Articles in Vegetables w/recipe

Residual heat from the grill is often enough to cook peppers and eggplants for delicious dips and salads. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

It’s midsummer and the barbecue has reached peak heat. Your butterflied chicken, leg of lamb or rib of grass-fed beef is now perfectly cooked and ready to serve. What to do with all that residual heat? The answer: You need to have on hand a bunch of peppers, eggplants and onions to throw onto the fire, ready to turn into any one of these delicious dips or salads.

First brush the vegetables with a little oil, then throw them straight onto the barbecue. The direct heat gives them a terrific smoky kick that you’ll never get if you just bake or broil them. Serve any of the following  recipes with your ready-grilled meat or fish (or have them lined up ready for that next barbecue) or as a dip with crackers, toast, pita or crusty bread.

Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ghanoush. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

Baba Ghanoush. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

 

(Salad or dip of roasted eggplant with yogurt and cilantro)

Baba ghanoush is a piquant eggplant sauce/dip/salad originally from Egypt and found throughout the Middle East with slight variations and different spellings. This one has yogurt instead of the more usual tahini, giving a lighter, less rich result. Be sure to prick the eggplant all over first, otherwise it will explode. Serve as a dip with pita or as a sauce or relish with kebabs or kofta.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes on the barbecue

Total time: 40 minutes

Yield: About 1 cup

Ingredients

1 large eggplant

Olive oil for brushing

1/2 cup natural yogurt

6 tablespoons olive oil

Juice from 1/2 lemon

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Plenty of chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

1. Light the barbecue and get it good and hot.

2. Brush or rub the eggplant all over with oil, prick it in a few places with a fork and grill until the skin is seriously toasted and the eggplant quite soft and deflated — at least 20 minutes, depending on your heat source — turning it often to toast it evenly.

3. Remove the eggplant, allow to cool, cut in half, scrape the flesh out of the skin and discard the skin.

4. For a textured baba ghanoush, mash together with a fork the eggplant flesh with the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, chopped herbs (reserve some for sprinkling on top) and salt and pepper to taste. For a smoother result, use a food processor.

5. Cover with cling film and refrigerate.

6. Sprinkle with reserved herbs just before serving.

Muhammara

Muhammara. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

Muhammara. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

 

(Spicy Syrian pepper and nut dip)

A colorful and delicious nutty, peppery concoction from Syria. Muhammara goes great with any grilled foods or with toasted sourdough.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Yield:  About 1 cup

Ingredients

1 red pepper

Olive oil for brushing

4 ounces (about 100 grams) walnuts or 2 ounces (50 about grams) each walnuts and pine nuts

2 to 3 slices sourdough or French-style country bread, crusts removed, cut in cubes

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon paprika

Salt to taste

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon crushed red chiles

6 tablespoons olive oil

Basil leaves and flowers for garnish (optional)

Directions

1. Brush the pepper with a little olive oil and sear on the barbecue, turning it often till evenly blackened and blistered — about 10 minutes if the barbecue is good and hot.

2. Rub off the skin (easiest to do under running water), remove the stalk and seeds and chop the flesh roughly.

3. Place the pepper flesh in a food processor with walnuts (and pine nuts, if using), bread cubes, lemon juice, sugar, cumin, paprika, salt, crushed garlic and crushed chiles. Process to a rough paste.

4. With the motor still running, pour the olive oil through the funnel in a steady stream and continue processing until the mixture has lightened in color and is fairly smooth.

5. Tip into a bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate.

6. Garnish with basil leaves and flowers just before serving, if desired.

 Ajvar

Ajvar. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

Ajvar. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

 

(Balkan eggplant and pepper dip)

Typically served with burgers, this gorgeous brick-red paste is great with all kinds of meat or fish or slathered on toasted French country or sourdough bread.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Yield: About 2 cups

Ingredients

2 red peppers

2 medium eggplants

Olive oil for brushing

4 cloves garlic, unpeeled

A pinch of crushed chiles or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

1. Rub peppers and eggplants with a little oil and prick eggplants all over with a skewer.

2. Roast the vegetables on the barbecue until the peppers are blackened and blistered (about 10 minutes) and the eggplants are quite soft and deflated (at least 20 minutes) — turning them occasionally to ensure even roasting.

3. While the vegetables are roasting, put the unpeeled garlic in a small frying pan or on a griddle and toast until the skins are a little brown and the garlic is soft inside. Remove skins and mash the garlic.

4. Peel the peppers and remove the stalks and seeds; scrape the flesh out of the eggplants and discard the skins. Put the peppers and eggplant flesh in a blender/processor.

5. Add mashed garlic to the blender or food processor with chiles or cayenne, season with salt and pepper and blend till smooth.

6. With motor running, pour olive oil through the hole in the blender lid or through the food processor funnel and continue blending or processing till the mixture thickens and lightens.

7. Tip ajvar into a bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate until needed.

Salad of roasted eggplant, peppers and onions with herbs and pine nuts

Salad of roasted eggplant, peppers and onions with herbs and pine nuts. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

Salad of roasted eggplant, peppers and onions with herbs and pine nuts. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

This recipe has its roots in escalivada, a great Catalan staple of roasted eggplants, peppers and onions drizzled with olive oil. Here I’ve added some balsamic vinegar for interest and toasted pine nuts for contrast.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes on the barbecue

Total time: 30 to 40 minutes (plus, ideally, several hours to marinate)

Yield: 4 to 6 servings as an appetizer

Ingredients

3 medium eggplants, about 1½ pounds

1 red, 1 green and 1 yellow pepper

Olive oil for brushing

1 red onion, unpeeled, halved

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic, peeled and slivered

Salt to taste

2 to 3 tablespoons pine nuts

Directions
1. Rub the eggplants and peppers with a little oil and prick eggplants all over with a skewer.

2. Lay the eggplants, peppers and onion halves on the barbecue and grill until the eggplants are blackened and soft, the peppers thoroughly blistered and blackened and the onion soft. The peppers and onions should take about 10 minutes and the eggplants at least 20 minutes, depending on your fire. Turn the eggplants and peppers a few times during grilling, so they roast evenly.

3. Strip the skin off the eggplants and cut the flesh in strips.

4. Peel the peppers and cut the flesh in strips.

5. Peel the onion and slice thinly.

6. Lay all the vegetables on a platter, alternating the colors. Sprinkle with oil and balsamic vinegar, scatter garlic slivers and salt over the top and leave to marinate for a few hours or overnight.

7. Toast the pine nuts in a small, heavy-based pan without any oil (they have plenty of their own), shaking the pan frequently till pine nuts are evenly golden — take care not to burn them!

8. Sprinkle pine nuts over the salad and serve at room temperature.

Main photo: Residual heat from the grill is often enough to cook peppers and eggplants for delicious dips and salads. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

More from Zester Daily:

» 4 fruits and veggies great for grilling, plus 2 to skip

» Take a 4-course meal outdoors with a grill party

» Give carrots a Middle Eastern lift with tahini

» The secret to medieval eggplant

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Sorrel soup with crème fraîche prepared by chef Jacques Fiorentino at L'Assiette Steak Frites. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Puréed vegetable soups make an excellent entrée for a delicious meal consisting entirely of a soup and salad.

Wanting an authentic French recipe, I visited chef Jacques Fiorentino in the West Hollywood kitchen of his restaurant L’Assiette Steak Frites where he demonstrated his easy-to-prepare sorrel soup.

Sorrel brings dark, leafy goodness

Fresh sorrel, Coleman Family Farm (Santa Barbara and Ventura County) at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Fresh sorrel, Coleman Family Farm (Santa Barbara and Ventura County) at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Sorrel is not spinach. The leaves are similar, but the flavor is completely different. Richly flavored with citrus notes, sorrel’s dark green pointed leaves are a good source of potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C.

Unlike many leafy greens, sorrel is a perennial. One spring we were given a small plant in a 3-inch pot. During the first year the plant doubled in size. By pinching off the floral buds and harvesting the young leaves, the plant flourished and we enjoyed sorrel soup on a regular basis. After several years it grew so vigorously that it all but took over the garden.

A riff on soupe à l’oseille, a French classic

Calling his restaurant Steak Frites, Fiorentino announced to the world that his restaurant was solidly in the French bistro tradition. The dark wood interior and precise menu puts a spotlight on favorites that would be found in neighborhood restaurants throughout France.

Like Proust and his madeleines, Fiorentino uses a few carefully chosen dishes to evoke his childhood in Paris. For him that means grilled steak, double-cooked french fries (frites), foie gras and sorrel soup with deep herbal accents. As a nod to contemporary preferences he added salmon and, for vegetarians, portobello mushrooms with frites.

Wash. Sauté. Simmer. Blend. Season.

Immersion blender puréeing sorrel soup in the kitchen at L’Assiette Steak and Frites. Copyright2015 David Latt

Immersion blender puréeing sorrel soup in the kitchen at L’Assiette Steak and Frites. Copyright2015 David Latt

Depending on the chicken flavoring used, you will need more or less salt. Homemade chicken stock has the least salt and is preferred. Packaged stock, chicken concentrate and bouillon cubes have considerably higher salt contents.

Good quality concentrated chicken stock and bouillon cubes can be purchased in restaurant supply stores and supermarkets. Since the sodium content varies considerably, delay adding salt to the soup until all ingredients have been blended, then taste and season.

A vegetarian version can be created by substituting vegetable for chicken stock. As with chicken stock, homemade vegetable stock is preferable to bouillon cubes and will have a lower salt content.

In the restaurant, Fiorentino uses potato flakes for flavor and convenience. If you would prefer to use potatoes, boil the potatoes in salted water until a paring knife pierces the flesh easily. Allow to cool, peel, cut into quarter-sized pieces, add to the soup and blend.

L’Assiette Sorrel Soup

Sorrel soup with sorrel simmering in the kitchen of chef Jacques Fiorentino's L’Assiette Steak and Frites. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Sorrel soup with sorrel simmering in the kitchen of chef Jacques Fiorentino’s L’Assiette Steak and Frites. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Total time: 60 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

4 ounces unsalted butter

1 small red onion, washed, peeled, roughly chopped

1/2 stalk celery, washed, trimmed, roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves

1 medium-sized potato, Yukon Gold preferred, washed

1 1/2 cups chicken stock (homemade preferred) or 1½ cups water and 3 cubes Knorr chicken bouillon

8 ounces whole milk

4 ounces cream

1/4 pound fresh sorrel, washed, leaves only

Sea salt to taste

Pinch freshly ground white pepper, finely ground

Directions

1. Heat a large saucepan over a medium flame. Add butter, melt and allow to lightly foam. Add chopped onion and celery, stir well and sauté until the onion is lightly translucent. Do not allow to brown. Add thyme and marjoram, stir well to combine flavors.

2. Boil a pot of salted water, cook whole potato, covered, for 20 minutes or until a pairing knife enters easily. Set aside to cool.

3. Add liquid, either chicken stock or water, stir well and continue simmering for a minute or two. Pour in milk and cream, stir well and bring flame up to medium so the liquids simmer five minutes to combine the flavors, being careful not to boil.

4. Add whole sorrel leaves. Stir into the soup. Reduce flame so the soup simmers. Stir frequently and cook 25 to 30 minutes to combine flavors. If water was used instead of chicken stock, add chicken bouillon or base, stir well. Simmer an additional 5 minutes.

5. Blend the soup using either an immersion or a general purpose blender, about 5 minutes. Peel the cooked potato, dice and add to the soup. Blend until smooth.

6. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and freshly ground white pepper.

Serve hot with fresh bread and, if desired, a tossed green salad.

Main photo: Sorrel soup with crème fraîche prepared by chef Jacques Fiorentino at L’Assiette Steak Frites. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

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Broccoli. Credit: Copyright 2011 Lori Shepler

Broccoli is a vegetable that makes for a wonderful salad. Its bright green color and crisp-tender texture can be appealing if cooked properly.

Cooking broccoli properly might seem like a no-brainer, but many people do not do so. Broccoli, and all cruciferous vegetables, must not be overcooked, otherwise chemicals in the plant break down and release sulfurous compounds, such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, and interact with the chlorophyll in the plant, which cause the broccoli to turn an unappetizing brownish-grey color and have a very unpleasant smell.

This chemical reaction is probably why some people don’t like broccoli. I imagine that at a young age they ate improperly cooked broccoli.

Broccoli should always be cooked in small amounts of water until it is crisp-tender and retains its bright green color; it should never be cooked until limp. That means broccoli should not be cooked more than five minutes.

Here are five broccoli recipes, all Mediterranean-style dishes that make wonderful accompaniments to your Labor Day grill party.

Broccoli With Golden Bread Crumbs, Oil-cured Olives and Orange Zest

Broccoli with golden bread crumbs, oil-cured olives and orange zest. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Broccoli with golden bread crumbs, oil-cured olives and orange zest. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

This is an appealing Sicilian-style salad with a great taste thanks to the orange zest and black olives. It’s important not to overcook the broccoli even by a minute because you want the taste and the beautiful color contrast of bright  green to come through. Oil-cured olives are crinkly skinned, but you can use any good-quality black olive if you can’t find them.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 pound broccoli

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

15 oil-cured black olives, pitted

1 teaspoon orange zest

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling (optional)

Directions

1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and blanch the broccoli for 3 minutes. Drain, cool and break into florets.

2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat with the anchovies and garlic until sizzling. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring until the bread crumbs are golden brown, about 4 minutes.

3. Arrange the broccoli on a serving platter and sprinkle on the olives. Sprinkle the bread crumb and anchovy sauce around and then add the orange zest. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired, and serve at room temperature.

Broccoli and White Onion Salad

Broccoli and white onion salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Broccoli and white onion salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

White onion rather than yellow onion is critical in this broccoli salad not only because of taste but for the color contrast with the green, white and orange. This salad also makes for a nice antipasto or accompaniment, with grilled or roast meat.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

3 pounds broccoli

1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped

Zest from 1 orange

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Orange wedges for garnish (optional)

Directions

1. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and plunge the broccoli in to blanch it for 2 minutes. Drain and cool quickly. Return the broccoli to a steamer or strainer and steam until tender with a slight crunch, 6 to 7 minutes. Let the broccoli drain and cool in the strainer.

2. Break the broccoli into florets and toss with the white onion and orange zest in a large bowl.

3. In another bowl, dissolve the sugar in the white wine vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil, oregano, anchovies and garlic. Pour over the broccoli and toss again seasoned with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large serving platter and garnish with orange wedges, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Green and Yellow Salad

Green and yellow salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Green and yellow salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

The colors are startling in this zippy salad. It’s great with something off the grill, and the leftovers can be tossed with pasta and olive oil.

Prep time: 3 minutes

Cooking time: 8 minutes

Total time: 11 minutes

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Ingredients

1 pound broccoli, broken into small florets

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped

Extra virgin olive oil to taste

Coarse salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the broccoli 5 minutes. Drain well, cool, then toss with the yellow pepper and add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Broccoli With Oil-cured Olives and Lemon Zest

Broccoli with oil-cured olives and lemon zest. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Broccoli with oil-cured olives and lemon zest. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

What a beautiful dish! The brilliant green of broccoli, the pitch black of the olives and the sunny flecks of lemon zest make for an appetizing presentation. In this recipe, you blanch the broccoli first to keep its brilliant green color.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

2 pounds broccoli

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted or unpitted

1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes

Zest of 1/2 lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a rapid boil, then blanch the broccoli for 2 minutes. Drain and dunk into ice-cold water immediately to stop it cooking. Set aside.

2. In a bowl, mix the garlic with the olive oil.

3. Remove and drain broccoli from ice-water bath.

4. Slice the broccoli and after it has cooled, mix it in a large bowl with olives, chile, lemon zest, garlic mixture, salt and pepper.

5. Serve at room temperature.

Broccoli and Roasted Red Bell Pepper

Broccoli and roasted red bell pepper. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Broccoli and roasted red bell pepper. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Good and good for you. That was a phrase I often heard from my mom when I was growing up. She never quite made it this way, but this Italian-American family-style side dish of bright green broccoli and brilliant red bell pepper is a delight to look at, a delight to eat and it’s good for you.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cooking time: 8 minutes

Total time: 10 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds broccoli, sliced and broken into florets

1 roasted red bell pepper, sliced into strips

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the broccoli 5 minutes. Drain a bit and transfer to a mixing bowl. Toss with the remaining ingredients and arrange on a serving platter.

Main photo: Broccoli. Credit: Copyright 2011 Lori Shepler

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The buttery orange broth of Secret Soup hides a plethora of fresh vegetables alongside lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime and chicken. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rose Winer

In a recent stroke of luck, I was able to join my parents on a last-minute trip to Laos. Naturally, the first thing on my mind was: What will the food be like? Never having encountered Lao cuisine in the United States, I had no idea what to expect. So my palate was piqued when we arrived in Luang Prabang, the country’s former northern capital at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers.

A foodie adventure

The Bamboo Tree restaurant lures with the enticing scents of coconut and lemongrass. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rose Winer

The Bamboo Tree restaurant lures with the enticing scents of coconut and lemongrass. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rose Winer

Once settled in we immediately sought out some local food and stumbled across a restaurant off the main road, named Bamboo Tree. Lured by the enticing scents of coconut and lemongrass and by a menu on which we recognized nothing — always a good indicator of foodie adventure — we sat down. The menu told of the restaurant’s Lao chef and owner Linda Moukdavanh Rattana, who was raised cooking in her family’s Lao restaurant and whose favorite dish was something called “Secret Soup,” which combined classic local ingredients. Ordering it was a no-brainer.

Coconut milk and chilies

Chili and garlic, on display at the local market, are two crucial players behind the spicy heat of many Lao dishes.  Credit: Copyright 2015 Rose Winer

Chili and garlic, on display at the local market, are two crucial players behind the spicy heat of many Lao dishes. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rose Winer

The soup arrived with a handsome buttery orange color that foretold of coconut milk and chilies, with green hints of basil and kaffir lime leaves. One slurp later I was in gastronomic exotica, floating through a savory journey of creamy coconut offset by tangy lemongrass, spicy ginger, citric lime, aromatic basil and kicking chili heat, rounded out by a rich harvest of vegetables. Somewhat to my culinary embarrassment, I am not usually a fan of coconut- and chili-based food — Thai, mostly — since I tend to find it too cloyingly sweet, spicy or oily. But this soup opened my taste buds to the complex yet comforting flavors these ingredients can have when plucked fresh and combined in a meticulous way that allows each subtle flavor to come forth. If this was Lao food, I needed to learn more. When I heard Linda offered cooking classes, I signed up.

Three key ingredients

The three key ingredients of Lao cuisine -- lemongrass, kaffir lime and galangal -- alongside chili, garlic, and onion, which are common to many Southeast Asian foods. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rose Winer

The three key ingredients of Lao cuisine — lemongrass, kaffir lime and galangal — alongside chili, garlic, and onion, which are common to many Southeast Asian foods. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rose Winer

As our class visited the local market for ingredients and choose dishes to cook (obviously my vote was for Secret Soup), I took my culinary questions to the source. According to Linda, the three key flavors of Lao cooking are galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime. Although these ingredients also appear in Thai and other Southeast Asian food, Linda affirmed they form the triumvirate base of Lao cuisine.

Among these ingredients I became particularly fascinated by galangal, which I had never seen before, and coconut milk, which I usually find too overpowering. Linda informed us that while related to ginger, galangal is much harder in texture and has more earthy and citrus flavors — so the two should never be substituted. As for the fresh coconut milk, it is easily found in Laos and its freshness is crucial for creating a dish that isn’t too creamy or sweet. But where fresh milk is hard to come by (as in the United States), one can substitute pure canned milk that avoids sweeteners, emulsifiers and other additives. Either way, adding coconut milk at both the beginning and end of the cooking process is key to balancing the chilies’ heat without veering toward overly sweet.

Complex flavors

A variety of spices are used in Lao cuisine to produce different levels of heat and add flavor complexity in balance with ingredients like coconut milk and lemongrass. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rose Winer

A variety of spices are used in Lao cuisine to produce different levels of heat and add flavor complexity in balance with ingredients like coconut milk and lemongrass. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rose Winer

As with many Lao dishes, Secret Soup embodies a larger theme of Lao cuisine: years of mutual culinary influence with neighboring countries. For example, Laos and northeastern Thailand (Isan) were once part of the same country, leading to a shared culinary heritage. The Secret Soup contains items typically associated with Thai food, such as coconut milk and chilies, while also emphasizing the complex umami flavors, aromatic fresh herbs and spicy edge apparent in both Lao and Thai dishes. Yet the soup also displays typical Lao spicy-sour-bitter notes — from the blend of galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime and chili — instead of classic Thai sweet-sour flavors. Other Lao dishes might delicately indicate that the Lao originally migrated from China, carrying Chinese techniques with them, and many foods in the Laotian capital Vientaine still carry the legacy of French Indochina.

Authentic Lao cuisine

Local market vendors display their many varieties of sticky rice, a Lao diet staple. Lao people eat more sticky rice than anyone else in the world. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rose Winer

Local market vendors display their many varieties of sticky rice, a Lao diet staple. Lao people eat more sticky rice than anyone else in the world. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rose Winer

These similarities, according to Linda, often make it difficult to identify “authentic Lao” cuisine. In fact, the close correlations between Thai and Lao food are the reason for the seeming lack of Lao restaurants in the United States. Many Lao restaurants are established under the guise of Thai, since the latter have achieved more mainstream popularity. But a number of Thai places can actually be identified as Lao through traditional Lao dishes such as sticky rice — the staple food of the Lao — papaya salad, fermented fish paste, or others, such as Secret Soup, based on the three key Lao ingredients. Ultimately, Secret Soup was not only my first taste of Laos — it also gradually expressed the country’s elaborate history of culinary exchange, appropriately lending the dish’s title new meaning. Just as I pass on the recipe from Linda here, you can carry on the tradition by translating the culinary complexities of Laos to your own dinner table.

Bamboo Tree Secret Soup

Fresh coconut milk sits side by side with oil -- which is used sparingly in Lao dishes -- surrounded by fresh vegetables and a variety of pastes used for umami flavor and spicy kick. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rose Winer

Fresh coconut milk sits side by side with oil — which is used sparingly in Lao dishes — surrounded by fresh vegetables and a variety of pastes used for umami flavor and spicy kick. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rose Winer

Ingredients

5 stalks lemongrass

10 slices galangal

1 handful each of shallots, onions and garlic, sliced

2 tablespoons sunflower or soybean oil

5 kaffir lime leaves

3/4 pound of chicken filet, sliced

2 cups coconut milk, separated

1 to 2 teaspoons chili paste, amount to taste

1 handful mushrooms, jelly, oyster, maitake or combination

1/4 handful potato, cubed

1/4 handful green beans or long beans

1/4 handful eggplants, cubed

3 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons soybean paste

1 teaspoon chili powder

Red chilies, to taste, crushed

2 cups water

5 basil leaves

3 tablespoons lime juice (kaffir or regular)

Extra coconut milk (optional)

Directions

1. Finely chop lemongrass, galangal, shallots, onion and garlic.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat in wok, then stir-fry lemongrass, galangal, shallots, onion, garlic and kaffir lime leaves until golden brown.

3. Add chicken, stirring over high heat. Stir in 1 cup coconut milk and the chili paste, cooking for a couple minutes.

4. Stir in the other ingredients, finishing with the rest of the coconut milk and the water. Cook for 10 minutes.

5. Just before serving, add the basil leaves and lime juice, and more coconut milk, if preferred.

Notes:

  • Galangal, kaffir lime and lemongrass can be ordered online or found in specialty Asian markets. Do not substitute for any of these ingredients as they are crucial to the soup’s flavor — but they’re also just for flavor, so don’t eat them!
  • For the chicken, I would suggest sticking with white meat, which works very well.
  • Add the rest of the coconut milk, and the water, gradually — you can use less than the recipe calls for, depending on how much of the coconut flavor you prefer. But also make sure to taste the final result after everything cooks, since you may end up wanting to add in that extra coconut milk before serving.
  • If your wok isn’t large enough for all of the ingredients, transfer to a pot on high heat after the first cup of coconut milk and the chili paste are added.

Main photo: The buttery orange broth of Secret Soup hides a plethora of fresh vegetables alongside lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime and chicken. Credit: Copyright 2015 Rose Winer

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Charred ears of corn on a grill. The corn will be used in a Mexican corn salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

An abundance of corn in farmers markets is a delight and a challenge. Having already grilled platters of corn on the barbecue and boiled armfuls of shucked ears, it is time to invent another way to enjoy one of summer’s most delicious vegetables. Borrowing the flavors of elote, a Mexican classic, turns grilled corn into a salad that will delight everyone at the table.

Mexican street food delight

An elote, or corn on the cob, sign at Cerveteca Taco & Torta Joint in Culver City, California. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

An elote, or corn on the cob, sign at Cerveteca Taco & Torta Joint in Culver City, California. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Travel in Mexico and you’ll encounter street vendors selling a great number of delicious food snacks. One of my favorites is elote, or corn on the cob, in which an ear of corn is cooked, dusted with dry cheese and seasoned with chili powder and fresh lime juice. The ear of corn is always served whole, sometimes resting in a paper dish or with a stick in the bottom like a corndog.

Elote is delicious but messy to eat. First there is the matter of the whole ear of corn, which takes two hands to manage. And, with each bite, the finely grated Cotija cheese tends to float off the corn and drift onto clothing.

Deconstructing elote

Charred corn kernels cut off the cob in a seasoning pan to make Mexican corn salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Charred corn kernels cut off the cob in a seasoning pan to make Mexican corn salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Cutting the kernels off the cobs makes the seasoned corn so much easier to enjoy. In Mexico there is a corn kernel snack called esquites, which employs some of the seasonings used in making elote. This recipe is different because no mayonnaise is mixed with the corn. Mexican Corn Salad can be served as a light and refreshing entrée topped with a protein or as a side dish accompanying grilled vegetables, meats, poultry and fish. The elote salad is the perfect summer recipe.

The best way to cook corn on the cob is a topic of heated debate. There are those who will only boil corn, others who will only grill it. I have seen elote prepared both ways. My preference is to strip off the husk and grill the ear so that some of the kernels are charred, adding caramelized sweetness to the salad.

Just the right cheese

Cotija cheese finely grated to use in Mexican corn salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Cotija cheese finely grated to use in Mexican corn salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

What gives elote its distinctive flavor is the combination of finely grated dry Mexican Cotija cheese, spicy chili powder and fresh lime juice. Powdery when finely grated, Cotija cheese is salty so you may not need to add salt when you make the corn salad. Often described as having qualities similar to feta and Parmesan, Cotija tastes quite different.

Mexican Corn Salad

Mexican Corn Salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Mexican Corn Salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 to 20 minutes

Total time: 25 to 30 minutes

Yield: 4 entrée servings or 8 side dish servings

Ingredients

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

4 large ears of corn, husks and silks removed, washed, dried

1/2 cup finely grated Cotija cheese

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

3 cups Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, chopped

2 limes, washed, quartered

Directions

1. Preheat an indoor grill or outdoor barbecue to hot.

2. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a flat pan and season with sea salt and black pepper.

3. Roll the ears of corn in the seasoned olive oil to coat all sides.

4. Using tongs, place the corn on the grill, turning every 2 to 3 minutes so that some of the kernels char, being careful not to burn the ears.

5. When cooked on all sides, remove and let cool in the flat pan with the seasoned olive oil.

6. To cut the kernels off the cob, use a sharp chef’s knife. Hold each ear of corn over the pan with the seasoned oil and slice the kernels off the cob.

7. Transfer the kernels and the remaining seasoned oil into a large mixing bowl.

8. Add Cotija cheese, chili powder and parsley. Toss well.

9. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the salad and toss.

10. Serve at room temperature with lime wedges on the side.

Notes: Adding finely chopped Italian parsley to the seasoned corn kernels brightens the flavors. Cilantro can be used instead of parsley to give the salad a peppery flavor.

Traditionally, mayonnaise is slathered on the elote or mixed into esquites before adding the cheese and chili powder. I prefer to use olive oil to give the salad a lighter taste.

To use as an entrée, top with sliced grilled chicken, shrimp or filet of fish.

The salad can be prepared ahead and kept in the refrigerator overnight. In which case, do not add the Cotija cheese or parsley until just before serving.

To create a large, colorful salad, just before serving, toss the seasoned corn and parsley with quartered cherry tomatoes, cut-up avocados and butter lettuce or romaine leaves.

After tossing, taste the salad and adjust the amount of Cotija cheese and chili powder.

Main photo: Charred ears of corn on a grill. The corn will be used in a Mexican corn salad. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

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Jerk Lamb Corn and Fruit Kebabs. Jamaican jerk spices rubbed into the lamb add a Caribbean punch to any grilling. The allspice -- key to Jamaican food -- unexpectedly highlights the juicy fruit and sweet corn. Serve with a rum punch. Credit: Copyright 2015 Tami Weiser

Right now, farmers market corn is as sweet as it gets. Soaked in the husk for a few hours and then thrown onto the grill to steam until tender, the corn is salted and a bit of heaven is revealed. It’s summer, and fresh corn on the cob is what everyone wants to eat.

But don’t stop there. The in-season bounty demands experimentation. Fresh sweet corn is crunchy, sweet, light and versatile. Cut fresh from the cob, corn brightens up salads, stews … even ice cream.

We’ve pulled together 14 fresh dishes that will surprise and delight your family. This is the beginning of your corn adventure. Buy a bushel and let the fun begin!


More from Zester Daily:

» Roasted tomato and corn salad, all-American for the holiday

» Have fresh corn all year? Freeze it!

» The secret for velvety corn soup without the cream

» This year, try a corn dish from the first Thanksgiving

Main photo: Jerk Lamb Corn and Fruit Kebabs. Credit: Copyright 2015 Tami Weiser

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Kale is the perfect bed upon which to build a salad, as well as being packed with nutrients. Credit: Thinkstock

Chopped ultrathin in a style called a chiffonade, kale is a perfect bed upon which to build your salad dreams. And since it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, with vitamins A, K, C, B6, manganese, calcium, copper, potassium and magnesium to boot, it’s pretty much the Tempur-Pedic of salad beds. Try these simple combinations to become a kale fan for life. And make sure that your kale was harvested correctly — too late and the leaves turn bitter, a winning characteristic for no one.

Apple of your eye

Pair kale with sweet and tart apples, and add in some pistachios and feta. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Pair kale with sweet and tart apples, and add in some pistachios and feta. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Sweet and tart apples make kale salads meet all of your taste requirements for sweet, bitter, sour and umami. Try a Pink Lady sliced thin paired with pistachios and feta, and mix gently with a dressing of fig vinegar and high-quality olive oil.

Spinach-less

Update the classic spinach salad with kale instead, adding bacon, tomatoes, eggs and red onions. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Update the classic spinach salad with kale instead, adding bacon, tomatoes, eggs and red onions. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

The classic spinach salad combination of bacon, grape tomatoes, hard-boiled egg and red onion gets an updated nutritional boost by replacing the spinach with kale. Toss in a vinaigrette made with warm bacon fat, olive oil and your favorite balsamic.

Citrus is the star

Kale gets a citrus boost in this salad. You can also add pears and thin-sliced fennel.  Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Kale gets a citrus boost in this salad. You can also add pears and thin-sliced fennel. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Citrus is the star of this kale salad, which pairs the leafy green with thin-sliced fennel, shaved Parmesan and vinaigrette of lemon and olive oil. For a sweet touch, add a thin-sliced Asian pear to the mix.

A protein punch

Add turkey, walnuts and avocado for a kale salad with lots of protein. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Add turkey, walnuts and avocado for a kale salad with lots of protein. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

For a dinner salad with a protein punch and good fats galore, add pieces of turkey, chopped walnuts and scooped, diced avocado. Dress with your favorite balsamic vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper.

Veggies deluxe

Add carrots, roasted beets, almonds and crumbled chèvre into the mix. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Add carrots, roasted beets, almonds and crumbled chèvre into the mix. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Veggies abound in this kale salad with grated carrot and diced roasted beet. For extra crunch and the perfect mellowing creaminess, add some thin-sliced almonds and crumbled chèvre. Toss in a vinaigrette with fresh dill or make a creamy dill dressing with plain yogurt, olive oil, dill and garlic.

Caesar salad

This kale-centered version of Caesar salad also has sliced sardines and Parmesan cheese. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

This kale-centered version of Caesar salad also has sliced sardines and Parmesan cheese. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

If you’re a fan of Caesar salad, you’ll adore a kale-centered version pairing the leafy green with sliced sardines and Parmesan. Simple and packed with fatty acids, it’s a plated nutrition bomb. Make a dressing of minced garlic with lemon juice and high-quality olive oil.

Rethink the radish

Slice radishes thin and toss them with kale and sliced green onions. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Slice radishes thin and toss them with kale and sliced green onions. Credit: Copyright 2015 Emily Grosvenor

Rethink the radish in this design-friendly stunner where the contrast of red and green makes the plate. Slice the radishes as thin as possible and toss them with the kale, sliced green onions (or chives) and a generous handful of pumpkin seeds. Dress with good old apple cider vinegar and olive oil and you’ve got a plate to celebrate early summer.

More from Zester Daily:

»  Braised kale will make you want to eat your greens

»  Red cabbage and kale salad

»  Tracking the trends in kale

» Turn kale and squash into a cool-weather salad

Main photo: Kale is the perfect bed upon which to build a salad, as well as being packed with nutrients. Credit: Thinkstock

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To make this sandwich even healthier, substitute lettuce leaves for the bread. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Summer is on the horizon, so enjoy the short-sleeve weather and spend some time eating outside.

Yes, we’re talking  picnics. We’ve got eight recipes to help you fill your basket: They can be served cold, travel well and taste best eaten on a blanket under a nice shady tree. If spring showers keep you stuck indoors, just spread out a blanket on your family-room floor.

Tarragon Chicken Salad

This salad is great as a sandwich or on top of a green salad. If you don't like or don't have tarragon, substitute basil, cilantro or parsley. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This salad is great as a sandwich or on top of a green salad. If you don’t like or don’t have tarragon, substitute basil, cilantro or parsley. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

No more ho-hum! We spice up our chicken salad with tarragon, Dijon mustard, celery and apples. This creamy, crunchy salad can be eaten by itself, used as a sandwich or pita filling, or scooped atop a green salad.

Greek Salad Kabobs

This could make a simple salad as well, but anything on a stick is more fun. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This could make a simple salad as well, but anything on a stick is more fun. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Of course these kabobs could be made as a simple salad, but eating food off a stick is so much more fun, especially for kids. Layer feta, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and black olives on a skewer for a snack or picnic appetizer. Each family member can personalize their own by adding whatever salad ingredients they like best. And, if you like, add some bell pepper.

Purple Cabbage Slaw

Cabbage is one of the most nutritious and delicious vegetables. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Cabbage is one of the most nutritious and delicious vegetables. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This bright purple slaw is super crunchy and tangy. It makes a great addition to sandwiches, tacos or burgers, but it’s just as good when eaten by itself as a side dish. The slaw gets even better the longer it sits, so make some for dinner the night before and plan to bring the leftovers on your picnic.

Lemony Hummus

This hummus dish can be used as an ingredient in another recipe or it can be eaten with some raw veggies and whole-grain crackers. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This hummus dish can be used as an ingredient in another recipe or it can be eaten with some raw veggies and whole-grain crackers. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Our Lemony Hummus is protein-packed and easy to make. Cut up some raw vegetables for dipping, and you have a great picnic snack. Hummus is super dynamic: It also goes great as a topping to crackers and pitas or on a sandwich.

Rainbow Sandwich

A lunch of rainbow sandwiches, made with vegetables and slaw, are best shared with friends. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

A lunch of rainbow sandwiches, made with vegetables and slaw, are best shared with friends. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Here’s a sandwich that challenges everyone in your family to fill their own with as many healthy hues as possible. Pile on the color with everything from red peppers to green pesto to purple cabbage slaw. Then pack them up and take them along for colorful picnicking.

Corny Black Bean Salad

You can also use this salad as salsa and scoop it up with tortilla chips or pita bread. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

You can also use this salad as salsa and scoop it up with tortilla chips or pita bread. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

This salad is perfect for summertime, when corn is in season, but you can also use canned or frozen corn until corn is ready for harvesting. Serve it as a side, or use it as a salsa: just put it in a bowl and scoop it up with tortilla chips or pita bread.

Tasty Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is originally form the mountains of Syria and Lebanon. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Tabbouleh is originally form the mountains of Syria and Lebanon. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Tabbouleh is a zippy Middle Eastern salad made from cracked wheat, tomatoes, cucumbers, parley and lemon juice. It’s served cold, which makes it a great food to take along for outdoor eating.

Beet-and-Carrot Slaw Wraps

Beet greens -- the leafy part of the beet plant -- are often discarded, but they're actually a delicious vegetable and add to the nutritional content of this recipe. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

Beet greens — the leafy part of the beet plant — are often discarded, but they’re actually a delicious vegetable and add to the nutritional content of this recipe. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

These whole-wheat tortilla wraps are filled with beets, carrots, apples and cheddar. Wraps are perfectly packable and a fun way to roll up a sandwich. Plus, the bright orange and pink colors of this wrap will match the spring flowers you’ll see during your picnic.

More from Zester Daily:

» 7 genius hacks for the perfect picnic
» A picnic in Paris
» British picnics: Romantic, grand or disastrous
» An in-flight picnic

Main photo: To make this sandwich even healthier, substitute lettuce leaves for the bread. Credit: Copyright Carl Tremblay

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