We hope that everyone had a great weekend. We did celebrating our good friends’ weddings (Abby + Jason and Tim + Emily), the 4th of July, parents’ anniversary (congrats Judy & Steve to 40+ yrs of wedded bliss), and a sister’s birthday (Kari- happy birfday!), and we topped it all off with a trip to the emergency room. There was an incident in the kitchen, involving a Wustof, a bundle of cilantro and my left index finger. The good news is that the dish was saved and the finger was salvaged- thank you very much Resident, soon to be full-fledged Dr. Rassman. Hopefully you all were able to remain unscathed in your Independence Day festivities. I’m sure that you all had many BBQ’s and cookouts and more of those to come with the remaining month(s) of summer. So with that in mind if you do find yourself as a guest or host and can’t think of something light, summery, salady, and tasty, give this couscous salad a go because it fulfills all of thee above requirements.
Summer Summer Summer Time
Thank goodness we can all put that dreary, freezing, wet, slushing, messy, cold, cold, cold winter behind us. I know it’s not officially here yet, but with the scorching 90+ degree days that Mother Nature has bestowed upon us, I feel like she’s been priming us for another hot (and really humid) summer. Along with the seasonal change comes the fresh produce at the farmers’ market. Lots of vibrant colors, flavors, and textures all in the various forms of fruits and vegetables enable us to shake up our eating habits- hopefully for the better. Last year Ben and I perfected this beautiful panzanella salad that makes you feel like you’re tasting the vegetable rainbow (Skittles reference), so you can guarantee that we’ll be taking full advantage of our local farmers’ bounty with their goods to make this goody.
You Say Tomato, I Say Tomatillo
Forever now, anytime that I ever cooked anything that was of Mexican or Tex-Mex nature, I would jazz it up with a homemade pico de gallo that I learned at a restaurant (which will remain nameless) that I waited tables at years and years ago. I clearly remember that first time tossing fresh tomato, onion, lime, cilantro and jalepanos with naked hands. The memory of it still burns a little. You may be wondering why- that’s how they did it in the kitchen…while wearing latex gloves. Anyway, lesson learned, and it became my stand by- fresh, citrusy with just a hint of heat. Recently Ben and I have developed a new love for tomatillos and the wonderful verde sauce that I have been making. It all started with a trip to the grocery store shopping for the week’s menu, and there they were on sale 1 pound for a mere $1. Tomato. Tomatillo. I thought that I’d give it a whirl, and I’m so glad that I did.
Taking simple ingredients and turning them into unique treats is the goal of any cook. With a sweet potato, there are so many different ways to prepare this modest vegetable- baked, candied, mashed, pied, casseroled, pureed, roasted. I feel one of the best way to enjoy sweet potatoes is when they are cut into wedges and fried into a crispy wonderful finger food. The sweetness of this simple rustic treat pairs nicely with this easy to make dipping sauce.
Wait! It’s not what you’re thinking – Chinese takeout with white steamed rice and egg rolls and egg drop soup. Nope. Not even close. Two weeks ago, we got what could be considered a light dusting of snow (compared to the snowmagedon that’s happening outside now) that drove those with sleds and snowboards to Suicide Hill and Westwood park to take advantage of the fresh snow and left those without 4 wheel or all wheel drive stranded at home. Our good friends Joe & Teri fell into the latter category. Ben decided that we could not & would not have dinner alone while leaving Teri & Joe at home to fend for themselves. So, with the power of Pepe (our beloved Jeep) Ben went to rescue them while I roasted a beautiful whole chicken with, you guessed it, an orange marinade. I have to be honest, I had my doubts when Ben told me to “Get the bird. Juice the Cuties (oranges) with some herbs & stuff.” Little did I know that this was going to be a blog worthy recipe that I’d be sharing with you now.
*Please note that this meal transpired several weeks ago, and we have since dug ourselves out of the snow. Happy Roasting.
Cooking is a simple yet complex process. The final dish is so much more then the sum of its ingredient. The use of the correct seasoning or the appropriate herbs can make a dish taste complete. Cooking throughout the country has opened my eyes to the beautiful subtleties each place carries. Baking a cake or soufflé in Denver is slightly different than in Portland, or in the midwest where I reside now. Moisture and humidity are factors that one naturally adapts to. Ovens and cookware are not created equally. This can change a recipe as well. One should view a recipe as a guideline or a set of parameters that can be followed, but can always be adapted to fit one’s taste or convenience of their pantry. This is when you begin to “make a dish your own” and when the fun really begins. For this dish we are cooking potato gnocchi. This is a classic dish that can be made relatively quickly, and will bring a real wow factor to a dinner party or a Tuesday night. It is a small list of simple ingredients that everyone has fof hand. Combined with patience and a little technique it is a wonderful thing.
One of my favorite memories from my childhood is my mother making noodles from scratch. I can recall many times when coming home from school and my mother would have noodles hanging and drying all over the kitchen. I thought it might be fun to recreate a memory from her past. When I asked my mother what food takes her back to her childhood, her response was rice pudding. She described it as having a creamy texture with a sweet finish and has tried to recreate this dish with little success. I thought that we would try of honor her memory with my version of rice pudding.
Ben and I aren’t ones to shy away from carbs. We love our pastas. We love our breads. We love potatoes, and we eat our fair share of all of the above. We also like to change things up. Now I know that the Atkins Diet has been a very big deal in the past 5 plus years, and it provided lots of alternatives for your typical favorite carbs, one of those being cauliflower in lieu of potatoes. With that said, I have to say that we do not count calories. We do not count carbohydrates. We do not count fat grams. We do gauge the “healthiness” of our meals by the amount of different colors that make up a dish and whether or not we added indulgent butter or sour cream. On occasion, Ben will make a great cauliflower mash instead of mashed potatoes, because honestly, we don’t eat enough of it and this is a really good way to have it. This recipe is truly delicious full of flavor and as an added bonus- a little friendlier to the waistline.
We love the versatility of carrots. They’re great in soups, stews, stir-fry, cakes, and salads. For our Thanksgiving dinner we gave them a holiday touch to accentuate its natural sweetness that would fit in nicely to your upcoming holiday dinner. This simple cooking process will add depth and body to a often overlooked vegetable. You know how carrots go with peas, so we decided to pair them with some lovely pearl onions, an homage to my late Grandma Ida Mae who loved pearl onions, and created a keeper that we think you’ll enjoy.
A few years ago, Ben and I were introduced to a great couple whose lives are food- Tom & Shelly. We obviously we clicked right away with our love of good food, good wine, and family. They own & operate the Louisburg Cider Mill, located about 45 minutes south of Kansas City. Over the course of the past few years we heard about their operation. During the fall they cater to those from near and far with a pumpkin patch, a hay ride, and a corn maze while continuing their production of the many products that they sell year round including their apple cider and Lost Trail Soda- both products have been featured on The Food Network. When Oliver, Ben and I finally made it out to the Cider Mill our trip coincided with CiderFest. It was an overwhelming experience considering we didn’t realize the magnitude of the operation that Tom & Shelly have. The only disappointment was not getting to sample their famed doughnuts that bring locals to the Mill weekly. We didn’t walk away empty handed though. We took with us a bag of apples that create their famed products to make an apple tart that we feel is worthy of the Cider Mill apple.