Sunday, August 26, 2012

Simple Peach Salsa

There's something about summertime that makes me want to eat lots of salsa.  Maybe it's because the magical condiment is such a quick and easy way to assemble lots of fresh, ripe summer ingredients into a wholesome, raw sauce that adds tons of flavor to seemingly endless ingredients.  This peach salsa is so easy to put together and so tasty that I've already made it twice this week!  Now is the time to stock up on all those perfectly beautiful Colorado peaches that are in adundance this time of year. 

This version is more on the spicy side and is wonderful in savory applications such as black bean and grilled vegetable tacos, served atop grilled fish, steak or pork chops, or just simply used as a dip for a good, salty tortilla chip.  However you decide to use the salsa, you might want to think about doubling the recipe.  You'll want to have leftovers! 

Simple Peach Salsa
makes about 3 cups

6 firm but ripe peaches, peeled and diced (3 cups)
1/4 cup lime juice (3-4 limes)
2 T jalapeno, minced (1 large pepper)
1 T garlic, minced
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
large pinch of cayenne
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and toss well.  Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Purple Sunrise Cocktail

I love a good brunch cocktail.  This one reminds me of a Tequila Sunrise (hence, the name!) but perhaps a little more elegant.  I added lots of pretty little fresh plum slices and used a good-quality agave tequila.  Any type of soda that uses some real fruit juice will do the trick here.  I used an organic Italian blood orange soda made with real juice and cane sugar.  This cocktail tastes ripe, sweet and refreshing and is a fun way to put to use the beautiful, juicy plums that are perfectly in season in Colorado right now. 


Purple Sunrise
makes 1 drink

1 part 100% Agave Tequila
2 parts blood orange soda
1 plum, sliced

Pour tequila and soda over ice and stir.  Add plum slices

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summer Pasta

These hot days of August are enough to make even the most passionate cook want to stay away from the kitchen.  When I find myself needing a simple, quick and delicious meal to put together because it's just too hot to spend a lot of time by the stove, I will often turn to pasta.  Sure, you have to boil water.  But that's literally the only heat that gets applied to this meal!  Once the pasta is cooked, your time near the stove is over (hooray!).  The warmth of the cooked pasta gently heats the zucchini and the rest of the ingredients get added after the pasta has cooled so they maintain their bright, raw flavors.

I used Maestri Pastai's Cavatelli pasta for this dish, but any small-shaped pasta such as macaroni, farfalle, or penne will do.  If you can't find mozzarella pearls (the smallest-size, fresh mozzarella balls can be found at Marczyk's in Denver and most Whole Foods markets) you can always dice up the larger versions.  Either way, be sure to add the cheese when the pasta is only slightly warm to the touch so it doesn't immediately melt and form your pasta dish into an unappealing cheese glob.  To turn this pasta into a meal, I topped it with a fried egg.  It would also be delicious with just about any added protein such as cannelini beans, chicken, or shrimp. 

Summer Pasta
serves 4

1 lb. Cavatelli Pasta
2 cups zucchini, grated (about 3-4 small zucchini)
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (about 1 pint)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 T basil, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
3 T olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup Mozzarella pearls
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add pasta.  Cook according to package instructions, drain, and place in a large bowl.  Place grated zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with salt.  Toss well and squeeze the zucchini gently, allowing the moisture to drain.  While pasta is still hot, toss with grated zucchini.  Set aside.

Once pasta has cooled, slightly, to just warm, add tomatoes, parsley, basil, lemon juice and olive oil and toss well to combine.  Season with salt and pepper and add a little extra olive oil if necessary.

When pasta is only a little warm to the touch, add mozzarella and toss well to combine.  Serve with the parmigiano reggiano sprinkled on the top.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Beet Latkes and Dill Creme Fraiche with Grilled Corn and Salmon Salad with Dill Butter

One thing that's definitely abundant this time of year is beets.  We've been getting them from our CSA in copious amounts, and I see them on the shelves at the grocery store in lots of beautiful, colorful varieties.  I happen to love these sweet, earthy root vegetables, but this meal is a great way to convince somebody who thinks they don't like beets (far too many people) that they can, in fact, enjoy eating them!  When mixed with potatoes and fried until crispy, they add an extra depth of flavor to latkes without being too over-powering.  I topped them off with a rich and flavorful dilled creme fraiche to make these simple root vegetable cakes into something special.

The salad makes a light, crunchy and delicious accompaniment to the latkes.  I grilled some rich Coho salmon and sweet Colorado corn together and mixed them with a generous helping of melted butter with lots of fresh dill.  The salad has even more fresh dill, parsley, and a hint of champagne vinegar to add a little tang.  For a lighter meal, the salad would be delicious on it's own, or perhaps with some grilled zucchini slices added.

Beet Latkes with Dill Creme Fraiche topping
makes 12-14

5 medium beets, grated (about 4 cups)
2 large yukon gold potatoes, grated (about 4 cups)
1/2 large yellow onion, grated
1/2 cup matzoh meal
2 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper, to taste
vegetable oil

1 7.5 oz package creme fraiche (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped dill
2 T whole milk
salt and pepper, to taste

Place a large cookie sheet in the oven and heat to 200 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix beets, potatoes, onion, matzoh and eggs until well combined.  In a large, shallow pan, add about 3 T oil over medium-high heat.  Form beet mixture into patties by hand and place in hot oil.  Fry until each side is crispy and golden-brown, about 5 minutes per side, adding a splash more oil if the pan gets dry.  Once cooked, allow latkes to drain on a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.  Place on the baking sheet in the oven while you fry the rest of the latkes and keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, make topping.  Combine ingredients in a small bowl and mix until combined.  Serve latkes hot with a dollop of the topping.

Grilled Corn and Salmon Salad with Dill Butter
serves 4

1 lb. salmon 
2 T olive oil
4 ears of corn, shucked and washed
3 T salted butter, melted
1/4 cup dill, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 head leaf lettuce, washed and chopped
1 T champagne vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat grill to medium-high.  Drizzle salmon and corn with olive oil.  Place salmon on grill, skin side-down.  Arrange corn on grill.  Cover grill and cook salmon for about 10-12 minutes, flipping over after about 5-6 minutes or until the skin becomes crispy.  Grill corn until lightly charred on both sides, about 7-9 minutes per side.  Remove salmon and corn from grill and season with salt and pepper.  Allow to cool, slightly, then cut corn kernels from cob.  In a medium bowl, flake salmon meat into bite-sized pieces and add corn kernels.  In a small bowl, whisk the melted butter with 2 T of the chopped dill and drizzle over the salmon and corn.  Mix well to combine. 

In a large bowl, combine remaining dill, parsley, chopped lettuce, and vinegar and toss well to combine.  Add half of the salmon and corn mixture and toss again.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Dish out the salad servings and top each with more of the salmon and corn mixture.  Serve salad on its own or alongside Beet Latkes.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Goat Cheese Polenta with Zucchini and Chard "Ratatouille"

Ah, polenta.  The quintessential Italian comfort food!  Ok, maybe pasta is the quintessential Italian comfort food, but I feel a bit partial to the warm, creamy concoction that results from simmering frangrant, toasty cornmeal in water and mixing in some rich, tangy chevre (I used the always-delicious and Colorado-made Haystack Mt. Boulder Chevre).  Broil an egg on the top and you reach a whole new level of awesomeness!

To make this dish even more comfy-cozy, I topped it off with my take on a classic French comfort food, ratatouille.  This version is composed of all the delicious Grant Family Farms CSA ingredients I had on hand, although typically ratatouille is made with zucchini, bell pepper and eggplant.  This version packs in a healthy dose of just-cooked greens, instead, and gets a nice, bright punch of flavor from the addition of sun-dried tomatoes and freshly chopped parsley leaves.  Definitely not traditional but decidedly less fussy and totally delicious!

Goat Cheese Polenta with Zucchini and Chard Ratatouille
serves 6

6 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups polenta grain
4 oz chevre, softened to room temperature
salt to taste
6 farm-fresh eggs

2 T olive oil
3 cups mixed zucchini, diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
2 T garlic scapes, sliced
2 T sun-dried tomatoes, minced
1 28-oz can San Marzano whole tomatoes
2 cups chard leaves, chopped (about 4 large leaves)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

In a large pot, bring water to a boil.  Pour in the polenta in a slow, thin stream while whisking vigorously.  Switch to a wooden spoon and stir polenta until mixture returns to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cover pot.  Cook polenta, stirring vigorously for 1 minute every 7-8 minutes or so, until grain is tender and most of the water has been absorbed, about 30 minutes.  Add chevre and salt to polenta, breaking up the cheese with the wooden spoon, and stir until chevre is incorporated, about 5 more minutes.

As your polenta is cooking, in a medium bowl, use your hands to crush the San Marzano tomatoes into rough chunks.  In another large pot, heat oil over medium-high.  Add zucchini and onion and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.  Add garlic scapes and sun-dried tomatoes and cook another minute.  Add the tomatoes with their juice into the pot and bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens, about 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Place your oven rack on the highest level (make sure there's enough room for your pan to fit below the burner).  Heat oven to broil.  Once polenta is cooked, spray a 9x13-inch lasagne dish (slightly smaller is OK) with cooking spray.  Pour polenta into the dish.  Crack one egg into a small cup and place the other eggs nearby.  Make a well in the polenta with your spoon and slide the egg into the well.  Repeat with remaining eggs, working quickly so the polenta doesn't solidify.  Place under broiler and cook (watching closely) until egg whites are set, up to 5 minutes.

When the ratatouille has cooked down, remove from heat.  Add chopped chard leaves and stir for a few minutes until the chard has wilted.  Allow polenta to cool and solidify (at least 10 minutes), then cut and serve with ratatouille and fresh parsley on top.

Zucchini Frittata

Whenever I want to put together a quick and easy meal, I almost always go with eggs!  Frittata, in particular, is such a simple and nutritious dish that I have an abundance of variations in my recipe arsenal.

This frittata makes good use of one of my favorite summer vegetables - zucchini.  I really love the texture and flavor zucchini adds to baked eggs and the fresh herbs make it bright and fresh-tasting. If you wanted to give the dish more heft you could add some parmigiano reggiano cheese or some sliced ham.  Serve it alongside a fresh green salad and you've got yourself a delicious, nutritious meal!

Zucchini Frittata
serves 4-6

2 T olive oil
1 1/2 cups mixed zucchini, diced
1 large red potato, diced
1 garlic scape, sliced (or 2 garlic cloves, minced)
8 eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
2 T parsley, finely chopped
2 T dill, finely chopped

In a large, oven-proof pan or skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high.  Add zucchini and potato and cook until potatoes are slightly tender, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic scapes and cook another minute.  Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk eggs and milk together until well combined and eggs gain a little volume, about three minutes.  Distribute vegetables evenly around the pan and pour egg mixture over vegetables.  Place pan in oven and bake until frittata puffs up and becomes golden-brown around the edges, about 15 minutes.  Slice into wedges and top with chopped herbs.  Serve hot or at room temperature.