A Side Dish for The Healthy Folk!

Goat Cheese & Avocado LogOften, when I’m smoking ribs & pork shoulder, I do some not-so-healthy side dishes. Baked beans cooked in bacon fat anyone? Smoked mac & cheese with three types of cheese and a couple cups of heavy cream? It’s so heart-hardening delicious that you can’t pull yourself away.

It’s easy to lie to yourself; we do it all the time: “I’ll lose that extra ten pounds starting tomorrow, or after the new year”; “I’ll save for retirement when the kids are gone and I have extra money.” Well, just like eating unhealthy food, the effect doesn’t catch us for years, so why worry about it now?

I would love to say that the guilt got to me and I made a healthy side-dish for that reason, but really, I just wanted to make my wife happy. She loves goat cheese. Buy a double pack of  goat cheese logs at Costco, put on a fancy place, place some sliced avocado on top along with macadamia nuts and bacon bits. Then add balsamic drizzle and a few splashes of olive oil. Serve with some crackers and place in center of heart attack alley (ribs, pork, beans, mac & cheese, soda).

It’s actually fabulous. My wife had it for a meal.

Happy Eating.

Caprese Salad: Where have you been all my life?

Caprese Salad

Yes, this recipe is simple. And it is something that I have never made before. Oh all the lost time.

A good friend gave us some tomatoes from her garden. I already had a bunch of basil from my brother’s garden so it was time for the Caprese creation.

Caprese Salad

2 Beauty Tomatoes, sliced (Beauty is a Noun here not an adjective. It’s an Heirloom variety).
Fresh Sliced Mozzarella, sliced
Basil Leaves
Olive Oil, to drizzle
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Stack sliced Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil Leaves together. Drizzle with Olive Oil. Salt & Pepper to taste.

To make this extra special, get a loaf of Italian Round Bread. Slice it up, drizzle with Olive Oil and broil for 3 minutes. Place the Caprese on top and enjoy. It reminded me of Panzanella: Tuscan Bread Salad.

This was meant to be an appetizer; but we made it a meal for dinner one evening, and a lunch two days later. What a fresh end to summer.

Happy Eating.

Bean Thread Noodles with Pickled Vegetables

About a year ago, my sweet Sister-in-Law gave me a year’s subscription to Bon Appetit magazine as a gift. By reading this magazine, I have been around the world many times from the comfort of my own living room. From the Adalusia region of Spain to Shanghai China to Africa and beyond, I have begun a quest to eat the world’s cuisine. What an adventure it has been so far.

Here is one of the great Asian dish recipes that leaped off the pages:

Bean Thread Noodles

BEAN THREAD NOODLES WITH PICKLED VEGETABLES

6 oz. wide bean thread noodles
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fish sauce
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. finely grated peeled ginger
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 large daikon, julienned
1 English hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
2 large carrots, peeled, julienned
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup torn fresh cilantro, divided
3/4 cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped, divided.

Place noodles in a large bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let noodles soak until tender but not mushy, 20 minutes; drain. Rinse under cold water and drain well. 

Whisk garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, sugar, ginger and pepper in another large bowl. Add daikon, cucumber and carrots; toss to combine. Let sit 10 minutes.

Add noodles, oil, half of cilantro and half of peanuts to bowl; toss to combine. Top salad with remaining cilantro and peanuts.

There were some great personal lessons here for me. The first is that I get distracted easily which led me to not buying a daikon. I was at the Asian grocery store here in Salt Lake but forgot to buy one. Having lived in Southeast Asia, I was in complete nostalgia at the store. The chili garlic sauce, noodles, juices and other delights all commanded my attention. Due to that, I did not include daikon in the dish.

The other lesson was that I am sometimes in such a rush to get to things that I scan instead of read. While grating ginger into the marinade, I began thinking that 2 Tablespoons was a lot of ginger. Going back and actually reading (rather than scanning) the ingredients, I saw that it was 2 Teaspoons of ginger, not 2 Tablespoons.

The dish was wonderful. The marinade has a bitter flavor but not enough to overwhelm. It’s just enough that when it touches your tongue, the glands on the side of your mouth begin to water, craving more. Bean thread noodles are a clear glass noodle without a lot of flavor. The marinade does a beautiful job of flavoring those throughout. It reminded me of the Vietnamese Vinaigrette at La Cai Noodle House.

The veggies and herbs make it the epitome of freshness. This can be a great side or main dish.

Thank you Bon Appetit.

Happy Eating

Roasted Beet Salad with Green Leaf Lettuce, Sliced Apples and Feta Cheese

Roasted Beet Salad

Needing to bring a Salad to Sunday Dinner, I was left scrambling as the hour approached. Watching baseball and drinking a cold soda on a Sunday afternoon, seemed much more relaxing than preparing a salad.

We had some beets from Borski Farms which needed to be used. I roasted those, added it to some green leaf lettuce, threw in some sliced apples and Feta Cheese, poured on some Four Leaf Vinaigrette and indulged.

Roasted Beet Salad:

3 medium sized beets
1 head, green leaf lettuce
1 Gala apple, sliced
1 1/2 cups Feta Cheese

Drizzle beets with olive oil, salt & pepper and wrap in aluminum foil. Place in oven at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes. If soft when pierced with a knife, allow to cool for a few minutes then wrap in a paper towel and rub aggressively. Skin should peel right off. Slice beets.

Chop lettuce and place in large bowl. Add sliced apples, beets and Feta Cheese. Cover with your favorite vinaigrette and enjoy.

The beets will also make a great side dish by themselves. My Sister-in-Law enjoyed the leftover beets on their own.

Holiday Appetizer: Asiago Cheese Spread!

For a Christmas party this past month, our assignment was an appetizer. Time got away from us and we were not sure what to make. Thankfully this worked as a delicious compliment to the party.

Asiago Cheese Spread

1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
1/2 Cup Asiago Cheese, shredded
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon Fresh Basil, chopped
1 Tablespoon Garlic, minced
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients in bowl, spread over baquette slices, broil for 2 1/2 minutes. Enjoy.

I added a little extra garlic. It gives it the wow factor but there will be no kissing your wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend later in the evening. They will push you away. However, if they were at the party also, they will have the same problem.

Happy Eating

Battered Garlic Fries: Messy, Fun, and a great Side Dish!

For a few weeks now, we have had some fingerling potatoes on our counter. I was anxious to use them and decided to make some homemade fries. After gathering some ideas online, I pulled from a few sources and came up with the following:

Battered Garlic Fries

2 pounds potatoes, unpeeled and sliced as fries
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup water
2 cups vegetable oil

Place sliced potatoes in ice water, dry thoroughly. Mix all ingredients (except oil) in a bowl. Place potatoes in bowl with batter, mix by hand to coat all potatoes. Drop potatoes one by one in boiling oil. When golden brown, place on plate layered with paper towels.

Ruby loved battering the fries

When I first made this, I thought that they might be weird. They were actually really good. Ruby sure loved helping mix the potatoes and the batter. It was messy, fun and a great side dish. After the fries, I attempted to make some battered grean beans. That was a failure.

Frying in Oil, A Beautiful Sight

Happy Eating.

Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Soup

Last year I took a class titled “Hearty Fall Soups.” Thank you to Chef Todd Leonard. He is a true master of the kitchen. Often I have made the Cream of Mushroom and Roasted Tomato Soup that we learned in this class. Having received a pumpkin and butternut squash from Borski Farms, it was as if all the forces of nature were combining to make this soup.

Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Soup

1 each small to medium yellow onions, diced
1 cup celery, diced
2 cups carrots, peeled and diced
2 pounds pumpkin, cleaned, peeled and diced
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 1/2 quarts vegetable stock
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon, ground
1 star anise
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup heavy cream
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Simmer all ingredients together until reduced by about half. Pull out star anise. With a hand blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add cream. Taste and season as needed.

This has to be one of the best and easiest cooking processes for a soup. Simply throw all ingredients in a pot and cook until stock is reduced and vegetables are soft. It’s beautiful. Don’t add too much cream as it starts to bury the butternut squash flavor.

My sister-in-law is a connoisseur of soup. She arrived shortly after it was ready and immediately fell in love. You will too.

Happy Eating

PANZANELLA: A Tuscan Bread Salad

As mentioned in my post about Chicken Valdostana, the class also made Panzanella that evening. This is a Tuscan bread salad. I had never thought of a salad without lettuce. Chef Tim Belarde is a fantastic cook. I recreated this dish for a dinner with friends. I was a little nervous but all tasters said that it came out very nice.

Panzanella

1 loaf fresh sourdough bread
2 bunches fresh basil
4 Roma tomatoes
1 medium red onion
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Cube bread into 1″ pieces and lay out on a sheet pan. Drizzle 1/4 cup of olive oil over cubes, season with salt and pepper. Bake in 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Outside should be toasted. Set aside to cool.

Dice tomatoes in 1/2″ pieces, coarsely chop basil, and sliver slice the red onion.

Add all ingredients in a large salad bowl, season to taste, toss and serve.

As I write this, I can taste the panzanella. The ingredients make a perfect party in your mouth. The trick is the bread. If you bake it too long, it’s tough like croutons; if not long enough, the bread cubes get soggy quickly. It’s the perfect “salad” compliment to a meal.

Happy Eating

Hawaiian Nachos: A simple yet fabulous Appetizer!

While visiting Florida last January, my Cousin and his wife had a fabulous nacho appetizer waiting for us. After flying all day, we were definitely hungry. They said that the recipe came from their daughter. I immediately sent her a message to thank her.

Hawaiian Nachos

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey or chicken
6 ounces Lawry’s Hawaiian Marinade
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 package Tostito’s Scoops

Brown the meat in a fry pan. Add the marinade once browned. Let cook until the marinade thickens. Spoon meat mixture into Tostito’s Scoops. Place on cooking sheet. Sprinkle with cheese. Broil for 2 minutes. Enjoy!

This is a quick recipe and will give you all the adulation you crave. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that this appetizer was actually our main course for dinner last night.

Happy Eating

Succulent Squash, Heirloom Tomatoes and Fresh Herbs

At Sunday dinner this past week, my Brother tried to give us some squash that has been proliferating in his garden. Since we have a bowl of uncooked squash at home, I refused his offer.

Squash & Zucchini can be good despite my objection for most of my life. Recently we cooked up some Summer Squash & Zucchini with Garlic & Butter. It was truly delicious. On Monday Rachel came home with some squash & heirloom tomatoes. I was perplexed by her decision to get more squash but loved the tomatoes. She said that her co-worker’s offer was take them both or none at all. Their garden is also exploding with squash.

We sliced up the squash, placed them in a frying pan with some oil and garlic and cooked them quickly so they remained firm with a bite. Soggy veggies can be unappetizing. I went downstairs to complete a few work items. When I returned to the kitchen I smelled the most wonderful aroma and saw the most beautiful sight.

There in a bowl was the bright yellow summer squash, fresh heirloom tomatoes, fresh chopped herbs, with a lite garlic & balsamic aroma. I asked Rachel about the cooking process. Once the squash was cooked, she sliced up the tomatoes, chopped up fresh basil & sage, added it to a bowl and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

We eat first with our eyes, then our nose, then our palate. All three were an extraordinary experience. Though this was likely meant as an appetizer, it was my dinner for the evening.

Happy Eating

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