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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Honey Jalapeño Chicken Tenders

Honey Jalapeno Chicken 2For summertime grilling, this is one of the easiest, quickest and tastiest recipes you will find.  It only takes 2-3 minutes per side to cook chicken tenders on a hot grill which is one reason why this marinade from The Farm, by Ian Knauer, is so great…the honey caramelizes very quickly so you get a wonderful glazed char before the chicken is overcooked. Most of the heat in a jalapeño is in the seeds so use them to control the spiciness of this dish.  I scrape out most of the seeds, letting just a random few into the marinade and that makes for chicken tenders with just a little kick, suitable for kids and adults alike.

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1/4 cup honey

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

6 jalapeño peppers, chopped (see note above about seeds)

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

3 pounds chicken tenders

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Sour Cream for serving

 

Preheat the grill to high and oil the grill rack.

Whisk together the honey, soy sauce, oil, garlic, jalapeños, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.  Toss the chicken in the marinade and let stand for at least 15 minutes at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.

Grill the chicken until well browned and cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side.  Serve sprinkled with cilantro with sour cream on the side.

Serves 6-8

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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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Mozzarella con Prosciutto

proscuitto-mozzarellaAnd the award for Best Appetizer in the “Don’t Have Time to Cook”  category goes to …. Mozzarella con Prosciutto!

Buy the bite-sized mozzarella balls already marinated in olive oil and herbs and wrap each one with 1/4 of a slice (cut lengthwise) of paper thin prosciutto.  Secure with a toothpick.  If you make them ahead of time, let sit at room temperate for 10 minutes for the best taste and texture.  And if you are serving a crowd, Costco has a big tub of marinated mozzarella and perfectly sliced prosciutto at a very decent price.

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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Spicy Rice Noodles with Chicken, Basil and Lime

spicy noodles

We all need more recipes like this one. Pantry staples, a pound of ground chicken, and dinner is on the table in about 20 minutes.  And the best part is that it’s not a boring “I didn’t have time to think about dinner” dinner.  It’s sweet, tart, spicy and light.  Interesting enough for the adults yet familiar enough for the kids.

Here’s a thought about rice noodles.  You want to be careful not to overcook them lest they turn to mush.  For this particular recipe, soak them in hot water until they are just as you would like to eat them, tender all the way through but still a nice silky bite.  Then toss them with the hot chicken and sauce and serve right away.  If you let them sit around waiting, they will soak up any available liquid and dry out the dish.  That being said, this stir fry is tasty enough that you will still want to gobble up the leftovers the next day straight out of the frig, mushy noodles or not.

Adapted from one of my favorite chefs, Ming Tsai, and his recipe for Crazy Chicken RIce Noodles, in Simply Ming.

 

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4-6 ounces pai thai rice noodles

3 tablespoons asian fish sauce

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon sugar

1-2 teaspoons sambal (asian chili sauce)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 shallots, thinly sliced

1 pound ground chicken

1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts, chopped

a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped

lime wedges for serving

 

1.  Soak the rice noodles in hot water until tender, about 20 minutes or according to package directions. Drain when ready and set aside.

2.  In a small bowl, combine fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and sambal and stir to combine.

3.  Heat a wok or heavy skillet over high heat.  Add the oil and the shallots and stir fry until they are golden brown.  Add the ground chicken and stir fry, using a spoon or metal spatula to break up the meat into small pieces, until cooked through.  Add the noodles and the fish sauce mixture and toss well.  Add the scallions and basil, toss again and serve immediately.  Serves 3-4.

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Two-Minute Salmon Scallopini

salmon scallopini

“Dinner will be ready in two minutes!!!”  How many times have I shouted this warning to family passing through my kitchen, foraging in the snack drawer or headed out the door?  Of course, I rarely mean literally two minutes….but this time I do!  These thin slices of marinated fresh salmon cook right on your dinner plate in two minutes flat.  Delicate and meltingly delicious, serve with crusty bread and a big salad of field greens for the quickest entree you will ever encounter.  A brilliant technique and recipe adapted from Abby Mandel in her excellent cookbook, More Taste Than Time.  The late Abby Mandel was a food columnist for the Chicago Tribune and was the founder of the fabulous Lincoln Park Green City Market. (a must-visit for foodies in Chicago May-October)

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3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dry vermouth

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon orange (or lemon) zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

10-12 ounces salmon fillets, skinned, cut on the bias as thin as possible, about 1/16 inch (see note below)

minced fresh chives or parsley to garnish

freshly ground black pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees 15 minutes before baking.

2.  Mix the orange juice, oil vermouth, lemon juice, soy sauce, orange or lemon zest and salt in a large plastic ziplock bag.  Add the salmon and seal the bag, squeezing out excess air and turning bag to insure that salmon is well coated with the marinade.  Let marinate for 10 minutes.

3.  Arrange the salmon on 2 china dinner plates, covering the entire surface of the plate, except the rim ,, overlapping the fish as little as possible.  Brush lightly with a small amount of the remaining marinade.

4.  Bake just until the surface of the fish lightens in color, about 2 minutes.  Sprinkle with chives or parsley, fresh ground pepper and serve immediately.

Serves 2

note:  Put the raw salmon in the freezer for about 30 minutes until firm but not frozen solid….this will make thin-slicing a breeze (sharp knife necessary too)

note: Most china and ceramic plates can withstand the oven heat for this amount of time, but very fine bone china should be avoided.

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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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Cast Iron Spicy Salmon with Parmesan Grits

creole salmon with parmesan grits 2

Did you know that grits go with everything?  Really, they do.  Grits and Shrimp…no brainer.  Grits and Chicken…yum!  I’ve even had Grits ‘n Mussels at a restaurant in Augusta, GA.  Name any protein or vegetable. Now imagine it with grits.   See what I mean?  Grits make everything just a little bit better and this spicy salmon dish is no exception.

I’m using regular Quaker Grits in this recipe so that the whole dish can come together in about 20 minutes for an easy weeknight supper.  And you will have lots of the spice mix left over ready to add tons of flavor to most any seafood, poultry or meat. (This is a nice, well-balanced spicy rub.  Add more cayenne if you like it hot hot!)

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4 pieces of fresh salmon

spice mix (see below)

3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup Quaker Old Fashioned White Grits

1 cup milk

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 small slivers of butter for garnish

1 green onion, thinly sliced for garnish

Check salmon for pin bones and remove if necessary.  Sprinkle salmon generously on both sides with spice rub.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.

In a medium sauce pan, bring the water and salt to a boil.  Add grits and stir well.  Lower heat to a simmer.  After 5 minutes, add milk and continue to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until grits and tender, 10-15 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the Parmesan cheese.  Stir well and let rest in the saucepan while you cook the salmon.

Heat a well seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat.  Coat the surface with the olive oil.  Sear salmon steaks until dark golden  brown on each side then lower heat to medium high and cook until just barely translucent in the center, or to your liking.  Timing will depend on the thickness of your salmon but it shouldn’t take more than 5-6 minutes.

Spoon grits into individual serving plates or bowls and top with salmon.  Garnish with a small sliver of butter and a sprinkle of green onions and serve.  Makes 4 servings.  (with extra spice rub that you will be happy to have around!)

For the Spice Mix

1 tablespoon white pepper

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon black pepper

5 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons dried basil

1 tablespoon dried thyme

3 tablespoons sea salt

Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Store extra in a small jar.

 

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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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Summer Squash Salad with Quinoa and Mozzarella

squash to post

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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Strawberry Pomegranate Sauce

strawberry sauce to post

The flavors of Springtime…asparagus, artichokes, fava beans, rhubarb, spring onions, new potatoes, garlic scapes, radishes, lettuces, green peas, morel mushrooms, and of course, strawberries. Nothing says spring like strawberries. Remember the rule about strawberries…if they don’t smell wonderful, they won’t taste wonderful. So I get excited at at the farmers market this time of year and invariably end up buying way more fresh, fragrant strawberries than we can actually eat. So here I offer a solution, Strawberry Pomegranate Sauce. It’s a 10-minute, no-cook recipe that you can use swirled into your yogurt at breakfast (as shown above) or as a wonderful topping for ice cream, waffles, angel food or pound cake, etc. Adjust the sweetness based on how you plan to serve it and the sweetness of your berries. Recipe from Fine Cooking May 2013. Enjoy!

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1 lb. strawberries, hulled (about 4 cups)
3 Tbs. agave nectar; more to taste
2 Tbs. pomegranate molasses
1-1/2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest

In a blender or food processor, combine the strawberries, agave nectar, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Blend until smooth, 15 to 30 seconds. Season to taste with more agave if you like. Cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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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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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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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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Heart Beet Salad with Walnuts and White Cheddar

beet to post

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.

Mama’s All-Bran Cloverleaf Rolls

bran roll to post 2These rolls were a fixture of our holiday meals growing up in Mississippi.  The warm, sweet smell of this bread in the oven brings back lots of wonderful memories. I reconfigured them as cloverleaf rolls, which makes a simple recipe even easier.  And who doesn’t love pulling apart cloverleaf rolls and slathering the thirds with butter! This recipe will make 20-24 rolls, depending on the size of your muffin tins.

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2 1/4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup Kellogg’s All-Bran cereal

1 package yeast

4 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter (for brushing tops)

flakey salt, such as Maldon Sea Salt (for sprinkling tops)

In a medium saucepan, bring milk, sugar and shortening to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Set aside to cool a bit.  When it is no longer hot, but still warm, sprinkle the yeast over the milk and let sit a few minutes until it begins to foam.  Stir in All-Bran and 2 cups of the flour. Cover with a clean towel and let sit in a warm spot until mixture has doubled in size.  This will take 45 minutes or so.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 cups of flour with the salt, baking soda and baking powder.  And get your pans ready by lightly greasing two 12-count muffin tins.

When yeast mixture has risen, use a large wooden spoon to stir in the remaining flour mixture.  To form the cloverleafs, roll the dough into balls, about the size of whole walnuts and place three in each muffin cup.  Cover the pans lightly with a clean towel, let rise until doubled in size (about an hour). Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly and gently brush the risen rolls with melted unsalted butter (a silicone brush is best for this because you don’t want to delate the rolls) and sprinkle very lightly with flakey salt.  Bake 10-12 minutes until rolls are golden.  Serve immediately.

Make ahead option:  After you have placed the dough balls into the muffin tins, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to overnight.  Before baking, remove from refrigerator, remove plastic wrap and cover lightly with a clean towel and let rise.  Brush with butter, sprinkle lightly with salt and bake as directed above.

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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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Seared Steak Salad with Arugula and Red Onions

With just a few simple high quality ingredients, you can throw together this beautiful and flavorful meal in 15 minutes flat.  The recipe is adapted from The New Cook, by Donna Hay.

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1 tablespoon olive oil

2 red onions, thickly sliced

4 small beef filets

cracked black pepper

5 ounces baby arugula, trimmed

1/2 cup parmesan cheese shavings

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, slivered

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Heat olive oil in a frying pan over media heat.  Add onions and cook for 5 minutes on each side or until will browned and set aside.  Slice each beef filet horizontally, creating 2-3 steaks (depending on the thickness of your steaks) each about 1/2 inch thick.  Season steaks lightly with salt and more generously with pepper.  Increase heat to high and cook the steaks for 30-60 seconds on each side or until they are seared and done to your liking.  To serve, toss together arugula, parmesan, basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil  Place 1 piece of steak on a serving plate.  Top steak with a little of the arugula mixture and another steak.  Add more salad and finish with a couple of the fried onions.  Serves 4.

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