Tag Archives: feta

Dreaming of Kale

My daughter had a dream. About kale. I’m not even kidding. She dreamed about a kale salad with a lemony dressing, dried cranberries and toasted nuts. She woke up craving kale and asked if we could have it for dinner. How often does that happen? Not often.

Another time she had a dream where she was a piece of celery and she was so sad because no one wanted to eat her. I couldn’t do much about that one. But this…this I can do. What can I say? I make dreams reality. I can also say this is probably the best kale salad I’ve ever made. The lemony vinaigrette is positively drool-worthy.

The other thing she’s been requesting lately is steak. I love steak but I really don’t make it much. It paired nicely with the bright salad and the wonderful, wonderful, warm crunchy/squishy croutons. Mmmm.

Want to go vegetarian? Just skip the steak.

 

Lemony Kale Salad with Polenta Croutons and Flank Steak

Lemony Kale Salad with Polenta Croutons and Flank Steak

Lemony Kale Salad with Polenta Croutons and Seared Steak

For Steak:
1 pound flank steak
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
Salt & pepper

For Salad:
2 bunches lacinato kale (dinosaur kale) – remove ribs and slice into thin ribbons, you want about 8-10 cups or so.
Zest and juice from 1 big lemon or 1 1/2 small lemons
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 oz. feta, crumbled
1/4 cup sliced roasted almonds
Salt & pepper

For Polenta Croutons:
1 tube of prepared polenta, cut into cubes
3 tbsp. olive oil
Sea salt

In a shallow bowl or ziplock bag, place steak and rub both sides with olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Let sit and marinate for 15-20 minutes while you prepare the salad and croutons.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add a generous drizzle of olive oil. Let it heat up for a minute and then add the polenta cubes. Let them cook, turning the cubes every couple of minutes until lightly browned. Sprinkle with sea salt.

To make the salad, in a large bowl whisk together lemon juice and zest, rice vinegar, olive oil, garlic, dijon, shallot and a pinch of salt & pepper to taste. Add kale, cranberries, feta and almonds. Gently toss until all of the kale is lightly coated (I find this easiest to do with my hands).

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and add steak. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing. Thinly slice against the grain.

Serve a mound of salad topped with sliced steak and polenta croutons.

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CSA Week 18: Baby Beets and Greens with Creamy Polenta

Last week I picked up my last CSA box of the season. I will miss them! The best (and sometimes the most challenging) thing about these weekly farm boxes has been getting some unusual things that I would not normally buy. Like these baby beets with their greens. Baby beets? Greens? What the heck do I do with those? Luckily my farmer is great at offering suggestions for some of the more seldom seen ingredients. She suggested I cook them more like hardy greens such as rainbow chard, which is exactly what I did. I sliced the little beets, chopped the greens and stems and gave them a nice sauté in a bit of butter and olive oil. If you can’t find baby beets, you can use the regular ones. Try to find them with some fresh looking greens, chop them up and sauté along with the beets. Or if you’re not a beet fan, substitute some rainbow chard instead.

One of the things I love best with greens is polenta. It soaks up all the nice juices and adds a richness that balances the greens so nicely. I topped mine with some feta and olives and a few shakes of date balsamic. This stuff is wonderful. If you can’t find date balsamic (I bought mine at ilovedatelady.com), just use any balsamic glaze instead. The little touch of sweetness at the end is just lovely.

Creamy Polenta with Baby Beets & Greens

Creamy Polenta with Baby Beets & Greens

Baby Beets and Greens with Creamy Polenta

One bunch baby beets with greens
3 tbsp. butter, divided
1 tsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup castelvetrano olives (green Italian olives)
Feta cheese
Balsamic glaze

In a medium saucepan, heat three cups of water with a pinch of salt to a boil. Add the polenta and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and polenta is tender. Stir in 2 tbsp. butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until butter is melted and polenta is creamy.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt one tbsp. of butter with the teaspoon of olive oil. Chop beets and their greens and add to the skillet. Sauté, stirring occasionally until beets are tender, about 5-7 minutes. If you like them a little softer, let them go a couple more minutes.

Start with a scoop of creamy polenta. Top with beets and greens, olives and a few crumbles of feta. Drizzle with balsamic and finish with a bit of sea salt if desired.

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CSA Week 8: Spiralized Cucumber and Beet Salad

Week eight brought many goodies, including corn, zucchini, summer squash, green beans (including a weird flat variety that was a little fuzzy), tomatoes, tomatillos, basil, potatoes, eggplant, and lemon cucumbers.

In addition to this I still have a ton of cucumbers and beets from the previous week. In a stroke of serendipity, as I was pondering this dilemma, I came across this recipe from Skinny Taste. I used it more for inspiration than anything else, but it was a great idea, with a little Greek flair, and it gave me a reason to pull out my seldom-used spiralizer.

My spiralizer. A strange little contraption that is pretty simple. Stick the veggie on the little peg, crank the handle and end up with curly veggie ribbons.

My spiralizer. A strange little contraption that is pretty simple. Stick the veggie on the little peg, crank the handle and end up with curly veggie ribbons.

A spiralizer is a fun little machine that turns veggies into curly little ribbons. If you don’t have one, this recipe works just fine if you just dice the veggies or cut into julienne strips instead. I enjoy using this thing, although looking at Gina’s photos made me think perhaps I should have bought the kind she has instead. Mine is not bad, but it works much better on firmer veggies. My beets made perfect little ribbons, but since my cucumbers were a week old, they were a little soft, so I struggled a bit getting good spirals, but in the end it worked fine.

Spiralized salad, before mixing.

Spiralized salad, before mixing.

Spiralized Cucumber and Beet Salad

2-3 cucumbers
2-3 beets
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup kalamata olives, halved
Juice of half a big lemon or a whole small one
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
Pinch of dry or fresh oregano
1/2 cup feta cheese

Trip ends from cucumbers and beets and spiralize, dice or julienne. I peeled the beets but not the cucumbers. Add to salad bowl. Keep in mind that once you mix this all together it will all turn pink because of the beets so for a pretty presentation, you can keep the elements separate in the bowl and then mix right before serving.

Add tomatoes and olives. Squeeze lemon juice and drizzle olive oil over the veggies. Add seasonings and give it all a quick toss. Top with feta if desired.

And now it's all pink! But delicious!

And now it’s all pink! But delicious!

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CSA Week 5: Stuffed Zucchini and Herbed Polenta

My weekly farm boxes are getting bigger and heavier! As summer squash and root vegetables start to ripen I’m going to need to get myself a pack mule (or just take my teenagers so they can carry the load)! My CSA box for week five included lettuce, kale, beets, NINE (!) zucchini, three cucumbers, blueberries, green beans, cabbage, and japanese eggplant. My new favorite breakfast has become sautéed mixed veggies with scrambled eggs. This uses up a lot of veggies, but there are still plenty left!

While I’ve never been a huge fan of squash in general, I’m starting to like it more and more, which is a good thing, since it seems to be a plentiful ingredient in my weekly mystery boxes. I’ve come to really enjoy zucchini, mostly because it’s just so darn versatile! It’s got a very mild flavor of its own, which makes it perfect for cooking with other things with stronger flavors. It just takes on the taste of whatever you cook it with. By cooking these in “boat” form instead of chopping them up, the zucchini stays nice and firm and absorbs all the yummy tastes of whatever you stuff it with. I had some salami on its last legs and wonderful feta and those big flavors paired so nicely with the more mild zucchini. You could stuff yours with whatever meats, veggies and/or cheeses you have on hand or try this combo. I made a nice creamy polenta to go with it. You can keep it plain and simple, or mix in a bunch of fresh herbs and veggies to bump up the flavor.

Stuffed Zucchini and Herbed Polenta

Stuffed Zucchini and Herbed Polenta

Stuffed Zucchini

3-4 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup chopped salami or pepperoni
1/4 cup chopped feta
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
Salt & pepper

Cut eat zucchini in half, lengthwise. Scoop out some of the seeds, making a boat to hold the filling. Chop up some or all of the scooped zucchini. Put in a small bowl with salami, feta and tomatoes and lightly mix. Heap the filling into the zucchini boats. Sprinkle with a bit of salt & pepper. Bake at 375˚ for 10-15 minutes, until zucchini is tender.

Herbed Polenta

1 cup dry polenta
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup mushrooms
1/4 cup red onion
1/4 cup fresh herbs, chopped fine (I used a mixture of chives, parsley, basil & thyme)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. butter
Salt & pepper

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add polenta. Turn heat down to low and cover. Cook 5-10 minutes until liquid is absorbed. While polenta is cooking, saute onion, garlic and mushrooms in another pan. Remove polenta from heat and stir in mushroom mixture, herbs, cheese, butter and salt & pepper. Mix well. Serve immediately.

Note: After cooling, polenta will solidify into a block, which you can then slice and pan fry or bake or broil. I usually save the leftovers and pan fry it with eggs for breakfast.

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Fruity Salad with Basil Vinaigrette and Roasted Polenta

It’s that time of year again when salad becomes an every other night menu item in my house. This is partially due to the no air conditioning equals minimal cooking policy. And partly because I’m trying to fit into my summer clothes from last year.

In any case, salad doesn’t have to be boring. This one has an easy, bright vinaigrette, fresh fruit and yummy roasted polenta rounds to go with it.

The first time I bought polenta in a tube I was leery to say the least. It’s weird. It doesn’t look appetizing. And good food usually doesn’t come in a tube of any kind. BUT. Polenta is one of those weird foods that you cook and then as it cools it will form whatever shape you happen to put it in. The tubes of polenta generally are minimally processed with no extra ingredients. It’s such a wonderful convenience, especially if you are wanting to fry it up like this. Simply take it out of the tube, slice it up and bake it (or you can pan fry it instead). It’s delicious and soooo easy.

To easily get the seeds out of your pomegranate, score around the center (don’t cut all the way through), pull the two halves apart, turn one half over in your palm and beat on it with a wooden spoon. In about 10-15 seconds, you will have a bowl full of pomegranate seeds. Try not to hit your hand with the spoon. For you visual types, check out this video if you don’t believe me or need to see it before attempting. If you like pomegranates, this will change your life. Seriously.

basilvinaigrettesalad3

Salad with Fresh Basil Vinaigrette and Roasted Polenta

6-8 cups salad greens (I used 1/2 leaf lettuce and 1/2 spinach)
1-2 cups sliced purple cabbage
2 ripe pears, seeded & sliced
1/2 pomegranate
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup walnuts (I lightly toast mine in a skillet but it’s optional)

For the dressing:
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons or chopped
Salt & pepper

1 tube prepared polenta

Preheat oven to 400˚. Slice polenta in rounds about 1/4 inch thick and spread out on a cookie sheet. Very lightly drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake 20-30 minutes until a lightly browned and a bit crispy on the edges. They will still be tender and chewy in the middle.

Polenta "croutons", disks, rounds...whatever you call them, they are crispy, chewy, wonderful good!

Polenta “croutons”, disks, rounds…whatever you call them, they are crispy, chewy, wonderful good!

In a large salad bowl, combine greens, cabbage, pears and pomegranate.

In a small bowl whisk together dijon, vinegar, salt and pepper. While continuing to whisk, add olive oil very slowly, just a tiny drizzle. Stir in basil, taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Whisk, whisk, whisk to get a dressing that stays together!

Whisk, whisk, whisk!

Add feta, walnuts and dressing to salad bowl and toss gently to combine. Serve with polenta rounds.

If you're going to eat salad, you should definitely eat this one!

If you’re going to eat salad, why not eat this one?

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Mediterranean Pizza

I can’t remember the last time I went out for pizza.  There are a few places I like in town, but none are very close to my house, and it usually just seems like too much trouble.  I’ve found it’s much easier to make my own, especially if I want a healthy-ish, gourmet-ish sort of pizza.

I threw this together with a few ingredients I had on hand, and the result was a tasty, Mediterranean style pizza that disappeared in the blink of an eye!  I read an article recently about ingredients you should never put on pizza, and I think spinach was on the list, but what do they know?  I actually really like it on pizza, especially if you cook it at a high enough temp that it gets a little crispy on the edges instead of just wilting.  Because nobody likes a soggy pizza.  This is a great way to get some extra veggies into the little ones (and the big ones!) without it seeming like rabbit food.

If you have a Trader Joe’s in the vicinity, they make a great fresh pizza dough that you can find in their refrigerated section.  It comes in plain or garlic-herb varieties.  If you don’t have a TJ’s close to you, you can use any pizza dough that suits you.

Mediterranean Pizza

Mediterranean Pizza

Mediterranean Pizza

Garlic-herb fresh pizza crust (I used Trader Joe’s pizza crust, but whatever kind you like will work)
1/2 cup basil pesto (click here for my pesto recipe or use store bought)
Pepperoni
1 tomato, sliced or diced
1 cup spinach, coarsely chopped
Assorted olives (I used kalamata and some green Italian ones)
1/2 cup feta
1/4 cup mozzarella
Fresh ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  If you have a pizza stone, go ahead and preheat that too, otherwise you can use any baking pan.  Flatten your dough out with your hands into whatever shape suits you (I usually just make it whatever shape of pan I’m using). Make it as thin or thick as you like.

Spread pesto evenly over crust.

It doesn't have to be perfect, just try to get a little bit all over it.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, just try to get a little bit all over it.

Layer  pepperoni and spinach.

 

Pepperoni and spinach.  For a vegetarian version simply leave out the pepperoni.

Pepperoni and spinach. For a vegetarian version simply leave out the pepperoni.

Pile on the other toppings, sprinkling evenly over crust. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper, or if you like it spicy, scatter a bit of crushed red pepper over the top.

Tomatoes, olives and cheese scattered on top.  Doesn't that look gorgeous?

Tomatoes, olives and cheese scattered on top. Doesn’t that look gorgeous?

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until crust is lightly browned on the edges and bottom.  I like a crispy crust, so I sometimes cook an additional minute or two.  For a softer crust, take it out a bit sooner.

Let it set for a few minutes before slicing.  Cut into wedges and try not to burn the roof of your mouth when you dive in!

Mmmmm!

Mmmmm!

 

 

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BLT Pasta Salad with Feta and Olives

In one of my many flashes of brilliance, I decided to turn one of my favorite sandwiches into a pasta salad.  And I just have to say, it was incredible!

The greens make for a lighter than usual pasta dish and the bottled dressing make it quick to throw together (and your waistline will thank you for skipping the mayo!).  I used a Champagne Vinaigrette I found at Trader Joe’s that is one of my current favorites, but feel free to use a different brand or even a different vinaigrette if there’s one you love.

BLT Pasta Salad with Feta & Olives

BLT Pasta Salad with Feta & Olives

BLT Pasta Salad with Feta and Olives

4-5 strips of bacon
12 ounces rotini pasta
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 big handfuls of mixed salad greens
1/2 cup black olives, halved
1/2 cup feta
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup Champagne Vinaigrette dressing
Salt & pepper

Heat water to boiling.  Boil pasta until it is tender.  Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking.  Drain well.

Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp.  Remove from skillet and let drain and cool on paper towels while you assemble the salad.

In a large serving bowl combine tomatoes, greens, olives, green onions and feta.

Bright fresh veggies and cheese.

Bright fresh veggies and cheese.

Add pasta and bacon and toss to combine.  Add salad dressing, starting with 1/4 cup and adding more as needed to lightly dress the pasta.

I am in love with this dressing, but feel free to substitute one you like if you can't find this one.

I am in love with this dressing, but feel free to substitute one you like if you can’t find this one.

Taste and add salt & pepper or more dressing if needed.  Toss and serve immediately.

 

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Tomato Feta Spaghetti

Sometimes you have days where you don’t want to cook.  But you still want real food.  For those days, I have dishes like this.  This is a ten minute dinner, folks.  It only takes a couple of minutes longer than making a PBJ and you will not regret the tiny bit of effort.  Simple, healthy ingredients come together in minutes and burst with flavor.

I usually make this (or something like it) when I have produce that needs to be used and I’m not feeling terribly creative about it.  If your grape tomatoes are starting to wrinkle, don’t worry!  A little toss in the pan will plump them right up again.  In summertime, I sometimes don’t even cook the tomatoes and spinach for this, but just toss them with the hot pasta.  In winter, when I want it a little more saucy, I cook them just for a minute or two, so they are warm but still bright and juicy.

Tomato Feta Spaghetti

Tomato Feta Spaghetti

Tomato Feta Spaghetti

1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups spinach, chopped
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup feta cheese
Salt & pepper
1 package thin spaghetti (or any noodle you like)

Do your chopping and slicing first so everything is ready, as this dish comes together very quickly!

Spinach and Tomatoes ready to roll!

Spinach and Tomatoes ready to roll!

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook pasta until tender but not mushy.  While pasta cooks, drizzle a bit of olive oil in a skillet and saute onion.  When onion is tender add garlic and cook one minute.  Add spinach, tomatoes, and a pinch of salt & pepper.  Saute 1-2 minutes, and then turn heat off.

Sauteed veggies.  Note that I have not cooked these things to a pulp.  For a fresh burst of flavor, they just need a little heat for a minute or two.

Veggies in the pan for a quick sauté.  Note that I have not cooked these things to a pulp. For a fresh burst of flavor, they just need a little heat for a minute or two.

Drain pasta and toss with veggies and feta.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  Serve by itself or with a protein or salad.

This worked well as a side dish for Asian-Inspired Pork Loin (or is the pork the side dish?), but it's also great just by itself.

This worked well as a side dish for Asian-Inspired Pork Loin (or is the pork the side dish?), but it’s also great just by itself.

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Individual Mushroom & Feta Crustless Quiche

Here’s a little something to think about for your weekend breakfasting, although they are quick and easy enough to make on weekdays too.  I love the individual servings, which make it easy to customize the ingredients if needed.  Plus they just look a little fancy.  Perfect for a brunch or just for the heck of it.  Feel free to use any combo of veggies or meats you like in these.

mushroomsfetaminiquiche3

Delicious Mushroom & Feta Quiche

Individual Mushroom & Feta Crustless Quiche
(This recipe makes 4 quiches.  To make just one, use 1-2 eggs and about 1/2 cup of half & half)

3/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup onions, sliced
1 small clove garlic, minced
5 eggs
1 3/4 cup half & half
Salt & pepper
Feta (about a tablespoon for each ramekin)

Saute the mushrooms, onions and garlic in a little olive oil until onions are tender.  Spray each of 4 ramekins with cooking spray.  Divide the veggie mixture among the ramekins.

Sauteed veggies.  Feel free to substitute whatever you like if mushrooms and onions don't rock your world.

Sauteed veggies. Feel free to substitute whatever you like if mushrooms and onions don’t rock your world.

In a bowl beat eggs with half & half and some salt & pepper. Pour into each ramekin on top of the vegetables.  Sprinkle with feta.

All ready to pop in the oven.

All ready to pop in the oven.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until tops are brown and it stays set when you jiggle it a bit.  Let them cool for 5 minutes or so before eating.

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Tilapia Verde

The food around this time of year is enough to make my heart sing, my taste buds dance, and my tummy ache.  It’s so easy to overdo it and I’m guilty of that all too often.  To get through the holidays without gaining too much around my middle, I like to intersperse the food frenzies with some lighter meals here and there.

This simple fish dish used some leftover verde sauce (from black bean enchilada stacks) that was waaaaay to good to throw away.  A little time baking/poaching in the oven and dinner was served.  I served mine over a bed of rice, but it’s just as good by itself if you’re watching the carbs.  If you have leftover sauce, just stick it in the freezer for next time you have a craving.

tilapiaverde

Tilapia Verde

Tilapia Verde

Verde Sauce:
12 oz. tomatillos (7-8 large)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped roasted green chiles (canned works fine)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped

Tilapia filets (or any other mild white fish would work just as well)
Salt & pepper
Feta
Rice (optional for serving)

To make sauce, remove husks and stems and wash tomatillos.  Cover with water in a saucepan and boil about 10 minutes, until tender.  Put tomatillos and all other ingredients in a blender and puree.  Set aside until ready to use.

Heat oven to 400˚.  Sprinkle fish with salt & pepper, spoon sauce over fish, enough to cover and have a little extra in the pan, especially if you are serving over rice.  I used about 1/2 cup for 1 filet.  Sprinkle with feta and pop in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes or so, until fish flakes easily and feta is starting to brown a bit.  Remove from oven.  Serve over rice if desired.

 

 

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