Sunday, August 16, 2015

BLT Salad - as a meal

AUGUST MUST SURELY BE MY FAVORITE MONTH. Summer fruits and vegetables are at their peak of ripeness, abundance, and affordability. Brilliant pink crepe myrtle and golden black-eyed Susan on every corner cheer me. The scent of lavender fills the air.

Our back yard is alive with butterflies and hummingbirds. Not to mention all the other critters--birds, bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, an occasional raccoon and snake, even a bear. I have seen foxes and deer around town, but so far not in our yard.

Suppers are casual and relaxed and we often dine by fireflies.

Our next door neighbor gave me a bowl full of cherry tomatoes which inspired a BLT salad. I roasted the tomatoes and also made croutons with some leftover chiabatta bread. I cooked the bacon until crisp, thinly sliced some red onion, chopped an avocado, and served it all atop a bed of freshly washed and dried, crisp lettuce, and topped it with homemade blue cheese dressing.

BLT Salad
Freshly washed and dried lettuce
Thinly sliced red onion
Crisp bacon
Diced avocado
Roasted cherry tomatoes
Homemade blue cheese dressing (Recipe)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place cherry tomatoes on a rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and spread into a single layer. Roast for 15 - 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft.

Cube day old French bread or ciabatta into bite sized pieces. Place on a rimmed sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and spread into a single layer. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes.

Arrange the onions, bacon, avocado, cherry tomatoes, and croutons on top of a bed of crisp lettuce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with blue cheese dressing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Freekeh Tabouli

NOT TOO LONG AGO, I WAS SHOPPING at a lovely locally owned natural foods store. I had a list but I was also browsing, for inspiration and ideas, at some of the other beautiful and well selected foods offered.

I love shopping in small specialty food stores. The prices are often very good and the service is usually excellent. Not to mention they sell food. Only food. I am so weary of giant stores. If I have a small list of fresh produce, brown rice, olive oil, yogurt, and feta cheese, I really don't want to wade through lawn chairs, market umbrellas, stack after stack of soft drinks, a pharmacy, stinky scented candles that make me sneeze.

I shop for food almost everyday. That way, my food is always fresh and I don't waste. I typically shop for household supplies--dish soap, laundry detergent, bathroom tissue, etc. monthly. So I don't appreciate my food having to share space with all that merchandise.

I know the concept--everything you need in one "convenient" location. Between the huge store, the huge parking lot, the long lines at checkout, it takes seemingly forever to shop at those places.

Back to the lovely food store. . .

A small bag of freekeh, roasted, cracked green wheat, caught my attention and into the shopping basket it went. I had no idea what I would use it for, but I love designing recipes around newly discovered and healthful ingredients.

Several weeks later, I was staring out my kitchen window while washing dishes. I was admiring the beautiful stand of parsley growing in the border garden and thought to myself that tabouli would be a delicious way to enjoy it. I remember the freekah in the pantry and, click, this recipe came together.

Normally I make tabouli with bulghur which is traditional. The taste of this tabouli was not that different but the grain, freekah, had a different and pleasant, slightly chewy texture. It was so, so, very refreshing on the hot day I made it, and we both loved it very much.

Freekeh Tabouli
1 cup freekeh (roasted green wheat)
2 1/2 cups water
2 bunches parsley (about 6 - 8 cups)
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, sliced (about 1 cup)
2 - 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1 - 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded. and diced
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Place freekeh and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer about 25 - 30 minutes, until water is absorbed and freekeh is tender. Let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, wash and chop the parsley and mint,  slice the scallions, dice the cucumbers and tomatoes, and squeeze the lemons.

Add the cooled freekeh to a large salad bowl. Stir in the parsley, scallions, mint, cucumber, tomatoes, olive oil, and lemon juice. Let sit for 30 minutes or more, then stir, taste, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Smoked Turkey Club Sandwich with Cherry Chutney

CLUB SANDWICHES ALWAYS SEEM so fancy. Maybe it is the way they are cut into triangles and plated pointed side up. Or maybe the extra layer makes them look so pretty. Whatever it is, they really appeal to me--like afternoon tea or lunch at the museum.

Pictured is Pritchard Parker's sandwich. I prefer my sandwiches toasted, which I believe is traditional for a club sandwich, but he likes his untoasted. This is one of the beauties of preparing meals at home--you get to customize according to tastes.

For this sandwich, I used deli-sliced mesquite smoked turkey and provolone cheese. I also used the Fresh Cherry Chutney I recently posted. Recipe here.

We enjoyed our sandwiches at our backyard picnic table while watching hummingbirds zipping from flower to flower. We have a town ordinance prohibiting bird feeders (due to bears) yet we have a very lively bird and butterfly population in our garden.

We felt very fancy.

Smoked Turkey Club Sandwich with Cherry Chutney
For each sandwich:
3 slices bread, toasted if desired
Mayo or butter, to taste, optional
Few slices smoked deli turkey
Thinly sliced red onion
Fresh cherry chutney, or other chutney of choice
2 -3 slices crisp bacon
A slice or two of provolone cheese

On the first piece of bread or toast, apply a thin layer of mayo or butter if desired. Top with a few slices of smoked turkey, then thinly sliced onion, plus crisp lettuce. Spread another slice of bread or toast with a generous amount of cherry chutney. Place on top of the lettuce layer and top the chutney with bacon slices. Add a slice or two of provolone and top with the third piece of bread or toast.

Place a toothpick into all four sides of the sandwich, then slice diagonally to form triangles. Plate with the pointed edge up.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Fresh Cherry Chutney

AS AN ATTEMPT TO FIND MY LOST MOJO and break out of my case of the vapors, I bought a cheerful bag of fresh, ripe, juicy cherries. Due to some recent events in our life, my dear husband was feeling the same way. He came home with a bag of beautiful, velvety South Carolina peaches.

We tackled a dreaded but much needed task, together, over the weekend. Having that behind us and looking forward to gorgeous summer fruit seems to be working its magic.

The first thing I made was a spicy, bracing cherry chutney. Chutney is a condiment or sauce of East Indian origin made with sweet, sour, and spicy ingredients. Think of using chutney in place of cranberry sauce, raisin sauce, even jam or preserves. Top crackers with cream cheese and a dollop of chutney for a fulfilling snack. I especially love chutney with pungent cheese. 

Next up, I will show one of the uses I made of this chutney, but meanwhile, on to the recipe. This is a small and easily manageable batch of chutney.

Fresh Cherry Chutney
1 cup fresh cherries, washed, pitted, and halved
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2/ cup chopped red onion
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp. chopped candied ginger
1 tsp. black mustard seeds
2-inch piece of cinnamon 
3 whole cardamom
freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium until boiling. Cover, turn heat to low and simmer gently 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook until the sauce is thickened, just a few minutes more. Remove from heat. Remove the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods.

Use right away or spoon into a jar to refrigerate. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

No Bake Oatmeal Cookies

WE WERE SKIPPING ALONG WITH OUR GOLDILOCKS SPRING, not too hot and not too cold, just enough rain to encourage plants to grow but not too much. In other words, just right. Then a week before the official start of summer, a heat wave oozed into town and put down its tentacles.

How about a cookie? Yes, a cookie you can make and enjoy even in summer. There is no baking involved and only a very few minutes of stove top cooking. Plus there are many healthful ingredients here.

No Bake Oatmeal Cookies
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tbsp. peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup coconut
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

Combine milk, sugar, cocoa, butter, and peanut butter. Stir and bring to a boil over medium heat. let boil, without stirring, for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in oats, coconut, vanilla, and salt. Stir until oats are evenly distributed.

Drop by spoonful onto parchment paper. Cool.