The Secret Recipe Club may be over, but the Fantastical Food Fight is just beginning! Instead of being assigned a blog, secret Santa style, we are given a theme (similar to the Improv Cooking Challenge that I also participate in). For our first month, the theme was deviled eggs - yum!
I knew that I wanted to do a fun take, and while I looked at Caesar Salad, Curry, Mexican Street Corn, and Crab Rangoon variations, I was really drawn to a Smoked Salmon idea. Filled with the flavors of a traditional Lox bagel, this twist is as delicious as it is pretty.
Corn pudding (or spoonbread) is one of my favorite Thanksgiving sides, and I love this recipe in particular because of how easy it is. There is a little bit of sauteing involved, but then everything goes into a blender, and then directly into the baking dish - easy.
Cream, butter, eggs, corn, sauteed onions, and a bit of flour and sugar - what's not to love?
It is kind of like a corn souffle that's a little bit sweet, and really buttery. It's hot and soft and creamy and kind of melt in your mouth. I made it for a friend that had never had it before and totally made a believer out of her. So let's make this beauty!
Everyone knows that crab legs go perfectly with drawn (melted) butter, especially if it had lemon and garlic in it. But what do you do if you are craving that combo in a lighter dish? Melissa and I decided to make a quinoa salad incorporating those flavors, along with fresh avocado, to keep things nice and light. Yum.
Step 1 - acquire crab legs. I got a pretty good deal on pre-cooked king crab legs at Costco.
Step 2 - remove crab meat. This was both thrilling and frustrating. I felt compelled to extract every last shred of meat from those suckers - not an easy task, but very rewarding. This will take a while, so start cooking your quinoa in the meantime (Step 1.5? 2.5? I give up). We used a 3:1 mixture of white and black quinoa because we thought it would look pretty (we were right), you can use whatever you like.
Now that I am settling into my new place, and Melissa has welcomed her baby daughter to the world, we are getting back into our lunch schedule. We started with this gorgeous Spring inspired egg salad. This is really customizeable, and you can add whatever you find fresh in your area.
We started by finely dicing some celery, scallions, chives, parsley, and dill while we boiled some eggs. You can use whatever combination of herbs you prefer. We also separated the greens from a bunch of radishes.
To that, we added chopped eggs and avocado, caper, garlic, lemon zest, mayonnaise, and dijon mustard.
A friend of mine asked if I could put together a week of meals that are healthy, easy, and cost effective for a single working mother. I thought that sounded like a great idea! But I definitely underestimated how much work it would be. It's hard to make food for just two people without having a ton of leftovers - so to get a different meal in each night, I had to figure out how to use ingredients in multiple dishes. And I wanted to make sure that they were healthy, had a bit of variety, and took 30 minutes or less to put together. It's a tall order, but I think I managed. Each recipe is sized for two adults, and there is a shopping list included at the bottom of the post.
First up - Broiled Salmon with Mustard Butter and Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans. This meal is healthy, easy, and comes together in under 30 minutes. I am so in love with this mustard butter (that I discovered making this recipe), I make it all the time now. There are no grains in this dinner, and as far as starchy potatoes go, baby red-skinned are relatively low on the glycemic index. Plus - by cooking more salmon and vegetables than you need, you will already have the ingredients you need for dinner the next night. This meal comes first because fish needs to be cooked the same night that it is purchased for best quality.
The salmon is going to be one of the more expensive proteins for the week, but it is worth it because it is so good for you (not to mention delicious). Gotta get those Omega-3's! However, I do not recommend buying farm-raised Atlantic salmon as it is full of chemicals and pollutants. Instead, I recommend buying wild Alaskan or farmed Norwegian. The Norwegian salmon is pretty great and I can get it here in NoVA for around $15/lb, and coho goes for $13/lb (versus $29/lb for king salmon, yikes!). If you absolutely cannot swing Alaskan or Norwegian salmon, buy another type of fish instead (cod, halibut, or tilapia would be good).
For our second dinner, we use the extra ingredients from the previous night, plus a few more, to make Salmon Nicoise Salad. The only thing you have to cook for this dinner is hard boiled eggs, and you can do those in advance if you like. Boil more than you need, because we will use some in another dish. Like the previous night, this meal is grain-free and loaded with healthy fats. You can see how big one serving is in this photo - I ate the whole thing, Jasper only ate half of his. So if this is too much food for you, plan to set aside half of it for lunch the next day. It should travel well, just keep the dressing separate.
This is actually the most expensive meal of the week (if it is making 2 servings, and not 4), so the kind of greens you use will matter. I used mache or lamb's lettuce, which I think is really delicious. But there are definitely cheaper lettuces/greens out there. A note on olives - nicoise olives are traditional, but expensive, so feel free to sub kalamatas, which taste very similar. You could even buy jarred kalamatas to save even more.
After a bit of a hiatus, Melissa (Smells Like Brownies) and I are getting back to our weekly vegetarian lunches. Last week we tried this amazing soup recipe packed with veggies. It is warm and comforting, with lots of flavor and texture - plus it's really easy to make. It's also both vegan and vegetarian friendly. And gosh, isn't it pretty?
The soup starts out with sliced squash (we used acorn) and tiny cubes of turnip simmered in water until tender. At first I thought that one small squash and one turnip wouldn't be enough, but they turned out to be plenty! So don't go overboard and think that you need to get more/bigger. The cooking water then becomes the base for the broth and miso, tahini, and lemon zest are added to round it out.
You can garnish the soup however you like, but we stuck with the original recipe and used avocado, chives, toasted nori, and toasted sesame seeds.
The soup can be served over a grain, and we choose to try out buckwheat. We are both avoiding white rice for health reasons and thought this grain-like seed would be fun to try. Unfortunately it cooks to a porridge like consistency instead of individual grains. So I would recommend barley or brown rice instead.
Here's an idea for you for a quick meal or party food - smoked salmon, creme fraiche, capers, and chives on naan bread. Fast, easy, delicious, fun, but still elegant.
I actually made this two ways as sort of an experiment - one by heating the naan (on a pizza stone), then adding the toppings.
The second one I made by putting the ingredients (except for the chives) on first, then toasting it on the pizza stone. I was surprised to find that I liked this version better! I had never heated smoked salmon before, so I wasn't sure how it would turn out. But the flavor became rich and buttery and all the ingredients melded together.
I like the idea of naan as a topping conveyor. Small enough to be individually sized and already cooked, all you need to do is add toppings and heat. I bet it would be super fun to set up a make-your-own-pizza night this way, and kids would love it!
I find it hard to come up with dinner ideas in the summer, I don't know if anyone else has this problem. All I want to do is snack on fruit, salads, or fresh tomatoes with cheese. And I definitely don't want to hang out in the kitchen for too long. But this? I would seriously make this every week if my husband would let me. This is the BEST summer dish ever. Gnocchi, summer squash, and fresh sweet corn sauteed in butter and topped with goat cheese, basil, chives, and a splash of lemon juice - perfection. Plus (other than boiling the water), it takes less than 10 minutes to put together!
Just look at it, you know you want it. Warm and filling, but not heavy, with bright pops of veg and fresh herbs, it's the goat cheese that sends it over the edge into awesome territory. If you crumble the cheese on top and don't stir it in, then you get a little bit of melted creaminess but also bits of cold that really compliment the gnocchi. Also, I used goat butter - cuz I'm FANCY... and it's delicious.
I served it as a side dish with salmon, but it would go well with chicken and it's perfect on it's own, as well. Swing by your local farmer's market, snag some fresh produce, and let's get cooking!
It's time for another vegetarian lunch with Melissa! This time we made a warm and creamy grain salad with veggies (kind of our favorite thing). This salad has farro, arugula, scallions, split peas, English peas, goat cheese, and chives in a citrusy dressing with orange, shallot, and Parmesan. So basically every delicious ingredient there is.
We made things easy by precooking the farro and split peas (you can do this a day in advance) and using frozen peas.
We tossed the farro mixture with a citrusy dressing, then folded in arugula and charred scallions, and topped with goat cheese and chives. Let me tell you about charred scallions - they are awesome. Super awesome. We were worried that the onion flavor would be overwhelming, but charring them takes a lot of that sharpness out and replaces it with sweetness.
This is a pretty decadent dinner, but sometimes we need a little comfort (and a lot of cream). "Melt in Your Mouth" Chicken is topped with seasoned mayonnaise and baked to make it juicy and flavorful. Creamy Lemon and Chive Farfalle is surprisingly light - with the gentle flavors of white wine, shallot, lemon, and chives.