simple summer salad

Simple summer salads are the best thing in the world. Produce is at it’s peak, herbs are fresh, and it doesn’t get better than that.

One of my favorite summer salads are fresh tomatoes, a cucumber, red onion, and a combination of Italian flat leaf parsley, fresh dill, Italian basil and a simple vinaigrette. If I have a sweet red bell pepper I will often add that as well.

To make the vinaigrette it is equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a small canning jar. Add salt and pepper to taste, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon of sugar.

When I make vinaigrette for a mixed greens salad, I will add Dijon mustard to the above mix.

You can see the size I mean in the photo above. You will only use maybe 3 tablespoons of dressing on the salad, but save the rest for regular lettuce salads and just refrigerate.

Peel and cut your cucumber in half lengthwise. If it is not the English hot house burpless variety, remove the seeds.

Toss cucumber into the bowl.

Slice and rough chop fairly thin about half of a large red onion.

Add onion to the bowl.

Take your tomatoes, cut the core out, and slice into large bite-size pieces. Sort of small wedges. Small enough you don’t need to use a knife to cut your salad, but large enough that the tomato doesn’t disintegrate.

Chiffonade the basil leaves. In layman’s terms, that means gently roll up your basil leaves and create thin ribbons by cutting off “slices” of the rolled basil.

Rough chop the Italian flat leaf parsley, and do the same gently with the fresh dill.

Put all the herbs on top of the salad and give one light toss and then add literally 2 to 3 tablespoons of the salad dressing and mix gently and either serve or cover and refrigerate until serving.

And I almost forgot — fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste!

Leftovers are good for a day afterwards, provided you refrigerate.

This is a totally simple, easy to make salad, and it’s delicious! Thank you to my friend Sara for giving me vegetables from her garden. The herbs in the salad came out of my garden!

Bon appétit!

summer recipe back to basics: purple coleslaw


I have been remiss. I haven’t blogged any recipes lately. This evening for dinner we were grilling marinated chicken thighs and my neighbor had given me a beautiful head of purple cabbage so I decided to make coleslaw.

Here is the recipe:

Purple Cabbage Coleslaw

Ingredients

4 cups grated purple cabbage 

1 cup grated carrots

1/2 grated large vidalia onion 

6 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

5 tablespoons organic cane sugar (Turbinado)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar 

2 tablespoons fresh minced dill

Freshly ground salt pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Directions

I read somewhere once that purple cabbage is really good for you. A super food full of antibiotics, vitamins, fiber, and other good stuff. I think it also makes a tastier coleslaw. I also add vidalia onion to my coleslaw and fresh dill to the dressing, which I think keeps it fresh and different.

First finely grate cabbage, carrots, and onion. My “Pro Tip” here is I put these vegetables into a fine mesh strainer after grating and set them over a bowl and press gently for some of the extra liquid to drain out.

Mix the cider vinegar, sugar, cumin together. Unless you want a grainy dressing, make sure the sugar is fully dissolved before proceeding and adding the mayonnaise, dijon mustard, olive oil, and fresh dill. Whisk the dressing together briskly and refrigerate for a few minutes.

Next put your veggies in a clean bowl and pour the dressing on top of it. Mix well and then use a little spoon to taste and adjust for salt and pepper as needed. I like fresh ground pepper in coleslaw.

Refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

Enjoy!

summer dinner

  It’s been a brutally hot week and I’m having people for dinner. We will start with Mutabbal which is basically Egyptian baba ghanouj and pita.

Next to accompany a marinated roast we will be grilling we will also be grilling marinated veggie shish kebabs, lentil salad, and for dessert a simple summer trifle.

Guests may have sparkling water, ice tea, a lovely rosé wine or glass of Sancerre.

vegetables marinating for veggie shish kebab. Marinade marinade made with an Arabian spice blend known as Baharat

 

Lentil salad made witjh red and regular lentils, for grated carrots, one purple onion, one small purple bell pepper, halved grape tomatoes, Italian flat leaf parsley and fresh basil diced, a simple vinaigrette made with lemon juice lemons asked, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, cumin

 

Mutabbal- two cans drained canned chickpeas, tahini paste, olive oil, one roasted white egg plant and one roasted red pepper, half an onion, three cloves of garlic, a few dashes of Tabasco, Stonington sea salt, a little fresh parsley, juice of one large lemon and zest as well, paprika, cumin, couple dashes of Ras el Hanout. Purée and refrigerate and serve with pita.

Summer trifle made with rasberries, blueberries, lady fingers, lemon and coconut puddings

oh my easter pies!

Savory Easter Pie

Savory Easter Pie

I was inspired by my friend Lisa DePaulo’s mom’s Easter Pizza recipe, but didn’t have everything on hand to make that recipe.  So I took my recent Ricotta Pie recipe and adapted it…to two pies in normal, not deep dish pie plates.

I ended up with a a pair of pies…and here is how I did it:

Preheat oven to 350°

Take ricotta pie recipe  and assemble the filling but ONLY add   2 tablespoons of sugar. Add the vanilla and add the lemon zest of one fresh lemon. Do not add the orange zest.

Take two piecrusts and line two regular pie plates. Put in refrigerator to keep dough chilled.

Split your ricotta mixture in half into two large bowls.

In one bowl which will be your sweet pie add the sweet ingredients (1/2 of the sugar or 1/2 a cup, lemon zest, candied citron/lemon/orange peel, cinnamon, white raisins if you want and even 1/3 cup UNSWEETENED coconut), and there you have the mixture for the sweet Easter or ricotta pie.

In the second bowl (for the savory Easter pie)  beat in one more egg, add half a cup of Parmesan and Romano cheese mixture, and a about 4 to 5 ounces of grated cheddar. I prefer a sharp and white cheddar very dry. Add a little salt and pepper to taste, and a little dill and thyme and tarragon.

In a small sauté pan sauté with 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter melted add  2/3 cup of diced ham, one onion, and eight or nine baby bella mushrooms. Sauté down and drain of any liquid. Set aside to cool slightly. Some dill, oregano, thyme, tarragon to taste. I do not add any extra salt because of the salt in the ham.

Put the meat mixture into the bottom of one of your pie crusts in the pie plates and pour the savory ricotta cheese mixture over.

Pour  your sweet ricotta pie mixture into your other prepared pie crust and plate and you can bake them together in the oven for about an hour – you’re going to have to start checking at about 55 minutes- this is my first time through doing it this way so you guys are learning with me! I took about 1 hour and 10 minutes baking both – the savory dinner pie in the end was ready before the dessert pie.

Both pies turned out ok and are honestly very tasty and disappearing fast, although I probably should have taken both pies out of the oven at the 1 hour mark.

Buona Pasqua!

Sweet Easter Pie

Sweet Easter Pie

 

oh my! blueberry pie!

pie oh my

Preheat oven to 375°

I have given you basic pie dough recipes before, and they are on the blog.

Sometimes even I take a shortcut- If I do not feel like rolling my own dough out, I purchase Marie Callender deep dish pie crusts.  They are in the frozen section of your grocery store. I did that this time.

Filling:

Ingredients:

5 1/2 cups of fresh blueberries washed and drained
1 1/4 cups of Florida Crystals Demerara Sugar
6 tablespoons of flour
1 generous teaspoon of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger
The zest of one medium-size lemon and the juice of half of that lemon

In a large mixing bowl mix all the filling ingredients listed above together. Fold gently and thoroughly you’re not mashing anything.

Set bowl to the side

Crumble topping:

1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup Florida Crystals Demerara  Sugar
1 cup Quaker quick oats (plain not flavored)
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter cut into little bitty squares
1 1/2 f teaspoons of cinnamon
1 scant teaspoon of cardamom

Use a  pastry cutter or pair of forks to blend the topping ingredients together until soft crumbles form- Crumbles should be relatively uniform in size. Put the topping in the refrigerator for half an hour to 45 minutes.

Before you put the pie together, if you are using a fresh or frozen pie crust now is the time that you use a little  softened butter In a light coat and spread gently on the bottom of the crust in the pan. It keeps the crust from getting soft. It is a tip I picked up from watching Chef Robert Irvine on TV- used to use the Martha Stewart egg white painted along the bottom of the crust, but I like this better.
ghk-marie-callednder-pie-crust-1109-s3-mdn
Fold your berries into your deep dish pie crust and spread the crumble topping evenly on top – I tend to be slightly mounded in the middle of the pie crust. Do not overfill your pie crust or your oven will hate you later.

I make a light tinfoil piecrust covering edge for my pies before I put them in the oven, or you can use one of those pie baking rings .

Another tip: Because this is a fruit pie I generally cook it on a cookie sheet Or a shallow pan like a jellyroll pan in the oven- That way it saves on spills later

Bake the pie at 375° for  approximately 50 to 55 minutes, depending on your oven.

Pie will smell delicious and you’ll see some of the blueberries bubbling through the crunchy topping when it is ready.

When the pie is  finished put it on a baking rack to cool, which ideally should be at least four hours so the filling sets.

fl crystals
Pie is best served the day it is made I think, and should be served at room temperature. You can serve plain or with good vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

I will note that this organic Florida Crystals Demerara sugar is exceptionally good for baking fruit pies with – I tried it on a whim once because they said so on heir packaging, and guess what? They were right.

The final note is I have never written this pie recipe down before, so I hope the proportions are correct. To me baking fruit pies is like making homemade pasta – have done it for so long it is sort of instinctive – I grew up around people who cooked and baked – so from trial an error I just sort of learned if stuff felt right and so on.

Enjoy!

 

risotto with caramelized onions, chicken, and mushrooms

photo5I love risotto.  It takes a bit of time to do it right, but so worth it.  Here is a recipe I have been doing for years.  It has lived in my head because the impetus for it came from one I ate growing up that came out of our family kitchen and not a cookbook.  Intuitive memory cooking if you will. Hope you can follow.

Gently simmer 5 1/2 cups of chicken broth covered on low on the stove. ( I make my own stock incidentally. I find it easier)

Take a smallish sauté pan and cut up into thin rings one medium regular onion and one medium sweet onion and three cloves of garlic (minced).  Toss into a panphoto7 with 4 tablespoons of butter, a pinch or two of sea salt and swirl around and cook until nearly caramelized over medium-low heat.

Add 2 cups of sliced baby bella mushrooms – and yes cut your own, don’t buy pre-sliced. Add 2 medium ribs of celery minced. Add 2 medium grated carrots.  Allow it to cook down.  Remove pan from heat and just move to corner of stove.

I had leftovers from a chicken I roasted, so next I cut up the cooked chicken (skin-photo6free) into bite sized pieces.  I think about 2 cups, maybe a smidgen more.

O.k. now the fun part.  Pull out a large fry pan and put a few tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom.  Add the 1 1/2 cups of uncooked abrorio rice. Stir around on lowish heat until rice grains are translucent.  Add 1/2 cup of rosé wine (NOT white zinfindel – YUCK!), stir around until rice absorbs wine over medium-low heat.

photo2Now start ladling in your simmering chicken broth, one cup at a time.  Last night I only used 5 cups of broth, but sometimes I use 5 /12. The broth needs to be absorbed ONE cup at a time into the rice.  If you just dump all the broth in your risotto will be mushy, gluey and gross.photo4

When you hit the 3rd cup of broth almost ready for the 4th add in the sautéed onions and veggies.

photo1Half way through the 4th cup of broth being absorbed, toss in the chicken. Also toss in a few pinches of tarragon, basil, and oregano.

After you add the final broth and it is almost all absorbed, stir in 1/2 cup of grated parmesan or grated romano cheese. Stir in 1/3 cup rough chopped flat leaf Italian parsley five minutes before serving.

The whole add broth process takes about 30 to 40 minutes. I hope I have not left photo3anything out….again….have never written this down – always just done it.

Serve with additional grated cheese on the side and a nice green salad.

Enjoy!

improving martha

chesterHappy 2013 to one and all!   Let’s start the new year with a recipe!

So this holiday season I broke in a new hot crab dip recipe.  Not everyone in my house like artichoke hearts, so I had to find a recipe without them.

I received Martha Stewart’s cookbook Martha’s American Food as a Christmas present.  Truthfully it is a cookbook well worth purchasing or giving, but I have a habit of fiddling with recipes (even ones uniquely my own).  And I hate to say it because some giant hand bearing a whisk might pop out of the sky and smote me, but I improved Martha…or one of her recipes I should say.

She had a hot crab dip recipe, but looking at it I felt it needed some tweaking and additions, so I did that.  My friends have all been asking for the recipe, so here it is.  Note that my tweaks/additions appear in RED ink:

crab dipHot Crab Dip

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter PLUS 2 Tablespoons

1 RED onion finely chopped

2 garlic cloves minced

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (NOT whole wheat)

1 1/2 cups of HALF AND HALF(Martha calls for plain milk)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons dry mustard

few dashes of Tabasco sauce

6 oz shredded mixed cheddar (some cheese companies offer a shredded blend of mild and sharp cheddar. Martha calls for 4 oz)

6 oz of soft cream cheese (from the tub but not whipped)

Grated zest of one lemon and juice of that lemon (Martha calls for 2 Tablespoons, I just use a small lemon and call it a day)

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce(Martha calls for 2 teaspoons)

16 oz lump crabmeat, checked for shells (Martha calls for 10 oz, but most crab I buy comes in 16 oz containers, so that is what I used)

4 Tablespoons rough chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (Martha calls for 2 tablespoons)

2 Tablespoons fresh dill rough chopped no stems

2 Tablespoons minced FRESH chives

4 Tablespoons minced celery

Salt and pepper (fresh ground)

8 oz loaf of rustic bread sliced into small bites  crust removed

English cucumber slices (for serving with dip when finished)

Flat bread or thinly sliced French bread baguettes. (for serving with dip when finished)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a generously sized saucepan (medium to large) melt the 1 stick of butter over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, celery stirring occasionally until soft and translucent (4 to 5 minutes)

Whisk in flour and cook while whisking constantly (or it will stick and burn) (about 3 to 4 minutes – Martha says 4, I found it took a little less. (medium to medium low heat)

Whisking constantly slowly incorporate half and half in a steady stream (I am not Shiva so I don’t have 8 arms or whatever so I did put my measuring cup down occasionally – Martha of course doesn’t do that). Stir and simmer over medium-low heat until thick and smooth (about 4 minutes).

Incorporate cheddar cheese, stirring well so it melts all evenly and then repeat with cream cheese. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, cayenne, Tabasco, and Mustard powder. Incorporate well.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste. (you won’t need much). You don’t have to over think or over cook this – you just need cheese completely melted and incorporated.

Remove from heat.

In a large mixing bowl combine crabmeat, fresh herbs**, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir in the cheesy-oniony mixture and fold together, check for salt and pepper (to taste – I cook with less salt these days so I found little adjustment necessary).

Pour this creamy and goopy deliciousness (it does taste good even at this point) into a buttered one quart oven proof dish.

Set aside.

In a small fry pan melt that 2 tablespoons of butter remaining.  Toss in bread you cut up as per ingredient list, add salt and pepper and cook a little bit (couple of minutes tops) – bread will be goldeny and butter with a light coat of salt and pepper.

Arrange bread bits on top of crab dip in the casserole dish and bake in your pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes – keep an eye on your oven because this stuff can boil over at the end.

Remove from oven and let stand at least ten minutes before serving because when it first comes out of the oven it is like molten lava with a crispy golden crust on top.

Serve with flat breads, crackers, or thinly sliced French bread baguettes.  Place a cucumber on top of cracker, bread slice, or flat bread and then dip on top of that.

I do not think I forgot anything, hope you enjoy this.

**Please note that if you like Cilantro, when you add your herbs to the crab as above, you can add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh cilantro too.