Herb Marinated Chicken Kabobs with Red Peppers and Onion

grilled chicken kabob to post

We all know that grilled white meat chicken kabobs can sometimes be a disaster …dry, tough, flavorless.  Follow the instructions from this recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated for picture perfect and delicious chicken and vegetables every time.  It’s the right marinade, the uniform cutting of ingredients for the skewer, and the extra layer of flavor from the lemon dressing that make this recipe one of our trusted summer staples.

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1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided (half for marinade, half for the lemon dressing)

4 cloves garlic, minced, divided (half for marinade, half for the lemon dressing)

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch squares

1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch squares

Whisk yogurt, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, half of the garlic, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a large bowl.  Stir in chicken, Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 3-6 hours.  Whisk remaining 1/4 cup oil, remaining garlic, fresh basil and lemon juice in a small bowl and cover and refrigerator while chicken is marinating.

Remove chicken from the yogurt marinade; discard marinade.  Thread each skewer with 2 pieces of the red pepper, 2 pieces of the red onion, 2 pieces of chicken and then another 2 pieces of the red onion.  Repeat until skewer is full.  Grill over high heat until vegetables and chicken are charred around the edges of all four sides and the chicken is cooked through.  transfer to serving platter and brush kebobs all over with the lemon dressing.  Serves 6.

 

chicken kabob to post

 

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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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Spice-Roasted Chick Peas with Collard Greens

Spice Roasted Chick Peas with Collards

Leafy greens are getting their due respect these days, don’t you think?  I grew up eating turnip greens and spinach in Mississippi, but not collards or kale,  swiss chard or broccoli rabe. I love them all, but I’m finding collards so versatile that they are becoming my go-to healthy, leafy green veggie these days.  This version combines collards with hearty, spicy-roasted chick peas for a wonderful vegetarian main course  (if you sub water for the chicken broth) or an excellent side dish to go along with roasted meat or fish.  Healthy for sure, but super tasty as well…the way it should be.

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1 bunch collard greens, washed and chopped

1/2 large red onion, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

1 cup low sodium chicken broth or water

1 15 ounce can chick peas, drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon Garam Masala

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)

salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat and add onions, sauté gently for 3 minutes.  Add collards and toss until they begin to wilt.  Season with salt and pepper then add the chicken broth and reduce heat a bit.  Simmer collards until tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. (add a little water if pan becomes dry before greens are tender)

Meanwhile, on a rimmed baking sheet, toss together the chick peas, olive oil, cumin, garam masala, red pepper flakes, and mustard seed. Add salt to taste ( amount will depend upon the saltiness of the brand of chick peas that you use)  Spread out into a single layer and roast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until fragrant and lightly brown.  Scrape chick peas into collards and toss, check for seasonings.  Serves 4-6.  Can be made ahead and reheated stovetop or microwave.

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Southern “Paté” with Pickled Red Onions and Cucumbers

Southern Pate 4

Liver-haters stay put.  This is paté southern-style, full of black-eyed peas and country ham.  Remember Underwood Deviled Ham? The spread in the tiny paper-wrapped can with the feisty red devil on the label?  Well, this is slightly reminiscent of that… but light and fresh with the flavors of salty ham, mushrooms sautéed in dry sherry, fresh parsley and thyme and crunchy toasted pecans.  It is all held together by creamy black-eyed peas cooked with fresh jalapeno. Make it the day before for a new and different hors d’oeuvre with crusty bread and pickled veggies.  Inspired by and adapted from Southern Living Magazine.

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For the Paté:

1 1/2 cups frozen black-eyed peas

1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded

3/4 cup chopped country ham

4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1/4 cup dry sherry

1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

For the Pickled Vegetables:

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 english cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced

1 cups seasoned rice vinegar

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Cover frozen black-eyed peas with water, add the fresh jalapeño, bring to a boil then simmer 15-20 minutes until tender.  Drain and put peas and jalapeño into the bowl of a food processor.  Sauté ham, mushrooms and garlic in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, stirring frequently until liquid from mushrooms has evaporated and the mixture if beginning to brown. Stir in dry sherry and cook one to two minutes more.  Scrape this mixture into the food processor with the peas.  Add the remaining oliver oil, about 5 tablespoons, and process until  smooth.  Stir in the pecans, parsley and thyme and season with black pepper.  Taste to see if salt is needed (most likely not because the country ham is quite salty).  Cover and chill for 8-24 hours.

Stir together the red onion, cucumber, rice wine vinegar, water, sugar and salt and cover and chill for 2 hours and up to 2 days.

To serve:

Spread paté onto toasted crostini or crackers and  top with a bit of the pickled vegetables.

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Little Leebos (bacon wrapped potato bites w/BBQ sauce)

bacon potato bitesBy popular demand, I offer you the treats of the tailgate, the most quickly disappearing nibble of our holiday buffet and soon to be, the must-have recipe for your Super Bowl Party. Those of you who are personally acquainted with me will know exactly who went on a one-man campaign to name these little gems.  Such devotion deserves recognition and reward.  I’ve yet to be able to make enough of these to satisfy my guests…a testament to their tastiness, not to their difficulty.   The truth is, they are very simple to throw together.

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1 pound very small potatoes (1-2 inches)

drizzle of olive oil

lemon pepper

1 pound thin sliced center cut bacon

your favorite barbecue sauce for dipping

Preheat oven to 350.  Scrub potatoes and cut each in half.  In a small bowl, toss the potatoes with just a bit of olive oil and generously season with lemon pepper.  Cut bacon slices into halves or thirds (figure out the right size for your potatoes…the bacon must wrap around the potato piece and can just meet, or slightly overlap, on the bottom).  Wrap each potato with a piece of bacon, and place them flat size down, bacon ends tucked under, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and bacon is golden.  Remove immediately from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack or paper towels. (note: if you leave the potatoes to cool on the baking sheet, they will adsorb every bit of the fat that has been rendered from the bacon.)  Serve hot or warm with barbecue sauce for dipping.

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Flash Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Onion and Lemon Pepper

Flash Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts go from raw to crispy/tender in about 8 minutes in a hot oven.  So there is really no need to ever cook them any other way!  Here, I’ve given the onion a bit of a head start so that it could achieve a sweet silky flavor and texture.  The added benefit is that the sprouts get a chance to caramelize on the sizzling hot pan long before they make that unfortunate transition to mush, as they are apt to do when overcooked.  The lemon pepper brightens this vegetable dish up and the pine nuts add a rich little crunch.  Easy enough for everyday….special enough for your holiday feast.

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

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cups trimmed, halved brussels sprouts

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1/4 cup pine nuts

salt and lemon pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Toss red onion and olive oil in a large roasting pan (or baking sheet with sides) spread it out, and roast until it is just starting to caramelize, 5-10 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the lemon pepper.  Rinse the cut sprouts in water then put them in a medium sized bowl and pour the butter mixture oven them.  Toss well to coat. Take the roasting pan out of the oven, add the brussels sprouts mixture, toss together with the onions then spread everything out into a single layer.  Return to oven for 8-10 minutes until sprouts are just tender and turning golden brown.  Do a taste test after 6-7 minutes to see where you are… sprouts come in different sizes and you do not want to overcook them. They should be tender on the outside with a bit of a crunch in the middle. (and they will continue to cook for a minute or two after they come out of the oven so err on the side of undercooking here) Remove from oven, add pine nuts and toss to warm through.  Season with salt and a generous sprinkle of Lemon Pepper to taste.  Serve 5-6

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Once-A-Year Sourdough Cornbread Dressing

Thanksgiving Dressing

Why “once a year”?  Well, sourdough bread and cornbread doused in butter, broth and cream just can’t be an everyday side dish.  And, there is something to be said for keeping a recipe special by only serving it once a year.  This dressing is moist on the inside from the cornbread, with crispy bits on the top from the sourdough bread.  The seasonings are subtle and the whole dish is melt-in-your-mouth rich; the perfect complement to your Thanksgiving Day turkey.  You can make this a day or two in advance, refrigerate it uncooked, and just pop it in the oven on the big day.  My recipe is adapted from one published in the New York Times a few years back.

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3/4 cup butter   (plus extra for buttering baking dish)

6 cups crumbled cornbread (see note below)

6 cups crusty sourdough bread, torn into bite sized pieces

2 cups chopped onion

2 cups chopped celery

1/2 teaspoon dried ground sage (see note below)

2 teaspoons salt

black pepper

6 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 cups chicken broth

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Butter 9×13 inch baking dish.  Melt the 3/4 cup butter and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine corn bead, sourdough bread, onion, celery, sage, salt and pepper to taste.  Toss until well mixed.   Add melted butter, eggs, cream and 1 1/2 cups broth. Mix lightly but well.  Mixture should be moist.  Pour into prepared baking dish, do not pack it down…you want the top to have some texture.  If mixture seems dry around edges, drizzle with remaining broth.  Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour until firm and golden brown on top.  Serves 12.

For cornbread:  You don’t want to use a sweet cornbread in this recipe.  Here is an easy, quick recipe.  

Preheat oven to 475.  Put 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a small cast iron skillet and place in the hot oven to preheat.  In a medium bowl, stir together 2 cups self-rising white cornmeal mix,  2 cups buttermilk , 1 beaten egg and 1/4 cup vegetable oil.  Just mix it quickly…ok if there are lumps.  Carefully pour batter into hot skillet and bake until golden brown.

Concerning dried sage:  Check the expiration date and smell for freshness.  Some of us find that our dried sage was left over from Thanksgivings past and is nothing more than a flavorless dust!

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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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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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Outstanding in the Field…and an End-of-the-Summer Tomato Bread Salad

IMG_3695If you want to spend an evening celebrating local farm to table cuisine, there is no better way than to attend  an Outstanding in the Field dinner party.  Sign up early….some of the venues sell out fast!  Get on the email list and be ready when they announce the new season.  Founder and Chef Jim Deneven and his trusted crew travel the country with the mission of reconnecting diners to the land and to the origins of their food.  Please enjoy some photos from last nights dinner at the beautiful and impressive Free Union Grass Farm just outside of Charlottesville, VA and then scroll down for a lovely recipe inspired by the event.

Thank you to Erica Hellen and Joel Siezak of Free Union Grass Farm, Ian Boden of Glass Haus Kitchen and the OITF crew for a memorable evening out in the field.

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Accommodations for the traveling crew

First a Tour of the Farm

First a Tour of the Farm

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“Sweet Face” a White British/Angus Mix

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The guests make their way back to the table

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Duck Breasts on the grill

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Finding a seat at the table

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Getting to know our table-mates

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Duck Mole Bolognaise with Grits and Toasted Peanuts

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Local wines and fresh brewed beers paired with each course

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The talented chefs tour the table after dinner to enthusiastic applause

Tomato Bread Salad 2-2

End of the Summer Tomato Bread Salad with Peppers and Olives
(Please click on photo for recipe)

Brussels Sprout Barbecue Chips

sprouts

Looking for a new nibble to serve at cocktail hour? Separating the leaves is a bit tedious, I’ll admit, but it can be done well in advance.  A quick flash fry and you’ll have an irresistible treat that will be the talk of the party.

 
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Vegetable oil for frying

1 pound Brussels sprouts

Your favorite barbecue seasoning, to taste (I use 2 Brothers Original Seasoning)

Trim the base of each sprout and gently pull away the leaves, stopping when they become too small and tight…discard the very interior bits.  Dry the leaves with a paper towel.

Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet or saucepan over high heat. (my wok works well) Test the oil temperature with a sprout leaf…it should sizzle immediately.  Fry the leaves, in batches, for 2 minutes, or until golden and crunchy.  Drain on paper towels and season with barbecue seasoning to taste while still hot.   Let cool slightly before serving.

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Summer Squash Salad with Quinoa and Mozzarella

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A great little combination of summer flavors…perfect make ahead side dish for your next cookout.  If you are tired of quinoa, this salad is also good using 2 cups of cooked, drained and cooled orzo pasta.

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For Dressing:

1 handful fresh basil leaves

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For salad:

2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa (see package directions)

1 cup diced fresh mozzarella

2 cups diced summer squash, yellow and green

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

salt and pepper

Make the dressing:

In a blender (this is where my Magic Bullet  really comes in handy….to puree small batches quickly….easy clean up too), puree basil leaves, mustard, honey, lemon juice and olive oil until smooth.  Set aside.

Cook the squash:

Heat a large non-stick skillet over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon olive to coat the surface then spread the diced squash out in a single layer and let cook, without disturbing, 3-4 minutes until squash is nicely caramelized on one side.  Toss around while cooking just 1-2 minutes more then remove squash to a plate to cool. (Take care not to over-cook squash or it will turn to mush) Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Make the Salad:

In a medium bowl, gently toss together the quinoa, squash, mozzarella and chives.  Add basil dressing and toss well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve cold or at room temperature.  Serves 4-6

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Herbed Watermelon Salad with Feta

watermelon salad 2 to post

The next time you are cutting up a whole watermelon for the kids, save about 4 cups of the best bits to make this refreshing summer salad for the adults.  This recipe, adapted only slightly from For The Love Of Salad, by Jeanelle Mitchell, would be an excellent side dish to any 4th of July meal….or throw a few grilled shrimp on top for a bright and  healthy lunch or supper.

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For the salad:

4 cups cubed seedless watermelon (small bite-sized pieces)

2 cups cubed baby cucumber

1/2 cup finely chopped sweet red or yellow pepper

1/2 cup sliced Kalamata olives

1/4 cup finely minces red onion

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1 cup diced feta cheese

For the vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

zest of one lime

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

sea salt and pepper to taste

Place watermelon, cucumber, sweet pepper, olives, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, mint and basil in a large bowl. (you will add the feta cheese later)

For the vinaigrette:  whisk together lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, and honey in a small bowl,  Season with salt to taste and set aside.

Just before serving, drain excess liquid from watermelon mixture, then add vinaigrette and feta to the salad and toss lightly to coat. Taste and correct seasonings if needed.  Serves 6

note:  Can be made 1-2 hours ahead but keep in mind that the watermelon and the cucumber will start to release their juices and will water down the salad.  If you make it ahead, you will want to drain some of the juices before serving.

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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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Cauliflower “Rice” Pilaf with Fresh Herbs

cauliflower rice pilaf to post

Honestly!  Is there anything you CAN’T make with cauliflower??  Clever people looking to lower their carb intake and/or avoid gluten have come up with wonderful recipes for using cauliflower as pizza crusts, bread sticks, tortillas and my favorite… “Rice”.  Cauliflower “Rice” is simply grated cauliflower but the texture is very rice-like and you can take the flavor anywhere you like.  Here is a simple version of mine, full of fresh herbs…a great side dish on it’s own or served as a bed for sauteed fish, chicken or mixed vegetables.

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1 head of Cauliflower, trimmed and cut in half

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 small shallots, peeled and minced (optional)

1/4 cup mixed chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, mint and chives

salt and pepper to taste

pine nuts, lightly toasted, to garnish

Coarsely grate the cauliflower with the large hole side of a box grater.  Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Saute shallot, if using, until translucent.  Add the grated cauliflower and let cook, tossing every few minutes, for 8 minutes or until tender.  There is enough water in cauliflower for it to steam itself so you will not have to add any liquid. Do not cover the skillet…you want the excess moisture to evaporate as the cauliflower steams to keep the rice-like texture.  Toss in fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with pine nuts to serve.

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

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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

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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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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

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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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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.

Waffle Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Ancho Pepper Jelly

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Much more exciting than the average cheese and cracker tray yet not much harder to throw together…here is an idea for a tasty nibble for your next party.

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High quality frozen waffle fries (I use Alexia brand)

Fresh goat cheese, at room temperature

Your favorite pepper jelly (I found a lovely red ancho pepper jelly)

Cook waffle fries according to the package directions until golden and crispy.  Use kitchen shears to trim them slightly into similarly sized, two bite, squarish shapes.  Stir the goat cheese until it is fluffy and spoonable and place a nice dollop on each trimmed waffle fry.  Top with a teaspoon of pepper jelly, sprinkle with coarse ground black pepper and serve.

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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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Zesty Black-Eyed Pea Salsa

This is the best version of marinated black eyed peas, better known as Southern Caviar, that I have ever had.  Simplified slightly from The New Southern Garden Cookbook by Sheri Castle.

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2 cups canned black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup sherry vinegar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 cup canned fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup corn kernels

1 or 2 finely chopped pickled jalapeños

1 tablespoon canned chopped mild green chiles

1/2 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.  Stir and season with salt and pepper if necessary to taste.  Serve as an appetizer with crackers, or as a salsa with chips, on tacos, fajitas, etc.  This is also a great side dish with fried or grilled chicken.

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Bibb Lettuce with Tarragon Vinaigrette and Toasted Walnuts

 This salad works well with big holiday meals as well as casual steak/frites suppers.  It’s nice to have this simple yet elegant item on the buffet table.  This is from Tyler Florence’s book, Dinner at My Place.  The lightly toasted walnuts in the photo are my addition.
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1 small shallot, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 lemon, juice only
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head Bibb lettuce
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
lightly toasted walnuts
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Combine shallot, mustard, and lemon juice in a large salad bowl.  Slowly drizzle in oil as you constantly whisk to emulsify the dressing.  Once all of the oil has been incorporated, stir in honey and fold in the 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon.  Season with salt and pepper.
Wash the lettuce and separate the leaves.  Smear the dressing up around the insides of the salad bowl and toss the leaves in the bowl.  (By doing this the leaves pick up a light,even coating of the dressing.)  Fold in the 1 tablespoon tarragon leaves and serve.
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Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

One of my favorite ways to fancy-up Brussels Sprouts….This recipe is adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin.
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2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound small Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed
1/4 pound bacon, finely diced
2 tablespoons finely diced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup lower sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
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Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes.  Swirl in the olive oil and butter and wait another minute.  Add the Brussels sprouts, and season them with 1 teaspoon salt and some pepper.  Shake the pan, rolling the Brussels sprouts around to help them brown evenly.  After a few minutes, turn the heat to medium and cook another 3-4 minutes until the sprouts soften slightly.
     Add the diced bacon to the pan and cook a minute or two, until it starts to crisp.  Stir in the shallots and garlic and cook another minute or so, until they are translucent.  Pour in the balsamic vinegar and reduce by half.  Add the chicken stock and reduce to about 1/4 cup, stirring and shaking the pan often to glaze the sprouts.  If you start to run low on liquid before the sprouts are cooked, add a little water to the pan.  You want the Brussels sprouts to be tender yet still have a bit of a crunch to them.  Overcooked Brussels sprouts are the reason that a lot of folks think that they don’t like the vegetable. Serve immediately or transfer to a baking sheet to cool.
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Pureed Sweet Potatoes with Sour Cream and Nutmeg

I love sweet potatoes but I don’t want them to taste like dessert,  which is why I love this recipe. (Adapted from Emeril Lagasse ) These are warmly spiced and the texture is pure velvet.

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1.  Bake 4 large sweet potatoes in a 350 degree oven until soft, about an hour.
2.  Carefully peel potatoes while hot and put them a large bowl with 4 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
3. Beat with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
4.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and an extra sprinkle of nutmeg.
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Roasted and Caramelized Whole Shallots

I’ve served them with grilled chicken, tonight they are waiting for the Fennel Spiced Pork Loin to come out of the oven, and next week I’ll quadruple the recipe to serve alongside our turkey.  Roasted Shallots have more flavor and are sweeter than pearl onions…AND they are infinitely easier to prepare.  The recipe is from Ina Garten, published in Barefoot in Paris.  (note:  stick with medium to small sized shallots if you want the roasting time to be 15-20 minutes)

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6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 pounds fresh shallots, peeled, with roots intact

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons good red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Melt the butter in a 12-inch ovenproof saute pan, add the shallots and sugar and toss to coat.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the shallots start to brown.  Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper and toss well.

Place the saute pan in the oven and roast for 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of the shallots, until they are tender.  Season to taste, sprinkle with parsley and serve hot.

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Brussels Sprouts Roasted on the Stalk with Maple Butter Dijon Glaze

Here’s a great “Farm to Table” idea for your holiday buffet.  Roasting brussels sprouts right on the stalk couldn’t be easier.  The kids will certainly think it’s fun to clip them from the stalk and when they taste them, slightly crispy, with a warm sweet tart glaze, they will be brussels spouts lovers for life.

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One stalk fresh Brussels Sprouts

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons pure maple syrup

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Prepare stalk by removing the sprouts from one side so that it will lay relatively flat on a baking tray.  Trim any outer leaves that are torn or discolored from all the sprouts and rinse with water.  Place stalk on a large baking tray and lay the loose sprouts along side.  Melt butter over low heat then stir in mustard and maple syrup.  Brush the brussels sprouts with about half of the butter mixture and set the rest aside for later.  Roast stalk for 15 minutes or until sprouts are beginning to caramelize on the outside and the insides are crisp/tender.  Remove from oven and brush with remaining glaze.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

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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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Quick Saute of Asparagus in Butter and Mustard

This lovely little recipe is from Kitchen of Light, New Scandinavian cooking with Andreas Viestad.  I’m always so happy to find new ways to brighten up a simple vegetable side.  And when a recipe is this easy and this good….it immediately becomes a keeper!

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1 pound fresh asparagus

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large skillet over hight heat.  Add the asparagus and cook for one minute.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter,  When the butter has started to brown, add the mustard and lemon juice.  Season generously with pepper.  Cook gently for 5-7 minutes, turning the asparagus every now and then.  The asparagus should be tender but still firm inside.  Serves 4.

 

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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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Straw Mat Potatoes

You may want to be careful with this recipe.  Once your family realizes that it is an option, either for breakfast or supper, they will request it all the time.

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4 large baking potatoes

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 black pepper

4 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Peel the potatoes, cut into 1/8 inch slices lengthwise, then again lengthwise, into 1/8 inch straws.  DO NOT RINSE, you need the starch in the potatoes to make the straw mat stick together.  Place potato straws in a large bowl and toss with the cornstarch, salt and pepper.

Heat the butter and the oil in a 12-inch well seasoned cast iron skillet over medium high heat. (if you don’t have a cast iron skillet, the next best option is a heavy non-stick skillet)  Spread the potato straws evenly in the skillet and press down gently with a spatula.  Cook until the underside is golden brown, pressing down on the potatoes occasionally.  I also like to gently pull the potatoes in around the sides to create a taller and neater edge.  This will also make it easier to flip.  Turn down the heat a bit and cover the potatoes for 5 minutes or so, to make sure the center of the potatoes cooks.  Uncover, press down on the potatoes once more and neaten the sides, give the skillet a few shakes to make sure that all the potatoes are moving as one, then flip it (see below)

There are a couple of ways to do this;  If you are using a non-stick skillet, you may want to air flip the potatoes.  It’s easier than it sounds but may take a bit of practice.  However, since I prefer to use my cast iron skillet, which is far too heavy to use for flipping, I flip the potatoes with two large metal spatulas.  Or, the safest way to flip is to slide the potatoes onto a large plate, cover with a second plate and flip upside down.  Then slide the potatoes back into the skillet raw side down. 

Turn the heat back up to medium high to brown the other side on the potatoes, occasionally pressing down on the  top and pulling in the sides as before.  When that side is crispy and brown, I usually flip the mat once more to re-crisp the first side.  Serve immediately.  Serves 6

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Black Kale with Grape Tomatoes, Garlic, and Chillies

Black Kale is also known as Tuscan Kale (or cavolo nero).  It has long, dark green leaves and is flat… compared to the more common curly kale variety.   I usually saute it simply with red onions.  But I love, love, love this spicy version adapted from A Paradiso Year, by Denid Cotter.

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2 small bunches black kale

1/2 pint grape tomatoes

2-4 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes, or more to taste

olive oil

a splash of chicken stock

salt

Pull the leaves of kale off the stalks and tear them coarsely.  Cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters depending on the size.  In a large skillet, over high heat, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until it is quite hot then drop in the kale.  Use tongs to toss the kale and keep it from burning. add a splash of chicken stock after a minute or two to help steam the kale.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  When the kale begins to wilt and take on a glossy sheen, add the tomatoes, garlic and crushed red chili flakes. Keep tossing and stirring over high heat, adding splashes of stock if the pan seems too dry, although the juice from the tomatoes will help.  Taste the kale.  It will be softly chewy and sweet when it is done.  Adjust seasonings if necessary.  Serves 4.

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Mexican Potato and Black Bean Salad

It is super easy to make a potato salad without mayonnaise since potatoes work
with almost any vinaigrette, but this one is really special.  Sweet potatoes, corn, black bean, cilantro and one of the best dressings I have ever had.  This is from Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers.
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4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Chipotle-Chile Dressing
1 chipotle chili (from a can of chipotles in adobo)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup canola oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato chunks with the oil to lightly coat them.  Sprinkle with coriander,cumin, chili powder and salt and toss again.  Spread that potatoes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until they are golden at the edges and just tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Meanwhile, steam the corn for 3-5 minutes.  Drain excess water.  In a large serving bowl, combine the corn and black beans.
To make the dressing, in a blender or feed processor, place the chipotle chili, garlic and sweet chili sauce.  Process until mixture is smooth. Add the lime juice ad process again.  Add the canola oil and process until it is emulsified.
When the sweet potatoes are done, let coll slightly and add them to the corn and beans.  Add scallions and cilantro and toss gently.  Pour enough dressing over the salad to just moisten the ingredients and toss again.
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Butter Roasted Potatoes

In the photos below, I am making butter roasted potatoes to serve 6-8 people.
3 1/2 pounds red potatoes
5 tablespoons melted butter
salt
coarse ground black pepper
12×17 inch heavy rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
To peel or not to peel?  That’s easy.  If your potatoes look like this
Don’t Peel!
On the other hand, if your potatoes look like this…
Peel!
Cut potatoes into 1 1/2 inch pieces.
Put potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Let boil one minute then…
Use a slotted spoon to transfer potatoes to a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with melted butter and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to make sure potatoes are evenly coated then arrange them in a single layer with the largest flat side down.  (if the potatoes are unpeeled, make sure that they are arranged cut side down.)
Potatoes should be no closer together than this in order to roast properly.
Let potatoes roast undisturbed for 40 minutes or until dark golden brown on the bottom.  (If you try to  toss them around before this bottom crust is formed, they will stick to the pan) Remove from the oven and let sit for 2 minutes then toss them around with a spatula.  At this point, you can either taste for seasonings and serve right away or put them back in the oven for a few minutes.  In any case, they are at their best piping hot out of the oven.
Variations:   Before roasting….season with fresh rosemary and or garlic
                    After roasting….toss with fresh either fresh parsley, chives, or slivered basil
                                             toss with freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Spicy Vegetable Couscous

This is my idea of the perfect meatless meal (although not vegetarian, of course, with the chicken broth) It is a simplified version of the wonderful Moroccan dish that usually includes lamb, chicken and/or veal.  I found this years ago in a book published by Glamour Magazine with recipes from their Gourmet on the Run feature.  If you ever see it in a used book store be sure and pick it up as it is full of great, quick and easy recipes.
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Vegetables:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 small or 1 medium turnip, diced
2 carrots, sliced diagonally
1 can chopped tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2-3 small zucchini, sliced
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
Couscous:
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup couscous
fresh parsley or cilantro
sesame seeds
In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat oil.  Add onion and garlic and saute until tender but not brown.  Add turnip, carrots, tomatoes, salt, cumin, crushed red pepper and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender yet firm when tested with a fork.  Add zucchini and garbanzo beans; cook until zucchini is just tender.
Meanwhile, prepare the couscous.  Heat chicken broth and butter in a large saucepan with a lid.  When it starts to boil, add couscous, stir, cover, and remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes to steam.  When couscous is tender and has absorbed all of the broth, use a fork to fluff it and serve with the vegetables and broth garnished with parsley or cilantro and sesame seeds.  Serves 4-5

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