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Posts from the ‘Recipes’ Category

rhubarb apple tart & tulips on the table

we all bring something to the table. what are our gifts? what of ourselves do we decide to grow and then share? what love language do we speak? do we learn to speak another’s? how well do we listen?

my husband learned years ago that i love flowers. in the beginning he would order elaborate flower arrangements (full to overflowing) and have them delivered to the door. then, somewhere along the line, he learned i like simple, and all of one thing. and now, he brings me bundles wrapped in paper, wound with string, carried in his own man arms. and sometimes, after days away, blooms are there, welcoming me home again.

if you’ve been with me awhile, you’ve heard of my fear of pie. (more truly, it was fear of a colossal-y failed crust.) i’ve done truly brave things in my life (i’ll even cop to a “reckless” act or two) but pie crust? why and how this fear (irrational to begin with) grew to be such a beast, you might guess. but for years i steered clear of the rolling pin. then, only fairly recently, i decided to stand toe to toe with that tiger, stare unflinching into his golden eyes.

that tiger walks beside me now, purring like a kitten. and finally (and this is reason enough to take on a tiger) i can make my love his apple pie.

Apple Rhubarb Tart

I’ve shared my recipe for a tart shell in an earlier post. (see French Lemon Tart if you want to be tempted!) I’ll include the crust recipe here too, at the end of the post. I’d like to be humble about this, but after years of being humble, to finally be proud seems like something worthy of sharing. So here’s the un-softened, un-humble truth. This crust is   a.w.e.s.o.m.e.

A word about the filling: I grew up eating and loving rhubarb. To me, it’s a thing of spring. So as a base for this pie is a thick rhubarb “compote” of sorts – the liquid cooked out of it and nothing but the essence of the fruit remaining, lightly sweetened, imbued with the scented seeds from a vanilla pod and touched with a hint of cardamon. Apples, rolled in melted butter and brown sugar twirl across the top. Serve as is, warm from the oven, with or without ice-cream or crème fraîche. Or serve it chilled. It’s not too sweet for brunch or tea.

the Fillings

the rhubarb

  • 1 pound rhubarb stalks
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar or muscavado
  • 1/3 vanilla bean
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

the apple

  • 2 apples – Granny Smith or Pink Lady are good (or any other apple that will hold its shape while cooking)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar or muscavado

Wash the rhubarb stalks. Split in half lengthwise, then cut into pieces about 1/2-inch or smaller. Put in a medium-size heavy pot. Split the piece of vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds, adding both the pod and seeds to the pot. Drop in the brown sugar and cardamom.

Place the lid on the pot and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until saucy. (No water in this compote – the low heat will encourage the rhubarb to release its own moisture.)

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home again home & whole fruit margaritas

Here is what I know:

These 9 days away have been some of  the most

  indescribably JOYOUS, smile and laugh and love til you split wide open of days!

~ and ~

I’ve missed the man I love! I’ll soon be home! And waiting will be:

he

fish tacos

& whole fruit margaritas

Whole-Fruit Margaritas

¼ cup water

1 whole succulent navel orange, peel removed

1 ripe & extremely tart lemon, rind removed

1 juicy lime, peel-less

¼ cup sugar

6 ounces tequila

2 ounces Grand Marnier

6 cups ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and process until margarita-ish.

Moisten the rim of 2 glasses with fresh lime.

Dip in salt.

Fill nearly to the brim with margarita!

kiss!

xo

muffin madness

It’s time I told you of some plans. On Wednesday April 4th I’ll be heading out of town, gone for 9 days. Gone to meet, to hold and to fall in love with our family’s newest and littlest little. Besides nuzzling of soft powdery neck and losing my heart again, I’ll be preparing some meals, hiding-and-seeking, story-telling and tending to Ali, the  littles’ mama.

In anticipation, yesterday was largely spent in the kitchen, making muffins (and more & more muffins) and two batches of granola. We’ll all be pretty busy at breakfast time, so a bowl of yogurt topped with fruit and crunchy granola, or nutritious muffins in one hand and baby in the other will put us one leg up on the day.

GratefulGuineaPig is out of town and comes home in the afternoon of the same morning I leave. Our ships will pass in the night, so I’ve left him some muffins for breakfast too.

Earlier I posted a recipe for the Morning Glorious Muffins. You can find them here.

In the basket, Morning Glorious Muffins.

Earlier I posted a recipe for the above muffins. You can find them here.

But the muffin I’m about to share with you is ta-da   G l u t e n   F r e e.  That matters to an increasing number of eaters out there. And what I’m discovering in sampling some of these g-f recipes is that the baked goods that result are extremely Tender & surprisingly Delicious! A number of them win the taste test over traditional flour recipes, with hands tied behind their backs. (I’d have lost good money if I’d bet on that one.) Here’s one plucked from the pages of La Tartine Gourmande that I thought you’d like!

Millet, Oat & Apple Muffins

 Made with a combination of flours –

Quinoa flour – wheat-free, gluten-free, an ancient grain that adds a richness of flavor as well as a complete protein.

Millet Flour – one of the earliest cultivated grains (5,000 years ago in China!) it has a sweet flavor, high in amino acids and fiber and contributes a delicate, cake-like crumb to the baked goods it’s in. Again, easily digested and gluten-free.

Add in Gluten-Free Rolled Oats, tahini, grated apple, and this muffin packs a nutritional wallop and starts the day off right. 

Millet, Oat & Apple Muffins – Gluten-free

makes 10 muffins

  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup (80 g, 2¾ oz.) Muscovado sugar (or substitute with brown sugar)
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini (sesame butter)
  • 3½ tablespoons (50 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (60 g, 2 oz) millet flour
  • ¼ cup (30 g) quinoa flour
  • ½ cup (50 g) rolled oats, plus more for topping
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (175 g, 6 oz) finely grated pink lady apples or substitute (peeled & cored)

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a muffin tin with 10 paper muffin cups, or use silicone muffin molds.

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a braided bread for special occasions – made easy with a food processor

This bread has been a favorite around our house for years. There’s hardly ANY time at all in the actual preparation. No muscles required, no sporty (red or otherwise) stand mixer to pull out of its cupboard. Just a food processor and a couple simple ingredients and you’re in the bakin’ business. Of course, like all yeasted breads, there’s time spent loitering around. You design what form your loitering will take, but here’s how to make the bread – so easy, you might confuse it with play. First, I’ll give of all the instructions for the basic braided loaf (in the style of Challah, a Jewish egg bread.) Then I’ll show you how to adapt it so as to end up with a Greek-style festive Easter bread.

Glaze

1 large egg

½teaspoon salt

Bread:

 1 scant Tablespoon dry Yeast (1 pkg)

3 Tablespoons Sugar  

2/3 cup Water (105° to 115º F) —See NOTE 

Bread Flour – 3 cups (15 ounces, 425 g) or more

¼ cup Safflower or other neutral-tasting oil — See NOTE on Ingredients

2 large Eggs

1 teaspoon Salt

Poppy or Sesame seeds (optional)

________

NOTE: Milk brought to temperature may be substituted for the water. Melted butter may be used in place of the oil. Both of these substitutions will result in a richer loaf.

Braided Bread

(makes 2 loaves)

In the bowl of the processor, whir the egg and salt together, then pour into a small cup and reserve. No need to wash the work bowl.

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Easter bread – a Greek tradition

This is the bread traditionally made for Greek Easter, and much like the one our Yaya would bring to the table.

Yaya’s kitchen had a converted wood oven, marbled-linoleum floors, tall ceilings covered in tin tiles, and smelled like nothing you’ve likely ever breathed — but should have! I remember, as a young girl, standing in her kitchen, watching in utter fascination as she – wearing an apron over one of her always-black dresses –  would gently wrestle huge batches of dough, her stocky arms covered in flour, her hair wound in blonde-white braids around her head, her face serene. Four boys in that family, and they ate a lot of bread. And we did too, whenever we visited our Yaya and Papou.

I don’t have my yaya’s recipe for bread. But Yaya didn’t have or use recipes. How to make bread was in her body somewhere. She didn’t think it or measure carefully. She poured from glass bottles, scooped with bare hands, smelled and felt and knew when things were right.

This isn’t Yaya’s recipe, but it’s as close as I could come. It’s a brioche-type loaf – tender-crumbed, buttery, with a hint of anise and orange, absolutely delicious. The red egg is optional of course, but quite pretty nestled in its sesame-strewn, braided nest. If you decide to use one in yours, insert it between the twisted or braided ropes after it’s risen but before the egg-wash and sesame seeds have been added. You can insert the egg either uncooked or hard-boiled, but it’s typically not eaten after its baked with the bread.

In a separate post to follow tomorrow, I’ll be sharing a recipe for a – quick & easy – alternative to this loaf.  It’s a Challah that I’ve made for years using the food processor, but with slight variations for this occasion.) 

Easter Sweet Bread – Tsoureki

the recipe can be doubled for 2 Tsourekia

  • ½ cup warm water
  • the zest from 1/2 large orange
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup warm milk
  • ½ cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  •  1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cube unsalted butter (1/4 cup) – melted
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 extra large egg, well-beaten
  • ½ t. anise extract
  • 2½ to 3 cups unbleached white flour
  •  1 egg white, well beaten
  • sesame seeds for the top
  • 1 red-dyed Easter egg (optional)

Using a microplane zester if you have one, remove only the zest of ½ orange.  Finely chop the zest and add it to the warm water and olive oil in the bowl of your mixer. Add the warm milk and combine well with a whisk. (It’s important that the zest be very fine here so as to fully infuse the bread with delicate flavor, but no chunks of peel. If you don’t have a microplane, I recommend you put the first three ingredients in a blender first, then add them, along with warm milk, to the bowl of your mixer.)

In a separate bowl, combine the ½ cup flour,  1 T. sugar, the yeast and salt. Add slowly to the wet mixture of the previous step, whisking as you go, until all is well-combined. Set in a warm draft-free place to proof for 20 minutes.

Fit the stand mixer with paddle attachment and return the bowl to the mixer. Turn on low speed, and slowly add the flour. (Yaya knew the amount of flour is always variable in a bread recipe. It’s going to depend on how you measure both wet and dry ingredients, the humidity, the size of your eggs, etc. Last time I made this, it took nearly 3 cups, but if you add too much, your bread will be lacking in tenderness, which would be such a shame!  Add the final ½ cup gradually, as needed. You’ll want to add enough flour so that the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and starts to rise up on your beaters.The final dough should have the feel of a baby’s soft bottom. If that helps??  It’s really not tricky!)

Increase the speed of your mixer slightly and knead for 4 minutes until the dough becomes silky.  (If you don’t have a stand mixer you can do all of this by hand. Because there’s no whole-grain in this recipe, this is not a difficult one to knead – and there are times when kneading just feels so right!)  Take the dough and all its little bits from the bowl, form into a nice ball and return it back to the bowl to rise. Cover  and set in a warm place to double – about 40 minutes. (One nice environment is in your oven – no heat! – just fill another bowl with hot water and put it inside the oven along with your bowl of dough. Or you can rest it on a sunny ledge – if you live in one of those places where the sun shines!)

Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured board. (Or if you like, you can lightly grease it instead.) Roll into a long rope with your hands. Pick up the two ends of  your ropes and set them down close to you. Now, just draw one end of the rope over the other, then under, then up over again. (All you’re really doing is making two complete twists.) Gently squeeze the ends together.

The halfway mark where you first folded the rope is where the egg will eventually nestle. But not yet. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and set in a warm place to double in size, another 40 minutes to an hour approximately.

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spreenkle #6

With Easter 10 days away, now seems like a good time to talk

Eggs!

Separating whites from yolks – contrary to what you watched your mother do, it’s not the best idea to separate using the shell. Why? Eggs can transport that nasty nasty salmonella bacteria – where would you see those little uglies lurking?  yup. The shell.

A better (safer) way – there are several:

1. Use your (clean) hands – break the egg into the palm of your hand, gradually open your fingers enough to allow the white to slip between them into the bowl beneath, while the yolk stays put. 10-year-old Sicily especially loved this method! It’ll work even better when her hands are 12. 🙂  Wash your hands well after. I know, not YOU, but somebody out there’s going to forget, lick their fingers and get real ugly-sick. 

2. Break the whole egg into a bowl. Using a slotted spoon, dip into the bowl, lifting the yolk and gently transferring to a separate bowl. (Don’t try to do this with multiple eggs at once, unless … well, just don’t.) 

3. Use a slotted tool specifically made for this purpose. There are a number of them on the market if that’s your pick. From $6.00 to something ridiculously more. While on topic, I must include this : years ago my sister-in-law bought me an oogley critter-head, cup-shaped, made of pottery. It has a rather wide frowning slit for a mouth. Break the egg inside, tip him over a bowl and he drools egg whites.

I alternate between using my hands and the ogre. My psychiatrist thinks I was repressed as a child and wasn’t allowed to play with my food enough. But honestly, who DID? Good news: I’m on meds. They’re helping.  😉   Would love to hear your method.

The perfect hard-boiled egg – 

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spreezza!

Oh, you’ve not heard of it? Spreezza’s that immensely popular little dessert pizza, covered with marscarpone cheese, topped with juicy fresh fruits, drizzled with  some delectable sauce or other, some even scattered with herbs. Oh, you’ve not heard of them?  I guess I must have made it up.

It begins with a good pizza dough….

This No-Knead Pizza Dough is bubbly, chewy, crispy and better than you’ll find at most pizza parlors. It can be used for ALL manner of pizzas – nothing at all about it restricts it to the dessert realm – in fact I’m the one who’s taken it there. It’s a take on the now-famous No-Knead Bread of Jim Lahey (owner of Sullivan St. Bakery in NYC) who introduced it a number of years back to rave reviews. I posted the bread late last year but if you missed the post and would like to take a look, you can check it out hereThis pizza dough, like the bread that inspired it, derives its wonderful complex flavor from its overnight fermentation. So the only thing you have to consider moving forward is to start it the day before you plan to enjoy it.

Now if you’ve got a hankering for a spreezza and you don’t want to wait til tomorrow, you can always begin with a store-bought dough (Trader Joe’s has a very good one), skip all this that I’m about to tell you about the dough, and move quickly to the spreezza recipe further down. But you might want to return to this dough another time, because it really is wonderful.

~ ~ ~

(Each of the following 10 to 12″ pizzas will make about 4 portions of dessert, 2 slices per person. About the same amount would hold true if being served for brunch with accompanying eggs and/or meats and other items. For breakfast, I’d allow more per person…maybe half a Spreezza per person. You can halve the recipe easily if you like. Or make the whole thing, break it into portions, wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days to use in other ways…like a traditional pizza. Or stay tuned because I’ve got another fun idea coming up very soon! Flavor and texture of the dough will not suffer at all for the extra time spent in the fridge. If you want to wrap and chill ahead, just allow 2 to 3 hours once they come out of the fridge for unwrapped dough balls to rest before forming into pizza pies.)

No-Knead Pizza Dough

makes six 10″ to 12″ pizzas

(about 20½ hours, with only 90 minutes active time)

  • 7½ cups all-purpose flour (3 lb. 1.5 oz. or 1000 grams) plus more for shaping loaves later
  • 4 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon active dry yeast

Half recipe of the No-Knead Pizza Dough

makes three 10″ to 12″ pizzas

  • 3¾ cups all-purpose flour plus more for shaping loaves later (1 lb. 14 oz. or 850 kg.)
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast

Whisk flour, salt and yeast in a medium bowl. While stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually add 3 cups water (1½ cups if halving the recipe!). Stir until well incorporated. Mix dough gently with your hands to bring together  and form into a rough ball. Transfer to a large clean bowl. Cover with plastic and allow the dough to rise at room temperature in a draft-free place until the surface is covered with tiny bubbles and dough has more than doubled in size. About 18 hours time, though time will vary depending on the temperature of the room. 

Transfer dough to a floured work surface. Gently shape into a rough rectangle. Divide into 6 equal portions (or 3 if halving the recipe.) Working with 1 portion at a time, gather 4 corners to the center to create 4 folds. Turn seam-side down and mold gently into a ball. Dust the dough with flour; set aside on the work surface or floured baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining portions.

Let the dough rest, covered with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, until soft and pliable, about 1 hour.

To Bake the Pizza Dough

During the last hour of the dough’s resting, prepare the oven. If using a pizza stone, place a rack in the upper third of the oven, put the pizza stone on it and preheat oven to its hottest setting, 500° – 550°F (260° – 290°C.) (If using a baking sheet, no need to preheat that.)

Working with 1 dough piece at a time, dust the dough generously with flour and place on a floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a 10″ to 12″ disk (25-30 cm.)

If using a pizza stone – Sprinkle a pizza peel or rimless (or inverted rimmed) baking sheet lightly with flour. Place dough disk on the peel or prepared baking sheet, and, using back-and-forth movements, slide pizza from peel onto the hot pizza stone. Bake the pizza, rotating halfway through, until the bottom crust is crisp and the top is blistered, about 5 – 7 minutes total. If using this pizza dough for a Spreezza, brush with melted butter when you rotate the pizza. 

Spreezza! 

(pronounced spreé-tza)

Now, here is where this whole thing turns so fun! I’ll give guidelines for 2 versions here. I’ll share others as seasonal fruits appear. This isn’t science. This isn’t hard-and-fast measurements. This is Playing with Food! 

for each 10-12″ pizza, you will want – approximately:

Marscapone Layer

  • Marscarpone cheese – 8 ounces
  • zest of ½ lemon (about 1 Tablespoon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons (to 3 tsp.) powdered sugar

Berries

  • Fresh strawberries – ½ – ¾ cup, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons (to 3) powdered sugar (for strawberries)
  • zest of ½ lemon added to strawberries
  • Fresh raspberries – ½ cup
  • Fresh blueberries – ½ cup
  • lemon thyme – a couple sprigs
  • blueberry balsalmic vinegar – or good quality aged balsamic vinegar
  • OPTIONAL: Additional Powdered Sugar, sifted – you may want this especially if you’re serving for dessert as opposed to a brunch or breakfast


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Spreenkle #4

It’s snowing big fluffy rabbits here today. Went to bed with rain pouring thunderously on our roof so loud we could barely hear one another, but woke to 5 inches of pristine white silence covering our patio. So, out of exhilarated appreciation for the quiet beauty of this day, I’m keeping it white.

Have you ever enjoyed buttermilk, freshly bottled from a local dairy? When I was girl, my grandfather (we called him Big Papa and he was indeed bigger than life in many ways) had a dairy farm on the coast in Washington state. Sweet-faced Jersey cows, each one with a name, would line up in the milking barn twice a day. One of these days I’ll share some stories of what life on that farm was like. It was so much MORE than a dairy farm, but I don’t want to give it all away in a little Spreenkle. I remember though, on the tile counter of the old farm house, sat bottles of milk, their skinny necks filled with the sweet cream that had risen. And I remember too the taste of fresh buttermilk our grandma would make.  And occasionally a treat. A milkshake maker, the color green of the day, with its cloth-covered cord and its dented steel container would be pulled from its cupboard and set on the counter. Into it went fresh, chilled whole-buttermilk and orange sherbet. Whirrrr! Pour! Straw! Slurp! Pure deliciousness!

It’s not easy to find a truly wonderful buttermilk in our markets. But we can Make it! And it’ll be wonderful. I’m not talking here about the “trick” of adding vinegar or lemon juice to milk to simulate the real thing when we’ve run out. Read more

a pizza-sorta

kinda Greek-a.

It all begins with our blogging buddy Chicago John’s Spianata. (He’s no stranger to many of you. But if somehow life has passed you by and you’ve never visited his warm Italian home kitchen, come in out of the cold, take off your coat, pull up a chair, smell what’s steaming on the stove and get ready for something like love at first sight.)

For the Spianata dough…if you follow the link above, it’ll take you right there, and John’s background on a dish is always nearly as savory and delightful as the dish itself. But I’ll also provide the recipe here so you don’t have to continually flip back and forth. It’s much like a focaccia, thick, dimpled, moist, pungently olivey. It develops its flavor slowly, with the yeasty “sponge” left overnight, and the dough finished the following day. The way I chose to make this dish is to bake the herb-scattered dough in a hot oven, adding the toppings when it comes out, still steamy hot – the sweet caramelized onions, the roasted small tomatoes, the leaves of baby spinach, the Kalamata olives, the shavings of Feta, and a scattering of Mediterranean herbs. Drizzled with a bit (more) olive oil and a sprinkling of balsamic – it’s sweet and savory and devastatingly delicious! 

The Dough

For the sponge

  • 1 cup flour (5 ounces)
  • 1 cup warm water (approx. 110°F)
  • 1 tsp active yeast

For the finished dough

  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour (10 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoons dried mint
  •  ½ teaspoon dried oregano

Pour water into a small-medium bowl and add the yeast; allow yeast to dissolve and for a bubbles to begin forming on the surface.  Add the flour to make the sponge, mix well, cover, and set aside at room temperature. The sponge should be allowed to rise for at least 8 hours but no more than 20. 12 to 16 hours is usually best. When you ‘re ready to proceed, the sponge’s surface should be mottled with bubbles and it should have a strong yeast scent. (yum!)

To the sponge, add the flour¼ cup of the olive oil and the salt. Knead dough for 5 to 7 minutes. The consistency of the dough should be neither sticky nor dry…the “test” I use is to grab hold of the dough with an open hand, hold it firmly for a few seconds…if when you remove your hand the dough almost wants to cling to it but releases without actually sticking, it’s about perfect. If not this, then add water by the drop-ful or flour by the teaspoonful.  It’s been kneaded enough when the dough is soft and supple, smooth and elastic, and when you press it with a knuckle the dough springs right back at you.) 

Place the finished dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and allow it to rise until doubled – depending on the warmth of your kitchen and a couple other factors, this will take from 1 to 2 hours.  While the dough is rising, prepare all the other ingredients, for which you’ll find instructions below.

Punch the dough down, turn it out onto a floured work surface and cover with a towel. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes. This rest relaxes the dough, making it more pliable.

Pour the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil into a 9 x 12-inch pan, covering the entire bottom of the pan.

After the resting period, place dough onto the pan and, using your fingers, begin stretching it to fit the pan. When it covers about 2/3 of the pan, flip the dough over and continue stretching until the entire pan is covered and there’s enough dough to create a ridge around the pan’s edge. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled again, about 1 hour.  20 Minutes before it’s ready, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and 1 teaspoons dried mint and ½ teaspoon dried oregano. Place it in the preheated oven on the middle rack and back for about 25 minutes. It should be lightly browned. Remove from the oven and top immediately with the toppings in the following order.

The Toppings

Baby Spinach Leaves

Caramelized Onions

Roasted Tomatoes

Kalamata Olives (allow to come to room temp. or gently heated)

Feta Cheese (thinly sliced or crumbled)

a small handful of whole parsley leaves

Aged Balsamic Vinegar

A drizzle more Olive Oil

You’ll want approximately  1 cup each of the spinach leaves, olives, and feta. Instructions for the caramelized onions and tomatoes follow.

“Sun”-dried or Roasted Tomatoes

  • ½ pound to 1 full pound cherry tomatoes (1 pound will leave you quite a few extra to use as you like. They’ll keep in the fridge for at least a week.)
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly-ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon (or more) dried mint leaves
  • olive oil (about 2 teaspoons per pound tomatoes)
  • balsamic vinegar (about 2 teaspoons for 1 pound tomatoes)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mint. Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic over top.

Bake until edges have begun to brown and juices have started to caramelize beneath them. (About 30 to 40 minutes.)

Caramelized Onions (& Garlic)

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 (or 2) cloves garlic, minced

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a dinner for lovers

Yesterday’s post explained why this is what’s for our Valentines dinner…it’s quick and easy to prepare, colorful, pretty, sensuous, light in the stomach, delicious in the mouth. Tomorrow morning I’ll lay out a schedule for how to get it from kitchen to table in under an hour. That will be easy as pie if you just spend maybe 10 or 15 minutes of light prep work the night before. (Tomorrow or Sunday will also bring another option for dessert.)

~ ~ ~

A reminder of the menu:

To whet (& wet) the Appetite:

Passion Fruit Cocktails for Two

Stacked Crab Bistro Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

Dinner:

Seared Sesame-Encrusted Ahi Tuna

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

oh-so Forbidden Rice

Dessert:

a sweet multitude of options

~ ~ ~

A very little time spent prepping the vegetables the night before will make this dish a breeze.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

  • ½ pound sugar snap peas
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil (I love toasted sesame oil for this, but not necessary)
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced shallots
  • ¼ pound shiitake mushrooms, (stems removed & discarded) – sliced
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons ginger, thinly sliced & sliced again into matchsticks
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon soy sauce or Tamari
  • 1 Tablespoon cooking sherry
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter

Wash the snap peas and remove their strings, if any. Put a pot on to boil, add salt. Have a colander in the sink and a bowl of ice-water close by. When the water comes to a boil, add peas. Cook for only 1½ to 2 minutes. (You want peas to be bright green and crispy, nearly tender.) Empty into colander. Transfer peas to bowl of ice water for one or two minutes to cool. Remove from water. Place in a clean kitchen towel, and roll and pat to dry. (At this point you can put them in a plastic bag and put in the refrigerator if you’re preparing ahead.) Otherwise set aside as you prepare the other ingredients.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and slice fairly thinly. Cut the ginger into tiny “matchsticks”.  (Whether you opt for 1 or 2 tablespoons is entirely dependent on your love and tolerance of spicy warm ginger.) Thinly slice the shallots.

Heat the canola and sesame oils in a good-size skillet over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add the shallots and, stirring constantly, cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the ginger. Stirring constantly, cook about 30 seconds, then add mushrooms, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer. They’ll have begun to release some of their liquid and have started to sizzle. Raise heat to medium-high and add the peas. Stir occasionally, allowing peas to be touched by bits of brown. Add the soy sauce and cooking sherry, deglazing the pan of brown bits. (Taste for salt, adding a bit more soy if needed.) Add a pat of butter, stir to melt and glisten the peas and mushrooms. Serve.

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Ever hear of forbidden rice? It’s the deepest darkest shade of purple – like aubergine. Royal purple. With all its brilliant color (phytochemicals) it’s rich in antioxidants. (The stuff that protects our cells from free-radical damage.) It’s a whole-grain, even more nutritious than its brown cousin, but cooks in only slightly more time than its white relative. (About 30 minutes.) I suppose it was chosen for this menu for obvious reasons. How can one not be a little tempted – at least intrigued – by what’s labeled forbidden? It got its name in ancient China when it was grown and harvested and fed to only the Emperor. Anyone caught with purple grains between his teeth was summarily executed. Well, perhaps I’m playing loose with the facts there, but it makes a rather dramatic story. And a great introduction for a side dish for lovers. (It’s not on every market’s shelf, but some of the better-stocked markets will carry it. It costs more of course, but it’s not prohibitive…a small bag will make enough rice to feed 8 to 10 and cost about $5.00.)

oh-so Forbidden Rice

(will serve 4)

  • 1 cup forbidden rice
  • 1¾ cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • optional: 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon (I like Better than Bouillon – concentrated, natural good flavor)
  • chives, finely chopped

Bring water to boil, add salt, butter and bouillon (if using.) Add rice, stir, return to boil, then lower temperature to simmer. Cook on simmer for 30-35 minutes. (My simmer took 35.) Turn the heat off and allow pan to sit for 5 minutes or so before removing the lid. Fluff rice with a fork. Return the lid if not serving immediately. Before serving sprinkle with chopped chives.

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