fresh made tortilla chips and tomatillo salsa

July 26, 2013 § 45 Comments

I learned how to make tomatillo salsa when I was a community supported agriculture  (CSA) member and receiving weekly boxes of fresh fruits and vegetable from a local farm here in the Pacific Northwest.  I remember discovering a large bag of tomatillos in my box and not knowing what to do with them.   I was familiar with salsa verde and set out to find a recipe.   By definition a tomatillo is a small green fruit, similar to a tomato, with a paper-like husk.  They are very tart in flavor and aside from salsa verde I have not experimented with them.  This is a wonderful salsa served warm with freshly made tortilla chips.

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I n g r e d i e n t s 

  • 10 tomatillos, papery skins removed and washed
  • 2 shallots, roughly chopped
  • two large jalapeños, split and seed removed
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • large bunch cilantro, washed and roughly chopped
  • sea salt

M e t h o d

Remove the papery skins off of a pound of tomatillo (roughly 10 tomatillos).  Place them (whole) in a saucepan and cover with water.  Add one roughly chopped shallot, two large jalapeños (depending on your machismo) and five whole cloves of garlic.

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Boil until very tender, about 7-10 minutes.  Drain out all but one cup of water and return to the pan.  Blend into a salsa consistency using a hand blender.  You may use a blender if you do not have a hand blender.  If you are using a blender start slow so the hot liquid does not splash on you.  Puree until mostly smooth.  Add a handful of cilantro and a pinch of sea salt.  Transfer to a serving bowl.  Finely chop another shallot and add to the bowl of salsa.  Stir to incorporate.

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We like to eat this salsa warm, but it also keeps in the fridge.  Served with fresh homemade tortilla chips.

Tortilla Chips

  • 1 dozen good quality corn tortillas
  • at least 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt

Heat a good amount of olive oil in a non stick skillet over medium high.  Cut your tortilla’s into desired shape, fry until crisp, using tongs to turn.  Remove to paper towel, salt and let them cool.  Transfer to your serving basket or bowl.

Serves several as an appetizer.

grilled carrots and zucchini

July 15, 2013 § 40 Comments

One of my favorite summertime dinners is grilled vegetables.  I delight in lighting the mesquite charcoal and piling as many vegetables as I can fit onto the grill.   This particular evening we grilled carrots, zucchini and a whole head of garlic.

Carrots are topped with olive oil, scallions and bush basil.  The zucchini has a gremolata style sauce made with parsley, garlic, olive oil and lemon.

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Ingredients

  • 4 medium zucchini, sliced in half
  • 5 medium carrots, peeled, if you prefer
  • a little olive oil
  • sprinkling salt
  • handful of flat leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 scallions, finely sliced
  • fresh basil
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil

After cutting your vegetables brush all sides with olive oil and set aside.   Once your charcoal is ready or your grill is hot begin with the carrots.  Carrots take a good 15 minutes longer to soften up then the zucchini.  My grill was far too hot and the carrots started to char.  Turn frequently to prevent too much charring and move to a cooler area of you grill. If they do char too much you may use a peeler to peel away the black areas once they cool off.  After 15 minutes add the zucchini to the grill and cook 15-20 minutes until tender and brown.

Remove from the grill and toss with your herbs and dressings.

g r e m o l a t a    f o r    z u c c h i n i

Using a food processor, whizz 3 tablespoons of olive oil with handful of parsley, two garlic cloves and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.  Add a little salt and toss with zucchini.

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b u s h   b a s i l    ( a. k. a.  g r e e k   b a s i l )

Where have I been?   I have been buying herbs for years and particularly basil.  This is the first year I have seen this basil varietal.  The leaves are very small and have a slightly floral aroma.  I have seen these trimmed into a cute little topiary trees.  Mine stands about 14 inches tall.  I purchased it at the farmer’s market for $2.  As you can imagine, I was thrilled.

spaetzle with brown butter sage

July 8, 2013 § 35 Comments

I made spaetzle this weekend.  I have been wanting to make this for years and decided it would be a nice side dish with our grilled salmon.  I searched around and found several recipes which all differed slightly.  I got caught up in the Smitten Kitchen blog reading her post and the 400+ comments regarding her spaetzle.  I ended up using a recipe from this blog.  I really like her uncomplicated approach.  It was just what I needed when I was feeling a little intimidated by the numerous other recipes.  Some things need not be complicated.  Spaetzle is one of them.  I used brown butter and sage to flavor the spaetzle, then at the last minute I added cream.  In hindsight the cream was unnecessary.  I knew it right when I poured it in the skillet.  However, it was out of this world delicious!  As comforting as a good homemade mac and cheese.  If you are serious about making spaetzle take a look at The Tasty Kitchen blog for a detailed tutorial.

  • 2 whole Eggs, Beaten
  • ¾ cups Water
  • 1-½ cup All-purpose Flour
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5 large fresh sage leaves, sliced
  • 1/2 cup cream (optional)

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Bring a large pot of water to boil and add a bit of salt .

Add flour and salt to a large bowl and mix together.  Beat the eggs and add them to your flour mixture.  Add water and stir well to work out all the lumps.

Using your colander and spatula, pour the dough into the colander.  Keep the colander above the steam so it doesn’t cook before it gets pushed through the holes.  Press the batter through the colander with the spatula.  Drops will fall into the water and cook instantly.  Boil for 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove the spaetzle from the water and strain it into a bowl.  Toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent it from sticking together.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the sage cook until aromatic.  Toss in the spaetzle and brown to your liking.  Here is where I added the cream (unnecessary) and allowed to simmer for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.

Serves 4, as a side dish

spinach with garlic, olive oil and hot pepper (spinaci con aglio, olio, e peperoncino)

June 21, 2013 § 35 Comments

A very nice uncomplicated classic Italian side dish.  Just a quick sauté of spinach, garlic, hot pepper flakes and olive oil.  An effortless side and profoundly delicious.  Ambitious as I am about serving greens at dinner sometimes I get stuck in a rut of humdrum salads.  I like to serve this as an alternative.   In my opinion, leafy greens never require much attention.  Steamed or sautéed and simply dressed in olive oil and a little salt is perfect.  However, sautéed and given a little spice is a fine improvement.   Any leafy green may be substituted and many times I have used chard, kale, mustard greens or beet greens in place of the spinach.   Keeping an eye on the greens as they cook is necessary.  Some greens such as chard and kale require a little more time in the sauté pan than spinach, beet greens or mustard.

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A huge towering bowl of fresh spinach reduced to a small bowl of sautéed spinach.  

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 2 pounds spinach, washed and dried (a little damp is ok)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • pinch of dried hot pepper flakes (to taste)
  • salt
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Once the spinach is clean, shake it to remove any excess liquid.  A little damp is good for cooking.  Warm the oil in a large, wide pot over medium low heat.  Add the garlic and hot pepper flakes.  Sauté until the garlic begins turning golden.  Add the spinach and a pinch or two of salt.  Turn up the heat, sauté until the spinach has turned a nice green hue.  Serve with lemon wedges.

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Serves 4.

buon appetite.

pink coleslaw

June 19, 2013 § 31 Comments

I made cole slaw twice this week.  I love the creamy dressing and the crispiness of the cabbage.  So fresh and raw.  The first time I made it I followed a recipe from WILL DO THE DISHES blog.  It was a fantastic recipe and if you haven’t yet,  you must go visit this wonderful blog.

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Today I am posting the second cole slaw I made.  WILL DO THE DISHES cole slaw was to “write home about”  so I decided to make a second batch.  I remembered we had a little leftover shredded beetroot salad in the refrigerator.   I tossed it in and was so pleased with the resulting pink hue!  The beetroot salad was already lightly dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette and contained sunflower seeds.  A nice fresh slaw to place on the side with your barbecue chicken and potato salad.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 head purple cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large beet root, shredded
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon dijon
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted

M e t h o d

Shred, chop and julienne your vegetables and place in a large bowl and mix well with your hands.  In a medium size bowl mix together parsley, mayonnaise, dijon, black pepper, sugar and vinegar and set aside.  Place sunflower seeds in a non stick skillet over medium high heat, shake the pan occasionally to toast both sides.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Combine the dressing with the vegetables and mix well.  Add the sunflower seed and continue to toss until well combined.  Chill before serving.

Serves 4-6 as a grilling side dish

buon appetite.

baked zucchini and caramelized onion dip

June 14, 2013 § 38 Comments

Recently I saw a post on Reclaiming your Castle for baked zucchini.  Her post struck a cord with me because when I was 18 years old living in my first apartment and not knowing much about cooking, I would go to the market and bring home random vegetables not knowing what in the world I was going to do with them. I knew I couldn’t go wrong with zucchini.  As a little girl I loved zucchini.  I remember walking through my dad’s garden and  selecting one zucchini and asking my mom to cook it for me.  Kindly and patiently she sliced it into rounds, boiled and put a pat of butter on it.  I sat at the dining room table all alone enjoying my little bowl of comfort.  There was a time when boiling vegetables (a little too much) was the default recipe for getting them on the table for a houseful of hungry folks.  Therefore, at 18 years old when I discovered a breaded and baked zucchini recipe I was intrigued and knew it was going to be the first vegetable I wanted to learn to cook, rather than boil.  And I remember cooking it over and over again.  I used an egg dip, seasoned italian bread crumbs and dotted each one of  them with butter before baking in a preheated 425° oven for approximately 25 minutes until nice and crispy.   Revisiting this recipe after two decades (or so!) was like walking back into that little apartment kitchen.

This is a great side dish for the little ones around your table.  Please visit Sara’s site for a more detailed recipe!

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What really made these delicious was the caramelized onion dip.  I followed Sara’s recipe with one minor change.  I used greek yogurt rather than mayonnaise.  Don’t get me wrong, I love mayonnaise.  I didn’t have enough in house and I happened to have a full tub of yogurt.  Honestly, this is the same recipe I make for our potato chips while we are watching games during football season.

c a r a m e l i z e d   o n i o n   d i p

  • 1 medium sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1 cup greek yogurt

Melt the butter in a non stick pan over moderate heat.  Add the sweet onion slices and cook stirring occasionally until the onion softens and caramelizes.  This should take between 20 and 25 minutes, on medium-low heat.  When the onions are a nice brown hue and caramelized remove from heat and cool.

Place the onions, vinegar, honey and mustard in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Place in a serving bowl and stir in the yogurt.

Serves 4.

buon appetite.

roasted garlic scapes

June 10, 2013 § 46 Comments

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flower tops from elephant garlic

When cooked, garlic scapes have a very mild garlic flavor with a texture and taste somewhere between asparagus and artichoke.  The whole spear may be eaten, as is.   The previous statement was copied from the little piece of paper stuck in the rubber band of the bunch of scapes I acquired at Whole Foods.  I brought them home because I loved how they looked.  Even if I didn’t cook them I could put them in a vase!  The little paper from the rubber band said to steam, sauté or puree’ into a wonderfully mild garlic soup.  Or chopped raw they are very hot and will spice up your baked potatoes, salads or dips.  I decided to roast them.   A few years ago I had planted garlic and amateur as I am as a gardener when the tops popped up looking somewhat similar to these…they were very curly actually…I didn’t do anything with them other than be amused when I visited the garden bed.  The buds did open up, flower and go to seed.

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A drizzle of olive oil, coarse sea salt and ground pepper.  Roast in a 425° oven for roughly 25-30 minutes.  These were so unique and delicious.  I roasted them until the tops were crispy.  We especially enjoyed the crunchy tops.

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roasted garlic scapes

buon appetite.

simple midweek baked cod

May 30, 2013 § 45 Comments

An easy baked cod recipe.  I made this fish on a evening after a long day at work and it was perfect.  I realize how important a simple midweek dinner recipe is when I get home ready to drop.  These cod filets went together easily.  I served them with dill mashed potatoes and an arugula salad.

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I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 4 cod fish filets
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • salt
  • 1 lemon, sliced thinly into rounds
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 12 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • several sprigs of thyme

M e t h o d

Preheat oven to 400°F.   Lay out 4 large pieces of parchment paper on your counter.  Coat both sides of your fish with panko bread crumbs, sprinkle with salt and place one filet on each piece of parchment paper.  Place a few lemon slices onto fish, a sprig or two of thyme, 3 smashed garlic cloves and drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil on each.  Close up the parchment by meeting the tops together and rolling them down.  Fold the end underneath to seal.  Place the fish in a baking dish and bake for approximately 20 minutes.  You may check one by carefully unfolding to make sure it is done and seal it up again.

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Serve right away, allowing your dinner companions to open their own parchments!

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dill mashed potatoes

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 3 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • handful of fresh dill, stems removed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • salt / pepper to taste

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add diced potatoes and fresh dill.  Boil until potatoes are fork tender, approximately 10 minutes.  Drain and return to the pot over a medium low heat and allow the additional water to steam out.  Turn off the heat,  add butter and smash with a fork.  Season with salt and pepper according to your liking.

Serves 4.

buon appetite.

lamb chops with minted pea mash

May 28, 2013 § 36 Comments

It is still cool and rainy here in Seattle.  Memorial Day usually inspires outdoor grilling, however, the rain never stopped yesterday.  Turned out to be a  perfect day to grill indoors and perhaps make a fennel and gruyére gratin.  This was the first time I cooked lamb and it was delicious.  I always thought  in order to have succulent lamb it needed to be braised for hours in a stew.  We used the most simplest stove top grilling technique and we were pleasantly surprised how well it turned out.  I wonder how many other cooking misconceptions I have!  The fennel gratin was a perfect accompaniment to this dinner.  Unlike a potato gratin the fennel is light and the gruyére gave it a comforting element needed for a cool rainy day.

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Served with a minted pea mash and  a fennel gruyère gratin.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lamb cutlets
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • a few wedges of lemon and/or fresh mint to serve

Method

Heat a ridged grill pan and brush both sides of lamb with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Cook the cutlets over high heat until browned on both sides.  I cooked for 4 minutes each side and they were medium rare.

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This was suppose to be a mint puree.  It turned out a little thicker than I expected and instead of thinning it out I decided to keep the consistency as a mash.  Very enjoyable.  I seem to have been a little stuck on peas and mint lately in my posting.  I just love using what is in season and freshly harvested.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. of fresh peas
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • sprinkling of salt and pepper
  • about 8 mint leaves
  • 1 squeeze of lemon

Method

Cook the peas in boiling water until tender, then drain.  Stir in the butter until it melts.  Transfer peas to a blender or food processor.  Add the cream, salt and pepper, mint leaves and lemon juice and blend until smooth.  Serve warm.

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f e n n e l   a n d   g r u y è r e    g r a t i n

Ingredients

  • 3 fennel bulb, trimmed of outer leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated gruyère cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Method

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Trim the fennel tops and save any feathery fronds for later.  Quarter the bulbs and cook in lightly salted boiling water for 5 minutes until tender.  Drain well and place the fennel in a buttered gratin dish.  Sprinkle the reserved fronds on top.  Season with salt and pepper, pour on the cream and sprinkle with cheeses.  Bake for 20 minutes.  I sprinkled a few uncooked fronds on top after baking.

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Serves 4

buon appetite.

spinach pie (spanakópita)

May 20, 2013 § 40 Comments

While traveling abroad I had the opportunity to learn a bit about Greek culture and become acquainted with traditional Greek cooking.  During this time I spent several weeks with family and friends in Athens as well as on a small island called Siphnos.  I learned Greek cooking to be simple, wholesome and solely based on fresh seasonal ingredients.  There is no place for canned or packaged foods in a Greek kitchen. My fondest memories are gatherings around tables in a quaint taverna savoring slow braised lamb, a freshly shredded cabbage salad, tzaziki, dolmades, and one of my favorite comfort foods gigandes plaki…giant white beans.  Potatoes were sliced and fried in olive oil right then and there if your ordered french fries.  I still have a clear image of a taverna owner walking out to the seashore, pulling in a net, collecting a fish and returning to his kitchen to cook it for me after I requested it from his menu.  Fresh, simple and organic. DSCN0481 Spanakopita was one of many dishes I learned to prepare from a very dear acquaintance while staying in her family’s home in Athens.  Not long after she rose out of bed she would begin cooking the meal of the day.  The aromas coming from her kitchen kept your appetite stimulated throughout the day.  Spanakópita is such a delightful side dish and quite easy once you get the hang of working with the fillo.  It is important to keep the fillo humid by lying it flat in between a clean, damp kitchen cloth, preventing it from drying out.  Purchase a good quality feta cheese.  If possible find a bright white sheep feta packed in brine. Most spanakópita recipes call for cooking the spinach filling prior to “filling” the pie.  I think the cooking time in the oven is sufficient. Ingredients

  • 2 large bunches of spinach, washed, dried and chopped
  • bunch of spring onions, chopped
  • handful of dill, chopped
  • small handful parsley, finely chopped
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 package of fillo sheets
  • 1/2 cup butter melted (1 cube)

Method Preheat oven to 350°. If you are not using pre-washed packaged spinach, wash spinach very well and dry.  Cut off stems and chop.  Place in a large bowl and add chopped spring onion, chopped dill, feta and eggs.  Using your hands mix well until all ingredients are fully combined. Season with salt and pepper. Melt the butter and brush a little onto a 9 x 12 baking dish.  Open your fill0 package and lay them flat in between a clean damp cloth folded in half. Place two fill0 sheets on the bottom of your baking dish and brush with butter.  Make sure to keep your fillo sheets covered at all times to keep them from drying out. Continue placing two sheets at a time and brushing with melted butter until you have a good bottom base, approximately 10-12 sheets. Put your spinach filling in and continue layering fillo two sheets at a time and brushing with butter for another 12 sheets.  I create a little more dramatic top by folding the fillo as you would a fan and placing them on top to fully cover. Drizzle the remaining butter on top and place in over for approximately 30 minutes until the top is well browned. Serves 4-6 as a side dish buon appetite.

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