Heirloom Treasures

This is not about cooking, and certainly not a recipe except for the fact that I often find adding one special beautiful and tasty thing to an ordinary meal can turn the evening into a celebration.  Heirloom tomatoes can do that. I like to grow them, so I find that joy part of their goodness. Besides, they are way too expensive in the stores when you can find them. Each type of heirloom tomato has a distinctive color and flavor.

I like just about anything with a story, and every variety of heirloom vegetables comes with history, with story.  My daughter in law, Kristen, also loves to grow these beauties, and she arranged these with some of our garden basil and a few olives on a platter for a family meal last week. On this plate are Cherokee Purple, Eva Purple Ball, Louisiana Pink, Kosovo, and Paul Robeson tomatoes.  I believe the bright yellow slices are from a Russian Heirloom tomato, but I misplaced the tag when planting and I honestly do not remember.  Another favorite way to use these tomatoes is in Caprese salad, made by simply adding slices of whole milk mozzarella and a few splashes of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Quoted from another of my blogs, http://www.mappingsforthismorning.blogspot.com, which is a collection of family stories.

I find heirloom plants intriguing, and am thankful for the pleasure gardening brings to all of us.  I believe the love of gardening is another heirloom, one passed down to me and mine from my parents and grandparents, who first showed me how to garden, but also introduced me to delicious fresh food on our table.  Long before the current farm to table trends, I knew that eating local (as in very local, our own garden) tasted better and helped to keep us healthy.  

Celebrating Heirlooms!

Asparagus, Parmesan and Red Onion Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette

With the approach of summertime, gatherings on the porch, and grilling, I like serving a variety of vegetable salads. This one is perfect with grilled meats and chicken. It keeps several days covered and refrigerated.  This is my version of a recipe Anne Burrell features on the Food Network.  It is good with fresh Lemon Vinaigrette as well.

Asparagus, Parmesan, and Red Onion Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette

1 bunch pencil-size asparagus

1 small red onion,  diced

1 cup shaved parmesan flakes

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Rinse and trim asparagus stalk ends by bending and snapping off where the stalk naturally wants to break. Cut asparagus stalks, including the tips into very thin slices, crosswise and place in a bowl. Add red onion and shaved Parmesan and toss to combine. Dress with vinegar, olive oil, and salt and toss again to coat vegetables with dressing.The vinegar will tenderize the asparagus. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving to allow vegetables to marinate.

.

 

Kale, Beet, and Apple Salad with Curry Vinaigrette

kalebeetapplesaladAfter seeing a beautiful salad recipe posted by my friend Debra this week, I adapted ingredients we had to make one that looks much like hers and used the same delicious vinaigrette with a bit of extra curry. The result is colorful and tasty –  a work of art  with layers of flavor!  Since we have an abundant crop of kale in our garden, we will have this often in our winter menus. This salad rates very high on the nutrition scale as well. I used pickled beets but you can add roasted or steamed fresh beets instead.

Kale, Beet, and Apple Salad

4 cups ruffled kale, shredded.

2 cups coarsely chopped peeled apples

2 cups pickled beet pieces

Curry Vinaigrette, recipe below.

Wash and pat the kale leaves dry before stripping from center stems.  Roll leaves and slice crosswise to shred.  Add chopped kale to a large bowl.  Add apples.  Drain beets and add, tossing with Curry Vinaigrette at least 4 hours before serving. Store covered in refrigerator.  Toss gently when ready to serve.

Curry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon (or more to taste) hot curry powder.  Use mild if your family prefers.

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger

Whisk all ingredients together before pouring over salad.

Lime Marinade and Herb Salad for Steak

herbs

This lime marinade has become my new favorite. Couple with the fresh herb salad topping and hit a homerun  with those at your table!.  The fresh brightness of herbs and tangy lime juice adds layers of flavor to grilled meats, fish or chicken. I use Mexican Mint Marigold in my herb mix because tarragon does not grow well here, but if you have tarragon, use that. We will have this again tonight with sides of baked potato and crispy lettuces, also from our garden. This is my version of Danny Boome’s, used when grilling flank steak on his Food Network show Rescue Chef.

lettuce

Lime Marinade

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
1 orange, juiced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all ingredients in a large Ziploc bag. Add the steak and refrigerate for 30 -45 minutes, turning occasionally.  Remove from refrigerator and let come to room temperature before grilling or pan-searing steak.

Herb Salad

1 small bunch Italian parsley
1  small bunch sweet basil
1 small bunch cilantro
1 small bunch Mexican Mint Marigold  (or use fresh Tarragon if you have it.)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 limes, juiced
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Wash the herbs and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Remove the leaves from stems and chop slightly. Whisk together olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Add  to chopped herbs a few spoonsful at a time until mixture is lightly coated with dressing.  You may not need all the dressing, but serve any remaining to pass with a small spoon at the table.

 

Thai Chicken Salad with Lime and Ginger Vinaigrette

VietnameseChickenSalad

In the heat and humidity of August days, salad suppers are a simple, nutritious and delicious welcome.  The added benefit is no cooking to heat up the kitchen if you use a rotisserie chicken to top this family favorite.  Every time I make this salad I wonder why I don’t do it more often. Most of the ingredients are ones we keep as pantry and frig staples.

There are dozens of similar recipes in cookbooks and online. Some are called Vietnamese, some are called Thai. Most list fish sauce as an ingredient and since we lived in Southeast Asia, I know this is a traditional seasoning.  But we prefer to omit it in most dishes.  The greens can be a combination of almost anything you wish. If you are cooking for several people, increase the amounts and it is beautiful served on a large platter with ingredients layered separately to toss before serving. When I make it for two, I create the salads right on the serving plates.

Thai Chicken Salad with Lime and Ginger Vinaigrette

2  cups shredded or chopped chicken (I use rotisserie chicken!)

4 cups coarsely chopped Romaine lettuce or Napa Cabbage

1 sweet red pepper, chopped

1 small red onion

1 small cucumber, sliced thin

3 carrots, grated

!/2 cup roasted peanuts (more if you like)

 

For Lime and Ginger Vinaigrette

Juice of 2 large limes

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 Tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger (I use Penzey’s)

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

honey to taste

whisk together and drizzle over salad before serving

Layer greens, chopped vegetables, and chicken.  Sprinkle peanuts and dressing on top before serving.

 

 

 

 

 
// //

Hot Cranberry Apple Salad

IMG_3790

Our church Thanksgiving dinner is tonight. Turkeys and pans of dressing are volunteered for and prepared ahead of time, but those attending (it is one of our congregations favorite functions all year) bring salads, vegetables, and desserts.  I am bringing 2 salads.  One is Caprese in a bowl using the last of the season’s basil leaves along with c herry tomatoes and tiny mozarella balls. The other salad is a hot salad, one of our favorite dishes this time of year.  I first found a similar recipe in a church cookbook given to us by friends from that church many years ago.  It can be found with many variations online, but this is my old, tried and true way to make it.

Hot Cranberry Apple Salad

21/2 c.whole washed cranberries
3 c. chopped apples, no need to peel
1 c. sugar
1 c. quick oats
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 stick butter
In an 8X10 inch baking pan,.mix together apples, cranberries, and sugar mixture of oats, brown sugar, and nuts over top. Cut pats of butter to dot over all. Bake 1 hour at 325 degrees. Serve warm.

 

Chicken, Mandarin, and Pecan Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing

IMG_3208

We make a rotisserie chicken stretch into several meals at our house, and I am always trying new ways to use the “rest of the story” when I remove all the chicken bits from the bone. If time permits,  I also cook the bones and strain the broth to use in other ways. But I always pull the meat away, shredding or chopping as I go. Most of the time I have 3 two cup portions to use or freeze. This salad was a perfect lunch, using 2 cups of leftover shredded rotisserie chicken.  This makes 2 generous servings for a lunch entrée.

Chicken, Mandarin, and Pecan Salad

2 cups chopped Romaine lettuce

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

1  hard-boiled egg, peeled and sliced

3 green onions, sliced

1/2 cup chopped pecans

8-10 canned  mandarin orange slices

 

Creamy Lemon Dressing:

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Combine all salad ingredients except oranges and toss. Drizzle with Creamy Lemon Dressing, then scatter mandarin slices on top.

Tomato, Cucumber, Onion and Mint Salad

IMG_3224We like to have delicious light lunches that are not sandwiches and don’t have to include meat, cheese, or bread.  Recently I saw a similar version of this salad  that Paula Deen recommended. It is a refreshing departure from one based on lettuce or other greens. It is too late in the season for our garden to provide the tomatoes and cucumbers, but we have more than enough mint and parsley!  This works well with a triangle of pita bread, or as a side if we use it for dinner with grilled meats or fish. Try this with chopped basil and some mozarella balls for an entirely different but tasty salad..

Tomato, Cucumber,, Onion, and Mint Salad

2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped

1/2 red onion, sliced thin

1/4 cup (or more to taste) fresh mint leaves, chopped

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon chopped Parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Combine tomato, cucumber, onion, and mint in salad bowl.  In liquid measuring cup, whisk together oil, vinegar, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Pour over vegetables and mint and toss. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

Pasta Caprese

IMG_2752A combination of two of our favorite summer salads, Pasta Caprese is perfect for Sunday lunch after church, for taking to a potluck, or as a side to serve with grilled meats or fish. We make a wide variety of pasta salads using ingredients that are in the pantry or frig. An all time favorite is Caprese made with fresh garden tomatoes, basil, and a slice of whole milk Mozarella. For this bowl of combined flavors, I use canned tomatoes and grated Mozarella, but you could also chop fresh tomatoes and/or use little Mozarella balls to make it even better. This recipe makes a large amount. Can be made ahead.

Caprese Pasta Salad

1 pound tube pasta such as penne or gemelli

1 28 ounce can or box of diced tomatoes, drained (reserve liquid for later use)

2 cups shredded mozarella

fresh basil leaves , shredded (I used a large bunch, but add this to taste)

sea salt and pepper,

1 cup balsamic vinaigrette

Cook pasta to package directions, al dente. Drain past, add to large bowl, and add drained tomatoes, shredded basil, grated cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Toss and add balsamic vinaigrette

Eetch

IMG_2552Eetch (pronounced Yeetch) is a traditional Armenian side dish made from Bulgar wheat. It is similar to tabbouleh but much thicker and grainier, and not as tart. Its color is derived from tomato paste and tomato sauce. It is a great way to use summer vegetables, another take on salads, and you can add as much spice as you wish.  I think the next batch I make I will omit cayenne pepper, but add some chopped jalapeno!  OK, I know that is not traditional, but we could call that Texas Eetch!

Eetch – Armenian Bulgur Salad

1 medium onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon tomato paste ( I buy tubes of tomato paste rather than cans, so easy to use small amounts)

1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup water (just measure by rinsing the tomato sauce can)

1 1/2 cups Bulgar

chopped parsley

juice of 1 lemon or more to taste, optional

a pinch of cayenne pepper ( to taste, and optional)

Heat olive oil in large sauce pan. Add onion, green pepper, 1 T tomato paste and salt, Cook over medium heat about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add tomato sauce, water, and when back to boiling, stir in bulgur, mixing well.  Cover, remove from heat and   let stand.  Fluff and stir in parsley plus lemon juice and cayenne if using.  Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.   This is beautiful served on a Romaine lettuce leaf with a sprinkle of chopped fresh tonatoes and green onions, but also works well as a side dish or  a stuffing for peppers.