Wilted Lettuce / Fried Lettuce

Fried Lettuce

I was talking to my sister the other day and she raved about fried lettuce. I had my doubts, but I decided to try it. This is pretty much how she makes it – though I added fresh-squeezed lemon juice because I love how it contrasts with the bacon and onions in the dish. So – here’s how to make delicious wilted lettuce.

I chopped three slices of bacon into 1/2 inches pieces and tossed them in a skillet with 3 cloves of minced garlic and half a onion sliced. Cook until softened and beginning to caramelize. Add one tomato chopped into pieces and saute until they soften. While that’s cooking chop up some romaine leaves. I ended up with about 5-6 cups of chopped lettuce. Toss into the pan and cover and let saute for 3 minutes or until wilted. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze into the pan. Serve while it’s fresh and hot.

Beef-Zucchini Sautee with Apple-Celeriac Puree

Apple-Celeriac Puree with Sauteed Beef and Veggies

I took two slices from a beef roast (about 3 ounces) and cut it into smaller pieces. I tossed the beef in a skillet on medium low with some about 1 TBSP of onion, 1 TBSP of minced jalapeno and 2 TBSP of red peppers. I counted on there being enough juice and fat on the beef to not require any additional oil. I added 1 zucchini sliced and put a cover on it to let it all cook up. The zucchini is nice and juicy and the liquid, giving me enough saucy juiciness. I added 1 tsp of curry powder and a dash of dry mustard. I mixed it all up and cooked uncovered for another minute or two until everything was caramelizing beautifully. I grated a bit of parmesan on top for some extra yum. I served it up with some of the Apple-Celeriac Soup I made a few days ago that I just reheated in the microwave.

Cider-Braised Endive, Pierogies and Waldorf Salad

Cider-Braised Endive, Pierogies and Waldorf Salad

In a sauce, I melted 1 TBSP of butter, added 1 tsp of sugar and a little salt and swirled it around. I cut one endive in half and put the flat side down in the butter and left it on medium heat until it began to brown and began pitting a dozen cherries. After five minutes, I turned the endive over to brown the rounded side for three minutes. (Time to start the pierogies) Turning it back to flat side down, I tossed in the cherries and 1/3 cup of apple-cider vinegar. I let this simmer for about 12-15 minutes. This has a lovely sweet-sour flavor that is irresistible.

To start, I chopped up a slice of bacon into 1/2 pieces and tossed it in a skillet with 1 TBSP of melted butter on medium heat. I added about 1/4 of onion sliced pole to pole thinly, separating the slices so they can caramelize. I added the three pierogies and put a lid on the skillet. After 10 minutes, I turned the piergies and let them finish cooking. I used the lemon from the salad and squeezed a little more juice out to give it a bright freshness to complement the caramelized onions and the savory comfort flavor of the pierogies.

While these were finishing up, I sliced apple, added red flame grapes in an equal amount and tossed in a few pecans and mixed together. I added 1/4 cup of mayo and squeezed a fresh lemon over it and mixed well. I cut up a few leaves of romaine as a bed and served on top, mixing it in as I ate the salad. This makes 4 servings and by added the lettuce when you serve, it stays fresh longer.

Chicken Fricassee and Manakish

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I heated the oven to 425 and rolled  out three small rounds of store bought whole wheat pizza dough for the manakish – a vegan, middle-eastern pizza of sorts. I was going to make my own, but saw this on special at Safeway for $1.50 and it’s enough to make 8 individual manakish, so I thought I would try it. I let them rise for 20 minutes while the oven heated. Before popping them in the oven, I poked them with the fork a couple times, put a little olive oil on them (I probably should have used more) and spread some zaatar mix on them. This is homemade zaatar made my a friend of mine from Bangladesh and i don’t have the recipe. However, you can get Zaatar mix at good grocery stores or from Amazon. You can also make your own, which I have done in the past, but you still have to hunt down sumac for the spice. The nice thing about sumac is that not only can you use it in zaatar, but you can also use it on it’s own in beef, lamb, lentils and fish dishes.

After I popped the Manakish in the oven, I put 2 tbsp of white wine in a small saute pan. I added 1/8 of an onion and 1/4 of a jalapeño and two mushrooms all diced quite small. I tossed in a pinch of tarragon. I took some chicken that I pulled from the soup I made last week and chopped it up and added it. I let everything simmer a few minutes, then added a teaspoon of mustard and half of a tomato, diced. I let that cook a little longer.

Removing the manakish after 12 minutes – it was done perfectly. I dished up the fricassee in a bowl and put a manakish on the side to serve. The manakish was so tasty I had seconds. That whole wheat pizza dough was tasty and easy to use.

Apple Celeriac Soup & Bacon-Mushroom Wilted Salad

Apple-Celeriac Soup & Wilted Lettuce Salad

I put 3 TBSP of butter in my sauce pan and added 1/2 of a medium onion, diced into small pieces. I also added 1/4 of a jalapeño, minced. I let them cook until tender – about 10 minutes. Meanwhile I peeled and cut a celeriac into 1 inch cubes. Tossing them in with the onions and chili, I added just enough water to cover them and put a lid on and let them simmer for 20 minutes.  I peeled and cut 2 apples into 1 inch cubes and set aside.  About 10 minutes before serving, I added the apples and put the lid back on. Right before serving, I pureed everything and poured some of the puree into a bowl. The flavor is bright and tart, very fresh and tasty. I found myself finger-licking the container I pureed it in.

For the salad, I cut 2 slices of bacon into small pieces and put in a medium skillet to cook. I diced 1/4 of an onion and added that. After 10 minutes, I added 2 chopped mushrooms and let it cook another 5 minutes. While that was cooking, I chopped up 3 leaves of romaine and put it on a plate to wait for the dressing to be done.  I rolled a lemon on the counter to soften it up, cut it in half and squeeze both halves into the pan, swirled everything around and poured it onto the lettuce and served immediately. The faster the better, because the contrast between the hot salad dressing and the crisp, cool romaine is part of the magic. Adding some garlic in when you add the onions makes it even tastier, but for some reason I completely forgot the garlic – but it was still yummy.

Chicken Lettuce Rollups and Roasted Green Beans

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I washed the green beans and let them dry in a colander. Meanwhile I put 1 TBSP of olive oil in the bottom of my paella pan. I tossed the green beans on top and spread them around with my finger, swirling them in the oil so they were completely covered. I poured about 1 tsp of kosher salt into my hand and sprinkled it directly on the beans. I put the pan in the oven on Broil.

For the chicken salad, I took about 4 oz of chicken (I had pulled this off the bone of a chicken I stewed for soup over the weekend) and cut it up into chunks about the size of a grape. I added 10 grapes, 5 pecans cut in half and about 1/3 of an apple cut into similar sized chunks. I took one green onion and chopped it up small and added that. Then I put 2 tbsp o mayo, a tsp of mustard and the juice from half a lemon together with some dry tarragon and mixed together to dress the salad. I heated two romaine leaves in the microwave for 20 seconds to make them tender enough to roll without cracking, but still crispy enough to taste good.  I put the lettuce on the plate, cutting a notch down the length of the stem so it rolls more easily, dished the salad in the middle and rolled it up like a burrito before eating. It was messy, but delicious and so fresh tasting this time of year.

Wine-Poached Torsk, Lemon & Ginger Braised Parsnips and Roasted Vegetables

Wine-Poached Cod, LemonGinger Parsnips, Roasted Vegetables

First I cleaned and cut up some vegetables to roast, making sure to keep the size fairly uniform. I used one sprig of broccoli, one large floret of cauliflower, about 6 fingerling potatoes, a small onion and three cloves of garlic. I tossed them with 1 TBSP of garlic and a teaspoon of kosher salt. I put them all in my paella pan in the oven at 450° to roast until done – about 25 minutes. As always, roasting vegetable until they begin to blacken and caramelize gives you the most delicious umami flavor that makes you feel so well-fed and satisfied.

Meanwhile, I julienned one parsnip and chopped about 1 TBSP of fresh ginger. I juiced one fresh lemon and put all the juice in a saucepan with the ginger and parsnip and let it simmer, braising the parsnip until done. I added just enough water to keep the parsnips cooking without charring. When the parsnips are nearly done (about 15 minutes) add 1 tsp on sugar and stir in well. This makes 2 servings, so set half aside for tomorrow. The parsnips will have a just shy of pucker sour, sharp lemony brightness with some extra bite from the ginger. Serve with caution as they can become addictive.

In a small pan, I put 1/4 cup of white wine on to simmer with two frozen 4 oz. fillets of Alaskan Cod or Torsk. I added a few peppercorns (around 6-8) and about a teaspoon of dry mustard and 2 tsp of dried tarragon. I poached the torsk in the wine, turning to cook on both sides. The fish is done as soon as it turns to opaque in the center and will be tender and flakey. This takes about 10 minutes or so. I took 8 green olives, cut them in half and tossed in just before serving. I removed the cod and plated it, adding a dash of dill weed. I added 1 tsp of flour to the poaching wine and stirred in well to thicken the sauce just a bit before spooning it on the fish. This has a subtle and delicate flavor of wine and olive, but not so strong that it overwhelms the fish.

I put the fish on the plate, spooned the sauce over it. On the other side of the plate I put half the parsnips. I pulled the roast vegetables out and placed them in the center. Both side dishes are vegan and very tasty. The flavor contrasts with the bright, sharp parsnips, the savory veggies and the delicate fish were immensely satisfying.

Carolina Red Slaw and Memphis Slaw

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OK, one thing you need to understand about me is that I love cabbage. It is by far my favorite vegetable and I like it stewed, braised, sauteed, steamed and grilled, but the best for me is in a slaw. I love  cole slaw. I like it creamy or vinegary, crunchy or braised, sweet or spicy. I love it.  So, when I read a new-to-me version of slaw in the newest Cook’s Country I had to try the recipe even though it contains ketchup, one of my least favorite foods. This was a dilemma for me because I have no ketchup and never buy it. If I bought ketchup for the slaw, I would use that tiny bit in the recipe and then I would have a bottle of ketchup taking up valuable fridge real estate. My best friend was visiting and I showed her the recipe and she immediately noticed the ketchup and offered to bring some over so I could try it without buying ketchup. Yesterday she brought over the ketchup and to make it even better, she brought a new slaw she had made. It was brined and silky smooth with the flawless flavor of caraway. I hoped the Carolina Red Slaw would be as good.

The recipe called for a whole head of finely shredded cabbage. When I had shredded that mountain of cabbage and saw it overflowing the bowl, it occurred to me that given my disdain for ketchup that maybe I should not make a full batch, so I split it in half and used the other to make my favorite cole slaw recipe, the spicy and savory Memphis Slaw.

I began with the Carolina Red Saw – a vegan slaw. I put 1/4 cup of cider vinegar in a bowl with 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes (more accurately, I took a dried red chili and crumbled it up for flakes.) I microwaved it for a minute so it was hot and bubbly. I added 1/3 cup of ketchup and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I set this aside and addressed the cabbage.

The best cole slaw recipes use one method or another to draw liquid from the cabbage before dressing it. This recipe had a new to me technique but it sure worked. I put the cabbage in a bowl with 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/2 tsp of salt and microwaved for about 90 seconds. Then I put it in a colander to rest and about 15 minutes later I squeezed the liquid out of it. Then I added the dressing and stirred it all up and stuck it in the fridge overnight. Tasting it this morning, it’s fresh, bright with a pleasant sweet and spicy tang.

With the other half of the cabbage I made the Memphis Slaw, vegetarian yes, but not vegan. Oddly enough, it is also from Cook’s Country, the August/September 2007 issue handily stored in a plastic magazine holder for when I need it. This is a slaw rich with the flavor of mustard, a smokey rich flavor with spicy jalapeno for bite.

This took a more traditional approach to breaking down the cabbage, but first I had to cut up all the ingredients. To the slaw I added about half a carrot and half an onion finely shredded. I couldhave used half a jalapeño, but my chili was so small I used the whole thing, mincing it fine. I mixed up everything in a colander with 1 teaspoon of salt and let it sit over a bowl for an hour. I rinsed it and squeezed out the liquid and let it dry.

While it was drying, I made the sauce with 4 TBSP each of mustard, green salsa (official recipe calls for chili sauce), mayonnaise, sour cream (I used plain yogurt) and cider vinegar. I added 1 tsp of celery seeds and 3 TBSP of sugar. The official recipe calls for more sugar and for brown sugar, but I prefer less sugar and don’t have any brown sugar on hand.  Anyway, toss this all in a pot and bring to a boil. Pour over the veggies and stir so they are coated and refrigerate. You can eat it in an hour but I left it overnight. Seriously, the hardest part about making cole slaw is waiting until the next day to eat it.

I heated up some roast pork leftovers with some commercial barbecue sauce and served the slaws. Slaw and barbecue, it’s what’s for lunch.

Lentil Soup

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And on the eighth day, God created lentils.

I have had a few meals off that pork roast that was 1.99/pound but was getting a bit frustrated trying to cut it what with the big bone in the middle, so I decided to cut the remaining meat off the bone and put the bone to work. There’s nothing like bones for enriching the flavor of a soup. A pork roast isn’t going to give me the same richness as a ham hock, so I needed to up the herbs to really get the most out of the soup.

I put 1/4 tablespoon of olive oil in my soup kettle and heated it, adding 2 teaspoons of cumin and a pinch of cinnamon and toasted them. Toasting herbs can bring out a smokier, deeper flavor. I then added another 1/4 tablespoon of oil and sauteed some garlic. Adding 4 cups of water, I put the bone in with a couple of bay leaves, salt and pepper. I put the lid on when it began to simmer and let is simmer all morning.

About 30 minutes before serving I added 1 cup of lentils and 1/2 cup of chopped onions. 15 minutes later, I added 1/2 cup of chopped celery, 1/2 cup of chopped carrots, 1 medium tomato, diced and a teaspooon of oregano. Just before serving I added a little more salt and pepper to taste. I put about 1/2 the soup veggies out and pureed them and poured them back in, stirring in the puree to thicken the soup a bit and served. This makes 4 servings of soup – but soup always tastes better the second or third day after it’s cooked, so you always want leftover soup.