Savory Grilled Peaches

grilled_peaches

Sweet, salty, and sour: this dish hits all the right notes for a late summer appetizer. photo by: Nancy Duran

 

Simply grilled peaches are a delicious and unexpected break from tomatoes on the savory table. In just minutes, they grill to perfection. They also happen to pair nicely with soft, tangy cheeses, and salty meats. This is what summer eating is all about: casual dishes made of fresh-from-the-farm ingredients that go from kitchen to plate in no time at all.

Serves 8 as an appetizer

4 (just ripe) peaches, halved along seam and pit removed
olive oil, for brushing
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Prosciutto, soft sheep and goat milk cheese, fresh basil leaves, for serving

Heat grill to medium-low heat. Brush peaches all over with olive oil and brush the grill grates with a little more. Add peaches, cut side down and cook, uncovered and without turning, about 4 minutes, until beginning to release juices and nicely grill marked on the cut side. Gently lift peaches with a spatula and flip to grill the skin side. Grill a further 4 minutes. Serve with prosciutto and cheese, scattered with basil leaves and seasoned with pepper.

 

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Lemon Squares with Herbed Blueberries

blueberry_lemon

Toss blueberries in unexpected herbs to liven up a simple lemon tart. I’ve used thyme but lavender would be just as lovely. photo by Nancy Duran

As we approach late summer, blueberries are bountiful. While they are just perfect eaten fresh by the handful, if you’re in the mood to dress them up a bit, give this lemon curd tart a whirl. Blueberries tossed in honey and herbs add a grown up twist and make this tart beautiful to look at. The recipe may look a little daunting but, trust me, it’s a snap to pull together. Because the tart base is a press in, it’s very forgiving. While the aroma will tempt you, hold off on slicing the tart until it is completely cooled, preferably with a little time in the fridge to help it set even more. This will result in nice clean squares that can be eaten by hand or fork.

Makes 16 squares

Shortcrust Pastry
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons), at room temperature, chopped
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1 cup all-purpose flour

Lemon Curd Filling
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
3 large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice

Herbed Blueberries
1 cup blueberries
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line the base of an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, leaving paper overhanging on two sides so you can lift the tart out of the pan easily.
  2. To make the Shortcrust Pastry: In the bowl of an electric mixer (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter, icing sugar, and lemon rind until smooth. Add the flour and mix until just starting to come together. Using your hands, press the mixture together to form a ball. It will be crumbly, but don’t worry, you should be able to press it together using your hands. Take the ball of dough and drop it into the prepared pan. Press the dough into all the corners of the pan until the base is evenly covered. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until lightly browned.
  3. To make the Lemon Curd Filling: In the cleaned out bowl of the electric mixer (or using a hand mixer), beat together the granulated sugar, butter, and lemon rind. The mixture will not cream but should instead look like coarse breadcrumbs. Add the eggs one at a time, waiting until each addition is incorporated. Add the lemon juice and mix until just blended (do not over mix).
  4. Carefully pour the lemon curd onto the hot pre-baked pastry base. (You can do this straight on the oven rack to avoid spillage.) Return to the oven and continue baking for another 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss the blueberries with the honey and thyme. When the lemon tart has baked for 10 minutes, carefully remove from the oven and scatter over the blueberries, pressing them gently into the curd so that they adhere. Return to the oven and cook another 10 minutes, until the lemon curd is set. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan before slicing into 16 squares.

 

 

 

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Zucchini Slaw

 

zuke_slaw

Hamburgers, grilled chicken, sausage, and steak. These are the mainstays of outdoor summer cooking. And keeping them from getting stale by the end of July can be tricky after the ninth or tenth barbecue. That’s where fresh and bountiful summer vegetables come in. Just about now, zucchini is making itself known in most quarters, so why not put it to use in jazzing up your grilled meat staples?

This quick slaw is a delicious, fresh topper for just about any meat, or fish for that matter. It’s sweet, tangy, nutty, and crunchy and adds just the right amount of flash to a simply grilled meat. I like to add pine nuts to mine but it’s not mandatory if you’re looking for something completely raw (on those hot and steamy days when turning on the oven or lighting the stovetop seems absolutely unbearable).

And fear not my vegetarian friends, slaw is not for meat eaters alone. I also love this topper on “meaty” grilled haloumi or eggplant slices.

Makes 4 cups

2 medium zucchini, grated on the coarse side of a box grater
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
3 large radishes, thinly sliced into rounds
1/3 cup roasted pine nuts
1/3 cup golden raisins
Juice from one large lemon (about 4 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 teaspoon salt
A handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

  1. In a colander set in the sink, place the grated zucchini and, using your hands, press out any excess water. Transfer to a large bowl and add the onion, radish, pine nuts, and raisins.
  2. In a screw-top jar, combine the lemon juice, oil, honey and salt. Shake vigorously to combine and pour over the zucchini mixture. Toss to coat all over and let sit for about 20 minutes, until the flavor are infused and the zucchini and onion have slightly pickled. If there is still a lot of moisture, place in a colander to drain excess moisture. Return to the bowl and add the basil and pepper to taste. Serve on top of meat, chicken, fish, or grilled vegetables or cheese.

Nutritional analysis based on 1/4 cup serving (does not include black pepper to taste):
Calories 62, Fat 4.5g, Sodium 113 mg, Carbohydrate 6g, Fiber 1g, Sugar 4g, Protein 1g

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Peas and Carrots and Ramps (oh my!)

A classic pairing updated for modern palettes. photo by Nancy Duran

Late spring days can be unpredictable. One day it’s 90 degrees and sunny, the next it’s rainy and a chilly 60 degrees. During those brisk interludes, I retreat inside from my barbecue to roast a spring chicken. And the side I prefer with my chicken is a homey carrots and peas. Freshly shelled spring peas feel like an absolute luxury after many winter months of frozen peas. This simple yet stunning preparation puts the peas in the spotlight they deserve.

You may be coming across ramps at your farmers’ market these days, and if you do, I encourage you to pick some up. Their subtle sweetness provides a lovely accent to the crisp freshness of the peas and carrots in this dish. If you can’t find ramps (and they can be elusive), feel free to substitute two finely chopped small shallots. The flavor won’t be identical to ramps, but the sweetness will be achieved.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 ramps, white bulbs only sliced thinly into rounds (save leaves for another use)*
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups carrots that have been thinly sliced into matchsticks
2 cups lightly cooked freshly shelled peas
Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat butter over medium-low heat. Add ramps and a little salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until ramps have softened, but not colored, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add carrots and toss to coat with butter. Pour in about 1/2 cup water and turn heat to medium-high. Cook, uncovered, until carrots have softened and liquid has mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add cooked peas and taste and season with a little more salt and pepper. Serve drizzled with olive oil.

* A great way to use the ramp leaves is to stuff them into the cavity and under the skin of the breast meat of a whole chicken. When you roast the chicken the sweet oniony flavor of the ramps will infuse the chicken and its gravy.

Nutritional analysis (based on 4 servings, does not include salt and pepper to taste or olive oil for serving):
Calories 146, Fat 6.2g, Sodium 52 mg, Carbohydrate 19g, Fiber 6g, Sugar 8g, Protein 5g

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Eat Your Greens!

 

green_goddess

This scrumptious dressing makes it easy to be green.  photo by Nancy Duran

An early summer salad gets a dose of fun with this Green Goddess Dressing tailor made for little ones. If you’re looking to entice the kids into the kitchen and get them bought into the idea of eating their greens, “no-cook” cooking like this is a great place to start. Little hands can get involved making this yummy, creamy dressing which just happens to be the perfect complement to all sorts of vegetables.

While traditional Green Goddess Dressing features anchovies, I’ve subbed in Worcestershire sauce so that kiddos won’t turn their noses up. The salty, briny flavor of the sauce will hit similar notes. (But, by all means, if you love anchovies like I do, skip the Worcestershire sauce and toss in two anchovy fillets instead.)

Toss a little bit of the dressing with whatever baby greens you find at the market this week. Be careful not to go too heavy on the dressing as a little bit goes a long way. It saves in the fridge for up to a week and makes a great dip for raw veggies as well. My guess is, this fun to make and fun to eat dressing will make the kiddos want to dig right in.

Makes 1 1/4 cups dressing

Ingredients

1/2 cup olive oil mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
2 teaspoons roughly chopped fresh chives
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, combine all the ingredients except salt and pepper and add 1 tablespoon water. Blend until smooth and creamy. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use this dressing on salads or as a dip for vegetables.

Nutritional analysis based on serving size of 2 tablespoons (does not include salt and pepper to taste):
Calories 106, Fat 11g, Sodium 89 mg, Carbohydrate 2g, Fiber 0g, Sugar 1g, Protein 1g

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Fragrant Squash Soup Shots

squash_shooter

Curry and coconut flavor this butternut squash soup. It’s a perfect way to introduce your Thanksgiving feast. photo by Nancy Duran

Getting this one in under the wire! Two more sleeps until Turkey Day so there’s still time to add this stunning soup to your feast. I love a good butternut squash soup but I often find it very heavy. This rendition, however, is so silky and airy that you won’t fill up before the turkey and stuffing make their grand appearance. Flavored with fragrant green curry paste and light coconut milk, this soup is a beautiful way to get the taste buds ready for the feast ahead. Serve it in shot glasses or little mugs either at the table or during the pre-dinner cocktail hour.

Makes 9 cups

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
2 small butternut squash (about 3 pounds), peeled, seeds scooped out, and flesh chopped
1/3 cup green curry paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cans (13.66 ounces) light coconut milk (shaken)
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and freshly cracked black or white pepper to taste
1/4 cup very finely chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime

  1. In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the oil and butter over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, add the shallot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the squash and stir to coat with the shallot and butter. Add the curry paste and sugar and stir to coat the squash. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.
  2. Pour in the coconut milk, stock, and 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer (not a fierce boil), reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the squash is tender. (You may see the soup split if the boil becomes too rapid. Don’t worry, once you puree, it will all come together.)
  3. Pour the soup into a blender and puree in batches until smooth. (If the soup is hot when you pour it into the blender, be careful that the top of the blender doesn’t blow off when you puree!) Return to a cleaned out pan and season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black or white pepper. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice and serve warm.

Nutritional analysis based on 36 (1/4 cup) servings
(does not include salt and pepper to taste):
Cal 87, Fat 7g, Sodium 102 mg, Carbohydrate 9g, Sugar 1g, Fiber 0g, Pro 4g

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Late Summer Stew

eggplant_peppers

The bounty of a late summer harvest is on full display in this quick prep stew. photo by Nancy Duran

Funnily enough, the end of summer is actually my favorite part of this season. I love the cooler nights, the hint of autumn in the air, reclaiming my schedule, and the return of friends from far flung summer adventures. But, of course, I especially love the bounty of the late summer harvest. Gardens, farmers markets, and CSAs are in peacock mode in the late days of August and throughout the month of September.

This easy, easy stew is an homage to all the goodies coming out of the ground right now. Eggplants, onions, and peppers are brought together with a puree of fresh summer tomatoes and topped off with baby spinach and fragrant basil.

You can enjoy this stew as I’ve written it here with boneless chicken thighs, or try it as a vegetarian main. It’s delicious served over pasta or with crusty, hearty peasant bread. And don’t skip the yogurt. The tangy finish really seals the deal.

Serves 4

2lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large eggplant, chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 large tomatoes, halved and grated for pulp on the large holes of a box grater (discard the skin)
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
A large handful of baby spinach
Fresh basil and Greek or Bulgarian yogurt for serving

  1. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season it all over with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken in two batches and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the second side. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to the pan and stir in the onion, pepper, and eggplant. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, 12-15 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, coriander, and cumin and cook, stirring for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  3. Pour in the vinegar and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to lift off any brown bits, for about 1 minute, until almost evaporated. Add the tomato pulp, stock, and the chicken and juices to the pan. Push the chicken down into the stew juices. Increase the heat to medium to bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and cover. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
  4. Just before serving, stir in the spinach to wilt slightly. Taste and add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with shredded basil and fresh yogurt.

Nutritional analysis based on 4 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste and basil and yogurt for serving):
Calories 516, Fat 27g, Sodium 309 mg, Carbohydrate 19, Fiber 7g, Sugars 9g, Protein 48g

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Grilled Chicken with Fresh Herb Salsa

chixsalsa

Smoky grilled chicken is brightened up with a salsa made from fresh picked garden herbs. photo by Nancy Duran

When I haven’t got the time to marinate chicken for the barbecue, I like to serve it with something flavorful drizzled on top. That something usually involves lemon juice, garlic, herbs, and plenty of good olive oil. This fresh salsa was inspired by the abundance of herbs that are growing like weeds in my garden right now. It took me about 5 minutes to blend this salsa together and the result was so tasty it had my kids eating this chicken right down to the bone.

Serves 4 to 6

4 bone-in chicken thighs
6 chicken drumsticks
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Herb Salsa
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and place in a large bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons oil and salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat all over. Set aside at room temperature while you make the salsa.
  2. In the bowl of a small food processor, add the garlic, sugar, parsley, and basil. Pulse until roughly chopped. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, and oil and process until the sauce comes together. Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl. Chill in the refrigerator until the chicken is done.
  3. Prepare a grill for medium heat and lightly oil the grate. When hot, add the chicken (skin-side down for the thighs) and grill for 8-10 minutes, moving the chicken pieces around the grill if flare ups occur so that they are golden and lightly charred. Turn the chicken pieces and grill for a further 5 minutes, again moving them around the grill when flare ups occur.
  4. Serve chicken drizzled with some of the salsa, and pass excess salsa around at the table.

Nutritional analysis based on 6 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste):
Calories 310, Fat 26g, Sodium 67mg, Carbohydrate 3g, Fiber 0g, Sugar 2g, Protein 15g

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Watermelon and Arugula Salad

watermelon_arugula

Watermelon makes a guest appearance in a savory salad. photo by Nancy Duran

This is a recipe that was part of a summer barbecue cooking class I taught last week. I’m happy to report that my students loved it. They especially loved how easy it was to throw together. I wasn’t going to post it because it’s an update on an older Greek salad I’ve posted here before but I felt it was so beautiful to look at and such an upgrade from the earlier recipe that it demanded a wider audience. Enjoy this celebration of all the tastiest bits of summer.

Serves 4 as a side or 8 as a part of a larger barbecue spread

Salad

1 cup cooked and cooled farro
6 cups arugula
2 cups bite-size watermelon chunks, from about 1/8 medium watermelon
2 mini Lebanese cucumbers, cut into chunks
1 large tomato, cut into chunks
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dressing
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove, grated on a Microplane
2 tablespoons olive oil

  1. In a large serving bowl, combine all salad ingredients.
  2. To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a screw-top jar. Shake vigorously to combine.
  3. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine and coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Analysis based on 4 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste):
Calories 240, Fat 13g, Sodium 341mg, Carbohydrate 27g, Fiber 4g, Sugar 10g, Protein 8g

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Spiced Beets with Dill

beet_spice

Spiced beets topped with cooling yogurt are as beautiful as they are tasty. photo by Nancy Duran

I bought my third mortar and pestle recently. And she’s a beauty. I know most people don’t see the need for three mortar and pestles (or even one perhaps) but there’s something about the design of this implement that I just

mortar

A mortar and pestle. An essential chef’s tool. photo by Nancy Duran

adore. Apart from its good looks this tool is highly functional. Grinding spices and herbs with garlic and salt releases loads and loads of flavor without the fuss of chopping. In this simple beet dish, the cumin, coriander, and peppercorns combine to create a fragrant, slightly spicy finish on the beets, a perfect complement to their earthy sweetness. If you get yourself a little mortar and pestle like the one pictured here, it’s actually a nice decorative addition to any kitchen countertop. And the culinary benefits are pretty great too.

Serves 4 to 6

3 bunches medium to small beets (about 9)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
Sea salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh dill
Greek yogurt, to serve

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Trim the beet greens from the beets (reserve for another use). Wrap each beet in tin foil, place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, until easily pierced with a paring knife. Unwrap beets and, when cool enough to handle, peel them. Quarter the medium beets, halve the small beets.
  3. In a mortar, place the garlic, cumin, coriander, peppercorns, and a pinch of sea salt. Using the pestle, grind the ingredients to a paste. The sea salt will help to break down the garlic into a pulp.
  4. In a small frying pan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic paste and cook, stirring, and being careful not to burn, for about 3 minutes, until the garlic is cooked off and the spices are very fragrant. Add the vinegar and stock and cook for 30 seconds more.
  5. In a large bowl, toss the beets with the garlic-vinegar dressing. Let sit for at least an hour covered at room temperature (or up to overnight in the refrigerator) to let the flavors infuse.
  6. When ready to serve, pour the dish out onto a serving platter, sprinkle with fresh dill and sea salt to taste. Serve either at room temperature or chilled with dollops of Greek yogurt over top.

Nutritional analysis based on 6 servings (does not include salt to taste or yogurt):
Calories 106, Fat 5 g, Sodium 104 mg, Carbohydrates 14 g, Fiber 4 g, Sugar 10 g, Protein 2g

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