Tag Archives: vegetables

KALE CHIPS

With the deadly back-to-back combo of Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year, Presidents’ Day, & Mardi Gras, you might have overdone it the last few days.  Fear not—I have vegetables for you.  Vegetables you’ll actually WANT to eat.

The season of Lent begins in earnest at the exact moment Mardi Gras (known to the church-going as Shrove Tuesday) ends.  While an abstemious season might not sound so appealing, the Episcopalian schoolgirl in me appreciates the opportunity to reflect and scale back.  Blame it on the way I was raised, but I actually look forward to giving something up for Lent.

In the past, I’ve done without chocolate, meat, desserts, Diet Coke, and gossip.  This year, I’m saying goodbye to alcohol for forty days—so long, margaritas, au revoir glasses of red wine, bye-bye beer.

What I appreciate about this discipline is that it forces some thoughtfulness into my daily life.  During Lent, I have to work around the commitment I’ve made; I have to remind myself why I made the commitment in the first place.

For the past few months, Jill and I have been consciously working to integrate many more servings of vegetables into our regular diet.  Seriously, when you look at the recommended amount of green (or purple) things one is supposed to eat in any given day, it’s kind of shocking.  Shocking how rarely I meet those guidelines, that is.


Until kale chips came into my life.  You’ve probably read about or at least seen these guys dancing around lots of blogs in the last few months, and I had, too, but somehow it took my stubborn self entirely too long to try them.  I pray you won’t make the same mistake.

These damn things are so good they even passed the muster of my “fry everything!” Louisiana-in-laws.  In the words of my friend John, “You just can’t understand how KALE could taste this good.”  It’s true.  These chips are now a regular in my kitchen, and whether I’m serving them to company or just for me and Jill, they disappear quickly.  I know you won’t believe me until you try it yourself, but you can get the crunch & salt factor of potato chips without having to fry anything and with the satisfaction of, well, eating a vegetable.

Whether you’re giving up an indulgence for Lent, or are just tired of salad, I urge you to give these pretty kale chips a whirl.  Just don’t blame me if they leave you dumbfounded.

KALE CHIPS

This basic recipe calls only for salt, but you’re certainly welcome to add other seasonings—garlic powder, Creole seasoning, pepper—but they lack nothing as-is.

Prepping the kale takes a little work, but once you’ve done that, the chips are incredibly simple to make.  If your grocery store sells pre-washed & bagged kale, feel free to cheat!  I usually prep two bunches at once, storing the washed and dried leaves from one bunch in a Ziploc bag for future use.

ingredients:

1-2 bunches kale*
olive oil
salt

oven: 400˚
pan: baking sheets

Cut or tear the kale leaf off of the middle rib, then cut or tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.  Rinse the kale thoroughly in a sink full of cold water, then transfer into a colander to drain.

If you have a salad spinner, employ it here.  If not, proceed straight to towel-stacking, which goes something like this:

On a clean kitchen counter, spread out a very absorbent kitchen towel.  Line it with some paper towels.  Top the paper towels with a few handfuls of kale leaves, distributed evenly into one layer.  Place more paper towels on top of the kale, then another kitchen towel on top of all that.  Repeat.  Stack until the kale’s all hidden away, then press down lightly on the towel stack.  Let the kale sit for 5-10 minutes.

[My method may seem extreme, and yes, it’s a little time-consuming, but having very dry kale leaves makes a big difference when it comes to getting your chips crunchy.  Patience, grasshopper.]

Unwrap the kale and shake it into a big bowl (unless you’re reserving some of it for future use).  Drizzle a few tablespoons of oil over the kale, then toss to coat.  You don’t want to drown it, just barely cover each piece.

Spread the kale out onto two baking sheets—if you’re cooking two bunches at once, you’ll need to work in batches.  Salt the kale just before you slide it into the oven.

Bake for10-12 minutes, or until the edges of the kale pieces have become crinkly and any remaining moisture has left the leaves.  Serve warm.

Due to the inconsistency of ovens, please watch your kale closely!  You might want to try the chips first on lower heat, to prevent burning.

*I’ve used both flat (Tuscan) and curly kale, but prefer the latter.

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THE FOOD OF MY PEOPLE: ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH YOGURT SAUCE

This recipe is much more Indian-inspired than actually “Indian.” It’s not some old-country recipe the secrets of which my mother has passed down to me, but rather an idea I got out of a Cook’s Illustrated magazine a few years ago. There isn’t really anything authentic about it, in fact, and so it might not at all belong in the “food of my people” category, but you know what? It’s cheap, it tastes delicious, it’s easy to make, and it got me to actually EAT CAULIFLOWER.

A strange and lovely, flowery, blooming, cruciferous vegetable. Oddly photogenic, pretty good for you. Generally overcooked or masked by a tragic cheese sauce. Oh maligned cauliflower, redemption is near.

When I was a kid, I hated cauliflower. H-A-T-E-D it. Gobi, in Hindi, was one of my dad’s favorite things to eat: pickled, stuffed into paranthas (griddle breads), even raw. Oh how I used to gag and fuss in that dramatic way little kids do when it was even suggested to me that I might eat some.

But like so many other palate-changing moves that come in adulthood, I at some point found myself eyeing the vegetable in the grocery store, tilting my head and thinking “Hmmm…” and now I will eat plates and plates of this stuff, warm from the oven, with a little naan at hand. Cauliflower, my new best friend.

This happened with olives, too, in graduate school. As a little girl, I remember plowing through those tiny cans of black olives, balancing each one on the top of my index finger before popping it in my mouth. But I suppose I overdosed on olives because, from age 6-24, I was not interested. Yick, yeesh, yuck, ew.

But then, one magical night at my friend Cara’s tiny graduate school apartment, which she kept impeccably and impossibly decorated, I sat drinking through a couple of bottle of cava with my two best friends, faced with a dreamy Spanish-inspired spread of almonds, figs, prosciutto, Manchego, & you guessed it! Big, fat, luscious olives. Once anathema to me, they suddenly glistened like jewels and I found myself downing them one after another, briny revelation.

I’m not sure how these transformations happen, if something one day becomes unlocked in our brains or our stomachs, if the tongue has a mind of its own which it can change at will, if as we age and smell new things and live in new places and with new people, we shift, glacially, towards things that had once seemed impossible.

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH YOGURT SAUCE
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

So here’s the thing: curry powder isn’t so much an authentic Indian ingredient. It isn’t even a consistent ingredient, seeing as how it’s actually a BLEND of spices. Therefore, the quality, taste, & heat of curry powders can vary widely, so it’s an ingredient where I suggest you go for quality: McCormick’s has a fine enough grocery-store accessible version; I’m currently using Penzey’s medium hot bottle.

All of that being said, I’m dying to try this same method with halved brussels sprouts—another often-hated vegetable I have grown to love. The caramelization that comes when roasting brings out a nuttiness in the sprouts and I think the flavors of the yogurt sauce would nicely offset their inherent bitterness.

ingredients:

1 head cauliflower
½ cup olive oil
1 ½ T curry powder
salt

pan: two large baking sheets or roasting pans, lined with foil
oven: 400˚

Remove any leaves from the cauliflower and trim the stem so it’s flush and the head will sit upright on a cutting board. Using a large knife and caution, cut wedges in the cauliflower about ½-inch thick all the way around, leaving as much stem intact as possible. The idea is to create cauliflower pieces which will lie flat on either side.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil & curry powder. Distribute the cauliflower equally between the two baking sheets or roasting pans, then drizzle with half of the oil. Sprinkle the cauliflower with salt, then flip and do the same on the other side.

Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, then remove baking sheets so you can flip the pieces over and roast the other side. Cook an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is as tender as you want it (test with a fork). I like mine quite short of mushy, with a bite to it still.

If the pieces become too brown while cooking, simply cover with more foil. Serve when warm, with yogurt sauce.

for the sauce:

1 cup yogurt
¼ cup diced red onion
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 T lemon or lime juice
1 tsp. curry powder
salt
canola oil

Heat just a tiny bit of oil in a small saucepan and sauté the onions until very soft. Remove from heat and sprinkle the curry powder atop the onions, stirring to mix.

Combine the yogurt, onion mixture, citrus juice, & cilantro in a bowl. Stir thoroughly, then taste-test, adding a pinch of salt if you like.  Spoon over the warm cauliflower.

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THE FOOD OF MY PEOPLE: ACHAR

I don’t really speak Hindi.  It is the only way, and I mean this truly, apart from melodrama it may connote, it is the only way in which I feel at all like a failure in life.  I can understand a great deal of Hindi when spoken to, I know my colors and numbers and (of course) food items, but I can’t really form sentences on my own in order to respond back.  The alphabet I recognize, and I can sound out words phonetically but my vocabulary isn’t so great and my writing ability is limited to signing my own name.

I can hear my mother: “I know, I know, we screwed up big time!”  My one big wish, that they had taught me when I was a baby.  They didn’t because they thought it would be best. Raising a child period seems scary enough to me, let alone raising one in a completely foreign country.  My parents feared that difference would haunt me, that I would be teased, encumbered by an accent.  For them, their voices were the main channels through which they encountered resistance, were flagged as “other.”

And so English was my first language.  It fact, it was the only language they spoke to me, around me, for a long time.  By the time I was old enough to wish for bilinguality, to request that my parents start speaking in Hindi around the house, they were rusty, throwing in English words where their vocabularies had gone soft.  I believe I was in college by the time I figured out that my father was actually trilingual (Punjabi), my mother an impressive quad (Punjabi, Urdu).  No need to worry about this daughter assimilating: I’m an all-American, English-only speaker.

I took one semester of Hindi in college, and struggled through the whole thing.  Perhaps it was the case of a naturally gifted student bucking up against something, for once, not coming naturally.  Perhaps I thought, of all things, this should.  I’ve also always been so totally intimidated by other Indian kids, to tell the truth.  Like they are part of some club I just don’t belong to.  They watch the movies, they have spent multiple summers in India, they hang out almost exclusively with other Indians.  They knew much more of the language than I did.  Me?  I took a geeky, dead language (Latin) in high school and have a terrible ear for accents and intricacies.  Thank goodness I took that class pass/fail.  Needless to say, I did not go back for Hindi 102.

A few years later, I put in a good effort with a set of those ubiquitous Rosetta Stone CD-ROMs before my parents and I traveled to India, doing well enough to make my three weeks there a fertile time for my brain to absorb everything I heard. I found myself laughing at jokes, having mostly understood them, and even dreaming in Hindi for weeks after we got back.  Dreaming in another language is one of the most sublime things I have ever experienced, as if the gods had favored you: my child, you are authentic now.

But it didn’t last.  My father died, and somehow the desire to work on my Hindi died with him.  Losing him only highlighted how much I wish I spoke this language, how inadequate I feel not knowing it, how utterly defeated I am by the whole thing.  I find that I am ashamed, worried I seem like a fraud, such a white girl parading around in brown skin.  At some point, I’m just going to have to accept that I may never speak Hindi the way I want to—which might free me up to actually make a concerted effort to learn it instead of wishing I could just magically go back in time and learn how.

What I can do is cook the food.  And, for now, that is a kind of language in and of itself.

GAAJAR, GOBI, & HARI MIRCH ACHAR
(CARROT, CAULIFLOWER, & JALAPEÑO PICKLE)

This is, I’m afraid, one of those Indian recipes which calls for ingredients you probably don’t have on hand.  They can, however, be easily acquired at any Indian grocery store or good spice purveyor.

Though this recipe is for a pickle, there’s no reason you can’t eat it like a sabji (vegetable dish), especially if you are a fan of spice.  Otherwise, serve it alongside other Indian dishes as a condiment or with storebought papadum or other flatbread/cracker as an excellent appetizer.

spices:

1 ½ tsp. mustard seeds
1 ½ tsp. whole coriander
1 tsp. whole cumin
1 tsp. anise seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds

Toast the spices in a small saucepan or toaster oven (set on low) for 5-8 minutes or until fragrant.  Cool the mixture a bit before grinding to a powder.

vegetables:

4 large carrots, peeled & cut into ¼ -inch slices
1 cup cauliflower florets
3 jalapeño peppers, sliced ½-inch thick

Place the vegetables into a heat-safe colander.  Pour 4 cups boiling water over them to soften/sterilize.

to make the achar:

¼ cup canola or vegetable oil
¼ cup lime or lemon juice
½ tsp. turmeric
¼ tsp. garlic powder
salt
asafetida (optional)

Heat the oil over medium in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot.  Add the turmeric and a few sprinkles of asafetida, if using.  Heat the spices and oil for a few minutes, then remove from the heat and toss in the vegetables.  Pour in the masala (spice) mixture, adding the garlic powder and a small palm-full of salt.

Toss everything to coat, adding in the lemon juice and a splash of hot water if you need more liquid.  In cold weather, you can jar the achar and leave it outside to sit overnight.  In warm weather, refrigerate immediately.

Achar will keep well-sealed, for 4-6 weeks.  Shake the jar before serving.

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THE FOOD OF MY PEOPLE: GREEN BEAN & SWEET POTATO SABJI

Please allow me to begin with the requisite disclaimers: I am but one Indian girl.  I do not represent all Indian people everywhere and I am by NO MEANS an expert on Indian food or cooking.  India is home to twenty-eight states, twice as many languages, and innumerable incarnations of what “Indian food” can look like.  Not to mention the fact that we Indians have disseminated ourselves all across the globe, mish-mashing our food cultures with the British, American, South African, Malaysian, etc.

Still…when I put out the call the other day to see what folks wanted to see more of on the blog, Indian food was the definite winner.  So I am giving in!  “The Food of My People” series starts today and will run every Tuesday for the next few months.  Don’t worry, for those of you utterly uninterested in making Indian food at home (no offense taken), “regular” fare will continue to show up every Friday.

The Indian recipes I’m going to post will be a total hodge-podge of regions and technique, utterly subjective and reflective of me.  They will also be fantastically delicious and adhere to the BJG standard of unfussy food OR fussy food that’s worth it.  I hope to expose you to more Indian “home cooking,” the kind of thing you can’t get in a restaurant and can pretty easily make at home (lots of those restaurant dishes aren’t very authentic or simple to make).  If you have any requests, throw them out in the comments or send me an email.  I’ll do my best to accommodate them!


One of the main things that can make cooking Indian seem intimidating are the seemingly exhaustive lists of unfamiliar ingredients; even I think it’s asking a lot for folks to go out and buy twenty spice bottles just to try one recipe.  For the purposes of this series, I’m listing some essentials and extras, the latter of which will serve those of you who’d like to build your Indian food repertoire.  If you’re uncertain about how frequently you’ll use these ingredients, I recommend you buy in small quantities (at a store which sells in bulk is a good choice.)  For the extras, get yourself to an Indian or Asian grocery store!  They can help you find what you’re looking for and the prices will be much cheaper.

ESSENTIALS:

•    fresh garlic
•    fresh ginger
•    onions
•    whole cumin seeds
•    ground cumin
•    ground coriander
•    ground red mirchi (chili), for heat

EXTRAS:

•    asafetida
•    cardamom
•    fresh cilantro
•    cumin seeds
•    fennel seeds
•    fenugreek seeds
•    garam masala
•    mustard seeds
•    sambar powder
•    turmeric

You’ll find that this recipe, like most of the rest I’ll be posting, makes a pretty good quantity of food.  That’s because I DON’T KNOW HOW TO MAKE SMALL AMOUNTS OF INDIAN FOOD.  It’s like, contrary to what I believe in.  You know?  Ethnic mothers who stuff you full at the table, then send you out the door with a plastic grocery bag full of old sour cream and Cool Whip containers, stuffed with leftovers?  I’m totally turning into one.

GREEN BEAN & SWEET POTATO SABJI

Serves 4 as a side, with leftovers

“Sabji” just means vegetable dish and this one is a favorite.  Simple and satisfying, this dish is a riff off of my mom’s original, which she made with white potatoes.  I personally like the way the flavor of the sweet potatoes plays off of the rich spices in this dish; serve it as an accompaniment to a meat entrée or as the main course itself, with store-bought naan or pita bread.

This recipe calls for just a few tablespoons of tomato paste, so opening a whole can of it is a pain.  I am in love with these tubes of paste from Amore.  Use what you need, then store the rest neatly in your fridge.

•    4 medium-to-large sweet potatoes
•    1 pound green beans
•    1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled & minced
•    1 T black mustard seeds
•    1 T sambar powder
•    2 T tomato paste
•    ¼ teaspoon asfoetida (optional)
•    ½ cup water
•    3 T canola oil
•    salt

Prep the vegetables: peel & dice the sweet potatoes into roughly 1-inch chunks, then wash & remove the ends from the green beans, chopping them into inch-long pieces.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan (with a fitted lid), heat the oil over medium-high heat. After 3-4 minutes, the oil should be quite hot but not smoking. Throw in the mustard seeds & sprinkle in the asfoetida. It’s essential to heat these two ingredients at the outset and let them get very hot or they will make the whole dish taste bitter.

Turn down the heat to medium; remove the pan from the heat, then add ginger. Return to the burner and cook until the ginger begins to soften, adding the sweet potatoes, sambar powder, water, & 1 T salt. Toss to ensure that the potatoes are well-coated with the spices.

Cover the dish, turn the heat down to medium-low, and allow the sweet potatoes to cook until tender, about 15 minutes.  Once you can “smush” a sweet potato with the back of your cooking spoon, add the green beans and cook for another 8-10 minutes, tossing in more water if necessary.

Once the green beans are bright and cooked to desired tenderness, fold in tomato paste to bind the dish. Taste the dish for salt & season accordingly.

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ROASTED BEET SALAD

[A quick note: Anders, our fine sommelier, had hoped to bring us Part II of his Wine Tasting Basics today, but due to travel & time constraints, I’m afraid we’ll have to anticipate his return for one more week.  In the meantime, roast some beets!]

beet tops 2

The people we love come with us.  They show up in the form of a borrowed word or phrase, an acquired habit, or an inside joke.

File respectively under:
-my photographer Sonya and the adjective “junky,”
-my new bff Coco who’s given me her oh-so-satisfying “Okay then!,”
-my Hindu mother who went to parochial schools in India and the fact that I cross myself when an ambulance drives by,
-my college roommate Rebecca’s many nicknames for me, including “Furlybum”  and “Mighty Mighty OJ.”  (Don’t ask because I’m not really sure I can explain.)

Even beyond the silly, surface ways, our relationships change us, hopefully for the better.  I like to think that the measure of a healthy partnership of any kind is knowing that you are an improved, fuller version of yourself in the context of that related space, and that the other person enjoys the same benefit as well.

I can identify dozens of things that are different about me since I first met Jill seven-and-a-half years ago.  Some are direct descendants of her habits & quirks, others have come more obliquely as I’ve grown in relationship with her, but I am grateful for all of them.

Witnessing her deep patience has allowed me to slow down a bit in my own life; I’m able to sit out in the backyard for a while and be still, be quiet.  My appreciation of animals, the two cats and dog in our house, the birds we feed in the back, even the little lizards who greet me on the gutter drain in the mornings, have all swelled by observing her.

When I look in the mirror now, I see through a lens tainted by her bias, which is a much more flattering light than I used to put myself in.  I really like the person I am, and I wouldn’t be that person without Jill.   She has converted me to the cult of football, transferred over her cinematic obsessions with Greta Garbo & Meryl Streep, and all-in-all brought out the very best parts of myself by cheering, supporting, & loving me fiercely.  And what have I done for her?

I got her to love beets, of course.

beets, pecans, & feta 2

Jill was a total beet skeptic before I made this salad, but it had such an impression on her that she planted beets in our garden soon afterwards.  Even if you don’t grow them on your own, consider adding fresh beets to your fall staples.  They’re usually not so expensive, keep in the fridge forever, and roast up so easily, I’m going to call them foolproof.

Serve this salad over lettuce or on its own, and feel free to tinker with the ingredients—adding dried cherries or cranberries, switching out the nuts, etc.  Come to think of it, this mixture would go nicely over a bed of couscous or quinoa, too!

ROASTED BEET SALAD

ingredients: finished beet salad

beets
feta cheese
pecans, toasted & chopped
thyme, fresh or dried (optional)
olive oil
salt  & pepper

oven: preheat to 425

Cut the tops & bottoms off of the beets.  [If you like, save the beet greens to wilt down in a pan with a little olive oil & garlic—yum!]  Dice into pieces that are roughly the same size and easy to eat.

Transfer the beets to a roasting pan or baking dish.  Drizzle generously with olive oil, then season with salt, pepper, & a few sprinklings of thyme.  Toss to coat, then roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the beets give when nudged with a fork (if you like yours softer, roast longer).

Let the beets cool a bit but not too long before combining with crumbled feta and pecans.  Serve on its own or over lettuce, spinach, greens.  If the latter, I recommend making your own quick vinaigrette with balsamic vinegar & some olive oil.  (I’m especially partial to a fig-infused balsamic, which complements the flavor of the beets perfectly).

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MARINATED SALAD

I can’t take any credit for this recipe. All of it goes to Veena.

marinated salad top view

This is one of those dishes that acquires a following, the kind that makes people come back for seconds and beg a recipe card, the kind they start making themselves and hooking others onto. Like those charts they showed us in high school about how quickly & widely an STD can spread, only far less terrifying.

There’s nothing unlikeable about this dish (I know, Emma, I can hear you protesting—go ahead and leave out the capers, okay?)

a) You can make it ahead of time, in fact, in tastes much, much better that way.

b) It lasts an incredibly long time in the fridge.

c) Works equally well in all seasons.

d) Is dirt cheap.

e) OH YEAH, it’s also crazy-delicious & good for you.

I’ve served this alongside sandwiches and burgers, in the midst of a potluck spread, with pita & hummus, as an easy dinner-party vegetable. I bring it to work on a regular basis because it keeps so darn long and goes with almost anything else I decide on for lunch. This salad is also a great choice to make for a family who is grieving, just had a baby, or is in a similar state of overwhelm—you can provide a healthier counterpoint to the usually carb-and-cheese-laden dishes that tend to be delivered in such circumstances.

My mom’s been making this salad for as long as I can remember; the tradition in our family evolved such that we always had it on New Year’s Day, along with the equally famous shrimp creole (that’s coming this winter, ya’ll, don’t worry) & wild rice. Marinated salad works wonderfully alongside this main course, but also serves another purpose; allowing everyone to fulfill their black-eyed pea quotient in a tasty way.

If you are not familiar with the food commandments down here below the Mason-Dixon line, one very strong and non-negotiable one is that you must eat black eyed peas on the first day of the new year, or face twelve months of bad luck. For kids who were tortured by the taste, the compromise became one bean per month, but I’m pretty sure with this dish, you and/or your kids won’t have any trouble eating more than twelve peas.

MOM’S MARINATED SALAD

This is dead easy to make, I promise you can’t mess it up. Feel free to substitute fresh herbs for the dried or dried beans for the canned. You can also used canned corn instead of fresh, but since corn on the cob is so plentiful, cheap, & delicious right now, I recommend you go that route.

Any combination of beans will work, so throw in what you have on hand (cannelini beans are nice, as are pintos). Make sure not to use any with added salt or flavor. If you normally object to red onion, I heartily encourage you to try it here—the vinegar will cut much of the bite, and it just looks so much prettier than white or yellow would.

ingredients: marinated salad

1 can each:

dark red kidney beans

garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas)

black eyed peas

green beans*

2 ears’ worth of fresh corn kernels corn

1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped

Drain the beans in a large colander & rinse. Transfer to a sizeable bowl, then add corn and artichoke hearts.  Heat the following in a small saucepan:

1 cup white vinegar

1 cup sugar

Once the sugar has fully dissolved and the mixture boils, remove from heat.

Stir in:

½ red onion, very thinly sliced

2 T capers

1 T dried parsley

1 T garlic powder (less if you aren’t a garlic fan)

1 tsp. chives, minced salt & pepper (be generous!)

Let the vinegar mixture sit for about 5 minutes, then pour over the vegetables. Mix thoroughly and then drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil. For the best taste, allow to sit on room temperature for 1 hour before serving or storing in the fridge for future use.

*If you want to use fresh green beans, you’ll need to blanch them first.

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SUMMER CLASSICS SERIES: SNAP PEA SALAD

Ya’ll.  I am so tired and so full.  My in-laws are in town.

Jill’s parents are what you might call “good country people,” Louisiana folk who grow big gardens, hunt deer, & wear me out even though they are fifty and sixty years older than me, respectively.  I think it’s because they work so hard and all of the time that they can eat the way they do; which is to say that if I ate what they eat all of the time, I’d be six months out from a triple-bypass surgery and forty extra pounds.

snap pea salad

Our running joke when we come home from their house or when they leave ours is “I need something green, please!”  Most of what we eat with them is fried—for example, tonight’s meal consisted of onion rings, fried shrimp, this coleslaw, squash casserole (with cheese!), and double-chocolate brownies.  With whipped cream.

So, I think I’m going to make this salad tomorrow and eat it all myself.  Let’s hear it for vegetables.

SNAP PEA SALAD

The following is not a prescriptive recipe; please feel free to tinker.  And it tastes even better if you can make it an hour or two before serving.

ingredients: snap peas

2 cups snap peas, washed & trimmed*
3 carrots, grated (yielding about 1 cup)
1 ½ T fresh ginger, minced
¼ cup cilantro, picked
toasted sesame seeds for garnish

dressing:

¼ cup bottled garlic dressing (I used Annie’s Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette because I am obsessed)
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 T rice wine vinegar or the juice of ½ a lime
soy sauce or salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Toss with dressing & adjust salt, etc. to taste.  Serve immediately or refrigerate until you’re ready.

*To trim, just snap off the ends & remove the middle “string.”

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SUMMER CLASSICS SERIES: COLESLAW

You know those recipes you would beg, borrow, or steal for? Yeah, this is definitely one of them.

coleslaw

Take this coleslaw to a potluck, grill-out, or summer picnic, and I guarantee you’ll have people clambering not only to lick the bowl clean, but also to ask you for the recipe.

I actually didn’t have to beg terribly hard to get this recipe myself—lucky for me, my friend Kathy is a generous recipe-sharer. She’s also responsible for broadening my culinary horizons and know-how when I was just wee college student some half-a-dozen years ago!

This crunchy, spicy slaw goes well with just about any grilled meat or burger. Feel free to adjust the proportions in the dressing to suit your tastes. Coleslaw definitely qualifies as a summer classic, and I’ll eat it in pretty much any incarnation. How do you like yours?

COWBOY KICKOFF COLESLAW
adapted from the Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas (via K. Glenney)

This recipe makes a LOT of slaw, so feel free to halve it.

vegetables: yellow bell pepper

4 cups shredded cabbage
(I used both green & half red)

2 cups shredded carrots

2 bell peppers, julienned
(I used one orange & one yellow)

2 chopped jalapeños
(just 1 if you’re heat-shy)

½ bunch cilantro,
picked off the stem & rough-chopped

slaw vegetables dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise

2 T maple syrup

2 T vinegar

2 T Dijon mustard

1 T Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. coriander powder (if you don’t have it/can’t find it, not a dealbreaker)

1 clove garlic, minced

juice of ½ a lime

salt, to taste

Combine all the raw vegetables in a bowl. Whisk the rest of the ingredients together in a separate bowl, then pour over the vegetables. Toss to coat & refrigerate until time to serve. Best if made ahead! Those are four of the sweetest words in the English language: best if made ahead.  Sigh.

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SUMMER CLASSICS SERIES: PASTA SALAD

“Hot town, summer in the city…”

It’s June. My town (Houston) is hot, and it’s only going to get hotter as the weeks roll by. Luckily, along with the heat come ears of sweet corn, ripe Texas peaches, and these adorable yellow heirloom tomatoes, straight outta the Blue Jean backyard.

tiny yellow heirlooms!

I love summer, unabashedly. Cutoff shorts, tank tops, sunscreen, fluffy beach towels, oversized shades, sweat—bring it on, I say! To honor the sultry season, here at Blue Jean Gourmet we’ll be featuring favorite summer dishes every Tuesday from now until Labor Day. Everything from potluck-friendly dishes (like the one below) to pitcher-friendly beverages and crowd-pleasing desserts…Blue Jean Gourmet will be celebrating summer right, and we hope you will celebrate with us!

Some recipes will be familiar (Southern-style potato salad, anyone?), while others will offer a twist on old favorites (a colorful, Southwestern-style coleslaw with a kick!) As always, I promise to provide straightforward, delicious food which is well-worth making, and worth making again and again. If you have any suggestions or requests for summer food favorites as we move forward, please leave a comment or send a note to bluejeangourmet (at) gmail (dot) com.

Let the Summer Classics Series begin!

orzo up-close

This pasta salad recipe is a lighter twist on the mayonnaise-heavy classic, and it’s perfect for summer because a) you can make it ahead of time, b) you can feed a crowd with it, c) the method is very straightforward, and d) the dish highlights all that’s lovely about summer produce. I like to call this recipe “farmers market friendly,” because you can easily adapt this salad to whatever vegetables looked the best at your local vendor.

If you’re not familiar with orzo, now is the time. Generally described as a rice-shaped pasta (personally, I think it looks more like little teardrops, but whatever), you can find orzo in little bags next to all of the other boxed noodles on the pasta aisle. Orzo’s one of the things I always keep in my pantry because it’s so versatile. The bag may be small, but be warned—it cooks up to fairly large amount!

My friend Lee originally introduced me to this recipe (hey you!), and she suggests making this dish more carnivore-friendly by adding chopped prosciutto at the end. Frankly, I’ve never done this, because the dish is so darn tasty as it is…but then again, so is prosciutto.

In tribute to Lee (who works at my high school and in whose office I spent a great deal of time reading Dostoevksy), I’d like to connect classic food with classic literature. A few of my fellow book-nerds and I have decided to take on a “big” book for the summer, a classic we haven’t gotten around to reading yet. Mine? Joyce’s masterwork, Ulysses. I’m a little nervous but a lot excited (book-nerd, remember?) and curious if any of you out there are taking on a substantial summer read. Check out the “100 Greatest” lists at The Guardian, Random House, or Time Magazine for inspiration, and let us know what your suggested favorites are! I know we’ve got a bunch of fellow book-nerds (and teachers and librarians) reading this blog.

So, to sum up:

1) Tuesdays will be Summer Classics Days here at Blue Jean Gourmet from now until Labor Day. Send us suggestions for dishes to feature/adapt!
2) We like classic literature, along with classic food, here at BJG. What are your favorites among the great books? Taking on any big ones this summer?
3) This pasta salad is really, really good and easy to make. Try it!

Sautéed Vegetable Orzo
adapted from Lee Avant

You can use whatever veggies you want—I’ve just listed my favorites. Do your best to chop uniformly so the vegetables will cook evenly.  This salad will taste even better the next day, if there’s any left!

1 package orzo (rice-shaped) pasta orzo ingredients

1 red onion or 2 shallots (the latter has a milder flavor), chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 portabello mushrooms, cubed

1 zucchini, cubed

3-4 fresh tomatoes, cubed

grated parmesan, cubed feta, or bocconcini (tiny mozzarella balls)

olive oil

1-2 T butter (adds flavor)

optional: chopped fresh basil, fresh lemon juice, chopped prosciutto (find with the specialty cheese & deli meats)

Cook orzo in boiling, salted water until toothsome (6-8 minutes). Drain and set aside in a large bowl or serving dish.

Heat olive oil & butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion & garlic and sauté until fragrant. Toss in mushrooms and zucchini, cooking until desired tenderness is achieved (5-8 minutes).

Mix cooked veggies in with the pasta, adding the uncooked tomatoes. Blend in cheese and prosciutto (if using), adding more olive oil if needed to keep the pasta coated. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and garnish with basil.

Serve immediately or cover with foil & keep warm in a low oven. Enjoy!

finished orzo

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