Friday, August 24, 2007

"Help! My Garden Is Exploding!" Tabbouleh Salad

The Recipe

1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups water
1 cucumber
3 (large) - 6 (small) tomatoes
handful of chives OR 1/2 bunch scallions
1 can chickpeas, drained
bunch of flat-leaf/Italian parsley
bunch of mint
5 Tbsp. XV olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Bring water to a boil; add bulgur. Bring back up to boil; reduce to low heat and simmer about 10-15 minutes, until water is absorbed and bulgur is tender. Turn out into bowl to cool, occasionally fluffing with a fork.

Remove some of the cucumber seeds. Chop cucumber and tomatoes either fine or medium, as you like it; set aside in a bowl. Finely chop parsley and mint; finely slice scallions or chives (I use a scissors for chives. Makes life easier.) Drain chick peas. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice and cayenne together in small bowl.

By now, the tomatoes and cukes have exuded a lot of juice; drain it off. The bulgur should have cooled, too. Toss all salad ingredients together gently, then pour dressing over and toss lightly again.

Let cool in refrigerator at least one hour before serving. Is good while still a little warmer than fridge temp, but is also fine when cold for lunch tomorrow.

Serves 4-6 as dinner, 8-10 as a side dish.

The Story

This is the first meal I ever made for my husband, who was just some guy I was dating at the time. It worked out great for me! I've changed it over the years, but he still seems to like it.

By "bunch", I mean the approximate amount of parsley sold in a grocery store bundle. If you're inclined to measure, you want at least 1/2 cup of each finely chopped herb; more is good, especially when the mint is taking over because you forgot that you should always plant mint in a pot, not in the ground.

The last time I made this, I used a combo of red and yellow tomatoes, and it looked very pretty. Use what you have. I don't like to peel my cucumbers, but this is up to you. The salad will still have lots of green color without it, if you should feel it necessary to peel.

The chickpeas add a small element of texture as well as nutrition. If you want, a cooked chicken breast can be substituted; chop it up and mix with an extra 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Keep in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the salad, then toss in at the end. You can skip 'em both and just have a nice side salad.

In my grocery store, bulgur is both with the Latin American foods (Goya brand) and near the rice. You can use couscous if you can't find or don't like bulgur. Personally, I don't like couscous; but as always, it's your dinner and you should enjoy it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Too much of a good thing

The raspberries are back for fall, but I'm throwing out three for every one I pick.


It's been raining for a week. Everything's rotting.

I'm losing tomatoes at the same rate. I rescue them as quickly as I can, but they split quickly in weather like this.

I have plans for the raspberries. Once we have enough saved in the freezer, I want to make a raspberry-ginger mead (technically, a melomel.) I just hope the weather, and an upcoming vacation where I won't be picking for a while, don't ruin that plan.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Grilled Corn Chowder

The Recipe:

5 ears of grilled corn
5 cups chicken or veg. stock
1 lb. red or yukon gold potatoes, cut into medium dice
3 pieces of good smoked bacon
1 med. onion, small dice
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
cream, about 1/4 cup
milk, about 1/4 cup (or, as you may have guessed, 1/2 cup of half-n-half)
S&P to taste

Stand each corn cob on its ends on a cutting board and slice the kernels off; reserve. Simmer corn cobs (yes- I mean the cobs, the middle part you were just going to toss out) in the stock for about 10 min., then remove and discard cobs.

In a separate pot (3 qt. or larger) fry bacon to crisp and then remove to paper towels. Cook onion in rendered bacon fat over med. heat until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add stock & potatoes; bring to boil and cook until potatoes are starting to soften, about 8 minutes. Add reserved corn kernels and bring back up to boil. Remove and puree 2 cups of soup in blender or with boat motor, then add back to pot. Stir well, turn off heat and let sit until boiling stops. Add milk & cream, thyme, crumbled bacon and S&P to taste to soup.

The Story:

Serve with a hunk of good bread and some tomatoes from the garden and you've got a happy, easy dinner.

Just grill extra corn whenever you're going to have it; wrap the extra ears when you're done. 5 ears is approximate; use what you have. Simmering the cobs adds extra corn flavor to the soup. If you forgot to keep the cobs or whatever, don't worry. Also, this works fine with leftover boiled corn, but the grilled corn adds a nice flavor and a touch of color.

Sage could easily substitute for the thyme, but I use sage all summer in bean salads, so it's nice to use a different herb here.

How to grill corn

1. Shuck the corn.

2. Put corn ears directly on grill racks over med-low heat.

3. Turn a little bit every few minutes, and continue until corn is cooked all the way around and has some lovely brown grill marks.

Yes, you can go through the whole rigamarole of soaking the corn in the husk, grilling it, and then shucking it- but for goodness' sake, why? Who needs burned fingertips? The way I do it, you get a different flavor from the corn because of the caramelization of the sugars; a cross between popcorn and sweet corn. 'tis yummy and easy, the way I like food to be.

Butter if you must, but I don't bother with that either. It's nice to enjoy the simple flavor of fresh, in-season grilled corn.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Taste test

A remarkably generous and well-thanked neighbor gave me a box of Harry & David Oregold peaches recently. I've never had an Oregold peach before. During summer in particular, I try to eat locally as much as possible, so I never saw the advantage of an Oregon peach over good ol' South Jersey Peaches. Those Harry & David catalogues make them look and sound like the best fruit ever grown, though, and I've always wondered.

And, for all the advertising and $8.25/lb price tag (before shipping)?

They're good. Maybe a little sweeter and a little prettier than the farmstand ones I get around here, but only a little.

I think I'll stick with Terhune orchards or Battleview.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Healthier Zucchini Bread

The Recipe:

3 eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 cups- approx., very approx- shredded zucchini
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350. Coat two loaf pans with spray oil.

Beat eggs until very light and lemon-colored; slowly add sugar and oil. Continue to beat until very light. Mix in zucchini & spices. In separate bowl, whisk flour with baking powder, soda and salt; slowly add to the egg mixture- you may want to do this by hand or get out the pouring shield, as flour will go all over the place. Stir in walnuts; spread batter evenly into loaf pans.

Bake 1 hour and test with toothpick for doneness; if still wet, bake additional 5 min. until done. Makes two big loaves.

The Story:

This isn't Grandma's light and sweet zucchini bread. It's a lot denser and has more squash in it, more fiber and less sugar. It's still absolutely great. The kids love it slathered with cream cheese for breakfast, but I prefer it plain.

I don't often measure the zucchini. I use up whatever I have- I even used a crookneck squash last time because I had it around. If it's a whole lot more than three cups, the bread is heavy and moist; if it's a lot less, it's a bit dry. This time of year, I always seem to have more than three cups...

Get fresh nutmegs. If you have a microplane grater (usually used for zest or Parmesan cheese), you can use it to grate nutmeg. There is no comparison between canned powder nutmeg and freshly grated- fresh is light years ahead. I get mine from Penzeys. It's worth it.