Category: Dana Treat Original

Where I Have Been

April 5, 2013

Hello Friends.

The first quarter of 2013 is over and I have not a lot of food posts to show for it.  There are several reasons for the quiet on this site.  One is still adjusting to a new life and new rhythm in a new city.  I was far busier in Seattle and yet posted much more frequently.  More proof that the busier I am, the more productive I am.  Another reason is some technical problems with my web host and just general internet yuck.

But the main reason is that I just haven’t been feeling all that good.  I’ve never mentioned this here, but I suffer from acid reflux.  I had it bad with both of my pregnancies and after I had Spencer, it never went away.  I’ve had tests done over the years and have been able to control it very well with a mild medication.  Until recently.  For some reason that is not easily explained, my reflux got completely out of control about two months ago.  I went from falling asleep easily every night, to being up for hours trying to get the stomach pain and constant buzzing in the back of my throat (from stomach acid) to go away enough for me to doze off.  The discomfort is with me during the day too, just not as much in the front of my mind in the daylight.  I don’t feel bad all the time but much of the time.  Being in a new city, I was a little lost and finding the right person to go see was much more difficult than in my home town.

I’ve done more tests and switched medications and the bottom line is that I’ve been feeling  pretty terrible much of the time.  I am on something new that apparently takes a while to start working so I am holding on hoping that that is true.  (UPDATE: For the past couple of days, I have been feeling better.  I guess the new medicine is working after all.  Phew!) As you do in these situations, I went to Facebook and asked for advice from friends.  What are you taking?  What has worked for you?  A number of people said they had seen naturopaths and found out they had food intolerances and their reflux cleared up after they eliminated those foods.  Not really knowing what else to do, I decided to put myself on an elimination diet.  I cut out everything I thought might be giving me trouble.  Caffeine, alcohol, sugar, soy, wheat, grains, beans, dairy.  Because I don’t eat meat, that meant I was eating eggs, fruits and vegetables, quinoa, and nuts and seeds.  I did this for four weeks and I did not feel one bit better.  No change in my stomach issues, no sudden glow to my skin, no bounce in my step.  So, obviously, I have gone back to eating my regular (mostly) healthy diet.

So essentially, I have not been writing glowing posts about delicious things I have been making because my stomach has been hurting and because I have been cooking in an extremely limited fashion.  But here is the thing.  I made some tasty things, even with the restrictions I put on myself.  That polenta was a super satisfying dinner.  And I made several different kinds of Thai curry, all of them with my new favorite Kabocha squash which goes so well in curry, all of them with homemade curry paste, all of them satisfying.  I am glad that I can eat out again without worrying about what I will order and glad to have all my choices available again.  I am interested to note that I am not rushing back to certain things – sugar for one.

I used one of my favorite cookbooks, Real Vegetarian Thai, for my curry paste recipes and I have found that the red curry is much spicier than the green.  This green paste is mild but with so much flavor that I really encourage you to make your own.  It doesn’t take long at all and it will keep for up to a month in your refrigerator.  I find that, because the green is so mild, I use about half of a batch for one pot of curry, but you may use less.  If you don’t want to make your own paste but still want to make the curry, Thai Kitchen makes a decent curry paste that is vegetarian.  It is pretty spicy though so be careful adding it to the stew.  Kabocha squash is kind of round-ish and the skin can be either green or orange.  I have found that the orange ones have a better texture.  Either way, the skin is edible.  Just be really careful cutting into them!

One Year Ago:  Holly B’s Savory Brioches
Two Years Ago:  Eggplant and Mushroom Pasticcio, Lemon Cream Tart (the best lemon tart!)
Three Years Ago:  Holly B’s Cinnamon Rolls, Baked Rice with Chiles and Pinto Beans
Four Years Ago:  Spicy Sweet Potatoes with Lime, Marinated Chickpea Salad with Radishes and Cucumber

Thai Green Curry with Kabocha Squash and Shiitake Mushrooms
Dana Treat Original (curry paste from Real Vegetarian Thai)
Serves 3-4

I made this twice in two weeks.  The first time I did not use tofu because I was not eating soy.  I used a drained can of bamboo shoots to bulk it up.  I think it is better with a bit of tofu, but it is up to you.  This makes a nice thick curry.  If you want more liquid, you can add more coconut milk or even a bit of vegetable broth or water.  Finally, I used to always use low fat coconut milk in my curries but I am SO over that.  The real stuff tastes about 1000% better.

For the curry paste:
4 fresh green jalapeño chiles
1 tbsp. whole coriander seed
1 tsp. whole cumin seed
5 while or black peppercorns
3 stalks lemongrass
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. roughly chopped ginger or galangal
Zest of 1 lime
1 tsp. salt

For the stew:
Coconut, peanut, or canola oil
3 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced
1 14-ounce can full fat coconut milk
1 small kabocha squash, seeded, cut into 1-inch chunks
6 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into 1-inch pieces
Handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
Kosher or sea salt

Make the curry paste:
Stem the chiles, chop them coarsely, and set aside.  In a small skillet over medium heat, dry-fry the coriander seeds until they darken a shade or two, shaking the pan or stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes.  Tip out onto a saucer.  Toast the cumin seeds in the same way, until they darken and release their rich aroma, 1 to 2 minutes.  Grind the two spices along with the pepper in a coffee or spice grinder, or in a mortar and pestle.

To prepare the lemongrass, trim away and discard any root section below the bulb base, and cut away the top portion, leaving a stalk about 6 inches long including the base.  Remove any dried, wilted, and yellowed leaves.  Finely chop the stalk.

Combine the lemongrass, the chopped chiles, and the ground toasted spices with the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and grind them to a fairly smooth paste, stopping often to scrape down the sides and adding a few tablespoons of water as needed to move the blades.

Make the stew:
Place a wide pot over medium heat.  Add just enough oil of your choice to coat the bottom, then add the shallots and a large pinch of salt.  Allow the shallots to cook, stirring often, until they are soft and starting to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.  Next add the red pepper and the shiitake mushrooms.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms and peppers are starting to soften and brown in spots, about 10 minutes.

Move the vegetables over to one side of the pot.  Pour in about ¼ of the coconut milk and then spoon in a couple of tablespoons of the curry paste.  Mash the paste into the coconut milk to combine, then stir the mixture together with the vegetables.  Pour in the rest of the coconut milk and turn up the heat.  Taste the liquid to see if you need more curry paste and add as needed.  When it comes to a boil, add the squash and the tofu.  Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover, and cook until the squash is fork tender, about 20 minutes.  Just before serving, taste for salt and shower with the chopped cilantro.  Serve with jasmine or basmati rice.

Polenta with Spicy Tomato Sauce

March 24, 2013

Thank you for all your entries into my ActiFry giveaway!  I’m so glad to hear that so many of you share my intense love of French fries.  The winner, chosen at random, is Michelle who says, “French fries and Ben & Jerry’s Red Velvet Cake Ice cream. Have to have both sweet and salty or the craving for the other would drive me crazy! Acti-Fry come live at my house!”  Congratulations Michelle!

On another note, I apologize that there is only one photo here.  For some reason I am not able to upload photos in the way I have been doing it.

I go through phases in my cooking.  Maybe you all do too.  Sometimes, I am very book focused.  I pay special attention to books I have been neglecting or those that are new to my collection.  I challenge myself with fancy dishes, dinners that take an hour or more to pull together.  Other times, I am wanting to cook from the most current issues of the magazines I receive.  Up the minute perfectly seasonal dinners with on-trend ingredients.  Sometimes I want to shop the farmers’ markets and let the produce I find there inspire me to search out new recipes from books or blogs that I trust and love.  And other times, I just want to be surrounded by things I like and figure it all out as I go.

This last option is how I’ve been cooking lately.  I know that much of the country is still in winter but Northern California is staring down the barrel of spring without really having had winter.  A walk through an East Bay farmers’ market these days will reveal citrus, avocados, strawberries, cauliflower and broccoli, tons and tons of greens, winter squashes, radishes… the list goes on and on.  It is inspiring to say the least.  I just walked through picking up things that I like, handing over a few dollars here and there, and making up dishes as I went along.  It was not precise or especially thought out.

So, with a big kabocha squash, a large head of cauliflower, some spring onions, and a bunch of other things I already had in my refrigerator or my pantry, I made three dinners.  Three meals that were nothing ground breaking, but all three were healthy, tasty, and satisfying.  I didn’t make multiple stops at the grocery store because I had already bought things I liked and just trusted that I would have enough to make good meals.  It is important for me, when I am cooking this way, to have plenty of salad greens and other goodies for the salad bowl so that even if dinner turns out a little thin, we can enjoy a big salad.

First up, I had an eggplant left over from making Eggplant Parmesan.  Eggplants keep surprisingly well and this one still felt firm and had no bruising.  It had been a while since I last made polenta and I keep seeing notes on how best to cook it.  The current thought is that you don’t have to stir it constantly and that the longer it sits, with an occasional stir, the creamier it gets.  Once it has spent about a half hour over direct heat, you can move it to a double boiler and let it stay for an hour or more.  I’ve always given my attention to polenta at the beginning of the cooking process and then more or less left it alone, but had never tried the double boiler method.  I actually found that mine got a little dried out so I will need to tweak the amount of liquid next time I try it.

I love polenta just about any way but I do think it truly shines when paired with a tomato sauce of sorts.  For this one, I made a  basic puttanesca, minus the anchovy, and added small cubes of eggplant to it.  This is the kind of sauce that can be made in big batches and squirreled away in your refrigerator or freezer for the next time you want to just surround yourself with things you like and figure it out.  I kept this dinner pretty simple but it would be divine with the addition of cheese over top (Parmesan, ricotta salata, or feta would be my picks), or even a fried egg.  This recipe will probably make more sauce than you will use for the polenta, unless you like it very saucy, so try the leftover sauce over pasta or with eggs.

Polenta with Spicy Tomato Sauce
Dana Treat Original
Serves 3-4

The full teaspoon of red pepper flakes makes this sauce nice and spicy.  If you would like yours a little more mellow, just add less.

1 cup polenta
3-3½ cups water or vegetable broth
Olive oil
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, cut in small dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 generous tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup Kalamata olives, sliced
2 tbsp. capers, rinsed and drained
Handful fresh basil leaves, sliced

Make the polenta:
Place the water or broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Slowly pour in the polenta, whisking constantly.  It will look like there is too much liquid at first but it will start to thicken quickly.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and keep whisking until the mixture is quite thick, about 5 minutes.  Turn the heat down to low and just give the polenta an occasional whisk, every few minutes or so.  If you would like to try the double boiler method, after half an hour, transfer the polenta to a heatproof bowl.  Fill the saucepan (no need to wash it) back up with water, then heat the water to a simmer.  Place the bowl with the polenta over the simmer water and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel.  It can sit like this for an hour or more with an occasional stir.  If you are going to try this method, I would definitely use the 3½ cups of liquid and maybe even 4.

Make the sauce:
Place a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the pan, then add the onion and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic.  Cook for 1 minute, then add the eggplant, the dried basil, and the red pepper flakes.  Give it a good stir, then allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is tender and starting to brown in spots, about 10 minutes.  Pour in the tomatoes, add another pinch of salt, and bring the sauce up to a simmer.  Cook off some of the liquid so that the sauce is nice and thick, about another 10-15 minutes of cooking time.  Stir in the Kalamata olives and the capers and cook another 5 minutes just to bring the flavors together.  Stir in the basil right before serving and season to taste with salt and pepper.

So Good, I Made It Twice

December 13, 2012

Common sense would say that the second time you make something, it is better than the first.  Right?  The second time you know your way around the recipe, or the ingredients if you are creating it yourself, and the tinkering makes it better.  You are committed to that dish, having enjoyed it enough once to make it again, and it tastes even better.

Not always so.  At least in my kitchen.  I rarely make things twice because I have a deep need for variety in my diet.  Occasionally I make something I really like and find myself craving it soon after the leftovers are gone.  So I make it again and 89% of the time (scientific figure) I like it better the first time.  Is it because I tinker too much?  The old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” idea?  Who knows.  When that happens, I either don’t write about the dish, or I do with the first run haunting me as I type.

Recently I had one of those weeks where I didn’t want to cook from recipes.  I wanted to just have fresh or freshly cooked ingredients at my disposal and figure it out as I went along.  I am not really that kind of cook.  I am a recipe cook but the years of cooking experience and finding treasures at farmers’ markets have mellowed me, and cut my reliance on hard and fast recipes.  So I spent an afternoon stocking my refrigerator with things I like and decided to just figure it all out as the week progressed.  Dinner one night was bowls filled with sautéed kale, quinoa, topped with bits of roasted squash and a fried egg.  There were more bowls filled with rice noodles, baked tofu, and bok choy.  There was a Niçoise salad or two.  At the end of the week, I made a soup whose base was a bunch of leeks I had not used and a lonely potato that was sitting on my counter.  I added what I had leftover and like most soups that are born from ingredients that you like, it was terrific.  I even ate the leftovers for lunch a couple of days later.  Me.  The leftover hater.  The next week, I still had some quinoa, so I roasted more squash, sautéed more kale, and made the soup again, assuming that it wouldn’t be as good the second time.  But it was.  So I had to post about it.

Now, I’m not going to suppose that you have cooked quinoa, roasted squash, and already sautéed kale in your refrigerator.  I would imagine that you could probably make this soup without doing any up front work.  You could add the squash along with the leeks and potatoes, allowing it to get nice and soft.  You could pour in the quinoa after the broth is boiling and I assume it would cook all right.  You could add the kale near the end, cooking it enough that it gets tender but still stays nice and green.  You could do all that and it would be good soup.  But I don’t think it would be that good.

Here is why.  Quinoa cooked properly, not in too much liquid, retains a nice texture and crunch.  Roasted squash gets nice and caramelized making it much sweeter than just cooking it in liquid.  And kale.  Well.  I don’t think I’ve ever admitted this before here but I’m not a huge fan of kale.  I cook it and I eat it because sometimes there is a need for big dark leafy greens and I like it better than chard.  But you will not find a love letter to kale here.  And yes, I have made kale chips and no, not a single member of my family thought they were anywhere near as good as potato chips, and I may have actually just dumped them in the compost bin.  Ahem.  What I have learned about kale is that I need a bit of garlic cooked along with it and a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes.  It needs to be cut in small pieces and it needs to cook long and slow until it is really tender.  It also needs to be Tuscan or lacinato kale, which is much more tender than its cousins.  So precooked kale, made just the way I like it, worked really well for me in this soup.

Can I call this a chowder?  Does chowder mean that there is cream involved?  Chowder means chunky to me so I’m going to call it that.  And as for the extra squash and kale that will be left after the soup is gone?  Use them in risotto, pasta, on top of pizza, stuffed in a sweet potato, or shoved into an omelet.

One Year Ago:  Posole Verde, Chocolate Chip Cookies
Two years Ago:  Brown Rice Bowl with Marinated Tofu, Snickerdoodle Cupcakes, Healthier Mac and Cheese
Three Years Ago:  Holly B’s Stollen, Spicy Tomato Jam, Sweet and Salty Cake (I’m making this next weekend)
Four Years Ago:  Breton Apple Pie, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Lemon Rice Rolls with Lemon Tahini Sauce

Potato and Quinoa Chowder with Winter Squash and Kale
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

I used red quinoa here because I had some I like the color better than the regular stuff.  The regular stuff will work just fine here, your soup will just be a bit more monochromatic.  Delicata squash is my squash of choice because you don’t have to peel it and they tend to be smaller than butternuts.

Olive oil
3 leeks, white and pale green part only, cut in half, washed, then thinly sliced
1 large baking (russet) potato, cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
Leaves from 4 lemon thyme branches (or regular thyme)
6 cups vegetable broth
1 cup cooked quinoa (recipe follows)
½ delicata squash, cut into 1-inch pieces (recipes follows)
½ bunch sautéed kale (recipe follows)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a large-ish soup pot over medium-low heat.  Drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot, then add the leeks along with a large pinch of salt.  Stir frequently until they start to soften, about 4 minutes.  Be careful with them as they can burn easily.  Add the potato and carrots and allow to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the lemon thyme, cook for another minute, then pour in the broth.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a lively simmer and cook until the potato and carrot are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the quinoa, squash, and kale to the soup pot and bring the heat up so the soup really simmers.  Allow to cook for 10 minutes so that the added ingredients warm up and the flavors of the soup really meld together.  (Soup can be made up to 3 days ahead.  It will thicken considerably, so add broth or water to it as you reheat it.)

To make quinoa:
Bring 1½ cups water to a boil.  Add quinoa, then lower heat to simmer and cover the pot.  Cook for 15 minutes, then remove lid.  (This will make a bit more than you need for the soup.  You might even want to increase the amount so you have some extra hanging around.  Just use 1½ the amount of water to the amount of quinoa.)

To make roasted squash:
Preheat oven to 425ºF.  Split squash down the middle and scrape out the seeds.  Slice each half into half moons about ½-inch thick and lay them out on a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Roast in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove and turn all the slices over.  Roast for another 7 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

To make the sautéed kale:
Wash a large bunch of kale.  Strip the leaves off the stem, you can do this just using your hands or you can slice them off with a knife.  Chop the leaves into 2-inch pieces.  Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add two minced garlic cloves.  Immediately add a large pinch of red pepper flakes.  Just as the garlic is starting to turn light brown, add all the kale leaves.  It will look like a lot but, like all greens, it will cook down.  Stir frequently and add a bit of water if the kale is sticking.  Taste to make sure the kale is really soft, it can take up to half an hour for me to get it where I want it, then remove from the heat.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

What is Your Comfort Food?

October 17, 2012

Comfort food.  What does that mean to you?  For some it means food from their childhood.  For others it means food that is homey and simple.  Others would say it means the most decadent unhealthy thing you can eat.  As with most things food-related, there is no absolute definition of comfort food – it is different things to different people.

For me, comfort food is something I dearly love that I don’t eat all that often.  And when I do eat it, it makes me very happy.  It feels warm and nourishing but it is not something that I will regret eating the next day.  French fries would fit the bill except for that last part.  I would probably include the things that my mom used to make (flank steak, bbq chicken, meatloaf, stuffed cabbage, fried sole) but I don’t eat those things anymore.

So I offer up polenta.  Very cozy, somewhat nourishing, kind of special without being fussy.  For me, it’s a joy to eat.  Especially when there is fresh corn in the mix.  Polenta made with just cornmeal can get a little oatmeal-y on me.  Let me explain.  I like my oatmeal salty not sweet.  Brown sugar, raisins, maple syrup – none of those things are welcome in my bowl of oatmeal.  Salt only.  There is exactly one other person I know of on earth who eats oatmeal this way and he is my father and he taught me that oatmeal should be salty.  So, when I tuck into a big bowl of oatmeal, it tastes so very good at first.  I rejoice in the first few bites.  And then I get bored.  The texture is a bit gloppy and the flavor is very one note – salty.  Kind of like polenta.  I serve myself a big bowl and I am so happy for a few moments and then it starts to feel gloppy and salty – like oatmeal.

Not, however, if you add the kernels from two ears of corn and a dollop of ricotta cheese.  It becomes something much more complex.  The corn adds sweetness and crunch and the cheese adds richness but not so much that you regret eating it the next day.  Really, I would have been very happy eating it all by its lonesome but I saw a recipe for a bowl of polenta with tomato fennel broth that was topped with wild mushrooms and greens, and it was one of those where I basically stopped all my cooking plans so I could make it.  Except that I couldn’t get fennel at my small local grocery store and I’m not all that into the wild mushrooms I can find here (I miss my chanterelles!), and greens felt like they would mute my dish, so I went in another direction.  I used the corn cobs and lots herbs to make a flavorful broth, which I cooked long enough to reduce down and concentrate flavors.  I bought cremini and shiitake mushrooms, both of which keep their shape nicely and bring earthiness without weirdness to the bowl.  Yes, you will dirty three pots making this dish.  Sorry about that.  You won’t notice after the first bite.

One Year Ago:  Arugula Salad with Asian Pear and Roasted Onions
Two Years Ago:  Cranberry Soup with Farro, Graham Cracker Pound Cake, Roasted Pear Salad with Chèvre and Fig Vinaigrette
Three Years Ago:  Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing, Holly B’s Cappuccino Bars
Four Years Ago:  White Beans with Tomatoes and Sage

Fresh Corn Polenta with Tomato Corn Broth and Mushrooms
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

For the broth:
2 corn cobs
½ onion
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 parsley sprigs
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
6 peppercorns
1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
4 roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 cups water

For the polenta:
4 cups water
1½ cups polenta or medium cornmeal
1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
Kernels from 2 ears of corn
¼ cup ricotta cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

To finish:
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed, slice in half
½ pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, slice in half
1 tbsp. thyme leaves
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (or more) basil, cut in thin ribbons, for garnish
½ (or more) cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Make the broth:
If you haven’t already, cut the kernels off the two ears of corn.  Set the kernels aside in a bowl.  Place the cobs, onion half, garlic cloves, parsley and thyme spigs, bay leaf, peppercorns, salt, and tomatoes in a soup pot.  Pour in the water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to a lively simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to about 1½ cups, about 45 minutes.  Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a smaller pot.  Press on the solids in the strainer to extract the juices.  Cover the broth and set aside.  (This can be made earlier in the day.  Reheat it when you are ready to use it.  You will want it nice and hot.)

Make the polenta:
Pour the water or broth into a pot that has nice high sides.  Bring to a boil.  Slowly drizzle in the polenta, whisking constantly.  It will seem like too much liquid for the amount of polenta, but the liquid absorbs pretty rapidly.  Turn the heat to low.  Continue whisking until the mixture is very thick, just about 5 minutes.  Make sure the heat is on low and allow to cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes.  It will bubble thickly and may mess up your stove, the higher the sides on our pot the better for reducing mess.  After 10 minutes, stir in the fresh corn kernels.  Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often.  Stir in the ricotta cheese and allow it to cook for another few minutes so that the flavors can meld.  Season to taste with pepper and salt.  Cover and it should keep warm for about 30 minutes or so.  If you need to reheat it, you can do so gently over very low heat.  Be sure to stir it well so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

Finish the dish:
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Melt the butter, add the olive oil, and add the mushrooms.  Allow them to cook without disturbing them for a few minutes so they can get a bit of a sear.  Then stir occasionally as they cook for another 5-10 minutes.  About halfway through the cooking time, add the fresh thyme leaves and a good pinch of salt.  Once the mushrooms are nicely browned, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon a healthy portion of polenta into 4 shallow bowls.  Top with the mushrooms, fresh basil, and a shower of Parmesan cheese.  Carefully ladle the broth around the very edge of the bowl, so it moistens the polenta without making the mushrooms soggy.

Hold the Lettuce

August 21, 2012

Hey, you know what?  I love salad.  I bet you didn’t know that.  I bet I’ve never said that.  I bet you couldn’t tell from the 55 salad recipes on this site.  I bet you couldn’t.

I would say that every single time I cook, I make a salad as well.  Sometimes I only make salad.  Salad, salad, salad.  Ahem.  Most of the time I use lettuce.  Very occasionally I use spinach.  Sometimes I don’t use a leafy green at all.  Which brings me to this stunner.  I bought zucchini at my farmers’ market because I couldn’t get this dish out of my mind but I ended up taking it in a different direction.  Also I didn’t have any burrata.  Also I was trying to cook through things in my pantry and refrigerator.

So I grilled slabs of zucchini, shelled peas, chopped up kalamata olives, drained chickpeas, grated Pecorino cheese, and chopped mint.  I put everything in a big bowl and tossed it with a little olive oil and the juice of a lemon.  I sprinkled Piment d’Espelette over the top and was prepared to really like the whole thing.  With the exception of zucchini, those are all ingredients that I use to boost flavor in other dishes.  Chickpeas round out pastas and soups in my house, mint can be surprising in Asian food, Pecorino tastes great with eggs, fresh peas add a nice pop to leafy salads, and olives are welcome just about anywhere.  So I expected to like all my favorites together in one bowl.  I guess I just wasn’t prepared for how tasty this was.  Nutty, smoky, sweet, very savory.  I can’t wait to make it again.


One Year Ago:  Radicchio Tart; Orecchiette with Roasted Tomatoes and Corn; Summer Potatoes Stewed with Eggplant, Peppers, and Olives; Pilaf with Vermecelli, Chickpeas, and Apricots
Two Years Ago:  Roasted Eggplant Caponata, D’Lish Peppadew Peppers, Chard and Saffron Tart, Vanilla Cake with Strawberry and Cream Frosting
Three Years Ago:  Mixed Berry Spoon Cake
Four Years Ago:  Succotash

Grilled Zucchini Salad with Chickpeas, Mint, and Pecorino Romano
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4-6

Usually I say frozen peas are just as good as fresh but not in this case.  You want crunch as well as sweetness.  If you can’t get fresh peas, I would buy a couple handfuls of snap peas and thinly slice them on the diagonal.  If you don’t have Piment d’Espelette you can either just grind a bit of black pepper over top or, for a bit of smokiness, sprinkle a bit of smoked paprika over top.

3 large zucchini, thickly sliced on a diagnonal
Olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
¾ cup kalamata olives, halved
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup shelled fresh English peas
Leaves of 2 large sprigs mint, thinly sliced
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
Several pinches Piment d’Espelette

Heat a grill to high.  Place the zucchini slices in a large bowl.  Drizzle with a liberal amount of olive oil and a few pinches of salt.  Grill the slices until they are soft and have visible grill marks.  Make sure to flip over half way through.  Take the slices off the grill and return them to the bowl.  Allow them to cool slightly, then add the olives, chickpeas, and peas.  Toss gently and allow to cool to room temperature.  Then add the mint, cheese, and the lemon juice.  Toss carefully to combine.  I found I had enough olive oil from the zucchini for my taste but add more if your salad needs it.  Sprinkle the Piment d’Espelette over top.


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