Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of participating in one of the weekly summer cooking demonstrations at the Salem Farmers Market. I served as the assistant to Chef Nancy Maurelli, owner of Good to Go Foods in Roanoke and a very talented healthy food chef.
Chef’s Circle, as the demos are called, is held in a very cool little kitchen that was once located inside a house. The house was condemned, but since the kitchen was still in great shape, it was cut out and mounted on a trailer that can be hauled around. It even has running water, four gas burners and a refrigerator. Cool, huh?
Nancy and I decided to focus our demonstration on summer salads because neither of us like to heat up our ovens much in the summertime (how many times have I mentioned that this summer, I know). We also wanted to showcase some fresh produce from Virginia’s summer harvest. So we made tabbouleh with quinoa, tuna salad nicoise with a fresh herb vinaigrette, and Nancy’s cannoli cream, which is like the filling for the Italian dessert but much easier and very tasty atop fresh fruit. Nancy also brought some of her quick zucchini refrigerator pickles, which the crowd just loved.
Without further ado, I’m going to share all of those recipes here. Let me know if you have any questions. It’s not too late to catch a Chef’s Circle demonstration – this weekend, Salem firefighter and paramedic Mike Cogen is going to show the crowd how to make some kickin’ firehouse fare. The show starts at 9:30 a.m.
Traditional Salad Nicoise
This is a “composed” salad (i.e. NOT all mixed together in a bowl) that includes chunks of tender new potato, lightly steamed fresh green beans, ripe tomatoes, hard boiled egg wedges, nicoise olives, and flaked tuna (look for wild caught, sustainably harvested fish). This is a great main dish cold dinner in the heat of summer. Arrange all ingredients artfully on a beautiful serving dish and drizzle liberally with the herb vinaigrette.
Fresh Herb Vinaigrette (oil & vinegar based dressing)
Makes about two cups. Store in bottle in refrigerator up to three weeks.
2 peeled shallots
2 cups leaves from fresh herb/s of choice, stems removed
1-2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
½ cup wine vinegar (red OR white OR champagne!) Do NOT use white vinegar!
1 teaspoon EACH: sea salt AND sugar
½ teaspoon ground black pepper (optional, to taste)
2/3 cup EACH: extra virgin olive oil AND organic canola oil
Place shallots, herbs, mustard, garlic, wine vinegar, sea salt, sugar and black pepper in container of blender. Process until shallot and garlic are well minced. With otor running, drizzle in the oil. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
Try this on potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, tuna fish, green beans, lentils or mixed green salad. You can also mash with hard cooked egg yolks instead of mayonnaise for a savory variation on devilled eggs.
Tried and True Tabouleh
Makes about six cups, 4-8 servings. Store in covered container in refrigerator up to 5 days. Best flavor if you let it sit at room temp for 30 minutes before serving.
If you can boil water, you can make this traditional Middle Eastern grain salad using either bulgur wheat OR high protein quinoa. This tastes better if made ahead: great for picnics or camping…
1 cup water with 1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup bulghur wheat OR ¾ cup quinoa
2 cucumbers, peeled if waxed, seeds removed and diced fine
½- 1 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
½ teaspoon ground cumin (to taste)
4 sprigs fresh spearmint (OR sub 1 teaspoon dried)
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice (I use organic bottled lemon juice.)
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped parsley leaves (remove large stems)
3-4 chopped green onions
4-6 ripe plum tomatoes, diced
OPTIONAL: pinch of cayenne; 1 cup soaked, cooked, drained chickpeas
Bring water and one teaspoon salt to a boil. Rinse quinoa thoroughly in a fine mesh strainer under cold water. Add quinoa to pot, cover and simmer until tender, about 10-12 minutes. If using bulghur wheat, simply put grain in heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over. Cover and allow to absorb liquid (about 20 minutes) while preparing other ingredients.
Peel cucumbers (if waxed), cut in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Cut into small dice and place in fine colander; toss with ½ teaspoon sea salt and allow to drain while preparing other ingredients.
To make dressing, combine garlic, cumin, mint, olive oil, lemon juice and cayenne pepper in blender and puree. Taste and add salt/adjust seasoning as desired.
Drain any excess water out of grain. When dry and cooled to room temperature, place in large mixing bowl and add drained cucumbers, parsley, green onions, and chopped tomatoes and optional chickpeas. Top with dressing and fold together gently with a rubber spatula (this avoids mashing ingredients).
This salad with the chickpeas can be a main dish accompanied by pita crisps, yogurt dip and fresh melon. OR use it as a yummy side dish to grilled chicken or lamb skewers. Try it instead of potato salad to round out a sandwich meal.
Really Fabulous Quick Zuke Pickle
This one tastes great and transforms a simple sandwich into a well-rounded meal. It needs marination time but keeps like a champ, at least ten days in the ‘fridge.
Makes about 6 cups, 10-12 servings.
4 medium zucchini, ½” half moons
1 cup EACH: thinly sliced yellow bell pepper AND thinly sliced red onion AND thinly sliced celery AND apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon celery seed, lightly crushed
2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2/3 cup honey or agave nectar
¼ cup EACH: red wine vinegar AND organic canola oil
Wash and cut all vegetables, placing in large heat-safe mixing bowl.
In saucepan over medium high heat, combine apple cider vinegar, celery seed, sea salt, black paper and red wine vinegar. Bring to a boil and cook one minute, uncovered. Remove from heat and stir in honey and oil.
Immediately pour hot dressing over veggies and stir to coat well. Put in container so that veggies are mostly under the liquid. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours before serving. Lift pickled veggies out of liquid before serving.
You can “reuse” the dressing by straining out any vegetable matter, reboil, add fresh vinegar and salt to taste (NOT necessarily the original amounts).
Nancy’s Cannoli Cream
Makes about three cups; 8-12 “dollop” size servings or dip for cookies. Refrigerate.
½ cup whole raw almonds, preferably organic
15 oz. part-skim milk ricotta (I like Breakstone brand); do NOT use fat-free!
¼ cup orange marmalade (to taste)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
Tiny pinch of sea salt
½ cup real bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips; mini chips are nice
Raw honey or agave nectar for additional sweetness, if desired
Toast almonds in skillet or toaster oven until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Put in processor and pulse to chop coarsely. Set aside. Using processor, whisk or electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth. Blend in marmalade, extracts and salt. Taste and adjust flavoring and sweetener if desired. Finally, stir in almonds and chocolate chips. Chill thoroughly before serving as a topping for ripe peaches, strawberries or pitted sweet cherries. This luscious, protein-rich topping could also be used as a cake filling or frosting; finished product needs to be refrigerated.
All recipes courtesy of Nancy A. Maurelli. Phone 540.345.3405; firstname.lastname@example.org. See “Good to Go Foods” listing under LocalHarvest.org for current events and information. Please request permission to reproduce or share this recipe in any way. THANKS.