Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad - Fatoush!

What could be better when the tomatoes and cucumbers are overflowing in the garden, than a vegetable salad....unless it is a Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad?!  I loved the creamy garbanzo beans, the pieces of feta and all of the wonderful herbs mixed with a nice olive oil and lemon dressing.  It was the perfect summer salad.  This particular salad is also known as Fatoush.  Toasted pita triangles provide a great crunchy "crouton" to accompany the dish or they can be mixed in....chef's choice!

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

5-7 scallions
4-5 tomatoes, seeded, cored and diced
1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded and diced
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/3 cup fresh chopped mint leaves
1/3 cup fresh chopped basil leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp (3 cloves) minced garlic
Salt and Pepper
8 oz feta cheese, diced

Toasted pita bread triangles for serving.

Mix the tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, garbanzo beans, parsley, mint and basil in a large bowl. Toss the vegetables to combine.

In a small bowl mix together the lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of salt, pepper and garlic.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion.  Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat.  Add the feta being careful not to break up the small dice.  Salt and pepper to taste.  

Serve the salad with toasted pita triangles.

This was a quick, fresh and refreshing salad!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Figs Poached in Red Wine and Fruit Jelly

The last of the figs were poached in red wine and red currant jelly.  This took less than an hour and made a great light dessert for the evening.  I was headed to my sweet neighbor's home.  She knew that Terry was camping and invited me for dinner...  Thank you, Nancy, we are fortunate to have such wonderful neighbors!

The original recipe is from Ripe:  A Cook in the Orchard by Nigel Slater.  I enjoy reading cookbooks and Slater's prose is enjoyable.  As I read about figs, I felt as though he was sitting across the table from me as I learned about the fig and the fig tree in his garden.  Ripe serves as a great resource in my kitchen library.

Figs Poached in Red Wine and Fruit Jelly
adapted from Ripe:  A Cook in the Orchard by Nigel Slater

12 figs, small and plump
1 cup red wine
1 Tbsp vanilla paste (or vanilla extract or vanilla bean)
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp (heaping) red currant jelly

Rinse the figs and slice in half.  Place the figs in a stainless steel saucepan.  Pour the wine plus 1/2 cup water over the figs.  Drizzle the vanilla paste, honey and red currant jelly over the figs. Simmer gently until the figs are tender.

Lift the figs in to a serving dish.  Bring the juices to a boil and reduce to about one half.  You want the juices to thicken into a dark red and glossy syrup.  This will thicken additionally as it cools to the consistency of honey.

Strain the syrup.  Pour the syrup over the figs and set aside to cool.  The figs are best served at room temperature.



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Sorbet, Blogger CLUE

It has been one hot month,  but our summers are usually hot and dry....very hot and dry. It is highly irregular if there are any clouds in the sky, rain, or humidity in our area.  The changing weather patterns have been providing new experiences.  Remnants of some storms from Mexico have been moving into the area.  While we are in the midst of an unbelievable drought and having to cut our water usage by one third (not an easy task), our temperatures peaked at 109° F.  AND we had a week of amazing thunderstorms!  (I haven't experienced those kinds of thunderstorms since a child in Pennsylvania.)  Sadly, not enough water to impact the drought.

The most intense of the storms brought thunder, lightning and HUMIDITY....I have a very low opinion of humidity.  There was a lightning strike a few houses away...a roof fire and numerous neighbors with home electrical systems fried.  It was a very exciting night.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was for this month's Blogger CLUE Society.  This is a group of bloggers where each month we are paired with another food blogger, given a theme, and set off to explore our assigned blog. Our objective is to track down a recipe that matches the month's theme and that we are excited about making. For August the Blogger CLUE theme is Beat the Heat! That is just what I needed, something to beat this heat!  I was assigned Lisa's blog, Authentic Suburban Gourmet.  Lisa lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and has easy access to the wine country, farmers markets and specialized gourmet cooking stores.  What a wonderful playground for Lisa's creativity and cooking adventures!

My intent was to make three of Lisa's frozen desserts, as I was having a very difficult time focusing on just one.  Being a lover of rhubarb, the Strawberry Rhubarb Sorbet had a very high appeal, with the Rhubarb Ice Cream and the Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream making a close tie for second.

I ran into a bit of a snag after making the sorbet.  My mom fell and broke her hip so there was very little time spent at home in the kitchen and lots of time spent at the hospital.  As the week progressed we learned that she wasn't a candidate for surgery.  It was a fracture and skilled nursing and therapy were the next steps.  She is progressing in therapy and has a great attitude, so that is a plus!  When things settle down, I will make my way to the kitchen once again and make more ice cream!

The Sorbet was so refreshing.  We enjoyed every bite of this great treat.  While I had expected a little more of the tartness reminiscent of rhubarb in the flavor, I wasn't disappointed at all.  This was a great sorbet and one that I will definitely make again.

Strawberry Rhubarb Sorbet
adapted from David Lebovitz and Lisa at Authentic Suburban Gourmet

12 oz. fresh rhubarb
2/3 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
10 oz. fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered
1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Rinse, trim the ends of the rhubarb stalks and chop each stalk into 1/2-inch pieces.  Place the rhubarb, sugar and water in a medium pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for five minutes, until the rhubarb is tender and cooked through.  Remove the heat.  Allow the rhubarb to cool to room temperature.

Place the strawberry quarters into a blender.  Add the cooled rhubarb mixture and lemon juice.  Puree until very smooth.  Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until very cold - about 2 to 3 hours or overnight.  

Process the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Chicken on a Bed of Bulgar Wheat with Broccoli, SRC

Sometimes I just want salad for dinner, kind of like craving breakfast for dinner....it just sounds right. That is what I was thinking of when I got my August assignment for the Secret Recipe Club. Salad...salad for dinner..nothing heavy, nothing sweet, just good and healthy!  

As I started to explore Searching for Spice, my assigned blog, I was ever so happy.  Corina lives in England with her husband and two children, Little Miss Spice and Master Spice...so cute....  When she began her blog her intent was to have a location where she could easily find her favorite recipes. Loving herbs and spices she found inspiration in recipes from around the world with some of her favorite dishes being curries, stir fries and spicy salads.  As I said....I was ever so happy and excited to explore....

As I paged through the blog I found a few dishes that I will be certain to include on a menu soon! I love spicy foods and was having a wonderful afternoon contemplating the Huevos Rancheros and Grated Rainbow Salad with Sesame Feta Fritters.  And then,.....I found the recipe, a nice healthy salad that has a bit of spice!  It is Jamie Oliver's Chicken, Broccoli and Bulgur Wheat Salad and I am so happy that Corina tried it and gave it a thumbs up.  It was so delicious.   

My experience using bulgur has been limited to Tabouleh so it was time to branch out.  

I made the recipe as presented except that we barbecued the chicken breasts instead of frying them.

Chicken on a Bed of Bulgur with Broccoli
adapted from Searching for Spice

Yield:  2-4 servings

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp ground coriander

8-10 broccoli florets
3/4 cup bulgur wheat
4-5 radishes washed and thinly sliced

2 green onions, thinly sliced, both white and green parts or 1 spring onion, chopped
4-5 mint leaves, chopped
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp sunflower seeds
4 ounces plain Greek yogurt
Piri piri sauce or any other hot sauce

Trim the chicken breasts.  Place the breasts between two pieces of parchment and pound the chicken slightly to flatten it.  Rub the coriander, salt and black pepper into the chicken breasts. The chicken may be barbecued or fried in a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat.  Turn the chicken halfway through cooking.

In a medium sauce pan, bring water to boil.  Add the broccoli.  After five minutes, using a slotted spoon, remove the broccoli from the water.  Add the bulgur wheat, stir, cover, remove from heat and let sit for 12-15 minutes.

Place the broccoli florets on a griddle or in a fry an and let it char slightly on each side.

Place the sunflower seeds in a small, dry frying pan and toast them gently.  Be careful that they do not burn.

Prepare the dressing by mixing the vinegar, oil, mint leaves, and chopped onion in a small bowl. Some of the onion may be reserved for garnish, if desired.

Drain the bulgur and rinse it in cold water, drain excess water.  Place the bulgur in the center of a platter.  Drizzle the dressing over the top of the bulgur.

Slice the chicken and arrange it on top of the bulgur.  Put the broccoli and the radishes around the bulgur and chicken.  Sprinkle with the sunflower seeds.  Add four dollops of plain Greek yogurt and drizzle with hot sauce.

I will definitely make this again.  It was delicious.  It was prefect for the hot weather that we have been having....not heavy or sweet, just good and healthy!

You are certain to like the healthy recipes that Corina posts on her blog...stop by and take a look.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fig Upside-Down Tart

What to do when the figs on your tree all ripen at just about the same time?  You kindly put some in a bag and walk them across the street.  That is what my wonderful neighbor did last week.  Thank you, neighbor.  They were delicious.

They remind me of the fig tree we had in our backyard in our previous home.  The tree produced and produced...crop after crop.  Alas, one can only eat so many figs in so many dishes! So, we also bagged them up and shared.

I also learned that the fig leaf is the absolute best leaf for making leaf prints.  During the years that I was in the classroom, we always made fall leaf prints....the leaves held up really well and the end result became bulletin board borders.  They always ushered in the fall colors and looked so pretty.  I guess because of the figs, fig leaves, the starting of school and the prints I associate fig trees with the fall...but, today, I am premature. We are in the middle of another heat wave and fall is far off in the distance.

As I searched for fig recipes, I found myself paging through Nigel Slater's cookbook, Ripe.  It is a wonderful combination of fruit history, personal experience in the garden and cooking.  He makes everything appear so easy to make which is why I decided to make the Fig Upside-Down Tart.  You know how I shy away from making things with a crust.....  I like having a resource like Ripe in the kitchen and I believe that you would find it a great resource, also.

Fig Upside-Down Tart
adapted from Ripe, by Nigel Slater

Yield:  8 servings

3/4 cup butter, unsalted, and cut into small cubes
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp baker's sugar

5 Tbsp butter, unsalted
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
10 figs, halved and tough stems removed
1/2 tsp vanilla

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or cream fraiche.

In a medium bowl cut the butter into the flour for the pastry.  Use your fingers rubbing until the combination looks like bread crumbs.  (A food processor may be used, if preferred.)  Mix in the egg yolks and sugar until combined.  Form the mixture into a disk.  Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for twenty minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

In a fry pan or saute pan (measuring 8-9 inches) melt the butter and brown sugar, over medium heat. Stir occasionally. When the mixture appears syrupy and begins to brown, add the figs, cut side down. Cook the figs for three to five minutes, until they soften and start to darken.  Remove the pan from the heat.

Roll out the pastry to make a circle that is about 3/4 inch larger than the diameter of the pan.  Fold the extra pastry over to make a rim around the edge.  Carefully move the pastry by wrapping it lightly around the rolling pin and then move it onto the pan.  Place the pastry rim-side down over top of the figs.

Place in the oven and bake for about 18-23 minutes, until the pastry is browned.  Remove from the oven to cool to room temperature. Cut into slices and serve with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of cream fraiche.


The tart had great flavor.  The sugars had caramelized around the figs making them taste really nice.....the pastry was quite buttery and even though it was a challenge moving it, I would make it again!

The only thing I questioned was the baking temperature and time.  The original recipe said to bake the tart at 425° F. for 40 minutes.  I didn't think that there was enough liquid in the filling to bake it that long so I checked on it at about 23 minutes.  It had browned up nicely so I removed it from the oven.  I adjusted the baking time to reflect what I did.  If you decide to make this tart I suggest that you keep an eye on it!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Creole Jambalaya with Chicken, Hot Sausage and Shrimp

A few years ago, Terry received a small pocket-sized cookbook for Christmas entitled Recipes Every Man Should Know by Susan Russo and Brett Cohen.  As he was planning the meals for the guys' camping trip, he said he wanted to make the Jambalya that was in his cookbook.  I read through the recipe and saw that it was fairly easy and straight-forward.  The summary said it was gut-filling and they would need that for the adventures that they had planned.

The only thing we did differently was to use Louisiana Hot Sausage and skip the addition of a hot sauce at serving.  It was spicy-hot so if you prefer a more calm jambalaya I would suggest using an andouille or kielbasa sausage.

Creole Jambalaya 
with Chicken, Hot Sausage and Shrimp

Yield:  6-8 servings

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 pound Louisiana Hot Sausage (or andouille, kielbasa or other smoked sausage), cut into thick slices
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (a combination of thigh and breast meat), cut into pieces
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large bell pepper, diced
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 Tbsp Creole seasoning
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 1/2 cups rice, uncooked
5 cups chicken broth or stock
1 28 oz-can diced tomatoes, with juices
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup flat parsley, chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the chicken and cook until browned, about 7 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the sausage and good until browned, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to the bowl with the chicken and set aside.

Add additional olive oil, if needed.  Add the onion, garlic, green pepper and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 7 minutes.

Return the chicken and sausage to the pot.  Add the seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, rice, broth, and tomatoes.  Stir well to mix.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the rice is fully cooked and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the shrimp and cook until pink and opaque, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in the parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Serve in bowls with crusty bread.


This was a truly a "gut-filling" dish.  I am certain the guys had enough fuel to get them started on their first hike!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Soft Shell Crabs with Garlic and Butter

Answering the phone at our house has become a joke.  Our phone calls seem to be limited to robocalls, donation requests, political garbage, surveys, general sales pitches and the "Call of the Hour".....solar deals!  I have been keeping a running list of the number calling, the time and the company name...if available.  Sometimes they need reminded that they have called three times in the last four hours and that I want to be on their no call list!  I don't listen to them if I can avoid it. They get a few seconds to respond to my "Hello".  If they don't respond, I am gone.

On this day, though, I got a phone call that was a pleasure to take!  My neighbor was driving into town and stopped off to do some shopping.  She said that she would be home in an hour and was bringing us some soft shell crabs!  How cool is that?!  I knew what I was having for dinner!

I quickly went in search of the recipe I had used the last time we prepared soft shell crabs....and I found it!   While the recipe calls for a bit of essence...I didn't have any and didn't have time to make it so we opted not to sprinkle anything on top.  The capers and green onion were just fine with us.  I would make this recipe again and again...it was just right!

Soft Shell Crabs with Garlic and Butter

3 soft-shell crabs, cleaned and patted dry
Fresh ground black pepper
1 cup flour
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp capers, drained
1/2 cup white wine
1 Tbsp butter, unsalted
Chopped chives (5) or 3 green onion tops

Season crabs with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour, shaking off excess. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium and add oil and sauté the crabs until they are soft, about 2 minutes on each side.  Remove the crabs, place them on a plate, cover with foil and set aside.

Add the garlic to the skillet and cook for a minute.  Add the wine and the capers.  Cook until the wine has reduced by half.  Add the butter and the chopped chives. Stir until combined.  Season with salt and pepper,

Transfer the crabs to a serving plate and spoon the sauce over them.  Serve immediately.


Thank you dear neighbor for thinking of us when you were out and about!   

The crabs were delicious!