My sister and my nieces, Whitney and Tori, age 9 and 11, are here this weekend and we are enjoying them so much! The youngest one, Whitney, is quite the food connoisseur, and has made me feel like the best cook on the planet with her over-the-top compliments. She describes the food on the end of her fork as one would describe a fine wine, “I can taste the layers of flavor! The hint of coconut, the tang of pineapple…”
As soon as she arrived from Texas she asked if we could make my sweet n’ spicy meatloaf again, together. She remembered it from three years ago, when they last came to Colorado! We did, and she said she loved squashing the meat and the seasonings together with her bare hands. When she took a bite of the cooked finished meatloaf she raised her hands, rolled her eyes heavenward and exclaimed, “This is even better than I dreamed it would be!”
Yesterday, I let the girls paint pictures outside under our tree and beach umbrella, and then made them each virgin cocktails. (Cranberry Sprite, OJ and slices of lemon, lime and orange on ice.) Whitney took one sip and said, “This is delicious! In fact, it is as good as meatloaf!” I wonder how many bartenders have had compliments like that. “This Long Island Tea is as tasty as meatloaf!” Gotta love kids.
With such an appreciative food critic in the house, it really spurred me on to bring out my inner chef. This is a very simple Asian salad that packs a powerful burst of flavor with very few ingredients, one the whole family loved! The key is the salt. Be sure to use sea salt, the best you can find. McCormicks now has a sea salt grinder, where you can grind fresh flakes of sea salt on to your food. It is quite good! You will be amazed how good fresh sea salt can be and the “layers of flavor” that come from using the finer, gourmet versions of it. This dish combines the smooth, richness of avocado with the crisp crunch of cucumber, the warmth of sesame oil and sesame seeds, and that final touch of freshly flaked sea salt. So easy, but so gourmet at the same time. I guarantee you, it is even as good as meatloaf!
Avocado Cucumber Sesame Salad
Serves two to three
1 ripe but still firm avocado, cut in bite sized pieces (we like a lot of avocado, so I sometimes double the avocado in this recipe)
1/2 English cucumber (or regular cucumber with seeds removed , but peel left on) cut in bite sized pieces
1 t. fresh lime juice
1 T. sesame oil
1 t. sesame seeds (toasted, white or black seeds –black seeds are actually quite pretty, but I did not have them on hand)
fresh sea salt to taste
Gently coat the sliced avocado and cucumber in a bowl with lime juice, pinch sugar, sesame oil and seeds. Sprinkle generously with sea salt. Serve in a low-rimmed edge blow or plate.
- First of all, a little giveaway business to take care of. The winner of Friday’s Cookie Butter Giveaway is Wen. (I swear we used a random number generator, but have to admit, there is a nice ring to Wen is the Winner!) Wen, we’ll email you to get an address where we can send your cookie butter. Congratulations!
Rachel, the daughter
It’s summer and many of us, either married to school teachers or with school age children, have extra mouths to feed at lunch. Most of the year, lunch is my meal, the meal that doesn’t have to make sense, or be well-balanced. It’s the meal no one’s going to comment on or scoff at because they don’t like what I’m serving. If I’m lucky, I even get to eat it alone while the baby is napping. It’s usually not planned and often just a plate of randomness, if I even actually put it on a plate. I like to have one meal a day that is mine, all mine.
Not that I’m even close to ready to send Jared back to work and into the dreaded long days of football season, but I admit sometimes during the summer I miss my lunch.
During these months, I get asked daily “What’s for lunch?” To which I spout off a list of things I know we have on hand. Somehow a handful of almonds, a bowl of leftover spaghetti, and a sliced avocado, does not sell well as a collective lunch offering. My well meaning husband will kindly decline and offer to make his own lunch instead, and by make, I mean open a bag of his jalapeno-flavored pretzels or serve up a plate of pistachios. I cannot, in good conscious, let this happen on my watch, so I either go in the other room and look away or pull a lunch together that the both of us can enjoy.
My go-to lunch this summer has been anything “Build-Your-Own,” sandwiches, pitas, salads, pizza, pasta. I can eat whatever I’m craving and Jared can choose to eat or not eat any or all of the toppings I’ve offered. Sandwiches don’t have to be boring and they are a familiar vessel to introduce your family to new ingredients and flavor combinations. Try offering roasted chickpeas instead of sandwich meat, avocados instead of mayo, lightly dressed dark leafy greens instead of romaine, hot peppers instead of pickles, roasted red peppers instead of (or in addition to) tomatoes, whole grain garlic toast instead of white bread. You can put out some of your favorite sandwich standby’s too, but my food philosophy with my family is to introduce lots of different foods and to keep trying until I’ve won them over (I’m persistent!). Jared didn’t eat a single thing on this sandwich bar when I first met him, but today he happily ate at least a little of everything except for the tomato (my work is never done around here.)
What are your favorite gourmet or out-of-the-box sandwich toppings?
- Sliced Avocado
- Roasted Chickpeas (see below), plain chickpeas work well too
- Dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, and/or arugula) lightly dressed w/ a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper
- Roasted Red Peppers (storebough or see below to make your own)
- Spicy Peppers
- Bread, buttered (Earth Balance for vegans) and sprinkled with garlic powder
Other Gourmet Ingredients you might want to offer on your BYOGS bar:
Hummus, grilled tofu, grilled or breaded eggplant, caramelized onions, mixed olives, shredded roasted chicken, smoked salmon, basil, cilantro, fresh mozzarella, different breads: Ciabatta rolls, hoagies or pitas
Roasted Chickpeas & Red Peppers
Heat oven to 400 degrees (I use my convection oven’s roast setting and it works great if you have one). Either line a baking pan with parchment paper or coat with olive oil or cooking spray.
Drain & rinse a can of chickpeas. Pat dry with a paper towel. Put them on the baking pan and rub olive oil (you don’t need much, maybe 1/2 tablespoon), and season generously with your favorite seasonings. I like smoked paprika, seasoning salt, and a touch of cayenne, but any combo of spice works.
Seed and cut a red pepper in half or thirds and put on a separate baking sheet. Put both pans in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes (the convection oven will cook faster, closer to 10 minutes). The chickpeas should be crunchy on the the outside, but still have a little chew in the middle. The skin of the red pepper should be charred and bubbling up in places. You can stick them under the broiler for a few minutes to char up quickly.
Immediately put the red peppers in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let sit for 3-5 minutes. The steam should loosen the skins and make them really easy to pull off.
To serve, put everything out on the table and let your family taste the ingredients and build their own combination. It could be super casual on a typical Tuesday afternoon or, with the right tablescape and ingredients, really elegant for a shower or reception. In fact, I think I just talked myself into doing a BYOGS bar for Jackson’s upcoming birthday party. There will be something for everyone from the pickiest of eaters to the snobbiest of gourmets.
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Build-Your-Own-Gourmet-Sandwich Bar
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-ya
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved
What would you do if given the gift of one uninterrupted day, a day where your kids, your husband, your friends and your boss gave your their blessing to walk away and create your own perfect 12 hours? A day to refill your soul?
Some seasons of my life are busier than others and the last two months has been filled to overflowing with people, appointments and a list of “to-dos” that seemed endless. Seeing his wife was in a state of overwhelm, Greg hugged me on Friday night and said, “Honey, tomorrow I want you to take the whole Saturday just do anything you want at any given minute, all day long. Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll even make my own meals.”
It may have been the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard anyone say. (True to his word, Greg made his own lunch: two pieces of leftover corn on the cob, a piece of leftover blueberry pie and some leftover salad. Yes, he missed the protein food group, but it was a great improvement over his usual “bachelor diet” when I am away: potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and cereal.)
Saturday dawned with the song “Saturday in the Park” playing in my mind, and the line, “I’ve been waiting such a long time, for Sat-ur-day” echoing again and again. The feeling of unencumbered space stretched out for the next 12 hours left me near euphoric.
I spent the day writing on our new book in uninterrupted bliss at Denver’s famous Tattered Cover Bookstore, then lunched and wrote some more at The Corner Bakery, over-looking a gorgeous outline of the Rocky Mountains. When I walked in the house that evening there was a vase of sunny yellow flowers and a loving card from Greg, “Just because.” I wrote in my Facebook status: I feel like a wilted flower that has been put in the fresh water of creative work, healing solitude, and the benevolent blessing of a good man who wants little in this life but for me to be happy. I may yet live!
After I opened the card, Greg and I went to the back porch for our Summertime Happy Hour, a ritual we started in early June to make sure we have a little time to connect before dinner. One of the things that centenarians the world over have in common is “joyful rituals.” This has become one of our favorites. I made us clementine mojitos using the mint from my herb garden, perfectly refreshing.
The day of rest and writing left me infused with creative energy as I cooked supper a little later. I grabbed a crisp jicama, a vine-ripe tomato, an avocado and a mango out of the crisper. In my mind’s eye I saw this recipe appear: a pretty salad of orange, green and red nestled in a bed of white grated jicama, drizzled with a fresh lime dressing and served in margarita glasses. It would be our “salad course.” Let me tell you, it was every bit as tasty as it is beautiful! So cold and refreshing after a 100 degree summer day.
I am delighted to share this recipe with you, along with encouragement to take time out for “Fill the Well Day” for your body, mind and soul as soon as you can!
Avocado Mango Salad “Cocktail” in Jicama Nests
2 cups peeled, grated fresh jicama
1 fresh tomato
1 fresh mango
1 T. chopped cilantro or parsley or mint
2 T. chopped green onion
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 t. salt
4 t. honey
4 T. crushed corn or tortilla chips
Cajun seasoning or Tajin chili-lime seasoning to sprinkle on top
Lime slices for garnish
Place 1/2 cup grated jicama in each of 4 margarita glasses or pretty glass bowls to create a white “nest.” Mix avocado, tomato, mango, herb of your choice and green onion together in a bowl and gently toss. Place this mixture on top of the grated jicama, dividing evenly in to the four glasses. In a small bowl mix the dressing of lime juice, salt and honey. Drizzle evenly over each of the salads. Top each salad with 1 T. crushed chips and a nice sprinkling of Cajun or Tajin seasoning. Serve with long teaspoons if you have them and put a slice of lime on each rim. Have guests stir and toss their salads once they are served to make sure everything gets coated with the lime dressing.
I think any of our regular readers know my affections for kale at this point. I do love that cruciferous veggie (in fact, this recipe sneaks in two cups of it), but I’ve been keeping quiet about another favorite food of mine. Possibly the the humblest legume out there, the lentil.
I don’t have a funny or inspiring story to tie into this recipe, so I’m just going to indulge in one of my favorite guilty pleasures, talking geeky about health food.
“What’s a lentil?” You ask. Well, I didn’t know either until about two years ago when I started eating a plant-based diet. I wish I had known about them when I was a college student trying to eat healthy on a tight budget. A pound of lentils costs less than $1.00 and will yield 5 cups of cooked lentils. Each cup boasts a whopping 17 grams of protein, 16 grams of fiber, folate (90% RDV), iron (35% RDV), magnesium, and much more, yet only has 1 gram of fat and 230 calories. All that, and they cook in 30 minutes (versus 4+ hours for most dry beans) with no soaking required.
Like most legumes, lentils aren’t a powerhouse of flavor on their own, but they pick up the flavors of whatever they are cooked in nicely. I use them in soups and spaghetti sauce all the time. This week, I discovered a new use for them. Instead of using canned beans or slow cooking kidney and black beans for my usual veggie chili recipe, I used lentils.
I know it’s warming up and, for some, chili is a winter dish, but I love any quick one-pot meal in the summer that doesn’t require turning on the oven or hovering over the stove for long. You can make a lot at once, and then take the next night off or easily pack up the leftovers for lunch at the office. And if you top it with a hit of diced avocado, some cilantro, and a squeeze of lime , it really brightens up the flavors and brings a bit of summer color to this warm dish.
What’s your favorite under-the-radar ingredient or food that you love to tell your friends about?
Rachel’s Lentil Veggie Chili
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 t. grated ginger
1 T. cumin
1 t. cayenne
1 t. salt
2 serrano chilies, whole
1 sweet potato, chopped
14 oz can of diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 cup (1/2 lb) dry green lentils, sorted for dirt & rocks* & rinsed
6 cups water
2 cups of frozen corn, thawed
2 cups kale, removed from stem
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes (optional for an extra spicy kick)
Other: Brown Rice and/or crackers, avocado, cilantro, & lime
In a large pot, heat a little bit of olive oil and saute onions and carrots with a pinch of salt on medium heat until soft. Add garlic and ginger and saute for 2 more minutes. Stir in cumin, cayenne, and salt. Add serrano chilies, sweet potato, tomatoes, lentil, and water. Cover and bring to a boil, lower to a simmer for 30 minutes with the lid tilted, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid. Add corn and kale & optional red pepper flakes. Simmer for 10 more minutes. If you want a thicker soup, continue to simmer uncovered until you reach the desired consistency.
Serve over brown rice or with crackers. Garnish with avocado, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.
*Before cooking any dried legumes, pour them onto a solid surface, like a paper towel and sort through them looking for sticks, little rocks, or clumps of dirt. Please don’t skip this step. I find something in probably 50% of my dried beans. You don’t want you or your guests to bite into a rock!
Happy Mother’s Day to each one of you, whether a mother, a daughter, a son, or even a husband. We all have someone’s life to celebrate today. My mom and I both have a special place in our hearts for those whose moms aren’t with them anymore or for those with difficult mom relationships. Today can be a tough day for some, we know.
I don’t ever take for granted how blessed I am to have a relationship that is based on love, acceptance, trust, and laughter with my mom. I think the reason I don’t take it for granted is that I’ve watched her use her mothering and nurturing gifts (truly her spiritual gifts) beyond our family. She often spends her afternoons cooking up lunch for 20-somethings and their little chicks on her patio, many of whom are learning for the first time what motherly love should look like.
Several of these young women have become like sisters to me, a bonus to having a mom that girls my age love to hang out with. When we get together at mom’s house, we all know to expect it to look a bit like a monkey on speed was cooking in the kitchen. Literally, the way this woman cooks boggles my neat freak mind. Last time I visited, I watched her use 13 utensils to make one cake. But, she’s quick in the kitchen, which gives her more time to focus on her chickadees. So we don’t complain and we all pitch in after lunch to try and piece her kitchen back together.
This Messy Greek Sandwich is one of the typical lunches she whips up for “her girls” on the fly. She’s made it for me several times and it’s always a hit. It’s one of those sandwiches you really want to enjoy in the company of those you don’t have to try and impress. It’s big, it’s messy, and it’s delicious. Mom always laughs when she serves me this, because I vocalize my approval with each bite. “Mmmmm mmmmm mmmmmm.”
Happy Mother’s Day Momma! Thank you for teaching me mothering is not just for mothers, if you cook good food, guests will overlook a messy kitchen (and even help you clean it), and when all else fails, laugh…or write it down and hope you’ll laugh later.
Momma’s Messy Greek Sandwiches
Serves 2 big messy sandwiches
Two Hoagie Rolls (or other hearty bread)
8 1/4 inch slices of eggplant
1/2 a bell pepper (any color of mix of colors), sliced
1/4 medium onion, sliced
4 T. Spicy Pepper & Olive Mix (a mix of green & black olives, pepperocinis, & jalapenos)
4 baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 cup of Baby Kale or Spinach
2 T. Sundried Tomatoes
Heat 1 T. of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat (an iron skillet works well for browning veggies), add eggplant to the skillet, trying not to overlap too much, sprinkle with just a little salt. Let brown on one side, then turn over, sprinkle with a dash more salt and add a little more oil to the pan if needed. Once both sides are golden, set on a paper towel lined plate. Add onions, peppers, and mushrooms to the pan. Don’t add salt yet and try not to stir too much. You want the mushrooms and onions to get nice and golden. Once the onions are soft, add in the kale, sprinkle with a drizzle more of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper.
Coat the inside of the hoagie rolls with olive oil and garlic powder and toast under the broiler until golden.
Now pile on the ingredients: avocado slices, eggplant, onions, peppers, mushrooms, greens, sundried tomatoes and the spicy olive & pepper mix. You might want to tackle these with a knife and fork, or if you’re brave and don’t mind a mess just pick it up with both hands and go for it. As the old saying goes, Eat Like Nobody’s Watching (or something like that!)
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Momma’s Messy Greek Sandwiches
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/05/12/mommas-messy-greek-sandwiches/
Growing up, the only salmon I knew personally came from a can. My mom would mix it with crackers and egg, fry it and serve it as salmon patties. Then we kids would drown these little fish-fried hockey pucks in as much ketchup as possible, picking at them, eating a little bit of the edges hoping this would satisfy our mom so we could simply move on from this so-called dinner, and get to dessert.
I never made a single salmon patty for my children. Never served them salmon at all. Felt that I was doing them a huge favor.
Then, eight years ago I married Greg, an Oregonian and Lover of All Things Salmon. It was then, in my forties, that he gently let me know I’d not only never eaten salmon the way it was intended to be served, but I’d mispronounced it all my life. Who know that there is such a thing as a silent “l” in the middle of a word? It took me a full year to stop saying “SaL-mon” and start saying “Sah-men” as they do in the Great Northwest. About that time my eldest son left Texas to hop on an Alaskan fishing boat and has been catching fresh salmon every summer ever since, living for 4 to 5 months at a time on a boat full of stinky sailors and fresh fish.
I figured, at this point, that I owed it to both my husband and son to learn how to cook salmon correctly. I stumbled along, trying out recipes, eating salmon at restaurants and just sort of tolerating it. Then one evening, I was out with a friend who encouraged me to order the salmon on the menu and let the chef cook it his way. I took one bite of this chef-prepared salmon and said, “Oh. My. Gosh. This is the best meat I’ve ever tasted! But it doesn’t taste like salmon. Or fish. It tastes like crispy butter, crunchy out the outside but moist flakes of soft yumminess on the inside. How did the chef make this?”
What the chef did was cook the salmon on a searing hot grill and left the middle of the fish still slightly moist and opaque. He did not roast it. He did not cook it to death. And this made all the difference. He also served it with a fabulous lime-garlic-tomato salsa.
Now, I hate to brag, but these days I make the best salmon you’ve ever tasted. You need to start with a good fresh piece of salmon, of the milder tasting variety. Since Denver is not near an ocean, the best catch of the day around here is at Whole Foods. The Norwegian salmon is the mildest. I like the fish guy to cut one big slab of it, enough for two to three people, and leave the skin on. But I’m getting ahead of myself! Here’s the recipe. You will love it!
Becky’s Salmon with Avocado-Mango-Lime Salsa
Serves 2 to 3
Norwegian salmon, skin on, cut it one slab, enough to serve 2 to 3 people (Fresh wild caught salmon is also delicious, but not as mild as the Norwegian at Whole Foods)
1 -2 T. olive oil (enough to coat pan and keep fish sizzling)
1 – 2 t. grill or steak seasoning (enough to lightly sprinkle on both sides of your fish)
1 small mango
1 small tomato
1/2 clove garlic grated fine
1 T. fresh lime juice
Using a grill pan preferably (or a large flat skillet that will take high heat) pour olive oil to coat the bottom and let it get “screaming hot.” Put salmon skin down onto grill pan. In about 30 seconds the skin will start to loosen, turn the salmon over and remove the skin with flat spatula, scrapping off any of the grey stuff on top of the pink fish. (Toss the skin in the trash.) Sprinkle lightly with 1/2 t or so of grill seasoning. Flip back over and cook this side of the salmon on high heat until it is seared and beautiful rich golden brown. In the meantime, sprinkle the other side with 1/2 t. of grill seasoning. Flip and cook the other side on high heat until it is a rich golden brown. Remove from heat. Let sit a few minutes while you make the relish.
Dice tomato, mango and avocado and mix together in a medium sized bowl. Add lime juice, fresh grated garlic, a dash of salt and a pinch of sugar. Gently toss, taste seasonings.
Using two spatulas move fish to large serving plate (pour any pooled juices atop) and garnish with the avocado-mango-tomato salsa. I like to serve this family style, letting every one at the table gently pull of the amount of salmon they want with a big serving fork and spatula. Serve any remaining relish in a bowl and allow guests to add more if they like.
Variations: add minced red onion, chopped jalapenos, and/or chopped fresh herbs like cilantro or mint or flat leaf parsley or basil to the salsa
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Salmon with Avocado-Mango-Lime Salsa
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/04/20/avocado-mango-lime-salmon/