Spinach Salad with Curried Almonds

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!

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

Dinner

I could have written this post on Motherlode about family dinner.  I especially like this:

But still, there we will be, with children too small to yet hunt, forage and gather for themselves, perpetually wanting to eat, particularly around dinner time, day after day after day.

Although mine are not.

At first I could not remember what I cooked for dinner last week, except for a pot roast which reappeared in various forms.  Slowly it came back to me.  It was a very beefy week.  Sunday was the pot roast with potatoes, onions, carrots and butternut squash.  Monday was avgolemono soup with pita bread.  There was supposed to have been a Greek salad that didn’t happen.  Tuesday was a last minute switch to blueberry pancakes, bacon and bananas after I waited too late to get started.  Wednesday was smothered cube steak with mushrooms, mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli.  Thursday was roast beef po’boys with an avocado salad.  Friday was leftovers.  Not too shabby, especially considering that I have a ton of freelance work, a paper almost ready to submit, and managed to exercise five out of those six days.

This week we should eat less beef, but I making a big pot of chili today (the first of the season!) and planning to serve it over cheese enchiladas later in the week.  I haven’t tried any new recipes in a while —  this Thai Butternut Squash Soup sounds really good.  I’ll likely  pick up some chicken sate from the Thai restaurant by my office to go with it.  I’ve been craving Indian food and we could use some fish in our diet.  I just order a pricey bottle of Bengali Five Spice (times like this I love Amazon Prime) which should arrive on Wednesday so I can make this Bengali-style Fish Stew.  I would dearly love to know how to pronounce its real name —  Maacher Jhol.  I am guessing that at some point in the week, there will be a clamor for “American food” and I’ll be feeling lazy so we can have sliders, beans and slaw (so much for eating less beef).  The child who complains most loudly gets to cook this one.

What are you feeding your kids this week?

Zucchini Squash Fritters

zucchini sqaush fritters 1

Zucchini Squash Fritters

Its transition time at Farmer’s Market and roadside stands.  Mine still has an abundance of beautiful heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and a colorful variety of peppers.  But the apples, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and butternut squash are quickly muscling them out of the way.  I’ve been wanting to make these savory zucchini fritters all summer long — it’s time to do it before the only zuch I can find is the rubbery supermarket variety!

Zucchini Squash Fritters

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds zucchini squash
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup minced shallot
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, chives)
  • 3/4 cups Panko
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Preheat an oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Coarsely grate the zucchini. You should have about 4 cups.
  3. Toss the zucchini with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a colander and let drain for 20-30 minutes. Then, use a clean kitchen towel to squeeze out all the excess moisture
  4. Dump the zucchini into a large bowl, then add the eggs, shallot, garlic, herbs, parmesan cheese, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Mix well.
  5. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and swirl in about 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil.
  6. Cook the fritters in batches. Take small handfuls of the zucchini mixture and form them into patties about 2 inches in diameter. Drop them gently into the oil. Cook for 4-5 minutes per side, turning once, until golden brown.
  7. Remove to an oven-proof plate and place in the oven to keep warm while the other batches cook.
  8. Add more oil to the pan and wait for it to heat before adding the next batch to the pan.
  9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 until all the squash patties are cooked.
squash

Me with enormous butternut squash, captured taking over my favorite roadside stand

Yield: 6-8 side servings

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

I served this as a side dish with pork chops, black-eyed peas, and sliced tomatoes.  It was a perfect end of season dinner.   The fritters would make a lovely first course as well.  I know I’d be happy just eating a pile of these and skipping dinner!

Pan-grilled Salmon with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Parmesan Grits

grilled salmon with roasted cherry tomatoes and parmesan grits

This time of the year, I make a lot of what I call “One-Pot Wonders”.  This is not one of those recipes.  My recipe for Pan-grilled Salmon with Roasted Chery Tomatoes and Parmesan Grits messes up some pans, but comes together pretty easily with a company-worthy presentation.  It is a lovely meal to serve when Spring is still a longs ways off, but you want to pretend.  It is also a lovely meal when Spring actually arrives and it is warm enough to grill outside.

Grilled Salmon with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Parmesan Grits

Ingredients:

For the Parmesan Grits:

  • 2 cups chicken broth (see note in directions about grits to liquid ratio)
  • 2 cups milk (I use 2%)
  • 1 cup  white stone ground grits
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the Pan-grilled Salmon:

  • 4 6-ounce salmon filets, preferably with skin on
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 8 small sprig of fresh thyme

Directions:

For the Parmesan Grits:

  1. Bring the chicken broth and milk to a boil. Note: follow the grits to liquids ratio on your brand and use half milk and half chicken broth.
  2. Whisk in the grits, turn down the heat and cook the grits for the time indicated on your brand’s packaging, stirring occasionally. Cooking times can vary between 5 for quick grits and 45 minutes for stone ground grits.
  3. Stir in the butter, Parmesan cheese, Cholula, salt and pepper. Keep the grits on low heat, stirring occasionally, until you are ready to serve. Add a little chicken broth to the grits if they become to thick.
  4. Taste the grits and add salt and pepper if needed.

For the Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the cherry tomatoes with the olive oil, thyme, garlic salt and pepper.
  3. Spread the tomatoes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Roast the tomatoes for 15-20 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. The tomatoes should be soft and beginning to caramelize.
  5. Turn the heat down to 200 degrees to keep the tomatoes warm until you are ready to serve.

For the Pan-grilled Salmon:

  1. Rub both sides of the salmon filets with the olive oil. Sprinkle the side without skin with the salt, pepper, and thyme.
  2. Heat a heavy, preferably cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat.  Spray with olive oil cooking spray.
  3. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the grate.
  4. Cook the salmon for 5 to 7 minutes. As the salmon cooks it will turn from opaque pink.
  5. Turn the salmon over and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.  Do not overcook!

To plate:

  1. Spoon about 2/3s cup of grits into the center of each plate.
  2. Top each with a salmon filet and 1/4 of the tomatoes. Garnish each plate with two small thyme sprigs and serve.

Yield: 4 servings                                               Total time: 60 minutes

A word about the grits — if you can find stone ground grits, by all means use them.  If not, quick grits are an acceptable substitute.  Instant grits are not!  I usually use Charleston’s Favorite White Stone Ground Grits which are available online at various sites at outrageously inflated prices.

Bon Appétit!  Lynn

Kick-Booty Pork Chili

KICK-BOOTY PORK CHILI

The Super Bowl is tomorrow and lots of my friends are getting all geared and up and cooking up a storm.  We’re not much into football around here so if we venture out to a party it will only be for the food.  I mentioned to a friend at my Celebration of Chinese New Year Dim Sum Brunch today that I had a kick-butt chili recipe.  This is for you Adam.

I make a lot of different kinds of chili in the winter, but this pork chili will always be my favorite.  My recipe evolved from one I found in Bon Appetit magazine many years ago — it now  bears little resemblance to the original.  The pork cooks to tender perfection, the gravy is just the right consistency, and the  toppings of cheese, red onion, cilantro and avocado add textural contrast that is divine.

Kick Booty Pork Chili

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, 1/4 inch dice
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 pounds boneless country-style spareribs, cut into 1-inch cubes and excess fat discarded
  • 1/3 cup masa harina
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped, liquid reserved
  • 1/4 cup good quality chili powder
  • 2 large jalapeño chilies, minced
  • 3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Cholula hot sauce
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 16-ounce cans chili beans with sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine

Accompaniments:

  • Grated Colby-jack cheese
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Chopped red onions
  • Sliced avocado

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté until tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, using a slotted spoon.
  3. Add the pork to the Dutch oven in batches, being careful not to overcrowd. Cook over medium-high heat until no longer pink, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes per batch.
  4. Add all the pork and accumulated juices back to the pot.  Sprinkle with the masa harina, stir to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Return the onion mixture to the Dutch oven. Add the tomatoes with liquid, chili powder, jalapeños, cumin, coriander, oregano, Cholula and beef broth. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Cover Dutch oven and simmer until pork is almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.
  7. Add the chili beans with sauce and red wine to the chili.
  8. Simmer uncovered until the pork is tender and the chili thickens, about 45 minutes.
  9. Adjust seasoning. Ladle into bowls and top with cheese, cilantro, red onions and avocado.

Prep time:  30 minutes
Cook time: 2 1/2 – 3 hours

The spiciness of the chili depends on the heat in your chili powder and jalapeños. The Cholula adds flavor without adding a lot of heat.Whatever kind of chili powder (and cumin) you use, make sure it is fresh. Good quality spices can make a huge difference in flavor but standard grocery store buys are fine as long as they’ve been recently opened.

Often the jalapeños I buy at the grocery during the winter are not very hot so I use the whole  jalapeño– seeds and all.  Other options for bumping up the heat a bit are adding a small amount of chipotle in adobo or chipotle chili powder. Not too much! I like my chili hot and spicy but chipotle is fiery stuff.  Add a little, taste, then add more if you still want more heat.

Bon Appétit!  Lynn

Smoked Chicken and Paprika Brunswick Stew

Smoked Chicken and Paprika Brunswick Stew



Cooler weather is on its way to the High Country.  It is still warm enough to grill and eat on the deck, but I packed away my summer clothes tonight and have the hot tub cranked up and ready to go for the first really chilly night.  And we are slowly transitioning from “summer food” to “fall food”.  One of our fall favorites is this Smoked Chicken and Paprika Brunswick Stew.  It goes together quickly, makes great leftovers and gets a satisfying serving of vegetables into the boys.

Smoked Chicken and Paprika Brunswick Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (3/4-inch) cubed Yukon gold potato
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch) diced yellow onion
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup frozen baby lima beans
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce
  •  2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
  • 3 cups shredded smoked chicken
  • 1 teaspoon sweet Spanish smoked paprika
  • 2  teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until it renders some fat, then add the onions and cook until soft and just beginning to brown.
  2. Add the potatoes, corn, lima beans, tomato sauce and chicken broth. Bring to a gentle boil.
  3. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 30  minutes or until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in the chicken, paprika, salt, red pepper and black pepper. Simmer for another15 minutes.
  5. Taste, adjust the seasonings, and serve.
Yield: 6 servings

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes
Brunswick stew is a traditional southern dish, with both Georgia and Virginia laying claim to its origins.  The only time I recall eating it growing up in Mississippi, my Delta-based grandmother Mimi prepared it with squirrel meat.  I am thinking that that is the only time I’ve eaten squirrel.  Smoky paprika is clearly not a traditional ingredient, but I love the flavor that it adds.

This stew is based on one published a number of years ago in Cooking Light.  The biggest, and most important, difference between my version and Cooking Light’s is that I use smoked chicken. When whole chickens are on sale, weather permitting, I buy several and throw them on the smoker, then debone and freeze the meat. I’ve also moved the smoker box on to a corner of the grate and smoked the chicken on the gas grill.  With smoked chicken in the freezer, I typically have all the ingredients to throw this together on hand.  Corn bread muffins are the perfect side.

Getting back to good routines

One of the many things I love about my job is the way that the beginning and ending of semesters demarcate time.  With the end of each semester, there is a break and an opportunity for a new beginning.  And with the start of each semester, there is the chance to begin anew.  I am wrapping up the tail end of my Spring semester today — a few random make-up and early exams to grade and I’ll be done for six weeks.  With this new beginning, I am looking forward to getting back into some of my “good” routines — meal planning, blogging, and exercising.

I’ve been pretty slack about meal planning this year, which means more money is getting spent for less healthy meals and a bunch of produce lands in the compost bin.  It’s generally a good idea to start planning the week’s dinner by checking out what is in your produce drawer…  Mine is pretty full with lots of salad makings, a couple of big artichokes, some root vegetables and asparagus.  Next I look at my schedule to see which nights I’ll have more or less time to spend on dinner and which nights I’m planning to go out.  Then I check out the weather to see which nights are likely to be nice ones to grill.   And finally, I peruse the freezer, bread box, deli drawer, etc. to see what else I have on hand that needs to get eaten sooner rather than later.  My general idea is to start with Meatless Monday, try to have at least one fish night and not more than one red meat night, and, accept the fact that we’ll likely have pizza for dinner when I have plans to go out.  So, incorporating some other things which need to get eaten, here’s what I’ve come up with for this week’s dinners:

Monday – Rösti casserole with baked eggs and roasted asparagus

Tuesday – Grilled flank steak and roasted root vegetablesartichoke2

Wednesday – Chicken souvlaki with tzaziki sauce, greek salad, pita

Thursday – Pizza and steamed artichokes with red wine-roasted garlic sauce

Friday – Dinner at the lake

The links take you back to my old blog, Another Marvelous Meal.

It is an absolutely gorgeous day in the High Country.  Carolina blue skies and it is finally beginning to look like Spring. I’m thinking of hiking one of the trails out at Cone Manor this afternoon or at least do four miles on the Greenway.  It is a bit chilly this morning, but according to Ray should be in the mid-fifties this afternoon.  Pat on my back for a great start in re-establishing my good routines!  Next I can start working on getting rid of some of the bad ones I’ve settled into lately…

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