Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter Salads and Snacks

Who doesn't love pears? (Did you know they have more fiber than apples?) And winter is the best season for finding nice ones of various varieties.  Plus, they're so versatile.

I have a delicious recipe for a salad that includes pears and a Dijon-vinaigrette that I adapted to work with items I had on hand, and my ersatz version was just as good.

Oven-dried pear slices, I recently discovered, are a nice cracker alternative that can be paired (peared?!) with soft cheeses. Both recipes follow. Enjoy!

Winter Romaine Salad With Pear
2 Romaine hearts, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 Bartlett pear (or more to taste)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds or 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
Freshly ground black pepper (coarse grind)
1/3 cup shaved Parmesan or crumbled Chevre
1/3 cup lemon vinaigrette (substitute lemon olive oil for regular; use balsamic in lieu of other vinegar)

Winter salad with pear.

Toss all ingredients gently, then dress with vinaigrette. Add more black pepper to taste. 

Note: Pears brown quickly, so add them last just before you add the dressing and serve.

Crisp-Dried Pear Slices and Soft Cheese Appetizer
Dried pear slices with soft cheese make a nice appetizer.  
Thinly slice firm pears lengthwise (stem, seeds, and all) with a sharp knife and place in a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake in a preheated 225 degree oven for 1.5 hours. Flip slices and continue baking until darkened slightly and edges have curled, about 1 to 1.5 hours more. They should still be pliable.  Transfer to a wire rack and let stand until cool and crisp. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container up to 1 week.

Nice with store-bought or homemade Boursin or with room temperature Chevre.  And wine, of course.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Beauty of Fall

Eucalyptus wreath.
My house smells really yummy right now, between the crisp fall air, fallen leaves, simmering soup, and a eucalyptus wreath I have hanging on the inside of my front door.

The Eastern Shore has its own brand of beauty at this time of year. I snapped this shot of a group of egrets perched in the brush alongside a small canal on the Chincoteague refuge. They look like big Christmas tree ornaments to me.

Egrets in the trees, Chincoteague.

Not far away is a woodland trail that winds through scrubby pines and marsh. There's a small offshoot called the Bivalve Trail that I'd never walked before.  I'm guessing it got its name from the path's crushed clam shells.

The Bivalve Trail.

At the end of the Bivalve Trail was an inlet with its own little beach, complete with raccoon evidence, a horseshoe imprint, and all manner of driftwood.

At least I think those are raccoon prints.

Let's not forget we're where the famous Chincoteague ponies roam. Unless that's a horseshoe crab imprint.

This beauty was just too big for me to carry home for my hearth.

Enjoy the season!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall Pears and Other Delights

Pyracantha climbs up my foundation.
Don't you just love the yummy colors of fall -- oranges, yellows, crimson reds. The pyracantha berries are out in full force.

I've harvested some of the last of my orange zinnias, and popped them into a little vessel with some garlic chive blossoms. (Nevermind that I didn't intend to grow garlic chives; I meant to get regular chives,)  But the blossoms are nice, nonetheless.

Zinnias and garlic chives blossoms.

I bought a bag of pears at Trader Joe's, and as luck would have it, they all ripened at the exact same minute.  I love a good pear, but there are only so many I can eat within a couple of days.

So I looked for a couple of recipes that could make use of the ripe fruits. I found two winners: a pear chutney recipe (below) and a pear cake recipe from the Food Network.

The chutney recipe is from Martha Stewart. It's chunkier than your average chutney, but full of flavor and a lovely condiment to accompany pork and chicken. Maybe also good on a grilled jarlsberg cheese sandwich!

Martha's Pear Chutney (with my minor modifications)

1/2 cup pecans, broken into pieces (I used walnuts)
  • 1/3 cup raisins
    1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 
    2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 medium shallots, thinly sliced (or sweet onion)1 tablespoon sugar 3 large Bosc or Bartlett pears (about 2 pounds), peeled and dicedSalt and freshly ground black pepper 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts on a baking sheet, and toast until lightly browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool.
Chutney simmering in skillet.
  1. In a small saucepan, combine raisins with 2 tablespoons vinegar and 2 tablespoons water. Place over medium-high heat until simmering. Simmer until raisins have plumped, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside. 

  2. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, and saute until lightly browned and transparent, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and continue to cook until golden brown. Add pears and reserved raisins in their liquid; cook until pears are tender. 

  3. Add remaining 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in rosemary  and reserved toasted nuts. Serve warm, or dish into jars with tight lids and freeze for later use.

  4. Have a splendid autumn. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

You Say Tomato...

...I say, thanks for this easy, yummy summer recipe, Ina!

The sliced tomatoes, tossed with the rest of the
ingredients, ready to marinate.

Cherry tomatoes are almost always good, even when it isn't tomato season. I found some sold on the vine -- they were a luscious dark red, and juicy-sweet.  How fortuitous to then stumble upon Ina Garten's recipe for Summer Garden Pasta.  What's more, I could also use some of the last of my garden basil in this dish.

I tossed all the ingredients in a bowl, and went for a swim. At dinner time, all I had to do was throw together a salad while the pasta boiled, and voila.

Ina's Summer Garden Pasta

4 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
Good olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
18 large basil leaves, julienned, plus extra for serving
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dried angel hair pasta
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Combine the cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, basil leaves, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature for about 4 hours.

Just before you're ready to serve, bring a large pot of water with a splash of olive oil and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil and add the pasta. Cook al dente according to the directions on the package (be careful - it only takes 2 to 3 minutes!). Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl with the cherry tomatoes. Add the cheese and some extra fresh basil leaves and toss well. Serve in big bowls with extra cheese on each serving.

The online recipe even includes some how-to videos, though you won't need visual help creating this simple dish.

5 hours later, tossed with cooked
Dreamfield's low-GI spaghetti.
My only revision was to use spaghetti, since I didn't have any angel hair on hand.  I don't think the dish suffered one bit.

Time to chow down with a nice Zin.