Friday, July 24, 2015

Swiss Chard Fritters and Grilled Swiss Chard Stems

This promises to be a beautiful summer weekend, so plan in a trip to the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market to pick up your week's groceries from a wide selection of summer produce from Good Food Easy at Sweetwater Farmpastured meats from Fair Valley Farm, and beautiful fresh cut flower bouquets from Tiger Lily Art Company. Be sure to grab a bunch of greens to work into your week's meals.

Last Sunday I picked up this lovely rainbow chard, along with onions, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes and some ground lamb. Sunday evening we had grilled lamb burgers and I caramelized onions for a pot of mujaddaraTo accompany the lamb burgers, I made a tomato and cucumber salad and we grilled the chard stems for a simplified version of these recipe with anchovy vinaigrette. The stems are first quickly blanched, then marinated, charred on the grill, and tossed back into the marinate bowl. They were tender and pungent and made one regret ever having relegated a chard stem to the compost heap.

After blanching the stems, I also blanched the chard leaves for the following evening's dinner, and, while the grill was going, roasted extra zucchini, peppers and a whole eggplant wrapped in aluminum foil and nestled directly into the coals. 

Monday night's dinner was these Swiss chard fritters from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's "Jerusalem: A Cookbook." They are delicate pancakes, held together with tangy feta cheese, and bursting with green flavors (I used chard, parsley  cilantro, and mint). They made a perfect meatless Monday meal, along with more mujaddara, grilled vegetables, and a roasted eggplant salad. Two delicious meals from a couple bunches of chard.

Grilled Swiss Chard Stems

Stems from 2 bunches Swiss chard (save greens for another use)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Splash sherry vinegar

1. Wash the chard stems, cut off any dark edges, and cut into 5 to 6-inch lengths.

2. Blanch stems in salted boiling water in batches till just tender, about 2 minutes per batch, then transfer to an ice bath. It is very important to follow all the rules of blanching and not overcrowd the pot. Any shortcuts here results in the color turning black.

3. Dry the blanched stems. In a pretty bowl large enough to hold the stems, combine the olive oil, garlic, and anchovy fillets and use the back of a fork to mash them into a paste. Toss the stems in the paste to coat.

4. Place the stems on the grill in a single layer. Grill long and slow until they become quite dark and charred but not burned. When they are done, transfer them back to the bowl with the anchovy paste, add a splash of sherry vinegar, some freshly ground pepper, and salt to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Swiss Chard Fritters

14 ounces (2 bunches) Swiss chard leaves, stems removed
½ cup Italian parsley leaves
¼ cup cilantro leaves
¼ cup mint leaves
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large eggs
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese (1/2 cup)
 Olive oil
 Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add chard and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from pot and drain well, patting leaves dry with a paper or kitchen towel.

2. Place chard in food processor with herbs, sugar, flour, garlic and eggs. Pulse until well blended. Fold in feta by hand.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, spoon in 1 heaping tablespoon of mixture for each fritter (you should be able to fit three fritters per batch). Press down gently on fritter to flatten. Cook 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Add another tablespoon oil to pan and repeat. Serve warm, with lemon wedges (optional).

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Roasted Fennel and Anchovy Pizza

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market you can look forward to pastured meets from Fair Valley Farm and fresh produce from Sweetwater Farm. For the past several weeks, Sweetwater Farm has had delicate fennel bulbs, which are wonderful paired with strong flavored seafood, as in this fennel and sardine pasta.

I'd picked up a fennel bulb at the market with plans for a quick Monday night pasta dinner, but under pressure from a powerful pizza lobby in the household, I mixed up a batch of Jim Lahey's no-knead pizza dough on Sunday evening instead. The next evening, when looking around for interesting toppings, I came across the bulb and realized it would be a perfect addition to an anchovy pizza. I slid our cast iron griddle into the preheating oven, sliced the fennel bulb, tossed it with olive oil and salt, and then spread it onto the hot griddle to sear. 

A few minutes in the preheating oven produced caramelized and soften fennel that melded beautifully with pungent anchovies and fresh basil on my new favorite pizza.

Roasted Fennel and Anchovy Pizza
1 recipe of Jim Lahey's no-knead pizza dough (makes four small pizzas)
tomato sauce (preferably made with fresh romas)
I small fennel bulb per pizza
olive oil and salt
6 to 8 anchovy fillets per pizza
fresh mozzarella balls, sliced
red pepper flakes
handful of basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and insert a cast iron griddle or baking sheet to preheat. On another shelf, place a pizza stone if you are using one. Trim the fronds from the fennel bulb and slice the bulb into thin wedges. Toss the fennel pieces in a drizzle of olive oil to coat and sprinkle with sea salt. When the pan is hot, spread the fennel pieces over it in a single layer. Roast the fennel pieces for about 8 minutes, until nicely browned, then flip and roast for another 3 to 5 minutes on the second side until they are soft through.

Divide the dough into four balls, flour them lightly, and shape them according to Lahey's instructions (or use a rolling pin to roll them out on a silicone mat). Sprinkle polenta on a baking sheet or pizza peel and place the pizza dough on top. If you like a crisper crust, pre-bake the crust for about 5 minutes. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over the dough, distribute over the roasted fennel, anchovies, and basil leaves. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and distribute over the sliced mozzarella. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes until the crust in browned and the cheese is bubbling. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Roasted Eggplant and Basil Spread

At the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market this Sunday, you can look forward to these beautiful little orb eggplants from Sweetwater FarmWonderful things happen when you roast eggplants, as in these Middle Eastern and Chinese roasted eggplant dishes.

In Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem, they present a version of Baba Ganoush that is light and refreshing and lacks the traditional sesame paste. The eggplants are infused with smokiness by roasting them directly over the flames of a gas range. Rather than take the eggplants to the point when they were dripping messy juices over the range, I followed David Lebovitz's strategy of roasting followed by baking.

After the eggplants were soft and collapsed, I scooped out the flesh and whipped up an even simpler version of a roasted eggplant spread, seasoned with basil, lemon, sea salt, and olive oil. This is delicious served on toasted bread or as a vegetable side dish for a post-farmers market feast. 

Roasted Eggpant and Basil Spread
4 small globe eggplants
zest and juice from one lemon
1 handful basil leaves, torn
2 Tbsp olive oil
sea salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees  Place the eggplants directly over the flames of a gas range and roast, turning occasionally, until they are charred all over, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a baking dish and bake for an additional 15 minutes or so until they are soft when pierced through. Allow the eggplants to cool a little, then halve and scoop out the flesh from the charred skin. Chop the flesh coarsely and combine in a bowl with the lemon zest and juice, basil, olive oil, and salt. Taste and add more lemon, olive oil, or salt if needed. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Miso Tofu Salad with an Egg on Top

If you get to the Fairmount Farmers Market early this Sunday, you might be lucky enough to pick up some of Fair Valley Farm's pasture raised eggs. 

If you also pick up an bunch of greens, some basil, a cucumber, some baby potatoes, and a handful of these Japanese eggplants from Sweetwater Farm, then you'll have the fixings for a satisfying dinner salad, perfect for these hot days.

I baked sliced eggplant and tofu in a miso marinade in my toaster oven, to avoid heating the kitchen. Over a bed of chopped kale and basil leaves, I layered on the eggplant and tofu with baby potatoes, cucumber spears, and a six-minute egg, and drizzled it all with the sweet and spicy dipping sauce left over from last week's chicken recipe. A delicious farm to table dinner, without generating much heat.

Miso Tofu Salad with an Egg on Top
makes four dinner salads
Miso marinate
1 tablespoon white miso
1/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

4 Japanese eggplants, sliced on the diagonal into 1 inch slices
1 block firm tofu, sliced into 8 slabs and pre-frozen or pressed to remove liquid
1 bunch kale or lettuce
~16 basil leaves
1 large or 2 small cucumbers
16 baby potatoes
4 eggs

For the sweet and hot dipping sauce (1/2 recipe):
1/4 cup rice or cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fish sauce

1. Prepare the miso marinade by whisking together all of the ingredients directly in a toaster oven pan or small baking dish. Dip both sides of the eggplant slices and tofu slabs into the marinate and let soak for at least 30 minutes at room temperature or for a day in the refrigerator. Bake at 350 degrees in a toaster oven or stove for 30 to 40 minutes until the eggplants are sift and have started to char and the tofu is dry and firm. Slice the tofu into strips and reserve.

2. Prepare the dipping sauce. In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar to a boil. Add the sugar, stirring until it dissolves, then lower the heat to a simmer for 5 minutes. In the meantime, pound or mash the garlic and salt into a paste in a mortar or on a cutting board with the side of your knife. Stir the red pepper flakes into the sauce. When the vinegar and sugar mixture is done simmering, stir in the garlic paste and fish sauce and let the sauce cool to room temperature. 

3. Prepare the remaining salad ingredients. Boil the baby potatoes until cooked, about 15 minutes, then drain and reserve. For the eggs, set a small pot of water to boil and the carefully lower in each egg with a slotted spoon. Lower the heat and cook for 6 minutes for eggs with yokes that are still a little runny, or up to 10 minutes for firm yokes. Transfer to a bowl with ice water to cool and peel gently. Peel the cucumber if desired and cut into spears. Rinse the kale leaves, remove the stems with your hands or a knife, and chop into small pieces. Rinse the basil leaves, tear into pieces and mix with the kale leaves.

4. Assemble the salads. On four plates, distribute the kale and basil leaves. Layer on eggplant slices, tofu strips, baby potatoes, cucumber spears, and an egg. Drizzle with a little of the dipping sauce and serve with more sauce on the side. Enjoy.