Cold Summer Borscht

This cold summer beet soup is light and flavorful. I use the same technique of shredding the vegetables as I did for the previous post on zucchini soup. You can serve it plain or with a little sour cream or yogurt. It may not be authentic, but it is comforting on a hot summer day.

Cold Summer Borscht
1/2 a large onion, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3-4 tablespoons canola oil
1 rib celery with leaves, thinly sliced
4 medium red beets, peeled and quarted
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces
1 medium kohlrabi bulb, peeled and quartered
1/2 fennel bulb, cored and cut in half
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley, leave stems on
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or more to taste
sour cream or yogurt as a garnish (optional)

Begin by shredding the onion and garlic in the food processor. Heat canola oil in a 4-quart pot on medium high heat then scrape the shredded onions into the hot oil. Let cook for 5 minutes. Add celery. While the onion and celery are cooking, shred together in the food processor the beets, carrots, kohlrabi and fennel then scrape them into the sauteed onions and celery. Add salt and pepper to taste then lower the heat slightly and let cook about 8-10 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Add stock, fresh parsley and half of the dill. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Let cool a few minutes then add the remaining fresh dill. Purée in a blender in two batches. Serve cold with a dollop or two of sour cream or yogurt if desired. Serves 4.

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Puréed Zucchini Soup

I recently had a refrigerator full of our garden produce that needed to be used. I decided to make several soups at once that can be eaten during the week or frozen for future use. This puréed zucchini soup was easy and delicious so I thought I would share it.  I’ve found one of the fastest ways to make a pureed soup is to start with shredded vegetables. Then everything cooks quickly and makes it a good option for a relatively quick summer dinner. You can eat it warm or cold. It is optional to add Parmesan and cream for a richer soup, but I like the lightness of it without dairy.

Puréed Zucchini Soup
1/2 of a large onion, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3-4 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces
1-1/2 – 2 large zucchini, shredded to equal 2-1/2 to 3 cups
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley with stems or more to taste
3 large basil leaves

Begin by shredding the onion and garlic in the food processor. In a 4-quart pot heat canola oil on medium high heat and scrape the onion mixture into the hot oil. Saute 5 minutes. While the onion is cooking, shred the carrots and add to the onion mixture. Cook for 5 minutes. Shred zucchini in the food processor then scrape into the sauteed onion and carrots. Add some salt and pepper to the vegetables. Cook 6-7 minutes. Once the vegetables have cooked down a bit, lower the heat to medium low and add stock and fresh herbs. Cover and let simmer about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Cool slightly then pour soup into a blender in two batches and puree. Serves 3-4.

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Corn and Black-eyed Pea Salad

This salad is a nice way to use up leftover corn on the cob. It is a quick and easy side dish. Feel free to change up the beans if you prefer black or pinto beans. You could add bacon or ham to it as well.

Corn and Black-eyed Pea Salad
2 ears cooked corn on the cob
1 (15 oz.) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
1 rib celery, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried Greek oregano or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
3 large basil leaves, torn

Begin by cutting the corn off the cob and placing it in a medium size bowl. Add drained beans, tomatoes, celery, and onion. Mix to evenly distribute. Add oil, vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper to taste. Mix well. Add parsley and basil. Mix. Serves 4.

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Thai Lemongrass Grilled Pork Chops

This recipe is great for a hot summer day when you don’t want to fuss in the kitchen. Early in the day blend the marinade ingredients then pour over the meat. Refrigerate until ready to grill. You can use this for chicken as well. Serve with jasmine rice and salad and dinner is done.

Thai Lemongrass Grilled Pork Chops
5-6 thin sliced pork loin chops with bone, rinsed and patted dry

Lemongrass Coconut Milk Marinade
1 (14 oz.) can coconut milk
1/2 cup thinly sliced lemongrass, from the bottom 1/3 of the stalk
1 medium shallot, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

In a blender combine all marinade ingredients and blend until smooth. Place pork chops in a one-gallon ziplock bag. Pour marinade over pork. Massage the bag to distribute the marinade around the meat. Refrigerate 4-6 hours until you are ready to grill. Grill on medium heat until desired doneness. Serve 4.

Posted in Chicken, Meat Dishes, Sauces | 2 Comments

Italian Romano Beans with Peppers and Fennel

I look forward to our garden Romano beans all year long. They have a smooth, creamy texture, are very sweet, and are great stewed with tomato sauce. I also like them as a side dish with peppers. For the photo below I used our garden-fresh Jimmy Nardello frying peppers, which are thin skinned and very sweet, but you can use regular red bell peppers.

Italian Romano Beans with Peppers and Fennel
3 dozen Romano beans, rinsed and trimmed of their tops
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
6 Jimmy Nardello Italian frying peppers or 2 medium red bell peppers
1/2 medium fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced or chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Begin by bringing a 4-quart pot full of water to the boil. Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt to the water, then add the trimmed Romano beans. Boil for 5-7 minutes until the beans are tender. Drain and run beans under cold water. Place them in a paper towel-lined bowl to absorb some of the water. Cut the stems off the frying or bell peppers. Slice pepper lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut into thick slices or chunks. Heat 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan. Add peppers, cover, and let sauté for 3-4 minutes, then turn peppers. Cook a few more minutes until the peppers are fork tender. (Bell peppers will take a bit longer to cook.) Place Romano beans in a serving bowl. Pour the sauteed peppers and all of the remaining oil from the frying pan on top of the peppers. Toss. Add fennel, onion, remaining olive oil, and vinegar. Toss. Salt and pepper to taste, then add parsley and serve. Serves 4.

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Indonesian Vegetable Salad with Peanut Sauce (Gado Gado)

It has been a very hot July with hardly any rain. I have been trying to keep the house cool by cooking foods on the stove or the grill rather than turning on the oven. This delicious Indonesian vegetable salad is great for summer because all the preparation is done on the stove. I had this dish years ago as part of an Indonesian Rijsttafel dinner in the Netherlands and made it often after our trip, but then it fell out of my menu rotation. I have recently started making it again. You can prepare it in stages: boil potatoes and eggs the day before you are serving, then finish cooking the remainder the day of serving. This may not be an authentic recipe, but it is one our family enjoys.

Indonesian Vegetable Salad with Peanut Sauce

Peanut Sauce
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup coconut milk
1 Thai chili, finely sliced (optional)
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2-1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
a dash of salt, or to taste

In a 1-quart sauce pan heat oil on medium heat. When oil is hot but not smoking add garlic and cook 1 minute to soften. Add peanut butter and whisk to melt it. Whisk in coconut milk. Stir until it thickens slightly. It should only take 1-2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and let cook 1-2 minutes until smooth. Let cool a bit before using.

5 large Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled whole in their skins until tender, then peeled and cut in large cubes
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
1/2 head green cabbage, thinly sliced and rinsed
1/2 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal about 1/4-inch thick
1 cup Romano flat or other green beans

Begin by boiling potatoes until tender. Cool slightly ,then peel and cut into large cubes. Hard boil the eggs, then let cool. Peel eggs and slice in half. Place sliced cabbage in a 4-quart pot and cover with cold water. Add a little salt and a teaspoon of butter and bring to a boil. Cook until the cabbage just wilts a little but still retains a little crunch. Once the water boils, it should only take a minute or two. Drain cabbage and run under cold water to stop cooking. Drain excess water, then place cabbage in a large flat serving dish. Place red bell pepper slices on top. Sprinkle with a little salt. Drizzle with a 2-3 tablespoons peanut sauce. Rinse out the same pot, add clean water and a little salt. Bring to a boil, then add carrots and green beans. Cook 4-5 minutes until vegetables are crisp tender. Drain and run under cold water. Drain excess water, then place on top of red peppers and cabbage. Sprinkle with salt. Drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons peanut sauce. Add cooked potatoes to the salad. Place eggs around the edges. Sprinkle with a little more salt. Drizzle with more peanut sauce. You should still have about 1/2 cup or more peanut sauce left. Serve peanut sauce on the side for people to add to their individual portions. Serves 6.

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Basil and Parsley Puree

One of the joys of summer is to step out of my door to pick fresh herbs from the garden. The bay tree, kaffir lime, curry tree, rosemary and sage are in pots that we bring inside to use during the winter months. Basil and Italian flat leaf parsley are among my favorite herbs and I use them often in my cooking. Sadly, we haven’t had much luck with potting them and holding them over during the winter months. One of my favorite ways to preserve their fresh flavor is to make a purée of basil, parsley, garlic and olive oil. Then spoon it into jelly jars and freeze. During the winter months, I defrost a jar and toss a few spoonfuls into simmering tomato sauce, soup, or pasta with vegetables. It adds a nice herbal freshness to our dishes. You can also use it as a base for pesto.

Basil and Parsley Purée
3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup packed Italian flat leaf parsley
7 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for topping the purée before freezing
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon water

Begin by carefully washing the basil and parsley. Place on paper towels to dry and absorb excess water. In a food processor combine herbs with the rest of the ingredients. Purée until fairly smooth. Spoon mixture into 2 (4 oz.) jelly jars leaving 1/2-inch of space at top of the jar. Pour about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over purée to cover it. Wipe rims and screw on lids. Freeze. Best used within six months. Makes 1 cup.

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Red Currant Plum Berry Jelly

Our garden has thrived during this very hot summer. We have enjoyed a particularly good harvest of red currants, gooseberries, and black raspberries. Every other year I make raspberry and red currant jelly, but this year I wanted to try something new by combining our red gooseberries with the currants. I also added plums, strawberries, and black raspberries for sweetness and complexity. It is a beautiful jelly. 

Red Currant Plum Berry Jelly
Fruit Juice
2-1/2 cups red currants, rinsed
2-1/2 cups pitted and roughly-chopped black plums
1-1/2 cups red gooseberries, trimmed of tops
3/4 cup chopped strawberries
1/2 cup black raspberries
3 cups water

4 cups of fruit juice from above fruit
1 cup boiling water
6-1/2 cups sugar
1 pouch of Certo liquid pectin

For the Fruit Juice: In a 4-quart pot combine fruit with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, then lower the heat to medium low and cook for 25 minutes. Use a potato masher to mash fruit and release juice. Take a 4-cup glass measuring cup and put a small fine strainer on top. Line the strainer with cheese cloth. Slowly pour some of the fruit mash into the strainer. Let the juice drain into the measuring cup. Continue adding the fruit mash to the cheesecloth and let drain for 30 minutes or so. You should have 3 cups of fruit juice. Slowly pour 1 cup of boiling water through the fruit mash leavings in the cheesecloth-lined strainer and let it drain through the strainer until you get a total of 4 cups of fruit juice. You may need a bit more boiling water. Once you have the four cups of juice, discard mashed berries.

For the Jelly: Run 8 half-pint jars through a dishwasher cycle to sterilize the jars while you are making the fruit juice. A friend taught me that you can sterilize the clean jars in the oven by placing them rim side down on a half sheet pan. Put it in the oven. Pour about 3 cups of boiling water into the sheet pan and let the jars steam at 275 degrees for 45 minutes. Boil lids and rims so they are sterilized as well. Fill a waterbath canner with enough water to cover jars at least 1.5 inches and bring to a boil. Pour 4 cups of prepared fruit juice into a jam pot or 4-quart pot. Add sugar to the fruit juice and, using a spoon, stir to dissolve sugar. Cook on high heat until it comes to a rolling boil. Stir constantly. Boil for 1 minute at hard boil, then remove from burner and slowly stir in the foil packet of liquid pectin. Mix well. Skim off any foam jelly that may have accumulated. Pour jelly into the sterilized half-pint jars, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims with a damp paper towel to clean off any jelly. Screw on lids and rims. Place jars in boiling waterbath. Bring water back to the boil and waterbath 10 minutes at sea level or 15 minutes at high altitude. Remove jars from waterbath onto a tea towel and let cool completely. Do not move jars for 24-48 hours so the jelly will set. Yields 8 half-pint jars.

Posted in Fruit, Jams and Jellies, preserving | 1 Comment

Lemon Custard Tart

This tart recipe is terrific. I love the luscious and creamy lemon custard filling, which I developed for a recipe for lemon custard sheet cake. While the custard is hot, the lemon flavor is not so pronounced, but once the custard is cold, the lemon flavor comes through and is perfectly balanced. I like to serve it plain but it would be delicious topped with raspberries or blackberries.  I find the most efficient way to prepare this is to make the tart dough the night before I bake it and keep it wrapped in the refrigerator. I also make the custard the night before serving, chilled overnight covered in plastic wrap to develop the lemon flavor. The next morning, just bake off the tart dough and cool it, then strain the custard into the tart shell and chill until ready to serve.

Lemon Custard Tart

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 egg 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 into a thin round and fit into a 10-inch tart pan. Resist the urge to add more flour to the dough while rolling; I actually prefer to roll it out between sheets of plastic wrap. Pre-bake tart dough for 15 minutes until light golden. Cool on rack. Remove the tart rim.

Lemon Custard
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
pinch of kosher salt
2 large whole eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice
1-2 drops vanilla extract

For the custard: In a 2-quart saucepan combine milk, cream, 1/2 cup of the sugar, lemon zest, and salt. Turn heat to medium low and bring to a simmer. In a separate bowl whisk together eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Whisk about 3/4 cup hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. Whisk egg mixture back into hot milk and continue cooking, whisking constantly until custard thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour custard into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on custard and chill until cold. Strain custard before using.

To assemble the tart: Strain the lemon custard directly over the baked and cooled tart shell. Use a spatula to smooth out the custard to the edges of the tart shell. Cover in plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve. Serves 10-12.

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Broccoli with Garlic

With summers that heat up rapidly here we have had trouble in the past growing a good crop of broccoli that matures before it bolts. This year we planted it earlier and changed the planting location and now have been enjoying beautiful sweet heads for a couple of weeks. My husband makes delicious broccoli and, while it sounds simple enough to prepare, he has ‘the touch’ so I thought I would share his method with you.

Broccoli with Garlic
1 large head broccoli
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Slice broccoli into flowerettes, using some of the stem. Place a metal steaming basket with about 1/2-inch of water in a 4-quart pot. Cover pot and bring water to a boil on high heat. Once the water is boiling, add broccoli. Cover and steam for approximately 6-7 minutes until the broccoli is crisp tender and bright green. Do not overcook it. While the broccoli is cooking, place oil and garlic in a 2-quart saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and let the garlic cook until it is just beginning to brown (2-3 minutes). Do not burn the garlic. Add steamed broccoli to garlic and oil. Add a couple of dashes of salt and pepper. Cover the pan, then lift the pot off the burner and, holding down the lid tightly, shake it upside down to distribute oil and garlic around the broccoli. Turn the burner off and let pan with broccoli sit on the stove for 5-10 minutes to absorb the flavor of the garlic and oil, then transfer to a serving bowl. Serves 5-6.

Posted in Christmas, Thanksgiving, Vegetables, Vegetarian | 2 Comments