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Poached Baby Vegetables with Caper Mayonnaise

This was part of our main course for our recent Picnic Contest. I picked this recipe because it was kind of rustic looking with the vegetables not trimmed too much, and I thought it would go with our theme.  But I was surprised at how tasty it was. I would make this again. Just add a rotisserie chicken and you’ve got a nice meal!

chicken, veggies, and hand pies

Poaching liquid:

2 1/2 cups dry white wine

1 cup olive oil

2/3 cup lemon juice

2 bay leaves

1 small onion, cut in half

2 celery stalks

1 tsp salt


1 bunch small carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise

8 baby zucchini, cut in halves or quarters lengthwise

4 baby fennel, cut lengthwise

asparagus, baby leeks, baby turnips, green beans, or other baby vegetables

Mayonnaise: (measurements are approximate – adjust to taste)

1/2 cup mayonnaise (store bought or homemade)

2-3 Tbsp finely chopped capers

1/2 tsp dijon mustard

zest and juice of 1 lemon (or less–it may not need that much juice)

small garlic clove, pressed

salt to taste

Prepare the vegetables, washing them thoroughly but not trimming off all the ends of the stalks/leaves. Cut them in pieces that are roughly similar in size for even cooking.

Make the poaching liquid: Boil the wine for 2-3 min. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer.

Add longer cooking vegetables such as carrots, fennel, and turnips first. After about 3 minutes, add zucchini, asparagus, leeks, green beans and cook for another 3-4 minutes. The vegetables should be cooked but still a bit crunchy.

poaching the vegetables

Serve the vegetables with some of the poaching liquid spooned over top and a dollop of mayonnaise (and maybe some chicken too). You could serve it warm, but it’s also good cold/room temperature.

(Recipe adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi)

Cheesy Zucchini Bake on Rye Toasts

Besides the zucchini we receive in our CSA box each week, we also got a 3.5 lb + zucchini the other day from a friend. I haven’t run out of zucchini ideas yet, but I may be getting a little closer. This one is a nice change from zucchini bread and sauteed or grilled zucchini. I had a loaf of this bread in the freezer that I needed to use up and it was very good with the warm zucchini mixture spooned on top.  It was also good on the plain pizza crust I baked when I ran out of sauce and cheese, and would be good on crackers or other kinds of bread.

zucchini bake and rye bread

2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

bread or crackers for serving

Toss zucchini and salt in a bowl; let stand 1 hour. Rinse, drain, and press out excess liquid. Add the rest of the ingredients to an 8×8-inch baking dish. Stir in the zucchini and mix well. Bake at 375 degrees F until bubbly, 15-20 min. Serve warm with bread or crackers.

(Recipe adapted from From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce. 3rd Ed.)

Chocolate Banana Bran Muffins

I saw this recipe in an advertisement for All-Bran cereal in a magazine. I already have a banana bran muffin recipe that I like, and so I thought I should try this chocolate (actually, double chocolate) version. It’s very good!  The original recipe called for 1/3 cup chocolate chips, but I doubled that amount. I also substituted about half the milk for buttermilk, so don’t think it matters which kind of milk you use.

In other muffin news, I recently tried parchment paper muffin tin liners and they work great. It’s easier to get them off the muffins than regular paper liners.

chocolate banana bran muffins

1 1/4 cups All-Bran cereal

3/4 cup milk

1 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 large ripe bananas, mashed, with 12 slices reserved for topping

2/3 cup chocolate chips

Combine cereal and milk in a medium bowl and let soften for a few minutes while mixing other ingredients. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Before mashing the bananas, reserve 12 slices of banana to top the muffins. Beat egg, oil, and mashed banana into the cereal mixture. Stir into dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and scoop into a paper-lined or greased muffin pan. The batter will fill the cups to the top. Top each muffin with a reserved banana slice.

Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes, or until they test done.


Slush is a frozen punch that my grandma used to make when I was a kid. It’s a lot like making granita, but then you add 7-up or Sprite to a glass full of the frozen bits and serve it with a straw and a spork. Or a spoon, which is all I have, but a spork would be more fun.  How often do you get to use a spork?!


4 black tea bags (I used decaf Red Rose)

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 can frozen orange juice concentrate

1 can frozen lemonade concentrate

26 oz. rum, vodka, or gin (optional)–I prefer it without…the way I remember it

7-up or Sprite, for serving

Combine 2 cups water and tea bags. Bring to a boil and set aside to cool. Remove tea bags when tea is dark. Boil 7 cups water and sugar. Cool and then combine with tea mixture. Add orange juice and lemonade concentrates. Stir in 26 oz. rum, if using.  Freeze mixture. It is easier to scoop if you stir it a few times with a fork while the mixture is freezing.

To serve, fill each glass 3/4 full with slush and then fill with 7-up or Sprite. Add a straw and spork/spoon.

Spicy Sesame Green Beans

This recipe came with our batch of beans from the CSA last week, and it is my new favorite way to eat green beans (or purple beans, but they turn green when you cook them). It’s pretty spicy, so reduce the red pepper flakes to just a pinch if you don’t want it very hot!  The beans are cooked just enough so they stay nice and crisp.

I’m not giving up Maple Mustard Green Beans as an out-of-season bean recipe, but this is great for when the beans are nice and fresh. I also think that these beans would be delicious in sushi.

sesame green beans

1 1/2 lb green beans, washed and trimmed
1 Tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or less)
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
coarse salt to taste

Steam green beans covered in 1/2 inch boiling water for 2 minutes.  Transfer beans to a colander and run under cold water.  Drain and then dry them well on a clean dish towel. (Any water will cause the oil to splatter all over.)

Heat skillet over high or medium-high heat, add cooking oil, sesame oil and crushed pepper flakes.  The pan will smoke.  Add beans and stir-fry for 2 minutes.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and coarse salt.

Honey-Dijon Kale Salad with Goat Cheese, Cherries, and Pecans

We subscribed to a CSA this year from Big Head Farm, and we’re doing pretty well at keeping up with all the vegetables each week. We got our new box today, but we still had a bunch of kale from last week, and a few little turnips from two weeks ago, so we had this salad tonight for dinner. I think with the right dressing, a kale salad can taste pretty good. And adding crumbled goat cheese, toasted pecans and dried cherries really helps too.  With a side of goat cheese biscuits to round out the meal, this was a tasty and satisfying dinner!

kale salad and goat cheese biscuits

1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed, and shredded into ribbons

3-4 radishes or baby turnips, washed, sliced very thin and cut into matchsticks

dried cherries

toasted pecans

crumbled goat cheese


3 Tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp dijon mustard

1 1/2 tsp honey

salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the dressing ingredients together and toss with the shredded kale. (If you mix in the dressing and let it sit for awhile it makes the kale a little softer.)  Top with the rest of the salad ingredients right before serving.

(Recipe adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman)

Black Bean and Fresh Salsa Quesadillas

These are very tasty vegetarian quesadillas. I cooked them on the grill and served them with grilled summer squash.


Black bean paste:

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (from a can, or leftovers from Slow Cooker Black Beans)

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

small bunch chopped cilantro (leaves and stalks), about 1 oz.

juice of 1 lime

1/4 tsp salt

Fresh salsa:

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

3 green onions, thinly sliced

5 medium tomatoes, diced

1 garlic clove, pressed

1 mild fresh red chile, finely diced (I used a seeded serrano pepper instead)

small bunch of finely chopped cilantro (leaves and stalks), about 1 oz.

3/4 tsp salt

juice of 1/2 lime


2 ripe avocados, diced

8 small corn tortillas (or more–I had a lot of leftover ingredients, but no more tortillas)

3/4 cup sour cream

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

6 Tbsp drained and chopped pickled jalapenos


Make the bean paste by processing all the ingredients in a food processor until they form a rough paste.

Make the salsa by soaking the onion in the vinegar for a few minutes, then adding the rest of the ingredients.

Prepare a barbecue or griddle pan (or heat the oven).

Spread bean paste on a tortilla, leaving a space clear around the edge. Spread with sour cream, cheddar, some salsa, avocado, and jalapenos. Spread bean paste on a second tortilla and use it to top the first. (Or, put the toppings only on half the tortilla and fold it over. I couldn’t do this with my small tortillas without breaking them.)  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Heat on a barbecue or grill pan or in the oven for a few minutes per side, until the inside is warm, the cheese is melting, and the tortilla is slightly charred. Serve with the extra salsa and avocado.

preparing quesadillas

(Recipe adapted slightly from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi)

If you have some ingredients left over, they are worth saving to make Migas for breakfast in the morning.


Slow Cooker Black Beans

These beans have a good flavor and a firmer texture than canned black beans. This makes a lot, but if you don’t want to eat them all week you can freeze the leftovers and use them instead of canned beans in other recipes, such as Black Bean and Fresh Salsa Quesadillas.

black beans and rice

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, pressed

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 lb. dried black beans, rinsed

1 dried chili

2 Tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp salt

9-10 cups water (or unsalted vegetable or chicken broth)

1 Tbsp lime juice

For serving:

chopped red onion

lime juice

chopped fresh cilantro


sour cream

cooked rice

Put all the ingredients for the beans, except the lime juice, in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cook on high for 3-6 hours, until beans are very tender. Alternately, you could cook on the stove top –bring to a boil and then simmer over low heat for about 3 hours.

For the garnishes, mix the red onion with some fresh lime juice and a bit of salt and let them sit for 15 min. to make them slightly “pickled”. Also, the recipe I used recommends mixing 1 tsp cumin in 1 cup of sour cream to use as a garnish. I served the beans over rice, but you could also have them over garlic toast.

(Recipe adapted slightly from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman)

Labneh (Yogurt Cheese)

Labneh is a soft mild cheese made from yogurt. It’s very easy to make.  All you need is:

plain yogurt  (any kind)
fine woven cheesecloth (also called butter muslin)


Mix 2 cups yogurt with 1 tsp salt. Line a colander with a piece of fine-woven cheesecloth and place the colander over a bowl. Put the yogurt onto the cheesecloth and let it drain for 12-24 hours at room temperature.

You can tie the ends of the cheesecloth and hang the bundle somewhere over a bowl (I hung it from the knob of the cupboard). This recipe works best if you leave it at room temperature, but if you can put it in the fridge if you need to. The longer you leave it, the more liquid drains, and the thicker it gets. I think it tastes a lot like cream cheese. After you are done draining it, store it in the fridge.

making labneh

To serve, spread the labneh on a plate or bowl and top with extra-virgin olive oil, zahatar, and salt, and eat it with pita.  You can also make little balls of labneh and let them air dry for a few hours before storing them.

labneh, pita, oil, zahatarLabneh with my souvenirs from Israel – olive oil and zahatar.

(Recipe from Urban Cheesecraft.  You can read more about this recipe and order supplies here.)

Roasted Cauliflower and Manchego Hand Pies

chicken, veggies, and hand pies

Last weekend I got to try something new that I’ve been wanting to do for years–competitive picnicking. A few years ago, I was at a concert in Millennium Park and heard that there was a picnic contest. I thought it sounded like a lot of fun, so this year we joined the contest. We didn’t win, but we sure had a great time!  And delicious food :).  The theme for the picnic was Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. We needed to incorporate things like a love of nature and the country, peasants, shepherds, birds, a bubbling brook, a storm, etc.

Team: Country Folk

We started with a rustic homemade bread with butter and homemade cheese, goat cheese biscuits with strawberry preserves, and grapes, followed by these roasted cauliflower and manchego hand pies with quince paste. The main course was poached baby vegetables with caper aioli and roast chicken. Then we had a break from eating and had some sparkling water (I wasn’t sure what else to do for a storm…). Then, we finished with chianti chocolate cupcakes and coffee.

I would definitely make any of these foods again. These hand pies were delicious warm or at room temperature.  I found the quince paste to serve with the pies at Trader Joe’s.


2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup finely grated manchego cheese

pinch of sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

3/4 cup cold butter, cut into pieces (1 1/2 sticks)

2 large egg yolks (1 for the crust, 1 for egg wash)

1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

1 Tbsp cream, for egg wash


1 small head cauliflower, florets separated and sliced thinly

3 Tbsp + 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

2/3 cup hazelnuts

1 garlic clove

1 tsp lemon zest

2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

5 ounces manchego cheese, thinly sliced

To make the crust:

Mix flour, cheese, salt and sugar in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1 egg yolk and pulse to combine. Drizzle in 1/4 cup ice water and pulse until dough just comes together, adding a little bit more water only if needed.  Divide dough in half and shape into 2 disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 1 hour, until firm.

To make the filling:

Toast the hazelnuts at 375 degrees F until the skins split, about 10-12 min. Let cool, then place in a clean kitchen towel and rub the skins off. (It doesn’t really matter if you can’t get it all off.)

Toss the cauliflower with 3 Tbsp oil and some salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake at 425 degrees F until golden brown (about 10-15 min.), flipping over part way through.  Let cool.

Pulse the hazelnuts and garlic in a food processor until roughly chopped. Slowly add 1/4 cup oil while machine is running. Add zest and rosemary and some salt and pepper. Process until the mixture becomes a rough paste.

To assemble:

Roll out a disk of dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out eight 4-inch rounds (or sixteen 3-inch rounds if you want to make mini hand pies). Spread about 2 tsp hazelnut mixture on each round (1 tsp for mini rounds), leaving a 1/4-inch border. Top with cauliflower and cheese slices.  Sprinkle with pepper and extra rosemary if you want. Mix the other egg yolk with the cream and brush the edges of the dough. Cut out eight more rounds (or 16 mini rounds) from the other piece of dough. Top each pie with another round of dough and press the edges together with a fork to seal them. Place the pies on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Use a small cookie cutter to cut out shapes from the dough scraps. Brush each pie with the egg wash, top with a cutout, and brush the cutout with the egg wash. Refrigerate about 30 min, until firm. Bake at 375 degrees F until crust is golden brown, about 30 min. Serve warm or at room temperature with quince paste.

assembling hand pies

(Recipe adapted slightly from Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts)

Millennium Park