Green Bean Salad with Tomatoes and Olives

We started growing Romano beans a few years ago and, although they don’t give as large a yield as the purple green beans, they are sweet and delicious and my favorite variety in the yard. This salad is made with a mix of speckled Romano beans and some purple green beans. You can use whatever variety of bean is available to you. It’s a light and refreshing way to use summer produce.

Green Bean Salad with Tomatoes and Olives
1 lb. green beans or Romano beans, trimmed
1 c. chopped fresh tomatoes
1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c. pitted Kalamata olives or another variety, halved
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. dried Greek oregano or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Garnish with fresh chopped basil and parsley (optional)

Fill a 4-quart pot with water and bring to a boil. Add some salt and add the green beans. Bring back to the boil and cook about 7 minutes until crisp tender. Drain and run beans under cold water to stop the cooking process. Let beans drain then place them in a serving bowl. To the beans add tomatoes which have been sprinkled with salt, red onion and olives. Mix. Add garlic, oil, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Chill for 30 minutes or longer. Garnish with fresh herbs if desired. Serves 6.

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Grilled Citrus Herb Chicken

July has been hot this year, but the positive side of the heat is the ripening of garden and local produce. We grill often during the summer months and this citrus herb chicken is a family favorite. We are a dark meat family and I am a fan of boneless, skinless chicken thighs that cook quickly and stay moist. Rather than marinate the meat before grilling, we dip the hot grilled chicken in an herb and olive oil bath, then let it sit for a few minutes to absorb the flavors. It’s a perfect summer meal accompanied by fresh corn, Italian tomato salad, a bit of artisanal bread to dip into the chicken and tomato juices, some grilled eggplant, and zucchini, along with a ripe melon for dessert. Enjoy!

Grilled Citrus Herb Chicken
12-15 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
sprinkle of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder

Citrus Herb Bath
1 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped herbs – rosemary, sage, parsley, basil and chives
1 tsp. dried Greek oregano
1 tsp. Za’atar or dried thyme to taste
1 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat grill on high to around 400 degrees. Sprinkle both sides of each chicken thigh with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Place meat on the grill and turn grill temperature down to medium. Close lid and let chicken cook for 7-10 minutes until the meat is partially cooked through. Turn chicken thighs over and with the lid up continue grilling 5-7 minutes longer until done. While the chicken is grilling combine the ingredients for the citrus herb bath and whisk until mixed. Pour herb bath into a glass pie plate. As soon as the chicken is cooked, take off the grill and immediately dip each piece in the herb bath on both sides. Transfer the meat to a serving platter. When all the chicken has been dipped, pour most of the remaining herb bath over the chicken and let it sit 5-10 minutes. Plan on 2-3 thighs per person. Serves 6-7.

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French Raspberry Custard Tart

This is my sister’s recipe and a family favorite. My daughter requests it for all special occasions. It can also be made with strawberries, which we will often have for Easter, and is delicious with blueberries as well.

Dough
1-2/3 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
zest of half a large lemon
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 c. cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a food processor combine flour, sugar, lemon zest and salt. Pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse until butter is pea-sized. It should take 5-7 pulses. In a small bowl combine egg and vanilla and mix lightly with a fork. Add to flour mixture and pulse until a crumbly dough just begins to come together. Remove dough from food processor bowl and turn onto the counter. Bring dough together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface, into a round disk and fit into an 9- or 10-inch tart pan. Resist the urge to add too much flour to the dough while rolling. Bake the tart dough for 20 minutes or until golden and baked through. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack.

Custard and Fruit
4 c. light cream
1/2 c. granulated sugar
8 egg yolks
3-1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
pinch of fine salt
4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 c. apricot jam
2-3 c. fresh raspberries or sliced strawberries

In a saucepan combine the light cream and 2 Tbsp. sugar from the 1/2 c. sugar. Bring to a simmer. In a separate bowl whisk together egg yolks, remaining sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add 1/4 c. hot cream mixture to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Return the egg mixture to the saucepan full of hot cream and continue cooking until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove custard from the stove and pour through a sieve into a bowl. Once the custard is strained, add the vanilla and cover with plastic wrap directly onto the custard surface. Chill several hours until cold.

Assembly: Melt the apricot jam on the stove until syrupy. Strain and set aside. Spoon cold custard into the pre-baked tart shell. Place the raspberries onto the custard. Brush the fruit with the warm and strained apricot jam. Serves 8-10.

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Broccoli with Caper Vinaigrette

This is one of my favorite ways to prepare broccoli, and makes a great side dish to take to a barbecue, since you can eat it warm or cool. The caper vinaigrette provides a nice tangy contrast. Feel free to add a few more capers if you want a more intensely briny flavor. The vinaigrette also works well with steamed cauliflower.

Broccoli with Caper Vinaigrette
1/2-1 lb. broccoli, stems trimmed
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped

Steam broccoli in a metal steamer until crisp tender. It should take about 7 minutes. In a frying pan heat olive oil and add garlic. Sauté garlic 1-2 minutes until golden. Add broccoli and stir to coat with oil and garlic. Cover and let cook for 5 minutes. Place in a serving bowl and drizzle with caper vinaigrette. Toss. Serves 4.

Caper Vinaigrette
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed

Combine all ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour over broccoli.

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Red Gooseberry and Raspberry Fool

Today is my blog’s third anniversary. I have so enjoyed posting my favorite holiday and seasonal produce recipes. There is still much to write about and I look forward to more years of sharing our food and garden updates.

The garden is thriving. The peas are now finished and I picked the last of the fava beans yesterday. The artichokes were sweet and delicious this season. We had about a dozen from just one plant. We picked the first sweet eggplants and some Romano and purple beans and lots of raspberries. We planted a start of Finnish Hinnomaki red gooseberries from a neighbor’s yard about 5 years ago, along with a red currant. Those starts are now thriving plants. We picked at least a gallon of red currants that I will use for jelly and, for the first time, we got enough red gooseberries to make the English summer dessert, gooseberry fool. For those unfamiliar with fool, it is a dish made with cooked fruit folded into fresh whipped cream and sometimes custard. Since custard and fresh fruit are among my favorite desserts I thought I would share my version of fool with you.

There are three steps to this recipe, but they can be undertaken separately. You can cook the fruit a day or two before you need it, and do the same with the custard, which is terrific on its own and can be used with folded-in whipped cream for other desserts in addition to this fool.

It seems that red gooseberries have slightly tougher skins than green varieties. Our garden raspberries are delicious but a bit seedy, so for this recipe I cooked the fruit and then strained it, using the fruit syrup to flavor the custard and cream. If you do not have access to gooseberries you can make this fool with raspberries alone.

Red Gooseberry and Raspberry Fool
Custard
5 large egg yolks
1/2 c. vanilla granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
pinch of kosher salt
2 c. whole milk or 1-3/4 c. 2% milk and 1/4 c. heavy cream
1/2-1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl combine egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk to mix. Set aside. Pour milk into a saucepan, then scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the milk and add the bean. Bring to a simmer, then slowly whisk about 3/4 c. of the hot milk mixture into the eggs. Return the egg mixture to the heated milk in the saucepan and gently whisk on low heat until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and pour custard in a bowl to cool, keeping the vanilla bean in the custard as it cools to add flavor. Add vanilla extract. Cover the surface of the custard directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool.

Fruit Mixture
1-1/2 c. red gooseberries, trimmed
1/2 c. fresh raspberries, rinsed
1/2 c. sugar

Place fruit and sugar in a saucepan. Cook on medium heat until the mixture boils. Use a fork to mash the gooseberries. Continue boiling for 10 minutes, stirring often until the mixture is thick and jam-like. Strain the mixture over a glass measuring cup. You should have 2/3 cup of fruit syrup. Let cool to room temperature.

Whipped Cream
3/4 c. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar

Whip cream and sugar together until the cream forms soft, thick peaks.

To Assemble: Begin by removing the vanilla bean from the cooled custard. Mix the custard with a spoon to lighten. Gently fold one quarter of the whipped cream into the custard, then add the remaining cream, folding carefully but not completely. Slowly add the fruit syrup, folding gently, until the syrup and whipped cream are fully incorporated. Spoon into individual ramekins or a medium-size serving bowl. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with berries if desired. Serves 4-6.

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Posted in Custards, Desserts, Fruit | 2 Comments

Roasted Bing Cherry and Ricotta Crostini, Roasted Strawberry and Ricotta Crostini

I wait all year long for the local cherry season to begin and, now that it is here, I usually buy more than I need. I started roasting fruit as a way to preserve it before it begins to turn. Roasting fruit brings out its natural sweetness, and I particularly love roasted Bing cherries as well as roasted strawberries. The fruit softens as it roasts and the sugar forms a lovely sweet syrup around the fruit. For our annual 4th of July block party I made roasted Bing cherry ricotta crostini and roasted strawberry ricotta crostini. They received rave reviews, so if you are looking for appetizer ideas for a summer barbecue, try this.

A note on pitting cherries: I have a cherry pitter, but I found an easy way to pit cherries without a tool. Place washed cherries on a half-sheet baking pan. Press the cherry down with the heel of your hand and the juice will release. Then smash the cherry slightly and the pit comes out easily. The juice mostly stays in the pan instead of splashing all over the kitchen. Just sprinkle the fruit with sugar and you are ready to roast. You can roast the fruit several days in advance and store in a jar in the refrigerator until needed.

Roasted Bing Cherry and Ricotta Crostini
3 c. pitted and halved Bing cherries
4 Tbsp. vanilla granulated sugar
1 (16 oz.) container fresh whole milk ricotta cheese (I use Trader Joe’s brand)
1/4-1/3 c. honey
zest of half a large orange
1 large baguette, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cherries and vanilla sugar together on a half sheet baking pan. Stir to mix well. Roast for 15 minutes until fruit is soft and syrupy but doesn’t fall apart, stir once or twice to keep fruit from sticking. Set aside while you make the ricotta spread and toast the baguette. In a bowl combine ricotta, honey, and orange zest. Mix well. Taste and adjust honey to your liking. Set aside. Place baguette slices on a half-sheet pan. Brush with extra virgin olive oil and broil for 2 minutes until toasted, or grill.

Assembly: Spread 1-2 tsp. ricotta mixture onto each toasted baguette. Top with 1 Tablespoon of roasted cherries or roasted strawberries. Serves 8-10.

For Roasted Strawberries: stem and slice 24 strawberries, sprinkle with 4 Tbsp. vanilla sugar. Stir to mix. Roast at 375 degrees for 15 minutes until fruit is soft and syrupy but not falling apart. Assemble as you would the Bing cherry and ricotta crostini.

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Black Mulberry Syrup

One recent evening my husband and I were reminiscing about our childhood summers and the things we remember most fondly about them. For him, it was their family cabin in Idaho where the smell of the fresh-cooked fish they caught from local streams and the fresh berries they foraged bring back very happy memories. For me, besides the ocean and suntan lotion, it was the smell and taste of fresh local New Jersey produce: fresh, sweet, juicy strawberries that we picked at a friend’s farm on our hands and knees, the first taste of a ripe Jersey tomato, and the silver queen corn that dripped down our chins as we chomped on the hot cobs.

My maternal aunts and uncles fondly recalled the summer ritual of gathering mulberries from the tree at Cousin Saliedda’s house. As soon as the berries were ripe, Saliedda called the family over to help harvest the fruit. The family spread a big sheet on the ground at the base of the tree and the children, using sticks, knocked the tree until the berries fell onto the sheet. The berries were sweet and delicious. I am not sure what was left by the time the children had eaten their share, but once the fruit was gathered everyone was invited into the house for Saliedda’s famously tender, light homemade fettuccine with marinara sauce. Happy memories.

Eventually, the mulberry tree died and so did Cousin Saliedda. No one thought to write down Saliedda’s recipe for the tender pasta. Growing up, I had heard the story of the mulberry tree from my aunts and uncles but no one I knew had a tree, so I was not familiar with the intense and rich mulberry flavor that my relatives were so fond of. Now, as an adult, I am fortunate enough to live where there are a number of mulberry trees. You can tell they are ripe in June and July as there are berries and stained sidewalks at the base of the tree. My husband and I have been gathering both white and black mulberries. We particularly love the black mulberries for their blueberry-blackberry, complex earthy-grape overtones. We have been making this mulberry syrup and love the sweet, rich flavor. It is delicious on pancakes or waffles, and great with biscuits. It’s good poured over vanilla ice cream or used in panna cotta. It also is lovely as a cool and refreshing drink on hot summer days. Fill a glass with club soda and ice, stir in 1-2 Tablespoons of mulberry syrup, and enjoy!

Black Mulberry Syrup
9 c. black mulberries, rinsed
4 c. water
4 c. mulberry juice from the boiled berries
5 c. sugar
1 (3 oz.) pouch liquid pectin
7 (half-pint) jars that have been sterilized in the dishwasher

Begin by rinsing and carefully picking through the mulberries to remove any leaves or small twigs. Place fruit in a 5-quart stock pot. Add 4 c. water and bring to a boil. Use a potato masher to mash the berries to release their juice. Boil for 15-20 minutes. Pour hot berry mixture into a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Let juice drain. You want 4 cups of juice. If you have less, pour 1/2-3/4 cup of boiling water through the sieved fruit to make enough mulberry juice. It will take 30 minutes to sieve all the juice. While the berries are draining, fill a water bath canner with water and bring to a boil. Place lids in a small pot of water and bring to a boil. Rinse out the 5-quart pot and pour the 4 cups of juice back into the cleaned pot. Add the sugar and bring to a hard rolling boil, stirring constantly. This will take about 10 minutes. Hard boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and slowly add the liquid pectin, stirring constantly until the pectin dissolves. Pour syrup into the jars, leaving a 1/2″ space at the top. Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel and screw on lids. Water bath for 10 minutes at low altitude or 15 minutes at high altitude. Makes 7 (1/2 pint) jars.

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Potato and Fava Bean Salad

This variation on potato salad is a delicious alternative to mayonnaise-based salad. It is light and refreshing with the herbs, and uses fresh fava beans which are in season right now in our garden. It would make a nice salad to take to a 4th of July barbecue. You can adjust the proportion of fresh parsley and dill to suit your taste. If fresh fava beans are not available, you can use frozen favas or substitute fresh green beans.

Potato and Fava Bean Salad
6 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1-1/2 c. shelled fresh fava beans (peel after boiling)
2 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
3 Tbsp. minced red onion
3-4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
zest and juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill

In a 3-quart pot bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add 1/2 tsp. kosher salt to the water. Add the shelled fava beans and let boil 3-5 minutes until tender. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Peel the outer skin off the fava beans and set aside. In a 5-quart pot place cubed potatoes and cover with cold water. Add 2 tsp. kosher salt. Bring to a boil and boil potatoes for about 15 minutes until tender. Drain. In a large bowl place drained potatoes and drizzle with 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil. Add fava beans, eggs, and onion. Add the remaining olive oil, then the vinegar. Add lemon zest and juice. Toss. You may need more olive oil to moisten. Salt and pepper to taste. Add parsley and dill. Toss gently. Serves 6.

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Pasta with Crawfish Marinara

During the late spring and early summer months my husband will drive to a local reservoir and fish for crawfish. He usually comes home with several pounds that we cook in a variety of ways, but this recipe seems to be the family favorite. We leave the shell on the crawfish tail, which can be a bit messy to eat, but the flavor is delicious. There is a lot of debate whether to soak live crawfish in salted water to purge the mud and intestinal contents from their systems before cooking or just soak them in plain unsalted water. We purge them with a bit of salt, but that is your option. This marinara sauce can be used for other pasta dishes. It is good on its own, but also works well with vegetables and white fish such as cod. It is delicious with shrimp, crab, lobster, or stuffed squid.

Pasta with Crawfish Marinara
25 live crawfish (1-1/2 to 2 lbs.)
10 c. water
5 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. Zatarains liquid crab boil
1 large lemon, quartered

Begin by purging live crawfish. Rinse them well with water to clean them, then take a large bowl and fill it with fresh cool water. Add 1-2 Tbsp. kosher salt. Add live crawfish and let them sit in the salted water for 15-20 minutes. You will see expelled sand and grit on the bottom of the bowl. Drain water and rinse crawfish. Repeat process if desired.

Fill a 6-8 quart stockpot with 10 cups water. Add 5 Tbsp. kosher salt. Cover and bring to the boil. Add liquid crab boil and lemon, then add crawfish. Cover and return to a boil. Remove pot from the heat and let crawfish sit in the liquid for 30 minutes. Use crawfish immediately or refrigerate until ready to make the sauce. When ready to use, remove the front two large claws and the tail from the crawfish, pulling out the intestinal vein when you twist the back fins off the tail. Keep the shell on the tail. Set claws and tails aside for the marinara and discard the rest.

Marinara Sauce
2 (28 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
2 large fresh basil leaves
generous pinch of dried Greek oregano
salt and pepper to taste
sugar to taste
1/2 c. water to thin sauce
3/4 lb. spaghettini

Begin making the marinara sauce by putting the canned tomatoes in a blender to purée, then run through a food mill to extract the seeds. In a 5-quart stockpot heat olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute to soften but not brown. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add herbs, salt and pepper, and sugar to taste. Cover and bring to a boil. Add water and cook for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Add cooked crawfish claws and tails. Lower heat and let simmer 20-25 minutes. While the sauce is simmering cook pasta until al dente. Pour cooked pasta into a serving bowl and stir sauce with crawfish into the pasta. Toss, then serve. Use your fingers to remove the tail meat from the shells. (If you are very patient you can crack the claws and remove tiny but tasty, delicate claw meat as well.) Messy but delicious. Serves 6.

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Creamy Orzo with Peas and Spinach

I cycle through recipes and will regularly make a dish for a while, then set it aside. When I come back to it again I am often surprised that I took it out of rotation because it is so good. This is a recipe I made regularly years ago, stopped making, and just began using again. It has a rich creamy sauce but takes advantage of seasonal produce. For this version I used peas and spinach from my CSA La Nay Ferme, but in the past I have made it with fresh asparagus and red bell peppers, with very nice results.

Creamy Orzo with Peas and Spinach
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried basil or fresh basil to taste
pinch of Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes to taste
1 Tbsp. sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. fresh peas
1 c. fresh spinach
1/4-1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
3/4 lb. orzo pasta
1 Tbsp. fresh basil

Begin by bringing a 5-quart pot full of water to the boil. Add some kosher salt, add the fresh peas and cook for 3 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Save the water and cook the orzo until al dente, about 10-12 minutes. While the orzo is cooking, heat olive oil on medium heat and, when hot, add the onions. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute to soften. Add tomatoes, spices, 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley, sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Break up tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Cover and let cook 10 minutes. Add cream and heat for 3 minutes. Add peas and spinach. Cook 5 minutes to wilt the spinach. Add cooked orzo and Parmesan cheese. Cook 5 minutes to heat through until it becomes creamy. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with remaining parsley and fresh basil. Serves 6.

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