Apples and Blackberries with Buckwheat Yogurt Sauce

Fruit Salad with Buckwheat Honey Yogurt

Gertrude Stein said “A rose is a rose is a rose.” Well, that is not true. There is a world of difference between a floribunda and an Empress Josephine and an American Beauty. The same is true of honey, not all honeys are alike. Buckwheat honey is distinctive, a monofloral honey, it is nothing like regular honey. It is closer to molasses, but more mellow and with a fuller, more rounded flavor. While I don’t have any honey in my cupboard, I do keep buckwheat honey for its delicious flavoring.

Today I added 2 tsps of buckwheat honey to 1/2 cup of plain nonfat yogurt. It takes a lot of patient stirring to get it fully blended, but it was worth it. What you get is almost like caramel sauce, but lighter and creamier, slightly less sweet and really much tastier and healthier as well. That’s just a bonus, the flavor is the reason you want to make it.

I cut up a Granny Smith Apple and quarter a cup of some humongous blackberries that I quartered and stirred them into the sauce, and served up in a bowl. It was delicious and made two servings, both of which I ate. So that made it a single serving anyway.

Cucumber Fruit Salad with Tarragon Yogurt Dressing

DSCN6148

Cucumber kind of works with everything. There’s cucumber soup made with potatoes, cucumber and onions, cucumber and pork, cucumber and strawberries, cucumber and watermelon, on in this case nectarines and grapes. It has a mild, but fresh,  flavor that complements nearly any flavor and its juicy composition helps it absorb flavors well making it a medium for marrying disparate flavors together.

This was an experimental salad from start to finish. First I pulled a few leaves off a tarragon sprig and dipped them in plain low-fat yogurt to see if I liked yogurt and tarragon. Yum, yes I did. Well, that settled my approach for the dressing. I took one sprig, pulled the leaves and chopped them fine and added them to 3 TBSP of plain yogurt. I added just a sprinkle of salt because it will cut the bitter flavor that yogurt can sometimes have.

I peeled half of an English cucumber, cut it in quarters lengthwise and sliced away the seeds. I snacked on them, so they were  not wasted. I then chopped up the cucumber. I added one piece to the dressing to see if I liked it and I did, so I added the rest. Then I cut one nectarine into small chunks, testing one piece in a spoon with cucumber and dressing. Yum. I tossed in the rest of the nectarine. Next I took a spoonful of the salad in the making and put a red grape on the spoon with it and took another taste test and knew this was the perfect final touch. I tossed in about 1 cup of red seedless grapes, tossed all the ingredients together lightly and had a fresh, delicious salad for lunch.

There is something about grapes and tarragon. It tastes as though you are eating wine. That fresh sweetness of the nectarines and the juicy spring flavor of cucumbers and with creamy yogurt. It was so good I wanted seconds. However, I only made one serving.

Cucumber Fruit Salad with Yogurt Tarragon Dressing

Serena’s Roast Pork, Celery and Asparagus Salad with Lingonberry Vinaigrette

Serena's Roast Pork, Aspragus and Celery Salad

  • 1/3rd cup of Red Onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, cleaned and sliced diagonally
  • 2 raw asparagus spears, sliced with a peeler into thin strips
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese
  • 3 oz. Earl Grey roast pork
  • 6 toasted almonds, chopped

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon lingonberry preserves
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • 1/2 fresh lemon, squeezed for juice

The apartment manager came by this morning with someone from Sherwin-Williams to see about fixing the problem with my flooring. I had a Earl Grey pork roast in the oven and the apartment smelled like a dream so I asked her to come by later for lunch. I served some Fresh Asparagus Salad with the roast pork. It was delicious, but she asked for apple sauce. I didn’t have any, so I suggest trying lingonberry preserves. They were the first she has ever had and she is already planning a trip to Ikea. Anyway, her enjoyment of the lingonberries, which she put on both the roast pork and the salad inspired me to try to come up with a lingonberry vinaigrette and salad. Of course, I named it after to Serena as she was the inspiration.

The asparagus strips are not very substantial, so I knew I needed another vegetable to give the salad some body or the pork would overwhelm it texture-wise. I opted for celery since its flavor is mild and in the same wheelhouse as asparagus Also, the crispy texture would be a plus. I added some red onions for color and to balance the feta. I knew I wanted some cheese, but though parmesan would not be as happy with the roast pork as feta. The chopped almonds are the crack that makes all salads irresistible. I used two slices of roast pork, which I weighed out at 3.1 ounces, sliced them into small pieces and tossed them in.

In a separate small bowl, I put in 1 TBSP of lingonberry preserves, the juice from 1/2 of a fresh lemon, 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 TBSP of red wine vinegar and mixed it altogether. It was tart and sweet and had a real bite to it, though tossed with the entire salad, that bite was mellowed out to a perfect tartness.

The salad was everything I had hoped for. Made one large serving

Cucumber and Pomegranate Salad with Cilantro and Feta

Cucumber Pomegranate Salad

I experiment a lot with cooking. Not everything works and when it doesn’t, it does not make it to this blog. The other day I mixed some cut up grapes with pomegranate and chèvre. It did not work. It was too sweet and needed more contrast. I thought I was on the right track though and decided to try feta because it is more sour, but still nice and creamy. Just went I started to make the salad, though, I veered off in a new direction and ended up with a great salad that explodes with flavors.

I started with about 1/2 cup of pomegranate. It is 1/2 the seeds from one pomegranate. I pulled out some green grapes from the fridge and noticed I had 1/3 of a cucumber in a plastic storage container, left over from a cucumber on rye sandwich and the side salad with my fish the other day.  I thought I had better use that cucumber soon so, I put the grapes back in the fridge for another time and peeled and cut the cucumber into small pieces. I cut it lengthwise into quarters and then cut the juicy seeds out and just snacked on them. I did not want them in the salad because they would make it watery. Then I cut the long strips in half again and lined them up and sliced horizontally, giving me pieces similar in size to the pomegranate seeds.

I took a small handful of cilantro and chopped it and tossed it in. Use anywhere from 2 TBSP to 1/4 cup depending on how much you love cilantro. I sprinkled a couple TBSP of feta on top and then added a dash of salt and pepper. I tossed with 2 tsp of red wine vinegar and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Cucumber Pomegranate Salad

 

Here’s why this worked, the cucumber has a mellow, spring flavor that offsets the intense sweet-sour tang of the pomegranate. The cilantro adds a bit of earthiness and the feta adds a creamy flavor with some fat, which really helps the flavors blend and the acid in the vinegar brings out all the flavors to their fullest.

Alaskan Cod Poached in Fennel Broth

Alaskan Cod Poached in Fennel Broth

So this was more effort than my usual meal since I actually had to make this broth before I could poach the cod, but it was so worth it. The fennel broth imparted a delicate hint of fennel, nothing overpowering and cod needs something light and delicate. It was delicious. Good thing, too, as the first time, I forgot to take the picture. So I made it for lunch the next day and took pictures but forgot to make sure they were in focus. So, 2 days later for my third meal, I finally got the pictures. While this makes one serving, the broth is usable multiple times if you strain it after using it. It should be good for four days or you can freeze it and use it to poach chicken, fish, or vegetables.

So first you make the broth. This took a little over an hour.

DSCN6118

Sauté onion, celery, carrot and fennel until they change color.

Start with 1 stalk of celery, 1 carrot, 1/2 yellow onion and half the stalks and fronds from a fennel bulb. Clean and chop into thin slices.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a sauce pan to medium, add the veggies and stir. Cook until they change color then add 1/2 cup of white wine, 1 tsp of thyme, 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds, salt, pepper and the rest of the stalks and fronds, chopped up finely. Simmer.

DSCN6120

Add water and wine to the sautéed vegetables and bring to a boil, then simmer.

Add 5 cups of water and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until reduced to about 2 cups of liquid. Cool and strain.

Heat the broth to a simmer in a small sauce pan and then put your filet in the broth to poach. Make sure it is completely covered. Like all fish, do not overcook. It will take about  7 minutes more or less, depending on the size of the filet. It should be flaky and opaque.

While the broth was heating, I made an easy little sauce for the fish. I took 3 grape tomatoes and quartered them lengthwise and put them in a dry sauce pan on high to get a tiny bit of char. Then I added 2 tsp of chopped onions, salt and pepper, and 1 tsp of butter. I cut 4 olives into slices and added them. I let it all cook until tender and the tomatoes were breaking down and added a splash of white wine.  I turned down the heat and let simmer until the fish was done.

DSCN6129

Lay down a nice sauce (tomatoes and olives) and serve with a vegetable on this side (cucumbers).

I served it with some slices of cucumber with salt, pepper and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar on the side. I laid down the sauce and placed the cod filet on top.

While the Swede in me thinks nothing in the world can compare with some torsk sautéed in butter with a bit of nutmeg, this is a delicious, light and flavorful alternative. Definitely a better use of the stalks than compost.

 

Fresh Strawberries with Chèvre and Tarragon

Strawberries, Chèvre and Tarragon

This is a lovely breakfast. It could be made with just about any fresh fruit because tarragon is a sweet herb that loves to be in desserts and chèvre (goat cheese) and fruit is always divine. I am not sure this actually requires a recipe post, other than I suppose folks need encouragement to add some herbs to their fruits.

My best friend makes an amazing chocolate tarragon soufflé. A bit of tarragon in scrambled eggs is amazing. Some zucchini and tomatoes and tarragon is delicious, but really, nothing is tastier than a bit of chèvre, tarragon and some fruit. Tarragon has this delicious flavor somewhere between anise and vanilla that can’t be beat.

To make this, clean some strawberries and slice them in half. Take one sprig of tarragon and pull off the leaves and sprinkle on the strawberries. Use a fork to spread a bit of chèvre over the fruit and it’s done. And it’s delicious.

 

Salad with Earl Grey Pork Roast, Pears, Celery, Cabbage and Cherries

Earl Grey Pork Roast Salad with Pears, Cherries

I have some leftover Earl Grey’s Roast Pork in the fridge. Yes, I did roast pork despite the heat wave; I just got up at 5:30 A.M. yesterday and roasted it in the early morning while the world was cool. I was thinking of what to fix for lunch and thought that with all that flavor, it must be delicious in a salad. I started thinking of what might work with it and just pulled stuff from the fridge and started chopping. The result was delicious, so rich in flavor and fragrance and worthy of several remakes. In fact, when I finished, I thought about making it again right away.

  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 Bosc pear, sliced thinly and cut in thirds
  • 1/2 cup of finely cut cabbage
  • 1/2 cup of celery, cut on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup of Earl Grey’s pork roast, sliced thinly and cut in thirds
  • 1 lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 1/4 cup fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese

So, I started out chopping green onion, adding the pear, cabbage, celery and roast pork. I squeezed the juice from one lemon, stirred, added some salt and pepper and tasted. I thought it needed a bit more sweetness, the pear not strong enough to counter the lemon’s tartness. So I added some cherries. I tasted again and it was tasty, but thought just the little bit of rich fatty flavor from the feta would ground it so I sprinkled in some feta and a bit more salt and pepper. It was perfect.

The flavor and fragrance of Earl Grey is delicious and subtle. I was doubtful when I first tried roasting it and was amazed by how delicious it made the pork roast, tastier than any pork roast I have ever had. It seemed possible that it could work in a salad if there were enough subtly flavored ingredients (cabbage, celery, pears) to absorb and reflect the flavor of the tea.

That is what is so fun about cooking, taking an idea, running with it to see if it might work and then fine-tuning it to get a fabulous dish.

This made one serving. But it is so good, you will want to eat two, so consider doubling the recipe.

Portuguese Chard and Bean Soup

Portuguese Chard and White Bean Soup

It has been incredibly hot here in Oregon – a heat wave the likes of which I never imagined for this temperate state. Nonetheless, I was in the mood for soup. Of course, I made it in the cooler early morning along with breakfast, long before lunch time and then just heated it up when it was time to eat it. The thing is, Mom was right about soup. There is no reason not to serve soup when it is hot, you just have to serve the right soup. By that she meant a soup that avoid lots of carbs. This soup does that.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of red chard stems, diced
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 11 oz linguiça, sliced thinly
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with chiles
  • 3 cups chopped red chard leaves
  • 3 cups chopped cabbage
  • Salt and pepper

To make the soup, I put a tablespoon of olive oil in my stock pot and added 1 tsp of cumin and salt and pepper. Then I added the onions to sauté and get tender. When the onions were tender, I added the red chard stems and minced garlic. I added some white wine vinegar and let the stems cook and absorb the vinegar. This gives them a brighter, less earthy flavor. I also added some salt and pepper. Adding a bit of salt and pepper at each stage layers the flavors so everything is seasoned and, counter-intuitively, you will be less likely to over-season.

Next I added the linguiça and let them cook to bring out a a bit more flavor before adding the water and bay leaves. I let this all simmer for about 10 minutes, then I added the beans and tomatoes and some salt and pepper. I let cook another 10 minutes or so and added the cabbage and chard leaves, with some salt and pepper. Another 5 – 7 minutes and it was done. I let it cool just a bit before serving.

This is delicious, though it makes far more than a single serving. More like 10 servings, but soup only gets better the next day. The vegetables are not overdone, the cabbage and chard complement each other beautifully, the linguiça makes such a rich and flavorful broth.

Bulgur with Celery, Grapefruit, Pomegranate, Spinach, Feta and Grapefruit Onion Vinaigrette

Couscous Salad with Grapefruit Onion Vinaigrette

I made some bulgur while I made my morning tea, adding two cups of boiling water to 1 cup of bulgur and leaving it io absorb the liquid. It was tender and ready for salad later in the day when I was making lunch.

I started by cutting the flesh from a grapefruit. To supreme a grapefruit, cut away the peel and then slice the wedges. I cut this on cutting board to capture all the grapefruit juice that gets squeezed out in the process no matter how hard you try to avoid it. I cut the wedges to avoid any skin and pith and then tossed the juice on the cutting board and the skin and grapefruit left on the skin when cutting wedges into a sauce pan to flavor a vinaigrette. I added about 3 TBSP of chopped onions and cooked them with a bit of olive oil and the grapefruit remnants. I added about 2 tsp of sugar and some white wine vinegar. The vinaigrette was tart and sweet and delicious. I removed the grapefruit bits and left the onions.

I added the grapefruit segments from the grapefruit plus thinly sliced pieces from two stalks of celery, about 1/4 cup of pomegranate, 2 cups of chopped spinach, 1 cup of chopped cilantro, 6 toasted and chopped almonds and 1/4 cup of feta. I then added the bulgur and the vinaigrette and let the flavors marry for about an hour before serving.

The bulgur have it a hearty foundation and the grapefruit and pomegranate added a nice light sourness. The vinaigrette was slightly sweet. The salad was a rich combination of flavors. The next time I make it, though, I might try added some dried cherries, too. Makes 4 servings.

Red Chard and Pork Loin with Couscous

Red Chard, Pork Chops, Tomatoes, Chop 1 TBSP of yellow onions and clear the leaves off two stems of red chard. Slice the stems lengthwise and then chop into small pieces.

Heat 1 TBSP of olive oil and add the onions. Grate about 1/4 tsp of fresh nutmeg on the onions and let them cook until tender. Add the stems and let them cook until tender. Cut a boneless piece of pork loin chop into small pieces and add. Add salt and pepper. Sauté until done.

Meanwhile heat water until boiling. Add 2/3s cup water to 1/3 cup of couscous and let steep until all the water is absorbed.

Chop the red chard leaves, add to the sauté pan. Cut 4 grape tomatoes into quarters and add to the pan. Cut 5 dried cherries in half. Toss in about 1 TBSP of red wine vinegar.

Serve with a bed of couscous and put the red chard and pork on top. It is a delicious blend of hearty chard, sweet cherry and tomatoes and aromatic nutmeg with a dash of sour vinegar.