Ten Minute Meal :: Panzanella with Cannellini

The weather here has been a bit extreme. Unbearably hot and humid with a drying wind that burned what was left of my hydrangeas, then this week sunny, bright, and cool, with nights that required long sleeves and socks. But it’s still tomato season, and they are having their moment and should be utilized, even if I don’t feel like spending time in the kitchen.

With the start of school last week, and quite a number of adjustments to our schedule—relaxed or possibly even non-existent over the summer—this week, I’ve been a bit tapped out when dinner time rolls around. But there’s only so many days one can eat pasta or pizza, isn’t there?

Luckily, we are all fans of panzanella, which the kids call crouton salad, and we have a few variations that are the perfect thing to make when you don’t really feel like being in the kitchen. This one is my favorite version.

This here is a mix of canned and rinsed Cannellini beans, chopped ripe tomatoes (these are amazingly sweet yellow heirlooms), thinly sliced yellow bell pepper, a handful of parsley, and the leftover, sliced heart from the head of a Boston Bibb lettuce. Mixed together with the juice of two lemons, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

10min Beans N Greens

While that sits for a minute or two, I take some lovely sliced bread from a local baker, slather it with olive oil, stick it in the toaster, then stack and cut it into bite-sized chunks. This is such a time saver! Broiling takes too long, and I can’t count the number of times I burnt all the bread because I forgot it for a few extra seconds. As an added bonus the kids can help with this part while I sliced and toss the other ingredients.

Toasty Bread

First, the bread goes into the bowl… I like it to be the base to soak up all the juice from the tomatoes and lemon and olive oil.

In A Bowl

Then the other ingredients.

Lemons N Oil

Ten minutes. Well, maybe fifteen depending on how comfortable you are with a knife. Super simple, incredibly tasty, and no cooking required (toaster doesn’t count).

 

“Sparklers” for the Fourth

This year, instead of running back to Pennsylvania after school let out at the end of June, we decided to stick around and enjoy our seaside community’s early summer activities. One of the first things we crossed off our list was a friend’s famed 3rd of July party… The 3rd of July, so that everyone could take the 4th to recover. It was brilliant! We enjoyed homemade pizza from their hand-built, backyard wood-fired oven (where I took notes from the oven’s builder to add to my ever-growing list of dreams), and then walked to our local beach to watch the neighbors put on competing fireworks display up and down the coast. With the light breeze and clear sky and beautiful calm low tide and most excellent company… we could not have asked for a nicer day. I am so thankful for the people we have met here.

But before the festivities kicked off, the kids and I decided to make our recent tradition of chocolate covered sprinkled pretzels to bring along to the party. One of the kids decided they looked like sparklers, and so now we have a little family name for our fourth of July treats!

The Set Up

It really is a lovely little craft-like dessert project that all our littles can enjoy helping with. And the best part for me it that it requires no baking, which—as many of my friends and family can attest—is not my strong point.

No Baking Required

The process could not be more simple:
• Melt a few bags of chocolate candy coating (my kids also enjoy the vile vanilla, but maybe they’ll outgrow it) either in the microwave or over a double boiler, taking care to not burn it, which is really the only trick. I find a double boiler a bit more cumbersome for set-up, but easier to control for heat. Inevitably I burn the coating in the microwave, which causes it to seize up and crystalize.
• Pour melted coating into a tall, thin glass
• Dip pretzel rods—I’ve found the rods in buckets have fewer broken pieces than the rods in bags—into coating, placing dipped rods onto parchment or wax paper
• Shake your choice or sprinkles over the still-melted coating
• Let cool, then eat

Foodie Crafting

So easy, I promise!

Add Sparkles

All the kids enjoy the dipping, and with as many kids as we have (and one extra who was here on a play date!), we’re able to make a whole bunch in a short amount of time.

Too Many to Eat

Once we were done with all the dipping, we took the rest of the melted coating and put it in a lidded jar to save for next time. And yeah, if you have the time and patience, it would probably be even better with real chocolate, but I have neither the time, patience, nor equipment for proper tempering. I have made my peace with chocolate candy coating, since we have it only once or twice per year.

TaDaaaa

We brought them to the party in a galvanized bucket filled with rice so they could stand up on their own. We didn’t even get the bucket set down on the table before our sparkers started walking off in little (and big) hands.

What a nice little crafty-type foodie project to start off our summer!

Pickled Kale Salad

This has to be my number one favorite salad at this very moment…

Pickled Kale

…well, actually, for the past  three years worth of moments. We call it the Pickled Kale Salad ’round these parts. It is not for the feint of heart or palate. It’s this recipe here, although at this point, I’m not sure I use the recommended ratios anymore, I just wing it.

Green Green Green

Of course we still use the kale…

Fresh Parmesan

and fresh parmesan.

Dressing

The dressing is incredibly acidic, which is what you need to break down that tough kale into tender little bites of deliciousness. The garlic and hot peppers really stand up to the strong flavor of these greens, so don’t be afraid of

Favorite Salad

I make this with three bunches of kale, or whatever I can grab from our garden. Unlike most green salads I’ve experienced, it actually tastes better the next day, so making a big batch is a huge time saver and gives me a few ready-to-eat meals throughout the week.

Delicious Bite

When I make it for new initiates, I tend to dial down the garlic and chili, but when it’s just the two of us (oh no, the kids don’t go for this one!), I do not tend to hold back.

One Last Look

I just finished up the last bit of this week’s batch tonight, so looks like I’ll have to make another.

Food on Friday :: Fried Egg Sandwich

I imagine, during these last long days before Spring, there are different food we all crave when we seek out comfort. Mine is the color of sunshine on a warm summer morning.

I am pretty sure that if I were to go back in time and tell me six year old self that this humble fried egg sandwich would be something that not only would I eat, but actually dream about, I would think the messenger had me confused without someone else.

Butter Onion Salt

I love to cook, although sometimes my plans are grander than what time or energy may allow. But there are times when I need something filling, and warm, that wraps arounds me like a soft blanket, and of course it should be quick. It never ceases to amaze me with all the spices and recipes and fancy vinegars and oils I keep on hand, that it’s the humble combination of onion, butter, and eggs to which I always return.

Nicely Browned

Browned gently with a touch of salt, the onions become transformative, changing a few beaten eggs into substantive meal especially when placed between two slices of bread thickly spread with mustard.

Add Beaten Eggs

It smells wonderful. I can’t imagine a more welcoming scent than onions and butter cooking together. This, to me, is the smell of home.

Falls Right On Out

I know some recipes call for a gentle approach to heating the onions and cooking the eggs. This, however, isn’t a delicate recipe, and I find the browning of both with a quick and hot flame adds a bit of depth, a touch of texture, and a quality that some may call rustic, but I consider heartening. And you need the good old-fashioned yellow mustard here; dijon and whole grain have their place but it is not here on this sandwich.

Yellow Mustard

My mom used to make this for supper and although I’m sure we had them occasionally all year, I associate them most with clear winter evenings when the light faded early and the fireplace was warm and inviting and burned your back when you sat too close.

Piled High

This is a pile-it-high type of sandwich, one where the bits fall out through your fingers and onto your plate and you need utensils to dig it all up.

Time to Eat

It is not just eggs and onions between the slices whole wheat, it is a powerful memory these simple meals serve to us. I suppose it’s a way of reconnecting to a simpler time when we had more care given to us than we distributed others, the care we give freely now as parents and neighbors and community members. How could I not feel comforted remembering that love?

Food on Friday :: Ode to Omelettes

We eat quite a number of omelettes in this house.

Lovely Eggy Omelette

It hasn’t always been that way. I used to be terrified of making them and only pulled out my recipe during weekends when we had company. And really, who isn’t scared of making a fool out of themselves in front of others and who isn’t terrified that the eggs won’t stick and make a mess out of your lovingly prepared masterpiece and causing the aforementioned fool-making/feeling behavior?

Humble Beginnings

The reality is, omelettes are a humble food, perfectly suited for those moments when you need something to eat, have tons of leftovers you’re not sure what to do with, and don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen. If you’re really short on time and patience there is nothing quite so satisfying as a warm cheese omelette whipped up in less than ten minutes. And while everyone is familiar with the lovely “Western” omelette of ham, cheese, peppers, and onions, two eggs slightly whipped make the perfect envelope for almost anything you have in your fridge. It’s incredibly freeing to think of omelettes as “only scrambled eggs with stuff inside” which is really what they are. Who cares that it’s folded half instead of perfect thirds, or if it breaks a little in the center, or there are holes here and there? It’s scrambled eggs with stuff in the middle! It will be delicious! And if not, start over again; you’ll have another, better version in five minutes or less.

Preparing the Mise

I am not a pro by any means, so don’t think this is something that is beyond your capabilities. I will offer a few tips that have helped me out ::

  • Use a non-stick pan that’s not scratched or beaten up
  • Take the time to heat-up your fillings, whatever they may be, well, except for the cheese as that’s just messy
  • Get everything set up ahead of time because the eggs cook quickly
  • Two eggs, beaten lightly (streaks are just fine!) with salt and pepper, added to melted butter in a low-heated pan is all you need
  • Once the edges of the eggs start to set ever-so-slightly, push them toward the center and let the rest of the runny egg flow to the edges
  • Place your fillings on one half of your eggs now, and allow the eggs to set
  • Let the whole omelette slide off your pan and then gentle flip the last empty half over the fillings
  • Sprinkle with a bit of chopped herbs

Non Stick Pan

I like to heat the plates up in the microwave to keep the eggs warm just a bit longer. It’s easy to do, but not at all necessary. I place a damp paper towel on top of each pate before stacking the next, then run it for three minutes or so. You don’t want the plates too hot to handle, and three minutes in our microwave gets them to just the perfect temperature. As an added bonus, your plates are all ready to go, which is always always the last thing I scramble for once I realize the first omelette is done.

Warming the Plates

And really, many times the omelettes are eaten faster than they can cool, so there’s another strike against wasting the microwave energy!

All Plated Up

We’ve had omelettes filled with leftover greens; omelettes made from butter braised radishes straight from the garden; and although this one is super fancy and qualifies as “company food” last week we had omelettes made from leftover lobster and potatoes with a touch of raclette cheese, this one right here below…

Omelette Almost Gone

…which I almost forgot to take a picture of before I demolished it entirely.

We’ve had a slight snag in omelette making recently, when one of our children was diagnosed with a bit of an egg allergy, and I have to admit it curtailed many a quick dinner plan for us. Recently, I realized that I could substitue a quick crepe instead of the scrambled eggs, which has made it a great deal easier to pull together an super fast meal for us all.

So, yes, omelettes and me are back on again, and I couldn’t be happier! I’d love to hear what kind of omelettes you’re making!

Food on Friday :: Fresh Caught Squid

We had in our possession a gift certificate that was burning the proverbial hole in my pocket. Luckily, I noticed that my cookbook shelves had a few empty spots in need of filling, so fill them I did.

New Cookbooks

I have to admit that there are times that I have purchased a few new highly blogged recipe books that didn’t quite measure up to the hype. However, none of these book suffer from that particular malady; they have all lit that flame of inspiration I was missing for a while and I’m itching to get into the kitchen and give a few new recipes the old college try.

I started with a saffron chicken & herb salad from Ottolenghi’s new book Jerusalem, which did not disappoint.

Saffron Chicken and Herb Salad

I did, however, make a substitution…

Fresh Local Squid

Fresh, local-caught squid, right off of our very own coast.

A few weeks ago we found out about a local Seafood Exchange, similar to a CSA but  supporting our local fisheries and folk. It has been incredible, and we’re going to do it again come November when our current share expires. The selections this particular day were :: squid, flounder, whiting, cod, and something else I can’t remember. I think it’s obvious what I chose.

Saffron Squid Ingredients

One of the more interesting techniques in this particular recipe was taking an orange, removing the top and bottom, simmering the slices in honey, vinegar, saffron, and water for an hour, then pulsing it in the processor to make a paste. Although an hour seemed a bit long, by the time I shaved the fennel, washed, picked, and tore the herbs, as well as prepared and cooked the squid, it was done and ready to be thrown in the food processor.

Ready to Eat

The husband does not really care for squid, which is too bad because it only took seconds to cook, but he did finish his entire bowl.

Almost All Gone

As did I.

And although I was sad that he mostly doesn’t really love squid, I was more than happy to demolish the leftovers the next day.

Wonder how it tastes with chicken…

Food on Friday :: Apple Cider Soup

Today was a blustery Autumn-y day… absolutely perfect for soup. So soup was had.

Cider Soup Kid Sized

We’ve reached that time of year when it becomes more difficult to take pictures with natural light, since the days are getting shorter (and soon the end of daylight savings… Eek!) but it seems a small price to pay for soup weather. The wind has been blowing quite awesomely tonight so I’m hoping tomorrow we’ll see some big rollers washing over our sea-bound lighthouse, a favorite Fall activity.

Cider Soup Toppings

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes… soup weather.

The thing I love about soup is just how easy it is to make. Throw a few things together in a pot, add some chicken stock, a few herbs, a little time, and a blender, and there ya have it! Soup. It’s a great way to get the kids to eat some vegetables, especially when I haul out the ole Make-It-Yourself trick. A small bowl of soup, a few fun topping (popcorn, home made croutons, apple-celery hash, and bacon!), and there my kids are, eating vegetables they would normally not touch and even calling it delicious. Such is the power of the Make-It-Yourself (and Bacon) Magic.

Cider Soup For Dipping

It also helps that the soup becomes a convenient dip for crackers or bread. It’s taken years of training, but my kids finally see the benefit of dip.

As an added bonus, many soups are quite tasty for lunch the next day, when the light is much better for nice pics!

Cider Soup Gets Grown Up

I don’t have an official recipe for this yet, as I need to work out a few measurments kinks, but this is a close approximation ::

:: A Close Approximation of An Apple Cider Soup Recipe ::

1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds (I used my food processor)
2 fennel bulbs sliced into 1″ cubes (1″-ish… fennel isn’t square)
2 TBS grated ginger
4 TBS olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 c hazelnut meal (or just toast, peel, and grind your own hazelnuts… OK that’s crazy.. also the amount might be closer to a cup… I have to test this out)
4 c chicken stock or water
3 c apple cider
2 TBS lemon juice
Walnut Oil

In the bottom of heavy bottomed pot, heat olive oil over med heat, add carrots, fennel, and ginger, and salt, and gently sweat until the carrots darken, and fennels softens, approximately 15 minutes. A touch of browning is fine. To this mixture add the hazelnut meal and toast for 5 minutes being careful to not allow the meal to scorch, then add the chicken stock and 1 cup of the apple cider. Bring heat to high until soup begins to boil, then lower heat to a slow simmer, covered for at least one hour, although the more time you allow this to slowly cook, the better the results. After an appropriate to your family amount of time (are the children biting your ankles? Time’s up!), transfer contents in small batches to a blender, cover with a towel you don’t really care about, and blend as long as is effective, returning all creamy, dreamy, carroty sludge to the pot for a bit more cooking. Add the remaining 2 c apple cider, and lemon juice, simmer for a few more minutes (or longer if you prefer) and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve in a nice white bowl, with croutons, apple-celery hash, and bacon. Add more bacon if you live with carnivores that complain when there isn’t enough meat. Drizzle a touch of Walnut Oil around the centered garnish. Do a little dance. Pro-tip :: This soup gets better with a nice long rest in the fridge! Pro-tip The Second :: Cut the bacon into small little strips and cook in a cast-iron pan low and slow-like. Pro-tip The Third :: This soup is “rustic” which is a fancy, hoitey-toitey way of saying NOT STRAINED. Strain if you’re fancy, or add more bacon.

Apple-Celery Hash
1 Granny Smith Apple
2 stalks celery

Peel and chop apple into the smallest pieces you can stand. Same with the celery. Take the pan that fried the bacon, dump out the rendered fat, but don’t wipe, throw in the apples and celery with a bit of salt and pepper over med-low heat, let sit for a few minutes to brown up on one side (resist the urge to constantly move it around), toss a bit, repeat until apples are nicely brownish. Then toss it into the middle of your soup.

:::::::::

:::::::::

:::::::::

:: Linking to These Fabulous Sites ::
Today’s Creative Blog

Pick a Peck of Pickles

Four weeks ago, I ran into the farmer’s market and grabbed a whole lot of pickling cucumbers. I had a fresh cukes, some dill, garlic, salt, and most importantly, a gorgeous crock.

Crock

A few years ago I tried a recipe for crock pickles that used cider vinegar. After carefully tending to them for a five or six weeks, we were all giddy with anticipation… and sorely disappointed. They were terrible. The cider vinegar seemed all wrong, harsh, even bitter. So I was a teeny bit trepidatious when setting up my lacto ferment with the baby cukes this time around.

Garlic

Have you heard of half sour pickles? You might know them as barrel dills or deli style pickles. They aren’t actually “pickled” per se, but are fermented. The cukes, other flavoring ingredients (peppercorns, garlic, and dill head), and grape leaves (the tannins help retain crispness) are placed in a water tight container, covered with a salt solution which prevents bacterial growth that will lead to spoilage, and allowed to ferment with the naturally occurring lactobaccili, which turns the vegetable flesh into a tangy, slightly salty treat. It is the same method used to produce sauerkraut.

Pickles Under Glass

Here you can see the cukes are contained under a glass pie plate and a glass jar filled with the brine solution. You can use food-grade plastics, but glass is non-reactive and  leaves me with no worries that anything may be leaching into my brine. Of course, you have to be super careful with glass; if it should break into your crock, well, you’ll have to throw the entire batch out.

Pickles All Wrapped Up

I check on them almost daily, or at least every three or four days. There is some surface mold to deal with, but otherwise they are pretty low maintenance. You just have to make sure the cucumbers stay under the brine (air is the enemy of lacto ferments!). Finally, after four or five weeks, mine are ready. This week, I have to place them in clean jars with new brine, give a bunch away to neighbors, and place what’s left in the fridge.

I might add that these pickles, along with a nice cold beer, make an excellent dinner! For me anyway… the kids get cereal… and milk.

Worth Waiting For

Home Cured Apricot Lox

Last week all six of us came down with a virus which kept our 5 year old out of his first two days of school and our 7 year old home early on a Friday. I know, I know… the number of viruses that run through our home is not really news worthy. I’ve gotta tell you, I’m sick of being sick. I need our immune systems to step up a bit. I’ve got stuff to do… you know, like write a few blog posts. My mom gets antsy if I don’t get a few posts up a week.

Last week my husband brought home a gorgeous side of king salmon. And even though I felt like death warmed over, I dragged myself downstairs to trim it up, remove the pin bones, and set it in a apricot, fennel, Pernod cure. This weekend we absolutely devoured it. De-VOURED. We couldn’t stop eating it.

The recipe isn’t mine, it’s from Sondra Bernstein’s book The Girl and The Fig, which incidentally, was one of my favorite restaurants in Sonoma. It’s pretty simple. Take some dried apricots, soak them in Pernod, grind them in the food processor with a few fennel fronds, add salt, sugar, and pink peppercorns, smother the filet with the paste, cover it in a clean tea towel or cheesecloth, put it under weight in the fridge and let it alone for a few days.

I have a few things to show you, so it should be a “post-ful.” Hopefully, Mom, it will be  worth the wait.

Seeking Comfort

This week… well… this week is one I’m hoping to put behind us as soon as possible. With an accidental head injury that caused an emergency trip to the hospital, it’s been a struggle—quite literally—to stay on our feet. Unfortunately the blog had to sit on the sideline for a bit while we figure out how to keep our little one still and calm. We need some time for rest to allow that little body to heal.

Today my mom came from out of town to stay with us for two weeks, and the timing could not have been any better. I am so grateful that she’s here. To show my appreciation, I made her an omelette with some butter braised radishes, pea shoots, and radish greens from the garden with a bit of ham and feta. Omelettes are one of our preferred comfort foods here, and making a few is one way I have tried to restore some sense of order and normalcy to help wrap up this week.

Home Grown Radishes

Butter Braise

Spring Greens

Stuffing the Omelette

Cutting Into It

Up Close and Personal

I guess if taking pictures while you make and eat your food is what you might consider normal, then we may have seen a tiny glimpse of it today.