Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spa Vinaigrette

I have jumped on the "salad in a jar" bandwagon. I was recently piqued with this concept by a photo I saw on Photograzing which was submitted by Skinny Girl Trapped in a Fat Body.

I take my lunch to work everyday because it is easier, quicker, healthier, cheaper, and much, much tastier. Normally, I take leftovers from whatever I cooked for dinner and I pack it as I clean the kitchen. Every now and then, I don't have any leftovers and will make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Even peanut butter crackers and an apple. In a pinch, even a can of Campbell's cream of tomato soup. Anything from home is better than facing a fast-food-drive-thru.  And I don't have to get in my car and fight traffic just to get some hideous "food". I can sit in the breakroom, read, chat with coworkers about things other than work, make personal phone calls, and relax.  

In my next post, I will show you some of the different salads I have made for work and share some strategies.  For now, I will talk about dressing. 

Homemade salad dressing is a must for me. It is easy to make and admit it, salads are a bit of work to put together. Why spoil all the freshness with commercial, heavy dressings?  I especially like this very light, yet super flavorful dressing for spring.

Spa Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sparkling mineral water (I like Perrier)
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. (more to taste) grainy mustard
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1/4 tsp. each, salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a jar with tight fitting lid. Shake to emulsify. Taste and adjust seasonings. Makes 1 cup of dressing.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Steak and Fresh Vegetable Soup

I made this soup over the course of a dismal and rainy Saturday afternoon. It was soothing for me,  repeatedly going to the kitchen, checking and stirring, and adding additional ingredients every few minutes, while doing other things around the house. Plus, the aroma of simmering soup brought cheer into our home.

Because I built this soup in layers, over some length of time, I found no need to add commercially prepared, canned broth to add "cooked all day" flavor. The soup made its own all day flavor. In the beginning, I added a cup of strongly brewed fresh coffee and otherwise I just used water to coach the flavors from the steak and vegetables to make a satisfyingly flavorful broth.  I seasoned the soup simply, using only Celtic sea salt, freshly ground tellicherry peppercorns, and fresh parsley to let the flavors of the individual vegetables shine through.

Steak and Fresh Vegetable Soup
Olive oil or other oil, to saute
3/4  pound sirloin steak
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jumbo onion, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 portabella mushroom, chopped
1 cup strong, freshly brewed coffee
Water as needed
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 pound new red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
1/2 pound fresh green beans, snapped
1/2 small head cabbage, sliced
Salt, pepper, and parsley, to taste

In a large soup pot, heat a little oil over medium high heat. Sear the steak, which has been salted and peppered on each side. Once the steak is very well browned, remove from pan and set aside. Add a little more oil if necessary and saute the garlic, onion, celery, and mushroom until beginning to soften and brown. Add a cup of hot coffee, stirring to deglaze the pan and loosen all the brown bits from the bottom. Add the steak back to the pot, add some water and salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and simmer for an hour or more until the steak is very tender and the vegetables are breaking down to form a rich gravy.

Remove the steak from the pan, shred the meat then return to the pot. Add the remaining vegetables, as you prep them, seasoning each new addition and adding more liquid as needed. Cover and simmer until everything is tender. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Very Cheesy Garlic Toast
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 clove garlic, crushed
Thick slices of rustic bread
Slices of sharp cheddar cheese

Mix together the butter and garlic. Spread on slices of bread. Top, generously with cheese slices. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and the bread is starting to brown.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Curry Palooza #10: Saag Paneer

The Curry-Palooza event my friend, Grapefruit, of the blog Needful Things, and I started with much enthusiasm last April, has flagged. 

I am determined, however to keep this event going. After much deliberation, we will re-launch the event in the spring with a different format and start with an exciting GIVE-AWAY! So stay tuned. 

Meanwhile, here is another curry dish I made.  Saag Paneer is one of the things I order when visiting Indian Restaurants. When I decided I wanted to make it, I started by Googling and kept getting directed to Palak Paneer. So I asked my Indian Food expert, Grapefruit, what is the difference between Saag Paneer and Palak Paneer because both recipes seemed the same to me. She told me Palak is spinach and Saag is mustard greens. 

When I shopped for greens for this dish, my regular grocery store had the most beautiful and amazing winter greens. I selected spinach, mustard greens, and turnip greens. The resulting dish was absolutely delicious! I looked at several recipes and this is what I came up with.

Saag Paneer
2 pounds fresh winter greens, thoroughly washed, chopped
12 ounces paneer, cut into cubes
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp. chopped ginger
2 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. oil plus more for frying the paneer
1 tsp. cumin seeds
Pinch of asafetida (hing)
1/2 tsp., to taste
1/2 cup cream, as needed

Blend tomatoes and ginger to make a puree. Stir in coriander, turmeric, and cayenne and set aside.

Pan fry the paneer cubes, in a little oil, until golden. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a wok. Add cumin seeds and asafetida. after the seeds crack, stir in the tomato puree mixture, and let it cook a few minutes to reduce and thicken.

Add the greens, and let it cook, covered, on low heat for about 10 minutes  Add cream and let it cook for another 5 minutes.

Gently fold in the paneer and add more cream, if necessary, for desired consistency. Cover and simmer for 4 - 5 minutes.