Saturday, July 28, 2012

CSA Week #6: Grilled Eggplant with Pesto & Diced Tomatoes

Last week's consumer supported agriculture (CSA) bounty included two kinds of eggplant, four cucumbers, more baby white salad turnips, a bunch of carrots, beets, squash, a bag of mesclun mix, and the obligatory scallions (have had a bunch every week!).

It was another busy week with only a few nights to focus on preparing these veggies. Jodi requested something with pesto for her birthday dinner on Wednesday. Alas, no basil yet from the CSA, so I'd have to buy that. But I thought we could start off the meal with a cold cucumber soup to cool us on the 90+ degree day. I don't know about you, but I get a bit daunted about what to do with four cucumbers. So I was glad to find this recipe for Zucchini Cucumber Soup, which produced a very fresh tasting soup that made a nice starter. I served the pesto with linguine; topped with diced tomatoes--via the first ones picked from my Dad's garden this summer.

I made a simple salad using the mesclun mix and one of my remaining cucumbers to serve with leftover pesto later in the week. Our 6 year old has been working his way through the carrots for snacks. To use up the remaining veggies, I repeated last week's combo of grilled beets, turnip and carrots; along with the sauteed squash and greens.

Now, on to that new recipe for the week...

2 eggplants, sliced about 1/2 inch thick (I had one "regular" eggplant and one identified by a Facebook friend as a Rosa Bianca heirloom eggplant)
pesto--get my recipe here This is a good way to use some pest you already on hand, as you'll just need a couple of tablespoons to make this one.
diced tomatoes
After you slice the eggplant, spread it out and sprinkle it with salt. Let it sit that way for about 30 minutes, then wipe the salt off. This improves the flavor and consistency. Preheat the grill to medium as the end time for your salting approaches.

Spray both sides of the eggplant with olive oil, then place on the grill. Turn it over once, grill for about 8 to 10 minutes until it is nicely browned and soft. I put some directly on the grill, some in the grill pan, and think I liked the ones on directly better. Remove from grill and spread out to cool a tad. Next spread about 1 tsp of pesto on each eggplant circle, then top with the diced tomatoes. I'd suggest just fixing up the amount you think you will eat. When I did this for two, we had extra eggplant onhand which I reserved for a future use. I served this as a side dish with a bit of sausage and a pigeon peas, rice and kale dish I'd made earlier in the week.Yum!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Chile Olive Oil Dinner Preview

Photo via 
I was intrigued when Kelsey  tweeted and asked if I'd like to host a Chile Olive Oil tasting dinner. I've enjoyed a lot of tastings. In fact, I've adopted a rather pleasant ritual on most Saturdays of stopping by Pairings Wine & Food to try their weekly lineup of six wines with foods to match. But an olive oil tasting? This is something new!

We use a lot of olive oil in our house. It's my primary cooking oil, I toss it with pasta, and use it as a key ingredient in some of my favorite recipes like pesto. Honestly, I haven't paid a lot of attention to my selection of it in the past. I tend to grab the same extra virgin olive oil at Whole Foods each time I need to re-stock. But I do know quality ingredients can make all the difference in cooking, so the prospect of delving deeper into olive oil sampling sounds great. From what I've learned thus far from the the Chile Olive Oil website and Facebook page, they seem to have a strong commitment to producing pure, flavorful extra virgin olive oils (EVOO).

So the plan is for about a dozen of us to gather at our home later this month for a Chile Olive Oil tasting dinner. We'll taste the oils straight up, and enjoy a three course meal designed to highlight the Chilean EVOO in each preparation. I got to choose recipes from a tasty sounding list to put together our tasting menu, which follows below. The folks at our local Whole Foods in Woburn are helping round up the fresh ingredients I'll need to prepare the meal. Stay tuned to hear how it goes!

Chilean Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tasting Menu

Caprese Salad

Main Course
Honey Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Yukon Potatoes
Mixed Green Salad with Chile Olive Oil & Balsamic Dressing

Chocolate Cake
(Kelsey found a good eggless recipe my son with allergies can try!)

Now, we'll be focusing on olive oil tasting, but will of course need some wine to serve with this, to! Any ideas on what to serve with this menu? Chilean wines preferred!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

CSA Week 5: Beets, Squash and Baby Turnips

Now in my second year of participating in a consumer support agriculture (CSA) program, I think I'm starting to get the hang of how to make good use of the veggies that roll in. So I'll do some sharing of my process through posts like this, as well as some of the more detailed recipes I create and find. This year, our CSA is all organic, and comes from First Light Farm in Hamilton, MA, picked up around the corner from us at McCue Garden Center. After last year's experience, we've found a friend to share it with--definitely a winning proposition given that we are just feeding two adults and a child here, as opposed to a football team.

For starters this week, I passed on the bok choy and cabbage to John, and used the kale to make Rigatoni with Sausage and Kale. But Thursday rolled around, and was likely to be the only time I'd have the rest of the week to do much cooking. I still had beets, white salad turnips, carrots, zucchini and summer squash to use (and the ubiquitous scallions!).

I hadn't use this kind of turnip before. After a bit of research, I learned the turnip can be used raw and salads or cooked, and that the greens have a delicate flavor when sauteed. I've found grilling beets is one of the few ways I like them, so planned to grill the beets along with the turnips for good measure. So, as you can see above, I removed the greens from the turnips. Then I quartered the turnips (small ones don't need peeling) and beets, and tossed them with one chopped carrot, and a bit of olive oil and garlic powder.

The root veggies were then ready for the grill, preheated on medium high, with two of the three burners on. I placed the veggies in a grilling pan on the back of the grill, so it was just getting a bit of direct heat. They took about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, to get nice and caramelized. And on the grill's front burner, I cooked some beef sliders we had on hand. When the veggies we cooked, I placed them in a bowl and tossed with more balsamic vinegar than I intended (I thought I'd grabbed the olive oil), some olive oil and a bit of toasted almonds. I'd have visions of making a fancier dressing, but as weeknight cooking often goes, that wasn't feasible along with the other things I had going.

As the veggies were on the grill, I got the squash going. I thinly sliced the zucchini and interestingly shaped summer squash (I usually think of yellow summer squash, but the farm called the light green squash a variety of summer squash). I got a large, minced garlic clove sauteeing in some olive oil, then added the squash and a bit of dried basil (alas, didn't have fresh). After a few minutes, I added the coarsely chopped turnip greens to saute for just a few minutes more. After a bit of salt and parm cheese, the squash and greens was ready to serve. I would have also squeezed some lemon over it if I had it on hand.

After about an hour of prep time, we were ready to enjoy this local vegetable focused meal on our deck, enjoying a beautiful summer evening. With two substantial veggie dishes, one slider was plenty of meat. Another benefit of the CSA--in addition to some vegetarian meals, there are healthy meals like this, where there is still a bit of meat but veggies dominate the plate. I really like the way the squash and greens came out--definitely don't throw away those baby turnip greens! And what I thought was way too much balsamic (probably 2 tbsp or so) actually worked pretty well, which I'll keep in mind for next time. Now, I'm still searching for a red wine that can go with the grilled beets...I had to be sure to have burger following the beets, before taking a sip of the Monastrell I had. Stay tuned for that quest!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Penne with Grilled Chicken, Broccoli and Garlic

One of my favorite cooking challenges is to take a traditional dish and prepare it in a new, interesting way. Pasta with chicken and broccoli has always been one of my favorites, and it seemed ripe for a new interpretation. I'd never grilled broccoli, and thought that would be good to try. Caramelized on the grill, it goes great with the grilled chicken. Garlic comes in two ways in this version--I used powder in the marinade, and roasted garlic cloves were mixed into the cooked pasta. I used feta as well as parmesan to amp up the flavors. This is definitely one of my favorite new creations! Here are the details, so you can enjoy it too.

Grilled Broccoli 
l good size bunch of broccoli, chopped (keep the pieces big enough to avoid falling through the grill, especially if you don't have a grill pan)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp parmesan cheese
pinch red pepper flakes

Roasted Garlic
6 or so good sized cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp olive oil

3 small/medium boneless chicken breast fillets
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil

Pasta plus
12 ozs penne pasta
3 tbsp or so olive oil
1 or 2 tbsp white wine
1/3 cup feta cheese
parmesan cheese to serve at the table
8 olives, sliced

I hadn't grilled broccoli before, so I referred to this Grilling Companion recipe for the method on this part.  First, get ready to blanch the broccoli by boiling a large pot of water, and setting aside a bowl of ice water. When the water is boiling, put the broccoli in for 3 minutes; then strain and immediately immerse in the ice water to stop the cooking. Strain the broccoli thoroughly and be sure to remove any ice.

After the broccoli is thoroughly drained, toss it with the garlic powder, olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt and red pepper flakes. Let the broccoli marinade for about 30 minutes. Preheat your grill, leaving at least one burner off to allow for indirect cooking. I have a three burner grill, and started with just one burner on but turned on a second one part way through the process.

While the broccoli marinades, get the garlic roasting. Place the garlic in a small bowl, and toss with the olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Tightly wrap the garlic in aluminum foil, then place it on the portion of the grill where the burner isn't on.

As the garlic starts to roast, combine the chicken in a bowl with the olive oil, garlic powder, basil and salt. Let it marinade for a bit, as the chicken will only take about 10 minutes to cook. This is a good time to start the water boiling for the penne.

The broccoli will take about 20 to 25 minutes to roast on the grill. Spread the broccoli out in a grill pan, if you have one (a very handy tool for grilling veggies!), or directly onto the grill. Either way, you want to cook the broccoli over mostly indirect heat. I rotated the pan a few times to expose the broccoli to a bit of direct heat to help caramelize it and speed the cooking process. The broccoli should be tender and a bit browned when it is done. If it finishes before other items, put the broccoli into a serving bowl and cover to keep warm.

Put the pasta on to cook shortly after starting to grill the broccoli. Start grilling the chicken over direct heat with about 10 minutes to go on the broccoli and pasta. Turn the chicken over after about 5 minutes, and check for doneness after another 5 minutes. When done, remove from heat, and place on a platter loosely tented with aluminum. Cut into bite sized pieces after the chicken has cooled slightly.

The garlic should take about 30 to 40 minutes to get soft and brown. When done, place in a small bowl and mash with a dash of extra olive oil to get a good consistency. Set aside.

Drain the pasta when it finishes cooking. Toss it with the broccoli, chicken, garlic, feta and olives, adding the wine and extra olive oil as needed to keep it moist. The broccoli absorbs the liquid quickly, so I used wine along with olive oil so the dish would have a nice consistency without being too oily. After it has all been combined, you are ready to serve and enjoy!

Wine Pairing: Keeping with the idea of riffing on traditional themes, we served this with the 2011 Alexander Valley Vineyards Dry Rosé of Sangiovese ($16). Typically associated with Chianti, the classic Italian red wine, this rosé from California worked very well with the grilled food and garlicky flavors. The wine is refreshing and fruity as one likes in a summer wine, but also has the body to stand up to this substantial dish.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Grilled Swordfish with Ginger Soy Marinade [UPDATED]

I first posted this recipe after my first attempt at grilling swordfish. Now I go to something along these lines a couple of times a summer, with a few tweaks for my 6 year old with food allergies. He and I were fighting over the last bites the other night! I leave out the hoisin and red pepper flakes, and will substitute dried ginger if I don't have fresh on hand. I originally paired this with a white wine; but now love to serve it with Pinot Noir. This weekend, as a nice treat, that pinot was the 2009 Etude from the Carneros Appellation. Definitely a wine of the year contender! But I'm sticking to the rest of the story I told when posting this in three years ago...

***Original post 
My first attempt at grilled swordfish came out pretty well, I must say. I'd sampled some with an Asian based sauce at Whole Foods and tried to replice something like what I'd had. I liked my version at least as well as theirs. Jodi is not typically a big fish eater, but she liked it too. I actually used this marinade for some chicken as well, and it works nicely there too. Here's the recipe for quick, tasty meal:
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tsp brown rice vineger
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
8-12 ozs. swordfish steak
Preheat a grill to medium-high. Puree all the ingredients, expect the swordfish, in a food processor. Pour enough marinade over the fish in a plastic bowl or in a plastic bag. Reserve the extra marinade you don't put on the fish for topping at the table. Cover and shake to distribute the marinade thoroughly. Marinade for up to 2 hours, at least 30 minutes.
When ready to cook, remove the swordfish from the marinade, shake gently to remove excess marinade. Discard marinade. Grill the fish about 5 minutes per side, so that it is just cooked through and flaking. Serve at table with extra sauce, if desired, and a squirt of lemon or lime.
I served this with couscous and a spinich salad. I tossed a bit of the extra marinade into my vinaigrette to give it a hint of the Asian flavor.
Wine pairing: Having not had much swordfish, I sought advice on what to pair with the dish. Suggestions included viogner, gewurstraminer, riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir. A lot of options. I sampled the 2007 Foris Pinot Blanc ($14) from Oregon's Rogue Valley, and felt the lively ripe fruitness and medium body would match the substantial flavors of the swordfish, and it did so nicely.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Wine Pairings for Indian Food, Revisited

Five years later, my article "Pairing Wine with Indian Food" remains one of the most visited posts here on Cooking Chat. Now that we have a good Indian takeout place around the corner from us, we have been having Indian food a bit more regularly, providing opportunity for more experiments with wine pairings.

My original post on this topic led with a recommendation of Sauvignon Blanc, which I gravitated to for Indian food at the time. More recently, I've tended to gravitate more toward something with a touch of sweetness, particularly Rieslings. But I'd come across a few articles suggesting red wine pairings that can work with Indian food, and was curious. A recent spontaneous run to the Indian Express, without any whites chilled and waiting, provided a chance to experiment...

I recalled tasting the 2008 Full Moon Red Wine, a red blend from Paso Robles, and thought perhaps it could stand up to the Indian food. The grapes in this wine seem to be a state secret (not listed on their website) but I seemed to recall it included Zinfandel and/or Syrah. This wine has a bit of spice in it, something I generally like. But in this case, it competed with the the spice from the food. Rather than refreshing or cleansing my palate, a sip seemed to just increase the heat in my mouth. Not a good combo! Sorry, I have to disagree with the winery website that it is "interesting enough to drink with everything." It's a perfectly serviceable wine on its own, just not a match for Indian food. After dinner, the wine was pretty pleasant on its own; actually tasted a bit sweet at that point.

So after this experiment, it's been back to the whites with Indian food. And I can report on two more grapes that worked well. The 2010 Greenvale Vidal Blanc ($15) has both sweet and tart elements, medium bodied and a bit syrupy in its mouthfeel. This flavor profile worked well with chicken tikka masala. As a bonus, Greenvale is produced in nearby Rhode Island. I had a chance to meet the owner this spring at Pairings Wine and Food, and was also impressed with their Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc.

After getting back last night from a week of travelling, I was again dialing for Indian Express, and seeing what was on hand in the cellar that we might serve with it. I had a sense a Gruner Veltliner could work with Indian, and wasn't disappointed. The 2011 Ried Sandgrube Gruner Veltliner that we served had some nice minerality and enough peach fruit to offset the heat of the food (chicken tikka masala again with a vegetable curry).

I'm willing to give the red wine and Indian food another chance, but would love some tips on pairings that would work! Until I find something that does work, I'm going to keep recommending whites here.