Tag Archives: garlic

Recipe: Sautéed Baby Red Swiss Chard (Bietina)

10 Mar

You’ve vowed to eat more leafy greens, and you’re doing a great job adding more collard, kale, mustard greens, spinach, and other leafy greens to your diet. In Italy, where I live, those other greens would also include borage, broccoli rabe, chicory, escarole, watercress, and wild greens. But as you munch your way through one high-fiber, high-mineral, high-vitamin leafy green after another, there comes a day when you realize that, much as you love them all, one sautéed leafy green looks much like another. You have fallen into a green rut. That’s when Swiss Chard comes to the rescue. With Swiss Chard, you can have your leafy greens and ruby-red stems, too (if you get the right kind; chard stems can be white, yellow, or red).

Swiss Chard, or bietina/bietola in Italian, is widely eaten in Italy and around the Mediterranean. Why, you may ask, is it called Swiss Chard? No one knows. It’s not Swiss. But the plant may have first been described by a Swiss botanist, so that could be the answer–though it’s possible a German botanist actually did the describing first. It is one of those common plant-name oddities, like Jerusalem Artichoke.

This recipe uses tender, baby red Swiss Chard. If the chard you have is bigger/older, you may need to cut the leaves off the stalks, and add the chopped stalks to the skillet first, to give them more cooking time.

Recipe: Sautéed Baby Red Swiss Chard
2-3 servings

1 1/2 lb. (3/4 kg.) baby red Swiss Chard
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
chili flakes/crushed red pepper
salt and pepper

Preparation

1. Trim the stalks by cutting them off the root end of the bunch of chard. Most stalks should be thin and tender. With larger stalks, take a knife and carefully remove the stringy part by peeling down the center of the stalk.

2. Wash the greens in plenty of cold water, swishing and swirling to remove any dirt or grit. Drain in a colander.

3. Drizzle some olive oil around the bottom of a heavy skillet; add the garlic, chili, and salt; grind some pepper over; and cook the garlic and chili over medium-high heat for about a minute. Add the chard, stirring occasionally to make that sure none of the leaves get stuck to the bottom of the skillet, and that all leaves get cooked. As with all greens, what looks like a huge amount will soon cook down to a fraction of its former volume. If the pan seems too dry, add a bit more olive oil.

4. Check the seasonings, and serve either warm or at room temperature.

Summertime Bliss: Sun-Warmed Cherry Tomatoes

6 Jul

Few things beat the taste of a tomato that’s come straight from the garden. And cherry tomatoes offer that extra, satisfying little pop as you bite into them. The photo below shows our first harvest of the season, but the tomatoes in this bowl won’t make it into any recipe; these sun-warmed beauties are all going to be eaten just as they are–as a snack straight from Nature. However, there is a reason these tomatoes are called Sweet 100s: before long, I’ll be wondering what to do with all of them. I see lots of salads on the horizon, as well as our favorite Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, and Basil. And cherry tomatoes would also work in Roasted Tomatoes, Onions, and Garlic with Basil–though I’d start cooking the onions and garlic first, adding the cherry tomatoes toward the end of the roasting time. I detect a common theme in both recipes: basil. And now that I recall, last I saw it, our basil was in danger of being overtaken by the flowering oregano that has run riot in the herb garden…. Time for some triage in the name of good eats!

 

Recipe: Roasted Tomatoes, Onions, and Garlic with Basil

28 Jun

This year, I planted three tomato plants, which are beginning to completely take over the vegetable garden. If that weren’t enough, a fourth rogue plant sprung from the seeds of  last year’s tomatoes is giving them a run for their money. Which means I’m soon going to be faced with a bumper crop of tomatoes and the challenge of figuring out what to do with the ones I keep. This recipe is one of my all-time favorites for tomatoes, and I often serve it at brunches as an accompaniment to cold roasted meats. It is a very flexible recipe: it can be made ahead, served warm or at room temperature–and you can play around with the ingredients depending on what you have on hand. However you tweak it, it’s hard to go wrong with tomatoes, red onions, garlic, basil, and pine nuts.


Roasted Tomatoes, Onions, and Garlic with Basil
12 servings

3 lb. roma tomatoes (other smaller types work well, too)
2 large red onions, cut in half, each half cut into eight wedges
30 cloves garlic /2 bulbs, peeled (slice large cloves in half)
2/3 c. olive oil
2 tsp. sambal oelek (or sweet chilli sauce)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. bottled pesto (or fresh, if you have it)
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. shredded fresh basil
2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 c. pine nuts, toasted

Preparation

1. Heat oven to 400º.
2. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Place tomatoes, cut side up, in large baking dish, then nestle the onions and garlic around the tomatoes.
3. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, sambal oelek, sugar, pesto, and salt. Pour over the vegetables.
4. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until tomatoes, onions, and garlic are soft.
5. Meanwhile, dry toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium-high heat (watching carefully), until they start to turn golden. Remove them from the skillet and reserve.
6. Once the tomatoes come out of the oven, add the vinegar, herbs, and pine nuts, and mix gently. Serve warm or cold.

Recipe: Spicy Indian Eggplant with Tomatoes

27 Oct

I have always loved logic problems. You know–the kind where a man in a blue coat on a bus is sitting two seats away from a woman with red hair who is diagonally across from another woman using an iPhone and one seat away from a man with a green scarf reading the paper.  Eventually, given more clues, you’d have to say where everyone was sitting, what color hair they had, what they were wearing, and what they were doing.

Perhaps that is why I also greatly enjoy certain culinary challenges. For example, tonight we had friends over for dinner and had a lovely time with them. But having lived in Berkeley, we learned early on to ask if our guests had any dietary preferences or restrictions. This time around, several of our guests could not eat dairy, gluten, or meat (two friends are each avoiding one of those items, the other cannot have two of them–but no one friend is avoiding all three). Five people at the table tonight ate anything and everything. No one was vegan.

So, what to serve? In cases such as this, I find that Indian food is perfect. There are myriad vegetarian and non-dairy options, and rice does not contain gluten. So I decided to use this opportunity to experiment by making several dishes I haven’t tried before. This eggplant dish is one of them, and one of the reasons I chose it is that it can be served at room temperature. Anything that can be made ahead of time, I like. This recipe, which family members deemed a keeper, is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.

Spicy Indian Eggplant with Tomatoes
Serves 6

1 tsp. ground ginger
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1/8 c. water
1 3/4 lb. baby eggplant
about 1.5 c. canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp. whole fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1 (15-oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/8 tsp. cayenne (or chili flakes)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Preparation

1. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into halves, then cut each half lengthwise into four strips; cut the strips in half crosswise.
2. Heat 1/2 c. of the oil in a deep frying pan over medium-high heat; when hot, add one layer of eggplant and cook until the eggplant is golden-brown, turning pieces over as they cook.
3. Remove eggplant and drain on a layer of paper towels.
4. Repeat until all eggplant slices have been cooked, adding additional oil to the pan each time as needed.
5. Once all the eggplant has been cooked, keep about 3 tbsp. of the oil in the pan, and discard the rest.
6. Add the fennel and cumin seeds to the hot oil in the pan. Stir for a few seconds, then add the tomato, ginger-garlic mixture, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, salt, and sugar
7. Stir and cook for 5-6 minutes, breaking up the tomato pieces with the back of a slotted spoon. Continue to cook until the mixture gets thick and paste-like.
8. Return the eggplant to the pan and gently mix in; add the lemon juice. Cook on medium-low for about 10 minutes, adding some of the reserved tomato liquid if the eggplant looks too dry.
9. Check the seasonings and adjust as needed (you may like to add more salt, or a pinch more sugar, or a bit more lemon juice).
10. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe: Pasta in Cream Sauce with Pancetta and Pecorino Romano

18 Jun

With three children away from home, and the fourth frequently out and about, my husband and I are adapting to eating dinner by ourselves. It is a necessary exercise; in one more year, we will be empty nesters. We have made some adjustments, but not all recipes for six translate easily into a meal for two, so I am beginning to rethink my approach to dinner. Luckily, this recipe is very adaptable and can easily be scaled down (or back up).

It’s also quick, which makes it perfect for a busy week night. But more importantly, it will satisfy proponents of the two different schools of thought on pasta cream sauces. When this dish is first put on the table, the cream sauce will be fairly thin (as in the photo). In our family, there are staunch supporters of a thinner cream sauce; they say a more liquid consistency allows for maximum “soppage” with a nice piece of crusty bread. Other family members prefer a thicker sauce, which coats the pasta very nicely. Luckily, it’s possible to have it both ways: thinner-sauce aficionados can dig right in; thicker-sauce advocates can nibble on salad or bread and let the sauce cool a bit. Regardless of their sauce philosophies, family members agree on one thing: this is good to the last bite, thick or thin.

Note: Feel free to substitute Parmesan cheese for the Pecorino Romano, and bacon for the pancetta (I used bacon this time, after discovering at the last moment that the pancetta I thought I had in the freezer was a figment of my imagination).

Pasta in Cream Sauce with Pancetta and Pecorino Romano
Serves 2-3

1/2 lb. pasta (I used gemelli)
2 oz. cubed pancetta (in the U.S., Trader Joe’s sells a 4-0z. package*)–or 4 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small clove garlic, sliced
1 c. half and half, which is half light cream and half milk (or you can use all light cream or heavy cream–the heavier the cream, the thicker the sauce)
small pinch salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan)

Preparation

1. Bring an ample amount of water to boil in a medium pot and cook the pasta just until it is al dente.
2. While the water is coming to a boil, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan and cook the pancetta/bacon until crisp; remove the pancetta/bacon, place on a paper towel to drain, and set aside. Leave about 1/2 tbsp. of oil/drippings in the saucepan; discard the rest. Add the sliced garlic to the pan and cook just until golden (you do not want the garlic to burn). Remove the garlic and discard. Turn heat to low and add the half and half (or cream). Grind black pepper over the surface of the sauce. Add a small pinch of salt (be conservative at this stage because you’ll be adding salty bacon and cheese to the dish; you can adjust the seasonings afterward). Keep the sauce warm without letting it boil.
3. When the pasta is done, drain it well, return it to the pot, and immediately toss with the cheese. Add the reserved pancetta/bacon, mix well, and then pour the cream sauce over. Stir well and adjust the seasonings (I usually add more pepper at this stage). The sauce will appear thin at first, but will thicken as it cools.
4. Serve with salad and crusty bread.

*I stock up on packages of cubed pancetta and freeze them. Then, I add the cubed pancetta directly to the hot oil. It cooks (and crisps up) beautifully, and is oh-so convenient.

Allium Update

20 May

A short while ago, I posted a photo from above of an Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ bud just before it was about to open. Here are side views of subsequent phases in the Allium lifecycle: opening, and fully open (ok, those might not actually be the technical terms).

 

Alliums look delicate, but pitted against squirrels, Alliums will usually win. Why? Because they are members of the onion/garlic family, and squirrels prefer slightly less aromatic bulbs for dinner. Hummingbirds and butterflies have more sophisticated palates, however, and love Alliums. It can’t get any better: a flower that deters pests but attracts welcome guests.

Adding to the Alliums’ charms is the fact that they 1) don’t take up much space and so can be tucked almost anywhere, 2) are long lasting, 3) are pretty hardy, and 4) are just pretty. In the language of flowers, the message Alliums convey is one of perfection and elegance. It’s hard to disagree with that.

Recipe: Turkish Feta Dip with Paprika

27 Apr

Fantastic on its own, this dip is even better as the basis for many delectable creations, from mini appetizer stacks to a range of sandwiches (try it on some crusty bread or a cracker, topped with Eggplant with Garlic Vinaigrette and some Roasted and Marinated Bell Peppers). The cheese, yogurt, and walnuts provide a protein boost, but that’s not why you’ll want to eat this. You’ll want it for the nice tang and the endless possibilities. You can adapt it any way you like: more or less garlic or chili flakes, mint instead of parsley, walnuts or no walnuts, etc. Now that I think of it, this dip would probably be nice with some chopped Kalamata olives mixed in, too.

Turkish Feta Dip with Paprika

8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 tsp. paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. plain yogurt
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
sprinkle red chilli flakes (crushed red pepper)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp. dried mint)

Preparation

1. Place the feta in a medium bowl and mask with a fork. Sprinkle with paprika and mix in garlic.
2. Toast the walnuts in a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes. Remove and crush finely with a mortar and pestle (or in a bag using a rolling pin), then add to feta mixture in bowl.
3. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine. If dip appears too thick, add a bit more yogurt.
4. Optional: drizzle with olive oil before serving.
5. Serve with crusty bread, pita bread, pita chips, toasted pita with zaatar, or any other cracker.

Recipe: Eggplant with Garlic Vinaigrette

23 Apr

I love eggplant–any which way, shape, or form–and this recipe is one of my favorite ways of making it. Caveat: in addition to liking eggplant, you must really like garlic, too, and you must eat this with other garlic lovers, because this is not a subtle dish–it is very ‘aromatic.’  Nonetheless, it is a beloved dish at our house–my daughter ate almost half of this platter of eggplant by herself!

I have always pan-fried it, pouring liberal amounts of olive oil into the pan as needed–but you could also try grilling whole eggplant slices then drizzling with the vinaigrette. The eggplant is great on its own, but is lovely when combined with other things. For our Mediterranean antipasti/tapas/mezze meal this past weekend, we created mini open-faced sandwiches by slathering pieces of crusty baguette with Turkish Feta Dip with Paprika, then topping with the eggplant and some Roasted and Marinated Bell Peppers. The eggplant is great with pita and hummus, too.

Eggplant with Garlic Vinaigrette

2 eggplants
salt and pepper
olive oil

Vinaigrette:
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
sprinkle chili flakes/crushed red pepper

Preparation

1. Slice eggplant into 1/4-inch slices, sprinkle with salt, and set in colander in sink to drain for about 30 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, combine the vinaigrette ingredients.
3. Rinse eggplant with cold water and pat dry between two dish towels, then cut the slices into quarters. Sprinkle with pepper.
4. Heat a cast-iron frying pan on medium-to-high heat, add a liberal amount of olive oil, then add eggplant quarters in batches (a single layer at a time). Cook until eggplant is dark golden brown on all sides, turning eggplant over with tongs to ensure even cooking, and adding more olive oil as necessary.
5. When each batch is done, arrange on serving plate and use a small spoon to drizzle a tiny bit of the vinaigrette onto each piece of eggplant while the eggplant is still hot (try to get a bit of garlic on each piece). Continue cooking all eggplant in batches, drizzling each batch with the garlic vinaigrette. The eggplant will soak up the vinaigrette.
6. Serve at room temperature.

Adapted from Joanne Weir’s From Tapas to Meze.

Recipe: Marinated Kale with Red Pepper and Garlic

1 Sep

At our house, we are evenly divided between those who love kale, and those who really don’t love it very much. But even the family members in the latter camp like the taste of this side dish, which is delicious at room temperature. With garlic, olive oil, lots of ground pepper, and a hint of sweetness from the seasoned rice vinegar, it’s hard to resist.

Note:  Like other greens, an enormous amount of kale cooks down to a fraction of its former size.

Marinated Kale with Red Pepper and Garlic
Serves 4

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large white onion, finely diced
1/2 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
3-4 large cloves garlic, crushed
10 oz. cleaned, chopped kale, ribs removed (about 15 c., loosely packed)
1/2 c. vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
lots of freshly ground pepper (to taste)
1/2-1 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar

Saute onion in olive oil in a heavy skillet on medium heat until onion is soft; add red bell pepper. When red bell pepper is soft and onion is golden at the edges, add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the kale, and cook until it softens and has reduced in size by at least a half. Add the vegetable broth, cover the skillet and cook kale for about 10 minutes, or until most of broth has evaporated. Uncover, and heat on high for a few minutes to eliminate any remaining liquid; stir frequently. Add ground pepper to taste, then remove kale from pan and put in a serving bowl. Sprinkle rice vinegar over top and mix in gently.

Serve warm or at room temperature.