Friday, August 5, 2016

Pasta and Bacon Salad

When I recently logged onto Kitchen Excursions to find the recipe for this amazing summer salad, I couldn't believe I'd never added it to the blog. I have now corrected this regrettable error, and all is well.

No ordinary pasta salad, this. Creamy and delicious, it can be made ahead, and the leftovers—if there are any—last a good while. Serve as a side dish or a main course salad. Ingredient amounts aren't critical, so feel free to adjust them to your taste.

PASTA and BACON SALAD
½-¾ lb. bacon slices
12 oz. elbow macaroni or fusilli
2 cups mayonnaise
½ cup (or more) buttermilk
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. sugar
1 10-16 oz. bag of frozen peas, rinsed and drained
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

1. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat or in microwave until crisp, turning occasionally. Transfer to paper towels and cool. Coarsely chop bacon.

2. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Rinse under cold water and drain well.

3. Make a dressing by whisk the mayonnaise, ½ cup of buttermilk, lemon juice, mustard, and sugar in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Fold pasta, peas, and bacon into dressing and serve. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Toss with more buttermilk if dry. Let stand 1 hour before continuing.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Turkish Bulghur Salad with Pomegranate Molasses Dressing

Bulghur, bulgur, or burghul, a common ingredient in Middle Eastern dishes (such as Tabbouleh and Kibbeh), is made by parboiling, drying, and grinding wheat to a fine, medium, or coarse texture. Bulghur stars in this colorful and delicious salad, my own adaptation of a recipe I found on Epicurious.com. It's a wonderful summer side dish for grilled meats, or served as a main course with a tossed green salad and crusty French bread. Enjoy!

TURKISH BULGHUR SALAD
WITH
POMEGRANATE MOLASSES DRESSING

For the Salad:
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large vidalia onion, minced
2 cups fine bulghur wheat
2 cups boiling water
2 15-oz. cans beans, pink, borlotti, chickpeas, or a combination,
            rinsed and drained
1 large bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 bunch scallions, green tops slices, white parts chopped
1 cup raw pistachio kernels, lightly toasted if desired

For the Dressing:
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
          (available in your grocer's Middle Eastern section)
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced or put through a press
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. Sauté onion in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in bulgur until grains are coated with oil. Slowly add boiling water, stir, and simmer gently for about 5 minutes, until water is absorbed. Fluff wheat and turn into large bowl. Let cool.

2. Rinse and drain the beans you wish to use. Prepare basil and scallions and fold with beans into cooled wheat.

3. Combine dressing ingredients. Stir into wheat.

4. Top with pistachios (or allow individual diners to add their own nuts). Generously serves 6-8 as a main course salad.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Risotto with Sausage and Spinach

With the prep work done and the fixings assembled, risotto is fun to cook. Risotti make wonderful first courses or elegant one-dish meals. They can include meat, seafood, and/or vegetables. Ingredients are limited only by the cook's imagination. We are fortunate to have an Italian grocer here in New Hampshire who handmakes delicious Italian sausage, and I have added several risotto recipes to my repertoire to showcase it. This is one of my favorites.

RISOTTO with SAUSAGE and SPINACH
6 cups of chicken broth
10 oz. fresh spinach, stemmed, washed, and roughly chopped
¾ lb. mild Italian sausage (3-4), skins removed, roughly chopped
1 small onion or large shallot, minced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
5 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Simmering Risotto
1. Heat broth and keep simmering.

2. Melt 4 Tbs. of the butter in a deep, non-stick frying pan. Add onion and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes, until onion softens and starts to color. Stir in garlic and cook another minute. Add sausage, breaking into chunks and cooking until raw color is gone and meat is browned.

3. Add rice. Stir 1-2 minutes until coated well with butter and heated. Increase heat to medium-high. Add wine (set a timer to 18 minutes at this point) and stir casually until rice absorbs wine.

4. Add a generous ladle of broth, stirring occasionally until absorbed. Continue adding broth about a cup at a time, allowing liquid to be absorbed before adding more.

5. After about 10 minutes, stir in spinach. It will cook down quickly. After 18 minutes, taste rice for doneness. It should be al dente.

6. Remove pan from heat. Stir in remaining Tbs. of butter and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread and salad, if desired. 4-6 generous servings.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Chicken with Honey and Cumin Marinade

During a visit to Galway City’s Latin Quarter some years ago, my husband and I randomly chose a restaurant from Quay Street’s vibrant array of pubs and cafés. I don’t recall the name of the restaurant or what I had for dinner. My only recollection is of the saucy Spanish chicken wing starter.

The combination of flavors fascinated me. I took each bite in "ingredient analysis mode." What made this chicken just-right hot? Sour? Sweet? The place was too busy to ask for the recipe, but when I returned to New Hampshire, I found a honey-cumin chicken recipe in one of my Spanish cookbooks. After several experiments, I produced a comparable dish, easy to fix and wonderful with larger chicken parts. I’ve served it to company several times with rave reviews.

The last time we visited Galway, I wanted to try the wings again to see how my chicken measured up. Sadly, the restaurant had closed, but with this chicken dish, I can conjure up Quay Street any time I like. Enjoy!


CHICKEN with HONEY and CUMIN MARINADE
2-5 lbs. of your favorite chicken parts           3 tsps. dried thyme
¼ cup olive oil                                                    3 tsps. cumin
½ cup white wine                                              2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbs. sherry or champagne vinegar              2 Bay leaves
4 Tbs. honey                                                        1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. Buffalo Wing or Hot Sauce                   Fresh ground black pepper

1. Trim and wash chicken. Place in airtight bag or marinater. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over chicken. Marinate for at least one hour.

2. Preheat oven to 350°. Transfer chicken and marinade to baking pan. Bake skin side up, basting once or twice, for one hour or until nicely browned.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Leek and Potato Soup

Here is my version, and it's a darned good one, of a French classic. Leek and Potato Soup is a welcome and delicious break from heavier holiday fare, and it's fairly simple to make. The hardest part is cleaning the leeks, a task well worth the effort. Bon appetit!



LEEK AND POTATO SOUP
(Potage Parmentier)
4 medium leeks, white parts and 1 inch of green
4 Tbs. butter, divided
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
5 cups fat-free chicken broth, simmering
1 Tbs. dry dill, or 2-3 Tbs. fresh chopped dill
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 cup light cream


1. Trim leeks, wash well, and roughly chop.

2. Melt 2 Tbs. of the butter in a large saucepan. Sauté leeks in butter over low heat until tender, about ten minutes.

3. Stir in potatoes. Add heated broth and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook slowly, covered, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.




4. Let cool. Place in blender and purée until smooth. Return to saucepan.
5. Add cream, dill, white pepper, more salt if desired, and remaining butter. Reheat until simmering. Serve with crusty bread or Popovers. Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Savoy Cabbage Soup with Sausage and Arborio Rice

Cabbage. I never liked the horrid stuff my mother plunked into the corned beef pot. She used common cabbage, but there are dozens of cabbages suited to different purposes. Cabbage is good for you, and as we all know, that doesn't mean it has to taste (or smell) bad.

My mother-in-law whipped up delicious cabbage rolls, one of many Syrian dishes made by stuffing various vegetables with ground lamb, rice, and Middle Eastern spices. Last year, Dawn shared a wonderful stuffed cabbage recipe (Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage -Töltött Káposzta).

I first tried Savoy cabbage in Ireland. Shredded and cooked in cream and Irish bacon, it served as a bed for a roasted meat I can't recall, the cabbage was so good. Savoy cabbage is milder than common cabbage. Prettier too, with its curly leaves.

I've made this Savoy Cabbage Soup, my version of a classic Italian dish, several times. It's a perfect autumn/winter dish. Delizioso!

SAVOY CABBAGE SOUP WITH SAUSAGE AND ARBORIO RICE
32 oz. fat free beef broth
32 oz. fat free chicken broth
3 Tbs. butter
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage (4-5 sausages), casings removed
6 cups (about 1¼ lbs.) shredded Savoy cabbage
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 large bay leaf
½ cup arborio rice
Fresh chopped parsley

1. Combine broths and bring to a simmer.

2. Melt butter in 6-8 quart pot. Add onion and sauté until soft and golden.

3. Add sausage, breaking up with wooden spoon. Cook until well browned.

4. Prepare cabbage. Remove and discard outer leaves and core, removing thick "ribs" from the larger leaves as you work. Thinly slice cabbage (I use my food processor with thickest slicing blade), add to sausage, and cook until wilted.

5. Add broth, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 30 minutes.

6. Add rice. Cover and simmer 20 more minutes. Remove bay leaf. Add parsley and serve with crusty bread. Serves 6-8.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Herbed Rice Ring

Warm weather is great for making rice rings, since many, like this Italian-inspired gem, do well served cold, and they’re a dramatic treat to present. I ofte dust off my metal rice mold, a ten-inch, 5½- cup treasure, to prepare this delicious and easy treat, usually as a side dish. It also makes a wonderful vegetarian main course by serving it with a spinach salad, crusty French bread, and grilled vegetables such as zucchini and/or eggplant. Either way, try topping off the meal with a French rosé.


This recipe would complement any number of barbecued meats or seafood. Turn it out on a bed of lettuce if you like, and fill the center with olives, fresh peas, edible flowers, whatever you prefer. I used fresh parsley and tiny tomatoes this time.

HERBED RICE RING
1 cup carnaroli or other arborio type rice
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup olive oil
3 Tbs. lemon juice
2 tsps. dried mint
1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
Salt and white pepper to taste
1 15-oz. can pink beans, rinsed well and drained

1. Bring broth to a boil. Add salt and rice. Simmer, covered, for 18 minutes. Transfer rice to strainer and rinse with cold water to cool. Drain well.

2. Blend next seven ingredients. Gently fold in beans, then rice.

3. Press mixture into rice mold. Turn onto serving plate and garnish as desired.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Balsamic Chicken with Garlic and Rosemary

An evening of thunderstorms had us roasting chicken indoors, and this Italian-inspired recipe hit the spot. As much as I love bacon, I seldom eat it. When I do, it’s the delicious, natural, uncured, nitrate free kind my mother and grandmother cooked. And as my mother and grandmother did, I strain and save the bacon fat so I can make delicious meals like this one. This chicken can be served warm or at room temperature, and it’s a wonderful main dish for summer salads and side dishes.

BALSAMIC CHICKEN with GARLIC and ROSEMARY
1 3½ - 5lb. whole chicken, halved, backbone removed
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, rosemary or unflavored
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup good quality balsamic vinegar
Lots of peeled whole garlic cloves (halve if very large)
Fresh rosemary sprigs
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
4 slices of pancetta, or 4 Tbs. bacon fat

1. Preheat oven to 375 . Drizzle roasting pan with olive oil, then stir in balsamic vinegar and wine.

2. Stir garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs into mixture.

3. Wash chicken well. Discard giblets (or save for another use). If you use them, insert pop-up timers into chicken breasts. Place chicken halves skin side up in roasting pan to coat bottom with mixture, the turn skin side down. Distribute garlic and rosemary evenly around chicken.

4. Bake for 45 minutes. Turn chicken skin side up. Baste with pan juices and sprinkle with lemon juice. Lay pancetta, if using, over chicken, or dot chicken with bacon fat. Cook another hour or so, basting once or twice, until chicken is well browned and timers pop up.

5. Enjoy!
Balsamic Chicken with Garlic and Rosemary, Greek Bean Salad, and Steamed Broccoli

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cucumber, Mint and Yogurt Sauce

During the summer months, my late mother-in-law often made this refreshingly delicious and easy Middle Eastern sauce. I don't know exactly how she made it, but this recipe, my own version, is darn close. It's great with grilled meat, as a dip, or as a saucy side to any number of dishes. And don't be making fun of the ancient Tupperware. I have a whole set, a gift from my mother-in-law. Happy memories!

CUCUMBER, MINT and YOGURT SAUCE
1 seedless English cucumber or 3-4 small seedless cucumbers, peeled
2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3-4 tsps. dried mint, crumbled fine
1 tsp. olive oil
½ tsp. sea salt


1. Finely dice the cucumber.
2. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and blend well. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
3. Garnish with fresh mint or parsley, if desired.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lentil Salad with Red Beans and Chickpeas

Petite and tasty, French Puy lentils are a great ingredient for summer salads. They stay firm, they absorb dressings well, and they're good for you. If you've never tried them, do look for them. Don't be tempted to use common brown lentils. They'll mush up the salad.

This colorful concoction not only makes a great summer side dish, it's a perfect main vegan/vegetarian meal for a warm summer day. Feel free to tailor it to your own taste, and enjoy!

LENTIL SALAD with RED BEANS and CHICKPEAS
Cooking the Lentils:
1 cup dried French Puy lentils
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
½ tsp. salt
1 bay leaf

Assembling the Salad:
1 15-oz. can chick peas
1 15-oz. can small red beans
1 small bunch of scallions, white parts chopped, green tops thinly sliced
2-3 small seedless cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 3/4 oz. package fresh dill

Making the Dressing:
1/8 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. dry white wine
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Place lentils, garlic, salt, and bay leaf in a 2-quart saucepan with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until lentils are just tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool, remove garlic and bay leaf, and drain again.

2. Drain and rinse red beans and chickpeas. Place in a large bowl with lentils. Stir in remaining ingredients, then fold in the dressing. Serve chilled or at room temperature.