Skip to content

PREPARE HOLIDAY FOOD AHEAD

After talking last week about the practicality of shopping ahead for the winter holidays, it’s logical to discuss preparing food for them in advance as well. It’s a topic I address each fall, and though I don’t usually re-run a post, I thought this year I’d combine parts of several and update them to answer some questions I’ve been asked.

Preparing food ahead for the holidays doesn’t actually ‘save’ time, it amortizes it. A dish takes a given amount of time to prepare no matter when it’s done. However, nothing is a greater relief during the hectic holidays than realizing something is ready and waiting, without having to gorge a chunk out of your busy schedule to do it. Preparing dishes as early as their recipes allow or making and preserving them provides just that.

Personally, the idea of preparing ahead for the holidays appealed to me because as the nest emptied and family grew, the tasks didn’t increase in number, but they did in size. Fewer hands around to help meant a lot more work for me alone. Professionally, the idea intrigued me. The main function of a personal chef service is to provide meals for its clients to consume later. This combination of motives has given me the incentive for the past several years to explore how far I can push the envelope.

However, nothing opened my eyes like a request from a fellow personal chef. She contracted to cater a wedding reception for 400 and asked for help from others in our U.S.P.C.A. chapter. The job held some real challenges; the bride had downloaded the menu and recipes, most distinct variations on classics; the venue offered a wait staff and dining needs, linins etc., but only a ‘holding ‘ pantry, no real kitchen. All the food had to be delivered ready to serve. How the chef, an experienced caterer, solved the obvious problems doesn’t disguise the fact that most of the food, hors d’ouvers plus two courses and dessert, had to be prepared days ahead. I learned this is normal for caterers dealing with large events and was amazed at the ways these experts in safe handling food, keep it unspoiled and fresh tasting.

The point is that, many dishes can be prepared ahead, but the storage is as, or perhaps even more, important than the cooking. Produce, of course, needs refrigeration. If bought far in advance, or to be served out of season, consult my blog of Sept 22, 2016 on freezing fresh produce and there are more reference posts in the site archives Generally, supplies bought ahead should be kept in the original package and stored at the same temperatures as in the market. In fact, safe handling, or Safe Serve as it’s called, is a course in which all chefs need to be certified. Knowing how to freeze different foods is a major asset. For a crash course, see my posts of January 11, 19, 25 and February 2, 2012. Click Table of Contents on the Home Page header and then click the dates to link to the posts. Most foods require some degree of refrigeration, so be sure you have adequate space before embarking on making several dishes in advance.

Advance preparation is straightforward, but has a few simple rules. One is never re-freeze anything without cooking it. If adding a thawed vegetable to a dish, cook it first. Be aware that most seafood, especially shellfish is frozen for transport. The only exceptions are fish your monger guarantees were caught within 24 hours and shellfish steamed in store daily. The second is that if exists in the markets’ glass freezer cases, you can try it, but if it doesn’t there is usually a good reason, so don’t try to innovate. This is particularly true of imitation ‘diet’ and/or ‘no-cook’ cream sauces, which tend to separate when frozen. Third, Egg dishes, generally, should be cooked just before serving. Fourth, if you are open to communal contributions, be sure that you’re not going to spend the afternoon juggling things to finish them or keep them warm. Plan with your guests the way to use your space and appliances wisely.

The process of planning to prepare dishes in advance of an event is highly individualized. Your menu choices and personal schedule must figure in your calculations and, therefore, it’s difficult for me to give any specific directions other than the advice contained in the posts cited above. Perhaps the best way illustrate the process in a general way is to share my Christmas timeline, which I’ve printed below, to give you a general idea of the process to adapt to your needs. I can tell you that now I wonder how I ever did things “seasonally” and I’m grateful that I have time to relax and enjoy the trappings and companionship. There are still plenty of last-minute tasks, but no real pressure either on my schedule my nerves, or my wallet.

As an extra ‘tip’ I’m including my New Year’s buffet in this timeline to show you how easy it is to include a party in your holiday schedule. Buffets are easier to prep ahead than seated dinners. Food served at table should be hot, but even roasts can be cooked ahead and served room temperature at a buffet. Casseroles and sauced meat dishes are the darlings of advance preparation. They can be cooked, frozen, thawed, reheated and still taste fresh. Of course, cold foods are a natural. They can be prepared and simply chilled until served or frozen and just thawed. No effort is needed at the last minute and minimizing the last-minute work load is one of the main reasons to do advance preparation

Another plus is being able to use leftovers from one event to build another. Please note that the foods for the New Year’s party, with the exception of the necessary fresh items, had been purchased well in advance, along with the other holiday supplies. So it was really a breeze to arrange, with no extra strain on the schedule or wallet.

Desserts are a good category to reference to illustrate the optional levels of advance food prep. Cookies, as noted, can be made 6-8 weeks ahead if stored in air-tight tins. All kinds of pastry freeze well rolled and stacked with paper dividers or lining pans, even whole unbaked fruit pies and turn-overs can be made months ahead. However, baked pastry products only hold well for 24 hrs. After that they become soggy as the fillings lose their moisture and harden. To have these desserts table-ready, you must leave room in your schedule, as well as your oven’s, at the earliest the afternoon before, to bake the items and/or make the fillings. This can be a strain during a hectic holiday week.

So what dessert can be made ahead and produced the day of a major dinner ready to be served? Cake! Several years ago my Yule log survived Christmas dinner almost intact. I decided to freeze it to serve sliced with a bowl of whipped cream on New Year’s. I froze it uncovered for an hour to firm up the icing, then I wrapped it snugly in plastic wrap and put the whole cake, still on the platter, in a plastic bag in the freezer. I was pleased to see it looked fresh on New Year’s morning but surprised that it tasted fresh too. I served it on the original platter, without the cream, and had many compliments with no leftovers.

This brings up a frequently asked question; “How much space will I need?” The answer, of course, depends on your menu, but usually not as much as you may think and it will be a changing amount. Cookie dough is chilled, but cookies are stored in tins. The bulk of my freezer usage is for vegetables and the turkey (read entrée meat). Just before the holiday I add two cakes, but that’s my personal option. If I served fruit parfaits as my Mother did, I would store ice cream and need less space. More things are kept in the refrigerator than the freezer, but not large items, other than possibly a ham or other smoked entrée choice and if you live in a Northern climate that can be kept in a cold place like a garage.

Space is a consideration when planning the menu, especially for a newbie. Your food will require the most room right before and right after the dinner. Visualize the dishes that will need chilling, then calculate the area you will have to clear for them. To give you firmer idea, I’m going to review the list below and mark each entry with an ‘r’ for refrigerator or an ‘f’ for freezer. Equate item sizes I’m serving with dishes you want and use it to form a clearer picture of your needs. If space is limited, in colder climates, a garage comes in handy. Ice chests are another solution, and perhaps a friend will offer to keep some things. I had a neighbor who annually rented a small freezer for two months, November to January and by the third year bought it to use on other events and in the summer. Most of the year, it sat unplugged, tucked away, but well worth its price when needed.

Another frequent question is; “How do I plan my time to do all this ahead?” Of course, your schedule is another prime consideration. I can tell you the type of things which can be made ahead and how far, but you must decide your own timeline according to your schedule. Perhaps you’re free weekends and can combine several tasks or maybe you need to spread them out over week nights working for short periods. The menu choices will affect this aspect of prior preparation too. Keep a balance between things that can be made well in advance and those that can’t and remember, the more involved a dish the more time required to make it. In any case, it’s far easier to find the time to do things over a long period than to have to cram them into a brief one, especially one filled with other obligations.

Obviously acquiring required items over weeks, rather than having to schedule, or “work in” special shopping trips is a time saver in itself.

1) Early Oct. –1) Process celery and onion mixture for the stuffing and freeze -f

2) Bake fruit breads. See 10/29/15 post for recipe-r

2) Mid Oct. – 1) The salad dressing for Christmas is ready in the fridge-r

2) The Cumberland sauce for one hors d’ouvres is made-r

3) End Oct. – 1) The sautéed croutons for the stuffing are in an airtight can-tinned

2) The cheese spreads are made and chilling in crocks.(Extra stored in plastic
(containers) –r

4) Early Nov. –1) Nuts toasted and salted-in airtight jars

2) Cranberry salsa made and kept well chilled-r

MID NOV—Thanksgiving preparation- task schedule similar to Christmas as detailed below

5) End Nov.-Make cookie batter-store in fridge-r

6) Early Dec. – 1) Make cookies- tinned

2) Bake cakes and freeze them-f

7) Xmas Week –1) Make any add-ins for vegetables=sautéed onions or mushrooms, toasted nuts
etc.-r
2) Roast, thaw, prep vegetables for sides, put them in dishes in which they can
be heated and served. Cut and soak salad greens –Refrigerate all

3) Thaw turkey-r (date depends on size)

4) Store everything plated and ready to serve—cookies on covered platters etc.
5) Prepare any other hors d’ouvers and chill – r

DEC. 24th – 1) Make stuffing and chill.-r
2) Brine turkey-r

DEC. 25th – Cook bird, thaw cakes, finish vegetables, toss salad, make gravy.

New Year’s Week-Dec. 26th –1) Strip carcass, saving enough meat for a large casserole-r
2) Freeze the rest and the stuffing separately in 2 portion size
packages for future use. -f
3)Boil the bones and freeze broth for future use. -f

Dec. 27th -29th-1)Make turkey casserole, and a mixed vegetable one with pasta and/or grains-r
2) Refresh cheese crocks, bake ham and muffins(if needed) for dessert tray.-r

Dec. 30th– 1) Shop for fresh items, seafood, salad greens, bread and cream. -r
2) Chop and soak greens. Prep any hot hors d’ouvres. -r
3) Have everything ready on or in serving vessels.-r

Jan.1st– Cook casseroles, heat hors d’ouvers and bread, toss salad, make Eggnog.

If you’re looking for recipe ideas, you’ll find loads in my archives, everything from leftovers to vegetables, to salads and dressings. There’s even one on muffins and rolls that may appeal. Just click Table of Contents, or view the panorama and choose posts that interest you.

So save yourself expense and stress this holiday season, by remembering what the Boy Scouts always say; ”Be prepared!” —-then you can relax and enjoy the festivities.

SHOP HOLIDAY FOODS NOW

With summer memories still fresh, it seems ‘jumping the gun’ to talk about provisioning for the winter holidays, but I assure you the food industry is already loaded and zooming in. Several years ago I realized that from October 1st to Thanksgiving was the prime time to buy for coming festivities. It’s the period offering the largest supply, most variety and the deepest sales on items that will be needed. Baking supplies, from the basics; flour, sugar and shortening to specialty ingredients such as candied fruits and decorating sugars, packaged goods including mixes, canned sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and cider and frozen products like vegetables, pasties, ice cream and, yes, turkeys all will be at their best prices.

It’s smart to begin paying attention to the market flyers now, because, contrary to traditional belief, these prices don’t hold through December. They will hike again the week after Thanksgiving. About eight years ago I became aware of the fact that food prices most frequently went up after holidays. For example, chicken thighs on sale cost $0.68 last spring, $0.78 last summer and now, since Labor Day, are $0.98 per lb. I’m not sure if the reasoning is that the consumer will have forgotten the pre-holiday price and accept the new one as normal, or think it reflects an ‘out of season’ status, though with modern food transport, that term is irrelevant unless applied to local goods.

In the case of the winter holidays, the past few years the December prices reflected the September ones and the permanent hikes came in January. So please start to think ahead if you anticipate being involved in any food activities over the coming holidays. Doing so will let you amortize them, saving not only money, but time as well. It’s also a great stress relief, in the midst of a busy season, to realize that certain things are ready and waiting.

I’m not advising you go wild buying food. Anyone who has read my book How to Control Food Bills is familiar with the Diet for the Dollar Food Plan and knows my first warning is against overstocking, especially speculative overstocking. Items tend to gravitate to the back of the shelf, expire and become a waste of space and money. I believe that organized planning and informed shopping are key and a LIST is the most valuable tool to managing any situation involving food preparation.

So get a pen and paper and answer four questions, omitting any that don’t apply.
1) Are you solo hosting a holiday dinner?
2) Do you plan any cooking projects for the holidays, cookies, nuts, cheeses etc., either for personal consumption or as gifts?
3) Do you plan to entertain over the holidays?
4) Will you be obligated to provide a finished dish for events? (A communal dinner -include Thanksgiving- a church or organization bazaar, a club or office party and don’t forget the kid’s class or team parties.)

Normally, I like to take things one-at-a-time or at least in order, but because the sales on the items you’ll need will be appearing intermittently in the same time period, you need an over view, a master list which includes ALL the ingredients of everything you plan to make in proper quantity, no matter how insignificant they seem, even garnishes. Be sure to check the amounts of required items you have in stock too. Before I learned formal organization from Chefs’ Training I made many mistakes in that area. I remember a snowy trip to an all-night market for lack of 1/3 cup of molasses. Not fun!

Answering “Yes” to questions #1 and #3 will involve the most work, planning, effort and expense, so let’s begin with #1. Write DINNER on your paper and start to write down the different dishes in order of service. If your menu is filled with traditional family favorites it’s a big help, the outline is pre-set. If you’re starting from scratch, or a newbie, it’s even better that you’re starting early. You have time to decide your financial boundaries, weigh your options and choose the recipes, but you still should start a list even if it’s filled with question marks.

Don’t be afraid of question marks either. My menu is traditional, but I still leave a couple of slots open in planning each year, usually one in each category. Small changes freshen the menu and keep interest alive. For example, I serve four hors d’oeuvres, my two cheeses, a kids’ favorite and then one of seafood which changes annually. At dinner, the green vegetable and its garnishes are always different, and I began to make my own cranberry salsa three years ago.( It was voted a keeper!) Dessert consists of my cookies and three cakes, a Yule log, a fruit cake and a surprise. The traditions are anticipated and appreciated, but the surprises bring the excitement and fun.

Having an early start allows me to fill in those ‘surprise’ blanks in my menu with consideration, and by November the ingredients are on the shopping list down to the last grain of salt. By the first week in December, the contents required for those dishes are in my pantry along with everything else needed to cook not just for the dinner, but for the holiday season. This is important because my answer to all four questions is “Yes” and my lists would be very long if done individually. I’m going to show you how not so much combining them, as intertwining them, eases the shopping task.

The next heading on your paper will be PROJECTS, question #2. Here I list things I make only for winter holidays; Christmas cookies, nuts, crock cheeses and fruit cakes/breads. Perhaps you make, or want to make candies, preserves, spice mixes or other special items. List them and then begin to fill in the ingredient requirements, paying attention to amounts in relation to desired quantity. I calculate enough to provide for two meals plus any gifts I anticipate giving.

Heading #3 is ENTERTAINING. When it comes to throwing party, you know your social preferences and/or requirements , small groups, large ones, purely friends, business or other connections, casual, dressy, cocktails, dinner, dessert even after- event breakfasts. There are so many choices. The best way I can show you how to make one event play off another is to explain what I do and give you the general idea to apply to your situation, Also please check my blog of 12/29/16 on this subject.

My choice for holiday entertaining is to give a buffet on New Year’s Day and my affirmative answers to questions #1 and#2 make the planning and execution easier. I like a large turkey on Christmas and deliberately order one with a few extra pounds to provide meat for my Hot Chicken Salad to serve at the buffet. I use celery, onion and bread in my stuffing, I make almonds and I will have lemon juice on hand, so I can cross the requirements for a major part of my main entrée off the shopping list. This is true of other dishes as well. I buy the vegetables with those for the other meals. I double my Christmas eggnog recipe, add a package of fruit muffin mix to beef up the fruitcake, which is cut into squares, and with the cookies, dessert is finished. I usually get a ham on sale at Thanksgiving and lay in packaged items to make a couple more hors d’ouvers-this group likes gourmet flavored popcorn to nibble. All I have to buy fresh for the party are greens for a tossed salad and a few loaves of artesian bread. This kind of planning can be used for any type of holiday party and is so easy and simple!

If your answer to question #4 is “Yes”, it goes under the heading CONTRIBUTION. Not as connected as the others, it still should be resolved during this period. The easiest thing is to ask, when contacted, the number of servings required and if you can choose the food category. My first choice for a communal dinner would be a vegetable dish. They can be made ahead and reheated, some even cooked on site.(See posts 11/13/15, 11/3/16, 11/10/16, 12/15/16) For a club party, or bazaar, make an extra fruit bread, for an office, nuts and for kids, cookies (but also see 12/5/16, 12/2/15). Try to tie your contribution in with what you’re going to be doing anyway. It saves a lot of time in shopping, planning and especially in clean-up. If you anticipate being asked to contribute a ‘covered dish’ call the person in charge, explain you’re getting started early, and offer to bring a specific dish of your choice. They’ll probably agree, glad to have one less thing to worry about at this season. The important point is get this obligation filled during these weeks of shopping.

So here’s the way the list method works.
1) The first list has the headings for any questions to which you answered affirmatively. Under each heading you write the dishes you intend to or are considering making, in order of menu service for #1 and #3. Leave a’ ?’ in the space for any undecided dishes. Don’t just leave a blank which can be overlooked later.
2) On a second page, under the same headings, begin to list the ingredients for each recipe you have decided upon in required quantities, again in menu order. Include garnishes.
3) Compile a master list. Begin by combining common ingredients in correct total quantity. Start with the basics, flour, sugar, butter, eggs, broth, even salt and pepper. Check your supplies for anything on the list you might have but don’t check off an item because the container is there. Make sure the contents are sufficient. Once my menus are clear, I tend to group the things I want to buy by category, because that’s the way the market flyers are laid out and the sales often run, frozen vegetables, ice cream and toppings, cake mixes and frostings, condiments etc., it simplifies the searching. BUT before you do this make sure every ingredient is on the list in proper amount. To paraphrase: ”..make a list and check it twice…”

This provisioning technique is the one used by personal chef services and caterers. It guarantees immeasurable savings in time and stress. Imagine having to satisfy five clients a week, each demanding five entrees of four servings or covering two occasions with 400 guests apiece. The shopping can be a huge problem without a method to handle it.

This is not a budget plan. Since most items are bought per pound the monetary savings depend totally on when they are bought not where. You will save money if you follow the sales, that’s a given. You will save money simply by buying your holiday food supplies during this period rather than waiting until December. However, if you believe that time is money and eliminating stress invaluable then, when the holiday rush sets in, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank!

It may seem like a lot of work at first glance, but you soon get into a rhythm and let’s face it; is it easier to sit and write out a plan of action or to pay gas for many trips to markets, chasing up and down aisles? My Diet for the Food Dollar Plan in How to Control Food Bills shows how to get all the shopping done in about 6 trips, one per week. This approach to food shopping is great because it provides a safety net, especially for newbies. Moreover, it can be used to ease the planning for any holiday or special occasion so it really is worthwhile to give it a try.

MOVE GRILLING INDOORS

Early Fall is the time to talk about indoor grills, whether to look at the options or to remind people that they don’t have to bundle up their recipes when they cover the outdoor gills for winter. Though I have several grills and grill pans, I admit I’d never really taken advantage of them. I had always lived in houses with large working fireplaces. Grilling in them and enjoying dinner by a roaring fire was appealing on cold Sunday evenings, while the oven and stove top seemed more efficient on weeknights.

Now my fireplace is decorative, but I still overlooked the indoor grills until recently when I became a convert to the current practice of incorporating salad into the dinner entrée. I can promise my attitude is undergoing a BIG adjustment, because meats with sauces and gravies have no place in these meals. Sliced leftovers, broiled, sautéed, even Deli sliced are O.K., but the fastest, flavorful way to cook meat is to grill it. Since I have no intention of giving up enjoying these dinners a couple of times a week even after the cold weather sets in, I’m getting to know my indoor grilling appliances.

There are several reasons why I like the meat-salad combinations so much, not the least of which is personal. Since I’ve been eating them, I have more energy, I’ve lost weight, and I find it easy to keep it off. From a cook’s viewpoint, this type meal is simplicity itself. All the ingredients can be prepared ahead and most in sufficient quantity to supply two or three meals. The grains and/or beans, which give substance, the vegetables, cooked and/or raw, which supply character and flavor, the leafy greens for body and the herbs for seasoning all keep well in the refrigerator, as do optional cheeses. Garnishings of nuts and seeds have long pantry lives.

Currently, the food media is filled with examples of entrees incorporating salads, geared to every level and slanted toward most cuisines. They include recipes with ingredient amounts, but these are more suggestions than stone carved directions, allowing a lot of room for innovation. However, there are definite requirements. Freshness is imperative, compatibility of flavors and textures is important, but the key is that the salad compliments the meat. Even though it occupies the majority of the plate, it is still an accompanying accessory to the meat.

With the meat as the focal point of the entrée, the way it’s prepared and cooked is a chief concern. Grilling is one of the best methods to highlight natural flavor and texture because it’s so simple and direct, but there’s a big difference between outdoor and indoor grilling. Outdoor grilling allows for fluid marinades, where excess can drip onto the coal and large cuts of meat can cook slowly while the fat sputters harmlessly.

Indoor grills require more caution. After all, they are inside the home, and they’re smaller and have limited ventilation. So the cuts of meat and the preparations have to be altered to fit the situation. The best book I’ve seen on the subject is Steven Raichlen’s ‘ Indoor! Grilling’. He describes the different types of indoor grills, pan, contact, fireplace, rotisserie, built-in and smoker, and gives tips for using each with every recipe from appetizers to desserts.

Raichlen advises using thin, boneless cuts for pan and contact grills, loin or center chops, center tenderloins, boneless breasts or thighs, because bones, no matter how small prevent even cooking. Rib chops, petite steaks, fillets and bone-in poultry do better on built-in grills and panini machines but save the chuck roast or ‘T Bone’ for a fireplace grill.

The same is true of oil-based, fluid marinades and sweet, basting sauces often part of outdoor cooking. Indoors they can be hazardous, prone to burning and messy. I like to flavor meat by applying rubs or coating surfaces lightly with oil, pressing with herbs and/or spices then allowing the seasoning to be absorbed for several hours or overnight.

Marinades can still be used. Often they can be heated, cooled and with a few added ingredients, transformed or incorporated into the dressing. Just be sure the excess oil is drained off before the meat hits the hot grill.

I’ve started experimenting with two of my contact grills, a George Foreman and another with only a bottom element. So far, I’ve cooked salmon, pork and chicken. I’m looking forward to continuing through the coming months and am especially eager for the fall vegetables to come in. I love roasted vegetables and bet the sturdier autumn and winter ones will grill well along with the meat, making great additions to my dinner salads. I also want to try some of Raichlen’s regular recipes for sides particularly the yam, mushroom and squash ones. The prospect of winter seems less bleak with a slew of kitchen adventures ahead.

I’ve cooked most of the following recipes but the beef ones, marked with an * are Steven Raichlen’s. If you are an experienced indoor griller, they may seem too basic but remember, I’m still getting to know my appliances. I’m also gearing these recipes toward presentation as part of a salad inclusive entrée as well as being able to stand alone as a ‘meat course’. Please note, the term ‘total contact grill’ in the directions, refers to a George Forman type machine where heat comes from both top and bottom. There are contact grills, like the Aroma Cool Touch, which have only a bottom heating element and can be classified with ‘other’ type appliances.

Herbed Chicken: Serves 2
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 Tbs. oil
½ tsp. lemon pepper
2 Tbs. dried herbs, thyme, crushed rosemary, marjoram or oregano—but not mixed
Pound the chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap to an even thickness. Lightly brush all surfaces with the oil and sprinkle each with 1/8 tsp. lemon pepper and ½ Tbs. dried herb. Place chicken in a pan, cover and allow to sit for at least 2 hours or overnight. Grill as per directions on machine; about 4-6 min. on a total contact grill, per side on others. Serve warm or cold alone or with salad.
NOTE: Recipe is valid for skinless, bone-in chicken parts, but change cooking directions to fit the appliance. See advice on using grills above.

Grilled Salmon: Per serving
1 skinless salmon fillet
1/8 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/8 tsp. dried dill weed
Cook the salmon on a total contact grill for about 3-4 min. per side on others Remove to a plate, and brush with vinegar. Serve warm or cold garnished with dill weed.

Moroccan Lamb Chops: Serves 4
4 rib lamb chops-8 if very small
1 tsp. EACH ground ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, lemon pepper
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
Mix all the spices and rub into both sides of chops. Cover and allow to stand 30 min. to 2 hrs. Grill as directed by the manufacturer on the proper appliance, as quoted above; about 4-6 min. on contact grills, per side on other grills.

Shanghai Boneless Pork Chops: Serves 4 Remember that chicken recipes like the one above, also do well with pork.
4 lean slices center cut pork
2 tsp. ground fennel seed
1/3 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. garlic powder
Pinch ground cloves
Mix the seasonings and rub into meat. Cover and allow to stand for 30 min. to 2 hrs. Grill as directed by appliance manufacturer usually about 3-5 min. on a total contact grill, per side on others.

Ham Steaks: Serves 2
2 small or 1 large ham steak-about 1 lb.
½ Tbs. oil
Pinch of ground cloves-optional
If steaks are thin, lightly score the edges at 1-2 inch intervals to prevent curling. Brush the ham with oil, sprinkle one side sparingly with cloves and grill 3-5 min. on a total contact grill, per side on others.
Optionally-Lightly brush 2-4 slices of pineapple with oil and grill for 30 sec.-1 min. on total contact grill, per side on others. Serve on ham.
Optional salsa for serving ham alone
½ cup crushed pineapple-drained
3 Tbs. finely diced mango
½ cup barbeque sauce
1 +? Tbs. soy sauce
–to taste
1 +? tsp. cider or white vinegar to taste
Few drops hot sauce-optional
Bring ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, then simmer for 10 min. Cool and serve with ham.

*Beef- Steven Raichlen has two recipes perfect for this post. The first is beef intended to be served with a salad and the second is beef which can be sliced and served with a salad or stand alone. Both exemplify how simplicity of preparation is great for meat

Beef Paillards with Fresh Herb Salad-Serves 4
Paillards are boneless slices of meat which are pounded to about ¼ inch thick. The process tenderizes and enlarges the surface area for faster cooking as well as providing a pretty presentation. It isn’t needed for tenderloin except for appearance, but can be an economy measure with round steak or chuck.
1 ½ lb. beef divided in 4 slices-tenderloin or round
8 asparagus stalks
2 cups fresh herbs-parsley, basil, cilantro, mint, oregano and other leafy herbs
1 Tbs. chopped fresh chives
1 bunch arugula – washed, dried and torn in 2 inch pieces
16 grape tomatoes or 8 cherry tomatoes halved
3 ½ Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. lemon juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges for serving
Cover the meat with plastic wrap and pound to ¼ inch thickness if necessary. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and slice it thinly on the diagonal, leaving the tips. Place it and the next 3 ingredients in a bowl. Brush the beef with 1 ½ Tbs. oil, season with salt and pepper to taste and cook according to grill directions about 1-3 min. on a total contact grill, per side for others, then plate. Toss the salad with the remaining oil, lemon juice and spoon attractively around meat. Serve with lemon wedges.

Lemon Pepper London Broil– Serves 4- Flank steak is traditional for this, but hard to find now. Recently shoulder steak has been advertised but tends to be tough. The best choice is top round London Broil. If possible choose an Oyster Cut, a kidney shaped piece which comes from close to the sirloin.
1 1/3- 1 3/4 lbs. beef London Broil-If using flank steak, score both sides to prevent curling
1 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. lemon zest
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 shallot –diced
3 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. oil
Puree the pepper, zest, garlic and shallot, add the next 3 ingredients and 1 Tbs. oil to form a paste. Making sure both sides of the meat are covered with the mixture, marinate 4 hrs. or overnight. Scrape the marinade off the meat before cooking and rub both sides with the remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Cook following the grill instructions, depending on thickness of meat, anywhere from 3-5 min. for a thin flank steak to 7-10 min. for a round steak on a total contact grill, per side on others, for medium rare. Allow to rest 3 min. and slice on a diagonal to serve.
NOTE: The marinade scraped off the meat can be heated to a simmer briefly, cooled, and with the addition of oil, more lemon juice or vinegar and optional seasonings to taste, be transformed into a salad dressing. Doing this creates a flavor bond that unties the meal.

USING GRAINS THE NEW WAY

Grains are increasingly visible in our menu choices and not just in baked goods or breakfast. An important element in currently popular Buddha Bowls and Poke, they’re now appearing in the salads which are features of modern entrées as well. These salads, which I love and have been writing about for over a year, unlike the classic ‘dinner ’ones, are not designed to stand alone. (See postings for 7/6/17,6/8/17, 1/16/17, 8/12/15 all listed in the Home Page panorama) Rather they evolved to fill a nutritional need for balance which became evident as Millennials and the chefs of that generation began to carve their path in the food world.

Millennials are discriminating ‘foodies’ who will always opt for quality over quantity, especially regarding meat. They want free-range, wild-caught, heritage bred and, when it comes to beef, grass fed, which used to be taken for granted. However, in the ‘90s, breeders realized that production went up and expenses down feeding cattle corn. Sadly, the decision affected the flavor and texture and introduced a hazard. Cattle produce E-coli in their second stomach and dispel it in the third ONLY if grass fed. So corn fed cattle have to be carefully butchered or cross contamination can taint the beef.

Millennials, aware of these facts, and the superior quality of other meats raised naturally, will pay double, even triple supermarket prices to a gourmet butcher for top grade. They compensate by buying lesser amounts and stretching it further. Recipes from gourmet sources now reflect this trend. One pound of meat was considered two servings, at most three and often just one, if it were a steak. Now it’s cut off the bone, sliced thin and four or more servings are directed.

This leaves a large expanse of plate to be filled, as well a need to produce a balanced meal. Salads are the answer. Nothing fills a plate more attractively than a colorful salad or provides more overall nutritional value. Vegetables give fiber, grains are healthy carbohydrates, with some protein value. Add beans and/or nuts and/or cheese to boost the protein and, even with the small amount of meat, it’s a balanced meal. Using leafy greens and lots of herbs make an enticing, flavorful, healthy presentation.

The balancing act isn’t just nutritional. It involves taste and texture as well. Too many beans, peas or heavy vegetables make a salad heavy and unappetizing but the carbohydrate value is necessary for the meal to be satisfying and filling. That’s where grains come in and please note corn is included. They contain carbs, fiber and protein, are very filling and still light enough to be tossed with leafy greens without weighing them down unattractively or overpowering their taste. Since, grains come in a variety of sizes and textures, there’s sure to be one to compliment any combination of ingredients in a salad.

Before getting into a description of the different grains popular in salads, it’s also important nowadays to know the gluten content. For your reference, I’m listing the gluten content of most of the ‘alt’ grains now found in markets below, but I’m only going to describe the ones most often used in salads or as ‘sides’. The others are chiefly ground into flour or made into cereals.

One note before I begin. The taste, and hence, the contribution, of all these grains when used in salads is much improved if they are cooked, or in the case of bulgur soaked, in broth or another flavored liquid. Herbs tossed in with the greens, or replacing them are big flavor additions too. Properly chosen, they can customize the taste of the salad to compliment the meat and its preparation uniting the entrée.

Quinoa and Rice are the two most popular grains in today’s menus as well as being two of the most ancient. Quinoa is indigenous to South America, rice to Asia and both have been consumed for thousands of years. Quinoa is preferred for Buddha Bowls and rice is essential to Poke, but both need a bit of alteration for the dinner salads.
Quinoa comes in two sizes. The ‘pearl’ is favored in Buddha Bowls and for solo appearances, but for salads it should be well drained after cooking and towel dried to allow it to separate before tossing with the other ingredients. The smaller size can be used alone or mixed with another grain for bulk, usually rice.

Rice is great either to serve as bedding or be tossed into a salad. Brown rice which has the hull left on is more nutritious and higher in fiber content than white and therefore, the better choice. The shorter the grain the higher starch content and the more tendency to clump. So for a nice presentation and ease of integrating into a salad, choose a long grain rice.

Wild Rice, though it takes longer to cook, is my favorite grain. It has more nutritional value, especially protein, than any other grain. The dark color makes it stand out, the hull pops open when cooked to give it a decorative look and it never clumps. Perfect for mixing in salads!

Corn also has two forms. The ‘baby ears can be used as a separate vegetable, or the kernels can act as grains. It does have a few shortcomings. Its taste is regarded as more ‘cuisine specific’ and it can easily overwhelm a salad in both flavor and texture but it is excellent for nutritional value and bulk. The small white kernels are more adaptable to various combinations of ingredients than the larger yellow ones.

Bulgur is well-known as a salad grain famous for Taboule. Its beauty is that it needn’t be cooked, simply soaked. The main draw-back is that it’s small and larger amounts are needed to satisfy hunger which may prevent it appearing as a fully integrated part of the salad. Combining it with one of the larger grains, perhaps corn or rice, can solve this problem.

Farro has a long history, especially in Italy, as a grain used in casseroles and salads for substance and flavor. It’s actually a species of wheat that produces grains in three sizes. The medium is the most popular and the one commonly called ‘Farro’. The largest is popular in Germany where it’s called ‘Spelt’(please note the difference in gluten content) Farro is closely related to Barley and the two can be used interchangeably. Wheatberries, another species of wheat, can also be cooked and served as farro is.

Barley isn’t a grain popular in the U.S. and I’m guessing that’s why it has had so little mention in these salad recipes. I’ve always be rather fond of it, especially if cooked in broth to add some flavor. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be listed as a possible salad ingredient.

Oats a grain popular in the U.S. isn’t seen in salads because of its texture when cooked. However, I’m curious to see if it can be combined with butter or oil and cheese or breadcrumbs, perhaps some seeds or grated coconut and baked, much as a gratin crust, then crumbled and tossed in a salad. Anyone care to try this and let me know?

The actual construction of these salads and choice of grain, depends on the individual occasion and meal. Each one is special, because each one is different, reflecting your own tastes and preferences. If you need inspiration or direction, leaf through food magazines or check out my posts of 7/6/17,6/8/17, 1/16/17, 8/12/15. They’re all accessed by clicking the photos on the Home page panorama.

Gluten Content:
Gluten Free: Almond/nut, Amaranth, Buckwheat, Corn, Millet, Oat, Quinoa, Rice, Sorghum, Tapioca/ Cassava, Teff
Low Gluten:
Barley, Rye. Spelt
Gluten:
Bran, Bulgur, Durham, Einkorn, Farro, Freekeh, Graham, Kamut, Semolina, Triticale, Wheat

BUDDHA BOWLS

Things often get misconstrued on the rise to popularity, and I’m afraid Buddha Bowls are one of them. I’ve seen recipes lately which are totally inaccurate. Buddha Bowls consist of individual groupings of complimentary ingredients attractively arranged in piles or layers, not tossed, in a deep, round bowl-shaped serving dish. Collectively, they create a balanced meal, not only nutritionally, but in flavor and textural contrasts. It’s speculated that this may be the derivation of the name since Buddha stressed the importance of balance in achieving serenity plus the fact that their presentation is perceived to be more Asian than Western.

I confess sometimes I like eating with chopsticks. Picking up one or two ingredients at a time extends the flavor experience so much more than grabbing a forkful! It’s also acceptable to pick-up a larger piece and consume it in two bites rather than stuffing it in the mouth whole, as it is when using chopsticks.

However, they’re international. The choice of cuisine determines the foods used in different renditions which may qualify them to become a separate menu category. They fit all the requirements; there are given recipes but they can also be highly innovative according to a set formula—an assembly of compatible ingredients presented in a way which offers a variety of flavor experiences rather than being blended to create just one. This presentation is not that of any other class of entrée. The closest comparison would be composed salads, but Buddha Bowls aren’t salads. Nor, incidentally, were they devised as a way to use leftovers, both errors made by many recipe suggestions.

Buddha Bowls are usually served at room temperature with most ingredients cooked; the preferred methods are grilling, broiling and blanching. Though some chopped leafy greens may be ingredients, they are not used as fillings or bedding.

Yes, the Bowls contain a lot of vegetables, but they’re not vegetarian either. Though the earliest recipes depended on beans and perhaps nuts for protein, they often called for a poached or fried egg on top too. The latest recipes include shrimp, lumps of crab, or chunks of meat or fish.

Buddha Bowls are not linked to any diet regimen other than a healthy one but can be adjusted to fit almost all of the recognized ones, medical or cosmetic. I loved one woman’s comment that now she felt guiltless stuffing herself on tacos because her favorite Mexican restaurant served them in bowls not tortillas. However, the original recipes included the starchy carbs calling for thin noodles and torn roasted sweet potatoes. Grains came later and still often co-exist in the same dish with other carbs. Quinoa and rice are the most frequent choices not only because their larger size, neutral taste and texture blend more easily with other ingredients but also because they are gluten free, avoiding allergy problems.

Creating a Buddha Bowl is the same as planning an entrée. You choose three compatible foods, a protein, a fiber and a carbohydrate to feature, then add a few complimentary ingredients. For inspiration, think favorite side dishes to the entrée or accompaniments. Another approach to planning a ‘bowl’ is to use fillings for tacos, fajitas, spring rolls etc. as the ingredients. Making a Buddha Bowl simply involves spooning or stacking the ingredients neatly in separate piles or layers. Don’t stress over this. Remember it’s a casual meal and the presentation should be too. Also they’re best prepared individually. Communal serving could be awkward to eat and/or dividing into portions messy. However, there are exceptions as shown by the family friendly Taco Bowl from Yummy Mummy Tummy.

If you want some guidance or ideas, check the web. With the current popularity of Buddha Bowls there are plenty of recipes to choose from. I’m listing 7 below to show the diversity of combinations. I quote the sources on each, except the last two. They’re mine. One is a fall dish I made to illustrate how Buddha Bowls can be a part of every season. The other was constructed from ingredients I had on hand one rainy Saturday.(Actually Harvey was passing through.) I include them to disprove the idea that the number of ingredients in most of the Buddha Bowl recipes can be daunting, especially for a ‘quick, casual’ meal. My recipes, and the one from Emilie Eats are proof they can be made quite easily.

Heather Christo’s Cuban Quinoa Bowl with Spicy Lemon Cashew Dressing: Serves 4 (heatherchristo.com)

Ingredients
For the Quinoa
:
1 cup dried quinoa
1¼ cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
3 green onions, minced

For the Roasted Sweet Potatoes:
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of cinnamon
Kosher salt
For the Black beans:
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained.
Kosher salt
For the Smashed Avocado:
½ a large ripe avocado
2 teaspoons chopped cilantro

½ teaspoon lime juice
Kosher salt
For the Salad:
3 cups Greens (I used arugula and baby spinach)
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
For the Spicy Lemon Cashew Dressing:
¼ cup cashews
½ cup hot water
1 clove garlic
⅛-¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons agave
Kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cashews in a glass and cover them with hot water- set aside to soak for 10-20 minutes.
In a medium pot over medium heat bring the vegetable broth, cumin and salt to a simmer. Pour in the quinoa and whisk together. Bring the quinoa to a simmer and then put a lid on the pot, reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the quinoa sit in the pot with the lid on for another 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and mix in the minced parsley and green onions. Season to taste with kosher salt.
While the Quinoa is cooking, make the sweet potatoes: Toss the sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons of oil, cinnamon and kosher salt and roast on a bare sheet pan for 17 minutes until golden brown and tender.
Warm the beans in a small pan if desired and season to taste with kosher salt.
Using a fork on a cutting board, sprinkle the avocado with salt and add the lime juice and the cilantro and smash everything together until well combined but still chunky.
Assemble the bowls by dividing the quinoa between 2 bowls, and topping with half of the sweet potatoes and half of the black beans. Add greens and tomatoes to each of the bowls.
To make the Spicy Cashew Lemon Dressing:
Drain the cashews and add them to a blender with the garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil, lemon juice and agave. Puree on high until smooth- season to taste with kosher salt. Drizzle the bowl with the dressing and add more as desired to taste.

Emilie’s Hawaiian Tofu Bowl: Serves 4
(emilieeats.com)
(1) 14 ounce package extra firm tofu
2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup barbecue sauce, plus more for topping
Oil for cooking
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pineapple, cored and sliced
Optional toppings
coconut flakes, cilantro, avocado
Drain the tofu. Wrap in several paper towels; place in the sink. Place a heavy object (such as a large pot with a heavy weight inside) on top of the tofu to press the water out. You can also use a tofu press. Let the tofu drain for 20­-30 minutes.
Rinse quinoa in a small mesh strainer. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat; add quinoa. Cook for 1­2 minutes until lightly toasted. Add 1 1⁄3 cups water; turn heat to high. Once boiling, cover and cook for 13-­15 minutes, until fluffy.
Slice the drained tofu into thin 1⁄2 ­inch chunks. Place in a medium bowl; add barbecue sauce. Let it marinade for up to 10 minutes.
In a skillet over medium heat, warm up a little oil. Add bell peppers and zucchini; stir. Cook for 5-­7 minutes, until vegetables are your desired tenderness. Set aside in a bowl or on plate.
Add a little more oil to the same skillet; add the tofu. Pan­ fry for about 2­-3 minutes, until crispy; flip the tofu chunks, and cook on the other side for an additional 2­-3 minutes. Repeat until the tofu is crispy.
To arrange a bowl, add cooked quinoa, vegetables, and tofu. Top with red onion, pineapple slices, additional barbecue sauce, and other desired toppings
.

Quinoa Taco Bowl Recipe by Yummy Mummy Kitchen: Serves 4 (yummymummmytummy.com)
2 cups cooked quinoa (about 1 cup uncooked)
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinse
Taco seasoning to taste
1 small head romaine lettuce, chopped
3 plum tomatoes, diced
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
Store bought guacamole*OR quick guacamole–see recipe below
Store bought salsa (optional)
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Corn chips (optional)
Tortillas (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the beans and heat to warm. Season to taste with taco seasoning.
Place quinoa, seasoned beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, guacamole, salsa, cheese, tortillas and chips in dishes and set on the table. Allow everyone to make their own taco bowls. If your bowl seems too dry, add a little salsa, lime juice, or your favorite salad dressing.  

Quick Guacamole Recipe: Serves 4 
2 large ripe avocados
Juice of 1 lime
Garlic salt to taste

Mash avocados with lime juice in a small bowl. Stir in garlic salt to taste.

Mediterranean Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce—Pinch of Yum (pinchofyum.com)
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:
(1) 16 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon salt (more to taste)
Juice of one lemon
½ cup olive oil
½ cup almonds
For the Mediterranean Bowls (build your own bowls based on what you like and quantities you prefer)
Cooked quinoa
Spinach, kale, or cucumber
Feta cheese
Kalamata olives
Pepperoncini
Thinly sliced red onion
Hummus
Fresh basil or parsley
Olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper
Pulse all the ingredients for the sauce in a food processor or blender until mostly smooth. The texture should be thick and textured.
Cook the quinoa according to package directions (a rice cooker works too). When the quinoa is done, build yourself a Mediterranean Quinoa Bowl!
Store leftovers in separate containers and assemble each bowl just before serving, especially the greens and the sauces, as those will get soggy when stored with all the other ingredients.

Notes
For a vegan version, replace the feta cheese with white beans. For a healthier bowl, obviously, load up on the greens!

Delish Chicken Buddha Bowl: Serves 4
(delish.com)

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 large red onion, diced
4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups baby spinach
1 lb. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp. honey
1/4 cup. Lime juice
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. Chopped cilantro
1 tsp. Toasted sesame seeds

1 avocado, thinly sliced
4 cups cooked brown rice
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spread sweet potatoes and red onions onto a large baking sheet. Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender.
Meanwhile, make chicken. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Season chicken all over with salt, pepper, garlic powder and ground ginger. Add chicken to skillet and cook for 6-8 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Let rest for 10 minutes, then cut each breast into 1″ pieces.
Make dressing. Whisk together garlic, soy sauce, peanut butter, honey and lime juice until evenly combined. Whisk in sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of olive oil until smooth.
Divide rice between bowls. Top with sweet potatoes, chicken, avocado and baby spinach. sprinkle with cilantro and sesame seeds and drizzle dressing on top.

Fall Harvest Buddha Bowl: Serves 2
10 small breakfast sausages— Brown and Serve are O.K.
1 large yellow onion-skinned and quartered lengthwise root and stem ends left on
1+ cups chopped squash in 1 inch cubes-I like butternut. It’s thin skinned, but any will do
1 Tbs. oil –1/2 Tbs. reserved-if using rice only ½ Tbs. is needed
½ tsp. crushed dried rosemary
¼ tsp. garlic powder
1 ½ cups broccoli florets –frozen is O.K.
Lemon-pepper
¼ lb. wheat capellini-strands broken in half OR 1 cups cooked brown rice
¼ tsp. dried thyme
¼ cup chopped toasted walnut pieces-toasted in advance
Dressing:
½ cup orange juice
½ Tbs. oil
Maple syrup if needed
Toss the onion and squash with ½ Tbs. oil; place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with rosemary and garlic and roast in a preheated 400 deg. oven until edges brown, tossing occasionally, about 30 min. Turn off oven but leave in to keep warm.
Brown the sausages in a deep pot, adding a bit of water to prevent sticking, when done remove, and tent or add to oven sheet to keep warm.
Fill same pot with water and bring to a boil; add broccoli and return to boil for 2 min. Remove broccoli with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle with lemon-pepper and tent to keep warm.
Return water in pot to the boil and cook pasta or measure water to equal 2 cups and cook rice. When done, drain pasta and drizzle with the reserved ½ Tbs. oil, and sprinkle with the thyme or simply stir the thyme into the rice.
Arrange ingredients in the bowls with pasta or rice on the bottom, then place sausage, each sliced in 4-6 pieces, squash, onion and broccoli separately over the top, and sprinkle with nuts. Drizzle with dressing and serve still slightly warm or at room temperature.
Dressing:
Bring juice, oil and seeds to a low boil in a saucepan; simmer until seeds soften, about 3 min.

Cool and, optionally add maple syrup to taste if needed. Drizzle over food in Buddha Bowl before serving. Can be made ahead, store refrigerated.

Hotchpotch Bowl-Serves 2
2 boneless, skinless breasts or thighs of chicken OR 2 cups cooked chicken or turkey in pieces.
1 large onion quartered lengthwise, connective tissue at roots and stem ends left on
2 large carrots-cleaned and split lengthwise and cross wise into 4 pieces
1 ½ cups broccoli flowerets OR equal amount other green vegetable—frozen O.K.
½ bell pepper, any color but mixed is best, in 2 inch Julianne
2 oz.= ¼ box whole wheat capellini- strands broken in half
1 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
1 Tbs. Teriyaki sauce
2-3 Tbs. for cooking method I
1 tsp. oil for cooking method II + 1 Tbs. for dressing
Water
Garlic powder, powdered rosemary, lemon pepper and herbs of choice.
Vinegar of choice to taste
Method I-Saute meat in 2 Tbs. oil in a skillet over medium heat, browning both sides. Remove and add 1 Tbs. oil if needed and brown carrots and onions. When brown, return meat to pan, add Teriyaki sauce, bouillon granules, water to nearly cover, sprinkle meat with garlic powder and vegetables with a pinch of powdered rosemary, cover and simmer about 20 min. until meat is done. Remove solids and cool, reserving pan juices. Cube or pull meat into pieces.
Method II-My preference because it’s neater to do and uses less oil
Place the meat in a bowl, nearly cover with water. Place the bouillon granules in the water. Pour the Teriyaki sauce over the meat and sprinkle with the garlic powder. Bake at 400 deg. about 30 min, until browned. Place the carrots and
onions on a piece of foil, toss with ½ tsp. oil and sprinkle with powdered rosemary. Bake along with the meat until brown-about 20 min. Remove vegetables and cool. Cut or pull meat into pieces reserving broth.
Meanwhile, microwave peppers in 1 tsp. water 1 min. Drain and reserve.
Bring a pot of water to the boil and drop in broccoli. Return to boil for 1 min. Turn off heat for 2 min. and remove broccoli with a slotted spoon. Drain, sprinkle with salt or lemon pepper and reserve.
Return water to the boil, add pasta and cook until al dente , about 4 min. Drain, toss with 2 tsp. oil and herbs of choice.*
Dressing is based on the reserved pan juices or broth. No oil is needed if cooking by Method I, if using Method II add 1 Tbs. oil to about ½ cup broth, reserve any extra for another use . Seasoning is optional, as is the choice and amount of vinegar needed. Both depend on the amount of broth. I recommend starting with 1-2 Tbs. vinegar. Herbal suggestions are below.
Build the bowl: divide pasta between bowls. Attractively arrange the vegetables and meat in separate groupings over the top. Drizzle with dressing and serve.
Herb and Spice Suggestions: Salt, pepper, lemon pepper, oregano, thyme regular and lemon thyme, rosemary, basil, marjoram, cilantro, crushed red pepper, hot sauce. NOTE; Herbs and spices should be mixed, but don’t overdo. Pick a flavor choice and build toward it.

EASY BACK-TO-SCHOOL DINNERS

Labor Day is a unique holiday, not only in origin but in its effect on our attitude and behavior. In my resort hometown, the change was dramatic. The tourists disappeared, literally, overnight. Gone was the traffic, the flow of beach-goers, the sounds of lifeguards whistles, sputtering motorboats and the drone of banner planes, as well as the coconut smell of suntan lotion and the allure of charcoal grills heating up. The weather was unchanged but the summer was OVER.

In the places I’ve lived since, this change was less dramatic but just as evident. Americans transform in very few hours, from a relaxed, convivial mood to one of business-like efficiency. In addition, schools open in this narrow window and parents are preoccupied with setting-up schedules for that, after school activities, evening orientations and, once again, study time.

It’s a hectic time, new schedules need time to become routine and often dinner is a victim of a squeeze play. What’s needed are fast, easy recipes, which can be simply and neatly prepared, because there’s no time to change clothes. It’s also a help if the meals can be served and/or cooked in individual portions, in case of appointment conflicts.

I’m re-posting my 3 favorite dinners for the back-to-school crush. First, though, I want to share a trick I learned which opens a variety of great recipes not just for week nights but for anytime you want a nice meal without much effort. Chicken, pork and turkey can substitute for veal in many recipes, and are interchangeable in most of their own, especially dishes in which the meat is sautéed and served in a pan sauce. This includes most of the dishes popular with today’s chefs and diners across cuisines.

Although the current food focus is on ‘fast, easy, fresh’, when a meal has to be ready in a hurry, the key words are ‘fast and easy’. Starting with a freshly made pan sauce then adding cooked, rather than raw meat, shortens and simplifies the preparation time and results in acceptable renditions of these recipes. Meat prepared ahead, even in a pinch ’Deli’ slices, are O.K. but this is one of my favorite ways to use leftovers and not just from last Sunday’s roast. I’ve used packets of frozen turkey stripped from the holiday bird. Plus, the wide variety of menu choices keeps the family interested in ‘dinner’.

I’m using some familiar pan sauce recipes to show how easy it is to convert them into speedy dinners. Since raw meat isn’t being cooked, I add bouillon granules to compensate for the loss of flavor from pan juices and reduce the amount of oil to equal that remaining after meat is sautéed. I also quote the quantity and type of raw meat stated in the original recipes so you can calculate your needs and options. I’m sure if you just study these below, you’ll be into transforming family favorites into week night meals too. However, if you want to try the recipes in their original form, simply re-adjust them. Brown the raw meat first in oil and/or butter and lengthen the simmer time until the meat is cooked through. The other ingredients and the way they are handled are unchanged.

Let’s start with an easy, child-friendly recipe, followed by two familiar ones, then my personal favorite and finally my three standard go-to recipes for back-to-school time.

Orange-Soy Sauce: Serves 4 –The best substitutions for the pork are turkey or chicken dark meat. There are 2 recipes here, pick the one which best fits your schedule and the supplies you have on hand.
The meat in the original recipe is:
1 ½ lb. thin pork chops=@ about 1lb.-1 ¼ lb. cooked meat.
Recipe #1
½ cup marmalade
½ cup soy sauce
1 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
1 tsp. oil
Mix these ingredients together and pour over meat in a pan. Simmer over low about 8- 10 min. until flavors are melded and the meat is heated through.
Recipe #2
1 cup orange juice OR 2 Tbs. frozen orange juice concentrate +1 cup water
1 Tbs. soy sauce
¼ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. chicken bouillon granules
Sugar to taste-optional
2 tsp. canola oil
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Mix all the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Add meat and simmer over low heat about 10 min. or until sauce reduces and thickens a bit.

Marsala Sauce: Serves 4-The best option for veal in this recipe is white meat of chicken or turkey.
1 lb. meat (veal cutlets-if using raw meat, roll in 1/2 cup flour)
2 Tbs. butter
1 tsp. flour
1 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
½ onion sliced thin
½ cup Marsala
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon sliced thin
Dissolve the flour and bouillon granules in the Marsala. Saute the onion in the butter; add the Marsala and stir until sauce starts to thicken. Add the meat, spoon some sauce over, top with the lemon, cover and simmer on low about 10 min. Plate and serve.

.Pepperonata: Serves 4-The original recipe calls for 1 ¼ lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in strips, so this rendition is pretty much made for leftovers.
1 lb. cooked turkey, chicken or pork
1 large onion in Julianne lengthwise*
2 large red bell peppers sliced in Julianne lengthwise*
*OR ½ lb. frozen bell pepper and onion mix =(1/2 ) a 16 oz. bag + more if desired
2 Tb. oil
½ tsp. garlic powder or to taste
½ tsp. chicken bouillon granules
1 small bunch basil-leaves stripped and torn OR ½ Tbs. dried—Optional
Saute the peppers and onions in the oil until just beginning to soften. If using raw vegetables, start the onions about 3 min. ahead. Add the garlic and chicken bouillon and stir to dissolve. Add the meat and simmer over low, covered, about 10-15 min. until peppers are soft.
Note: Beware if the vegetables are still frozen the water they hold will sputter when they hit the oil. Put them in the fridge in the morning, or give them about 20 sec. in the microwave and drain before adding to the oil.

Deviled Sauce: Serves 4–The best substitute options for pork in this recipe would be dark meat of turkey, or chicken. Also, it can be done in stages to suit your schedule.
@ 2 lbs. meat (8 pork chops – rib or loin)
2 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. oil
½ cup water
1 tsp. chicken or beef bouillon granules
3 Tbs. chili sauce
½ large onion thinly sliced
½ tsp. dry mustard
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. Paprika
Trim meat well and make a marinate of last 7 ingredients. Marinate meat overnight, or up to 3 days. Scrape off the marinade and reserve. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and brown the onion adding more butter as needed, and then the oil. Deglaze the pan with the water. Place the meat in the pan, with the reserved marinade. Cover and simmer on low for about 10-15 min. Serve with the marinade as a sauce.

QUICK SIDES: The entrée is only half the problem when you need a quickly prepared meal. Choice of sides can be one too. Frozen veggies are part of the answer. Pre-cooked rice, and ’instant’ boxed sides are another, but, when it comes to potatoes, I like to do my own. Microwaved sweet potatoes are great when split and toppings added. White potatoes are better pricked and nuked for about 2 min. then split lengthwise in halves or quarters, buttered and browned under a low broiler or roasted at about 400 deg. for 20 min. until brown. Another presentation is to nuke them, then cube them, dot them with butter, liberally sprinkle with parsley and microwave for about 2 min. until tender.

THE THREE STAND-BYS

Penne With Ham and Peas in Creamy Sauce: Serves 4-This is quick to make and portions can be set aside to reheat in the microwave for about 2 min.
(1) 1 lb. box of penne –I like  the whole grain or equal amount of cheese tortellini
2 cups frozen or fresh peas – not canned
4-5 oz. Sliced ham cut in 1 inch squares  OR 2 cups leftover ham  in ½ inch pieces ***
2 Tbs. oil
1 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
¼ tsp. garlic powder—optiona
1 cup skim or 1% milk, or half and half *
1/3 cup pasta water
Shredded or grated Parmesan cheese.
Cook the pasta according to box directions until just al dente= about 8-9 min. Drain over a bowl saving the pasta water. Return the pot to the stove. Add the oil and ham and stir over medium heat until ham pieces separate.  Add peas, bouillon and if using, garlic powder. Stir to dissolve powders and coat all ingredients with the oil. (2 min. total) Return the drained pasta to the pot. Add the pasta water and milk and/or cream. Raise burner temperature to high, bring contents to a full boil. Occasionally lifting the pot to prevent sticking, maintain at a boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until a creamy sauce forms. (4 min.) Remove from heat at once. Divide among plates and generously garnish with Parmesan. Serve hot.
*Whole milk and light cream separate and curdle when boiled

Potato Hot Pot: Serves 2- This is easy and fast to prepare. Using canned, sliced potatoes cuts the cook time in half and reduces the prep skills required to only a can opener. Can be made in individual portions and cooked separately.
15 oz. can diced tomatoes- drained juice reserved
15 oz. can dark kidney beans-drained juice reserved-really any beans can be used.
1 cup cut green beans –briefly cooked
1 medium onion in ½ inch dice
1 Tbs. oil
4 hot dogs each cut in 6 pieces
2 large potatoes-white or sweet
Salt and pepper
Cook the beans to crisp tender. Pierce the potatoes with a fork and microwave 3 min. When cool cut into thin slices. Saute the onion in the oil until soft, remove from heat. Add all the ingredients but the potatoes to the pot and warm slightly. Add enough reserved juice to give the consistency of chili. Ladle into oven-proof bowls and cover the tops with potato slices in a circular pattern. Bake 35-40 min in a 350 deg. oven until mixture bubbles and potatoes are golden. Serve at once.

Glamorous Ham Casserole: Serves 4. – This is easy to prepare and leftover portions reheat well in the microwave.
2 cups cooked rice – suggest packaged pre-cooked product, Uncle Ben’s or Zataran’s*
2 cups cooked ham in ½ inch dice. About ¾ lb. 3 thick slices from the Deli work fine.**
2 eggs beaten
2 plum or small tomatoes in large dice-do not use canned tomatoes
1/3 cup green bell pepper diced
¼ cup diced onion
1 ½ tsp. Dijon or spicy brown mustard
1 ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup cream sherry
½ cup light cream
½ cup bread crumbs
2 Tbs. melted butter
Paprika and parsley to garnish
Combine all ingredients, except last three, in a lightly greased 2 qt. casserole. Stir to mix well. Combine butter and bread crumbs, sprinkle over top. Decorate with parsley and paprika. Bake 350 degrees for 45 min or until nicely browned and bubbly.
*The pre-cooked rice packets only take a couple of minutes in the microwave-if you are using leftover rice, or making your own, do not use the minute type.
** This is a great dish for leftovers, and suitable for a buffet as well as a week night. Smoked turkey can be substituted for the ham.

7 PERFCT DESSERTS FOR LABOR DAY

Planning Labor Day dinner can seem like a re-run of July 4th. Both summer holidays are expected to be warm, hopefully sunny days, offering the preferred option of eating outdoors, perhaps grilling. Both dinners rely heavily on seasonal produce. In fact, the menus are all but interchangeable except for one big difference—the desserts.

July 4th desserts are all about icy confections that laugh at the heat, seeming to say;”its summer, have fun and come cool off with us.” Traditionally, on Labor Day, the oven returns to make pastry showcasing the stone fruits of August, peaches, apricots, plums and nectarines. The desserts are a bit nostalgic, carrying the message; “Enjoy us while you still can. Autumn is near.”

The operative words are”.. while you still can.” Other summer produce, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers even cantaloupes and strawberries, though not field ripened, are transported to markets all year. Stone fruits are only available in season. Although these fruits cook better than most, as witnessed by their long history of being canned, for much of their short season it’s too hot to stand over a stove. We prefer to eat them out-if-hand or sliced into or over other foods.

However, there is a saving grace because though the end-of-season fruits may be of lesser quality to eat raw, they cook as well, perhaps even better than the lush ones in their prime. Probably it’s due to the fact that they have less water content and the meat is more compact, but heating brings out a ton of flavor.

Stone fruits combine well. If there isn’t enough of one type for a recipe, another can often be used to fill the quota. They’re generally interchangeable in recipes especially peaches and nectarines, which are really an antique Chinese variety of peach. Only peaches have to be skinned before cooking. That’s done as with tomatoes, by dipping in boiling water and peeling off the skin, but don’t remove the skin if grilling, roasting or broiling them, unless they’re to be sliced.

The following recipes are easy go-tos, not just for Labor Day, but for early Fall desserts. There are several more in the site Archives, just go to the right margin and select a month from the drop-down box. I suggest looking-up August-September of any year.

RECIPES:

Broiled, Grilled or Roasted Peaches or Nectarines
Peaches and nectarines are the favored stone fruits to withstand intense heat without the support of pastry or a pan. Simply halve and pit them, place them on a baking sheet in the oven or directly on the grill and cook them until the juices bubble and the cut edges begin to char. Grilling time depends on the size of the fruit and degree of heat. Roasting is done at 400 deg. for 20 min.
They can be served directly with meat but as a dessert I like to let them marinate a few minutes in a complimentary liqueur or liquor, Peach Brandy, Triple Sec, spiced rum etc., until they form a bit of sauce and then serve them with the sauce and meringues, ice cream or whipped cream.

Fruit Rustica, or Galette, is the easiest type of pie to make. This is a short version of the recipe from my book Dinners with Joy:
If making the crust: mix 1 ½ cups flour, ¼ cup sugar, cut in 1/3 cup shortening, add 3 to 4 Tbs. ICE water to form dough, and roll to a 12 inch round.
If buying the crust: roll only to 10 inches.
Transfer to a parchment or foil covered cookie sheet, or a pizza pan for baking.
Depending on size, fill the center with a 1 lb. to 1 ½ lb. fruit, leaving a 2 to 3 inch margin. (Apples pears and peaches should be peeled and sliced. Plums and apricots can be halved and stoned.)
Dot fruit with ½ Tbs. butter.
Sprinkle with 1 Tbs. cornstarch, 1 Tbs. sugar and ½ tsp. lemon juice.
Carefully fold edges of pastry up around filling, pleating as you go. The edges can be brushed with cream or egg white and sprinkled with sugar as decoration.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 min. Cool on sheet; preferably on a wire rack.
This can be moved to a plate for serving, but as the name implies, it’s a “rustic” or casual pastry, and I like to bake it and serve it in a pizza pan.

Fruit Pizza: Serves 8-10
Make dough as instructed above, increasing sugar to ½ cup and shortening to 2/3 cup.
If buying; purchase a roll of sugar cookie dough, not pie dough. Roll dough to fit a pizza pan, prick several times with a fork and bake as for cookies, 350 degrees for 10 to 12 min. until lightly browned, or as directions on package state.
Cool completely in pan.
Decoratively arrange raw fruit over the crust. The amount you will need depends on the chosen fruit, roughly about 1 ½ lbs. For July 4th use a combination of strawberries and blueberries. Top with a glaze made from a clear jelly, apple or current, melted with 1 Tbs. water per ¼ cup jelly. For a thicker glaze dissolve ¼ tsp. cornstarch in 1 Tbs. water per ½ cup jelly, which is the amount I use for one of these. Boil until clear and spoon over the fruit. Chill until completely set. Serve in wedges and optionally pass whipped cream, or ice cream.

American Trifle Recipe: Serves 8
Note: the flavor of the pudding mix can be changed to taste Coconut, Lemon etc.*, as can the type of fruit preserve**. For example the trifle could be blueberry-strawberry or peach. Experiment and have fun!
(2) 4 serving packages of Vanilla instant pudding-pie filling*
1 ½ cups milk ( note reuced amount from that stated on box)
10 oz. pound cake –available at the Dollar Store
10 oz. jar of raspberry preserves**
3-4 whole fruit –sliced or more as needed
¼ cup sherry, brandy, other complimentary liquor, or orange juice
1 cup sweetened whipped cream –optional garnish
¼ cup extra slices and/or a few mint leaves for garnish
Mix pudding with milk for pie filling as directed on package. Arrange 1/3rd of the cake in a single layer to completely cover the bottom of a deep glass bowl or large compote dish (clear glass is best) Spread with 1/3rd the preserves, sprinkle with 1/3rd the liquor or juice, spread with 1/3rd the fruit slices and top with 1/3rd the pudding. Repeat layers twice ending with pudding, Top with whipped cream if using and garnish with a few slices and/or mint. Chill for up to 1 day.
NOTE: If the trifle is to be kept for any time adding 2 thinly sliced bananas to layer under the fruit protects the cake from becoming too moist and falling apart or 3 bananas can be used alone

Wonton Fruit Cups: Serves 12
24 wonton wrappers
2 Tbs. melted butter
1/3 cup fruit preserves—flavor complimentary to fruit filling
1 cup lemon yogurt or instant pudding-pie filling, flavor optional
1 ½ cups diced fruit
Line a 12 cup or (2) 6 cup muffin pans with a wonton wrapper. Brush with ½ the butter. Place a second wrapper diagonally across the first and brush with remaining butter. Bake in a preheated 350 deg. oven 10 min. or until golden. Remove and cool. Spread 1 tsp. fruit preserves in each cup. Fold yogurt or pudding with 1 cup fruit and spoon into cups. Garnish with remaining fruit.

Fruit Crisp: Serves 6-8
4-5 cups sliced peaches or nectarines, halved apricots, quartered plums
½ cup melted butter
¾-1 ¼ cups white or light brown sugar-depending on sweetness of fruit
¾ cup flour
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon or ½ tsp. nutmeg or allspice—depending on choice of fruit
Few drops lemon juice
Place the fruit in an ovenproof bowl or pan the size of a 9 inch pie plate and sprinkle with lemon juice. Stir all the other ingredients into the butter and scatter over the fruit. Bake in a preheated 400deg.oven about 30-40 min. until fruit is done. Cool on a rack and serve spooned into bowls topped with ice cream or whipped topping.

Dump Cake: Serves 12
4-5 cups sliced peaches or nectarines, halved or quartered plums or apricots
½ cup white sugar
½ cup melted butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
(1) 18.5 box of cake mix-flavor optional
Place fruit in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan and mix with sugar and cinnamon. scatter dry cake mix over the top and pour melted butter evenly over it. Do not stir! Bake in a preheated 350 deg. oven about 30 min. until golden on top. Serve with ice cream or whipped topping.

SALADS SPOTLIGHTING PRODUCE IN ITS PRIME

One of the best things about August is the abundance of fresh produce at peak ripeness. Several items are robust enough to stand alone, or in a duet as a salad. Lettuces and leafy greens, also available now, can be used to simply add flavor or texture contrast, rather than the heavy body-building they supply the rest of the year. Herbs too are wonderfully fresh now and can be worked into many dishes as flavor accents or even as working components.

Because of the focus on a specific taste, and monochromatic coloring, salads concentrating on just one or two fresh produce items are appreciated more when served in smaller quantities, as a luncheon or an accompaniment to an entrée food, optionally on a bedding of complimentary greens. Adding ingredients in an attempt to convert them into an entrée ruins the recipe and defeats the purpose of choosing one or two items to savor and enjoy by showcasing them at their perfect moment.

Of course knowing how and where to find good produce is important. Field grown and naturally ripened are key. If you live near a farming area, taking a drive to find roadside farm stands is great, otherwise seek out a central farmers’ market or, in urban locations, try specialty stores. Supermarkets often feature specials on different produce crops in season, especially local ones, but check the labels to see where the product was grown; the closer it was the fresher it is and the less chance it was harvested prematurely to ripen enroute. If you have any doubts about how to select the best items, ask someone who works at the market and also be sure to inquire about handling and storage. It’s no good to buy perfect produce and have it spoil because it was bought too far in advance or improperly stored.

One other note on buying for and preparing these recipes; no matter where you look nowadays, most of what you find will be GMOs. I personally, mourn the loss of regional differences in and depth of flavor and deplore the bland equality of taste. Still, GMOs do offer some advantages; the overall perfection in appearance and longer shelf life are two. Developing a firmer skin or rind on fruits and vegetables to protect from infestation in the fields and bruising in transport is a big third.

This is especially relevant to preparing tomatoes. Formerly, removing the thin skin used to be the cook’s option. Now, dealing with the firmer skin is basic to the preparation. Left on, it preserves the integrity of diced or sliced pieces, especially if to be tossed, but prohibits the flesh from melding into the whole in some recipes. The presentation description will tell you what to do, if the recipe directions don’t.

The following recipes are good examples of making a specific produce into a salad, but only suggestions. (Again several are adapted from Three& Four Ingredients by Jenny White and Joanna Farrow.) If you have a favorite, go for it! A friend loves pears and has created a delicious salad with sliced pears, walnut oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar and chopped, toasted walnuts. Sometimes she adds a mild cheese, and sometimes plates it on a green of choice at the time, but it’s always soooo good.

 

RECIPES:

Tomatoes with Cut Beans (or Peas) and Basil: Serves 2- This Italian recipe is equally popular with lightly cooked peas or cut green beans. The peas are more filling but higher in carbohydrates.
2 Beefsteak tomatoes OR 4 plum tomatoes
1 ½ cups cut green beans OR 1 cup peas
1 Tbs. oil
½ tsp. garlic powder or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. dried basil
12 large fresh basil leaves + 2 sprigs for garnish
Cook the beans or peas to crisp tender and cut the unpeeled tomatoes in 1 inch dice. Lightly toss everything but the fresh basil in a salad bowl and chill to marinate at least 1 hr. Slice the fresh basil leaves thinly and toss into the salad1/2 hr. before serving. Garnish with the basil sprigs.

Watermelon and Tomato Salad: Serves 2
2 slices of watermelon- rind cut off, seedless and cut in 1 inch cubes
1 beefsteak tomato OR 2 plum tomatoes
½ Tbs. oil
½ tsp. balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 oz. crumbled Feta cheese – optional
Small bunch of watercress OR baby spinach – torn
Peel the tomato by dipping in boiling water for a few seconds then pulling the skin off with a sharp knife. Cut the tomato in 1 inch dice and gently stir with the melon, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Marinate, chilled for at least 1 hr. Serve cold on greens optionally garnished with the cheese.

Crushed Tomato and Pasta Salad: Serves 4
6 plum or small tomatoes peeled and halved
1 lb. lasagna noodles broken diagonally in pieces the size of the noodle’s width
¼ cup fresh basil leaves + sprigs for garnish
3 Tbs. oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tsp. garlic powder
Shaved or grated Parmesan-optional
Gently crush the pulp and juice from the tomatoes into a bowl. Add everything else but the pasta and marinate, covered, chilled to meld 3 hr. Meanwhile cook the pasta al dente, drain and hold in a bowl of cool water. To serve, drain pasta and add to bowl with tomatoes; toss well and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with basil sprigs and grated cheese if using.

Sour Cucumber with Dill: Serves 4
3 small cucumbers thinly sliced-mandolin recommended
3 small red onions thinly sliced- mandolin recommended
3 Tbs. chopped fresh dill + a few sprigs to garnish
5-6 Tbs. cider vinegar diluted with 2-3 Tbs. water
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl combine the cucumbers and onions with salt and leave for 10min.until they ‘weep. ’Rinse well and drain. Add diluted vinegar, the dill and toss well. Marinate in the refrigerator 2-3 hours and serve cold, drained garnished with dill sprigs.

Cucumbers in Sour Cream: Serves 2
2 medium cucumbers-thinly sliced-mandolin recommended
Cider vinegar to taste
Sugar to taste
1 cup sour cream
Salt
Paprika
Place the cucumbers on a plate and liberally sprinkle with salt. Allow to sit about 15 min, until they ‘weep’. Rinse and drain well. Mix the sour cream with vinegar and sugar to taste-mildly sweet-sour. Refrigerate both separately. Just before serving, place half the cucumbers in a flat-bottomed bowl, then ½ the cream. Dust with paprika and repeat with the rest of the cucumbers and cream, ending with the paprika. Be sure to serve well chilled. This salad can also be served in individual saucers.

Roasted Pepper and Anchovy Salad: Serves 4
6 large bell peppers-assorted colors red, orange, yellow green
2 oz. can anchovy fillets
2 garlic cloves-thinly sliced
2 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the peppers in half and roast in a 400 deg. oven, cut side down, in a roasting pan 30-40 min. until skin is charred. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave for 15 min. then peel off skin and cut into julienne strips. Drain the anchovies and halve lengthwise. Mix the anchovy oil, vinegar, garlic and seasonings in a deep bow. Add the peppers and anchovies and fold to combine with a spoon. Chill until ready to serve. Excellent on spinach leaves with a slice of lemon to garnish.

Beets with Fresh Mint: Serves 4-This salad is an easy fix substituting canned tiny whole beets for the fresh ones.
4-6 beets, cooked OR (3) 15 oz. cans tiny whole beets
1-2 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch fresh mint.
Cut the cooked beets in about 1 inch dice, or drain and halve the canned ones. Strip the mint and shred the leaves-reserve half. Place all the ingredients in a bowl, toss and chill to marinate at least 1 hr. Serve garnished with reserved mint.