Mixed Beans with Ginger, Lemongrass and Lime

2 pounds mixed beans (such as green, wax, haricots verts, Romano), trimmed

1 T olive oil
½ large shallot, finely chopped

1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer layers removed, finely grated

2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 T olive oil
1⁄3 cup salted, roasted peanuts

Dressing

1 t lime zest, finely grated
3 T fresh lime juice

3 T olive oil
¼ t sugar

½ t ground coriander

1 t sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

3 small kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped – Optional

1⁄3 C (packed) cilantro, chopped,  plus more for serving

Working in batches by type, cook beans in a large pot of boiling water until crisp- tender, 1–4 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice water; let cool. Drain and pat dry; transfer to a serving bowl. 


Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat and cook shallot, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 minutes. Add ginger, lemongrass and garlic, and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add to the bowl with beans. (Note: the shallots, ginger, lemongrass and garlic can be finely chopped together in a mini-prep food processor.)

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in same skillet over medium-high. Cook peanuts, tossing often, until golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool, then coarsely chop. Add to the bowl with beans.


Whisk together the dressing ingredients, either in a bowl or a mini-prep food processor. Add half of the dressing and the chopped cilantro to the beans, tossing well. Taste and adjust for more dressing or salt and pepper as you desire, or serve remaining dressing on the side.  Serve topped with more cilantro. Serves 8.


Baby Eggplant with Sweet Onion, Tomato and Mint (Imam Bayildi)

4 small eggplants

¼ C olive oil plus 2 T, divided

1 large sweet onion, sliced very thin

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ lb. (3 medium-large) tomatoes, peeled and chopped

½ t cumin

¼ t cinnamon

1 t sugar

½ C fresh mint, chopped

Make a slit, lengthwise, down the middle of each eggplant, being careful not to cut through the skin and without opening the ends. Heat a sauté pan large enough to hold the eggplants, and add ½ cup of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the eggplants and sauté quickly on all sides, until the skins are nicely browned and the oil is completely absorbed. Depending on the size of your eggplant, you may need to add a little more oil. Transfer the eggplants to a colander and place them cut side down. Allow to cool and drain for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the sliced onions. Sprinkle with one teaspoon of salt, cover with a lid and cook, stirring often, until the onions are very tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, chopped tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon and sugar. Continue to cook over medium heat, uncovered, until the tomatoes are reduced and the mixture becomes a thick sauce, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chopped mint.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange the eggplants cut side up in a baking dish. Open the slits and stuff each eggplant with the onion-tomato mixture. Drizzle with additional olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until very tender, about 1 hour. By the end of cooking the eggplants should be practically flat and the liquid in the dish slightly caramelized. Allow to cool in the baking dish and serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The finished dish can sit several hours. Serve 4-8.


Corn Chowder Salad

Crispy bacon and hearty potatoes bring the flavors of the classic summer soup to create a side dish perfect with grilled vegetable, fish, chicken or steak.

3 small red potatoes (about 2 cups), diced

3 strips thick-cut bacon

2 ears corn, kernels removed from the cobs (about 2 cups)

1/3 cup sour cream

2 scallions, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons apple-cider vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Wash and cut the potatoes into ½-inch dice and put them into a small pot of boiling water. Cook 8-10 minutes, until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain into a colander and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate. When cool, crumble and set aside. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Add the corn and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the kernels are bright yellow and crisp, about 3-5 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, sliced scallions, vinegar, thyme, paprika, salt and pepper. Add the potatoes, parsley, and bacon to the corn, and toss with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve at room temperature. Serves 4-6.


Salad-e Shirazi – Persian Cucumber, Tomato and Herb Salad

Originating in Shiraz, Iran, this traditional salad finds its way on to every Iranian table at practically every meal. Think of this as a juicier version of a Greek salad, where the herbs dominate. We love adding chunks of feta cheese and even croutons just before serving, but then it is no longer a traditional Iranian salad!

3 to 4 Persian cucumbers (about 3/4 pound)

2 to 3 medium tomatoes (about 1 pound)

½ C any combination of finely chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, basil, mint and/or dill

½ red onion, diced into 1/4-inch pieces

Dressing

¼ C freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 2 limes), plus more as needed

½ t sumac*

1 T extra-virgin olive oil

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Optional – ½ cup crumbled feta, ½ cup fresh made croutons

Dice cucumbers into 1/4-inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Remove tomato cores, dice remaining tomatoes into 1/4-inch pieces and add to bowl. Add the chopped herbs and onion.

In a small bowl, make the dressing by whisking together 1/4 cup lime juice, sumac, olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Just before serving, dress vegetables and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and lime juice as needed. Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 days. Serves 6.


Summer Melon Cake

3 C flour

4 t baking powder

1 t salt

¾ C butter, at room temperature

1 C granulated sugar

3 eggs

2 ¼ C puréed cantaloupe or orange-fleshed muskmelon (about 4 C melon chunks)

Glaze

1¼ C powdered sugar

¼ C fresh Meyer lemon juice or orange juice

Strips of lemon zest from Meyer lemon, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside. In a medium bowl and with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Place the melon chunks in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients in two parts to the butter mixture, alternating twice with the melon purée. After each addition, stir the mixture until smooth, making sure to clean the batter from the edges and bottom of the bowl. Mix the batter again on medium-high for about 2 min. Pour the batter into a greased and floured tube cake pan. Bake 40-50 min., or just until a cake tester comes out clean.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by mixing powdered sugar with the Meyer lemon juice or orange juice until smooth. Cool the cake in its pan for 30 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack. Spoon or pour glaze over the warm cake. Garnish with strips of lemon zest, if desired.