Wheatless Wednesday – Arugula, Corn and Tomato Salad with Jalapeno Vinaigrette

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1-2-3-GONE! Or ‘How to make a salad disappear!’  Want to hear more magic words?  How about;  Ready in 15 minutes or less…   I am very lucky to have been graced with a bounty of lovely, ripe tomatoes so early in the season.  I’m heading out of town this weekend (to Charleston, so I foresee some southern cooking in my future) and I needed to use some of my fresh tomatoes before I go.  I also happened to have some young, white corn that is so sweet and tender that it can be eaten raw, right off the cob.  Now that is good corn!  With these ingredients, I couldn’t really go wrong.  I tossed them together in a salad with baby arugula and avocado, then drizzled them with a yummy jalapeno vinaigrette that is loaded with fresh basil and cilantro.  But it’s really about the tomatoes and the corn, so don’t hold back.  I served this to a group of men, watching the NBA playoffs last night and almost didn’t get a chance to take photos.  Luckily I managed to snap a few before they all descended.  I served the salad with corn tortilla chips which were a great pairing. (Alas, no photos…They were too quick.)

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But corn is a carb!  Fear not my carb-avoiding friends.  Corn is a high quality, slow digesting complex carbohydrate and a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber.  Corn has high amounts of insoluble fiber — meaning, the kind of fiber that goes through the body intact and gets things going in the bowels (You didn’t read that here!)  Insoluble fiber has been shown in research to help feed the “good” bacteria in our gut which is very important in our over-processed world.  Corn is also gluten free which makes it a good choice for those avoiding wheat and wheat products.

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TIPS:  Consider serving the salad in individual glass jars or small bowls. This is a great use of leftover corn on the cob, either grilled, steamed or boiled.  Just slice it off the cob and you’ve got the start of a great meal!  I love the Jalapeno Vinaigrette.  It’s just slightly spicy and the fresh herbs give it a pesto-like quality which is really delicious on this salad.  If you like food really spicy, add a second jalapeno or include some of the seeds.   I also added fresh mozzarella because I had a large crowd of hungry men to feed, but it’s not really necessary.  The real stars here are the fresh, ripe vegetables.

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ARUGULA, CORN AND TOMATO SALAD WITH JALAPENO VINAIGRETTE

2 cups fresh baby arugula
3 ears fresh corn (or 2 cups frozen corn)
3-4 large tomatoes (or combination with cherry tomatoes)
1-2 avocados
6 oz fresh mozzarella (optional)

JALAPENO VINAIGRETTE
1 large jalapeno pepper
1 cup fresh herbs (basil and cilantro)
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsn fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp salt

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  • Wash and dry arugula and place in a large serving bowl

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  • Shuck corn and cut the kernels off the cob using a sharp knife. If the corn is young and sweet, put it right into the salad.  If it’s a bit chewy you can steam.boil or pan fry it for a few minutes.  Let it cool before you put it in the salad.  You can also grill the corn first (before you cut it off the cob, shucked or unshucked).

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  • Chop tomatoes into a medium dice.  Cut cherry tomatoes into halves or quarters. Add to salad.

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  • Cut mozzarells, if using, into medium sized cubes.

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  • Chop avocado into a medium dice.  Add to salad.

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  • Put all vinaigrette ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

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  • Drizzle salad with vinaigrette and toss to combine.  Serve with tortilla chips if desired.

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Arugula, Corn and Tomato Salad with Jalapeno Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 46
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2 cups fresh baby arugula
3 ears fresh corn (or 2 cups frozen corn)
3-4 large tomatoes (or combination with cherry tomatoes)
1-2 avocados
6 oz fresh mozzarella (optional)

JALAPENO VINAIGRETTE
1 large jalapeno pepper
1 cup fresh herbs (basil and cilantro)
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsn fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp salt

  • Wash and dry arugula and place in a large serving bowl
  • Shuck corn and cut the kernels off the cob using a sharp knife.
  • If the corn is young and sweet, put it right into the salad.  If it’s a bit chewy you can steam.boil or pan fry it for a few minutes.  Let it cool before you put it in the salad.  You can also grill the corn first (before you cut it off the cob, shucked or unshucked).
  • Chop tomatoes into a medium dice.  Cut cherry tomatoes into halves or quarters. Add to salad.
  • Cut mozzarells, if using, into medium sized cubes
  • Chop avocado into a medium dice.  Add to salad.
  • Put all vinaigrette ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Drizzle salad with vinaigrette and toss to combine.
  • Serve with tortilla chips if desired.

 

Antipasti Platter – Roasted Eggplant, Peppers & Tomatoes with Burrata

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NBA Playoffs are here and my husband had an offer to go the the Warriors game LIVE, so I invited my two lovely neighbors over for some impromtu girl time.  Yes, the game was on and the Warriors won!  But more importantly, we watched female style, champagne in hand and a lovely antipasti platter spread before us.  Needless to say, a good time was had by all and my platter with thin slices of roasted eggplant, charred mini sweet peppers, wilted cherry tomatoes, salty olives and creamy burrata passed the test!  The eggplant was a rich and flavorful, the mini peppers just got sweeter through roasting and the burrata was a delight.  The big winner though, was the balsamic reduction that I drizzled over the whole thing. Credit goes to my son, Eric, for that recipe.  Yum!  Oh, and here are our fun napkins…just because.

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If you have never had burrata, it’s similar to fresh mozzarella but creamier and even more delicious! Burrata means ‘buttered’ in Italian if that gives you any indication of it’s yumminess. It resembles fresh mozzarella but it’s insides are soft and ooze out upon cutting it open. Mmmm….. I used a burrata from Belfiore, one of the few small family owned, cheesemakers in the SF Bay Area.  I love to promote local companies, especially when they take such care to use only quality natural ingredients, and the owners just happen to be friends of mine – even better!  Belfiore handcrafts their cheeses using no artificial ingredients, additives or preservatives.  In addition I love that they  use a vegetarian rennet in making their burrata.  I really like this brand but there are many other good handcrafted cheese companies out there too so look around.

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TIPS:  I love fresh herbs on almost anything.  I just walk outside my kitchen door and clip whatever I have on hand.  This time it was fresh basil, thyme and parsley, however, any fresh herbs will work just fine.  If you don’t have access to fresh herbs, sprinkle a bit of Italian Seasoning on top of everything before drizzling with balsamic reduction.  The balsamic reduction is heavenly and I can think of dozens of ways to use it in the future.  It’s easy to make but if you don’t want to go to the trouble, a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil will be tasty too.

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I will be out of town next week at Rancho La Puerta (an early birthday present to myself) so I will not be in my kitchen but getting inspiration from the wonderful chefs at The Ranch.  So stay tuned, especially on FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM for photos from my week at The Ranch.  When I come back, I’m sure I will have a lot to share… Have a good week!-Joyce

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ROASTED EGGPLANT, PEPPERS & TOMATOES  WITH BURRATA

1 globe eggplant
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 pint miniature sweet peppers
8 oz burrata, room temperature if possible
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
1 cup fresh baby arugula
1/2 cup fresh mixed herbs, parsley, basil or thyme, roughly chopped
1/2 cup kalamata or black olives (optional)
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 Tbsn sugar, brown sugar or honey
Vinaigrette:  2 Tbsn olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste

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  • Remove the leafy stem and cut the aubergine into half lengthwise

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  • Then slice thinly lengthwise using a sharp knife or a mandolin

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  • Spread the slices on papertowels and sprinkle liberally with salt.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes to let the excess water come out.

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  • Wipe eggplant slices dry. Lightly oil a large cookie sheet and spread eggplant evenly in the pan in a single layer.  You may need more than one pan depending on the thickness of the slices.

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  • Brush tops with olive oil and roast at 400°F until they turn light brown, about. 25-35 minutes

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  • Place cherry tomatoes and peppers in another lightly oiled pan and roast in the same oven until charred in spots and wilted. Turn peppers once.
  • Stir balsamic vinegar and 2 Tbsn sugar together in a small saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the vinegar mixture has reduced to 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes. After 5 minutes, taste and add another Tbsn sugar if it seems too acidic and cook another 5 minutes.. Set the balsamic reduction aside to cool (It should be a syrupy consistency)

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  • Remove the eggplant from the oven and let cool slightly.  Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and pour the vinaigrette onto the warm eggplant and lightly toss to combine.

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  • Arrange eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, olives and burrata on a platter.

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  • Sprinkle herbs and arugula over the top.  Drizzle with olive oil (optional) and balsamic reduction.

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  • Serve room temperature with crusty sourdough bread and the remaining balsamic reduction on the side.

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Roasted Eggplant, Peppers & Tomatoes with Burrata

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 globe eggplant
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 pint miniature sweet peppers
8 oz burrata, room temperature if possible
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
1 cup fresh baby arugula
1/2 cup fresh mixed herbs, parsley, basil or thyme, roughly chopped
1/2 cup kalamata or black olives (optional)
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 Tbsn sugar, brown sugar or honey
Vinaigrette:  2 Tbsn olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste

  • Remove the leafy stem and cut the aubergine into half lengthwise, then slice thinly lengthwise using a sharp knife or a mandolin
  • Spread the slices on papertowels and sprinkle liberally with salt.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes to let the excess water come out.
  • Wipe eggplant slices dry. Lightly oil a large cookie sheet and spread eggplant evenly in the pan in a single layer.  You may need more than one pan depending on the thickness of the slices.
  • Brush tops with olive oil and roast at 400°F until they turn light brown, about. 25-35 minutes
  • Place cherry tomatoes and peppers in another lightly oiled pan and roast in the same oven until charred in spots and wilted. Turn peppers once.
  • Stir balsamic vinegar and 2 Tbsn sugar together in a small saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the vinegar mixture has reduced to 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes. After 5 minutes, taste and add another Tbsn sugar if it seems too acidic and cook another 5 minutes.. Set the balsamic reduction aside to cool (It should be a syrupy consistency)
  • Remove the eggplant from the oven and let cool slightly.  Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and pour the vinaigrette onto the warm eggplant and lightly toss to combine.
  • Arrange eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, olives and burrata on a platter.
  • Sprinkle herbs and arugula over the top.
  • Drizzle with olive oil (optional) and balsamic reduction.
  • Serve room temperature with crusty sourdough bread and the remaining balsamic reduction on the side.

 

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Fennel Citrus Salad with Avocado and Olives

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Is the dinner party dead?  One of my goals for this new year is to host a dinner party every month. My husband and I are finding that as ’empty nesters’ we are no longer attending school events where we get to hang out with our friends without any planning on our part,and we just aren’t seeing people that we really like as often.  Let’s just say that it takes more of an effort when you have to physically reach out and organize something.  In some ways, our schedules are less busy with soccer and lacrosse games, carpools and school events in the distant past. In other ways we are busier than ever.  Chairing a school committee segues into a new hobby, like volunteering at WildCare, competing in triathalons or starting a blog about something you enjoy (sound familiar?). There is more time for hikes and hot yoga classes if you are so inclined.  Unless you have a Boomerang kid (of which we have had our share) it’s easier to take off and travel. Many of my friends never seem to be around any more.  So this is where the dinner parties come in.  I’m going with the “You build it they will come” theory. We had a dinner party last weekend, a group of 10 fun people for no specific reason, and hopefully, just the first of many in 2015.  January, done and great fun!

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Arugula + fennel bulbs + blood orange + red onion+fresh cilantro from my CSA box + oranges from my tree + an avocado and olives from the market = a gorgeous salad for dinner.  Along with the Fennel Citrus Salad, I served Maple Bourbon Glazed Salmon, a deliciously easy main course that can serve many people, along with one of my favorite GMD dishes, Black and Wild Rice with Roasted Squash and Pomegranate followed by Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse for dessert. You can click on the links to go directly to those recipes. My guests asked what the trick is to having a successful dinner party without being really stressed out. One friend claims she runs around like a crazy person when she has just a couple of people over. I think she is not alone which is probably why people don’t have very many dinner parties.  I think the key is to keep it simple.  I like to have only one item that needs my immediate attention during a dinner party.  The Fennel Citrus salad and dressing can be made ahead and tossed right before serving.  The Black and Wild Rice dish is best served at room temperature so perfect for making ahead.

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The Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse is a very easy, no-cook recipe I’ve been making since the 80’s and prepared the day before and put right into small jelly jars so they’re ready to serve.  Only the salmon required my attention.  It was pre-cut and resting in the glaze needing less than 10 minutes in the oven for a perfect golden finish. Set up a lovely buffet and you’re all set. I used the lovely china from Nana Rosella, my husband’s grandmother, because I like an excuse to use them and I don’t have ten of my regular plates that aren’t chipped, however you could use paper plates and the salad would still be beautiful and delicious, just don’t use plastic forks unless you’re at a picnic.  I don’t know anyone that can eat with those dreaded implements.  Dinner parties are fun but only if you’re relaxed and enjoying your guests.  It’s not really about the food.  It’s about the friends…

FENNEL CITRUS SALAD
2 cups fresh arugula
2-3 small fennel bulbs
2 large naval oranges (grapefruit or blood orange)
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 firm avocado
1 Tbsn fresh herbs (cilantro, mint or parsley)

Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice,1 Tbsn apple cider or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Wash and dry arugula and place in the bottom of a salad bowl

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  • Trim fennel bulbs taking care not to cut too much off the bottom end.  Cut each bulb in half lengthwise, then into quarters lengthwise.  Slice quarters as thinly as possible. Place in the bowl with the arugula

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  • Slice both ends off the oranges and place one cut end on a cutting board.  Using a downward motion, slice the peel and pitch away from the fruit.  Go back and get any remaining pith then slice horizontally into wheels.  Use wheels whole or quartered.  OR if you like perfect slices, check out this handy short video: How To Peel An Orange in 5 Seconds

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  • Slice the onion in half lengthwise and then into quarters.  Slice each quarter as finely as possible.

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  • Slice avocado in half and then slice horizontally. Add all vegetables into bowl with arugula.  If you aren’t serving right away include the avocado pits (to keep the avocado from turning brown) but take them out before tossing.

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  • Whisk together the dressing and set aside until you’re ready to serve. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Fennel Citrus Salad with Avocado and Olives

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2 cups fresh arugula
2-3 small fennel bulbs
2 large naval oranges (grapefruit or blood orange)
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 firm avocado
1 Tbsn fresh herbs (cilantro, mint or parsley)

Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice,1 Tbsn apple cider or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

  • Wash and dry arugula and place in the bottom of a salad bowl
  • Trim fennel bulbs taking care not to cut too much off the bottom end.  Cut each bulb in half lengthwise, then into quarters lengthwise.  Slice quarters as thinly as possible. Place in the bowl with the arugula
  • Slice both ends off the oranges and place one cut end on a cutting board.  Using a downward motion, slice the peel and pitch away from the fruit.  Go back and get any remaining pith then slice horizontally into wheels.  Use wheels whole or quartered.  OR if you like perfect slices, check out this handy short video: How To Peel An Orange in 5 Seconds
  • Slice the onion in half lengthwise and then into quarters.  Slice each quarter as finely as possible.
  • Slice avocado in half and then slice horizontally.
  • Add all vegetables into bowl with arugula.  If you aren’t serving right away include the avocado pits (to keep the avocado from turning brown)
  • Whisk together the dressing and set aside until you’re ready to serve.
  • Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Meatless Monday – Pasta Primavera with Summer Squash, Peas and Arugula

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Primavera means Spring in Italian and the popular Pasta Primavera traditionally is pasta, usually spaghetti but other pasta shapes can be used, tossed with a variety of spring vegetables like asparagus, tomatoes and fresh herbs.  In spite of it’s name, it doesn’t mean you can only make this for dinner in the spring.  Pasta Primavera is a very versatile dish which allows for a wide range of vegetables to be used when they are at their best and their cheapest.  Throughout the year, the dish will change depending on whatever is in season.  I typically sauté whatever fresh vegetables looked the best at the market with garlic and olive oil, then braise in a bit of vegetable broth to make a nice sauce.  If my husband isn’t around, sometimes I will swirl in a spoonful of plain yogurt to add creaminess, then top with parmesan.  Yum!

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Today’s pasta has the gorgeous baby squash and zucchini that I couldn’t resist at the market due to their pure cuteness, as well as peas.  I didn’t see any good fresh peas so I used frozen, which are a good option.  They are frozen right after picking so sometimes they are actually fresher than ‘fresh’ peas that have been sitting around for a while. If you are using fresh peas in a pod, choose pods that are smaller.  The large pods are often filled with over mature peas that are tough and woody and only good in soups and stews.   The smaller pods usually have younger, sweeter peas.   I also added fresh basil and mint plus cherry tomatoes and lemon zest from my garden.

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To make this a healthier dish, use a whole grain pasta.  It’s easy to find good pasta made from whole grains like rice, quinoa or amaranth, all of which provide more protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber than pasta made from white flour. Don’t be fooled by packaging on regular pasta that says ‘fortified with iron or other nutrients’. That just means that nutrients like B vitamins  were removed during the refining process, and some of them are added back in.   Whole grain pasta has come a long way from when it used to be soft and gluey, so give it a try if you haven’t.  Livestrong suggests going half regular and half whole grain pasta if you’re having trouble making the switch to whole grain.

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Pasta Primavera with Summer Squash, Peas and Arugula

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

3/4 lb dried penne pasta
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas, shelled
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 small summer squash, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 red chili pepper(or dash of red pepper flakes – optional)
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons
1/4 cup fresh mint, cut into ribbons
1-2 cups arugula or spinach
2 large shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsn lemon zest
3 Tbsn butter, olive or coconut oil
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
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  • Saute the shallots, chilis and garlic in butter or oil until soft, several minutes.  Add vegetable broth and let reduce.
  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to directions.  Drain and reserve 1 cup pasta water.

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  • Add zucchini and summer squash to the shallot mixture and cook 2 to 3 minutes.  Then add peas.

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  • Add cooked pasta to vegetable mixture and stir to reheat.  Add a bit of pasta water if needed.

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  • Add cherry tomatoes, arugula, basil, mint and lemon zest and let wilt.  Add salt if necessary.  Depending on the saltiness of your vegetable broth, it may not be needed.

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  • Top with fresh parmesan, if desired.

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