Thursday, January 30, 2014

Italian Pressed Sandwich

The need for restraint can sometimes muddle the best efforts in really great sandwich making, as one that is loaded with the works can quickly become an unwieldy tower of goodness… super yummy, but difficult to keep intact (or eat).

In this particular little sandwich, everything piles onto a crusty olive ciabatta loaf slathered with hummus and pesto. There’s peppered turkey, mozzarella, baby spinach, fresh basil leaves, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, golden sautéed strips of zucchini, black olives, red onions, and tomatoes. It’s a scrumptious tower of goodness, in deed.  No restraint involved. Just a weighty little press… and voilà, you get to keep all those really tasty tidbits that make a good sandwich great.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Piñata Apple Salad Wraps {for Stemilt Growers}

On-the-go food, made fresh at home, is kind of my panacea for fast food… that “other” food that you might gravitate to when the grumbles take charge of your tummy (and your brain) and good choice goes out the window.  It’s not always easy to plan for but it’s something I got forced to buy into while living abroad in the late 90’s when the closest fast food franchise was inside Schiphol airport, a 30-minute drive by car; not exactly convenient, nor fast. Even to-go coffee, at that time, was virtually unheard of. So I got creative with packing nuts, fruits, and other quick, nutritious snacks. While I’d love to say it was because I was just a really diligent and healthy-minded mom, the truth is that I hate getting caught out and about and suddenly feeling ravenously hungry, immediately drained of energy… and patience… and assume anyone else I’m with will feel the same way.

While nuts and fruits are great, quick pick-me-ups to have on hand, sometimes the day calls for something a bit more substantial. This is where wraps are great. Oftentimes if plane travel is involved, I’ll make some sort of lentil-based salad and wrap it in blanched kale, romaine or swiss chard leaves. It keeps great and is a satisfying lunch or dinner go to.

If the timeframe is a little tighter, I’ll go with a fresh salad wrap. It’s really just whatever sounds good to you in a salad… rolled into a rice and/or tapioca flour-based wrapper. They are really the perfect fresh finger food.

Here, I made one using Stemilt’s beautiful Piñata apples coupled with a little celery, carrot, cucumber, spinach, cilantro, and mint. All fresh, crunchy and subtly sweet ingredients that fit snugly into a roll… no cutlery needed. You can dip them into your favorite dressing or whisk one up like I did using fresh orange juice, mirin and tamari. Whatever you choose, these little salad rolls are a perfect little package of healthy goodness… wrapping greens and fruit all in one! For details, click over to The Stem, Stemilt Growers’ fruitful blog! (And, if you are anything like me and end up with a good chop of leftover ingredients, you'll also get details on the perfect way to use it all up deliciously.) 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Asian-Inspired "Pho" Soup

I have a total of two legit sources for Asian cuisine, not counting the vast expanse of cyberspace that is undoubtedly a resourceful source… though, albeit, not as personal. One is a close friend that has lived (and cooked) in several locales in Asia for brief stints over the course of her life, and the other is my Vietnamese hair stylist of nearly a decade.  The former can talk the talk and walk the walk in terms of ingredients, sauces, and cooking methods… all of which I say that I will one day glean from her and yet, to date, have not done so (that will soon change). The latter, though extremely well qualified in her field of business and certainly well acquainted with the cuisine of Vietnam due to her heritage, isn’t the true cook in her family… her elderly mother is. And so, with her, our conversations are more ones of how great something her mother made was, followed by my full attention and interest… with little content on how whatever it was got to be so great (as in… what exactly were the ingredients?) It’s a bit like a very enjoyable game of charades.

And so, I’ve experimented a bit here and there with the flavors of Asian cuisine… especially when it comes to soup. Like many others, Pho (popular and pretty mainstream in cities across the US) is a personal favorite. Though, like many ethnic cuisines plated up in restaurants and households around the world, it varies depending upon where you are and who’s doing the cooking.  I suppose that’s what is so great about cooking anything… it’s okay to put your own particular spin on it… one that pleases your own palate and table partners without getting too caught up in the nomenclature... perhaps "A Tasty Soup" is good enough.

In this particular "tasty" soup, it’s simply a combination of some of my favorite veggies and a broth that delivers... with an Asian-flavored bend. One of the key goals in developing this soup was keeping the flavor profile ingredients relatively simple knowing that my daughters will want to make it in their own homes… but will not want to buy 100 different ingredients in order to do so. The veggies can be pretty much whatever you love. The broth is veggie based with four primary enhancers: sriracha sauce, tamari, lemongrass paste (keeps in the fridge fairly well and is easy to use), and lime juice (freshly squeezed). And, apart from key veggies and broth additives, a good chop of jalapeño chili, cilantro and green onion are essential… in my opinion. Beyond that, you can chop and drop whatever appeals to your own palate, tasting the broth along the way to arrive at your own perfect Pho… Asian-Inspired Soup… Asian-Noodle Soup… Tasty Soup!