Saturday, July 30, 2011

Drink Tea in the Sun (Just Don't Brew it)

I really like the idea of sun tea. The flavors are different than when you make the tea with boiling water, a little softer and more nuanced. It's appealing in the summer when their is plenty of summer sun, and is a great excuse not to turn on the stove. Last but definitely not least it is a great excuse to sit around with friends on the porch drinking iced tea. Right?

Unfortunately, I have to admit that sun tea isn't quite as effortless and forgiving as it sounds. First of all some types of tea aren't very good for sunning. Like the kind I made a couple of weeks ago. The flavor just didn't work, it really needed the extra oomph that comes from using hot water.

Also, apparently the process of making sun tea provides the perfect environment for growing potentially harmful bacteria. Ick. Refrigerator tea is recommended instead, or you can do as I have been doing which is just make a batch of hot tea and then either cool it in the refrigerator or chill it by pouring it over a bunch of ice.

Oh well, on the upside I think that my new bush tea might make some pretty fantastic iced tea.

Chilled Tea
Either method you choose you want a ratio of roughly 1 tsp tea to 1 cup of water, or 4-6 tea bags for a pitcher of water. (Also, you want to wash your vessel as well as possible in hot soapy water to sanitize it.)
Honey, sugar, lemon and mint sprigs or even a little milk are your choice, as is the variety of tea.

The options are endless. Unfortunately, the refreshment is temporary.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Repeat Offender

One of the best ways to stretch pennies is to make the same thing a couple of times in a row. Did you buy an enormous head of cabbage for a recipe that only called for a scant 3-4 cups? Don't make one salad a leave the rest in the back of the fridge until it is rotten! Make three! Just make sure it is a really good salad. Like the one I posted earlier this week...

After you've savored your salad, take a look at a couple of articles from this week's New York times dining section. The first, by Melissa Clark, features her recipe for a nectarine cobbler-cake. See? I'm not crazy in my preference for Nectarines! I can't wait to try it.

The article on stem-to-root cooking also caught my eye. All those who thought I was crazy to make a dish of chard stalks think again! Apparently I am ahead of the Times...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

More is More

I am realizing that when I started making popsicles this summer I was making the fruit, citrus and simple syrup variety. Then I also made a delicious pudding pop, which I am working on perfecting. Then I started trying to minimize the sugar, and when I was making some smoothies with bananas recently that clicked for me. I love all these types! The lime pops are so refreshing, the pudding pops are rich and satisfying, and the banana-based popsicles are creamy, naturally sweetened, and taste as good as they make you feel. Plus you can just whip up a smoothie and freeze it. Easy, adaptable, and nutritious!

I did so with the last of this weeks nectarines and a ripe banana. Just a splash of orange juice later and we have a winner. It was sweeter and richer than my previous batch of nectarine popsicles, those where bright, light and tangy (and delicious), whereas these where practically indulgent (and without any added sugar).

Nectarana Popsicles
This makes approximately 6 1/4 cup capacity popsicles

1 ripe nectarine, sliced (peeling is optional)
1 ripe banana, sliced (peeling is not optional)
1/4 cup orange juice

Puree the nectarine and banana sliced with the help of the orange juice. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze. Drink any excess ( aka. mini smoothie!).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mayonnaise is Not Welcome Here

I really can't get on board with mayonnaise based salads in the summer. They are heavy, gloppy, greasy, and they definitely do not benefit by a couple of hours in the sun.

This aversion has left me with an empty spot in my summer repertoire: cabbage salad. Slaw is not something I want to make or eat, but I do want a good shredded cabbage salad. Cabbage is so crisp and crunchy, a little spicy, and treated right, it can be light, filling, and refreshing. Perfect for summer salads just as long as it is not bathed in a rich sauce that smothers it into limp, heavy, greasy submission.

Lots of recipes call for salting shredded cabbage, which pulls the moisture out and makes it more pliable and relaxed. While this is perfect for a fish taco topping, I find that fresh chopped cabbage is much more vibrant.

When I saw a recipe posted on I made that! for a cabbage peanut salad I knew I had to try it. A base of freshly chopped red and green cabbage is festooned with shredded carrots, chopped scallions, sliced red bell peppers, a showering of cilantro and a handful of peanuts. Everything is then baptized with a savory-spicy peanut dressing generously spiked with fresh ginger, garlic, and jalapeno. My kind of cabbage salad.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get my hands on a copy of the book from which the original recipe came, Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes. My local library seems to have lost their copy. However, that did not stop me from altering the recipe to suit my needs and taste. First of all I made a small batch, enough for a dinner for two, or perhaps as a side for four. Then I lightened up the dressing a little bit, cutting down a little on the fat and sugar, as I am prone to do. Another reason this is great for summer is that it doesn't require any heat besides what it gets from the hot pepper. All it takes is a little bit of elbow grease to get all the vegetables chopped. What you end up with is a perfect mix of bright crunchy vegetables and savory peanut sauce. My boyfriend aptly described it as a spring roll salad.

Not Your Average Slaw
Adapted from Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes (& Look I made that!)
Enough for 2 full meals, or 4-6 sides

3 cups shredded green cabbage
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 small red bell pepper, sliced into matchsticks
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/4-1/2 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, roasted or toasted

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (mine was seasoned)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 + tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 -1 jalapeno or serrano chile, finely chopped (use type and amount based on heat preference, I used a whole serrano)
1 tablespoon hot water

Mix the ingredients for the dressing together, stirring in the hot water last, it should help thin the dressing and should also help make the peanut butter creamy. When you are ready to eat, mix the vegetables together and then toss them with the dressing. Dive in!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bananas for Popsicles

I tried making a batch of "iced tea" popsicles last week and they did not turn out well. No amount of lemon and honey could save their watery sadness. I had such high hopes too.

After an appropriate mourning period I tried something completely different. Because my previously water based popsicles had treated me so poorly I was excited to try a different base that I had not previously employed (although is by no means an unusual choice). Banana! Popsicles come in many forms, but I think one of the easiest and most rewarding are those that employ the banana. The familiarity of making a smoothie-like concoction and then simply taking the extra step to freeze it makes this type of popsicle a little less recipe, and a little more intuitive.

For my version, I pulled out all the stops in an attempt to achieve a rich, creamy, chocolate-y but not overwhelmingly unhealthy recipe. I saw a post on apartment therapy about banana-Nutella ice cream, and since my boyfriend is going through a very serious Nutella phase (and I am a long time fan of bananas with Nutella), I thought I couldn't go wrong with the combination for popsicles. From there I added some cocoa powder to punch up the chocolate, and a splash of milk to help with liquification. A pinch of salt and we were in business.

These are indeed creamy, banana-y, chocolate-y, and both indulgent and not (in the best way possible).

Bananutella Chocsicles
Makes 6 1/4 cup capacity popsicles

2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup milk
pinch salt
2 Tablespoons Nutella
4 teaspoons cocoa powder

Blend all of the ingredients together, pour into popsicle molds and wait until completely frozen.

Meanwhile lick the Nutella off of the measuring spoons. Waste not want not, right?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mystery Monday: A Full Cupboard of Tea

This weeks Mystery Monday is a recipe for a mini break, facilitated by a simple cup of tea. I have been reading The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, and they are best suited (in my opinion) for summer reading. They are so simple, and describe such a quiet non-modern-American lifestyle that reading them is like a psychological vacation. Plus the books take place in Botswana, and with the weather we have been having it seems appropriate to read about a country that is so defined by the relentlessly glaring sun.

If you are at all familiar with the books you will know that the lead detective, Mma Ramotswe, is a devoted tea drinker. She drinks tea constantly, both alone and with friends, family, clients, and strangers. She drinks tea in the morning. She drinks tea in the afternoon heat. Tea puts people at ease, is for reflecting, sharing, and just for the simple enjoyment of drinking. But regardless of the people with whom she is drinking, or why, their is one unchangeable constant, and that is Mma Ramotswe's unswaying dedication to the traditional African Red Bush tea.

Apparently, according to the shelves of my local Whole Foods, Red Bush tea (also seemingly called rooibos) is being heavily pushed in America for it's health benefits. Unfortunately, many of the varieties I found promised complicated spice mixes and high prices. I really wanted something simple, straightforward, and affordable. I ended up with a version from Tazo, which although not cheap, recommended itself by pairing the Red Bush with hibiscus and citrus which sounded much lighter and preferable to the notes of ginger and cinnamon promised by others. All in all the tea was fine, if a little difficult to define, but in the end it is more about the process of slowing down, drinking your cup accompanied either by a book, a friend, or your thoughts.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I really like cheese. Salty, tangy, stinky and otherwise. It's expensive (and rich), so I try to eat it in moderation and when I do indulge I try to make it count. That means sharp cheddar, not mild, and fresh ricotta, not store-bought.

Everyday I make a sandwich with cheddar cheese on it. Normally I just toast the bread, but today I melted the cheese too, and I was surprised at what a difference it made. While my normal sandwiches taste wholesome, this version tasted rich and a little bit sinful.

I am always surprised, perhaps because I mostly eat cold sliced cheese, by the difference that melting makes. Obviously it changes the texture and taste of the cheese, but it also invariably changes the way that I perceive the cheese in terms of it's decadence. A crisp slice of cheddar seems like a healthy, judicious snack choice, whereas if it were melted it would definitely fall into the too-rich, too-greasy, bad decision category. Maybe it's because melted cheese is so inextricably linked with unhealthy meals. Cheeseburgers, butter-fried grilled cheese sandwiches, nachos, fondu. Not exactly heart-healthy.

Still, it's surprising how much a temperature change can affect an ingredient, and of course, everything it is used in. I should just appreciate the fact that my sandwich is healthy either way, it's just my perception of it that changes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Weighty Issues

My parents gifted me with a kitchen scale for my birthday in March, and I have finally begun using it in earnest. It was not something that I had on my mind as completely necessary, but I recently found a spot for it to stay out on a ledge in my kitchen, available for use day and night, so I thought I would give it a try.

It is so useful. I never knew how many things that I wished I could have weighed before.

Recipes from abroad with measurements all in grams? Now I can make them! And without any complicated guesswork.

Weighing fruit for baking recipes rather than having to approximate with cups? So easy!

Baking using weights instead of multiple measuring cups? DONE.

It turns out, using a kitchen scale for baking is actually really helpful. Not only is it more accurate, but it is also really simple and can cut down on the number of dishes to clean. I used a small bowl to measure out all of my ingredients separately, dumping them into my mixing bowl as I went. In the end I was left with a few dirty spoons, 2 bowls, 1 baking sheet and 18 golden & deliciously honeyed homemade graham crackers.

Now all I need to work on is my technique. Some of my cookies puffed up, and others stayed very neat and small. (Personally I like the ones that puffed best, even though they weren't supposed to do so).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Perfect Cherry

Last week I bought a large bag of cherries. They were on sale (under two dollars a pound!). It seemed too good to be true, and perhaps it was. They were so beautiful, and I was so proud. But then I tried one, and it wasn't very good. I decided that they would be better used in a recipe rather than eaten out of hand, so I decided to go ahead and pit them all in preparation. Even though it is tedious work, I really don't mind pitting. My version involves slicing the cherries in half and popping the pit out with my thumb. It also involves frequent quality assurance taste tests, which brings me to the point of this post.

The overwhelming majority of the cherries were disappointingly bland. Hidden amongst them, however, were a couple of amazingly perfect, shockingly delicious cherries. Just knowing that I might come across another one, I would have happily tasted my way through pound upon pound of mediocre fruit. It is that joy that comes from finding something extraordinarily good, or special, that is, I think, the reason why so many people cook, for themselves and for others: never losing our ability to marvel when we come across something as simple as a perfect piece of fruit, and never giving up the search for ways to re-create it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


As I mentioned in a previous post, I have accumulated a bowl full of nectarines. I ate my way through the majority quickly, stirred into my hot cereal, sliced up as an afternoon snack, and baked into a peach & nectarine cobbler. However, a few lingerers needed a swift and different fate, preservation in the form of nectarine-lime popsicles.

I was very disappointed in my attempt at peach popsicles, which may be one of the reasons I have been shunning them. They were just really hum drum and dull. Not as utterly horrible as the white wine and strawberry popsicles that I made, but definitely nothing to write home about.

So I sold out the peach for nectarines, hoping that their stronger, more assertive flavor would be able to survive the freezing process. I added more zing with a healthy dose of fresh lime juice, and sweetened the deal with as little sugar as I thought I could get away with. I even left the skin on for flavor, color, and antioxidants.

Move over peach-pop, the nectarinesicles are here to stay.

Nectarine Ice Pops
Makes 6 small 1/4 cup capacity popsicles

2 medium nectarines, pitted and roughly chopped (peeling is optional)
3 teaspoons sugar
Juice of 1/2 - 1 lime (to taste)
1/2 cup water

Boil water in a tea kettle. Put the sugar in a teacup and pour 1/2 cup water over it, then stir it until the water dissolves. Alternatively you could make a simple syrup in a small pan on the stove. Pour the sugar water over the nectarines and add the juice of 1/2 a lime. Using an immersion blender, or any other tool you prefer, blend the ingredients until smooth. Taste the mixture and add more lime juice if desired. Pour into the popsicle molds and freeze.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mystery Monday: P is for Peanut Butter and Pickles

Today is the debut of my new Mystery Monday series, in which I will share a recipe inspired by the favorite foods of my favorite detectives.

The first comes from Sue Grafton's alphabet mystery novels, in which her single, plucky heroine lives off of a steady diet of fast food, white wine, baked goods from her landlord, and hungarian delicacies from the restaurant down the street. When she does "cook" for herself, though, Kinsey invariably turns to a childhood favorite: peanut butter pickle sandwiches. Being a lover of all things salty, and intrigued by the moans that this sandwich tends to generate in the books, I decided to take the plunge and try it for myself.

This is a recipe best eaten solo. It's a little weird, a tiny bit indulgent, and surprisingly tasty.

Peanut Butter Pickle Sandwich
Serves 1

2 slices of wheat bread
peanut butter
pickles (I used homemade bread and butter pickles)

I toasted the bread, but that is entirely optional. Spread the peanut butter on one slice of bread, then arrange a generous layer of pickles on top of the peanut butter. Top with the second piece of bread. Lick the peanut butter knife clean, and preferably use a napkin instead of a plate. A glass of chilled Chardonnay is not required, but is recommended.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Easier than Pie

I love peaches, but I think I might love nectarines a tiny bit more. While nothing beats a perfectly ripe peach, I don't think I've ever had a really bad nectarine. And when peaches aren't good they can be really bad. I love the bite of nectarines too. Tangy and firm, they are reliably delicious.

I cooked some into a peach cobbler last week and I almost wished I had used all nectarines. Their strong flavor dominated over that of the more delicate peaches. After several disappointing peach hauls, I found myself with a bowl-full of nectarines at home this weekend, so I decided to try something I had seen in The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. In the book, Scott describes his childhood favorite: sliced sugared peaches in milk. Simple and delicious.

I love recipes that call for so few ingredients. No room for distractions.

Nectarines in Milk
Adapted from Scott Peacock's Peaches in Milk
Serves 2

2 nectarine
1/2 tsp sugar, divided

Slice the nectarine and divide the slices in two small bowls or some pretty cups. Sprinkle each with 1/4 teaspoon of sugar, and pour cold milk over the fruit (not so much that the fruit is covered).
Quickly devour, making up for all the time you didn't spend eating this growing up.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Spicy Hot, Tofu Edition

It's always great to stretch a recipe into several meals. It's even better when the stretching saves you time, money, and provides you with delicious variations, making you love your original recipe even more.

Tofu. It's cheap, it's bland, it's not very exciting. The chipotle sauce from Gourmet's Caramelized Chipotle Chicken, on the other hand, is loud, spicy, and assertive. Match made in heaven.

Personally, I actually like the tofu version better. It's just all about the spicy delicious sauce, tempered just enough by the mild smoothness of the tofu.
Chipotle Caramelized Tofu
Adapted from Gourmet

1/2 batch of sauce from the recipe for Caramelized Chipotle Chicken (see preceding post)
1 standard sized container of tofu (I used medium firm)

Pre-heat the oven to 450
Slice tofu into quarters, place in a small/medium pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a simmer, and remove from heat. Carefully remove the tofu from the water. Slice the pieces into smaller pieces, I sliced each piece into thirds lengthwise. Arrange the slices of tofu in the bottom of a small baking dish, and spread the sauce evenly over the top. Bake for 25 minutes.
Serve with rice and a big glass of cold water.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Spicy Hot

I have a little bit of a problem. I'm a serial recipe clipper, copier, and searcher. It all started with Gourmet Magazine. I got one issue and I was hooked. I wanted to make everything. I flagged half of the recipes. I have since branched out, devouring magazines, cookbooks, and blogs, but Gourmet still holds a special place. I remember the first recipe I tried from the magazine, and how thrilling it was to have in my kitchen a real version of what I saw on the page.
What am I looking for when I scour the recipe books? The one. It is because of recipe's like Gourmet's Caramelized Chipotle Chicken that I believe that these recipes are out there. Dishes that I will make again and again and again.
Out of my towering stack of recipe clippings, there are perhaps a handful of these recipes, waiting to be found.
This one, spicy, tangy, savory, a little sweet, very garlicky, sticky and addictive is not to be overlooked.
Caramelized Chipotle Chicken*
From Gourmet

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil**
8+ large garlic cloves, thinly sliced (about 1/2 a cup)
1 Large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo (about 1/2 of a 7-ounce can)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 whole chickens* (about 3 1/2 lb each), each cut into 8 pieces

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the garlic, stirring, until it is golden, then transfer it with a slotted spoon (or a fork) to a plate. Turn the heat down to medium, and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes.
Add the garlic back into the skillet with the onions, along with the remaining ingredients, except the chicken. Add 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 25 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 450.
Coat the chicken with half of the sauce, then roast, skin side up for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with the rest of the sauce, then continue roasting the chicken until it is fully cooked, and well browned in spots, an additional 20-25 minutes.
I recommend serving this with rice, brown or white, along with a handful of napkins.

*This sauce can also bypass the chicken and be eaten straight out of the skillet. I often make a full batch of the sauce and use half of it on one whole chicken, and then use the rest on tofu (which is delicious).
**I cut it down to 2 tablespoons.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bright Brown Rice

A recipe in Bon Appetite for sesame-cilantro rice caught my eye a while ago. Sesame seeds! Cilantro! Fresh Ginger! Scallions! Sign me up. But when I looked a little closer I was less thrilled - 2 tablespoons of different oils to fry the green onions? No thanks.

I nixed the oil, substituted brown rice for the white, and was completely satisfied with the result. The recipe has you cook the rice with a piece of peeled fresh ginger, which is a great trick. It perfumes the rice ever so slightly, giving it a fresh complexity. The combination of brown rice and toasted sesame seeds emphasized the inherent nuttiness of each. Brown rice can be a little hot and heavy for summer meals, and the addition of bright fresh herbs gave it the lightness it needed.

I really like brown rice. I like the way it tastes, I like it's nutritiousness, but I especially like the fact that I now have an easy, healthy, and light way to make brown rice exciting. I can imagine this being paired with some steak, grilled chicken, or even packed up as part of a picnic basket.

Sesame-Cilantro Brown Rice
Inspired by Bon Appetite
Serves 2

1/2 cup brown rice
1 peeled 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil, add the brown rice, ginger, and a pinch of salt. Cover the pot, bring back to a boil and then turn the heat down low and simmer for 45 minutes.

When the rice is done check to make sure there is no water left at the bottom of the pan by tilting it. Let the rice sit off the heat for a few minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork. Add the toasted sesame seeds, cilantro and green onions. Stir to combine. Eat.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Leaf to Love

With my reserved chard leaves burning a hole in my refrigerator, I had to finally break down and turn the stove on. While a hot meal on a hot day cooked in a hot kitchen is something I've been trying to avoid this summer, the mountain of chard in my fridge was wanted to be part of something warm, rustic, and wholesome. Grilling just wasn't going to cut it (and freezing was out of the question).

What I came up with was this: white bean chard stew. By keeping it light and simple it really didn't seem summer inappropriate. I think that a rich and heavy stew might not have been such a good idea, but this one really hit the spot. It takes a little time, although it would take a lot less if you used canned beans, but it was actually very easy and since I chopped the vegetables after I started cooking the beans it ended up coming together fairly quickly. All said and done, the stew was a delicious, healthy, and bright way to enjoy some summer produce. Oh, and the chard was the best part. Earthy and vibrant.
White Beans and Chard
Feeds 2 hungry people
1 cup dry white beans, or two cups cooked white beans
bay leaf
1 tsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2 medium carrots
1 large celery stalk
1/2 an onion
15 oz can of diced tomatoes
4 cups of swiss chard leaves

Cover the beans with water and bring to a boil, once the beans are boiling add a bay leaf, one of the garlic cloves (peeled, whole) and some salt (1/2 - 1 tsp), and turn the heat down so that it remains at a light simmer.
Cut the onion, 2 remaining garlic cloves, carrots and celery in a large dice. In a separate medium sized pot heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and onions along with a pinch of salt and cook for several minutes over medium heat, stirring. Turn the heat down if the mixture begins to brown. Then add the carrots and celery and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the can of diced tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer. Turn the heat down, keeping the tomatoes at a low simmer, stirring occasionally.
Depending on whether or not you soaked the beans they will take 45 minutes to an hour to cook, so at this point just let everything simmer away until the beans are tender. This is a good time to prepare your chard leaves. Make sure to wash them really well, then rip or chop them into manageable pieces (I ripped them into 2 inch squares).
When the beans are tender, drain them and add them to the vegetables, along with the garlic clove (but not the bay leaf). Stir the mixture well, and add the chard leaves stirring the hot mixture over the leaves then putting the lid on the pot. After a few minutes the chard should wilt down substantially and all you need to do is season to taste with salt and pepper and dig in.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Stalk to Stem

Today one of my boyfriend's co-workers brought some of her excess garden bounty to share. There was the ubiquitous zucchini, enormous spiky cucumbers, and a huge bunch of red chard. I snagged the chard.

I really never cook chard. While I have fully embraced kale, I haven't quite surpassed the memories of the limp bitter steamed chard of my childhood. It's not that I don't want to try recipes with chard, actually I really do. Like the chard and ricotta tart from David Tanis' cookbook. I just don't want it steamed.
I think one of the reasons I have not cooked with chard sooner is because it is really cemented in my mind as something that you get from someone's garden, not the grocery store. I think that's one of the reasons I jumped on it so quickly today.
Once you get your hands on some chard, by garden or by store, you should not steam it. It's a lot like spinach, but one of it's special attributes is its thick stalk, which in this case was a bright pinky red, as thick and colorful as rhubarb. Unlike kale, which has a thin but tough stem that is discarded, chard's stem doesn't need to be wasted. Unfortunately, because the leaves and stem need to be treated differently, many recipes call for using just the leaves.
So I found a recipe that uses just the stalks! Who knew chard stalks could be addictive? In this case, chard is literally charred on the grill, then mixed with garlicky olive oil, and doused with lemon juice.
Grilled Rainbow Chard with Fava Beans and Oregano
Adapted from Gourmet

2 lbs Swiss chard (leaves removed from the stalks and reserved for another use)
1 cup shelled fava beans, or shelled edamame*
1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped oregano*
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

First blanch the chard stalks. Cut the stalks in half crosswise and cook them in a pot of salted boiling water until just tender (3 to 5 minutes). As soon as they are done cooking, transfer the stalks to a bowl of ice water until they are cool, then move them to a plate.

Cook the beans in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then transfer them to the same ice bath previously used for the chard. If you are using fava beans, peel the skins off.

Toss the chard stems with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Grill them over a medium-hot grill until they are tender and lightly charred (around 7 minutes). Slice the chard into inch long pieces.

Cook the garlic in 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, over medium heat until just pale golden. Add oregano, beans, and chard, and cook for 1 additional minute. Transfer to a serving dish and stir in the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
*I skipped the fava beans and oregano because I didn't have any on hand, but I think that the addition of beans especially would have helped round out the recipe. I also think that white beans might be a nice addition as well.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Freezing Summer

Strawberries don't last very long but neither do strawberry sales. If, for example, you were to get carried away and buy more strawberries than you could ever possibly eat* before half of them became a moldy disgusting mess in the hot summer heat, you might want to figure out a way to save some for later enjoyment. Of course you could make jam, but that is hot and sticky work and summer is already hot and sticky enough. The other option is to freeze, which is probably both the easiest and coolest solution.
To ensure that you preserve your strawberries to their fullest potential, it's a good idea to gently wash your berries, dry them very gently, and the lay them out on a baking sheet or a pie dish and let them freeze individually before packing them into a heavy ziplock bag to await their future use. Obviously if fresh strawberries are what you want then freezing strawberries is not the answer, but if you aren't going to be able to eat them when they are at their peak then freezing them so that you can use them in a recipe later is a good way to go. Nothing makes me sadder than throwing out once beautiful fruit because it has gone past its prime. If you freeze your precious ripe fruit, you do want to take the time to do it correctly. You don't want to save your fresh fruit from the trash only to have to throw away a freezer-burned icy mass of unusable frozen fruit.
*My personal experience points to strawberry consumption topping out at 1 pound per person per day. Any more leads to extreme strawberry exhaustion and may result in nausea and never wanting to eat another strawberry.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lime Popsicle to the Rescue

Like anything in life too much of a good thing can eventually leave you a little numb to its specialness, or in this case deliciousness. While I could eat strawberry popsicles, or a number of other exciting flavors, in an endless nightly rotation, I find that punctuating the more unique flavors with what I like to think of as a popsicle palate cleanser helps me to appreciate the showier, more expensive, more time consuming, and more obscure recipes. Lime Popsicle to the rescue!
Lime popsicles are pretty much the easiest, yummiest, thriftiest, most refreshing of popsicles. The great thing about lime pops is that not only do they themselves taste fantastic, but they are even capable of making you realize how great the other flavors of popsicles you have eating previously or subsequently. For example, I started to get a little jaded regarding the deliciousness of my strawberry popsicles after eating them three nights straight, but when I mixed it up and ate a snappy refreshing lime pop I suddenly appreciated the strawberry in ways I had not previously been able to. How had I not realized how smooth and almost creamy it was? Or how densely strawberry-y? But this is not about the strawberry popsicles.

You can't go wrong with lime popsicles. A couple of limes, not too much sugar, and some water and you are set. Now all you need is a beach and a big sun hat.

Lime Popsicle
I started with a recipe from Paletas, but I found that the lime zest used in the original recipe gave the popsicles an overwhelmingly bitter bite. Also, I prefer the flavor of regular large limes over that of the small mexican limes recommended, which I again found to be a little too bitter for my liking. Three batches later and I'm happy with a simplified and perhaps Americanized version.

Makes 6 tiny 1/4 cup capacity popsicles

1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

Mix the water and sugar in a small saucepan, and put it over medium heat. Bring the sugar water to a boil and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Mix the freshly squeezed lime juice with the cool sugar water and pour into your popsicle molds.

Go to sleep and hope that it is hot enough in the morning to justify eating a popsicle for breakfast.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Garlicky Jalapeno Burgers

Before my nightly popsicle, I have to eat dinner. Lately that has meant a lot of grilling. Mostly grilled pizzas and hamburgers. The first batch of burgers we made was a little boring. So to spice up the next batch we mixed the meat with chopped shallots, garlic and a jalapeno pepper. A splash of worcestershire sauce, a good pinch of salt, and a grind of fresh pepper later and our burgers were far from boring. Juicy, a little spicy, and very meaty.

Garlicky Jalapeno Burgers
Serves two

2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp shallot or onion
1/2 jalapeno
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
8-10 ounces 15% fat ground beef (Depending on how big of a burger you want)
Cheddar cheese (optional)
Hamburger Buns

Turn the grill on and pre-heat!
Finely chop the garlic, shallot/onion & jalapeno, and mix into the ground meat along with the worcestershire sauce, a good pinch of salt and a healthy grind of pepper. You want to mix the ingredients thoroughly, but try not to overwork the meat! Halve the meat and shape into patties, making them thinner in the middle than around the edges.
Grill the burgers to your desired doneness. Don't forget to toast the buns also. If you want a cheeseburger then melt some cheddar cheese on top. Boyfriend Tip: grill the tops of the buns on both sides to toast the sesame seeds on top (if there are any).

Eat up!