30 June 2015

A summer salad for the ages (or at least the next week...)

It's hot, and we are painting the house, sort of all day every day at this point.  In the first few days of our hardcore painting routine, we had leftovers in the fridge we could pop in Chef Mike when our stomachs started growling.  Now we've moved on to variation on an Asian-y salad, in which we fill large bowls with prepped ingredients and drizzle one or more homemade dressings and some fresh cilantro from the garden on top.  It's as easy as leftovers, but fresher and healthier.  Whether or not you are painting a house, you might also benefit from a similar scenario at this point in the season.

Finely chop or shred and store in containers in the fridge: napa cabbage, radishes, carrots (I shred these in the food processor), green onion, red bell pepper.

"Cook" and contain: rice vermicelli, which can soak in hot water while you're chopping the vegetables. Drain and season with salt and a little rice vinegar.

Optional proteins can be added to the mix: any leftover cooked chicken, pork, shrimp, or fish can be thrown in, or do what I like to do and bake some marinated tofu.

Toppings: crushed peanuts, torn fresh cilantro, mint, and/or basil leaves (do this at the least minute, obvi)

Here's what my fridge looks like on the "salad shelf":

Dressings: any salad can become either disappointing or amazing based on the dressing. If you don't want to make anything, some Sriracha mayo 1/4 cup mayo + 1 teaspoon or more of Sriracha), jarred hoisin sauce, and seasoned rice vinegar all add great flavor instantly.  But it's nice to have a couple of more complex dressings on hand, anyway, so you don't get bored. 

Dressing #1:
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
1 small jalapeno, chopped

Dressing #2:
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp well-stirred tahini
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp grainy mustard
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup water

Dressing #3:
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup yellow or white miso
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 teaspoons canola or grapeseed oil
1 teaspoons dark sesame oil

26 June 2015

The Minnesota State Fair rules the land

Have you seen this list of "new foods" unveiled by the good people of the Minnesota State Fair?  It is awe-inspiring, and I would like to propose a mass migration to their fair lands.  But only for about a month.  I hear the mosquitoes totally suck there.

Some highlights, in case you're too busy to read the above link:

(all photos stolen from MPR, who stole them from Minnesota State Fair)

The mac and cheese cupcake features macaroni and cheese in a breadcrumb crust and is frosted (?!) with Cheez Whiz.

The hot tail is a roasted pig tail coated in a scallion ginger sauce. This seems particularly disgusting, and I am dying to try it.

The kimchi 'n' curry poutine features braised pork and potatoes smothered with curry gravy and cheddar cheese, topped with kimchi and a poached egg. OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD.

This fine-looking Italian meatloaf-on-a-stick is stuffed with mozzarella and pepperoni, topped with marinara sauce and a Parmesan herb blend. Otherwise it might not be filling enough.

Quite possibly winning the award for weirdest food, and also for food that looks the most like a poop, here is a photo of fried kalettes (pronounced kale-etts). Battered kale is fried crispy in wine and served with sweet Thai chili sauce.

Thank you, Minnesota. What's your favorite wacky fair food?

25 June 2015

Follow me on instagram!

I have joined the 10s and finally joined Instagram, posting a mix of travel photos, recipes in the making, and the occasional shot from my garden and other related stuff around the house.

I'm also posting bonus recipes that you won't find here on the blog, like this little beauty of a salad with nectarines and fresh corn, above.  Follow me here.

23 June 2015

Mediterranean Green Beans and Orzo with bonus leftover casserole

What a way to enjoy the green beans from your garden (or local farmer's market)! This dish can be made with no meat, or you can replace the chicken I use with tofu, shrimp, chunked cod, etc. And the casserole is a great way to revive leftovers, suitable for brunch, lunch, or dinner.

Scroll to the end for my 30-second tzatziki, which I think is appropriate with either preparation, as well as most other savory foods.

Mediterranean Green Beans and Orzo

Serves 6-8, or see alternative leftover casserole, below

2 teaspoons olive oil
½ yellow onion, diced
1 chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks (optional; leave out our replace with protein of your choice)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juice
¼ cup red wine
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped
½ cup crumbled feta
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the orzo:
1 lb. orzo
1 small garlic clove, minced
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt and red pepper flakes to taste

Bring a well-salted pot of water to boil; cook orzo al dente according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, warm the oil over medium heat.  When it shimmers, add the onion and chicken, along with a sprinkle of salt, and sauté until onion is translucent and chicken is mostly cooked through, about 8 minutes.  Toss in the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about one minute.  Add the green beans, tomatoes, red wine, teaspoon salt, and fresh and dried herbs.  Stir to incorporate, cover, and lower to simmer.  Cook until green beans are crisp-tender, about 20 minutes.  Season with more salt if desired and pepper.

Drain the orzo and stir in the garlic, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, and salt and red pepper.  Fold the crumbled feta into the green beans just before serving.  Serve with 30-second tzatziki* and lemon wedges. Perhaps it will look something like this:


Mix leftover green beans and orzo together in a large bowl. Grease a baking dish and preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a small bowl whisk together 1 egg, ¼ teaspoon prepared mustard, and 1 tablespoon milk (dairy or alternative), along with salt and pepper to taste; do one of these egg mixtures for each cup of leftover green beans and orzo (so, three cups of combined leftovers=3 eggs, ¾ teaspoon mustard, 3 tablespoons milk…).  Stir the egg mixture into the bowl of leftovers and combine well. Spread evenly into the baking dish and bake in the oven until egg is cooked through, about 45 minutes.

OPTIONAL: When the dish is done, remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with a thin layer of shredded mozzarella.  Broil on high about five minutes, or until browned on top.

Serve with a simple side salad of fresh greens, slivered almonds, blackberries, and sliced fresh apricots dressed with seasoned rice vinegar and salt and pepper, like so:

*30-second tzatziki

1 cup Greek or other thick, whole-fat plain yogurt
1 small garlic clove
½ teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons peeled, diced cucumber
Black pepper to taste

Place the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle and crush into a paste.  In a small serving bowl, combine all ingredients, including garlic paste.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt or a dash of lemon juice if desired.