Saturday, July 20, 2013

Orzo Salad with Raw Corn, Zucchini, and Feta

This salad is light, fresh, and refreshing, full of the flavors of summer.  Feel free to substitute summer squash for the zucchini.

8 oz. orzo
Olive oil
2 medium zucchinis, shredded
Kernels from 3 ears of corn (sliced off)
5 garlic scapes, minced (or 1-2 minced garlic cloves)
5-6 large scallions, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh basil
4-6 oz crumbled feta
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2/3 cup grated Parmesan (or more to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the orzo in a pot of salted boiling water.  Drain, then cool by rinsing in cold water and drain again.

Drizzle the cooked and cooled orzo with olive and toss to coat.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.

Serves about 6.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Raspberry Peach Jam

My son takes a cream cheese and jam sandwich to school for lunch most days, so we go through jam at a pretty good rate at our house.  This batch used up the last of our frozen peaches from last year, just in time for the new crop that will start coming in in a few weeks, plus some of the wealth of raspberries our bushes are producing.  The end product is a lovely color, and delicious.

If you use an immersion blender for a more uniform consistency, you do not need to skin the peaches. If you plan to leave the jam chunky, I recommend skinning them first.  If you don't like seeds in your jam, you'll want to use the blender and then press the jam through a sieve to remove the raspberry seeds.  Personally, I don't mind the seeds and I skip this step (which is kind of a pain).

I would recommend using pectin in this, as both raspberries and peaches are very juicy and not high in pectin themselves.  Alternatively, you simmer it for a really long time and end up with less of the final product.  If using pectin, follow the instructions on the package for how much to use per unit of fruit and when and how to add it.

8 cups sliced peaches (thawed if frozen)
4 cups raspberries (thawed if frozen)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice (optional)
Pectin per package directions

Combine the peaches and raspberries in a Dutch oven or other large pot.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until cooked through.  Use an immersion blender to puree the fruit.  Stir in the sugar (combined with the pectin if that's what your pectin instructions call for; otherwise stir the pectin in afterward). Bring to a rolling boil, then remove from heat.

This recipe is suitable for canning, processing 1/2-pint jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.  Otherwise, refrigerate or freeze.

Makes 9-10 half-pints (less if you opt to simmer instead of using pectin to thicken).

Southeast Asian Grilled Flank Steak

I was really pleased with how this marinade came out.  Serve the steak on its own or as a topping for Vietnamese Vermicelli Bowls. Substitute top round, hangar steak, or skirt steak here if you like.

2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp lime juice
A 1 1/2 - 2 lb flank steak

Combine the garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Lay the steak in a baking pan large enough to hold it laid out flat.  Pour the marinade over it and turn it over a few times to coat.  Let sit for at least 15 (but not hours because the lime juice will start to break down the meat and give it a less pleasing texture).

Grill over high heat, about 4 minutes per side for medium rare.

Serves 4-6.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Raspberry-White Currant Syrup

I was inspired by the red currant syrup, which has proven to be a huge hit at our house with a spoonful or two in a tall glass of seltzer during the recent heat wave. This version uses the slightly sweeter white currants plus raspberries that are coming in thick and fast in our garden right now.  It's delicious!

4 cups white currants, stemmed and washed
4 cups raspberries
2 cups white sugar
Splash of water

Place the currants, raspberries sugar, and water in a Dutch oven or similar large pan.  Cook over medium heat until the currant skins start to separate from the fruit and it gets pretty soupy.  (Keep cooking it longer if you desire a thicker end product.)  Strain the syrup through a fine sieve into a bowl, then use the back of a spoon to mash and press as much of the remaining flesh and liquid through the sieve as you can. Scrape the bottom of the sieve periodically to get the nice, thick, pectin-rich gel that collects there.  When you're done, pour the syrup into a jar(s).  This is suitable for canning (5 minutes for half pint jars, 10 minutes for pint jars), or just keep it in the fridge.

Makes about 5-6 cups.

Vietnamese Vermicelli Bowls with Shiitakes and Bacon

Back in our California days, my husband and I ate a lot of Vietnamese food, especially these wonderful cool vermicelli bowls in hot weather.  If you get the noodles, veggies, and sauce right, you can put pretty much anything on top.  Here I've used flavorful shiitake mushrooms and bacon because I had them on hand, but you could just as soon use grilled chicken or steak (some nice marinated flank steak would be excellent), leftover roast pork, marinated tofu grilled or broiled...etc.

If you like, you can double or triple the Nuoc Cham recipe - it keeps well in the fridge for weeks at a time.

Nuoc Cham
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili paste
2 Tbsp lime juice (ideally fresh)
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt

Make the Nuoc Cham first (unless you have some from a previous batch in the fridge already) so the flavors can meld while you prepare the bowls.  Combine all ingredients in a small bowl or jar and let sit.

Vermicelli Bowls
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 lb bacon, chopped
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 lb Asian rice vermicelli
1 large cucumber, shredded
A few carrots, shredded
2-3 cups shredded lettuce
1-2 cups chopped fresh mint, cilantro, and/or Thai basil

Start by preparing the shiitake-bacon topping. Heat the olive oil in a wok or large skillet.  Add the mushrooms and saute for 3-5 minutes, until mostly tender.  Add the bacon and stir-fry until cooked but not crispy.  Add the soy sauce and cook for another minute or so.  Pour off excess bacon fat (or remove with a baster) and set aside.

Cook the noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water for about 6 minutes, until al dente.  Drain and rinse under cold water until cool.

To assemble the bowls, place a generous quantity of noodles in the bottom of each bowl. Top with tidy mounds off cucumber, carrot, lettuce, and herbs, then add a spoonful of the shiitake-bacon mixture.  Top with Nuoc Cham at the table.

Serves about 4.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Snow Pea Stir Fry with Thai Basil

Our snap peas are just about done, but the snow peas, which we planted slightly later, are still going.  I took a big pile of them and made this simple stir fry, where they are shown off to good advantage.  I used chicken for the protein here, but feel free to substitute beef, pork, broiled tofu, etc. Alternatively, skip the protein and serve the snow peas as a side dish. Serve this over rice if you're making a meal out of it.

Canola oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp grated ginger
1 lb chicken breasts, cubed
6 cups snow peas
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp (optional) soy sauce
1 Tbsp cornstarch (optional)
1 cup Thai basil leaves, whole or cut into ribbons

Heat a little canola oil in a wok or extra large skillet.  Add the garlic, ginger, and chicken, and stir fry over medium-high heat until the chicken is cooked through.  Add the snow peas and stir fry until tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce.  If desired, combine 1 Tbsp soy sauce with 1 Tbsp corn starch and stir into the stir fry.  Cook very briefly, just until the sauce thickens. Stir in the Thai basil.

Serve over rice.

Serves 4-5.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Frozen Yogurt with Summer Fruit - Master Recipe

I'll start this off by saying up front that you need an ice cream maker to make this, an item I realize lots of people don't have. But we acquired one a couple months ago and I have really been enjoying making our own ice creams and frozen yogurts using local ingredients. Fresh local cream - not ultrapasteurized - has so much more delicious flavor than you get in the kind from the store that will keep for weeks and weeks on the shelf.  And when you combine that with local berries or other fruits, well...

I've found I can make really excellent frozen yogurt as well, which is a bit more healthful of an option than the ice cream.  I make my own yogurt with local milk, but you can always use Sidehill Farm yogurt or any commercial variety. However, if you use a sweetened flavor - anything other than plain - you can cut back the sugar in this recipe to almost nothing.

You can use pretty much any soft fruit in this recipe, but if you use apricots, peaches, etc. I suggest peeling them first.  Raspberries are truly sublime here.

This recipe is intended for a 1 1/2 quart ice cream maker. In general, follow the instructions that came with your machine. Have the bowl solidly frozen ahead of time.

2 1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 - 1 1/2 cups chopped/mashed summer fruit
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or so.

Put the ice cream maker together with the frozen bowl and turn it on.  Pour in the yogurt mixture. Let the maker work for 15-20 minutes, until the frozen yogurt becomes too thick for the paddle to keep stirring it. It will have roughly the consistency of softserve.  Serve immediately or place it in a tupperware container and freeze.

To serve the yogurt after it has been in the freezer for several hours, let it thaw on the counter for 5-10 minutes to soften up.

Serves 4-6.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Freezing Raspberries

Our raspberry plants are pumping out a good crop right now.  In the heat, they are ripening faster than we can use them.  Because raspberries don't keep well once picked, even in the fridge, your best bet is to freeze them if you have more than you can use in about 24 hours.

To freeze, pick over the berries and remove any moldy ones, or, if possible, slice off the moldy bit. Spread the berries out in a baking pan and freeze for several hours (this is called tray freezing). Once the berries are frozen hard, you can pack them into freezer bags and they won't stick together.

Raspberries ready for tray freezing

Friday, July 5, 2013

Tangy Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette

Our raspberries are coming in thick and fast in the hot weather.  Some have gone into the freezer, some into frozen yogurt, others eaten fresh or in the morning cereal.  This dressing was a new experiment, and I was pleased with the result.  You won't confuse this with the overly sweet commercial raspberry vinaigrette you typically find. If you find it's too tangy for you, add a spoonful of maple syrup.

1 cup fresh raspberries, pureed
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3-4 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt to taste

If you don't mind this being seedy and a bit crunchy, just combine all ingredients and mix well.  If you'd rather remove the seeds, press the puree through a sieve before combining it with the oil and vinegar.

Makes about 3/4 cup.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Greek Pasta with Chard, Tomatoes, and Dill

Dill and feta give this pasta dish a Greek flair.  It's loaded with greens, which are coming in fast and furious at this point in the season.

1 lb cut pasta (e.g. shells, rotini, etc)
Olive oil
1/2 cup chopped scapes
1 lb chard, well chopped
3 cups cooked chickpeas
3 cups chopped tomatoes (canned, or use fresh peeled paste tomatoes)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Crumbled feta for topping

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water, then drain and toss with a little olive oil.

While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. Heat a little olive oil in a braising pan or Dutch oven.  Add the scapes and saute for 1-2 minutes, then add the chard (in batches if needed) and saute until wilted. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, and oregano and simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Stir in the dill and add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the pasta and sauce together and serve. Top generously with crumbled feta at the table.

Serves about 6.

Red Currant Syrup

We had a nice crop of red currants on our two bushes this year.  I turned about a quart of them into this tasty syrup, which is good mixed with seltzer or in cocktails.  Cook it a bit longer and you'll get sauce instead of syrup; a bit past that and it'll be more like jelly.

1 quart stemmed red currants
2 cups sugar
Splash of water

Place the currants, sugar, and water in a Dutch oven or similar large pan.  Cook over medium heat until the currant skins start to separate from the fruit and it gets pretty soupy.  (As mentioned above, keep cooking it longer if you desire a thicken end product.)  Strain the syrup through a fine sieve into a bowl, then use the back of a spoon to mash and press as much of the remaining flesh and liquid through the sieve as you can.  When you're done, pour the syrup into a jar(s).  This is suitable for canning (5 minutes for half pint jars, 10 minutes for pint jars), or just keep it in the fridge.

Makes about 1 quart.

Cilantro Mint Sauce

A tangy, pungent sauce excellent on grilled meats or veggies.

3/4 cup mint leaves
1 1/4 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt to taste

Combine the mint, cilantro, garlic, and vinegar in a blender or mini food processor.  Add a splash of water if needed to process until pretty smooth.  Add salt to taste.

Makes around 3/4 cup, plenty to serve with a grilled meal for 4-6.