Search Results for "zucchini"

Lettuce Alone

Lettuce alone!!!  Lettuce alone?  Or no lettuce at all? That is a salad issue which deserves delving into.

And Andy’s Corner is delving deep into Army Officer Candidate School, circa 1968, looking at beans and donuts.

What would I do without my compadres giving me inspiration and feedback? The other evening I got an email from Jane W in Sonoma, following up on our pun-filled last post. Jane sent a pun about lettuce. And voila – this blog’s title was created!

And as I was thinking about salads, another friend and CC-mate, Joanne, emailed me the title of a book on food she highly recommended: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. I ordered it.

At dinner that week our friends, Buck and Carolyn, served a fabulous green salad with a dressing which I thought was perfect – not too vinegary, not too oily, just a touch sweet. Buck, who likes simple cooking, said it was a super simple recipe and agreed to share it: Seasoned Rice Vinegar Dressing, our newest Best of the Besties.

That Friday Andy and I went to the great little farmers’ market in Sonoma and I loaded our bag with Romano beans and haricot verts, little radishes, and some Black Krim tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, and, of course, sweet corn.

My blog ideas had congealed! But there will be no congealed salad recipes offered here.

LETTUCE ALONE

If you really must have lettuce by itself – perhaps you have no vegetables in your refrigerator except some Iceberg lettuce – it’s going to be all about the dressing.  And here’s the winner in our minds: Blue Cheese Dressing (and/or dip). Don’t despair that the recipe is too much for just one or two of you, since it will keep up to 5 days in the fridge and can be used multiple ways (maybe it’s because I add a touch of Accent – aka MSG – but I am slightly addicted to carrots dipped into this dressing).  Quick idea: pound flat a couple of chicken boneless/skinless thighs or breasts; quick fry them with salt & pepper, add a little hot sauce to pretend they’re Buffalo Wings and serve them with the dressing along side.

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About the MSG – it’s gotten a bum rap, so be sure to read the two articles that I just posted under Food for Thought.  And while you’re there, read the article I posted on “Why Salad is so Overrated” from the Washington Post.  Gives one pause.

LETTUCE-LESS

Lettuce-less gets my vote for salad preferences, and I’m not alone. Deb from smittenkitchen.com, my very favorite food blogger, has this to say about lettuce. We know that there is some question about whether growing lettuce in huge quantities is really that good for the world’s environment (see Food for Thought post from 5/21/2017), but even putting that aside, I find iceberg and romaine and butter lettuce all a little boring. I had a brief love affair with Baby Gem, but I’m over that too.

Lettuce-less idea #1: slice your freshly-picked, height-of-the-summer, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, and/or quickly blanched string beans. Drizzle a little of the Seasoned Rice Vinegar Dressing on them, plus a sprinkling of sea salt and pepper – and eat and enjoy. Or if you can find Buffalo Mozzarella, put some of that on your sliced tomatoes, along with the drizzle of dressing and a little fresh basil, and you’ve got an Italian salad – plus, sheer utter deliciousness.

veggie dish for salad dressing

Lettuce-less idea #2: if you want a tossed salad, take the same veggies and cut them up; add a little diced red onion and some diced feta cheese, sliced Kalamata olives, and a bit of minced fresh oregano leaves, if you want. Then toss gently with the Seasoned Rice Vinegar Dressing to taste.  If you’re having company, impress your guests by referring to it as a Horiatiki Salata (Greek Salad).

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Lettuce-less idea #3: if there’s beautiful sweet corn at the market or you grow it in your yard, you’ve got to try Corn and Tomato Salsa Salad which comes mostly from Tacolicious and Sara and is summer perfection. It keeps well; it’s easy; it goes so many ways, and it’s YUM. Plus, it doesn’t have any oil in it, if that’s important to you.

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Lettuce-less idea #4: if you’re loaded up on freshly-picked carrots and bell peppers and cucumbers and/or zucchini and want something Asian-inspired, try the Peanut-y Asian Slaw.  Salt Fat Acid Heat has a Vietnamese Cucumber Salad with peanuts and a similar dressing, but I decided to branch out from that and incorporate more fresh veggies….and even kale, should you have it.

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Finally, a reminder that you’ll find other tempting lettuce-less salads under the Recipes category.  One that got rave reviews recently is Mystery Mix Rice Salad.

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“Open _____.” (fill in the blank)

sBefore we get to today’s puzzler and food focus, here’s a hint about Andy’s newest post: he’s contemplating retsina wine, Zorba the Greek, and happiness.  It’s multi-faceted.  And in Food for Thought I share details about my new favorite plant.  But I may just have to love it from afar.

Now – the puzzler: what do these three pictures have in common?

Of course!  You knew it, didn’t you?  But I’ll bet you didn’t know that Sesamum indicum, from which we get our sesame seeds, grows to about 3-6′ tall, is planted annually, loves high heat, and is one of the most drought tolerant plants in the world. But for those doing the farming, it’s labor intensive because the harvesting must be done manually, and the capsules want to shatter (unless they’ve been bred to be shatter-resistant) before the crop has been harvested; 1/3 of the crop can easily be lost.

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The capsules are 1-3″ long and there are about 50-80 seeds per capsule.  And it takes about 1000 seeds to get one ounce, so it took at least 100 capsules of sesamum indicum to fill the 8 oz jar of seeds that’s in our cupboard.  I don’t think I’ll be growing the plant any time soon.

Even though sesamum is not the crop for our backyard garden, I have a bit of an addiction to the seeds.  In addition to the recipes posted here, which include a favorite cookie, I love Italian Biscotti Regina with their sesame coating; I crave Dan Dan noodles, which makes use of both sesame seeds and sesame oil, and we’re headed for Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2018 to taste their moles, which often include sesame seeds.

When I taught Social Studies at Scotlandville Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, LA, I had the privilege of connecting with amazing kids from lots of different cultures and backgrounds.  It was an eye-opening experience for someone who had grown up in the very white Fort Collins of the 1950’s (known then as the city with wide streets and narrow minds!).   In my World Geography classes I was way more excited to teach about the food of an area than about climate, landforms or capital cities, and we had fun with in-class samplings of food from some of the countries we studied.

We recently had a little dinner party at our house, and the featured course was Korean Sesame Noodles with Zucchini and Ground Beef.  Since a version of that recipe appears in our daughter’s first cookbook, Asian Vegetables, published 16 years ago, you might think that she developed the recipe.  But no.  Food bloggers are instructed to give credit where credit is due, so I must report that Sara got the recipe from me, and I got the inspiration for it from a recipe given to me at SMHS by a Korean-born student.  And Andy and I consider it our comfort food – we love it that much.  Its unique flavor comes from the 3 tablespoons of ground sesame seeds which are added to the ground beef.

A few weeks ago my Glen Ellen neighbor and friend, Deb, who is an excellent and precise cook – and a vegetarian – brought me some of her favorite recipes and one of them is Sesame Noodles with Asparagus Tips.  It’s our 3rd Best of the Besties recipe and provides a different but equally delicious approach to Sesame Noodles.

Korean Seseme Noodles

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Another recipe provided by a student from my Scotlandville days is a hand-written note on a scratch pad – printed, BTW, not cursive (she was ahead of her time 🙂 – for Humus [sic] Me Tahini.  I quote:

“Tahini is ground sesame seeds made into paste – Cheapest @ Oriental grocery.  I don’t like the taste when using peanut butter.”  

I’m guessing I didn’t have a clue what tahini was before receiving that note; and I certainly didn’t know that peanut butter could be a substitute for it.  Live and learn.

And my student is right; though you can substitute peanut butter in the fabulous Tahini Dressing, it’s just not the same.  Try the tahini dressing on roasted or steamed vegetables, on green salads, as a dip.  And it’s easy to make it more Asian-oriented by using some sesame oil (MORE sesame!!! YUM :), rather than all olive oil, and soy sauce, rather than salt.  Remember the recipe for Dukkah I gave you a while ago?  If you made it, toss some of it on top of the veggies and tahini dressing, and you’ll be so-gourmet, so-simply!  If you’re wondering what brand of tahini to buy, here’s what Saveur has to say.

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Baked Penne & (maybe) Sausage Pasta

Baked Penne & (maybe) Sausage Pasta

  • Servings: 4
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This recipe has been in my files for so long that the former 32 oz. standard can of tomatoes the recipe called for has now been reduced to 28 oz.  I wonder if we’re paying almost 10% less for that can?  Dream on.

This is a lasagna for those of us too lazy to make lasagna.  As with almost all pasta dishes, it’s a winner for the one or two person home.  It will reheat fabulously and freeze fabulously.  Make the whole thing!  You’re going to love having that extra amount.  And play with it; add chopped up spinach – fresh or frozen and defrosted – to the sauce before you mix it with the penne.   Switch out the kind of pasta; change the sausage to ground beef or ground chicken – or to easily make it vegetarian, saute 2 cups sliced mushrooms and/or chopped zucchini instead of the meat, drain off most of the liquid, and proceed.

Ingredients

  • 2 T olive oil (divided)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 lb – 1 lb hot Italian sausage – link or bulk (I used Caggiano, a Petaluma sausage company.  Delicious!)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c red wine
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp oregano (or 1/4 c chopped fresh oregano)
  • 1/2 c water (we’ve got to make up for that smaller size can of tomatoes  – see above!)
  • 1 c ricotta cheese (fresh is great but not essential)
  • 1 c pecorino cheese, grated (parmesan works fine too)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/3 c parsley, chopped
  • 1 lb penne rigate (mine was #41, whatever that means)
  • 1/2 lb mozzarella (again fresh is great but not essential), cut into about 1″ chunks

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Lightly oil either 2 8″x8″ baking dishes or 1 9″x13″ baking dish.  (Most of you, cooking for one or two, will opt for the 2 dishes, so you can freeze one).

Heat 1 T olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sausage and saute until the sausage is nearly cooked.  If there’s lots of grease, drain most of it off.  Add the red wine and simmer the mixture until the wine has almost evaporated.  Then add the can of tomatoes, the oregano, and the 1/2 c water, and bring the mixture back to a boil, and (without a lid) simmer for about 10 minutes.  The sauce should have thickened slightly.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper, if needed.

In a large bowl (that LARGE is important) mix the ricotta with about half of the pecorino, the nutmeg, and the parsley.  Add a pinch of salt.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the penne until al dente (mine took about 11 minutes).  Drain it and add the ricotta mixture, tossing so that all the pasta is coated.  Then add the sausage and its sauce to the pasta/ricotta mixture, followed by the chunks of mozzarella.

Pour the mixture into the oiled baking dish (or dishes).  Sprinkle the remaining pecorino on top and bake uncovered for about 20 – 30 minutes, or until steamy hot in the middle. If you want to keep the dish for a day or so before you serve it, refrigerate it unbaked, then bring it to room temperature before baking.  If you’re freezing a dish, cover it tightly and freeze it unbaked.  When you’re ready to eat it, let it sit out of the freezer for at least an hour or so, then add the pecorino on top and put it in the oven.  Be sure the container is oven-proof.  The frozen pasta can also be microwaved, but it won’t be quite as tasty as if you bake it in the oven.

Recipe brought to you by Andy and Ann and Big Little Meals.

“Borta Bra Men Hemma Bäst”

Silas&MiaJapaneseRestaurant

Izakaya Amu  in Boulder, Colorado

  • “Borta bra men hemma bäst,” said my Swedish grandparents: Away is good but home is best (and get your mind out of the gutter, if you’re giggling about “bra men! :).
  • Lots of fun restaurant-eating with teens, tween, and extended family went on this past week.  But we’re all glad to be home.
  • Be sure to read Andy’s advice to Raggedy Ann: Tidy vs Messy in Lagniappe.
  • And in Food for Thought – will salt help me lose weight????? Geez, I wish.

We’re back from our “Go for the Gold” family vacation in Colorado (Ft Collins and Boulder) and are delighted to be back to home-cooked meals. After arriving in Glen Ellen late Thursday evening – after a long day of travel – we pulled out some frozen Baked Penne and Sausage Pasta, popped it in the microwave (though the oven would have been better yet) and soon sat down to a leisurely, simple, and delicious dinner – with a glass of A&D pinot noir from the Napa Valley (we are seldom traitors to Sonoma wines, but the A&D was too tempting to pass up).

We’ve had 6 days and 6 nights of restaurant food, which is unusual for us. We normally do AirBnB kinds of stays and cook even when we’re on holiday. And as much as we love Colorado, we have to say that fabulous dining experiences were not the norm.

But there are some definite highlights in case you’re in the area. In Ft Collins: a “Havana Daydreaming” Cuban breakfast sandwich at Snooze on Mountain Ave, a Lavender Sour cocktail with ginger cognac and house-crafted lavender sour at Social in Old Town Square (I’d like another one right now!). In Boulder: Japanese sashimi and yakimono at Izakaya Amu near the Pearl St Mall,  warm wood-fired Montreal-style bagels from Woodgrain Bagels on Arapahoe, and our NYC son says you must try the Coleslaw Salad w/Peanuts from Eureka.

We didn’t ignore sweets either.  I’m a huge fan of little local bakeries – if their treats are buttery/yeasty/not too sweet/delicious. The Little Bird Bakeshop in Ft Collins had a to-die-for Bostock –orange-soaked brioche with almond cream.  And back home in Sonoma our fabulous little Sonoma Crisp Bakeshop has yummy almond croissants and perfect morning buns. I’ve attempted making both croissants and morning buns and don’t recommend it – unless it’s for a really REALLY special occasion. BUT, using the recipe we’ve provided below,  you can have a brioche bread pudding ready to bake in just a few minutes.  Just purchase a loaf of already-made brioche at your market.

Here’s today’s quiz (you can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher!). What do all of those foods from restaurants and bakeries have in common? Well, they are either too complex or too time-consuming for most of us to do at home (well, I do make a mean and easy coleslaw!). And that’s what made those eating-out experiences special: we would not cook them at home. Most of the other meals we had in restaurants paled in comparison to our simple homemade dinner Thursday night. Big Little (easy, tasty) Meals. Go for it. Continue reading

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