Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Perfect Recipes for Spring and Summer Produce

One of the things that I love about summer is the overabundance of fresh vegetables and fruit. And not only is it abundant, but prices are super cheap at local Farmer's markets and roadside stands. This year, I'm also excited about my own garden, which is steadily churning out an abundance of fresh veggies.

I thought I'd start highlighting a few recipes from the 28 Cooks archives that are perfect for using up that spring and summer produce. I'll do this every other week or so, so be sure to check back often for other great recipes. And without further ado, on to the recipes.

Sofrito is such a wonderful flavor base for almost any Mexican or Indian recipe. The combination of peppers, onion, and cilantro makes a wonderful addition to guacamole, dips (Black Bean Dip, anyone??), and sauces. Plus, it'll rapidly use up those fresh peppers and herbs that are soon to be coming from your garden.

 
 
We are loving ourselves some asparagus this season. I can't believe I didn't even like it as a kid, as I can't get enough of it now. This asparagus pesto is a great way to use up some of the bounty this spring. Use it as a sauce for pasta, or it's even better as a dip for raw vegetables.
 
 

Cilantro Zucchini Hummus anyone?? I had completely forgotten about this recipe until I started digging through my archives looking for recipes to highligh. This is one tasty and fresh recipe - plus, it's raw and vegan, which makes it even healthier. I guarantee you'll want to keep this recipe around this summer!


And finally, this is a great pickling recipe that can be adapted to almost any vegetable you have in the house. Plus, it's super easy! None of that tricky canning stuff here!

 
 

Well that's all for today, folks! I'll be back later this week with some recipes that are making good use of our rapidly expanding garden.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Grilled Broccoli Raab

So guess what we did with our broccoli raab? We grilled it! =)

Yes, I know. This is rapidly becoming a "grill only" blog. But it's the season for it. And seriously, I haven't turned my stove on since the middle of May. I will grill almost anything.

I have only had broccoli raab a handful of times, mostly on sandwiches. I was pleasantly surprised to taste it on its own - it's broccoli-esque, but also has an almost asparagus taste to it too.

After I cut the heads off, I put it in a bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes. Then I simply shook most of the water off, drizzled on some olive oil, salt, pepper, and some Italian seasoning, and then threw it on the grill.



It was quick and easy to grill and came out quite deliciously. The ends got nice and crispy and almost had a Kale Chip flavor to them. (which seriously, if you have yet to try kale chips - please please PLEASE make them now. Like, right now. Then come back and tell me how much you love them).

And here is the grilled raab in all of its glory.

 
 
Well, that's all for today, folks! Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Garden Update and Our First Harvest

Well the weather has been positively wonderful for the garden lately. It literally seems to sprout up overnight and every morning when I come out with the dog, it's completely different than the night before.

This is our first year doing the Square Foot Gardening method, and I admit I was a little worried that it wouldn't work out. I had read horror stories on the Internet about how if you don't mix the soil exactly so, the entire garden would be ruined and nothing would grow. We were a little haphazard with our soil mixing, but we figured we'd give it a try and see what happened. Surprisingly, everything has taken off and is looking phenomenal! Next year, I just may have to add another bed somewhere. (I have no idea where though - we've pretty much planted the entire yard except for a small patch of grass)

We were even able to make our first harvests yesterday! Broccoli Raab was our first vegetable that we harvested, and you'll have to check back tomorrow to see how we used it. But suffice it to say - we were quite pleased with it!


We also harvested some of our buttercrunch and romaine lettuce last night. Man, there is nothing like lettuce fresh from the garden. It was so tender and flavorful and so far from that organic romaine that we've been getting from Costco. It's going to be hard to go back to that when winter comes around again.


So far, our garden harvest tally is just a little over a pound! I can't wait to see what the final tally will be by summer's end.

Our peas have totally taken off. The tomato cage trellis has worked quite well. I was worried that some of the plants in the corners of the boxes wouldn't reach, but they certainly did and the plants are now almost as tall as I am! We planted golden snow peas and the plants have the neatest little purple flowers.


And just to show you how quickly the peas have grown, I took that picture last night and this morning, I came out and there were about 20 peas that had popped out overnight! Check out how cute they are!


The rest of the garden is also taking off. I'd show you our broccoli/cauliflower beds, and the turnip/kohlrabi/cabbage beds, but they're pretty boring. How about a picture of one of the flower beds??


And here's the rest of the large garden area. We finally planted our eggplant, pepper, zucchini, and squash seedlings, as well as more mesclun lettuce mix, but you can see that our kale and other lettuces are doing just fine. And if you squint your eyes, you can see the new herb garden at the top left of the picture.


Well that's it for today, folks! Be sure to check back tomorrow to find out what we did with our broccoli raab.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Quinoa Broccoli Salad with Mango, Red Onion, and Indian Vinaigrette

So you know how it happens, right? A friend invites you to their BBQ/Cookout that they are having at their house and you ask, "what can I bring?" Your friend replies, "oh, I don't know. Maybe some sort of side?" And then you're stuck, trying to think what you should bring. I mean, don't get me wrong - I love the old standby potato or macaroni salad, but sometimes, you want to bring something to really "wow" people. You want people to taste it and say "this is amazing! Can you bring this to my house too?"

But secretly, you want it to be an easy recipe. Something you can just throw together and can make ahead of time but will still deliver on some serious flavor. Well here you go! This recipe is delicious. And yes, I know I say that about most of my creations, but this is really really good. And easy. And you can make it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you need it. And seriously - just describing it gets the tastebuds going.

You know we love quinoa, right? So we threw some cooked quinoa in the bowl and added some cooked broccoli to it. You can steam, boil, roast, bake, or grill it however you want. (We simply grilled ours with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper) Then you add some diced up mango, red onion, fresh cilantro, and then some olive oil and spices. That's it. It couldn't be easier, right?

But seriously, the flavor?? Amazing. The mango adds just a nice little pop of sweetness that is the perfect companion for the Indian flavors. This is definitely one of those salads that will be the star of any upcoming summer get-together!

 
 
Quinoa Broccoli Salad with Mango, Red Onion, and Indian Vinaigrette
Serves 4-6
 
1 cup quinoa
1 tbsp cumin seed
1 tbsp coriander seed
4 cups cooked broccoli
1 cup diced red onion
2 cups diced mango (this was about 2 whole mangos)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp garam masala
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
 
Add quinoa, cumin seed, and coriander seed to pot or rice cooker and cook as directed on the package instructions. Place in a large bowl and allow to cool for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Allow to chill for an hour or so to give flavors a chance to get all friendly like. Serve and enjoy!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

White Truffle Caper Vinaigrette

I didn't really discover capers until my early 20's. Some friends and I had driven up to Boston to visit another friend and decided to do lox and bagels on a lazy Sunday morning for breakfast. Capers were purchased and from that very first bite, I was hooked. There is something so delicious about the brininess and sharp flavor that I just love.

I wanted to grill up some potatoes to go along with our dinner, but thought it might be fun to make some sort of dipping sauce. I looked through the pantry and fridge, but nothing really spoke to me until I spied a dusty little jar of capers in the pantry. I started kicking around some ideas and finally decided to make a viniagrette. As I was grabbing ingredients to throw together, I also found a little jar of white truffle oil that we really should be using more often. After a few minutes of throwing things in the mini food processor and tasting, I realized that this was quite a tasty little dressing.



Not only is it tasty and has a nice combination of flavors, but it's dead easy to make. Seriously. You just throw all the ingredients in a mini food processor and let it go for about a minute. It whips up into this creamy delicious concoction.

It was absolutely perfect over some grilled potatoes and added the perfect little kick of flavor. But this sauce isn't just a one-trick pony. I also tried it on some grilled asparagus (Amazing!) as well as a quick romaine salad (Delicious!) so I'm sure there are several other ways to use it.


White Truffle Caper Vinaigrette

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp capers
2 tsp stone ground mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp white truffle oil
pinch of salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a mini food processor. Blend for about a minute, until creamy.

Oh, and just because I love them so much - we grilled up some of the vegetarian ribz to accompany these potatoes. Man, sometimes I forget how tasty and delicious they are. Seriously - make them.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Grilled Philly Mushroom Sandwich

Listen, I promise this won't just be a "Grilling Only" blog. But I have to share this recipe with you and then I promise I'll get back to other recipes that don't require a grill. (Although seriously, grills are pretty awesome)

After the success of the mushroom gyro (and that was a very tasty success!), my husband came up with the idea for a grilled mushroom sub, sorta like a vegetarian cheesesteak. And since we live so close to Philadelphia and home of the Cheesesteak, I knew we had to do it right. (Technically, this is a "One Provolone With.")

We chopped up some lovely Baby Bella mushrooms, which are probably my favorite for just everyday tastiness. I love onions in my cheezesteaks, so we roughly chopped a gorgeous red onion to add into the mix.



The mushroom and onion mixture are drizzled with olive oil and then generously seasoned with Italian seasoning and fresh garlic, before they go straight onto a grill rack/pan. (If you don't have a grill, go ahead and saute them in a pan).



After those are all nice and cooked, we assembled the sandwich on a nice crusty hard roll with a healthy schmear (yes, that's a technical term) of marinara sauce and a few thin slices of smoked provolone. Add a generous amount of the cooked mushrooms and onions, and you've got yourself a sandwich that is guaranteed to satisfy any vegetarian. (or even omnivore!)



Seriously, this couldn't be easier and is the perfect meal for those summer nights where you don't want to spend more than 30 minutes making something hearty.

Grilled Philly Mushroom Sandwich

4 cups quartered Baby Bella mushrooms
1 cup roughly chopped red onion
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning blend
2 cloves garlic, minced

Rolls, cheese, and your favorite marinara sauce

Preheat grill to medium high. Combine mushrooms, onions, oil, salt, seasoning, and garlic. Stir well. Cook on grill pan for about 4-5 minutes, until tender but not too mushy. Assemble sandwich and ENJOY!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Our Garden - Update

Whew! We're back. And what a wonderful weekend it was. I'll do a post with some pictures of our weekend vacation, but suffice it to say it was everything we'd hoped it would be. We spent hours reading on the screened-in porch at the cottage, slept in, did some exploring - it was all amazing. We also got permission from the landowner to revisit the waterfall right by the cottage, so we spent a good portion of time taking pictures and just enjoying the beauty of it all.
Tell me this isn't a gorgeous waterfall....



In our absence, our garden exploded in growth! It was so exciting to come home and see that our garden was HUGE! I think we're going to start harvesting some things this week, which we can't wait to do. We thought we'd take a page from One Hundred Dollars A Month, which is one of my favorite daily reads, and weigh everything we harvest to get a tally for how many pounds of food we grew this summer.

I warn you - this post will be picture heavy.

Our peas have done really well. We have them trellised on tomato cages strung with netting that we got at the hardware store. I was worried that some of the plants in the corners of the squares might not reach far enough, but they certainly did and everything is looking good. Just saw a flower on a few this morning, so we're not far from a harvest.



Our onions are popping up as well...


This is that cute little napa cabbage I posted a few weeks ago. It got huge!


Here is our broccoli and cauliflower beds - we planted 2 varieties of broccoli (Calabrese and Romanesco) as well as 2 varieties of cauliflower (Snowball and Cheddar). We can't wait to see how they all turn out.


And our Broccoli Rabe is doing wonderfully. We are actually going to harvest our first batch tonight and cook it up. You know I'm going to have to try and grill some, right?? I'll let you know how that turns out.


Our Pak Choi is looking quite wonderful and I think we can start harvesting some of these pretty soon too.


And finally, our potato baskets. These absolutely exploded with growth almost overnight! They are so healthy and full. I think we're almost ready to add our second layer of dirt to the baskets. Potato plants love to have dirt mounded around them, so we'll continue to mound it up until it reaches the top. Don't they look good??


And finally, the flowers. We had some extra space so I decided to add some color to the garden. I potted some flowers and made a nice little flower bed.



 I'm going to add another flower bed this weekend, as well as another small raised bed strictly for herbs (if my darling husband will kindly build me another box).

Aren't these petunias gorgeous?



This weekend will be busy in the garden. I've got tomato seedlings I need to do something with, herbs to plant, flowers to put in, and things to harvest.

Happy Friday, y'all!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

And we're off!

I can't believe how fast time has flown! This weekend, my husband and I are going to be celebrating our first anniversary. We are going to stay at his family's cottage, which is actually where we got engaged. There is a gorgeous waterfall right by the cottage, which is not only beautiful but holds a ton of memories for his family, all the way back to his grandfather who played there as a kid. And now it holds special memories for us as that's where he popped the question. I'll have to take some pictures and share them when I get back.

And I can't wait to show you pictures of our back yard! The garden has grown so big and all of our plants are doing so well. Those little seedlings I showed you two weeks ago are now huge, full-grown plants. I planted more flowers and created another flower bed. But the most exciting part is that we strung old Christmas lights across the backyard and it turned out absolutely amazing.


Well, that's it for now folks! I'll be back next week!