Super Quick Italian Bean Salad

Italian Bean Salad

This is my weeknightified version of a Foster’s Market recipe. It’s super simple and really hits the spot when I want a tasty deli-style salad with next to no work. You could dress it up as much as you like with fresh veggie add-ins. The original recipe is lovely, though not super fast (you cook the beans yourself and make their delicious dressing from scratch, among other things). Again, this is more a list of ideas than a real recipe, but it’s not hard to eye the proportions.

Ingredients:

Rinsed and drained canned white beans (I like navy beans)

Italian dressing—-I like the Penzey’s mix

Capers

Sundried tomatoes

Chopped fresh parsley

Mix beans with enough dressing to coat and enough capers and tomatoes to give it a little color. Let marinate a few hours if you have time. Add parsley. Enjoy!

Got some more feedback on my nonfiction manuscript this week. Things are finally moving forward. So excited.

And in other news this week, I’ve been talking to 4th and 5th graders about writing an early reader (i.e. Slowpoke). Fun times! Love getting their questions.

For more food-related posts, click here. Have a great rest of your week.

 

Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon, Tomato, and Oregano

Chopped Chicken  How about a final soup to say good-bye to cold-weather? Am I jinxing us just writing that?

I was going to call this a Greek chicken soup, but it’s really just Greek-inspired. I like to make it when I’m feeling a little tired of our usual chicken noodle with carrot and onion version.

This is less a recipe and more an idea for flavors.

You need:

–chopped cooked chicken (I usually poach* some breasts. Roasting bone-in is probably the most flavorful way you could go, but poaching is quick and painless)

–chicken broth (I use chicken base and water)

–cooked rice

–pre-cooked or drained and rinsed canned white beans. I like navy beans.

Assemble and heat gently until hot. Then add:

–chopped tomatoes (I used cherry ones since they’re always available and good)

–oregano (I grow it in the back yard, but dried is also ok—-as I look at my photo I see what appears to be parsley. hmmm…well, that will work, too and is also growing in the back yard)

–juice from 1/4 to 1/2 lemon

Enjoy! For more of my cooking and eating adventures, click here.

Chicken and Rice Soup

Hoping the weather is sunny and warm wherever you are.

Things making me happy this week (besides the lovely weather): I discovered the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. Smart people talking about tv and movies. A dream!

Speaking of dreaming, I’ve been tweeting what my imaginary personal chef would make me for lunch if she existed. If you want to dream-eat with me, find me @emilysmithpearc on Twitter.

Also, Call the Midwife is back! And, I finished a draft of my nonfiction manuscript and sent it off for comment. Wahoo!

And now, trying very hard to focus on finishing this draft of my novel. Nose to grindstone.

*Poaching is like allllmost boiling something, but don’t let it come to a boil. Cook slowly at the almost boiling point until done, and you’ll have tender chicken. Boiling will give you a rubbery mess.

See you again soon!

Gluten-Free Almondy Cut-Out Cookies

Gluten-Free Cutout Cookies

Turns out my recipe for almondy cookies easily adapts to a gluten-free version. I made a half-batch last week just to test it out. Everyone loved them, including visiting gluten-eaters. They are not too sweet and have a nice shortbready-type texture.

I make my own gluten-free flour blend in large batches according to the recipe in Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, but you could probably use any GF flour blend.

GLUTEN-FREE ALMONDY CUT-OUT COOKIES (adapted from this cooks.com recipe)

Makes about 4 dozen cookies, depending on the size of your cutters, but you can easily halve it if you don’t want that many.

2 sticks butter (I’ll have to try subbing coconut oil another time….)

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 tsp. almond extract

1 1/2 cups almond meal

3 cups gluten-free flour blend (homemade or purchased)

pinch of salt

Cream together butter, sugar, egg, and almond extract. Beat in flour, almond meal, and salt.

Make a ball and flatten it, wrap in wax paper and place in the fridge for an hour or a day.

Preheat oven to 325°, roll out dough, and use cutters to cut shapes. Ours were a little thicker—in the 1/4 inch range, but you could go thinner, depending on how crispy or chewy you want yours. Just watch the time—you definitely don’t want to overcook them.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or more. They should be very lightly browned. I should’ve cooked ours a little longer, but I got impatient.

I’m tempted to up the almond meal further and lower the flour portion. Maybe next time. Also hoping to try out a GF molasses cookie recipe. Stay tuned. For other eating and cooking adventures (including gluten-free) click here.

Simplest Curried Pumpkin Soup

Golden Nugget Squash

I was in Trader Joe’s yesterday, and my eyes landed on these beauties. According to TJ’s, they are “Gold Nugget Squash,” but they’re similar what we called Hokkaido pumpkins in Germany, and I knew I just had to have some pumpkin soup for lunch. I’d been looking for some similar pumpkins here, but this was the first time I’d seen anything close.

I was psyched to find that the Gold Nugget cooked up just like a Hokkaido, which is loads better than a pie pumpkin when it comes to soup-making.

I wanted to recreate some soup, chef unknown, that I’d had at a school function, but I didn’t want to spend my day making soup, since it was just for me. Sadly, the family is not nearly as enthusiastic about pumpkin soup as I am.  All the recipes I could find were pretty involved, so I came up with my own.

I’m sure the “involved” recipes are, you know, fancier, but this method totally floated my boat. Super delicious and easy! Here’s my Amelia-Bedelia* recipe:

Simplest Curried Pumpkin Soup

1 thin-skinned, dark red pumpkin/ squash (My pumpkin was about the size of a grapefruit. Adjust spices up if your pumpkin is bigger, always tasting to see if it suits you).

water

1 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp powdered ginger

a few sprinkles dried onion flakes

a few sprinkles garlic powder

small sprinkle red pepper flakes

salt to taste

One of these gold nuggets made about 3-4 bowls of soup (umm….yes, I ate it all in one sitting).

Preheat the oven (I used the toaster oven) to 375 degrees F. Prick the skin of the pumpkin a few times with a fork or knife tip. Roast whole until it’s nice and tender. I think mine took about 35 minutes or so. At this point, you could set it aside to cool and refrigerate until you’re ready to make the soup.

Slice the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Now scoop the flesh out of the skin, and if you have a hand blender, place directly in your soup pot. I mashed mine a little with the potato masher. Add a cup or so of water, mash a little more, and then puree with the hand blender. Add more water if needed to make it the consistency you like.

Alternatively you could place the pumpkin flesh in your blender with water, then empty the puree into your soup pot.

Okay, you’ve got pumpkin puree. Now heat slowly and season with the spices to your taste. I used Penzey’s mild curry powder, which worked beautifully.

Serve and eat. I added a squeeze of lime and a dash of Sriracha sauce to mine. This is definitely going into my rotation for as long as I can get my hands on those little pumpkins!

*for friends unfamiliar with Amelia Bedelia, she’s a children’s book character. Ms. Bedelia is a little dim with housework, but her saving grace is her fabulous no-recipe cooking. She cooks with “a little of this, a little of that.”

It’s been Soup Central around here, with tomato soup, golden chick pea soup, and coming tomorrow, chili. For more of my less-meatarian cooking posts, look here. What have you been cooking lately?

Meanwhile I think our costumes are allllllmost finished. Just need to paint our little ninja’s cardboard weapon. Hope to post directions for his tunic soon. Happy Halloween!

Curried Pumpkin Soup

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Chickpea SaladThis is really more of a suggestion than a recipe. As I may have mentioned, I’m not doing wheat these days (long story), and in general I’m trying to eat more veggies and fewer grains. I miss my tabbouleh, though (usually made with bulghur wheat).

So, I changed up Mark Bittman’s tabbouleh recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Instead of bulghur wheat, I used a can of rinsed chickpeas, then added chopped cucumber and tomato as well. If you do dairy, you could add feta. Mmmmm…

As usual, the full-of-fresh-herbs dressing is the key ingredient, and it tied everything together nicely. Even got a thumbs up from the hubs. I planted a whole hedge of parsley this year and have been so, so happy to have it for salads like this. It’s really easy to grow from seed (basil, too).

For more of my recipes and cooking posts, click here. You’ll notice I seem to have a thing for chickpeas.

What about you? Made any interesting salads lately? My new herb garden is keeping me inspired.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Herby Green Dressing

Roasted Cauliflower Salad

I was craving a rice salad, but without the rice. Something that’s all about soaking up a good sauce. Roasted cauliflower has been my recent go-to sauce-soaker-upper, and I was really happy with what I came up with. Here’s the skinny:

Olive Oil

1 head Cauliflower, finely chopped

2 or 3 handfuls Grape or Cherry Tomatoes

Dressing:

2 cloves Garlic

Olive Oil

Red Wine Vinegar

1 T Dijon Mustard

tiny drip of Honey (or something else if you’re vegan)

Lemon Juice

a few tablespoons or more Minced Chives

a few tablespoons or more fresh Oregano, chopped (basil or parsley would be good, too)

1 T Capers

Salt and Pepper to taste

Chopped Walnuts (optional)

Oil a baking sheet and throw the cauliflower on it with a couple of garlic cloves. Roast at 375F, for about 20 minutes. Halve the tomatoes and roast them for about 20-30 minutes as well. This brings out their flavor like crazy.

I’m not really a measuring kind of person when it comes to dressing (or, let’s be honest, for a lot of things). If you really want measurements, you could use a basic vinaigrette and add the extras. I think I’d add even more herbs next time. I really wanted something that was so green it would color the cauliflower, but my herb garden wasn’t quite in full swing when I made this.

Chop up the roasted garlic and whisk it together with the other dressing ingredients.

Toss the cauliflower with the dressing and tomatoes. Add walnuts. Yum. I realized later that the dressing flavors were inspired by the broccoli gribiche recipe from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day.

What are you cooking this summer? I’m always on the lookout for interesting salads. Hope you had a great weekend and a happy Father’s Day.

Roasted Cauliflower with Olives, Capers, and Red Wine Vinaigrette

Roasted Cauliflower

I’m on a cauliflower kick, what can I say? I seem to be eating a lot of it, roasted, with various toppings. I think it’s because my friend Laurel mentioned it, then it was in the paper (something about a cauliflower trend—yes I still read a paper paper) and then I just couldn’t get it out of my head.

Besides cutting out wheat, I’m avoiding large servings of grains in general, so the idea of something mild  and non-grain that takes flavors very well —–a sauce depository, if you will—-is very appealing. I was never a huge fan of cauliflower in the past, but I think, as with many veggies, I just had to find my favorite cooking method. Roasting wins.

Roasted Cauliflower

First, preheat the oven to 375F. Slice the cauliflower into pieces about 1/4 inch to 1/3 inch thick, brush with olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes (just like the broccoli here). If you’re going to make the vinaigrette below, throw in a clove or two of garlic and roast them while you’re at it.

When the cauliflower is tender but still firm, with browning on the edges, it’s done. At least, that’s the done-ness I like.

At this point you could serve it with any number of sauces or toppings: peanut sauce? bread crumb/ nut topping? curry?

I made this vinaigrette in homage to a bread dipping sauce from a favorite restaurant, Passion8 Bistro in Fort Mill. Charlotte area friends, seriously, you MUST go there. It’s this funky little farm-to-fork place in the middle of nowhere. Besides great food, it has loads of character.

But I digress.

The vinaigrette is a loose combination of:

Olive Oil

Roasted Garlic, minced

Chopped Olives (I used green ones but kalamata would be excellent)

a spoonful of Capers

a judicious amount of red pepper flakes (I’m addicted)

Red Wine Vinegar

1/2 tsp or more Ground Mustard (optional)

Salt and Pepper to taste

I usually do a little more olive oil than vinegar and just add however much I like of the rest of the stuff, to taste.

Charlotte friends, I feel compelled to mention a couple of places we’ve eaten recently that, in addition to Passion8 Bistro, were just outstanding.

  • The King’s Kitchen (which is owned by the same guy that owns Roosters, which I also love) is fantastic—-sort of re-imagined upscale meat and three, and btw it’s non-profit, which is totally fascinating and you should read about it on their website. I had the hangar steak. Yum!
  • Doan’s Vietnamese Restaurant: try the hotpots!! It’s like a Vietnamese broth fondue. So excellent and fun. Best tomyum broth I’ve ever had.
  • And one more: Zeitouni’s Mediterranean Grill at Toringdon in Ballantyne. Seriously, how did I not get a clue about this place earlier? The falafel is TO DIE FOR!

Okay, that’s a lot of exclamation points, but really, it’s been good dining lately. What about you? What’s got you inspired in the kitchen/ out to eat lately?

Quick Black Bean and Polenta Casserole

Black Bean and Polenta Casserole

I threw this together the other night when I needed something pretty quick and had to use what I had on hand. It was a perfect easy supper.

It’s inspired by Rachael Ray’s Calabacitas Casserole, which is yummy but more involved, with no beans. I once had it at my sister-in-law’s house, and was immediately sold.

My casserole is based on three main ingredients: black beans, salsa, and pre-cooked polenta. Anything else is icing on the cake.

Quick Black Bean and Polenta Casserole

Measurements are approximated. What you want is enough salsa to give the beans plenty of flavor.

2-3 cups canned or pre-cooked black beans, drained (I used up leftovers I had cooked the day before)

1/2 to 1 jar chunky salsa (I used Herdez salsa, which was great, but would’ve been better semi-drained. I think semi-drained Ro-tel would also be excellent, and maybe even Mexican-style stewed tomatoes)

1 tube prepared polenta, sliced into 1/3 inch rounds (you could also cook your own, then chill and slice)

Olive oil

Optional add-ins: diced scallions, cilantro, chopped veggies, spinach, cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F. I made a smaller version of this (since it was just for me) and cooked it in the toaster oven.

Place the beans in an oiled casserole dish (maybe 8 x 8), and add enough salsa to suit your taste. You want a little less salsa than beans, but enough salsa to add lots of flavor. Lay the polenta rounds on top and brush them with a little olive oil.

Bake for 35 minutes or so at 375 F, then add, if you feel like it, a handful of spinach and chopped scallions, and turn up the heat to 400 F. When the spinach is wilted, the polenta is getting crispy, and the beans are bubbling, it’s done.

The polenta adds structure and has such a great creamy/ crispy texture that I really didn’t miss having cheese. This one will definitely go on my repeat list. I think I’ll add more spinach next time and maybe cilantro. Hmmm…what about sweet potato?

For more of my recipes and recipe trials, click here.

You have less than a day left to join the giveaway for a gorgeous Dawn Hanna print. Details here. All you have to do is comment about which print is your favorite—-you won’t be added to a mailing list. Just enjoy!

Broccoli Battle Winner: Roasted with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Roasted Broccoli

The ongoing broccoli battle in our house is, I believe, finally won. No, it wasn’t over whether or not certain people will eat it. The kids don’t love it, but they’ll eat it without much of a fuss. The battle is over the best way to cook it.

Hubs prefers stir-frying with soy sauce, but I find that time-consuming and too hands-on to do all the time. For a long time my favorite method was steaming, then rolling in olive oil, garlic, and breadcrumbs. Hubs ate this broccoli dutifully but missed the stir-fry texture.

Enter Mollie Katzen’s vegetable roasting guide from Vegetable Heaven. I’ve used the roasting guide so much that the book naturally opens to that page. It’s great for many a veggie, but at our house, it’s helped us find the broccoli method that results in the perfect texture + flavor+ easy-ness.

Add a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette, and you have us battling again, over seconds.

So, here’s my adaptation of the original Mollie Katzen recipe. It’s less of a recipe, more of an idea for you:

Roasted Broccoli

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice your broccoli florets in half. I find this helps things cook a little faster and more evenly.

Brush a cookie tray with olive oil, and arrange the florets on it.

I usually cook about 20 minutes, but check at 15 minutes to see how it’s going. Personally, I like the broccoli still firm but tender, with some brown edges.

Serve with your favorite vinaigrette. Here’s what we use:

Balsamic Vinaigrette

In a jar or bottle, combine:

about an inch Balsamic Vinegar

about an inch and a half, maybe more, Olive Oil

a big squirt/ soup spoonful Dijon Mustard (you can use powdered mustard here as a substitute)

small squirt of Honey, to taste

freshly ground Pepper

dusting to half a handful freshly grated Parmesan (*optional)

I always taste the dressing and adjust seasonings to suit.

Enjoy! For more of my cooking posts, click here or on the “Food” category.

Do NOT forget to join the giveaway for a gorgeous Dawn Hanna print. There’s no downside here, people. You won’t be added to a mailing list. Just check out her gorgeous work and decide which is your fave, then comment on it. You do not have to live in the U.S. to enter.

Favorite Turkey Burgers

Gluten-Free Turkey Burgers

You may think I’m a vegetarian from all my veggie posts, but I DO eat meat. Just not a lot of it. More on that here.

We love burgers around here, but I’m always trying to get my people to eat ones that don’t involve red meat. The turkey ones always seem to need a bit of doctoring, in my experience. I love the Mar-a-Lago burgers championed by Oprah, but really, they’re just too much work for a weeknight and the flavors, while delicious, don’t really go with our favorite toppings (like ketchup and pickles).

These are a good compromise, and, with a few recent tweaks, they’ve entered into that rare realm which is the full-family-seal-of-approval. Like, all four members. I’m probably jinxing that status just by typing this, but I’m willing to risk it, just for you.

My recipe is adapted from this one.

Favorite Turkey Burgers

1/2 cup rolled oats*

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (I use breast meat)*

3 TB mayonnaise

1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped onion (the finer the better, in order to trick the kids)

1 TB Worcestershire sauce

dash of hot sauce

good sprinkling of sweet paprika

a judicious amount of ground pepper

1. If your turkey meat is fairly dry, moisten the oats with about a tablespoon of water and let rest for a minute or two. If the meat has a fair amount of water content already, skip this step.

2. Combine with other ingredients. I hate doing this with my hands so I use two big spoons. Mix just enough to get it well-combined and make into patties.

3. You can grill these, but I find it’s actually a lot easier to cook them in my cast iron pan on the stove. They fall apart easily on the grill. I cook them at medium low for several minutes on each side to make sure they’re all the way done. This way the outsides don’t burn. Check to make sure there’s no pink.

4. Add toppings and enjoy!

*So, like many turkey burger recipes, the mother recipe called for bread crumbs. Since I’m not eating wheat, I could use GF bread crumbs, but I decided instead to try oatmeal. Bingo! Totally works and in fact is an improvement in my book.

*Last night I discovered I had a pound of turkey, not a pound and a half. The whole mixture was gooey (ew!) so I added a second half cup of oatmeal. I was a little nervous about the gamble, but they turned out great, with no comments from the peanut gallery. And as a bonus, they used less meat.

One question I have for you—-all turkey burger recipes seem to have something like mayo in them for, I guess, texture and flavor. Do you think the mayo nixes the health benefits of changing to turkey meat? Do you think I could skip it?

And one more question: anybody have a fantastic gluten-free vegan burger recipe? I know, sounds like a tall order, but I’m totally convinced there’s one out there. So far I haven’t done any trials, but let me know if you’re ahead of me.

For more recipe trials and food posts, look here.