Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cucumber salad

We got a nice veggies box this week from SLO Veg with lots of summertime specialties: Cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, Romaine lettuce, kale, sprouts, peppers and bok choy, plus some luscious peaches, strawberries and oranges, and even a live Rosemary plant.

The thing I really wanted was the cucumbers to make a nice, crisp summer salad for our family barbecue. First I used a peeler and sort of made stripes down the length of the cucumber. That way when you slice them, they have a nice pretty edge. I sliced the cucumbers and sweet white onions thinly using my Cutco santuko knife, but you could also use a mandolin or the slicer on your old grater if you wish. I just wanted to see how thin I could go using the knife, which is really nice and sharp...and dangerous! You don't want to be distracted when using a sharp knife.

I got the cucumbers and onions sliced into a bowl, then I seasoned them with salt, stirred them up, covered them with plastic wrap and let them sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours while I prepared other things.
Next step is the vinegar marinade, which needs to be heated and poured over the cucumbers for a pickling effect. I used rice vinegar because I like the mildness of it, and some sugar, water and dried dill weed. So simple, so refreshing, so yummy!

The recipe is just this:
4 cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 small sweet white onion, thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar or rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons white sugar

1 tablespoon dried dill

1. Toss together the cucumbers and onion in a large bowl. Salt liberally and put aside for a few hours. Rinse and drain before adding the marinade.
2. Combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan or in a glass bowl in the microwave. Bring to a boil, then pour over the cucumbers and onions. Stir in dill, cover, and refrigerate until cold.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Chicken Chile Verde

Mild roasted chilies, chunks of chicken and white rice makes the best Chicken Chile Verde
Okay! Hands down, easiest yummy dinner ever! Chicken chile verde over rice. We got a variety of peppers in our SLO Veg box this week, so I decided to use them up in a fresh verde with tomatillos -- my favorite sauce ever!

You start with chilies: Poblano chilies (3), Anaheim chilies(2), maybe a jalapeno chile (1). Those get roasted until black over a gas flame, then cooled and placed in a plastic baggie until its time to mix up the sauce. (Tonight I wanted it to be on the mild side, so I didn't use any jalapenos).

Then you turn on the oven to 400 degrees and oven-roast the whole tomatillos (1 lb, husks off), onion (peeled and quartered), whole garlic cloves (3), and a couple of chicken breasts on one big baking sheet. Everything gets a splash of olive oil and salt. You can hit the chicken with your favorite seasoning blend, too. Let it bake for 30 minutes, until the tomatillos are soft and the chicken is cooked through.

The next step is to put all the peppers, onion and garlic into a blender, add a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and a couple teaspoons of lime juice, and give it a whirl. You can add a little bit of water, if you want. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary. 

Then dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces and mix it into the sauce. Spoon a couple of ladles of the chile verde over a bowl of rice and top with a dollop of sour cream. So good and flavorful, so fresh, and so darn easy!

For a quick recipe reference, check out Melissa d'Arabian's site on FoodNetwork.com

Friday, July 18, 2014

Salsa Beans with Bell Peppers and Anaheim Chilies

We're having a big family potluck barbecue this weekend and I volunteered to make a batch of beans for the barbecue. It's pretty common our area to serve Santa Maria-style barbecued beef tri-tip, pinquito chili beans, and garlic french bread at a barbecue. You just can't beat good beef tri-tip cook slow over an oak barbecue pit. 

One of my brothers-in-law used to make a good salsa bean recipe using Sun Vista canned pinto beans, Ortega tomato salsa and Italian stewed tomatoes. He was very brand-specific. He would add browned hamburger with onions and green bell peppers. He used a special seasoning salt blend that a friend of his concocted, and we always kept a supply of "Fiscalini's seasoning" on hand and used it for everything. Its kind of like Lawry's, but with more salt, pepper and granulated garlic.

Another brother-in-law made the traditional Santa Maria-style pinqinto beans, using the small pintos, but that was a whole other batch of beans. He used dried pinquitos to start with, and it was an all day affair. http://americanfood.about.com/od/saladsandsidedishes/r/Santa_Maria_Beans.htm

I use to make my own version of the first kind of salsa chili beans in large quantities for all our family barbecues when my kids were growing up, but now the dynamics of the family have changed and we don't have big family barbecues every weekend like we use too. The trick is, when making beans for a crowd that can't be too hot, but they need to have flavor. When I make beans these days, I can make smaller batches And experiment a lot.

I prefer making chili with black beans, because they have more fiber and I like the taste better than pinto beans. I will mix some black beans in with the pintos for this batch, mostly for color. Also, I recently acquired another local rancher's seasoning blend (Perozzi family), which is similar to Santa Maria-style seasoning, but a little heavier on the pepper and garlic. So this weekend I am going to make a batch of salsa beans, sans hamburger meat, and heavy on the onions and bell peppers, for our family picnic. I want to keep it vegetarian for the non-meat eaters in our clan. My audacious barbecue-master brother will be barbecuing enough beef and chicken to satisfy the meat lovers. He is barbecuing a whole top block, or "sirloin", for the big day, along with his specialty chicken thighs.

Anyway, I got my basic ingredients: Ranch-style pinto beans, black beans, and salsa. It's not Ortega salsa, but I couldn't find any of that. I don't have any Italian stewed tomatoes, either, so I plan to add a can of diced tomatoes and a big pinch of dried Italian seasoning. I began by dicing an onion and a bell pepper. I first tasted, then chopped up one of the other peppers that came in our SLO Veg box this week. I am not sure what kind of pepper it is, but its not a jalapeno or a serrano or a Fresno chili. I got a few of those, also, but they are not for this batch of beans. I think the ones I used are just called green chili peppers, or Anaheim chilies. Pretty mild, like the diced Ortega chilies in a can, which is what I used when I don't have fresh chilies. http://phoenix.about.com/od/foodanddrink/ss/chilepepper_8.htm?utm_term=types%20of%20green%20peppers&utm_content=p1-main-3-title&utm_medium=sem&utm_source=msn&utm_campaign=adid-5f316501-8c25-43a5-8e64-299d7923322f-0-ab_msb_ocode-5995

I pre-fried the onions and peppers until they were soft and slightly browned to bring out a lot of flavors. Then I simply open my cans of beans, drained off some of the liquid, and pour them into the crock pot. I will add diced tomatoes, some salsa and a tablespoon of tomato paste and stir it all together and let it cook low and slow until it is time to eat. Everyone always like these beans, and it can't get much easier.

My recipe is:
1 white onion, diced
2 Anaheim green chilies, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 gallon pinto beans, UN-drained
(I used ranch-style today, because I like their sauce)
1 28-can black beans, drained
1 cup salsa
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon chili powder
1-2 teaspoons seasoning blend (I used Perozzi's private blend. You can use Lawry's  or Santa Maria-style seasoning)

Empty crock? Does that mean they liked it???

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Roasted Potato Salad with Lavender

We got some beautiful Red Potatoes in our box from SLO Veg this week. I love red potatoes! I had to make something with them first thing!

I remember my sister making a lavender potato salad for a family potluck, so I decided to use that herb. I had gotten some lavender from SLO Veg several months ago and now is a good time to use it. First off, I wanted to roast the potatoes and infuse them with some Rosemary flavoring. 

I rinsed and quartered my potatoes, then put them on a baking sheet. I drizzled on a few tablespoons of butter olive oil that I had gotten in Monterey at Tasty Olive. That store has about 50 different olive oil flavorings, plus a bunch of vinegars, and my girls and I had a ball there last November. I am sure some of our local growers have similar flavors of oils and vinegars, so I am going on a search for them very soon. 

Meanwhile, I set the oven to 400 degrees and layed a few sprigs of freshly cut rosemary on top. I put the potatoes in the oven and let them roast for a good hour while I was packing my husband a lunch and making our breakfast. (Sprouted oatmeal with fresh strawberries stirred in!)

(to be continued!)

Sea Bass with roasted Zucchini and Carrots

We recently moved into town to be closer to everything, like our work, doctors, shopping, and our favorite gym. We also have access to at least three farmers markets in this community instead of just one. However, we are still taking advantage of the delivery service provided by SLO Veg, partly because it saves me time and partly because it allows us to have a variety of fruits and vegetables we might not normally purchase. This way I have to do a little recipe investigation, which keeps cooking fun and interesting, instead of doing the same old thing week after week. Our delivery day also changed, so now I get whatever the fish catch of the day is for Monday from SLO Fresh Catch, as well. While we are not now right next to the ocean, we are still just a short drive from the fisheries. We have cows across the street. We might even get a few chickens for the backyard. It's the SLO life!

We were excited to get some Sea Bass in our delivery this week. It's a nice firm, meaty fish with fewer bones to pick through than the Grenadier and Cod selections. We had to take tweezers and pull out some bones that looked like long needles, but there were only about four of them in one of the pieces.

This olive oil is from Tasty Olive in Monterey
The fish was simply prepared with just a little coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning, then pan fried in a mixture of olive oil and butter. It took just 2 or 3 minutes on each side before the fish began to flake apart. Then I removed the fish from the pan and deglazed the pan with some white wine (a lovely, local Dry Gewurtztraminer). I squeezed in the juice from one big Meyer lemon and added a teaspoonful of capers to the sauce, which was then poured over the fish after it was plated.

I made a side dish of orzo pasta that I browned lightly in butter in the pot, then added water (1:2 ratio pasta/water). When it was cooked through, I stirred in some shredded Romano-Parmesan cheese and a small handful of chopped chives and basil.

Our plates were finished with a generous helping of cheesy orzo pasta and some roasted zucchini, red onion and carrots. The special thing about roasting the vegetables was I used a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme, picked right from our front walkway planter, which were simply placed on top of the vegetables that had been drizzled with buttery olive oil on a cookie sheet. I let them go in a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes, and the flavors of the herbs infused throughout the vegetables during the cooking time. Finished with a sprinkling of coarse salt: Simple, savory, delicioso!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Kitchen Sink Steak Salad and French Onion Soup

My salad is packed to-go with all the goodies, including a Pomegranete vinaigrete, because I have to work tonight. Taking some French onion soup, too, because its a 12-hour shift. Ciao!
I think a good steak salad is like a "kitchen sink" type of dish. I can literally use almost everything we got in our SLO Veg vegetable box this week in this steak salad. I like to start with fresh, crisp lettuce, and we got a beautiful head of red-and-green butter lettuce in the box to make the foundation. I build on that by adding some red onion, carrot curls, sliced celery, and then chop up a few of those crunchy sugar snap peas into bite-size morsels. Maybe some mini-red and yellow sweet peppers. Oh, and tomatoes--I like diced Roma tomatoes! What the heck, some florets of broccoli can go on there, too, or roasted corn-off-the-cob--oh yeah! I would've also used some roasted red beets, too, but we ate them already.

Top round steak is just the icing on the cake, so to speak, but when you add it to the salad just off the grill, thinly sliced and warm, and then drizzle the whole thing with a tangy, scrumptious vinaigrette, that is heaven on a plate! Add a sprinkle of Parmesan or crumbled Feta cheese, and it is a gourmet dish. 

Today I picked out a pomegranete vinaigrette to try. If I like it, I may try to recreate it myself when those pomegranetes on my brother's tree mature into fruit. By reading the ingredients listed on the jar, I suppose I could mash up the pomegranete seeds, using just the juice, add some orange juice and white vinegar and a good-quality olive oil, season it with salt and pepper and have my own sauce, minus the xanthum gum. (Had to look that up. I knew it was some type of thickener. Its made with sugar and wheat). Hmmm, wonder what "spice" they used in this vinaigrete? Only about a million options there...

I prepared the steak by sprinkling it with a seasoned salt blend, then added some fresh ground pepper and a drizzle of basil-infused olive oil, a splash of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. I topped it with sliced red onion, minced garlic, and cilantro leaves. That will marinate in the refrigerator all day until it is time to grill. The steak is thin, about a half-inch thick, so it will cook in just minutes. Then I just let it rest, slice it into thin strips and lay it on top of the salad I built. A generous drizzling of Pomegranete vinaigrete and I am ready to chow down.

Meanwhile, I made some French Onion soup in the crock pot. First I carmelized the onions in butter, then let them cook on high in the crock pot for two hours. I added some red wine (1/2 cup), chicken broth and beef broth (about 2 cups each), salt, pepper, a bay leaf, a teaspoon each of dried thyme and marjoram, and a generous splash of Worchestershire sauce. Top it with toast and a slice of cheese, then popped into the microwave to melt the cheese and there is your gourmet soup!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sauteed Swiss Chard

We got a beautiful bunch of Rainbow Swiss chard in this week's box from SLO Veg, and their website had a couple of recipe ideas for it that sounded delicious. I decided to go simple and use this one that calls for some sauteing and that's about it...just like Mom use to make. My Daddy used to love his Swiss chard! He grew oodles of it each Spring. I didn't fully appreciate it as a kid, but that could be said for a lot of things in my childhood.

Sigh! I get it now. Those really were the good old days!

The stem pieces went into the pan first to saute for a bit before the leafy portions were added.
Sauteed Swiss Chard with Onions (Swiss Chard) 

Yield: Makes 8 (side dish) servings,
Active time: 30 min
Total time: 50 min

3 pound green Swiss chard (about 2 large bunches) 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced 
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
I chopped the chard, then rinsed and spun it dry.
Preparation: Cut stems and center ribs from chard, discarding any tough portions, then cut stems and ribs crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Stack chard leaves and roll up lengthwise into cylinders. Cut cylinders crosswise to make 1-inch-wide strips. Heat oil and butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook onions and garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, covered, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add chard stems and ribs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until stems are just tender, about 10 minutes. Add chard leaves in batches, stirring until wilted before adding next batch, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl.
Cooks' notes: Chard can be washed, dried, and cut 2 days ahead and chilled in sealed bags lined with dampened paper towels. · Chard can be cooked 4 hours ahead and reheated over low heat on stove or in a microwave oven.