Category: Feta

Ina Fridays — Appetizers — Marinated Herbed Feta

Ina Fridays — Appetizers — Marinated Herbed Feta

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It seems like just yesterday I was emailing blogging friends to join in a new group-blogging venture called Ina Fridays.  Nearly two years ago, we began to come together monthly to cook just one special dish from Barefoot Contessa recipes, and we’ve been here the first Friday of the month ever since.  Some of us have been regulars; some have been in and out or left the team a bit ago.  All of us have adored having a reason to, just once a month, not be the typical all-on-our-own blogger.  (Blogging can have its lonely moments and we food bloggers need friends!)  Today marks the end of my participation in the group, though some bloggers may continue on.  I may pop in once in a while, but am mostly moving on to other blogging, writing, and cooking opportunities.  I’m grateful for the time we’ve spent together, happy to have gotten to know these fine cook-writers — if only online — and am mostly indebted to all of them for everything I’ve learned from all of the posts.    I’ll miss our monthly gatherings and will look forward to seeing what new food pops up on the blogs.  Many thanks, friends.  Cook on and don’t forget to sing a new song!

Want the recipe for the ginger cookies at the top of the blog?  Click here.

Continue reading “Ina Fridays — Appetizers — Marinated Herbed Feta”

Red, White, and Blue Kale Salad for 4th of July

Red, White, and Blue Kale Salad for 4th of July

Stay cool!

Where we live in Saint Paul, it can already be warm pretty early in the morning.  I’m a 
morning person; the earlier the better.  I’m also the daughter of both my father and father-in-law, because after I push the button on the coffee (pot filled night before), I check the temperature on my back porch.  In the summer if it’s above 70, I sigh heavily, drink my coffee, and get out for my morning hike.  Why?  Because it will soon be 80, then 90, and today, my friends, the little weather gizmo on my iphone says it will be 99.  If you’re a regular reader, you know what my house is like:

 

                                   Above:  Ah, our house in winter….

In other words, I have a nearly 100-year-old  house on three levels  with radiator heat and no capability for central air conditioning.  A couple of window units make life possible and there’s a cool basement that occasionally serves as our “cabin.”   Naturally, such climate also produces things like the best tomatoes on earth or my south garden roses:

Exercise and real cooking or baking must be done very early indeed on 100-degree days and I have invested in a combination microwave-convection oven where I can bake without getting the house too terribly hot.   I’ll be honest and say the convection oven is not all it’s cracked up to be, but it’s a real improvement over no oven for three months in summer.  A basement kitchen is what I want and there are many in the Twin Cities.

Most of the time, I do summer meals like everyone else: grilling, salads, ice cream for dessert.  Each year, the salads change depending on what’s good to eat or what I have at any given time.  If your frig or garden is full of kale (CSAs are notorious for delivering ton of kale!), this salad is for you.  I call it a shop and chop; you buy a few ingredients (here, feta and olives) and just chop up whatever else you’ve got.   Try this for the 4th; the kalamata olives serve as the “blue.”  It’s a great accompaniment for barbequed pork chops, Italian sausages, salmon, or marinated chicken breasts.

red, white, and blue salad for the 4th of July**
serves 8 as a side, 4 as a main dish

  • 10 cups finely chopped kale or baby kale
  • Juice of 1 lemon, divided
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup each:   chopped feta cheese and whole, pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 cups chopped English cucumbers (no need to peel)
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 t dried Turkish oregano
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • 2T good quality red wine vinegar
  • 4 T extra virgin olive oil

 Place kale in a large bowl.   Drizzle about half the lemon juice over the greens and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Toss well.  On top of the seasoned kale layer the feta, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onion.  Sprinkle salad evenly with oregano, dill, and a bit more salt and pepper.  Drizzle on the rest of the lemon juice and the red wine vinegar.  Toss well.  Drizzle on oil and toss again. Taste and re-season if necessary.  Serve immediately with wedges of lemon.   (Can be made several hours ahead:  make as described above, but do not add any lemon juice, vinegar, or oil until you’re ready to serve.  Cover and chill; dress right before serving.)

**If you have leftover grilled vegetables or sautéed eggplant from another day, these things make tasty additions to  this salad and are a great way to use up leftover vegetables.   If you’ve leftover grilled chicken, shrimp, or pork tenderloin, you could add them for a more robust main-dish salad.

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If you liked this, you might also like this

    

 Stay cool…especially all our loved Colorado folks….and sing a new song,
Alyce

Lemon Orzo with Asparagus, Peas, and Fennel

Lemon Orzo with Asparagus, Peas, and Fennel

Next day:  add some feta, more vegetables, and some oregano for a great salad.

When it’s spring, I’m all over asparagus.  You know that if you read my stuff.    But, it’s fennel, too.  Ramps (a bit like scallions) are also a treat if I can find them.  I like to bring all these April goodies together…and here’s one favorite I pair with a grilled or poached salmon.   Later on, come summer (or for next-day leftovers), I make a great salad by using this basic recipe with a few additions.  Try this:
.
lemon orzo with asparagus, peas, and fennel
    serves 4-6
  • 1/2# orzo, cooked al dente according to dirrections and drained

  • 1T each olive oil and butter (use all olive oil for vegan option)

  • 1# trimmed asparagus cut into 1/2″ pieces

  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, and sliced

  • 1/2 cup fresh/frozen peas

  • 1/4 cup sliced red onion or ramps

  • Juice of a lemon

  • 1T grated lemon rind

  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper

While the orzo cooks, saute the asparagus, fennel, peas and onion in the olive and butter for 3-4 minutes until softened.  In a large bowl, mix together the drained orzo with the cooked vegetables.  Add the lemon juice, lemon rind, and season generously with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  Add a bit of crushed red pepper  (or aleppo pepper if you want the taste, but not all the heat) and taste.  Adjust seasonings.  Serve hot or at room temperature.
For the next-day or summer cold salad, you can add to the leftovers chopped feta, dried oregano, fresh basil, any other on-hand chopped vegetables, a splash of red wine vinegar and a little more olive oil.  Taste and adjust seasonings again.
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood:
Out of my garden:

All together:  Annual Lilac-Bloom Dinner last Friday at our house.

Newman came for the occasion.

Gabby’s always happy with guests!

Sing a new song, get outside,
Alyce

Chicken, Chicken, Chicken or It’s Still Hot Around Here

Chicken, Chicken, Chicken or It’s Still Hot Around Here

 

Don’t know what to do with chicken?  How about cook it?

I simply don’t know how to do anything without doing it with all my heart.  In fact, I don’t.  Unless it’s washing sheets (yes, I’ll do it today), cleaning the stairs (twice a week with golden retrievers), driving through construction (not on googlemaps, of course), going to the DMV, shopping for a pair of black pants at Macy’s (How many places could black pants be and how much should I pay?), or picking up the trash folks leave in my yard (the price for living in the city.)  I mean, boredom or even half-heartedness is not interesting and I don’t learn or grow from it.  Thriving on change is a good way to live.  Especially since change is the way things are.  The new normal.  Change, in fact, is the status quo.  Hmm.

So when I look at the stack of chickens in my freezer (Book club friend’s husband has a tie to great organic, free-range poultry and the order just came a couple of weeks ago.) and go, “Oh, no!” I rear my head in disappointment at myself and begin dreaming chicken.

With tomatoes
With pasta
In the oven
On the grill
On potatoes
Poulet au vin blanc (chicken with white wine)
In soup
Con poblanos  (with green chiles)
Next to asparagus
For sandwiches
TACOS!!
In the crock pot
Snuggled up in noodles, celery, and onions

In a world where the hungry numbered 925 million in 2010, I am embarrassed that how I cook chicken is even a topic.  I do indulge myself on this blog, however, and go on after breathing deeply.

The other night, I just couldn’t come up with anything terribly new and entertaining for chicken (in the summer) and just began throwing the parts into the pan.  They’d get done, wouldn’t they?  We’d eat, wouldn’t we?  But, wait:  first the parts should be seasoned very well with salt and pepper.  (Leaving out an entrancing snout-full of pepper is what people often do with chicken.  And it’s pale and insipid and oh, you fill in the blank.  Same for salt.  Poultry HAS to be well-seasoned, whatever you choose to do it with.  Particularly if you’re eating it as is or the poultry is of the very inexpensive sort.)   And, oh, let’s roll into the pan some fragrant olive oil if we’re just cooking it any which old way.

As this what-the-hell supper began to cook, here’s what it looked like:

You know the drill; you have the picture.   Well, I don’t know what you do with yours, but I’m not standing there watching chicken cook.  I had other fish to fry.  (Right.)  After it browned well on both sides (a good 5-7 minutes each side over medium-high heat), I threw that sucker in the oven to finish cooking for another 20-25 minutes or so:

And wondered what else was for dinner.  Just like you.  A quick bang of the pantry and frig doors showed pasta, rice, capers, carrots, yellow squash, celery, lemon, and feta.  On the counter were onions and garlic because in Alyce’s kitchen, God (and a gardening neighbor) is good and those things are always there.  A glass full of basil sat at the sink.  Mint’s in a pot next to the tub of rosemary (that needed water so badly it looked like a Christmas tree in January) outside my backdoor.  And because there’s a difference between eating and enjoying the meal with my husband, I began to grab pots, knives, cutting board, and so on.  It soon appeared that an orzo salad was coming together as orzo cooks quickly and is a great home for savory and piquant additions.  And oh how I love olives! with orzo and feta.  No olives, though, more’s the pity.  Capers would have to suffice unless I wanted to sprint to the store during rush hour.  Probably not.  Before the chicken was done, the salad was ready:

So you have the idea of the chicken.   Season well, brown throughly on both sides, and finish in a moderate (350 F) oven until quite browned and juices run clear or thermometer registers 165 F.  Unsure about temperatures, read the USDA guidelines–very simple.  While the chicken is in the oven, cook the orzo and chop the veg and cheese.  While this chicken with an orzo salad isn’t an instant meal, it’s fairly quick and hits the major food groups in a tasty way.  And, hey!   There would be leftovers for lunch.  Yum leftovers.  Who isn’t, after all that, glad to reach in the frig and pull out a piece of chicken come noon?

Take the time to season this baby (the orzo salad) lovingly.  It takes a bit of thought, and trial/error, but you can go from “Yeah, that’s ok” to “Wow!” with attention, care, and a bit of knowledge.  Generally the wow factor comes from one of these:

The best ingredients you can find
Thorough, but not over-seasoning
Not over-cooking
Use fresh herbs (usually at the very end before serving)
Appropriate addition of acid (in this case lemon juice)

If you’re unsure, take a small portion, add the questionable ingredient and try it.  See if that’s going to make the difference.  Take three small portions and try three techniques…which do you like?  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by this process. So here’s how I did it this time:

Alyce’s Orzo Salad on That Day (amounts are approximate)   Serves 4 (as does a whole chicken)

1 cup uncooked orzo
1/2 cup each chopped finely diced carrots or cucumber,  and yellow squash
1/4 cup chopped celery 
2 cloves garlic smashed and finely minced (or more to taste)
2T minced red onion
2T ea chopped fresh mint and basil
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
Pinch of oregano
1T capers (or a small handful of chopped kalamata olives)
1/2 t grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and pepper to taste (try just a bit of salt at first as capers and feta are salty)
Big pinch of crushed red pepper
1T white or red wine vinegar
3T extra virgin olive oil, divided (You’ll use some to flavor the hot orzo and some later for dressing.)
Juice of half a lemon
Optional:  Top with 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes and a sprinkle of pine nuts or toasted chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Cook orzo according to package directions and drain well.  Pour the orzo into a mixing bowl and stir in 1 T of the olive oil.  Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt and pepper.
  2. Add vegetables (including garlic and onions), feta, herbs, oregano, capers or olives, and lemon zest.  Stir well.
  3. Add salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Taste and reseason.
  4. Sprinkle with vinegar and stir. Drizzle in other two tablespoons of olive oil and stir again.  Add tomatoes and nuts, if using.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  5. Squeeze lemon over all.
  6. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.  Store leftovers in refrigerator, tightly covered, for 2-3 days.

Another cook might have added finely chopped fennel, marinated artichokes, green peppers, jicama….and so on.  

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

 
It isn’t quite the last rose of summer (above), but there are moments, despite the heat, that I want to run to each flower and smell each one up close while I can.  I bravely planted some new things last week near the perennial hibiscus in my corner garden.  I’ll show you when they bloom.  (Please bloom.)

What else I’m cooking: 

       I’m considering some new recipes for those who are in the healing process or need softer meals:
  

A lovely butternut (and other) squash soup with thyme for garnish.

 A healthier, chock-full of stuff zucchini bread is in the works and you’ll read about it here first.

Whole wheat zucchini bread with dried cherries, raisins, nuts and bits of dark chocolate for your heart.

 About the house:

And will it look like this again?  Guess so.

  I am finally getting my house to make sense nearly three months after the moving truck arrived.  While the kitchen, bedrooms and dining room quickly fell into place (though bedding and tablecloths still seem to be in short supply), the living room defied taming.  A small, but pleasant light teal room that has a 3-season porch attached and boasts a bright, clean piano window (Thanks to my friend, Chris Brown:), it just made me shake my head (read that want to puke) whenever I took the time to look at it.  Now my living room, unlike some, is in constant use.  I often work at home and am at the piano or on the couch (with the good lamp) reading and studying.  I run between the pots in the kitchen to the hymnal on the stand to the computer to write and I need that room to not only be comfortable, but to be feng shuied mighty fine.  I nurse a glass of wine in there while enjoying the  Sunday New York Times sometimes in the evening.   (I never get it done on Sundays.)  I sit and read while Dave naps with his head on my lap.  The dogs have their favorite spot on the wool rug.  To say nothing of sharing a cup of coffee with a friend.   But the room had its own ideas about itself and it wanted to be tilted in the direction of what appeared to be a huge (it is) piano and a squeezed in sofa with two chairs nearly on top of one another in the corner with a beautiful table that cried, “Get rid of me.  I’m too crowded.”  It made my lip curl like Elvis and my brow crease like Bruce Willis when he’s in a real tight place.  I said nasty stuff about my furniture.  Talked about paying designers.  Wrote friends who WERE designers. Hemmed and hawed.  (What is hemmed and hawed?)

They aren’t concerned about what color the walls are; they just want to be together.  Rightly so.  Love dogs!

 Our physical selves often mimic our emotional or spiritual circumstances and, in this case, it was exactly so.  (Thanks to old friend Rev. Virginia Memmott for knowing that.)  As long as I hithered and thithered and dithered about the move, living in Minnesota , the hot summer, our Colorado house, the need for a job, etc, I couldn’t settle down enough to “see” how things had to be.

Living room the day the truck arrived

 One day last week, after receiving word of my new choir director job at Prospect Park United Methodist (Come sing!), I just walked in there, started moving stuff, called Dave down to pound nails in the walls for artwork, and found a way for that room to be arranged that not only made sense, but was downright charming.  After a day or so, I also saw that the light had changed.  The walls were more awake and you could read more easily as the sun was now in its late August position.   No more cave feeling.  And I like it.  And so there, room.  And, while it’s still hot outdoors, my eyes fall upon space that is welcoming, comfortable, and full of the things I love.  I didn’t have to go buy all new furniture or consign the art; I just had to give myself time to breathe and want the space to work.  Thanks, God.

A bit more welcoming, huh?

 Below:  Late hostas blooming on the east side of the house.  In other places, leaves are falling and the acorns crunch underfoot.  The acorns are even falling on the patio table that sits below a maple tree.  Now there IS an oak tree in the yard next door.  And somehow the acorns are moving from the oak to the maple and falling on us during dinner. 
  

 

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Help, It’s September or Make These Two Great Grilled Chicken Salads

Help, It’s September or Make These Two Great Grilled Chicken Salads

Greek Grilled Chicken Salad.  Sweet, indeed, with a little Beaujolais.  Ok, Ok, get Greek wine if you must.

I hate hot weather.  I can’t say it any other way.  I’m  a 56 year-old post-menopausal woman who starts dreading summer and reading the morning temperatures in March every year.   By April, I’m beginning to tear up.  Soon,  the air conditioning is on as low and for as long as I can afford the bill.  I don’t care if I have to put on covers at night.  This is my life, for goodness’ sake.  And I cannot bake in the summer.  My oven stays off for three months (except for Dave’s birthday, when I get up at 5 to bake a NY cheesecake.)  Who made summer? I AM A BAKER.

On the other hand.  I adore summer fruit, salads, grilling, putting up jam (with the AC on ohdarklowly), eating outdoors (which we do every night unless it’s storming).  I lovingly plant, fertilize, water, water, water, water (for 90 days unless it snows first) my tomatoes.  I stand outside and curse the squirrels who chew the ripe ones before I can run out and rescue them. (the tomatoes, not the squirrels)  My herb garden is touched daily, and I now have one permanent bedded garden as well as my portable winter herb garden that makes its way to the front porch to blossom and grow in the sun all summer.  When I travel, the potted herbs are all moved to where the sprinkler system can water them.  Baseball?  Hot dogs?  These are my things, too.   (Actually they’re Daves, but, hey, I’m a CUBS fan.)   Making ice cream?  Of course.  Porch wine with the neighbors.  Natch.  (Strawberry margaritas tomorrow night in honor of the waning light..)  The hot tub on cool summer nights overlooking the city?

Of course, I’m blessed.  But, by God, I can’t stand the heat and that’s why I should and do get out of the kitchen.  I’m a slave to chopping vegetables, spinning up vinaigrette, finding new summer dry roses or whites, and asking Dave what he wants to grill.  Eating after 7pm OUTSIDE in the breeze.  To that end, I sometimes am not as creative as I long to be in summer.  So I decided to fix that.  Witness these two scrumpt salads.  Hard?  No?  Truly original?  As far as I know, they are.  But, in food, as in life, nothing is original under the sun.

My goal was simple:  Make a few 2DIE4 salads using grilled, boneless chicken breasts and not too many other ingredients to create meals that could be put together during the week after making a big batch of the breasts over the weekend.  Did they fill the bill?  You decide.  I’m making them and eating them forever.  Hey, you can also just pull meat from rotisserie chicken from the store.  Or make whole breasts with skin in the oven.  (Brush with olive oil and thoroughly dust with salt and pepper.  Bake at 350 F for 45 min.)

Here  are a couple out of the ones I tried:  Greek Grilled Chicken Salad and Chicken Guac Salad

Greek Grilled Chicken  after waiting for its closeup…topped with fresh basil from my garden.

Chicken Guac Salad with a Big Squeeze of Fresh Lime…  Kinda like a margarita to eat.

The recipes:

Greek Grilled Chicken Salad

4 servings

  • 1 English cucumber, chopped into 1/2″ chunks
  • 1/2 large green sweet pepper, same drill
  • 2 large tomatoes, ditto
  • 6-8 oz bulk feta cheese, drained well, cut into 1/2″ chunks
  • 2 grilled or rotisserie chicken breasts, cut into 1/2″ chunks
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup red onion, sliced as thinly as you can slice it
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce or greens
  • 2 tablespoons chiffonade basil (fresh basil very thinly sliced or julienne)
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional (or to taste)
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • Dressing (In a jar, shake well 3tablespoons olive oil with 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and a pinch each of salt and pepper)

Mix cucumber through lettuce in your big bowl, but be kind and just barely toss it together. You don’t want things to mush up. Top with dried oregano, and a dusting of kosher salt and maybe 1/2 t freshly ground pepper. Add the crushed red pepper if desired. Toss gently. Squeeze fresh lemon over all and toss again.  Drizzle dressing over all and toss a bit more. Garnish with fresh basil. (Note: be careful with all salt additions to this salad; the feta and the olives are already salty.)

If you like a composed Greek Chicken Salad instead of a tossed one, here’s what that might look like.  I also added avocado. So perhaps it’s now a Greek-California Chicken Salad?

Food-Salad-Greek Chicken '17

Chicken Guac Salad  3-4 servings

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped roughly, divided
1/2 cup fresh green pepper, chopped in 1/3-1/2″ pieces
1/4 cup red sweet pepper, chopped in 1/3-1/2 ” pieces
1-2 teaspoon(s) jalapeno, very finely minced (to taste)
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1 cup tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 ripe avocados, roughly chopped
1 cup cooked rice
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 Lime, cut in half,  and the other half cut in half again
2 chicken breasts, grilled and chopped (or use rotisserie chicken breasts)
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese

Mix cilantro through tomatoes, reserving 2 tablespoons cilantro.  Mix that reserved 2 tablespoonscilantro into the cooked rice and add to the salad.  Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Squeeze half of the lime over the salad.  Add chopped chicken breasts and spinach and stir gently.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Serve mounded, with a piece of lime on each plate to use at table.

{printable recipe}   –prints both salad recipes

Two-Dog (and cat) Kitchen and Around the Hood and Life

Emily–at home to rest! between semesters.

                            Gabby:  Are you gonna eat that?

                               Skippy grows up a little.

Mom snaps a quick pic while we go to Briarhurst Manor for a Murder Mystery Dinner….

Getting closer…

Blog to come:  Minute Marinara.  Looks good, huh?

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In Memoriam… My friend Max…