Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chilled Cucumber-Greek Yogurt Soup

Today was my favorite kind of Sunday, started with a leisurely trip to my farmers market. In addition to a ton of other great produce (and of course the requisite bacon and eggs for breakfasts), I picked up a pile of cucumbers so that I could make a chilled cucumber soup I had at this year's Zoofari. The soup was made by one of my favorite DC restaurants where RJ Cooper is chef and owner, Rogue 24 and they just happened to be passing out recipe cards, win!

I modified the recipe a bit to make it more paleo friendly, but I should caution you that it's technically neither paleo nor primal due to Greek yogurt and a small amount of sugar respectively. If you don't mind the yogurt, you could probably sub honey in for the sugar in a slightly smaller quantity. Personally, I'm not gonna' stress about a small amount of refined sugar once in a blue moon, especially since with this recipe it comes out to significantly less than a tsp per serving. With that said, here's what you need:

8 English cucumbers or some equivalent (I used a mix of 2 varieties), peeled,seeded & roughly chopped
1 sweet onion, diced
1 T fresh dill (or 1 t dry)
1 7 oz container full fat Greek yogurt
4 T rice vinegar, split
2 T champagne vinegar, split
2 T sugar
1 T salt, salt & white pepper to taste

Chop the cucumber and onion and put in a bowl, toss with half of the vinegars, the sugar, and salt. Place in a colander over a bowl and let macerate for 2 hours.

Using a blender, add the cucumber-onion mix, pulse the machine to start to break down vegetables. Add the yogurt, remaining vinegars, and dill. Puree to emulsify completely. Adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper (I used some of the liquid that had drained through the colander in place of salt - taste it and use sparingly at first as it is very salty).

Strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve and cool in the refrigerator before serving. The resulting soup is incredibly refreshing, perfect for a hot summer day with the coolness from the cucumber and the zippy acidity from the vinegars.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Asparagus with Butter & "Soy"

I have been eating asparagus like it's going out of style. Oh wait, that should probably read "like it's going out of season" (heh). You recall that dinner I made for my friend's 40th birthday? That night I made asparagus 2 ways, the Asparagus with Butter & Soy from (you'll be shocked) Cooking In the Moment and with my own creation, Asparagus with Fresh Maryland Lump Crab and Hollandaise:

Excuse the poorer than usual photography - it was dark and I didn't want to make my friend wait while I took 80 odd photos to get a single one I could edit and post on this blog :P
Aside: I used the Hollandaise recipe from the Primal Blueprint Healthy Sauces cookbook, which has you use a blender to create the emulsion - genius!

In any event, when I made the soy & butter dish originally, I did follow the recipe exactly. Later in the week however, I took the opportunity to use the leftover asparagus to test out a paleo version and I dare say while it lacked a tiny bit of richness from the soy sauce (you could use wheat free soy or tamari if you're comfortable with that), it wasn't a huge difference and the dish was still outstanding.

Here's what I did:

First, I prepped my water for poaching an egg (I use a smaller saucepan with about 1/2-1 t of white vinegar per cup of water). Once the water was simmering, I blanched a bunch of trimmed asparagus in boiling water for about 30 sec (the few really thick stalks got dropped in about 45 seconds earlier), then drained them and set them aside.

While the asparagus were blanching, I heated some sunflower oil in my cast iron skillet over nearly high heat (high end of medium high). When it was piping hot, I dropped the asparagus in, shaking them around occasionally until all sides were blistered. At the same time, I dropped my egg into the simmering water to poach and set the timer for 3 minutes (it's easier to avoid breaking the egg if you crack it into a small bowl or cup, then slowly lower the bowl into the water. If you need to, swirl the water with a knife for a few seconds to get the egg white to form around the yolk after dropping it into the water).

When the egg white was firm I used a slotted spoon to pull the egg out of the water and set it aside. Then I added 1 T of coconut aminos to the pan with the asparagus and shook it until the liquid had evaporated. Finally I added about 2 T of ghee and tossed again until a sauce had formed. I plated the asparagus with the sauce, set the poached egg on top and ground fresh black pepper and sea salt over it.

There is very little more satisfying than cutting into your poached egg and seeing the still runny yolk pour out

The resulting dish is rich, salty, and full of umami flavor. Even though I've had this twice already in one week, it's going to be made again very soon!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rhubarb-Strawberry Sorbet

I've been taking advantage of the quickly fading spring weather by spending as much time as possible sitting on my deck in the evenings. Often this involves a cocktail, but sometimes a glass of seltzer with some bitters and a stack of cookbooks will do the trick.

As I took this photo, I thought about how well this group of cookbooks actually represents me, especially at this time of year when the seasonal markets and CSAs are starting back up and spring produce is abundant. I certainly feel blessed to live in a place where there is such a diversity of food and great access to organically farmed produce and sustainably raised meat!

In any event, on to today's spring produce turned tasty dish. My mom was in town this weekend and I had offered to make her dinner one night as a belated mother's day present. In preparation, I decided to use the leftover rhubarb and strawberries I had to make sorbet. I had already made a strawberry sorbet for my friend's birthday using the instructions from the Zuni Cafe cookbook (technically not paleo since I used plain old white sugar to make his). This time, I used a recipe from my favorite ice cream & sorbet source, David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop replacing the sugar with a lesser amount of honey.

Here's what I did:

I sliced up about 3/4 of a lb of rhubarb and put the slices into a medium saucepan with 2/3 c of water and 1/3 c of honey and simmered until the rhubarb was tender, then stuck it in the fridge to cool. While the rhubarb mixture cooled, I hulled and sliced about a quart of strawberries and put them in the blender, then added the rhubarb mixture, a pinch of kosher salt, & 1/2 t of lemon juice and pureed. Try tasting the puree both before and after you add the lemon juice if you've never done this before; it's amazing how much it brightens the flavors!

I let the puree chill overnight in the fridge, then put it in my ice cream maker the next day until the sorbet had thickened. One thing to note, your sorbet will still be fairly soft when you pull it out of the ice cream machine so plan to chill it in the freezer for a few hours before serving. Also worth noting that sorbet gets really hard in the freezer so you'll want to pull it out and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before scooping. This makes a fairly tart sorbet that showcases the rhubarb so add a bit more honey in the beginning if you want yours sweeter.

I served scoops of both the strawberry-rhubarb sorbet and the more intensely flavored and sweeter strawberry sorbet alongside paleo coconut macaroons from the baker at my market and my mom was in heaven: