late summer fare

Due to technical problems, this post, which appeared in the newspaper in August, never made it into the blog. The recipes are still delicious! —CMT

Summer means eating light. When temperatures rise, appetites wane. Heavy meals don’t appeal to most of us this time of year, and because they put a significant burden on our bodies to digest them we tend to seek out lighter fare. Here are a few ideas that might increase enjoyment of summer meals.

ramen noodle salad

Crunchy, tangy, and refreshing! And it won’t heat up the kitchen.

ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) bag coleslaw mix
  • 1 package ramen noodles, crushed
  • 1 oriental flavor seasoning packet from ramen package
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (I use dry roasted)
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar

directions

  1. Placed dry crushed noodles in a shallow bowl and microwave on high at one-minute intervals, stirring between each, till noodles are lightly toasted.
  2. Mix together coleslaw mix, crushed noodles, and sunflower kernels.
  3. In a small bowl, mix ramen noodle seasoning, oil, vinegar, and sugar and pour over coleslaw and noodles. Mix and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Add sunflower seeds just prior to serving.

variations

  1. If you have toasted sesame seed oil on hand, a drizzle or two before serving is wonderful addition.
  2. Double the amount of dressing (except one package of seasoning is enough) and marinate a cup of diced or pulled cooked rotisserie chicken breast for about 4 hours in the refrigerator.  Drain marinated chicken and add to noodles and vegetables.

spiedies (pronounced “SPEE-dees”)

My husband is from Binghamton, New York, and one summer he took me to the Spiedie Festival. Made popular by Italian immigrants—spiedo means “kitchen cooking spit.” In Binghamton’s industrial heyday in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, “spiedie stands” popped up to feed growing throngs of manufacturing workers in Binghamton, Vestal, Endicott, and Broome County in New York state’s southern tier. Many spiedie stands exist today, and spiedies are still a popular dish at local restaurants.

You can buy prepared spiedie sauce at our local grocery store, but it is so easy to whip up your own fresh version, which has a more authentic flavor. Rub the herbs between your finger and thumb before adding in order to release their essential oils. Beef and lamb are traditionally used—even venison, but lean boneless pork is also excellent. If using chicken, reduce marinating time to 3 hours or less. Other meats can be marinated overnight. This recipe makes six sandwiches.

for the marinade

  • 2 pounds meat cut into 1½ -inch cubes
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼  teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano=
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

for the sauce

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

have on hand

  • Loaf of crusty Italian or French bread

directions

  1. Make marinade and sauce. Combine marinade ingredients in large bowl. Transfer 2 tablespoons of mixture to separate bowl. Whisk in mayonnaise, vinegar, and lemon juice; refrigerate.
  2. Prick meat with fork, cut into 1½ -inch chunks; mix with remaining oil mixture. Depending on meat, refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes for chicken or up to 24 hours for red meats.
  3. On the day, let meat stand at room temperature for 2 hours. Grill on skewers over hot fire, covered, turning frequently until lightly charred and cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. No grill? Meat can be browned and cooked through in about 8 minutes in a cast iron pan. A ¼ tsp. Wright’s Natural Hickory Seasoning® (aka Liquid Smoke) added to the marinade will improve the flavor. Wrap bread around meat and drizzle generously with mayonnaise sauce. Serve immediately.

barbecued chinese chicken wrap

You can’t beat the combination of flavors. Lettuce must be uber fresh for the best crunch. Assemble a few hours in advance, and refrigerate. Terrific appetizers or a light summer supper.

ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 pounds thin-cut chicken breast or tenders
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
  • Coarse salt and coarse black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch ginger root, grated or minced pickled ginger (in Asian foods aisle)
  • 1 navel orange, zested
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 small can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin, Chinese barbecue sauce (in Asian foods aisle)
  • 1/2 large head iceberg lettuce, core removed, washed and spun dry
  • Wedges of navel orange

directions

  1. Discard tough stems from mushrooms and slice tops. Chop chicken into small pieces.
  2. Preheat a large skillet or wok to high.
  3. Add oil to hot pan. Add chicken to the pan and sear by stir frying a minute or two. Add mushrooms and cook another minute or two. Add salt and pepper to season, then garlic and ginger. Cook a minute more.
  4. Grate zest into pan, add bell pepper bits, chopped water chestnuts, and scallions. Cook another minute, continuing to stir. Add hoisin sauce and toss to coat.
  5. Transfer hot barbecued mix to serving platter, and pile the quartered wedges of crisp iceberg lettuce along side. Add wedged oranges to platter to garnish.
  6. Pile spoonfuls into lettuce leaves, wrapping in thirds around fillings. Squeeze an orange wedge over top to enhance.

Want to print out these recipes? Click HERE.

bits & basics – part 2

Here are some more cooking basics I continue to make over and over. My basics are foundations for more elaborate dishes with ingredients added to spice up my repertoire in the kitchen. You can do the same to save time and effort.

Basic Nine-Day Coleslaw  If you’re a coleslaw lover like I am, you’ll find this recipe valuable. It is mayonnaise-free, really does keep for nine days, makes a ton of slaw, and is great to bring to a potluck.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs cabbage
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 onions
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup lite olive oil
  • 2 tsp table salt (or 4 tsp kosher salt)
  • 2 Tbs mustard seed

Directions

Chop cabbage, pepper and onion and set aside in a large bowl. Place the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and pour over vegetables. Toss well to coat. Place in container or jar and store in refrigerator. Best after sitting one day. Optional additions are raisins, shredded carrots, or green onions.

Basic Fruit Cobbler  This is so easy to throw together. You can use most kinds of fruit or berries—whatever is in season, but it is best with apples or peaches.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups peeled and sliced fruit
  • 1½ cups sugar (divided)
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ cup milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Pour ¾ cup of the sugar over fruit, mix lightly and set aside. Mix remaining sugar, flour, baking powder, milk, and salt till blended. Place butter in a casserole dish and set in oven. When butter is melted, remove dish from oven, pour in batter, and top with fruit, spreading evenly. Bake 1 hour.

Basic Barbecue Sauce  I find bottled barbecue sauce way too sweet and loaded with all kinds of unpronounceable ingredients. This recipe is delicious, and you control how sweet it will be. You can make large batches and put it up in jars to give as gifts (be sure to check your canner instructions).

  • Ingredients
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbs balsamic or apple cider vinegar
  • 6 Tbs lemon juice
  • 5 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 3 Tbs (or less) brown sugar
  • ½ tsp celery seed
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Cayenne or red pepper flakes to taste
  • Liquid Smoke to taste (optional but very nice if used sparingly)

Directions

Prepare onions and garlic. Place tomato paste in a large saucepan. Add water gradually till well blended. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to very low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Adjust salt, pepper, and sugar. Refrigerate in jars. Use within two weeks or so, or freeze in several small containers to extend shelf life.

Basic Roasted Vegetables  What shouts “comfort food” more than oven-roasted veggies? Well, maybe mac and cheese, but really, this is so easy to make and you might even get your kids to eat them.

You can use any root vegetable like potatoes, beets, carrots, as well as apples, onions, fennel bulb, winter squash, and even cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

First, preheat your oven to 425°. Depending on the hardness of the vegetable, you’ll want to cut them according to how long they need to cook. For example, cut carrots and parsnips thin and potato a bit thicker. Apples will not take as long as squash.

You can cut your veggies into chunks or slices. Spread them out on a large cookie sheet with sides. Drizzle with oil (I like extra virgin but you can use whatever you prefer), and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in oven for about 40 minutes, flipping around about half way through, or till browned around the edges. Test doneness with a fork. Remove the cooked pieces to a serving dish and cover with foil to keep warm. Return any undone pieces to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes or till done. Serve as a side dish with anything. A drizzle of lemon juice and cracked pepper makes it even more yummy. Honey mustard dressing tastes great on this, too.

I added two bonus recipes on my blog last time—basic crepes and basic brown butter sauce—so be sure to log on to get them, and while you’re at it, download a printable PDF, Cook’s Journal-TIPS pt 2 of this post, too!

tips & tricks – odds & ends – bits & basics

Saving time and trouble in the kitchen conserves a cook’s energy. Seasoned cooks know many of these tips and basics, but if you’re new to the culinary world, you’ll appreciate learning these.

tips & tricks (totally random)

  • Add ½ cup of water or beef broth to 1 lb ground beef (or chicken broth to ground turkey or chicken) for the juiciest burgers ever.
  • Cookie and ice cream scoops make life easy. How have I lived without them all these years! Use them to make uniform size cookies and meatballs, dip batter into muffin cups, the list is endless.
  • For sky-high muffins, let batter sit in tins for about a half-hour before baking.
  • If using coarse or kosher salt, double the amount called for in recipes calling for regular table salt. The opposite also applies.
  • Freeze ground meat packed in 1-qt zipper freezer bags, and flatten to about ½ to ¾ thick, distributing evenly. Freeze flat. This takes only a half-hour or so to defrost.
  • Wrap chicken or pork chops separately (I use cheap sandwich bags), freeze 2 hours; place in a larger freezer bag. Pull out only pieces you need. No defrosting huge blocks of meat for hours!
  • Never buy scallions for $1 a bunch again! Cut off the white root ends. Put them in a glass jar with an inch of water, place on a sunny windowsill, and they will re-grow! Keep trimming off when you need green tops, and they’ll shoot up again! Trimming encourages growth. Mine shot up 8 inches in a week. You can also plant them in a pot after a while.

freezing veggies

  • Most vegetables like peas and green beans should be blanched before freezing. Blanching means boiling for three minutes or so (varies by vegetable), plunging into icewater to “shock,” draining very well, and wrapping securely before freezing. Blanching ensures your veggies will maintain their color and won’t get freezer burn if used within a reasonable period.
  • I always blanch my bell pepper halves before making stuffed peppers because they bake up so much more colorfully. Fresh sliced, halved, or whole bell peppers, however, can be placed in plastic bags and frozen dry without any need for blanching. So can sliced apples and berries.

basic recipes i can’t live without

homemade ranch dressing is so good, and it is SO much healthier than the bottled kind, which is loaded with sugar (Really! Have you read the ingredients?) This mixes up quick and easy.

  • ¾ cup buttermilk (Shake well!)
  • ¾ cup real mayonnaise (Do not substitute with Miracle Whip!)
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp each dried tarragon and basil (Essential!)
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste

Whisk together and refrigerate for a couple of hours if you have time. Make it on the fly, and it still tastes better than that stuff hiding in the valley advertised on TV. Add some fresh chopped chives just before serving. (Mine are coming up! So stoked!)

crumb topping can always be found in my ’fridge. I make it in triple batches and never have an excuse not to whip up an awesome pie. This topping bakes up golden-buttery and sweet and makes that second crust unnecessary. I’ve used it on apple, berry, peach, and rhubarb pies with great success.

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ stick soft butter
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Mix with your fingers till crumbly. Pile an inch or more deep on top of your pie and bake as usual. Double or triple so you always have it on hand. Store in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container. Makes a great topping for coffee cake, too!

basic quiche is a springboard for endless variations you can whip up in record time, amazing your friends and family! Well, maybe not quite that fab, but it’s a handy, delicious, and filling meal and makes great leftovers. I love my homemade crust, but I use the prepared rolled crust for my quiche. Add grated cheese (any kind), ham, cooked mushrooms, or whatever.

  • 2 cups shredded cheese (Swiss is traditional but not required)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375°. Beat eggs. Add milk and salt. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Spread cheese (or any other stuff) evenly over top. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let sit 15 minutes before cutting. Great cold the next day!

basic crepes (pronounced kreps) are a meal or a starting point for fancier dishes. Whether served with fruit and eaten like pancakes or stuffed with savory crabmeat filling and smothered in Swiss cheese sauce, crepes are not only versatile—they are also convenient since you can make up a bunch of them and freeze for a quick meal on busy nights.

  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tbs melted butter
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • Dash of salt

Beat well. Batter should be thin, so add more milk if needed. Prepare a 10-inch nonstick frying pan by heating to medium and spaying lightly with cooking oil. When pan is hot enough (a drop of water dances around and disappears), pour in one third cup of batter and immediately swirl pan around to distribute so batter covers entire pan surface. When top is set and edges brown and begin to curl, flip crepe carefully. Cook till second side is lightly brown. Slide on to a large plate and cover with a damp tea towel till all batter is cooked. These can be rewarmed in the microwave and served right away or stored in the refrigerator or freezer separated by sheets of wax paper or parchment and well-wrapped in plastic or foil.

basic brown butter sauce is a delicious way to transform a plain pasta or rice meal into something special, and the ingredients are usually on hand or easily obtainable. This is a basic recipe, but there are endless variations with the addition of mushrooms, Parmesan or Romano cheese, fresh sage leaves (yummy), lemons, hazelnuts, or pine nuts, vegetables like parsley, chives, blanched green beans, asparagus, artichokes or cauliflower, and proteins like lobster, mussels, crab, scallops, or chicken. I’ve been making this on the fly, so thanks for the great directions from CD Kitchen!

  • Cut 1 cup (2 sticks) of salted butter into tablespoon-sized pieces and place in a 2-quart sauce pan. Place the pan of butter on a burner over medium heat. Bring butter to a slow boil (about 5 minutes).
  • Once the butter begins to boil, stir constantly to prevent residue from sticking to the bottom of the pan. As the butter cooks, it will start to foam and rise. Continue stirring, otherwise the butter foam could overflow (about 5 minutes) and catch fire.
  • When the butter stops foaming and rising, cook until amber in color (about 1 to 2 minutes). It will have a pleasant caramel aroma.
  • Turn off the heat and remove pan from burner. Let the sediment settle to the bottom of the pan for a few minutes.
  • Pour the brown butter through a strainer into a small bowl. Do not disturb the residue at the bottom of the pan.
  • You can keep it hot over a double boiler. Brown butter can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated in a microwave as needed, but be careful!
  • Boil your pasta of choice until al dente. Drain pasta and divide into four servings. Spread with 1/4 cup of hot brown butter.

Next time we’ll post additional basic recipes you can tuck away in your recipe notebook (you do have one, right?) and pull out when you’re in a bind or on a tight schedule. Add your own personal touch, and you’ll impress even your toughest critic.

Print this revised post: CJ-5-13-15-TIPS