Archive for October, 2011


Honey, Vinegar, and Pepper…

And what do these three make? One wonderfully sweetย and tangy dressing for yet another salad recipe of mine. I have thought of a new motto and it runs something like: “Salad, not just for bunnies” (ha, well I thought it was funny;-) This recipe is a creation all my own; I made it up after amassing an array of rather unusual ingredients and I’m particularly proud of the results. I’m sure there may be some wondering out there as to why I’m so concerned with eating such quantities of healthy food (other than the more obvious, long-term benefits) so I might as well just say it: I’m actually eating for two these days ๐Ÿ™‚ so my diet has renewed significance and I really need to be bulking up on all these veggies!!

Now that I’ve gotten a little off-topic (but seriously, AHHH! Okay, I’m calm) let’s get back to the recipe. This vinaigrette may be one of my all-time favorites (especially now that I’ve invented it}:-) and I believe it involves a lot of the taste components that make up a good salad dressing including salty, sweet, sour, and savory (it’s all about the coalescence). The ingredients, unusual as they may be, go surprisingly well together in this vinaigrette–tomato juice, oregano, whole-grain mustard, milk, honey, garlic and crushed fennel seeds–all mingle in a tasty combination that is worth a try and absolutely worth a taste. I bought the tomato juice thinking it was the ideal thing to be drinking with my lunch but turns out it’s not as satisfying on its own; or maybe I’ve just developed a preference for sweeter juices with similar amounts of nutrients (I will never, ever be getting sick of the cheap, super-sweet Guava juice they sell over here, ahhh…) Either way, tomato juice is the perfect liquid base to make a vinaigrette from as it seems to me that just everything goes well with tomatoes, juice included.

The star ingredient in this recipe would have to be the dried figs; they’re not too sweet, not too chewy, and look kinda cool when quartered over greens. In mythology, figs denote fertility (yeah, too late) and are packed with nutrition. I haven’t had access to these yummy little snacks before but my new apartment is conveniently located right next to the foreign ‘supermarked’ as they call it over here, so now I can get loads of them inexpensively. Figs, fresh or dried, have fiber, protein, and vitamin C–at least some of the servings I’m gonna need to consume on a daily basis anyway…oh boy ๐Ÿ˜‰

Sweet & Smoky Italian Green Salad with Garlicky Tomato-Mustard Vinaigrette

Ingredients

(for the vinaigrette)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1/2 cup tomato juice

3 Tbs. whole-grain mustard

2. Tbs. dried (or fresh) Oregano

2 Tbs. cracked pepper

2 Tbs. honey

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. fennel seeds, crushed

2 Tbs. milk

3 garlic cloves, minced

(for the salad)

1/2 head of cabbage, thinly chopped

3 small heads of romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped

1 tomato, halved & sliced

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup soft cow’s milk cheese

1/2 lb. baby ๐Ÿ™‚ red potatoes

1 can navy beans, drained

1/4 cup salted pumpkin seeds

1 cup dried figs

1/2 lb. smoked turkey breast, cubed or sliced

(1) Mix all of the ingredients under vinaigrette (olive oil through garlic) together in a seal-able Tupperware; put on the lid and shake until vinaigrette is well blended. Let chill in the fridge until ready to serve salad. (2) In a large bowl, toss together the sliced cabbage, smoked turkey, romaine lettuce, navy beans, tomatoes, and red onions; cover and refrigerate while assembling the rest of the salad (3) Cut the stems off the dried figs and quarter them, setting aside. Also cut the cow’s milk cheese into reasonably sized pieces (but since it’s soft, don’t worry so much about symmetry;-) (4) Wash the baby potatoes and remove any outside growth or bruised spots (leave the peels on). Heat a medium pot of salted water over high heat until boiling and cook the potatoes until easily pierced with a fork, 7-9 minutes. Drain the pot, halve the potatoes, cover, and set aside. (5) When ready to serve, divide the tossed greens evenly among 4 plates, placing the halved potatoes along one side of the edge of each plate. Scatter the soft cheese, dried figs, and pumpkin seeds generously over the top. Vinaigrette can be on the side or sprinkled directly onto the salad (2-4 tablespoons per plate). Serve the assembled salad with toasted bread & butter if desired and enjoy!

Serves 4

So that massive cacophony of foods made up my salad, which takes surprisingly little time to put together once you’ve got everything chopped into manageable pieces. I think the best part is how the dish is both a little hot and a little cold; boiled potatoes and a chilled vinaigrette, it’s kinda cool. Now if only I can come up with a salad that travels well and stays fresh so I can take it with me to school. Hmmm…

My question: What is your favorite salad?

It can be a classic recipe with your own twist or something completely unique…

10.25.11

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A Little Bit of Class

Next week I’ll be moving into my own apartment (yay, finally!) a little ways out of the city so these are the last few days I’m sharing a kitchen with another household. As such, I wanted to prepare a meal for our hosts as a way to thank them for putting up with crazy students for tenants/roommates over the last 2 1/2 months. My original plans to make something big and home-style changed when I realized just how much work that involved (and what little time I actually had to be cooking this week) so instead I went for a recipe that was simple, fast, and classy–a fanciful dish if you will, that makes use of some unusual ingredients. I shall explain what I mean ๐Ÿ™‚

My inspiration for cooking this recipe in particular came from our host’s amazing garden; in this garden there’s a beautifully huge rhubarb plant (and I mean huge) with big leaves and bright red stalks that is still clinging to life as it gets colder and colder, rainier and rainier every day :-[ I was flipping through some old recipes I’d stockpiled from the States and came across a rather unique pasta dish from Cucina La Italiana that uses fresh pasta and a Rhubarb-Dill sauce; when I saw it, I thought–this is it!!

The original recipe was vegetarian but when I mentioned this small fact to the males I witnessed some frowning and head shakes so I bulked the meal up with little cubes of ham (or as they say in Danish, skinke) which were already cooked and naturally sweet to go along with the rhubarb sauce. The Cucina recipe called for making your own pasta which I would absolutely attempt were it not for the incredible amount of time and necessary equipment you would need to do so (next time Skye, next time…) Luckily for me fresh pasta is still easy to attain and can be found in the refrigerated section of the market (and it cooks much faster than the dried stuff). The part of this recipe you must fully commit yourself to is the sauce, and it’s pretty easy in my opinion, that and it’s the most fun to make–just stirring, adding, and thickening. I love the pinkish color Rhubarb gives food and with a touch of white wine, some fresh dill, and plenty of butter I think this meal has a bit of class (love that word) and lots of deliciousness }:-)

The star ingredient in this recipe is (can you guess?) rhubarb!! If you haven’t worked with this plant before (and it is indeed a plant, looks kinda like a massive thing of lettuce but it’s definitely not) just make sure you don’t eat the leaves as they’re slightly toxic :[ the stalks however–the crispest, most colorful part of the plant–are what you should focus on; you can coarsely chop the rhubarb stalks for the sauce and cook over medium heat so the sugars will slowly release and the pieces will naturally soften too. The best part is it takes no time at all…

Ham and Pine Nut Linguine with a Rhubarb-Dill Sauce

Ingredients

(for the pasta)

16 oz. fresh linguine

1/2 lb. fully-cooked ham (cubed)

1 package (1/2 cup) pine nuts

1 cup golden raisins

1 bunch fresh dill, minced

2 Tbs. butter

(for the sauce)

1 cup white wine

2 medium stalks of rhubarb

2 cups cream

4 shallots, thinly sliced

2 Tbs. butter

flour

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Soak the golden raisins in a bowl with hot water for 15 minutes until softened, then drain and set aside. Coarsely chop the pine nuts or crush with a can while still in the bag (it’s easier:-). Thoroughly wash the rhubarb stalks and split lengthwise, split again, and then coarsely chop into smaller pieces. (2) To make the sauce, heat the cream, shallots, and white wine over medium heat until simmering; simmer an additional 2 minutes before adding all the rhubarb pieces. Let sauce cook until rhubarb is softened, about 10 minutes. Mix 3 Tbs. of flour in a cup with warm water to smooth out any lumps and then stir into the sauce. Whisking often, add 2 Tbs. butter and cook the sauce until thickened, 5-8 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. (3) In a large saute pan, melt 1 Tbs. butter and add cubes of ham, cooking over high heat to brown the sides (add a little white wine if the ham starts to stick too much). When browned, move the ham bits to the side of the pan and melt another tablespoon of butter in the center, adding all the pine nuts and stirring occasionally until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Lower the heat and mix in softened raisins and fresh dill, stirring well; let cook for 1 minute and then cover and remove from heat. (4) Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook until soft, about 4 minutes, stirring to prevent the strands from sticking together. Drain pasta and return to pot, adding the ham and pine nut mixture. (5) When ready to serve, mix all of the sauce with the cooked linguine, stirring well to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish plates of pasta with little sprigs of dill.

Serves 4

Well, I’m pleased to have made something as colorful and luxurious as this dish, but next week I will have to go back to utilitarian cooking :-(I won’t even have pots, or silverware hmmm…) I’m thinking with all this room for possibility, the outlook seems promising, so wish me luck!

My question: What is another sugary/sweet sauce that goes well with pasta?

10.12.11