Monday, July 28, 2014

Chinese Chicken Salad

I love summer parties because I get to make these main dish salads.

I can prepare everything ahead, and dress the dish about 15 minutes before serving.
Makes my life easy.

This is perfect for those hot days in July & August (and humid here). Light and refreshing.

It's also delicious the next day, it turns into a sort of cole slaw.

Chinese Chicken Salad: makes enough for 10 people

4 boneless chicken breasts
1 cup of shredded carrots (I buy them already shredded at Trader Joe's)
1 head of Romaine lettuce, shredded very thin with a sharp knife
1 head of purple cabbage, shredded very thin with a sharp knife (or mandolin)
big bunch of scallions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced very thin
big bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
big handful of roasted peanuts, chopped
small can of mandarin oranges, drained


1/3 cup of sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup of soy sauce
2 tbsp Asian sesame oil
hot pepper flakes to taste
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
sea salt & pepper

Mix dressing ingredients and set aside.

I poach my chicken breasts so they are nice and moist.

To do this, just place the chicken in a shallow pan with boiling water to cover.

Add in 2 bay leaves, a tbsp of peppercorns and any fresh herbs you have lying around. You can also add a little white wine to the pan to be fancy, but don't sweat it.

Simmer the breasts uncovered, for about 20 minutes and let cool in the poaching liquid.

Shred the meat with 2 forks and add to a bowl with about a tbsp of the dressing to keep the chicken nice and moist.

Add all the ingredients to a LARGE bowl and toss lightly. Add in the chicken and toss w/ the dressing just before serving.

Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish w/ some more cilantro and chopped peanuts if desired.


Friday, July 25, 2014

What's for Lunch? Fig & Ricotta Tartines

When do you find plump, juicy figs bursting with flavor, all of them ripe in the box for only $2.99?

Not often.

So when I did, I ran home with the figs and couldn't wait to spread them on whole grain toast with a swipe of fresh ricotta cheese, some lemon zest and a drizzle of honey.

These are so good, they can even be served for dessert!

This wins for my favorite summer lunch so far (as good as my tomato & Hellman's sandwiches!).


Thursday, July 24, 2014

MCG Tomato Journal

I know you have all been waiting for a good MCG post.

The powers that be haven't really bothered us this season at the Militant Community Garden with nagging and complaining and notices and threatening emails, so I have nothing really to report!

It's been a slow growing season after such a harsh winter I guess, and we got a late start planting in the spring with freezing temps all the way thru April.

My green beans are 2 weeks late, and my tomatoes have also been on the late side, but I am finally in business until September.

There is something legendary about Jersey Tomatoes.

Not sure what it is, or why, but our tomatoes and corn are wonderful.

Maybe it's the pathetic short growing season we have here in the Garden State (about 8 full weeks) that makes us so appreciative and proud of our Jersey tomatoes.

Next year, I am just going to plant regular old red, Rutgers & Ramapo NJ slicing tomatoes. They are not as tempermental as heirlooms and are ready during the earlier part of the season.
For some reason, I have this fondness for heirloom tomatoes, I have to be fancy.

My first born in the garden are these lovely Japanese Black Trifle variety.

Very nice flavor, and abundant on the vines! An easy grower.

Second is my Lemon Boy (I just like saying the name).

Yellow tomatoes are always pretty in the garden, and in a salad, they brighten up the plate.

I always plant Sweet 100's, which are the best cherry tomatoes, in my opinion.
and to go with them, I grow these lovely yellow pear, which make a nice contrast to the roundness of the cherry tomatoes in a salad.

We have Mortgage Lifter, Persimmon heirlooms, Brandywine and Green Zebra, all have been really delicious and unique.

For the next few weeks, you will be seeing a lot of Caprese salads and tomato dishes on my instagram account, so I hope you love tomatoes as much as I do.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Steak Salad w/ Feta & Pickled Onions

Confession: I made this main dish salad w/ leftover grilled skirt steak from yesterday.

I am not much of a red meat eater, but once in a while a little steak is what I crave.

You can be your own artist for this dish.

Click on the links for the recipes.........

Here, I made this delicious recipe for grilled skirt steak.

The next day, I sliced up the leftover meat and paired it with my garden cherry tomatoes, my pickled red onions from the garden, this delicious cilantro lime dressing and some feta cheese.

This is summer at its best.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sexy Summer Salad: Watermelon, Cuke & Tomato

I've been keeping my posts short and sweet lately, no big paragraphs about what I like and what I dislike, about how I am getting old, gaining weight, sleeping late (wait, isn't that a Billy Joel song?).

It's summer, and I don't make a big production in the kitchen, I like to keep it light, in case you've noticed.

A few years back some genius paired sweet watermelon with savory flavors and I remember thinking how odd, until I tried it.

Now I'm hooked.

I make a version of this salad every summer, it's so light and refreshing, and when I have my Jersey tomatoes in the garden, it's a win win.

This version has my garden cucumbers, along with kalamata olives, and feta cheese.
Try and use yellow tomatoes for a nice contrast (I used Lemon Boy and Yellow Pear tomatoes).

Here is what you'll need for this sexy summer salad (don't ask me why I called it "sexy"):

1/4 of a seedless watermelon, cubed
1 medium cucumber, peeled and cubed
2-3 yellow tomatoes, quartered
handful of kalamata olives, sliced
handful of chopped feta cheese
handful of fresh mint leaves for garnish

1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt & pepper

Lightly toss ingredients together in a bowl, and mix in dressing just before serving.

Garnish with fresh mint and enjoy!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Beet Hummus Pesto

Isn't that bright pink color gorgeous?

It tastes gorgeous too.

I guess you can say this is a sort of pesto, but since it has chickpeas in it, it's more of a hummus?

What should you do with this pretty in pink stuff?

I used it with fresh ricotta on toasted bread and a drizzle of honey to make delicious crostini.

I snacked on it during the day with endive spears.

I used it as a vegetable dip for crudite.

I might even try it on pasta.

*a note: it's important to roast the garlic in this recipe. Don't use raw garlic, or it will be very strong, and not in a good way.

Beet Hummus (adapted from Cooking Light):

1 large red beet (or 2 small beets)
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
3 roasted garlic cloves
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons walnut oil
ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

I roast a bunch of beets at the beginning of the week (I have so many in my garden), so I have them ready for lunches and recipes all week!

If you don't have your beets ready, then just roast them in a foil packet, drizzled w/ olive oil and kosher salt for 1 hour at 400F.
Peel them when they are cool enough to handle.

Roast a head of garlic beforehand, so you have the cloves ready to can do this when you are roasting the beets!
Same way.....drizzle w/ olive oil and wrap in a foil packet. 400F for about 45 minutes for a whole head of garlic, they will be sweet like candy.

Puree all the ingredients together in a food processor until it makes a nice pink pesto!

Season w/ sea salt & pepper...........

We loved these w/ fresh ricotta and honey on crostini the best.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Random Summer Bites

It's mid-summer (hard to believe).

Where does the time go?

We stopped in a hipster wine bar (I say that because we were the oldest people by 20 years, and we had no tattoos) in Jersey City called Third & Vine.

What a surprise this place turned out to be.

They have an amazing cheese program, and the lovely cheese monger Patricia chose 3 gorgeous cheeses for us to pair with some great wines and cocktails.

Lite bites were on the ridiculous side.

Stuffed piquillo peppers stuffed w/ mozzarella, wrapped in speck.
Marinated fennel w/ boquerones & pesto (my favorite!!).
Grilled watermelon w/ arugula & feta salad.
and life changing deviled eggs w/ caviar & crab, and wasabi & soy.


Rainier cherries are a treat, and only around for a few weeks in July.
OF COURSE, I made a beautiful cherry & blueberry clafoutis.

This time, I left the pits in the cherries like the French do.
I actually liked it better this way, it forced me to eat slower!!!!!

The MCG is FINALLY producing. I didn't get my first tomato until just last week.

Green beans are taking their sweet ass time, and the only thing that is really flourishing are my beets, onions and broccolini, everything else is not as great as seasons past.

Must be the weird karma there.

I have had a nice crop of broccolini (sweet baby broccoli) every week, enough for a side dish. Sauteed with anchovies and garlic and topped with fresh mozzarella. I could eat it everyday (and I practically do!).

I stuffed my garden zucchini blossoms w/ fresh ricotta, mozzarella, herbs and egg and pan fried them for a lovely garden lunch.

Nothing is better in the summer.

It's almost fig season in NJ, however, I am constantly disappointed by the California figs (sorry California) in my market. They are always mealy and never taste right to me.

I guess I will have to wait a month for the real local figs here.

Instead of tossing out the lousy figs, I made my annual batch of bacon fig jam, and added in bourbon this time.
Recipe here.

Delicious with cheese.

We spent a week on vacation at the NJ shore.

We had some amazing pizza and enjoyed some beautiful weather.

and what would summer be without my nightly "chipper"?
2 homemade chocolate chip cookies with some vanilla ice-cream, rolled in some chocolate chips.

Summer is about tomatoes and ice-cream in my world (though I don't know about tomato ice-cream!).

and if you have seen some of these pics already on my instagram, I apologize.

I like instagram much better than facebook or any other social media, so if you don't follow me, you are missing out on all the fun!

Happy summer.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Deconstructed Caprese Salad

Yes, I like to play with my food.

Here is yesterday's lunch.

I used a big ball of fresh mozzarella (the kind packed in water) and shredded it into pieces.

I am making the most of my 4 tomatoes that I have in the garden, using one on a tartine, the other in a quinoa salad, and the last 2 in this salad.

I scattered some sliced kalamata olives, pretty parsley flowers, lavender and purple and green basil, all from my driveway garden (well, not the olives).

Sprinkled everything with some fleur de sel and drizzled w/ some good olive oil.

If you are a purist, then omit the balsamic syrup, however, I love the taste with the ripe Jersey tomatoes.

Lunch is served.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Insalata di Riso

Insalata di Riso translates to an Italian cold rice salad.

Perfect for those hot summer nights.

I have had Domenica's wonderful recipe bookmarked since last summer, waiting to make my giardiniera (pickled vegetables) so I could use some in this recipe!

Well I have it, and I used it!

Most insalata di riso recipes are similar in ingredients but basically a hodge podge of sorts. Some have anchovies and tomatoes, some use a mayonnaise based dressing, some even use sliced hot dogs!, but most recipes I have found use canned tuna fish.

I followed Domenica's basic recipe, but I added in cubed Italian salami and omitted the mayo.

This makes a lot, and is perfect for a summer luncheon outside with a nice glass of white wine.

Domenica's Insalata di Riso: (adapted from Domenica Cooks)

1 1/2 cups arborio or other short-grain risotto rice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
a can good quality tuna in olive oil (I like Tonnino)
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled chopped (saving one for decoration if you like)
2 best-quality anchovy fillets
1 cup diced giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables, here is my recipe)
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup diced roasted peppers
1/2 cup olives (purple or green or a mix)
a few marinated artichokes (optional)
4 oz. of hard salami (not sliced), cubed
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained and coarsely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and pour in the rice. When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook at a gentle simmer for 20 minutes, or until the rice is al dente.

Drain the rice in a colander set in the sink and rinse under cold water. Drain thoroughly and transfer to a large bowl. Toss the rice with the olive oil.

Add the tuna, two of the eggs, anchovies, giardiniera, peas, artichokes, peppers, olives, parsley and capers. Gently fold everything together. Carefully mix in the lemon juice and drizzle w/ olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the rice salad into a serving bowl. Arrange the remaining egg slices on top in a decorative pattern, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Easy Dinner: Chicken Cutlets w/ Asparagus, Ham & Mustard Cream

Here is what a typical Tuesday night dinner looks like at my house.
It's so easy, and it looks like I've made a fuss.

I fry up boneless chicken breasts in flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs seasoned w/ salt, pepper & hot pepper flakes.

Lay out some asparagus on a baking sheet and sprinkle w/ kosher salt and olive oil.

Roast in the oven at 375F for 20 minutes.

Make the mustard cream while the asparagus is cooking.

Whisk up a tablespoon of grainy mustard (the kind with seeds) and pour in a tablespoon or two of heavy cream. This is your fancy sauce.

Plate the chicken breasts and lay some prosciutto or speck on top.

Top with some roasted asparagus spears and drizzle w/ the mustard cream.

(I made my mustard sauce earlier in the day and put it in the fridge, that's why it looks funny and thick, it should be a thin pourable sauce....ignore the weird photos if you can). :)

You look like a superstar! But you already are!


Monday, July 14, 2014

What's for Breakfast? Toasted Quinoa, Kale & Poached Egg

What's for breakfast?

Quinoa, that's what. 3 days in a row.

This is a GREAT, healthy way to start the day and it takes no time.

I happen to have a bountiful crop of lacinato kale right here in a planter on my driveway.
It's a hearty grower.

I pick a bunch almost everyday.

Make a big batch of quinoa (so you have it for a few days).

In a non-stick skillet, heat some olive oil with a small minced garlic clove and add the chopped kale (stems discarded).
Toss around for a minute or two and add in the cooked quinoa to the pan.

If you would like, be my guest, dirty another skillet and cook your egg, however, I like to save a pan and cook the egg right next to the quinoa and kale. It can be done.
(you can also poach an egg if you are good at that, which I am not).

Season w/ sea salt & pepper.

I like my yolk to run thru the rest of the stuff on the plate.

Can't wait till tomorrow, so I can have this again!

Have a good day.