Tomato, Arugula and Quinoa Salad with Miso Vinaigrette

miso dressingAlthough I love this simple combination of sweet cherry tomatoes, spicy baby arugula and nutty red quinoa, it is the wonderful miso vinaigrette that needs to be your take-away keeper recipe from this post.  Simple to whisk together, this vinaigrette will keep for several days in a jar in the fridge and is positively addictive.  I love to use it as a sauce for the veggie sushi that I pick up at Whole Foods, as a marinade for fish and seafood, or just a super tasty salad dressing.  Homemade dressings are infinitely better than the store bought variety and they only take seconds to prepare.

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Girard’s Ole Venice Italian

To tell the truth, we only purchase one store bought salad dressing in our house and we use it on all types of salads and to marinate fresh asparagus for the grill.  Its nice to have a standby that you can count on.

 

 

 

 

But try this miso vinaigrette and get creative….it is sure to become a favorite this summer.

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For the Miso Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons white miso

3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1-2 teaspoons light brown sugar (to taste)

1/2 cup extra-light olive oil ( or other light, neutral oil)

Whisk first 6 ingredients together until smooth (or use your Magic Bullet or other small blender). Add olive oil and blend or whisk vigorously until you have a creamy dressing.

For the salad

1 pint sweet cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 package baby arugula

1 1/2 cups cooked and cooled red quinoa, see package for directions

Toss salad ingredients with 1/4 cup of the miso vinaigrette and toss gently.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Store remaining vinaigrette refrigerated in a jar or other sealed container.

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Asparagus Tartine

asparagus tartine-3A tartine is simply an open-faced sandwich and here is the perfect one for a glorious spring day.  Look for big, meaty spears with tightly closed tips that signify freshness.  Did you know that the diameter of asparagus spears relates to the maturity of the plant?  I takes 2 or 3 years before asparagus plants are well established enough, with spears big enough, to harvest.  And so I do imagine that the day the asparagus begins to nudge its way out of the soil must be one of a gardener’s favorite days!   Recipe adapted from Cicchetti, and other small Italian Plates to Share, by Lindy Wildsmith and Valentina Sforza.

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1 pound asparagus

4 eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons mayonaise

salt and pepper

1 fresh baguette, or other good, fresh crusty bread, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a simmer.  Carefully lower the eggs into the water and simmer for 12 minutes.  While eggs are cooking, prepare a bowl of ice water.  Remove eggs from hot water and immediately place them into the ice bath  to cool.  Meanwhile, trim the asparagus, bring the water in the pot to a boil, add the asparagus and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes, depending on the size of the spears.  Remove the eggs from the ice bath and add more ice so that you can chill the asparagus just as soon as it is ready.

Peel the eggs then chop finely.  When the asparagus is cooled, remove from the ice bath and cut the tips and set them aside to use as the garnish.  Chop the rest of the spears and add to the chopped eggs.  Add the olive oil and mayonnaise and gently stir to combine.  Season well with salt and pepper to taste.

Brush the bread slices with olive oil, toast lightly and let cool.  Spread each tartine with some of the egg salad, top with the reserved asparagus tips then sprinkle with chives.  (The number of servings that this recipe will produce varies greatly based upon the size of the bread you use. You can make around 30 small appetizer servings with a skinny baguette or 6 lunch-sized portions with a larger Italian bread such as the one I used in the photo. Just be sure to save enough asparagus tips to finish your dish.)

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Zesty Artichoke and Palm Salad with Cannellini

Artichoke and Palm SaladTwo hearts are better than one in this delicious marinated salad.  Hearts of Palm and Artichoke Hearts are the perfect compliment to creamy Cannellini Beans drenched in an Italian Style Vinaigrette.  It’s a super make-ahead and/or take-along salad since it keeps well in the frig for a couple of days and is especially good with grilled chicken, beef or seafood.  Toss in some fresh spinach or arugula just before serving if you want to turn this into a vegetarian main course.

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1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 can artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered

1 jar hearts of palm, drained and sliced

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly

In a small bowl, whisk together first six ingredients to make the vinaigrette.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, gently toss together the artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, cannellini beans and red onion.  Re whisk the vinaigrette and pour over the salad.  Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper if needed.  Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour.  Let the salad sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before serving for best flavor. Serves 6-8 as a side dish and 4 as a vegetarian main course.

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Hard Cooked Eggs with Basil and Fluffy Ham

devilled ham and eggs 1Wonderful opportunities arise when you have a bit of leftover ham in the frig.  I’m not talking about deli meats…not cold cuts… but a real hunk of boneless or semi boneless smoked ham.  They come fully cooked, but in my family we still roast the heck out of it anyway so that we can shave it into thin, melt in your mouth slices.

The first serving of a ham around here is hot from the oven, carved at the table with a  cheese grits casserole  and a big green salad.  After that, it goes into eggs at breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and flavors soups and salads throughout the week.  The possibilities are endless, of course, as demonstrated by my latest discovery, Ham Fluff.

Looking for a way to perk up some deviled eggs I was making, I spied the last bits of a ham that I had cooked last Friday.  Using a microplane grater, the one that is designed for parmesan cheese, I grated the ham into a big pile of the softest, fluffiest stuff you can imagine.  Then I leveled off the filling from the deviled eggs to make room and topped each egg with a generous amount.  So what you get is the salty good taste of ham, which we all know goes well with eggs, without taking away from the creamy, light texture of a good deviled egg.  If you are looking for a resource for ham, I highly recommend the  The Good Ham Company in Memphis, TN.

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1 dozen medium or large eggs*

2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

6 large leaves of fresh basil, slivered thinly

salt and pepper

2 inch piece of leftover baked smoked ham, cold

Fill a large sauce pot half way with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Carefully lower the eggs into the hot water and simmer, being careful not to let the water boil, for 15 minutes.  While eggs are cooking, prepare a large bowl with ice and water.  At the 15 minute mark, remove there eggs from the hot water and immediately put them in the bowl with the ice water.  Let sit 15 minutes, then peel.  Cut the eggs in half crosswise or lengthwise  and pop the yolks out into a small bowl.  Using a fork, mash the yolks then stir in enough of the cream to create a smooth, luscious filling.  Stir in fresh basil and season to taste with salt.  Fill each egg white half with the egg yolk mixture, leveling off the top. (recipe can be made to this point, covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.)  When ready to serve,  grate the cold ham with a small microplane grater (the one designed for grating parmesan cheese) creating a big pile of fluff.  Top each egg generously and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

*If you want to guarantee easy-to-peel eggs, use a push pin to poke a tiny hole, just barely through the shell, in the larger end of each egg.  If done correctly, only air bubbles will escape from the holes while the eggs are simmering.  If you go too deep, you’ll get some egg white oozing out into the water, but your eggs will still turn out fine.  The ice bath helps with the peeling too, as well as keeping the yolks from developing the greenish ring around the edges.

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Main Course Spinach Salad with Prosciutto, Cannellini, and a Maple Vinaigrette

Spinach Prosciutto Salad

I love the way proscuitto changes when it is slightly warmed.  It loses the waxy texture and it’s salty flavor is intensified.  Try it in this excellent main course salad; one that can easily come together in 10-15 minutes if you have the pantry ingredients on hand.  A warm fire, a glass of Chianti and this salad are a heavenly combination!

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For the vinaigrette

3 teaspoons maple syrup

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup light olive oil

1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

pinch of salt

For the Salad

1 bunch fresh baby spinach (about 6 cups) stemmed

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon butter

4 ounces very thinly sliced Prosciutto ham, cut into ribbons (see note below)

1/4 cup pine nuts

In a small bowl, whisk vinaigrette ingredients together until blended.  Place spinach, cannellini beans and red onion in a large bowl.  Add vinaigrette and toss.  Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the pine nuts and stir until fragrant, about a minute, then add the prosciutto and stir constantly, separating the ribbons, until it is warmed through, about 2 more minutes.  Remove from the heat and let this mixture cool slightly before adding it to the salad and tossing to combine.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.  Serves 4 as a main course.

Note: If you are a Costco shopper, that is where you should get your prosciutto and pine nuts….good quality and best value around for these pricey ingredients.

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Banana Scones with Spiced Pecan Glaze

banana scones with pecan spice glaze_Here’s the thing about scones.  You can’t just go throwing in extra ingredients willy-nilly to create different flavors.  You’ll throw off the proportions and end up with a dry and cakey mess.  So in creating this new version of my favorite tea-time treat, I’ve carefully pureed a couple of very ripe bananas into the cream before mixing the dough, and then added extra layers of flavor by spicing up the glaze with nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.  And to top it off, the pecans have been toasted in a bit of butter, salt and brown sugar for amazing taste and texture.

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For the dough:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon sugar

5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 very ripe bananas

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the pecan topping:

1 cup pecans, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

For the glaze:

1 cup confectioners sugar

a couple of teaspoons milk or cream

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

generous pinch of ground cloves

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a Pyrex measuring cup, thoroughly mash the bananas then add cream and vanilla and stir well.  This mixture should total 1 1/2 cups.  Set aside.  Whisk dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and sugar) together in a medium bowl.  Add the butter to the flour mixture and cut it in, either with a pastry fork, two table knives, or your fingers, until the butter is in small pieces (about the size of a pea) and the mixture is crumbly.  Make a well in the center of the flour/butter mixture and pour in the cream/bananas.  Using a fork, gradually work the wet and dry ingredients together to form a dough.  This will not be a wet dough so resist the temptation to add more cream.  As soon as the dough starts to come together, dump it out on a clean surface and begin to pat it out into a rectangle, about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Be careful not to overwork the dough.  Cut the rectangle in half width-wise, then cut each of those pieces into 4 squares, then cut each square into 2 triangles.  Transfer triangles to the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until puffed and just lightly brown around the edges.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Toast the pecans:  In a small skillet, melt the butter and add the pecan, salt and brown sugar.  Stir constantly for several minutes until pecans are warmed through and sugar is melted.  Remove from skillet and let cool.

Make the glaze:  Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl and add the milk or cream one teaspoon at a time until you get a thick glaze.  Stir in spices and set aside until scones are completely cooled.

When scones have cooled completely, use a table fork to drizzle glaze over each one and sprinkle generously with the pecans.  Let glaze dry before serving.  Makes 32 small scones.

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End-of-the-Summer Tomato Bread Salad with Peppers and Black Olives

Tomato Bread Salad 2-2

This salad is a combination of inspiration from the excellent dinner party thrown by Outstanding in the Field and a recipe in the founder’s book, Outstanding in the field, a farm to table cookbook, by Jim Deneven and Marah Stets.  I love the sweet roasted yellow peppers and fresh juicy tomatoes with the salty cured black olives and capers.  And the bread soaks in all the flavors of the simple vinaigrette to make this a hearty salad that you can make a meal out of. Adjust the amounts of the different ingredients to suit your taste…mine has a bit less bread and a bit more of everything else!

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1 Loaf Italian country bread, crusts removed and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 yellow bell peppers, roasted, seeded, peeled and cut into 1 inch squares (see note below)

1 pound ripe, juicy tomatoes

1 medium cucumber (I used watermelon gherkins)

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup dry cured black olives, halved and pitted

2 handfuls baby arugula

2 teaspoons anchovy paste

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Toast the bread cubes until they are dried out all over, about 10 minutes. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the cores and seeds.  Cut them into 1/2 inch cubes.  Peel, half, and seed the cucumber.  Cut into 1/4 inch slices

In a large bowl, combine the bread, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula, capers, and olives.  Toss together until well combined,  In a small bowl, whisk together the anchovy pastes, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Drizzle vinaigrette over salad and toss well (you may not need all the dressing) .  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Let the salad sit for 15 minutes or so to let the bread soak in the vinaigrette.  (the chef suggests 3 hours, which is probably more traditional, but I like this best when the bread has soaked in the flavors yet still retains a bit of crunch around the edges).  Tear the basil leaves and add them to the salad just before serving.   Serves 6-8

NOTE:  To roast peppers:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees, roast whole peppers on a baking sheet until black and blistered all over.  Remove to a paper bag, close and let rest 15 minutes to steam themselves.  At this point you will be able to peel, core and seed them quite easily.

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Magnolia’s Charleston Crabcakes

Magnolia's Grill CrabcakesAs this is the 4th crab cake recipe I have posted to The Right Recipe, I should offer a quick run-down.  If you need to make crab cakes for a crowd, try the Oven Baked Crab Cakes with Two Dipping Sauces.  For an Asian twist, you can’t beat Spicy Asian Crab Cakes.  For an elegant and impressive sandwich, turn to Daniel Bouloud’s Crab Cake Sandwich.

Now to the crab cakes at hand.  These are from Magnolia’s, a fixture on Old Bay Street in Charleston, SC.  The recipe was published in Magnolia’s Authentic Southern Cuisine by Donald Barickman. They have a lovely balance of flavors and are simply chock-full of crab…the way all crab cakes should be.  I especially love the preparation technique (see photo below) because you can put them together hours in advance and you’ll  have slice-and-bake crab cakes at a moments notice.

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1/2 cup minced red onions
1/3 cup minced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced tarragon
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 pound jumbo lump or lump crabmeat, gently picked over and drained of any liquid
3/4 cup panko (you can cut this back to 1/2 cup, as I do, if you are willing to be very gentle turning the cakes…they will be fragile without the extra binder but I think it is worth it.)
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons light olive oil

Place onions, bell pepper, tarragon and mayonnaise in a mixing bowl and combine. Gently fold in the crabmeat. Add the panko and season with salt, white pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes. The panko will absorb some of the moisture and the mixture will stay together.

Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap on a clean counter surface. Place half of the crab mixture on it and use a spatula or a spoon to form it into a tube about 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Bring the wrap up over the crab and roll the crab mixture up. Twist the ends to close. Pierce any air pockets with a toothpick or skewer. Twist the ends even tighter to compress the crab mixture. Tuck under the ends of the wrap and place the tube on a plate. Repeat with the second half of the crab cake mixture. Place the tubes in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.

WHEN READY TO COOK:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

When ready to use, cut the tubes into 1 1/4-inch-thick cakes. Gently remove the plastic wrap, leaving the cakes in nice cylinders.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan (non-stick works well here) over medium-high heat until very hot, but not smoking. Gently place 4 of the crab cakes in the pan and sear for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. Gently turn the cakes over and sear the other side until golden brown. Place them on a baking sheet and into the oven to keep warm.  Wipe the pan, add the remaining olive oil and repeat this process for the other 4 crab cakes. (If you have a big enough pan, you can cook 6 or 8 of them at the same time and skip the warming oven, but the cakes need room to sear properly and be turned so be careful not to crowd the pan)

crabcake rolls

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Perfect S’mores Cookies and 3 More Great Recipes

Perfect S'more CookiesIn this post I am going to share 4 recipes that I use time and time again.  Each of them is featured on someone else’s food blog and since I make them exactly as  written, I am simply going to refer to you the source.  These are real keepers and only a click away.  Enjoy!

The aptly named, Perfect S’more Cookies by Baked By Rachel

Pay attention to her advice to press the marshmallows into the center of the dough when possible.  It’s an easy step that will help the cookies keep their shape.  These cookies are a huge hit around here.

Grilled-salmon-with-avocado-salsa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa from Laylita’s Recipes  

I haven’t photographed this dish so I have borrowed the lovely one above from Laylita’s Recipes.  Sometimes I use a whole side of salmon and serve it with the salsa on top for a beautiful dinner party presentation.

Sesame Noodles with Scallions and Cilantro

Sesame Noodles with Scallions and Cilantro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sesame Noodles with Scallions and Cilantro from Week of Menus.  

I like to add lots of veggies to these noodles.  They travel really well and sometimes we top them with grilled chicken or shrimp.

 

Caesar Salad

 

Homemade Caesar Dressing from Once Upon A Chef

No raw eggs here so no worries about that.  I like to make tiny little croutons to put on this salad…nice to get a little crunch with every bite!  In this photo, my  croutons are gluten free.  Udi’s White Bread, found in the freezer section of Whole Foods and other grocery stores, makes excellent croutons.  Just remove the crusts, cut into tiny cubes, about 1/4 inch, douse with extra virgin olive oil (enough to just soak through the bread cubes but not pool on the baking tray) Sprinkle with salt and pepper and put in an 250 degree oven and then you can just forget about them for a while…..1-1 1/2 hours…or until golden brown and crunchy throughout. (Pepperidge Farm Hearty White Bread is a good option for croutons if you don’t need/want gluten free)

Two Bite Turkey Sliders… For Manly Men

Low Carb Turkey Sliders for Manly MenThis recipe was inspired by  Turkey Patties for Manly Men in The Family Chef, by Jewels and Jill Elmore.  Admittedly, I may have made these burgers a little less “manly” by turning them into adorable sliders but they are hearty and flavorful and will be loved by everyone!  Note: If you have mushroom-phobic children at your gathering, just don’t mention that particular ingredient.  The mushrooms are imperceptible here, although they, along with the onions and parsley, provide a deep, rich flavor that you don’t usually find in a turkey burger.

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extra virgin olive oil

1 cup finely minced Vidalia onion

1 cup finely minced button mushrooms

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

salt and pepper to taste

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1 pound ground turkey

9 party-size (2-inch) potato rolls, split

4 slices provolone cheese

1/4 cup Hellmanns’s mayonaise

1 tablespoon brown mustard

cherry tomatoes

small basil leaves

18 small wooden skewers

In a hot skillet, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sauté the onions, mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper until onions are caramelized and mushrooms have absorbed their liquids and are beginning to brown.  Stir in garlic and parsley and remove mixture from heat to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, add all of the sautéed ingredients to the ground turkey, season generously with salt and pepper, and mix together gently with a fork.  It is important not to overwork this meat mixture!

Form the meat into small burgers, about 2 tablespoons each, once again being careful not to overwork the meat…just gently press into shape….they won’t fall apart. (use a #40 cookie scoop if you have one, to keep the size uniform).  Place the burgers on a baking sheet covered with waxed paper and chill in the refrigerator while prepare the rest of the ingredients.  (can be made ahead)

Cut the split potato rolls into 1 1/2  inch circles with a cookie cutter then flatten the circles slightly with the palm of your hand.  Place onto a baking sheet and top each circle with a bit of provolone cheese.

Preheat broiler.

In a small dish, stir together the mayonnaise and the brown mustard. Set aside.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and clean and trim the small basil leaves.  Set aside.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Cook turkey patties for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and just cooked through.  Keep warm while you toast the bread and cheese lightly under the broiler.

Assemble the sliders by placing a burger onto of each piece of toasted cheese bread.  Add a small dollop of mayo/mustard.  Pierce a cherry tomato half with a small skewer first, add a small basil leaf then press the skewer all the way though the slider to serve.

Makes 18 sliders.

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Spicy Grilled Chicken Satay

new skewers to postA tried and true Summertime Classic…. and one loved equally by kids and adults! This recipe adds an extra pop of flavor by soaking the bamboo sticks in a flavored brine…super easy since you have to soak them anyway to keep them from catching  fire on the grill. ( see another grilling tip below)  Make it even simpler by starting with prepackaged chicken tenderloins thus avoiding the trimming and slicing.  Recipe adapted from New South Grilling, by Robert St. John.

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Skewer Soak

1 cup water

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 cup coconut milk

twenty-four 6 inch wooden skewers

Chicken Marinade

1 1/4 pounds boneless skin-less chicken breasts, cut into 24 strips (or 24 chicken tenderloins)

1/4 cup pineapple juice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1-2 tablespoons asian chile sauce

2-3 tablespoons peanut oil (to brush chicken before grilling)

Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 tablespoons minced shallots

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

2 cloves minced garlic

2 teaspoons fresh minced jalapeños ( or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup chunky peanut butter

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 lime, zest and juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

cayenne pepper to garnish

1.  Combine skewer soak ingredients.  Soak skewers 2 hours or longer.

2.  Combine pineapple juice, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, and chili sauce.  Pour over chicken and allow to marinate, refrigerated, for 3-4 hours.

3.  Make dipping sauce:  Heat the peanut oil in a skillet and sauté the shallots, ginger, garlic and jalapeños over low heat 4-5 minutes.  Add coconut milk, vinegar, and peanut butter, stir well and simmer 5 minutes.  Let cool slightly then transfer to a blender and puree, adding all remaining ingredients. Thin with a couple of tablespoons of warm water if mixture is too thick.  Serve dipping sauce in a small bowl garnished with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and additional chopped cilantro.  (sauce may be made in advance, store in refrigerator and bring to room temp. before serving)

4.  Remove skewers from marinade. Remove chicken from marinade and thread onto skewers. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel then use a pastry brush to lightly coat the chicken with peanut oil.

4.  Preheat grill to high.  Grill skewers 5-7 minutes, turning only once, until cooked through. (use folded foil to protect skewers, see below) Arrange on platter to serve.  Dipping sauce can be drizzled over or served on the side.  Serves 6-8

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Chopped Antipasto Salad with White Balsamic Vinaigrette

antipasta salad to post

A main-dish salad full of the flavors of an Italian Antipasto platter….perfect for a summer no-cook meal.  Start with a flavorful rotisserie chicken and be sure to buy the best quality salami and cheeses you can find.  I used an excellent  Black Pepper coated Italian Dry Salami that I picked up at The Fresh Market.  This recipe makes more dressing than you will need for this salad so have a jar ready to store it to use on any type of green salad or pasta salad.   This recipe is from The Marshall Fields Cookbook, by Steve Seigelman.

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For the vinaigrette:

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar

1 egg

2 tablespoons minced shallots

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients except the oil in a blender and pulse to combine.  With the motor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream to make an emulsion.  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.  Will keep covered and refrigerated, 3 days.

For the salad:

1 1/2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped

6 ounces hard salami, julienne (about 1 cup)

1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)

1 cup julienned provolone cheese

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 bunch basil, thinly sliced

1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish

salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, salami, chicken, provolone, tomatoes, chickpeas, basil and Parmesan and toss lightly.  Pour 1/2 cup of the dressing over the salad and season with salt and pepper.  Toss well to coat, garnish with extra pParmesan and serve immediately.  Serves 4.

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Mediterranean Salad with Chickpeas, Black Beans, Quinoa and a Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

quinoa to post

I love quinoa most when it is a secondary ingredient so I keep it (cooked) in the refrigerator and toss a few tablespoons in my salad at lunch.   I was pleased to find the recipe for this salad on The Cafe Sucre Farine because it was so chock full of legumes, vegetables and herbs.  I’ve used half regular quinoa and half red quinoa for my salad…you can cook them together and they really taste the same….I just happen to like the color contrast.   This is not only an excellent vegetarian main course, but also the perfect side dish for grilled or roasted meats and seafood.

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For vinaigrette:

1 clove garlic, minced

fine zest of one lemon

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

 For Salad:

2 cups cooked quinoa (according to directions on package)

1 can black beans

1 can chick peas

1/4 cup minced red onion

1 medium red bell pepper, small dice

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well.  Toss all salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Add about 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette to the salad bowl and toss well.  Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.  Reserve any extra vinaigrette.  Can be made ahead and refrigerated….let the salad warm up a bit at room temperature, toss and taste for seasonings before serving.  Serves 6-8

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Overnight Marinated Collard Greens Salad

collards to post

When I saw how beautiful and tender the collard greens looked in the market this week, I knew it was time to try to make a fresh salad out of them.  Some of the versions that I have had are too sweet…. or too raw tasting.   I fixed that by cutting way back on the sugar and by poring the boiling hot dressing over the vegetables to “cook” them just ever so slightly, then marinating them overnight in a large zip lock bag.  The result is a bright, crunchy, healthy and fresh-tasting salad for your summer repertoire. (inspired by a recipe in Vegetarian Times)

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1/2 pound fresh collard greens, washed

2 cups grated carrots

1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup light olive oil

1 teaspoon powdered mustard

1 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cut the thick center vein out of the collard green leaves then stack several leaves together, roll into a cylinder, hold together and thinly slice to make narrow strips.  Repeat with remaining leaves and transfer to a large bowl.  Stir in carrots, bell pepper, and onion. In a small sauce pan, whisk together vinegar,  sugar, oil,  mustard,  celery seed,  salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Pour the hot dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat well.  Season with salt and pepper if desired.  Transfer to a large zip lock bag and close…sealing out any air.  Refrigerate overnight.  Serves 8

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Minced Turkey Salad with Marinated Artichoke Hearts

chicken salad to post Here’s a recipe for those of us who love the artichoke hearts that you buy in a jar…so silky and tender from marinating in the herb drenched oil.   With a roasted turkey breast from  The Fresh Market, or your local rotisserie, and some bright green vegetables for crunch, you’ll have an excellent springtime dish in quick order.

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2 cups minced roasted turkey breast

1 16-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

2 green onions, sliced

1/2 large green bell pepper, minced

3 stalks celery, minced

2 teaspoons capers, drained, rinsed and minced

1/4 cup mayonnaise

3/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

freshly ground black pepper

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl then season generously with black pepper . (be sure and taste before adding any salt…the artichokes, Old Bay and Capers are all salty so you probably won’t want to add extra)  Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or overnight. Serves 4-5

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Hummus…. All Dressed Up

dip to postHere’s a idea for the next time you need to throw together a quick appetizer. As you know, there are many different flavors of hummus available these days, but it’s so much fresher and tastier to add your own flavors to this extremely popular Middle Eastern dip.

In these photos I’ve spread about 1/2 inch of good quality hummus onto one of my cake stands then toped it with finely chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, fresh dill and crumbled feta cheese…a quick drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper and it’s ready to serve with crispy pita chips.

Other toppings that would be good:

pine nuts, basil, oregano, cilantro, parsley, roasted red peppers, pesto, artichoke hearts, caramelized onions, whole chickpeas, red pepper flakes, roasted garlic, minced jalapeno peppers, the possibilities are endless…

Since I was going for simplicity here, I used a store bought hummus.  It takes about 1 1/2 cups to spread across this regular sized cake stand.  These are my two favorite brands:

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Of course if you are feeding a big crowd, or simply have the time, you may want to make your own hummus which is quite easy with canned chickpeas, tahini and spices. Here’s a good one from Inspired Taste (hummus recipe).

 

 

 

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Asparagus Salad with Arugula, Fennel, Crispy Potato and a Creamy Italian Dressing

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In this tasty salad, think of the potatoes as you would croutons….not the main focus of the dish but a wonderful addition taste and texture wise. The real stars of this salad are the arugula, asparagus and fennel.  Put them all together with a light and fresh Italian Herb Dressing and you’ve got a dish that can stand on its own as a vegetarian main course, or compliment any grilled meat, poultry or seafood.  It also holds up well so it might be just the right thing to take to a potluck or picnic.

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1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon minced fresh herbs (parsley, dill, tarragon or thyme)

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 teaspoon honey

6 tablespoons extra vingin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

1 small bulb fennel, quartered, cored and cut into thin strips

3 cups fresh baby arugula, stemmed

6 small new potatoes, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

For the dressing:

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, herbs, sour cream and honey.  Then drizzle in the 6 tablespoons of olive oil slowly and whisk until blended.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

For the salad:

Fill a non-stick skillet with a couple of inches of water and bring to a boil.  Blanch the fennel in this water  for about 3 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool.  Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until crisp- tender. (the timing will depend upon the size of your asparagus)  Drain and rinse asparagus under cold water to stop the cooking and preserve its nice bright green color. Cut asparagus on the diagonal into 2 inch pieces.

Wipe out your skillet and return to the burner over med-high heat.  Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and swirl around the pan.  Add the diced potatoes to the skillet in one layer and let cook without disturbing until golden brown on one side.  Toss the potatoes, lower the heat to medium and continue cooking 8-10 minutes, occasionally tossing the potatoes, until tender on the inside and golden brown on all sides.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Place the arugula in a large bowl, add the asparagus pieces and fennel and toss with about 1/2 of the dressing. Add the crispy diced potatoes and toss again.  Taste and add additional dressing and/or salt and freshly ground black pepper if necessary.

Serves 2-3 as a main course or 4-6 as a side dish.

 

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Japanese Grilled Chicken Skewers with Scallions

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You can’t go wrong with a grilled skewer of glazed Yakitori chicken.  This is a fairly traditional recipe that everyone loves.  I used to use chicken breasts  simple because they are so much easier to trim…but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that chicken thighs are really far superior in this dish.

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1 cup lower-sodium chicken broth

3/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)

1/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon wasabi paste (or more to taste)

6 slices ginger, smashed

4 cloves garlic, smashed

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces.

2 bunches scallions, cut into 1 -inch pieces.

salt

coarse ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, combine chicken broth, soy sauce, mirin, honey, rice vinegar, lime juice, sugar, sesame oil, wasabi paste, ginger and garlic.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Mix the cornstarch and water until smooth then stir into the hot soy mixture.  Simmer until thickened…another 5 minutes or so.  Remove from heat and strain to remover garlic and ginger.  Reserve 1/2 cup sauce for dipping and the rest will be used to glaze the chicken while grilling.

Thread chicken onto skewers, alternating with scallions.  Brush with oil and season very lightly with salt and pepper.  (if using bamboo skewers, be sure to soak in water for at least 30 minutes before you skewer the chicken)

Over a medium hot grill (charcoal or gas), grill the skewers for 2 minutes on each side and then start basting with the sauce.  Baste and turn the skewers several times to create a thick, glossy surface until cooked through.  The whole grilling process takes about 10 minutes.  Serve with reserved dipping sauce on the side.

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Wagamama Ginger Salad Dressing

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Yum, yum, yum….I daydream about ways to use this dressing.  It will turn your basic rabbit food into a plate that you can’t put down. Pick up a roasted chicken, shred the meat and toss with a bit of this dressing for an awesome asian chicken salad. (I’m going to try it with Jumbo Lump Crab next!) The possibilities are endless. It will keep for at least 3 days in the refrigerator. Straight out of the Wagamama Cookbook, by Hugo Arnold. Makes 3/4 to 1 cup dressing.

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2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot

1-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated

1 small garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon tomato ketchup

1 tablespoon water

1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 tablespoons light soy sauce

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Done.

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Roasted New Potato Salad with Arugula and Goat Cheese

potato salad to post

There are two secrets to this excellent potato salad.  One is to roast the potatoes very slowly so that they become meltingly tender and waxy (as opposed to the crispy/fluffy texture of my favorite Butter Roasted Potatoes).  And the second is to add the vinaigrette while the potatoes are hot, so that they soak in the flavors of the mustard and balsamic. This recipe is adapted from The Vineyard Cookbook, by Barbara Scott-Goodman.   I was planning on presenting this as the perfect winter potato salad but have decided that it will actually be a year-round favorite for me.

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3 pounds small red new potatoes, halved or quartered.

8 unpeeled garlic cloves

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (for roasting potatoes)

kosher salt

2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (for vinaigrette)

2 handfuls stemmed baby arugula

4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled

freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a roasting pan (large enough so that potatoes can be spread out in a single layer)  toss the potatoes with the garlic cloves, salt to taste, and the 1/4 cup olive oil.  Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until potatoes are tender and light brown.  Lower the heat to 250 degrees if the potatoes are cooking too quickly.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk the mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl, Slowly add the olive oil, whisking constantly until the vinaigrette thickens.

Take the potatoes from the oven.  Remove the garlic cloves and squeeze them over a large bowl to remove the peel then scrape the potatoes into the bowl as well.  Pour the vinaigrette over the hot potatoes and gently toss.  Let cool slightly then add the arugula and toss again.

Heap the potato salad into a large shallow bowl or platter.  Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese over the top and season to taste with pepper.

Serve warm or at room temperature.  Serves 6.

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Salted Caramel Shortbreads with Pecans

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A buttery, melt in your mouth shortbread base with a dollop of real caramel, a pinch of flakey sea salt and you have before you the Ultimate Caramel Cookie!  You will need a candy thermometer and several mini muffin tins for this but it’s actually a very simple recipe that yields extraordinary results.  Enjoy!

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For the shortbread:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup finely chopped pecans (see Note # 1 below)

For the caramel:

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

4 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons evaporated milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Flakey Sea Salt

Make the shortbread:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla, flour, and salt, then add pecans and mix until just combined. Do not over mix; mixture will be crumbly.

Press a heaping teaspoon of shortbread batter into each well of a mini muffin tin to form a flat base about 1/4 inch in thickness. (see Note #2 below)  Bake for 25 minutes, until the cookies are just firm to the touch.  Cool slightly then remove cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Make the Caramel:

Combine the sugars and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over med-high heat and attach a candy thermometer to the side of your pan.  Once the mixture reaches 240 degrees, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, cream and evaporated milk…this will make the mixture bubble violently for a few seconds so be careful.  Stir in the vanilla and let cool a bit.  At this point, you are waiting for the caramel to reach a consistency that will be thin enough to spoon onto the cookies, yet thick enough so that it doesn’t  run off the sides.  This will take approximately 10 minutes.

When the caramel is ready, drop a teaspoon onto each shortbread base and let set for at least 15 minutes before you sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of sea salt.  Cookies keep 3 days covered at room temperature.  Makes about 5 dozen.

Note #1:  Here is my favorite gadget to use when I want nuts chopped finely, but not ground.( Nut Chopper)

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Note #2:  An inexpensive wooden  Tart Tamper,  will make very quick work of pressing the batter into the mini muffin tins to form the bases for these cookies.

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new coffee cup

Heart Beet Salad with Walnuts and White Cheddar

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Here’s a sweet idea for a tasty St Valentine’s Day lunch.  Tuck a few Roasted Beet hearts into your salad.

To roast whole beets, preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Wash several whole beets, rub them with olive oil and wrap them in one big piece of aluminum foil.  Place foil packet on baking sheet and roast for about an hour.  Roasting time will vary depending on the size of your beets.  I forgot about mine and went out for a walk and they were still just fine after about 2 1/2 hours in the oven.  When the beets are tender, let cool and peel.  Cut beets into 1/3 inch slices and use a cookie cutter to make hearts.  Toss them into a salad with field greens, roasted chopped nuts, shredded or crumbled cheese and your favorite vinaigrette.  Here is a nice recipe for inspiration.

Double Crumb Cinnamon Cupcakes

new cupcake to postCrumbs on top, crumbs on the bottom, and a tender, moist yellow cake between.   Call it a muffin so you can have it for breakfast!

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Crumbs for top and bottom

1 cup flour

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cold  and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients for the crumb mixture and then work it with your fingers until it is thoroughly combined and forms large moist crumbs.  Cover and place in refrigerator while you prepare the cake batter.

For the cake batter

1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking power

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup whole milk

Line a 12 cup muffin tin with with paper liners.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the sugar and continue to beat then gradually add the eggs one at a time.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk, and ending with the dry ingredients.

To fill the muffin tins

Spoon one heaping tablespoon of the crumb mixture into the bottom of each paper liner.  Then add enough cake batter to come almost to the top edge of the liner.  Then cover the batter with the remaining crumbs.

Bake until the tops feel firm to the touch and the edges are just beginning to turn golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes then remove from pan.  Serve or may be kept covered at room temperature for 2-3 days.

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Glazed Chocolate Chip Cream Biscuits with Sprinkles

biscuits to post 2

It’s what happens when you cross a scone and a donut.  Quick and easy, light and fluffy, softly sweet, in short… a lovely treat for a cold January afternoon (or morning or night!)

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2 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar

2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

chocolate sprinkles

 

Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.   Using a pastry knife (or your fingers) cut butter into the flour mixture until there are no pieces larger than a pea. Stir in the mini chocolate chips then make a well in the center.  Pour the 1 cup of heavy cream into this well and, using a table fork, gently stir the dry mixture into the cream until it is just moistened.  It will still be a crumbly mixture, but will be just moist enough to barely hold together.  Avoid the temptation to add more cream.

Gather the dough, place it on a lightly floured clean surface and gently pat it into a circle 1-inch thick.  Using a 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut as many rounds as you can, placing each on the parchment lined baking sheet.  Gently pull the remaining dough together to create another 1-inch thick circle and continue cutting  biscuits until all of the dough has been used.  Important note here….you want to touch this dough as little as possible during the shaping.  It does not need to be kneaded at all and will be tough if you overwork it.  Just gently pull the dough together and press lightly.  There will be cracks and crevices in the tops of the biscuits that come from the second and third batch that you cut but that will just give the glaze a lovely place to seep into.

Bake the biscuits 12-14 minutes,or until they have risen and are just beginning to turn golden around the edges.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.

For the icing, simply stir together the confectioners sugar with a bit of cream, one tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency that you desire.  In the photo above, I left the icing quite thick and dipped the biscuits to just coat the tops.  You can also make a thinner glaze that can be drizzled over the tops and will drip down the sides.  Add the chocolate sprinkles and let sit until the glaze dries.

These biscuits are best the day they are made but still quite nice on day 2 if you keep them in an airtight container.

Makes 15

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Two Cabbage Slaw with Avocado, Red Onion and a Grapefruit Vinaigrette

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This salad has a lot going on…texture, flavor and color…. yet it is quite simple to throw together. The creaminess of the avocado, the crunchiness of the slaw and the juicy grapefruit segments make for a memorable side dish.  You could also add grilled chicken and turn it into the main course.   The grapefruits and avocados in The Fresh Market right now are excellent, by the way. I’ve adapted this recipe from The Culinary Institute of America Vegetables Cookbook.  

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2 pink grapefruits (one juiced, one sectioned)

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

1 cup light olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups finely shredded leaf spinach

1 cup finely shredded red cabbage

1 cup finely shredded green cabbage

1/2 cup red onion julienne

1 avocado

coarse ground black pepper

For the vinaigrette, whisk together 1/3 cup of the grapefruit juice, vinegar, honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper.  Gradually whisk in the oil until it is smooth and thick. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.  Set aside.

Toss together the spinach, cabbages, red onion and toss with some of the vinaigrette in a salad bowl.

Peel the avocado, cut into cubes and toss gently with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette.

Arrange the slaw down the middle of a large serving platter.  Surround with fresh grapefruit sections and top with the cubed avocado.

Serves 4-6

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Buttermilk Crisped Vidalia Onion Rings

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Incomparable to frozen onion rings and infinitely easier than homemade french fries…you must make these if you and your family are onion ring lovers.  Keep some buttermilk in the frig and you’ll be ready to turn superhero. “Hey, would you guys like onion rings instead of plain old potato chips with those burgers?? No problem!”

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3 or 4 nice big Vidalia onions, peeled and   sliced 1/2 inch thick and separated into rings (tiny inner rings should be reserved for another use)

2-3 cups buttermilk, shake well before using

salt and pepper

2-3 cups all purpose flour

peanut oil for frying

Place onion rings in a large bowl and cover with buttermilk.  Let sit at least 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times to make sure all the onions are well coated.

Meanwhile, stir flour together with a couple of teaspoons of salt and pepper each.  Taste to make sure flour is nicely seasoned.  Prepare a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Remove a couple of onion rings at a time from the buttermilk, shake a bit to drain off excess then dredge quickly in the seasoned flour.  Place coated rings on waxed paper and let rest for about 15 minutes to give the batter a chance to set.  Repeat with remaining onions.

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet (a wok works really well here) over high heat until hot. (350-375 degrees or test with an onion ring…it should sizzle immediately).  Fry onion rings in batches of 6 or so at a times, being careful not to crowd the pan too much, and turning the rings a couple of times to brown evenly.  It will only take a few minutes per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain, season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.  May be kept warm and crispy in a 200 degree oven while you cook the remaining rings.  (They stay crispy at room temperature as well…another reason I love this recipe)

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Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Chickpeas, Red Onion, Arugula and a Tahini Dressing

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Here is a nice hearty salad with a great combination of flavors.  It is best warm or at room temperature.  I like to cut the cauliflower into flat florets so that each piece will make the most possible contact with the baking sheet. To do this, simple place a whole head of cauliflower upright on a cutting board and slice from top to bottom into large 1/2 inch thick slices.  Most florets will fall free naturally and those that don’t can be quickly snipped away from the thick inner stem.  Another note, make sure that your oven is nice and hot before you roast vegetables.  This is important because you want them to caramelize quickly….overcooked means mushy!

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1 head cauliflower, cut into 1/2 inch flat florets (see note above)

1 large red onion, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch wedges

14-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup tahini

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

water

salt and pepper

Several large handfuls of fresh Arugula (or Spinach)

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the cauliflower, red onion and chickpeas in a large bowl.  Drizzle with the olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper and toss gently to coat.  Spread the vegetables out onto a rimmed baking sheet, making sure that the cauliflower and onions are in a single layer.  It is ok if the chickpeas pile up a bit.  You may need two baking sheets (I used one full and one half sheet in this recipe…you need to give the vegetables enough room to roast or they will simply steam and not caramelize).  Roast vegetables until crisp-tender and until the cauliflower if nicely browned on one side, about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile whisk together the Tahini, lemon juice and cumin and add enough water to make a dressing that is thin enough to drizzle.  (approximately 1/4 cup water, depending on the thickness of the tahini)

To serve, place the fresh arugula or spinach in a large salad bowl, add all of the warm, roasted vegetables and toss gently with the Tahini Dressing.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serves 4-6

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Cornucopia

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Here is a little something for your next get-together.  Instead of setting out a bowl of nuts or chips, serve Cornucopia!  (only 3 ingredients…corn, grape seed oil and salt)  They are wonderfully crunchy, but they are slow-roasted tender so they won’t break your teeth like those unpopped kernels at the  bottom of the popcorn bowl.  These nibbles are quite addictive  and to be honest, I don’t know how to make them….  I order them from Whole Food Farmacy and they ship them out overnight.  Even those of us who love to cook need a few shortcuts now and then…expecially this time of year!

Becky McKinney’s Chili

This is the chili that I grew up with and I’ve never even attempted to replace it because in spite of it’s simplicity, everyone loves it.  The secret lies in buying the best quality ground sirloin and the long and slow cooking time.  You will know when it is done….it starts off loose and watery but transforms into a beautiful thick and rich dish.  This is not a spicy chili so feel free to add cayenne pepper if you like.  I like to serve it mild and let everyone season it to suit their own tastes.  My frayed, splattered and yellowed recipe card attributes this recipe to Becky Mckinney so thanks to her wherever she may be.

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For Chili:

3 lbs freshly ground sirloin

3 cans Campbells Tomato Soup

3 cans diced tomatoes with the juice

3 cups chopped onions

3 cups chopped celery

2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

3 cloves garlic, minced

3-4 tablespoons chili powder

To Serve:

Chopped fresh tomatoes

Chopped scallions

Grated cheddar cheese

Sour cream

Hot Sauce

Saltine Crackers

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Brown the meat lightly in a large, heavy ovenproof casserole…such as Le Creuset.  Stir in next 4 ingredients and cook for 5 minutes.  Add kidney beans, garlic and chili powder and stir.  Cover and bake in oven for 3 hours, stirring once or twice.  Serve with toppings.

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“When Life Gives you Avocados” Guacamole

When avocados turn up at 10 for $10.00, there’s only one thing to do.  You don’t really need a recipe for guacamole, I know.  It’s one of those dishes thats all about the quality of the ingredients rather than the actual measurements.  But an idea that I read about in Ree Drummond’s, The Pioneer Woman Cooks worked really well for me since I was trying to prepare in advance for a lunch for 25.  She suggests that if you have homemade pico de gallo around, all you have to do if mash a few avocados and stir in a few spoonfuls for the perfect guacamole stat.  You can serve any remaining pico de gallo alongside as well, of course. Here’s the general idea:

You need equal amounts of :

1.  Finely chopped tomatoes

2.  Finely chopped red onion

3.  Coarsely chopped cilantro

4.  One or two fresh jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced

Toss this together in a small bowl and squeeze in half a lime a bit of salt and toss again.  Taste and adjust lime and salt if needed.  Set aside.  You can make this a few hours in advance.

When you are ready to serve, slice open several ripe avocados and scoop out the flesh.  Sprinkle with salt and mash it all around a bit with a fork.  Then stir in a few spoonfuls of the pico de gallo that you made earlier.  Taste and adjust with additional lime juice and salt…keeping in mind that if you are serving with chips, that will add salt too.  Or serve with my  Make Ahead Chicken Fajitas.

And here is a link to Ree’s step by step tutorial if you want more direction.  Pioneer Woman Pico de Gallo and Guacamole

Make Ahead Chicken Fajitas for a Crowd

When I make chicken fajitas for the family, I cook the vegetables and chicken at the very last minute.  Maybe it’s not the sizzling skillet served table side but close enough. When I have a crowd to feed, I really want to have the dirty work finished way, way in advance.  Here’s how I do it and still have super-moist yummy chicken.

1.  Day before (early):  Make marinade, Cut up onions and peppers, Marinate chicken for 3 hours.

2. Day before (later):  Cook vegetables, Cook Chicken Breasts, Cool then refrigerate together, in a large pan, covered tightly overnight.

3.  Day of party early:  Slice chicken, mix with vegetables in large Pyrex dish or roasting pan and cover tightly with foil. Wrap flour tortillas with foil and set aside. Get condiments ready.

4.  Party time:  One hour before serving place pyrex dish with chicken (still covered tightly) in 325 degree oven for 45 minutes then put the foil wrapped flour tortillas in the over as well to warm through…about 15 minutes.

Fajita Marinade 

5 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tablespoons Lowry’s Seasoning Salt

3 tablespoons ground cumin

2  1/2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

5 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 6 limes)

Combine all ingredients and whisk well.

For the Fajitas

8-10 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of any fat and pounded gently to create an even thickness.

4 large sweet onions, sliced

4 large red bell peppers, sliced

Olive oil

Flour Tortillas (or corn tortillas for gluten-free option)

Sour Cream

Salsa

Lettuce

Shredded cheddar cheese

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in your largest, heaviest skillet, cast iron is best, over medium high heat.  Saute onions and peppers, together or separately depending on the size of your skillet, until they are softened and just beginning to caramelize.  Remove to a large pan or pyrex dish and let cool while you cook the chicken.  Add a bit more oil to the pan and cook the chicken in batches, until golden brown on both sides and just cooked through.  I like to use an instant read meat thermometer to eliminate the guess work and I pull them off the heat between 150 and 160 degrees.  Pile the chicken breasts, as they are cooked, on top of the vegetables and when they are all finished, let cool then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Early on the day you plan to serve the fajitas, slice the chicken into pieces, 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick then return them to the vegetables and toss to combine all, making sure to coat the chicken with the wonderful juices that will have settled to the bottom of the vegetables overnight.  Cover tightly with foil and return to the refrigerator until you are about an hour away from service.  It will take 45 minutes to an hour to warm the chicken mixture slowly, and tightly covered, in a 325 degree oven. Serve with warm flour tortillas, sour cream, salsa, lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, avocados and any other condiments you might like to add.  Serves 25

Fresh Herb and Feta Omelette with Warm Avocado, Asparagus and Cherry Tomato Salsa

Breakfast, brunch, lunch or supper….you can’t go wrong with this amazing omelette adapted from A Paridiso Year by Denis Cotter.  The amounts given below will make one large omelette that will easily feed 2.

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6 spears asparagus, trimmed and cut into pieces

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 green onion, sliced

half a fresh red chile, seeded and sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

4-5 eggs

2 tablespoons water

salt and pepper to taste

handful of fresh herbs (of 2 or 3 types, such as chives, parsley, thyme, tarragon, marjoram)

small handful of crumbled feta cheese

butter or olive oil to coat pan

half an avocado, cubed

In a small pan, over medium heat, warm olive oil.  Saute asparagus, tomatoes, green onion and chile until asparagus is crisp tender.  Set aside while you prepare the omelette.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk in the water.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Chop the herbs and crumble the feta and have them at the ready before you begin cooking the omelette.

Heat your omelette pan (med-high heat if it is non-stick and high heat otherwise) and brush with a bit of butter or olive oil.  Pour in the beaten egg and tilt the pan to cover the surface.  As the bottom cooks, lift up the edges and let the raw egg slide underneath the cooked.  Scatter the herbs and the feta over the length of the center of the omelette then fold 1/3 of the omelette towards the middle and repeat on the other side.

Just as the omelette is finishing cooking, toss the diced avocado to the vegetable mixture and return it to the heat just to warm through.

Remove the omelette to a plate and top with the warm salsa and serve immediately.  Serves 2.

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Sesame Chicken Tenders with Ginger Soy Dipping Sauce

This recipe just might keep you out of that Chick-fil-A drive thru line for good.  At the very least, you’ll never buy frozen chicken tenders again.  When I ask my family to pitch ideas for dinner, this is what they ask for 8 out of 10 times.  It can also be a wonderful Sesame Chicken Salad when you use the sauce as a dressing…. the chicken stays crunchy and tastes great at room temperature.

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1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted Asian sesame oil

3/4 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated finely

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 package chicken tenders (about 16)

1/4 cup white sesame seeds

1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

salt and pepper

Oil (canola or peanut)

In a small bowl, whisk together first 6 ingredients and set aside.  Place chicken tenders in second small bowl,toss with 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce mixture, and let marinate for 10-15 minutes.  Reserve remaining soy sauce mixture to use as the dipping sauce. On a large plate, mix together sesame seeds and panko bread crumbs and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Coat each chicken tender with the panko mixture, patting gently to help the crumbs adhere.  Set tenders in a single layer on waxed paper until ready to fry.  (this can be done hours in advance…just keep the tenders in a single layer and put in the frig)

Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in large skillet (non stick works well here) over medium high heat.   Test temperature by dropping in a tiny piece of the panko….it should sizzle immediately.  Fry chicken tenders (in batches unless your skillet is enormous) until golden brown on both sides and cooked through.  This will only take 2-3 minutes per side then remove to a wire rack. (This will keep them crunchy.  When you drain things on paper towels, they tend to soak the oil back in and get soggy on the bottom)  You can stick them in a warm oven if you are not quite ready to serve.  Serve hot with reserved soy ginger sauce.

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Chocolate Chip White Buttermilk Snack Cake


Not every cake needs an inch of icing.  There’s a lot to be said for a nice little snack cake like this one.  It’s light and moist with a fine crumb and it’s just perfect for snacks, coffees, lunch boxes, picnics, bake sales, etc.  As a matter of fact, the recipe comes from The Best Bake Sale Ever Cookbook, by Barbara Grunes.  She presents it as a layer cake with white chocolate frosting. Nice to know that it can stand on it’s own as well.

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3 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 egg whites

2 cups sugar

3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven t 350 degrees.  Spray or grease lightly 2 loaf pans.  Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the sugar and the cream of tartar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form,  Set aside.

In another large bowl, cream the butter and the remaining sugar (1 1/2 cups) until light, about  2-3 minutes.  Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.  Beat in the vanilla,  Gently fold in the egg whites and the mini chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Baking time will depend upon the pans that you use.  Approximately 40 minutes for the pans pictured here.  Cool 15 minutes in the pans then remove to wire rack to cool completely.  Will keep wrapped tightly for 3-4 days.

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The Perfect (and perfectly simple) All Purpose Marinade for Chicken


 

Here is my go-to, all purpose marinade for boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Just a quick whisk of a few pantry staples, a few hours to marinate, a quick turn on the grill or under the broiler, and you will have tender, perfectly seasoned chicken ready to serve or to add to pasta, sandwiches or salads.  I like to mince it up finely for chicken salad sandwiches, cut bigger pieces for a stand alone chicken salad, or slice into thin strips for pasta dishes or an easy kid and adult friendly dinner. Feel free to switch out the dried spices to fit your mood and/or the needs of your final dish.

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1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

 

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Marinate chicken at least 3 hours…and up to overnight.  Makes enough to marinate 4 large or 6 small chicken breasts.

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Grilled Chicken Salad with Red Grapes, Pecans and Mustard Vinaigrette

 

 

Wild Blueberry Muffins with Oats and Brown Sugar

I don’t often make Blueberry Muffins.  I tend to make my Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze or if I have time, my Blueberry Buckle Coffee Cake.  But this recipe from Beat This, by Ann Hodgman, caught my eye and since I had some Wymans fresh frozen Wild Blueberries in the freezer I decided to give it a try.  Sure glad I did.  They are moist and sweet, with just a hint of a warm oatmeal cookie goodness.  Reason enough to make sure I keep those wild blueberries in the freezer all winter long.

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1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup frozen wild blueberries

2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a 12-cup muffin tim with liners.  This recipe does not work without them.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs with the sour cream until thoroughly combined.

In a medium saucepan, over medium beat, melt together  the butter and the brown sugar.  Beat this mixture into the egg mixture.  Stir in the oats.

Fold in the flour mixture and then the blueberries.  Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full.  Sprinkle each muffin with a generous pinch of sugar.

Bake for 25 minutes or until light brown around the edges and set in the middle.

Cool for 5 minutes in  pan then remove to rack to finish cooling.

Makes 1 dozen.

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Bruschetta with Caramelized Tomatoes and Ricotta

No need to stop serving Bruschetta just because vine-ripened tomatoes are going out of season.  These slow roasted cherry tomatoes are a burst of concentrated sweetness that, when combined with creamy ricotta and a slice of crispy/chewy bread, make for a memorable cocktail hour.  (or pair with a nice salad for a light lunch) Adapted from Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti

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1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed

freshly ground black pepper and fine sea salt

1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved

12 slices crusty country bread cut in to 1/2 inch slices (I used ciabatta)

extra virgin olive oil for brushing

8 ounces fresh sheep’s milk ricotta or well-drained cows milk ricotta (at room temperature for serving)

In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, garlic, fennel seeds, and a generous grinding of pepper.  Set aside and let stand for a bout 30 minutes.

Preheat the over to 300 degrees.  Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet.  Spoon the olive oil mixture over the tomatoes and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bake until tomatoes are partially shriveled and browned in spots but still juicy, could take up to 1 1/2 hours (depending on size of tomatoes).  Transfer to a bowl, tkaing care to scrape any juices and browned bits from the baking sheet into the bowl.

To make the bruschetta, position a broiler pan 4 inches below the heat source and preheat the broiler.  Arrange the bread slices on a large baking sheet and brush the tops with olive oil.  Slip under the broiler and broil until the edges are lightly browned and the tops are golden, just 1-2 minutes.

Spread with a heaping tablespoon of the ricotta on each slice and top each with caramelized tomatoes.  Taste and sprinkle with additional black pepper and/or salt if necessary.  Serves 6

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Cucumber Goat-Teas

Hands down the best cucumber sandwich I’ve ever had.  No need to throw a ladies tea to have an excuse to make these as they would also be a great hors d’oeuvre for a summer evening.  This platter did not make it to the cocktail hour however.  It was empty within minutes of these photos. Recipe by MaryCorpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford, in their book, Cocktail Food.
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3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar.
2 cups very thinly sliced red onion
2/3 cup goat cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
12 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut into 3 inch squares (They suggest buttermilk bread.  I used Pepperidge Farms Original White.)
1 English cucumber, cut into 1/16 inch slices, cut in half
Pour the vinegar over the onions and let marinate in a small bowl until the onions are soft and malleable, at least 30 minutes.  Strain and refrigerate until chilled.
Mix the goat cheese and cream cheese together in a small bowl.  Season with white pepper.
Spread about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture on each piece of bread.  Cut each piece into 4 triangles. Arrange 2-3 slices of the cucumber on each triangle.  Top with 1 or two slices of red onion.
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Chopped Greek Salad

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I love chopped salads and the classic Greek salad lends itself well to this style.  Each bite can have the perfect balance of flavor…the boldness of the feta and olives with the mild freshness of the cucumber, lettuce and tomato.  To make this a whole meal just add a side of grilled chicken, salmon, or shrimp. This recipe was inspired by one published in Food and Wine magazine in September 2003.
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2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 of a small shallot
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups mixed greens, I used red leaf lettuce and arugula, coarsely chopped
1 English cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and diced
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, diced
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
In a blender, combine vinegar, shallot, sugar and olive oil and puree.  Taste and season with salt and pepper. (Since these ingredients can vary so much, always taste a vinaigrette and be prepared to add a touch more oil or vinegar as necessary)
In a large bowl, toss together the chopped mixed greens, cucumber, tomatoes, dill and olives.  Add half of the dressing and taste for seasonings.  Then add the remaining dressing as needed.  Sprinkle with feta before serving.  Serve 4-5.

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Banana Bars

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 Here’s a wonderfully easy and extraordinarily tasty little bar recipe that I tried this week.  I needed to use up some over-ripe bananas and was in the mood to try something different.  Since I am traveling right now and not in possession of my collection of cookbooks, I moseyed on over to Tastespotting and searched for photos with the keyword “banana”.  So… this recipe is comes courtesy of Cooking Classy and it is definitely a keeper!  Enjoy!
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For the base:
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons applesauce
1 egg
1 cup over-ripe mashed bananas (about 2 large bananas)
For the frosting:
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup pecans, lightly toasted and chopped
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients for the base in a large mixing bowl.  Mix with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.  Pour mixture in to a buttered 13×9 inch baking pan and spread evenly.  Bake about 20-25 minutes…until edges are just beginning to turn golden and center is puffed and set.  Cool completely.
Mix the 5 frosting ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Whip until fluffy.  Spread evenly over cooled banana base and sprinkle with chopped pecans.
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Banana Muffins

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I’ve made countless batches of banana muffins over the years and this one is my current favorite.  It is adapted from Sara Foster’s Banana Nut Muffin recipe in her book Fresh Every Day.  I like to put the pecans on top because they get nice and toasty and keep their crunch.  And, this also makes it easier if you want to make a batch of muffins, half with nuts and half without.
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2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 over ripe bananas
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans, broken into pieces
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners and lightly grease the top of the pan.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, nutmeg and salt.  In a separate bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, bananas, sour cream and vanilla and stir until the flour is just incorporated…do not over mix.  Fill the muffin tins until batter is just below the top of the paper liner.  Cover batter with broken pecan pieces and bake 25-30 minutes.  To test for doneness, I gently touch the top center of a muffin…it should spring back lightly.
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Pasta Salad with Corn, Tomatoes, Feta and Chili-Lime Vinaigrette

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This is a wonderful salad from one of my favorite cookbooks, At Blanchard’s Table, by Melinda and Robert Blanchard.  Please note that in the photo above, I substituted Israeli couscous for the orzo (because I was out of orzo) and left out the feta cheese (because feta wasn’t going to work with the main dish I was serving that particular night).  But I am going to give you the original recipe because I’ve made it many times as written and it is always a hit.  Then you can make your own changes if you want.  I did love the texture of the big Israeli couscous and will definitely use that again.
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1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears of corn)
12 ounces orzo pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly grated lime peel
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
15 grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 ounces feta cheese, drained and crumbled
1 tablespoon mined fresh rosemary
freshly ground black pepper
Bring a medium sauce pan of water to boil, add the corn and cook for 1 minute.  Drain and set aside.
Cook the orzo in a large pot of lightly salted water until it is al dente, 6-8 minutes.  Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold water, Drain well again and transfer to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, lime peel, lime juice, lemon juice, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Toss the dressing with the orzo .  Add the corn, tomatoes, feta, and rosemary, and toss gently to blend,  Taste for salt and pepper, and serve a room temperature.
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Apple Turnovers

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I love making these turnovers.  It is best to use a combination of apples in your filling to create the best texture and flavor.  Try a combo of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, Rome or Jonathans.  Just make sure they are of the firm, cooking apple variety.  These are amazing fresh out of the oven so for entertaining, get them all ready and keep them in the refrigerator, ready to bake.  They are still good the day after baking but you will find the pasty to be softer and less flaky.  The recipe comes from Gourmet Magazine.
 
First, make the dough and chill:
 
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices
4 ounces cold cream cheese, pinched into small pieces
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
3-4 tablespoons ice water
In a food processor, combine the 2 flours, sugar, and salt and process until blended.  Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse 10-12 times until the butter is coated with the flour and is the size of small peas.
Combine the egg yolk with 3 tablespoons of the ice water.  Pour this mixture through the feed tube and continue pulsing several times, until the dough just begins to clump together, but before it forms a ball on the blade.  (Use the remaining 1 tablespoon ice water if the dough seems too dry)
Using floured hands, pat the dough into a ball, then press it into a 4×6 inch rectangle, about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Dust the dough lightly with flour and wrap in wax paper.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
To make the turnovers:
 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large apples, peeled, cored and cut in 1/4 inch dice (3 cups)
1/2 cup apple cider, or unsweetened apple juice
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsweetened apple butter
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground allspice
cream cheese dough
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add 2 cups of the diced apples and cook, stirring frequently, until the begin to color, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the cider, sugar, lemon juice and salt. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook until the liquid is reduced and the apples appear almost dry but still retain their shape, about 5 minutes longer.  Remove the skillet from the heat and sir in the apple butter, lemon zest, cinnamon, cloves and allspice, along with the remaining cup of raw apples. Transfer the apple mixture to a medium bowl and refrigerate, uncovered, until cooled completely.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the cream cheese dough to an 18-20 inch rectangle, 1/16 inch thick.  Using a 6 inch plate or bowl as a guide, cut out eight rounds as close together as possible.  Gather and re-roll the dough then cut out 2 additional rounds.
Spoon the cooled apple filling on the lower half of each of the rounds.  Lightly moisten the edges of the rounds with water and fold the dough over the filling to form semicircular turnovers.  Press down on the edges to seal, first with your fingers and then with the times of a fork.  Using the back of a small knife, press into the sealed edges a 1/2 inch intervals to create a scalloped effect.   Transfer the turnovers to a heavy, parchment paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
Bake the turnovers in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes.  Move them to the upper rack and bake for 8-10 minutes longer, or until the pastry is a deep golden brown and he filling begins to bubble.  Let cool on a rack.
Drizzle with a confectioner’s sugar glaze if desired:
 
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanille
2 or more teaspoons water
Whisk together until glaze is a nice drizzling consistency  Transfer to a zip lock sandwich bag and snip off a tiny piece of one corner and use this to pipe the glaze onto the turnovers.
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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Another wonderful recipe from Glamour’s Gourmet on the Run.  It’s a collection that never fails me.  I usually end up with 11 muffins instead of 12 because I like to fill the cups at least 3/4 full.

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1 cup boiling water
2/3 cup oatmeal (not instant)
4 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line tin with cupcake papers. In small bowl, stir together boiling water, oatmeal and butter.  Set aside and let stand for 20 minutes.  In a large bowl combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Add chocolate pieces and stir.  Beat eggs and vanilla into oatmeal.  Stir oatmeal mixture into dry ingredients just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy, do not over mix)  Spoon into muffin cups.  Bake 20 minutes or until tops are golden.
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Southwestern Deviled Eggs

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This fun recipe is adapted from Taste of the South (April-May 2011).  The original calls for a sprinkling of crushed tortilla chips so you can certainly do that if you want to simplify the recipe.  I wanted the shape and texture of these corn tortilla slivers and they only take a minute to fry.  If, like me, you don’t have one of those platters specially designed to serve deviled eggs, just use a sharp knife and take a tiny sliver off the bottom of each half egg.  That way, the eggs will stay stable on the plate and not roll about.

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12 hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup finely shredded pepper Jack cheese
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 corn tortillas, finely slivered
salt to taste
coarse ground pepper
fresh cilantro
Cut the hard boiled eggs in half and mash the yolks with a fork.  Add sour cream, pepper jack cheese, green onion, chili powder and salt and mix well.  Spoon into the egg whites. Heat the oil in a small skillet and fry the tortilla strips until light brown, 45-60 seconds, and drain on paper towels.  Salt lightly. Garnish the eggs with the fried tortilla strips, chopped fresh cilantro, and a generous sprinkle of coarse ground black pepper.
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Minced Fresh Tuna Burger

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This burger was somewhat of a revelation.  While trying to simplify a time-consuming recipe, and using whatever ingredients I had in the pantry so as to avoid another trip to the market, I ended up with what will be a new family favorite.  For those of us who prefer rare tuna,  it only took a few seconds to sear both sides of the burger.  But one great thing about this tuna is that it stayed moist and tender  even when cooked through, as in the photo above. Try to find a tapenade that is a good mixture of Mediterranean flavors…black olives, capers, herbs and spices and olive oil.  Most grocery stores have at least one or two and of course you will have lots of choices at a speciality food market.  Note that the burgers need to chill for about 30 minutes before cooking.

 

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For one sandwich:
3-4 ounces fresh tuna
1 generous tablespoon prepared black olive tapenade*
coarse ground black pepper
1 split English muffin
olive oil
1/2 green scallion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped tomato
1 tablespoon mayonnaise, thinned with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon capers, drained and rinsed
Use a sharp knife to mince the tuna into 1/4 inch pieces then place it in a small bowl and gently stir in the tapenade and a nice big pinch of black pepper.  Since some tapenades are quite salty, it is best not to add additional salt at this point.  Also, the product I used had a nice amount of olive oil.  If your tapenade seems dry, add a drizzle of olive oil to the tuna.  Using your hands, gently mold the tuna into a patty and place it in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly, (about 30 minutes) as this will help the burger hold together while cooking.   When ready to serve, brush English muffin with olive oil and toast.  Place tomato and green onion on bottom half of English muffin bun.  Heat a heavy skillet over high heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, remove the tuna burger from the frig and use a spatula to gently place in in the pan.  I know that I keep saying “gently” but the point here is that this is a fragile burger and that is what makes it so good…you don’t want to overwork it.  Once one side is nicely seared, it will start to hold together and the English muffin is the perfect “bun” as it provides the right amount of structure.  So, cook the burger to order over high heat and serve it on the English muffin topped with the mayo mix and the capers and a sprinkle of salt if necessary.
*Tapenade: a Provencal paste or dip, made from black olives, capers and anchovies
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Open Face Salmon BLT

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For this wonderful summertime sandwich, I bought a large piece of salmon fillet and cut it into portions that I knew would work with the bread that I was intending to use.  This can be a knife and fork sandwich, or you can do as we did, and use a fork to gently flake the salmon to cover the bread and pick it up to eat out of hand.
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For one sandwich:
1 slice good crusty bread (I used a pre-sliced loaf of La Brea Pane Toscano)
olive oil
1 piece of fresh salmon fillet
1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
salt to taste
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
1 slice tomato
1 leaf bibb lettuce
1 tablespoon good quality mayonnaise, thinned with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh chopped dill weed
Brush a slice of bread with olive oil and toast until golden.  Season salmon with cracked black peppercorns, ground coriander and a bit of salt.  Heat olive oil in heavy skillet over high heat.  Place salmon fillet in hot skillet and let one side develop a beautiful golden brown crust before turning to cook the other side.  Cook to desired degree of doneness.  I prefer salmon just a touch more cooked than medium and that took about 3 minutes per side.  While salmon is cooking, start to compose the sandwich with the bread, lettuce, tomato and bacon.  Place salmon on top of the bacon slices and finish up with a dollop of the mayonnaise mixture and chopped dill.
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Chicken Tortilla Soup

I’ve been making this soup for years and just recently wrote down the ingredients and measurements so that I could post it here.  For entertaining, it is fun to set out lots of toppings…cheese, sour cream, fresh diced tomatoes, green onions, and fried tortilla strips.  But even on a busy weeknight, I take the time to make the tortilla strips because my whole family would be terribly disappointed if I didn’t.

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1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 can petite diced tomatoes with juice (14.5 oz)
2 cups Spicy V-8 juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and cut into bite sized pieces
4 cups lower sodium chicken broth (I like Swanson’s or College Inn)
3/4 cup frozen corn kernels
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper, if necessary
fresh corn tortillas, cut into 1/4 inch strips
vegetable oil for frying
Optional toppings:
shredded cheese for garnish (I like Colby/Jack)
chopped fresh green onions
sour cream
chopped fresh cherry tomatoes
For the soup:
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat.  Add onion and carrot and saute for several minutes, until onion softens and just start to color.  Add the next 9 ingredients (everything but the black beans) and bring to a simmer. Simmer covered for 20 minutes then add the rinsed black beans and simmer 5 more minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serves 6.
For the tortilla strips:
Prepare several layers of paper towels for draining the strips.  Heat 2-3 inches of vegetable oil in a deep skillet or sauce pan over high heat.  Test to see if the oil is ready by frying one tortilla strip.  It should sizzle immediately and turn golden brown in just a matter of seconds.  Depending on the size of you pan and the amount of strips you are planning to fry, you may have to do this in several batches.  Toss the tortilla strips constantly while frying to brown them evenly and don’t walk away for even a minute as they can quickly burn.  Remove to paper towels to drain, sprinkle lightly with salt while they are hot, then let them cool completely.  Most importantly, make more than you think you will need because while they are excellent on the soup, they are also just a yummy nibble.  They keep well in a zip lock baggie.
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Tortilla Pizza

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The #1 reason that we always have flour tortillas in our refrigerator, tortilla pizzas have been a staple lunch item in our home for years.  I found that it was worthwhile to purchase a set of small perforated pizza baking sheets.  This helps the bottom of the pizza get crispy and I can easily fit 6 or 8 of them in the oven at one time.  The key to a good crispy tortilla pizza however, is to make sure that all of the toppings are sliced very thinly and scattered evenly over the surface.  If you go crazy piling on the topping, you will have to eat it with a knife and fork, although it will still taste great, I imagine.  We like to use thin slices of fresh tomatoes instead of tomato sauce.  This also helps keep the pizza light and crispy.  The possibilities are endless, but here is the recipe for the tortilla pizza pictured.

1 flour tortilla
olive oil
thinly sliced cherry tomatoes
thinly sliced Vidalia onion
shredded mozzarella cheese
sliced pepperoni, cut into slivers
grated parmesan cheese
coarse ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450.  Place a flour tortilla on a pizza baking sheet and brush topside lightly with olive oil.  Scatter tomatoes and onions evenly over tortilla then top with a light layer of mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle with pepperoni and parmesan and season with black pepper.  Bake until golden brown and crispy, 8-10 minutes. Serves one.

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