Thursday, July 28, 2011
Shaved salads seem to be in vogue this year, or at least I’ve seen a lot of them (especially asparagus ones) on the food blogs lately. I can understand why: they are undeniably pretty, as well as being texturally exciting; it’s nifty how a vegetable that is rarely consumed raw can be rendered tender and palatable through thin slicing and a flavorful acidic marinade. This was the only recipe I dogeared in June’s issue of Cooking Light (I’ve been subscribing long enough that most of the recipes have started to look the same to me), but it’s a doozy, colorful and abstract-looking, pepping up the somewhat bland squash with mint, lemon, and salty pork and cheese for a sophisticated and refreshing summer dish.
Maybe it will be clearer to you, but it took me a while to figure out the proper squash-shaving technique in Step 2, especially the “discard seeds” part. I was shaving the squash (that sounds like a euphemism for something) the way I’d peel the skin off a cucumber—run the peeler down the length of it, rotate a few degrees, and peel parallel to the last spot—so I was getting some pieces that were all skin and then, after a few series of rotations, pieces that were all seeds. Was I supposed to discard any piece that had seeds in it? Wouldn’t that be most of them? Well, duh, no. I was supposed to peel a strip, then peel another strip in the same spot, repeating until I reached the seedy part, then turn the squash about 90 degrees and start peeling new strips in a spot adjacent to the one I’d just done, and so forth, until basically what was left was a square of the interior core of the squash, which is then discarded. This method has less waste and gives you the photogenic slices that are mostly lighter-toned squash flesh with borders of the darker skin.
1 medium zucchini
2 medium yellow squash
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 thin slices prosciutto (1 ounce), chopped
¼ cup (1 ounce) crumbled feta cheese
1. Shave the zucchini and squash into thin strips using a vegetable peeler. Discard seeds. Place zucchini and squash in a medium bowl, and toss with salt.
2. Combine mint and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Pour over zucchini and squash; toss.
3. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add prosciutto; sauté for 2 minutes or until crisp.
4. Place ¾ cup salad on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese; sprinkle evenly with prosciutto.
Time: 15 minutes
Leftover potential: Surprisingly good; keeps for several days in the refrigerator.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Few things say “summer” to me more clearly than the combination of corn and tomatoes, unless perhaps it’s the incredible medley of avocado, cilantro, and lime, so even though I already have a very good corn cake recipe in my archives, I bookmarked this one (originally by Sara Foster) at Ezra Pound Cake the instant I saw the photo. Sure, I could just throw some salsa on top of my usual corn cakes and call it a day, but these corn cakes looked totally different than mine—thick like crab cakes, with lots more leavening and the added flavors of cornmeal, buttermilk, basil, and red onion. Could there be room in my life for two different corn cake recipes? But of course!
Despite our large appetite for all things fritter-like (we routinely eat them as entrees, especially in the summer), these corn cakes looked so hearty in the picture that I halved the recipe, which claimed to serve six to eight people. This resulted in the rather awkward requirement of 1½ ears of corn, but I used two smallish ears and it was just fine (I imagine one large ear would also be OK). I decided to stick with the full recipe for the salsa, mostly because I didn’t want half an avocado floating around in my fridge, but also because I figured extra salsa never goes amiss. This was a wise decision; the corn cakes are sturdy and stand up well to toppings, so feel free to pile on the salsa to your heart’s content. In fact, because the corn cakes have the drier texture of cornbread rather than the pancake-like texture of my usual recipe, the salsa provides an important contrast. The salsa has a fair amount of liquid in it, most of which I’d left behind in a bowl, spooning on the chunkier parts with a slotted spoon because I was afraid of making the corn cakes soggy, but their crispy surfaces turned out to be largely impermeable (at least in the short time it took to go from plate to mouth), so I needn’t have been so shy—the juiciness would have been quite welcome.
Following the recipe’s instructions to use heaping tablespoons of batter, I got slightly smaller cakes than I’d expected; they puffed up tall but didn’t spread much, turning out like cute sliders where Ezra Pound Cake’s photo had made them look like burgers. At this appetizer-like size, the recipe yielded eight cakes, which made for a perfect four per serving: generous enough to be satisfying, but still a light summery meal (we had something else on the side that I can’t quite recall—grilled chicken thighs, maybe?). I would definitely make these again.
For the salsa:
1 large tomato, cored and chopped
1 scallion, trimmed and minced
1 small jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of ½ lime
1½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons white wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
For the corn cakes:
1 large ear or 2 small ears corn, shucked
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons diced red onion
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon well-shaken buttermilk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Place all of the salsa ingredients except the avocado in a bowl, and stir to mix. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve, for up to 2 days. Just before serving, add the avocado and mix gently.
2. Cut the corn from the cobs into a large bowl, and scrape the stripped cobs with the back of the knife (or a spoon) to release the juices into the bowl.
3. Place 1 cup of the corn kernels into a food processor and pulse several times, until the corn is slightly pureed but still chunky. Scrape into the bowl with the remaining corn kernels.
4. Add flour, cornmeal, onion, basil, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper to the corn. Stir to mix.
5. Add the egg, buttermilk, and butter, and stir just to combine. (Do not overmix.)
6. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, and heat until sizzling hot.
7. One heaping tablespoon at a time, scoop the batter into the skillet. Cooking in batches of 4 to avoid overcrowding, fry the cakes for about 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. (I got 8 small corn cakes.)
8. Remove corn cakes from pan, set them briefly on a paper towel to blot away any extra oil, and set on a cooling rack (or on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a warm oven if you want to keep them hot) until ready to eat. Serve warm, topped with a heap of salsa.
Serves: 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: For the corn cakes, unknown. Extra salsa will keep in the fridge for a few days and can be eaten with tortilla chips, used on tacos, or mixed with black beans for an easy salad.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Another brilliant “Why didn’t I think of this?” recipe. Pizza crust slathered in hummus and topped with fresh vegetables and feta cheese is pretty much just my go-to meal of hummus and pita crisps plus a nice side salad, but in a handy streamlined form, with all of pizza’s warm, crunchy, melty deliciousness as a bonus. I’ve made this twice already and I’m hooked; its lightness makes it particularly nice in the summer (I could totally envision it as a party appetizer).
The recipe is from Everybody Likes Sandwiches’ column at Poppytalk, but I made a few changes. I used my homemade hummus recipe, which I highly recommend; it’s simple and bright with lemon. Instead of using ricotta, half blended into the hummus and half dolloped on top, I went with feta, which seemed more flavorful and better suited for the Mediterranean theme (also, I am obsessed with it lately), just sprinkled on top—hummus seems plenty creamy on its own without any additions. I was accidentally forced to use Trader Joe’s garlic-and-herb flavored pizza dough because they were out of normal dough, but I actually ended up really liking the zippier flavor it added—it reminded me of the dried oregano I sprinkle atop my pita chips, and so I used it again the second time. If you’re using plain dough, I’d suggest perhaps sprinkling a little dried oregano on the pizza when you add the salt and pepper. Further inspired by my pita crisps recipe, I added a little finely grated Parmesan the second time as well, again for added flavor as well as more thorough cheese coverage, and was very pleased with the results. One less successful modification was using a yellow pepper the first time around, on the theory that I usually prefer their sweeter flavor—it was fine, but on my second try I found that I preferred the red pepper the original recipe called for. Of course, you could add any vegetables you like to this pizza—I could see kalamata olives being nice, if I didn’t hate olives with a violent passion—but the pepper and broccoli work very well, being exactly the sort of crudite veggies you might dip into hummus on an appetizer tray.
1½ cups hummus (conveniently, my homemade hummus recipe makes exactly this amount)
1 small head broccoli, broken into small florets and lightly steamed
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 pound pizza dough
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Roll out your pizza dough on an oiled or cornmeal-sprinkled baking sheet.
3. Spread hummus evenly over pizza dough and scatter the steamed broccoli florets, red pepper slices, and onion over the top. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper, then feta and Parmesan. Place in oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until crust is golden.
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; heat up in the oven or in a skillet on the stovetop to restore crispiness.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The problem with my newfound interest in radishes is that when you buy radishes, you get a lot. Oh, sure, they look so innocent, sitting there all cute and pink in small, tight, manageable bunches, but unless you like popping them whole into your mouth (and I’m not there yet), most recipes involve thinly slicing them, and you can get a surprising number of thin slices out of just one radish. (I’d like to try cooking radishes, which often calls for them to be whole or halved instead of sliced—I’ve heard they’re incredible roasted, but my oven is still defunct, so that will have to wait.) And it’s possible that they multiply in the crisper drawer like rabbits when no one’s looking. Neither of the radish recipes I’ve posted so far has used an entire bunch of radishes, so I’ve been burdened with many extras. While hunting down ways to use them that seem palatable to our household of radish newbies, I found this one at Kalyn’s Kitchen, bookmarked it because it was pretty and it involved feta (one of my latest obsessions), and decided to try it one day when I realized I had spare radishes, cucumbers, feta, and buttermilk all waiting around serendipitously in the fridge.
Cucumbers and radishes seem to be paired together fairly often (maybe because they’re both so refreshingly crunchy, maybe because the mild coolness of the cucumbers balances out the peppery bite of the radishes, or maybe just because hot pink and green are a great color combination)—in fact, I’ve got a totally different cucumber-radish salad bookmarked that is apparently based on a traditional Russian recipe—but I’d never tried them in tandem. I could tell A was skeptical, and maybe I was too, because I only made a half-recipe, not wanting to be stuck with leftovers if we didn’t like it. But I like all the ingredients here, and there are few surprises when you put them all together. Cucumbers and radishes and feta: what’s not to like? The creamy feta vinaigrette, enhanced by a small quantity of tangy buttermilk (although I think you could use plain yogurt instead if you don’t have buttermilk on hand), is not only a great foil to the crunchy salad but extremely tasty—it’s based on a recipe by David Lebovitz intended for a green salad, and I’d definitely eat it that way as an alternative to my usual lemon-olive oil dressing. I used dried oregano instead of fresh thyme (which I’d neglected to buy), on the theory that feta and oregano belong to the same Greek-food family—and oregano is about the only dried herb that I think tastes good in its own right. Afterwards, I looked at Lebovitz’s recipe and realized that the original version (from Joy of Cooking) actually did call for oregano, so I guess I knew what I was doing.
Anyway, long story short, we both enjoyed this salad. Maybe it was the oregano, but we thought it would make a great side dish for a Mediterranean meal like chicken gyros. (We just had it with zucchini fritters.) Radishes, you keep on surprising me!
4 small Persian cucumbers (or other small cucumbers without large seeds)
10–12 large radishes
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese, divided
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or ½ teaspoon dried oregano (or thyme if you prefer)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons buttermilk (or plain yogurt)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Cut the ends off the cucumbers; slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise and then into half-moon slices about ¼ inch thick. Wash radishes and trim off ends, then slice the radishes in half lengthwise and into half-moon slices just slightly thinner than the cucumbers (I used French breakfast radishes, which are very long and narrow, so I just sliced them). Put cucumbers and radishes into a large salad bowl.
2. To make the dressing, put ½ cup crumbled feta into a small bowl. Add oregano and red wine vinegar and mash with a fork to your desired degree of smoothness. Stir in olive oil and buttermilk, plus salt and pepper to taste (it probably won’t need much salt, thanks to the salty feta).
3. Stir the dressing into the bowl with the cucumbers and radishes. Season to taste with salt (it may not need any more) and pepper. Sprinkle with the extra ¼ cup crumbled feta.
Time: 15 minutes
Leftover potential: Untested by me; the original recipe says that “this will keep in the fridge for a day or two, but it's better freshly made.”
Friday, July 08, 2011
Just another step in my continuing (and blissful) effort to make every single recipe in David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop. I think it will surprise exactly no one that this was incredibly delicious. Mine was perhaps a tad on the icy side, but I’m willing to chalk that up to either the vagaries of my freezer (which tends to freeze things either rock-hard or inadequately) or too-watery/small early-season peaches. Luckily, I had accidentally disregarded Lebovitz’s directions and used Greek yogurt—he says this is the only fro-yo recipe he uses regular, non-strained yogurt in, “since the peach puree is so velvety thick.” I don’t recall my peach puree being exactly velvety thick, so the Greek yogurt helped compensate. Anyway, slightly textural issues aside, this was a cool and refreshing way to welcome the summer stone-fruit season (especially since I still don’t have a working oven, so no fruit cobblers, crisps, crumbles, pies, or cakes for me…sigh).
1½ pounds ripe peaches (about 5 large)
½ cup water
¾ cup sugar
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
A few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Peel the peaches, slice them in half, and remove the pits. Cut the peaches into chunks and cook them with the water in a medium, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the sugar, and then chill in the refrigerator.
2. When the peaches are cool, puree them in a food processor or blender with the yogurt until almost smooth but slightly chunky. Mix in a few drops of lemon juice.
3. Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Yields: About 3 cups
Time: 20 minutes, plus chilling and processing time
Leftover potential: Good; should last for about a week in the freezer
Friday, July 01, 2011
I remember back when I was studying abroad in England, I thought it was hilarious that corn is a common pizza-topping option there (like, you can get it at Pizza Hut). Those Old Worlders and their lack of understanding of New-World foods! I was vegetarian at the time, so I was grateful for any extra vegetable choices that weren’t green peppers (ew) or olives (hate), but I gotta say, corn doesn’t do much in that context, its delicate flavor and crunch overwhelmed by tomato sauce and cheese (and of course it’s canned corn anyway). Now I’ll put just about anything on a pizza that isn't nailed down, and it feels only fitting that I’ve come full circle and made a pizza where corn is the main feature. Of course, there’s a world of difference between that poor, sad British corn and this fresh, snappy treatment, where it’s paired with its good buddies cilantro and lime (anyone who's ever eaten elote knows what a great idea that is) and its summer compatriot zucchini, and topped with tangy, creamy, salty feta.
Do I even need to tell you that this was fantastic?
OK, fine. THIS WAS FANTASTIC.
I’m extra pleased with it because I made it up myself…well, I combined two similar recipes into one, but that’s about as creative as I get with kitchen improvisation. I don’t remember what Internet rabbit hole I’d fallen down when I stumbled across this recipe at food52, but seeing the words “corn,” “feta,” “cilantro,” “lime,” and “pizza” all together pretty much blew my mind and I bookmarked it immediately. I was so obsessed that I couldn’t stop thinking about it and exactly how awesome it was going to taste. The author mentioned having based the recipe on a pizza she’d tasted at the Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley, so I did some Googling just to see if anyone else had given this a try (because when I can’t eat something right away, the next best thing is reading other people’s descriptions of it). Lo and behold, I found lots of mentions of a corn, cilantro, and lime pizza from the Cheeseboard Collective, the recipe for which had even been published in the Cheeseboard Collective cookbook—but that pizza looked different, with zucchini, onion, and mozzarella added (even better as far as I’m concerned), and no cilantro-lime pesto, just a paltry sprinkle of cilantro and squeeze of lime over the finished pizza (boo).
Obviously, I was going to have to McGyver my own ideal version. I took the cilantro-lime pesto from the first recipe and added it to the second recipe, omitting the garlic oil from that one and simplifying the directions somewhat. The quantities are approximate—with pizza, you just add toppings until it looks right—and I made a few additional changes because I was cooking the pizzas in cast-iron skillets on the stovetop using the newly discovered method I’ve perfected over the past two months of oven-brokenness…which, remind me to write that down sometime, because it’s pretty nifty, so nifty that I might keep using it occasionally even after my oven is fixed. Anyway, since the toppings don’t get cooked as much on stovetop pizza as they do on oven-baked, I gave the onion and zucchini a quick sauté in some olive oil before putting them on the pizza, and I gotta say, I liked the results so much (I’m not crazy about crunchy onions unless in salads or on certain sandwiches) that I might do it every time, even though it means dirtying an extra pan. My corn was also pre-cooked, because it’s way easier to cut the kernels off the cob that way—they don’t fly all over the kitchen as much as they do when it’s raw, and anyway I was boiling some other ears of corn earlier in the week, so why not throw that one in the pot too? You could go either way, depending on what’s more convenient for you.
2 medium cloves garlic
1 bunch cilantro (about 1 tightly packed cup), plus a bit extra to taste if desired
Juice of ½ lime, plus a lime wedge to squeeze over the finished pizza if desired
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a little extra if you want to sauté your toppings
1 ear of corn (raw or briefly boiled), kernels removed
1 pinch of black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
6–8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 medium-large zucchini, thinly sliced
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 pound pizza dough
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Make the pesto by adding the garlic, 1 cup cilantro, juice of ½ lime, ¼ teaspoon salt, and olive oil to a food processor or blender and processing until smooth.
3. In a small bowl, toss the corn kernels with the black pepper, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt.
4. Optional: In a skillet, sauté the onion and zucchini in a little olive oil over medium heat until just tender.
5. Roll out the pizza dough on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Spread the pesto over the pizza. Add half of the mozzarella, all of the onion and zucchini, the remaining mozzarella, and then the corn and feta.
6. Bake pizza for 12–15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted. Remove from oven, and garnish with extra cilantro and a squeeze of lime if desired.
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; reheat in the oven or in a skillet on the stovetop for optimal crispiness.