Wish Upon A Dish: April 2016

April 28, 2016

See you soon!!

We are off to scout out potential areas for retirement.
This time it is the lovely state of North Carolina.
Since this is May, it is also a wonderful time to take a vacation.

The state of North Carolina calls us northerners who retire in their state "halfbacks" since most of them started in Florida, only to discover it was way too hot and re-settled half way back.  
The Nudge loves to tell everyone that story. I let him have that one.

We will be back in time for May's Recipe ReDux Challenge and hopefully the theme will be Southern Comfort. 
I totally plan on getting my fill of BBQ, Bourbon and Boating.

April 21, 2016

Pumped Up Caprese Salad ♥ Limpin' Along for Lunch - The Recipe ReDux Challenge April 2016

There are only a few dishes that I make the same way, every time I put them on the menu.
This salad is one of them.

As soon as the tomatoes have give when gently pressed, I snag a few, along with a ball of fresh mozzarella, a jar of good quality roasted peppers, Kalamata olives and prosciutto, which makes what I will eat for lunch from May to October.

It packs and keeps well for transporting to work or for a picnic and pot luck. No way this salad ever gets boring.

Some days I will throw in thin shavings of salami (instead of the prosciutto), a good quality provolone (instead of the mozza) but the dressing is always the same.

Homemade fig balsamic vinegar glaze and the best extra-virgin olive oil I can afford.  

I know you can buy bottled balsamic glazes for about $10, but you get around 4oz.
I can make 10oz for half that price and it tastes better than anything off the shelf.

Not just for salads, it makes a great glaze for meats (chicken and pork), a wonderful drizzle for grilled vegetables and perfect for a cheese platter. Takes about 30 minutes of your time and all the ingredients can be purchased at local supermarkets.

Let's get cooking....

Fig Balsamic Glaze
* 1 large bottle basic balsamic vinegar
* 6 dried figs (any kind)
* 1 star anise
* 5 whole cloves
* 1 cinnamon stick
* 2 bay leafs
* 7-8 whole peppercorns

1 squeeze bottle

1. Place all the ingredients into a non-reactive sauce pan and simmer until the vinegar is about as thick as maple syrup, about 30-35 minutes.
2. Remove from the heat and cool. Strain the vinegar, reserve the figs and add them and the vinegar to a blender and puree until smooth. Press the liquid through a sieve using a spoon until all that remains is the pulp from the figs.
3. Pour the vinegar into a squeeze bottle and place it in your pantry.
Does not require any refrigeration and will not crystallize.


April 11, 2016

Bacon Beer Braised (BBB) Mussels & Clams

For many years I have followed Tasting Table.
Never heard of them?
Well, Tasting Table is a digital media company focused on food and drink. The brand’s website and email newsletter report on food and drink trends in the categories of dining, wine, cocktails, cooking and food travel and they have great recipes.
Their app is free and while some recipes are not suitable for my diet at this time, I do find ones that I can adjust while maintaining the original focus.

This recipe was one of them and so good, I just had to snap a pic and write a post.
Best part? I ended up with 2 cups of steaming liquid which I am using later this week in a Black Bean Pasta and Shrimp dish.

I have made many different versions of mussels and clams in my lifetime, but this moved to the front of the line. So much different than the traditional wine, garlic and lemon version, it is my opinion that this steaming broth was the original foundation of Belgium's Moules Frites. 

OK, so originally I was looking to steam a bag of clams but I refused to pay the $20 and instead added a ($5.00) 4 pound bag of wild Maine mussels to a dozen small neck clams.

I must confess there was only empty shells when I cleared the table.
This was so FREAKING good and even easier.
Make this as soon as you can and in the summer, place your pan on your grill to add a smoky component.
So excellent with clams and mussels.

Let's get cooking.....

Bacon Beer Braised Mussels & Clams
makes 2 generous servings

* 2 strips bacon finely chopped
* 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
* 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* dozen small neck clams, scrubbed
* 1 bag fresh mussels
* 1/3 cup crushed tomatoes
* 1 can lager beer
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
* 2 scallions, green and white parts thinly sliced

1. Heat large dutch oven or everyday pan. Add the bacon and saute until the edges start to crisp.
Add the shallot and garlic and saute until they soften.
2. Add the beer and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
3. Add the cleaned clams and mussels and tightly cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until all the shells have opened.
4. Spoon the shellfish into a large platter. Add the vinegar and butter to the broth and gently pour over the fish. Sprinkle with the scallions and bring to the table.

Serve with crusty bread or whole wheat angel hair pasta.


April 4, 2016

Asparagus Pesto Bechamel Lasagna ♥ When you stumble on that bag of asparagus in the back of the fridge

I admit that when asparagus is finally in season, I can not resist purchasing a bundle every time I pass the display.

If it was up to me I would eat asparagus each and every day, I never get tired of it. Every Sunday, when I clean out the fridge, there is always a few bags of produce bought that never make the cut (I am addicted to buying too many vegetables), and this week it was asparagus. Usually I take the time to stand it upright in a cup with water, covered with plastic, to keep it fresh until I am ready to eat it. This time I must have forgotten and in it went  still in the bag.
Most of the time you can see when the spears are past their prime because the stems start to shrivel.
Not this time. It was weird. The asparagus continued to grow and the tips doubled in length and they looked like foraged wild asparagus.

I admit they did not look picture perfect but they smelled fresh and obviously needed my immediate attention. A vegetable lasagna was on the menu and instead of roasting pieces, I thought I would make a pesto out of that asparagus, add it to some ricotta and spread layers with a topping of bechamela between each noodle. Just like you would if making a spinach lasagna.

Since I have cut my dairy intake to 10% of my diet, the bechamela with be made with almond milk and a small amount of Parmesan cheese and tofu ricotta.
Please don't crinkle your nose, with all the other ingredients you will not taste any difference and the consistency is spot on.

Let's get cooking....

Asparagus Pesto Bechamela Lasagna
makes 2 servings

Asparagus Pesto:
* 1 bunch asparagus spears, cut into 1" pieces
* 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
* Olive oil
* salt & pepper
* 2 tablespoons almonds & 2 tablespoons pistachios

Saute everything in a skillet until the mixture starts to brown on the edges.
Spoon the pesto mixture into a processor, add additional olive oil and puree.

* 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
* 2 tablespoons flour (gluten-free mix, potato, garbanzo, quinoa or buckwheat)
* 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 2 tablespoons coconut oil

Heat oil and add the flour. Stir to combine and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly add the almond milk, whisking continuously until the mixture thickens. Off heat, stir in the cheese and cool to room temperature.


2 cups tofu ricotta
Marinara Sauce

Preheat oven to 375­°.

Spoon enough bechamela to coat the bottom of a small loaf pan (about 1/4 cup).
Place one no-boil lasagna sheet and spread 1/4 cup marinara sauce, 1/2 cup of ricotta on pasta, then 1/4 cup pesto and top with 1/3 cup bechamela.
Repeat 3 more times (for 4 layers), ending with a noodle and then the remaining bechamela.
Top with more marinara sauce and (Vegan) mozzarella, optional.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes, removing the foil the last 10 minutes.