Creamed Swiss Chard with Tahini

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Let’s get one thing out of the way: I can’t stand creamed spinach: to me, it tastes bland. Its one redeeming quality? A lovely, velvety texture. So when I experimented with this Swiss chard side dish, I wanted something that evoked the texture of creamed spinach but with lots more flavor, and healthier too.

Sure, there’s no actual cream in this “creamed” Swiss chard, but you won’t miss it anyway. Serve this as a side dish or as a dip alongside crackers and crudites.

Creamed Swiss chard with tahini

2 bunches green-stemmed Swiss chard (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup tahini
1/3 cup lemon juice
Salt

1. Remove ribs and stems from Swiss chard leaves and finely chop. Tear leaves into small pieces. Set stems and leaves aside separately.

2. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large pot over medium-low. Cook reserved ribs and stems, stirring often and adding a splash of water if they start to brown, until tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add reserved chard; cook, tossing, until all the leaves are wilted and tender, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Squeeze excess liquid from mixture into a measuring glass. (You should have about 1/2 cup liquid.)

3. Place Swiss chard mixture and 1 tablespoon cooking liquid in a food processor and add tahini, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup oil. Season with salt and process, adding more cooking liquid if needed, until dip is creamy. Season with more salt if needed.

4. Serve as a side dish or as a dip alongside crackers.

Crispy Okra Salad

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Say hello to your new favorite summertime salad. I love okra, but I know a lot of folks don’t appreciate the, uh, texture. Because of how the okra is prepared here, there isn’t any of that viscosity usually associated with okra. Instead, you have perfectly crispy, salty, seasoned spears of okra. Kind of like the glorious spears of okra fries I enjoyed in London’s Dishoom last year.

Tossed with a bright, citrusy dressing and fresh vegetables, this is delicious on its own or paired with a heartier dish like chicken tikka masala.

Crispy okra salad

Ingredients:

1 1/4 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon amchoor powder
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 pound okra, halved lengthwise and cut into long, thin strips
Salt
1 small shallot, halved and thinly sliced
1 tomato, sliced into thin strips
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. In a small bowl, mix the garam masala with the amchoor powder.

2. In a large skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the okra strips, stirring a few times, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried okra to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with some of the spice mixture and salt.

3. In a bowl, toss the fried okra with the shallot, tomato, cilantro and lemon juice. Season the salad with more of the spice mixture and salt and serve.

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Quiche

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Asparagus season is almost over in the Bay Area but I’m still finding ways to cook with it before the window closes. This asparagus and goat cheese quiche is a quick and easy way to showcase the seasonal bounty of Northern California: the asparagus is local and I picked up the goat cheese from a recent visit to Pennyroyal Farms in Mendocino County.

This quiche is perfect for breakfast or lunch, or better yet, packed up and served at a picnic.

Asparagus and goat cheese quiche

Ingredients:

1 pie crust
3 ounces diced pancetta
6 eggs
1/2 bunch (7 ounces) asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut on a diagonal into 1-to 1 1/2 in. pieces
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese

1. Follow instructions on pie crust to pre-bake crust on a baking sheet in the oven before adding filling ingredients, if needed.

2. Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook until very crisp, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels.

3. Whisk eggs in a large bowl to blend. Stir in asparagus, chives, the creme fraiche, salt, and pepper until blended. Fold in pancetta. Pour filling into crust and dot with goat cheese.

4. Bake at 400F degrees until filling is set in center when tart is gently shaken, 13 to 20 minutes. Let quiche cool about 10 minutes. With a knife, loosen crust from edge of pan. Carefully push quiche out and set on a platter. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Grilled Corn Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing

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It’s hot outside and you don’t want to turn on the stove, so you grill some chicken or steak or sausages instead. Why not grill your salad too? Add a couple cobs of corn and while they cook, chop up some avocados and voila: you’ve got a salad — and a delicious one at that.

Creamy, smoky, and bright with a citrus dressing, this salad hits all the right notes. Feel free to double the recipe — this one goes fast.

Grilled corn salad with honey-lime dressing

Ingredients:

3 ears of corn, husked
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
2 avocados, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves (optional)

1. Prepare a grill for medium-high heat. Brush ears of corn with butter; season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, until kernels are tender and charred in spots, 10–12 minutes. Let cool, then cut kernels from cobs.

2. Meanwhile, whisk lime juice, honey, chili garlic sauce, granulated garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl to combine. Add corn, avocados, chile, and cilantro (if using) to vinaigrette and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Avocado Salad with Pickled Mustard Seeds

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It’s avocado season and I’m eating them plain, in salads, in sandwiches, and with eggs — basically any way I possibly can. My new favorite way to enjoy avocados is with pickled mustard seeds: an acidic, vinegary foil for creamy avocados. Adapted from a Milk Street recipe, you can make the dressing ahead of time and you can assemble the salad just before serving.

Avocado salad with pickled mustard seeds

Ingredients:

For the pickled mustard seeds:

1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
3 allspice berries
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

For the dressing:

Pickled mustard seeds plus 2 tablespoons reserved brine
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh marjoram or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons olive oil

To serve:
3 avocados
5 teaspoons lemon juice

1. To make the pickled mustard seeds: In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the mustard seeds and enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the seeds are tender, about 8 minutes. Strain the seeds through a mesh strainer ands transfer to a bowl. Wipe out and reserve the pan.

2. To the pan, add the vinegar, sugar, water, peppercorns, coriander, allspice, bay leaf and pepper flakes, then place over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the spices are fragrant and the sugar has dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes. Strain the hot brine over the mustard seeds, discarding the solids, and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. To make the dressing: In a small bowl mix together the pickled mustard seeds and 2 tablespoons reserved brine, the shallot, mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Add the marjoram and olive oil and whisk until emulsified.

4. To assemble and sere, slice the avocados in half lengthwise, peel, and remove the pits. Place the avocado halves cut side down. Cut each into 6 lengthwise slices. Arrange the avocado halves on a serving platter or individual plates. Sprinkle lemon juice over the avocado slices. Spoon the dressing over the avocados and serve.