summer salads: tabbouleh with a twist

One of the things I like about summer, are summer foods. One of my favorites is tabbouleh. Essentially tabbouleh at its core is a parsley salad flavored with bulgur, mint, scallions, tomatoes, and a bright lemony dressing. It’s quick, fresh, easy, and totally yummy.

Tabbouleh is something I’ve always made in the summer, but as an adult in my own house I essentially make it only for myself unless we’re having company because no one else seems to eat it. Another problem in my house is while I work for myself and can set my own hours, my husband has a corporate job, and corporate jobs seem to have expanded their hours since the onset of COVID19, and the days of traditional 9 to 5 hour days seem to no longer exist. So he works a lot. Often he comes home from the office and works hours more in our home office and eats later. I don’t like to eat late, so tabbouleh the way I make it that I’m sharing with you today, is something I can eat for a quick summer dinner . I don’t even necessarily need to make meat or chicken to accompany it, I can just eat that “as is.”

Yes, there is a young adult living with us, but he’s kind of allergic to vegetables most days and eating with the other people in his house, so he will grab dinner and go sit in front of his computer screen and play video games. Often I will make the two of them something to eat and just leave it on the stove. No it is not my favorite thing to do as I don’t like eating by myself but life is what it is. So I have decided that I’m going to make things that I enjoy more in the summer to have if I am going to be eating early and by myself.

You will note when I share my recipe that I don’t have tomatoes in it, and I added chickpeas. The reason I didn’t add tomatoes is I don’t have any in the house and the ones I am growing in my garden are just plants at this point. I’ve also discovered that the salad stays a little more fresh if I don’t store it with tomatoes added. So if I make this with tomatoes I will often dress the top of the bowl with tomatoes that are diced and I will remove the tomatoes off of the top to put away.

Another thing about tabbouleh is you can indeed make it with couscous if you don’t have bulgar wheat.

This is a great summer salad and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! To follow is the recipe.

1 3/4 cups bulgar wheat

Juice of 4 large lemons (maybe more – depends on you!)

A couple of dashes of apple cider vinegar

Olive oil

1 large bunch of Italian flat leaf parsley

1 bunch fresh parsley

Salt, pepper, dash of garlic powder, ground cumin

One large regular cucumber peeled, seeds removed, diced. Or one English hothouse cucumber peeled and diced.

1 sweet or red onion diced, or two bunches of scallions cut up small.

A 15 ounce can of chickpeas drained

Get out a large mixing bowl and to it add dry bulgar wheat, a little salt, a little pepper, a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and a teaspoon of ground cumin.

To that add about 1 1/2 cups boiling water, and toss. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil and put to the side.

In another mixing bowl, add your chickpeas, onion or scallions, parsley and mint chopped fine, and the cucumber. Add salt to taste. Toss it together and if you think it needs more salt add a little more. I add the salt slowly because you don’t want to over salt this.

And a small bowl add your lemon juice, cumin, small dash of garlic powder, salt, eyeball the olive oil and whisk together briskly. Give it a taste and you may want to add a couple of dashes of apple cider vinegar as well.

Bulgar wheat takes nothing to reconstitute with a little hot water so by now you should be fine and remove the aluminum foil from the bowl and give it another stir to fluff.

Add the vegetables and chickpeas and mint and parsley to the large mixing bowl with the bulgar wheat in it. Give that all a mix together and then whisk the olive oil lemon juice and apple cider vinegar mixture again and pour it evenly over everything in the large mixing bowl and toss together.

At this point you can taste test to see if you want more salt or ground pepper. Cover the mixing bowl and put in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly.

Leftovers are good for a few days. Keep refrigerated.

goat cheese, ham, and scallion frittata

I love a good frittata. True story is one of my frittatas is actually published in an Epicurious cookbook. It’s called The Kitchen Sink Frittata, and it was published in Epicurious Cookbook in 2012. Amusingly enough Nancy Fuller (Food Network personality) has an identically named recipe on Food Network’s website. My recipe I think is better.

But this? This is a new recipe and I thought of it this morning based upon what I was looking at in my refrigerator this morning.

So here it is and I hope you enjoy it!

Preheat oven to 400°

Take 4 tablespoons of butter and put in a baking dish. I use my vintage 12” French copper gratin pan.

Take eight eggs out of the refrigerator, one bunch of thin fresh scallions, about 6 to 7 ounces of deli ham, 1 4oz log of fresh goat cheese. The goat cheese I’m using today had bits of fig in it – it was what I had on hand.

Thinly slice the scallions and include some of the green tops. Maybe about 3 inches if they are in good shape. Chop up the ham. Also if you have it thinly slice one Roma tomato, also known as a plum tomato. But only use a fresh one.

If you’re using a pan like my gratin pan you can heat it up on the stove as well. I wouldn’t recommend using a glass baking dish, so please don’t . But you can also make a frittata in a cast-iron pan, for example. I also use a cast iron pan to make frittatas, and I have an oven safe fry pan from Great Jones cookware I also use.

When the butter is melted quickly sauté the scallions and the ham. Add to that the thinly sliced tomato. Don’t swish it around in the pan too much you don’t want things to break up. Next add a little freshly cracked pepper, and some dill weed. You can either chop up some fresh dill or use dried dill. Turn off the stove, and let that sit while you move onto whisking the eggs.

Briskly whisk eight eggs with a couple dashes of hot sauce, a little bit of salt not a lot, and about three or 4 tablespoons of buttermilk. Please remember not to use more than a little pinch of salt because you are cooking with ham which is already salty.

When the eggs are whisked up and frothy pour them slowly over the ham and vegetables in the pan evenly. Next crumble up your log of goat cheese and spread evenly over the top and add a couple of more dashes of fresh cracked pepper.

Place in your 400° oven and bake for about 35 minutes. Depending on your oven —-you need to keep an eye on it, so nothing burns. Take it out let it sit for a few minutes slice up and serve. It makes a wonderful weekend breakfast or brunch.

the envelope full of old recipes

A friend is working on a local treasures booth for an upcoming fall fair. In the middle of a box of things being priced, was this ratty envelope full of recipes. Mostly cut out of The Washington Post. A few were handwritten.

The fair ladies didn’t know what to do with the envelope, so she gave them to me. I scanned them mostly into a PDF which I will upload at the end of this post, for all to enjoy.

The personal collections of recipes are often a fun culinary history of trends years ago, combined with what people hung onto. I did not keep all of the recipes because well…the endless gelatin molds of all sorts of combinations of foods is not my jam.

There are some great recipes in the pile and quirky things like how to make mint julips.

Enjoy!

roasted squash soup

There are a lot of things I just make. There is no recipe, there’s nothing I look to, it’s just in my head. But today friends asked me to write down how I make my roasted squash soup.

So how did squash soup happen? Two weeks in a row I have gotten squash in my vegetable box. So squash soup popped into my head since it was a comparatively cool day (finally) to be in the kitchen. I decided small fresh sweet potatoes would be added to thicken it up and bone broth made in the InstantPot. Lots of fresh herbs from garden for the broth. When broth is ready and vegetables are cooled from roasting, into another pot it all goes to cook and purée with hand (immersion) blender.

So basically I lined a half sheet pan (18” x 13”) with foil, cut up all my hard sided squashes, baby sweet potatoes, and a couple of chili peppers from the garden, and sprinkled a little olive oil , some tikka masala powder, hawayij spice blend, and salt. I roast everything in a 425° oven for about 40 minutes. Then I turned the oven off and just left the vegetables in there with the door closed until everything cooled down.

Now for the broth part. I keep a Ziploc bag in my freezer where I put the gizzards and necks from whole chickens I buy to roast. I keep those in a bag in the freezer when I want to make broth. Sometimes I even save a chicken carcass after cooking (and freeze it) but that’s not what I used this time. This time I had a bag full of liver, gizzards and chicken necks. Literally like six sets. I used my small InstantPot which makes 3 quarts of broth.

How do I make the broth besides the chicken parts? One onion cut in 4, a couple of carrots cleaned and chunked, salt, rosemary/thyme/sage from the garden. I add water, leaving approximately 2 inches clearance from the top of the InstantPot liner pot. I hit the broth button and let it cook.

After both the vegetables are roasted and the broth is cooked I let everything cool down so I can proceed to the next step. The next step is easy: I take all the squash and scoop out everything from the skin of each piece and put it into a soup pot with the roasted baby sweet potatoes, the carrots used to make the broth, and 6 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter. I give everything a mash with a hand potato masher, and add the strained broth and cook on low for a couple of hours. Then I use the immersion blender and purée everything together. At that point I put it on simmer and let it cook down a little more.

Oh and this soup does not require a dairy component. It’s good just the way it is!

That’s it! Enjoy!

beef mac and cheese…my way

Beef Macaroni and Cheese

1 stick of butter

A few tablespoons of Wondra gravy flour

Dash of nutmeg

A couple of dashes of Tabasco

1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounce bag of shredded Swiss and Gruyere cheese

8 ounce bag of shredded mixed cheddar cheese

6 ounces chopped Velveeta cheese (the kind that comes in a block)

14 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

12 ounce can of vitamin D evaporated milk

1 – 1 1/3 cups buttermilk

1 lb ground beef

1 small red onion, chopped small

1 pound bag of Gemelli pasta

Salt and pepper to taste

I have never written this down, so bear with me.

First I sauté the pound of ground beef in a nonstick pan with the red onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Because I am using a nonstick pan I don’t grease it. Remove from heat.

In another pan I make my cheese sauce. It starts with a roux which is butter and flour. I just eyeball the flower and I use Wondra which is a great flower to use for things like this and gravies because it’s very fine. So I say a few tablespoons, it’s either that or a few dashes.

After the flour and butter have kind of cooked together, I had a dash of nutmeg and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce. Then I add the buttermilk.

I incorporate everything together whisking constantly and then I add the can of milk. Next I add the Swiss and Gruyere mix, whisking constantly until it’s incorporated. After that I add the cheddar and then I stir in the Velveeta chunks. As everything comes together you may have to add a little more milk. It just depends.

After it’s creamy and smooth I add the can of tomatoes which I do not drain. I then let the cheese sauce kind of meld together and I keep on stirring it. When I think it’s the proper consistency I turn it off and put a lid on it.

In a big Dutch oven I cook the pasta as per the package instructions and then drain. First I put the pasta back into the Dutch oven. Then I stir in the ground beef mixture. Then I slowly incorporate the cheese sauce until everything‘s together.

I always make a little more sauce than I am expecting but you just let your pasta sit for a few minutes with the lid on in the Dutch oven and the heat off on the stove and a lot of the moisture from the cheese sauce will be absorbed.

Serve with a salad and it’s magically delicious.

Thanks for stopping by.

pumpkin bread with sourdough starter- mmmmm

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (yesterday I used bread flour it was all I had)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup puréed pumpkin (15 oz)
  • 1 cup sourdough starter-( fed within the last week and you have to let it warm up from out of your refrigerator for at least two hours)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 cup or even 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut or raisins
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Directions: Mix all wet ingredients except for sourdough starter.

Add spices. If you don’t like as many spices in a pumpkin bread as I do just decrease it. I am a cinnamon fiend I love cinnamon.

Stir in sourdough starter.

Stir in dry ingredients until just mixed. everything has to be incorporated so you’re just going to have to pay attention. I do this by hand not with a mixer.

Pour into a lightly greased Bundt pan and bake at 350° for approximately one hour. I use a metal skewer the skinny kind like you used to close the back of a turkey to test to see if the baking is complete. Toothpick or skewer should come out clean.

Cool in pan at least 25 minutes before removing from pan.

My final COVID-19 cooking note is if you can find canned pumpkin at a reasonable price by it because the prices attached to it now are absurd.

sweet potato gnocchi with a sage corn pancetta cream sauce

I’m going to admit this pasta dish rocks. I’m also going to admit I didn’t use anyone’s recipe it came together as I started to plan it.

I have written down both the recipe for the sauce and the pasta as best I can. I hope it comes together for you like it did for me.

I think the sauce is amazing and could easily be translated to a fettuccine or something.

The Creamy Pancetta Sage Sauce

  • • 4 ounces diced pancetta (Wegmans sells it)
  • • 4 tablespoons butter
  • • 2 small vidalia onions chopped
  • • 1 small red hot pepper diced (no seeds!)
  • • 2 ears of cooked corn off the cob
  • • 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • • 1 pint light cream (2 cups)
  • • 2 tablespoons Wondra flour (super fine for sauces)
  • • 2/3 cup fine grated Parmesan
  • Melt the butter. Add the onion and the red pepper and some salt to taste. Add the corn. Chop fine the fresh sage and add that. Cook until the onion starts to get translucent.

    This should all be low to the bare minimum of medium heat. You don’t want anything to burn.

    Add the flour. Stir briskly in the pan so nothing sticks and the flour is absorbed.

    Add the wine. Stir briskly. Let that cook for a minute or two and add the light cream.

    Allow the sauce to come together and stir constantly until an even warm temperature. You want it to come to almost a boil but not a boil because you don’t want to scald the cream.

    Add the Parmesan cheese gradually till all incorporate it and let it cook on low a little while longer. Let it cook down, and it will cook down some and thicken a bit. It doesn’t get stand your spoon upright thick, but it thickens in consistency.

    Gnocchi

    The gnocchi are an approximation. I make my pasta by feel.

    • 1 1/2 cups of leftover mashed sweet potatoes.
    • 2 cups of semolina flour
    • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
    • 1 egg
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • A few dashes of extra-virgin olive oil

    Combine everything in a bowl and bring your dough together. After everything is evenly mixed place a damp cloth over the bowl that your dough is in and let it rest for an hour.

    Roll out between your hands thin “snakes” of dough and with a sharp knife cut even sized bite-size pieces.

    Your pasta should be laid out on a baking sheet covered with a silicone baking pad. You should have enough for two layers of bite-size pieces and the layers should be separated with parchment paper and covered with parchment paper and a linen towel and put in your refrigerator until you are ready to cook your pasta.

    Fresh gnocchi only take a few scant minutes to cook in boiling water. They will rise to the surface as they cook.

    As you remove your gnocchi add a little bit of sauce in between and then finish with sauce on top.

    Mangia!

    summer sauce

    I made this yesterday and everyone keeps asking for the recipe. There isn’t one per se but here’s how it evolved:

    2 lbs of ground sausage sautéed in olive oil with 2 sweet onions, 6 mild/medium chili peppers, 2 long hot peppers, 5 cloves garlic minced, 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes from the garden halved, sea salt to taste.

    Next I added a huge handful each of fresh basil and oregano from the garden and a 10 ounce package of fresh crimini (baby bella) mushrooms chopped up.

    Cook on medium low and stir a lot until sausage is cooked through.

    Add two cans (28 ounce) of canned tomatoes- what I had on hand was crushed, add 1 small can of tomato paste (6 ounce size), and a good dash of red wine or red wine or balsamic vinegar.

    Reduce heat and allow to burble on the stove, stirring frequently for at least another hour. Adjust for salt and pepper if needed. I didn’t find it needed it.

    This is the kind of sauce that if I had fresh eggplant, that would have been peeled and chopped up and added as well.

    It’s not complicated and it’s easy to make your own homemade sauce. The chili peppers came out of the garden as well and the end result was a flavorful but NOT a spicy sauce. It just tastes fresh. It will be dinner later this week over spaghetti or some shape pasta. Serve with a salad and you are good to go.

    Easy summer dinner.

    Leftover sauce can be frozen.

    not your grandmother’s cucumber salad

    One of my favorite cucumber salads is made by Hu Nan Restaurant in Ardmore. It’s hot and sweet. They do a similar cabbage salad as well.

    I have never been able to exactly replicate their cucumber salad, but they have inspired my updating a summer staple.

    I take three English hothouse cucumbers and peel and slice them into thin rounds. These are the cucumbers considered “burpless”. If I don’t like the way they look at the grocery store, I will use regular cucumbers and peel and cut them in half and scoop out the seeds.

    When my cucumbers are all sliced I put them in a bowl and toss them with salt to taste and about 4 tablespoons of white sugar and set aside.

    Salt. I am in love with a locally made seasoning salt my husband found for me. It’s called Jake’s Prime Seasoning Salt. It’s a small batch salt from Wallingford, PA. You can order it on their website. It is the first seasoning salt that I think can give Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt a run for her money.

    Next I slice up thin one red onion and cut it into more bite size pieces. I add that to my bowl.

    Sometimes I add a chopped up red bell pepper to this, but never a green bell pepper.

    Following adding the red onion to the bowl, I add the fresh dill. I love dill and do not have a set pre-measured amount. I just chop up a healthy handful from my garden (if I have it and at present almost depleted thanks to the rain), or I buy a bunch at the grocery store.

    Next comes the “dressing”. I usually just eyeball it but will attempt to write it down:

    1/4 white wine vinegar (or half wine vinegar and half rice wine vinegar)

    2 teaspoons of sesame seed oil

    2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes or Hatch green chile flakes

    I wisk the dressing together in a little bowl, pour it over the cucumbers and onions and dill in the larger bowl and mix it all up. Then I cover and refrigerate until it’s time for dinner (or lunch as it also makes a lovely luncheon salad.)

    Enjoy!

    the evolution of apple-pear butter

    I love Apple Butter and Pear Butter. Snd I like to make a hybrid cross mix of both in the fall. I always have. Maybe it’s my Pennsylvania German heritage shining through – my maternal grandmother was Pennsylvania German and I learned how to make a lot of things from her.

    I have been reading various recipes on the Internet and decided to try making my apple pear butter in the Instant Pot.

    I have an 8 quart Instant Pot. I cored apples and pears. I cut them into chunks of a fairly even size, and filled my Instant Pot to just below the “max” line.

    I know, I know that isn’t very exact for some of you home cooks but apple butter consists of apples cooked down….

    I did not peel either the apples or the pears because when you make everything all fine with an immersion blender after the fruit is cooked it all is very smooth and lovely.

    But let me back up. After the fruit was loaded into my electric pressure cooker, I added a quarter cup of orange juice, maybe closer to a third of a cup I wasn’t measuring too precisely.

    To that I added half a cup of brown sugar, four cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon ground mace, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, a healthy dash of salt, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

    The vanilla is a quirky thing I read about it in a recipe when I was researching this and I thought I would try it and it ended up working out well.

    Anyway give everything a toss within your Instant Pot to make sure the apples and pears are kind of coated.

    Set your Instant Pot to the manual high pressure setting for 9 minutes. The valve should be at the top sealed position. When time is up, turn off the machine and allow the natural pressure release to occur. That will probably take a good half hour or so. I didn’t time it exactly.

    Meanwhile make sure your canning jars are properly prepared and sterilized and get your big pot ready for water if you are doing a canning bath.

    When your pressure cooker is de-pressurized and it is safe to remove the lid, take off the lid and remove the four cinnamon sticks. Using your immersion blender, blend the fruit until it is smooth and seamless.

    But wait, it’s not ready yet here’s the next step.

    Turn your Instant Pot back on to the sauté setting and adjust the sauté setting to LESS. Simmer the apple pear butter for 30 to 40 minutes until the apple pear butter is thickened and at your desired consistency. Most recipes I studied suggested 15 to 30 minutes but I actually did 40 minutes today to get it where I wanted.

    I will caution you to stick around in your kitchen with a silicone spoon or spatula. You will need to stir it occasionally while it’s continuing to cook down or it will stick to the bottom of the Instant Pot.

    When you think it is thick enough and cooked down enough, turn off your machine and allow the apple pear butter to cool down. I basically ignored it for a good hour.

    At that point you can jar it up and either do your canning bath or store in the refrigerator. I did the canning bath because now that I have gotten the hang of it it really is my preferred way of dealing with preserves and chutneys and things like this.

    I will leave my jars sitting on a wooden cutting board on the kitchen table until they’re completely cool and then I will add the labels and the date I made the apple pear butter. I made six jars. Not big jars – small jars and two taller skinny ones – see the photo at top of the post.

    Making apple pear butter is one of those fall things. It’s definitely something that fills your kitchen full of false spice smells. And I do tend to combine both fruits when I make it.

    You can serve apple pear butter on toast, bagels, English muffins, cheese and crackers, pork roast, all sorts of things.

    I will note doing it in a pressure cooker reduced the time spent canning considerably. I think I am going to research other kinds of preserves and even chutneys to see what else I can make and can via the Instant Pot.

    Try it!