Odd Couples, Watermelon and Chili Oil

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For those of us old enough to remember the movie or TV series called the “Odd Couple“, you know the plot was all about the ups and downs of two recently divorced and very different guys living together in a smallish New York City apartment.  Felix was the worrying, fussy, conservative, martini drinking type, while Oscar was the care-free, sloppy, live in the moment, beer slugging type.   Audiences were entertained by how they managed to stay friends despite their many differences.

After the movie became a huge success, the popular TV series took the oddities of their daily relationship struggles to the next level, entertaining fans for years.  In the end, the stories about their lives together always made us laugh, because people can be fascinated by how odd couples, unusual matches, opposite personalities, or widely disparate cultures can find ways to work things out.  The series was not the most intellectually challenging, certainly nothing too complicated, but there was always a life lesson in each episode.

The truth is that opposites are attractive to us because it’s fun to get to know someone who isn’t like you.   The fact is that each of us are affected by the people around us.  Some of them teach us things.  Some of them bring out the worst in us.  Some of them bring out the best in us.  Some of them just accept us for who we are.  I submit there is value in every relationship because each one forces us to constantly test where we are in our personal evolution.  Sometimes we make dramatic changes because of the impact others have on us.  At other times we make imperceptible changes in our perspectives, attitudes and behaviours because people with different points of view, philosophies and mannerisms make us more aware of the impact we have on those around us as well.

I honestly believe life is more interesting when it is less predictable–when we are open to adventure and exploration with the people around us and with ourselves.  We love it when something surprises us.  For example, is there any guy out there that isn’t thrilled when our ladies show up for date-night in a new dress or with a new piece of jewelry?  And Guys, I’m pretty sure our ladies love it when we surprise them with something unexpected–like flowers on a day other than their birthday, your anniversary or on valentine’s day.  (Hot! Guys–do it now!!  Call the Florist!!  Order flowers ‘Just Because She Makes Everyday a Special Day Because She is in Your Life’.  Use your words, but do it!!  There’s some serious WOW! Points right there. I guarantee it.)

I think it’s hard for another person to be your soul mate if they always think like you, live like you, love the same things you do or play like you.  I agree that as a relationship progresses we discover many things we have in common, but we also discover more things we have in contrast.  There are some who may disagree, but I believe relationships last longer and remain vibrantly sustainable when there is always something new to discover about your commonalities and differences.  In the end, it’s good to know you aren’t like everyone else out there, and that someone loves you because of your differences.  That’s a pretty powerful validation of who you are and who you will likely become, and good reason to celebrate the differences you and your soul mate have.

watermelon

S&B La-Yu chili oil - Momotaro Rahmen

Get Chili Oil in Asian Food Stores or at Whole Foods Store

So what does Watermelon and Chili Oil have to do with all this?  Well, let me ask this:  would you have ever guessed watermelon and chili oil could ever be companions in a salad?  No, me either.  But this Odd Combination is not only compatible, they do a fantastic dance together in a salad with Arugula, Pistachios and Goat Cheese!

A couple of weekends ago, we had this salad at a neighbor’s home.  We were shocked by how good it was.  We tasted the cool sweetness of the watermelon followed by the peppery arugula and then this slight spark of heat from the chili oil in the back of the mouth.  It was not spicy it was just an amazing experience.  While our neighbor didn’t have a recipe, per se, she told us the general ingredients.  I spent yesterday experimenting with the recipe, and last night we served it to 11 dinner guests in our home.  Virtually EVERYONE raved about Kathy’s meatloaf and the Watermelon, Arugula and Chili Oil Salad.  To a person, everyone asked if I would blog it so they could make it while watermelon was still in season.

Guys, this is one of those recipes that couldn’t be simpler.  I know you can cut up watermelon?  Can you pull Arugula out of the bag and put it in a bowl?  Can you buy some toasted pistachios or pine nuts and add them in?  Can you squeeze a lemon and add some chili oil?  I’m pretty sure you can find goat cheese at the store and crumble it on top.  Guys, that’s it.  Couldn’t be simpler.  I guarantee this salad will surprise and delight her.  She will have discovered something about your cooking skills that will make you an interesting person.  Serve it with a chilled New Zealand Marlborough County Sauvignon Blanc or a crisp Pinot Grigio and you have an incredible luncheon salad or a side salad for burgers or beef off the grill.  There’s major WOW! Points for this one too.

Make it a double play!  Buy her some unexpected flowers and make her this unexpected salad combination.  That’s serious WOW! Points in the bank!  Good luck.

 

Watermelon, Arugula, and Chili Oil Salad

 

Prep Time: 15 mins | Makes: 4 | Difficulty: Easy

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 4 cups watermelon, seeded and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes

    Looks Great! Tastes Fantastic!

  • 2 cups arugula or watercress
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tbsp chili oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or pistachios (toasted)
  • 1/3 cup ricotta salata, goat or feta cheese, crumbled
  • fleur de sel (optional)

 

Directions:

 

1. Whisk together lemon juice, chili oil and salt in a large bowl, whisking until well mixed.

 

2. Add watermelon to bowl and mix well.

 

3. Let watermelon marinate (macerate) in the dressing in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Taste the watermelon. The sweetness of the watermelon should be followed by the subtle heat from the chili oil at the back of the tongue. Add more chili oil if desired, to taste.

 

4. Just before serving, add the arugula or watercress and nuts and toss to coat well. Then sprinkle with cheese and fleur de sel (if using).

 

Source: Lou’s Hot! Guys Collection
Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager

 

Get Flirting with Mussels

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Mussels and barnacles in the intertidal near N...

I know, I know…not everyone loves mussels, but personally, I think they are one of the most romantic things to share with your main squeeze.  There is just something about these jewels of black shell filled with little morsels of tasty shellfish that makes flirting with you special lady so easy to accomplish.  Somehow, the act of using your hands to pick them out of a steaming bowl of the broth placed between you, plucking the meat out of the shell, and then dunking crusty bread or ‘frites’ when all the mussels are gone makes eating them an almost sensuous experience.  And of course the shared beer or wine makes it an even more romantic experience.

Almost every culture in the world has recognized mussels as an important part of their cuisine.

 

For example, in Belgium, the Netherlands and France, mussels are often served with french fries or bread.  In Belgium, mussels are sometimes served with fresh herbs and flavorful vegetables in a stock of butter and white wine.  Belgian beer is almost universally associated with them in most places around the world.  In the Netherlands, they are sometimes served fried in batter or breadcrumbs, particularly at take-out or at street vendor locations.  In France, you will find baked mussels along some of the beaches in the South of France.

In Italy, mussels are often mixed with other seafood, or eaten with pasta.  I have an awesome recipe for this in my collection.  I’ll share it sometime soon.

In Spain, they are consumed mostly steamed by boiling white wine, onions and herbs, and serving the broth with lemon. They can also be eaten as a sort of croquette using the mussel meat, shrimp and other fish in a béchamel sauce, then breaded and fried.

In Turkey, they are either covered with flour and fried or filled with rice and served cold,  usually with beer.

They are prepared in Ireland by boiling them in seasoned vinegar, serving the “bray” (broth) as an accompanying hot drink.

In Cantonese cuisine, mussels are cooked in a broth of garlic and fermented black beans.

In New Zealand, they are served in a chili or garlic-based vinaigrette, processed into fritters and fried, or used as the base for a chowder.

In India, mussels are popular in Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka-Bhatkal, and Goa. They are either prepared with drumsticks, breadfruit or other vegetables, or filled with rice and coconut paste with spices and served hot.

Mussels are just not that hard to prepare well.  Guys! You can do this!  If your lady likes them, and you serve them as an appetizer or as a main course with a fresh green salad, crusty bread, beer or wine or her favorite iced tea, you will have made her day, and I’m guessing yours too!

In Lou’s culture, we keep the recipe simple.  These little mollusks just don’t need a lot of help from heavy spicing or sauces.  And if this takes you more than 10 minutes to prepare and serve, you are over thinking the process or overcooking the mussels.  And if you’ve never had them before, try this recipe because I’m pretty certain they’ll become a mainstay of your eating-out or eating-home menus.

Mussels In White Wine

Prep Time: 15 min | Cook Time: 18 min | Makes: 2 servings | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup sweet onions, chopped

    Get Flirting With Mussels

  • 1 large stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1-1/2 cups white wine (prefer Pinot Grigio or Prosecco)
  • 4 tbsp butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 pounds live mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 5 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Crusty bread

Directions:

1. In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil.

2. When the oil is hot, saute the celery, onions and garlic until translucent and tender.

3. Add the wine and bay leaves and bring to a boil.

4. Add the mussels.

5. Sprinkle the thyme, parsley, butter and several grinds of fresh black pepper on top of the mussels.

6. Cover and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

7. Simmer the mussels for 5 to 8 minutes until the shells open and the mussels are done.

8. Discard any that do not open.

9. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

10. Divide the mussels and broth between two bowls (or share them right out of the pot) and serve with crusty bread and a spoon to enjoy the broth.

Notes:

A. Careful with the salt. It really doesn’t need a lot because the mussels tend to be salty.

B. If desired, add just a little cream at the end of cooking to offer another layer of taste.

C. I’ve also added a jigger of Anisette or Ouzo at the end.  Awesome!! For a change of pace.

Source: Lou’s Hot! Guys Collection

Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager

 

Cooked mussels DSC09244

Properly Cooked Mussels

 

 

Pizza Margherita–My Grandmothers Way

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Italian Cuisine

Italian Cuisine (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

In case you haven’t figured it out already, I’m Italian.  My paternal grandparents emigrated from Bologna and Naples, Italy and my maternal grandparents arrived from small villages in Sicily.  Depending on whose home in which we were eating, there would be styles of cooking ranging from the lighter and sophisticated cooking from Northern Italy to the North African influenced Sicilian styles, and just about anything Italian in between.We only ate italian food–I didn’t even know there were other food cultures until I was in high school.  My two grandfathers owned an Italian Restaurant in the Italian neighborhood called Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island.  When we ‘went out’ for dinner, we went to the family restaurant and ate italian food.  The only difference was my grandfathers prepared the food instead of my grandmothers.   My friends were italian, and I ate italian at their houses when I visited.  My Uncle Mario married Aunt Bobbi.  She was Irish, and the first non-italian in the family–a very difficult position to hold.  She suggested we try irish stews, corned beef and cabbage and other non-italian dishes, but my grandmothers were in charge of the food.  They ate Italian.  Therefore, there was very little chance of anything irish, french, mexican or any other culture ever making it to the Sunday Supper table.  Besides, my Uncle Mario didn’t like anything that wasn’t italian either.  That’s just the way it was.

Federal Hill neighborhood gateway arch with

Federal Hill Neighborhood Gateway Arch with “la pigna” (pine cone, sometimes mistakenly called “pineapple”) sculpture over Atwells Avenue, Providence, Rhode Island

Everything was homemade, including the linguine, paparradella, or macherroni for every Sunday Supper.  We ate at one of my grandparents home every Sunday, and attendance was mandatory.  If you missed one of the Sunday Suppers, you better be in the hospital, in jail or dead, because…well just because!My two sets of grandparents were great friends, creating a wonderfully fun and safe environment to grow and learn about the food culture of our extended italian family.   And I was also the first grandson, a very privileged place in the family, except at meal times.  That’s because my grandmother’s routinely competed for the ‘favorite meatball’, or the ‘best pizza’, the lightest homemade gnocchi or the best sour cream coffee cake, my favorite childhood sweet.  And I found out early on that if I told one grandmother her meatball was the best ever, it wouldn’t be long before my other grandmother was making her best meatball recipe.   As you can imagine, I wasn’t leaving the table until I said IT was the best meatball ever.  So at the ripe young age of about 10, I learned how to become a politician–mainly from my mother who had learned over many years how to keep peace among the grandmothers.

What my mother taught me was how to be more attuned to the ingredients in the food my grandmothers prepared.  That would give me an edge on staying out of the ‘favorite’ battlefield.  I’d say, “Grandma, I love the lemon rind you put in your meatballs–makes them special and just great”.  To my other grandmother, I’d say, “Wow Grandma, those pine nuts in the meatballs are just a great idea–I love them!!  I told one grandmother her Neapolitan thin, crusty and simply dressed pizza margherita was “like nothing I had ever eaten before”.  I told the other grandmother that her Sicilian-style pizza, thick and covered with tomato sauce, anchovies, black olives and garlic was ‘like nothing I had ever eaten before”.  Clever huh?  I became quite adept at the politics of staying Number One Grandson for both grandmothers, and at the same time learned how to pick out every ingredient in their recipes.  A skill I still use today to duplicate dishes I’ve liked at restaurants or other people’s homes. 

Now that my grandmothers have passed into the Big Italian Kitchen in Sky–I am absolutely certain every street corner in Heaven has an Italian Restaurant run by all our italian grandmothers–I can admit that my one and only favorite pizza is my paternal grandmothers Pizza Margherita.  It is one of those simple pleasures in life that can and should appropriately be different every time it’s made, even though it only requires four ingredients:  extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil on a thin crust.  Somehow, with just these four ingredients, the taste is interestingly and subtly different each time I make it.  Sometimes the fresh tomatoes are slightly sweeter than the last time, or I use San Marzano tomatoes out of the can.  When I can get it, I use Buffalo mozzarella instead of the ‘regular’ mozzarella.  During the winter, the basil comes from the grocery store rather than from my garden.  But the beauty of this pizza is it’s sophisticated and simultaneously simple; it has many layers of taste from the nicely browned crust, the aromatics emanating from the baked olive oil and tomatoes, the cheese and the basil, all melted together, but individually tastable. 

My grandmother always made her own dough, and it was the best.  I’ve made my own in the past, but to tell the truth, it’s not something I like to do, and my shortcut works great every time!  I buy it from the local pizza shop that makes the best thin crust pizza in town.  Most of them will sell it to you for a reasonable price.  Try Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s fresh pizza dough–it is also very good.

Hot! Guys, I know this recipe looks daunting.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I’ve just put the steps in detailed explanations so you cannot screw it up–even if you try!!  Guys, pull out this recipe for your lovely lady some Friday night after work, have a glass of wine or a beer with some cheese and crackers while the dough is getting ready, throw together the Simple Salad (See Blog Recipe Index), and then throw a romantic chick-flick into the Blu-Ray while sharing your homemade at home Pizza Margherita and Salad.  I guarantee it–you have just earned some very serious WOW! Points.  And I’m betting she is going to ask for a repeat performance the next weekend.  Try it–you gonna like it!

Pizza Margherita–My Grandmother’s Way

Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 15 min | Servings: About 6 nice slices per pizza | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 2 large fresh tomatoes or 1 cup San Marzano (canned) whole tomatoes, lightly crushed with your hands
  • 1 – 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped or chiffonade
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese (optional)
  • 1/2 pound buffalo or other fresh-style mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • About 2 pounds pizza shop dough, or store-bought frozen pizza dough (thawed), or Basic Pizza Dough (below), rolled out for 2 (12-inch) pizzas (See Notes)

Basic Pizza Dough:

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 2-1/2 to 3 cups flour, plus more if necessary

    Traditional Neapolitan pizza.

    Traditional Neapolitan Pizza Margherita with Buffalo Mozzarella

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

For the Pizza:

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F and, if you have one, place a pizza stone (a good investment if you make this often enough) on the bottom rack of the oven. I’ve even used thin bricks I bought from the hardware store, washed them and placed them in an old cookie sheet to heat up in the oven. It works really well. Otherwise, you can bake the pizza in a dark cookie sheet.

2. If using shop bought or fresh store-bought dough, follow Steps 7, 8 and 9 in the below Basic Pizza Dough Recipe. If using frozen dough, follow the packaging directions.

3. Cut the dough in half, and use your fingers and the palm of your hand to gently stretch the dough on a floured surface. Don’t use a rolling-pin– it compacts the dough and squeezes all the valuable air bubbles out.

4. When the dough is about 12 inches round, its thin enough.  Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly round–rustic is preferred.

5. Carefully transfer the dough to the thoroughly cleaned BOTTOM of a cookie sheet or to a pizza paddle (peel).

6. Scatter the sliced tomatoes or place a light coating of the San Marzano tomatoes over the top. If using can tomatoes, be careful not to use too much of the juice on the pizza–it makes the dough mushy when cooking.

7. Drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over the tomatoes.

8. Sprinkle sea or kosher salt and several grinds of fresh ground pepper over all.

9. Spread the basil over all.

10. If using, sprinkle the Parmesan-Reggiano cheese over the top.

11. Carefully place the mozzarella cheese over the top. Do not cover the whole pizza with cheese. The mozzarella is intended to be ‘islands’ of white in a sea of red tomatoes.

12. Transfer the pizza on the cookie sheet to the oven, or slide the pizza onto the hot stones in the oven.

13. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling, the edges are golden brown, and when you lift the bottom edge, there’s a slightly burnt appearance.

14. Remove pizza from oven by sliding it onto the pizza paddle or using tongs to ‘pull’ it back onto the back of the cookie sheet.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes while ou get a nice cold Peroni Beer, Coca-Cola or Italian red wine.

15. Slice and think about your grandmothers cooking when you were a kid– it was just like this pizza, but just a little different.

For the Dough:

1. In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, stir together the water, yeast and sugar; let sit until the mixture is foamy, which takes about 5 minutes.

2. Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the oil and salt into the yeast mixture and, using the paddle attachment, combine until mixture is smooth.

3. Switch to the dough hook.

4. With the machine running at low, add remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time; make sure each addition of flour is incorporated before adding the next.

5. Once all the flour has been added, turn up the speed and let the machine knead the dough for about 3 minutes; it should be very smooth and perhaps a bit tacky.

6. Don’t be afraid to knead the dough an extra minute or two by hand if you wish; it won’t hurt the dough at all.

7. Rub the insides of a large mixing bowl with a little olive oil; remove dough from machine, form into a ball, and place into oiled bowl, turning dough over to make sure all sides are oiled.

8. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free area to rise; the dough should nearly double in size, which will take about 60 to 90 minutes.

9. I place a towel around the bowl, just to make sure no drafts get to the dough.

Notes:

A. Go to the local pizza shops and find one that’ll sell you their pizza dough. You’ll find one or two. It’ll coast about $2 or $3 a pound, but it’s worth the money and little effort.

B. Some of the fresh store-bought pizza dough is really good–try Whole Foods or Trader Joes–you’ll not do better making it yourself.

C.  Of course, this is a basic pizza recipe as well.  Add some italian sausage or a few pieces of peperoni for a change of pace.  Try mushrooms or spinach with ricotta cheese instead of mozzarella.  Guys–this is all about what you and your special lady like.  Don’t be afraid, just try it!!

Source: Lou’s Hot! Guys Collection
Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager

English: Picture of an authentic Neapolitan Pi...

Another Nights Pizza Margherita with the same four ingredients, a different presentation, but the same great tastes.

Tomatoes, Peaches, Lemons and Heaven

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Peaches (The Presidents of the United States o...

Peaches…one of the goodies in Tuesdays Surprise Fresh Box!

A couple we had dinner with last week informed us they would be out-of-town this week, and unable to pick up and use their weekly fresh food basket from one of the local fresh vegetable cooperatives.  They had told us in the past they had a subscription membership to this cooperative, and we had always wanted to try it out.  So, they invited us to pick it up and use the goodies, and of course we jumped at it!  We had heard our friends talk about the adventure of receiving this weekly surprise basket (it’s actually a box) of goodies every week, because they sometimes got items they hadn’t tried before.  It forced them to figure out what they had and then how to cook it.  Interesting concept.

On Tuesday, I picked up the box and in it was a couple of cucumbers, some mixed butter lettuce varieties in a plastic bag, fresh basil, a small bag of sugar snap peas, two fresh sweet onions with the green tops attached,  a dozen fresh eggs, beet greens (we think), swiss chard (we pretty sure) and 8 small fresh ripe local peaches!  What fun!

We are still making our way through the ingredients, but I immediately latched onto the peaches.  We were heading to the mountains for the July 4th weekend, and I knew there would be farmer roadside vegetable stands full of the early ripening tomatoes.   And I have this very simple salad that is just right for this time of year.  Sure enough, there were plenty of great tomatoes to buy as we made our way to the mountains.

When got to the mountains, we were hungry.  In 15 minutes flat I had this great little salad sitting atop the outside deck table along with some crusty bread, a couple of glasses of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and I ordered up a sunny, beautiful view of the mountains.  Hot! Guys, this is a double doze of Heaven–a great simple salad of two sweet summer treats, ripe and full of taste and I ordered up an absolutely gorgeous view of the mountains.  It just ain’t getting much better than this.  Give this one a shot Guys.  You’ll like it–she’ll love it. 

Fresh Tomatoes and Peaches Simple Salad

 Prep Time: 15 mins | Cook Time: 0 hr 0 min | Servings: 4 servings | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 3 – 4 medium homegrown or local vine-ripened tomatoes, thick sliced into rounds

    Tomatoes, Peaches Lemon and Heaven–Oh Yeah!!

  • 3 – 4 medium fresh ripe peaches, stone removed, thick sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 sweet (Vidalia) onion, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips (optional)
  • 4 fresh lemons, halved and juice extracted
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • Really good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 6 – 8 large fresh basil leaves, rolled together and sliced (chiffonade).
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 ounces fresh soft cheese (buffalo mozzarella, Brie, Danish Blue, goat cheese)’ cut into 1 ounce portions
  • French banquette, sliced

Directions:

1. On individual serving plates, arrange tomatoes and peaches in alternating, overlapping layers.

2. Top with a few sweet onion strips, if using.

3. In small bowl combine the lemon juice and sugar to mix well. Spoon 1/4 of the mixture over each portion.

4. Drizzle olive oil over each portion.

5. Sprinkle with sea salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.

6. Distribute basil strips among each plate.

7. Place 1 ounce of cheese on each plate.

8. Serve with French banquette slices.

Notes:

A. Guys, this is one of those recipes where ‘less is more’. Don’t try to do too much. Keep it simple. I’ve served this with just the tomatoes and the peaches, lemon and EVOO and it’s Fantastic! If the tomatoes and peaches are sweet and ripe. B. Don’t try this if the peaches are not ripe, sweet and fresh because it becomes a tasteless grainy mish mash. C. Serve this with any main course or as a nice luncheon salad with some crusty French or Italian bread and a glass of Sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. Amazing!

Source:Lou’s Hot! Guys Collection

Another Presentation…Don’t You Love the Plates?

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‘Dressing Up’ the Garden Salad

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Kathy’s Garden

This is my Kathy’s (wife of nearly 40 years) garden.  It’s one of those earthly places where heavenly angels hang out after a hard day in the office.  Really, I’m not kidding.  I’ve seen them.  At this time of year, my Kathy is busy planting all of her summer friends, checking in on her permanent residents and making sure the spring, summer and fall around here are full of blooming happiness and green goddesses.

Lou’s Garden

This is my garden.  You’ll notice my garden is not located on the main plantation.  In the past, I have tried and failed to negotiate terms to rent or own space on the main plantation. But Kathy the Landowner (she wears many hats in our lives together–I, on the otherhand, wear very few hats)  has been unable to find sufficient vacant space for my paltry 3 foot by 3 foot garden anywhere on the one full acre of grounds ‘she’ owns.  Thus, my garden is located behind the car, in the driveway, perched on a precipitous wall, in darkeness other than 3 hours a day, at best!

If you pay careful attention, you’ll notice that while my garden is small, all of ‘my friends’ are edible.  I feed them, water them and mostly neglect them, but they never-the-less grow and grow and grow, and proudly produce beautiful tomatoes, basil, parsley, oregano, thyme and mint.  Kathy’s friends located on a full acre of land produce absolutely nothing edible.  But I need to admit they produce a special kind of beauty almost equal to that of Kathy the Gardener.  (Hot! Guy Rule #1–if you think your lady is going to read your sarcasm and deduct WOW! Points, make sure you plant offsetting WOW! Point Comments for her to read!  It doesn’t always work, but it’s better than leaving the deductions without some chance for recovery.)

This is also my Kathy’s garden, and my dog Skye is helping me wander around the gardens looking for Kathy the Gardener.  We think it’s dinner time for the humans and dogs in the family.  Dinner is a problem around this time of year.  Kathy is very busy planting, feeding, watering and pruning her garden family.  Each April the humans and dogs of the family  (I’m not sure which category I fall into, and I’m pretty sure it changes from day-to-day) are informed that our daily nutritional and watering needs will be secondary to those of the outdoor family.  When we finally find Kathy in the front garden, the ‘fend for yourself’ phrase is unspoken, but nevertheless clearly visible in her expression.

Skye and Me Looking for Kathy

Accordingly, Skye and I desperately find our way to the refridgerator to see what is available for ‘fending’.  We discover that the fullness of the outdoor gardens is offset by the emptiness of the refridgerator.  Yeah, shopping is an issue too.  When I inquire about that, I’m frequently asked, “do you have a broken leg?”  That’s Kathy’s version of sarcasm.  Nevertheless, Skye and I discover the vegetable bin has some fresh spring lettuces already washed and bagged, a few cherry tomatoes and some left over sliced peppers from dinner the other night.  I look over the counter and see some Rustic Italian Bread from the other night too, a lttle stale, but that’s OK.  I’m going to make one of my favorite salads, with a side of toasted italian garlic crostini,  and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough County, New Zealand.  I’ll make enough for Kathy, and invite her to join me for so I can gather a few WOW! Points as well.  I offer Skye the salad option, but he decides he’d rather have his McDonalds style dinner–chicken nuggets and potatoes right out of the can.

Hot! Guys, this is an amazingly easy salad recipe, and I’m pretty darn sure there isn’t a lady out there that will turn away a cool, fresh-made salad this time of year.  AND, if you make a homemade salad dressing, for some reason I haven’t been able to figure out, the ladies think you deserve WOW! Points.  I think it has to do with you actually having a recipe, and then taking the time to make it (albeit very little time), and then gently coating the greens with it.  It’s complicated, but it does sound sensuous, doesn’t it? Well, I just take the points and go with it.

Here’s the recipe.  It’s a snap, and the picture is one I made just recently for a larger group.  I added some blueberries and toasted pecans for color and texture, but you can do whatever you want.  Make it yours.   You can easily scale this recipe down or up to accomodate as many or as few people as needed.  Impress your main lady by making one of these for an afternoon lunch on the patio.  This is a sure bet WOW! Point or two.  Impress your friends when they invite you to dinner by bringing the salad.  No one ever asks ‘the guy’ to bring the salad, because most people think guys are incompetent in the salad department.  We typically get to bring the beer and chips.  How boring is that?  I guarantee that if you prepare this salad just like in this picture, putting it in a pretty bowl, and ‘Dressing it Up’ with your homemade viniagrette just before serving, you will be the Hot! Guy of the party.  Be careful now–ladies with other guys are going to think you are a Hot! Guy too!  Enjoy basking in the Hot! Sun, but don’t go picking flowers from other guys gardens!

Simple Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Prep Time: 15 min | Cook Time: 15 min | Servings: 6 to 8 servings | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

Simple but Hot! Salad

  • 2 Bags Pre-Washed Spring Greens, Mesclun or other Greens
  • Pinch salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette, recipe follows
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, halved and thinly sliced

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 1 shallot or small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, chives, or thyme      (optional)
  • 1 heaping tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions:

1.  Make the viniagrette by adding all of the ingredients into a medium size bowl and vigorously whisking them unti the oil has emulsified (mixed) with the vinegar.  Taste it.  If it needs more salt-do it.  Like it with a bit more of kick?  Add a bit more fresh ground pepper.   Put aside until ready to dress the salad.

2. Assemble the greens, tomatoes, peppers and any other additions you choose into a nice bowl.  Make it pretty but not fussy.

3.  When ready to serve, toss the greens mixture together with just enough vinaigrette to coat tem, about 1/2 cup. IThe salad should not be drenched in the dressing.  Put the excess dressing in a nice bowl and pass it around the table for thos that might want a bit more.  Serve the remaining vinaigrette on the side.

4.  Serve the salad with a nice crusty French Baguette or Rustic Italian Bread.

Notes:

This is a basic viniagrette that can be altered in so many ways.  You want a Raspberry Viniagrette?  Replace the Balsamic with red wine vinegar and add a nice heaping tablespoon of raspberry preserves out of a jar, and you got it!  You want a champagne viniagrette (Whoa!  Hot! Guy is feeling cocky today)?   Just replace the vinegar with last nights left over champagne and a little fresh squeezed lemon, and you got it.  Just remember to keep the ratio of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to vinegar or citrus the same–4 to 1.

Add: Orange or Grapefruit Sections, Blueberries, Raspberries, Fresh figs or anything you like.  But keep it simple.  Excellent with some crumbled blue cheese!

Source: Lou’s Hot! Collection
Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager