Summer corn, arugula, tomato salad

July 24, 2006 at 3:56 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Quick weeknight recipe, Salads, Summer recipes)

After a late-July trip to the Green City farmer’s market in Chicago, I threw together a late afternoon salad with some of my purchases: a large bunch of arugula, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, big handfuls of basil, and the kernels from two pieces of corn. I also threw in a bit of mixed greens that I had leftover from my CSA, and dressed the whole thing lightly with Annie’s. The corn was sweet and delicious, the tomatoes were moist, the arugula peppery, the tahini earthy, and the basil added its own mild bite. The combination was summery and lovely. Derek, after going for a second bowl (and adding more dressing) announced out of the blue “I can understand why you’re vegetarian.”

I tried this later but didn’t have arugula just plain old lettuce and it wasn’t nearly as good.

Rating: B+
Derek: A-

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Cornmeal and greens (B)

July 7, 2006 at 8:53 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Moosewood, Quick weeknight recipe)

My friend gave me her version of this unusual “polenta” recipe, originally from the Moosewood New Classics Cookbook. She says it freezes well so she typically doubles the recipe.

1 bunch kale (or broccoli rabe, or whatever your favorite dark leafy green is. Depending on how large your bunch is, you might need to use two bunches.)

3 cups water
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
ground black pepper to taste
(My friend likes strong flavors, so suggests adding smoked paprika and cayenne)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

Remove tough bottoms of kale or broccoli rabe stems as needed. Coarsely chop the greens and stems. Rinse well and set aside in colander to drain.

Bring the water to a boil in a 2-4 quart pot and SLOWLY pour in the cornmeal while stirring briskly with a whisk. Break up any lumps that form. Simmer on low heat, stirring frequently, until the polenta is thick and tastes done (watch out for splatters!). Fine ground cornmeal cooks much faster than coarse ground polenta, so be sure to taste! Stir in salt, fennel, and cheese, if using. Add pepper (and other spices) to taste.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy pan. Add the garlic and salt and saute on medium heat just until the garlic is golden. Add the greens, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Set aside until the polenta is done.

Serve the polenta in a bowl with the greens on top or stirred in.

My Notes

I’ve never put ground fennel seeds in polenta before. Wow, I really liked it, and so did Derek. I used 3/4 tsp. salt, 3/4 tsp. ground fennel seeds, and 3/8 tsp. paprika, and a very large pinch of cayenne, plus about a 1/4 cup parmesan. The flavors were strong so even Derek liked it. I did have trouble with lumps though. The next time I time I made it I just added the cornmeal to the cold water like I normally do, and I thought it worked better. Also, I made it once with curly kale and didn’t cook the greens long enough. I was impatient so just gave up and mixed the two together–crunchy kale in the cornmeal is a bad idea, let me tell you. I’ve also made and enjoyed it with collards. Finally, add the salt to the cornmeal at the beginning rather than the end, since it will distribute more evenly.

Using fine ground cornmeal isn’t quite as tasty as true polenta, but it’s really fast. This whole recipe probably only takes about 15 minutes or so. The last time I made it I used a bit more fennel, and I think it got close to overpowering. 1/2 measured ground or 3/4 tsp. measured whole is probably plenty.

Rating: B

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Baked Tofu

July 6, 2006 at 7:19 am (A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, Baked tofu, Derek's faves, Farm recipes, Mom’s recipes, Tofu) ()

This is my mom’s recipe, and it’s a crowd pleaser.  Everyone always likes it, no matter how much they (say they) hate tofu.  Derek and I served it at Thanksgiving this year and everyone raved about it (and these were not a bunch of tofu eaters!). Read the rest of this entry »

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Black Bean Zucchini Quesadillas

July 6, 2006 at 6:45 am (A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, Beans, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes) ()

Based on a recipe from the cookbook Fresh Food Fast, by Peter Berley. This recipe is definitely one of my favorite quesadilla recipes. The zucchini adds a moist, sweet, delicate flavor, and the added moisture means that less cheese is needed to achieve the silky mouthfeel expected of a typical quesadilla.

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