Dips and Nibbles

The Spread

The Spread

A good friend came to town this past weekend, visiting from Seattle.  The plan for Saturday night was to make a huge spread and enjoy!  We made fresh goat cheese, pureed beets, warm Brussels sprout salad and bagna cauda (anchovies, cream, garlic oh my).  I won’t overwhelm you with all the recipes right now so we’ll start with the beets.

I got the recipe out of my current favorite cookbook Jerusalem.  The photos are gorgeous and every time I flip through I pause at the picture of the bright purple-red beet puree.  Luckily my friend is also a fan of the earthy beet flavor so we decided to try the recipe.

Give just over two pounds of beets a good scrub and roast them whole at 400 degrees for about an hour.  You know they are done when a knife slides through easily and the skin begins to separate from the flesh.  Give them plenty of time to cool and peel away.  Put on gloves if you don’t want pink fingers!  I was able to just rub most of the skin off but a paring knife might be necessary in some spots.

Ready to Roast

Ready to Roast

After peeled- cut into 1/2 inch cubes and put in a food processor or high-powered blender with 2 cloves crushed garlic, one red chili (I had to use a serrano-which worked fine!) and one heaping cup of plain Greek yogurt.  Blend until smooth.

Time to add extra flavor.  Put the puree into a  mixing bowl and stir in 1 1/2 tbsp date syrup (I used a combination of maple and agave since I didn’t have date syrup on hand), 3 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp za’atar*.  Salt to taste.

Put in your serving bowl and top with 2 thinly sliced green onions, 2 tbsp chopped and toasted hazelnuts and 2 oz crumbled goat cheese.  Serve at room temperature with bread for dipping but you might just find yourself eating it by the spoonful!

Ready to Serve

Ready to Serve

 

I wish the picture wasn’t so dark, the color really was phenomenal.

 

*Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that usually includes a combination of dried herbs (oregano, thyme, marjoram), toasted sesame seeds, sumac and a bit of salt.

 

Are you a fan of beets or do they taste too much like dirt?  What do you like to do with your beets?

Tomato Season!

Last Thursday I was making a simple spinach salad for dinner.  I stopped by the store for avocado and a pint of grape tomatoes.  I used maybe five grape tomatoes.  On Friday one of my co-workers brought me in a bag of cherry tomatoes.  On Saturday I went to the Farmers’ Market to be greeted by an abundance of local tomato varieties (I bought a beefeater for BLTs and some heirlooms I’d never seen before.  On Sunday my black cherry tomatoes started to ripen.  Now it’s Tuesday and I have tomatoes coming out of my ears!

What to do with all of my tomatoes?!  I found inspiration from weekend morning Food Network.  Ina Garten was making a tomato gratin and from chatting with a farmer and taking her recommendation.

The Barefoot Contessa was making a fresh tomato gratin.  I was sweeping and talking on the phone, but she caught my attention talking about what to do with a bunch of cherry tomatoes.

Grape tomatoes from the grocery store, red cherries from a friend, black cherries from the backyard.

Grape tomatoes from the grocery store, red cherries from a friend, black cherries from the backyard.

I started by coating the tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme.  Next came the gratin topping, blended in the food processor.  Ina called for bread crumbs, parsley and garlic.  I added parmesan because cheese makes everything better.  

Ready to blend!

Ready to blend!

The parsley came from the backyard and I had a sandwich roll that needed to be used.  Three cloves of garlic and three tablespoons of parm.  Blend it up and dump on top of the tomatoes.

Up next, baking.

Up next, baking.

I put a couple of pads of butter on top.  Like cheese, butter makes everything better.  Into a four hundred degree oven for thirty minutes.  The recipe called for 40, but my bread crumbs were getting a bit toasty so I pulled it out.  

Time to let it rest.

Time to let it rest.

While the gratin was cooking I was working on recipe number two for tomatoes.  Two of the heirlooms I bought had a fleshy skin but were largely hollow.  The farmer recommended them for stuffing!  Since it’s still pretty warm out, I though tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad served over greens sounded perfect.  

I always mix my tuna salad with tons of veggies, close to a fifty fifty ratio!  I finely chopped one small carrot, 1/3 cup red onion, 2 dill pickles, 1 tbsp mayo and one tbsp yellow mustard before adding the tuna.

Ready for the fish!

Ready for the fish!

I added one can of oil packed tuna (I drained about half of the oil, you could not drain and omit the mayo) and mixed it all up.

Tuna salad

Tuna salad

I mix my tuna right in a tupperware bowl so I can easily store the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  Stuff the tomatoes, place on top of greens, lightly dress with homemade honey mustard dressing!

Stuffed tomatoes

Stuffed tomatoes

I served my salad with a side of gratin and had plenty of leftover tuna salad and gratin for the week.

Perfect summer side!

Perfect summer side!

I just used the tomatoes I had on hand for the gratin, in the future I’d double the amount but keep the breadcrumb amount the same.  It was still delicious!

What do you do in the summer with an excess of tomatoes or zucchini?  

Sunday Night Meal Prep

I have a busy week coming up.  Work, class, fun, and always the unexpected!  In order to make the week as stress-free as possible and not depend on take out, I decided to do a bunch of meal prep Sunday evening.  Food that didn’t need much assembly or much cooking (too hot to have the oven going!) was important.  This meant I was going to rely on- surprise, surprise- salads.  I found a couple of salads in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman that I knew would last longer than a day or two, made some originals, and also picked up a few things at the store to supplement.

First up a Perelman recipe.  Vinegar slaw with cucumbers and dill.  I love dill in the summer and I really liked the simplicity of this recipe.  In addition, vinegar slaws tend to improve with time and they have a shelf life of up to a week.  Such simple ingredients!

Only Six Ingredients!

Only Six Ingredients!

I used a mandolin to shred one medium head of green cabbage and thinly slice one English cucumber.  I mixed those with two tbsp fresh dill.  Two tbsp kosher salt and four tsp were dissolved in 1/4 cup white wine vinegar and then 1/2 cup water was added and the dressing was mixed with the veggies.

Cucumber Slaw

Cucumber Slaw

I tasted this after about an hour, I’m sure with time it will get better and better.  It was a bit salty and on further inspection I saw a side note on the recipe that the salt should be cut down unless Diamond brand kosher salt was used.

Onto the second Perelman recipe- sugar snap salad with miso dressing.  I already had miso paste in the fridge from last week’s chopped salad so I figured I’d give this one a try.  All the veggie ingredients gathered up.

I used savoy cabbage instead of the napa the recipe called for

I used savoy cabbage instead of the napa the recipe called for

Three tbsp toasted sesame seeds (I only had black on hand), three green onions, 1/2 lb sugar snap peas, and four radishes.  I boiled the peas for two minutes and then put them in an ice bath before cutting them thin on a bias.  I quartered and thinly sliced the radish, sliced the green o’s, and shredded the cabbage.  For the dressing, into the blender went- 1 tbsp minced ginger, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tbsp mild miso paste, 2 tbsp tahini, 1 tbsp honey, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 tbsp sesame oil, and 2 tbsp olive oil.  Mix with the veggies and it is good to go.  Again with a vinegar based dressing- this one will last a few days.

Sugar Snap Salad

Sugar Snap Salad

I really enjoyed this salad- the peas add a natural sweetness.  I’m looking forward to eating this all week.

In addition to the salads made humus and chopped carrots for snacks and side dishes.  I do a pretty basic humus- one 15 oz can garbanzo beans plus 1/4 cup of the liquid, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp tahini, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, a dash of paprika, and a dash of cumin.

I made tuna salad for sandwiches or as a topper for greens.  I like wild albacore in extra virgin olive oil.  The oil adds more fat than water packed tuna but it also adds moisture so not as much mayo is needed.  My tuna is mixed with an equal ratio of tuna and veggies.  I throw in whatever I have on hand.  This time was yellow pepper, carrot, red onion, and pickles.  Two to one mayo to mustard ratio.

Next up I prepped bags of fruit and veggies for my whole juice smoothies in the morning.

Tomorrow's Juice!

Tomorrow’s Juice!

Beet juice is my current favorite.  Mixed with apple, carrot, and fresh ginger.  I mix this with water and ice for juice in the morning.  I have five bags in the freezer waiting for me this week.

To round out my prep I hard-boiled some eggs and washed some cherries.  I was going to bake tofu like I did with the chopped salad but I found some already marinated tofu on sale at the grocery store, so I made it easy on myself.

Ready for the Week

Ready for the Week

I almost forgot.  While doing all of this prep I made some sun tea in the backyard (back right).  With the addition of some bread, salad greens, and maybe some bacon and cheese, I’m all set for the week!

Do you prep food for the week?  What are some of your meal prep ideas to last a few days?

 

 

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?

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.