Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook
Every so often I’ll be posting a seasonal and local “clean food” menu grown close to home…maybe from your own garden.
WHAT is clean food? Really, it’s quite straight forward and I’ll keep it basic and simple:
- Whole foods: Whole foods are foods that haven’t been tampered with, in the lab or the manufacturing plant. The foods you eat are straight from the farm or garden: whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, grass-fed and free-range meats, low fat dairy products, unsalted nuts, and seeds.
- No processed foods: Processed foods are any food that has a label. A label means that more than one ingredient was used to make that food. You don’t have to eliminate all processed foods (like whole grain pasta or natural cheeses), but if you can’t pronounce an ingredient on a label, don’t eat it.
- No refined sugar (or very little). Refined sugar and corn syrup provide nothing but empty calories. With all the good foods you add to your diet, refined sugar really has very little place in the eating clean plan. Sugar which appears naturally in fruits is acceptable as you get a wallop of nutrients in that food.
- No Bad Stuff. No additives or preservatives, artificial flavorings, artificial colorings which can compromise health.
Obesity, heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes are in almost every household in the country. Those are lifestyle related conditions which affect us all. The problem is so urgent at this point we must become aware of our eating habits.
WHY Clean Food Menus? Coordinating foods for a meal usually creates a challenge. I’ll do the work for you with tasty balanced combinations. Another reason this is important is that you won’t find processed foods here. Just clean, pure ingredients.
- Tahini Cucumber Salad
- Grilled Beef, Garden and Shrimp Kebabs
- Individual Peach Berry Crisps
Tahini Cucumber Salad
Tahini is a ground sesame seed paste found in Middle Eastern, Indian and Asian Markets. It is the outstanding flavor ingredient in the very popular Hummus concoction.
- 1 1/2 pounds cucumbers, peeled, seeded and sliced lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2-3 tablespoons sesame tahini
- 1 teaspoon toasted Asian sesame oil
- Zest of a lime and fresh juice
- 2 tablespoons warm water (or more depending on how thick your tahini is)
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion ( save some for garnish)
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- sesame seeds and whole basil leaves for garnish
Slice the prepared cucumbers crosswise into 1/4-inch thick crescents.
Toss the sliced cucumbers in a colander with the tablespoon of salt. Let drain in the sink (15 minutes) while preparing everything else.
In a large bowl, whisk the tahini, lime zest, juice and warm water until combined. Add more water if needed until emulsified and thick like honey. Stir in the garlic and red onion.
Rinse the cucumbers under cool water and pat them dry with paper towels while in the colander. Add the cucumbers to the bowl with the dressing and gently toss to combine well. Add in the herbs. Adjust salt and add black pepper to taste. Chill for at least an hour in the refrigerator to flavor.
Place the cucumbers on a serving plate or platter. Tuck whole basil leaves around the edges. Sprinkle with reserved red onion and sesame seeds.
Grilled Beef, Garden and Shrimp Kebabs
Skewers can be threaded about 2 hours ahead of grilling. Keep refrigerated.
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound sirloin steak (1 inch thick), trimmed of excess fat and cut into generous 1-inch cubes
- 1 pound large raw shrimp in shell (20-30 per lb), peeled and deveined
- 8 ounces mushrooms, stem trimmed and halved through stem if large
- About 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 red onion, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Special equipment: wooden skewers, soaked in water 1 hour
Mince garlic and mash to a paste with salt using a large heavy knife. Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in lemon juice and pepper, then add oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified. Divide marinade among 2 medium bowls = 2/3 in one bowl and 1/3 in the second bowl.
Add the beef and vegetables to the bowl with more marinade and the shrimp to the second bowl. Cover, refrigerate and chill for at least 4 hours.
Drain marinade from each bowl. Thread the beef and veggie skewers with the beef cubes, mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers and onion. Thread shrimp only on their own skewers.
Prepare grill for cooking over high heat.
Grill beef vegetable skewers in batches on lightly oiled grill rack, covered, if using a gas grill, turning over once with tongs, until beef is medium-rare, about 3 minutes total.
For shrimp skewers, grill until just cooked through, about 2 minutes;turning frequently.
Individual Lavender Peach Berry Crisps
The topping deviates a bit from the norm as tangy ginger crisp cookies are used as a key ingredient. No butter is added yet the local honey holds the topping together and brings about a great crunch when baked.
- 2 peaches peeled and sliced
- 1/3 cup blueberries
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest and 2 tablespoons squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- pinch salt
- 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup ginger cookie crumbs
- 2 tablespoons old fashioned rolled oats
- 2 teaspoons sliced almonds
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1-2 tablespoons honey (depending on desired sweetness)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix peaches, blueberries, sugar, zest, lemon juice, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl. Let stand 10 minutes.
For the topping combine ginger cookie crumbs, oats, nuts, sesame seeds and honey in small bowl and stir well.
Grease 2 (6 ounce) ramekins with butter. Divide fruit mixture evenly between dishes. Top each with half of crumb topping. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until topping is golden and peaches are heated through.