Tomato Carpaccio

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By Freya Bellin

As the days of summer near their end, I think most of us wish we had just one more weekend at the beach, or one more week before schools starts.  But, almost as a reward for going back to reality, we do get something wonderful this time of year: tomatoes. And they never disappoint.  Plump, juicy, multi-colored, and funny-shaped, early-September tomatoes are a sweet way to say goodbye to summer.

The simpler, the better, when it comes to using ultra-fresh tomatoes in cooking. I love this tomato carpaccio because it sounds so basic, but the flavors come together in a bright, zesty way. I went for the mozzarella variation, which takes a classic combination like tomato and mozzarella and adds a surprise element of peppery arugula, rather than the standard basil. The simple salt, pepper, and olive oil seasoning complements this salad perfectly. Just proof that when you have amazing produce, it speaks for itself. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Tomato Carpaccio

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Posted in Italian, Produce

Endive and Warm Pear Salad with Stilton

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By Alaina Sullivan

Bitter meets sweet in this perfectly balanced end-of-summer salad. Fresh endive and watercress lay a crisp foundation for sweet cooked pears and crumbled blue cheese. The pears are browned with shallots and perfumed with maple syrup, yielding a result sweet enough to be served a la mode. Atop a bed of greens the pears steer toward savory, but add the right amount of sweetness to mellow the bitter greens.

Blue cheese hasn’t particularly agreed with my palate in the past, though I must admit, the use of Stilton in this dish has reformed me. Both firmer and milder than some of its substitutes, English Stilton contributes a pungent flavor without being too distracting. It simultaneously acts as the salty foil to the sweet pears while cutting the bitterness of the greens.

Though a cast of strong personalities, each element in the salad is balanced beautifully by its counterpart. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express

Endive and Warm Pear Salad with Stilton

Cut three or four pears into eights; toss them with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, along with some salt and pepper. Thinly slice a shallot. Cook the pears and shallot in a skillet over medium-high heat until the pears are browning and the shallot slices are wilted; add a tablespoon of maple syrup during the last 30 seconds or so of cooking. Toss the warm pan mixture, and any remaining juices, in a bowl with endive and watercress (or any other greens you like), along with more olive oil and a bit of sherry vinegar. Garnish with crumbled Stilton and serve.

 

Posted in Produce, Recipes

Spicy-Sweet Green Beans

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By Freya Bellin

Asian-style green beans are pretty classic—usually stir-fried with soy sauce and something spicy. These green beans build on that concept, by adding an almond-based paste and employing a less-fried (less-greasy) cooking method. The result is a super crisp and bright green bean, coated with a nutty, sweet, spicy, irresistible sauce.

The almond-chile paste is the real highlight of this recipe. I used the full 2 tablespoons of oil (if not more) when processing the mix, and I still ended up with a pretty chunky mixture, so don’t expect it to get super smooth. And it doesn’t need to be—the texture and crunch was actually really nice.  The heat from the chiles will also calm down a bit once you add soy sauce and honey, so it’s ok if at first the paste tastes a little spicier than you might want it. I had some sauce leftover in the pan, which I started spreading on veggie burgers and sandwiches. In fact, you may want to make a little extra on purpose. It’s pretty addictive stuff.  Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook

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Posted in Produce

Roasted Chickpeas

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: Less than 30 minutes with cooked chickpeas

When you cook chickpeas long enough, whether on the stovetop or in the oven, their exterior becomes crisp. These are equally good as a side dish or finger food.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything. Continue reading

Posted in Middle Eastern, Recipes

Mushroom and Nori Soup

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By Alaina Sullivan

Mushrooms are delicate but powerful in their ability to add rich meatiness to cooked dishes. This recipe calls for about three cups of mushrooms, though in my fungi-frenzy I measured closer to four. I used shiitake, oyster and cremini — each contributed a distinct texture, creating a rhythm of chewy, porous and meaty spoonfuls. The mushrooms swim in a broth of chicken stock and soy sauce, which intensifies the earthy flavor of the dish. The addition of lemon juice gives a surprising brightness, pulling it up from its savory depths, and strips of nori add a note of the sea. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express

Mushroom and Nori Soup

In a pot over high heat, cook about three cups of mushrooms (any combinations works; oyster and shiitake is especially good) in a couple of tablespoons of butter until they begin to release their liquid; add a diced onion, a minced garlic clove, and a chopped celery stalk and cook until the onion in translucent. Add about four cups of vegetable or chicken stock, a quarter cup of soy sauce, the juice of a lemon, a pinch of celery seed, salt, and pepper. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Tear or slice a sheet of nori into strips and put in soup bowls; pour soup over the nori (it will mostly dissolve) and serve.  

 

Posted in Japanese, Recipes

Corn and Avocado Salad

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Here you have three choices for preparing the corn: If it’s truly fresh and really good, leave it raw; just shave the kernels from the ears and toss them with the rest of the ingredients.

That’s not usually the case, though, and almost as good is to roast the kernels from good corn in a skillet with a little oil. Or use the kernels from already steamed corn, which—if the corn was good in the first place—is an excellent way to take care of the leftovers.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in American, Produce

Melon Gazpacho (in Cucumbers)

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By Freya Bellin

I love repurposing food to be functional. These cucumber cups are a fun way to slurp a shot of gazpacho (or a shot of tequila, if you’re so inclined – cucumber chaser?)  Mine were a little leaky, but it was no problem – just drink quickly!  I also think that leakiness could have been prevented by scooping out a bit less cucumber flesh.

The gazpacho here is worth making, cucumber cups or not. The pure melon version in the main recipe is almost like a dessert, the half-melon/half-tomato variation is a surprisingly delicious mix of sweet and tangy, and the Bloody Mary version is perfect for a Sunday brunch. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes

Trouble Coming Down the Pipeline

So many thoughts after today’s column, in which I wrote about the Keystone XL pipeline. If it’s approved by President Obama, it would carry diluted bitumen — acidic crude oil — 1,700 miles from the tar sands in Alberta to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The Times has already come out against the pipeline, citing the risk of spills, spikes in greenhouse gas emissions and massive destruction of Canada’s boreal forest. Proponents cite job creation and “oil security.”

Oil security suggests that by getting more oil from our peaceful upstairs neighbors and less from our suppliers in the Middle East — sometimes seen as volatile or even hostile, though the supply has been steady — our national security is enhanced. We’re only “safe” if we can reliably obtain all of the oil we “need.”

 

This is an infuriatingly shortsighted and self-destructive position. This is the behavior of addiction, and the only people who can justifiably — though still incorrectly — argue otherwise are those who truly believe that the oil that gives us such comfort now won’t be causing catastrophic harm later. As far as I know, President Obama isn’t one of those people, but if he doesn’t block the pipeline he will be acting just as ignorantly as if he were. (He thinks this is what voters want?

(Read the rest of this post here.)

Posted in Food Politics

Zucchini and Dill Soup

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By Alaina Sullivan

There comes a time around the end of August when I feel an urgency to take advantage of the produce that, come autumn, will cease to overflow at farmers markets. It is during these dwindling days of summer that I crave the season’s fruits, vegetables and abundant herbs in their pure, unadulterated states. Meet a simple soup that embodies the freshness of summer: pureed zucchini, delicate and light, hosts handfuls of freshly chopped dill—it’s a combination that highlights the strengths of its core ingredients without unnecessary frill.

Though mild in taste, zucchini, especially grated, has a texture well-suited to soup – its natural moistness is further softened by a quick simmer with onion and vegetable broth, and a final puree brings it to a light, pulpy consistency. Dill supplies the flavor – simple, clean and savory – it is a perfect herbal companion to the zucchini. I found the soup most delicious served cold—a cooler temperature emphasizes the freshness of the zucchini and elevates the flavor of the dill.

Though simple in its ingredients and preparation, it is the type of soup that can be infinitely tweaked according to personal taste. A few dollops of Greek yogurt provided an added creaminess in my version, and, as someone who craves a crunch in my pureed vegetable soups, I garnished the bowl with toasted pistachios before diving in. As with most simple recipes, the quality of ingredients is key. When the zucchini and dill are fresh, this soup makes the impending arrival of fall feel more distant with each spoonful. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Zucchini and Dill Soup

Add fresh ricotta, sour cream, or yogurt while pureeing, for richness.

Grate a couple of zucchini. Cook a chopped onion in butter until softened, then add the zucchini and stir until softened, five minutes or so. Add vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a boil; simmer for about five minutes, then puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and lots of fresh chopped dill.

 

Posted in Produce, Vegan

Profits First, Environment. . . Later

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I wasn’t surprised when the administration of George W. Bush sacrificed the environment for corporate profits. But when the same thing happens under a Democratic administration, it’s depressing. With little or no public input, policies that benefit corporations regardless of the consequences continue to be enacted.

No wonder an April 2010 poll from the Pew Research Center found that about only 20 percent of Americans have faith in the government (it’s one thing upon which the left and right and maybe even the center agree). But maybe this is nothing new: as Glenda Farrell, as Genevieve “Gen” Larkin, put it in “Gold Diggers of 1937,” “It’s so hard to be good under the capitalistic system.”

(Read the rest of this article here.)

(Photo: South Dakota Tar Sands Pipeline/Flickr)

Posted in Food Politics