Summer “Boats”

peppers stuffed

This is my kind of “boat!” This lighter, summer version of stuffed peppers was inspired by the quinoa I had hanging around my pantry waiting to be cooked. (use your rice cooker!) I added in seasoned cooked lima beans to give it some texture. ( I love them!) But the real flavor boost comes from the herbaceous mixture that I started with. (Fresh herbs from my garden!)

herbs 1 I chopped them up and combined them with some finely diced, sautéed onion and garlic and dried “Herb de Provence.” flavor base

 

 

 

 

I also added in the extra bits of the peppers themselves.

And of course everything is better with a little cheese on top, so after baking in the oven for 35 mins or so covered, I added handfuls of cheese on top and bake uncovered for 10 mins more.

with cheese on top

The Recipe:

1/2 large onion diced

1/2 each sweet red & green bell pepper diced (or just the extra bits from trimming the peppers)

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tb of butter or oil for saute

1 tb dried “Herb de Provence” mix

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup mixed fresh herbs, minced finely: I used basil, sage and parsley

2 cups seasoned, cooked quinoa

1 cup +/- seasoned, cooked lima beans

2 large peppers, cut in half, seeded and stemmed

1 1/2 cups +/- shredded cheese of choice

Saute the top 6 ingredients together until onions are soft and slightly colored. Take off the heat, let cool a bit and mix in the fresh herbs mix. Mix in the quinoa and beans.

Stuff the pepper halves in an oven proof dish. Add an inch of hot water to the dish around the peppers, trying not to get any water splashed into/onto the peppers. Bake covered* in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-40 mins. Remove the cover, top with cheese and bake another 10 mins or until cheese is melted.

*Just a note: I covered the dish loosely, with foil and the peppers steamed nicely and the water evaporates, if you cover tightly with a lid – you may be able to reduce cooking time but may have water leftover.

(makes enough to stuff about 6-8 pepper halves, depending on the size.)

Too Much Quinoa!

“Wait! There can never be too much quinoa!”  That was just what you were thinking, right?

Well I love this new darling of the culinary world as much as the next person, but sometimes you just get tired of eating the same leftovers again and again – even if it is a super food!

It started out innocently enough with plans for a quinoa salad that I could munch on for a couple of days this week. I got my rice cooker out because that is how I cook my quinoa – it’s perfect every time.

I also had some leftover carrot and celery sticks, and some extra fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes in the fridge.

So I started a mirepoix:

mire poix

When the veggies were softened, off  the heat, I added: a pint of split cherry tomatoes, 2-3 tablespoons of chopped basil, 1  jar of capers, (3.5oz -drained) 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley, the juice and zest of 1 large lemon and 1 tablespoon of Herb de Provence seasoning.

Looks good just as it is right?

delicious on it's own!

I mean personally I could stop right there and eat this by the spoonful. Or on toasted bread or mixed with pasta. Or with a can of white beans. Which is exactly what I added because I thought that might really give some “heft” to this salad. Again, at this point with the beans added, you had a complete meal all done. You could just stop there.

But I decided it would be terrific with my cooked and cooled quinoa.

All 6+ cups of it!!!

Why 6 cups??   Because as I was pouring out a dry cup of uncooked quinoa, I thought.. “why don’t I double it because it is great to have in the fridge to throw in stuff. Right?” So two cups of dry quinoa went into the rice cooker with 4 cups of water. Math not really being my strong point, I didn’t think about the fact that this would yield at least 6 cups of cooked quinoa.

So I ended up with a giant party-sized bowl of salad. It needed a little seasoning adjustment, salt, pepper-more lemon at the end because although the initial mix was super flavorful, it got a little diluted in the “sea of quinoa.”

quinoa salad

My advice is next time use half as much quinoa or double the amount of the other stuff and invite 12 people over.

Check out a “winter salad” version here.

Chicken Corn Stew

chicken corn stew

Ingredients:

1 forgotten random frozen chicken breast on the bone (split breast)

1 large-ish onion peeled and quartered

a pinch of whole peppercorns

1 peeled but whole garlic clove

salt – liberal amount

water – about 6 cups

slow cooker and about 4-6 hours to run it on high

“almost-caramelized-but-not-quite” onions – start with about 1/2 of a large fresh one.

2 +/- tbsp butter

couple diced bacon strips if you happen to have some on hand.

couple cups of frozen corn

roux:  2  +/- tbsp flour   Or   slurry: 2 +/- tbsp water and 2  +/- tbsp arrowroot, mixed

chopped up leftover fresh herbs hanging around the refrigerator from who knows when. (thyme, sage, rosemary, etc)

a couple of red potatoes. dice small and/or parboil if you wish.

Method:

Combine the top 6 ingredients together in the slow cooker and turn on high for 4-6 hours. Turn off and let cool while you brown-almost caramelize- a fresh 1/2 onion sliced thin (In the bacon fat/slices if you are using  – plus 2 tbsp of butter) in a heavy-bottom large pan. Now add the flour for the roux method and cook a minute.  (otherwise skip this step and move on)

Deglaze the pan with the strained stock from the slow cooker. Whisk and cook a few minutes. If using slurry method instead of roux, add your slurry now and whisk.

Add the fresh herbs, the cooked chicken meat from slow-cooker breast, the frozen corn, and the potatoes. Salt and pepper liberally. Thin with plain hot water if need be.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are cooked and you can no longer stand the yummy smell filling the house. Serves 4 heartily.

A “Soup-er” Thanksgiving!

This year I decided to try my hand at soup. Not just any soup but “pumpkin bisque.”

Now I would love to tell you that I used a pumpkin grown right in my yard. All organic and local and freshly roasted in my oven the day before.

But the truth of the matter is that even though I did actually grow a little sugar pumpkin this year in my front yard. (This picture is really from my front yard!!) It was just too cute (and too small!) to really be cooked. Plus I really liked admiring my handiwork once I picked it and put it on the front steps for fall!

So I did what anybody in their right mind would do. I bought organic, 100% pure pumpkin in a can. And you know what…it was delicious!
In fact it was “Soup-er!”

After doing a little research on soups, I settled on a simple approach. Apples for sweetness and whole milk for creaminess. A little roasted garlic goes a long way towards giving a warm “undertone.” I also decided to get fancy and make my own little brown-butter croutons and some fried sage. (Which by the way was harvested from my back yard herb garden!) I served it with wedges of Parmesan-sage cornbread.

The Recipe

2 cans (15oz) 100% pumpkin puree

1 box (32oz) low-sodium vegetable broth

1 apple peeled, cored and finely chopped

2 tb butter

2 cups +/-whole milk (depends on how creamy you want it)

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1 tb fresh sage, finely minced

1 or 2 small cloves of roasted garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Saute the apple, sage and ginger in the butter until the apples are soft and slightly caramelized. Maybe 4-5 mins. Add the pumpkin and kinda ‘toast” it for another minute or two. De-glaze the pan with the broth. Puree the soup in the pan with one of those immersible stick blenders. ( If you don’t have one – get one – they are worth it! or I suppose you could use a blender and transfer it back to the pot.) At this point I taste for seasoning adding salt/pepper and if you want it sweeter, add some apple sauce or apple cider. I also judge at this point if I want to serve this quantity. Since I was serving a small crowd, I actually removed half of this from the pan, cooled and froze it as a “soup starter” for another day. THEN I added the whole milk (1 to 2 cups) to the remainder of the soup to create a creamy bisque. I just added and stirred until it got to the consistency that was right for me. Now I let this simmer on very low, covered until time to serve. The soup starter in the freezer can just be defrosted another day, heated up and have the milk added at that time.

Just Another Post About Grilling

The real star here wasn’t the grilled steak but the fresh “salsa” on top!

An impromptu blend of leftover roasted corn on the cob that I removed with a sharp knife, thin sliced red onion, finely chopped fresh cilantro, parsley, basil and a diced tomato. All this was tossed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, a squirt of lime juice and salt/pepper. The sliced avocados have a squirt of lime juice and sprinkle of salt on them too.

Best served outside on a hot evening with a cold drink!

Goodbye Grillmarks

Unfortunately I am not one of those hardy, middle of January, mitten-wearing, backyard grillers.

Unless of course we are having a usually warm January here in New England.                          – it has been known to happen.

Once the days starting getting dark early (I am not into flash-light grilling either) and the night weather requires a sweater, I start thinking about wrapping up the grill for another season. Oh sure I push it to the limits. I mean I was born, raised and currently live in New England. They would revoke my license if I didn’t grill at least until Columbus Day. And since I live on the ocean, we are usually spared the early fall frosts, extending our grill season nicely into October. (I probably just jinxed the whole neighborhood.)

But I am in the final days and soon it will be goodbye.

Goodbye …to the inspiration found at the farm stand and the steak tips to go along with it.

 

Goodbye …to garden fresh veggies and herbs and all that fun making up new marinades.

 

Goodbye …to the endless combinations of grilled meat and delicious side dishes.

Saying goodbye to the grill might just be the hardest on the hubby since he loves a good “grill mark” on his food.

Maybe I should invest in a headlamp and some Thinsulate™ gloves after all? But who is gonna shovel out the grill?

“Honey, the grill needs shoveling when you are done with the driveway!”


The recipe:

For the marinade (because I am darn proud of this one!)

1 & 3/4 lb +/- pork sirloin “tips” – I get these at my local meat market but you could use thick, bone-in chops too. Or beef. Or chicken. Or fish?

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp Chili flakes (Use more if you like.)

1/2 tb Chinese Five Spice powder

1 tsp Kosher salt

1 cup orange juice – freshly squeezed please.

Lots of zest from the oranges you just squeezed

1 large clove garlic, crushed.

Mix well and marinade meat for at least an hour. Grill until done. Serve with grilled veggies that were coated in olive oil, soy sauce, S & P, and fresh chopped herbs from the garden. Don’t forget the buttered rice!

“Crisper Stew”

I am fond of cleaning out my crisper drawer by throwing everything in a baking dish, adding a little of this and a little of that and roasting it. It just seems like everything is better after spending a little time in the oven getting all toasty and juicy. So when I need to clean out my crisper drawer – maybe because I am going on vacation – or maybe just because the veggies are starting to get a little past their prime – I roast.

This week’s “crisper stew” consisted of broccoli slightly  “past its prime,” a  couple random shallots and some tomatoes. But the real excitement came from the torn fresh herbs from the garden.

Just douse it all in olive oil, salt, pepper and a tiny splash of Balsamic vinegar. Roast until yummy!

Serve with pasta, rice or just as it is.

The crisper drawer is clean and your tummy is full!

One Perfect Tomato

Anybody who knows me, knows the way to my heart is with a ripe tomato.

Ask my mother – since she is the source of the most beautiful tomatoes.

She sent one home with my husband the other night. One perfectly ripe, luscious, beefsteak tomato from the local farm near her. Organic too!

(I love you mom if I haven’t told you lately)

It was a long day at work and an even longer night after that at school. When I arrived home and set my eyes upon that beauty, I knew just what I was having for a late dinner.

A tomato like this deserves fresh herbs from the garden – even if you have to use a flashlight to get them.

And lucky for me I had a supply of fresh Pecorino Romano cheese on hand!

Good olive oil, cracked black pepper, splash of balsamic vinegar and some toasted bread crumbs all mixed with some quality linguine made for a simple, yet satisfying late night supper!

Just slice, chop, boil, sprinkle…                    ….and serve!

Full disclosure:

Recently I had mixed up a batch of toasted bread crumbs and grated Romano cheese that I keep in the freezer for on-demand “chicken parm” coating and thought that would be a terrific way to add some flavor and texture to my impromptu pasta – so yes, there is grated Romano cheese and Romano shards in this dish.  Cheese on cheese is how I roll.

Just Add Couscous

Open 1 can of your favorite black olives.

Chop up some of your favorite fresh herbs from the garden.

Squeeze a lemon for some juicy brightness

Of course you must have some minced shallots.

A little butter always makes everything nicer.

Don’t forget to season it…

And Just add Couscous!