wrap it up!

I was recently looking over all the recipes I’ve shared with you in the past year and a half and one thing struck me; for a blog named beets and blue cheese I’ve only posted one recipe that uses either ingredient. Crazy, right? So I decided to remedy that by featuring beets and/or blue cheese in every recipe I post in the month of July. Some of the recipes may surprise you, some may make you rush out to buy the ingredients ASAP and some may make you roll your eyes and click on over to Facebook— and I’m perfectly okay with that. Although what I’m honestly hoping happens is that one or two of you so-called “beet haters” read my pithy prose, perhaps chuckle at my sassy repartee and ultimately agree to try a recipe or two. Then (gasp!) you become converted beet lovers. So here goes…

I had been testing recipes for Clean Eating Magazine before they suddenly folded. In my past life I was a magazine designer and I too have lived through the trials and tribulations of having a magazine close. It’s not fun. Clean Eating was a great magazine and I’m sad to see it go. However it’s thanks to them that I discovered a new way to enjoy beets— raw! I love beets (I know, shocking right?) but I’ve never eaten them any way but roasted. I like the way roasting brings out their natural sweetness and makes them perfect to slice into salad, eat as a side dish or even throw in a smoothie. Well I’m here to tell you that you that roasting is in fact not the only way to go. It turns out that you haven’t experienced crunchy, clean and delicious until you’ve tried beets raw. I grated them along with some carrot, added a bit of garden greens, homemade hummus and feta cheese and wrapped it all up in a multi-grain wrap— holy deliciousness!

Tom Robbins had it right.”…Breathe properly. Stay curious. And eat your beets…”

Raw Beet, Hummus & Feta Wrap
I love beets but this is the first time I’ve ever eaten them raw. They’re delicious, almost better raw than cooked!

beet & feta wrap

1 multi grain wrap
2 tbsp. homemade hummus
1/2 cup grated raw beet
1/4 cup grated raw carrot
Small handful mixed baby greens
2-3 tbsp. crumbled feta

  1. Spread hummus in the center portion of the wrap. Sprinkle evenly with the beets, carrots, feta and greens.
  2. To roll up; fold in 2 opposite sides of the wrap and roll starting with the end closest to you. Slice each wrap in half on the diagonal and enjoy.

*adapted from clean eating magazine

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asian inspired salmon burgers

I’ve already told you that ours is a fish eating house; sautéed grouper, grilled clams and mussels, stir fried shrimp and of course my award winning baked fish sticks. And while this pleases me, what would make me even happier is if my family would agree to eat fishier fish— ya know the ones loaded with Omega 3’s. Perhaps some sardines or a few anchovies, a salmon filet or even canned Albacore tuna once in a while. But the three of them (my husband included) all make such a fuss at the mere suggestion, that I don’t even bother giving a fishy fish dinner a shot. Sometimes I sneak a few sardines into my stir fry or add a couple of anchovies when I’m sautéing onion and garlic for red sauce, but the quantity is so small that I’m sure the health benefits are minimal. (Sigh) It really is too bad.

However much to their chagrin, I do find myself making more fish dishes around this time every year. We happen to be in the midst of the Lenten season and while my family does not prescribe to the “Fish on Friday” rule, I can’t help but notice that the seafood at my local grocery store seems to be at its freshest and best price during Lent. And who am I after all to ignore a good sale?!?

Some of my seafood experiments have been definite hits, some huge misses and some eaten and tolerated without complaint, but clearly not enjoyed. Sometimes it makes me sad that my family doesn’t like the dinner I’ve made and sometimes it delights me when they do. And sometimes… Sometimes I think what I’ve made is delicious and I honestly don’t care what the rest of them think— more leftovers for me! Which is exactly what happened the other night when salmon was $4.99 a pound.

I happen to love most fish, but boneless skinless sardines and salmon are two of my favorites. Imagine my delight when I walked into the grocery store one Friday only to discover that salmon filets were on sale for half of their usual price. (I was almost as happy as the weekend broccoli rabe was $1.99 a pound. Yeah, that happy!) Anyway once I drew the line in the sand and made the decision to serve salmon for dinner, I was tasked with the job of finding a recipe to win over my family of non-salmon lovers over. They all seem to like the flavor combination of ginger, garlic and soy sauce, so I thought that would be the way to go. And I thought that if I could offer up this less than loved ingredient in a much loved form, it would be more readily accepted. What does my family love? Well burgers of course, so I went with salmon burgers loaded with all the Asian flavors I knew they enjoyed.

The resulting burgers were relatively easy to make, cooked up in a matter of minutes and succeeded in finally getting some Omega 3’s into my families bellies. And what did said family think? Well, they all ate the burgers without complaint but also without compliment or request for a repeat performance. I however thought the burgers were delicious!

While I won’t force them to eat salmon again for a while, they can surely bet on these burgers popping up again for dinner sometime in the future.

Asian Inspired Salmon Burgers
I like these topped with a little hoisin sauce, a few slices of English cucumber and some fresh cilantro. They’re also fantastic on a bed of spinach tossed with cilantro, raw onion and diced cucumbers and drizzled with the homemade hoisin sauce.

salmon burger

1 3/4 lbs. skinless salmon filet, finely chopped
1/2 cup plain panko crumbs
1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced
1 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
3 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1 tsp. lime zest
1 large egg
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp. peanut oil (or canola), divided
2 tbsp. hoisin sauce (homemade or bottled), for garnish
English cucumber sliced thin, for garnish
additional cilantro, for garnish
5-6 sesame seed hamburger buns, optional

  1. Finely chop the salmon filet and place in a large bowl.* Combine all the remaining ingredients (through sesame oil) and add to the salmon. Mix well with a fork until everything is fully incorporated. Divide the mixture into 5-6 equal portions, gently shaping each into a patty. Place the patties on a plate and chill for at least 45 minutes.
  2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the peanut oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add the patties and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side or until done.
  3. Place a patty on the bottom half of each bun; top each with a spoonful of hoisin sauce, several cucumber slices, a few sprigs of cilantro and the top half of bun.

*The first time I made this recipe I used my food processor to do the chopping and ended up with salmon paste, it tasted fine but the texture was unpleasant. Chopping the fish by hand takes more time but it’s worth the effort.

*adapted from cooking light

Homemade Hoisin Sauce
You don’t have to make this from scratch, but why buy a whole bottle when all you really need is a couple of spoonfuls?

1 1/2 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
1 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
1/2 tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/8 tsp. hot sauce
1/8 tsp. black pepper.

  1. Blend everything together really well (I used a mini chopper) and set aside.

*adapted from food.com

bitter, spicy + obsessed

There are two types of people in this world; those who enjoy sweet, mellow and subtly spiced food and those who prefer savory, assertive and intensely flavored dishes. I happen to fall in the later category; give me salty chips, strong coffee and spicy vindaloo and I’m a happy girl.

Whether I’m at Shop Rite or one of the ethnic grocery stores I like to frequent, I’m always on the lookout for interesting foods or ingredients to try. I recently discovered Shim’on Ariche Harissa Forte at Fairway and I’ve become a bit obsessed with this little condiment. Harissa is a spicy paste of chili peppers, garlic and salt that adds a delicious kick to everything and anything. I’ve been putting it on everything from grilled chicken and salads to sunny-side-up eggs and my morning toast. (Sometimes when I need a little pick me up, I actually eat it by the spoonfull right out of the jar.) The other thing I can’t seem to get enough of these days is broccoli rabe— I just love, love, love this bitter green! I usually sauté it with garlic, olive oil and some harissa (of course) and then throw in a few chickpeas or poach an egg for on top. Delicious!

You already know that I make a lot of soup, so it seemed like a natural progression to try to incorporate my harissa/broccoli rabe obsession with my soup infatuation. Happily this proved far easier to do then I expected. The soup turned out to be wonderfully soothing creation; filled with fiber rich beans, super antioxidant broccoli rabe, and some fantastic chicken sausage just to round things out. I added a little harissa for a background kick of metabolism boosting heat and served it with a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. A simple bowl was enough to put a smile on my face!

But my quest to combine my two latest obsessions didn’t stop there, my final creation was a panini of broccoli rabe sautéed with garlic and anchovies, a little fresh mozzarella and a hearty schmear of harissa all sandwiched between some lovely fresh ciabatta bread. Man it was good, just typing these words makes me want to hit save and head into the kitchen for another one.

I realize I have a bit of a bitter/spicy monkey on my back, but I’m okay with it. Thankfully we have a Fairway close by so I’m never without this obsession evoking condiment or my favorite greens for long. However if anyone from Fairway is reading this… I’m begging you, please start selling the harissa in larger jars. I don’t have enough pantry space for all the little jars required to feed my need!

Broccoli Rabe & Fresh Mozzarella Panini
This would no doubt be equally delicious with a couple slices of sharp provolone or perhaps a combination of mozzarella and provolone. But— even if you don’t like anchovies don’t omit them, the flavor is very subtle but it really does make a difference.

panini2

1/2 a bunch of fresh broccoli rabe, chopped into thirds
4 flat anchovies packed in oil, finely chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
2 wedges ciabetta bread (or other hearty bread), sliced in half
4 thin slices fresh mozzarella
harissa

  1. Quickly steam (or blanch) the broccoli rabe until it is just crisp tender and set aside.
  2. Cook the anchovies and garlic in olive oil until the garlic just begins to turn golden and the anchovies begin to dissolve, about 2-3 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe to the pan, sprinkle it with a pinch of salt and cook (stirring frequently) an additional 3-4 minutes.
  3. Heat a panini or sandwich press according to manufacturer’s instructions until hot. Brush one side of the bread slices with olive oil and place on a work surface. Layer the broccoli rabe mixture and two slices of mozzarella on each bottom slice. Spread the top slice with harissa and place on the sandwich.
  4. Put sandwiches on the press, pull down the top and cook until the cheese has melted and the ciabatta is browned and crisp, 4 to 7 minutes.

Broccoli Rabe & Chicken Sausage Soup
This soup is one of my all time favorites. It’s makes a wonderfully satisfying lunch and is perfect with a simple panini for dinner.broccoli rabe soup3

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. chicken sausage, sliced into bite sized pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 cans small white beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped into 1″ pieces
2 quarts chicken stock
4 tsp. harissa
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, garnish

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium stock pot over high heat. Add the sausage and brown 2-3 minutes, breaking up any large pieces.
  2. Add the carrots, onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until the vegetable begin to soften. Add the chopped broccoli rabe, stir well to coat with the vegetable mixture and allow to cook 1-2 minutes until the greens begin to wilt.
  3. Add to the pot the chicken stock, bay leaf, harissa and beans and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Fish out bay leaf, adjust seasonings and serve with grated cheese and some crusty bread.

“To place different elements alternately” (i.e. Sandwich…)

Sandwiches. They come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. Fancy little tea sandwiches and big honkin’ heroes (sorry my New England friends, I mean grinders!), ooey gooey grilled cheese and simple avocado with hot sauce on toast. They can be the perfect accompaniment or the star player. I don’t truly believe anyone who says they don’t like sandwiches, I think it’s more likely they just haven’t tried the right one.

With all the soup I’ve been making lately it should come as no surprise that sandwiches have also been on the menu. So much so in fact that my husband bought me a panini press for Christmas. (Yes a rather self-serving gift but, since I got him a subscription to a wine club I think we’re even!)

One of my favorite sandwiches (with or without the side of soup) happens to be curried chicken salad. Sure it’s a bit more involved than say a simple ham and cheese, but it’s oh so good. And since this recipe makes a considerable amount of chicken salad you’ll have plenty leftover for more lunches, dinners and a few “I’m hungry what’s in the fridge that I can eat while standing in front of it” forkfuls during the week.

Curried Chicken Salad
I love this chicken salad between a couple of slices of bread, on a bed of salad greens or even served on crackers as an appetizer.

sandwich2

4 cups shredded poached chicken (see recipe below)
1/2 cup celery, diced small
1/3 cup onion, diced small
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 an apple, diced small
1 cup light mayonnaise
1 tsp. lemon juice
4 tsp. Madras curry powder (hot or mild)
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

  1. In a medium bowl, toss together the shredded chicken, celery, onion, parsley and apple. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, curry powder, raisins, salt and pepper. Add the chicken and gently mix to combine. Serve on multi-grain bread or refrigerate until ready to use.

To Poach Chicken:
10 sprigs parsley
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 leek quartered
10 baby carrots
2 stalks celery, halved
1 1/2 lb. boneless/skinless chicken breasts (about 3)
1 quart chicken broth

  1. Place the parsley, thyme, onion, carrots, celery, and chicken breasts in a medium saucepan. Cover with broth and bring to just a boil. Reduce the heat to very low and cover. Poach the chicken for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove the pan from the heat, uncover and cool the chicken in the poaching liquid for 30 minutes.
  2. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and allow cool the remainder of the way. (Reserve the poaching liquid for a later use and eat the carrots sprinkled with a bit of salt, they’ll be delicious). When the meat is cool enough to handle use a fork to shred it.

*adapted from food network