Simple Avocado citrus salad

My friend dropped off 10 avocados from her father-in-laws avocado farm-lucky!  I love avocado but I simply had too much and was gaucamoled out.  I made a really “light” dressing of lime and a teaspoon of honey on top of a bed of sliced tomatoes and avocados and some chopped cilantro. This is a refreshing and filling side dish or perfect for  lunch.  I now am the proud owner of an avocado tree, but it will take years to yield many avocados.

For two servings:

2 Haas avocados sliced or cubed, depending on your preference

2 tomatoes sliced.

handful of cilantro chopped or cut with scissors

1 lime squeezed into small bowl.  Add 1 teaspoon or more of honey and 2 tablespoons oil of your preference.  Mix and drizzle over avocado and tomatoes!

Add salt ( sel de cali- citrus blend, cilantro red pepper, or chardonnay) Voila, ready to eat.

simple avocado salad

Dill pickles

Cucumbers (specifically, Gherkins) gathered fo...
Cucumbers (specifically, Gherkins) gathered for pickling. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

Pickled Cucumbers - Li Li's Imperial Cuisine
Pickled Cucumbers – Li Li’s Imperial Cuisine (Photo credit: avlxyz)

 

 

 

 

 

Cucumbers Español: Pepinos Português: Pepinos
Cucumbers Español: Pepinos Português: Pepinos (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love pickles but have never made them.  I’m not one to can, preserve etc.  It all seems too complicated and I would fear poisoning myself somehow for not respecting the perfect canning rules.  I don’t follow directions well.  I succeeded in making delicious dill pickles with a hint of heat.  The good thing about these pickles is they could just be stored in the fridge for up to two months.  The trick was to get them to last more than two weeks in our pickle loving household.

 

You need about 6-8 pounds pickling cucumbers

a big bunch of fresh dill

2 large onions, thinly sliced

4-5 garlic cloves sliced and whole-depending on your preference.

1 quart water

1 quart white vinegar

1/2 cup salt

1/2 cup sugar

One hot pepper sliced in circles.  Keep the seeds if you want it extra spicy.  Note:  When cutting hot peppers wear gloves, unless you want to do what I did and have hot pepper on everything, including my coffee cup.

 

  1. Cut each cucumber lengthwise into four spears or as I did in rounds. In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, dill, onions and garlic; set aside. In a pot, combine the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; cook and stir just until salt is dissolved. Pour over cucumber mixture; cool.
  2. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Yum!

IMG_0836

Luscious Lasagne Bolognese

Pastasorten Lasagne
Pastasorten Lasagne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was one of the best meals I made and also froze.  One lasagna has lasted our small family of 3 over a month.  I decided to make a Bolognese sauce and a summer sauce a week prior.  I now have any pasta lovers freezer, with different pasta sauces as well as delicious lasagna.  After living in Italy 2.5 years I realized that the real way to make lasagna is to use Bechamel instead of Ricotta Cheese between the layers.

The Bolognese was already made, I just defrosted a giant tub, about 8 cups worth.  Meanwhile, I started on the Bechamel.   I usually just wing the recipe as I know what the consistency is supposed to be and the outcome always more or less is what I want.  However, for you to follow I’ve tried to get the ingredients down.  Mario Batalli’s Recipe is also a great one to follow if you want something more comprehensive.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/bechamel-sauce-recipe/index.html

My recipe is very similar.

4 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

2 teaspoons salt

1teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 4-5 minutes.

I add milk about 1 cup at a time while whisking continuously until very smooth. What differs from my recipe is I don’t heat the milk separately and add heated milk.  I think I will try this technique next time.  I also didn’t cook it to a boil…. either way, it needs to be a thick, smooth consistency.  I do love to add tons of freshly grated nutmeg.  Invest in a nutmeg mill and you will be thrilled with the results.  The flavor from freshly ground nutmeg is amazing.  So much I felt like eating the bechamel with a spoon, like a nice soup.

IMG_0630

https://karinemeals.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/bolognese-sauce/

Recipe for the lasagna:

1 package of nice lasagna noodles

3 fresh tomatoes

1 big bunch of fresh basil

1 big ball of burrata-this was a splurge and is not necessary

1 pack of fresh mozzarella cheese

5-6 cups of Bolognese sauce. Vegetarians can use another sauce if they like, such as my Summer Sauce.

IMG_0856

I then just started with a big lasagna pan.  Make sure at this point you pre-heat the oven to 325 F.  I first put a healthy layer of bolognaise sauce, I then added uncooked pasta, another layer of bechamel and bolognaise mixed, then pasta, then I tour apart the burrata and added chopped basil, the whole bunch.  I then added more pasta, another layer of sauce, another layer of pasta, then more bechamel, sauce, pasta and then I ran out of everything.  I sliced 3 fresh tomatoes, cut up some fresh mozzarella cheese and then layered the top of the last layer of pasta.  I covered the lasagna with tin foil and let cook at 325 F for about 45 minutes.  I uncovered it and turned up the oven to 350 F and let the rest cook and bubble.  It was delicious and will be again tonight.  I suggest you serve with a side salad.  I used a mix of greens, romaine lettuce and arugula with a simple Dijon vinaigrette.

Dijon vinaigrette Recipe:

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar.

Mix the mustard and olive oil to a nice thick consistency, slowly add the vinegar while constantly whisking… and voila, a great dressing.

Grilled Pork Chop with Sel de Cali

We no longer can use our grill at our apartment due to California law and fires,  so this meal is an ode to the grill.  I accompanied the Grilled pork chop with a mushroom ragu, a side of steamed spinach and grilled red and yellow peppers.

For the pork chop I used some of my Cabernet Sel de Cali, a special wine infused salt from California, infused with California Cabernet and dried in the California sun.

For the mushroom ragu I used about one tablespoon of unsalted butter and sautéed some shallots.  Just as the shallots were tender I added a splash of Marsala cooking wine.  I then added a mix of mushrooms:  cremini, portabella and shiitake, any mix will do.  I wished I had oyster mushrooms or other kinds.   I cooked it until tender.  I grilled the peppers that were drenched in olive oil, Sel de Cali and pepper while the pork chop was cooking.  It turned out to be a nice end of the grill meal.

Pork chop with mushroom ragu

Chili

chilli

 

A few weekends ago I tried to make dishes that I could freeze as I was going on a business trip and wouldn’t be home to cook for my family.  My husband does know how to cook, in fact this is his Chili recipe.  However, with time constraints, I didn’t want him to eat cans of soup.  This recipe is easy.  You need about

One yellow onion chopped

3 large cans of plum tomatoes

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork

2 regular size cans red kidney beans

1 regular size can of white lima beans

1 regular size can of pinto beans

1 regular size can of chickpeas

 

Cheddar cheese for grating

sour cream

a bunch of chopped chives or scallions

Salt and pepper

Chili powder

Red pepper flakes

1 oz dark chocolate

2 flour tortilla per person or saltines crackers.  I prefer the crackers but my husband likes the tortillas.

 

To start, chop the onion up and put in a big pot to saute with some olive oil.  Once the onion has cooked for about 3 minutes add in the beef and pork.  Add in the salt and pepper, red pepper flakes and some chili powder, maybe a big heaping tablespoon.  Make sure the meat mixture is well browned, but not too browned.  Add in the cans of tomatoes.  Cook covered for 15 minutes.  Add the beans and let simmer for about 45 minutes covered.  Uncover for the last 15 minutes.  Add the chocolate and stir in.  Meanwhile grate some cheddar cheese.  I prefer sharp cheddar.  Chop up some chives and heat up the tortillas or get out the saltines.  Serve a 2 big ladles per bowl.  Add a dollip of sour cream, add the cheddar cheese and top off with some chives.  Again, YUM!!!

348/365 - Chili Powder
348/365 – Chili Powder (Photo credit: djwtwo)

Veggie melange with sauteed radishes

I received my farm fresh to you box at my door.  It was filled with yummy vegetables including organic celery, Nantes carrots, fennel and some radishes of all sorts of different colors.  I decided to do a quick saute and it ended up delicious.  I used a bit of olive oil and chopped up garlic and shallots to start.  I then added my finely chopped carrots, celery, fennel and then some radishes.  In the end I seasoned with some of my Sel De Cali, the chardonnay infused salt and a few sprigs of rosemary.  I can’t remember what the main protein was for this meal, but I’m sure it was either steak, chicken or pork chops!  It was the first time I added radishes to a saute and it turned out delicious!

English: Easter egg radishes, just harvested
English: Easter egg radishes, just harvested (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

the start of crocking

Butternut and acorn squash soup

English: Cucurbita pepo (acorn squash). Locati...
English: Cucurbita pepo (acorn squash). Location: Maui, Foodland Pukalani (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Onions on a neutral, mostly white background
Onions on a neutral, mostly white background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I decided that I would eat my still life, autumn display.  I had made a butternut squash soup before and an acorn squash soup, but never did I put the two together.  I started out with about 3 tablespoons or so of butter and melted it into a pot, I added 1 sliced, sweet onion with about 4 fresh sage leaves.  I let it cook for about 5 minutes or more because it was so tough cutting up my acorn squash and butternut squash.  I would advise cutting them up in cubes prior to cooking the onions.  I then added the cut up squash.  I let it cook for about 3 or 4 minutes with the onions.  Then I added about 4-5 glasses of water and two bouillon cubes.  I let it cook for a while till the squash was tender.  It was too thick, so I added more water, each time letting it cook together well.  This soup can be thick or thin depending on taste.  I like it in between.  I used the hand blender to mix it all up.  I cooked it some more.  I saw many recipes that added heavy cream, yogurt, or even cream cheese.  I had none of the above, but I did add about 1/3 cup milk, or one big pour.   It added to the creamy-ness and made the soup silky smooth.  It was delicious.  At the end add a bit of nutmeg.  I served this in my Japanese Ramen bowls which made it look nice, but the photo doesn’t do it justice.  The lighting was bad and we didn’t eat till 10pm.  My husband came home super late from work.  I served this with some french bread. I buy the – french small french baguette from trader joes.  I put them right in the freezer.  When I want them, I just heat the oven up to 350 and pop the frozen par-baked bread in for about 10 minutes. It turns out great.  No preservatives and the closest thing to fresh baguette I get in Rancho Palos Verdes.  This dinner is very inexpensive, filling and yummy.  Enjoy.

5 tbls of butter

1 onion sliced or chopped

1 acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

1 butternut squash, same as above

2 bouillon cubes-chicken or vegetable

1/3 cup milk

4-5 sage leaves or dried sage

pinch of nutmeg and salt

Cucurbita moschata 'Butternut'. Original descr...
Cucurbita moschata ‘Butternut’. Original description: Courges butternut (Cucurbita moschata) Photo JH Mora, septembre 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ceviche

chili peppers
chili peppers (Photo credit: marzbars)

I love ceviche.  I had the real deal 10-years ago when I went to visit my sister in Peru.  We traveled all over sampling some of the most amazing Peruvian dishes, but for me, Ceviche is my favorite.  I had never tried making it until today.  Inspired by the Peruvian restaurant and my local fish monger, I decided to try it out when I was buying my weekly fish.   The fish guy told me to try his frozen tilapia. I’m a purest and didn’t feel like buying frozen fish, why after all, I was in fresh-fish heaven?  However, he convinced me by saying, “It makes for a wonderful ceviche”  I bought four filets for about $5 dollars.  I went home thawed out the fish and started squeezing my bags of lemons and limes.  I know you can use one or the other (lemons or limes), but this was my first and I wanted it “cooked.”  I was on a time constraint so the only thing I did was cover my fish completely with lemon and lime juice and put it in the fridge.  I let it sit for a few hours, the time to get my son, bring him to an afterschool event and then back.  So my ceviche was done in several stages.  So, three hours later……  I chopped up some fresh hot peppers– I had bought a little medly of peppers and I can’t remember all the names of each, but in general any spicey pepper will do.  Some were super spicy and others more mild.  I also chopped up a big bunch of cilantro. I really love the fresh taste of cilantro, so I probably added more than the average Peruvian would add.  Next I cut up half a red onion in the thinnest slivers possible with a chefs knife.  A mandolin would have been perfect, but I don’t have one.  I also added 4 half of garlic cloves for flavor.  Lots of Sel de Cali– the chardonnay version, a bit of fresh, ground pepper and I put it all in the bowl with my fish and back into the fridge to “cook” some more.  Just before serving, maybe 2 hours later, I boiled a sweet potato to go on the side.  Generally this dish is served with big corn and a sweet potato.  I didn’t have big Peruvian corn, so we settled for the lovely orange-colored potato.  I have to say, it was delicious.  We had enough to feed several people.  I had used all 4 filets.  Next time I think I will use two filets, if it’s a main course for two people.  This dish would also be a great party appetizer.  It could be served on a tortilla, on a lettuce wrap, or just alone in little individual ramekins.  Now that I’ve made it the possibilities are endless if I am to entertain.   Just make sure you keep the ceviche cold, nobody likes a warm ceviche.

Tilapia filet

10-15 limes or/and lemons

3 hot peppers chopped fine

1/2 red onion thinly sliced

4 halved garlic cloves

1 bunch of cilantro roughly chopped

Sel de Cali- Chardonnay kind

1 sweet potato or yam

Lobster and shrimp ceviche

(Ceviche de pulpo, as known and prepared in th...

Ceviche

Salmon with herbs

salmonI love salmon!  And I love super fresh Salmon from my fish monger.  I call it the freshest seafood in southbay. I’m seriously lucky to have this wonderful fish available when I want.  Luckily, my friend was with me and wanted salmon as well because we had to buy the whole fish.  That’s what you get when you shop at a warehouse .  The big debate was how we wanted it split.  She wanted a filet with the skin off, I wanted a steak, but said fine for the filet, yet in the end, I had to have the skin off, too. I didn’t want Tony to do too much work, it was already a favor for him to clean the fish for us.   This decision dictated my preparations for dinner.  I had planned to grill it on the BBQ, but instead would bake it.  We each had enough for 7 -8 people each. So I guess you could say one big Salmon would have fed 16 people!  And it only cost about 24 dollars for the whole fish!!!

I peeked at recipes online for inspiration and decided to make an herb incrusted salmon in the oven.  I took what I had growing on the balcony.  I grabbed a bunch of fresh Italian oregano and some Thai basil.  I chopped it up and added some Chardonnay Salt from Sel de Cali and placed the salmon on a bed of thinly sliced and de-seeded lemons.  I baked the salmon for about 15 minutes at 350F.  In the meantime I steamed some asparagus that I bought from Jacques produce stand.  I set up the rice medley in the rice cooker.  Yet, something was missing, I needed color so I cut up some delicious tomatoes that I also purchased from the veggie stand.  I made a really simple tomato salad.  I used a few scallions and then just finished it off with Sel de Cali, the Cabernet one.  It was simple but added a deliciously fresh element to our dinner.  Yum.  We actually enjoyed it in front of the TV, which isn’t ideal fro great dinner conversations, but it was late.

salmon, asparagus, rice medleytomatoes

A smoked salmon dinner

This is so easy, yet so delicious.  I love simple dishes.  I bought some wild caught smoked salmon at the local market.  I made myself the easiest and not to mention healthiest dinner.  I wasn’t in the mood to cook, but I wanted something good.  I added some heirloom cherry tomatoes and some organic persian cucumbers on the side for some crunch appeal.  I cut up lots of lemon slices for my salmon.  There is nothing better than simple flavors with salt, I of course used Sel de Cali, for the taste and beauty appeal.  This is now one of my favorite, easy meals to prepare that can also transform into a great appetizer or  hors d’oeuvre platter.  I would however dress it up a bit more when serving it to guests.  I would add a few capers on the side, maybe some red onions, little crackers, blinis, or just simple pieces of  bagels or some type of vehicle to place the salmon and veggies on it.  A great cheese that goes with this is of course, cream cheese, but also a marscapone, ricotta, boursin or even goat cheese.  There are many possibilities.  And for those who are staying away from carbs, a great way to serve this is with Belgian endive leaves, they are a perfect little vehicles to serve the salmon.  You can also make it in advance by placing a bit of cheese, a piece of salmon and a few capers with an onion on a piece of endive… or play with the combinations.  I personally wouldn’t mix the lemon with the cheese, however.  If you don’t have time to prepare it,  in a rush, just add all the elements to a plate as nicely as possible and call it the deconstructed hors d’oeuvre.  Smoked salmon is something I always have in my fridge, you just never know when you will have an impromptu guest over.  Enjoy.