Saturday, June 27, 2015

Grilled Snow Peas with Shiitakes and Scallions

If you haven't tried snow or snap peas on the grill, you should - they're great, and they're quick. Here they are excellent with shiitakes and scallions grilled alongside in an Asian marinade. You'll need a grill basket for this recipe.

2 cups shiitake mushroom caps in bite-sized chunks
3 cups snow peas, stemmed
Up to 1 bunch scallions, cut into 1 1/2- 2-inch lengths
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat. Let marinate for up to an hour if you have time; even a few minutes is good.

Heat the grill and place the vegetables into the grill basket. Grill over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 6-10 minutes, until nicely browned in places. Serve hot.

Serves 2-4.

Greek Spinach Frittata

This savory frittata, full of flavor, is excellent for dinner as well as brunch or lunch. Use fresh oregano if you can get it, and of course scapes while they are in season. Substitute dried oregano and a couple cloves of garlic at other times of year. Bacon makes a nice accompaniment for this, but you won't miss it if you don't have it. Be sure to use an oven proof skillet for this.

4-5 ounces spinach, stemmed
8-10 eggs
2-3 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 - 1 tsp dried)
3 ounces feta
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped garlic scapes

Lightly steam the spinach, then chop well.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the oregano, feta, and salt and pepper.

Preheat the broiler.

Heat the olive oil in an oven proof skillet (10 inches is a good size). You want a generous quantity of oil to prevent the frittata from sticking, so don't skimp. Add the scapes and saute over medium high heat for 1-2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and pour in the egg mixture. Make sure everything is well distributed in the pan, reduce heat to low-medium, and cook until the egg is well set around the edges.

Finish the frittata under the broiler. 3-5 minutes should be enough; check after 3 to see whether it is done in the middle. If you still have liquid egg, continue to broil, checking every minute or two for doneness. Serve warm or hot.

Serves about 4.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Drying Strawberries

Drying fruit at home is easy and rewarding, and the end product is invariably excellent. Among all the strawberries we put into the freezer at this time of year, we always make sure to dry a load or two as well. We enjoy them in our oatmeal all winter long. (Other good local fruit candidates for drying are peaches and apples and pears. Tomatoes are easy and good too, if you like "sun-dried" tomatoes.)

Wash and hull the strawberries and cut off any bad spots. Try to choose berries of approximately similar size, to the extent possible - this will help them dry more evenly. Cut small and medium berries in half lenthwise; larger specimens can be cut into thirds or even quarters if very big.

Spread the berries on the dehydrator trays. You can crowd them in pretty close so long as they are not actually on top of each other; they will shrink considerably as they dry.

In my dehydrator, I find it takes around 10-14 hours to dry strawberries. I start checking after 10 hours and remove any that are fully dried. I check about every hour or so. You can do this on a weekend, or if you are home in the morning, start them overnight so they are ready for you to begin checking on them in the morning.

Parmesan Spinach Bulgur

Sneak some spinach-y goodness into a nice whole grain side dish. I served this warm, but it could work cold, too.

1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups water or chicken stock
4-5 ounces spinach, stemmed
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the bulgur and water or stock in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat until tender. Drain off any excess liquid if needed.

While the bulgur cooks, lightly steam the spinach (I find one minute on high in the microwave in a covered glass bowl is about right) then puree it or chop it very finely.

When the bulgur is cooked, stir in the spinach and Parmesan, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4-6.

Creamy Pasta with Early Summer Garden Veggies and Bacon

This was absolutely divine. I love it when a recipe idea turns out even better than it was in my head.

Feel free to mix and match vegetables. I really liked the snap peas in this, but you could use chopped spinach, early zucchini, or whatever else sounds good. I threw in some chopped leftover grilled chicken as well, but it's definitely optional. If you're vegetarian and want to skip the bacon, you can and it will still be good - but of course it won't be the same. In that case, I suggest adding some grated Parmesan.

1 lb cut pasta such as shells or penne rigate
1 Tbsp butter
2-3 cups snap peas (diced), fava beans, shell peas, or combination
1 bunch scallions (including green part), chopped (about 2 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces bacon, cooked and chopped
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water. Drain when done, drizzle lightly with oil, and toss to coat.

While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce: Melt  the butter in a Dutch oven or other large saucepan. Add the scallions and snap peas or other vegetables. Saute over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes, until the scallion greens are wilted. Add the cream, then reduce heat and simmer for another 5 minutes or so. If using snap peas, they should be tender but still retain some crunch. Stir in the bacon and basil and simmer another minute or so. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Pour the veggie mixture over the sauce and toss to coat well. The cream will soak into the pasta after a while if you don't serve it immediately, but that's ok. Serve hot or warm.

Serves at about 6.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Celeriac Mashed Potatoes

It's well past celeriac season, but I had one lingering in the fridge and with the weather having taken a rather cold turn, mashed potatoes seems appealing (I served them with slow cooker braised beef shanks, yum!) The combined flavor of the potatoes and celeriac was pleasant, and as a bonus, my kids chowed down even though they normally reject celeriac.

Feel free to swap in other root vegetables for the celeriac if you like: parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, etc. Each will bring its own unique flavor to the mix.

1 large celeriac root, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, cubed (peel if you like; I don't)
Up to 1/2 cup milk
2-3 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley to taste (fresh or dried; optional)

Cook the celeriac and potatoes in a large pot of salted boiling water for about 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and return to the pot.

Mash the celeriac and potatoes with a potato masher, adding milk and butter until desired consistency is reached. Add salt and pepper to taste, plus parsley if desired.

Serves 4-6.

Asparagus Pizza with Salami and Feta

If you slice it thin or use slender stalks, you can put raw asparagus on a pizza and it will come out of the oven done to perfection. Here it is nicely counterpointed by the rich saltiness of feta and salami. (Feel free to skip the salami for a still delicious vegetarian version.)

1 14-inch pizza crust
Olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 lb asparagus, slice in 1/8-1/4-inch rounds
2 stalks green garlic, thinly sliced (including greens)
2 ounces diced salami
2 ounces crumbled feta
2 ounces shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly paint the pizza crust with olive oil.

Spread the tomato sauce over the crust. Distribute the asparagus, green garlic, salami, and feta over the crust, then top with mozzarella.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until crust is done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.