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Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

Last weekend I participated in the Farmers’ Market cook-off. We had a table loaded with kale, winter squash, summer squash, peppers, and beans to choose from. I also gathered some parsley, tomatoes, leeks, and onions from some of the vendors. One of my favorite things to eat this time of year is soup, I love it! So that is what I made.

I sautéed the onions and leeks in some of my favorite olive oil. (It is from Tunisia and is thick and buttery with a nice grassiness to it. It comes from one of my favorite food producers Les Moulins Mahjoub and is available at the At Home Store.)

Next, I added the peppers, tomatoes, and a few sprigs of parsley. While that was cooking, I prepared the various winters squashes. I forgot to bring a spoon to clean out the squash seeds but I discovered a new technique, a 1/4 cup measure is just the right size to clean it out in one scoop!

I let the squash saute a little before adding water. When the soup was about halfway through cooking (maybe a little more) I added some green beans, golden flat beans, and summer squash and salt. Then, when the soup was about 5 minutes from being ready, I fished out the parsley sprigs and discarded them. I took out a couple of cups of the soup and blended it until it was very smooth, and poured it back in the pot to thicken the broth. I then added some finely chopped kale and let it simmer until the kale was tender. I finished eat serving with a drizzle of olive oil, some black pepper and minced parsley.

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We were happy to have Avi teach a tapas style cooking class last month at the At Home Store! It was lots of good food, lots of garden vegetables, and lots of fun!


Here are some pictures along with the class handout Avi wrote.

Light Dishes for Summer
Cooking with Avi

- Torilla de Espana – New Potatoes Caramelized Onions and Chilies

- Summer Stew of Fresh Beans and Tomatoes served with toast

- Ragout of Fennel – with fresh peas carrots and caramelized shallots

- Seared seasonal vegetables with Garlic Aioli

- Sauté of summer squash and sweet corn with Savoy cabbage

These dishes, inspired by Spanish tapas, represent my favorite ways to prepare some of the bounty of summer. The flavors are clean and light but full of depth due to the browning and caramelizing of many of the ingredients. This menu is ideal for a backyard cocktail party. Any of these preparations would be a good side dish to accompany a main meal or simply as a delicious snack.

Tortilla de Espana – A potato omelet served hot or cold. This version includes caramelized onions as well as spices and chilies to give the classic dish a southwestern flavor.

Brown potatoes on medium high heat with plenty of olive oil. Add thinly sliced onions garlic and shallots. After the onions show color turn to low and cover for seven to ten minutes. While the potatoes cook soak 3-4 mild chilies in warm water. Once soft add to the potatoes and stir. Salt to taste.

Transfer potatoes to a large mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl mix six to eight eggs. Add to the cooked potato and mix well. Clean the potatoes cooking skilled of any large particles add plenty of olive oil a tablespoon or more. Heat to medium high. Pour in the potato eggs and shake pan to settle the mixture.

Cook for 4-5 minutes on medium high while slowly swirling the pan to allow the liquid egg to fill in the spaces at the edges of the pan. Turn to medium low and cover for twelve to fifteen minutes.

Take a flexible spatula and slowly loosen the underside of the omelet. Jostle pan to make sure it does not stick. Put a large plate over the skillet and in one motion turn the skillet upside down onto the plate. Slide omelet back into skillet and cook for 8 – 12 more minutes.


Aioli – Often described as garlic mayonnaise, but has many regional variations. This recipe is one I use often, as I have found it works and compliments many dishes.

Chop two large cloves of garlic.

In a mortar and pestle crush the chopped garlic with a large pinch of salt. Once thoroughly smashed add the egg yolk and mix until the mixture turns slightly lighter in color. Add two or three drops of lemon juice and stir for a few more moments. Taste and add salt if needed. While continuously stirring add olive oil one drop at a time – very slowly. The mixture should thicken and make a sucking sound. This is when you know the emulsification as happened. If the mixture is too thick add a few more drops of lemon juice and stir in some more oil. Sometimes I mix safflower oil with the olive oil to lighten the flavor and conserve the expensive ingredient. Serve with just about anything.

Thin aioli to make a salad dressing. Mix in chopped herbs or capers for a herb sauce.

(A picture of Avi making aioli. Sorry it’s so fuzzy)
Important terms and Concepts:

Umami- a Japanese concept which roughly translates as deliciousness. Umami is described as the fifth flavor along with salty sweet, sour, and bitter. Many foods have umami – it is often associated with mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, browned meats, soy sauce and other fermented foods such as cheese.

Maillard Reaction-The Maillard reaction is a form of nonenzymatic browning similar to caramelization. It results from a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, usually requiring heat. This reaction results in the brownness of toast, seared vegetables, caramel and any really good tasting food. In the process of breaking down the sugars and proteins under high heat – at least 310 degrees Fahrenheit – savory and complex flavors are created. For this reaction to occur properly the food should be relatively dry and free of acids.

Sauté- from the French to jump. Sautéing is a cooking technique where food is cooked in a hot pan and is mixed or flipped frequently. A good sauté will result in fresh clean flavors.

Emulsion – a suspension of water droplets in oil. Mayonnaise, aioli and hot dogs are all emulsified foods.

Searing- Browning food on high heat.

Deglaze- To dissolve the flavorful remnants of a sear or sauté from the pan using a liquid – often wine or stock.

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This morning I woke up, got my favorite market basket, (it’s from Ghana via the At Home Store, and I just love it! It fits so much produce and has a great leather-bound handle)….

….and headed out the door to meet my dad. I got to the farmers market and began my stroll down the aisle, I like to see who has what before I make my purchases. I saw my dad at the other end of the park and so I wandered over.

On my way down the row of vendors I spotted something amazing, something I never expected to find at the farmers market in Iowa. I rushed to get my dad, uttered a single word to him and we both made a bee-line right back to the booth. On the table lie big, sweet, green artichokes! Yes, artichokes! In my excitement I asked “did you make these?!” (I couldn’t even create a coherent question, silly me.) Well, of course she didn’t make them but she did grow them and they are beautiful! My dad and I bought several and walked away.

After collecting a few more goodies–carrots, radishes, cilantro, and onions–I went back to the artichokes and snatched them all up, I just couldn’t resist. Who in their right mind could. On my car ride home, the smell of artichokes filled the air, so sweet and fresh.

It has been two hours now and my hands still smell of them. I plan to devour them tomorrow for lunch, steamed. Melted butter optional. Followed by a glass of water, it might sound odd but next time you have an artichoke follow it up with some water.

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