Summer Food

Collard Greens

Collard Greens

 

Collard Greens can stir up some animated conversations about an otherwise unassuming bunch of braised field greens. Lordy me! Seems you either love them or hate them, depending on which side of the Mason-Dixon line you happen to come from. That said, collard greens are real comfort food here in the American south. Their legacy reaches way back to native American diets before Europeans ever set foot here in the new world. Wild greens such as purslane, sorrel, poke, lamb’s quarters, dandelion, and chicory were all staples in the native American diet long before the loose leaf cultivars we call collard greens were planted in fields throughout the American south well before the civil war.

 

Collard Greens

Collard Greens

 

Traditionally collards are slow cooked with bacon fat and ham hocks, which are optional, along with some dried red chile flakes. The resulting braised deep green collards are swathed in a savory broth affectionately called “potlikker” here in the south.

Collard greens are in fact one of the most nutritious greens you could ever eat, They are rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as being low in calories. So whatever your preconceptions may be about collard greens, you owe it to yourself to give them another try. Simple to prepare and ideal fare throughout the growing season. The aroma of braising collards as well as their rich earthy green flavor is sure to win you over.

I prefer omitting the animal fats and meats when I braise collards , but if you are traditionalist by all means include them.

 

Collard Greens aka …a mess of greens with potlikker (Basics)

Unlocking the deep flavors of collard greens is very straight forward. The secret couldn’t be simpler. By following the wisdom of generations of southern cooks, you want to braise these cut greens at at a very low simmer while being mindful of the texture of the greens as they braise.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ pounds collard greens, center ribs removed
  • 3 tablespoons bacon fat (optional), or olive + more for finishing
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon dried red chile flakes
  • 2 oz ham hock or bacon, chopped (optional) ,or substitute 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 ¾ quarts stock or water
  • freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
  • lemon wedges for serving

Needed: A large deep braising pan with lid.

Prepare the collard leaves before you begin cooking.

Using a sharp knife, cut out the center rib from the leaves lengthwise and discard them. Stack the leaves lengthwise and then roll them up lengthwise. Slice the rolled up leaves crosswise into ¾ inch slices. Then unfurl the slices and toss them together in a large bowl and set aside.

Place the braising pan on the stove top set at medium heat. When the pan is hot add the bacon fat or olive oil. When the fat is hot add the onions and saute for several minutes until the onions are softened and translucent. Then add the ham hocks or bacon if using, or the smoked paprika. Season with salt, and chile flakes, and stir to combine, and saute for a minute or so.

Add the stock or water to the pan, raise the heat, and cook until the broth is simmering.

Then add the sliced collards . Once the broth returns to a boil, reduce the heat so the broth is barely simmering. Partially cover the pan with the lid. Adjust the heat to maintain a very low simmer and braise until the collards are well cooked but still retaining a slight firmness. Cooking time will vary depending on the age and size of the collard leaves used, but somewhere between 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours.

Serving:

Serve the collards hot out of the pot along with some potlikker.

Taste and season with salt and pepper, and a spritz of olive oil and lemon juice.

Miso Wasabi Salad Dressing

Miso Wasabi Salad Dressing

 

The Japanese ingredients say a lot about this zesty salad  dressing, but it is surprisingly compatible when served with non-Japanese dishes as well.

As always, shop for the very freshest organic ingredients you can find. What I do love about this dressing is how the wasabi note heightens  the crisp garden fresh flavor of the assorted salad components. Perfect for late summer and fall salads!

 

Miso Wasabi Salad Dressing     Makes 3/4 cup

  • 3 tablespoons light miso
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated garlic
  • ¼ cup Japanese rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Tamari soy sauce, or regular soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted  sesame oil
  • ¼ cup light vegetable oil, or light olive  oil
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons wasabi paste
  • 3 tablespoons cold water

Combine all the ingredients except the water in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously until the dressing is completely emulsified. Add the cold water and shake once again until combined. Refrigerate the dressing until well chilled for serving.

 

Suggestions For the Salad

  • romaine lettuce, leaves cut into thirds
  • baby cos leaves, halved
  • radicchio leaves, torn lengthwise
  • iceberg, torn
  • arugula (rocket) leaves
  • celery leaves
  • mizuna sprigs
  • julienned carrots
  • julienned radishs
  • snap peas, blanched and chilled
  • radish sprouts
  • small vine ripe tomatoes, halved
  • toasted sesame seeds  (see recipe here)

Place the romaine, baby cos, radicchio, iceberg, arugula, and celery leaves in a large bowl and toss. Add a couple of teaspoons of dressing and toss to coat the leaves evenly.

Plating and Serving the Salad

Fan the mizuna leaves on chilled individual salad plates and mound a handful of tossed lightly dressed salad leaves onto each plate. Scatter the top of each salad with the julienned carrots and then the julienned radishes. Tuck the snap peas and halved tomatoes into the salads and lightly drizzle a little more dressing over each salad. Garnish with a flourish of toasted sesame seeds and serve.

 

Summer Mixed Beery Galette

Summer Mixed Berry Galette

 

August always reminds me of the beginning of berry season back in the American North East where I come from. Irresistible just picked fresh berries are on display in all the local farmers markets and at roadside farm stands that dot the countryside. A cooks delight to be sure!

What vividly comes to mind is making all sorts of summery mixed berry galettes. This French free form tart is so easy to make you will be find yourself whipping them up not only throughout the berry season, but into the winter months as well using frozen berries that you have put up in your freezer. I have to say, a warm galette coming out of the oven in the dead of winter brings back a taste of summer that is a pure delight that lifts the spirit.

Preparing a batch or two of your favorite flaky tart dough and freezing rounds gets most of the work for making a galette out of the way in advance. The berries require just a bit of sugar, a dash of lemon juice, and a little flour, that is then tossed together. The berries are then placed in the center of the rolled out dough and the edges of the dough are folded over the berries to create a rim. The galette is then baked for about forty minutes and…voila!

Keep in mind this idea works beautifully with any combination of mixed berries as well as berries combined with seasonal fruit as well.

I have included a recipe for a flaky tart dough from Elizabeth M. Prueitt’s TARTINE cookbook which has come to be my very favorite tart dough recipe. It is easy to handle and consistently delivers a perfectly light and flaky crust when baked.

Flaky Tart Dough    makes two 10 to 12 inch tart or pie shells (or double the recipe and freeze dough for later use)

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup very cold water
  • 3 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 10 ½ oz/300 g unsalted butter, very cold

In a small bowl combine the salt and water and stir to dissolve. Refrigerate so it is very cold when ready to use.

To make the dough in a food processor, put the flour in the work bowl. Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces and scatter the pieces over the flour. Pulse briefly until the mixture forms large crumbs and some of the butter is still the size of peas. Add the salted water mixture and pulse for several seconds until the dough begins to come together into a ball but not smooth. You should still be able to see some butter chunks.

On a lightly floured work surface divide the dough into two equal balls and shape each ball into a disk 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 f /180 c with rack positioned in the center of the oven.

Line a large shallow baking tray with parchment paper.

Remove a round of well chilled dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap the dough and place on a lightly floured work surface. Let the dough soften for a couple of minutes before beginning to roll it out.

Then roll the dough out working from the center to the edges into a 12 or 13 inch round. Transfer the dough to the parchment lined baking tray and put it in the refrigerator to chill the dough while you prepare the berries.

Berry Filling     for 1 galette

As most berries are not grown here in the tropics I used imported blueberries and raspberries, and frozen lingonberries, but by all means use locally grown fresh berries when available.

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 cups fresh red raspberries
  • 2 cups other fresh berries of choice
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream or Greek yogurt
  • granulated sugar for sprinkling
  • 1 or 2 tsp corn starch mixed with cold water

Combine the all the berries in a large bowl and add the sugar and toss. Set aside for ten minutes and then drain off any excess juices and reserve to use later. If you are using frozen berries you will have considerably more juices to drain off and reserve. Taste the berries and add additional sugar if needed. 

Once the juices have been drained off add the lemon juice and flour and toss to combine and set aside for a couple of minutes.

Give the berries a final toss and again pour off any excess juices into the bowl of reserved juices.

Gently mound the berries over the center of the dough leaving a generous 2 inches of border. Then fold the dough over the fruit around the edges creating a rim that will retain the juices while baking.

Ideally there will be no leakage of juices, but to be honest that is usually not the case, but not to worry. The parchment will capture any leaked juices that will solidify on the parchment while baking. The parchment can be trimmed off later with a sharp knife before serving.

Mix the egg yolk with the cream (or Greek yogurt) and brush the dough overlapping fruit around the edges of the galette with the egg wash and generously sprinkle with sugar.

Transfer the galette to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Then turn the baking tray 180 degrees and continue baking another 20 minutes or until the edges of the galette are nicely browned.

While the galette is baking place the reserved berry juices in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Stir 1 or 2 teaspoons corn starch mixed with an equal amount of cold water and slowly stir into the simmering juices. Continue to stir until the juices thicken into a sauce. Taste the sauce and add sugar if needed. Transfer the berry sauce to a small pitcher and set aside to cool.

When the galette has finished baking remove it from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Once cool, trim the parchment paper around the galette and discard. You can then easily transfer the galette to a serving plate.

Serving

Slice the galette into wedges and place on individual dessert plates. As it is summer, vanilla ice cream is the perfect accompaniment, along with some of the berry sauce. Whipped cream is the alternative for fall and winter serving.

                                  Bon appetite!

 

 

 

Zucchini is the very essence of summer for me. The shades of deep to light greens along with tinges of yellows tease your memories of endless summer meals gone by where zucchini’s presence on the table defined the taste of unforgettable midsummer meals with family and friends.

Preparation of zucchini is a lesson in less is more. A recipe is hardy required, but keep in mind, a lightness of touch and just a scent of fresh herbs is all that is needed.

Serving this roasted zucchini with a creamy polenta is a match made in heaven! (click here for polenta)

 

 

Roasted Zucchini with a Lemon Vinaigrette

Roasted Zucchini with a Lemon Vinaigrette

 

Roasted Zucchini with a Lemon Vinaigrette     serves 4

Needed: large shallow oven baking tray

Preheat oven to 375 f/ 190 c Have oven rack placed in the middle position.

  • 3 or 4 plump garden fresh zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into ½ inch thick wedges
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon thyme leaves
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

 

Place the wedges of zucchini in a large bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the zucchini and toss to coat the wedges evenly.

Add the lemon thyme leaves, season with salt and pepper and toss until well combined.

Place the zucchini wedges in the baking tray in a single layer. Transfer the tray to the oven and roast for 6 to 8 minutes. Then reverse the tray and roast another 6 to 8 minutes. The zucchini should be very lightly colored and softened, but still firm around the edges.

If you like you can place the try under the broiler for a couple of minutes for added color.

Transfer the tray from the oven to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.

 

Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 garlic clove, whole, peeled and pressed
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of sugar (optional)
  • freshly grated Parmigiano (optional)

In a non reactive bowl combine the shallots, garlic clove, lemon juice, lemon zest, white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Whisk until all the ingredients are combined.

Combine both oils in a pitcher. While whisking slowly begin adding the olive oils in a thin slow and steady stream while continuing to whisk vigorously. Once all the oil has been added and the vinaigrette has emulsified, taste the vinaigrette and add additional salt as needed. Adding just a pinch of sugar is optional. Cover and refrigerate the vinaigrette until you are ready to serve.

Serving:

Place the roasted zucchini in a bowl and lightly drizzle the lemon vinaigrette over the zucchini, toss, and serve.

As suggested above, serve roasted zucchini along with creamy polenta is a perfect summer meal in itself.

Dusting with Zucchini and polenta with Parmigiano is optional, but a nice compliment.

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