Sunday, August 27, 2017

Half-Blistered Tomato Pasta Salad from Food52

Stop what you're doing. Fire up your oven. Boil a pot of water. Grate a ripe tomato. You won't be sorry.  Mostly because there are tomatoes--lots of them--in this new take on that old summer standby of a pasta salad with raw tomatoes.

As you may have noticed, I have been on a salad kick (see here and here. Oh, and here.). It's summer. Produce is at its peak (or getting close to it), and all I want are tomatoes. And more tomatoes. Lucky for me, there are a plethora of tomato salads out there, and this one from  Food52  is a hit because this summer-time staple of pasta salad with tomatoes brings you tomatoes three ways.

Well, actually it technically brings it to you only two ways, but I made some adjustments to the original recipe.  Let me detail all of my modifications below, including that additional hit of tomatoes:

(1) I got inspired by another salad in the Mighty Salads cookbook: Corn-Barley Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette. That particular vinaigrette requires the grating of a ripe tomato in order to get its pulp and juices (without the skin) in a totally fresh and bright way. So I added it here. (Okay, two tomatoes.) You can leave it out if you're talking nonsense. 

(2) Our leaders at Food52 recommend a 1-hour roasting time for the cherry tomatoes. Maybe it's my oven, but it was way too long, and I was left with charred carcasses of tomato skins. I made another round of tomatoes and cut this back to 45 minutes. Crisis averted.

(3) Additionally they recommend adding 3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled, to the tomato roasting pan. Great idea. However, again, I found the roasting time far too long for the cloves of garlic. My garlic came out like pieces of crumbly charcoal--never appetizing in a salad or otherwise. Plus, I don't like garlic. So I cut it. If you like garlic, I imagine the shorter cooking time might be effective.

(4) They call for 1 pound of pasta. That is also nonsense. Pasta salad should be more salad than pasta. So I halved it. You can put the other half pound in. But really, then you're just diluting all this tomato-y goodness. You don't need that in your life.

Okay, beyond the adjustments, let's talk a little more seriously about the end product of the work you're about to embark on. Yes, you need to turn on your oven. Yes, it's August. But it's worth it. The sweet, candy flavor of roasted tomatoes next to the bright acidity of the raw tomatoes (and the extra pulp in the dressing) is a revelation in late summer tomato bliss. You get velvety smooth tomato bombs next to crunchy tomato halves. And then, there is the cheese--torn chunks of creamy mozzarella and flakes of salty parmesan. 

Drat, now I am hungry again.


Half-Blistered Tomato Pasta Salad

Adapted from Mighty Salads 

Serves 4

4 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Pinch of sugar (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large ripe tomatos
2 Tsp red wine vinegar (or sherry vinegar) or to taste
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ pound of casarecce or other tubular pasta
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn
¼ cup loosely packed mint leaves, torn
⅛ cup lightly toasted pine nuts
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-sized chunks
1½ ounces Parmesan, finely chopped or crumbled

1. To make the vinaigrette: Heat an oven to 375℉. Combine 2 cups of the cherry tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a pinch of sugar (if using) on a rimmed baking sheet. Season generously with salt and pepper, and toss until evenly coated. Spread the tomatoes into a single layer. Roast until the tomatoes have blistered and shriveled, about 45 minutes. Feel free to give them a stir about halfway through (just be sure to return them to a single layer).

2.  While the cherry tomatoes are roasting, grate the large tomato halves on the large holes of a box grater over a wide bowl, collecting the juice and pulp. Discard the tomato skins. 

3.  Once the 2 cups of cherry tomatoes have come out of the oven, blend together ¼ cup of the blistered tomatoes, the large tomato pulp and juice, the vinegar, the remaining 6 tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and the red pepper flakes. Add more olive oil if needed (a little at  time) and continue to blend until the vinaigrette is smooth. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and set aside.

4. Cook the pasta: Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package instructions or to your taste. While the pasta cooks, season the raw cherry tomatoes with salt. 

5.  To compose the salad: Drain the pasta and toss with the vinaigrette. Let the pasta cool until just warm, then toss in the remaining blistered tomatoes, the raw tomatoes and their juices, the basil, mint, pine nuts, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add more red pepper flakes, olive oil, or pine nuts as needed.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Lemony Greek Pasta Salad from Food52

Pasta salads are ideal for packing up for a picnic. Or to be more quotidian, for lunch at work. Either way, it's better to eat food you're looking forward to having--be it after a hike to the perfect picnic spot or after a morning staring at a computer. So why not make this Greek-inspired pasta salad? The fine folks at Food52 encourage you to make without tomatoes, and I encourage you to ignore that directive.

Intended to be a subtle accompaniment to salmon, roast chicken, or the like, this salad nixes the tomatoes and focuses on the cucumber and the dill, traditionally found in all walks of Greek Salad.  I am in the middle of being in love with this summer's cherry tomatoes. And I have never been accused of being subtle. So here we are. With tomatoes. You make your own decisions, I won't judge. But we both know you should put tomatoes in this salad.

The briny feta and olives are the perfect counter balance to the acidic and sweet tomatoes and the cool cucumbers. This salad will win you no points for originality, but I promise you, it will win you a sense of satisfaction while sitting on a picnic blanket or your desk. Or at your next potluck or even, yes, as a an accompaniment to salmon or chicken at your own dinner table. 

The only real problem with this salad is that I had only one glorious serving of it. Neither on a picnic or at work. You see, my mother-in-law mistook the container that I put it in (a washed out yogurt container) for her very own, so she took it with her on her trip back up the California coast. So she got to enjoy the seven other servings (I doubled it, too, because there was a long work week and a half in my future).  She said it was delightful. And from what I could tell from a Sunday afternoon pasta salad eating on my back deck, she was right.  


Lemony Greek Pasta Salad

Adapted from Mighty Salads and recipe here 

Serves 4

½ pound orzo pasta 
Zest of 1 lemon 
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 
1 medium shallot, grated 
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
4 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped 
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced 
2 medium cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and sliced 
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1. Cook the orzo in abundantly salted water according to package instructions or to your taste. Drain and transfer to a large salad bowl. 

2.  Meanwhile, make lemon-dill vinaigrette to dress the salad: combine lemon zest and juice, mustard, and grated shallot in a medium bowl. Whisk everything together with a few pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking, then stir in the chopped dill. Taste and adjust as needed. 

3.  Pour the vinaigrette over the still-warm pasta and toss. Allow to cool to room temperature, then add the olives, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Fold in the crumbled feta cheese, adjust salt and pepper, and serve.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Corn-Barley Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette from Food52

Can we talk about the moment that cherry tomatoes are having?  Be prepared to see a few more tomato recipes before the summer is through. Because, sweet jesus (or super sweet 100, if you prefer), this has been a banner year for tomatoes in California, particularly for those of the minuscule kind. What about for you? Are your cherry tomatoes to die for?

What is not always to die for in California is the corn. Being a Midwesterner by upbringing, I have certain standards when it comes to corn, and California corn does not always live up to these sweet-but-not-starchy, full-of-creamy-goodness expectations. 

However, if you can buy the corn in the morning, shuck it in the afternoon, and have it grilled by evening, usually you can do alright, no matter what part of the country you find yourself in.

This salad is one in a long line of recent salads I have been making (prepare to see more), in part because I have been bringing lunch to work. And I need to ensure that I resist the siren sound of cheese-flavored snacks (read Cheetos and Sour Cream and Cheddar Ruffles) that can be found in the admissions office. 

I don't know what it is. I have a humiliating weakness for cheese dust. 

So I have been counteracting it with corn and tomatoes and basil and barley. Or at least this go-round that's what I have been distracting myself with. 

The beans in this salad are pretty nondescript, but I see why they are included. They add a smidge of protein and they bulk up this otherwise starchy salad. 

Other bonuses include (1) doing a quick parboil of the corn with the barley to ensure that the barley has maximum corn infusion; (2) grilling said corn, a step that may feel extraneous, but it makes the salad quite smoky; (3) grating a super ripe tomato to make the dressing cry of summer; (4) topping the salad with basil and chives, thus essentially pushing this salad into the realm of impossibly good. 

But for all the focus on the corn and barley, the title of this salad really is a misnomer. This salad is about the tomatoes. Plain and simple.

So if you can resist eating that entire pint of cherry tomatoes on the way home (and if you cannot, buy two pints), I recommend this summery salad for an August repast. And if you're lucky enough to have leftovers, it's just as good on day two and three as it was on day one.  

Guess you better double the recipe. These tomatoes won't last forever.


Corn-Barley Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

Adapted from Mighty Salads and recipe here 

Serves 4

½ cup dried pearl barley 
3 ears of corn (shucked) 
Olive oil for grilling
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes 
1 cup cooked cannellini, butter bean, or other white beans 
1 tomato, halved 
1½ teaspoons white wine vinegar 
1 large garlic clove 
¼ cup basil cut into ribbons 
1 bunch of chives, thinly sliced 
¼ - ½ cup olive oil

1. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Bring a large stockpot of generously salted water to a boil. 

2.  Add the barley to the pot and cook it according to the package directions: Usually in about 1½ cups of water, a generous pinch of salt, and 25 minutes. (See here.)  During the last 5 or 6 minutes of cooking, add the corn. Remove the corn with tongs. Drain the barley (if necessary) and set aside. 

3.  Brush the corn with olive oil and grill until charred on all sides, about 8 minutes. 

4.  Cut the kernels from the corncobs. As you cut the kernels, collect all of the corn milk that drips into a bowl, then use the back of the knife to scrape the remaining corn milk from the cleaned cob. 

5.  Grate the large tomato on the large holes of a box grater over a wide bowl, collecting the juice and pulp. Discard the tomato skins. 

6.  Place the garlic on a cutting board, sprinkle with a couple of generous pinches of salt, and finely chop and smash it into a paste with the side of a chef’s knife. Add the garlic paste to the tomato pulp, as well as a pinch of salt, the red pepper flakes, vinegar, and reserved corn milk. Gradually whisk in enough of the olive oil (¼ - ½ cups) until the vinaigrette is emulsified.

7.   In a serving bowl, combine the barley, corn, cherry tomatoes, beans, basil, and chives. Add the vinaigrette and toss to evenly coat. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Gazpacho with Herbed Goat Cheese Toasts wildly adapted from David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen

I love a cold soup. Mostly because I love soup, since it is reminiscent of my beloved sauces. I like how a bit of effort pays off in a pot of something delicious that can be extended for a few days, and is usually even better on the last day than the first. I love the hearty warmth of chowder in the winter and the light freshness of a clear broth in summer. And a cold soup in summer is like eating dessert for dinner.

You know, I haven't declared Soup Week in a while. Uh-oh. The husband had best be on high alert. Oh, and if you're interested in Jacques Pepin's version, please see here.

We did not grow up on gazpacho (mostly because it did not come in a box, and my feminist, Midwestern mother was going to spend as little time in the kitchen as necessary, thank you very much). But I don't remember when this divine summer soup came into my life, and I am pleased that it did. 

Mostly because I love tomatoes. So much that, should I ever find myself with the option of one crop on a deserted island, I would choose tomatoes. Sure, there may be more nutritionally complete crops, but I stand by my selection. But I digress.

I am always looking for new recipes, because I like to try out other people's palates, but I find that I almost always end up reverting to my own.

I cracked open David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen  (a lovely cookbook if ever there was one), and I had the best intentions as I began procuring tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers. However, as I was chopping, I tweaked this. And then when it came to add garlic, I tweaked that. As I started listing all of the changes I made to this delightful Gazpacho, you might say that I have no business linking it to the master chef here.  And perhaps I do not. 

But admittedly, his recipe inspired me to make my own quite delicious chilled tomato soup, so I should certainly give him all the props he deserves. Plus, he serves his with cheese. And second to tomatoes, I love cheese.

So here are the changes, in case you want to make David Lebovitz's gazpacho.
  • I added an additional ½ red bell pepper to the tomatoes early on in the blender and pureed it up.
  • I removed all traces of garlic from the soup. But I did use 1 clove on the toasts.
  • I substituted ½ a shallot for 1 red onion.
  • I added ½ tablespoon vinegar (he called for 1½ and I used 2 tablespoons. I like vinegar as much as I don't like garlic).
  • I removed the tablespoon of vodka, not because I am a teetotaler, but because we were out.
  • He peels and seeds the tomatoes. I don't have time for that.
  • I substituted farmers cheese for the goat cheese. Definitely serve with toasts smothered in herb cheese, no matter your cheese choice, on the side.
  • Not a change, but a revelation: Smoked paprika is transcendent in Gazpacho. Don't tweak this.
And below, you will find what I actually made. And not even for Soup Week.


Gazpacho with Herbed Goat Cheese Toasts

Adapted from David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen 

Serves 4

1 slice firm, white country-style bread, crusts removed
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut in half
1 red bell pepper, seeded, cut in half
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
½ shallot, peeled and finely diced
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp piment d'Espelette or smoked paprika or chile powder
freshly ground black pepper
16 baguette slices, about ⅓-inch thick
olive oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 cups fresh goat cheese, ricotta, or farmers cheese
1 Tbsp chopped herbs (basil, mint, chervil, chives, or dill or a mixture of herbs)

1. To Make the Gazpacho: In a small bowl, soak the bread in cold water for 1 minute, drain, and press some of the water out of the bread. 

2..  Working in batches, pulse the tomatoes and one of the red pepper halves in the bowl of a good processor or blender with the bread, until they're almost liquefied, but still have a few chunky bits barely visible.

3. Finely dice the other half of the red pepper. Mix the pureed tomatoes, bread and pepper in a large bowl with the cucumber, shallot, remaining pepper. Stir int he olive oil, vinegar, salt, and piment d'Espelette. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add additional salt if necessary. Chill thoroughly.

4.  To Make the Toasts: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush the tops lightly with olive oi. Bake for 5-8 minutes, until the toasts are light brown. Remove from the oven and, when cool enough, rub generously with the cut side of the garlic clove.

5.  With a fork, mix the cheese in a small bowl with the herbs, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, and some salt until it is smooth. Smear a tablespoon of the cheese mixture onto each toast.

6.  Divide the soup among six chilled bowls and serve the toasts alongside.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Cobb Salad with Hard-Boiled Egg Dressing from Food52

Do you really need a recipe for this salad? Not really. Do you sometimes need a nudge to eat better for yourself than you have been? Probably. Or at least I know I sometimes do. Consider this your nudge.

This Cobb Salad from the fine folks at Food52 claims to be a rebellious kiss off to the more traditional Cobb Salad. And sure, perhaps it is. Normally a classic Cobb Salad would have tomatoes, chicken (or turkey), bacon, and iceberg lettuce. So, I suppose this is a nice riff on the Cobb Salad, wherein the beets stand in for all things meat based, olives make a briny appearance, and the dressing has eggs blended right into it, rather than just having your hard-boiled eggs scattered across the top of your shredded lettuce and cubed chicken. 

Bonus:  The beets get their own vinegar infusion during the steaming process. So while they are not truly pickled beets (a favorite around these here parts), they have a little zing to them. Which I always appreciate. And I love me some rich and creamy blue cheese. Especially next to the zingy and sweet beets and the salty olives. And don't look too closely at the pictures, because then you will see that I am not a huge fan of lettuce--Bibb, iceberg, romaine, or otherwise. A salad, in my book, should be more topping than leaf.

This is a fine weeknight meal, especially if you steam up these beets the night before and just have them hanging out in your refrigerator. You might as well do that with the hard- (or soft-) boiled eggs, just to cut down on cooking time. You don't need a recipe, per se, but you still need dinner on a Tuesday night. Why not this little twist?


Cobb Salad with Hard-Boiled Egg Dressing

Adapted from Mighty Salads and recipe here 

Serves 4

¼ cup white wine vinegar 
Kosher salt 
4 large red beets, scrubbed well, trimmed, and halved (I didn't halve them. Everything turned out okay)
1 large head Bibb lettuce, torn into large pieces
⅓ cup loosely packed fresh tarragon, dill or chives, coarsely chopped 
4 hard-cooked eggs, quartered 
1 large avocado, thinly sliced 
⅓ cup Niçoise or Kalamata olives, pitted 
½ cup crumbled blue cheese 

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
1 hard-boiled egg plus 1 hard-boiled yolk 
Grated zest of 1 lemon 
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 
1 tablespoon capers 
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 
Kosher salt 
Red pepper flakes 

1. In a large saucepan, bring 2 inches of water, the vinegar and a good bit of kosher salt to a boil over high heat. Put the beets in a steamer basket and set the basket over the boiling water. Cover, lower heat to medium and steam until the beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of your beets and whether or not you remembered to halve them). Let cool, then peel and cut into bite-size pieces. 

2.  To make the dressing, blend all of the dressing ingredients together until smooth and emulsified (stand or immersion blender are both fine). Add salt and red pepper flakes to taste. 

3.  On a large platter or wide bowl, toss together the lettuce and half the herbs. Add enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves, and toss again. Arrange the beets, eggs, avocado, olives and cheese on top.  To be traditional, you should put the toppings in rows. Scatter the remaining herbs. (You can also toss everything together.) Serve with the remaining dressing on the side.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Cherry Tomato Crostini with Herbed Goat Cheese

Let me apologize by saying that you will have to turn on your oven for this recipe. So start early in the morning. Or really late at night. Because, people, it has been hot out there.

But once you do, once you fire up that oven and roast these tomatoes, once you layer them atop a thick lashing of homemade yogurt cheese mixed with fresh herbs... I promise, this is worth any hot kitchen. Especially if you roast a lot of tomatoes so that you can make this simple, light meal for dinner, and then have it again for breakfast, and if you plan it just right, for lunch again, too.

As you may know, I am a fan of David Lebovitz. He's a great chef, of course, but on top of that, he's a great writer. He's been blogging for years, long before it was trendy to be a food blogger, and his book The Sweet Life in Paris is the go-to gift for any foodie who is actually traveling to Paris or just wants to do so via arm chair. So it's no surprise that I am cracking open his lovely cookbook, My Paris Kitchen

Before we go any further, let's talk about two important things with this recipe: the cheese and the tomatoes.

You may ask, does this really qualify as cheese?  It's just highly strained yogurt, you claim. Oh, but it is so much more. This is labneh, a super-tangy and super-easy cheese that takes a few hours or overnight to make. Labneh preserves all of the zingy sourness of yogurt but removes the whey, resulting in a smooth, velvety cheese. You also get to control how thick it is. The longer you strain it, the thicker it is. Be sure to salt your yogurt well, which helps mellow the cheese a bit, and if you have some left over labneh, may I recommend dousing it in olive oil and a pinch of za'atar.  And then I recommend eating it with a spoon. Or pita, if you're fancy.

Roasted tomatoes are a reminder of why these are fruits. With just enough caramelization, they become these sweet, umami bombs of flavor. They're absolutely irresistible. I am going to admit, I made some changes to the original recipe here. I am not a huge garlic fan (blasphemy, I know, but it's because of a garlic tart the husband made. Another blogpost, another story), so I just eliminated them altogether. If you want to re-add them, by all means, do so. Just keep an eye on them and on your oven. Finally, give your tomatoes a stir about halfway through. And maybe even again with 10 minutes left.

So, here you go. While the recipe does require an oven, with plenty of leftover roasted tomatoes, this is a simple tartine to make any time of day, either as a light dinner (maybe with a salad?) or as an appetizer.  Or as breakfast. Or a snack.

And it's perfect for hot summer days when the cherry tomatoes are divine. Which ours are out here in California right now. (I even found some for 89 cents a pound at the Bowl, a grocery store that even has its own Wikipedia page.) 

So I am totally celebrating the cherry tomato. And even roasting them when it's hot out. I am that committed.


Cherry Tomato Crostini with Herbed Goat Cheese

Adapted from My Paris Kitchen

Serves 4

Herbed Fresh Cheese 
2 cups whole milk yogurt (goat or cow)
1 generous tablespoon very finely minced mixed fresh herbs (be sure to include chives, as well as an assortment that could include thyme, sage, basil, or flat-leaf parsley) 
1 teaspoon minced shallots 
¼ teaspoon minced garlic 
¾ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt (or more, if you want it a little saltier)
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper 

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes 
1½ pounds cherry tomatoes, stemmed and halved 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
Handful of fresh herbs (any combination of whatever you have on hand, including chives, rosemary, thyme, basil or sage) 
Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

4 thick slices bread, such as ciabatta or sourdough
Olive oil 
1 clove garlic, peeled 
A few leaves of fresh basil, sage, or flat-leaf parsley, to garnish

1. To make the herbed cheese: line a mesh strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth or muslin and set it over a bowl. Scrape the yogurt into the lined strainer and refrigerate the yogurt for 24 hours. Put the strained, thickened yogurt into a bowl and mix in the herbs, shallots, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

2. To roast the tomatoes: preheat the oven to 350ºF . Combine the cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and herbs in a baking dish or pan that will hold them all in a snug single layer. Season with salt and pepper, mix well, and spread them out in a single layer. 

3.  Roast the tomatoes in the oven for about 45 minutes, stirring once or perhaps twice during baking, until they’re wilted and their juices are starting to concentrate—and perhaps brown a bit—in the bottom of the baking dish or pan. (The baking time will depend on the material of the baking dish and type of cherry tomatoes used.) Ideally, you want the tomatoes to juice, and for the juices to thicken and concentrate. 

4.  Scrape the tomatoes and any juices into a bowl and let cool to room temperature. They can sit up to 8 hours, and improve the longer they sit. (I have also refrigerated them and used the leftovers. Just pop 'em in the microwave for 30 seconds to get 'em nice and juicy again.)

5. To make the toasts: Evenly brush the bread with olive oil. Place them on a baking sheet in a preheated 350ºF oven or a toaster oven and toast for about 5 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove and when just cool enough to handle, rub the slices generously with the garlic clove. Let cool to room temperature. 

6.  To serve: thickly smear each piece of bread with the fresh herbed cheese. Set each one on a plate. Spoon the tomatoes and their juices onto the slices of bread. Coarsely chop any remaining herbs for the garnish, and scatter them over the top of each portion.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Lamb Kebabs with Georgian Adzhika

Is it too hot to cook inside? It sure was this Sunday in the Bay Area. Smoking hot. Of course, there are two answers to hot weather: grilling and gazpacho. We did both. (Gazpacho found here to come later, I promise.)  

This little lamb skewer comes from none other than my favorite person, Diana Henry--this time from her cookbook, A Change of Appetite. (Want to read a great review of this book?  See here.  While Alex Guarnaschelli says she loves the book, she finds that it's culinary whirlwind tour a little discombobulating and she's not sure what she would turn to this book for. I do. I turn to it whenever I want something light and fresh and filling without weighing me down. And that happens throughout the year--be it on a hot summer day or after enjoying too many holiday treats come January. I know exactly why I come to this particular Diana Henry book.)

So the husband fired up the grill and made some lamb, which was simple enough. Shockingly simple, indeed. And I hoisted out the blender to mix up this Adzhika relish/salsa from Georgia (the country, not the state) on the side. My only regret is that I did not make even more of this sauce. While this recipe made plenty, and we had a good deal of it leftover, I found myself mixing it in with everything over the next few days. Tuna and bean salad? Okay. Yogurt with tomatoes? Sounds fine to me. Should we grill up some more meat? I'd top that too, but it appears I have eaten all of the Adzhika and need to make more. 

Want to learn a little more?  Here are two links, one describing it as a salsa and another as a hot pepper relish. Is it no surprise then that I love it? A sauce? To go on morsels? Hush, say no more.

Adzhika is hot--or as hot as you want to make it, given you get to control how much of the chile you put in. But it is complex. The dill and cinnamon and celery are unexpected, at least for this palate, but the heat of the chile next to the cilantro brings me right back home to a more familiar salsa. However, upon some searching, this may be much more Adzhika "inspired" than Adzhika replication. Some adzhikas have no celery or cilantro and some purists claim that they should be only chiles, salt, and very specific herbs (coriander, dill, blue fenugreek, garlic). I guess I need to get on a search for true adzhika. 

In the meantime, I definitely am going to layer this sauce on the gaminess of lamb for a big, bold flavor. Perfect for a hot summer afternoon with a side of rice to help cool your mouth after this palate cleanser. I am so on board with this salsa. At least until I can find some true adzhika. 

And I suspect I would be on board with that, too.


Lamb Kebabs with Georgian Adzhika

Adapted from Diana Henry's A Change of Appetite

4 Servings

1¼ cubed leg of lamb
¼ cup olive oil
1½  tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 celery stick, coarsely chopped
3-4 red chiles, chopped (seeded if you would prefer a milder sauce)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
½ cup dill leaves
½ cup cilantro leaves
3½ Tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil

1. Trim the lamb of any fat or sinew. Mix the olive oil through the 2 garlic cloves, crushed, together in a bowl. Put the lamb in the spice mixture. Turn the meat over in the marinade, cover with plastic warp, and put in the refrigerator to marinate for 2-24 hours. Turn the meat over every so often. Soak six bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.

2.  To make the adzhika, put the garlic in a food processor and blend. Add the celery, chiles, and bell pepper and pulse-blend to a salsa-like mixture. Add the herbs and pulse about 3 times. You don't want a puree--just a rough mix. Scrape into a bowl, add salt, vinegar and olive oil.

3.  Thread the lamb cubes onto the skewers and season with salt. Cook on a grill pan or a grill, until golden brown, turning them regularly. Keep these a bit rare in the middle, so these need about 7 minutes total. Serve with the adzhika. (We clearly also added some rice and wild rice--see pictures.)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Ginger-Chicken Meatballs in Broth with Greens

We have been away--I have gone back to Illinois and then the husband and I went up to Mt. Shasta to see a volcano and to hike around. But we still need to eat.  

Is it Tuesday? (Okay, truth here, it's Saturday, but this dish will do anytime during the week.) Do you, too, need something to eat? Are you willing to put in 30 minutes? Do you need a revelation in broth? Well here's the little soup for you, no matter if you're traveling or hanging out at home.

The meatballs are a snap. As many of you know, I am huge fan of Diana Henry, in part because she takes ordinary ingredients and whips them into fine flavor combinations. More importantly, though, she does so without a lot of fuss and fanfare. Just make a meatball. Then put it in a broth. 

But before you do that, why don't you make your broth a little more flavorful? Don't have time? 

Let's not talk nonsense.

All you need is 10 minutes, some ginger and some chiles. If you have homemade broth, this is going to be divine. If all you have is store bought, well, trust me on this one--infusing it with some aromatics will boost this little soup. And, well, we all need a little boost from time to time. Why not now?

So let's get to it. We all have to eat, and whether we're going fully homemade or just upping the ante on what is in our pantry, Diana Henry is to the rescue, as usual.  Let's have some soup together.


Ginger-Chicken Meatballs in Broth with Greens

Adapted from Diana Henry's A Bird in Hand

4 Servings

1 lb ground chicken
2 garlic cloves, minced
1½ Tbsp soy sauce
1-inch piece ginger root (¾-inch finely minced, plus 2 slices, about ¼-inch thick)
4 scallions, sliced, divided
salt and pepper
5 cups chicken stock
1 chile (red or green), halved, seeded, and minced, divided
2 Tbsp olive, peanut, or sesame oil
4 small heads of bok choy (feel free to substitute spinach and add more than you think)
juice of 1 lime

1. Using your hands, mix together the chicken, garlic, soy sauce, ¾-inch finely minced ginger, and half of the scallions. Season with salt and pepper. Wet your hands and shape the mixture into small balls, each about the size of a walnut. If you have time to chill, these will be easier to work with. Set them on a baking sheet, and put in the fridge for 30 minutes or the freezer for 15.

2.  Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the ginger slices and half the chile. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat--this is just to flavor the broth with the ginger.

3.  Heat the oil in a sauté pan and cook the meatballs, rolling them over to ensure that they brown all over--you may need to do this in 2 batches. It should take about 10  minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon.

4.  Add the stock to the pan and bring to a boil, scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Reduce the heat, return the meatballs to the pan, and bring to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the greens (and then add a little bit more than you think you should) and the rest of the chile and cook for another 3 minutes. The meatballs should be cooked through and the greens should be tender. Discard the ginger slices. Add the lime juice and remaining scallions. Serve with more chile, if you like.