Archive for June, 2012


Menu for A Cool Summer Day

Hello and happy summer 🙂 The sun has proven worth waiting all these months and as I’m getting to enjoy the cool summer breezes I’ve also been making lots of different dishes too numerous to post. I have however, combined three of my latest edibles into a summertime menu with plenty of homemade flair and the sublime simplicity of fresh summer produce.

The crunchy, briny pickles are from a recipe I found in last month’s Cooking Network magazine and are a genius idea because first, it’s so easy to make, second, the veggies stay crispy and fresh without sitting in boiling water for forty minutes, and third, they last 3 months in the fridge and only become more marinated with time. Pickles are a pretty versatile ingredient too, I recommend having them with cheese & crackers for breakfast, with garlic bread for Lunch, or coarsely chopped and served as a salad alongside grilled meat 😀 The peppercorns and other seeds soften significantly enough to be chewable, granted you love the robust flavors involved in the pickling brine.

The Quinoa Recipe is from an old Cooking Light and well worth the 15 minutes it takes to cook the grain to fluffy completion. There are different types of quinoa and while we ordinarily eat the white, quinoa also can be black and red; I used the red version here which was a much warmer color among the sticky peach pieces. The sandwiches are very Danish (at least that’s what I’m going to claim;)) with a savory spread, and both crunchy and smooth veggies. This particular recipe I saw in Gourmet, adding some of my own embellishments in the form of full flavors. Everything in this menu can be served chilled (and only gets better with the cold). I think the sandwiches make for a perfect picnic dish, if the weather is sunny enough 😀

The star ingredient in this menu is black pepper. Now I may be an overzealous fan of this spicy staple, but it’s cheap, potent, and in every kitchen 🙂 Pepper goes with sweet and salty tastes alike and is apparently full of anti-oxidant vitamins and minerals. At one point in time I’d assumed pepper was a seed like coriander or cumin, but it’s actually the fruit of a tropical evergreen tree, which is far more interesting. Cracked pepper will remain the unsung hero in most of my dishes, partly due to the fact that I often double (or okay, triple..) my pepper seasoning – which seems to bestow the right degree of tasteful spiciness every time.

Carrot-Cucumber-Cauliflower Pickles with Fennel, Mustard Seeds, & Coriander

Ingredients

4 carrots, peeled & thickly sliced

3 red onions, thickly sliced

1/2 head cauliflower, divided into florets

10 green beans, trimmed

5 small cucumbers, quartered

1 bunch fresh Dill

2 Tbs. coriander seeds

2 Tbs. fennel seeds

1 Tbs. mustard seeds

1 Tbs. black peppercorns

1/2 Tbs. salt

2 cups white wine vinegar

4 cups water

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

5-6 glass jars with seal-able lids

(1) Put 2-3 dill sprigs in each jar and pack (as tightly as possible) a mixture among all the jars. Stir together the peppercorns, fennel, coriander, and mustard seeds and divide evenly among the jars, spooning atop the veggies. (2) Put the water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the vinegar, garlic, and salt; reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. (3) Carefully pour the hot brine into each of the jars, filling to the top. Seal the jars tightly with lids and let cool before refrigerating. Keeps chilled 3 months, ready to eat 3 hours after refrigerating.

Serves 6-8

Red Quinoa with Peaches, Black Pepper, & Honey

Ingredients

1 bag of red quinoa, rinsed

8 peaches, thickly sliced

4 lemons, juiced

6 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. cracked pepper

(1) Cook the quinoa according to package instructions (usually 1 part water to 3 parts quinoa), until the grain has absorbed all water and can be fluffed with a fork. Uncover and set aside, letting cool 10 minutes. (2) Stir in the honey, cracked pepper, and lemon juice. Serve at room temperature or chilled, as dessert or side dish.

Serves 4

Bacon, Avocado, & Sprout Sandwiches with Dill-Chive Spread

Ingredients

(for sandwiches)

3 ripe avocados, thinly sliced

1 loaf of sourdough bread, sliced

8 bacon strips

1 cup fresh bean sprouts

3-5 slices of Havarti cheese

(for spread)

3 Tbs. mayonnaise

4 Tbs. yogurt

1 orange, juiced

4 Tbs. fresh Dill, minced

4 Tbs. fresh Chives, minced

salt & cracked pepper

(1) To make the spread, combine all ingredients from the mayonnaise through fresh chives in a small tupperware. Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper. Can be chilled up to a week ahead. (2) Sprinkle cracked pepper over the bacon before cooking in a skillet at medium-high heat. Remove when crispy but not burnt, 6-8 minutes and let cool. (3) Layer both sides of bread thickly with the herb spread. On one piece put the bacon and then sliced avocado. On the other, layer sprouts and cheese, putting atop the bottom layer. Cut in half before serving. Best with light beer or chilled white wine 😀

Serves 4

So as the weather continues to warm up a bit I’ll probably keep thinking of cold food in all its refreshing versions. Salsa, salad, sandwiches, sangria – it sure seems like I have a lot of options – if only Summer was forever 😉

My question: What spice do you think is underrated in the kitchen?

6.30.12

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A Mother of a Salad

Ahh, with Summer weather on the way, it keeps getting lovelier by the day 🙂 And looking at all these flowers and budding greenery has only increased my appetite for fresh dishes (what a surprise, right?) These days it’s easier to create colorfully crisp meals because so many vegetables and fruits are now in season and I find myself making excuses to go to the market to get more 😉

I based this dish off a recipe from Cooking Light that had an aromatic herb salad, and while my version is not nearly as ‘aromatic’, it has lots of other tasty points, and both salty and sweet elements to balance off the already capacious list of ingredients. In making this I was trying to create a dish that had it all — greens, fresh veggies, cheese, protein — the works basically, with a sweet summery dressing to top it all off. What I ended up concocting was a massively fresh and filling salad worth devoting a post to based on the fact that it’s probably one of the most delicious salads I’ve had to eat in a looong time.

Making a salad is easy – just incorporate the elements; the greens and the vegetables are the things you buy fresh, the dressing can be made from what is already in your cupboards. When putting together a salad, just combine ingredients that make sense to you, and ones you already like to eat on their own: peppers, onions, some sort of cheese, tomato, dried fruit, etc. and pick whatever greens look the crispest at the market. The good thing about salads (or at least one of the good things..) is that they’re easy to assemble and you can always feel good about eating them, providing one doesn’t overdo it on the dressing :/ And even though it gets just a tad bit soggy, I always save the leftover salad for snacking the next morning because there’s something refreshing about cold greens for breakfast!

The star ingredient in this recipe is hard-boiled eggs because they add some class to the dish (in addition to fat and protein) and look pretty awesome atop the stack of greens when serving. Eggs also add a creaminess to everything that upgrades this from a side dish to more of a meal. I prefer my eggs boiled until barely set so the yoke tastes buttery. As for the dressing, anything would work with this; I chose to make a sweeter version because I still had plenty of jam (from my last post) at my disposal, but a salty vinaigrette would work just as well, or simply oil & vinegar. In honor of the season and the simplicity of the meal, I’ve shared my recipe for this salad in hopes of inspiring others to come up with some amazingly creative tasty salad dishes too 😀

Baby Spinach, Red Cabbage, & Mint Salad with White Beans, Hard-Boiled Eggs, and Dried Apricots

Ingredients

(for salad)

1 bag of baby spinach

1/2 head of red cabbage

1 bunch of fresh mint

1/2 block Gorgonzola cheese, cubed

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 can of white beans, drained & rinsed

1/2 cup dried apricots, halved

1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds

4 hard-boiled eggs

(for vinaigrette)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup sherry vinegar

3 Tbs. strawberry jam

1 tsp. mustard

1/4 tsp. vanilla powder

Juice of 1 lemon

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Rinse and dry all the greens; stem the red cabbage and slice into ribbons. Toss the baby spinach, cabbage, and mint leaves together in a large bowl. (2) To make the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients – olive oil through lemon juice – and stir until well blended. Season to taste with salt & cracked pepper. Can be refrigerated up to a week ahead of time. (3) Add the dried apricots, white beans, red onion, pumpkin seeds, and Gorgonzola cheese to the salad and mix. (4) When ready to serve, toss salad with the vinaigrette and slice hard-boiled eggs lengthwise. Serve the salad in bowls, topped with egg slices and cracked pepper.

Serves 4

I can’t believe there was a time in my life when I hated salad, really – I hated it – it had something to do with lettuce, which just seemed like bunny food to me 😉 Well not anymore, now I want a salad with every meal! I believe it’s a wonderfully fresh way to eat all these daily servings of veggies we’re supposed to be consuming, and salads just have a touch of class to them, I’m not sure why…

My question: What is one unusual secret ingredient to make a great salad?

It’s amazing how almost anything can go in a salad, fruits, vegetables, nuts, cheese, meat, legumes…so many choices 🙂

6.10.12