When I was a child my somewhat eccentric parents invited foreign exchange students staying at Buckly Airforce Base east of Denver for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Why they were staying there I don’t know, but I remember going to the base to pick them up. Through this exchange I met someone from the Phillipines, and Nigeria. There were one or two others but I forget where they were from. The guy from the Phillipines showed my mom how to make adobo which we all liked very much, and instilled a love for the dish that has lasted a lifetime. The meat of choice was doves as dove season was the previous month and we had many of the tasty birds in the freezer.
The guy from Nigeria was interesting because of his family. My mom casually asked at dinner, “what does your father do”, and the answer was, “he is the ruler” which shocked my mother. It’s not every day you have someone for dinner who’s father is the king of a country so that gave my parents something to talk about for years to come. For me the guy was fun because he indulged me with some archery in our backyard as I had just received my first bow and arrow set for Christmas that day. Apparently I thought at that young age, I think I was eleven years old at the time, that men from Africa knew how to shoot an arrow. Pretty funny in retrospect as we were both rather bad at it.
Over the last twenty years my wife and I have had only one foreign house guest and he was a chaperone from Japan assigned to a bunch of middle school aged kids visiting Denver. It was fun and I would have liked to do more hosting. In June of this year I saw a home made sign announcing “20 Spanish students need host families” and called after getting approval from my wife. We ended up with a great kid from Burgos, Spain who at the ripe old age of sixteen speaks very good English and is a great addition to our household.
Turns out he is a natural cook. Even though his mother does almost all the cooking in his home I found out that he has significant talent in the kitchen. His first homework involving food was to prepare an American dish for a competition in class on Tuesday. I helped him select the dish to prepare and he made shepherds pie with virtually no help from me. Then that night he cooked us two traditional Spanish dishes for dinner. He made a Spanish tortilla and a gazpacho soup. For those of you who have never had a Spanish tortilla it’s nothing like what we see in Mexican restaurants. A Spanish tortilla has potatoes, onion and eggs in it and looks like an omelet.
Both dishes Manuel made for us were excellent but I really liked the gazpacho, and since I have a lot of tomatoes getting ripe lately I wanted to make another batch the next day. Manuel didn’t use a recipe but I took notes and tried to copy his gazpacho. The results were good but it took some more testing to come up with the recipe I share with you here. It’s fast and simple as well as healthy. If you have an abundance of garden tomatoes like I do it’s a great way to use them up. With these hot summer day upon us give this a try and see if you agree with me that this is one great Spanish cold soup.
Gazpacho Soup with Heirloom Tomatoes
3 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into quarters
1/2 yellow onion chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 cup peeled and diced cucumber with seeds removed
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 medium sized apple peeled and diced
1 clove garlic minced
5 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons good quality apple cider vinegar, I like Bragg’s brand best
1 slice of bread cubed, about 1 cup
1 teaspoon salt
Soak bread in water for five or more minutes to soften. Drain water off before adding to the blender.
If using a blender instead of a food processor put tomatoes in first to facilitate faster blending. Then add rest of the ingredients.
If it won’t all fit blend for thirty to sixty seconds and add rest of ingredients.
Blend thoroughly for two to three minutes, depending on the strength of your blender. There should not be anything larger than a sesame seed for best results.
Best if chilled for and hour or two, but can be eaten right away if needed.
I tested this with both a blender and a food processor. The food processor I have held all the ingredients but was a bit slower to blend thoroughly. The blender did a good job blending but didn’t hold all the ingredients at once and I had to add the rest after a minute of blending reduced the volume.
Here’s another fast and healthy recipe for your summer grilling. I have been experimenting with mushroom blending and swapping for over a year now since hearing about it from the folks at The Woodlands at Phillip’s Mushrooms. I created a chili recipe using mushrooms and beef,http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/soup-season/, and now have been focusing on grilling. In case you are not familiar with blending mushrooms it’s where you use half the beef and substitute the other half with mushrooms. In theory you cut out some of the calories and saturated fat by cooking this way.
With swapping you cut out the meat all together using mushrooms in place of meat.
In both swapping and blending my first choice of mushrooms are the mighty portabella. They taste great, are easy to prepare and last long in the fridge compared with most other mushrooms in the grocery store. They are very similar to meat in their ability to fill you up especially if you try the following recipe with it’s burger bun, cheese, avocado, tomato, lettuce and salsa. It provides all the major food groups, and does it in a healthy way.
This is also a very fast meal if you are using a gas grill it should take no more than 20 minutes from start to yummy finish. You can use just about any cheese on it like cheddar, provolone, swiss, gruyere, or even gouda. If you are gluten intolerant this is still a great entree without a bun. Try serving corn on the cob, and cole slaw with it for a new summer combo meal to share with family and friends. I think you will agree with me that it’s easy to cut out the meat once in a while when you eat hearty mushroom based meals.
Grilled Portabella Mushrooms with Avocado and Salsa
4 large portabella mushrooms with caps removed
4 teaspoons garlic infused olive oil, or plain olive oil
6 tablespoons salsa
1 avocado, sliced
1 large tomato,sliced
4 hamburger buns
If using a charcoal grill, or gas grill get it fired up first.
Wash the portabella caps if needed and remove stems. Wipe caps to dry.
Brush caps with some of the olive oil, and save the rest for brushing and toasting the buns.
Brush buns with oil and toast buns then set aside.
Cook portabellas cap side down for 5-7 minutes covered. Flip and cook two minutes with gill side down.
Turn caps gill side up and top with 1 1/2 tablespoon of salsa. Cover grill and cook for two minutes.
Top with cheese and cover the grill to melt it.
Top the bottom part of burger bun with lettuce and tomato, add grilled portabella cheese side up then top the portabella with the avocado slices.
For an Italian version use goat cheese, or provolone and bruschetta topping.
Remove gills with a spoon if you like.
It’s been a hot and humid week here in the Baltimore area and I have been concentrating on summer recipes. Even though my tomato plants seem to like this heat and humidity I don’t! When the weather is like this I don’t want to be in the kitchen for very long.
One of the things most people forget about in summer is the crockpot. In summer I love to use my crockpot so I’m not in the kitchen come dinner time except to serve it up. Think about it. You spend may five to ten minutes in the kitchen in the morning putting together a crockpot dinner and eight hours later there it is ready to serve. The ultimate in easy healthy home cooking.
I have also been grilling three to four times per week to get out of the kitchen. This keep the cooking heat outside instead of inside. I’ve mostly been cooking up Alaskan salmon, and lots of grilled veggies too. Since it is about the end of asparagus season I have eaten it a bit more than usual. I’ve grilled it, stir fried it and eaten it on salads delighting in that special taste unique to the green spear from the garden.
Today I decided to create something different with asparagus using fresh herbs from my garden. I bought asparagus and bell peppers from the grocery store for a new salad recipe. Oregano is not just for pasta and Italian cooking. This year I have a lot of oregano. Fresh oregano is high in vitamin A and also contains calcium, but most importantly it tastes great.
Oregano is a member of the mint family and has that fresh mint taste like spearmint when fresh. I found a new kind of spicy oregano at my favorite farm back in May and decided to mix it with my Greek Oregano for this new salad. I thought that the blended oregano would pair well with asparagus and bell peppers with an oil and apple cider vinegar dressing. It’s a fairly quick and easy recipe that anyone can make. Check it out and stay cool.
As always I welcome your comments and suggestions.
Asparagus and Bell Pepper Salad with Fresh Oregano
1 pound fresh trimmed asparagus , see note
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 1/2 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup fresh oregano, or 3 tablespoons of dried oregano
2 tablespoons fresh chopped chives
1/4 cup Bragg’s apple cider vinegar, or Spectrum brand
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
In a 2 1/2 to 3 quart pot bring water, and salt to a boil. While water is heating up trim asparagus.
After trimming the tough parts of the asparagus rinse and set aside.
When water is boiling add asparagus and cook thin asparagus for thirty seconds, thick asparagus for one minute. Drain and rinse well in cold water. You may need ice water if your tap water is not very cold as you want to stop the cooking process quickly. See note.
Wash and dice bell peppers into 1/2 inch size.
Wash oregano if needed, and dry. Take about 1/4 of the oregano and slice in thin shreds. This will help distribute its flavor better.
Wash, dry and mince fresh chives and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and serve right away or chill for one or more hours.
One pound of asparagus will not yield one pound trimmed. It takes about a pound and a half, but asparagus is usually sold by the pound. No worries, just buy two pounds and use the extra for steamed asparagus at dinner or cook in an omelet for breakfast.
I use a bowl of ice water to submerge the hot asparagus in. First I drain off the hot water then dump the asparagus in the big bowl of ice water, but remove any unmelted ice cubes before submerging the asparagus. Otherwise they tend to melt and dilute the dressing later.
What is the best Salmon in the world? The first Alaskan wild salmon to hit the market in significant amounts is the famed Copper River Salmon. Both Copper River king salmon and sockeye salmon show up in restaurants, grocery stores, and various other outlets to the delight of those who know. Even if you don’t know much about salmon quality I believe if you were served Cook Inlet sockeye salmon alongside Copper River sockeye you would be able to tell the difference. The Copper River variety is more flavorful and the texture is very soft and tender without being mushy.
Don’t get me wrong. I do love all Alaskan sockeye whether it comes from Ketchikan, Dillingham, Kenai, or Cordova, but this first salmon of the year is worth a celebration. Other than its superior flavor profile Copper River salmon hits the market first adding to its popularity. It is so popular some of it is airlifted by helicopter to speed up its travel from fishing boat to high end restaurant serving it in Seattle, Chicago and other US cities.
I was so fortunate to live in Cordova, Alaska and Kenai, Alaska to see the difference from the perspective of a local. Both areas rejoice when the salmon return and the economies as well as spirits are lifted with the arrival of this gift from nature. Much has been said about the sustainability of the salmon in Alaska, but I’ll add my two cents worth. I have seen lean and fat years in my four plus decades of living in and visiting the Great Land, and even though my favorite salmon, the Kenai King salmon is in danger, most of Alaska’s salmon are doing just fine.
So don’t fret about the wild salmon in the stores and restaurants being in danger. Instead choose wild salmon over farmed whenever you can as farmed salmon endanger wild salmon when they escape and interbreed with wild stocks. They are also more susceptible to disease than the wild ones. How do I know so much about salmon you might ask? I cooked for the salmon processing family and crew of Keener Packing in Kenai, Alaska before it went bankrupt. And in my first marriage I married into a fishing family in Cordova, Alaska where most of the Copper River commercial fishermen and women live. I also return to Alaska almost every summer to visit friends and catch enough salmon to last the year.
My first purchase of fresh Copper River sockeye this season was yesterday at Costco. The price was a reasonable $14.99 per pound. The taste was incredible. I grilled it two ways on my Smokey Joe Weber. I seasoned half with just salt, pepper, and a bit of olive oil. The other half I seasoned with Urban Accents Kodiak Salmon Rub seasoning. Both came out great but my favorite was the Kodiak rub seasoned salmon. It has several ingredients that match the salmon well, especially cumin. Never in all my years did I use cumin in salmon cookery unless I was using a blackening spice that had a bit of it in the mix. It was in the Galapagos Islands last year where I had tuna grilled with cumin, olive oil and lemon that knocked my socks off and got me started using cumin with grilled and baked fish.
So get some of this awesome tasting salmon and cook it up however you like. As long as you don’t overcook it it’s hard to goof it up. If you need a recipe I’ve included my simple preparation from last night. Please leave comments and share this with friends and family.
I have a giveaway box of OXO kitchen tools and other goodies for one lucky winner that will be drawn next week. Just leave a comment on my Facebook page mentioning salmon, or here on my blog to be entered.
Grilled Copper River Sockeye Salmon
1 filet of salmon, (about 2 pounds)
2 teaspoons Urban Accents Kodiak Rub and seasoning blend
2 teaspoon olive oil
Rinse salmon and pat dry with paper towels.
Cut into two or three pieces leaving skin on.
Season flesh side of salmon with rub and oil, and let sit for ten minutes. Save a little of the oil to rub the skin with.
Grill skin side down for about five minutes with grill lid closed.
Flip salmon and cook on other side for three or four minutes. Sprinkle a bit of salt if desired, or do it at the table after tasting it first.
At this point the skin comes off very easy by sliding a spatula between the skin and flesh. You can discard it or do what I do and cook it for a minute or two longer and serve alongside the salmon. It’s a tad fishy but crunchy and yummy with a bit of salt and pepper added.
Your grill might be hotter or cooler than mine so the cooking time is just an estimate.
Enjoy with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or a good Pinot Gris from Oregon.
It was like walking in a dream with fairies and magic all around me the first time I laid eyes on fireflies. I was about ten years old and we were visiting relatives in Missouri for a camping trip in the Ozark Mountains. Since I lived in Colorado I had only heard tales of such magical creatures so it was quite a treat to see and catch them. When I moved to Maryland in 2008 I didn’t know I’d be treated to the same spectacle each spring.
For several nights over the last week when I’m outside walking my dog Tucker we are on alert for the first fireflies. Last night around 10pm we finally spied the first of what will soon be many. They were high up in the trees and it took some patience to spot them. Last spring when Tucker was just a frisky four month old puppy he delighted in trying to catch the fireflies on our last-of-the-night walks. It was pretty funny until he finally caught one and I put an end to that game. I don’t know if eating fireflies is unhealthy for dogs, but I know it’s unhealthy for the fireflies! I can’t wait to see what he thinks of them this year now that he is all grown up and almost fifteen months old. Soon they will come down from up high in the trees and be flying about us on our night time walks.
It’s this sort of thing that instills an awareness of nature and the coming and going of seasons. So many kids these days are removed from this awareness of the natural world and how it is all intertwined. We could lay part of the blame on grocery stores that stock fresh cherries in the Fall and Winter, as well as asparagus. Just forty years ago these foods only came available to most of us “in season”. I applaud the little firefly for being a remnant of times gone by where most people were aware of what seasons meant to our culture especially as it pertains to our eating habits. The firefly does not show up in winter! How preposterous it would be if it did. The firefly can remind us of what the natural world is about, and the important cycles of plants, animals, and insects.
Almost as crazy as buying fresh cherries and asparagus in winter is eating half the crap sold in grocery stores these days. For a healthy food that is always in season I share with you one of the most amazing foods that’s available year round in fresh, frozen or dried form. Yes beans of many types are good tasting and good for us. Beans can be found in just about every grocery store in North America in one form or another. Beans are high in fiber and protein and come in many shapes and sizes. They are great as a side dish or as a main dish and are very affordable. You can flavor them with so many herbs, and spices that the choices are almost endless.
Thanks to Urban Accents gifting me a selection of five of their products I’ve been playing around in the kitchen and want to share this easy crock pot recipe with you. I have known for several years that commercial steak seasonings are usually good for bean cooking. I had used Urban Accents Argentina Steak Rub seasoning on beans before but I have a new favorite. I tested their Chicago Steak and Chop Seasoning in a couple of bean recipes and share one with you that takes under five minutes to prepare before walking away from your crock pot for hours. This great tasting bean dish will go well with grilled chicken, pork or beef as well as stand on its own as an entree when served over rice with a dollop of hot sauce. So give it a try and see if you agree that this is one easy and tasty dish. And by all means give the Chicago Steak and Chop a try on steak if that floats your boat!
Red Beans with Chicago Steak and Chop Seasoning
1 and 1/2 cups red beans, see note
7 cups of water
1 cup chopped yellow or white onion
1 clove fresh garlic minced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Urban Accents Chicago Steak and Chop seasoning
Crock pot method:
Put all ingredients in at once and cook on low for 9-10 hours. You can also cook on high for about 7-8 hours. I like to load the crock pot at night before going to bed and have the beans ready to pack in a thermos for lunch.
Bring water and onions to a boil.
Add beans, garlic, Chicago Steak and Chop seasoning and simmer covered on low heat until beans are tender(about 3-4 hours). Add more water if needed.
Note: I like Christmas Pole Lima beans for this dish but red beans are good too and easier to find.
Even though Urban Accents gifted me the package of five of their products my opinions are my own and not influenced by them or anyone else. I write about what taste good to me!
Shitake mushrooms, and most others are a powerhouse of health! Shitake mushrooms are a great source of vitamins B2, B3, B6 and vitamin D. With more and more studies being done on the health effects of mushrooms it seems clear that we should eat them often. Some studies have shown that just one white button mushroom per day can reduce a women’s risk of getting breast cancer by 50%. Check out this video I found on the Phillip’s Mushrooms website explaining this and more of the many health attributes of mushrooms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkf0AGxblAA That’s great that mushrooms are good for us since they are not expensive and are widely available. You can incorporate them into your meal plan easily as they blend with many recipes for breakfast lunch or dinner.
I used to only eat mushrooms when they were sautéed with onions meant for topping a steak, or in cream of mushroom soup. After I became a professional chef I was more open to eating mushrooms in other ways, but still I was mostly in the dark. It wasn’t until I moved to Baltimore and discovered Kennett Square, Pennsylvania the World’s Mushroom Capital that I really started to understand mushrooms. In the five years that I have been making the one hour and twenty minute drive to the holy grail of all things mushroom I’ve learned many more ways to cook mushrooms. I’ve also learned to cook with several types of mushrooms that I had not used before like: Maitake(my favorite), Shitake, Royal Trumpet, Pompom, and Portabella mushrooms. All these new types of mushrooms opened up a whole new world of shroomy good cooking possibilities. I developed a chowder recipe from the Maitake that rocks the soup world, and with portabella’s I made up a grilled portabella recipe that needs no marinating to produce a flavorful burger substitute.
It’s hard to beat the flavor of a grilled or baked Royal Trumpet Mushroom basted in garlic infused olive oil then seasoned with fresh ground five pepper blend and a bit of salt. For a quick and easy cold appetizer I wrote up a recipe for roasted corn, guacamole stuffed mushrooms using white button mushrooms as the vehicle for the green goodness I love so much. Just another excuse to eat avocados and mushrooms often! I have been working on some new breakfast recipes to fill the need for more morning mushroom munchies. Mushrooms are mainly thought of as lunch and dinner provender, but sautéed kale and white mushrooms go great in an omelet with a bit of cheddar cheese for breakfast. Last week I came home from Kennett Square with the usual suspects. A one pound bag of Maitake, Shitake, and Portabella mushrooms and set to work in the Fast and Furious Test Kitchen madly making mushroom meals. The first item was to try baking small sprigs of Maitake in garlic infused olive oil on high heat until crispy. The result was an addictive snack of earthy garlicky fragrance that had just the right amount of crispiness. I pronounce it the next best thing to potato chips it’s that good! Next up was a breakfast experiment to see what would happen when fresh asparagus meets fresh Shitake and eggs? The result was sure to be a Fast and Furious classic, and I share with you this week the oh-so-yummy Shitake, Asparagus Scramble. Please give it a try and let me know what you think of it in the comments section.
Shitake Mushroom and Asparagus Scramble
6-8 shitake mushrooms with stems removed
4-6 asparagus spears
1 tablespoon garlic infused olive oil
3 large or 4 medium sized eggs beaten
1/4 cup shredded cheese(cheddar, swiss, or cotija)
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper, optional
salt and pepper to taste
Clean and slice shitake about 1/4 inch.
Clean, trim, and cut asparagus into one inch lengths.
In a sauté pan on medium heat cook slice shitake mushrooms in the oil for 5 minutes stirring every minute.
Add asparagus and jalapeño if using, and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes stirring occasionally.
Add eggs and and turn up heat a bit stirring often for two minutes.
Add cheese and cook for just one more minute while stirring in the cheese.
Serves two, but is easily doubled.
When it comes to putting healthy food on the table what is fast enough? My idea of a fast dinner prepped and plated in twenty five minutes might be too long for some, just right for some, and too fast for others. Not to mention that some days you might have more time and inclination to cook than others. Some folks just can’t live without their microwave oven to facilitate fast cooking. To me, the microwave oven is a food destroyer, myself and other purists won’t use one.
What you will get from me is my original fast and healthy recipes using whole foods, and occasionally some healthy convenience foods to help you eat better while spending less time in the kitchen. I follow food news closely and read many a book on diet and nutrition every year. With all the food news out there it can get downright confusing at times wondering what is healthy to eat. Not to mention all of us are different and don’t respond to the diet of the month the same as everyone else.
I like to write about, and eat healthy foods that are in season. Especially the ones I am growing in my own garden. This year I’m growing arugula for the first time. Arugula contains about 8 times the calcium, 5 times the amount of vitamin A, C, and K, and 4 times the iron of iceberg lettuce according to livestrong.com. I like the intense flavor that goes well in salads as well as hot pasta dishes. If you have never cooked with greens in your pasta try this simple dish in your home soon. Assuming your pasta takes ten minutes to cook, this dish takes less than twenty minutes from start to finish and wow does it taste great! Is that fast enough for you? Please leave your comments on what your idea is on fast food in your kitchen, and please share this with friends and family.
Fettucine tossed with Arugula
16 ounces fettuccine, or other pasta
about 3 ounces fresh arugula
2 cloves minced fresh garlic
1 cup walnuts, halves and pieces will do
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated
optional, 1-2 ounces of fresh oregano whole leaves, or sliced
salt and pepper to taste
Start by heating water in a pot per pasta cooking directions.
On medium heat in a sauté pan toast the walnuts in 1/2 teaspoon olive oil for five minutes tossing or stirring often. Season with salt and pepper then set aside.
Cook pasta and when pasta is done cooking rinse and drain.
In a large sauté pan add garlic and oil cooking for three minutes over medium heat stirring once or twice.
Add pasta and cook over medium heat for three minutes stirring often.
Add arugula and continue cooking for two minutes stirring, or tossing.
Add walnuts, cheese, and oregano if using and cook one more minute stirring, or tossing as you go. Serves four.
Note:Makes a great entrée or side dish. Serve as a side with grilled chicken breast.
Fresh parsley may be used instead of oregano.
A bottle of Pinot Blanc would go great with this dish, or a Verdejo.
In many ways I’m new to vegetable gardening. Sure I helped my room mate in Alaska with his garden for a couple of years, and I grew vegies in the backyard where I grew up in Colorado. That was all just dabbling in gardening compared to what I’m growing over these last three years. I don’t just grow many types of vegetables in my garden, I preserve and can them, develope new recipes based on them and write about it the experience too.
The Mission of the American Community Gardening Association is to build community by increasing and enhancing community gardening and greening across the United States and Canada.
and it’s cool that they connect people through gardening. What a great way to meet people in your community through growing something healthy to eat. In a day and age when people are getting more and more detached from this amazing planet that gives us so much it’s important to get your hands dirty and grow something with yourself to enjoy at your table. It’s also a great opportunity to teach children seasonal cycles known to all just a few short generations ago when you didn’t get asparagus, or peaches year round. Many kids love to help in the garden, even in this day and age of video game addiction.
If you want to try the container method my favorite is Earthbox containers. The Earthbox website has tons of free information and a forum that will help you understand the concepts for just about any climate and types of plants as it pertains to using their planters. Check out their website at http://earthbox.com for more info. For the record they don’t pay me to talk about their products, I just love the results I get from my Earthboxes and want to share that with you. I used Earthboxes for four years now with great results, especially with tomatoes and okra.
For most parts of the country it’s not too late to get something planted. This week I’m planting tomatoes that I started from seed. I’ll put some in my Earthboxes and some in the ground and see which ones do best. I never know until I grow them in both places to see which plant prefers real dirt to the Earthbox growing medium(soil). It’s also time to visit local nurseries and farmer’s markets for the other vegie plants I’ll buy and transplant to my garden. I usually buy some of my tomatoes, peppers, and okra this way to get a head start.
So give it a try and let me know if I can help you in anyway to get started or maintain your very own vegie garden. I think you will love it!
Here’s a recipe for a salad dressing that’s become one of my favorites. It calls for a special ingredient “Mushroom Truffle Hunt” by Urban Accents. This weeks give away will be a jar of Mushroom Truffle Hunt for three lucky winners who leave a comment on this post. Please enjoy this recipe of mine in either of it’s forms, Italian or Asian.
Mushroom Salad Dressing(Italian)
1 tablespoon Mushroom Truffle Hunt Blend
1 tablespoon red wine, or red wine vinegar, or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
7 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
Soak Truffle Hunt blend in vinegar and red wine for 5 minutes.
Combine all ingredients and mix well by shaking in a jar or in a bowl with an immersion blender.
Enough for 6-8 salads.
Goes well on mixed baby greens or romaine lettuce.
Minced garlic or shallots(1 teaspoon) may be added for more zip!
Top each salad with 1 tablespoon feta cheese crumbles, and 2 teaspoons of toasted pine nuts for extra goodness.
For an Asian version omit oregano, basil and cheese. Use 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 4 tablespoons of sesame oil plus a tablespoon of soy sauce. Minced fresh ginger(1/2 teaspoon),and/or minced shallots(1/2 teaspoon) would work well too.
Even though Urban Accents has agreed to furnish me and the winners of the drawing their products for free my opinions are my own. The products I have tried from them over the years are very good and I can’t wait to try more.
Fairhope, Alabama is different! In a good way mind you. It has an artist colony feel to it with lots of cute little shops and restaurants. This town’s motto is “You’ve arrived”, and indeed I have arrived with brother in tow to visit our 93 year old Aunt. Our Aunt has lived here twice in her long life but I never visited during her first residence due to my visions of Alabama as a place I would never want to visit. Lucky for me I grew up and got over my negative thoughts about the South, and it’s hot and humid weather. A sunset walk in Fairhope along the pretty waterfront park that looks out on Mobile Bay is one of the nicer walks I can think of in the U.S.
This is about my fifth visit and I have enjoyed every one of them by exploring the Mobile Bay, eating at very good restaurants, strolling the charming old downtown area and hanging out with my amazing Aunt. My aunt is one of my most important role models I have on how to retire right. Some of the key points she has taught me are to move to a town where you have a “sense of place” that you know you belong in. A place where you will already have or be able to build a social network to provide a rich life. A place that has a great variety of things of do is important too. Our Aunt is involved in a weekly writer’s group, has been in a singing group, a community band, and attends a church nearby. The weather suits her just fine too as she has never tolerated cold climates well and this is definitely not a cold climate.
I always visit before or after the hot season as I don’t do well in very hot and humid conditions for long. Each time I come down here I try and find new restaurants to eat at that will give me new ideas of healthy, simple recipes for my type of diet. When you think of the South you might think of fried chicken, shrimp and grits, fried catfish etc. You can find all of those here but you can also find a restaurant,(Sweet Olive) that serves a “Grain Bowl” special of the day, or a Mexican restaurant,(Agave) that serves excellent off the beaten path food beyond the regular tacos, burritos and enchiladas.
Every time I come down here Aunty lets me cook a meal or two and the supplies come from the local grocery stores that are plenty good. For regional delights I go to the Gulf Coast 15 miles away and hunt down fresh shrimp from one of the shrimper’s in the area. This trip I wasn’t able to find Gulf shrimp close by like I had in the past before the Gulf oil spill four years ago, but I did find good Florida pink shrimp at the Winn-Dixie and fixed us some fast and yummy shrimp scampi. It made for a great meal served on brown rice with a side of Italian seasoned baked green beans. When I got back home and went to buy shrimp for this post I wasn’t able to find Florida pink shrimp so I substituted tiger shrimp with good results.
For a special Fairhope themed giveaway I have two items from the area. I’m giving away a bag of B&B roasted and salted pecans to one lucky winner, and a fun book of short stories called Fairhope Anthology in which my Aunt is a contributing author. Two lucky winners will get one of these gifts by leaving a comment on this post. I’ll draw the winners randomly next week from all you faithful readers. Until then enjoy this simple recipe for shrimp scampi.
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning, or a combo of 1/4 teaspoon each of dried basil, dried thyme, and dried oregano
4 teaspoons olive oil
2-4 cloves minced garlic depending on how much you love garlic
On medium low heat add the olive oil to a sauté pan and mix in the herbs and garlic, distributing it well in the pan.
Carefully lay the shrimp in the sauté pan so they make good contact with the cooking surface and cook on medium heat for 5-7 minutes until they turn pink and start to curl up.
Flip and cook for about four minutes more.
Serve over steamed rice and be sure and pour the oil from the pan over the shrimp as it’s full of flavor.
Serves two, and is easily doubled if needed.
A bit of red pepper flakes are a good addition. Use about 1/4 teaspoon, and add with the herbs.
Can be served as a hot appetizer too.
It rained lightly all day yesterday which is a good thing when you are trying to get seeds to sprout. I was looking out my second story window this morning at my raised garden beds wondering if any of my seeds sprouted overnight from last weeks planting. It was too great of a distance for me to tell for sure, but I thought I saw something green so I went out for a look. Sure enough I have several little Arugula sprouts showing off that they have beat out the other seeds for the honor of who sprouts first. I suspect my lettuce crop will show up next and then the beets and basil. Last but not least will probably be the peas of which I planted extra this year since they taste so good and grow so well here in the Spring.
If you haven’t planted a crop this year it’s not to late! Even if you think you don’t have space for such farming think again. Check out the concept of square foot gardening, vertical gardening, and container gardening, where most anyone can grow a bit of produce on their own. Here’s a link to the University of Maryland’s “Grow it, Eat It” article to get you started:
Here’s a bit from their article of one of the benefits to using these methods:
Better control over growing conditions (water, sunlight, nutrients) can lead to higher yields with less work than a conventional garden (10 sq. ft. can produce 50 lbs. of fresh organic produce).
With these types of gardening almost anyone can grow their own vegies and fruit. Just get on out to your favorite garden shop or big box hardware store and load up on the items needed for your space. You could even grow your own mushrooms if you want, but that’s an indoor crop.
Speaking of mushrooms, I made Grilled Portabella Sandwiches last night, and boy are they good! They are just about as hearty as a burger, and super yummy. When you put them on a bun with sauteed onions and bell peppers topped with jalapeno jack cheese it makes a substantial sandwich. Served up with a side of potato salad, or cole slaw, and chips it makes a great summer lunch or dinner meal.
What about the time it takes to marinate the portabellas? Forget that time consuming step, because yours truly, the Fast and Furious Cook has come up with a way that produces a great tasting mushroom without marinating it. This recipe takes all of 15-20 minutes to prepare and cook. Give it a try and see if you agree that this is a great way to eat great tasting food that is quick, healthy and simple. And get that garden planted because Spring is here!
Grilled Portabella Sandwich
4 large portabella mushroom caps( about 4 inches across)
4-5 teaspoons garlic infused olive oil
your favorite steak seasoning salt
1 cup sliced onion
1 cup sliced bell pepper, red or green
1 tablespoon olive oil
To clean the portabellas pop the stems off the mushroom caps, then rinse them with cool water, and wipe the top of the cap only with a kitchen towel. Set aside to finish drying.
Saute onions and peppers in the plain olive oil and season with steak seasoning.
Cook on medium low heat until soft,(about 15 minutes).
Brush top of mushroom caps with garlic infused olive oil then invert on a cutting board or other surface and drizzle the rest of the garlic infused oil on the insides(gills) of the caps.
Dust with the steak seasoning on both sides and grill cap side down/ gill side up for about 8 minutes, see note. Flip caps and cook for about another 6 minutes gill side down. Flip once more and divide sauteed onions and peppers on the gill side and top with cheese.
Continue cooking for about 1 minute until cheese is melted.
You can cook the mushrooms in an oven broiler, but if you do it works best to have a baking pan and rack combo the lets the mushroom juices drain. When using an outside gas or charcoal grill you don’t need to worry about the juices draining except that with charcoal the juices will put out some of your coals if your mushrooms are good and fresh!
Most steak seasonings work well with this recipe as they contain salt, pepper, garlic, onion and other herbs and spices that work well with portabella mushrooms. One of my favorites is McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning blend.
I like to use jalapeño jack cheese, but use whatever is your favorite cheese. I think manchego, cheddar or swiss would be good too!