This weekend we had my cousin Dana (quite a talented jewelry-maker – check out her Etsy site) over for dinner and a sleep-over with the kids while my wife was out of town on business. Since she had some errands to run in Manhattan, we weren’t entirely sure when she’d make it over, so I popped a pot of water onto the stove to get to a boil and decided to make something that could be thrown together last-minute. Last week we got some lovely nectarines in our CSA fruit share and I thought savory and sweet/tart go so very well together…
We got a lot of peaches last week in our CSA share and, although I like to enjoy the fresh taste of in-season produce, there comes a point where you simply cannot eat enough of them before they rot (or the next week’s share starts to crowd you out of house and home). I figured the best thing to do with the surplus was to modify the rhubarb recipe from an earlier post and make peach cobbler.
I had no real intention of posting about this salad. Really, I didn’t. But when I needed a dish to bring to a potluck end-of-the-schoolyear party I threw this together. I’m not sure any of the kids tried it, but the adults loved it and I got several requests for the recipe. So I guess it is worth posting after all.
I don’t usually post side dishes. Most of the food featured here tends to be the main course. This time, however, I decided to deviate from the norm (whatever that means for me) and write about what we had with the grilled chicken. Originally I was just going to make a salad with chicken over it as we got a LOT of lettuce this week in our CSA box. But we also got some early carrots and fennel. Now I’m not the biggest fennel fan, but using the carrots’s sweetness and the tartness of an orange and olive oil dressing to offset the anise flavor that can really overpower a dish… well… it works for me.
So beets have returned… which is good. Why? Because beets are very good friends with steak… which is even better. I’d never cooked a hanger steak before, but considering the results, I would have to say that a repeat performance will certainly be in order. It is a surprisingly quick cook on the grill considering the musculature and you end up with a meltingly delicious steak for less than a lot of pricier cuts. The meaty goodness of steak combined with the interesting juxtaposition of sweet and savory that is beets along with the creaminess of goat cheese and the satisfying crunch of romaine lettuce all balanced with a tangy vinaigrette made for a lovely dinner indeed.
I make a lot of banana bread in this house. Our 19 month old son loves a banana as a midmorning snack and, although we all enjoy them, sometimes a bunch of bananas goes overripe before we can get through the lot. Luckily, you can freeze them. Now, they don’t tend to survive the thawing process intact (ice crystals, cell walls, ugly bags of mostly water, etc.) so the best thing to do is to use them in a cooked application. Even though we have an ice cream machine (perhaps in a future post), banana bread tends to be the go-to in this household. Anyway, ofttimes I feel the need to mess with a recipe, so…
So we got a LOT of pea shoots over the past few weeks in our CSA. Now, I like pea shoots (which taste like a very mild combination of sweet peas and baby salad greens), but there really is only so much you can put on a sandwich or in a salad. Then I remembered that you can make pesto out of almost any green, leafy vegetable – arugala, spinach, basil (of course), etc. – and I wondered if making a pesto from our massive pile of pea shoots was a possibility. The answer, of course, was yes.
One of the easiest ways to get dinner on the table quickly is a stir-fry. Or it can take a while… it really depends on how you want to go about it. I like to marinade my meat (sounds dirty… really isn’t) for at least 30 minutes in the spices and sauces that I intend to flavor the dish with, but it isn’t entirely necessary. For a chicken stir-fry I tend to favor boneless, skinless chicken thighs as they have a lot more flavor and moisture than chicken breast, and they tend to stay moist, even in the high heat environment of a wok. Speaking of, it is best to do this sort of thing in a steel wok, as you can toss the ingredients really easily. You could do it in a chef’s pan, but they tend to be of a denser material and have a flatter bottom, one makes heat transference a little slower (really not the point here) and the bottom can lead to uneven cooking. That aside, this week in our CSA box we received a nice portion of scallions (or green onions for those of that bent) and our first carrots of the season. I usually use a lot more vegetables in a stir-fry, but in this case, I wanted to showcase the mild oniony flavor of the scallions and the sweetness of the carrots.
A roasted beet is a lovely thing. A little sweet, meaty, and, well… red. Or orange, if that’s the way you roll. Certainly the taste isn’t all that different. They’re very easy to prepare, these lovely things, and can be used in a lot of different applications. I like to chill and cut them into “rustic” chunks and toss them in salads with, oh, let’s say toasted walnuts and goat cheese… or orange sections — that’d be good. Or you could slice them up and serve with steak. Beef loves a good beet. You could also pickle them, make borsht, or just serve with dill, sour cream and some potato pancakes (though the sour cream would turn pink). The one down side, and, believe me, there is only one, is that your hands, cutting board, shirt — anything that comes in contact with them will stain. Its just something you have to deal with. And it is worth it. If you’ve got an hour or so where you can just be around the house it is something that mostly takes care of itself. Just don’t fold your whites directly after you are done.
Unless you really like pink.
This week in our CSA box we received some interesting things. Among them, garlic scapes, beets and Swiss chard. Garlic scapes were all the rage a year or so ago… the food blogging world just wouldn’t stop talking about them. If you happened to miss it, garlic scapes are the immature garlic plants. They’ve a mild, garlicy flavor that works well in many recipes, most notably a garlic scape pesto (thanks, Adam Roberts). Since last year I found it a challenge to use up all of the things I got in the box so I figured I’d use the scapes in a sauce with some of the other vegetables.