Swiss Chard with Balsamic Butter

Another boom of Swiss Chard from the CSA and from my garden is making me scramble for recipes.  This one comes from Susie Middleton’s Fast, Fresh & Green which, in my opinion, is one of the greatest veggie recipe books around.  I like that it uses both the leaves and the stems; especially if you have “Bright Lights” chard – with its array of jewel-like colors, it makes a very pretty dish, as well as a tasty one.

So yesterday I made a huge batch of Debbie’s vanilla-and-cardamom baked squash, using a Butternut from the CSA and two Delicatas from my garden. Tonight I made it into soup, using the basic two-two-two recipe for all my Cream of Whatever soups, and it was outstanding with the Swiss chard on the side, with some garlic bread.  Jeeps actually put the chard on the bread and ate it like a crostini.

A perfect Autumnal Equinox supper, if I do say so.

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Susie Middleton’s Swiss Chard with Balsamic Butter

  • 1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar (mine is this fabulous strawberry balsamic that Jeeps’ partner Steve gave us for Christmas)
  • 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 3/4 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 bunch Swiss Chard with stems
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil (really try to get peanut oil, it’s worth it)
  • 2 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts (optional; Jeeps doesn’t like them so I kept them on the side)
  • Kosher salt

In a small bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and brown sugar.  Set aside

Wash and dry the chard.  Pull or cut the stems away from the chard leaves.  Cut or rip the leaves into 2- to 3-inch pieces.  Slice the stems crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces.

In a small skillet or pan, toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.  Really babysit them because they will burn in a second.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When oil is hot, add the chard stems with a pinch of salt and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant.

Add the chard leaves and 1/2 tsp Kosher salt.  Using tongs, toss the chard leaves in the pan until wilted down.  Scrape the balsamic mixture into the pan, stir, and remove the pan from the heat.  Add the butter and toss and stir until it’s melted.  Fold in half the pine nuts.

Transfer the chard, stems, and cooking liquid to a small serving bowl and garnish with remaining pine nuts.

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Sweet Potato Quinoa Burgers

OK I had great intentions, but these veggie burgers didn’t quite come out the way I wanted them to.  Taste got a 10; Texture got a 3.  They were not burger-y at all so something went wrong somewhere (I have a few ideas), or it’s one of those recipes you have to fiddle around with.  But again, as far as taste goes, these knocked it out of the park so I feel they are worth another try.

To make up for them being less than stellar, I’m including a brussel sprout-and-radish slaw that I shamelessly stole/copied from Mezon in Danbury, where we went with friends the other night for Tapas.  Taaaapaaaaas!  I love tapas.  In fact I have dreams of taking the best of my scribbles (like Heaven, FlightRain, Needle, Smack, Fast, and Blue) and compiling them in a collection called “Tapas”.  Because they’re just little bites but they fill you up.

Or so I like to think.

20130422-203610.jpgAnyway.  One of our tapas was served with this slaw that was so good, I had to try to re-create it.  I just made a little, thinking that only Jeeps and I would eat it.  But no, Panda kept dipping her spoon in and so did her friend who was over for dinner.  These dang kids, you can never figure their tastes out.

Go Figure Sweet Potato Quinoa Burgers

  • 1 can (15 ounces) no salt added black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes (I think I screwed up here because instead of measuring 3 cups of raw, cubed sweet potato and then steaming that amount, I measured 3 cups of steamed mashed sweet potato)
  • 3/4 cup sweet corn, frozen or fresh
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (I didn’t screw up here; cook the quinoa first, then measure 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Heaping 1/3 cup garbanzo bean flour, or finely ground rolled oats, or almond flour (I had none of these things but I did have almond meal.  Maybe it contributed to the mushy texture, maybe it didn’t)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • Fresh black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce20130422-203710.jpg

Fill a large pot 3/4 full of water and bring to a boil on the stove.  Add the sweet potatoes and lower the heat to simmering.  Let the potatoes cook for about 20-30 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and set aside to cool.  (You can also steam the potatoes in the microwave.)

While your potatoes are cooling preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non stick foil.

Once your potatoes have cooled use a fork to mash them.  You want them mashed but not creamy.

In a large mixing bowl add half of the black beans and mash them with a fork.

Add the rest of the beans and the remaining ingredients.  Stir until just combined.  Form the mixture into 10 balls.  Each burger should be about 1/2″ thick.  Place each patty on your prepared baking sheet and place in the oven for 30 minutes, flipping the burgers over once halfway through baking.

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Remove from the oven and serve.

I made the slaw by running 8 brussels sprouts and 4 radishes through the shredding disk on the food processor.  Then I dressed it with lime juice, mayonnaise, and chopped cilantro.  Raw brussies are bitter, so after combining all that, I started adding squeezes of honey and tasting until it was the perfect blend of sweet and sour.  You’ll know when you get it right.

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Golden Beet and (Green Bean) Salad

You have to laugh at yourself….because you’d cry your eyes out if you didn’t.

beetsIt’s spring, which means beets. For those of you with beet issues, just leave the post now, because I love them in a very prejudiced way and I don’t have time for non-believers.

DeCicco’s always has beautiful produce and on my last trip they had gorgeous, fat, golden beets, which are my very favorite of all beets. I’d had my eye on this golden beet and green bean salad I pinned from Martha Stewart. I remembered to grab crumbled goat cheese and I swear, I swear I bought two bags of French green beans – one for Easter, and one for the salad.

I must have made both bags on Easter because after I’d roasted the beets and had the water boiling to blanch the beans, I went to the fridge and…no beans. What? Of course there are beans, I bought two bags because I knew I was making this salad! No! No this is not happening!

You know that thing where you search the fridge thoroughly for something you know is there. But it’s not. But you keep going back to the fridge and searching again? In weird places like the butter drawer? Yeah, so anyway, once I was convinced that there were no beans to be had, I kicked myself around the kitchen a couple times but then the show had to go on. I regrouped by roasting some asparagus and it worked out fine, it was delicious. Just imagine it’s very fat green beans, OK?

20130405-120902.jpgOne other thing: I usually roast beets wrapped in foil, but pressed for time, I cut them into 1″ dice and roasted them direct on the baking sheet at 425. This is fine, but in small dice at high temp they will caramelize very quickly, and once you smell burning sugar, it’s just a wee bit too late. Jeeps and I ate the really scorched ones and left the pretties for the photo shoot. It’s all good really.

Golden Beet and Fat Green Bean Salad

  • 6 large golden beets
  • 6 ounces haricots verts, trimmed and cut in thirds
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot (from 1 shallot)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed torn fresh basil, plus small leaves for garnish
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 425. Peel and trim beets and cut into 1″ dice.

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Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, spread on baking sheet, and roast for 10 minutes. Shake the sheet to redistribute and roast another 10 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning. (Alternatively you can wrap the beets in foil and roast for about an hour). Transfer beets to a large bowl.

Cook haricots verts in boiling salted water until bright green and crisp tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to ice-water bath, and drain. Add to beets.

Mix vinegar, shallot, and mustard in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Toss with vegetables, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in torn basil and goat cheese. Garnish with basil leaves.  I added some pine nuts as well.  It’s a salad, there are no rules.

Serve.

Laugh.

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Sweet Potatoes with Black Rice

IMG_5991Isn’t this gorgeous?  I love mason jars.  And here’s a funny thing:  twelve-year-old girls apparently love to organize things into jars.  Even if those things are weird grains that they wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, it’s fun to decant them into the jars and arrange them on the shelf.

But great grains they are and one of my resolutions this year is to eat more of them.  So without further ado, I introduce the Grain of the Week:

Bl–…

Wait.

Let’s let Mark Dacascos from Iron Chef America have the honors.

Markdascascos

BLACK RICE!!!!!!

Thank you, chairman (makes “call me” telephone gesture).  Black rice, also known as purple or “Forbidden Rice”, is high in nutritional value and contains 18 amino acids, iron, zinc, copper, carotene, and several important vitamins.  It is indeed a deep black color and usually turns deep purple when cooked. Its dark purple color is primarily due to its anthocyanin content…

Blah, blah, blah, it looks cool in the jar and anything called “Forbidden” is usually pretty good.  So what to do with it?  Well, on the back of the bag there happened to be this recipe for sauted sweet potatoes with black rice which sounded forbiddingly tasty.  And so, with an open heart and an empty stomach, I say unto you in the words of my uncle…

ALLEZ CUISINE!!!!!!

Forbidden Sweet Potatoes with Black Rice

  • IMG_60223/4 cup black rice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used coconut oil because I’m a total evangelical convert, I’m addicted, it’s crack, I use it in everything)
  • 3/4 cup scallions (and by the way, see these scallions here?  They are the last thing standing in my garden.  No lie.  Pulled ’em right out of the frozen ground)
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced (which I skip entirely in favor of a heaping tablespoon of my jarred, pressed ginger, and you should too)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

Bring rice, water and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce heat to low and cook rice, covered until tender and most of the water is absorbed (about 30 minutes)

While rice is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Saute scallions, ginger and sweet potato, stirring until coated, about 2 minutes.  Reduce heat and add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sweet potato cubes are fork-tender.

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Add rice and toss gently to combine.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley or cilantro and ignore your husband, who hates parsley and cilantro sprinkled on his food.  It won’t kill him.

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Serve to the Chairman.  I’m sure he doesn’t mind a little parsley sprinkled on his food…

Summer Vegetable Ragout

I have to confess (and I’m sure you noticed), cooking lost a lot of priority the past few months.  Work has been crazy, school is insane, the garden is demanding, the kids’ activities have us running all over, and I’ve agreed to dance in Frank’s recital.  Between work, yardwork and homework, Panda’s class and rehearsals, my class and rehearsals, Redman’s games and practices…you can see where I’m going with this.  Let’s just order Chinese Food.

But bang and bang, Panda’s two recitals were finished, and last week was her last ballet class in Ridgefield.  And suddenly I have Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights free.  Welcome back, Kotter!  I can actually plan a dinner.  I can plan a week of dinners and there will be people here to eat them!  We can eat on the deck!  I can put flowers on the table on the deck while we eat the dinner I planned!

Life is great.

So all my cookbooks are stacked up next to my bed again and I’m getting reacquainted with some old friends.  Diving back into one of my very favorites, Fast, Fresh & Green, here’s a simply awesome recipe for Summer Vegetable Ragout with Zucchini, Green Beans and Corn.  This is a lemon-bright, elegant succotash of sorts.  I doubled the recipe below, subsituted asparagus for green beans because it’s what I had around, and I used frozen corn instead of fresh.  A little bit of prep time goes into this, but then it’s 1-2-3 in the skillet and just totally delicious.  Redman really liked it, which surprised me.  Then again, he’s always surprising me.

Summer Vegetable Ragout

  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream (I used half-and-half)
  • 1 tbsp Canola or Olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 3/4 cup sliced baby zucchini (slice baby zucchini straight across; if you don’t have baby, use regular, sliced lengthwise in quarters and then straight across)
  • 3/4 cup sliced slender green or yellow wax beans (I used 1/2 bunch of asparagus, cut on the diagnol into 1″ pieces)
  • 1 cup medium-diced yellow onion (I used a red onion because I had half a one hanging out in the fridge)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley, basil, chives, thyme and just a little bit of mint)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl.  In a liquid measuring cup, combine broth and heavy cream.  Set these aside.

Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the corn, zucchini, green beans, onion and salt.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the bottom of the pan is browned, 4 to 6 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, just until well combined.  Turn the heat to low, add the broth-cream mixture, stir well to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and cover.  Simmer until the liquids have reduced to 1 or 2 tbsp, about 4 minutes.

Remove the pan from the stove, and stir in the lemon juice mixture and most of the fresh herbs.  Season with pepper and stir again.  Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the remaining herbs.

This and a cranberry-radish slaw, along with two rotisseries chicken, were dinner on the deck.

Black Bean & Quinoa Everything

All the Trader Joe chatter is about these things lately:  Quinoa and Black Bean infused Tortilla Chips.  I bought a bag to try at home.  Gone in sixty seconds.  I went back to the store to buy ten bags and they were gone from the shelves.  I asked a crew member if there were any in the back and he, and a few more crew members, burst out laughing.  “Girl, those chips became like Peppermint Joe-Joes.  People are lining up at the truck for them!”  As a testimonial to how perfectly freakin’ AWESOME the crew is at Trader Joe’s, one of them took my cell phone number and promised to text me when the next shipment came in.

And she actually did:

Hm, usually my love has a better effect than that.  Anyway, I hurried over and scored six bags and there was this great communal love-fest in the snack aisle with a bunch of us loading up our carts and discussing the best way to serve these chips.  People confessed to eating an entire bag solo before dinner.  One guy insisted we try them with TJ’s corn relish, and I myself converted a few people to trying them with the peach salsa.  And then a nearby Crew member went in for the kill:

“Have you tried our Tri-Color Quinoa yet?”

We turned as one.  Eyebrows raised.  Pardon?

“The Tri-Color Quinoa.  Over in the pasta aisle.  There’s a recipe on the back of the package for Black Bean & Quinoa fritters that sounds like it would be great with the peach salsa, too.”

I was gone.  I love black bean fritters to begin with, and this sounded really good.  I ended up not following the recipe to the letter…merely because I was too lazy to get out the food processor.  I’ll leave it up to you to try their way.  Here’s my way:

Black Bean & Quinoa Fritters (My Way)

  •  1 red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1/2 red onion, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
  • 3 cups quinoa, cooked in chicken broth (I got confused here.  Did they mean measure out 3 cups quinoa and then cook it in classic 2-to-1 ratio, in this case 6 cups of broth?  Or to prepare enough quinoa in chicken broth to yield 3 cups?  I went with the latter and cooked 2 cups quinoa in 4 cups broth and the yield was enough with some left over)
  • 2-3 eggs (start with 2, you may need to add another to get the ingredients to bond and the fritters to hold their shape)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Actually, if you combine all without the egg, you could stop here, add a vinaigrette and end up with a very nice salad…

But add the egg, mix it all up.  Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Scoop up a generous tablespoon of quinoa, drop gently into the oil and gently flatten into a patty.  My first batch fell apart and I needed to add the third egg.

Fry until brown on both sides and drain on paper towels.

  

To go along with these babies, I had a salad spinner basket full of greens from the garden:  yellow swiss chard, beet tops, and leaves from Purple Peacock Broccoli, which is a cross between broccoli and kale so the leaves are edible.  And to prep the greens, I had one from the Department of I’ve Been Meaning to Do This for Years but Never Got Around to It:  flavored olive oil.  I don’t know what’s taken me so long, it’s not like this is a time-consuming, labor-intensive chore.  I guess it was just being in Homegoods and finding a couple of glass bottles for olive oil on clearance and deciding one of them would be exclusively for herb-infused oil.  And there’s nothing to this at all:  wash and dry sprigs of thyme, rosemary, oregano, whatever you want, and cram them into the bottle.  Peel and smash a few cloves of garlic, slice them lengthwise so you can get them through the neck of the bottle too.  Add a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Then funnel in your olive oil.  Stop up the bottle, let it sit a few days.  Next thing you know you’re using it to sauté everything, dunking bread in it, drizzling it over pasta.  When the oil runs out, just pour more in.  And be sure you arrange it on a cutting board with a bouquet of just-picked roses and a lemon, because that’s what all the cool people do.

So here’s the Money Shot of sautéed greens and quinoa-black bean fritters.  Amazing how that entire basket of greens cooked down to a wilted lump.  But fabulous cooked down in the infused oil and then braised with a little added chicken broth.  Top the fritters with a spoonful of peach salsa and you are in business.

Serve.

Die.

Bok Choy with Asian-style Ribs

I’ve been on a mission to try bok choy for some time now, and a few stir-fry recipes from Fast, Fresh & Green have clinched the deal.  But Susie Middleton really threw down the gauntlet when she added as a blithe aside, “these would be good with some oven-roasted boneless pork ribs.”

Hello.

Asian-style boneless pork ribs.  In the slow-cooker.  Did such a thing exist?

Consult the Oracle.  Of course it exists.  My searchings led me to the blog Choosy Beggars, and this awesome post about boneless Asian BBQ beef ribs.   She used beef, I figured it would work just as well for pork.  I’m not going to transpose it here, because hers is so well-written, being both about ribs and about slow cookers in general.  Just know I followed the recipe to the letter (and yes, there was a special shopping trip involved for things like oyster sauce, Chinese 5-spice powder, etc), and I’ll give you a few impressions here:

1) The recipe calls for a grated onion.  I know.  You just have to suck it up and do.  I’ve heard all kinds of tricks for keeping tears at bay while working with onions; frankly the only thing that is a surefire thing for me is having my contact lenses in.  No such luck so last night I had to try the remedy of chewing gum as I grated.  Not much help.  It was a sobby business.

2) The sauce smells amazing.  I put it all together last night in a tupperware container and the smell lingered around the kitchen for a while.

3) Ribs in cooker.  Sauce on top.  10 hours.  That’s the extent of it.  At the end, you will need to skim quite a bit of fat off the top.

4) I didn’t love them.  I know, bummer, huh?  They smelled amazing, they looked divine, they cozied up beautifully to the bok choy over rice, they were thoroughly enjoyable.  But I didn’t love them.  Maybe I’d love them if they were beef ribs but somehow I don’t think so.

I did, however LOVE the bok choy.  That and the rice I could eat over and over again.  So that said, here is the real star of the show…

Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy with Golden Garlic and Silky Sauce

(I added some halved baby carrots to this recipe just so there would be something for the kiddies to fall back on)

  • 12 oz baby bok choy (4-5 heads that are 6-7″ long)
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce (one of the specialties I had to go get, it was in both this and the rib sauce)
  • 1 tbsp low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil (and again, had to seek that out.  Wow, does peanut oil smell good!)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced very thinly crosswise
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Cut the bok choy lengthwise into quarters.  Wash them well by swishing them in a bowl of tepid water, and spin them dry (I shook mine dry, I didn’t feel like breaking out the spinner).

In a small bowl, combine the oyster sauce, broth and cornstarch

In a large, non-stick stir fry pan, heat the peanut oil over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic slices and break them up.  Cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds (it smells awesome!)  Add the bok choy to the pan.  Season with the salt and turn the heat up to high.  Using tongs, toss the bok choy with the oil to coat and to distribute the garlic slices.

Cook, rotating and turning the bok choy with the tongs and spreading it out so that all of the stems have some contact with the pan as they cook, and so that the garlic doesn’t all gather on the bottom of the pan, until all of the bok choy stems are browned in parts (9 to 12 minutes).

Remove the pan from the heat and, using a silicone spatula, immediately stir the sauce as you pour it into the pan.  As soon as the sauce thickens and begins to coat the vegetables, transfer to the bok choy and the sauce to a serving dish.

Delicious.  The bok choy was crisp and savory, perfect with the sweetness of the carrots, and the sauce is indeed silky.  Really loved this dish.