I have three of the best sisters on the planet. I was lucky enough to have two of them down to visit a couple weeks ago. We are all different, but we all share an interest in food and cooking. When a holiday or party is coming up we often menu plan together. Lindsey and Sarah found this recipe for an orzo salad while they were visiting and it was the perfect side dish for the steak Ben grilled for dinner. I made it again the following weekend when my parents were in town and it was a hit yet again! This salad is simple and delicious and a great choice for a summer side dish.
This salad comes together quickly, can be prepared ahead, and can be served room temperature or cold, making it a really convenient dish. You can adjust the ingredients to your liking. I used a lot of tomatoes and herbs, with a small amount of dressing and feta. You can serve more dressing and feta on the side for guests who want more of it. You could leave out the chickpeas if you don’t care for them, but I probably wouldn’t add anymore than the can called for. The chickpea to orzo ratio seemed just about perfect.
The basil and mint combination make this salad bright and refreshing, the feta is a great flavor addition, the chickpeas are a nice texture surprise and the tomatoes provide lovely flavor and color.
The first time my sister made the dressing I was almost out of red wine vinegar so she subbed in some balsamic to make up the difference. The next time I made it I used all red wine vinegar and it definitely changes the dish. I think I preferred it with a little balsamic, but both ways are quite good.
I hope this makes its way to your table this summer! You will not be disappointed.
Orzo Salad with Chickpeas, Tomatoes, Herbs and Feta
From Giada DeLaurentiis
1 1/2 cups orzo
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 to 2 cups cherry, grape or other small tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on their size
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
4-6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (can sub in half for balsamic)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
Whisk vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper together in a bowl. While whisking, drizzle in the oil. Set aside. Note: You won’t use all the dressing. Save what’s left in the fridge to use on a green salad.
Cook orzo in boiling water according to package instructions, until al dente. Drain, then transfer to a serving bowl, toss and let cool.
Toss orzo with the beans, tomatoes, onions and herbs.
Drizzle with some of the dressing, taste and add more until you’re pleased with the flavor.
Toss in the feta if serving right away, otherwise cover and chill until ready to serve. Toss in the feta right before serving.
I get one cooking magazine in the mail. Fine Cooking. I’ve mentioned it more than once (at least a dozen times probably) on the blog. It’s most definitely my favorite cooking magazine. It doesn’t have loads of content, but what it does have is good content and not a lot of ads. Anyway, buy a copy sometime and check it out.
This recipe for chickpea and spinach curry is from the latest issue. While doing meal planning for this past week I was at a loss for Tuesday’s dinner. So I grabbed the magazine and started flipping through it. This one stood out to me right away. I love the flavors in Indian food, but it often takes a lot of time and ingredients to make good Indian food at home. This recipe allows you to take some short cuts but still wind up with a very flavorful and satisfying meal with just enough spice.
Our Tuesday nights get a little crazy, no matter how hard I try I always feel like I am rushing to get dinner ready or the house picked up. This meal fit in perfectly with our busy night (although I failed in some ways this past week and we were still rushed!). It comes together incredibly quickly and cooks up in a flash. It’s full of good-for-you vegetables and fills you up without being heavy. But your house will smell like curry for a few days. That’s the only downside. Ben came home the next day from work and said, “Indian again?” to which I replied “No, spaghetti and meatballs.” which I’d spent all day cooking. I was sure it would’ve masked the curry, but no.
You can serve this as a side dish or as a vegetarian main, which is what I did. The recipe below serves 4 as a side and 2 as a main. It’s easily doubled or tripled, so can suit whatever your needs are.
I skipped out on the yogurt the first time around, but ate it with leftovers and loved the creamy, coolness of it next to the spice. Definitely serve this with naan if you can, but I am sure it would also be nice on a bed of white rice.
If you don’t like cilantro or are serving this to people who don’t, leave it out of the dish. You can serve fresh cilantro separately and let people decide how much, if any, they want.
Quick Chickpea and Spinach Curry
From Fine Cooking
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/8 tsp. cayenne (optional, I left it out)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 14-1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes
6-7 ounces baby spinach
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional, mix in or on the side)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (optional for serving)
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add in the onion, ginger, curry powder and garam masala and cook for a few minutes, until the onion is softened. Add in the garlic and cook for one minute more.
Stir in the chickpeas, tomatoes, and salt to taste (start with 1/2 teaspoon and add no more than 1 teaspoon)
Add in the spinach, a cup or so at a time, letting is cook down just a bit before adding more to keep you pan from getting overloaded.
Once the spinach has cooked down and is wilted, season with more salt if needed, cover the pan and turn off the heat. Let it sit for about 5 minutes.
You can stir in the cilantro to the dish now if desired or serve it on the side.
The last month has been a crazy one, and the next two aren’t going to be any different. We are moving from our sweet little rent house into a lovely suburban home with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a nice big kitchen with garbage disposal, and enough counter space not to have to balance pans on top of the coffee maker. Yes. I have done this. Life will be so good. And about 5 weeks after we move in we will have a new baby on our hands, and so life will be a totally different kind of crazy. Can that be an acceptable excuse for why I haven’t blogged in a month?
I have been cooking, but haven’t been taking pictures of any of it or recording it anywhere. This is a big time bummer. One of my favorite things about having this blog is being able to search for a recipe I’ve made in the past and be reminded of what I did to change it that made it better, or the things I didn’t like that I’d change the next time around. When I don’t update the blog, I don’t have those recipes…unless I managed to write notes on them and put them somewhere safe…which is a rare event. So today I am playing catch-up.
One of the things I’ve had the luxury of participating in this summer is the Farmhouse Delivery here in Houston. When the bushel of local fruits and veg arrive on my doorstep carried by a shaggy headed hipster jamming out to whatever cool music is playing through his earbuds, I get positively giddy. Some of the items we receive are no-brainers. Peaches and blackberries are perfect in my morning yogurt and granola. Cucumbers, sweet peppers and the sweetest cherry tomatoes known to man get sliced and tossed into salads. Potatoes, onions, corn and slicing tomatoes have also been part of our meals. But then we get stuff like patty pan squash and eggplant. What am I going to do with this? I haven’t figured out the patty pan yet, but did find a use for the eggplant. So Farmhouse Delivery, thank you for helping me to explore more in my kitchen. And thanks, Sarah, for the recipe! I feel more of an obligation to use the produce fully since, well, we paid for it, AND it’s fresh and local and delicious. If I forget about a grocery store peach in the back corner of the fridge drawer I toss it out. If I were to forget a farmhouse peach I would probably cry a few tears and have a little memorial service for the sweet and forgotten little guy. On to the recipes…
Spinach, Basil & Walnut Pesto
A big bag of fresh basil came one weekend, and so I made 2 batches of this pesto. We ate it on pizza with mozzarella and farmhouse tomatoes. Another night I mixed it in with penne pasta and chopped cherry tomatoes topped with grated Parmesan. The leftovers from that meal got mixed with lots of mozzarella cheese, more pesto, more tomatoes and then baked in a casserole topped with Parmesan bread crumbs. So many easy and delicious dinners out of one batch of pesto.
4 cups baby spinach
2 cups basil
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Rinse and pat dry spinach and basil.
Put greens in the bowl of a food processor, pour walnuts over, sprinkle with salt and begin to pulse. While pulsing, add olive oil in a stream until desired consistency is reached. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Transfer to a lidded container and store covered in the fridge or freeze for later use.
Quinoa Mac and Cheese Casserole
I’ve made this twice now. It is sure to become a regular on our dinner menu. The great thing is that you can change the vegetables, spices and cheese to make it fit your tastes or what you have available. I used an onion from Farmhouse in this recipe, but other than that it’s a grocery store produce meal. Don’t worry, I’m not getting all snooty about my produce…at least not forever.
Heat a drizzle of oil over medium heat in a large, deep saucepan. Add the onion, bell peppers, scallions and saute for about four minutes, just until bell pepper has started to soften. Add the mushrooms and spinach and cook until spinach is wilted. Add the garlic and continue sauteing for another 30 seconds.
Add quinoa to the pot, followed by the chicken broth, salt, dry mustard and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until all liquid has been absorbed, stirring just a couple times.
Add 1 1/2 cups of the grated cheese and milk. Stir to combine then pour into a greased 9 x 13″ casserole dish.
In a small bowl, combine the Panko and the remaining cheese. Sprinkle on top of casserole and bake for about 30 minutes until golden.
Mediterranean Eggplant and Quinoa Salad
Eggplant, onion, zucchini and tomatoes from Farmhouse and then a great punch from the lemon dressing and an herby freshness from the parsley and mint make this my kind of summer meal. My sweet sister helped me find a recipe to use up my eggplant without feeling like I was eating eggplant. I used her suggestions of using quinoa instead of barley, and adding in a can of chickpeas and crumbled feta. This has made a terrific lunch the past couple days.
2 small to medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2-3 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 onion, halved then sliced
10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped scallion (from 1 bunch)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and halved
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
4-6 ounces crumbled feta
Roast eggplant and zucchini: Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Toss eggplant and zucchini and onion with 5 tablespoons oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl, then spread in 2 oiled large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pans. Roast vegetables in oven, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until vegetables are golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes total. Combine vegetables in 1 pan and cool.
Cook Quinoa: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook scallion, cumin and coriander, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add quinoa and cook, stirring until well coated with oil, 2 minutes more. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all of liquid is absorbed and barley is tender, 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer to reserved shallow baking pan and spread to quickly cool, uncovered, to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
Make dressing and assemble salad: Whisk together lemon juice, sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2-3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add quinoa, roasted vegetables, and remaining ingredients to bowl with dressing and toss until combined well.
One of the best things about this meal, besides being quick and simple, is that it is almost completely free of any kitchen clean up! By baking the chicken and vegetables in little foil or parchment packages, you don’t have to worry about scrubbing down a pan that is coated with the remnants of roasted vegetables. It felt so good to just wad up the foil and toss it in the trash! I am sure Ben was thankful as he is almost always the one who does the dishes after dinner.
So, is this quick, simple and clean-up free meal any good? I thought so. The recipe is from Eating Well and is full of vegetables. I love when a meal is heavy on warm cooked veggies. Having a salad can be a good way to get your daily amount of vegetables, but it can often become monotonous. This is a good way to actually incorporate vegetables into your main course instead of having a separate salad with your meal.
I used more tomatoes than called for in the recipe, replaced the cubanelle pepper with an anaheim, and only used one shallot since the ones at the grocery store were monsters! These guys were huge. I also made the great error of leaving out the mustard. This came to my attention as they were coming out of the oven…not the best timing. So, I just spread some mustard onto the chicken after it was cooked, and all was well. I am sure it would have been better had I remembered the mustard earlier, but it didn’t ruin dinner. I served the chicken with white rice, and so the liquid that remained in the packets was a good sauce despite its thin consistency. Since I had it on hand I used dried thyme, but I think that fresh would give this a much better flavor.
Overall, a good, tasty meal that can be scaled down to make a quick dinner for 2. If you’re like me, finding recipes and cooking for 2 is often a challenge, unless you want leftovers for the rest of the week. A reviewer on eatingwell.com said she doubled the ingredients and cooked everything in a Dutch oven, so that is another way to go to serve a larger crowd. Enjoy!
2 sweet banana peppers, or cubanelle peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used 1 anaheim)
2 shallots, thinly sliced (I used 1)
1 1/2 cups halved grape or cherry tomatoes
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F.
For the foil packets you will need 4 pieces of foil, about 18 inches in length.
Place a chicken breast in the center of one piece of foil and spread with mustard.
Toss zucchini, peppers, shallots, tomatoes, oil, thyme, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Place about 1 1/4 cups of the vegetable mixture on top of each piece of chicken.
Close the packet to cover the ingredients. Starting at the top, seal the packet by folding the edges together in a series of small, tight folds. Twist the tip of the packet and tuck it underneath to help keep the packet closed. Place the packets on a large rimmed baking sheet (packets may overlap slightly). Bake until the vegetables are tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165°F, about 25 minutes. (Carefully open one package to check for doneness and be cautious of the steam.) Let the packets rest unopened for 5 minutes before serving.
Finding tasty, refreshing vegetable side dishes can be difficult. I am all for a nice salad, but sometimes that just doesn’t cut it. Steamed or roasted veggies are delicious, but when the weather is warm I want something cool. This salad is the perfect solution to all these problems! Using seasonal ingredients like fresh corn and juicy tomatoes is a great way to celebrate summer. The fresh basil and mint in the salad make it even more delicious.
I only made one slight change to this recipe. Since I am not a huge fan of drowning a salad in dressing, I simply drizzled the dressing over each individual serving of salad. You don’t need much to add a nice zesty, and tangy flavor to this salad. I left one serving completely naked except for a light sprinkling of salt and thought it was great. The herbs provide so much flavor alone that you could do without the dressing completely. It is up to you.
I served this with Quick Tandoori Chicken, here is the link. I used chicken breasts instead of thighs. The flavors were robust and yummy, but I wouldn’t serve these two things together again. Serving this salad with a simple grilled steak or simple flavored grilled chicken would be wonderful so that you don’t have competing flavors.
2-1/4 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 3 medium ears)
2 Tbs. plain low-fat yogurt
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. clover honey
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
Freshly ground black pepper
1 heaping cup quartered cherry tomatoes (about 15)
1/4 cup very thinly sliced fresh mint
1/4 cup very thinly sliced fresh basil
Cook the edamame according to package directions. Drain and set aside to cool completely.
Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kernels are golden brown in patches, about 9 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the yogurt, lemon juice, honey, garlic, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Slowly pour in the remaining 4 Tbs. olive oil, whisking constantly until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
In a medium serving bowl, combine the cooled edamame and corn, the tomatoes, and the herbs. Gently toss. Add half of the vinaigrette and gently toss. Add more vinaigrette and salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.
This obsession I have with macaroni and cheese may never end. It is just too good. How can you not love it?
My most recent mac and cheese adventure was a BLT version with bacon, leeks, tomatoes, colby jack cheese, and a toasted bread crumb topping. While this did not quite live up to the deliciousness of other macs, it was still very tasty. I liked the subtle flavor of the leeks, juicy tomatoes, salty bacon and creamy cheese.
The inspiration for this dish came while I was perusing recipes and found a BLT pizza that used arugala as the “lettuce” in the BLT. I thought it could be changed a bit to make mac and cheese. I searched BLT mac and cheese and found quite a few recipes, the top result being one from Rachel Ray. It sounds pretty tasty, and I will probably try it sometime and see how it compares to this one. She uses cream cheese in her recipe, and does not make a roux at all. I like making the cheese sauce with the roux, milk and cheese, but maybe she’s on to something with the cream cheese. I’ll let you know once I try it out.
All the recipes I found had a few basics in common. All used bacon and tomatoes, of course, most used leeks, and arugala was the lettuce in most recipes that I found. I could not find arugala at the grocery store, so my leeks became the “L” in this BLT.
Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and place cooked pasta in a large bowl; set aside.
Cook bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat 8-10 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet, leaving drippings in the pan, to paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool. Chop bacon into ½ inch pieces then place in the large bowl.
Slice leek in half lengthwise, then submerge halves in cold water to rinse out any dirt. Remove from water, pat dry and slice into ½ inch pieces. Saute the leeks in the skillet with bacon drippings over medium heat. Cook, uncovered, just until it softens up and place in the large bowl.
Cut tomatoes into ¼ inch slices.
In a sauce pan, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Once it’s completely melted, add the flour and whisk to create a roux. Allow to just come to a boil and then slowly stir in the milk, then the garlic. Allow the milk to come to a simmer and thicken, whisking frequently to avoid clumps. Once it thickens up to coat the back of the spoon, turn off the heat. Carefully stir in the cheeses until melted. Add the garlic powder and salt & pepper to taste.
Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and other ingredients in the large bowl and mix well to combine.
Spread half the pasta mixture into a pan, then layer half the tomato slices on top. Cover with the rest of the pasta, then the rest of the tomatoes.
In a small skillet, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Add the bread crumbs and stir until the crumbs are slightly golden brown. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top of the casserole.
Bake for 20 minutes until bubbly and the top has browned slightly. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
This salad was a big hit at the Superbowl party I brought it to last weekend. It is technically a salad, but a lot of us ate it like a dip with tortilla chips instead. I ate mine over a little mound of crushed chips. The chips add a nice crunch and saltiness. The flavors in this salad are very refreshing. It was a good complement to the heavy chili and queso at the party. The black beans and avocados are healthy and substantial and give the salad some weight that makes it an appealing thing to even the manliest of men. I made mine a few hours before serving and it was great; not soggy at all. I ate some the next day after it had been sitting in the fridge all night, and it was still delicious. The avocado was still green and creamy without any nasty, slimy, brown spots. I really liked the dressing. The addition of lime juice, cilantro and cumin makes the ranch dressing so much tastier. I am thinking about mixing some more of it up just to have on hand. Adding some minced jalapeno might be nice too.
I combined many different recipes to come up with this salad. A lot that I looked at use chips or cornbread as a layer in the salad, but I am not a fan of soggy bread in anything besides stuffing at Thanksgiving. So, I left the chips out, and served them on the side instead. If you want to add chips, cruch up about 2 cups and use half as a layer in between the corn and lettuce layers.
Mexican Layered Salad
2 – 3 heads of romaine, chopped
1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
3 grated carrots
3 – 4 roma tomatoes, chopped
2 avocados, cut into 1/4 inch chunks and tossed with about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
6 – 8 green onions, chopped
1 large can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans whole kernel corn, drained
2 cups shredded cheese, a combination of cheddar and monterey jack is great
1 1/2 cups ranch dressing
3/4 teaspoon cumin
3 – 5 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Tortilla chips for serving
In a small bowl combine tomatoes and scallions.
Combine romaine, cabbage and carrots in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine dressing, cumin, lime juice and cilantro. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
In a trifle dish, layer half of the beans, then half of the corn.
Top half of the lettuce mixture and press down.
Top with half of the tomato mixture, then half of the avocado.
Sprinkle with half of the cheese, then drizzle with dressing.
Repeat layers again, pressing down as needed.
Top with cheese, then cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 1 hour. Can prepare 1 day ahead.