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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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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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

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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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Watermelon Salad with Lemon and Mint

Watermelon with Lemon and Mint

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  (Leonardo Da Vinci)  Thanks to my good friend Liz Morten at Dovecote Decor for tipping me off to the magical combination of  watermelon, lemon and mint.  Go heavy on the lemon…juice and zest.  Add mint according to your own tastes…gobs of whole  leaves or tiny slivers throughout, and watch a simple bowl of watermelon become positively addictive.

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4-6 cups fresh, chilled watermelon, cubed

1 large, juicy lemon…zest and juice

fresh mint to taste

Toss all ingredients together and keep chilled until ready to serve…garnish with lemon and mint.

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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

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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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Cauliflower “Rice” Pilaf with Fresh Herbs

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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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Strawberry Pomegranate Sauce

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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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Stone Ground Grits ‘N’ Cheese Casserole

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Here is my version of the ultimate comfort food….cheese grits.  I use stone ground white grits for the best flavor and texture, cheddar and parmesan cheese and a healthy sprinkle of paprika.  It’s the perfect make-ahead dish for brunch or dinner (excellent alongside grilled meats or seafood). Note about grits: If you use a different type of grits, follow the water/grits cooking ratio on the package then proceed with recipe.

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4 cups water

1 1/3 cups stone ground white grits (I use Charleston Favorites)

1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1  cup milk

1/4 teaspoon garlic  powder

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

generous pinch of paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a glass or ceramic baking dish. (any size that will hold the mixture will work) To rinse the grits, place them in a medium pot and cover with water and then drain off the water to remove any husks that float to the top. (don’t worry about draining off every bit of water)  Add the 4 cups of water to the rinsed grits and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low and cover.  While grits are cooking, whisk milk and eggs together in a small bowl and set aside. Simmer grits for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until creamy and tender.  Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese, butter and salt.  Stir well until cheese is melted and mixture is cooled slightly then add the milk/egg mixture and stir well once more.  Season generously with freshly ground black pepper then pour grits into prepared casserole.  Sprinkle top with the grated parmesan and paprika and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, until top is golden and casserole is hot and puffy.  Serves 8

(This casserole can be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated unbaked.  Add 5-10 minutes to baking time if necessary)

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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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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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Salted Caramel Shortbreads with Pecans

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

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For the shortbread:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

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

For the caramel:

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

4 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons evaporated milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Flakey Sea Salt

Make the shortbread:

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

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

Make the Caramel:

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

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

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

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

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new coffee cup

Heart Beet Salad with Walnuts and White Cheddar

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

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

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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Glazed Chocolate Chip Cream Biscuits with Sprinkles

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

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2 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

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

3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar

2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

chocolate sprinkles

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes 15

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

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

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2 pink grapefruits (one juiced, one sectioned)

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

1 cup light olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups finely shredded leaf spinach

1 cup finely shredded red cabbage

1 cup finely shredded green cabbage

1/2 cup red onion julienne

1 avocado

coarse ground black pepper

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

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

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

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

Serves 4-6

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Buttermilk Crisped Vidalia Onion Rings

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

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

2-3 cups buttermilk, shake well before using

salt and pepper

2-3 cups all purpose flour

peanut oil for frying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup tahini

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

water

salt and pepper

Several large handfuls of fresh Arugula (or Spinach)

 

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

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

Serves 4-6

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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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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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Cornucopia

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

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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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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“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

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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Cucumber Goat-Teas

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

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Two of the South’s favorite sandwiches in one.  How can something so simple be so sublime?  When I was little, I used to pick the slivers of red pimento out of my pimento cheese sandwich so I appreciated the version that my Aunt Caroline made in a blender.  My version uses mild yellow cheddar and those wonderful sweet fire roasted red peppers that you find in a jar.  And although I no longer have an aversion to colorful specks in my food, I still like to blend my pimento cheese.  It just seems to take that lovely pimento flavor all throughout the spread.

For the pimento cheese:
1/3 pound mild cheddar
2 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
several strips of roasted sweet red bell peppers (I use the equivalent of 1/2 of a med. red pepper)
Blend ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding more mayo if needed to get to a nice consistency for spreading.
For the sandwiches:
Very Thin White Sandwich Bread (I use Pepperidge Farm)
mayonnaise
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced very thinly
1 bunch fresh chives, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Stack the bread and trim it so that each piece is approximately 3×3 inches.  To construct a sandwich, spread one slice of bread with mayonnaise and top with one or two slices of tomato.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spread pimento cheese on second slice of bread and set that on top of the tomato.  Top with a third slice of bread and press slightly.  Wrap sandwich in plastic wrap until all sandwiches are assembled and you are ready to set your tray.
To serve:  Cut each sandwich twice on the diagonal to create 4 equal triangles.  Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise onto the long end, the “uncut” side, of the triangle and gently press this side into your minced fresh chives.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches and arrange on a platter.

Tomato Tart with Caramelized Onions, Ollives and Capers

Tomato Tart with Caramelized Onions, Olives and Capers
A tomato tart with no cheese…doesn’t need it…don’t be tempted. The caramelized onions are so sweet and rich and the olive and capers provide the perfect salty bite. Served with a lovely salad of arugula and herbs and, yes, more tomatoes! This recipe is adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin.

For tart:
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 sheet frozen Pepperidge Farm puff pastry
1 large egg yolk
3 medium tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt packed capers, soaked and drained
1/4 cup Nicoise olives, pitted, cut in half

For salad:
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, for juicing
1 bunch arugula, cleaned and dried
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup small basil leaves
1/4 cup 1/2-inc snipped chives
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat a large saute pan over high heat. Add the olive oil, onions, 2 teaspoons of the thyme, 1 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Cook 10 minutes, stirring often. Then turn the heat down to medium, add the butter and cook slowly, stirring often with a wooden spoon. It will take at least another 15 minutes to caramelize the onions. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to help them cook evenly. They should be a deep golden brown. Set aside to cool completely before you make the tart. (This can be done well in advance if you want)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the defrosted puff pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a paring knife to score a 1/4 inch thick border around the edge of the pastry. Whisk together the egg yolk and one teaspoon water. Brush the border with the egg wash. Spread the caramelized onions evenly within the border.

Core the tomatoes and cut into 1/4 inch rounds. Place the tomato slices, just touching, but not overlapping, on top of the caramelized onions. Season the tomatoes with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a sprinkle of pepper.

Arrange the capers and olives over the tomatoes and onions. Sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of thyme over the tart.

Just before serving, place the cherry tomatoes and diced shallot in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice and toss together. Add the arugula and herbs and toss well. Taste for seasoning. Serve the salad with wedges of the tart. Serves 6

 

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart
From the clever folks at Cooks Illustrated, here is a brilliant tomato tart that will stay crispy enough to eat out of hand, as demonstrated below by my trusty hand model!  The process of assembling the crust may seem a bit tedious at first but it is really quite simple and the end result is spectacular.
All purpose flour for work surface
1 box Pepperidge Farm puff pastry (defrosted in frig overnight)
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound Roma tomatoes (3-4 medium)
salt
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
ground black pepper
8 ounces low moisture whole milk mozzarella, shredded
2 tablespoons finely shredded fresh basil leaves
  Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.  Dust work surface with flour and unfold both pieces puff pastry and follow these steps to form one large sheet with a border.
1) Brush egg along short edge of one sheet of puff pastry and overlap with second sheet of dough by one inch and press to seal pieces together.
2)  With a rolling-pin, smooth out seam.  Dough should measure about 18×9 inches.  Use a pizza wheel or knife (and a ruler) to trim edges straight.
3)  With a pizza wheel or knife, cut a 1-inch strip from the long side of the dough.  Then cut another 1-inch strip from that same side.
4)  Do the same thing on one short side.  Now you should have 1 large rectangle of dough, 2 long, 1-inch wide strips and 2 short, 1-inch wide strips.  Transfer the pieces of dough to a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with egg.
5)  Gently press long strips of dough onto each long edge of dough and brush with egg.  Gently press short strips of dough onto each short edge and brush with egg.
6)  With a pizza wheel or knife, trim the excess dough from the corners.
So now, hopefully, you have a long, rectangular, unbaked tart shell with doubled up edges.  Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the shell (inside of the borders) and then using a fork, uniformly and thoroughly poke holes in the base of the shell. Bake 13-15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Continue to bake until golden brown and crisp, 13-15 minutes longer.  Transfer to wire rack.  Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.
While the shell bakes, place tomato slices in single layer on double layer of paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Let stand 30 minutes.  Place second double layer of paper towels on top of tomatoes and press firmly to dry tomatoes.  Combine garlic, oil, and pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over warm (or cool if made ahead) baked shell.  Shingle tomato slices on top of cheese (about 4 slices per row)  Brush tomatoes with garlic oil.  Bake until shell is deep golden brown and cheese is melted, 15-17 minutes.  Cool on wire rack 5 minutes,  sprinkle with basil and serve.  (6-8)
Tomato and Mozzarella Tart
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