Cucumber Fruit Salad with Tarragon Yogurt Dressing

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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

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.

 

Baked Egg & Portobello Mushroom

Scrambled Egg Portobello

While pulling some broccoli out of the crisper to roast for my supper, I accidentally knocked an edge of this gorgeous portobello mushroom I was planning to stuff and cook on Sunday. Deciding to cook it before I added more injury, I had to think a bit about what to stuff it with. Al the meat I had was frozen, so I knew it had to be meatless. I decided to try scrambling a couple eggs and baking it in the mushroom. It worked beautifully and was delicious.

First, I heated my oven to 400°.

Then, of course, I removed the stem and scooped out the black gills underneath the mushroom cap, making plenty of room for my eggs. I reserved it all for another meal, perhaps a mushroom gravy.

In a bowl, I cracked two eggs, added 2 TBSP of finely diced scallions, the leaves from one sprig of fresh tarragon and 6 San Marzano tomatoes cut in half and then in thirds. You could use cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, too. You want tomatoes that are small so they have more flesh and less water in their substance. I used a fork to stir it all up.

I put a small amount of oil on the top of the mushroom and laid it in my roasting pan and poured it into the bowl of the mushroom. I sprinkled pepper and salt on top. I did not mix them into the eggs because salt will make a scrambled egg tough. I added a bit of broccoli on the other side of the pan with some olive oil and garlic and roasted about 20-25 minutes, until a lovely brown. The broccoli was also done and you can see they were served on the side.

I had thought about adding cheese, but felt that the tarragon had more than enough flavor to carry the dish and the cheese would only distract from it. I think I was right and it is better without cheese.  It was nice and meaty, though still tender. Eggs and mushrooms are always a good match and the tarragon added such a bright flavor profile that I could easily make this again and again.

Couscous with Red Chard, Celery, Leeks, Tarragon, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Almonds.

Couscous with Celery, Leeks, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Almonds.

This was a fast and easy salad to make. In the morning when I made tea, I poured 2/3 cup of boiling water on 1/3 cup of couscous (tri-color couscous) and sealed the container it was in, letting it rest on the counter until I was ready to make the salad. I also toasted about a dozen almonds in a dry pan and let them cool off on the counter for later.

I got out my mandoline for fine slicing. I sliced two stalks of celery and 1/4 cup of leeks. I tossed them in with the couscous along with a  handful of dried cranberries. I cleaned two stalks of red chard and rolled them up so I could cut them into thin slices. Then I chopped them the other direction for small pieces.  I removed the leave from 1 bunch of tarragon and chopped the leaves up. I chopped the almonds in half and tossed them in. Then I added some salt and pepper and about 1 TBSP of balsamic vinegar and 1/2 TBSP of olive oil. I put the lid back on and shook it all up and let it rest in the fridge so the flavors could marry.

This made about 1.5 pints of salad, 4 servings.

There is a nice bite from the leeks, a bit of tang from the tarragon, earthiness from the chard and zingy sweetness from the dried cranberries. The balsamic blends the flavors perfectly.

Salad with Chicken, Grapes and Pear with Tarragon Pear Vinaigrette

Pear & Chicken Salad

I made the vinaigrette while chopping the ingredients for the salad.

In a small sauce pan, I added 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, diced. I let the onions sauté until they were tender. Meanwhile, I cleaned and chopped 4 leaves of romaine lettuce, 1 small stalk of celery, a handful of green grapes (1/2 or so) and about 1/2 cup of cooked chicken (removed from a roast I made earlier in the week).

I also chopped up a Bosc pear. It had ripened unevenly, so only a portion was ripe and the rest was not. This happened to inspire the dish. I had planned to just chop the pear up on the salad and add some oil and balsamic vinegar. But now I needed to do something with the stubbornly unripened part of the pear. I put the ripe chunks of pear on the salad. The rest I reserved for the salad dressing. I added a bit of pepper and finished up the vinaigrette.

So now my onions are nice and soft. I added the stripped off leaves from two tarragon stems. Then I added the chopped up pieces of pear. I let them sauté for a bit before adding the fresh-squeezed juice from 1 lemon and a bit of salt. I continued to let them simmer until tender and then mashed the pears up with my fork. I thought about pureeing the mix, but was too hungry to get my Magic Bullet out and puree. So, i just mashed a bit with a fork and added 2 TBSP of white wine vinegar – I went by taste more than volume, adding until it was light and fresh. Then, just for a bit of color and earthiness, i added about 1 tsp of finely chopped fresh parsley.

This is a subtly flavored vinaigrette. The pear adds a mellow sweetness, the onion a bit of heat, the lemon brightens it up and the tarragon is just heaven brought down to earth and infuse in a plant. The white wine vinegar just marries all those flavors into a wonderfully light vinaigrette. This made enough for 4 large salads, so i dressed the salad I made and stored the remaining vinaigrette for some more lovely salads.

 

 

Grape & Tarragon Salad

Grape Tarragon Salad

This delicious salad will make you drunk with it rich aroma of fresh tarragon. It’s shockingly easy to make and such a treat for your taste buds. So this is it:

Rinse about 1.5 pounds of small Red Flame seedless grapes. Don’t get the big ones at the supermarker as they are too watery, their flesh is more green than the deep purplish red of the small Red Flames that you can get from an organic market. Rinse and remove from the stems and cut them in half.

Take about 1 oz or so of fresh tarragon and pick the leaves of the stems. Don’t cut the leaves, put just pull them.

Dice two fresh or one dry shallot into small pieces (about 1/2 cm square)

Mix in a bowl. Crumble about 1 inch by 1 inch of a creamy feta. Add 3 TBSP of apple cider vinegar, but fill the TBSP over the bowl so you can be messy and end up with about 3.5 TBSP of apple cider vinegar. Add about 1/4 tsp of salt (or less) and toss lightly and set in the fridge for an hour or so to let the flavors marry. It’s insanely delicious with the sweet grapes and the creamy feta challenged by the mellow scallions and the tangy tarragon. It smells so amazing and looks beautiful on a plate.

I served it with a cold meats sandwich made with a baguette, a slice of heirloom tomatoes, provolone, sweet-pickled pimento, pepperoncini, Lebanon Bologna, Genoa Salami and Black Forest Hame. The olives on the side are Castelvetranos.

Pork Shoulder Steak, Pommes Maxim Aus Herbes and Zucchini Ribbon Salad

Pork Shoulder Steak, Pommes Maxim aux Herbes, Ribbon Zucchini Salad

I made the salad first since I wanted it to marinate in the lime juice to soften it just a bit. First I sliced 1 yellow squash and 2 zucchini lengthwise using a mandoline for thin 1/8th inch slices. The yellow squash was much bigger than the zucchinis so it’s really equivalent amounts. I also cut the yellow squash slices in half so they were about the same length. I slice up 1 tomato to add a bit of color and tossed in some pecans. For the marinade, I squeezed two kaffir limes, added 1 TBSP of olive oil, 3 minced cloves of garlic and about 1 tsp of cayenne. Mixed and poured over the salad. I made it in a plastic container with a tight cover which I put on and shook the salad vigorously to ensure it was all covered and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours before serving. This has a fresh, bright flavor with a dash of heat at the end. Whenever you season a salad like this with cayenne, underseason at first, because the heat grows. Funny thing! I had some salad for a tv-watching snack later in the evening and when I set the bowl down, my cat ate up all the lime/cayenne sauce. I kept expecting him to freak at the heat, but he didn’t.

For the potatoes, I trimmed off the tops and two sides to make a nice, rectangular shape that was flat for the mandoline and sliced 8 long, thin slices at about 1/4 inch. (Next time I make them I will try 1/8th). I used PAM olive oil spray and sprayed my baking sheet layed down 4 slices, sprayed them lightly, laid down some fresh tarragon leaves and another slice on top, sandwiching the tarragon between the slices of potato. I sprayed lightly with olive oil and put them in the oven to bake at 250° for 45 minutes. I turned them up to 350° for the last 10 minutes to give me some more browning. Pommes Maxim are usually made with butter, not olive oil. I tried this option to see if i could make a slightly healthier version. It still tasted delicious, but butter gives you a much nicer brown without crisping the potato quite so much.  The potatoes are also more translucent, revealing the herbs more clearly. Butter and olive oil don’t react to temperature the same way, so I assume that is why. With olive oil, it’s still tasty and delicious, but not quite as pretty, so if you want pretty, go for the butter.

To serve with it, I simply fried a nice pork shoulder blade steak, about 5 minutes on each side with a bit of salt and pepper.

Potato Patties & Turkey/Veggie Saute

Potato Patty with Turkey/Veggie Saute

This is a perfect way to use up the last of the veggies before your next trip to the market. The night before I cooked mashed potatoes because my potatoes were sprouting. I cut away the sprouts and boiled them up. When they were cooked to being tender enough to put a fork in easily without them falling apart, I drained off the water. For each potato, I added 1/4 tsp of garlic powder, 1 TBSP of butter and 1 TBSP of sour cream . When it was all mixed up, I added dried dill weed, salt and pepper to taste.  They were tasty, but if I am going to make mashed potatoes, I always make enough for patties the next day. To make them, heat your griddle to medium and spray lightly with oil. Make the patties by hand, shaping them to about the size of a quarter-pound burger and put them on the griddle to cook. It takes about 8-10 minutes per side for them to brown to a nice crisp, more  than enough time to make the saute.

For the saute, first put 1 TBSP of olive oil in your pan and heat it medium, adding 1/4 of an onion, chopped. Add a few leaves of tarragon and 3 cloves of garlic. Add 6 oz. of ground turkey (more or less – I added 1/4 of a pkg. from the store.) After the turkey was close to done, I added 1/4 cup of white wine and started adding veggies in order of the time they need to cook. I pulled out the use it or lose it veggies on their last legs. The mushrooms were a bit dry, so I added them earlier than I usually would so they had time to soak up some juices. Here’s a hint, never store your mushrooms in plastic. Put them in a paper bag. They may dry out, but they won’t spoil and you can soak them a bit to reconstitute them and they will be fine. 

I used about 5 asparagus spears, cutting off the ends and chopping them into 1 inch lengths. A few bits were questionable so I tossed them. Putting a lid on I let that cook while I cut the squash. I had a summer squash and a zucchini that I chopped up though I only used 1/2 the zucchini as the rest was too far gone. I tossed those in and put the lid back on while I chopped up a tomato. Before adding the tomato, I added 2 TBSP of dijon mustard and stirred that in. Then I put the tomato in and put the lid on and let it simmer. It finished a bit before the patties were ready so I turned the heat down to low and kept it warm while I waited for the patties to crisp up.

When they were done, I put two on my plate with the saute. The saute actually made enough for three servings, so I stores some for later along with the extra patties I had cooked.

Tortellini Primavera & Cucumber-Lettuce Salad

Zucchini & Tortellini with Cucumber Dressing Salad

I started the salad the night before when I had decided to make a raita. Unfortunately, I had already diced one cucumber and one medium onion before I noticed that I was out of plain yogurt. I decided to take another approach and poured about 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and 2 tsp of dill weed on it, mixed it up and put it in the fridge. The next day, I took a bite, decided it needed a bit of softening and added a tbsp of mayonnaise and put it back until supper.

For the tortellini, I cut up and onion and sauteed it in olive oil with a clove of garlic. I added some fresh tarragon and let that cook with the onion and garlic. I put a pan of hot water on to boil After the onions softened, I cut up a zucchini and a summer squash and added them. I let them cook for about 5 minutes and added about 1.5 chopped fresh tomatoes. By now the hot water was boiling, so I tossed in a couple handfuls of tortellini. When they all floated, I strained the tortellini and stirred them into the vegetables and served.

While the tortelli boiled, I cut up a few leaves of romaine and tossed with the cucumber dressing. It was delicious and I will make it on purpose in the future. I loved the bite of the onion and vinegar with the creamy fresh cucumber, dill and mayo. Really an amazing new dish. The tortellini was tasty and savory with the fresh spring flavors of a primavera.