Archive for the ‘side dish’ Category

An Israeli and a Palestinian in England taught me a new word in French.

No matter how many ways I try to string that sentence together, it always sounds like the beginning of a joke that starts in a bar. Luckily, the story ends in the kitchen.

The Israeli is Yotam Ottolenghi. The Palestinian is Sami Tamimi. They both grew up on opposite sides of Jerusalem and met years later in London.

The restaurant is Ottolenghi, the one they partnered to open a decade ago. The dishes draw upon their common food memories and Mediterranean influences.  I can only surmise this based on the two cookbooks that have come out of their kitchen. I’ve never been to their restaurants. But I have eaten their food. And that’s how today’s digression begins.

The French word I learned is mangetout. It comes from the French words manger (to eat) and tout (all). It refers to varieties of peas that are eaten whole in their pods which are edible when young — the flat-podded snow peas and the round-podded sugarsnap peas. Those Brits! Their supposed animosity with the French and their food — the two cultures trade mild insults, with the English calling the French “frogs” for cuisses de grenouilles, the frogs legs they eat, and the French calling the English “rosbifs” for the roast beef they eat — must be some sort of ruse to cover up their love of French food names like courgette (zucchini) and rocket/roquette (arugula).

When I saw the picture opposite the recipe for French beans and mangetout with hazelnut and orange, I immediately flagged page 36 in Ottolenghi – The Cookbook. The name intrigued me as I myself have been known to mange tout. The crunchy hazelnuts nestled between long skinny haricots verts (as you might guess, I like calling them by their French name) and wide flat mangetout and threads of orange zest spoke to me. They said mangez moi, eat me. And so I did.

The hazelnuts were toasted and skinned and chopped. The haricots and mangetout were blanched in boiling water and shocked in ice water. The glistening green pods were drained and dried in a towel. The oranges were zested and juiced. The chives were sliced. Everything was thrown into a bowl with a few dashes of olive and nut oils. A sprinkle of salt, a grind of pepper, and that picture jumped off of page 36 and into my kitchen.

And then, my friends and I, nous avons mangé tout, we ate it all.   

Haricots vert and mangetout with hazelnut and orange

This recipe is adapted from Ottolenghi – The Cookbook. There are a number of steps in the recipe, but they all are pretty quick and can be done in parallel if you plan ahead. While toasting the hazelnuts, blanch and shock the beans in separate batches (because the mangetout require only about a minute to cook). The nuts and beans should be ready around the same time. Right before serving, mix together the beans, zest and juice the orange over the bowl, add oils, salt and pepper, and adjust seasoning. Then sprinkle with chives and hazelnuts.  

Hazelnut oil canbe difficult to find – the one I use is made in France by Phillipe Vigean – it’s kosher and I found it at Zabar’s in NY.  La Tourangelle‘s hazelnut oil is more readily available but is not yet kosher. A good alternative is to try toasted almonds and almond oil. La Tourangelle’s almond oil is excellent and, like most of their oils made in California, is kosher; the ones made in France are not certified. Make sure to store all nut oils in the refrigerator as they can go rancid quickly.

Serves 6-8

– 1 lb haricots verts (very thin French grean beans)

– 1 lb mangetout, i.e., sugersnap peas or snow peas (I used snow peas)

– 2 garlic cloves

– large handful of chives

– 2 oranges for zest and juice

– 1 C unskinned hazelnuts

– 4 T oilve oil

– 2-3 T hazelnut or other nut oil

– coarse sea salt and black pepper

Prepare. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Trim the stalk ends from the the green beans and mangetout, but keep them separate. If you want to be really French, remove the tails from the green beans, but I like how they look. Finely chop the garlic. Roughly chop the chives. Zest and juice the oranges. If you don’t have a zester, remove very thin layers of orange peel with a sharp knife, leaving behind all traces of white, and then slice them into long, skinny strips.

Toast. Scatter the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and toast them for 7 – 10 minutes until you can smell them. Wrap them in a cloth towel so that they steam will loosen the papery skins. When they are cool, rub them in the towel to remove most of the skins. Roughly chop them.

Blanch. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add salt and when the water returns to a boil, blanch the haricots for 4 minutes and then quickly fish them out and shock them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Bring the water to a boil again and blanch the mangetout for only 1 minute, and then shock them in another bowl of ice water. Drain the beans and let them dry.

Toss. Mix the beans together in a bowl. Add the orange juice, oils, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with orange zest and chopped hazelnuts.

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Is it summer yet? It sure feels like it.

Not the hot sticky New England brand, but the warm sunny breezy brand. A breeze so lovely that a few open windows and a ceiling fan does the trick. A day so lovely that one might be inspired to buy some mint and thyme plants with hopes of not killing another fooderific herb garden. The herbs are growing outside on my balcony, and as they’re only 2 days old, they seem to be holding up quite well.

An impromptu dinner invitation and a quick scramble for what’s on hand, and my first zucchini salad of the season emerges.

Welcome back, summer, and a great weekend to all!

Marinated mint zucchini salad

Another quick and easy salad, this one requires 5 ingredients (plus salt and pepper), 2 implements (zester and mandoline – check out the links to see the ones I use), and a bowl. Quantities are approximate, so taste and season as you go along. This salad serves 4-6.

Using a mandoline, slice 3 zucchini very thin. Also slice 1/2 red onion on the mandoline. If you don’t have a mandoline – no problem. Just slice the vegetables as thin as you can. Toss the vegetables. Zest two lemons over the salad and then pour the juice in as well. Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil and sprinke with salt and pepper. Pick some fresh mint from your still growing herb garden and slice or rip it into small pieces. Toss everything together and taste for seasoning. Bask in your kitchen with the oven off and a gentle breeze from the window.


If  you’re looking for other ways to take advantage of the summer’s zucchini windfall, check out these recipes from years past:

If  you want to cook: zucchini bread or roasted zucchinior zucchini tart with raclette (or plain swiss cheese)

If you don’t want to cook:  marinated zucchini salad with mushrooms and dill or zucchini ribbon salad with middle eastern spices

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I don’t have much time today because the sun is fading and I’m on my way out to dinner with a bag full of jars, a bowl, and a box. No mystery here, it’s food for tonight’s shabbat dinner. It might be cuatro de Mayo, but we’re celebrating cinco de Mayo tonight with margaritas, guacamole, steak with fruit salsa, spicy cinnamon brownies, and margaritas.

Before I head out, I wanted to jot down recipes for the dishes I’m bringing because there are so few Mexican recipes out there that do not revolve around corn, avocado, and black beans. I spent hours thumbing through a half-dozen cookbooks and my favorite online sites. And then I just made up two recipes. First I grilled the freshest spring vegetables I could find and made a sauce from smokey chipotle peppers to drizzle on top. Then I  toasted pepitas and roasted tomatillos and jalapenos and chopped up a salad inspired  by the produce I remember from my last visit to Mexico City.

So here you go. Two Mexican-ish recipes, just under the wire, and ready for you to throw together for your own fiesta.

Happy weekend!

Grilled vegetables with chipotle sauce

Grill vegetables. Slice 2 zucchini and 2 yellow squash on a bias (about 1/3-inch thick). Break the woody ends off of a bunch of thick asparagus (about 20 stalks). Slice one red onion into rings. Place each vegetable in a separate bag or bowl and let marinate in olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 30 minutes. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat – it’s ready when a drop of water sizzles the second it hits the pan. Make sure to turn on your exhaust because it will start to get smokey. Grill each vegetable for approximately 4-6 minutes per side. When they start to release from the pan, they’re ready – I found that I did need to do a little work to release the zucchini and squash as they were still sticking a bit when they were fully cooked.

Make sauce. In a food processor, mix the following: 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (there are usually 5-6 peppers in a can), 1 tomato, juice of 2 limes, 1/4 C olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add a little bit of water to thin everything out if necessary.

Drizzle. Arrange vegetables on a platter, squeeze another lime over top, and drizzle with sauce.

Chopped salad with tomatillo cilantro dressing

Make salad. Pickle half a red onion: slice it very thin and marinate for at least 30 minutes in 3 T red wine or apple cider vinegar, 1/4 C warm water, 1/2 t sugar, and salt to taste. Dry toast a handful of pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds) in a small pan – keep shaking the pan to move the seeds around and when the turn slightly golden and start to pop, take them off the heat and let them cool. Chop into bite-sized pieces 2 romaine hearts, 2 C arugula, and a yellow pepper. Slice 3 radishes very thin (I use my cheap mandoline). Peel and chop a medium-sized jicama into approximately 1/2 inch cubes.

Make dressing. Remove the husks from 2-3 tomatillos and rinse off the sticky residue. Under a broiler, roast the tomatillos and 2 jalapeno peppers on aluminum foil. When the skins blacken and blister, take out of oven and wrap then up in the foil so that they will steam. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins. Remove the seeds from the peppers. Put them into the bowl of a food processor with about 1 cup cilantro, juice of 2-3 limes, and 2 T honey. Process until smooth. Slowly add 1/4 C olive oil and process until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Add more lime juice if the dressing needs a little more acid (or water and oil if it needs less).

Toss. Mix all the vegetables and then sprinkle with pepitas and drizzle with dressing right before serving.

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Have you met Farro?

In case you haven’t, he’s a lovely fellow.

I ran into him at the cafe in my office. It’s a fancy cafe, serving things like duck confit on a regular Tuesday. Farro and I got to the line at the same time and did that little awkward dance: you go first, no after you, well thank you. We struck up a conversation.

He speaks with a slight Italian accent and if you lean real close, you might pick up a Middle Eastern lilt. When I asked where he was from, he proudly traced his roots back to the Fertile Crescent. He spoke like a DAR whose family fought in the American Revolution and came over on the Mayflower.

We sat down together with a group of colleagues, and the subject turned to dating. Farro was having a rough time of it. He had only recently moved to Boston and didn’t know where to meet people. So I invited him to shabbat dinner. I thought he might really get along with my friend Tabouli.

Tabouli’s family is also from the Fertile Cresent area and her parents moved to the US from Syria and Lebanon by way of Israel. Her best friend is Parsley and she often hangs out with Cucumber, Tomato, Scallion, and Mint. They used to go to mixers together, when mixers were the place to be seen, and picked up Lemon and Olive Oil, welcoming them into their crew. Tabouli had been in a bit of a funk after she and her boyfriend Bulghur broke up. He was a bit of a bully and she needs someone more soft and inviting.

I was thrilled to play matchmaker. I didn’t tell either of them about the other. I wanted to see  how they would get along at dinner. They sat next to each other. So far, so good. Farro’s hand grazed against Tabouli’s arm when he reached for the water pitcher. Tabouli giggled. She batted her long eyelashes. Farro shared his nutty sense of humor with jokes that Tabouli laughed at while the rest of us forced grins. So far, so very good.

After dessert was served and tea was drunk, Farro offered to walk Tabouli home. She demurred, saying she was going in the opposite direction. In the end, she relented.

Weeks and months passed in their whirlwind romance and I wasn’t surprised to quickly see a ring on Tabouli’s finger. They moved away to the West coast and bought a house.

A year later, they returned to Cambridge – Farro was interviewing for a job. I again invited them to dinner. As the summer sun set, they arrived with a sleeping bundle. She was beautiful with a shock of light blown hair and long eyelashes and cherry tomato cheeks. She wore a green onesie that Aunt Parsley gave her.

She was so cute, I could just eat her up!

Farro tabouli

Farro is s a nutty whole grain that is chewy and firm. It absorbs the flavors around it and is the perfect base for tabouli – a Middle Eastern salad whose star is pasley, providing a bit more bite and substance than more traditional bulghur. I based this recipe on one in Food & Wine and another provided by Anson Mills, a retailer of heirloom grains. If you want more farro ideas, check out a recent article in Saveur written by Leah Koenig (who wrote a cookbook that included a few of my own recipes).

This recipe makes enough for 4-6 as a side dish and would be great for Passover with quinoa.

– 1 C uncooked farro

– 3-4 handfuls small (cherry, pear) tomatoes, about 1 C chopped

– 3-4 small seedless cucumers (sometimes called “Persian” or “mediterranean”) or 1/2 – 3/4 of a large seedless cucumber, about 1 C chopped

– 4 scallions

– 1 large bunch parsley, enough for 1 C finely chopped

– 1 C lightly packed mint leaves, enough for  1/3 C finely chopped

– 3 lemons, for 5 – 6 T  juice

– 4-5 T olive oil

– salt and pepper

Cook. Prepare the farro according to package. Most directions call for a quick rinse before cooking, and some suggest pre-soaking. Don’t overcook the farro  or it will get mushy. I usually remove the farro from the heat a few minutes shy of the time recommended time. The grains will soak up additional liquid from the rest of the ingredients.

Cut. Chop the tomatoes and cucumbers into small cubes (1/4 – 1/3 inch per side, but don’t worry about being exact). Thinly slice the white and light green parts of the scallions. Finely chop the parsley (removing any tough stems) and mint leaves.

Squeeze. Juice the lemons, making sure to strain out the seeds. I usually squeeze each lemon half over my hand and catch the seeds as they fall.

Mix. Mix in a large bowl the farro, vegetables, and herbs. Season with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper, tasting as you go.

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On the way back from the Berkshires last weekend, Rachela and I almost ran out of gas. And when you’re looking for a gas station, you inevitably can’t find one. And then the gas light goes off and says you have another 30 miles to go before you should panic. And then you drive another 5 miles. And you’re told you should really panic in 7 miles. And those extra 12 safety miles? They disappeared. Of course, when you finally find someone fixing his tractor at the side of the road and inquire about a station, he points you to the top of the hill where you can see a Gulf sign peeking out behind a church.

After we filled the tank, we began our search for farmers markets. We had seen loads of them throughout the weekend, but didn’t want to buy anything to have it sit in our room or the car in the sweltering heat. So when we were finally ready to load up the car with fresh fruits and vegetables, none were to be found. We drove by a wigwam. And an Indian circle dance. When I read the word dance, I jumped out of the car, ready to join in. Until I saw a half-dozen pot-bellied men in loin cloths and feather headdresses stomping their feet around a bonfire. We were back in the car and on the road fast. Really fast. So fast that we had to do a quick U-turn after we passed a sign for fresh-picked corn. U-turn accomplished, we rolled into the driveway and found a makeshift table set with ears of corn, plastic bags, a metal box and a sign stating,


Picked this morning.

$6 a dozen or $0.50 each.

Please leave money in the box.

We promptly picked a pair of ears each, deposited our dollars in the box, and waved at the proprietress as she stepped onto her front porch to shuck.

We then passed a larger farmers stand with a greater variety of produce. I grabbed a few tomatoes, a handful of small cukes, and several large zucchinis.

And they sat in my fridge for almost a week while I toiled away in the office, ordering dinner in to sustain me during my late working hours. And then, only this weekend, did the vegetables come out to play. An Israeli salad. Corn roasted in the husk, eaten over the sink. And simple roasted zucchini with Mediterranean spices.

Roasted Zucchini

Adapted from a recipe for Roasted Zucchini with Ricotta and Mint from this August’s Food & Wine. 

Additional note 7/10/12: after salting the zucchini, make sure to rinse off all the salt. You can always add more salt to taste, but it’s pretty hard to remove it! 

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Dice 2 large zucchini into a medium-sized dice (1/3 – 1/2 inch). Salt generously and let sit in colander for 5-10 minutes until some of the zucchini’s liquid is released. Rinse zucchini and dry well. (The salting helps prevent the zucchini from getting soggy.) Toss with 1T olive oil, salt, and pepper. Shake onto a baking dish and roast for 25-30 minutes until zucchini starts to brown. Add 2 t cumin and a few pinches of crushed red pepper and roast for another 2-5 minutes until the spices are fragrant. Scoop into a bowl and sprinkle with the juice of half a lemon. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a few mint leaves and a scoop of labane (or leave off the labane for a non-dairy option).

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a random walk

I was going through my food photos and came across a few that I thought would be fun to share. These are ones that somehow got lost in posts I meant to write or got caught up in the dilemma of having nothing to say except that this tastes really good or got thrown to the wolves as just too basic to share.  But, let’s take a short trip through some of my archives and see what we can come up with.

So this is simple syrup infused with dried roses. I’ve made simple syrup here before, and while the mint version is fabulous, the rose variety is lovely to look at but that’s where the loveliness ends.

This here is rainbow challah — my standard recipe filled with sprinkles and formed into a round challah for Rosh Hashana. This tradition was passed on to me by part of my extended Atlanta family.

These are some vegetables that I tossed with a balsamic reduction vinaigrette. The star here was clearly the vinaigrette. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I found the recipe that I used as my starting point. I remember reducing the balsamic by about a third, mixing with olive oil, salt, pepper, and mustard. And tossing it over sliced peppers and blanched asparagus.

Mmmm…yet another quinoa recipe. Actually, this one is worth sharing.

Lemon-Tahina Quinoa

Inspired by 101 Cookbooks’ Lemon-scented Quinoa Salad.

– 1 C quinoa (I used a mix of white and red quinoa)

– 2 C water or amount called for by your quinoa package

kosher salt to taste

– 1 garlic clove, chopped

– 1/4 C tahina

– 1/4 C lemon juice

– 2 T olive oil

– 2 T boiling water

– 1 can garbanzo beans

– chives

Make quinoa. Prepare quinoa as directed on package, or bring water to a boil, add salt and quinoa and return to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover for ~15 minutes. Remove from heat when the water has been absorbed and allow to cool, covered for 3-5 minutes.

Make dressing. Whisk the garlic, tahina, lemon juice, and olive oil. Add in boiling water to thin and salt to taste.

Assemble salad. Toss quinoa and garbanzo beans with dressing. Cut chives over top of salad before serving.

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As Winter so dutifully introduced itself to us here in the Northeast the day before the solstice with almost a foot of real snow in Boston (as opposed to the sprinkling earlier in the month), last week I found myself with a small surplus of Autumn fruit that I felt the need to use up. Persimmons and pomegranates nearing the end of their season beckoned to be used up before they perished. A potluck lunch for which I had committed to make a vegetarian protein main dish (what, no meat???) proved the perfect excuse.

Quinoa was to be the instrument, and if you may recall, I like mine well-dressed. Challenged to find a dressing that would incorporate the fruit without being sweet, I lucked upon a fabulous recipe that fit all my requirements and allowed me to test out some roasted walnut oil that I recently bought (wait until I tell you about the avocado oil I’ve been throwing on all my salads for weeks…)

Fall Quinoa

Adapted from a recipe in the Seattle Times and serves 12-14 as a side dish. (Sorry folks, I just can’t think of quinoa as a main dish.)

– 2 C quinoa – I used a mix of red and white quinoa

– 4 C water

– 1 can (16.5 oz) chickpeas

– 2-3 persimmons (should be firm)

– 1 pomegranate

– 5 green onions

– 1/2 cup walnut pieces

– 1 T pomegranate concentrate

– 1 t Dijon mustard

– 1/4 C tablespoons red wine vinegar

– 1/3 C walnut oil (or olive oil)

– Kosher salt, to taste

– Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Prepare quinoa. Put  2 C quinoa, 1 tsp salt, and 4 C water  in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover pan and cook for 13 to 15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Fluff with fork. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit covered until it has cooled completely. Or just follow directions given with your quinoa (including whether it needs to be pre-rinsed).

Roast walnuts. Roast walnuts in a dry skillet over low heat until fragrant (<10 minutes) — watch carefully to prevent from burning.

Prepare remaining ingredients. Peel and dice persimmons. Remove seeds from pomegranate. Thinly slice the green onions.

Make dressing. Mix together pomegranate concentrate, mustard, and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the walnut oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Throw it all together. Once quinoa is cool, add chick peas (rinsed), walnuts, persimmons, pomegranate seeds, and green onion (reserving a few for garnish). Lightly toss with 1/2 dressing, adding more to taste.

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tweaking tradition


Tradition is good. Family memories. In my bedroom, the chair that Bubbie once rocked me and my sister on.

Bubbie's rocking chair

The hat pins that she used to keep next to her sofa.  They were her mother’s.

hat pins

I like holding onto these things. And sometimes too many things (I have a friend who keeps threatening to come to my place with 5 contractor bags and to start the “clean-up” process by discarding something with sentimental value). And while food no doubt creates memory — strong memories — every so often there is the need to recreate new traditions or update old ones..

Growing up, I recall that almost every time my mother  entertained she would make what seemed to me to be a quintessential Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, roasted potatoes (or some variation thereof — sweet potatoes, or maybe mashed potatoes), green beans almondine, “dirty” rice with mushrooms and onions, and apple pie or chocolate chip pound cake. Now, I have never made a turkey and this menu is relegated to my mother’s kitchen and glass dining room table (having always been assigned to clean the fingerprints off the table before dinner and any food remnants after, I now only buy wood furniture). This menu tastes to me like family coming together.

As much as I like to hold on to tradition, I also try to create some of my own. Anything from a few variations to turning the world upside down. This recipe is about tweaking and in my mind, improving on a classic. It started with some yellow beans that I got from my CSA.

haricots jaunes

I reinvented my mothers green beans almondine and turned it on its head from methodology to ingredients. Whereas growing up we boiled or steamed green beans (to keep things lower fat) and threw on some sliced or slivered almonds, here I substituted yellow beans for green and sauteed them, toasted some hand-chopped whole hazelnuts, and added lemon juice and a lush slightly sweet drizzle of sweet hazelnut oil.

Haricots Jaunes aux Noisettes (Yellow Beans with Hazelnuts)


This recipe can easily be be made with green beans and almonds — just leave out the hazelnut oil (which truth be told can be difficult to find). Haricots jaunes – yellow beans taste just like haricots verts, the green ones, though to the best of my knowledge haricots verts normally refers to the really skinny green beans. When I did a summer exchange in France (in Mont-près-Chambord in the Loire Valley) during high school, I was taught to choose the skinniest of the bunch while still plump, and to pick les haricots one-by-one rather than just grabbing them by the handful. To this day, I still pick my haricots comme ça. I received these haricots jaunes from my CSA.

I always toast the nuts first for a few reasons. First,this enables a dry roast. Second, it makes it less likely to burn them. Finally, if allows me to make some extra for things like topping chocolate ice cream. Oh, what a perfect dessert. Actually, I’m thinking gelato.

Serves 2-3.

– 1/4-1/3 C hazelnuts

– 1.5 C yellow beans

– 1 shallot

– kosher salt

– 2 t olive oil

– 1 lemon

– 2 t hazelnut oil: I use Philippe Vigean brand (OU; info in Resources tab); La Tourangelle also makes a hazelnut oil, but theirs is not kosher.

Phillipe Vigean hazelnut oil

Prepare ingredients: Chop hazelnuts. Remove tips from beans. Thinly slice shallot.

mise en place

Toast hazelnuts: Using the pan you plan to use for the haricots, dry toast the chopped hazelnuts with a few pinches of salt over medium heat until fragrant (5-7 minutes). Remove from pan.

Cook beans: Pour olive oil in pan and heat over medium heat with sliced shallots. Add yellow beans and toss in oil for 2-3 minutes. Add juice of lemon to  pan and cover to allow beans to steam another 3-5 minutes (depending on how crunchy you like your beans). Uncover and add toasted hazelnuts (you don’t need to use all the nuts) with hazelnut oil, continuing to toss beans in the mixture, adding more salt to taste.

Serve beans immediately. And don’t forget the throw any leftover slighty salty toasted hazelnuts on your ice cream.

ready to eat

Some of the toasted hazelnuts fall to the bottom of the plate — I love this part.

last few bites, crunchy salty hazelnuts

The hat pins that she used to keep next to her sofa.  They were her mother’s.

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csa lunch box

Marinated white turnip and lemon balm over romaine

After a bit of hemming and hawing over the winter, I took the plunge and went with a CSA for the summer. I picked up my first share last week and it included several vegetables that were a bit foreign to me.

Heaven's Harvest CSA share

According to the Heaven’s Harvest website, the share this week consisted of: scallions, Hakurei turnips, summer squash, sweet potatoes, red chard, romaine lettuce, baby bok choi, collards, lemon balm, chives (boo – no chives for me!), and strawberries.

As I was heading down to New York for the weekend, I prepared a little lunchbox for my trip using the fresh bounty that I had.

I researched the white hakurei turnips and learned that they don’t require peeling. Recalling the first time that I made jicama cilantro slaw and inadvertently bought a large turnip (yes, this was well before I had developed into the sophisticate that I am today…I kept exclaiming, “my, this tastes quite earthy!”), I figured a modified slaw would work well with the delicate turnips. So, I did a quick 45-minute marinade of julienned turnips in lemon juice, salt, pepper, extra-virgin, and chiffonaded lemon balm, and then threw the mix over hearty romaine lettuce.

marinated white Hakurei turnips with lemon balm, romaine lettuce

I next prepared some chard, also chiffonaded, and then quickly sautéed in olive oil with salt and thrown atop a whole wheat wrap slathered in hummus.

sauteed chard with hummus on ww wrap

Finally, I rinsed and dried the strawberries and repacked them in their container.

And then I threw everything into an old salad greens container next to a bottle of water, and rushed off to South Station.

lunch box for my trip to NY

As I was heading down to New York, I prepared a little lunchbox for my trip using the fresh bounty that I had.I researched the white _____ turnips and learned that they don’t require peeling. Recalling the first time that I made jicama cilantro slaw and inadvertently bought a large turnip (yes, this was well before I had developed into the sophisticate that I am today…I kept exclaiming, “my, this tastes quite earthy!”), I figured a modified slaw would work well with the delicate turnips. So, I did a quick 45-minute marinade of julienned turnips in lemon juice, salt, pepper, extra-virgin, and chiffonaded lemon balm, and then threw the mix over hearty romaine lettuce.

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pomegranate chicken kabobs cooling, ready to pack up

I’m still a little bit confused by New England weather. I mean, I lived here a few years ago when I went to The College (how’s that for subtle?), so I was ready for a long Winter. I was even prepared for the little peek of early Spring followed by a couple more snow storms. But I keep trying to figure out Summer, and I want to compare it to places that I am familiar with. I thought perhaps summer might be a little bit like LA’s “June Gloom”. Or San Francisco where the fog rolls out every morning. But I think it’s just unique with its own, er, charm. I’ve decided that it’s just predictably unpredictable.

All I know is that when I pulled together a last-minute potluck picnic last weekend to celebrate my friend Marina’s coming to town and fully anticipated that it would be held on my living room floor, I awoke last Saturday morning after a week of drizzle to a gorgeous sunshiny day. I even cleaned up my place anticipating a toddler’s grabby hands (or at least took care of the things that reached about waist-level for me).

So my friends and I were blessed with a beautiful day, an outdoor picnic, a bounty of food, and of course a fun afternoon with each other (and I got a relatively mess-free home…at least up to toddler-eye-view).

Here’s the menu, and like I did for my last dinner party, I’ll try to fill out the recipes as I go along.

the prettiest Challah I’ve ever made thanks to a new braiding technique

Guacamole (below)

Corn Edamame Salad (below)

Mayo-free Egg Salad (below)

Quinoa-Mango Salad with Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette (made with Spinach)

Pomegranate Chicken Kabobs (below)

Simple Chocolate Cake

Contributions from friends (feel free to send recipes or include in comments): Green Salad, Wine, Fruit Salad, Halva

Here are the salads that I made.

1) Guacamole

I normally add tomatoes to my guac, but I didn’t have any this week. However, I did have a jalepeno so this one came out nice and spicy.

Mash together flesh of 2 avocados, 1/2 finely diced jalapeno = ~1t (seeds removed – and don’t attempt to put on your contact lenses after dicing like I did!), 1T grated onion (optional), 2-3 generous pinches salt, and 2-3 T lime juice. You can also add some cayenne pepper or cumin.

2) Corn Edamame Salad with Pink Salt

This is a very easy salad that I threw together with things I had in my fridge, freezer, and pantry, adjusting and tasting as I went along. This made about 4-5 C salad and there was about 1/2 C remaining for me to take a picture of the next day (but my pic came out blurry).

Roast 3 ears of corn in oven as directed a few weeks ago. Cut kernels off of cob.

corn cut off the cob

Cook 1 bag (10 oz) frozen shelled edamame — I microwaved in a bowl with 3T water and a pinch of salt for 1-2 minutes. Drain water.

Mix corn with cooked drained edamame and add some quartered baby tomatoes (15-20).

corn edamame tomatoes

Dress with  rice vinegar (2-3T), toasted sesame oil (2T) and a pinch of salt. Serve with Hawaiian pink sea salt. I bought this pink sea salt at Target (I can’t seem to find it on their website any more) and its ingredients are sea salt and Hawaiian Alaea. A quick online search revealed that alaea refers to a harvested Hawaiian reddish clay that contains iron oxide; alaea salt is traditionally used in ceremonies to cleanse, purify and bless tools and canoes and imparts security on the item being blessed, and in healing rituals for medicinal purposes.

Hawaiian Pink Sea Salt

3) The Baking Architect‘s Egg Salad with Mushrooms

Ellie, aka, The Baking Architect, serves this no-mayo egg salad before many of her lunches. She forwarded me this recipe guide in the middle of a busy Friday to help me prepare for my picnic when I realized I had no mayo and was already boiling my eggs. I have put in my own measurements, but you can obviously adapt for whatever sized crowd you have.

Boil 8 eggs. The fail-proof method I learned for perfect boiled eggs is as follows: Prick a hole in the end of each egg with a clean pin. Place eggs in pot and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Drain out hot water and refill with cold water to stop cooking. Shake eggs around in pot to crack eggs. Shells will come off easily when cool, and yolks will be creamy.

Sautée sliced mushrooms (I sliced about 10 cremini mushrooms) with 1 diced onion and a pinch of salt and some garlic powder — or minced fresh garlic (1-2 t) — in plenty of olive oil (3T).

Allow eggs to cool and then dice the eggs in two directions on an egg slicer. Add the mushroom-onion sautée and mix well. Serve cold or at room temperature.


And now for the chicken:

4) Pomegranate Chicken Kabobs

Since this was a last-minute picnic, I tried to avoid doing a major shopping trip and used as much food as I had in my kitchen as possible. I remembered that I had a fair amount of dressing left over from that salad with beets and ruby red grapefruit that I made for my dinner party the prior week and figured it might make a good chicken marinade. It did and this chicken would also  be great thrown atop the salad if you decided to make the two dishes together. This is a really easy dish to make on a grill, grill pan, or my old stand-by, the George Foreman.

Make pomegranate marinade (see original post for more detail): Whisk together 1/3 – 1/2 C pomegranate juice, ~1T sugar, 6T orange-flavored olive oil, and salt, and taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Cut 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks. Soak in marinade in fridge for at least 2 hours.

Thread onto bamboo skewers (I put 4 chunks per skewer and made a dozen skewers, putting a beet on the end of each) and grill a few minutes on each side until fully cooked.

Pomegranate chicken kabobs on the "grill"

I let the kabobs cool a bit before packing them up in an rinsed out salad container for easy transport the next day (I was still hoping for nice weather, and my wish was granted).

These kabobs were a favorite of Mo’s — Jamie and Brad’s toddler — as he wandered around the mini Japanese zen park down the street from my place, navigating the huge “upside-down wok” and fake grass (that we were happy to discover does not seem to retain rain water from previous nights).  They were also a hit with Lola, Dani’s puppy, who kept sniffing at our licked-clean skewers after gobbling up the one chunk that slipped through Mo’s fingers.

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