Sometimes I follow recipes — faithfully or loosely. Sometimes, I just freelance a dish. That’s what I did when I wanted pasta sometime, had just bought organic baby spinach and rooted around for ingredients that I thought would go well. I used no recipe, and didn’t even measure what I used. So here is a very rough guide to making a quick, tasty dish. The pattern is simple, so it can be made with different kinds of pasta, with other leafy vegetables, with fresh or rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, etc., etc.
Bring salted water to a boil. Add about 3 ounces of mini-penne. Coarsely chop about 3 tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes in oil. Peel and mince one clove of fresh garlic, and sauté in about 1 tablespoon olive oil for a minute or two. Add crushed red pepper flakes. Rinse about 5 ounces fresh baby spinach and add to garlic/pepper. Add sun-dried tomatoes and continue cooking for about 2 minutes, adding a little water to cook the spinach. When pasta is al dente, drain. Put into a serving bowl, top with spinach/tomato mixture. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.
Cold soup that’s simple to make and pretty (green) to serve.
Just Spices, a new California company that makes organic spice blends, has shared its simple recipe for Cucumber Gazpacho that comes out shamrock green. Note that the soup is shamrock green, not Kelly green.
The brand is only available by on-line order, and since there’s no time to order for a March 17 delivery, make it in summer, which is peak gazpacho season anyway. Or freelance making your own from your spice rack. The company says its vegetable broth blend “includes fresh herbs like lovage leaves, chopped parsley, crispy onions, exotic nutmeg, soft celery seeds, crushed sea salt, and wild garlic. For extra flavor we threw in a blend of some tasty tomatoes and ripe carrots. Lastly, the Tellicherry pepper and brown cane sugar contrast each other nicely, balancing a sharp taste with some cool sweetness.”
1 avocado, peeled
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons Just Spices Vegetable Broth Seasoning
Cut vegetables into small pieces. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Garnish with thin cucumber slices or chopped chile.
The recipe did not mention this, but I would suggest tasting a small bit of the cucumber peel before committing two whole cucumbers to the soup, as peels are sometimes bitter. If so, remove the entire peel, of course. Also, seedless English cucumbers would be suitable.
I’m one who thinks of Valentine’s Day as a “Hallmark holiday,” so we usually eat at home. We set a nice table with flowery dishes with hearts as part of the rim pattern, cloth napkins, a split of good champagne and something really good to eat — and roses.
Sprouts was selling gorgeous and sustainable jumbo shrimp, so I adapted a Crab Louie recipe from Food & Wine and came up with this spin on an old-school classic:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound asparagus
1 head Romaine hearts, cut crosswise 1/2-inch thick
2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 hard-cooked eggs, cut into wedges
1/2 pound jump shrimp, steamed and peeled
In a bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the ketchup, relish, lemon juice, garlic, Tabasco, paprika, chili powder and salt and pepper. Let stand at room while preparing the other ingredients.
Steam asparagus until just tender, 3 minutes or so. Drain and cool.
Arrange the romaine, tomatoes, eggs and asparagus on a platter. Top with shrimp and serve, with the dressing on the side.
We’ve just gotten over Valentine’s Day, when up comes National Love Your Pet Day on February 20. I don’t know what marketing mind made this up, but Carrington Farms, purveyor of coconut oil and other healthy products developed a recipe for dog treats using coconut oil.
Here’s the company’s recipe for baking dog treats for your pooch or even to try yourself. After all, there’s nothing in it that’s not fit for human consumption:
Peanut Butter Bones
1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon of Carrington Farm’s Virgin Coconut Oil
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk together peanut butter, honey, oil and chicken broth. In a separate bowl, combine flours and oatmeal. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
Place dough on flour-dusted surface. Roll or press dough out to about ¼ inch thick. Use a small bone-shaped cookie cutter to cut out cookies — or any other shape; the dog won’t care. The size is up to you, depending on the size of your dog. Roll out leftover scraps and cut out as many as possible.
Line a cook sheet with parchment paper. Place cut-out cookies on the baking sheet. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Store at room temp in an airtight container for about a week, or longer if you store in the refrigerator.
Roasted Cranberry & Grapes perfect side dish at a turkey dinner.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It was the first I took over from my mother decades ago. I love to prepare and eat the food, and friends always ask, “What can I bring?” I usually reply, “an appetizer, a side dish or a dessert.” My husband likes to make a mountain of mashed potatoes, and I select different versions of other classic dishes every year — soup, turkey (including stuffing and gravy) and cranberries.
I make two cranberry dishes every year — one the simple recipe from the back of the Ocean Spray package and one other. Below is this year’s cranberry “other,” an unusual and tasty side dish:
Roasted Cranberries & Grapes
1 12-oz. bag or fresh cranberries
12 oz. black seedless grapes ( I used Moon Drops, which resemble plum tomatoes in size and shape)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
Combine all ingredients on a jelly roll pan. Toss to coat cranberries and grapes, and press the rosemary springs into the fruit mixture. Broil 6 minutes until fruit browns slightly and softens.
And guess who neglected to take a picture when the dish came out of the broiler?. Sorry.
When your friends have apple trees, you get lots of apples. I rarely make the same recipe more than once, but this Dutch Apple Cake Recipe was so good that I have repeated it and probably will again when apple season 2017 arrives.
Dutch Apple Cake
3 medium or 4 smallish apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened + butter to grease loaf pan
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour (I use Hungarian High Altitude flour)
1/8 tsp. salt
1. In a large bowl combine apple slices, 2 Tbsp. sugar and cinnamon. Let stand for 1/2 hour.
2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300°.
3. In another large bowl, cream butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.
5. Combine flour and salt. Gradually add to butter/sugar/egg mixture, beating until smooth.
6. Transfer to well-buttered 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.
7. Push apple slices vertically into the batter, placing them close together.
8. Bake for 1½ to 1¾ hours, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. The cake will have puffed up to the height of the rim. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove to wire rack. (Apologies for no image; I forgot.)
Slice and serve while still warm. Vanilla ice cream goes well with it.
The Boulder Media Women potluck always calls for a salad, if seems, and when it falls on the 14th, making a Salade Niçoise seemed like the right thing to do.
There are as many recipes for the specialty from the South of France. Commonalities are tomatoes, green beans, anchovies, hard-boiled eggs, Romaine lettuce and tuna. A vinaigrette is obligatory to dress it. As usual, I mixed, matched and in general winged it. I didn’t make notes of exactly how I prepared this year’s salad, but I did take some pictures.
Claire Walter's Colorado-oriented but not Colorado-exclusive blog about restaurants, food and wine events, recipes and related news. For address of any restaurant, click on the Zomato icon at the end of the post.