Tag Archives: roasted red peppers

In Praise of Gas Grills…and Roasted Red Peppers

Summer is at its peak and fresh vegetables are overflowing their bins. Grills everywhere are fired up and working up a major sweat. Vegetables and grills have a special affinity that is at its best at this time of the year.

Purists will swear by charcoal and I do love me some char-grilled meat, but there are times when the convenience of gas has many of its own attributes. Disclaimer: I have no choice other than using a gas grill. Apartment living requires it for safety reasons (at least in my complex). That being said, I used gas long before I had to. It is at times a love hate relationship but, lately I love it and here is why.

The biggest plus (in my book) is how quickly it is ready to cook. Turn on the gas and press the button and you have a flame.  In a few minutes it is hot and ready to cook. What I love the most about this almost instant grill gratification is that it allows me to grill only the ingredients that I want. These ingredients can then come inside and become part of a pasta dish, frittata or salad. and yes all of those have happened this past week.

Woodman’s, a local mega grocery store, discounts their slightly sad produce. The discount is deep (think large bags of produce for 99 cents) and it is done daily with Mondays seeming to be the biggest day. While there are often some things that are sadder than others, there is usually enough usable produce to be well worth the under a dollar price. Quick processing then becomes the top priority. My bag of peppers, all of which were usable went in several directions. I chopped up a few and froze them for later, some where good enough for a salad and the rest went on the grill.

Grilling peppers accomplishes two things. The peppers cook into a silky textured scarlet bite of deliciousness and the charring allows the skin to easily be peeled.  This peeling step is a must do. For as silky as the pepper flesh gets the skin becomes tough, chewy and isn’t fun to eat.

As with peeling chili peppers, covering with plastic wrap and allowing the peppers to sit for a few minutes makes the skin easy to remove. The jewel like flesh that is revealed is a thing of beauty.

I opted to roughly chop the peppers for the recipes that I made, but slicing them into strips and adding some herbs, vinegar and olive oil create the perfect star for your next relish tray. As I said they made several appearances in the kitchen. My favorite was their co-starring role in a Panzanella Salad.

Cucumbers, cannellini beans, red onions, tomatoes, and whole wheat baguette joined the peppers and some kalamata olives to create a Mediterranean main dish salad that was wonderful. 

A Mediterranean Vinaigrette laced with lots of Rosemary gave a light yet zesty flavor to the salad. A sprinkling of Feta and it was ready to enjoy.

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Mediterranean Vinaigrette

A twist on the classic vinaigrette with plenty of lemon and more than a hint of garlic. Add any fresh herbs of your choice. This is wonderful on a Greek salad, but it would be equally delightful as a dressing for grilled vegetable or a pasta salad. It makes a great marinade as well.

Ingredients
  • 1 Medium Lemon Juice and zest
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Grated
  • 1/4 Cup White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes Optional, to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Herbs Parsley, thyme, basil, or you choice
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper To taste
  • 1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 Cup Olive oil
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until completely blended. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

As far as Panzanella Salad Recipes go…anything goes. Tomatoes and cucumbers seem to be a must and of course crusty bread has to be present as this is a “Bread Salad.”

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Cannellini and Roasted Red Pepper Panzanella Salad

Another variation on the classic Panzanella Salad.  This is totally open to your own interpretation. add or subtract what you want, just make sure the tomatoes and bread stick around.

Servings: 4
Ingredients
  • Can Cannellini Beans Drained and rinsed
  • 2 - 3 Roasted Red Peppers Chopped
  • 1 Cup Sliced Cucumber
  • 1/2 Cup Sliced Red Onion Scliced vertically
  • 1/4 Cup Kalamata Olives Sliced
  • 1 Cup Grape or Cherry Tomatoes Halved
  • 2 Cups Crusty Bread Cubes Day Old is best
  • 3/4 Cup Mediterranean Vinaigrette Recipe above
  • 1/3 Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
Instructions
  1. If the bread cubes are soft toast them lightly in a 325 degree oven. they should be dry and lightly golden. Combine the peppers, tomatoes, onion, olives, bread, and beans in a large bowl.

  2. Add the dressing and toss to coat everything nicely. cover and chill for several hours.

  3. When you are ready to serve, re-toss the salad adding a little more dressing if necessary. Sprinkle with the Feta cheese and serve.

So now that I have “said my piece” about grills and peppers, I will leave you with this bit of philosophy: Grills and peppers come in all shapes and sizes. Kind of like everything else in the world. Find what works, find what you love, and make it your own.

Moving Beyond Meatless Monday and a Mediterranean Farro Bowl

Let me start by saying, I am proud to be a carnivore. As this site attests, meat, in all of its forms is my friend, however, there is more than enough room in that  circle of friends for non-meat members. This site can attest to that as well. I’ve often shared recipes that don’t feature beef, pork or poultry in a starring role. Beans, grains, eggs, and dairy are well represented in the Recipe Archive.  Lately I find myself drawn to more recipes that do not feature meat at all. I have completely embraced “Meatless Monday” and I’m working towards Meatless Wednesday or Thursday on occasion.

Speaking of Meatless Monday…how did we come to call it that? We have to look back to both World Wars when rationing food was the law of the land and Meatless Mondays happened in every home. Entering into the new millennium, the concept was revised to improve people’s eating habits. The story goes that Monday being the first weekday was a time to get back on track after a weekend of indulgence. Think of all those diets we’ve started on Monday morning…it kind of makes sense.

Personally, I’m probably in that camp. I tend to eat more on the weekend and often look upon Monday as a clean slate, but that’s not the only reason. Meatless meals tend to be less expensive and some are downright cheap. Especially when there are beans involved. Mama D does have a “thing ” for beans. Soups and chilies of course, but she’s dipped her toe into the pond that is the veggie burger, just look at the Black Bean and Cannellini Burgers from some time back. Besides being low in fat, high in fiber and full of protein, beans are versatile and dare I say (again) cheap.

So, today’s entry into the Meatless Monday category is a Farro Bowl that has a distinctly Mediterranean flair. Farro of course, comes from Italy and many of the other ingredients originate from not too far away in Greece. It has the bright vegetable colors that are featured in both cuisines and then there are those Chick Peas,  Garbanzos, or Ceci, whatever you choose to call them.IMG_1195

It’s quite an easy dish to prepare. While the farro is cooking, the topping comes together in a skillet. The onions and the squash went in first, followed shortly thereafter by  a little garlic (yes, a little… I know) and the beans. I think that garbanzos taste wonderful when they are cooked to a light golden brown. It gives them a nutty, creamy taste that doesn’t happen with most other beans.IMG_1200As the picture indicates, a good many ingredients came out of jars…not that there’s anything wrong with that. Coarsely chopped, they waited on the sidelines until the time was right.IMG_1202Once the garbanzos and squash were what I considered the perfect color, the rest of the veggies went into the pan.IMG_1205All that was needed now was a little lemon juice, a bit more olive oil, some Italian herb blend and fresh rosemary. The farro created a rich brown bed of grainy goodness (absolutely love this stuff) that cradled the vegetables nobly. Some crumbled feta  sat on top in blinding white splendor. This was truly a meal for the gods…Greek or otherwise.IMG_1213The beauty of this recipe is that is the entry-level to so many other creations. Try it with your favorite veggies and grains; go for a different ethnic flavor; or just give my recipe your own personal spin.

Mediterranean Farro Bowl
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Mediterranean Farro Bowl
Print Recipe
Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Rinse farro and drain. In a medium pan, combine the farro with 1-1/2 cups stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the farro is as tender as you like. This will take 20 - 30 minutes. While the farro cooks, prepare the vegetables.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the squashes and the garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes until everything begins to soften and become fragrant.
  3. Add the garbanzos and continue to cook until the beans are beginning to brown. This should take around 5-7 minutes. Make sure you stir often so that they brown evenly.
  4. Add a little of the reserved stock to keep things moving. Add the olives, peppers, and artichokes to the skillet, tossing to combine. Continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes, adding more stock if necessary.
  5. Add the lemon juice, herb blend, and rosemary to the skillet and toss one more time and heat another coupe of minutes.
  6. Divide the farro between 2 bowls creating a little well in the middle. Top each bowl with half of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle 1 ounce of the feta on each bowl and serve.
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The best part of this is you don’t have to wait for Monday to make it. You can go Meatless any day of the week…Can you say Meatless Sunday Supper?

Memories of Parties and Orzo Spinach Salad

We’ve had lots of parties at our house over the years. We’ve celebrated birthdays, holidays and for no reason other than the act of having  a party. We’ve had big parties and little parties; inside and outside. This was/is an excellent party house, but I’m looking forward to the parties we will have at our new home. I’m up for the challenge of creating a festive environment in a small space, and have sophisticated visions for intimate gatherings to come in our new “pad.”

I love getting people together to share good food and good company. There are many “go to” recipes that have graced my table over the years. Some have been shared here like the UnPotato Potato Salad and Tomato Bruschetta. If you missed them the first time check them out on my RECIPES page.

The recipe that I’m sharing today was born out of necessity. I needed a starchy side for an impromptu  party and didn’t have time to run to the store. I spent a bit of time staring into my pantry and came out with a box of orzo, a jar of roasted red peppers and some dry soup mix. The refrigerator yielded a jar of kalamata olives and the freezer revealed a box of chopped spinach. There were lemons and red onions on the counter and lemon infused olive oil and white balsamic vinegar in the cabinet. Inspiration dawned and the Orzo and Spinach Salad was born. This dish has attended many parties here and has traveled far and wide to guest at many others.DIGITAL CAMERAThis recipe makes a ton! It could literally feed a small army which makes it perfect party fare. It is stupid simple to make and while it is better the next day, it is quite tasty with as little as four or five hours in the frig.

It could also be Pasta Salad 101. The technique can be applied to any set if ingredients you’d like to turn into pasta salad. Boil the pasta according to the package directions. Prep any vegetables that you’d like to cook lightly and drop them in the bottom of the colander. When you drain the pasta in that same colander the hot water will blanch the vegetables as it passes through. A good rinse under cold water and you’re good to go.DIGITAL CAMERA

Dry soup mix was the darling of the 50’s & 60’s. From dips to seasoning it hardly ever made it into actual soup. I really like Lipton Savory Herb with garlic soup mix. I have to say I’ve never made it into soup, but I’ve used it in crock pot Italian beef, as a breading ingredient for chicken, and of course in this recipe. In this particular use, I just sprinkled it dry on the pasta and spinach and stirred it in.DIGITAL CAMERARed onions, roasted red peppers and kalamata olives joined the bowl along with the grated zest of a lemon. DIGITAL CAMERAThe dressing was fresh lemon juice and white balsamic vinegar shaken with lemon infused olive oil. I tossed about half of the dressing with the salad and let it get happy overnight in the refrigerator. I drizzled the remaining dressing over the salad and gave it one more good toss before transferring it to a serving bowl.DIGITAL CAMERAThis made a recent appearance at a party for a former co-worker who is also in the process of moving. It was welcomed with open mouths and made several new friends. I thought it was time to share this Mama D classic with the world; so here it is.

Spinach Orzo Salad
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This lemon forward pasta salad is great for parties. Make it a main dish by adding Feta Cheese and maybe some cooked chicken or garbanzo beans.
Servings
12
Servings
12
Spinach Orzo Salad
Print Recipe
This lemon forward pasta salad is great for parties. Make it a main dish by adding Feta Cheese and maybe some cooked chicken or garbanzo beans.
Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Boil the orzo in salted water according to package directions. While the orzo is cooking, squeeze out the thawed spinach and crumble it into the bottom of a colander.
  2. When the pasta is cooked drain it into the colander with the spinach. Drain well, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Pour it all into a large bowl.
  3. In the meantime, chop the red peppers and onions and slice the olives. Remove all of the zest from the lemon with a grater and squeeze all of the juice into a small bowl. Set all of these wonderful things aside.
  4. Pour about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over the orzo spinach mixture and toss to coat evenly.Open both packages of the dry soup mix and sprinkle them onto the mixture. Stir to combine everything very well. Add the lemon zest and stir well again.
  5. Add the reserved vegetables and toss to combine things.
  6. In a jar with a tight fitting lid combine the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice and the white balsamic vinegar. Cover and shake well to blend. Pour about 1/2 to 2/3 of the dressing on the salad and toss to incorporate.
  7. Cover the salad and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but better yet, overnight. Store the rest of the dressing in the refrigerator as well.
  8. Just before serving, remove the salad from the frig and toss it well. Add the remaining dressing and toss again. Transfer to a serving bowl and feed the masses.
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This dish can easily become a one dish meal (you know how much Mama D loves those) simply by adding some feta cheese (or any other hard salty cheese) along with some cooked chicken, garbanzo beans, or even salami. However you choose to serve it, this salad will become a favorite for parties large and small, and it is fantastic left over!

There’s going to be one more party in this house, my grandson Dylan’s birthday. After that, Mama D’s kitchen will be packed up and readied for the trip to its new home. I can now say that I’m really looking forward to it.

Springing Ahead with Quinoa

According to the calendar, Spring will be here in two weeks. According to what I see out my window… it may be here in name only. There is nearly two feet of snow in my yard, I have to put on a jacket to get the mail, and don’t even get me started on the pot holes and giant snow banks.

fat squirrelFor those of us in the Midwest this has been the Winter of Our Hibernation. As with many hibernating animals I have put on an extra layer of fat to sustain me through these frigid times. What was comfort from the cold is now displeasure in the mirror.

Comfort food gives us comfort, and I’ve taken more than my share of it lately. Now the time has come to look at  lighter and healthier food. First on the menu board is Quinoa  

This “super food” has been the darling of the food world for some time. It is rich in fiber and vitamins, and has essential amino acids that make it a complete protein. It cooks in the same manner and time as rice, but is a lot more interesting both in taste and appearance. The little spirals which are actually the germ make an interesting presentation especially in the red and black varieties.IMG_1416-1024x768colored quinoa

It makes a great side dish embellished or not, It can be eaten as a hot cereal for breakfast with dried fruit and a sprinkling of nuts. I haven’t found a vegetable that it doesn’t like, making  wonderful salads that put the  pasta variety to shame. I think Quinoa with a plethora of veggies and a light dressing is a great lunch or light supper.DIGITAL CAMERAThis is an Italian inspired salad. The quinoa is joined by sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, mushrooms and olives, Dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, it is an antipasto tray that eats like a mealDIGITAL CAMERA

 

Italian Quinoa Salad
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This protein rich, meatless salad can be a one dish meal for four or a side dish for 6.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Italian Quinoa Salad
Print Recipe
This protein rich, meatless salad can be a one dish meal for four or a side dish for 6.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Salad
Dressing
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add the Cubanelle and mushrooms. cook another 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Put the cooked quinoa in a large mixing bowl. Add the roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and olives and toss to combine.
  3. Add the cooled onion mixture to the bowl and toss once again.
  4. In a small jar with a lid add all of the dressing ingredients (except salt and pepper). Close tightly and shake until the ingredients are emulsified.
  5. Pour the dressing over the quinoa and vegetables and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
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Southwestern flavors also have an affinity with quinoa. This is possibly my favorite Quinoa salad. Roasted poblano peppers and corn, black beans, red bell peppers, onions and tomatoes are combined with cilantro, avocado and a garlic lime dressing. 

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The Southwestern flavors coupled with the nutty chewiness of the quinoa make a one dish meal the is good and good for you. The veggies are chopped in small dice that compliment the quinoa and make for easy eating.

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The dressing starts with canola oil that gently heats with minced garlic and cumin seeds. Lime zest, ancho chili powder, smoked paprika, and a touch of Agave Nectar combine with lime juice and ground cumin to create a flavor burst that brings the whole thing together.DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Southwestern Quinoa Salad
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The nutrition of quinoa and the flavors of the southwest come together in a healthy and flavorful meatless main dish salad. It's also great as a side dish.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Southwestern Quinoa Salad
Print Recipe
The nutrition of quinoa and the flavors of the southwest come together in a healthy and flavorful meatless main dish salad. It's also great as a side dish.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Dressing
Servings:
Instructions
  1. To roast Poblanos: Place poblanos under the broiler for 10 minutes or so, turning as the skin blisters. It should be blistered on all sides. Remove the peppers to a shallow bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit for 5-8 minutes. At this point the skin should come off easily. Remove the stem and seeds and chop.
  2. Put the quinoa, bell peppers, poblano, onion, corn and black beans in a large mixing bowl. Toss to combine.
  3. Add the avocado and cilantro to the bowl and toss gently to combine.
  4. Pour the canola oil into a small fry pan. Add the garlic and the cumin seeds and heat over low heat until the garlic stats to sizzle. Remove from heat (do not let the garlic brown) and set aside to cool before adding to the dressing jar.
  5. Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid. Cover tightly and shake until ingredients emulsify.
  6. Pour the dressing over the ingredients in the bowl and toss gently to combine.
  7. Cover the salad and chill for several hours. Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. This serves 4 as a main dish and 6 or more as a side dish.
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NOTE: To make 3 cups of cooked quinoa; Rinse 1 cup of quinoa under cold water for 2 minutes and allow to drain. Combine with 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Quinoa should be al dente. Drain off any water that might be left in the pan.DIGITAL CAMERA

Make either of these salads at least a few hours ahead so that the flavors have chance to get acquainted. They can mellow in the refrigerator, but let them sit out for about 15 minutes before serving. The color and texture are interesting and the flavor is incredible.

I’m taking the first steps to lighter and healthier food. Just like Winter is the season for comfort, Spring is the season for light and bright in the air and in the kitchen.

Love, Mama D