Monday’s Two-fer

Ok, so it’s been forever since I’ve posted. I could sit here and give you a hundred reasons why I haven’t but I’m not going to. I’m only going to say that this winter has been very mild, in fact it is Spring here in California’s Central Valley and has been for over a month. I have Spring fever so bad that I can hardly get anything done that doesn’t have to do with fiddling around outside and since blogging and cooking are indoor activities they are both down the list of fun things to do, at least to my thinking lately. But as sometimes happens, guilt shows up and I start to rethink my priorities. A very nice email from a blogging friend in Texas, Jack Mathews of Sage to Meadow, recently arrived. It was Jack’s choices for his 2011 Prairie Sagebrush Awards for blogging. The award recognizes bloggers Jack follows for their excellence in writing, photography and art on the blog. He included Anniespickns. That heated up the guilt. An award for blogging should be given to those who blog and that hasn’t been me lately.  It was also a nice reminder to myself that I do miss the writing, the research and discovery and I miss interacting with you, my readers.

So as I started to think about dinner tonight a post was born.

Monday’s Two-fer

Sometimes its just time to gather the leftover this-n-thats from the fridge and either toss em or get creative. Tonight was one of those times. Luckily the this-n-thats were worth saving so I got creative. I sliced the handful of Brussels sprouts, about the same amount of crimini mushrooms; some pieces of fried bacon along with half an onion then added a few cloves from some baked garlic.  First I fried the mushrooms, next the onion, then the sliced Brussels sprouts. Chop the bacon and garlic and toss with the other ingredients and there you have it. I had a little brown rice that I warmed up and served with this. That’s what you call a two-fer, clean fridge and full tummy.

There was even enough natural light coming in the kitchen window to shoot a quick photo.

How I learned to Love Brussels Sprouts – Anniespickns

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“What’s in the Fridge?” Salad.

Today is our second day of 100+ temperatures. Last week it was the 80s so we really haven’t had time to adjust to days in the 100s. Truth is, I never adjust to that kind of heat. The only good thing about hot days is the mornings. I love puttering in my garden or sometimes just enjoy sitting in my swing drinking coffee and watching the birds on their morning quest for seeds or nectar. It’s definitely my favorite time of day during the summer months.

My appetite and energy related to cooking takes a nosedive during the heat (I consider heat any temperature over 90). So today when I was hungry but didn’t want to heat up the kitchen by cooking I decided to make one of my “What’s in the fridge?” salads. I like this salad because it’s light, refreshing and uses up of all kinds of veggies. It’s also a good place to use leftover chicken or chunks of cheese. If I have leftover cooked bacon that’s a definite addition.  It’s literally what ever I have on hand in the fridge, hence the name.

Today’s mix included sliced Crimini mushrooms, shredded carrot and summer squash (from my garden), sugar snap peas, sliced at a diagonal into 1/2″ pieces, spinach, chard, radicchio leaves torn into bite size pieces  and a mix of baby lettuce leaves. I chop and shred the veggies, holding the leafy veggies and meat cheese, etc aside and place it all in a bowl. Then I toss the mix with a nice vinaigrette (I make my own using 6T olive oil, 3 T red wine vinegar, 1 t Dijon mustard and one crushed garlic clove), then add the chicken, bacon or cheese (today a very nice crumbly Gorgonzola) and toss again. I always add the leaf veggies last and toss the whole mixture just before serving. If you want to expand beyond the fridge for ingredients you might check your cupboards for croutons or toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds. They are all nice additions. Be creative and just use what you have.

Annie’s Asian Slaw is another favorite hot weather meal of mine. You can find the recipe for that one here.

The forecast says the weather should start to cool down after tomorrow. I hope so! Meanwhile, I’ll be heading to the fridge for ice cold peppermint tea and salad ingredients.

I Never Thought The Day Would Come, But It Did.

One of the stands at my Farmers’ Market has the sweetest corn, temptingly sweet. Each week I buy two or more ears, with four being the maximum since there’s only one person doing the eating.  And every week I simply cook it in a little water until it is just barely done. It has been so sweet  that recently I haven’t even wanted butter or salt on it. This has been going on for weeks now. But this last week I’d had enough of corn on the cob. I didn’t think I would get to that point but I did. Trouble was I still had a couple of ears that needed to be eaten so, I fell back on an old favorite, a sauté with smoky bacon and sweet scallions. It was the perfect transition.

Sautéed Corn With Bacon and Scallions

Serves 2

In a heavy skillet sauté 2 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4” slices, until well they are browned. Add two scallions that have been sliced into 1/8” slices. Sauté until wilted. Add 1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 3 ears). Add a pinch of dried hot red pepper flakes (don’t be afraid to add these, it won’t make it too hot). Sauté for 1 minute then cover for another minute. Stir and serve.

You don’t have to wait until your sick of corn to try this and if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers they’re great in a salad.

How I Learned to Love Brussels Sprouts.

To a lot of folks just the mention of the words Brussels sprouts may bring about memories of being served soggy, mushy, strong tasting little cabbages. Not pleasant memories. Well, you can strike those awful memories from your mind. I’m here to tell you that if you give them another chance you might learn, just as I have, that they can be delicious. There three keys to a successful Brussels sprouts experience. First, buy them fresh; second select sprouts that are small in size; and last don’t over cook them. Brussels sprouts taste best cooked quickly. Here are four ways to enjoy Brussels sprouts.

My favorite way to fix them is to toss about 1 pound trimmed Brussels sprouts that have been cut in half lengthwise into a large Ziplock bag with one onion, that has been quartered, then cut into 1/16’s, about ½ pound Crimini mushrooms, quartered, some olive oil and a little sea salt and cracked black pepper. Toss to mix all the ingredients.  Next, I preheat my little BBQ and put my stir-fry basket on the grill. When the grill and the basket are nice and hot I dump in the Brussels sprout mix and close the BBQ lid. I check back every 5 min or so and toss the mixture so it can cook evenly. It’s done when the mixture is browned and the sprouts are crisp tender. Another nice addition to this mix is to toss in some chopped crisp cooked bacon just before serving. You can also roast this mixture in a 450° F oven for about 45 minutes. For me, this recipe seems to come out much better when I use the BBQ.

They can also be pan browned. Trim ½ pound Brussels sprouts and halve lengthwise. Cut 2 large garlic cloves into very thin slices. In a heavy 10-inch skillet melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil over moderate heat and cook garlic, stirring, until pale golden. Transfer garlic with a slotted spoon to a small bowl. Reduce heat to low and arrange sprouts in skillet, cut sides down, in one layer. Sprinkle sprouts with 2 tablespoons pine nuts and salt to taste. Cook sprouts with turning, until crisp-tender and undersides are golden brown. About 15 minutes. Transfer sprouts to a plate, browned sides up. Add garlic and ½ tablespoon butter to skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring until pine nuts are more evenly pale golden brown, about 1 minute. Spoon mixtures over sprouts and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

They are also delicious in what I call a stir-fry style. First separate the sprouts into just the leaves and set aside. Next, in a little olive oil, saute some diced onion and pancetta or bacon until softened. Add the sprout leaves and stir-fry until just tender.

For the simplist version try this; Steam 2 lbs of trimmed Brussels sprouts until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Toss with butter and salt and pepper to taste. For this version use the very tiniest sprouts, less than three quarters of an inch in diameter. It the sprouts are larger cut them in half.

The season will be ending soon. At some markets you can buy the entire dramatic-looking stalk and pluck the sprouts off when you get home. Look for stalks that have small sprouts; they will be sweeter than the larger ones. Choose those that feel firm and heavy. Avoid any that have any wilting or yellowing leaves, or that do nor form a tight head. If you haven’t tried Brussels sprouts in a while why not give them another chance? You just might find out how really delicious they can be.