A Sexy Fig, Mozzarella, and Prosciutto Salad, Good Enough for The Land of Mutz

Hoboken NJ is the land of Mutz. Say whaaat, Mutz? Yes, Mutz pronounced with an emphasis on the sounds of the first two letters,  Mmuutz, and is a local term of endearment for fresh made mozzarella. I do not mean to be disrespectful to the Bronx and Brooklyn. They each have their great Italian neighborhoods with delicious Italian cuisine and traditions, but Hoboken’s Mutz stands above all others in the area. It is so delicious in fact that every Italian Deli in Hoboken has their own house made Mutz and claims to be the best.

This is a delicious and sexy salad made with figs, fresh mozzarella and Prosciutto De Parma. It is an easy and elegant salad that can be served as a first course meal for a casual dinner for two or more, a special date night, or dinner party. This simple salad adapts to any ocaision.
Fresh Mozzarella, Figs, Prosciutto de Parma and fresh Basil

About four years ago Hoboken started a Mutz Festival to showcase all the freshly made Mutz from each deli and crown the winner of Best Mutz in Hoboken. Mutzfest has a secondary purpose to raise money for local charities as well. A Mutzfest? Absolutely, and the line to get in is several blocks long. Who can say no to eating fresh mozzarella from every Italian Deli in town and roll away one happy Mutz-stuffed champion? I have this vision of every deli owner with their extended family staying up all night, teaming together to pull the mozzarella needed for the Mutzfest. There probably is not a single bit of space left on the counters, shelves, floors, anywhere in all of Hoboken, to put all that Mutz.

Continue reading “A Sexy Fig, Mozzarella, and Prosciutto Salad, Good Enough for The Land of Mutz”

© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille

It is hard to think about turning on the oven when it is so hot and humid outside. It is ironic to me that during the summer when the sun and the heat produces abundant amounts of fruits and vegetables, turning on a heat source to cook vegetables, or anything else for that matter, is the last thing on our mind. Fortunately fruits and vegetables can be eaten raw or cooked, hot or cold. During this crazy hot weather it is ideal to be thrifty and make one meal that can be used later for several additional meals.

An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Mixed vegetables for fennel and chickpea ratatouille

Ratatouille is just that kind of dish. It can be used as a side dish with grilled meats or fish, a sauce to cook eggs or fish in, a sauce to mix with pasta or other grain for a vegetarian entrée. Ratatouille is so versatile it is worth turning on the oven once for the additional meals that can be served with it afterwards.

An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Eggplant
An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Tomatoes with Zucchini

I was not a huge fan of ratatouille until I tried this recipe from Mark Bittman at cooking.nytimes.com.  One reason being, I first learned to cook ratatouille by sautéing each vegetable separately then combining all the vegetables in a crock and bake until bubbly. No thanks. There can be at least five different vegetables and that is just too laborious for a summer’s day. Secondly, I like eggplant but I do not love it, so making something with eggplant is not my first idea or inspiration.  Eggplant is a stunning and beautiful plant. The color is one of my favorites and why I haven’t dismissed it altogether. The flavor, by itself, just does not excite me. With this recipe the eggplant helps give ratatouille body developing on the classic pairing of eggplant and tomatoes. The fennel and fresh herbs makes the ratatouille fresh. Each ingredient adds a layer of flavor to create a medley of roasted vegetables that does not feel heavy.

An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Fennel
An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Prepared Fennel

Three aspects make this recipe stand out: fennel, chickpeas and the simple preparation. The fennel lightens the flavor of the roasted vegetables and the chickpeas turn it into a substantial meal when served as a vegetarian/vegan entrée. I also find the concentrated sweetness of the roasted red peppers gives the ratatouille its depth of flavor and body. Thanks to Mark Bittman, who was the Minimalist Chef for the Times after-all, the cooking process is simple and effective. There is no need to sauté each ingredient separately. Add a large handful of fresh herbs and the ratatouille will be bright like the beautiful summer day you are experiencing.

An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Chickpeas for Ratatouille
An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Prepared Vegetables for Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille

Turn on the oven for one hour and you will have created a mixed vegetable cornucopia that you can enjoy, for two to three additional meals. Fennel and chickpea ratatouille can be a vegetable side dish, (tonight I am serving my ratatouille with lamb burgers,) or serve ratatouille as a sauce for pasta or mixed with your favorite grain. You can serve this ratatouille on grilled toasts or make an open face sandwich by adding cheese and putting it under the broiler for lunch or an appetizer. Add a fried egg to the ratatouille and you have a great breakfast or light dinner. No recipe needed for the additional meals, just imagine and go. The possibilities are endless.

An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille

Don’t throw out your chickpea water, make aquafaba meringue cookies

Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

8 serving as a side dish

Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille

Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille is an easy meal to prepare that can be served for any meal of the day. Serve this dish as a main course vegan entree with pasta or grains. Serve as a side dish with any grilled meats or cook as a sauce to cook fish and eggs with. Spread this ratatouille on toast for an easy lunch or quick appetizer. There are so many options for easy meals at any time of the day.

This recipe is very slightly adapted from Mark Bittman' s Chickpea and Fennel Ratatouille from New York Times Cooking.

Ingredients

    Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille
  • 1 medium eggplant, 1 lb or less
  • 2 medium zucchini, about 1 lb
  • 1 pound of plum (Roma) tomatoes
  • 2 red and/or yellow sweet bell peppers
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 onion
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half (green germ removed)
  • 1/4 cup (about 60ml) olive oil
  • 1 tea Kosher salt
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas (2 15oz cans of cooked chickpeas, about 1 lb, or 487g))
  • 2 Tbl minced fresh herbs such as rosemary with thyme or lemon thyme, or basil and parsley. If you do not have fresh herbs you can use 1 1/2 tea of dried Herbs De Provence.
  • You will need a large roasting pan, I used 12" x 17" x 2" pan. (30.5cm x 43cm x 5cm)

Instructions

  1. Pre- heat the oven to 425 degrees F/ 220 degrees C/ Gas Mark 7
  2. Cut each vegetable into similar size pieces, about one inch. There is no need to peel the eggplant, do so if it is your preference. Combine all of the chopped vegetables and garlic in a large roasting pan. If you do not have a pan large enough you can use two separate pans, like rimmed baking sheets, but your cooking time might change. Add the salt and olive oil and mix until evenly combined. (If you are using dried herbs add them now.)
  3. Bake the vegetables in the oven for 40 minutes. Add the chickpeas to the vegetables and fresh rosemary, if using. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are evenly cooked through and there is some browning in the pan. Once the vegetables are cooked take the pan out of the oven and mix in any reserved fresh herbs you are planning on using.
  4. Serve hot or room temperature.

Notes

There are a lot of vegetables in this recipe and a large roasting pan is perfect for the job. You can use a rimmed baking sheet and divide the vegetables in half and bake on two sheets. You just might need more time roasting the vegetables.

Feel free to substitute any vegetable with your favorite summer vegetables, just keep the sizes of the chopped pieces similar. Ratatouille is traditionally tomato based vegetable "stew" that is easily adapted to what you have on hand.

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Food for Thought: Food Related Links

I am having computer glitches. Basically, I am asking too much of my computer with the constant photo editing and web page building, my computer is starting to protest. In order to keep things going until I can fix everything, I am going to have to keep my posts and photographs real simple.

There is a lot of information on the world-wide web and it is so easy to spend hours just searching for something, get easily distracted dreaming of new and interesting ideas, or spending way too much time on Pinterest building your dream kitchen. I wanted to share a few links to ideas and topics that are important to me, as well as some good summer dessert recipes. I hope you will learn something new and interesting to share as well.

What are your topics of interest or favorite places?

Food Related Links:

I enjoyed this article in the Times about CSA’s and food supply companies that are using the CSA name when in fact it is not. CSA

Interesting interview at Modern Farmer Magazine about the lack of interest politicians have about food policy. It is especially concerning because food policy is related to many other policy challenges for our times, like immigration, climate change, child obesity, and health to name just a few. Modern Farmer

And just because Michelle Obama rocked the DNC and she is a super star check her out on Carpool Karaoke. I love Carpool Karaoke.  Let Girls Learn  Makers.com

Looking for information about places to go and special events in the Hudson Valley, visit Valley Table

Special Interest Links for articles on food policy and Let Girls Learn Initivtive. Links for Raspberry and Red Peppercorn Sorbet Recipe and No Churn Ice Cream Recipes. Link for David Lebovitz's Plum Calke
Food Truck at Cold Spring Farmers Market
Recipe Links

If you love plums and are in the mood to bake, try David Lebovitz’s Plum Cake with Toffee Glaze. This cake is on my to-do list.

Spiced Plum Cake with Toffee Glaze

It is hot here so I have cool, refreshing and no cooking recipes on my mind. I discovered this Raspberry and Red Peppercorn Sorbet recipe on Pinterest and it reminded me of an ice cream I had in NYC a year ago. I discovered a great Ice Cream Parlor in the East Village, Odd Fellows.  Odd Fellows, is a Brooklyn based artisan ice cream store and has a lot of different flavors of great ice cream. I had raspberry and red peppercorn sorbet on a super hot day and it hit the spot. I was so excited to see a recipe for it, it just might get me to buy an ice cream maker. This recipe is not from Odd Fellows but I believe it is similar. Raspberry and Red Peppercorn Sorbet.

If you are like me and do not have an ice cream maker, try no-churn ice cream from Food Network. Another group of recipes on my to-do list. Here is a link to 12 recipes, No Churn Ice Cream.

Special Interest Links for articles on food policy and Let Girls Learn Initivtive. Links for Raspberry and Red Peppercorn Sorbet Recipe and No Churn Ice Cream Recipes. Link for David Lebovitz's Plum Calke
Boscobel Farm Tools at the Boscobel Gallery

© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Fresh Zucchini and Corn Salad with Avocado and Pistachio

The middle of the summer is here and the farmers markets are overflowing with a variety of fruit and vegetables. At last zucchini and corn are announcing their presence. Don’t let these “common” and affordable vegetables fool you, both offer a wide choice of preparations and pair beautifully together. When zucchini and corn  are eaten in its natural state, raw, the flavors are so fresh you will think you are sitting in their vegetable patch, surrounded by vegetables and feeling the summer breeze.

Zucchini and Corn Salad is an easy and fresh salad hot those hot summer days. No need to turn on the oven , slice and mix.

Up until last summer I was not impressed with corn. The corn I bought at the grocery store was bland, getting sweet fresh corn was the exception not the rule. Even corn bought at a farm stand was just ok. Fortunately, last summer the corn was outstanding. It did not matter were I bought corn, all of it was sweet and bright. I discovered eating corn uncooked, just scraped off the cob. Fresh corn just scraped off the cob, is corn at its sweetest and crunchiest. Raw fresh corn became my not so secret, secret ingredient that changed a salad from being “good” to extraordinary. Raw corn is the essence of summer – simple, carefree and bright.

Zucchini and Corn Salad is an easy and fresh salad hot those hot summer days. No need to turn on the oven , slice and mix. Zucchini and Corn Salad is an easy and fresh salad hot those hot summer days. No need to turn on the oven , slice and mix.

These hot summer days require food that helps bring the heat down and keep the stove off. Fresh zucchini and corn salad will do just that. The sweetness of the corn adds depth to the zucchini with crisp texture and bright and fresh flavor. Add lemon vinaigrette, fresh herbs, avocados and pistachios and this salad will satisfy all cravings with crisp, crunch and creamy textures and flavors. Most importantly you do not have to turn on the oven.

My recipe is inspired by and adapted from a recipe of Patricia Wells, Zucchini Carpaccio from her book, Salads as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads for Every Season.  The paper-thin sliced zucchini paired with avocado, pistachios and a lemon dressing was elegant and inspirational. Now I do not see this as a main entrée, I would definitely be prowling in the pantry for munchies a couple of hours after dinner if I did eat this as my main meal, so I adapted  this salad to be featured as a vegetable side dish and added corn.

Patricia Wells, Zucchini Carpaccio recipe via Food52

Zucchini and Corn Salad is an easy and fresh salad hot those hot summer days. No need to turn on the oven , slice and mix.

To prepare the zucchini I used a Spiralizer and cut the zucchini noodles into smaller pieces. This made the salad easier to mix and eat. If you do not have a Spiralizer you can julienne the zucchini, or slice across the zucchini as thin as possible then, cut each slice in half or quarters. The point is to have the zucchini in extra thin pieces to reinforce zucchini delicate flavor. No big chunks in this salad.

Zucchini and Corn Salad is an easy and fresh salad hot those hot summer days. No need to turn on the oven , slice and mix.
Zucchini and Corn Salad

Fresh herbs are another key ingredient in the salad and lemon thyme is a stand out feature. If you do not have lemon thyme, substitute basil or other fresh herb that pairs well with lemon. But use fresh herbs, dried herbs will not do the salad justice.

Serve Fresh Zucchini and Corn Salad with Potato Salad with Yogurt and Sorrel Dressing and Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak for a lemony summer dinner.

Fresh Zucchini and Corn Salad with Avocado and Pistachio

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

4 side dish servings

Fresh Zucchini and Corn Salad with Avocado and Pistachio

These hot summer days require food that helps bring the heat down and keep the stove off. Fresh zucchini and corn salad will do just that. The sweetness of the corn adds depth to the zucchini with crisp texture and bright and fresh flavor. Add lemon vinaigrette, fresh herbs, avocados and pistachios and this salad will satisfy all cravings with crisp, crunch and creamy textures and flavors. Most importantly you do not have to turn on the oven.

Recipe is adapted from Patricia Wells, Zucchini Carpaccio with Avocado and Pistachios.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbl fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest from half a lemon
  • 3 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tea sea salt
  • 2 medium fresh zucchini
  • 1 ear of fresh corn, husked
  • 1/2 ripe avocado, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pistachio nuts, ruff chopped
  • 1 Tbl fresh lemon thyme, minced

Instructions

    For the Salad Dressing
  1. In a small jar with a lib, or small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, lemon zest and sea salt until just combined. Add the olive oil and vigorously shake the jar with the lid tightly screwed on, or whisk with a fork in a bowl, until the salad dressing is well incorporated. Set aside.
    Zucchini and Corn Salad
  1. Clean and trim the ends of each zucchini. Use a Spiralizer to spiral cut the zucchini into noodles, or very thinly slice the zucchini across the zucchini then cut each piece in half, or julienne the zucchini. If using the Spiralizer, cut the zucchini noodles into smaller lengths. Put the prepared zucchini into a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Hold the ear of the corn at the pointed end and rest the stem end on a cutting board. (Cut the stem off so you can have a stable surface to rest the corn on.) Take a sharp chef knife and starting an the top of the corn cut down the length of the corn, scraping the knife against the cob, to cut off the corn kernels. Rotate the corn around and continue to cut the corn kernels off the entire ear of corn. Put the corn kernels in the bowl with the zucchini.
  3. Add the chopped avocado, and chopped pistachios to the bowl and gently mix to combine all the ingredients. Add the fresh herbs and salad dressing and mix to combine. If not planning on serving the salad right away, do not add the avocado and pistachios. Add these ingredients just before serving. Serve at room temperature.

Notes

If you do not have lemon thyme you can add basil or thyme. Any fresh herb that pairs well with lemon will work.

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

“Why don’t we have this more often?” Taylor asked me one night. He did not waste any time to express himself as he was asking the question before he finished chewing on his first bite. He was referring to flank steak marinated in a sherry and soy sauce marinade. I did not really have an answer for him, and I had to reflect on the question myself. Why not? I used to make it every time I cooked flank steak. This marinade adds a lot of flavor to flank steak and is also great to marinate skirt steak and pork tenderloin.

Flank steak marinated in a sherry and soy marinade is delicious and great way to add flavor to pork and beef. Marinate the flank steak for a couple of hours or over night and you will not be disappointed. A quick and easy dinner for any night of the week.
Sherry Marinade for Flank Steak

This sherry marinade brings back a strong food memory for my family as well. Years ago we were visiting friends in Wellfleet, MA for the weekend and for a food contribution I brought skirt steak marinating in the sherry marinade.  Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control the skirt steak was left marinating in this sherry marinade for over  48 hours, (something that I do not recommend because it could turn your meat mushy.)  We desperately grilled the steak at the last hours of our vacation and made sandwiches to bring to the beach.

I can see that afternoon so clearly: sitting on the beach at the National Seashore in Wellfleet, relaxing and soaking in the sun, wishing we did not have to leave, watching my kids and our friends body surfing the waves, taking one last dive to feel the crisp ocean waters. There is something about this place fills my soul and completely relaxes me.

The sandwiches were simply prepared with grilled steak on hamburger buns and devoured instantly. We could have had 1oo sandwiches and it would not have been enough. The skirt steak was tender not mushy, (phew) and the sandwiches had a lingering well-rounded sweet, salty and meaty taste that completely satisfied and made you crave more.

Flank steak marinated in a sherry and soy marinade is delicious and great way to add flavor to pork and beef. Marinate the flank steak for a couple of hours or over night and you will not be disappointed. A quick and easy dinner for any night of the week.

Maybe it was the fresh seaside air and the cool ocean water that contributed to our collective memory, but the flavor of the grilled skirt steak sandwiches defined umami. Taylor posed a good question to me: something so good needs to be served on a regular basis, with or without the National Seashore in Wellfleet as an excuse.

Flank steak marinated in a sherry and soy marinade is delicious and great way to add flavor to pork and beef. Marinate the flank steak for a couple of hours or over night and you will not be disappointed. A quick and easy dinner for any night of the week.

Grilled sherry marinated flank steak will hit your umami sense as well, and like Taylor you will begin to crave this steak for a regular meal. If you are lucky to have leftovers the grilled steak can be used in salad, sandwiches, tacos, fajitas, or in a stir-fry. For me, I look forward to the leftover steak sandwiches more than the flank steak dinner.  It is a quick and easy dinner, and with a bit of advanced preparation can easily fit into a weeknight dinner menu. If you do not own a grill, flank steak can be prepared on the stove in a grill pan or under the broiler. Cooking times will vary due to how hot your grill, pan or broiler are, so watch the steak because it does not take long to cook.

I came across the recipe for this marinade watching BBQ with Bobby Flay on Food Network possibly 12 years ago. It caught my attention because I was on the prowl for ways to jazz up pork tenderloin. The original recipe from the episode that I watched is, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Guava Glaze and Orange Habanero Mojo. However, the current recipe on the website no longer has the marinade part of the recipe.  My own age and kids age do not make me feel old, but searching for an old recipe on Food Network does.  It has been around for so long they do not even have it in their archives. I know it was there. I wrote it down on a scrap piece of paper and have kept it in my files ever since.

Tips for cooking steak:

Eliminate the cooking time by taking the meat out of the refrigerator one hour before cooking. This will bring the meat up to room temperature and will need less time on the heat.

Use recipes as a guideline for cooking time. There are too many variables that will affect how long it will take to cook your specific piece of meat using your specific equipment.

Dry the meat before putting on the pan or grill. The drier the exterior the better the meat will sear or brown.

Cook meats on the grill in two phases using direct and indirect heat. First cook the steak on direct heat to get a good sear on the outside. After a couple of minutes per side, move the steak to a place on your grill that is not directly over the coals, or flame, to finish cooking the interior of the steak using indirect heat.

Do not over cook the steak. It is best served on the rare to medium rare side. Internal temperature for meat that is rare is 125-130 degrees F, medium rare range is 130-140 degrees F.   Steak cooked to 150 degrees F or higher,  will be well done and dry.

Let the steak rest for 5 to 15 minutes after cooking and before carving and eating. The moisture in the steak will circulate through the meat and keep the steak moist.

Flank steak marinated in a sherry and soy marinade is delicious and great way to add flavor to pork and beef. Marinate the flank steak for a couple of hours or over night and you will not be disappointed. A quick and easy dinner for any night of the week.

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

4 servings

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak is an easy way to add a lot of flavor to flank steak that will have you craving for more. You can marinate the flank steak for a couple of hours or for 24 hours and get a delicious meal. It is a quick and easy dinner that can be prepared any night of the week. Enjoy the flank steak with buttered green beans and basil, fresh tomatoes, and corn on the cob for a fresh summer dinner.

Original recipe was from Bobby Flay on Food Network

Prep Time: Fifteen minutes to make the marinade.

Inactive time: 2 -24 hrs to marinate the flank steak 1 hour to bring the meat up to room temperature

Grill time: 6 -8 minutes

Rest the steak for 10-15 minutes

Serve

Ingredients

    Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak
  • 1- 1 1/2 lbs flank steak
  • 1 recipe Sherry Marinade
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Olive Oil
    Sherry Marinade
  • 1/4 cup low salt soy sauce or low salt Tamari Sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry (Fino)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 Tbls unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbl fresh orange juice
  • 1 Tbl fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbl minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger

Instructions

    Make marinade
  1. Combine all liquid ingredients in a small bowl and whisk thoroughly until mixed together.
  2. Mince the rosemary then add to the bowl, save the stems. Add the minced ginger to the liquid ingredients in bowl. Whisk all the ingredients together.
    Prepare the Flank Steak
  1. Place the flank steak in a gallon size zip-lock bag, or small Pyrex dish large enough for the steak to lay flat.
  2. Pour the marinade into the bag or pan, and add the reserved rosemary stems. Seal the bag, carefully getting out as much air as reasonable, and place bag with he steak in a rimed tray or pan large enough for the flank steak to lie flat. If not using a plastic bag, cover your dish with plastic wrap. Put the marinating meat in the refrigerator.
  3. Marinate the flank steak for at least 2-3 hours or up to 24 hours, turning the steak over from time to time so the whole piece gets marinated evenly.
  4. Take the steak out of the refrigerator one hour before cooking time. You want the meat to come up to room temperature, which will require less cooking time.
  5. Take the flank steak out of the marinade and place it on a rack fitted inside a baking sheet. Dry the flank steak with paper towels. Lightly salt both sides of the steak, less than a teaspoon in total.
  6. Prepare your grill for high heat.
  7. Rub both sides of the flank steak lightly with olive oil and rest the streak on the rack until the grill is hot.
  8. When your grill is hot set the flank steak on the grill directly over the coals, or heart source for gas grill. Cook he flank steak for 3 minutes on one side then turn it over and cook on the other side for two to three minutes. Check internal temperature, you want the middle of the flank steak to read 125 degrees to 130 degrees F for medium rare. If the steak is not ready, move the flank steak over to the side of the grill, away from the coals, and continue to cook with indirect heat until internal temperature reads 130 degrees F. Hopefully a just a couple minutes more.
  9. Take the flank steak off the grill and rest on a cutting board. Grind fresh pepper to taste on the steak and let the steak rest, loosely covered, for 10-15 minutes.
  10. Slice the flank steak across the grain of the meat in thin slices.
  11. Serve with your favorite sides, like buttered green beans with basil, sliced tomatoes, grilled corn, caramelized onions.
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Gluten Free Nifty Cake: Oat Flour Sponge Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream

As I researched types of cake to make for my dad’s Nifty Cake, I tested this gluten free sponge cake made with oat flour, from Alice Medrich’s Flavor Flours cookbook. This is a remarkable cookbook featuring new ways to bake with gluten free flours. I love this cookbook because Alice Medrich’s recipes are well thought out and tested. It is also easy to follow. She is a phenomenal expert at everything she sets her mind to. I learned a lot about gluten free baking from reading and testing recipes in this book. Her cookbooks are very reliable and the desserts are delicious.

Gluten Free Nifty Cake make with a Gluten Free Sponge Cake recipe

Gluten Free Nifty Cake, made with a gluten free sponge cake recipe

Gluten Free Nifty Cake made with gluten free sponge cake recipe

 

Gluten Free Nifty Cake made with a gluten free sponge cake recipe

The Oat Flour Sponge cake recipe is a great gluten free sponge cake to use for any cake made with an alternative flour. The oat flour brings a slight nutty flavor that compliments the butter in the cake. It was so good and worked beautifully with the strawberries, peaches and cream, I decided to share two versions of my Nifty Cake recipe.  You can also find a similar strawberries and cream cake recipe in Flavor Flours using this sponge cake as the foundation.

Although, sponge cakes are drier than butter cakes, the added fruit, jam and cream help keep the gluten free sponge cake moist. There are several things to love about this recipe. First, there is only one pan. It is a light cake even though eggs are the only leavening ingredient used. Also, the structure of the cake holds together well for a gluten free sponge cake.

Enjoy more recipes made with oat flour:

Gluten free Dutch Baby

Airy Oat and Banana Pancakes

Gluten Free Nifty Cake made with a gluten free sponge cake recipe

Gluten Free Nifty Cake made with a gluten free sponge cake recipe

You can read my story tribute to my dad and learn about how Nifty cake came to be.  Find the story post here, Nifty Cake recipe using all-purpose flour here.

What is your favorite gluten free baking cookbook and flour?

Gluten Free Nifty Cake: Oat Flour Sponge Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Category: Gluten Free Dessert

Cuisine: American

6-8 servings

Gluten Free Nifty Cake: Oat Flour Sponge Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream

Gluten Free Nifty Cake is a sponge cake made with oat flour and adorned with strawberries, peaches and whipped cream. It is a versatile cake that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. It is a delicious sponge cake that everyone, with or without a gluten restrictive diet, will enjoy.

The sponge cake portion of the recipe is from "Flavor Flours" by Alice Medrich, and is a great gluten free substitute whenever you want a sponge cake.

Ingredients

    Oat Flour Sponge Cake
  • 3 TB clarified butter or ghee
  • 1 cup /100 grams oat flour
  • 2/3 cup / 130 grams sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/8 tea Kosher salt
    Fruit Filling and Decoration
  • 8 oz strawberries
  • 1/2 ripe peach
  • 1/4 cup best quality strawberry or peach jam
  • Extra strawberries and peaches to decorate the cake as you wish
    Whipped Cream
  • 1 - 2 cups / 250 - 500 ml) of heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 or 1 tea pure vanilla extract, depending on how much cream you are using
  • 2 to 3 tea sugar

Instructions

    Oat Flour Sponge Cake
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit/ 175 degrees Celsius/ Gas Mark 4 and position the rack to the lower third of the oven.
  2. Prepare an 8" (20.5cm) by 3" (7.5cm) cake pan or an 8" springform pan and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
  3. Make the clarified butter: heat the butter in a saucepan until hot and bubbly. Continue to cook until the foam subsides. Turn off heat and pour the butter through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth into a small, 4-5 cup capacity, microwave safe bowl and set aside.
  4. Sift then measure the oat flour. Place the oat flour into a medium bowl and add 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Thoroughly whisk them together and to remove any clumps.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the remaining sugar, eggs, and salt. Using the whisk attachment of your mixer, whip the egg and sugar on high speed until the batter is light and fluffy. Depending on your mixer it could take about 4-5 minutes, longer if you are using a handheld mixer. 2 visual clues that the batter is ready: the batter will be very fluffy and a light yellow. Also, the volume will have tripled in size, and distinctive well defined streak marks from the whisk attachment will be visible.
  6. Right before the egg/sugar mixture is finished being whipped, heat the butter in the microwave until hot, careful to prevent the butter from bubbling.
  7. Remove the bowl with the eggs and sugar from the mixer and sift the oat flour into the bowl in three increments. Gently fold the batter between each addition, careful not to deflate the batter. Once the flour is barely folded into the mixture add a quarter of the batter into the bowl with the butter. Fold the mixture until the butter is thoroughly blended into the batter.
  8. Add the butter and batter mixture into the remaining batter and gently fold until just blended.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes and golden brown on top. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out dry and clean.
  10. Put the cake pan on a cooling rack and run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the sides.
  11. Allow the cake to cool slightly in the pan. Invert the cake out of the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Turn the cake right side up, and put the cake back on the cooling rack. Leave alone to completely cool.
  12. You can bake the cake in advance of preparing the whole cake with frosting and fruit. Once the cake is cool, keep the cake airtight, wrapped in plastic wrap.
    Fruit Filling
  1. Wash and dry a half pound of strawberries. Remove the stems and cut into bite size pieces. Place the prepared strawberries in a small bowl. Cut one peach in half and remove the pit. Peel one of the peach halves then cut into bite size pieces. Place the prepared peaches into the bowl with the strawberries. Gently mix the fruit until evenly combined.Set aside.
    Whipped Cream Frosting
  1. Before mixing place the bowl and beaters in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to chill.
  2. If you plan on frosting the whole cake you will need 2 cups of heavy cream. If you only want to have frosting in the middle use a cup of heavy cream.
  3. For two cups of cream: Add the heavy cream and vanilla to the chilled bowl and beat until soft peaks have formed. Add 3 teaspoons of sugar to the cream and beat until stiff peaks have formed, being careful not to over-beat the cream. You do not want it to start looking like butter.
    Putting it all together
  1. Cut the Oat Flour Sponge Cake in half horizontally to create two layers of cake. Set the bottom cake layer on a serving plate and the top layer on a flat bottomed plate, or rimless cookie sheet. (See Notes)
  2. Depending on how you are going to frost the cake, will determine the amounts of cream to use. Add one cup of the whipped cream if you are only using the whipped cream frosting in the middle cake layer. Use 2 cups of heavy cream you are planning to frost the entire cake with the whipped cream. Divide the whipped cream into thirds, 1/3 for the middle, 1/3 for the top, and 1/3 for the sides of the cake. Use one cup of whipped cream for each layer if you are not frosting the side of the cake.
  3. On the bottom cake layer, spread the jam to a smooth and even layer across the cake. Add the whipped cream on top of the jam and cake.
  4. Spread the whipped cream evenly across the cake then add all of the cut up fruit. Press the fruit evenly into the whipped cream to make it smooth.
  5. Carefully slide the top cake layer on top of the the fruit layer and evenly line up the sides. If you are planning on frosting the whole cake spread a thin layer of the whipped cream around the top and sides of the cake, a crumb layer, to create an even and smooth surface for the remaining whipped cream. Frost top and sides of the cake with the remaining whipped cream then decorate the cake with extra fruit as you please.
  6. If you are not frosting the whole cake, add the remaining whipped cream to the top and spread the whipped cream across the top. Decorate the top of the cake with extra fruit.
  7. This cake should not be made too far in advance as the whipped cream will not hold for a long time and the cake will get soggy. Keep the cake refrigerated until ready to serve. Take the cake out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving to get rid of some of the chill.
  8. The cake, without the fruit and whipped cream will last for a couple of days on the counter tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.

Notes

There are many different ways to slice cake layers in half horizontally and different tools you could buy. I cut cake layers using a ruler, toothpicks and a long serrated knife. I am not brave enough to eyeball it because it is so difficult to cut anything level. First, cut a small vertical mark on the side of the cake. This mark will be your guide to evenly line up your layers. Measure with a ruler the middle point around the side of the cake, inserting a toothpick every 3 inches all the way around.the circumference of the cake. Put one hand gently on top of the cake with the other hand working the knife. Holding the knife parallel to the counter, rest the middle of a long serrated knife against the top of the toothpicks and make a cut, or score, around the circumference of the cake. Use the hand on the cake to turn the cake as you cut. Continue to cut in a circle around the edge of the cake, focusing your eye on the tip end of the knife. It helps keeping the knife level. Cut your way around the cake, gradually cutting toward the middle and then all the way through.

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Sautéed Sesame Shrimp and Spinach

I could serve shrimp every night and my sons would never get tired of it. Mention “Shrimp for dinner,” and their eyes would light up and they would go into their happy dance. That happy dance  is just as adorable at 26 years old as it is at 3 years. Their expressions of joy and love could turn on me instantly with expression of “H o w  D a r e  Y o u,” if the shrimp portions were unequal. We may have started our dinner giving thanks and praying for world peace, but I could see their intense gaze upon each person’s plate scanning and counting the shrimp to make sure they were not cut short. God forbid someone in the family received one more shrimp than anyone else. If looks could kill, the scowl-glare of, “MORE SHRIMP” would do the job instantly. We may not be able to solve world peace, but at least we work very hard to keep the peace at home.

 

Sauteed Sesame Shrimp with Spinach is an easy and healthy meal that can be prepared in 15 minutes. Cleaning the shrimp with salt and water produces tender, moist and crunchy shrimp. A simple meal that all shrimp lovers will enjoy.
Shrimp and Spinach

Sauteed Sesame Shrimp with Spinach is an easy and healthy meal that can be prepared in 15 minutes. Cleaning the shrimp with salt and water produces tender, moist and crunchy shrimp. A simple meal that all shrimp lovers will enjoy.

Looking though my recipe collection I realized that I have a large number of shrimp recipes. Most of them I have not used because having shrimp on the menu is usually a spontaneous decision, dependent on price and something I can quickly make with vegetables and pasta. (My kids favorite.) I did come across one recipe in my collection, Stir-Fried Sesame Shrimp and Spinach by Martha Rose Shulman at NY Times Cooking, that nudged me to remember a homework assignment I completed for an online class, The Science of Gastronomy at Coursera.org Two science professors from the University of Hong Kong taught the course and focused the learning objectives on how cooking techniques are based on science, and how to use this science to make you a better cook.

Sauteed Sesame Shrimp and Spinach is a healthy, easy dinner developing moist and crunchy shrimp. It is a simple meal that all shrimp lovers will enjoy.

In Ms. Shulman’s recipe she uses a Chinese technique to clean shrimp with salt and water. Flash several years back in time, my homework assignment for The Science of Gastronomy, tested the effects of soaking, (brining) shrimp in salt and water to see if there was any effect on taste and the mouth-feel of cooked shrimp. Reading this recipe was bringing it all back to me.  I have the best intentions to remember everything that I have ever learned, but usually I need a clue and a bonk on the head to stir the memory bank. I just had to test this out again.

Sauteed Sesame Shrimp with Spinach is an easy and healthy meal that can be prepared in 15 minutes. Cleaning the shrimp with salt and water produces tender, moist and crunchy shrimp. A simple meal that all shrimp lovers will enjoy.
Ingredients for Sautéed Sesame Shrimp with Spinach

In summary, if you want to make shrimp talk add salt while you are cleaning the shrimp and they will become squeaky. The brining technique produces crunchy-squeaky-tender morsels of shrimp that squirt in your mouth. My homework assignment had us soaking shrimp in salt water, plain water and the control shrimp was left alone. The shrimp in the salt water definitely was more crunchy than the other shrimp samples. Soaking the shrimp in plain water left them mushy. As I understand it, the shrimp cells absorb the water and cause the cell tissue to collapse, giving you a mushy mouth-feel. Salt will draw the moisture out of the shrimp cells, but keeps the moisture absorbed in its own cells. The heat from cooking causes the salt to release the moisture out of its cells and back into the shrimp, making it tender, crunchy and squeaky.

This is the same concept of pre-salting food in the Zuni Cookbook, as featured in my recipe, Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken.

Sauteed Sesame Shrimp with Spinach is an easy and healthy meal that can be prepared in 15 minutes. Cleaning the shrimp with salt and water produces tender, moist and crunchy shrimp. A simple meal that all shrimp lovers will enjoy.

Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe instructed you to rinse the shrimp with water then toss the shrimp with salt, then rinse again and repeat. I found this method to be more effective at producing crispy shrimp than the soaking method of my homework assignment.

She also instructs you to use a “generous” amount of salt for the brining. I do not know exactly what a generous amount means, and I am cautious about adding too much salt to my food. My idea of generous may be different from her idea of generous, and different from your idea of generous.  In the interest of keeping the salt to a minimum, I measured 1 slightly rounded teaspoon of Kosher salt per pound of shrimp for the brine. If you wish you can use my recipe as a guide, and carefully adjust the amount of Kosher salt you use to brine the shrimp to suit your tastes.  The teaspoon of Kosher salt was my idea of generous and I was happy with my crispy, not salty, shrimp.

Crispy sauteed sesame shrimp with spinach. A quick and easy dinner cone in 15 minutes.
Sautéed Sesame Shrimp with Spinach

Don’t throw out the shrimp shells. They make a simple shrimp stock that can be used in any recipe that calls for fish stock or clam juice. (See notes in recipe for instructions.)

I made very slight changes to the recipe because I do not own a wok. I used a sauté pan, deglazed the pan with wine, and added preserved lemon. Both additions are optional and if you are using a wok you won’t need to deglaze the pan. On one occasion, I substituted the spinach with white chard – stems and all, and was equally delighted with the results.

Sautéed Sesame Shrimp with Spinach is an easy recipe, creating a delicious and healthy dinner in 15 minutes.  No matter what variation you use, spinach or chard, wok or sauté, there is a generous amount of shrimp with each serving to satisfy all the shrimp lovers in your home. Bring on that happy dance.

Sauteed Sesame Shrimp with Spinach is an easy and healthy meal that can be prepared in 15 minutes. Cleaning the shrimp with salt and water produces tender, moist and crunchy shrimp. A simple meal that all shrimp lovers will enjoy.
Sautéed Sesame Shrimp with White Chard

Sautéed Sesame Shrimp and Spinach

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 6 minutes

3-4 servings

Sautéed Sesame Shrimp and Spinach

Sautéed Sesame Shrimp with Spinach is an easy dinner that creates moist and crispy shrimp. This recipes features brining the shrimp in salt and water to produce succulent, crispy and squeaky shrimp. This technique can be used when ever you want to stir-fry or sauté shrimp.

This recipe is very slightly adapted from Martha Rose Shulman recipe Stir-fry Sesame Shrimp with Spinach from New York Times Cooking

Ingredients

  • 1 lb large shrimp
  • About 2 tea Kosher salt, divided, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 Tbl canola oil, or light sesame oil
  • 1/8 tea sugar
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tea dried red chili flakes
  • 2 Tbl sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 lb cleaned fresh spinach, stems trimmed
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc, or water, or stock (optional)
  • About 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 of a preserved lemon, diced (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the peeled shrimp in a colander and rinse with water. Sprinkle a rounded teaspoon of Kosher salt all over the shrimp and carefully toss the shrimp. Toss the salted shrimp for about 1 minute, then rinse the shrimp with water. Repeat the whole process one more time.
  2. Combine about 1/4 teaspoon of salt with the sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat a large skillet or sauté pan, big enough to accommodate 1 lb of spinach- I used a 14" sauté pan, till very hot but just shy of smoking. Add 2 Tbl of oil to the pan and swirl the oil around to cover the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the minced garlic, minced ginger, and chili flakes to the pan and very briefly sauté, stirring the ingredients around so that they do not burn.
  5. Add the shrimp and spread evenly across the pan in one layer. Let the shrimp cook undisturbed for about 1 minute. After one minute, stir the shrimp around and sauté for one minute more.
  6. Add the sesame seeds and spinach and carefully stir to evenly cook the spinach for about a minute. Add the sugar/salt mixture and just shy of a 1/4 cup of dry white wine, (if using). Stir the spinach and scrape off any brown goodies stuck the bottom of the pan.
  7. Continue to cook until the spinach is wilted and the shrimp is just cooked through and pink. About 2 more minutes.
  8. Add the preserved lemon, if using, then drizzle the dark sesame oil over the the whole dish. Toss and serve with your favorite grain like rice or couscous.

Notes

I made this dish with chard and enjoyed it just as well. If you decide to use chard instead of spinach, remove the shrimp from the pan after the first 2 minutes of cooking, and set aside on a plate..The chard will take longer to cook, especially if you are using the stems, than the spinach and you do not want to over cook the shrimp. When the chard is cooked through, add the shrimp back in the pan and continue to cook until the shrimp is just cooked through and pink.

Shrimp Stock Add the shrimp shells of 1 lb of shrimp to a medium sauce pan and gently sauté on medium high heat. Once the shells have turned pinkish and no longer translucent add water into the saucepan to cover the shrimp shells about 2 inches. Add some aromatics to the shrimp and water, such as celery, parsley and a bay leaf, then cook the stock at a simmer for about one hour. Drain the stock through a fine mesh strainer and dispose of the shrimp shells and aromatics. Cool the shrimp stock and refrigerate and use within a couple of days or freeze the stock. The stock should keep well in the freezer for 3 months. Makes about 3 cups of stock.

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Inspired Leftovers: Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing

I could get lost strolling through farmers markets and small local specialty grocery stores. Upon entering the market I enjoy strolling around, looking for new produce to mark the beginning of their season, and admiring the beauty of the bounty. Plants and their fruit are so beautiful and the markets know how to display their vibrant, mix-match colors creating a landscape like the scattered dots in a pointillist painting.  I go to the market with a shopping list and an idea of what I want, but I can be easily swayed by the texture, color and shape of the fruit and vegetables enticing me to take a closer look.

Farmers market inspiration for new meals and upgrading leftovers.
Pleasantville Farmers Market Inspiration

My inspirational browsing does not transfer to the supermarket. The stacks of pre-packaged fruits and vegetables greet me at the entrance., immediately making me defensive. No lingering allowed, keep moving, keep moving, keep moving. The costumer is encouraged to grab and go, not to examine and select. Ironically it can take me a longer time to shop at a supermarket, despite being designed for speed and efficiency, because I do more scrounging around to find a good piece of meat or produce. My focus will concentrate on what I absolutely need, while my inner thoughts say, “Damn, this is what I have to choose from?”   The supermarket may call the pre-packaged produce as “Grab and Go,” I call it wasteful and a ripoff. There is no need to encourage me to spend more money, I do a pretty good job at that already, and I do not want the extra packing material, or 3 lbs of green beans. All I want is fresh food at a reasonable price, that is ripe, flavorful, and I can pick and choose as I please without the extra waste.

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.
Pan Grilled Chicken
Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.
Ingredients for avocado and yogurt dressing

I will be honest, I procrastinate going to the grocery store. It is a lot easier to procrastinate now that there are only two of us living under one roof. There are times when 5:30 rolls around after a day of work and I realize that there is nothing planned or prepared for dinner. On these days, leftovers and a well stocked pantry come to the rescue. I do plan for leftovers and count on them two days a week. As my dependence on leftover grows, I am more insistent about keeping sticky fingers from grazing or helping themselves to seconds.

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.

When I was a kid leftovers was a sentence to eating the dregs scraped off the bottom on the pan.  When mom announced leftovers of dinner, she was met with groans, rolled eyes, and exasperated reactions. I vaguely remember my own children giving me the same reaction as well, but it was possibly more directed to  the amount of times we had chicken for dinner. “Chicken! Again! Can’t we have something different for a change? Why must we always have chicken? Ugh. ”

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.
Ingredients for Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad

Leftovers do not have to be the dregs, as long as there are some fresh vegetables available, last nights dinner can become new again. My inspiration for this leftover meal came about because I had more avocados than I knew what to do with, some homemade yogurt that I am in love with, and enough leftover grilled chicken to stretch into a salad for two. The finishing touches are added once the foundation is set. The avocado and yogurt dressing was inspired from a recipe of Mark Bittman’s of which I added a tomatillo and poblano pepper, (the leftovers from another meal). Some food items are just meant to be together and avocado, tomatillo and poblano chili pepper are just those foods asking to be married.

Avocado and yogurt dressing spruce up leftover grilled chicken to create a refreshing grilled chicken and cucumber salad.
Avocado and Yogurt Dressing

Look in your fridge and pantry, hidden inside are some odd and end gems of produce and proteins ready to freshen up last nights dinner. These easy dinners can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. No tantrums with this fresh take on leftovers. You never know, an inspired leftover meal could be your next family favorite.

What is your favorite way to use up leftovers?

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. It is refreshing and an easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.
Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado and yogurt dressing.

What to do with your leftover avocado?

Avocado toast on whole grain bread with a poached or fried egg.

My standby lunch of open-face sandwich with avocado, salsa and cheese, melted under the broiler.

Inspired Leftover Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

3-4

Serving Size: 1 cup

Inspired Leftover Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing

Grilled chicken and cucumber salad with avocado yogurt dressing is a great way to use up left over chicken. Any type of prepared chicken will work with this recipe, just remove skin and bones if needed. Grilled chicken and cucumber salad is a refreshing and easy weeknight dinner, or for when it is too hot to cook.

The avocado yogurt dressing was inspired by a recipe from How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. I cut the ingredients in half because I was using it as a salad dressing and not a dip. I threw in a tomatillo and some poblano pepper to add a little more flavor and texture. If you do not have either of these two ingredients, replace them with a couple of tablespoons of tomatillo salsa, (salsa verde).

Prepare and serve the salad immediately, as anything made with avocado will discolor when exposed to air. I have eaten leftover salad for lunch the next day, but beyond that the salad would look and taste funky.

Ingredients

    Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad
  • 2 grilled boneless and skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 2 scallions
  • 4-5 springs of cilanto, chopped
  • Avocado Yogurt dressing
  • 2 large handfuls of cleaned fresh spinach
  • Fresh blueberries or strawberries (optional)
    Avodaco and Yogurt Dressing
  • 1/2 Haas avocado
  • 2 -3 Tbl plain yogurt
  • Juice from 1 lemon, zest from half a lemon
  • Scant 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 small tomatillo, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 of a poblano pepper -seeds and stem removed and chopped
  • 1/2 of a shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Kosher salt to taste

Instructions

    Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad
  1. Chop the grilled chicken breasts in to bite size pieces about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch. Place the chicken in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. Cut the cucumber piece in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut each of the 4 seedless cucumber sections in half lengthwise to create 8, long cucumber pieces. Cut the cucumber pieces into 1/2 inch chunks and add to the mixing bowl with the chicken.
  3. Trim the root off the scallion then slice the white and light green part into thin slivers. discard the dark green parts with the root or set aside for another use. Add scallions to mixing bowl.
  4. Trim the cilantro leaves from the long stems and gather the leaves into a tight pile, holding the pile together with your non-working hand. Cut across the pile to mince the cilantro. Add cilantro to mixing bowl.
  5. Mix all the ingredients together until evenly combined and set aside.
    Avocado and Yogurt Dressing
  1. Place the minced shallot in a small bowl and add the juice of half a lemon to the bowl. Let the shallots macerate in the lemon juice for a few minutes.
  2. Peel the garlic clove and remove the green germ from the center. Mince the garlic, then add to the lemon juice and shallots.
  3. Using a spoon, scoop the avocado meat sway from the peal then add the avocado to a food processor. Add 2 heaping tablespoons of yogurt to the avocado along with the peeled and chopped tomatillo, and chopped poblano pepper.
  4. Add a pinch of Kosher salt, about 1/4 teaspoon, and lemon zest to the avocado mixture then turn on the food processor and puree the ingredients until combined.
  5. Add the orange juice and shallot, garlic and lemon juice mixture to the avocado. Turn on the processor and blend until the dressing is smooth. Taste and correct the seasoning to suit your preference. Add the remaining lemon juice, a little salt and remaining yogurt if you think it is needed.
  6. Blend in the food processor until desired consistency.
    Putting in all together
  1. Pour half the avocado and yogurt dressing in the bowl with the grilled chicken and cucumbers. Stir until well combined. Taste the salad and add more dressing as you desire. I have used all of the dressing on one occasion and three-quarters of the dressing on another. It all depends on how much you add into the salad. (If you have any leftover dressing, use it as a dip with chips or vegetables, that same night, as a light and easy appetizer before dinner).
  2. Place a large handful of fresh and clean spinach on each plate. Arrange about 1 cup of the grilled chicken and cucumber salad on top of the fresh spinach. Drizzle the spinach and chicken with your best quality extra virgin olive oil and a few fresh berries.
  3. Serve immediately.

Notes

The dressing is a small amount and would be best prepared in a small food processor.

I had a lot of Fire and Ice radishes available so I added them to my salad. This salad is very easy to adapt to what produce you have available and needs to be used up. The berries are a nice addition, adding a touch of sweetness to cut some of the tang from the lemon and yogurt, but not necessary.

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Aquafaba Meringue

A year ago I read an article on Food52 about an amazing food discovery – aquafaba. Aquafaba is bean water that comes from canned beans or home cooked beans. This is an ingredient that is unseemly and easy to ignore. I sometimes use it in hummus, but I mostly just pour it down the drain. Fortunately, some very clever and persistent people discovered that aquafaba has similar properties to egg whites and could be whipped into stiff peaks and make aquafaba meringue. This amazing discovery for an egg substitute has changed vegan baking, and general baking, forever.

Chickpea water is the surprise ingredient to make aquafaba meringue. a delicious vegan dessert.
Aquafaba from a can of chickpeas

At first, I struggled visualizing a white and fluffy aquafaba meringue, just the smell alone of chickpea brine, (especially canned) will deter anyone from considering there is merit in that broth. Vegan baking is a challenging concept for me.

I often wonder, how do you bake without eggs? It is the glue that holds everything together and gives structure and texture to baked desserts.  Could aquafaba really replace egg whites? I trust Food52 and their research, and I saw aquafaba was a trending discussion all over the web. My curiosity was sparked, and a year later, after relishing making and eating egg white meringue desserts-lemon meringue pie, dacquoise, pavlova, coconut chocolate meringue cookies, I finally put my mind to it and convinced myself it was time to make aquafaba meringues.

Aquafaba meringue is a delicious vegan dessert.
Soft peaks of aquafaba meringue
Aquafaba meringue is a delicious vegan dessert.
Stiff and glossy peaks of aquafaba meringue

To learn more about aquafaba check out these Facebook pages, Aquafaba Everything and Vegan Meringue Hit and Misses

Also The official aquafaba website.

Continue reading “Aquafaba Meringue”

© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Family Favorite: Pasta with Ham and Spring Vegetables

Do you know that feeling you get when the family or friends are together and all is good with the world? It can happen spontaneously by a simple gesture or after a big heartfelt moment. I treasure those moments, the feeling of complete satisfaction and joy. Peace. At those times the little things do add up and are greatly appreciated. A simple “Thank you”, carries a generous gratitude, “You are doing a great job”, gives a small boost of  confidence, “I am here”, builds reassurance that you are not alone. Even a home cooked meal creates a time and place to gather family and or friends together, and can reinforce all the above.

{reparation for pasta with ham and spring vegetables.

Asparagus for pasta with ham and spring vegetables.

I know it sounds cliché, but in our home that moment and feeling would happen when we served pasta for dinner. When pasta was on the table, everyone was happy. A pasta dinner satisfied all taste and food preferences in the family. There were no protests at dinner, even if it did include an ingredient that was not a particular favorite. That offending food would be pushed aside and everything else would be devoured without complaint. When the, “… What?… Why? …Really?…Again? …I hate that,” for dinner drama was not a focal point of the evening, the five of us would be relaxed, the conversation would flow, jokes told, and all was right with the world.

Ingredients for pasta with ham and spring vegetables.

Mise en place for pasta with ham and spring vegetables.

Spring vegetable mix for pasta with ham and spring vegetable recipe.

When I would combine two favorite foods in one meal, that would make the evening a special occasion.  My children love ham almost as much as they love pasta. Pasta with ham and peas would satisfy two cravings, and even some of the peas would be eaten. It is one of the meals and recipes most frequently requested by my sons. Now that they are independent, they enjoy cooking this meal for their friends and significant others. My oldest son claims that it was this meal that jump-started his relationship with the girl of his dreams. That loving couple is recently happily married, so you never know where a home cooked pasta dinner will lead.

When it’s pasta for dinner, all is right with the world.

Recipe for pasta dinner with ham and spring vegetables. It is an easy weeknight dinner that all family members will enjoy.

Pasta with Ham and Spring Vegetables

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

4 - 6 servings

Pasta with Ham and Spring Vegetables

Pasta with ham and spring vegetables is a very versatile meal and one that I adapt frequently. The base of this recipe is pasta with ham, cream and peas, but the asparagus is so good this time of year that I wanted to include it. I have been really enjoying asparagus with leeks and tarragon so I omitted the cream to focus on the spring vegetables and ham. If you are interested in using cream add about a 1/2 cup or less to the sauce around the time you add the ham and peas. The spring vegetable and tarragon combination is a melody of its own, and would be a delicious vegetarian option without the ham. As with a lot of pasta meals, recipes are guidelines and can be adapted based on what odd and ends of vegetables are in the frig calling out to be used. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta, penne, farfalle or fusilli are great choices
  • 12 oz cured ham, sliced in strips 1 inch by 1/4 inch
  • 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
  • 1 to 2 lbs of asparagus
  • 1 small leek, cleaned and white and light green parts sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth, preferably homemade or low salt store bought
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 3 garlic cloves,minced
  • 2 Tbls chopped fresh tarragon, plus one sprig of tarragon
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • 1-2 Tb butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

    Prep all ingredients before you begin cooking.
  1. Clean and cut off the woody end of each asparagus spear. Hold onto to each end of an asparagus spear and bend it bringing both ends together. Where it snaps off, the bottom portion is the woody tip, discard. Cut the remainder of the asparagus spears into thirds.
  2. Peel the garlic and remove the green germ (sprout of a new garlic plant), then mince the garlic,
  3. Slice the ham to even strips shorter than the asparagus.
  4. Mince tarragon
    Cook pasta
  1. Fill a 5 qt stock pot halfway to three quarters full with fresh water. Set the stock pot with the water on a burner and turn the heat to high. Bring the water to a rapid boil and cook pasta according to the directions on the back of the pasta box.
  2. Reserve some of the pasta cooking water when finished cooking.
    Make the spring vegetable and ham sauce.
  1. Begin preparing the sauce while you are waiting for the water to boil. Melt 1 Tbl olive oil and 1 Tbl butter in a large 12-inch skillet, or sauté pan. Once the butter has melted add the leeks and garlic to the pan. Add a small pinch of Kosher salt and sauté stirring lightly. Add the prepared asparagus and tarragon spear to the leeks and briefly sauté. Add about 1/2 cup vegetable broth, cover the pan, and braise the vegetables on medium heat for about 5 minutes. The asparagus will not be completely cooked through at this point. You want them to still be crisp with some liquid in the pan. Take the top off the skillet and add the sliced ham and peas. Continue cooking the vegetable and ham mixture at a low simmer, uncovered. This should be around 3-5 minutes before the pasta is done. You are just warming up the ham and peas since they are already cooked.
    Putting it all together
  1. Once the pasta is done, turn off the heat, scoop out some pasta cooking water and set aside, and drain out the water through a strainer. Return the pasta to the pot on the stove. Add the grated cheese and a small amount of the pasta water, start with about 1/4 cup or less, to the pasta and stir until the cheese is melted and everything is evenly distributed. Add the vegetable and ham sauce, minced tarragon, and 1 Tb of butter or olive oil to he pasta. Stir until mixed through.
  2. Serve immediately with grated cheese and fresh ground black pepper on the side.

Notes

1.It is hard to mess up with pasta, with the exception of overcooking it. Over cooked pasta is mushy and miserable. Use the back of the box as a guideline for cooking time and begin tasting a couple of minutes before the recommended total cooking time. Cook the pasta al dente. There will still be a firm texture, but not chewy or raw tasting. The color of the pasta will have an even appearance and there will be nothing mushy or gummy about it. 2. Just like overcooked pasta, overcooked vegetables are a major disappointment. They lose their shape, texture and flavor when they are overcooked. I like my vegetables cooked but still crisp in texture with a bit of freshness left in them. Watch the vegetables and taste for desired doneness.

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