A Little Goes a Long Way: Fermented Shiso

Okay, so this recipe is hitting on several cylinders at once for me. It's Korean, a cuisine I'm exploring these days—see the recipes for Kimchi and Gochujang I've written about recently—and it fits into the category of banchan, a collective name for small, pungent side dishes served with rice. And, like kimchi, it's a fermented food, a category that scared the dickens out of me for most of my life due to the dire warnings of my mother, who had the misfortune to major in dietetics in college at a time when anything that wasn't cooked within an inch of its life was sure to kill you on the spot.

It's made using shiso leaves, halfway between a leafy green and an herb that the New York Times described as "a mysterious, bright taste that reminds people of mint, basil, tarragon, cilantro, cinnamon, anise or the smell of a mountain meadow after a rainstorm." (Ooooookay…?) I'd say it's flavor is on the same spectrum as cilantro: definitely pungent, with a slightly minty twang. Shiso is, for me, a little strong to use in a salad, for instance, but the process of fermentation and the other ingredients in the brine—soy, ginger, garlic and the Korean ground peppers called gochugaru—seem to tame its somewhat, shall we say, overpowering personality.

The recipe is adapted from a book I absolutely love, Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes by Ikuko Hisamatsu, a collection of quick, easy recipes for everyone from beginners to masters. It was recommended to me by Kevin Gibson of Portland's Davenport restaurant when I asked about good books on pickling, since I'd known about his fascination with the art from his days at Evoe, where he had a literal bank of large, colorful jars of pickled items displayed on the front counter.

Another nice thing about this particular ferment is that it only takes overnight to work its magic. Plus it only makes a small amount, since the leaves shrink mightily in the process, so you're not stuck with jars and jars of the stuff hanging around in the back of the fridge.

So far a small chiffonade has accented rice dishes, a curry, grilled fish and even deviled eggs. I'd say that's a darn good start!

Fermented Shiso Leaves in Soy Sauce

Adapted from Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes by Ikuko Hisamatsu

30-40 shiso leaves
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. gochugaru (Korean ground red pepper)
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. green onion, minced
1 tsp. ginger, finely grated
2 tsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar

Gently wash leaves under running water and pat dry with paper towels.

In a small mixing bowl combine soy sauce, sesame oil, gochugaru, garlic, green onion, ginger, fish sauce and sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar.

Lay leaves in several layers in a small flat-bottomed dish. Spoon pickling liquid over the top. Place a slightly smaller dish on top and put a weight in it (I used a can of beans) to press it down. Let stand for one hour and remove the weighted dish, scraping off any pickling liquid that sticks to it. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and let the dish sit on the counter overnight. The next day put it in the refrigerator. It should keep for at least a couple of weeks, if not longer.

In Season, Pt. 2: Peachy Advice

In this week's Beaverton Farmers Market newsletter, Market Master Ginger Rapport sent some very timely advice on choosing and preparing the peaches that are tumbling in from our area orchards. Since I have six of these beauties sitting on my counter slowly ripening, and a promise from Dave that they'll be made into some juicy, sweet delicious pastry item, it seemed appropriate to share her recommendations.

The peach originated in China, and the Chinese believe the peach tree to be the tree of life.  The peaches are a symbol of immortality and unity. In America, we like them simply because they are juicy and delicious. They are the third most popular fruit grown in the States. Here at the Beaverton Farmers Market, they are synonymous with summer, and are at their peak right now!

Among its many attributes, a medium peach is a mere 37 calories and is high in vitamins A, B, and C. Because a fully ripe peach is delicate and easily bruised, you will often find them sold just “under-ripe.” To fully ripen your fruit, place them on the counter in a brown paper sack, folded closed, for two or three days. (Do not try this in a plastic bag. As the fruit respires, it gives off moisture which will collect on the plastic bag and cause the fruit to rot.) The ripe fruit will be soft and fragrant. Refrigerate them at this point. 

Peaches come in two categories—cling or freestone. The flesh will either cling to the pit or easily pull away. Depending on what you will do with it, make sure you know which kind you are buying. A cling variety will thwart your efforts if you plan on cutting them in half to place on the grill.

Like the plum and the apricot, peaches are members of the rose family (Rosaceae), distinguished by their velvety skin. If the peach fuzz bothers you, try rubbing the fruit with a terry handtowel after washing, it will diminish the feel of the fuzz on your mouth. Of course, you could also choose to purchase nectarines instead if the fuzzy skin bothers you. 

Nectarines and peaches are nearly the same genetically, but a gene variant between the two causes peaches to have fuzzy skin and nectarines to have smooth skin. As a result, peaches and nectarines have a similar flavor profile and can be used interchangeably in recipes.

Should you wish to peel a peach, nectarine, or tomato for that matter, either for eating or cooking, we recommend the following method:

Make a small X in the bottom of the peach with a paring knife. Immerse in a pot of boiling water for 20 – 30 seconds or until the skin splits. Be careful not to over-boil, or you will start cooking the flesh. If the skin never releases, your fruit isn’t ripe enough. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of ice water to stop further cooking. Next, remove the skins, which should easily slip away.

Once the flesh of the peach is exposed, it will begin to brown. Keep submerged in the ice water until you are ready to use it. Toss cut peaches with lemon juice to delay the browning process.

 To find a plethora of peachy recipes—jams, tarts, sorbets, salads and even cocktails—just click here and here.

In Season: Hot Fun in the Summer Sun!

It may have been prescience that inspired me to check in with Josh Alsberg of Rubinette Produce to get the skinny on what to expect from local farms and producers in the coming weeks. After all, the wet, cool spring had delayed many of the region's spring crops and even flooded out whole fields of emerging vegetables on some farms, which then made it difficult to get tractors into the fields to replant, being as they got mired up to their axles in the saturated ground. Yikes!

Marionberries have a short but oh-so-sweet season!

According to Alsberg, it's meant the season for many fruits and vegetables is two to four weeks behind what we would consider normal—helloooo climate change. For instance, he pointed out that the three-week season for marionberries and boysenberries would usually peak around July 4th but this year they were hitting their stride on July 25th and will be done around the end of the month.

Stone fruit is experiencing a great summer, with peaches, apricots and nectarines pretty much on time and readily available—he said to expect peaches to be available through September. Alsberg said this year's gigantic blueberry harvest is "off the hook" and the flavor has been stellar, with local bloobs sticking around through the end of August. Despite a major area grower quitting the business, cherries have been relatively abundant, though you'll see them evaporating like a morning mist within a week or so.

Berkeley Tie-Dye tomatoes.

Tomatoes, while also delayed, have been appearing and Alsberg is particularly excited about some new heirloom varieties like Marvel Stripe and Berkeley Tie-Dye (right), along with reliable standbys like Purple Cherokee, German Stripe and Brandywine. Look for sky-high stacks of summer squash—think zucchini, costata romanesco, crookneck and more—on farmers' market tables, along with cukes of all kinds for salads, hot and cold soups, pickles and lots more.

Local corn and peppers are already making an appearance—personally, I'm looking forward to making salsa verde and fermenting my own hot sauce again this year. Lettuces will be struggling in the heat, but brassicas like kales, cauliflower and broccoli are able to withstand a certain level of blistering summer temps. Alsberg said the bean crop, including string, bush, and pole, are looking good, and I'm excited to pick up both meaty romano beans and dragon's tongue shelling beans on my next trip to the market.

Missing my Chester blackberries!

For those mourning the loss of Ayers Creek Farm and its famous Chester blackberries, Alsberg assures us there will be Chesters available from other local sources along with his personal favorite Triple Crown blackberries, so ask at your farmers' market. There are also local growers cultivating descendents of Ayers Creek's Astiana tomatoes—as Anthony and Carol did when they brought the original seeds here from Italy's Piedmont—though the new paste tomatoes may be appearing under a different alias. Again, always ask!

Photo of Berkeley Tie-Dye tomatoes from Fruition Seeds.

Three Totally Chill Summer Soups

Looking at the weather forecast for the next few days, and knowing that the dog days of summer (i.e. August in the Pacific Northwest) are just around the corner, I thought I'd get my proverbial ducks in a row ahead of time.

Gazpacho isn't always red…this is made with yellow tomatoes!

Like most of you, the last thing I want to do when the temperature hits 90 degrees or more is to turn on the stove, so I looked up the plethora of chilled soup recipes collected in the archives here at Good Stuff NW and found a few that are going to come in handy sooner than later.

Luckily for us Northwesterners, the summer harvest is coming on strong after our extraordinarily cold, wet spring—that sound carried on the wind is local farmers heaving a big ol' sigh of relief—so the tomatoes, fennel, fruit, peppers and other cooling things you'll need will be in good supply at our local farmers' markets. 

Cucumber, fennel, avocado…

Gazpacho is what most often comes to mind when chilled soups are mentioned (photo at top and above left). A fresh tomato soup made in a blender with other vegetables and a bit of bread to give it body, you can make it ahead of time or right before serving. It's handy to have a jar on hand in the fridge for a quick lunch, appetizer or light dinner with a hearty green salad.

I'm personally in love with Persian cucumbers, the smaller, less seedy version of their big, waxy cousins that we're used to. Many local farms have started growing them for customers who like their size and that they don't have to be peeled and seeded, yet still retain the cucumber's fresh, crunchy flavor and texture. A common featured ingredient in chilled soups, combining them with other seasonal vegetables is a great way to go.

Don't let the garlic scare you…this is a gently flavorful, cooling soup.

A Spanish chilled garlic soup is cool and light with a requisite zing from the garlic and a soothing sweetness from halved grapes. It's the perfect starter to a summer evening in the back yard. It would also be terrific poured into a lidded pitcher and taken on a picnic (or a concert on the lawn) with a rotisserie chicken from the store along with a fruit salad and a bottle of chilled rosé. 

So when it eventually does start to heat up and you feel that cranky demon lurking right around the corner, take inspiration from these three cool customers. With a minimum of chopping and a quick whir in the blender, they'll turn that sweaty frown upside down.

Tomato Gazpacho

Adapted from Julia Moskin's recipe in the New York Times.

Makes a full blender.

5-6 medium tomatoes
1 small Persian cucumber or a small, peeled and seeded regular cuke
1 poblano or Anaheim pepper
1/2 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. white or red wine vinegar
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Cut all the vegetables into rough chunks. In the blender, put in the tomatoes first (they'll liquify quickly and pull in the other stuff) then add cucumber, poblano pepper, onion, and garlic. When that has been puréed, add vinegar and blend until very smooth. With the motor is running, add extra virgin olive oil. Taste and add salt if needed. Chill or serve with ice, and add a little water if it's too thick to drink easily.


Chilled Cucumber, Avocado and Fennel Soup

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and seeded, or 3-4 Persian cukes (no peeling or seeding needed.)
1 avocado, peeled and seed removed
1 fennel bulb, quartered and cored
1/4-1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 c. water
1/2 c. sour cream
1, 1" slice day-old artisan bread, crusts removed and cut in 1/2” cubes
Salt to taste

Place half of the cucumbers, avocado, fennel bulb, onion, garlic, lemon, water and sour cream in a blender. Blend until mixture is thoroughly puréed. Add half of bread cubes and continue to blend until it is a smooth mixture. Add salt to taste. Pour into large mixing bowl. (At this point you can taste and adjust amount of onion, etc., for the other half of the soup.) Repeat with second half of ingredients. Stir to combine. Can be refrigerated (or not) before serving.


Sopa de Ajo Blanco

My friend Judy Holloway learned to make this soup when she and her family lived for a time in Spain.

1/2 c. blanched almonds
3-4 slices of large-sized baguette, more if using smaller loaf
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt
4 c. water
5 Tbsp. olive oil
3-4 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
16-20 seedless green grapes

Put slices of bread in water to soak. Peel garlic. While bread soaks, put garlic and almonds in processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Squeeze water from bread, tear into pieces and add bread and salt to blender. While blending slowly, add oil, vinegar and finally water to blender. Taste, adjusting salt, vinegar and oil to taste. Chill at least 2-3 hours or overnight. Serve grapes on side, or put several in soup bowl and pour soup over grapes. Serves 4.

A Gazpacho of a Different Color

Tomato season is at its peak, cucumbers still hang heavy on their vines and peppers of all colors are finally getting the long hours of sun and heat they need to fully ripen their fruit. Cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins posed the perfect solution when I found myself with all those ingredients just the other day:

"What better excuse for a bowl of chilled gazpacho for lunch? Or dinner, or an afternoon snack for that matter? In Andalusia, where this healthy bowl originates, they keep a big pitcher of gazpacho in the refrigerator at all times, ready for anyone who feels the need for a quick pick-me-up."

Peak tomato season means making a big pitcher of gazpacho.

The tomatoes I had from my neighbor Bill's large garden were large and perfectly ripe, begging to be savored fresh rather than cooked, while their juices and flesh were at their sweetest. Bill had also gifted me a cucumber at the same time, and I had a few peppers from my CSA share.

Call me unimaginative, but those perfect tomatoes were golden yellow, so the idea of making a gazpacho was a slap-my-forehead revelation since I'd only had it with the usual red tomatoes. Of course it was divine, and couldn't have better suited the moment. Nancy has a recipe that I'll be trying soon, but here's a slightly simpler version based on Jim Dixon's from years ago.

Tomato Gazpacho

5 to 6 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled
1 mild green chile (Anaheim or, for a little more kick, poblano), seeded and chopped
1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
1-2 Tbsp. white or red wine vinegar, to taste
1/2 c. olive oil
Salt to taste

Put tomatoes into the blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until the ingredients begin to emulsify, stopping to push the tomatoes down if they aren't moving. When they're mostly blended, add the vinegar and salt and blend until very smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil until completely emulsified. Pour into a glass or ceramic container and chill for one hour. If it's too thick to pour, add a little water, though it should be served fairly thick, not runny.

Nicoise Salad: The Definition of the Season

It's summer and the first line and troll-caught albacore of the season are being brought in by local fishing families right off our coast. Beans and cucumbers are being picked from their vines and potatoes and carrots are being pulled from the earth. Hens are laying eggs as if in competition with one another for the most prolific producer in the henhouse.

2021/julia _child_salade_nicoise.jpg
Julia Child with a Salade Niçoise at her home in France.

Summer also means  temperatures are climbing, and the less time you have to spend sweating over the stove, the better. Which all adds up to a big platter of Salade Niçoise for dinner, one of the most satisfying summer meals I can imagine.

Or, as my hero Julia Child noted:

“A bountiful arrangement in bowl or platter is so handsome to behold that I think it a cruel shame to toss everything together into a big mess. A careful presentation means more work, but it’s easily manageable when you ready each of the numerous ingredients separately, which you can do well ahead. Season each just before assembling and serving, and you will have the perfect Salade Niçoise.”

The recipe below is a guide, since the ingredients of your salad will depend on what's available and in season, and amounts will vary depending on how many people are at your table. Ms. Child recommends a simple olive oil and lemon dressing, with or without garlic, but I like to add fresh chopped herbs and Dijon mustard, which I like to think Julia would approve of, too.

Oregon Salade Niçoise

For the dressing:
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 medium clove garlic, crushed
1/4 c. chopped green herbs like tarragon, chives, parsley, lovage, oregano, etc.
Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:
Oregon albacore loin
Green beans (whole haricot verts or sliced romano beans of any color)
Potatoes (red or yellow or fingerlings)
Hard-boiled eggs
Cucumbers, sliced
Tomatoes, in wedges
Roasted carrots, if you have them, or julienne and blanch raw carrots with the beans

To make the dressing, take any tightly lidded container (I often use an empty, clean salsa container, or a lidded glass jar), put all the ingredients into it, put on the lid and shake like the dickens over the sink, in case, as once happened, the lid wasn't as tight as I thought and I ended up dressing the kitchen instead of the salad. Give one last shake just before serving and pour into small pitcher for use at the table.

Slice and blanch the beans and julienned carrots until almost tender (this is a salad, after all). Quarter eggs and arrange with other ingredients around the albacore loin.

Sear the albacore loin over a hot fire on all three sides; check the interior temperature with an instant-read thermometer and pull it off the fire when the interior reaches 90 degrees; cover with aluminum foil until it's time to serve. Cut into 1-inch slices and lay on your platter.

Drizzle dressing over the salad ingredients or have each person serve themselves from the platter and dress their own salads to their liking.

Note: Feel free to add or subtract ingredients with whatever's in season and use any leftover roasted root vegetables or peppers and the like. However, be aware that Julia insisted it wasn't a Niçoise without tuna, tomatoes and potatoes. (Just so you know.)

In Season: Get In While the Getting's Good

If Josh Alberg of Rubinette Produce has any advice for the height of the summer produce season, it's don't procrastinate.

"When the season starts, get your favorites early," he said. "Because if you wait, they'll be gone."

The time is now to get your heirloom tomatoes at the farmers' markets, and there's a plethora of peppers, eggplant, beans, corn and peaches tumbling in from local farms. Strawberries and cane fruit like raspberries and blackberries are nearly done, as are summer squash and cucumbers, so if you haven't got around to making your grandma's favorite dill pickles yet, you'd best get cracking.

Alsberg shook his head when talking about this summer's weather.

"It's been kinda strange," he said, recounting cooler temperatures early in the summer that got everything off to a late start, with some early crops experiencing a short, not-very-robust season. Tomatoes were delayed early on, and then 100-degree days like those we've had lately "put the kibosh" on some varieties that are normally prolific in midsummer, so expect a slightly shortened season.

He may have caught my sharp intake of breath, since he quickly reassured those of us who might be expecting to preserve a couple of hundred pounds to last us through the winter. Late summer and early fall cooking varieties like Romas and Astianas should be fine, as long as temperatures remain moderately warm and we don't get early rains. Whew!

Ground vegetables like carrots, beets and turnips are plentiful, as are greens like kale and chard. As mentioned above, pepper people will find piles of Jimmy Nardellos, bell peppers in all colors and Italian sweet peppers at the markets for the next month, and peaches, nectarines and corn should be around for that long, too.

Plums and table grapes are just getting started, as are local melons, and kiwi berries and ground cherries should start appearing soon. We can also look forward to freshly dug potatoes and onions by the end of the month, as well as winter squash like delicata and butternuts. Local apples and pears will be arriving from orchards by the end of September, though Alsberg said he's seeing a few local Gravensteins listed on his farmers' hot sheets, along with Zestar, Ginger Gold and Pristine varieties.

As usual with apples, though, Alsberg—whose social media handle is "fruit monkey"—warns that most of the varieties you'll see at the big grocery store have been in storage since last November or imported from places like Australia, Chile or Argentina, so make sure you check the country of origin if you want fresh, crisp apples for your table. He winced when mentioning one in particular, called Williams Pride, describing it as "mushy and mealy." Blech!

Pandemic Project: Making Greek-Style Stuffed Grape Leaves

There are several homes in our neighborhood whose residents (current or former) planted grapes that, every spring, faithfully start producing leaves and vines that twine themselves around fences, trees or any stationary object, sporting clusters of teensy, pinhead-sized baby grapes. Most are table types, deep purple and seeded—contributor Anthony Boutard calls them "fecund"—with a few that are seedless, though their specific varieties have been lost to time.

So it was fortuitous that my friend, gifted cook and writer Denise della Santina, called and asked if I wanted to get together to make Greek-style stuffed grape leaves, the kind her mother used to make. Now, Denise's mother wasn't Greek, but she and Denise's father lived a peripatetic life, traveling extensively all over Europe with their three kids in tow, moving back and forth across the country as easily as they traversed oceans, eating and drinking and immersing themselves in the places they found themselves. It was almost the exact opposite of my own WASP-ish, Oregon-centric upbringing.

"We lived in Greece for five-plus years, so our Greek street cred is far better than elsewhere," Denise said.  "Mom learned from the village ladies even before she could speak the language."

Am I envious? Why yes, yes I am!

Denise said she'd get the supplies for the stuffing if I could find some grape leaves. I said I'd do my best.

I arrived at her house the next morning with a shopping bag stuffed full of leaves of various sizes, which turned out to be helpful, since we could use the smaller ones for stuffing and the larger leaves for covering the rolls while they cooked. She trimmed the stems and softened them in a pot of salted water on the stove while I chatted from the doorway—pandemic, remember—then brought them out to the deck where I proceeded to separate and dry the leaves.

Ever the efficient project manager, Denise had cooked and cooled the onions the night before so she could combine them with the meat and spices just before I arrived. In proper socially distanced fashion we set up our work stations at opposite ends of the long table, scissors at the ready should we need to clip some tough leaf veins and a big pot of the meat-rice mixture each.

She showed me how to lay the leaf with the underside up and the stem end toward me, and to place a small amount—a tablespoon or less—at the stem joint, folding up the leaf ends to cover it. Then, like a burrito, the sides were folded in and the whole thing was rolled up tightly.

Magic!

For the next ninety minutes or so we sat and rolled (and rolled some more), eventually filling up our trays with the shiny packets as we caught up on friends and family and  summer events. It put me in mind of the kind of repetitive, calming work that women in my family did when I was growing up, sharing stories and gossip while snapping beans or doing dishes—you wash, I'll dry—or folding clothes fresh off the clothesline.

It was a gift of near-normalcy, a small break, a time out that I sorely needed. Not to mention that dinner was done, a bonus in itself! Thanks, my dearest Denise.

Della Santina Stuffed Grape Leaves

For the stuffing:
60-75 grape leaves, about 6" in diameter*
3 onions, minced finely (a processor works for this)
2 lbs. ground lamb (or a combination of beef and lamb)
1/2 c. uncooked long-grain rice
1/4 c. mint, chopped fine
3 Tbsp. dried mint (dried plus fresh gives added dimension)
3 Tbsp. olive oil (more if your meat is lean)
1 tsp. salt to start and generous grinding of pepper (see note)

For cooking the stuffed grape leaves:
1 c. water (or so)
1/2 c. lemon juice
1/2 c. olive oil

If you're using freshly picked leaves, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While it is heating, prepare the leaves by snipping off the stems and any thick vein ends. When the water boils, place the leaves in the boiling water and simmer for five minutes until softened and pliable (they'll turn dark green). Drain in a colander and run cold water over them until they can be handled.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onions until they're translucent and tender. Cool to room temperature.

While onions cool, take the blanched leaves and pat them dry with paper towels. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled onions with the meat, mint and olive oil and some salt and pepper.

NOTE: To test for salt, pepper and mint, heat a small frying pan over medium-high heat and brown a small amount of the meat before you add the uncooked rice; rice will dilute the saltiness. Taste and adjust salt.

Once you're satisfied with the salt level in the meat mixture, mix the uncooked rice into the meat.

Take one leaf and lay it with the shiny side down and the veined underside up, with the base of the leaf toward you. Place a tablespoon (or less if it's a smaller leaf) of the meat mixture at the base near the joint. Bring the bottom lobes up over the meat and fold in the sides (like a burrito). Then roll the packet up toward the point of the leaf. It should make a tight packet. Repeat until you've used all the meat. At this point you can store the stuffed grape leaves in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook them.

To cook the stuffed grape leaves, pour three tablespoons of olive oil into a large Dutch oven. Place the stuffed leaves into the pot, stacking them in layers if necessary. Pour the water, lemon juice and remaining olive oil over them. The water should barely cover the stuffed leaves. If it doesn't add more. Top with more leaves (fresh are fine, too) and cover with a plate to hold it all down. 

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour until the rice is done (test at 45 minutes and add time until meat is cooked, rice is very soft and the leaves are tender). Transfer to a platter, bathe in more lemon juice and olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

You'll also want to consider making tzatziki, a simple combination of yogurt, grated cucumber and crushed garlic.

* You can also use the preserved grape leaves that come in a jar. There are approximately 55 leaves in a 2-lb. jar.

Got Green Beans? You'll Love Michael Twitty's Green Bean Salad

In a moment of synchronicity, I got Jim Dixon's newsletter from Real Good Food within minutes of coming home from picking a bunch of beans in my neighbor's garden. (And, yes, I did get his permission!) Not only is this salad deeply delicious and satisfying, the story of Michael Twitty and his passion for correcting the myths regarding the origins of our foodways is equally filling. Thanks, Jim, for sharing this.

Michael Twitty’s green beans are loaded. The handful of ingredients add flavor, but these green beans also provide a historical link to Twitty’s enslaved ancestors, who grew vegetables to survive and used whatever they had to coax out flavor. Delicious food brings joy, and Black joy is resistance. There’s a lot to think about when you make this salad.

Twitty is an author, teacher, and culinary historian. He explores culinary injustice at Afroculinaria and, in the Washington Post, described himself as “four-time blessed: large of body, gay, African American and Jewish.” 

His 2013 open letter to Paula Deen over her long history of racist practices at her restaurants brought him national attention, but Twitty’s work toward a deeper understanding of Black history and the way we eat makes his voice even more important.

There’s not enough room [here] to cover it all, but this article provides a good starting point.

Michael Twitty's Green Bean Salad

1 1/2 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp. lemon juice*
2 Tbsp. flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced into thin slivers
1 Tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp. Okinawan brown sugar [or plain brown sugar]
4 Tbsp. red and orange bell peppers cut into small cubes

Place green beans in a large pot of boiling water seasoned with sea salt. Have at the ready a colander and a large bowl full of ice and water. Cook for 5 minutes then immediately drain and plunge into the ice bath until the beans are barely warm.

Make the vinaigrette while the green beans are in the ice bath. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, garlic, herbs, salt and sugar. 

Place the green beans in a non-reactive mixing bowl, add the chopped peppers, splash on the vinaigrette, mix well for a minute or two, and then allow the green beans to marinate in the dressing for about an hour or so.  Toss well before serving.


Find more super summer salad recipes for those hot, don't-turn-on-the-stove summer days.

Salad Smackdown: Six Simple Best-of-Summer Chillers

We're heading into the height of summer and, along with an avalanche of fruit and vegetables cascading in from local fields, we're also going to be hitting some mighty warm temperatures in the coming weeks. Gorgeous weather? You bet! But 100 degrees is not the time to be pulling out the braising pot or turning on the oven.

Leftover salmon salad.

And while grilling is a good solution to beating summer's heat when you need to put dinner on the table, it's good to vary the rotation, too. Which is where a back-pocket selection of simple dinner salads can come into play.

You don't have to heat up the house with hours of cooking, since most grains only need a half hour or so to get tooth-tender. Even soaking a pound of beans overnight then simmering them for an hour first thing in the morning can give you enough for a week's worth of meals.

I've put together a list of my favorite summer salads to keep your cool during the upcoming summer weather. Any would make a filling dinner all their own, and a couple could be a terrific complement to whatever you've got grilling.

Leftover Salmon Salad

2-3 c. leftover salmon, flaked
1/2 med. bulb fennel, sliced thinly
1 Tbsp. fennel fronds, chopped
2 med. plums, halved and sliced thinly
1-2 Tbsp. capers
2 green onions, sliced thinly
3 Tbsp. pine nuts, toasted
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon, added to taste
Salt, to taste

Put salmon, fennel, fennel fronds, plums, capers, green onions and pine nuts in large mixing bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the ingredients and add half of lemon juice. Toss gently to combine but don't break up the salmon too much. Adjust lemon juice and add salt to taste.

This would be a great lunch salad or light entrée served on a bed of fresh-from-the-garden (or farmers' market) lettuce. It would also be terrific combined with pasta or a cooked grain like farro, barley or parched green wheat (frikeh).


15-Minute Ramen Noodle Salad with Kimchi

For the dressing:
1/3 c. canola or peanut oil
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. garlic
2 tsp. tamari
2 Tbsp. white miso
1 tsp. gochugaru (optional)
1 tsp. roasted sesame oil

For the salad:
12 oz. fresh ramen noodles (not dried)
1/2 c. kimchi, chopped
1 Persian cucumber (can substitute 1/2 c. chopped English cucumber)
1 Tbsp. chopped chives for garnish

Bring a pot of water to rolling boil.

While the water is heating, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a blender and blend at high speed until well puréed.

When the water comes to a boil, gently pull apart ramen noodles while adding them to the water. Tease the strands apart with chopsticks while the water returns to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally to keep noodles from clumping. When they're done, drain them in a colander and rinse in cold water to stop them from cooking further.

Chop kimchi into bite-sized pieces. Quarter the cucumber and slice crosswise into 1/8” slices. Place noodles, kimchi, cucumber and dressing in serving bowl and combine. Garnish with chives.


Corn Salad with Avocado Crema

For the corn salad:
1 15-1/2 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 ears corn, kernels sliced fresh off the cob
1/2 red onion, halved lengthwise and slivered crosswise
1/2 large cucumber, seeded and diced, or two small Persian cucumbers, chopped
1 large ripe tomato, chopped (about 2 c.)
1 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt to taste

For the avocado crema:
1 c. milk
1 clove garlic
2 avocados
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 c. sour cream
Salt to taste

In a large mixing bowl combine the black beans, corn kernels, onion, cucumber and tomato. Pour in the lime juice and olive oil and stir gently to mix.

In the bowl of a food processor pour in the milk and add the garlic, avocados and lime juice. Process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary to incorporate all the ingredients. Add sour cream and pulse until just mixed, then add salt to taste.

The crema makes nearly four cups, which is more than enough to serve a small amount alongside the salad, but it is also spectacular as a dip for chips or in tacos or burritos. It'll keep for at least a week stored in the fridge, so don't be afraid to make the whole batch. (It can also be halved if you don't want to make the whole amount.)


Nectarine and Cherry Salad with Roasted Hazelnuts

1 1/2 lbs. nectarines (yellow or white) sliced
1 1/2 c. Bing cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 c. roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Combine all ingredients (reserving some chopped nuts) in a bowl and toss. Garnish with remaining hazelnuts.


BLT Salad

Adapted from Jim Dixon of Real Good Food

For the salad:
2 c. stale bread, cut in 1" cubes
4 oz. sliced bacon, cut crosswise in 1/4" pieces
3 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped in 1" cubes
1 small head iceberg lettuce or 1 medium head romaine, chopped

For the dressing:
1/4 c. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. buttermilk or whole milk
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

To make this more-than-just-a-tomato salad-with-bacon, start by cooking about a quarter pound of good bacon until it's crispy. Set the bacon aside and add a couple of handfuls of cubed bread to the bacon fat. If there's not enough to really coat the bread, add some extra virgin olive oil. Toast the bread until it's lightly browned.

Add dressing ingredients to a large salad bowl and whisk to combine. Add salad ingredients and toss well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Kale, Lentil and Nectarine Salad

3 c. lacinato kale, sliced into chiffonade
2 c. cooked lentils
1/4 red onion, chopped fine
1/2 cucumber, seeded, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 red bell pepper, roasted and thinly sliced into 1" long pieces
2 nectarines, chopped into 1/2” pieces
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c. olive oil
Salt to taste

Combine ingredients in large salad bowl. Toss. Adjust seasonings.