Perfect for the Season: Asparagus and Spring Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette

My Peter Rabbit is waiting to go back in the green garden!

Peter Rabbit is waiting for spring so he can go back in the green garden!

Rabbit Rabbit everyone! We’re finally in APRIL! Last week I said a big goodbye to winter; this week I’m saying hello to spring! And what better way to do that than with asparagus?

I buy asparagus by the pound this time of year. Last year I believe I actually got the question before dinner, “Asparagus? Again?” I love just roasting it (check out my recipes from last April!), but this recipe just calls for blanching and adding to a salad. A new way to use it!

What’s not to like with this salad? I never use lemon zest in anything, but I just might start. The addition of that brought a certain brightness to the dressing that just said spring. And gorgonzola cheese is one of my favorite cheeses; my favorite salad is romaine salad, olive oil, gorgonzola cheese and salt and pepper. So easy but SO good!

This recipe serves eight, so it would be a perfect side dish for your Passover or Easter dinner if you’re cooking for a crowd, or you can make it as a side salad for a weeknight supper. I just placed everything in individual bowls and topped with the salad dressing. And had some dressing left over for lunch the next day!

spring salad

I don’t usually see white asparagus in the produce section, so I used all green. Just as tasty!

Asparagus and Spring Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette

This recipe first appeared in the March 2010 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1 pound green and white asparagus, trimmed and cut into (2-inch) pieces
2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, divided
1 (5-ounce) package mixed salad greens

1. Cook asparagus and 2 teaspoons salt in boiling water 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse asparagus under cold water; drain.

2. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, shallots, and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese.

3. Combine asparagus and greens in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

easterMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Suggestions for Easter and Passover Dinner

It’s Wednesday, and if you’re like me and you still don’t know what you’re going to make for your Friday or Sunday dinner, here are some suggestions! These publications have lots of delicious recipes for your Easter and Passover dinners!

Cooking Light

New York Times Easter

New York Times Passover

Food Network

Martha Stewart

Rachael Ray

Bidding a Fond Farewell to Winter

Despite the temperature, we've had gorgeous sunrises this month.

Despite the temperature, we’ve had gorgeous sunrises this month. #nofilter

This past weekend, the first weekend of spring, I decided to say goodbye to the winter of 2015, that dark, cold, icy, snowy, did I say COLD, winter. In my kitchen, this means saying goodbye to some of my favorite root veggies: turnips, rutabaga, parsnips, and Brussels sprouts, and hello to spring asparagus, radishes, and peas. So I decided to make one last Brussels sprouts recipe before I closed the door on the season.

Now, I’ve purchased one bottle of fish sauce in my life and it’s still sitting in the refrigerator. Used in that rare Asian dish, it lasts forever so it just sits in the door of the fridge waiting for that next recipe. But when I spotted a page of fish sauce recipes in the April issue of Cooking Light, I knew I could kill two birds with one stone, bid adieu to winter and use up a little of the sauce!

It is definitely time to make a season switch; the sprouts I bought, normally bright green and round like a golf ball, were small and oval with just a tinge of green. This is a simple recipe, you measure everything and place into a bowl and just pan roast the sprouts. I added a bit more crushed red pepper, so on a blustery 14-degree day, it was a welcome warm side dish to roasted chicken, but I thought it could be equally tasty on a bed of rice or quinoa. (Vegetarians, you can still make this, just leave out the fish sauce, it will still be delicious!) So, goodbye winter! Hopefully Mother Nature will take a look at the calendar and realize we need to warm up!

brussels
Sweet and Savory Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts

This recipe originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1/2 cup)

2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 pound trimmed Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise

Combine water, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Let stand at least 20 minutes. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add Brussels sprouts to pan in a single layer, cut side down. Cook, without stirring, 5 minutes or until cut sides are evenly browned. Turn sprouts, and reduce heat to medium; cook 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Increase heat to medium-high. Add fish sauce mixture to pan, tossing to coat sprouts. Cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Mark Bittman in Berkeley          

berkeley

(Photo by Jim Wilson/New York Times)

One of my favorite food writers hands down is Mark Bittman. He can take three ingredients and make a dish fit for a king; his creativity in the kitchen is simple yet elegant. This lifelong New Yorker recently moved to Berkeley (which I take is a temporary move) and he writes elegantly about the winters farmer’s market in California’s Bay Area. Sigh. It honestly does sound like heaven to those of us in the snowbound states. You can read about his adventures by clicking here.

Leek and Pancetta Potato Rösti

As someone who has cooked Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd for several years now, I find one of the hardest things to make for the meal is mashed potatoes. I don’t have a microwave, so if I make them in advance they are difficult to reheat, but then I don’t want to make them at the time I’m head over heels fixing the turkey and gravy either. So when I suggested to the Eater of the House the idea of a different kind of potato dish that I could make in advance and reheat easily, I was greeted with silence. “Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes?” I heard a few minutes later. I got it. Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes!

But, if I were making a potato side for the meal, this would be it. I tried it out with a roast chicken supper one Sunday night and it was so delicious. Crispy potatoes and leeks, my favorite, with a hint of smoky meat and fresh sage. I substituted three slices of bacon for the pancetta and it was delicious. It would also make for a tasty weeknight main dish with a side salad. So for those of you looking for a different kind of potato side for your Thanksgiving meal, try this! And you can make it ahead! Cool on a wire rack, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reheat in an ovenproof skillet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until it is recrisped. And just leave out the pancetta for the vegetarian version!

rosti
Leek and Pancetta Potato Rösti
This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

4 1/2 cups shredded peeled baking potato (about 2 pounds)
3 ounces diced pancetta (such as Boar’s Head)
1 large leek, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Place shredded potato on a double layer of cheesecloth. Gather edges of cheesecloth together; squeeze cheesecloth to extract excess moisture. Place potato in a bowl.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Stir in leek; cook 4 minutes or until tender. Add pancetta mixture, flour, sage, salt, pepper, and egg to potato; stir well to combine.

3. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add potato mixture to pan; flatten with a spatula into an even layer. Cook 12 minutes or until bottom is golden brown. Place a large plate upside down on top of pan; invert onto plate. Carefully slide potato cake into pan, browned side up; cook 10 minutes or until golden brown. Place potato cake on a cutting board; cool slightly. Cut into 8 wedges.

chefMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: “Chef”
Enough about Thanksgiving! If you are looking for a feel-good movie that is a love story to food, check out “Chef.” It’s just out on DVD. I had been wanting to see this movie all summer when it was in the theater, but there was never a right time. So a lazy November Sunday afternoon it was! A well-known chef quits his comfortable job in a restaurant where his creativity is hindered and decides to open his own food truck where he lets his creativity shine. It’s one of those movies that makes you feel good, which seem to be few and far between these days. It has a happy ending, a bit unrealistic, but I walked away inspired, wanting to get in the kitchen and start cooking! And you’ll also think about making and eating a grilled cheese sandwich. Trust me!

 

Side By Side: Caramelized Cipollini Onions and Honey-Glazed Kohlrabi with Onions and Herbs

A little bit of Vermont foliage for you this morning. This was my drive home the other day!

A little bit of Vermont foliage for you this morning. This was my drive home the other day! Sometimes I am still in awe of the beauty.

One thing I don’t really pay that much attention to are sides when it comes to dinner. The main entrée is usually the star, and a simple salad or roasted veggies tend to be the quiet background. But lately I’ve been paying attention to the root and cruciferous vegetables that are still around this season. One of my latest favorites is tossing fresh broccoli with some olive oil and salt and pepper, lemon if I have it, and roasting until it is crunchy and crispy. Roasting brings out its sweetness and it is a totally new way to enjoy this tired staple. And I have two other new favorites!

ING-cipollini-onions_sql

Cipollini onions!

I went to book club recently and Mary P. brought along caramelized cipollini (chip-o-LEE-nee) onions that were simply delicious. So delicious, they made it to my grocery list immediately so I could make my own! This is simple, yet time-consuming, mainly because of the peeling and slicing of these small onions (in between tears and stinging eyes). This is my method: take a large pan, line it with olive oil, and when the oil was heated, add the onions (I had seven onions, it was about 2 cups if not more). Cook and stir at low heat for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. I always add a dash of salt at the start of cooking to bring out the water in the onions to soften them. Continue to stir and keep a watchful eye so they don’t get too burned (the original 2 cups cooked down to about 1/2 cup when all was said and done). A couple dashes of balsamic vinegar at the end, and it made for a delicious accompaniment to chicken, but it would be delicious with pork, roasted vegetables, a salad topping, or even on toasted bread.

I discovered kohlrabi a couple of years ago, and normally I slice and chop and put it into salads. But this side is a whole new way to enjoy it! It was so delicious and really made me perk up and pay attention to other recipes for this vegetable. From the pop of the mustard seeds, to the warmth of the honey and smooth onions, this was a wonderful addition to Sunday chicken. Once the initial sautéing is complete, it’s just putting it in the oven for about an hour (mine actually took about 45 minutes or so) and then serve. I’m of Slavic heritage, so this was right up my food alley. Note, I completely missed the direction that the kohlrabi and onions were to be cut into wedges, I sliced everything. But I liked it that way and it didn’t affect the flavor at all. I had it for lunch the next day on its own and it was even better!

kohlrabiHoney-Glazed Kohlrabi with Onions and Herbs
This recipe originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

2 teaspoons olive oil
5 small green or red kohlrabi bulbs, cut lengthwise into wedges (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons butter
1 medium sweet onion, vertically sliced into wedges
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 300°.

2. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add kohlrabi to pan; cook 2 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in mustard seeds, salt, and pepper; cook 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup water, honey, vinegar, butter, and onion; bring mixture to a boil.

3. Cover and bake at 300° for 1 hour or until kohlrabi is tender. Uncover and remove kohlrabi from pan; place on a serving platter. Return pan to medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; cook 6 minutes or until syrupy. Drizzle kohlrabi with syrup; sprinkle evenly with chopped parsley.

pumpkinMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Make Your Own Pumpkin Pie Spice!

It seems like everywhere I’ve turned since the beginning of September, anything and everything talks about pumpkin spice. I don’t recall this being such a big movement in the past, but it seems to have exploded. Everything from lattes to doughnuts to coffee flavors, even book sellers are getting into the market!

The Kitchen recently posted a recipe on how to make your own pumpkin pie spice instead of buying it. Making your own spice mixture is wonderful, because you have it at the ready and lasts forever if it’s in a tight glass jar. I’ve done this with savory spices and it’s wonderful to have on hand. You can get the recipe for pumpkin spice here.

Honey-Glazed Pork Chops + Tomato Salad + Corn Cakes

When we have company, I pull out the stops. It won’t be the usual dinner of some chopped veggies with chicken sausages or a quick pasta, I like to make a full meal. So when the Eater of the House’s mother was visiting for a week, I planned nutritious, yet fairly easy full meals to make for work night dinners.

This recipe might sound like a lot, pork chops, salad, and corn cakes, but it honestly came together fairly easily—and Cooking Light was correct in that it took about 40 minutes from beginning to end! While the pork chops are cooking, you can make up the corn cakes and since they are small, they’re quick to cook.

I used boneless pork chops, because they were on sale, and cooked up five of them, so there would be some leftover (they were terrific warmed for lunch!). I didn’t have fresh thyme, so dried worked, just use and used about a half a teaspoon. The corn cakes might have been the best part of the meal; crispy on the outside, and creamy and crunchy with the fresh corn. The addition of the scallions was perfect. Mmmm…..I’m getting hungry!

Reminiscing about this delicious meal made me think I should pull out all the stops for week night dinners more often!

 

pork corn fritters
Honey-Glazed Pork Chops with Tomato Salad and Corn Cakes
This recipe originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1 pork chop, about 2 teaspoons sauce, and about 3/4 cup salad)

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 (6-ounce) bone-in center-cut pork chops
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
3 cups baby spinach leaves
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Combine tomatoes, 1 teaspoon oil, thyme, and garlic on a foil-lined jelly-roll pan. Roast at 425° for 17 minutes.

3. Combine honey, cider vinegar, and mustard in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle pork evenly with salt and pepper. Add pork to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove pork from pan. Add stock to pan; cook 2 minutes or until reduced by half. Remove pan from heat; stir in honey mixture.

4. Place tomatoes, spinach, and balsamic vinegar in a bowl; toss to coat. Serve salad with pork and sauce.

Silver Dollar Corn Cakes

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 4 corn cakes)

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 large egg
1 cup fresh corn kernels
2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Combine buttermilk and egg in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in cornmeal mixture, corn kernels, and green onions. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 8 (1-tablespoon) mounds batter to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side. Remove corn cakes from pan. Repeat with remaining batter to yield 16 corn cakes total.

MVK Tip: To cut off kernels off of a corn cob, you need a sharp knife and a large bowl. Place the cob, flat side up, vertical in the bowl and cut down in a sawing motion, making sure you’re right at the bottom of the kernels.  Continue until all the kernels are removed. Once you do this a few times, it’s really easy!

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Thekitchn.com
If you are looking for a website that is a fantastic collection of tips, hints, and recipes, this is it! It was one of those “Suggested for You” websites on Facebook, and for once they got it right! If you “like” them on Facebook, you will find tons of tips in your news feed. “16 Smart Tips for Healthier Lunches,” “17 Easy Breakfast Recipes You Can Make with Eggs,” as well as stand alone recipes, and kitchen tips (how to organize your cupboards, how to test if baking soda and baking powder has expired). This is one of those websites that I find a little overwhelming, as there is SO much to read, you can lose an hour or two just discovering and learning new things!

Mission: Possible

Note the deep yellow hues in the field. Autumn is coming.

Note the deep yellow hues in the field. Autumn is coming.

No Meat

No Seafood

No Gluten

No Dairy

I’ve found myself being invited to a lot of potlucks this summer. In these days of food sensitivities, cooking for a crowd has become a bit more challenging than it used to be; no longer can I make a quick pasta salad with pieces of meat and cheese. I put a lot of thought into what I make so I’m sure everyone can have a helping; now, whether people eat it is another story, but at least I’ve attempted to offer a dish that can be eaten by all. The Eater of the House has noted through the years that while I make a healthy dish to share, that sometimes they aren’t that appealing. Hence the bean salads I’ve brought home because no one wanted them. (Insert sad face.)

The above was the list for the latest dinner party I attended. I fretted for days over what to make; every time I thought of something, it had one of the ingredients not to include. Cucumbers and tomatoes are in season right now, so I thought of an easy caprese salad, but I couldn’t use mozzarella. Then I thought of my cucumber salad, but I couldn’t use the sour cream. But what if I combined the cucumbers and tomatoes with other ingredients? With some leftover beans I defrosted in the freezer, I was well on my way!

This a terrific base-line salad, in that you can take the original recipe and add what you’d like to it: leftover chicken, salmon, or shrimp; feta cheese; even pasta all would be good additions to this, making it an entrée. Also herbs! I wanted to add some fresh basil, but didn’t have any, but I know that would add great flavor, or chives, mint, or dill. Try different veggies–crunchy red peppers, celery, kohlrabi would be delicious. The reason for the corn was I had one ear left in the vegetable bin, but I wish I had more. (And that ingredient is totally optional!) For the dressing, I used red wine vinegar, but another flavored vinegar or even lemon would be great. I measured it by the capful until I got the right acidity that I liked.

But best of all, the salad fit the bill and is relatively low in calories! And this time, I brought home an empty bowl! (Insert happy face!)

salad2
Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Chickpeas

Both tomatoes and cucumbers are water-filled vegetables, so I seed them as much as possible to avoid a soppy salad. To seed the tomatoes, I cut them into fourths and just remove a bit of the seeds before dicing.

1 can of chickpeas, or about 2 cups
2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 cups cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped into large chunks
The kernels from one ear of corn (optional)
4 radishes, sliced thinly
A couple of tablespoons of scallions
Olive oil and red wine vinegar, to taste (a few teaspoons each)
Salt and pepper

Add all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and vinegar and toss gently.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Nutritional Weight and Wellness, Minnesota

A few years ago I discovered the podcast, “Weight and Wellness,” produced by the nutritionists at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, http://www.weightandwellness.com/ which has locations surrounding the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Each week, they tackle a subject where nutrition can help you solve your physical ailments, from aching joints, menopause symptoms, anxiety and depression, and the list goes on. I always walk away with a list of tips and recipes.

Their website is a fountain of nutritional information and resources and they have four online classes you can take!  http://www.weightandwellness.com/services/online-classes/. I have yet to take one, but I plan to in the near future!

Spiced Chicken Thighs and Parsley Couscous

I’ve really gotten into spice rubs for meat lately. Easier and less messy than marinades, they are a nice way to spice up (no pun intended) a boring piece of meat, with spices and herbs that already are in the cupboard.

This was an easy Sunday dinner. Always one for looking for simplicity, by browning and roasting the chicken in the same pan, it makes a one-dish supper–less cleanup! I had Israeli couscous in the cupboard, so I used that, which made it more of a pasta side dish. If you’re looking for a gluten-free alternative, quinoa or rice can certainly be used. Served with the first corn of the season, it was a delicious meal and the leftover chicken was perfect on my salads for lunch!

herbed chix

Spiced Chicken Thighs and Parsley Couscous
This recipe originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Sip on a cool glass of ginger lemonade for just 32 cents per serving: Bring 4 cups water and 1/3 cup sliced fresh ginger to a boil in a medium saucepan; remove from heat. Steep 30 minutes. Strain; discard solids. Mix the liquid with the juice of 2 large lemons and 3 tablepoons honey. Serve over ice.

Serves 4 (serving size: 2 thighs and about 1/2 cup couscous)

2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed and skinned (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2/3 cup uncooked couscous
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Combine cumin, sugar, chili powder, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper, lemon rind, and black pepper in a small bowl; rub spice mixture over both sides of chicken. Heat a large ovenproof skillet or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken to pan, placing it skin side down; cook 5 minutes on each side or until chicken is browned. (If necessary, work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.) Transfer pan to oven. Bake chicken at 425° for 14 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from pan; let stand 10 minutes before serving.

3. While chicken rests, heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add couscous and garlic to pan; cook 2 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring frequently. Carefully stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and chicken stock. Bring liquid to a boil. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 4 minutes (avoid opening the lid). Fluff couscous with a fork, and stir in parsley and lemon juice.

summer_box1MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Lovethesecretingredient.net
Far be it for me to think I’m the only food blog out there worth reading (there are zillions out there, so I know I’m only a teeny spec in the cyber world!). But I came across Mary Frances’s blog, Love the Secret Ingredient, a couple of years ago, and have thoroughly enjoyed reading her adventures in the kitchen since then. She cooks a little bit like me; I have this in the fridge, what can I make?

She’s had a project for the last few months that I really admire: seasonal food boxes, all to benefit Feed the Children. I ordered the summer box (pictured), and received a delicious spice rub, some yummy salsa, and other goodies. And the box was totally gluten-free. This sort of project is totally out of my realm, so I’m excited to find something foodie related–and impressed she took her blog and food interest to the next level!

I’ll be ordering the fall box soon! Check it Mary Frances’s blog at www.lovethesecretingredient.net.