Quick Strawberry Jam
The thing about this jam is that it isn't the kind that you put up for Winter. You want to use this jam today, tomorrow, or during the week.
The rule here is 1 pound strawberries, one-fourth cup sugar. You can double it or triple it, but remember, you want to eat it this week, so don't make too much at a time.
Wash and pat dry the strawberries and remove the green tops. Put the strawberries in a stainless steel or glass bowl and sprinkle the sugar over them. Get your hands in there and squish the berries to a lumpy pulp, mixing in and dissolving the sugar as you go. Pour into a stainless steel pan and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Skim the foam off the top with a spoon every couple of minutes. Pour it back into a clean stainless steel or glass bowl and let it cool a bit before chilling in the fridge. Spread the jam on toast, add it to plain yogurt, mix it into some rice pudding, spoon it onto pound cake and top with whipped cream. Yum!
The reason I use stainless steel and glass bowls and cooking pots is so the strawberries don't stain my plastic bowls.
Quick Pickled Onion
Use the sweetest onions you can get for this. The main rule when using onions in any salad is to make sure they are sliced wafer thin or chopped very small. Slice your onions thi and place in a bowl with a big pinch of salt, and put over enough white wine vinegar to cover. Use your hands to scrunch the onions and leave to marinate for 10 minutes.
Squeeze the onions as hard as you can to drain. Set aside.
Mix 4 tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of plain yogurt, and 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar together and season with a pinch of pepper. Toss some salad leaves in the vinagrette and put on a plate. Sprinkle over the onions and some crumbled feta or goat cheese, some chopped walnuts, and some chives.
Smashed Peas on Toast
Use only fresh peas!
Shell the peas. Use a mortar and pestle, if you have one, or place in a deep bowl and use the end of a rolling pin for this next part, or you can pulse it in a food processor, but it won't be the same as smashing by hand. If making a lot, do this in batches.
Place the peas, a few mint leaves, and a bit of salt together and bash up so you have a lumpy paste with pieces of peas still in. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to loosen up. Stir in a handful of grated parmesan cheese. If a bit stiff, and some more oil. If too loose, a bit more cheese. Add some lemon juice to balance the flavors. Check seasoning and add some pepper and more salt, if needed.
Toast the bread on both sides and top with the smashed peas and bit more grated parmesan.
Raw Beetroot and Carrot Salad with Feta Cheese
4 beets, different colors if possible, scrubbed, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks or sliced with a speed peeler
2 carrots peeled and cut into matchsticks or sliced with a speed peeler
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
3 Tb olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 oz feta cheese
a small bunch of fresh mint, smallest leaves picked
Remember to wear an apron when chopping beets, and wash your board and hands afterwards or you’ll get red fingerprints everywhere. If your knife skills aren’t up to speed yet, buy one of those speed peelers or matchstick mandolins.
Dress the beets and carrots in a little of the balsamic oil dressing and season with some salt and pepper. Taste to check that the flavors are balanced and lovely. Sprinkle on some crumbled feta cheese.
Freshly harvested lettuces and salad greens are completely different from what you are used to from the supermarket. All vegetables start to lose nutritional value and flavor from the time they are picked, the time it takes to travel to the supermarket, and the time it sits in the produce section. Most salad greens travel up to 3000 miles before getting to your table. Bagged lettuce mixes are cleaned in a chlorine rinse, which washes away even more nutrients. However, let me just say that the lettuce and salad greens season is short, as these are cool weather vegetables, and there is nothing bad about supermarket greens. You should try to eat lots of green leafy vegetables whenever you can. Try to buy the regular heads of lettuce, take them home and give them a good wash. And let me add something personal — iceberg lettuce is mostly water and has very little going for itself in the nutritional value department, so I have always avoided this type of lettuce.
The Romaine, red leaf and green leaf, Buttercrunch, Boston and other lettuces, as well as spinach and arugula, available at the Farmers' Market, are picked the day before and haven't had time to begin losing nutrients and flavor.
Get a salad spinner. Don't spend a lot, no more than 20 bucks or so, because they break eventually. Just get one.
When I make a salad, I don't just stick to lettuce leaves all the time. If I have fresh herbs like mint, thyme, parsley, tarragon, and chives, I toss them in. Edible flowers, like the purple flowers of the chive plant, thyme flowers and such go into the mix. If sweet raw peas are around, I throw in a handful of them, as well as snow peas, which can be eaten pod and all. Give everything a good wash in cold water, spin them dry in a salad spinner or pat dry between two towels, and toss the lot into a big bowl.
Salad Dressing Basics
Salad dressing has a basic rule: three parts Extra Virgin olive oil and one part acid (lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice or red wine, white wine or balsamic vinegar), a pinch of salt and a little pinch of pepper. After that, the rules go pretty much out the window. You can add some fresh chopped herbs or a teaspoon of good mustard, some minced garlic or a teaspoon of plain yogurt if you want it creamy. Remember to taste the dressing, add a bit more oil or lemon juice or salt or pepper, if needed, before adding it to the salad.
Just before serving the salad, drizzle some dressing on — about a tablespoon per person — and toss about with the tips of you fingers to coat every leaf of lettuce. Don't drown it. Taste a leaf to make sure it's good, and you can always add a bit more dressing or seasoning, if needed.
Here are some salad dressing recipes. Add all ingredients for the recipe in a clean jelly jar and shake it up. These will last for about a week in the fridge. Just take it out 15 minutes before use, and shake it up again to mix up the ingredients.
Mustard and Herb Dressing
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red or white wine herb vinegar
1 level teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 good handful of chopped fresh basil
1 handful of pine nuts or walnuts, toasted and chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive Oil and Lemon Juice Dressing
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cherry Tomato Dressing
1 handful of ripe, washed cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 clove of garlic, finely sliced
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 handful of basil, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pear Vinaigrette Makes about 1 cup
Puree 1 ripe pear (like Bartlett), skin and core and all. Push through a sieve into a bowl, discard the solids.
Add 1/4 cup raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and 1 or 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Mince the white part of a sallion and roughly chop the green part and add along with 1 teaspoon of raw sugar. Add about a 1/4 cup of olive oil, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Whisk it all up and check the vinegar-oil ratio and seasoning to taste.
Use right away or make it a day ahead and refrigerate. Take it out an hour before using and whisk it up again.
This salad dressing goes with just about any Fall salad or vegetable mix.
Master Tomato Salad
Try this with a mixture of tomatoes of all different kinds, shapes, and sizes. Cut your tomatoes in different ways to give interest to the salad — slice the largerer ones, quarter the medium ones, and half the small ones. Place all into a colander, season with a nice pinch of salt, shake it around, and season with another pinch of salt. This will allow the salt to start to draw the liquid from the tomatoes and intensify the flavor. Let sit over a bowl for about 15 minutes.
Put the tomatoes in a big bowl and add some dried oregano. Add enough olive oil to coat, and then some balsamic vinegar. (Remember the salad dressing rule of one part vinegar to three parts oil; you can use white or red wine vinegar instead of balsamic.) Toss about to mix the dressing and tomatoes. Grate one clove of garlic, or chop it as fine as you can, and add it in. Chop half a small red chili real fine, no seeds as these are hot! Add to the bowl and give everything another toss.
Serve with some fresh mozzarella, torn up into pieces, and a hunk of warm bread.
Pasta With Fresh Tomato Sauce: Use some of the above salad to make a quick and great tasting pasta dish that can be served warm or cold. Cook some pasta (fusili, penne, spaghetti, linguine) with a pinch of salt. Drain and let sit for a few minutes to steam off the moisture. Toss into a bowl with some of the tomato salad mix, add some fresh torn basil leaves. Serve with freshly grated parmesan.
Tomato Cilantro Salsa: Still using some of the tomato salad. Chop up some green onions and a chili pepper (no seeds!). Chop the cilantro right on top of the onions, along with a few mint leaves. Put your tomato salad on this, and chop the tomatoes into the onion-cilantro mixture until the consistency that you like your salsa. Sprinkle on some lemon juice, taste, adjust the seasoning, adding a bit more salt or lemon juice until it tastes just right. Goes great with grilled or sauteed fish, roast chicken, or a broiled pork chop. Or you can grill some Italian bread, push the salsa onto it, and top with some mozzarella or freshly grated parmesan.
Handmade Pasta: Rather than give a lengthy explanation of making pasta by hand, I'm going to let Gennaro Contaldo, the great Italian chef, show you how. Just to let you know the difference in weights between England and America: 100 grams of flour equals just about 3/4 cup flour. Watch it here.
Saute of Heirloom Tomatoes and Okra with Bacon Garnish
5 slices bacon
4 cups okra, washed, trimmed, and sliced 1/2-inch thick (about 1 pound)
1 large onion, cut into l/3-inch wedges
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
4 medium heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch wedges (about 2 1/2 cups)
Cook the bacon slices in a large skillet until crisp. Leaving the rendered bacon fat, remove the bacon from the pan and reserve. Add the sliced okra to the skillet, and cook, stirring frequently, over moderate heat for 10 minutes. Add the onion wedges, salt, and pepper, and continue cooking, still stirring, for 5 minutes. Toss in the tomato wedges, and reduce the heat to low. Cook just until tomatoes are heated through, 3-4 minutes. Carefully taste for seasoning, and adjust if needed. Serve warm, with reserved bacon slices crumbled over.
From The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock
Eggplant, Tomato, and Olive Salad
1 medium eggplant
1 pound sliced tomatoes
1 jar cured olives, pits removedv
1 pound fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, tornv
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Grill the eggplant until the skin is charred and the flesh is tender, about 10 minutes. Put eggplant in a bowl and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap to steam. Let cool until you can handle the eggplant. Peel the skin and roughly chop into bite-size pieces.
Chop the tomatoes roughly and add to the eggplant with chopped up olives. Tear the mozzarella into pieces, add to mix. Tear basil leaves and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss all together and season with sea salt and pepper.
Italian Zucchini Parmesan: Zucchine Tonde Parmigiano
Absolutely sweet and delicious, kind of like a cross between a zucchini and a butternut squash. The skin is hard like a winter squash, but the flesh is a beautiful orange color. You could use large yellow squash or zucchini instead.
Cut the zucchini in half, then quarters, and scoop out the seed area. Slice off the skin. Toss some tomatoes, canned or fresh, into a bowl and squeeze into a pulp. Add some oregano and basil, the zucchini, and toss to mix. Lay out half in an oven pan and top with some sliced mozzarella. Layer the rest of the zucchini mix on top, a bit more mozzarella and grate a big handul of parmesan over the top. Sprinkle with some dried oregano and dried basil. Roast in the oven about 30 minutes at 375 degrees. Broil for 5 minutes at the end to brown the cheese. Delizioso!
Squash and Zucchini Ribbon Salad
Zest a lemon and add it and the juice to a bowl with three times as much olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Finely slice the squash and zucchini using a speed peeler or veg peeler right into the bowl with the dressing. When finished slicing, add some arugula or lettuce and ripped up basil and mint into the bowl and toss the whole thing, using the tips of your fingers, to dress every piece of squash.
Use this recipe with fresh, raw beets and/or carrots, instead of squash.
Adapted from Jamie at Home, by Jamie Oliver.
Tzatziki — Greek Cucumber Yogurt Salad
1 large cucumber
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 small clove of garlic, peeled
1 heaped tsp chopped mint
1½ tsp red wine vinegar
Make your tzatziki by coarsely grating the cucumber into a sieve set up over a bowl. Add a few good pinches of salt, then use your hands to squeeze out as much water as you can. Pour the water away, then tip the cucumber into the empty bowl and add the yogurt. Pound the garlic in a pestle and mortar with a good pinch of salt until you have a paste, and spoon that into the bowl with the cucumber. Add the mint and red wine vinegar and mix really well. Have a taste to make sure you've got the balance right.
Serve with just about anything, but goes well with lamb and fish.
A hunk of stale bread (3½ oz)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 cucumber, peeled, roughly chopped
1 green pepper, deseeded, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove
5 ripe tomatoes, deseeded, roughly chopped
Tear up the stale bread and soak in the white wine vinegar for about 2 minutes. Add the soaked bread to a food processor with the cucumber, green pepper, garlic clove and tomatoes and blitz until smooth. With the processor still running, add a good lug of olive oil and season to taste. If a little thick, add a few tablespoons of cold water and blitz again. Pop in the fridge to chill. Pour the gazpacho into chilled shot glasses.
Warm Ratatouille Salad
2 slices bacon
1 red onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large eggplant, 1-inch dice
1 green pepper, sliced
1 yellow squash, 1-inch dice
1 zucchini, 1-inch dice
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
basil leaves, salt and pepper
Cook the bacon slices in a large skillet until crisp. Leaving the rendered bacon fat, remove the bacon from the pan and reserve. Add the onion for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and pepper for 5 minutes. Add the sqush and zucchini for 5 minutes, then the tomatoes until just warmed through, about 3 minutes. Rip up the basil leaves, add with the salt and pepper. Serve warm, with reserved bacon slices crumbled over.
You can also roughly and chunkely mash this to put on toast, add to an omelet, or use as a pasta sauce.
4 red onions, chopped
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
ginger, thumb-size piece, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 chili pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp seas salt
3 pounds tomatoes, chopped
1 handful basil leaves and stalks, chopped separately
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
Sweat the chopped onions for 15 minutes. Bash up the spices in a mortar and pestle and add to the onions with the ginger, garlic, chili pepper, pepper and salt. Stir well.
Add the tomatoes. Chop the basil stalks and add these, keeping the leaves for later.
Add red wine vinegar and brown sugar and stir well. Simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and add the chopped basil leaves. Stir well.
Puree mixture in batches in a blender or food processor.
Using a sterilized funnel, pour the ketchup into sterilized 1/2 pint jars, wipe rims, place lids and screw on tops. Can according to directions of your canner.
Big Mixed Veg Coleslaw
2 carrots, different colours if you can find them, peeled
3/4 pound red, green and/or white cabbage, outer leaves removed
Use any or all of the following:
1 bulb fennel, trimmed
1 light-colored beetroot, peeled
½ a small celeriac, peeled
½ red onion, peeled
1 shallot, peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
A handful of fresh soft herbs (use mint, fennel, dill, parsley and chervil), leaves picked and chopped
1 cup yogurt or mayonaisse
2 tablespoons mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shred the carrots, fennel, and your choice of radishes, beetroot, turnip or celeriac on a mandoline, or use the julienne slicer in your food processor. Put the veg into a mixing bowl. Slice the cabbage, onion and shallot as finely as you can, or use the shredding slicer in your food processor, and add to the bowl. In a separate bowl, mix half the lemon juice, a glug of extra virgin olive oil, the chopped herbs, yogurt (or mayonaisse) and mustard. Pour this dressing over the veg and mix well to coat everything. Season to taste with salt and pepper and the rest of the lemon juice if you like.
Vegetables on the Grill
Grill-steamed onions: Cut an onion halfway down into four, without cutting all the way through. Push a couple of sprigs of rosemary and a pat of butter into the center. Double wrap in foil and place the packet right on the coals. Leave for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and peel off the outer layer of onion to remove the charred layer. A sweet onion treat!
Grill-steamed greens: Gather some spinach, arugula, Swiss chard, beet greens, whatever you have on hand. Fold a double piece of foil in half and seal two sides to make a little bag. Throw in the leaves, some olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Seal the top edge tightly. Place on some cooled-down coals and steam the bag for 5 or 6 minutes.
Grill-roasted beets: Fold a long double piece of foil in half. Place the half the beet greens on the foil and top with the beets, some olive oil, a bit of balsamic vinegar, and some rosemary sprigs. Top with the other half of the beet greens. Fold the foil aorund the whole thing and crimp the edges to seal. Place on the coals and spoon some coals on top to create heat above and below, like an oven. Roast for 40-50 minutes. Open the foil and let the beets cool a bit until you can handle them. Some of the beets will have charred, even though protected by the layer of beet greens. Peel off the charred bits. Cut the beets into rough chunks and dress with oilve oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of pepper. Sprinkle on some rosemary leaves. (This works with carrots, too. Use a squeeze of orange juice instead of vinegar, and use thyme instead of rosemary.)
Grilled Veg: Slice your choice of veg large enough to not fall through the grill onto the coals. Squash and zucchini can be sliced lengthwise; boil whole potatoes for 5 minutes, cool and slice, then grill; same with parsnips and large carrots. Almost any veg can be grilled, just remember it takes longer for some than others. Toss the veg with some olive oil and place on the grill, turning over once halfway through cooking.
Butternut Squash Muffins
Makes 24 muffins
1 lb butternut squash, cut into chunks
2 cups unrefined or organic sugar
4 large eggs
a pinch of salt
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
a handful of walnuts or pecans
3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil, cheap, not peppery
Preheat oven to 350°
Place the squash in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the squash is as small and chopped as it can be. Add the other ingredients to the bowl and pulse until its all mixed.
Put muffin cups into a 12 muffin pan and fill each 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes, check doneness with a clean knife. If the knife comes out clean, its done. If not, bake another 5 minutes.
Cool muffins at least 10 minutes. Make icing.
Citrus Cream Cheese Icing
Zest an orange and a lemon, set aside in a bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice into the zest.
Place 8 ounces of softened cream cheese into the food processor bowl. Add the lemon juice and zest. Add 4 heaping tablespoons of 10X sugar. Pulse until smooth and creamy.
When the mufins are cool, dip the tops into the icing and swirl around to coat.
Put leftover batter and icing in the fridge so you can have 12 more tomorrow!
Fried Green Corn
5 ears fresh corn
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt to taste
Shuck the corn, and carefully remove all of the silks. Using a sharp knife, cut the corn kernels from the cob.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed nonreactive skillet over medium heat until hot and foaming. Toss the cut corn into the skillet, and stir well to coat all over with the butter. Sprinkle salt over lightly, and continue cooking, stirring often, until the corn is tender, about 5-7 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt if needed.
4 ears corn
4 tablespoons (1-1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
Small pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup half-and-half, or more as needed
Remove the husks and silks carefully from the corn. Using a sharp knife, cut the corn kernels from the cob. Reserve the cut corn, and discard the cobs.
Heat the butter in a large skillet or frying pan uncil hot and foaming. Add the corn kernels, salt, and pepper to the pan, and stir well to coat the corn with the hot butter and seasonings. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, and taking care that the corn does not brown. Sprinkle the flour over the corn, stir well to blend, and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the half-and-half, stirring well, and simmer for 3-4 minutes longer, until the corn is tender and the half-and-half coats the corn lightly.
Corn can vary greatly in starch content, so it may sometimes be necessary to use a bit more half-and-half to keep the sauce from being too thick. Taste carefully for seasoning, and add more salt and freshly ground pepper as needed.
From The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock