Saturday, June 29, 2013

Radish Spread

The Fourth of July is rapidly approaching, flag cakes, watermelon, and burgers on the grill.  I don’t have big holiday plans yet, but I do have a fun recipe to share.  I made Martha Stewart’s feta-radish spread last week and think it would make a nice addition to any summer BBQ.

Feta–Radish Spread
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz package sheep's-milk feta cheese
1/4 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
2 tbp fresh lemon juice
3 tbp coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 radishes

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Begin by coarsely chopping the parsley and quartering and thinly slicing the radishes. 

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Next, cut the feta into small cubes or chunks and place it in a medium bowl with the Greek yogurt, olive oil, and lemon juice.  Do not add in any salt, the feta is naturally salty.  I used an immersion blender to combine the ingredients, but pulsing the ingredients in a food processor is the preferred technique.  Either way, combine until smooth.

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Once the feta mixture is smooth, stir the sliced radishes and parsley in with a spatula.  Serve this spread with toasted pita triangles, pita chips, crackers, or sliced veggies.  I enjoyed it with lots of baby carrots.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ingredient 23 – Apricots

At the suggestion of my sister Megan, I made roasted fruit with mascarpone cheese this week.  As you have likely noticed, I am currently obsessed with making simple dishes from farmer's market fare.  With so much fresh produce easily available, I am finding it easy to come up with ideas for the blog.  However, I am making an effort to balance my ingredient choices so I don't post about greens three weeks in a row.

I selected apricots because they are adorable and I have a fondness for apricot jam.  Apricots are in season in U.S. from May through August, if you buy apricots in the winter they likely came from South America.  The majority of domestic apricots are grown in California.

When purchasing apricots, look for fruit that is fairly firm and orange-yellow to orange in color.  Apricots that are overly firm are not yet ripe.  If you need to ripen an apricot, place it in a paper bag for a day or so.  It is best to consume ripe apricots immediately but if you need to keep an apricot from over ripening, place it in the refrigerator.    

This week’s recipe is from Joy the Baker.  Her recipes are inviting and her pictures are fantastic.  I highly recommend checking out her blog.

Roasted Apricots with Honey Mascarpone
Credit: Joy the Baker     
Serves 4
8 apricots, halved and pits removed
2 tbp granulated sugar
1 cup mascarpone cheese - room temperature
2 tsp honey
2 tsp chopped mint  

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Line a broiler pan with foil and turn the broiler on high.  While the broiler is heating, rinse and gently pat dry the apricots.  Once dry, slice the apricots in half and remove the pit.

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Sprinkle the sugar on a small plate and dip the cut half of the apricot in the sugar.  Place the apricots, sugared side up, on the foil covered pan and place under the broiler for 4 to 5 minutes.  The apricots are done when sugar begins to caramelize.

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While the apricots are in the broiler, stir the honey into the mascarpone.  I set my mascarpone mixture near the oven vent to soften it while stirring, but it would be smarter to let the container soften on the counter for 30 minutes before preparation.

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Let the apricots cool for at least 10 minutes after broiling before placing a spoonful of mascarpone on each half.  I didn't wait long enough and ended up with mascarpone that melted like butter on toast.  Garnish with chopped mint to add touch of class.

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I really enjoyed this recipe and will make it again.  I love how this dessert feels special yet is so simple to make.  I may try roasting peaces and nectarines as they come into season.  We ended up with lots of extra mascarpone, so I am off to go fire up my broiler and roast the last two apricots.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ingredient 22 - Radishes

This week I made roasted radishes.  I originally planned to make a salad of pea shoots and thinly sliced radishes but that plan fell apart when the market sold out of pea shoots.  However, my interest in radishes was rekindled when I discovered they could be cooked. 

The radish, Raphanus sativus, is a root vegetable whose origins predate the Roman Empire.  Because wild radishes are similar to turnips and mustards, it is believed that they were domesticated in Western Asia and Europe.  Today radishes are grown all over the world, anywhere with abundant sun and moist fertile soil.  Many varieties become available in spring or early summer, but some are planted for winter harvest.  The latter being larger and more pungently flavored.  When purchasing, look for firm bulbs and crisp green leaves.

Roasted Radishes and Carrots
Courtesy Melissa d'Arabian 
Serves 3 to 4
1 bunch of small to medium radishes
12 baby carrots
1 tbp olive oil
1 tsp thyme
1/2 a lemon
Salt and black pepper

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Begin by pre-heating the oven to 450 degrees and lining a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  While the oven is heating, trim and wash the radishes.  The radishes I bought were quite sandy, so I spent a good 5 minutes thoroughly washing them.

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Place the radishes and carrots in a bowl and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and thyme.  Once coated, place on the veggies on the foil lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

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After removing the veggies from the oven, squeeze on some lemon juice and plate.  I served my radishes with crock pot pork tenderloin and yellow zucchini.

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I was expecting to love this recipe, but I didn’t.  The radishes were too bitter for my taste, especially the smaller radishes.  I thought they would sweeten with cooking.  I won’t repeat the recipe, but I would be open to trying a recipe that includes some form of added sugar.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ingredient 21 – Swiss Chard

Until recently, I had no desire to cook or eat Swiss Chard.  As a child my father touted its hardiness and nutritional value.  An avid gardener, he probably grew and cooked it for our family.  However, I only remember the berries, tomatoes, sweet peas, and bumper crops of garlic.  My dad grew so much garlic one year, all visitors to the house went home with a doggie-bag full of garlic.

My feelings towards chard changed last week when I was at my neighborhood farmer's market.  I was seduced by the rich green leaves and the brightly colored stalks.  I knew Swiss Chard was super nutritious, a good source of vitamins K, A, and C and high in polyphenol antioxidants; I didn't know how visually appealing I would find it.

Swiss Chard, Beta vulgaris, belongs to the same family as the beet.  Swiss chard is a misnomer.  This green is from the Mediterranean and remains popular in the region's cuisine.  19th century seed producers added Swiss to the name to distinguish it from other varieties of chard.  Swiss chard is known for being slightly bitter.  Young chard can be eaten in salads but mature chard should be cooked to neutralize the bitterness.  When purchasing chard, look for leaves that are bright green and crisp.  Avoid leaves that have little holes or yellow or brown marks.

I prepared my chard using a Martha Stewart recipe.  I have been perusing her site a lot lately and am pinning numerous recipes.  Her website is a goldmine.

Sautéed Swiss Chard
Serves 4
1 large bunch Swiss chard
1 tbp olive oil
4 garlic cloves ( I used 2 very large cloves)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

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Begin by washing and chopping up the chard.  Remove the stems from the leaves.  Cut the stems into 3/4 inch pieces and the leaves into 1 inch pieces; don't worry if the pieces are exact, guesstimate. 

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Once all the chard is prepared, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large covered skillet, medium heat.  Peel and dice the garlic and cook in the heated oil for a minute or two.

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Next, add the stems and cook for 5 minutes, string frequently.  Add half the leaves, sprinkle on 1 teaspoon of sugar, stir, and cover for 4 minutes.  Once the time has elapsed, add in the rest of the chard and repeat the process, letting the chard cook for approximately 8 minutes.

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Remove the chard from the heat and drizzle with the red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.  My chard was served with rotisserie chicken from El Pollo Rico.

I really liked the chard, it wasn't bitter at all.  I think this dish is going to make its way into my regular dinner rotation.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I Tried Biscoff Spread

Biscoff spread is Europe's alternative to peanut butter, according to producer Lotus Foods.  However, it contains no nuts. It does have the consistency of peanut butter but is largely comprised of ground up Biscoff Cookies, the cookies you get when you fly Delta.  FYI, Biscoff spread was invented by Els Scheppers in 2007 as part of a reality TV competition in Belgium.

I first learned of Biscoff spread from the blogosphere.  However, I received two free jars when I visited the Belgium Embassy this May during the yearly embassy open houses.  The product distributor recommended placing it on ice cream as a topping.  The Biscoff website says you can also enjoy it with apples or on toast.  I went with the distributors recommendation and tried it out on vanilla ice cream.

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Biscoff tastes exactly like molten graham crackers and its flavor mixed well with vanilla ice cream.  The spread didn’t stir into the ice cream as well as I would have hoped.  However, my kitchen was warm so my ice cream melted quickly.  I wouldn’t put Biscoff on toast, but I seem to enjoy eating it out of the jar.  If you like eating cookie dough, you will probably like Biscoff.