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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cold Beet Borscht Soup

With beets abundant this time of year and the weather still warm, I love to make my favorite Cold Borscht  Soup Recipe. Low calorie, easy to prepare and simply delicious. 

Roasted Beets are Peeled and Chopped (Lexi Van de Walle)


 A Dollop of Greek Yogurt (Lexi Van de Walle)
So simple, my version of Joan Nathan's recipe from Foods of Israel Today contains just a few ingredients -- roasted beets, onion, fat-free Greek yogurt, honey (I prefer to substitute local honey for the sugar in Nathan's recipe), dill and chives, water, and lemon.

Four large beets are cooked soft, peeled, chopped and pureed in the food processor with one small chopped onion, 1 1/2 T of sugar, 2 C of cold water, and the juice of half a lemon (for the "sour"). Stir 1 C of plain yogurt (or sour cream) into the blended soup and add a tablespoon of fresh dill and chives. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt.

RECIPE
Cold Beet Borscht with Dill and Chives
can be found in the article by Joan Nathan "Borscht: Hot and Cold and Red All Over"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Simple Peach and Blueberry Crumble

Juicy and Flavorful Peaches Make the Best Pies and Crumbles (Lexi Van de Walle)

With skins removed, sliced peaches and blueberries tossed with sugar 
and flour just enough to coat the fruit (Lexi Van de Walle)
This "crumble" is made from quick cooking oatmeal and lots of brown and white sugar
blended with diced butter. Texture should be crumbly as shown in the picture. (Lexi Van de Walle)

Just out of the oven, and overflowing with very juicy peach and blueberry filling. (Lexi Van de Walle)
A better cook than baker, I prefer low stress desserts made with fresh, in-season fruits. 

A crumble topping should be just that, crumbly, with pieces of butter still visible. The best way to make the topping is either fingers or on a very low speed with a mixer and plastic paddle. I like Ina Garten's recipe with oatmeal, flour, brown and white sugar and butter. I substituted blueberries for the raspberries and lemon zest for the orange zest.


There's nothing like the smell of fresh baked fruit pie mixed with early fall breeze.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Grilled Tomato Salad with Mozzarella, Charred Basil and Balsamic

Fit for Roman Gods, this mozzarella salad with grilled cherry tomatoes and slightly charred basil is super easy -- the grill flavor of the tomatoes adds a layer of sophistication to the more typical mozzarella, tomato and basil salad.
Creamy Mozzarella Topped with Grilled Tomatoes and Charred Basil (Lexi Van de Walle)
5-6 metal or wooden skewers (if using wood, soak in water to prevent burning)
1 quart of cherry tomatoes - mixed colors and local, if available
20 large basil leaves
1/4 plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound of superior quality mozzarella, preferably handmade

Preheat an outdoor grill (a stove top grill pan can be substituted). 


Coat a quart of local cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves with olive oil. 
Coat the tomatoes and basil with olive oil (Lexi Van de Walle)

Thread the tomatoes onto skewers being careful not to split the tomatoes. Place 4-5 oiled basil leaves one on top of the other and fold into quarters before threading onto their own skewer. Repeat until you've used all the basil leaves. 
Yellow and Red Cherry Tomato and Basil Kebabs (Lexi Van de Walle)

Grill tomatoes and basil over a low heat turning every 1-2 minutes (or more often so as not to burn) until the tomatoes and basil have char marks. The basil will be done very quickly. Remove and set vegetables aside to cool. 

Using a sharp knife, slice cheese into 1/4 inch thick rounds and arrange on a platter. Top cheese with tomato and basil. If desired, salt sparingly and drizzle additional olive oil over the salad before serving.
 Tomato and Basil Kebobs Sizzling on the Grill (Lexi Van de Walle)

Optional (add a drizzle of good quality balsamic vinegar)
A Light Dizzle of Balsamic Tops Mozzarella and Grilled Tomato Salad (Lexi Van de Walle)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

In-the-Shell Manhattan Clam Chowder with Roasted Plum Tomatoes

Manhattan Clam Chowder (Lexi Van de Walle)
Clam Chowder. Traditional. Regional. Quintessentially American. From clam shacks and fine dining to secret family recipes, there are as many versions of clam chowder as there are cooks on the east coast, where there's also no shortage of opinion about what constitutes an "authentic" chowder. 

Made from local hard shell clams, also known as quahog clams, clam chowder is a popular summer dish from New York’s Long Island to the coast of Maine. Red vs. white? Pink vs. clear? Shuck the clams or steam them open? The controversy rages. No matter what type of chowder you favor – New England, which is a white chowder made with heavy cream, Manhattan, a red chowder that's tomato-based, Rhode Island which can be either clear made with fish stock or pink and utilizes both cream and tomatoes) --- it’s important that the chowder have layers of flavor that develop when you nurture the ingredients with good culinary techniques. This recipe uses browning, slow roasting and poaching in flavorful liquids to achieve its flavor and body. A good chowder, regardless of color, should be neither too thick nor too soupy.

Roasted Plum Tomatoes Add Flavor to Manhattan Clam Chowder (Lexi Van de Walle)


Steam Open the Clams in a Poaching Liquid of Clam Juice,
White Wine and Deglazed Bacon Bits (Lexi Van de Walle)
RECIPE
Manhattan Clam (and Roasted Plum Tomato) Chowder 

6 plum tomatoes
2 leeks
Olive oil
4 ounces lean back bacon or salted pork, cut into half inch pieces
4 cups of fish stock
½ cup of white wine, such as sauvignon blanc from Long Island
18 small cherry stone (also know as middlenecks or topnecks) or 36 little neck clams, preferably wild
1 cup of bottled clam juice (Snow’ brand)
1 carrot, diced into half inch pieces. 
1 stalk of celery, diced into half inch pieces
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
2 medium potatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Cut each tomato lengthwise into 8 slices and remove the seeds. Trim the leeks so only the tender white and light green remain being sure to rinse between the layers to remove any sand or dirt. Dry the leeks.  Spray a thin layer of olive oil in two roasting pans. Add the tomatoes to one pan and the leeks to another pan and spray the vegetables with a light coat of olive oil. Roast the leeks for about 20 minutes, until wilted. And, roast the tomatoes for an hour. Set aside.

While the tomatoes are roasting, pull together the rest of the ingredients, including preparing a bouquet garni by wrapping the bay leaf, thyme and parsley in cheesecloth.  Carefully scrub the clams to remove dirt and sand. Put the clams in a large mixing bowl and fill with water. Using a stiff scrub brush such as good quality vegetable brush, and vigorously scrub the clams. Discard the muddy water and replace with fresh water.  Repeat several times until the water is clear.  Remove clams from the water. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

Heat a large 4-quart sauté pan or 6 quart Dutch oven with a lid on medium-low, and slowly cook the bacon pieces about 8 minutes until crisp. Stir every few minutes so the bacon doesn’t burn. Take the roasted leaks and cut them into thin slices, about ¼ inch thick, and add to the cooked bacon for one minute. Remove the bacon and leeks and set aside.

Using the same pan, deglaze the bacon bits with ½ cup of the fish stock and ½ cup of white wine over medium high heat. Add the clams to the poaching liquid and cover to steam them open. After three minutes, check the clams and working quickly move any open clams to a bowl and replace the lid on the pan to allow the steam to build up. Repeat every 60 seconds until the last clam is steamed open. Set aside to cool. Strain remaining liquid in the pan using a fine mesh strainer or coffee filter and reserve the liquid for the chowder.

Pour strained liquid into the pan and add the remaining 3-½ cups of fish stock and bottled clam juice.  Add the diced carrots and celery and the bouquet garni and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to an active simmer, cover with the lid and cook five minutes. While the carrots and celery and cooking, chop the roasted tomatoes into half inch pieces and add to the pan along with the crisp bacon and roasted leeks. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove bouquet garni. Add diced potatoes and cook until potatoes are tender but not overcooked and mushy or about 15 minutes. In the meantime, cut the clams into small pieces, being careful to reserve all the juices that collect on your cutting board.

Mix the cut clams and the juices into the sauté pan to heat though right before serving. Garnish with parsley and a clamshell stuffed with some cut clams, if desired. Serve with French bread, organic saltine crackers, oyster crackers or the more traditional pilot biscuits (also known as hardtack or "sea biscuits") if you can find them.