Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Swiss Chard and Potatoes

     Please don't tell me you've never tried Swiss chard. If you have, stop reading. But if you haven't, read on. I know a lot of people haven't because when I tell them about my Mom's Swiss chard and potatoes they cock their head, give me a funny look and say "what's Swiss chard?".

     Well, since you asked, I'll tell you. Swiss card is only one of the most delicious and beneficial greens on the market. It's in the beet family although the roots are not eaten. You can use it in any dish that you would use spinach or beet greens. It's available almost year round, but particularly sweet in the cooler months. It's readily available and easy to grow if you have a vegetable plot. Fresh young chard can be eaten raw. It's a powerhouse of nutrients, an excellent source of vitamins A, K, C and E as well as calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium. 
     Add potatoes and you have the easiest most nutritious dish ever. This is a very simple thing to make! I mean the ratio of easy to good-for-you is simply off the charts. Factor in the deliciousness and you have yourself a dinner worth telling everyone about.

Swiss Chard and Potatoes

1 lb Swiss chard
2 medium yukon gold potatoes
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 Tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
more olive oil
squirt of lemon

Bring 1 1/2  cups of water to boil in a 4 quart pot. Add peeled garlic, a bit of salt and olive oil. Trim the stems of the chard, and check for any leaves that aren't bright and perky. Rinse well, chard can be very gritty and you don't want any of this in your dish. While the chard is draining, wash and cut the potatoes. For a medium size spud you'll get about 16 pieces. Add the cut potatoes to the pot. Rough chop the card. If the stems are large, cut them into smaller pieces. The idea here is for everything to cook at the same time. Put the chard on top of the potatoes, cover the pot and turn the heat to medium low. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the chard is nicely wilted and the potatoes are tender. Drain any cooking liquid left over, it will be a deep red color, but don't discard it. It's delicious and of course is loaded with all the good stuff that's in the chard. I usually eat this in a large soup  bowl so I can slurp on the juices. If not, I freeze it and use it as a vegetable stock for soups and stews. Adjust the seasoning and add a glug of olive oil or a squirt of lemon if you're so inclined. Serves 4.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


     Nothing says Summer like ripe tomatoes bursting with acid-y, sweet juices. You can eat them right out of hand just like any other fruit, (and they are a fruit, actually a berry).  Or maybe you like them just on a plate with a shake of sea salt, maybe with cheese on toast. And don't forget a classic Caprese. Or roasted for a quick but robust pasta sauce. But for my money it's gotta be a hearty Panzanella- tomato and bread salad.

     Panzanella is a simple salad although it also lends itself to complication if you like things complicated (and I do). It's paramount, however, that the two main ingredients have the right personalities. The tomatoes must be local (or better yet, homegrown) and fully ripened (as in juicy). Don't even bother making this with those rubber balls you purchased at the super market (why did you do that?). And the bread must be chewy and dense. Ciabatta, or a crusty sour dough or a baguette. When the chopped tomatoes meet the torn bread, it's deliciously symbiotic. I used beefsteak toms 'cause that's what I found at the farm stands over the weekend. But tomatoes come in 1000 varieties so don't hold back, if you have something appropriate ripening on your windowsill,  go for it. 
     The bread, well I used a multi-grain studded with black sesame seeds and flax seed (I told you I like things complicated). This held up well to the tomato juices, soaking it up but still maintaining a chewy texture.
     And then it got more complicated. In addition to the two eponymous ingredients, I added red onion (Panzanella was originally a salad of bread and onions after all), feta, basil and mixed greens, oh, and a selection of olives. All this was dressed, but not over dressed,  with a zingy garlic vinaigrette. The result was light, refreshing, filling and assolutamente squisita!

Panzanella- Tomato and Bread Salad

3 large tomatoes
4 ounces of hearty bread
1 cup mixed greens
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
10-12 basil leaves
2 ounces feta cheese
8-10 olives (kalamata, cerignola, black oil, etc)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons vinegar
2 cloves minced garlic 
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Chop tomatoes into large bite size pieces and tear the bread into pieces of a similar size. Place both in a large bowl. Add mixed greens, basil, onion, olives and crumbled feta. Let this sit  while you make the dressing so the bread can soak up the tomato juices. In a small bowl add the garlic and cover with olive oil add the vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Gently toss the salad just until everything is well combined. Divide between 4 plates and dress with vinaigrette.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Farm Stand Crostata

You see some interesting things on the road if you take the time to notice. Case in point this, for lack of a better word, bikenest.

We saw this in a parking lot in Phoenixville on our way to Lancaster County last weekend. I just love it! Part vehicle, part nest, all statement of individual freedom! 
We couldn't hang around to see the owner however, because I was on a mission to visit some farm stands. Peaches, plums and blueberries are at their peak right now and I've been seeing too many photos of crostata's on the interwebs not to give it a go myself. 

We snagged a bounty of blueberries and stone fruits as well as some gorgeous tomatoes. While I had my pick of what to put in the crostata I decided to go with the blues, peaches and plums. These would be the stars of the show and I knew I needed a crust that was not only going to hold up to these summer gems but also enhance the completed project.

That's where corn flour came in to the picture. I bought a bag of Bob's Red Mill corn flour a while back just to fool around and try using it in different recipes. This corn flour is not corn meal, it's ground much finer. Nor is it corn starch, although I have seen some recipes call for corn flour when they are actually referring to corn starch. 

I started with a basic pie dough and substituted 1/2 of the flour with corn flour.  At one point I thought I should have gone with a recipe that had an egg in it but all my fears were dispelled; it was a dream to roll and held together beautifully once baked. The texture was tender and delicate, the flavor sweet and full of, as my sister described it "character". In short, it was a perfect match for the luscious, local fruit. 

Farm Stand Crostata

1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons corn flour
1 Tablespoon cane sugar, plus 1 more for sprinkling
1/2 cup very cold butter, cut into small pieces
2-4 Tablespoons ice water
4 cups fruit (I used a combo of blueberries, peeled and  sliced peaches and sliced plumbs)        
2-6 Tablespoons sugar (depends on how sweet your fruit is)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch (maybe a little more if you added   more sugar)
1 egg

Give yourself a few hours because once the dough is made it needs to be refrigerated for at least an hour. Combine flour, corn flour and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and quickly work it in with a pastry cutter or your hands until the mixture forms a course meal. You could also use a food processor, I just like getting my hands into things. Add the water one tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together. It should hold together but not be sticky. It'll seem a little more crumbly than other pie doughs you may have made, that's due to the corn flour. Flatten the dough into a 4 inch disk, wrap in plastic and chill for an hour or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Have your fruit ready: rinsed, peeled, sliced and in a large bowl with sugar and cornstarch nearby as well as your egg, cracked and beaten. Roll the chilled dough out on a floured board or a piece of parchment paper (it makes it easier to get into the oven) to a 14 inch round.  

Sprinkle sugar and cornstarch over fruit and gently fold into fruit. Fill center of dough with fruit, leaving a two inch rim of dough. Fold dough over filling in 3 or 4 inch sections; apply some egg wash and press gently to seal.
Brush the outer rim with egg wash and sprinkle with remaining sugar. If you were smart and used parchment paper just gently lift it up and transfer to a baking sheet. I like to bake dangerously so I used the bottoms of two tart pans and airlifted it that way, what a rush! Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Makes about 8 servings and it was just as good on Monday morning for breakfast as it was for dessert on Saturday night.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


     Summer cooking is easy if you always have a few simple things on hand, a template if you like: grains, dried fruits, nuts, fresh veggies and beans, especially edamame. Edamame (boiled green soy beans) is one of those foods that's so ridiculously nutritious you could probably live on it alone. I've found a delish brand that's already cooked and lightly salted which I eat right out of the container like potato chips (so not nutritious)!  Fortunately I went shopping so I don't have to live on edamame alone. 
     This bulgar salad with edamame is a good example of an easy summer salad template. For the grain I chose bulgar. I love bulgar for the summer, it cooks up quick; very light but still nutty and chewy. The bean is edamame, obviously. Raisins and cashews for the dried fruit and nuts. Carrots and yellow squash for the veg. For the dressing (and I'm assuming you always have these staples on hand) my go-to vinaigrette of olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, herbs, lemon juice, sea salt and ground black pepper. 

     Basically that's the recipe but if you need the numbers...

Bulgar Salad with Edamame

1 cup bulgar wheat
2 cups of water
1 cup edamame (shelled and ready to eat)
1/2 cup raisins 
1/4 cup chopped cashews
1 cup matchstick carrots
2 cups yellow squash triangles

Cook the bulgar in 2 cups of water according to the package instructions. When the bulgar is finished cooking throw in the raisins, put the lid on and the stream will plump them. Chop the carrot and yellow squash. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients and move on to the dressing.  

Go-to Vinaigrette

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1&1/2 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dried herbs or 1/2 teaspoon fresh
Sea salt & ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of water

Add the minced garlic to the oil and let sit for a minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk. I used Herbs de Provence but you could use any herb you want. Whisk in a pinch of water, not sure why this works but it sort of makes the whole thing come together. Dress the salad and start munchin. Makes 4-6 servings. Keeps in the fridge for 2 days if you do have any leftovers.



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Higgs Boson Potato Salad

     Now that physicists have confirmed the discovery of the Higgs boson (with a 99.9 to the tenth degree % of certainty) I think it's high time we celebrated- with potato salad. They made the announcement on the Fourth of July so clearly they were thinking about potato salad as well, don't you think? Plus maybe a few other things concerning the nature of reality. Whatever.
     The Higgs is the particle or field, that gives other elementary particles mass so they can come together and create everything in the universe, you, me, potatoes. And no question potatoes have mass. Right there we can see the Higgs in action. But potato salad is more than just potatoes; without the dressing it's just boiled spuds. Sure you can add eggs and celery and whatever else you want. When it comes right down to it the heart of a good potato salad is great potatoes and great dressing. That's what's really gonna give your potato salad mass appeal.

Potato Salad

1 lb gold creamers (or fingerling) potatoes
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise 
1 Tablespoon sour cream
2 teaspoons vinegar  
2 organic free range eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped organic celery stalk (optional)
2 teaspoons paprika
sea salt and cracked pepper to taste 

Boil whole potatoes in a large pot of water for as long as it takes them to get tender. It really depends on the size of your potatoes, 30-40 minutes or there about. The good thing about creamers or fingerings is it's pretty hard to over cook them. If you notice the skin starting to peel, they're probably done.
In another smaller pot boil the eggs for 10-12 minutes, you want them hard boiled. I add salt to the water because I heard it makes them easier to peel. When done, cool down in cold running water and refrigerate.
While potatoes are cooking, make the dressing. In a medium bowl combine mayo, sour cream, and vinegar; add salt and pepper to taste and whisk to mix. Chill until tatters are ready. If you're adding celery, now is a good time to chop them.
When the potatoes are done, you need to let them cool down before you move on the the final phase of the recipe. Maybe read an article of two about the Higgs.
Once potatoes are cooked and chilled it's time for everything to come together. Cut potatoes, I like mine big, into quarters or sixths, again it depends on the size. Place them in a large bowl (add celery now) and toss in the dressing. Peel and slice the eggs and gently fold into potatoes. Adjust your seasoning and sprinkle with paprika. This makes about 4-6 servings and will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


     Have you seen this plant? Chances are you have. Chances are you've seen it growing in some random place in your garden or just coming out of a crack in the sidewalk. Have you eaten this plant? Probably not. Why would you eat a weed that's coming out of a crack in the sidewalk. Why would you eat a plant that is classified as a noxious weed? A better question is why would the USDA classify this plant as a noxious weed when the rest of the world recognizes it for what it really is. And what is that? Just one of the most nutritious things you could ever eat, that's all. 

     It's green, so right off the bat you know it's good for you. But purslane has something else that elevates it to super food status. It has one of the highest levels of omega 3 of any land plant and higher even then some fish! And did I mention it grows in a crack in the sidewalk, so it's free.

    People are catching on and you can most likely find it these days at you local farmer's market. It's wonderful in a salad, or added to soups and the ancients even made a bread from the ground seeds. The flavor is light and bright; the texture, a bit crunchy. Add it to a mixed green salad and your friends won't even know they're eating "weeds".  But if you prefer a dish where purslane has  a starring role try this salad:

Purslane salad for one

a handful of purslane, washed and torn
one small yellow beet, julienned 
4 or 5 Rainer cherries, pitted and quartered
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
a small sprinkle of dried lavender
salt and pepper to taste

Pile the first 3 ingredients on a plate. Mix the oil and vinegar and season to taste. Dress the salad and sprinkle with lavender.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Lately I start out every morning with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice in warm water. I've been hearing about this particular tonic for years. Don't know what took me so long to try it. It has the effect of resetting your PH. I'm not sure what that is, but I must say I do feel better. Lighter. Less worrisome. Sleeping better. Less cravings for chocolate and caffeine. Not that I don't thoroughly enjoy chocolate and coffee, I'm just not as needy. 

After the lemon-water, a light breakfast is in order. This morning, quinoia with dates, blueberries, cinnamon and a little 2% milk and a whisper of cane sugar.

Anymore I'm never without a bowl of quinoia in the fridge. My favorite is the organic red. It works for any and every meal of the day.  Obviously great for breakfast; for lunch it makes a super Confetti salad mixed with finely chopped red pepper, onion, corn, black beans with herb dressing; a strong base for any veggie burger dinner; and, although I've yet to try it, I hear it makes a mean Carrot Zucchini bread. 

Did I hear someone mention chocolate earlier. Oh, that was me. Yes, please. But first, let me leave you with my recipe for quinoia. Forget what the box says.


1/4 cup quinoia, well rinsed  and drained in a fine mesh strainer
pinch of sea salt
2 cups water

Add salt and quinoia to boiling water. Lower to a simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid. Simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and drain. Be careful, it's hot! Put the lid back on and wait another 10 minutes. Perfect quinoia. Makes 2 cups. Serve immediately with whatever or keep covered in the fridge for up to 3 days to use as mentioned.