Hot Tomato Feta Salad & Crispy Flatbread

Tomato Feta Salad 2
This could just as easily be an appetizer as a side dish ….tonight it was a side dish for our roasted chicken and it was delicious!  Super quick and easy, along with ingredients I love and that made it a total win.

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped, pitted Kalmata olives
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 8- to 10-ounce block feta
Crackers, flatbread*, pita chips, or crostini, for dipping

In a bowl, mix the tomatoes, olives, onion, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, oregano, olive oil and a few grinds of pepper.

Feel free to substitute the feta with haloumi, or goat cheese, either would be great.

On a grill: Heat your grill to medium-high. Set the feta block in the middle of a piece of foil. Pile the tomato mixture on top of the feta. Fold up the edges of the foil so that it will hold in any liquid as it cooks. Place the packet straight on a grill for 15 minutes to warm it through. Remove from grill and transfer to plate or serving dish.

In the oven: Heat oven to 400°F. Check to see that your dish is oven-proof. Place the block of feta in the middle of your dish. Pile the tomato mixture on top of the feta. Bake for 15 minutes.

Both methods: The feta will not melt, just warm and soften. Garnish with parsley and serve with crackers; eat immediately. As it cools, the feta will firm up again.

Flatbread 1

I’m guilty of poaching this recipe right off the Smitten Kitchen website, and if you haven’t visited that site, hop on over.  Deb Perelman has fantastic recipes, but even just her writing style is worth a read.

Flatbread 4

Can’t believe how good these are!  I had to use the herb I had on hand, so these are made with thyme, not rosemary.  Can’t wait to try with fresh rosemary out of my garden.

*Flatbread.  also from http://www.smittenkitchen.com

  • 1 3/4 cups (230 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary plus 2 (6-inch) sprigs (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil plus more for brushing
  • Flaky sea salt such as Maldon

Heat oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet on rack in middle. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with olive oil.

Stir together flour, chopped rosemary, baking powder, and salt in a large, wide bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Use your hands to gently knead dough inside the bowl 4 or 5 times, until it comes together in a semi-smooth ball.

Divide dough into 3 large or 6 smaller pieces and roll out one piece at a time on an unfloured counter, to about 10-inch (for larger pieces of dough) or 7-inch rounds (smaller pieces) — shape can be rustic; dough should be thin. Lift flatbread onto prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. I can sometimes squeeze 6 small flatbreads on a half-sheet pan; sometimes I need to bake 1 to 2 in a second batch.

Lightly brush tops with additional oil and scatter small clusters of rosemary leaves on top (if using), pressing in slightly. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until pale golden and browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating flatbreads if needed on the pan for even color. Let cool then break into pieces.

I cut mine into triangles before baking, and they came out perfectly.  Read the full Smitten Kitchen recipe for more ideas, you will be happy you did.

Buttermilk Ranch Dip or Dressing

Veg

Vegetables first!  The kids absolutely love a big platter of fresh vegetables, but this ranch dressing really makes it a favourite.  Ready for them to arrive from the ski hill today and this platter will disappear in minutes.

This is the best creamy dressing to have on hand for those hungry moments. .. … or when the kids are arriving home from school or the ski hill.  In general, we prefer vinaigrette’s for salad dressing, but this is so comforting and delicious we love it too.

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (you could use regular milk but I like the tang from buttermilk)
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp each dried basil, oregano & parsley (in the summer of course fresh is best)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice (according to your own taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Give the whole thing a good mix and allow to sit long enough for all the seasonings to fully wake up and join the party.  This is perfect as a dip, for a salad dressing I would thin it out a bit with either a bit more buttermilk or even a touch of water.

 

Creamy Cucumber Herb Salad Dressing

Creamy Cucumber dressing 2

We used to love going to a small restaurant in Mexico City, no name on the building and just a few wooden chairs and tables on the sidewalk … but oh … the food!  For 99 pesos we received an amazing set menu with four courses and it was always fantastic.  The chef moved on … (we spotted him at another place finally).  If I could remember the name of his new spot I’d definitely give you a recommendation to try it!  Anyhow … what was I saying … oh of course … this is a salad dressing recipe.  He made this incredible creamy cucumber salad dressing that was divine.  I asked him the recipe and he gave me the basic idea but claimed the key was the sea salt he used.  We walked miles looking for the store he told us to go to, without success.  Eventually, on another trip we found the salt  (from Cuyutlan), and have continued to pick it up every time we go to Mexico City!  I’ve finally hit the right ingredients here and this is delicious.

  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • handful of fresh herbs (I used basil, parsley and oregano)
  • 1 garlic scape
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper

Roughly chop the herbs and cucumber and place in blender, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Give it a really good whiz until smooth and creamy.  Depending on how juicy your cucumber is, you can thin it out a bit with milk or buttermilk if needed.

Tossed Salad

This is delicious tossed with your favourite salad, roasted and room temperature vegetables or as a dipping sauce.

Creamy Cucumber Herb Salad Dressing

Creamy Cucumber dressing 2

Smooth, creamy and absolutely delicious – this will make you crave a salad.

We used to love going to a small restaurant in Mexico City, no name on the building and just a few wooden chairs and tables on the sidewalk … but oh … the food!  For 99 pesos we received an amazing set menu with four courses and it was always fantastic.  The chef moved on … (we spotted him at another place finally).  If I could remember the name of his new spot I’d definitely give you a recommendation to try it!  Anyhow … what was I saying … oh of course … this is a salad dressing recipe.  He made this incredible creamy cucumber salad dressing that was divine.  I asked him the recipe and he gave me the basic idea but claimed the key was the sea salt he used.  We walked miles looking for the store he told us to go to, without success.  Eventually, on another trip we found the salt  (from Cuyutlan), and have continued to pick it up every time we go to Mexico City!  I’ve finally hit the right ingredients here and this is delicious.

  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • handful of fresh herbs (I used basil, parsley and oregano)
  • 1 garlic scape
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper

Roughly chop the herbs and cucumber and place in blender, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Give it a really good whiz until smooth and creamy.  Depending on how juicy your cucumber is, if needed you can thin it out a bit with milk or buttermilk.

Creamy Cucumber dressing 3

My trusty little bullet whipped this up in no time.

Creamy cucumber dressing 4

My herbs are so happy this year!

Creamy cucumber dressing 5

Here it is, the infamous salt I had Grant, Wilson and Vivian trekking all over                              Mexico City looking for.  Was it worth the effort?  You bet.

 

 

 

 

 

Bright Crunchy Thai salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

Brighter skies, longer days, and warm temperatures mean I’m looking for meals that are lighter and feel so good to eat!  The flavours of this dressing are so good you are going to want a big batch to keep in the fridge – use it to dip any fresh vegetables in.

Sesame chli lime cashews 3

Served tonight with some lightly garlic buttered prawns …. a perfect meal.

Dressing

  • juice of 2 limes
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp Ponzu sauce
  • 3 tbsp sweet chili sauce
  • 1 – 2 tsp grated or minced garlic (to your taste)
  •  1 tbsp grated or minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (the stems are perfect for this, they pack so much flavour – just mince a bit before putting in the blender
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts

Combine all ingredients in blender and whiz up until smooth and creamy.

Gather up all the vegetables that scream fresh to you and make an awesome crunchy salad.

Lightly seasoned cashews make a fantastic crunchy topping!

In a frypan combine:

  • 1 1/3 cups cashews
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

Sesame Chili Lime cashews

Toss and heat until cashews are lightly browned and then cook for a further minute with:

  • 1 tbsp honey
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp black sesame seeds (lightly toasted)

Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Sesame chli lime cashews 2

This dressing makes more than you will need.  If you want to make a complete meal out of this, then scoop out about 1/2 cup and marinate a protein for grilling.  It works equally well with flank steak or chicken.  I haven’t tried it with tofu, but I’m sure it would be great.  Grill steak or chicken and allow to rest at least 15 minutes before slicing.  Cool before serving with the salad.

Caesar Salad

Caesar salad 3

Love the textures of a great Caesar salad – contrasting fresh crisp greens, crunchy bacon and croutons, soft parmesan and a creamy dressing.

Everybody needs a great Caesar dressing in their kitchen, try this one and adjust to your families taste.  My grandkids don’t love garlic, so when they are over I usually go light on the garlic cloves but that’s totally up to you!

  • 1 egg (or 1/4 cup mayonnaise)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1-3 cloves garlic
  • 2 anchovy fillets (packed in oil)
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup oil (I like to use a combo of vegetable oil and really good extra virgin olive oil)
  • dash hot sauce (totally optional)

Combine all ingredients except oil in jar or blender.  Shake/blend really well until smooth, and slowly add oil until emulsified.  Taste and adjust for salt and pepper, adding more if necessary.

Caesar salad 1

Everybody helps make dinner around here, and Stella is learning the fine points of knife work!  Don’t worry, she quickly learned to rest the knife against her knuckles to avoid trimming her fingers……

Caesar salad 2

Assembling that cheese grater has all Sloan’s attention.

  • Wash your lettuce leaves and spin dry (you can do this ahead of time, wrap in clean kitchen towel and keep in fridge until ready to use, it really crisps up the lettuce)
  • Cook bacon until crisp and crumble.
  • Toss stale bread chunks in olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper and toast until dry and crunchy.  (This is also a great place to use dried herbs, and some garlic powder)
  • Grate Parmesan cheese

Toss lettuce pieces in very large bowl with the bacon, croutons and parmesan cheese.  Just before serving toss with dressing just until everything has a delicious coating.  Taste and squeeze a bit of lemon over if you like.

This easily goes from a side dish to a whole meal if you serve Caesar salad with grilled chicken or shrimp, and a side of garlic toast.

 

 

Fajita Seasoning

Fajita Seasoning 1

Having this seasoning mix on hand makes dinner easy breezy!  (lemon squeezy??) Make a double batch and you can keep it for months in a cool, dry spot.  Use it on vegetables, fish or meat alike, these flavours go so well together and make dinner quick and simple.

  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

How easy is this? just toss it all into a bowl and thoroughly mix.  Do yourself a favour and make lots.

Fajita Seasoning

Just looking at this, you can tell it’s tasty, right??

This works with anything your imagination can come up with …. salad dressing or vegetable dip or seafood bake …. you let me know if you come up with more!

 

For fajitas:

  • protein (or not to make it vegetarian)
  • onions
  • peppers

 

To make fajitas, simply generously sprinkle slivered chicken (or any meat, seafood of your choice) and toss in fry pan until just cooked through.

Cook sliced peppers and onions separately so they don’t overcook.

Serve with:

  • lime crema (sounds fancy, but it’s just a squeeze of lime juice with sour cream and a bit of salt)
  • salsa
  • avocado
  • lime wedges
  • chopped cilantro
  • toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • tortillas

You can so easily turn this into what is crazy popular right now,  power bowls!  Just serve with cooked quinoa or grain of your choice.

Turn it into a sheet pan dinner, also featured everywhere right now, just generously sprinkle everything with the seasoning and toss it into a hot oven (?400?).

Yes, you are welcome, you didn’t know dinner could be so quick, easy, healthy and delicious, did you???

 

Sesame Maple Vinaigrette

An amazing trick to get complex flavour in a vinaigrette is to use more than one acid and more than one oil.  In this case, I’ve used balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar for the acidic hit and sesame oil combined with a light grapeseed oil but you can also use a really good quality olive oil.

Sesame Maple Dressing

If your garlic cloves are home grown like these beauties, you may only want to use 1, unless you are trying to ward off a cold……

  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or olive oil)

Put all ingredients in jar and give it a whiz with your immersion blender, or put it in a blender.  Slowly add the oil while blending to emulsify it and make a delicious creamy dressing.

Serve with your favourite tossed green salad, or it goes equally well with warm roasted vegetables.

Summer Salad

Butternut Squash Salad

Roasted squash, crunchy pepitas, salty feta, and tart pickled red onions.  This salad has it all, and can be served warm or cold.  Make a big batch it keeps so well.

Butternut Squash Salad

 

1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds)

5 to 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup cooked barley

Barley

1 cup chopped fresh kale, massaged well until it is bright green

Kale, massaged

Look how much brighter the massaged kale is, compared to the kale at the bottom of the photo.  Massaged kale is more tender and easy to digest also.

1/3 cup toasted salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
3 ounces feta cheese
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

preheat oven to 375

Peel squash and cut into bite size pieces.  Toss with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper, and roast until tender, about 30-40 minutes.

To cook barley put 1/2 cup dry barley into saucepan with 2 cups water (or chicken stock for extra flavour).  Boil for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to sit for 1 hour.  Drain well.  You can easily do this a day ahead.

Dice red onion finely, and set aside in small bowl or jar.  Combine the sherry vinegar, water, salt and sugar and stir until well dissolved.  Pour over onions and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes.  You can also do this ahead of time, in fact I often have a jar of these in my fridge as they are amazing on salads, sandwiches and of course tacos!

Pickled red onion

Just love the bright colour pickled red onions get, with a gorgeous pink vinaigrette.  Yum.

The pumpkin seeds I have on hand all the time aren’t salted, so I toasted them in a little bit of olive oil, with a sprinkle of fresh sea salt.  They were so delicious I kept nibbling at them, good thing I ended up with enough for the salad.

When squash is ready, toss in a large bowl with all the other ingredients and about 3 tbsp  olive oil.

Butternut squash salad prep

Get everything ready ahead of time, and once the squash is roasted toss it all together.

Credit for this amazing salad goes to Smitten Kitchen, Deb used faro and I used barley but you can use any grain you like.  The kale was my idea too, had some in the fridge and thought it would add a nice pop of colour and texture, it did!

Spicy Sweet & Sticky Asian Pork Chops

Spicy Sweet Sticky Pork Chops

Grill just until cooked through, these juicy pork chops hit all those notes of spicy, sweet and sticky – get out the napkins!

 

  • 8 thin cut pork chops, pounded lightly until uniform thickness
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger grated
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 chilli finely chopped (seeds removed if needed)
  • juice of 1 lime
  1. To make the pork chops, combine the soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, curry paste chilli & lime juice in a bowl and mix well.  Taste, and adjust if necessary – especially for heat.  If you like it hotter, add more!
  2. Place the pork chops in a ziploc bag and pour over the sauce. Close the bag and allow to marinade for 20 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Grill over high heat until just cooked through.

Noodles 2

 

We served these with a crunchy Thai noodle salad.