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Artichokes or Fartichokes? We Test Them

7 Nov Another view of them raw

I got a quart of Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus),as a special bonus from the farm the other day and I was thrilled to get to try them.

Here's what they look like before washing

Here’s what they look like before washing

But a funny thing happened when I began to research…some articles suggested that as delicious as these roots are — favored by Native Americans back in the day and now beloved worldwide — and despite their cheery aliases —  sunchokes, sunroot and earth apples  — they have a dark underbelly. Emphasis on belly. The story goes that they cause gastric disturbances that no one wants to talk about, since they have so many tasty uses and currently are the darling of the foodie-rootsy set.

I took my investigation international, as my sources said the Brits in particular complained about the gas and christened them “fartichokes.” Given that the English would be unlikely to worry about the truth of such a terrific pun-type word and would happily use it with complete disregard to its relationship to actual fact, I had to corroborate.

Cleaned-up Jerusalem artichokes.

Cleaned-up Jerusalem artichokes.

My son and I got on the Skype to Lowestoft, England to ask my friend Kate and her two boys, Alastair and Gregor, who are 10 and therefore can be expected to be well-versed in anything gassy. They said no, they’d never heard such a thing, but seemed to enjoy being asked.

Well, me being me, I forged on with the experiment, fearlessly offering my body as laboratory rat in the name of good eating, washing and peeling some (but not all) of these cute little roots that have a hobbit-y sort of charm. I set about roasting and then had a taste. They were delicious. Really delicious.

Firm to the bite then creamy inside, with a wonderful nutty flavor (the peeled bits were better than the unpeeled); I was smitten and already thinking about what I could do with them the next time. I then went to bed, after leaving some for my parents to try with their lunch the next day.

Another view of them raw

Another view of them raw

All was well, until suddenly on my way to work that next morning I found out that the Wikipedia entry was painfully true…and I quote… Continue reading

Buttery Roasted Winter Radishes and Watermelon Turnips

1 Nov It doesn't get much prettier than this

I don’t always reap what I sow, being that my garden is often a disaster and if my family depended on it for primary sustenance, the de Cubas would be no more.

Surprise! An unexpected bounty of radishes

Surprise! An unexpected bounty of radishes

But in a delightful surprise, a late summer planting of leftover radish seeds, sown in some fit of hopefulness as I cleared the beds of the unproductive detritus of a summer spent elsewhere, yielded a pound or so of very fat cherry bell and French Breakfast radishes.

Should've harvested these a week ago....

Should’ve harvested these a week ago….

So fat, in fact, that they needed a roasting with butter to mellow the bite and soften the woodiness that comes when you don’t notice what is happening and you wait too long to harvest. It is the #gardenofneglect after all!

Another view of the surprise radish harvest

Another view of the surprise radish harvest

I added in there some watermelon turnips from our CSA (Restoration Farm), which were absolutely gorgeous, but I didn’t know what else to do with. This is the simplest recipe ever for a beautiful autumnal side dish!

A pretty plate of turnips and radishes with very little effort

A pretty plate of turnips and radishes with very little effort

Roasted Winter Radishes and Watermelon Turnips

Radishes, sliced into ¼-1/2” half moons and/or Watermelon turnips, peeled/pared and sliced into ¼”half moons

A knob of butter

2 Tbs (or more) extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly cracked pepper to finish

Preheat oven to 425°F

In a baking dish big enough to hold your quantity of root vegetables you have, place all the vegetables. Add a generous knob of butter (figure 1.5 Tbs for a 8×8 oven dish worth and go up a half Tbs for each inch larger). Pour 2 Tbs of olive oil over that. Stir everything around to coat and add more oil as you see fit.

Roast in the oven a half hour. Check how things are doing. The turnip will take longer, so lower heat to 375°F and roast for another half hour (you won’t burn the radishes, but the turnip will soften. I will be experimenting with a slower roast at lower temp all the way in the next few days). Sprinkle generously with finishing salt and pepper and serve.

Garbanzo (Chick Pea) Salad with Tahini, Black Olives and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

13 Aug rustic and robust chick peas!

I love garbanzos (chick peas, ceci) in all different ways, but especially as a salad or salad topper. They add meatiness and texture to everything and taste great with loads of garlic and onions.

Also, very versatile...

Also, very versatile…

Here is a quick and easy salad that uses up the bits and bobs you have in your fridge. When I make this kind of salad, I feel as though I am just giving it everything I’ve got; you’ll notice that the quantities of each ingredient can vary to your taste and availability. We’ll be having this one tonight with cold leftover chicken, perhaps some marinated artichoke hearts, an olive assortment, some pistachios and clementines. Delicious light dinner!

A worthy accompaniment to summer meals

A worthy accompaniment to summer meals

Garbanzo Salad with Tahini, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives

2-3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

½ – 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Juice of half a lemon

1-1 Tbs tahini

Pinch salt

1 Tbs garlic, minced

2 Cup garbanzos (soaked or from a can)

¼ Cup onion, chopped fine        

¼ Cup green pepper, chopped fine

2 Tbs sun-dried tomatoes, diced

1-2 Tbs pitted black olives, sliced

1 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped

In a serving bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice, until smooth. Stir in tahini until smooth, then a bit of salt. Add remaining ingredients and mix well, adding additional salt if desired. Serve over salad greens or rice.

Georgia Kalamidas’ Purslane Salad (Another weed made useful!)

12 Aug I haven't yet met Georgia, but her last name suggests that the Greeks know how to manage this bad boy right

We were a bit bemused to find this thick-leaved rubbery-stemmed plant called purslane (Portulaca oleracea) in our pick-up and completely unsure of how to use it. It seemed to be the exception to the CSA rule of thumb: “When in doubt, saute in garlic and oil.” What to do?

Purslane is a succulent. those fat leaves hold water during drought.

Purslane is a succulent. those fat leaves hold water during drought.

Fortunately, our Restoration Farm grower Caroline Fanning provided a recipe from someone I think is another another member, Georgia Kalamidas (duly credited here) and the Internet provided more info on what this thing is. Apparently, some folks think it is a beautiful edible ornamental. Others think it is a weedy, resilient pain the gardener’s ass.

University of Illinois Extenson educator, Sandra Mason in a very funny and informative piece called “Purslane: Weed it or Eat it?”  discusses the relative merits of purslane in the garden. For example: “Purslane is an annual reproducing from seeds and from stem pieces. Seeds of purslane have been known to stay viable for 40 years in the soil. You may find that fact either depressing or exciting.”

Use it or lose it. One day after pick-up this needed using

Use it or lose it. One day after pick-up this needed using

The edible nature of this useful weed is another story. In young plants you can use the stem. My pick-up partners, Lori and John, and I tasted the stems and were not impressed. So we removed the leaves (it takes a while, so factor in time for that), rinsed thoroughly (purslane generally grows close to the ground) and followed Georgia’s recipe. The purslane is a bit like watercress without the nuttiness, and a bit like parsley but milder. In fact, you could substitute either in this salad, which was absolutely refreshing and delicious, with a lot of brightness and crunch. And by the way, you can apparently saute it in garlic (the rule stands!), and also in soups, but don’t cook it too long or it will become mucilaginous (slimy, like okra). Also, next time I might substitute oregano for the mint and add feta. Click for basic recipe! Continue reading

Guingambó Guisado (Stewed Okra) Even if you think it’s gooey, you’ll like the food history

18 Jul This was the version before Pedro was scolded into chopping it in rounds

In Puerto Rico we call it guingambó (geen-gahm-BOH) or variations on that word, which seems to derive from the original African term for it. You may know it as okra (which may be another African derivative) or ladyfingers for the elegant shape of its conical pods. Usually bright green, there are gorgeous red varieties too (the red color doesn’t really hold up in cooking, unfortunately). It’s available year-round in hot places, but in the Northeast, it is a summer to early fall vegetable.

From the farmer's market

From the farmer’s market

It is said to originate in Abbysinia/Ethiopia/Eritrea and made its way across Africa and eventually to the Americas where it was particularly embraced in the Caribbean and Southern — especially French –U.S. There were loads of Africans imported against their will to those regions but okra came with them and it happens to grow well there. And they had to do a lot of the cooking so they incorporated it in creative ways.

Chop Chop!

Chop Chop!

Gumbo, that deservedly beloved stew cook-up from the New Orleans area,was thickened with okra and probably gets its name from that same African word that sounds like guingambó, although you might think that “gummy” has something to do with it too. After all, that gooey stuff inside called “mucilage” definitely brings things together. Today it is gaining popularity amongst non-Southern, non-Caribbean people and that is a good thing! You can bread and fry it, which is on my list to try soon, and when my CSA farm has some I will eat it raw and love it up, but the way I adore it is stewed.

A little ham for sweetness and depth

A little ham for sweetness and depth

My dad claimed not to like okra for the usual reason: TOO GOOEY! But then I brought some red okra home fresh from an organic farm in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico (Productos Sana) and he went at it and changed his mind. Funnily enough, my late maternal grandmother (Puerto Rican) used to make a delicious stew. My dad (Aruban), in his experimenting, inadvertently ended up creating the same dish with nearly the same flavors as she used and I am very happy!

This was the version before Pedro was scolded into chopping it in rounds

This was the version before Pedro was scolded into chopping it in rounds the way my grandmother did. Easier to eat.

The recipe is below, but first, a few valuable links for food history nerds. Continue reading

Tostones de Panapén (Fried Breadfruit Disks)

16 Jul Tostón de panapén

When they talk about flakes of manna falling from the sky, I am sure they are talking about tostones de panapén.

Chunks browned lightly

Chunks browned lightly

Panapén or pana is what Puerto Ricans call breadfruit. The back story of how breadfruit got to the West Indies from South East Asia is actually one of the most famous seafaring tales around: The Mutiny on the Bounty.

The LeBron Brothers are the guys in the Plaza de Mercado de Mayagüez (where my great-grandfather had a booth in the early 1900s) who supply me with the good stuff, already peeled and pared!

The LeBron Brothers are the guys in the Plaza de Mercado de Mayagüez (where my great-grandfather brought his produce and my great-uncle had a booth in the early 1900s) who supply me with the good stuff, already peeled and pared!

Captain Bligh, on that ill-fated trip was trying to bring breadfruit to plant in the  Caribbean for cheap slave food.

Wikipedia image

Continue reading

Zucchini: 7 Superstar Supereasy Recipes

12 Jul Light and luscious, the abundant corn kernels make this fun to eat

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all love summer veggies fresh from the garden. Except — admit it! — when there are piles and piles and piles of zucchini sitting around your kitchen counters waiting for a purpose. For that time there is this post.

I have collected some of my favorite zucchini recipes here to inspire you and yours to enjoy zucchini in different ways (and overwhelmed gardeners can send this to their friends as they pass off some of the overabundance of zucchini from the backyard).

Enjoy! You will remember these days fondly in the dark of winter.

Rosemary-Manchego Zucchini Fritters

 

Zucchini Rosemary Manchego Fritters Yum

Zucchini Rosemary Manchego Fritters Yum

 

 Remoulade (Easy Summer Squash Slaw…cooooool)

 

Zucchini Slaw

Zucchini Slaw

 Crunchy Creamy Zucchini Corn Fritters

Light and luscious, the abundant corn kernels make this fun to eat

Light and luscious, the abundant corn kernels make this fun to eat

 Easy Stovetop Lemon-Oregano Zucchini and Yellow Squash

How this dish looked at our campsite on the beach

How this dish looked at our campsite on the beach

Healthy and Happy Grilled Veggie Kebabs Continue reading

Easy, Hearty, Refried Beans for Bean Dip, Tacos, Burritos, and more

8 Jul Yum!

We’ve been having folks over or heading to other people’s houses for watch parties during the World Cup…as die-hard fanáticos del fútbol, this extravaganza of soccer is something we look forward to every four years with great anticipation.

I’ve mostly gonewith tried and true recipes like the incredibly delicious Chipotle Lime Jerk Slow Cooker Chicken and my Seasoned Ground Beef for Sloppy Joes, Tortilla Torcal (Spanish stovetop egg frittata with chorizo, ham and peas from our garden), Grapes and White Cheese (no-cook fab appetizer with just two ingredients — three if you count toothpicks), and such.

Go U.S.A.!

Go U.S.A.! Tim Howard is Hercules!

But for the first U.S. game of the Cup, I also made a new one: bean dip! I was very happy with the results. I did homemade refried beans (recipe below), then just layered it up with salsa and cheese and melted in the oven and served with tortilla chips, sour cream and avocado chunks and everyone liked it. A Lot.

This bean recipe is very versatile for Tex-Mex style foods like nachos, burritos, tacos and the like. Sure you can buy refried beans in a can, but this flavor and texture is more complex and of course the sodium and fat levels are reduced to human proportions. Give it a try!

 

Layered with cheese and salsa, this warm dip is a hot item

Layered with cheese and salsa, this warm dip is a hot item

Refried Beans for Bean Dip or Tex-Mex meals (with garlic scapes)

1-2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs garlic scapes (or garlic), chopped fine

¼ Cup diced ham (ham steak or deli ham)

½ Cup broth (chicken or veggie; not too sweet)

1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)

3 Cups red beans (softened at home or from a can, rinsed and drained)

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a generous pan to medium high. Lower heat and sauté the garlic scapes in the oil until tender. Add the diced ham and sauté an additional minute, then add remaining ingredients and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and with a potato masher or a fork, mash mixture roughly until you have a thick, rustic paste, adding tablespoons of water or broth as needed. Layer with salsa and cheese in an oven-safe dish and heat up, then top with sour cream, guacamole and olives, or use it to top nachos or stuff tacos and burritos!

Spicy Peach and Nectarine Salsa (for grilled chicken, fish or shrimp)

23 Jun Perfect to spice up grilled chicken

Between the World Cup, my son’s birthday, and all the crazy- end-of-school-year STUFF, I have not been blogging with my usual attention. And I have missed you! But in the last few days of entertaining and spectating, this peach and nectarine salsa (done quickly at half-time)  has been sparking up the fantastic grilled chicken my dad has been charring to perfection.

A combination of over-ripe and not-quite ripe peaches and nectarines make for a terrific salsa

A combination of over-ripe and not-quite ripe peaches and nectarines make for a terrific salsa

It is the result of buying a manager’s special of rejected peaches and nectarines on the cheap….You can substitute mango..in fact my mom thought it was mango! The important thing is the balance and excitement of sweet, citric, spicy and salty all at one go.  Nancy, this one is for you…

This is done in five minutes!

This is done in five minutes!

Peach/Nectarine Spicy Salsa (for grilled chicken or shrimp)

1 Cup peeled and chopped peaches and nectarines

1 tsp red onion, chopped fine

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp balsamic vinegar

1 pinch hot red pepper flakes

1 pinch salt

Mix together in a bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Serve with grilled chicken, shrimp or sturdy white fish.

Mango Chimichurri Salsa (for grilled meats and seafood)

7 Jun Easy as pie. Easier, actually. Pie is hard!

When it comes to camping food, go bold or go home is my motto. This is no time for subtlety.

Our delicious dinner

Our delicious dinner

So, when Pedro (my dad) showed up at the campsite with some steaks last week. I was all in. He simply sprinkled salt and pepper on the steaks and got to grilling. His hint for you today is that starting with defrosted steaks still a bit cold in the center helps to keep the rare in medium rare when things start moving quickly on the charcoal grill. A fair bit of marbling on a steak is desirable, because you want that fat to melt and season the steak as opposed to drying out a leaner cut.

I decide to surprise everyone with a different sort of dressing for the steak: a mango chimichurri salsa, a riff on the parsley-based Argentinean salsa for steeak. Continue reading

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