Garden Fresh Double Radish Tartine

fresh french breakfast radishes

Radishes are a seriously underappreciated vegetable.  I could list all the reasons I love radishes (their pretty pink color, their crisp raw crunch, their sweet punchy flavor). But the real reason I adore radishes above all other early spring veggies is that I can grow them – fast. I love that moment, that thrill of pulling up on the bright little greens and seeing the pretty pink root beneath the dirt.  Radishes mature in just a few weeks, and are very forgiving.  They grow well in beds or in containers, they love cool weather, and will do just fine with only 5-6 hours of sun per day.  

Radishes and butter are a natural combination.  In France, raw radishes are served with sweet butter and flaky salt as a lively spring hors d’oeuvres.  In my own kitchen, I adore radishes braised with butter and dill as a sophisticated side dish with grilled salmon. But for a simple spring snack, this super quick double radish tarine hits the spot. 

organi radish sandwich

There is something about gardening that makes me feel frugal. With all the care and attention I’ve given these radishes, I don’t want to waste even a morsel. Which is why I’ve started using the radish greens, and I’m loving them! Baby radish greens are wonderful in salad, and more mature radish greens are tasty sautéed with garlic. Finely chopped, the radish greens make the herb butter in this tartine a really exciting spread. This  herb butter would be great on grilled fish, or tossed with pasta, and it’s great on pumpernickel bread. If you wanted to make this tartine a more substantial meal, a few thin sliced of hard-cooked egg would be a great addition.

organic garden radish

Double Radish Tartine

Serves 8

8 slices whole grain pumpernickel bread

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon finely chopped baby radish greens

2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill, divided

1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives

1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for sprinkling

1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh radishes

Toast the bread until crisp.  Allow the toast to cool (you do not want the butter to melt on the toast). Whip the softened butter with an electric mixer. Fold in the radish greens, half the dill, the chives, and the salt.  Spread the butter on each of the pieces of toast.  Arrange the radish slices on top of the butter and sprinkle with the remaining dill and additional salt to taste.  Serve as a light lunch or snack, or cut each tartine into four triangles and serve as party finger food for your next picnic.

Published in: on April 26, 2012 at 7:16 pm  Comments (6)  
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A Duo of South African Inspired Dips

peppadew hummus and curry dip

I probably spent half of my six-month stint in South Africa in the grocery store.  Well, maybe not just the grocery store.  Outdoor markets, farmstands, and roadside cafes too.  But you get the idea. And when I left Cape Town, my suitcase was jam-packed with rusks and biltong and rooibos. 

Six years later, my friend Patrick continues to feed my South African food obsession with bi-annual care packages filled with everything from sachets of spices to cans of ostrich pate.  My own dear Patrick is Patrick Ashworth, of Ashworth Africa Tours and Safaris.  Patrick develops tailor-made tours and safaris in Southern Africa and is passionate about sharing all that is South African.  As such, my care packages usually include not only a heap of food, but a healthy dose of cultural education too.  From CDs to history books to recipes, I never know what I’ll find. 

What my months in Cape Town and my friendship with Patrick have taught me is that thing about South African cuisine is that there is no ‘thing’.  In Cape Town in particular, the food is a varied woven amalgamation of cultures and peoples and history.  It’s fusion cuisine unlike anything you’ll find on even the trendiest New York restaurant menu. 

Which makes it wonderfully fun food to stretch, create and reinvent.  You know, of course, that I can never leave well enough alone, that strict recipes make me feel hemmed in. So I adore South African influenced dishes for their adaptability. 

When Patrick visited last weekend, we celebrated his first trip to Connecticut, and the lovely warm weather, with some friends and some cocktails in the back yard.  Quick and easy snacks, like these two African-inspired (but certainly not authentic) dips, along with a big pitcher of Jeff’s mango-rooibos rum punch, and we had ourselves a party!

south african recipe

I love chips and dips for parties.  Easy to grab, fun to munch on, and perfect for making in advance. This peppadew hummus couldn’t be easier to make. The hardest part may be finding peppadew peppers. Peppadews are a native South African pepper, bright red, and both sweet and hot at the same time. My local Whole Foods carries them (next to the olives), but in a pinch you might substitute pickled jalapenos. Peppadew hummus may not be traditional, but it always seemed to me that Cape Town’s cooks threw peppadews in just about everything, so why not hummus?

As for the Cape Malay curry dip, it’s even easier than the hummus.  The curry dip, though, is really best made in advance, so let the flavors develop overnight in the fridge. Just as I never saw peppadew hummus in South Africa, I never had a yogurt curry dip in Cape Town either.  But Cape Malay curry is one of my all-time favorite South African dishes.  The Cape Malay community in Cape Town dates back to the 17th Century and has its roots in Southeast Asia.  Centuries of fusion have resulted in  mild, sweet, and flavorful curries that smell like heaven. 

peppade hummus and cape malay curry dip

Peppadew Hummus

2 1/2 cups homemade or store-bought hummus (I like this basic recipe from Ina Garten)

1/4 cup chopped peppadew peppers

1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine the hummus and the peppers.  Drizzle with the oil and serve with chips, crackers or cut vegetables.

Mild Cape Malay Curry Dip

3 cups fat free plain Greek yogurt

1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon mustard powder

pinch of ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

In a medium-sized bowl stir together all ingredients until very well combined.  Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.  Serve garnished with some fresh herbs, if desired.

Published in: on April 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm  Comments (8)  
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Aunt Beth’s Chocolate Farfel Cookies

Let me say right of that bat that these are not cookies.  They aren’t really even close to cookies. So why do we call them cookies?  I have no idea.  Maybe it’s because they kind of, sort of look like cookies (if you squint)? Or maybe because we don’t know what else to call them? Or maybe it’s simply because we always have?

But just because these aren’t actually cookies doesn’t mean they aren’t actually wonderful.  They are really more of a chocolate confection than a cookie, but who cares?  They are yummy. And easy.  These days, I’m into easy. Aren’t we all?  My Aunt Beth is a serious cook, a woman with more delightful signature dishes than I could count, so why have I chosen to share with you only her simplest, quickest, no-cook recipe? Because I like them.I really, really like them.  I eat-them-for-breakfast, snatch-them-out-of-Jeff’s-hand like them.

These make  a great Passover treat, of course.  But you don’t really have to save them for Passover.  In fact, I made these “cookies” today not for Passover Seder, but to bring to Jeff’s grandmother’s house for Easter!

And you can feel free to just break matzo into tiny pieces instead of buying matzo farfel, if you prefer.  You can also get creative with the nuts and fruits.  I like the walnuts, but almonds work too, and pistachios are awesome.  Just be sure to toast whatever nuts you use, for maximum nutty flavor.  As for dried fruit, cranberries are great (especially with the pistachios) and so are cherries. Really, any combination will work.  And I’ve even been considering trying a white chocolate version, just for fun. 

passover recipe dessert candy

Aunt Beth’s Chocolate Farfel Cookies

Makes about two dozen

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

2 1/4 cups matzo farfel

pinch of salt

Slowly melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in 20-second bursts in the microwave, stirring often. In a large bowl, stir together the melted chocolate and remaining ingredients until everything is well coated with chocolate.  Line two baking sheets or trays with wax paper.  Using a tablespoon, drop dollops of the chocolate mixture onto the wax paper.  This is a messy process, so be prepared to use your fingers (and to lick off the chocolate later)! transfer the trays to the fridge and chill for at least an hour, until the chocolate hardens.  Remove from the fridge a few minutes before serving.  These “cookies” keep for a week stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Published in: on April 6, 2012 at 8:40 pm  Comments (9)  
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Peanut Butter Balls

chocolate peanut butter candy

Over the weekend, in New York, I had a delicious wholesome lunch with two wonderful childhood friends.  There’s nothing like spending time with people who have known you your whole life over quinoa salad and sautéed brussels sprouts.

And there’s nothing like indulging in a chocolate truffle after filling your belly with organic veggies. Which is why, after taking a leisurely, sunny walk through Soho, I made a stop at Kee’s Chocolates (Kaffir lime infused dark chocolate truffle!) and then another at Jacques Torres (did you know they sell chocolate covered Cheerios?) and a final stop at Chocolate Bar (spicy milk chocolate!). 

I adore the beauty of a chocolate shop.  From a cozy corner confectionary serving steaming cocoa in china tea cups to an over-the-top high-end boutique with truffles displayed like jewels.  I love the smell of chocolate, the symmetry of each pretty little square.  How do they get each and every truffle, each caramel, each cherry cordial to shimmer with perfection? Every corner of every strawberry creme is an exact 90 degree angle, every morsel of cashew bark a slim parallelogram. 

And while I well never turn down a beautiful bon bon from the latest and greatest chocolatiers, I am just as content to enjoy a homemade, lopsided confection.  I’ve had dreams of opening my very own chocolate shop, but the dream vanishes when I remember that every truffle would have to be identical and perfect, over and over.  Perfect is simply not in my nature.  I like messy.  I like my jeans ripped and my wine glasses unmatched. I like my oddly shaped truffles and fingerprints in my turtles. 

These peanut butter balls (also called buckeyes) are perfect in their imperfection.  If they are slightly different sizes, so much the better.  If they aren’t perfectly round, that just makes them easier to bite.  These are homey chocolates.  These are chocolates that have no place in a velvet-lined glass case but every right to join in on Sunday dinner.  Peanut butter balls are beyond easy to make, and are ideal for kid kitchen helpers.  And no matter how awkwardly shaped they turn out, they will still be delicious.  How can you go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate?

These peanut butter balls would make a great addition to your Easter dessert spread.  They are also fantastic for Passover, if it’s your family or community tradition to consume peanuts on Passover.  Peanuts are a strange gray area.  As a nut, they would be generally considered acceptable Passover fare, but as a legume they come into question.  In any case, you can certainly substitute almond butter for the peanut butter if that works better for your needs.

chocolate buckeyes

Peanut Butter Balls

Makes about 5 dozen

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1/4 cup salted butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar

24 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

In a medium sized bowl, stir together the peanut butter, melted butter, vanilla, and sugar until well combined.  The mixture should be soft, but firm enough to form into balls (if too soft add a bit more sugar). Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls and arrange on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Refrigerate the balls for at least an hour.

Melt the chocolate very slowly over a double boiler, or in 20-second bursts in the microwave, stirring often whichever method you choose.  Dip each peanut butter ball in chocolate, carefully tapping off the excess. (Although messy, I find this easiest to do with my hands. You could use a fancy dipping spoon, or simply pierce each ball with a toothpick and use that to neatly dip it in the chocolate.  But hands are most fun!) Place each chocolate coated peanut butter ball on the wax paper lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate until the chocolate hardens.  Remove from the refrigerator a few minutes before serving.  They will keep in a container in the fridge for up to a week.

Published in: on April 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm  Comments (14)  
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