Sunday, March 16, 2014

Roasted Beet and Butternut Salad with Fennel and Greens

 Peel and dice a butternut squash.  Or, buy the already prepped kind at the market.  Toss with slivered shallots, minced garlic, diced fennel bulb, your favorite savory herbs (I think I used thyme, sage, mint, maybe something else.  I was pulling from unlabeled baggies in my fridge), sea salt or kosher salt and pepper, and a tiny bit of olive oil.  Put in a small pan and roast at 400F for about 45 minutes, or until browning at the edges.

Separately, peel and dice a beetroot, setting aside the beet greens for later.  Toss the beets with a tiny bit of oil, salt and pepper.  Roast alongside but in a separate pan from the squash--or the beets will discolor the squash.  Also, I found that the beets roasted more quickly than the squash.

Remove from the oven, loosen from the pan while hot (or it'll stick like mad and the shape of the pieces will be lost), and let cool.

Julienne the beet greens, kale, and spinach.  (That means slice it into little ribbony bits.)  For greater fennel flavor, sliver additional fennel bulb, and add the feathery fennel fronds from the top of the bulb.  Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl and add a handful of dried cranberries. An additional tiny drizzle of oil (hazelnut would be yummy) adds richness and more depth of flavor; a pinch of fresh orange or lemon zest will bring brightness.

Optional additions:  toasted pecans or pine nuts, shredded cooked chicken, fresh pomegranate arils.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Greek Salad with Steak

Make the dressing first so the flavors have a chance to marry before being introduced to the salad.  Measurements are not given, start conservative with a pinch or so, taste and adjust to your palate.

Good quality Olive Oil (usually the most expensive you can buy)
Red Wine that you like to drink

Usually the ratio is 1.5 parts oil to 1 part wine but recipes vary from 2:1 to 1:1.

If you are using the whole recipe immediately, fresh garlic adds a nice bite but it will continue to flavor the dressing for as long it stands and might overpower the flavor in any leftovers.  I like to use roasted and dried garlic.  Do not use garlic salt or garlic-flavored anything, garlic granules are fine if the ingredients are simply garlic.

Since I can't tolerate raw onion (bah! humbug! I want my onion!) I didn't put any in the salad itself.  I did however use dried onion flakes in the dressing.  Other flavor agents I used were dried oregano, dried basil, and the contents of one or more teabags Traditional Medicinals Pregnancy Tea (you could use dried peppermint instead).  Celtic Sea Salt and ground black pepper rounded out the dressing.  Shake to combine.

For the salad itself, I used a "power greens" bagged salad of baby spinach, baby kale, and baby red chard, chopped slightly.  Then I added diced and seeded cucumber, diced grape tomato (or diced and seeded if you use larger roma tomatoes), sliced black olives, and crumbled feta cheese.  For people not me who can eat onions, add thinly sliced red onion.

Slice cold cooked steak (mine was leftover from last night's dinner) across the grain. 

To assemble, pour a tablespoon of dressing into a large mixing bowl (seriously, this is plenty of dressing for three dinner salads or up to six side salads!), add all the ingredients except the steak on top of the dressing.  Using tongs, or for best results, your own two hands, toss the contents of the bowl until well coated with dressing.  Add the steak and repeat.  The two step process helps to mix the salad fully before the larger meat pieces throw off the weight distribution, which would make the salad not come together as well.

Serve with saffron rice, lemon-garlic roasted potatoes, or toasted pita points.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Quick and Simple Spicy Asian Salad with Halibut

I used leftover halibut, quick seared again in sesame oil, some already-cut romaine I found in the fridge and a few leaves of Napa cabbage I chopped finely.

I tossed the lettuce and cabbage in a tiny drizzle of grape seed oil, rice wine vinegar, a good three-finger pinch each of flax and sesame seeds, and a medium pinch of red pepper flakes.

I flaked the fish and tossed with more flax and sesame seeds, and a tiny bit of tamari, in the same bowl I’d mixed the greens in to catch the remains of the red pepper and vinegar.

Then tossed it all together and "plated" it in the blue bowl.

Definitely needs a bit more sweet veg and some crunch.  If I made it over again, I'd add some carrot shreds and sliced water chestnut, maybe some celery.  And some rough-chopped cashews.  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

I riff on the basic rolled biscuit recipe in The Joy of Cooking and my gravy is very simple.

4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup cold unsalted butter (12 tablespoons or 1½ sticks)
¾ cup whole milk

Someone (Alton Brown maybe) said that Southern biscuits tend to be much lighter and fluffier than biscuits made elsewhere. Whoever it was ascribed this phenomenon to the days when flour was usually sold regionally rather than nationally. The wheat grown in the South is softer spring wheat than the harder winter wheat grown elsewhere (or at least it used to be) producing a lighter baked good.  I suspect that the preference of Southern biscuits over anything else is just stereotype at this point, but I'm a Yankee so what do I know?

I use King Arthur unbleached white flour (when I bake with wheat). I stir the flour in the canister before measuring, then run it through a sifter to add some air. I use a pinch more baking soda than the recipe calls for, and toss it in the sifter with the flour, so it all gets well mixed and aerated.

For fat, I use cold butter (frozen works amazing but I never have any in the freezer) and GRATE it into the flour with a large grater. Mix the grated butter into the flour with a fork until the pieces are well separated and coated with flour.

Add the milk, I use whole milk, the more fat the better! Stir just until everything is wet. Then knead in the bowl, just until it all comes together and the dough will pick up all the flour and bits on the bottom of the bowl. Do NOT over knead.

Roll out to an inch thick (much thicker than The Joy says) and cut with a big ol' biscuit cutter. Mine is probably three inches across. I only get five biscuits out of a single recipe—not the twenty, two-inch ones The Joy says this will produce.

Bake in a very hot oven (450F) for 10-13 minutes or until golden and crusty.

My gravy recipe is not much of a recipe because I never measure anything that goes into it.  Brown some ground sausage in a skillet.  Sprinkle the meat with a few spoonsful of flour.  Stir to coat and break up any clumps of meat or flour.  When the meat is cooked through, add milk a bit at a time.  Stir and let it thicken from the flour as it gets hot.  Continue to add milk in bits until the gravy is no longer too thick.  Season with fresh ground pepper and salt (if needed).

To plate, split biscuits, spoon the sausage gravy over the bottom halves of the biscuits, top with the upper halves. Serve with strong black coffee, American style.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Caramel Popcorn

Adapted from ImaLazyMom.

I used 2/3 C popcorn kernels, popped with as little oil as I could.

For the caramel, I used 1/2 C butter, 2/3 C evaporated cane juice, 1/3 C coconut sugar, 1/3 C honey, not nearly enough salt, a splash of vanilla and 1/2 t baking soda. 

Melt ingredients except baking soda and vanilla in a big pot--my big soup pot, it hardly covered the bottom to begin with but you need that much room to coat the popcorn--when it comes to a heavy boil, quit stirring, and boil (medium heat) without stirring for 5 minutes (could have gone just a bit longer), the syrup should start turning a darker color but don't burn it.

The boiling is key to a crunch rather than sticky, rip-out-your-dental-work final product.

Add the soda and vanilla and mix briskly.  It will get very foamy.  Add popcorn quickly and toss to coat.  Pour out onto parchment paper and cool.  Break into bits. 

Next time I will try maple syrup rather than honey and/or some darker sugars.  Or some lighter sugars and different flavoring.  Or maybe a bit of chile pepper!  Love me some heat with my sweets.  I might also add some roasted nuts with the popcorn before coating with caramel.

Grain-free, 5-Minute, Spicy Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Orange Sauce

Orange Sugar:

The zest of one medium orange (or a couple small tangerines)
4-6+ T granulated sugar (or evaporated cane juice)
Grind together in a coffee mill or small food processor. The wetness of the zest will make it pasty. If you want it more granular like sugar, add more sugar, but it will dilute the orange flavor some.


1 T coconut flour
2 T cocoa powder
4+ T sugar or evaporated cane juice (or sweeten to taste with preferred sweetener)
1/4 t baking powder
pinch salt
1 t cinnamon
pinch cayenne powder (to taste)

Mix dry ingredients well and add:
1 egg
1 T oil (can be omitted if you use high fat milk, or makes a denser moister cake if included)
3 T milk (non-dairy, whole milk, I like half-and-half)
1/2 t vanilla extract

Combine until thoroughly blended. Microwave for three minutes. Tip out of bowl onto plate. Let cool while finishing sauce.

Chocolate Orange Sauce:

2 T cocoa
4 T orange sugar paste (or to taste)
1/4 t cinnamon
optional tiny dusting of cayenne
2 T half-and-half (or 1 T low-fat dairy alternative and 1 T oil)

Melt in tiny saucepan (I used a metal one cup measuring cup) over medium-low heat until glossy and smooth. Pour over cake. Dust with cinnamon.