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
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
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
Rinse the chickpeas and black beans, add to a bowl with the cucumbers and red peppers.
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.
Serve with remaining dressing available for those who want it.
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.
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
Prep time: 20 minute
Total time: 25 minutes
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
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.
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.
Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until just fragrant. Transfer to your serving bowl and set aside.
Make a basic vinaigrette from the shallots, mustard, vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
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.
Both the farro and cauliflower can be prepared in advance, even the day before.
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.
Position your oven racks so that a covered dutch oven will fit. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
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.
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.
Add broth, tomatoes, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir and bring to a boil.
Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake until all of the broth has been absorbed, about 25 minutes.
Uncover and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and enjoy.
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
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
Mix the first 6 ingredients in a bowl until fully combined.
Place about 2 Tbsp. of mixture on each English muffin half. Spead into an even layer over the muffin.
Cut each muffin into 6 wedges. Place wedges on a rimmed baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 1 hour.
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.
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.
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
Prep time: 15 minutes (plus however much longer it takes a pot of water to boil)
Total time: 35 minutes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
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.
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.
Add the garlic, stir to incorporate and cook until fragrant; 30 seconds to a minute should do it.
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.
Add the asparagus, peas and veggie broth. Stir and cook, uncovered, for around 5 minutes.
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.
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.
Enjoy with a bit of freshly ground black pepper (and more cheese, of course).
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.
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.
The recipe is an exercise in repetition and restraint. After prepping everything you heat oil in the skillet, add some sauce and cook a component of the dish. Then you set that component aside and move on to the next one. At the end you add everything back and, presto, you have a complete dish.
Chicken and Veg Stir-Fry
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces (1/4-inch-wide) rice noodles
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
4 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon fish sauce
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
3 large eggs
1 onion, diced
8 oz.cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 red bell pepper, cored and julienned
Combine the baking soda with 4 tablespoons of water in a bowl. Set aside.
Clean excess fat from the chicken thighs. Cut into 1/4″ thick slices, cutting against the grain. Add to the bowl of soda and water. Toss to coat and let sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. Rinse chicken in cold water, drain well and set aside.
Bring 8 cups of water to boil. Place noodles in a large bowl and pour boiling water over the noodles. Stir well to separate the noodles. Let sit for 5 minutes. Stir again and let rest another 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Shake to remove excess moisture. Return to the bowl, add 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil and toss to coat.
Place the mushrooms in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 5 minutes on high. Drain the mushrooms of the accumulated liquid and set aside with the onions and pepper.
Combine the oyster sauce, soy sauce, 1 tablespoon vinegar, molasses and fish sauce in a bowl.
Crack eggs into a bowl and give them a good scramble.
Heat a large non-stick skillet over high heat. Add 2 teaspoons of oil and the garlic. Stir to coat and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the garlic is browned and aromatic.
Add the chicken and 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Toss chicken with sauce and spread chicken across the skillet in an even layer. Cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Using a spatula, flip the chicken and again, cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes.
Move the chicken to one side of the skillet. Add 2 teaspoons of oil and the eggs to the empty side of the skillet. Gently stir eggs until the are just cooked (they should be still wet). Stir the eggs into the chicken and cook until the eggs are fully cooked, maybe 30-45 seconds more. Transfer the chicken/egg mixture to a bowl.
Add 2 more teaspoons of oil to the empty skillet and heat until it starts to smoke. Add the onions, peppers, mushrooms and 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Toss to coat and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the vegetables to the bowl with the chicken/egg mixture.
Add the remaining oil to the empty skillet and heat until it starts to smoke. Add the noodles and remaining sauce to the pan; toss to coat. Cook until the noodles begin to brown, maybe 2 minutes. Add the chicken/egg and vegetables back to the skillet and toss to combine. Cook, without stirring, for 2-3 minutes until everything is warmed through. Sprinkle with remaining vinegar, toss to coat and serve.
Microwaving the mushrooms in advance releases some of their water and allows you to cook them much more quickly in the skillet.
There are probably as many versions of shepherd’s pie as their are colors in the rainbow. In fact you’ll find a variation I made back in 2010 here. As we try to eat a bit healthier I added a few more veggies, cut back on the fat (a bit) and switched to non-red meat. It was still tasty.
One of the challenges of this recipe is bringing the various components (veggies, meat and mashed potatoes) together at the same time. I’ve tried to show how I do that in the recipe below.
Shepherd’s Pie II
Prep time: 75 minutes
Total time: 2 hours
2 leeks, white & light green parts chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
1 Hungarian wax pepper, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 lbs. white or yukon gold potatoes, 1″ dice
1 stick unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 bag of Trader Joe’s Frozen Roasted Corn (or regular frozen corn if Trader Joe’s is unavailable)
1 1/3 lbs. ground turkey
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 lb. ground pork
1 Tbsp. Spanish paprika
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
kosher salt & cracked black pepper
About an hour before you want to start cooking pull the frozen corn from the freezer and leave it on the counter to thaw (or do it in the fridge overnight).
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grab a 13″x9″ glass baking dish and place it near the cooktop.
Prep the potatoes, peeling all of them, then rinsing them. Cut into 1″ dice and rinse again. Then fill the pot with water so there is about 1″ of water above the potatoes. Put the pot on the stove, add a big pinch of kosher salt and cover. Heat over high heat; once it starts boiling cook for 8-10 minutes. You want fork tender potatoes, not mush.
Prep the remaining veggies. You can combine the leeks and peppers in one bowl. The garlic should go in a small bowl by itself, you’ll use it with the pork.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the leeks and peppers. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Toss to coat with oil and cook for approx. 5 minutes until tender.
Add the thawed roasted corn to the skillet and mix with the leeks and peppers. Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into pieces, to the skillet and toss until melted. Once the corn is heated through taste for flavor, add salt & pepper if necessary and spread the contents of the skillet evenly in the bottom of the 13″x9″ baking dish.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering. Add the ground turkey, breaking up into 1-2″ cubes. Cook for 5-10 minutes, breaking up into smaller pieces, until the turkey is cooked through. Drain any liquid that accumulates. Add the Worcestershire sauce and toss with the turkey to evenly coat. Add to the 13″x9″ baking dish and spread on top of the veggies.
Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet and heat. Add the ground pork and use the same steps used with the turkey (break it up, cook, make smaller pieces). When cooked through add the garlic and paprika. Stir to incorporate and cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add to the 13″x9″ baking dish and spread evenly.
If you timed things properly the potatoes should be fork tender right about now. Drain thoroughly and return to the hot pan. Toss a couple of times to help dry off the potatoes and then mash them to a rough consistency.
Heat the milk in the microwave for 1 minute on high and then add it to the potatoes. Add 4 tablespoons of butter and the sour cream as well. Stir the potatoes until they become fairly smooth. Taste for salt and adjust seasoning as needed. I usually add black pepper at this point as well.
Spread the mashed potatoes over the veggies and meat in the 13″x9″ baking dish. Avoid the temptation to make the top smooth, you want some swirls and crags. Dot the top of the potatoes with pieces of the remaining butter.
Bake for 40 minutes at 350°F. Raise the oven temp to 425°F and cook an additional 5 minutes to help brown the top.
In general you’ll enjoy this better if you let it sit for 10-15 minutes before serving. Have a glass of wine, talk with your friends or family, wash a few dishes if you must.
As I said above timing the cooking so the potatoes are ready for mashing when you’ve finished the cooking of veggies and meat isn’t easy. If the potatoes are ready early then pause in the veggie, turkey and pork cooking to mash the potatoes. They can sit in the pot with the lid on for 15-20 minutes if needed.
Hot nights call for minimal time in the kitchen and one of the fastest meals I know how to make is a frittata. Think of it as a large omelet without the folding. While we did heat the oven up to finish it off we spent maybe 30 minutes in the kitchen tops before we retreated to the relative coolness of the basement.
You’ll want a non-stick pan that is oven safe to at least 350°F. It is possible to convince a frittata to come out of a regular skillet however it requires the use of more oil and a lot of patient spatula work. We recently bought a T-fal non-stick skillet from their Professional line and have been very happy with it. It was “highly recommended” by the folks at Cook’s Illustrated and fairly inexpensive for a piece of cookware.
Roasted red pepper, potato and chicken frittata
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
2 red peppers
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, rough chopped (about 1 cup total)
1 lb. red potatoes
1 cooked chicken breast, rough diced
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. chopped mixed fresh herbs (we used a mix of thyme, parsley, lavender and tarragon from the garden)
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
kosher salt and cracked black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F. The rack should be in the middle of the oven.
Roast the red peppers. We do this using the burners of our gas cook top. Place the pepper astride the burner, light it and cook each side until it is blackened. When all sides are charred place the peppers in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10-15 minutes. This will give the peppers time to soften from the steam released by the peppers. When peppers are cool to the touch rinse under running water to remove the charred skin. Remove the top (it should pull off easily) and rinse out the seeds. I finished the prep by slicing these into 1/4″ strips.
While the peppers cool you can prep the potatoes. Give them a scrub and then slice them fairly thin. I think we used a 3/8″ slice on a mandolin. Place them in a microwave safe bowl with 1 Tbsp. water and cook on high for 5 minutes. This will help speed the cooking process in the skillet.
In a bowl combine the eggs, remaining water, the chopped herbs, a large pinch of salt and black pepper. Mix with a fork or whisk to incorporate some air into the mixture.
When all the prep work is complete add the oil to the skillet and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3-5 minutes to begin softening them.
Add the potatoes and spread over the surface of the skillet. Cook for a couple of minutes then stir. Repeat the process until the potatoes begin to soften as well. They should get a bit of color during the process.
Add the roasted red pepper strips and diced chicken. Toss to combine and heat for about 1 minute.
Give the eggs a quick stir and add them to the skillet. Give the skillet a quick shake to evenly distribute the contents. Reduce the heat to medium low and let it sit for 5 minutes. When the edges start to appear a bit dry you are ready to move to the oven.
Sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the top of the frittata and transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on skillet. You want the eggs to have a bit of wobble left when you remove it from the oven.
Remove the skillet from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. If you have lived a good and true life the frittata will slide right out of the skillet onto a large plate or cutting board.
We ate the frittata as is this go around. In the past we’ve had it with a side salad, served it with a bit of salsa and even wrapped it in a piece of flat bread as a sandwich. I prefer mine hot or room temperature however it is also tasty as leftovers. Frittata “croutons” make an interesting addition to a salad.
In the past I have cooked this outside using the gas grill, closing the grill at the end to mimic the oven. It works rather well though you have to be mindful of the temp the grill gets to.