Tag Archive: milk


Savory Breakfast Muffins

Cracked Egg by vicviciniI really need to make more time for blogging. Wait no, I just need more time, in general. More often then not, I’m left wondering “…where did all my time go?” but I already know. Such is life, where I barely have time to do anything anymore and it’s almost depressing (notice I say almost) but suddenly amidst all this – it’s Summer!! Can I get a hip, hip hooray? πŸ˜‰ I’m not thinking “yay, it’s Summer,” I’m more like: “thank GOD it’s Summer,” and I’ll be thinking that all this week until the wow effect of this wonderful season wears off.

So what’s good about Summer? Everything you forgot about over Winter. Sunshine, popsicles, sidewalk chalk, iced tea, picnics, bubbles, watermelon, need I go on (because I have a tendency to do that…) I’m not exactly sure why I love Summer so much, I just know it’s not Winter, and how blessed that is.

I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of traveling lately and on my travels I also got to stay with family πŸ™‚ It was on this last trip that I discovered The Gourmet Kitchen: Mushrooms, a semi-old South African illustrated cookbook sitting on a back shelf. After flipping through the first few pages, I thought I’d just write down the recipes that I wanted to make and get to it later, but I quickly realized that I wanted to make every single one! Don’t you hate it when that happens? So far I’ve made 7 recipes from this cookbook made for mushroom lovers: (1) mushroom omelet , (2) duck, mushroom & black bean stirfry, (3) savory mushroom & cheese muffins (these ones!), (4) spicy bean, mushroom, and chorizo stew, and (5) marinated mushrooms. Coming up next week: mixed mushroom tempura! Yessss.

So back to my issue with time. Now that I’ve returned from my travels, I find myself more often on the go than chillin’ in the crib. More than that, my day starts first thing in the morning, like everybody else who have kids πŸ™‚ Introducing…the breakfast muffin!?! These aren’t your greasy calorie bombs you’ll find in Starbucks, I’m talking homemade, no guilt goodness of the best kind. I really can’t take sugar, or pastries (unfortunately), or super sweet things in the morning either so this is a godsend for me πŸ˜› And when it comes to these muffins, thBellaere’s room for experimenting. I added the ham and chives to my recipe here, I also used more cheese and an extra egg on my second batch, just for fun πŸ™‚ I don’t really find (or I guess look) for buttermilk anymore, so I ended up making my own instead (with milk & water, or milk & vinegar) to make the recipe.

The star ingredient in these superstar muffins? The mushrooms. It’s too easy of an answer, especially with all that talk about mushroom cookbooks, but the “proof is in the pudding,” as they say, or in this case it’s in the batter because mushrooms add a whole lot more than taste. For one, you don’t add any additional butter, just what you cook the mushrooms in so already, it’s a tad bit healthier πŸ™‚ Secondly, mushrooms contribute moisture and pack a lot of taste for being as small as they shrink too after sizzling in butter for 5 minutes.

My advice? Substitute mushrooms in for the next ingredient you can’t seem to find in the grocery store. I throw thinly sliced mushrooms into soup, pickle them like cucumbers, and use them whole as dippers in broth & cheese fondue. There’s such a thing as mushroom pate, and if you’re fresh out of steak (or the cash required to get those hunks of meat), fry up some portobellos just like you would a filet. Like most things, mushrooms get better when they’re cooked in wine, sherry, or marsala. I do my portobello “steaks” with red wine sauce, as I pretend to be a pro at this whole vegetarian thing πŸ˜‰

Breakfast Muffins with Mushrooms, Ham, and Fresh Chives

Ingredients

3 Tbs. butterSavoury Muffins

150g or 5oz of mushrooms, chopped

250g or 9 oz flour

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

75g or 3oz grated parmesan or gran pardona cheese (or more, if you prefer)

100g or 4oz ham, cubed or sliced

1 bunch fresh chives, chopped

250ml or 8fl. oz buttermilk

salt & cracked pepper

1 egg

(1) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 Fahrenheit). In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. (2) When the pan is hot, add the sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring 0cassionally, until the moisture evaporates, 5-6 minutes total. Remove from heat and mix in the ham and fresh chives. Let cool uncovered. (3) Prepare a muffin pan or put 12 paper muffin liners on a baking tray. (4) In a large bowl, mix together the baking powder and half of the grated cheese. (5) In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg and buttermilk until well combined. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the batter is just combined. It should be a little lumpy. (6) Scoop a generous spoonful of batter into each of the muffins liners, they should be about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the tops with remaining cheese and a dash of salt & cracked pepper. (7) Bake the muffins 24 – 25 minutes, or until the tops are browned and a fork comes out clean from the middle. Transfer to a wooden board to cool. Reheat muffins for breakfast or eat cold on a busy day!

Makes 12 muffins

chivesMy question: What’s your go-to breakfast dish?

I’m talking about the meal that lights your fire. For some, it’s dried fruit & muesli, for others it’s a classic omelet. I’m pretty predictable in that I don’t want to do much of anything in the morning, let alone eat so if there’s going to be breakfast, it better be hot.

I’m a sucker for the American classics and would choose bacon and eggs (and tomatoes, lots of tomatoes) over oatmeal, any day. The thing is I never have the time and if there’s somebody making breakfast, it’s unfortunately not me 😦

Is some of this sounding familiar? Try making these muffins the night before and you won’t have to stress, just nibble them on your way to work or in the middle of class, like I end up doing…

6.8.2015

 

 

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Kale Ceasar Salad

salad-carol-scottSo it seems we find ourselves in the New Year (yay!) and yet in the depths of Winter…still. Oh but it’s not so bad, right? And there’s of course more than comfort food around to lift our spirits πŸ™‚ I am happy to remember all those winter foods that weren’t in season and weren’t around, even a couple months ago. And somehow, I’m now hungrier – all the time! 😦 Mostly, I just end up wanting to make soup, but it’s good to diversify. And this brings me to my post.

So, is salad in season? No. But Kale is. I know what you’re thinking. Salad. Bor-ing. Ceasar, bleh – but no, I promise you this is worth the effort. Because, let’s just be honest here – caesar is awesome – emperor actually, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t care for anchovies BUT then there’s CAESAR (I am trying to make my point, although I may just end up being redundant, but seriously) there are other perks to the wintertime salad. First, you cancaesar_salad scratch most fruit off that list because, darn, it’s just not ripe or even available and the first rule of any caesar is that it’s all about salty. In the absence of sweeter fillers, it’s good to add a go-to-protein or two to the salad that’ll contribute some texture and quantity. My choice: cubed cheddar cheese (instead of Parmesan) and ham, but the recipe I used suggested roasted chicken too. Remember, science (as reported by the Business Insider) just debunked 5 of the silly myths about meat that are out there so now we know that it is healthy, a great source of protein, our bodies can (and do) digest it well, and that it does not cause disease, or make you fat. Thank you, science.

Julius_Caesar_Coustou_LouvreThe secret ingredient here? Brown rice. I know I hate rice too, hate it. It’s the absence of something, I think, what’s it called? Oh yeah: flavor. But what’s the second rule about making a caesar salad? (I’m totally making this up, but still) It must have carbs. CARBS, say what, how can that be a rule?! Ask the Romans, they invented this. I’m only kidding, this dish is very American so I think it’s safe to assume that for it to be a caesar salad, there must be some carbohydrates in it. So the typical caesar has croutons and I try to avoid these tasty little treats full of empty calories (darn!) You know what packs a ton of (not empty) wholesome calories and can count itself as a good carb? That’s right, rice. Brown rice happens to be holier than thou when it comes to getting whole grains. Well thank god it’s good for something. I first came across this recipe in last September’s Cooking Light. Granted it called for quinoa, but brown rice is just as good.dressing

The labor intensive part of any salad is in the processing or chopping of all the raw veggies. The bad news? Caesar dressing from the store is over-rated and has waaaay too much sodium in it. The good news? You can make your own in about 24 seconds if you have handy some of the classic ingredients like a couple anchovies (yes, those slippery little suckers), olive oil, light milk or creme fraiche, and lemon. For me, the key to saving time in making this recipe lies in using a blender to puree everything – but this can just as easily be hand-chopped and mixed well.

I’ve included a quick & easy infographic from Women’s Health that breaks down all kinds of salad dressings you can make in 3 minutes, like a boss. Talk about easy, so you aren’t required to make creamy, salty dressing if you don’t want to; Greek, Honey Mustard, and Asian Dressing would all go just as well here πŸ™‚

salad dressings

Kale Caesar Salad with Brown Rice, Bell Peppers, and Ham

Ingredients

(for the salad)Brown-Rice

4.7 dl (about 2 cups) brown rice

1 bunch of kale (any color)

1 block of sharp cheddar, cubed

3 bell peppers, seeded & sliced

2 red onions, thinly slicedkale

500g (or 2 cups) cubed ham

5 tomatoes, coarsely chopped

(for the dressing)

2 anchovies, packed in oil

2 Tbs. hot water

1 lemon, juiced

1 dl (1/2 cup) creme fraiche or light milk

1/2 dl (or 1/4 cup) olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tbs. English (or Worcestershire) sauce

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Cook the brown rice according to package instructions and let cool completely. (2) Wash the kale and remove the stems, chopping the leaves and putting all greens into a large salad bowl. (3) Add all the other chopped salad ingredients including the brown rice, cheddar cheese, onions, peppers, ham, and tomatoes. (4) To make the dressing, combine the anchovies, hot water, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, creme fraiche, and Worcestershire sauce in a blender. Pulse until the dressing is creamy and smooth. Season to taste with plenty of salt & cracked pepper (5) When ready to serve, toss the salad with the dressing and heap into bowls, no bread needed, garnished with more cracked pepper and a wedge of lemon. πŸ™‚

Serves 4

cheeseYou’d be amazed just how much I made of this and just how fast it all “disappeared.” I really planned for leftovers but caesar is another one of those things that gets really good by just chillin’ in the fridge. Amazing.

My challenge for the new year: go-to-snacks that I can assemble in less than 10 minutes. Got any ideas for me? Please share! I guess healthy is a priority but emphasis on the easy/quick to assemble part.

Question for this post & its readers: what is your favorite salad dressing ever?!

1.6.2015

Ladies Luncheon

farmers-market-nancy-pahlNo but really, how long has it been? Too long. The days stretch into weeks and while Summer zips by I find myself enjoying it often enough away from the kitchen X) It’s no surprise (or excuse for not posting, that’s my fault entirely:( ) but it does leave more time for strolling, shopping, and exploring. Grocery shopping is among the best parts of Summer. I still can’t seem to understand how everyone ends up hating grocery shopping so much. I mean, it’s still shopping…right? And while it may be crowded, bright, and dirty at least there’s fresh food to be found there…better than hunting and foraging for our food I like to think πŸ˜€ So, why do I like grocery shopping so much? Well, I don’t have a good reason, just that it is a reason. I don’t mind navigating the tight & narrow aisles for unique and tasty treasures. I rather enjoy the process of finding, comparing, and deciding on things to buy and eventually, devour πŸ˜‰ Most of the time (and probably to the annoyed dismay of others) I end up taking my time, getting lost, and often standing in the way of the bustling shoppers as I try to decide what “light” coconut milk means in the Asian aisle. Sure it’s depressing because you can’t buy everything in front of you πŸ˜‰ (and because, oh yeah you have to carry it all home on your back), but that’s not the point. I used to like shopping a whole of a lot less simply because (a) it had become a chore; and (b) it required strict budgeting. But ah, such is life.

I always have a list (“the list”) when I go grocery shopping because it keeps me on track, what I’ve discovered is that it’s important to plan (and yes, budget) some spontaneity into the task of shopping. What do I mean? I allot my spontaneity a certain amount on my weekly grocery list so that while I still get all those things needed for making meals, there’s also room for something random, or daring, or sugar-coated – whatever I may or may not stumble across. Believe me, it has a tendency to be surprising πŸ˜‰ Sometimes it’s dried fruit or other snacks for my toddler (my first thought “oh thank god, something new. Let’s see if he likes this“), other times it’s a block on cheese that was on sale, or caramelized almonds, or a basket of cherries . Whatever “tickles your fancy” while your out & about on the drudgery of adult life and modern food-gathering is worth your notice and consideration – just be aware that: 1. you do and will always have to shop for food, right? Because 2. you have to eat and eat healthy, and 3. that it’s hugely important and necessary. It is okay to try and enjoy the uncertainty and variety that comes with the modern and the everyday. Sometimes it’s focusing on how little you have to go out and get that makes you overlook the facSnyders_Frans_Fish_Markett that it requires so little to feed and please your family and yourself πŸ™‚ That being said, it’s nice to give voice to my secret delight at the present food-gathering process, hope I don’t upset the haters. I try to appreciate and believe me, that doesn’t always come easy but there are the finer things in life and shopping for food I consider to be one of them.

To pick up at my point, an example would be this luncheon that I prepared for a friend, which necessitated me visiting 3 different stores to properly acquire all the “necessary” ingredients, and even then there were some substitutions. The original recipe was from a “Fresh & Quick” edition of Fine Cooking. Some things just feel special when you go out and get them – fresh seafood (i.e. scallops) included. I remember when I first saw the slippery suckers πŸ˜‰ I thought: …what even are those? Delicious is what they are. I liked the simplicity of this recipe and was only slightly daunted by the sheer amount of steps in completing the “quick & easy” -ness of it all. Note to self for next time: double the amount of scallops you make because seriously, it won’t be enough…

Before I jump into this recipe, I want to say that the star ingredient would be truly, simply – butter. Where would seared scallops be without Butter-Meltingbutter? I’ll tell you: a little dry and not nearly salty enough. Butter plays a key role in this recipe and is essential for plenty of other amazingly delicious things that only exist because of it (like biscuits, and frosting!) I’ll give credit where credit’s due – butter is the best, and I thank it for existing. I’ve come across a recipe for using aΒ Lemon-Dill beurre blanc sauce to spoon over steamed clams with crusty bread. Mmm…more butter may be needed πŸ˜€

 

Seared Sea Scallops with White-Wine Pea Puree, Peppered Bacon, and Lemony Gremolata

Ingredientsscallops

(for the scallops)

6 – 8 fresh or defrosted jumbo scallops

1 package of bacon, coarsely chopped

2 Tbs. butter

(for the puree)

1 package of frozen peas, defrosted

6 shallots, peeled & coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped

3 Tbs. butterFood52

5 Tbs. white wine

5 Tbs. chicken broth

4 Tbs. milk or cream

(for the gremolata))

1 lemon

1 bunch of fresh parsley, stemmed & chopped

1 shallot, peeled & minced

sea salt & cracked peppergremolata

(1) Rinse the scallops under cold water and pat dry, season with salt & pepper and chill until it’s time to cook. (2) To make the puree, melt 3 Tbs. butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and let cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the peas, chicken broth, and white wine and let cook uncovered until the mixture is soft & fragrant, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and let cool briefly, 5 minutes. (3) Transfer the pea mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, adding the milk or cream and seasoning to taste with salt & pepper. Once pureed, return to the saucepan, cover, and keep warm over very low heat until ready to serve. (4) Heat a a medium skillet or frying pan on medium high-heat. When hot, add bacon pieces and cook, stirring occasionally until bacon is brown and crunchy, 5 – 6 minutes total. Transfer to a plate lined with paper-towels, season with cracked pepper, and cover until ready to serve. (5) Wipe the skillet clean before returning to medium-high heat. Melt 2 Tbs. of butter. When piping hot, add the scallops and do not stir. Let sear 3 minutes per side, turning carefully to brown the bottom & top sides of scallops until they are firm to the touch. Transfer cooked scallops to a plate and cover with foil. (6) In a small bowl, combine the minced shallot and fresh parsley. Zest the lemon and then juice it, adding it to the mixture and stir until combined. Season generously with salt & pepper, adding more lemon juice, if needed. (7) When ready to serve, scoop a spoonful of puree onto each plate, season with peppered bacon, and set seared scallops in the puree. Garnish with spoonfuls of the lemony gremolata. Goes great when paired with either/or garlic bread and champagne πŸ™‚

Serves 2 – wish it made more, double it if you plan on being really hungry

Phew! That was a lot of steps but trust me, it’s worth it. These days as the rain (and wind…and hail…) begins to pop up during the week, I find the salty, fresh air contributing to my recent craving for seafood. My next seafood cooking extravaganza is going to be mussels in Riesling lemon broth with – yes – more garlic bread. I’ll have to make a “luncheon” out of that because what is a good dish without good company? Hope the rest of July provscallop-shellses to be as thrilling as scallops for lunch πŸ˜›

My question: What was served with the last plate of scallops you ate?

I ask this because the combinations of pairings with scallops kind of blows my minds sometimes and you never know what will be the perfect side – like a chickpea puree or roasted hazelnuts, or even brown “nori butter” like I read in a Bon Appetit from earlier this year. I will make more scallops this month just to satisfy my new fondness of searing things grill-style in our kitchen’s new skillet. Scallops are a somewhat of a blank canvas and I’d like to make a different version before I get tired of seeing them on the dinner menu πŸ˜‰

7.13.2014

Mussels 4 Ways

musselsAhh, mussels. It’s hard to describe precisely why I like these crusty, salty bivalves. Once in a while I get a little piece of shell as I’m eating, and I think to myself: why do I do this? Simply speaking: mussels are delicious. Labor-intensive, yes. Delicate and high maintenance, a little. Dirty and fishy, often enough. So what’s the big deal? Again, mussels are delicious – and good for you to boot. Plus, making mussels (avec le bouillon) is an art form that I have a lot of respect for – the art of broth-making.

There’s something salivating about a big pot of mussels on the table, filled with dark shells submerged in a broth that smells something of butter and wine. Furthermore, mussels are one of those magical foods that become heavenly when cooked with/in alcohol. The catch? You have to take care when making them, or at least pay some attention. I used to buy the poor creatures alive, keep them padded with damp paper towels in my fridge for 24 hours while I got my act together to go ahead and steam them for dinner. A quarter of the little guys would die as I was trying to de-beard them between the sink and the hot stove. I’ll agree, that’s way to much work… My solution? The seafood section at the grocery store is huge, have you checked it out? There’s all sorts of stuff there, including — mussels, in the shell, beautiful and ready to go. I buy a huge, flash-frozen batch for around $9.00 and keep it in the freezer until I’m ready. The best part? No defrosting, you get to concentrate on the broth and as soon as that’s ready you crank up the heat, add frozen mussels, and five minutes later (less, really) you’re ready to dig in.

strained-mussels-judy-mercer

Mussels seem like a poor man’s food but when you’re eating the poached and pinkened sea creatures between pieces of a baguette and some roasted garlic, it’s close to heaven πŸ˜‰ My advice is to make mussels in any form — and experiment a little with your favorite seafood spices and sauces. Get the mussels frozen and save them in your freezer for a rainy day. I’ve been playing around with mussel recipes and these particular 4 I made up from looking over the various versions in existence (and my own taste and favorite ingredients). Belonions1ow are what I think are the best ways to serve these sweet & salty little things. As always, when making a big pot of mussels, remember to serve them in bowls with big spoons; and other than the mussels + steaming broth, all you really need is a lot of bread and, oh yeah, napkins.

My star ingredient? The onion family. In every one of these mussel recipes, one of the onion family is used; and thank god it’s a big family. Cooking the onions/garlic is how this dish begins and the finished product would not taste the same without this aromatic group of ingredients. The super hero ingredient? Vegetable bullion allows you to make broth with some hot water in seconds, and it can sit in your spice drawer until needed for months. Just be aware it packs a salty taste. But broth is what makes mussels such a sensational dish, so be sure NOT to water down the both any more than is needed, or maybe just water it down with wine instead πŸ˜€

Mussels – 4 Ways (!)

(1) American – Beer Mussels with Bacon, Red Beans, Roasted Garlic, & Fresh Thyme

2 lbs. frozen musselsbeer_mussels

Broth: 1 bottle (light) beer, 5 pieces of bacon, 5 shallots (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can kidney beans (drained & rinsed),

Season with: fresh Thyme (minced)

Serve with: whole wheat baguette (sliced), 4 heads of garlic (roasted), & aged Parmesan (shredded)

(1) To roast garlic: preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit). Cut the top off 4 heads of garlic with a serrated knife. Season lightly with oil, salt, & pepper and wrap OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtightly in foil. Bake for 60-65 minutes until cloves are golden and sweet. Let cool and remove from foil before serving. (2) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add shallots and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (3) Add bacon sliced and cook until fat had rendered and the pieces have browned slightly, 4-5 minutes more. Remove bacon from pot and chop (or chop in the pot with a pair of scissors). (4) Return bacon to the pot. Add broth, beans, and a Tablespoon of fresh Thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and beer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and fresh Thyme. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by bread, roasted garlic, & cheese.

Serves 4

(2) Asian – Spicy Mussels with Saki, Thai Chilies, Mushrooms, & Sesame Seeds

2 lbs. frozen musselsmussels_asian

Broth: 1 cup saki, 1 bunch green onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 cups mushrooms (sliced), 1 small can bamboo shoots (drained & rinsed), 1 small can water chestnuts (drained, rinsed, & sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 2 Thai chilies (sliced), 1 piece fresh ginger (peeled & sliced), 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce.

Season with: sesame seeds (toasted) & chili flakes

Serve with: garlic bread or steamed rice

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add green onions and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (2) Add mushrooms and 1/2 Tbs. sesame seeds, stirring occasionally until slightly browned.Β  (3) Add ginger, bamboo shoots, chili-flakesand Thai chilies, stirring often until fragrant, another 5-6 minutes. (4) Add the broth, soy sauce, and water chestnuts. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and saki. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, chili flakes, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by rice and/or bread.

Serves 4

(3) French – Provencal Mussels with White Wine, White Beans, Dill, & Fresh Tomatoes

2 lbs. frozen musselsMUSSELS-PROVENCAL

Broth: 1 cup white wine, 2 red onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 tomatoes (chopped), 1 can white beans (drained & rinsed), 1 celery stalk (sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can artichoke hearts (drained, rinsed & chopped), 1 Tbs. dried Dill, 2 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: sea salt, cracked pepper, & lemon juice

Serve with: buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurtwhite_beans

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add red onions, celery, and garlic. Cook about 3-4 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)Β  Add tomato, dried dill, and artichoke hearts, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth, and white beans. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and white wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurt πŸ™‚

Serves 4

(4) Indian – Curry Mussels with Chickpeas, Red Wine, Leeks, & Cashews

2 lbs. frozen musselsCurry-Mussels

Broth: 1 cup red wine (sub Indian beer), 1 bunch leeks (washed & sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 celery stalks (chopped), 2 carrots (peeled & chopped), 3 Tbs. curry powder (any), 1 can chickpeas (drained & rinsed), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1/2 cup cashews (salted), 1/2 cup milk (or cream), 3 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: roasted paprika & fresh cilantro (minced)

Serve with: garlic naan & seared veggies

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add leeks, celery, carrot, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand garlic. Cook about 10-12 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)Β  Add cashews, curry powder, and chickpeas, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth and bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and red wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with milk (adding more if needed), salt, roasted paprika, and fresh cilantro. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered naan or seared veggies of your choice.

Serves 4

painting_musselMy “trick,” if you will, is that I only add the wine/saki/beer to the pot of broth when I throw the mussels in, that way the little critters basically poach in alcohol, versus it just burning off in all the boiling… Steaming hot and wreaking of herbs and butter, it’s hard not to get a little messy devouring dishes like these πŸ˜›

My question: what is your all-time favorite seafood dish to eat ? – something you wouldn’t make for yourself, but might treat yourself to? Mine would still have to be lobster tail, mmm… πŸ™‚

9.4.13

Revisiting Risotto

Champagne_PaintingAhh so yes, I am a fan of risotto. Way back when in bitching kitchen times, I even made coffee caper risotto and it was very good, despite the ridiculous combination. Now, I know risotto is fattening, alas…especially with all that wine and butter πŸ˜€ but frankly, the taste makes up for it! And you do have to baby it – stand there, stirring it, adding the perfect amount of liquid, constantly and vigilantly making sure it doesn’t stick too much, or harden in places, or god forbid burn 😦 Best be careful and very serious when making risotto to be sure, but remember that like any recipe, there IS room for modification, variation, and flexibility. And you don’t have to be a skilled chef to make it either, you just have to devote yourself to the task of making it. And leftovers? Nothing’s better than risotto the next day, still packed with flavor and just as cheesy as the night before. Cold pizza? Chewy and unappetizing. Cold risotto? Layered with flavors, filling, and subtly sophisticated.

After researching some of the more common risotto recipes, I settled on mushroom risotto because there’s something about the richness of mushrooms that goes very well in/with risotto. It’s been a while since I made this high-maintenance dish (yeah I said it) but I remembered: prepare accordingly. This particular recipe is from Food & Wine in a section entitled “Scratch Italian” πŸ™‚ simply ’cause, sometimes from scratch is best! Goat cheese is the main reason I chose this version because I was looking for that little something that would up the ante a bit on the normal mushroom risotto recipe. Goat cheese, when melted into something asdried_mushrooms rich and wonderful as risotto, adds a smooth quality and in no way overpowers the dish’s other flavors, which is what I was watching for. I substituted vermouth for the typical white wine because that’s what I had in my fridge and just like sherry, it compliments mushrooms unlike any of the other ingredients. I’ll admit it though, if I could have gotten my hands on some sherry, this would have been better, if not minutely 8) Next time..

The star ingredient in this dish was of course the dried mushrooms because: A) they don’t go bad like, ever B) they pack a lot of flavor and smell really nice; and C) mushrooms go so well with alcohol, it’s not even funny. To be sure, I won’t be cooking this every night, but it was the night of my birthday when I chose to make it so I guess it was sort of a tribute to myself, or at the very least, a tribute to what I think my tastes are πŸ˜‰ This type of food is so awesome it can be served by itself, no meat or other main course necessary. A good friend was telling me how silly it is that risotto is often served as an appetizer and yeah, that is pretty silly – because risotto’s got some mad main dish skills πŸ˜€

Earthy Mushroom Risotto with Goat Cheese and Vermouth

Ingredients

2 cups arborio ricecheese_goat

1 cup dried mushrooms, mixed

1 large onion, chopped

8 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups dry vermouth

3 Tbs. buttermushroom_risotto_0

1/4 cup milk

3 oz goat cheese, crumbled

rapeseed oil

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Put the dried mushrooms into a bowl. Boil some water and pour over the mushrooms. Let sit and soak for 20 minutes or until mushrooms are soft. Remove mushrooms from the water and chop. (2) In a large pot, heat 3 Tbs. oil over medium-low heat until hot; add the chopped garlic, onions, and a pinch of salt and cook until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes. (3) In a separate saucepan, heat the broth over low heat and keep covered; add what’s left of the mushroom water to it (but not the thick stuff sitting at the bottom). Oh and take the bottle of vermouth out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter. Have a glass with ice and some club soda while you cook too. (4) Add the rice and mushrooms to the big pot and cook, stirring often, until the rice turns opaque, 3-4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of broth and 1/2 cup of vermouth and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed. Keep up this process, adding 1/2 cup of broth and cooking about 5 minutes (until absorbed) and then adding 1/2 cup of vermouth and cooking 5 minutes or so, until liquid is absorbed into the risotto. When you’ve added a total of 1 1/2 cups vermouth, then continue this process using what’s left of the broth. You may need more or less, depending on the risotto, but it will be done when it stops absorbing most of the liquid and is soft in texture upon tastimushroom_sketchng (versus sticky or slightly crunchy), cooking about 35-40 minutes total. (5) Remove the pot from heat, cover, and let rest 5 minutes. When ready to serve, stir in butter, milk, and goat cheese until melted and combined; season risotto to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

I wonder how many different risottos exist, that is – how many kinds there are. I wonder how long it would take me to cook them all :9 Might be worth a try sometime, as long as I proceed with caution πŸ˜‰

My question: What is your favorite risotto?

Mine is a toss-up between red wine risotto and champagne risotto. Yes, it’s a theme with me πŸ˜€

4.27.13

Pesto meets Breakfast

KBH – KΓΈbenhavn πŸ˜€ I am here (!) and loving all the new sights & sounds. Plenty of new food to feast my eyes on and it’s all about layered, light, experiential flavors in Scandinavian cuisine. I’m still experimenting with the economical/baby-friendly copenhagen_poster2art of cooking these days, which goes pretty well, depending on the day πŸ˜‰ my main goal though is coming up with meals that can be put together really fast! I’m all about really fast, as fast as possible since I don’t have the time or energy to chop or artfully arrange ingredients. Thank god for blenders and mixers, and that awesome convection option on the oven..

My baby loves garlicky things, whether it be roasted, pickled, or raw :O so I thought the pesto would be a good idea. I obviously don’t give him large amounts of the stuff or he’d probably be excreting some serious herbal scents πŸ˜‰ but a spoonful or two with porridge, on bread, or dipped with veggies seems to suit him nicely. This recipe comes from this month’s Bon Appetit and was under an article dedicated to spicing up breakfast. I think the next time I’ll take their other recommendation and add fresh salsa to my scrambled eggs. I’m just so glad there are ideas out there on how to spice up a meal that you end up eating half awake anyway πŸ˜‰

My star ingredient? Spinach. It’s in the Pesto and the eggs. Spinach is another one of those underrated vegetables and can go in seriously anything. I’m not a huge fan of wilted spinach but have found it’s great like that when thrown into rice, pasta, orspinach_fresh (aha!) breakfast dishes. Pesto is all about the herbs so serve equally fresh things with it–crunchy sandwiches, as a dipping sauce for raw veggies when you’re on the go, or a heaping spoonful in soup that’s just missing a little flavor. I thought a batch of pesto would last me and the household a week but ha! Not a chance, it’s too tasty to ignore every time you open up the door of the fridge. Maybe I’ll try to camouflage or disguise it next time πŸ˜€

Scrambled Eggs with Pesto, Greens, & Baby Tomatoes

Ingredients

(for the pesto)pesto

2 cups spinach leaves (or other greens)

1 cup fresh Basil

1 cup fresh Parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan (or other aged cheese)

1/4 cup walnuts

1/4 cup olive oil

5 garlic cloves, peeled

(for the eggs)

5 eggs, beaten

1 cup milk

2 Tbs. buttereggs

1/4 cup grated aged cheese

1/2 cup greens (like spinach or arugula)

1/2 cup baby tomatoes, halved

(1) To make the pesto, combine everything in the ingredients list, spinach through garlic, into a blender or food processor and pulse until it’s a paste, adding more olive oil as needed. This can be chilled for up to 2 weeks in the fridge beforehand. (2) In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, and cheese. Heat a skillet over medium high-heat. When hot, add butter and spinach. Cook, stirring often, until spinach has wilted, 3-4 minutes. (3) Add baby tomatoes and cook another 2 minutes. (4) Next add the egg mixture. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly until eggs are fluffy and browned in some places, 5-7 minutes. (5) When ready to serve, stir in 3-4 Tbs. of pesto into the eggs and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with toast or breakfast rolls.

Serves 4

Scrambled eggs go with everything–bread, beans, pasta (like in Asian food), cooked veggies, etc. Lately I’ve been using my egg poacher (a wonderful Christmas present) to make eggs that are over easy, perfectly shaped, and cooked in 5 minutes. breakfast_posterAhh, it’s the simple things in life πŸ™‚

Breakfast was always a meal I’d avoided simply because it was so early; now I relish it and look for any way to spice things up when you’re barely awake and need to eat!

 

My question:

What is your ideal (close to “perfect”) breakfast on the go?

It could be something classy, healthy, or oddly-matched but hey, we all got to eat ]:)

2.9.13

Killer Vodka Sauce }:)

Ahh, where has all my time gone? Once it was Fall and then that was gone, then it was the holidays and that was over before I knew it…now we’re in 2013 and I find myself asking, where has all the time gone?! It has been FAR too long since my last poster_pastapost but I can’t recall when I’ve been busier. For any fellow culinarians who actually reads this blog from time to time, I apologize for my absence, but I have been cooking in the meantime!

I’ve (somehow) managed to finish off this semester on the 10th of January and now I am preparing for a big move with my little family to Copenhagen! Yes, things are looking up, moving forward, and at a pace that is almost too fast for me to keep up but hey, I’ll keep trying πŸ™‚

In anticipation of moving to a new city, I have taken up the task of liquidating my pantry, which is just as complicated as it sounds πŸ˜‰ ah…the things you find in the freezer! In addition to making meals out of few (and fewer) ingredients, I have discovered that if you’re ever lacking in flavor, there are 2 things that will make up for it, no matter what: alcohol and cheese. Does it matter what alcohol, or what cheese? No, because as soon as you add it to any meal it suddenly goes up a notch in quality, taste, and appeal – but that may just be me πŸ˜›

I’m also on a whole-wheat kick I guess you could say, because it makes me feel a bit better about all the pasta I’m eating. Sure, it doesn’t taste the same but there’s (often empty) carbohydrate calories and then there’s whole grain carbohydrate calories!! Seriously do yourself a favor, if you don’t like whole-wheat stuff, get over it. I get it with bread because there’s a serious taste difference there but you’d be amazed what other whole wheat products you can substitute for your normal carbohdrate needs–tortillas, crackers, pasta, cereal, flour, rice–we were meant to be eating this stuff!vodka-shot

So, the star ingredient in this recipe, any guesses? Yes, it’s the vodka. And what better way to use hard liquor you have no desire of drinking yourself? I think in general, vodka sauce has been underrated and under-appreciated for quite some time. Now I love tomatoes, no doubt, but sometimes tomato sauce just needs a little something, something more than basil or cream πŸ˜€ If I were ever to make/write/publish a cookbook, some version of vodka sauce would be included because it’s just that awesome.

This recipe is as simple as it gets: pasta, tomato, onion, milk, butter, vodka – tadaa! Dinner is served. I looked the vodka sauce up online under the search criteria “easy vodka sauce” because I simply don’t have the time to mess around with different styles between packing boxes and making sure my baby doesn’t eat any more cardboard or masking tape.. I also ended up embellishing the pasta dish itself with some of my favorite veggies because we all need protein! So yes, vegetarian Italian cuisine begets me this week and what a splendid surprise it was to make and to taste. I will definitely cook this again, probably with more vodka next time πŸ˜‰

Whole-Wheat Chickpea & Artichoke Pasta with Homemade Vodka Sauce

Ingredients

(for the pasta)pasta_wholewheat

whole-wheat fusilli (or any other curly pasta)

1 can chickpeas, drained

1 can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped

1 cup grated Parmesan (or other aged cheese)

3-4 green onions, minced

(for the sauce)

1 can chopped/diced tomatoes (in juice)

1 onion, chopped

3 Tbs. butter

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 cup milk (or cream)

salt & cracked peppersauce_vodka

(1) Fill a large pot with salted water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. (2) While waiting on the water, begin the sauce. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter & onion. Cook, stirring often until the onion has softened, about 4-5 minutes. (3) Add the tomatoes, sugar, and vodka. Lower the heat slightly and simmer everything until the sauce has thickened and been slightly reduced, about 10-15 minutes. (4) When the pasta water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain. (5) When the vodka sauce has thickened somewhat, add the milk and lower the heat so the sauce is no longer boiling. Let cook another 5 minutes or so until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper. (6) Return the cooked pasta to the pot and add chickpeas, minced green onions, and artichoke hearts, mixing until combined. (7) When ready to eat, pour all of the vodka sauce over the pasta. Stir. Add Parmesan, reserving some for serving. Can be garnished with fresh parsley or more cracked pepper, if desired.

Serves 4copenhagen_poster

Eating warm Italian food almost makes me forget how cooold it is outside πŸ˜€

My next task, and most likely my next post, will be even more “economical” as I’ll be working with an even smaller budget and limited ingredients. Luckily I see this as a challenge so wish me luck!

Let’s see how fast I can become sick of canned tomatoes πŸ˜‰

My question: what is the yummiest sauce on pasta, in your opinion?

It can be hot or cold, and pesto totally counts..

1.20.2013

Herbivorous HΓΈstfest

In Danish, hΓΈstfest literally means “harvest party” which is the perfect word for this season with Fall having made an entrance and the air already a bit chillier. As a species that was probably once accustomed to hibernation :D, like most mammals, I suppose an increased appetite can be expected. As for me, the sooner it gets colder I’m craving more filling meals. I’ve always loved eating meat, probably because I am a carnivore by nature πŸ™‚ but after some reflection, I’ve noticed that most of my posts have meat in them. Having noticed this perhaps natural popularity of meat dishes, it’s true that vegetarian food is just as good and often healthier, so I decided to devote this post to vegetarian food everywhere. Here are three of my latest recipes that happen to be completely meat-free.

The melon-cucumber salad is a recipe idea of mine, including the honey mustard vinaigrette, which turned out to be the best part πŸ™‚ The roasted tomato and pepper soup recipe is from the legendary Soup Bible (which can be found on Amazon) and is full of brilliant, if not slightly time-consuming, soup ideas πŸ˜‰ The bulgur recipe is also a creation of mine and makes use of pretty much exactly what was left in our fridge and cupboards after a week or so of kitchen chaos. The fruity/peppery and honey/salty combinations of flavors seemed to get better after every bite, or maybe that was just me πŸ™‚

The star ingredient in all of these recipes is the miso, which I was finally able to procure at the Chinese grocer. Miso is basically fermented soybeans and as unappetizing as that may sound, it comes in a few different colors and has a pleasant salty taste. It’s a Japanese staple that is full of protein and high in vitamins and minerals. I was able to do some experimentation with the saltish stuff, which helps when you have a chunk since they only sell it in bulk πŸ˜€ I think it adds a rich and almost roasted flavor to all sorts of things, including dressings. If you can’t find miso, no worries there, just season as wisely as you wish with salt.

Roasted Pepper & Tomato Soup with Tortellini

Ingredients

8 – 10 tomatoes, on the vine

3 bell peppers, any color

3 sweet peppers, any color

1 Thai chili

3 yellow onions

4 cups vegetable broth

1 box of dried tortellini (with cheese and/or veggie filling)

1 tsp. sugar

1 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Tbs. red or yellow miso (optional)

sea salt & cracked pepper

sunflower oil

(1) Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius (or 450 Fahrenheit). Line a large oven pan with baking paper. Half the onions, tomatoes, and all of the peppers, removing the seeds from the peppers (but not the tomatoes!) (2) Add 2 Tbs. of oil to the pan and then all of the halved veggies, stirring to coat. (3) When the oven is preheated, put the pan on the top rack and let roast until the skins of the peppers have browned and are beginning to peel, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. (4) In a large pot, stir together the sugar, miso, garlic powder, and broth, warming over medium heat. (5) Remove the peels from the onions and the browned skins from the peppers (it’s okay to leave the tomato skins on). Using a blender, puree the roasted vegetables before adding to the soup pot. (6) Bring the soup to a boil and add tortellini, cooking until pasta is al dente, 10-15 minutes. Serve topped with a dollop of creme fraiche, dried herbs, or scrambled eggs πŸ™‚

Serves 6

Spiced Bulgur with Mango, Miso & PickledΒ  Ginger

Ingredients

(for bulgur)

2 cups bulgur wheat (coarse or finely ground)

4 cups onion (or vegetable) broth

1/2 cup pickled ginger, chopped

1/2 cucumber, peeled & chopped

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup dried green mango, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded & sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeded & sliced

(for dressing)

3 Tbs. yellow miso

2 Tbs. rice vinegar

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. apricot jam (or other jam)

3 Tbs. lemon juice

2 – 3 dried chilies (like Pequin or African Bird’s Eye), crushed

1 Tbs. brown sugar

1 Tbs. soy sauce

1 tsp. garlic powder

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Cook bulgur uncovered in salted broth according to package instructions; this usually involves 1 part bulgur to 2 parts broth, for 10-14 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with fork. (2) In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the dressing, miso through garlic powder and stir well; set aside. (3) Next add all of the peppers, green onions, mango, cucumber, and ginger to the bulgur and mix. (4) When ready to serve, add the dressing and stir until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be served warm or cold.

Serves 4

Melon-Cucumber SaladΒ  with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Ingredients

(for salad)

1 small honeydew melon, skinned, seeded & cut into chunks

1 cucumber, cut into chunks

6 cups mixed greens (like baby spinach, arugula, & red-leaf)

4 sweet peppers, seeded & thinly sliced

1 red onion, peeled & thinly sliced

(for vinaigrette)

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 Tbs. paprika

1 Tbs. yellow miso

3 Tbs. honey

3 Tbs. Dijon mustard

2 Tbs. milk (or cream)

1/2 Tbs. mustard seeds

1/2 Tbs. onion powder

1/2 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 lemon, juiced

(1) Make sure all the greens are washed and dried before tossing with the peppers, onion, melon, and cucumber. Cover and chill until ready to serve. (2) To make the honey mustard, combine all of the ingredients – white wine through lemon juice- in a sealable jar or tupperwareΒ and shake until blended. Can be kept chilled in the fridge for up to 2 months πŸ™‚ (3) When ready to eat, toss the salad again with the dressing and serve immediately.

Serves 4

So those are my offerings to the harvest gods and vegetarians everywhere πŸ™‚

It’s amazing how the earth just grows all sorts of differently delicious plants and countless other things for us to eat. I think being human has never been better πŸ˜›

My question:

What is your favorite vegetarian dish to eat?

10.8.12

Red, Rich, Delicious Soup

The colors of Spring are very inspiring at times. In addition to all the wonderfully vibrant flowers popping up in every neglected patch of grass, even the vegetable section at the grocery store seems suddenly brighter these days. The colors appealing to me lately are all the brilliantly rich ones — red, purple, orange — which is what led to the decision to serve up my most recent decoction of red peppers, sweet potatoes, and red onions. Throw it all in a pot, cook for about an hour, blend to smoothness, and you arrive at a conglomerate of flavors. I often forget how wonderful soup is until I make it again, so tasty, healthy, and easy while existing on a comfort level to humans everywhere. Imagine, we’re eating and rehydrating at the same time πŸ˜€

This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, appropriately titled the Soup Bible, and is amazingly simple to make and equally delicious to eat (I feel like I use that word a lot)…I may have embellished the original version a bit for reasons of my own creativity (that, and two garlic cloves is never enough). Admittedly, this is a short post as my energy wavers these days in the weeks before I bring this little human into the world, but short is sweet as they say, and the great thing about soup is that it cooks itself, all you need is the right combination of vegetables to begin with (and there are marvelously numerous options to choose from). What results with this blended recipe is a delightfully red soup that has a fresh, peppery initial taste with a round, rich aftertaste.

The star ingredient at work in this soup is the sweet potatoes. I wouldn’t have originally thought they’d be so contributive in flavor, but these ugly-skinned tuberous roots are not only full of nutrition, they add a unique taste to any dish they’re utilized in. Taking the time to peel them in the beginning was tiresome (not to mention messy..) but starting out with vegetables in their raw state is probably the best way to go about making any meal. Another reason they’re the star ingredient is because sweet potatoes are so cheap πŸ™‚ Granted, don’t confuse them with yams (labeled similarly in the States), which aren’t in the same family and are often much starchier. I’m going to try and make use of these rooty relatives of the potato, as there’s a reason they’re considered kitchen staples!

Sweet & Savory Red Pepper-Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients

5 red bell peppers, seeded & coarsely chopped

5 sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed

2 red onions, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup white wine

6 cups chicken broth

1 cup milk

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Put all of the sweet potatoes, red onion, bell pepper, and garlic into a large pot. Pour in the white wine and broth until veggies are covered, adding more wine if not. Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat. (2) Once boiling, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour until veggies are soft and the sweet potato begins to fall apart. (3) Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes. Using a hand-held blender, puree the soup in the pot until smooth. (4) Stir in the milk and season the soup to taste with salt and plenty of cracked pepper. If desired, serve with toasted bread and/or grated cheese.

Serves 6

So that was my brief excursion into the comforting red and rich flavors of making soup. I froze a portion of this deliciousness for later and I have the sneaking suspicion that just sitting around may make it even more tasty than it already is.

For now, while I can still move with (slow) relative ease, I’ll be cooking more fresh and flavorsome food in attempts to fatten this baby up in the meantime. Ahhh….what a task πŸ˜€

My question: What is your favorite red vegetable based on taste?

4.16.12

Honey, Vinegar, and Pepper…

And what do these three make? One wonderfully sweetΒ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ™‚ 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