Sort of Farinata/Faina and Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad

Our new au pair (“S”) is from Argentina. Prior to living with us, she lived in Minnesota for a year (brrrr!). I think she is loving California’s weather after this brutal winter. That means she has been far from home for over a year and hasn’t eaten anything from her home country in that long. So I started doing research on typical Argentinian food. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it here, but I am an awful preparer of meats. For some reason they baffle me. I can never get the crust right, the inside the right temperature. Thus, I forego, and leave it to the experts. Steak was out. What else? Empanadas? Not really in our food parameters (being encased in a flour dough, and all). And then I learned about faina. VERY similar to the Italian farinata/ceccina that we prepared when our Italian au pair was with us. I decided this was the way to go. Except, of course and as is typical of me, I changed it practically completely. Ended up being more like a nod to Argentina than an actual tribute or “taste of home”. Don’t get me wrong. It was awesomely flavorful. It just wasn’t “faina.”

Faina is traditionally make with chickpea flour, eggs (or “flax eggs”), salt, pepper and olive oil. Sometimes rosemary. Sometimes cheese. When we cooked the ceccina for E, it was blaaaaaaaand. I didn’t want that to happen again! I oomphed it up with pancetta, tomatoes, red onion, basil, oregano, kale and spinach. Mushrooms would have been EXCELLENT in this. Alas, none in the house. 

But one can’t eat farinata alone! So I picked mint, cut up a watermelon and added some feta for a fantastic spring-y salad. And, as a side, added some of the pulled rotisserie chicken that costco now sells by the bag. Have you have this?! It is the best. All of the benefits of rotisserie chicken without having the pull if off the bone. Very flavorful. 

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Ingredients (serves four)

Farinata

  • Cup and a half of chickpea flour
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax
  • Water as needed
  • Cup of chopped pancetta
  • One whole red onion thinly sliced
  • Handful of spinach, chopped
  • Two fronds of kale, stripped and chopped
  • Cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Total of one cup of finely chopped rosemary, chopped oregano, chopped basil
  • Half a cup of crumbled feta

Salad

  • Watermelon
  • Mint
  • Feta
  • Balsamic glaze

Chicken

  • pulled rotisserie chicken 🙂

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. You are going to need a cast iron or oven safe pan for this. Set you chickpea flour base by putting the flour into a large bowl and adding water until it is the consistency of pancake batter (I suggest if you have time doing this a few hours ahead of time as I’ve heard that it makes the batter “stronger”). In a separate bowl, make your flax egg by adding water to the flax until it is moistened. Let that sit until your batter is ready.


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Chop the herbs, chop the spinach/kale, chop the tomato, chop the onion.

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Add salt and a good dose of pepper to the batter. Mix in the flax egg with a whisk. While that pulls together, saute the pancetta and onion in your cast iron pan on the stove top.

Add the kale and spinach to the pan, cooking through. Add the herbs and remaining ingredients to the batter and then the contents of the pan. Mix gently but thoroughly. Add a bit of oil to coat the bottom of the hot pan. Pour the mixture into the hot pan and put into the oven for 25-30 minutes. All ovens are different (sadly). It is finished when it is pulling away from the sides of the pan and browned on top. The interior will be soft and chewy. The exterior crispy. Let the farinata cool in the pan while you prepare the sides. Flip onto a plate once cooled. Serve as slices.

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The salad is easy. Chop the watermelon into bit size pieces, chop fresh mint, pour in some crumbled feta cheese and a bit of balsamic. Mix. Ta da!

I just threw a bit of the chicken into a saute pan to warm quickly. It is already cooked through so doesn’t need much.

Juiciest turkey burgers with white sauce and pureed cauliflower “buns”

I got a bee in my bonnet to cook up some of my, IMHO, delicious turkey burgers. This would have been the first time I would do it without starch so it was going to take some modification. First off, I needed a “bun”. Of course one could eat a turkey burger with a knife and a fork…but really? Isn’t that just a big, flattened meatball?

So the bun. I’ve made “bread” from left-over “pizza dough” before so I thought I would go with a variation of that. Because I wasn’t using any panko in the burgers (which usually is how I keep them moist), I decided to try something new. Mushrooms. MUSHROOMS! It was a genius idea, I must say. These were fantastic. As I was cooking up the burgers, I had a strong urge to make tzatziki. Alas, when I pulled out the big ol’ tub of yogurt, moldy and almost empty. YUCK! So when I dug into the fridge I came up with a winning combo of flavors for a tasty white sauce (I’m not sure how else to term it) that took only 2 minutes to make.

Ingredients:

The turkey

  • Package of ground turkey thigh meat
  • Half large red shallot
  • One cup of dry porcini mushrooms
  • Fresh oregano
  • Fresh parsley
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground flax seed
  • Two tablespoons of sumac, separated
  • Salt and pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • One pat of butter, chopped

The bun

  • One head of cauliflower
  • Two large eggs
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground flax
  • One cup of feta cheese

The white sauce

  • Two heaping tablespoons of cream cheese
  • Two heaping tablespoons of feta cheese
  • A few sprigs of parsley
  • One teaspoon of sumac
  • 1/4 cup of white or rosé wine
  • Five cherry tomatoes chopped

 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and put a silpat on a large cookie sheet. Cut the florets off of the cauliflower and puree in a cuisinart. Move the cauliflower to a mixing bowl. Add a sprinkle of chia seeds and about two tablespoons of ground flax. Mix in the feta and the eggs and mix until evenly coated. Spread the cauliflower mixture onto the silpat and make sure all points are of even thickness…about 1/2″ thick. If it isn’t even, the thinner parts will burn.  Put it in the oven for about 30 minutes. (Note: I had made demarcations similar to bread for sandwiches to make it easier to cut later…this was not smart. I should have let it cook as a whole and then used a circular cookie cutter to make round, bun like shapes…they didn’t “fit” the burgers very well.)

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Put the dry mushrooms into the cuisinart and pulse until they are finely chopped (think 1/4″ pieces). Add enough hot water to cover the mushrooms and let them sit in that water until everything else for the turkey burgers is completed. In a mixing bowl (I used the same bowl as the cauliflower mix, just quickly rinsed) put the ground turkey, salt and pepper, a sprinkling of chia seeds (about a teaspoon), two tablespoons of flax seed, the chopped oregano and parsley, two tablespoons of sumac, a few healthy shakes of Worcestershire sauce, the finely chopped shallot and the pat of butter (chopped).

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When the mushrooms seem saturated, put then in a strainer over the sink and push them until the extra water is pushed out.

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When drained, add to meat and mix gently by hand.

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Form into patties and set aside until you are ready to cook them.

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(I made an itty bitty one for my daughter to try. Next time I would do a bunch of these and throw them in the freezer for an easy dinner for the kids)

Make sure you are checking on the “buns”. When the top is browning (like below), take them out. They get “harder” when they cool. Don’t forget to turn them a few times if you have a fickle oven like myself. 

Image(This would be a good time to cut them into the circular shapes…which is what I would have done, had I been smarter)

Either while the turkey burgers are cooking or now, you can make the sauce. Couldn’t be easier. Grab a fork and a microwavable cereal bowl. Fork in a few dollops of cream cheese, a healthy shake of feta, a teaspoon of sumac and a few sprigs of chopped parsley and mix them with a fork. Pop them into the microwave for 15 seconds. Add a splash of wine (more if you like it thinner, less if you want to keep it thick) and the chopped cherry tomatoes (and their juices), mash with the fork and then pop back in the microwave for another 15 seconds. Stir it up and a bit, et voila! 

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Cook the burger either on the grill or in a saute pan as you would any burger. I cook these on a bit lower heat (low-medium) turning when the first side is browned and then, when the second side is browning, I test the temp with an instaread thermometer, taking them off the heat when they hit 160.

For my veg last night I simply steamed a large batch of broccolini . The picture below doesn’t do justice to the how absolutely DELICIOUS this was. I think this would have been better with a round “bun”…or with some fresh spinach with the burger. But really flavorful and juicy.

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Bad ass kale and mushroom quiche

The next few recipes are going to be a bit out of order as I promised that I would get this recipe up today, even though it was queued for later this week.

Recently I’ve found that I have been searching for the veg portion of the meal before figuring out what the “rest of it” will look like. I pick the green veg and then the meat/base/accompanying vegetables. In this morning’s Goop (Yes, I read it. Shush, you!), she interviews an owner of a vegan restaurant in Philly and this quote really spoke to me:

Don’t think of veggies as afterthoughts and side dishes. Put extra effort into them and let them shine!

^^^ This. This is where my brain is these days. Focus on the veg, make them delicious and then add in some other awesomeness to help make it whole.

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When at the grocers yesterday (still filling the fridge up after a week away) I saw some gorgeous kale. I knew we needed to use up some of the eggs and feta in the fridge so a quiche was devised. I never really follow the proportions they insist upon in quiche recipes…so again I foraged off on my own. I also picked up some sliced, fresh mushrooms to lose a step. And as this was mostly a meal for our au pair and myself, I allowed it to be extra cheesy as hubs doesn’t do “cheesy” (his loss. right?!).

Ingredients:

  • Dinosaur kale (I used one and a half handfuls)
  • Two cups of sliced porcini mushrooms
  • Eight medium eggs
  • One vidalia onion
  • One medium shallot
  • One cup of feta
  • Half cup of cheddar
  • Half stick of butter, separated
  • Olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • Two roma tomatoes
  • Flax seed
  • Cooking spray
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Handful of basil
  • Parm, to finish

This comes together pretty quickly for as many ingredients as there are. And the above feeds three. This would be an excellent “side dish” if paired with something meaty. Or it could also take on epic status with the inclusion of some sun dried tomato chicken sausage.

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Preheat the oven to 375. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of butter chopped into fourths over medium heat in a sauté pan. I actually like a bit of a thinner pan for this type of cooking. My favorite sauté pan is also my cheapest. It browns the butter super quickly and heats the oil fast, as well.

Chop the vidalia into a medium small chop. A chunkier chop would work well here, too, if you want a bit more tooth in your onion. When the butter is starting to brown, add in the vidalia and have it sop up all of that buttery, browned deliciousness.

While that softens, start on the kale. I like dinosaur kale because it is so easy to remove the stalk by pulling on the greens in the opposite direction from the bottom of the stalk (obviously, rinse and pat dry the kale before you do this). When you have stripped all of your kale, roll it up like a chiffonade and cut it across the grain so that it is in thin strips.

ImageAs soon as the vidalia is getting a bit more translucent, add in the mushrooms, one more tablespoon of butter (quartered) and cook until all are tender and slightly browned. I also salt and pepper my mushrooms at this point. A splash of wine (any wine, really…last night we were drinking rosé) right about now does WONDERS to the complexity of the flavor, too.  Next time I make this, I am going to use a bit more wine than I did last night. 

I used the time the mushrooms were cooking to crack and beat my eggs. Most recipes would call for about four eggs in this. I used eight or nine (I lost track) medium sized eggs. As I wasn’t using any milk to “lift” the eggs, and it was going to be main and only dinner, I wanted to add a bit of heft. I whisked them until incorporated then beat in a bit more salt and pepper and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes and dumped in the two cheeses. 

ImageNow that the mushrooms were soft, I piled the kale on top of the mushrooms. I grabbed my madonlin and sliced thinly the shallot, sprinkling it on the kale. The kale will cook down now…but it will cook down a bit more quickly with another splash of wine. Incorporate the mushrooms, kale and onions once the kale’s green is brightening. Let that cook over low to medium heat until the kale is soft. 

Meanwhile, make the space on your mandolin a bit wider and slice your tomatoes into 1/6″ slices. Spray some cooking spray on the inside of your glass pan (I used a Pyrex casserole dish as I needed more than just a slice).  Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with ground flax seed and parmesan (to make a bit of a strach-less, healthy crust).

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Once the kale/mushroom combo seems well cooked, stir it again so that it is well mixed and then pour it into the pyrex dish. I had to move things around a bit because the mushrooms were heavy on one side and the kale on the other.

Pour the egg and cheese mixture on so that it evenly coats the veggies. And then layer the tomatoes across the top. Put it in the oven, uncovered for 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through.

The tomatoes on top give it some needed sweetness, the cheddar the bite, the pepper the heat and the feta some added salt…and they all work well with the savory-ness of the dish. If I did it again, I would then put some chopped parsley/ground flax and parm on the top to add a little crunch to the top and broil it for a few seconds at the end.

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Quick and Easy Broccoli Soup

I’m not feeling so hot today and, despite the heat, I really wanted something warm and packed with good stuff for lunch. The soups I had on hand were just not doing it for me…and all I could think about was broccoli soup. Considering I wasn’t going out and was hungry NOW, I decided to make up a quick and easy broccoli soup recipe.

  • 1 12 oz. bag of frozen, steam in the bag broccoli florets (I like Birds Eye)
  • half of a yellow onion loosely chopped
  • 1 cup of chicken stock (I used one Pacific Natural Foods 8 oz carton)
  • Salt/pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax
  • shredded mozzarella cheese to taste
  • dash of paprika to finish

This takes about 10 minutes total, maybe less. This recipe serves two.

Put broccoli in microwave for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop onion and add to a teaspoon of hot olive oil in heavy bottomed pot. Salt and pepper the onion while it cooks until soft. Once soft, add the stock, yogurt, chia seeds, flax and stir. The broccoli will finish right about then. Tear open the bag and add it to the pot, liquids and all. Turn off the heat. With a hand blender, turning the pot at an angle, puree the mixture until blended to your desired consistency. I don’t mind a little bit of chunk so this went very quickly for me. Dish it into bowls and then top with the mozzarella and paprika. Very satisfying, healthy and it took about as much time as it would take to make a sandwich.

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Variations on the Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Last night I made the cauliflower crust pizza. I changed it up a little bit by upping the amount of ground flax seed to about 1/3 of a cup, using fresh oregano AND dried oregano, using 1 1/2 heads of cauliflower and 4 eggs (they were small). I also used the Martha Stewart Foil and Parchment in One paper. Don’t take my lead on this last one. It does NOT work as well for this purpose. The bottom of the crust was not as crispy as it usually it while the top browned perfectly. I also felt that the crust needed a little more salt/pepper/flavor. I’m thinking I may add in some ground red pepper flakes next time. Give it some more zing.

P helped me this time, too. He beat the eggs with a whisk after I had broken them into a bowl, he added the cheese, poured in the eggs, poured in the pre-measured ground flax and helped me mix the crust mixture. He was NOT good at pressing the mixture into the pan. At that point I let him transfer the leftover mixture back and forth between two bowls. Image

The toppings this go around were Trader Joe’s Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage, chopped spinach, Newman’s Own Basil Tomato Sauce, mozzarella, feta, fresh basil from the garden.

It was good…but the crust left something to be desired: more crispy, more spice.

Mom’s Salmon

On Tuesday I made my “mom’s” salmon (she surely got it someplace fabulous but I don’t know the source) and it was easy and delish (and pleased my very picky with fish hubs):

  • skin on salmon filets (I cooked for 4 adults with some leftovers…so almost 3 lbs)
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley
  • zest of 3 lemons
  • 1/2 cup panko/breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoon ground flaxseed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons whole grain dijon
  • vegetable oil

First, preheat oven to 425. In a bowl mix panko, parsley, zest, salt/pepper. Drizzle mixture with oil until it is soft and combining. Heat vegetable oil in ovenproof pan (I had enough salmon that I had to use two pans — my cast iron and my stainless steel frying pan). With skin side down on a plate or cutting board, brush the salmon flesh thickly with mustard and then pat mixture on top (mine ended up about 1/2″ thick). Sear skin on the stovetop for about 3 minutes on med/high heat. Then put the pan in oven (being careful not the spill the oil) on a higher rack for 5-7 minutes (my salmon took a bit longer to cook but my oven SUCKS).

I sided it with sauteed brussels (with balsamic and white onion) and broccoli with parm, and all of the above covered with some toasted pine nuts.

No picture on this one (I stupidly deleted it) but let me tell you….it was GORGEOUS!

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

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This was up there as one of the best things I have ever cooked. M and I had been seriously missing Sunday Night Pizza and were about to cheat and order some in. And then I remembered cauliflower crust. Add our favorite toppings and…VOILA!

The crust:

  • One head of cauliflower
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Handful of shredded mozzarella
  • Tspn of oregano
  • 3 tablespoons of ground flax seed

Preheat oven to 450. Cut florets off of the cauliflower and run through cuisinart until riced. Move to bowl. Add flax, oregano and cheese. Add two beaten eggs and mix well.

Put parchment paper in cookie sheet and fold over edges (make sure there is enough hanging over the edge to lift it later). Spray with cookie spray. Pour mixture onto sheet and distribute evenly. Press down all over. Put into oven and cook for 20 minutes or until browned all over and pulling away from edge. Remove and set aside (still in pan). Keep oven on.

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Topping:

  • Chopped rotisserie chicken
  • Frozen spinach
  • Marinara sauce
  • Rest of mozzarella

While crust is cooking, chop rotisserie chicken into 1x2cm pieces. prepare chopped spinach by adding 1/4 cup water in pot, letting it boil, warming spinach, and drain by squeezing spinach thoroughly.

When crust comes out, spoon some warm marinara sauce onto the crust (I kept my sauce thin but up to you). Add chopped chicken throughout. Then spinach. Then mozz. Put it back in the oven, turn on the oven light and keep an eye on it and cook until mozzarella is golden and bubbly.

Remove from oven and transfer entire pizza using parchment paper. Cut and serve. The crust held up well enough to be held to eat.