Caesar Supper Salad Spectacular

Summertime is salad time at my house.  Salads that are full of fresh seasonal veggies and have the crunch factor.  There is a salad I eat only on special occasions but I don’t know why I don’t make it more often.  It is that good. I have it every year for my birthday party entrée. This recipe is a Drake family holiday tradition started by my parents long ago. The Full Caesar. It is a variation on the Caesar salad found in The Joy of Cooking by Rombauer and Becker, page 96, my copy of which is well used…slightly stained with tomato juice and other salad ingredients… A salad that is legendary in how much we each consume. Long ago, my dad used to like to experiment with his recipe and I shudder to think of the weird things he added sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of ingredients in this salad but I draw the line at blue cheese or even worse, cheddar cheese!  Blah!  I am the one who puts it together when we gather and there is never any cheese but real Parmesan cheese in our caesar salad.

Anyway, this salad is a meal in itself. If you are lazy you can buy a Caesar dressing; check for gf on the label. I always make it from scratch but I leave that choice to you.  The coddled eggs blends in with the lemon juice, olive oil and red wine vinegar to make an authentic dressing.  I am not a big anchovy fan but it really adds a special under flavor; you can’t really tell it’s in there but it adds a lot of authenticity to the dressing.  I bake my own French bread and we have a loaf with a meal and the next day the leftover bread becomes the croutons for this salad.  Use any gf white bread you like. Don’t use bought croutons; they are so so much more delicious when you make them fresh.

This is a show stopper salad that is always put together table side when we have it. Some of my siblings make it too and they do it very similarly to this recipe. It is a delightful treasure hunt for the various additions we have grown to love in our Caesar. Manga!

 

Real Caesar  Salad – for six

½ cup good olive oil

1 clove garlic

2 big heads of romaine lettuce

6 slices bacon

1 Tsp. salt

½ Tsp. dry mustard

½ Tsp. freshly ground pepper (only fresh will do!)

2-3 fillets of anchovy mashed to a paste or 1-2 tsp. anchovy paste

½ Tsp. Worcestershire sauce

3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

A lemon

3 Tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese

7 eggs

2-3 Tbsp. tiny capers

1 14 oz. can hearts of palm

1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts

A pint of cherry tomatoes, halved

Half a loaf of gf French bread

Preparation the night before; put the peeled garlic clove in the olive oil to stand for at least 4 to 12 hours. Boil six of the eggs and chill, in shell.

Salad Day:  chop the bacon into ½ inch chunks and fry until crisp; drain on paper towel.

Peel the hard boiled eggs and slice into about 5-6 rounds each, set aside.  Slice the cherry tomatoes in half. You can use any kind of tomato; the riper the better. Just cut into bite sized pieces. Wash and tear the romaine into 1-2 inch squares; be sure to dry it in the salad spinner.  Put it all in a big bag and chill in the fridge. Slice the hearts of palm into 1/3 inch rounds, cut the artichoke hearts in halves or quarters.

Cut the French bread into cubes, heat 2 tbsp. of the garlicky olive oil in a large frying pan and add the bread cubes, cook on medium heat tossing often until they are browned some and crisp. Set aside until time to assemble the salad.

The Big Assembly:

Put the lettuce in a large salad bowl; even a big stainless steel pot or wok will work.  Add the salt, pepper, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce and the anchovy paste. Toss.

In a small pot; heat water to boil; add one egg and cook for 90 seconds.  This is the coddled egg, necessary for the dressing.

Start adding in the good stuff; the sliced hard boiled eggs, capers, the hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, tomato halves, fried bacon.  Stir gently.  Add red wine vinegar, the remaining 5-6 tbsp. of olive oil, the coddled egg which you broke in half with a knife and scooped out with a spoon right into the salad. It will totally disappear into the dressing. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon and add the fresh parmesan you just grated as well as the freshly fried croutons. Note: Do NOT use pre-grated cheese!  Heresy…   Stir gently and thoroughly to spread the dressing around well and mix the ingredients. Taste it and add more salt and pepper if needed plus add more vinegar and olive oil if there isn’t enough dressing.  We always discuss whether there is the right amount of dressing and have been known to add more to it tasting to be sure to balance the flavors so it is perfect.

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Serve on a big dinner plate. Enjoy!

I have been known to eat any leftovers the next day for lunch; still delicious even if the croutons get soggy.

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Curcuzza Side Dish: Delish

A zillion years ago my best friend’s mom, Sparky, used to grow these long skinny Italian squashes on long string trellis’ in her tiny back yard.  They lived in a narrow row house in Harrisburg so space was at a premium.  Sparky was 100 percent Italian and a great cook. She used to make this simple but delish side dish of small cubes of curcuzza squash cooked in tomato sauce. I never had access to this old time variety until I saw them at my sister’s garden last summer and searched until I found seeds at superseeds.com.  They go by the name of trombolini heirloom Italian summer squash.  You can pick them from small to very large sized.  They can be allowed to harden and dry and then used like winter squash particularly as butternut squash. They grow on long vines and are really cool looking. So this summer they are growing wildly and I’m learning how to cook with these unusual squash fruits.

 

The other week I made a delightful sauté. Success led me to feel I should try the special dish Sparky made all those years ago. It was simple actually, with just a few ingredients and some loving attention.

I strongly suggest you find trombolini squash but in a pinch any other summer squash will do; just cook it for a far shorter time.

trombolini squash with sauce and sausage

Sparky’s Curcuzza in Red Sauce

2  Tbsp.  EVOL

½ cup diced yellow onion

3-4 cups cubed trombolini squash

1 large garlic clove

1 15 ounce can tomato sauce; good quality

2  Tbsp. dry red wine

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Heat olive oil in large saucepan, add onion, cook about 4 minutes until it starts to soften.  Add cubed squash, cook 5 minutes, add minced garlic clove, cook one minute.  Add tomato sauce. Put 2 tbsp. red wine in can to rinse it out and add to pan.  If you don’t like wine; use water.  Cover and cook on low heat for about 30 minutes until squash is cooked but still holds it’s shape. Stir it a few times to make sure it is not sticking or burning. If you used zucchini your cook time will be more like ten minutes.  I add salt before the 30 minute cooking; maybe ½ tsp of it and a few grinds of my pepper grinder.

Serve over hot spaghetti pasta.  You can serve it with some Italian sausage or fried eggplant or top your plate with grated fresh Parmesan cheese if desired. My pasta was gf of course.  This can be made vegan, gf, a side to a meat entree or just a delightful snack. Manga!trombolini squash with sauce

Smashing Summer Squash Saute

 

It is zucchini season and the deluge of large green baseball bat veggies has begun. I prefer them a bit more tender; picked well before they become gigantic. I like yellow crookneck squash as well, especially home grown and picked very tender.  You can get a yellow zucchini (absolutely there is such a thing!) at Giant Grocery stores and it looks great mixed with slices of green summer squash.  Then there are patty pan squash which are generally pale green and yes, shaped like a flying saucer.  Kinda different you might think but similar flavor to other summer squash.

You may think you know summer squash until you come across a tromboncino summer squash which is an Italian heirloom variety. It looks sort of like a zucchini and a gourd had a baby: it is pale green with a swollen end and long curvy stem. My sister grows them and I remember that my college roomie’s parents grew them up strings in their narrow back yard.  They have long vines like a gourd so a trellis works much better than just letting the vines sprawl. So, I bought a packet of the seeds from superseeds.com last winter. I have one vine at my house and one at a church community garden I administer. I picked my first one last weekend. It was 27 inches plus long not counting the curve; more like 30 inches if you ran a tape measure along the whole thing.

What to do with my lovely long squash? Bernie’s mom used to cook it in thin tomato sauce and some garlic. She called it a gourgutza! I call it tasty… I had a just picked Japanese eggplant, fresh basil in the garden and a red onion.  So I went with them as the other major components of my dish. A can of chopped tomatoes was added to create a fresh and un-homogenized sauce.  Finally, I had some red lentil rotini pasta from Aldi’s; been meaning to try it in something special. They all came together in a lovely fresh tasting one pan entree I know I will make again soon. Use what ever summer squash you have but don’t cut it thin; leave it chunky for this dish. If you ever get a tromboncini do give it a try; very tasty.

Angie’s Summer Squash Sauté

2 cups cubed or half round summer squash; cut thick; ½ inch diameter

1 Japanese eggplant

1/3 lb ground chicken or pork

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 15 oz can finely chopped tomatoes

8 or 9 fresh large basil leaves chopped fine

2 tbsp. dry white wine

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 1/3 cup dry rotini pasta; cook it until very al dente

Directions: Cut the eggplant on the diagonal into slices, cut into long strips; put in colander, sprinkle with sea salt, let drip for about 20 minutes, wipe clean with paper towel.

Heat your pan, I used my smaller wok. sauté the ground chicken in 1 tbsp. olive oil; pressing it down to a thin layer, brown and turn, add red onion, brown the meat on other side; chop up; cook about 5-7 minutes total until done; remove from pan and place in a bowl for later use.

Heat the salted water for the pasta and cook it while you are sautéing all the veggies. Reserve at least ½ cup of the cooking water to add back as needed to the final dish.

Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to the same pan, heat until fairly hot, add the eggplant. Cook on both sides, after a couple minutes on each side add ¼ cup water to keep it from sticking. As it cooks after the water goes in add the minced garlic and the summer squash. Cook 3-5 minutes more, while it cooks add the juice from the can of tomatoes. Stir occasionally to cook evenly and after a couple minutes add the can of drained tomatoes, a pinch of red pepper flakes and cover.  Let cook 4 or 5 minutes, add white wine, cook 2 more minutes until squash is barely fork tender. Add cooked pasta, the meat and red onion mixture and then the finely chopped basil, cook one minute, taste and add some freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to your personal taste. If it seems dry add some of the pasta water. Serve immediately.

It was still very tasty the next day. I added a touch more of the pasta cooking water when I put my leftovers away in the refrigerator, to keep things moist. The red lentil pasta did not get crunchy or soggy as many gf pastas do. I don’t know if Aldi’s still carries it as their gf stuff changes constantly.  But if I see it there I am definitely buying more.  Enjoy!

Japanese Eggplants with Ground Chicken or Pork: Delightful!

There is this recipe for chowed eggplant with ground pork that I make often when I can find skinny Japanese eggplants. Chowed means stir fried.  It comes out great every time I make it, slight addiction is my position on this recipe. This latest version uses ground chicken thigh meat instead of ground pork. If you get tired of pork or don’t eat it this is an excellent choice.  I bought it at Valley Farm Markets; their meats can’t be beat for flavor and value! I suppose you can used ground chicken breast too. Anyway, it worked very well.

I added some sticks of fresh zucchini from my garden  and a bit of sliced cabbage.  It was delish for sure. The original recipe is by Jeff Smith, out of his cookbook, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines; China, Greece and Rome. It is full of great recipes; where I got my potsticker and other dim sum recipes.  No judging here of Chef Smith; just enjoying great food…

Notes; can change out zucchini and or cabbage, for green beans, carrots, pea pods…but you can’t change out the eggplant.  Ground pork is excellent this way as well. Can use yellow onion rather than green if you prefer; cook a bit longer than scallions if you do.  You could also serve this with rice noodles; the wide kind you let soak in boiling hot water for ten minutes; that’s all the cooking it needs.

Angie’s Eggplant with Ground Chicken

1 lb skinny Japanese eggplant

1 tsp salt

½ tsp. light soy sauce, gf

1 ½ tsp. dry sherry or rice wine

½ tsp. grated fresh ginger

½ lob ground chicken, preferably thigh meat

2 tbsp. mild olive oil or peanut oil

2 cloves of garlic minced

3-4 green onions sliced in 1 to 2 inch lengths and cut in half if white part

1 cup zucchini strips; long rectangle shape

2/3-1 cup sliced green cabbage; not too thin

1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Pinch sugar

Directions:

Cut unpeeled eggplants into ½ inch thick diagonal slices and cut each in half the long way. Sprinkle with salt, let stand ½ hour draining in a colander.  Pat dry with paper towels.

Mix meat with soy sauce sherry and fresh ginger, let stand 20 to 30 minutes.

Slice or chop veggies.

Heat wok and add 1 tbsp. oil. Add ground meat mixture and flatten a bit; cook until browned lightly; flip over and brown other side; no pink showing; chop up with utensil and set aside.  Add rest of oil and then garlic, cook 30 seconds, add eggplant, cook until it appears more than half done; about 5 minutes; then add zucchini and cabbage, stir for 4-5 minutes, add sesame oil and green onions. Stir a minute, add pinch sugar, wok until cabbage is crisp tender.

eggplant stir fry on plate

Serve with brown or white rice.  I made my brown rice in my handy instant pot pressure cooker.  I did a cup of long grain brown rice, 1 ¼ cup water, 1 tsp. oil, ½ tsp. sea salt; Manual high pressure for 20 or so minutes, ten minutes natural release.  Easy peasy.


 

Waffle Heaven in a State Park

Camping is fun for me; I love to cook over an open fire or on the camp stove. Summer is a great time for fresh produce. If you can combine cooking and being in nature that is the best deal for me!

Now this is car camping, you know… where you drive there with a trunk full of sleeping bags, tent, tarps, comfy clothes, cook stove, lanterns, and coolers of food… So I had lots food and I also brought my cast iron waffle maker; an antique from the 1920s that was my sister Margie’s and before that my parents.  It was kinda messed up when she gave it to me but Joe and I worked hard to bake off the crud and now it works fantastically… and corn on the cob, shrimp and swordfish (frozen), half frozen chicken thighs, lamb loin chops and a zillion other food items.   Nothing like traveling light!

So we enjoyed some good food. For breakfast I made waffles, then  pancakes, and then more waffles the third morning.  The pancakes are lovely; for a year or two I just couldn’t find any pancakes that measured up to what I felt they should taste like.  These are from Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s cookbook. Sometimes I add extra milk if they are too thick. I pour the batter right out of a mixing bowl with a pour spout onto the griddle.

And, again, I forgot to take pix of the waffle iron in action; have one shot of a waffle quarter from last summer; before I snarfed it down so here is that recipe (my version; based on a pancake recipe in Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts. This recipe is great for camping because buttermilk travels better than regular milk and it also uses oil not butter in the waffle; easier to deal with than melting butter on the camp stove…. The other week I was out of buttermilk and used kefir, a fermented milk; worked fantastically.

waffle

Cinnamon Waffles (for 2; double for 4 people)

1 cup brown rice flour mix

1 tbsp. sugar

¼ tsp. salt

1 ¾ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. cinnamon

1 large egg, well beaten

2 tbsp. canola oil or melted butter plus extra for greasing griddle.

2/3 cup buttermilk

½ tsp. vanilla extract

cooking spray (kind with no flour in it)

Directions:  To make it portable; measure the dry ingredients into a zip-lock baggie. I like to write the other ingredients on with a black Sharpie marker and label it waffles…so you don’t use the pancake mix by mistake!  Beat the egg in a large mixing bowl, add the oil, buttermilk and vanilla (optional when camping but I did bring it this summer and they were so yummy). Pour the dry mix into the bowl and whisk briefly until fairly well mixed.

While you are doing that mixing step the waffle iron should be heating.  I use a round cast iron waffle iron; please do spray it with cooking spray before heating and then I melt about 1-2 tsp. of butter into the 4 quarters; I blop the chunk around with a fork so some melts into each part of the iron.  Flip the iron over just before putting in the batter. I use a big spoon to glop it into the waffle iron.  One big glop in each half.  Close the iron and let it bake about 2 minutes. Flip it and bake 1-2 more minutes, or however long your waffle iron takes.  I serve it with real maple syrup; something this good deserves the best.  Before I serve the first waffle I break off a section and eat it hot and plain; you can really taste the cinnamon that way.  Make sure your waffles are crisp not soft. The crisp is Everything!

We had scrambled eggs and breakfast maple flavored sausage links; both go fantastically well with waffles.

Brown Rice Flour Mix (it is the same as King Arthur’s gf flour mix)
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour

Originally posted in July 2015 and again in 2016 with minor text revisions. Recipe the same.

Tabouli Salad…GF of Course!

 

I love fresh summer salads on hot days, for parties, for supper alone or with a loved one. They pair well with grilled proteins and dress up a meal that was so so before you got out the chilled bowl of pretty salad.  There are a few salads I had to give up due to ingredients like bulgur wheat, farro, orzo pasta.  Or so I thought. I now use quinoa and make a wonderful tabouli salad; the quinoa replaces the bulgur wheat very nicely.  I particularly like the three color blend of quinoa for this purpose.  You cook it on the stove top, cool it few minutes and it is ready to use.  This quick to make and refreshing salad is very healthy. If you didn’t know it, quinoa comes from Peru and has a fair amount of protein in it; great for vegetarians. I like it’s refreshing flavors.

tabouli salad

Angie’s GF Tabouli Salad

Ingredients

1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups water

½ tsp. salt

——-

1/3 cup finely diced sweet onion

2/3 cup finely diced burpless cucumber

½ cup finely diced raw zucchini

1/3-1/2 finely diced orange bell pepper

1 large ripe tomato, diced

2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint

3-4 tbsp. EVOL of excellent quality

2-3 tbsp. red wine vinegar

½ a lemon; juiced and zested

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:  Mix the quinoa, water and salt in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, cover tightly and cook 15 minutes. Uncover and cool.

Dump cooled quinoa in a large mixing bowl.  Add the veggies and drizzle with the olive oil and then sprinkle with the vinegar and lemon juice.  Add kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Chill at least 30 minutes before serving so flavors can blend and it chills. An hour is better.  My amounts for the veggies are approximate and if you don’t like something; don’t use it.  The mint is really what makes it taste perfect so try it before you decide to not use it. If you hate it; use fresh chopped parsley instead of mint.  I also don’t measure the oil and vinegar; taste and add more if you want more. Don’t make a sopping wet salad; shouldn’t be any extra dressing in the bottom of the bowl.  Put it in a nice serving dish before you bring it to the table. Chill the dish if it is a hot day.

Notes: I grate the lemon peel into the salad before I juice it, easiest. It keeps 2-3 days in the fridge; you could make it the day before if you need to.  For that add the tomato and mint the day you are serving it. Try to get a beautiful tomato that is fully ripe and a tender zucchini makes the best quality salad here. Yes, raw zucchini; it doesn’t taste like that much but it adds something to the mix and your company will never know it isn’t cuke if you don’t tell them!  Enjoy this naturally gluten free summer salad.

Seafood Cakes

Once at the Springtown Inn I had the most delicious seafood cakes, this was 8-9 years ago.  Well, to be honest, maybe twice I had them. Anyway, they were made with two or three different seafood proteins I think they had shrimp and crab but it was such a length of time that I can’t remember for sure.  Anyway, I had long wanted to create a similar dish.  Searched for a recipe and not finding one that was really close I took one from Food Network and modified it.  The recipe featured small sized cakes with a fresh salsa on top, made by Robert Irvine. I didn’t do the salsa and I made a few changes to the cakes.

I made them two different versions; lobster, shrimp and crab and one with flounder instead of the crab.  Both were easy to construct and delightful. The flavor is delicate and light. I didn’t make a sauce in the interest of that delicacy plus it was easier and included less calories. We agreed they were fine all alone but go right ahead and made a sauce of your choice. Mr. Irvine suggests a sauce of equal parts crème fresh and sour cream.  I might try that next time!

seafood cakes frying

Angie’s Seafood Cakes

¼ lb medium raw shrimp; peeled and no tails

a 4oz. lobster tail, removed from shell and still raw

1/3 lb raw flounder or crabmeat

2 tbsp. finely chopped shallots

2 tsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

1/3 cup gf bread crumbs, preferably panko plus more if desired for coating cakes

1 tsp. garlic powder

Half a lemon, zested

1/3 cup Mayonnaise, might need a tad more….

2 tbsp. finely grated parmesan cheese (I made one version without)

1-2 tbsp. mild olive oil

Directions:

Chop the raw lobster tail into chunks. Put the seafood in a food processor, process briefly until fairly small particles but not even close to a paste.  Dump in a big bowl, add the shallots, parsley, bread crumbs, garlic powder, zest, mayo and cheese, stir to blend well. Don’t overblend; stop as soon as it seems fairly even. If you like; before stirring add salt and pepper to taste; maybe ½ tsp. sea salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Form into 4 cakes. If you want them crunchy on the outside gently press into some more bread crumbs to crumb both sides.  Put on a large plate and chill an hour so they hold their shape.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet to hot and fry them about 3 minutes to a side; do not let burn!  I turned down the heat after a minute so they kept cooking but at a temperature less likely to turn them dark brown. But don’t use low temps or you will get a greasy cake!

seafood cake with risotto

Serve with some rice pilaf and your favorite vegetable; asparagus comes to mind! I made pea risotto which was divine.