Come January 1st, I am ready for a radical change in my diet. There's no arguing this -- December is full of meals, desserts, and drinks that should not be consumed on a regular basis. Right now, I do not want to eat one more cookie or see one more carton of heavy cream on the shelf of my refrigerator. Bring on bowls of oranges, clementines, and grapefruit!
These Sweet Potato and Quinoa Cakes with Black Beans are the start of my new, healthy regimen. I veered slightly from the original recipe, working with what I had on hand in my kitchen. I used gold quinoa instead of the red that was called for. And, instead of whole cumin and ground coriander, I substituted 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 2 teaspoons dried cilantro. When pan-frying the cakes, be sure to get a nice brown crust on the exterior; it helps to hold these delicate cakes together. Oh... and the only thing I'd change? I'd double the recipe the next time. I can eat a lot of these!
recipe by Betsy Nelson and featured in Experience Life | Jan/Feb 2013
• 1 tablespoon coconut oil, plus additional for frying croquettes
• 1 medium sweet potato, peeled, grated, rinsed in cold water, and patted dry
• 1/2 cup finely-diced red bell pepper
• 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
• 1 cup finely-diced yellow onion
• 2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds (I used 1 teaspoon ground cumin)
• 1 tablespoon ground coriander (I used 2 teaspoons dried cilantro)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 cup cooked red quinoa (I used gold quinoa)
• Salsa and sour cream for serving
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil in a large sauté pan. Add the grated sweet potato, bell pepper, jalapeño, and yellow onion. Stir over medium heat until the vegetables have softened; about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander and continue to sauté the vegetables until they are fully-cooked. Add the salt.
2. Stir the black beans and quinoa into the vegetable mixture. Take 1/3 of the mixture and purée in a food processor; return purée to the vegetables in the sauté pan and combine thoroughly. Shape the mixture into small patties. Heat additional coconut oil in a skillet and over medium heat, cook the croquettes until brown and crusty; flip and brown the other side. Keep the croquettes warm in the oven until ready to serve.
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We spent Christmas Eve at a neighbor's home across the street from us, along with other neighbors and friends. Dinner was a 50's flashback. Appetizers included artichoke dip and sauerkraut meatballs. The serve yourself buffet consisted of a spiral baked ham, potatoes au gratin topped with potato chips, and a marshmallow fruit salad. Everyone loved it. My sister in Ohio told me she would be making our mother's Christmas Jell-O salad for her family's holiday dinner; layered red and green with marshmallows, pineapple, and whipped cream. Retro meals. Comfort food. Don't we all long for holidays past with memories of meals served by our mothers? I must still be in the retro mindset. Today I made a Caramelized Onion Dip (recipe HERE). Yesterday I made "My Mother's" Ham Salad (recipe HERE). Looks like we're on for a retro appetizer New Year's Eve.
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The reward of surviving a Minnesota winter, for me, is dining alfresco during the summer months. It means Salade Nicoise with my garden's haricot verts, roasted beets, French tomato tarts, and Insalata Caprese, just to name a few; and all served with a chilled French Rosé.
That type of dining has come to an end, for the most part. But there is always hope that one more day of Indian Summer will come along, and allow us one more relaxed meal on the patio before the fountain is drained and the outdoor furniture relegated to storage.
This Tuna Pissaladiére will make a perfect alfresco luncheon, along with a green salad, and that glass of rosé. A 70 degree day is predicted for early this coming week. I'll caramelize the onions and roast the red peppers this weekend, allowing a quick assembly of the pissaladiére, to enjoy on that upcoming (and hopefully not last) day of Indian Summer.
recipe Sunset Magazine | August 2012
• 2 pounds onions, thinly sliced lengthwise
• 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
• 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (14-ounce package), preferably all-butter Dufour
• 12 ounces roasted red peppers, cut into strips
• about 1/2 cup Nicoise olives, pitted
• 2 tablespoons drained capers
• 4 ounces good quality canned tuna in olive oil, drained
1. Cook onions in oil in a large skillet over medium heat until soft, stirring often for about 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are a deep golden brown. This should take about 45 minutes. Stir in the thyme, salt, and pepper; set aside to cool.
2. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the sheet of puff pastry on top. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until puffed and golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes.
3. Spread the caramelized onions over the pastry, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
4. Make a grid pattern over the onions with the roasted red peppers. Place 2 Nicoise olives in the center of each grid, then sprinkle the entire pissaladiére with the drained capers.
5. Flake the tuna and scatter inside the grids, and return to the oven for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Garnish with additional fresh thyme leaves and serve either warm, or at room temperature.
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During the summer I grill a lot of meat and fish, and serve them with fresh salsas. Since my tomatoes up until now have been slim-pickings, I made Pineapple Salsa to spoon over pieces of grilled salmon with a dry spice rub.
• 1 pineapple, flesh cubed into small chunks
• 1 red bell pepper, diced
• red onion, small dice
• jalapeno pepper, small dice
• juice of 1 lime
• pinch of kosher salt
• cilantro, leaves chopped
1. Combine ingredients. Amounts of each are up to you.
SALMON SPICE RUB
• 2 tablespoons chili powder
• 1 tablespoon kosher salt
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 tablespoon onion powder
• 1 tablespoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1. Mix together spice rub mixture. Rub into salmon fillet pieces. (Remaining spice mix can be kept in an airtight jar or zip-lock bag for a later time later use.) Arrange fish on a plate in one layer and chill fish, covered, for 2 hours.
2. Grill salmon and smother in fresh pineapple salsa. ENJOY!
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• + • + • + • + •
My ANTIQUE-of-the-WEEK sister Susan flew into town to host a bridal shower for my daughter. I made the food...
My daughter was greeted with congratulatory kisses by the guests.
Appetizers were served on the deck.
The table for dining was set up on the patio and crowned with a canopy to protect the guests from the slight possibility of rain.
A beautiful day spent with wonderful friends!
The main course was a salad of chicken, wild rice, and watercress with a tarragon vinaigrette. I have been making it for years with no recollection of where I found the recipe.
:: Chicken with Wild Rice and Watercress
• 1 cup wild rice
• 1 1/2 cups water
• 3 cups diced, poached chicken
• 1 cup watercress leaves
• 1/2 cup thinly-sliced green onions
• 1/2 cup diced celery
• 1/2 cup toasted, blanched almonds
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Rinse the rice under cold water. Place in a saucepan of salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about 25 to 35 minutes. Rinse the rice under cold water and drain well. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the chicken, watercress, green onion, and diced celery, mixing gently. When ready to serve, top with the toasted almonds.
TO MAKE THE VINAIGRETTE
Slowly whisk the oil into the vinegar. Stir in the tarragon, salt, and pepper. Pour a small amount of the vinaigrette over the chicken salad and mix gently. Add additional vinaigrette until the salad is evenly coated. You will probably not need all of the vinaigrette.
SERVE THE SALAD SLIGHTLY CHILLED
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So simple, so basic, and so good. Pieces of bread spread with salty French butter, thin slices of crisp, spring radishes, a sprinkling of Fleur de Sel. This is what I've been making lately -- more radish seeds have just been sown.
A late day appetizer with a frosty glass of rhubarb slush -- or pretend you're in the south of France and pour a glass of Rosé.
I was fortunate to receive a gift of French salted butter -- picked up for me by a stewardess-friend on her international flights to Paris. I have been very judicious in its use. It resides in my freezer and is only pulled for something special, like a baguette with radishes and fleur de sel!
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I suppose you think this guacamole is for snacking on during the Super Bowl tonight. Nope, you are so wrong! I'm going to be snacking on this Tomato and Corn Guacamole with lime and sea salt tortilla chips while I'm watching Downton Abbey.
•Tomato and Corn Guacamole •
• 4 avocados
• juice from half of a fresh lime
• 1-2 tablespoons finely diced jalapeno (no seeds)
• 1 teaspoon cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 large clove of garlic, minced
• 3/4 cup chopped grape tomatoes
• 1 cup frozen corn, defrosted
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
• Peel the avocados and scoop the flesh into a medium-sized bowl. Using a metal whisk, smash the avocados until fairly smooth. Add the lime juice, jalapeno, cumin, salt, and garlic and mix gently. Fold in the tomatoes, corn, and cilantro.
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It is upon us... the season of entertaining -- a time to be with family and friends, enjoying sweet and savory treats, many of which are only eaten at this time of the year. I always have grandiose plans for what I will be baking during this month, but life gets busy and I always end up wondering, when am I going to get everything done that's on my list? The answer is to simplify what I do in my kitchen. Not all cookies will be rolled and cut-out. I have become a huge fan of log cookies that can be rich in flavors, but a breeze to slice and bake. I've also given myself permission to purchase some of the items I need, instead of pressuring myself to make absolutely everything that I use in my cooking and baking (which is how I operated for many years). I no longer feel as though I'm cheating; a big stress reducer.
Puff Pastry is one of those items I allow myself to purchase. I just used, for the first time, the Dufour brand which is made with butter. Stock up on it, especially if you can find it on sale, and have it at the ready in your freezer.
November 30th was my husband's final "official" day of work before his retirement. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to have friends over for a champagne toast. The celebration also included Proscuitto and Cheese Spirals to nibble, along with the champagne. They assemble quickly as long as you plan ahead and have the puff pastry defrosted. You can make a lot of these, easily and quickly, for any holiday entertaining you have planned.
• Prosciutto & Cheese Spirals •
adapted from a recipe in Bon Appétit
• One sheet of Puff Pastry (preferably Dufour brand), defrosted
• 4 ounce package Proscuitto
• 1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
• 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
• 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
• 1 large egg whisked briefly with 1 teaspoon water, for glaze
• freshly ground black pepper
PREHEAT OVEN TO 375˚F.
1. Unfold the pastry and roll it out on a lightly-floured surface to a 12-inch square.
2. Arrange enough prosciutto slices in single layer on half of the pastry to just cover. Sprinkle Gruyère, Parmesan, and thyme evenly over the Prosciutto.
3. Brush some of the egg glaze on the other half of the pastry.
4. Fold the egg-brushed half over onto the cheese and prosciutto half. Press firmly, then roll out the filled pastry to an 11-inch-by-8-inch rectangle. Brush the pastry with some egg glaze; sprinkle with pepper.
5. Using a heavy large knife, or a pizza wheel, cut pastry crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
6. Twist the strips about 3 times and arrange them on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper, pressing the ends onto the sheets to keep strips twisted while baking, and spacing them about 1 1/2-inches apart. Brush twists lightly with egg glaze.
7. Position baking racks in upper third and lower third of the oven, place a baking sheet on each rack. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, switching-out the baking sheets after 10 minutes, until the spirals are browned and crisp.
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This past weekend we had dinner with our small group that comprises what we refer to as "gourmet" -- the same three couples that get together every few months, as our busy schedules allow, to eat exceptional food and get caught up on each others' lives. As usual, this meal did not disappoint. I was assigned the appetizer -- a pizza on the grill loaded with sweet and salty goodness. The recipe by Todd English combines fig jam, prosciutto, Gorgonzola cheese, and fresh rosemary. I added dried figs, a gift to me last Christmas from the friends and neighbors hosting this dinner. I was surprised at how moist the dried figs were when I sliced them open. I had assumed I would need to rehydrate the fruit, but that was not at all necessary. We were served a refreshing "cocktail" to sip along with the pizza. Made with watermelon, lime juice, loads of fresh mint, and tequila, it was easy to down this drink quickly (a little too quickly) on a day hovering around 90˚.
We ate dinner in the garden where we were surrounded by herbs, flowers, and vegetables.
The main dish was Salmon and Pea Risotto with morel mushrooms that Paul, another member of our group, picked and dried this past spring. I don't think I have to tell you how good this was.
…Fig and Prosciutto Pizza…
adapted from a recipe by Todd English
• Pizza dough (recipe here
), divided into 4 balls• 1 clove garlic, minced• 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary• Salt and freshly ground pepper• 1/2 cup fig jam• 1/4 pound Gorgonzola
cheese, crumbled• 4 ounces sliced prosciutto • Dried sliced figs, or
halved fresh figs1.
Make the pizza dough; keep covered and chilled in the refrigerator until ready to use2.
In a small bowl, combine the minced garlic, rosemary, and salt & pepper to taste3. Prepare the grill. (I grill my pizzas on low heat, using a gas grill.) Remove
2 balls of dough from the refrigerator. I used to roll each ball of dough on a floured surface, but now I just take the ball of dough in my hands and start turning and stretching, letting the weight of the dough form the disc. When the dough is about 8-inches in diameter, place it on the grill. Repeat with the second ball of dough; place the cover over the grill When the bottom of the dough is a golden brown, flip, and begin adding the toppings.4. Spread the surface of the dough with a thin layer of the fig jam. Sprinkle 1/4 of the garlic-rosemary mixture evenly over each pizza; top with 1/4 of the Gorgonzola cheese. Take 1 ounce of the prosciutto and tear into pieces while scattering over the pizza. Add either dried sliced figs, or fresh figs, cover the grill and continue to "bake" the pizzas until they are puffed and golden brown. Remove to a cutting board and slice into pieces. Repeat this process with the remaining 2 balls of pizza dough.
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This could go on forever... the posting of the French inspired treats I served at my daughter's recent graduation party in our back yard. The majority of offerings, actually all of the offerings, were sweet treats except for this one savory sablés that was offered alongside wine we were serving to the adults. I made this recipe for Olive and Rosemary Shortbread five years ago for the first time, after a trip to Provence with my daughter and sister. I purchased a small tin of Sablés salés aux olives noires in the town of Saint Rémy de Provence. I decided on my return home that this was one savory cookie I needed to have on hand for friends who stop by for the occasional glass of wine. I haven't made them in quite a while but after nibbling on many this past week, I was again reminded of how good these are! And really... when you add a large amount of butter and fleur de sel to anything, it has to be good!
inspired by a visit to Le Petit Duc | Saint Rémy de Provence
• 2 1/4 cups flour
• 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel
• 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
• 13 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
• 2 large egg yolks
• 3-4 Tablespoons chopped Nicoise olives
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Pulse flour, sugar, salt and rosemary in a food processor until combined. Add butter and pulse just until mixture resembles coarse meal, then add yolks and process until dough just starts to clump together. Add chopped Nicoise olives and process briefly. Turn onto a work surface and gather dough together. Divide dough into 4 pieces and smear each portion to help distribute the butter. Divide dough in half. Lay each half on plastic wrap and form into a log about 1 1/4-inch in diameter. Chill at least one hour. Slice log into 1/4-inch thick pieces and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake in the middle of the oven, for about 25 minutes, until light-golden brown. Cool on a rack and store in an air-tight container. Dream that you're in Provence.
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