Monday, April 30, 2012

Radishes, Snap Peas and Mint -- Spring in a Bowl

Radishes are all the rage.  Have you noticed?  As the Farmer's Markets begin to open here in the North East, you are sure to see them in their array of colors: red, pink, purple, white and even green and black. A member of the Brasscicaceae family (along with cabbage, broccoli, and mustard) the radish has a rapid germination period -- going from seed to plant in 3 days. Talk about an over-achiever!

The following recipe highlights two of my favorite vegetables: radish and snap pea, with a dollop of cheese*, and a citrus dressing. A colorful homage to spring......

Radish, Snap Pea and Mint Salad (adapted from the NYT, 6/12/2009)

3/4 cup sliced radishes (about 4)
1 1/4 cups sliced Snap Peas (slice on the diagonal in half or thirds)
1 cup Ricotta Salata, crumbled or 4 ounces 'wet' Ricotta
1/3 Cup torn mint leaves

1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Teaspoon White Balsamic Vinegar (dark balsamic is okay too)
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine Rashes, Peas, Mint and Ricotta in salad bowl.

Make a paste with the garlic and salt, using a mortar and pestle, a molcajete, or the back of a spoon. In a small bowl combine the paste, juice, and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and pepper, to taste.
Pour 1/2 of dressing over salad, season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Add remaining dressing depending on how wet you like your salads to be.

*I mistakenly purchased 'wet' Ricotta at the store -- the type typically used in pasta dishes. So, that is what is pictured above. Ricotta Salata is a hard, white cheese with a nutty, salty flavor. It is up to you which one to choose! I think you might want to use all of the dressing if you select Ricotta Salata, but I would still add it gradually.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tostadas -- adding crunch to lunch!

Mexican Tostada

I recently felt the need to break out of our salad or wrap or sandwich or soup lunch rut and try something new. Wandering down the ethnic food aisle at WalMart I saw a woman nudging her husband to reach up on the top shelf for a package of Tostadas -- crisp corn tortilla rounds. Once they moved away I stood on my tippy toes and snatched my own.

What a revelation!  Oh, I've had tostadas before --my first way back in the early '70's while visiting Mexico. On a road trip with my host family we pulled into a dusty gas station and everyone headed for the cashier. There on the counter was a tray of tostadas. I don't remember the ingredients, but I do remember the mix of flavors and the crispiness of the shell. Even though I have enjoyed them in restaurants ever since, I have never made them for myself or my family.  Boy have we been missing out. The tostadas have proven to be the perfect vehicle for serving leftovers in a new fashion, adding some crunch to lunch!

Here are some of the ways we have enjoyed them:

Traditional: A smear of warm refried beans, a layer of shredded chicken, chopped tomatoes and green onions,  salsa, shredded cheese, shredded cabbage

Middle Eastern:Warmed cooked  lentils, sliced or shredded chicken, crumbled feta, tomatoes, onions, chopped kalamata olives, shredded lettuce

Pescetarian: Thin layer of Artichoke-Parmesan dip, canned salmon (or tuna), chopped tomatoes and green onions, shredded lettuce or cabbage

BBQ: Thin layer of BBQ sauce, pork (sliced or shredded), sliced onion, shredded cheddar, coleslaw (dressed or undressed)

Spicy Vegetarian: Smear of Jalapeno Greek Yogurt Dip (from Costco), assorted chopped vegies, crumbled feta, shredded lettuce

The possibilities are endless. All you need is something "wet" to act like glue on the bottom and then start the layering. A delicious and different way to use leftovers, an easy way to get your vegies,  -- and a fun interactive meal, be it lunch or dinner . Just line up what you've got in the fridge and let the family do it themselves.

Farmer's Market Short Ribs

Where ever I am, if there is a Farmer's Market I go. Not only do I love the fresh produce, pasture raised meats, unique cheeses and specialty products available, but I believe you can learn a lot about a community at the market. The ethnic diversity and cultural heritage of an area is evident not only in the prepared foods available, but in the faces of the farmer's and other merchants. Spice mixes, baked goods and other treats often compliment local cooking trends and styles.

 While at the Stuart, FL Green Market last week we met Steven and Maya of the Florida Sunshine Company, and left their stand with a handsome package of bone-in short ribs (in my opinion the only way to buy and cook them -- there is so much flavor in the bones) After reading some Short Rib recipes on line, and taking into consideration what I had and did not have in the fridge and pantry, plus the array of vegetables I had picked up at the green market, I put together the following recipe. I served the ribs with market fresh Brussels Sprouts halved and sautéed in a dab of bacon fat and a loaf of crusty bread to sop up the juices.

 By the way, you could taste the grass in the ribs. Delicious. I may never eat non-grass fed and non grass-finished beef again.*

 Farmer's Market Short Ribs (serves 4) 

 3 lbs bone-in beef short ribs
 1 T sea salt ( use a flavored salt, like roasted garlic, if you wish)
 2  t freshly cracked pepper
 1 T dried thyme
 2  t dried rosemary
 4 T coconut oil ( or olive oil, to preference)
 6 carrots, cut into 2" sticks
 1 large white onion, or 2 large spring onions as shown above
 3 cups grape tomatoes
 2 cups red wine
 4 cups beef broth

 Combine herbs and seasonings, rub on all sides of ribs. Let stand 30 minutes.

 Heat oil over medium-high heat in Dutch oven or other oven safe pan .

Add ribs and cook until all sides are browned. About 8 minutes. Remove to plate, set aside.

 Add carrots and onion to pan, cook until browned.
Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from pan and set vegetables aside.

 Keeping heat at medium-high, add wine to pan and scrape to get up all the flavorable bits on bottom.

Return veggies to pan, and cook at low boil until wine is reduced by half.

 Add broth, tomatoes and ribs. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook ribs, covered, on stovetop for 2 1/2 hours, never letting liquid return to a boil,

This is what mine looked like before I put them in the oven (I was only cooking for 2 here)

or - Cover pan and place in oven. Cook at 325 for 2 1/2 hours. Check periodically, and add more broth if needed. Rib meat will be falling off the bone and fork tender when fully cooked., the tomatoes and other vegies will be soft and slightly roasted.


*Steven told me to look for beef that is grass-finished as well as grass fed, otherwise the cattle may be pasture fed early on and then returned to the barn where they are "finished" with grain feed until they are ready for market, erasing all the benefits of those early months in the pasture.