Peppery Potato Salad

pepper potatoes tastefoodNo-Mayo Potato Salad with Sweet and Spicy Peppers  

This no-mayo potato salad is packed with peppers. Early fall yields a rainbow of pepper fruit at the farmers market – sweet bells, cherries, hungarian, fresnos, jalapanos and poblanos – it’s impossible not to scoop up a bag’s worth of these beauties simply for their colors and impossible shapes. The trick is to find all sorts of ways to put them to use. Here is one – this peppery potato salad.

The key ingredient in this salad (aside from the peppers and potatoes!) is white balsamic vinegar which lends a gentle fruity acidity. Do not substitute traditional balsamic vinegar as its dark color and syrupy consistency will overwhelm the salad. Use, instead, a high quality white wine vinegar and add 1 teaspoon of sugar to the salad.

Peppery Potato Salad

A little spice is nice! Mix up the peppers to your taste, adding a combination of sweet and hot peppers. Serves 6 to 8.

2 pounds yukon gold potatoes
Sea salt
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons dried mustard, such as Colmans
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes, optional
1 poblano pepper, stemmed and seeded finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 to 2 Jimmy Nardello or sweet Italian red peppers, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1/2 bunch green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves

Quarter the potatoes and place in a large pot. Cover with cold water and add 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and cool 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and add the vinegar, 2 tablespoons oil, the mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, the black pepper, and chili flakes. Stir to combine, breaking up any large chunks of potatoes, and let stand at room temperature until lukewarm, about 30 minutes.
Add the 1/4 cup olive oil and the remaining ingredients. Stir to thoroughly combine, and taste for seasoning. You may want to add a little more salt or a pinch of sugar, depending on the sweetness of the peppers.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Grilled Ratatouille Salad

ratatouille  salad

~ Grilled Ratatouille Salad with Couscous ~

It’s that time of year when the garden is lobbing bushels of vegetables at us faster than a tennis ball machine. And it means one thing: It’s time for ratatouille. Now, mind you, this is not your traditional ratatouille. Instead of simmering a stew of Provencal vegetables on the stovetop, I’ve thrown eggplant, squash, onions and peppers on the grill until lightly charred, then tossed them with olive oil and fresh herbs. It’s a lighter version that’s very versatile. I like to serve it over couscous, tossed with pasta or spooned on top of grilled garlic bread.

Grilled Ratatouille Salad

If you don’t have a grill, the veggies may be broiled in the oven. You may either roast the tomatoes with the vegetables or toss them in at the end. (If you grill them, thread on pre-soaked bamboo skewers to prevent them from falling through the grates). If desired, sprinkle with crumbled feta or goat cheese before serving.

Serves 4.

2 medium zucchini or yellow squash, cut in 1/2 inch slices
2 red or yellow bell peppers, quartered, stems and seeds removed
1 small eggplant, sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick
1 large red onion, slice crosswise, 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup Italian parsley sprigs, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded

Prepare a grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Spread the vegetables on a tray. Brush with olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. Grill until lightly charred and cooked to desired doneness, 6 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut in large chunks. Place in a bowl with tomatoes, garlic, parsley and basil. Gently toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more olive oil if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.  

Kale Tabbouleh Salad

kale tabbouleh tastefood

Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern bulgur salad redolent with lemon and garlic and chockablock full of fresh herbs. It’s a great summertime meal, when it’s too hot to cook. I like to serve it as a part of a mezze or small plates, accompanied by feta, olives, and hummus. This recipe adds kale to the mix, reducing the amounts of the traditional parsley and mint, and resulting in a healthy hearty and very addictive salad. 

Kale Tabbouleh
Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 cups bulgur
1 1/4 cups hot water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 bunch curly green kale, tough ribs removed, torn small pieces
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 red jalapeno or fresno chile pepper, finely chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the bulgur, water and lemon juice in a large bowl. Let stand until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur is tender, about 20 minutes. Add the kale and olive oil and stir for about 1 minute to coat the kale with the oil and soften the leaves. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to let the flavors develop.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Asparagus Mimosa with Quinoa
Farro Pilaf
Greek Couscous Salad

Lentil Falafel

lentil falafel tastefood

~Lentil Falafel with Spicy Yogurt Tahini Sauce and Mint~

These patties are a cross between falafel and keftas. They are a terrific vegetarian meal or appetizer. We dipped them in a spicy yogurt sauce, but you can also stuff them in pita pockets with a spoonful of sauce and a handful of fresh mint or cilantro.

Lentil Falafel
Makes approximately 16 patties

1 1/2 cups cooked lentils
1/2 cup medium-grind bulgur
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Vegetable oil for pan-frying

Sauce:
1 cup Greek whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini
2 teaspoons harissa paste
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place the lentils and bulgur in a medium bowl. Ad the olive oil and lemon juice and stir to combine. Cover and let stand at room temperature until liquid is absorbed and bulgur is tender, about 15 minutes.

Transfer to a food processor and add the remaining falafel ingredients. Pulse to form a chunky paste.

With wet hands lightly form the lentils in 1 1/2-inch patties about 1/2-inch thick. The mixture will be sticky and you will need to rinse your hands between batches.

Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the patties in batches without overcrowding. Cook until golden brown and heated through, turning once with a spatula. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat with remaining patties.

Whisk the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Serve falafel with sauce on the side for dipping. Or stuff 1 to 2 patties in mini-pita pockets, then add a spoonful of sauce and fresh mint leaves.

Tip: For completely different rendition, don’t process in the food processor. Simply dump the mixture in a skillet with a little olive oil and saute over medium-high heat until hot and slightly crispy. Serve as an alternative to rice or pilaf.

Blue Potato Salad with Fresh Mustard and Baby Fennel

mustard blue potato tastefood

Blue Potatoes, Mustard Leaves, Fennel Fronds, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Yesterday was a farmers’ market day and I purchased with my eyes. Nobby purple potatoes, sumptuous lettuce heads, spiky mustard greens and a bouquet of their brilliant yellow flowers. Baby fennel bulbs with frizzy headdresses and a kaleidescope of golf ball-sized heirloom tomatoes.

mustard

When the produce is this fresh and diverse, I let the ingredients do the talking. I made this potato salad to accompany a grilled garlic and spice rubbed tri-tip. Purple potatoes are beautiful and other worldly, resembling prehistoric stones. Their flavor is remarkably mild and creamy despite their blue tinged flesh. For this salad they were boiled until tender and tossed with handfuls of red and green mustard leaves and the frizzy tops of baby fennel. The heat of the potatoes wilted the mustard just enough to tame its pepperiness and released the anise aroma of the fennel fronds. Yellow mustard leaves added a brilliant accent – after all blue and yellow are complimentary colors.

blue potatoes tastefood

Blue Potato Salad with Fresh Mustard and Baby Fennel

The moral of this post is to embrace what you have. Mix and match aromatic herbs such as dill, parsley, mint and chervil to your taste. Any sturdy green is fair game: the warm potatoes will get to work and wilt it into suppliance.

Serves 4

2 pounds purple potatoes
Salt
2 cups spiky mustard leaves, torn in bite-size pieces
1 cup  chopped fennel fronds with leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of cold water. Add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender but not mushy. Drain and cool slightly. Cut any large potatoes in large bite-sized chunks. Place in a large bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the mustard flowers. Toss and taste for seasoning and add more salt to taste. Before serving scatter the mustard flowers over the potatoes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sizzling Fourth of July Grill Menu

We are wilting under the shroud of a spectacular heat wave here in the Bay area. Stifled by the temperature, nothing is moving – even the leaves are too warm to rustle. It’s so hot right now, it’s impossible to cook. In fact it’s so hot right now, it’s impossible to even write about cooking. So, let me treat you to a photo round up of a sensational summer grill menu in preparation for the fourth of July. Keep cool.

Blackberry Spritzer tfBlackberry Spritzer and Mojitos

gazpachBeat the Heat Chunky Gazpacho

fattoush salad tastefoodFattoush Salad

ribsSummer Solstice BBQ Baby Back Ribs

marinated chicken skewers tfGrilled Chicken Skewers with Sriracha Marinade

quinoa kale slaw tfRed Quinoa and Kale Slaw

apricot bruleeCaramelized Apricots on the Grill with Yogurt and Honey

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

quinoa carrot bowl tastefood~ Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad ~

Quinoa is a South American crop which produces small seeds which are rich in calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. The seeds may be prepared like rice while their nutty flavor adds heartiness to salads, pilafs and stews.  Quinoa is also gluten-free, providing a nutritious grain-like stand-in to bulgur, couscous and farro.

This salad has all of the earmarks of a good tabbouleh minus the bulgur: Olive oil, lemon, garlic and gads of chopped fresh herbs lighten and brighten nutty bi-colored quinoa seeds. Finely grated carrot ripples throughout the salad adding sweetness and moisture. Since quinoa is rich in protein, you might be tempted to call this bowl a one-dish meal, but it’s also a great accompaniment to grilled fish and meat.

quinoa carrot tastefoodQuinoa and Carrot Tabbouleh Salad

Either white or red quinoa (or a combination) may be used. Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
Salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled, finely grated
1 medium sweet red pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
Place quinoa, 2 1/2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until water is absorbed and the grains release their germ, about 15 minutes. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl. Add oil and stir to coat. Cool to room temperature.

Stir the remaining ingredients except the fresh herbs into the quinoa. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. (Tabbouleh may be prepared in advance to this point. Cover and refrigerate up to 6 hours). Before serving, fold in the fresh herbs. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes:
Vegetarian Quinoa Chili from Two Peas and their Pod
Asparagus and Egg Mimosa with Quinoa from TasteFood
Quinoa Fried Rice from Steamy Kitchen
Shrimp, Bulgur and Kale Salad from TasteFood
Golden Quinoa Salad with Lemon, Dill, Avocado from the Kitchn


Cooking for your Health: Asparagus Mimosa with Quinoa

Asparagus mimosa tastefood

~ Asparagus, Quinoa, Egg, Lemon, Mint, Olive Oil ~

As you can see, this is not a crazy savory cocktail to be confused with the brunch-friendly champagne and orange juice beverage. Mimosa in French culinary terms refers to finely grated or seived hard-cooked eggs frequently used to dust salads and vegetables or as a component of deviled eggs. You might understand why the eloquent-minded Français would prefer the term “mimosa” for such a preparation. Not only is it poetic and mellifluous, it’s also apt: the crumbled canary yellow yolk of the egg resembles the brilliant mimosa flower which blooms in early Spring. Spring is also the time for asparagus, and asparagus dusted with mimosa is a popular and elegant preparation. I took this recipe one step further and turned it into a healthy yet light main dish, serving the asparagus on a bed of nutrient- rich quinoa tossed with olive oil, lemon and mint. I dare say it would make a wonderful addition to any brunch menu – accompanied by champagne and orange juice (naturally).

Asparagus Mimosa with Quinoa
Serves 3 to 4

1 cup red quinoa
Salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound thin asparagus, woody ends trimmed
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1 large egg, hardboiled
Sea salt flakes

Place quinoa, 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until the quinoa grains are tender and release their white “tail”. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat. Set aside to cool slightly.

Heat oven broiler. Arrange asparagus in one layer on a rimmed baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly season with salt. Turn to coat. Broil on the top shelf until crisp tender, 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan once.

Add 1 tablespoon mint and 1 teaspoon lemon zest to the quinoa. Stir to combine. Spoon the quinoa onto a serving plate. Place the asparagus on top of the quinoa. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over the asparagus and quinoa. Press the egg through a sieve with medium-sized holes over the asparagus. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes, additional mint and lemon zest. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Simple Sides: Balsamic Roasted Carrots

carrots roasted tastefood

baby carrots, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, thyme sprigs, kale flowers, sea salt 

I bought a sack of tiny carrots today at the farmers market just because of how they looked. They were not your average stick straight roots, but funny finger sized squiggles with knuckles, knobs and twists – think samba dancing semicolons.  New and sweet, these little babies were the first of Spring, demanding the simplest of preparation. I decided to match their sweetness with a sprinkle of sugar, salt and splash of balsamic vinegar. A quick roast in the oven, softened them to crisp tenderness, shellacking the vinegar in a shiny caramelized coat. What you see is a mere half of my bounty, since I couldn’t stop nibbling the rest while taking the picture.

Balsamic Roasted Carrots
Try to select organic carrots, which will save you the fussy step of peeling.

Serves 4 to 6.

2 pounds organic skinny carrots, washed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Small bunch of fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Sea salt flakes

Heat oven to 400° F.  Trim the ends of the carrots. Place in a large bowl. Add oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Pour onto a rimmed baking sheet. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the carrots. Roast on the middle rack of oven until carrots are crisp tender, 8 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness of carrots.

Remove carrots from oven. Turn on the broiler. Drizzle the carrots with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with sugar, and jiggle the carrots around to coat. Return to top rack in  oven. Broil until slightly caramelized and golden, 1 to 2 minutes, shaking pan once or twice. Serve warm sprinkled with sea salt flakes.

Lemon Mint Risotto

Lemon Mint Risotto TasteFood

~ Lemon Mint Risotto ~

Here is what I think about risotto: A good risotto should be creamy, but not soupy. The rice should be tender, but not mushy. Its accompanying ingredients should be minimal without overwhelming and reflect the season. This recipe  for Lemon Risotto with Mint is firmly planted in spring. Redolent with lemon and mint, the puckery citrus cuts the inherent creaminess of the risotto, while flecks of fresh mint add freshness and aroma. I like to serve small plates of this as an elegant first course to a nice meal.

Lemon Risotto with Mint
Serves 6

6 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves, divided

Bring stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to lowest setting and keep warm.
Heat 1 tablespoon butter and oil in a deep skillet or pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened without coloring, 2 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat. Add wine. Cook, stirring, until the wine evaporates. Add stock 1 cup at a time, stirring until nearly all of the liquid is absorbed before adding the next cup. Continue until the rice is tender but not mushy. Remove pan from the heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 cup cheese, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add 2 tablespoons mint leaves. Serve immediately in bowls garnished with extra cheese, zest and mint.

You might also enjoy these recipes from TasteFood:
Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon
Greek Couscous Salad
Farro Pilaf