In a matter of a few weeks our farmers market has transformed into the vegetarian equivalent of a candy store. New leaves, baby shoots and spring bulbs are on display in miniature form as their growing season is in full force. In general, I like my veggies cooked simply, and at this time of year their freshness demands it. All that’s needed is a quick steam, saute, or a turn on the grill and you will have a simple and delicious side to any meal.
Broccoli and carrots pretty much sum up the ingredient list for this veggie side I made recently – plus a pinch salt and splash of olive oil for good measure. Everything converged on the grill, which in itself is another ingredient to the dish, adding char to complete the flavor profile. On the grill? Yes, if you are careful and lay the vegetables perpendicular to the grates to prevent them from slipping through. Better yet, if you have a cast iron skillet (which you should), preheat the skillet (or a griddle) on the grill, then sear the vegetables until they wilt and char, and you are good to go. Vegetables simply never tasted so good.
Grilled Broccolini and Carrots
Serves 4 to 6 as a simple side dish
1 pound baby broccoli (broccolini), ends trimmed
1 pound baby carrots, trimmed, halved lengthwise if thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat. If using a skillet or griddle, preheat on the grill for 10 minutes.
2. Place the vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons oil – just enough to coat without soaking – and lightly season with salt, then turn to coat.
3. Lay the vegetables perpendicular to the grill grates (or spread in the skillet) and cook until bright in color, crisp-tender, and lightly charred, turning as needed, about 5 minutes, depending on thickness of the stalks.
4. Transfer to a serving bowl and season with additional salt and black pepper, if desired. Serve warm.
5. Other options: sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes over for a nice bite and drizzle with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice before serving.
Whole chickens are a gift that keep on giving. I roast a chicken almost weekly. After the roast dinner, there are lots of leftovers to transform into another meal. The bones are simmered in water for homemade stock which in turn is used for soups or stock for cooking rice, quinoa or farro. And the leftover meat can easily be turned into a whole new dinner. I made this fried rice dish with leftovers from my farmer’s market chicken dinner.
Chicken Fried Rice with Broccolini and Almonds
1 cup basmati rice
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 green onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick, white and green parts divided
1 large carrot, diced
3/4 pound broccolini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger with juices
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 to 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Combine the stock, rice and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff the rice with a fork.
While the rice is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the white parts of the green onions, the carrot, broccolini. Saute until bright in color and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chili flakes and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken and soy sauce and cook, stirring, until the chicken is heated through. Remove from heat. Add the cooked rice, the green onions and cilantro. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Add more salt if desired. Sprinkle the almonds over the rice and serve warm.
School is out, and summer holiday has officially begun. With that comes a flurry of activities, children home, impending visitors and finalizing travel plans. For those of us who work at home, the hours during school are necessary to get our tasks done. Now the day flies by in a whirlwind of carpools, playdates, unexpected visitors, doctors appointments, errands. Who has time to cook? The answer to that would normally be someone who has a food blog. But these days, creative cooking just isn’t happening – even in our house. By the time dinner rolls around, the inevitable question: “What’s for dinner?” lingers unanswered in the air. Don’t worry. We’ll get our groove back. In the meantime, it helps to have a few quick dishes in the repertoire, so when the WFD question is posed, there is a handy reply.
I call this recipe BBT Pasta. Bacon, Broccoli and Tomato Pasta is quick to make with ingredients readily on hand or easy to purchase. Improvisation is encouraged, so long as you don’t omit the glorious bacon. Try substituting the broccoli with cauliflower. Or omit the broccoli altogether and toss in a generous handful of arugula at the end, which might pass as a BLT Pasta. Any way you choose, this pasta dish is light, flavorful and easy to prepare. Perfect for these hectic early days of summer.
Bacon, Broccoli and Tomato Pasta
1 pound long cut fusilli or other corkscrew shaped pasta
4 slices thick sliced smoked bacon, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 pound broccolini, ends trimmed, cut in 1 inch pieces
1/2 pound grape or cherry tomatoes, halved if large
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente; drain. Fry bacon in a deep skillet until golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté briefly until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add broccolini. Sauté until bright green and crisp tender. Add tomatoes, cream, one teaspoon salt and black pepper. Simmer to heat through. Add pasta, bacon and 1/2 cup cheese to skillet; toss to coat. Serve immediately, garnished with remaining cheese.
Note: If using arugula, toss in 2 cups washed and dried arugula with the bacon and cheese.