Grilled Radicchio with Burrata Takes Center Plate

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Grilled Radicchio with Burrata, Golden Raisins and Hazelnuts

A lot of the grilled vegetables that have passed my plate over the years have been rather boring. In fact, I’ve been to many outdoor BBQ parties where the vegetables feel quite frankly, not much more than an afterthought. You know which veggies I’m thinking about. I may be a grilled veggie lover, but I’ll admit that too many times I’ve politely passed over these veggies in order to get to the main event. These days, for the sake of the planet and my health, I’ve vowed to eat less meat. Which sometimes presents a “center of the plate” dinnertime challenge. Grilled Radicchio with Burrata meets that challenge deliciously.

Brevity seems to be my middle name these days. GREGGrilled Radicchio Quarters

Burrata BallsGrilled Radicchio with Burrata

Grilled Radicchio with Burrata, Golden Raisins, and Hazelnuts

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Inspired by Sam KassPublished
Grilled Radicchio with Burrata, Golden Raisins, and Hazelnuts

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • smoked sea salt (such as Maldon, as needed)
  • 2-3 heads radicchio
  • canola oil (as needed)
  • 2-3 (4-oz balls) fresh burrata
  • lightly toasted and roughly chopped hazelnuts (for garnish)

Directions

Heat olive oil in a small skillet and over a medium-low heat. Add the raisins to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes until slightly plump, then add the vinegar, honey, and a few pinches smoked sea salt. Take the pan off the heat.

Quarter the radicchio through the stem end into equally sized wedges. Rub them on all sides with canola oil. Season generously with smoked sea salt.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill to high heat. Pour a little canola oil on a rag and use tongs to carefully rub the oil onto the grates.

Grill the radicchio over direct heat, turning often, until nicely charred in places and slightly wilted 8 to 10 minutes). Transfer to a serving platter. Lay the burrata balls across the radicchio and gently tear them open for best presentation. Drizzle the warm raisin mixture over the radicchio and burrata. Sprinkle with hazelnuts and serve immediately.

Thai BBQ Sauce on Slow-Roasted Salmon

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Slow-Roasted Salmon with Thai BBQ Sauce and Swiss Chard

I do like a good char on food and I spend a lot of time on this blog cooking with high heat. Mastering a controlled char on all sorts of food is the sign of a good cook. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written on this blog how much I love cooking hot and fast. Seared fish is a particular favorite of mine. Especially seared salmon with crispy skin. But if you just can’t give the pan the undivided attention seared fish requires, or you bought skinless salmon fillets then I suggest you try Slow-Roasted Salmon. It’s a forgiving, stress-free method of cooking that makes regular appearances in my kitchen.

The idea is simple. You use a low temperature and cook the salmon a fairly long time (about 25 minutes). When it’s finished a fork inserted in the thickest part of the fish meets with no resistance and the flesh is just beginning to flake when you poke into it. An instant-read thermometer should read no more 120° F.

Slow-Roasted Salmon with Thai BBQ Sauce and Swiss Chard

The results are quite surprising. Slow-Roasted Salmon is incredibly moist with an especially buttery texture which really emphasizes salmon’s inherent richness and big flavor. Qualities I think that beg for something sweet and tangy. Homemade or even good quality store-bought BBQ sauce is the perfect baste for this fish. You can choose something traditional or perhaps give it an Asian vibe as I did. The side dish of chard and barely cooked tomatoes is optional but I like the cross-cultural panache it brings to the plate. GREG

Cherry TomatoesRed ChardSlow-Roasted Salmon with Thai BBQ Sauce and Swiss Chard

Slow-Roasted Salmon with BBQ Sauce

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Inspired by Sam KassPublished

Choose a homemade or good quality store-bought BBQ sauce without a lot of added sugar and other hard to pronounce additives.

Slow-Roasted Salmon with BBQ Sauce

Ingredients

  • 6 (6-oz) skinless salmon fillets
  • sea salt (as needed)
  • BBQ sauce (as needed)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Lay the salmon fillets at least 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and season them with salt. Liberally brush the fillets with BBQ sauce on both sides and place them in the oven on the center rack to roast until the salmon is cooked almost all through at the thickest point, about 25 minutes. You’ll know it’s finished when a fork inserted in the thickest part of the fish meets with no resistance and the flesh is just beginning to flake when you poke into it. An instant-read thermometer should read no more 120° F.

Serve immediately or at room temperature with more BBQ sauce on the side.

Thai BBQ Sauce

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published
Thai BBQ Sauce

Ingredients

  • ½ cup oyster sauce
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 3 tablespoon ketchup
  • 2 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 tablespoon sambal olek (or similar chile sauce)
  • 2 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 5-6 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 3 tablespoon fresh ginger (peeled and minced)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion
  • 2 teaspoon dried basil

Directions

Add all ingredients to a non-reactive bowl and stir to fully combine. Set the sauce aside for 1 to 2 hours to allow the flavors to meld. The sauce may be stored covered in the refrigerator for one week.

Swiss Chard with Cherry Tomatoes

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Adapted from Sam KassPublished
Slow-Roasted Salmon with BBQ Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Swiss chard (wash, dried, and stems lightly trimmed)
  • 2 ounce
  • 2 clove garlic (peeled and thinly sliced)
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 12-18 cherry tomatoes (halved)

Directions

Coarsely chop the Swiss chard leaves and stems crosswise into 1 to 2-inch thick ribbons. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil gets very hot stir in the chard, garlic, and salt. Cook, stirring often until the leaves are tender and the stems are tender-crisp about 4 minutes. Stir in the halved cherry tomatoes and remove from heat. Serve immediately.

Steamed Clams Don’t Forget Green Garlic

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Steamed Clams with Chickpeas and Green Garlic

I spent a number of my younger years in Florida. I have happy memories of strolling the beach eyes on the sand searching for shells. My finds were mostly brightly colored coquina, super shiny ceriths, and those ever-abundant olive shells. Occasionally more interesting specimens would wash my way and I’d be rewarded with a striped whelk or a spotted junonia. I still hit the beach sometimes and I still look for shells (in fact I’m in Key West right now!). However these days I usually leave them where I found them. Which isn’t to say I no longer get excited about shells. In fact, shells in the sink make me giddy. Particularly clam shells. Because clams in the sink mean steamed clams on the menu.

I remember the first time I really appreciated steamed clams – though it wasn’t on a Florida beach – it was in a beach town all the way across the country. I was in college and I stumbled upon Brophy Bros. restaurant in Santa Barbara, California. The restaurant sat (and still sits) on the second story of a wooden marina building on the bustling docks at the Santa Barbara Harbor. I recall a heaping bowl of shells and a half boule of sourdough bread being placed in front of me. Digging through all those shells in order to pluck out a minuscule muscle hardly seemed worth the effort. Which set me up for quite a surprise when I tasted those sweet like the sea, plump clam morsels. Maybe it was the cold beer or the spectacular view, but all I remember was the pure joy of tasting the sea by the sea. To this day there are very few meals in my life that can take me back to a time and place as quickly as steamed clams.

Steamed Clams with Chickpeas and Green Garlic

When I see clam shells in my sink I know that they carry a lot of nostalgic culinary baggage, so I quickly remind myself of the old mantra that says the best cooking comes when a just a few simple ingredients are treated with respect. Which often means doing as little as possible and simply enjoying the process. Because the process can be as wonderful as it is simple. All you need is a bit of broth – I’ve chosen white wine enriched with a decent amount of cream – and enough heat so that the clams steam open. If you’re crazy enough to put your ear near the pan as the steamed clams cook you’ll actually hear a sort of clattering as they open their shells, release their liquor with abandon, and reveal their plump secret. GREG

PS All these accolades for steamed clams and I totally forgot to point out the other special ingredient in this recipe – green garlic. It’s only available for a short while in spring. What’s green garlic? Well, in one of the greatest cookbooks ever published, Chez Panisse Cooking, Alice Waters, and Paul Bertolli write:Garlic is commonly used as a mature plant when the bulb containing many cloves has formed. Green garlic is the same plant pulled from the ground at a much earlier stage, before the bulb forms and when the plant resembles a leek, with a stalk about 1/2-inch in diameter…Until recently, green garlic never appeared in the market and was largely unrecognized by cooks. The quality of green garlic is unique and of great use in the kitchen.”

green garlicclams on ice Steamed Clams

Steamed Clams with Chickpeas and Green Garlic

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Renee EricksonPublished
Steamed Clams with Chickpeas and Green Garlic

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 green garlic bulbs (white and pale-green parts only)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 pound Manila or littleneck clams (scrubbed)
  • 1 (15oz) can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • ½ cup crème fraîche
  • ¼ cup (loosely packed) dill
  • ¼ cup (loosely packed) tarragon leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon zest (to taste)
  • grilled or toasted bread

Directions

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook green garlic, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add wine, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced somewhat, about 3 minutes. Stir in cream and lemon juice. Add clams and chickpeas and increase heat to medium-high. Cover and cook, shaking occasionally, until clams open, about 5 minutes; discard any that don’t open. Add crème fraîche and stir until melted into the sauce. Add dill and tarragon; season with salt and pepper. Cook about 20 seconds to soften herbs. Top with lemon zest; serve with bread.

People Love Smashed Peas on Toast

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Smashed Peas and Whipped Goat Cheese on Toast

Though I’m traveling at the moment and need to be brief, I’ve got a smashing recipe I’d like to share. And I do mean smashing. I don’t know why but people love food when it’s smashed. I’m sure you’ve seen kids with peas and a fork. Though I acknowledge with kids smashed peas can be weaponized as easily as they can be pulverized. So it’s easy to doubt their motivation. Still, I maintain my thesis. People love smashed peas. Adults too. Although we do it with a bit more sophistication and we rarely flick them across the room on the back of a spoon. Especially when they’re served with whipped goat cheese on toast.

Smashed Peas and Whipped Goat Cheese on Toast

Things on toast, especially for breakfast, are having something of a renaissance at the moment. It’s a culinary category that’s hard to beat for its versatility and its portability. But I prefer things on toast as more as a light bite. The kind of late lunch or afternoon snack you’d serve after a big holiday breakfast (say Easter for example). This blog has not been immune to the trend. Fava beans, mushrooms and of course avocado come to mind. Today I have come up with a fresh as spring smashed peas recipe using the same smashing concept that people seem to love. GREG

Smashed Peas and Whipped Goat Cheese on Toast

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Published
Smashed Peas and Whipped Goat Cheese on Toast

Ingredients

  • 8 ounce fresh goat cheese (at room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • fine sea salt (to taste)
  • ¼ cup very good extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
  • ½ pound shelled English peas
  • freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • ¼ cup loosely packed, chopped tarragon leaves
  • 6 slice toasted baguettee (cut on the bias)

Directions

To make the goat cheese: In a mini food processor blend goat cheese and lemon juice. Cover and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and process again to combine. Transfer cheese to a small bowl

To make the peas: Gently warm olive oil a heavy saucepan set over a medium heat. Add the peas, stirring often to cook them evenly. As they soften, smash the peas against the side of saucepan with the tines of a fork, pressing them into the oil. You may alternatively use a stick blender, just don’t let them get too smooth. When smashed to the desired level, season with salt and pepper; add chopped tarragon leaves and stir. Set aside to cool.

To assemble: Spread a generous amount of whipped goat cheese onto each toast. Top with mashed peas, drizzle with a little olive oil and serve immediately.

Smashed Peas and Whipped Goat Cheese on Toast

 

 

A Raisin-Ricotta Crostata for Easter

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Raisin-Ricotta Crostata

Easter is a big deal in Italy and some sort of ricotta pie is quite often a part of the Italian holiday table. The most traditional Easter pie is the pastiera. It’s a lattice-topped, sweet and savory torte filled with ricotta, beaten eggs, and wheat berries. It’s often flavored with candied fruits and a dash of sugar and cinnamon. As much as I like the idea of this traditional Easter pastiera I think that it may be an acquired taste. I’m not saying I dislike pastiera but – much like Christmastime fruitcake – I’ve yet to taste a version that inspires me to create my own. Still, fresh sheep’s milk ricotta does seem to perfectly suit the holiday so I’ve turned to another lattice-embellished Italian tart – the ricotta crostata.

Raisin-Ricotta Crostata

Raisin-Ricotta Crostata. That’s such a happy little rhyme. In fact, it’s practically poetry so I don’t feel I need to say much more. But I would like you to know that this simple, not-too-sweet Italian tart is reminiscent of a cheesecake with a higher crust-to-filling ratio. Which also sounds like music to my ears because the crust is a sweet Italian pastry known as pasta frolla. It’s richer, silkier, and of course sweeter than the all-butter slightly salty French pastry crust I make by rote. As for the filling in this Raisin-Ricotta Crostata, well, that’s where this recipe really shines. It’s a barely sweet, shallow layer of ricotta beaten until smooth then laced with booze-soaked golden raisins. I’ve also scented it with just enough cinnamon to add complexity without making it taste like Christmas. Afterall, it’s an Easter pie. Happy Easter. GREG

PS: It’s well worth seeking out really good fresh sheep’s milk ricotta for this recipe because you will be able to taste the tang of it against the sweet pastry dough. Cow’s milk ricotta makes a perfectly delicious ricotta crostata too, just make sure to drain it well.

Raisin-Ricotta Crostata Raisin-Ricotta Crostata for Easter

Raisin-Ricotta Crostata

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Published
Raisin-Ricotta Crostata

Ingredients

  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup Marsala wine
  • pasta frolla (divded into 2 discs, see recipe)
  • 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
  • 2 large egg yolks (lightly beaten)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pound fresh ricotta cheese (preferably sheep's milk, drained)

Directions

Place the raisins in a small bowl and pour the Marsala over them to cover. Let them soak until plump and juicy looking, at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger disc of pasta frolla into an 11 to 12-inch circle about ¼ inch thick. Carefully wrap the dough around the rolling pin and drape it over a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan letting the excess drape over the sides. Put the lined tart pan in the refrigerator to chill for 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using an electric mixer beat the eggs, sugar, and cinnamon together until light and fluffy, then add the ricotta and continue to beat until very smooth and creamy. Drain the raisins well and stir them into the ricotta mixture. Remove the chilled tart pan from the refrigerator and spoon the ricotta mixture into the pan, smoothing the top with the back of the spoon.

Roll out the remaining disc of dough into a 10-inch round a generous 1/8 inch thick, and cut it into ½-inch-wide strips. Carefully place the strips over the filled tart shell in a lattice pattern, gently pressing the ends of the strips into the sides of the tart shell. Use the rolling pin or the palm of your hand to press around the perimeter of the pan to cut off any excess dough.

Bake the crostata on a rimmed baking sheet for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is puffed and just set. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool somewhat then remove the ring of the tart pan and let the crostata cool completely.

Serve at room temperature.

Pasta Frolla (Italian Sweet Pastry Dough)

Print This Recipe Total time Yield one 9-inch to 11-inch lattice-top crostataSource Domenica Marchetti via NPRPublished

If you make a 9-inch crostata, you will have some leftover dough, which you can rewrap and freeze for future use, or roll out, cut into shapes and make cookies. Bake them at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Sour Cherry and Apricot Tart made with Pasta Frolla (Italian Sweet Pastry Dough)

Ingredients

  • 3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for the work surface)
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • zest of 1 lemon (finely grated)
  • zest of 1 orange (finely grated)
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter (cut into ½-inch cubes)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large eggs yolks

Directions

Put the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon and orange zests in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse briefly to combine the ingredients. Distribute the butter around the bowl and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg and egg yolks and process until the dough just begins to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it together. Knead it briefly and shape it into 2 discs (one slightly larger than the other). Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until well chilled (overnight is fine). Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for 30 to 45 minutes, or until it is just pliable enough to roll, but not too soft to work with.

 

Halibut with Pea Puree and Pickled Mustard Seeds

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Halibut with pea puree and pickled mustard seeds

It’s officially spring now. So what springs into your mind this time of year? Why peas of course! As soon as I hear that distinct boing from a spring that has fully sprung I start thinking about ways to cook with sweet, fresh English peas. However, as I was making this pea puree I began to wonder why I wait until spring to get so excited about peas. Peas are the ultimate vegetable. They’re reliable, versatile and almost as good frozen as fresh. In fact, most of us always have a bag of frozen peas lurking in our freezer, but it’s rare that we ever let them be the star of the show.

This halibut recipe features springtime peas (fresh or frozen) in a mash of what I’d more properly what call a pea puree. It’s not much more than lightly seasoned smashed peas blended with a little half-and-half. However, it’s a simple combination they really absorbs the surrounding flavors very well. It also adds a beautiful color and texture to your plate. GREG

Pickled Mustard SeedsMustard-Brushed HalibutMustard-Brushed Halibut with Pea Puree and Pickled Mustard Seeds

Mustard-Brushed Halibut with Pea Puree

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Published

I typically brine halibut for about 1 hour the day before cooking in a 5% brine solution. Which works out to be about ¼ cup easily dissolvable sea salt to about 6 generous cups of very icy water. Rinse and dry the fish very well before following this recipe.

Mustard-Brushed Halibut with Pea Puree

Ingredients

  • 6 (6 oz) halibut filets (about 2 ¼ pounds total)
  • 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup minced fresh shallots
  • 1 pound fresh, shelled or frozen, thawed peas
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper (as needed)
  • ½ cup half-and-half (plus more if needed)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • pickled mustard seeds (optional, see recipe)

Directions

Lightly brush halibuts fillets evenly with mustard on both sides and let marinate uncovered in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Remove the fish from the refrigerator about ½ hour before you want to cook it.

Meanwhile, heat butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add shallots; cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add peas, 1 cup water, and a big pinch each salt and pepper. Cover partially with lid; cook until sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes. Set aside and keep warm. Using a slotted spoon move a bit more than half of the peas to a blender leaving the liquid behind in the skillet. Add half-and-half to the blender of peas, and big pinch each salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Adjust consistency with a touch more half-and-half if necessary, but don’t let it get too soupy. Transfer the pea puree to a saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12″ or larger cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add halibut; cook, turning once, until golden brown (about 4 minutes total cooking or to an interior temperature of 117 degrees F). Remove from heat, season lightly with salt, and let rest 3 or 4 minutes.

To serve, divide pea puree among 6 dinner plates and top each with a halibut fillet; spoon over some of the whole peas and some of their sauce. Garnish with pickled mustard seeds (if using) and serve immediately.

Pickled Mustard Seeds

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1 cupSource Naomi PomeroyPublished

Once refrigerated they need to be gently reheated before use. This can be done in the microwave for a few seconds if you keep them stored in a microwave-safe container.

Pickled Mustard Seeds

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup water
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup whole mustard seeds
  • 1 clove peeled garlic

Directions

In a small saucepan over high heat, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 35 minutes, until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of syrup (but is not as thick as honey). Let cool, transfer to a nonreactive airtight container, and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

 

White Asparagus and Red Grapefruit and Green Goddess

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White Asparagus and Red Grapefruit and Green Goddess

I look forward to big, fat springtime asparagus and I’ve allotted quite a bit of space to the beautiful green spears that deliciously beckon the arrival of warmer days. Some of my favorites include Bistro-Inspired Asparagus with Mimosa Sauce and Grilled Asparagus with Warm Crab Salad. Here in Southern California green asparagus season is April thru June. However, there’s another shorter (sweeter) asparagus season and it begins right now. I’m talking about white asparagus. White asparagus pairs beautifully with grapefruit. Which is great because Ruby Red Texas Grapefruit also hits its stride in March. Add to that a third seasonal favorite, California avocados, and you’ve got a White Asparagus and Grapefruit Salad with Green Goddess Dressing that suits the season perfectly.

Genetically speaking white asparagus is no different than green asparagus, with one exception. White asparagus never sees the sun so it never develops the chlorophyll that would turn the stalks green. It’s a time-honored agricultural process, and though farmers have a made some concessions for modernity, the cultivation of white asparagus has remained largely the same for many generations.

Farmers plant the stalks in long mounded rows. As the plants grow, the rising spears are piled with dirt. The least amount of sunlight could color the asparagus and ruin the entire crop. It’s a fascinating process, but the most important result the cook needs to know is that white asparagus develops a fibrous skin and therefore should be peeled before cooking.

As I said white asparagus is identical to herbaceous green asparagus (minus the chlorophyll). However, it tastes quite different because it carries the terroir of the soil its grown in. As with wine grapes, the soil actually influences the flavor. So my California grown Asparagus and Grapefruit Salad might taste different from the version you whip up in your own neck of the woods. That’s fascinating, don’t you think? GREG

AvocadoWhite Asparagus White Asparagus, Red Grapefruit, and Green Goddess

White Asparagus and Grapefruit Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 3-4Published

Peeling the asparagus is optional.

White Asparagus and Grapefruit Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Ingredients

  • ½ cup green goddess dressing (see recipe)
  • ½ cup whole milk (or more or less, it depends)
  • 12 jumbo spears white asparagus (stalks carefully peeled and woody ends trimmed, see note)
  • salt (as needed)
  • 1 grapefruit
  • sesame seeds (as needed)
  • fresh tarragon leaves (as garnish)

Directions

Prepare the sauce: Whisk the green goddess dressing and about half of the milk together in a medium bowl. Once well incorporated add more and more milk until the sauce reaches a nice consistency. You are looking for a thick and creamy sauce that will slowly pour from a spoon but not become too soupy. Use your judgment, you might not use all the milk (or you might use more) it depends on the thickness of the dressing. Set the finished sauce aside in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Blanch the asparagus: Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Set aside.

Bring a large shallow pot of water to a boil, add a generous amount of salt. Carefully lay all the asparagus spears in the boiling water, making sure they are fully submerged. Boil 2-3 minutes or until tender-crisp. Do not overcook. Strain the asparagus spears and immediately plunge them in the ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain asparagus and set aside on paper towels to dry.

Create the grapefruit supremes: Working over a bowl to catch the juice carefully peel and remove the pith of the grapefruit then cut each section away from the membrane. Cut each supreme into 2 or 3 bite-size pieces; set aside.

To serve: Drizzle 2 tablespoon of the green goddess sauce in the center of each salad plate. Artfully arrange 3 or 4 asparagus stalks on top of each plate of sauce. Season lightly with salt and then sprinkle the asparagus with a few sesame seeds. Top with grapefruit pieces and drizzle some of the captured grapefruit juice onto the plates. Garnish with tarragon and serve immediately.

Green Goddess Dressing

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1 ½ cupsPublished
Green Goddess Dressing

Ingredients

  • ½ ripe avocado (peeled and chopped)
  • ¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley leaves (lightly packed)
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions

In a blender or mini food processor, combine avocado, parsley, anchovies, garlic, chives, tarragon, sour cream, mayonnaise and lemon juice; blend until smooth. Scrape the dressing into a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until serving time.

Real Life Golden Beet Salad

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Golden Beet Salad with Avocado and Haricot Verts

Sometimes I think I get into trouble with you my gentle readers because I don’t do as many “wow” recipes as I used to. I realize seared scallops can knock it out of the park and many people are cruising blogs looking for quadruple-layer chocolate cakes to satisfy their food fantasies. So yes, I know in my heart that today’s Golden Beet Salad with Avocado and Haricot Verts might be a disappointment to those of you looking for gravity-defying-stacks of fantastical food. However neither my wallet nor waistline can afford these treats on a daily basis. So as much as I love bringing the wow-factor every now and again, I can honestly say that I also enjoy presenting real food from real life.

Golden Beet Salad

For me, real food and real life include eating seasonally. Prime season for ripe California Avocados starts right now. Which is why I have chosen this Golden Beet Salad with Avocado and Haricot Verts. It’s fresh and seasonal. It has just a few ingredients – each one chosen to augment the other. While it’s true that this is “just a salad” I like to think that it’s in no way boring. Because you don’t need to switch into zombie mode every time you make a green salad. A salad does not have to limit itself to lettuce and tomatoes.

Haricot VertsGolden Beets

Take this salad: beets, avocado, watercress, haricot verts, some herbs, and spices – nary a legit lettuce leaf to be located. But it’s a winning combination nonetheless. It has diverse textures and bold flavors. The creamy California Hass Avocados I chose add a luxurious counterpoint to the crunch and snap of barely cooked green beans. A sweet and sour dressing along with cilantro and mint make the flavors bright, but the peppery bite of watercress keeps it from getting too cloying.

This nourishing creation could probably be dubbed a “superfood” salad, a term I try not to use much, mainly because I think all food is “super”. Still, there’s so much good stuff in here that it makes you feel conscientious just looking at these pics. Served as it is it’s a terrific first course. However it can also be a substantial meal – just scatter some lean protein and/or chunks of creamy goat cheese over the top.

Which doesn’t mean you won’t find a perfect sliver of seared goose liver resting on toasted brioche and served alongside a dollop of pineapple and pink peppercorn chutney right here on these very pages sometime very soon. My interests and tastes are diverse. I find joy in the simplicity of good food as well as the drama of true gastronomy. So keep coming back. I always want to keep you guessing. GREG

California Avocados did not compensate me for this post, but as a Californian, I love to feature California produce whenever I can.

Golden Beet Salad with Avocado and Haricot Verts

Golden Beet Salad with Avocado and Haricot Verts

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published
Golden Beet Salad with Avocado and Haricot Verts

Ingredients

  • 1 pound golden beets (about 2 to 3 inches in diameter)
  • 1 small red onion (thinly sliced)
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar (or more as needed)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus a little extra to finish)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar-based hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Cholula)
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper (as needed)
  • 8 ounce blanched haricot verts (or regular green beans)
  • 2 ripe but firm avocados (peeled and sliced)
  • 1 bunch fresh watercress (stems and leaves)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro (stems and leaves)
  • 1 bunch fresh mint (leaves only)

Directions

Peel the beets and slice them very thinly into rounds that are about 2 to 3 mm thick. Use a mandolin for best presentation.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the beet slices to the pot and simmer them for about 3 minutes; they should be slightly cooked but still crunchy. Drain the beet slices and put them in a large bowl.

Add the red onion slices, vinegar, olive oil, sugar, hot sauce, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper to the bowl with the beets; toss to combine. Set aside for at least 10-15 minutes and up to 1 hour, then taste. Adjust seasoning as needed with more vinegar, hot sauce and/or more sugar. It should taste both sharp and sweet, but not too spicy.

When you’re ready to serve, spread about half the beet mixture on a large platter. Top with blanched haricot verts, avocado, watercress, cilantro, and mint. Arrange the rest of the beets artistically around the platter, sprinkling any liquid left in the bowl over the salad. Drizzle with extra olive oil and serve.

 

Spicy-Pricey Pickled Mango Salad

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Pickled Alphonso Mango and Chile Salad

I like mangoes. I’ve always liked mangoes. In fact, I’ve featured them on this blog. HereHere… and Here. I always thought there were just two types of mango. The big egg-shaped mango and the smaller comma-shaped mango. Or in my layman’s terms the Hawaiian mango and the Mexican mango. But I’ve recently discovered that someone’s been holding out on me. There’s also an Indian mango more appropriately called Alphonso mango. All I can say is I hope you seek this mango out. I bought some at an Indian market and I can honestly say the Alphonso mango is now my favorite mango. It’s unbeatable for its buttery flesh, incredible fragrance, and perfectly balanced sweetness.

Alphonso Mango

The Alphonso mango does have a downside. The price. They can cost as much as $4 apiece. But don’t let that stop you. If you can find one buy one. Better yet, buy a dozen. If ever there was a fruit to teach us the art of living in the moment, it’s the Indian mango. The season is fleeting (from now until the end of June) and supplies are often limited so don’t dilly-dally. Seize the day, be brave and buy a bunch when they’re still unripe and green. Then watch as they change color dramatically, transforming from a hard and sour fruit into something golden-hued and altogether richer and sweeter than any mango you’ve ever tasted.

If you find you have too many mangoes ripening all at once, go ahead and pickle some of them. I did in this (spicy-pricey) Pickled Mango Salad with Thai Bird Chile. GREG

Alphonso Mango Pickled Alphonso Mango and Chile Salad

Pickled Mango Salad with Thai Bird Chile

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Meera SodhaPublished

Work over a bowl as you shave the mangoes to capture the juice.

Pickled Alphonso Mango and Chile Salad

Ingredients

  • ½ red onion (peeled and thinly sliced )
  • 2 fresh lime (juice only)
  • 2-3 large ripe but firm alphonso mangoes (or other type mango)
  • 1-2 Thai bird chile (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • 1-2 tablespoon granulated sugar

Directions

Place onion in a medium bowl and add lime juice.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel mangoes: discard peel. Carefully shave mangoes top to bottom to create long, thin ribbons.

Place mango ribbons in the bowl with onion, and add chile, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss to coat. Add 1 tablespoon sugar, and toss again. Taste for sweetness and add additional sugar and captured mango juice to taste. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours and or up to 2 days.

 

The Street Food of Mérida, Mexico

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The Street Food of Mérida, Mexico

I’ve recently returned from Mérida, Mexico – the capital city of the Yucatán region – where I threw myself into a self-proposed project to taste as much of the street food of Mérida as possible. There’s a lot to love when it comes to the street food of Mérida too. It’s a place where taco-like panuchos and salbutes are sold on street corners, large steamers of tamales wrapped in banana leaves are peddled from roving tricycle carts and intoxicating smells waft from the simmering pots of the tiny fondas that ring almost every public square in the city. The street food scene is so vibrant that you’ll never be able to try it all.

Though you’ll see from the photos that I gave it a good go!

If you haven’t been to Mexico or immersed yourself in its cuisine it’s easy to assume that tacos and burritos are the best the country has to offer. While these two favorites certainly are ubiquitous, Mexico, much like Italy, is a country of great culinary diversity and clear regional differences. To know and love the real food of Mexico is to delve into the specialties specific to each region.

This is especially true of Mérida. The culinary delights of Yucatecan food are quite distinct from traditional Mexican cuisine. The food is irresistible, influenced by Mayan, Caribbean, and Spanish cuisines. Key ingredients range from locally grown products such as pumpkin seed, oregano, red onion, sour orange, sweet chili, tomato, achiote, the xcatic chile, and habanero pepper to turkey meat. You might not consider turkey to be a Mexican ingredient but it’s a traditional component in many of the regional specialties of the area.

Before I get into all the street food let me tell you a little about the city. Mérida, Mexico is an architectural jewel of brightly painted mansions lining a grid of cobblestone streets and interconnected public squares. Considered the capital city of the Yucatán it has one of the country’s largest historic centers outside Mexico City. It’s an elegant place where Mayan ruins and colonial architecture come together gracefully – reinvented by a newly emerging expatriate community who are converting the colonial mansions and haciendas into sophisticated hotels, bistros, and beautiful private homes.

While it’s true that Mérida is becoming a world-class restaurant town and boasts an exquisite gastronomic heritage, it’s also a place where simple street food may be the most exciting culinary contribution to the city’s culture. The Plaza Mayor is a vibrant meeting place in the center of town where locals escape the mid-day heat sipping champola on leaf shrouded benches or chat with friends late into the night over scoops of icy sorbet. On weekends the choices become even more exciting as food vendors invade the square from all corners.

Street food in Mérida dates back to pre-Hispanic times – the Spaniards were probably amazed to find an array of ready-to-eat food for sale on the streets when they arrived. Not much has changed since then: the streets still teem with carts and makeshift fondas slinging fast, cheap, delicious eats. Who needs Michelin stars when you have street eats this good? GREG

Typical Street Food of Mérida

Typical Street Food of Mérida