Ah, green beans and summer squash! Summer produce is in full swing now. Early in the season I tend to keep things simple with these and I imagine you have your favorite recipes too. But do try the green beans with mint and feta if you have those two other ingredients. It’s a perfect combination. I didn’t give you any specific salad recipes but please look back at past week’s if you’re feeling uninspired. I’ve been ad-libbing constantly with the lettuce, mixing it with whatever I have on hand. This week it was previously cooked barley, lots of herbs and some avocado as well as with chickpeas, cilantro, and a cumin-lemon dressing and some feta. . . you get the idea!
Carrot, Harrissa and Feta Salad
Summer Squash Sauté
Summer Squash Fritters/Pancakes
Roasted Beets/Beet Salad Ideas (using cilantro)
Perfectly Cooked Green Beans (with Aioli)
Green Beans with Mint and Feta
Carrot Harissa and Feta Salad
–adapted from smittenkitchen.com
This salad is addictive. It calls for a bit of harissa which can be tricky to find. You can make your own (http://mideastfood.about.com/od/dipsandsauces/r/harissa.htm) or go to Pastaworks or Citymarket or the International Food Supply store on SE 76 and Stark. I also hear that Market of Choice carries it.
3/4 pound carrots, well-scrubbed and coarsely grated
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 crushed clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds or about half as much, ground (I used seeds but ground them first)
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds or about half as much, ground (I used the seed but ground them first, again)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
¾ – 1 teaspoon harissa (for a solid kick of heat; adjust yours to taste, and to the heat level of your harissa)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
100 grams feta, crumbled or chopped into bits
In a small sauté pan, cook the garlic, caraway, cumin, paprika, harissa and sugar in the oil until fragrant, about one to two minutes. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Pour over the carrots and mix. Add the herbs and mix. Leave to infuse for an hour and add the feta before eating.
Summer Squash Sauté
This is how I prepare the first of the season’s summer squash. And then I keep going back to it through the summer when I have little time and want something I love. It’s really hardly a recipe but it’s so, so good.
3 medium summer squash (or however much you want to use), sliced into bite-sized pieces, about 1/2 inch think
Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (don’t skimp on the oil) in a large skillet. When hot add the squash slices, several generous pinches of salt and cook over high to medium-high heat for a few minutes until the squash starts browning. Turn down to medium/medium-high and continue cooking until the squash is nice and browned and soft. It’s not the most beautiful dish but again, don’t be put off.
Adjust seasoning and enjoy with a little more good sea salt.
You can also add a finely minced clove of garlic a minute or two before the squash is done and and/or a few tablespoons of chopped basil. Both great additions but wonderful plain too.
Summer Squash Fritters
–Adapted from Michael Symon’s Live to Cook
These are pan-fried (so not very greasy at all) and absolutely delicious. They come together quickly and don’t be put off by grating the zucchini onto a dishtowel and wringing out the liquid. It’s easy and even fun to do and makes the fritters better.
3 medium zucchini or any kind of summer squash
1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (optional but wonderful)
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, dill, or basil
1-2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced on the bias (or a small piece of onion minced)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-3 ounces feta cheese, coarsely chopped or crumbled (or grated sharp cheddar or other cooking cheese)
Grated zest of ½ a lemon (optional)
3 tablespoons cornstarch or all-purpose flour
Olive or Safflower oil, for pan-frying
½ cup Greek yogurt (optional)
Grate the zucchini/squash on the large holes of a grater onto a clean kitchen towel. Sprinkle with the kosher salt and let it rest while you gather and prep the remaining ingredients.
Wrap the zucchini in the towel and wring as much liquid out of it as possible, discarding the liquid. In a medium bowl, combine the zucchini, mint, dill, scallion, garlic, pepper, feta and zest. Stir in the egg and flour (or cornstarch) and mix until well combined.
Add a scant tablespoon of oil to a large skillet. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Spoon about 3 tablespoons (about a ¼ cup) of batter into the pan. Depending on the size of your pan you should be able to fry about 3-5 at once. Flatten them a bit with the back of a spatula and cook until the fritters are golden brown on each side, 4 to 6 minutes.
Transfer the fritters to plates and garnish with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of dill.
Roasted Beets/Beet Notes
I roasted two bunches of beets last week. I used them throughout the week in salads of many kinds. One day I had avocado and lots of cilantro and mixed that with lettuce; one day it was sunflower seeds, lettuce, green onion and feta. . .
Beets take a while to cook and a little goes a long way with beets. I tend to roast all the beets I have at once and then use a bit here and there in different preparations the following days. I like the flavor of roasted beets best, though boiled is quicker and good too.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
1 bunch beets, trimmed of beat greens and scrubbed but not peeled. If they’re large I cut the beets in halves or quarters.
Place the beets in a large sheet of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with a little water and then fold the foil over and tuck it into itself to create a nicely sealed package. Place packet on a sheet pan in the hot oven. Roast for about 45 minutes (depending on size of your chunks of beet). A tester should easily pierce the beet.
Remove from oven, open package and let cool until you can handle them. Now the skin will come off easily. Peel beets. If you’d like toss them when still warm with a little red wine or sherry vinegar and a bit of salt. Beets do well with a little acidity and if you toss them in oil first the vinegar won’t get absorbed.
Now you can add them to salads of many kinds.
This is a delicious and beautiful variation on regular pesto. And if you have cooked or roasted beets on hand it’s very quick to pull together. I love it this time of year when I tend to assemble dinner out of a variety of cold things-salads, spreads, bread, cheese, etc. I love this on toasted crusty bread over some fresh goat cheese in particular. And you can top that lovely beet pesto crostini with some of the chopped, sautéed beet greens.
It also makes a perfect sandwich spread with feta or goat cheese and lots of lettuce and herbs. You can serve it over grains or roasted veggies or over pasta (it will get very pink!) mixed with some cooked greens.
1 1/2 cups cooked, diced beets
Generous handful of walnuts, toasted or raw (or hazelnuts or almonds)
1 small glove garlic
About ¼ -1/3 cup grated Parmesan or other hard cheese
¼ cup good-tasting olive oil
Salt and pepper
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice or 1teaspoon of cider, white wine or sherry vinegar
Process the cheese and nuts first until finely ground. Then add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Adjust seasoning to your liking.
To use with pasta, dilute with ¼ cup of hot pasta-cooking water before tossing with cooked pasta. Top with extra cheese.
Last week I included recipes for aioli and homemade mayonnaise and I’m including it here again because perfectly cooked green beans dipped in fresh aioli is a fleeting summer treat and I hope you’ll try it.
Perfectly-cooked-green-beans is a rather subjective thing. My idea of a perfectly cooked green bean for this preparation—dipped in aioli—is to cook them in generously salted, rapidly boiling water for about 5-6 minutes. Cooking really brings out the flavor in green beans and after 5-6 minutes you loose the “squeak” that you get if they’re not quite done enough. You want a big pot of water so the water returns to a boil right after you add the beans and it’s important to salt the water well, about 1 ½ tablespoons of kosher salt for a 6 quart pot of water. Drain them after 5-6 minutes and run under cold water. I don’t bother with the ice-bath method but you certainly can. Put out onto a dry dishtowel and pat dry. Serve with aioli, some boiled or roasted potatoes on the side and some canned Oregon Albacore and you’re half way to a sort of bastardized Salade Nicoise.
— With Mint and Feta or Goat Cheese
Cook the beans as described above. Then toss with a handful of chopped mint, an ounce or two of crumbled feta or fresh goat’s cheese, good olive oil and salt. This is a wonderful summer salad.
Homemade Mayonnaise and Aioli
Homemade Mayonnaise takes about 5 minutes to make and keeps well for 4-5 days. It’s delicious and endlessly useful and adaptable. As a dip for perfectly steamed broccoli or cauliflower; as part of a dressing for potato salad, in deviled eggs, egg salad, on sandwiches, spread for grilled fish, dressing for anything.
2 egg yolks (organic or from a local farm if possible)
1 -2 teaspoons lemon juice (plus possibly a bit more to taste at the end) or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard (optional)
Couple of pinches of kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
About 3/4 cup, more or less, sunflower, safflower oil or canola or some neutral vegetable oil
About 1/3 – 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
Whisk egg yolks with lemon juice and salt and pepper. Then very, very gradually start pouring in the oil in a very thin stream, whisking as you go. After you’ve incorporated about 1/4 cup of oil you can start speeding things up a bit. Continue until you have a consistency you like. It will get thicker and stiffer the more oil you add. Adjust salt and/or lemon juice if it needs more tang.
Note: if you just use olive oil the mayonnaise will be too bitter and strong. And if you are using a higher percentage of olive oil (than listed above) make sure it’s fairly light and fruity and not too strong.
Mash 3-4 cloves of garlic (more if you like it stronger and you can use more cloves if it’s fresh, young garlic since it’s not as strong) with the salt in a mortar or on a cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife until you have a paste. Whisk the garlic paste into the yolks before you begin adding the oil. You can use a higher percentage of good olive oil (up to half) for aioli since it’s meant to be a more strongly flavored sauce. The garlic flavor in the aioli will get stronger as it sits so don’t be surprised if it’s a bit mild to start.
Traditionally aioli is served as a dip with raw and steamed vegetables. It’s delicious with steamed green beans, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots; chickpeas; potatoes; etc. It’s also wonderful with grilled foods, in a sandwich or spooned in soup or pasta.
After you’ve made the basic mayonnaise, add herbs you have on hand. Chives, cilantro, parsley, basil, chervil, tarragon, a little thyme or summer savory are all good. Or use a combination of the above. I use this kind of mayo for deviled eggs, egg salad sandwiches, as a spread on sandwiches, thinned down as a salad dressing, on roasted veggies, etc.