Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Avocado-Jalapeño Toasts & Arugula Salad with Lemon-Honey Vinaigrette

 Like bees to honey, we eagerly basked for an entire week in a sunshine so perfectly warm and wonderful (...and sadly missing in our Pacific Northwest skies) that I've seared its prescriptive qualities to memory in the hopes of conjuring it at will (even if in memory only) as we slog through the next few months... buoyantly celebrating even the tiniest glimmers of Spring.

Markets are beginning to brim with added fruits and produce, trees and shrubs are sprouting buds, birds are happily chirping their morning songs, and days are lighter and brighter (even if tinged with a little drizzle). These welcomed changes to the season, along with that brilliant sunshine that warms my memory, and a host of nibbles enjoyed while away, will surely sustain us as we move into the land and time of greater warmth, brighter skies, and outdoor meals!!

This little toast and salad fixing is a play on a mini starter we had at a great little spot called The Herb Box. I happen to love fresh, ripe avocado and can easily consume an entire fruit on my own, having mastered the art of cubing and carving it from its skin while never removing it from said home. Then, with a gentle squeeze, I can easily open up the carved fruit to better welcome a generous spoonful or two of my favorite salsa. Add a side of five or six flax-seed tortilla chips to aid with scooping and... voilá... it's lunch in an avocado-skin cup... likely eaten while hovering (gracefully) over the kitchen sink.

So... a little avocado toast that dresses up like a beautiful salad is pretty much a match made in heaven for me.

Similar to the starter that inspired this salad fixing, a lemon-infused and pepper-spiced (jalapeño in this case) schmear of avocado is slathered onto whole-grain toast, then topped with delicate rings of sautéed shallot and a generous mound of nutty arugula leaves dressed with a lemon-honey vinaigrette. Keep them small and you have an appetizer... plate it up big and you have a meal.

All the flavors work so well together... resulting in a wonderfully fresh, healthy, satisfying bite. It's like sunshine on a toast!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Roasted Shrimp, Avocado & Salsa'd Tomato Nibble

Apps... the edible kind (not the mobile)... are the last thing I think about when I'm thinking about a dinner party (the mobile kind aren't even in the equation). And... even if it's just a nibble and drinks... I'm thinking of something simple.

Typically, it's something that has good flavor and... if even one offering... offers another option. Something like the artichoke-onion-tapenade I favor. You can grab a toast and some cheese; grab a toast and some veggies; or, do the whole thing up as a little bruschetta.

This little shrimp bite falls into this simple... yet versatile... nibble.

It's a great little bite (or two, or three). A crisp, home-fried, white corn tortilla wedge topped with a lime-infused chopped of fresh avocado, some salsa'd cherry tomato quarters, and an oven-roasted south-of-the-border-spiced prawn.

Put the whole thing together as one presentation; plate up the components separately and nibble a chip with some avocado, or a chip with some tomatoes; or grab a shrimp all on its own.

Simple, appealing, versatile.... a good app.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Easy Peasant-Style Ravioli

This ravioli dish is not what one might consider refined. If described as a person, I'd say it's more of a carefree, laid back, jovial ravioli... maybe one with a few extra pounds and a button popped off its britches.

It has all the flavor of a good, put-together ravioli... only a bit heartier, given its unstructured state. And like what some may consider "peasant" food, it incorporates fresh, inexpensive, flavorful ingredients in a fuss-free plating that comes together super quick and easy.

I've only made ravioli from scratch... as in rolling your own pasta... a handful of times. It's definitely good but not a quick, go-to option for an everyday type of meal... personally speaking. If I'm looking to make a quick ravioli I tend to turn to wonton wrappers. They work just great... no mixing, kneading or rolling required.

When I mentioned this to my daughters, I got the impression that even the little time required to fill, seal and boil wonton wrapper-style ravioli might be more than either would be willing to take on midweek at 7 o'clock in the evening... when you no longer want to think and your stomach is grumbling.

So... enter the deconstructed ravioli. This is certainly not a new idea... just one I had to clear some mental cobwebs to recall. The best thing about this type of ravioli option is it's super quick (and yummy). It delivers the same satisfaction as filled ravioli (the wonton wrapper variety!)... only better. You still have all that silky, barely-there pasta. Only plated in this manner, you get a far more generous dose of filling.

This quick, peasant-style plating of ravioli allows you to amp up the filling a bit. In addition to mushrooms and spinach, I added potatoes, peas, pesto, parsley, herbes de provence, a little broth, and a good pop of fresh lemon juice. You can really do just about anything you want with your "filling" without the same consistency concerns you might have with a filled ravioli. If you want to soup it up, add more broth. If you want to veggie it up, toss in carrots, or zucchini... whatever sounds good. It can go soup-y or stew-like... or it can pull itself together and be a filled ravioli, seams sealed and all buttoned-up... if that's your thing.