Monthly Archives: July 2010

Somewhere over the rainbow: chard!

Summer produce is at its peak right now and this colorful, delicately delicious, and healthful “green” – rainbow chard is one of the best. I’ve grown it myself and never tire of the sweet tender flavors of chard simply prepared by steaming it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Today we got a delivery from our neighbors at Gill Farms and I was struck by the beauty of the colors of the stems sitting on the counter as I walked through the kitchen.

The preparation is so simple. Start by cutting the stems where they meet the leaves and then into 3″ pieces. Wash thoroughly and set to drain. Cut the leafy parts horizontally across the stem portion into 2″ strips and soak for a few minutes in water and then drain.

In a large pot, heat some olive oil and add chopped or sliced garlic.  (Don’t let the oil get too hot, as the garlic will cook very quickly and you don’t want to let it burn.) While the garlic is cooking add the stems (still wet from draining) with a little salt and pepper, cover and let steam until almost tender.  Now take big handfuls of the chard leaves, stir with tongs fully coating the leaves with the garlic oil and cooked stems. Turn the heat down low and cover letting everything cook until done.  Check seasoning for salt and pepper, platter and serve.

Chard is delicious warm or at room temperature. In Sicily and Catalonia golden raisins and pine nuts are sometimes added and are a wonderful somewhat unexpected addition.

Refreshing Summery Cucumber Salad

What could be better on a hot summer day than cold and crunchy cucumber salad? There are several Middle Eastern variations (from Greece – “Tzatziki” and from Turkey – “Cacik”) made with yogurt that we especially love and will share our quick and easy instructions here:

Peel and seed 6-8 cucumbers (especially great when they’re from your own garden or local farm stand). Cut into 1/2″ chunks or 1/4″ slices depending on the look you’re going for. Take 1 quart of Greek yogurt (thicker than ordinary yogurt) and put in a bowl with the cucumbers. Decide which herbal flavor you prefer (mint or dill) and pick the leaves off the stems, rinse, dry, chop fine, and add to mix. Take 2-3 garlic cloves, mince finely and add along with salt and pepper to taste. Richard likes to add diced scallion, sweet onion and a splash of olive oil to the mix and then toss together.

This is a wonderful addition to any midday picnic and also makes a great side dish for the Mediterranean steak kebobs we serve for dinner on Wednesdays. It doesn’t hold up well after sitting out on a buffet, so plan on serving it within a few hours of preparation.

Fresh Local Corn on the Cob!

To our amazement the folks at Gill Farms have done it again – miracle of miracles! They have corn on the cob ready to eat the first week in July and the tomatoes are just coming in too – little cherry tomatoes right now, but in my book that’s still miraculous! Granted, the weather this year has been wonderful for our local farmers – it’s so nice when they get some breaks. We’ve had lots of sun, warm weather and sufficient rain (until just recently) to provide an excellent growing season. We so loved that first bite of butter and sugar corn at our 4th of July BBQ – it was deeelicious.

None of us are tired yet of just eating it straight from the cob, but soon enough we’ll be looking for other ways to enjoy eating fresh corn. Here’s a recipe that makes a wonderful dish to take to a neighborhood pot luck or serve at home to your family and friends.

Black Bean & Corn Salad
Chef Richard Erickson, Bistro-to-Go

For Vinaigrette
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar or fresh lime juice
2 T minced garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 T chili powder
1/2 cup olive oil

For Salad
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups fresh corn, from about 10 ears
1 lg red pepper, finely chopped
1 lg red onion, finely diced
1 small bunch scallion, chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Make vinaigrette:
Whisk together vinegar or lime juice, garlic, cumin, and chili powder.  Add the oil in a slow stream, whisking, until combined well. Set aside
Make salad:
Combine the beans, corn, pepper, onion, scallion and cilantro in a large bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Adjust seasoning and serve.

This is a great recipe for leftover corn on the cob. It keeps well and is a much appreciated and colorful addition to any picnic or barbeque. It can be served on a bed of lettuce, Boston or Bibb work great, and garnished with avocado to dress it up and serve as a first course. The quantities are not terribly important, it can be a bean salad with corn or a corn salad with beans. Tomatoes are a welcome addition and even a jar of salsa can be added in a pinch.

What’s Vegetarian, Vegan and Very Good for You? Esclavida Catalan

Here’s a great recipe that will wow your friends, is savory, healthy, delicious and you can shop at your local farm stand to purchase all the ingredients. One of the reasons we love this recipe is that the vegetables are roasted, not grilled, so they absorb less oil and the dish is light and clean. Romesco sauce (which dates back to medieval times) is a wonderful type of “pesto” thickened with bread and nuts.  Traditionally made with romescu peppers we approximate the flavor with red peppers and a bit of ancho chili pepper. The recipe looks a little strange but follow it to the end and taste the results.  We think it’s worth it and that you’ll agree.  The mixture of vegetables is similar to ratatouille so we always tell people it’s a Catalan ratatouille!

Esclavida (Grilled Vegetables) with Romesco Sauce
Chef Richard Erickson, Bistro-to-Go

1 large eggplant
3-4 zucchini and/or summer squash
1 large Spanish onion
4 plum tomatoes
2 red & 2 green peppers
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1/4 cup Sherry wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Romesco Sauce (recipe follows)

1. Cut the vegetables into pieces of equal size (approximately 3/4 – 1” cubes). Season with salt and pepper, toss lightly with olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes on a sheet pan in a 400 degree oven.

2. Take 1/2 cup Romesco Sauce, 1/4 cup Sherry wine vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil and whisk together.

3. Garnish with whole toasted almonds and serve.

Romesco Sauce
4-6 Ancho chiles
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pita or other bread
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup hazelnuts
2 T garlic
1/2 cup tomato, peeled & seeded
1 large roasted pepper
pinch cayenne
2-3 T Sherry wine vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 T paprika
2 T tomato paste

1. Cover chiles with boiling water after discarding seeds and stems. Soak until soft.

2.  Heat half the oil, add bread. Fry until golden. Remove, add chiles, cook for 2 mintues.

3. In food processor, process almonds, salt and garlic. Add bread, chiles and tomato.

4. Add cayenne, vinegar and rest of olive oil. Grind black pepper and adjust seasoning. Thin with a bit of the ancho liquid but not too much. Should have a smoky and lightly spicy taste, but not be too spicy hot.

All American Potato Salad

What could be more perfect for the 4th of July or for any backyard party than homemade potato salad? We have several favorites here at Bistro-to-Go:  traditional with a mayonnaise base and another version in vinaigrette often known as German style. This weekend we’re making the all-American version.

Start with a nice variety of baby potato (reds and creamers are our favs). Cut into equal size pieces and put in a big pot of heavily salted water. Cook to perfection, (firm enough to hold their shape but not al dente!) drain off the cooking water, splash with some apple cider vinegar while still warm, toss, and allow to marinate while gathering the rest of the ingredients.

In a large bowl combine finely diced sweet onions, celery and scallions. Add several big dollups of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, course grain mustard, a bit of sweet pickle relish, salt and pepper. Other ingredients can be added for interest (such as diced cucumber and green beans for example) and a variety of fresh herbs such as tarragon or dill. Right now we have an abundance of giant red mustard greens in our garden, so Richard took a big handful of the leaves and chopped them into fine long strips (“chiffonade”) and added to the mix for an extra spicy kick!

Now combine the still warm potatoes with the other ingredients. (We consider this an important step as the potatoes absorb flavors which won’t happen if they are cold.)  Garnish with fresh herbs, tomatoes or chopped hard boiled egg for a beautiful presentation.

Wishing you a fabulous 4th of July weekend!