Archive | June, 2008

Tomato Salad Three Ways

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I love tomatoes and cucumbers, and I’m so excited when they start showing up at the farmers market. For the last several weeks, I have made a cucumber/tomato salad as soon as I’ve gotten home. I like to get a mix of tomatoes – some red, some green, some yellow – so that you get a good mix of acidity and sweetness when you mix the tomatoes together.

This week, I realized I needed to add some protein because I was going to swim 2 miles later that afternoon, so I mixed up the recipe and made a nicoise-like salad.

Today, I used took the base of the salad (no tuna this time) and added bread cubes from my leftover rosemary ciabatta loaf and cannellini beanas . Instant panzanella (that’s bread salad for you and me).

I’ve decided that cucumber/tomato salad is the perfect summer food and I’m going to continue this trend. I’ll let you know if I add anything interesting/post-worthy.

Delicious food doesn’t have to be hard.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad
Chop some tomatoes (no, I do not have a quantity, make as much as you want)
Skin and chop some cucumbers
Slice some onion – I like purple or yellow sweet
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Basil – fresh chopped

Mix the tomatoes, cucumbers and onion together.

Mix some olive oil (about 1/4 cup), 3-4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl with a whisk or fork so you get a nice vinaigrette. Adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Pour the dressing over the tomato mixture and sprinkle with the basil. Let sit for 30 minutes or so.

Tuna variation: Add one can drained tuna and black pitted olives.

Panzanella variation: Add cannellini beans to the tomato mixture and let sit. Cube some crusty bread (baguette, ciabatta, etc.) and combine with tomato mixture just before serving.

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Everything in the Veggie Drawer Stir Fry

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There is a new vendor at the farmers market who is selling bamboo shoots. I, of course, could not walk by without buying some despite the fact that I wasn’t really sure what to do with them. During the week, I did some research and decided that a stir fry was going to be the best way to prepare them. I had tried them boiled at the market, but it was just “eh.”

Bamboo shoots have an outer skin like an onion. Peel that off and then cut off the tough ends – I cut at least an inch off the pointy end and then sliced off the tough outer layer. You’ll know if you haven’t trimmed it enough because you’ll be trying to slice tough shoot.

On Wednesday, I realized I needed to cook my shoots and that I had gone a little crazy at the market and had a ton of vegetables to cook. And thus the “everything in the veggie drawer stir fry” was born. You can substitue any vegetables you want, but I chose eggplant, zucchini, onion, green beans and bamboo shoots. I also added some chicken for protein.

To those of you who wish I would measure my ingredients, I apologize. I added spice to taste and didn’t measure, but it is really hard to mess this dish up.

Also, I was out of rice, the traditional side for a stir fry, so I used quinoa and it was delicious.

Everything in the Veggie Drawer Stir Fry
About 4 servings

1 medium eggplant, cubed
1 large zucchini, sliced
1/2 a yellow onion, sliced
about a pound of green beans, trimmed and cleaned
3-4 bamboo shoots, peeled and sliced
1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
soy sauce
hoisin sauce
red chili paste

Cube the eggplant, place it in a colander and sprinkle it with salt. Let it sit for 30 minutes. This helps make the eggplant tender so you don’t have “chewy” eggplant.

Heat oil (not olive – canola or other vegetable oil with a high “smoke point) in a wok until it is very hot. Add the chicken and cook until done on all sides.

Add the green beans and onions and cook for until the green beans start to become tender.

Add the eggplant, zucchini, and bamboo shoots. Cook until tender. Add soy sauce, a tablespoon or so of hoisin sauce and red chili paste to taste. Combine the spices well and adjust seasoning to taste. Cook for a few minutes to let the flavors meld.

Serve with your choice of starch – rice or quinoa or…

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Friends at the Farmers Market and Beet Ravioli

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I was blessed this morning with the company of several friends at the market. Despite the fact that it was hotter than the sun, we had a great time shopping together and discovering all the new finds. For the first time this season, there was cantaloupe and eggplant is now in full swing. There were a number of new farmers this week including one with bamboo shoots (be on the look out for that recipe).

One of my new favorite vendors is the Urban Roots farm stand. This is a nonprofit that teaches young people how to garden. Great cause and great produce. They’ve had gorgeous squash, eggplant, tomatoes and cucumbers the last two weeks. Highly recommend a stop by.

This week, the chef demonstration was from Chef Teresa Wilson of Aquarelle. We, of course, had to taste it, because how could you possibly pass up something from Aquarelle. If you haven’t eaten there, Aquarelle is an amazing French restaurant off of West Ave. and one of the best restaurants in Austin. But I digress….

So, the tasting this week was, wait for it… Beet Ravioli. And it was delicious. Apparently, I have fully embraced beets. The recipe uses beets as the pasta, goat cheese as the filling and fresh tomatoes as the sauce. Yum!

I had to see if I could pull it off. My experiment was not quite as successful as Chef Wilson’s (no surprise) because I had a hard time getting the beets thin enough without a mandoline or the slicing blade on a food processor, but it was still tasty. Even Beth Ann, my dinner companion, agreed. I highly recommend the recipe – it’s worth the effort.

Beet Ravioli
by Chef Teresa Wilson of Aquarelle

Step 1) Begin with
2 fresh beets – hint, try to find beets of a similar size
1 tsp finely minced garlic
1 tsp finely minced shallot
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tsp rice wine vinegar (I didn’t have rice wine vinegar so I used white wine vinegar)
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Step 2) Prepare the beets
Peel and thinly slice the beets (you want a thin sheet like pasta dough, highly recommend using a mandoline or the slicing blade on a food processor to get a nice thin sheet)
Using a 2″ ring mold cut beet slices so they are uniform in size. (I also didn’t have a form so I cut them into squares.)
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside. (I recommend letting them sit for a while.)

Step 3) Sauce
2 large yellow tomatoes – remove seeds and dice (I used half yellow and half green zebra)
2 1/2 tsp finely chopped chives
1/2 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp of sherry vinegar
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp basil, cut in chiffonade
Mix all the ingredients together. Set aside.

Step 4) Have Filling Ready
two 8 oz tubs of West Wind Dairy Jalapeno Cilantro Goat Cheese (I only needed one, but then again, I had beet issues)

Step 5) Assemble the Ravioli
Remove the beets from the liquid. Place 1 tbsp of cheese in center of beet slice. Top with another beet slice and press along edges to seal. Finish assembling all beet slices. Makes about 20 raviolis

Step 6) Plating
Place large spoonful of yellow tomato mixture in center of plate and top with 4-5 raviolis. Garnish with basil.

1) To add a little sweetness to the sauce, try adding Watson Farms tomato jelly to the sauce.
2) Use a yellow beet and red tomatoes for the sauce.
3) Instead of leaving them raw, the beets could be roasted.

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Picnic Fun at Blues on the Green: Quinoa, Vegetable & Black Bean Salad

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I am fortunate to be home all of this week and next, so I loaded up on produce at the farmers market on Saturday. Tonight, my friends and I went to an outdoor concert, Blues on the Green, to hear Asleep at the Wheel (awesome Western Swing band). Very fun and a beautiful Austin night.

Instead of buying food at the venue, we decided at 5:15 that we were going to picnic. I hit the pantry and the produce drawer and came up with a couple of things I could throw in the basket. I didn’t have any meat thawed, so for my protein I decided to make a quinoa salad with black beans. If you aren’t familiar with quinoa, it is a grain that is high in fiber, but also high in protein. That’s a powerful grain, and I’ve started using it instead of rice.

I literally threw this together with what was in the pantry, but have included some modifications that I would add if I’d had them available – namely the cilantro and lime for a little flavor. Also, we ate it cool because we were picnicking, but you could easily serve it warm as a side.

I also made a cucumber, tomato, artichoke salad, but it had some issues so I’ll spare you that recipe for now. I promise to refine it and post it later.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.

Quinoa with Black Beans, Zucchini and Mushrooms
1 cup quinoa
2 cups broth (you can substitute water, but I like the savory flavor from using chicken broth)
1 cup mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 zucchini, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
cilantro, chopped

Place the quinoa and broth in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid and lower heat to simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, until tender.

While the quinoa is cooking, warm olive oil in a skillet. Saute the mushrooms and zucchini until tender. Add cumin, salt and pepper and stir to season well.

Combine the quinoa and the vegetable mixture in a bowl. Add black beans and stir to combine well. Add cilantro and lime to taste. Re-season with salt and pepper if necessary.

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