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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Vegetables/Salads/Herbs

TIP OF THE DAY: 5 Ways To Use Chiles

ChilesNogada_poblano-pomwonderful-230r

Grilled chiles can be served plain, or in this
Chiles Nogada (walnut sauce) recipe from
Pom Wonderful. Photo courtesy Pom
Wonderful.

 

In addition to shrimp on the barbie, how about some chiles?

Here are 5 tips for using chiles from Chef Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill:

  • Jalapeño Chiles. Jalapeños are found in practically every market but vary widely in their heat range. Usually the bigger the chile, the milder the flavor. Store fresh jalapeños in a loosely closed plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator.
  • Poblano Chiles. Poblanos and large jalapeños taste great when grilled or roasted. Set them over a gas flame, under a broiler or on the grill. Roast, turning often, until the skin is blistered and blackened—about 10 minutes. Cool, covered with a cloth towel. Gently slip off and discard the charred skin. Use the whole chile for chiles rellenos; cut them into thin slices to add to soups, salads and stews; or finely chop and add them to salsa.
  • Habanero Chiles. Stock up on fresh habaneros now at local farmers markets. Simply put them into freezer containers; they’ll keep nicely for several months. Or roast the habaneros and grind them in a blender with fresh lime juice and salt into a thick salsa. Serve this blazing hot condiment with eggs, roast or grilled pork and seafood.
  •  

  • Dried Chiles. Whether you purchase them dried or dry them yourself, dried chiles will keep in the freezer for a year or so; then they can be turned into a seasoning paste. Defrost, remove the seeds and stems and tear the flesh into flat pieces. Gently toast the pieces in a hot cast-iron skillet just until aromatic (a few seconds). Then soak in hot water until soft and purée in a blender until smooth. Use this chile paste to season sauces, salsas and stews.
  • Chipotles In Adobo. You’ll find these canned in supermarkets and elsewhere. After opening the can, transfer the contents to a glass jar and store in fridge; the chiles will keep several months. Use the spicy adobo sauce to season barbecue sauce, stews and chili.
  •  
    HOW MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHILES HAVE YOU HAD?

    Check out the types of chiles in our Chile Glossary.

     

    chiles-grilling-basket-weber-amz-230

    A grilling basket is very handy for grilling chiles (above, habaneros and jalapeños) and other vegetables. Photo courtesy Weber.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Party With Veggie Sandwiches

    philly-cheesesteak-portabella-230rl

    Pile grilled veggies onto a sandwich. Photo
    courtesy Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

     

    Why wait for Meatless Mondays to have a great veggie sandwich? Every healthcare professional advises eating less animal protein and more vegetables and grains. And of course, eating less meat is far better for the environment.

    So start by switching some of your sandwich intake to delicious vegetarian sandwiches. It’s painless!

    While we love a sliced avocado and tomato sandwich using local summer tomatoes, we think that grilled vegetables make the best vegetarian sandwiches. While it’s still prime grilling season, develop some signature veggie sandwich recipes. You can even turn the concept into a veggie sandwich party—a build-your-own sandwich buffet.

    Creative flavor layering is at the heart of a great veggie sandwich. Peruse the following groups for inspiration, and offer something from each group.

    GROUP 1: HEARTY VEGETABLES, GRILLED OR ROASTED

  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Bell peppers
  • Bok choy
  • Broccolini
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Onions
  • Poblano Chiles
  • Portabella mushrooms
  • Romaine
  • Summer squash: yellow squash and zucchini
  • Tofu (not a vegetable, but an excellent vegetarian addition to this list)
  • GROUP 2: RAW VEGETABLES

  • Avocado, sliced or diced
  • Cabbage, shredded
  • Carrots, shredded
  • Cherry tomatoes in vinaigrette
  • Cucumber
  • Leafy greens: arugula, spinach, watercress
  • Mustard greens/mizuna/tatsoi
  • Sprouts
  •  

    GROUP 3: SPREADS

  • Bean dip
  • Greek yogurt or labneh, plain or seasoned
  • Guacamole
  • Hummus
  • Soft, spreadable cheeses
  • Tapenade
  • Tzatziki
  •  
    GROUP 4: CONDIMENTS

  • Barbecue sauce
  • Chutney
  • Cocktail sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise/flavored mayonnaise
  • Mustard(s)
  • Pesto
  • Relish
  • Salsa/Chimichurri
  • Sauces: horseradish, yogurt-dill
  • Vinaigrette & other salad dressings
  •  
    GROUP 5: FLAVOR ACCENTS

  • Chopped herbs
  • Dried fruit: cherries, cranberries, raisins
  • Kimchi
  • Pickled beets, cucumbers, onions or peppers
  • Sauerkraut
  • Sliced olives and/or chiles
  • Toasted seeds
  •  

    grilled-radicchio-230

    Grilled raddicho, endive and romaine are delicious, on a sandwich or as a side. Photo courtesy Radicchio.com.

     
    GROUPS 6 & 7: SIDES & SANDWICH BREADS

    Of course, the remaining ingredient to make veggie sandwiches is bread. We won’t add more long lists here, just two bullets:

  • Bread and rolls: Three or more different styles for a party. If you’re grilling, grilled bread is delicious.
  • Sides: The usual suspects, including chips, cole slaw, potato salad, even green salad.
  •  
    Party on, veggie-style!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Farmers Market Shopping Tips

    One of our favorite weekly recreations is strolling through our local farmers market. We love looking at the farm-fresh, locally-grown produce, baked goods, cheeses and seafood pulled fresh from the ocean. We love finding things we’d never find in a retail store. Purslane, anyone?

    You meet nice people, too. Aside from the farmers themselves, the customers can be helpful, sharing “finds” and cooking tips. Last week, one gentlemen pulled out his wallet to help us when he thought we didn’t have enough cash to pay for our heirloom tomatoes!

    Don’t expect bargains at a farmers market: You’re getting top quality, fresh-picked produce grown by small family farmers. We could pay less for peaches at Trader Joe’s, shipped in from who knows where. We save where we can, but we’re glad that we can afford to help keep family farms in business.

    Birds & Blooms magazine consulted farmers nationwide to create a comprehensive guide to the proper etiquette and best tips for shopping at farmers markets. Here are our top ten (the full list of 33 tips can be found here):

  • Go early. When we tarry and arrive after noon, the fresh corn is almost always gone. It’s also fun to watch the stands set up, and to enjoy the early morning air on a nice day.
  •    

    hollywood-farmers-market-.net-230

    A walk through a farmers market is a food
    lover’s joy. Photo courtesy Hollywood Farmers
    Market
    . Wish we were there right now!

     

  • Bring cash. Most markets are a strictly cash business. Credit and debit cards not only erode profits by taking a fee with each purchase, but renting the electronic scanners also erodes the already-low profit margins.
  • Don’t haggle! Traditions from the flea market do not port over to the farmers market. Farmers are almost always giving you the best price they can while still making a profit. Be happy to pay in full—you’re not only getting better, fresher produce, you’ll also be supporting a local farm.
  • Bring your own tote bags. Having a reusable bag is eco-friendly and also cuts out the number of plastic bags farmers have to pay for.
  •  

    tomatoes-greenbeans-birdsandblooms-230

    Handle gently! Photo courtesy Birds and
    Blooms.

     
  • Look around before buying. We are guilty of shopping at the first stand we encounter, only to find that the same item costs 50¢ a pound less, just five stands away. Walk the market first to compare prices and products; then decide where to spend your money.
  • Respect the produce. While you typically inspect the fruit and veggies and help yourself, remember that many of these items are fragile. Do your best to handle everything with great care, and not to tear up a display in search of the perfect bunch of basil.
  • Don’t spurn imperfections. Some heirloom varieties may not look as perfect as supermarket varieties (that’s why they’re heirlooms, not mainstream). But even though that tomato looks strangely lumpy, you can bet that it will taste a lot better than the perfect-looking one from the store. And once it’s sliced, you won’t notice.
  • Ask questions. Farmers love to talk about what they raise, as long as they aren’t super busy. They often take great pride in educating customers about their farms and their wares. Ask questions, and soak it all in.
  •  

  • Be adventurous. First, try something you haven’t tried before. The farmer can suggest how to prepare it, or you can look online.
  • Get tips from the farmer. Ask how long the eggs, dairy products, produce or baked goods should last, and what can be kept on the counter versus the fridge.
  •  
    TO FIND A FARMERS MARKET NEAR YOU, VISIT LOCALHARVEST.ORG.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Chioggia Beets

    chioggia-beets-matchsticks-beeraw-230

    Chioggia beets, candy striped by nature.
    Photo courtesy BeeRaw.com.

     

    Some vegetables just engender a smile. For us, watermelon radish and chioggia beets are two of these, both charmingly candy striped by nature.

    It’s so much fun to find them at farmers markets and add them to salads and crudité plates.

    This show-stopping salad is made of raw chioggia (pronounced kee-OH-juh) beets, also known as bullseye beets, candy cane beets and candy stripe beets.

    The chioggia is impressive for its dramatic presentation and in this recipe (photo at left) it is combined with other simple, bright flavors. A bonus: this variety of beet doesn’t bleed, which good news for those of us who have stained an item or two with beet juice.

    The recipe is courtesy Bee Raw honey, which made it with their clover honey.

    A beet-washing tip: While it can be tempting to scrub away at the beet skin with a vegetable brush, it’s delicate. Be gentle.

     
    Cooking Chioggia Beets

    If you think about cooking them in a subsequent recipe, note that heat causes the pink rings to fade. Sadly, what nature giveth, nature taketh away. This also happens with other unusually colored foods, like purple asparagus.

    You can boil them with a spoonful of lemon juice or white vinegar to keep the color from fading. But that’s why using them raw in a salad, or pickled, is ideal.

    You can find chioggia beets at farmers markets and some specialty food markets. Note that if you’re storing the beets, first cut the greens from the root; then place them in separate plastic bags in the fridge.

    RECIPE: RAW CHIOGGIA BEET SALAD WITH HONEY VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients For 4 To 6 Servings

  • 3-4 medium chioggia beets (1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds) (substitute another beet variety if chioggia isn’t available)
  • 1/4 cup pistachios (substitute edamame)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: We added sliced red onion (substitute green onions), a garnish of goat cheese (substitute feta) and a garnish of chopped fresh mint (substitute basil)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. WASH and dry the beets. Cut the beets into uniform matchstick-sized pieces; place in a medium to large bowl.

    2. CHOP pistachios; set aside.

    3. WHISK together the olive oil, vinegar, lime juice and honey in a small bowl. Toss with beets and optional onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    4. PLATE salads on individual plates and and sprinkle with pistachios and optional goat cheese and herbs. Serve immediately.
     
    MORE ABOUT CHIOGGIA BEETS

    Beets, Beta vulgaris, are a member of the Amaranth family, Amaranthaceae, along with lamb’s quarters, purslane, Swiss chard and quinoa, among many others. Heirloom chioggia beets were noted in northern Italy before 1840. They are named after a fishing village near Venice. The variety arrived in the U.S. prior to 1865.

     

    chioggia-whole-and-sliced-goodeggs-230

    Chioggia beets, whole and sliced. Photo courtesy GoodEggs.com.

     

    The light red skin looks like many other beets, but the candy striped white and red rings inside are a visual treat. The flesh is very tender, mild and sweet without the earthiness that some people don’t like in conventional red beets.

    The beet is a root vegetable; it is known as beetroot in the U.K. and other Commonwealth countries. The wild beet is thought to have originated in prehistoric times in North Africa, and later grew wild along Asian and European seashores. Surprisingly, given the constant quest for food, early people ate the beet greens only.

    The ancient Romans were among the first to cultivate beets and eat the roots. The tribes that invaded Rome after the fall were carried beets throughout northern Europe. There, they were initially used as animal fodder and later for human consumption. [Source]

    Beets became more popular in the 16th century but really became prominent in the 19th century, when it was discovered that they were a concentrated source of sugar.

    Enjoy them baked, pickled, roasted, sautéed, steamed or sliced or grated raw in a salad. Consider baking them with yellow squash and/or zucchini and any herbs, tossed in olive oil for 30 minutes at 350°F (the pretty chioggia stripes will not survive the heat). These baked veggies are delicious plain, but toward the end you can add grated cheese for a gratiné.

  • You can also toss in leftover chicken, meat or fish, and a top of mashed potatoes (like shepherd’s pie).
  • Don’t forget to sauté the beet greens. Cook them like chard or spinach, in olive oil with a sliced garlic clove. It’s especially nice if you have some bacon fat to throw in.
  •  
    Beet Nutrition

  • Beets are very low in fat and have no cholesterol. They are a very good source of dietary fiber, folate, potassium and manganese, and a good source of iron, magnesium and vitamin C.
  • For those avoiding sugar should note that a 4.8 ounce serving has 9g sugar.
  • Betacyanin, the pigment that gives beets their red color, is a powerful antioxidant that is believed to protect against heart disease, birth defects and colon cancer, among others.
  •   

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Guacamole Verrine, A Layered Appetizer

    We discovered this photo on the Frontier Foods blog, where it was called a torta, a word that refers to different foods in different Spanish-language countries. But we’d call it a verrine (vair-REEN).

    Verre is the French word for glass; verrine, which means “protective glass,” is an assortment of ingredients layered “artfully” in a small glass.

    Verrines can be sweet or savory: The idea is to layer foods that provide delicious tastes in small bites: a variety of flavors, textures and colors. The result is both sophisticated and fun.

    While specialty verrine glasses exist, you most likely have vessels at home that will do the job just fine: juice glasses, rocks glasses, shot glasses, even small wine goblets.

    To make this avocado verrine, layer:

  • Guacamole
  • Chopped chiles of desired heat (instead of the green chiles shown, use red chiles for more color)
  • Crumbled queso blanco, queso fresco or other Mexican fresh cheese (you can substitute fresh goat cheese)
  • Slab bacon or pork belly strips
  • Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Optional garnish: fresh herbs
  •  

    torta_guacamole_fronterafoods-230s

    Layered appetizer: an avocado (or guacamole) verrine. Photo courtesy Frontera Foods.

     

    Here’s more on savory verrines, as well as dessert verrines—another treat.

    Have fun with it!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Eggplant, Three Ways

    From noodle-free lasagna to vegetable soup or gumbo to a goat cheese and eggplant sandwich, eggplant is a versatile ingredient. It can find its way into caponata*, casseroles, dips, mixed grilled veggies, pasta dishes, stews and more.

    Eggplant is low in calories and fat, while boasting a high fiber content. While available year-round, summer is peak harvesting time for the familiar purple “globe” eggplant, so the prices are the best. Look for shiny, smooth skin that isn’t wrinkled or dimpled.

    Executive Chef Tom Leo of Grecian Delight, producer of delicious Mediterranean specialties, shares his tips for perfecting eggplant preparation, plus a delectable baba ganoush recipe.
     
    *A Sicilian dish of eggplant, tomatoes, capers, pine nuts and basil, usually served as a side dish or relish.

    RECIPE: SIMPLE ROASTED EGGPLANT

    Oven roasted eggplant requires only a few ingredients and simple steps to deliver a rich, smoky flavor.

    Ingredients

  • Eggplant, approximately 1 pound
  • Olive oil
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, oregano, parsley etc.
  •    

    roast-eggplant-Elena_Danileiko-230

    Simple roasted eggplant. Dress it up with tomato sauce and cheese. Photo by Elena Danileiko | IST.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. While the oven is heating, trim the stem and the bottom off of the eggplant and cut it in half, lengthwise.

    2. SCORE the flesh of the eggplant, but not all the way through to the skin. Brush lightly with olive oil and bake for 30-40, minutes depending on the size. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

    3. SEASON with salt, pepper, oregano or other favorite spices and herbs. Optionally drizzle with a bit of olive oil or top with crumbled feta, goat cheese or an Italian grating cheese. Or, top with tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan for Eggplant Parmesan.
     
    RECIPE: EASY GRILLED EGGPLANT

    The optional yogurt mint sauce can be made two days in advance.

    Ingredients

  • Eggplant, approximately 1 pound
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, oregano, parsley etc.
  •  
    For The Yogurt-Mint Sauce

  • 7 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 6 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  •  

    homemade  Baba Ghanoush

    Babaganoush, one of our favorite dips. Photo
    © Fanfo | Dreamstime.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the yogurt sauce (recipe below).

    2. TRIM the eggplant by cutting off the stem and bottom, then cut the eggplant into thick, one-inch slices.

    3. SEASON the slices with a generous amount of salt and place them on a paper towel-lined sheet or colander for 30 minutes. This is to draw moisture out of the eggplant. Rinse and pat dry.

    4. COAT the sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and grill over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes per side. Top with a refreshing yogurt and mint sauce or enjoy it on its own.
     
    Preparation: Yogurt Mint Sauce

    1. COMBINE the green onions, mint, dill, red pepper flakes, olive oil and lemon juice in a food processor and puree until into a coarse paste.

    2. ADD the yogurt, salt, and pepper and pulse until combined.

    3. TRANSFER to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to develop.

     

    RECIPE: PURÉED EGGPLANT DIP, BABAGANOUSH

    Babaganoush (pronounced baba-gah-NOOSH) is hummus’ eggplant cousin, a creamy spread based on eggplant instead of chickpeas. It can be used as a dip or spread, and added to sandwiches instead of mayonnaise.

    Ingredients

  • Eggplant, approximately 1 pound
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional garnish: chopped parsley
  • Pita, crackers, crudités, etc.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ROAST a whole eggplant (about 1 pound) at 450°F: Prick in several places with a fork and place on a foil-lined baking sheet; bake for 20 minutes and let cool.

    2. CUT the eggplant in half lengthwise, drain off the liquid and scoop the pulp into a food processor. Process until smooth and transfer to a bowl.

    3. COMBINE the garlic and salt until a paste forms; add to the eggplant along with the parsley, tahini and lemon juice. Season to taste.

    4. GARNISH with optional chopped parsley and serve with fresh or toasted pita wedges, pita chips, crackers and/or crudités.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Grilled Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

    cheese-stuffed-portobello-wmmb-230

    A grilled portabella entrée, stuffed with
    bacon, onions, potatoes, cheese and
    prosciutto. Photo courtesy
    EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     

    For a meaty vegetarian entree, stuff a grilled portabella mushroom. The stuffing can be simple, from breadcrumbs to cheese to salad.

    Or, it can be a complex layering of flavors, as in the recipe below for Grilled Portabella Mushrooms Stuffed with Bacon And Caramelized Onion Purée, Mashed Potatoes, Wisconsin Fontina Cheese And Sliced Italian Prosciutto.

    The recipe, by Chefs Michael Smith and Debbie Gold, is courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com. While there are several steps, they are easy ones (caramelize the onions, mash the potatoes).

    PORTABELLA, PORTABELLO OR PORTOBELLO?

    How can one mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, be known by so many names? All three spellings are used; we prefer portabella, which flows off the tongue most easily.

    Portabellas are mature cremini mushrooms, tan to brown in color. The immature cremini is variously called a baby portobello, baby bella, brown mushroom, crimini, Italian mushroom, mini bella, portabellini, Roman mushroom, Italian mushroom, or brown mushroom.

    Whew!

     

    Portabellas are meaty in both taste and appearance, with more complex flavors than the young creminis. They can be 3 to 10 inches in diameter; the large portabellas can be grilled or stuffed as an entrée.

    Like meat, portabellas release juices when cooked. Vegetarians enjoy them grilled in lieu of beef, and they make wonderful grilled vegetable sandwiches. They can be served whole or sliced, stuffed or as “burgers.”

    For a simple starter, serve sliced grilled portabellas drizzled with a balsamic reduction. They are available fresh from December to March and cultivated year round.

    Check out the different types of mushrooms in our Mushroom Glossary.

     
    RECIPE: GRILLED STUFFED PORTABELLA MUSHROOMS

    This recipe is made with “baby bellas,” three-inch diameter portabellas, and can be served in appetizer portions. But you can use larger portabellas for an entrée.

    Ingredients

    For The Bacon Purée

  • 1 cup diced bacon (about 6 ounces)
  • 4 cups sliced yellow onions
  •  

    For The Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled, diced (about 1-1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, diced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  •  
    For The Grilled Mushrooms

  • 4 baby bella mushrooms, 2-1/2 to 3-inch diameter
  • Olive oil
  • 4 slices Wisconsin fontina cheese, 3 inches square (substitute Emmental, Gruyère, Provalone
  • 4 slices Italian prosciutto
  • 4 wedges radicchio lettuce
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  •  

    Portobello-Mushroom-stuffed-230

    For a simpler preparation or a first course, try this recipe: Portabella stuffed with goat cheese and herbed mesclun. Photo courtesy Pom Wonderful.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the bacon purée: In large heavy skillet, combine bacon and onions. Cook over medium heat until onions are very soft and dark brown. While hot, purée in food processor. Set aside and keep warm. You will need 1 cup purée for this recipe.

    2. MAKE the mashed potatoes: Boil potatoes in salted water until tender. Meanwhile, scald heavy cream. Drain and rice potatoes in food mill. Transfer potatoes to large bowl, add cream and stir vigorously. Add butter, continuing to stir potatoes. Stir in olive oil. Adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper. Set aside and keep warm. You will need 3 cups for this recipe.

    3. GRILL the mushrooms: Prepare a hot grill. Remove stems and gills from mushrooms. Brush mushrooms with olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from grill.

    4. STUFF the mushrooms: Fill mushrooms with bacon purée. Spoon a good size dollop of mashed potatoes over the bacon. Top with a slice of cheese and a slice of prosciutto, pleated to fit. Place mushrooms on cooler part of grill until cheese is melted and gooey. While mushrooms are warming, season radicchio with salt and pepper. Grill both sides until slightly wilted and starting to turn brown.

    5. DRESS the salad: In medium bowl, toss grilled radicchio, arugula, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Divide onto four plates. Top each with a stuffed mushroom. Serve immediately.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Zucchini Day, Spiral Zucchini & Zucchini Pasta

    Whether served raw, roasted, baked, grilled, sautéed, pickled, or fried, zucchini is one of the most versatile vegetables, and a seasonal summer favorite that’s abundantly available at farm stands and supermarkets.

    This summer squash is very low in calories—33 calories for a medium zucchini.

    There are many wonderful ways to serve zucchini:

  • Garnishes
  • Gratin
  • Grilled
  • Soufflé
  • Stir-fried zucchini ribbons
  • Zucchini and carrot slaw, “cole slaw” or salad
  • Zucchini pasta
  • Zucchini sticks, baked or fried
  •  
    Two of our favorite recipes are below. To make them, treat yourself to the new Microplane Spiral Cutter, a tool that quickly and effortlessly transforms zucchini—as well as carrots, cucumbers, radishes and other vegetables—into elegant spiral cuts and ribbons.

       

    sprial-grater-microplane-beauty-230L

    Food fun with the new Microplane Spiral Cutter. Photo courtesy Microplane.

     
    Thanks to Microplane for announcing this gadget in time for National Zucchini Day, August 8th.

    Resembling an old-school manual pencil sharpener in both style and function, the Spiral Cutter has two razor-sharp (surgical steel!) slicing barrels to accommodate different vegetables—the small barrel for long, slim vegetables such as carrots, the large barrel for cucumbers, summer squash and other, broader vegetables.

    It debuts this month in Black and Green for a suggested retail of $14.95. Learn more at Microplane.com.

    Then, you’ll be set to whip up this delicious salad:

    SPIRAL ZUCCHINI RECIPE # 1: THAI-STYLE ZUCCHINI RIBBON SALAD (BASED ON SOM TUM)

    We love green papaya salad, som tum. We can easily eat two appetizer portions at our local Thai restaurant.

    Our favorite guest blogger, Hannah Kaminsky, agrees. “Served chilled, the tender yet crisp strands of unripe papaya are cooling, yet still popping with bursts of heat from abundant flecks of chili peppers. Brightly acidic, tangy, and slightly salty, with just a touch of sweetness to take the edge off, every component must be in perfect balance to achieve a successful, harmonious dish.

    “Of course, the key ingredient, green papaya, isn’t typically available in hometown grocery stores, which is why I took a page from the ever-popular zucchini noodles. They don’t stay crisp as long as papaya, so be sure to leave them undressed until the minute you’re ready to serve.

     

    thai-zucchini-salad-kaminsky-230

    Zucchini Thai salad: zucchini replaces green
    papaya in the classic som tum recipe. Photo
    © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    “Even without the papaya, this recipe transports me to a delicious new world of flavor with every single bite.

    “The dish comes together very quickly, so prep all of your vegetables first and you’ll zip right through the rest of the preparation.”

    Ingredients For 2-4 Servings

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3-4 ounces (a big handful) haricots verts (skinny green beans), lightly blanched
  • 2 medium zucchini, spiralized or julienned
  • 1/2 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2-1 red Thai chile, thinly sliced
  • Handful skinny chives or scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons roasted and salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dressing. Whisk together the lime juice, coconut sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce and garlic. It will seem like a lot of liquid, but don’t worry: That’s exactly what you want. This isn’t like a traditional salad dressing; it should soak into the noodles a bit, and you will have a bit of a pool at the bottom when it’s in proper proportion.

    2. PLACE the green beans, zucchini ribbons and tomatoes in a medium bowl. Pour the dressing on top and toss to coat. Add the chili, a bit at a time, until it’s spicy enough for your personal taste. Give it one more good toss to mix everything around and evenly distribute the ingredients before transferring everything to a serving dish.

    3. TOP with a generous handful of sliced chives and chopped peanuts. Serve immediately.

     
    SPIRAL ZUCCHINI RECIPE # 2: ZUCCHINI “SPAGHETTI”

    You will love this dish, part of our repertoire since we began to fashion our own “cuisine minceur” in high school. It does a great job emulating spaghetti, for very few calories and carbs.

    Ingredients

  • Zucchini ribbons
  • Sauce of choice—red, white, pesto, EVOO and garlic, etc.
  • Grated Parmigiano-Romano or other Italian grating cheese (for a texture change, consider shaving instead of grating)
  • Optional garnishes: capers, fresh herbs, green peas or other vegetables, panko bread crumbs, sautéed garlic slivers, sliced olives or any favorite pasta topper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK zucchini briefly, to al dente. (We steamed them in the microwave for 30 seconds).

    2. PLATE with sauce. Garnish with grated cheese and any other ingredients.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Small Greek Salad

    An artistic Greek salad from Stix
    Mediterranean Grill in New York City.

     

    Some people love a luncheon size Greek salad. But how about as your first course?

    Now that beautiful tomatoes are in season, slice them up in as many ways as you can, including in a first course Greek salad.

    In Greece, what we call a “Greek salad” (more about that below) is served with every meal. So today’s tip is: Enjoy a Greek salad at home, regularly.

    When you make your own, you can add as much feta, olives, pepperoncini and other favorite ingredients as you like.

    Making your own lets you build a better salad in these ways, too:

  • You can buy top-quality feta at a cheese store.
  • You can substitute romaine for the iceberg lettuce used in restaurants.
  • You can use the beautiful tomatoes that are now in season.
  • And if you don’t like red wine vinegar, the classic dressing in America, you can substitute balsamic vinegar or lemon juice vinaigrette.
  •  
    You can also add the ingredients common in Greece: anchovies, bell pepper, capers and sardines, to the conventional American mix of cucumber, red onion, kalamata olives, pepperoncini, feta cheese and lettuce.

    Serve your Greek salad as a main meal, a smaller salad course, or as a soup-and-salad or sandwich-and-salad combo for lunch.

    Here’s the Greek salad recipe, including the traditional red wine vinaigrette.

    Food Trivia: In Greece, the feta-cucumber-onion-and-more salad is referred to as horiatiki, which translates to country/village/peasant salad. It is a common part of a traditional Greek meal, just as a lettuce and tomato salad was once a standard on the American dinner table.

    Horiatiki doesn’t contain lettuce—that’s an American preference. In Greece, you’ll only see lettuce used at restaurants that cater to tourists.

    An authentic horiatiki is a combination of all or some of the following: anchovies, bell pepper, capers, cucumber, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, onion, sardines and tomato. It is dressed with olive oil only—no vinegar—plus oregano, salt and pepper.

     

    TREAT YOURSELF TO QUALITY FETA CHEESE

    Feta is one cheese where bargains should be avoided. Less expensive feta is often over-salted to the point of unpleasantness. Some knock-off feta is dry and rubbery, with none of the crumbliness of the original.

    Feta, made from sheep’s milk or a blend of sheep’s and goat’s milks, is dry-salted and aged in wood barrels. There they sit in a brine solution that was originally devised so farmers could preserve their product in the hot Mediterranean climate. The brine gives feta its characteristic tang.

    A quality feta goes through a four-month maturation, developing a creamy, rich, complex flavor.

    According to Murray’s Cheese, only 2% of feta consumed in the U.S. actually hails from Greece. The economic collapse of Greece has put many traditional artisans out of business.

     

    greek-feta-murrays-beauty-230

    Top quality imported Greek feta is available from Murray’s Cheese.

     
    Much of our feta is imported from Bulgaria, or are cheaper knock-offs made in the U.S. from cow’s milk. Unless you buy from a reputable cheesemonger, you don’t know what you’re getting.

    A quality feta should be briny, tang and crumbly. You deserve to experience the best!

    More Food Trivia: Feta been made at least since Homer’s time, the 8th century B.C.E.: He described it in The Odyssey.

    The word feta, meaning slice, came much later, in the 17th century. It likely refers to the slicing of cheese before it is placed in barrels to age.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

    heirloom-tomato-caprese-greatperformancesFB-230

    Where’s the stack of mozzarella and tomato
    slices? This Caprese salad is deconstructed.
    Photo courtesy Great Performances | NYC.

     

    Take advantage of the beautiful tomatoes now at farmers markets to create an elegant Caprese salad like this. There’s just a small window each year to enjoy heirloom tomatoes, so budget to have them every day, if you can.

    Enjoy them in simple preparations to let their luscious flavor shine: in salads or on sandwiches, for example. One of the easiest yet most popular ways to enjoy them is in a Caprese salad.

    You can also get creative: Instead of piling the slices of mozzarella and tomato in a stack or spreading them in a fan, make the deconstructed Caprese salad shown in the photo. All you need apart from the standard ingredients (see below) are red and yellow tomatoes (or green, orange or purple—heirloom tomatoes offer a rainbow of options) of different sizes, and both large and small basil leaves.

    While you’re at the farmers market, pick up some exotic basil instead of the standard: dark purple opal basil, lemon basil or sweet Thai basil, for example.

    CAPRESE SALAD HISTORY

    Insalata Caprese (salad in the style of Capri) is a favorite of many people—perhaps all the more precious because one of its four ingredients, tomatoes (combined with basil, mozzarella di bufala and olive oil) are splendid for such a short period of each year.

     
    Food historians can’t determine if the Caprese salad actually originated on the Italian island of Capri or if it was simply “discovered” there by tourists, but it is credited to the Campania region of Italy, on the southwest coast.

    Basil is indigenous to Italy and mozzarella and olive oil have been made since ancient Roman times (olive oil is actually much older). The other key ingredients arrived much later:

  • Mozzarella di bufala, used today instead of cow’s milk mozzarella, arrived—around 1000 C.E.,* introduced by the Arabs to Sicily.
  • Tomatoes were brought back from the New World in 1529, but those original tomatoes—the size of cherry tomatoes—were first used as ornamental houseplants. Believed to be poisonous, they weren’t eaten until the mid-19th century.
  •  
    However, insalata caprese became popular throughout the Western world after it became a favorite of King Farouk of Egypt, who discovered it during the a vacation to Capri in the 1950s (and probably invented the first insalata caprese sandwich—said to be his favorite way of eating it).

    At some point, balsamic vinegar was offered as an addition to the plain olive oil (although fine olive oil as the sole condiment is sufficiently flavorful). Caprese salad is also called insalata tricolore, referring to the three colors of the Italian flag (green, white and red).

     

    CAPRESE SALAD VARIATIONS

    Outside of tomato season, radicchio, red bell peppers or sundried tomatoes can be substituted—as well as fruit, such as:

  • Mango Caprese Salad
  • Plum Caprese Salad
  • Watermelon Caprese Salad
  •  
    Vegans can enjoy a Tofu Caprese Salad, and those who don’t like mozzarella (is there anyone?) can make a Goat Cheese Caprese.

    You can also make a Caprese Pasta Salad.
     
    So, what’s for lunch?

     
    *Source: Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Mozzarella di Bufala Campana. This is the current best historical guess. The history of mozzarella di bufala.

     

    caprese-olive-sundried-topping-mooneyfarms-230

    Another Caprese salad variation: Add olive pesto. Photo courtesy Mooney Farms.

     

      

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