Almost In My Kitchen ~ February 2015

Potential Dinner

I had hoped to write this post from the vantage point of a “permanent” kitchen, but we’re still in our temporary digs for a few more weeks, and most of the “kitchen stuff” I’ve acquired is packed in boxes in the spare bedroom. (No sense unpacking twice!) So, rather than show you what I cook with, I decided to share a lil’ story about how I cook.

Many thanks to Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hostessing In My Kitchen each month — a delightful global gathering — and for her (and your) heartfelt responses to our post-fire plight. We’re truly blessed by your friendship and caring.

If you haven’t yet enjoyed the many kitchen treasures and perspectives from around the world (or added your own), please visit Celia’s blog linked above.

.   .   .   .   .

Most days I start out with a plan. An agenda.  A “to-do” list… cooking-wise, that is. Dinner is usually in progress (or already made) by the time my hubby has the faintest notion of what he’s about to eat.

Today, however, I waited until The Man Of Few Words (TMOFW) got home and asked what he wanted for supper. (I’m like that sometimes.)

“Stew” was his one-word answer — a re-heat of last night’s repast. I’m soooo thankful he’s easy to please.

After delivering his steaming bowl of stew hot out of the microwave (lol), I began to ponder which flavors and textures I wanted. (FYI, we don’t always eat the same meal on any given night, and “cooking for two” In My Kitchen literally means cooking for two — as in two separate meals.) TMOFW’s non-fussiness and my sense of ‘flavor adventure’ were a culinary match made in heaven.

A quick check of the fridge prompted subsequent questions for moi. What needed to be used up first? What could I make out of it? What was I hungry for — subject to whim, of course. (Such is how my mind, budget, appetite, and fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants menu ‘planning’ work.) But don’t be fooled by that thought. I keep a ‘running list’ of potential meals that can be made with the contents therein, and I add ideas to it daily — generally after reading everybody else’s posts. ;) So many recipes to try!

A kettle of chicken stock bursting with veggies (potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, garlic) and a chicken carcass ‘marinating’ overnight caught my eye. Hmmm… something with chicken? There was certainly enough meat left on the bones, and more than enough veggies to produce a one (or two) person meal — never mind that TMOFW had already made up his mind. (I love “cooking ahead,” too.) But, somehow I didn’t feel like soup. So into the freezer went six pints of glorious stock. I love when that happens.

The rest of the chicken and veggies were remanded into individual-size serving containers for yours truly’s lunch the next day or three. Waste not, want not.

By the way, the original chicken was roasted in the oven with peas. (The peas  turn out squiggly-looking that way, but they’re sooooo tasty!) I finished it by carving select pieces, sautéeing them ‘skin-side-down’ in butter until crispy, and topped ’em with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a few grinds of black pepper. (Yum.) Dinner is often a two-step process here — and a one night stand. We seldom eat the same meal twice, separately or not. Reduce. re-use, recycle. ;)

In front of the open fridge, I pondered a few other options. Alfredo maybe? Or how about “hot dish?” (Pardon my Minnesotan…) Quesadillas? Stir fry? You’re only as limited as your food’s shelf-life or international cravings.

Then I looked in the crisper drawer and side shelves. Haricot verts. Check. Red potatoes. Check. Dijon mustard. Check. Capers. Check. By the looks of things, dinner was going be a Niçoise Salad. But… I wanted something even simpler. Caesar Salad, perhaps?

Classic Caesar Salad

(Quick aside: EVOO is perennially in stock In My Kitchen, along with sea salt and peppercorns waiting to be coarsely ground, as are balsamic vinegar and an assortment of herbs to make vinaigrette at will.) Plus, I’d made this Classic Caesar Salad  by my friend, Queen Jeanne, earlier in the week. Thanks, Jeanne, it was was fabulous!

I decided to blanch a few potatoes and haricot verts instead, plunge them into ice water, and wait until my stomach made up my mind. ;) After a quick toss with vinaigrette and capers, I called it a day!

Sometimes ya just gotta punt.

(And eat!)

Simple Salad 1

Are you a planner or a punter?

(Or a player?!)

Happy Superbowl Weekend.

Enjoying inspiration from all of you,

~ Kim

Oven Baked Sandwich with Raspberry Balsamic Butter

Oven Sammich

After last week’s lively debate on the pros and cons of long vs. short recipe titles (loved your thoughts, thank you), today I’m hitting you up with the whole shebang. Well, almost. I omitted a few ingredients from the title so as not to overwhelm.

At times I need to revise my menu plan to focus on the folks in front of me (’tis far, far better to spend time with people than my stove), and The Man Of Few Words has an unpredictable work schedule and an appetite to match. I never know if he’ll walk through the door ravenous as a grizzly or in ‘snack mode.’

My solution is to throw together whatever’s lurking in the fridge and present it in “new & improved” form (shhh…) and this sandwich was the result of one of those occasions.

Oven Baked Sandwich with Raspberry Balsamic Butter

1/2 loaf of Italian Bread (or other rustic-style bread), split horizontally

Slices of leftover Roast Beef

Slices of Sharp Cheddar cheese

Thinly sliced red onions (I used caramelized onions*)

Sliced mushrooms

Roasted red peppers, drained (I used the jarred kind)

Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Red & green lettuce leaves

Raspberry Balsamic Butter

4 Tbsp. butter, softened

1 Tbsp. whole grain Dijon mustard

1/2 Tbsp. raspberry balsamic vinegar (or to taste)

1 Tbsp. capers, drained

(*Caramelized onions are marvelous in this, but they require at least an hour of prep, unless you happen to keep a stash on hand like me…)

Combine Raspberry Balsamic Butter ingredients; set aside.

Place a piece of tinfoil large enough to accommodate the “stuffed” sandwich on a sturdy baking sheet. Preheat oven to 375° F.

In a large skillet, sauté mushrooms until nearly browned. Add roasted red peppers (pat dry, if needed) and stir until heated through.

Slather interior of bread with Raspberry Balsamic Butter, then layer with roast beef and cheese slices. Top with caramelized (or red) onions, mushrooms and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Close the sandwich (as best you can) and wrap in tinfoil.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until beef is heated through and cheese is melted. If you prefer a “crispier” sandwich, open the foil during the last 5 minutes of baking.

Transfer to a serving platter, insert lettuce leaves at will, slice, serve, and enjoy!

Oven Sammich 3

~  .  ~  .  ~  .  ~

For you football fans out there, this is an easy ‘make-ahead’ for Superbowl weekend. Assemble earlier in the day, wrap and refrigerate, then heat and eat. (Adjust baking time as needed.) This made 4 servings; feel free to multiply.

Spend time with the people you love!

Enjoying punting in the kitchen,

~ Kim

Do you cook for a spontaneous eater?

Salmon Cakes with Lentils & Creamed Peas

I looked at my calendar wrong!!!  (Ever do that?)  My musical endeavors don’t start until next week.  Sigh…

At the risk of hitting you up with three posts in a row (with sincere admiration to those who post every day), here’s “one last one” before radio silence… plus, it happens to be “Fish Recipe Friday” and I thought you might like this.

Fishing has been pretty slow lately and sometimes a girl’s just gotta have salmon.  (Not that there are salmon in our lake — don’t I wish?!)

But with just two of us in the household (and only one who will eat salmon), I often end up with leftovers — even after a single-serving indulgence.  I quickly turned to Food Network for inspiration, whereby I discovered salmon cakes.

I’ve made tuna cakes and, my favorite — Maryland crab cakes — but never salmon.  Unfortunately, my first attempt turned out more like patties than cakes.

Patty cake, patty cake?

(Please disregard the gulley in Cake 2; I taste tested pre-photo)

The original recipe didn’t call for breading, but I rather liked the crunch it added.  (Both versions were delish, by the way!)  After honing my “patting” skills, I pondered what else to serve.

Since we had leftover lentils in the fridge (and only one of us will eat lentils…), I figured toasted pine nuts and almonds would add crunch, too.  Bear in mind, I rarely serve the same dish the same way twice — just call me the Queen of Leftover Conversions. :)

Still, it needed something…

The Salmon Cake and Lentil Tower

Crunchy, meet creamy!

Reminiscent of the tuna hotdish with peas that I consumed by the truckload as a child (and still love to this day), here’s my “grown up” interpretation.  Plus, one can never consume enough legumes. :)

Salmon Cakes with Lentils & Creamed Peas

(Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe on Food Network)

2 Tbsp. butter, divided

1/4 c. green bell pepper, diced

1/4 c. red bell pepper, diced (I used jarred roasted red peppers)

1/2 Tbsp. capers, drained

1 egg, beaten

1/4 c. mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes (fresh is better, but I was out)

1/8 tsp. hot sauce

1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

3/4 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

3 to 4 oz. cooked salmon, flaked

3/4 c. toasted bread crumbs, divided (I used whole wheat crumbs)

In a large skillet, sauté the peppers and capers in 1 tablespoon of butter until softened; remove from heat and set aside.

Combine egg, mayonnaise, and seasonings in a bowl.  Add salmon, sautéed vegetables, and enough bread crumbs to bind the mixture; stir gently.  (Reserve remaining crumbs for coating.)

Cover salmon mixture; chill for 30 minutes.

Form mixture into cakes.  Dip into reserved crumbs.  Refrain from patting, unless you want “patties”…

Melt remaining butter in a skillet.  Fry cakes until golden, about 3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels; keep warm in the oven.

When ready to serve, plate the cakes with lentils and creamed peas or whatever else your lil’ ol’ heart desires (or the “leftover stash” in your fridge yields.)

For each portion, press 1/2 cup prepared lentils into a ring.  (I used a biscuit cutter — whatever works!)  Invert onto serving plates.

Top “lentil towers” with salmon cakes; drizzle with creamed peas.

Salmon Cakes drizzled with Creamed Peas

Guess what?!

I still ended up with leftovers… oh well.

Thanks for bearing with me and see ya next weekend!

Enjoying the exponential properties of salmon,

~ Kimby