I almost forgot…

 Garlic Spinach 

…to make spinach.

 
I already have a head of chard in the crisper that has seen better days and I almost forgot to cook my spinach too. A few days ago, I made some lovely New York steaks. I was going to have baked potatoes with sour cream with minced green onions and my favorite recipe of garlic spinach. I bought a large head of spinach and somewhere between fighting with the charcoal and baking the potatoes for what felt like hours, I had a sudden case of amnesia which resulted in my grabbing a bag of frozen peas after the steaks were done. Don’t get me wrong. I love frozen green peas, I’ll eat them with anything and my choice of an Asian inspired spinach dish might seem odd with steak and potatoes but oh… the garlic… oh… the residual sake…oh…the rich tamari. It would have been so very right.

I did a save today while scouring the fridge for a potluck lunch. My honey was going to have some leftover soba with slices of the leftover steak. I was going to have some leftover meatloaf. To round out this potluck lunch, I still needed to eat up the focaccia from last week before it goes the way of the melting chard in the crisper. So, yes, it was an even a stranger assortment of food than what I intended but the spinach, as always, (was not enough spinach but it) was the star.

Note: I am going to give the recipe for one head of spinach which will make two small servings of cooked spinach. So just enough for two people to fight over. If you need to feed more people or you think you will go out of control and want more of something so incredible, use two heads of spinach and your largest skillet.

On another side note: There is nothing worse than getting sand in a bite of food. I used a salad spinner with a removable colander as a bowl to wash the spinach. I fill up the bowl with cool water. Swish the spinach around and then remove the colander. At this point, inspect the water left in the bowl. There will be sand. Pour out the water, rinse the bowl and repeat the previous steps. I usually do this process about three times before I am satisfied that the sand is gone. For this recipe, do not spin dry the spinach, you want the spinach to have residual moisture.

Garlic spinach

  

1 large head of spinach, leaves removed from stems, washed well but not dried

½ cup sake

3-5 cloves garlic

2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce

1 tbsp brown rice vinegar

1 ½ tsp toasted sesame oil

Optional: Tatami Nogarishi or cayenne to taste

Special equipment: garlic press, large skillet or wok

Heat the skillet on medium high. Add spinach and cook until it begins to wilt a little. Press the garlic cloves directly into the spinach. Give it a stir. Add sake. Cook another minute or two, stirring, until spinach starts to shrink and the sake begins to evaporate. Add tamari, brown rice vinegar and sesame oil. If you want a little kick add tatami nogarishi or cayenne to taste. Continue to cook until the spinach is tender and the sauce thickens a little. Be careful not to overcook. The spinach should still look green, overcooked spinach looks brownish. Serve immediately.

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A very healthy side salad indeed

carrotraisonsalad

After a year and half or so of blogging, I am beginning to feel like I am getting recipe amnesia.  There are some things I cook that are such a part of my repertoire that I am certain I have shared the recipe with you.  I make the most delicious, the healthiest, thebest ever carrot raisin salad…. and I was sure it was on this blog until I did a search of the recipes here and found out that I had omitted it.  What a terrible omission!

 

I make carrot raisin salad whenever I need something quick and tasty to eat during a barbecue.  I make this salad for people I love because I know it makes them healthy and happy and I used to make it a lot when I took my lunch to work ages ago. (Which is a habit that I should go back to, but can’t seem to do.  I am a bit of a hermit and eating at home suits the hermit habit better).  This salad is so clean and healthy tasting that it never occurred to me that some people cannot even stand the sight of carrot raisin salad.  Carrot raisin salad is absolutely scorned by some people!  Back when I used to bring lunches, I brought a big container of carrot raisin salad.  I had been looking forward to eating it all day.  When I opened the container and one of my coworkers saw the bright orange glare of my salad he exclaimed “Ewwwwww!   Carrot Raisin salad!  Gross!!”  Hmmm… now that I think about it, maybe that’s why I don’t take my lunch to work anymore. Anyway, please don’t listen to my coworker.  This is no ordinary carrot raisin salad.  Please try it even if you aren’t a big fan.  I think you may be surprised by how much you like this version.

 

A note:  Use fewer carrots if you like a sweeter moister salad.  More if you want a milder carrot raisin salad.  The last time I made this, I realized that I no longer measure the carrots.  I shredded three enormous farmers market carrots and I’d estimate that they yielded at least seven cups of carrots.  The salad was very mellow and delicious with less dressing and raisins to carrots.  Also, I cannot remember where this recipe came from but I acquired it years ago during the low fat craze.  I prefer to stick with the original intention of this salad to be low fat and make it with reduced fat mayo. It is not very rich this way.  You can certainly make it with full fat mayo (I have before) but you may want to adjust the mayo to your taste, using real mayo will make the flavor richer.

 

Carrot Raisin Salad

4 cups (or more) shredded carrots

 

½ cup raisins

 

3 tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise

 

1 apple, shredded

 

½ cup natural apple juice

 

Shred the carrots and the apple in a food processor (you’ll be happy you didn’t have to do this by hand).  Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, mixing the salad well.  Cover and chill for at least one hour before serving to allow the flavors to blend.  Mix again before serving to make sure the dressing is distributed throughout the salad.

 

 

Sweet and Savory

I have to admit to debauchery this week.  It was my boyfriend’s birthday and we planned to travel and with travel for us comes eating.  We started out by driving to the Pasadena area to visit the Huntington Gardens.  The gardens were gorgeous and we made sure to see the lovely new Chinese garden as well as the Greene and Greene exhibit of craftsman furniture. But… we also stopped for tea at the rose garden tea room where tea is not the dainty thing a Victorian party would leisurely sit and pick at but an all you can eat extravaganza of tea sandwiches, scones, caviar, spreads and cheese, oh and really good tea.  The next day, we drove to Cambria and visited Hearst Castle for the evening tour but we spent two nights there and ate and drank to our hearts content.  It was a lovely time but I was very, very bad.

 

I would like to say that once we got home, I got back onto the healthy eating program, but I didn’t.  Not right away anyway.  Today we finally went grocery shopping where I found a wonderful fillet of Steelhead Salmon to go with some rainbow chard that I already had in my crisper.  I went to the Epicurious site to see if I could find something delicious but healthy and I found just the right things. 

The Salmon recipe called for making a glaze of honey, coarse grain Dijon mustard and crushed caraway seeds.  The glaze is broiled onto the salmon.  As the salmon cooks, the broiler heat caramelizes the glaze into a chewy, sweet and savory but flowery glaze that is just heavenly.  Here is a link to the recipe.  You must try this yourself!

The chard recipe calls for both the stems and leaves of the chard, which somehow makes me feel virtuous, like I am not wasting a bit of this delectable vegetable.  Redolent with garlic, the fruity sweetness of the currants and the tangy saltiness of a fine goat feta that I used, this was a remarkable side dish to go along with my salmon.  Go here for the chard recipe.

 

All in all, this meal was a winner.  I rounded it out with hot chewy short grain brown rice.  It was the kind of meal that feels decadent but really is virtuous and when you know you are taking care of yourself while pampering yourself, it is fine indeed.

The Green Titans

 

There is never a shortage of broccoli in this house.  A certain someone who lives with me considers it not only nourishing and tasty but it is a tonic for what ails ya.  Got a pimple?  How about a nasty little tickle in the back of the throat?  You just feel droopy and listless?  Have a bowl of steamy broccoli goodness for breakfast! It’ll perk you right up!  Uh.  Yuck.  I prefer my broccoli as a side dish and only after eleven a.m., thank you very much!

 

 Broccoli never goes to waste in this house but one little thing has often annoyed me about broccoli.  Broccoli is often sold by the pound instead of the bunch and the big heavy stems are always included.  If you want to buy broccoli “crowns”, you will be charged a premium for the service of having someone take a knife and cut the stems off for you.  Either way you end up paying for the stems so you better find a good use for them.  So, what’s a gal to do?  Well, here at Delectable Tidbits, we like to do things the hard way!  Yes Siree!  I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to try the broccoli slaw recipe in one of my Moosewood cookbooks for quite some time.  The recipe calls for broccoli slaw mix, which consists of shredded broccoli stems, shredded carrots and shredded cabbage.  I always have a plethora of broccoli stems on hand so I figure tonight that I’ll just peel ‘em and shred ‘em myself!  How hard can it be?  My DBF bought the nicest organic broccoli at the Farmer’s Market during the weekend.  Huge stems!  These things looked like tree trunks.  Just gorgeous! Twenty minutes of peeling with a vegetable peeler later, these titans of broccoli goodness were reduced to fist sized lumps of broccoli hearts and I had a sink buried in several inches of peelings.  Now I know why people just buy the pre-shredded mix.  Ugh!

 

Whether you do things the hard way or the easy way.  I highly recommend this slaw recipe.  It is delicious!

 

 Broccoli Slaw

Adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers

 

6-7 broccoli stems, peeled and shredded

2-3 medium carrots, peeled and shredded

½ cup thinly sliced red cabbage

(or substitute 3-4 cups packed broccoli slaw mix for the above three ingredients)

3- 4 tbsp minced cilantro

1 red pepper, minced

1 tbsp olive oil

1tbp fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

 

Toss the vegetables with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Refrigerate for at least twenty minutes. 

 

Winter fruit on my breakfast

Maple roasted apples

After months of unusually hot weather, we are finally beginning to get the kind of winter chill that makes me think of Christmastime even though the sky is still clear and blue and the air is dry.  That’s California for you.  No change of season when you think about it.  It’s either dry and hot or dry and cold.

 

Our local farmer’s market also reflects the season.  We have persimmons, oranges and apples and that’s about it.  Some enterprising farmers dried their summer and fall bounty so plenty of dried fruit is also available.  With that in mind, I wanted fruit on my pancakes but the kitchen was looking pretty sparse.  We have plenty of Fuji apples in the fridge so playing off of a recipe for maple roasted yams that I love, I decided to maple roast some Fuji’s to top our pancakes with.  This was an impromptu effort on my part so the following recipe is just an approximation.  I don’t think it would be easy to mess these up even with my “pinch of this, pinch of that” instructions.  These apples were fabulous on our favorite cornmeal pancakes with yogurt and toasted walnuts.  I think they would also make an excellent side dish for pork chops as well.

 Apple topped pancakes

Maple roasted apples

4-5 Fuji apples, peeled, cored and sliced

 

Lemon zest from ½ a lemon, approx. 1 tsp

 

1-2 tsp lemon juice

 

A generous amount of cinnamon

 

A miserly amount of nutmeg

 

Ginger to taste

 

A generous handful of raisons

 

2-3 tbsp grade B maple syrup

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

 

Toss the apple slices with lemon juice and zest.  Combine apple mixture with raisons and cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and maple syrup to coat.  Roast the apples in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes or until the raisons are plump and the apples are caramelized and soft and lightly browned.

How to use the autumn tomato

broiled-tomatoes.jpg

For a few years, I had the pleasure of accompanying my best friend and her husband to a Canadian lodge each fall for their anniversary.  It was the perfect vacation.  A kind of a summer camp for grown ups.  You get to sleep in a cabin.  You can participate in different activities such as kayaking or tennis or bike riding.  You can be incredibly lazy and read and nap all day long if that’s what you are into.  This place feeds you well several times per day.  The reason I bring this up is that breakfast could be a choice of light fare or you could choose to put together a giant stick to your ribs feast.  Since Canada is part of the United Kingdom, the breakfast choices included some English seeming choices.  One of which is the choice to have a grilled tomato with breakfast.  Once I discovered this option, I had to have it most mornings that I stayed there.  It was quite delectable with eggs, indeed.

 

After I stopped going on vacation with my friends to Canada, I forgot about grilled tomatoes as a breakfast side dish.  One weekend at the “In laws”, my boyfriend’s step mom made broiled tomatoes as a side dish for dinner.  They were so good that I had to have seconds.  They were broiled tomatoes with herbs and Parmesan sprinkled on top.  Oh, they were so very yummy.  Roasting the tomatoes for 15 minutes and then broiling the cheese on top gives the tomatoes a wonderful sweet flavor.  They are divine!

 

I use tomatoes a lot when they are in season and it is rare for me to buy them and then not finish them up for whatever their intended purpose was.  I am a Virgo and adhering to a shopping list and the ensuing plan for the groceries during the week is a must or else I start going a little crazy.  You don’t really want to see me if I start getting a little crazy.  This week I somehow managed to buy too many tomatoes.  When I went in the kitchen to figure out what to eat for breakfast, I realized that if I didn’t do something, I would lose them.  They would eventually spoil.  On the rare occasion that I have tomatoes just milling about the kitchen, I have improvised my own version of broiled tomatoes.  They are amazing as a side dish to eggs and toast.  Just add coffee and a cold glass of OJ and it is fine dining.

 

I know it is late in the season to be posting a recipe about roasting tomatoes but we are still lucky enough to have the last of the fall tomatoes.  I hit the Farmer’s market after breakfast and decided to replace the tomatoes I used up this morning with a fresh batch.  The heirloom tomatoes are definitely on their way out after a week of chilly, foggy weather.  If you can still get some tomatoes locally or you are someone who doesn’t care how far your tomatoes travel to get to you, roasting them in this fashion should yield a tasty, flavorful side dish even though the tomatoes are starting to be a pale facsimile of their glorious summer selves.  If you have any of these roasted tomatoes leftover, you should use them for a tasty vegetarian sandwich.  I don’t think you’ll end up with any leftovers.

Roasted and broiled tomatoes

3 or 4 large ripe tomatoes, sliced horizontally into 2-3 thick slices.

 

2 large garlic cloves, minced

 

Dried basil to taste or fresh basil, minced, to taste

 

Dried oregano to taste or fresh oregano, minced to taste

 

Pepper

 

½ to 1 cup of shredded hard cheese such as Parmesan or Romano

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Use a broiler safe pan that is large enough to accommodate the amount of tomato slices you will have.  I use a well-seasoned iron griddle.  If the pan you are using is something that is not seasoned and sticking could be an issue, oil the pan.  Place the tomato slices on your pan.  Sprinkle them with garlic, basil, oregano and pepper.  Top each herbed tomato slice with a generous mound of cheese.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.  Turn on the broiler and broil until cheese melts and browns slightly.  Serve immediately.

The kind of salad Mexican restaurants should serve

citrus-chile-salad.jpg

Have I told you that I watch a little too much Food Network?  I have to confess that I do.  The worst part is that I have begun to watch Food Network when I am at the gym.  I enjoy it, but I feel self conscious like I am a cliché:  the tubby girl watching Food Network while she works out.  Now the reason why I am making this admission to you is because of Rachel Ray.   For a while there, I was addicted to 30-minute meals.  The thing I noticed after watching scores of episodes was that although Rachel Ray uses such short cuts as bagged pre-cut veggies and bagged pre-shredded cheese, she always takes the time to make salad dressing from scratch.  I tried making a couple of her dressings and they weren’t half bad.  I had made some salad dressings from scratch before watching 30-minute meals, but watching that show made me realize that there was really no reason to buy salad dressing.  A good dressing could be constructed in a few minutes.

 

I often make Mexican style meals because they are as easy to improvise as pasta.  Do you have a bag of corn tortillas, a jar of salsa, some leftover chicken and some cheese?  Well, my friend, you have enchiladas!  One day when I was tossing things together, I decided a nice crispy green salad would be great to go with our meal.  I didn’t want a regular creamy style dressing and vinaigrette didn’t seem right either.  I hate it when you go out for Mexican food and they can’t give you a salad that seems authentic.  The choices are usually Ranch or Bleu cheese.  I wanted something that felt more like the simple tomato and cucumber salad my friends make but would also be reminiscent of something like ceviche.  I had a lot of citrus fruit and the idea of something tart sounded so good.  I thought about what would compliment the flavor of orange juice and lime juice and chili powder sounded good.  I improvised a dressing and loved the result.  I made it maybe one more time and forgot about it.

 

Tonight, I decided to use some leftover chicken to make quesadillas.  As I was making guacamole, I realized I had plenty of limes left over and a bowl of oranges.  I made the citrus chili dressing from earlier in the summer, adding ground cumin to the recipe.  I scavenged in the fridge and found all sorts of yummies to make salad with.  In a stroke of insight, I decided to add fresh cilantro and chunks of cantaloupe to the salad.  Those two additions to the salad complimented the dressing well. 

 

Salad is a lot of work but I felt really good about balancing out a cheesy meal with something really healthy.  I hope you like the result of my improvised salad.  As a suggestion, add tomatoes and avocado if you have them.  I had to use mine up for the guacamole but they would add even more flavor to the salad.

Cilantro and cantaloupe green salad with citrus chili dressing

Dressing:

 

½ cup olive oil

 

juice of 1 orange

 

juice of 1 lime

 

1 tsp chili powder

 

½ tsp ground cumin

 

salt to taste

 

Salad:

 

½ head of red leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bite sized pieces

 

½ large cucumber, peeled and chopped

 

6 radishes, sliced

 

1 small red pepper, sliced

 

¼ – ½ cantaloupe, chopped

 

½ red onion, thinly sliced

 

2 handfuls chopped cilantro

 

Mix together citrus juices, chili powder, cumin and salt.  Slowly pour oil into citrus mixture as you whisk with a fork or small whisk.  Set dressing aside.  Chop and slice all of your salad ingredients and add them to a large bowl.  Add as much dressing as you like to the salad and toss.  This makes close to a cup of dressing and the dressing is pretty thin.  I use it all but you may want to add less, toss and taste.  If you feel like you need it all, add it all.

The best potatoes

Baked Potatoes Riganates

Today we are going back in time to Wednesday night when I made the stressful pork dish.  If you look at the lovely plate of dinner by the pork recipe you will notice a pile of greasy un-photogenic something or another that I have blown up and added to the top of this post.  What on earth is that stuff that looks so unappealing in the photo?  It happens to be one of the best things in the world that you will ever put into your mouth.  Once you eat these, you’ll never want to eat normal oven roasted potatoes again.

 

Here in Santa Barbara there is a Greek festival put on by the local Greek Orthodox Church at the end of July.  The wonderful people of the church have put together a book of recipes called “The Greek Feast Santa Barbara Style”.  I use this book a lot although I have to admit that a good editor would have done this book a world of good.  If you are lucky enough to acquire a copy of this book, be forewarned that you may have to make changes to the recipes.  For instance there is a wonderful spanikopita recipe that omits telling you what to do with the fresh spinach.  The recipe in the book for the potatoes is called “Baked Potatoes Riganates”.  I’m sure this recipe is written correctly but I have found that instead of using 6 large potatoes, I can only fit about 4 in my largest roasting pan.  Also, they call for a cup of vegetable oil; I have decreased the oil to ½ a cup and use olive oil instead.  A can of chicken broth is usually shy of the 2 cups needed so I dilute what I have with water to make the 2 cups.  These potatoes are lemony and crispy and oh so good!!

Baked Potatoes Riganates

Adapted from the Greek Feast Santa Barbara Style by the Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Santa Barbara, CA

 

4 large potatoes (or more) peeled, sliced in half lengthwise and cut into wedges

 

1 tbsp dried oregano

 

1 tsp salt

 

¼ tsp pepper

 

½ cup lemon juice

 

½ cup olive oil

 

2 cups chicken broth (if the can is shy of two cups add water to make a full 2 cups

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the potato wedges in a single layer to cover an entire metal roasting pan.  Use the largest roasting pan you can find so that you can make as many potatoes as possible!  Mix lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano with a fork or small whisk.  Mix until emulsified.  Pour this dressing over the potatoes; making sure it is drizzled over all of the potatoes.  Add chicken stock to the bottom of the pan.  Place potatoes in the oven and bake for two hours.  During the last hour of baking, check the potatoes, if they seem to be getting too dry and they start to burn, add more water to the pan.  The potatoes will soak up the liquid as they cook which makes them soft and tender on the inside, you do want the liquid to evaporate off during the last 20 minutes so make sure you don’t add too much water if you feel you have to add it at all.  Toward the end of the baking, the potatoes will become crispy on the edges.  Your goal is to have them soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside.