Avocado salad

26 May

avocado saladAvocadoes were on sale this week, so it was a good opportunity to make this yummy salad. I would say it’s very easy, but it’s kind of a pain cubing four avocados. It’s well worth the effort, though!

You can tell an avocado is ripe when the skin is very dark, almost black, and it has some “give” to it. But don’t wait till it’s too soft, or the flesh will be mushy and may even turn black.

It looks like there’s no red onion in this photo. If you don’t have red you can cheat and use a regular ol’ yellow onion. But red looks prettier.

Ingredients:

4 or 5 ripe avocados (the small “Hass” type)
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 can hearts of palm, drained
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
3 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. mayonnaise
1 tsp. salt or more to taste
black pepper to taste

Directions:

Slice each avocado lengthwise, and twist to open it. Remove the pit. (I do this by sticking a knife into the pit and pulling it out, probably not the safest method.)

Cut the avocado into cubes by slicing lengthwise and widthwise while it’s still in the skin; then use a tablespoon to scoop out the cubes into a large bowl. Scrape any avocado meat that remains into the bowl as well.

Cut each grape or cherry tomato in half, unless they are very small, and add to the bowl.

If your hearts of palm aren’t already sliced or in pieces, slice them and add to the bowl.

Add the chopped onion.

Sprinkle with lemon juice and add just enough mayonnaise to hold the ingredients together. The avocado is very moist and also full of oil, so you won’t need much mayo.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

If you serve on individual plates (rather than letter people help themslves), it looks nice on top of a lettuce leaf.

Serves 4 to 6

 

Lasagna Florentine

19 May
I haven't made this in awhile so I don't have a photo. This one is by Andra Cristescu, via Flickr Creative Commons.

I haven’t made this in awhile so I don’t have a photo. This one is by Andra Cristescu, via Flickr Creative Commons.

Here’s a great dairy recipe just in time for Shavuot. This dates back to my days in the communications department at Sinai Hospital of Detroit, where the cafeteria regularly served  a white, not red, “vegetarian lasagna.” I suspect it was Stouffer’s frozen version, but it was pretty good. So when I found this recipe, I can’t remember where, I was sure to save it.

It’s a bit of a patchke to make, but it’s delicious and makes a good “company”  or potluck dish. You can prepare it ahead of time and keep it covered in the fridge until you’re ready to bake it. If you do that, bring it to room temperature before baking.

A lot of people make lasagna these days without boiling the noodles. I haven’t tried it with this recipe, but using uncooked noodles should be no problem.

Ingredients:

Cheese Sauce:
½ cup butter or margarine
½ cup all-purpose flour
2¾ cups milk, divided
2¼ cups grated cheese – I prefer a mixture of mozzarella and Parmesan
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. hot pepper sauce
¼ tsp. salt

Vegetable Filling:

3 Tbs. vegetable oil
½ pound fresh mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound fresh spinach, washed and trimmed, or 2 boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups coarsely chopped or shredded fresh carrots
9 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions and drained

Directions:

Make the cheese sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter; blend in the flour. Gradually add 2½ cups milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce boils and thickens. Add 2 cups of cheese and cook until mixture is smooth. Stir in the mustard, hot pepper sauce and salt. Set aside.

Make the filling: In a large saucepan, heat the oil and sauté the mushrooms, onions and garlic until tender. Tear the spinach into bite-sized pieces. Add the spinach and carrots to the saucepan and cook 2 to 3 minutes, until the spinach is tender. Drain the vegetables. Stir in 1½ cups of the cheese sauce into the spinach mixture. Add ¼ cup milk to the cheese sauce remaining in the pan.

Assemble the lasagna: Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Pour half the cheese sauce into the dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles in the dish over the sauce. Spread half the spinach mixture over the noodles. Repeat the layers.

Spoon the remaining sauce over the noodles and sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup cheese over the top. Bake about 25 minutes. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 6 to 8

Vegetarian Sausage, Bean and Tomato Ragout with Polenta

5 May

Vegetarian Italian sausage, bean and tomato ragoutI clipped this recipe from Cooking Light. It wasn’t meant to be vegetarian, but first of all, it’s hard to find kosher Italian sausage, and secondly, I preferred to make it veggie. Just know that the original recipe called for meat sausage. You could also use soy crumbles instead of veggie sausages, but the taste would be different; the Italian sausage has unique spices.

The original recipe called for instant polenta and plain yogurt, neither of which I had on hand, so I looked up another recipe. Polenta is really bland, so I added a cup of shredded Parmesan cheese, making the entire dish dairy.

There are a lot of ingredients, but the recipe is easy. The ragout recipe says to cook for 8 minutes, but you can keep it simmering while you cook the polenta. (Or you could start the polenta and make the stew during the 30 minutes the polenta cooks over a low flame.)

When you serve the polenta straight from the stovetop, it will be creamy. If you have leftovers, put them in a flat-bottomed container. The polenta will harden. To reuse, you can cut it into slices and fry them up in a little olive oil or butter, or bake them in the oven topped with a sauce (or leftover ragout).

The Cooking Light recipe said it serves 4, but the two of us ate large servings and there was still enough left over for 4 more, so I’m saying it serves 6!

Ingredients:

For the ragout:
6 oz. bulk hot Italian sausage
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 Tbs. tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup vegetable stock
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Dash crushed red pepper
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano (or 2/3 tsp. dried)

For the polenta:
3 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp. fresh rosemary (optional)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 Tbs. butter (optional)

Directions:

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. If you use real sausage, crumble it in the pan and cook for until browned; remove from pan. Add oil to pain, then saute onions for 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add wine, cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen any browned bits. If you use vegetarian sausage, which is pre-cooked, crumble it into the pan now.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Simmer 8 minutes or until slightly thickened. If you browned the sausage at the beginning, add it back in now and heat through.

For the polenta, bring the water and salt to a boil in a 2 or 3-quart saucepan. Add the cornmeal gradually, whisking vigorously as you do so no lumps form. Cook for about 10 minutes, whisking frequently. Lower the heat as low as possible and continue to cook for 20 or 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot when you stir, so the polenta doesn’t stick. Whisk in the rosemary, butter, cheese and rosemary (if you use dry rosemary — use 1/2 tsp. — add it when you put the cornmeal into the water).

Serves 6

Indian Fish Curry

28 Apr

fish curryThis came from a friend, Elaine Stein, who got it from allrecipes.com and modified it slightly, using a little less cayenne pepper and adding the green beans, which is a great idea. Even with this amount of cayenne it was plenty spicy, so if you don’t like it hot, use just a dash of cayenne. I added the suggestion of using parsley for garnish if you like, instead of cilantro, which many people don’t really like.

The recipe looks complicated but it’s really not.

Ingredients:

Marinade:
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
¾ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
1½ Tbs. canola oil
4 fillets firm white fish (cod works well), about 1½ lb.)

Paste:
1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, coarsely shopped
1-inch piece ginger root, peeled and chopped
20 raw cashew pieces
1 Tbs. oil

Spices (mix in a small dish):
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar

Sauce:
½ cups chopped tomatoes
¼ cup vegetable broth or water
½ lb green beans, cut in half
¼ cup chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish

Directions:

Mix the mustard, black pepper, salt and oil in a zip-lock bag and add the fish. Marinate in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the onions, garlic, ginger and cashews in a blender or food processor and pulse until the mixture forms a paste. Heat the 1 Tbs. oil in a skillet over medium-low heat and stir-fry the paste for1 to 3 minutes. Add the spice mixture and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and broth or water and heat through.

Layer the fish in a greased baking dish, top with the green beans and then sauce. Cover and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily. Garnish with cilantro or parsley and serve with cooked basmati rice.

Serves 4

Miracle Bars: easiest cookies ever

21 Apr

passover miracle barsWhen we make sweets for Passover, the ultimate accolade is, “This is good enough for regular!”

Well, these easy-t0-make bars really are, probably because they contain no matzoh meal or matzoh flour — not even potato starch!

I got the recipe from a collection of Passover recipes that came into my email in-box; I apologize that I can’t credit the source.

It’s one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made, and it would be a great one to make with young children, who can dump the ingredients into a bowl and stir. And they’re gluten-free!

The recipe says you can shape them into cookies instead of bars; I haven’t tried this. My own suggestion is to consider replacing the chocolate chips with Craisins or dried cherries — or add those in addition to the chocolate chips.

The original recipe also called for a 9 x 13-inch pan. I used an 8-inch-square pan and it worked well; I think in a 9 x 13 pan the squares would be too short. I also changed the baking time and temperature slightly.

Another bit of advice: the first few bars tended to stick to the pan, even when I greased it well — after the first few came out crumbled I was able to pry out the others intact. The second time I made this recipe I put a piece of parchment paper in the pan before adding the batter — and had no broken bars!

Ingredients:

1 cups ground almonds
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs (extra-large work best)
1 cup chocolate chips
Optional: 1 cup Craisins or dried cherries in place of or in addition to chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. The batter will be thick; do not add water or other liquid.

Grease an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan and put parchment paper on the bottom. Or lightly grease a cookie sheet if you plan to make cookies. Spread the batter evenly in the pan or shape into cookies and place on the greased cookie sheet.

Bake square pan for 30 minutes (cookies will take less time) until the top is nicely browned and the center of the pan looks dry; do not undercook.

Cool completely in the pan, then turn out and cut into 16 squares. (If making cookies, cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.)

Pasta with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce

14 Apr

mushroom pastaI think I told you awhile ago that I was part of a BzzAgent campaign on behalf of HemisFares brand pasta, available at the Kroger family of stores. They sent me a free sample of pasta so I could tell people how wonderful it is. I promised another recipe using the pasta and here it is.

I love the HemisFares fusilli bucati lunghi — it’s long strands of spiral pasta with a nice al dente texture even when cooked a little longer than the directions call for. I wanted to pair it with a fairly substantial sauce. This is a very tasty and fairly easy recipe.

The original sauce recipe said it made enough for a pound of pasta, but I used a half-pound, and there wasn’t a lot of extra! The original also called for heavy cream, but I used half & half. I also didn’t have shallots, so I substituted the white end of scallions.

Ingredients:

½ lb. uncooked pasta (the fusilli is a good choice; farfalle – bow ties – is another)
1 Tbs. butter
12 oz. presliced exotic mushroom blend
½ cup chopped onion
⅓ cup finely chopped shallots
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1½ tsp. salt, divided
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ cup dry white wine
⅔ cup half & half
½ cup grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

Melt the butter in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, shallots, garlic, 1 tsp. salt and peppr and cook for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat.

Add the cooked pasta, half & half, cheese and parsley, tossing gently to coat. Stir in the remaining ½ tsp. salt.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Passover fruit compote

31 Mar

Passover compoteThe biggest complaint about all the matzoh we eat at Passover is that is turns into a brick in your innards, a cause of digestive distress for many of us. Of course you can mitigate this by eating less matzoh and more fresh fruit and vegetables, but we know how much you love those matzoh breis, matzoh kugels, cakes and other treats.

One thing I always make at Passover to balance out the matzoh is fruit compote. It’s really easy, and it tastes great plain or mixed with a little yogurt. I eat it often for breakfast during the holiday.

Compote is more a method than a recipe, so feel free to improvise and add other dried fruits if you like.

Happy Passover and Easter to all who celebrate, and happy spring to all. I’m taking a break next week — see you in a few.

Ingredients:

2 cups pitted prunes
1 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup raisins, Craisins or dried cherries
1 lemon, sliced
2 Tbs. honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down so the water is barely simmering and cook for at least a half-hour until the prunes and apricots are really soft, adding a little more water if necessary. Discard the lemon slices and cool. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

 

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