Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday Shopping

It's definitely fall at the Hollywood Farmers Market — we bought the first organic quinces and pomegranates of the season.

We're missing Ha's Apple Farm — we hope they return to the market soon. We actually forgot to buy eggs today. It will be a week of supermarket eggs — we'll never forget farmers' market eggs again!

Here's a list of the organic produce we brought home with us:
3 red bell peppers, 2 jalapeños, 2 grapefruit, red grapes, 2 pomegranates, 2 quinces, 1 green pepper, purple curly kale, 2 zucchini, 2 garlic, 2 onions, 1 bunch of tiny turnips with their greens.

We also bought a hand of non-organic but locally grown ginger root.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Zucchini and Peppers with Feta

It is so easy to make yummy and visually appealing vegetable side dishes during harvest season.

Last night I reheated a bean and rice casserole for dinner. While it was warming in the toaster oven, I made this colorful vegetable sauté.

While a little olive oil warmed in a small skillet, I chopped a small red onion and slivered a half an orange pepper I found in the salad drawer of the fridge. I added these to the oil with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and let them sauté while I chopped a zucchini and diced a half tomato left over from lunch. These went in too with a little more salt and pepper. Then I cooked it over medium heat until the zucchini skin was tender. (Late season zucchini often has tougher skin, I find.)

As a finishing touch, I sprinkled some feta over the vegetables, turned off the heat and covered the pan. I let it sit while I took the casserole from the toaster oven and set the table.

It was a colorful companion to a delicious but brown rice and bean casserole.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Shopping

It was cool and overcast at the Hollywood Farmers Market this morning. I wore my hoodie for the first time since spring — fall is in the air.

We took our new shopping cart for a test run. It's big and flat and really should not be used when the market is full of people. But we're there before opening time when there's still space to move, so we felt okay about using it.

I was concerned that I would buy far too much food if I didn't need to worry about us carrying it in our cloth shopping bags. Would the cart make it too easy to splurge on pounds of produce?

Well, I think I did a good job of sticking to my list. The watermelon is probably the one thing I would not have bought if we didn't have the cart. And that would have been sad.

Here's a list of the organic produce we brought home with us: baby spinach, green pepper, orange pepper, 2 bunches of carrots, 2 onions, red pepper, cilantro, avocado, cipolline onions, 3 tomatoes, 9 oranges, watermelon, 6 corn, 1 dozen eggs, crenshaw melon, celery, 3 apples, ambrosia melon, 2 oval zucchini, 1 very small butternut squash, 2 peaches and some (non-organic) feta.

We also bought a basil plant from Logan.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tofu and Peppers

We enjoyed this simple dinner of Tofu and Peppers last night — simple in preparation yet rich in flavor.

The tofu is marinated in red Thai curry paste for an hour or so — I did this then went out to putter in the garden. A couple of hours later, I sautéed onions and peppers to yumminess. They served as a bed for the fried tofu, and a blender sauce of poblanos, onions and garlic provided the final flavor boost.

With roasted poblanos in the freezer, the meal was a snap to make.

I've previously made this dish with green Thai curry paste — also delicious. The poblanos I used this time were stashed in the freezer late last fall, when the peppers at the Hollywood Farmers Market were fully ripe red instead of the usual green. If I'd used green poblanos, the sauce would have been green not red. Then I might have used green Thai chili paste for color coordination.

Tofu and Peppers
14oz container firm tofu
1 tbsp red Thai curry paste
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, halved then sliced lengthwise in strips
1 red pepper, 1 green pepper and 1 orange pepper (I used a handful of orange lipstick peppers), cored,
seeded and slivered lengthwise
2 poblanos, roasted and peeled
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 shallot, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 lime

Cooking the tofu

Drain tofu and press for 5-10 minutes in a towel with a weight (like a jar of beans) on top. Cut it lengthwise into roughly 1/2 inch slices. Combine the curry paste with 1 tbsp water. Spread it on both sides of the tofu. Let sit at room temperature at least an hour. (2-3 hours is fine.)

Warm 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet. Cook the onion and peppers until soft and delicious.

Meanwhile, warm the other tbsp of oil in a heavy skillet. Add the tofu and let cook until crispy on one side, then flip and cook the other side. You can also cook the edges if you like.

While these are cooking, put the roasted and peeled poblanos in the blender along with the garlic, shallot, 1/2 cup olive oil and lime juice. Purée until smooth.

Put the peppers on a plate. Top with tofu, then pour the sauce liberally on top.

Serves 2 with extra sauce for another day.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Slow Cooker Red Pepper Soup

I love red pepper season - there's nothing like that fresh sweetness, so during the next couple of months I will be indulging.

On Sunday I made this simple supper of beans and peppers cooked in the slow cooker. A little chipotle in adobe added the heat that played beautifully off the sweet peppers, and the beans made it a good stick-to-the-ribs meal after a day of gardening.

I pre-cooked some pinquito beans (28 minutes in the pressure cooker) for the soup. Other days I've used green lentils instead and added them in raw, adding an extra 2 cups of water for them to cook in. Sometimes I use half cooked beans and half lentils. You really can't go wrong with legumes.

Slow Cooker Red Pepper Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 chipotle in adobo, chopped
2 red peppers, cored and chopped
1 cup pinquito beans, cooked (yields about 3 cups cooked beans - you can use 4 cans of beans instead)

Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion until it softens, then stir in the garlic and cook another minute. Add chipotle and cook, stirring another minute. Stir in the red peppers and let them cook 2-3 minutes until they are beginning to soften. Scrape the mixture into the slow cooker, making sure to get all the brownish bits off the bottom of the skillet.

Stir in the cooked beans and 3 cups water.

Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.

Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle a little red wine vinegar in if needed to balance the sweetness, or a little olive oil for richness.

Serves 8

The red peppers and onions before going in the slow cooker.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Chickpea Salad

Bean salads are the ultimate portable vegetarian lunch. They are high in protein and fiber from the beans, vitamins and minerals from the vegetables and herbs, and don't need to be kept refrigerated — although an ice pack in the lunch bag is a good idea.

This week, we're taking this chickpea salad with cilantro and celery to work. It doesn't have a lot of dressing on it, so we're less likely to drip oil on our shirts, and it's full of fresh flavors and crunchy textures that make it a pleasure to eat.

You can take this recipe as a guide and switch out ingredients depending on what is in your fridge: parsley and mint for the cilantro, green peppers and radishes for the celery, scallions for the red onion. With bean salads, the possibilities are endless.

I particularly like the munchiness of chickpeas, but I've yet to find a dried bean that doesn't make a good salad. The key is to cook them until they are tender, not mushy. You can use canned beans, of course, but they don't taste quite as good.

Dried beans are worth getting to know. If you have a pressure cooker, you can cook up a batch of chickpeas in under half an hour. Or you can cook them in the slow cooker overnight. Or simmer them for a few hours on the back burner of the stove. Extra beans can be frozen, although when they're defrosted they're better in stews and soups than in salads — the freezing makes them a little mushy.

Once the beans are cooked, it's a snap to toss them with dressing and vegetables for a mouthwatering dish that will fill the lunch box for a few days.

Chickpea Salad
1 cup dried chick peas (or 2 cans)
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves
2 tbsp chopped red onion
salt and pepper
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil

Cook and drain the chickpeas. Put them in a bowl and add the two vinegars and plenty of salt and pepper. Let come to room temperature.

Stir in the celery, cilantro and red onion. Toss well. Pour the olive oil over top and toss again.

Serves 4-6.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sunday Shopping

It was warm even in the early morning at the Hollywood Farmers Market today. Many stalls were surrounded by netting, and others have it draped over some of their produce in efforts to discourage the foreign fruit fly. It added to the strangeness of the shopping experience.

Here's a list of the organic food we came home with:
1 shallot, 2 onions, 1 red onion, 1 green pepper, 3 red peppers, cherry tomatoes, Mike's Firehouse pepper jack cheese, 2 potatoes, 1 garlic, watermelon, ambrosia melon, orange lipstick peppers, radishes, celery, cilantro, 12 oranges, 2 dozen eggs from Rocky Canyon Farms.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Butternut Squash Risotto

We harvested our two ripe honeynut squash yesterday, and turned them into this delicious risotto for dinner.

I don't think I've ever eaten such fresh winter squash — 3 hours from garden to table — and they were sweet and yummy.

In the past I've made this risotto with older butternut squash and it was great too.

Of course, it is hard to go wrong with risotto, especially if you use excellent vegetable stock.

Butternut Squash Risotto
1/2 cup finely diced onion
3/4 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped in 1/2" pieces (about 1 3/4 cups)
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
3-4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
few grinds black pepper
1/4 cup parmesan

Melt the butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onion and squash. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent.

Bring the stock to a boil and keep it warm over low heat in a covered saucepan.

Add the arborio rice to the onions and squash and let it toast slightly, stirring a few times, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the salt and white pepper.

Add the white wine. Stir a few times until it is evaporated. Add a ladleful of stock. Stir. Let the stock absorb into the rice, then add more stock. Keep adding stock, stirring, and letting it simmer until it's absorbed by the rice. Then add more.

When the rice is tender, add a few grinds of black pepper and the parmesan, and serve.

Serves 2-3

Monday, September 4, 2017

Spaghetti Squash Tacos

The most surprising thing I've learned in this summer of broadening my barbecue skills is that spaghetti squash cooked on the grill is mouthwateringly delicious.

So when I saw barbecued spaghetti squash tacos on the menu at 38°Alehouse and Grill on Saturday night, I had to give them a try.

(It's too hot to sit outside and eat, let alone grill, so this was our Labor Day barbecue. Larry had a burger.)

The spaghetti squash was cooked, shredded, and dowsed in a lot of spicy-sweet barbecue sauce. It actually looked a little like shredded pork, but not enough to gross me out.

Pickled onions, guacamole, salsa — they were great tacos. I'm going to have to do more experimenting with spaghetti squash.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Sunday Shopping

It was hot and muggy at the Hollywood Farmers Market this morning. We rushed our shopping and left by 8:15 a.m., feeling bad for the farmers who'll be there all day.

It's too hot to sit around a grill so we will forgo our traditional Labor Day barbecue. We stocked up on salad items and on fresh ginger root for refreshing cold ginger tea.

Here's what we brought home with us:
2 onions, 1 cup cremini mushrooms, 5 shallots, 1 red onion, 4 large tomatoes, 2 lbs ginger root, 1 cucumber, 3 red chiles, 1 muskmelon, 3 orange lipstick peppers, cherry tomatoes, 2 gala apples, 1 dozen eggs, feta, 3 grapefruit, 1 romaine lettuce, 12 oranges, 3 yellow onions.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Heirloom Tomato Risotto

The risotto is almost cooked.
With this excessive heat, the leaves on our tomato plants are turning brown and crumbling, the eggplants are wilting and the zucchini have stopped flowering. I head out in the evening to spray water on their leaves, but it evaporates almost as soon as it lands.

Last night I picked all our remaining tomatoes — ripe and almost ripe — and made this risotto. It's one of our favorites, and I only make it in late summer when the tomatoes are rich and lush. I add some less ripe ones to get a little acid in the mix. It's truly scrumptious.

Usually I peel the tomatoes, which is easy — see how I do it here. But I'd just gone outside in 100° temperatures to pick the tomatoes. I had no desire to stand over a pot of boiling water. So we had barely noticeable little rolled up pieces of tomato peel in our risotto.

Of course, as with all risottos, an excellent stock is necessary. My favorite is one I make in the slow cooker — first roasting the vegetables to create a wonderful deep flavor. You can find my recipe for it here. I always have a few cups stashed in the freezer. It's so deeply concentrated that I use half stock and half water in risotto, and an even smaller proportion of stock in soup.

Heirloom Tomato Risotto
1 lb 8 oz heirloom tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil, divided use
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, chopped
3 - 4 cups stock (or combination of water and stock)
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tbsp chopped basil
1/4 cup parmesan

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a dash of salt and cook until the onion starts to turn golden, 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a separate saucepan, bring the stock to a gentle simmer.

Add the rice to the onion, stirring until each grain is coated with oil. Pour in the wine, stir, and let simmer until the wine is absorbed. Then start adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, letting it absorb before adding more. Stir a little, but not constantly.

Meanwhile, peel the tomatoes if desired. Then core and chop them into 1 1/2 inch chunks, saving the juice. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a small skillet. Cook the garlic a minute until fragrant, then add the tomatoes and their juice along with some salt. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring only a couple of times. Set aside until you're ready to use it.

About 15 minutes after adding the rice to the skillet, pour in the cooked tomatoes and their juices. Stir and let cook until the rice is tender and the risotto is moist and loose.

Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and parmesan.

Serve with extra parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 2-3

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Morning Fruit

When it's this hot, even our morning fruit becomes more simple.

This morning we greeted the day with a bowl of cool ripe organic cantaloupe.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Red Pepper and Potato Frittata

 It's been too hot to cook this week, so we've been enjoying leftovers for dinner each night. One of my favorites has been this red pepper and potato frittata that I originally made for brunch on Sunday. Cold with a green salad it made good dinners too.

Often frittatas like this include bacon. The key to getting good flavor without the bacon is to brown the onions until they are deep golden in places. A few bits stuck to the skillet are no bad thing, just unstick them before pouring in the eggs.

The other key flavor is the fresh oregano. It adds a green base note that offsets the sweet pepper and salty cheddar.

This is the beginning of red pepper season, and I can think of no better way to start it than with this frittata.

Red Pepper and Potato Frittata
1 potato, peeled and cut in 1/4 inch dice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
8 eggs
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
1 cup grated cheddar

Put the potato cubes in a saucepan, cover with cold water and add a little coarse salt. Bring to the boil, covered, and simmer until just tender. This will take 5-8 minutes depending on the size of the cubes. Pierce with the tip of a knife to see when they're done. Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a 10 inch cast iron skillet (or other oven-proof skillet) over medium-high heat. Add the red pepper, onions, and a sprinkling of salt. Sauté 5 minutes or so until tender and the onions are starting to brown. Add cooked potato, garlic and oregano. Sauté another minute or so until it smells great and the onions are well-colored. Smooth the vegetables out, scraping the bottom of the skillet to release any stuck pieces.

Whisk together the eggs, salt and pepper. Pour over the vegetables, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and let cook until the eggs are set around the edges, 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.

The center will still be wet. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and place the skillet under the broiler until the cheese is melted and browned. This will take about 3 minutes. As you can see in the picture, mine got very dark in places. Larry allowed as to how that tasted even better.

Let the frittata stand a minute before cutting into it.

Serves 6-8

Monday, August 28, 2017

Sunday night pasta

This year we're growing a lovely Italian heirloom zucchini called Ortolana di Faenza. (We bought the seeds from Renees Garden. And yes, we're also growing the climbing zucchini Trombetta di Albenga. It is not fruiting yet because it's still working on world domination.)

Ortolana di Faenza has pale green striped zucchini that we've been picking at about 6 inches long. I sliced some into very thin strips and tossed them with hot pasta with black olives, walnuts, fresh herbs and lots of garlic for a great Sunday supper from our garden.

Here's what I did:

Fettuccine with Zucchini and Herbs
1 3/4 lb slender zucchini
1 tsp sea salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced black olives
1/2 tsp dried crushed chiles
1 lb fettuccine
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
1 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup basil, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mint, thinly sliced
2-3 zucchini flowers, thinly sliced

Cut the ends off the zucchinis and cut them in about 3 inch chunks. Carefully slice them lengthwise into thin ribbons — I used a mandolin. Then cut each ribbon into narrow strips. Put them in a colander over a large bowl and sprinkle with the sea salt. Toss gently and let sit for 10 minutes. Then rinse the salt off and drain the zucchini well. Finally, spread them on a kitchen towel, cover with another towel, and roll them up. Press gently then set them aside so the towels absorb a lot of the moisture.

In a large serving bowl, combine the garlic, olives and chiles. Bash them together a little to form a paste.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until just tender. Drain, reserving a half cup of the pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta to the serving bowl with the olive oil and 1/4 cup pasta water. Toss well. Add the zucchini, walnuts, half the parmesan, and all the basil and mint. Toss again and season with salt and pepper. Add more pasta cooking water if the dish is too dry.

Sprinkle the zucchini flowers on top and serve the extra parmesan on the side.

Serves 4
zucchini flowers, purple basil and mint

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday Shopping

We've been buying our weekly groceries at the Hollywood Farmers Market for over a decade. While seasons can be tough to discern in Los Angeles — especially with recent temperatures like 100° in March! — we enjoy watching seasonal produce rotate through the market.

While asparagus is available 9 months of the year, red peppers appear in late August and leave in December. Blink and you miss cherry season. All apples — even storage apples — are gone by May, only to reappear fresh and crisp in late July.

So returning to the market after skipping a week always seems like an adventure. I had expected red peppers to make their arrival — and they did — but I didn't expect netting to be draped everywhere, or that Ha's Apple Farm stand would not be there.

It was quite disconcerting.

It seems a mysterious foreign fruit fly has emerged on the streets of Hollywood, and the farmers were asked to spread netting to prevent the flies from laying eggs on their produce which would travel for miles in customers' shopping bags, possibly creating widespread damage to local farms. Prevention is great — especially non-toxic approaches like netting — but it sure looked weird.

Even weirder was the lack of Ha's Apple Farm stand, which we have depended on for years for eggs and apples. Rumor has it they'll be gone for 6 months. I hope they're okay. Market officials would not tell me anything specific.

So, an unsettling morning. Fortunately Finley Farms had red peppers, so my plans to over-indulge in them this week are intact.

Here's what we came home with:
4 potatoes, garlic, 2 yellow onions, 2 red onions, cilantro, dill, chives, 7 red peppers, 6 corn, butter lettuce, romaine lettuce, 2 cucumbers, 6 plum tomatoes, 2 dozen eggs (one from Jared, one from Rick), 2 melons, shisito peppers, small orange lipstick peppers, 12 oranges and 4 grapefruit.

And Russ sharpened a knife for us while we shopped.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Sunday Shopping

We did not go to the Hollywood Farmers Market on Sunday because we were in Portland, OR to watch the eclipse. On the plane our seat mate had told us of stories in the Seattle newspapers predicting Armageddon — so many cars that people would be stuck on the freeways for hours if not days. They were recommending everyone carry 3 days of food, water and toilet paper.

We planned to drive south on Monday to get into the totality. In preparation we headed to Whole Foods (conveniently located near Powell's Books) to stock up for a picnic — and lots of snacking. We also found an independent store called World Market (not Cost Plus) that had a great selection of organic food.

Surprisingly, most of the organic produce at Whole Foods came from California. Fortunately they had local cheese. World Market had local cherries and McVittie's chocolate digestive biscuits.

Here's what we loaded up with:
bread from Pearl bakery, 2 nectarines, 1 tomato, cherries, McVitties chocolate digestive biscuits, cashews, almonds, 2 pink lady apples, 1 banana, peanut butter cookies, 1 St. Benoit plain yogurt, green grapes, Sleeping Beauty organic cheese from Cascadia, Hannah Bridge cheese from Heritage Dairy, plantain chips, 2 Theo chocolate bars - ginger and salted almond.

We were ready for anything.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Omelet with Tomatillo Salsa

Sunday brunch is one of my favorite meals. We return from the market laden down with colorful produce that we unpack on our sunny kitchen table. Then Larry squeezes fresh oranges while I make some combination of eggs and carbs. We enjoy a leisurely meal with the Sunday papers. Last week, I decided to add a little zest to our brunch by pouring tomatillo salsa on our omelets.

Tomatillo salsa is easy to make. You can find my recipe for it here. Even better, it freezes well. I set some out on the counter to defrost while we were at the Market, ready to heat and serve when we returned.

The omelet was thick with mushrooms, cheese, peppers and cilantro. The sauce added zest, and a few breakfast potatoes rounded out the plate.

Sunday mornings are really great around here.

Omelet with Tomatillo Salsa
3/4 cup tomatillo salsa
4 eggs
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 tbsp butter, divided use
1/2 red pepper, cut into strips
5 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 cup grated cheese — half jack, half cheddar
1 tbsp cilantro

Warm the salsa and set it aside.

Whisk together the eggs, onion, salt and pepper.

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a medium cast iron skillet over medium heat. Sauté red pepper and mushrooms until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Melt 1 tbsp butter in skillet. Add eggs. Cook without stirring until they begin to set, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with vegetables, cheese and cilantro. Cover skillet and cook until the cheese melts and the eggs are set, about 2-3 minutes.

Fold the omelet in half, then cut it in half and serve on two plates. Pour the warm salsa on top.

Serves 2

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Greek Salad

Our tomatoes are starting to really produce. I used them in this Greek style salad the other night. Sadly our cucumbers are suffering from drought. Fortunately the organic farmers at the Hollywood Farmers Market have my back.

The key to a good Greek salad is crunchy vegetables to offset the soft tomatoes, feta and olives. I vary them depending on what's available. This is my standard recipe. If you have mint in the garden, it makes a great addition.

Greek Salad
1/2 red onion
1 tsp white vinegar
3 medium or large tomatoes
1 cucumber
1/2 green pepper
romaine lettuce
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 tbsp olive oil
2-3 oz feta, crumbled
2-3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
12 kalamata olives, pitted if desired

Cut onion in slivers. Place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Add the white vinegar. Let sit at least 10 minutes.

Chop the tomatoes. Peel and seed the cucumber. Cut in bite-sized pieces. Cut pepper in slivers.

Drain the onion.

Chop the lettuce and put in a large bowl. Add the drained onion, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers. Whisk together the red wine vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a little more oil if desired, but it should be a sharp dressing. Toss the dressing with the vegetables.

Put the vegetables on a platter. Sprinkle the feta, mint and olives over top.

Serves 3-4

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Barbecued Flatbreads

I have read a lot about cooking pizza on the grill, but I've never tried it.

But since this is the summer to broaden my barbecue horizons, I decided to try grilling dough. I started small with sourdough flatbreads. They were great with grilled corn, sprouted chickpea hummus and Greek salad.

I usually make these flatbreads on my cast iron skillet, but the barbecue added a smoky flavor that went exceptionally well with the za'atar I sprinkled on them.

This recipe makes a lot of flatbreads, but they freeze well. I put them in a freezer bag with wax paper between each one, and they defrost quickly in the toaster oven as a quick snack with hummus or salad.

It's important to start the dough for the flatbreads a couple of hours before you plan to grill them. The dough can then rest for up to 12 hours, so you have a lot of flexibility. I make it in my stand mixer, which frankly makes it far too easy to make flatbreads. You have been warned.

Barbecue Flatbreads with Za'atar
3 oz sourdough starter
1 2/3 cup white flour
5 cups white bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
5 tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
za'atar (see below)

Combine the starter in a bowl with 3/4 cup water and 1 2/3 cups flour. Cover and let rest at room temperature until bubbly — about 10 minutes depending on the warmth of your kitchen and the vigor of your starter.

In a stand mixer with the dough hook, combine 5 cups bread flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 5 tsp sugar. Add 1 1/2 cups water, 1 tbsp olive oil and 2 oz (by weight) of the bubbly starter (otherwise known as levain). Return the rest of the levain to your sourdough jar in the fridge. It will invigorate what is there.

Mix to a stiff dough, then keep kneading with the dough hook for 5-10 minutes until it is smooth. Remove the dough hook and cover the bowl with a silicon lid. Let the dough rest for a minimum of 30 minutes, or up to 12 hours. It should puff up a little.

Prepare the barbecue (or warm a cast iron skillet over high). Pinch off a piece of dough the size of a plum and roll it out on a floured board until it is a rough circle of at most 1/3" thick — preferably thinner. Place the dough on the hot grill or pan. Cook about 2 minutes until it is spotted. Brush the top with oil, sprinkle with za'atar, then flip and cook the other side about 10 seconds. Remove from the pan and serve immediately or cover with a towel to keep it warm.

Makes about 12 flatbreads.

Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that is zesty and spicy and utterly irresistible. There are many recipes. This is the one I make: stir together 3 tbsp dried thyme, 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, 1 tbsp ground sumac, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp salt.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Green Bean Salad with Mustard and Tarragon

Our bean vines are producing vigorously. Fortunately, I love green bean salad. I steam the beans until tender then toss them in a simple vinaigrette. I cook a pound at a time because they last well in the fridge, ready for a quick meal.

The other day I tossed them in a mustard vinaigrette to which I added a snippet of tarragon. It's worth finding a sunny well-drained spot for this perennial because its slight anise-y flavor gives a subtle boost to mustard vinaigrettes like this one.

Green Bean Salad
1 lb green beans, trimmed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp chopped tarragon
3/4 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp spring onion or chives of Egyptian walking onion

Steam beans until tender but still crunchy, 7-10 minutes. Plunge in an ice water bath to stop the cooking, then drain and pat them dry.

Whisk together the remaining ingredients. Add the beans and toss to coat. Chill until ready to serve.

Serves 4