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Friday, July 29th, 2016

    Recently, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel to Spain with a group from our church to hike a portion of the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrim walking route.  Our pilgrimage extended from Baiona, near the Portuguese border, to Santiago de Compostelo, a hiking distance of approximately 75 miles, or a little more than 100 kilometers, which we hiked in 5 1/2 days.
    In preparing for the pilgrimage, I knew that a good breakfast would almost be as important as the right hiking shoes…but I also knew that often, an inn’s continental breakfast would likely consist of pastries and coffee, which would not provide the energy needed for our journey on foot.  I made the decision to carry my own muesli for a more substantial breakfast during the pilgrimage, but recognized that the bulk of six servings of muesli would add weight to the backpack I carried each day.  To put my muesli on a “weight-reduction-plan”, I took out the steel-cut oats and some of the seeds, but left in the nuts and the sunflower and pumpkin seeds for the protein they provided.  Even though fruit was often not available at the inns along the pilgrimage, I found warm milk that was usually used for coffee and small servings of yogurt, which combined with my muesli, gave me a “happy tummy” start to the day…and looks of envy from my fellow pilgrims!
Buen Camino!

Murray’s Muesli – Travel Version

Ingredients
4 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant)
1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut (sold in bulk as coconut chips)
¼ cup flax seed (flax seed…not ground as meal)
¼ cup unsalted sunflower seeds
¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
¼ cup sliced almonds, coarsely broken
¼ cup walnuts, coarsely broken
¼ cup pecans, coarsely broken
¾ cup raisins
5 organic, pitted dates, chopped (I use Medjool dates)
5 organic dried plums, chopped (otherwise known as prunes)
¼ cup toasted wheat germ or oat bran (I sprinkle wheat germ over the dates and dried plums on a cutting board before chopping.  This reduces the tendency for the dates and dried plums to stick together as they are being chopped. Oat bran can be used instead of wheat germ to make the recipe gluten free.)
Add all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon or your hands until blended. Store the muesli in an airtight container.
This combination of ingredients makes approximately 13 one-half cup servings.
To Serve
Place ingredients in cereal or soup bowl in the following order:
  1. ½ cup Murray’s Muesli
  2. 3 heaping spoonfuls of yogurt (approximately ¼ cup)
    I use plain, 2% Greek yogurt which I sweeten with 2 teaspoons of organic honey per 17.6 ounce container, but feel free to use your favorite yogurt.
  3. ½ – cup chopped fruit
    I try to use a combination of whatever fruit is in season, and start with a firmer fruit, such as apples and/or pears. Softer fruits such as peaches, plums, nectarines, bananas, blackberries, strawberries, kiwi and/or blueberries are all wonderful additions. I usually chop a large quantity of fruit in the food processor, and then store it in a container to use for several days so I do not have to cut up fruit each morning.  My favorite fall and winter combination is 2 Fuji apples, 2 Bosc pears, 1 kiwi and ¾ cup fresh or frozen blue berries or blackberries. In summer, when fresh peaches are available, I add 2 peaches to my fruit mixture but frozen peaches, softened, can be used when fresh peaches are not in season.  Dice the fruit into small pieces. Refrigerate the chopped fruit in an air-tight storage container.  This amount of fruit should provide enough for your muesli for at least a week.
  4. Kefir (or milk), as desired.
    I add approximately ⅓ cup of kefir (or milk), poured around the other ingredients at the edge of the bowl, leaving the yogurt in the center. Almond or coconut milk can also be used.
Alternate serving methods include:
(a) Add yogurt, fruit and kefir (or milk) to the dry muesli mixture in a bowl. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the muesli mixture overnight; or
(b) Blend ½ cup muesli with ½ cup warm milk.  Top with a small amount of yogurt and/or fruit, if desired.

 

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Once again this year, I volunteered to help with the planning of a dinner event for 120 persons to raise funds for a much respected local non-profit.  And, once again, my task was to start the evening’s festivities with a selection of appetizers.  This year, however, I was not intimidated by my lack of “appetizer expertise” and instead, regarded my task as an opportunity to experiment with “what might go together” to create surprisingly delicious combinations.  Here are two of the most requested recipes from this year’s event…and yes, I am already imagining the blending of unique ingredients for next year!

 

Fennel, Pistachio and Roasted Beet Spread

Ingredients
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed with your fingers
¼ teaspoon za’atar seasoning
1 large fennel bulb, stems and fronds removed
1 ½ pounds golden beets
½ cup shelled salt and pepper pistachios
4 – 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Blend the 2 tablespoons olive oil, sea salt, coarse black pepper, crushed dried thyme, and za’atar in a large bowl.  Set aside.
Wash and dry fennel bulb and cut away tough outer layer.  Cut bulb in half vertically and remove inner core.  Cut fennel halves into ½ inch slices.
Wash, dry and peel beets.  Cut the beets into ½ inch thick slices and then cut slices into ½ inch cubes.
Add the sliced fennel and beet cubes to the olive oil/spice mixture and toss to coat.
Arrange the marinated fennel and beets in a single layer on the parchment covered baking sheet.  Roast for 25 minutes or until marinated vegetables are fork tender.  Remove from oven and allow vegetables to cool slightly.
Place the shelled pistachios in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until finely ground.
Add the fennel, beets and sherry vinegar to the ground pistachios, pulsing to blend. With the food processor running, drizzle in 4 – 5 tablespoons of olive oil and process until mixture reaches desired consistency.
Spoon mixture into bowl and serve at room temperature with corn chips or crackers.

 

Herbed Carrot and Yogurt Spread
adapted from Bon Appétit, January 2016, page 63

 

Ingredients
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
5 medium organic carrots, washed, peeled and sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon vadouvan spice mix
1 ½ cups low-fat, plain Greek yogurt
1 – 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vadouvan spice mix
Directions
Blend 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil, fine sea salt and coarse ground pepper in a medium bowl.  Add the carrot slices and toss to coat with the oil/spice mixture.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the carrots and remaining marinade and cook, stirring occasionally until carrots are fork-tender and beginning to turn brown, approximately 10 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and 1 tablespoon vadouvan spice mix to the sautéed carrots and cook approximately 2 minutes, stirring often.  Remove from heat and allow the sautéed mixture to cool slightly.  Transfer the cooled mixture to a food processor or blender.  Add the Greek yogurt and 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice.  Pulse the carrots, yogurt and lime juice to achieve desired consistency.  Transfer the carrot/yogurt mixture to a bowl.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon vadouvan in a small skillet until mixture sizzles and becomes fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Use a teaspoon to drizzle a portion of the herbed oil over the carrot/yogurt mixture before serving.  (Any remaining herbed oil can be stored in a tightly closed container at room temperature.)
Serve with corn chips or crackers.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

I am sure that everyone has “recipe experiences”…those times when the pictured food product looks so delicious and the sequence of steps sounds relatively easy.  So, you set out to make it for for your meal…only to discover that the actual preparation takes much longer than you anticipated.  Such was the situation in my kitchen as I eagerly began to follow the stated directions from page 124 of the November 2015 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.  My previous experiences with Brussels sprouts used the sprout either whole or cut in half…but this recipe wanted the leaves.  OK…be honest…have you ever tried separating the leaves on a raw Brussels Sprout?  They do not “let go” easily, and this translates into a tedious process while precious food preparation minutes slip away.  Thankfully, the resulting salad was not only beautifully green, but also quite delicious, so I was willing to make the dish again…but with a determination to conquer the “Brussels sprout leaf process”!  After close examination of a halved sprout, I noticed that there was a triangular-shaped core at the base which seemed to be the central “holding spot” for the leaves.  Using a short, sharp paring knife, I made slanting cuts on both sides to remove the core and then found it was easy to separate the leaves.  This extra step in the recipe sequence cut the preparation time nearly in half…and guaranteed that I would make this recipe again.  Oh yes, there is one more “Murray modification” to this recipe.  The original recipe called for using one-third cup of lemon juice in the dressing, but I have to be careful with the amount of citric acid in my food.  Luckily, I have access to a specialty vinegar store in my area, so I substituted lemon-infused white balsamic vinegar and created a dressing that perfectly complemented the other ingredients.  Try it yourself and let me know what you think!

Apple, Avocado and Brussel Sprout SaladAcknowledgement:  The beautiful plate shown in the recipe picture was created by Porter Halyburton,  a local potter.  The graceful hands demonstrating the preparation of the Brussels sprouts belong to my daughter, Meredith.

Apple, Avocado and Brussels Sprouts Salad

Ingredients
For the salad:
leaves from 1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed and drained to remove excess liquid
1 small avocado, peeled
1 Fuji or other crisp apple, washed, dried, cored and cut into quarters
For the dressing:
⅓ cup lemon infused white balsamic vinegar
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
For the garnish:
½ cup roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
½ cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
Directions
For the salad:
1) Remove the outer leaves of each Brussels sprout and cut the sprouts in half . Use a sharp knife to make an angled, “v-shaped” cut from the bottom to the top on each side of the sprout core. (For example, the cut begins at the bottom of one side of the sprout core, slants to the peak of the core, and then slants down to the lower edge of the other side of the core.)DSC01571 After removing the core of the sprout, the leaves will separate easily. Place the loosened Brussels sprout leaves in a large bowl. DSC01574
2) Cut the peeled avocado in half. Remove the large, center seed. Cut each avocado half into thin slices and then cut the avocado slices into approximately 1 inch pieces. Add the avocado pieces to the Brussels sprouts leaves.
3) Cut the apple quarters into thin slices and then cut the slices into approximately 1 inch lengths. Add the apple pieces to the Brussels sprouts and avocado in the large bowl.
For the dressing:
1) Use a whisk to blend the vinegar, olive oil, kosher salt and pepper together until they form an emulsion.
2) Slowly pour the dressing over the salad mixture. Use a spatula or salad tongs to blend the salad with the dressing.
For the garnish:
1) Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds and Parmesan cheese over the marinated salad.
2) Use salad tongs to evenly distribute the seeds and cheese throughout the salad mixture.
Makes 6 servings.

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Looking for that last minute gift?  A gift certificate for a bread baking, cooking or sewing class offers opportunities for your gift recipient to learn a new skill and the chance to say, “I made that”….whether their finished product is a colorful tote bag, a loaf of freshly baked bread, or delicious chocolate torte.  Gift certificates for bread baking classes are $30 per person, cooking classes are $40 per person and sewing classes are $50 per person. Contact me at makethisyoursnc@gmail.com to select the class or classes you wish to give and a personalized gift certificate will be emailed to you to be printed and given to the lucky recipient.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

Finally…the weather here is beginning to actually feel like December…and with a chill in the air, it’s time to warm up the kitchen to make stick-to-your-ribs comfort food.  One of my family’s favorite meals is warm chili accompanied by corn bread, fresh from the oven. This chili is revised from the recipe I first posted in October 2013, with additional beef and slightly more cumin than my original version; small changes which yield a heartier flavor.  The corn bread recipe is my version of a recipe from a 1975 edition of a Southern Living cookbook.  My interpretation of this classic recipe uses far less sugar than the original and substitutes regular canned corn and buttermilk for the canned creamed corn and plain milk used in the 1975 version.  The viscosity of the buttermilk provides the thickness needed for the cornbread batter, and buttermilk’s distinctive flavor yields a cornbread that reminds me of my grandmother’s Sunday dinners.  Maybe this delicious duo will create food memories for your family!

 

Confetti Chili (Revised)


This recipe is unbelievably easy to make…your can opener does most of the work! The variation in the colors of the ingredients will remind you of confetti…so this hearty soup will please the eye, as well as the palate.

Ingredients
½ pound (8 ounces) lean ground beef (I use ground bison or grass-fed ground beef)
1 can black beans, with liquid
1 can dark red kidney beans, with liquid
1 can great northern beans, with liquid
1 can corn, with liquid
1 can petite diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 tablespoon (heaping) dried, minced onion
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon low sodium Worcestershire sauce
½ cup hearty red wine

Shredded sharp cheddar cheese for garnish

Directions
Brown ground beef in a 4-quart pan or Dutch oven, then wrap the browned beef in a paper towel to absorb the excess fat.  Using another paper towel, blot the fat from the soup pan, but allow the browned bits of beef which might have “stuck” to the pan to remain, as they will add flavor to the soup.  Add all the canned ingredients, including the liquid from each can and then stir in the spices, minced onion, Worcestershire sauce and red wine.  Simmer, covered, for approximately 30 – 45 minutes, then remove from heat to allow the soup to “rest” for a few minutes before serving.  Taste the soup at this point to determine if added salt is needed…but I have found that the sodium contained in the canned vegetables is usually enough to flavor this soup without additional salt.
Serve hot, sprinkled with shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
Makes 4 – 6 servings
Note: I also recommend allowing the flavor of the soup to “mature”, so I make the soup one day and eat it the next…or perhaps you could make it early in the morning and enjoy it for dinner that night.

 

 

Corn Bread with Double Corn

 

Adding kernels of canned corn provides a varied texture in this traditional-style corn bread. Serve it warm from the oven with real butter. Warning…it will be hard to eat just one piece!

Ingredients
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs, well beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk (I use reduced fat buttermilk)
1 cup kernels from canned corn (liquid discarded)

Directions
Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Coat a 9 inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
Combine the flour, corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the beaten eggs, melted butter and buttermilk.  Stir in the corn kernels.
Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring slowly to blend.  The blended mixture will be thick.  Pour the cornbread mixture into the greased baking pan.
Bake the cornbread for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.
Slice the cornbread into 10 – 12 servings.  Serve warm.
(adapted from Southern Living’s, For the Love of Cooking, p37, © 1975, Oxmoor House, Inc
)

 

 

Saturday, September 26th, 2015

As the weather turns cooler, I begin to think of “comfort food”.  To me, comfort food is any dish that is not only warm and delicious, but also comforting in that it is easy to prepare, as well.  This recipe is derived from one I used for years that used a can of cream of chicken soup paired with chicken broth to create a creamy base for its main ingredients – chicken, peas and carrots.  As I have become more aware of “flavor-enhancing additives” that are disguised in the ingredient lists of condensed soups, I have used a bit of “kitchen experimentation” to find new ingredient combinations that allow me to prepare some of my favorite dishes…without “unpronounceable” ingredients.  One of my discoveries was the addition of fresh or frozen corn to my chicken pot pie.  The starchiness of the corn, when paired with added chicken cooking stock, creates a base for the potpie that not only adds to the overall flavor, but actually enhances the texture of the crust, as well.

This recipe is one of my husband’s favorites and is easily prepared to share with neighbors…sick friends….or sleepless new parents.  No need to wait for a special occasion.  The warm “deliciousness” of this pot pie will make even a rainy night supper seem special.  Enjoy!

 

Easy Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients
white and dark meat from 1 whole herb-roasted rotisserie chicken
2 cups frozen green peas
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
3 carrots, washed, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups no-salt-added chicken cooking stock
1 cup Bisquick (gluten-free Bisquick can also be used)
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon vinegar and milk to make one cup liquid)
½ stick butter, melted
¼ teaspoon of black pepper
½ teaspoon of salt

Directions
Coat a 13×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Cut the chicken into small chunks and spread the chicken evenly in the prepared baking dish.
Place the peas and corn in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high until the vegetables are lightly cooked and their texture is crisp…not soft. Drain the vegetable mixture and spread evenly over the chicken in the baking dish.
Place the sliced carrots in the microwave safe dish and microwave on high until the carrots are “fork-tender”. Drain the carrots and spread evenly over the chicken and other vegetables in the baking dish.
Heat the chicken cooking stock in a sauce pan until it bubbles and then pour it over the chicken/vegetable mixture.
In another bowl, combine the melted butter, pepper, salt, Bisquick and buttermilk. Mix thoroughly with a fork or whisk to form a rather thick batter. Spoon batter evenly over the ingredients in the pan.

Bake at 425 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is golden and liquid surrounding the crust is bubbling. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 5 – 6 servings

 

Friday, August 7th, 2015

One herb that grows prolifically in the southern garden is basil. When all other vegetables and herbs are beginning to wane in the hot, summer sun, basil thrives and continues to produce large, fragrant leaves until the cool weather of fall signals the end of its growing season. Uses for fresh basil are many…added to other greens for a garden salad or layered with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella for caprese salad…but one of the most widely known uses for basil is pesto. Converting my “bumper crop” of basil into pesto that can be frozen in “recipe-sized” portions, allows me to enjoy the bounty of my summer garden throughout the year. This recipe uses freshly made pesto to create a creamy sauce to combine with herbed, sautéed chicken and your favorite pasta. The pesto sauce embraces the pasta and lends a fresh flavor which differs from the more acidic finish of tomato-based sauces.  The green tones of the sauce may be a surprise to those at your table, but I predict the taste will win them over.  Try it, and let me know what you think!

 

Herbed Chicken with Pesto Sauce and Pasta

Ingredients for the Pesto Sauce:
Choose one of the following 3 options:
1) 6 oz. fresh basil leaves (about 3 cups firmly packed leaves), or
2) 3 oz. basil leaves (about 1/1/2 cups) and 3 oz. fresh spinach leaves with stems removed (3 cups firmly packed
spinach), or
3) 4 oz tube of Gourmet Garden Basil Herb Blend (found in specialty packaged produce section of larger
grocery stores) and 3 oz. fresh spinach leaves, with stems removed
(Note: Other leafy greens such as kale or chard can be substituted for all or part of the spinach. The resulting flavor of the pesto will be somewhat less sweet)
Leaves from 6 sprigs of fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup walnuts, coarsely broken into pieces
¼ cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3 -4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, divided use
Ingredients for the Marinade and Chicken:
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon dried, rubbed sage
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thinly and cut into one-inch pieces

8 ounces fettuccine (gluten-free pasta can also be used)
4 – 5 Tablespoons 2% milk
To make the pesto
Rinse the basil, and/or spinach and parsley in cool water to remove any grit, and then dry thoroughly, pressing the leaves in a towel or using a salad spinner to remove excess liquid.  Place walnuts in food processor and pulse until finely ground.  Add basil and/or spinach and parsley to the ground walnuts and pulse until finely chopped.
walnuts, spinach, parsley and basil, finely chopped

walnuts, spinach, parsley and basil, finely chopped

If using the Gourmet Garden Basil Herb Blend, add to the mixture after chopping the “greens” and the walnuts and then pulse to blend.  Add chicken broth to the mixture in the processor and then, with the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil and pulse briefly in short bursts until the mixture is blended.  Add 3 tablespoons parmesan and pulse to mix.  If the consistency of the pesto seems thin after adding the parmesan, add one more tablespoon of grated parmesan to achieve the consistency of a smooth paste. (Note: if you plan to freeze a portion of the pesto, do not add parmesan cheese as the pesto is being made.  Frozen pesto that contains cheese develops a “gummy” texture when thawed. Grated parmesan can be added after thawing frozen pesto.)  Transfer the pesto to a small container with a tightly fitting lid if it will not be used immediately.  Pesto can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or divided into portions and frozen. (Placing plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto when refrigerated will help to maintain the bright green color of the basil.  However, if the color of the pesto begins to darken, it will not affect the flavor.)
To make the marinade for the chicken:
Combine olive oil, celery salt, ground cumin, marjoram, thyme leaves, rubbed sage, rosemary and coarse ground black pepper in a large bowl.  Add thinly sliced chicken and turn the chicken to coat with the olive oil/herb mixture.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow chicken to marinate at least 30 minutes or up to an hour.
To prepare the chicken with pesto sauce and pasta:
1) Prepare pasta according to package directions.
2) While water is boiling for pasta, place marinated chicken, along with herb/oil marinade, into a large skillet and sauté over medium heat until chicken is evenly cooked, with no pink remaining.  Remove chicken from pan and put in covered bowl to keep warm.  Spoon one-half of the pesto mixture into the skillet and stir in 4 to 5 tablespoons of milk, as needed, to bring the pesto to the consistency of a thin (but not watery) sauce.  Gradually stir 3 to 4 tablespoons of grated parmesan into the pesto/milk mixture to bring sauce to the desired thickness.
pesto blended with milk and parmesan cheese to make sauce

pesto blended with milk and parmesan cheese to make sauce

Taste the sauce and add additional salt and/or pepper, as desired. Return the chicken to the skillet, gently turning the chicken to coat with the sauce. Finally, add the drained pasta, and using two large spoons, toss the pasta with the sauce/chicken mixture.
blending pesto sauce with herbed chicken and pasta

blending pesto sauce with herbed chicken and pasta

Serve immediately, garnished with shredded parmesan.
Makes 4 servings

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Earlier this year, I participated in a special event at a local restaurant where small portions of several dishes were served.  One of the first items served was a salad whose main ingredient was quinoa, accented with spinach, currants and pine nuts.  The accompanying dressing had a sweet-sour flavor contrast with a light essence that added moisture to the ingredients without making the finished combination “soupy”.  This combination was my favorite dish of the evening, and after returning home, I accepted the challenge of creating my own version of this delicious salad.  Try it.  It’s easy to make and quite tasty as well.  And don’t be fooled by the quinoa’s tiny size…it packs lots of protein in one serving…and is also gluten-free.  But enough with the nutritional value.  I think you’ll make this quinoa salad again and again because it just tastes good!

Quinoa Salad with Currants and Pine Nuts

Ingredients
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon Arbequina olive oil
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons of your choice of natural sweetener such as honey, agave nectar or pure maple syrup
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
¼ cup Zante currants
1 cup multi-color quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
1 ounce fresh, de-stemmed spinach (1 cup tightly packed) washed, drained and patted dry
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Directions:
To make the dressing, whisk the Arbequina olive oil, sherry vinegar, choice of sweetener, sea salt and black pepper in a small bowl until blended. Add the Zante currants to the oil and vinegar mixture. Set aside.
Combine the rinsed and drained quinoa with 2 cups water in a large sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then cover the pan and reduce heat to simmer the quinoa for approximately 20 minutes. Check the quinoa periodically to prevent the mixture from sticking to the pan. The quinoa is cooked completely when it appears that the grains of quinoa have “grown little tails”. Spoon the cooked quinoa into a medium-sized bowl.
While the quinoa is cooking, remove the stems from the spinach leaves and then measure 1 cup of tightly packed spinach. Rinse and drain the spinach, (I use a salad spinner) and wrap the spinach leaves in a dish towel to remove excess water. Finely chop the spinach.
Add the chopped spinach to the warm quinoa in the medium bowl. The heat of the quinoa will “cook” the spinach.
Gently blend the dressing into the warm quinoa/spinach mixture. Stir in the pine nuts.
The quinoa salad can be served warm, at room temperature or refrigerated…it’s all delicious!
Serves 6

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

OK…I’ll admit that it seems that I’m obsessed with summer salads made of black beans and corn…but when fresh corn appears at the local farmer’s market, I just can’t help myself. Today, as I assembled the ingredients needed to make my favorite seasonal salad, I discovered a few interesting items in the produce drawer of my refrigerator and decided to experiment with my salad yet again. One of the new ingredients was a small, bright red, Anaheim pepper, a sweeter member of the chili pepper family, which I added instead of the traditional red bell pepper used in the past. Another new idea for today’s salad was the addition of finely chopped fennel fronds, saved from the fennel bulb used in the Roasted Vegetable and Marinated Lentil Salad described in my last post. And when I tasted this revised combination, I wanted to share this “new and improved” recipe with you.  So here is the 2015 version of Black Bean and Corn Salad.  Who knows what changes I will make next year!
Black Bean and Corn Salad – Summer 2015
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups fresh corn cut from 2 – 3 ears white or bi-color corn (can also use frozen white shoe-peg corn, thawed and drained)

1 14.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 Anaheim red pepper, washed and dried
1 small red onion or one-quarter of a large red onion, peeled, to make ¼ cup finely chopped
leaves from 24 stems Italian flat-leaf parsley to make 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley (leaves from 12 stems cilantro and 12 stems Italian parsley can also be used)
fronds from one fennel bulb, rinsed, and dried to make ¼ cup finely chopped

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kala Jeera (black cumin) seeds, crushed (can substitute regular cumin seed)

Directions
To prepare the vegetables and herbs:

Shuck, wash and scrub the corn to remove silks. Hold an ear of corn over a large bowl and use a short paring knife to cut the kernels from corn from the base to the tip of the cob. Repeat this process with the second ear of corn. Use a spoon to find and remove any remaining corn silks from the cut corn. .
Using a sieve or a colander, drain the liquid from the black beans, then run water through the beans to rinse them. Allow the excess liquid to drain from the beans and then add beans to the kernels of corn.
Wash and dry the Anaheim pepper. Place the pepper on a cutting board and cut in half. Remove and discard the inner membrane and seeds. Cut the pepper into one inch pieces.
Remove the peel and outer layer from the red onion. Cut the onion into one inch pieces.
Rinse the parsley and/or cilantro and wrap in a towel to remove excess moisture. Remove leaves from parsley and/or cilantro. Discard stems.
Rinse the fennel fronds and wrap in a towel to remove excess liquid. Cut the fronds into one inch sections.
Put the Anaheim pepper, onion, parsley and/or cilantro and fennel fronds into a food processor. Chop to a fine dice. Stir the diced red pepper, onion, parsley and/or cilantro and fennel fronds into the corn and black beans.
To make the dressing:
Mix together the olive oil and Balsamic vinegar. Add the fine sea salt and coarse ground black pepper. Crush the Kala Jeera or regular cumin seeds with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to release the essence of the spice. Add the Kala Jeera or cumin to the dressing mixture. Whisk to blend.
Stir the dressing into the vegetable/herb mixture, blending gently to incorporate the dressing throughout the vegetables and herbs. The salad can be served immediately but the flavor intensifies if you wait about 20 minutes for the flavors to blend before serving. Left-overs should be refrigerated. The salad can be served cold but the flavor seems to be more pronounced at room temperature.
Makes 6 servings
DSC01521

 

 

 

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

In the heat of summer, it often takes a bit of motivation to prepare a hot meal…but if that hot meal creates left-overs that can be served later at room temperature…the initial effort is completely worthwhile.  Such is the case with this salad made of lentils and roasted vegetables. Admittedly, it requires a bit of peeling, slicing and dicing to prepare the vegetables for roasting, but the lentils can cook while the vegetables reach roasted sweetness.  When the cooking is completed, blend marinated lentils with slightly cooled, but still warm vegetables and serve over mixed lettuce.  Enhance the flavor of your salad with freshly shredded Parrano cheese, a Dutch cheese which combines the creamy texture of Gouda with the rich flavor of Parmesan to create a memorable rich, buttery flavor.
Served slightly warm or at room temperature, this salad makes a beautiful presentation…and a very tasty meal.
Enjoy!

A Salad of Roasted Vegetables with Marinated Lentils

Ingredients
For the lentils:
1 cup dry French green lentils, checked for foreign particles, then rinsed and drained in a sieve
1 ¾ cups cooking stock or water
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
1 small shallot (approximately 2 ½ ounces), finely chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried, minced onion)
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
For the lentil marinade:
2 tablespoons Arbequina olive oil
1 tablespoon + 1 ½ teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 -3 tablespoons pine nuts
For roasted vegetables:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
1 medium butternut squash, approximately 1 ¼ pounds, washed, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes (could substitute sweet potatoes for the butternut squash, or use a mix of sweet potato and butternut squash)
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 pound beets with green tops removed, washed, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium fennel bulb (7 – 8 ounces), washed, outer layer, stem end and inner core removed and sliced thinly from top to bottom
For the salad:
mixed lettuce, such as curly red and green leaf lettuce, butter crunch lettuce, etc. to provide a variety of color and texture
coarsely grated Parrano cheese to garnish (optional)
Directions
To cook the lentils:
Bring the cooking stock or water to a boil in a large sauce pan. Add the rinsed lentils, oregano, shallots, cumin, black pepper and Worcestershire sauce, and return the mixture to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to allow the lentils to simmer for 30- 35 minutes or until the lentils are al dente, or easy to chew and approximately 1 tablespoon of the cooking liquid remains in the pan. Remove the sauce pan with the lentils from the heat and stir in the sea salt . (Adding salt prior to cooking causes the lentils to become tough.) Leave the lentils covered while allowing the mixture to cool to room temperature. After the lentils have cooled, remove ¾ cup (approximately 6 ounces) of the cooked lentils to use in the roasted vegetable salad. The remaining lentils can be refrigerated for up to one week to use in other dishes.
While the lentils are cooking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
To roast the vegetables:
Blend 1 tablespoon + 1 ½ teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil and ½ teaspoon Za’atar seasoning in a large bowl. Add the cubed butternut squash and use a spatula to coat the squash with the oil/spice mixture. Use a slotted spoon to remove the butternut squash from the bowl and arrange the coated squash cubes in a single layer on the upper one third of the parchment paper covered baking sheet.
In the same bowl, blend an additional 1 tablespoon + 1 ½ teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt and ¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper. Add the cubed beets to the olive oil, salt and pepper and use a spatula to coat the beets with the oil mixture. Use the slotted spoon to remove the marinated beets from the bowl and arrange the beets in a single layer on the middle third of the parchment paper covered baking sheet, leaving the lower third of the baking sheet to add the sliced fennel at a later time. Place the baking sheet with the butternut squash and beets in the preheated oven and roast for 10 minutes.
While the butternut squash and beets are beginning to roast, add the thinly sliced fennel to the remaining oil mixture in the bowl. Use a spatula to gently toss the fennel to coat with the oil mixture and allow the fennel to marinate during the 10 minutes that the other vegetables are beginning to roast.
After the squash and beets have roasted for about 10 minutes, remove them from the oven and add the marinated fennel slices in a single layer on the lower third of the baking sheet. Return the baking sheet to the oven and continue roasting the vegetables for an additional 20 minutes or until the vegetables are fork tender.
Remove the vegetables from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
To marinate the lentils:
While the vegetables roast, blend 2 tablespoons Arbequina olive oil and 1 tablespoon + 1 ½ teaspoons sherry vinegar in the large bowl. Add ¾ cup of the cooked lentils, stirring to blend with the marinade. Stir in the pine nuts and allow the mixture to marinate while you prepare the lettuce.
To assemble the salad:
Rinse and drain the lettuce to remove all excess liquid. Tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and distribute among 4 dinner plates.
Blend the marinated lentil/pine nut mixture and the slightly cooled, roasted vegetables together in the large bowl. Spoon some of the vegetable/lentil mixture over the lettuce on each plate. Top each serving with coarsely grated Parrano cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 – 6 main dish servings.