quick and easy

Roasted Salmon with Chive Flowers

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On a recent trip to an Asian supermarket in Queens, New York, I bought a lot of interesting vegetables. Greens -- Chinese broccoli, bok choy, yau choy and cabbage -- and some herbs, including chive flowers (pictured above). 

Chive flowers are just like ordinary chives, except they've been allowed to mature and produce an actual flower. As a result, they are thicker and have a somewhat bolder flavor than regular chives.

I used them to season salmon one night. This dish couldn't be simpler. Takes about 5 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to cook.

How easy is that!

Roasted Salmon with Chive Flowers

  • 24-32 ounces salmon
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the salmon in a baking dish. Mix the mustard, olive oil and garlic together in a small bowl and spread this mixture evenly on top of the fish. Sprinkle with the chives, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, or until the fish is cooked to desired doneness and the top is crispy-browned. 

Makes 4 servings

Arugula Salad with Grapes and Dates

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On the first day of summer, what could be more refreshing than a good salad?

This one is a good fit with grilled meat, chicken or fish but if you're doing a meatless meal add some crumbled blue, feta or goat cheese. Or hard cooked eggs. Or tofu.

Doesn't get much easier than this. 

I used La Tourangelle* avocado oil for this -- it is rich, with a fabulous mouth-feel and is a really delicious vegetable oil for salad. But olive oil would be fine too.

*I did not get paid for this or receive free product. I just love La Tourangelle products.

Arugula Salad with Grapes and Dates

  • 2 cups (packed) baby arugula
  • 2 cups (packed) shredded radicchio
  • 1 cup halved red grapes
  • 12 medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 avocado, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil (or use olive oil)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Place the arugula, radicchio, grapes, dates and avocado in a salad bowl and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Pour the avocado oil over the salad and toss to coat them. Pour the balsamic vinegar over the salad and toss again. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

Cream of Asparagus Soup

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I know asparagus are available all year, but they have the most depth of flavor right now, when you can get the local ones that taste like springtime. Like asparagus are supposed to taste.

On the other hand, although I would suggest making this soup now, it's good any old time because its very simplicity gets the most out of the asparagus taste.

The dish is versatile too: make it dairy or dairy-free (see the recipe options).

And easy: 8 ingredients including salt, pepper and garnish.

Makes a lovely first course for summer dinner.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, butter or a mixture of olive oil and butter
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white rice or a small, chopped all-purpose potato
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 13/ to 1/2 cup cream or coconut milk
  • chopped chives, scallions or Aleppo pepper for garnish

Wash the asparagus and chop the spears into chunks. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the shallot and asparagus and saute for 1-2 minutes to soften the vegetables slightly and coat them with oil. Stir in the rice, pour in the vegetable stock and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook for about 25 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Puree the ingredients in a blender or with an immersion blender. Stir in the cream, reheat and serve garnished with chives, scallions or a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper.

NOTE: this may be served chilled OR hot.

Makes 4-6 servings

Sweet Potato "fries"

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I know that for many people, including my family, Hanukkah is a fried-food-fest. That once-a-year indulgence we look forward to with glee. Whether it's the fried latkes, the doughnuts, the chicken -- whatever -- it's the fried part that counts for us. That crunch! That crust! That crisp!

Oy.

So, sure, let's enjoy that first round of classic holiday favorites.

But Hanukkah is an 8-day holiday! So -- how about what I like to call "sort-of-fried" for the remaining days (and anytime after).

Mock fried.

That is, food cooked at high heat that gets crispy, liked fried food, but without the calories, the mess, the fuss and the smell. 

I realize it is NOT THE SAME AS FRIED FOOD.

I get it.

But it is still really tasty, and with the proper crispiness.

Like these sweet potato "fries."

Try these the next time you want something resembles fried without the frying.

Sweet Potato Fries

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or to taste (or use cayenne pepper)

Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into julienne strips about 1/4-inch wide. Place the strips in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Pour the olive oil over the strips and toss to coat them all. Sprinkle the sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper on top. Bake, tossing once or twice, for about 15 minutes, or until the strips are browned and crispy.

Makes 4-6 servings.

 

Orange and Vanilla Scented Cheese Stuffed Dates

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Sometimes I think life is a bunch of holidays with not much in between, except for the entire month of January.

I suppose that's a good thing, because holidays are happy and celebratory. Also, there's the food. Except for Yom Kippur, every holiday has food. And even when it comes to Yom Kippur, there's the break-the-fast when it's all over and the break-the-fast is all about food. 

As far as holidays go, at this point of the year, we've just finished Thanksgiving. Next up? Hanukkah!

Hanukkah is a really delicious holiday. Lots of fried stuff like latkes and doughnuts.

It's also a dairy holiday because of the story of Judith. You can read all about it here

So for me, in honor of Judith, in addition to the usual potato latkes and doughnuts, I have served cheese latkes and potato latkes with a yogurt based sauce laced with lemongrassPotato Galette with Caramelized Onions and Cheese has been on my Hanukkah menu and also Almond Crusted Winter Squash and Noodle Kugel

Desserts? I could go with Meyer Lemon Yogurt Pie (you can use regular lemons) or maybe Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries. Maybe even cheesecake. Or some fabulous cheesecake cookies!

And also these stuffed dates! Easy to make, not too sweet (no added sugar), these little morsels are perfect for the holiday. If you don't want to use almonds for garnish, crushed, toasted coconut will do nicely.

 

ORANGE-VANILLA SCENTED CHEESE STUFFED DATES

  • 12 medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons crushed toasted almonds (or pistachios or crushed, toasted coconut)

Cut the dates through the center, but not all the way through to the bottom. Remove the pit and spread the date slightly to form a hollow for filling. Mix the cram cheese, yogurt, orange peel and vanilla extract in a small bowl until the mixture is smooth and soft. Fill the dates with the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with the nuts.

Makes 12 

Fresh Tomato Puff Pastry Pizza

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Year after year I failed at growing tomatoes. They bloomed too late because I planted them too late, so by the time the tomatoes on the vine were big and green, a frost would come and everything was ruined. 

Last year I decided to plant them earlier than usual. Also in a different spot in my garden.

Perfecto!

So this year I did the same.

Perfecto again!

I got lots and lots of tomatoes! Enough for salad and sandwiches. Enough for homemade sauce.

And also these fabulous puff pastry pizzas.

So easy, such a good lunch, brunch or even hors d'oeuvre (cut smaller). 

Fresh Tomato Puff Pastry Pizza

  • 3 large or 4 medium tomatoes, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
  • salt
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the tomatoes slices on a board, sprinkle with salt and let rest for about 30 minutes. Wipe the slices dry. Place the puff pastry on a floured surface. Cut lengthwise once and widthwise twice to make 6 smaller pieces. Place the pieces on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with equal amounts of the mozzarella cheese, leaving a border of about 1/2-inch. Top with equal amounts of tomato slices. Sprinkle with equal amounts of Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with equal amounts of basil. Drizzle with olive oil. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 6

 

Grilled Baby Vidalias

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During the summer my family likes grilled everything. 

Like these gorgeous baby Vidalia onions. I bought some recently. They are a perfect side dish for whatever else I make for dinner (also on the grill). 

They are among the easiest side dishes I have ever prepared.

Just a few simple ingredients. You can do this with spring garlic, thick scallions too.

Whatever you're grilling for the 4th of July -- this goes with it.

Grilled Baby Vidalia Onions

  • 1 bunch of baby Vidalia onions (5-6), or use baby leeks or thick scallions
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • sea salt

Preheat and outdoor grill or grill pan to medium-high. Trim the onions but leave enough of the root intact so the leaves don't come apart. Rub the olive oil over the surface of the onions. Place the onions on the grill and cook for about 8 minutes, turning them occasionally to cook all sides. After the first turn, sprinkle the onions with the lemon juice and Aleppo pepper. When the onions are browned and tender, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herbed Feta Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives

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A few weeks ago I took a quickie trip to Berlin with my daughter. We took a stroll through the Turkish outdoor market, where I saw someone selling a gorgeous hunk of feta cheese, scattered with sundried tomatoes and olives, seasoned with herbs and sprinkled with a drizzle of olive oil.

I noted the ingredients and took a photo. 

It looked so delicious that the moment I saw this cheese thing I knew I had to make it at home.

I did.

It is as good as I thought it would be. I served it to guests last weekend.

They raved.

Here's the recipe. 

Herbed Feta Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives

  • 1/2 pound feta cheese
  • 3 sundried tomatoes in oil
  • 8-10 imported black pitted olives
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Cut the feta cheese into thick slices and place on a serving dish. Chop the sundried tomatoes and scatter them over the cheese. Scatter the olives around the cheese and dish. Scatter the parsley over the ingredients and sprinkle with the oregano and some Aleppo pepper to taste. Drizzle the olive oil on top.

Makes 8-10 servings

 

Roasted Shad

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When springtime comes, can shad be far behind?

Not in Connecticut!

Lucky us. The shad are running, swimming their way through the Connecticut River to spawn, on their way to the ocean.

The season is short, so get your fill now. (FYI, shad do run through other rivers along the east and west coasts so you can get it too.)

If you've never tasted shad, a herring cousin, you've missed out. It's one of the most tender of fish and it's loaded with omega-3 fat, which means it's not only healthy but also big on flavor.

The big problem with shad is the bones. There are lots of them, very very thin bones. A Native American tale says that shad was once a porcupine who turned inside out when it went into the water.

I managed to buy the filets already deboned, (which you can do at many fish markets). Many shad recipes call for cooking the fish at low temperatures for a long time (250 degrees for several hours), because the bones melt in the slow heat. But for a quick, tasty meal try the easy recipe below.

If you can't get deboned shad it's still worth eating because it tastes so good. You can also substitute any herring, trout, bluefish or mackerel filets.

ROASTed Shad with Thyme and Raisins

  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 4 deboned shad filets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • thin slices of lemon

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the raisins on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the shad filets on top. Mix the olive oil and mustard and brush over each filet. Sprinkle the filets with lemon juice, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Place lemon slices on top of each filet. Roast for about 8 minutes or until lightly crispy. 

Makes 4 servings

Roasted Salmon with Hazelnut Crust

I think I could write a cookbook just about salmon, because we eat it so often and I am the kind of person who likes to change things up and not eat the same old same old for dinner.

So I have lots of recipes for salmon.

This one is among the easiest also. And fast. The essence of "quick and easy."

 

Roasted Salmon with Hazelnut Butter

 

  • 4 salmon fillets or steaks, about 6 ounces each, about 1 1/4 inches thick
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons crushed hazelnuts (or almonds)

 

Preheat the oven to 475°F. Place the salmon in a baking dish. Mix the butter, chives, lemon peel and mustard and spread this mixture evenly over the surface of the fish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and scatter the nuts evenly on top. Roast for about 15 minutes, depending on thickness, or until nearly cooked through but still darker in the thickest part of the center.

 

Makes 4 servings.