Monthly Archives: June 2010

Cold Noodle Salad

Washington DC and New York City.  For years, my husband has lead a group of 8th graders to these fine cities for a one week whirlwind tour.  And yes, we have the souvenirs to prove it.  It started with the typical stuff, such as I heart NY T-shirts, moved on to wine and food goodies, and then onto gorgeous detailed Christmas ornaments from Mount Vernon and other presidential collections.  Trip after trip he would announce, “just one more year, then I’m handing off the trip to someone else.”  That finally happened.  Of course, the new leader decides it would be beneficial to have some of that second hand experience along for the journey and asked me to chaperone.  So, there I was, flying across the country with the most amazing group of teens you ever did see.  And, I needed to bring home some souvenirs.  Shopping for the kids and hubby was actually quite fun.  But I also wanted something for myself.  That same self that has been the happy recipient of souvenirs from these exact same places for years.

It was time to get off the beaten path.  We were in China Town, NYC.  The kids had specific guidelines to stay on the main street for their shopping.  So, I wandered.  And I found it.  A shop just like Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Harry Potter where he buys his famous wand.  It was just a little slip of a store, filled with small boxes from floor to ceiling, with one helpful gentleman to guide me through the options.  Chopsticks.  The options were mind boggling:  plastic or wood, types of wood, inlaid or painted designs, 3 sided or octagons, blunt or pointed tips, pairs or sets.

With a new set of chopsticks in hand, I headed home to California, ready for a beat the heat meal friendly to chopsticks.  And No Recipes posted this cold noodle dish seemingly just for the occasion.  This dish includes his noodles and dressing with toppings that just sounded good to me at the time.  Enjoy!

Cold Noodle Salad with Fresh Vegetables

Ingredients:

16 oz fresh ramen or chow mien noodles

2 scallions, finely sliced

1/2 English cucumber, sliced into 3 inch by 1/4 inch pieces

1/2 cup shredded imitation crab

1/2 cup snow peas, julienned

2 crimini mushrooms, sliced

3 TBS sesame oil

1 TBS garlic, minced

1 tsp ginger, minced

3 TBS rice vinegar

2 TBS soy sauce

2 TBS toasted sesame seeds

1 TBS sugar

Directions:

1.  Prepare dressing by mixing sesame oil, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds and sugar in a small mixing bowl.

1. Cook noodles according to directions.  Rinse with cool water and drain well.  Add to dressing and mix until noodles are evenly coated.

3. Portion noodles into serving dishes and top with crab and vegetables.

Notes:

  • This was both yummy and fun.  Yummy because each person can choose their own toppings.  Fun because we used the new chopsticks!
  • The original recipe called for an egg component that was fun to make, but the texture matched the noodles to much for my taste.  While I omitted the eggs in the end, you may find them enjoyable in your version.
  • Fresh noodles are best here.  Do not use the ramen noodles from those little soup packages.
  • If you have some noodles around, this is a great summer time “clean out the fridge” or “finish up the farmer’s market purchases” type of meal.
  • Did I mention the yummy part?  I made a decent sized batch, and the leftovers disappeared quickly.  Always a good sign!

Garlicky 3 Bean Salad

Sometimes we want a dish that is just like we had as a child.  Aunt so and so’s fried chicken, mom’s famous dip, a neighbor’s lasagna.  The tricky part is that our tastes change over time as do cooking styles.  We really cannot recreate that moment from the past.

Three bean salad is one of those classic side dishes that draw real preferences.  But, I don’t even remembering having it as a child.  Just a few years back I started using fresh blue lake beans in the standard salad (yum, crispy and fresh) with the sweetened oil and vinegar dressing.  To most people, this is the familiar flavor.  It just felt weird to me.  Sugar on green beans?  Really?  So, here’s my newest, favoritest version of 3 bean salad.  Enjoy!

Blue lake beans from Smith Family Farms, garlic and onion from Chan’s berry stand

Three Bean Salad

loosely based on the Three Bean Salad from Bon Appetite, 1998

Ingredients

2 or 3 handfuls of blue lake beans

1 can garbanzo beans, drained

1 can kidney beans, drained

1/4 red onion, sliced

3 TBS red wine vinegar

3 TBS olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp dried basil

salt and pepper

Directions

1.  Rinse the green beans, cut into 2 inch segments, and add to boiling water for 1 minute.  Rinse the green beans with cold water in a colander to stop the cooking process and drain well.

2.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar and olive oil.  Add the garlic, dried basil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add the green beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and sliced red onion.  Mix to coat the vegetables with the dressing.

3.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Notes:

  • In high school, the mom of someone in our youth group really would make home made lasagna for us at events.  This was some seriously spectacular lasagna!  I had no idea in the world what all was involved until I made my own years later.  She surely must have loved us to make lasagna for us so many times!  (Thanks again, Pat.)
  • I’ve learned to like fresh blue lake beans, and have come to crave kidney beans, but those garbanzos are in there just for color and texture.
  • If you can let this soak for a few hours, the onions start to pickle and get quite tasty!

Mini Cherry Muffins

Previously, cherry season pretty much passed me by before I even knew it was here.  Other local produce tends to arrive, hang out for an extended chat, and slowly move on its way.  Its like really enjoying a song on your iPod, then seeing the band in concert and they stretch out the music with the perfect guitar solo.  The local corn, peppers, tomatoes, squash are old school rock and roll.  Cherries are more punk rock.  You see the trees, the blossoms, the gorgeous cherries hanging from the branches by the hundreds.  Finally, families open the orchards for business and bam!  its over before you know it.  One super sonic punk number going full throttle, then  disappearing off stage.

Here’s your chance to make some punk rock cherry muffins before the season’s over.

Cherries from Seko Ranch.

Mini Cherry Muffins

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup butter, softened

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed, plus a few TBS more for sprinkling on the muffins

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup cherries, pitted and chopped

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease 24 mini pan or place paper inserts into cups.

2.  In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, and the granulated sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy.

4.  Beat in the egg then the buttermilk and mix well.  Add the flour mixture into the buttermilk mix and stir until just blended.  Fold in the cherries.

5.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. Sprinkle with brown sugar.  Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes or until they pass the clean toothpick test.

Notes:

  • This recipe came from the tried and true method of looking in the fridge and pantry, checking recipes, and just figuring out what should work.
  • The next time I make these, I’ll go for regular size cupcakes so there is a better proportion of fluffy parts to crusty parts.
  • Hint:  do not chop cherries wearing khakis.  🙂
  • A great resource for those in the California bay area wanting to pick cherries is Brentwood Cherries.

Asparagus Asparagus and Sausage Strata

Have you ever had one of those work projects where the forward motion of the whole train depended on a few key people?  You have great admiration and respect for these people who keep everything at work running smoothly, and the whole mojo of the project depends on their first impression?  The kind of project where these key people have to rearrange their own work days, find people to cover for them, be ready to learn more skills than mere mortals can absorb in a day, and then return to their regular posts to find out what catastrophes graced their work places that still need to be cleaned up?  That kind of project.  At times like this, food is essential.  Nothing says “you are appreciated” first thing in the morning than a home made breakfast.

The food was perfect, the project well received, and everyone is on board with the project.  “nuff said.

Breakfast stratas are perfect for sharing because they can be made the night before, feed a crowd, and are simply delicious!  This recipe is a combination created from a standby recipe I have used for years that frankly has way too much cheese, a few ideas found in other blogs, and the fact that I had lots and lots of asparagus on hand.  As has been my bent lately, I upped the veggies and cut way back on the grated cheese.  This is also the first time I tried ricotta in a strata.  I had some in the fridge and it just sounded good.  The ricotta turned out to be a perfect match with the asparagus as it didn’t overpower the flavor.  When a dish has double asparagus in its name, you darned well better be able to taste asparagus!

Asparagus and onions from Tachella Family Farm, strawberries on the side from “The Stand on the Corner” as we call it around here.

Asparagus Asparagus and Sausage Strata

serves 10 to 12

Ingredients:

8 large eggs

2 1/2 cups skim milk

1 pint skim ricotta cheese

5 green onions, sliced including greens

1 cup Swiss cheese, grated

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed

2 bunches asparagus, ends trimmed, and cut into 2 inch pieces

1 1/2 loaf french bread, sliced

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 tsp Paprika

Directions:

1.  Coat 13 x 9 inch pan with spray oil.

2.  Cook sausages in a skillet, breaking up the meat into small bits.  When the sausage is almost cooked through, move it to one side of the skillet and add the asparagus. Continue cooking until the sausage is cooked through and the asparagus just starts to brown.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, ricotta, green onions, salt and pepper.

4.  Prepare the strata by layering half of the bread slices in the baking pan, sprinkle with half of the sausage and asparagus mixture, and then with half of the Swiss and Parmesan cheeses.  Repeat layering.  Slowly pour egg mixture over the layers, making sure all of the bread is moistened.  Stop adding liquid when it reaches 1/2 inch below the rim of the pan.  Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

5.  Bake the next morning uncovered for one hour in a 350 degree oven.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with Paprika.

Notes:

  • The amount of bread and liquid needed will depend on the type of pan you use.  A metal baking pan seems to hold an endless amount of food, while the stoneware pans hold less.  You may not need all of the liquid called for in the recipe.
  • This is a very flexible recipe!  Swapping out the asparagus for another veggie and the sausage for another meat works well.
  • I bought my cheese from my favorite supermarket … the one with the huge variety of vegetables, peppers, and lentils.  It wasn’t that flavorful.  Next time I’ll be sure to get at least some decent cheese.