Posts Tagged ‘salad’

A summer quinoa salad with tomato, basil and toasted pine nuts

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

quinoa salad

While I am not gluten intolerant, I do love experimenting with different grains from around the globe that have been used for centuries to create many traditional ethnic foods, and which oftentimes are also incredibly high in nutritive value.

Quinoa is no exception in this category. Used for thousands of years in South America, it is high in protein, essential amino acids, dietary fiber, and multiple vitamins and minerals (not a quinoa ad, just wiki info I like to research when working with new ingredients).

So, for me at least, gluten free cooking is often about discovery, nutrition, and curiosity as much as anything else.

quinoa salad

I’ve been tinkering with quinoa flour for some time now, but have only recently begun experimenting with the whole quinoa grain. At first I was surprised by it’s petite size and nutty flavor and can imagine it easily substituted in many couscous and bulgar based recipes.

I am often searching for quick, tasty meals to make myself for lunch as I work from home, and I pulled this “salad” together on a whim last week in the middle of the day, and was pleased with the result.

I tossed the quinoa with a bit of olive oil, fresh grates of parmesan, torn basil leaves, slices of roma tomatoes (from our garden – finally!), toasted pine nuts, and finished it with a squeeze of lemon juice and cracks of sea salt and black pepper. It was lovely just like this, but I also think some lumps of fresh mozzarella would be at home here.

I ate it at room temperature, but found the leftovers even better the next day, cold, straight out of the fridge.

quinoa salad

Summer quinoa salad with tomato, basil and toasted pine nuts

1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup loosely packed freshly grated parmesan (and/or fresh mozzarella, cubed)
10 basil leaves, torn
2 roma/plum tomatoes cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1 squeeze of fresh lemon juice (1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Cook quinoa according to package directions (1/2 cup took 1 1/4 cup water for cooking for me). Toss with the olive oil and cool to room temperature (may place in fridge or freezer for a few minutes to achieve this quickly). Toss quinoa with the rest of the ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste. Makes one meal serving, or 2-3 side servings. Scale as desired. Serve at room temperature or cold.

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Posted in Side dishes | 13 Comments »

Square foot garden salad, lemon thyme vinaigrette, and a simple saute

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Arugula basil salad

When a couple comes in for marital counseling, a counselor looks for clues as to exactly where the couple is at in their relationship – say on a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 representing marital bliss, and 1 signifying divorce.
One of the things I used to ask when a couple came into my office for counseling was, “Do you fight?”
If they answered yes, I knew they weren’t as bad off as they might have feared.

Square foot garden

For one, fighting means each person has a sense of individuality and self and knows that he or she is worth standing up for and being understood, and it also means that the couple is at least attempting to communicate and address issues – albeit badly many times.

Lower on the scale is the development of total silence, often called “stonewalling“, which can happen when one or both people feel there is little hope left and have already emotionally left the relationship, and have shut down to such a degree that even fighting feels pointless and futile.

If a couple told me they had stopped fighting altogether, or that they had stopped trying to have their point of view heard in the relationship, that is when I knew I had my work cut out for me.

Red leaf lettuce

So, fighting’s not all bad – that’s what I tell myself when my husband and I have occasional spats.

Truth be told, my husband is a pretty great guy. He helps around the house, takes care of the yard, shares the care of our son, is a great cook, and he does cool things like make square foot gardens. It doesn’t hurt that he’s tall, dark, and handsome either.

And he is my friend. I like that.

Lemon sage chicken

Our days are pretty simple…

We work from home. We take care of our son. We eat. We sleep. We eat again.

Occasionally we travel – mountains and beaches, London and Paris, Germany, Italy, Costa Rica, Jackson Hole and the Golden Gate, next is NYC; these are the highlights that stand out from the daily.

And then we come home. We eat. We sleep. We love our son. I cook. Brian gardens. I eat Brian’s garden. I’m happy. I haven’t always been happy. Happy feels good.

No, happy feels great.

DinnerDinner

Here is a standard meal for us. I like chicken. I know many feel it is boring and common. Common, I’ll give you. But only boring if you let it be.

Brian calls chicken “foul”, but he likes this.

I saute lightly floured chicken in olive oil with fresh herbs from the garden – this time I used sage, but rosemary or oregano work just as well.  I add lemon juice and zest, a clove of diced garlic, a bit of crushed red pepper (we like to make our own), and sometimes a splash of white wine and whatever vegetables are hanging around the fridge at the time – in this case, green onions. It all simmers down and creates a lovely concentrated tangy, spicy, herby coating on the chicken that tastes anything but common.

This dinner takes me less than half an hour to prepare and I often serve it over a simple pasta, or just as is with a salad like you see here. I don’t measure anything, so the recipe is just a best guess – but no matter, there’s plenty of wiggle room in there to make it your own.

Lemon thyme vinaigrette

We eat a lot of salad around here – another perennial dish that is only boring if you let be. I make homemade salad dressing about once a week – usually a vinaigrette, and I like to try new flavors to keep it interesting. This week I used lemon juice and zest for the acid, and added thyme from the garden, shallot, whole grain mustard, a dash of sugar and sea salt, black pepper, and olive oil.

I really liked this dressing. We ate it the first day on salad beside the chicken with homemade croutons, heirloom cherry tomatoes, and fresh grated parmesan.

Day two it was perfect for my lunch on a salad made from the greens from Brian’s square foot garden – spicy arugula, young red leaf, and sweet basil leaves. I marinated fresh artichoke hearts in the dressing first and then laid them on the salad next to toasted pine nuts and large chards of parmesan. After I took my first pictures, I snuck in one of the last slices of another amazing quiche/savory tart (I’ve gone a bit tart crazy as of late, so I decided I should give it a rest here for the week and share the tart recipe at a later date) to eat alongside.

Lemon thyme vinaigrette saladLemon thyme vinaigrette saladSpinach, bacon, Emmanthaler quicheSommer's amazing banana bread

And finally, I made this banana bread, a recipe by my former college roommate and fellow food blogger, chocked full of pecans and coconut, for Jonathan to have for breakfast and snacks. It’s been gone for three days now and he’s still asking for it, if that tells you how it was.

It’s been a good week. If you are interested in anything garden related, mention it in the comments, and I’ll have Brian answer anything outside of my knowledge.

Lemon thyme vinaigrette
adapted from here

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon minced shallot *
1 1/2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
leaves from 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, lightly chopped or minced to release oils
1/3 – 1/2 cup olive oil (to taste)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Whisk all ingredients together or place all ingredients in a secure container and shake well. May be used immediately, though flavors blend nicely overnight. Dressing should last several days in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving if oil begins to harden.

* I imagine garlic would be a nice substitute, but I would not use more than two cloves for this amount of dressing

Spicy Lemon Herb Chicken

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts *
olive oil
1 fat garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper *
zest of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons of flour *
6 – 8 sage leaves finely chopped or 1 tablespoon finely chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary *
6 green onions, including green parts, washed and chopped into 1/2 inch dice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
water

Cover a 12 inch skillet with 1/8 inch of olive oil. Heat over medium high heat until shimmering, but not smoking. Add the lemon zest, garlic, sage, and crushed red pepper. Allow to sizzle and infuse the oil, but do not brown the garlic or fully crisp the herbs.

Season the flour with salt and pepper (I use about 1/2 t. sea salt and generously crack the pepper). Dip each side of the chicken breasts in the flour mixture and place in the hot oil. The oil should sizzle around the chicken as it is laid in the pan, but still not smoke. Sprinkle up to 1 tablespoon of extra seasoned flour over the tops of the chicken breasts. Once the pan has recovered it’s heat from adding the chicken, turn the heat down to medium or medium low to slowly brown and saute the chicken.

Cover the pan and cook till the first side of the breasts are golden, about 4-6 minutes. If pan is starting to dry out at any point, add just a bit of water, one tablespoon at a time and allow to evaporate before adding more.

After turning the breasts, add the lemon juice and half of the green onions. Again, add a few drops of water at any point the pan is beginning dry out. Cover again and cook another 4-6 minutes. During the last couple of minutes of cooking, add the rest of the green onions to cook just till wilted. I usually knife into one breast in a thick portion to check for doneness. Try to get the chicken just done, but done! Sprinkle again with salt and pepper to taste (you may wish to taste a small bite first to check).

Transfer the chicken to a serving plate. Turn the heat up on the stove and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water to release the pan drippings. The water should mostly evaporate in the hot pan leaving a just a small amount of concentrated pan juices. Pour this over the chicken while it is resting. As the chicken rests before serving, it will release more juices. Be sure to pour these juices back over the chicken on each plate when serving and check again for salt and pepper.

* the quality of the chicken makes all the difference in taste and texture – of course free range and organic is ideal, but I also obtain good results with Tysons

* if you do not like spicy, just eliminate the crushed red pepper

* I like to use white whole wheat flour because I think it has more flavor than regular white flour

* the fresh herbs should be to taste. You may use more than this or a combination, though you may try it with these proportions the first time and add more to taste on your next trial.

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Posted in Main Courses - Meat, vegetarian | 23 Comments »

Oven dried tomatoes

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Oven dried tomatoes by LKWM on dRc

Whenever I try something new and it turns out wonderful, whether in the kitchen or elsewhere, I find myself in complete confusion as to why I had either a.) not known about it sooner, b.) not tried it sooner, or c.) let my “fear of the unknown” issues get the best of me. Oven dried tomatoes definitely fall into category A. Where have you been, you amazing, delectable – able to resurrect even the saddest out of season tomatoes to glorious vibrancy – all the winters of my life? But before I wax on any more poetically about my newfound perfect savory winter treat, I must back up for a moment and tell you a tale about resolutions, working out, and the irony of how I stumbled upon this wonderful discovery.

Roma tomatoes by lkwm on dRc

I’ve never done new year’s resolutions. Making resolutions feels like a recipe for failure, for which perfectionists and OCD types like myself have an innate strong distaste. I’ve always tried to work on new and old goals throughout the year, so new year’s resolutions seem like a carryover of what wasn’t accomplished in December, or the fall, or 2009 – or maybe the last decade. Besides, I tend to like challenges better anyhow.

Sliced roma tomatoes vertical by lkwm on dRcSeeded roma tomatoes vertical by lkwm on dRc

Perhaps simply a matter of semantics, but a challenge feels like something I am competing against myself to conquer, rather than a resolution, which feels so insipid, flatline, and mocking to my internal personal interpreter. Resolutions tend to remind me of one of Albert Ellis’ infamous therapy quotations – “Don’t ‘should’ on yourself.” Good mental health is certainly promoted when we shed a few “shoulds” in our lives.  But I have digressed.  This is really a story about how I started going to the gym last fall to work on getting back into shape after having my son, J.

Olive oil being poured on tomatoes

You see, I have made no new year’s resolutions in this regard, but am still plodding along faithfully showing up at my local YMCA three times a week to move my arms and legs semi-rythmically in mouse wheel fashion beside several dozen other homo sapiens on the modern contraption known as an elliptical machine. I hate it.  Except for the one thing that makes it bearable – Ina Garten, the Food Network and my white earbuds that connect me to the 12 x 12 screen attached to the machine.

Olive oil being poured on tomato slices

So there I am, every other day, faithfully showing up to burn my minimum of 300 calories (I know, hardly a brownie’s worth of a workout), eating up all of Ina’s tips on how to cook everything in the oven, make simple dinners, and most recently, these fabulous oven dried tomatoes.  And since Ina comes on at 5:00, right before I go home to make dinner, hunger pains are a regular side effect. But we don’t have cable at home, and if Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten is what it takes to get me motivated to go get on the mouse wheel, so be it – just don’t work out behind me if you think it might have the opposite effect on you.

Tomatoes with balsamic vinegar being poured on top by LKWM on dRc

I know these tomatoes in their original form in these pictures look lovely and perfect, but actually they were your typical winter tomatoes – orangey red, strangely mealy textured, and lackluster in flavor.  But after sitting patiently in a 200 degree oven for a couple of hours, drizzled in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and a sprinkle of sugar, it’s like these poor, bedraggled winter tomatoes suddenly found themselves.  They emerged bright, tangy, a little juicy, and overall just plain amazing.  I could not believe it. I feel like its my own personal little discovery and now I can have delicious tomatoes in the winter for the first time ever.  Woohoo!

Oven dried tomatoes on baking sheet vertical by LKWM on dRcOven dried tomatoes on baking sheet by LKWM on dRc

You can pair the tomatoes with any number of items – a caprese salad (as Ina did), use on top or in a quiche, make a regular old sandwich or grilled cheese amazing, sit on top of chicken or fish, or add to a pasta – as I did.

Whole wheat pasta with oven dried tomatoes in light by LKWM on dRc

Oven dried tomatoes

Inspired by Ina Garten.

5-6 Roma or plum tomatoes, sliced into 1/3 inch circles, seeds removed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1.5 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
few cracks of freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
2. Place sliced and seeded tomatoes onto a baking sheet or pan covered in aluminum foil being careful to leave space between each slice.
3. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt, sugar, and few cracks of freshly ground black pepper.
4. Bake for two to two and a half hours.  The tomatoes will still be moist, but have concentrated flavor. You may leave them in the oven longer if you would like them to be less moist, and eventually (after many hours) I imagine they would completely dry and be tasty in a different way, though I have not tried it this way. These tomatoes may be added to salads, pasta, sandwiches, quiches, sauces, fish, chicken, dips, cheese, or eaten just as is. My batch did not last long enough to test out in the fridge, but I hear they store well for a good length of time.

*For a simple caprese salad, alternate oven dried tomatoes with slices of fresh mozzarella, top with a drizzle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar (if desired), a dash of sea salt, and sliced fresh basil leaves.

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Posted in Tomato | 10 Comments »