Friday, July 29, 2011

Frugal Fridays - Summer Salad!

It seems that summer has come at last to Oregon. Given what some of my friends east of here have been going through, I’m not going to toss up too many complaints about our belated warm weather. Still, it is nice to break 80 now and again.

There does seem to be a temperature threshold for me when I become unwilling to cook, especially when it involves turning on any heat element of the stove. It usually happens when the temperature inside the house reaches 80 or so. Luckily, I haven’t quite reached that just yet.

But I did decide that rather than spending tons of time inside preparing a meal, I would spend the time OUTSIDE eating one, and so I opted to grab a rotisserie chicken (yes, the old standby) and turn it into a quick salad. I also had some pencil-sized asparagus that needed to be used up, and I thought I’d ramp up the flavor a bit by adding a compound butter - in this case one with garlic and saffron in it. The floral notes in the saffron blended well with the sun-dried tomato and herbs in the chicken.

I even discovered that while I wasn’t looking, my little bean plant was beginning to produce beans, even though it hasn’t been getting very big. But if I hadn’t been sitting there enjoying some quiet, I probably wouldn’t have even thought to check it.

Now if only the tomatoes would grow.

Cost breakdown:

½ Chicken (I was just feeding two of us) - $3.99
½ head of lettuce - .50
Olives, herbs and sun-dried tomatoes - $2.00
½ bundle of asparagus - $1.25
Parmesan cheese - $ .75
Butter - $ .32
Garlic and herbs - $ .15

Total: $8.96 ($4.48 per person)

As you can see, although it was still an economical meal, the ‘frugality’ here was more in time savings than anything else.

Putting it all together:

Pan-fried Asparagus with Garlic Saffron Butter

½ lb asparagus spears (I used the pencil-thin variety, which cooked quickly), washed and patted dry
½ Tbs olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
¼ cup white wine

½ stick unsalted butter, softened
¼ tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
1 clove garlic
A small pinch of saffron (this goes a long way - 3 or 4 strands will do you)

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, and when it is heated, add asparagus in a shallow layer. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus begins to brown in spots. Add the white wine, cover with a lid, and allow to cook 3 or 4 minutes, or just until crisp-tender (don’t overcook). Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, roughly chop garlic on a cutting board. Sprinkle with saffron and salt, and make a paste by dragging the side of a knife across the garlic and seasonings.

Toss with warm asparagus.

Italian Chicken Salad

½ rotisserie chicken, meat removed (about 2 cups)
½ cup mayo with olive oil
2 Tbs sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
2 Tbs fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade
1 tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
½ cup Kalamata olives
Salt & pepper to taste
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese**

Heat oven to 400º. Cover a small baking pan with foil. Place olives on the baking pan, season with salt and pepper and roast in oven for about 10 minutes. Remove olives from pan and set aside to cool. In the same pan, divide Parmesan in two equal portion, spreading out into a thin layer and leaving about an inch of space between the two portions. Return pan to the oven and allow the cheese to cook just until it turns golden, about 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool (the rounds will crisp up as they cool).

In a mixing bowl, combine chicken, mayo, tomatoes and herbs. Stir to combine. Chop the cooled Kalamata olives and add to the chicken mixture (the salt from the olives and chicken should be sufficient, but taste for seasoning).

Serve over lettuce drizzled with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, if desired, and garnish with Parmesan crisp.

** As you can see from the picture, I didn’t have a pretty Parmesan crisp. I grabbed the wrong container of Parmesan, and the grated version had to be scraped off the foil. So I used it to sprinkle over the top instead. Same flavor, just not as pretty.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's a Wrap!

Had another catering gig at work and was given very little in the way of direction for food. Basically what I got was “Oh, they’re healthy eaters. Just make… whatever”.

Uh… ok.

Since this is the same group I had catered for twice before, I figured they’d be getting tired of the ol’ Build Your Own Sandwich spread plus salads, so I figured I’d give them something with a bit more grab n’ go appeal. And although wraps seems so cliché, that was really the best option I could come up with given the VERY limited space I was dealing with.

Now I had every intention of getting some photos of the finished salads I put together once I had done the last minute ‘dolling up’ of them, but alas, when the time came, it was just a crunch to get everything together and delivered with minimal interruption to a meeting in progress.

But I made a super simple caprese quinoa salad using the basic premise for caprese salad (some heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and basil) tossed in with your basic cooked quinoa and then topped with a balsamic reduction. Seemed to be quite popular. I also made a Chinese chicken salad (your typical ramen noodle/cabbage/chicken thing, only sugar-free). As an accompaniment to the salads, I made some very pretty little whole wheat rolls, which of course you’re just going to have to take my word on since I was a dope and didn’t snap photos.

I made a large platter of wraps, and naturally, the ones that went together the quickest were the ones that actually flew off the tray. But I can’t say there was anything complicated about any of them.

They had:

Veggie Wraps with Herbed Cheese

6 spinach tortillas/wraps
1 container Boursin cheese
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 orange bell pepper, cut into strips
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into strips
3 cups (roughly) rinsed and dried baby spinach leaves
1 ½ cups (roughly) shredded carrots
Salt & pepper to taste

Divide the cheese into 6 equal parts and spread on each tortilla to within about 1/2” of the edges. Top the cheese with a layer of spinach and then a layer of carrots. Arrange bell pepper strips and cucumber facing the same direction (parallel to the edge you plan to start rolling up), and season with salt and pepper. Bring in the two sides of the tortilla about ¾” and then roll up the tortilla, beginning with the end closest to you. Press down slightly to ‘set’ it. Cut in half.

Southwest Chicken Rolls

1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and shredded
1 cup sour cream
3 Tbs fresh lime juice
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp paprika
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
½ can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ red bell pepper, diced
1 ear corn
Olive oil
1 avocado, thinly sliced
3 -4 slices lavash bread

Brush olive oil on corn and place in a pre-heated grill pan (or on a charcoal grill, or even in a cast-iron skillet - you get the picture). Cook at medium-high heat on each side until kernels are slightly charred. Add ½ cup of water and cover, cooking until kernels are tender, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool completely and then cut kernels from cob.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken meat, sour cream, lime, seasonings, beans and vegetables. Stir to combine.

Divide mixture and spread evenly across each slice of bread, spreading all the way out to 3 of the sides and leaving about ½” of space on the side furthest from you. Top with avocado.

Beginning with side nearest you, make a tight roll, ‘tucking in’ any filling that spills out the side. Press together gently to seal. Cut into 2” slices.

* * *

I also had Cuban Sandwich Wraps, which don’t really warrant a recipe. Basically, I spread course mustard on wheat tortillas, topped with provolone and uncured ham (couldn’t find pork deli meat where I went), laid dill pickle spears down the center, and rolled them up. Pretty basic stuff.

In addition to the above, I had a couple of different chips options (kettle and veggie) as well as a couple of cookie trays. I went with the much-requested Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, as well as these Peanut Butter Cookies. And while I couldn’t tell you how they tasted (bad chef - but I’m really not a fan of peanut butter), I can tell you that they were inhaled. Always a good sign.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
½ cup light brown sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 large egg, room temperature
1½ cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add peanut butter and cream until fully combined, about 1 minute. Add egg and mix until fully incorporated.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; add to wet ingredients and mix just until dough comes together. Roll dough into 1 1/2" balls, roll in sugar and place on cookie sheet, about 2" apart. Using a fork, press the tops of the cookies, creating a criss-cross pattern.

Bake cookies for 13 - 14 minutes, until golden. Allow cookies to cool slightly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Frugal Fridays - Frugality and Flexibility

So, you may have noticed that I’m posting last week’s Frugal Fridays on Monday.  What can I tell you?  It was a busy weekend.

This is actually a continuation of the last post.  As I mentioned, my college roommate was in town, and I prepared dinner for her.  During the course of our catching up, I found out that she was neither a fan of shrimp or olives - both of which I had intended to use for dinner.  But no matter, I left the olives out of the primavera and made a chicken bisque instead of the planned shrimp bisque.

So, obviously, that left me with two items that needed to be used in addition to a few odds and ends left over from the previous dinner, mainly:

Heirloom and grape tomatoes
Parmesan cheese
The remainder of the parmesan biscotti

So, I decided to round up a quick meal using what I had on hand and ended up with this:

One of the things I really love to do with Kalamata olives is to roast them, which is what I did here.  Roasting them concentrates their brininess, and you get the added bonus of the occasional crunchy bit, which happens to be MY personal favorite.

Anyway, here’s what I did:

Shrimp and Rotini Salad with Roasted Kalamata Olives

¼ lb rotini pasta, cooked according to package directions
½ cup balsamic vinaigrette (mine happened to be store-bought), divided
½ cup Kalamata olives, or a mixture of various
1 medium heirloom tomato, cut into large chunks
½ cup grape tomatoes
¼ cup roasted garlic (whole cloves)
Olive oil
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil**
½ lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt & pepper to taste
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Red-leaf lettuce (or whatever kind suits your fancy)

Heat oven to 400º.  Combine olives, tomatoes and roasted garlic on a small baking pan. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil (just enough to coat).  Sprinkle with a couple of pinches of salt and freshly grated black pepper.  Place in oven and cook about 10 - 15 minutes, or just until fragrant.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Combine shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes and ¼ cup balsamic vinaigrette.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  When pan in hot, add the shrimp mixture.  Allow to cook about 3 minutes, then stir and continue to cook another couple of minutes just until the shrimp is cooked through (don’t overcook).  Set aside and allow to cool.

Combine the cooked pasta, the roasted tomato mixture, and the shrimp mixture in a medium mixing bowl along with the remaining ¼ cup of vinaigrette.  Stir to combine.  Serve over lettuce with shaved Parmesan.

**  My sun-dried tomatoes were actually a ‘tapenade’ and had spices.  If you’re using plain sun-dried tomatoes, consider adding some basil to this for extra flavor.

* * *

I don't really have a breakdown of the cost here because I was just using up what was left from another meal.  To me, frugality is not just about saving money, but making the most of what is on hand.

I can tell you that the shrimp was $3 a pound, so I used about $1.50 worth.  Using a fourth of a box of pasta amounts to about 15 or 16 cents, since I usually buy it when it's no more than 50 cents a box.  The olive and roasted garlic mix was the biggest 'splurge' at about $2 for the amount I got.  Just as a rough guesstimate, I imagine I spent a grand total of around $5 on this meal, feeding two of us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

For Mary

I’m not much of a Facebook fan. Mostly I find it to be a huge time drain, and quite frankly, I’d rather be doing something else with my time. But it has allowed me to reconnect with friends from the past, and for that I can’t fault it too much.

A few months ago I was contacted by my college roommate, Mary. It turns out she has not only stayed ‘active’ in theater over the years, but she’s actually a professor of theatre arts at the college she and I attended. It had been almost 20 years since we’d seen each other (which must mean we’re both pushing… 30, right??), and it turns out she was going to be in Oregon for two weeks for a seminar and staying just up the road. In the end, we only ended up being able to visit for a day, but we had a great time catching up.

Naturally, I wanted to feed her, but I also wanted to spend more time visiting than cooking, so I put together a meal that I could make mainly in advance of her arrival. I revisited the recipe for the Parmesan Biscotti to go along with a basic salad (which did include herbed and marinated mozzarella balls and heirloom tomatoes) and a shrimp bisque, which actually turned into a chicken bisque when I found out that Mary doesn’t like shrimp (Ok, so how often would we have had the opportunity in college to eat shrimp for me to know that already, right???)! I also put together a very fast pasta primavera, and no, I didn’t take pictures of anything because, well, I was VISITING!

I did want to highlight some Oregon produce, fresh from the farmers’ market (thus the primavera) as well as a local wine to go along with everything, but rather than go with a strawberry based dessert (Oregon strawberries are pretty spectacular), I decided to use blackberries instead. And if we had been having a normal summer here, I could have harvested them from just beyond my fence line. But we’ve had such cool and dreary weather, that everything seems to be behind, and so I ended up buying some.

I ran across this recipe in my latest issue of Bon Appétit and just tweaked it a bit. For one, I didn’t want to use a regular pie crust. For expediency’s sake, I decided to go with ladyfingers instead. And the lime curd mixture really did not need the called for gelatin, so that was out. I also added some zest to pump up the volume on the lime curd a bit. And while I’m not normally a fan of either fruit OR citrus, I thought this made for a very nice, light summer dessert. It will definitely go into my repertoire of things to make when it’s too hot out to cook.

If it ever actually is, anyway.

This one’s for you, Mary.

Deconstructed Lime and Blackberry ‘Tart’

1 cup fresh lime juice, plus the zest from one lime
3 eggs, separated
3 whole eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick butter), softened
¾ cup whipping cream

1 cup red wine (I used a syrah)
½ cup sugar
1 pint fresh blackberries

1 package ladyfingers

3 egg whites (from above)
1 cup sugar
2 Tbs corn syrup
¼ cup water
Pinch of salt

To prepare the lime curd, combine lime juice and zest, 3 whole eggs, 3 egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Place over a double boiler on the stove and turn to medium heat. Stir frequently until mixture begins to thicken (water should be at a simmer the entire time), about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter, one tablespoon at a time. Cover surface with plastic wrap to keep from forming a skin and allow to come to room temperature. Refrigerate until cool.

In a small saucepan, combine wine and sugar. Bring to a gentle simmer and allow to reduce by half. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add blackberries and stir to coat. Refrigerate until ready to use.

When lime curd has cooled completely, whip the whipping cream until it is at the firm peak stage. Carefully fold into lime curd and return to fridge.

Just before assembly, beat 3 egg whites in mixer until soft peaks form. Turn off mixer and allow eggs to stand while making sugar syrup.

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and water. Heat pan at medium-low just until sugar dissolves. Attach a candy thermometer and increase heat to medium-high. Bring mixture to a boil and continue to cook without stirring, only occasionally swirling the pan until temperature reaches 238º. Remove from heat.

Begin whipping egg whites at medium high speed once again and slowly begin to pour the sugar syrup into the eggs. Beat until meringue is firm and glossy. Continue beating about another 4 minutes to cool the meringue.

To assemble: lay about 3 ladyfingers on a plate and spoon lime curd over the top. Top the curd with the blackberry compote and then spoon the meringue over the top of this. Using a kitchen torch, brown the meringue until golden**.

** If you don’t have a kitchen torch, you could place the individual servings on a lined baking sheet and broil for a few seconds until meringue is toasted. Then transfer to individual plates and refrigerate about 30 minutes before serving.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Frugal Fridays - Dutch, Dutch, Baby

So, I thought I’d introduce a new ‘segment’ to the blog called ‘Frugal Fridays’. Basically, I’m going to highlight a particular meal and give the rundown of the cost. This is by no means scientific. It is mostly to force me to make use of all those good grocery deals I get and make a conscious effort to further reduce my grocery budget.

And this one’s probably cheating a bit, but baby steps, Grasshopper, baby steps.

Next, I would like to say that no leafy greens were harmed in the making of this meal. But I was in a bit of a hurry, so I went really basic. But if you’re in a bit of a hurry, this isn’t a bad meal to turn out, I’ll have to say.

A Dutch Baby is basically an oven baked pancake. Took me about 5 minutes to put it together, another 5 minutes to load a baking pan with bacon and toss it in the oven alongside, and the potatoes were done cooking by the time everything came out of the oven. Start to finish, about 30 minutes total.

Now for the cost breakdown:

½ package of bacon - $1.50
1 lb potatoes - $ .79
Various and sundry additions to the fried potatoes
     (oil, ¼ of an onion, seasoning, etc) - $ .15
Dutch Baby ingredients - $1.04
Strawberry Freezer Jam (already on hand) - let’s call it $ .30 total
Total for the meal (feeding 2 people): $3.78, or $1.89 per serving.

This is what it looks like when it first comes out of the oven. It’s kind of like a soufflé in that it starts to sink very quickly once removed from its heat source.

Dutch Baby

4 Tbs butter
3 eggs
¾ cup milk, heated slightly (just toss in the microwave for about 30 seconds)
2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs sugar
1/8 tsp salt
¾ cup flour

Preheat oven to 400º. Place a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add the butter. Heat just until butter is melted. In a blender, combine remaining ingredients and half of the melted butter from the skillet. Process on high for at least a minute, until ingredients are completely combined and mixture is frothy. Pour mixture into the skillet and place the skillet in the oven.

Bake for about 20 minutes. The pancake will ‘climb’ the sides of the pan and get brown around the edges, but make sure it cooks long enough to finish cooking the center of the pancake. Serve immediately with jelly and a bit of powdered sugar.

Or fresh fruit.

Or yogurt and a bit of lemon peel.

Whatever blows your socks off, really.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another Birthday

A friend of mine at work celebrated one of those ‘betwixt’ birthdays this week. You know, one of those yawner numbers that’s not a ‘milestone’ or even HALF a milestone.

Anyway, he’s one of those people that didn’t get the chocolate gene. Coffee, either. Which is kind of a difficult thing for me to fathom. And it makes it more challenging to try to come up with a birthday-worthy dessert.

I know he likes Snickerdoodle cookies, so I searched around and found this recipe from good ol’ Martha. But because he also enjoys cheesecake, I thought I’d add a cream cheese frosting to the mix.

In retrospect, maybe I should have just made a Snickerdoodle Cheesecake. Maybe next year…

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 Tbs baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup milk

In a small bowl (or on a sheet of waxed paper - my preferred method), sift together first 5 ingredients. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on high speed until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Turn speed down to medium low and add eggs one at a time, then vanilla. Turn off mixer and add about half of the dry ingredients, followed by half of the milk. Turn mixer to low and mix until just blended. Add remaining dry ingredients, followed by the remainder of the milk. Mix at low speed until combined.

Line a cupcake tin with paper liners. Fill about 32 mini cupcakes or 14 regular sized cupcakes about ¾ full of the batter mixture. Place in oven and cook for 18 - 20 minutes, or just until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean. Place on a rack to cool. Frost with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below).

* * *

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese at room temperature
1 stick butter at room temperature
½ tsp cinnamon
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
3 cups sifted powdered sugar

Add cream cheese and butter to a mixer and beat at high speed until smooth. Lower speed to medium and mix in cinnamon and vanilla bean seeds (substitute 1 tsp vanilla extract if you aren’t using vanilla bean). Reduce speed to low and slowly add in powdered sugar a bit at a time, mixing until combined and frosting is smooth.

Refrigerate for about 15 minutes before frosting cupcakes, especially if using a pastry bag.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A (Somewhat) Reformed Black Thumb

I noticed while cruising through some of my favorite food blogs that it seems to be the norm to post photos of up and coming gardens, but before I jump on the band wagon, I should probably point out that as a general rule, I don’t grow gardens.

I murder them.

Not intentionally, of course, so I guess that makes it more of a manslaughter thing?


My mother’s verdant green thumb never seemed to filter down the gene pool to any of us. At least not in the same capacity. And while I believe both of my sisters are capable of at least some level of adeptness when it comes to gardening and horticulture, I have been known to kill cacti. Repeatedly. But I always seen to succumb to the romanticism of growing my own garden. Until recent years, this has invariably been an abject failure.

A few years ago I decided to try my luck at a few herbs. Just made sense given the amount of cooking that I do. And I actually did pretty well, for whatever unknown reason. Since then I’ve kept a year-round herb garden as well as ventured out into a few hardier fruits and veggies. But I will have to say that although I can now be cautiously optimistic that something I plant may actually yield results, it always gives me a thrill when I seem to be winning out over my black thumb.

For instance, I spied this little guy this weekend…

And these little speckled lettuces actually seem to be thriving…

Go figure.

I can’t get too full of myself with zucchini, because last year I tossed a couple of plants out in a forgotten mound of dirt dug up from my patio renovation, and they went crazy. But I was happy to see some good potential for stuffed zucchini blossoms…

All of this I was contemplating while sipping coffee and munching on a couple of these biscotti. Now and then I make a batch of spiced candied nuts, which O1 absolutely loves. As I was going through the pantry over the weekend, I noticed several bags of nut ‘odds and ends’. And so the thought occurred to me that I should throw them all together and make candied nuts. But then I also wondered how well they’d fare being cooked a second time inside biscotti.

I think they came out pretty well, and they seem to store very well. This will be something I bake over and over because it actually makes a large enough batch to get me through about a week’s worth of breakfast.

Sure beats Pop Tarts.

Spiced Candied Nuts

1 cup of mixed nuts (I used pecans and walnuts)
2 Tbs corn syrup
1 Tbs sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 325º. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray, or use non-stick foil (I LOVE this stuff). Pour nuts into a pile on the cookie sheet, then add remaining ingredients. Using a spoon, carefully combine all ingredients. Spread nuts evenly out on pan. Place in oven and bake for 10 - 15 minutes, or just until nuts begin to turn golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Break up into small pieces.

Spiced Nut Biscotti

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs, slightly beatened
3 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup Spiced Candied Nuts (from above), chopped

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray, or line with non-stick foil. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and slowly add vanilla and eggs, mixing until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine blour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Slowly add to butter and egg mixture, mixing just until combined. Dough will be soft. Stir in candied nuts.

Place dough on prepared baking sheet, creating a flattened 'log' about 14" long and 5" wide.  Press down slightly.

Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow the biscotti to rest 5 minutes.  Cut into pieces about 1" wide.  Lay flat on sheet and return to oven for 15 minutes.  Flip over to other cut side, return to oven again, and bake an additional 12 - 15 minutes until golden.  Cool completely before storing.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Leftovers with a South of the Border Twist

I feel like I’ve neglected my blog dreadfully as of late. Part of the blame lies in the fact that there have been more evenings than not lately where I’ve just flown home and quickly put something on the table. And most of the time when that happens, it’s either something I’ve already talked about here, or something I don’t find interesting enough to talk about here.

The other hitch in my usual cooking schedule has to do with warm weather. After a somewhat dreary Spring, Summer decided to make an appearance fairly recently. And I have a very low tolerance of hot weather. I did my ‘time’ in the South where the heat and humidity completely saps you of your strength and just don’t feel like I need to apologize for the fact that I’m a complete wimp now when the temperature tops 85º. I’m sure someone would find that a very endearing quality in me…

ANYWAY… Suffice it to say that standing over a hot stove and keeping an eye on 3 different pots of various brews just isn’t high on my list of things to do in warm weather.

But as I was wondering what to do with some leftover mashed potatoes I had on hand, O1 and O2 began to wax eloquent about the various times they had eaten what they referred to as ‘potato tacos’. I’m sure there’s a much more exciting name for these out there, but for now, we’ll just leave them at that. The great thing about these is that they cook up quickly and are very soul-satisfying without being overly heavy. I mean, unless you eat 6 of them, of course. Up to you.

I also put together a very quick, fresh salsa, because O1 is quite frankly, a salsa snob. Won’t eat store bought. And while there’s nothing fancy here, I’ll share what I did, if only to give her a recipe to look at when she’s off on her own again.

Basic Salsa

4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and cut into a very fine dice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
½ small red onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp cumin
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley (or you could obviously use cilantro)
Juice from ½ of a lime
2 Tbs olive oil

Place chopped tomatoes, pepper and onion in a medium sized bowl. On a cutting board, roughly chop the garlic and then pour the salt over the top of it. Using the sides of a large knife, create a paste by mashing the garlic and salt together. Add to bowl along with the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine. Allow to sit about 15 minutes to let the flavors marry.

* * If I happen to be grilling, I will sometimes grill my pepper, onion and garlic, allow them to cool, and then proceed with the recipe. This mellows out the flavor of the garlic and onions.

Papa Tacos

2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1 package corn tortillas
Vegetable oil

Suggested toppings:

Mashed avocado mixed with lime juice
Sour cream
Queso fresco, crumbled (or use Feta)

Add shredded cheese to leftover potatoes and stir to combine.

In a heavy skillet, heat enough vegetable oil to just coat the bottom of the pan. While pan is heating, spread about ¼ cup of the mashed potatoes between two corn tortillas (or, if they’re fresh enough not to break, you can spread a couple of tablespoons over one tortilla and fold it in half). When oil is hot, add tortillas and cook on each side until browned. Drain on paper towels.

Accessorize as desired.