Summer

Keep it Bright: Blanching Vegetables

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The weather's gorgeous and no one wants to be indoors cooking for hours. Hence, blanching is the perfect vegetable technique for Spring. Many vegetables can be blanched in a pot full of boiling water until crisp and slightly under-done. Drain the vegetables and immediately plunge into a bath of ice water to stop the cooking and retain the bright color. You can cook several night’s worth of vegetables this way and store them in the fridge in containers lined with paper towel to capture the moisture. 

To use, sauté vegetables in good oil or butter just until warmed through or toss them into a salad. Mix vegetables that are grown in the same season; they naturally taste delicious together. 

Here’s a list of vegetables to use for blanching and fun combinations for sautéing. The italicised vegetables should not be blanched.

Asparagus, snow peas or sugar snap peas with:

  • Green onion, shaved fennel and slivered ham or prosciutto
  • Salted cashews
  • Sugar snap peas and frozen petite peas, lemon zest
  • Sesame seeds sautéd in sesame oil

Carrots with:

  • Green onion, lime juice, and chopped cashews
  • Ghee or coconut oil with cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper
  • Cauliflower, mint & preserved lemon

Broccolini with:

  • Garlic, olive oil and chili flakes
  • Capers, toasted hazelnuts or pine nuts 

Green beans with:

  • Bacon and toasted walnuts or pecans
  • Diced tomatoes, garlic and nicoise or black olives

Carrots with:

  • Caraway seeds
  • Chick peas, Moroccan spices

Broccoli, cauliflower with:

  • Garlic, crumbled (leftover) Italian sausage
  • Raisins soaked in hot water then sautéed, blue cheese crumbles, pine-nuts
  • Cauliflower with curry and raisins
  • Sautéd mushrooms, shallots, basil, Pecorino 
  • Brown butter, pumpkin seeds, cumin

Blanched Spring Vegetables with Arugula, Olive Oil, Lemon & Cheese

Here's a quick, delicious, and very detoxifying salad that I love to make-

In a bowl, add a large handful of arugula per person along with a handful of blanched vegetables per person.  Note that in the photo, I've used asparagus, snap peas and fava beans. Toss with just enough good quality olive oil to coat the leaves with no oil puddling at the bottom of the bowl. Squeeze fresh lemon juice to taste and toss with a spoonful of capers. Cover with a blanket of freshly grated Parmesan. Enjoy!

 

Chicken Monterey

This recipe highlights California fruits and vegetables using summer squash, oregano and orange. It's light, packed with vegetables and refreshing. It's pretty enough for a special meal and great to prep in the cool of the morning then finish in the crockpot. 

  • 5 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 frying chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 carrots, chopped (I like the red & yellow carrots)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup or more chicken broth
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup canned tomatoes, crushed 
  • 1 lg. sprig fresh oregano or rosemary, minced 
  • 1 red pepper, cored and stemmed, cut julienne (matchsticks)
  • 1 red pepper, cored and stemmed, cut julienne (matchsticks)
  • 1 small zucchini, cut julienne (matchsticks)
  • 1 small yellow zucchini, cut julienne (matchsticks)
  •     For the garnish:
  • 1/3 cup parsley, minced and mixed with 1 Tbls. orange zest
  • Salt and pepper (white pepper is nice here)

On medium-high, heat 3 Tbls. of the oil in a large skillet. Pat the chicken pieces dry, lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until a light golden on both sides. Remove to a plate and set aside. 

Turn the heat down to low and add the onions, carrots and garlic to the oil. Cover and sweat, cooking until tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover the skillet and add the stock, orange juice, tomatoes, and oregano. Simmer uncovered, for 15 minutes. 

Return chicken pieces to the pan and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn and baste the chicken and simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the chicken is done.

  • At this point, the chicken can be cooled and then chilled to use another day. Gently reheat the chicken in the sauce and proceed. 
  • To cook in a crockpot, instead of simmering on the stove, add the pieces, broth, juice, etc. to the crockpot and proceed following your crockpot recommendations for chicken.

To serve:

In a clean skillet, over medium heat, add remaining 2 Tbls. olive oil and sauté the red peppers for 5 minutes. Raise the heat and add the zucchini. Sauté until tender but firm, about 3 to 5 minutes. Place the chicken in a deep platter or on individual plates and cover with the sauce-vegetable mixture.

Top each piece with a mound of the pepper-zucchini mixture and garnish with a sprinkle of the parsley-orange zest mixture.

Adapted years ago from The Silver Palate Cookbook

 

 

Summer Corn & Nectarine Muffins

These muffins are lightly sweetened by summer nectarines and just a hint of honey and a nice texture with the added corn. Serve with more honey.

Makes about 20 regular muffins or one 9” or 10” square pan*

  • 2 cups (240g) einkorn, whole wheat or all-purpose flour 
  • 2 cups (240g) yellow cornmeal OR: 1 cup yellow corn flour (not cornstarch) which makes the muffins yellow and more cake-like plus 1 cup cornmeal 
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups plain whole fat yogurt or buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup honey 
  • 2 tsp. vanilla (optional)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (8 Tbls.) unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 2 large or 3 medium ripe but firm nectarines; farmer’s market fruit will be the sweetest
  • 1 cup cooked fresh or thawed, frozen corn kernels

Preheat the oven to 375° for muffins and 350˚ for cornbread and put cupcake liners into pans or butter a deep 9” or 10” pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, cornflour (if using), baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In another bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the yogurt, honey, vanilla, and eggs.

Pour the liquid all at once into the flour mixture, stirring quickly and gently until just combined. Once the mixture is almost incorporated, stir in the melted butter or coconut oil and blend just until combined; a few streaks left is fine. Set aside to rest.

Dice 1-1/2 of the nectarines. Slice the last half into thin, attractive slices. Fold the diced nectarine and corn into the batter just until blended and scoop the batter into the prepared pan, filling the muffin cups about 2/3 full. Place one slice of nectarine onto each muffin pressing lightly or place on batter in the deep 9” pan in a decorative pattern.

Muffins: bake for 12-14 minutes, until one of the center muffins tests done: the top should spring back lightly, and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Remove the muffins from the oven, and as soon as you can safely handle them, transfer them to a rack. 

Cornbread: bake 30-45 minutes depending on pan type, until one of the center it tests done: the top should spring back lightly, and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it.

  • Yummy with 2 Tbls. minced fresh basil added
  • Serve warm with honey
  • A 9X13” pan works well too and makes thinner piece

Mix & Match Summer Fruit Crisp

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The filling:

  • 8 cups sliced stone fruit, berries, pitted cherries, blueberries, lingonberries, half each strawberries and sliced rhubarb

  • 1/2 to 1 cup sugar or coconut sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)

  • 2-3 Tbls. quick cook tapioca (do you like runny/juicy or thick/pudding-like?)

  • Juice and zest of 1 orange or 2 lemons or 3 limes

  • 1 pinch of sea salt

Optional:

  • 1 Tbls. Chia seeds

  • Small amount of grated peeled ginger or 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger

  • 1 tsp. minced lemon thyme, basil or lemon verbena

  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg - peaches

  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract - peaches

  • 1/2 tsp. cardamon pods crushed with a spoon of sugar - strawberry rhubarb

Preheat oven to 375˚ In a small bowl, mix the sugar, salt, tapioca and spices if using. In a large bowl, toss the fruit with the sugar mixture. Blend the citrus juice, rind and extract or herbs if using, together and then pour over fruit. Toss. Transfer mixture to a 9x13-inch gratin dish that has been lightly buttered. Place dish on a foil or parchment lined cookie sheet with edges. 

Make your topping of choice and sprinkle over crisp squeezing clumps in your hands to create “chunks”. Bake until fruit juices are bubbling and topping is golden brown, 50–70 minutes. If the topping gets too brown, tent it loosely with foil. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least one hour.

Granola Topping:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour*

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1/2 tsp. optional ginger, cinnamon, etc. (whatever is used in the fruit portion of the recipe)

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

  • 2 cups granola without dried fruit

In a bowl, whisk the flour with the brown sugar, baking powder, spices if using, and salt. Stir in the granola and butter. Using your hands, toss the mixture to blend the butter into the dry ingredients. 

Oat Topping:

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour*

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1/2 tsp. optional ginger, cinnamon, etc. (whatever is used in the fruit

  • portion of the recipe)

  • 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

  • Optional: 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, sliced almonds or chopped nuts, puffed quinoa...

In a bowl, whisk the flour with the brown sugar, baking powder, spices if using and salt. Stir in the oats, nuts and butter. Using your hands, toss the mixture to blend the butter into the dry ingredients.

*almond flour, spelt, buckwheat or a small amount (1/4 cup) rye can be blended or substituted for AP flour.