Tag Archives: beans

Cookies and Salads

23 Aug

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The other day, Rob and I did some Back To School grocery shopping, and it happened to be a date-night of sorts. We had already eaten dinner, and flashbacks of our Coos Bay days of taking a stroll down the fun-house halls of Walmart at 10 pm rushed in our minds as we stood in the Publix cookie aisle with two other couples. Hushed conversations evolved and we noticed the other couples, slowly and closely meandering, stopping and short-pointing with only a pinky, then whispering some more, were having the exact same musings as Rob and me.

“Remember these?”

“Oh, I ate a box of those ones once.”

“Huh, the packaging has changed on these ones.”

“Strawberry Oreos? Really?”

“Ooo these look so goooooood.”

Then, super-stealthily that short-pointing pinky turned into a swift grabbing hand snatching that Back To School treat. One couple got always-recognizable-even-when-cleverly-stuffed-under-the-16oz.-bag-of-baby-kale Pepperidge Farms cookies, the other couple further down settled with an audible let’s-be-responsible sigh on a cookie/cracker thing, and Rob and I chose Fig Newtons. The original. Always a Back To School classic, at least in my lunch box.

Seams harmless, right? Then, what’s with all the whispering and sideways glances? After further investigation of our late-night cookie aisle recon, this Back To School treat shopping was not for the kids. It was for the adults.

Who knows what happened to the other couples, but Rob and I waited until we got home (there is some restraint), and I dove into the little squares of fruit and cake. After a couple, the “fix” was over, and all was right and just in the world.

Teaching Kindergarten can be a different kind of crazy at beginning of the year, and even in this hot, hot, hot Jacksonville heat, a craving for comfort food spikes at the end of the day. Rather than turning to the cookies, I’ve actually found myself becoming increasingly adventurous with salads. Yes, salads. With the help of our farm basket, I have been experimenting with hot and cold salads, sweet and savory salads, grain and paleo salads, and many more. Come to realize it, more often than not, I have written about salads throughout the years. Well, hold on to your carrots, my friends, cause here comes another.

I called this the Chop Chop Salad, before I realized that there were actually many variations of an actual salad called a Chop Chop. So, I guess I’m adding another variation to the many recipes out there (although I’d like to continue to live in my ignorance that I actually came up with the really cool name). Literally, take every single vegetable that you love and toss it in a bowl. Add lettuce or any other green you’d like, or not. Add grains like quinoa, barley, or spelt, or not. Add a dried fruit or nuts, or not. You get the picture. Pour the contents on a big cutting board. With two chef’s knives, chop chop the heck out of it. Pour it all back into the bowl. Top with your favorite dressing. Voila! Chop Chop Salad! For such an incredibly unrefined technique, it creates such a beautiful presentation, and it’s fabulous for fun entertaining. Here’s how I made mine (everything was just a small handful, fresh and raw, unless otherwise stated):

  • Roasted kale
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Crimini mushrooms
  • Roasted green beans
  • Tomatoes (seeded)
  • Celery
  • Green onions
  • Manchego cheese

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The very best part of this salad happened to be the interesting dressing. To me, a big, full Chop Chop salad needs a hearty dressing. These days, however, cream and mayo-based dressings haven’t been making much of an appearance in our house due to the calories they add to the otherwise healthy dish. So to keep the creamy need, yet lose the bulk, I made a Cauliflower Dressing: ½ head of raw cauliflower, ¼ c extra virgin olive oil, ¼ c water, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp agave nectar, 1 tbsp fresh dill. Throw it all into a blender with some s&p, whir until smooth and pourable, and taste for more seasoning. Pour a desired amount on your Chop Chop Salad, mix, and sit back and crunch away.

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This salad made for a great lunch the next day at school, and I told my kids all about it. At 5-years old, they weren’t so interested in a bowl chalked full of veg. Although I did get many oohs and aahs when I said “corn.” I think even a couple of excited claps.

It’s Back To School – a time for new beginning and taking risks. This salad isn’t risky at all, but try it anyway. It’s easy! It’s your own creation of tastiness! It’s healthy (which means you can dive into those cookies afterwards)!

Enjoy!

Turkey Day Trials 2013

16 Nov

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We’re starting again!  The best time of the year – Thanksgiving!  Such a wonderful holiday filled with the smells of warming cinnamon spices, the joyous laughter of friends and family, and The Dog Show.  Really, it’s such a great day.  And like always, I’m trying to prepare early.

Rob came home yesterday from his deployment (yay!), so he’ll be around for the Thankful festivities, and all the Turkey Day Trials that will ensue over the next 2 weeks.  What a great husband – one of the first things he asked me after getting off the plane (literally, we are standing at baggage claim) was, “How are the Turkey Day Trials coming?”  I think he enjoys this just as much as I do.

For the big day, Rob will be contributing his now-famous-among-my-family mashed potatoes.  No trials there.  It is a dish with which not to be messed.  As with pigs in a blanket, gin and tonics, and football, some Thanksgiving things are just expected, and Rob’s potatoes are one of them.  Although we may have to make sure an extra pair of oven mitts is readily available.  While cooking his welcome home dinner last night, I asked him to try a piece of tortellini, handing it to him with my fingers straight from the spoon out of the boiling pot.

“Put that down!”

“Oh come on!  You don’t have asbestos hands like me?” was thus my attempt at flirting involving boiling hot substances.  Sad, I know.  I put down the little round pasta.

“No,” Rob gently tries to pick up the pasta, drops it, picks it up again, and then blows on it with disproportionate vigor, “I don’t have asbestos hands.  I have soft, delicate Pilot hands.”

I’m so glad he’s home.

But I digress.  Even though the potatoes are perfection already, that doesn’t mean I can’t mess with other things.  Like butternut squash, for example.  Butternut squash is fun, beautiful, funky (as in the cool hipster way, not the smelly way), simple and sweet.  It is a favorite to salads, soups, and starchy roasted vegetable platters come this time of year.  As an appetizer, I always make an Apple Bourbon Butternut Squash soup on the Day de Turkey, but thought I would experiment a bit this year.  So with a big, sharp knife in hand, I dove in.

Whether in soups, salads or just on its own sprinkled with a bit of sea salt and cardamom, my favorite way to prepare butternut squash is to roast it: diced smallish, high heat, olive oil, s&p, and often with an herb or spice.  The caramelization of the squash’s natural sugars brings out a subtle sweetness similar to a rosé wine.  Not at all over-powering, but leaves a touch of I-want-some-more-of-that on your tongue.

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Almost every time I entertain, I have a dip of some sort, really, because people love to dip things.  And in some company, double-dipping is perfectly acceptable.  So my “go-to” is a lemony white bean dip that is much more subtle tasting than hummus, and as smooth as pate.  It is always elegant, easy, and gone by the end of the evening.  So as this Thanksgiving will be filled with wonderful entertaining, I thought of this dish, and the unexpected marrying of it and the butternut squash.  Simply roasted, then puréed with the buttery white (cannellini) beans, with a touch of garlic, spice and rosemary, LOTS of olive oil, and voila: a new Thanksgiving appetizer.  It’s perfectly fine just like this, especially still warm from the roasted squash, but I put some stilettoes on this dip and brought it to the next level.  Spooning a bit of the dip into an ovenproof dish, I sprinkled over the top a bit of red pepper flakes, freshly grated parmesan regiano, and a drizzle of olive oil.  After being under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes, the crusty, bubbly, golden crust is irresistible with some crusty French bread.

I want some right now!  Maybe I’ll slather some dip on a piece of thin, whole-grain toast, and fry and egg on top – the possibilities for this spread are endless!

Turkey Day Trials are off to a good start!  I’ll keep you posted with more to come!  Enjoy the start to the season!

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Roasted Butternut Squash and White Bean Dip
(makes about 20 oz)

  • 1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • the top half of a small butternut squash (the part without the seeds), peeled, then diced into ½- inch pieces, about 2 c uncooked
  • 1 good-sized clove of garlic
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary
  • about ½ c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp regular olive oil (for cooking)
  • s&p

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Taking the diced butternut squash, toss with the tbsp of olive oil, the rosemary sprig, and a 3-finger pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper.  After all the pieces are coated, spread the squash evenly on a baking sheet.  The rosemary will crisp up in the oven, and add a great flavor.  Place in oven for 10-15 minutes, turning the pieces once, until the top and bottom of the squash is a beautiful, dark golden color. 

Then, pour the beans, the garlic clove, and a few tbsp of the extra virgin olive oil into a food processor.  Pour in the squash, including the cooking oil, which has now been flavored by the squash and rosemary.  Take the leaves off the rosemary (they will come off very easily and most likely crumble in your fingers), and add to the food processor.  Add just a pinch of s&p, and pulse to get the mixture started.  Then, while the processor is running, pour in a steady stream of the rest of the extra virgin olive oil.  You’ll see the  spread become creamy and very smooth. 

Taste for seasoning (I always find at the end, after adding all the olive oil, I need to add a bit more s&p).  Enjoy with pita chips, crusty bread, or mixed vegetables. 

**To make the broiled spread: heat your broiler to high, spoon some of the dip into a ovenproof bowl, and sprinkle some red pepper flakes, good parmesan cheese, and olive oil on top.  Broil until bubbly and golden. 

Goes GREAT with an earthy Pinot Noir, or bubbly Brut.  Enjoy! 

Seething

6 May

The Oregon Coast is known for many wonderful things: the fishing, logging, rugged and picturesque beaches, amazingly horizontal rain, and knock your socks of wind.  During the summertime, the berries are so abundant, juicy, wildly out of control, and ready to burst in the sunlight.  While hiking, the smells of nature overwhelm the senses, and the lavish growth provides oxygen in a way that only Vegas casinos try to mimic.  It’s almost blissfully intoxicating.

But then, there are specific facets of our little unique area that make Coastie wives, like many of us here, count down the days for the next tour orders.  Most of us have lived in many areas and, for better or worse, follow our devoted and honorable husbands to wherever their duties lead.  Some places are great, some are debatable due to preference and weather, and some, well, downright takes some getting used to.  Actually, some make us seethe.  We bubble, foam, and stir during needed girls’ nights, finding comfort not only in the local cuisine, but in each other.  I think this is typical girlfriend-venting fashion, and it is definitely in style in Coos Bay.

A while back, I met Chef Michael Chiarello at one of his retail stores in California.  He was very friendly and we spent a good deal of time chatting about my mom and The Lazy Susan, storytelling, cooking, and my blog (which is my favorite mixture of the latter two).  He also told me about how he cooks his asparagus – in a sauté pan with only a little water, a fat of some sort, s&p and that’s it.  Cook them over fairly high heat until the liquid is gone, and you are left with the most vibrant green, crisply tender asparagus to where even roasting can’t compete.  Well, being a true fan of roasting veg, I had to give it a try.

I have been cooking my asparagus, and many other sturdy veg (including springtime green beans) that way ever since.

Today, as I whipped up a quick lunch to eat in the backyard and soak up the extremely needed Vitamin D filled UV rays, I stared at my cooking green beans watching them jump, bubble, spit, and spat.  It was kind of a simple violent, yet exhilarating way to cook, the oil and water keeping true to their non-emulsifiable nature, yet continually working together until only the memory of a sheen remained in the pan.  A quick finger-poke-test, and sure enough, the veg was perfect.  How funny it is that a perfect result comes from such a bustling process.

The seethed green beans, concentrated with flavor, mixed with sliced SoCal strawberries (only the best), roasted chicken breast and the salty, tangy bite of shaved Manchego cheese, made the perfect Sunday afternoon spring lunch (and honestly, I think the sun made it even better).

The term for this type of cooking preparation is called seething.  It fits; heat and agitation and opposite viscosities mixing, releasing, venting, and finally leaving a very clear finish of comfort and joy.  Kind of like the girls’ night venting about the frustrations of our chosen/forced environment, over beautiful wine and delicious food.  It always ends with hugs and smiles, all around.

Chicken, Green Bean, & Strawberry Salad (serves 2)

  •  1 roasted chicken breast, roughly chopped (I bought the pre-roasted one from the grocery store… makes a quick meal so much easier!)
  • 1 handful green beans, woody end snapped off
  • 1 c strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 oz. Manchego cheese, shaved
  • juice ½ a lemon
  • ¼ c water
  • ¼ c grape seed oil
  • s&p

In a sauté pan, heat the water, oil, green beans, and s&p over med-high heat.  Stir occasionally, and let cook until all liquid is gone and the beans are tender. 

Slice the green beans on a bias, mix with the chicken and strawberries, and squirt the ½ a lemon over the salad.  Sprinkle with just a touch of fresh s&p, and top with the shaved Manchego cheese. 

Enjoy! 

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