the currant flavor really comes through. It also comes out a lovely hue - not only are white currants actually a pale peach color when ripe, but the fruit takes on some of the color of the seeds as it cooks.

I used my ice cream maker for this (1.5 qt), but you can also make sorbet without one: freeze the fruit mixture for several hours in a baking pan or other shallow dish, then pry it out in chunks and run it through the food processor just before serving to get the texture right.

4 cups stemmed and washed white currants
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups white sugar

Fresh white currants, washed and ready

Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the skins separate from the fruit. Put the mixture through a food mill or press it through a sieve to remove the seeds and skins.

Chill the currant mixture until cold in the refrigerator, then either put it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions or freeze.

Serves about 6.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Asian Noodle Bowl with Bok Choy, Bacon, and Scapes

A chance of pace from stir fries, and easy to assemble. Some shiitake mushrooms would not go amiss here, but I didn't happen to have any when I made this.

1 lb linguine or spaghetti (or Asian noodles if you have them)
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 lb bacon, diced
3-4 Tbsp minced ginger root
1-1 1/2 cups chopped garlic scapes
1 lb bok choy, sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
Asian hot sauce (optional)

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. Drain, toss with the sesame oil, and set aside.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet or wok until chewy. Remove and drain on paper towels. Pour off most of the bacon fat, leaving 1-2 Tbsp.

Add the ginger and scapes to the skillet or wok and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the bok choy and stir fry until tender. Stir in the soy sauce and mix well to coat.

Assemble each bowl by placing a serving of noodles in the bottom, then adding the bok choy mixture and the bacon on top. Serve with additional soy sauce or hot sauce if desired.

Serves 4-5.