Thai Collard Wraps (day 5 )

Thai Collard Wraps

Today was supposed to be a day off from running or lifting but sometimes you just know it’s best to go ahead and put on your favorite running shoes, put your favorite song list on the iPhone, and get it done.  It feels better to do it than not.

My nature is not that of a runner.  It goes against everything I can think of about myself.  But I have been and with consistency.  Some days it is much harder then others but running is always better then not running at all.

Lunch today! Continue reading “Thai Collard Wraps (day 5 )”

Classic Creamy Coleslaw

cabbage

My favorite kind of coleslaw is the classic, creamy variety; it comforts me because I grew up eating it at a mom-and-pop catfish bar whose coleslaw was second to none. Their version was made with finely grated cabbage and bright orange ribbons of carrot. It was a bit tart and a little sharp — the way horseradish can be — because the cabbage was freshly grated. It paired perfectly with deep-fried catfish, whose crispy tails tasted of bacon. This is the slaw by which I judge all others. Continue reading “Classic Creamy Coleslaw”

Three Bean Salad, Redux

Three Bean Salad

Now that picnic season is upon us, I get nostalgic over classic summertime fare. There is nothing quite like a family reunion over fried chicken and a potluck dinner, tables threatening to buckle under the weight of all the CorningWare and Pyrex.

Of course, there are the old favorites: green bean casserole, scalloped potatoes, pea salad with bacon and mayonnaise, three bean salad, and most certainly a mustardy potato salad — and, if luck is with me, an old-fashioned custard pie sprinkled with a little nutmeg. I love all these foods — but this year, I want something new. Continue reading “Three Bean Salad, Redux”

Everything but the Hamburger, Special Sauce Included

DSCF0022

Sadly, as I sit at the bus stop watching my daughters play, I have to tell myself: summer is so last season.

All summer I have been grilling vegetables for salads. Mostly zucchini and summer squash; I char it deeply and then chop it and toss it with basil, lemon juice, and olive oil, in sort of a grilled chopped salad. It captures all the flavors of early summer one could want. But at some point, either the zucchini or I tire and the dish no longer appears on the table. At least not until next summer, when the annual craving for these flavors peaks again. Continue reading “Everything but the Hamburger, Special Sauce Included”

Farmhouse Chicken Salad

Farmhouse Chicken Salad

Look at the three lazy beasts lying on the cool concrete floor of the garage and you might think it’s the dog days of summer. If I’m in need of another sign, I don’t look any further than the Indiana state fair, which starts this week. The dog day heat always coincides with the fair but not today, and maybe not this year.

Of the three dogs lying there, not one so much as lifts an ear as I walk by.

It has been a good summer, hardly hot at all, with just the right amount of rain. The garden is going gangbusters: I have a basketful of green beans in my hands right now, and we’ve come to that moment when we can’t give away enough row boat-sized zucchini. The only thing we are short of is chicken, but we’re in the midst of raising a second flock for the winter freezer.

But today, for some reason, I want to shirk my familial duties and avoid the hot stove, and any other tasks altogether. If I’m going to cook today, it will be in the cool of early morning. At the back door I take off my mud boots, put on flip flops, and head to the kitchen. I need coffee. I fill the teapot with water, put it on the stove, and set up the French press.

While I’m waiting for the teapot to heat, I head into the pantry to retrieve a couple of big blanching pots. While I have a minute to spare, I do some light organizing of misplaced pantry goods and forget why I’m there in the first place. The teapot throws a hissy fit and it’s not until I’m halfway to the stove that I remember why I even went into the pantry.

The girls started back to school today; Lynn began kindergarten. It’s been seven years since I haven’t had a little one underfoot. This morning the only one talking is the fan, whizzing away in the window. The house is full with cool morning air and quiet.

After a cup of coffee, I make it back to the pantry for those pots. I told myself that this year, when both girls are in school, I’m going to set up a routine for myself. This morning I’m going to prep some meals ahead of time. Hopefully, I’ll get more done in less time and maybe make a little time for myself.

Three serious prep tools:

1. Big pot blanching: This is important enough that in The French Laundry Cookbook, Chef Thomas Keller devotes the entirety of page 58 to the process. It’s mostly for green vegetables or veggies like cauliflower or white asparagus (while they’re white they will still benefit from blanching). The idea of big pot blanching is that you bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a rapid boil. When you drop the green vegetables into the pot, the water should never stop boiling. The salt and heat set the color of the vegetables, keeping them vibrant, while still allowing you to cook green veggies until tender. It also uniformly seasons your vegetables. Chef Keller calls for a cup of kosher salt to a gallon of water. Personally, I find that excessive for the home cook and I have found 1/4 cup of salt to a gallon of water to be sufficient.

With most vegetables you need to have an ice bath ready to shock (cool very quickly) the item being cooked in order to stop the cooking as quickly as possible. An ice bath is nothing more than a large bowl filled with ice and cold water. For a large quantity of vegetables, you might have to add more ice.

2. Boiling: When you boil a potato with the skin on, you should cook it until a knife slips almost to the middle but experiences some resistance near the center. Drain the potatoes into a colander. Do not run water over them. This lets the potatoes become tender through carry-over cooking. If you were to run hot water over the potatoes, the skins would peel off like paint. Do not halve or quarter the potatoes until you are ready to use them.

3. Poaching: There are lots of ways to poach something, but one of my favorite ways is to poach it in its own juices. This always reminds me of sous vide, which is sort of the same thing but without all the fancy equipment. Basically, you’ll want to poach in vacuum-sealed freezer bags (which are not the same as regular Ziploc bags, though Ziploc does make vacuum-sealed bags, too). I have also accomplished the same thing by wrapping a chicken in two layers of plastic wrap followed by a layer of foil. It holds out the water and keeps in the juices.

Depending on what you’re poaching, it may be a good idea to completely submerge the item (as is the case wth a whole chicken). I simply place a heavy, heat-proof plate on top to keep things submerged.

Farmhouse Chicken Salad

Serves 4

For the chicken:

1 whole chicken, 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
A handful of fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, chives, and tarragon)
1 small onion, peeled and julienned
1 
small carrot, peeled and cut
A handful of celery leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the salad:

1 
juicy lemon
1
 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 
teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 
tablespoons cooking juices (from the bottom of the poaching bag or from the tray on which the chicken was resting)
1/2 
cup carrot, grated on the large holes of a grater
1 1/2
 cups green beans, blanched in a large pot, then cooled and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 
red potatoes, boiled, cooled and quartered   
1/2
 cup celery, thinly sliced
1/4 
cup sunflower seeds, roasted and salted by you
A healthy handful of arugula (wild rocket is good, too)
1/4 
cup mix of basil, tarragon, chives, and thyme, minced
1/4
 cup blue cheese

  1. Place the chicken, a pinch of salt and pepper, and all the aromatics into a vacuum pack bag, or if you want, just poach it with the aromatics (but you won’t have the juices for the dressing). Vacuum seal the bag and place it into a large pot. Cover with cold water by at least 6 inches.
  2. Bring the water to a high simmer, around 180 to 200˚ F. Let the chicken poach for 2 hours or until cooked thoroughly. Remove the chicken from the pot, then cut open the bag, being careful not to lose the juices. Let the chicken cool. Once it’s cool enough to handle, remove the skin and pick the meat from the bones.
  3. For the salad dressing, combine the juice from the lemon with the olive oil and broth or fat. Add the mustard and whisk to combine. Taste and add a pinch of two of salt and a few grinds of pepper. If it’s too tart, add more chicken broth or olive oil.
  4. With the exception of the blue cheese, combine the remainder of the salad ingredients in a bowl. Season the salad with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and then add the dressing. Toss again, top with the crumbled blue cheese and serve.

Laotian Beef Salad (Larb)

Laotian Beef SaladI really enjoy making and eating the foods of Southeast Asia.  I make trips to the Asian grocery and buy up all kinds of different produce that aren’t found in my garden or at the local grocer.  I don’t really drive but an extra five minutes to get there, the groceries cost less which makes up for the extra in gas and I usually find some gem of a new product that I have never eaten, cooked with or sometimes never even seen.  It is always an adventure.  This time I happened in a day or two before the Chinese New Year and in honor of the holiday they gave Lynnie a box of the funkiest most savory cookies ever.  I couldn’t eat them but she loved them and this from the little girl who finds Chinese food sour. Continue reading “Laotian Beef Salad (Larb)”

White Wheat Berry Salad with Fresh Beans

White Wheat Berry Salad with Fava Beans, Green BeansIf you have ever had fresh raw fava beans then you know the wonderful tender pop, the tender chew and the juicy flavor. It goes wonderfully here with the green beans and the dressing.

Wheat berries are another wonderful addition to your repertoire. They add a subtle chew and give the dish a pasta flavor while digesting at a lower glycemic level because they are a whole grain.

This is one of those dishes that is here because it is delicious and, luckily, it just happens to be very good for you too.

Serves 6 as a side dish

1 cup soft white wheat berries, rinsed

3/4 cup green beans, blanched and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

1 cup fresh fava beans, lima, or edamame,  shells and outer skin removed

1 1/2 tablespoons chives, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons lemon juice

kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

1. Place the wheat berries into a large pot and cover them with cold water by two inches. Place the pot over high heat and bring it to a boil. Boil for two minutes then turn off the heat, cover the pot and let it sit for two hours.

2. After two hours add a couple of pinches of salt and then place the pot back over the heat and bring the berries to a boil again. Now reduce the heat to medium and let them simmer until soft, or the texture you want, about 15 minutes.

3. Drain the berries in a colander and let them cool to room temperature.

4. In a large mixing bowl combine the mayo, buttermilk and lemon juice. Season it with salt and pepper then add the thyme and chives. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It is nice if you can let it sit for at least a half hour to let the flavors meld and even overnight is good.

5. Serve

Smoked Herring Salad

Smoked Herring Salad

Why do so many people fear canned fish? I don’t mean tuna, it doesn’t even count. Was there some massive food poisoning event in the United States back in 1908 or something and the canned fish market never recovered or do we just have a lot of closet canned fish eaters in this country.

Canned fish is brilliant, don’t laugh, I am being totally serious. It is really tasty, it harmlessly sits in your pantry ready to be used and is as tasty as the day it was packed.

Maybe people don’t know how to use it or maybe when they were little their parents always told them they wouldn’t like it and so they never have. My guess is most people who say they don’t like it have never tried it or it has been served to them right out of the can bathed in some sort of funky sauce.

No, what I am talking about is fish packed in oil, be it, mackerel, herring or sardines, smoked and not smoked. The omega-3 dense bait fish, well not mackerel it is higher up the chain then the other two, but fish oil rich nonetheless.

It’s as if you have to go to Eastern Europe, Nordic countries or Russia for your recipes and I am good with that. These countries now what to do when it comes to canned fish. I trust them.

This recipe is of Dutch descent. Being the herring eaters they are you can count on them for good recipes.

Serves 4

1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Dusseldorf mustard or Dijon

1 teaspoon whole grain mustard

1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1 tin smoked herring or mackerel

2/3 cup celery, chopped

1 cup yukon gold potatoes, boiled and cubed

6 cornichons, chopped

2 to 3 beets, roasted, peeled and cubed

2 hard boiled eggs, shelled

a handful of peas, fresh or frozen

2 teaspoons chives, chopped

2 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds

salt and fresh ground black pepper

1. Combine the mayonnaise, mustards and vinegar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.

2. Add the celery, potato, cornichons, peas and herring. Smash the eggs into chunks and add them to the bowl. Stir to combine. The herring will break up into small pieces with some hunks much like if you were making tuna salad. If you want big hunks of herring then garnish the salad with it.

3. Divide among 4 plates and garnish with the beets and shallot rings. Garnishing with the beets keeps the salad from turning pink.

4. Serve

Dexas Turbo Fan Salad Spinner-Dryers

Dexas Greens Spinner

I had an email arrive in my box a couple of weeks back from a company by the name of Dexas.  I have never done a sponsored post but in this case I decided to.  I don’t know why, maybe it is just time but instead of me reviewing a product I thought I would just post the email I sent back to Dexas with my likes and concerns for the product.

But time passes and Jeff who sent me the original email,  who is very nice and good people usually don’t stay at bad companies, sends me another email  just checking in or code for, nudge nudge is the post getting close to being done.  Me being me, his second letter sits in my inbox for some time.  I finally get around to actually photographing the spinner  but by now I have used it a lot more.  After I did my initial testing I had some clear ideas, even sent Jeff a letter with my concerns but now I have become comfortable with the spinner and I have changed my mind on several issues.  First here is my letter to Jeff (take note, I removed a portion of the letter about a cutting board, not because it was bad or a bad product but because they didn’t ask me to test it but sent it along for my thoughts.  It is a great product too.)

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the follow-up.  I did receive the spinner and the cutting board.  It came at the perfect time since all my fall greens from the garden are just getting really good.

I have put the salad spinner to the test and really like a lot of things about it, the gearing in the top and the fan are fantastic, really fantastic,  and the offset and size of the handle is perfect.  It is much like a honey extractor I have and feels just as solid.  It does a great job of cleaning and drying greens of all types.

The spinner really is a nice product but I would be remiss in my testing if I didn’t mention a couple of things.  I really like the way the water runs out the open bottom but one of the things I really like about other salad spinners is the ability to store greens in the fridge right in the spinner.  This may seem trivial but for some reason I have found spinners as a storage unit really helps to extend the shelf life of salad and greens.  Are there any plans to make the spinner available with an optional, I’ll say, drip bowl?  I also mention this because I sometimes have a sink full of dishes when I get to the point in my prep that I want to clean greens I have to clean the sink out.  Don’t get me wrong you have a great product and these are just a few of my thoughts.

Anyway, I like the quality and durability of your products and I will look for them in stores around our area.  I still plan to write a post for my blog and will do so soon.  Thanks so much.

Tom

So what did I change my mind about.  Well, after using it and getting used to storing the greens in a plastic bag instead of the spinner I realized how much fridge space spinners of all kinds actually use.  Now the fridge is far less crowded, a definite plus.

In all seriousness this thing is built like a tank and works great!.

In the market for a good quality spinner?   Get yourself one here Sur la Table   or here Dexas.com

Olive Salad Taverna

Olive Salad Taverna

While having never been to Greece this seems as though it would be something that you might eat at a small taverna on the Mediterranean Sea. It is sort of an “a la grecque” dish which if done right is always good to have on hand and usually are even better the second day or, at the very least, after a couple hour marinade. I think this would be good followed by some sort of Mediterranean fish dish. If you want to make this a very filling salad add some feta and a couple of pitas and you will have a meal.

SERVES 4

1 cup mixed olives

1 cup garbanzos, cooked, or rinsed canned

2 teaspoons preserved lemon, finely minced

2 teaspoons shallot, finely minced

1 garlic clove, finely minced

1 teaspoon fresh savory or thyme, minced, Richard Olney used savory with olives and I think it works really well

1/2 teaspoon chile flakes

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 head butter leaf lettuce

hunks of feta and pita, optional

1. In a mixing bowl combine everything up to the olive oil. Mix everything to combine. Season it with black pepper and then add the olive oil. Stir to coat and then let the salad rest for at least 1 hour and you can even refrigerate it over night.

2. Before serving rinse the butter leaf and then using a salad spinner dry the lettuce. Place two or three leaves on each plate. Stir the salad to redistribute everything. Taste and if it needs salt add some. Divide the garbanzo/olive mixture evenly between the plates. Using a spoon drizzle some of the juice over the greens. Serve.