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With spring in full swing and summer on its way, I thought I’d share with you this recipe for a fresh salsa. It’s not unlike pico de gallo—a classic Tex-Mex mix of tomatoes, herbs, onions, and (usually) hot peppers. What makes this recipe different is the chunky texture and use of little pearl onions in place of scallions or chopped red onions. Dressed lightly with a splash of olive oil and lemon juice, you could almost say that this salsa took a detour to Italy instead of Mexico.

I enjoy fresh salsa all year round, but especially in the warmer months when lighter food tastes good. Salsa is a great little condiment for grilled fish or rice and beans. For a quick salad, spoon some atop a bed of greens and top with a handful or two of chickpeas. As most fresh salsas do, this one also makes a terrific accompaniment to quesadillas or wraps. There’s something unique and different about fresh salsas that set them apart in a league of their own from the store-bought variety found in most supermarkets. It’s a brightness of flavor that just can’t be beat.

My local farmers’ market reopened for the season again on Saturday. I’m already dreaming of the beautiful heirloom tomatoes that will be piled high in the stalls in just a few months. Ripe and juicy and perfectly sweet, they’ll be knock-your-sandals-off good in this salsa!

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Chunky Tomato and Pearl Onion Salsa – Makes 2 cups

10-12 red pearl onions, unpeeled

1 1/2 cups seeded, chopped Roma tomatoes (from about 2 large)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Big pinch of sea salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Bring a small pot of water to boil. When boiling, add the unpeeled pearl onions. Boil for 60-90 seconds; remove from water with a slotted spoon. When onions are cool enough to handle (this takes just a few minutes), cut off the root tips with a paring knife and discard. Rub off the onions’ skins with your fingers. Cut them in half and transfer to a small mixing bowl.

To the onions add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine everything well. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Refrigerate until ready to serve, or up to 2 days.

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Fruit salsas are another delicious and easy way to brighten up your dinner table. Check out my recipe for Spiced Black Beans and Rice with Mango Salsa. It’s one of my favorites!

Two more tasty salsa recipes…

 

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

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It’s official. I’ve come down with a case of spring fever.

We’ve had some warm temperatures here the past week or so with highs climbing into the mid-40′s. The warm weather has got me dreaming about gardening, spring fashions and—of course—food. As spring draws tantalizingly close, I can’t help but think of spring and summer foods these days. Grilled fish with avocado salsa, fresh peas tossed with goat cheese and arugula for a refreshing salad, berries…fistfuls and fistfuls of sweet, succulent berries.

In my quest to satisfy my spring-starved palette, I came up with this recipe last week for a simple salad of chilled brown rice noodles dressed in a creamy and luxurious peanut dressing. No sodium-laden soy or fish sauce here. Just a delicious blend of garlic, peanut butter and lime with a hint of honey for sweetness. This is not an overly rich or peanut-y recipe, which is why I classify it as lighter, springtime fare. All of the flavors are subtle but distinct at the same time. I like to serve the noodles with simple broiled fish seasoned with ginger and a nice big, green salad.

Spring might be a ways off yet for us Wisconsin dwellers, but with recipes like this one to keep my cravings at bay I think I just might get through this bout of spring fever after all. Enjoy!

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Chilled Peanut Noodles – serves 4 as a side

For the noodle salad:

8 ounces brown rice spaghetti (such as Tinkyada brand)

Salt

1 tbs. olive oil

1 large stalk celery, peeled and finely chopped

3 scallions (white and green parts), chopped on an angle

Handful or two of frozen peas

For the dressing:

1 tbs. olive oil

1 garlic clove

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (no sugar added)

1 tbs. honey or agave nectar

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup water

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water and add the noodles. Cook according to package directions, but drain 1-2 minutes shy of suggested cooking time to achieve “al dente” texture. Drain noodles well and rinse thoroughly with cold water.

While noodles cook, heat 1 tbs. olive oil in a skillet over medium-low. Add celery and cook 2 minutes. Add scallions and cook 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the peas and cooked noodles to the bowl with the vegetables.

Make the dressing: combine all dressing ingredients in a blender. Blend until creamy and very smooth. Pour dressing over noodles and vegetables. Toss to coat. Season to taste with salt.

Chill salad in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. Just before serving, toss the salad thoroughly and break apart any clumped noodles.

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 More tasty recipes to be savored at Slightly Indulgent Tuesday! Check it out.  

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Photo courtesy of Brianna Tittel

Welcome to the fifth and final week of the 5 Pantry Essentials series. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ingredient spotlights, nutrition info and recipes over the past five weeks. Here’s a recap of the ingredients covered so far:

   Week One: canned salmon (Salmon-Potato Cakes) 

   Week Two: quinoa (Cilantro-Lime Quinoa with Avocado)

   Week Three: black beans (Spiced Black Beans and Rice with Mango Salsa)

   Week Four: onions (Caramelized Onion and Chickpea Dip)

And finally, week five: olive oil.

In cooking I use olive oil so frequently I almost forget I’m using it, as I think most people do. And it is for this reason that olive oil is so indispensable and essential to every cook’s pantry. It’s that underlying ingredient that we’re ever dependant upon…and rightfully so. Here’s why. 

 

Nutrition Spotlight

  • Antioxidant power. Here’s a bit of info regarding the antioxidants in olive oil excerpted from Natural News: “For starters, olive oil – particularly extra virgin olive oil - is very high in antioxidants, one in particular called DHPEA-EDA. When researchers exposed red blood cells under oxidative stress to this and other antioxidants, they found that the DHPEA-EDA provided the best ‘stress-alleviation,’ if you will, fighting off the free radicals to a greater extent than the three other antioxidant compounds used in the study.”
  • Get healthy and stay young with olive oil. Centuries ago, olive oil was first used on the body, not in it. Olive oil was used as a massage oil by ancient olympians, a hair softener and nail strengthener by people of royalty, and a cure for hangovers and aching muscles by physicans. It was not until many years later that people discovered the amazing culinary benefits of olive oil. Packed with vitamins A, D, E, and K, “liquid gold” (as some people refer to it) is thought to slow down the aging process as well.
  • Aid absorption. Some studies have indicated that by consuming a healthy fat such as olive oil with foods rich in antioxidants such as lycopene or lutein, the absorption of those compounds is improved. Try enjoying a spinach salad (lutein) drizzled with extra virgin olive oil or adding a splash to tomato sauce (lycopene) for increased absorption.
  • Extra virgin all the way. Choose extra virgin olive oil for all cooking purposes instead of virgin or light olive oil. The extra virgin variety ensures the best quality and taste as it is made directly from whole olives and only through mechanical processes (no chemicals used in processing). Make sure the label reads “first cold pressed” as well. This indicates that the oil in the bottle was extracted from the first press of whole olives, not a second or third press made from already mashed olives.

 

What Makes it Essential

Like I said, olive oil is one of those ingredients that sneaks into my cooking so often I almost don’t even know I’m using it. How often do I just reach for the bottle by the stove and drizzle some into a pan without even thinking about it? Many times I’m just using the oil as a way to keep something (like chicken or burgers, for instance) from sticking to the pan and burning. But other times, like when I’m finishing off a pot of hearty minestrone, I drizzle in some olive oil at the end for that extra layer of richness and flavor that is so unique and delicious.

I can’t even think of making a salad dressing without olive oil. Honestly, I can’t. Every dressing I’ve made in the past six months (at least) has started with a stream of golden, glossy olive oil. Or what about pestos, dips, spreads? How would they get their smoothness without a bit of oil to get things moving? Several times I’ve forgotten to add a splash of olive oil to my hummus when I’m making it and boy, can you tell a difference. Without the oil, it really lacks something. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly—but the oil is a must.

From searing meat and fish to whipping up sauces and spreads to whisking together dressings and vinaigrettes, olive oil is simply a necessity in every cook’s pantry. Like last week’s ingredient, I think olive oil takes a back seat in the kitchen sometimes. But when you stop to think about it, olive oil is one of the most foundational and central elements to all of cooking.

Check out this book, The Passionate Olive: 101 Things to Do with Olive Oil, for more information on the history and uses of olive oil. It’s a fun little book with some tasty recipes as well.

 

The Recipe

I could have posted about 90% of my recipe collection here since olive oil shows up in so many of them! Instead of creating the longest blog post in all of history, however, I decided to feature a recipe using olive oil in it’s simplest and most delicious form. Today’s recipe is for a Sweet Potato Salad with Thyme Vinaigrette. While I cook with olive oil daily and use it often for sauteing, making sauces, dressing pasta or pilaf, etc. etc., to me it is best enjoyed as a pure and uncooked vinaigrette drizzled over some type of colorful vegetable. 

When veggies are at their peak in the summertime, there’s nothing better than a plate of tomatoes and mozzarella drizzled with oil and balsamic, or a bowl of steamed green beans tossed with lemon juice and olive oil, or a bunch of multi-colored beets roasted with oil and garlic in the oven until sweet and brown. I’m salivating like a labrador just thinking about it all! That’s the wonderful thing about olive oil (and vegetables, too, for that matter): there’s so many ways to enjoy it, it just never gets old.

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Sweet Potato Salad with Thyme VinaigretteServes 4

4 small-medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks

2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs. red wine vinegar

1 tbs. water

1 tbs. Dijon mustard

2 tbs. fresh thyme leaves, minced

Salt, to taste

Chopped parsley, for garnish

Fill a medium-large pot with about 1-inch of water. Insert steamer basket into the pot making sure that the water does not come up through the holes. Add sweet potato chunks to pot. Place over medium-high heat, covered, and steam potatoes until just tender when pierced with a fork but still holding their shape—about 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, water, mustard, and thyme until combined well. Add steamed sweet potatoes to the bowl along with salt to taste. Toss gently to combine. Transfer to serving dish and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve warm or room temperature.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on pantry essentials. It’s been a blast to create recipes and write posts each week. If you have ideas for future series topics (or just single post topics) you’d like to see on this blog, please leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear from you. Your olive-oil-guzzling blogger,

Hallie

 

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

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Welcome to Pantry Essentials: Week Two! I hope you all enjoyed last week’s pantry essential post on canned salmon. Like I mentioned last week, this series is all about highlighting some key ingredients that are useful “pantry staples” to stock in your kitchen. Every week of this series I’ll be posting a recipe along with nutrition highlights and ideas for creative use for each ingredient.

Photo courtesy of Brianna Tittel

Week Two’s Pantry Essential: quinoa.

This week we’re switching gears a bit from proteins and entering into the world of whole grains. It’s a wonderful world, vast and versatile and oh-so-delicious. I cook with a wide spectrum of gluten-free whole grains on a daily basis. My old stand-by is brown rice, but I also love the texture and flavor of wild rice and millet. But right up on my list of tasty grains battling it out for the top spot is quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), an ancient grain that reminds me of an earthier, more rustic version of couscous.

Nutrition Spotlight

  • Feast on fiber: like other whole grains, quinoa is a great source of dietary fiber. Diets high in fiber have been shown to prevent diverticulosis, colon polyps and cancer, and varicose veins. Fiber also reduces the risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. Interestingly, because fiber slows down digestion, it also slows down the release of glucose and insulin into the blood stream. This is very helpful for people with diabetes or anyone struggling with blood sugar imbalance.
  • Protein power: According to Michael Murry, author of The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods and many other health-related books, “quinoa has an excellent amino acid profile…because it contains all the essential amino acids.” Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Essential amino acids, those that we must consume through food because our bodies cannot produce them on their own, are found almost exclusively in animal products. Certain whole grains, however, such as quinoa and buckwheat, provide all essential aminos and are therefore an excellent source of complete plant protein.
  • Gluten-free naturally: as I mentioned above, quinoa is a naturally gluten-free whole grain so it’s perfect for those of us with gluten or wheat sensitivities. Many gluten-free products out there on the market are made with refined rice flour or starches, which are void of most vitamins and minerals. Your best bet is to eat grains in their whole and natural state, not refined and milled into flour. This way the grains maintain their excellent nutritional profiles and all that fabulous fiber. Quinoa, for instance, is a super source of magnesium, manganese, vitamins E and B2, and and iron.

 

What Makes It Essential

I find quinoa to have the lightest texture and mildest flavor of all of the grains. Because of this, it pairs well as a side dish with just about anything. Tossed with herbs and citrus, a pot of quinoa becomes an easy and elegant pilaf (as you’ll see in the recipe below).Quinoa makes a lovely bed for broiled or grilled fish and complements the texture of beans well, too.

Quinoa also has a place on the breakfast menu. Cooked quinoa can be turned into a delicious porridge in a snap when you throw in a splash of almond milk, handful of dried fruit, and sprinkle of ground flaxseeds and walnuts. Unlike brown rice or millet, quinoa cooks in a flash. Only requiring about 15 minutes on the stovetop, the grains plump up in no time at all making this grain a great go-to for busy days when you need something fast.

A container of cooked quinoa will last in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, which makes it easy to have on hand for serving as a side dish, eating for breakfast, or even adding to soups for a textural boost at the end of cooking. On my “to make” list is this recipe for Healing Quinoa Cabbage Soup. Sounds like the perfect lunch or light supper, doesn’t it?

The Recipe

This was a tough one. I had so many ideas of what recipe to feature using quinoa that I almost posted three! Almost. But after taking a few more bites of this Cilantro-Lime Quinoa with Avocado, my mind was made up. This was the one. Each bite brought the perfect balance of refreshing herb and citrus flavors to the palette contrasted with the rich, creamy texture of beautiful avocado slices.

Try serving this as a side dish to these Marinated Chicken and Red Onion Skewers. That’s what I did and the flavors of each dish worked wonders together. Add a little oil-and-vinegar coleslaw on the side and you’ve got yourself a perfectly balanced, refreshing meal. Enjoy!

Oh, one other thing. Sorry there is no picture for this recipe. It’s not something a like to do often, post a recipe without a photo. But I’ll be honest. This was gobbled up so fast after I put it on the dinner table that I didn’t get a chance to snap a picture!

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Cilantro-Lime Quinoa with Avocado - Serves 4 as a side

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

2 cups water

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Salt to taste

1 small or 1/2 large avocado, thinly sliced

Juice of 1/2 lime

Combine quinoa with water in a pot and bring to boil over high heat on the stovetop. Reduce to very low heat, cover, and cook until quinoa has absorbed the water and the grains are plump—about 15 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and—using the fork—fold frozen peas into warm quinoa. The steam will heat them through. Fold in cilantro and season with salt to taste. Transfer to serving dish.

Top with sliced avocado. Squeeze the lime juice over the quinoa, being sure to spritz some on the avocado slices. Enjoy this dish warm or at room temperature.

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Stop on by next Tuesday for Pantry Essentials: Week Three. The featured “pantry staple” for next week has grown to become one of my favorite ingredients of all time to cook with and eat. I’ve got a tasty recipe in store that’s too good to miss!

(This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.)

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Happy New Year! With the dawn of 2010, today I’m posting a healthy and delicious recipe I whipped up over a relaxing week spent with my sister and brother-in-law. We divided our time between chit-chatting over tea in the living room, ice-skating on frozen ponds, browsing busy shops and their after-Christmas sales, and—of course—enjoying good conversation over a week’s worth of good meals.

This year we held our second annual “Iron Chef” competition, which is meant to be a spoof on the popular TV show on Food Network. My brother-in-law, Mike, and I teamed up to create a meal utilizing three special ingredients assigned to us by the judges (my dad and sister). Last year’s ingredients were crab, rosemary, and shallots. They proved to be a rather difficult trio that didn’t quite fit well together flavor-wise. But this year was different. This year, Mike and I were spot on with our culinary creations.

Our ingredients? Wild Alaskan salmon, pineapple, and parsnips. A much more versatile bunch, if you ask me. Immediately we decided on doing a “tapas” theme, creating little appetizer-like bites instead of a big family-style meal. With the salmon and pineapple, we prepared Grilled Pineapple-Salmon Skewers with a Parsley-Ginger Dressing. Kudos go to Mike on that one. He nailed the grilled pineapple. We also prepared Herbed-Goat-Cheese Stuffed Roma Tomatoes and Brown Rice Timbales (don’t worry…I’ll post one or both of those recipes soon enough!).

With the parsnips, we decided to showcase their sweetness in a salad made of sauteed carrots, parsnips, and leeks and fresh arugula. First I sauteed matchsticks of the root vegetables in a knob of butter until they were tender but still held their shape. I removed the pan from the heat and hit it with a slash of fresh-squeezed Cara-Cara orange juice and a healthy drizzle of honey to bring out extra sweetness. Finally, to balance out the sweet veggies, we tossed them—still warm—with spicy arugula leaves. Mike’s pineapple skewers were good, but my heart was won by the bold and earthy flavors of this salad. I’ll be making it again soon. Very soon.

With 2010 here and another blank slate of a year before me, I look forward to dreaming up many new recipes that rival (or hopefully rise above and beyond) this one in the coming months. And I can’t wait until next year’s “Iron Chef” competition where Mike and I can once again don our chef’s jackets, sharpen our knives, and spend the evening working magic in the kitchen.

Above is a photo of the Iron Chef Champions—Mike and I.

 

Glazed Root Vegetable and Arugula SaladServes 4 as a side

3 tbs. butter

4-5 small parsnips (or 3-4 large), peeled and cut into 2 1/2 inch long matchsticks

2 small carrots (or 1 large), peeled and cut into 2 1/2 inch long matchsticks

1 large leek (white and light green parts only), cut into 2 1/2 inch long matchsticks

2 tbs. pure honey

Juice of one Cara-Cara orange (any variety of orange will work, though)

Salt, to taste

4-5 cups arugula leaves

Melt butter until it begins to foam and sizzle in a large, high-sided pan. Add parsnips, carrots, and leek. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 5-6 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until just tender to bite. Remove pan from heat.

Drizzle vegetables with honey and orange juice; sprinkle with salt. Cover pan with lid or tent with aluminum foil and allow the vegetables to sit for about 5 minutes. (This helps them tenderize even further in the acidity of the orange juice.)

Toss the vegetables with arugula leaves in a large bowl. Transfer to serving dish and serve right away.

(This post is linked to Friday Foodie Fix at The W.H.O.L.E Gang.)

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There’s nothing like the chill of late autumn days to draw me into the kitchen by the warmth of the oven and simmering pots on the stovetop. With Thanksgiving has come a burst of cool weather here in Wisconsin…later this week it’s supposed to be in the thirties for a high. Alas, I’m convinced. Winter is most certainly on it’s way!

Though Thanksgiving has passed and we’re now looking on to Christmas, I’m still in love with the flavors of fall. Chilly days and chillier nights cause me to turn to the sweetness of apples and yams, the earthy qualities of rosemary and thyme, and the spicy heat of chilies and peppers to warm up my suppers. The rich and hearty flavors of autumn seem to warm me from the inside out, which is just the sort of thing I need this time of year.

I’m trying not to overdo soups and stews at dinner (although I love them dearly!), as we have a long winter ahead of us and I know that I’ll be making plenty of them in the coming months.  Instead, I’m trying to channel that same heartiness and warmth into other recipes that–while autumnal and delicious–aren’t always stews, soups, and casseroles.

In my efforts to broaden my recipe repitoire, I’ve come up with this one for sauteed fennel, leeks, and apples. It’s a perfect side dish for any roasted meat or poultry, but I particularly like it with salmon. I typically serve it by arranging it on a serving platter and using the sweet sauteed mixture as a bed for the fish. The slight crunch of the apples and fennel combined with the flaky fish is a very tasteful textural contrast, one that I’m glad to have discovered. I’ve made this recipe several times now and I think it will become a winter “go-to” for me.

So as the days get cooler and the nights grow longer still, I’ll be spending my late afternoons in the kitchen testing and tasting new recipes and savoring old favorites. And I just may be hovering over a skillet full of this delicious fennel mixture, too, because I’m quite confident that it is rising to “favorite” status. Try it, and I hope you’ll agree.

Sauteed Fennel, Leeks, and Apples

(For a photo tutorial of how to trim, quarter, core, and slice a fennel bulb, see below.)

2 tbs. olive oil

2 tsp. fennel seeds, lightly crushed

1 medium-large bulb of fennel, trimmed, quartered, cored, and sliced*

2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced lengthwise into thin strips (or substitute a good handful of sliced red onion)

1/2 sweet apple, such as Gala or Fuji, peeled and thinly sliced

Handful of raisins

2-3 tbs. white wine vinegar

1 tbs. honey

Salt to taste

Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add fennel seeds, fennel, and leeks. Cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add apple and cook until slightly softened, another 4-5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is just tender to bite and leeks are golden–about 6-8 minutes more.

Remove from heat. Stir in raisins, vinegar, honey, and salt to taste. Serve immediately.

How to Prepare a Fennel Bulb

First, trim off the leafy top and root ends.

 

Then cut the bulb in half lengthwise.

 

Then cut each half in half lengthwise so that you end up with four quarters.

 

Place each quarter cut side down and cut into them on an angle to remove the cores. Discard cores.

 

Slice each bulb crosswise into thin slices about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Voila! You’ve got perfectly sliced fennel!

 

This post is linked to Fight Back Fridays and Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. Check them out for more recipes.

 

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“Kitchen Sink” Stuffed Peppers

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(Please note: this post is part of Diane’s “Friday Foodie Fix” on The W.H.O.L.E. Gang.  Check it out at www.thewholegang.org.)

You know those recipes where you just kind of empty your refrigerator and pantry into a bowl, mix it all up, throw in some salt and pepper, and its a knock-out?  This is one of them.

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I spotted some beautiful red peppers at the farmer’s market a few days ago just waiting there on the stand for me–sparkling like rubies.  I had no idea what I would do with them all (I purchased an entire bagful), but didn’t really care.  If anything, they would just catch my eye and make my mouth water any time I opened the refrigerator door.  But on an evening a few nights ago with no dinner plans in mind, I opened the fridge and those peppers called out my name.  Nestled beside them in the crisper were a handful of small golden potatoes, some herbs, and bunch of fresh scallions along with a few leaves of almost-wilty kale.  Thus, “Kitchen Sink” Stuffed Peppers were born.

My dinner table that night was laden with platters upon platters of vegetables.  I served the stuffed peppers with a tossed veggie salad (greens, carrots, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, etc.) and steamed green beans drizzled with a mustard vinaigrette.  But it was those peppers–bright as gems–that stole the show and have gained a place of prominence in my ever-fattening binder of recipes.  

Enjoy! 

“Kitchen Sink” Stuffed Peppers

2 large red or orange yellow bell peppers

1 1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

3 scallions, finely chopped

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 large leaf kale, stem removed and leaf finely chopped

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

2-3 tbs. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup shredded Pepperjack cheese

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Bring large pot of water to boil.  Cut peppers in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds and membranes, leaving stems in tact.  Add to boiling water and cook 4-5 minutes.  Remove and set aside.

Cover potatoes with cold water in medium pot and bring to boil.  Cook 10-12 minutes until tender.  Drain and place in mixing bowl with scallions, parsley, kale, garlic powder, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Mash until smooth, adding more oil if needed. 

Divide potato mixture among pepper shells.  Arrange in baking dish and top with cheese. (Can be refrigerated at this point up to 1 day)

Bake, covered, for 20 minutes.  Remove cover and bake an additional 5 minutes.  Serve hot or warm.

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In my opinion, August and September are the very best months for garden fresh suppers.  It seems like everything–from tomatoes and zucchini to broccoli and berries–is more abundant than ever.  So tonight I made a colorful dinner filled to the brim with seasonal vegetables. 

I served grilled chicken with zesty arugula pesto and ripe tomatoes–a color combination that resembled emeralds and rubies.  On the side, an enormous green salad with greens, peppers, onions, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and cucumbers, as well as a delicious potato salad.  Below are the recipes for the potato salad and arugula pesto.  Both are absolutely delicious and just sing “summer.”

 

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  Lemon-Arugula Pesto

2 cups packed arugula

1/2 cup packed parsley leaves

1 tbs. walnuts

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Juice of half lemon

2 tbs. water

2 tbs. olive oil

1/4 tsp. salt

Combine arugula, parsley, walnuts, and garlic in food processor and pulse until combined.  Add lemon juice, water, and olive oil along with the salt and process until a smooth paste forms.  The great thing about using arugula in pesto instead of basil is that it won’t brown as quickly, so this version retains it’s vibrant color for a few days in the fridge.

 

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  Green Onion and Dijon Potato Salad

1 1/2 lbs. red potatoes, scrubbed

1/4 cup chopped parsley

3 green onions, white and green parts thinly slices

2 tbs. white wine vinegar

2 tbs. olive oil

1 tbs. Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Cube the potatoes and place in a pot.  Cover completely with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil for 10-14 minutes until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart.  Drain. 

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes with the parsley and green onions.  Separately, whisk together the vinegar, oil, and mustard.  Pour this mixture over the potatoes and toss well to coat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Enjoy the salad warm, room temperature, or cold.  (Keeps for 2 days in the fridge…although the green onions may become slightly muted in color with time.)

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Italian Quinoa Salad

A few days ago I had an appointment scheduled late in the day around 5 p.m.  I knew I wouldn’t get home until close to 6 p.m.—right on top of dinner time.  After a full day, the last thing I’d want to do was spend an hour on my feet preparing supper.  So I cracked open my binder stuffed with recipes and searched for a few make-ahead dishes I could prepare in advance and just pull out of the fridge.  I found this recipe for Italian Quinoa Salad that I made a while ago and decided to give it a whirl.

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I’m shocked that I haven’t made this more often.  I mean, it’s really good!  The dish is a real winner because a) I almost always have the ingredients on hand this time of year, b) it’s quick and easy to make, and c) it’s a great “fridge to table” recipe that’s super-tasty served chilled.  That night when I was pressed for time in the evening, I served this salad with some grilled chicken breasts (a snap to prepare when you’re in a hurry) and fresh watermelon cubes (also easy to cut up ahead of time).  It made an easy but satsifyingly tasty summer meal.

The basic ingredients for the recipe are fresh herbs, tomatoes and peas, pine nuts, and cooked quinoa.  I call it “Italian” mainly because of the tomatoes, herbs, and pine nuts.   Whether or not they eat quinoa in Italy, I don’t know.  But if they do, I imagaine this is how it would be prepared!  Bringing different ethnic flavors to the table is such a great way to experience a variety of cultures right in your own home. 

Have fun! 

Italian Quinoa Salad

  • 1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup thawed frozen peas or fresh peas if available
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, optional
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil, for garnish

Bring the quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil in a medium pot.  (Do not stir)  When boiling, reduce heat to very low and cover pot with lid.  Simmer, covered, for 12-15 minutes until all of the water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy.  Transfer to large mixing bowl.  Add tomatoes, parsley, peas, pine nuts, and parmesan if using.  Stir to combine.  Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice, then season to taste with salt and pepper.  (Can be refrigerated for up to 2 days)

Just before serving, sprinkle the basil leaves over top.  Buon appetito!

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Tonight’s dinner was a delicious combination of local summery flavors. 

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Above is a flavorful Brown Rice Salad with parsley, dill, farmer’s market tomatoes and onion, celery, lemon juice, and olive oil.  Just combine whatever veggies you’ve got lying around with some cooked brown rice.  It’s different every time I make it, but always delicious!

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Our other side dish at dinner were these green beans, above, from a local farm about 20 miles away.  They are completely organically grown and so good!  I cooked them in boiling water for 6 minutes, then tossed them with a light vinaigrette: 2 tbs. olive oil, 2 tbs. white wine vinegar, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp. minced dill.

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Pictured above are a few pieces of Roasted Salmon atop Sauteed Kale…the picture doesn’t do it justice.  It’s very tasty and prettier in “person.”  To saute the kale, just chop up a big (and I mean big!) bunch of it and throw it in a skillet with a bit of olive oil.  Season simply with salt and pepper after it has wilted, which takes about 2-3 minutes.  Before roasting the salmon, I brushed it with a bit of Sungold Tomato Preserves from the farmer’s market.  The jam is made from tomatoes, which gives it this earthy and savory flavor.  It was superb as a glaze on salmon, but I’m sure it would be equally tasty over chicken breasts.

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