Recipe-phile: 'Garden-master' offers advice on the taming of the greens
The deluge of zucchini dumped upon the innocent gardener has enough truth to it to earn its cliché, but a bounty of zucchini isn't my fate this year.
Maybe their sluggishness is due to the cool weather, or maybe it's my fancy heirloom Italian zucchini: they're delicious, firm and almost crisp when sliced, but they grow against type, with a slow, plodding march toward harvest size.
In my garden, it's the green beans that seem to be stuck on fast-forward. They multiply at an absolutely unmanageable rate, in endless loops.
Regardless of which late-summer green vegetable wins the distinction of driving the cook crazy, when I close my eyes these days I see great splotches of green: All those beans, all the tufts of broccoli slowly fanning themselves out and, let's get real, plenty of zucchini.
Last week when the green beans were still novel, it was enough to steam them until just-done and toss them with a lump of butter. But after repeating that operation twice a day (like I said, I have collected bags of them) the first pang of buttered green bean fatigue set in.
So I started making bean salads, great big bowls of marinated green beans tossed with a creamy dressing or a vinaigrette.
Now, in my house, bean salads suffer from a public relations problem. I have learned that inserting "bean salad" into the plans for the dinner menu doesn't elicit any enthusiasm from my husband. He will eat it happily later on, but like a few other things ("fish soup" comes to mind...) bean salad just doesn't sound good.
So rename it if you need to, but it's worth making. My favorite involves a creamy dressing flavored with garlic and tarragon and a thin drizzle from my precious bottle of toasted walnut oil.
When pressed for time I always turn to a simple cherry tomato vinaigrette. It's quick and easy and pretty delicious with just about anything - especially when spiked with a healthy dose of spicy red pepper flakes.
Last summer I couldn't stop spooning it over grilled rounds of zucchini and this year I'm pouring it over the green beans and salad greens and fat slabs of grilled bread and sliced lobes of fresh mozzarella.
Unlike the zucchini, the broccoli has loved this growing season, and we love it back, but we can't eat it fast enough.
Every year I'm stumped to find a good way to preserve the summer broccoli crop, but just recently I remembered something I used to make in an Italian restaurant: broccoli raab pesto.
It was like pesto, but with a kick. We stuffed it inside cheese souflees and laid swaths of it under ravioli and alongside baked clams. Why not make a broccoli pesto? It tastes similar to basil pesto, but is a little chunkier and more rustic. I'm making a big batch and then freezing it in small freezer bags for this winter, perfect for discovering when I'm digging around in the freezer in search of something interesting and fresh-tasting to serve with those cold-weather materials: bread, pasta and potatoes.
Spicy Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette
1 pint (10 ounces) cherry tomatoes, each cut in half
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 turns pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
3/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more if you like
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
Combine the cherry tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, pepper, sugar, red pepper flakes, and basil. Marinate at room temperature, stirring now and then, for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours. Mix in the olive oil and spoon over a platter of grilled zucchini, or freshly steamed beans, or even just grilled bread. Add cleaned salad greens, and it's a salad dressing.
White and Green Bean Salad
From Chef Shea Gallante
at Cru Restaurant, New York City
12 ounces green beans, haricot verts, trimmed and cut in half
2 cans cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
1 small clove garlic, grated
3 tablespoons minced scallion (green onion)
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons walnut or any other nut oil (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or any other wine vinegar)
1/2 cup sour cream or whole milk yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt + to taste
A handful of picked garden purslane leaves or chopped sorrel (optional)
Blanch the green beans in boiling, salted water for about 3 minutes or until tender. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water (or cool down in icy cold water from the tap). Blot dry and add to the white beans in a large bowl.
Season the mixed beans with a little salt and pepper, and add the chopped scallion, tarragon, chives, and sherry vinegar. Add the fresh garlic to the thinned crème fraiche and pour over the beans, mixing gently with a spatula. Drizzle in the olive oil (and optional nut oil) and toss. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt, pepper or even vinegar to suit your taste. Garnish with purslane or sorrel if desired. Serves 4 to 6
Adapted from Chef Shea Gallante at Cru Restaurant, New York City
1 bunch (1 pound) broccoli
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt + to taste
8 turns freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano
Chop the bottom inch off the broccoli stems. Wash and shake dry and cut the rest into 1/2-inch long pieces.
Heat the 1/4 cup olive oil in a large sauté pan. Smash 2 1/2 of the garlic cloves and add to the oil with the pine nuts. Season with a little of the salt and pepper and cook over medium high heat, stirring and tossing. When the nuts are golden brown, remove them, along with the garlic. Add the chopped broccoli, season with the rest of the salt and pepper and cook, over medium high heat, stirring often, until tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes. Remove to a plate and cool. Combine the broccoli, remaining fresh garlic, cooked garlic and pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to a coarse puree, where it forms one mass but still retains some texture. Add the grated cheese and remaining olive oil and pulse to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.