Toasts are the rage if you believe the food magazines. I believe it started out with smearing avocado on toast for an healthy snack. Then other things came along including white beans on toasted baguette slices and even refried pinto beans which have long been spread on bollio rolls in Mexican restaurants. One of my favorites is borrowed from the French – butter on radishes. I wish the markets would carry French breakfast radishes, but they have to be grown in your own garden if you want to enjoy them with a dab of butter right on the radish in my part of the country.
Even everyday grocery store radishes meld well with butter on toast. I had a few radishes left over from a beet, radish and radicchio salad and could hardly wait for breakfast this morning to make radish toasts.
1 slice whole grain toast per serving, crusts trimmed and sliced into two or three “sticks,” depending on size of bread slice
Softened spreadable butter for slathering on toast. Let you conscience guide you about how much butter to slathe, but do try to be generous to yourself. A very light sprinkle of finishing salt is nice if your spreadable butter is unsalted.
Two or three radishes sliced very thin (middle setting on a hand held mandoline works well)
Toast bread, trim and slice, spread with butter, arrange radish slices on butter. Eat.
One of the food magazines has a series of articles on the healthful properties of colorful vegetables. Rounding out the articles are three recipes for pasta with vegetable toppings carrying out the color themes of green, purple and orange. Who could resist jumping into making something with vivid veggies?
I started with the purple recipe. It has beets, radicchio, radishes and red onion for color. All happen to be on my list of favorites. I studied the magazine photo and the recipe and decided this is not really a pasta topping; it is a salad recipe so I did a little tweaking. The original sautés the red onion and sliced garlic. I decided to forgo cooking the onion and didn’t used slices of raw garlic. I kept the rest of the ingredients, and with the exception of the beets, everything was raw.
Protein for the meal was chicken thighs with a Meyer lemon rub grilled over indirect heat. If you hadn’t noticed, I grill almost year ’round and I really like dark chicken – thighs and sometimes leg quarters.
Beyond Purple Salad
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
about 8 oz roasted beets
salt and pepper
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 head radicchio, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/2 cup crumbled ricotta salata cheese (about 2 oz)
Heat oven to 400º. Wash and trim greens from beets leaving a stub of stems and the root, and roast, covered, in a casserole dish for 40 -50 minutes until they can easily be pierced with a paring knife. When done, remove to a plate and let cool. If they are fresh, you can cook the beet greens as you would other leafy greens.
While the beets are cooking, thinly slice radishes. I use a hand held mandoline on the thinnest of its three settings. My radishes were a little over an inch in diameter and I only used five for this salad. Choose your own volume of radishes.*
Core and slice the radicchio. The head I used was on the small size so I used it all. Had it been larger, I’d have saved half to cook on the grill another time. I used the thickest setting and the hand guard on my mandoline to spread the radicchio.
I peeled and halved the red onion and used the middle thickness on the mandoline to slice it.
Beat together the olive oil and red wine vinegar. Toss the radicchio, radishes and onion in the emulsion with a little salt and fresh ground pepper. Refrigerate while the beets finish cooking and cool. Sitting in the vinegar and oil for a bit will tenderize the vegetables a little.
When beets are cool enough to handle, rub the peel off with you hands, trim the stem and root ends off. Halve the beets and slice into thin half-rounds. Coarsely chop the basil and gently fold it and the beets into the other vegetables and dressing. If you accumulate any beet juice in the process, add it to the salad with the beets and basil.
Plate your salad and sprinkle with crumbled ricotta salata. If you toss the cheese with the salad, you’ll have pink cheese instead of white.
*I’m going to make toast sticks (trim crusts off toasted bread and cut into two or three sticks), spread them with butter and top with sliced radishes to accompany breakfast this morning.
Toasts and toppings are trendy right now and avocado toasts seem to have been surpassed by other veggie slathers.
I had lunch at the Corner Bakery Cafe the other day. I had their Sriracha Black Bean Soup. It was so good I wanted to lick the bowl. Rich and savory with just the right hint of cumin. I decided to try to make it at home.
Of course, I came up with some ideas about how I might make my own version rather that try to exactly replicate theirs. And, I wanted an appropriate side dish, so the gears were really humming as I strolled through the market.
I decided to use Cholula Chipotle Chile Sauce instead of Sriracha in the soup. I bought a favorite krab and green chile salad from the deli to stuff a roasted long green chile and made a cool relleno on the side to complement the hot soup. I keep peeled roasted green chiles in my refrigerator almost all the time.
Jim’s Chipotle Black Bean Soup
3/4 cup sofrito (recipe below)
2 cups low sodium chicken broth, divided
1 cup water
2 can’s low sodium black beans, rinsed
1 large clove garlic, diced and smeared with a pinch of salt in to a paste using the side of your knife blade. This technique works well when adding garlic into any dish. You don’t get the little pieces of diced garlic as a surprise in some bites.
1/2 tsp cumin
1-1/2 tablespoons Cholula Chipotle Sauce or more to taste. You could also use the adobo from a can of chipotle chiles, but it would not have the same flavor as the bottled sauce.
A sofrito is like a mirepoix – a simmered mix of aromatic vegetables the make a flavor base for a soup or other dish.
two carrots, peeled and diced
two stalks celery, peeled and diced (I always take the strings off celery with a vegetable peeler.)
1/2 small onion
3 scallions, whites, light green and some dark green sliced on the bias in quarter inch slices
I ran my diced vegetables through my electric chopper to make a very fine dice so they would cook.
Simmer the vegetables in a cup of the chicken broth until tender and most of the broth has been taken up. If needed, add a little water to be sure they are very tender.
Remove from heat and let cool. You are going to return them to the chopper and it will make a steamy mess if you put them in while too hot.
While the sofrito cools, heat the black beans in the remaining chicken broth and water, add the garlic, cumin and chile sauce and a good pick of sliced scallion and simmer.
When the sofrito has cooled a bit, return it to the food chopper, add a little water and purée it. You can also use a food mill or your blender.
Add the sofrito to the bean mixture, stir well and let simmer so it can thicken the soup. If you want a wetter soup, strain the sofrito and use only the liquid. It’s a matter of personal taste.
When the soup has thickened, dish it up and garnish with sliced scallion.
I bet the soup would have been better the second day if there had been any left to keep.
1/2 lb deli krab salad (my deli make four kinds, I prefer the one with green chile.
2 roasted and peeled long green chiles, stems on.
Slit the long green chiles on one side and carefully stuff them with the krab salad. Keep refrigerated until ready serve.
One of my favorite servers used to bring me guacamole cool rellenos while holding the chilled plate with a towed hand. He’s admonish me to “Be careful, it’s a very cold plate.”
This recipe sounded like fun when I stumbled across it. I printed it and now I can’t find the copy or think where I might have put it. I made it from memory and it worked.
It’s pretty simple; beaten egg whites with a little parmesan cheese, salt and pepper gently folded in. Egg white clouds spooned on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake the whites until set, but not browned, add whole yolks to the whites and bake until the yolks are at your favorite stage of doneness. Plate them with the sides of your choice and dig in.
Eggs in a Cloud
4 four eggs, separated
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375º. Choose a sheet pan large enough to hold four mounds of beaten egg whites about an inch apart and line it with parchment paper.
Beat eggs until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in parmesan cheese and a little salt and pepper. Spoon four mounds onto lined sheet pan. Make a depression in the top of each mound to hold the yolk after the whites have set up.
Bake mounds (clouds) for about five minutes until they have set but have not begun to brown. Carefully spoon one whole yolk into the depression you made in each mound. Return to oven for three minutes or more depending on how soft you like your egg yolk. Whites will brown a little while the yolks bake.
Remove pan from oven and let clouds sit for a moment or two, then with a spatula, transfer clouds to plates. Add side dishes and enjoy.
Two steps up off Pershing Street near Piedras in Central El Paso is Doña Lupe’s restaurant. You leave behind the glare of the street and enter a cheerful Mexican world of wall murals and brightly painted furniture. After you are enchanted by the decor, you fall in love with the food.
Yesterday, Nancy was our server. She and the other staff are super attentive and helpful. Nancy’s great sense of humor makes dining at Doña Lupe’s fun. I wanted something light so I ordered the fajita salad. They were kind enough to change the menu’s chicken to beef on the salad for me.
We were seated where could watch the ladies in the kitchen work on our lunch. Lorena Vicente was busy with my salad. I watched her arrange the greens and the carefully place the toppings. She is a plating artist! Beautiful mixed greens, beef fajita strips, tomato, red onion, mushrooms and avocado were a pleasure for the eyes. A little homemade jalapeño salad added a little kick.
Lunch started with a cup of sopa de albondigas – meatball soup in a vegetable broth. A hint of cumin in the meatballs was a nice accent. Of course there were tostadas and jalapeño salsa on the table, this is El Paso!
Doña Lupe offers the gamut of traditional El Paso Mexican dishes – enchiladas, tacos, mole and more. You just have to keep coming back so you can work you way through the entire menu. My lunch buddy had the chile verde con carne with beans and rice. It looked tempting, but I was more than happy with my beautiful custom built salad!
Doña Lupes at 2919 Persing is great for lunch. I’m going to have to drive a cross town soon to try their breakfast menu.
I’m an omnivore leaning toward carnivore, but sometimes I enjoy a vegetarian digression. That happened last night. I found a recipe for a leek and herb fritatta that sounded too good to pass up. Leeks are so subtle and so delicious, I should use them more often.
My herbs are combing back from their winter rest. Chives, thyme and oregano are greening up and starting to grow. I found French tarragon at the nursery that I have to get it into the herb pots soon. I think it is safe to put out basil now so I’m excited about fresh herbs again.
This fritatta recipe called for leeks, thyme, chives, basil and parsley and a little parmesan cheese. Who could resist that!
The frittata with a simple side salad made a great spring supper. The fresh herbs and the silky rich leeks were amazing.
Leek and Fresh Herb Fritatta
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 thinly sliced leeks,. white and tender green parts only, washed well
salt and freshly ground pepper
6 large eggs (I used three eggs and 3/4 cup egg white egg substitute)
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 fresh chives, chopped, plus 4 extra for garnish
1 Tbsp fresh thyme (stems removed)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 450º, heat olive oil in an ovenproof 10 inch skillet over medium heat.
Add the leeks and cook, stirring until softened (abut 15 minutes). Reduce heat as needed to keep leeks from browning too much.
In a bowl, beat eggs to blend the whites and yolks, add chopped herbs and Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and stir or beat into eggs.
Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and stir to distribute the leeks evenly. Reduce heat to low and cover the skillet loosely with a lid.
Using a spatula, occasionally lift the edges of the frittata to allow uncooked egg to flow underneath.
When the edges and bottom of the frittata are set and the center is still moist, remove the lid and place the pan in the oven. Bake until the top is slightly colored and the center is firm, about 5 minutes.
Garnish with more fresh herbs and uncut chives. You may add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and Parmesan shavings if desired.
During cool weather, I like to make a quick soup of chicken broth or stock, sweet Italian sausage, chopped greens and cannellini beans. I’m sure I’ve posted it here before. I also like to make a blistered tomato sauce with sliced grape tomatoes or diced garden fresh tomatoes in season. I put the tomatoes in a hot dry pan, and let them yield their juices and take on a little char. Then I add some minced garlic, let it bloom and add just a little water and scrape the fond (stuck on bits) from the bottom of the pan. It reminds me of sun dried tomatoes. The sauce is good on pasta, of course, but my favorite was to use is with steamed julienned zucchini, yellow squash and carrots.
I had all the ingredients for the soup on hand, but didn’t really want a soup on a warm spring evening. I decided to play around a little and combine those favorite recipes. I blistered the tomatoes and garlic, keeping it on the dry side, and then set it by while I worked on the rest of the experiment. I removed the casings from a couple of links of Sicilian sausage, broke them up and browned them in a separate pan. I steamed stemmed and torn kale and washed a can of cannellini beans. When the kale was tender, I added everything to the tomato pan with a splash of chicken broth. When the beans were warmed through, I had a great dish that brought together a couple of favorites in a new way.
Sometimes it is fun to play with your food and see what happens.