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RECIPE: Happy Salad For Sad Weather

Colorful Salad

Pick up these bright ingredients and make a happy salad. Photo courtesy Evolution Fresh.

 
  • Weather: Cold.
  • Sky: Gray.
  • Snowstorm: Heading this way.
  • Cheer: This bright, happy salad.
  •  
    We saw the photo and recipe on Evolution Fresh’s Pinterest page, where it was featured as a summer recipe. But all of the ingredients are just as available in the winter.

    Because there are no leafy greens to wilt, you can make a large batch and eat it over several days. You can vary it with olives, crumbled cheese, crunchy seeds or other favorite salad additions.

    RECIPE: BURST OF SUNSHINE SALAD

    Ingredients

  • Bell peppers, red, yellow or orange, diced
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • English or Persian [seedless] cucumbers, sliced in half-moons
  • Radishes, sliced
  • Optional: red onion or sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • Optional: fresh herbs, minced
  • Dressing: balsamic vinaigrette or Dijon mustard vinaigrette
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients, toss toss to coat with dressing, and serve.

     
    THE HISTORY OF SALAD

    Man and his ancestors have been eating salad greens since they crossed from homonids (great apes) to hunter-gatherers.

    More recently in our history, ancient Romans and ancient Greeks ate mixed greens with dressing. They brought the custom with them in their imperial expansions, and green salads became a European convention/ [Source]
     
    IS IT SALAD IF THERE’S NO LETTUCE?

    Yes, indeed. A salad is a dish consisting of small pieces of food, typically served cold and usually mixed with a sauce (called salad dressing).

    Beyond vegetable salads of all types, raw or cooked, there are bean salads, grain salads, pasta and noodle salads and meat/poultry/protein salads such as chicken, egg, tuna and seafood.

    The leafy green salads most of us think of as “salad” is technically “garden salad” or “green salad.”

    The word “salad” comes from the Latin salata, salty. During Roman times, the vegetables were seasoned with brine or salty oil-and-vinegar dressings. In English, the word first appears as “salad” or “sallet” in the 14th century.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Granola Bars

    Granola Bars

    Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

    Top: No-bake chocolate chip granola bars
    from Fearless Homemaker. Here’s the recipe.
    Bottom: Cherry, chocolate and cashew
    granola bars from Love And Zest. Here’s
    the recipe.

     

    It’s National Granola Bar Day. Even if you’re happy with the bars you buy, it’s the day to make your own custom recipe (ours is dark chocolate chunks, dried cherries and pistachio nuts, sometimes with a bit of coconut).

    HISTORY OF THE GRANOLA BAR

    Heree’s the history of granola breakfast cereal, which was invented in the 19th century by Dr. James Caleb Jackson for his sanitarium patients. It was the first dry breakfast cereal, and the first to be eaten cold.

    He actually invented “granula.” In 1881, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, proprietor of another sanitarium, copied his recipe; when Jackson brought a lawsuit, Kellog changed the name of his product to granola.

    Granola bars did not appear until much later, as a better-for-you snack. Most sources credit Stanley Mason (1921-2006) as the innovator. Mason was a tireless inventor. His more than 100 inventions also included the squeezable ketchup bottle, dental floss dispensers and disposable diapers.

    Granola bars are dense, chewy cereal bars made from granola ingredients—oats, honey and inclusions like dried fruits and nuts. These days, chocolate baking chips, peanut butter and other ingredients not imagined by either Jackson or Mason, are often added.

    There are no “wrong” ingredients, although M&Ms and marshmallows seem to defeat the purpose of a nutritious snack. Here’s a basic recipe:

     
    RECIPE: GRANOLA BARS

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds (or a mix of other seeds)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts of choice (a mixture is fine)
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ, oat bran or ground flaxseed*
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (or canola oil), melted, plus extra to grease the pan
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted nuts)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups dried fruit in any combination (a list follows)
  •  

    *If you don’t like these ingredients, use more oats. For gluten-free bars, use gluten-free rolled oats.
     
    Dried Fruit Options

  • Apricots, chopped
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Coconut, shredded or flaked
  • Currants
  • Cranberries
  • Dates, chopped
  • Figs, chopped
  • Raisins and/or sultanas
  • Tropical dried fruits: mango, papaya, pineapple
  •  
    More Ingredients

  • Candied ginger, diced
  • Chocolate chips
  • Nuts, in any combination
  • Peanut butter or other nut butter
  • Rice Krispies
  • Seeds, any kind or mixture
  • Spices: gingerbread spices, orange zest, pumpkin pie spices
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 by 9-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper or foil, leaving “handles” on two sides for lifting. Set aside.

    2. COMBINE the oats, seeds and nuts and spread onto a rimmed sheet pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven, transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

    3. STIR in the honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in a saucepan; stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the oat mixture, toss until the mixture is well coated, then add the dried fruit.

     

    Coconut Cranberry Granola Bar

    Apple Pie Granola Bars

    Top: Coconut cranberry raisin granola
    bars from Bella Baker. Here’s the recipe. Bottom: Apple pie granola bars from The Baker Chick. Here’s the recipe.

     
    4. POUR the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press down on it, tamping it as tightly as possible with a rubber spatula or other implement. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the granola is golden brown. (The longer it bakes, the harder the bars.)

    5. COOL for 2 hours before slicing into bars. Use a serrated knife. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a week, using parchment or wax paper to keep the bars from sticking. You can also freezer them for up to 6 months.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Turnip Soup

    Turnip Soup

    Today is pretty chilly, so we’re making turnip soup. Photo and recipe courtesy Quinciple.

     

    Turnips are part of the super-potent cruciferous vegetables* group, from which we try to eat daily. There’s more about the family below.

    We’ve enjoyed mashed, purée, roasted and stir-fried turnips, and we’ve fried and baked them in the manner of sweet potato fries.

    But until now, we never tried turnip soup, a comfort food that can be crowned with garnishes from apples and chives to crumbled bacon and shredded cheese.

    Although the soup looks creamy, there’s no dairy. The rich color and texture come from the gold turnips.

    If you can only find white turnips, you can add a some carrots for color, or just enjoy the pale soup. But gold turnip are noted for their “bonus” flavor, slightly sweet with a nutty nuance of almond.

    The recipe is courtesy Quinciple, a subscription service that delivers the week’s best fresh produce.

     

    RECIPE: GOLD BALL TURNIP SOUP WITH APPLES

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound gold turnips, washed and peeled
  • 1/2 yellow onion, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Optional spice: 1/2 teaspoon cumin or dried chile pepper
  • Garnish: ½ apple, thinly sliced†
  • Garnish: 2 tablespoons chopped basil, chives or parsley
  • Garnish: extra virgin olive oil, plain or flavored
  •  
    __________________________________
    *There’s more about the cruciferous family below.

    †Wait until ready to serve to slice the apples, so they don’t brown. Leave the skin on for a touch of color.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Cut the turnips and onion into ½” cubes. Toss with two tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.

    2. ROAST until the turnips are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Purée the roasted turnips and onions with the stock, and add enough water to achieve a smooth consistency.

    3. WARM the soup in a small pan. Taste and adjust the seasonings. To serve, garnish with apple slices, herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.

     

    GOLD TURNIPS HISTORY

    There are several varieties of gold turnips, heirloom varieties from Europe that were first grown in France in the 1800s.

    In the U.S. they are marketed variously as Baby Gold, Boule D’or (the prized French variety, which translates to “golden ball”), Golden Ball and Golden Globe turnips.

    Gold turnips are a less durable than the common white and purple-white varieties, as they are not a good “cellar vegetable.” This means that they will not maintain their firmness and flavor if stored throughout the winter—a prized feature of turnips, rutabagas and other root vegetables in the days before refrigeration.

    Turnip were cultivated as far back as the Greek Hellenistic Period, 321 B.C.E. to 31 B.C.E. They grow from fall through spring, and can’t tolerate summer heat.
     
    HOW TO USE GOLD TURNIPS

    Gold turnips can replace common turnips in any recipe, and provide more flare due to their color. In fact, they can pretty much be used anywhere carrots are used, as well.

    In addition to cooked recipes, turnips (white and gold) can be eaten raw as crudités and in salads. They can be shredded into a slaw along with cabbage and carrots, and tossed with a Dijon vinaigrette. The leaves can also be eaten raw or cooked.

    Per SpecialtyProduce.com, the flavor is truly transformed and sweetened when they are slow roasted, braised or sautéed in butter.

    Good accents include:

  • Acids: lemon juice and vinegar
  • Apples
  • Bacon
  • Butter and/or cream
  • Cheeses such as Parmesan and Pecorino
  • Herbs: chives, garlic, parsley, tarragon and thyme
  •  

    Gold Turnips

    Purple Top Turnips

    Top: Gold turnips. Photo © Marie Iannotti | GardeningTheHudsonValley.com. Bottom: Common turnips are all white or white with purple tops. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     

    THE CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES FAMILY

    The turnip is a cruciferous vegetable, a member of the Brassicaceae family of cancer-fighting superfoods. They are also called the brassicas, after their family name.

    “Cruciferous” derives from cruciferae, New Latin for “cross-bearing.” It refers to the flowers of these vegetables, which consist of four petals in the shape of a cross.

    The family includes arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard greens, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini (broccoli rabe), rutabaga, tatsoi and turnips.

    Cruciferous vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. You can’t eat too many of them, but you can overcook them.

    Like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and the rest of the family, cruciferous vegetables contain chemical compounds that, when exposed to heat for a sufficient amount of time, produce hydrogen sulfide (an unpleasant sulfur aroma).

    So take care not to overcook them.

      

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    RECIPE: Pickled Fennel (Fennel Pickles)

    Fennel

    A head of fennel. The white portion is the
    bulb, the feathery green tops/stems are the
    fronds. Photo courtesy Valerie Confections.

     

    We’ve always loved fennel in a salad (like cucumber salad or this Orange-Fennel Salad) or on a crudité plate. But we never thought to pickle it until we saw this recipe from Quinciple, which makes weekly deliveries of the freshest seasonal produce.

    Fennel makes such a charming, crunchy pickle that we began to make it as house gifts. It’s made without sugar, and is low in sodium: a win for everyone!

    Quinciple recommends the pickled fennel in and on:

  • Cheese plates
  • Ham sandwiches (we like it on other sandwiches too, including grilled cheese and burgers)
  • Potato salad (chop it finely)
  • Green salad (add some fresh herbs and use a bit of the pickling liquid as the acid in the dressing)
  •  
    RECIPE: PICKLED FENNEL

    Ingredients For 1 Pint

  • 1 head fennel
  • 2 strips orange zest, neatly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon pink peppercorns
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar (substitute cider vinegar)
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  •  

    Preparation

    1. CUT off the fennel leaf stalks just above where the bulb ends and the fronds begin. Reserve 3-4 of the prettiest leaf fronds; wash and set aside.

    2. TRIM off the bottom of the bulb and, if bruised, the outer layer. Give the bulbs a quick rinse. Slice them in half lengthwise, then cut the fennel into ¼-inch-wide slices.

    3. PLACE the fennel fronds, zest and peppercorns into a clean pint jar, making sure they are arranged nicely against the glass. Add the fennel slices. Make sure there is ½” of headroom above the fennel.

    4. COMBINE the vinegar, water and salt in a small pot and bring to a boil. Pour the boiling brine over the fennel. Let cool, cover tightly with the lid and place in the fridge. The pickles will keep for about 2 weeks.
     
    FENNEL FACTS

    Fennel is in season from fall to early spring. It’s crunchy like celery, with a slight anise taste.

     

    Pickled Fennel

    Elegant and yummy fennel pickles. Photo and recipe courtesy Quinciple.

     
    A member of the parsley family, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and celery (Petroselinum crispum) are botanical cousins, members of the same order* (Apiales) and family* (Apiaceae). Both are believed to be indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, growing wild before they were cultivated.

    Records of fennel’s use date back to about 1500 B.C.E, although it has been enjoyed by mankind for much longer.

    Fennel is highly aromatic and flavorful, with both culinary and medicinal uses. The bulb and stalks resemble celery, the leaves look like dill (Anethum graveolens, also of the same order and family), and the aroma and flavor resemble sweet licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabraa, a totally different order [Fabales] and family [Fabaceae]).

    Fennel can be substituted for celery in recipes when an additional nuance of flavor is desired. We also enjoy it as part of a crudité plate. The fronds make a lovely plate garnish, and can be dried and used as herbs.

    Fennel seeds are a popular spice, for baking, bean dishes, brines, fish, pork, sausages and much more. We especially like them in cole slaw and cucumber salad. Plain and sugar-coated fennel seeds are used as a spice and an after-meal mint in India and Pakistan.
     
    ___________________________________________
    *In case you don’t remember plant taxonomy from high school biology, here’s a refresher.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Almond Milk

    Homemade Almond Milk

    Homemade almond milk. Photo courtesy
    Juice Queen.

     

    Here’s a fun project for the weekend: homemade almond milk. All you need are almonds, water, cheesecloth and a jar.

    Almond milk is a dairy-free milk alternative, favored by the lactose-intolerant, vegans, raw foodists and as a kosher (pareve) milk alternative. Others simply like the creaminess and hints of almond on the palate.

    Almond milk is the number one nondairy milk in the U.S. It can be used anywhere cow’s milk is used, from morning cereal to afternoon smoothies to after-dinner coffee. (Here’s a nutrition comparison.)

    In just five minutes (plus eight hours soaking time), you can make a batch, From there, you can make flavored almond milk, like vanilla or cocoa. You can add a sweetener of choice—agave, honey, maple syrup, noncaloric sweetener, sugar—or drink it as is (it has its own natural sweetness).

    You can even give a cocoa almond milk kit to a child, useful for everything from Show and Tell to inspiring the joy of cooking.

     

    But today’s project is making a batch of plain almond milk. Sure, you can buy it ready made. But making your own is not only fun; it tastes a lot better than the manufactured, shelf-stable product, which typically contains additives and preservatives.

     

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE ALMOND MILK

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • Jar
  • Water
  • Cheesecloth
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the almonds in a large bowl or jar and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Cap the jar or cover the bowl with a dish towel, and let the almonds soak for at least 8 hours and up to 2 days. The almonds will plump as they absorb water. The longer you soak them, the creamier the milk will be. If you plan to soak them for more than 8 hours or overnight, put the bowl in the fridge.

    2. STRAIN the almonds in a colander, thoroughly rinse them with cold water and place them in a blender. Pulse them to break up the almonds. Add 4 cups of water and blend on high until the mixture is very smooth, 2 to 4 minutes. The almonds should break down into a very fine meal and the water should be white and opaque.

    3. PLACE the cheesecloth in a large strainer over a bowl. If you don’t have a strainer, gather the edges of the cheesecloth in one hand so as to create a well. Carefully pour the water and almond mixture into the cheesecloth, taking pains to not let any spill out of the sides. When all of the mixture has been poured…

    4. SQUEEZE the remaining almond meal in the cheesecloth to extract any remaining liquid. You can wring the cheesecloth to get every last drop. See below for what to do with the leftover almond meal. At this point you can taste the almond milk and sweeten to taste. It has natural sweetness, so we don’t add anything more.

    5. STORE the almond milk in an airtight container in the fridge. Since it has no preservatives and isn’t pasteurized, it only keeps for two or three days. Because there are no emulsifiers, the milk can separate. Just shake the bottle.

    If you’ve had commercial almond milk, you’ll be wowed by the fresh flavor.

     

    Make Almond Milk

    Making Almond Milk

    Top: Soaking the almonds. Bottom: Wringing the last delicious drops from the cheesecloth. Photos and recipe courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     
    If you’d like a thinner milk, use more water next time; for thicker milk, use less water.

    If you plan to make almond milk regularly, buy a nut milk bag from a health food store or online. It’s easier to work with than cheesecloth.

    HOW TO USE THE LEFTOVER ALMOND MEAL

    You can toss or compost it, of course. But you can also:

  • Add it to oatmeal, muffin batter or smoothies for extra protein.
  • If you want to keep it for future baking, dry it by spreading it onto a baking sheet and baking it in a low oven (275°F to 300°F) until completely dry, 2 to 3 hours. You can then freeze it for up to 6 months.
  •  
    MAKING ALMOND MILK: BLENDER VS. FOOD PROCESSOR

    You can use either a blender or a food processor to make almond milk. The differences:

  • With a blender, the milk has a silkier texture and subtly sweet flavor notes.
  • With a food processor, the milk is a bit thicker with a nuttier flavor. It may contain some the bits of ground almonds.

     
    ALMOND MILK HISTORY

    In the Middle Ages, almond milk was made in Europe to East Asia. It was a staple because it kept longer than cow’s or goat’s milk; and it was appropriate for consumption during Lent and fast days.

      

  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Don’t Toss The Broccoli Stems

    Many people don’t like broccoli stems, as proven by the bags of florets-only in the produce section. But while the texture is different, the stems are just as tasty, with just as much nutrition and cruciferous antioxidants.

    If, for whatever reason, you don’t cook them along with the florets, put them to another use.

  • Cook and purée them.
  • Shave them raw into salads.
  • Steam and add them to omelets and cooked grains.
  • Add them to soup.
  • Toss them into a stir-fry.
  •  
    For the tenderest results, you can use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer of supermarket broccoli stems before cooking; they tend to be tougher than just-harvested greenmarket broccoli. Then, you can cook them as you like or keep shaving the raw stems for a salad ingredient.

    In the recipe that follows, the raw stems are sliced into thin circles and turned into their own salad: broccoli stem salad! Who needs lettuce?

    This recipe is by Kate Galassi for Quinciple, a delivery service that brings the week’s best fruits and vegetables to your door.

    RECIPE: BROCCOLI STEM SALAD

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 2 broccoli stems (from 2 large heads of broccoli)
  • ½ garlic clove, crushed
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of chili flakes (crushed red pepper)
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup mixed fresh herbs, such as basil, mint or parsley; or fresh or dried oregano* and thyme*
  • ___________________________________

     

    Broccoli Stem Salad

    Head Of Broccoli

    If you don’t cook the broccoli stems, make a broccoli stem salad. Top photo and recipe courtesy Quinciple.com; bottom photo courtesy Burpee.com.

     
    *A little bit of oregano and thyme go a long way, so don’t use too much in your blend.
     
    Preparation

    1. SHAVE the stems into paper-thin slices with a mandoline. If you don’t have one, use a very sharp chef’s knife to slice the stems as thinly as you can.

    2. WHISK together the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and chili flakes, and toss with the sliced broccoli stems. Season with salt and pepper and let sit for fifteen minutes. Meanwhile…

    3. PICK the herb leaves off their stems. Small leaves, including parsley, can stay whole. Larger leaves of basil and mint should be torn into smaller pieces. Or, chop them all if you like, with a mezzaluna or other tool.

    4. DIVIDE the broccoli salad between two plates and garnish with the fresh herbs.
     
     
    THE CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES FAMILY

    Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, a member of the Brassicaceae family of cancer-fighting superfoods.

    “Cruciferous” derives from cruciferae, New Latin for “cross-bearing.” The flowers of these vegetables consist of four petals in the shape of a cross.

    The family includes arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard greens, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini (broccoli rabe), rutabaga, tatsoi and turnips.

    They’re low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. You can’t eat too many of them, but you can overcook them. You’ll know they’re overcooked when an unpleasant sulfur aroma appears. They’ll also fade in color.

    That’s because all cruciferous vegetables contain chemical compounds that, when exposed to heat for a sufficient amount of time, produce hydrogen sulfide.

    So, enjoy them on the al dente side.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Serving Raw Mushrooms

    We really appreciate mushrooms. They’re what we call a “bonus” food: extremely low in calories and a versatile ingredient in cooked foods from omelets to rice pilaf to meat loaf to sauces.

    They’re also delicious raw. Our marinated mushroom salad is very popular (recipe below) and we typically serve mushrooms with other crudités and dip. But we were newly inspired by this mushroom carpaccio from Qunciple.com (a produce delivery service like a CSA, but representing the best of many farmers).

    A beautiful presentation, you can make a large platter for a buffet or to pass at the table, or prepare individual plates.

    RECIPE: MUSHROOM CARPACCIO

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1/2 pound white button mushrooms, wiped cleaned
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (we use basil oil or
    rosemary oil)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh herbs for garnish: basil or parsley
  •    

    Mushroom Carpaccio

    A pretty presentation: mushroom carpaccio garnished with basil leaves. Photo by Julia Gartland | Quinciple.

     

    Preparation

    Ideally use a mandolin, which makes uniform slices and can cut them as thin as possible.

    If you don’t yet have a mandoline, it’s a good excuse to get one. They don’t take up much room, and if you cook regularly, you’ll appreciate the convenience it provides in slicing fruits and vegetables, including crinkle and waffle cuts; as well as cheese and chips. You want one that’s slip-free, has multiple attachments (to make different shapes), and the indispensible hand guard. This mandoline has it all.

    1. HOLD each mushroom by the stem and use the mandoline to cut very thin slices off the top of the mushroom cap. Stop before you reach the stem. Remove the stems (they will still have some of the cap attached); you can add them to grains, omelets, sauces, soups or stocks.

    USING A KNIFE: If you don’t have a mandolin use a large, sharp knife. Lay each cap flat on a cutting board and trim one edge, slicing off 1/8″ or so. Turn the cap on its edge so that the cut side is flush against the board and the mushroom is steady on the board. Slice the mushrooms as thinly as you can.

    2. ARRANGE the mushrooms on one or two plates in overlapping concentric circles (start at the outside and work your way to the center). Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, finish the plate(s) with a generous squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve.
     

     

    Marinated Mushrooms

    Marinated Mushroom Salad

    Top: Marinated mushrooms in a lettuce cup;
    photo courtesy Taste Of Home. Bottom:
    Marinated mushrooms with a side of dressed
    greens. Photo courtesy A Shifted Perspective.

     

    RECIPE: RAW MUSHROOM SALAD

    This recipe is so flexible, you can add whatever you like: baby corn, capers, fennel, etc. You can also use other than white mushrooms, and it’s even more interesting with an assortment of mushrooms. Check out the options in our Mushroom Glossary.

    Ingredients

  • 1 8-ounce container white mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon wine or sherry vinegar (or more to taste)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh herbs (basil, chives, dill, oregano, parsley, thyme), minced (we use two different herbs)
  • Optional ingredients for color: diced red pepper or pimento, red onions, sliced green onions or chives
  • Optional ingredients for variety: broccoli or cauliflower florets, edamame, sliced olives
  • Optional heat: 1 chili, seeded and white pith removed, finely sliced
  • Baby arugula, baby spinach, mesclun, watercress or lettuce/cabbage/radicchio cups
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CLEAN the mushrooms and pat dry. Place in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with the sea salt. Toss to coat thoroughly. Let stand for about 30 minutes so the salt can remove excess water from the mushrooms. Brush any remaining salt from the mushrooms with a mushroom brush or a paper towel.

     
    2. COMBINE the marinade ingredients in a bowl: olive oil, vinegar, garlic, lemon zest, pepper and herbs. Toss the mushrooms in the marinade to coat. (We don’t add salt at this stage because of the residue salt on the mushrooms.)

    3. COVER the bowl refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend (we often let it sit overnight). Taste and adjust the seasonings.

    4. SERVE as desired. We enjoy marinated mushrooms as a salad course, along with dressed greens.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Homemade Tomato Soup With Goat Cheese Crostini

    We love tomato soup, but have run out of patience with the added sweeteners—typically corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup. We don’t like the excessive sweet taste of the soup, we don’t like the added calories, and we certainly don’t like HFCS.

    For National Soup Month, here’s an easy recipe from Davio’s Boston, one of several locations in the excellent Davio’s Northern Italian Steak Houses in Atlanta, Manhattan, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and later this year in Los Angeles.

    A side of goat cheese crostini turns the soup into a first course or a sophisticated “soup and sandwich” lunch.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE TOMATO SOUP

    Ingredients For 6 To 8 Portions

  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 large white onion, sliced*
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed San Marzano tomatoes†
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 loaf Italian bread, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • Optional garnish: swirl of plain Greek yogurt
  • Optional side: goat cheese and chive crostini (recipe below)
  •    

    Sundried Tomato Soup

    Make tomato soup for National Soup Month. Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.

    ______________________________
    *While butter adds a nice flavor note, you can substitute oil if you’re avoiding cholesterol, want a vegan option, etc.

    †You can buy the tomatoes crushed or whole. Steve buys them whole and hand crushes them.
     
    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter in a stock pot; add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Simmer for 1 hour.

    2. ADD the cubed bread and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside until cool. Purée until smooth with an immersion blender or in a regular blender or food processor. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

    3. SERVE: Bring the soup to a simmer. Plate and garnish with the optional yogurt, then with the basil and parsley. Serve with the crostini.

     

    Goat Cheese Crostini

    Goat cheese crostini are delicious with soup
    or a glass of wine. Photo courtesy Wines Of
    Sicily.

     

    RECIPE: GOAT CHEESE CROSTINI

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 ounces spreadable goat cheese (a softened log is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon chives, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 slices sliced baguette (1/2-inch-thick slices) toasted French bread baguette
  • Optional garnish: extra virgin olive oil, fresh-ground pepper and lemon zest
  •  
    Preparation

    1. TOAST the baguette slices.

    2. BLEND together the goat cheese, dill and minced garlic. Spread evenly over the toasted baguette slices.

    3. GARNISH with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some lemon zest and fresh-ground black pepper.
     
    DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BRUSCHETTA
    AND CROSTINI
    ?

     

      

    Comments

    TIP: Spice Up Your Diet With Chiles

    Blistered Chiles

    The Great Pepper Cookbook

    Top: Blistered chiles, particularly padróns
    and shishitos, have become a hot side dish
    (no pun intended). Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco. Bottom: Start your chile adventure with a good book, like this one from Melissa’s.

     

    Here’s a healthy food tip for the new year: Check out the health benefits of chiles and add more chiles to your diet.

    Chiles originated in Central and South America, where they have been cultivated for more than seven thousand years. They were first used as a decorative item, then became a foodstuff and a medicine.

    Christopher Columbus encountered them in the Caribbean Islands and brought them back to Europe, where they were used as a substitute for pricey black pepper from India.

    Ferdinand Magellan is credited with introducing chili peppers into Africa and Asia on his voyages. Now, chiles are grown on all continents, and incorporated them into world cuisines.

    Here are ways to use five popular chile varieties: chiles in adobo, habanero, jalapeño, poblano and dried chiles.
     
    HOW TO BUY CHILES

    Here are some tips from Whole Foods Market:

  • Fresh chiles: Place unwashed fresh peppers in paper bags or wrap them in paper towels. They will keep in the vegetable compartment of the fridge for at least one week. Avoid storing them in plastic bags, which can accumulate moisture and cause the chiles (and other vegetables) to spoil more quickly.
  • Dried whole chiles: Buy dried chiles that are still vivid in color. If they’ve begun to fade, they’ve probably lost their flavor as well.
  • Shopping for dried chiles: Look for the best dried chiles at spice stores or ethnic markets. You’ll not only find a larger selection than in American grocery stores, but the selection is likely fresher and of superior quality.
  •  
    Dry Your Own Chiles

    For a fun project, dry your own fresh chiles; then grind them into chili powder as needed. You can hang them in the sunlight to dry (the most fun) or use the oven or a dehydrator. Here are instructions.

    If you garden, you can grow your own chiles as well.

    GET A BOOK

    The best way to add more chiles to your meals is to start with a book that shows all the possibilities. Our favorite cookbook in the category is The Great Pepper Cookbook, a thorough guide to choosing and cooking with peppers.

    From mild to hot and hotter, the book explains how to choose, prep and cook 37 varieties of fresh and dried chiles. The recipes are splendid and the photos are gorgeous. They make you want to prepare every recipe.
     
    EASY MILD CHILE RECIPES: CHILE VERDE WITH CHICKEN & CUBANELLE CHILES

    To start you off, here are some pairings with mild chiles that favored by Steve Lindner, Executive Chef and Founder of Zone Manhattan.

    Chef Steve uses the cubanelle chile to make a version of Chili Verde, a stew from northern Mexico. Originally made with pork, it can be made with chicken as well. Serve it with a whole grain and vegetable sides.

    Ingredients

  • ½ pound chicken thighs
  • ½ pound cubanelle chiles, sliced
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnishes: cilantro, grated jalapeño, lime zest, sliced green onion
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUBE the chicken and sear in a pot. Add the onion and garlic.

    2. COVER with the wine and vinegar. Simmer until soft. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Serve with garnishes.

     

    PEPPERONCINI RECIPE: COCONUT & SHRIMP CEVICHE

    You can do much more with pepperoncini than add them to a Greek salad. Coconut and shrimp are a popular combination, but you can make ceviche with scallops or any fish. Here’s more about ceviche.

    Ingredients

  • ½ pound shrimp, cleaned and split in two
  • 1 orange, 3 limes and 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 5 pepperoncini chiles, thinly sliced
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup toasted coconut
  • Garnishes: cilantro, shaved baby cucumbers, sliced green onion
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the first four ingredients and marinate for several hours or overnight. Taste and add salt as desired.

    2. TOP with the coconut and serve with the garnishes.
     
    IS IT “CHILE” OR “PEPPER?”

    Chiles were “discovered” in the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus, who called them “peppers” (pimientos, in Spanish) because of their fiery similarity to the black peppercorns with which he was familiar.

    However, there is no relationship between the two plants (or between chiles and Szechuan pepper, for that matter). “Pepper” is a misnomer, but in the U.S., it seems to have taken over. Some people use “chile pepper,” a bit of a correction, still not accurate.

    Here’s more on the history of chiles.
     
    IS IT CHILE, CHILI OR CHILLI?

    The term “pepper” is not used in Latin America. There, the word is chili, from chilli, the word in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs. The original Nahuatl word is chilli. The conquering Spanish spelled it chile.

    In the U.K., chilli is the popular spelling. In the U.S., many people use chili, a seeming middle ground between chilli and chile.

     

    Cubanelle Chile & Feta Sandwich

    Chiles Nogada

    Top: Cubanelle chiles are so mild that you can add them to almost any sandwich. Simit + Smith combines them with feta, lettuce and tomato. Bottom: Chiles en Nogada, poblano chiles with walnut sauce, are another mild chile dish. Here’s the recipe from Pom Wonderful.

     

    Now that you know, the choice is yours. We choose “chile” because it’s the spelling by which Europeans were introduced to the chilli, and the best variant of that word.

    How many types of chiles have you had? Check them out in our Chile Glossary.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Roasted Garlic, A Healthy Garnish

    Baked Garlic

    Roast Garlic

    A bulb of roasted garlic is a delicious
    accompaniment to grilled meats. Photo
    courtesy Sushi Roku Katana | West
    Hollywood.

     

    Originating more than 6,000 years ago in central Asia, garlic took the culinary world by storm, spreading from culture to culture. It is used in cuisines on all the world’s continents and is one of America’s most popular herbs*.

    A member of the onion genus, Allium (the Latin word for garlic), garlic’s cousins include the chives, green onions/scallions, leeks, onions and shallots. Its botanical family, Amaryllidaceae, comprises flowering plants, most grown from bulbs (including, not surprisingly, the amaryllis).

    Garlic is not only a delicious flavor to many people; it is also one of the healthiest foods you can eat. It can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, boost the immune system, and may even fight Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

    Here’s more on the health benefits of garlic.

    The most common use of garlic involves crushing or mincing a few cloves and adding the raw garlic to a recipe. But you can cook entire bulbs or whole cloves of garlic as a side or a garnish to please your favorite garlic lovers.

    There are two principal ways to do this, each delivering different flavors and textures. Roasting an entire head of garlic is the simpler of the methods.

    Both produce a rich, sweet, mellow flavor that appeals even to people who don’t like the flavor of garlic in recipes.
    _________________________________________
    *An herb is a plant that is used to flavor or scent other foods.

    RECIPE: ROASTED GARLIC

    A head of roasted garlic is served as a hearty side with roasted meats and poultry.

  • You can scoop it from the head with a utensil, or squeeze it from the cloves onto bread or toasts—a different approach to garlic bread!
  • You can give each garlic lover his/her own roasted garlic head/bulb, or share a number of bulbs at the table.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    2. CREATE a “hinge” on the top of the garlic bulb/head by slicing horizontally into it. Stop before you cut completely through. Then close the hinge and wrap the entire head in aluminum foil.

    3. PLACE the packet in the oven and bake for at least 45 minutes. It’s ready when you can squeeze the bottom of the bulb and the sweet, caramel-colored garlic oozes out the top.

     

    RECIPE: GARLIC CONFIT

    Confit is a method of preservation whereby a food (usually meat, as in duck confit) is cooked slowly in fat. It is then submerged and stored in the fat, where it will last for months.

    You can adapt the technique to garlic. Using peeled garlic cloves instead of the whole bulb, the confit method develops a flavor similar to roasting, but is more conducive to using as a garnish.

    Use the garlic confit as a topping or side garnish for meat, poultry and grilled fish; with eggs; to top burgers and sandwiches; as part of a condiment tray with pickles; or any way that inspires you.

    The garlic-flavored oil that remains in the dish after cooking is a quick flavor booster in almost any recipe that requires oil—including a vinaigrette for the meal’s salad course, or bread-dipping, or marinades. We like to use it in mashed potatoes and to cook eggs.

    You can freeze or refrigerate the confit for future use, so don’t hesitate to make a large batch at once. Bring some to garlic-loving friends.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 225°F.

    2. PEEL the garlic cloves: First soak the unpeeled cloves in cold water for five minutes to loosen the skin. Slice off the root and tip with a sharp paring knife, then use the tip to lift off the papery skin.

    3. PLACE the peeled garlic cloves in an oven-safe dish with high sides, then cover completely with olive oil. You can also add aromatics to the oil—chives, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme—lemon zest, or chiles.

     

    Roasted Garlic

    Russian Red Garlic

    Top: Garlic confit, glistening cloves roasted in olive oil. Photo courtesy Apronclad.com. Bottom: Beautiful Russian Red garlic. Photo courtesy Chef Seamus Mullen | FB.

     
    4. COVER and bake for at least an hour, or until the cloves become soft enough to squish between your fingers. Remove from the oven and drain the oil into an airtight jar or other container. Store in the fridge.

      

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