Spinach Salad with Curried Almonds

Seafood, greens, nuts and beans.

spinach-salad-with-curried-almonds

Seafood, greens, nuts and beans.  That’s been my mantra this week after listening to this Splendid Table podcast with nutritional psychiatrist Drew Ramsey and food writer David Leite about the link between the stomach and mental health. I’m looking forward to reading Dr. Ramsey’s new book, Eat Complete: The 21 Nutrients That Fuel Brainpower, Boost Weight Loss, and Transform Your Health. The book draws on the  Human Microbiome Project’s research on the link between gut health, allergies and mood. Interesting stuff and possibly a cure for all that ails me.

I went all in with an Indian-inspired dinner last night: pan-seared sadark chocolate candied orangeslmon rubbed with tumeric, coriander, ground ginger and garam masala, tumeric basmati rice, this lovely, fresh Spinach Salad with Curried Almonds, a glass of red wine and my newest guilty pleasure, dark chocolate candied orange slices. While the perfect little dessert treat, they are outrageously expensive.  I’m looking forward to experimenting with making my own.

Spinach Salad with Curried Almonds
Ingredients:
 
For the Curried Almonds:
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  •  1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
For the Spinach Salad:
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons minced chutney
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 10 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups diced apple (unpeeled)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil. Pour the butter on to the baking sheet, then add the almonds, then sprinkle with the curry powder, salt and sugar.  Toss to coat the almonds thoroughly, then spread them in a single layer.
  3. Bake the almonds for around 20 minutes, stirring about every 5.
  4. Cool the almonds completely, then scrape everything from the foil on to a cutting board and roughly chop.
  5. In a small bowl,  whisk together the apple cider vinegar and vegetable oil.  Whisk in the yogurt, chutney, sugar, curry powder and dry mustard.
  6. Add the spinach, apple, raisins,green onions and almonds to a large salad bowl.  Drizzle with the dressing and toss thoroughly to combine.
Yield: 6-8 side servings
Cook time: 20 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Be sure to use good quality, fresh spices! The curry powder I used for the sweet and spicy almonds was my favorite Frontier Indian Curry spice blend — lots of flavor and not too fiery. For the dressing, I used Spicy Plum Chutney from The Virginia Chutney CompanyMajor Grey’s mango chutney would work fine here, but you may want to add a pinch of cayenne or some black pepper to balance the sweetness.

BON APPÉTIT!

Orlando Bourbon

I wasn’t much looking forward to my three day trip to Orlando. I’m kinda done with traveling alone. While I would know one person at the conference at which I was presenting — my co-author — that was likely going to be it. After days on end of gray mountain skies, the promise of sunshine appealed to my vitamin D deprived self but I’ve been to central Florida often enough this time of year to know that it is never as warm as you hope it will be. And did I mention that I loathe the plastic that is Disney?  In the end, I had a lovely weekend, met some nice people, got a little sun and drank some great bourbon.

I can only aspire to be a knowledgeable bourbon taster. Jack and water was a favorite during my twenties, but after I quit drinking during my pregnancies in my early thirties, I found that I’d pretty much lost my taste for much of any kind of hard liquor. A few dates with a old-school Southern gent changed all that. We drank Manhattans in the lounge at Eseeola and Old Fashioneds at the Fowl Play Pub, and sneaked his flask of Makers Mark into the John Prine concert. Now, I’m sippin’ and mixin’ up all kinds of things and learning lots in the process.

Night one was dinner with my co-author at Ragland Road, an Irish pub near our hotel in Disney Springs (known until recently as Downtown Disney). Ragland Road promised lively music, good food, and and an array of libations.  The pub was busy and loud, and there were no seats at the bar so we opted to dine on the patio, even though it was a little chilly, which is what drove me to order a flight of bourbons and set in motion my Orlando bourbon drinking adventure.  I should have ordered Irish whisky  as we were in an Irish pub, but in my rush to get a shot of something to warm me up, I went for the Kentucky variety:

Orphan Barrel Kentucky Bourbon Series
Barterhouse 20 yr | Rhetoric 20 yr | Old Blowhard 26 yr

My flight included generous tastings, all of which I enjoyed.  I seem to have been spoiled by my favorite bottle of Michter’s though. They were all good sippin’ whiskies, but even my clear favorite of the three, the Rhetoric, didn’t thrill me as much as smoky toasted barrel Michter’s.

Night two was solo-dining at  The Rusty Spoon in downtown Orlando. Owner and Chef Kathleen Black is a semi-finalist for this year’s James Beard Best Chef: Southeast award. I’m not going to write about her fabulous food here as it deserves a post all its own!  I’d initially made a reservation for early in the evening, but cancelled because it conflicted with the conference reception — just as well as I prefer to sit at the bar when I am dining alone.  I couldn’t resist ordering this from their  great selection:

The Kentucky RedBulleitt Bourbon, Ginger Syrup, Averna, Orange Bitters & Fresh Lemon

And it was fabulous — the clear winner of the three night’s samplings. Bulleitt bourbon, one of my favorites, with ginger and orange bitters?  Yes, please.  I was not familiar with Averna, but I’ll be going out shopping for some of this divine little Italian liqueur.

Night three was dinner at Todd English’s bluezoo with a new friend.  Their cocktail menu included several tempting barrel-aged favorites.  The Moscow Mule and the Boulevardier both sounded fabulous.  Ultimately, we each ordered this:

Manhattan

circa 1870, new york. our manhattan starts with a classic recipe of four roses small batch bourbon, dolin vermouth, and bitters.  it is then aged in an oak barrel until we deem ready. the cocktail you will enjoy is one of the smoothest manhattans made.  garnished with brandied cherries.
Delicious, elegant, everything a Manhattan should be.  No regrets.

 

 

Sloppy Joe Sliders

sloppy joe slider

On my drive south from the mountains to my favorite little creek in Lower Alabama a couple of days ago,  I  entertained myself listening to podcasts via my Stitcher app. Two of the podcasts, including this Bon Appetit piece on retro comfort foods, talked about our nostalgia for the foods we grew up eating.  Our favorites. Dishes served for special occasions. Mom’s or Dad’s specialty. The podcast offered updated versions of meatloaf (I will be adding the bacon braid to mine),  grilled cheese sandwiches (I tried the mayo and grated cheese tricks today and loved the outcome), and tuna casserole (I’ll probably still pass), among others.  At my house it was fried chicken and mashed potatoes.  I suspect that each of my three sisters would answer the same.  That, and the oatmeal cake topped with coconut, brown sugar and pecans which I still beg my mom to make for my birthdays.

I’m not sure what my boys will ultimately pick as their nostalgia foods…  probably my slaw. Maybe Chicken Parmesan, maybe pan-fried catfish, maybe these Sloppy Joe Sliders…

Sloppy Joe Sliders

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 pounds ground beef (or turkey)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed to remove excess moisture
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup ketchup (and yeah, it needs to be Heinz)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 table spoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme plus extra for garnish
  • 8 slider buns
Directions:
  1. Brown the ground meat or turkey in a large skillet over medium high heat, using a spatula to break it up. When you are sure the meat is thoroughly browned, dump it in a colander to drain the extra fat.
  2. Wipe out the skillet, and heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Saute the onions, celery and carrots until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini to the pan and saute until any moisture has cooked off, then add the garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the meat back to the pan, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Then, stir in the ketchup, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, hot sauce and thyme.
  5. Stir in 1/2 cup water and simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  7. Toast the slider buns, top each bottom bun with the meat and garnish each plate with a sprig of thyme.
Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
I must have a fresh bag of crispy potato chips with my sloppy joe — a little extra salt, a bit of crunch for a contrasting texture. If you are looking for something healthier, a little lightly dressed broccoli slaw works well too.

BON APPÉTIT

Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese

smoked-gouda-mac-and-cheese

Winter in the mountains is long and cold and requires copious amounts of comfort food. We are having spring-like weather this week, a lovely treat, but I know better than to think we won’t have another blizzard or two before it really warms up. This time of year though, I do start thinking about favorite winter comfort foods that I have not yet made this season.  This recipe for Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese is one of those. Not to say that the dish wouldn’t make a great side for 4th of July BBQ or a Thanksgiving potluck.

This recipe is inspired by the smoked gouda mac and cheese served at Crave, a now defunct tapas place here in Boone that was once our spot for family celebrations.  My version is based on one that I found in a Special Collector’s Edition of All-Time Best Recipes, published by Cook’s Illustrated.  Their suggestion that you cook the mac and cheese on the stove, then just put it under the broiler to brown the bread crumbs is right on if you want crunchy topping, tender pasta and creamy sauce.
Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound Cavatappi pasta
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups low-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 8 ounces Smoked Gouda cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup Panko
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
Directions:
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil in a dutch oven over high heat.  Stir in the pasta and tablespoon of salt.  Cook according to package directions (about 8 minutes) until just past al dente so that it is a bit tender.
  2. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  3. Return the dutch oven to medium heat.  Melt the butter, then whisk in the flour.  Cook the flour for about 1 minute, making a blond roux.
  4. Slowly whisk in one cup of milk, stirring constantly until all the lumps are dissolved.
  5. Whisk in the remaining milk, dry mustard, cayenne, and hot sauce.
  6. Turn up the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly and bringing to a gentle boil so it will thicken properly.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and reduces to a heavy cream.
  8. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cheeses, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and black pepper.
  9. Add the pasta back to the pot, stirring gently to combine.
  10. Return the pot to medium low heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, until hot.
  11. Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat the broiler.
  12.  Spray a 9 X 13 glass or ceramic baking dish (or 10 ramekins) with olive oil cooking spray.
  13. Mix together the Panko and olive oil.
  14. Pour the macaroni and cheese into the pan and sprinkle evenly with the bread crumbs.
  15. Broil until the topping is deep golden brown, 3-5 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary so that the bread crumbs brown evenly.
Yield: 10-12 side servings
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
 
The Smoked Gouda adds big flavor to the mac and cheese while the Monterey Jack adds a creaminess you can’t get from using the Smoked Gouda alone. I used Cavatappi pasta rather than ordinary macaroni because I wanted to make it a little fancier.  I’ve given up trying to make the dish with the Barilla-plus pasta I usually use.  It may have more protein, fiber and Omega-3s, but the texture just doesn’t work for mac and cheese. 

Bon Appétit