Friday, July 29, 2011

Cucumber and Feta Wedge Salad

We all know the worst part of making a salad is cutting the lettuce, right? Well, maybe not.

But, either way, make a wedge salad and you've got less chopping to do in the lettuce department. Sure, you need to use iceberg lettuce in order for the wedge to work and we all know that iceberg is not as nutritious, but there are still some pros to the wedge:

  • Iceberg is super crunchy and crisp. Sometimes it's not about taste, but texture.
  • Wedges are pretty to look at. I like all the lines and wiggly curves.
  • With a wedge, you can focus on the dressing and other veggies, emphasizing that a real salad is about what's in/on it, not always the lettuce itself.
  • Sometimes's it's just fun to do something a little different.

So, to make this salad:
Chop 1 head of lettuce into six wedges. First cut it in half, cut out the heart, then slice each half into three even wedges.

For the dressing/veggies.
1 large cucumber
4 small tomatoes
3 green onions (the whole onion, white and green part)
2 stalks celery
Crumbled feta cheese, as much as desired
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C(ish) white vinegar
a sprinkle of sugar

Chop all of the veggies coarsely, then mix together all the ingredients. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving to allow the juices to marinate. The tomato juice and vinegar will especially soak up the flavors of the feta and onions, which then gets into the cucumbers and celery, and it is all delicious. The sugar takes the harsh bite off the vinegar and adds a bit of sweetness to the dressing.

When ready to serve, serve veggies over the lettuce wedges, making sure that each wedge also gets an ample amount of the juices at the bottom of the bowl.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

English Breakfast

Before going to England, I often heard talk of how bland the food was. But, truth be told, I actually found that I really liked English food. Yes, it isn't as strong a flavor as some people prefer in America, but the heavy international influence means that there are strong flavors to be had if you want it.

But even the traditional, "blander" meals are quite flavorful, and very simple, too. For example, the traditional English Breakfast, which we were served almost every day of our trip. The traditional English breakfast includes scrambled eggs, sauteed mushrooms, hashbrowns, grilled tomatoes, sausage, bacon (English bacon, not the wimpy American stuff), baked beans, toast, and tea (of course). It is a big meal and very filling, designed to get you through the whole workday.

I'll admit that I didn't much care for the English sausages, though I'm not a big sausage person in general. The bacon was way better than ours, more meaty, closer to ham. The baked beans were pretty good.

But. But...

The things I LOVED about the breakfast were the grilled tomatoes and the sauteed mushrooms. Seriously, they are perfect for breakfast, and now that I think about mushrooms as a breakfast food, I wonder why I never thought of them before. I can't think of a better compliment to eggs than the mushrooms. Perfect.

So, if you'd like to give your breakfasts an international flair, try making some sauteed mushrooms or grilled tomatoes.

Here's what I do:
After the eggs have been cooked (here I made a simple omelet with chard in it) add a touch of olive oil to the hot pan, mix in cut mushrooms. Lightly salt and pepper them. Once they are just lightly sauteed, take them out.

Meanwhile, cut tomatoes into thick slices, or for smaller tomatoes just cut in half. Just as soon as the mushrooms have left the pan, put the tomatoes in. Lightly salt and pepper them then turn them over. If the pan is hot, the time it takes to salt and pepper them will be perfect. After another 30 seconds, take them off the pan. The idea is to heat them up quickly and not over cook them. They get sweet and warm, and are the perfect compliment to the eggs and mushrooms.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Roasted Squash and Seaweed Stir-Fry Noodles

One of my favorite things ever is to serve food inside of other food. Bread bowls...taco shells...watermelon bowls...crepes... they all give me a small thrill. This is probably one of the reasons I like pie so much, because there is crust AND filling. It's like eating two foods at once, two foods that go perfectly together.

So, naturally, I like serving things inside of squash. The little cavity where the seeds hang out is a perfect place to dish out some other meal, and the sweetness of the squash serves as a great contrast to more savory meals. Here's one that I tried out the other day.

Roasted Squash and Seaweed Stir-Fry
For the squash:
Brush two halves of an acorn squash with butter, sprinkle with brown sugar and sea salt. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about a half hour, or until the squash is soft all the way through.

For the stir-fried noodles:
In just a touch of olive oil, fry onions, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, snap peas, and dried seaweed together. You could really do any sort of stir fry you like: add some meats, add your favorite veggies, etc. Once the veggies are cooked, dash in some rice vinegar and some salt and pepper. In a separate pan, cook thin rice noodles. Drain the rice noodles and stir into the stir fry. Serve over top the baked squash.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Honey-Peanut Glazed Chicken, and Mint Cucumber Salad

This is something from my food archives:

Honey-Peanut Glazed Chicken with Mint Cucumber Salad.

For the chicken: This recipe was adapted from the Peanut Butter Co. Cookbook which is one of the best cook books I've ever had. And the pictures are great, too, which is an essential ingredient for any cookbook that I'm going to be cooking from.

Heat equal parts peanut butter and honey together (maybe just a bit more of it honey), and a touch of butter. Mix in spiciness: hot sauce, red pepper, cayenne, all of the above, etc, to however hot you want it to be. Come just to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes while it gets thicker. Don't burn it. Then, coat the chicken in the glaze, bake it at 350 for 20 minutes, then turn the chicken and baste on the rest of the glaze and bake for another 20 min. If chicken doesn't get as photogenic as you want, broiled it for just a couple of minutes to give it a deeper red color. Garnish with fresh chives.

The Mint Cucumber Salad is a perfect compliment to the deep, spicy flavor of the chicken. It it light, cool, and crunchy where the chicken is thick, spicy, and meaty.

Chop equal parts celery and cucumber. Chop finely.
Squeeze over with lime juice
Add a bit of white vinegar
Add finely chopped fresh chives and mint
A pinch of salt
Garnish with longer chives, cucumber slivers, lettuce leaf, etc.

After we'd had our first servings of the chicken and the salad, we used the lettuce leaf to make a wrap combining the two, and that was great, too.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Center Street Deli

I promised all of you that I would also try a new restaurant. I went to Center Street Deli, which is across the street from the Covey Center on Center Street, Provo. It's one of those places where you don't expect much, and, having low expectations, are blown out of the water.

There were a couple of things, however, that let me know from the beginning that it was going to be pretty good: they served Boar's Head deli meat, which is one of my favorite kinds of sandwich meat. I don't eat a ton of meat, but I don't hesitate at all with Boar's Head because the taste is superb and the quality is very high. Yes, Boar's Head is a bit more expensive than average grocery store deli meat, but it is well worth the extra pennies. Kate at the counter informed me that they are one of only three places in Utah Valley that serve it.

The other thing that told me I would love it was that they had malt vinegar on the table, and that I saw them hand cutting their fries. I love french fries, and hand cut is just a nice touch of class. Having just gotten back from England, I was practically addicted to malt vinegar, so it was a nice familiar flavor. The fries weren't awesome, but they were pretty good, nonetheless, and they were served in generous portions.

Another thing I liked right away was their honesty: they were just humble people, unassuming in their desire to serve great food. They weren't even apologetic to tell me that they'd run out of rye, or that they couldn't find any plates to put my food on. They brought me a free sample of prosciutto, a fancy bacon, and told me how expensive it was but that it was so worth it. The ended up putting my Rueben sandwich on Russian black bread, which is still very much like a rye bread, so it was the right touch, and honestly, I like the flavor of it. I didn't actually order a Rueben, either, but in their honesty as I was telling them what I might want, she just said "should we just make it a Rueben?" so I said sure, and was happy with their suggestion.

The sandwich itself was small, but the filling was huge and spilled out over the bread.

The place was a little dingy, the staff was upfront and personal, and the other customers looked like they were mostly the working type. It's not a high class place at all, but you can see right into the kitchen, you can ask a question and get an honest answer, and you'll always get things how they are at the Center Street Deli. The food was great, and I highly recommend it when you are in the mood for a sandwich that is just a little bit more, but with out all the pretension of fancier places.

Another cool thing about it is, of course, its location. On the walk there I walked through a free outdoor concert in the grass at the Covey Center, and even ran into my girlfriend's parents and family there having a picnic and listening in.