July 30, 2014

Romano Beans Gremolata

Romano Beans Gremolata

Unusual vegetables, organic and grown on a small farm. The way I look at it–delicious recipe inspiration. When our CSA box holds unique Romano snap beans, just-picked garlic and aromatic summer savory, all in the same week, you can bet I’m going to figure out something new to make. Thus, Romano beans gremolata.

Gremolata—doesn’t the word have a pleasant roll off the tongue? Minced garlic, lemon zest, and classically, finely chopped parsley, gremolata is the vibrant garnish I learned in culinary school. And quickly forgot.

Did I lose track of gremolata because it is the common condiment for osso buco, Milanese braised veal shank, and well, as a vegetarian and a career baker, meat isn’t my world?

When I heard Farmer John was harvesting Romano beans for our Ranui Gardens CSA box, gremolata crept back in my brain. What was that garnish with garlic, fresh herbs and lemon zest? Why not use fresh savory instead of parsley; they’re both green and fresh?

Romano Beans Gremolata

AT PORTLAND OREGON FARMER’S MARKET

As the name hints, Romano beans are an Italian heirloom varietal of snap beans. They’re string-less and prized for their outstanding flavor and crisp, meaty yet delicate texture. Romanos have flatter and wider pods than their cousins, our standard round green bean, and the skinnier French haricot vert.

Out of the ordinary already, Romano beans become extraordinary when topped with gremolata. Particularly when fresh summer savory stands in for the parsley. Romano beans gremolata–CSA inspired!

  • Snap the ends off with your hands—after all they’re snap beans.
  • A microplane zester with its sharp cutting teeth is the absolute best kitchen tool for effortless scraping of the outer zest from citrus fruit. If you don’t already own this essential, order one now. Here’s my Amazon affiliate link to microplane zesters.

Romano Beans Gremolata

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 17 minutes

Yield: Makes 2 to 3 servings

Romano Beans Gremolata

Serve these delicious beans warm, at room temperature or refrigerator-cold—they’re stellar any which way. Make it easy, prep ahead; cook the day before and rewarm at the last minute. If you like, sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, chopped almonds or hazelnuts adding crunchy protein.

Ingredients

  • 2 handfuls Romano beans, about 8 ounces
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons summer savory, finely chopped
  • Pinch Real Salt

Instructions

  1. Snap the stem ends off the beans. In a pot, bring about 2 inches of water to a boil, barely enough to cover the beans. Add the beans and cook until the beans are tender, 5 to 10 minutes. (see note)
  2. While the beans cook, prepare a bowl of ice-cold water. As soon as the beans are crisp tender, transfer them to the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a skillet, over very low flame, warm the olive oil and garlic until the garlic is soft, about 5 minutes, but do not let the garlic get brown.
  4. Toss the beans into the garlic and oil. Cook about 2 minutes, to reheat and coat the beans with oil. Season with salt. Transfer to a serving plate. Pour any extra garlic oil over the beans. Sprinkle with the lemon zest and chopped savory. Serve warm or cold.

Notes

  • Romanos need more cooking time than regular green beans. If you use the round green beans, just cook them for a shorter amount of time, until they are tender yet still crisp.
  • Use organic lemon if possible—you are using the outside rind where pesticide residue remains. If you don’t have organic, wash the lemon thoroughly.

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July 26, 2014

Chard Marries Chickpeas

Chard and chickpeas travel together all over the world as a sociable twosome, ready to mingle with many cuisines. In this recipe, leafy greens and nutty beans pair up India style. Chard marries chickpeas–they celebrate as a nutritious and spicy curry.

Chard Marries Chickpeas

Whenever chard shows up in our Ranui Gardens CSA box, I’m a happy cook and recipe writer. That’s because I love chard’s adaptable nature. You can fill veggie enchiladas and empanadas with chard—and you can bake tender chard into a sweet dessert tart–recipe here.

Only this week I figured out that, on this blog, I am allowing chard and chickpeas a long-term affair. I seem to be the priest at their wedding. I keep pairing adaptable chard with toothsome protein-full chickpeas. Here they sleep with a scrumptious avocado sauce. And in today’s curried chickpeas and chard recipe, the two go on a second honeymoon. The first recipe they went to Thailand, this time to India.

Chard Marries Chickpeas

Do you remember when you first tasted curry? Was it Indian curry or Thai curry? “Curry” is a catchall term for hot and spicy sauces from both India and Thailand.

Most cooks know that curry is a blend of spices, and not a spice all by itself. Indian curries, as well as Thai curries, can have a hundred, maybe a thousand variations. The distinct rich yellow-orange hue in Indian curry powder? That’s turmeric. Today’s curried chickpeas and chard includes fresh ginger, for flavor unique from curry in a bottle.

Need curry in a hurry? In this recipe, purchased Thai curry paste mixed with coconut milk builds a simple savory sauce. Red curry paste and coconut milk is the only Thai curry I’ve ever made. That means a ton of potential–exploring Thai vegetarian curries could keep this blog in recipes for years.

Chard Marries Chickpeas

Right now, this East Indian curry is my favorite slant to chard marries chickpeas. Is it too much on the marriage and affair thing to say that fresh ginger is the flower girl in this recipe’s homemade blend of curry spice?

My kitchen holds several long time favorite cookbooks by Anna Thomas—years ago I began exploring homemade curry spices using her recipes. This recipe is adapted from a curried chard and chickpea recipe in The Vegetarian Epicure Book II.

I tested this recipe with a sample of pre-washed and pre-cut rainbow chard from Cut ‘N Clean Greens. Now that our CSA is online—I’m cooking with Ranui Gardens chard.

Try this–another recipe for curried potatoes, garbanzos and greens.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase a product via my link, it doesn’t cost you anything and I earn a tiny commission, which helps defray the costs of Letty’s Kitchen blog. Thank you for supporting me.

Chard Marries Chickpeas

Yield: Makes about 6 servings.

Chard Marries Chickpeas

This curried chard and chickpea combo features a custom spice blend. You can substitute powdered curry mix for the separate spices—no problem, but I encourage you to mix your own, following this recipe. Sweet and tangy chutney and cooling yogurt perfectly complement curry flavors beautifully--choose your favorite chutney and plain yogurt. I used homemade cherry chutney. Serve this curry over steamed brown rice or quinoa.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch chard (or 8 ounces pre-washed, pre-cut chard)
  • 3 cups (2 (15-ounce) cans) chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans
  • 2 cups bean cooking liquid, vegetable stock, or water
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon Real Salt
  • 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon cayenne (see note)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Instructions

  1. Strip the leaves from the stems. Chop the leaves into pieces about 1 ½ inch square. Chop the stems about ½ inch thick.
  2. In a large skillet over medium flame, heat the coconut oil. Add the chard stems and stir a few minutes. Add the garlic and ginger. Stir in the turmeric, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and salt; cook and stir about a minute.
  3. Add the chickpeas and 1 cup of the liquid. Cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the chopped chard leaves. Cook and stir until the chard wilts and becomes tender to the bite, 5 to 10 minutes. Add more liquid if needed--you want to have a thin curry gravy.
  5. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Notes

If you appreciate spicy heat, add the larger amount of cayenne.

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July 22, 2014

Arugula and Cashew Pesto on Polenta Bites {gluten-free}

Summertime…  And the living is easy. Catfish are jumping, and the cotton is high. Don’t you cry. Stir up these easy green and gold gems–arugula and cashew pesto on polenta bites.

Arugula and Cashew Pesto on Polenta Bites

How about these inviting nibbles for hot summer weather? Simple to make and stress-free to assemble, plus you don’t need to be anywhere near the oven. That keeps summertime living easy.

To make emerald pesto, pulse everything in your trusty food processor—and lick the spatula in 4 minutes. Rock your polenta in the microwave and in 13 minutes it will be hot and thick, ready to spread in a pan to cool.

Arugula and Cashew Pesto on Polenta Bites

Including prep and assembly, in 45 minutes, you will be wooing everyone, including yourself, with pesto on polenta gems. They can be yours even sooner if you slice polenta from a shelf-stable tube shaped roll.

Pesto, from the Latin root verb pestare to pound. According to dictionaries, pesto an Italian sauce, made especially of fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Typically, pesto is stirred into hot pasta.

Arugula and Cashew Pesto on Polenta Bites

There is nothing typical about pesto in our gourmet foodie world. We pound pesto from cilantro, mint, broccoli and kale—just about any green veggie. Try replacing basil with spinach to satisfy your fresh pesto cravings in winter. Spicy arugula shines green and garlicky on top of cold and creamy polenta.

Those expensive pine nuts be damned, creative cooks these days mash any crunchy nut we please into pesto, like the barely bitter walnuts in my go-to basil pesto. A quick Google search will lead you to pesto made with pecans, pumpkin seeds, pistachios and almonds. I love the texture of the cashew component in today’s recipe.

Would pesto purists consider it authentic if made with cheese other than Parmigiano-Reggiano? I think not. The rest of us–we try feta. Vegans can leave out the cheese and substiture fresh tangy lemon juice and zest.

Arugula and Cashew Pesto on Polenta Bites

Pesto absolutely must include zesty garlic. That’s where I draw the line. Make pesto with any nut, vegetable or cheese you want, just don’t leave out essential garlic.

Top polenta bites with arugula and cashew pesto for awesome appetizers. Link to my polenta recipe here, featured as the crust of a spinach and green garlic tart.

Summer. Time. And the cooking is easy. Kick off your shoes and enjoy the music. This song. Sung by Sam Cooke. From the 1930’s musical Porgy and Bess.

More pesto recipes:
Kale Salad with Sunflower Seed Pesto on Letty’s Kitchen
Caprese Veggie Patties with Basil Arugula Pesto on Letty’s Kitchen
Vegan Pistachio Kale Pesto on Edible Perspective

I probably spend way too much time cruising the Internet, though I’m glad I came across the vegetarian food blog lacucinadihanneke. Thanks Hanneke for inspiring this arugula and cashew pesto on polenta bites. (Warning–the blog includes blaring advertisements—in Italian, that bug the hell out of me. I promise I’ll never put such noise on Letty’s Kitchen.)

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase a product via my link, it doesn’t cost you anything and I earn a tiny commission, which helps defray the costs of Letty’s Kitchen blog. Thank you for supporting me.

Arugula and Cashew Pesto on Polenta Bites {gluten-free}

Yield: Makes about 1 ¼ cups pesto and plenty of appetizer polenta pieces.

Arugula and Cashew Pesto on Polenta Bites {gluten-free}

This zippy pesto recipe makes a whole lot more than you need to top little 1-inch appetizers. Freeze the rest for winter stash. And if you like pesto super zippy, whirl a second clove of garlic into the food processor.

Ingredients

  • Arugula and Cashew Pesto:
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups (lightly packed) arugula leaves, about 3 ounces
  • 1/3 cup raw cashews
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon Real Salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Polenta:
  • 1 recipe homemade polenta or 1 tube purchased shelf-stable polenta

Instructions

  1. The pesto:
  2. With the motor of the food processor running, mince the garlic by dropping it through the feed tube. Process until it is very fine and stops moving around with the blade.
  3. Add the arugula, cashews, cheese and salt to the food processor bowl.
  4. Process for about 10 seconds, stopping to move things around if they get hung up.
  5. With the machine running, pour oil through the feed tube in a thin stream, processing until everything is well blended.
  6. The assembly:
  7. Spread hot polenta in a 9 x 13-inch pan. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes, up to one day. Cut into 1-inch squares, as many as you need.
  8. Alternatively, slice ¼-inch rounds from purchased polenta tube. Cut each slice in 4 wedges.
  9. To serve, dollop ¼ teaspoon fresh arugula and cashew pesto on each piece of polenta.
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July 15, 2014

Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf

These collard rolls filled with rice pilaf take their cue from dolmades, the traditional Greek finger food parcels of rice, nuts and herbs. Instead of the usual grape leaves, collard leaves become the wrappers. 

Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf

When I noticed the couple in foreign clothing plucking leaves from the overgrown shady arbor in the back yard next door, I didn’t think much of it. Except that it looked like they were handling treasures the way they discussed and selected the leaves.

Only later did it register—those were grape leaves they were harvesting. They probably stuffed them with seasoned rice and herbs—and made dolmades. Imagine their delight when they discovered that beautiful grape leaf arbor.

Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf

Did they follow a family recipe from the old country? I wonder if they mixed lamb in their rice. Or was their filling vegetarian, like the vibrant rice pilaf in these collard rolls? Did they serve their dolmades with a sauce, such as the egg and lemon sauce, avgolomeno?

Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf

I’ve never made dolmades with fresh grape leaves, only with the briny ones that come very tightly packed in jars or cans. I bet the couple who gathered the leaves from the arbor next door would say that collard leaves stuff and cook a lot like fresh grape leaves. That’s why I’m filling garden fresh collard leaves with this vegetarian “dolma” filling.

Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf

Once, when my mother-in-law helped me assemble dolmades, she was in charge of laying out the grape leaves, the ones in from the grocery store. She marveled at how many leaves came out of that one jar—about 70. Don’t worry, this recipe makes 8 collard rolls, just the right amount for 4 people. Leave the 70 batch for another day!

Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf

Recipe notes:

  • Classic Greek dolmades have chopped dill and mint in the filling. I used fresh parsley, basil and rosemary because they came in our Ranui CSA box.
  • Pine nuts and currants are also traditional–here I switch to chopped walnuts and raisins, mostly because they are staples in my pantry. Vegans will appreciate this quick, simple and flavorful tomato sauce—it’s delicious with the rice and greens.
  • Allepo pepper’s fruity undertones provide agreeable spice. Substitute black pepper if you don’t have Allepo. (I order Aleppo pepper from World Spice Merchants in Seattle. Or you can buy Aleppo via my Amazon link here.)
  • If this recipe seems intimidating, and/or you prefer shorter kitchen sessions, break the steps down into several days. The rice and onion can be made earlier in the day, or days beforehand. Or use a boxed quinoa or rice mix for the filling.
  • Cooked rice keeps well in the freezer. And, once assembled, the rolls can be frozen. Let them thaw before baking.
Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf

COLLARD ROLLS READY TO BAKE, WITH TOMATO SAUCE AND LEMON SLICES.

Here’s another recipe featuring collard greens: Black-eyed Peas and Collards

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase a product via my link, it doesn’t cost you anything and I earn a tiny commission, which helps defray the costs of Letty’s Kitchen blog. Thank you for supporting me.

Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf

Yield: Makes 8 rolls. Serves 4.

Serving Size: 2 rolls per person.

Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf

Serve these Greek inspired rolls with a salad of sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives and feta cheese. For dessert, drizzle honey over thick creamy yogurt and fresh peaches.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon plus one tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups brown rice
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 medium zucchini cut in ½-inch dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup currants or chopped raisins
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Real Salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 8 large collard greens (see note)
  • ½ lemon, very thinly sliced, optional

Instructions

  1. Prepare the filling:
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a saucepan over medium flame. Add the onion: cook and stir about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the brown rice. Cook, stirring often, until the rice gets a bit brown and begins to crackle. Add the vegetable stock. Cover the pan. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to the lowest setting possible. Cook without stirring, 45 minutes to an hour. (To check if the liquid has been absorbed or not, tilt the pan to the side.) Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.
  4. While the rice is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium flame. Add the diced zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cubes begin to color. Stir in the minced garlic and cook a few more minutes.
  5. Add the cooked rice, walnuts, currants, parsley, basil and rosemary to the zucchini and garlic. Season with Aleppo pepper and salt. Set aside.
  6. Prepare the sauce:
  7. In a blender puree the diced tomatoes. Stir in the remaining parsley and basil. Set aside.
  8. Assemble the rolls:
  9. Keeping the leaves intact, trim out the lower and thickest part of the main stem of each collard leaf. (see note) You will have a V at the base where the sides connect.
  10. To blanch and soften the collards, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare a bowl of ice-cold water.
  11. Blanch the collard leaves in the boiling water for 4 minutes. Immediately transfer to the ice water. (The ice water stops the cooking and keeps the leaves green.)
  12. Drain the blanched leaves on kitchen towels. You can fill and roll the leaves on the towels.
  13. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Lightly oil a baking dish.
  14. Place about ¼ cup of the filling on each collard leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf over the filling, overlapping the 2 sides where the stem was cut out. Keeping the sides tucked in, roll up tightly.
  15. Arrange the collard rolls in the baking dish. Spoon the remaining filling around the sides. Keeping the green rolls visible, spoon the tomato sauce over them. Cut the lemon slices in half and place decoratively over the rolls.
  16. Cover and bake 20 to 25 minutes.
  17. Serve the rolls on a bed of the filling, garnished with the lemon slices.

Notes

The collard leaves in our CSA box were huge. I removed the stem completely and filled each side as if it were one large leaf.

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July 9, 2014

Spinach and Goat Cheese Upside Down Quiche

Spinach and Goat Cheese Upside Down Quiche

Adorned with a flaky whole wheat and olive oil crust, this is quiche that looks like pie. Goat cheese, amid spinach sautéed with onion and fresh herbs, and rich custard poured over, it might be a savory flan. But there’s pastry on top of the filling, so I’m calling it upside-down quiche. Delicious spinach and goat cheese upside down quiche. Continue Reading…