A vegetarian spin on panzanella. This simple dinner salad features grilled halloumi cheese and cumin-pumpernickel croutons tossed in a lime vinaigrette. Love fresh herbs? This recipe is a great way to highlight them. Try a combo of basil, mint, dill and cilantro.
Not familiar with panzanella? It’s a salad that features cubes of crusty bread tossed with a vinegar based dressing. Check out my Simple Summer Panzanella post to learn more. Halloumi is the perfect substitute for meat in this panzanella.
Halloumi. It’s Cheese.
Not familiar with halloumi? It’s a totally under-utilized cheese. It’s the cheese that you can grill without melting it. Read my post Halloumi Cheese. It’s What’s For Dinner. Salty and squeaky to bite, very hearty. You won’t miss the meat at all. It’s super versatile.
Picky About Pumpernickel?
Don’t love pumpernickel? How about substituting a good traditional rye bread! Leave the cumin seeds out if your rye has caraway seeds. Alternatively, an olive bread or rosemary garlic would also be good options.
The key with halloumi panzanella (or any panzanella) is to get the croutons nice and crispy first. Then, when you toss with the vinaigrette, they soften up just a touch without getting soggy.
It’s a good idea to keep some of the bread to the side and not toss it all at once. The rest of the halloumi panzanella can be refrigerated and then brought to room temp the next day. Re-heat the bread in the oven for a few minutes before tossing.
Preheat oven to 325°. Cut bread into 2-inch chunks, place in a baking dish in a flat layer. Spray with olive oil cooking spray and toss. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin seeds. Toss again. Bake 7-10 minutes until golden. (if using fresh bread it may take a little longer to be totally dry). Remove from oven and set aside.
In a large serving bowl, whisk together the white wine vinegar, olive oil and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sliced red onion, chile pepper, red pepper, cucumber and avocado. Set aside.
Heat a cast iron grill pan to medium high. Slice the halloumi into 1/2 thick slices. Spray the pan with olive oil cooking spray and sear the halloumi about 3 minutes per side until golden with grill marks.
Add the halloumi and bread to the serving bowl. Toss well until all bread is coated. Add a handful of fresh herbs, toss again. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
I recently posted a collection of summer recipes. Around the 3rd week of August. That also happens to be the beginning of hurricane season here in the south. Fast forward almost a month – “Ida posted sooner but…” Hurricane Ida decided to come for a visit and she stayed a little longer than a good house guest should.
I moved to South Louisiana just in time for Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. Ida was Katrina 16 years later. To the day! Comparisons coming below…. but first, let me say how incredible grateful I am that Mr. Winston and I made it safely through another major event unscathed. Pictures of the only damage to my property below.
One of the biggest casualties I’ve seen since the storm are the number of suburban trampolines that did not survive. The carcasses are literally piled up on nearly every curb in my neighborhood. No worries neighbors! We now have a balance beam….
Fortunately this little situation isn’t threatening anyone’s home and will probably just scare the tar out of me once it decides to fall (which of course will be in the middle of the night).
Unfortunately the rest of this tree fell directly on my bird feeder set up and destroyed the whole thing. I took all my feeders down before I evacuated which hurt my heart, but at least they were unharmed and quickly went back up wherever I could place them after the storm.
I evacuated to a hotel just a few miles from my home for the night of Hurricane Ida. My house doesn’t have a history of flooding, but I do live very close to highly flood prone areas. Since this was going to be “The Big One” I decided not to chance it.
I packed my laptop and had good intentions of posting some “evacuation cuisine”. I knew I’d be stuck in a hotel room for 24 hours and would need something to tear me away from the live play by play on t.v.
Turns out sitting through a Cat 5 alone with your dog, watching the weather get progressively worse from the 4th story of a hotel room with a not-so-secure plate glass window takes the majority of your energy. Mr. Winston, bless his heart, slept through most of it.
Hurricane Ida took her good old time moving through. The weather was dicey for nearly a full 24 hours. It made landfall around 11am on Sunday at the coast but the winds had been pretty intense since 9am. It was 9am Monday before it was safe to go outside. 24 hours is a really really long time to endure 70mph+ winds.
Below is a video of a small hospital in South Louisiana that was in the direct path of the eye. I’ve been here many times and it is a wonderful facility in a community that serves the oil, gas and commercial fishing industries.
I’m happy to report no patients or staff were injured, but this is a microcosm of how a community is impacted from a storm like this. Several hospitals, including one of ours, had to be evacuated. The 911 service went down in 4 separate parishes. It was every man for himself.
I barely slept at all Sunday night, and of course by daylight I was extremely anxious to know how my home did. My next door neighbors had stayed, but we lost all contact at 930pm on Sunday night as the worst of it was just approaching our area. So Mr. Winston and I hit the road early to see if we could make it within walking distance of our house.
I tried to stay on main roads knowing the smaller roads would likely be impassible. Turns out the major roads were mostly impassible as well. Had to stop 3 times to shift downed power lines out of the way or move debris. Got to the center of town and the road was flooded over. Turned around and tried an alternate way. Backed down many side streets once I got to places where large pines or power poles were blocking forward progress.
Over a period of about 45 minutes I slowly worked my way through backroads. Louisianans are incredibly resourceful people, and even though Hurricane Ida was only about 1 hour from being “over”, citizens were out in force with chainsaws clearing where they could. I finally made it within a mile of my house but there was no way to go further by car. So we set out on foot (and paw).
Love At First Sight
It may have been the most difficult mile I have ever walked.
Not to mention Mr. Winston is an 18 year old mostly blind, slow moving dog. So I had to carry him.
We had to get on our hands and knees to crawl under massive pines more than once, we had to walk through ankle deep water and we cut through someone’s yard so I could toss the dog over a chain link fence and then climb it. I didn’t see any other humans except a guy that lived a little further than me (in an area I already knew was flooded – but he didn’t) who was also picking his way along on foot.
I should have been able to see my house when I was about 1/4 mile away. But I still couldn’t. There wasn’t a single power pole still standing. The components that attach power lines to the poles were in a tangle everywhere on the ground. I know the road by heart because I run it everyday, but suddenly it was unrecognizable. I wasn’t sure if I was even still on the road. The houses along that road are set back from the street and in most cases I could not even make them out.
And then it was love at first sight. I felt the tears well up (like they are doing now as I revisit that moment). There she was, standing tall and blessedly intact. The last 20 yds were clear and I could see that I had not flooded, and I ran. And then I cried with relief.
The Dark Ages
Relief and gratitude. Big gratitude. I still had a home.
But I had been through this before. It looked a lot like Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath in terms of infrastructure (or lack thereof). I knew I’d be living in the Dark Ages for a while. Ice ice baby. Try to save the fridge. Time to hunt for a generator and some box fans. Days on end of chasing gas to keep it filled. Changing the oil every 2 days. 95 degrees, 95% humidity.
I will say this now and forever – I can live without electricity. NO problem. As long as I have running water. And thank the lord I had running water, which was not the case for many. After long days of cleanup and moving at a snail’s pace to do anything, a cold shower is heaven.
Katrina or Ida – Which Was Worse?
Hands down Katrina was worse. Massive loss of life. Unprecedented event that no one was ready for. I couldn’t even get out of my neighborhood for almost 4 days after Katrina. I had no power for 3 weeks in the middle of summer.
Consider this – when Katrina hit there were no smart phones. Texting was a new thing. This time the communications came back up almost immediately. Even though we had almost no time to prepare, thousands chose to evacuate which saved lives and reduced demand on what little we had immediately following. And I was already an expert on changing oil in my generator.
Time to get back to our primary topic on FrittataBlog – FOOD!
I work for a hospital system. As if we were not already totally underwater having just barely passed peak 4 of COVID, now we add to our staffing shortage woes with Hurricane Ida. It was basically all hands on deck. Jump in anywhere you can. So guess where I went? Yep, straight for the hospital kitchen.
The hospital could not get some of the normal product that an industrial kitchen uses so we were forced to buy what we could get. Which actually meant real eggs instead of egg product. Some fantastic Italian sausage from a local grocer. And we were not only feeding patients 3 meals a day, we were feeding the entire staff since there was no way for most people to get food. Dijon marinated panko crusted chicken breast (I hand breaded all 500). We had to get creative to stretch what we had. It wasn’t a horrible time to be a hospital patient at our facility y’all!
Highlight? Blond with a blowtorch. Made ‘Smores using sugar cookies instead of graham crackers, torched the marshmallows, sandwiched with chocolate ice cream. Side note – someone needs to call Keebler and tell them they need to find better packaging for their graham crackers – we opened a case and not a single cracker was unbroken.) Also got to make plantain chips when we realized that case of bananas wasn’t bananas after all.
The Silver Linings
Hurricane Ida was a devastating storm. I wonder now when I travel and I tell people I’m from New Orleans if they will say, “wow, how’s the city doing since Ida?”. It took YEARS after Katrina for that not to be the first thing people asked me.
As with any great tragedy, there are often multiple silver linings.
The most obvious and uplifting part of a natural disaster is how people come together.
We forgot about COVID (we were hoping Ida would take ‘Rona with her when she left). We forgot about our differences, ourselves. We helped our neighbor. We gave without thought, and we accepted help without pride. And so the healing began as soon as the wound was inflicted.
A second silver lining was that the storm came before hummingbird migration started. I came home to find dozens of ruby throated hummingbirds eagerly awaiting some fresh sugar water. If a storm hits late in hurricane season when hummingbirds are migrating, it can be devastating to their populations.
The First Meal
By 6pm Monday after being up all night with Hurricane Ida, I was beyond exhausted. I wanted a fabulous meal and a cold glass of wine (and a cold shower).
Silver Lining #3 – my arugula plants and my basil plant survived the storm. It was a true miracle considering they are in raised beds and got wind-whipped for 24 hours.
There was no way I was wasting any precious perishables that had survived thus far. I made my recently posted Grilled Mango and Avocado Salad with Burrata. Had a half bottle of this Colome Estate Torrontes that I had opened during the storm to eat with an exceptional aged Gouda (spoiler for my next post – we will be discussing the proper way to evacuate without sacrificing the quality of your meals!)
I used peaches instead of mango, and topped it with shredded basil. The wine was ICE cold from being in my cooler all day.
One bite and one long sip and I knew everything was going to be ok.
Keep Following Frittata
It has been 20 days since Hurricane Ida.
I have power. My lawn got cut today. I went to the local farmer’s market this morning and was able to buy local milk, goat cheese, fennel and a guinea fowl. Yesterday I played hooky and got a manicure and pedicure with my best friend. Then we met for dinner and drank a bottle of great wine, shared a Mediterranean salad and some seared scallops.
I remember saying to myself as I picked my way toward my home that morning after the storm…”this too shall pass” and my other favorite for hard times “if there were no winter, spring wouldn’t be so sweet”.
Today I woke up feeling like I could look forward to something for the first time in a while, and that was to share my story with you. If you haven’t already subscribed, sign up below. I’ll be back to posting recipes soon!
Hopefully you found some inspiration in last week’s post, Summer Recipes – Episode 1. Here’s round 2 of fast, cool and easy summer meal ideas!
Summer Recipe Nostalgia
I grew up in New England. Summer vacations were spent on the coast of Maine. One of my nostalgic food memories from those summer vacations is the taste of a fresh tuna salad sandwich.
“Fresh“, as in not made from canned tuna. Tuna salad sandwiches are a staple on any menu in Maine (at least on the kids menu) and were either served on a fat kaiser roll or sometimes in the beloved New England-style lightly toasted split-top hot dog bun.
Dunkin Donuts also had a tuna salad on a croissant that I still dream about. There is just something so satisfying about perfectly cool tuna salad with crunchy celery and some lettuce on a fluffy, buttery croissant in the summer.
Yes, opening a can is easy. But I’m telling you that steaming a piece of sashimi grade fresh tuna is actually just as easy. If you can boil water you can make a real tuna salad. Eat it on your preferred bread product, or on a salad, or on half of an avocado. Click the image to jump to my recipe.
A close second to tuna salad sandwiches in the summer is the egg salad sandwich. People have strong opinions on what should and should not be in egg salad. I say as long as you use farm fresh eggs, do what you want. My version is a little snobby. Check out Dijon & Dill Egg Salad for this cool summer recipe.
Go To BATs
BAT stands for “bacon-avocado-tomato”. A more indulgent version of the BLT. Making bacon for breakfast on Sunday? Make extra. Undercook it just a tad, refrigerate. Nuke it for 30 seconds to reheat and crisp. Bacon and avocado plus vine-ripened garden tomato = heaven.
No tomato? Oh well. Bacon and Avocado with a touch of mayo is just as satisfying.
The percentage of days when I DON’T eat avocado in some form is usually 5%. In the summer, it’s pretty much never. When you slice one open and discover you have that absolutely pristinely perfect fruit, celebrate it by putting it front and center in an avocado and goat cheese salad. Get out your best extra virgin olive oil and some farm fresh crumbled goat cheese.
A Lotta Burrata
In my last post on summer recipes I introduced some of you to halloumi for the first time. If that blew you away, wait til you meet burrata. You’ve likely had fresh mozzarella at some point. It’s good, but sometimes I find it a little soapy especially from pre-packaged store brands.
Burrata is fresh mozz’s sultry, sexy big sister. This Grilled Mango and Avocado Salad with Burrata is my current weeknight dinner obsession. It literally takes 10 minutes, tops, and is impressive enough for guests should they stop by around dinner time.
Bread, Oil & Vinegar
Another go-to weeknight meal in my kitchen is panzanella. For panzanella, you take bite sized cubes of stale bread, toast them and then toss them together with whatever else needs using up from your refrigerator. The dressing is just oil & vinegar, but if you have some fresh basil it elevates the salad to a whole different level of freshness.
I’m a sucker for those gorgeous loaves of artisanal bread in the bakery. But they have no preservatives, so they are usually stale by day 3. Panzanella is a great way to use up that gorgeous bread when it’s past the sandwich stage. Cut up some rotisserie chicken, tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion. Toss with the toasted bread, oil & vinegar. Fresh torn basil. Done
Go Bananas – Indoor ‘Smores
Made this one up last night. I feel like someone must have tried this before, but I honestly can’t remember ever seeing the idea. Banana ‘Smores.
I thread my marshmallows on a kebab skewer and slowly rotate them above a very low gas stove flame. That takes some skill or you’ll have a flaming marshmallow bomb in a matter of seconds.
The safer way to do indoor ‘smores is to broil the marshmallows. Put the oven rack on the second level from the top and broil on high for 4 minutes, turn and broil 2 more minutes. I chopped it into pieces and threw over ice cream.
Beet The Heat
How ’bout a little something boozy to finish off my summer recipe series! I’m not much of a mixologist so I’m always looking for easy cocktail recipes that don’t require too many steps. Beet Gin ‘n Tonics fit the bill.
I buy pre-roasted beets in the produce section of the grocery and throw them in a large mason jar. Fill jar with Bombay Sapphire Gin, throw in a sprig of fresh dill and allow to steep overnight (24 hours ideally).
Put one shot of gin in a glass with 1/2 cup of ice cold tonic and a good squeeze of lime juice. Rub the lime around the rim of the cup too, it provides a nice fragrance. People who normally don’t like gin will love this version. Great summer cocktail. The gin keeps in the fridge for weeks.
I love cheese. Pretty much every type of cheese. I didn’t know about burrata cheese until recently. Burrata is fresh mozzarella’s sultry, sexy big sister. Once I discovered burrata, it instantly became my new obsession. This fabulous light summer dinner salad featuring burrata was inspired by a combination of burrata recipes recently featured on Food & Wine.
Burrata – A Class Of Its Own
Not familiar with burrata? Burrata is found in the refrigerated section of the grocery, not in the fancy cheese section. It looks like fresh mozzarella that is wrapped up in a little package, only the package is actually fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, usually tied into a little knot at the top. It comes in a container submerged in liquid to keep it fresh. Drain the liquid, then it’s fully edible. When you cut into it you’ll find a soft, creamy, sweeter layer. It’s really not like any other cheese you’ve tried before.
Beat The Heat
It’s August. It’s hot. Dinner needs to be simple and light, but it’s gotta satisfy. The total time on this dinner salad was seriously 10 minutes and that includes walking to the fridge and pulling the ingredients out plus walking outside to the garden to cut the arugula.
Toss peppery arugula with a grilled mango and a grilled avocado. Add chunks of heirloom tomato and torn strips of salty prosciutto. Place your creamy, luxurious burrata right in the middle. Spritz with a simple champagne vinaigrette with a touch of Dijon, finely sliced cayenne pepper and torn fresh mint. It is simpler AND sexier than it sounds. Trust me.
Mangoes are one of those produce items that I rarely buy simply because the ones I find in the store are crap. Usually they are totally under-ripe so only about a tenth of the actual fruit is usable. A great substitute for mango in this salad would be fresh peaches, especially since they are in season right now. Grilled peaches are just as divine. They also make a great dessert. The recipe below is from Cooking Light (and features another sexy cheese – marscapone!)
The recipe that introduced me to burrata was also featured in Food & Wine magazine. Cacio e pepe with Crispy White Beans and Burrata can be found on my Something Borrowed page. The picture alone was the sell.
Grilled Fruit – No Grill Required
My cast iron grill pan is always getting it’s exercise. Never tried grilling avocado? Time to start. A quick hit with olive oil cooking spray and 2 minutes on a medium-high grill pan will change your avocado game. The mango gets gorgeous sear marks but still stays cool and juicy.
1small heirloom tomato, cut into bite sized pieces
1fresh cayenne pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
4tbspfresh mint, torn
Heat a cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat. Spray each half of the avocado and each half of the mango with olive oil cooking spray. Sear on the grill pan for 2 minutes, flip and sear one more minute. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, whisk together the white wine vinegar, Dijon and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Plate: Divide the arugula between two salad bowls. Divide the tomato. Tear 1 slice of prosciutto into strips for each bowl. Remove burrata from liquid and cut in half, split between each bowl. Scoop the grilled avocado from the skin and place half in each bowl, split the mango. Drizzle the vinaigrette over each salad, top with torn mint. Serve immediately.
Panzanella is Italian bread salad. Vinegar lovers – this one is for you. Super easy, super versatile and a great way to use up stale bread. Grab a rotisserie chicken and then clean out the crisper drawer in your fridge. Voila! Dinner done in 15 minutes. This simple panzanella recipe is a perfect weeknight meal anytime of year, but particularly in the summer when basil is in season. Try this simple version and then stay tuned to FrittataBlog for some fun variations!
For tonight’s panzanella I used chicken thighs instead of breasts and a fantastic basil-infused vinegar that I got at the farmer’s market. Got a fancy vinegar? Use it! You can sub white wine or prosecco vinegar if you have it. I threw in a sliced cayenne pepper for a little heat. A seeded jalapeno would be a good option.
No sourdough? No problem. Panzanella works with any of those gorgeous artisanal bread loaves you bought at the grocery and didn’t use up fast enough. My favorite bread for this recipe is actually pumpernickel or a rosemary garlic bread. Get creative!
1.5 cupssourdough bread chunks, ideally already stale
olive oil cooking spray
salt and pepper
2tbspred wine vinegar
2tbspextra virgin olive oil
1/4cupred onion, thinly sliced
1mediumtomato, cut into chunks
1-2rotisserie chicken breast
1/2mediumcucumber, peeled and cut into half moons
1/4cupfresh basil, torn into pieces
Make the Sourdough Croutons
Preheat oven to 325°. Cut bread into 2-inch chunks, place in a baking dish in a flat layer. Spray with olive oil cooking spray and toss. Season with salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder. Toss again. Bake 7-10 minutes until golden. (if using fresh bread it may take a little longer to be totally dry)
In a large serving bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sliced red onion and tomato. Set aside.
Cut chicken breast into bite sized pieces. Once bread is ready, nuke the chicken for 30 seconds to heat up.
Add the chicken, bread and cucumber to the vinaigrette. Toss well until all bread is coated. Add torn basil, toss again. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
It’s mid-August in South Louisiana and it is just freaking hot. The garden is 99% empty, partly because of the heat but mostly because I lose my motivation to maintain it around this time every year. I need super fast, easy, cool but satisfying meal options that won’t weigh me down or heat up the kitchen. Sharing a collection of my favorite summer recipe ideas.
Summer Recipes – Breakfast
If you missed my most recent post, check out Jenny’s Homemade Vanilla Ginger Coconut Granola. Yes, you have to bake this but it makes enough granola for a couple weeks worth of bake-free breakfasts. I eat granola like breakfast cereal (with milk). Throw fresh summer blueberries on top!
It’s hurricane season in Louisiana. This is the time of year we southerners need to get a little aggressive in clearing out the freezer in case a storm hits and you have days of power outages. During my recent inventory, I found a bag of blueberries I froze last summer and a frozen banana. I have not made my Salted Blueberry Tahini Smoothie in a while. Decided to whip up a batch.
This recipe ROCKS because it does not have to be an exact science. It called for 2 bananas, I only had one. I had 3 dates that had been in the crisper for a while so threw all of those in. Don’t dirty a measuring cup for the tahini, just eyeball it. Grabbed a decent sized chunk of ginger, threw that in (I buy big pieces of fresh ginger, cut them into chunks and keep them in a bag in the freezer and no, I don’t bother peeling them). Just be careful with the kosher salt…a little goes a long way.
The color is absolutely gorgeous, and it makes enough for today’s smoothie plus fills up a large mason jar that you can use for breakfast or lunch the rest of the week.
Another go-to breakfast or lunch meal for me is a recipe from my Something Borrowed page. I discovered Eat With Clarity’sSavory Quinoa Breakfast Bowl about 2 years ago and it changed my life. It’s pesto quinoa, a soft boiled egg, sauteed spicy kale and an avocado. I crumble a little goat cheese on top and drizzle with good olive oil to finish.
If you have the pesto and quinoa already in the fridge, then this is a 6.5 minute recipe once you boil water for the soft boiled egg.
I make big batches of quinoa (2 cups) and refrigerate to use throughout the week. Just nuke the quinoa for 1 minute and stir in the pesto. If you are making your quinoa specifically for this recipe, you can boil the egg and saute the kale while the quinoa simmers. Still only takes about 10 minutes.
You can certainly use store bought pesto, but it’s basil season and it takes 5 minutes to make your own. Click here for my Basil Cashew Pesto recipe.
Now that you have your own spectacularly fresh basil and cashew pesto, you can make my favorite simple sandwich. Pesto, hummus and cheese sandwiches are way more satisfying and filling than they look. Everyone has hummus on hand, any flavor will work. Use a thick slice of a nice sharp white cheddar.
Sick of the same boring salads? Check out my Salad Recipe Collection for some fresh ideas (click and scroll down). Kale and Avocado Salad with Coconut Granola lets you use your delicious new homemade granola in a different way.
If you were willing to turn on the stove to sear halloumi for the last recipe, then maybe you’ll be willing to spend about 3 minutes more to sear bacon wrapped tuna? Soy-Ginger Black Eyed Peas with Bacon Wrapped Tuna is another cool marinated bean based salad that makes for a delicious and light supper. Goes great with a rose’!
Summer On A Roll
On hot summer weeknights I am often tempted to just Waitr in some sushi. But let’s face it. Some of your favorite rolls just don’t travel well. Anything with tempura shrimp is out, anything with crab salad has mayo – same risk.
Check out my On A Roll sushi series featuring (almost) entirely vegetarian sushi rolls. Again, you gotta boil water for rice. But the rest is just prep. Make a few rolls on the weekend, and you’ll be able to take the leftovers for lunch on Monday.
Never tried to make sushi at home? Click the image above to see my post on how easy it is.
If you try any of the recipes above, I’d love to hear your feedback. If you don’t already Follow Frittata, subscribe below so you don’t miss any new recipes, including Episode 2 of Summer Recipes coming next week.
This delicious homemade vanilla ginger coconut granola is a pantry staple. I absolutely love the little zingy surprise of finely chopped candied ginger and the freshness of toasted coconut.
Bake Once – Eat For Weeks!
My homemade granola preps in 10 minutes with a little help from the food processor. I pulse the pistachios a few times, move them to the mixing bowl. Then pulse the almonds. Throw everything else in except the ginger and coconut, mix well. Bake 25-30 minutes (be prepared for your kitchen to smell amazing) and cool completely. Add the final touches. Split the homemade granola between 3 medium mason jars for pantry storage. In a sealed mason jar, the granola stays fresh for weeks.
I eat my granola like breakfast cereal (with milk). Recently discovered oat milk which has become my go-to for iced coffee, and it is way better than plain milk on this granola. I use just enough to get a little moisture with each bite. Don’t love milk? Try mixing my homemade granola with plain or vanilla Greek yogurt. And if you can get fresh summer blueberries, throw a few of those on top.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts, brown sugar and salt. Stir gently to combine.
Melt coconut oil in small saucepan over low heat. Add 1 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tbsp agave nectar. Remove from heat, pour over oat mixture and stir gently with spatula to coat well.
Line a flat baking sheet with parchment paper, Spread half the oat mixture out as flat as possible. You will be baking in 2 batches (the granola won't crisp properly if you have too much on one tray). Bake 25-30 minutes (20 minutes using convection) until golden. Remove from oven and sprinkle with flaked coconut, bake 5 more minutes.
Remove from oven and immediately add the candied ginger and cranberries (if using) to the tray, using a spatula to lightly work them in. Re-spread into a flat layer to cool. Slide your parchment paper off the baking tray, place a new piece of parchment and repeat with 2nd half of batch. Let granola cool completely before storing.
This recipe makes about 3 cups of granola. I estimate about 1/2 cup per serving size.
That’s a mouthful….and a delicious one! Bacon-wrapped tuna seasoned with a little cumin and lime meets a cool black eyed pea salad marinated in soy sauce and ginger. Serve with fresh greens and sliced avocado. A great summer supper!
Chill On The Chickpeas
Chickpeas get so much of the attention. It feels like they are everywhere. Bring a little variety to your bean life by using black eyed peas instead. The soy-ginger marinade softens the earthiness that some people dislike about black eyed peas.
When I moved to Louisiana, I learned that black eyed peas were something you only ate stewed down with cabbage on New Year’s Day. Supposedly they bring prosperity. The stewed-down version is a hearty winter meal but I much prefer my black eyed peas in a cold salad.
If you just can’t stand them, go ahead and sub chickpeas or white beans here.
Bring The Heat
I like a little cayenne pepper in this dish. Chili pepper is good but don’t overdo it. You can substitute a seeded jalapeno (I’d only use 1/4 of a pepper) or a Fresno chili (1/2). A pinch of red pepper flakes would also suffice if you are afraid of chili peppers.
I adore arugula so I use it 9 times out of 10 in any dish. The peppery flavor adds another dimension here. Fresh green leaf lettuce or other mixed greens will do just fine if you don’t like arugula but I definitely recommend using some greens. They balance the earthiness of the black eyed peas.
Never even tried black eyed peas? This recipe is a great introduction. I love the soy-ginger marinade on them but I also make a cool salad with essentially the same ingredients using a red wine vinegar/olive oil/cumin mixture instead.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together soy sauce, rice vinegar and oil. Add ginger and season with salt and pepper. Add rinsed black eyed peas, celery, green onion, bell pepper and cayenne pepper if using. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Sear the Tuna
Season the tuna with cumin, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime juice. Cut the tuna into 6 equal sized pieces. Wrap each piece in a slice of bacon. If your bacon is wimpy, you may want to overlap two slices before wrapping. Heat a cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Sear the tuna, bacon side down, for about 1 minutes to crisp one side then roll to cooked the bacon for 30 seconds at a time each until crisp all the way around. Don't overcook the tuna. Remove from heat.
Plate the dish with a handful of greens topped with 2 large spoonfulls of the black eye pea salad. Lay 3 bacon-wrapped tuna pieces on the peas, 1/2 of a sliced avocado on the side. Top with a handful of chopped cilantro and finish with a squeeze of lime juice.
Chickpeas seem to get all the attention these days. Black eyed peas are just as satisfying and add a little variety to your bean life.
If you don’t have fresh cayenne pepper, substitute Fresno chili or a jalapeno, seeded. A pinch of red pepper flakes is also an option.
I love peppery arugula here, but any salad green will do.
As we creep toward the middle of summer, motivation to keep up with the vegetable garden starts to dwindle. When you find that your tomato plants have gotten a little out of control, grab a bowl and start collecting the damaged or overripe fruits. Time to make a rich roasted tomato eggplant sauce that you will be thankful for during cold winter months.
Toss It In The Sauce
For tomato eggplant spaghetti sauce, I use about 8 overripe/damaged tomatoes which ends up being about 6 once you cut off the damaged or rotten parts. For that amount of tomatoes, only use a small eggplant. Otherwise you’ll be making baba ghanoush and not spaghetti sauce (hmmm, that’s an idea!).
Go through your fridge and figure out what other produce needs using up – throw it in! Pieces of onion, carrot, zucchini or pepper are good additions. There is something so satisfying about being able to clean out the produce drawer and not actually throw anything away!
Processing the Tomato Eggplant Sauce
I use fresh basil when I process the sauce. A pinch of sugar adds sweetness (skip if you added roasted carrot to your tomato sauce) and the pinch of cinnamon adds just a touch of warmth for cold winter nights. When you thaw the sauce and heat up for spaghetti, you can add a little dried basil and/or oregano to jazz it up.
Preheat oven to 425°. Place the eggplant cubes in one baking dish (large enough that everything is in one layer). Drizzle generously with olive oil and immediately toss well to coat before all the oil absorbs in one place. Season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper if using.
Cut out and discard any damaged or rotten parts of your tomatoes. Place the tomato chunks, onion, bell pepper quarters and garlic cloves in a separate baking dish. Drizzle with the olive oil and shimmy the dish around to coat everything well. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast both dishes for approximately 30 minutes. Stir eggplant once. Continue roasting for up to another 30 minutes until tomatoes are broken down and starting to caramelize and until eggplant is caramelized. Remove from oven. (Eggplant may come out before tomatoes are fully caramelized).
Let everything cool down a bit. Carefully transfer contents of both dishes to a blender or food processor (should not be steaming anymore). Blend to desired consistency. I like to add a little more olive oil during processing for richness. Add basil, sugar and cinnamon, process again. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Place a gallon zip loc bag into a medium bowl or a medium Pyrex measuring cup. Fold the opening over the edges of your vessel. Pour the sauce into the ziploc. Remove ziploc from bowl and carefully roll up lengthwise as you seal to ensure as much air is out as possible. Freeze. Thaw in refrigerator before heating up to use on spaghetti. Should make about 2-3 cups of sauce.
Use up those damaged or staring-to-go garden tomatoes in this rich spaghetti sauce that can be frozen now and thawed out on cold winter nights.
On the list of things I have never even attempted to make at home (along with pasta and sushi) are homemade corn tortillas. The ingredients must be too exotic to find, right? It must take hours. You probably need special equipment.
So I keep buying store bought corn tortillas when I plan to make tacos. And I keep throwing away at least half of the package because I never use them all before they go bad (yes they eventually go bad or at least get overly dried out). I’ve already conquered homemade sushi this year. Certainly I can made homemade corn tortillas?
It helps that I got gifted a tortilla press for Christmas. Nothing like gift guilt to get you motivated.
Got It In The Bag
Homemade corn tortillas require two ingredients. That’s it! Masa harina, which is corn flour, and water. Find it near other flours in any grocery store. As it turns out I had purchased masa harina for my attempt at recreating the shredded chicken and chile tamales that my friend Maria used to make for me. That story later.
I had to buy a huge bag of masa of which I needed about 1 cup for my tamale project. After that, I put the rest in the freezer and promptly forgot about it. So excited when I realized I had another use for it and that I could liberate freezer space!
Lost In Translation
Quick side story on tamales before we get to corn tortillas.
I met a lady named Maria a few years ago. She spoke mostly Spanish. I was trying to learn Spanish at the time and she was eager to learn more English so we used to practice with each other.
One day she was telling me that she was making tamales for her family. She asked me if I liked them. I told her I’d never tried them. Next week she shows up with a couple of her shredded chicken and green chile tamales which were the most exotic and delicious thing I’d ever eaten at that point in my life.
I tried to ask her how they are made but that was a little beyond both of our bilingual vocabularies. Instead, I asked her if she would make a large batch for me and I’d pay her for the ingredients and her time. I was about to have some family in town for the holidays and thought this would be fun and would take care of at least one meal.
“How many you want?” she asked in Espanol.
She looked at me a little funny. I guess 18 was a strange number but she gave me the impression that she made tamales in pretty large batches so I thought maybe she was thinking that was too small a batch.
Fast forward one week. Maria shows up with this huge tray covered in foil. She sits it on my counter and says she will be right back. She brings in another tray. Then another.
This is where we figured out that my Spanish numbers weren’t muy bien. Apparently I had asked for 80 tamales, not 18.
Thank god you can freeze them.
I didn’t truly appreciate what it takes to make 80 tamales until I tried to make 8 myself. The filling was easy enough but rolling them in the corn husk and steaming them proved to be way harder than it looked on YouTube. Video below of my pathetic tamale.
Not much to look at but they tasted amazing 🙂 Let’s hope homemade corn tortillas are easier.
Need to Knead?
So once you mix your masa and water, the question then becomes how much to knead. I tend to underdo it based on my experience with flour based doughs for pie crust. Less is more. I’ve now made homemade corn tortillas 3 times. My verdict is that they do need to be kneaded a bit. The dough needs time to absorb the water (use warm water).
When it came time to learning the cooking process, I went straight to Rick Bayless. I’ve been a fan of Rick’s for years. He is a celebrity chef specializing in Southwest/Mexican food. I like his video style. He looks like a guy you’d want to have a beer (and a taco) with.
Pursuing the Puff
His technique looks pretty simple. Technically it is. I even have the same press and cast iron griddle he used. On my first try I actually got a couple to puff!!
On my next two attempts they did not. I think griddle heat and not kneading enough were the culprits. Still trying to get that part right. The good news is, they are still totally edible and better than store-bought even if they don’t puff.
Tacos offer endless possibilities – from basic with one or two ingredients to super bougie with fancy sauces and pickled toppings. For me, there are 4 important components.
Main filling – either fish, meat or a hearty veggie like cauliflower, mushrooms or beans
Crunch – either a slaw, corn, radish, pickled veggies or raw pepper
Moisture – I love cilantro crema but I’ve used hummus, Greek yogurt or just a lot of lime juice
Cilantro. To me, it ain’t a taco without it.
Here’s my yummy grilled mahi mahi taco from my initial attempt at homemade corn tortillas. I used guacamole AND Greek yogurt, radishes, shredded pickled carrot (you can buy pickled veggies!) and corn.
Found this Easy Vegan Taco recipe online about a year ago and have made it multiple times. It’s the first thing I think of when I see pre-cooked lentils in the produce section at Whole Foods – makes it a super quick weeknight meal. I make the cashew cilantro crema for almost all of my tacos now.
Elevate the Chanterelle
Chanterelle mushrooms are a rare visitor to the farmer’s market. They come late spring/early summer in humid, rainy weather. Some people are lucky enough to have them growing in their backyard (and most of those people have no idea what a treasure they have). Usually you’ll have to find someone who actually forages for them in the woods or swamp. They make a great taco filling.
‘Fraid of Fungus?
Check out my previous post featuring my Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Frittata for ways to conquer your fear. Chanterelles are a good place to start as they are probably the least mushroomy of mushrooms. Make sure you can recognize them so you don’t miss out!
If you get lucky enough to come across these at a Farmer’s Market, grab them and make these delicious chanterelle and corn tacos. Saute chanterelles in oil and butter, add fresh corn cut from the cob to the pan until hot. Top with cilantro crema, chopped chives, crumbled goat cheese. Yum!!
Got tips on how to make perfect homemade corn tortillas? Please share in the comment section!