Monthly Archives: June 2014

Ham and Cheese Without the Bread~ A Salad For All Seasons

Here’s another favorite salad that I’ve been making for years~ it’s all “chop” and no cook. This is a lovely combination of smoky ham and sweet cranberries, with lots of varied textures from crispy apples, crunchy walnuts and creamy cheddar cheese. What I find special about this, is that it’s so good and satisfying, it doesn’t even need dressing. Of course, you can have some if you like, and If you do, I would recommend something like bleu cheese, honey mustard or poppy seed.

Another thing I like about this salad, is that it seems to lend itself to all seasons. There is a touch of Thanksgiving about it, with the apples and cranberries, though it is very refreshing in Summer.

What you need for this

What you need for this

All you need is a knife, a cutting board and the following…

1 apple, diced (I like Pacific Rose apples, if you can find them)
1 stalk celery, diced (or use 2 stalks of the heart of the celery~ they are more tender)
1 red pepper, diced
½ small red onion, chopped
8 oz. ham, diced (turkey ham works well, too)
4 oz. cheddar cheese, cubed
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ cup walnuts, chopped
2 cups lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces

Slice celery

Slice celery

Chop & add red onion

Chop and add red onion

Chop and add red bell pepper

Chop and add red bell pepper

Dice and add apple

Dice and add apple

Chop the first 4 ingredients first…

Toss the first four ingredients

Toss the first four ingredients

…then mix in a large bowl.

Next add ham, cheese, walnuts and cranberries

Next add ham, cheese, walnuts and cranberries

Next, add the ham and cheese and mix them into the vegetables. Add the walnuts and cranberries. (Make sure your bowl is large enough, or you’ll have to transfer this mixture to a larger bowl, like I did.)

Add lettuce last

Add lettuce last

Add the lettuce last, so that when you toss everything together, the lettuce isn’t the only thing on top!

Toss!

Toss!

Toss and serve!

Cornbread makes a perfect accompaniment

Cornbread makes a perfect accompaniment

Serve with or without dressing, with bread or cornbread.

Great for lunch or dinner

Great for lunch or dinner

 

Ham & Cheese Salad~ fresh and delicious

Ham & Cheese Salad~ fresh and delicious

This will serve about 3-4 people as a main dish, but the leftovers are quite wonderful the next day for lunch. Consider a variation by using smoked turkey, instead of ham. It would be just as good.

 

 

It’s Gelato Season!

Ah, Summer… here you are! I’ve loved you since childhood, just because I could wear shorts, flip-flops, (which we now call “rubbah slippahs,” and back then called “thongs”). How things change! Anyway, I love summer not only for the beautiful morning light and warm sunshine, but also because the food suits me~ grilled chicken and shrimp, cool salads, fresh stone fruit and icy desserts. It all makes my heart sing! So how thrilled am I to be invited to our first barbecue of the season, and offer to bring dessert to the hostess, who adores ice cream? This is not really a question. You can guess I volunteered to bring some kind of awesome gelato, and as it turns out, I’m bringing two. Can you remember that blackberry-lemon one I made a few weeks back?

Raspberry gelato

Raspberry gelato

I re-did that with raspberries, and it is wonderful. All I did was swap out the berries and the preserves, and bingo! I’m bringing some of that.

 

Blueberry gelato~ healthy enough to eat for breakfast

Blueberry gelato~ healthy enough to eat for breakfast

I also made it with blueberries and Meyer lemon, and I’m pretty sure it’s healthy enough to eat for breakfast.

I do have to confess that there was another flavor I tried making a couple of weeks ago, and it was so refreshing and delicious. It’s also a flavor that brings up sweet, lovely memories of a late, beloved great-aunt who frequently hosted Thanksgiving in my younger years. My Aunt Agnes was a very progressive woman, for her time. She was very intelligent, down-to-earth and never talked down to me, just because I was a child. But one of the things that made her most memorable to me, was her Thanksgiving dessert. She always offered pumpkin pie with whipped cream. But, she also always offered ice cream with that, and I must say, she never kept any lame, vanilla flavor in her freezer. Nope, not that. She always had Mint Chip, and it was my favorite, pumpkin pie, or not.

 

Fresh mint gives fresh flavor

Fresh mint gives fresh flavor

So, you can guess that I was really excited to run across the idea for this recipe for Mint Chip gelato a couple of months ago, because I never even thought of this as a gelato flavor. Apparently, this idea originated with Mark Bittman of the New York Times, and the chocolate scribbles that make up the chips are Chef David Lebovitz’s idea. The scribbles are a lot of fun to make, by the way. 

I’ve had an ice cream maker for about two years, and I have yet to make ice cream, since I love gelato so much. As I mentioned, I did test this out, and I found that there is a lot to like. The color and flavor may surprise you, because this is made with fresh mint leaves, so the color may be a very pale green, and the flavor is fresh and herbal-y. It also has a lot less sugar than many gelato recipes I’ve seen, and that’s a good thing. Even Monty, who is not that fond of mint, really liked it.

The original version was made with cornstarch, but I just can’t see making gelato without egg yolks, so I made that change. If you’d like to try this, you’ll need:

2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
pinch salt
1 large bunch of peppermint, washed, dried, and de-stemmed
5 oz. dark chocolate (I used a 3.5 oz. organic mint bar and added some chocolate chips to it~ I still had leftover chocolate, so you may not need that much)

Wash, dry and de-stem the mint leaves

Wash, dry and de-stem the mint leaves

The method for this is to first infuse the milk with mint, so the first step is to wash, dry and de-stem the mint leaves. You should have about 2 cups.

 

Infuse the milk with mint flavor

Infuse the milk with mint flavor

Place them into a large saucepan with the 2 cups of milk and a pinch of salt, and heat the milk until it’s just under the boiling point. Once the milk is heated, remove from heat and allow to sit and cool, so the infusion will be created.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light and thick.

Once the infusion has fully cooled, strain the leaves out of the milk with a sieve, squeezing the milk out of the leaves with your very, clean hands. Then, pour it into the bowl with the eggs and sugar. Whisk the mixture together, and then pour it back into the large saucepan. Cook the mixture over a medium high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, cool and then refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. The colder, the better.

When the gelato is ready to be frozen, get your double boiler out. If you don’t have one, you can do this:

I f you don't have one, fake it!

I f you don’t have one, fake it!

 

Flavored is intensified with mint flavored chocolate

Flavored is intensified with mint flavored chocolate

I wanted to make sure my mint chip would be super minty, so I used a bar like this.

 

Lovely chocolate

Lovely chocolate…mmmmmm!

Break the chocolate up into pieces, so it will melt more easily.

Place water into the bottom of the pan, and the chocolate into the top part, taking care that water doesn’t mix with the chocolate. Melt the chocolate, remove from heat, and set aside.

 

The "chips" are made from "scribbling" the chocolate

The “chips” are made from “scribbling” the chocolate

You can “scribble” some chocolate into the bottom of the container you’re going to be putting the gelato into, and then put it into the freezer, so it will harden.

Freeze the gelato according to manufacturer’s instructions, and when it’s done, let the scribbling begin!

Break up the melted chocolate with a spoon

Break up the melted chocolate with a spoon

Pour spoonfuls of the gelato into the container, scribble the chocolate over it, then break it up with a spoon. The chocolate will harden pretty immediately, once it makes contact with the gelato, so it makes really nice “organic-looking” chips. It’s also fun to do! But you do want to move fast, so the gelato doesn’t melt before you get it into the freezer to cure. Continue until all the gelato is in the container, then freeze, preferably overnight.

 

Natural, Mint Chip Gelato

Natural, Mint Chip Gelato

This is very cool and refreshing!

Cool and refreshing!

Cool and refreshing!

 

A lovely, Summer treat

A lovely, Summer treat

 

Enjoy!

Happy Summer, everyone! Let’s enjoy the bounty and beauty of the season.

Breakfast on a Friday Night

By the end of some weeks, there is not a lot of inspiration left to cook up a “regular” meal. We’re both beat, and we just want something quick and delicious to kick off the weekend. We both grew up frequently having “breakfast for dinner,” on Friday nights when we were kids, and we recently revived that tradition by making “Chorizo & Eggs.”

If you’ve never had chorizo, it is a Mexican pork sausage, that has a reddish color and a spicy flavor, which is from the dried peppers that are included with the meat, within its casing. It usually comes in varying degrees of spiciness,  (I don’t like it too hot) and we started buying it because we found it at Whole Foods. Thus, it is a bit leaner than many other brands, and we like the idea of meat that’s not raised inhumanely. We at least feel better about that. So, we have started keeping one in the freezer for those lazy Friday nights.

This is also a combination of foods that is very popular in California, due to its proximity to Mexico, and it’s kind of fun to share something like this with a broader audience. To serve this California style, it’s best to put the tomatoes and cheese in last, so they barely get warm~ you’ll want to taste the freshness. Just don’t forget that it’s also great for breakfast!

Eggs for dinner~ easy!

Eggs for dinner~ easy!

 

This is easy. For 2 servings you’ll need:

1 chorizo sausage, about 1/3 of a pound

½ of a white or yellow onion (or a small one) finely chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, also finely chopped (I chop this and the onion together to save time)

4 eggs, beaten with a little bit of salt & pepper, and about a tablespoon of water

2-3 ounces Mexican cheese, grated (Asadero is good, if you can find it, but cheddar or Monterey Jack is good, too)

2 roma tomatoes, chopped

3-4 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

3-4 green onions, sliced crosswise

Cook chorizo

Cook chorizo

 

Depending upon how lean your chorizo is, you may need a little bit of olive oil in your non-stick frying pan to cook the chorizo. Remove the sausage from its casing and break it up with a spatula.

Chop onion and jalapeño together

Chop onion and jalapeño together

 

While it’s cooking, chop the onion and jalapeño. Chop them together and save yourself a little time. After all, they are all going into the same pan together.

Stir in the onion and jalapeño and sauté

Stir in the onion and jalapeño, and sauté

 

When the chorizo is about halfway finished cooking, add the jalapeño and onion to the pan. Stir them together and cook for about 10 minutes.

Add the eggs to the pan, making sure that you are using medium heat, stirring them in to help keep them from sticking to the pan and to help them cook evenly. Cooking them on lower heat will make the eggs more tender.

Chop tomatoes, green onions and cilantro together

Chop the tomatoes and cilantro, and slice green onions

 

While the eggs are cooking, chop the tomatoes and cilantro together, and slice the green onions. Continue to stir the eggs occasionally.

Stir in cheese and tomato mixture

Stir in cheese and tomato mixture

 

When the eggs are cooked, stir in the cheese, tomatoes, cilantro and green onions. Gently mix them together and heat for about 5 minutes. As mentioned about, I find that this is really best with barely heated veggies.

Chorizo & Eggs with Cheese and Tomatoes

Chorizo & Eggs with Cheese and Tomatoes

 

Divide up the eggs and serve. This is really good with tortillas, if you have some, but it is just as good with some buttered toast.

 

As good for dinner as it is for breakfast

As good for dinner as it is for breakfast

 

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

When It’s Too Warm to Cook…

Natural, Italian sausages~ such a good price

Natural, Italian sausages~ such a good price

I got these nice, Italian chicken sausages on sale, and I was trying to think of something that would go well with them. It’s been pretty warm, so I didn’t really feel like heating up the kitchen with pasta sauce, soup or anything else that would need to be cooked for a long time.

So here’s some insight into how my brain works in dealing with such things. I got to thinking, and something in my brain thought of hot dogs and beans. Okay, that’s more like apples and oranges, but then I thought that Italian-style beans might work out. That’s when I thought of bean salad, but I didn’t really want to do that soggy three-bean thing that comes in a can~ I wanted something fresher. I have dried cannellini beans, but I didn’t want to do an overnight soak, and I certainly didn’t want to have to cook them on the stove for hours. Checking the cupboard, I did have canned cannellini beans and that’s when things started coming together.

I really wanted to use stuff I had gotten from the farmers market over the weekend… that would be the usual red onion, parsley and basil. I also had some roasted red peppers in the refrigerator, too.

Here’s what I did… please note how easy it would be to double or triple this for a crowd, or just for extra servings.

Cannellini beans and the usual farmers market herbs

Cannellini beans and the usual farmers market herbs

For the salad

1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

¼ cup roasted red peppers (from a jar), chopped

For the dressing

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sweet basil

1 good pinch of dried oregano

1 good pinch of red pepper flakes

salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Simply put the first three ingredients into a serving bowl.

Add ingredients into a non-reactive bowl

Add ingredients into a non-reactive bowl

 

Finely chop herbs and garlic together… they are all going into the same jar, anyway.

Chop garlic, parsley and basil together

Chop garlic, parsley and basil together

 

Add the herbs into jar, along with the olive oil, wine vinegar, oregano and red pepper flakes. Shake it up! Taste, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Shake dressing ingredients together

Shake dressing ingredients together

 

Gently stir the dressing into the beans.

Stir dressing into beans

Stir dressing into beans

 

This salad is just as good at room temperature as it is chilled.

Italian bean salad

Italian bean salad

 

Now this is what I call Italian-style “hot dogs and beans!”

Great with Italian sausage

Great with Italian sausage

 

Serve it outside for maximum enjoyment.

A fresh and healthy side dish

A fresh and healthy side dish

 

Enjoy!

It even has Italian colors!

It even has Italian colors!

 

It’s Kam Day~ Bring on da Chicken Long Rice!

Today is King Kamehameha’s Birthday, (Kam Day, to us folks who live here) so I am up for sharing a special Hawai‘ian recipe to celebrate! In case you didn’t know, King Kamehameha was the monarch who united the Hawai‘ian Islands, back in the 19th century. It’s a state holiday, so if you’re a working person, it’s a nice little break between Memorial Day and The Fourth of July. There is a big floral parade on the Saturday closest to June 11th, with lots of pageantry, marching bands, and pa‘u riders.

Pa‘u rider

Pa‘u rider

Pa‘u riders are beautiful Hawaiian women dressed in 19th Century riding gowns on horseback, bedecked with lei and other floral arrangements.

The Honolulu King Kamehameha statue on his birthday celebration, 2009

The Honolulu King Kamehameha statue on his birthday celebration, 2009

It’s a lot of fun to go downtown and check out the Kamehameha statue to see it bedecked in lei, too.

Chicken Long Rice

Chicken Long Rice

Anyway I’d like to celebrate by having a dish that’s usually a staple at a modern-day luau. It’s called chicken long rice, and it’s easy for someone like me to make, since I can’t dig an imu to roast a pig on our lanai. Most of the people reading this should be able to find these ingredients, which makes it more fun for everyone. If you have trouble, check your Asian food section at your local grocery.

Technically, chicken long rice really isn’t Hawaiian, but rather more Cantonese. The recipe came to the islands, back in the 1800s with the Chinese laborers, but the Asian influence has been so strong in Hawai‘i, people really don’t think twice about having a non-Hawai‘ian food, at a traditional Hawai‘ian feast. It is a kind of comfort food to many people, and you’ll soon see that it’s much like chicken soup, though there’s just enough liquid in the dish to float the noodles, rather than they be “swimming” in it.

Mung bean thread (long rice)

Mung bean thread (long rice)

 

Just make sure that you are buying “long rice,” rather than Asian vermicelli noodles, which are opaque. The are two different things. You want the ones that look more like cellophane.

Shitake mushrooms, celery, and carrots make chicken long rice much healthier

Shitake mushrooms, celery, and carrots make chicken long rice much healthier

 

This recipe is even more non-traditional, since I like having a few more veggies in mine. This is an adaptation of Sam Choy’s recipe, which suits me better. If you’d like to try, you’ll need:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs~ that’s about 2 large ones

2½ cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-inch thumb of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

½ medium sweet onion, (Maui, if possible) minced (I used one small one… same thing)

½ pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced

2 carrots, julienned

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced cross-wise

6 ounces mung bean noodles (also known as cellophane noodles or long rice)

salt to taste

6 scallions, sliced cross-wise

 

Place the long rice into a large bowl, cover with warm water, and let it soak for an hour. Meanwhile, place the chicken breasts in a pan, cover with water and boil until just cooked. Remove from heat and allow to cool, at least enough to be able to handle it.

Julienne or slice these thinly

Julienne or slice these thinly

 

While the chicken is cooking, (and cooling) chop the veggies. Everything should be thinly sliced.

Slice mushrooms thinly, too

Slice mushrooms thinly, too

 

Make sure you remove the stems from the shitake mushrooms, also… they are somewhat toxic, while the rest of mushroom is fine. If you can’t find fresh ones, dried ones are fine also, though you’ll need to reconstitute them.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion until tender and translucent. Add in the ginger, celery and carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes. Pour in the broth and stir. Allow the veggies to cook in the broth for a few minutes.

Shred chicken

Shred chicken

 

The last things you want to add are the chicken, long rice and green onion. Drain the long rice and cut into smaller pieces. I usually snip handfuls of the slippery stuff with kitchen shears, otherwise you’ll never get a spoonful~ it’s worse than spaghetti! Stir in the chicken, long rice and garnish with the green onions. Make sure you taste the broth and adjust salt to taste.

Luau food!

Luau food!

You can add additional onions as a garnish if you wish.

Simple, comfort food, for many

Simple, comfort food, for many

 

If it needs more seasoning, a dash of shoyu (soy sauce) and/or hot sauce (better yet, if you can access some chili pepper water) will usually do the trick.

 

A tasty spoonful

A tasty spoonful

 

Have a great “Kam Day” and Aloooooooha!

 

 

 

Hurray for Peach Season!

Mmmmmm… peaches!

Mmmmmm… peaches!

I am so happy to see good peaches in the markets again! I was getting worried, mainly because last year seemed to be a banner year for them, since I remember buying good, juicy ones in February. No such luck this year, and with the horrendous weather many mainland states had this past winter, I was afraid the season would yield mealy, not-so-good fruit. But it’s June, and I felt fortunate to find lovely, very fragrant peaches, yesterday. Better now, than never.

I’ve been waiting for them, because I love them spiced, just as much as I love eating them out of hand! I’m sure you can guess what’s coming…

roasted peaches

Yes, I have a wonderful, healthy, spiced peach recipe. Actually, what happens here is the honey that the peaches are roasted in is infused with vanilla bean, cinnamon stick and star anise. The infusion makes the spice flavoring more intense, and it also has a nice way of making your kitchen smell wonderful! It’s a bit like a scented candle or air freshener, except it’s natural. So lovely! 

Just add honey and spices

Just add honey and spices

All you need is:

4-5 ripe but firm peaches

1 cinnamon stick

1 vanilla bean

3-4 star anise

¼ cup honey

½ cup water

a shot of peach-flavored liqueur (optional)

First, split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds with a knife. Try to get as many as you can, and then put them into a small saucepan.

Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean

Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean

 

In the same saucepan, also place the rest of the vanilla bean, the cinnamon stick, star anise, honey and the water and gently stir. Bring them to a boil and then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes, then remove from heat. Allow the mixture to sit and infuse for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Infuse the honey with spices

Infuse the honey with spices

 

Next, slice the peaches, removing and discarding the pits.

Slice the peaches

Slice the peaches

 

Arrange them into a baking pan.

Arrange them in a pan

Arrange them in a pan

 

Pour the honey infusion over the peaches, including the whole spices~ they will continue to add flavor.

Pour the honey over them

Pour the honey over them

 

Roast for 30 minutes, or until the honey is bubbling. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Roasted peaches

Roasted peaches

 

These are good served at room temperature with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Serve with yogurt

Serve with yogurt

 

This makes a light and easy dessert. You also can serve these over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum!!

A light and easy dessert

A light and easy dessert

An Easy, Smoked Salmon “Canapé”

As many people already know, Sunday is our main day for relaxing… that’s why we call it “Martini Sunday,” though we certainly don’t tipple all day long! Just two in the late afternoon is fine, and of course, accompanied by an appetizer or “pupu,” as they are called in Hawai‘i.

We got some smoked salmon at Costco last week, and I’ve been feeling anticipation at sharing this appetizer idea for you, since it’s been a favorite of ours for quite a few years. It is a sort of canapé, as people once called them, which translates into “finger food.” So get the napkins ready, and remember… umbrellas are mandatory! This is a recipe that I found from Sunset Magazine many years ago, and it’s so easy and delicious, that I’ve got it memorized. What I love about this recipe are its health benefits~ lots of omega 3 oils from olive oil, macadamia nuts (if you follow my pesto recipe) salmon and avocado, antioxidants from the basil and sprouts, and potentially good fiber, depending upon the bread you use.

What's needed

What’s needed

All you need is…

Bread, 2 slices of whole grain, seeded  bread (I use super high fiber) works very well here

pesto, about 3-4 tablespoons

½ avocado, thinly sliced

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 oz. smoked salmon

sprouts, any kind you like

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

This is so simple. First, toast the bread.

 

Spread the pesto on toast

Spread the pesto on toast

Next, spread about 1½-2 tablespoons of pesto over each slice of bread.

Slice the avocado and lay it on

Slice the avocado and lay it on

Grind pepper to taste

Grind pepper to taste

 

Then, place avocado slices on top of the pesto, and sprinkle with black pepper. You really won’t need salt, since the salmon is naturally salty.

Layer on the salmon

Layer on the salmon

 

The salmon comes next~ layer slices on top the of the avocado.

Cut them into pieces and add a "pinch" of sprouts

Cut them into pieces and add a “pinch” of sprouts

 

Cut each bread slice into halves lengthwise, and then place a pinch of the sprouts on top of each canapé.

Oh, yeah….

Oh, yeah….

You will be amazed at how elegant something so simple can be!

Serve with style~ food is beautiful!

Serve with style~ food is beautiful!

Now, serve in absolute style~ life is short, so enjoy the beauty! It’s not that hard really, with a little bit of imagination.

Elegant~ serve with style!

Elegant~ serve with style!

Welcome to our Sunday!

Welcome to our Sunday!

 

Thanks for joining us on our “Martini Sunday!” I hope you try this and enjoy!