Farro with Sausage & Dried Plums

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This is one of those recipes that begin with one ingredient and then just come about by thinking what would be good with it, then what would work with two ingredients, with the third, the fourth and so on until you know it’s done.

So, I had about 1/2 cup of farro and decided to use it up. I had an open container of vegetable broth, too, so I decided to cook the farro in the broth for extra flavor. I used about 2 cups of broth for the 1/2 cup of farro even though I only needed 1 cup because I would simply drain the extra off and use to make some couscous for a salad.

Farro: Add 1/2 cup of farro to 1 cup of vegetable broth and bring to a boil, lowering to a simmer for 30 minutes or so. Strain (I used an extra cup and reserved it to cook some couscous because doubling up is smart cooking.)

Meanwhile, I cooked 4 breakfast links in a cast iron skillet on medium heat. When the sausage was half done, I added 1/2 can of chickpeas (rinsed and drained). I wanted to use cannellini beans but I didn’t have any. No matter, chickpeas worked great. I added some salt and pepper and added about 1 cup of chopped spinach and just a splash of water, covered with a lid and let the sausage, beans and spinach steam a bit.

Meanwhile, I sliced 5 dried plums into strips, added them to the mixture and put the lid back on for a minute. Stirred and mixed everything together.

I put the farro in the bottom of my bowl and then spooned the sausage, spinach, beans and dried plums mixture on top. I sprinkled a bit of feta over it and served. Makes a great one-dish single serving meal.

The flavors are so wonderful together. The pork sausage and the dried plums are perfect together. The feta and spinach were made for each other, the farro and beans add a great foundation for these flavors. Cooking the farro in broth gave it a rich flavor to begin crafting the dish. The spiciness of the sausage and the sweetness of the plums meant there was no need for anything other than salt and pepper.

 

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Broiled Asparagus Salad

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  • 5-6 stalks of young asparagus
  • 3 thin slices of onion
  • 10 grapes cut in half
  • 2 tbsp of feta
  • 1/2 tsp of mustard
  • 1 tbsp of seasoned vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Set oven to broil and prepare the asparagus and onion.

This flavorful and zesty salad takes about 15 minutes from start to finish. The first thing for a single serving is to cut 5 or 6 asparagus stalks in half lengthwise and then in thirds. This is with young, fresh asparagus. Late season asparagus, you will want to cut in quarters lengthwise so you have nice thin stalks.

After I cut the asparagus, I cut three slices of onion crosswise, so I could separate the individual rings and drop them in a baking pan with the asparagus. I used my paella pan because I use it for everything practically. I did not add any oil or salt as I do when I roast vegetables. I wanted to broil just until they began to brown, not until they were cooked through.

When they are browned, put on a salad plate. Cut a few grapes in half and toss on top of the veggies with a couple tablespoons of feta cheese.

While the veggies were broiling, I mixed up a couple tablespoons of seasoned rice vinegar with a bit of mustard (1/2 tsp) and some salt and pepper. I added that on top of everything right before serving.

The blend of flavors are delicious. The asparagus is fresh and light with a bit of sweetness from the onions and grape. The feta adds a nice bit of fat and creaminess and the mustard vinaigrette blended the flavors perfectly.

Zucchini Noodles with Roasted Tomatoes and Feta

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  • 12 grape tomatoes
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1 lemon, squeezed
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 dried red chili

Turn on the oven broiler. Cut a dozen grape tomatoes in half, sprinkle with a bit of olive oil and some kosher salt. Stick them under the broiler and let them cook until they are browned.

Meanwhile, put a little olive oil in a pan and toss a dried chili pepper in the oil and let the pepper heat and flavor the oil. You will smell the chili in the air. You can remove the pepper and the zucchini will be flavored by the oil without getting too spicy.

While the oil is heating, go ahead and spiralize two zucchinis. If you don’t have a spiralizer, just slice them as thin as possible. Spiraling is fun, though. Toss the zucchini in the oil, squeeze the juice of the lemon on the zucchini. Add some salt and pepper.

(If you are using an inexpensive hand-held spiralizer, do not cut off the zucchini stem since you cannot process the entire length of the zucchini. Instead, leave it on so you waste less of the vegetable.)

To serve it, put the zucchini on the plate, add the tomatoes on top, then sprinkle the feta on top, add some salt and pepper. Makes one dinner serving or two side dishes.

Watermelon, Figs and Feta

Watermelon, Figs and Feta

There are no real measurements for this simple salad. Cut some watermelon into one inch chunks and wash and quarter some fresh figs. Toss them in a bowl, sprinkle a bit of salt. Add a tablespoon or two of feta depending on your preferences and drizzle a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar on it. You end up with a pretty and delicious salad. The feta adds just the right amount of tartness and creaminess. The balsamic vinegar cuts the sweetness. You can’t really taste the salt, but you can taste how it brings out the flavor of the fruit.

Makes one serving.

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.

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.

Spinach, Pomegranate, Apple and Couscous Salad

Spinach, Apple, Pomegranate Couscous Salad

It was a hot day today. I went to the World’s Largest Louie Louie Sing-A-Long downtown so I was not interested in cooking or making anything difficult, but I wanted some rich and complex flavors. I kind of just started with some couscous and added what appealed until I ended up with something scrumptious.

  • 1/3 cup of couscous
  • 2/3rd cup of boiling water
  • Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
  • 1 bunch of spinach
  • 1/3rd cup chopped red onion
  • 10 toasted almonds
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 granny smith apple, chopped.
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

I took 1/3 cup of couscous and poured  2/3rds cup of boiling water on top of it in a small bowl and put a lid on it. While it absorbed the boiling water, I prepped a pomegranate. I used all the seeds from half of a pomegranate.

There is a fast and easy way to prep pomegranates. Carefully cut through the skin without cutting deep, leaving the pomegranate seeds whole. Once you have cut through, give a little twist and it will separate into two halves. Take a half and pull and twist the edge a bit to loosen it, then turn it upside down in the palm of your hand and whack it hard over and over and all the seeds will fall out. I only needed half a pomegranate, but I cleaned both halves and stored half the seeds in a plastic container for another day.

I toasted some almonds in a clean dry skillet and chopped them in half after they cooled.

I cleaned and chopped a bunch of fresh spinach, chopped up some red onion and tossed them in with the pomegranates and couscous. I added some salt and pepper, the feta and toasted almonds.

I then chopped up 1/2 of a granny smith apple and tossed in some balsamic vinegar.

I put a lid on the bowl I was mixing this all up in, shook it up a bit and refrigerated for about an hour.

This was delicious and so rich in texture from the crispy apple, crunchy almonds, tender couscous and the juicy bursts of pomegranate. The flavor is grounded in the couscous, the spinach adds a nice fresh taste, the red onions a bit of heat, the apples some sweetness, the almonds some umame and the pomegranate a lovely sweet-sour tang. The feta gives a bit of richness, making it all come together in this big explosion of flavor and texture and color.

Makes two servings.

 

Couscous with Carrot, Red Chard, Scallion, Dried Apricots, Almonds and Feta

Couscous almosds chard carrots scalions dried apricots feta

This is an easy salad. I knew when I was making coffee this morning that I would make a couscous salad this afternoon, so after I heated my water to press some coffee, I put 1/3 cup of couscous in a container, added 2/3rds cup of my hot water and put a lid on it and let it sit. In 15 minutes, I stuck it in the fridge so it would be cold when I made the salad later in the day.

I put about 10 almonds in a dry pan on the stove o medium high heat and let them toast while I was prepping the salad. As son as they were toasted, I removed them from the heat.

I sliced and diced 1 TBSP of fresh scallions and diced on small clove of garlic and put them in a bowl with 2 tsps of olive oil, 1/2 tsp of buckwheat honey, 1/2 tsp of mustard and the juice of 1 small fresh lemon. I mixed this all up. Buckwheat honey is thick so it takes a lot of stirring to mix it all in.

I removed the stem from 1 stalk of red chard and put it back in the crisper to use in another meal. I chopped the red chard up finely and mixed it into the dressing. There is just enough dressing to coat all the chard. Then I stirred in the couscous and mixed it thoroughly.

Next I peeled and cut up one small carrot into small matchstick. I also cut up 3 dried apricots, slicing them as thin as matchsticks and then slicing them in the other direction so they were diced small. I tired in the apricots and carrots and shock a couple tablespoons of feta on top. I chopped up the almonds and tossed them in and then put a lid on the container and shook the ingredients together, mixing them up well.

I put it in the fridge for a few hours, letting the dressing flavor everything. It is important to let it rest because when it is first made, the mustard flavor is a bit strong, but it mellows as it merges with the sweetness of the dried apricots and the richness of the feta. I made only a small amount of dressing, so it did not soften the feta, but its flavors still came through. This is a delicious salad and actual prep time was very short. It made one pint, two small servings or one large one.

Couscous almosds chard carrots scalions dried apricots feta

Broccoli, Asparagus, and Mushroom Pilaf with Roasted Chickpeas and Feta

Broccoli Asparagus Mushroom Pilaf with Roasted Chickpeas and Feta

This recipe took a few extra steps to prepare some of the ingredients in advance. To be fair, the pilaf I made in advance was for a different meal. I just made extra so I could use it for another meal. However, I did roast chickpeas in the morning to use for this meal in the evening.

Pilaf:

1//2 TBSP of olive oil, salt and pepper. I heated the olive oil to a low medium heat and added 1/2 yellow onion, chopped. I let that cook until it turned translucent. I also diced up 1 clove of garlic and added that about the same time as I added 1 cup of basmati rice that I rinsed thoroughly to remove all the starch. I stirred the rice and garlic into the olive oil and let it all cook about 3 to 4 minutes. The heat was low enough the would not burn, but just toast a bit. I then added 2 cups of cold water and turned the heat up to high, bringing it to a boil. Then I put a lid on it, removed it from the heat and let it steam cook. It was done perfectly in 15 minutes.

Roasted Chickpeas.

I pre-heated the oven to 325° Fahrenheit. While it heated, I opened a can of chickpeas and rinsed them thoroughly. i spread them on paper towels and dried them before putting them in cast iron pan. I sprinkled them with some olive oil and roasted for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to let them cook evenly. When they were crispy and brown, I removed them from the oven, sprinkled them with some salt and a dash of Jamaica  Jerk seasoning. I patted them with paper towel again to remove any oil and let them cool.

Veggies:

I put 1 TBSP of olive oil in a sauté pan with about 1/3 tsp of anise seen, 1/2 tsp of cumin, salt and pepper and let it heat on a low medium burner. Meanwhile I chopped up a small yellow onion and added it to the oil and let them cook until tender. I diced 2 cloves of garlic and added to the onions when they were nearly done. (Burned garlic ruins everything it touches.)

While the onions sautéed, I cut down a small head of broccoli, separating the florets and peeling the stems. I added them to the onions and then chopped up 4 stalks of asparagus, cutting off the tops and adding them and cutting the long stems in half before cutting them into 2 inch long pieces. I added the asparagus next since they cook a little faster than broccoli. Then I cleaned and sliced 4 mushrooms and added them and let them all cook for a bit, adding about 1/4 cup of water after about 3 minutes of sautéeing. I let them cook until the broccoli was nearly tender, squeezed the juice of one large fresh lemon into the mix and let it simmer a bit so the veggies absorbed the juice. Then, I added the pilaf and stirred it in, cooking just until heated.

To serve, I put the pilaf and veggie mixture in a bowl, sprinkled some feta cheese on it and topped with a few roasted chickpeas.

The flavor blend is amazing. Anise seed really brings out the best in veggies and, of course, works beautifully with feta. The flavors of lemon, feta, anise and veggies were extraordinary and the addition of the crispy, crunchy and spice roasted chickpeas made it blissful.

For a vegan option, just don’t add the feta at the end. It is still delicious.

This made four servings. I imagine that my lunch tomorrow will be even more delicious!