Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Inspiration - Week #8

In this week's box:   garlic, eggplant, fennel, basil, potatoes, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, swiss chard, green cabbage.  These boxes are getting pretty heavy.  I hope you are keeping up!

I am writing this post Monday evening for early Tuesday morning "publication".  I hope your Monday night dinner was as good as mine.  I had to travel out of town on business and did not get home until almost 7 p.m.  Thankfully Frank was able to preside as cook today and all I had to do when I got home was sit down at the table and be served.  I like to cook and enjoy serving others, but boy is it nice to be just the eater once in a while.  Frank made simple boiled potatoes with butter, steamed green beans with a little sauteed shallots and pancetta and some pieces of fresh tomato dressed with oil, balsamic vinegar and chopped basil.  (He scored the tomato at the farm today -- right place. right time.  Soon there will be many more.)  Perfect.  I hope once in a while you give yourself permission to just steam or boil or saute or roast up a few different vegetables and eat a plateful of them with very simple condiments like butter, salt, pepper, oil, vinegar or fresh herbs.  If you want some extra protein, just drink a glass of milk with your dinner.  Or have a few nuts and a little piece of cheese before or after the meal.

I think that is a good theme for this week:  Less is more.  When you have access to good food, you really don't need to work very hard to create fine meals.  This week's menu ideas borrow from cuisines of many lands - an advantage of living in a melting pot nation.  If you are having a hard time keeping up with your basil and don't want to make more pesto-- just chop up the basil with a little garlic, cover with olive oil and refrigerate - use it for salad dressings or marinades.  Or chop up a bunch of basil and mix with softened butter.  Refrigerated and well covered this will keep at least a week.  Smear some under the skin of a whole chicken and roast.  Throw some cloves of garlic in the pan for the last 45 minutes or so, too.  Make sure you have some good bread for sopping up that basil and melted butter and roasted garlic.

I have just included one fennel recipe in this post.  For more about fennel, check this Friday's Focus post.

Scandinavian brown cabbage soup*; Bread; Fruit crisp or cobbler made with summer soft fruits (try a little basil in the fruit crisp)  Some potato salad would be nice as a first course.

Cold cucumber yogurt soup*; Baked stuffed zucchini (See July 15 post); Pita bread; Fresh melon

Pasta with basil, swiss chard, garlic and cheese*;  Orange, beet and fennel salad*; dried fruit and nuts

Chicken - grilled, roasted or baked; boiled or baked potatoes with basil butter; cole slaw (recipe  in Saturday's Tried and True post); biscuits

Eggplant potato curry*; rice;  yogurt with chopped mint; lime sherbet

Baked marinated eggplant*; green beans with egg lemon sauce*; grilled meat or fish, simple cucumber salad (sliced thin with equal parts vinegar and sugar); pita bread

This is a very simple recipe from Epicurious.  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Scandinavian-Brown-Cabbage-Soup-20109  If you want you can add some onion or smoked sausage or both.  Serve with a hearty bread or even Scandinavian style rye crackers.  Jarlsberg cheese would be good too.

This recipe is from the Middle Eastern volume of the classic Time-Life cookbooks of the world series. Each book came with a small spiral bound supplement - they can often be found at used bookstores for about $3.00 each.  They are all good - but I have found the Middle Eastern volume especially useful over the years.
This recipe is of Turkish derivation and will serve 2 - 4.  It is very refreshing. 

1 medium cucumber (about 1/2 pound)
2 cups yogurt
2 t. white vinegar
1 t. olive oil
2 t. chopped fresh mint
1/2 t. chopped fresh dill
1/2 to 1 t. salt, to taste

Peel the cucumber and slice lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds.  Coarsely grate the cucumber.  Stir the yogurt until smooth and add the other ingredients.  Taste and adjust seasoning if you wish.   Refrigerate at least 2 hours.  Serve in small cups or bowls.   You may add an ice cube to each portion if you like.

Wash and dry a bunch of chard.  Chop stems, cut chard in one inch strips.  Chop 2-3 cloves of garlic.  Saute stems and garlic in olive oil until softened.  Add chard leaves and some chopped basil.  Cook, partly covered, until chard is tender.  Serve on favorite cooked pasta.  (Add a little pasta cooking water if chard seems too dry.)  Pass grated Parmesan  or crumbled feta or blue cheese.  Toasted walnuts or pine nuts also are a good garnish.

(adapted from Molly Katzen's Vegetable Heaven - if you don't have beets, you can make the salad with just oranges and fennel.)
about a pound of beets - boiled or roasted, peeled and thinly sliced and cut into half moon shapes
medium fennel bulb - raw - thinly sliced
four oranges - peeled with a knife, sectioned (cut away pith and membranes, save any extra juice produced during cutting to add to salad)
1/2 t. salt
1 t. finely minced garlic
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
2 t. honey

Mix all together, gently.  Chill at least several hours.  Serve garnished with chopped fennel fronds.

Will serve about six, served with rice
4 cups cubed eggplant (If you are using Asian style eggplant, it is probably not necessary to peel.  (Asian style is longer and thinner than most Italian varieties)  Sometimes it is recommended to lightly salt eggplant, let sit an hour or so and drain to remove any bitterness.  If you are working with a young Asian style eggplant this salting and draining is probably not necessary)
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups cubed potatoes
1 cup chopped fresh green beans
2 T. oil
1 t. salt
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. turmeric
1 t. chopped fresh ginger
1-2 t. fresh minced garlic
1 t. mustard seeds or ground coriander (optional)
1/2-1 t. crushed red pepper flakes or green chilis
1/2 c. thinly sliced fresh basil
Broth, water or coconut milk
Saute all the vegetables in the oil.  After they are softened, add spices and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. 
Add water, broth or coconut milk as desired.  Stir, cover and simmer until all vegetables are tender.  Serve over rice. 

Slice eggplant lengthwise.  Cut gashes in cut side, about 1 inch deep.  Mix olive oil, minced fresh garlic, fresh herbs (e.g. basil, parsley, mint or oregano) and freshly ground pepper and brush on to cut surfaces.  Salt lightly.  Let marinate at room temperature about 1-2 hours.  Bake, cut side down, about 45 minutes hour at 350 degrees or until tender.   Turn over eggplant and bake about another 15 minutes, basting with pan juices.  Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the eggplant and serve. May also be served at room temperature.

1 pound fresh green beans
2 eggs
juice of one lemon
1-2 T. grated Parmesan
1 T. olive oil
Cook beans in boiling salted water.  Drain (save one cup cooking water) and keep beans hot.  Whisk eggs to a froth and add lemon juice, cheese and oil.  Place the egg mixture in a pan on low heat.   Gradually add 1/2 cup of the hot cooking water, whisking all the while.  The mixture should thicken in a few minutes.   Add more water if desired.  Serve over beans. Also good served cold.

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