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Archive for Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Meals that are farmers market fresh

August 2, 2006

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With its vibrant colors and crunch, this Summer Salad with Golden Beet Vinaigrette takes advantage of vegetables available in farmers markets. The truffle oil in the vinaigrette adds a musky flavor that makes the vegetables pop but is subtle enough to complement the cheese's "dairyness" without overwhelming it. The red beets are kept separate to keep them from bleeding into the other vegetables. Serves eight.

Summer salad

1/2 pound edamame, shelled (1/2 cup shelled)

1 pound English peas, shelled (1 cup shelled)

3 medium red beets, roots intact, stem trimmed to 1/2 inch

3 medium golden beets, roots intact, stem trimmed to 1/2 inch

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon truffle oil

1/4 cup basil leaves, chiffonade (stack 5 large leaves, roll them up together and slice into thin strips)

1 tablespoon chopped chives

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 pickling cucumbers, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 cup)

1 bunch radishes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 cup)

24 ounces (about 2 2/3 cups) ricotta, chevre or farmer cheese

Have ready a medium-sized bowl filled with ice water. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the edamame and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until just cooked but still a little firm. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the ice water to stop the cooking process. Cook the peas in the boiling water for 1 minute and add them to the ice water. Drain the ice water. Transfer the edamame and peas to a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

Place the beets in a large saucepan, cover them with water and bring to boil over high heat. Cook until fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the beets. Drain and rinse with cold water. Remove the stems, roots and skin. (Use latex gloves to avoid having the beet juice stain your hands.) Cut the red beets into 1/2-inch cubes and place in a small bowl. Add the orange juice, cover and refrigerate. Cut the golden beets to the same size and place them in a large bowl. Add the mustard, vinegar, olive oil, truffle oil, basil leaves and chives and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate.

When ready to serve, add the cucumbers, radishes, peas and edamame to the dressed golden beets and toss. Mound 3 ounces (about 1/3 cup) of the cheese in the center of each of eight soup plates. Place a heaping spoonful of red beets over the cheese and drizzle some of the red juice around the cheese. Place a large spoonful of the other vegetables over the red beets and cheese. Serve immediately.

¢ Made souffle-like with folded-in egg whites, Skillet Vegetable Spoonbread Cobbler is gussied-up cornbread that Southerners offer to special guests. This version uses corn chips instead of cornmeal to endow the bread with heartier flavor and texture. By all means, add a cupful of fresh corn to the vegetable mix if available. Substituting tomato puree for the cream will save calories. Serve this dish with some arugula or mizuna, dressed only with a drizzle of olive oil, a drop of balsamic vinegar and some salt and pepper. Serves eight.

Skillet vegetable spoonbread cobbler

1 pound beet greens or Swiss chard, stems removed and well cleaned

20 whole, peeled cloves garlic

2 cups heavy cream (may substitute 2 cups tomato puree)

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves

1 tablespoon chopped oregano leaves

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Florets from 1 small head cauliflower (3 to 4 cups)

1/2 pound yellow squash, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 pound zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 large leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch slices

8 ounces mixed wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, cremini or oyster, stemmed and sliced

1 bunch large-bulbed scallions, trimmed to retain 1 inch of the green part

1 package Boursin cheese (5.2 ounces)

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

For the spoonbread:

2 ounces corn tortilla chips, preferably organic

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups milk (may substitute 2 percent milk)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small pieces

4 eggs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the vegetables: Place the beet greens or Swiss chard in a gallon-size resealable food storage bag and seal the bag three-quarters of the way. Microwave the greens on high for 2 minutes or until completely wilted. Place the greens in a colander, rinse with cold water, then squeeze all of the water out of them. Set aside.

Place the garlic and cream in a large, microwave-proof glass bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Add the thyme, sage and oregano and set aside.

In a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and heat until smoking. Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the squashes and cook, stirring, for 1 more minute. Add the leeks, mushrooms, scallions and the reserved garlic mixture. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the Boursin cheese and beet greens and salt and pepper to taste. Cover loosely with foil and let the vegetables cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the spoonbread: In a food processor or blender, process the tortilla chips until they are pulverized (you should have about 1 cup). Transfer the pulverized chips to a small bowl and add the flour, sugar, salt and pepper and mix to combine. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the milk and scald it (until a thin skin appears on the surface). With a whisk, slowly add the dry ingredients and stir until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until it is fully incorporated. Allow the mixture to cool for 20 minutes, then whisk in the egg yolks one at a time to fully incorporate. Add the Parmesan cheese and set aside.

With a hand-held or stand mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Stir about one-quarter of the whites into the corn mixture to loosen it. Fold in the remaining whites until no traces of white are visible. Spread the batter over the cooled vegetables and bake until the spoonbread is golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes (a knife inserted into the spoonbread should come out clean). Serve the cobbler in soup plates with some of the cooking liquids spooned over the top.

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