Friday, July 15, 2011

Grilled Peaches!

Grilled peaches are so simple and so delicious you might almost give up eating them plain.  What I especially love about them is that they strike a perfect balance between fresh and cooked.  The slight bit of char adds a lovely flavor and the warmth makes them even juicer, but they aren't cooked so much that they lose their vibrancy.

Preparation is as simple as it gets.  Cut a peach in half and remove the pit.  I don't bother taking the skin off as I kind of like it.  Rub the peach halves all over with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil.  Heat up a grill, grill pan, or cast iron skillet.  Place the peaches in the pan and cook about two minutes each side.

Serve them warm.  They are delicious with yogurt for breakfast, (as shown), and they'd also be great for dessert... perhaps with a little vanilla bean ice cream and fresh chopped mint?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Marinated Zucchini Salad

Zucchini and tomatoes: what could be more summery?  This fresh salad is beautiful, delicious, and takes full advantage of seasonal ingredients.

- 1 large-ish zucchini
- 1 large tomato
- 1/2 spring onion (or sweet onion)
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive tapenade
- 1 tbsp roughly chopped capers
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh basil, for garnish

- In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, tapenade, capers, salt, and pepper.  Whisk together and set aside.
- Thinly slice the onions and separate the rings.
- Thinly slice the zucchini.  You can cut it into circles or cut or shave it length-wise into ribbons, which I find prettier.  Either way, try to get the slices as thin as possible.
- Add the vegetables to the bowl and toss with the dressing.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Before serving, cut up the tomato and gently toss it with the other vegetables.
- Tear up the fresh basil and sprinkle on top of the salad to serve.

I served this salad atop socca flavored with a bit of crushed fennel which made it a satisfying, complete meal.  You could also easily turn this into a panzanella salad or toss it with some feta.  Leftovers, (but, really, you won't have any), keep well covered and refrigerated.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Beet and Basil Stuffed Chicken Breasts

If you've ever had a CSA, you've probably had the 'problem' of too many beets.  What starts out as a bounty of beet salads quickly turns to beet drudgery.  But beets can do so much more than look pretty atop a pile of lettuce!  This dish is delicious and, while it takes a bit of effort, really looks more impressive than it is difficult.

- 2 plump chicken breasts
- 2-4 golden beets, roasted and peeled
- a generous handful of fresh basil
- salt, pepper, and olive oil

- With a sharp knife, slice the chicken breast nearly in half to butterfly it open.
- Sprinkle the inside with salt and pepper.
- Place a layer of basil leaves on the bottom then add an overlapping layer of thinly sliced beets.  You want the breast to be quite stuffed.  A few crumbles of goat cheese would also be great in there, but it definitely doesn't *need* it.
- Pull the top flap over the stuffing and secure with two toothpicks.  It's okay if it doesn't completely close.
- Brush the outside with olive oil.  I also topped mine with a few decorative slices of beets that were extra.
- Put the breast in an oven safe pan or dish (I used a pre-heated cast iron skillet) and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  You can pop it under the broiler for a few more minutes to brown the top a bit if you'd like.

For the sides:
- Combine 1 cup French green lentils with 1 1/2 cups water (or chicken broth) and 1 tsp salt and 1 tbsp whole grain mustard.  Ideally let it soak for two hours before cooking.
- Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover.  Cook until the liquid is absorbed.

- Wash a trim green beans.
- Toss them with a drizzle of olive oil, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of salt, and a dash of cayenne.
- Roast them in the oven along with the chicken, though in their own dish.
- Pour any juices over the lentils when serving.

The chicken breasts can be stuffed ahead of time, covered, and refrigerated.  The recipe is easily multiplied to feed a crowd, just don't crowd too many in the same pan or you'll increase the cooking time.  If you're looking to make the meal a little lighter, serve the chicken breasts along side chilled lentils or a salad.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Socca to Me

Socca is a basically a chick pea crepe or pan cake, a street food from the south of France.  I first read about it on David Lebovitz's site.  As soon as I got my hands on some chick pea flour I gave it a try and it's been a staple in my kitchen ever since.

Usually it's made plain and eaten hot and fresh with a generous drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt, but I've taken to experimenting with it.  I've played with the seasonings, used it as a base for salads, and have even made little socca pizzas.  It's a healthy bread alternative since the chick pea flour has a good amount of protein.  It's also vegan and gluten-free.  While you can find chick pea flour very cheaply at Indian grocers (look for 'besan', 'gram flour', or 'farine pois chiche'), if you have a gluten sensitivity you may want to look for a brand that can certify that it's gluten-free, like Bob's Red Mill.

Making socca isn't too scientific.  It's a 1:1 ratio of chick pea flour to water, with a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt.  Traditionally a bit of cumin is added as well.  The thickness of the crepe will vary depending on the size of the pan used, and you can adjust the amount of batter you make or pour to suit your preferences.

For one 10" crepe:
- 1/2 c. chick pea flour
- 1/2 c. water
- 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- dash cumin

- Whisk all ingredients together and let sit for at least two hours.
- Put a cast iron skillet under your broiler and heat until thoroughly hot, (the pan should be as close to the broiler as possible).  Alternately, heat the skillet on the stove top.  The broiler is ideal, but in the heat of the summer the stove top will do.
- When the skillet is hot, add a generous drizzle of olive oil to the pan then add the batter, swirling it around if necessary to coat the pan.
- Broil the crepe until the top is browned, (a bit of char is desirable), up to 10 minutes.  If cooking on the stove top, wait until the crepe looks firm, check to see if the under side is browned, then flip once.
- To serve, drizzle with a little more olive oil and a dash of sea salt.

Socca can be served as a snack, an appetizer, or a side.  Eat it plain or as a base for toppings. It would be a great vehicle for bruschetta as an appetizer.  Using it as a gluten-free pizza base has taken a little experimentation and the technique varies depending on the toppings.

Here, I poured the batter and broiled it for about two minutes, then added chopped mushrooms and blue cheese crumbles.  When adding toppings to the socca while it's cooking, they should be chopped finely and/or pre-cooked for the best results.

Here I added shopped spinach to the batter before pouring, making a thicker crepe that needed a longer cooking time.  I waited a few minutes then added chopped onions, red pepper, and goat cheese.  With all of these heavier toppings, the socca isn't nearly as crisp, but it's still quite tasty.  If you want to use sauce or more than light crumbles of cheese, I recommend cooking the crepe on it's own and then transferring it to a baking sheet and adding the toppings to make your 'pizza'.

Pretty much any herbs can be used to flavor the socca.  Here I used finely chopped fresh rosemary when I served it as a side.

Use socca as a creative base for a salad or cut it up and toss it with the salad as croutons, (you may want to toast them a bit more).  While you can top the socca with salad when it's still hot, allowing it to cool on a wire rack will help it stay crisp.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

A few more salads...

Salad with green zebra tomato, cucumber, cilantro, feta cheese, and an orange vinaigrette.

Salad with roasted beets, roasted corn, feta cheese, and a spicy peach vinaigrette.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Strawberry Basil Popsicles

Nothing is quite so disappointing as bringing home a beautiful pint of strawberries, taking a bite, and finding them just a bit too sour.  While jams or pies are certainly good options for these unfortunate berries, they don't exactly showcase the freshness of the fruit.  Using them for popsicles, on the other hand, allows you to sweeten them up and keep them bright, cool, and refreshing.

- 1 pint strawberries
- 8 fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1 c. water

- Combine the sugar and water in a small pot and simmer until the sugar is dissolved.
- Hull the strawberries and combine them with basil leaves and simple syrup in a blender.
- Blend until liquified.
- Pour the mixture into popsicle moulds.  You can strain it if you want, but I like the slight texture of the little bits of pulp, leaves, and seeds.
- Freeze until solid.

Oh, and pardon the dirty fingernails.  I'd just come in from the garden: the best time to have a popsicle, indeed.