Easy Vinaigrette

balsamic vinegar easy vinaigrette recipie

This vinaigrette dressing can be used as-is, or it can be the base for custom dressings by adding wasabi, or substituting lime juice for some of the vinegar, or whatever you like. It works as a marinade, too.

4 oz. vegetable oil
3 oz. red wine vinegar
1 oz. balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 squirt french mustard
dash garlic powder

Enjoy!

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Brussels Sprouts You Won’t Hate

1_brussels

Until I tasted the brussels sprouts that my brother-in-law, Ralph Murphy, does, I couldn’t get them down. They were usually like big, over-cooked wads of green paper. He roasts his–and you can do these that way–but it’s faster and uses less electricity if you do them in a skillet. I also added a citrus twist.

Put on a pot of water to boil, and gather your ingredients:

brussels sprouts
soy sauce
lime juice
garlic powder
vegetable oil
red wine vinegar

There are no proportions here because it really depends on how many sprouts you want to cook and how much of the flavors you want on your sprouts. For more on measuring, click here.

2_brussels

While the water is heating, cut off the ends of the sprouts. Then cut a deep “X” in the end of each sprout.

When the water comes to a boil, put the sprouts in and parboil for 5 minutes, maybe 6 minutes if the sprouts are huge.

3_brussels

Drain the sprouts well, then cut each one in half longways. Heat a non-stick skillet to hot (on a scale of 1 to 10, maybe 8). Drizzle a little vegetable oil in the skillet and toss in the sprouts. Saute quickly and add soy sauce, lime juice, and a little garlic powder. If you like, you can also add some crushed red pepper to hot it up. About a minute before you take these off the heat, add a splash of red wine vinegar.

4_brussels

If you prefer to roast the sprouts, you can parboil some potatoes (not bakers) and root veggies, cut them into bite-size pieces, toss in a bowl with the vegetable oil, soy sauce, lime juice and garlic, and put them on a roasting pan in the oven. That’s how Ralph does it, and he knows about cooking. He knows some other stuff, too; click here.

When you make these, let us know how it went by commenting below.

Enjoy!

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Spicy Thai Noodles

Thai_noodles

This recipe evolved from one I saw 20 years ago and just altered to suit myself over time; the only things I know for sure the original recipe had were lime juice, crushed red pepper, peanuts, soy sauce, garlic and brown sugar. Those are the basis for a tasty Thai dish like this, and you can add whatever else you like. Collect your ingredients and have them all ready to go, because this one goes fast.

Ingredients

1/2 lb. linguine or other flat noodle

juice of a lime
1/3 cup dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts, crushed*
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 large clove of garlic, chopped finely
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped red onions or scallions
1/4 cup of chopped red bell pepper
handful of chopped fresh cilantro (or, about half that much fresh basil)
1 beer (mostly for drinking while you cook, but also for some liquid if needed)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
crushed red pepper to taste

Skillet

Cook the noodles and strain. Heat a non-stick skillet to medium-high and, when it’s hot, add vegetable oil and crushed red pepper. Add onions, bell pepper and garlic; saute until just barely wilted. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar and peanuts. The sugar will start to thicken the mix, so pour some of your beer into it to thin it a little. Just before you take the mix off the heat, add the cilantro and continue to saute for maybe half a minute.

Noodles_mixed

Pour the mix over the noodles and garnish with cilantro leaves. If you want some additional crunch, add bean sprouts or sliced water chestnuts as you toss the dish. Serve with lime wedges. Makes enough for two people.

Enjoy!

* I crush the peanuts by folding them into a cloth napkin and banging on them with the handle of a heavy knife.

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Quinoa Tabouleh

Quinoa_tabouleh

While I’m not a fan of quinoa, I love tabouleh, and quinoa gives the dish some extra texture. Rinse 3/4 cup quinoa in hot water and strain. Put it in a small saucepan with 1.5 cups of water; bring to a boil, cover and turn to low. When water is absorbed, remove from heat and transfer quinoa to a bowl to cool.

Whisk_liquids

Whisk together 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, two minced cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of salt, and some pepper; set aside.

Dice_tomatoes

Dice 2 ripe tomatoes, 5 large scallions, one cucumber, put in a very large bowl. Add an entire bunch of parsley—the curly kind—and a cup of fresh mint, both chopped roughly.

Mix_tabouleh

Whisk the liquid mixture again and stir it into the veggie mix. Stir in the quinoa (be sure it is room temperature or cold). Refrigerate.

Garnish with slices of cucumber and serve cold.

Enjoy!

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Easiest Potato Soup Ever

Potato_soup

My mother-in-law gave me this one, and it’s ridiculously simple. Here’s all you do… peel three or four pounds of potatoes…no bakers, I like Yukon Gold, and dice in 1″ cubes or a little larger. Put them in a large, deep pot and cover with water about 3″ above the potatoes. When the potatoes get soft, pull the pot off the heat and pour off all but about 1″ of the water. Quickly break up the cubes with a manual potato masher or the back of a large spoon. Don’t mash it too finely; the chunks are good. Put the pot back on low heat and add 8 oz. or so of shredded cheddar cheese, then enough milk to thin the soup however much you like. I use 2% milk; you could try soy milk but I’m not sure the consistency would be right. Salt well and add a lot of ground black pepper. You can add a little garlic powder if you like.

As this soup sits, it will thicken up again. When you reheat it, just add more milk until it’s as thick as you like it. This soup is good any time, but it’s especially good if you’ve got the stomach bug… very nutritious and it stays down. Freezes well.

Serve with Perfect Every Time Cornbread. Recipe here.

Enjoy!

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No-Fat Crunchy Cilantro Slaw

Slaw

This recipe is fast, easy and spicy. It’s definitely not the slaw I grew up with, made of finely ground cabbage and swimming in mayo. This one is light, crunchy, fat-free and vegan. It goes really well with fish tacos. You’ll only need a few ingredients:

small head of cabbage
large handful of fresh cilantro
red onion
vegetable oil (not olive, though)
red wine vinegar
ice water
pepper
celery seed
salt

Cabbage

Chop the cabbage ~ not too finely ~ and put it in a large bowl. If you want to use red cabbage or add some to the mix for color, it’s fine.

Onion_cilantro

Chop the cilantro a little to release the oils but not into teeny pieces; the cilantro leaves look pretty in the slaw. Finely chop about a 1/4″ slice of red onion. Add both to the chopped cabbage.

Oil_vinegar

Make an mix of 2/3 oil and 1/3 vinegar; the total should be about 6 ounces. Add 1/2 tsp. pepper ~ I use the white pepper a friend brought me from Cambodia ~ some salt, and a full teaspon of celery seed. Shake, and pour over the cabbage mix, then pour in a cup of ice cold water. Mix, and refrigerate. Serve very cold.

Enjoy!

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Tasty Fish Tacos

Tacos_rolled

I have a friend who says she doesn’t cook, she assembles. This recipe for fish tacos is part cooking, part assembly. Gather your ingredients.

Veggies_whole

2 tilapia filets
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
red onion
fresh cilantro ~ half handful for cooking, half a handful for garnish
2 limes ~ juice one and a half, use half of that for marinade and half for cooking,
slice the remaining half for garnish
ancho or other mild chili pepper, jalapeno if you like the heat
chili seasoning mix, about 1 tablespoon
red bell pepper
4 small flour tortillas
guacamole ~ we like Wholly Guacamole
any good salsa, about a cup
hot sauce
corn tortilla chips
beer

First, whisk together olive oil, lime juice and garlic for a marinade; pour over tilapia filets and sprinkle with chili seasoning mix:

Tilapia_marinating

Then strain the salsa well, so it’s not too wet. Chop onion and peppers. Finely chop half the cilantro for cooking; leave the other half simply picked from the stems.

Heat a non-stick skillet to medium high, then drizzle in some olive oil and quickly add the tilapia, onion, peppers, and chili seasoning mix. Saute just until the fish is no longer pink inside. If you need some liquid, add a little lime juice or a splash of beer. (Drink the rest of the beer.)

Tilapia_cooking

When it’s done, put in a bowl lined with some paper towels to drain.

Heat another non-stick skillet to medium and, before you assemble the tacos, toss a flour tortilla in the skillet just to warm it a little. Or, you can put all the tortillas in well-sealed tin foil before you start and warm them in the oven on the lowest heat setting.

Now it’s time to become the ensamblador … that’s “assembler” in Spanish. On each tortilla, put a quarter of the fish/pepper combo, a liberal amount of fresh cilantro, a dollop of guacamole, a dash of hot sauce and maybe a teaspoon of the salsa.

Tacos_assembled

You can roll up the tacos and spear them with a toothpick to keep them closed and warm to the table. My friend Robert in California suggests using a long cactus spine ~ are those edible? ~ but those are hard to come by in Tennessee. Put slices of lime on the plate for drizzling.

Serve with corn tortilla chips and the rest of the guacamole and salsa. The “No Fat Crunchy Cilantro Slaw” makes a great side dish. Get the recipe here.

Enjoy!

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Posted in Dinner, Lunch | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Just a pinch.

Measuring_cup

You’ll notice that the proportions of the ingredients for most of the recipes here are sort of vague… a little of this, a handful of that, add so-and-so to taste. If you’re baking cakes or anything where some pretty specific chemistry has to happen, it matters. (Hint: if it has baking soda or baking powder in it, you should measure carefully.)

My neighbor, Neil, whom I adored, measured everything to a nearly atomic level. Just making coffee turned his kitchen into a laboratory. Maybe that’s because he was a scientist and because he wasn’t from the South. Neil passed away last year; he was a good man and I miss him.

I used to love to stand next to my great-grandmother as she made biscuits or dumplings. She had a 5-gallon bucket of lard under the cabinet, and she would reach in there, grab a handful of the stuff, and plop it into the flour in her ancient wooden bread bowl. Not only didn’t she measure, she didn’t even look. I remember asking her one time to define a “pinch” of an ingredient. She just laughed. Of course, one of the best definitions came when Cajun chef Justin Wilson said, “How much is a pinch? Well, dat depen’ on wha you pinchin.”

Granny’s bread bowl.

Bread_bowl

Do you measure, or do you just wing it? Comment below…

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Perfect cornbread, every time.

Cornbread_1

Where I come from, we take our cornbread very seriously. By cornbread, I don’t mean that dry, crumbly, hard-to-swallow stuff that’s really only fit to scrub bathtubs with. I mean that lovely, soft slice of heaven that’s so moist you don’t even need to butter it…the kind that will make people refrain from making fun of Southerners, if only for one meal. That’s the kind of cornbread my momma made, and I’m going to show you how to make it now.

Take a good look at this skillet:

Cornbread_2

My mom gave me this 7″ cast-iron skillet* when I married. Her grandmother gave it to her when she married. And someone had given it to Granny when she married. Since Granny was born in 1898, I’m going to venture to say that this skillet is 100 or more years old. And it has never been washed. Repeat: never. This skillet is so seasoned that, after cooking in it, you just wipe it out with a damp cloth and put it away. That works partly because of age, and partly because of oil. This skillet has, no doubt, had so much lard in it at some point in time that it would make a rabbi plotz. 

Measure out these ingredients before you preheat the oven, because this goes fast:

1 cup Martha White self-rising cornmeal mix

7 oz. buttermilk

one egg

vegetable oil

Heat oven to 425 degrees. When it’s at that temperature, put enough oil in the skillet to almost cover the bottom, and stick the skillet in the oven. What you want to do is to get the oil so hot it is nearly smoking, but not quite.

While the skillet and oil are heating, break the egg in a mixing bowl, beat the egg, and remove about a third of it. Pour the buttermilk into the egg and stir. Add the cornmeal and beat the mixture well with a fork to introduce some air. Let it sit while the skillet gets hot; it will rise slightly in the bowl.

When the oil is at that perfect temperature, do this next part as fast as you can…

Pull the skillet out of the oven and dump the oil into the cornmeal mixture; it will sizzle. Whip the oil into the mix with your fork and immediately pour it back in the skillet and put the skillet back in the oven. The reason you can’t do this fast enough is that the hot oil left in the skillet seals the outside of the mix; that forms the crust and keeps the cornbread moist without being greasy.

Bake until the top of the cornbread is golden brown. Take it out and let it rest in the skillet a few minutes before you turn it out onto a rack or plate.

Cornbread_3

*Tips: If you have the full-sized 10# skillet, double this recipe. Don’t try to make this cornbread in an unseasoned skillet or something other than cast iron. And do not, under any circumstances, put sugar in this cornbread. If you want, you can stir some grated cheddar and diced jalapenos into the mix for a Mexican flair, but why mess with perfection?

You’ve just been given my most treasured recipe for the only thing I can cook exactly like Momma did. Don’t mess it up.

Enjoy!

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Posted in Breads | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Black Bean Avocado Salad

Bb_salad_7_lo_res

Avocados are plentiful and relatively cheap right now, and they add a richness to a summery bean salad. You may want to put a can of corn (drained) into this; I just didn’t have any in the pantry.

Open and dice two ripe avocados. Click here for a demonstration of how to do this easily. Toss in lime juice and set aside.

Bb_salad_2_lo_res

Drain and rinse two cans of black beans; also drain about 6 ounces of a good, chunky salsa.

Bb_salad_3_lo_res

In a large bowl, put the beans, avocado, salsa, and a couple of chopped roma tomatoes.

Bb_salad_5_lo_res

Chop half a poblano (or other) pepper, onion and garlic; add to the bean mix.

Sprinkle the mixture with chili powder, toss in a handful of chopped fresh cilantro, and mix. Serve with tortilla chips. Makes a nice side dish with fish tacos. Enjoy!

Let us know how this turned out for you in the comments section.

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