Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Potato Salad with Creamy Dill Dressing

Have a picnic or cookout coming up for Labor Day or some other end-of-summer occasion?  You won't go wrong taking this creamy and brightly flavored potato salad.

New Potato Salad with Creamy Dill Dressing
Makes eight servings.

  • 3 pounds new potatoes, halved
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

  • Fill a large saucepan with 1 inch of water and fit with a steamer basket. Steam the potatoes until tender, 15 to 18 minutes; let cool.

  • Mix the sour cream and next four ingredients in a mixing bowl until combined.  Toss the potatoes and scallions in the dressing and season to taste. Chill for at least eight hours.

  • Note: If you like a creamier potato salad, mix an additional 1/3 cup each sour cream and mayonnaise with one tablespoon Dijon, one tablespoon white wine vinegar and a bit more dill and chill separately.  Stir in right before serving. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Parmesan Cream Sauce

Yes, I like to make things from scratch.  But there's no need to make EVERYTHING yourself.  I have made ravioli before, but don't shy away from buying high-quality filled pasta from a pasta purveyor or even a warehouse store.

I draw the line with the sauce though. I am scared of the tubs of Alfredo and other sauces you can buy at the grocery store.  Too many preservatives, gums and -ates for my liking.  Plus, when a sauce can be easily and quickly made with ingredients you're likely to have in the pantry, why bother?

Here's a rich creamy, cheesy sauce I concocted for some spinach ravioli we had last weekend.  It would be wonderful as a mac and cheese base too, I am betting.

Parmesan Cream Cheese
Makes about 2 cups.

1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon garlic pepper (or freshly ground black pepper to taste)
Kosher salt to taste (You might not need any thanks to the saltiness of the Parmesan.)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Grilled Romaine and Shrimp Salad with Roasted Garlic Caesar Dressing

It's the time of year for grilling...everything.  Even salad.  Yes, salad.

The other night, having been tempted for years to try it, we grilled our Caesar salad.  We cut the romaine hearts in half lengthwise (leaving the root end intact so it didn't fall apart on the grill) drizzled them with a little olive oil and put them on a hot grill for about three minutes on each side.  Just long enough to wilt them a bit and give them a little bit of smoke.

I gilded the lily by grilling onions and shrimp as well.  Then served it all up with this roasted-garlic Caesar dressing.  Yummy.

Roasted Garlic Caesar Dressing
Makes about one cup dressing.

1 head garlic, top third cut off
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3 anchovy fillets, minced

Drizzle the garlic head with olive oil and wrap in foil.  Roast in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 1 hour.  Set aside and let cool slightly.

Squeeze softened garlic out of peel and into a mini food processor.  Add the buttermilk, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and anchovies. Process until smooth.

With the motor running, drizzle the olive oil into the processor until the dressing is combined and emulsified.  Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.  (You might not need any salt since the anchovies are salty to begin with.)  Pulse again until combined.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Avocado-Arugula Pesto

We've been buying beautiful avocados on the cheap lately.  I love eating them simply--sliced with some good olive oil and flaky salt. Also added to sandwiches and, obviously, salads.

But I've been branching out recently and including them as ingredients in less-expected ways. (Including the green goddess sauce I posted earlier this week.)  Here's a great pesto inspired by Giada.  (I am still not completely on the arugula bandwagon so went with more basil in the ratio than she suggests.) It was great on pasta with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan and a few toasted sliced almonds.

Avocado-Arugula Pesto
Makes around 2 cups of pesto.

1 large (or 2 medium) ripe avocados, halved, peeled and pitted
2 cups baby arugula
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil (You don't really need this from a liquid standpoint...I just like the richness it brings.)
Pinch of salt
Grind of black pepper

Place all ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and pulse to combine.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Green Goddess Chicken Pitas

I was thrilled to run across Food52 not too long ago.  It's become one of my favorite websites and their regular e-mails of recipes and great products for foodies inspire on a daily basis.

Recently, they sent a recipe for a chicken sandwich dressed with a zingy, herby green goddess sauce. I adapted it slightly and served it in a puffy pita pocket.  GREAT summer dinner.  Try it for yourself.

Green Goddess Sauce
Makes about 1/ 1/2 cups.

1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons fresh basil
3 tablespoons chives
3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
1 cup yogurt (preferably Greek)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Into a food processor, place a roughly chopped garlic clove and the torn herbs.  Pulse until finely chopped.  Add the avocado (cut into large chunks will help the food processor do its job), yogurt, lemon juice and vinegar.  Process until combined (I liked mine slightly chunky with nice flecks of herbs still visible).  Taste for seasoning and blend in salt and pepper to taste.

This would make a great dip for pita chips or crudite.  It was delicious in a pita sandwich with a little rotisserie chicken, thinly sliced tomato, baby spinach and swiss cheese.  The other half's was just as good with cheddar cheese, bacon and some sliced red onion.  Combine away and enjoy!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Balsamic Fig Jam

Those of us who think Life Should Be Beautiful know all about summer produce. Here in north Texas, I can't get enough of the tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash, and peaches that are on offer at local farmers markets.  But rather than fall into the proverbial rut, I am pleased to say that I have expanded my horizons with a new favorite: figs.

I first discovered them at the upscale grocery store, but as our locavore offerings have broadened I have more often been able to find them at the market.  They are delicious eaten out-of-hand, grilled alongside chicken, or sauteed and drizzled with honey and dolloped with mascarpone cheese.

Here's a recipe I tried this afternoon with some gorgeous figs in our produce share.  Its jammy goodness is going to be great with crackers and blue cheese.  I am also thinking a grilled panini of prosciutto and fontina with a bit of the jam spread on sourdough.

You could easily multiply this recipe and then can in a hot water bath, but I settled for a single batch this time.  It should last me just about two weeks and then it will be time for more figs.

Balsamic Fig Jam
Makes about 1 1/2 cup

8-10 ounces figs, stems removed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Over medium-high heat, combine the figs, sugar, balsamic vinegar and water in a 12-inch saute pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and add lemon juice, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened, 25-35 minutes.  You'll know its done when you drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan and it leaves a trail without the liquid coming back in to cover.  Watch it carefully for the last 10 minutes or so.  It can go from wonderful jam to burned sugar quickly if you're not careful.

Let cool slightly and place in food processor.  Pulse 3-5 times; you want a slightly chunky consistency.  Transfer jam to glass jar or container and let cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate for up to one month,