June 30, 2009

Garlic Scape Hummus

It's garlic scape season! Above (right) are the scapes -- they are adorable, curlicued tendrils that grow from the stalk of the garlic plant. Farmers cut them off to encourage the garlic bulb to grow larger (this concentrates the plant's energy from above-ground activity to below-ground storage). The scapes used to get thrown away, until someone decided to sell them, and they became a big hit.
Scape season is short - just a few weeks. The tendrils have a slightly hot bite, but their flavor is more herbaceous and gentle than garlic. Their texture is like asparagus crossed with a green bean. Also pictured above (left) is fresh, spring garlic. Spring garlic is milder in flavor than the older, dried garlic sold year-round.
Among my garlic scape adventures this week: curried garlic scapes braised in coconut milk, garlic scape vinaigrette, and my favorite, garlic scape hummus. It just might be my favorite hummus ever, spicy but very fresh and green-tasting. And using canned chick peas, it's a breeze to make. It is especially delicious on homemade pita chips (cut pita into triangles, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, ground cumin, and ground coriander, and bake at 35o till crispy, about 10 minutes). It's also great with with slices of raw cucumber, carrot, or kohlrabi.

Garlic Scape Hummus

1/2 cup roughly chopped garlic scapes
1 15-ounce can chick peas, drained and rinsed (or 2 cups cooked chickpeas)
2 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Pulse garlic scapes in food processor until finely minced.
  • Add chick peas, tahini, and XVOO, and blend until smooth.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

June 27, 2009

Creamy Avocado Gazpacho

The scene: a sweaty vinyasa class on a 90-degree (and humid) June day, in a second floor yoga studio, with an instructor who kept the ceiling fans off till the very end of practice (not that there's anything wrong with that -- gotta get those toxins out!!). As soon as we lay down for savasana, during which my mind was supposed to be blissfully blank, I began thinking how perfect a cool bowl of gazpacho would be.

Martha Rose Shulman had a recipe in the Times for a gazpacho made creamy with the addition of avocado. I am an avocado junky -- I can eat them breakfast, lunch, and dinner -- and wanted to try her technique. Not being in the mood to follow a recipe, I just blended up my own concoction, and it hit the spot.

1 medium size ripe avocado, peeled and pit removed, roughly chopped
2 tomatoes (about 3/4 pound), stem and core removed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup roughly chopped English cucumber
1-2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 Tbsp XVOO
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
S&P, to taste
Garnishes: diced avocado, cucumber, and/or tomato, chopped parsley, thin slices of baguette
  • Puree avocado, tomato, cucumber, garlic, and olive oil with a splash of water in blender until smooth. Blend in lime juice, spices, and vinegar.
  • Add water until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Can be eaten right away, but the flavor improves after the gazpacho sits in the fridge for a few hours.

June 24, 2009

Another Use for Radish Tops

The Dag (not D'Agostino, but the little Greenmarket in Dag Hammerskjold plaza!) has had lovely big red radishes recently, leaving me with lots of radish tops. I used to throw them away, thinking they were inedible (the horror!) but now I know better...So I tried making radish leaf pesto, which was delicious.
Since I also wanted to taste the radish tops cooked, I decided to make a quick dinner of radish leaves sauteed with young onions, also from the Dag. I tore the radish leaves in half and washed them in a big bowl, changing the water several times since they still had lots of dirt clinging to them.

Then I chopped a couple of little spring onions (also using the pale green part of the stalks closest to the bulb, but discarding the tough, darker green portions). I sauteed the onion in a couple of tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt. When the onion softened and became translucent, I stirred in the radish leaves and another pinch of sea salt. Cooked the radish leaves until tender (I covered the pot for a couple of minutes to let them steam), added black pepper, and ate a heap of them on top of polenta I had gussied up with butter, XVOO, and freshly grated parmesan.

The radish leaves were a little bitter, which I love, and had a hint of pepperiness, a perfect match for the mellow and savory polenta. A delicious, light weeknight dinner!

June 20, 2009

Smoky and Spicy Roasted Chicken with Polenta

I love my mom's roasted chicken with spicy Hungarian paprika and wanted to recreate it myself. But I couldn't find Hungarian paprika at my local market (and I didn't feel like trekking to Fairway, WF, etc) so I used a combination of smoked paprika and New Mexican red chile powder instead. I am a big fan of skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs; they stay moist and have a lot of flavor. But you can use any parts you like. I am planning to buy chicken at the greenmarket some time soon (ie, when I get my little old lady cart to wheel everything home!), but for now I've been buying Murray's chicken because it has the 'certified humane' designation.

The paprika and red chile impart a beautiful color and flavor to the chicken and pan juices, and the onions become meltingly tender and flavorful too. Polenta (roughly ground cornmeal) is my new favorite starch; I love the creamy-grainy texture and it goes with everything. It's not hard to make, but it does require attention -- you need to whisk it often, though not constantly, while it's cooking (no leaving the room!). But I think it's worth it. Mashed potatoes would also be a great accompaniment.

For the roasted chicken:
1 large onion, peeled and cut into wedges
8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (or other assorted chicken pieces), rinsed and patted dry
1 t salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
2T smoked paprika
2T red chile powder
  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • In a large baking dish (I used 13x9-inch Pyrex), arrange onion wedges. Season chicken with S&P and sprinkle with paprika and chile powder on both sides. Arrange chicken pieces over onions, and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Roast in oven for about 40-45 minutes, turning chicken over after 20 minutes, or until cooked through.
For the polenta:
3 cups water
1 cup polenta
1 T butter
Salt and pepper
  • Bring water to a boil in a 2-quart pot. Add a big pinch of salt.
  • Add polenta in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Continue whisking as mixture comes back to boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook for about 15 minutes, whisking frequently so the polenta doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot, until the polenta is very thick. It will be more challenging to whisk at this point -- I know when it's about done when my whisking arm starts to hurt!
  • Turn off heat and stir in butter, XVOO, and S&P to taste. Serve immediately.
  • Note: As polenta cools, it will begin to solidify. If this happens, add a little water and reheat over a low flame, whisking until it is creamy again.

June 18, 2009

Stuffed Zucchini with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

The cool and rainy weather in NYC lately would try to convince us summer is far, far away. But zucchini have arrived at the greenmarket, a sure sign that summer is somewhere nearby.

These adorable little round green and yellow summer squashes at the Columbus Ave greenmarket (see their pic in previous post) were the perfect shape for stuffing. Black beans and brown rice make a hearty filling, with smoked paprika, chile powder, and cilantro adding a touch of the southwest. The mixture is delicious on its own and would make a great side dish with fish, chicken, or tofu.

Roasted red pepper sauce has a vibrant color and flavor, is quick and easy to make, and is a nice change from tomato sauce. I used a fresh pepper and roasted it over a stove burner till the skin was blackened, allowed it to steam in a bowl covered with plastic wrap, and then removed the skin, stem, and seeds. In a pinch you can also use jarred roasted red peppers.

Stuffed Zucchini with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

For Zucchini:

Six medium zucchini, ends trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1-1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
Freshly ground black pepper

For roasted red pepper sauce:
1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers (jarred or fresh, see note below*)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Using a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out the seeds from the halved zucchini. Place halves cut side up in a baking dish, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Bake until tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes, and remove from oven.
3. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add red onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the black beans, brown rice, smoked paprika, and chili powder, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, add 1/4 cup of the cilantro, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Fill zucchini halves with the bean and rice mixture, mounding slightly, and top each with 2 tablespoons of grated cheese. Bake until cheese is lightly browned and bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Place roasted red pepper in a blender, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and blend until pureed. With blender running, slowly drizzle in remaining oil. Blend until sauce is very smooth, and season with salt to taste.
6. Serve the stuffed zucchini with red pepper sauce and garnish with remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro and scallions.

*Note: If using a fresh bell pepper, roast the whole pepper over a stove burner on a medium-high flame, turning occasionally with tongs, until the skin is blackened on all sides. Place pepper in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for about 15 minutes. Remove skin, stem, and seeds.

June 16, 2009

Greenmarket in mid-June

The Greenmarket on Columbus near the Natural History Museum was overflowing with goodies on Sunday. Mission number one: find the best strawberries! One farm was selling a variety crossed with a wild breed, and they smelled wonderful, so I got those. The cute little round summer squashes looked like they wanted to be stuffed, so they became that night's dinner. Will post the recipe later. Also picked up beautiful snap peas, asparagus, green leaf lettuce, and watercress.

I carried everything the 16 blocks back to my apartment and thought my arms were going to fall off -- I need one of those carts the little old ladies use for their groceries.
The strawberries were so fragrant, sweet, and juicy. Had some with yogurt, some more with chocolate Haagen Dazs, some all by themselves.

I also picked up delicious milk and yogurt from Milk Thistle Farm, big brown eggs from Knoll Krest, whole wheat bread from Not Just Rugelach, raw honey from Berkshire Berries. Berkshire even sells honey from bees raised on NYC rooftops - doesn't get more local than that.

June 6, 2009

Cheese-Free Pesto with Radish Tops and Pepitas

I FINALLY got a food processor! So I decided to christen it by making PESTO. Pesto is one of my favorite things - rich, herbaceous, garlicky, creamy and grainy at the same time. Plus it's a delicious way to get raw garlic into the diet. Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which has antiinflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Allicin is released when the garlic clove's cell walls are ruptured - and its concentration increases if you allow the garlic to sit for a little while (10-15 minutes) before consuming. However allicin is destroyed by cooking, so to get the full benefits you need to eat that garlic raw!

Okay, enough about micronutrients...I had also picked up a bunch of big, red globe radishes at the farmers' market. Normally I don't do much with the radish leaves -- but this time I remembered that the terrific food blog Chocolate and Zucchini recently posted a recipe for radish leaf pesto, so I decided to try it out.

I was running low on pine nuts, so I used pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds) instead. And I wanted to make a cheese-free pesto, so instead of the usual Parmigiano I added a few splashes of umeboshi vinegar -- the salty, tangy liquid that forms during the pickling of Japanese ume "plums". Umeboshi are a fruit in the apricot family; they are picked unripe and pickled with salt and shiso leaf. Umeboshi can be used in a variety of dishes; ume vinegar adds a nice salty and tangy note to salad dressings, soups, sauces, etc. It really wakes things up. Like adding lemon and salt, but way better.

Whole pickled umeboshi (although not the vinegar) have medicinal qualities. They are contractive and alkalinizing, and are particularly effective in counteracting overly expansive conditions (after consuming too many sweets, too much alcohol, etc). Although some people pop whole umeboshi "straight up", they are very salty so I prefer them in small quantities -- for example soaked in hot water to make a tea, or in an ume-shoyu-kuzu drink.

This pesto would be terrific with any variety of greens: arugula, cilantro, parsley, radish or turnip tops, and with all different kinds of nuts and seeds: almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds -- whatever's on hand. Pesto is great on pasta of course, and also works as a dip for fresh veggies, as a base for salad dressing (thinned with additional olive oil and lemon juice), in potato or grain salads, and as a marinade or sauce for fish, chicken, or tofu.

Radish Top and Pumpkin Seed Pesto
makes about 1 cup

2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
3 cups radish tops (leaves only, discard stems), washed well
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 teaspoons umeboshi vinegar (to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Pulse garlic in food processor, blender, or mortar and pestle for about 30 seconds, till finely chopped. Add pumpkin seeds and pulse until pulverized. Add radish leaves and pulse until finely chopped, 30 seconds - 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure all the bits are getting incorporated.

With the food processor running, gradually drizzle in olive oil. Add umeboshi vinegar and black pepper to taste, continuing to pulse until combined.

June 2, 2009

Cherry Almond Muffins

For the past few weekend mornings, I have jumped out of bed with an inexplicable enthusiasm for making muffins. Last Sunday, these adorable cherry-almond babies were puffing up in the oven before I'd even had my first cup of coffee. It's still a mystery to me how that happened. I prefer a nonstick aluminum muffin tin to a silicone mold. The metal pan gives the muffins a much better golden-browned color, and in my experience it's actually easier to remove the muffins from a buttered metal pan than a silicone one. These muffins are delicious eaten warm with almond butter. Extras will keep for a few days in an airtight container. To reheat, just wrap in aluminum foil and heat in the toaster oven or oven at 200 F for 5-8 minutes.

Cherry Almond Muffins
Yield: 8-9 muffins

Dry ingredients: 1 cup all-purpose flour (sifted before measuring) 3/4 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/4 cup sucanat or rapadura
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
Wet ingredients:
2 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
The mix-ins:
1/2 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped
Butter, for muffin pan
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Sift together AP flour, salt, and baking powder into a bowl. Stir in sucanat and whole wheat pastry flour.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in milk, melted butter, and almond extract.
  • Add wet ingredients to dry, and incorporate with a few strokes. Avoid overmixing, as it will develop the gluten in the flour and result in a tough muffin. And nobody wants that.
  • Stir in the cherries and almonds.
  • Pour batter into a buttered muffin tin, using about 1/3 cup batter per muffin. Bake until muffins are golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

A Crumble

Ah, the crumble. So simple, so perfect. Tender, sweet-tart fruit, a bit of sugar and flour to sweeten and give body to their juices, and a crispy-crumbly topping with a hint of lemon. How can that be wrong? Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and you're really good to go.

Crumbles work with so many different kinds of fruit, (okay, maybe watermelon would be pushing it), and I especially like them with stone fruits and berries. In New York right now, the only fruits at the farmers' market are apples (which have been in storage since last fall, and as much as I love apples I'm getting sick of them!) and rhubarb (with enough sugar, this would make a nice crumble too). When I encountered fragrant nectarines and plump blackberries at a local market, I could not resist - I had to get a head start on summer.

The topping is based on a Bon Appetit recipe - it's a basic mixture of flour, brown sugar, lemon zest, butter, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. I'm going to try using different sweeteners (maple crystals would work really well), lime or orange zest, almond, orange, or other extracts in the topping, and adding rolled oats in place of some of the flour. The crumble making is going to be a summer-long project, with peaches, raspberries, plums, strawberries, cherries, apricots...you name it. By the time fall arrives, I'll no doubt be looking forward to apple and pear crumbles too.

With a recipe for a crumble (and another for clafoutis), you are very suitably equipped to turn any number of fruits into a delectable dessert, without having to lug out the food processor or rolling pin.

nectarine and blackberry crumble

Serves 4-6

For crumble layer:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teasoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For fruit layer:

5 medium nectarines, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces blackberries
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Vanilla ice cream, or heavy cream whipped with a little vanilla extract
Butter, for baking dish
  • Mix together flour, brown sugar, lemon zest, and salt. Add melted butter and vanilla and toss with a fork until mixture has a gravel-like consistency. This can be done a couple of hours in advance.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Toss nectarines and blackberries in a bowl with sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Transfer to a lightly buttered 8x8-inch baking dish and spread the crumble mixture evenly on top.
  • Bake until top is golden brown and fruit is bubbling, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes before eating, and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.