Tuesday, August 26, 2008

do you relish relish?

it is "open" week at the everyday food and away to garden weekly produce fest. so far, we have covered zucchinis/cucumbers, tomatoes, string beans and corn...this week we can use whatever we want...so i thought i would try to accomplish two objectives at the same time #1..complete this blog post #2..figure out a strategy to ensure i have an easy, relaxing labor day holiday weekend because we have different friends visiting each day...and their plans are really flexible with no set times for arrival. i know that i want to visit the farmer's market at copia here in napa on saturday morning..and i want my weekend recipe planning to allow a lot of options based on what looks best that day.the perfect solution is relishes. now, most people, when they hear the word "relish", think of the relishes they grew up with. the yellow one for hot dogs..and the green one for hamburgers....that is not what i am talking about.... fresh, homemade relish is a completely different thing...and a terrific item to have on hand to dress up grilled chicken or fish or meat.
so what exactly is relish? i decided to post a definition and googled the word..my favorite result was from msn encarta..because all four answers describe my reasons for picking this topic for today's post.

noun (plural rel·ish·es)
1. enjoyment: a liking or appreciation of food or of an experience, e.g. a relish for Spanish food
2. spicy side dish or accompaniment: a spiced side dish or accompaniment to food, e.g. pickled or fresh vegetables with chili
3. strong taste: a pleasing sensation of strong taste or flavor
4. interest or excitement: interest or excitement, especially when it makes something more enjoyable. The incident added relish to an otherwise dull weekend.
the cool thing about relishes is their versatility. in addition to serving alongside grilled meats, they work well as part of an appetizer menu.... i serve them all with with bruschetta and assorted cheeses.. the cucumber and chilies relish is terrific as a side salad or spooned on top of a sandwich..try the roasted pepper relish as an omelet filling, or mix with hot pasta and grated parmesan, or make a panini with the peppers and your favorite cheese.... the tomatoes are delicious on their own eaten with tortilla chips, used as part of a pasta salad or added to a corn and black bean salad..get creative..there are countless uses.
i plan to make a relish each morning of the holiday weekend and then let them sit all day... i will decide how to use them later each afternoon..the good news is that they keep for 2-3 days so i can get creative throughout the weekend. give them a try..and please let me know the interesting ways you incorporate the relishes into your recipes...oh..one more thing..relishes traditionally call for their ingredients to be chopped...i like the vegetables cut in larger pieces..either way works really well..so make them however you like...i think that is the beauty of cooking..learning a technique and then adjusting to make it your own...happy labor day everyone...rest up, relax and have fun!!

cucumber & chilies relish
8 oz. cucumber (i use an english cucumber)
coarse kosher salt
2 jalapeno chilies
1 red chili
3 tbsp champagne or sparkling wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp organic sugar

thinly slice cucumber and place in a colander. sprinkle with the kosher salt. let sit for 30 minutes and then rinse thoroughly with cold water. pat dry and arrange 1/2 of cucumber on a platter. seed and remove membranes from jalapeno and red chilies. (follow tips from tomato fest post on pico de gallo). cut peppers in half lengthwise and then very thinly slice. sprinkle 1/2 of sliced chilies on top of platter of cucumbers. cover with the remaining cukes and arrange remaining chilies on top. place vinegar and sugar in small bowl and whisk together until sugar is dissolved. pour dressing over cucumbers, cover platter with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour. serve really cold.

note...to make even spicier...do not remove membranes from the peppers..to make insanely hot..keep some, if not all, of the seeds...

roasted pepper relish
3 red bell peppers (or 2 red and 1 yellow)
1 red onion (peeled, cut in 1/2 and then thinly slice)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice from one lemon (approx 2 tbsp)
3/4 tsp superfine dry mustard
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp grey sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper
1 1/2 tsp organic sugar

char peppers over gas flame until blackened on all sides. place in paper bag and let cool. remove skins. cut in half and then slice lengthwise into thin strips. place on serving platter and arrange red onions on top of peppers. combine remaining ingredients in a mason jar and shake well until thoroughly combined. pour dressing over onion/pepper mixture and refrigerate for several hours. serve cold or at room temperature. will keep in refrigerator up to 3 days..cover well..

fresh tomato relish
12 oz cherry tomatoes
5 green onions
1 jalapeno chili pepper(seed, remove membranes, cut in half lengthwise and thinly slice)--see cucumber relish for tip)
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 tbsp grey sea salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 cup cilantro plus 1 tbsp
additional salt, cayenne pepper and black pepper to taste
cut tomatoes in half (qtr if large) and place in medium bowl. slice green onions lengthwise into thin strips. finely chop green onion leaves. add green onion slices, chopped green onion leaves and jalapeno to tomato bowl and combine. add lemon juice, sea salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper and 1/4 cup cilantro to bowl and mix well. cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour. taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. sprinkle remaining cilantro over top and serve.
so..about the relish definition?? i hope these recipes fulfill all four examples..that you will enjoy the tastes, you have three spiced side dish recipes, that they each have a "pleasing sensation of strong taste or flavor"..and that they add interest or excitement to your weekend!! enjoy your holiday everyone...
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™

Monday, August 18, 2008

what do you do with fresh corn?

o.k. here we go..week four of the food fest...we have covered zucchini & cucumbers, green beans..last week was tomatoes...and this week..fresh corn.. i knew this would be a tough week for me. every year, when the july and august food magazines are delivered, i read all the corn recipes..i dog ear the pages, copy down the ingredients needed for a shopping list, purchase said ingredients..and then..at the last minute..decide to just boil, roast or grill the corn on the cob..and eat it that way..i have created a number of different corn toppings..and cannot get enough..corn season is so short...so i never actually do the salsa, or succotash, or corn soups, or salads, or corn relish, or pudding, or all the other delicious sounding options..but give me corn on the cob drizzled with olive oil and salt, or pesto and parmesan cheese, or chili powder, salt and lime, or jalapeno olive oil, salsa and cilantro, or barbecued, or vinaigrette and fresh herbs or chipotle and cilantro..the list goes on and on...i mean, c'mon..grilled corn on the cob with one of these toppings...what is more representative of summer?

so...i am sure that i will drool over all the recipes submitted by everyday food or away to garden..and all the participating bloggers..but..for me...the odds of me actually making any of them are slim... but you never know.
i do think i would win the "oddest thing to do with corn" contest..if there was such a thing..cause the one recipe i am going to post i feel pretty sure will be the most unusual...but first....(you know me regular readers)...i must tell a story..
my great aunt lena was an excellent baker..everything she made was delicious..but she was especially known for her cakes...all made from scratch...each one the best tasting cake you ever ate. one cake in particular was considered the gold standard of cakes by anyone who ever ate one..it was a white cake with cream cheese chocolate frosting.. the cake consisted of 8 thin layers..with the frosting thinly spread between each layer..the cake was perfect...dense, moist..perfect flavor..with just the right amount of frosting..not too little..not too much..we actually referred to the cake as "aunt lena cake"..and she made one for every family gathering...as a family, we started referring to cakes as "lenas"..as in "should we have a chocolate or yellow lena for dessert?"

o.k...by now you are probably asking.."why is she blathering on about cakes in a corn story?".. trust me..i need the set up for this...in addition to the "aunt lena cake" we have a very unusual family recipe for chocolate cake that i have never shared publicly....cause it just sounds odd...but it is really delicious..and it is only made in summer..because the secret ingredient is pureed fresh white corn... yes..corn..if you can have zucchini cakes, and carrot cakes..why not corn? when you puree fresh corn, it becomes this milky, frothy liquid that adds a moistness and a lightness that is hard to describe. i have never had anyone correctly guess the "secret" ingredient...but everyone that has ever tasted it, loves it...i really urge you to give it a try..and let me know what you think... now..about the name??...when my sister kathi was little this was her favorite cake...when she was about three, she was told there was corn in the cake..she started dancing around singing.."corny, corny lena..i love corny corny lena"..over and over again..the name stuck..and from then on..it was always referred to as "corny corny lena "

i have updated the recipe a bit...i love dark chocolate..so i now use dark chocolate chips..the original recipe called for milk chocolate...and i always add a bit of coffee when i bake with chocolate..you cannot taste it..but it really brings out the chocolate flavor..this, too..is an addition. my great-aunt and grandmother would have originally used used a mortar and pestle and then strained through a sieve to liquefy the corn..later, a blender..i use a food processor..which is super easy..and really effective.

corny corny lena
cake ingredients
2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp instant coffee crystals
1 cup white corn kernels (usually takes corn from 2 cobs)
1 cup dark chocolate chips

chocolate glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp melted butter
3-4 tbsp boiling water
1/8 tsp instant coffee crystals

for cake

1. preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. grease bundt pan and dust with cocoa powder to prevent sticking
3. using a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt..set aside.
4. in the bowl of a mixer, beat eggs until a bit frothy. add olive oil, cocoa powder,
sugars and coffee crystals..beat until thoroughly combined. meanwhile, in a food processor, add the corn kernels and process until smooth and liquefied..you should not see any kernels..
5. add the dry ingredients to the mixer and mix just until combined
6. add the corn mixture and mix until combined
7. fold in the chocolate chips until they are evenly distributed.
8. pour into the prepared pan and bake on center rack of oven approx. 50-60 minutes..until a bamboo stick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. cool 10-15 minutes on rack and then remove from pan and let cool on rack. when completely cool, drizzle with the chocolate glaze if desired...or sift powdered sugar over cake top in lieu of glaze.

chocolate glaze
whisk together all ingredients except water in small bowl...add 3 tbsp boiling water and whisk until combined..add the remaining tbsp water if needed. glaze should be just thin enough to pour easily...
this cake is best eaten the day it is made...

we are having a family reunion this weekend...neither my grandmother nor my great-aunt is with us any longer..so i will be making the corny, corny lena...we will eat..share the story for the gazillionth time as to how the cake got it's name..and..when i share this blog story with them..i am sure they will be very, very happy..and very, very proud that the tradition lives on..although i do think my sister kathi will kill me for sharing the naming thing with all of you..oh, well..family stories are the best..don't you think?
so that is my unusual recipe for the month...i made a corny corny lena this week to photograph for this blog post..gave half to my neighbors/friends, bill and vicki..they loved it..(actually said it was "amaizeing") i know, i know...so now this can be my go-to summer cake for neighborhood gatherings.. yeah...
what are some of your favorite dishes that others might think are really different? please share your stories in the comments section of this blog post..
best to all..and have a good week!
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"™

Monday, August 11, 2008

is it tomato fest time yet??

finally it is tomato week! regular readers know that the editors at martha stewart's everyday food magazine and margaret at away to garden are hosting weekly food fests. each week their blogs focus on a specific vegetable or fruit..and foodies, cooks, gardeners and eaters read the blogs and submit either recipes, gardening tips or questions..a pretty big group of fellow bloggers also join in by writing about the topic (including yours truly)..so we can all participate in a massive recipe exchange and gardening forum.. it has been loads of fun..and we have covered pesto, zucchini & cucumbers, as well as last week's topic..green beans..now, i love all of these items..and submitted my favorite recipes...but i have been waiting and waiting for my favorite..tomatoes...i adore tomatoes and use them in almost everything...we are lucky in napa..organic tomatoes are at their best from mid july to end of august..sometimes until mid-september....i impatiently count down the days each year for tomato season...i didn't actually wait for week 4 of the fest..if you notice..tomatoes were featured in the zucchini recipes and the green bean recipes of the past two weeks...today, my biggest challenge is to edit this blog post so that it does not become the size of a novel..
i usually wait until the end of august to preserve tomatoes and to make and freeze/can homemade tomato sauce...i think the tomatoes are at their sweetest at that time...so i will hold off on those techniques & recipes until early september and post a story then focusing just on preserving tomatoes..today, i will talk about using them fresh in summer...during these few weeks i tend to eat tomato sandwiches all the time..this does not even qualify as a recipe..just illustrates my tomato obsession.... i toast or grill slices of really good sourdough bread...spread best quality mayonnaise on each piece..homemade if i have time.. full fat mayo, not low fat versions on this baby...add thick slices of organic, heirloom tomatoes..sprinkle grey sea salt..freshly cracked pepper..and eat..summer bliss. another really easy..non-recipe..is to roast tomatoes with garlic..(check out my roasted green bean, garlic and tomato recipe from last week for technique)..and add to hot pasta..include all the juice from the roasting pan..add additional extra virgin olive oil, chopped fresh italian parsley, chopped basil, sea salt and pepper...toss together...serve with lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese..eat...enough said...

but to fully participate in the food fest..i really should add a few "real" recipes..however.. in keeping with the easy, easy easy mood of mid-august..these involve little, if any cooking..and lots of taste...let me know what you think..and, as always..to fully participate..please add your favorite tomato recipes to the comments section of this blog post...we can all share..cause you can never have too many tomato recipes...

heirloom tomato and white bean salad

2 cups white beans..**see bean note below
3 med heirloom tomatoes..any kind, any color, cut into bite sized pieces.
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 garlic cloves finely minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp basil (cut in chiffonade)
2 tbsp chopped italian parsley
grey sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper

red wine vinaigrette
1/4 cup best quality red wine vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
grey sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper

*note on cooking beans..when i have time, i love making this recipe starting with dried white beans...process follows...when pressed for time a 15 oz can of organic white beans works really well..just drain thoroughly..rinse..and drain again...
cooking dried beans
start with 2 cups dried white beans..sort through and pick out any pebbles..place in fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly. place in large pot with 1/2 white onion, 1 bay leaf and 1 carrot. cover with water about 2 inches above beans. place lid on pot and cook over low heat just until beans are tender...do not overcook...check water level often and add additional if water level drops... when cooked, remove from heat and drain thoroughly. discard onion, bay leaf and carrot. i add salt after beans are cooked, although there are two schools of thought on this..beans should take anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 hours to cook depending on size and freshness of beans..begin checking after 1 hour...i do not pre-soak white beans...let beans cool to room temperature and proceed with recipe...
make vinaigrette by combining olive oil and vinegar in a mason jar..shake thoroughly..and add salt and pepper to taste. set aside.
place beans, tomatoes, onion, garlic and red pepper flakes in large bowl and stir to combine. add 3 tbsp vinaigrette (shake jar first) to the bean mixture, stir and add salt and pepper to taste..allow to sit a minimum of 30 minutes... add basil and parsley and stir..taste and adjust seasonings if needed...add a bit more vinaigrette is desired and serve.

fresh salsa..a.k.a pico di gallo
no cooking required..assemble..buy (or make if you are ambitious) really good chips..and..maybe..add margaritas?..
2 cups heirloom tomatoes (any color) seeded and diced, and placed in a strainer
1/2 c diced red onion
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
1 jalapeno, remove seeds and membrane, finely chopped *see note
1 serrano chili, remove seeds and membrane, finely chopped
1 tbsp cilantro
1 tsp red pepper flakes
grey sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
juice and zest of 1/2 lime
combine first 7 ingredients in medium sized bowl..add salt and pepper to taste. cover bowl with plastic film and allow to sit for 30 minutes..add lime juice and zest...stir, taste and adjust seasonings..note..i loathe watery salsa, so i place the mixture in a strainer and allow to sit for a few minutes..place back in bowl, stir and adjust seasoning again if needed. this salsa is a bit spicy..removing the seeds and membrane from the peppers reduces a lot of the heat..but if you do not like hot foods..reduce or eliminate the red pepper flakes..
**regarding jalapenos and serranos..if you have never prepared fresh jalapenos/serranos this note is very, very important..and i really, really mean it (have i emphasized this point enough? :)..immediately after you seed and chop the peppers..wash your hands really well..if you don't, i promise you will forget, touch your eyes..and cause a massive, painful burning..some people recommend wearing rubber gloves when preparing peppers..i don't, but i always remember the washing hands tip..i learned the hard way..

heirloom tomato tapenade with bruschetta
6 med heirloom tomatoes..seeded and large chop
3 red peppers, roasted and large chop
6 kalamata olives chopped
1 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic peeled and finely minced
1 tbsp basil, chiffonade
1 tbsp italian parsley
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
grey sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
sourdough or italian bread, thickly sliced
extra virgin olive oil
garlic clove
grey sea salt
freshly grated parmesan cheese
combine first 6 ingredients in medium pot and gently cook over low heat just to warm ingredients...place mixture in large strainer and allow all liquid to drain away...then place mixture in bowl..add basil, parsley, olive oil and vinegar and stir..add salt and pepper to taste. set aside.
make bruschetta..grill or toast slices of bread..as soon as bread is cooked, immediately rub each piece with garlic clove. place on serving platter and drizzle each piece with the remaining olive oil..sprinkle with the sea salt. place a large spoonful of the tomato tapenade on the end of each toast piece and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese. serve immediately

i could go on and on with additional recipes..but now it is your turn..i need some new ideas..what do you have? please share your favorites in the comments section of the blog...oh yeah..next week is "corn" week...do not be surprised if i sneak tomatoes in some of the recipes..corn & tomatoes... a natural..right?
have a good week!
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"™

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

are you a green bean fan?

last week i told you about the weekly "parties" we are having with the gang at martha stewart's every day food blog..this week's topic is "green beans"...when i saw this topic, my first thought was.."oh no!! now what??..i am not known for my green bean recipes...what am i going to talk about?".. so i went to the local farmer's market to see what was available..and hopefully get inspired... as i wandered through the market i kept looking at all the produce and thinking about all the fantastic possible combinations using green beans... i realized that i actually eat green beans quite a lot..i just did not think of them as a major part of the meal..you know how eggplant, or zucchini, or potatoes or corn, or salads can sometimes be the main dish? well...here's to green beans taking center stage.

spicy green beans in asian chili sauce served with rice?... green beans and potato salad with feta?... roasted green beans, tomatoes and garlic with balsamic drizzle?... are you inspired yet? vegetarians...these can be main dishes on a hot summer night..(actually anytime)..non-vegetarians..add your favorite protein...this week it is time to celebrate green beans...
and remember..to fully participate in the party...please comment and add your favorite green bean recipes... and don't forget to check out the martha stewart, every day food blog and the
a way to garden site to view even more recipes..as well as tips for growing, purchasing and storing...
spicy green beans in asian chili sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb fresh green beans (any kind will work..i usually like the chinese long beans with this, but today i am using haricots verts because that was what they had at the farmer's market)1/2 white onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced fine
2 tbsp chili paste
1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
1/4 c soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper
salt (if needed)

heat large skillet (or wok) over high heat until hot. add olive oil, green beans and onion and stir fry 4-6 minutes until beans are crisp tender..time will vary depending on thickness of beans.
stir in garlic, chili paste, red chili pepper, soy sauce and black pepper and cook an additional 1-2 minutes..taste and add salt if needed (the soy sauce and chili paste will usually add enough salt so taste before adding additional)
serve hot or at room temperature

green beans and potato salad with feta
1 1/2 lbs tiny new potatoes cut in halves or qtrs depending on size
1/2 lb fresh green beans ends trimmed and cut in half
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 sweet white onion, diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp chopped italian parsley
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp cider vinegar
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper

steam new potatoes until tender..remove from heat, drain and place in large bowl... steam the green beans until tender (about 4 minutes) and plunge in a bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking any further. drain and add to potatoes. add the bell pepper and onion to the bowl and combine.. add the feta and gently stir. in a mason jar, combine the olive oil, vinegar and parsley and shake jar..add salt and pepper to taste and shake again. pour dressing over salad and gently combine..allow to sit at room temperature for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld..serve at room temperature.
roasted green beans, tomatoes and garlic with balsamic drizzle
1 lb fresh green beans..ends trimmed and cut in half if you are using long beans
1/2 white onion sliced thin
6 cloves garlic peeled and cut into thin slices
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
1 tbsp italian parsley, chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
balsamic reduction (recipe listed in zucchini blog post of 7.31)

preheat oven to 400 degrees. place green beans, onions, garlic and tomatoes on rimmed baking sheet. drizzle with 2 tbsp of the olive oil and use your hands to combine oil with produce to ensure everything is well coated. sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in oven until tomatoes just begin to collapse and beans are tender when pricked with a sharp knife, about 15-18 minutes...do not over cook beans..

remove from oven and place in a mixing bowl..gently combine cooked produce.. add pine nuts, parsley, remaining tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper to taste..combine again. place on serving platter and drizzle a bit of the balsamic reduction over the top..serve

enjoy your "green bean party!!" and don't forget to let me know what you think of these recipes..and to share your own favorites..
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"™