Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bacon Roasted Green Bean Salad with Gorgonzola & Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

What was Sunday’s dinner plan?  It was a simple jerk chicken on the grill.  (Jerk is so easy when you use Busha Browne’s Jerk Seasoning – the paste kind – all you do is rub it on the raw chicken or pork and let it marinate for a while.  I’ve mentioned it here before  and now I’ve found it in the Strip at Reyna’s!  Go get yourself some.  I SWEAR that wasn't a paid advertisement!) 

Anyway, since the chicken was a snap to make, I decided to make a more complicated salad.  Don’t you know it?!  I made that complicated salad easy, too!  The salad?  It was a roasted green bean, bacon, garlic slivers, sunflower kernels and gorgonzola with a balsamic vinegar, mustard & maple vinaigrette.  The salad is served warm.  You say you don’t think it sounds easy?  Everything but the gorgonzola was roasted together on a baking sheet and cooled to room temp before dressing with the vinaigrette.  Yep, a cinch!

Oh, and the other side dish was a really sweet and fresh corn on the cob from Georgia.  Florida corn abounds around here, but I’ve never seen GA corn before! Maybe it was fresher and sweeter because Georgia is closer than Florida?  Until our local corn comes in, I'm looking for the Georgia stuff every time!  I already have plans for the leftovers....a mango sweet corn salsa!  Look for that recipe next, folks!

Let’s get to the salad so you can make it, too!

Bacon Roasted Green Bean Salad 
with Gorgonzola & Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1 pound green beans, fresh, end snapped off and broken into 2 1/2" pieces
  • 8 larqe garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 4 slices bacon, thick sliced, cut across into 1/2" lardons, cooked halfway done
  • 1/4 cup sunflower kernals
  • olive oil spray - I put my own into a Misto spray bottle - love it!
  • freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup, the REAL stuff, you know I prefer grade B for more flavor!
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard, I like Coleman's
  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450.  Scatter beans across a baking sheet with a rim.  Then evenly scatter the garlic and sunflower kernels and last, the bacon.  Spray lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. 
Roast in oven for 15-20 minutes until the bacon is crisp and the green beans are done, but not limp.  Remove from oven and cool.
While the beans are cooling, mix the olive oil, balsamic, maple syrup, mustard and pepper with a whisk until emulsified. 
Pour the vinaigrette over the beans, toss with gorgonzola and serve at room temperature.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Cleveland Play Day

Some days are just meant to play the day Saturday.  In Cleveland.  If you're from Pittsburgh, you're saying to yourself, "Why on earth would anyone like to party in Cleveland?  What on earth is there to do in the Mistake on the Lake?"  There's plenty to do, my friend....and Kimber and I merely scratched the surface.

Our first stop was World Market.  It's not a Cleveland original, but they HAVE one!  Pittsburgh doesn't.  We need one.  Every city needs a store where you can buy pillows and jewelery and curtains and furniture, kitchenware, baskets of all size and shape and color.  And wine and beer (hear that PLCB?!).  And CHOCOLATE! 

Oh, and spotted dick.  Please see the picture above.  You have such a dirty mind!  It's pudding.  From England.  Aren't you  Besides the Dick, there are more chocolate bars of different types, manufacturers and countries of origin than I've ever seen.  It's our tradition to buy two new ones each visit and then sample them in the car on the way to the next destination.  I can tell you that the dark chocolate black currant bar was exactly what I think wine SHOULD taste like.  The Black Salt Caramel was pretty awesome, too. 

Our next stop on our Tour d' Cleveland was the Flying Fig.  It's directly across the courtyard from Great Lakes Brewery and across the street from the famed West Side Market...which we're heading to next.  But first, brunch!  Specifically, a Bloody Mary brunch - yum.  The Bloodies there were average, the wait staff that day so-so, but the food was amazing!  And that is what matters most...well, those Bloodies are important, too...

The Tallegio polenta with local greens, Kilbuck Farm mushrooms and crowned with a poached egg was my choice of the morning.  Deliciously, cheese-ly creamy with a counterpoint of vinegary greens and those earthy, buttery mushrooms...heaven.

Kimber enjoyed the migas thoroughly!  Softly scrambled eggs, corn tortillas, spicy chilies, aged cheddar, a zippy tomatillo cilantro salsa and crème fraiche made for a good start to our day out.

From the Flying Fig, the next stop was West Side Market.  What a plethora of everything edible!  Long aisles of one side of the market are heaped with veggies, fruits, herbs and everything that, too!  We bought beautiful green beans, zucchinis, peaches, melons, basil and limes....there may have been more, but I was overwhelmed.  

Then onto the other side of the market that contains stand after stand of baked goods of every type...sweet and savory.  Butchers that carry fresh and smoked meets, polish specialty sausages - smoked and unsmoked.  The gyro stand had a line that must have gone the entire length of the market and then wrapped around.  

Cheeses, butter, buttermilk, fresh pastas, Greek specialties.  Stand after stand after stand offered goodies of all types.  We came home with some beautiful sausages: cherry apple chicken, cilantro lime chicken and tequila tomatillo chicken sausages.  The cherry apple made for a nice touch this morning with our Sunday scrambled eggs.

And then we really started to play.

As the sign says, Welcome to East 4th Street!  We spent a few hours here hopping from lovely spot to lovely spot, enjoying both liquid and non-liquid pleasures.  There are a myriad of drinking and dining spots up and down - and around! - this cobblestone street of wonders.  

Chef Michael Symon's fabled Lola resides here along with Greenhouse Tavern - that of the Duck Fat Fries featured on Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate.  That was the episode where Michael Symon sneaks out of Lola, around the fence into the Greenhouse Tavern to enjoy the fries.  

We didn't go to either of those spots this visit, but we've enjoyed our own helping of fries at GT and the charcuterie board at Lola in a previous 4th Street visit.  Mmmmm.  This time, we were looking for new adventures!

Noodlecat was first on the list.  I'd heard about their sake cocktails...let's give those a try.  So we headed in, walked to the back where the dark and comfy bar is located and bellied up.  Kimber got the sake drink and for some reason, I was in the mood for gin!  I think Kimber got the Sparking Long Island...I say "I think" because I left my glasses in the car (cheap valet parking, by the way!).  Duh.  Regardless, it was sparkly and delicious.  

The drink on the right was my well-crafted original cocktail....the bartender did a riff on the C-Town Citrus on the bar menu and came up with the drink on the right.  Watershed gin - an Ohio small distiller, aloe water, fresh lime, lemon and orange made one refreshing cocktail for a bright, sunny and warm day.  What was the name?  Don't know.  The bartender (Dan?) said to name it...and so I did.  It is now the Aloe Orange.  You have to say it with a British accent...

Anyway, our next stop was just across the street.  We'd spied an establishment with the name Chocolate Bar.  Now you KNOW neither one of us could pass up a spot with CHOCOLATE in the name!  We each enjoyed a lovely chocolate martini - mine was Dark Chocolate with cayenne, Kimber's chocolate and coconut.  That's mine in the pic...both came with little "cigars" of dark chocolate.  Yum.

Oh, and then there were the dark chocolate Godiva tiny cups for shooters.  Patron Espresso XL was quite nice in those delightful little cups.  So having had our fill of chocolate - liquid and otherwise, it was time to move on for a little sustenance.  To pace ourselves, we must have food!

We'd spotted a lively little Mexican restaurant further down 4th Street that looked like fun...actually, Kimber's been there many times with friends.  Zocalo's it was to be!

Our delightful bartender, Kevin, hooked us up right away with some crisp tortilla chips and a bowl of freshly made salsa.  We nibbled away while perusing the menu...what to get, what to get....guac, of course!  We chose 3 types: bacon tomatillo, cumin chili sweet potato and mango black bean.  The sweet potato MAY have been the favorite, but then again...that bacon one...who doesn't love bacon?!

And, yeah, there were margaritas.  Avocado Mango and a Cucumber Pepper one, too.  Well, it WAS a tequila bar!

We had time for one more...JUST one more stop on our day out.  Did you see Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race?  The one with the food truck from Cleveland?  The one with the WINNING food truck from Cleveland, the Hodge Podge owned by Chris Hodgson?  Well he has a restaurant - no wheels! - right down in the delightful 4th Street area.  

Kimber and I sat at the outdoor bar, ordered a Moscow Mule (her) and an Aviation (me) to end our day.  The bartender was skilled!  My Aviation was perfect and was expertly garnished with a flamed lemon peel that he then rubbed around the rim AND down the stem!  He explained that as the sipper holds the drink, the heat of his or or hand releases the oils for an even more nuanced experience.  Wow.  You KNOW I'll be using that trick!

One last little nosh there ended the day.  Lobster mashed potatoes.  

Smooth and creamy and delicious?  Yes.  Could they have been better?  Yes!  The potatoes were good, but not great.  In my humble opinion, when you're adding lobster to potatoes, they should be rich and luscious.  I'll be making those at home and making them with a base of MY mashed potatoes.  You can bet they'll be just perfect then.  What was lacking was a buttery flavor and a little dash of nutmeg to just take them over the top.  Look for my recreation of this recipe soon!  

Only one more thing to end the day...the bill.  Hodges presented it hilarious fashion:

The perfect end to the perfect day.  Yay Cleveland!  Go Steelers!!!!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Grilled Pina Coladas

“Boat drinks.  The boys in the band ordered boat drinks.”  Jimmy Buffet and those Coral Reefers sure enjoy a fruity summer drink with a kick of some rum…wonder how he’d like a Boat Dessert?!  For a few summers now, I’ve been grilling up Pina Coladas!  Not the liquid version, of course…wouldn’t that be a mess…and more than likely that unfortunate experiment would have been the result of a few too many Pina Coladas beforehand.

No, my version grills up thick rounds of sweet pineapple and bananas, scoops of cold, smooth coconut ice cream, a snowy sprinkle of coconut and a slathering of dark rum caramel.  The components of a favorite boat drink in a dessert!  It’s easy to do, too. 

While you’re grilling this weekend, give some pineapple slabs and bananas their own turn over the hot coals…just to give them a few grill marks and sweeten them up even more than they already are.  The caramel?  No, I don’t make mine from scratch for this.  It’s summer!  Who has time to stand over the hot stove making caramel?  Just swirl some dark rum into a store-bought topping with a pat of butter (oh, come on, you KNOW butter makes it better…why do you think Lifesavers makes a Butter Rum flavor?!) and heat just until the sauce is smooth and the butter is melted.  Don’t even bother to toast the coconut…a pina colada doesn’t have toasted coconut anyway. 

So here’s the recipe.  I think even Jimmy Buffet would approve of this Grilled Pina Colada Boat Dessert!

Grilled Pina Coladas

  • 1 fresh pineapple, outside removed, cored and cut into 3/4 - 1" slices
  • 2 bananas, LEAVE PEELS ON, cut lengthwise in half - leaving the peels on makes it MUCH easier to handle on the grill!
  • 1 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 cup caramel topping, good quality
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup rum, Meyers dark rum, spiced rum, whatever kind you prefer
  • 4 scoops coconut ice cream, Talenti makes a great coconut ice cream, Hagen Daasz makes a pineapple coconut that would be nice, too - or use vanilla if you can't find either one 
  • whipped cream

Melt together caramel topping, butter and rum in a small saucepan until well combined.  Set aside.
Grill bananas cut side down while grilling pineapple slices on both sides until caramelized.  (If you wish, you can dust them with a little brown sugar before grilling.)  When fruits are nicely caramelized, but still firm, remove from grill.  Cut the grilled bananas in half crosswise and peel them carefully. 
On a pretty plate, place a slice of pineapple, scoop ice cream into center of the pineapple ring, place 2 banana quarters decoratively along sides of ice cream, drizzle with caramel, sprinkle with  coconut and adorn with a cloud of whipped cream.  AWESOME!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father's Day Toast with Electric Lemonade!

Happy Father's Day to all the father's and those who fill those shoes wherever you are!  Here's a little cocktail to raise a toast to all of you with a riff on an Electric Lemonade...and a topper of UV Blue raspberry flavored vodka in place of Curacao.  It tastes like a blue Popsicle.  Who doesn't love one of those?!  

So here's to you dads everywhere....God bless you all!

Electric Lemonade 

  • 1 1/2 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. Triple Sec
  • 1 oz. lemonade
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • ice

  • 1 oz UV Blue, raspberry flavored vodka
In a cocktail shaker, combine everything but the UV.  Add ice 3/4 of the way up the tin, cap the tin and shake until the outside of the tin is ice cold - even until it frosts if your arms hold up.  Pour into a tall glass and pour the UV over the top.  Sip and enjoy.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

3 Cheese Hot Sausage & Peppers Twice Baked Potatoes

Hot sausage hoagies in Pittsburgh are a staple of life!  Check out the local sandwich shops (world-renowned Primanti's!), pizza joints, any picnic or wedding in the 'Burgh...yep, hot sausage is there.  Long red links of fennel-flecked, hot pepper-kissed grilled pork adorned with grilled red and green peppers and sweet onions nestled into crusty buns are being greedily consumed all over the city on every night of the week.  Sometimes those hoagies are even covered with oozy, melty provolone...yummmmm.  On Tuesday we tossed a few hot sausages on our own grill…a few too many, if there is such a thing as too many.  But there were plans for the extras.

A while ago I posted a recipe for another favorite sandwich – the Reuben – that was made into a stuffed baked potato.  Yep, last night the traditional hot sausage hoagie turned into a stuffed potato, too!  All the flavors of sweet peppers, garlic, onion, spicy pork, smoky provolone, that make this sandwich the glory that it is, made an amazing stuffed baked potato….and coincidentally stretched those leftovers into a whole new meal that didn't feel or look like reruns.  I added smooth, creamy ricotta and good parm to really take it over the top!  Nice.

Of course, grilled hot sausages with peppers & onions is our local warm weather sausages simmered in red sauce is the cool weather staple.  Wonder what I can do with THAT and a baked potato?  Hmmmmm....

 3 Cheese Hot Sausage & Peppers Twice Baked Potatoes

  • 4 large baked potatoes, slice the tops off & scoop out the potato into a bowl leaving a sturdy shell for stuffing

  • 1 Italian sausage link, cooked leftover - diced small
  • 1/4 cup peppers and onions, leftover - diced small
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • red pepper flakes, to taste - optional
  • 3 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 6 slices provolone cheese, smoked if you can find it, regular otherwise -  4 slices diced small and 2 slices cut in half and reserved

Use a fork to scoop out the potatoes, scraping to fluff as you go, into a bowl.
Break up the potato well and fluff again.  Add all the ingredients (except the 2 slices of provolone that have been cut in half) and mix well.
Pile the mixture into the potato shells and mound high.  Top each with half a slice of provolone and put into a shallow casserole dish.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bake 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden. 

NOTE:  For a gluten-free version, be sure to use GF rolls or bread to make your sandwich!

Thursday, June 14, 2012


We LOVE ratatouille around here!  No, I don’t mean the adorable (and gifted!) cartoon rat who displays amazing and enviable (?) culinary skills, although he is pretty darn cute.  I mean the French vegetable dish of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, garlic, basil and olive oil.  Oooo la la!  Summer isn't summer without a couple of big batches throughout the season.  

This beautiful veggie side dish is so versatile and adaptable, too.  I like it cold as a snack - don't turn up your nose, try it and you'll be sneaking spoonfuls from the fridge, too.  It's delicious tucked into omelets for a quick brunch or even for dinner.  It makes a really good bruschetta...friends and sangria on the deck with some good crusty bread spread with room temp ratatouille makes for a delightful way to spend a warm summer evening.  Trust me...we've done it!

What's my very favorite way of using leftover ratatouille?  Pizza.  Slather a store-bought pizza crust with cold ratatouille, sprinkle with a little feta over the top, a few minutes in the oven....dinner's on!

The kids and I enjoy it so much, we've been known to make ratatouille just so we can have the pizza later in the week.  It freezes well, too, so tuck some into the freezer for cold winter evenings that need a little reminder of warm weather to come.  Here's the recipe!


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 large eggplants, peeled and cubed
  • 2 green peppers, seeded, sliced thinly & cut into 2" pieces
  • 3 small zucchini, sliced thin
  • 6 large red ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded & chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • a good handful of fresh basil, chopped finely
  • seasoned salt, Crazy salt, of course

Heat oil in a large electric skillet and saute onion and garlic until soft.  Add green peppers, stir well and cook 5 minutes. 

Add eggplant and cook until soft.  Add rest of ingredients.  Cook covered about 45 minutes or until nicely melded.

NOTE: This makes a lot!  Make the whole recipe so you have lots leftover to freeze and to make PIZZA!  



That Ratatouille Pizza I rhapsodized over?  Here's how you do it!

Ratatouille Pizza

  • leftover ratatouille
  • store-bought pizza crust
  • feta cheese
Spread the ratatouille on the crust and crumble feta over the top.  Bake according to the pizza crust directions.
Some "recipe" huh?  Enjoy! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Jalapeno Beer-Brined Chicken Under a Brick

Chicken on the grill AGAIN?!  Yep!  But it’s not any old, every day boring chicken, my friend.  Not this time.

We’ve been making an Alabama brined chicken around here for a couple of years now.  It is VERY good, but I honestly thought we could bump up the pow with some of our favorite things (cue Julie Andrews?) instead what we’ve been using.  Mmmmhhhhmmmmm…it worked.  This version is waaaayyyy better than the original! 

Chicken can’t be boring when it’s brined overnight in beer, jalapenos, garlic, lime and a few other very lovely things that drive the marinade flavors deep into the chicken. Grill it slowly over indirect heat and UNDER a brick and it seals the deal on great flavor and tender juiciness!

Jalapeno Beer-Brined Chicken Under a Brick

  • 1 whole frying chicken, cut into 2 leg quarters and 2 breast quarters - or buy them cut that way already or use 8 pieces of your favorite parts, but they MUST BE BONE-IN AND SKIN ON!!!!
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 12 ounces beer, Use a gluten-free beer to make this gluten-free
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, be sure to use a wheat-free soy sauce or wheat-free tamari (that's what I use) to make this gluten-free
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 3 tablespoons dried jalapeno, Penzey's carries this - if you can't find it, use 2 fresh jalapenos, seeded and sliced
  • lime wedges (optional, but nice)

In a zip top gallon bag, mix the marinade ingredients.  Add the chicken, squeeze out all the air, seal tightly and marinate in the fridge overnight.

Wrap 2 clean, new bricks in aluminum foil... make it nice and neat.  Set aside next to the grill.  (You may want to wrap an extra brick or two just in case...better to have them ready if you need them than to have to find and wrap a couple at the last minute, you know?)

The next day, preheat the grill on just one side.  Leave the other burner off since we're grilling over indirect heat..  Remove the chicken from the marinade.  Salt the chicken liberally on both sides.

Lay the chicken skin side down on the grill, NOT over the flames.  This is indirect grilling.  Lay a wrapped brick on top of the chicken, arranging chicken so the bricks cover all the chicken.

The chicken will take 1 1/2 - 2 hours to grill.  Turn the chicken over 1/3 of the way through and again about 1/2 an hour before the chicken is done. 

That's it!  If you want to squeeze a little fresh lime over to serve, go ahead!  

NOTE:   The grilling technique was derived from the spatchcocked chicken recipe that was posted earlier.  For reference - OR for another great grilled chicken recipe - here's the link:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Greek Layered Spinach, Feta & Artichoke Salad

It’s that time of year when we're going to, and cooking for, lots of parties, picnics and showers.  We're celebrating holidays, birthdays, beautiful weather and being outside, new babies and new love that has blossomed into the commitment of a wedding.  Our celebrations run the gamut...we just LOVE parties, don't we?  Well, I do.

Do you wrack your brains for what to make to take?  It's not always an easy decision, is it...especially when you want to fancy it up a little bit for a shower. I made this colorful and delicious salad for Janelle's bridal shower at work tomorrow.  

A layered salad makes such a beautiful presentation.  They’re SO pretty in a clear glass bowl!  We all know that you eat with your eyes first.  That makes this gorgeous salad a feast for the eyes and for the tastebuds!

Greek Layered Spinach, Feta & Artichoke Salad

  • 2 large chicken breast halves, shredded (Buy them at the deli counter - if you're lucky, you can just buy the breasts.  Otherwise, buy a whole rotisserie chicken, use the breasts and use the rest for something else.)
  • 3/4 English cucumber, diced small
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon Jane's Crazy Salt

  • 2 cans garbanzo beans, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 large lemons, juiced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Jane's Crazy Salt

  • 5 ounces fresh spinach, preferably baby spinach, torn - 1 bag
  • 1 cup roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
  • 12 ounces marinated artichoke hearts, reserve juice
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 3/4 cup kalamata olives, seeded and quartered
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

A day or two ahead, mix the garbanzo beans (chickpeas) with the lemon juice and minced garlic, olive oil & Jane's crazy salt in a tall, narrow container.  Using a fork, stab the beans, stir, stab the beans, stir; cover & store in fridge.  Shake the container occasionally to marinate well.  Don't make the beans mooshy, just get some nice holes in them.  It lets the marinade permeate & gives the beans a hummus-y flavor!

The night before you're going to serve this, sprinkle Crazy Salt on diced cucumbers and let drain in a strainer over a bowl while you layer the salad.

In a glass bowl, put the spinach in the bottom, scatter the garbanzo beans and all the marinade next.  Next do a layer of the roasted red peppers, then chicken and sprinkle with basil and a little Crtazy Salt. 

Next do an even layer of the artichokes, cutting to bite-size, if necessary.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.  Scatter with the kalamata olives - be SURE you get all the pits out!  Next crumble the feta over all.

Now drain the cucumbers well, pressing them against the sides of the strainer.  Mix the cukes and the tomatoes, sprinkle with a little Crazy Salt, pour the reserved artichoke liquid over all, mix and scatter the mixture over the salad.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time.

The juices and marinades form the dressing.  Serve with tongs, digging down deep through the layers to get a little of everything in every serving.  Nice with some pita!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Golden Beet Salad with Orange Maple Vinaigrette

Sometimes you have to adjust your sails to the wind….sometimes you have to change your dinner plan to what looks really good in the grocery aisle!  The dinner plan I had for Sunday?  Smoked pork butt and coleslaw?  That got thrown out the window when I spied gorgeous bunches of golden beets at Whole Foods on Saturday.  There was no way I was leaving the store without them in my very own cart!

If you’ve been to Whole Foods, you know the perfectly displayed stained glass window effect going on in their produce aisle.  Red and orange and purple and green peppers all carefully lined up into impossible pyramids.  Purple, white and speckled eggplants march in lines to a drummer I sure couldn’t hear, but it was obvious they were right in step with the beat.  Leafy greens created fluffy ruffles that softened the shiny regimented veggies with just the right touch.  And then I started rifling through the beet bunches. 

I’m sure I felt the rolling eyes of the produce manager and could hear his silent plea to “just pick the ones on top for Pete’s sake!”  But I didn’t.  I dug to the bottom and picked the perfect two bunches.  Guilt forced me to make my best attempt at putting the rest of them back as I found them…sorta.

What would I do with my prize bunches?  Mentally I was already planning something simple to highlight the natural sweet earthiness of the beets.  I had an orange at home…and red onions and lemons and REAL maple syrup!  By golly, a warm orange beet salad to go with smoked pork chops and roasted asparagus was exactly what the NEW plan would be!  Goodbye smoked pork butt and coleslaw…till we meet another day.  Dinner Plan-it is flexible.

Golden Beet Salad with Orange Maple Vinaigrette

  •  6 large beets, trim off the greens to 2" above the top of the beets (I used golden, but red beets would be yum, too.)  NOTE:  do NOT throw out the greens!  Save them for another meal!
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced very thinly

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup, yeah, the real stuff...I like grade B...more flavor!
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Wrap each beet individually in foil.  Roast in a preheated 425 degree oven until a knife slips into the center of the beets easily, but they aren't mooshy.  The amount of times depends on how big the beets are, but an hour, more or less....and then test.
Let the beets cool until you can handle them comfortably.  Squeeze the beet and the skin should slip off easily - if not, use a knife to coax it off.  Slice off the stem end.  Dice the beets into a large bowl.  Add the orange zest and juice and the onion.  Mix.
Add the salt, olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup and pepper.  Mix well.
Serve at room temp.  

NOTE:  Bunches of fresh beets, if you're lucky, come with leaves attached.  Do NOT throw them away!  Save them for braised greens that your grandmother would have made back in the day.  You will be so happy to rediscover this delicious, thrifty side dish!  Yep, the recipe is coming up this week!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Avocado Brunch Eggs with Poblano Crema

This morning’s breakfast was inspired by a friend from Annapolis who has an absolute obsession with poached eggs.  Yesterday she made a poached egg and avocado sandwich for breakfast…that sounded amazingly good!  It got me to fantasizing about what could be done with avocados and poached eggs.  

This is what I came up with and couldn't wait to try it this morning!  It was worth the wait. 

First of all, that indentation from the pit was obviously made to nestle an egg into…just look at the avocado!  If you use your imagination, it even looks somewhat like a green egg.  Inspiration for Dr. Seuss perhaps? 

Second, avocados and Mexican flavors are classic…and for good reason.  The smooth creamy texture and gentle, nutty flavor combine so well with a little zing of lemon, a tiny bit of heat from the poblano and fresh cilantro. 

The result?  A brunch dish to server to discriminating guests with pride.  Anytime you can serve something this delicious and BEAUTIFUL, your guests will be grinning from ear to ear. 

Add a Bloody Mary with a little South of the Border twist…maybe with a jalapeno-infused tequila in place of vodka and chipotle hot sauce in place of Tabasco….I think it will be a very good start to a very good day! Thanks, Carol!

Avocado Brunch Eggs with Poblano Crema

Serves 2

  • 1 avocado, sliced in half, pitted, drizzled with lemon juice
  • 2 eggs, poached 

  • 1 large poblano pepper, roased, peeled and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream, more or less
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, more or less
  • pinch of cayenne
  • salt, to taste

  • cilantro leaves

In a food processor or blender, add HALF the poblano pepper, reserve the other half.  Start the food processor and add cream until it is a nice creamy consistency - pourable, but not loose; add cayenne, a drizzle of lemon & a sprinkle of salt.  Process just to blend and transfer to a small bowl or cup.  Set aside.
Make 2 poached eggs - however you do it.  I don't have a poached egg pan anymore so I do mine in simmering water with a little white vinegar added. When the eggs are ready, remove them to a plate.
While the eggs are poaching, slice the remaining poblano half into thin strips.  Set aside.
To serve: Nestle an egg into the hole in the avocado, drizzle with poblano crema, lay strips of poblano decoratively over the top, sprinkle a few cilantro leaves over & a little salt.  Done and delicious!

NOTE:  Obviously you can double, triple or whatever the recipe to match appetites and the number of guests!