Lunch

Strawberries and Basil, Bringing Out the Best of Summer

I really ❤ this combination!

I really ❤ this combination!

I tried strawberries mixed with sweet basil for the very first time, just a couple of weeks ago. Now, I’m wondering where I’ve been all my life, that I managed to miss out on this wonderful combination of flavors. We were having breakfast at our usual Saturday morning buffet, and there they were, begging for me to try them. I did, and I’ve thought of little else since.

 

Strawberries and basil, some of the best of summer

Strawberries and basil, some of the best of season

I researched a little bit on this, and I found that berries prepared in such a way are usually macerated, i.e., soaked for a bit in vinegar to make them softer. Knowing that this is the best time of year to buy and eat strawberries, timing couldn’t be better. This week, I found the strawberries on sale, so I made a point of getting to one of the smaller, weekday farmer’s markets to get the basil. I knew there would be nothing better than some that’s fresh and locally grown.

 

An unexpectedly good combination

An unexpectedly good combination

Once again, this is another “What could be simpler?” recipe, one that I barely even need to write down.

All you need is…

1-2 pounds fresh strawberries
A bunch of sweet basil, though you’ll just need about 8 leaves
A sprinkling of sugar, maybe a tablespoon?
A large dash or three of balsamic vinegar

 

Simply slice

Simply slice

Wash, hull, and slice strawberries, placing them into a non-metallic bowl. Sprinkle just a bit of sugar over the berries, then add some balsamic vinegar~ you’ll need to taste it to find the right balance, but it isn’t too hard, since the flavors blend so well. With kitchen shears, thinly snip several leaves of basil over the berries. Gently mix with a spoon and serve.

 

Good for breakfast, a snack or dessert

Good for breakfast, a snack or dessert

That’s it! The result is a beautiful, elegant, fragrant dish, that will make you want to experiment.

 

You can serve this for breakfast with a dollop of vanilla yogurt

You can serve this for breakfast with a dollop of vanilla yogurt

We had these for breakfast, this morning… they were wonderful!

 

Try it on toasted bread with cheese

Try it on toasted bread with cheese

You can also use them to top toasted bread spread with cheese~ you could choose from any number of cheeses that would work well, such a cream cheese, goat cheese, or even brie. Serve as an appetizer or an afternoon pick-me-up snack.

 

Spoon it over ice cream

Spoon it over ice cream

Lastly, you could spoon it over ice cream, or even a simple cake. Vanilla would be good, but since it’s National Chocolate Ice Cream Day, that’s what we’re having. Try this easy recipe and enjoy!

 

Vietnamese Food, Anyone?

Chayote

Chayote~ they come in white and green

We have a real passion for Vietnamese food, in this house. Usually, we go out to eat it, and if we’re hungry and there happens to be a pho house around, we are almost sure to go in and try it. We usually order the same thing too, just so we can compare and contrast. I go for the green papaya salad, and Monty goes for lemon grass chicken or shrimp vermicelli. We have a couple of favorite places, such as Super Pho, which is one of our favorites. Let me show you a few examples:

Summer rolls are de rigueur for appetizers

Summer rolls are de rigueur for appetizers

I have a real passion for peanut sauce, too.

 

The best green papaya salad… how I love it

The best green papaya salad… how I love it

 

Lemon grass shrimp… get those chopsticks ready

Lemon grass shrimp… get those chopsticks ready

 

As you can see, all of this food looks super-light, healthy and refreshing. Now that you understand that we have a passion for this cuisine, you’ll understand why I’d be interested in learning a bit about learning how to cook some of this, myself.

I’m very lucky in this, on two counts. The first count is that Monty works with someone who grows chayote on his property, and last year he gave us a few. I had no idea what to do with it, so I ended up making a Mexican-stye soup with it. (Chayote sounds Mexican, doesn’t it?) Well, I did learn something, after I cooked that, and here’s where the second count of luck comes in.

I have a very, dear Vietnamese friend name Jess. When she saw my post last year, she got excited because her mom used to make chayote for her—so in her eyes, it’s comfort food! As I’ve found out, it is Mexican, but as it turns out, it is also very popular in Asian cuisine. The good about this food is that it’s very low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. It’s also a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, magnesium and potassium, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, zinc, copper and manganese. That’s a lot of nutrition for a little squash! There isn’t much of a bad about this food, except that it excretes a sticky substance while peeling it,  that can feel a bit odd… almost like the feeling of superglue. The sensation can last a few hours, but I promise that it’s harmless.

Now, I’ll give you another warning: This recipe is not hard and fast, which means if you want to try this, you’ll need a brave heart. I did make this last week for dinner, mainly because I wanted to get a feel for the recipe. Jess tells me that the usual ratio is 2 chayote/1 egg. I was hungry for eggs so I used 2 chayote/2eggs… no regrets here! Today, I made it for lunch, and I truly enjoyed it. It’s very easy to throw together, and delicious. Another warning to the brave: this recipe uses fish sauce. A lot of people are put off by the smell when they first open a bottle, but I promise you that it won’t taste like you think it will. Fish sauce is a very common ingredient in Vietnamese, Thai and Filipino cuisines. Adding the lime and sugar to the condiment really changes the flavor, and give it the “umami” flavor that is so treasured in these recipes.

What I will do is give you the measurements that I used today for lunch. It was all I ate, so consider this two portions, if you are serving something else with it, such as rice or a salad.

Very few ingredients are needed for this

Very few ingredients are needed for this

What you’ll need:

1 Tablespoon cooking oil (I used olive)
3-4 green onions, chopped into long pieces about 2 inches long (you’ll want to use the green ends)
2 chayote, peeled and ends chopped off and discarded (you’ll want to discard the seed, too)
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed  lime juice
2 eggs
Freshly ground black pepper

Prep the fish sauce condiment to have it ready. Simply mix the fish sauce, lime and sugar in a small bowl.

Slice the chayote

Slice the chayote

Slice the peeled and seeded chayote.

 

Add the chayote to the green onions

Add the chayote to the green onions

Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the green onions for a minute or so, then add in the chayote and allow to cook. I liked mine just when it became soft. Add in the fish sauce/sugar/lime condiment and continue to cook for another minute.

 

Add eggs

Add eggs

Drop the eggs in, one at a time.

 

Stir the eggs into the chayote

Stir the eggs into the chayote

Stir the eggs into the chayote and cook stirring, until the whites become solid.

 

Add pepper

Add pepper

When eggs are cooked, add pepper and serve.

 

Serve

Serve

What could be simpler?

 

Makes an easy lunch

Makes an easy lunch

This makes a super, easy lunch or a nice, light supper.

 

Bon appétit!

Bon appétit!

Bon appétit, and thank you, Jess!

 

 

Quick & Easy Tortilla Soup

This is perhaps the Mexican equivalent of the American "tomato soup and grilled cheese"… try it for lunch one day.

This is perhaps the Mexican equivalent of the American “tomato soup and grilled cheese”… try it for lunch one day.

Now that Cinco de Mayo just kind of sneaked up on me, I figure I’d best do something quick and easy. Since I just made some fairly complicated enchiladas a couple of weeks ago, I have something much easier to make.

My tortilla soup is a wonderful, tomato-based soup that can be made as spicy or as mild as you like, just by changing out the jalapeños for a hotter pepper. I’ve made this with chicken broth, but you can also easily go vegan by using vegetable, instead.

Tomatillos! They are very interesting looking, too.

Tomatillos! They are very interesting looking, too.

 

The only ingredients that you might have trouble finding are the tomatillos, but if you look hard enough, you should be able to find them.

Quick & easy, here we go~

1 white onion, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced (or any spicier pepper, if you desire)
5 tomatillos, diced
1 4-oz can diced green chiles
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth or stock
2 teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoon chile powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
kernels from 2 ears of corn
tortilla strips (make them from corn tortillas~ I’ll tell you how)
cilantro for garnish, and/or plain yogurt, avocado

 

Fresh corn makes it better

Fresh corn makes it better

Cut corn like this… it's so much easier

Cut corn like this… it’s so much easier

 

In a large pot, cook onion on low heat, until onions caramelize. Add in the jalapeño peppers, tomatillos, and diced green chiles and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Pour in the chicken broth, stirring to mix. Add in the cumin, chile powder and cayenne. Cook for 45 minutes, then turn of heat and allow to cool for a bit.

When soup has cooled, whir with an immersion blender to liquify the solid ingredients. Add in the corn kernels and cook on medium heat for about 30 more minutes.

Meanwhile, make the tortilla strips. Preheat the oven to 400º F. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying with cooking spray. Thinly slice the tortillas (make as many as you like!) into strips and place in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Cut the tortillas into strips

Cut the tortillas into strips

Spray again and put into the oven. Give them a stir after about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with some salt and stir again.

Baked tortilla strips

Baked tortilla strips

Remove from oven when they are golden brown and crispy, about another 5 minutes.

Tortilla strips~ have the ready to sprinkle on the soup

Tortilla strips~ have them ready to sprinkle on the soup

 

When the soup is ready, garnish with some cilantro and the tortilla chips, and maybe some plain yogurt and avocado.

Easy Mexican Tortilla Soup

Easy Mexican Tortilla Soup

Serves 4.

 

Salad and a quesadilla are great options to serve with the soup

Salad and a quesadilla are great options to serve with the soup

 

Those tortilla strips go great on salad, too!

Those tortilla strips go great on salad, too!

Have a wonderful and safe Cinco de Mayo!

A Taste of India for Meatless Monday

Dal for "Meatless Monday"

Dal for “Meatless Monday”

I’d been thinking pretty strongly of going back to doing “Meatless Mondays,’ mainly because I’m up for another knee surgery. I figure since I have the time to do it, why not get as healthy as possible? Yes, I will have my transgressions, but I am already upping my veggie intake, and plan on finding healthier options for other foods, between now and the next couple of months.

One of the things that I tried a couple of months ago, that I really wanted to try again is red dal. Dal is a split lentil, and a stew is usually made with them, seasoned accordingly to whatever South Asian country they are made in. The last time I made it, I used yellow split peas, and since then, I’ve heard that the flavor is much better using the real thing.

One of the really good things about this recipe is that it’s easy enough for a week night. It comes together very easily, and cooks quickly. It is also very high in nutrients and fiber.

Red dal lentils, turmeric and Bengali Five Spice

Red dal lentils, turmeric and Bengali Five Spice

I really feel like I’ve scored, since I live very close to a store that sells Indian goods and groceries. I had the pleasure of walking in there recently and finding an incredible array of foods I’d never seen before, especially since they also sell a lot of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods. I took a good walk around the shop, nonchalantly looking for the Bengali Five Spice that I was seeking, and realized that I would just have to ask for it. Well of course, it’s known by another name: Paunchpuran. The owner led me to its spot on the shelf.

Paunchpuran is a mix of nigella sativa, cumin, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and fennel seeds. I have no idea what the ratios are of any of these ingredients to make up this spice mix, so I was quite happy to be able to find it. He also had to lead me to the red dal, and I was also thrilled that he had it available.

While I was in the store, there was a couple shopping, and as I got in line, the man asked me what I was making with the Bengali Five Spice. I told him I was going to attempt making red dal. He smiled and told me that he was from Bengal, and that I would love it. So nice to have such encouragement!

Getting home, I opened the bags of my new goodies. The dal has an aroma like no lentil I’ve even come upon, and the Panchpuran has a delightfully pungent smell.

If you’d like to try this, this is what you’ll need:

1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
3 plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium white onion, (yellow will do) finely chopped
1/2 cup carrots, finely diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 teaspoons Bengali Five Spice mix
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
juice of 1 lime
cilantro, stemmed and chopped for garnish

———————————————————–

Drain the dal, after rinsing

Drain the dal, after rinsing

Rinse the dal in a sieve and rinse thoroughly with water. Set aside.

In a lage pan, sauté the chopped onion in the coconut oil, until it’s tender and translucent. Add in the chopped carrot and cook for about 5 minutes. Next, add pressed garlic and cook for another minute. Add the Bengali Five Spice, stirring to combine and cook that addition, for about 5 minutes.

Add the water, the dal and the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Allow to gently simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Score the tomatoes

Score the tomatoes

While the dal is simmering, prepare the tomatoes by peeling them. This keeps people from getting those obnoxious little bits of rolled up tomato skin in their teeth. There is an easy method of doing this. Put a small pan of water on to boil. Cut off the core end of the tomato, score the skin in a couple of places, then plunge the tomatoes (I do them one by one) into the boiling water for about a minute. Then pull them out and allow them to cool slightly.

The skins will peel right off

The skins will peel right off

Voilà! The skin comes off super easily.

 

Add the tomatoes, turmeric and lime at the end

Add the tomatoes, turmeric and lime at the end

Maybe 15 minutes before it’s ready to serve, add in the turmeric, lime juice and tomatoes. Salt to taste.

 

Serve, and get your India on!

Serve, and get your India on!

This goes well served with naan bread or jasmine rice.

 

We like this with naan bread

We like this with naan bread

 

Garnish with a sprinkling of cilantro

Garnish with a sprinkling of cilantro

This recipe is also easily doubled, and I did just that, because I know there is a real lentil lover in the house. It makes great leftovers for lunch, too!

 

Bring on the marigolds!

Bring on the marigolds!

 

More Zucchini? Here’s Another Way to Fix It

I must admit that every time I see a zucchini, I can’t help but think of my grandmother. She would grow it in her backyard, and she always seemed to have tons of it. We had it nearly every time we went to her house for dinner, and she would send some home with us.

I still love zucchini. It is an easy weeknight vegetable to prepare, simply because it can be quickly sliced and steamed, though it can also be stuffed, grilled, put into pasta, soups and bread. It’s good for you, too!

One of my favorite ways to fix it is into a gratin with potatoes and sausage. It takes a bit of prep work, since the veggies need to be sliced very thin and then blanched beforehand, but it is a treat that you and your family will enjoy. It also has wonderful Gruyère cheese in it, which makes it good enough for company.

Mmmm… Gruyère!

Mmmm… Gruyère!

 

The flavors in this dish will depend on the type of sausage you use. I used sweet Italian, because that’s usually what we have in the freezer. But, experimentation is a good thing! You can also assemble and partially bake this dish ahead. If refrigerated, bring the gratin to room temperature before baking it or allow additional time. Leftovers can be frozen, but I usually end up polishing those off for lunch!

To make it:

1 teaspoon kosher salt + more as needed

¾ teaspoon black pepper

1½ teaspoon chopped fresh or generous 1/3 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

1 pound potatoes, about 2-3 potatoes, depending on how large or small they are

3 ounces Gruyere, grated, about 1 cup

½ pound lean sausage, in bulk or removed from the casing

Large pinch smoked paprika, to taste

Large pinch cayenne pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon olive oil + more as needed

1 small yellow onion, very thinly sliced, about ½ cup

1 to 1½ teaspoons minced garlic, about 2 cloves

1 to 1¼ pounds summer squash, such as patty pan

1 teaspoon chopped parsley (optional)

½ cup whole milk

1 pound tomatoes, coarsely chopped  (about 2 large tomatoes)

————————————————————————

Preheat the oven to 400°. Prepare an 8-inch square pan (I used a with a light coat of oil or pan spray; set aside.

Mix thyme, salt and pepper

Mix thyme, salt and pepper

Combine 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, pepper and thyme in a small dish; set aside.

 

Slice potatoes very thin

Slice potatoes very thin

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/8 -inch-thick slices, using a mandolin if available, keeping them in water until ready to cook to prevent oxidation. Par-cook the potatoes in batches, either by blanching, steaming or microwaving, until they are translucent and fairly soft (but you should still be able to pick them up without breaking). Drain.

 

Layer potatoes and sprinkle with salt mixture

Layer potatoes and sprinkle with salt mixture

Layer the potatoes in the pan, slightly overlapping the slices; season each layer with some of the salt-thyme mixture.

 

Sprinkle cheese over potatoes

Sprinkle about 1/3 of the cheese over the final potato layer.

 

Combine sausage, paprika, cayenne and salt to taste in a skillet over medium heat (you may need to add a little oil if the sausage is extremely lean). Brown the sausage, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. When done, transfer to a bowl.

Slice onions very thin

Slice onions very thin

Add onions to the same skillet, along with a little more olive oil, if needed. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften and begin to caramelize, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 to 45 seconds. Add this to the sausage in the bowl, mix to combine, then spread over the potatoes. Top with another 1/3 of the cheese.

 

Slice zucchini very thin

Slice zucchini very thin

Cut the squash crosswise into 1/8 -inch-thick slices, then par-cook similarly to the potatoes.

 

Layer zucchini over cheese

Layer zucchini over cheese

Layer the squash over the onion-sausage mixture, sprinkling each layer with some of the salt-thyme mixture and parsley. Pour the milk over all.

 

Layer chopped tomatoes on top

Layer chopped tomatoes on top

Chop the tomatoes into ½ -inch pieces, reserving any juices. Cover the squash with the tomatoes and juices and a final sprinkle of salt-thyme mixture. I actually used fresh thyme leaves for this last layer, just because I had them.

Place a piece of parchment paper over the top of the dish; cover loosely with foil. If desired, place a baking sheet (optionally lined with parchment) under the pan to catch any drips. Bake until the vegetables are tender and easily pierced with a skewer, about 1 hour, depending how much the vegetables were par cooked.

Remove dish from oven, remove foil and parchment; if needed, bake a bit longer to evaporate excess liquid then sprinkle the remaining cheese over the tomatoes. Bake, uncovered, until cheese melts.

Straight out of the oven, it may seem that there is a lot of liquid in the pan, but much of it will be absorbed as the dish rests. Cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Light and satisfying

Light and satisfying

Serve. So beautiful! This is really nice with a green salad.

 

Delicious!

Delicious!

Look at those lovely layers of the harvest!

 

Zucchini, Potato & Tomato Gratin

Zucchini, Potato & Tomato Gratin

Serves about 6.

Enjoy!

A Refreshing, Exotic Salad

Okay, it’s time to get a little exotic, here. You might have noticed that I have a passion for passionfruit, though we call it lilikoi, here. The season is in full swing right now, and there are lots of wonderful things that can be created from these tangy, little fruits.

The passionflower is very exotic looking

The passionflower is very exotic looking

As you can see, the flower is quite exotic-looking. The many varieties have different colors and shapes, all of them interesting and colorful.

 

You can see how the fruit forms from the flower

You can see how the fruit forms from the flower

The fruit is interesting too, especially when you see how it is formed from the flower. You know it’s ripe when the skin turns yellow, red or purple.

Anyway, it has a tangy, citrusy flavor that lends well to desserts, as well as sauces and dressings. I also has a bazillion seeds inside, which you will either love for their texture or dislike for their quantity. I personally love them, but I really like texture in my food. The season lasts here from about late June until December, and believe me, I buy enough when I see it to collect the juice and pulp for future use. I really miss it, when it can’t be found.

People tend to make sweets from the fruit, but I’ve made a point of finding lots of savory recipes to use them. This is a salad dressing that I found online, and fell in love with. I couldn’t find the absolute source, just because I found it shared many times. So, to the creator of this, wherever you are, thank you!

Passionfruit (lilikoi) is easily scooped out, once cut

Passionfruit (lilikoi) is easily scooped out, once cut

The salad is made from local ingredients;  you may have to substitute a few things, but if you use your imagination, you will get pretty close. You can likely find frozen passionfruit juice in your local store.

 

Mango and peppers

Mango and peppers

I couldn’t resist buying these beautiful peppers. I’m going to use the red one in the salad.

If you’d like to try, here’s what I used:

For the Salad

4 cups fresh, local, baby greens
1 cup micro greens (if you can find them)
1 mango, diced
½ cup diced sweet, red pepper (or rainbow peppers, if you can find them)
1 small or ½ large avocado, sliced
¼ cup finely sliced red onion

For the Dressing

½ cup fresh strained lilikoi pulp & juice (I kept the seeds in)
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup raw local honey
½ teaspoon of your favorite sweet/hot mustard (I like dijon)
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup olive oil
pepper to taste

Start with some greens

Start with some greens

The fresh, local greens come first, of course. This is a lovely mix of lettuces, herbs and baby spinach~ they may be fragile, but they have a lot of flavor.

 

Add micro greens

Add micro greens

Add the micro greens~ they give a nice, herby flavor.

 

I added sweet, red pepper

I added sweet, red pepper

Here’s the red pepper!

 

Lilikoi juice~ I like the seeds, too

Lilikoi juice~ I like the seeds, too

Make the dressing next: measure the lilikoi juice into a jar.

 

Measure dressing ingredients into a jar

Measure dressing ingredients into a jar

Add the rest of the dressing ingredients in with the juice and cover.

 

Shake it up!

Shake it up!

Shake until blended. The mustard should help to emulsify it the dressing.

 

Add avocado last

Add avocado last

Add the onion and avocado last, then add the dressing.

Greens with mango, avocado and lilikoi dressing

Greens with mango, avocado and lilikoi dressing

Serve on salad plates.

 

This makes a very, nice salad to serve with beef or fish

This makes a very, nice salad to serve with beef or fish

I found this combination uniquely wonderful!

 

Add shrimp to make it a full meal

Add shrimp to make it a full meal

If you’d like to make it a full meal, add some shrimp and top with a bit more dressing.

 

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It’s delicious~ enjoy!

A Great Stuffing for a Giant Zucchini

I love zucchini. I have a lot of memories of eating it fresh from the garden, because my grandmother grew it in her backyard.  It is a favorite summer veggie, because it’s plentiful, easy to fix and nutritious. Here’s a fun and delicious side dish, using the beautiful zucchini that is showing up now at the farmers markets. In fact, we got a really big one last Saturday.

BIG zucchini

BIG zucchini

This recipe serves 6, and that’s what the ingredient list is geared for, (especially if you’re having guests for dinner, and this recipe is perfect for that) but I cut it down just for the two of us. If you like Italian food, this recipe is well worth a try.

3 large zucchini, cut in half lengthwise

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

8 oz. baby bella or white mushrooms, chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 cups bread crumbs

1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

¼ cup parsley, chopped fine

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1½ cups Parmesan cheese, divided (or any Italian cheese)

½ teaspoon salt

———————————————————————————————————————————

Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly grease (or spray with cooking spray) a 15-x-11-inch baking dish.

Make a boat by scooping out the inside

Make a boat by scooping out the inside

Using a melon baller or a spoon, remove pulp from zucchini, leaving a ¼-inch thick shell. It helps to carefully score around the circumference of the zucchini with a knife, before spooning out the pulp. Place zucchini “boats,” cut-side up in a prepared baking dish, and set aside.

Chop the zucchini "scoopings"

Chop the zucchini “scoopings”

Finely chop the zucchini pulp. In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and zucchini pulp; cook for 15 minutes, or until zucchini is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.

Chop mushrooms and bell pepper

Chop mushrooms and bell pepper

Combine mushrooms and peppers with zucchini mixture

Combine mushrooms and peppers with zucchini mixture

Add mushrooms and bell pepper; cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add bread crumbs, 1 cup of the cheese, sour cream or yogurt, thyme, parsley and salt, stirring to combine.

Stuff the "boats"

Stuff the “boats”

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Divide mixture among zucchini shells, making smooth, rounded mounds. Bake for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle with remaining  cup of cheese. Return to oven and bake for another 5 minutes.

Serve

Serve!

Stuffed zucchini

Stuffed zucchini

Great served with pasta

Great served with pasta

Serves 6.

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.

 

 

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!