Category Archives: Lunch

Pesto Pasta Salad with Juliet Tomatoes

Pesto Pasta Salad

I had my first taste of Hillside Farms‘ baby Roma tomatoes last summer, at the beginning of my local food adventures.  The moment that first Juliet tomato burst in my mouth was an epiphany. It tasted like sunshine, sweeter than any tomato I’d ever eaten.

I had been skeptical about the locavore movement until then, but with that one bite I finally understood what the “eat local” hoopla was about. A year later, I’ve certainly bought into the local food movement. And my heart still pitter-pats every time I see Hillside Farms’ Juliet tomatoes in my Local Box.

If I don’t eat them straight out of the package, I enjoy using Juliet tomatoes in a simple pasta salad with pesto dressing. I almost always have goat cheese and the ingredients for homemade pesto in my fridge during the summer months, and this salad is one of my favorite things to cook on nights when Juliet tomatoes arrive in the Local Box.

This salad is as versatile as it is easy to prepare. I’ve added olives, chopped green onions, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, baby spinach, grilled chicken breast, and even chopped raw baby squash to this salad, all with good results. It’s a terrific base for whatever I’m craving along with those sweet little tomatoes from Hillside Farms.

Pesto Pasta Salad with Juliet Tomatoes (serves two as a main dish as written;  serves more if you stretch it by adding more veggies or meats)

1/2 lb. farfalle, penne, or conchiglie pasta
1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 pint Juliet tomatoes
4 ounces goat cheese

Cook and drain pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, prepare pesto sauce by combining basil, grated cheese, olive oil, and minced garlic and one teaspoon of salt in a food processor. Pulse for about 90 seconds, until pesto is uniform in texture. Set pesto aside until the cooked, drained pasta is cool to the touch. After that, mix the pasta and pesto sauce in a serving dish.

Put the goat cheese in the freezer for a few minutes while you slice the cherry tomatoes in half. (Chilling the soft cheese makes much easier to break up later.) Add the sliced tomatoes to the dressed pasta, then use a butter knife to chip the cold goat cheese into the salad. Gently stir the finished salad to combine all the ingredients and chill it for at least an hour in the fridge before serving.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

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Cowpea Salad

I love cooking with cowpeas. They’re versatile and easy to work with, and undeniably pretty. I seek them out at summer farmer’s markets, and I rejoice when they arrive in our Local Box. Lucky for me, cowpeas are a heat loving crop that flourishes in Austin’s hottest months.

There are several varieties of cowpeas growing in Central Texas:  black eyed, lady cream, and purple hull peas are some of the most common. Cowpeas are usually removed from their hulls before they are sold at market, packed in snack-sized plastic baggies with about 1.5 cups of loose peas per package. All the varieties of cowpeas in Austin are recognizable by their pale color, kidney shape and the signature darkened “eye” at their center.


In my experience, each variety of cowpea can be used interchangeably in recipes. Lightly-steamed cowpeas can also substitute for cooked English peas or white beans in many preparations. My friend Megan at Stetted likes to eat them raw as a snack, and they are stewed with tomatoes and jalapenos in traditional Southern dishes.

The inspiration for this cowpea recipe came from Blue Star Cafeteria, a little restaurant in the Rosedale neighborhood of Austin. Among other things, they serve a terrific shrimp cocktail with homemade pea salad and saltines on the side. Pure comfort food. I order that dish every time we visit, and while I’ll happily share the shrimp, I save all that creamy pea salad for myself.

I recreated Blue Star’s pea salad at home substituting purple hull peas from Pleasant Hill Farm in Leander, Texas, for the green English peas they use at the restaurant. Like most good comfort food, this dish is straightforward to make and relies on good ingredients for its success. The most important thing to get right is obviously the peas– very fresh cowpeas are tender and have a creamy texture when they’re cooked. Minced red onion and red bell pepper give the salad sweetness and bite, and a simple mayonnaise dressing and cheddar cheese add richness.This salad is what I imagine eating at the church potluck of my dreams.

I usually find serving salads in vegetable cups to be a little extravagant for our weeknight suppers. However, I plated this salad in a hollowed out red pepper on a whim and I’m glad I did. After an hour of chilling in the refrigerator, the pepper added extra heat and sweetness to the salad, welcome flavors on a hot evening.

Purple Hull Pea Salad

 

Cowpea Salad (yields four side-dish servings)
1 1/2 cups fresh black-eyed peas, purple hull peas or lady cream peas
1/2  red onion
1/2  red bell pepper
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon peppper
1/3 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Whole red bell peppers for serving, if desired

Bring to a boil three cups of water in a medium saucepan. Prepare the cowpeas by rinsing them and picking out any leaves or darkened, soft peas from the rest. Once the water is boiling, add the cowpeas to the pot and cook uncovered for six minutes. Drain the peas and set them aside to cool.

Mince the onion and red bell pepper. Grate the cheese, if necessary. In a large bowl, mix together the minced vegetables, mayonnaise, mustard and shredded cheese. Once the cowpeas are cooled completely, add them in too. (Remember, warm cowpeas will melt the grated cheese, so be patient and let them cool completely!) Season the salad with salt and pepper and refrigerate it for at least an hour before serving.

To make red pepper cups: shop for wide, regularly shape bell peppers with flat bottoms. Cut the top off each bell pepper and pull out the ribs and seeds. Fill the pepper cup it with salad. That’s it! Simplest fancy pants garnish ever.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and it appears on their blog, “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Rustic Radish Tart

The best thing about springtime in Texas is the long, sunny evening, when the temperature hovers in the mid-70s, the breeze rustles the live oaks, and our whole yard is bathed in golden light. (Well, the asphalt parking lot outside our apartment is bathed in golden light.) I love cooking at this time of year because it’s easy to put a meal on the table before sunset. It’s also cool enough to run the oven without making the house sweaty.

For all these reasons and more, Texas spring is the perfect time of year to make this rustic radish tart.  It’s easy and quick to toss together on a weeknight, and it travels well on a cheeseboard for a picnic in the yard.

The inspiration for this tart came from the vibrant radishes in season now from several local farms; these pink beauties came from West Austin Roots, just two miles from the capitol building. The radishes are the star of the show here, and tangy goat cheese, sweet onions, thinly-sliced apples, and a sweet thread of honey over top of the tart balance out their spice.

If you need to have dinner on the table quickly, I recommend making the pie crust for this recipe ahead of time on the weekend or, if you must, use store-bought. For tonight’s meal, I was able to roll out my pie crust, slice the onions, radishes and apples, and assemble the tarts while the oven was preheating. I got nice clean edges on my tart crust by trimming the dough into a circle with a pizza cutter after I rolled it flat.

Rustic Radish Tart (makes one, 9-inch tart)
Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup very cold shortening or butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons ice water

Filling:
4 oz. goat cheese
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to garnish
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
6 pink beauty radishes, tops and stringy roots removed, sliced very thin
1/2 granny smith apple, cored and sliced very thin
1/2 yellow onion, sliced very thin
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt

Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten

Prepare pie crust: Put flour, salt and butter into a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until mixture is crumbly and blended. (The largest pieces of butter should be about the size of green peas, completely coated in flour.)  Add ice water one tablespoon at a time, continuing to blend dough, until its consistency is even. Form dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. The dough will keep in the fridge up to 48 hours, and in the freezer for about a month.

To make the tart: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Stir together the goat cheese, olive oil and one tablespoon of fresh ground pepper. Slice onion, radishes and apple.

After the pie crust dough is chilled, roll it out on a floured surface until it’s about 11-inches across. Transfer the rolled dough to the prepared cookie sheet. Spread goat cheese mixture on the pie crust to within an inch or two of the edge.  Top cheese with sliced onions, radishes and apples, then fold the edges of the crust over the toppings to create the tart shape. Sprinkle the tart with salt and fresh ground pepper. Drizzle honey over the fruits and veggies and brush crust with egg wash before baking for 20-25 minutes, until crust is golden brown and shiny.

If you want to have a parking lot picnic like we did tonight, keep the tart on the parchment paper after cooking for easy transport.

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Two salads, one dressing

Salad with roasted beets, orange, cilantro, lettuce, and dandelion greens

The thermometer on my porch tells me that spring in Texas is over. The highs have  been in the 80s all week, and I have been compulsively checking the weather forecast for some sign that the Texas summer isn’t really starting yet. Today’s overcast skies and cool breezes give me hope. And did you know that some parts of the country had a blizzard this week? There must be hope for a spring snow day in Austin, right??

I probably won’t hold my breath. One good thing about this season-straddling weather is the simultaneous availability of local avocados, tomatoes, cilantro, citrus, beets, spring greens and winter greens. Having so many beautiful veggies together in my fridge a sign from above to make salad.

This week I created two new salad recipes that each come together in about 10 minutes, no cooking required. (Roast the beets ahead of time!) Each recipe makes an easy vegan main dish for two, or the perfect starter for a dinner party for 6.

The first recipe uses winter flavors of roasted beet, orange segments, and bitter greens for oomph. The second recipe is a classic guacamole salad, with cumin, cayenne and green garlic for heat since jalapenos aren’t in season yet. The inspiration for both salad dressings came from Elise Bauer’s Orange and Beet Salad Recipe. Her dressing base of olive oil and wine vinegar is genius in that she adds a little powdered mustard to help the dressing emulsify. I added some local ingredients–like Round Rock honey and cilantro from Naegelin farms– to her dressing recipe to enhance the flavors of the veggies and help them shine in each salad. I also opted for Texas pecans and dandelion greens in my version of the beet salad. You can’t beat the nutty pecan flavor against the pucker of bitter dandelion greens.

Salad of Roasted Beets, Oranges, Dandelion Greens
1 head red leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bite sized pieces
1 bunch dandelion greens, washed and torn into bite sized pieces
3 beets, roasted and skins removed, chopped (Do this ahead of time so they are cool!!)
2 navel oranges, peeled and segmented
1/4 cup pecan halves
Dressing:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare all veggies and fruits and combine in a large bowl. Whiz the dressing ingredients together in a blender, or mix them together in a small jar. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss, serve immediately.

Salad of Avocado, Tomato, Cilantro and Green Onion
1 head green leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bite sized pieces
1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped
1 bunch green onions, white part reserved, green parts chopped
1 bunch green garlic, white part reserved, green parts chopped
2 avocados, peeled with pits removed, chopped
3 tomatoes, cored and chopped
Dressing:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
white parts from one bunch green garlic
white parts from one bunch green onions
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare all veggies and combine in a large bowl, reserving the white stalks of the green garlic and green onions for use in the dressing. Combine stalks with remaining dressing ingredients in a blender and pulse until veggies are completely pureed and dressing emulsifies. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss, serve immediately.

Turnip & Collard Green Frittata

Picture of frittata

Frittatas are one of the most powerful tools in the home cook’s arsenal. They are extremely forgiving and easy to adapt to whatever ingredients are in the fridge. Plus, you can serve a frittata at pretty much any meal. Pair it with muffins and fruit salad, and there’s brunch. With crunchy green salad and wine, dinner is served.

Lately I’ve been turning to frittatas at the end of the week to use up the veggies straggling in the crisper drawer, both for quick dinners and make-ahead breakfasts. No matter what specific ingredients I have on hand, I always make frittatas using the same basic formula:

  • 2 cups chopped, cooked vegetables, onions, potatoes or meat
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup liquid dairy- milk, cream, or half and half
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese
  • salt, pepper, garlic and other spices to taste

The recipe fills a 9-inch deep dish pie pan and bakes up in a 325 degree oven for 50 minutes

For this particular frittata, I took inspiration from the traditional southern preparation of turnips and collard greens and I paired those cruciferous veggies with garlic and heavy cream. Some Romano cheese added a bit of bite to the recipe, and I opted to use a mix of duck and chicken eggs since that’s what I had available. Next time we get turnips and collards in the local box, I’m planning to make this dish again and add some smoky bacon to the mix– I’ll just fry it up at the start of preparation and use the bacon fat to saute the veggies.

Picture of Frittata Ingredients

Turnip and Collard Green Frittata
yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:
olive oil
1 yellow onion
2 turnips
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch collard greens
6 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup shredded Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:
Peel and dice onion, turnips and garlic cloves. Chop stems off of collard greens, wash the leaves thoroughly, and chop them into 1/4 inch ribbons. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and use olive oil to grease a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan.

In a heavy bottomed skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Saute chopped onions, garlic and turnips until they begin to soften. Add the chopped collard greens to the skillet, and cook them with the other vegetables until they are wilted and soft. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.

Beat the eggs and cream together in a large mixing bowl. Fold in the cooked vegetables, cheese, salt and pepper to the egg mixture and pour frittata batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes in preheated oven, until eggs are firm.

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Radish Tartine

I got a whole loaf of  bulgar wheat bread from my mom for Christmas this year.  She usually makes it for family dinners, and I was more than a little excited to see a whole loaf of the stuff in my stocking yesterday.  Mom’s wheat bread is simultaneously tender and hearty with just enough sweetness to help you lose track of how much you’re eating around the family table.  Yesterday during a particularly passionate discussion about deer meat, I caught myself nibbling on bread slice number three of the meal, slathered with farm fresh apple butter. Of course, I was way too full for a second helping of salad.  “Three slices!” I wondered, “How does this happen every year??”  The answer is that the nostalgia brought on by bulgar wheat bread tends to distract me from the detritus of adulthood, like counting calories or bothering with vegetables.

Still.  I have an entire loaf of this wheat bread in my grown-up pantry, and I need to find a way to use it that doesn’t involve me slurping up a whole jar of apple butter.

Enter radish tartines. These simple-to-make, open faced sandwiches are just the thing to awaken my palate from its nostalgic torpor. A thick slice of wheat toast buttresses a creamy-tart layer of cheese along with spicy radish slices from My Father’s Farm.  A pop of red wine vinegar, crunchy sea salt and cracked pepper top the whole thing.

I’ve sampled two versions of this sandwich so far, each slightly different because of the variety of radishes that came in our Local Box this week; I received a Spanish black radish, two watermelon radishes, and two French breakfast radishes in our bunch from My Father’s Farm.  Although I used the beautiful and mild-mannered watermelon radish in my pictures of the sandwich– who could resist those radiant reds and greens around Christmastime?– the Spanish black radishes’ assertive, peppery crunch made it my favorite tartine topper of the three varieties.

Even though you won’t have a loaf of mom’s bulgar wheat bread in your pantry, I hope that you enjoy the simple pleasure of crunchy radishes, rich cream cheese, tart vinegar, and nutty whole wheat with your own version of this easy sandwich.

Radish Tartine (serves 1)
1 thick slice of good quality whole wheat bread
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for garnish
1 tablespoon cream cheese
2 teaspoons sour cream
1-2 radishes, any variety, sliced very thin (about 12 slices)
salt
fresh ground pepper
red wine vinegar & olive oil

Preheat a grill pan or skillet over medium high heat. Brush one side of the slice of bread with olive oil and toast bread oil-side-down on a preheated grill pan or skillet.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix cream cheese and sour cream until well combined.  Place toasted bread cooked-side-up on a plate and spread cheese mixture over the top. Cover cheese with a layer of radish slices, then top with salt and pepper.  Drizzle sandwich with a little olive oil and red wine vinegar to finish.  Serve immediately.

Click here for the printable version of this recipe.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery, and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Turkey & Radish Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

This salad combines leftover Thanksgiving turkey with crunchy daikon radishes, tender greens, and a creamy homemade green goddess dressing.   I used a food processor to slice the radishes and prepare the dressing, but the task could just as easily be completed by hand with a good knife and a mixing bowl.

Turkey & Radish Salad with Green Goddess Dressing (serves 4)
Salad:
1 bag salad greens, washed and dried
4 inch section of daikon radish, sliced very thinly
1 1/2 cups cold chopped turkey
Green Goddess Dressing:
1/2 cup chopped parsley, thyme, sage, or other fresh herbs on hand
1 tablespoon minced onion (or sub. 1/4 c. chopped shallots)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
juice of 1/2 lime, about a tablespoon
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, plus more for garnish

Chop turkey into uniform pieces, if necessary. Wash and dry the salad greens and set aside.  Cut a four-inch section off of the radish and use the disc blade on the food processor to slice the radish very thinly; set aside sliced radishes.  Fit the food processor with the chopping blade.  Mince onion/shallots in the food processor, then add herbs and pulse until chopped.  Add mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, lime juice, milk, salt and pepper and blend until dressing is well combined.  Toss dressing, greens, turkey, and sliced radishes.  Serve salad immediately.

If, after making this salad, you find yourself with half a daikon radish leftover, use it to make this easy radish dip and sandwich spread. Perfect for zipping up leftover turkey sandwiches!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.