Just Throw it on the BBQ

I got lucky this weekend, not only did I have a good friend visiting from out of town- said good friend is also an excellent photographer.  Don’t get used to the beautiful pictures you’ll see with today’s post, I’ll be going back to the camera phone soon enough.  We had a plan to make a pizza with roasted butternut squash and a side salad of beets.  At eleven in the morning this sounded like an excellent idea.  I had all the ingredients on hand and it was a grey, cool day.  By five the sun was beating down and we were both enjoying soaking up vitamin C in my backyard.  BBQ it was!  But we were still going to have pizza and beets.

We got the BBQ going and prepped the beets while the coals got ready.

Bee Salad Ingredients

Beet Salad Ingredients

The beets were sliced about 1/3 of an inch thick into discs.  Next time I’ll go up to about 1/2 an inch.  Before grilling we lightly coated the beets in olive oil and dusted with salt.  Fresh mint, goat cheese and reduced balsamic vinegar were prepped to garnish.  Onto the grill!

Beets Cookin'

Beets Cookin’

Cooking times will vary, depending on the heat of your coals and thickness of your beets.  I would suggest checking after 5-6 minutes and every couple of minutes after.  These got a little crisper than I would have liked on the first side.  I had set a timer for 10 minutes, 8 probably would have been ideal.  The other sided cooked for 6 minutes.  We got going on the pizza while the beets cooled.

Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough

I cheated.  No homemade dough this time around.  I had some herb pizza dough from Trader Joe’s that I took out of the freezer this morning.  The texture was a little bit runny after it thawed so I kneaded it with a little flour and it came right back to life.  Now onto prepping our toppings.

Pizza Toppings

Pizza Toppings

For veggies- yellow bell pepper, red onion, roasted red pepper, kale and tomato.  More cheating, store-bought marina and sliced fresh mozzarella.  This is where grilling pizza gets a bit tough.  After rolling out the dough we had to be sure that we’d be able to transfer it to the grill and get it off without sticking.  I rolled out the dough and put it on a very well floured baking sheet so that it could easily slide off.  I also dipped a paper towel in olive oil, grabbed it with long tongs and oiled the grill, be careful it is hot!  I was able to slide the dough on the grill easily.

We crossed our fingers and hoped to be blogging about this pizza, not ordering take out.  After 4 minutes, I was able to easily lift the dough with a metal spatula.  I flipped it, raw side down onto the baking sheet (more flour so it would slide off again).  Now we got to topping the pizza on the already cooked side.

Pizza Topping

Pizza Topping

We finished with a bunch of kale on top and back onto the grill it went.

Kale!  The foil ball is a bulb of garlic roasting.

Kale! The foil ball is a bulb of garlic roasting.

 

This cooked for another 4 minutes or so until the cheese was melted.  I had put the pizza right over the top of the coals but it might be wise put the pie off to the side so that the toppings can cook without the crust getting too crispy.  You’d want to check and turn on occasion so it cooks evenly if you use this method.

Done!

Done!

Moment of truth…the dough was cooked all the way through!

All Dressed Up!

All Dressed Up!

Pizza and beets, not the most obvious combination but oh so tasty.  I guess this isn’t really a recipe post, more of a cooking method post.  It was fun to take the cooking outside and the barbecue really added an added layer of flavor to everything.  A note on time, by the time I got the briquettes going and prepped all of the food this took a bit longer than cooking inside, but the experience and enjoying the summer weather was worth it.  Time to eat.

Dinner is Served

Dinner is Served

Have you ever made anything on the grill that is traditionally done inside?  How was it?

 

Miso Dressing Chopped Salad

I know, I know another salad brought to you buy Nicole.  I’m just taking advantage of all the great veggies while they are in season.  I generally make a honey mustard dressing for my salads but I recently bought a light miso paste that I wanted dress up (sorry couldn’t help myself!).  I already had quite a few veggies that I thought would complement the miso nicely, but I was stuck on what kind of protein to add to make this more of an entrée.  I wanted to add fresh snow peas and right next to the peas in the produce section was tofu, the perfect protein for this salad.  Even better the dressing could double as a marinade.

Let’s start with prepping the tofu.

Tofu Wrapped in Paper Towel

Tofu Wrapped in Paper Towel

When I am baking or frying tofu I always start by buying extra firm.  I drain all the water and then I wrap the tofu in paper towels and then put something heavy on top of the block to extract even more water.

Bowl with Veggies and Water on Tofu

Bowl with Veggies and Water on Tofu

I thought this was a great idea.  Soak my veggies in ice water (to crisp them up) and place the whole container on top of the tofu.  Not so smart, as the tofu drained the bowl shifted and I ended up with water everywhere.  I switched the bowl out for a heavy plate and got to work on my dressing.

Miso Dressing

Miso Dressing

I had read a variety of recipes for miso dressing but just decided to wing it, tasting as I went.  Three cloves of finely chopped garlic (I’m a big garlic fan, so you might want to hold back a bit), 1.5 tbsp mild miso, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 1/2 tbsp soy sauce (no added salt needed!), 1/2 sesame oil, just under 1/2 cup canola oil and pepper to taste.  This was tasty, but missing something.  I added 1/2 tbsp unpictured agave syrup (honey would also work well here).  In the future I think I would cut back a little on the soy and sesame, they are both really strong flavors. Mix well and you have a dressing and marinade all in one.

I opted to bake the tofu in the marinade since I was short on time.  With more time I probably would have thinned the marinade with a bit of water, and marinated the tofu for a couple of hours before pan frying (I like the crispness of pan frying).  As it was, I was hungry and it was already getting late.  I put some marinade in the bottom of a pie pan, stacked the tofu on top, put more marinade over it and baked for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Tofu Ready to Bake!

Tofu Ready to Bake!

While the tofu baked I prepped all of the veggies.  Again, if I had more time, I probably would have cut the veggies into match sticks  so it would look prettier but as it was hunger took over and I went for simple slices.

Veggies Prepped

Veggies Prepped

Clockwise from top left: 1/3 cup bell pepper, 1/2 an avocado, three radishes, a handful of snow peas (I’m always blow away by the high per pound price of snow peas, but this handful only cost about 40 cents,they are light!), four cherry tomatoes, 1 small cucumber, two small carrots (I got these from the farmers’ market so sweet!!), and three green onions.

I pulled the tofu out of the oven to cool and prepared the salad.

Salad in a Bowl

Salad in a Bowl

The veggies topped a baby kale and spinach mix.  I only used two small handfuls of greens but more could easily be added to bulk this up.  Time to finish up the salad!

Ready to Eat!!

Ready to Eat!!

This is how it looked before I mixed it all together.  Tofu, chow mien noodles, black sesame seeds and additional dressing.  This salad was surprisingly filling.  I also loved all of the different textures.  I’ll continue to try to perfect the miso dressing and this will be in regular rotation this summer!  As a I had more than half of the tofu leftover and I’m looking forward to it with lunch tomorrow.

I have a bacon and fresh pea salad (with bread, I am a convert!) I’m thinking of sharing next.  I also picked up the most recent Rachel Ray magazine and was going to see if the “thirty minute meals” really take thirty minutes.  What would you like to see?

 

Na’ama’s Fattoush

This is another adaptation by Nicole from Jerusalem a Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  I was skeptical of this salad recipe that had a base of flat bread soaked in buttermilk and no leafy greens, but every time I opened the cookbook I found myself going back to its page.  When I realized I had almost all of the ingredients or reasonable substitutes on hand, I decided to go for it.

Let’s start with the veggies.

Veggies Ready for Prep

Veggies Ready for Prep

Half a cup of grape tomatoes, two mini cucumbers, three mini sweet peppers, three radishes (I would have used more but this was all the garden gave me), two green onions, a clove of garlic, the juice of half a lemon, a big handful of parsley and half as much mint.  It doesn’t look like a lot in this big bowl, but once chopped these veggies tripled in size!

The Rest of the Ingredients

The Rest of the Ingredients

Half a cup of buttermilk, two tbsp olive oil, one tbsp cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, topped with a dusting of crumbled feta and smoked paprika.  Finally, I didn’t have stale flat bread like the recipe called for but I did have lavash.  I put the lavash in the oven at low heat to crisp it up since it was fresh.  While it dried out, I chopped the veggies.

All Chopped Up!

All Chopped Up!

I got what I could locally (the herbs from right out back!) but the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers still aren’t available in the NW.  Soon though, every week more colors and varieties are showing up at the farmers market.  Now for the part I was unsure about- the lavash soaking in buttermilk.

Bread in Milk

Bread in Milk

This recipe was really easy- just chop, put it all  in bowl, mix it up and let rest for ten minutes.  The original recipe called for sumac.  I’ve never had sumac but from what I’ve read it’s a pretty unique flavor without a good substitution.  I opted for paprika for color only.  I also added a little feta on top because, yum!

Ready to Eat!

Ready to Eat!

At first bite I knew it was silly to have been skeptical of the bread soaked in buttermilk.  It was delicious.  So fresh and bright tasting.   I liked the combo of veggies that I used but I think a bit of hot pepper could be added or maybe some garbanzo beans.  I will no longer shy away from salads with bread!

Another salad by Nicole, I need to mix up my eating!  Do you have a favorite food you always go back to?

Dinner for One!

After cooking for two for years I suddenly faced only cooking for myself- with the exception of all my dinner parties!  Most work nights it’s just me.  For a couple of months I lived on salads, sandwiches, and bean burritos.  That got old after a while and I realized that taking the time to actually cook for and nourish my body was just as satisfying (if not always as much fun) as cooking for someone else.  Cooking for one does pose challenges though, especially since I’m not a huge fan of leftovers.  Most recipes are meant to feed at least two and often 4+ people.  Some are easily adapted but other things, like casseroles are really difficult.  I had to look outside cookbooks and get creative to come up with some new dinners for one.  I also had to invest in a small oven safe dish.

To make it a little more difficult tonight, I didn’t want to make an additional trip to the grocery store so I had to work with my pantry.  Specifically, I wanted to use a sweet potato that had been on my shelf for a while and some fresh eggs that a co-worker brought me.  I decided on a baked hash- three layers.

Layer One, Prior to Prep

Layer One, Prior to Prep

I diced all of the veggies, fairly small for a quicker cooking time.  Half a sweet potato, 1/3 cup red onion, three mini sweet peppers, and 2 cloves of garlic.

Diced!

Diced!

Prepped and ready to be mixed with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  I put this in the oven at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

While the potato mixture baked I prepared the other layers.  I shredded 1/3 sharp cheddar cheese for the middle layer (this could be omitted if you want to avoid dairy).  I also chopped 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, four green onions, and half an avocado for the top.  I seasoned them with salt and pepper.

Toppings

Toppings

After forty minutes I removed the potatoes from the oven and cracked two eggs on top.  I also sprinkled the cheddar all around.

Ready for Final Bake

Ready for Final Bake

I baked the casserole for 15 minutes.  My eggs ended up over hard, not too hard, but harder than I like.  Next time I’ll go for closer to 12 minutes so the yoke will still be a bit runny.  I set the table with my tomato salad as well as Greek yogurt and hot sauce.

Toppings Ready

Toppings Ready

Depending on dietary restrictions, preferences, and hunger this can be served with bacon and/or toast.  I have no restrictions, like all food, and was hungry after missing a proper lunch due to a busy day at work- so I had both!

Yum

Yum

What do you eat when you’re alone?  Do you enjoy leftovers?  Favorite one serving meals?

Tigua Indian Beef Stew

This recipe is brought to you by Nicole.

My diet is primarily vegetarian but when I get a craving for beef I listen to it.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I was also having a friend over who loves spicy food and is pretty health conscious. I’ve made this Tigua Indian “Bowl of Red” that I found in the New York Times in the past and have always been pleased.  It calls for 5 tbsp of chili powder and uses eye of round beef (eye of round is very lean and also relatively inexpensive), so it fit the bill of being spicy and somewhat healthy.

The cook time is fairly lengthy but prep is a breeze.  Probably best for a weekend night but if you don’t mind eating late it can be done after work.  Let’s get the ingredients ready!

Bowl of Red Ingredients

Bowl of Red Ingredients

Two pounds of round cut into 1/2 inch cubes.  I left the raw meat handling to my friend, look at those knife skills!  I chopped one white onion and three cloves of garlic.  I gathered all of the spices- 5 tbsp chili powder, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano, 1 1/2 tsp cayenne.  The recipe also calls for 1 tbsp cumin.  I was out.  I don’t know how this happened.  Cumin is my favorite spice so I’m always buying it but I failed to last night, assuming I already had a ton at home.  I know what’s at the top of my grocery list.

I started by sauteing the onion and garlic on medium heat until just soft, about five minutes.  I increased the heat and added the beef.  Once browned, I dumped in all the spices, one (15 oz) can of tomato sauce and 1 1/2 cup of water.  I brought it to a boil and then reduced to a simmer for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  At the end of the simmering I dissolved 2 tbsp masa harina in 1/2 cup warm water.  I added the mixture to the chili and let it cook for an additional 5 minutes, the masa harina acts as a thickening agent and also adds a subtle toasted corn flavor.

I think this chili would be great served over rice or with a thick slice of sweet corn bread.  But because my day had lacked vegetables I decided to go with my spicy slaw.

Cabbage Base

Cabbage Base

Half a head of cabbage goes a long way!

Slaw Ingredients

Slaw Ingredients; Photo Credit ASV

I make a version of this slaw quite often.  It has a ton of flavor and works as a nice side to BBQ, tacos, and chili!.  I opted to chop these ingredients for time’s sake but a julienne makes for an elegant looking slaw (if slaw can be elegant…).  Half of a red onion, two carrots (these were grated), three green onions, half a bell pepper, half a cup cilantro, 2 jalapenos (I left the seeds in for added heat), and three sad radishes that I pulled from my garden too soon.  I made an apple cider vinaigrette- the juice of one lime, 1 tbsp honey, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Finished Slaw

Finished Slaw

I love how fresh and colorful this looks.  A red bell pepper could be swapped for the green for even more variety.  I really like that this salad can be dressed and then stored in the fridge for a couple of days.  The cabbage holds up nicely and the flavors intensify.  Time to eat.

Chili and Slaw

Chili and Slaw

I served my chili with a bunch of plain greek yogurt to counteract the heat.  Not the prettiest picture but it was a really tasty dish.  Next time, I’ll wait for a weekend to make this so that the chili can cook a little bit longer on lower heat.  The beef was a little bit tough.  I will also be purchasing cumin.

 

 

Salad for Dinner

A couple of my (Nicole) girlfriends come over on Sunday nights for Game of Thrones, wine, and dessert.  So much dessert!  They usually stop by a local bakery and leave the leftovers for me.  I had them over a little early tonight to have dinner first.  Since I knew dessert and wine were coming and it was a hot day I decided salad would be on the menu for dinner.  I wanted to recreate two of my favorite salads from restaurants in my former home town of Seattle.  The Pagliaccio from Pagliacci Pizza and the Palermo from Tutta Bella. I had menu descriptions of both but took liberties of my own and had to guess on the dressings.

First up the Pagliaccio- the menu called for “green leaf lettuce tossed with garbanzo beans, diced red peppers, Kasseri cheese, salami, red onions and our Dijon vinaigrette”.  I gathered all the ingredients.

Pagliaccio Ingredients

Pagliaccio Ingredients

I didn’t have Kasseri cheese so I substituted Parmesan.  I also added sugar plum tomatoes and (not pictured above) shredded basil.  It’s difficult to see in the photo, but I almost always use low sodium canned beans.  I also rinse them before use, I like to control my own salt levels.  All chopped up the ingredients looked beautiful.

Chopped!

Chopped!

Seven large basil leaves, one cup chopped cherry tomatoes, 1/2 a cup of salami (we all agreed that the amount of salami should be increased), one medium red bell pepper, one can garbanzo beans, 1/3 cup chopped red onion (I left the onion on the side since they were strong and not everyone likes them), and 1/3 cup grated Parmesan.

I like mixing my vinaigrettes in a mason jar.  It’s quick and easy to shake.  One garlic clove finely minced, 1 tbsp Dijon, a dollop on honey, 1/6 cup red wine vinegar, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Ready to Mix

Ready to Mix

All together!

Pagliaccio

Pagliaccio

I put this in the fridge on got going on the Palermo.  The menu listed “arugula, orange, fennel, taggiasca olive, red onion, reggiano, lemon, extra virgin olive oil”.

Palermo Ingredients

Palermo Ingredients

I didn’t have taggiasca olives so I just used green olives.  Instead of dicing the ingredients like I did with the Pagliaccio, I sliced these thinly.  I used a potato peeler to slice the Romano.

20140608-190039.jpg

Palermo Chopped

About half a cup of Romano, 1/3 red onion (again left on the side), 1/2 cup fennel, 1/2 cup green olives, one navel orange.  I also added about 1/3 cup fennel fronds.

In the restaurant the dressing was just olive oil and lemon juice.  I blended 1/4 orange, 1/2 cup olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, 1 tbsp honey, salt, and pepper.

Palermo Dressing

Palermo Dressing

I finished the Palermo with one chopped avocado, all mixed together!

Palermo

Palermo

Served with bread, these salads were a great dinner for a hot day.  I’ll make them both again.  I really enjoyed the addition of the tomatoes and basil to the Pagliaccio.  More salami next time!  I need to play with the dressing some more, it’s not quite as good as what I get at the restaurant not as creamy but I’m not sure how to make a vinaigrette creamier.  Ideas?  I was very pleased with the Palermo.  Avocado added a nice smoothness and healthy fats.  I’m also really glad I made a dressing (especially the orange part!) instead of just topping with lemon and olive oil.

Have you ever tried to recreate a restaurant dish at home?  How were your results?

 

 

Hummingbird Cake

Yup, you read the correctly, a hummingbird cake!  I (Ivie) had wanted to make a layered cake and offered to do one for a friend’s birthday.  I had never done an actual layered cake before.  I have made many batches of cupcakes, from scratch and box, and wanted a new challenge.  I bought a couple of cake pans and a very cute cake carrier from amazon (only $14).  The only think left was to pick a recipe.  I had heard the name “Hummingbird Cake” a lot recently, so I decided to check it out.

The hummingbird cake dates back to the mid 19th century South.  It was first published in 1978, in Southern Living and won the favorite cake award that same year at the Kentucky State Fair.  Like all things wonderful and delicious, this cake is making a popular comeback and it did not disappoint.  (The history information was found on Wikipedia.)

I followed a recipe from the Food Network website and like I do with any recipe before cooking, I browsed the comments to check for any recommendations.  I took into consideration 2 very important concerns that came up over and over again – start checking the cakes after 30 minutes and add more pineapple!

I set off to the grocery store and picked up my ingredients, after taking inventory at home.

Cake Ingredients

Cake Ingredients

The main flavors in the cake are bananas, pineapples, and pecans.  You can’t have a southern style food without pecans!  The cake was spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.  It was almost like a banana bread with pineapple added, and I’m sure it would make some great muffins as well.

Dry Ingredients and Fruit Ingredients

Dry Ingredients and Fruit Ingredients

First, I started by putting the flour, salt, baking soda, and ground spices into a dry mix bowl.  I also put the bananas, crushed pineapple, nuts, and 1/2 cup flour into another bowl.  Mixing both thoroughly.

The wet ingredients

The wet ingredients

Finally, with my trusty Kitchen Aid stand mixer, I whipped up the sugar and eggs, then slowly added the oil a little at a time.  I did this with the whisk attachment.  After about 5 minutes, bringing the ingredients to a thick consistency, I switched over to the paddle attachment and added in the dry ingredients and then the fruit mix.  I forgot to take a picture of the mix and the cake baking, sorry.

When the cake was cooling on a rack, after about 40 minutes of baking (which I felt was maybe a little too long), I started making the frosting.

Frosting Ingredients

Frosting Ingredients

It is traditional for the hummingbird cake to be made with Cream Cheese Frosting.  Which, in my humble opinion, is the best kind of frosting!  Ingredients, room temp cream cheese, unsalted butter, vanilla (my mama’s homemade stuff), powdered sugar, and lemon zest.

Frosting!

Frosting!

Again, I used the stand mixer and made the frosting.  Using room temp cream cheese and butter is essential.  This is the first time I’ve been able to get my frosting to the correct consistency, and for it not to be chunky.  Chunky frosting does not taste right and definitely doesn’t look pretty.

Beautiful, kinda

Beautiful, kinda

Once the cake was cooled, I did my best to stack and frost it.  I think I did a pretty good job for my first try.  I definitely need more practice and I can’t wait to make more cakes!  Anyone need a cake made?

The adorable carrier

The adorable carrier

And here is the cake, ready to go to the party!  Even though I am my own worst critic, it still did turn out well enough.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it and might actually let me make another cake for future functions.

Have you made a layered cake?  What is your favorite kind of cake?