Friday, July 22, 2016

Thursday's Dinner: Warm Peach and Prosciutto Salad and Cauliflower Soup with Maple Sausage Bread Crumbs

    Last night, I was stuck in traffic and arrived back home even later than I had anticipated.  This was on top of a dentist visit, where the new crown didn't quite sit right so a new impression had to be made and I have to go back again in two weeks...novocaine for nothing.  I was very happy that dinner was practically made.

     Realizing that I had some fresh local peaches and blueberries on the counter and arugula growing in a container on the deck, I remembered a peach salad that I had made years ago.  I tweaked the recipe a bit and it turned out to be a great first course.

     The cauliflower soup was made on Sunday.  As it warmed in a pot on the stove, I quickly cooked up small pieces of maple sausage.  When the sausage was cooked through, I added a bit of butter to the pan along with 3/4 cup of panko.  Once this was crispy, I transferred the mixture to a bowl.  At the table, we added the garnish and it added sweetness and texture to the soup.

     The soup is super easy to make and this recipe can serve as a base for many cream based vegetable soups.  In a large pot, melt 4T butter and then added one medium diced onions, three crushed garlic cloves, three thyme sprigs and one bay leaf.  Cook over medium heat until the onions are softened.  Add cauliflower florets, six cups of good quality chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes. 

    Transfer the soup to a blender in batches and puree the soup until smooth.  I strained the soup through a fine sieve into a soup pot.  Then I added a half cup of heavy cream and seasoned with salt and pepper.

   Back to the peach salad...

Warm Peach, Blueberry and Serrano Ham Salad
Inspired by Michael Chiarello

Ingredients for three people

2 peaches, cored and sliced into thick wedges
1/4 cup blueberries
3/4 cup baby arugula
Parmesan crisps (you can either make them or buy them)
6 slices thinly sliced Serrano ham or Prosciutto
2T butter
2t finely chopped fresh thyme
2T balsamic vinegar.

Place two slices of Serrano or Prosciutto on each plate.  Place the peaches in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Heat butter over medium heat.  Add thyme, peaches, and vinegar.  Toss for one minute.  Add the arugula and toss.  Divide mixture evenly among the three plates.  Scatter fresh blueberries and crushed Parmesan crisps and serve immediately.

    Next week is looking to be as busy as this one...I am thinking that I will be cooking again for the week on Sunday.  Stay tuned.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Recipe: Nicoise Salad

     Years ago, there was this kitchen store in New York City called Fishes Eddy.  It basically sold dishes from restaurants that had gone out of business.  Dear Husband and I loved this store but it was hard to buy anything because I would have to lug it home on the plane.  Finally, on one visit I could not resist these large salad plates from a restaurant called the Hollywood Grill and Bar.  While the name of the restaurant doesn't really go with last night's French salad, it did help make a really pretty presentation.

Salade Nicoise

Ingredients for 2 servings

Several cups of salad greens.  I used a lovely lettuce from our CSA, arugula and several torn leaves of basil
1 hardboiled egg, quartered
5 to 10 green beans per person, blanched
4 small red skinned potatoes, cooked
2 small tuna filets
Mustard vinaigrette

From the picture you can tell that I also added edible flowers and cherry tomatoes but omitted the olives - not on the typical Nicoise but, it's my salad.  So, in the end, add whatever you like.

As I previously mentioned, the green beans, eggs, and potatoes can all be made in advanced and stored in Ziploc bags.  I even made the vinaigrette in advance and just gave it a shake or two before I dressed the salad.

I like to dress the green separately and then pile everything else on the plate.  For the tuna, season on both sides.  Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add the tuna steaks.  Cook for just 30 seconds a side.  Remove from the skillet and slice.  Add to the salad.

A nice Rose wine from Provence and perhaps a good baguette and you may feel like you are in France for just a few moments!

Slight change in plans tonight.  Dear Daughter is off to a dinner party - so instead of making dinner tonight...Dear Husband and I are having Pizza!  Date night?  Not sure...but it will be a treat!  Will be back on track later this week.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Recipe: Squash Blossom Quesadilla with Sautéed Spinach

     Monday evening's meal was a hit and it took all of ten minutes to put together.  I gathered squash blossoms from the garden and made a simple, yet tasty quesadilla.  Remember to take only the "male" blossoms.  You can chop up the flowers or do as I did, leave them whole.  They are quite delicate so gather them in the morning when they are open so you can gently clean them.  If you look closely at the picture, you can just see one of the blossoms poking through the cheese.  Squash blossoms have a very delicate zucchini flavor and it pairs well with the spice of the jack cheese.

Squash Blossom Quesadilla

Ingredients (for three servings)

6 corn tortillas
1 cup pepper jack cheese, grated
12 squash blossoms
2 scallions, green part sliced
2T cilantro, minced
sour cream and salsa on the side
Wrap tortillas in a paper towel and lightly heat in the microwave until softened.  Heat just a bit of oil in a nonstick pan.  To assemble the quesadilla, place two squash blossoms on one side of the tortilla, letting the blossom stick out a bit over the edge.  Cover with cheese, cilantro and scallions.  Fold in half and cook until the cheese is melted, turning several times, as needed.  Serve with sour cream and salsa.

Sautéed Spinach


8 oz spinach
2 cloves garlic minced
1T olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes

Heat the oil in a skillet until shimmering.  Saute the garlic lightly for one to two minutes; you do not want it to brown.  Add the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds.   Toss in the spinach and cook until just wilted.  Serve.

Tuesday's dinner:  One of my favorite summer salads:  Nicoise


Monday, July 18, 2016

Sunday afternoon...A Week's Worth of Meals

     This was my stovetop yesterday afternoon.  While the summer months are supposed to be less hectic than the school year, it seems that our July is jammed pack with activities.  Looking ahead at the week, I realized that if we had any hope of having nutritious dinners, I was going to have to put some time into cooking on Sunday morning.  Within two hours, I had menus planned and delicious morsels cooling in plastic containers.  

     At first, it seems daunting to attempt cooking several meals at once.  However, it is actually pretty easy and takes just a bit of organization.  First and foremost, get an inventory of your refrigerator and freezer.  Second, actually write down what will be for dinner each night.  I have a board that I keep in our kitchen where I list each night's dinner.  

     This week's CSA shipment included the following:  spaghetti squash, cauliflower, cucumber, a white onion, carrots, potatoes, basil, lettuce and green beans.  My container garden is finally yielding zucchini and tomatoes and the milkman had delivered whole milk and heavy cream.  I also remembered that I had plenty of squash blossoms in my garden and my second planting of arugula was ready.  My plan began to formulate.

     Here is what we will be eating this week.  If all goes according to plan, I will share a photo and the recipe each day.  

Monday:  Squash blossom quesadillas with sauteed spinach.  These are absolutely delicious and very easy to put together.  Nothing needs to be done in advance except to harvest the squash blossoms in the morning.

Tuesday:  Nicoise Salad.  I love this salad as it is light but still hearty - if that makes sense.  I have tuna steaks in the freezer which I will defrost in the morning.  They only have to be seared briefly on each side.  I blanched the green beans and put them in a ziploc bag.  They went into the refrigerator along with cooked small red potatoes and hardboiled farm eggs.  All that I will have to do is assemble the salad over some fresh lettuce greens and add a garlicky vinaigrette.

Wednesday:  Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce.  I cooked the squash for about an hour and once cooled, I scraped the insides into a plastic container.  I used hamburger meat and a bit of pork sausage in the meat sauce and simmered it for several hours.  Chopped onion, zucchini and carrots added nutritional value.

Thursday:  Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Sausage Crumbles with a simple green salad.  I realize that it is summer and soup is not a very popular option, but I am not a big cauliflower eater. So if I am going to eat cauliflower...then I am having it in a luscious cream soup.

Friday:  Marinated Chicken Cutlets and Caprese Salad with  Basil Pesto.  Hey, it is Friday - let's keep things simple.  I took thin chicken cutlets and put them in a Ziploc bag along with half a bottle of Italian salad dressing.  They went into the freezer and I will take them out on Friday morning.  The pesto took about five minutes to make and I put it in a jar with a bit of olive oil to cover so that the air would not make the pesto turn brown.

There you have it - two hours and makings of four dinners.  Once school starts, I know that I will be doing more of this...making large batches of soups, stews, meatballs, etc and freezing them for even less hectic dinners.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Recipe: Red Cabbage and Green Onion Slaw

     Ok, I will admit that this picture was not taken at my house.  It was taken in Seoul during our first of four Korean BBQ meals.  Given that we were only in Korea for ten days, I guess this was our favorite, go-to meal.  The basic premise is simple.  In the center of the table is a grill and as soon as you order, hot coals are placed on the grill along with a cooking grate.  In some restaurants such as the one in this picture, an exhaust is pulled close to the cooking meat to keep the smoke at bay.  Around the tiny table are various bowls of sauces, different types of kimchi, salad and lettuce leaves.  The youngest person at the table is responsible for cooking the meat.  Once it is ready, you take a piece of meat from the grill, place it on a lettuce leaf, sprinkle with a bit of sauce, roll up and eat it in one bite.  It is delicious!

     It is a very communal meal, which I think is one of the reasons that we like it so much, apart from the incredible flavors.  There is no right or wrong in how you compose it.  Frankly, it is just a lot of fun.

     I was at the grocery store earlier this week and I saw "Flanken" style ribs in the meat section.  Next to the meat, someone had placed jars of Korean BBQ Bulgogi Marinade.  I immediately began planning how to recreate Korean BBQ at home.  I would not  normally buy a premade marinade but since I had not made this type of marinade before, I figured I would give it a try.  Flanken style beef ribs are a popular cut for Asian BBQ.  The ribs are thinly cut across the bones so each slice contains a few pieces of the bone.  I marinated the ribs overnight in the marinade and then grilled them outside for just a few minutes.  We wrapped them in lettuce leaves as we had done in Korea and it was a wonderful trip back.

     I wanted some simple side dishes to accompany the beef.  My container garden is beginning to yield lots of zucchini so I made a simple Korean style pancake.  In last week's CSA shipment, we received a large head of red cabbage.  A few minutes on the Internet and a few more minutes chopping and we had a simple Red Cabbage and Green Onion Slaw.

     There were no leftovers so I think dinner was a hit. It was a lot of fun and we lingered at the table longer than most nights.  That's another great benefit of this meal.

Red Cabbage and Green Onion Slaw
adapted from