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A Fall Favorite

7 Oct

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The leaves are changing color, the new season’s boots are on display, and the weather is still…in the 70s and 80s. Sure, that makes sense. This warm Fall weather is making it hard to enjoy sweaters and a good butternut squash soup, but no complaints here. Although I am from Michigan, I will never get used to or start enjoying cold weather (I fancy myself a sledder more than a skier). Don’t get me wrong, I love a brisk high 50s day with crunchy leaves lingering in my path–and who could forget about the great Brown Ales to enjoy to welcome in this new season–but having the knowledge that we won’t see warm weather again until May (IF WE’RE LUCKY) makes me want to cling on to this weather with all my might.

That being said, it’s not going to stop me from enjoying some of my favorite Fall foods (root veggies and squash, I’m looking at you…). I touched upon this recipe in last year’s Thanksgiving post, but this dish is so good, it truly deserves its own post.

{ Curry-Stuffed Delicata Squash – Big Girls Small Kitchen }

I’ve made this delight at least a half dozen times over the past year, and it just keeps getting better and better. And what’s great about Delicata squash (if you can find it, I often sub butternut squash since that’s much easier to find) is that you can eat the skin once it’s cooked (thank you knowledgeable staff at the Ann Arbor Food Co-Op).

Special ingredients like maple syrup, cilantro, and unsweetened coconut flakes give this dish a unique layering of flavor and promote over indulging (go ahead, have 3 halves…if you dare).

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Unfortunately I had poor planning when I made this, as I had 6 beautiful stuffed squash (or squish as we refer to it in our house, mainly for hilarity purposes) halves, and I was leaving for Kalamazoo for the next 5 days for new job training (I got to brew beer and “taste” a lot of beer…you jelly?). I had a choice to make, gorge myself on as many of these as I could in order to reap what I had sewn, or bring some with me to keep in the hotel room. I chose the later, however I forgot them in my trunk and came across them 4 DAYS AFTER I was already back from Kalamazoo (5 days + 4 days = I don’t think these are edible anymore). So the moral of the story is this stuffed squash will not smell up your car when forgotten, so go team?

Curry-Stuffed Delicata Squash – Big Girls Small Kitchen }

For the squash

  • 1/2 cup black lentils – the little French ones that hold their shape
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 cup white basmati rice
  • 3 delicata squash, halved lengthwise, scraped clean of seeds
  • 2 teaspoons neutral oil
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons super fresh curry powder
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened (but sweetened will work in a pinch)
  • 1/2 cup yellow raisins, submerged for 10 minutes in a bowl of boiling water to plump, squeezed dry
  • 1/4 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds or peanuts
  • Handful coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

For the dressing

  • 1/3 cup mayonaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Bring around 6 cups of water to boil in a small saucepan. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the lentils. Lower the heat to a simmer and boil for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentil are soft but not falling apart. Drain in a fine metal sieve. Set the lentils asie.
  3. Rinse the rice in several changes of water, until the water runs clear. Place it in a small covered saucepan with 1 3/4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then give the rice a stir, put the lid on, and place the pot over the lowest possible heat. Cook for 15 minutes, then turn the heat off and leave the cover on the rice for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until you’re ready to use it. (If you have a preferred method of making rice, go for it. You’ll need 2 cups of cooked rice.) You’ll need 2 cups of the rice; reserve the rest for another use.
  4. Place the squash halves in a lightly oiled baking dish. Combine the oil with the maple syrup, then brush the squash with the mixture. Season with a pinch of salt. Place the squash in the oven and cook them for 30-40 minutes, until they’re easily pierced with a fork.
  5. In a large, heavy skillet – a cast iron pan works great – heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and slightly brown, about 10 minutes. Add the curry powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt, until the curry powder is very fragrant, about 3 more minutes. Add the coconut and cook for another minute, then add the lentils, the raisins, sunflower seeds or peanuts, and 2 cups of the rice. Stir gently to combine all the ingredients. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  6. Make the dressing: combine the mayo, lemon juice, curry powder, salt, oil, and sugar, and stir well.
  7. Add about 3/4 of the dressing to the lentil-rice mixture and stir to combine. Taste for balance of flavors, adding more dressing or salt, pepper, or lemon juice as needed. You want the mixture to hold together well.
  8. Fill each squash half to overflowing, using about 2/3 cup of the mixture. Return the squash to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the top of the filling is slightly browned and crisp.
  9. Sprinkle with the cilantro leaves. Serve 2 halves to those with big appetites; 1 half will be enough for smaller eaters.

Beer Muffins + An Apology

20 Sep

Hey, when was the last time I posted something? I don’t even remember!

The past month has been a whirlwind of work, let downs, work, beer, amazing opportunities, work, great GREAT news, and new beginnings. Needless to say, there has not been much time to blog, or even to cook much. It has been as devastating to me as it has been [hopefully] to you.

I was going to write a nice post about these “delightful” beer muffins I made a few weeks ago with a SURPLUS of raspberries I had….

Sidenote: I love berry and apple picking. Is there anything better? No, and if there is I sure as hell don’t want to hear about it. I’ve been bothering John to go pick some type of fruit with me for the past 7 or so years ( we went Apple picking a few years back AND IT WAS SMIPLY LOVELY) and finally we went raspberry picking. Of course it happened to be about 95 degrees with Mr. Sun doing his job like nobody’s business, but hey, we were in the fields and providing for our kin (by “kin” I mean ourselves, I’m WAAY too selfish to care for any other being at this point). Anyhoo, our day in the fields yielded about 100000 tons of berries, let along the most delicate berries there are…which led me to frantically make anything and everything that utilized raspberries, taking us back to the surplus.

I came across a recipe for { Rhubarb Swirl Muffins – Draft Magazine } and figured hey, I hate rhubarb, let’s sub out some raspberries. And sub I did. The recipe yielded a VERY wet batter, and even after adding more flour, and baking for almost double the time, they still turned out….not totally done. But hey, the top was tasty, and who doesn’t like a good muffin top!

BeerMuffins

 

So I apologize for the lack of posting, and this lack-luster post, but hopefully things will be on schedule in the upcoming weeks, as I start a new position with a WONDERFUL and MAJOR brewery in Michigan. (the recipes may get a little lighter to account for all the extra calories I’ll be taking in from the beer…lots and lots of beer…)

So go forth and enjoy your weekend knowing that I am, in fact, NOT dead.

Time Consuming (worth it) Beet Burgers

12 Aug

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I don’t care if it’s Summer, I love beets. Even the ungodly things they do to my…inner-workings, I accept beets for who they are. I have been getting emails from The Kitchn for a while, and to be honest I don’t remember how why or when I signed up. The recipes always make me stop and read through, but I finally decided to jump in and actually MAKE something and yowza, it was the right thing to do my friends. I have 100000 other things off this site bookmarked now, so….be ready for that.

I am always on the lookout for a great veggie burger. Why? I don’t know. I love meat, but maybe it’s just the promise of lots of non-meat items coming together to create a flavor-punch patty that’s just too tempting to get out of my head? Either way, I came across this and decided yes, this is for me.

{ Best Ever Veggie Burgers – The Kitchn }

And with a title like that, who could turn it down? I made these on a day when I needed to feel that I accomplished something, anything, and with good reason. Let me set the scene…

The day: Saturday after the Michigan Summer Beer Festival in Ypsilanti

The time: directly after seeing Pacific Rim IN 3D IMAX (a great way to turn off your brain for 1.5 hours)

The feeling: not quite human yet

(If you glance below, you can see just how much fun I’m having with my snazzy Bell’s glasses and mini “tasting” cup)

Beer

It was time to roll up my sleeves, chug some water, and get down to non-meat burgers. Wrap some beets in tinfoil, put them in the oven and forget about them for a while.

CookedBeets

Meanwhile over cook some brown rice, and caramelize some onions with cider vinegar (for extra sweetness)

Onions

Find an old bag of oatmeal (that happens to have lots of good stuff like flax seed and whatnot), or just some regular old oats, and give it a nice grind into a flower-like consistency (and doing this you learn that your ALREADY AWESOME immersion blender has an attachment like a mini food processor. Things are comin’ up Vitkin!)

 

Oats

OatGrind

Now hopefully your beets have been pulled out of the oven, peeled, cooled, and grated and placed in a bowl to await tasty additions. Such additions include black beans–both whole and pulverized WITH PRUNES (oyi my digestive system)–smoked paprika, dijon mustard, cumin, coriander, cooked rice, and sweetly cooked onions. Give her a good and strong mix. Now add that awesome oat flour you just made, and one lone egg.

PattyMix

Now let all the flavors get to know one another intimately in the fridge for a few hours, and then form into patties, and cook until a nice crust forms on each side

PattyCook

 

Those look good….but I wish they had cheese on them….

Cheese

 

Hurrah! Now place on your bun of choice (I chose english muffins because I had them, and that way I could have 2), and add some fixin’s

Toppings

 

Smash together (but not too hard, since we all know homemade veggie burgers tend to be somewhat mushy). Enjoy.

Burger

 

This recipe made a TON of food. I pattied 6 of them, and that wasn’t even half. I ended up tossing the rest in the skillet together to warm it through (I’m looking at you egg) and to give random places a little crust. I ate this delicious “mush” for the next 4 days topped with everything from avocado and cilantro to corn and tomatoes (and sometimes all of the above). Omit the egg and prepare thine self to WOW your vegan friends with your amazing culinary skillz.

Adapted from { Best Ever Veggie Burgers – The Kitchn }

  • 4 small beets
  • 1/2 cup brown rice (uncooked)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans black beans
  • 1/4 cup prunes, chopped into small pieces.
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons brown mustard
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 large egg
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Heat the oven to 400°F, wrap the beets loosely in aluminum foil and roast until easily pierced with a fork, 50 to 60 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a 2-quart pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously and add the rice. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the rice until it’s a little beyond al dente. You want it a little over-cooked, but still firm (not completely mushy). This should take about 35 to 40 minutes. Drain the rice and set it aside to cool.
  3. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir the onions every minute or two, and cook until they are golden and getting charred around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. A few wisps of smoke as you are cooking is ok, but if it seems that the onions are burning, lower the heat. A dark, sticky crust should develop on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the cider vinegar and scrape up the dark sticky crust. Continue to simmer until the cider has evaporated and the pan is nearly dry again. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  5. Process the oats in a food processor until they have reduced to a fine flour. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  6. Drain and rinse one of the cans of beans and transfer the beans to the food processor. Scatter the prunes on top. Pulse in 1-second bursts just until the beans are roughly chopped — not so long that they become mush — 8 to 10 pulses. Transfer this mixture to a large mixing bowl. Drain and rinse the second can of beans and add these whole beans to the mixing bowl as well.
  7. Use the edge of a spoon or a paper towel to scrape the skins off the cooled roasted beets; the skins should slip off easily. Grate the peeled beets on the largest holes of a box grater. Transfer the beet gratings to a strainer set over the sink. Press and squeeze the beet gratings to remove as much liquid as possible from the beets.
  8. Transfer the squeezed beets, cooked rice, and sautéed onions to the bowl with the beans. Sprinkle the olive oil, brown mustard, smoked paprika, cumin, and coriander over the top of the mixture. Mix all the ingredients until combined. Taste the mixture and add salt, pepper, or any additional spices or flavorings to taste. Finally, add the oatmeal flour and egg, and mix until you no longer see any dry oatmeal or egg.
  9. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or transfer the mixture to a refrigerator container, and refrigerate the burger mixture for at least 2 hours.
  10. Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil to completely coat the bottom of the pan.
  11. Form patties and cook as many as will fit without crowding. Cook for 2-4 minutes per side (or until you see a nice crust).

A Song of Berries & Nice: Pt 1

5 Jun

 

Salad

Tis the season, my friends. Produce aisles are brighter, more opulent, and brimming with tasty little gems. I’m going to consume all of it.

New Entering Flavor Country Strawberries

Sidenote: I have recently gone through somewhat of a drastic work change (long story), but I’m in essence working two jobs, both marketing related, both food related, and I have the pleasure of having at least one “home office” day. These are the best days of all my friends. I’ve opted to go Ann Arbor coffee shop exploring by choosing a different location each week to do my work from. The only downside is about an hour into work when that coffee and [whatever type of pastry said coffee shop offers] runs through your system, you need to use the facilities and your computer is all sorts of hooked up. Stranded. The first time I asked the barista to “keep an eye on my stuff” while I ran off, only to come back to see her no where near my stuff. The second time I opted to just wait….the full 4 hours…until I was done. The upside to this approach is that the payoff is immense, if ya know what I mean. But back to food. I was doing my “home office” work at Babo last week (they gave me a free yogurt sample, it was delightful), and during my walk back home for lunch I decided to stop in Literati, the new book store on Washington. That place is dangerous….I could spend a LOT of time and money there. They have a great selection, and a few of the books have hand written reviews and notes about them, which of course made me want to buy all of them. After having this sequence happen in my mental shopping cart–no books, 4 books, 2 books, 6 books, 1 book, no books–I decided to pick up the newest Bon Appetit and come back when I didn’t have 2 books on deck at home. I ATE up this issue. I have about 10 recipes dog-eared to make (I’ve already made about 4 of them) and whoever is doing their layouts (kissing fingertips), très magnifique. Which brings me to…

Strawberries! Yvette Van Boven (of one of my favorite cookbooks Home Made) has a special spread in this issue with about a half dozen recipes centered around strawberries, complete with beautiful photography and creative illustrations (done by the Chef herself….I think she just made my list of people “dead of alive” I need to meet). I chose 2 of her recipes, along with an additional mini-recipe featured in the front of the magazine to create quite the day of culinary delights. The second recipe of hers will be featured in the next post, so consider this a cliffhanger (I’m not going to post the recipes here because I’m already getting long winded, so feel free to click on the links to follow along):

Green. Bean. Slaw. Where do I sign up? Green Beans are an under appreciated workhorse in my opinion. They’re the go-to for restaurants to accompany meat and potatoes, or as a french fry swap out. Sadly, they’re often slathered in too much butter or oil, or over cooked to a sad mushy side. Don’t get me wrong, a nice soft melt-in-your-mouth green bean is alway appreciated while incorporated into a great casserole, but while on it’s own I like the vegetable to sing, to snap, to still have a semblance of it’s original self. This slaw not only offers a stage for the Green Bean to really belt it out, but it also brings along it’s friends radish, onion, and olive (how selfless, Green Bean).

First, prepare a mixture of feta, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper as your slaw binder (yes, it looks like cottage cheese)

Feta

Slice up your veggies

Greenbeans Radish

Add them to the feta mixture

Slaw

Toast some bread, and put heaping spoonfuls on it (I’m talking’ spill over, messy plate amounts)

Sandwich_Slaw

Top with some hard boiled egg slices (I like a good 6-7 minute egg, with the yolk still gooey, john is a fan of the 8-9 minute egg, with the yolk solid. Will we ever be able to make this relationship work?)

Sandwich_Egg

Now put that other piece of bread on top and set aside while you prepare your salad

Sandwich_Complete

For the salad, I was originally going to shell the peas, but look how many 10 pods (and 3 minutes of effort) produced

PeaShelled

So I went a different route

PeaCut

Now all you do it layer arugula, sliced strawberries, and almonds on a plate. Top with freshly grated parmesan, and a delightful vinaigrette that you just whipped up (oil, vinegar, sugar, whole gran mustard, poppy seeds. Classic.)

Salad

Select a delightful beverage to accompany your fresh FRESH and delicious lunch (we opted for 3 Floyds Jinx Proof and 3 Floyds Robert the Bruce because an afternoon of slicing and dicing can work up an appetite for a good beer)

Meal

Meal1

Now dig in.

Salad_Eat

This meal continued with a delightful Strawberry-centric dessert, which will be featured in the next post, so say tuned!

Also…I apologize for the lame attempt to name this post in a Game of Thrones-esque manner. 

Charcuterie Board: Meat and Cheese!

10 May

The topic of a homemade Charcuterie Board has been bouncing around our house for about a week. Why? Because have you ever had one? They’re delightful. Various cured and spiced meats sliced thin, paired with cheeses of varying textures (hard AND soft??), laid next to pickled vegetables and strong sauces. All these friends are preparing for their journey to the mouth, hopping on a fresh crusty baguette to serve as their vessel for deliciousness. The downside of making one at home? The amount of cheese you inevitably end up consuming. At a restaurant at least it’s pre-portioned, but at home…ooooh at home, your ravenous instincts are the only things keeping you from “I just ate $45 worth of product”.

So anyhoo, we deiced to embark on this task to cap off one of the greatest weekends of 2013 to date (I said the words “…and so began the craziest summer of my life” at least 4 times that weekend. I was in the moment). So how do we complete a task such as this? You head to Plum Market and get ready for expert advise and quality product.

Table

The general run-down:

  • Proscuitto (thinly sliced, almost to a melt-on-your-tongue thickness)
  • Black Pepper Hard Salami (rich and salty with the perfect bite from the black pepper)
  • Zingerman’s The City Goat Cheese (the texture is a bit lighter than other Goat cheeses, and has a deliciously sweet tang to it. And it’s rolled in fresh Tarragon, which I didn’t think I’d like, but yowza it was the perfect accompaniment to this creamy gem)
  • Vella Golden Bear Dry Jack Cheese (described as “The Grandfather of Jack Cheese” with a texture similar to Parmesan, this hard Jack has amazing nutty and earthy flavors. The rind is also a mixture of cocoa powder, oil, and black pepper, so you can eat it!)
  • Olives (all different types, pit-in of course. My favorite ended up being the bright green kinds)
  • Oil-Packed Artichoke Hearts (I could eat 2 lbs of these, no problem)
  • Marinated Peppadew Peppers (the vinegar gives the perfect tang to balance out the natural sweetness of the cute little peppers)
  • Lemon-Parsley Chickpeas (while these were good, they were more of a “let’s get some deli salads and have a picnic” item, not so much a “this complements my meats and cheeses on my Charcuterie board” item)
  • Cornichons (small pickled Gherkins–Cornichon is actually the French word for “Gherkin”.  I already had some from Trader Joe’s, they’re delicious and reasonably priced seeing as a jar of these can run you up toward $6)
  • Pickled Garlic Cloves (yes, they were quite pungent)
  • Orange-Fig Spread (this ended up being the runaway hit of the evening. The key to any good board–whether cheese or otherwise–is having a nice balance of flavors, hence the sweet counter-part. Everything went well with this spread: cheese, meat, even anything marinated or pickled)
  • Whole Grain Mustard (a classic Charcuterie staple)
  • Bell’s Oarsman (full disclosure: I used to hate this Berliner Weisbier. It’s not your average Wheat beer, it has sour notes that many people may not be accustomed to, but if you’ve got the palate for it, this session beer is a real delight)
  • An Assortment of Crackers and Sliced Baguette

This shot is nice and blurry (too much Oarsman?) however it offers a better idea of the set up (the key is rolling up your Proscuitto for extra fanciness)

PlateAnd the vessels…

BreadOh, not quite full enough yet? How about a mini carrot cake to share!

CarrotCakeWho needs a plate when you have a capable plastic clamshell to eat out of?

Needless to say, we all ate WAY too much, and sat awkwardly and uncomfortably on the couch trying to watch “World Wackiest Water Parks” (or something along those lines) to take our minds off the massive amounts of items of the pickled and dairy persuasion that were currently setting up camp inside of us. I was so full and tired that I blew off my normal Game of Thrones viewing party and opted to go to bed at 9:30pm. Would I do it all over again? 1000%.

MidAssemblyLook at how innocent they look. They have no idea they’re mere moments away from total consumption

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern European Salad with Homemade Focaccia (and Goat Cheese Spread)

15 Apr

Mmm, Eastern European food, doesn’t it just make your mouth water…or does it make you think of old women with scarfs tied around their heads huddled around a big trash can full of fire, playing violins?

I’m still traveling on my tour de new cookbook so I’ve selected two new recipes to try out:  Focaccia with Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Spread from Home Made, and Scandinavian Mixed Greens and Apples with Juniper Vinaigrette (or as I like to think of it, Eastern European Salad) from Susan Feniger’s Street Food

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Full disclosure: I love focaccia. When we were younger we would  go to the Kalamazoo Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning, and then follow up the trip with a stop at MacKenzie’s Bakery. It was here I first tasted the fluffy and delightful flat bread (although I assume my love for it blossomed from the fact that it’s basically a pizza, and I was allowed to eat it for breakfast). For the first few years of this tradition I had no idea I was pronouncing it wrong. Fo-Kot-See-Ah rather than Fo-Caach-Yah. How dare no one tell 8-year-old Erica she was making a mockery of the slow-risen dough arts? So naturally when I came across the Mini Focaccia recipe in Homemade, I simply HAD to make it.

DoughAnd if you have errands to run, starting bread is the prefect activity to start before you leave the house because it’ll proof (rise) for as long or longer than you need it to, and since you’ve been busy trying to drive in this town without hitting some of THOSE DAMN JAYWALKING STUDENTS you’ll forget you even started it, and have a pleasant surprise waiting for you when you get home. And nothing calms you down from said driving more than gently pressing oiled dough onto a baking sheet and carefully distributing dimples throughout.

And what pairs with this bread? A roasted red pepper and goat cheese spread of course! This is the first time I’ve tried to roast my own peppers at home since I don’t have a grill (I know, I’ll be lamenting this all Summer long…everything EVERYTHING tastes better on a grill), and the process comes from placing a fresh pepper directly on the flame of a gas stove burner.

PepperBurnsWell, it worked with flying colors, and I felt like a badass doing it (although everyone in my house kept saying “is someone smoking? it smells like smoke” or “Erica are you serious with this, you’re going to burn this mother down”). Once the pepper is nice and roasted/burned/chared/whatever you want to call it, place in a plastic bag for 30 minutes to give it a nice sweat. Once nice and sweaty, remove the outer charred skin (since it’s bitter) and prepare for goat cheese-ification.

FoodProcessorA few changes I made: the recipe calls for mint, but I had cilantro readily available, so I made the switch to give a little “authentico” feel (#ifyaknowwhatimean), and for some reason the grocery store didn’t have jalapeños (que?) so I used pablanos. And as I’m about to add the Goat Cheese, I realize I didn’t read the recipe fully, and it calls for FOUR CUPS of Goat Cheese. Do you know how much money that would cost? I only found 2 pennies on the ground during my runs this week, I can’t afford that much creamed gold. And I don’t think any amount of homemade Focaccia can handle 4 cups worth of goat cheese spread. So I used 2oz. Needless to say, the “spread” was more of a soupy dip since the “juiciness” of the peppers comprised most of the raw materials. However, it was still delicious.

And speaking of Authentico…

ModeloBecause hey why not!

Now on to our Eastern European-inspired salad. The “exotic” ingredient in the dressing is ground Juniper Berries, and I winced thinking about how much a little vile of it would be when I only needed 2 tsp, but low and behold, I live less than 1/2 mile from Spice Merchants, a lovely shop full of (wait for it) spices! I got to park for free since it was Sunday, and when I walked in the Juniper Berries were literally in front of the main entrance at eye level (things were coming up Vitkin!).

Juniper

 

This gets added to a dynamite mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, and honey (which is the basis for any great dressing, seriously, you never need to buy a vinaigrette again, just use that base and go crazy with other additions like mustard, spices, fresh herbs, blended roasted veggies, etc). Sidenote: I just found this about Juniper Berries, so naturally I’m freaking out “If you have been using juniper berry tea for several weeks and you urine smells like violets, you have been using the herb too long. Continued overdose can cause renal irritation and blood in the urine, so only use in moderation” [horrifying Juniper Berry information source]

So what does this violet pee-inducing vinaigrette go on top of? A salad of sliced apples, shredded gouda, fresh greens, watercress, and toasted almonds. Like I said, soooooo Eastern European…

AppleAlmonds

SaladAnd what perfect timing, as the dressing goes on, the bread is hot fresh and ready from the oven!

SaladCounterThe Focaccia turned out well, but it was very dry. Something I love and hate about a great focaccia is that it leaves you with big grease stains on the sides of your pants because who has time for a napkin. This one left my pants in pristine condition, so making this again I would definitely up the olive oil in both the dough, and the pre-baking prep.

SaladSpread

As I start to go for round 2 of this salad, I can’t help but worry about the future of my urine…

SaladSpread1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Greek” Salad with Garlic Butter Croutons

10 Apr

Before I start this post I need to share something that happened to me yesterday: I had the most Jewish experience of my life, ever. I decided to go shopping at a new grocery store, and you know what? It’s time-consuming and stressful. You don’t the layout, the nuances of item placement, or when the good deals are. So after re-circling the store at least 4 times because where the hell is the peanut butter aisle, I came across a few carts roped together full of discounted merchandise. Nothing new right? Usually there are old boxes of random foreign children’s candy that they thought would make it in the US (keep dreamin’ Yorkie) and some strange plastic cookware. However, today was different, it was full of discounted PASSOVER stuff. I’m talkin Matzoh Ball Soup, Brownie Mix (kosher passover brownies are a thing?), Passover Crackers, Matzoh, and more, all from the tried and true Manischewitz. As I stood there, elbow deep in savings, hands moving with quick and calculated movements, jaw slacked, and eyes burning with a savings intensity normally reserved for those featured on Extreme Couponing, it hit me: This is the most Jewish Moment of My Life.

Salad1But enough about my EXTREME frugality, let’s dive into an amazing salad, shall we?

I have recently come into 3 really great cookbooks

So of course after your initial “oh my god I’m going to make everything because it’s all amazing” reality hits and you think “ok, I have 45 minutes on Tuesday night I can devote to cooking, what I can make that doesn’t involve buying 100000 new items I don’t already have in my kitchen.” So I settled on a tasty-looking salad from Susan Feniger’s book that involves Sun Chokes. I’ve never had Sun Chokes! I was actually insulted by someone making reference to Sun Chokes a few years ago…but that’s a story for another time.

I went to two, count them, two different grocery stores to gather ingredients and guess what, none of them had sun chokes. Granted, I didn’t ask anyone at the store for help, but you know what? I had just been through a store that was foreign to me (see above) and I had just spend 1.5 hours outside in the rain couching Girls on the Run (“Keep going girls! The rain never hurt anyone!” as soon as they’re out of earshot “ehhhhh I hate the rain, I wish we were inside”), so I was tired, cold, confused, and ready to go home and drink some 3 Floyd’s Zombie Dust (I just procured a case on Sunday and I’m exercising every restraint I have not to drink it all). Sun Chokes sound like artichokes, so that’s a good substitute, right? Oh, chick peas would have been the better option? Well, time to tweak the recipe to fit MY needs (and MY artichoke purchase), and simply take “inspiration” from the book.

Once home, I started the only part of the salad that has any effort (I love recipes like that): garlic-butter croutons. Oooooh yeahhhh.

ButterGarlicWant to impress anyone that comes into your house in the next 24 hours? Melt 3 Tbs of butter and 2 cloves of chopped garlic on the stove and let simmer for a good 6 minutes and wait for your house to fill with the most indulgent smell you can imagine (well, maybe 2nd to cinnamon buns, I mean, you can’t compete with that). Once it’s melted, pour it over some bite-size torn up pieces of fresh bread, pop in oven for 12 minutes, and wait for the bread to get cripsy on the outside and soft and amazing on the inside

CroutonsPlease, this picture doesn’t IN ANY WAY do these croutons justice. I wish you could small through your screen because wowza. Anyways, on to the other part of the salad: chop stuff up and put in bowl (or a pot because it has a lid and you’re thinking ahead for potential leftovers):

SaladLettuce, Parsley, Cucumbers, Kalamata Olives, Tomatoes, Red Onion, Artichoke (not Sun Chokes), and any other items you think would be fitting for a salad with a “greek” title. What next? The dressing!

Again, I took most of my inspiration from Susan Feniger’s recipe, which had a surprising ingredient: Harissa. Harissa is a Tunisian chili paste with garlic and spices (yeah, it sounds amazing), which I would never have thought to add to a salad dressing like this. I had about 1 tsp of Sambal (a chili-based sauce popular in lots of Asian cuisine) left in my fridge from who knows what, so I substituted that. Wow, I can’t even tell you what an amazing addition it was. It was not enough to add too much heat, however it was enough to add some amazing flavor complexity.

DressingAlso in the dressing: cumin, sumac, turmeric, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Now top dressed salad with some feta, a softish boiled egg (drop egg in boiling water for 7 minutes), and the super duper butter and garlic croutons.

SaladUpNow, it seems like an insanely simple salad, and I feel like I’ve made at least 1000 different versions of this, but wow, with the egg, the croutons, and that extra little zip of the sambal in the dressing, this was hands down the best medeterranean-influanced salad I’ve ever had, homemade or at a restaurant. Seriously. Who even needs Sun Chokes? (gahhhh I’m still dying to try them!! Does anyone have a lead or Sun Choke guy? I’ll go back alley, no prob)

Dressing

  • 1 tsp toasted and ground Cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp Sumac
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1 tsp Sambal/Chili Paste/Sriracha/Harissa
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 Tbs Olive oil

Mix

“Greek” Salad

  • 1/2 head of Lettuce
  • 1/2 C Parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 Cucumber, cut into quarters length-wise and then sliced
  • 1 large Tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 C Kalamata Olives
  • 1/3 C thinly sliced Red Onion
  • 1 C Artichoke heart quarters

Cut everything up. Mix

Garlic Butter Croutons

  • 3 Tbs Butter
  • 2 clove2 Garlic minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 sliced-worth of Bread, torn into  small bite size pieces (you know, crouton-sized)

Preheat oven to 350. Put butter, garlic, and salt together in a saucepan over low heat and let melt together and get a little foamy, about 6 minutes. Put bread pieces in a bowl and cover with butter mixture. Stir to combine and spread out on baking sheet. Bake for 8-12 minutes (or until outside is nice a crispy, but the inside is still nice and soft). Let cool.

Salad

 

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