Simple Super: White Bean-Spinach-Quinoa-Bacon Salad

The other evening suppertime approached and the only ideas I had involved ingredients in my refrigerator. I took those ingredients–bacon, spinach, quinoa, cannelini beans–and went to find a recipe. The result was this delicious hot salad! I used leftover cooked quinoa (cajun spiced!) and the meal came together in a snap. The red wine vinegar added a tasty, unexpected zing. And come on, anything with bacon and asparagus is pretty darn tasty.

WHITE BEAN-SPINACH-QUINOA-BACON SALAD
(slightly adapted from Closet Cooking)
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1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 sweet onion, sliced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pound of asparagus, woody stems broken off, and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, grated
salt and pepper to taste
1 (6 ounce) package baby spinach
1 (19 ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed

Cook the quinoa as directed on the package.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a pan, about 4-6 minutes, and set aside, reserving 1-2 Tablespoons of bacon grease. Caramelize the onions, mushrooms, and asparagus in the remaining bacon grease, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
Add the vinegar to the pan and deglaze it. Mix in the reserved bacon grease, sugar, mustard, garlic, and season with salt and pepper.
Add the spinach and the beans and cook until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in the bacon and veggies. Spoon over the quinoa, or mix it all together in the pan before serving.

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Simple Supper: Bacon-Wrapped Salmon

Salmon is a staple simple supper in our house. (If you have an Aldi close by, that’s the perfect place to buy salmon at $4 a pound in their frozen food section!) I usually just wing the seasoning, but occasionally I like to try out a “real” recipe. ūüôā

This recipe is delicious and so simple. In just 20 minutes supper was on the table. The bacon keeps the salmon super moist. And seriously, who doesn’t love bacon-wrapped food?!

BACON-WRAPPED SALMON
(adapted from Epicurious.com)
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4 center-cut pieces skinless salmon fillet (about 1 1/2 inches thick)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
4 bacon slices
Special equipment: 4¬† metal skewers (which I didn’t have, but would have made it all easier!)

Preheat broiler and place broiler pan about 4-6 inches from heat.

Pat fish dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then spread curved sides with mustard. Lay 1 bacon slice lengthwise along top of each fillet, tucking ends of bacon under fillet (ends will not meet). Thread 1 skewer through length of each fillet, entering and exiting through bacon to secure it.

Arrange fish, bacon sides down, on preheated rack of broiler pan and broil 3 minutes, then turn over and broil until fish is just cooked through and bacon is crisp, 3 to 4 minutes more.

(Cooks Note: If you are using frozen fillets, let them thaw slightly first so they cook evenly.)

As a bonus, I’m going to share a roasted asparagus “recipe” to cook and serve alongside the salmon.

LEMON PARMESAN ROASTED ASPARAGUS
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asparagus, woody ends removed
olive oil
salt
lemon-pepper
Parmesan cheese
fresh lemon juice

Break off woody ends from asparagus. Wash and pat dry. Lay asparagus in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and lemon pepper. (Use your discretion with quantities.)

While salmon is broiling, slide asparagus into oven. When you take out the salmon to flip it over, remove asparagus and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, continue to broil until salmon is cooked through. Just before serving, sprinkle asparagus with fresh lemon juice.

(Cooks Note: If you’re not making this alongside the salmon, preheat oven to 425¬įF instead of to broil. You’ll have to cook just a couple minutes longer.)

Market Fresh: Eggs

Eggs are always in season and a wonderfully versatile ingredient. I am blessed to have access to local, organic eggs at $2.25/dz. I could eat eggs for breakfast and supper in the same day; I don’t, of course, but I could.

Today I want to share with you two great egg recipes that just might be out of your normal scope of egg cooking and eating.

Sometime ago, while flipping through an issue of Everyday Food, I came across several recipes that involved baking in parchment paper packets. The salmon recipe is amazing (will have to share another time). The egg recipe, equally superb. Combining eggs with seasonal veggies, you’ll have a balanced, semi-fancy meal within 20 minutes. It’s perfect for breakfast, brunch, or supper.

Parchment paper is a little pricey, but I find having a roll on hand is indispensable.

EGGS WITH ASPARAGUS AND MUSHROOMS
(adapted slightly from Everyday Food, issue unknown)
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2 teaspoons, extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/2 pound of fresh asparagus spears, woody ends broken off
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400¬įF. Prepare two 24-inch long pieces of parchment by folding each in half and then cutting into a half-heart shape. Place both pieces on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush half of each heart with olive oil. Place mushrooms and asparagus spears on oiled half. Carefully crack two eggs over each. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pleat tightly around the edge to seal. (I’m not very adept at the pleating, so just do your best!)

Bake until the egg whites are set and asparagus is tender crisp, 8-10 minutes. Top with shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.

(Note: If you make more than two servings, you will need to place baking racks in the upper and lower thirds and then rotate two baking sheets halfway through baking.)

Egg Drop Soup is a super easy and yummy first course for a home-cooked Asian meal. If you’re making this gluten-free be sure to use gluten-free soy sauce.

BETTER-THAN-TAKEOUT EGG DROP SOUP
(from The Cleaner Plate Club)
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1 Tbsp canola oil
2 scallions, chopped, white and green parts separated
4 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp sherry (I used a splash of white wine)
1/2 tsp soy sauce (La Choy or San-J for gf)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp white pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
3 drops sesame oil
2 eggs

Heat the canola oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the white parts of the scallions and sweat for five minutes.

Pour 3 1/2 cups of broth into the pan, reserving 1/2 cup. Add the sherry, soy sauce, salt, ginger, and white pepper. Bring to a boil and let cook for 5 minutes.

Mix the cornstarch with the reserved broth in a small bowl, and add to the pan. Add the sesame oil. Turn the heat to low. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then add to the broth while stirring rapidly in a clockwise motion. Stir for 1 minute, until the eggs have cooked and look like shreds.

Sprinkle the soup with the scallion greens. Serve hot. Serves 4.

Counter Culture

This past week marked the opening of my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I was so excited to go and pick up the first produce of the season. Here’s what we received: one bag of mixed greens, one bunch of asparagus, kale, two heads of lettuce, radishes, eggs, chives, tarragon, spearmint and peppermint.

And here is what we’ve done with this delicious food:

asparagus — steamed with butter, salt and pepper
radishes — although I wanted to make this salad again, I’ve just been putting these into regular green salads
mixed greens and lettuce — salad; the first salad I made needed to be quick and consisted of the greens plus snipped chives, including the chive blossoms. Salad dressing also needed to be quick and so I used cream, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. A perfect combination!
chives — the chives have appeared in salads and our egg supper, and I’m thinking of trying to dry some to use in the winter. I’ll have to let you know how that goes.
tarragon — I’m envisioning turning this into a lemon-tarragon sauce for chicken

kale — I browned a bit of garlic in some olive oil and then threw in the washed and chopped kale to cook until it was tender. Balsamic vinegar finished it off as a delicious side dish to our pasta dinner.
eggs — we often have eggs on Saturday night since I plan for a large meal on Sunday. Most frequently I mix five eggs with 3/4 cup milk and 3/4 cup grated cheese, salt and pepper and bake it in a greased pie plate. This week I added snipped chives.
spearmint and peppermint — my favorite way to enjoy these herbs is in my tea. I drink Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast Decaf and add a sprig of mint to my mug when brewing the tea (or make a large pot with several teabags and a few sprigs of mint). I drink this hot with milk, but it’s also excellent chilled. Some of the mint found its way into the cucumber and sugar snap pea salad that I made again this week.

We enjoyed a delicious meal for Mother’s Day, cooked for us by my sister. She made hamburgers on the grill with various toppings such as lettuce, tomato, onion, blue cheese,¬†avocado, and bacon. Side dishes included oven fries, rice salad, and Israeli salad.

Of course the most exciting thing happening in our kitchen right now is the presence of our baby girl — Laura Elizabeth — who arrived on April 27th.

And, since Laura’s arrival, our family has been enjoying the cooking of many friends who have kindly provided meals for us. We’ve all enjoyed the variety and I think the kids are sorry to see the meals coming to an end.

Weekend Fare: Easter Brunch

I love holidays and Easter is the one I most often host for my great big family! Planning the menu, setting the table, designing the favors/placecards, and then actually cooking are all so fun for me.


For the past couple of years, I have done an Easter brunch with ham as the centerpiece. I’m always looking for an excuse to serve brunch. Unfortunately, I’m not hosting this year since we are still living in a hotel from the smoke damage a couple of weeks ago. We are making the best of it and I will still be helping with some of the cooking at my parent’s house and I’m planning to do the favors. Anyway, here are a few recipes that we enjoy for a special brunch.

I often use asparagus and tomatoes with a balsamic vinaigrette so I’m posting two version¬†of this recipe but only have one photo. These are both beautiful with lots of color!


MARINATED VEGETABLE SALAD
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1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch asparagus, blanched and sliced into 1 inch pieces
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
1 english (seedless) cucumber, sliced or diced
Italian dressing (you can buy this or make your own)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all vegetables in a pretty serving dish. Season with salt & pepper. Dress with Italian dressing and toss. Allow salad to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serves 8 or so.

TOMATO ASPARAGUS SALAD
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2 bunches asparagus, blanched and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 pints tomatoes (I use cut up campari or romas, cherry, and sometimes yellow pear)
salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Combine tomato and aspargus. Season with salt & pepper. Dress with twice as much olive oil as balsamic vinegar (or you can purchase a Balsamic Vinaigrette (Newman’s Own is excellent). Toss to coat. Makes 8¬†servings or so.

These tiered platters make fruit presentation gorgeous! For Easter, I would add strawberries even though it’s a little early for them, I love that they remind me of spring! You can use whatever seasonal fruits you want. Arrange them¬†on a platter and serve with this simple dip.


GREEK YOGURT FRUIT DIP
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1 – 16 oz container plain greek yogurt
1/4. honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients. You can add more honey if you prefer it sweeter. Serve with fresh fruit.

I made these blueberry lemon scones and they were delicious! They are also beautiful! Lemon is another spring-y flavor to me. So these would be an excellent brunch addition.


BLUEBERRY LEMON SCONES

(adapted from food network)
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2 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tb. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tb. sugar
5 Tb. unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
1 c. heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones
1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
1 Tb. fresh lemon zest

Lemon Glaze
1/2 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 c. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 lemon, zest finely grated
1 Tb. butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Sift together the dry ingredients. Using 2 knives or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Stir in the lemon zest. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Take care not to mash or bruise the blueberries because their strong color will bleed into the dough.

Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 by 3 by 1 1/4 inches. Cut the rectangle in 1/2 then cut the pieces in 1/2 again, giving you 4 (3-inch) squares. Cut the squares in 1/2 on a diagonal to give you the classic triangle shape. Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with a little heavy cream. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until beautiful and brown. Let the scones cool a bit before you apply the glaze.

For the glaze, combine the lemon juice, sugar, zest, and melted butter. Whisk to incorporate and remove any lumps. Drizzle on warm scones.

Market Fresh: Asparagus

Now that spring is here we can look forward to one of the very first fruits from the garden: asparagus! Asparagus ranks very high on my list of favorite vegetables and each spring I buy as much as we can possibly eat, desperate to enjoy this delicacy while it lasts.

I believe it is thanks to my grandmother and my aunts and uncles and parents that I actually like asparagus. As a child, I watched as my grandmother picked the tender asparagus shoots from her garden and the adult relatives raved over the incredible taste as they dipped the steamed stems in butter and popped them in their mouths. Positive peer pressure took effect and I decided I should learn to eat this vegetable.

Fortunately, my husband enjoys asparagus as much as I do and between us we can eat an entire bunch at one meal. I’m an all out fan of the fat stalks versus the thin ones. The silky, custard-like centers of the fat spears have won me over.

It was too hard for me to choose just one recipe to post here. There are so many options with asparagus: salad, soup, steamed, roasted, stir-fried. Here are some ideas:

ASPARAGUS WITH SMASHED MINT AND LEMON BUTTER
(adapted from Jamie At Home)
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1 bunch asparagus
2 small handfuls mint leaves
salt & pepper
1/2 cup butter (I used less)
1 lemon

Steam the asparagus. Meanwhile, smash up the mint in a pestle and mortar until you have a pulp, and gently melt the butter with some salt and pepper in a frying pan. Add the mint pulp and the juice of one lemon. Stir together and when it’s slowly bubbling, remove from the heat. Pour the mint and lemon butter over the steamed asparagus and garnish with a few mint leaves.

NOTE: Jamie suggested using white asparagus for this dish. I didn’t have any available so used green.

If you have never tried roasted asparagus, please do! It’s such a delightful, and different, way to enjoy this vegetable. The trick is the right length of time — you want the asparagus to cook through¬†and gently brown but you don’t want to overcook it. Just keep an eye on it and use the freshest possible spears.

ROASTED ASPARAGUS WITH OLIVE OIL, LEMON AND PARMESAN
(greatly adapted from Jamie At Home)
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1 bunch asparagus
lemon juice
olive oil
salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese, shaved

Preheat the oven to 400F. Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes or until desired doneness is reached. Place on a plate and drizzle over the lemon juice and sprinkle with shavings of Parmesan cheese.

NOTE: Jamie originally suggested grilling asparagus in a grill pan. If you want to try this, heat a large griddle pan and dry-grill the asparagus spears on both sides until nicely marked. Once cooked, dress with lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper, and Parmesan cheese.

STEAMED ASPARAGUS WITH FRENCH VINAIGRETTE
(adapted from Jamie At Home)
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1 bunch asparagus
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. red or white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. white wine or water
salt & pepper
chevril, flat-leaf parsley, mint, basil or lemon zest

Steam the asparagus. Meanwhile, whisk up the mustard, olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl. Add the white wine or water if you feel it needs to be thinner. Season with salt and pepper. If you are using lemon zest, add this to the vinaigrette. Poor the vinaigrette over the steamed asparagus and sprinkle with freshly chopped herbs.

This recipe was by far my favorite. Alaina and I ate a bunch of this one day for lunch and neither one of us could stop eating it until it was gone. Unfortunately, the asparagus I had was not very fresh, and that is why it turned yellow upon roasting. Imagine how delightful it would be with the freshest spears!

ROASTED ASPARAGUS WITH GINGER AND ORANGE
(adapted from Southern Living)
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1 bunch asparagus
1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. Spread cleaned and trimmed asparagus on a baking sheet. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over asparagus. Mix to coat spears well. Bake for 15 minutes or until desired tenderness and crispiness is reached.