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Braised Pork Chops

DSC_8527 (1600x1060)We decided to do pork chops today and were set to do the cream of mushroom soup thing with them but couldn’t quite picture the gravy on the couscous we had picked out for a side.  We opted to dump in two cans of tomato bits with green chilies after the chops browned in olive oil, added a chopped Vidalia onion, covered it, and set it asimmer. We had some frozen, ripe Anaheim peppers and thawed those enough to split and remove the seeds and membranes and tossed them in with the chops.  When they had cooked down a little they were pureed in a blender with a little oil and garlic.  The puree was pressed through a sieve and the liquid added back to the pan.  Mrs J noticed some brown mushrooms that were nearing their use by date so in they went, too.DSC_8528 (1600x1060)One of Mrs J coworkers gifted her a couple of squash and they didn’t go to waste.  They marinated in oil and balsamic vinegar and were grilled right before the meal was plated.  Delicious!

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Summer Salads

summer pasta salad

JeffreyW makes an easy pasta salad. Just toss garden veggies and pasta with a little olive oi, vinegar and herbs. Dinner’s done.

In my email this morning there was a nice recipe for pasta salad and suddenly I had a craving for a veggie filled summer pasta salad. Pasta salads can be served cold, warm or hot, depending on what you’re looking for and what style of ingredients are added. The featured recipe tonight is a warm pasta salad using garden fresh vegetables and melted cheese.

This appealed to me because one of my clients has given me a big hunk of the most amazing cheese. I have no idea what it is, except it’s clearly a very sharp white cheddar in a black rind. It’s a creamy and salty, best I’ve ever had and goes great with apples and strawberries. It melts beautifully and crumbles like feta on salads. I’ll be sad when it’s gone. But…

I live within walking distance of a great cheese shop, it has an entire room that is basically a walk-in refrigerator. They even lend you jackets to wear while shopping. It’s fun to stop by there on a hot summer day and spend a half hour in the fridge and sample cheese from around the world and from local farms. I think I’ll see if they can help me identify or duplicate the cheese. Side note: I’ll miss everything that is within walking distance when I move. Right now I live near downtown and can walk to bank, post office and any number of great restaurants. But it’s the trade off for more space and a functional bike path.

On to the recipes.

First up, Chipotle Macaroni Salad (recipe here), which takes cold pasta salad up a notch and has become my go-to cookout salad.

One of the keys when making a good cold pasta salad is to cook the pasta al dente, drain, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and then drain again, but let the pasta stay wet. This allows the pasta to absorb whatever flavors are added, but not absorb all the moisture from the dressing. Don’t toss with dressing until just before serving. Taking these steps will keep the salad moist and flavorful, avoiding the mushy pasta, dry salad problem that makes many pasta salads unappetizing.

Not excited about pasta? How about a nice Italian Lentil Salad (here) or a tangy Apple Salad (here).

What’s on your menu for the first day of summer? Have any favorite salad recipes (pasta or otherwise)? I am crazy about salads, so would love to have a few new varitions to add to my recipe box.

Tonight’s featured recipe is adapted from an American Test Kitchen recipe. I’d link to the original, but it’s behind a firewall. Sorry for that.

Summer Vegetable Pasta

The beauty of this recipe is you can substitute whatever vegetables are fresh and available.

  • 12 oz of favorite pasta (penne, large shells, rotelle, etc)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 to 3 tsp crushed garlic (depending on your preference)
  • 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 small summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 5 ounce package Garlic & Herb Boursin cheese – or any creamy cheese, flavored or you can add your own fresh herbs to it instead –  I actually used the cheddar mentioned above because it melts so well,  and is really creamy, not like typical cheddar.
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (more as desired)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese as garnish

Dutch oven or large saucepan

Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente (this is a still chewy texture). Reserve 3/4 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta (the easiest way to do this is to ladle pasta water into a measuring cup and then drain the remaining water).

Wipe out the pan, add oil and heat  over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add zucchini, summer squash, and ¼ cup reserved pasta water and cook, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in cooked pasta, and cheese, remaining 1/2 cup pasta water, tomatoes and basil until pasta is heated through.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with grated Parmesan. Serves 4.

Have a great weekend – TaMara

 

Tidbits

DSC_8485 (1600x1060)I’m calling these dogs The Full Monty – Chicago style.  Sides are a bacon sour cream potato salad and a slaw with a sweet creamy dressing.DSC_4622 (1600x1060)I’ve been keeping an eye on these cherry tomatoes, wanting to maximize the yield on the bunch.  The older fruits were starting to split, and one fell off being a tad too ripe.  I gathered them in just after this photo.  Mrs J used them in a salad:DSC_8479 (1600x1060)The sweet corn is in at the store and it’s very good.  I baked the potatoes in the oven after coating them with olive oil.  They took about 30 minutes at 400, turned once.  Still haven’t fired the gas grill – the steaks cooked on my cast iron griddle/grill that spans two burners on the stove top.  My range has a purpose built grill module that doesn’t work any better and is a pain to deal with. IMG_5081 (1600x1200)Here’s a kitteh!  The staff named her Abby and Mrs J says she’s a sweetie.  She came in last week.DSC_4627 (1600x1060)Someone mentioned making small batches of sauerkraut in Mason jars with lids adapted for  fermentation airlocks.  I had one of the airlocks on hand from making apple cider so I cobbled a thing together with a rubber grommet set into a hole bored into a wide mouth lid.  I managed to cram a whole head’s worth of shredded cabbage into a half gallon jar.  I mixed the cabbage with 2 tablespoons of pickling salt, a few juniper berries, and a teaspoon of caraway seeds.  It should take about a month to finish.DSC_8470 (1600x1060)Summer is sammich season and nothing says sammich like cheeseburger.  It’s just an all around favorite.  The bacon doesn’t hurt it a bit.  I think 90% of the time my burgers get pickles, onion, and mustard but I’m not above dragging the sammy through ketchup that may have fallen off of the fries.IMG_5096 (1600x1200)This is Mow Mow, an 8 year old calico that was surrendered a few weeks ago along with Cooper, a long haired dachshund.  Mow Mow and Cooper, both, have been adopted.

Tidbits

DSC_4621 (1600x1060)Yay!  My first ripe tomatoes!  The first of many more with any kind of luck.  Millions, if the variety name holds true.  Hundreds would be nice.  This is one of the container plants on the front patio.DSC_8414 (1600x1060)I bought a package of these big sausages.  The size is right but they are not anything to to cheer about.  There is some kind of skin on them and I’m not at all sure there needs to be because they aren’t much more that just big hot dogs.  The slaw is more of that copycat KFC style recipe, the potato salad was good – crisp bacon and sour cream with mayo always guarantees at least good.IMG_4986 (1600x1200)Here are the traditional “post needs moar kittehs!” kittehs.DSC_8420 (1600x1060)Mmm… corn on the cob.  These were just boiled, I haven’t fired the gas grill yet this year.  I really do need to crank that thing up sometime soon.  I’m a bit put out that the small tank filling assembly on my 500 gallon LP tank sprung a bad leak and the nice folks that handle that stuff for me are loathe to replace it citing new rules and safety regs that are in place since the initial install nearly 30 years ago.  Anyway, now I have to drive to town to exchange the cylinders rather than just refill them here at home.PICT0829 (1600x1060)Here’s a small blue heron perched in a sycamore tree.  This was taken several weeks ago and I nearly batch deleted all the pictures on the camera memory chip before I noticed him up there.  It’s the first time I’ve seen one in a tree, usually they are stalking along the water’s edge.

Summer Slaw

DSC_8194 (1600x1060)We swung by the supermarket deli to pick up some of their fried chicken and a couple of sides – we had been shopping garden centers and were getting hungry with nothing quick to eat in the fridge.  We really didn’t want to go to a burger joint or the Chinese buffet.  Mrs J picked a pair of cold salads while I grabbed a box of chicken.  She opted for a mustard potato salad and something that was labeled as “summer slaw”.

The summer slaw was pretty good, we looked online for a copycat recipe but didn’t find anything that looked close.  It had tomato bits, cabbage, and  green bits that were sliced green onion tops and something else – green bell pepper or maybe cucumber with the skin on.  We went with “both”.  The dressing was thin and white and put me in mind of the dressing I use for the copycat KFC slaw dressing.

I whisked a dollop of mayo with buttermilk and rice vinegar, added Splenda to taste, and celery salt with ground white pepper.  It may not be what the deli used in theirs but it came out pretty good!

Summer Slaw

one small head of cabbage, shredded fine

half of an English cucumber, minced

1/4 cup of minced green bell pepper

two small tomatoes, seeded and chopped small

a small bunch of green onions, thinly sliced tops only

Dressing*

1/4 – 1/2 cup mayo

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup rice vinegar dressing (the flavored stuff)

sugar (Splenda) – go with 1/8 -1/4 cup

celery salt and white pepper to taste

* Just guessing after the fact on the dressing quantities.

Mmm… Gyros

DSC_8100 (1600x1060)The mint is starting to come back.  I doubt we can eat enough gyros to eradicate it during the normal course.  It’s wildly invasive and this patch has been sprouting anew for years now after more than a few attempt to kill it off.  I suppose we can live with it.

The gyro meat and tzatziki sauce are both from Alton Brown’s recipe.  I sliced the loaf thin and broiled it a bit in the toaster oven this time, I usually brown it in a saute pan in a little olive oil.  The resulting brown crust adds to the flavor and is worth the extra time.

I see a lot of recipes for gyros that call for shredded lettuce and I’ve seen some served with French fries right in there but the first gyros I ever ate had only the meat, the sauce, and the tomatoes and onions rolled into a warm pita so that is how I do them.

Dinner Menu: Tuscan Cod and Bruschetta

Melted Bruscetta copyright

When I was in Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles, we went out to dinner to a cute little fish diner, right on the water. The fish was amazingly fresh and I realized how much I miss it when I’m not on either coast. With that in mind, I went looking for one of my fish recipes. This one popped up and I thought it sounded spring like, so that’s how we got here.

When picking fish, make sure it doesn’t smell fishy, just fresh and like clean water.  It should be firm to the touch and any liquid should be clear, not milky. It helps to know your butcher, they’ll usually direct you to the freshest fillets. You should plan on using it the day you purchase it. You can substitute any firm white fish in this recipe.

  1. Tuscan Cod
  2. Bruschetta
  3. Broccoli
  4. Grapes

Tuscan Cod

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ diced red pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • 4-6 oz cod fillets

skillet

Heat 1 tbsp oil in the skillet, over medium-high heat. Sauté onion and pepper for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, cumin and crushed pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and add remaining oil. Once heated, add fish fillets and cook 5 minutes, turn over, spoon sauce on top, cover and cook additional 5 minutes over medium heat. Fish should flake easily with a fork.

Bruschetta

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 French baguette, sliced in half, lengthwise
  • 3 roma tomatoes, sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 8 oz grated mozzarella

baking sheet

Mix oil and garlic together. Lay baguette halves on baking sheet, cut side up and brush with oil mixture. Broil for 3-5 minutes until golden brown (watch carefully). Remove and top evenly with tomato slices, basil and mozzarella. Broil for 2 more minutes until cheese is melted. Slice and serve.

Shopping List:

  • 1 red onion
  • ½ red pepper
  • 1 tomato
  • 4-6 oz cod fillets
  • 1 French baguette
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 8 oz grated mozzarella
  • 1 bunch of grapes
  • 1 head of broccoli or 16 oz frozen

Also: cumin, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil,

Friday Recipe Exchange: Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

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Tonight is a bit hodgepodge. While I was away, faithful contributor, Joshua D (Yutsano) sent me two tasty recipes to share. I was grateful, because lately I feel like I’m walking on ice and cannot get my feet under me long enough to cook, much less blog about cooking. I’m sitting on a folder full of great vacation pictures and some fun food stories that I can’t seem to find the time to blog about. I struggled with tonight’s featured recipe, finally settling on lamb, but not sure where I wanted to go from there and then I remembered that JeffreyW has been working for quite a while on perfecting his gyros.

And there it was, I knew what I’d feature tonight. What’s on your menu this weekend? Anything new and fun cooking in your kitchen? Be kind and share your inspiration, so I can find mine.

Moving on to tonight’s recipes, starting with Joshua D and Cilantro Lime Hummus, recipe here.

From Ruemara, thoughtfully shared by Joshua D, Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese Soup, recipe here.

And if making a gyro loaf seems a bit too labor intensive, this Spicy Lamb Burger (click here) would work as well with pita and Tzatziki sauce.

Now the featured recipe, inspired by JeffreyW (pictured above):

Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp dried marjoram
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Food processor, loaf pan, baking dish

Ok, these are the general directions, but JeffreyW has been playing with perfecting the preparation, so click here and here for lots of step-by-step photos and his tweaks to make the perfect loaf.

In a large bowl, combine ingredients until well mixed and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight. Remove to food processor and process until a fine paste. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F

Place meat mixture into a loaf pan, pressing down on all sides. Place the loaf pan in the baking dish and add water to the baking dish to create a water bath. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. Remove and rest covered with foil for 30 minutes. Slice and serve

Serve with:

  • Tzatziki Sauce (recipe below)
  • 4 to 6 pieces soft pita (not pocket pita)
  • Chopped fresh tomato
  • Finely sliced onion
  • Cubed peeled seeded cucumber
  • Mint sprigs

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 16 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 5 to 6 mint leaves, finely minced

Can I just say, thank goodness for Men Who Cook here at What’s 4 Dinner Solutions, I don’t know what I’d do without you  – TaMara

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Dinner Menu: Linguine w/Peppers and Italian Asparagus

It’s the time of year that I begin to crave fresh, light dinners. I’ve tired of stews, hearty soups and the other staples of the mid-winter gloom. As I start to believe spring will arrive again, I want meals that reflect that belief. Lots of fresh veggies, fresh fruits, light sauces and simple, full flavors.

This menu includes items that are plentiful at my local grocery this week. All the peppers are on sale right now, so I use red, yellow. orange and green. Lots of fresh berries, too. And asparagus is everywhere.

On the board tonight:

  1. Linguine w/Garlic & Peppers
  2. Italian Asparagus
  3. Mixed berries & whipped cream

Linguine w/Garlic & Peppers

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ¼ to ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes*
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 oz shredded Romano-Parmesan cheese
  • 9 oz pkg. fresh linguine

saucepan and skillet

In skillet heat oil, add garlic, red pepper flakes, green & red peppers and sauté for 5 minutes on medium heat. Add fresh basil, tomatoes, salt & pepper let simmer while pasta cooks. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain well. Toss with pepper mixture & cheese.

* you can use fresh tomatoes, probably 2 large, but I couldn’t find any decent ones this time of year.

Italian Asparagus

  • 1 bunch (approx. 16 oz) fresh asparagus spears
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 oz shredded Romano/Parmesan

saucepan & steamer

Gently scrub asparagus, cut in half and place in steamer. Add enough water to saucepan to come in the bottom of the steamer. Steam for 5 to 8 minutes, until the stalks are tender. Remove and toss with oil, oregano, salt, pepper & cheese.

Shopping List:

  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes*
  • 4 oz shredded Romano-parmesan cheese**
  • 9 oz pkg. fresh linguine
  • 1 bunch (approx. 16 oz) fresh asparagus spears
  • 2 oz shredded Romano/Parmesan
  • 16 oz mixed berries
  • Whipped Cream

Also: oregano, olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed garlic, crushed red pepper flakes

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Pastas and Sauces

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Last year I did a recipe exchange on meatballs (here) but was surprised to see I had never done one specifically on sauces. Now sauces can be risky and start a great debate, because every family has their version. So hit the comments with your favorite pasta sauce recipe, and for that matter, pastas, because there are so many choices. Like many things, I’m not all that concerned about the right pasta for the right sauce, I say, use what you enjoy and ignore the purists.

Food should be fun. For that matter, so should wine, beer and scotch.

So let’s start out with JeffreyW’s Awesome Sauce (here) because, well, it’s awesome.

Want something a little simpler and quicker? How about his San Marzano Sauce, here.

And his Shrimp & Pasta Formaggio (here) is quick and easy, also.

When everything is in season, I like to make my sauce with fresh ingredients, so I have a Garden Fresh Pasta Sauce (recipe here) that’s lighter and fresher than tonight’s featured recipe.

When it comes to pastas, I favor two options, a nice spiral (fusilli or rotini) or a quick cooking Angel Hair (capellini), but if I can get it fresh from the farmer’s market, I’ll take what I can get, which is usually a linguine. It’s all tasty.

For the featured recipe, I went with my traditional family sauce, the one I grew up with, but with a few tweaks. Now, even in my family, half of which are Italian, even the most basic sauce has as many different variations as there are cooks, so this is just a place to start, add your own touches to make it your family tradition. This is a hearty sauce and my go-to in the colder months when fresh ingredients are not readily available. I always double this and freeze half for a later dinner.

Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce

  • 9 – 12 oz pasta of choice (I like angel hair for this recipe)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 tsp. crushed garlic
  • 1 lb lean ground beef (or 1/2 beef and 1/2 spicy Italian sausage)
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 tomatoes, diced (or 14 oz can diced tomatoes)
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 tsp dried basil, crushed*
  • 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp rosemary, crushed
  • 1 carrot, finely grated or 1/2 tsp sugar (these reduce the acidity of the sauce and bring out the spices – trust me on this one – I prefer the carrot, myself.)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes (opt) to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese

2 saucepans and large skillet

In skillet, heat oil, sauté pepper, onion, garlic.  Add hamburger and cook thoroughly.  Add tomato paste and 1 tsp ea of crushed basil, oregano and rosemary, mix well.   In saucepan, add remaining ingredients and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, add meat mixture and let simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Cook pasta according to directions, drain well and serve with sauce and Parmesan cheese.

*CRUSHING Spices – when using dry spices, to get the best flavor, you should crush them, either by rubbing them in your hand or using a mortar and pestle before adding them to a recipe.

That’s it for this week. I know I still owe you a recipe to go with this delicious looking Cream of Chicken Soup I made this week. And if you missed it, here is the Dinner Menu and Shopping list for the week, Pasticcio and Salata Meze. – TaMara

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