Fennel and Leeks

Fennel and Leeks

Friday, July 29, 2011

Week Thirty Recap

This week provided an interesting practice in resourcefulness. Not only did the three recipes I prepared for the blog use existing ingredients from my cupboards and/or freezer, so did every other meal and snack I prepared throughout the week. Even with this constraint, we ate some really good food which motivates me to continue thinking about using existing resources when possible. All in all, the recipes were successful but I am looking forward to getting back to more complex recipes next week. Recap follows:

Organic (No-Cook) Blackberry Freezer Jam
Lynne Vea, Chef at PCC Natural Markets via "Gardening with Ciscoe"

Fingerling Potatoes with Red Onion and Sage
"Clean Start" by Terry Walters
Page 74

Cherry Chocolate Cookies

Cherry Chocolate Cookies

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

We are chocolate chip cookie monsters around here so it is quite a leap for me to choose a chocolate chip cookie recipe that incorporates dried cherries. Let's just say that our mantra for chocolate chip cookies is the more chocolate, the better; bells and whistles are not needed. The only additional ingredient I sometimes add is a good nut like walnuts or pecans.

Keeping with the theme of the week (using ingredients I already have at home), I searched the cupboard for semi-sweet chocolate and BINGO, I found a bar! The recipe calls for chocolate chips but this was nothing a chocolate bar and hammer couldn't handle. I happened to have a bag of dried tart cherries in the cupboard that we received as a gift so I decided to suck it up and give dried cherries a chance. As a side note, we are cherry fans at our house. We buy locally grown Rainier Cherries by the pounds so we are not strangers to this fruit in its purest form. See cookie recipe below:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup dried cherries
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Beat in egg, milk and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop by tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto greased baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Am I a chocolate cherry cookie convert? Nope. This recipe is simple to prepare and it actually turned out some pretty good cookies but I am definitely not converted. I maintain that chocolate chip cookies don't need anything other than good dough, lots of chocolate and the occasional nut. I shared a plate with our neighbors and they were quite pleased, as was Brad, but I don't think I will make the recipe again. If I am going to indulge in cookies that include a whole stick of butter, I want them to be the best chocolaty cookies ever. I don't know if I prefer to have the world or really good chocolate chip cookies on a platter. :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fingerling Potatoes with Red Onion and Sage

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

You know the food we keep in our freezers and cupboards that never seems to get used? Well, at the beginning of the week, I decided that I was going to grocery shop as little as possible in order to utilize food that we already have at home. It seems silly to have excessive food stored when so many people are in need. My plan was to go to the West Seattle Farmer's Market on Sunday and then to only buy necessities such as milk, throughout the week. I must tell you that this has been a great practice in resourcefulness.

For example, I forgot how much I love sun tea. I have made two pitchers this week and it has been a refreshing and inexpensive means to consuming my much needed caffeine. Example two: we received a beautiful piece of Coho Salmon, a jar of home canned salmon and two jars of home canned albacore tuna from our friend, Max Flockerzie about six months ago. I hadn't used any of these items in six months but I prepared all of them this week. I have never prepared tuna fish sandwiches with canned albacore in a jar and I cannot believe how good it is! I have been missing out for sure. To make a short story long, it is good to use what we already have instead of constantly running to the grocery store to buy more. I am going to be much more mindful of this moving forward.

Now, to the task at hand. My brother, Nick, has been visiting Seattle since Sunday night so I am finally getting around to preparing my second recipe of the week today, which is Wednesday. I thought I was going to be motivated to make a special dinner while he was in town but we ended up having friends over for pizza one night and going out for dinner at Alki Beach the second tonight. Although this recipe for Fingerling Potatoes with Red Onion and Sage is not fancy, it was delicious and fun to prepare. I used all organic ingredients from Metropolitan Market and the sage was picked fresh from my herb garden. The recipe is as follows:

2 pounds fingerling potatoes (in cold-weather months, substitute baby red Bliss potatoes)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small red onion, chopped
1 bunch fresh sage (about 1/4 cup minced)
coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash potatoes and place in casserole dish. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and roast for 35 minutes or until soft (time will depend on size of potatoes). In medium skillet over medium heat, saute garlic and onion in remaining tablespoon olive oil until soft (about 3 minutes). Add sage and saute 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat and set aside.

When soft, remove potatoes from oven and toss with onion-herb mixture. Season to taste with salt and serve. Serves 6.

The main course was the piece of salmon from Max that I marinated in fish sauce, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil and miso paste. I also sauteed zucchini, carrots, yellow squash and garlic scapes that I purchased at the Farmer's Market. Finally, I had three organic beets that I roasted and seasoned with kosher salt, fig balsamic and olive oil. Kind of a hodgepodge meal but it hit the spot and everyone walked away from the table fully satisfied.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Organic Blackberry (No-Cook) Freezer Jam

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

I felt like I was cheating a tiny bit when I decided to make Blackberry Organic No-Cook Freezer Jam using the same method I used to make strawberry jam a few weeks ago. Once I was involved in the process however, I was reminded that there is enough work involved to absolutely have it count as a unique recipe. I also quickly learned that using blackberries instead of strawberries makes the process a bit different. As a reminder, the initial process is below or you can review the original recipe for my strawberry jam. I will then comment on the differences between making strawberry jam and blackberry jam.


5-6 cups fresh organic blackberries
1 1/2-2 cups sugar or 1 cup honey
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (optional; I did not use lemon juice)
1 box Pomona's Universal Pectin (available in the baking section at PCC)
3/4 cup water
Canning jars with lids and screw rings

Note: Pomona's Universal Pectin is a delightful all natural product derived from lemon and orange peel (a great source of naturally occurring pectin). It aids in the gelling of the strawberries and many other fruits which are very low in natural pectin. Pomona's also contains a small package of natural calcium (just like the dietary supplement) which helps activate the pectin. This allows you to prepare your jam with as little additional sugar or sweetener as you wish. (Some apple based pectins require much more sugar to set the pectin.) Here are the directions from the box of Pomona's Universal Pectin which I have revised with the correct amounts for the above recipe.

Make calcium water:
1. Mix 1/2 teaspoon white calcium powder and 1/2 cup water in a small, clear jar with lid.
2. Store in refrigerator between uses. Lasts a number of months-discard if settled white powder discolors.
3. Shake well before using.

To make the Jam:
1. Wash and rinse jars; bring to a boil in a large pot, turn down heat and let stand in hot water. In a smaller pot, bring lids and rings to boil; turn down heat; let stand in hot water. (You may sterilize the jars in your dishwasher if you have a high heat setting)

2. Prepare the blackberries by washing and capping them. Chop them roughty and then mash them well. Measure 4 cups of mashed berries into a large mixing bowl and stir in the sugar or honey and lemon juice if you are using it.

3. Bring the water to a boil in a small sauce pan and pour it into a blender or food processor. Add 3 teaspoons pectin powder and blend for about a minute or until the pectin is fully dissolved.

4. Add the hot pectin to the fruit in the mixing bowl.

5. Stir 4 teaspoons calcium water into fruit. A jell should appear. If not, add 1 teaspoon more at a time, tirring well, until a jell appears. It will be a soft jell.

6. Fill jars to 1/2" of top. (The jam will expand as it freezes.) Wipe rims clean. Screw on 2-piece lids.

7. Freeze the jam until ready to use. After opening, keep it in your refregerator and eat it within 2 weeks.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

One of the main differences between using blackberries and strawberries is that the mashing process is a lot more cumbersome with blackberries. In order to create the correct consistency, I ended up mashing the berries with a handheld pastry blender for about ten minutes. Preparing strawberries was easy because I could cut them into small pieces and then mash them with the back of a fork. Blackberries are much more difficult to prepare to the proper consistency. The second major difference is that it took 6 teaspoons of calcium water instead of 4 teaspoons to make the berries gelatinous. I initially added 4 teaspoons and stirred them in until I realized it wasn't working. I then added a 5th and 6th until a soft jell appeared.

I used fresh organic blackberries that I purchased at the West Seattle Farmer's Market this morning. They were absolutely gorgeous berries and although some of them were tart, the majority were sweet and juicy. Once again, I created a batch of tasty jam that will help Brad carry out his morning toast and jam habit. I am including the King 5 tutorial for those of you that are not familiar with no-cook freezer jam:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Week Twenty-Nine Recap

I thoroughly enjoyed both the cooking and entertaining aspects of this week. Preparing the pesto pasta and cobbler dishes for our dear friends was a real treat and the corn recipe was absolutely delicious. No need to make this recap long; I loved all three recipes and I feel great moving into week thirty. As a side note, my blog just had its 2,000th view this morning! Thank you to everyone that supports my project. You are making this more fun than I could have ever imagined.

Casarecci con Pesto Trapanese (Fat Pasta Twists with Sicilian-style Pesto Sauce)
"Pasta" by Marlena Spieler
Page 63

Mixed Berry Cobbler
"The Big Book of Easy Suppers" by Maryana Vollstedt
Page 311

Grilled Corn on the Cob with Chipotle Butter and Lime
"Outdoor Entertaining" by Williams-Sonoma
Page 100

Grilled Corn on the Cob with Chipotle Butter and Lime

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

I am just going to put it out there that I am a corn purist. When I eat corn on the cob, I don't add butter, salt or any other type of flavoring. It is just me and the corn. When I ran across this recipe, I was skeptical but because we were hosting a barbecue the following day, I decided to buck up and take a chance. Good thing this cooking adventure is forcing me to be open to new ideas because corn is fabulous prepared in this manner. Perhaps it is not the healthiest preparation, but it is Tasty with a capital T. The corn was rich and spicy but still had the fresh taste of summer that we all love. The recipe is as follows:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 Tbsp chipotle chile powder
Grated zest of 2 limes
2 tsp kosher salt
12 ears corn, husks intact
3 limes quartered

In a bowl, using a wooden spoon, mix butter, chile powder, lime zest and salt into smooth paste. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to blend flavor.

Working with one ear at a time, peel down husks and remove silk strands, making sure the husks remain attached at base of ear. Using pastry brush or small rubber spatula, brush or spread 1 tablespoon chipotle butter evenly over ear of corn. Fold husks back up over ear so it is completely enclosed. Repeat with remaining ears of corn. (Corn can be prepared up to one day in advance. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate, then bring to room temperature before grilling.)

Prepare grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Position grill rack about 6 inches from heat source. Grill ears of corn, turning often to cook evenly, until kernels are tender and husks are charred all over, 10-15 minutes.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Arrange corn on platter with lime quarters on top. Let each guest unwrap ear of corn and squeeze lime juice over corn before eating.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Caserecci con Pesto Trapanese (Fat Past Twists with Sicilian-style Pesto Sauce) and Mixed Berry Cobbler

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

I know I have professed my appreciation for Marlena Spieler's "Pasta" cookbook in several prior posts but I can't help but go there again. I absolutely adore her recipes because they always turn out impeccably. We hosted some dear friends for dinner last night; Andrew, Pamela, Thea and Maggie Harnish, and I really wanted to treat them to a delicious meal. Pamela is a pesto connoisseur so when I found this recipe for Caserecci con Pesto Trapanese (which translated is Fat Pasta Twists with Sicilian-style Pesto Sauce), I thought it was a good choice. I did however, call Pamela to let her choose between two pasta dishes and she chose the pesto dish hands down.

I am not a stranger to making pesto but this recipe intrigued me because it calls for almonds instead of pine nuts. I have prepared pesto with both pine nuts and walnuts but never with almonds. Before I provide further comment, please read the recipe below.

2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 ounce shelled almonds, raw or roasted, coarsely chopped
3 1/2 ounces Parmesan or pecorino cheese, freshly grated or in small pieces
1 1/2 ounces fresh basil leaves
4 1/2 fluid ounces extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces ripe tomatoes, diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
14 ounces caserecci, gamelli (pasta twists), or similar
extra Parmesan for grating on top

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

If preparing by hand, chop everything finely and mix together in bowl. If using food processor or blender (I used a processor), whizz garlic, add almonds and cheese and process until almonds are chunky. Remove to bowl and finely chop basil in processor or blender, add olive oil and whizz together. Stir into nut and cheese mixture, stir in tomatoes and taste for seasoning.

In large pan of rapidly boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente and drain, reserving a little of cooking water. Toss hot pasta with pesto, adding a few tablespoons of reserved water if desired. Serve, offering extra Parmesan to grate on top.

First of all, let me tell you that this dish is delectable. The pesto is a wonderful texture because the recipe requires the basil and nut mixture to be blended separately. I believe keeping them separate helped the almonds to maintain a crunchier texture, which added to the nuttiness of the pesto. I have over-processed pesto a few times and although tasty, the nutty texture is not discernible. Perhaps my favorite part of the dish however, was the addition of tomatoes. I have never even considered that tomatoes and pesto would work together but they are wonderful partners. Tomatoes made the dish juicy and a bit sweeter, which I loved.

I know I am on my soapbox again, but I cannot stress enough the importance of high quality pasta. For this recipe, I discovered a fresh pasta made by Lagana Foods, which is a Seattle-based company. They make bronze cut pasta which uses bronze dies to extrude the dough. This gives the pasta an intentionally rougher texture to provide better grip for the sauce. This is the first time I have eaten bronze cut pasta and I am officially a believer. It is wonderful! Not only is the pasta beautifully packaged, the shape of the pasta is just plain pretty. If you live in Seattle, please try this brand of pasta. If you live elsewhere, I encourage you to find a local handmade pasta. You will not be disappointed.

I served this dish with a mixed herb salad with radishes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and sunflower seeds and a loaf of locally made crusty bread. Finally, I prepared a Mixed Berry Cobbler for dessert.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

4 cups mixed fresh or frozen berries (I used blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp water
1/3 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 cup whole milk
vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, stir together berries with 1/4 cup sugar and water. Let stand for 10 minutes. Melt butter in 8" X 8" glass baking dish in oven.

In medium bowl, stir together 3/4 cup sugar, flour and baking powder. Stir in milk and mix well. Remove baking dish from oven and pour batter on top of butter. Do not stir. Spoon undrained berries on top. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until bubbly and top is golden, about 40 minutes. Let cool on wire rack. Serve warm with ice cream.

In a nutshell, this dessert was satisfying and tasty. I served it with Dreyer's lowfat vanilla ice cream while the cobbler was still warm. What a great evening. Very few things are better than a lovely meal with fabulous friends.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Week Twenty-Eight Recap

I will make this recap short and sweet. I am very happy with the recipes I prepared this week and I would cook all of them again; especially the Accordion Potatoes. I will continue to vary the ingredients in my quinoa salad and if I prepare the scallop dish in the future, I will make the few small changes I mentioned in my post. I am now off to plan Sunday dinner for some of our dear friends. Hmmmm......what to make for the Harnish clan?

Kiersten's Quinoa Salad
From Kiersten's Kitchen :)

Scallops, Grits and Greens
"Good Fish; Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast" by Becky Selengut
Page 86

Accordion Potatoes

Accordion Potatoes

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Brad recently turned me on to mixedgreensblog.com and it has fast become one of my favorite cooking-related blogs. The photos are beautiful, the recipes are seasonal and simple, the principles of sustainable/local living match my own and I enjoy the author's writing style. I highly recommend this blog as a favorite to follow. If you check the Mixed Greens blog today, you will see this Accordion Potatoes recipe as the latest entry. I was so excited by the idea of the recipe, that I decided to prepare it immediately. It is a basic dish but with some serious aesthetic flair. The recipe is as follows:


several medium potatoes, clean and unpeeled

rosemary or other herb of choice, chopped

chopped garlic scapes or sliced garlic

olive oil

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut potatoes in slices about 1/4 ” thick without cutting all the way through. (Use wooden spoon handles or chopsticks on either side). Chop herbs and garlic or garlic scapes and stuff between potato slices, being careful not to break slices off. Brush potatoes all over with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in hot oven until crispy and brown; about 45 minutes, depending on the size of potatoes.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Okay, this one was just plain fun to prepare. What a clever idea to use wooden spoons as a means to ensuring that the potatoes do not get sliced all the way through. I love ideas that make preparation easier and more precise! I am growing my own potatoes this summer for the first time ever but they are not yet ready for harvest. As a result, I went to PCC Market and asked a produce specialist for his recommendation. He pointed me toward organic Yukon Gold potatoes. His recommendation was perfect because I was able to choose my potatoes from a variety of sizes so they baked perfectly. I concur with the author of mixedgreensblog.com when she wrote that the texture of the potatoes is both crunchy and creamy; a cross between roasted and baked.

I also really enjoyed using garlic scapes for the first time. I was not aware of garlic scapes until I read an article about them a few months ago. Garlic scapes are the flowering stalks of hardneck varieties of garlic and they are Good with a capital G! I am absolutely sold on using them moving forward because although I like garlic, it can be too strong for me at times. Garlic scapes are a perfect alternative because the flavor is the same or very similar to garlic, it is just a bit more mild. I absolutely loved the flavor. How exciting to have a new ingredient to introduce into my cooking.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

I served the potatoes with sauteed free-range chicken for Olivia and Brad and Field Roast sausage for me. In addition, I pan-fried zucchini slices in olive oil and then added kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. This was a lovely meal that was enjoyed by all. I will absolutely serve Accordion Potatoes in the future ; especially when I want to add a little something special to our plates.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Scallops, Grits and Greens

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

I decided to approach preparation for this recipe in a different manner than usual. The recipe requires de-stemming, chopping, zesting and grating which can really slow a girl down. When I was reading through the recipe and thinking about the possible excessive prep time ahead of me, I had an epiphany. Why not prepare the ingredients in advance so all I have to do before dinnertime is combine ingredients and cook? This concept is not exactly brain surgery but it hadn't really occurred to me prior to now. Let me tell you, this idea is revolutionary! Cooking was even more enjoyable than usual with all of the ingredients ready and on hand. All I had to do was read and then grab ingredients from the counter as I moved through each step of the recipe. Steps are as follows.

For greens:
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves chopped into bite-size pieces
1 bunch mustard greens, stems removed, leaves chopped into bite-size pieces
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp honey
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chicken or pork stock

For grits:
2 cups whole milk (I used skim milk and it worked great but polenta took 5 minutes longer to prepare)
2 cups chicken or pork stock
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup quick-cooking grits or polenta (I used Bob's Red Mill polenta)
1 cup (about 2 ounces) grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp orange zest

For scallops:
1 pound sea scallops
1 Tbsp ancho chile powder or chile powder of your choice
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp high-heat vegetable oil (I used avocado oil)

To prepare greens, in a large pot over medium-high heat, add all of the greens ingredients. Stir well, cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until greens are tender. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Keep warm.

To prepare grits, in a large saucepan over high heat, add milk, chicken stock and salt. Bring to boil and reduce heat to maintain simmer. Gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir grits for 5 minutes, or until creamy and tender. Stir in cheddar and orange zest. Keep warm.

To prepare scallops, dry with paper towels. Place on plate and season with chile powder, salt and pepper. Heat heavy skillet over high heat. Add vegetable oil and, when it is really hot, carefully add scallops to pan, being careful not to splatter oil. Cook scallops for 2 minutes on one side, without disturbing, or until caramelized. Then flip, cooking other side for only a minute. To serve, scoop grits onto platter or plates. Top with greens and scallops.

For the first time since I started this project, Brad and I have differing opinions on the final result of a recipe. I loved the polenta and thought this dish was delicious. The greens were slightly bitter and the vinegar flavor was strong but I enjoy bitterness as a flavor profile. I am also a big fan of vinegar. Although Brad liked the dish well enough to finish his meal, he offered a few suggestions. First of all, he thought the flavor of the greens was too strong so he would omit the vinegar. I am wondering if the bitterness of the mustard greens also contributed to the strong flavor. Second, he would prefer the polenta without orange zest. We have finally come to the conclusion that citrus used in savory dishes does not appeal to his palate. He enjoyed the scallops and liked the idea of the dish; he would just prefer it with these few changes.

I am now certain that polenta is one of my favorite foods. The texture is divinely creamy without having to add cream or other heavy ingredients. It partners well with meats and seafoods but it can also stand by itself. To top it off, I love that it only takes 10 minutes to prepare. This will not be the last you see of polenta dishes during my cooking adventure. Stay tuned for more to come.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Kiersten's Quinoa Salad

The time has come to post a recipe that was created by yours truly. I only have a few recipes that are my own but I plan to start experimenting more often with culinary ideas that float through my head. I'll leave all of the other thoughts that float through my head out of the discussion as not to scare anyone away. :)

As most of you know by now, I am not a stranger to quinoa dishes. We love this grain at our house because of the nutty flavor, full-bodied texture and high protein content. I am yet to go wrong with a quinoa-centric dish. Quinoa salad is a favorite at our house but every time I make it, I do a slight variation. I have never prepared this exact version and actually, I have never measured the ingredients for any of my quinoa concoctions. I have always prepared each variation by taste and sight. Today, I took the time to measure ingredients in order to share the recipe. Please enjoy!

1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups water
3/4 cup cucumber, peeled and diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
4-ounce can sliced black olives
4 ounces soft white cheese (mozzarella, feta or goat cheese work well; today I used Ladysmith cheese from the West Seattle Farmer's Market)
3 to 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In saucepan, bring quinoa and water to full boil. Reduce heat slightly and continue to boil for approximately 15 minutes or until water is fully absorbed. Remove from burner and let cool in saucepan for 5 minutes. Spread quinoa across large cookie sheet and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Drizzle olive oil across quinoa and gently mix in with spatula or large rubber spoon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add cucumber, red onion, olives and cheese. Gently distribute ingredients throughout quinoa with spatula. Add salt and pepper to taste and if desired, add one additional tablespoon olive oil. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve for up to 3 days.
Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

I believe the simplicity of this recipe is what makes it so delicious. You can taste each and every flavor because the ingredients are not masked by spices or sauces. The pureness of using only olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper for flavoring helps each ingredient shine through. The Ladysmith cheese that I chose for this version worked perfectly but any soft white cheese should work just as well. Another great variation is to add garbanzo beans. The texture and flavor of the beans goes famously with this salad and they contribute additional protein. Garbanzos also provide several important nutrients including zinc and folate. Finely chopped parsley is a lovely addition to the salad as well.

Feel free to tweak this recipe any which way you choose. It is a great base to use for creating your own variations. I always figure that the worst thing that can happen is that the end result is undesirable. I have been lucky thus far to enjoy every quinoa salad I have created. Another bonus is that Brad and Olivia gobble my quinoa salads down like they are going out of style. I certainly can't complain about that!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Week Twenty-Seven Recap

For the second time since I have started this cooking project, I was in a mad rush to complete three recipes by the end of the week. I got a late start because we were away for the holiday weekend until Tuesday evening. By the time I was able to choose my recipes for the week and then grocery shop accordingly, it was already Thursday afternoon. As a result, I ended up preparing two recipes on Thursday and one on Saturday. Yikes! I guess I should just be happy that I completed this week's recipes; regardless of the fact that two of them were quite simple to prepare.

The good news is, all three recipes were average or above. Although I strive to prepare dishes that are fantastic, adequate is sometimes an achievement. I am based in reality and there isn't always enough time in a week to spend three hours preparing each recipe. So, in light of this busy week, here's to making it work and to seeking inspiration for next week's creations. The recap is as follows:

Olive Tapenade
"How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman
Page 326

Red Pepper and Quorn Bake

Watermelon Smoothie

Watermelon Smoothie

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

This is clearly not the most difficult recipe in the world but as many of you know, I am a big fan of smoothies. I happened to have a seedless watermelon that I needed to use prior to or during our weekend trip to Oregon so in typical Kiersten style, I googled. I have never heard of a smoothie made with watermelon so I was pleasantly surprised by the available options. Believe it or not, it was actually difficult to choose a recipe. I was drawn to this particular smoothie because not only does it include watermelon, it includes a few of my favorite flavors; almond and ginger. Watermelon, almond and ginger? Hmmmmm....... I really wasn't sure what to think but I went for it.

Ingredients: 2 cups seeded watermelon chunks
1 cup ice
1/2 cup plain lowfat yogurt
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp almond extract

Combine all ingredients in blender. Cover and blend until smooth and serve in two tall glasses.

This smoothie is absolutely delicious. The end result is thinner than the average smoothie but the flavor is refreshing and subtle. The ginger is not particularly discernable but the watermelon and almond flavors come through perfectly. It really comes across as a refreshing dessert so I would serve it as an afternoon snack or dessert way before I would serve it for breakfast. Both Brad and my stepmom, Janet, said that the flavor reminds them of a 50/50 which is 50% sherbet and 50% ice cream. None of us could believe that the ingredients are all natural, with the exception of one tablespoon sugar. In a nutshell, I recommend this recipe and I will serve it again in the future.

Red Pepper and Quorn Bake

To say that we are on gut overload from our 4th of July weekend extravaganza would be the understatement of the year. We are officially entering an even healthier than usual eating kick in order to ease back in to our normal eating habits. As I have mentioned in prior posts, we are big fans of meat substitute products by a company called Quorn. I have been running out of new ideas for how to use their various products so I decided to see if they offer ideas on their website. Sure enough, they have several recipes on their site so I chose one to prepare for dinner tonight; Red Pepper and Quorn Bake.

1 cup onion, chopped
2 red pepper, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 package Quorn Grounds (ground meat substitute)
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cilantro
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups prepared tomato sauce
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked penne pasta
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute onion, garlic and red pepper 8-10 minutes or until peppers are softened. Add Quorn, oregano, cumin and cilantro. Saute 3-5 minutes longer. Add wine to pan. Bring to boil. Boil 3 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add tomato sauce and parsley. Season with salt and pepper; return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir cooked pasta into Quorn and vegetable mixture; spoon into 2 1/2 quart ovenproof casserole dish; set aside. Place butter, flour and milk in saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk constantly until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat; whisk in egg and cheese. Pour over Quorn mixture in casserole dish. Bake 35 minutes until topping is set and golden brown.

We give this recipe the official Lovejoy seal of approval. Although not the most gourmet dish I have prepared, the final result was wholesome, tasted good and left us feeling satisfied in a not-overly-full kind of way. I was a bit concerned that the two red peppers would be overbearing but it was actually the perfect amount of pepper in proportion to the other ingredients. I was planning on serving the dish with a mixed green salad but decided that we didn't need a side dish tonight. In retrospect, I would go ahead and prepare the salad because it would add a fresh, light element to the meal. All in all, a successful recipe from my friends at Quorn.

Olive Tapenade

Photo Courtesy of Dave McCoy Photography

Over the July 4th weekend, I ordered a vegetarian sandwich with olive tapenade that inspired me to prepare this recipe. I usually choose grapeseed oil mayonnaise and avocado to use as spreads on my vegetable sandwiches but now that I have tried tapenade, I will add it to my sandwich making repertoire. I have always appreciated tapenade as a spread for crackers or baguette so finding one more use for this tasty goodness is a bonus.

While reading the introduction to this recipe, I learned that tapenade originated in southern France and was first made for spreading on toast. It has also been used historically as a dip, sandwich spread or if used sparingly and thinned with olive oil or water, a sauce. The introduction recommends oil-cured olives as the best choice for tapenade because they make a dark, rich paste. The recipe is as follows......

about 1 pound flavorful black and/or green olives
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed, or more to taste
about 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
chopped parsley leaves for garnish (optional)

Pit olives. If using oil-cured olives, squeeze pit out; with brined olives, flatten olive with side of knife to split and allow pit to be removed. Put olives, capers and garlic in food processor or blender, along with half of olive oil. Pulse machine once or twice, then add remaining oil a bit at a time. Goal is to make a spreadable and pasty consistency so you may not need all of the oil. Pulse between additions of oil. Stir in pepper, add garnish and serve or cover and refrigerate up to one month.

I would give this tapenade a 6 out of 10 based on a comparison with other tapenades I have eaten. I liked the flavor but I think I would prefer to use several different types of olives instead of just green and kalamata. I have never met an olive I didn't like but I do think I went a little bit heavy on the green olives in this dish. This recipe was also on the more simple end of the spectrum as far as ingredients go so I don't think the flavors were as developed as they could have been. I may search for another tapenade recipe that uses more ingredients in order to develop a greater depth of flavor. Other than these few changes, I am happy enough with the final result. This should be delicious on crackers and sandwiches over the next few days.