Snap Pea Chutney

All cooks have a signature style. More often than not, mine is heavily dependent on the food processor, and involves creating slathers, spreads and dips. All cooks who are bloggers have a signature style, too. Our photos begin to look the same, the reader recognizes dishware, a preferred backdrop and lighting tendencies, but more importantly, the food begins to look like other previously created dishes. We all fall back on cooking practices that lie within our repertoire.

This fresh snap pea chutney, however, will fool you. I know it looks like other spreads and slathers I have created, but this one is surprising. You’ll be even more astonished when you find how it was served this evening.

Before I get to that, let me give you a little background. On the Fourth of July, my most favorite auntie brought for appetizers, a huge bowl of garden fresh snap peas – move over edamame! We sat around the kitchen table shelling the crisp little bundles and munching on fresh peas. Well, that got me to thinking about the snap peas that came in my CSA box. Last week we ate our snap peas with the pod on a chop salad, but this week I decided to shell them and turn them into a sort of chutney.

I also got a new cast iron wok to play with, so wanted to mix up a little Asian dinner. How could snap pea chutney and a stir-fry be paired? With peanuts and mint, what else! Bring on that fresh Southeast Asia blend to lighten a hot and spicy crispy fried green bean and ginger-fried cabbage. Do they do this in China? Do they serve a light condiment like they do in India to help relieve the heat, layer flavors and surprise the palate? Well, today it happened in my kitchen and it was fantastic.

Snap Pea Chutney

  • 1 cup fresh snap peas, shelled
  • 1 handful mint and cilantro
  • 1 garlic scape cut into 1-inch chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 1 Tbs. peanut oil
  • 1/2 lime, juiced

Directions:

Steam the peas over boiling water for three minutes until bright green and tender. Place all ingredients into food processor and pulse until blended. I opted to leave this one a little chunky, and the texture was a nice contribution to the meal.

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Indian Curry – A Dipper’s Twist

To make this Indian Curry, I opened the spice cabinet and started to scoop in all my favorite flavors. Over the last few years, Madhur Jaffrey and others have taught me the crucial importance of spice toasting.  This is so that one may extract each spice’s full potential, but I’m still a little unclear about the provincial nature of Indian flavors. I hope I have not disobeyed any rules regarding Northern or Southern Indian spice combination etiquette? All I know is what I like, and of course, watching those little popping mustard seeds gives me such a thrill! So, I mixed willy-nilly in a saute pan and finished with extra oil like you would a chimichurri or pesto. Use this sauce on any vegetable, to dip breads or as a marinade. This one served as a marinade for baked tofu, a dip for roasted potato spears and the topping for yesterday’s whole cauliflower.

Oh, by the way, I know the sauce looks hot, but it actually wasn’t, just flavorful! Buen Provecho!

Spanish Lesson: Buen Provecho means enjoy your meal! Andale!

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1” piece of ginger, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp. dried pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. Garam Masala
  • ½ tsp. red chili powder, to taste
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:

Coat the saute pan with half of the oil, and saute the onion until it begins to brown. Add chopped ginger and garlic and cook until they release their flavor. Next add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds. You want to make sure there is enough oil in the pan to coat the spices. Add the rest of the spices one after the other and stir them around in the pan until you hear the mustard seeds popping. Squeeze the lime juice into the mixture and then the rest of the oil. Turn off the heat, and remove the sauce from pan into a bowl. You don’t want anything to burn! If you want to smooth the sauce out, you can run it through a food proessor or blender.

Guacamole Dry with a Twist

The simple martini in the world of guacamole. It’s not quite straight up, not mashed, just 2 diced avocados folded gently with the juice of 1/2 a lime, a pinch of chopped cilantro and a little salt – that’s “Dry with a twist.” This is the fresh puritan sister of the rich and luscious Dirty version.

Pistachio Cranberry Pesto

Pistachios pulverized into pesto is nothing new, nor is their marriage to cranberries in the world of sweets, but how about zinging them together with whole coriander seeds and lime zest to make a heavenly pesto?

Since the rice last weekend steamed with coriander, I have been completely distracted. The coriander comes across as a really rich, intense lime flavor, not at all subtle. The heavenly scent of limes and all things green has been floating through my subconscious for days.

Today at the co-op, I spotted in tandem, a bag of green, raw pistachios and a container of dried cranberries. The hint of burgundy reflected from the pistachios and called for the partnership. The two were married, and as matron of honor, stood the whole coriander seed followed in train by a smattering of lime zest bridesmaids. To officiate the ceremony were the pair, olive oil and garlic, a combo designed to marry flavors of all sorts. Lime juice and a little salt provided a bright and festive tone to the occasion. In the end, the sweet-tart dried cranberry and the rich, stoic pistachio lived together in delicious bliss. Try it. It’s REALLY good!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, reconstituted
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • zest one lime
  • juice from one lime

Directions: Put cranberries in a bowl with a little water. Microwave for two minutes to soften. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until a fine paste forms.

Dirty Guacamole

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The avocado has so much potential. We’ve all had that killer bowl of guacamole somewhere in our lives, and once you’ve had a great one, the memory of it will linger. You will assume the next time you encounter a mashed avocado it will be equally as delicious as the last. However, I can’t count how many times I’ve waited patiently for a meal in a restaurant, anticipating a rich flavorful guacamole, but ended up feeling let down and disappointed. Instead of a “dirty” guacamole, I ended up with avocado “neat.”

We all like our guacamole a little different, so why don’t we give names to the different varieties like we do martinis?

Like martinis, there are three ways I like my guacamole: Dry with a twist, Dirty, and Stirred. Guacamole can be simply made with mashed avocado, lime juice and salt – that’s “Dry with a twist.” Mix it with lots of savory ingredients, including garlic, in order to enrich and layer the flavors, that’s “Dirty,” or the avocado can be left chunky with bits of jalapeno, red onion, cilantro, limejuice and salt. That’s what I refer to as “Stirred.” Replete with garlic, onions, chipotle peppers and lots of cilantro, today’s guacamole is of the “Dirty” persuasion.

Ingredients:

  • 4 avocados, mashed
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. finely diced red onion
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • juice from one lime
  • salt to taste

Directions:

In a food processor, chop the cilantro, garlic, onion and chipotle pepper. Mash the avocados in a bowl and gently mix in the cilantro mixture, salt and lime.

Herb Chimichurri

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I know, I know. We’re not supposed to serve anything with bits of green at a party, but we’re all friends. If someone starts to bare their teeth ever so slightly and seems to be fighting an uncontrollable urge to stick a fingernail between two teeth, take that as a cue to excuse yourself to the bathroom for a green speck check. What else are you supposed to do when basil is in season?

I have to admit something. I still have basil pesto in my freezer from last summer. It’s true. I like the stuff a lot – once a year. It’s just too rich for me. It’s easy to overdose on it. So, I like to use my basil to make chimichurri instead. It still holds the wonderful basil flavor and you can use it much the same, but it’s just a little lighter. I learned about chimichurri while living in Ecuador where it was mostly made from parsley and used as a condiment for meat or empanadas. Every now and then, in different restaurants, I detected different herbs. That was all the permission I needed to think outside the box with chimichurri. I have made it with whatever herbs I have on hand, and it always tastes great.

My patio herb pot is exploding, so I plucked a huge pile of greens including rosemary, thyme and sage. The basil came from the CSA, and the cilantro is local but from the co-op. As you can see, chimichurri is a great accompaniment to fresh tomatoes, a lovely spread on sandwiches or a great condiment for any warm savory summer dish.

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Herb Chimichurri Recipe

Ingredients:

All herb amounts are approximate:

  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 handful fresh sage
  • 1/2 tsp. dried pepper flakes (optional: fresh chile)
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Directions: Pulse in food procesor until well blended. This will be a little chunkier than pesto.

Coconut Cilantro Chutney

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I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I left you hanging yesterday with only a page number for this amazing sauce to scoop up with your spicy green beans and brown basmati.

This fabulous Indian recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian and can be found on page 663. It’s another mustard seed popper – I love that! I also love cilantro more than any other herb in the world, but have heard that some people don’t – I can’t imagine! This sauce is fresh and enormously flavorful and despite the fact that it has chiles in it, does not burn. In fact, it’s a great cool down accompaniment for spicy Indian dishes.

This recipe is so perfect that I do not improvise, but I do, of course, cut a few corners here and there. You know me.

Ms. Jaffrey states at the beginning of her recipe:

You may use 1 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut soaked in 3/4 cup of hot water for 30 minutes instead of fresh coconut, if you prefer. Use the soaking water as you grind.

First shortcut – I will absolutely use unsweetened dessicated coconut because I’ve lived in Latin America and I know how tricky it is to remove fresh coconut flesh.

Second shortcut – Put the coconut and water in a bowl and zap in the microwave for 2 minutes. While it’s cooling down, mix the other ingredients in the food processor or blender.

Coconut Cilantro Chutney Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup unsweetened coconut

3/4 cup water

1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger

2 medium shallots

2 fresh serranos

3 cups (or two bunches) cilantro

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tsp. peanut oil

1/2 tsp. whole brown mustard seeds

Directions:

Heat coconut with water in a microwave for two minutes. Let it sit until you mix all the other ingredients. In the food processor, pulse to chop the ginger, serrano peppers and shallots. Next add the cilantro and pulse. Scrape down the sides if you need. Add salt, sugar and lemon juice. Process until everything is chopped and starting to create a paste. Add the coconut and blend again. If it seems dry, you can add a drizzle of water.

In a saute pan heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they start popping, pour the oil and seeds into the coconut chutney and mix again. This chutney is served cold, so should be chilled in the refrigerator. According to Ms. Jaffrey, it should last 3 to 4 days and can also be frozen. Oh, heavenly deliciousness!

Tzatziki

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Flipping through the food folds of memory, I came across an old friend. Back when I was in college at the University of Minnesota, I met a Greek woman who was working on her PhD in physics. Following the custom of international friends in my family, I invited her to spend Christmas with us. We shared the Minnesota culinary custom of eating Wild Rice Casserole for Christmas dinner, and she taught us to eat Tzatziki and drink Ouzo. We eventually lost touch with each other, but her friendship is still alive in this light, refreshing and very versatile sauce. I love to serve this with warmed pita bread as a simple appetizer, it can be used to top spicy Indian dishes like a chutney, and is great as a light salad dressing.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 medium English cucumber peeled

Pinch kosher salt

1 clove garlic

1 tsp. olive oil

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

5 to 6 mint leaves

Directions: Peel cucumber and chop into 1-inch pieces. Put all ingredients in food processor and zing.

Feta Walnut Spread

Feta Walnut Spread

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This is why I am vegetarian and not vegan – I have too many European genes. We’ve been eating cheese and grains for thousands of years, I can’t stop now! Were it not for cheese I could easily eat an all vegan diet. I abhor milk and detest eggs, but put a plate of stinky cheese in front of me, and I simply cannot resist.

This lovely feta spread is as easy as easy can be, and it’s another good place to hide some greens from those picky eaters in your life. This one has basil, but I often use cilantro and spinach. I love to send it for school lunch as it holds up well on bread and makes a great sandwich, or can be sent in a side dish along with chunks of whole wheat or crackers. Yummy.

Ingredients:

1 chunk feta (I’ve been buying sheep’s milk feta)

1 clove garlic

1 small bunch basil leaves (or cilantro)

1/2 cup walnuts

drizzle of milk, soymilk or water

Directions: Throw everything in the food processor and pulse. As the feta breaks apart you will see that you need to add liquid until the spread gets smooth. I just drizzle the liquid in while the machine runs so you can see how much you will need. Sorry, I never measure.

Fennel and Rosemary Pesto

Fennel and Rosemary Pesto


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I never know what to do with the abundance of feathery fennel frond. I’ve often used a little chopped up in a salad, or a few sprinkles on a sandwich, but I always end up feeding most of the fennel fronds to the composter. Today I decided to make a pesto from it. I like that licorice flavor and thought it might pair nicely with the Onion and Fennel Galette I made. I didn’t want it to become too rich, so I left out any nuts and only used parmesan and garlic.

Ingredients:

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

4 cups fennel fronds

olive oil

4 cloves garlic

1/4 cup parmesan

Directions:

Throw it in the food processor. Add oil until you reach a creamy consistency. Nada Mas.