Summertime Holiday Dishes Plus MVK’s Food News of the Week

Note, apologies for the advance unedited piece you may have received on Monday; I’ve been having some troubles with my host and it sent instead of saved!  

I wish every morning this could be my view at breakfast.

I wish this could be my view at breakfast every morning! My view from the top of Mount Abraham.

“In the summertime when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the sky.”

“In the Summertime,” by Jerry Mungo

The first two lines of this old chestnut have been an earworm for the past two weeks or so. Long sunny days with the light going well past nine, and starting around 4:30 a.m., have me out and about well before my usual early rising time and sometimes well past my bedtime. No matter, this time is fleeting and I know in just a few short weeks I’ll start to notice the time change and that it’s no longer a bright light that wakens me.

That said, it’s almost Fourth of July weekend, which for some marks the start of summer. This is one of those golden years where the holiday is bumped with a weekend, so we don’t have the odd middle-of-the-week day off. I always find this time of year as one with family and friend gatherings, summer guests, picnics, and lots of opportunity to feed a crowd. So this week I’m recycling a favorite idea and bringing you some past suggestions for summer eating and hosting!

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Miscellaneous and Appetizers

Jordan Marsh’s Blueberry Muffins
If you have some fresh blueberries, these are delicious and easy.

Meditteranean Kebobs
My go-to dish for potlucks.

Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco
I took this once to a dinner party and I ended up eating most of it! It’s SO good!

Kale Chips
Healthier than potato chips!

Soups and Main Dishes

Julia Child’s Vichyssoise
I’m not one for summer soups, but I do love this one.

Summer Minestrone Soup
A great soup with summertime vegetables.

Zucchini and Red Pepper Frittata
Eggs are a real lifesaver for dinner on summer evenings.

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
These are great hot off the grill or cold.

Marinated London Broil
Mmm…

Salads

Israeli Couscous “Tabbouleh”
A fun spin on an old favorite.

MVK’s Nicoise Salad
My take on this classic French summer meal.

Szechuan Cucumbers
No guilt if you eat the whole bowl!

Red White and Blue Salad
A fun salad for the holiday!

Asian Green Bean Salad 
A great vegetarian dish with an Asian twist.

Cavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives
A delicious heart-healthy pasta salad.

Desserts

Strawberry Shortcake
It’s not summer without having this for dinner one night.

Old Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie
A Vermont spin on an old fashioned favorite.

pepsiMVK’s Food News of the Week: This is How Much Celebrities are Paid to Endorse Unhealthy Foods
I recently read this article about how much celebrities are paid to endorse certain foods, mainly soda and fast food. I was surprised and also saddened. If you can believe it (I can’t), Beyoncé was paid $50 million (yes, you read correctly) to promote Pepsi products! You can read the article by clicking here.

Ramps Two Ways Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Speaking of a fleeting season, I wait all year for my lilac bushes to bloom! The peonys will be next!

Speaking of a fleeting season, I wait all year for my lilac bushes to bloom! The peonies will be next!

We are now looking at Memorial Day weekend in a couple of days and are in the thick of the springtime harvest season. The farmer’s market is now open outdoors, with the locals selling their delicate greens and late winter root vegetables. I think spring is the most fleeting of the seasons; I feel like I blink and I’m then looking at young squashes. Which means when it’s spring I take full advantage of what the season has to offer and for me that means ramps. The season lasts maybe three weeks, so when I see them I grab them, so I hope this post isn’t too late! If so, tuck this recipe away until next spring. You will thank me. 🙂

Ramps are also called wild leeks and can be found in wet, woody areas, but I, of course, find them nice and clean at the coop. They have a lighter, more delicate flavor than say garlic or even cultivated leeks. You can use both the greens and the stems for different recipes or all at once. I love to sauté the stems in a little bit of butter and then add them to scrambled eggs (the addition of some fresh dill and cheese only makes it even better). And you can add some to pesto and also pickle them, too. (See below.)

To clean ramps, I fill the sink with cold water and swish them to make sure all the dirt is removed. For the greens, I cut just where the greens stop and the stem starts.

One of my favorite food writers is Melissa Clark of the New York Times. She frequently appears on WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show, which I listen to as a podcast. Recently she was on talking about springtime vegetables: ramps, asparagus, rhubarb, and gave a “recipe” for ramps that sounded delicious. (You can listen to the show here.) I decided to try my own version. I grabbed a handful of ramps at the coop and created these two recipes, greens for one and the stems for another.

This recipe is forgiving. As I was making it, I didn’t keep track of the specifics, so you can make this for one, two, or more eaters depending on how many ramps you have! Hopefully ramp season hasn’t passed by and you to try this! It was sooo good!

ramps
Sautéed Ramps with Ricotta
Inspired by Melissa Clark.

These would be delicious as an appetizer or accompanying a nice dinner salad or soup. Or you could make it your whole dinner (that’s what I wanted to do!).

Olive oil
Ramp greens
Crushed red pepper (if desired)
A good baguette (gluten-free if needed)
Ricotta cheese
Fresh lemon
Kosher salt (or another larger-grained salt)

1. In a medium saucepan, heat about 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add your ramp greens and sauté until just softened. If you want a little bit of heat, add just a shake of some crushed red pepper.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the baguette and put on a cookie sheet. Bake until the bread is nice and golden.

3. Add a smear of ricotta cheese on each piece of bread. Add some greens and just a tiny squirt of fresh lemon juice and salt. Then eat warm!

ramps2Pickled Ramps
The way I like to eat these is in a quesadilla or tostada. They are great with melted cheese!

½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons water

Mix the vinegar, sugar, and water together in a small bowl to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Add ramp stems (cut into half-inch pieces), and add to vinegar mixture. Cover. You can eat them in about two days and the bowl can be left on the kitchen counter covered for seven to ten days.

 

garlicMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Peel an Entire Head of Garlic in 10 Seconds!
Ok, I’ll admit I haven’t tried this technique from Saveur magazine yet, but since peeling garlic is my least favorite thing I do in the kitchen (even above doing dishes!), it is on my radar when I need a whole head of garlic!

Check it out here!

Easter Sides Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

easterAm I the only one who feels like Easter snuck up on us this year? It seems like I just barely made my Valentine’s Day dinner and now it’s time for another holiday! But since it’s here, planning is in order!

I usually make the first potato salad of the year to serve alongside the traditional ham, but it feels too early to make one in March, so I needed to find another potato side dish. Cooking Light has lots of menu ideas and some delicious sounding potato recipes. For me, springtime is lemon and chives. I thought this roasted vegetable dish sounded divine and decided to make it for my dinner one night. Served with pork chops, it was SO good! But not before a few changes.

I was making this for a solo dinner (not 12!), so my measurements went way down. As I mentioned last week, I can’t eat onions and garlic for a while (although I can eat chives and the greens of scallions), so I didn’t include the Vidalias, but I know they would make this dish even better! I’m not a fan of baby carrots, so I peeled and cut into chunks five small carrots. And I couldn’t find fingerling potatoes, so I used only small baby reds, which I cut into quarters. The vinaigrette is terrific and since this was a smaller portion, I have some leftover for another meal. I served them with pork chops, but this would be excellent served alongside ham, a pork roast, chicken, even fish.

I gave you two additional potato side dishes below. Rosemary is a great complement to potatoes and an herb vinaigrette with roasted potatoes has to be good, right? Whatever you cook and serve for your holiday meal, I hope you are surrounded by family and friends and it is delicious. Happy Easter!

veg 

Lemon-Chive Roasted Vegetables

Serves 12

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

1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, halved
1 1/2 pounds small fingerling potatoes, halved
1 pound baby carrots
2 medium Vidalia or other sweet onions, each cut into 8 wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; toss well to coat. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on 2 jelly-roll pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.

3. Combine vegetables, chives, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss gently to coat.

And here are two more ideas for you!

Rosemary Potatoes-From the March 2001 Cooking Light

Roasted Potatoes with Herb Vinaigrette-From April 2007 Cooking Light


Processed-Foods-PhotoMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Nutrition Diva!

I have been listening to the “Nutrition Diva’s Quick and Dirty Tips” podcast for years now. Once a week, nutritionist Monica Reinagel gives a short podcast on a nutritional topic. Each one is well thought out, clearly explained, and less than ten minutes. They’re great!

I also follow her on Facebook and recently she posted this article on a new study about the American diet. While there is a movement for “clean eating,” the study showed more than half of the American diet is comprised of ultra-processed foods and lots and lots of sugar.

Although I found this interesting, I always look at studies with a wary eye. This one was from 2009-2010, so perhaps things have gotten better? Regardless, it does make interesting reading. You can read the article here.

 

Sweet Onion Risotto With Sautéed Kale Plus MVK’s Like of the Week!

Sunrise, Sunset.

Sunrise, Sunset.

Last week I brought you several comforting recipes to get you through January. Well, add one more to the list! Even though we’ve had more rain than snow this winter and it’s been in the 30s and 40s (a virtual heat wave by Vermont standards), it’s still that time of year you want something warm and healthy to eat at supper time!

With fewer calories and fat than macaroni and cheese or pasta, I think there’s something special about a warm, creamy bowl of risotto. To me it’s like a savory rice pudding for dinner! And this recipe includes the added benefits of some sautéed kale with nuts and raisins (which would be a delicious side dish anytime, or on its own), so you have a complete meal all in one bowl!

While the ingredient list may seem daunting, it’s the constant stirring that takes the time. I made this on a weekend, but you could certainly do this on a weeknight. And I’ll be honest, when I make risotto, I sometimes cheat. I’ll make sure the burner isn’t set too high, so when add the stock, stir, I will sometimes step away for a couple of minutes. And then rapidly stir when I get back to make up for my absence! Vegetarians can substitute either water or vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.

The added bonus of this recipe is it actually makes three recipes! Set aside some of the risotto for Cauliflower Risotto Cakes and Italian Wedding Risotto Soup. (Recipes below.) I put my batch in the freezer to make these dishes later on!

Happy Cooking!

risotto
Sweet Onion Risotto with Sautéed Kale

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

3 cups water
2 1/4 cups uncooked short-grain brown rice
3 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
3 cups chopped sweet onion
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 cup dry white wine
5/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
5/8 teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (about 1/2 cup)
3 1/2 cups chopped Lacinato kale
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 teaspoon white vinegar

1. Combine 3 cups water and rice in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Drain rice in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1 1/3 cups cooking liquid. Combine 1 1/3 cups cooking liquid and stock in a medium saucepan over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; keep warm.

2. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 3 1/2 tablespoons oil; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 8 minutes. Add rice to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 1/2 cup stock mixture to pan; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining stock mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring almost constantly until each portion is absorbed before adding the next (about 30 minutes). Reserve 3 cups risotto for Cauliflower Risotto Cakes and Italian Wedding Risotto Soup. Stir 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and cheese into remaining 3 1/2 cups risotto.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add kale to pan; cook 3 minutes or until kale is slightly wilted. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper, raisins, toasted pecans, and vinegar; sauté for 1 minute. Top risotto with kale mixture.

Cauliflower Risotto Cakes

Italian Wedding Risotto Soup

bfMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Buzz Feed Food
I’ve always thought of the website www.buzzfeed.com as a fun pop culture website, not one where I would get “real” stories. That changed a couple of months ago when I signed up to get their weekly food newsletters. Their stories are fun and full of information! With an emphasis on healthy eating (“18 Healthyish Slow Cooker Stews to Get You Through the Rest of Your Winter”), fun graphics (“17 Charts to Help You Eat Healthy), and sometimes silly (“Grandparents Predict the Food Trends of 2016”), it’s a fun way to get more recipes, learn about health, and have a laugh along the way! You can check it out at Buzz Feed Food!

 

End (or Begin) the Year on a Healthy Note: Lemon-Herb White Bean and Kale Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

spoon
I can’t believe we are at the end of the year! Last New Year’s is still so vivid in my mind, but now we’re saying goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016! This year brought challenges and opportunities (making a pie for a movie!), crossing Bonnie Slotnick’s cookbook store off my bucket list, and learning more and more about food, nutrition, and cooking. I’m ready to see what the new year will bring.

And no doubt it will bring more healthy cooking and eating. After a few days of out of the ordinary food, I really wanted a healthy salad. And I hit the jackpot with this one: kale, white beans, a flavorful vinaigrette. It was perfect!

This salad would be perfect on its own as a main dish for lunch or dinner, but will work equally well as a side dish at dinner. Easy to assemble, you can serve it warm (which I did) or chilled (like I had for leftovers) and both are equally tasty. If you wanted to add a little grated cheese or a few pieces of chicken, the salad will only get better.

The Lacinato (or dinosaur) kale at the coop was flimsy and had about three stalks in each bunch, so I decided to go with plain curly, and chopped, you’ll never know the difference. And instead of cannellini beans, I opted for the nondescript “small white beans,” that were just right.

New Year’s will of course include my Good Luck Peas for lunch, with hopes that it brings good luck for the coming year. And as we close the year, my fourth as the author of this blog, I will raise my glass to my readers from near and far tomorrow evening and bid you a Happy New Year! May you find light and love in the coming year!

Happy Cooking!

salad
Lemon-Herb White Bean and Kale Salad
This recipe first appeared in the December 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine. 

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cups thinly sliced Lacinato kale
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add kale to pan; cook 30 seconds. Add beans to pan; cook 1 minute.

2. Combine remaining 7 teaspoons oil and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over kale mixture. Serve warm or chilled.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: 15 Ways to Shop Smarter

shoppingI am always looking for ways to save money on food for my household, as it is one of the largest bills each month. Thekitchen.com created this list of past articles that is a great start for your new year! You can read the article by clicking here. Happy Savings!

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.

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.

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.

Roasted Asparagus: Two Ways

easterEaster always signifies to me the end of winter and the first real springtime meal of the year. With Easter so late this year, I’m already in full swing with the spring vegetables and recipes: radishes, baby beets, and asparagus. When I see California asparagus in March, I know spring has arrived. (To get local asparagus, I’ll have to wait until at least May!) With the traditional Easter dinner always a bit on the heavy side: ham, potato salad and/or sweet potatoes, I like to counter it with some roasted asparagus to signify the new season and to lighten up the meal!

These are two ways I roast asparagus that are easy and delicious. Hardly any fat and calories and true confession, I’ve been known to make a sheet of this for a solo dinner. Balsamic vinegar is always a wonderful addition to any dish, since a little goes a long way.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and the Easter Bunny is good to you! I am taking a week or two off to celebrate my birthday as well as take part in an exciting event (check out this week’s endorsement following the recipes)!

asparagus2

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic-Shallot Butter
This recipe originally appeared in the November 2002 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Make the butter ahead of time, if you like. Roast the asparagus and toss it with the butter just before serving.

Yield: 8 servings

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 pounds asparagus spears
Cooking spray

Combine shallots, butter, vinegar, thyme, salt, and rind, stirring well with a whisk.

Preheat oven to 450°.

Snap off tough ends of asparagus. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Cover with foil; bake at 450° for 5 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Pour butter mixture over asparagus, toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Butter
This recipe originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Toss roasted asparagus in browned butter, seasoned with soy sauce and a splash of balsamic vinegar, for a super easy side dish that’s big on flavor.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 5 spears)
Hands-on: 7 Minutes
Total: 25 Minutes

40 thick asparagus spears, trimmed (about 2 pounds)
Cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on baking sheet; coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until tender.

3. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat; cook for 3 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking pan occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in soy sauce and vinegar. Drizzle over asparagus, tossing well to coat. Serve immediately.

Note: Finish the asparagus just before serving dinner. Cooking the butter until it browns slightly gives the dish a nutty flavor; watch carefully, though, since it can burn easily.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
three squaresThis week, I am endorsing myself! I have the wonderful opportunity to moderate a food discussion with author and food historian, Abigail Carroll, at this year’s Newburyport (MA) Literary Festival on April 26. The session is titled “The Invention of the American Meal” and we will discuss Abigail’s book, Three Squares, and the history of our American eating habits. I found her book a fascinating glance at history regarding the three square meals we eat every day.

Here is a link to the festival’s website, http://www.newburyportliteraryfestival.org. If you are in the area, I’d love to meet you in person! Hopefully I will return with a recap of the event, if all goes well!

Smothered Broccoli with Peppers, Onions, and Raisins

One of my favorite cookbooks from the last year or two is The Splendid Table’s® How to Eat Supper by Lynn Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift. From the National Public Radio show of the same name, these are easy dinners, perfect to make on a week night. I think there has been only one or two recipes that weren’t repeaters. (If a cookbook has a lot of dishes I want to repeat, I know it’s really good!)

The other evening after work, we took a late afternoon walk and then home for dinner. I was tired, hungry, and wanted dinner pronto! I had planned to make this dish for dinner, which is found under the “Sides” section of the book. Of course, I took liberties with the recipe. The original recipe serves 6-8 people, I didn’t have 1 ½-2 pounds of broccoli, I had about 2 cups or so. But that’s the beauty of vegetable stir fries, it doesn’t really matter the amount, everything tastes good together! Served over a toasted baguette with some olive oil, most of this didn’t make it to the table; it was so good, I ate my portion standing up!

This is the second time I’ve made this for dinner  and I thought it was yummy, but adding some leftover meat or beans would make an attractive and delicious addition if you wanted a bit more. If you don’t have any rosemary, I think any fresh herb would make it delicious!

Smothered Broccoli with Peppers, Onions, and Raisins
Based on the recipe of the same name in The Splendid Table’s® How to Eat Supper

• 1-3 cups broccoli florets, steamed
• 2 teaspoons, extra virgin olive oil
• 1 medium red pepper, cut into thin strips
• 1 small red onion, sliced thinly
• Roughly  2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
• 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (Note: Kasper calls for 1/8 teaspoon, I added ½. Let’s just say it should be somewhere in between, ½ was a bit on the SPICY side!)
• ¼ cup raisins (Note: Kasper says golden are preferred, I’ve never used anything other than Thompson and they are delicious)
• 2 Tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (Note: I realized the pine nuts I had in the fridge had an expiration date of November 2010, so I chopped some almonds and walnuts instead, untoasted, and this was a great substitution.)

In a saucepan, steam the broccoli florets until just done. Set aside in a serving bowl and top with salt and freshly ground pepper.

In the same saucepan, add the olive oil and warm until it shimmers. Add the red pepper, onion, rosemary, and red pepper flakes and cook at medium heat until everything starts to get soft. Stir in the raisins and add to the broccoli. Top with the pine nuts or nuts. Can be served at hot or at room temperature, or from the fridge. Serve on top of toasted bread with olive oil, rice, or by itself. Add leftover meat, tofu, or beans if you want a more substantial dish.