Grilling Pizza

Most people think of summer as grilling season, but I have my grill going year-round. It’s easy, makes fewer dirty pans, and the food just tastes better with the smokey grill flavor. And, one of my favorite grill meals is pizza.

Pizza is already one of the most universally loved foods, and grilling it takes it to a new level of deliciousness. Most stores have ready to cook pizza dough, but you’ll find an easy dough recipe below.

Trek 2015 1

Easy Grilled Pizza

Turn on grill to medium heat. Roll out pizza dough to desired size on a floured surface. Sprinkle some corn meal on a baking sheet and transfer rolled out dough to sheet. Brush dough with olive oil.

Transfer dough to heated grill oiled side down. Cook for around minutes and remove from grill back onto the baking sheet with the grilled side up. Add desired toppings to pizza. Reduce grill heat to low and return topped pizza grill and cook with the grilled cover closed until done.

The fun part about pizza is that you get to  make it your own by adding your own family’s favorite toppings, or throw on the leftovers lurking in the fridge. This is the ultimate in quick, easy, versatile, and delicious. Mangia!!

 

grilling-cabbage-and-pizza1-credit-julia-a-reed

 

Easy Pizza Dough

courtesy of Food.com

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 14teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2cup lukewarm water (plus an additional 2 tbsp)
  1. Mix 1 cup of flour with all other ingredients.
  2. Gradually add 2nd cup of flour until it forms a ball. …
  3. Let the dough rest 10-15 minutes in a bowl covered with a dish towel or plastic wrap to keep it warm.

grilled-pizza1-credit-julia-a-reed

All photos Julia A Reed

 

 

 

Easy Eggplants

I’m sharing my two favorite ways to cook eggplant. They’re both easy and interesting, and are a good way to make eggplant delicious.

The first is simply to slice an eggplant lengthwise – from stem to bottom – into 1/2 inch slices. Salt and oil the slices well on both sides, and spread on a baking sheet, place on an oven rack near the heating element, and roast on the BROIL setting until one side is golden brown. This only takes a few minutes! Then flip each slice with a fork and broil on the other side. You know they’re done when a fork pierces the flesh like a chainsaw through butter. Under-cooked eggplant is like eating a wet sock, so aim for a golden, almost crisp outside and a creamy inside. Plenty of oil makes them delicious and brown well.

Now take them out, let them cool enough to handle, then chop into chunks (leaving the skin on) and throw into pasta sauce, onto pizza or sandwiches, or with dressing for a salad.

Okay, now for the impressive but easy eggplant dish in the style of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean mothers and grandmothers. This is essentially what’s known in Arabic as baba ganoush, the famous smoked eggplant spread for pita.

Do you have access to an open flame, either a gas stove, a grill, or an open fire? Great. If not, I have directions for using an oven, though it won’t have the smoky taste.

Smoky Eggplant Spread (baba ganoush)

Ingredients

  • 1 large or several small eggplants, any variety, 1 to 1 1/2 pounds total
  • the juice and grated rind of half a lemon, or lime if that’s on hand
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large clove of garlic, smashed or grated
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, or more
  • Small bunch of chopped parsley or cilantro
  • Freshly ground pepper, dash of cayenne, or chopped fresh smokey-eggplant-spread-croppedhot pepper (OPTIONAL)
  • Spoonful of sesame tahini (OPTIONAL)

Directions

Open flame method
1. Place whole raw eggplant(s) onto a grill or DIRECTLY over the low flame of your gas stove.
2. Let the skin closest to the flame char, then slowly rotate the eggplant with a pair of tongs until the whole thing is blackened and very soft. DON’T LEAVE IT UNATTENDED!
3. Make sure you get the eggplant ends and all sides blackened and soft. Juices may drip out, and that’s okay – just wipe up the stove afterwards.
4. Transfer the eggplant (now floppy and burnt) to a cutting board to cool.
5. When it’s cool enough to handle, chop off the stem and peel away the charred skin with your fingers or a butter knife. Leaving a few flecks of blackened skin is fine – it’s hard to get it all off!
6. Finely chop the flesh and transfer it to a large bowl.

Oven method
1. Heat oven to 400° F.
2. Using a fork, prick the eggplant all over.
3.Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast until very tender, 50 to 60 minutes.
4. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, halve it lengthwise and scrape out the flesh, discarding the skin. Finely chop the flesh and transfer it to a large bowl.

Add to the cooked eggplant
To the finely chopped cooked eggplant flesh, add the remaining ingredients. Mix everything together and serve on top of warm pita bread or on crackers.

No, it’s not very pretty, but it’s delicious.

How to choose eggplants

Choose eggplants that are firm, glossy, and smooth. Once they sit around and start getting soft, dull, and spotty, they don’t seem to cook as well.

The round pale purples ones (“Beatrice” variety), the small stripey ones (“graffiti” variety),  the long slender Japanese ones and the hard to find tiny “Fairy Tale” variety are my favorites to cook and eat. But any and all are good, as long as they’re fresh!

– Bethany Fleishman

Photos: by Molly Drummond and Vital Communities staff

One Pot Meal: Sausage, New Potato & Vegetable Hash

This is my favorite thing to eat in August when corn and green beans are ready, there is lots of summer squash, and new potatoes are just coming in. It’s colorful, full of bright flavors, and totally satisfying for breakfast, lunch, or supper. It’s good cold as leftovers. It practically makes itself, and unlike many of my recipes, this one contains neither garlic nor Parmesan.

Everything but the salt, pepper, and olive oil can be found at Upper Valley farmers’ markets and farm stands or maybe your CSA or backyard. Buy locally! Eat seasonally!

Sausage, New Potato & Vegetable Hash
Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients
4 pork sausages – ideally Italian or garlic
1 red pepper, sliced into strips  (green or pablano are fine too)
1 large red onion, cut into chunks (other onions or equivalent amount of leek or scallions are fine too)
1 pound new potatoes, skins on, sliced ⅛ to ¼ inch thick.
1-2 yellow summer squash or zucchini cut into slices or small chunks (yellow crookneck is my favorite, but hard to find unless you grow them yourself.)
Kernels from an ear or two of corn (use up day- or days-old ears that are drying up in your fridge)
Handful of green beans cut or snapped in half (kale or broccoli are fine in a pinch)
2 T olive oil or fat (lard or chicken fat works well if you have some sitting around)
Salt & pepper
Handful of fresh herbs, chopped (I like cilantro or parsley)sausage potato and late vegetable hash credit Julia A

Directions
1. In a large skillet (10” or so) brown sausages on medium-high heat.

2. When sausages are half cooked, add onions and peppers and some salt.sausage potato and late vegetable hash credit Julia A (4)

3. Let peppers and onions get nice a nd browned before stirring.

4. When sausages are just cooked, remove them and the onions and peppers and set aside. Pour ¼ cup water into the pan to “deglaze” it – that is, get all the tasty browned flavors and bits off the pan. Add this pan juice to the sausages.

5. Wipe out pan to remove any sausage bits left. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil on medium high and add thesausage potato and late vegetable hash credit Julia A (8) thinly sliced potatoes in a single layer. Salt well. Let them brown them well before turning.

6. Add corn kernels, and summer squash. Let veggies brown before turning.

7. Break apart sausage into chunks and add sausage, onions, peppers, and pan juice back into hash along with chopped green beans.

8. Cook until green beans are tender and sausage is heated again. Test a potato too to make sure it’s cooked through.

9. Garnish with fresh chopped herbs. Serve with hot sauce.

Let’s talk about skillets
This hash is ideally cooked in a large skillet so that the vegetables sit in a single layer to brown equally.

Don’t have a nonstick pan? You don’t need one if you add ingredients to a sizzling hot cast iron or steel pan. Then lower heat to medium and don’t turn the ingredients until they’re browned, when they’ll start to release on their own.

Keep an eye out at yard sales or thrift stores for old cast iron or steel skillets as more healthful, more beautiful, and longer lasting alternatives to nonstick pans. (They’re not cheap if you get them new.)

– Bethany Fleishman

Photo credit: Julia A. Reed

Spring Salad Made From Anything

I made this colorful crunchy salad on the fly on Memorial Day when the grocery stores were closed for the holiday and my parents, siblings, and out-of-town cousin were on their way over for dinner. I wanted a salad but only had asparagus, broccolini, scallions, and radishes from Cedar Circle Farm plus a few carrots in the fridge and herbs in the garden. And thus this salad put itself together with a little thoughtful slicing and a lemon dressing.

Thoughtful slicing? By that I mean thinking about the best way to slice each vegetable to make the salad both beautiful AND to make each bite make sense in your mouth.

For example, radishes are pungent and spicy, so I sliced some of them into paper-thin rounds and the rest into thin wedges – both shapes ensure a huge chunk of radish won’t ruin a bite. 

Similarly, raw carrots are great, but I don’t love them shredded and neither do I want huge carrot sticks. So I cut them in thinIMG_1127 irregular slices on the diagonal that are easy to pick up with a fork without too much crunching and drama. I prefer my broccoli cooked, so I did that before slicing it into long strips.

You get the idea. Give each vegetable a moment of thought to optimize its good qualities and make it pretty and easy to eat. Mix up colors and flavors, shapes and textures.

This salad can be made with any spring vegetable you like eating. Keep a vegetable raw if it tastes good raw (like scallions, kholrabi, peas, and radishes). Briefly steam, saute, or roast it if it’s better cooked (like broccoli, fiddleheads, or bok choy) and then cool before adding. Don’t forget the fresh herbs! I mixed dill, cilantro, basil, and marjoram, all from my backyard. In my opinion, any combination of fresh herbs is good in a salad.

(I used a lemon dressing, but you can use any dressing you have and like. Optional additions are grated, crumbled, or shaved cheese of your choosing, a cooked grain or pasta, beans, or pieces of chicken.)

–Bethany Fleishman,Vital Communities’ Transportation Program Assistant and former pastry chef, is contributing recipes this spring for our Valley Food & Farm program.

Here’s my recipe; adapt as needed:

Spring Salad Made From Anything

Ingredients

one bunch asparagus – kept raw and shaved into ribbons with a peeler (or if you prefer it cooked, steam, cool, and slice)

4-6 radishes, some thinly sliced into rounds, the rest sliced into thin wedges (you can keep the root and a little of the green intact)

3-5 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thinly on the diagonal (extra pretty that way)

2-4 carrots, sliced into thin and irregular spears on the diagonal

2-3 stalks broccolini or one head of broccoli, briefly steamed, cooled, then sliced into long thin pieces

a handful of fresh herbs – basil, cilantro, parsley, marjoram, dill, chives, etc.

salt

Mix everything together in a salad bowl with a little salt (these vegetable chunks will soak up more salt than a plain salad of greens, so don’t be shy with the salt).IMG_1129

Make a lemon vinaigrette with:

half a lemon, juice & grated rind 

one clove garlic, sliced, mashed, or grated

salt & pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

Whisk this all together until smooth and creamy. Toss with the salad and serve immediately.

*Also on the family Memorial day supper menu:
– delicious juicy hamburgers with beef from Back Beyond Farm in Chelsea, Vermont, covered in fried onions and spicy sauerkraut.
– A grain salad my mom made
– Vermont ice cream with chocolate sauce.

**Thank you to my brother Ben for the photos.

Mastering Perfect Spinach

When my friend Justin opened a restaurant in Maine, I fixated on his strategy to train kitchen staff: cooks would learn the best one or two ways to prepare each vegetable, so they’d be optimally equipped to deal on the fly with unpredictable supplies of local vegetables and a daily changing menu.

Let’s try this method together – and make perfect creamed spinach like skilled professionals.

Spinach can deserve its reputation, but it’s delicious when done right. Plus, it’s a nutritional powerhouse.

Why creamed spinach, specifically? Because it’s emerald green and perfect with a steak. And because like the names of our great-grandparents, food like this is coming into style again.

Thank you to the New York Times Cooking section for providing me the hankering and the recipe for creamed spinach. And to Justin for helping me make that original recipe more awesome and for taste testing.

–Bethany Fleishman,Vital Communities’ Transportation Program Assistant and former pastry chef, is contributing recipes this spring for our Valley Food & Farm program.

Creamed Spinach
Recipe adapted from The New York Times Cooking section

Ingredients

About 2 pounds spinach (from a local farm or garden – that’s the whole point!)Raw Spinach
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour (gluten free flour is fine as long as it has some thickening power)
1 cup milk (ideally whole, but use what you have)
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Bay leaf (OPTIONAL)
1 clove of garlic (OPTIONAL)
A healthy sprinkle of grated Parmesan or other sharp cheese (OPTIONAL)

Directions

1. Pick over the spinach to remove any debris, tough stems, and blemished leaves.

2. Rinse the spinach and shake dry.

3. Stuff the spinach into a saucepan with a quarter cup or so of water and cook on medium heat, stirring, until the spinach has wilted and turned bright green. You’re doing a combination sauté and steam here. (I like this method because it’s quick, and I have a completely unfounded suspicion that it preserves the most nutrients.)

4. Run the spinach under cold running water until chilled.

5. Grab the spinach by the handful and squeeze out the liquid. This is important to prevent watery creamed spinach.

6. Thoroughly blend the spinach in a food processor or blender. Set aside.Roux

7. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour, stirring with a whisk.

8. Add the milk, stirring rapidly with the whisk. For extra flavor, add a whole clove of garlic (or minced if you like a lot of garlic flavor) and a Bay leaf.

9. Add nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes until it thickens.

2Bowls10. If you used them, fish out the Bay leaf and garlic clove (unless you minced it), and add the cheese (if using).

11. Add the spinach. Stir to blend. Heat
and serve with more ground black pepper.

You’re building your skills: Did you know that the sauce you just made for the spinach is called Béchamel sauce, and is one of the five “mother sauces” in French cuisine? You can use this for the base for cheese sauce and so much more.

Quick & Healthy Family Lunches

There are several options for providing mid-day sustenance for your school-aged children. Many schools have excellent school lunches, but packing a lunch to send to school is sometimes necessary. If packing an exciting, healthy brown bag lunch that comes home empty at the end of the day is one of your New Year’s resolutions – here’s some help. This blog post is from our Everyday chef partner, Elena Gustavson from RAFFL, and is filled with tips to becoming a better “lunch crafter”.

 

Lunch

The dreaded brown bag lunch of yesteryear, filled with bologna sandwiches and mealy apples is a thing of the past! There are blogs and articles everywhere filled with recipes for creative, healthy lunches and a booming retail industry that has cropped up around lunch bags and bento boxes. Nowadays, even the school lunch line looks different from 10 years ago, where Farm to School programs abound in Vermont and National School Lunch Program Standards have transformed frozen tater tots and cardboard pizza into vibrant salad bars and balanced main courses carried by smiling children.

 

Or has it?

 

Let’s face it. Nothing is perfect. As a nation, we are making strides in nutrition and health, but the strides are still uneven. Headlines have abounded in the last few years about children tossing their fresh fruits and veggies under the noses of their teachers or studies showing home packed lunches being less nutritious than the school. Add to this the time deficit that most of us seem to be working under and it seems no matter our good intentions, many of us struggle to model healthy eating for our children. Case in point, my kids have found a cold slice of cheese pizza in their lunch bags more than once this year.

 

And I would like to remind you that I am a professional cook.

 

So, in the spirit of “been there”, I offer a few tips that make “lunch crafting” easier on most days along with a tried and true recipe for a creamy chicken salad that with even a reluctant eater, won’t find its way to the bottom of a compost bin.

 

Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

 

Tips:

  • Plan Meals: Yep, you know it’s true and I am here to tell you that it works. Nevermind that I am a menu nerd or that I have been known to make up fantasy meals for fun. Spending a bit of time in the beginning of each week to plan out lunches (and supper for that matter) is very helpful with time management, using up leftovers, creating balanced diets and saving money. There are millions and trillions (that is only a slight exaggeration) of free planners on the internet, from adorable printables to dense recipe databases on favorite food sites. And, when you are taking the long view of what your family is eating each week, the stress that can accompany serving a balanced meal 3 times a day, becomes less if your family is eating healthy over the course of several days instead.
  • Be Prepared: It is very difficult to make home lunches if your pantry is bare and there isn’t a container in site. Take the time to purchase the ingredients you need, stock your cupboards or shelves with containers and bags for carry-in lunches and send your family off with what they need to eat well. If you can, carve out a space where you can make lunches with relative ease because it is easily accessible and well stocked. In our house, there is a 2X2 foot counter sandwiched between a drawer with my containers, jars and baggies and a shelf with our lunch bags, napkins and non-perishable snacks.
  • Eat Seasonally: Even here in Zone 4 Vermont, there is a lot of fresh eating food available that is at the peak of its flavor (translating into “delicious”) and is less expensive than when you try to hunt it down out of season, (say, like, strawberries in January). Use the Vermont Department of Agriculture’s harvest calendar to help you know what is available locally.
  • Create a Habit: Get into a rhythm of planning and making lunches so that it becomes a part of your routine. Are the mornings usually hectic, then carve out a few minutes in the evening to start thinking about and setting up lunches for the next day. Are you an early bird? Take the quiet time in the morning to get lunches started and have them ready by the door before the kids head out for school. No matter how you do it, there are bound to be bumps along the way, but stick with it and before you know it, your consistency will give birth to a healthy habit!
  • Lean Protein + Whole Grain + Fresh Vegetable + Sensible Sweet. Pair a healthy protein with a whole grain option, using fresh from the garden veggies and add a bit of sensible, satisfying sweet to ward off less sensible choices. with a whole grain and fresh garden treats with a sensible sweet. Some quick ideas: +
    • Egg salad + whole grain crackers + chopped romaine lettuce + 2 chocolate kisses
    • Turkey breast + whole wheat wrap + mashed butternut squash + apple slices
    • Black beans + brown rice + pico de gallo salsa and/or guacamole + popcorn with cinnamon and maple sugar
  • Think Outside the Box: You do not have to eat a sandwich to have lunch. I have packed up meals that were re-purposed from supper two nights before or a very basic mix of cheddar cheese squares, sliced apples, roasted pumpkin seeds and whole grain crackers. It is easy to get caught up in the mundane of day to day, but try mixing things up a bit and offer your family some unusual choices. Their interest and desire to try new things just might surprise you!

rutabags HS Oct. 15 for website

Does all this mean that you will put together elegant, healthy AND delicious lunches five days a week, receiving rave reviews from friends and family?  Eh, probably not, but you can inch closer to lunch stardom if you plan ahead, create habits and persevere, even when you hit a bump in the road.

 

Helpful Links:

Lunch Planner Printable on Living Locurto: http://cf.livinglocurto.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Free-Printable-Weekly-Lunch-Planner.pdf

 

Eating Well, Healthy Lunches: http://www.eatingwell.com/search/apachesolr_search/healthy%20lunches

 

VT Dept of Ag, Harvest Calendar:

http://agriculture.vermont.gov/buy_local/harvest_calendar

 

18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick, from LifeHack.Org: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/18-tricks-to-make-new-habits-stick.html

Newbury apple joy

Recipe:

Creamy Dreamy Chicken Salad
Approximately 6 servings

Cook’s Notes: Including yogurt in the dressing, gives this chicken the slightest bit of tang, making the salad more interesting. The lower calories from the light mayo and yogurt means this is all about the chicken, the protein and the vegetables rather than the dressing. Pairs well as a sandwich filling or on top of greens or both!

Feel free to omit the nuts and dried fruit if you have a finicky eater and if you prefer a drier chicken salad, start with just a third of the dressing and add more as you like. Excellent recipe to make ahead and keep refrigerated for a few days. No time to poach chicken? No problem. Leftover chicken works fantastic!

Ingredients:

2lbs chicken breasts or chicken tenders (can substitute with two 10 oz cans of chicken, drained)

⅓ cup chopped celery

⅓ cup chopped bell pepper, green

2 tablespoons of red onion, minced

4 to 7 tablespoons of sliced almonds, roasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds

¼ to ⅓ cup of dried fruit (cranberries and apricots are delicious)

 

Dressing:

⅓ cup of light mayonnaise

⅓  cup of plain low-fat or non-fat yogurt

1 tablespoon of dijon or whole grain mustard (can substitute yellow mustard)

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

1 tablespoon of cider vinegar

1 teaspoon or less of maple syrup or honey (optional)

½ teaspoon of salt (or to taste)

½ teaspoon of ground black pepper (can substitute ground white pepper to give it less “bite”)

 

Directions:

Fill a large pot ⅔ full of water and bring to a boil. Carefully add the chicken breast or tenders and bring back to a simmer over medium high heat. Cover and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes (breasts) or 15 minutes (tenders) or until a thermometer reads 165 f. Remove chicken from pot and let sit for 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Shred the meat with a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until cooled.

In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the mayo, yogurt, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar and maple syrup. Add the salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl, pile the shredded chicken, celery, bell pepper, onion, nuts/seeds and dried fruit. Pour on the dressing and gently fold together until mixed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

by Elena Gustavson, RAFFL

Curried Squash Apple Soup

This is the start of soup season at my house. Soups are comforting and can be super easy, like this amazingly delicious 3 ingredient soup (there are 3 main ingredients, but there are some spices and cider that you’ll need, too).

The original recipe is from Ina Garten, but I’ve made a few adjustments to reduce the spice level. A trick I use to make this a 15 minute soup is to pre-cook the squash. When I have too many squash rolling around the kitchen counter (CSA share back log, irresistible sale at the farm stand, garden abundance, etc.), I cook all the squash at once and then freeze what I don’t need. That way I can just pull the pre-cooked squash from the freezer and add it right into the soup.

(Easy tip for cooking winter squash and pumpkins: Cut whole squash in half, scrape out the seeds and place cut side down on a baking sheet (lined with foil if you want to make clean up really easy). Add a little water to the pan and cook in pre-heated 350 degree oven until tender. Scoop flesh from the skin and freeze in pre-portioned amounts.)

curried squash apple soup


Curried Squash and Apple Soup
courtesy of Ina Garten, The Food Network

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp each butter & olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large butternut squash, peeled, cleaned, and cubed
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 -1 tsp curry powder (adds heat & flavor)
1 1/2 tsp Garam masala
1 tsp salt
1 cup apple cider, juice, or water

(Garam masala is a traditional Indian blend of spices including clove, cinnamon, pepper, cumin, and cardamon.  You can find it in most grocery stores or co-ops.)

Squash apples
Directions:
Heat butter, olive oil, onion, and curry powder in a soup pot on low heat for 10-15 minutes, until tender, stirring occasionally.

Add squash, apple, salt, Garam masala, cider or water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes or until very tender.

Remove from heat. Puree with blender, food processor, or immersion blender. Return to heat and thin with cider to desired thickness. Serve and enjoy!

 

Grilled Cauliflower “Steaks”

I visited Sonnax Industries last month to give a cooking demonstration during their lunch hour. I grilled cauliflower “steaks” and they were such  hit, I just had to share it with Everyday Chef.

This incredibly simple dish will catapult cauliflower from the ho-hum “boring” vegetable group into the star of any meal. And, the best part is that it cooks in less than 15 minutes AND doesn’t leave you with a mess in the kitchen.

Cauliflower heads

Cauliflower comes in lots of colors. I found your traditional white heads along with purple heads and a beautiful light orange-colored head that is called “cheddar”. This recipe works with any color – so go wild.

Cauliflower is in season now – and it’s never too cold to grill. So, find some local cauliflower and start cooking!

Grilling cauliflower steaks

Grilled Cauliflower Steaks

1 head local cauliflower
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp honey
3 Tbsp Emeril’s Essence seasoning (or any other spice concoction you like)
1 tsp salt

Trim stem and leaves from cauliflower head. Slice head in half and then cut 1/2″-1″ “steaks” from the inside of each half. There will be some crumbles of cauliflower, especially as you get closer to the outside of the head. Use a grill basket for the pieces that are too small for your grill grate.

Mix the olive oil, garlic and honey together and brush on both sides of the “steaks”. Then sprinkle both sides of each piece with the seasoning and salt. I often take the easy way out and use Emeril’s Essence, a pre-mixed spice bland, but you can season with chili or cayenne to make it spicy, or go Indian with a little curry powder.

Place on pre-heated grill and sear each side of the cauliflower then lower the heat, close lid and cook until tender. Serve as the main course or as a side dish.

Zucchini Chard Cakes

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve shared this zucchini chard cake recipe with folks this summer. I was sure that as soon as I mentioned zucchini I would be greeted with a sigh and eyeroll.

“No more zucchini!” they’d say. “We’ve had enough!”

 

Because, let’s be honest, each summer we all have more than enough of the ubiquitous green squash. Even if we don’t, we probably know someone looking to give away a few dozen or so. But to my surprise, as I traveled around making zucchini cake after zucchini cake, I didn’t get one complaint. In fact, people were enthusiastic to find another way to put it to use.

I’m always happy to be proven wrong. Really. That’s why this became my go to dish (along with a complementary tomato basil chutney) for my cooking demos and local food tastings. Apparently we haven’t reached peak zucchini. Word is still out on kale, though.

rainbow swiss chard keene fm  by SC, 2008

 

These cakes use the classic technique of vegetable hiding. Zucchini doesn’t have a strong flavor all on its own and when you mix it into what is more or less a standard pancake recipe, you hardly can tell it’s there at all. So much so, that you can also get away with chopping up even more healthy green stuff – chard and parsley – and mixing it in as well. Simply avoid those fruitless debates with the picky eaters in your life (note: none of mine happen to be kids) and just go ahead and serve these anyway. Before they can tell you how much they don’t like these vegetables, they’ll be happily and unknowingly eating them anyway. Call me cruel, but this is one of my great pleasures in life.

Zucchini Chard Cakes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: about 10 – 4 inch pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb zucchini
  • 1/2 onion
  • small bunch of Swiss chard leaves
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • splash of milk
  • 2 Tbsp oil + some for the pan

 

We’re going to need to shred the zucchini. You can do this quite easily with a box grater, or if you’re intending to shred a large quantity, I’d opt for the food processor like I did here. If not using all of the zucchini at once, it does freeze nicely.

Next, grate the onion. I prefer to grate the onion instead of chop it, as it will blend better into the pancakes.

 

Remove the stems from the chard and save for another purpose. Chopped and tossed into a stir fry, perhaps? Then chop the leaves.

Combine the egg, salt, and flour in a bowl. Add in the zucchini, chard, onion, garlic and parsley and stir to form a thick batter. Add just a splash of milk and the oil to form a more workable, pourable batter.

 

Heat your skillet and lightly coat it with oil when hot. Preheat the oven to 200F. Pour 1/4 cup spoonfuls of batter onto the hot skillet and cook 2-3 minutes per side, until browned. Flip and cook another 2 minutes. Transfer the cakes to the oven to keep warm while you cook the remainder of the pancakes.

Serve as a side, topped with tomato chutney, or as a light summer dinner with a side of greens.

Grilled Asparagus

Late spring and early summer is when you’ll find asparagus in its prime. And that means now. With an unique flavor and texture unlike much else – except perhaps fiddleheads – you don’t want to miss out on its relatively short growing season.

For many, the grill takes the reigns as the prime cooking tool for the summer. Good news. You’ll find that asparagus and the grill pair very well together. In a matter of a few short minutes and with minimal prep, asparagus is ready to go  as a healthy side to your other grilled foods.

But don’t let the possibility of what is commonly referred to as “asparagus pee” prevent you from eating this super nutritious food. Not everyone can even notice the side effects – it’s actually a trait determined by genetics. And those who do notice it should not fear. The odor is an indication that a sulfur-containing amino acid has been successfully broken down. Asparagus is low in fat and calories, high in fiber, a good source of Vitamin C and B, and contains the highest amount of glutathione – a powerful antioxidant and phytochemical – of any fruit of any vegetable. Glutathione helps prevent aging and a number of diseases like cancer, heart disease and dementia.

 

To start, (even if you don’t intend to grill), you want to purchase thin, tender stalks. They should be about the size of your pinky in diameter. If you have unusually large hands – think about the width of a pencil. Though as the season progresses, and it already has to some degree, you’ll notice thicker stalks (more like the width of your thumb) for sale, and these are still perfectly fine. It’s just that the thicker the stalk, the woodier the asparagus might taste. Some people like to peel the stalks of thicker asparagus to remove some of that toughness. I’ve never done so, though.

Asparagus

Regardless of the size of your asparagus, you store it all the same way – upright, in water, in the fridge, and at a temp below 40F. But first, trim the ends of the stalks slightly, as you would a bouquet of flowers. Asparagus is just one of those produce items you want to use as soon as absolutely possible – because it will lose its flavor and nutritional value pretty quickly.

When you’re ready to eat, the first thing you want to do is break off the woody bottoms. This is more necessary in thicker stalks than thinner. But all you have to do is hold the stalk with both hands and bend the bottom until you find its breaking point. Discard the ends and save them (with any peelings, if you choose to peel) in the freezer for your next batch of vegetable stock. Afterwards, give your bunch of asparagus a good rinse and pat dry with a towel.

 

For grilling, coat the asparagus in an equal mix of lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt and some minced garlic, if you’d like. Place the stalks on your clean (this is important!), hot grill. I like to cook them over a medium high flame for about 5 minutes. This leaves them with a good amount of crunch – just how I like them. There is really no need, however you choose to cook asparagus, to overcook them. Doing so can confuse people into thinking asparagus is a bland and mushy vegetable. And no one likes those.

Grilled Asparagus

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 6 minutes

Total Time: 11 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 clove minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Clean and preheat your grill with a medium-high flame.
  2. Give the asparagus a good rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Break off the woody ends of the asparagus.
  4. Lightly coat with the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and a couple pinches of salt.
  5. Arrange the asparagus horizontally on the heated grill.
  6. Rotate every couple of minutes with tongs, cooking for a total of about 6 minutes for a crunchy bite, or a bit longer for less.
  7. Sprinkle a little more lemon juice and salt over the cooked asparagus and serve.
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