Cucumber and Bean Salad with Citrus Dressing

I wanted a side dish that would combine some fresh vegetables (cukes/peppers) with some easy protein (canned beans). The dressing is based on one from FoodTV; they used it on a different salad however I liked the sound of it and it worked out well.

Cucumber and Bean Salad with citrus dressing
Servings: 8-12
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 14.5 oz. can chickpeas
  • 1 14.5 oz. can black beans
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, quartered, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Rinse the chickpeas and black beans, add to a bowl with the cucumbers and red peppers.
  2. In a jar combine the remaining ingredients, shake well. Pour about half of the dressing over the vegetables, toss to combine. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Serve with remaining dressing available for those who want it.

Notes:
The vegetables can be combined up to 2 hours in advance and the the dressing can similarly be made up to a day in advance. Store both in the refrigerator until 30 minutes before serving.

I used Goya low-sodium chickpeas and black beans in this dish. If you aren’t using low-sodium beans then you might want to cut the kosher salt by half in the dressing.

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Farro and Cauliflower Salad

My introduction to farro might have been almost a decade ago however I was reintroduced to it earlier this year via the local megamart deli counter. They sell a farro salad with finely chopped vegetables that was quite tasty. Once I located a good source of farro I started experimenting with combinations for salads until I found one I liked.

Farro and Cauliflower Salad
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 20 minute
Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head cauliflower
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1 red pepper
  • 4 oz. shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs such as chives or parsley
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked farro
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the cauliflower into small pieces, no bigger than 1/2″. Toss with the tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Prep the rest of your veggies. I quarter the zucchini, removed the seeds and then cut it into 1/4″ pieces. Same goes for the red pepper. I also cut the shredded carrots into smaller pieces.
  3. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until just fragrant. Transfer to your serving bowl and set aside.
  4. Make a basic vinaigrette from the shallots, mustard, vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Combine farro, veggies and herbs with the pine nuts. Toss to combine and then drizzle with the Vinaigrette. Toss some more until well combined. Enjoy.

Notes:
Both the farro and cauliflower can be prepared in advance, even the day before.

Baked “Spanish” Rice

The word Spanish is in quotes in the title because I suspect this dish bears little resemblance to the rice dishes served in Spain. We often serve this when we make some sort of American-Mexican food, such with enchiladas. It also goes well with grilled meat.

Baked “Spanish” Rice
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups white rice (long or medium grain)
  • 2 3/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Position your oven racks so that a covered dutch oven will fit. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Heat oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions & peppers along with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the rice to the pot and stir until coated in oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes until just starting to change from white to opaque.
  4. Add broth, tomatoes, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir and bring to a boil.
  5. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake until all of the broth has been absorbed, about 25 minutes.
  6. Uncover and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and enjoy.

Roasted Red Pepper Cheese Puffs

The name may sound fancy (c’mon, cheese puffs sounds highfalutin to me) however they are simple to make and can be created in many variations. I first had a similar creation, made with fake crab meat, 20 years ago.

One of the best parts is that you can make them well in advance and store them in the freezer for up to a month before using. Great when you there are unexpected guests or you are prepping for a big party.

Roasted Red Pepper Cheese Puffs
Servings: 12-18 (72 pieces total)
Prep time: 10 minutes plus 1 hour in the freezer
Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped roasted red peppers, skins and seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped black olives
  • 1 pickled jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced (optional)
  • 1/2 lb. grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 English muffins, split in half

Directions:

  1. Mix the first 6 ingredients in a bowl until fully combined.
  2. Place about 2 Tbsp. of mixture on each English muffin half. Spead into an even layer over the muffin.
  3. Cut each muffin into 6 wedges. Place wedges on a rimmed baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 1 hour.
  4. When ready to arrange the oven rack 4-5″ from the broiler. Preheat broiler (use 450°F if you need to enter a temp like I do) for 5 minutes. Transfer half the cheese puff wedges to a separate baking sheet. Bake for 4-5 minutes, rotating sheet once for even browning. Serve immediately.

Notes:
I used jarred roasted red peppers for this as I had them on hand. I removed 2 from the jar and placed them on paper towels to dry them a bit. You certainly can use home-prepared roasted red peppers if you have the time and inclination.

If you want to store these rather than bake them off right away then transfer the frozen wedges to a zip top bag after the hour freeze in step 3. They’ll keep for a month (or longer).

While these work test with an hour in the freezer you can bake them right after making. They’ll cook up in 1-2 minutes so keep an eye on them lest they burn.

Tortellini with Asparagus and Peas

I had fresh tortellini, asparagus and a desire to use both up in one dish. It was rainy out, my shoes were off and I really didn’t want to put them back on to go outside to pick any of the fresh herbs we have growing hither and yon. I wasn’t in the mood for tomatoes either. The following recipe is the result and I’m pretty darn happy with how it came out. Enjoy!

Tortellini with Asparagus and Peas
Servings: 4
Prep time: 15 minutes (plus however much longer it takes a pot of water to boil)
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, 1/8″ dice
  • 1 red pepper, julienne
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup veggie broth
  • 1 Tbsp. Penzey’s Mural of Flavor spice blend (or see note)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb. fresh tortellini
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Directions:

  1. Fill a pot with 6 quarts of cold water and set it over high heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt and bring to a boil.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. When shimmering add the onions and peppers. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat with oil and cook for 5 minutes. The veggies should be slightly softened.
  3. Add the garlic, stir to incorporate and cook until fragrant; 30 seconds to a minute should do it.
  4. Hopefully the pasta water is at a boil by now. If not turn off the heat under the skillet and wait until it is. When the pasta water is ready cook the tortellini per the instructions on the package. Mine took ~12 minutes, which was enough to finish the rest of the dish.
  5. Add the asparagus, peas and veggie broth. Stir and cook, uncovered, for around 5 minutes.
  6. Add the spice blend and heavy cream. Stir to incorporate. Cook for another 5 minutes or so until sauce has reduced. Check veggies for doneness. If you are happy with the texture then turn of the heat; if not then cook a little longer.
  7. Drain the tortellini, shake off excess water and return to the large pot. Add the sauce and veggies to the large pot along with the grated cheese. Stir until sauce has coated all the pasta and the cheese if well distributed.
  8. Enjoy with a bit of freshly ground black pepper (and more cheese, of course).

Notes:
If I didn’t have the Mural of Flavors spice blend I’d cry. Then I’d mix together 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander and the zest from a lemon or orange. Finally I’d make a trip to Penzey’s to get more of the spice blend; it is that good.

I used a ‘4 cheese tortellini’ in this dish. Anything you like will probably work fine. Well maybe not Gorgonzola and anchovies tortellini, that might be a bit strong.

Green Beans with Red Peppers and Walnut Oil

This quick side dish can be ready in 10 minutes once the beans are trimmed.

Green beans and red pepper

Green Beans with Red Peppers and Walnut Oil
Servings: 6
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 Tbsp. walnut oil
  • fine sea salt & cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Fill a sauce pan with about 1″ of water and set a steamer basket into the pan. Place the green beans and red pepper into the basket. Turn burner to high.
  2. When the water is boiling (and steam is thus produced) start a timer. Cook for 5-6 minutes. The beans should still have a slight crunch to it.
  3. Transfer green beans and red pepper to a bowl. Drizzle with walnut oil; sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper. Toss to coat. Serve.

Slow-Cooker Curried Chickpeas

One of the reasons I share the list of what we made for our Saturday night gatherings is so I have a way to recall what we made previously. This dish is based on a recipe I found a year ago which I made, liked and forgot about. I’ve tweaked it a bit to use the spices we had on hand and adjusted the ratios for the amount I was making for Saturday night dinner.

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