Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cucumber Radish Appetizer

Whenever I eat a radish I think of the scene in Gone With the Wind when Scarlett is in the garden at Tara, hungry after the deprivations of the war, and she finds an old radish plant, pulls it up and eats it.

These radishes grew in my garden and they were crisp with a fresh peppery flavour that wasn't overwhelming. I had so many that I had to devise something to do with them. This appetizer was the result and I have to say, I think it's awfully pretty. And easy, too.

Radish Cream Cheese Spread

10 radishes, tops and tails trimmed
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces cream cheese, softened

Place the radishes and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the cream cheese and pulse until combined. This can be used right away, but I found the fresh garlic overpowered the radishes. If you plan ahead, refrigerate overnight, or at least a few hours and the flavours will settle down into a lovely fresh mix.

To make the appetizers, cut an English cucumber into fairly thick slices, dollop some dip atop and garnish with the prettiest radishes you can find.
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Watermelon, Feta, Shrimp Salad

I made this a couple of weeks ago - had a craving for sweet watermelon. The combination of flavours might seem odd, but they work really well together - salty feta with the sweet watermelon. The grilled shrimp is optional but since this was our main course, I added some. I suppose you could add grilled chicken as another option.

Step One:
1 pound large shrimp, deveined (peeled or unpeeled - I like peeling them as I eat them)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high. Toss shrimp with olive oil. Stir in salt and pepper. Cook shrimp about 2 minutes per side or until just cooked through. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Step Two: the Dressing
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sliced fresh mint, divided
1 T olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk together the lime juice and honey, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Pour over the red onion and 2 T of the mint. Toss gently to combine.

Step Three: Putting it all together

4 cups arugula (or mixed greens)
8 (4-inch) seedless watermelon wedges
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

To serve, place 1 cup arugula on each of 4 plates and top with 2 melon wedges and 1/4 of the onion-mint mixture; sprinkle with equal amounts of feta, top with about 6 shrimp, and garnish with some of the remaining fresh mint. Serve immediately.

Add some french bread, toasted with herbs to round out this simple and delicious meal - perfect for a hot summer night.

Grilled Hearts of Romain with Blue Cheese Dressing

I saw this recipe in Fine Cooking a few years ago and thought it looked intriguing. Today I was out in my garden and noticed I had a LOT of romaine lettuce that needed thinning. And I remembered this recipe. And remarkably, I had all the ingredients.

It was delicious! Just a hint of smoky grill flavour combined with still crunchy lettuce and chunky blue cheese made for a wonderful combination. And almost anything tastes better with a little bacon! I made only half of the dressing recipe and there is a lot left for another day! More lettuce thinning to come!


1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk, more as needed
6 ounces crumbled blue cheese, such as Roquefort or Danish blue
1 1/2 Tablespoons finely grated shallot
1 clove finely grated garlic
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

For the salad:

2 hearts of romaine lettuce, bases trimmed but left intact, halved lengthwise (this will serve 4 people)
olive oil for brushing
salt and pepper
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Make the dressing: In a medium bowl combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, milk, blue cheese, shallot, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours to let the flavours develop. Taste before using. You may need additional milk to thin the dressing as it will thicken upon standing.

Prepare the salad: Heat a gas grill to medium low. Lightly brush olive oil all over the romaine hearts, taking care not to break the leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the lettuce cut side down on the grate, directly over the heat. Grill until the outer leaves are charred and wilted and the lettuce is barely warm through to the core, 2-5 minutes. Transfer to a clean platter and let rest for 5 minutes.

To serve: Place half a heart of romaine, cut side up on each plate, top with about 2 Tablespoons of the blue cheese dressing, sprinkle with the crumbled bacon and serve immediately.
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Chicken Marinade

I love barbecued chicken breasts. But they can become too dry if not watched carefully. A friend gave me this recipe for a chicken marinade that results in juicy and flavourful chicken.

I like to purchase a big package of chicken breasts, then freeze them in smaller portions. Last summer I tried making the marinade and putting it on the chicken in the ziploc bag before freezing. Take a bag out of the freezer and the meat marinades beautifully while it thaws. Father's Day was the day after I returned from a trip to Europe with my mom and my sister. I knew I wouldn't be in any frame of mind to cook or even think about a menu, so I suggested to my daughters that I would prepare the marinade and chicken before I left on my trip, and they could take care of the rest of the menu. I felt so organized!

We had a wonderful barbecue on our son and daughter-in-law's new deck. The girls made yummy salads and dessert, and I contributed my bag of chicken. I was feeling a little punch-drunk with just 6 hours sleep in 36 hours.

Chicken Marinade

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Mix it all up, pour over chicken pieces and marinade for several hours, or freeze. Grill chicken until done.

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Potato, Zucchini, Tomato Tian

I found the original version of this recipe in Ina Garten's "Barefoot in Paris" cookbook. A tian is really nothing more than layered ingredients cooked together. Usually consisting of vegetables, the ingredients are carefully composed to look attractive as well as taste good.

Tian is also the word used for the baking dish itself. I don't know if my Corning Ware shallow dish is actually a tian, but it seemed to work just fine.

This dish was easy to prepare and the combination of flavours has a lovely thyme-infused earthiness. Next time I might try it with rosemary. So...on with the recipe.

Vegetable Tian (serves 3-4)

olive oil
2 yellow onions, cut in half and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound white potatoes (or whatever you have) (I used one average sized baking potato)
1 medium zucchini
2 tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 ounces Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Brush a pan with olive oil. I used a 10 round pan, but any size or shape can be used. This dish is easy to expand to feed more people.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil and cook the onions until translucent, taking care not to brown them too much. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.

Slice the potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them in tightly, making just one layer. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, then the thyme leaves. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, about 1 Tablespoon. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are barely tender. Uncover the dish, sprinkle the cheese on top and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until browned.

NOTE: I forgot the garlic until it was too late, but the dish tasted wonderful nonetheless. And lacking any of the suggested cheeses, I sprinkled about 3 Tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan cheese instead.
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