Monday, August 31, 2009

Lentils with Ginger, Golden Beets and Herbs

This was a leap of faith. I love all the ingredients separately, but wasn't sure how they would "meld" in the final dish. But I trust Martha. For good reason...this was delicious. Strangely enough, I thought I would say that it was a good dish to carry into autumn. Maybe as an accompaniment to pork tenderloin or a piece of wood-grilled salmon. And it probably would be. But it's also a perfect summer dish. The ginger really brightens up the earthy flavors of the lentils and the beets. (One substitution: I used about two tablespoons of fresh oregano instead of the mint and cilantro.)

Lentils with Ginger, Golden Beets and Herbs
From Martha Stewart Living.
Serves 6.

1 pound (about 6 medium) trimmed golden or red beets
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup (6 ounces) dried lentils, such as French green or black beluga
6 thin slices fresh ginger plus 1 teaspoon finely grated
1/4 medium red onion, finely diced (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds, toasted and ground, or 1 teaspoon ground
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint, plus leaves for garnish
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 375°. Place beets, water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a baking dish. Cover with parchment, then foil, and bake until beets are tender when pierced with the tip of a small knife, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Peel and quarter beets, and place in a small bowl. Toss with 1 teaspoon oil.

Combine lentils and sliced ginger in a medium saucepan, and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer gently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain; discard ginger. Transfer to a large bowl, and stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Combine remaining teaspoon salt and the grated ginger, onion, vinegar, and honey, and let stand for 15 minutes. Whisk in remaining tablespoon oil and the coriander. Pour over lentils, and toss to coat. Season with pepper. Stir in chopped mint and cilantro. Arrange beet wedges on top of lentils. Garnish with herbs, and serve immediately.

(A sprinkle of good sea salt is the perfect crowning touch.)

Food/Wine Pairing: Two choices would work brilliantly here. Summer? A Sauvignon Blanc will play off the sweetness of the beets and the ginger. Want something heftier? How about a "dirty" wine to go with earthy ingredients. Like a Cotes du Rhone. No need for anything expensive. This is good rustic food.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cocktail of the Week: The Paloma

Here's a yummy drink for the last days of summer. It's tart and complex. (Don't shortchange yourself and use silver tequila...the reposado called for provides wonderful richness.) Cheers!

Reposado Cocktail
Makes one cocktail.

2 ounces reposado tequila (Herradura is my house brand.)
Juice from half of a lime
Pinch of salt (I guess you could rim the glass in salt if you'd like.)
Grapefruit soda (Use a Mexican one like Cerritos if you can. You can also substitute grapefruit juice mixed with club soda.)

I like to use a cocktail glass for this one. And crushed ice.

Pour tequila into glass and squeeze in lime juice. Add ice and salt, top with grapefruit soda. Stir and garnish with a lime wedge.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Great Snack Ideas

I've preached the snack sermon here before. It's a way I've found to keep my metabolism rolling...snacking has always been a part of any weight loss I've managed to achieve.

But you have to make the right choices. A Three Musketeers bar won't cut it. But neither will plain ol' celery sticks. Try taking those to work and see how inspired you get for that mid-morning nibble.

Here are some great choices that satisfy both the healthy and the interesting requirements:
  • Almonds mixed with dried cherries or blueberries.
  • Cottage cheese with diced avocado and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.
  • Shelled edamame.
  • Apple slices dipped in a little bit of peanut or almond butter.
  • A frozen waffle (cook it the night before and briefly microwave it at snack time) spread with a little honey.
  • Celery sticks stuffed with a little goat cheese.

You get the picture. I always try and include leftovers in my snack schedule as well. That last spoonful of green peas from dinner last night? Snack. Those two bites of grilled chicken? Snack.

Try it and see....

Thursday, August 27, 2009

White Bean and Avocado Club Sandwich

Well, I've missed getting in shape for swimsuit season. But I'm still working on it. I guess I want to look good in my sweaters and corduroys this fall.

Here's a delicious vegetarian sandwich that I had for lunch yesterday. Somehow the beans make it "meatier." It's wonderfully satisfying.

Note: The leftover bean puree is delicious on crisp pita wedges or celery sticks as a snack. You could also probably heat it a bit and use it as a bed for some grilled fish.

White Bean and Avocado Club Sandwich
Makes 2 sandwiches (and some leftovers).

1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
4 slices multigrain bread
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, thinly sliced (peeled, if desired)
Sprouts (such as alfalfa, radish, broccoli, or a combination)
1 avocado, pitted and thinly sliced

In a medium bowl, combine the beans, oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Roughly mash the mixture with a potato masher or the back of a fork.

Spread two pieces of the bread with the bean mixture. Top with the onion, cucumber, sprouts, and avocado. Top with the remaining 2 slices of bread. Slice each sandwich in half, if desired, and serve.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back to Basics: Bisquick Coffee Cake

We should all have our "old standbys" in our recipe repertoire. They might not be the fanciest or the healthiest of our dishes, but they are the things that remind us of mom or our own first tries in the kitchen. Here's one of those for me. The coffee cake recipe straight off the Bisquick box. I don't fix it often, but when I do, I'm back with an old and faithful friend.

Bisquick Coffee Cake
Makes 8 servings.

2 cups Bisquick
2/3 cup milk or water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
Streusel topping*

Combine all ingredients, except streusel topping, and beat for 30 seconds. Spread in greased 9 inch round pan. Sprinkle with streusel and bake at 350deg for 18 to 22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

*Streusel topping: Mix 1/3 cup Bisquick, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons butter until crumbly. (Sometimes I add a couple tablespoons of chopped pecans also.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chipotle Caesar Salad with Grilled Avocado and Corn

How long has the grilled chicken Caesar been ubiquitous? When well-executed, it can serve as a decent lunch. But it's nothing spectacular.

I have threatened for years to make a grilled everything Caesar. Grill the chicken. Grill the garlic in the dressing. Grill the Romaine. Heck, even grill bread to make croutons.

So I was thrilled to run across a recipe in Gourmet magazine recently that took it even a step further by including grilled avocado and corn. Inspired, I added the lettuce to the grill and threw some shrimp on for good measure. Here's the resulting recipe.

Chipotle Caesar Salad with Grilled Avocado and Corn
Serves four as a main dish.

1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ears of corn, shucked
2 firm-ripe 6- to 8-oz avocados, halved and pitted but not peeled
1 head romaine (1 lb), tough outer leaves discarded and head halved lengthwise (Leave core in so that lettuce stays in one piece on grill.)
24 shrimp, shelled and de-veined
Garlic pepper
Toasted pepita seeds or fried tortilla strips, optional for garnish.

Light the grill.

Put parmesan in a medium bowl and add olive oil in a slow stream, whisking. Whisk in lime juice, garlic, chipotles, and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper.

Rub vegetable oil on corn, cut sides of avocados, and cut side of Romaine, then season with garlic pepper. Place shrimp on metal skewers and season with vegetable oil and garlic pepper. Grill Romaine and avocados, cut sides down, and corn, turning corn occasionally, until golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes. At the same time, grill shrimp for 2-3 minutes on each side until opaque and just cooked through.

Peel avocados and thinly slice. Cut corn kernels from cobs. Core lettuce and cut crosswise into one-inch strips.

Toss romaine with dressing and serve topped with shrimp, avocado and corn. Sprinkle pepitas or tortilla strips on top for added crunch if desired.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Some Interesting Ice Cream Toppings

I'm not a dessert guy most of the time. But sometimes it's nice to have a little something to satisfy the sweet tooth right before bed. And in the summertime, ice cream is always a good choice. But rather than buying those expensive containers with fancy ingredients mixed in, I just keep a tub of Blue Bell vanilla on hand. Then I get creative with some topping combinations. Sure, Hershey's syrup is always a good choice, but try these mixes on top and see what you think.

Cracker Jack: Caramel sauce, popcorn and peanuts.

Pina Colada: Pineapple and coconut

S'Mores: Mini marshmallows, hot fudge and crumbled graham crackers

Heath Bar: Crumbled toffee pieces and chocolate syrup

Trail mix: Salted peanuts, raisins and chocolate chips

Bananas Foster: Sliced bananas and caramel (and maybe a couple drops of rum flavoring...or rum)

Cherry cobbler: Cherry pie filling and crumbled shortbread

I could go on and on, but it's your your own combinations in the comments section below.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Santa Fe Favorite: Chicken Tortilla Casserole

I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in Santa Fe a couple of weeks ago. Adobe. Hummingbirds. Aspen trees. Turquoise. And of course, green chiles, posole, stacked enchiladas and tequila. The place has really grown on me in the last several years...and I was culinarily inspired more than ever before this time.

Visited Pasqual's for the first time. Enjoyed perfectly grilled shrimp and fresh guacamole. And a vegetable-filled papusa drizzled with chile sauce and served alongside fresh and tangy escabeche. I've bought both cookbooks that chef Katharine Kagle has put out and I can't wait to start experimenting.

(It's a perfect time to try my hand at Santa Fe cooking. The Hatch chile crop is now here in Dallas at Whole Foods and Central Market. I'm planning to pick up a batch and whip up some chile sauce. Might just freeze enough for the winter.)

I also hit Maria's, one of my traditional haunts. They offer a menu of hundreds of margaritas and traditional Santa Fe favorites like chile rellenos and tamales. The daily special was a creamy casserole of chicken, corn tortillas, sour cream and cheese sauce, and chunks of tender fresh green chile. It reminded me of this family favorite. It's a staple of our Christmas eve meal. This year, I just might substitute fresh green chiles for the canned version the recipe calls for.

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

12 corn tortillas
1 small onion, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
2 small (4.5 oz.) cans chopped green chiles (plus half their juice)
1/2 tablespoon garlic salt
4 cups chopped cooked chicken (I use all white meat, but you could easily get 4 cups of chicken from one store-bought rotisserie chicken)
3/4 lb shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 lb shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (Don't worry too much about cheese ratio. I usually just buy the Mexican blend pre-shredded cheese you can get at the grocery store.)

Fry corn tortillas in oil until just soft. Set aside to drain on paper towels. When cool enough to handle, tear into pieces just bigger than bite sized.

Combine onion, soups, sour cream, chilies and garlic salt. Blend well.

To assemble casserole, arrange half tortillas pieces in bottom of greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Cover with half of chicken. Layer in half of soup mixture and sprinkle with half of cheese. Repeat layers, ending with cheese.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Southwestern Beef-Stuffed Zucchini

I remember stuffed peppers well from my childhood. Green bell peppers filled with a mixture of ground beef, rice and tomatoes. I have collected quite a few recipes that I still need to try.

In the meantime, here's a delicious twist with zucchini (easy to find in the farmers markets this summer) standing in for bell peppers. The jalapeños add a nice subtle kick...

Southwestern Beef-Stuffed Zucchini
Serves four.

4 zucchini (about 2 pounds), halved lengthwise and seeded
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3/4 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup jarred pickled jalapeño chiles, finely chopped
One 8-ounce bag Mexican-style shredded cheese

Preheat the oven to 450°. Arrange the zucchini cut side up in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add 1/2 cup water to the dish, cover with foil and bake until the zucchini begins to soften, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the beef and cumin and cook, breaking the meat up, until just browned, about 4 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the tomatoes and pickled jalapeños.

Uncover the baking dish, pour off the water and season the zucchini with salt. Fill with the beef mixture and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Check THIS One Out...Wine Library TV

I don't steer you guys to other sites very often. I'm greedy and want you visiting this one (and supporting the advertisers to the left hint hint), so I don't want to turn you on to the other (even better) options out there.

This one must be shared however. I first read about this guy in New York magazine. And I love what he does. He describes wine in terms we can all understand. (One of my favorites was when he decribes a Gewurtztraminer by comparing it to a damp towel, shampoo and a wet rock. And those weren't necessarily criticisms!)

You'll know where he stands at the end....just like your financial adviser, he'll give you a "Buy" or "Pass" recommendation. It's the kind of resource I love. Great information presented in a very entertaining way.

So, go check out Gary Vaynerchuck and his Wine Library TV. Then come back here and tell me what YOU think.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer Vegetable Pasta

Ahh...the bounty of squash. I don't grow my own, but from the scads of it at the farmers market and the sacks my colleague brings in, it's a bumper year. And although I love it fried simply after giving it a coating of cornmeal, that doesn't fit into my healthy eating plan. And, frankly, I'm SICK of it steamed.

Here's a way to incorporate it into a one-pot meal that's hearty, healthy and yummy. Might even be a good way to sneak it into your kids' diets.

(Warning: This makes a LOT. So unless you're going to be happy with several meals worth of leftovers or feeding a veritable army, you might want to reduce quantities.)

Summer Vegetable Pasta
From Everyday with Rachael Ray.
Serves six. (Supposedly...I'd say more like 8-10, even as a main course.)

1 pound corkscrew pasta, such as rotini
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
3 zucchini (about 1 pound), thinly sliced
4 ears corn, kernels scraped off
6 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente.Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and the pot.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add half of the garlic and cook until golden, about 30 seconds. Stir in the breadcrumbs and remove from the heat.

In the reserved pasta pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic and cook until golden, about 30 seconds; add the zucchini and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the corn, cooked pasta and reserved 1 cup pasta cooking water. Add 1 cup cheese and toss; season with salt and pepper.

Stir the remaining cheese and the basil into the breadcrumb mixture and sprinkle on top of the pasta.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Best Baked Beans

Baked beans are a staple of the "cookout" in my family. Burgers? Baked beans. Barbecue? Baked beans. They're a family tradition that we've all had to learn. I though it high time to pass along to you. They're simple....

Best Baked Beans
(I'm not going to list quantities here. You'll have to eyeball it just like we do. How much you need will depend on how many folks you're serving and how big your baking dish is. Don't worry, it's not rocket science.)

Open several cans of pork and beans. (We've always used Campbells.) Dump into your baking dish. (I usually drain just a little of the "juice" off first.)

In a small bowl, mix together equal parts brown sugar and ketchup. You're looking to create a sauce that is about 1/3 of the volume of the beans. So if you have 6 cups of beans, you want 2 cups of sauce. Therefore, 1 cup of ketchup and 1 cup of brown sugar. With me so far?

Pour this sauce into the baking dish and stir gently until incorporated fully into the beans. Now come the crowning touch. Lay slices of uncooked bacon on top of the beans in a single layer.

Place the baking dish in a preheated 350° oven and bake until the beans are bubbling and the bacon is browned. (You can broil for a few minutes at the very end to get the bacon nice and crusty if you'd like.)

Dig in. It's like candy. (And excellent...even cold...the next day too.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

An Improvisation: Corn Poblano Relish

I love those shows where chefs are given a basket of secret ingredients and they have to come up with something delicious. Now I don't care much for the ones where the set-up is to give them really random, seemingly unpairable things. ("Contestants, please make a main course out of sardines, blueberry jam and saffron.") Just the shows that make them (and us) think about how to put things together in interesting ways.

I've realized I do the same thing in my kitchen a lot of the time. Sure I test and try new recipes quite often, but sometimes I just challenge myself to use what's in the freezer/pantry/fridge and make a meal. The other night was a perfect example. I realized I had a veritable cornucopia of summer produce sitting on my counter...ready to spoil if I didn't get creative.

Corn. Tomatoes. Poblano peppers. Ready...set...cook.

Piece of cake. (No worries...I didn't make dessert.)

I decided that the protein star to be supported by this cast of characters was tilapia. So I pulled a couple fillets out of the freezer and let them thaw. Meanwhile, I stripped the corn from the cob and roughly chopped the tomatoes and peppers. Got some olive oil heating in a sauté pan. Threw in a little chopped onion (or shallot...I don't remember). Just as it got nice and sweaty, I added the corn and the peppers. Stirred them occasionally over medium-high heat until they started to brown a bit. (I love corn when it gets that wonderful caramelized look and taste.)

It was time for seasoning, so I added a pinch of garlic pepper (my secret ingredient in almost everything I cook) and some red pepper flakes for some added kick. (No salt yet...I always do that at the very end.) Threw in the tomatoes and stirred gently so they wouldn't get soupy. When just heated though, voila. A wonderfully flavorful chunky relish for our simply baked tilapia.

And that's just the theme. There are countless variations. Red bell pepper instead of poblano. Diced zucchini instead of (or in addition to) the corn. Maybe basil or Italian herb seasoning. You get the picture. Hit the comments section below with your twists on this idea. Let's all learn from each other.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I am amazed (and I guess flattered) when people seem in awe of the things that I whip up for dinner on a regular basis. Fact is it's not that difficult. The old "practice makes perfect" adage is a true one. AND...I have an arsenal of hints and gadgets like these that I lean on. Here are just a few of the thingamajigs and whatchamacallits that make my life in the kitchen oh-so-much simpler.

The Garlic Zoom....
My knife skills are less than stellar. And I certainly don't do a great job when it comes to mincing garlic. But rather than succumb to temptation and rely on pre-minced garlic in a jar, I grab this handy gadget and roll/chop away. I'm done in a flash. No stinky hands either.

The Corn Zipper...
I used to always make a mess when slicing corn off the cob. Half of it invariably ended up on the floor. This has made things a lot easier. (Another hint I ran across recently. Put the ear of corn you're "shearing" in the center hole of a tube cake pan. It riases the ear up so that you can get to it and the kernels fall right into the pan.)

Digital Meat Thermometer...
I'm sorry this one doesn't have a catchier name, but here's another tool I can't live without. (As a matter of fact, I was really missing it when I pinch-grilled at some friends' the other night. Without this by my side, I overcooked them slightly.) Cooking tip: 135° and five minutes rest will give you beautiful medium-rare every time...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Marinated Yellow Squash Salad

OK...I'll admit that this recipe is a little too healthy...a bit "raw food" for me. That said, it IS a body-friendly way to prepare the yellow squash that's so prevalent all summer long. I took it to work today as a mid-afternoon snack.

Marinated Yellow Squash Salad
Makes 4 servings.
From Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 medium yellow squashes (8 ounces each), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 shallot, thinly sliced crosswise
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add squash, shallot, and thyme. Toss to combine. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Cucumber Salad with Dill Sour Cream

This is one of those recipes you just know is going to work as soon as you read it. It's delicious as is, but I always want to try it as a sandwich spread, as a canape topping for crackers or even as a lunchtime side for some cold poached salmon. Hit the comments section below and tell me how you're going to use it.

Cucumber Salad with Dill Sour Cream
Makes 8 servings.

5 cucumbers (about 2 1/2 pounds)—peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced on an angle 1/4 inch thick
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups sour cream (Use low-fat or fat free if you can.)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

In a colander set over a bowl, toss the cucumbers with 2 teaspoons salt. Let drain for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, apple cider vinegar, dill and sugar. Add the drained cucumbers and the onion and toss. Season with pepper.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Crispy Fish with Tomato and Leek Saute

This preparation for fish is a common one in our kitchen. The tomato and leek saute provides a simple, healthy and tasty side dish/topping. Try it and see....

(And don't forget to serve it with a zingy white...Sauvignon Blanc or an unoaked Chardonnay. Or for the more adventurous in the group, maybe a Torrontes or Rueda.)

Crispy Fish with Tomato and Leek Sauté
From Real Simple.
Makes four servings.

1 slice white bread, torn into pieces (I keep breadcrumbs in the freezer. If you do also, just use about 1/2 cup.)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary (preferable) or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 6-ounce pieces tilapia or striped bass fillet
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 leeks (white and light green parts), halved lengthwise and cut into half-moons
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (or coarsely chop a couple of medium tomatoes)
kosher salt and black pepper

Heat oven to 400° F. In a food processor, pulse the bread, rosemary, and 1 tablespoon of the oil until coarse crumbs form. (If using crumbs already, just stir to combine.)

Place the fish on a baking sheet. Spread the mustard on top and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Bake until the fish is opaque throughout, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, garlic, and 1/2 cup water. Cook until tender and the liquid has mostly evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Serve with the fish.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Spinach Salad with Mushrooms and Parmesan

We've been eating a lot of spinach salad lately. It's a cool menu choice for a hot summer evening. And, thanks to the great properties of the darkest of leafy greens, healthier (and I think more interesting) than a plain old garden salad. We usually dress it up with a tiny bit of bacon, some hard-boiled egg and half a handful of diced red onion. Sometimes we'll gild the lily with a crumble of goat cheese and a smattering of toasted almonds. Finished off with a little Catalina dressing or roasted red pepper vinaigrette. Yum.

This looks like a really interesting version. I like the idea of dark rye croutons with the earthy additions of mushrooms and Parmesan. Brightened by a simple lemon vinaigrette. Just might try this as an accompaniment to the grilled steak I'm sure we'll have one night this weekend.

Spinach Salad with Mushrooms and Parmesan
Makes 4 servings.
From Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.

2 slices rye sandwich bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 ounces baby spinach
5 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

To make croutons:
Preheat oven to 350°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss bread with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Bake, tossing occasionally, until bread is golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice and remaining oil; season with salt and pepper. Add spinach, mushrooms, and croutons; toss gently, and top with Parmesan.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Melon with Honeyed Yogurt

One of the things I love most about Jason's Deli is the little plastic container of sweetish yogurt (?) dip that come when I order fruit on the side of my sandwich. It makes cantaloupe (and even honeydew... which I am not a fan of) taste delicious.

I have no idea what it's made with, but I'm guessing this one is healthier. And I know it's just as delicious.

(Note: This makes a LOT of yogurt dip. If you're just using it for a dip for your melon snack (as I do), just adapt the technique and use a lot less of the ingredients.)

Melon with Honeyed Yogurt
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.

1 cantaloupe, seeded, peeled and cut into wedges or chunks
3 cups Greek yogurt
1/2 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup honey

Mix the yogurt and the honey together, stirring gently. Top with the chopped mint and serve with the melon.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Spring Lamb Stew

OK....the 100 degree heat of a Dallas summer is not always the best setting for a heavy stew. But when it's wine dinner time and I'm uncorking a wonderfully full Napa Cabernet, the main course has to stand its own. And this lamb concoction did. The great news is that it' full of enough veggies that's it's a great one-pot meal. Try it...maybe for your Sunday evening supper.

Spring Lamb Stew
Serves 8.

2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 pounds cubed lamb stew meat
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 sprigs parsley (plus minced parsley for garnish)
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 cups beef broth, plus more if needed
1/2 cup dry red wine
6 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery hearts, sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 large shallots, diced
2 cups frozen peas

In a shallow bowl, stir together the salt, pepper, fennel seeds and flour. Add the cubed lamb and toss well to coat.

Place a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the lamb in batches and cook for 10 to 12 minutes total, turning so that the lamb is browned on all sides.

When all the lamb is browned, add the garlic, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, beef broth and red wine. Decrease the heat to low, cover and simmer for 2 hours until the meat is very tender, adding more broth if needed.

Add the carrots, celery and shallots. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed and continue cooking, covered, for another 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add the peas and cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve hot, garnished with parsley if desired.

Food/Wine Pairing:
This is a big dish with bold flavors. It takes a big, bold wine to stand up to it. We had a prized bottle of Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon that we uncorked. It was perfect: fruit-forward with just enough tannins and herbal undertones to round things out.