Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Shrimp and Pasta Salad

Mr. T. went camping last for one is not always easy but sometimes it works out perfectly.  This salad was one of those times.  I just happened to have everything that I needed to put together a light, crunchy and tasty salad with a creamy Italian Dressing.  It was great for dinner and, there were leftovers for lunch the next day!

Shrimp and Pasta Salad
adapted from Pacific Fresh

Yield:  2 to 3

1 1/2 cups shell pasta, cooked al dente, drained and cooled
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, diced
3 green onion, sliced, including some green tops
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into bite-size pieces
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 pound cooked small bay shrimp
Salt and freshly ground pepper,  to taste
2 hard cooked eggs, quartered, for garnish
Lettuce leaves, for lining plates, if desired
Creamy Italian Dressing

In a bowl combine the pasta, bell pepper, onions, and celery.  Stir to mix well.  In a separate bowl, toss the avocados with the lemon juice and then add it to the salad.  Add the shrimp.  Cover and refrigerate several hours.

Add about 1 cup dressing, salt and pepper, and mix well one hour before serving.  If desired line a platter with lettuce leaves and mound the salad on top.  Garnish with the hard boiled egg quarters and serve.

Creamy Italian Dressing

Yields:  1 1/4 cups

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used reduced fat.)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp dried basil, crumbled
1/4 tsp dried rosemary, crumbled
1/4 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a bowl whisk together all ingredients until well mixed.  Taste and adjust seasonings, as desired.
Cover and refrigerate.


It was really nice to have a light pasta salad for dinner.....I did think that the dressing needed to be adjusted a bit to suit my taste.  Be sure to taste before pouring onto the salad!

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage and Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Basmati and Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Currants and Herbs

My son-in-law got a new cookbook early this year and he hadn't had an opportunity to make anything from it.  My daughter and I decided to surprise him and make something from the cookbook for dinner.  What a good decision that was.  We had an amazing dish that was packed with flavor and could be served as a vegetarian main course or as a side dish by adding chicken. We decided to use it as a side dish and put a Moroccan rub on some chicken thighs.

The cookbook is Jerusalem A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi.  It has some recipes that I am really excited to prepare.  I can hardly wait to make the Basmati and Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Currants and Herbs when I get was so tasty.  Actually, I think I will build a menu from this cookbook for out next gourmet group get together.

Basmati and Wild Rice with Chickpeas, 
Currants and Herbs
Jerusalem A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi

1/3 cup wild rice
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 1/4 cups basmati rice
Scant 1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 cups cooked and drained chickpeas (canned are fine)
3/4 cup sunflower oil (We used canola oil.)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
2/3 cup currants
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp chopped dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start by putting the wild rice in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil, and leave to simmer for about 40 minutes, until the rice is cooked but still quite firm.  Drain and set aside.

To cook the basmati rice, pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a medium saucepan with a tightly fitting lid and place over high heat.  Add the rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir as you warm up the rice.  Carefully add the boiling water, decrease the heat to very low, cover the pan with the lid, and leave to cook for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a clean tea towel and then the lid, and leave off the heat for 10 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the chickpeas.  Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan over high heat.  Add the cumin seeds and curry powder, wait for a couple seconds, and then add the chickpeas and 1/4 teaspoon salt; make sure you do this quickly or the spices may burn in the oil.  Stir over the heat for a minute or two, just to heat the chickpeas, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Wipe the saucepan clean, pour in the sunflower oil, and place over high heat.  Make sure the oil is hot by throwing in a small piece of onion; it should sizzle vigorously.  Use your hands to mix the onion with the flour to coat it slightly.  Take some of the onion and carefully (it may spit!) place it in the oil.  Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown, then transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt.  Repeat in batches until all the onion is fried.

Finally, add both types of rice to the chickpeas and then add the currants, herbs, and fried onion.  Stir, taste, and add salt and pepper as you like.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


The dish is quite flexible....any combination of rice can be used.  I made it without wild rice at my daughter's and with wild rice at was tasty either way.  It does make quite a bit so be prepared for leftovers!

My son-in-law sent me a copy of the cookbook!!  Such a nice guy....I have a menu all planned...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Greek Salad

When I think of Greek Salad, I think of all the wonderful memories of our spring trip to Greece and the Greek Islands.  Every stop was packed with ancient, unbelievable, and amazing sights as well as wonderful food!  When I think of the food in Greece the words that come to mind are fresh, colorful and delicious.

That is why I couldn't resist making Greek Salad for this month's Secret Recipe Club!  I got the inspiration from Maria at Close to Home.  Maria is one busy lady.  Not only does she have recipes to share but she also posts crafts, travel, a multitude of giveaways, and she reviews just about everything....and let's not forget our four footed friends.  They have a place on Maria's blog also. This is one very busy lady.

I must admit that I was tempted by a couple of other recipes...Blueberry Muffins being one of the choices; but, I decided to pass on the calories and go healthy!  I know I will circle back around to make these as I have bags of blueberries in the freezer!  So much for being good...

Greek Salad doesn't really require a recipe.  It is comprised of a few basic ingredients:  tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, kalamata olives and feta cheese.  I had just gotten some lovely tomatoes and peppers in our veggie box so I went from there...

For the dressing, I opted to make a few changes.  I was making the salad for two people and didn't need as much as Maria's recipe made.  I also used fresh garlic and adjusted the seasonings to our preferences.

Greek Salad

1/2 English cucumber, sliced and cut into quarters
2 medium tomatoes cut into chunks
1/2 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 red pepper, large dice
1/4 yellow pepper, large dice
1/2 purple onion, sliced and cut into quarter rounds
4 oz quality Greek feta cheese, cut into squares or crumbled
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, cut in half
1 Tbsp chopped parsley (optional garnish)

On a platter arrange the ingredients, except for the cheese, olives and dressing.  If you prefer, place all ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss carefully.

Pour 1/2 cup Greek Salad Dressing over the vegetables, tossing carefully to moisten.

Add the feta cheese and olives to the top of the salad and sprinkle with chopped parsley, if desired.

Greek Salad Dressing

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

In a small bowl, add all ingredients and whisk well. to make an emulsion.  Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.  Remix and pour the dressing over the vegetables.  Add the feta and olives and toss lightly.  (Add additional dressing if needed.)   Set aside for about thirty minutes to allow the flavors to blend.  Serve at room temperature.

Store remaining dressing, covered at room temperature.


The food that we ate on the trip was naturally, I needed a few new cookbooks.  One that I find fun to read and cook  from is The Parthenon Cookbook by Camille Stagg.  It is from a Greek restaurant in Chicago...I would like to try it someday...

From Athens....

To Rhodes...

To Santorini and all of the places in between it was a trip of stunning views and amazing food!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Apple Crostata

When I think of fall and apples, the next thing that comes to mind is cinnamon.  Was there ever a better marriage than apples and cinnamon?  At the moment, I think not....  As this is the time for the Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge, hosted by Sheryl, The Lady Behind the Curtain; I have been eyeing numerous apple and cinnamon recipes.  I found so many that I probably won't be able to stop at just this one!

Apple Crostata was the dessert of choice.  We had company coming for dinner, so it seemed like the perfect way to address the challenge and to have something extra yummy to share.  The only problem I had was that it was consumed before I thought of taking more assured that it did not last long!

Apple Crostata
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten

For the pastry (makes 2 crostatas)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup ice water

For the filling (makes 1 crostata)
1 pound apples, peeled and cored
1/4 tsp grated orange zest (I used zest from a whole medium-sized orange.)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
4 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced (1/2 stick)

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel lade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and toss quickly (and carefully!) with your fingers to coat each cube of butter with the flour. Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, stopping the machine just before the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board, form into 2 flat disks. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour. If you only need one dough, freeze the second disk.

Preheat the oven to 450 °F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to the sheet pan.

For the filling, peel, quarter and core the apples.  Cut each quarter into chunks.  Toss the chunks with the orange zest.  Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and all spice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts to hold together. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Gently fold the border of the pastry over the fruit, pleating it to make an edge.

Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender. Let the crostata cool for 5 minutes, then use 2 large spatulas to transfer it to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Trip to the Blueberry Farm and Yummy Cobbler!

A trip to Oregon would not be complete without a trip to the Blueberry Farm.  It had just opened for the season so the bushes were laden with blueberries.  I learned that there are many different varieties of blueberries and that I should sample from the bush to make certain that I like that particular variety...well, I learned that there isn't a blueberry that I do not enjoy!

Mr. T. had help from Miss S.  "Dat?" ..... In the bucket...what is it?

Miss S helped with the sampling to make certain they met with her approval.

We picked so many was so worth the effort.

As I searched for the perfect blueberry cobbler I found a recipe in The New Best Recipe by the editor's of Cook's Illustrated.  They had some recommendations for improvement over the traditional recipe so I decided to give it a try.  We were not disappointed!

They recommend a biscuit topping instead of a rolled topping.  Acknowledging that sometimes cooks shy away from the biscuit top because there is difficulty getting them to cook through, they offer a solution.  Bake the berries alone first then drop the biscuit dough on top.  The heat from the berries helped to cook the biscuits from underneath while the oven heat cooked them from above!

Blueberry Cobbler
The New Best Recipe
Editor's of Cook's Illustrated

Serves 6-8

1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp or pinch ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp or pinch salt
6 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Biscuit Topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp stone-ground cornmeal
1/4 cup plus 2 tsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 375° F.

Stir the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl.  Add the berries and mix gently until evenly coated.  Add the lemon zest and juice and mix to combine.  Transfer the mixture to a 8-inch square baking dish or a 9-inch pie plate.  Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the filling is hot and bubbling around the edges, about 25 minutes.

Biscuit Topping
Whisk the flour, cornmeal, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to combine.  In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk and vanilla.  In another small bowl, mix the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar with the cinnamon and set aside.

One minute before the berries come out of the oven, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients; stir with a rubber spatula until just combined and no dry pockets remain.

Remove the berries from the oven.  Increase the oven temperature to 425° F.  Pinch off eight equal pieces of biscuit dough and place them on the hot berry filling.  Space them at least 1/2-inch apart. Sprinkle each mound of dough with the cinnamon and sugar .  

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown on top and cooked through, about 15-18 minutes.  Cool the cobbler on a wire rack 20 minutes and serve.

I must admit to giving Miss S just a tiny taste of the blueberry filling...don't tell her mother.

I am participating in Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Mesquite Grilled Halibut Tacos

Last week  Mr. T. grilled the most wonderful halibut fillet.  It was so flavorful, moist and flaked beautifully.  Since there are only the two of us, I had leftovers.  As I thought about how I could use the pieces that were left, I remembered our favorite Smoked Albacore Tacos that we get when we go to the coast.  We never miss a trip to Ruddell's Smokehouse in Cayucos for lunch..I am always saying that I should make them when we get home, yet I never seem to get to it.  With that gorgeous halibut, the tacos beckoned!

The Smokehouse tacos are different from most fish tacos in that they are topped with a mini lettuce salad...with tomato, celery, apple, and a little drizzle of sauce that has a hint of cumin...I think I nailed it!  There were smiles around the table....We had seconds.

Mesquite Grilled Halibut Tacos

1 pound smoked or grilled fish, shredded or cut into small one inch pieces
1 package flour tortillas

Shredded leaf lettuce
1 tomato, chopped, small (I quartered some cherry tomatoes.)
1 celery rib, chopped small
1 apple, cored and chopped small

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp (pinch) chipotle chili powder
Juice of one half lime
Salt to taste

Combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, cilantro, lime juice, and seasonings in a small bowl.  Taste and adjust seasonings as preferred.  Chill.

Wrap the tortillas in foil and warm in a 200° F. oven.

Shred or cut the smoked fish.

Fill the taco shells in halves.  On one side place the shredded fish.  On the other side place the lettuce, tomato, celery and apple.  Drizzle the lettuce mixture with the sauce.



Any smoked or grilled fish should work  fine.  We love the smoked albacore and the grilled halibut. This was a great way to use up the leftovers!

(The Smokehouse does have a recipe on their web page but it is not the one that we order...)

Here is the original....