Greek-Style Watermelon Salad

A new favorite! Perfect for summer picnics!

Quoting Mark Bittman, The New York Times/Cooking:

It’s not an immediately obvious combination – watermelon, cucumber, olives and feta – but one bite will leave you convinced that this savory-sweet summer salad is something truly special. The astringent punch of the olives and feta provides a sophisticated counterpoint to the watery mellowness of the melon and cucumber. With a hunk of bread, it’s a lovely light lunch; with practically any grilled meat or fish, it’s an ideal summer supper.

I served it with grilled wild salmon and grilled chicken breasts with Harissa.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cubed watermelon
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 1 small red onion
  • cup pitted kalamata olives
  • cup crumbled feta (I used goat cheese.)
  • Some chopped parsley and mint
  • Olive oil and red-wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation

  1. In a large bowl combine 3 cups cubed watermelon; 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped; 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped; 1 small red onion, sliced; 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives; 1/3 cup crumbled feta; and some chopped parsley and mint. Drizzle with olive oil and red-wine vinegar, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss and serve.

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Israeli Couscous, Bean and Tomato Salad

Simply delicious.

Quoting Martha Rose Shulman writing in The New York Times/Cooking:

Finely chopped tomatoes seasoned with garlic, balsamic vinegar and basil serve as both dressing and vegetable in this main dish salad.

I’ve been making tomato concassée all summer and using it as a sauce for pasta and fish. I decided to use it as a stand-in for salad dressing in this hearty salad, a simple combination of cooked Israeli couscous and beans. I used canned pinto beans, and they were just fine. Chickpeas would also work. Use lots of basil in the mix. The red onion contributes some crunch. You can add a little celery if you want more texture. Make sure to use sweet, ripe, juicy tomatoes. I love the finishing touch of the feta, but it is optional.

Ingredients

  • ¾ pound ripe, sweet tomatoes, finely chopped (about 1 1/3 cups chopped)
  • 1 plump garlic clove, puréepureed with a little salt or put through a press (I minced the garlic.)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (more to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked pinto beans (or other beans of your choice) (if using canned beans, drain and rinse)
  • 2 cups cooked Israeli couscous
  • ½ to ⅔ cup chopped red onion
  • cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chives
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Romaine lettuce leaves for serving
  • Feta cheese for topping (about 1/2 cup, optional) 

Preparation

  1. In a large bowl, combine finely chopped tomatoes, garlic, salt, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Add beans and Israeli couscous and toss together. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes (or longer).
  2. Meanwhile, place chopped onion in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Soak 5 minutes, drain and rinse. Drain on paper towels and add to couscous and bean mixture. Add basil, chives, and pepper, and toss together.
  3. Line plates or a platter with lettuce leaves. Top with salad. Sprinkle feta over the top and serve.

Tip

  • To cook Israeli couscous: Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add the couscous. Toast the couscous, shaking the pan or stirring often, until it colors very lightly and smells aromatic and toasty, a bit like popcorn. Immediately add 2 quarts water and salt to taste (be generous, as if you are cooking pasta) and boil 10 minutes, until the couscous is al dente; it should not be mushy and there should still be plenty of water in the pot. Drain through a strainer and rinse with cold water. Tap the strainer against the sink to drain well, then return the couscous to the pot, cover the pot with a kitchen towel, and return the lid. Let sit for 10 minutes.

 

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Moroccan Pot Roast

You will love the way your house fills with the aromas of coriander, ginger, cumin, cinnamon!

Ingredients

For the spice mix

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons crushed coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (to taste) crushed red pepper flakes (or if available, Marash or Aleppo pepper*)

For the beef

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (3-pound or 1.35 kg) beef chuck roast
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 3 carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup (235 ml) water
  • 1 cup (235 ml) pomegranate juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup loosely-packed chopped fresh parsley

For serving (optional)
Couscous
Glazed carrots

Directions

1 Make the spice mix: In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, coriander, turmeric, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, paprika and pepper.

2 Heat the oven: Set an oven rack near the bottom of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325ºF (or 160°C).

3 Season and sear the meat, then add vegetables, spices: Sprinkle the roast all over with salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven or other oven-safe pot with a lid, heat the oil. Add the beef and brown it on all sides, about 4 minutes per side.

Add the onion, carrots and bay leaves to the pot. Stir in the spice mix.

4 Braise the meat: Add the water and pomegranate juice to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and place in a 325°F (or 160°C) oven for 2 1/2 hours, turning once halfway through the cooking time.

When the meat is fork tender, remove it from the oven. (If it is not tender enough, leave it in a little longer.)

5 If serving with couscous and glazed carrots, prepare these when the pot roast is close to being done.

6 Finish the sauce: Transfer the meat to a platter and cover loosely with foil.

Set a strainer over a bowl and pour the sauce through. Press on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids and skim off the fat from the liquid. Add the lemon juice and taste. Add more salt and pepper, if you like.

 Serve the pot roast: Slice the meat and serve in shallow bowls on top of the couscous and carrots. Ladle the sauce over the meat and sprinkle with parsley.

Note: I did not strain the sauce. It did not need it. I served the carrots from the pot and made “Ancient Grains.”

Based on a recipe from Sally Vargas.

 

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The Best General Tso’s Chicken Recipe–Baked, Not Fried!

Just look at this photo!!!

YUM!

A healthy version of General Tso’s Chicken.

Ingredients:

4 Skinless, Boneless Chicken Thighs, cut into bite-sizes pieces
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons paprika
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Oil baking dish. I used a 10 X 12.
  2. Place chicken in large bowl and mix with cornstarch.
  3. In separate bowl, whisk together chicken stock, brown sugar, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, paprika, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes.
  4. Pour over chicken and marinate for 30-60 minutes.
  5. Pour this mixture into baking dish.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes. Stir, and bake for another 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and sauce has thickened.
  7. Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onions–if desired.

 

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Lemon Potato Salad with Mint

This is so simple to prepare and it is simply delicious!

Quoting food writer and cookbook author–and staff reporter for the New York Times Food section, Melissa Clark:

“This light and refreshing potato salad is the antithesis of the usual, creamy, mayonnaise-based recipes. The mint and scallion add a bright, herbal flavor while the sprinkle of chile lends a kick. Make this the morning you plan to serve it and let it marinate at room temperature all day long. Or refrigerate for longer storage but be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving. Other herbs like cilantro, parsley, tarragon and sage can be substituted for the mint; adjust the quantity to taste.”

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds small waxy white or yellow potatoes, roughly about the same size (I used the Dynamic Duo from The Little Potato Company.)
  • Juice of 1 lemon, more for serving
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup thinly sliced scallions, white and light green parts, more for serving
  • ¼ cup torn mint leaves, more for serving
  • ¼ teaspoon Turkish pepper, more for serving (I used red pepper flakes.)

Preparation

  1. Place whole unpeeled potatoes in a large pot with enough salted water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until potatoes are just tender, 15 to 25 minutes depending upon size. Drain and cut potatoes into 1 1/2-inch chunks as soon as you can handle them. (I have always cut the potatoes before boiling.)
  2. In a bowl, whisk together lemon juice, salt and olive oil.
  3. Transfer hot potatoes to a large bowl and toss with dressing, scallions, mint and Turkish pepper. Let cool to room temperature, or refrigerate until ready to use. Just before serving, top with additional lemon juice, scallions, mint and Turkish pepper.

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Roasted Chickpea, Carrot and Cauliflower Salad

This is based on a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens.

I made it last week following their recipe (stove-top) and I made it for an Easter dinner and I roasted the ingredients.

I prefer the roasted version.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 15 ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed, and blotted dry
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup orange juice
chopped fresh mint

Directions

Preheat over to 450. Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil with chickpeas. Roast chickpeas for 30-40 minutes until nicely toasted. Keep you eye on these so they do not burn. Removed and set aside. Combine carrots and cauliflower with olive oil and salt and roast for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven. In a large frying pan (I used a wok) heat stock and orange juice with the smoked paprika and cumin. Reduce slightly and then add the chickpeas, carrots, and cauliflower and heat through for about 5-10 minutes. Top with mint. Serve hot or at room temperature.

 

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Spinach and Ricotta Meatloaf

I have made hundreds of meatloaves over the years, each probably a little different than the previous one. Last night’s was exceptional. Spinach and Ricotta Meatloaf.

I didn’t follow a recipe for this. Honest. I made it up as I went along. And as I said, I have made hundreds of meatloaves over the years. Read about one here and here

But to the best of my memory, I combined:

1 1/4 pound ground meat
1 beaten egg
1 cup of milk soaked homemade rye bread pieces
1 cup store-bought bread crumbs
1/2 + cup ricotta
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
2+ cups chopped baby spinach
1 carrot grated
1 stalk celery diced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

I put sliced tomatoes on top instead of ketchup because why not 🙂

I baked at 350 for about an hour. Served with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy. And roasted broccolini.

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Roasted Eggplant, Lentil, Orzo Stew

A few days ago, I arrived home from the grocery store with 5 or 6 bags of groceries, mostly vegetables for our “Soup Every Day Project.” I shop twice every week and I know most of the cashiers by name and they know my name. Some even know our dog’s name, Freddy, as I have given them his business card. Yes. He has a business card because he is a very good boy and cute as a button.

Anyway, Susan saw that I had bought an eggplant and she said “Bruce, what do you plan on cooking with the eggplant?” I answered, “I thought I might make eggplant parm or moussaka.” And she said, “I just found this interesting recipe for eggplant. What not take a look at it.” And I did and I said, “Susan, that sounds delicious.” And it was delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds eggplant (2 small or 1 large, skin on, or peeled, if desired), chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dried lentils (green, black or brown)
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water
  • ½ cup orzo or other small pasta, such as ditalini, stelline or macaroni
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon, plus 4 lemon wedges for garnish
  • ¼ cup shaved ricotta salata or crumbled feta

Preparation

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 1/4 cup olive oil and crushed coriander seeds until coated; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast until eggplant is tender and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, giving the baking sheet a shake halfway through roasting to toss the eggplant pieces for even cooking.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium. Add the carrot, onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato paste begins to darken on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the lentils until coated. Pour in stock or water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to medium and simmer until lentils are tender, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the type and age of lentils you use.
  5. Stir in the orzo and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the roasted eggplant pieces and large shavings of ricotta salata, and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.

Dried-Fruit Fruitcake

I am not joking. Oh, I know, people always joke about The Fruitcake. I have made this every Christmas for the past three years and it is absolutely delicious! Trust me. You’ll love its sweet taste!

Oven-Fried Chicken Thighs with Buttermilk-Mustard Sauce

We have been cooking with chicken thighs here quite often.

A few days ago, I made Braised Chicken Thighs with Dates and Apricots—so delicious.

And last night (pictured here), I made Oven-Fried Chicken Thighs with Buttermilk-Mustard Sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 4 (6-ounce) chicken thighs, skinned
Directions
Step 1

Preheat oven to 425°.

Step 2

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a small microwave-safe bowl. Spoon 3 tablespoons buttermilk mixture into a shallow bowl; reserve remaining mixture.

Step 3

Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Dip chicken in 3 tablespoons buttermilk mixture; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Chill 15 minutes. Lightly coat a baking sheet (or oven-proof chef’s pan) with cooking spray, and place in oven for 5 minutes.

Step 4

Place the chicken on baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 24 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 180°, turning chicken after 12 minutes. Microwave reserved buttermilk mixture at high for 20 seconds or until warm. Drizzle the sauce over chicken. Note: I baked with for 30 minutes, turning at 15.

Next time, I might use Panko instead of bread crumbs and old style grain mustard.

Anyway, it was delicious. Served with lentils, roasted Brussels Sprouts and walnuts, homemade cranberry sauce.

Based on a recipe from Cooking Light.