Summer Side: Lemon and Balsamic Rainbow Chard

When it comes to summer, the last thing you want to spend too much time doing is standing in front of a hot stove or oven. Sadly, this can lead to a lack of cooking during the hot summer months. But it can also lead to the creation of some delicious and quick recipes that take advantage of fresh produce that is in abundance this time of year.

This week I bought some rainbow chard and took a pretty big risk: creating a recipe that highlights the vegetable as opposed to hiding it (my normal MO for getting my husband to eat healthily). I had bought some maple mustard pork and some bread so needed a pretty simple recipe to compliment the meal.

Here’s what I came up with:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 onion thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of rainbow chard, stems and leaves chopped roughly
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp bouquet garni (or italian seasoning)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp fig balsamic vinegar (or balsamic vinegar and honey)
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon olive oil (or 1/2 tsp lemon zest)

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add butter and olive oil. The combination of both is one of my favorite tricks for really deep and robust flavor that makes your dish feel guiltier than it is. Add the onions and saute until golden brown. In the mean time, prep the rainbow chard. Rainbow chard is so fun and colorful– it’s almost too pretty to eat! I was a little sad that my batch only had yellow and white stems– I think the red ones are really awesome too! sort me! 119In order to prep the chard, wash well and then trim the bottom of the stem (about as much as you would cut off from the top of celery). Slice the rest of the stalk thinly and rough chop the leaves. You can eat most of the stem, I just usually cut off the parts that are too thick, but they add a nice crunch to the dish! If you don’t like the stem, you can just cut the leaves off and discard it. Once the onions have been cooking for about 3-5 minutes, add thinly sliced chard stems (these will need a little more time to cook than the leaves). sort me! 122The chopped chard will look like a giant amount, but like all other greens it will really shrink down once cooked. sort me! 123Once the stems and onions have been cooking about 3 more minutes, add the greens, garlic salt and bouquet garni. Let the greens sautee for about a minute and then add water and cover. This will help the greens cook down faster and will help soften them up a bit and chard is a bit thicker than spinach. You can skip this step if you like the texture of raw chard. The chard should only need about 5 minutes or so, but you can taste along the way and cook until you get the texture that makes you (or your picky eaters) happy. sort me! 125To finish off the dish and add some sweetness and lightness I turned to my birthday present: fancy oil and vinegar. Those oil and vinegar specialty shops are really popping up everywhere and are really fun to visit– maybe you even have some in your house! One of our favorite snacks is fresh bread dipped in thick balsamic vinegar. My latest purchase includes a lemon olive oil and a fig balsamic.sort me! 120 If you don’t have these you can easily use regular balsamic with a bit of honey for sweetness and lemon juice or lemon zest to mimic the brightness of the lemon olive oil. But if you have some fancy flavors I’d encourage you to try them out! I added 1 1/2 tsps of balsamic before the last minute of cooking and then the other 1 1/2 tsps of vinegar and lemon oil right before you serve it. Stir quickly to combine and serve immediately. sort me! 126

This dish had a great balance of flavor and really complimented the meat and bread. It would be a great side dish for chicken or even red meat. During the winter you could make it more hearty by adding some beans and if you wanted to give it a more asian twist you could add some ginger and soy sauce in place of the oil and vinegar.

Hope you’re having a great summer full of fresh produce and experiments in cooking!

Roasted Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds

Happy New Year! One of my resolutions for 2013 is to cook more and to post more to MichDish. What better way to start with a post from new year’s eve dinner last night! So… cookbooks are one of my favorite things. Even if I never make any of the recipes the pictures and flavor combinations are just inspiring on their own. This year one of the cookbooks I received was Plenty. The photography is just beautiful and everything looks amazing, so when I was in charge of a vegetable side dish for our annual fancy new year’s eve dinner, I decided to turn to the cover recipe.

Disclaimer: I generally do not like eggplant. I find it way too oily or have an issue with texture. The eggplant with buttermilk sauce that was on the cover of this cookbook though is just so inviting I couldn’t not make it. As it turns out the recipe was super simple, a breeze to prepare in advance and bring to the dinner, and so  beautiful and festive looking. Not to mention pretty delicious!

So here’s what you’ll need to serve 6 (or depending on how large the meal is… to serve 24).

  • 3 eggplants (the longer and skinnier the better) 
  • 1/3 cup olive oil 
  • 1 Tablespoon thyme 
  • garlic salt and cracked pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with tin foil. Slice eggplants in half lengthwise, cutting through the stem (for pretty presentation). Using a sharp knife make 3-4 parallel incisions on the inside flesh of each eggplant from stem to base, being careful to not puncture the outer skin. Then make several diagonal cross cuts to create diamond patterns in the eggplant. With a pastry brush evenly distribute the olive oil on the flesh of the eggplants and then sprinkle with thyme, garlic salt, and cracked pepper (you can use other pepper, but there’s something so rustic and chef-y about taking out your pepper grinder). Roast eggplant for 40-50 minutes. If you have 2 baking sheets that don’t fit on the same rack, rotate them half way through the cooking. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

To make the buttermilk sauce, combine 1 cup fat free Greek yogurt (you could use whatever type you like though, i just like the fat free one), 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons light buttermilk (again, use whichever type you prefer), 2 cloves crushed garlic, 2 Tablespoons olive oil, garlic salt to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

The next thing you have to prepare is the pomegranate. If you don’t know how to get the seeds out of a pomegranate without making TOO much of a mess, it’s simple! Cut the pomegranate in half and hold it in your hand, seeds facing your palm over a bowl. With a wooden spoon, smack the pomegranate and the seeds will fall through your fingers into the bowl. It’s a great way to take out frustration. 

The recipe also calls for za’atar which is a middle eastern spice blend. The grocery stores in Hoboken do not sell this, but a specialty food shop would. Or you could make your own like I did with this helpful recipe! I must say, the toasted sesame seeds being ground up give off the BEST aroma!

So, now that you have all the components comes the fun part: presentation! To assemble, arrange the eggplant halves on a platter, coat generously with the buttermilk sauce (you will have a lot to spare, so don’t be shy!), sprinkle with za’atar and top with pomegranate seeds. It looks so festive and elegant. Happy New Year!

Mixed Vegetable “Gratin”

Last Monday through Friday, two colleagues and I participated in Jill Pettijohn’s juice cleanse. It was a tough week, but what was tougher has been the days since the cleanse. Apparently, there is a specific way to break a cleanse and for the first 2 days you have to essentially avoid meat, sugar, flour, bread (basically all things delicious and hard to avoid). So needless to say there have been a lot of fruits, vegetables, and nuts in my life. Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of these items (in fact, I am having a mild love affair with raw almonds and organic ground peanuts) but for dinner I needed something a little more indulgent. You may laugh at my new definition of indulgent, but this recipe has cheese which was an amazing treat after 7 days of vegan-ism.

After finding some organic gruyere in the grocery store it was my mission to find a recipe that included cheese and vegetables. This was the recipe I used as a base. And these were the vegetables I decided to use:

The whole recipe is pretty simple which is great for a lazy Sunday night. First, slice the zucchini, onion, broccoli, and tomato. With the onion, you want to slice as thinly as possible so that you’re not munching on raw onions at the end of the recipe. Add all ingredients in a mixing bowl and add 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp hot sauce, 2 tsp basil, and a pinch of garlic salt. The recipe recommends Tobasco’s green pepper sauce, but all I had was Frank’s red hot. If you have a green pepper hot sauce, I would definitely use that. The flavor of the green peppers will mingle better with the basil.

Mix all the ingredients together until they’re well coated and spread them into a baking dish. Sprinkle the top with finely grated Parmesan and Gruyere cheese. This can be done to taste. I used 1 tsp of Parmesan and probably 2 Tbsp of Gruyere.

Bake at 425 for 25 minutes. The tomatoes blend with the olive oil and seasoning to make a nice sauce.

This is a great side dish or main meal you can feel great about eating.