Greek Salad

Inspiration: This salad has been kicking around my kitchen for several years now. Whenever I’m having a Greek-inspired main dish, I throw it on the menu. For some reason, I don’t tend to make foods from Greek cuisine as often as from other cuisines (Mexican, anyone??), but I really do love any Greek foods that I’ve had. It seems that every time we have a few drinks downtown on a summer night and are ravenous for supper, the gyro platter at our favorite Greek place just calls our names :)

What we Loved: Fresh vegetables, earthy olives, salty feta – what’s not to love? This is a very light, vegetable-packed salad that goes well with nearly any Greek meal, or it could even be a great vegetarian meal on its own. Everything is coated in a dressing of olive oil, vinegar, and oregano, which results in a tangy, earthy flavor that is just fabulous. Oregano is a key ingredient to Greek food in my mind, so I really enjoy its inclusion here. This salad pairs beautifully with a main dish of lamb – lamb chops or shish-kabobs marinated in oregano, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and olive oil are a great pairing.

Helpful Hints: You can present this salad in a number of ways. Sometimes I slice the vegetables into small pieces, and sometimes I chop them into larger chunks. You can keep the olives whole, crumble or slice your feta, buy grape tomatoes instead of large tomatoes, etc. Varying the presentation is a great way to give this recipe a little bit of a different spin every time that you make it. This particular time, I bought goat’s milk feta, which is another variation that you could try. I really enjoyed its fresh, tangy flavor and its consistency, which I thought was much creamier than other fetas.

Greek Salad
Source: Adapted from Cherrapeno

1 cucumber
1 tomato
2 slices onion
1/2 large can black olives
3-4 oz Feta cheese
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Slice into half-rings.

2. Cut the tomato into quarters, remove the seeds, and slice. Slice the onions and the olives.

3. Add all of the vegetables to a bowl. Cut the feta into cubes, and add to the bowl. 

3. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over the salad and serve.

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Cauilflower Colcannon and Reuben Sandwiches

Inspiration: Corned beef and cabbage (our dinner this past Sunday night) lends itself very well to leftovers. There’s always leftover corned beef when you cook a whole brisket, and how many meals does one of those heads of green cabbage last?? (many, for us). Brandon could eat a reuben sandwich every single day of his life (maybe every single meal of his life?) and be a happy man, so this year I specially cooked extra just to make sure that we’d have a few days worth of reubens for him as a treat. And cauliflower colcannon is truly one of our favorite sides. For us, that’s a great St. Paddy’s week meal #2.

What we Loved: First, for the reubens – there’s nothing quite like a reuben made with leftover homecooked brisket, rather than the thinly sliced corned beef that you can get from the deli. The homecooked, thicker slices are just so tender and hearty! Combined with heaps of Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing, it’s an ooey-goeey delicious sandwich. Plus, the rye bread has that great, earthy caraway flavor and is so browned and buttery.

As for the colcannon, it’s truly one of our favorite sides. Pureed cauliflower and sauteed cabbage, leeks, and bacon all mix together for a creamy, veggie-packed dish. It’s salty and rich, with the great flavors of bacon and onions running throughout. The cabbage and leeks are cooked in a bit of the bacon fat, so that flavor really permeates the dish. Traditionally, this side is made with mashed potatoes, but the cauliflower is really a perfect substitute – I might be hard-pressed to tell the difference. I could really eat this as a meal in itself.

Helpful Hints: Replacing the leeks in the colcannon with onions or shallots is great, too, but I like the extra green color from the leeks. And in my opinion, the more bacon/cabbage/leeks that you add, the better.

Cauilflower Colcannon and Reuben Sandwiches
Source: original recipes to serve 2

For the colcannon
1 head cauliflower
Splash milk
Kosher salt and black pepper
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 leek, white and green parts only, rinsed and chopped
1-2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
Chives, to garnish

1. Place the cauliflower in a medium sauce pan (~ 3 qt). Cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook for 4-5 minutes, until softened. Strain the cauliflower and pour it into a food processor with a splash of milk. Season to taste with salt and pepper and puree until smooth.

2. Add the bacon to the pan. Saute until crispy. Remove some of the extra fat in the pan, but keep some for flavor and for sauteeing the other vegetables.

3. Add the leek and cabbage to the pan. Mix everything together, and cook for a few minutes until all of the vegetables are softened.

4. Mix in the pureed cauliflower. Cook for a few minutes to heat through, sprinkle with chives, and serve.

For the Reuben
Butter
4 slices rye bread (I used a spelt grain rye bread with 4 net carbs per slice)
Swiss cheese, freshly shredded
Corned beef
Sauerkraut
Thousand Island or Russian dressing

1. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place two slices butter side down in a saute pan or griddle.

2. Add a handful of Swiss cheese and top with a few slices of corned beef. Add some sauerkraut and dressing. Top with some more slices of corned beef and finally another handful of Swiss cheese.

3. Top with the second piece of bread and use low heat to brown both sides and cook through.

 

Corned Beef, Cabbage, and Carrots

Inspiration: At our favorite Irish pub in town, they have a fantastic St. Practice Day on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day. We love the pub so much because it has such a dark and cozy Irish atmosphere, and on St. Practice Day they have live Irish music all day long, Irish dancing, bagpipes, and of course lots of great food and drinks (there’s nothing like a fresh Guinness on tap for St. Paddy’s Day, right? And this year I also tried my first ever black and tan!). Anyway, we’ve gone for the past couple of years, and it’s always turns out to be the best day. This year, we met up with a great couple that we keep running into around town, and we had a wonderful afternoon that stretched itself into the night (the best kind of day!). It was truly a fabulous way to kick off our St. Patrick’s Day celebrating! And for the past couple of years, I’ve grown into the habit of making corned beef and cabbage on the Sunday after St. Practice Day. Something about it just seems like a Sunday meal, doesn’t it? And there will be plenty of Irish/Irish-American food to follow in our house for the rest of the week. I truly love this holiday.

What we Loved: I tend to make corned beef and cabbage slightly differently every year, usually by varying the method that I use to cook the vegetables. I’ve simmered the vegetables away in the corned beef stock, mixed them together and roasted them until they were just a little charred in the oven, or cooked them completely on their own using separate recipes, as we did this year. Really, corned beef and cabbage is a great meal no matter how you decide to cook it, so I’ll share what we did this year – and then probably be back next year with something different :)

Thinly sliced cabbage sauteed in plenty of butter is one of our new favorite side dishes any time of the year, because the cabbage ends up so rich, crisp, and buttery. Brandon just loves eating cabbage this way and requests it often, and we’ve both found that it’s our favorite way to enjoy this vegetable. So this year, it was a no-brainer for us to cook our cabbage that way as a part of this great meal. For the carrots this year, I cooked them with butter, salt, and cinnamon, and I really enjoyed those slightly different flavors with the rest of the meal. I thought that cinnamon would pair well with the coriander flavors in the corned beef, and the idea of just a touch of sweetness with this meal was appealing (and successful) as well. And of course, the corned beef was salty and tender like corned beef always is, with just a few pops of coriander and black pepper here and there. I was originally going to make Brandon a horseradish sauce to accompany the corned beef, but he requested that we just eat it plain. And I think that he’s right – it’s really great to just let the flavor of the meat speak for itself. We only poured just a little of the cooking stock over the corned beef and called it a (fantastic and comforting) meal.

Helpful Hints: We buy our corned beef at a specialty market in town, and one of the owners told us a few years ago that when you’re cooking your corned beef, it’s important to make the water as salty as you want the corned beef to be. This means adding a lot more salt than you think is necessary. We have used this trick ever since with fantastic results.

Corned Beef, Cabbage, and Carrots
Source: Original Recipe

For the corned beef
1 corned beef roast, about 3 lbs
1 onion, peeled and halved
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
Coriander seeds
Black pepper
Kosher salt

1. Place the corned beef in a pot or dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic, and a good handful of coriander seeds. Season to taste with black pepper and Kosher salt (I used about 2 tablespoons).

2. Fill the pot with enough water to cover everything. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Remove any fat that has risen to the top of the pot with a spoon. Cover and simmer for 3 hours.

3. Remove from the pot, and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Slice and serve topped with a bit of the cooking stock.

For the cabbage
1 small head green cabbage
1 small leek, white and light green parts only
2 tablespoons butter
Kosher salt and black pepper
Chives, to garnish

1. Slice the cabbage into thin strips. Cut the leaves off of the leek, keeping only the white and light green parts. Cut the leek in half vertically, and rinse thoroughly. Slice into thin half-moon slices.

2. Heat the butter in a saute pan. Add the cabbage and leeks, and season well with salt and pepper. Saute until just softened, about 4-5 minutes.

3. Serve garnished with chives.

For the carrots
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced into rings
Butter
Cinnamon
Kosher salt

1. Place the carrots in a small pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the carrots are softened.

2. Drain the water. Add a good pat of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon and salt, to taste. Mix well and serve.

Pickled Red Onions

Inspiration: As I was flipping through my two Rick Bayless cookbooks looking for interesting topping ideas for our Superbowl taco salad bar, this recipe immediately caught my eye. It’s intriguing, different, and something that I’ve never had. Which almost always means that it’s getting made. Plus, I sometimes feel that raw, chopped onions can be overpowering in a salad, so this was a great alternative.

What we Loved: These are everything that I expected (read: delicious) and nothing that I expected (such different flavors than I had anticipated!) at the same time. They don’t have a strong, sour vinegar flavor as I would expect when I think of a standard pickle, nor do they have a strong onion flavor. In fact, the onion flavor is really very mild, leaving a pleasantly tart flavor with hints of smoky cumin and garlic. The onions are nice and soft, and they paired so well atop taco salads that contained so many other Mexican flavors. Brandon gobbled these right up! And aren’t they so pretty?

Helpful Hints: These are very easy to make, but just be sure to give yourself a little time to allow them to sit (and cool, if desired). I let them sit for about 3 hours, then I tossed them in the fridge to cool for another hour or two.

Pickled Red Onions
Source: Adapted from Rick Bayless, Authentic Mexican

1 red onion, cut into 1/8 inch rings
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1/3 cup cider vinegar

1. Place the onions in a sauce pan. Cover with salted water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 60 seconds, then remove from the heat and drain the water.

2. Add the cumin, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, and vinegar to the pan. Add enough water to just cover the onions. Bring to a boil again, and boil for three minutes.

3. Remove from the heat, and place into a serving bowl. Let sit for several hours before serving. Chill if desired.

Mashed Cauliflower with Onions and Parmesan

Inspiration: I began eating mashed cauliflower as a replacement for mashed potatoes, but you know what? I really, really love it now for what it is and crave it even over mashed potatoes. It’s the perfect option for any type of comfort meal!

What we Loved: I really enjoy mashed cauliflower just with some lots of butter and salt, but by adding Parmesan and loads of onions, it’s really over the top delicious. I could probably eat this for a meal several times a week and be a happy girl. The Parmesan adds a wonderful nutty and cheesy flavor, and the onions make the entire dish taste so rich and, well, oniony. With that combination of strong flavors, you really don’t need any butter or other toppings at all. We both love this preparation and would list it as our favorite way (so far) to enjoy mashed cauliflower.

Helpful Hints: You really can’t have too many onions in this recipe. That sweet, buttery sauteed flavor really is the best part of the dish. I’ve made it several times, and each time, I throw in (a lot) more onions. And, each time, I think that next time, I’ll add more onions :)

Mashed Cauliflower with Onions and Parmesan
Source: Original recipe

I’m afraid that this recipe is going to be rather imprecise. Use as much or as little of the ingredients as you prefer.

Extra virgin olive oil
Onion,  diced
1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
Butter
Splash of milk
Kosher salt and black pepper
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan. Add the onions, and saute until softened, approximately 5 minutes.

2. Place the cauliflower in a sauce pan. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook for 4-5 minutes until softened. Drain the cauliflower, and place it in a food processor.

3. Puree the cauliflower with a pat of butter and a splash of milk. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Place the mashed cauliflower back into the sauce pan. Mix in the onions and Parmesan. Cover over low heat to keep warm, or serve immediately.

Creamy Cucumber Salad

Inspiration: I love getting fresh vegetables from Brandon’s parents’ garden. Armed with a crisper drawer full of cucumbers, I mixed up several batches of the cucumber vinegar salad that my parents always made when I was a kid and this creamy cucumber salad that Brandon’s mom always makes. We had some great cucumber snacks for a few weeks!

What we Loved: Cool and refreshing are the best words that I can think of to describe this salad. Dill, sour cream, and cucumbers work really well together to create a light salad that’s a great alternative when you’re not in the mood for a heavier dish. Served with some fresh tomato slices and a nice sprinkle of salt, this really is the lightest and most refreshing salad. Great for (these last few days of) summer!

Helpful Hints: Brandon’s mom always serves these cucumbers over fresh tomatoes, and I really love that flavor combination best. The juicy, sweet tomatoes complement the flavors of the cucumber and sour cream so well! Sometimes, she’ll serve these cucumbers as a side dish to her stuffed hot peppers, which I also think is a surprising and great flavor combination. This salad is also great just on its own as a light lunch or as a side dish to the rest of your lunch items.

Creamy Cucumber Salad
Source: Brandon’s Mom

2 cucumbers, diced
1-2 slices onion, diced
Sour cream
Dried or fresh dill
Salt and pepper

1. Place the cucumbers and onions in a bowl. Season well with dill, salt, and pepper. Add a big dollop of sour cream, and mix everything to combine. Taste, adding more sour cream or seasonings if desired.

Green Beans Slow Cooked with Bacon and Onions

Inspiration: This was the last of our Southern-style dishes for our pulled pork meal. When my parents, Brandon, and I tried a similar dish at a restaurant, we all loved it!

What we Loved: These beans may not look like much, but don’t let that fool you. The rich and savory bacon/onion flavor is intense and really surprised me on the first bite. I don’t know that I was expecting these to be so good! I’ve quickly steamed beans before and then sauteed them with bacon/prosciutto and onions, and because this recipe uses the same ingredients, I think that I was expecting them to taste simlarly. But the flavors are so much more magnified and concentrated, and of course the texture is different because of the slow cooking time. The beans are soft but not mushy, nice and salty, and just completely coated in that savory bacon/onion flavor combo.  What a great comfort food.

Helpful Hints: Use homemade chicken stock if you can. Since there are so few ingredients in this recipe, I really think that the chicken stock is important to the overall rich and savory flavor. I’m also thinking that some really good thick cut, pepper-crusted bacon would be fabulous in this recipe.

Green Beans Slow Cooked with Bacon and Onions
Source: Tyler Florence

I adapted this recipe to make less. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

6 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 lb fresh green beans
2 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Add the bacon to a saucepan, and cook over medium low heat until the bacon is beginning to crisp.

2. Add the onions, stirring well to incorporate them with the bacon and the bacon fat. Continue cooking for approximately 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and beginning to brown.

3. Stir in the beans, coating them in the bacon mixture.

4. Add the chicken stock, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, and cook until the beans are soft buy not mushy, between 30-45 minutes.