Olive Piccanti

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Olives all by themselves are a treat, but with the addition of a few ingredients, a jar of large pitted olives becomes the star of the party!  This recipe is one I adapted from a tiny recipe book by Frances Mayes: Bella Tuscany, The Sweet Life in Italy. I have Mayes’ larger Tuscan cookbook and have used recipes in several other books she wrote, but this one was a freebie with one of the book purchases. It has lots of “want to try” recipes. This one is certainly a keeper!

Olive Piccanti

2 cups large green olives

2  hot peppers, 1 red, 1 green, minced

1/4 cup onion, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I use Meyer lemons from our tree)

1 thinly sliced lemon

Put all ingredients in a bowl with cover, mix, and refrigerate.  Best after about 24 hours.

 

 

 

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.

Squash Verole

IMG_3111There are so many ways to enjoy summer squash!  I used my 8 inch iron skillet to make this delicious Mexican flavored crookneck squash, a real treat along with some fresh purple hull peas.  I found the recipe in an all time favorite cookbook, The Texas Experience, Friendship and Food Texas Style. I use the cookbook so often the back is coming off and the pages are loose, and I always smile when I see my friend’s handwriting inside the front cover:  “To my best friend with much love, Merry Christmas 1984  Sondra.

It has been almost 30 years since we lived near each other, but I still miss her, and every time we talk, we pick back up where we left off!  Thank you, Sondra.  For the book, and for the friendship!

Squash Verole

4-6 yellow squash, sliced into rounds

1 onion, choed

4 tablespoons oil of your choice (I used coconut)

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup chopped green chiles

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated.

Saute squash and onion in oil until tender.  Add milk, chilies, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove fro heat and add cheese. Serve hot.

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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.

Mary Ann’s Favorite Morning Casserole

IMG_1062 There are hundreds of make- ahead  egg based breakfast casserole recipes! Our church has a famous sausage and egg casserole recipe that gets passed around every year at Easter when we all have breakfast together in between an early Easter service in the prayer garden and a later one at regular worship time. I love that recipe because it reminds me of Easter and our church family. I am fond of another recipe that uses hash browns along with eggs, peppers, and onions. There are Southwestern style breakfast casseroles served with plenty of salsa that are delicious.  But this casserole is my hands down favorite for making breakfast special.  I like to make it when we have overnight guests and pop it into the oven to bake while we have coffee in the kitchen.  I found the original recipe in a cookbook called Breakfast in Bed collated by Carol Frieberg which is a collection of wonderful breakfast recipes from various B&B’s and inns in the Pacific Northwest. This one is a favorite at Pensione Nichols in Seattle, Washington – located in a residence that is over 100 years old in the historic Pikes Place Market in downtown Seattle. I modified the recipe’s seasoning, and have used a variety of toppings.  It is delicious served with fresh fruit.

Mary Ann’s Favorite Morning Casserole

Prepare the day before:

16 slices white bread (thin slice) with crusts trimmed

16 slices Canadian bacon

16 slices sharp cheddar cheese

6  large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

3 cups whole milk

1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

For topping  – add the next morning before baking

1/2 cup butter

1 cup crushed cornflakes or other unsweetened cereal of your choice

 

In a large Pyrex baking dish (9X13 inch), place 8 of the bread slices. On top of this, layer all slices of Canadian bacon. Then ladd all slices of cheese. Place remaining 8 slices of bread on top.  In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs, then add milk, all seasonings, onion and green pepper. Pour evenly over the layers of bread, cheese, and Canadian Bacon, pressing slightly with back of spoon.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter and drizzle evenly over top of casserole.  Crush cornflakes and sprinkle on top.  Bake uncovered for 1 hour.  Remove from oven, let stand for about 10 minutes, and serve.

Cook’s notes:  I like to stand my stick of butter in a small ceramic cream pitcher or pyrex liquid measuring cup and microwave for 1 minute or until melted.  Then it is easy to drizzle the melted butter evenly on top of the casserole.  For the crushed cornflakes, place cereal in a Ziploc bag and crush with the heel of your hand on top of counter. Easy!

Fried Okra

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In East Texas in the 1940’s and 1950’s  I grew up eating many more fried foods than I choose to eat now.  That means most of the okra I grow in my garden will wind up in gumbo or roasted whole, both delicious and healthy.   But fried okra will  always remain as a favorite comfort food for Joe and me, and our children love it, too. So occasionally, I slice a batch, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add some chopped onion, toss in cornmeal, and fry it in oil, not bacon drippings (the traditional choice of cooking fat).  We really don’t use enough bacon to save the drippings in a container on the back of the stove like my Mother and Grandma did  This is one of those foods I have cooked for so many years and with varying amounts, according to how much okra I had. So it seems odd to produce a recipe, but if you really want to know….

Fried Okra

4 cups okra pods – small ones, not longer than about 3 inches

1/2 onion, chopped

salt and pepper

1 cup cornmeal, or enough to dredge okra

Remove stem and small amount of pointed end of okra, then slice in 1/2 inch rounds.  Add to a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add chopped onion and toss.  Heat an inch of oil in cast iron frying pan. Fry okra in small batches to allow crisp browning.  Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.  Serve immediately

We like ours just like this, but you can spice it up a bit by slicing in a jalapeno pepper or mixing in some cayenne pepper or other seasoning with the cornmeal.  Also, since dipping sauces are so popular, you can try mixing a little mayo with lemon juice and garlic powder or serve with Ranch dressing on the side.

Summer Squash Casserole

IMG_0575Summer squashes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors -round balls or long, shiny zucchini, glossy yellow globes of  crookneck yellow squash, scalloped patty pans, and dozens of others. But growing up in East Texas, when gardeners talked about squash in summertime, it was always the crooknecks.  By the time they appeared on the dinner table, they were sliced, dipped in cornmeal, and fried along with chopped onions in bacon grease.  Once in awhile, a squash casserole showed up at a church potluck.  Just about every church cookbook, and all cookbooks featuring Southern Food will have some variation of this recipe. In our own church cookbook, it is billed as “pastor’s favorite.” This particular recipe is my adaptation of one found in Jan Karon’s MItford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader under the title Puny’s Squash Casserole.  Truth be told, you could use any thin skinned summer squash, but yellow ones make a lovely dish.

Yellow Squash Casserole.

2 Tablespoons butter plus enough to butter the baking dish

6-8 medium yellow squash, sliced into rounds

1 sweet yellow onion, chopped

2 large eggs

1 cup grated sharp cheddar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup crushed Ritz crackers or potato chips

Sprig of fresh rosemary or parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Butter a 9 X 13 baking dish.  Steam squash and onions until tender, place in bowl and mash slightly with potato masher,  add butter and stir to melt butter. In a small bowl,  whisk eggs, cheese, salt and pepper, then add this mixture to squash before pouring into baking dish.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, remove from oven, and add topping.  Return to oven for 10-15 minutes to brown..Add garnish.

 

 

Pickle, Pickle, Pickle.

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Our sons, like their mom, liked to talk and did so early when they were babies.  One of Sean’s favorite early words was “pickle.”  We had a little book called Pickle Juice and when we read “pickle, pickle, pickle”, he would clap his hands and laugh out loud.  I smiled thinking about the pickle book and Sean’s laughter when I made two kinds of pickles last week. The weather had been perfect for a bumper crop of dill heads, so I bought some pickling cukes at the market.   I like to make refrigerator pickles because I don’t need to do a canning bath or soak cucumbers.  I found this recipe on The Old Farmers Almanac blog,  wwww.almanac.com and adapted it for my personal preference.

No canning or special equipment required! It’s simple, easy, and surprisingly delicious!

Ingredients:
3-1/2 cups water
1-1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon canning salt (NOT table salt)
1 tablespoon sugar
cucumbers, unpeeled, sliced into disks (about 4 cups)
2 cloves garlic (whole)
2 heads fresh dill ( I love dill, so I always use more)

Instructions:
Boil the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Turn off heat and set asidel. Add cucumbers, garlic, and dill to glass jars. Cover with the hot liquid. Put in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. I doubled the recipe when I filled these jars. The pickles should be good for 6 weeks. Enjoy!

Another garden harvest led to these yummy cauliflower pickles.  I cut two heads of cauliflower, one golden yellow (Cheddar is its name) and one white, added carrots, onions, and lots of yummy spices for this delicacy which is typically used as a condiment in Israeli breakfasts!

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Salmon Hash

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Mary Ann’s Salmon Hash

 This is a great way to use leftover baked or grilled salmon and leftover baked potatoes!

4-5 ounces baked or grilled salmon, skin removed and coarsely shredded

1 small baked potato, peeled and diced

5 green onions, chopped

¼ cup green pepper, chopped

2 Tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

1 lemon, cut in half

1 Tablespoon butter

salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter and olive oil in non-stick skillet.  Add green onion and green pepper, followed by salmon and potato.   Season with salt, pepper, dill and juice from one of the lemon halves.

Slice remaining lemon half to use as garnish at serving time.

Okra Two Ways

It took me a long time to find out how much I enjoyed okra!  Both growing and cooking it.  When I was growing up, Grandma and Daddy had the plants in their gardens, but I didn’t like picking it because it made my arms sting.  The only way it was ever cooked was boiled with onions and tomatoes (slimy!) or sliced, dredged in cornmeal, and crisp fried with onions.  I liked fried okra, and cooked it after I had my own family, also adding it when I made gumbo.  A truth for life applies here:  sometimes it is the thing you feel most resistance to that you learn from.  Once I started planting okra and finding the new varieties both beautiful and with leaves that didn’t sting,  I loved it for its rewarding hearty and hardy growth, its lovely blooms, and delicious harvest. the top photo is a platter of yummy okra patties, or cakes that I made this week.  this dish takes cornbread to a new level!

Okra Cakes

1 pound fresh okra, chopped fine

1 cup onion chopped fine

3 jalapenos, minced (optional)

3 Tablespoons minced garlic

3 teaspoon Tony Cachere seasoning

3 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup water

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup flour

Heat about an inch of cooking oil in skillet.  Mix okra, onion, garlic, peppers seasonings, water, and eggs in large bowl.  In separate bowl, mix dry ingredients, combine and stir.  Drop by spoonfuls into hot oil, cook until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and serve.

If you want a simpler, quicker way to use those beautiful pods, simply rinse whole pods, pat them dry, trim the stem off,  toss in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and spread them on a baking sheet with a sprinkle of sea salt.  Then I roast them at 425 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until they reach the level of crispness I want. Better than potato chips!  Promise!

xx