Summer = Salads!

I have to be honest. I don’t love salads. When it comes to eating them, I’m very persnickety. I’m not embarrassed to admit it, even though I should be. I guess. I have all sorts of rules and regulations when it comes to the green stuff. It has to be ice-cold. The lettuce can’t have any brown spots. Those tomatoes better be plump. It goes on and on.

Salads to me have always seemed like a chore. A chore only rewarded by your doctor, and who really wants to hang out with that guy? I know, I know. I have issues, but they’re fun in my head. Anyway. Rather than be completely irresponsible, I’ve opted to make salads a tad more appealing. Staying away from the traditional lettuce, tomato, cucumber and replacing those with veggies I like.

And so, here we are. A tomato, ASPARAGUS (cuz I love me some spears) and, yes, a bit of lettuce salad. The second most crucial bit on salads I like, is the dressing. Let’s face it, that ‘s the real reason I eat the darn things 🙂 For this one, I got a bit inspired by some overly ripen tomatoes and used them as the base for the dressing. You know what? This salad was much yum! Yep. Uh huh. It was mighty good! Check, check it out.

Tomato & Asparagus Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

For the vinaigrette:
Ripe tomatoes, seeded
Balsamic vinegar
Sugar
Salt & pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a small saucepan, add the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes until they begin to soften. Add 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper, about 1 tsp of sugar and about 1/2 cp of water. Allow it to simmer until the tomatoes break down completely, about 10-15 minutes. Allow it to cool.

Place the tomato puree in the blender and puree. Add a bit more balsamic and about 1/4 cp of olive oil. Check the seasoning again and put in the fridge to cool.

For the salad:
Blanched asparagus*
Firm tomato, cubed
Lettuce

*To blanch the asparagus, trim the ends and cut the spears in half or thirds, depending on the size. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and dump the asparagus in for a couple of minutes. Just long enough for the green to become very vibrant. Remove the asparagus and dunk them in a bowl of ice water for a couple of minutes.

Drain the asparagus and pat dry them, placing them in a salad bowl. Add the tomatoes and lettuce. Drizzle the tomato dressing over the top.

Enjoy!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

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What’s in the bag? Part 1

I admit it. It was Sunday, I couldn’t decide on dinner and I was slightly bored. My dear friendster Cindy had given us a gift card to Whole Foods when we got married (we’re still newlyweds!) and so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to make use of those plastic dollars.

I cozied up to hubby, batted my eyelashes and said, in my most sultry voice: ‘Let’s play a game. You go to the store with this money and buy anything you want and I’ll cook it. I get no input. I’ll cook whatever you bring, even if I’ve never tried it before’.

Yes, I was feeling brave and daring. I imagined myself a contestant in my show: a cross between the Next Food Network Star, Chopped and Top Chef.  When he wasn’t back almost an hour later, I began to worry. Then he showed up with 2 HUGE bags from WF…! yeah, it was time to panic.
 


He produced lamb chops (virgin territory), pears, long-stemmed artichokes (never seen those before), potatoes, NY strips, ciabatta bread YUM! bok choy, pasta, and some other goodies. Definitely more than one meal. I paced, drank wine, paced some more and finally came up with a menu!

I would try my hand at the lamb chops and I would serve them over pasta with a Putanesca-ish sauce. I would also try making a pear tart. The deal was I had to do as much as possible without looking for recipes. I was able to do so except for the tart; baking is, after all, science. Here’s how the chops went down.

Arent they beautiful?

Aren't they beautiful?

Grilled Lamb Chops
1 lb of lamb chops (whole)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
First we scored the fatty side of the rack, then we marinated it.
Marinate: Then I threw the rest of the ingredients into a Ziploc bag, got the salt incorporated and added the chops. I let them hang out there for about 2 hours, turning them every so often.

Preheat oven to 375
Cook: In a very hot oven proof skillet, heat up some olive oil and place the rack fatty side down. You want to sear it about 3 minutes on each side (be sure not to burn it). Keep turning until you get all sides browned, then turn it so the fatty side is on top, and put it in the preheated oven for another 15-20 minutes depending on how you prefer to cook it.

After searing before hitting the oven

After searing before hitting the oven

Salsa Putanesca-ish
3 slices of bacon, cubed
1 white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
8 crimini mushrooms, diced
1/4 cp Italian parsley, chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 can roasted tomatoes
1/2 cp assorted olives, chopped
2 tsp anchovy paste
2 cp good beer
salt & pepper to taste

Saute the bacon to render some of the fat, but keep it soft. Add onions and cook until translucent; then add garlic and mushrooms. Once the mushrooms begin to soften, add the tomatoes, parsley and olives, stir in. Then add the anchovy paste and beer, bring it to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow the flavors to cook in for about 30-45 minutes, stirring constantly. You may not need to add salt, but check at the end of the cooking time and adjust seasoning.

Serve: Remove chops from oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing. In the meantime, cook, drain and serve your pasta onto a plate. Top with sauce and place a few chops over that, sprinkle with fresh parsley if desired.