Watercress, Cucumber & Herbed Butter Tea Sandwiches

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There are a ton of ways to say it…

Ask and you shall receive

Put it out there

Tell the universe what you want

Whatever saying you espouse, it’s all based on energy and the Laws of Attraction. If you want something, all you have to do is ask. Once you float an idea out there, the universe, full of energy, tries to provide you with the answer. I can attest to this theory in dozens of real life examples. I could go on and on about the “careful what you wish for“ statement. Which seems a bit more negative in tone than it’s true meaning. But it heeds the warning of be mindful of what you put forth because your wish will probably be granted. And so mine was. Sure, it had been brewing for some time, but the universe doesn’t have deadlines. It delivers what you need when you need it.

Now granted this is not one of those major life altering wishes. It was way more frivolous. More like a desire and Saturday morning daydream. None the less, it was a wish. I had been wanting to throw a tea party for the longest time. I know, you are thinking; Really, after all that blabber on the universe providing and it’s energy and that is what you wished for? It was. No judgement, please. However, I had two big hesitations. One, I can’t eat bread, and two, who would I invite? The latter is an easy challenge to overcome. The former, well that is another story entirely, which is why I have never thrown a tea party. BUT, out there I put the thought. Floating around like whisper waiting to be heard. And so, there was a cosmic little giggle when I was recently asked to cater a tea party. And there it was… Call it serendipity. Call it fate. Call it my prayers were answered. Call it whatever you like, but I asked and I received. And the funny part of it was, it literally answered all the challenges. Since it wasn’t MY tea party I didn’t have to eat the bread, or figure out who to invite. Talk about wishes coming true.

This is one of the easiest and most classic tea sandwiches.

Ingredients

Black Rye Bread
Watercress
English Cucumber, thin round slices

Herbed Butter, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 T chives, chopped
2 T parsley
1 T lemon juice
Lemon zest
1 t salt

 

Instructions

1.First things first, make the herbed butter. Start with softened room temperature unsalted butter. It is important that the butter is really soft so the added ingredients can be blended in thoroughly and easily. Chop the herbs. Then using a mixer with a paddle attachment, blend together. Add the lemon juice, zest and salt to taste, mix a bit more but do not over mix. Set aside and leave at room temperature so it is easy to spread on the bread.

The best part about this butter is that you can place it in plastic wrap, roll it up like a log and freeze. You can then slice it anytime you want. Add it to rice or noodles or to finish a steak or fish.

I made a a lot because I had to make plenty of sandwiches. I froze the leftovers

I made a a lot because I had to make plenty of sandwiches. I froze the leftovers

2. Wash and thoroughly dry the watercress. Thinly slice the cucumber into rounds.

3. Get all the ingredients ready, placing the bread out.

4. Heavily butter one side, then lightly butter the other side of the bread. Then place the cucumber down first.

Line everything up to create your own assembly line. Of course, I made way more than you will need, but the concept still works even for a few sandwiches.

Line everything up to create your own assembly line. Of course, I made way more than you will need, but the concept still works even for a few sandwiches.

I placed 3 slices in a row x3. This way when I cut the bread into finger sandwiches I used the cucumber rows as my guide to create 3 bite sized sandwiches.

I placed 3 slices in a row x3. This way when I cut the bread into finger sandwiches I used the cucumber rows as my guide to create 3 bite sized sandwiches.

5. Pile the watercress on top. Close the sandwich and trim the crusts. Then cut the full sandwich into smaller finger sandwich pieces. I chose to cut these into thirds. You can also cut them in quarters to create squares or on a diagonal to create diamonds. Your choice. It tastes the same no matter the shape. It’s all about your visual preference, so do what turns you on.

When only using but a few ingredients freshness is of the utmost importance.

When only using but a few ingredients freshness is of the utmost importance.

I needed plenty of finger sandwiches for my event. Assembly line work is in my blood and makes the task go faster.

I needed plenty of finger sandwiches for my event. Assembly line work is in my blood and makes the task go faster.

The scraps. Just as edible, if you like the crust.

The scraps. Just as edible, if you like the crust.

This sandwich has such a wonderful flavor profile. The butter provides a huge amount by giving you sweet, salt and herbaceous notes. The watercress is slightly peppery and the cucumber is crisp and cool. The bread, well that is down right comforting while also adding an earthiness. This simple little sandwich packs a powerful big punch.

I hope your wishes all come true. Remember to be mindful of what you ask… the universe is listening.

 
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Spicy Eggplant, Potato, Carrot Hash

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Well, I’m back to my usual something from nothing tricks. The way I usually cook. Just pulling items out, in whatever quantities I have and figuring things out as I go. No real plan. Only agenda is to feed my hunger. When I’m in this mode, I don’t measure. But because I love you, I cut up whatever ingredients I took out and measured each one. This way you would have approximate amounts as a guide. For those of you who don’t necessarily need to follow a recipe for amounts, have fun. For those who usually use follow a recipe to a T, I encourage you to use your taste buds as a guide for judgement on approximating amounts. Look into a pot and say, I think that is enough onions, or carrots, or whatever. Once you get a feel for it, you will feel empowered. But, if you like sticking to a recipe, that’s cool, too.

AND as usual, the impetus for this creation emerged when I remembered buying white eggplant, but neglected to make it during the week. Panic struck when I wondered if I waited too long. Then relief filled my heart when I saw they were still in good shape. And so the story began; out came the eggplant, and with the fridge door swung wide open I started pulling ones item out at a time, looking through the drawers and shelves, and cupboards to see what else might be available.

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Here’s what I came up with. After I pulled everything out and chopped it up, I would have just starting cooking. But as promised, I measured it all for you. I very much appreciate that you take the time to read and try these recipes so I want to make experimenting easy and fun.

ingredients

  • White eggplant (4 c cubed)

  • Heirloom carrots (2 c cubed)

  • Long hot peppers (1/2 c sliced)

  • Red onions (2.5 c sliced)

  • Idaho Potatoes (4 c cubed)

(You will need 3/4c oil, salt and pepper to taste.)

When I saw this pile of gorgeous veg, I immediately thought HASH. No, not the kind you smoke; the yummy, crispy kind you usually have with eggs. Only I planned on making it as a side dish for dinner.

Since each of these ingredients takes different cooking times, my approach was to cook each separately and then bring them all together at the end. While I was cooking my mind kept ping ponging thoughts on whether this would need a salsa. There was mint, parsley and cilantro standing by in the fridge. It got me thinking about making a chimichurri style dressing to brighten the whole thing up in the end.

Salsa Ingredients

1/4 c fresh mint leaves
1/3 c Olive Oil (you can use less if you want it less liquidy)
1 large garlic clove
1 T, shallot, minced (optional)
1/2 t lemon zest
squeeze of lemon juice
Salt, preferably coarse

I use a mortar and pestle but you can also use a mini blender to combine the ingredients.

Here’s how this something from nothing adventure turned out.

The salsa line up.

The salsa line up.

Instructions

  1. Cut and slice all the ingredients as noted above.

Heirloom carrots. Yellow and purple gorgeous chunks.

Heirloom carrots. Yellow and purple gorgeous chunks.

What a beautiful array of potatoes, onions, spicy peppers, white eggplant. Ready and willing.

What a beautiful array of potatoes, onions, spicy peppers, white eggplant. Ready and willing.

2. Start with the potatoes first because they will take the longest. Add them into a hot cast iron skillet with 1/4 c oil, add salt and pepper. Then turn the heat to medium low. Once they are crispy on the outside and tender in the middle, remove them and set aside.

Nice bite sized chunks.

Nice bite sized chunks.

Is there anything more satisfying than crispy potatoes? I think not.

Is there anything more satisfying than crispy potatoes? I think not.

3. In the same pan, add 1/4 c oil, then add the eggplant and half the sliced onions, salt and pepper. Cook until they have a nice crust. Remove and set aside.

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Get a good sear so the eggplant don’t get mushy. You want a nice bite to them.

Get a good sear so the eggplant don’t get mushy. You want a nice bite to them.

4. In the same pan, add 1/4 c oil, carrots, remainder of the onions and peppers. Cook until done.

Look at how bright and vibrant this looks.

Look at how bright and vibrant this looks.

Cook until the vegetables are softened and nicely caramelized.

Cook until the vegetables are softened and nicely caramelized.

5. Add everything back in the pan and cook until all the flavors meld together.

Add everything together to combine and let the flavors marry.

Add everything together to combine and let the flavors marry.

6. Make the Chimichurri style salsa by smashing garlic, cilantro, salt in a mortar and pestle (or a mini blender). Add some lemon zest and juice and oil and whisk together.

The salt and pepper act as a abrasive to mince the mint.

The salt and pepper act as a abrasive to mince the mint.

Lemon zest brightens and makes all the ingredients sing.

Lemon zest brightens and makes all the ingredients sing.

I made my salsa more on the liquidy side so I could drizzle it on. You can add as much or as little oil as you desire.

I made my salsa more on the liquidy side so I could drizzle it on. You can add as much or as little oil as you desire.

A medley of robust flavors.

A medley of robust flavors.

The combo of the vegetables was quite tasty. The zesty salsa only amped up all the flavors. I ate it for lunch, dinner, and I might have even had a little for breakfast, too. I even added some broccolini to it.

With some sautéd broccolini, this made a tasty lunch dish.

With some sautéd broccolini, this made a tasty lunch dish.

Other uses:

  • Put this combo instead an omelette, or just scramble it into eggs

  • Grilled flank steak or shrimp and serve it fajita style

  • Smash it together, form patties and sear them into little pancakes

    I leave the rest of the serving ideas to your imagination. What’s in your fridge this weekend? Go explore!

Butter Lettuce with Orange, Blueberries & Crunch

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It's funny how some ingredients gravitate towards one another. Or maybe it's me that gravitates towards them. Either way, it's nice to meet up with refreshing ingredients. 

Such as Butter lettuce. I enjoy its soft, delicate taste.  And even though it is mild, it's not too precious that it can't handle some zing and crunch.

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Which is why I paired it with orange segments for the zing and seeds for the crunch, and blueberries just because.  Well, not just because. Everything should have a purpose, and these certainly do.  They provide yet another flavor level, adding the tart/sweet level to be exact.  I've made this salad a bunch of time (using nuts)  but the blueberries are a recent addition, as this salad hit the big time, this go around.

Straight up sunflower seeds

Straight up sunflower seeds

Bursting with a tart bite blueberries

Bursting with a tart bite blueberries

This is not a complicated salad, yet it is complex in flavors and textures that all mingle beautifully with a variety of proteins for the main meal. Such as steaks, grilled or roasted fish, pork or chicken.  Its flavors are mild enough so as not to compete, but bold enough to say 'I'm crisp and refreshing, so don't pass me up."  What more can you want from a simple salad? I, dare say, not much. 

So, when during my recent internship at a prep kitchen in Miami I was tasked with making a salad for family meal (that's when the entire staff eats lunch together), I thought this salad might fit the bill. I've always enjoyed it, and was hoping that my new found friends would like it, too.  What I didn't expect was that head Chef MJ liked it so much she decided to offer it at the café for a lunch special the following week.  If you could see my face you would see joy and pride, and a sense of ultimate validation. I guess this little salad of bold flavors and subtle notes from a delicate lettuce got its star on the big screen stage of eateries. 

The line up.

The line up.

Ingredients
 

(Serves 6 as main or 8-10 as a side salad)

2 heads Butter, Bibb or Boston lettuce
3 oranges, segmented
1 pint blueberries
1/4 cup pecans, roasted, chopped or sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
3 scallions, sliced
 

 

Dressing

5 t orange juice
4 t lemon juice
4 t lime juice
2/3 c olive oil
2 T cilantro, minced
1 T ginger, grated
2-3 crushed garlic clove
salt, pepper to taste

Instructions

Wash and completely dry the lettuce. Gently tear it into bite size pieces.  If you are using pecans, place them in a 300 degree oven for 5-8 minutes to lightly toast.  Or you can toast them in a pan on the stove.  If you are using seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin, you can toast them or not.  Segment the oranges over a bowl so you can catch all the juices and use for the dressing. Toss together the lettuce, scallions, onions, ⅔ of the orange segments, ⅔ of the pecans or seeds reserving the remainder to decorate the top of the salad.  Whisk together all the ingredients and lovingly pour over the salad and mix well.  Do not over dress the salad.  You just want it all lightly coated.  Then using the rest of the oranges and nuts decorate the top.

You may notice some radicchio in this closeup shot. At the last minute, I added some to bulk up the salad because we had another person joining for lunch.

You may notice some radicchio in this closeup shot. At the last minute, I added some to bulk up the salad because we had another person joining for lunch.

This is a wonderfully, refreshing summer salad.  Or anytime salad.  I think it will brighten any BBQ.  Pair it with spicy ribs.  Pair it with grilled meats or sausages.  Pair it with whole roasted fish.  Go ahead, pair it with anything.  

Salmon Burgers - San Gluten & Eggs... WHAT?

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Some of you know that I have an allergic reaction to wheat, yeast and eggs (plus a few other foods). So I try to eliminate those as much as possible.  Which means even foods containing just a smidge of bread or eggs to hold them together are quite literally my unraveling.  And thus, blacklisted from my repertoire.  Seriously, how much deprivation can one woman withstand?   I love me a fish burger, but alas most use bread or bread crumbs, and almost all use eggs. What's a gal to do?  Being stubborn and wanting what I want is when the thinking cap needs to be fully stretched and used to its fullest. Unscramble the mystery and find another way to hold the darn thing together.

I remember seeing a recipe a while back that whizzed up part of the protein to make a paste.  Paste... that definitely holds shit together.  So, with the sticky part done I needed to fill up the rest.  Here is the fun part.  You can, seriously, add a long list of accompaniments like; kale, spinach, corn, mushrooms and so on.  Alas, I only had some basics on hand:  onions, celery, peppers, scallions. So, that's what I used, and they worked out just fine. (Next time I will share experimenting with other fillings. Heck, don't wait for me. Be daring and test on your own.)

The setup of what was to become a really tasty salmon burger.

The setup of what was to become a really tasty salmon burger.

Ingredients   

Burgers - Makes 6
1 lb Salmon, skin removed
1 c celery, chopped
1/3 c yellow pepper, small dice
1/3 c orange pepper, small dice
1/4 c red onion, small dice
1/4 c yellow onion, small dice
1/4 c + 2 T scallions, sliced
2 T oil
2 T capers
1 T parsley, chopped
1 t mustard
1/2 t whole grain mustard
1 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
corn meal, potato flour optional

 

 

Relish
2/3 c yogurt
2 T Kosher dill pickles, chopped
1 T parsley, chopped
1 t capers
1. 5 T lemon juice
1 T lemon zest
1/3 c sauté mixture
salt to taste

Instructions

Mise en place all the vegetables as directed.  Then in a cast iron pan or skillet, sauté onions, celery, peppers, 1/4 c scallions in oil, season with salt and pepper.

Mise en place is French for "everything in place", meaning prep all your ingredients so they are ready to go.

Mise en place is French for "everything in place", meaning prep all your ingredients so they are ready to go.

They sure look pretty like this but go ahead and mix them together for even sautéing.

They sure look pretty like this but go ahead and mix them together for even sautéing.

 Let them cook slowly over low heat until softened. When done, set aside and let cool.

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Meanwhile, cut the salmon into 3 equal parts.  One part cut into 3/4" cubes. One part cut into 1/4" cubes. One part pulse in a mini food processor to create a paste. 

Salmon paste that will be the glue to hold the other two together.

Salmon paste that will be the glue to hold the other two together.

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Next chop the parsley and rest of scallions.  In a bowl, add all three portions of salmon. Then begin adding all filling ingredients:  1/2 c of the cooled sauté mixture, capers, the mustards, 2 T scallions and parsley.  Mix together until well combined, then form patties, and refrigerate for 15 minutes to 1/2 hour.  

Salmon prepped in 3 sizes: Big cubes, smaller cubes and a paste.

Salmon prepped in 3 sizes: Big cubes, smaller cubes and a paste.

Start building the burger flavors by adding the vegetable sauté.

Start building the burger flavors by adding the vegetable sauté.

In go the capers.

In go the capers.

Then the mustard, and so on.

Then the mustard, and so on.

Then form your patties. This makes 6 medium burgers.

Then form your patties. This makes 6 medium burgers.

While the burgers are chilling out, move onto the relish. All it takes is a bowl to combine all the ingredients together, stirring until well incorporated.  Then refrigerate until ready to serve.

The lineup for the relish.

The lineup for the relish.

Homemade relish is so fresh and delicious. It can be used on baked potatoes, or over rice even.

Homemade relish is so fresh and delicious. It can be used on baked potatoes, or over rice even.

After the patties have had their chilled rest and are firm, they are ready for frying. You have choices at this point. You can either fry as is without any coating, or dust them with either potato flour* or corn grits**. Using my 6 burgers I experimented making 2 of each kind to see which we liked best. Jill and JC liked them plain with no coating. I also liked the purity of the plain one, but I liked the corn grits coating due to the outer crunch.  And if you search your memory banks, or this blog you will remember that I love crunch.  Test which one you like best.  

NOTE:
*If you use the potato flour coating, cook these at a lower heat since the the finer powder texture cooks faster and will burn if heat is too high.
** Corn grits are a larger grain, which gives it the crunch. But if you don't want as much crunch factor, then you can use a stone ground corn meal which has a finer texture.

Corn grits. See those grains of ground corn? That's what gives it Crunch!

Corn grits. See those grains of ground corn? That's what gives it Crunch!

Potato flour is much finer, almost like talcum powder.

Potato flour is much finer, almost like talcum powder.

About to make crunchy goodness.

About to make crunchy goodness.

I like using a cast iron skillet because the pan retains the heat and gives a nice outer crust. Fry on both sides until you see the salmon turn pink, about 2-3 minutes each side, depending on thickness. 

Front left has potato flour coating. Back center has the corn grits, while front right is sans any coating.

Front left has potato flour coating. Back center has the corn grits, while front right is sans any coating.

The final lineup from left to right: Potato coated, no coating, corn grits coated. You can see how much darker the potato coating got.

The final lineup from left to right: Potato coated, no coating, corn grits coated. You can see how much darker the potato coating got.

Serve immediately with slices of tomato, arugula or boston lettuce, and some cornichons. Any lettuce works fine, but I really enjoyed how the spicy flavor of arugula plays off the salmon,  Don't forget the homemade relish. It's tangy, sweet and delicious. JC and Jill both told me that they don't usually like relish, but plopped spoonfuls of my homemade version on their burgers.  The next night we had fish. They broke out the relish again!

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Hey, since this is such a healthy version of a burger, no bread filling or bun, go ahead and splurge by serving up some fries or a baked potato.  You can even use the relish on that, too. With Memorial Day steaming down the tracks, these could be a great addition to your outdoor party.
(Note: I would not cook these directly on the grill, as they need a flat surface in order to form a crust to help hold them together.) 

Just because I need to eliminate some foods doesn't mean I can't enjoy things I love.
And just because these are sans bread and egg definitely doesn't mean they are sans flavor!

Left with Just Leaves Salad: Cilantro, Parsley, Fennel & Apple

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One day, quite awhile back when JC and I lived in our comfy, perfectly, suited for the time, co-op, we emerged from our home office starved. The realization hit us hard as we looked around the kitchen to discover we had barely anything to eat.  Like Little Miss Muffet, I opened every cupboard, and the cupboards were bare. Or so I thought.  One last search in the refrigerator revealed there might be salvation. I had the oddest combination of ingredients.  If you could call these items ingredients.  These are typically used to enhance a dish, not actually be the leading ladies. As I stared at them, I don't know who was begging more.  Me? - willing them to turn into something else.  Or them, shouting out, "TRY US, we can do it."
 
So, here goes an unusual bunch creating a surprisingly, refreshing salad. 

Nothing but cilantro, fennel, red and green apples, parsley and red onion.

Nothing but cilantro, fennel, red and green apples, parsley and red onion.

Ingredients

1 bunch Cilantro leaves (approx. 2 c), whole leaves, remove woody stems
1 bunch Parsley leaves (approx. 2.5 c), whole leaves, remove stems
1/2 Red onion, thinly sliced
2 Apples, thinly sliced (I used Red Delicious, Green Granny) 
1 bulb Fennel (approx. 2 c), thinly sliced  
Fennel fronds

Dressing
zest of whole lemon
1/4 c lemon juice
2 T lime juice
1 T mustard (I like spicy brown)
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1/2 c olive oil
crushed garlic, optional

Dressing line up.

Dressing line up.

Since I didn't have any lettuce greens I knew I needed to use as much of the cilantro and parsley as I could. These were going to have to do the work of lettuce.  So I lovingly plucked off each leaf leaving it whole. I did my best to not include the stems. I really wanted the purity of the leave to shine.  Once all plucked, they got washed in cold water and took a went for quick whirl in salad spinner for a good dry.

Pluck, pluck, pluck.

Pluck, pluck, pluck.

Look at those fresh, crisp beauties. You are going to love their flavors front and center.

Look at those fresh, crisp beauties. You are going to love their flavors front and center.

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Since I needed as much volume as possible, I used the fennel fronds, too.  I shaved them off the tops and then rough chopped them.  Onto to the fennel bulb, which I thinly sliced.

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Chop, chop. Just enough so they mingle in.

Chop, chop. Just enough so they mingle in.

Thinly slice the bulb and some of the stalks.

Thinly slice the bulb and some of the stalks.

Keeping with the theme of thin.  I sliced the onions and apples in the same manner. (I usually use a mandolin for all the thin slicing.  So if you have one, this is the perfect time to bring it out. I felt like using a good, sharp knife this time.)  Normally, I like to cut salad ingredients using a variety of different sizes for the items.  But I knew this salad would require an even more delicate touch since eating parsley and cilantro leaves whole might be a bit over-powering.  This is why all of these ingredients are nice and thin in order to mingle well together.

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Since apples can turn brown once cut, a good trick is to place them in acidulated water, which is nothing more than cold water with a big squeeze of lemon juice. This both helps to keep them crisp and prevents ugly brown spots, but only if you will be plating the salad within 15-30 minutes. If you keep them in the water longer, than it actually has the opposite effect.  Check out this interesting, helpful link for other ways to prevent browning.

Apples happily floating in lemon water.

Apples happily floating in lemon water.

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Keeping everything at the same thinness allows each to stand up to one another.  And so they did, dressed in a mustard vinaigrette. 

 

Never underestimate those dangling participles left in your fridge.  Those usually making supporting appearances, or a walk on extra without a speaking part can make a starring role if you let them. These were so proud of their debut as stars of the show! 

Eat this salad on it's own, or add it to a brunch plate, or dinner plate.  Whatever plate.  Just pile it on.

Thin slices keeps this salad so crisp and clean.

Thin slices keeps this salad so crisp and clean.

Oh, the freshness truly brighten an already delicious brunch plate.

Oh, the freshness truly brighten an already delicious brunch plate.