Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hoisin Turkey Tenders with Spicy Asian Slaw

Sometimes it's Tuesday, and it's hot, and everyone's hungry, and everyone's on a diet (egads!),  and nothing sounds that tasty, and well, you get the idea:)
This is a dish for one of those days.  It's simple, healthy, attractive, and GOOD!  I've included the recipe for a quick dressing for the Asian slaw, but a bottled soy-ginger dressing would be delicious!  The turkey tenders are baked with a brush of hoisin sauce (bottled-- in the Asian foods aisle) and the Asian slaw can be put together in minutes.  Of course, just about any veggie would go well in the slaw, substitutions are a necessity when it's one of those days! :)  

Hoisin Turkey Tenders with Spicy Asian Slaw (makes 3 generous servings)
3 turkey tenders
1 Tbl. olive oil
salt and pepper
3 Tbl. bottled hoisin sauce
1/2 small Napa cabbage, sliced thinly (throw away the core)
2 carrots, shredded
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 cup sliced snow peas or snap peas
3 green onions, sliced 
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. Sriracha sauce
1 small garlic clove, minced (or 1/2 tsp. granulated garlic)
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger 

Heat the oven to 350F.  Use a knife to split the tenders lengthwise, but not all the way through.  Open them out and push to flatten them.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 20 minutes.  
In the meantime, prepare the dressing by mixing everything up in a jar and shaking.  Set aside.
Toss the cabbage, carrots, cilantro, snap peas, and green onions in a large bowl.
Turn the turkey tenders over and brush with some hoisin sauce.  Bake another 5 minutes.  Turn the turkey over again and brush with the remaining sauce.  Turn the oven to 400F.  Bake another 5 minutes, until the turkey is cooked through and the hoisin has formed a glaze.  
Slice each tender into about 1/4-inch slices.  Toss the slaw with the dressing.  Divide the slaw among bowls.  Top with the sliced turkey and serve!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Pasta!

It's definitely summer in South Texas!  Temperatures are in the high 90's (at least), the days are long, and the tomatoes are ripe and red!  
I've mentioned before that one of my hobbies is collecting and reading old cookbooks.  Sometimes there are the most intriguing recipes that I'd never heard of before.  This recipe is definitely one of them.  It's from a book titled, "Cook Until Done" and is written by a man that had learned to cook during his travels throughout the world.  Every chapter begins with a girl, so I think he might have been some kind of "international playboy" back when they said that sort of thing :)  The names of all his dishes don't ignite much inspiration.  For example, this refreshing, interesting, delicious pasta dish was simply titled, "Cold Sauce".  While it is a "cold sauce", that title no more describes this wonderful summer dish than "puffed eggs" describes a souffle!  The sauce is a combination of vine-ripened tomatoes, other veggies, fresh herbs, and olive oil.  It is refrigerated until very cold, then served on the hottest (as in temperature) whole-wheat pasta you can manage.  The combination of hot and cold with the savory sauce and nutty pasta-- well, it IS inspirational, despite the mundane title!  
This dish has all the summer essentials:  simple, bright, seasonal, healthy, and SO GOOD!!
Note:  This recipe uses a food processor.  If you don't have one, just mince everything up.
Cold Sauce (serves 4)
12 oz. whole wheat spaghetti (use 16 oz. if you have big eaters)
2 medium, vine ripened tomatoes, *peeled cut into large pieces
3 medium sized stalks celery, cut up into small chunks
1 Tbl. capers
1/2 large green pepper, or 1 small one, seeded, and cut into chunks (can also use an Anaheim chile if you like spicy!)
2 Tbl. fresh oregano leaves
2 Tbl. fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbl. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

* To peel tomatoes, submerge into boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Run under cold water briefly to cool.  The skin will peel off easily.
Add the tomatoes, celery, capers, green pepper, oregano, and basil to the food processor.  Pulse until everything is minced, but don't let it get smooth or pureed.  Pour into a bowl.  Sprinkle with the vinegar.  Add the salt and pepper.  Stir everything gently, then pour the olive oil over.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours-- longer is great!
Cook the spaghetti according to package directions and put your pasta bowls in the oven to warm them.  When the pasta is done to your liking, drain it and divide among the warm bowls.  Stir the sauce well, then spoon over the hot pasta.  Serve immediately.  Mmmmmm!!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dad's Day!

What did you do for Father's Day?  If you are like most of us, you celebrated Dad with a cookout-- with Dad doing the cooking!  Isn't that funny about Dad's Day?  On Mother's Day, a concerted effort is made (usually) to give Mom a break from cooking, but on Father's Day, well, we just assume Dad will be grilling his own steak and wouldn't want it any other way!
This is probably a true assumption for most Dads and the other's are probably just being good sports, but nevertheless, Father's Day demands an outdoor meal!
This year was no different at our house.  Ben was at the grill and in fact, did most every part of the meal on the grill because MY STOVE AND OVEN are broken!!! :(  I made the dessert ahead, but by Sunday, that appliance had completely died.  I had planned to try to make a healthier menu this year: bison burgers (one of Ben's favorites and discussed on a previous post), a light dessert-- blackberry parfait, and grilled corn.  BUT, I was also planning to make fried green tomatoes, another one of Ben's favorite summer treats.  With no stove, we had to improvise, but guess what?  Grilled green tomatoes are delicious, and I think they actually are better than the fried ones!  Heresy!  But really, they are a LOT easier, healthier, AND tastier!  Why not give them a try?
Grilled corn is easy enough, but if you haven't done it, there are a lot of recipes online that are very complicated and hard to "get right".  I cook the fresh corn in the microwave until it's almost done, then just finish it off on the grill to get the good, roasted flavor and yummy looking grill marks without any of the hassles.

Of course, you can doctor the corn up all you want with butter, roll it in shredded cheese, sprinkle with hot pepper, etc., but since we were going for a lighter meal, I skipped all that this time!  This was super fresh, local corn anyway.  It didn't really need "help" to taste fantastic!
The dessert, pictured above, was a combination of fresh blackberries from the Farmer's Market, a very few crushed vanilla wafers and pecans, and a super simple, old fashioned "pudding" that is made without eggs.  It is fairly low in sugar, too, so completely fit the bill for my Healthy Dad's Day Dinner without tasting like "no fun" :)  These types of puddings are called "blancmange" in the old cookbooks and are thickened with cornstarch.
All in all, the menu was super tasty and Ben really liked it even though he pretty much cooked it himself! :)  Super Dad!

Lighter Blackberry Parfait (serves four generously)
3 cups 2% milk (or even skim will work)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1.5 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pint blackberries, reserve 4 for garnish
8 vanilla wafers, crushed coarsely
2 Tbl. pecans, chopped finely

In a heavy saucepan, mix the sugar, salt, and cornstarch.  Add the milk and blend well with a whisk.  Over medium high heat, cook and stir the mixture until it thickens.  Allow it to simmer gently, stirring, for about 3 minutes.  Off the heat, stir in the vanilla.  Let the pudding cool and refrigerate until cold.
Combine the pecans and the crushed wafers. In 4 small parfait glasses or regular drink glasses, put a bit of the wafer mixture in the bottom of each glass.  Add some blackberries, then spoon a generous amount of pudding into the glass.  Add more blackberries, then more pudding.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining wafers.  Add a berry and a mint leaf, if you have it, to garnish the top.  Refrigerate.  These will keep in the fridge all day, but might get mushy if made the night before.  
You might not use up all the pudding, but that's okay!  It's great over cake, fruit, just about anything!

Grilled Green Tomatoes
Green tomatoes, sliced about 1/4 inch thick (not thicker-- they have to cook somewhat on the grill, so it's easier if they are on the thin side)
olive oil
salt, pepper

Drizzle the tomato slices with olive oil and turn them so they are coated on both sides.  Put on the grill and cook, turning once.  They're done when they get a bit softer and have the pretty grill markings.  Put on a platter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  That's it, and they are delicious!

Easiest Grilled Corn
Fresh corn, shucked
olive oil
salt, pepper

Place the corn in a microwave safe dish that is big enough to hold them in one layer.  Add a splash of water and cover with waxed paper.  Microwave on high, turning them over once during cooking, until they are cooked through.  It takes about 10 minutes to do a 13x9 glass dish full of corn with my microwave, but you have to just see how yours works.  
Drizzle the corn with olive oil, place on the grill and cook until they get their yummy roasted look.  It doesn't take long at all.  Place on a platter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

These are hardly "recipes", but I hope you try them because they make the most of these wonderful summer treats!

And Happy Father's Day all you wonderful Dads!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Anniversary Dinner!

Tuesday was our anniversary!  What a blessing to be married a LONG time :) and to still enjoy each other's company across the dinner table!  As with most holidays around here, I wanted to cook at home, but in the morning, Ben took me to a very nice restaurant that serves the best, most elegant breakfasts!  That was a treat!  
For dinner, I wanted to make something seasonal, but Ben had purchased a nice bottle of wine that was going to probably go very well with duck.  Duck is usually a fall / winter meal, but I found this recipe from a BBC website that was made for summer!  The crispy-skinned duck breasts are paired with the most delicious medley of new potatoes, peas, and baby lima beans.  Of course, it's best if all these things can be obtained fresh, but the fresh peas have come and gone in south Texas and it's the same with baby limas ("summer" here isn't the same as summer in England!).  I substituted a good brand of frozen veggies and the result was wonderful!  A little bacon and a teaspoon or two of duck fat really work their magic :) !  If you've never had duck, please give it a try!  It's so easy to make and the flavor of domestically raised birds is mild and tasty!
I also made a super old-school shrimp cocktail as our appetizer.  I wanted to use these dishes I got at an estate sale.  They have one purpose only-- to serve shrimp cocktail, but they were so '60's cool!  A shaved fennel and mixed greens salad and Key lime pie for dessert rounded out the menu deliciously!  
By the way, the pie was the winner of the 2013 National Pie Baking Contest and is officially called "Sittin' On a Sandbar Key Lime Pie".  It was really good and a fun twist on the traditional pie.  The crust is made with crushed vanilla wafers and that was a definite inspiration!  If you want to make it, here's the link.

Kind of a fuzzy pic, but it was tasty!

Duck with Peas and Baby Lima Beans (adapted from BBC Good Food)
2 duck breasts, skin on
coarse cracked black pepper
Kosher or sea salt
1/2 lb. red new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1 cup peas 
1 cup baby lima beans
1-2 slices bacon, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1.5 Tbl. red wine vinegar
1 Tbl. chopped parsley

Heat the oven to 425F.  
Boil the new potatoes in salted water for 10 minutes.  Add the baby limas and continue boiling 5 minutes or until the potatoes and beans are tender.  Drain and set aside.
With a very sharp knife, score the skin only of the duck breasts.  Try not to pierce the meat.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat a heavy skillet until hot and sear the duck skin side down for 5-6 minutes, until the skin is browned and crisp.  Turn them over and cook another 2 minutes, then place the breasts in a small baking pan. Pour out the duck fat into a small bowl and wipe out the skillet.  Put the duck into the oven and roast 8-10 minutes, depending on the degree of doneness you like.  We like ours medium-well.  Remove the duck and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
While the duck is resting, add 1 tsp. of the reserved duck fat to the skillet and cook the bacon in it until crisp.  Add the potatoes, peas, and lima beans to the skillet.  Stir and cook until everything is hot.  Add the vinegar and parsley.  Cook and stir as it bubbles up.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the duck breasts with the veggie mixture alongside.  Yum!
My mom and dad used to get shrimp cocktails like these at restaurants in the '60's!

Fennel and mixed greens salad was just the right refreshing touch with a simple lime and olive oil vinaigrette.

Friday, June 7, 2013

First Caprese Salad of the Summer

Remember my container garden tomatoes?  Here they are in the first caprese salad of the summer!  We never knew about this delicious combination of vine ripened tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and herbs when I was growing up.  I always think that was too bad because we had some wonderful tomatoes during those Colorado summers!  
Anyway, now days most everyone makes this delicious salad, so I just wanted you to see the garden update!  The basil is from our garden also, and the mozzarella is "house made" at our neighborhood grocery store, so we were feeling pretty good about "going local" :)
If you haven't made a caprese salad, here's a kind of recipe, but it's mostly just a guide!  

Caprese Salad  (serves two at our house!)
2 ripe, red tomatoes, sliced into a bit less than 1/4 inch slices
1/2 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly
1 very small clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Fresh basil leaves

Place the tomato slices and cheese slices on 2 salad plates.  I only use the center slices of tomato (the ends are good for the cook!) because they look nice that way.  Mix the garlic, oil, and red pepper flakes well.  Drizzle over the salads generously.  Let them sit out at room temperature while you're making the rest of dinner or at least 30 minutes.  Right before serving, sprinkle the salads with a nice amount of salt and just a tiny bit of black pepper.  Tear the basil leaves and sprinkle over the salads.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Summer Rolls: Fun with Rice Paper !

Have you ever tried to make summer rolls?  They are a healthier, non-fried version of egg rolls in a way, but really, they're an altogether different thing!  The wrapper is super thin rice paper and the fillings are generally fresh veggies like carrots, green onions, cilantro, and some light protein like chicken or shrimp.  Usually they are served with a tasty dipping sauce too.
Anyway, I've always been curious about the rice paper, ie, whether it is super difficult to work with.  Well, let me tell you, it is actually super easy!  These days, most every grocery store carries them in the Asian foods section.  Light, fresh tasting and almost no calories, these are wonderful wrappers for just about any combinations!  
Most all the recipes I saw for summer rolls encouraged wrapping the rolls very tightly.  This is a good idea because it allows you to cut the rolls in half to serve them and they look prettier if everything stays in place.  However, I wanted the rolls to be easier to eat, so I cut everything up rather small and that made them not hold together as well after cutting (see photo!).  If you leave everything in long strips, the rolls will look beautiful and they will cut very nicely.  It's up to you!  Mostly, it doesn't matter because they taste so good everyone is too busy eating them to notice this type of thing!
Summer Rolls (makes about 8)
1 pkg. Vietnamese rice paper wrappers
3 green onions, sliced in long strips or chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely grated or julienned
1/4 English cucumber, seeds removed and sliced into thin strips
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (or use sprigs)
2 small, cooked chicken breast halves, sliced into strips (I used leftover baked chicken from the night before.)

Juice of 1/2 lime
1 T. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 tsp. grated garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. Sriaccha sauce (I still can't spell it right!)

Get a pie plate and pour in hot water almost to the top.  Dip one rice paper into the water for 15 seconds, making sure it is submerged.  Remove and allow the water to drain off.  Put the wrapper on a dry glass plate.  Add a few pieces of onion, cucumber, cilantro and carrot in a horizontal pile a bit lower than the center line of the wrapper.  Add a few chicken strips.  Begin wrapping by drawing the lower part of the wrapper up over the filling.  Press down to compact the filling.  Fold the two ends in over the filling too, then continue wrapping up to the end.  Everything will stick fine and hold together.  Place the roll on a piece of waxed paper or parchment on a plate or sheet pan.  Repeat until all the filling is used up.
Whisk the lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, olive oil and Sriaccha sauce in a small bowl or shake in a jar.  
You can cut the rolls on the diagonal and serve them on a platter, or serve them whole.  Serve little individual bowls of the sauce or just let everyone spoon it on their rolls and they would like.
Light, refreshing, and cool-- summer's here!