Happy 4th of July Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

forth mountainRabbit Rabbit! Can you believe it’s already July 1st?

I hope all of you are able to take a little time off this weekend to enjoy the local parades and fireworks. I spend an afternoon or so this time of year in the kitchen cooking so there are handy things in the fridge to grab for picnics at the lake: salads, dips, and a batch of cold chicken. This week’s recipe, a revisit from last July, isn’t particularly portable, but oh, is it good and worth eating at home!

Strawberry season in Vermont is a short one and I hear this year is a bumper crop. So for the next couple of weeks you’ll find me down the road at the farm stand grabbing a quart or two until they are gone. I can’t get enough of them. So with this plethora of riches, I always take the opportunity to make a strawberry shortcake with homemade whipped cream. Because if you’re going to have dessert for dinner, you should go all out, right?

This is the way I grew up eating strawberry shortcake, a biscuit-like “cake,” split it in the middle, the middle filled with whipped cream and lots of berries, and then topped with more whipped cream and berries. A sort of layer cake, if you will. While the Egg Biscuit Cake is from The New England Cookbook, by Brooke Dojny, the assembling instructions and whipped cream recipe are my own.

You can always make drop biscuits if you have a small family or want to tote this to a friend’s house. It really doesn’t last past a day once assembled. But then again, there is always breakfast!

strawHomemade Strawberry Shortcake
1+ quart of strawberries, hulled and sliced (set aside eight perfect berries)

Egg Biscuit Cake
This cake recipe was published in The New England Cookbook by Brooke Dojny, 1999.

2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into about 10 pieces
1 egg
½ cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Generously grease an 8-inch cake pan.

2. Pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Distribute the butter over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture looks crumbly. Whisk the egg with the milk in a glass measuring cup. With the motor running, pour the milk mixture through the feed tube and process just until the dough begins to clump together. (To make the dough by hand, whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl, work in the cold butter with your fingertips, add the egg and milk and stir with a large fork to make a soft dough.) Scrape out onto a lightly floured board, knead lightly a few times, and roll or pat into an 8-inch round. (The dough can be prepared several hours ahead and refrigerated at this point.)

3. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, patting it gently to the edges. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 22 to 26 minutes until the shortcake is pale golden brown on top. Cool in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes.

Homemade Whipped Cream
1 pint of heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pour the cream into a large bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla. With a hand mixer set on high, beat the cream until stiff peaks form—about 6 minutes or so. Set aside.

To assemble
Take the shortcake out of the pan and let it cool on a rack. When cooled, carefully slice it in half horizontally and divide. With the bottom of the shortcake, add some whipped cream and berries. Add the top of the shortcake, add more berries, whipped cream, and dot with the reserved whole berries.

Quirks-1MVK’s *Like* of the Week: The 10 Most Annoying Food Packaging Quirks
Here’s a laugh for you this morning. I could identify with almost every single packaging on this list! Flour on the counter, foil seal tabs on the peanut butter jar, shrink-wrapped goat cheese, I didn’t realize how aggravated these made me until I read this article! Take a look here, it will make you feel better that you’re not alone!

Cavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

stormI remember reading last winter that the powers that be who predict weather said it was going to be a cooler than normal summer for the Northeast. I tend to poo poo those predictions, but so far, they are correct. My lilacs weren’t as hardy as they’ve been in the past; I picked one blossom, which immediately started to wilt when I put it in water. I find myself wearing sweaters more than not and I haven’t had one alfresco dinner yet this year. I had planned one for the other evening, but see the above skies right before it was ready. But when I do get a nice evening, this will be the perfect meal to serve; greens, protein, healthy oils, and big, bold flavors all in one bowl.

This is a sort of deconstructed nicoise salad, which I love to make in the summer. This came together quickly; as the water boiled, I chopped the tomatoes and olives and let them steep in their juices. I had exactly six ounces of gluten-free penne in the cupboard, so I chose to use that up instead of opening a new box of cavatappi. This also is a perfect dish to make after a visit to the farmer’s market; fresh tomatoes, green beans, and lettuce, it will taste amazing! As I was cooking this, I thought of lots of ways to change things up; basil instead of oregano; chicken instead of tuna, or if a vegetarian, maybe some sautéed flavorful mushrooms; white beans in place of green beans; or another grain in place of the pasta. I also thought adding some freshly chopped cucumbers or other veggies would be tasty. Once you have an outline of a recipe, adding and substituting is really easy, go with what YOU like!

cavatappi saladCavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives

This recipe first appeared in the June 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

6 ounces uncooked cavatappi pasta

12 ounces green beans or yellow wax beans, trimmed and halved

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups tomato wedges

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

20 pitted kalamata olives, halved

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce

5 ounces canned or jarred sustainable white tuna packed in oil, drained and flaked

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta; cook 5 minutes. Add beans; cook an additional 3 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender and pasta is done. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain.

2. While pasta water comes to a boil, combine oil, juice, pepper, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add tomato, oregano, and olives; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in pasta mixture and lettuce. Divide among 4 plates; top evenly with tuna.

Serves 4 (serving size: about 2 1/2 cups pasta salad and 1/4 cup tuna)

MVK’s Like of the Week: To Lose Weight Eating Less is Far More Important Than Exercising
We’ve all heard the adage, if you want to lose weight, eat less, move more. But a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times examines how eating less (and healthy) may actually be more important for your waistline than just relying on exercise. While I won’t throw out my Fitbit any time soon, I always read these sorts of articles with a wary eye. Of course, exercise has its health benefits and just because you’re exercising doesn’t give you free rein to eat whatever you want (trust me, I know!). I can say for myself, cooking at home, walking, and really watching what I eat away from home are three tips that have worked well for me through the years. But it’s always a challenge, especially the older you get.

And while I read this cautiously, I found it interesting, whether or not you believe it. You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here, To Lose Weight Eating Less is Far More Important Than Exercising.

Italian Chickpea Salad Plus the Endorsement of the Week

Don’t have time to make dinner? Too hot outside? All of the above? This recipe will fit both of these scenarios. All you need is a can of beans, some veggies, olives, basil, and some dressing and you are well on your way to supper! And trust me, this takes about 15 minutes to put together!

I play trivia every Tuesday night (don’t ask how my team “Loose Lips” does; while we are usually at the bottom of the leader board, we always have lots of fun) and on these evenings, if I don’t eat in town, I end up eating when I get home close to 9 p.m. And even I don’t want to fix something for dinner that late, so it tends to be an egg, some cereal, or a glass of milk before I head up to bed. A couple of weeks ago, I started to feel this was bad nutrition; I really needed to eat a light dinner. I had in my mind a bean salad with a tangy vinaigrette would be a simple and healthy dish to serve on top of some greens. So before I headed out the door, I created this dish that was ready to eat when I got home!

Leaving it in the fridge for an hour or two to let the flavors marry is perfect, but you can also eat it right away. If you serve later, add the basil right before serving. I’ve made this with sweet onions in place of the shallots, and black olives in place of kalamatas, it’s all good. Whatever you have on hand (or don’t) will work. Add extra cucumber if you don’t have the tomatoes, or vice versa. And if you don’t have basil, fresh oregano would be a lovely alternative. Substitute white beans or another light bean if that’s what you have in the cupboard. And while this salad is vegan and gluten-free, I don’t think adding some tuna packed in olive oil is such a bad idea. Or some crumbled feta or ricotta salata cheese. It will all taste delicious!

Happy Eating!

italian beanItalian Chickpea Salad

I realized after I started working on the ingredients for this salad that it is reminiscent to one I posted last summer, Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Chickpeas, with a few additions and subtractions. Either salad is a quick and nutritious meal, whether it’s for lunch or dinner!

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or roughly 2 ½ cups
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, peeled, cut horizontally, seeded, and roughly chopped
¼ cup chopped kalamata olives
1-2 TBS finely chopped fresh basil

Dressing

1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, add the chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, and olives. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard, and shallots. Add to the chickpea mixture and toss gently. Add the basil before serving if you’re letting it sit for a couple of hours. Or eat immediately.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Picnic in Provence, a Memoir in Recipes by Elizabeth Bard

provenceIn 2011, it was just dumb luck that I came across Elizabeth Bard’s first food memoir, Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes, while I was perusing the food memoir section at a bookstore. A story of living in Paris, meeting the man of your dreams, it was a truly fun story and one of the better food memoirs I’ve read. So imagine my delight when I was in the same section of the same bookstore (the Northshire in Manchester, Vermont. It has the BEST food memoir selection I’ve ever seen!) to find that Bard has continued writing and has moved to Provence!

Picnic in Provence, a Memoir in Recipes is a true delight. Now married to Gwendal and in tow with tiny Alexandre, Bard retells the story of finding the small town of Céreste in the heart of Provence, where she and her family move into the home of poet René Charr. Now she’s not a visitor, she is entrenched in day-to-day village life. And what I liked about this is Bard shows us life in another country as well as her vulnerable side; as a new mother, she writes about her questions and fears with her son when it appears he prefers his father to her. The back and forth of should she give up her U.S. citizenship to become a French citizen? (She does.) What it’s like to be an American living in a country where there is a certain “style,” ie. French women don’t get fat. One of my favorite chapters was when her friend, Courtney, visited. A woman who suffered from bulimia and binge-eating, Bard turns to look at her own eating habits and those of France vs. the U. S. “A French diet is a balancing act. If you eat a little extra dessert at dinner, you have a bowl of soup or a plate of steamed vegetables the next day for lunch. I call it the quiet diet. It’s nobody’s business but mine.”

Throughout it all, Bard gives us mouth-watering recipes and food descriptions. “There’s something a little greedy about roasted tomatoes. Slick with olive oil and mellowed with garlic, pulpy like a supermarket romance novel, they are my attempt at pleasure hoarding. I want to be able to peek into the freezer in December and know I can use this spark of sunshine to light up a winter pasta sauce or guarantee a sensational base for braised veal shank or white beans.” (I’ll be doing that this summer.) French cooking isn’t about fancy cooking with sauces, most of it is simple, local, fresh food since you go to the market regularly throughout the week. White Beans with Tomatoes and Herbs, Zucchini Gratin, Lentil and Sausage Stew, Arugula Salad with Chicken, Fresh Figs, and Avocado, Mulled Wine Roasted Plums. (Is your mouth watering yet?)

I won’t spoil the ending for you like the book jacket did for me (grrr), but I have a feeling in the next few years I will find yet another chapter in Bard’s food life on the shelf of a bookstore. If I’m lucky enough.

The Last Supper: Marinated London Broil

Look how green everything has gotten! It's an emerald sea!

Look how green everything has gotten. It’s an emerald sea!

I sometimes play this game with myself when I’m bored and think about what I would like to eat for my last supper. Of course, I create a fictional story and I’ve been told I can have whatever I would like for my last supper. So 1. I can order whatever I would like to eat or drink with no worry about future calories; and 2. Someone else is doing the cooking. I always start and end with the same things, an extra dry extra big vodka martini and a slice of homemade pie, but the middle dishes of the meal always changes. Sometimes lobster, roast chicken, pasta, beef, sometimes all three. But I have to admit, this week’s recipe might be the one I would request!

Rarely do I buy beef but when I do, I tend to buy a less expensive cut and marinate it to tenderize it. This marinade, with soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, has just the right amount of salt and sweetness and the added lemon juice lends the sour. Shallots have become my new favorite onion; they have a distinct flavor that to me is a cross between a mild red onion and leeks. Instead of fresh thyme, I just added ½ teaspoon of dried.

Everyone always says to let your meat rest at least 10 minutes before cutting it and that is wise advise. The juices in the meat redistribute and finish cooking internally, and when you slice against the grain, it comes out perfectly. And this would be terrific on the grill!

steak2Marinated London Broil

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 3 ounces)

This recipe first appeared in the May 2008 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1/2 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (2-pound) boneless top round steak, trimmed
Cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Pierce steak with a fork. Add steak to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 2 hours, turning every 30 minutes.

2. Preheat broiler.

3. Remove steak from bag; discard marinade. Scrape shallots and garlic from steak; discard shallots and garlic. Place steak on broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle steak evenly with salt and pepper. Broil 4 inches from heat for 6 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Washing and Storing Summer Berries
BerriesWPNow that it’s berry season, I read this article with interest. I try to wash my berries when I get home from the store and place in containers for easy eating. But I always find, regardless how quickly they get eaten, a few berries here and there get moldy. This article had great information on how to prevent that (with raspberries, rinse when you’re about to eat) and other tips! You can read the whole article by clicking here.

Asian Green Bean Salad

Doing dishes is more fragrant with the Lily of the Valley and lilacs that are out! Next are the peonies!

Doing dishes is more fragrant with the Lily of the Valley and lilacs that are out. Next are the peonies!

I am always looking for new-to-me salads to make. When I recently was invited to a potluck garden party, my first thought was to make the first of the season macaroni salad. But given that I’m trying to be careful with the carbs these days, even if I was going to be offering it to others, I wanted to make something that had a little bit of carbs, lots of veggies, and lots of flavor.

This recipe, found on cookinglight.com was a perfect solution. Any time there are veggies in a salad, I never measure; my rationale is a salad is never hurt by adding too many vegetables! With some whole grain linguine and lots of green beans, red pepper, celery, ginger, plus a flavorful dressing, I made a choice that was a hit! I also dusted it with sesame seeds for a little more flavor and crunch.

One note, I have only chili pepper sesame oil in my cupboard at the moment, so I thought using it for the dressing would give the dish a little kick. Well, even I thought it had too much kick when I tested it! I actually thought about including a warning disclaimer with it! But it turned out, there were other chili heads at the party who liked it because I came home with an empty bowl! Use tamari sauce in place of soy sauce and either gluten-free noodles or all veggies for a gluten-free alternative. I thought this would be great with a piece of salmon or chicken. Would be tasty in the salad as well!

asian green bean saladAsian Green Bean Salad         

This recipe first appeared in the March 2008 issue of Cooking Light and is by reader, Linda Dalton of Stoughton, Massachusetts.

Makes 8 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

3 ounces uncooked linguine
1 pound green beans, trimmed
2 cups diagonally sliced celery
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1/2 cup (1/2-inch) slices green onions
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Dressing
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)

To prepare salad, break linguine in half. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; add beans during last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Place mixture in a large bowl. Stir in celery, bell pepper, onions, and cilantro.

To prepare dressing, combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until blended. Add to salad; toss well. Cover and chill.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: France’s New “Food” Law

(Mario Proenca/Bloomberg News)

(Mario Proenca/Bloomberg News)

Just going to my own supermarket, and it is probably small compared to yours, I sometimes look at the abundance of food and am totally blown away that there is that much food in every supermarket in the country, even the world. It’s enough to make my head hurt because of the enormity and makes me ask, how do we do it? And what happens to the food that isn’t that great, but also isn’t saleable?

France recently passed a bill that makes it illegal for supermarkets to throw away food that is edible or passed its sell by date. Grocers either have to donate the food to charity or have it made into compost, energy, or animal feed. Think you can get away with it? The fines are steep, $82,000 if you don’t comply.

According to this op-ed piece in the Washington Post, nearly $160 billion in food doesn’t get eaten each year in the U.S. That is staggering. Interestingly, as I was researching this piece, I found that other European countries may be addressing this issue. I didn’t find one article that talked about the United States thinking about it. I compost, so I always figure I’m feeding my bunnies and other animals that frequent our meadow, but this does make me think twice about tossing out sad-looking veggies. Just more food for thought.

Homemade Salsa

apple orchard

The apple orchards are in full bloom!

I came to the conclusion recently that after writing this blog for four-plus years, I really need a recipe index for everything I’ve written and cooked. Because after searching, I discovered I’ve never passed along my favorite recipe for salsa! Guacamole, artichoke dip, hummus yes, but never salsa. After recently making a big batch, I figured I would right that wrong!

I know I’ve told you about the now defunct Horn of the Moon, a vegetarian restaurant in Montpelier, Vermont. As a teenager, I would take my babysitting money to enjoy pizza night on Tuesdays and sometimes would stop in for a sweet and hot carob (note, not hot chocolate!) after school. A definitive ’70s Vermont restaurant, there were spider plants hanging (in macramé plant holders) in the large windows that overlooked the Winooski River. Questionable décor, but the food was delicious. I even spent a day cooking in the kitchen in the hopes of landing a summer job. I can’t remember if they decided it wasn’t a good fit or if I did, but no matter, owner Ginny Callan has a beloved cookbook that I frequently turn to when l am looking to cook Vermont produce: rhubarb, fiddleheads, asparagus, and zucchini.

This recipe fits winter or summer; winter use a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes, summertime six medium-sized. I like it really spicy, so I’m liberal with the cayenne and sometimes I’ll add a jalapeno with the green pepper. A lot of chopping and measuring, but in the end you’ll know it was worth the effort. And it makes 3 cups, so there will be lots!

salsaSalsa
This recipe is from the Horn of the Moon Cookbook, by Ginny Callan, Harper & Row, 1987.

One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in tomato juice (In season, 6 finely diced medium-sized fresh garden tomatoes are a wonderful option!)
1 TBS. minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
2 tsp. sunflower oil (MVK’s Note: I use canola or another light oil)
2 tsp, lemon juice
2 tsp. ground cumin
½ cup very finely chopped onion (1 onion)
¾ cup very finely chopped green pepper (1 large pepper)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ to ½ tsp. cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 or 2 fresh hot chili peppers, minced (optional)

Crush tomatoes; chip or run lightly through food processor. Combine with rest of ingredients. Chill until ready to serve. Makes 3 cups.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Food, Wine, and Books!

nh22Last weekend I attended the second “Food, Wine, and Books” fundraiser for the New Haven Community Library. Held at Lincoln Peak Vineyard, we had drank wine and ate samples of recipes cooked from a variety of books in support of this local library. The evening brought together my three favorite things: books, wine, and food!

nh21It was picture-perfect, the temperature was just right and no bugs yet. We sat on the porch with friends we hadn’t seen in months (we are all coming out of our winter hibernation!), and chatted about books and politics while sipping the delicious wine and food. A cucumber dip from the book, Life from Scratch (a food memoir that is on my radar, but I haven’t read yet), was so good, there was a pasta/salmon salad out of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I think my favorite was the chicken paté from my idol Ruth Reichl’s wonderful memoir, Tender at the Bone. (I’m always a sucker for paté.) It was a wonderful way to enjoy the springtime weather, support a good cause, and try out some new dishes!  

 

 

Yellow-Eyed Pea Salad with Springtime Herbs

canada geese

I spotted this family of Canada geese one evening on my walk. It looked like they were going to play a pickup game of soccer!

I realized after I swapped out my winter wardrobe for my springtime clothes that Old Man Winter was not kind to me this year. Given the bitter cold we had, I found myself exercising less and eating (and drinking) more. So given this latest turn of events, I’ve really turned to looking at my diet. I’m even joining two friends in a cleanse in a few weeks; no caffeine, alcohol, sugar, meat, dairy, and only whole wheat products; a vegan diet for two weeks. Which has led me to look at past recipes (I found some here and here) and to start creating delicious meals in preparation!

I’ve been wanting to make a nice bean salad after seeing the cover of the most recent Eating Well magazine. I had some dried yellow-eyed peas I bought earlier in the winter to make baked beans, but decided these would work just as well for a salad. Add my usual vinaigrette and some spring herbs with radishes for crunch, this was light and tasty. Even the Eater of the House liked it! I served it along an argula salad with toasted almonds and olive oil and lemon, but it would be equally delicious as a side dish with a nice piece of fish or lean chicken.

I’ve never seen these peas in a can like their black-eyed relatives; if you want to forgo the soaking and cooking, you can substitute a can of Great Northern or cannellini beans. And a spritz of lemon juice on top before serving adds just a little more brightness to the dish!

bean saladYellow-Eyed Pea Salad with Springtime Herbs
I find this salad is best the day you make it; the radishes become a little soggy when left overnight.  

3 cups yellow-eyed peas
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1 chopped TBS each: chives, basil, Italian flat parsley-or a combination of other herbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon juice (optional)

1. In a large bowl, add the beans and radishes.

2. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Add to the beans and toss. Add the herbs and top with a spritz of lemon juice, if desired.

(Photo courtesy Burlington Farmer's Market)

(Photo courtesy Burlington Farmer’s Market)

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Visit your local farmer’s market!

It is finally the season for farmer’s markets! By the middle of May my favorite market moves from inside to outside, with early greens and vegetables available for purchase.

This great article from cookinglight.com offers the best farmer’s market from each state, plus a recipe to try with fresh produce! While my local farmer’s market didn’t make the top of Vermont’s list, the recipe looks divine!

You can check out all the farmer’s markets and to see if yours made the list by clicking here.