Monday, August 31, 2009

Wax beans with cherry tomatoes

I was so in a hurry to sit down and eat these freshly picked beans and tomatoes (right out of our very own garden) that I didn't even take the time to photograph them. I'll be making it again very soon, so will try to discipline my appetite to allow for a quick snap.

I did not measure any of the ingredients. They can be adjusted to your taste. Just note that what follows is for 2 servings.

Wax beans with cherry tomatoes
2 cups wax beans, washed, trimmed and cut into 1" to 1 1/2" pieces
1/4 cup chicken broth or water
1 tbsp butter
fresh herbs to taste (thyme or oregano or basil sprigs - or all 3)
salt and white (or black) pepper to taste
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Put everything but the tomatoes into a saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and simmer slowly for exactly 10 minutes. Remove from heat, remove herb sprigs and discard, toss in tomatoes and serve. Be sure to sip up all the liquid too.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

LGBT sandwiches

Here is something fun and delicious. I've given it a suggestive title because it amused me to do so. In case you don't know, the acronum LGBT stands for "Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered." In my recipe it stands for "Lettuce, Gravlax, Bacon, Tomato."
In the spirit of LGBT, I include this pic of my significant other (going on 29 years). Just for the record, he's G, not L, B, or T.

Gravlax, for those who like smoked salmon, is an inexpensive and quick way to satisfy your salmon hunger. Check out my post from 8/4/2008 (one of my earliest) for the recipe.

The picture shows open-faced sandwiches. The reason: the remaining ends of the loaf of bread were kind of small. With larger slices we'd use 4 and top the sandwiches with a second piece of bread. You do whatever pleases you. My gravlax was homemade, the lettuce homegrown, the tomatoes Colorado-grown, the bread Colorado baked, the herbs homegrown.

LGBT sandwiches with herbed mayo

8 oz. gravlax, thinly sliced

4 slices bacon

lettuce, any kind

4 slices bread

1 large tomato, sliced

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup fresh herbs (including any of: thyme, basil, oregano, parsley), chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the bacon on a baking rack over a 1"-sided baking pan. Roast for 20 minutes (regular cut), 24 minutes (thick cut). Remove to paper towels to absorb the grease. Save the baking fat in the pan for frying something else.

Mix together the herbs and mayo and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Toast the bread and then let it cool down. Smear it generously with herbed mayo. Top it with lettuce, then tomato, then gravlax, then bacon. Eat and enjoy.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Salmon with orzo

It’s hard to imagine anything easier or more delicious than this quick dish. Accompany it with a green salad and you’ve got a perfect summer supper.

At our house we have certain things categorized by season. For example, we’d never make lasagna during July and August, and we wouldn’t make gazpacho in January.

A word about doneness for the salmon: We like ours medium rare in the center. If you want it more cooked-thru, leave it in the hot liquid for an extra 4-5 minutes. Since it gets shredded anyways, just separate the thickest part with a fork to check for doneness.

A word about the cooking liquid: I use broth or a stock made from shrimp shells or lobster shells. You certainly can just use plain water, though the salmon will be a little less flavorful, but perfectly fine.

Salmon with orzo
14 oz. salmon, pin bones removed, skin on
broth or water to cover
1 cup orzo, prepared according to package directions
¼ cup canned black olives, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts, chopped fine
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and black or white pepper to taste
juice of ½ small lemon
1 tbsp parsley, chopped

Bring your cooking liquid to a boil. Carefully slip in the salmon. Cover the pan and remove from the heat. Let stand 10-15 minutes until desired doneness is achieved. When you reach that point, remove the salmon from the liquid and allow to cool completely.

As soon as the orzo is done, drain it in a colander and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Drain well.

In a large bowl, combine the orzo, olives, scallion and toss. Whisk the mustard into the olive oil and toss into the orzo mix. Season with salt and pepper and taste. Adjust seasonings to your taste, then shred the salmon into the bowl, garnish with lemon juice and parsley, and toss one final time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

White bean salad with brats and fresh tomato

With all the challenges in life: unemployment, same-sex marriage (and lack of same in our household), medical reform, medical challenges, etc, Peter and I have two constants: (1) the meticulous planning, execution, and consumption of our daily meals; (2) cocktails at 5 pm while we watch an episode of Jeopardy or Millionaire. If this seems pedestrian or prosaic, all I can say is it works for us!

Lunch is usually a sandwich, ranging from banh mi, to grilled ham and cheese, to chicken or tuna or egg salad, and so forth. Lunch also includes a daily mix of cutup fruit with plain yogurt as a dressing. Dinner will include a protein, a starch, and a vegetable (often a salad these days with remarkably resilient lettuce from our own garden). The regularity of substantial and varied meals, enjoyed in the preparation nearly as much (but not as much) as in the eating.

Having bought some brats on sale at Safeway a few days ago, I got to thinking about a salad with white beans (my favorites of which are called Navy beans and come in cans at Safeway). In part I like them because they are small.

I sat down at this computer yesterday and composed the following recipe. Try it – it’s superb!

Sorry there’s no photo – the one I took at the dinner table didn’t come out well.

White bean and sausage salad
2 bratwurst, cooked and cut into ½” pieces
1 15 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 small shallot, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
¼ cup canned black olives, halved
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp chopped parsley
½ tsp fresh rosemary, minced
½ tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard

Start the bratwurst. I use a Rachel Ray technique for this. A small amount of water in a sauté pan; add the brats and cook, turning occasionally until the water has evaporated; add olive oil or butter and continue sautéing until the sausages are browned and cooked through.

While the brats cook (or do ahead of time), put the beans, shallot, tomato, olives, garlic, salt and pepper, parsley, rosemary, and thyme in a large bowl and toss to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and mustard. Add to the large bowl and toss to combine. Set aside.

We heated wide bowls in our excellent convection toaster oven, served up the bean mix and added the hot sausages (after cutting into ½” pieces). The result is basically a room temp to warm salad, very pleasing on a summer evening.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Let me help

I’m starting something new: a how-to offer for anyone perplexed by what to do with leftovers and the oddments that we all collect in our pantries, freezers and refrigerators.

I consider myself an expert at this. If you have examined some of my recipes, you will have noticed a tendency to use what is at hand and adapt a dish appropriately.

The first thing you must do (and if you’re not willing, this won’t work) is to inventory what you have. Get a pad and pencil, open your fridge and make a list of everything in there that you don’t use on a daily basis (or at least frequently). This means don’t write down milk and orange juice and the like. Look especially for things that have been there a while and haven’t been used: such things as condiments, olives, pickles, leftovers you still would eat, etc. (anything with mold growing on it doesn’t count and I don’t have to tell you what to do with it).

Next, go to your pantry and your freezer and repeat the above.

Now, send me an e-mail at, list your items and tell me about any food allergies or dislikes. I will reply within no more than a few hours (depends on when I check my mail) and give you ideas in the form of actual recipes. There’s no charge for this. What I really hope to do is to get more people reading my blog.

For examples of how I’ve done exactly what I am recommending, check out these postings on this blog: Aug 2, 09 – quinoa salad, or Nov 1, 09 – slaw. It’s not that these are the only recipes where I’ve taken advantage on on-hand ingredients…nearly all of my creations are inspired by something I’ve had and have been meaning to use.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Orzo salad with tuna and fresh tomato

Disclaimer: I didn't get a nice sharp picture of my own dish. However, this one looks a lot like it...thanks to FoodNetwork.

The inspiration for this came from a trip to Denver's excellent farmer's market, Heinie's, where we found fresh Colorado tomatoes (ours in the garden aren't ready yet). The herbs are ours, though. I wouldn't make this with a store-bought tomato - the fresh taste of what I used is incomparable.

Orzo with tuna and fresh tomato
Orzo pasta
6 oz. pouch tuna in water
1 large fresh tomato
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp fresh basil leaves, julienned
1 tbsp chives, chopped fine
1 jalapeno pepper, ¾ deveined and seeded, diced fine
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of ¼ lemon

Cook the orzo in well-salted water according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

Cut the tomato into a fine dice. Combine the tomato, orzo, tuna, thyme, basil, chives and jalaeno in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil and the lemon juice. Toss thoroughly to combine. Let stand one hour at room temperature before serving.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Quinoa salad with toasted garbanzos and black olives

I invented this concoction a couple of months ago but only got around to making it 2 days ago. Of course it evolved between conception and execution. This end result is a truly lovely dish to accompany the protein of your choice or just to be a stand-alone lunch (maybe with some crusty bread).

I chose the small olives so that I didn’t feel I had to cut them up – thus saving a little time. It is not essential to toast the garbanzos, but they do take on a nutty tastiness if you do toast them. I love cumin. However, maybe you don’t. Try adding a bit of fresh oregano or thyme or basil or all three.

Quinoa is very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Manganese.

Quinoa salad w/black olives and garbanzos
1 14.5 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed, and dried
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1 serrano pepper, ½ seeded, ½ not seeded
2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup quinoa
1 ¾ cup chicken broth
1 14.5 oz. can small black olives, drained, rinsed, and dried
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped (optional)

Place the garbanzos in a non-stick pan large enough to hold them in one layer. Toast over medium heat until lightly browned, 10-15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan. Add the shallot, Serrano pepper and garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes or until softened.

Add the quinoa and stir to coat. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer slowly about 15 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the quinoa to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

To the bowl add olives, parsley, lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper to taste, and mint (if using). Toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. Allow to come to room temperature. Taste and adjust seasonings before serving.

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