Archive for June, 2012

New Edition Pasta Salad

Whether on the beach or in the park, no picnic or barbeque menu would be complete without the ubiquitous pasta salad.  Let us pause here for just a moment- I want you to close your eyes and envision the pasta salad.  Overcooked elbow or shell shaped pasta, smothered in what is sure to become warm slippery mayo, studded with bits of bell pepper and onion that at one time may have been crisp but are now slightly softened by the heat of the sun.  For decades this salad held a place and the end of the summer BBQ table, next to a pile of hot dogs and hamburgers, atop a red and white checkered table cloth, and for just as long we have all spooned servings of the dish onto a paper plate only to push it away from our seeded buns and eventually toss it in the garbage.  The pasta salad, as just described in extreme detail above, has seen its end.   If you need I will give you a moment to say your goodbyes….

I promise there will be no separation anxiety upon this introduction to a new, lighter, more flavorful edition as seen in the recipe below.   I hope you enjoy.

New Edition Pasta Salad

1 pound farro
1 pound baby spinach
2 cans UN marinated artichoke hearts rinsed (you can also used frozen just make sure to properly thaw)
1 clove garlic
Juice and zest of two small lemons or 1 large lemon
8 fresh basil leaves
4 fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup grated cheese (I used Locatelli, because I always use Locatelli)
1 tablespoon salt
7-10 turns of fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Preparation:

Rinse the farro in a colander with several washes of water.  Bring a large pot of water to boil, add a generous amount of sea salt.  Add the farro to the boiling water and cook for aproximately 15 minutes or until tender, but still al dente.

In a food processor or blender add the artichoke hearts, basil, mint, walnuts, Locatelli, garlic clove, salt and pepper, lemon zest and juice.  Slowly pour in the olive oil and pulse until all ingredients are pureed.

Gently tear the spinach leaves into a large salad bowl, add the cooked farro and stir lightly to wilt the leaves.  Add the artichoke puree and combine well.  Season with any additional salt and pepper at this time.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

and one for good luck…Agave Grilled Chicken

A  seasonal post that offers two simple and delicious recipes, one for the week and one for good luck.

This round first features a grilled chicken recipe with a marinade of  agave syrup and fresh lime juice lime.  I also include a little tactical approach I have for charcoal grilling thicker cuts of meat.  The second feature is a salad so full of summer produce it welcomes the season with open tongs (I couldn’t resist).  I hope you enjoy both.

Agave Lime Grilled Chicken

1 organic, free range chicken cut into pieces, skin on

Juice of 2 limes
Zest of 1 lime
2 ½ tablespoons agave
pinch of cumin
½ cup of fresh cilantro smashed and bruised (either with a mortar and pestle or the back of a wooden spoon)
2 cloves of garlic smashed
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper plus more for seasoning chicken pieces
2 tablespoons sea salt plus more for seasoning chicken pieces
3 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for seasoning chicken pieces

Preparation:

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees F- *Yeah I said OVEN

On a broiler pan or baking dish lined with foil season the chicken pieces with salt, black pepper and olive oil, bake for approximately 30 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking combine all the remaining ingredients aside from the olive oil and garlic.  Stream the oil into the lime juice, agave and seasonings while whisking until the marinade becomes evenly combined and slightly thickened.  At this point take ¼ of the marinade and transfer to a clean bowl, we will use this portion to dress the salad.   You can now add the crushed garlic to the remaining.

Fire up your grill!

Transfer the chicken to the grill and baste the agave lime marinade on to the skin quickly with a brush. Cook for three- five minutes turn and baste the other side, cook for another three-five minutes, remove and cover with foil.

*Why do I do this? Grilling chicken, especially breasts raw can really dry out the meat.  Those of you with a gas grill may find that baking the chicken is a completely unnecessary step, as gas grill temperatures are easier to regulate than charcoal or wood burning.  We currently use a charcoal grill, and I find that baking the chicken first produces incredibly tender and juicy meat with a perfectly charred crust.

Welcome Summer Salad

1 head of butter leaf lettuce, washed and gently torn

2 cups of sliced organic strawberries

2 ears of corn grilled (4 minutes per side)

½ cup of crumbled feta cheese

3 sliced Persian seedless cucumbers

2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

In a large salad bowl combine the lettuce, cucumbers and strawberries.  Using the agave, lime marinade from earlier add in the rice wine vinegar and olive oil, whisk to combine, season with more salt and pepper if necessary.

Once the corn is grilled slice the warm kernels into the salad, top with feta cheese and toss.

We served this very seasonable combination with some grilled semolina bread basted with olive oil, a very perfect summer solstice meal.

 

 

Always on Hand Item # 1, Pine Nuts

The stock of non-perishables in my Grandparents basement pantry could have fed a small family for two years in the event of a nuclear disaster.  Luckily, the reserves were only ever used to help round out a meal for the frequent unannounced guest.

Preparedness is the foundation for any good working kitchen.  You must always have something on hand, even when there is “nothing to eat.”  My always on hand items are mostly canned and boxed, but some are ingredients I simply can’t do without.  So grab a pen and paper and start a list, these pantry staples are the perfect accompaniment to all the recipes on this blog, and they can make a meal out of themselves.

First on the always on hand list is Pignola, or Pine Nuts.  If you’ve been reading you know that this ingredient has more tags than anything else.  Toasted up these guys are the perfect additions to salads, pasta dishes, and a necessity for pesto.  Here, I take my most beloved tree nut to the desert table for a delectable little cookie that just happens to be incredibly healthful.

Choco Coco Pine Nut Macaroons 

2 cup of raw Pine Nuts
4 tablespoons agave syrup or Maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups of shredded unsweetened coconut
2 ½ tablespoons good quality unsweetened cocoa powder

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F

In a food processor or blender pulse the pine nuts into a paste.   Scrape the pine nuts down the side of the processor add the remaining ingredients.  Pulse all until extremely well blended!!!!

Using a measuring tablespoon scoop out the choco coco pine nut “batter” onto a baking sheet (nonstick or parchment lined) using your hands you can shape them into patties or balls whichever you prefer, just try and make sure that they are all roughly the same size.   Bake off in the oven for 50 minutes at 200 degrees F.

Cool on a rack for a good twenty minutes.  Enjoy …without feeling guilty!  

 

Active Dreaming

On a large plot of fertile land sits an old craftsman style farmhouse.   Every door and floor board  squeak but Paul and I don’t mind; it’s become an alert that the other is near, and we both find it comforting.  From nearly every window you can see a modest mountain range that interrupts the horizon.  The gray, seemingly translucent peaks frame rows of crop, our crops -herbs and vegetables that are carefully tended by our happy hands.  We have some goats, chickens, and two pigs.  I spend my days experimenting with cheese making and testing recipes, while Paul works every bit of our land into something almost entirely self sustaining. We sleep well, we eat well and we live well.

We don’t have that craftsman style farmhouse on a plot of fertile land, but we do know it exists somewhere in our financial future-just haven’t found it yet.  While we’re looking we occupy our time with the pleasures our dream is made up of: fresh soil under the fingernails, a stove top and oven that is always warm from having just been used, a table devoid of elbow room, and smiles on the mouths of our friends and family.

Some dreams are more vivid then others.  Some dreams you can see.  A pretty picture no doubt, but others you can see, taste, smell, hear and feel -these dreams must be carefully tended.  They need sunlight, test drives, they need to be explored and graphed until, piece by piece, that which seemed for whatever reason impossible is slowly becoming the reality you dreamed it could be.  This is what I refer to as “Active Dreaming”.  You ACTIVELY take part in making your dreams real using what you currently have on hand.  In order to try active dreaming for yourself just follow this simple formula: equal parts courage and faith and 1 part “I don’t care what you think”, carefully and slowly combine.

Paul fills a border trench with red worm compost. Learn more about red worm composting here http://www.redwormcomposting.com/

Homemade Ollas are used as our gardens irrigation system, learn more about this process here http://www.closertothedirt.com/experimenting-with-ollas

Waste Not Want Not

Wastefulness was not to be tolerated in my Grandparent’s house.  When preparing chicken cutlets for example, my Grandfather would continue to combine the egg and the breadcrumbs even after the meat was gone.  He would shape them into small, round patties and lightly fry them for a “vegetarian” option.  Once fried to golden perfection he would offer me half with a gentle wink- this was our before dinner reward.

A good working kitchen, prepared to feed any number of guests at any time, demands a bit of thrift. These techniques can be especially useful when you have 60 minutes before an impromptu dinner party and almost nothing in the fridge or pantry.  Finding myself in such a position a few nights ago I was forced to put my food thrift skills to good use.  A quick inventory check yielded the following results: The fridge held 1/2 bag of Arugula and 2 and a half cups of leftover quinoa.  In the pantry, and on the counter, I found some basil and pignola nuts.  Combined with my “always on hand” items, like grated cheese and olive oil, I felt confident that I had everything I needed to make some patties of my own.

Arugula Pesto Quinoa Patties

Makes about 15 patties 

For the Pesto

1/2 bag or about three cups Arugula (you could also sub spinach)

3/4 cup fresh basil

1/2 cup toasted pignola nuts

1/2 cup grated Locatelli

1/4 cup of olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

salt and pepper to taste (don’t be shy)

For the Patties:

2 and a half cups cooked quinoa at room temperature

4 egg whites

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup whole wheat plain bread crumbs

1/4 cup olive oil for some gently frying

Preparation:

Pre heat oven to35o degrees.

In a food processor or blender combine all ingredients for the pesto except the oil.  Pulse while drizzling the extra virgin olive oil in a slow steady stream.  Mix the pesto and breadcrumbs into the quinoa making sure to blend evenly.

Separate the eggs, dropping two yolks directly into the quinoa pesto mixture and stir well.  Save the egg whites in a clean bowl for a serious whipping.  You can use your mixer for this  if you are feeling especially weak in the forearm, but I suggest supplementing your workout for the day and do it by hand.  Whisk the whites until  until very soft peaks begin to develop.  Gently fold the egg whites into the quinoa and set aside.

In a small frying pan heat the olive oil over a medium high temperature.  using your hands begin to form small patties out of the quinoa, they don’t need to be perfect concentric circles, they just need to look a little round and stay together.  Gently fry the patties one by one or two by two (whatever space will allow) until golden, about a minute and half per side.  Transfer the patties to a caserole or baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes to ensure the inside is warm and cooked through.

I served these little guys along side a fine piece of haddock but that’s for another day…