April 23, 2018

Green Bean Salad with Speck and Hearts of Palm



Ingredients:

for the salad:
1 lb green beans, blanched and cooled
6 oz (drained) hearts of palm medallions, quartered*
1/2 red onion, cut into thin quarter moons
1 tablespoon nonpareil capers

dressing:
2 tablespoons prosecco white vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon
freshly ground black pepper


2 oz speck, torn into bite-sized pieces (could also use prosciutto)

Directions:

Place the salad ingredients in a bowl. Toss. Set aside. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Toss over green bean mixture. Serve immediately or refrigerate one hour. Garnish with speck prior to serving.

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish


*I found these in a pouch in brine at Trader Joe's, canned slices are fine as well. The medallions hold their shape and the slices will separate into rings.

My thoughts:
Local produce! Finally! I ordered my first all local box of the season last week. It's a little pricey but worth it when it has fruit and vegetables I actually want to eat. I don't get even the mixed (local and not) boxes in the winter unless it is something special like an unusual squash because I can find most of what's in them at Aldi or a regular supermarket. But finally, things are growing here! My guess is these green beans were grown in a greenhouse or some sort of shelter because it is still getting pretty close to freezing here at night. 

Anyway! I had actually gone to Trader Joe's, which I am not a fan of, because I was at that shopping center going to a Daffodil show  and thought why not and while there I saw these odd hearts of palm medallions. They are from a bit of the plant that is further down on the stem (?) so it doesn't split into rings like regular hearts of palm which is a little odd but fine by me. I am all for reduced food waste. Plus they came in a nifty resealable bag which convenient because I actually only made a half batch of this salad for the two of us. They added a slightly pickled flavor and some texture interest. I always stock up on speck when it is on sale during Aldi's German week. I just love the texture and the salty, smoky richness it gives to everything. It is a truly fancy-seeming side that comes together very quickly and can be made ahead a bit. Honestly, I say to refrigerate it up to an hour but the leftovers I had the last day were just fine. Simply add the speck when ready to serve. 


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April 19, 2018

Garlic Chive & Dill Shrimp Pasta Salad






Ingredients:
1  lb freshly steamed, peeled large shrimp, cut in half
2/3 cup chopped garlic chives
1/4 cup diced green onion
8 oz cooked, small pasta (I used regular old macaroni)

for the dressing:
3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2-3 teaspoons minced dill
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
salt
pepper

Directions:
Place the shrimp, chives, onion, and pasta in a large bowl. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.

Pour the dressing over the mixture and stir to coat.

My thoughts:
I made this shrimp and pasta salad a couple of weeks ago as a planned cold lunch for the day after I used shrimp in another dish for dinner to use up not only the shrimp but some green onions and garlic chives. It was really good but I didn't think about posting it until someone who saw it when I made it on Instagram sent me a message asking when I was going to post the recipe. Luckily I had been playing around with my camera that day and happened to have a picture of it.

The recipe is super easy but also very flavorful thanks to bold ingredients like dill and garlic chives. Garlic chives have become much easier to buy over the years, now pretty much any supermarket I go into sells them. I'm glad because they add such a nice garlicy flavor to dishes like this salad that you would not want to add raw garlic too.

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April 16, 2018

Crispy Pork Chop Sandwiches with Pickles and Coleslaw







Ingredients:

1 lb thin-cut boneless pork chops (about 1/4 inch thick)
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup breadcrumbs

spice mixture:
1 1/2 tablespoons ground mustard (powder, like Colman's)
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
freshly ground black pepper
salt

to serve:
1 1/2 cup prepared coleslaw
1/2 cup (drained) dill hamburger pickle chips
4-6 seeded buns



Directions:

NOTE: THIS MUST BE DONE THE 4-8 HOURS BEFORE COOKING

Whisk together the spice mixture.

Place half of the spice mixture in a resealable bag, reserve the rest for the breadcrumbs. Add the buttermilk, mustard powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic squish the bag around to evenly distribute all ingredients. Add the pork, seal. Refrigerate 4-8 hours.

When ready to cook:

Heat 1/2 inch canola oil in a large, heavy pan.

 Pour the breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl or plate, whisk in remaining spice mixture. Dredge the pork in the crumbs. Fry, turning once until golden brown and fully cooked about 2-4 minutes. Drain on paper towel-lined plates.

Place 2 chops on rolls, top with pickles and coleslaw. Serve immediately.


My thoughts:
The prolonged cold weather is really bumming me out. It's mid-April and still, none of my favorite spring vegetables are available locally. Sigh. So I've been trying to make more warm-weather-y foods like this sandwich while making do with cold weather hearty vegetables like cabbage and carrots. At least it tastes fresh and springy!

This is super easy to make, the buttermilk really clings to the pork so there is no need to dip it in egg--it can go straight into the seasoned bread crumbs and into the oil. Thin cut pork chops cook in literally 2 minutes so while it seems like a weekend recipe, you can totally make this on a weeknight.

I made the coleslaw but picked up some potato salad at the German deli to serve as a side to make things easier. Super flavorful sandwiches that are a little more fun than the typical. Pro-tip: place the pickles on top of the pork, then top with coleslaw for minimal mess when eating.

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April 11, 2018

Ras el Hanout Spiced Cauliflower with Tomato, Beans and Couscous




Ingredients:
6 oz dried couscous
1 medium-large cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 onion, cut into half moons
10 oz canned tomatoes with green chiles
14 oz canned Great Northern Beans, drained
1 tablespoon ras el hanout
1 tablespoon nonpareil capers
freshly ground black pepper
fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish



Directions:

Cook couscous according to package instructions*.

Meanwhile, saute the onion and cauliflower until both are soft and starting to brown, in a large skillet. Add the beans, tomatoes, spices, and capers and saute until warmed through. Stir in cooked couscous and cook briefly, until all is heated through and the liquid had evaporated. Garnish with parsley.



*I normally toss some lemon zest or lemon pepper seasoning and some dehydrated onions into the recommended broth or water.
My thoughts:
I've been off couscous for about a decade. I've made pearl couscous a few times but the tiny couscous? No thank you. I've even avoided it in restaurants but really, that has more to do with the fact that it often has other things, like raisins,  in it that I would prefer not to eat.

Anyway, I've decided to end this self-imposed embargo when inspecting a package of it at Aldi, I was reminded of how quickly it is to make, much quicker than pasta and rice. So I've been experimenting with it again.

Moroccan flavors are the obvious choice for this sort of couscous so I pulled out my trusty jar of ras el hanout (how awesome is it that McCormick makes it now and you can find it in the regular supermarket?) which always reminds me of Ra's al Ghul of DC Comic fame but isn't a supervillain but rather a mixture of a ton of aromatic spices and is popular in Northern African cuisine. I guess chickpeas would have been a natural choice but I'm a rebel and went with one of my old favorites, the Great Northern Bean but you could use chickpeas or cannellini beans if you wish. I used canned tomatoes with green chiles (i.e. Rotel, although I used a generic version) for some flavor and spice and my old friend cauliflower. The result was a well-spiced side or even main dish that was oddly tasty and satisfying.


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April 09, 2018

Buttermilk & Mustard Brined Pretzel Fried Chicken Bites



Ingredients:
1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (could also use breasts)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon ground mustard (powder, like Colman's)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
freshly ground black pepper
6 large sourdough hard pretzels (I used these)


Directions:

NOTE: THIS MUST BE DONE THE DAY BEFORE COOKING

Cut the thighs in half or bite-sized pieces. Place in a resealable bag. Add the buttermilk, mustard powder, pepper, and granulated garlic squish the bag around to evenly distribute all ingredients. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day:
Heat 1/2 inch canola oil in a large, heavy pan.

Break the pretzels into small pieces. Place in a food processor to pulse into crumbs. Pour into a shallow bowl or plate. Dredge the chicken bits in the pretzels crumbs. Fry, turning once until golden brown and fully cooked about 5-8 minutes. Drain on paper towel-lined plates. Serve immediately.


My thoughts:
I had these chicken thighs in the fridge for awhile and I had no idea what to do with them. To be honest, I don't love chicken. Creating recipes for my cookbooks, especially the healthier focused ones made me a bit tired of it. But it chicken thighs are exceedingly affordable and a lot more flavorful than chicken breasts so I find myself making them with some regularity. 

I had some leftover buttermilk from making cornbread to go with this soup so I thought maybe I'd make fried chicken but that seemed a bit dull. Then I thought I could spike the buttermilk with mustard to jazz it up then that made me think of pretzels and the rest was, well this recipe. 

It is as simple as making any breaded chicken but has the distinctive taste of pretzels and is surprisingly well-flavored throughout thanks to the mustard-buttermilk marinade. 


Another fun pretzel-mustard-chicken recipe: Pretzel & Mustard Spiked Chicken Burgers.

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April 05, 2018

Spinach Asparagus Smoked Salmon Quiche with a Crumb Crust






Ingredients:

for the crust:

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cup fresh breadcrumbs*


filling:

8 oz baby spinach (chop up any large bits)
1/2 cup chopped green onion
5 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 lb asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces
3/4 cup shredded Gouda
2 oz smoked salmon, chopped
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400.

In a medium bowl, stir together the crumbs and oil until the mixture sticks together

Press the mixture to form a crust in a pie plate or quiche pan or tart pan (I just use a Pyrex pie plate).  Bake 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Cool on wire rack.

Reduce oven to 325.


Meanwhile, saute the onion and greens in a small amount of oil or butter until the greens are wilted. Allow to cool to room temperature. In a medium bowl, whisk together* the milk, lox, cheese, asparagus, and eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into the pan.


Smooth it out and/or gently stir if you have any asparagus peeking up like I do above. Bake 45-50 minutes or until fully cooked. If there is water on the surface of the quiche when it is fully cooked, carefully blot it with a cloth or paper towel. Cool on wire rack.

*Well, they were fresh at one point, I made them and frozen them a while back from a loaf of locally made bakery cheese bread and defrosted them to make this.  Add 2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan to your breadcrumbs if you'd like them cheesy as well.

**I love my hand egg beater to get it really fluffy and well mixed.


My thoughts:
Quiche is a great way to use up vegetables to make something entirely new and perhaps even more interesting than the initial dish. I had some lox from the "everything bagel" deviled eggs and some odds and ends of vegetables to use up so why not make quiche? I didn't want to make a fussy crust so I used some fresh breadcrumbs to make a quick crumb crust.

I admit it, I was skeptical of the crust. However, now I am a total convert! It was dead simple and held together beautifully. It even seemed a bit rehydrated from the juicy filling. Who knew? I love a traditional crust of course but this was so tasty and so easy, I don't know if I will go back. Way less clean up and effort too. And it sliced like a dream! The first slice to the last came out absolutely perfect. I honestly think this might be the only way I make quiche from now on, it was that much of a game changer. The flavor was amazing too.

This is a super moist quiche thanks to the spinach and asparagus but it didn't get soggy--I did blot it when it came out of the oven to remove some water that had appeared on the top but the crust stayed crisp and firm. No soggy bottoms here, Mary Berry! The quiche had a fresh, springy taste and just a hint of smoke from the smoked salmon. Perfect for a spring picnic or lunch.

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April 03, 2018

Double Turnip Soup with Ham


Ingredients:

2 purple-topped turnips, cubed
1 1/2 cup cubed Russet potatoes (1-2 potatoes)
1 cup 1/4 inch dice garlic chives
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 cups large cubed ham*
2 quarts ham or chicken stock
freshly ground black pepper
fresh thyme
1 lb chopped turnip greens


Directions:
Saute the turnips, potatoes, garlic chives, garlic, onion, and ham in a large pot until the onion is translucent. Add stock and seasoning. Simmer the stock until the potatoes and turnips are tender. Stir in the greens and simmer for 20 minutes.


Serves: about 8

*I used this boneless ham.
My thoughts:
I love turnip greens! I was so excited to see pre-chopped turnip greens in the supermarket the other day. I prefer buying turnips with the greens attached but it isn't quite turnip season here yet and to be honest, cut greens are so much quicker when cooking on a weeknight and taste the same. I did have to buy my turnips separately but pretty much any supermarket sells them. The garlic chives are surprisingly easy to find as well but regular chives could be subbed in. If you can find them though the garlic chives add a subtle garlic flavor that pairs really well with the turnip greens.

For some reason, I don't think turnips are very popular. It's a shame because they have such a fresh peppery flavor and hold their shape in soups but also are great mashed. The greens have a peppery bite too and you can cook them pretty much as you would collards but you don't have to take the rib out before cooking them. They are milder than mustard greens too and can be used in any recipe that calls for them.

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