Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Poppyseed Dressing



Today marks the official start to Summer 2017 and there's cause to celebrate; strawberries abound at our local farmers' markets and TV weathercasts predict warm, sunny days for the rest of this week. Weather forecasts aside, freshly picked berries can brighten any day with their distinctive floral aroma, and sweet/tangy bursts of flavor. No doubt about it, in-season strawberries sing "Summer!" and will brighten a variety of dishes. 


Strawberry/spinach salads rank high on my list of favorite June lunches. A recent salad bowl featured my version of Poppyseed Dressing, a trial-and-error experiment that I'll definitely make again. 


The same Poppyseed Dressing was delicious with a mixed bowl of fruit featuring strawberries (of course), plums, cantaloupe and grapes. The dressing highlighted the individual flavors of the fruits without masking or overpowering the various tastes.


More of the same sauced fruit won raves as a perfect waffle topper, along with a portion of cottage cheese. Forget the maple syrup and butter and pile your waffles with Poppyseed Dressing and fruit... really!


This dressing might not win any awards for appearance, but it does merit high marks for taste and versatility.




Poppyseed Salad Dressing

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard (Coleman's)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (Best Foods)
1/2 cup canola oil (divided)
1 teaspoon dried mint
2 teaspoons poppyseeds

Blend together (with blender or a whisk and small bowl) the honey, vinegar, dry mustard, and mayonnaise. Add half of the oil in a very thin stream while blending or whisking. Check the consistency; add the remaining oil as desired to thicken slightly. Note: this will be a very loose dressing.

Stir in the mint and poppyseeds. Taste; add salt if desired (I don't). 


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Sweet Potato - Fully Loaded



Inspired by a photo in Diana Henry's cookbook Simple, one lone sweet potato hanging out in the crisper became 'Breakfast for Dinner'. Containers of caramelized mushrooms and braised kale already lurked in the fridge along with several links of chorizo sausage, making this a quick cook. The recipe called for an accompaniment of baby spinach leaves, but the earthy bite of braised kale better balanced the potato's sweetness and the mushrooms' savory umami. Topped with a soft-yolk cooked egg, each bite was an ooey-gooey, savory-sweet delight.

This deceptively simple, boldly flavored dish was nearly effortless to construct, reflective of Henry's desire to offer a book of low-effort food ideas.
"What we mostly lack are ideas. That's what I tried to give... here. You don't have to be a chef. I'm not. You just need some inspiration to help you turn the ordinary--the building blocks of meals--into something special."
Simple inspiration comes through text and photos, most of Henry's recipes offering suggestions of alternate ingredients, plating notions or food pairings. So far I have played with recipes in chapters on Toast, Pasta & Grains, and Vegetables, adapting each to suit our palate and available ingredients. 

Loaded potatoes are nothing new, but this loaded sweet potato was indeed 'something special', perfect for any time of the day, even Breakfast for Dinner.

Cooking notes (suggestions rather than a recipe)

Bake or microwave a sweet potato in your regular manner. Split lengthwise and squish slightly to open up the inside (I sliced lengthwise into halves for 2 portions). Place on serving dish.



While the sweet potato is cooking, or ahead of time:

 - Heat butter and/or olive oil in a saute pan; add mushrooms (cut into thin wedges or slices) and cook until they give up their juices; continue cooking until liquid evaporates.   

 - Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat; add 3 cloves of garlic and 1/4 cup diced onion and cook until soft. Add 1/2 bunch of destemmed lacinato kale, coarsely chopped and 1/2 cup stock or water. Toss to coat greens, then cover and cook until softened and wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove cover and cook until liquid evaporates. Toss with a heavy splash of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. 

Top the cooked sweet potato with a generous amount of the mushrooms and kale.



Add cooked coins of chorizo, or your favorite spicy sausage. 



Top with an egg or two, cooked with the yolk left soft and runny. This egg was fried...


...and this egg was poached. Mmmmm, good either way.




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