Thursday, February 11, 2010

Basic Green Salad

I have no photo, but this is one recipe you should have in your pocket. It is essential if you ask me and in my family it appears on every single dinner table. Always. Guess what? It goes great on the side of things like pasta bake! A little healthful greenery without making a serious side dish.

What you'll need:
lettuce - bibb, boston, or butter - i like the "living" lettuce
honestly you could stop there. Just lettuce.
Cucumber - European seedless or Persian (otherwise known as "mini" or "baby")
green onion - the hardcore will use real onion, but i am an onion wimp
salt and pepper
good quality extra version olive oil
good qual white wine vinegar
(optional - dijon mustard and a garlic clove)

Wash and tear your lettuce into bite sized pieces
peel and slice your cucumber - i use my mandolin for this and it is super fast and makes nice thin slices
Thinly slice your green onion - again i use the mandolin
put all in a bowl and drizzle on a little olive oil and toss, you just want to lightly coat everything
now drizzle on the vinegar and toss to coat (science note: you put the oil on first bc the vinegar will break the tender lettuce down to much and the texture will be off aka soggy lettuce)
salt and pepper to taste
I admit this combo takes a few tries to perfect and i think a lot of that is just personal tastes. You've got to get your oil to vinegar ratio down to where you like it.
Make a quick vinaigrette and dress the salad with that
in the bottom of a small bowl put
1/2 teaspoon french dijon mustard
1 teaspoon vinegar
i small clove of garlic, crushed with the back of a knife
stir together with a fork or small whisk
slowly drizzle in, whisking as you go, approximately 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil
pull the garlic out and dress the salad
salt and pepper taste

ps. for lunch today i will be having this salad with the addition of roasted beets and some goat cheese

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

I have named this creation "pasta bake". See pasta bake should have never been born. Pasta bake was supposed to be beef enchiladas prepared lovingly for my husband who had been gone hunting for almost a week. However, somewhere between Birmingham and Atlanta dear husband decided that enchiladas were gross and he could not stand them. Sigh. So I needed to figure out what to do with my 3/4 of a lb of beef and little else in the fridge/pantry (besides enchilada sauce and tortillas). There was an onion, some different pasta shapes, a can of crushed tomatoes, and a small handful of mozzarella cheese. Something Italian was brewing, but what? I had hoped to make lasagna which is a husband favorite, but I had no noodle sheets and no ricotta. So I made pasta bake. The beef and onion was cooked with some of the crushed tomato and reduced down into a tomato-y beef filling. To get that creamy element I was looking for I went for a simple white sauce which is actually what you'll find in many traditional lasagnas. Now this pasta bake may not look like too much in the pan, but let me tell you it was delish! And a certain picky husband ate it up. Crisis averted.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 - 1 lb ground beef (sirloin)
1 small, sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
Italian seasoning - fresh basil and parsley would be great - I used my McCormick's grinder
1/2 cup crushed tomato from the can - try to use low sodium or unseasoned, organic is good
pasta shells
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk - i used 2%, but by all means use whatever you have
mozzarella cheese - enough to top the 8x8 baking dish
pre heat oven to 350 degrees

1. Get your pasta going
2. heat the oil in a big pan over med high
3. saute onion until golden
4. add in beef and garlic and cook until beef is no longer pink
5. season with herbs/spice grinder + salt and pepper to taste
6. add in tomato and let cook down - you want the mixture to reduce and thicken, not be soupy
7. make your white sauce by heating butter and flour to make a roux, once pasty smell goes away whisk in milk and let bubble up and thicken, season with salt and pepper, if you have some grated parm cheese throw a couple tablespoons of that in too.
8. fill your shells with meat mixture and lay in 8x8 dish
9. pour white sauce over shells and top with mozzarella
10. bake at 350 for about 30 min until sauce is bubbly and top is golden

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Coastal Treats

Our first night visiting my mama and her husband on the Georgia barrier island where they live we had some fresh, local oysters. They were so wonderful and we were able to bring a few home and share with some friends on Sunday night. We just scrub them clean, put them on the grill until they open up a little and then eat them with cocktail sauce or melted garlic butter (my preferred way).

Star Provisions Farm Stand

Aren't these carrots beautiful?! They came from the farmstand at Star Provisions. They were tasty too. We ate about half of them raw and unadorned, standing around in the kitchen and the other half was mixed in with a bunch of other root veggies (Japanese turnips, sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts - all from farmstand with exception of sprouts) and roasted as a side for some delicious pork.