On our regular Friday night date, we went to California Pizza Kitchen to share a salad and a mushroom pizza, our usual. But CPK had a new salad on the menu, and I came right home and tried to duplicate it, with a couple of twists. Since I didn’t measure too many of the ingredients, a lot of this is sort of “throw a little of this in, then throw a little of that.” If you want the original, head to CPK, but this is a good approximation.
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
Cook the quinoa in the water, according to package directions. Rinse under cool water, then drain. Alternatively, you could cook the quinoa ahead of time, then chill it before use. It also freezes very well. [Check other salads on this site for more detailed directions on how to cook quinoa.]
Place the quinoa in the bottom of a large sloping bowl, suitable for tossing a salad. Douse the quinoa with some dressing: you can use any vinaigrette from this site, or any purchased light vinaigrette would do. For this salad I used Brianna’s Real French Vinaigrette and added a splash or two of red wine vinegar, as I think the ratio of vinegar to oil is a bit too low in many commercial dressings. I buy both of those things at Ralph’s.
To the bowl, add the following:
About 2-3 cups baby greens, loosely chopped
1 large tomato or three medium on-the-vine tomatoes (from Costco), chopped
1/2 small jar of sun-dried tomatoes (about 2 ounces, from Trader Joe’s. The variety I chose were already cut into strips so I just threw them in.)
1-2 ounces (about a handful) of toasted pine nuts (also from Trader Joe’s. You can buy regular pine nuts, then toast them slightly either under the broiler and a watchful eye, or tossing them lightly in a non-stick skillet)
2 ounces feta cheese–I buy mine in a brick (keeps fresh longer) lop off about an inch worth and crumble it by hand
Chopped red onion. I cut off 2 slices for a large salad, each slice about 1/4″ thick. Then I chop those slices into a medium dice, of about 1/4″
Then I tossed everything lightly. Check for the salt/pepper balance. I found it needed quite a bit more salt than pepper. Since I always like to heighten the flavors a bit on grain salads, I used a light shake of cayenne powder, then tossed really well. My cayenne is on the old side, so I use two light shakes. To make sure I know how much is going in, I “shake” it into the lid, check (that I haven’t dumped half the bottle in), then sprinkle it over the salad. Serve with a La Brea baguette, or some other fine piece of bread.
I think you could add some deboned rotisserie chicken to this, if you want to move it beyond vegetarian. I always have some chicken in the freezer, ready to go, but it’s really a fine salad by itself.
After doing lesson prep for my classes for so long that my eyes hurt, I wandered downstairs to figure out dinner. It was a colder day, the first not-hot day we’ve had this fall and some rain was falling here and there all afternoon. I wanted something warm for dinner, but not heavy. Something traditional but with a bit of kick. The soup cookbook fell out and after looking through it I chose a recipe to start in on. But I took a huge turn off their recipe highway onto something wholly my own. We enjoyed it and I hope you will too. Oh, that red pepper? It’s for looks. You leave it in, but to add some heat, use Sriracha sauce at the table.
Although this looks complicated, get everything ready at the beginning as it goes together quickly.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1 1/2 sweet bell peppers (I used 1 red and 1/2 yellow), chopped
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (or put through a garlic press)
2 stalks lemon grass
2 dried red pepper pods (more if you want more heat)
2 knuckle-sized chunks of fresh ginger
about 2 cups white frozen corn (can add more at the end if you like your soup with more “stuff”)
1 lb. uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, rinsed and drained
2 cans chicken broth (14 oz each)
1 can coconut milk (about 14 oz.)
1 Tablespoon sugar
juice of 1 lime (about 2 Tablespoons)
pinch or two of red pepper flakes
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Melt butter and oil together in heavy soup-sized pan, saute peppers, shallot and garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add chicken stock, broken-in-half lemon grass stalks, dried red peppers and the pieces of ginger. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
Add in the shrimp and corn. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Fish out lemon grass and ginger. Add sugar, lime juice, pinch of red pepper flakes, and cilantro.
Add coconut milk. Adjust seasonings (add more salt?) and serve with Sriracha (Rooster) sauce at the table.
Note: I keep lemon grass stalks in my freezer. I simply smacked them over the edge of the counter to break them in half, then threw them in. Ditto the ginger (for keeping it in the freezer), but tonight I set it on a cutting board, and lopped off one of its chunks to throw in.
A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I pulled a recipe for shortbread cookies out of a newspaper. It was just another one of those recipe blurbs in a Food Section in a small newspaper (I think it was in upstate New York where I ripped this out). For a while, I lost the recipe and tried to duplicate its perfect proportions and always failed. Happily, I found it again. While I see lots of shortbread cookies out there, many of them are rolled cookies, which forces you to handle the dough in extra steps. I think the secret to the tenderness of these cookies is the lack of dough-handling: mix, dump, press, bake.
I also liked the recipe because it was always fabulous (providing you use REAL butter), I could made it in one pan, and it made a lot of cookies. When the children didn’t have any cookies for their lunches, I could have enough for the week in under an hour. And when I take them to church and serve them to the ladies, they LOVE them. So do I.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Cream 1 pound butter (4 sticks) with 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Stir, or sift together, 4 cups flour and 2 teaspoons salt (can use 2 1/2 if your butter is unsalted). Blend into butter mixture with a light touch. Don’t overmix–you want it barely stirred in.
Press dough into a rimmed cookies sheet, moistening your fingers with cold water if you find it too sticky. Bake for 30 minutes, or until edges are just browning (don’t overbake) and immediately after pulling from oven, shake a hearty amount of granulated sugar over the entire surface.
Cut into “fingers,” 1″ by 3″. Of course, you can also make them square-shaped, which is what I did. For a pretty cookie, before baking use a cookie press to stamp a design over the top in a grid.
It had been a long, hot day and I didn’t feel like throwing a meal on the table. I had earlier found this recipe in my new favorite publication: Sunset’s Fast and Fresh (go and get it) and knew I had the basic ingredients. I only had to find corn. Corn? No problem, right? It’s summer–corn is cheap, right? Wrong. I must have hit the week that all the corn was shipped to China, or that the first harvest was finished and the second hadn’t begun. I gave my money to the lady at the register, thinking it was the most expensive ears of corn I’d ever purchased. Note to self: make this dish when corn is on sale.
At any rate, make a note to yourself: make this dish anytime. They suggest serving it with couscous, pasta or rice, but somehow I had boiled New England supper on my mind, with the combo of the seafood, vegetables and corn. We served ours with boiled white rose potatoes. I placed those in our individual bowls, cut them up, then over that spooned the vegetable mixture, and then the scallops. It was delicious, easy and refreshing.
3 ears corn (about 2 1/2 lb. total), husked, silks removed
1 1/4 pounds sea scallops
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 red bell peppers rinsed, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (I used three: one yellow, one orange and one red)
1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Holding each ear of corn upright in a deep bowl, cut kernels from cobs. Rinse scallops and pat dry; sprinkle lightly all over with salt and pepper.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in each of two 10- to 12-inch nonstick frying pans over high heat. Add corn, bell peppers, garlic, and cumin to one pan; add scallops to the other. Cook, stirring both pans often, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes, and scallops are browned on the outside and barely opaque in the center (cut to test), about 5 minutes.
3. Just before serving, stir basil into the vegetable mixture and cilantro into the scallops. Add salt and pepper to taste to both. Mound vegetables in a wide, shallow bowl; top with scallops (and any pan juices).
This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen (link to the right), but my sister Christine says she’s made it, so I know it’s been around a while. Basically you puree some peas, add the rest of the pesto ingredients and toss cooked linguine with this and some of the pasta water, and you have a quick and delicious summer meal. I mean it was so delicious I’ve had it every day this week and I’m still not tired of it. It’s creamy without being high-fat-high-calorie. I used the frozen peas, but did buy a fresh bag so we didn’t have to use that bag that’s been kicking around the back of the freezer all winter. We served it with fresh tomato bruschetta on crostini--a perfect meal.
1 1/2 cups (from approximately 1 1/2 pounds peas in pods) fresh pea or a 10-ounce package frozen peas (I didn’t defrost mine–just dumped them into the boiling water.)
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted and cooled
1/2 cup (1 1/8 ounces) finely grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon table salt, plus more for pasta water
1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound dried linguine
Garnish (optional): thinly slivered basil leaves
Prepare an ice bath, a large bowl filled with ice water. Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook for 2 minutes (this leaves them with a bit of structure). Drain peas then add them to the ice bath (if using) and drain again. If you haven’t used an ice bath, let your peas cool to lukewarm before making the pesto.
Set aside 1/2 cup of your cooked peas. Whirl the remaining cup of peas in the work bowl of a food processor with garlic, pine nuts, 1/3 cup parmesan and salt until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil.
Cook your linguine until al dente. Reserve about two cups pasta cooking water, as the pea pesto will be surprisingly thick, then drain linguine and return it to pot. Over moderate heat, toss pasta with pesto, reserved peas and as much reserved pasta water as needed to smooth and distribute pesto; let cook for one minute so that the pesto adheres. Adjust salt to taste, add freshly ground black pepper if desired. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh herbs, if using, and remaining parmesan.
I had these scones on the morning of the Royal Wedding–very fitting. My friend Judy had combed the internet for a treat for us to eat while we watched the Royal Wedding off of her TiVo, and combined two recipes to create this yummy treat. She served it with fruit with a yogurt/honey topping and some orange juice. These scones are a little sweeter, said her husband, than anything they’d serve in Britain, and I agree. The texture is more biscuit-like, but I think they are delicious and was happy to have such a treat while we critiqued the hats and swooned over the festivities.
Royal Wedding White Chocolate Scones
1 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp. orange zest
1 stick butter, chilled and cubed (1/4 lb.)
2/3 cup white chocolate chips, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup orange juice
1. Preheat oven to 400º F. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and zest. Using a pastry blender, cut it the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips. Gradually mix in the orange juice, one or two tablespoons at a time, to form the dough.
3. Turn out the dough on a floured surface. If necessary, knead briefly to form a compact ball. Pat into a 9-inch circle that is about ½ inch thick. Use a 2 ½-inch biscut cutter to cut out 12 scones, reforming leftover dough as needed. Transfer scones to cookie sheet.
4. Bake in oven about 12 minutes.
It was at the end of a long three weeks of baking, prepping, shopping, comparing prices and shopping again for a women’s conference luncheon (for 300!), when we had the occasion to have over some family who had come into town unexpectedly. What to serve? While elaborate dishes can be fun to make if you are in the right mood, I was not in the right mood for such a recipe. So my husband and I opened up our brains and creativity to pull together what we call Pasta Jumble. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it contains just about whatever you have in your refrigerator. But it all starts with a box of small, shaped pasta. My favorite is campanelle–a trumpet-shaped pasta with a fluted edge, but do try and keep in your pantry interesting shaped pastas. They go on sale quite often.
This may vary depending on what vegetables and other items you have in your fridge; I’ll list what has gone into the above dish. This serves 6-8, amply.
1 lb. box shaped pasta (this is “campanelle”)
1 bell pepper, red or yellow
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 white or yellow onion
8 oz. frozen white corn
about 10 Spanish olives (pimimiento-stuffed green olives), sliced (We usually use 1/3 small can of chopped black olives, but had run out. So we substituted.)
1/4 pound good-quality bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4″ strips
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped into small pieces (about 1/2″ dice)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, cut into smaller pieces (about 1/4″ dice, approximately)
2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken (we buy it at Costco, take it off the bone and pack it into freezer bags for a quick meal–one chicken yields about 4 bags)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper
red wine vinegar
Boil pasta until nearly tender (al dente), drain well, then place into large mixing bowl. While pasta cooks, fry bacon until cooked, but not dark or too crisp; drain on paper towels. And while that cooks, melt butter and olive oil together and add onion and bell pepper; cook until tender, about 5-8 minutes.
Add corn, olives, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, black beans, cooked bacon, sauteed vegetables, fresh tomatoes to the pasta, and toss lightly to mix.
A proper vinaigrette could be made here, but instead I’ll include the cheater method: glob some olive oil over the mixture (about 1/4 cup), two to three shakes of vinegar (roughly 2 Tablespoons), a squirt of mustard, salt and pepper, and stir. Add cayenne to taste (we’re wimpy–about 1/4 teaspoon for this amount). Add more salt and pepper if needed.
This year for Christmas we gave all our children panini grills. Why? Because we like ours so much. It wasn’t expensive–in the $35 range–and it seems to work fine.
But before we had one, I used two pans and big can of food. Improvise!
Basics are: buy good bread, creamy-melty cheese (buffalo mozzarella or baby swiss). Brush one side with real olive oil, load it up, place another oiled piece of bread on top (oil sides out to the grill), then grill, pressing down with the handle to compress the sandwich. We keep a spatula nearby to make sure the oiled bread doesn’t come shooting out the front of the hot grill.
First Favorite Combination: Cheese, Fresh Basil Leaves, Roma Tomato. This tastes just like summer. Really.
Before Grilling–all lined up
Next Favorite Combination: Cheese, Sauteed Apples, Cranberries, Prosciutto and Sugared Walnuts. I subscribe to a menu from Olive & Gourmando, an eatery in Montreal, Canada which serves lots of panini. This was one of their combinations.
If you are lucky enough to know someone with an apple tree in their yard, beg for some of their late-harvest Granny Smith apples. Cut them up into thin slices, saute lightly in about 1 Tablespoon of real butter and some sliced cranberries. Add a dash of cinnamon.
Bread loaded with apples, prosciutto, walnuts and cheese.
Don’t you love how the apples are pinky on the edges from the cranberries?
Recently my sister came to visit and while I was more than happy to go out for dinner every night (my husband was gone and I like doing that), there came a time when we were both ready to stay in. What to cook? I’d just been reading Dorie Greenspan’s blog, where she gave the recipe for her Beggar’s Linguini, from her new book Around My French Table.
This sounded great to both of us, and I already had most of the ingredients. Basically it’s a sauce made from browned butter, golden raisins, pistachios and chopped almonds, tossed with some Parmesan and some grated orange rind. It has a rich, yet not overly heavy, taste. I made it again the next week for Dave and we were both angling to have the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Cynthia and I served it with fresh broccoli, lightly marinated salmon, grilled on the barbeque. One last note: even though she says it doesn’t reheat well–I liked it fine the next day for lunch.
1 box (1 lb.) linguine
1 1/2 stick butter (salted or unsalted)
1/3 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
8 plump dried Mission figs (or 3 dried Kadota figs), finely chopped (confession: I didn’t have any, so I used dried apricots–about 1/3 cup, chopped)
1/4 cup moist golden raisins
salt and pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
grated zest of 1/2 orange (or more to taste)
Minced fresh chives and/or parsley, for serving (opt.)
Cook the linguine according to the package directions; drain well.
Meanwhile, about 5 minutes before the pasta is ready, melt the butter in a large high-sided skillet or casserole over medium heat, as you’ll be adding the pasta to this (so make sure it is large enough). Whe the butter is melted and golden, stir in the nuts, figs (or dried apricots) and raisins. Allow the butter to bubble and boil, as you want it to cook to a lovely light brown, or to turn into a beurre noisette, butter with the color and fragrance of hazelnuts.
When the butter has reached just the color you want, add the pasta and stir it around in the butter to coat it evenly and make sure the fruits and nuts are well incorporated, then season with salt and a generous amount of ground pepper.
Place in serving bowl, and add the grated cheese, tossing to blend, then dust with the orange zest, chives and/or parsley. Taste, and add more zest/cheese if you like. Serve immediately, but give it one more toss to blend in the zest and herbs.
This is no rocket science.
Buy chocolate blobs at Michaels (I think they have three different flavors), or melting chocolate bricks (Stater’s Brothers), or melting chocolate cups (grocery store).
Buy pretzel rods (I found Snyders at Walmart and at Stater’s). Look at bags and buy the bag with the least broken sticks–but after being dipped, they’re good too. Notice the mess–you can always clean up later.
Buy sprinkley things. Buy skinny bags for pretzels (Michaels). Follow the pictures below.
My daughter likes to use a tall cup. Before laying them down, take a spoon and stroke the chocolate off one side, then lay the pretzel down on that side. If you don’t stroke some off–it makes a gigantic puddle. Sometimes I throw the cake sprinkles on right now.
Take a fork, dip it into the contrasting chocolate and wiggle it over the pretzel rods. A thinner (warmer) chocolate consistency is better. My mother just ate her last two from Christmas, so obviously they keep a long time.
The ONLY tricky thing here is not over-microwaving the chocolate. Then you have sludge. If this happens, stir in a spoonful of plain shortening into the chocolate, stirring well. You may have to add a couple of spoonfuls if you’ve really nuked the chocolate too long. But that should fix it.
Then after they’re set (doesn’t take too long), load them up into their little bags and tie the top with a ribbon.