Fennel and Pepper Salad

  • 1 large bulb or 2 small to medium bulbs fresh fennel
  • 2 large bell peppers, different colors, thinly sliced
  • 1 head radicchio, halved and shredded
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chop and reserve 1/4 cup fennel fronds. Cut fennel bulbs  in half and thinly slice. Combine with peppers, radicchio, lemon juice, and olive oil, garnish with the reserved fennel fronds, and salt and pepper, to taste. Toss and let flavors combine for 15 minutes, toss again and serve.
Based on a recipe by Rachael Ray

Spicy Cucumber Salad

This is a recipe I modified from the fabulous book, From Asparagus to Zucchini.  I added more vinegar for more zing and more soy sauce for more flavor, and switched out the sugar with local honey.  I used a low-sodium Tamari, so if you’re using a full sodium soy sauce you might want to taste for saltiness before adding the 2nd teaspoon.  It’s best if you put it in the fridge for at least an hour for it to marinate and cool.

2 cucumbers
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dark/toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons reduced sodium Tamari soy sauce – if not using low sodium, then add to taste
1 tablespoon honey
1 hot pepper, minced  (removing the seeds and white ribs will ensure a less spicy dish)

Peel the cucumbers, cut lengthwise, and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds.
Slice the cucumbers into half-moons, about a half inch thick.
Whisk the remaining ingredients, including the hot peppers.  Once mixed thoroughly, toss dressing with the cucumbers.

Makes 2-4 servings, depending on portion size.

Szechuan Noodles

This pasta features a variety of flavors, including garlic, ginger, tahini (sesame paste), sherry and sherry vinegar, and more.  The dish is finished off with grated fresh carrot on the top, mimicking fresh grated cheese on top of an Italian pasta dish.  A nice salad with Tahini Asian Dressing works well as a side to this dish.  (I modified this dish from Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, cutting much of the oil and adding more spice and the grated carrot.)

3 to 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (depending on your love for garlic)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1/4 cup low sodium tamari (good quality soy sauce)
2 tablespoons sherry (if you store your ginger in sherry as mentioned here, use that sherry)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional, use more if you like it spicy)
1 tablespoon dark/toasted sesame oil
Fresh ground black pepper
Pinch of ground cayenne
1/2 pound spaghetti or spaghettini
1/2 cup reserved water from cooking the pasta
1 to 2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers (depending on size), julienned
2 green onions (any color), sliced or 2 garlic scapes, sliced
1 carrot

Place the garlic and ginger in a food processor.
Add the olive oil, tahini, peanut butter, soy sauce, sherry, sherry vinegar, honey, red pepper flakes, fresh ground black pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon), and cayenne.
Puree the sauce.  Set aside, allowing the flavors to mingle.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add a large handful of kosher salt to the boiling water.
Add the pasta to the pot and boil until al dente, following the package instructions.  Before straining the pasta, carefully scoop 1/2 cup of cooking water.
Strain the pasta, add 2 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water to the bottom of the pan, and return hot pasta to the pan.
Immediately add sauce to the pan and toss with the pasta.
Add the julienned peppers and scallions or garlic scapes and toss.  Add more of the reserved pasta water if it’s too thick.
Using a cheese grater or Microplane style grater, grate the carrot over the top of the pasta like cheese.

Serves 4

Curried Chicken & Veggie Soup with Couscous

Back in college, I worked as a cook for a guy running shipwreck diving trips around Isle Royale. From him I learned some of the best meals are the ones where you “throw all the ingredients in a pot and let it cook awhile.” This recipe comes from A Good Day for Soup, by Jeannette Ferrary (Chronicle Books). You can adapt the vegetables and seasonings as it suits you. Does well as a vegetarian dish also (use veggie stock). All hail the lazy cooks!

Ingredients
4 tablespoons oil
2 onions – chopped
4 cloves garlic – minced
1 red bell pepper – seeded and diced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 carrots – sliced or chopped
1 small butternut squash – peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
1 parsnip – peeled and sliced
2 zucchini – sliced
1 cinnamon stick (about 1 to 2 inches long)
10 cups chicken stock (veggie if you don’t add meat)
2 pounds chicken meat – cut into bite-size pieces
salt and pepper
12 ounces couscous
1/4 cup fresh cilantro – chopped (for garnishing)

Directions
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, soup-sized pot.
Saute the onions, garlic and bell pepper until soft, about 5 minutes.
Stir in curry, cumin and turmeric, and cook another minute or so.
Add tomatoes and cook until bubbly.
Stir in the rest of the vegetables and cinnamon stick; cook a few more minutes.
Add stock and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer, partly covered, for 15 minutes.
Add chicken and simmer another 8 minutes.
Remove cinnamon stick and taste the soup to see how much salt and pepper you want to add (if any).

Couscous
Bring 12 to 16 ounces of water to a boil in a pot. More water makes it more fluffy.
Put the couscous in the pot, put a lid on, and turn off the heat.
Let it sit about 5 minutes.

Place the cooked couscous into bowls and ladle the soup over it.
Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Other Information
Serves: 8
This is a good late summer/early autumn soup.

You can put 1 to 2 tablespoons of uncooked couscous in each bowl, and then pour the soup over it. By the time you get it to the table, it will be ready to eat. This is a great way to do leftovers.

Grilled Pork Chops with Roasted Red Pepper Compote

The roasted red pepper compote is a wonderful addition to grilled pork chops.
From Mon Cheri Cooking School and Caterers (Sunnyvale, California)

Ingredients
1-2 (Red) Peppers – roasted and chopped
1 small Sweet Onion or 2 scallions – diced
1-2 cloves Garlic – chopped
1 tablespoon Fresh Parsley – diced
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
Hot Pepper flakes to taste (optional)

Ingredient quantities can be varied to suit taste.

Directions
To roast peppers:
Cut peppers in half and seed.
Place under broiler skin side up until charred black.
Or place on hot grill skin side down until charred black.
Or use propane torch to char pepper skin black.
Remove from heat and place in paper bag for approximately 15 minutes.
Remove from bag and peel away skin.

To make compote:
Mix all ingredients in bowl.  Serve over grilled pork chops.