Monday, July 18, 2011

Bean and Beet Salad

My coworker, Chiyoko, gave me a taste of her delicious little salad the other day when I was starving and too busy to stop for my lunch break. It was heavenly and so, of course, I grilled her for the ingredients, tweaked a few things, and concocted one of my own.

Bean and Beet Salad
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 corn on the cob or can of corn
1 red onion,finely diced
1 jar of pickled beets or can of sliced beets, finely diced
Fresh basil, chopped
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

Basically, you mix everything together. Pretty simple. You can add or subtract as you like. Chiyoko used celery, I swapped in green bell pepper. She used the canned beets instead of pickled and didn't have kidney beans at all. I may try cilantro instead of basil the next time I make this.

You may also want to play with the amounts. I used only half of the red onion because it was fairly big and I used just about half of the pickled beets because I didn't want the flavor to overpower. If I had used canned beets I may have used more. Regardless, save the juice to make Red Beet Eggs(*). Then I drizzled olive oil and about 2tsps of balsamic over it and mixed it well. I seasoned to taste with the salt, pepper, and cayenne and added a little more olive oil throughout the mixing process. Let it chill and serve as an easy summer side dish or take it to work for lunch (I plan to do both).

*Red Beet Eggs
1 jar of pickled beets or can of beets
Hard-boiled eggs

Once the eggs are boiled, put them in the fridge until they can be handled. The quick cooling helps in removing the shells. A wide-mouthed jar is ideal but I don't have one so I'm using a tupperware and sucking it up that it will probably be stained. You should get about 3/4 cup of juice from the can and maybe a little less from the jar. For the can juice, add white vinegar until you have 1 cup total. For the jar juice(which already contains vinegar), I used just a little white wine vinegar and then a little water to make 1 cup. Place shelled eggs, some sliced beets and juice into container. Seal and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. The eggs will be ready when they are a lovely reddish-purple.

Happiness is a New Toy

I brought home two new toys today, a furry mouse to replace the one that had it's stuffing torn out and scattered around on my carpet, and a strange little "gummy worm" type of chew toy that is supposedly infused with catnip. Guess which one won Toy of the Day?

The song is "Pale Blue Eyes" by Lou Reed. Incidentally, his dog was a patient where I work and Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson were regular visitors.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer food

If you're anything like me, you want your summer meals to be fast and easy. I also prefer to keep the cooking aspect of the meal to a minimum. Here are a few of my summer go-to meals.

Eggs and Rice and Beans
We get up very early for work and usually do not have time to cook breakfast so I've found that "breakfast for dinner" is a great option.
2 eggs per person (prepared in whatever style you prefer)
1 can of black beans
Rice (we like wild rice blends)

The main part of this meal is preparing the rice. I use a rice with a moderate cooking time but quick-cook rice is great, too. Once the rice is simmering, I get the black beans simmering in a pan. Sometimes I add mild green chiles if we have them on hand.
Cook the eggs to your preference (I usually cook them over easy)
Pile everything on a plate and add toppings. My usual choices are avocado and salsa, sometimes I have tortillas with them as well.

Swordfish Tacos
This one is so quick you can literally have dinner ready in less than 20 minutes.
1lb of swordfish (for two people)
Sour cream

I use swordfish because it's a "meaty" fish, and because our local seafood shop sells swordfish chunks for $7.99/lb. Get a pan nice and hot, add a little oil then add the swordfish. Season with a little salt and pepper and cook 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness. Remove from heat and let fish rest on a plate. It will continue to cook through after removing from the heat so don't overcook it. Then just prepare your favorite toppings, build your tacos and you have a delicious, super-fast meal!

Two Easy Pasta Dishes
Pasta with fresh basil, tomato and mozzarella
1 box of pasta
Fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
Fresh tomato, chopped
Mini fresh mozzarella balls
Garlic, finely chopped
Olive Oil

Cook the pasta as directed. I use half a box for two of us.
Heat the olive oil and garlic in a pan, add the chopped tomatoes and let them warm through.
When the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta and toss with the tomato, basil and mozzarella. That's it!

Pasta with peas, parmesan and sausage
1 box of pasta
Italian sausage
Frozen peas
Grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta as directed.
At the same time, cook the sausages in a pan until cooked through and nicely browned. Remove from pan and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Heat the peas in the microwave as directed.
When pasta is cooked, drain and toss with butter and peas (olive oil can be used in place of butter).
Add the sausage and top with parmesan cheese.

Sausage and Peppers
This one requires more cooking but is still very easy.
Italian sausage
1 onion (I use white or Vidalia)
2 red peppers
2 cubanelle peppers (or green bell peppers)

Slice the peppers and onions into strips. Heat a little oil in a pan and start adding peppers and onions. I add them a little at a time so that the pan does not cool down too much as they release some of their moisture.
While the peppers and onions are cooking, heat another pan and add the sausage with a couple of tablespoons of water. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, turning often.
When the vegetables have started to cook down and the water in the sausage pan has evaporated, add the sausages to the veggie pan. Pile the peppers and onions on top of the sausages so that the sausages can brown.
Once the sausages are brown and the peppers and onions are soft and carmelized, dinner is ready.

Serve with crusty Italian bread or make into sausage and pepper sandwiches.

Easy Summer Salad
This is a great meal if you have leftover steak or chicken, especially from the grill. We like to add shaved fennel to our salad greens. It has great flavor and gives an added crunch to the salad.
1lb of steak or chicken, cut into strips
1 red onion, sliced thin
Salad greens
1 Fennel bulb, sliced ultra-thin (optional)
Feta cheese
Salad dressing

Heat a pan and add a little olive oil. Add the red onion and allow to cook a for about a minute or two, until fragrant.
Add the meat, again a little at a time so the moisture released from the meat doesn't cool the pain too much. If it is leftover meat that has already been cooked, let the onion cook down before adding the meat and just cook the meat until heated through.
While the meat is cooking, toss the salad greens with fennel, chopped tomato, cucumber and crumbled feta cheese (or whatever salad toppings you prefer).
Dress the salad, place on dinner plates and top with meat and red onion.

My Salad Dressing
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
Dijon mustard
Fresh herbs

Always use the 3 to 1 ratio when mixing oil and vinegar for dressing. I usually use 6 Tbsp of olive oil and 2 Tbsp of vinegar (sometimes I use 1 Tbsp each of the balsamic and white wine). Add a dollop of Dijon mustard. Season with a little salt and add fresh chopped herbs if you have them on hand. Shake well in a tightly closed container.