Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Oven-Roasted Late Summer Vegetables

I love September!  We still have almost three weeks of summer left but, already, the shadows are getting longer and the days shorter.  A few trees are beginning to show color.  Summer squash are still abundant in the farm markets and fall/winter squash are coming in as well.  It's the time of year I start buying more vegetables than will keep well all week.  The solution is to roast them while at their peak of nutrition and deliciousness.

I simply wash the vegetables (this time carrots, summer squash and sweet peppers) and sprinkle them with olive oil, onion salt, garlic salt and lemon pepper.  They go into a pre-heated 400 degree oven for about forty minutes.

We'll have some, accompanied by a fresh tomato, cucumber and feta cheese salad for dinner this evening.  Tomorrow, I'll roast the beets, potatoes and knob onions.  We'll feast for the rest of the week.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Quinoa Salad (Another Midsummer Salad)

While tweaking/rearranging the pantry, I came across a bag of quinoa and a box of quinoa--both from Trader Joe"s.  Since they didn't just hop into the pantry on their own, I must have purchased them.  Hmm, we rarely use quinoa.  Why not?  I can't explain the omission.  I will say that this salad has encouraged me to look at more recipes for the ancient grain.  It was delicious.  I happened on the recipe while browsing through the June/July issue of Fine Cooking.  What was on hand (or wasn't) necessitated a few changes in the recipe.  The original recipe calls for the addition of grilled shrimp.  That would certainly dress up the dish!

Now, to search out recipes to use up some of the three bottles of fish sauce (one bottle is small--my Thai  friend calls it "purse size").

Have a great weekend!!

Quinoa Salad inspired by Fine Cooking Magazine

1 cup white quinoa, rinsed
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp lime zest
2 medium cloves of garlic finely minced
1 heaping tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1 15-oz can black beans drained and rinsed
10-12 mixed grape/cherry tomatoes halved and/or quartered
6 scallions including an inch of green, thinly sliced

1.  Cook the quinoa according to package directions.
2.  Combine the olive oil lime juice, lime zest, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.  Whisk until combined.
3.  In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, corn, beans, tomatoes and scallions.  Add the dressing and stir well.
4.  Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Edamame Salad for a Midsummer's Day

We are finally getting into hot summer days.  Up until the past week or so, our temperatures have remained more spring like.  Like soup in the freezer for a cold winter's day, a bowl of summer salad in the refrigerator brings a comfortable feeling.  With the farmer's market twice a week here, it's easy to keep freshly harvested vegetables on the table.  

This colorful salad is easy to pull together and quite tasty.


1 lb frozen shelled edamame
3 cups corn kernels, blanched
1 chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup sliced green onion
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Prepare edamame according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside to drain thoroughly.

Combine edamame, corn, red bell pepper, green onion, parsley and basil.

In a large bowl, whisk lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add rest of the ingredients to the bowl and toss to coat.

Chill for at least an hour before serving.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Mixed Squash Crostata

I'm not a successful maker of pie crust.  Not that I gave up easily.  Many fool-proof recipes from well-meaning bakers have come my way over the years.  None have worked for me.  I have no trouble with the French method of tart crusts.  They are overworked.  That's why I'm so good with them and not the delicate and crusty American versions.  So, I use the already prepared ones from the refrigerated section of the grocery store.  They are never a failure in my kitchen!!

With the markets filled with tender summer squash, it was time to try a crostata.  For the 10-inch pie crust, I thinly sliced about ten smallish mixed squash.  I then spread out the pie crust (no rolling out) on a baking sheet and heaped the squash in the center in several layers (each layer got a bit of salt, pepper and fresh thyme) leaving about an inch border.  I gave the squash a few "sprinkles" (a new culinary direction) of olive oil and then roughly folded up the border and brushed it with beaten egg white.  I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and popped it in for about 50 minutes until the crust was golden brown and the squash were tender.  


Monday, August 3, 2015

Pickling Summer--Beets and Beyond

My mother didn't have a pantry or cellar filled with jars of colorful canned fruits and vegetables.  While I have fond summer memories of mother and nanny "stringing" green beans, those beans were for our next meal.  They went into a pot rather than a jar for our winter's dining.  However, there were several aunts who did preserve food by canning.  When we visited, we usually came home with a jar or two of something that had recently been "put up".  My favorite was beets.  From an early age, I loved those beautiful roots!  Bell's Blue Book of Canning is a part of my cookbook library--has been for years.  Many times I've pulled it out fully intending to preserve something of a summer garden.  So far, that hasn't happened except for pickled things.  Things that can line up on the refrigerator shelves.  I have tried many pickled beets recipes and have liked them all.  Here's the one I use most.

Easy Pickled Beets

1 bunch of red beets
1 bunch of orange beets
(8 good-sized beets total)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
salt to taste
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 tablespoon sugar

Wash the beets and place, unpeeled, in a saucepan, cover with water, add 1/4 cup of the vinegar and salt to taste.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover.  Simmer 30-40 minutes until tender.  Remove from the heat, add the garlic to the pot and allow the beets to cool in the liquid.

Remove the beets and the garlic from the pot, reserving the liquid.  Peel the beets and cut each into wedges.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar and the sugar.  Stir to dissolve and add 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid from the beets.  Toss with the beets and the garlic.  Refrigerate for at least two hours and up to a week. 

Serve cold or warmed.

And, delicious on sandwiches and in salads, 

Pickled Red Onion

1 large red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup water
3 Tbsp sugar
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
5-6 whole allspice
4 whole cloves

1.  Place all ingredients except the onions into a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a simmer.
2.  Add onions and simmer, stirring occasionally for about ten minutes.  A bit of crispness should remain.
3.  Pour all into a jar.  Cover and refrigerate for up to a month.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Plum Tart

The Baker is a faithful user of the Chicago Tribune for recipes.  This plum tart appeared earlier this month and is the creation of Leah Eskin.  Neither of us has ever had a failure when using one of her recipes and this was no exception.

Click here Chicago Tribune to meet Leah and get this delicious recipe.

It was perfect straight from the oven 


it was a celebration so we added 
a few sparkly stars 
and vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Baked Garlic Cheese Grits with Roasted Shrimp

I can't think of a better example of comfort food than grits.  Plain or fancy, grits are right up there with the best of them!!  I've mentioned before that, even though I grew up in the south, I never had grits until I was an adult.  The starch at my family table was potatoes--baked, boiled or mashed.  Grits were never on the menu.  Rice only appeared once or twice a year and always in the form of pudding.

When I worked at The Pentagon, Colonel R. (an aide to our Lieutenant General H.) had a cup of instant grits first thing every morning.  He kept single-serving packets in his desk drawer.  One day, upon finding out that I'd never tasted the grain, he prepared a cup for me.  I found them tasteless and they dropped from my culinary list.  They stayed off that list until we arrived in South Carolina where grits are almost as common as rice.

We had cause to celebrate last weekend.  A dear friend had a birthday coming up and we wanted to fete him.  When one is born toward the end of July, cool weather dishes are usually on the menu.
While this dish needs oven time (turn the ac lower), it is perfect for guests since it requires baking and resting.  The cook can enjoy a glass of wine in the meantime.

As soon as the dish comes out of the oven, raise the temperature to 400 degrees, toss the shelled shrimp with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread in an even layer on a baking pan and pop into the oven for 8 to 10 minutes--until pink and curled.  I used two pounds for four people.  We had enough leftover for a light supper the next day.

Baked Garlic Cheese Grits 

4 cups water
1cup regular grits
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 stick unsalted butter
2 green onions finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
Chopped fresh parsley

1.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan; add grits and salt.  Simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until grits start to thicken.  This will take 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the cheese, butter, onions and garlic.  Cool about 15 minutes.
2.  Whisk the eggs and milk together and stir into the grits.  Pour into a buttered 2-quart casserole.  Bake until golden and bubbly--about an hour.  Let sit for 10 minutes while roasting the shrimp.
3.  Spoon into large bowls and top with oven-roasted shrimp and sprinkle with parsley.