Baja Bean Salad

Baja Bean Salad

This is a variation on my Cuban Bean Salad. I decided to call it a Baja Bean salad because I used limes and red peppers instead of lemons and tomatoes. It’s fresh, delicious and full of protein.

To start rinse and drain 1 can each of black beans, garbanzo beans and red kidney beans. Toss them in a large bowl. Clean and chop 3 stalks of celery, 2 red bell peppers and 8 baby dill pickles. Add and mix well. Set aside while you make the dressing in a separate bowl.

Crush 3 garlic cloves, sprinkle with salt and let rest while you add the other ingredients to your dressing in a small mixing bowl. Clean and finely chop one serrano chili and put in the bowl with 3 TBSP of olive oil, 1 TBSP white vinegar, 2 tsp of cumin, 1 tsp of oregano, 1/2 tsp cayenne and the juice of 2 fresh squeezed limes. By now the salt will have made the garlic very juicy. Mince it and add to the dressing. Mix well and pour over salad. Put a lid and shake to distribute the dressing throughout the salad.

Now clean, strips the leaves and chop of 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro.

The salad tastes good right away, but it’s heavenly the next day. This is subtly spicier than the Cuban salad, with a bright, fresh flavor that’s addictive. This makes way more than a single serving, but it keeps its flavor, freshness and texture well. It’s a real win at potlucks.


Broccoli Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Broccoli Stuffed Mushrooms

I was getting ready to stuff my portobellos with another ground beef and onions mixture when I caught this spear of broccoli out of the corner of my eye and wondered whether I could stuff the mushrooms with broccoli without making a big mess. I figured the trick would be to cut all the pieces very small so they didn’t overwhelm or break the mushroom caps.

I turned the oven to 400° and let it heat.

First I cleaned two portobello mushrooms, breaking off the stem and scraping the gills. I chopped the unused stems and gills and reserved them in a bowl for another dish. I rubbed a bit of olive oil over the mushrooms and set them in a baking dish cap side down and set them aside while I prepared the stuffing.

I cut two florets of broccoli off my stem and cut them into small pieces, using just the very top pieces. I put the chopped broccoli in a small bowl and heated in the microwave for 30 seconds on medium to precook them just a bit. I drained off the very tiny bit of liquid. This gave me 1/2 cup of chopped broccoli. I then added 1 TBSP of chopped yellow onion and 2 TBSP of chopped red peppers and 2 oz of pepper jack cheese – all cut into 1/4 inch size pieces. I finely chopped 1 TSP of fresh thyme. I mixed everything together and added some salt and pepper. I then spooned the stuffing into the mushroom tops, pressing lightly to pack it all on top.

I put the mushrooms in the oven and let them bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese was melty and delicious.

The flavors are lovely. There’s a bit of heat from the pepper jack cheese and people who prefer a milder flavor could use Monterey Jack. I think this would be a fun Christmas side dish, with its bright red and green.

Portobello Hash

Portobello Hash

I am too much my mother’s daughter to waste food, so when making stuffed mushrooms, I refuse to follow the recipe and discard the gills and stem after cleaning my mushrooms. Instead I chop them up and put them in a mesh strainer to rinse really well to make sure I remove any of the dirt that can get trapped in the gills. The reason people discard the gills is that they darken and discolor the foods that are cooked with them. However, a simple potato hash is not going to be harmed by a bit of discoloration from the gills.

Wash one potato and shred into fine strips, like hash browns. I use a mandoline, but you can also use a vegetable shredder. In a skillet, heat 2 TBSP of olive oil and add 2 TBSP of diced yellow onion. Crush and mince one garlic glove and add that. Toss in the chopped mushroom stems and gills from two portobello mushrooms and the shredded potatoes. Season with salt, pepper and paprika. Continue to heat, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are cooked. I like to let the potatoes crisp a bit, but that’s a personal taste preference. Many people think hash should not be crispy.

This has a lovely earthy flavor from the mushrooms augmented by the smokiness of the paprika. It’s not a beautiful dish, but it’s delicious and uses the often-wasted bits of portobellos. This makes one large serving or two regular servings.

Turkey & Kale Chili

Turkey - Kale "Chile"

A week ago, Sunday, I roasted a post-Thanksgiving turkey. New Seasons, the fabulous grocer nearest me, had deeply discounted their fresh turkeys hoping to sell them off before being forced to freeze them for less sumptuous turkey dinners of the future. In the past week I have had roast turkey, turkey sandwiches, turkey lavash rollups, turkey mushroom casserole, turkey salad and turkey dumpling soup and I still had a pound of bits and pieces. So, since I had already made everything else, I decided to make a chili. Or more honestly, a “chili”, the scare quotes indicating how very unorthodox and inauthentic my chili will be.

I save my bacon fat in a little butter bowl, storing it for cooking when I want to add some easy flavor. I put two tablespoons in the bottom of my stock pot and began adding ingredients, stirring and sauteeing over medium heat.

  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 TBSP of dried oregano
  • 2 tsp of cumin
  • 1 TBSP of chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp of cayenne
  • salt
  • pepper

After the onions were cooked, I added

  • Leftover turkey cut in small chunks, about 1 pound
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 1 cup of frozen corn
  • 1 box of chicken broth (I had already used my turkey broth in the turkey dumpling soup.)

I let all this cook. Meanwhile I chopped up a bunch of kale. That turned out to be too much and I made yesterday’s salad with the unused kale. I added about 4 cups of chopped kate to the soup and put a lid on it and let it simmer. After it was done, I tasted and added a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

Well, you can’t go wrong mixing tomatoes, black beans, corn and onions together – but the turkey adds a mellow savoriness and the kale gives it an earthy flavor. The overall taste is bright and fresh with plenty of toothsome bites with the black beans, the corn and the kale. This last catch-all dish is by no means a single serving, however. It made 2 quarts of soup for 8 servings.

Rustic Kale Salad with Poached Egg

Rustic Kale Salad With Poached Egg

I was making a soup and chopped up one bunch of kale. Seeing that I had chopped more than I would need for the soup, I decided to make a quick salad for lunch and have the soup for dinner. This salad is amazing and I know I will make it again and again.

Strip the stem and finely chop fresh curly kale. You will need about 1 cups of fresh kale. In a bowl, add 1/2 tbsp of walnut oil and the juice of 1/2 fresh lemon. Add a pinch of kosher salt. Crush and mince two cloves of garlic. Toss everything in the bowl and with your hands, massage the oil and lemon into the kale. This will break down the leaves and make them tender. When it was done, I grated about 1 oz of parmesan cheese and stirred it in.

Put into your serving bowl and set aside while you poach an egg.

To poach an egg, bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a skillet. It should be right on the edge of boiling, but not quite. You need to acidulate the water so the egg white coalesces and normally you would add a dash of vinegar, but since I had fresh squeezed lemon juice, I simply put some water into the bowl I used to squeeze the juice and then put the water into the skillet – that transferred plenty of the lemon juice to the water. I cracked a fresh egg into a small bowl and then used that to transfer the egg into the simmering water gently. Using my slotted spoon, I pushed the white toward the yolk so it would form a tight poached egg. After 30 seconds or so on the heat, I put a lid on the skillet and removed it from the heat. In 4 minutes the egg was perfectly cooked. I used the slotted spoon to get it out of the water and drain it before putting it on top of the salad.


Thanksgiving Waldorf

Thanksgiving Waldorf Salad

This is not a traditional Waldorf salad, but using it as my inspiration, I made a delightful post-Thanksgiving turkey salad.

Chop up 1 apple (Gala) and 1 celery stalk. Chop 4 oz of turkey white meat. Add an ounce or so of dried cranberries and about 6 almonds, sliced in half and toasted. Mix together and dress with 1 TBSP of mayonnaise and the juice from half a fresh lemon. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I think walnuts or pecans would have been meatier and better in the salad than the almonds, but it was still delicious. The dried cranberries add a tart sweetness that is even tastier than grapes.

Kielbasa and Brussels Sprouts With Mustard Sauce

Kielbasa & Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Sauce

I diced about 2 TBSP of yellow onions. In a small skillet, I sauteed them with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. I cut off 1/4 of a kielbasa sausage and cut it in 1 inch pieces and tossed in to heat. Meanwhile, I finely chopped up 8 brussels sprouts. I added the brussels sprouts and while they were cooking, I made a mustard sauce with 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar, 1 TBSP of mustard and 1 TBSP of olive oil. I whisked them together and poured on top of the brussels sprouts and then continued to saute/heat until done. Add salt and pepper. About 15 minutes total prep and cooking time.

This is best of the brussels sprouts are only cooked until they begin to soften, but not until they become tender. You want them to keep the bright green color and to retain some toothiness. It may be more mustardy than some people like, but you can vary the mustard sauce to your own preferences.

Grapefruit and Pecan Salad

Grapefruit & Pecans Salad

This is a delicious dinner salad. Rinse and chop about half a head of romaine lettuce, making a bed for the rest of your salad. In a dry skillet, lightly toast pecans. Supreme one grapefruit, using a knife, cut the skin off a red grapefruit and segment it. Cut thin slices of red onion and break into circles that you quarter into small strips. Take 8 olives or so and chop them. Toss all on the lettuce. Splash with some walnut oil and balsamic vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste.

It’s kind of amazing how delicious grapefruit and olives are together. Adding toasted pecans just makes it heavenly.

Salad with Egg Dressing

Salad with Egg Dressing

Rinse and chop up 4 leaves of romaine lettuce. Slice two thin slices from a Spanish onion and break into fine circles and scatter over the lettuce. Slice 3 oz of ham and spread on top of the onions. Drizzle very lightly with olive oil and splash a bit of balsamic over everything. Meanwhile, poach an egg and place it on top. Add some salt and pepper and serve. When eating, break the yolk and mix it well with the oil and vinegar. Yummy!

This is great comfort food and irresistibly delicious.

How to Poach an Egg.

Put an inch of water in a small skillet and bring to a near boil. Add a dash of vinegar. Crack an egg into a small bowl and transfer the egg to the simmering water. Use a slotted spoon to push the white together and put a lid on it and remove from the heat. Check it in 4 minutes to see if it’s done. It should be, but if you like it a little more done, just keep the lid on a bit longer. Use the slotted spoon to transfer the egg from the skillet.