Cool as a Cucumber

Is it a midwest thing or did a lot of you grow up hearing the phrase “cool as a cucumber?”  It was certainly a part of the lingo I heard as a child.  Unfortunately, it can be hard to be as “cool as a cucumber” when the outside temperature is hovering around 100 degrees F.  (that’s around 37 degrees C for my metric friends and family.)  Any way you measure it, it’s hot!

On days when the weather turns that hot, I look to serve cool dishes as dinner entrees.  This week we’ve been enjoying cold meals. One of them was “Cool as a Cucumber ” Cucumber soup!  It’s really easy, requires absolutely no cooking, and can be made well ahead of time.  If you’ve got a blender or a food processor you’ve got this dish made!

Cool as a Cucumber Soup                      Serves 2 as an entree with a little leftover

  • 1 lb cucumbers (I find that two medium size cucumbers provide you with the required amount.  You will be removing the seeds so purchase cucumbers that weigh slightly more than one pound)
  • 6 scallions
  • 1 cup chicken stock, more if the soup is too thick (Note: if you are going to consume the soup as soon as it is made use cold chicken stock.)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (do not use Greek yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • juice of one lemon, divided
  • salt and pepper to taste

Trim the ends off of the cucumber, no need to peel the cukes, and cut in half lengthwise.  Using a teaspoon, scoop out and discard the seeds.  Slice the cucumber into strips then into a dice.  (If you are using a blender I recommend a smaller dice as it will process faster.) Set aside.

Cut the root ends off of the scallions and chop. Include the white and all of the green parts of the scallion.

Place the cucumbers and scallions into a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Add the chicken stock and puree until smooth.  If you are using a blender you may need to process the vegetables and stock in two batches to achieve the desired smoothness.

Add the yogurt, sour cream and 2 Tbl of lemon juice and puree again until all the ingredients are well combined.

If you are not serving immediately, and I have found this soup is better if it has time to sit, pour into a container and season with salt and pepper to taste.  And just like that, you’re done.

When dinner time comes around, stir the soup well.  Add additional stock if the soup is too thick and additional lemon juice, salt and pepper if desired.

I serve this soup with garlic pita chips (follow this link on my blog to see the recipe for these addictive things!)

A great meal for a hot summer day!

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Posted in American Food, appliances, Cooking, Entree, Family, Food, Food Processor, Kitchen tools, Meatless, Meatless Meals, Soups, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Menu Day

Another week has gone by.  Here it is Thursday and time to plan the weekly menu.  Of course, when you own a B&B weekly menu plans cover both breakfast and dinner.  Fortunately, my guests have already made me aware of their dietary preferences and requirements so that menu is pretty well set.  Dinners, however, are another story.  Repeating a week’s worth of breakfast menu ideas isn’t really a problem as most guests are not here for more than a week. I suspect George would get a little testy eating the same dinner menu week after week so Thursdays are spent looking at the grocery store sales, the weather forecast, and past menus to determine what we can have that is “different.”

This week is going to be hot.  While the inn is a cool 73 to 74 degrees F., it is going to be over 100 degrees F. outside.  While we restrict our outdoor activity when it gets this warm, just running errands can take a lot out of you.  So I will be looking for light meals that feature more fish and vegetables or meals that can be served chilled.

Here is my plan for next week.

Friday and Saturday are already covered.  Friday we’ll have leftover pork roast which I will turn into BBQ pork sandwiches and Saturday we’ll do some Italian sausage in the grill with sauteed green peppers.

Sunday will be something on the grill – pork chops or a small steak with baked potatoes and roasted vegetables.

I think I’ll kick off the week with a nice iced cucumber soup served with garlic pita chips.  The chips are a little labor intensive but so worth the effort. And if I make them immediately after breakfast the kitchen won’t get too hot.

I like the idea of a cold fish salad so I will get a couple of trout, smoke them and serve them cold with a flavored mayonnaise alongside and a few sliced tomatoes to complete the dish.

I have decided to make my favorite sous vide chicken breast dish with mozzarella, basil (which is growing like crazy in a pot on the portal) and roasted red pepper.  Julienned zucchini squash lightly sautéed in garlic and olive oil will do double duty as both a vegetable and a starch substitute.

And finally, tomatoes stuffed with crab salad made with a typical southern rémoulade and crusty rolls.

There you have it.  My menu is planned, the shopping list is completed.  I’m ready for the store.

Stay cool!

 

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Posted in American Food, BBQ, Bed and Breakfast, Beef, Chicken, Family, fish, Food, Meatless Meals, Menus, Pork, Salad, SanSaire Immersion Circulator, Seafood, Smoked Food, Sous Vide, Southern Food, Trout, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy 4th Of July!

It’s the 4th of July and that means it is time for one of the best parades in the area – thanks Corrales MainStreet – and later in the day to fire up the grill and get cooking!  For a lot of people, hot dogs and hamburgers are the fare of the day.  They’re fast, they’re traditional and they can feed a crowd quickly and without breaking the bank.  As it is just the two of us we have decided on a more ambitious menu.  We are having baby back ribs, corn muffins with jalapeno and cheese and Louisiana Cole Slaw.

My husband LOVES my Louisiana Cole Slaw (don’t ask me why it is called Louisiana ColeSlaw, maybe because I first had it at a cooking class that featured Jambalaya and they wanted to tie everything together.)   Usually, when I make Cole Slaw I slice up some cabbage and dress it with Cole Slaw dressing.  Nothing fancy.  My Louisiana Cole Slaw has a few more ingredients and if your really ambitious, homemade dressing.  Because it is hot and I make enough to for more than one meal I am using commercial dressing.  Not taking any chances with raw eggs! I’ve made this recipe numerous times for block parties and larger gatherings.  It is a big favorite with the men.

Louisiana Cole Slaw   4 generous servings

  • 1/4 head of green cabbage ( or a mix of red and green)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored an diced
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Cole Slaw dressing to taste

Slice the cabbage into 1/4 inch slices.  Stack the sliced and dice the cabbage.  Place in a bowl.  Grate the carrots on the large hole side of a box grater. Add to the cabbage in the bowl.  Slice the apple, stack the slices and dice.  Add to the bowl.  Add the raisins and dressing to taste. Mix well and refrigerate for at least two hours so the flavors can meld. And yes, it tastes just as good – maybe better – the next day!

Happy 4th!

And Happy 11th Birthday to our rescued Rhodesian Ridgeback Boz.  Party on B Man!

Posted in American Food, Cooking, Cooking class, Corrales, Family, Food, Fourth of July, Holidays, Kitchen tools, Menus, New Orleans Food, Recipes, Rhodesian Ridgeback | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Can Always Be Surprised!

I am a big fan of Christopher Kimball. It began with my first issue of Cooks Illustrated and continued when he left to start up Milk Street. I have to admit the first few editions of Milk Street left me less than enthused.  The recipes featured cuisine from different parts of the globe – not a bad thing but I don’t live in an area where a lot of the ingredients are readily available.  And mail order usually means I end up with far more of an esoteric ingredient that I can use.  As the end of my subscription neared I had decided not to renew.  But then my inattention to a particular detail – automatic renewal had been turned on – stepped in and took the decision out of my hand.  And with the July/August issue, I am grateful for that lapse.

The issue arrived and I set it aside for a few days.  And when I opened it for the first time I was surprised to discover not one, not two but three recipes that spoke to me.  Over the last two weeks, I have tried the new recipes and every one is a keeper.  No weird ingredients (thanks to some substitutions made by Milk Street) no special cooking tools, just really good recipes that have been added to my repertoire.

Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t modify the recipes. But for the most part, I stayed pretty close to the original recipes.  Here’s what we had from this stellar issue: Rigatoni with Ricotta-Sage Pesto and Walnuts, Spicy Portuguese Shrimp with Garlic (reminiscent of the garlic shrimp we have at our favorite Tapas place when we’re in Chicago) and Spaghetti al Limone (Spaghetti with Lemon.) The week was rounded out with Salad Nicoise, Bratwurst and sauerkraut, steak with twice baked potatoes and sous vide pork chops.  I’d say we covered a lot of the world this week!

Here’s my favorite from the week.  Just goes to show, you can always be surprised!

Spicy Portuguese Shrimp with Garlic    Serves two

  •  3/4 lb shrimp – 21 30 count
  • 1 tsp paprika – I used Hungarian but I may try Spanish paprika next time
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 4 tbl extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 6 large garlic gloves minced (we love our garlic!)
  • 1 Fresno chili thinly sliced you can substitute Jalapeno or yellow wax but Fresno are pretty common.
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2 tbl lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp sugar

Peel and devein the shrimp.  Pat them dry and season with the paprika, the salt and pepper.  Let sit for 10 minutes to absorb the seasoning.  Heat 1 tbl of the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until just barely smoking.  Add the shrimp in a single layer and cook, without stirring, for one to 2 minutes.  Stir and continue to cook until the shrimp are pink and opaque on both sides.  Remove the skillet to a bowl.

Add 2 tbl of the olive oil to the skillet and add the garlic and the Fresno Chili. Cook, stirring until the garlic is golden – do not let it brown.  Add the sherry and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened.  Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the lemon juice, sugar and the last tablespoon of the oil.  Return the shrimp to the pan and stir to combine.  Serve with hunks of toasted bread and lemon wedges.

OLE!

 

Posted in Cooking, Entree, Family, Food, International Cuisines, Menus, Seafood, Shrimp, Spanish Cooking, Tapas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pasta Salad Take Two

In the past, I shared a recipe for a pasta salad using tortellini instead of macaroni. With the heat on in New Mexico it’s time to bring out another version of the ever-popular pasta salad. Last night we dined on a pasta salad made with a Fusilli pasta.  The corkscrew shape of the pasta is a perfect receptacle for the Italian dressing used on the salad.  The beauty of this salad is three-fold. First, you can use items from your pantry if you prefer (for example canned tuna, or an all-vegetable salad.)  Second, depending on the amount of salad you make, it can provide multiple meals. And finally, it can be made well in advance so prep at dinner can be as simple as setting the table, slicing some warm bread and pouring a cool glass of beer.  Here’s how I made the salad yesterday.

Fusilli Pasta Salad

  • 1 lb fusilli pasta
  • 1/4 lb Genoa Salami
  • 1/4 lb pepperoni
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 red onion diced
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, quartered
  • 1 cup artichoke hearts, quartered (plain – not seasoned)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
  • Italian dressing to coat/taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by cooking the pasta to al dente.  Drain and briefly rinse to remove some of the starch.  When slightly cool coat the pasta with your preferred Italian dressing.  You want the warm pasta to absorb some of the dressing and flavor the pasta.  Place in the refrigerator.  After cooking the pasta prepare the other ingredients. Dice the salami and pepperoni and set aside.  Dice up the red onion. celery and red pepper and set aside.  Cut up the artichokes and kalamata olives and set aside.

Combine the meat and veggie ingredients with the pasta.  Add salt, pepper and more Italian dressing to taste.  Mix well and refrigerate until it is time to serve.

Just before serving dice some fresh mozzarella and place in a bowl to pass at the table.  Why not add the mozzarella with the other ingredients?  Fresh mozzarella can get an unpleasant texture if it sits too long.

I made a fresh baguette to serve with dinner.  I am a white wine girl but macaroni salad calls for red wine or beer.  I opted for a craft ale last night that paired beautifully with the salad.

The heat may be on, but not in the kitchen at dinner time if you make pasta salad!

Note: If you purchase salami and pepperoni you need to buy it in a chunk from your favorite deli.  Generally, a 1/4 lb. equals about a one-inch piece of the meat.  I change the ingredients in this salad based on what is in season and fresh. When I make this salad later in the summer I can add significantly more fresh vegetables that are available at the farmers market.

Posted in Cooking, Entree, Food, Italian, meat, Menus, New Mexico, Pasta, pasta, Salad, Southwestern States | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Snacks!

Last Friday while doing my grocery shopping I happened to spot a package of pitas.  I suddenly had the urge to make one of our favorite snacks – garlic pita chips. I used to make these chips all the time but lately, it has become very difficult to find pita that you can actually cut in half to separate the two sides of the pocket.  I lost interest in making this snack when the right type of pita disappeared from the shelves.  The package I spotted last Friday looked as if I might be able to separate the two halves to get the result I was looking to obtain.

There are six pitas in the package I purchased.  The result, after they are split apart and divided, is 96 pita chips ready for the application of melted butter, fresh garlic, salt and pepper and then a quick trip in a 400 degree F oven.  After about 8 minutes they are ready to come out and cool.  Thankfully George is at work or the first batch would experience a taste test loss before they even cool!

Pita Chips fresh from the oven!

Pita Chips fresh from the oven! Can’t you smell the garlic?

These are super easy to make but take a fair amount of time – allow yourself at least 90 minutes from start to finish.  You could reduce the amount of prep time by buying ready to fill pita pockets and using prechopped garlic.

Garlic Pita Chips

  • 1 package of 6 pita breads  6 inches across
  • 12 Tbl of butter
  • garlic cloves that have been put through a garlic press. Use as many as you like
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Begin by cutting up the pita.  Cut the pita round in half.  Using a serrated knife, cut the pita to separate the top from the bottom.  Stack the tops and bottoms and cut into four wedges.  One pita bread should yield  16 “Chips.”

Peel the garlic and press into a bowl.  Melt the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan over low heat.  You do not want the butter to burn.  Add the garlic to the melted butter and cook slowly until the butter is flavored.  Remove the butter garlic mixture from the heat.

Line baking sheets with aluminum foil – this will greatly simplify clean up.  Using a pastry brush, coat each chip with the butter garlic mixture. Be sure to include some of the garlic on each chip.  Place on the lined baking sheet and season with salt and fresh ground pepper.

Bake in the 400-degree oven until the edges of the chips have turned golden brown – about 8 1/2 minutes.  Cool on the baking sheet.

Transfer the cooled chips into an airtight container lined with parchment paper.  Store in the fridge if they are not going to be eaten within a few days. Let them come to room temperature before serving.

Note: I have experimented with other seasonings on the chips – chipotle chile powder, Italian seasoning, southwest seasoning. We stick to the garlic!

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Waste Nothing

I hate waste – especially when it comes to food.  As an innkeeper I know I will end up throwing out breakfast food that, for whatever reason, does not get eaten.  As my husband repeatedly reminds me “It’s a cost of doing business.”

Our meals/food are a different matter.  First, I plan a weekly menu before I shop and rarely deviate.  Sometimes you have “leftovers” from dinner or a recipe.  We had Taco salad a little over a week ago and after the meal was left with a few tortilla chips – not enough for nachos or with guacamole but too much to throw out.  So I decided to use them as breading on chicken thighs.  They will be showing up on the dinner plate tonight.

Our menu for this evening is Baked tortilla coated chicken thighs, roasted corn, black bean and jalapeno salad and Mexican rice.  I have a recipe for Chipotle chicken that starts with a marinade of mayonnaise and chipotle chili.  The thighs are coated in the marinade and refrigerated for at least 3 hours.  Normally they get coated in seasoned flour and then baked in the oven until finished.  Tonight I will substitute the remaining chips that have been pounded into a fine coating for the breadcrumbs.

As I knew I had these leftover tortillas that would be used to coat the chicken, my shopping list this week included items that would round out the meal.  I am making a salad of black beans, jalapeno and roasted corn with a honey, apple cider vinegar and Chulula dressing.  I purchased two fresh ears of corn and roasted them over an open flame on my stove (storming too hard to use the grill.)  I mixed the honey, apple cider vinegar, and Cholula hot sauce to make the dressing. The salad is in the fridge so all the flavors can meld.

I will add some Mexican rice as a starch.

Nothing, not even something as inconsequential as tortilla chips, goes to waste in this house!

Posted in Bed and Breakfast, Chicken, Cooking, Family, Food, meat, Menus, Mexican Food | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment