Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer Salad

It is Memorial Day Weekend and we had my sister's family over for a little BBQ.  I really wanted all the foods associated with summer; corn, watermelon, beans, potato salad, three bean salad, ice cream, something on the grill etc. The problem is our party was only for 5 people so we really didn't need this excessive amount of food.  In an effort to make everything I wanted, I decided to make a fresh summer salad that encompassed both potato salad and three bean salad but fresher.

I basically made this recipe up thinking about a potato salad I once made with fresh herbs and looking for a spring flavor in a lemon vinaigrette.  You could definitely mix in a variety of different vegetables in here but this classic is colorful and springy and apparently delicious because it's almost all gone!

1/4 lb fresh green beans
1/4 lb fresh sugar snap peas
6 small new potatoes
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 C mixed herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, thyme, chopped (at our farmer's market you can buy a bag of mixed herbs for $2.50, this is the best way to get a mix of herbs unless you grow your own)

1/4 C olive oil
1 1/2 lemons, juiced (you need the juice)
1-2 T rice vinegar
1/2 t Dijon Mustard
1/2 t salt

1. Scrub clean the potatoes and then place them in a pot and just cover with cold water.  Boil about 10 minutes until fork tender.
2. Remove the potatoes from the water with a spoon and set aside. Place the peas and beans into the boiling water and blanch for about two minutes so that the beans and peas get greener but keep their crunch. Drain immediately and rinse in cold water or an ice bath.
3. In the salad bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and salt.
4. Quarter the potatoes, third the beans, and cut some of the peas in half. If your tomatoes are really big cut them in  half, otherwise leave whole.
5. Toss the vegetables and herbs with the dressing and let rest in the fridge until ready to eat. If you want it to look prettier, only toss half the herbs in now and add the other half just before serving.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fruit Spring Rolls

Did you see these spring rolls on Tastespotting last summer? I sure did. I saw them and thought I had to make them for something because they looked so fun and unusual and also really pretty and tasty.  So I set out on a path to make these for any upcoming events that would have the right sort of crowd. Unfortunately, I couldn't find rice paper anywhere. So I filed this recipe away for a rainy day.

Then this spring I was browsing an Asian market called 99 Ranch Market in Van Nuys and happened across not one but three kinds of rice paper wrappers! Luckily I still had the recipe in mind and bought a pack.
These are so simple and fast to make! I watched a short video on Chow about how to dip the wrappers before I embarked on the adventure of making these and found it to be super simple. Some people didn't seem to think the rice paper really added much to these except that it makes them hand held. i also like how it makes them pretty and I wish I had cut them in half but I never did, I also forgot to add mint. I think you could make these with any mix of fruit.

1 pint strawberries, diced
2 small mango, cut into matchsticks*
1 1/2 pint blueberries
8 blackberries (or 1/2 pint if you want these in all of them)
Mint, chopped (we agreed that this may have added something even though I forgot it)
Spring roll/rice paper wrappers
Damp dish towel
Serving plate
shallow bowl or frying pan filled with warm water

1/3 C honey
scant 1/2 t vanilla extract
zest of 1 lime

1. Prepare your fruit. *To cut the mango into matchsticks, I cut off the edges of the mangos to get the fruit sides and no pit. Then I scored around the edge and cut strips down the middle but not through the skin. Then I bent the skin so that the fruit was sort of inside out and cut along the skin so that the matchsticks fell out. This worked really well for me.

2. Dip one sheet of rice paper into the shallow bowl or frying pan of warm water for about 2 seconds edge first. Lie paper on a plate.

3. Place some of each fruit in the center of the paper and then fold in the sides and roll up tightly. The paper sticks together so work quickly and don't try to change anything after rolling it. Place on a serving tray under the damp cloth. Try not to put them two close together as they will stick.

4. Once you are finished the rolls, place the plate covered in the damp cloth in the refrigerator for up to two hours.

5. Stir together lime zest, vanilla extract and honey for dipping. We all agreed that while this sauce wasn't necessary it was fun to complete the spring roll concept. I recommend heating it up in the microwave for about 10 seconds to make the honey more fluid if your honey is thick like mine.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Weeknight Spare Ribs

One of my goals is to get the whole family interested in what to have for dinner.  It is a lot of pressure to decide night in and night out what to make for dinner so it's a real treat when someone else makes one of the buying decisions.

This weekend, as we browsed the meat aisle for sales, Joey picked up a rack of pork spare ribs. I was a little leery about it because I was pretty sure ribs take several hours to cook and couldn't be made on a weeknight.

We got home and I took a quick search around the web and found this easy recipe from Martha Stewart.  It does take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to prepare but since Joey works closer to home than I do he was able to start the dinner and we finished it together when I got home later--I hardly had to wait at all!  We only followed Martha's cooking time and spices--we bought our bbq sauce.

These ribs were tasty, tender and a nice change for a weeknight. We also filled up on only about 3-4 ribs a person which seems small in usual times.  This would be good served with any variety of sides like greens, beans and bread.

Ingredients (serves 2)
1 1/2 lbs pork spare ribs
2 T chili powder
Salt & Pepper
BBQ Sauce - any style

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Rub the chili powder, salt and pepper all over the ribs.  Then wrap them tightly in a double layer of foil (so you don't get tons of fat on the pan).
3. Place foil packet on a rimmed baking sheet and cook about 1 1/2 hours or until ribs are fork tender.
4. Just as cooking time finishes, heat the grill** to medium
5. Remove ribs from oven and brush both sides with bbq sauce.  Grill 2-3 minutes per side and serve.

**Several people didn't grill these and just brushed with sauce and put the ribs under the broiler briefly. It would work fine if you're against using another appliance or if you have a charcoal grill and the turning on process takes a long time!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake Puffs

Strawberry shortcake is one of my sister in law's most requested desserts.  For her baby shower, I was determined to have a play on strawberry shortcake.  The thing is, for a baby shower you don't want anything big--people are into small bites.  I wanted to make something quick and easy that wouldn't mess up the kitchen but could be made the day of.  These were just the thing. Everyone really liked these bites and they weren't too sweet which was sort of nice. You could make these sweet by brushing the pastry with sugar before baking or soaking the strawberries in sugar first, but I don't think it's necessary.

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed (you can do this overnight in the refrigerator or in 40 minutes on the counter)
8 strawberries, sliced into triangle wedges
1 C heavy whipping cream
1 T powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract
Sugar in the raw

1. Preheat the oven according to the directions on the frozen puff pastry package--I think it is 425?
2. Spread the sheets flat on the counter and cut out small circles of dough and place on a parchment lined baking sheet
3. Bake 15 minutes or until pastry is puffed
4. Meanwhile, beat cream and sugar together until stiff peaks form, beat in vanilla
5. When the pastries are slightly cool top with a dollop of whipped cream and a strawberry slice.
6. Refrigerate until ready to eat
7. Just before serving, top with sugar in the raw

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spicy Pork Tenderloin

Have you watched that show Worst Cooks in America? Remember that episode when they made late night gourmet diner snacks and Bobby Flay made some nachos?  Yeah, so those nachos are SO complicated that I can't ever imagine making them as a late night snack much less dinner.  Instead of making the whole thing, I just used a version of Bobby's dry rub to make this pork tenderloin. I say a version because I don't really have all the different kinds of chili powder Bobby is always putting in his recipes.  This pork was spicy and sharp but pretty delicious too. If you want to make the monray sauce be my guest, but I recommend this pork with some roasted carrots and a Hawaiian roll.

Adapted from Bobby Flay's recipe
1.25 lb pork tenderloin, cut in half
2 T canola oil
2 T light brown sugar
3 T ancho chili powder
1 T regular chili powder
1t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1 1/2 t cajun spice mix (I just have this, you can just omit it)
Kosher salt
5 turns fresh ground black pepper

1. Salt the pork generously on all sides.
2. Mix all the other spices together on a large plate and dredge the pork into the spices. By dredge I mean really push the meat into the spices and make sure all sides are covered. Shake off excess.
3. Heat 2 T oil over high heat in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, add pork and sear each side for about 2 minutes.  Then reduce heat and cook 6-10 minutes more until a thermometer registers 135-140. Remove to a cutting board and let sit 10 minutes. Serve with roasted carrots.

Roasted Carrots
olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
2. Toss carrots cut into like-sized pieces with olive oil and salt and sprinkle with thyme
3. Roast 20-25 minutes or until carrots are tender