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Raw Mushroom Salad with Celery


What type of mushrooms will you use?

In Italy, the best dishes uses the finest ingredients in simple ways that show off just how good they are. That’s the secret behind this mushroom salad, which features only celery and parsley in addition to the mushrooms. Salt, pepper, oil and lemon juice dress it, and you’re set.

The best mushrooms, according to Jacob Kenedy in “Bocca Cookbook” (Bloomsbury, $45), would be seasonal favorites you find in Italian markets during the spring and fall, but the success of the recipe is not dependent on that.

“Ovoli mushrooms, Amanita caesarea, have a delicate taste and are wonderful,” he writes. “Picked young, as the bright orange cap emerges from its white sarcophagus, they look just like hatching eggs. To say they are hard to find would be a gross understatement, but other mushrooms can make this salad just as good. In particular, porchini (also known as ceps), if young and firm, are delicious raw; even the humble cremini mushroom would make this a pleasaing dish.”

Raw Mushroom Salad with Celery

1/2 pound ovoli, porcini or cremini mushrooms, no more than 2 1/2 inches long
4 ribs celery
Leaves from 3 to 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice, or a little more to taste

Clean any dirt from the bases of the mushrooms with a pairing knife, and wipe the caps gently with a damp cloth, if necessary — don’t wash them. Slice them finely, around 1/8-inch thick, and also slice the celery ribs on the bias to around the same thickness.

Spread the celery and mushrooms thinly on a plate, scatter with the parsley leaves, salt and pepper to taste, then drizzle with the olive oil and lemon. Serve quickly, before the salt draws the juices from the vegetables and leaves the salad wet and limp.

Makes 4 starter servings or 2 main course servings.

From “Bocca Cookbook” by Jacob Kenedy

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Green Beans with Hazelnut Garnish


Green Beans with Hazelnut Garnish

This easy side dish showcases the complementary flavors of fresh green beans with toasted hazelnuts, as presented in Lucy Gerspacher’s out-of-print “Hazelnuts & More Cookbook.”

If you don’t have hazelnuts, you can use a number of other nuts, including almonds, pine nuts, pecans or walnuts. You may also want to alter the nut oil you use.

Green Beans with Hazelnut Garnish

1 1/2 pounds whole fresh green beans
2 quarts cold water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon hazelnut oil (see note)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Wash and sort green beans. Remove stem ends, but leave tips, if desired.

In a four-quart covered saucepan, bring water and salt to boil.

Add green beans, cover just until water comes back to a boil.

Remove cover and cook for about five minutes, or just until tender. Drain, andpat off any excess moisture.

Heat hazelnut oil in a large skillet. Drop the beans in the hot oil and stir for about one minute just to coat lightly with the oil. Add the hazelnuts and toss until  well mixed.

Pour beans onto serving platter and top with freshly ground black pepper.

Note: If you can’t find hazelnut oil or another nut oil, use an oil with neutral flavor, such as grapeseed oil.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From “Hazelnuts & More  Cookbook” by Lucy Gerspacher

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Coconut Quinoa Is a Side Dish Loaded with Flavor


Chefs have been using quinoa more and more over the last 10 years. But it remains outside the mainstream for many, who seem reluctant to give it a try.

What is it? some ask.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is “an ancient South American cereal grain (that) is higher in protein than any other grain,” Bryant Terry writes in “The Inspired Vegan” (DaCapo, $19). “It tastes great cooked in coconut milk.”

The coconut milk, not to mention the ease of this recipe, should be enough for some to give it a try.

You can find quinoa at a growing number of markets, including Central Market, Whole Foods  and Green Fields.

Coconut Quinoa

1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
Coarse sea salt, to taste
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 tablespoons dried coconut

In a medium-sized saucepan over high heat, combine the coconut milk with the water and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and dried coconut and bring back to a boil. Immediately lower the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and steam with the lid on for 5 minutes, then lightly fluff with a fork.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From “The Inspired Vegan” by Bryant Terry

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Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Sherry and Toasted Almonds


Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Sherry and Toasted Almonds

Sometimes, a recipe jumps off the page and practically begs you to make it. Such was the case with celebrity chef Jeffrey Saad’s soup that matches the winning flavors of red bell pepper, sherry and almonds.

“Sherry and almonds are a classic wine and food pairing,” the chef writes in “Jeffrey Saad’s Global Kitchen: Recipes Without Borders” (Ballantine Books, $22). “By reducing the sherry down with the toasted almonds, the flavor in this soup becomes intriguingly complex. The sherry adds a unique  woody, aged flavor that balances brilliantly with the almonds, while the paprika accentuates the bell pepper flavor, creating a velvety puréed delight.”

But I also wanted to tweak the recipe slightly. I knew I could make it vegan simply by substituting vegetable stock for the chicken stock he called for, which makes it great for a Meatless Monday, an appetizer or even a main course with a salad. He also called for Marcona almonds, but skinned, slivered versions aren’t readily available  in San Antonio. You could pulse Marcona almonds in a food processor to break them down slightly, if you can only find them whole.

As for the texture, I found myself doing a mixture of the techniques he mentions. I put two-thirds of the soup in the blender and processed it down, while leaving just enough alone to give it a rustic crunch.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Sherry and Toasted Almonds

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup skinless slivered almonds, Marcona preferred
1 cup dry sherry
1 cup tomato purée or chopped canned tomatoes
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Let the pepper, shallots and almonds turn golden.

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the red bell pepper, shallots and almonds. Keep an eye on the heat and stir frequently to get a golden color without burning. Sauté until evenly golden, about 5  minutes.

Add the sherry and simmer until fully absorbed. Add the tomato purée, stock, paprika and salt.  Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool. Transfer the mixture to a blender and purée until smooth, or keep the soup chunky if you like the texture. Strain the puréed soup if you want  it silky smooth.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from “Jeffrey Saad’s Global Kitchen: Recipes Without Borders”

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Insalata di Pomodori e Melone (Tomato Melon Salad)


When you go to the farmers market this weekend, be sure to stock up on fresh tomatoes and melon in season. They’re great by themselves or tossed together in a fresh salad. That’s why this salad from celebrity chef David Rocco is so appealing.

“I love using sweet fruit in a savory salad,” he writes in his new cookbook, “Made in Italy” (Clarkson Potter Publishers, $35) “You’ll find this a lot in Sicily. There, people ‘get’ mixing these flavors. that may be a result of how incredible their fruit is. I’m going to give you the basics to match the picture, but don’t be afraid to make this salad your own. For instance, you don’t have to use arugula as a base. Sometimes I use only fruit, some finely chopped red onion for spice and heat, and some fresh mint or oregano.

“You can change the fruit. I’ve used melon here, but oranges or figs are also great. The thing that brings all the flavors together is the olive oil, so use the good stuff here.”

Insalata di Pomodori e Melone (Tomato Melon Salad)

2 or 3 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/2 cantaloupe, peeled and diced
1/4 red onion, diced
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Dried oregano, to taste (optional)
1 bunch arugula, torn

The key here is to mix your tomatoes, cucumber, melon and red onions in the vinegar, oil and spices and let that sit for 5 minutes. Make sure, though, that you don’t overdo it with the oregano or the red wine vinegar. These are really just slight complements to the fruit and the fantastic olive oil, and too much of either will overpower the dish.

On a serving plate, lay out your greens. I prefer using baby arugula because it has a nice pepperiness and makes a great base for the salad. Add the seasoned fruits and vegetables on top. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Made from Italy” by David Rocco

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Add a Touch of Ground Pomegranate to Your Cooking


Pomegranates have become popular in recent years because of their healthful properties. The superfood is known for being high in vitamins C, B5 and E as well as beta carotene, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin and folic acid.

In short, they’re supposed to be good for you.

They also taste great, which is why I jumped at the chance to try ground anardana, or ground pomegranate, when I saw it on the shelf at the Himalayan Bazaar, 8466 Fredericksburg Road. The Indian market had three different varieties available. I picked up a jar made by Rani, which was offered at $3 for a 3-ounce jar.

In doing a little research, I discovered that anardana is made from a type of pomegranate that’s considered too sour to eat fresh, so they dry the seeds, which retain a remarkable amount of flavor.

Daikon salad with ground pomegranate.

Rani offered the following background on its website: “Anardana comes from the dried seeds of the pomegranate. Native to Southwest Asia, the fruit is both sweet and tangy. In India, the dried seeds are ground down to make a coarse powder used to flavor curries and chutneys. In the Middle East, it is used often to garnish dishes such as hummus, salads and tahini.”

You could use it in any dish that would benefit from a sweet-sour brightness, whether it was in a sauce for chicken or lamb or as an alternative to raisins in baked desserts. Once you start using anardana

I used the tangy ground pomegranate in a simple shrimp stir-fry with a butter-white wine sauce. I also added it to a daikon radish salad with EVOO and lime juice.

Plus, here’s a vegan-friendly recipe from Rani’s website for a easy garbanzo salad that would be ideal for a summer picnic.

Garbanzo Salad

1 (16-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
½ onion, chopped finely
1 red bell pepper, chopped finely
1 tablespoon ground pomegranate, such as Rani Anardana
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cilantro leaves, for garnish

In a large mixing bowl combine garbanzo beans, onion, bell pepper, ground pomegranate, lemon juice, salt and sugar. Toss and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.

Makes 4 servings.

From Rani

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Oloves Are Easy to Love


Oloves

Have you been looking for a low-calorie, low-carb snack that actually tastes like food? And that’s also good for you? That’s the beauty of Oloves, pouches of green olives stuffed with your choice of flavors.

These tart treats are vegan as well as kosher. They aren’t packed in juice, either, so you can nibble on an entire packet without getting your fingers wet. You don’t need to cool them down, either, because they are shelf table; so, you can pack them up for a picnic, put them in your lunch box or grab them whenever you need a quick bite.

Oloves come in three flavors:

  • Hot Chilli Mama, or habanero
  • Lemon Lover, or lemon and garlic
  • Light-Hearted Vinaigrette
  • Tasty Mediterranean, or basil and garlic

I tried the basil and the habanero varieties, and both were pleasant treats that satisfied a mid-afternoon snack craving.

The price is $1 a pouch at H-E-B.

 

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Tomato Salsa Salad with Capers and Mint


Tomatoes are starting to come into season, and this salad — or salsa — is a great way to showcase the brightest summer flavors.

“What’s the different between a fresh tomato salsa and a tomato salad?”  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall writes in “River Cottage Every Day” (Ten Speed Press, $32.50). “Not much really, but for me, a tomato salsa should always include some kind of raw allium — shallot, onion, green onion — to give it an edge. And if you chopped the tomatoes more finely for this recipe, you’d have a definite salsa, I’d say — perfect for eating with burgers or spicy chicken.”

Tomato Salsa Salad with Capers and Mint

1 pound ripe tomatoes
1 shallot or 1/2 small red onion, very finely chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons tiny capers, rinsed
A small squeeze of lemon juice
2 to 3 tablespoons canola or extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A tiny pinch of sugar
A few torn fresh mint leaves

Cut the tomatoes into quarters, then halve each quarter crosswise. place in a bowl and lightly stir in the shallot or onion and caper.

Put the lemon juice and oil in a small pitcher, season well, and add the sugar. Whisk together, then drizzle over the tomatoes. Scatter the torn mint leaves over the top and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

From “River Cottage Every Day” by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

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Tequila Seduces Guacamole


Use Hass avocados in this guacamole.

Even vegans like to drink. And cook. And sometimes mix the two together. That’s the message of John Schlimm’s funny yet flavorful cookbook, “The Tipsy Vegan: 75 Boozy Recipes to Turn Every Bite into Happy Hour” (Da Capo, $17). And what better way to test that theory during Fiesta than with a bowl of tequila-spiked guacamole?

“What would guacamole be without a tequila chaser?” Schlimm writes. “Luckily for us, with this recipe we’ll never again have to ponder that terrifying question. Share the love and mix a few tablespoons of the lively spirit directly into this classic south-of-the-border dip. Just beware the fire hazard: When adding the jalapeños, carefully taste a slice for determining the sizzle factor, which can vary widely. As for the limes, usually the smoother the skin, the juicier the lime.”

Tequila Seduces Guacamole

3 ripe Hass avocados
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1 to 3 jalapeños (depending on your heat preference), stemmed, seeded and finely diced
Juice of 1 lime, about 3 tablespoons
2 to 3 tablespoons good tequila
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Lightly  warmed tortilla chips, for serving

Halve the avocados and remove the pits by whacking them with a knife blade and twisting them out. Use a spoon to scrape out the avocado flesh into a large mixing bowl and mash with a fork just until chunky. Add the cilantro, red onion, jalapeños, lime juice, tequila, salt and pepper and combine with the fork. If the mixture seems too thick, add a bit more tequila. Serve at room temperature with plenty of warm tortilla chips.

Makes about 2 cups.

From “The Tipsy Vegan” by John Schlimm

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Radish and Cucumber Salad


Radish and Cucumber Salad

Sometimes, the simplest combinations shine more brightly than complex creations. This salad features only three ingredients outside of the dressing — radishes, cucumbers and either arugula or spinach. And the dressing isn’t that complicated either. But put them together and a rewarding salad results.

This went well with ham and seafood both on Easter and would work with just about anything else you were serving. It is yet another winning surprise from Suzanne Somers’ “The Sexy Forever Recipe Bible” (Three Rivers Press, $21.99).

Radish and Cucumber Salad

1 bunch radishes, sliced into quarters
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into half-moons
1 bunch arugula or spinach
Extra virgin olive oil
Sherry vinegar
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a mixing bowl, combine the radishes, cucumber and arugula. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and a splash of vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss until well coated.

Place the salad on individual plates and top sliced chicken, if desired. Serve immediately.

Makes 2-4 servings.

From “The Sexy Forever Recipe Bible” by Suzanne Somers

 

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