Tuesday, July 24, 2012

spicy fridge pickled okra

First, I must begin by saying:  I love okra.  I know there are some out there who do not, but I am not among them.  I am an okra fan.  I see those slender, green pods and I wax nostalgic.

There wasn't a Summer that went by when we were growing up, that we didn't spend some good time visiting my grandparents in the country. My sister and I were lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents around and influencing us throughout our early lives.  Some of my fondest memories are of times spent driving or riding the tractor in those pastures, playing "shoe" salesperson in my Granny's closet, fishing out of the tank or "feeding the catfish" with Papa, painting canvases on my Grandma's back porch, or helping Grandpa tend to the garden.  We always gathered, everyone together, for big feasts, and there was ALWAYS a "relish" tray.  From homemade pickles of many varieties, to black olives from a can (perfect for sticking on the end of your fingers prior to sticking in your mouth), and always ...pickled okra.

I can't think of anything easier than making a batch of refrigerator pickles -- I make them regularly.  And now, I know it's true for okra too.  Next time, I'm thinking pickled green beans will be "what's in the jar"...

I had just enough okra left over from my Farmhouse bushel this week (crispy okra raita with the rest of it), to pickle a big, quart sized jar. 

spicy fridge pickled okra
fresh okra, washed and trimmed (enough to fill a large quart sized jar)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup distilled water
2 T kosher salt
1 T sugar
1 fresh fresno chili, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 vidalia onion, sliced in half rounds
1 carrot, cleaned and cut in chunks
two cloves garlic, sliced
1 t dill seed
1/4 t brown mustard seed
1/4 t fennel seed
1/4 t corriander seed
5 whole peppercorn

Bring vinegar, water, salt and sugar to boil in a saucepan until it all dissolves.  Place garlic, dill seed, mustard seed, fennel seed, corriander seed and peppercorns in a well cleaned quart jar.  Stand your okra and fresno chili in the jar, and pack it in firmly.  I added in 1/2 vadalia onion and carrot chunks in order to fill my jar completely, with all the veggies fitting snugly in place.  Once your jar is filled, pour the hot brine mixture over the vegetables and close the lid.  If you are using a screw cap, don't screw on too tightly.  Allow to cool on counter before placing in fridge.  Okra will be ready to eat in about 2 weeks.  And that seems to be the only thing difficult about this process.

Has it been 2 weeks yet?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

summer taqueria salad

My vegetarian friend, April, often gives me creative suggestions for some really delicious meatless meals.  She recently returned from a trip to Boulder, Colorado, saying she had one of the "best salads ever" at an "upscale taqueria" there.  The salad she re-created sounded wonderful, cool, crunchy, and perfect for summer.  And as she listed off the ingredients... greens with jicama, watermelon, oranges, tomatoes, pepitas and cojita cheese, tossed with a chili-lime vinaigrette.... I realized I had much of what I needed already in hand.   As luck would have it, our bushel arrived yesterday and included the most gorgeous yellow cherry tomatoes from a farm in Dime Box, TX, watermelon, and the perfect head of sweet butter lettuce, giving the salad a nice start.  I gathered up the rest of my ingredients...

and peeled, chopped, sliced accordingly.

I made a chili-lime-honey vinaigrette with cilantro and fresno chilies to dress the salad. 

Arrange the greens and other ingredients in a large bowl.  I used feta instead of the cojita, because I always have it on hand, and the saltiness worked nicely with the sweet fruits in the salad.

Spoon on some of the dressing and toss to coat.

Crunchy, salty, sweet with a sour, spicy kick.  April was right. This salad is all that and a bag of chips.  Nice.

summer taqueria salad
(serves 4 as a starter or 2 hungry for a meal)
4 cups gently torn butter lettuce
1 cup julienned jicama
2 cups cubed watermelon, 1" cubes
1 cup halved yellow cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 navel orange, peeled and sliced in rounds, then sliced in half
1/3 cup feta, cut into small cubes
1 good palm full of pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
chili-lime-honey vinaigrette
optional:  crushed tortilla chips to garnish for extra crunch

chili-lime-honey vinaigrette
juice of one juicy lime (about 2 T)
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T honey
1-2 T chopped fresh cilantro
1 T finely chopped fresno chili, seeded
1/4 t chili powder
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss with some of the dressing.  Ahhhhh.

beef vindaloo with crispy okra raita and indian spiced roasted butternut squash

We love vindaloo, and have made versions of it with beef, chicken and tofu.  This time, with beef.  It's great served along side a cooling Raita salad.  Our Farmhouse bushel arrived including fresh okra, so I decided to try a recipe for a Crispy Okra Raita.  A beautiful butternut squash, also in our bushel, roasted with the Indian inspired flavors of tumeric, corriander, ginger and garlic, seemed like the perfect way to complete this meal.

indian spiced roasted butternut squash
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1' cubes
1/2 t tumeric
1/2 t ground corriander
1 T ginger garlic paste
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
canola oil
juice from one lime
chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss your squash with tumeric, corriander, ginger garlic paste, salt and pepper and enough canola oil to coat well.  Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Roast in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until golden and tender, turning halfway through cooking.  Squeeze fresh lime juice over squash before serving.  Garnish with cilantro.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

rosemary lemon chicken with avocado, feta, mint and herbed croutons over mixed greens

A loaf of awesome, make-you-drool-when-you-think-about-it homemade herbed peasant bread I had frozen when I made the last batch was screaming to be made into croutons yesterday.  Add to that grilled rosemary lemony chicken breasts, creamy avocado, feta, mint and greens, and you are golden for simple supper salad.

First, this bread.  OH. This. Bread.  It's so good it's hard to imagine it could get better.  But, it DOES -- when it's turned into croutons for a salad or soup.

I marinated two chicken breasts and grilled them, along with 1 lemon, halved.

Slice your chicken, some avocado, and lay over top of a bed of mixed greens.  Squeeze the juice of your grilled lemon on top. This dish is excellent with a buttermilk dressing.   I love the creaminess it adds.  But it would have been good with just the grilled lemon and olive oil too, if you're wanting really, really simple. Finish by adding feta and some fresh mint from the garden.  Top with the herbed croutons and DIG IN!  It's good stuff.

rosemary lemon chicken with avocado, feta, mint and herbed croutons over mixed greens
(serves 4)

Sliced grilled rosemary lemon chicken
homemade herbed croutons
4 cups mixed fresh greens
1 avocado sliced
1/3 cup feta
2 tablespoons fresh mint
Buttermilk Dressing

For the croutons
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut the herbed peasant bread  into approximately 1 inch cubes.  Lay them on a cookie sheet and toss with olive oil to coat, salt and pepper.  Arrange in a single layer and bake, stirring/turning every 5 minutes, for about 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. 

For the chicken breasts
2 chicken breasts
2 lemons, juice from 1 and the other sliced in half for the grill
1  tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 fat clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

Combine juice from one lemon, rosemary, dijon, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Coat the chicken breasts evenly and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.  Slice the second lemon in half.  Grill chicken breasts.  For my grill, it's 12-14 minutes total.  3 minutes on one side, then a 1/4 turn (to get the x marks) and 3-4 minutes more.  Flip the breasts over and repeat.  Grill the lemon to char while you cook the chicken.  Allow the chicken to rest and cool slightly, as well as the lemon.  Slice chicken.

Arrange a bed of mixed greens on a platter.  Lay sliced chicken breast on top, as well as sliced avocado.  Squeeze grilled lemon over the top.  Crumble on the feta.  Spoon on some of the buttermilk/yogurt chive dressing. Add some croutons, and garnish with coarsely chopped fresh mint.  Ding, Ding!  Grab your fork, supper time!

Friday, July 13, 2012

chicken and butternut squash stew with black beans and avocado

This is a stew we used to make regularly years and years ago in the Fall. I had forgotten about it until my Farmhouse bushel arrived and included two butternut squash. 

It may not sound like the perfect thing for a Summer's evening meal, but if it's been raining for 7 days straight, this really is an ideal supper, that comes together quickly without much fuss in the crock pot -- another bonus on a Friday night -- it's ready for you when you're home from work.  You can also make in a dutch oven on the stovetop (as pictured here), but I most often utilize the crock.

It never hurts when you have so many helpers in the kitchen...

Shred your chicken, and chop your cilantro.  If you are like me, you LOVE cilantro, so I add in lots (about 1/2 cup).  Decide what kind of cilantro fan you are....

Top it with the cool, creamy, local avocado also from your bushel, dollop on some plain greek style yogurt, and you're set for dinner and a movie night indoors -- where it is dry. 

chicken and squash stew with black beans and avocado

2 small, or 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
4-5 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 medium onion, cut into 1 inch dice
1 large red bell, seeded and cut into 1 inch dice
1 jalapeno, sliced in half, seeds removed
3-4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 - 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped 
avocado, diced for garnish
squeeze of lime
dollop of greek style plain yogurt 

Place your squash, chicken, onion, red bell, jalapeno, stock, chili powder, paprika, cumin, black pepper and salt into a crockpot.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Remove chicken from pot and allow to cool slightly to handle.  Remove jalapeno pepper halves and discard.  With a wooden spoon, mash some of the squash against the side of the pot to thicken the stew.  Shred the chicken and return to pot.  Stir in black beans.  Stir in cilantro.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with diced avocado, a squeeze of fresh lime, and a dollop of greek style yogurt if desired. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

roasted tomato, basil and bacon soup

Summer Tomatoes!! Oh, how I love thee.   Three times this week, some great tomatoes came my way. 

First, with these little beauties in my Farmhouse Delivery bushel from a local Texas farm.

Next, from Dad's garden (thank you, Dad!).  And finally, I came across some gorgeous Alabama "Mountain Grown" tomatoes at my local Farmer's Market here in Houston.

Add to that the green, green, green basil growing only  feet from my kitchen... MUST make roasted tomato soup.  And celebrate... SO. MUCH. FLAVOR. 

Coarsely chop into halves or wedges an assortment of ripe Summer tomatoes and roast in the oven, intensifying all that already-sweet-goodness. 

Add to that sweet vidalia onion, basil and turkey bacon, with a bit of stock. 

Make it creamy with the addition of some milk. 

Ladle into crocks...

Top with toasted baguette croutons and shredded cheese...

and broil to golden goodness. 

OH.  MY. 

roasted tomato, basil and bacon soup
(serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a starter)

3 1/2 pounds assorted variety ripe summer tomatoes, cored (about 8 cups coarsely chopped)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1/2 tablespoon
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
5 slices turkey bacon, chopped
1 large vidalia onion, coarsely chopped
2 fat cloves garlic, grated
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup torn fresh basil
1 cup milk
basil for garnish
shredded mozzarella or gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.  Place your coarsely chopped tomatoes in a single layer on the sheet and toss with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven for about 40 minutes. 

Heat the butter and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat in a dutch oven or heavy bottom soup pot.  Add your onion and bacon and saute until the bacon is crisp, about 8 minutes.  Add in the garlic and saute 1 minute more.  Stir in roasted tomatoes and all the juice from the pan, scraping the browned bit from the pot while you stir.  Bring to a simmer.  Add in chicken stock, and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Add in basil, cover partially and allow to simmer for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in your milk and warm through on low.  Season with additional salt, if needed, and pepper to taste. 

Ladle soup into oven proof crocks.  Top each crock with  toasted baguette crouton slices, and top with shredded mozzarella.  Place under the broiler until the cheese is melted, bubbly and beginning to brown in places.

Great served along side a green salad tossed with a buttermilk/yogurt herb dressing.