Healthy

Braised Summer Vegetables

Braised Summer Vegetables

 

The dilemma for gardeners and cooks this time of year is “ what am I ever going to do with all these vegetables?” Don’t panic trying to come up with three or four recipes that accommodate various vegetables. Why not take the simplest route and braise them all together? I find what emerges from the oven is a deeply flavorful melange of vegetables that are substantial enough to serve as a main course along with rice, couscous, bulgar wheat, or try tossing them with a pasta.

The other obvious beauty of this approach is a quick easy meal that almost makes itself. A short saute on the stove top and then into the oven to braise for an hour, and that’s all there is to it!

You hardly even need a recipe for this other than a few words about the cooking sequence and timing. Use any combination of seasonal vegetables available.

 

Braised Summer Vegetables:  serves 4

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large brown onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, cut into thin strips lengthwise, and halved
  • 1 red bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, cut into thin strips lengthwise, and halved
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 5 oz/142 g shiitake (or other mushrooms) brushed clean and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¼ cup dry white wine, dry sherry, or water
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 small pumpkin (or squash) peeled and diced
  • 1 cauliflower, separated into florets
  • a bunch of kale leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh marjoram leaves
  • ½ teaspoon lemon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • vegetable stock or water
  • harissa (optional)

preheat the oven to 350f/ 180c

Best to use a Dutch oven if you have one or a pot with a tight fitting lid. Place the pot on the stove top over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot add the onions and saute 4 or 5 minutes until soft without browning.

Add the bell peppers and turn up the heat a bit. Toss along with the onions for several minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute and then throw in the mushrooms. Saute, while tossing, 4 or 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft and aromatic.

Make a well in the center and add the tomato paste. Compress the paste against the bottom of the pot to caramelize before stirring into the sauteed vegetables. Continue to saute another couple of minutes. Then stir in the white wine, sherry, or water. Saute until the liquid has mostly evaporated.

Add the carrots, pumpkin, cauliflower, kale leaves, marjoram, thyme, salt, and pepper and toss everything together until well combined. Level out the contents of the pot and add stock or water to nearly reach the surface of the vegetables. Cover the pot with the lid and transfer to the oven and roast about 1 hour.

Check after 45 minutes and add a little stock or water only if needed, tasting and adding more salt to taste.

Serving suggestions: As a main dish serve with rice, couscous, or bulgar wheat, or toss with pasta.

I like serving these vegetables with a spicy Moroccan harissa. (see recipe here)

Beet Root Salad with Mango and a Cashew Dressing

Beet Root Salad with Mango and a Cashew Dressing

 

This is an unexpected salad pairing that I recently discovered at Pulcinella da Stefano, or Stefano’s as we locals call it here in Chiang Mai. Contrary to what you may think, the earthy flavor of roasted beets paired with the sunny topical flavor of mango is a match made in…well, paradise. Beet root is locally grown here in Thailand and available year round as are many varieties of mango. Adding some locally grown figs, grapes, and dressing this salad with a smooth nutty cashew vinaigrette is the perfect flourish to bring this  salad with a tropical twist to life.

The recipe that follows is my interpretation of Stefano’s salad but open to variations centered around local and seasonal produce available where you live. Mangoes can usually be found in specialty food stores as well as Asian markets.

Pulcinella da Stefano Italian restaurant is a long standing favorite for locals here in Chiang Mai as well as visitors from abroad. Conveniently located near Thaphae Gate and well worth a visit!

 

Beet Root Salad with Mango and a Cashew Vinaigrette 

 

Ingredients:

Prepare in advance:

Suggested selection of salad greens: romaine (cos), red oak leaf, butter head bib lettuce, radicchio , wild arugula (rocket), watercress, and Italian basil leaves as a garnish.

Beets: Roast and prepare the beets in advance.

Fruits: a fresh ripe mango, fresh figs, and seedless red grapes.

Ricotta cheese: (see homemade recipe here)

Cashews: lightly roasted. 

 

Roasted Beets:        Preheat oven to 400F/210C

Wash 4 medium size beets and pat dry, leaving the skin on. Place the beets along with a small sliced red onion in a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Cover the baking pan with foil and seal tightly around the edges. Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the beets are tender; testing by inserting a sharp knife easily into the center of the largest beet.

When tender remove the beets from the oven and set aside to cool, leaving the foil on until the beets are cool enough to handle. Then slip the skins off the beets and trim the stem and roots off the top and bottom. Cut the beets in half lengthwise and slice each half into thin slices. Place in a bowl along with the onions. Drizzle with olive oil, lightly season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Assemble your salad greens selection in a bowl and toss. Cover and refrigerate.

Peel the mango, slice into bite size strips, cover and refrigerate.

Cashew Vinaigrette: makes 1 cup

  • ½ cup lightly roasted cashews, divided
  • 2 plump garlic cloves, dry roasted, peeled, and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons good quality white wine vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • several twists of ground white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red chile powder (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons cold water

place 1/3 cup roasted cashews, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, chile powder (if using), and honey in a food processor or blender. Process until the mixture relatively smooth. Then, with the machine running add the olive oil in a slow steady stream and continue to process until the dressing is smooth, emulsified, and thick. To thin the dressing, add 1 tablespoon of cold water at a time and pulse until incorporated into the dressing. Repeat this process until the dressing is the consistency of heavy cream. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to dress the salad greens.

Assembling the salad:

Lightly dress the salad greens and transfer them to individual shallow salad plates.

Place beet slices along with some onions on top or the greens.

Place sliced mango between the beets,

Tuck fresh basil leaves into the salad here and there.

Then add small clusters of ricotta next to the basil leaves.

Place the halved figs and grapes towards the edge of the salad.

Lightly drizzle just a bit more dressing over the salad.

Slice the remaining cashews in half lengthwise and skater over the salads.

Add a light twist of black pepper and serve.

Angel Hair with Asparagus and Lemon

 

In Italian  capelli d’angelo con asparagi e limone  has such a lovely melodic lilt to it that conjures up sun drenched plates of pasta bursting with all the essential fresh flavors of a summery pasta served up in the Italian countryside. Italians have such a lovely way with food that deliciously captures elegance in simplicity.

This is a very simple dish to prepare and an ideal way to take full advantage of summer’s farm to table garden fresh herbs and produce. I have included chicken in this recipe, but is entirely optional. This is a pasta that shines either way.

 

Angel Hair with Asparagus, Lemon, and Fresh Herbs  Serves 4

  • 2 plump chicken breasts, poached (optional)
  • 12 oz organic young asparagus stalks, trimmed, steamed, and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 6 oz dry angel hair pasta
  • 1/3 cup good quality Italian olive oil
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • ¾ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced lengthwise, and again crosswise
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced Italian parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons whole baby mint leaves
  • wild rocket (arugula) leaves

If you plan to include poached chicken in the recipe prepare it in advance. Fill a medium sauce pan three quarters full of water. Bring water to a full boil, add a teaspoon of salt, and put the breasts in the pot. Bring back to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a lid, and set aside for 30 minutes. Then transfer breasts to a bowl to cool. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat apart into bite size strips. Place in a bowl, cover with cooking broth, and set aside, or cover and refrigerate for later use.

Likewise steam the asparagus in advance. Place the trimmed asparagus in a steamer tray, cover and steam until the asparagus is tender, but not limp. Allow to cool, then cut into 2 inch pieces and set aside.

Place a stock pot three quarters full of water on the stove over high heat and bring to a full boil. Lower the heat to a low simmer and hold until you are ready to cook the pasta.

While the water is heating combine the olive oil, about three quarters of the lemon juice, and the Parmigiano in a mixing bowl. Whisk until well combined and the cheese is incorporated. Taste and season with salt and pepper, and more lemon juice if needed to taste. Set aside.

When ready to cook the pasta turn the heat back up to high. When the water reaches a rolling boil add a tablespoon of salt. Stir and add  the angel hair. Stir until the pasta separates and floats freely in the boiling water. Cook about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring now and again, until the pasta is al dente.  Drain the pasta in a colander just before you are ready to combine it  with the sauce .

Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter is melted and bubbling add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Then add the poached chicken and saute 3 minutes. Add the asparagus and toss. Reduce the heat to low and pour the olive oil lemon juice cheese sauce over all and toss 1 minute. Add the drained pasta and toss until evenly coated with sauce. Add the parsley, mint leaves, about a tablespoon of lemon zest, and toss until well to combined. Taste and season as needed.

Angel Hair with Asparagus and Lemon

Angel Hair with Asparagus and Lemon

Serving:

Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl or individual pasta plates. Try to arrange most of the asparagus on top of the pasta. Place wild rocket on top in the center, add some lemon zest and serve! The pasta needn’t be piping hot. Warm rather than hot brings out the freshness of the combined flavors.

Egg and Olive Potato Salad

Egg and Olive Potato Salad

 

This is my fifth potato salad recipe, but  summer has arrived and surely everyone must have some fond memories of summer picnics that always included a potato salad that their mother, or grandmother made with love and affection. Myself included!  

Egg and olive salad sandwiches were always my favorite when I was a kid. So an egg and olive potato salad was an inevitable pairing waiting in the wings and I have to say this fresh alternative potato salad that will become a favorite in your ever expanding repertoire to serve for picnics, barbecues, or just about any summer meal.

 

Egg and Olive Potato Salad     Serves 4

For the Salad:

  • 3 organic eggs at room temperature
  • 3 large gold potatoes
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced finely
  • 12 pimiento stuffed green olives, halved and sliced
  • 1 celery rib, diced finely
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced Italian parsley leaves
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds, lightly toasted
  • flaked sea salt (Maldon)

For the dressing:

  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon mustard powder
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
  • reserved cooked egg yolks

Suggested for a bed of salad leaves: romaine, iceberg, cabbage chiffonade, radicchio leaves, wild rocket (arugula), or others that are in season.

 

Bring a sauce pan of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt. Gently lower the eggs into the boiling water. Reduce the heat slightly. Once the water returns to simmer continue cooking for 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat, cover the pan with a lid, and set aside for 10 minutes. Prepare an ice water bath in a separate bowl. Transfer the eggs to the chilled ice water bath and set aside until completely cool. Then remove the eggs, gently bash them a few times on the work surface, peel them under running water, and set aside to air dry. When dry, slice the eggs in half lengthwise, remove the yolks and set them aside in a small bowl. Coarsely chop the egg whites and set aside.

Place the whole unpeeled potatoes in a steamer and steam for 30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a small knife or bamboo skewer. Set the potatoes aside until cool enough to handle. Then gently peel them under cold running water. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise, cut into bite size pieces, and set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl combine the potatoes, onions, egg whites, sliced olives, diced celery, and sliced parsley leaves. Season with salt and pepper and toss vigorously, bashing the potatoes around a bit, until the ingredients are well mixed.

Combine all the salad dressing  ingredients, except the cooked egg yolks, in a small mixing bowl. Using a silicone spatula press the egg yolks though a wire strainer positioned over the dressing bowl. Then whisk the dressing until nearly smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and fold in until all the ingredients are evenly coated with the dressing.

Serving:

Combine a selection of assorted salad leaves in a bowl. Add a couple of splashes of red wine vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Arrange a bed of dressed leaves in each salad plate. Lightly add the egg and olive potato salad over the greens. Sprinkle with the toasted mustard seeds and some flaked sea salt and serve!

 

 

 

 

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