Saturday, August 3, 2019

Creamy Summer Cucumber, Radish, & Tomato Salad

Summer time is here. We've been enjoying the plentiful summer fruit this year at the Farmer's Market. White nectarines, strawberries, and pluots have been our favorites. Summer brings hot weather, pot lucks, and outdoor dining.

This is a quick and easy summer salad that's perfect for a potluck or picnic.

Creamy Cucumber, Radish, & Tomato Salad


Ingredients:
  • 1 English cucumber, seeded and diced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 bunch radishes, diced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons dill, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 4-6 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
Instructions:
  1. Prepare all vegetables in place in a large bowl. Start with tomatoes. I cut them in half "south pole to north pole" and the again "across the equator." Seed them as best as possible to reduce water content and let them drain in a colander while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Whisk mayonnaise with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  3. Add mayonnaise mixture to the vegetable bowl and toss to coat.
  4. Add feta and herbs and toss to mix. 
  5. Place salad in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Garnish with plenty of dill and chives.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Spinach & Arugula Salad with Nectarines and Chicken

It's stone fruit season here in California. Over the last few weeks we have been getting nectarines at our farmer's market and enjoying them whole and cut up in yogurt for lunch. We came home to some nectarines that were approaching over ripeness. So I got online to see what I could find about ways to incorporate nectarines into our dinner.

I found this salad as a starting point but I had to adapt it to what we had in the fridge. This recipe is pretty flexible and forgiving. You can substitute or try new ingredients which is exactly what I did.

Here's how it unfolded:

We had both arugula and spinach so I combined them for the salad. But if you could do this recipe with either or try some lettuce.

The online recipe called for blue cheese. We didn't have any but I substituted some shredded salty Manchego because that's what we had. I can imagine using crumbles of blue or Gorgonzola cheese or even goat cheese. But, you need a strong, salty cheese to counter the sweetness of the nectarine.

The original recipe also called for toasted pine nuts. In the interest of time, I skipped this step but I can imagine how a salty, crunchy nut would add some texture (and protein) to the salad. One could use chopped peanuts, cashews, or walnuts.

The original recipe did not include any chicken. But I went ahead and lightly browned some Tofurky Chick'n that I had described in an earlier post to top the salad in order to add that toothy component that meat provides. The Tofurky product is a really good chicken substitute. But if you eat meat, I can imagine pulling some shredded chunks from a supermarket rotisserie chicken on top. The warm meat (or "meat") is a nice contrast to refrigerator cold produce in the rest of the recipe.

The raspberry vinegar is also something you might not have in your pantry. I happened to have some because of a gift from a friend who lives in Sonoma County near Kozlowski Farms. But, if need be, you can use your red wine vinegar.

Be creative!

Ingredients:

  • Raspberry vinegar, 2 tablespoons
  • Sugar, 1 teaspoon
  • Olive oil, 3 tablespoons
  • Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon
  • Black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Salt, 1 large pinch
  • Arugula or spinach, 4 cups
  • Nectarines, 2, each sliced into 8 sections
  • Cheese, 1 cup
  • Rotisserie chicken, 1-2 cups shredded meat
Directions:
  • In a small bowl combine the first six ingredients. Whisk together until well blended
  • Place the arugula/spinach in a large bowl
  • Prep the cheese and lightly brown the chicken in a skillet
  • Pour the dressing over the greens and toss to coat
  • Add the cheese and toss to coat
  • Plate the salad and top with nectarine slices and chicken



Monday, December 24, 2018

Herbed White Bean Puree

I was making this recipe on Christmas Eve this year, when I realized that I make this every year as an appetizer when friends and family come by during the holidays. It is always well received by company. I make it other times during the year, too, when I need a quick and easy appetizer that's sure to please.

The beauty of this recipe is that you don't have to follow it verbatim. If you don't have one of the less important ingredients it doesn't really matter. You can skip it or put in a substitute. You just need the basics though. You can also make this 1 or 2 days ahead of time and keep it covered in the fridge. Let it sit out for a few hours before serving.

Herbed White Bean Puree

Ingredients:

  • Garlic - 3-4 cloves minced
  • Beans - 1 can of white beans (white navy, great northern, or cannellini) rinsed and drained
  • Italian parsley - 2-3 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley leaves
  • Capers - 1 tablespoon rinsed and drained
  • Lemon juice - 1 tablespoon
  • Olive oil 
  • Hot pepper sauce - a few drops to start (optional)
  • Herb mix
    • salt - 1/2 teaspoon
    • dried thyme - 1/2 teaspoon
    • dried dill - 1/2 teaspoon
    • dried tarragon - 1/2 teaspoon
    • dried basil - 1/2 teaspoon
    • white pepper - 1/4 teaspoon
    • ground nutmeg - 1/4 teaspoon
Directions:
  • Prep all ingredients and put the herb mix in a small prep bowl
  • Mince the garlic into a food processor bowl and add lemon juice
  • Add all other ingredients then drizzle liberally with olive oil and begin processing
  • Continue to process for 1-2 minutes (you want to break down the parsley leaves completely) adding olive oil as needed to bring the finished product to a smooth, creamy, hummus-like consistency
  • Taste and adjust salt, lemon juice, or hot pepper sauce if needed
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with a parsley sprig
  • Serve with bread sticks, crackers, pita chips, or fresh vegetables

Friday, November 23, 2018

Roasted Delicata Squash

It's a bit hard to get excited about Delicata squash. I can understand that. It's also the kind of squash that many people likely pass by because they know it's a squash but they don't really know what to do with it. But once you master how to draw the best elements of this squash, you will be a convert.
photo of squash

The trick is to roast the squash to draw out and intensify the creamy flavors and textures. You want to get some color on the squash. Some browning (and even a little bit of black) really helps. The crisp and crunchy exterior mixed with the smooth, creamy inside almost resembles eating french fries.

It's also simple to prepare. You eat the skin so there's no peeling involved. All you have to do is scoop out the seeds and membranes in the core.

Finally, it's a side dish that can easily complement whatever your main dish is. This is because you can use any variety of seasonings you want on the squash. If you are using a particular seasoning on your main dish, add the same to your squash. For this preparation, I added some roasted garlic powder and a seasoning mixture from Penzey's spices along with the salt and pepper. If you're new to Delicata squash, start simple and then begin to experiment on future preparations.


Roasted Delicata Squash


Ingredients:
  • Delicata squash - figure one squash per two people when served as a side
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • seasonings of choice
Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees
  • Thoroughly wash the outside of the squash (you're going to be eating it after all). Let dry before preparing.
  • Cut off the stem and the tip of the bottom.
  • Cut in half lengthwise and with a spoon scoop out the seeds and the membranes. Scrape the spoon along the flesh and try to get a smooth surface on the squash.
  • Cut into uniform 1/2 inch slices
  • Place slices in a large bowl and add some salt and pepper--be generous with both
  • Add your seasonings of choice and olive oil
  • Stir to mix making sure each slice gets a good coating of oil and seasoning mix
  • Arrange on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet single layer
  • Roast in the oven for 15 minutes
  • Remove the sheet and turn over each slice then return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes
  • Remove from oven, let cool for a bit, then serve as a side


     


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Roasted Brussels Sprouts


A common side dish in this house is Brussels sprouts. Most often I prepare them in the skillet--either halved or shredded. Both are great methods to prepare them. Most recently, I've been roasting them in the oven. Roasting allows for crispy edges and you can season them however you like. You can experiment with different seasonings to find something that you especially like.

Now if you think you don't like Brussels sprouts, you're probably recalling the bitter vegetable that you were forced to choke down over the holidays. But over the last quarter century, farmers have been selectively breeding them to reduce the bitter compounds (glucosinolates) that have turned you off of this healthy vegetable. It's time to try them again. Brussels sprouts are high in Vitamin K and C and also provide protein. 


Roasted and Seasoned Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:
  • Brussels sprouts - enough for a side dish for each person, trim off stem, pull off outer leaves, and cut in half
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Your favorite seasonings
  • Olive oil

Directions:
Preheat to 400 degrees.


Prepare Brussels sprouts and put them into a quart-sized plastic bag. Add to the bag the olive oil, salt, pepper, and your favorite seasonings. Shake the bag (Shake and Bake style!) to coat the Brussels sprouts with the oil and seasonings. This time, the seasonings I added were some roasted garlic powder and some of Penzey's Mural of Flavor. This is where you can experiment with various seasonings to find a few variations that you like. Add a bit of soy sauce for an Asian twist. Add a bit of your favorite hot sauce if you like. You can try it out with a different seasoning mix each night. But never omit the salt (unless you are under doctor's orders) as the salt helps a great deal with the flavor. 

Place the coated sprouts face down on a baking sheet and pop them into the pre-heated oven. Every 5-10 minutes give them a stir. Cook 30-40 minutes depending on how blackened and crispy you want them. When finished, remove from the oven and let cool for a bit. Sprinkle with some finishing salt and more pepper and serve as a side dish. 

Another technique is to add some grated Parmesan cheese (actual cheese, not the stuff in the green can) during the last few minutes of cooking. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Parsley Pesto

This is a quick, easy, healthy, and tasty weeknight salad that I recently adapted from a Cooking Light magazine and I've made this recipe a few times now. Use this as starting point and tweak it to your liking.

I made a number of changes to the original recipe. But we picked this recipe to try because of one ingredient: roasted garbanzo beans!

Now the concept of roasting garbanzo beans is a new to us. We like them and there are always a few cans in the pantry. But roasting these things turns them into something dangerously addictive (in a good way!). They are THAT good. Suddenly, they are tasty nuggets that are meaty and chewy. They are utterly transformed and vastly improved. It's an amazing transformation.

We got introduced to the concept through a Blue Apron recipe. The roasting of the garbanzo beans seemed like an unnecessary step but I thought I would just follow the recipe. Once they cooled enough to try one I was hooked. It was hard not to keep stealing a few as they cool. They could stand on their own as a healthy snack food.

The recipe also includes some parsley pesto. I have a go-to recipe for traditional pesto with basil. I make batches of it during the summer months and then freeze them in ice cube trays to use throughout the year. I've also made pesto with other ingredients including parsley, carrot top greens, arugula, and cilantro. Parsley pesto is a nice, mild pesto and it's great to have some on hand frozen. Defrost a cube to add to eggs, fish, or chicken if you eat meat. So I have multiple bags of various types of frozen pesto cubes in the freezer at the ready.

Finally, the original recipe called for some pulled chunks of rotisserie chicken. Since we don't eat meat, we substituted Tofurky's tasty "Slow Roasted Chick'n." This has been another revelation. This chicken substitute is pretty dead on and it has opened up some new recipes for us to try.

Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Parsley Pesto

Serves 2
  • Parsley - 1 large flat leaf bunch cleaned and dried with leaves pulled off
  • Pine nuts - 1/3 cup
  • Parmesan cheese - 1 cup grated
  • Garlic - 2-3 cloves minced
  • salt and pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Chicken - 1/2 - 3/4 of an 8 oz package of Tofurky Slow Roasted Chick'n or about 4 cups of  shredded rotisserie chicken
  • Edamame - 2 cups, shelled and cooked
  • Garbanzo beans - 1 15 oz. can drained
  • English cucumber - 1, chopped
  • Arugula - 4 handfuls
Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Parsley Pesto
Combine first five ingredients in a food processor bowl. While processing, slowly add olive oil until you reach the desired consistency. To preserve for the future, spoon pesto into oiled ice cube trays and freeze overnight. The next day, set out for a few minutes and then separate the cubes from the trays. Place cubes in freezer bags and store in the freezer for future use. For this recipe, use 3-4 frozen cubes of parsley pesto.

Roasted Garbanzo Beans
Drain and rinse the beans then place them in a single layer on a doubled paper towel. Cover with paper towels and let them dry completely. Transfer beans to a large bowl and add olive oil, salt, and pepper and stir to mix. Place beans in a single layer on a (parchment paper lined) cookie sheet and place in pre-heated oven for 20-22 minutes. Roll beans over halfway through the cooking time. Watch the beans closely during the last few minutes. Remove when done and let cool. 

Chicken
Place the chicken (in whatever form) in a skillet with a little olive oil over medium high heat. Cook until there's a some browning on both sides.

Assemble salad
In a large mixing bowl, combine arugula, edamame, roasted garbanzo beans, and cucumber. Mix in parsley pesto and stir to coat the ingredients with the pesto (it's actually better to mix by hand to get a nice coating on everything). Drizzle with some olive oil if you think the mixture seems dry. Divide the mixture between serving plates or bowls and top with the cooked chicken. 




Monday, July 30, 2018

Spaghetti al Limone

The backyard lemons continue to be in full bloom. As in the last post, I am always looking for ways to use up the backyard bounty of lemons.

I got this recipe via email from my Milk Street subscription. What appealed to me were the simple ingredients, quick preparation time (hello weeknight meal!), bright flavors, and the use of a lemon.

With this recipe, I also appreciated the use of starchy pasta water along with a generous bit of butter to thicken the sauce instead of some recipes which call for cream. This leads to a cleaner, lighter, and brighter finish.

This Italian-based recipe comes from the Campania region of Italy where there is an abundance of lemon trees along the Amalfi Coast.

Spaghetti al Limone (serves 4)


Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons salted butter, divided
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • red pepper flakes, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon to start then adjust accordingly)
  • 10-12 ounces spaghetti or linguini
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine (plus extra for the chef!)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup of chopped parsley (or basil leaves)
  • finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
  • Prep lemon zest, herbs, and mince garlic. Preheat 2 quarts of salted water for pasta.
  • In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter (I also added some olive oil to the mixture). Add the minced garlic and cook stirring for about 30 seconds.
  • Add the red pepper flakes and cook for one more minute
  • Add the white wine and simmer until reduced, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Bring pasta water to a boil. Cook the pasta until 2-3 minutes short of the directions (pasta will continue to cook later in the skillet).
  • As pasta nears time, ladle of 1 1/2 cup of pasta water then drain pasta
  • Return the skillet to medium high heat, stir in the reserved pasta water, and bring to a simmer. Add the drained pasta and stir to mix. 
  • Lower the heat until gently simmering.
  • Add 2 remaining tablespoons of butter,  a very generous grind of black pepper, the lemon juice and zest, and the parsley.
  • Continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened and the extra water has evaporated. This is a key step. You don't want a watery sauce so simmer until the pasta glistens with starch and fat and the sauce has thickened.
  • Transfer to serving dishes and serve with some grated Parmesan cheese
  • Garnish with a lemon slice or a sprig of fresh parsley or basil