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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cucumber Lime Cooler

This cool summer drink can be made with or without alcohol.

Alcohol should always be enjoyed in moderation and red wine is my first choice, but I'm not opposed to the occasional cocktail, especially when it comes to summer entertaining.

I like to serve guests an apéritif, the traditional French before-dinner drink, and this refreshing cucumber lime cooler is a crowd pleaser. Unlike most cocktails that contain sugar, soda or fruit juice, this one is a healthier combination of vegetable juice, lime and mint. Use organic, unwaxed cucumbers and leave the skin on to get the most antioxidants in the juice.

Whether or not you add vodka, be sure to use a stainless steel cocktail shaker because this drink is best served very, very cold.

2 parts fresh organic cucumber juice, plus slices to garnish
1 part freshly squeezed lime juice
1 part good quality vodka (or substitute more cucumber juice)
1 part loosely packed mint leaves (2 or 3 sprigs), plus more to garnish
Ice cubes

Special equipment: juicer, stainless steel cocktail shaker

Juice the cucumber. Place 2 ice cubes at the bottom of a stainless steel cocktail shaker. Add the mint leaves on top and 2 more ice cubes. Use a large pestle or the end of a wooden spoon to muddle the mint and the ice cubes.

Add the cucumber juice, lime juice and vodka. Shake until very cold, pour over ice and serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cherry Salsa with Grilled Pacific Halibut

GLUTEN-FREE| DAIRY-FREE


To be perfectly honest, pitting and chopping cherries is a labor of love. It takes some time and effort, but you will be well rewarded with this unusual twist on salsa.

Spicy and sweet, it is a flavorful accompaniment to grilled fish and seafood. I served it with Pacific halibut, a firm fish that is good for grilling, high in healthy omega-3 fats, low in toxic contaminants, and approved by Seafood Watch. This fresh fruit salsa also pairs well with poultry or pork, and vegetarians can enjoy it over grilled tofu triangles drizzled with tamari.

I used local Rainier cherries from the farmer's market. They are yellow with a bright red blush and delicate flavor. You can substitute another variety of cherry if you wish.

I also used a Thai bird chili pepper, but jalapeno and Serrano chilies would also work well. I like my salsa spicy, so I used the whole chili. But if you prefer a mild salsa, remove the seeds and membranes from the chili pepper before you slice it.

1 pint cherries, pitted and finely chopped
1 scallion, green and white parts, thinly sliced
1 fresh Thai bird chili pepper, thinly sliced
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice , about 1 lime
Sea salt to taste
Halibut, 4 to 6 oz per person
Extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing

Pit the cherries by cutting them in half, working around the pit, and removing the pit with a spoon. If you want pieces consistent in size, slice each half into thirds, rotate them 90 degrees, then slice the thirds into thirds to yield 9 small cubes. If you favor speed over consistency, roughly chop the cherry halves instead.

Toss the prepared cherries with the other ingredients until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Allow the salsa to marinate so the flavors fully develop, up to 2 hours at room temperature or longer in the fridge until ready to eat.

Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Toss the halibut with olive oil until well-coated to prevent the fish from sticking. Season with sea salt. Place the fish on the hot grill and cook until grill marks appear, just a minute or two if you are using 1-2 inch chunks, then turn and continue cooking on other sides until the fish firms up and cooks through. Cooking time will depend on the size of the pieces of fish. Do not overcook.

Serve the grilled halibut immediately with Cherry Salsa and a big green salad.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Central Park Salad

GLUTEN-FREE

I live in the middle of Manhattan, but I can still forage for food.

I gathered all of these ingredients within a mile of my apartment except the sea salt, olive oil, and white wine vinegar (which I bought from the source on a trip to Napa). If I can do it in New York City, almost anyone can.

The amounts I used were dependent on what I found, so my measurements are only guidelines.For more information on these wild foods found in Central Park, read my this post on my other blog.

1 tbsp Wild Field Garlic cloves
1 tbsp Wild Chervil seeds
1 tbsp Poor Man's Pepper seeds
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Several small milk weed pods (1 to 2 inches long), boiled for 20 minutes and cooled
1 cup fresh Yellow Wood Sorrel leaves and flowers, and any tender stems in between
1 cup fresh Lamb's Quarters leaves
1 handful of fresh blackberries
1 handful of fresh Black Nightshade berries (DO NOT EAT THE LEAVES)

Add the garlic cloves and chervil seeds to the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Use a pestle or the back of a spoon to crush them against the bowl. Add the pepper seeds, white wine vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Whisk to combine, taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Slice the cooked milk weed pods in halves or quarters.

Add the sorrel and lamb's quarters to the bowl. Toss the greens lightly with the vinaigrette and transfer to a serving plate. Top with the sliced, cooked milk weed pods, blackberries and black nightshade berries. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Gooseberries

Gooseberries are a special treat. The season is short, usually limited to 3 or 4 weeks in late June and/or July, so get them while you can.

They come in a variety of colors: green, yellow and red. Green gooseberries, common early in the season, are usually tart and make good additions to savory dishes. But later in the season, after the natural fruit sugars have more time to develop, ripe red and yellow varieties are sweeter and can be eaten like any other berry.

The fruity, floral flavor of the red ones I found this morning was a winning combination of tart and sweet.

Gooseberries aren't just delicious, they are nutritious too. They contain a broad spectrum of nutrients and are notably high in vitamin C, potassium and fiber.

Besides gobbling them up on your way home from the farmer's market, how else can you enjoy gooseberries? 
  • Add them to fresh fruit salads
  • Stir them into plain, whole milk yogurt drizzled with honey
  • Scatter them over oatmeal or other whole grain breakfast cereal
  • Make chutney with them
  • Cut them in half to release some of their juice and toss them with finely chopped fresh chili pepper, minced scallion or red onion, sea salt and lime juice for a fresh fruit salsa to serve with fish, chicken, tofu or whatever you have on the grill
  • Toss them with green salads, for example: arugula, walnuts or pecans, crumbled feta or goat cheese, and balsamic or red wine vinaigrette

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Jasmine Iced Tea

During hot months, I always have a carafe of iced tea in my fridge and this is one of my favorites. It's light, floral and refreshing.
It's also healthy, as green tea is a potent source of antioxidants called catechins that help inhibit cancer cell activity, support brain health, and improve cardiovascular function.

Best left unsweetened, the delicate yet rich flavor needs no accompaniment. If you like jasmine green tea hot, you'll also love it cold.

I used jasmine pearls, high quality young green tea leaves scented with jasmine flowers and hand-rolled into pearls that unfold during infusion. You can use jasmine green tea bags instead, or any other green tea. Approximately 4 tea bags will be equivalent to the heaping tablespoon of pearls in this recipe. I store my iced tea in a 4-cup carafe, but if your container is larger, use more tea leaves and water as needed.

1 heaping tbsp jasmine pearls
1 cup near-boiling water
3 or more cups cold water

Add the jasmine pearls to a glass container (a glass measuring cup for liquids works well) and prepare the boiling water. If the water is at a full boil, it will burn the leaves, so remove the water from the heat just before it boils or let it sit for 1 minute if it comes to a full boil.

Pour 1 cup of the hot water over the tea leaves and steep for at least 10 minutes to get the full benefit of the healthy catechins.

Meanwhile, add 3 cups of cold water to a glass or ceramic carafe or pitcher.

Strain the tea into the carafe and taste. If desired, add more water to dilute the tea to your preferred strength. Serve over ice or chill until ready to drink.