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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Meatless Monday - Pappardelle With Summer Squash & Arugula

Hot on the heels of a fun-filled summer weekend, Monday can be a cruel mistress indeed. The good news is that you can always lift your spirits by serving up a delicious and easy meal in minutes. As you know, we try to make *many* of our Monday dinners meatless, and yesterday was no different. We tossed together a very tasty farmers market-sourced veggie pasta using a recipe from my latest Food & Wine Magazine as inspiration.

It combines thinly sliced Summer Squash and Zucchini with Arugula Pesto. Finish with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and you have yourself a much better Monday.

Pappardelle With Summer Squash & Arugula, Photo: NK

I lightly adapted the original dish both for ease (I had no desire to take out and later have to clean my food processor to create the Arugula Pesto component) and to make it nut free. Can you have a nut free pesto? Sure. In most cases, cooks will substitute seeds (Sunflower being a popular choice). I didn't even bother to add a nut-stand-in and, happily, the taste was just lovely anyway. If you want to be technical, you could call this dish a crudaiola, as all the vegetable ingredients that top the pasta are uncooked. 

Before we start, here's why I love this recipe and the adaptation I created:

IT'S FAST- Pappardelle is an egg-based pasta (though the shape is sometimes seen in egg-free format). If you've ever added Egg Noodles to a stew, you know that they cook in 3 or 4 minutes. It's the same idea here, making an already fast recipe (neither the Zucchini or Squash are cooked) even speedier. Note: If you can't find Pappardelle and opt for a more ubiquitous pasta, Fettucine (another wide and long noodle), would be a perfectly fine choice. 

IT'S A ONE POT MEAL- After you drain the pasta, use the same pot to toss all the ingredients together. 


and finally, NO ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES NEEDED. I make hand cut pestos (with or without nuts) all the time because they are a great, rustic way to get the Pesto experience without having to clean yet another kitchen appliance (not that it's such a big deal, but you know, sometimes you just aren't in the mood). 

NOTE: If you happen to own a mandoline you'll be able to make very thin, uniform slices quite easily, but if you prefer to cut by hand, that would be just fine too ( I recommend cutting the long ribbons of Squash and Zucchini into halves or thirds if they do not end up as thin as you would like). This basic slicer or "handheld mandoline" is a useful and very economical tool to have in your kitchen. Another option would be to use a vegetable peeler to shave off thin slices.

Ok - here we go. 

Pappardelle With Summer Squash & Arugula
Lightly Adapted from Food & Wine 
Serves 4

4 Cups Packed Baby or Regular Arugula Leaves

1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil + more for drizzling

1 teaspoon finely minced Garlic (or passed through a garlic press) approx. 2 large Cloves

1/2 Cup Freshly Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese + a few shavings for garnish

Coarse Sea Salt

Black Pepper

1 medium Zucchini and 1-2 medium Yellow Squash, very thinly sliced lengthwise on a Mandoline or by hand. Alternately you can use a large vegetable peeler to create thin ribbons (point away from your hand).

3 Tablespoons Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice 

Zest of 1 Lemon 

1.This comes together quickly, have you prepped all your ingredients as above?  
Slice all vegetables, mince the Arugula as small as you can and crush or finely mince the Garlic. Zest and juice the Lemon and grate the Parmigiano Cheese.

2. In a large pot of well-salted boiling water, cook the Pappardelle according to package directions until just al dente. Turn the flame off and drain the pasta, reserving a few Tablespoons of the pasta water, and return drained pasta to the pot. 

3. Add the minced Garlic to the Oil and stir. Sprinkle the Minced Arugula all over the pasta, tossing as you go. Add the Squash and Zucchini Ribbons and toss again. Drizzle the Oil and Garlic over it all and continue to toss. Add the Lemon Juice and Lemon Zest. Toss. Finally, incorporate the Parmigiano, folding into the Pasta as you go. Use the reserved Pasta Water if you'd like a looser. Taste and then season to your liking with Coarse Sea Salt (I like to use French Grey Salt) and ample Black Pepper. Serve immediately with an extra sprinkle of Parmigiano. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Back To Basics - NK's Original Israeli Couscous Salad

Our Green Market Bounty + Heirloom Cherry Tomtoes, Photo: NK
It's that time again - time for our annual Couscous recipe.
This year, we're kickin' it old school with the Couscous that started it all - our original and perfectly simple Israeli Couscous with Tomatoes and Onions. Israeli Couscous is one of our go-to summer sides because it's super versatile, great for barbecues, can be made ahead (it tastes better the longer it sits) and served chilled or at room temperature. Finally, I like that it's just slightly less ubiquitous than regular old Pasta Salad (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Like any good basic, you can dress it up or down. Today's version is probably our most stripped down because it uses just a few widely available, everyday ingredients that are great in summer. (We're all about the tomato, as you can clearly see here). Do check out our past years' Couscous recipes HERE, HERE and DO get creative with this great little pearl shape Pasta on your own. You cannot go wrong and the possibilities are endless. 

What can I say? We love the stuff - whether you are looking to shake up your pasta salad or create the simplest side ever for your next barbecue, Israeli Couscous is a great choice. 

NOTE - For this recipe we used Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes because they were available at our green market and I always find that they lend a little something special (plus lots of color!) to recipes. If you can't find them, you can absolutely use any small tomato variety like Grape, Cherry, Sungold (the orangey-yellow kind) or even larger Tomatoes that have been chopped up.  

So here it is, the original and still best Israeli Couscous Salad With Tomatoes & Onions. Did someone say barbecue? 

Classic Israeli Couscous with Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, Photo: NK

Classic Israeli Cous Cous & Tomato Salad

Serves 4 (double for larger groups)

1/2 cup dry Israeli couscous (we prefer Osem Brand) prepared in water according to package instructions. (Don't add salt) *see below for how to 'toast the couscous first

2 heaping tablespoons minced Italian parsley 
1 Cup Assorted Heirloom or Regular Grape or Cherry Tomatoes (cut in halves or quarters depending on their size)
1/2 Cup Red Onion, cut in a small dice. (About half a small red onion)


2 teaspoons Olive Oil 

1 teaspoon Red Wine Vinegar (plus more to taste)

1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt + more

Black Pepper


1.*Optionally "toast" the Couscous to enhance flavor and color - To do this: Pour the Couscous into a dry pan and toast over medium heat shaking the pan and stirring occasionally until the Couscous begins to take on a bit of color on some, not all, of the pasta pearls. Keep an eye on it. It gets toasted quickly and can burn if you aren't watching. Turn off heat and proceed with the recipe. 

2. Prepare the Couscous in water according to package directions. (For more flavor, you can use an equal amount of low sodium Chicken Broth, but I would taste before adding the extra salt later). 

3. Let Couscous cool and then toss in the Tomatoes, Parsley and Onion.

4. Dress with 2 teaspoons or more good-quality Olive Oil and then add Red Wine Vinegar to taste (we use about 1 teaspoon). Stir. Finish with 1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt. Allow to sit in fridge before serving and bring to room temperature or serve chilled. Taste before serving and adjust seasonings if needed. 

**This dish is best served slightly chilled or at room temperature and tastes better the longer you let the flavor develop.You can make it a day in advance and the Couscous component as many as three days in advance. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Farmers Market Inspiration - Salad with Pickled Sour Cherries, Sungolds & Chevre + Salty Pickled Rye Croutons

I promised myself I'd never use the far too cutesy word "inspo," that seems super popular in the blogosphere. Despite the theme of today's food-based reflection, I am going to keep that promise. Still - inspiration (see, I can spare the time to write the entire word) is key to keeping your cooking and creating fresh. You can never anticipate where and when your creative juices might be revved up by food, but there are a few places where you can certainly up your odds.

Arugula, Red Leaf Lettuce, Vidalia Onion, Chevre, Pickled Tart Cherries 
+ Specialty Rye Bread toasted into croutons! YUM. Photo: NK

I get many recipe ideas from imitating dishes I enjoy at restaurants, but another favorite way I like to build new recipes is by beginning with one really sensational or unique ingredient and letting it jumpstart your imagination. Green Markets and Farmers Markets are a great place to begin because you can find a plethora of specialty foods and local produce all in place. That's where I came across a few of the elements that inspired the salads we'll show you today.

One nibble of "Salty Pickled Sour Rye" from Hamptons-based Carissa's Breads and I was reaching for my wallet. I just knew that this hearty Rye with a very unique, slightly piquant flavor would make the perfect croutons for my salad of Red Leaf Lettuce and Arugula. I couldn't resist grabbing some fresh Chevre from the adjacent Goodale Farms booth, reasoning that it would be lovely to sprinkle throughout.  And then there are those lucky times where food is gifted to you; these home-canned Sour Cherries that my best friend made me from her CSA delivery were just destined to be a part of all the excitement. Side note - she's so talented! Here's the how to:

Salad with Pickled Sour Cherries, Sungolds & Chevre + Salty Pickled Rye Croutons 

Serves 6

How To: 
Small Bunch Arugula + Medium Head of Red Leaf Lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
Small Basket Sungold (Yellow) Tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes), cut in half or thirds (about 12 total)
Hearty Rye Bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes and lightly toasted
10 Pitted Pickled Sour Cherries, chopped (or Sour Cherries would work well too, even the dried type)
1/3 large Vidalia or Sweet Onion sliced thinly 

COMBINE all of the above in a large bowl. 
Before serving, DRESS with 2 Parts Olive Oil, 1 Part Red Wine Vinegar + teaspoon minced fresh Thyme leaves. (Optionally) 

FINISH with 2 Ounces Chilled Chevre (Goat Cheese) - Crumble onto salad just before serving and let sit for a few minutes to come to room temperature. 


NEXT - Tomatoes. Stars of summer. They sure did look stellar at the market. That's why I just had to spotlight them in the most simple way. Our favorite Tomato Carpaccio is really where it's at when you need a foolproof and ridiculously easy way to highlight everyone's summer favorite. 
Click HERE for the Tomato Carpaccio Recipe. 

Classic Tomato Carpaccio, Photo: NK 

Until your next great idea strikes, happy eating!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Elegant and Easy -Tuna Crudo With Peach & Jalapeno

Crudo is my latest in a long string of cooking obsessions. Why? Well first, I love fish, so any dish that starts with it as the main ingredient is ok in my book. Second, and most compellingly, Crudo is one of the easiest things you can make because it is, as the name suggests, raw. All you're really doing is assembling a collection of very high quality ingredients on a plate. Trust me, the payoff in both taste and elegance far exceeds the effort you'll invest.  

Tuna Crudo with Peach, Scallion and Jalapeno, Photo: NK 

Case in point, how beautiful is this? 

The idea for today's Crudo came to me after a trip to our local fishmonger. I always quiz the good folks there on what's freshest, and on this particular day, with Crudo in mind, I asked what fish they had on hand that was sushi-grade. The Tuna you see above had just come in and, I was told, promised to be particularly great. The price tag, on the other hand, not so great, but fish is one thing I never skimp on, and the wonderful thing about Crudo is that you don't need very much. 4-6 ounces of high quality Tuna will feed four, so for twelve bucks (compare that to just one 16 dollar or more restaurant appetizer), I walked out a very happy lady.

The rest of the ingredients dawned on me as I pondered some of the flavor profiles I most enjoy with fish. With maki as my inspiration, I decided to use a bit of Jalapeno for spice. Thinking seasonally, some very gorgeous Peaches I'd bought the day before were hitting peak ripeness. I opted to incorporate them (sliced very thinly), for both color and sweetness. I always enjoy balancing sweet and savory. For texture, I julienned Scallions (the white part mostly). They also impart a little bit of zest. 

I cannot resist reiterating that for Crudo (and many other simply conceived fresh dishes) the quality of your ingredients is absolutely key to creating a successful, restaurant quality dish - and for today's recipe, particularly important (besides, of course, the fish) is the olive oil. Choose a fruity or bold extra virgin olive oil depending on your preference. Click HERE to see the one we like (it falls on the bold, medium-bodied side). Sardinian Sea Salt is my new go-to when I'm looking for flavor. Put it all together and you're sure to get raves on this dish that is as visually striking as it is delicious. 

Let's get to it.

Tuna Crudo With Jalapeno & Peaches
Serves 4 

4-6 Ounces Sushi Grade Fresh Tuna
1/2 a very ripe Peach, very thinly sliced 
2 Limes, cut in half
1 Jalapeno, seeded and finely minced 
High Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
High Quality Sea Salt
2-3 Scallions, the white part cut into very fine strips (as above)
Cilantro Leaves, optional

To Assemble:
Set out four small serving dishes. 
Squeeze the juice of half a Lime into each dish.
Arrange the Tuna on top as pictured.

Add thin slices of Peach on top.
Sprinkle minced Jalapeno on top.

Scatter a few strips of Scallion as well.
Drizzle it all with a bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Finish with a dusting of Sea Salt. 

Optionally garnish with Cilantro and any extra Lime Wedges

Serve right away and enjoy!!