Fattoush! (Gesundheit!)

FattoushI couldn’t resist. The name sounds like a sneeze to me, which is exactly what happens when I open a jar of ground sumac and take a big whiff. It’s like snuff for culinary gurus.

So, what is sumac? It’s the ground berries, or bobs, of the sumac shrub. And, no, this isn’t the poisonous kind, so you can put away the calamine lotion. It’s used in Middle East as a souring agent and it’s bright red color also adds some punch to things like hummus or tabbouleh or red lentil soup. You can buy it online (we like Penzey’s) or if you’re local, check out Ed Hyder’s on Pleasant St. in Worcester.

NaanYou can use toasted pita, but we’re loving the naan that’s available in most groceries, especially the whole wheat version. Remember, this is not a salad with croutons; it’s more along the lines of a panzanella or bread salad, so don’t be alarmed by the amount of bread. You can embellish, of course, with things like grilled chicken or goat cheese or other veggies, like grilled eggplant. The fresh mint really makes the dish, so be generous!

Our Favorite Fattoush
(4-6 servings)

1/4 Cup olive oil
2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
3 big handfuls romaine or other lettuce, shredded
2 small cucumbers, tiny diced
2 Cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
½ red onion, tiny dice
Big fistful fresh parsley, chopped
Big fistful fresh mint, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sumac
2 whole grain naan breads, toasted

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper. Taste it: it should be fairly sour.

Add the remaining ingredients and toss gently. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving (or refrigerate for up to 4 hours).

Not enough for ya? Add some crumbled feta or grilled chicken or little lamb meatballs or oil-packed tuna, or black olives, or roasted red peppers…

A Gluten-Free Recipe, Okay?

GF BananasJust because I like you, here’s a gluten-free snack recipe that’s (a) easy to make, (b) cheap, (c) made with ingredients that are usually hanging around, and (d) kid-friendly. Oh, and they’ve got that “Ooo-I-saw-these-on-Pinterest” vibe because of the popsicle sticks. (We always have popsicle sticks around, courtesy of the Job Lot which sells them in packs of, oh, 5,000.)

Naturally, these would be even better prepared with real chocolate but then we’re defeating the purpose of this “healthy snack” (a term I loathe, only because people are always asking me for healthy snack ideas. When I snarkily suggest an apple, they recoil in horror. Healthy eating is pretty easy, you know.)

So, we’re going to forgo the melted chocolate (boo-hoo!), and use non-fat yogurt instead. We use vanilla, but you could use chocolate yogurt, or any other flavor. The cereal here is Chocolate Rice Chex, a nice GF cereal that’s low in sugar. But bananas are sugary enough, so if you want to really bring it down, choose a crispy brown rice cereal, like Erehwon.

GF Banana Pops
(4 servings)

1 Cup rice cereal
4 large bananas, peeled and halved crosswise
4 popsicle sticks
5-ounce container vanilla or plain non-fat yogurt

Place the cereal in a ziploc bag and crush it to fine crumbs. Pour onto a large plate.

Insert a stick into the cut end of each banana half. Use a knife to spread yogurt on the bananas. Immediately roll in the cereal crumbs, pressing gently to make the cereal adhere to the bananas.

Arrange on a plate and refrigerate them for 15 minutes. Or eat them right away. Or put them in the freezer – they’re great frozen. In fact, why don’t you double or triple the recipes and freeze them solid before transferring to a ziploc bag and storing for quick snacks?

Recipes for the Shrewsbury Farmer’s Market

Too, too hot today at the Market – a hazy, stifling, humid day, close to triple digits in temperature. Small crowds as a result, but we were there, sweltering and sharing some recipes that we like to make when the summer fruits begins to overwhelm the kitchen.

Grilled-PeachesPeaches. First up: a panzanella salad. Bread salads may seem odd, but it’s a great way to use up leftover bread. Panzanella is a Tuscan specialty, made with juicy, ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, and stale peasant bread. We like to make it with grilled peaches, fresh mint, and stale cornbread, a more Americanized version. And for those no-gluten types, it’s a snap with an all-cornmeal bread. This salad is always well-received – someone said it looked like stuffing. I’m assuming she meant turkey stuffing and not pillow stuffing, but whatever.

Cornbread Panzanella Salad with Grilled Peaches
(4-6 servings)

1/4 Cup white wine vinegar
2-4 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint or basil
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tablespoons olive oil
4 large ripe peaches, halved and pitted
3 small shallots, halved
1 Cup grape tomatoes, halved
8” square day-old cornbread, cut into 12 pieces
10-15 fresh mint leaves, chopped

Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.

Preheat the grill or grill pan to MEDIUM-HIGH. Brush the peaches and shallots with oil; arrange cut-side down on on the grill and cook, flipping once, until nicely charred and softened. Transfer to a cutting board. and dice.

Mix the peaches, shallots, and tomatoes in a bowl with the cornbread. Just before serving, drizzle the cornbread mixture with vinaigrette and mint. Taste and adjust seasoning. Toss gently and serve.

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BublaninaBlueberries. Also cramming the refrigerator are pints and pints of blueberries. There are only so many smoothies, cartons of yogurt, and bowls of cereal to put them on; the last time I opened the freezer, an avalanche of berries came crashing down on me. Time to bake! Going Bohemian, I decided on a bublanina – an eastern European “bubble” cake of blueberries, perfect with coffee as it is not too sweet.

Blueberry Bublanina
(9 servings)

1 stick butter, softened
1 Cup sugar
1 Cup flour
2 Tablespoons orange juice
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 Cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8″ or 9″ square pan with cooking spray.

Cream butter and sugar; add egg yolks and blend. Stir in orange juice and vanilla.

Whip eggs whites in a separate bowl to stiff, shiny peaks; fold in the flour and salt, then fold this mixture into butter mixture. Spread in prepared pan.

Top with berries; press the berries lightly into the mixture. Bake for 35-20 minutes. Cool and serve with powdered sugar.

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Zucchini. Oh, the zucchini. Wheelbarrows full of zucchini – too many of them, and they get larger and larger and larger every week. In desperation, I grilled some, threw them in the processor with yogurt, fresh oregano, lemon, and a drop of olive oil. Voy-la! An almost-fat-free dip for croo-da-tay, as the French say.

photoGrilled Zuccchini-Yogurt Dip
(4-6 servings)

1 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise into wedges
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 Cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano, roughly chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the grill or grill pan to MEDIUM-HIGH. Toss the zucchini with the oil and place on the grill. Cook for about 5 minutes, turning once, until both sides are nicely browned. Remove from heat and cool.

Transfer the zucchini to the food processor. Add oregano and lemon zest, and yogurt. Pulse until pureed. You may want to add additional water to thin to desired consistency. Taste for salt and pepper. Spread dip onto a serving plate, drizzle with a little olive oil. Serve with crackers, pita, or veggies.

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No, we don’t get any ginger from our CSA. But because it was such a hot day, we stirred up a batch of hay switchell. This is one of those old-fashioned things that must occasionally be resurrected if only for the fun of it. Back in the day, buckets of this drink would be mixed up and served to farmers and workers in the field. Cold water can cause stomach cramps when you’re overheated; the ginger and vinegar in this drink “warm” the stomach and allow you drink without fear of adverse effects. (For more on this history of switchels, check out this article in The American Table.) We make ours with honey and ginger. Reactions to it were mixed – one four-year old chugged a cupful, making the grimmest face ever, but he finished every drop, eyes watering. What a trooper!


Hay Switchell
(1 quart)

1/3 to 1/2 Cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 Cup honey
1 Tablespoons ground ginger
4 Cups water

Mix all the ingredients together; taste and adjust the sweetness. Chill and serve to hot, sweaty people at the farmer’s market.






Roasted Berries
So many things are arriving every week in the CSA box!

And now blueberries…can you resist them? Every time I’m in grocery store or farmer’s market, I grab another box – before the last box is consumed. They usually go in smoothies, on cereal or yogurt, or in a muffin, if it’s not too hot to bake. But there are always more! Here are some ideas for using them that go beyond the ordinary (I’ll address that zucchini at another time!):

1. Freeze ’em. Spread them on a rimmed baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer to ziploc bags. Best used in their frozen state, without thawing, for pancakes and muffins, smoothies, or as a snack right out of the bag!
2. Smoke ’em: Toss a pint of blueberries with a dash of olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, and 1/2 Cup brown sugar. Spread in a foil pan and place in your smoker. Smoke for about 30-35 minutes. Serve on a cheese platter or use for a BBQ sauce.
3. Roast ’em. Toss 2 Cups of berries with 1 T. lemon juice. Spread on a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Into the oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Excellent with ricotta or yogurt.
4. Dress ’em. Make a blueberry vinaigrette of 1 Cup berries, 2/3 Cup of oil, 1/3 Cup balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste; throw it all in a blender until smooth. Use on tossed salad.
5. Sour ’em. Whisk 1/2 Cup white wine vinegar, 1/4 Cup sugar, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Add 2 Cups of blueberries and small, sliced shallot. Cover and refrigerate overnight before using.

Welcome Back, Cheeseball

Orb of Deliciousness

Growing up in the ‘70’s, the height of cocktail party cuisine was the port wine cheeseball. You remember it: that funky orange and burgundy ball of processed cheese, rolled in chopped nuts. No party was complete until it made its appearance, ringed with Ritz crackers – Ritz was the only appropriate cracker.

But then came a new era of fresher, lighter party fare: salsa, guacamole, hummus, and every possible version of spinach and artichoke dip imaginable. So long cheeseball; it’s last sighting was probably 1983. Read more

Out of the Salad Bowl

Radishes: red-skinned stepchild of the salad bowl. They always look so promising in the produce section, but somehow they always wind up in the bottom of the salad bowl, sliced and sad and shunned. They are delicious with sweet butter on a slice of bread, but how many radish sandwiches can a person eat?

Because of their salad-bowl-only status, we never think to cook them, but they really take well to methods like pickling, pan-frying and oven roasting. And the green tops are edible, too.

Don’t limit yourself to the scarlet globes; the daikon radish – that gigantic white carrot-shaped thing – is great, too. I love the crunch curlicues of white radish that garnish the plate at Asian restaurant (gotta get one of those veggie spiralizers!). Because they are so large, thick rounds of the daikon are perfect for braising. And we like to make pesto from the green tops (well, we like to make pesto out of just about anything).

Braised Daikon Radish
(4 servings)

1 large daikon radish (about 1 pound)
2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tablespoons sake or dry Sherry
2 teaspoons sugar

Scrub the radish, peel it, and slice crosswise into 1” rounds.

Place the daikon in a single layer in a high-sided sauté pan. Add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the radish. Add the remaining ingredients.

Bring to a boil; lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until all of the liquid is absorbed and the radish is tender, about 30-45 minutes.

Radish Green Pesto
(about ½ Cup)

3 Cups daikon radish greens
1/3 Cup slivered almonds
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/3 Cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Wash the greens in cold water, swishing them around to remove any grit.

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil; drop in the radish greens and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain well, squeezing out excess water.

Stuff the radish greens to a food processor. Pulse 10-15 times or until roughly chopped. Add the almonds and pulse 15-20 times until the almonds and radish greens are very finely chopped. Add Parmesan cheese and pulse a few times to combine.

With food processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Taste for seasonings and texture and add salt, pepper, and olive oil as desired.


Pie Friday: Tarte aux Quetsches

Too hot to eat…must wait…

Okay, there was no pie last Friday for various reasons, e.g., illness. No one wants a pie that the baker has sneezed on.

But this week’s pie more than makes up for it because it’s one of my absolute favorites. I’m a huge fan of plums, especially the last-of-the-season Italian prune plums. They are small and sweet, yellow-fleshed, with a dark purple skin that looks flour-dusted. Cooked, the plums turn a deep magenta. And the taste? Well, if you love the sweet-tart flavors of things like rhubarb or cranberry, you’re going to love this fruit. Best of all, you don’t have to peel or blanch the fruit, which streamlines things. Read more

Pie of the Week: Buttermilk Coconut Custard

It’s the taste and the texture!

Still no decent peaches in the market! It’s time to let go of that dream. I had to pick a different pie this week and wasn’t feeling particularly inspired. Lucky for me it’s muskgoes time at CU (that’s when we stand in front of the open fridge muttering, “This mus’ go, that mus’ go…”). I love the challenge of using what’s on hand and this week an overabundance of buttermilk and coconut resulted in this week’s pie, Buttermilk Coconut Custard. Read more

Greetings from Liguria!

Beautiful Downtown Moneglia

Or, more specifically, from the charming town of Moneglia, our base here on the Italian Riviera. I won’t bore you with the details of the trip itself, but will provide a blow-by-blow if requested – suffice to say it was too long and too gruesome. We arrived bedraggled and were immediately taken under the comforting wing of Michaela, our guide for the week. She gathered us all at the Genova Aeroporto and whisked us to our digs at the Abbadia San Giorgio. Owner Orietta (and the rest of the smiling staff) got us squared away with refreshments. The trip details began to fade away.

Oh, you want cuisine details? Well, after a short rest and a little unpacking, we gathered downstairs in the courtyard to witness Orietta prepare pesto the traditional way – in a big stone mortar and pestle (her grandmother’s). The mortaio looked like it weighed about 50 pounds. She started by pounding fresh garlic and pine nuts (untoasted!) and then began adding handfuls the tiniest basil leaves you every saw. A generous pinch of the local sea salt helped “cut” the basil and draw some of the moisture out of the leaves. Chuck took over at our urgings and even Mr. Muscle said his arm was ready to fall off after 10 seconds. Read more

Butter in the Hand

Beurre manie await!

Repeat after me: there is no substitute for butter. Louder. LOUDER. Okay, that’s better. Everything is better with butter: it’s natural, a little goes a long way, and it is soul-satisfying.  And if you’re a serious baker, you never use anything else.

We don’t eat a stick a day (we would, if it were socially acceptable), but always have it on hand. So, how to use it judiciously? The answer is beurre manie. (Pronounced brrr man-eeeeee!) Now, if you’ve done any cooking or watch the Food Network, you probably know what a roux is – simply equal parts butter and flour cooked together and used to thicken liquids for sauces and gravies. We used to call it “white sauce” and, with cheese added, it became the basis for macs ‘n cheese. Well, beurre manie (or, “butter in the hand” in French talk) is simply an uncooked roux. Serious chefs usually have these butterballs hanging around the fridge, and so should you. Beurre manie will simplify your life. Read more