Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dinner Salad for the End of the Summer

New Wave Salad
I am always seeking out one-dish meals. And this one is absolutely perfect for the end-of-season gorgeous crops of basil, tomatoes and green beans.

1½ cups Red Wine Basil Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
1 pound tender green beans, stringed and cut into thirds
1 tablespoon olive oil
10-12 ounces dried fettuccine or linguine, broken in half
1 cup fresh basil leaves
6 ripe tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, in one piece

1. Prepare the Red Wine Basil Vinaigrette.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beans and simmer until just tender, about 5 minutes. Scoop out of the pot, leaving the boiling water. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again, and set aside.
3. In the same boiling water, add the oil and fettuccine and cook at a rolling boil until just tender. Drain, rise under cold water, and drain again. Turn out onto a clean dry dishtowel and pat dry. Place in a large serving bowl. Add ½ cup of the vinaigrette and toss well. Set aside.
4. Arrange the basil leaves in small stacks and roll them lengthwise. Slice the stacks diagonally into slivers.
5. Cover the pasta with the green beans and tomatoes, followed by the black olives and slivered basil. Sprinkle with parsley and pour the remaining 1 cup vinaigrette over the salad. Toss gently.
6. Scrape the Parmesan with a vegetable peeler to make thin wide shavings. Place them on top of the salad. When serving, try to distribute a good mix of the ingredients on each plate. You may want to put the parmesan and the peeler on the table so that you can serve yourself more if you’d like.

4 servings as a one-dish meal
Adapted from Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ The New Basics

Red Wine Basil Vinaigrette

2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon sugar
1 cup olive oil
½ cup slivered fresh basil leaves
½ cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Combine the garlic, mustard, vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar in a small bowl and whisk well.
2. Add the oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly until the vinaigrette has thickened slightly. Fold in the basil and parsley. Taste for seasonings and adjust as you see fit.

Makes 1½ cups
Adapted from Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ The New Basics

"To market, to market to buy a fat pig"--Nearly Impossible

Pork Piccata
This is an old stand-by because it is fast and delicious. But I have had problems with it in the last couple of years as the pork we get is leaner and leaner--perhaps good for our health--but definitely not as succulent and juicy. So I've tried to find less lean pork (I bought part of a piggy which had been raised organically by students at Sonoma Valley High School and it worked really well) and cook it as short a time as possible.

1½ pounds pork butt or boneless pork chops, sliced ¼ to ½-inch thin
Note: I look for pork that has some marbling of fat in the meat. Boneless pork chops work well if they have some fat in the meat. If it is too lean, the meat dries out in an instant.
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, slivered
Note: You can use more garlic if you are a true garlic-lover.
Zest of 1 lemon, zester or microplane but I prefer the zester
Juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup white wine
2 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

1. This dish cooks so fast, you really need to have all the ingredients prepped and set to go before you start cooking. So sliver the garlic, zest the lemon, juice it, measure the capers and the white wine, and chop the parsley. There, you’re set.
2. Mix the salt, pepper and the flour in a clean plastic sack. Dredge the pork a few slices at a time and lay in a single layer on a plate. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper.
3. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and fry until lightly brown. Remove it from the pan and set aside, leaving as much of the oil as possible.
4. In the same oil, lightly brown the pork slices on both sides in one or more batches, about 1 minute on each side or a little longer if the meat is thicker. Remove the pork from the pan as it finishes. The meat will continue to cook while it sits.
5. Add the lemon juice, white wine, capers, lemon zest and reserved garlic to the pan, set over medium heat, scraping up any browned bits in the pan. Reduce the sauce for just a moment, taste for seasonings and adjust as you see fit.
6. Return the meat to the pan for a minute, shaking the pan a bit so that the sauce is thickened by the flour on the meat. The meat should be slightly pink in the middle.
7. Place on warmed plates or a serving platter. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Adapted from Jeff Smith’s The Frugal Gourmet

Here is what a zester looks like:

You might to add the following dishes  to make a wonderful supper:

Oven-roasted Zucchini
From my May 31, 2009 blog

Coconut Rice from my July 27, 2009 blog. It looks just like any other rice dish so I haven't included a photo.

A Sweet Potato Side Dish

Glazed Sweet Potatoes
This really sounds like an American Thanksgiving dish with everything except the mini-marshmallows. It is so good with roasted chicken or pork. But given its heritage (South African), it is delicious with Bobotie, South Africa’s amazing meatloaf, which you can find on my May 31, 2009 blog.

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed½ cup water
2 sticks of cinnamon or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2-3 strips of orange peel
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
¼ cup sherry, dry or medium

1. Combine the sweet potatoes, water, cinnamon, orange peel, butter, sugar, both gingers, and salt in a saucepan. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes until the potatoes are almost tender.
2. Pour the liquid from the potatoes into a small saucepan. Add the sherry. Bring it to a boil and cook until it is reduced to a thin flavorful syrup.
3. Return the liquid to the potatoes and cook gently until the potatoes are soft, turning them carefully to coat with the sauce. Shake the pot from time to time to prevent the potatoes from sticking to the pan. Taste for seasonings and adjust as you see fit.
4. Transfer the sweet potatoes to a warm bowl and serve.

6 servings
Adapted from Lannice Snyman’s Rainbow Cuisine: A Culinary Journey Through South Africa

Roasted Chicken 
 From my May 19, 2010 blog.

From my May 31, 2009 blog.

Indian-Style Broccoli
From my May 19, 2010 blog.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Back to Blogging

I have been absorbed these last five weeks--probably just like you--in some vacation/family travel and in some household cleaning out and refurbishing. In the travels I had to chance to cook and photograph some of the "keepers" which I have been wanting to share with you. Coastal South Carolina has really good seafood. Although I don't eat tuna more than a couple of times a year--I would love to have someone tell me that my concern about the mercury content was bogus--I suspect it is not. But occasionally I just love a nicely cooked tuna dish and the one I give you below is just wonderful and easy as well.

Chilled Almond Gazpacho with Grapes (Ajo Blanco con Uvaas)
This makes a great first course soup for a dinner party. It wouldn’t quite work as a whole meal. You could serve it in small mugs or tiny bowls while your guests are standing around the kitchen, working up an appetite. I must admit that it is not to everyone’s liking. But I find it delicious, refreshing, and anything but ordinary. I think you will too.

6 ounces stale bread, crusts removed
1 cup slivered almonds
3 garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
2-3 cups water, but start with 2 cups
Red or green seedless grapes, cut in half
Roasted Grapes (see my August 13, 2009 blog)

1. Soak the bread in water to cover until it is softened, about 15 minutes. Squeeze the bread to remove some of the water.
2. Put the garlic in a small frying pan with a small amount of oil. Roast slowly over low or low-medium heat until they are soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to let them char.
Note: It is easiest to do this next step in two or three batches, depending on the size of your blender or food processor. A blender will give you a smoother consistency.
3. Measure the almonds, olive oil, water, vinegar, and salt. Take some of each, plus some garlic, and place them in a blender or food processor. Blend until very smooth. As you finish each batch, pour it into a bowl large enough to hold all your batches. Stir them together.
4. Add additional water until it is the soupy consistency you like. Check for seasonings and adjust as you see fit.
5. Chill. Right before serving, stir the soup, ladle into bowls and garnish with grapes.

6 servings
Adapted from Janet Mendel’s My Kitchen in Spain

Tuna Steaks with Onion Marmalade

4 center-cut tuna steaks, about 6 ounces each
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 teaspoons coarsely cracked black peppercorns
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or fresh parsley
Onion Marmalade (see recipe below)

1. Place the tuna steaks on a flat surface and cut out the dark streak of meat, if any. Brush with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt, thyme, pepper flakes, and peppercorns. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 15 minutes before cooking.
2. You have a choice as to cooking method: grilling, broiling, or pan searing.
3. If you are using a grill, preheat the grill and rub the rack lightly with oil. Place the fish on the grill. Cook for 3 minutes, turn, and cook for another 3 minutes. The fish should have a nice streak of pink in the middle.
If you are using a broiler, preheat the broiler and place the fish on a rack about 4 inches from the heat. Cook for 3 minutes, turn, and cook for another 3 minutes. The fish should have a nice streak of pink in the middle.
If you are pan frying, heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a pan over high heat. When it is hot, add the fish and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. The fish should have a nice streak of pink in the middle.
Whichever method you choose, adjust cooking time to the thickness of the fish and to your taste—but try not to over cook.
4. Place each tuna steak on a warm plate, with the Onion Marmalade. Sprinkle the tuna with the chopped basil or parsley.

4 servings
Adapted from a 60-Minute Gourmet column in the Raleigh News and Observer

Onion Marmalade

4 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 whole clove
¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
salt to taste
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons honey

1. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and add the onions. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the onions start to brown, uncover and add the vinegar, clove, Tabasco and salt to taste. Cook briefly, stirring, until the vinegar has almost evaporated.
2. Stir in the capers and honey. Cover tightly and simmer for 15 minutes more. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed. Set aside.
3. Rewarm if necessary before serving.

6 servings
Adapted from a 60-Minute Gourmet column in the Raleigh News and Observer

You could add the following dishes to this menu and have yourself a splendid dinner party:

Roasted Potatoes
From my June 27, 2009 blog

Sautéed Spinach
From my May 31, 2010 blog

And a wonderful dessert of your choosing. Mmmmm.