Cucumber-Melon Salad

One of us is not a fan of mixed-greens only salads. No matter how fresh the greens or how it’s dressed, it might as well be beige. We were determined to avoid such salads, and this was our first effort to strike back against boring greens.

This salad recipe came from Kraft® Food and Family, Summer 2017. We again include the ingredients and directions for those readers who may not be able to find the recipe at kraftrecipes.com. The cucumber and cantaloupe are sliced into long thin strips with a vegetable peeler. We also recommend asking for a good hard salami from the deli counter!

Ingredients

4 slices hard salami, cut in half

1/2 English cucumber

1/4 cantaloupe, cut into 3 wedges

4 cups tightly packed mixed baby salad greens

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup raspberry-olive-oil vinaigrette

Directions

Stack salami pieces; cut into thin strips. Cook in large skillet on medium heat 2-3 minutes or until crisp, stirring frequently. Use slotted spoon to remove salami from skillet; drain on paper towels.

Use vegetable peeler to cut cucumber into thin lengthwise slices; place in paper towel-lined colander. Repeat with cantaloupe; add to colander. Let stand 5 minutes.

Cover platter with salad greens; top with cucumbers, cantaloupe, salami and cheese.

Drizzle with vinaigrette.

Serves 8. Prep time: 25 minutes.

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Lentil Tapenade Crostini

For many years, we served an olive crostini with toasted pine nuts. The recipe was great, but we don’t want to be in a rut. Here was our baby step away from that rut. This recipe came from Cooking Light, June 2017. Here are the ingredients and directions for those readers who may not be able to find the recipe at cookinglight.com

Steamed lentils were a new find for us. The Melissa’s® brand in the recipe was available at our local grocery store. The lentils are pre-cooked, so unlike dry lentils, no additional preparation is necessary. Castelvetrano olives were also available in a jar at the same grocery store. These are green olives from Sicily. There seems to be disagreement online about how widely available these olives are; all we can say is that we had no problem finding them.

The recipe as written only makes two servings; we scaled it up for eight. The entire prep time for this recipe was only a few minutes!

Ingredients

1/4 cup steamed lentils (such as Melissa’s®)

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

3 pitted Castelvetrano olives

1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped

4 (1/4-oz.) whole-wheat French bread baguette slices, toasted

1/4 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1/8 tsp crushed red pepper

Directions

Place lentils, olive oil, olives, and garlic in a mini food processor; pulse 3 times or until coarsely chopped.

Spread lentil mixture evenly over bread; sprinkle with thyme and pepper.

Serves 2.


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Mini BBQ Chicken-Cornbread Muffins

This appetizer also came from Kraft® Food and Family, Summer 2017. We again include the ingredients and directions for those readers who may not be able to find the recipe at kraftrecipes.com. We made the cornbread mini-muffins from scratch rather than use the corn muffin mix in the recipe. This was a big hit at our party!

Ingredients

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup sour cream

1 pkg. (8.5 oz.) corn muffin mix

1/2 cup 2% milk shredded cheddar cheese

3-4 green onions, divided

1 1/4 cup rotisserie chicken, shredded

1/2 cup barbecue sauce

Directions

Heat oven to 400º F.

Mix beaten egg and sour cream in medium bowl until blended. Add corn muffin mix, shredded cheese, and 2 sliced green onions; mix just until blended. Spoon into 20 mini-muffin pan cups sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 10-12 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Remove muffins from pans to wire racks; cool completely.

Use paring knife to cut into tops of muffins to scoop out centers; discard removed centers or reserve for another use.

Toss shredded chicken with barbecue sauce in microwaveable bowl. Microwave on HIGH 1-2 minutes or until heated through; spoon into muffins.

Sprinkle evenly with 1 tablespoon sliced green onions before serving.

Serves 10.

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Eggplant Pizza

Recently we celebrated with family, friends, and neighbors (not mutually exclusive categories, of course!). The menu was an attempt to provide an eclectic summer smorgasbord. We’ll let you decide how well we did.

The first appetizer uses slices of eggplant as a stand-in for personal pizzas. This recipe comes from Kraft® Food and Family, Summer 2017. We include the ingredients and directions for those readers who may not be able to find the recipe at kraftrecipes.com. The main tweak we made was to cut the thickness of the eggplant slices in half. In other words, instead of obtaining eight slices from a pound-and-a-half eggplant, we got sixteen. We felt the original recipe made the slices far too thick for an appetizer, and the grilling would have taken far longer as well.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant (1 1/2 lb.)

1/2 cup Parmesan Pesto flavored olive oil vinaigrette

1 cup traditional pizza sauce

7 oz. 2% milk shredded mozzarella cheese

1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

Directions

Heat greased grill to medium heat.

Use vegetable peeler to peel eggplant into 1 1/2-inch-wide lengthwise strips, leaving about 1/2-inch-wide unpeeled space between each peeled strip. Cut eggplant crosswise into 8 slices.

Reserve 1 tablespoon vinaigrette for later use; brush both sides of eggplant evenly with the remaining vinaigrette.

Grill 8 minutes; turn. Top with pizza sauce and cheese. Grill 5 to 6 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Transfer eggplant to plate; top with basil. Drizzle with reserved dressing.

Serves 8. Preparation time: 25 minutes.

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Slow-Cooker Beef Bourguignonne

“Slow cooker” and “fancy French cuisine” may seem unlikely companions in the same sentence, but we are here to vouch for this exception to the rule. This slow-cooker version of beef bourguignonne is excellent; no qualifiers are necessary. We found this recipe in the cookbook that came with our new All-Clad slow cooker. The recipe is attributed to the William-Sonoma Kitchen, and we heartily endorse it here.

Be prepared though–there is more to the recipe than just dumping the ingredients to the slow cooker. If you don’t have the type of slow cooker that allows the insert to be used on the stove top, you can do the browning and sautéing in a separate pan. If you don’t have beef demi-glacé on hand, don’t worry; neither did we. There are simple instructions online to make it from beef stock and butter (starting with about one cup of beef stock before reduction is about the right amount). One additional step we think is important: trim most of the fat from the beef before using; we used a chuck roast and cut it into cubes ourselves. We hope you agree that the effort is well worth it. ! Bon appetit!

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 lb. beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
5 thick bacon slices, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 yellow onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
6 fresh thyme sprigs
6 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
1 lb. white button mushrooms, halved
1 bottle (750 mL) pinot noir wine
1 Tbsp beef demi-glacé

Buttered, steamed baby red potatoes or buttered noodles for serving

Directions

Place the flour in a large bowl. Season the beef with salt and pepper, add to the flour and stir to coat evenly. Transfer to a plate and shake off the excess flour.

In the slow cooker insert over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until almost smoking. Working in batches, brown the beef on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes total, adding more oil to the insert if needed. Transfer to a plate.

Add the bacon to the insert and sauté just until beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, onions and garlic, then cook stirring occasionally, just until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the bay leaves, thyme, parsley and mushrooms and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the beef and wine, whisk in the demi-glacé and bring to a boil.

Using pot holders, transfer the insert to the slow cooker base. Cover and cook on high until the meat is fork-tender, about 4-5 hours on high (or 8-10 hours on the low setting).

Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Transfer the beef bourguignonne to a platter and serve immediately with buttered potatoes or noodles.

Serves 10


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Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops

Sometimes simple is best. This recipe is a clear demonstration of that concept. We thank Giada De Laurentiis on Food Network for these superb pork chops. The recipe can be found here. Not only is this recipe, it’s quick, too. Try it on a week night!

Ingredients

2 large eggs
1 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
4 (1/2 to 3/4-inch thick) center-cut pork loin chops (each about 10-12 oz.)
salt and freshly ground pepper
6 Tbsp olive oil
Lemon wedges, for serving

Instructions

Whisk the eggs in a pie plate to blend. Place the bread crumbs in another pie plate. PLace the cheese in a third pie plate. Sprinkle the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. Coat the chops completely with the cheese, patting to adhere. Dip the chops into the eggs, then coat completely with the bread crumbs, patting to adhere. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add pork chops, in batches if necessary, and cook until golden brown and the center reaches 150 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to plates and serve with lemon wedges.

Serves 4.

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Crispy-Skinned Chicken Breasts with Vinegar-Pepper Pan Sauce

Long ago, we learned from Alton Brown that every tool in the kitchen should be a multi-tasker: except the fire extinguisher. Then we went to his theater show, and sure enough, Alton found another use in the kitchen for the fire extinguisher. We won’t spoil the secret in case you haven’t seen his show, and we highly recommend it. What made us think of Alton Brown’s advice is how this recipe finds a new use for a Dutch oven.

The recipe comes from America’s Test Kitchen, and seeks to solve the problem of simultaneously having crispy skin and moist meat from a boneless chicken breast. There are several tips, and one involves that unusual use for a Dutch oven. The recipe includes instructions for a great pan sauce. We print the instructions for those of you who can’t find the recipe website, here.

Ingredients

2 (10-12 oz.) bone-in, split chicken breasts
Kosher salt and pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped pickled hot cherry peppers, plus 1/4 cup brine
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Instructions

Place 1 chicken breast, skin side down, on cutting board, with ribs facing away from knife hand. Run tip of knife between breastbone and meat, working from thick end of breast toward thin end. Angling blade slightly and following rib cage, repeat cutting motion several times to remove ribs and breastbone from breast. Find short remnant of wishbone along top edge of breast and run tip of knife along both sides of bone to separate it from meat. Remove tenderloin (reserve for another use) and trim excess fat, taking care not to cut into skin. Repeat with second breast.

Using tip of paring knife, poke skin on each breast evenly 30 to 40 times. Turn breasts over and poke thickest half of each breast 5 to 6 times. Cover breasts with plastic wrap and pound thick ends gently with meat pounder until 1/2-inch thick. Evenly sprinkle each breast with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Place breasts, skin side up, on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 8 hours.

Pat breasts dry with paper towels and sprinkle each breast with 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pour oil in 12-inch skillet and swirl to coat. Place breasts, skin side down, in oil and place skillet over medium heat. Place heavy skillet or Dutch oven on top of breasts. Cook breasts until skin is beginning to brown and meat is beginning to turn opaque along edges, 7 to 9 minutes.

Remove weight and continue to cook until skin is well browned and very crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip breasts, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until second side is lightly browned and meat registers 160 to 165 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer breasts to individual plates and let rest while preparing pan sauce.

For the pan sauce: Pour off all but 2 teaspoons oil from skillet. Return skillet to medium heat and add shallot; cook, stirring occasionally, until shallot is softened, about 2 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Increase heat to medium-high, add broth and brine, and bring to simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Simmer until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in any accumulated chicken juices; return to simmer and cook for 30 seconds. Remove skillet from heat and whisk in peppers, butter, and thyme; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce around breasts and serve.

Serves 2.

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