Watermelon, Feta and Bulgur Salad

Watermelon fetaPosted by Lynda Balslev

Watermelon is a staple in the heat of summer. Juicy, refreshing, nourishing and thirst quenching, it satisfies on many levels without filling you up. It’s served for breakfast in the Mediterranean climates and is a great addition to salads. It’s mellow sweetness is perfectly complemented by salty feta. This salad is a mini-meal with the addition of bulgur, and a perfect lunch stop on a hot summer day. It’s also a great addition to a barbecue.

Watermelon, Feta and Bulgur Salad
This recipe provides for a large salad. Feel free to halve the bulgur and use the extra ingredients to your taste. Serves 4

1 cup bulgur
Salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 small seedless watermelon, peeled, cut into 3/4 inch cubes, about 3 cups
2 handfuls sugar snap peas, stemmed, halved
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 ounces feta, crumbled
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the bulgur in a bowl. Add 2 cups boiling water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and let stand until bulgur is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain any excess water and fluff with a fork.
Whisk the oil, lemon juice, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the dressing to the bulgur and stir to combine. Taste and add a little more dressing if desired (the rest will be drizzled over the salad).
Transfer the bulgur to a serving platter. Scatter the watermelon, snap peas and red onion over the bulgur. Top with the feta and parsley. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper.

Summer Reflections: Clam Chowder

Posted by Lynda Balslev 

This week I am traveling in Stockholm and its surrounding archipelago. While I’ve visited the beautiful capitol before, I have never ventured into Stockholm’s surrounding archipelago which consists of some 24,000 islands. Within an hour you can find yourself on a tiny island surrounded by nature, and feel as if you are light years from the maddening crowd. More on that later, but in the meantime, I post this from the small island of Grinda.  With the outside air cool and fresh and a fire crackling inside the Grinda Wardshus great room, I can’t help but think of Clam Chowder. Blame it on my New England roots, all right, but a bowl of chowder sings summer to me – no matter if it’s a sunny day at the beach or an afternoon cloaked in fog.

Clam Chowder
Use the smallest clams you can get your hands on, such as little necks, middle necks, or, if you are on the U.S. west coast, manila clams. Serves 4 to 6.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 large leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 small celery root, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 pound small fingerling potatoes, cut in 1/4-inch coins
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
12 manila or middle neck clams or 24 little neck clams
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and fry until the fat is nearly rendered (it will continue to render as the vegetables cook). Add the onion and leek and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the celery root and potatoes. Sauté until the vegetables being to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the milk, cream, stock, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil, then add the clams. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until clams open, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Discard any unopened clam shells. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot garnished with fresh thyme sprigs.

Green Olive and Almond Tapenade

green olive tapenade tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

This is a recipe in my Almond book. I prepared this tapenade for each of the book signings I went to, and it was very popular. And now that it’s the official start to summer, I share this recipe with you. Salty, nutty, and seriously addictive, this tapenade is a perfect summer appetizer, spooned over bread or crostini. It’s also a great condiment, sprinkled over pizzas, salads or grilled fish. If you can, enjoy it with a glass of dry rosé for a heavenly pairing.

Green Olive and Almond Tapenade
from Almonds – Recipes, History, Culture (Gibbs Smith 2014)

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1/2 cup raw almonds, toasted
2 cups pitted green olives
3 anchovies in oil, drained
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to coarsely chop. Add the remaining ingredients and process to a coarse paste. Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the flavors to develop. The tapenade may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Father’s Day Grilling: Spice Rubbed Baby Back Ribs

ribs bbq tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

Next week is summer solstice. For those of you who know me and this blog, Midsummer is a big celebration for our family. Each year we throw a Danish-inspired party at the beach to celebrate the longest day of the year. You can read in great detail about our celebration in this feature I wrote for the June issue of Marin Magazine. This year, however, we are changing gears a bit and heading to the beach a week earlier where we will celebrate Father’s Day. Like the solstice, you can be sure that grilling and a bonfire will be the main attraction – worthy of any Viking (and Dad).

On the menu? Grilled baby back pork ribs, thank you very much. They are a hands-down favorite, coated with a sweet and spicy rub that permeates the meat with flavor and heat while cooking long and slow in an oven or on the grill. They are perfect for beach toting, as the ribs can be prepped and cooked early, then transported and thrown on the grill just before eating to caramelize and crisp.

Spice rub

Dry Spice Rubbed Baby Back Pork Ribs

These ribs are great as is, with a crispy coating and succulent meat. If you like your ribs more wet, baste with your favorite sauce  just before removing from the grill and serve with additional sauce on the side. Serves 6 to 8.

For the rub:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon cayenne (or to taste)

3 racks baby back pork ribs

1. Preheat the oven to 200° F. Combine all of the rub ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.
2. Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel. Arrange in one layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Rub the spices all over the ribs on both sides, coating well. Bake in the oven for 3 hours.
3. Prepare a grill for direct medium heat. Grill ribs on a rack over direct heat, turning, until the meat darkens and crisps, 10 to 12 minutes.

Lemony Mixed Greens with Fava Beans and Mint

fava green saladIt was tempting to fiddle with this salad, but I am happy I didn’t. The beauty of this plate of greens is its simplicity. Bright fava beans, mint, spring greens and napped with lemon and olive oil. Favas are a bit of work to prepare, but well worth the effort. A good idea is to prep more than you need, then freeze the leftovers for easy use later. Feel free to mix the greens to your liking. Peppery arugula is a must, on its own or combined with mizuna, baby spinach, watercress – they all work. If you can get your hands on fresh chervil, that will add nice flavor as well.

Lemony Mixed Greens with Fava Beans and Mint
Serves 3 to 4

1 pound fava beans in the pod
5 ounces (about 5 cups) mixed greens
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, shredded
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Shuck the fava beans. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the beans and blanch until bright green, about 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water. When cool enough to handle, remove the shells.
2. Whisk the olive oil,  lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt in a small bowl.
3. Combine the fava beans, greens and mint in the salad bowl. Drizzle with half of the dressing and toss to coat. Add more dressing to taste. Scatter the cheese over the salad and garnish with freshly ground black pepper.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho with Shrimp

bloody mary gazpacho tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

This chilled and refreshing summer soup is spiced with all of the necessary accoutrements for a great Bloody Mary, minus the vodka. (Of course, who says you can’t add a splash of spirits for an adult appetizer?) So, depending on your mood, the time of day – and your age – you might call this a spicy gazpacho, an inspired shrimp cocktail, or even a substantial bloody mary, heavy on the garnishes. Serve for brunch or lunch, or in small glasses as a party starter.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho with Shrimp
Serves 4 to 6

4 cups tomato juice
3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 English cucumber, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery leaves

Optional garnishes:
Celery stalks
Italian Parsley stalks
1 pound large (15/20) shrimp, deveined and shelled with tails intact, cooked and chilled
Splash(es) of vodka

Combine all of the gazpacho ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to 4 hours to let the flavors develop. Serve in bowls or cups. Garnish with celery, parsley and shrimp if using. For an adult version, stir in a splash of vodka.

Tomato Bruschetta

tomato bruschetta tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

When I make tomato bruschetta, my family always says, “Summer food!” And so it is – especially when it’s made on the grill. Everything happens on our grill year round, I mean, during the summer. For this recipe slices of baguette get all toasty and charred on the Weber. Believe me, it’s worth the step for the flavor and saves you from the heat of the oven broiler. The grilled bread is then smothered with fresh chopped tomatoes infused with fresh basil from the garden, garlic and a glugg of olive oil. So simple, so good. If you could have summer in a mouthful, this would be it.

Tomato Bruschetta

I like the rustic presentation of halved baguette sections. Alternatively, slice the baguette on the diagonal 1/2-inch thick. Serves 4 to 6.

1 1/2 pounds vine ripened tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn in small pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 baguette

Cut each tomato in half, and scoop out the juices and seeds with your fingers or a small spoon. Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch dice and place in a bowl. Add 1 minced garlic clove, the olive oil, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Gently stir to combine and taste for seasoning. If you don’t have super sweet tomatoes yet, a pinch of sugar may be added.

Cut the baguette crosswise into 3-inch sections. Halve each section lengthwise.
Grill the bread slices until toasted, turning once. Arrange on a platter cut-side up. Peel 2 garlic cloves and slightly crush with a knife. Rub the garlic cloves over the bread.

Low Fat Blueberry Tartlets

blueberry tartelettes tf  Posted by Lynda Balslev

Go ahead, indulge yourself. These gorgeous blueberry tartlets are rich and creamy, fragrant with lemon, bursting with fruit and not-too-decadent. Why? The luscious filling is 100 percent yogurt, not cream cheese or mascarpone. The trick is to choose a full fat Greek-style yogurt. It’s thick and silky, with a tang that perfectly offsets mellow, inky blueberries. The crust is a traditional graham cracker crust, which, yes, has brown sugar and butter (as any self respecting graham cracker crust should). So these tarts are just a little bit wicked, but it’s a dessert after all, and what’s wrong with being a little wicked anyway?

Blueberry Tartlets with Yogurt and Lemon

Makes 1 (10-inch) tart or 6 to 8 individual tartlets

Crust:
10 ounces graham crackers (or sweet digestive biscuits)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
2 cups whole milk Greek-style yogurt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar (or honey)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 cups blueberries
Lemon zest for garnish

Heat oven to 350°F (180°C). Combine the graham crackers, sugar, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until crumbly. Add butter and pulse until the crust is blended and beginning to stick. If using a tart pan, dump the crumbs into a 10-inch tart pan, pressing with fingers evenly over the bottom and up the sides. If using individual tart dishes or ramekins, divide the crumbs between 6 to 8 ramekins and press the crumbs evenly over the bottoms and up the sides. Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake in oven until crust begins to turn golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack.

While the crust is cooling, whisk the yogurt, sugar and lemon zest in a bowl. Pour the yogurt into the cooled crust, smoothing the top. Dot the yogurt with blueberries. Garnish with lemon zest. Refrigerate until serving, up to 4 hours.

Grilled Pomegranate Chicken and Vegetable Skewers

pomegranate chicken skewers tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

Memorial Day weekend is a week away, but why wait to grill? Any weekend (or any night, for that matter) is a good excuse to fire up the Weber. I made these skewers to feed a crowd, but the following recipe will generously feed a table of four. A Middle Eastern inspired pomegranate marinade infused with aromatic spices tenderizes and flavors the chicken, which is best left to marinate overnight. If you don’t have time for that, then 4 hours will do.

Grilled Pomegranate Chicken and Vegetable Skewers
Serves 4

Marinade:
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Bamboo skewers, pre-soaked for 30 minutes
1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 red or orange bell peppers, stemmed and seeded, cut into 1-inch chunks
Fresh mint and parsley leaves for garnish

1. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup for basting.
2. Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks. Place in a large bowl. Add the marinade and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
3. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Thread the chicken on skewers alternating with onion pieces and peppers.
4. Grill over direct medium heat until nicely charred and chicken is thoroughly cooked through, turning as needed, 8 to 10 minutes, basting halfway through the cooking process with reserved sauce.
5. To serve, pile the skewers on a serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with extra salt and pepper if desired. Garnish with fresh mint and parsley leaves.

Spinach Pesto with Fusilli

pesto pasta tastefood

When you think of pesto do you think of basil? Most of us do. Traditional Pesto Genovese, the ubiquitous garlicky basil puree tossed with pasta is an Italian staple. I have to admit, though, that basil is not my favorite herb. When I use it, I do it sparingly so it’s pungent flavor doesn’t overwhelm. So, when I do make a pesto I like to substitute some or all of the basil with other herbs and greens – and you should too, even if you love basil. Herb pestos are a great way to use copious greens, and a wonderful way to spread their flavor in pastas, dolloped over pizzas or smeared on crostini. They are also great as a garnish or sauce for grilled meats, chicken, and fish. Try substituting parsley, cilantro, mint – or a mixture of all of them. Greens such as arugula and baby spinach also work well. I made this pesto with fresh baby spinach leaves and added a little lemon and mint to brighten the mix.

pesto spinach jar

Spinach Pesto with Almonds, Mint and Lemon

Makes about 1 1/2 cups pesto.

4 ounces baby spinach
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the spinach, garlic, mint, cheese, almonds and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the oil in a steady stream to blend. If too thick add a little more oil to desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl. Season with salt and black pepper.

To serve with pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add 1 pound pasta, such as fusilli, and cook until al dente. Drain. Toss with several heaping spoonfuls of pesto to coat. Serve with additional grated cheese. Serves 4.