…the last taste of summer

It’s officially fall now.

The autumn equinox has come and gone and the leaves are beginning to turn here in Maine…apples and pumpkins abound, mums (the flowers) are being popped into the ground and into pots everywhere and the smell of smoke is in the air…but I’m still savoring the last taste of summer…

vine-ripened

Vine ripened tomatoes,

basil 2

fresh basil,

fresh mozz. 2

fresh mozzarella

presto pesto

and pesto.

Melt together between two slices of bread and you will taste summer in a way which no other sandwich compares…

Granted, my tomatoes have all been plucked from their vines (nights are getting a bit too chilly for them) and they now continue to ripen on my window sill and the basil (still in the garden) is starting to brown, but I picked as much as I could before the cooler nights settled in and I’m so glad I did! I’ve made batches of pesto, stored what I could in the fridge and am drying more…

So what to do with all those tomatoes, basil and pesto?

Bake some bread, buy a block of fresh mozzarella and get slicing….

Now it’s not a ‘cheap’ sandwich to make if you have to buy all the ingredients, but if you’ve been fortunate enough to grow the basil and tomatoes and have the desire to bake some bread (check this recipe out for a very simple and inexpensive recipe) all you’ll need to buy is the fresh mozzarella. The least expensive block I’ve found sets me back $4, but I can get at least 4 sandwiches from one, so that ends up being only $1 per sandwich (at least for the cheese), a far cry from what this sandwich would cost if it was to be ordered out…

Gather your ingredients;

tomatoes + basil

sliced bread 2

fresh mozz. 2

A few leaves of basil, a few slices of fresh mozz., a couple pieces of bread, a tablespoon or two of pesto and sliced tomato. Add a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic if you wish, a bit of butter for browning and you will have the tastiest summer sandwich – ever!

Spread each half of bread with pesto,

pesto spread 2

top with a layer of basil, fresh sliced mozzarella and then tomatoes…drizzle with a bit of olive oil and balsamic (if you wish), a sprinkle of salt and top with other half of the bread…butter each side and place on hot griddle. Turn once browned and then cook the other side. Cut and serve! side view layered 2

layer tomatoes, basil and cheese 2

top view browned

cut and ready to serve 2

These were so delicious, Michael and I agreed we each had to have a second!

Are you missing summer already? Then why not make this sandwich and be reminded…

What are your favorite summertime ingredients? What’s your favorite sandwich?

Enjoy.

spring rolls

My previous post was all about the delicious inspiration served up over at Frugal Feeding, (noodle broth + spring rolls) and while he offers his own recipe for spring rolls, I chose to simply use what I had on hand.

For me, the best part of spring rolls is their versatility…fresh or fried, vegetarian or meat based – the combinations abound…

While the rolling wasn’t that simple, it wasn’t that difficult either…a little more practice and time (I had two very hungry people patiently waiting for me to ‘figure it out’) and I’ll have it down! These rolls were scrumptious nonetheless…

spring rolls

You’ll need one packet of Spring Roll Wrappers and rice noodles, plus whatever filling you’d like to add – see my list below for ideas.

Print this recipe…

First here’s how to use spring roll wrappers;

1. Fill a shallow tray/dish with hot water and place a spring roll wrapper into the water until it is soft and pliable (about 15-20 seconds).

2. Remove the wrapper and gently lay onto a damp tea towel and blot until until it is slightly sticky/dry.

3. Place the filling of your choice in the middle of the wrapper and then fold in two opposing sides, not fully covering the filling, then roll the third side over and upwards to form a neat roll shape.

Here’s one filling suggestion (more below);

spring roll ingrediants

1 cup cooked rice noodles – chilled, whole (some recipes suggest chopping – I didn’t)

handful fresh spinach leaves

1-2 small carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tbs. bean sprouts

handful fresh mint and or coriander (cilantro), chopped

red chili

1. Mix all ingredients in bowl. Use one (more/less) heaping spoon full of mixture per wrapper (or whatever portion you find suitable for the wrappers you are using).

2. Place mixture in center of wrapper, add a dash of tamari or soy sauce and roll as instructed above.

3. Serve immediately. Or deep fry for about 2 minutes and serve with dipping sauce. We used tamari, though a sweet and sour chili sauce would be lovely too!

We enjoyed them both fresh and fried. See for yourself.

Here are a few more suggestions to try, or any combination thereof, the choice is entirely up to you…

lettuce leaves

medium sized prawns (cooked)

shredded duck (cooked)

fresh basil

pak choi, finely chopped

chopped garlic

chopped ginger

any fresh green which can be eaten raw

cabbage – thinly sliced

noodle broth + rolls

This is a refreshingly light, yet extremely satisfying meal…especially when served with noodle broth.

enjoy!

How do you like your spring rolls?

noodle broth

I’d been yearning for something different.

Something light.

Something fresh.

Something new. And I found it.

Noodle broth and spring rolls.

noodle broth + rolls

My inspiration (and Noodle broth recipe) came from the fabulous food blog, Frugal Feeding. As the name suggests, it’s a blog about eating well without spending a fortune – great recipe collection there, to say the least. The photos were so enticing and beautiful I knew right away, this was what I was looking for.

Try them for yourself and see what you think. I think both dishes are divine…especially served in this beautiful dish set from China…can you believe I found the whole set? Still in the package? At my local transfer station. Amazing…

Noodle Broth 

recipe from Frugal Feeding:

print this

100g rice noodles

4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

small bunch of thyme

2-3 bay leaves

2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger

smidgen dark soy sauce

1-2 small red chilies (depending on your likes)

a few leaves of fresh basil

2 tbsp. sesame oil

broth herbs

stock added - broth

Fry garlic and ginger in a large cooking pot, using the sesame oil. Add thyme, bay leaves and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and allow spices to infuse, with lid on, for 15-20 minutes.

straining

Sieve the stock.

noodles

Remove all the contents. Return to pot and add uncooked noodles. Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, at which time, noodles should be cooked.

noodle broth

Serve in bowls and top with finely chopped red chilies, a sprinkling of soy sauce and a few freshly torn basil leaves…deliciousness indeed!

Side note – I forgot to buy basil, so I substituted with fresh cilantro (maybe you can tell in the photos?). While it didn’t take away from the dish, I do look forward to trying this dish with the sweetness of basil added…if only my little plants were bigger!

enjoy

P.S.  Stay tuned for the spring rolls…

comfort food

Spring may be here, but warmer temperatures (and sunshine) are still fleeting…so what is one to do when wanting/needing warmth?

Cook.

Cook and eat.

Eat comfort food.

So that’s what I did. I prepared (and enjoyed) the fabulous fish pie from Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, The Naked Chef Takes Off. 

Be sure to gather and prep all ingredients first; a few are cooked at the same time, in the same pot…best to be organized, but don’t let this intimidate you – it’s so worth the effort!

Fabulous Fish Pie

print this recipe 

Recipe taken from The Naked Chef Takes Off, Jamie Oliver

ingrediants

5 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch squares

2 large eggs

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

1 onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, halved and finely chopped

approximately 1 1/3 cups heavy cream

2 good handfuls of grated sharp cheddar or parmesan cheese (I used cheddar, haven’t tried it with parmesan)

juice of 1 lemon

1 heaped teaspoon of English mustard

1 large handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 lb. haddock, skin removed and sliced into strips

fresh nutmeg (optional)

lemon juice, spinach, parsley

Preheat oven to 450 F. Put the potatoes into salted boiling water and bring back to a boil for 2 minutes. Carefully add the eggs to the pot and cook for a further 8 – 10 minutes, until hard boiled, by which time the potatoes should also be cooked. At the same time, steam the spinach in a colander above the pan. This will only take a minute. When the spinach is done, remove from the colander and gently squeeze out any excess moisture. Then drain the potatoes in the colander. Remove the eggs, cool under cold water, then peel and quarter them. Place to one side.

onion + carrot

In a separate pan slowly fry the onion and carrot in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes,

pouring cream

then add the cream and bring just to a boil.

cheese, parsely, mustard

Remove from heat and add the cheese, lemon juice, mustard and parsley.

ingredients with fish

Put the spinach, fish and eggs into an appropriately sized earthenware dish and mix together, pouring over the creamy vegetable sauce.

potatoes over fish mix

The cooked potatoes should be drained and mashed. Mash with just a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and even a dash of nutmeg, if you wish. Spread on top of the fish. Don’t bother piping it to make it look pretty – it’s a homely hearty thing.

baked

Place in the oven for about 25-30 minutes until the potatoes are golden.

serving

Serve with some nice greens or side salad.

enjoy

enjoy!

latkes for you – latkes for me

The humble potato. It can be mashed, smashed, boiled, broiled, baked, fried…and even grated into pancakes.   Potato pancakes are something I remember from my childhood…I remember my mom busily grating the potatoes, mixing up the batch and then frying each cake until they were nice and crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside…I still love latkes (potato pancakes), comfort food I’d say… The main ingredient is potatoes. How much more simple can you get? Enjoy them for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or as an appetizer…latkes for you, latkes for me.

Easy, inexpensive and versatile – what’s not to love?

All you’ll need is;

(makes about 10-12 latkes)

4 cups grated potatoes ( I don’t peel my potatoes –  peel if you prefer – but do wash well)
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
peanut or canola oil for frying

* other options add freshly chopped chives, parsley, grated zucchini, green onions, black pepper.

What to do;

grated potatoes

Grate potatoes.

Rinse the potatoes under water. Strain potatoes as much as you can – press against sides of strainer or wrap in cheesecloth and squeeze…

Place strained potatoes in large mixing bowl. Add grated onion, flour and salt. Mix well. Add egg and mix well.

mixed potatoes

Scoop a small amount and place on heated (and oiled) heavy bottomed (cast iron is great!) fry pan and press down to form a ‘cake’. Once bottom and edges begins to brown, flip and brown other side.

bottom browning

flipped

Keep warm in oven on rack or cookie sheet.

Ideas on how to eat latkes

Breakfast – perfect use for leftovers – reheat latke in oven and serve with brown butter scrambled eggs and toast – great way to start the day…

Brunch – top with sauteed spinach, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce – deliciousness to say the least.

Lunch – serve with applesauce, sour cream, creme fraiche or tzatziki;  add a side side salad.

Appetizer – (make bite sized cakes) serve with dipping sauces (think ketchup, apple sauce, sour cream or tzatziki). Top with freshly chopped chives or parsley.

Dinner – serve alongside any dish where potatoes are welcome…serve with above mentioned sauces or plain, garnish with fresh herbs.

How do you like your latkes?

Here’s another version from Scarletrosita

enjoy!

bodacious black beans

Yes, black beans…dried black beans…they are simple and easy to prepare and can be used in a plethora of ways…

To be honest, I haven’t always prepared beans from scratch…for years I bought the canned varieties…until I finally realized how easy (and better) they are to make at home. Added bonus – the cost. Dried beans are a fraction of the cost of canned and there’s nothing ‘hidden’ (excess salt and other additives)… plus, you end up with SO much more when you prepare them yourself. No special equipment is needed – just a little time and forethought.

One cup raw beans yields about 3 cups cooked – yes, they triple in quantity! A little sure does go a long way with these black beauties…and they are so versatile! Eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks or appetizers. Make extra and freeze. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and taste – what’s not to love?

raw turtle beans

Soaking not as much trouble as you may think – really;

Quick soaking method;

First pick out all the odd looking, cracked or wrinkled beans.

bad bits

Rinse well with water.

rinsing raw beans

Place beans in pot.

pouring into pot

Cover with three times the amount of water (1 cup beans = 3 cups water).

Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat, keep covered and then let sit for one hour.

simmer on stovetop

Then drain water, rinse and cook as directed below.

OR

Traditional soaking method  – place ‘picked-over’ beans in a pot in the AM, let sit overnight, cook the following morning, afternoon or evening.

How to;

Instead of bringing to a boil, simply soak overnight for 12-24 hours.

Drain soaking water and then throughly rinse.

Cook as directed below.

That’s it to soaking – a little planning and a little time are all that is needed.

How to cook soaked beans;

Rinse soaked beans (this helps aid in digestion) in a colander, under running water (filtered if possible).

rinsing raw beans

Return beans to pot (a pot large enough to handle the tripling of the beans) and cover with three times the amount of water (1 cup beans = 3 cups water).

Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then simmer, covered, for 1-2 hours, or until tender.

simmer on stovetop

Once they are tender, drain in colander, return cooked beans to pot. Cover with fresh water and simmer another 10-15 minutes.

Use in a plethora of ways or freeze for later.

That’s it.

Now wasn’t that easy?

Black beans will keep fresh in the fridge for about 3-4 days and for months in the freezer…

cooked black beans

Here’s a few ideas for what to do with all those beans now that you’ve cooked them!

Basic prep to use in burritos, tacos, quesadillas, nachos or even soup;

Chop one large onion, saute until browned in olive oil, add one clove garlic (chopped), add cooked black beans, season with a generous pinch or two of salt, freshly ground black pepper, one-two tablespoons cumin, one good handful chopped fresh cilantro and juice from two limes – that’s it. Use right away or freeze for later…

beans cooking

Add more spices such as chipotle, red chili’s, or add freshly chopped spinach, kale or cabbage – beans are so versatile!  Have fun and spice ’em up as you like! Serve over rice topped with salsa – dinner is served!

Throw a handful of black beans into meat chili for some added flavor and fibre, add a large spoonful to your scrambled eggs and top with fresh salsa, puree with stock and black bean soup is ready in minutes – the options go on and on…try dried beans and you’ll never go back to canned!

nachos

tacosquesadialla.enjoy!

lovely lentils…

No pantry should be without these fabulous legumes…they are super simple to prepare, inexpensive, and versatile. Plus, no soaking is required, they are quick cooking, nutritious and tasty – what’s not to love? Give ’em a go with this easy lentil soup recipe…

Never cooked lentils before? Have no fear. Three easy steps and they’re ready to go. Simple ~ really…

dried lentils

Any amount of lentils can be cooked in this way. Just keep the ratio the same… Most recipes call for a 2C (water) to 1C (lentil) ratio, though I like to add 1 more cup water into the ratio. So, double the water, plus one cup. That’s it.

How to prepare and cook lentils; 

1. Wash lentils – measure 1.5 cup lentils into strainer. Pick over – remove any debris, rocks, shriveled or ‘bad’ lentils. Thoroughly rinse under running water.

2. Pour rinsed lentils into saucepan and add 4 cups water. Add bay leaf.

3. Cook. Bring water to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, uncovered. Add water if needed to ensure the lentils are just barely covered – this is why I add the extra cup of water in the beginning…to prevent possible burning…

4. Lentils are cooked once tender and no longer crunchy…strain lentils (if necessary) and remove bay leaf. Return to pan and add a generous pinch of salt or more to your taste.

They will stay fresh in your fridge for about a week (or freeze for longer storage – add a bit of cooking liquid or stock if freezing) Season with olive oil, herbs, lemon juice, vinegar and enjoy them on their own or add to curries and serve with rice or make lentil soup.

Lentil Soup

Ingredients

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic – chopped

1 cup minced celery

1 cup chopped carrots

3/4 cup freshly chopped tomatoes, or canned whole tomatoes, chopped or as I did – crushed tomatoes (I didn’t’ have fresh or whole) – they all work.

2.5 cup vegetable or chicken stock

2-4 Tbsp. lemon juice (depending on taste)

2 Tbsp. wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

3-4 cups cooked lentils

What to do; 

cooked lentils

Prepare 1.5 cups dry lentils (see above)

carrots, onions, celerySaute onions (in butter or olive oil) until browned , add mined celery and chopped carrots. Cook until veggies are tender.

Add veggies to lentils, be sure to get all the ‘juices’… Stir.

lentils, stock, veg.

Add stock. Stir and simmer 20 minutes over low heat.

Add tomatoes (whichever type you have on hand), lemon juice, and wine vinegar. Stir and simmer another 10-15 minutes.

Season with coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Simmer on low 10 minutes. Taste and season as preferred…

lentil soup servedTop with freshly grated parmesan, feta, goat cheese or a dollop of plain yogurt…add some freshly chopped parsley, thyme or basil, a bit more freshly cracked pepper and voila – deliciousness is served.

Also, a spritz of fresh lemon juice can be added just before serving!

eaten...Yum.

Simple. Hearty. Warming.

Enjoy.