Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Watermelon and Feta Salad with Mint

Article first published as Watermelon and Feta Salad with Mint on Blogcritics.

I know.  You might be thinking, what the heck?  Why would you pair sweet, delicious, juicy watermelon with a cheese that smells like old feet? Trust me on this one – it’s divine.  The salty, briny feta cheese amplifies the sweetness in the melon, and makes for a perfect combination.  I pump up the brininess in this recipe with some kalamata olives, and balance it out with some mint and basil and a few red onions for texture.  It is an all time favorite side dish for my husband and frequent guests.  It pairs beautifully with grilled steak, shrimp, seared scallops, or roasted halibut, and with some grilled corn on the cob and a glass of cool Riesling, it’s like summer on your table.  You probably have most of these ingredients in your pantry and/or garden, and melons are fabulously juice, sugary, and omnipresent at farmers’ markets this time of year.  Try it tonight – you’ll be glad you did!

About 6 cups of watermelon, cubed into 1” squares
¼ red onion, sliced as thin as possible
¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup fresh arugula, rough chopped
¾ cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
2 oz. feta cheese, sliced into 1 inch by ¼ inch rectangles
1 Tbsp Good quality Olive Oil
Juice and Zest of 1 lime
1 Tbsp White Balsamic (or rice wine) vinegar
Dash of Tabasco
Sea Salt and Fresh ground pepper to taste

Chop the watermelon, olives, feta, arugula, and herbs and mix together lightly.  Whisk up the remaining ingredients in a small bowl for the dressing and set aside.  Dress this dish just before serving and lightly toss, as the dressing will start to break down the melon fairly quickly.
You can omit the arugula if you like; it will make less volume, but still taste great.  I always have it on hand and I love the pepperiness it brings to the salad, and the color.  I’ve also added yellow cherry tomatoes (the Sungold variety) to this salad and it makes for a gorgeous rainbow of colors and adds some nice subtle acidity.  If your melon is not as sweet as you’d like, you can add 1 teaspoon of honey or sugar in the raw to your dressing too.  Go ahead and experiment – you really can’t mess this one up!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mediterranean Confetti Salad

Article first published as Mediterranean Confetti Salad on Blogcritics.

I indulged a little too much over the holiday weekend and needed a meal that offered lots of protein, fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and tons of flavor to get me back on track.  I decided to put together a quick chick pea salad with herbs, vegetables and some sweet and savory components.   The humble side dish ended up being the star of our meal with its bright flavors, vibrant colors and many textures.  It was simple enough for Tuesday night with the kids, but definitely unique and eye-appealing enough for a special event.  I used what I had in my drawer, but you could sub out almost any component for something seasonally and available that you like.  We paired this with Parmesan and Panko-Crusted Tilapia, Steamed Green and Wax Beans, and fresh Cantaloupe slices.  It would be wonderful with grilled chicken, lamb kebobs or Grilled Swordfish too, or you could serve this in a bed of greens, paired with some whole-wheat flatbread for a vegetarian meal.  Enjoy!

1 (15 oz.) can of chick peas (Garbanzo beans)
Juice and zest of one lemon
Juice and zest of one lime
3 Tbsp good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp White Balsamic or Sherry Vinegar
¼ cup each chopped cilantro, mint, parsley
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup red onion, diced
¼ cup carrots, diced
¼ cup roasted red pepper, diced
1 cup arugula, baby spinach, or watercress, rough chopped
Salt & pepper to taste

Rinse and drain the chick peas to remove excess liquid and salt.  Place in medium bowl and chop all vegetables and herbs.  Add the golden raisins (plumped in boiling water if you prefer), the almonds, onion, carrots, roasted red pepper, chopped greens of your choice, and all of the herbs.  Stir gently.  Zest and juice the citrus in a small bowl and whisk in the EVOO and vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add to the bean mixture and lightly toss.  This salad is best if it sits at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.  It can also be refrigerated and served later.  It will keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days, and is good served cool or at room temperature. It serves 4-6 as is but can easily be doubled or tripled for a party.

Want to know more about why you need to have chick peas in your diet every week?  There are some great reasons besides how good they taste, and how economical and versatile they are.  get the scoop here: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=58

Treat every meal like it's a celebration AND eat to fuel a healthy body at the same time!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Romesco Sauce: Five Minutes in the Food processor, Two Meals

Article first published as Romesco Sauce: One Sauce Equals Two Divine Meals on Blogcritics.

Have you tried Romesco Sauce?  It’s very popular in the Catalan region of Spain and there are as many variations as there are versions of Italian “Sunday Gravy”.  It is so quick, easy, flavor and nutrient-packed, and made with ingredients you probably have on hand.  In addition to being inexpensive, quick, and so easy, it is packed with Fiber, Omega 3’s, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and other antioxidants. 

Romesco is basically a thick puree of roasted red peppers, nuts and sherry vinegar.  I promise you, it is sublimely easy and so yummy, you’ll want to use some crusty bread to sop every bit of it off your plate.  It is a perfect complement to chicken, lamb, fish, or grilled vegetables.  Here is a quick version I made recently to rave reviews from my family, but you can change out herbs, spices, nuts, and acidity components to make it your own.  This recipe makes a large enough batch that it will work for 2 meals for 2-4 people.   If you’re entertaining or want more, simply double it.  I made this with grilled Lemon and Herb Chicken and Farmer’s Market Wax and Green Beans the first night.  Then, I tossed the rest with whole wheat pasta, shrimp, sautéed veggies, and a little chicken stock the next night for a completely different take.  Both were delicious and on the table in less than 30 minutes.  Paired with some crisp white wine and finished with some fresh fruit sorbet, we all left the table happy and healthy, two nights in a row!  Enjoy!

1 stale roll or ½ stale mini baguette, torn into small pieces
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp Spanish Paprika
Black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Sherry vinegar
2-3 red bell peppers, roasted with charred skins removed (or 1 jar roasted peppers)
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and cored
handful of flat leaf parsley, stems removed
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

It’s time to haul out your food processor!  This thick, luscious, raw sauce comes together in a snap with the help of the fast moving blades.  First, place the stale bread bits, garlic, almonds, salt/pepper and spices in the process or whirl until everything is finely ground.  Prep your tomatoes by slicing in half lengthwise, and then removing the juicy innards and core, leaving only the fleshy out part.  Add that to the food processor with the roasted peppers (if jarred, drain first), and the parsley, and continue to blend until fairly uniform.  While processor is going, drizzle in the EVOO slowly to fully emulsify.  Taste and adjust salt, pepper, and spices to your preference.  Because this sauce is thick, I like to spoon it onto the serving plate or platter, spread it out a bit with the back of the spoon, and then lay your cooked protein on top.  Garnish with a bit of parsley, basil or rosemary for a gorgeous presentation.  I’m eating light, but if you want a heartier meal, pair it with fresh veggies and some basmati rice, cooked polenta, or warm flatbread.  So indulgent!  

By the way, if you wish to roast your own peppers, and don’t know how, here are some easy-peasy step-by-step instructions.  These are so easy and have much less salt than the bottled version and a great way to use up those extra peppers in your garden.   Here is the link: http://www.ehow.com/how_2163263_roasted-red-peppers-stovetop.html.

If you like this sauce and you’re feeling creative, try a few variations.  You could use yellow or orange peppers and tomatoes to change the color profile and slightly enhance the sweetness.  Try smoked paprika is you want to push the smoky profile of the dish.  Sub out rosemary, basil or oregano for the parsley or try pine nuts or hazelnuts in lieu of the almonds. Sherry vinegar is the Spanish classic, but any wine-based or balsamic vinegar would work.  Have fun with it, use what you have available, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box!