Monday, May 18, 2015

Jerusalem Artichokes Soup

Just before the season for Jerusalem artichokes (aka Sunchokes) ends, here is a recipe for a soup made from those artichokes. There is probably no simpler, practically, two-ingredient, and at the same time more intriguing soup. Because it is so easy I served it many times to my friends and each time I was asked for the recipe.

The recipe is similar to some Italian recipes for the chestnut soup, where chestnuts are cooked with cream or milk, and turned into a purée. And that is what this sunchokes soups is too. Artichokes are cooked in milk, puréed, decorated, and the soup is ready. The whole taste comes from earthy artichokes, sweet milk and crunchy, aromatics pistachios. The idea could not be simpler and the result more tasty.

1 lb Jerusalem artichokes, peeled, and cut into small cubes,
6 cups whole milk,
salt and pepper to taste,
2 tbsp chopped pistachios,
2 tbsp pistachio oil.

Preparation: 1. In a large heavy duty pot bring to boil a cup of water, then discard it; this is just to prevent milk from burning.
2. Pour in milk in the pot and bring to boil paying attention so it does not overflow.
3. Add chopped artichokes and bring everything to boil. Turn down the heat and cook the soup on a low heat for about 30 minutes, until artichokes are soft. Pay attention so milk does not spill or burn. It may curd though, which is fine.
4. When artichokes are soft season the soup with salt and pepper and blend into puree.

5. Divide the soup among small soup bowls. Drizzle on top with pistachio oil and decorate with pistachios.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Steak and Mint Thai Salad

During the grilling season which has just started, I often have some day-after steak leftovers. They are perfectly fine but often not plenty enough for the whole dinner. Just recently, I got an idea on how to use them. They can be turned into a wonderful salad which can be served on the next day for lunch.

This is the salad that my Thai friend shared with me one of those days when she was teaching me Thai cuisine. At that time we grilled steaks for that purpose, which of course would taste even better but those leftovers can be great too. Spring is a season when herbs start to pop up in the gardens, and this salad also calls for a generous amount of fresh mint.

I love this salad because although made with meat, it is also very fresh and crunchy, like many Thai dishes. It is nutritious but at the same time light and aromatic thanks to vegetables and herbs. A perfect lunch on a warm and sunny day.

Steak and Mint Thai Salad
(Serves four)

2 grilled beef steaks,
1/2 red onion, sliced,
1/3 cup cilantro leaves,
4 spring onions cut into inch long matchsticks,
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves,
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in halves,
1 cup thickly sliced cucumber.

For the sauce: 2-4 chilies depending on your taste,
4 limes,
1 tbsp soy sauce,
1 tbsp sugar,
1 garlic clove minced,
4 tbsp olive oil.

1. Cut steaks into thick slices.

2. Prepare all the vegetables.

3. In a medium bowl mix beat soy sauce and sugar until sugar melts. Add lemon juice, minced garlic, lime juice and thinly sliced chilies.

4. Mix steak slices with vegetables and herbs. Pour over the sauce. Toss gently, and serve.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dandelion Salad with Caramelized Onion

Dandelions were one of the most annoying weeds that grew in my backyard in Poland. As a child I enjoyed playing with them when they were blooming, but did not know then that they could be eaten.

Later, while living in Geneva and shopping in French food markets, I often saw bunches of dandelions especially in early spring displayed in the fresh vegetables section. French recipes for dandelions were all kind of salads in which dandelion was served raw. Although I love all greens, dandelion seemed too hard and too bitter to enjoy it raw. I knew however that dandelion was extremely nutritious, rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron and calcium and worth including in a healthy diet.

Here, in the US, dandelions are available in Whole Foods and Asian food markets. And recently, thanks to my newly discovered interest in the Lebanese cuisine, I found my way to make something interesting with dandelion.

I have not seen dandelion on a menu of any Lebanese restaurant in my area but I read about a dandelion dish in a traditional Lebanese cookbook. Then my Lebanese friend explained to me the secret of a dandelion dish. When I made it I became a big fan of that curious green. It is a cooked dish but it is served cold like a salad. Dandelion is cooked or rather steamed to preserve his nice tenderness. There is also something very intriguing in the taste of this dish, which is at the same time sour, bitter, and slightly sweet thanks to the onion, which made it one of my favorite lunch dishes in recent months.

This dish is to be served alone with pita bread but I think it could also be a nice accompaniment to grilled or roasted meat, preferably lamb.

Dandelion Salad with Caramelized Onion
(Serves four)

4 bunches of dandelions,
4 medium onions peeled, cut in halves and sliced,
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil,
juice from 2 lemons and one more lemon for decoration,
salt and pepper to finish.

1. Wash and chop dandelion leaves into half-inch long pieces. Put them in a heavy duty pot and steam until water evaporates and dandelion becomes dark green.
2. Heat the oil in a heavy duty frying pan and add sliced onion. Fry on a medium heat stirring frequently. It will take about 10 minutes until onion is caramelized.

3. Drain about a half of the onions from the frying pan and set aside.
4. Add the dandelion to the remaining oil. Pour in about 1/3 cup lemon juice, season with salt and cook for about 5 minutes, until dandelion becomes tender but still dark green.

5. Transfer dandelion to a serving dish and decorate with caramelized onion. Let it cool.
6. Decorate with lemon wedges before serving. Serve with pita bread.