Herby couscous salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and pea shoots

IMG_6346 (2)The majority of August was a relief from the intense heat of July. That heat and humidity are back in full force this week, and I did my best to come up with a dinner that used as little cooking as possible. This is a quick couscous salad with lots of fresh herbs, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and pea shoots. It is a meal in itself, but would be an excellent picnic side or bed for some juicy grilled chicken or sausage.

I happened to have couscous in my pantry (plus it is so quick cooking), but this would also be great with other small pastas like Israeli couscous or orzo, or with another grain like quinoa. In an effort to minimize my heat in the kitchen, I didn’t use any cooked vegetables but roasted or grilled vegetables would be delicious too. I riffed off this parsley sauce, but used scallions as well and upped the quantity.

All of the vegetables and herbs in this salad are from my Potter Hill CSA share this week except the cucumber, which I bought separated from Paul. The rest of the share this week was a baby head of romaine lettuce, celery, 2 lbs of large tomatoes, microgreens, carrots, kale, and mint.

Lettuce and tomatoes went into an epic BLT with Short Creek bacon (order some this week!!!!). I’ve also been eating tomatoes my absolute favorite way: on top of toast slathered with mayo, with salt and pepper.  If you haven’t made these greens with yogurt yet then that is your kale plan (if you have made this…it is still your plan). This marinated celery salad looks like a great use for the giant head, plus some cherry tomatoes and scallions (it’s marinating in the fridge right now for dinner tomorrow!). I don’t have a plan for the carrots this week, but with the greens snipped off they will last in the fridge until inspiration (or hunger) strikes.

Herby couscous salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and pea shoots

Serves 6 as a meal, or 10-12 as a side

Couscous

  • 3 cups couscous
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Herb sauce

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ cups parsley leaves
  • 1 ½ cups chopped scallions
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 ½ lemons)
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Salad

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small cucumber (mine was 1 1/2 cups chopped)
  • 1 large handful pea shoots and/or microgreens (about 1 cup chopped)
  • 3.5 cups cooked chickpeas (2 15.5 oz cans, drained and rinsed)

Bring the 3 cups of water to a boil. Add in the couscous, olive oil, and salt. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for 10 minutes.

Turn on a food processor with the S blade in and drop the garlic cloves through the opening at the top. When the garlic cloves stop bouncing around they are fully minced. Turn the food processor off and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Add the salt, a few grinds of pepper, parsley leaves, chopped scallions, and lemon juice. Turn the food processor on to chop them, then drizzle in the olive oil so a sauce forms. Alternatively, very finely mince the garlic, parsley, and scallions, then stir in the salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Quarter the cherry tomatoes, chop the cucumber, and chop the pea shoots or microgreens. Fluff the couscous with a fork and put it in a large bowl. Add the chickpeas and herb sauce and stir to combine. Add in the cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and pea shoots. Stir until they are evenly distributed.

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Watermelon, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad with Feta and Lemon Basil

IMG_6336What is more summery than this salad? Ripe berries eaten off the bush? Kids running through a sprinkler? Fireflies? There may be a few contenders, but the list is short. One step further than eating each of these ingredients straight (which is a wonderfully summery thing to do as well), this simple salad plays up each component’s attributes by contrasting with the others. Crunchy cucumber, meaty tomato, and sweet watermelon, are excellent foils to fragrant lemon basil, slightly pickled onions, and salty/creamy feta bound together with fruity olive oil.

This is my Potter Hill CSA recipe for the week, and everything in the salad except the cucumber is in the share (the cucumber is also from Paul, I just bought it separately). The rest of the share was 2 pints of cherry tomatoes, husk cherries, purple potatoes, and savory. I’m going to use the rest of the lemon basil and red onion in these soba noodles (and I’m going to sub nectarines for the mango). I used the cherry tomatoes and leftover bok choy from last week in a Thai curry with tofu from Dinner (which is almost identical to this recipe, but with shiitake mushrooms instead of crimini, and cherry tomatoes and bok choy instead of the snap peas). The husk cherries just got eaten as a snack, and I’m not sure what the fate of the purple potatoes is yet. Maybe potato salad? Or over Dijon lentils?

Watermelon, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad with Feta and Lemon Basil

Serves 6

I listed quantities for each ingredient, but don’t worry about sticking to them too strictly. Use what you have, and just try to balance the ingredients.

  • 1/2 a small watermelon (~4 cups once chopped)
  • 1 lb of tomatoes (I used one monster yellow tomato, but 2-3 normal sized ones would be plenty)
  • 1 small cucumber (1/2 lb)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (1 very small onion)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (this is the time to bring out the good stuff)
  • 4 ounces of feta, cubed
  • a large handful of lemon basil (regular basil or cilantro would also work)
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt

Put the sliced red onion in a small bowl and top with the vinegar. Stir to coat.

Cut the tomato and watermelon into 1″ cubes. Chop the cucumber. Arrange the watermelon, tomatoes, and cucumber on a platter. Scatter the red onion on top, and sprinkle the leftover vinegar over the salad. Top with the feta and basil, and then drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over the whole salad. Finish with the salt and serve.

CSA Cooking

20180815_185929We’re about six weeks into the Potter Hill CSA and I wanted to check in on my fellow CSA members (and members of other CSAs elsewhere!). How are you using up your bounty each week? We’ve just entered my favorite month: August 15-September 15. (Yes, I’ve defined my own month.) Summer produce is still coming in hot, fall produce starts creeping in, and the days cool off a bit. This week I received tomatoes, zucchini, celery, Swiss chard, bok choy, lemon basil, parsley, beets, and 2 heads of baby lettuce.

I slow roasted some tomatoes (2 hours at 275F) for this gorgonzola lentil salad, which also used some red onion leftover from last week and parsley from this week. Tomatoes and lettuce went into this barbecue chicken salad (pictured above), which I made with my standard bleu cheese dressing instead of the goat cheese ranch because I had extra gorgonzola from the lentil salad to use up. I’m going to use the lemon basil on top of urad dal instead of the cilantro. The fate of the zucchini is either zucchini carbonara or succotash (or maybe I’ll buy more and make both!!). Last time we got celery I made my favorite stir fry, and I’ll probably just make it again because I think it is celery’s highest calling (and it is so far superior with intensely vegetal farm celery than it is with watery supermarket celery). The beets are destined for a labneh dip from DinnerAnd the greens are obviously going into another round of greens with eggs, garlic yogurt, and chili butter because how could I not?!

Don’t forget all of my weekly CSA recipes are under the Potter Hill tag.

Greens with eggs, garlic yogurt, and chili butter

IMG_20180812_101958068Yogurt finally convinced me it was worthy of my attention in the summer of 2009. Prior to that I hated the gloppy texture and saccharine sweetness of fruit flavored yogurts in tiny cups (or worse, pouches). But that year my mom and I traveled through Greece and Turkey, both cuisines that revere yogurt and think of it as an ingredient more like cream cheese that can be used in savory and sweet applications. But unlike dense and fattier cream cheese, it is light, tangy and refreshing.

My gateway yogurt experience was in Greece. We ate a meal that I’m sure was delightful but is now totally obscured by my memory of dessert. After the meal I was served a schmear of plain Greek yogurt in a stemmed bowl lightly drizzled with honey. It was creamy, cool, and a perfect foil to sweet and herbal honey. Where had THIS yogurt been all my life?

In Istanbul we wandered the streets until we came upon a little cafe with outdoor seating. (Our family rule is any meal that can be eaten outside, should be eaten outside.) When I’m in a place where I’m not familiar with everything on the menu, I like to watch what people around me order. I saw a plate of rice, grilled vegetables, something that looked like grilled meatballs, tomato sauce, and yogurt be delivered to a nearby table, and motioned something to convey “PLEASE FEED ME THAT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE” to the waiter. Turkish kofte is ground lamb or beef that is heavily spiced with cumin and onion, and the warmly flavored meat is incomplete without yogurt or a yogurt sauce.

When we returned home I discovered that my hatred of flavored yogurt had blinded me to a well established US obsession with Greek yogurt, which was widely available. It became a staple in my fridge that earned its keep with its versatility. Flavored yogurt can be breakfast with granola or in a smoothies, but its uses stop there. Plain yogurt serves those purposes even better (especially with fresh fruit), but also can be used in baking, in pancakes, instead of sour cream (when you forget to buy it, or just can’t be bothered to knowing the rest will languish in the fridge), stirred into soups, dolloped on top of dal, or incorporated into a savory sauce.

Which brings me to this dish of sauteed greens, eggs, garlic yogurt, chili butter, and potatoes. Israeli cuisine is another that celebrates the flavor of yogurt, and Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks are some of the first I turn to when I am looking for interesting ways to prepare vegetables. I own Jerusalem, Plenty, and Plenty More, which I flipped through this week for some inspiration. I was mostly looking for ways to use tomatoes and eggplant, but a recipe for baked eggs with yogurt, chile and arugula in Plenty More (page 140) seemed a fitting use for the bunch of greens in my fridge. Instead of arugula, I used a mix of Asian greens from my CSA and kale and collards from my garden.  (Those were from last week’s CSA, but from this week the chard, bok choy, or both would be excellent). I boiled extra potatoes when I made the composed salad earlier this week, so I crisped those up to have with the greens, but a nice piece of toast would be fitting as well. I find eggs very difficult to cook to my preferred done-ness in the oven (set whites and verrrrrrrrry runny yolks), so I did my usual pan-fried over easy eggs here, but prepare them however makes you happiest.

The magic really comes from Ottolenghi’s genius accouterments: grated raw garlic stirred into yogurt, and melted butter with chili flakes. Both quickly come together while everything else is cooking, and provide a creamy tang and a fatty heat that make this dish so much more than greens and eggs. I made it for Sunday breakfast, but this would work for any meal.

Greens with eggs, garlic yogurt, and chili butter

Adapted from Baked eggs with yogurt and chile in Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

Serves 4

  • 1 cup sliced onion (from 1 small onion)
  • 1/2 lb of hearty greens, chopped (8 cups total)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 3/4 cup plain (unflavored) Greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo chili flakes (or 1/4 teaspoon regular chili flakes)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

For serving

  • 1 lb of cooked potatoes or 4 slices of toast
  • 4 eggs, cooked however you please

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add the greens and stir. Cook for 5 minutes more until greens are completely wilted.

While the onions and greens are cooking, stir the grated garlic into the yogurt along with a pinch of salt. Do not refrigerate while you finish cooking.

In a small saucepan over medium heat melt the butter and chili flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the butter is foamy and turns red from the chili flakes.

Serve greens with eggs and yogurt alongside potatoes or toast, and drizzle everything with the chili butter.

Done is better than perfect

20180808_190615Sunday night I was surrounded by cookbooks, making a list of all the dishes I HAVE to cook this month. It is peak harvest in New England, and every year at this time I constantly feel like I am missing opportunities to eat the best, freshest produce in the all ways I’ve been dreaming of since December. Everything I love ripens at once – raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, nectarines, peaches, plums, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, green beans, greens, and every herb you can imagine.

I’ve joked before about taking the month off just to cook and eat, but this year I took real action and took a day off from work later this month with no plans other than to cook. But I can’t take every day off (and also, I like my job), so I’ve also tried to be more realistic about what I can accomplish on a weeknight.

This is surely not a new revelation. But I am an obsessive cook who takes immense pride in making things from scratch. When I have people over for tacos, I make the tortillas. I went on a camping trip and fried Scotch eggs to bring with us. This is not meant to be boastful, but just to help you to understand the level of crazy I generally operate on. There are many nights when I’ve taken on more than I can chew, and I stare at the mess of an unfinished cooking project around me at 10pm and wonder “HOW DID I GET HERE?”

So when I see a recipe with three sub-recipes like these pambazos, I see myself making enchilada sauce, refried beans, and pickled onions, and THEN frying eggplant to make the sandwiches. I do have some idea of my capacity for cooking projects on a weeknight, so I think I will have to wait for a Sunday. But then there are only four measly Sundays in August, and way more than four elaborate meals I want to cook. Which means that this will get pushed on to my list for next year, when the same thing will happen again, and then five years from now I will finally make this sandwich and wonder “How did it take me so long to do this????????”

But no. Instead, I looked at this recipe, and added refried beans and enchilada sauce to the shopping list. I pickled the onions last night while I was waiting for Will to get home from the grocery store with ingredients I needed to finish yesterday’s dinner. I relaxed after work by sitting in the AC, writing, and drinking a Miller High Life. Then I meandered into the kitchen around 6:00pm, fried up the eggplant, snacked on a few pieces as I made them, and put together these beast sandwiches that hold everything I love between two slices of bread and then are coated with enchilada sauce. Would this sandwich have been better if I had made the refried beans and enchilada sauce myself? Maybe. But as they say, a sandwich in the hand is worth two in the bush. Or something like that.

Summer Composed Salad

20180808_122241For my Potter Hill CSA recipe this week I made an updated version of a salad by a very similar name for our current season. The concept is the same: take a mix of cooked and raw vegetables, pick a protein, and serve them with a tangy dressing. Use whatever is currently at its peak and let it shine, which this week is new potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I included hard boiled eggs because I always have them around, but grilled chicken or canned tuna would be a great choice too.  I swapped capers for dill in the dressing this time because herbs are jumping out of my produce drawer right now, and another soft herb like basil or parsley would also work great.

Tomato season is hitting fast and hard, and I could not be happier. My forever favorite tomato meal is lightly toasted bread with mayo, thick tomato slices, salt, and pepper. A couple years ago I wrote about my favorite things to eat in August, and I still stand heartily by that list. I made this tomato tart this week which had great contrast and intensity from fresh tomatoes and a sun dried tomato spread (I used savory instead of the thyme and feta instead of goat cheese to use up what I had). I also have my eye on this harissa eggplant, eggplant tortas, and a big fat BLT later this week.

Summer Composed Salad

This is incredibly easy to scale. I plan on these quantities per person: ¼ lb potatoes, 1 small tomato, ½ cucumber (assuming a smaller cucumber – like a pickling cuke), 1 egg. I would also use blanched green beans, lettuce leaves (separate them from the head but don’t slice them), radishes, or salad turnips.

Serves 6

  • 1 ½ lbs new potatoes
  • 2 lbs tomatoes
  • 3 small cucumbers
  • 6 eggs

Dill Dijon Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced dill
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard (I used a mix of whole grain and smooth – whatever you have works)
  • Salt and pepper

Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil. Lower the eggs in with a slotted spoon and cook for 12 minutes for fully set yolks. While the eggs are cooking put a dozen ice cubes in a bowl and cover with water. When the eggs are done transfer them to the ice water to cool while you prep everything else.

Wash your potatoes thoroughly (I let them sit in a bowl of water for a few minutes, then scrub and rinse). Cut any large potatoes in half so that they are all roughly the same size. Put the potatoes in a pot and cover them with water that comes about an inch higher than the potatoes. Add a pinch of salt and bring the water to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes can easily be pierced with a fork. Drain and let cool.

In a jar or small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and shake/whisk until uniform. If you like a thicker dressing, add some more Dijon.

Peel and halve the eggs, quarter the potatoes, slice the tomatoes and cucumbers. Arrange on a large platter with the dressing (or give everyone a little bowl for their own dressing if you have a dishwasher and can stomach such dish excess).

Roasted Summer Vegetables

20180802_122021Admittedly I had another plan for a recipe to share this week, but it ended up being only ok, and I am not in the business of peddling mediocre recipes. This is what I made on Monday night when I came home with my CSA (I get mine early for recipe writing). I had no plan for dinner, but knew it needed to involve a lot of vegetables. I took stock of leftovers from the weekend, which included some naan, tzatziki, hummus, and olives. I still had a zucchini and summer squash from last week’s CSA, plus this week’s eggplant, tomatoes, onions and savory. I chopped everything up, tossed it with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and threw it in the oven. The result is the cruel truth that so many summer vegetables are really better roasted, when you would rather change a tire on the side of the highway in the pouring rain than turn on the oven.

But summer vegetables like this are so, so good. The tomato adds a bit of acidity, and provide enough moisture to make a bit of a sauce. Eggplant, when properly and thoroughly cooked, becomes meaty and velvety. The onion becomes a bit caramelized, and summer squash adds a freshness you only get at this point in the year. If you don’t have savory, you could try another hearty herb like rosemary or thyme, or finish the dish after cooking with a soft herb like basil or parsley.

The rest of my share this week was cucumbers, perpetual spinach, kale, basil, new potatoes, lettuce, and pea tendrils. I used the perpetual spinach, kale, and cucumbers in some easy noodles with peanut sauce from the freezer (I cooked the greens, but left the cucumber raw). The potatoes and onions are going into a Thai yellow curry from Simple Thai Food tomorrow night. I also get an egg share, and for tighter mornings, I hard-boil eggs and eat them with everything.

Roasted Summer Vegetables

Serves 6

I’m outlining my basic method, but you could easily mix up the vegetables you include here. For six servings, I fill two baking sheets with 1/2-1″ between pieces for thorough browning. The photo shows naan with a layer of hummus topped with the roasted vegetables.

  • 3 small eggplant
  • 1 summer squash
  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 medium onions (I used fresh onions)
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped savory
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F. Chop all of the vegetables into 1″ pieces. Toss with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped savory. Spread across 2 baking sheets, with about 1″ of space between the pieces. They should be able to roast and brown, not just steam. Roast for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven, toss the vegetables, and return them to the oven on opposite shelves. Roast for another 10-15 minutes. In my oven the pan that starts on the bottom is always done first, while the other pan usually requires an extra 5 minutes to achieve the same level of browning.

Serve with hummus and pita or naan, in a sandwich, on pizza/pasta/polenta, or all by its glorious self.