With the whirl of July 4th last week (lots of cooking in my world!), my head is spinning with new recipes to try and new flavor combinations to explore. Every year about this time I start to work myself into a bit of a recipe tasting & food preservation frenzy! So many good flavor combinations to try and such limited time!! Also, as my freezer is now bare, I am itching to start the preservation process and load it up again with lots of goodies for the winter months. With this in mind, you can expect to see more than one post from me this week, with the intention of passing along recipes for the veggie loot this week, and also some preservation tips/recipes.
Let’s get started with a few basics to prep over the next couple days before pickup.
Balsamic and Herb Vinaigrette
(recipe shared by my fun friend and neighbor, Lisa Fiestritzer)
Makes plenty for 1 to 2 weeks worth of salads. You will run out of greens from the pickup, before running out of the dressing!
This is one of my favorite salad dressings for a bowl of spicy greens such as arugula, and the cucumbers that are starting to arrive. The sweetness of the balsamic balances so nicely with the zing of the greens and the coolness of the cucumbers. Also, you can use almost any herb at the pickup. If you have never made fresh croutons, give them a try. Super easy, and when served warm upon the salad, they soak up the dressing and it is a match made in heaven. If you are reducing/eliminating wheat/bread from your diet, no worries, this salad is still fantastic using just veggies! The salad on the left is a variation using strawberries from last week and almonds, and the salad on the right is a simple mixed greens with feta.
3Tbs Balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 to 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1-1/2 tsp fresh oregano, dill, or basil (you can also use 1/2 tsp dried herbs if you don’t have fresh on hand)
1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed (if you are using scapes, you can skip the garlic, unless you prefer a stronger garlic flavor)
2 tsp minced shallots, garlic scapes, red onion or scallions
Salad fixins’ to consider, but go with what you like!
sliced strawberries and almonds (toasted)
salad mix, arugula or lettuce, washed, spun out and torn
Pine nuts (toasted)
Feta, goat or Parmesan cheese
tomatoes or peppers when in season, cut up
bread croutons, fresh, warm, just out of the pan (see recipe below)
If you have a leftover chunk of meat, either chicken or beef, warm it up, slice and add into the mix.
The best way to mix a salad dressing is to start with the balsamic, add the mustard and whisk. Mustard acts as a binder and will allow the oil to incorporate into the vinegar more readily. When adding the oil, start with a couple drops, whisking as you go and slowly pour in the rest, all the while whisking. If you really enjoy the flavor of balsamic, stick to the 1/2 cup measurement of oil. If you prefer your dressing milder, then continue adding the oil, up to 3/4 cup, and taste as you go. When whisked long enough this dressing will become thick and you will notice the oil and vinegar become fully combined. Once you have fully incorporated the oil, add the salt, pepper, fresh/dried herbs, garlic and alliums. This dressing will last for up to 2 weeks in the fridge and gets better as the flavors meld.
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 loaf of any bread, cut into small cubes
Heat oil and butter in large skillet, over medium heat. Once the bubbles from the butter stopped sizzling, add the bread cubes and immediately toss them around the pan, making sure they get evenly coated with the butter/oil. Cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Serve warm, on top of salad and make sure to drizzle some dressing on top of them. These little babies will make any ho-hum salad perk right up. Also, the leftovers can be reheated in the oven the next day and tossed on another salad!
Napa Cabbage and Carrot Slaw with Miso Dressing
(shared by Martha Boks, a good friend and fabulous cook!)
makes 8 servings
This salad is super easy to make, especially if you prep the dressing and toast the sesame seeds beforehand. Because of the delicate nature of the Napa cabbage, the slaw is best assembled just an hour or two before serving. Also, DO NOT try to cut up the Napa cabbage in your food processor…cabbage juice anyone?!!
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 Tbs miso, white variety (can be bought at Harvest Health in the fridge where the cheese and milk are located)
3 Tbs grapeseed oil (or canola)
1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp minced garlic
2 Tbs sesame seeds
3/4 pound Chinese cabbage, also known as Napa, cut into thin shreds (6 cups)
2 cups grated carrots (I did mine in the food processor with grating blade)
1 large sweet red pepper, sliced into very thin strips or 1 apple, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup scallions, or chives, sliced
To toast the sesame seeds, heat a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Add sesame seeds and cook, stirring often until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Remove seeds from pan and allow to cool.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, miso, sugar, soy sauce and garlic until well blended. Set aside.
In large serving bowl, mix together the shredded cabbage, carrots red pepper or apple and scallions. Pour the dressing over top and mix till the veggies are all coated. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and serve.
Notes: The sesame seeds and dressing can be made days in advance. You can also substitutes peanuts for the sesame seeds, toasted in oven on 350 for 10-15 minutes and cooled. They are super hot when they come out of the oven, so don’t let anyone pop a peanut into their mouth!
Cabbage & Noodles
(adapted from Moosewood New Classics)
This is comfort food at its finest! You will be amazed at how much cabbage you can polish off when served with caramelized onions. Also, it makes a great leftover for the next day. Simply heat on low in a saucepan, adding a dash of water and keeping it on low with a lid. For a gluten-free version, brown rice could be substituted for the noodles.
2 cups thinly sliced onions
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1-1/2 Tbs paprika
8 cups finely shredded green cabbage (equals a medium-size head of cabbage)
2 tsp salt
12 oz. fine or medium wide egg noodles (substitute with rice noodles if you are avoiding gluten)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
dollop of sour cream (optional, but highly recommended!!)
In a large pot (with a tightly fitting lid), first melt the butter, using medium heat. Add the onions and turn down to low, put the lid on and cook for about 15 minutes to obtain a golden color (caramelized), stirring occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the bottom. Add the paprika and sauté for a minute more. It may seem like a lot of paprika, but you will be surprised how mild it will taste. Stir in the cabbage, add the salt and pepper and continue to cook on very low heat for 40-60 minutes, with the lid on, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is very soft and light brown.
When you still have about 15 minutes left on the clock for the cabbage, cook the noodles in boiling water until al dente. Drain them and when the cabbage is done cooking, add the noodles, tossing to mix well. Serve immediately and add a dollop of sour cream on top of each serving. Delicious!!
After all of those good veggies let’s indulge a bit in dessert! Basil Cheesecake is such a unique twist on a classic dessert. This cheesecake is not overly sweet, in fact it is more on the cheesy side so it really pairs well with fresh fruit of the sweeter kind. Strawberries are a given at this time of the year (provided they are sweet), but do try it when the sweet cherries and blueberries come to market as well. Cheesecake freezes beautifully, so you can make a couple, stash them in the freezer and pull them out later in the summer when the peaches arrive!
Real Basil Cheesecake
adapted from Madison Herb Society Cookbook
makes 10 servings….or in our case, about 5! We like our cheesecake!
1-1/2 cup of crushed graham crackers or crushed crispy cookies (use whatever you have on hand
6 Tbs butter, melted
1 Tbs sugar (if using cookies, sugar is not needed)
2 large eggs, room temp
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup basil leaves, destemmed
2 Tbs cornstarch
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla
2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, melted butter and sugar, mixing until well moistened. Pour into a 9 inch springform pan, and press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1 inch up the sides, creating a crust. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
Place the oven rack on the bottom third of the oven. This is important so the top of the cheesecake doesn’t burn or overcook, leaving the inside undercooked. In a food processor, lightly beat the eggs. Add sour cream, sugar, basil, cornstarch, lemon juice, and vanilla. Process until smooth. Add cream cheese, 1/2 pound at a time, and process to incorporate. Pour into cooled crust.
Bake for 1 hour. Open oven and give the pan a slight jiggle to see if the center of the cheesecake moves. If it jiggles a bit, close the door and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Then pull out and gently run a knife around the edge. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes and then remove outer ring. Finish cooling, wrap with saran wrap and store in fridge for up to 1 week, or freeze for later use.
Notes: The recipe calls for using a food processor or mixer, but I learned that the food processor does a much better job of chopping up the basil so it texturally works in the cheesecake. The mixer left bigger pieces of basil that were just not right in a cheesecake!
Also, everyone’s oven is different, so use your best judgement on cooking time. If the top of the cheesecake starts to get brown, no worries, pull it out of the oven and insert a toothpick in the center to see if it is done. If so, the brown part can be peeled off. If it is still jiggly in the center you will need to lower the rack and continue to cook. I made the mistake of pulling it out while still jiggly, thinking that it would firm up as it cooled…no such luck. I put it back in for another 20 minutes, checking intermittently. I ended up baking it for a total of 1 hour and 10 minutes. See my photos here of underbaked (left side) and correctly baked (right side). Notice how it looks firmer in the photo on the right side?
Have fun with your pickup this week and please remember to share any thoughts or recipe favorites you may have with the group! Also, don’t forget to check back this week for some food preservation ideas!