June 25, 2013
I was recently inspired to use fresh shiitake mushrooms and sweet onions- the result was this simple weeknight entree- pair with a light salad for a weeknight dinner with some flair! I was at the supermarket and I was struck by two things- I was looking for a bag of simple yellow onions- you know, your kitchen workhorses that can be used for so many different things- and there they were- a bag of sweet vidalia onions, and I thought, 'why not?!' it's summer- and I'll bet their sweetness will pair nicely with fresh, summer flavors. Then, in the mushroom section, there were some fresh shiitake mushrooms. I rarely see these, what about you? I see them dried all the time- but fresh they looked so inviting. So I bought them, too. I like to buy veal top round cutlets- they are very efficient, they are already ready to just jump in your pan and you can get dinner on the table in a snap. So, these three friends came home with us.
Veal Cutlets with Shiitake and Sweet Onions
(this amount of sauce is for 4 veal top round cutlets)
1/2 sweet vidalia onion, finely chopped
10-12 fresh shiitake mushroom caps
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp white wine (I used Soave)
4 veal top round cutlets (scallopine- the plural of scallopini, a thinly sliced cut of meat)
freshly ground black pepper
While the onions are sauteing, prepare your mushrooms. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels, using the slightly damp paper towels to remove any excess dirt. Remove the stems, you can usually just snap them off using your hands. Slice the caps into strips about 1/4" wide. They'll shrink a little when you cook them, they will be a little bigger than the onion pieces. Once the onions have been removed from the pan, melt the remainder of the unsalted butter and saute the mushrooms, trying to keep them in a single layer in the pan, do this for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Then, add the onions back into the pan, then the white wine. The white wine will cook away in about a minute, then your sauce it done, set aside.
June 14, 2013
|Strawberries in a hanging basket|
|This year's container gardening|
Fast forward to this summer! At about 10 1/2 months, baby girl started sleeping through the night. I felt like a new woman! All things suddenly seemed possible. It is absolutely amazing how much sleep deprivation can affect you. As I sometimes like to tell people, 'hey, it's a legitimate form of torture!' Ah, but we do it for such sweet little babies.
|Blooms on a red habanero pepper plant|
Well- I am trying again- there's no stopping me, I tell you. As I mentioned, we are renting our current house, and so I wanted to do everything in containers so we don't ruin any of the landscaping. So, we have a little stone patio and I have put planters out there where they can get enough sun. I tried to germinate seeds, and this was not as successful as it's been in the past- but I was using seeds from 2010 and 2011, so that could be a significant reason why. Forgetting about them for longer than I should could also be relevant... Anyway- what that means for this year is that I have primarily bought plants.
|Blooms on a Cherokee purple tomato plant|
This is a new step for me, because I really enjoyed growing my garden from seeds in 2011. Primarily because that meant I could get exactly what I wanted- and that was very special and many heirloom varieties, from Botanical Interests. The reason I like this company so much is that they seem to know what I want- varieties of tomatoes that are heirloom and authentic, and vegetable and fruit varieties that aren't widely available- as an example check out true cantaloupes. But- as I perused the plants in the Whole Foods parking lot one day, I was delighted to discover that with a little digging around, I COULD actually find many of the plants (but not all) that I truly wanted! Tomato varieties like Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple and San Marzano. In addition to these tomatoes, I bought golden bell pepper plants, red habanero plants, flat leaf parsley, chives, rosemary, mint and basil. That should keep me from having to buy fresh herbs for a while, right?
Here's to hoping :) Regardless of the gardening outcome- I will celebrate what victories I can- the basil and mint were used recently in this Tabbouleh recipe. I should qualify something I said earlier- I am attempting to grow two things from seeds, and this is a new group for me, edible flowers. I am growing Pansies and Nasturtiums. However, I'm not really following the directions strictly, so who knows if they'll ever come up. If they don't, I'll just go buy more herbs.
Filling the containers with dirt, planting the plants, and watering them is something your kids can help with- and I think it's really positive for them to start to understand where their food comes from. Although my son is a little picky in the eating department right now, he takes an interest in the plants and when I take off a mint leaf for him to smell, he willingly tastes it- which I don't think would happen if I tried to do that with store bought mint. The baby and I eat the strawberries.
|Handsome mint plant|
June 12, 2013
|Garlic and Rosemary Lamb with Wild Arugula Salad with Fresh Orange Juice Dressing|
We are all in need of simple, delicious and healthy weeknight dinners- are we not! This one is a snap. And yes, it is in the same mindset of lamb- my 'summertime meat,' truly! Even easier than the last one- which is also lamb kebabs, click here: Yogurt and Garlic Lamb and Tabbouleh. Let's begin!
Garlic and Rosemary Lamb
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
3 large garlic cloves, through a press or minced
3 pinches sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lb. lamb kebab pieces, trimmed of fat and 1 1/2-2" in size (enough for about 3 people)
|Rosemary, garlic, sea salt, black pepper|
|Lamb marinating with rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper|
Wild Arugula Salad with Fresh Orange Juice Dressing
(enough for 3 people)
4 cups (not tightly packed) wild arugula leaves
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped, measured after chopping
equal parts freshly squeezed orange juice and olive oil
pinch sea salt
freshly ground white pepper
This salad couldn't be easier- and, if you read the article, Breeding the Nutrition out of Food that was recently published in the NY Times- you'll want as much wild arugula as you can eat! Well, it's a little bitter, hence the slightly sweeter salad dressing. I was thinking that we so often use lemon or lime juice as the acid in salad dressing, why not orange? Freshly squeezed, of course!
|Salad dressing in a mason jar|
|Wild arugula salad with fresh orange juice dressing|
Wash and drain your arugula, use either paper towels to dry or a salad spinner. Dry salad greens are coated with dressing better than wet. Place the arugula in a wide, shallow bowl (easier to toss). Add the parsley. I wait until the meat is going to be grilled to dress the salad. When the meat is grilling, I add a little salad dressing and toss- adding a little salt and pepper. Remember, you can always add more salad dressing, so be cautious with the amount.
To grill the meat, heat a grill pan (or a real grill) over medium heat, spray with Pam grilling spray. I use a cast iron Le Creuset grill pan. Wait several minutes for the pan to heat up, and if you can, let the meat sit at room temperature for a little while, too- so it's not so cold when it hits the pan. I grilled mine for 6 minutes on 2 sides and then about 2-3 minutes more moving them to get all the surfaces browned.
|Lamb being grilled in a Le Creuset grill pan|
Enjoy! This was served with oven roasted sweet potatoes, but serve it with any starch or other vegetable you like!
June 8, 2013
|Yogurt and Garlic Lamb with Tabbouleh (without Onion)|
Lamb is probably my 'summertime meat,' something about the warmer weather makes me want to grill a lot of lamb! In addition to these kebab meat pieces, there is also ground lamb in my refrigerator right now- I predict lamb burgers with a yogurt mint sauce in our near future! When I crave lamb, I crave great sides- like a bright, lemon-y tabbouleh. If you're unfamiliar with tabbouleh, you can learn a little about it here: Wikipedia on Tabbouleh
I have a bit of a battle with regard to tabbouleh, I often find the onion overpowering. So, I thought, can I make a good tabbouleh without onion? Yes, yes you can! This one has a tiny bit of that type of flavor from some chives- if you want to up that factor, why not add more chives? In other news, did anyone else read the recent article in the New York Times about breeding the nutrition out of food? Check that article out here: NYTimes Breeding Nutrition out of Food This feels like one of the most important articles I have read in a long time- did it feel that way to you? What it made me want to do was to a) grow my own vegetables and have them be very, very obscure varieties, b) eat wild arugula at every opportunity and c) try to grow corn that wasn't originally radiated... But you know, I live in reality, and that reality includes a few things. For one, we are currently renting the house we are living in, and the area outside is nicely landscaped. I don't think they would let me have a mini cornfield. The only plants I am growing this year are all in containers. So I think maybe I can do b), the wild arugula a little more! In any event, in honor of this article, there is wild arugula in this tabbouleh, so hooray! (Another good article I read recently was in the NY Times magazine called 'The Secret Lives of Germs,' I can't link to it- by try a search on your own- it will make you want to get a dog.
|My morning helper|
In any event, let's make some good food, y'all! I started both of these dishes in the morning of the day I wanted to eat them. My 1 year old girl sat happily in her high chair while I did some of my prep work and my 3 year old son slept in late (not a typical occurrence!) Let's begin!
Tabbouleh (without Onion)
1 pint cherry heirloom tomatoes
3 Tbsp. olive oil
pinch sea salt (generous)
freshly ground white pepper (generous)
2 cups bulgur wheat (I used Bob's Red Mill brand: Bob's Red Mill Bulgur Wheat)
2 cups boiling water
4 small cucumbers, peeled and chopped, roughly 1 1/2 cups
1/2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground white pepper
10 fresh basil leaves, chopped finely
5 fresh mint leaves, chopped finely
1 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped finely
1/2 cup flat leaf (also called Italian) parsley, chopped finely (measured post chopping)
zest of 1 lemon using a microplane
juice of 2 lemons
1 handful wild arugula, chopped coarsely
3 Tbsp olive oil
|Satur Farms brand pint heirloom cherry tomatoes|
|We use a lot of olive oil! This Whole Foods tin lasts a while...|
|Heirloom cherry tomatoes before roasting|
|Heirloom cherry tomatoes after roasting|
This next step may blow your mind- how unbelievable easy this is- place your bulgur wheat in a wide bowl, and pour the boiling water over the bulgur wheat, stir, and let sit one hour. Seriously, this is all you do to it! Is is not your new favorite side dish? It is mine! If you're assembling the salad now, leave it out as you do the rest of the work, or store covered in the refrigerator until you're ready to assemble the tabbouleh.
|Bulgur wheat before boiling water is added|
|Adding boiling water to bulgur wheat|
I've given you also the amount of cucumbers these small 4 cucumbers yielded once peeled and chopped because you can use any type of cucumber. If you're looking for a great cucumber to grow, I would wholeheartedly recommend Lemon Cucumbers from Botanical Interests, they are delicious! I can't grow them right now, but the second I can, I will. Ok- place the cucumbers in a small bowl, and now prepare and add the basil, mint, chives, parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add the salt and pepper and mix.
|4 small cucumbers, peeled|
|Basil, Mint and Chives added, Flat leaf Parsley|
|Adding lemon juice|
Now, you are ready to incorporate everything together, combine the tomatoes (and any excess oil from their process), bulgur wheat and the vegetable/herb mixture. I just put everything in the wide bowl the bulgur wheat is in- it's easier to mix in a shallow, wide bowl. Use a spatula and fold it together. Add the olive oil. I add the wild arugula now, because I don't want it to get too bruised from mixing. I take a handful, rinse it, then coarsely chop it- it doesn't have to be as small as the herbs.
|Handful wild arugula|
|Tabbouleh being mixed|
Yogurt and Garlic Lamb
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt (I use Fage)
1 large garlic clove through a press- or finely minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 to 1.25 lb. lamb meat cut for kebabs (trimmed of fat and cut into cubes up to 2" across)
In a bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic and salt, mix together.
|Whole milk Greek yogurt, garlic and salt|
Add the lamb kebab cubes, and mix to coat. Refrigerate. I did this for 9 hours, but probably anything over a few hours will be just fine! When I was ready to cook them, I heated up a Le Creuset grill pan (cast iron pan with raised 'grill' marks. I heated it over medium to medium high heat and sprayed it with Pam grilling spray (for higher heat- don't use olive oil). Try to remove as much of the yogurt marinade as possible, use either just your fingers or a paper towel, or wipe the meat cubes on the lip of the bowl. Grill a few minutes on each side, I put 3 pieces of meat on a skewer and grilled 5 minutes on two sides and a few additional minutes on areas that hadn't yet gotten grill marks. You want the outside to look grilled, browned, and with a few nice, crunchy areas. When in doubt, cut a cube open and see how done they are- I like my lamb medium rare (pink inside, but not bloody).
|Yogurt and garlic lamb grilled in a grill pan|
June 5, 2013
|Potato Salad (Without Mayonnaise)|
This delicious potato salad uses an olive oil and white wine vinegar dressing instead of mayonnaise. Fear not, Southern friends, it still has mustard! It has the lovely additions of some cornichons and a few capers to make it nice and salty. Fire up your BBQ (we favor The Big Green Egg at our house) and get a nice crust on some rib eyes to go wtih this- yum!
Potato Salad (Without Mayonnaise)
3 lb. small red potatoes
2 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (I used Maille brand)
1/2 cup olive oil
8 cornichons, finely chopped
1 Tbsp capers, drained and finely chopped
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
freshly ground white pepper
|Potatoes before boiling|
To make the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, cornichons, capers and shallot. Some specifics here- Maille brand Dijon mustard is a little hot. If you are using a more mild version, add 1 1/2 Tbsp. If you like it on the hotter side, add 1 1/2 Tbsp (of Maille if you like!) Also, the onion increases in strength if this is eaten a few days later. So- if you plan to eat this right away, I'd probably use 1 1/2 Tbsp of mustard, and or substitute red onion instead of shallot. However, if you plan to eat this not right away, I would really steer clear of red onion- it seems to exponentially increase in strength while being stored in the fridge!
|Maille brand cornichons|
Cut the cooled potatoes into bite sized pieces. Place in a wide bowl (makes it easier to mix). Add the cooking water to either the vinaigrette or the potatoes- doesn't matter, they're all going to be one big happy family in a second. Add the vinaigrette (which I like to use a ball whisk to combine it first) and fold together. Add the pepper- I used probably 30 grinds of a small white pepper grinder. Taste, you may need a little more salt and pepper depending on a few factors (salted water for potatoes, amount of mustard, heat of shallot and or red onion).
Enjoy! This is a popular summer dish in our house. Try adding some crumbled cooked bacon- try it with a nice seared steak or grilled chicken. Leftovers of this salad are great, too!
|Summer fun in the kiddie pool!|
June 3, 2013
|Fun in Honolulu, Hawaii|
The Honolulu Zoo
Click here to visit their website
This is a great way to spend part of your day- the first thing we did when we arrived was to launch our Buzz Lightyear into the flamingo habitat. We were followed by a school group and as they passed we heard exclamations of 'Buzz!' and my 3 year old son asked if the flamingos were going to play with Buzz. We found a kind zookeeper who helped us retrieve Buzz, and his expression led us to believe this may not have been the first time the flamingo habitat had been invaded... The Honolulu Zoo has a nice petting zoo and a jungle gym play area- great for kids!
|The Honolulu Zoo's playground area|
Click here to visit their website
This is a great place to spend the morning- (they are only open Tues-Fri 9-1 and Sat & Sun 10-3). This is not really a museum, it's more like a large and well thought out play area for kids that is also educational. There is a play area and within that an area to contain the crawlers- here's the baby in there so you can see what I mean-
Outside the play area, there are play-acting type stations- here's our son pretending to be a fireman-
Pretty spiffy- coat hat and all- and you probably can't see it too well, there is even a Dalmatian stuffed dog at the station! It is complete with a fire house pole.
Here we are in a giant mouth- there's a little video that talks about the value of dental care. And, if you are so inclined, you can work on a car in the body shop-
While it's great in its own right- it is also air conditioned, and maybe one morning you just need that!
Click here to visit their website
Hanauma bay is a beautiful nature preserve (of a beach and its bay) and it is a great place to snorkel and see fish. However, if your child doesn't feel comfortable with having a mask on their face and putting their face in the water, you are still likely to be able to see fish feeding on the coral by wading into the water (this was the case with us, my son didn't want to wear the mask, but we were still able to see quite a few fish). Visiting Hanauma bay takes a little planning and execution, though, you need to arrive fairly early in the morning (I think we arrived at 8 am or so). The reason you need to arrive early is that they limit the number of visitors every day and once they have reached their quota, they won't let you in, so get there early! Also, you'll need to wait at the top and watch a video that talks about the history of the bay, protection of it, and how to respect the environment and animals, etc. Then, you need to get from the top to the bottom. This is a relatively steep walk which will seem just fine on the way down, but going up is harder, so I'd recommend spending just a few dollars on the trolley service that will take you up and down (why not!) You can rent snorkel equipment, I believe, but relative to what it costs to buy it, you may opt to buy it beforehand. Try any Long's location, enter your Hawaii zip code on this website: Longs Store Finder. Longs Drugs is the Hawaii drug store chain that is now a part of CVS- so if you have a CVS card, you can use it there. Longs Drugs also has a tremendously good selection of false eyelashes.
|Ready to get in the water at Hanauma Bay|
Click here to visit their website
This is a great beach park for kids- and it's likely to be less crowded than any Waikiki beach. Plus, it's just across the street from Ala Moana shopping center- so hit Mariposa for lunch at Neiman Marcus, which overlooks Ala Moana beach park, and then relax at the beach! The water is very calm and very shallow, so it's really well suited for beginning swimmers and non swimmers that just feel comfortable wading.
|Look! We found a mermaid on the beach!|
|No mermaid, don't eat that!|
|Fun with Auntie!|
Click here to view their website
Although not very big, this is a good aquarium, complete with jellyfish, tropical fish and sharks! It is usually not too crowded and it's size may be ideal for little ones without very long attention spans...
Click here to view their website
Last, but most certainly not least- why didn't I lead with this?! Leonard's Malasadas. A malasada is a hole-less doughnut, brought to Hawaii by the Portuguese. The traditional, plain variety is rolled in granulated sugar- but there is also a cinnamon sugar option (delicious). While they do offer 'filled' malasadas, with choices including chocolate, haupia (coconut), mango, etc., I'd recommend plain or cinnamon. It is hard to improve on that... (There's also an option called Li Hing, which is a flavor often used on 'crack seed,' which is a term for Hawaiian snacks including crackers, dried fruit, dried cuttlefish, etc. Li Hing is a bit of an acquired taste- it's kind of salty sweet, so try it before you commit to a dozen malasadas...) But, these are delicious. Get yourself to Leonard's at least one morning of your visit.
June 1, 2013
|Candied meyer lemon and orange slices|
Candied Meyer Lemon and Orange Slices
1 meyer lemon
1 navel orange
3 cups water
3 cups sugar (white granulated)
additional 1/3 cup sugar
a rack for drying
What I wanted to do, which I had never done before, was to candy whole slices instead of just the peel. So, I cut the meyer lemon in half (lengthwise) first, then made thin slices (about 1/4 of an inch), discarding end pieces that had the stem. For the navel orange, which was bigger, I made quarter slices, cutting the orange in half first, then in quarters, then slicing.
Something very interesting happened in our house while I was slicing the fruit. My three year old son wanted to help, so I put him on my lap and sliced them at the kitchen table. I gave him the job of putting the sliced fruit into the ice water bath, which was in a bowl in front of the cutting board. (I would slice the fruit and then gently remove any seeds, then he would place them in the ice bath). He was very interested in the orange slices, so I showed him how he could eat a few, which he did. Why this is so interesting is that this boy currently has an incredible aversion to fruit and vegetables in their natural form- we have compensated in creative ways! Anyhow, I was delighted to have found something he would actually eat in its natural form- and yes, I did go out shortly after that and bought more oranges! Exciting for us :) (Ironically, he ate pretty much anything we fed him as a baby, but has since become sort of picky. So I take whatever small victories I can.)
|Sliced meyer lemons and oranges before being candied|
|Fruit slices after being blanched|
In the same heavy pot, combine 3 cups water and 3 cups white sugar. Heat over low for 5 minutes to dissolve, them bring to a boil (I would recommend medium heat as opposed to high heat, this is easy to burn). Stir occasionally, and take the temperature with a digital thermometer. Now I know a lot of candying recipes recommend a candy thermometer, and although I've done that before, the issue I have there is that the pot heats unevenly and unless you are moving the contents around, you have hot and cool pockets. So, I like to use a digital thermometer and move it around the pot so I get a more accurate picture of the overall temperature. Ok- so you want this sugar syrup to reach 210 degrees fahrenheit, this maybe takes 15-20 minutes. Now- reduce the heat to low and add the peel. Simmer for 40 minutes (at the low heat), and then turn the burner off. Leave this uncovered for 12 hours. Uncovered!? Yes- but for those of us on the squeamish side, that don't want any unwelcome visitors to the pot, put a colander over it (you'll feel better).
|Colander over the pot|
The next morning (after 12 hours), heat again- but start the heat out at medium low- it's easy to burn this if you're not cautious. Heat again until the temperature is 215-220 degrees fahrenheit- again using the digital thermometer in multiple places in the pot. Let it sit another 12 hours until the evening.
That evening, 1 full day since you started, heat it again, starting out medium low, and boil until the syrup reaches 230 degrees fahrenheit. So- this step I had a bit of a problem, I turned the burner on and forgot about it for a while- maybe 45 minutes. So- my temperature was more like 235 and even 240 in some spots, but it turned out ok- only lost a few pieces because they were too hard. So, don't forget about it like I did! So- turn off the heat again, after you've reached the desired temperature, and let it stand for another 12 hours, cover it if you would like.
Now- Thursday morning (if you started Tuesday evening), heat the syrup at low until it's liquefied enough to remove the pieces with tongs and place them gently on a rack. If you have a rack that fits over a cookie sheet, that's ideal, because the pieces will drip syrup and it's probably easier to clean the cookie sheet than your counter- you can also place waxed or parchment paper below and then just throw it out.
|Candied Meyer lemon and orange slices on drying rack|
Let the pieces dry on the rack for 24 hours (yes, seriously!) They will be really sticky at first and then less sticky- but still sticky. Try to prevent passing toddlers from eating too many.
Now- as carefully as you can, remove them from the rack (the internal parts of the slice are delicate, and you want them to retain their shape as much as possible). On a plate, place the 1/3 cup of sugar and roll each slice in the sugar until fully coated. Place on waxed paper and allow to dry for an additional 6 hours.
|Candied citrus slices being rolled in sugar|
|Candied citrus slices being stored with waxed paper|
Enjoy the start to summer! We have been enjoying warmer weather here in the northeast!