Watermelon Kebabs

These are refreshing and delicious. The heat brings out the sweetness of the melon.

You’ll need four to six skewers. If you are using wooden ones, be sure to soak them in water for a couple of hours.

Ingredients:
4 cups of watermelon cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch cubes (about half of a sugar-baby watermelon)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste


Method:

  • Prepare grill for high heat.
  • In a large bowl, toss watermelon cubes with all ingredients.
  • Skewer the watermelon cubes.
  • Oil cooking grate, using tongs and a wad of oiled paper towels. Set kebabs on grate and grill covered. Cook for four to five minutes, turning once.

Serves four to six.

Braised Beets with Arugula and Ricotta Salata in a Slow Cooker

I love beets, but heating up the oven in the summer to roast them doesn’t make me happy. Braising them in a slow cooker is shear genius. Thanks Brigit!

Reprinted with permission from Williams-Sonoma The New Slow Cooker.

Photograph by Kate Sears

; recipe by Brigit Binns. Copyright 2010 by Weldon Owen, Inc. and Williams-Sonoma Inc.

Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 pounds (1.5 kg) orange, yellow or red beets, peeled and sliced 1/3 inch (9 mm) thick
4 cups (4 oz/125 g) baby arugula
1 shallot, minced
1/3 cup (3 fl oz/80 ml) Orange Vinaigrette (see below)
1 1/4 pounds (125 g) ricotta salata cheese

Makes six servings.

In a slow cooker, stir together the orange zest and juice, vinegar, thyme sprigs, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and several grinds of pepper. Add the beets and stir to coat them with the liquid. Cover and cook on the low setting for four hours, stirring once or twice, if possible, to redistribute the liquid. The beets should be tender, but not falling apart.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beets to a serving platter. Discard the braising liquid. In a bowl, combine the arugula and shallot and toss with enough vinaigrette to coat lightly. Arrange the arugula over the beets. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the ricotta salata over the top. Serve at once.

Orange Vinaigrette

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Whisk in the oil until emulsified.

Makes about 1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml).

“The New Slow Cooker” is currently available in Williams-Sonoma stores and online at www.williams-sonoma.com.

Dandelion Fritters

These fun and interesting appetizers are sort of like hush puppies with flowers. The floral taste is very subtle, especially, if you go too heavy with the batter, like I did. A lighter touch or a tempura batter would highlight the floral taste better.

You’ll need to pick the flowers when they are fully opened and use them quickly. They will close up in the late afternoon even after they are picked.

Ingredients
20 dandelion flowers
1/3 cup whole wheat flower
1/3 cup corn meal
1 t baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
Oil for frying (I used olive oil because I was out of coconut oil)

Method

  • Mix the dry ingredients together.
  • Add egg, milk and garlic. Mix well and then add to dry ingredients. It should have a pancake batter-like consistency.
  • In a heavy skillet, add about 3/4 of an inch of oil. Heat to medium-high (do not heat past the oil’s smoking point, olive oil has a low smoking point, but worked fine for me).
  • Dip the flowers in the batter and place them in the skillet. Turn once and fry until golden brown.
  • Place on a plate lined with a paper towel.

Serve hot.

Spicy Sautéed Dandelion Greens

This recipe is adapted form Gourmet magazine. Finishing the dish with a sweet balsamic takes the edge off these delicious, but bitter greens.

Ingredients
4 large handfuls dandelion greens, tough stems removed, leaves chopped, well washed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 red onion, cut into thin slivers.
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Method

  • Heat oil in a heavy skillet over moderate heat. Add onions and garlic, cook until onions are slightly tender.
  • Add greens, red pepper flakes, and salt and sauté, stirring, for about 4 minutes.
  • Drizzle with balsamic and serve.

Serves 4

Beets with Honey and Fennel Salad

BeetsThe honey brings out the sweetness of the beets and the fennel keeps the sweetness in check, a beautiful combination!

Ingredients

4 medium-sized beets
1/2 cup fresh fennel, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sweet onion, thinly sliced
2-3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Trim the top and stems off the beets.
  • Place the beets in a small baking dish and add 1/4 inch of water. Cover with foil and roast for 35 to 50 minutes, or until the beets are tender. If you are using large beets, this could take longer.
  • Remove and let cool. The skin should peel off easily. Peel, slice and set aside.
  • In a medium size bowl, whisk together honey, vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper.
  • Add fennel, onions and beets and toss to coat. Salt and pepper to taste.

I like to let this sit for at least an hour.

Serves four.

Tequila Lime Carne Asada with Spring Salsa

My husband and I tag teamed on this one. He came up with the Tequila Lime Marinade and I came up with the Spring Salsa.

Tequila Lime Marinade

Ingredients
3 green onions
2 cloves garlic
1/3 to 1/2 of a jalapeno
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 cup tequila (plus extra for the cook)
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper

1 pound grass-fed hanger steak (substitute flank steak or skirt steak)

Method

  • Pulse all ingredients (except steak!) in food processor until finely chopped.
  • Place steak in a non-reactive dish to marinate.
  • Slather steak with olive oil, salt and pepper generously and cover with marinade.
  • Cover and place in refrigerator for two to 12 hours.
  • Remove steak from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking. It will cook more evenly if it is at room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 375º F.
  • Heat an oven-proof frying pan to medium-high heat. A cast iron pan works great. Coat pan with thin layer of olive oil and add steak. Reserve marinade.
  • Sear both sides, about one minutes each side.
  • Add marinade to pan and place in pre-heated oven. Cook for five to 10 minutes, depending on how you like your steak done. If using a meat thermometer, see chart above.
  • Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for five to 10 minutes. Use a sharp knife and slice into thin strips.

Serve on warm corn tortillas and top with Fresh Spring Salsa.
Serves four.

Fresh Spring Salsa

I didn’t miss the tomatoes in this one bit. Experiment with any veggies you see at the farmers’ market.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 to 1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup sweet onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon jalapeno, chopped
3 medium-sized carrots, julienne (or cut to match stick size)
4 to 5 medium-sized radishes, sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • In a medium-sized bowl, add lime juice and honey. Mix until well blended.
  • Add onions, garlic and jalapenos to mixture and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Add carrots, radishes and cilantro and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serves four. Keeps refrigerated for three days.

Spicy Sesame Kale

This recipe is adapted from one I saw a while back in the Washington Post. You can substitute pretty much any vegetable for the kale and it will be delicious. Just keep this recipe and, as things come into season, give them a whirl (peas, green beans, zucchini).

Ingredients
1 large bunch kale
3 teaspoons sesame oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup green onions (or scallions), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili paste (like sriracha, use more or less depending on your spice tolerance)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (see note)

Method

  • Wash the kale thoroughly. Discard the tough ribs and coarsely chop the kale leaves.
  • In a large skillet, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, scallions and ginger root and cook for about 1 minute.
  • Add the kale a little at a time until kale starts to wilt (about 5 to 8 minutes).
  • Remove from heat and toss in soy sauce and sesame seeds.

Note: Toasted sesame seeds: Heat seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently. Heat until lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Watch carefully; they burn quickly!

Serves four.

Chana Saag

This chickpea and spinach dish is one of my favorite Indian meals. It’s quick, easy and a nutritional powerhouse. Don’t fret if you don’t have all of the spices. It’s best with all of the ones listed, but could be equally delicious with other Indian spice combinations. I always buy spices in bulk. They are a fraction of the cost and you can get just the quantity you need. Ground cardamom is a good example. A 1.75 ounce jar runs about $12. In bulk, the same amount is a little over $3.

I like to double this recipe to have leftovers for lunch or to freeze for a super-quick heat-and-serve dinner.

Ingredients
2 tablespoon olive oil, butter or ghee (ghee is Indian clarified butter)
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium-large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala (an Indian spice mixture)
2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more of less to taste)
2-3 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh when in season, box/canned when out of season)
4 cups of cooked chickpeas
1 pound fresh spinach (or one box/bag frozen)
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Method

  • Heat oil/butter on a large pot over medium heat. Saute onions until soft. Add garlic and ginger and saute for couple minutes. Be careful not to let the garlic get brown.
  • Mix all the dried spices together.
  • Add ginger, tomatoes and spices to pot. Cook over medium-heat for 10 minutes (if you are using frozen spinach add now).
  • Add chickpeas and fresh spinach and cook for about 10-15 minutes more, until heated through.
  • Stir in yogurt and serve
  • .

Serves 4
Serve with rice, naan (delicious Indian flat bread) and, my favorite, mango chutney.

Asparagus Risotto with Prosciutto

Any day now, ANY DAY NOW, we should be greeted with a true harbinger of spring—asparagus. They start out as tiny spears poking up through the soil in the spring and end in the fall as 5-9 foot tall, unruly, ferny bushes. Asparagus is a good source of Folic Acid and potassium. Around here, you should start seeing it on farm stands in the next few weeks. I think the best asparagus is picked early in the season, so get it while the getting’s good!

To get the most tender part of an asparagus stalk, hold it at both ends and bend. It should snap at the point separating the tender part from the part that tends to get a little tough. I use the tender spear tops for steaming, grilling, etc., and save the bottom part for soups. The longer asparagus sits around the tougher it gets, so farm-fresh local stalks (as always) will be your best bet.

Asparagus Risotto with Prosciutto
Serves 4

I had dinner at my friends Kristi and Illya’s a while back. Illya made the perfect risotto, it was so creamy and delicious that I imagined it was chock-full of butter and cream. It wasn’t. It didn’t have a lick of cream and only a dab of butter.

I had always heard how laborious and difficult risotto is to make. Illya assured me that it wasn’t and showed me how. He was right. Risotto is an easy, but impressive, dish to make. The variations are endless. One of my favorite, over-the-top rich risottos is Gorgonzola and mushrooms.

Arborio rice is traditionally used in risotto. Its high starch content gives it a beautiful creamy consistency. You may substitute other types of rice but you won’t get the same degree of creaminess.

Ingredients
1 pound tender asparagus (about 3 cups) cut into 1/2 inch-long pieces
5 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 pound Prosciutto chopped (La Quercia is my favorite brand)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt/pepper to taste

Method

  • Using a medium-large frying pan, sauté onions in olive oil until soft.
  • Add 2 cup of Arborio rice to the pan; toast the rice over medium-high heat for a few minutes.
  • Keep a pot/bowl of warm chicken/vegetable stock close by. Add a ladleful of stock to the pan with rice. Stir to keep the rice from sticking. Once the stock has been absorbed, add another ladleful. Keep repeating.
  • Meanwhile, steam asparagus for 5-7 minutes. Asparagus is done when the color is bright and vivid green.
  • Once about half of the stock is added, add the Prosciutto and steamed asparagus
  • Add the remaining stock as before, one ladle at a time. The rice should be tender but not mushy. If the rice is not tender, you can continue to add small amounts of water until the dish has a nice creamy consistency.
  • Add butter and cheese and stir well.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve risotto warm. Add a salad for a meal, or serve a smaller portion as a side dish.

Deviled Eggs with Bacon

If you are wondering what to do with all those dyed Easter eggs you have, I have two words for you: deviled eggs. While the traditional deviled eggs are indeed delicious, I thought I would share a few variations.

Ingredients
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise
1-2 strips cooked bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup mayonnaise or plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/8-1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper
Paprika for garnish

Method

  • Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks and place in a mixing bowl.
  • Add all ingredients to cooked egg yolks and mash well.
  • Spoon (or if you want to be fancy, pipe) mixture into egg white halves and garnish with paprika.

Curried Deviled Eggs

Ingredients
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup raisins
1/8-1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Paprika for garnish

Method

  • Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks and place in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Add all ingredients to cooked egg yolks and mash well.
  • Spoon into egg white halves and garnish with paprika.

Guacamole Deviled Eggs

Ingredients
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 ripe avocado
1/2 small onion minced (about 1/4 cup)
Juice from 1/2 a lime
1 tablespoon minced jalapeños (optional)
1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1/8-1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Cilantro sprigs for garnish

Method

  • Soak onion and jalapeños in lime juice for 10 minutes or more
  • Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks and place in a mixing bowl.
  • Add all ingredients to cooked egg yolks and mash well.
  • Spoon into egg white halves and garnish with a cilantro sprig.

How to Boil an Egg

There is more than one way to boil an egg. Some people swear by poking a pinhole in the top of an egg before boiling. Others say to bring the water to a boil first, and then add the eggs.

I consulted two hard-boiled experts, my mother and grandmother. This is how they cook them:

Place eggs in pan, cover with cool water.
Bring water to a gentle boil. Cover and remove from heat.
Let sit for 12-15minutes.
Plunge cooked eggs in ice water to cool.

I found this egg peeling tip on www.deviledeggs.com (yes, there is a website just for deviled eggs). Once the egg has cooled, gently crack it all around, and then reemerge it in the cold water for a few minutes. The shell should come off easily.

Korean Scallion Pancake With Soaked Flour

I’ve been soaking almost all my flour these day. Apparently it neutralize phytic acid, which interferes with the absorption of certain minerals and vitamins. Read all about it here.

This recipe is adapted from http://koreanfood.about.com.

Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups water
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
Olive or coconut oil for cooking


Method

  • In a large bowl, mix flour, yogurt and 1.5 cups of water.
  • Cover and place in warm place for 12-24 hours. (Your counter top will do).
  • Add eggs. This is a little tricky, since the flour mixture has already bonded together. I just use my hands, though a mixer would probably do the trick. The batter should be a bit runny so that it will spread evenly in the pan. If it is too thick, add water.
  • Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and coat with a thin layer of oil.
  • Pour batter to fill pan in a thin layer.
  • Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until set and golden brown on bottom.
  • Flip and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add more oil for each pancake, if necessary.
  • Serve with spicy dipping sauce.

Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer.

Spicy Scallion Pancake Dipping Sauce
This is as basic as it gets. Mix equal parts of soy sauce and hot chile sauce like Sriracha. If you want it less spicy, cut back on the Siracha. Dip away!?

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

cauliGarlicTrick your friends by telling them that this dish is garlic mash potatoes.

Ingredients
1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Bring water to boil in medium-large pot.
  • Wash and cut cauliflower into small pieces. Be sure to include the stem, no need to waste that.
  • Cook in boiling water for about 6 minutes, or until tender. Drain well.
  • In a food processor, add cauliflower, cream cheese, butter, Parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper, pulse until mixed or puree until smooth.

Serves 4.