Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jicama Mango Salad

I've been on a salad kick these days & decided to play with some jicama.. and since this is relatively new ingredient for me, I wanted to make something that wouldn't hide the flavor of the jicama and yet keep it light for my diet too.

For those that don't know what jicama looks like (because I wasn't really sure what I was shopping for either!) it's kind of a non-descript looking veggie, with a mild apple flavor and consistency of a cross between a sunchoke or water chestnut.. with a nice crunch. My daughter uses this vegetable often, and tells me it's a nice addition to coleslaws as well. I can easily see why.

The only jicama salads I've ever eaten out usually as a side for quesadillas have been the traditional spicy one, with added red pepper flakes and as I am all quessadilla'd out this week LOL thought I'd try something new for me and hopefully lighter. I made this up this yesterday before work and really liked it a lot.

This is a really simple salad of jicama, mango, carrots, scallions, orange pieces, sweet red peppers, with a light dressing of fresh apple mint & lemon balm, squeezed lime juice and orange infused olive oil. This I served as a side with marinated grilled mango-shrimp. I was hoping the crispness of the jicama salad combined with the slightly tart citrus dressing would balance out the salt of the seafood. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

1 jicama peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1 mango peeled and sliced into matchsticks
handful baby carrots, cut into matchsticks
1/2 sweet red pepper, diced
1 scallion, diced
1 orange, diced, with juice reserved
orange zest
1 lime
finely chopped fresh mint - I used apple mint
finely chopped fresh lemon balm
olive oil

Place the cut jicama and remaining ingredients into a bowl and toss together with a good handful of chopped fresh mint and lemon balm. You could use any mint you have growing in your garden.. I just wanted to try & compliment the 'apple flavor' of the jicama, so I used apple mint. Squeeze the fresh lime juice over the salad. Drizzle the orange juice, zest, and olive oil infusion over all. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Foggy as Chickpea soup

Though most think soups are more of a winter dish, I still enjoy making them on drizzly, foggy cool days of summer as well. As I walked along in the thick morning fog I knew just what would be on the menu for lunch. A simmering pot on the stove warms the kitchen and smells so good! Not pea soup today,however. On days such as these, my achy joints just crave chickpea & spinach soup with a nice crusty peasant bread. Enjoy!

2 oz prosciutto, sliced thin
1 shallot, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, sliced
2 garlic cloves, mashed
2 tsp fresh rosemary
2 TBLS olive oil
1 large can crushed plum tomatoes
4 cups low salt chicken stock
2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, rinsed well
1 handful fresh spring spinach leaves, torn
1 2 -inch square square Parmigiano-Reggiano rind - opt
2 tsp South River Chick Pea Miso
sea salt, ground pepper
1 cup ditali pasta
freshly grated Parmigiano cheese

Chop prosciutto, shallot, carrots, celery & garlic. Heat olive oil in a large pot and sautee until veggies become softened. Add all remaining ingredients except pasta & grated cheese. Bring the soup to a gentle simmer and cook for 30 minutes. If you've added in cheese rind, remove it now and cut the softened cheese into cubes and return it to the simmering pot. Five minutes before serving add the ditali pasta to the pot. When it is al dente, ladle the soup into bowls and generously sprinkle with cheese and pass the bread!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Eat Your Broccoli Honey

'Eat your broccoli honey'
It's likely that few of us never heard these words of advice from our parents from time to time, if ever. Not in our house though.. but I'd have to admit 'eat your squash Magonnie' was spoken more often ;).

Our farmer's market 'special' this week was fresh broccoli.

I've been told that broccoli is native to Europe and introduced to the British Isles as 'Italian asparagus'. Italian immigrants then brought it to the U.S. and I'm surely happy they did--we just love it steamed lightly with garlic, olive oil and pecorino, or added to omelettes or simply added to a veggie tray. No matter how you prepare it, you can count on it being so good for you. So, today I made my Broccoli Pistachio Salad as an aside to flounder roll-ups that is planned for tonite's dinner. You might want to double up on all ingredients because it usually disappears quickly. Enjoy!

2 bunches fresh broccoli
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup pistachio nuts, shelled
1/2 cup or to taste feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup mayonaise
1/4 cup vinegar
2 tsp sugar

Cut up broccoli flowerettes into bite-size pieces. Leave a bit of stem. Enough for approx 4 cups flowerettes. Blend with onion, celery, & pistachio nuts, and feta. Add the dressing and mix all together well. Refrigerate it for a couple of hours and toss once more before serving.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Market Square Day

Market Square Day in Portsmouth is all about food, fun, dancing, live music, and street vendors.
The festivities are kicked off with a 10K roadrace with 1600 runners and then the area festivities begin-with fun for people of all ages.

Originally, Market Square Day was created to celebrate the revitalization and renovation of the beautiful downtown area of Portsmouth. The event started over 30 years ago, and brings well over 80,000 visitors from all over New England now come to see what Portsmouth is all about!

All kinds of music can be heard throughout the day-the greatest oldies, folk, big band and more. We stopped to watch a group of young performers do their thing.. these kids were just wonderful!

The fried dough vendors were very busy selling their hot fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar...
.. as were the Italian sausage vendors, chowder, lobster rolls & french fries vendors.

The entire food court was swamped with visitors trying to decide what to order!

This year it was a gloriously sunny day with gentle breezes.. a perfect day to celebrate.

After sampling so many delicious foods all day long.. supper was going to be very easy & very simple. ;-) Italian subs with mortadella, provolone, cappicola, porketta & salami.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mussels with Linguini

My Dad was an avid fisherman, loved the ocean and all seafood and shellfish. One of his favorites were mussels, prepared anyway they could be made.. he just really enjoyed them. As a youngster I remember Thursdays nights was a late night work day for Dad. Nothing made him happier, than to come home to large pot of steamed mussels he could then ladle over a great big bowl of linguini, sopping up the delicious juices with crusty Italian bread, while gabbing about his day. I think of him often and miss him terribly.. but I'm always warmed by these remembrances of Dad whenever I serve up my mussels with linguini, and so glad I acquired the love of seafood as much as he did.
Mussels are just so easy to prepare and cooking them is a snap! All you need to do is scrub them well, and remove any of the small beard that may be on some, toss them in a pot with some liquid along with your favorite white wine.. add fresh herbs.. cover with a lid and in 5 minutes steamed mussels for dinner! Thinking of you always,Dad xoxo

2 lbs fresh mussels- scrubbed & debearded
2 shallots chopped
3-4 garlic cloves minced
2 TBLS extra virgin olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup water or clam juice
2 tsp fresh thyme
juice of 1 lemon
large handful of fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped, reserving some
2 TBLS unsalted butter
ground pepper
1 lb linguini or favorite pasta

Cook linguini according to package directions. Meanwhile, scrub mussels, discard any open mussels that do not close when lightly tapped. Discard any cracked mussels. Remove any of the small beard if any. Heat the olive oil & saute garlic and shallots. Add white wine, water, mussels and fresh herbs, lemon juice, ground pepper and cook in covered pan and steam until shells open, about 5-6 minutes. Add unsalted butter to pot.

The linguini should be ready by now, strain, and toss in remaining parsley. Ladle cooked mussels in their shells and broth over pasta. Toss lightly and serve at once with plenty of nice crusty bread to mop up the delicious juice with. Enjoy!

Almond Biscotti

Two things I really love are almonds and aniseseeds, so what better way to enjoy both than in a cookie? Biscotto, even better! But I'd be kidding if I said I would only eat just one. :) As a child I remember my Auntie Ella kneading her dough to make trays of this wonderful cookie, chopping her almonds and grinding up aniseseeds. It wasn't until many years later that I found out the origin of the word 'biscotti' in Italian, twice cooked. The dough is first baked in a log, then cut into slices and then, baked once again. I can still remember the aroma in the house.. something similar to my house about an hour ago.
So before I put on a pot of chickpea soup for tonite's dinner I made a tray of Auntie Ella's almond biscotti for dessert.

I found the prettiest biscotti jar a few weeks back that I just adored! Maybe, if I save up my pennies I'll be able to afford this gorgeous jar one day. LOL

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fresh From the Farmers Market

Every Wednesday I am usually busy vending at our local Farmer's Market, but this week it poured, so I was able to finally visit in addition to our own, some other marketplaces nearby. Despite the rains, the local farmers show up with abundant seasonal specialties.

At our market you may find fresh organic veggies, homemade pastries, delicious breads, potted annuals & hanging baskets, perennials, herbs, braids of garlic, fresh lobster and clams, organic herbed goat cheeses, fresh venison, fresh cut flowers & what else? Oh sure! Handmade herbal soaps & skin care specialties :+)I had a blast shopping and kibbitzin' with all the vendors, and came home with an assortment of locally grown produce & breads. So as the next few days forecast is going to be a drizzly one I plan to spend much time in the kitchen, and possibly make it a weekly event if my schedule will allow a 'Fresh From the Farmers Market' dish.

My lobsterman/farmer friend John knows how much we just love spring spinach and had set aside two large bagfuls just for me! So here's what I decided to prepare for this weeks'first dish.. fresh from the farmers market.

Spinach Pies

fresh pizza dough
2 lbs fresh spring spinach, washed
10 mushrooms, chopped
3 garlic cloves, mashed
1/2 bunch scallions chopped
fresh oregano, basil & thyme to taste
grated pecorino cheese
1 can black olives, each cut in half
extra virgin olive oil
splash of white wine
sea salt & ground pepper
vegetable oil

Sautee in olive oil the garlic, scallions, herbs and mushrooms for just a few minutes. Toss in washed fresh spinach leaves and a few oz of wine. Cover & cook for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and add the olives, salt, & ground pepper. Give it another couple of stirs and allow to cool covered.

Roll out pizza dough adding just enough flour so that it won't stick to rolling pin. Cut out 5" circular rounds of dough. Put two teaspoons of the spinach filling in the center of each round, fold over and seal (as a turnover) with a fork, the edges.

Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet and add your spinach pies without crowding the pan. Cook until each side is golden brown and remove to paper toweled plate. Cover each set of pies, as you cook with another layer of toweling and allow to cool.

These pies are just wonderful served at room temperature as a lunch dish or snack. They won't last very long though.. so be sure to make many! Enjoy.
Even though the rains have finally appeared.. and we need rain badly.. my Siberian Irises are happily smiling in the garden rain. LOL

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Gardener's Mint Salsa

For any of you that have abundant vegetable gardens and all those veggies coming in all at once, this is a nice light meal. With our varied seafood selection I make this favorite is over grilled swordfish, or lobster tails, but many tell me they serve this over chicken or pork as well.

1 cucumber
1 yellow summer squash or cousa squash
1 zucchini
1 red pepper
1/2 green pepper
3 garlic cloves
2 shallots
8 sprigs of fresh mint (any mints that grow in your garden)
3 TBLS olive oil
2 TBLS white wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2 TBLS butter
cayenne pepper or tobasco sauce and ground cinnamon
4 swordfish steaks
fresh lemon
2 tsp spice brown mustard
3 tsp mayonaise

Peel the cucumber and dice it up.. put these pieces into a small collander & sprinkle with a bit of salt and allow to drain for 15 minutes. Wash, clean and dice up all the other vegetables and tear the mint leaves.

In a large saute pan warm the olive oil and add shallots and garlic and sautee until lightly browned. Now add the peppers and squash, zucchini and drained cucumber pieces and sautee 5 minutes more. Add in the vinegar, sugar, tobasco sauce or cayenne to taste and a few good shakes of ground cinnamon and just a sprinkling of salt if you must. Continue cooking this until the liquids in your pan have evaporated.. 3-5 minutes. Add your chopped mint leaves now & toss all well together. Put into a bowl & set aside.covered.

In the same frying pan melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle the swordfish with white pepper, a smidgeon of salt and squeeze of half a fresh lemon. Cook each side until browned and basted with a bit of diijon mustard and mayaonaise mixture. After it's cooked, place your fish on a plate. Take the already pre-cooked veggie salsa and put it into the pan you cooked your fish into.. warm it up quickly absorbing any leftover fish juices in the pan. Spoon the mint medley over your fish with a few fresh mint leaves and serve with a large Caesars's salad. Enjoy!