Monday, July 23, 2012

Not-Your-Ordinary Fruit Salad

This is not your ordinary fruit salad because tomatoes, olives, and avocados are not often thought of as fruits.  Before I named this salad and blog post I felt the need to double check.  Sure enough, according to a variety of internet sources tomatoes, olives, and avocados are indeed fruits.  Add apples to the ingredient list and that makes four fruits in this salad.  This salad is a bit like a party in your mouth because of the great textures and flavors.  The creamy texture of the avocados offsets the crunchiness of the apples and carrots. You also can taste bitter and sweet flavors from the lettuce and a nice salty bite from the olives. I recently inherited this recipe from a friend who discovered this combination completely by accident.  When my friend put a salad together for her and her husband one night for dinner she used what she had on hand.  Her husband liked the combination so much that he asked her to make this for a dinner party a few nights later.  My husband and I were a part of this dinner party.  After my first two bites of this salad, I was begging her for the recipe.  I hope you try it and like it as much as I do.

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Not-Your-Ordinary Fruit Salad 
(makes enough for 1 large family-style salad, 2 large entree salads, 4 side salads, or 6 appetizer salads)
4 cups red leaf lettuce any sweeter lettuce (about 1/2 head)
4 cups escarole or a bitter/strong lettuce (about 1/2 head)
1 medium carrot
1/2 red apple (Ambrosia or Pink Lady are delicious choices)
1/2 ripe avocado
2 green onions
3 to 4 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
6 green olives with or without pimento

1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I only had mild and it was still delicious)
grilled chicken
crumbled bacon
Serve with Ranch Dressing or Balsamic Vinaigrette
Note: this recipe can easily be doubled for a large dinner party

1) Gather and wash all the salad ingredients.

2) Tear lettuce by hand into bite sized pieces.  Chop the next six ingredients into bite sized pieces: carrot, apple, avocado, scallions,  sun-dried tomatoes, and olives.

3) Optional: add shredded cheddar cheese, grilled chicken, and/or crumbled baked bacon.

4) Top with your favorite ranch dressing or balsamic vinaigrette.  This is my new favorite balsamic vinaigrette.  Mix the following ingredients in a jar and shake well.

For the Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/2 cup quality olive oil
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of quality balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon of dijon mustard (I only had regular yellow and it was still delicious)
Note: this recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for a large dinner party

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pan-seared Oven-finished Salmon with Barbecue Sauce

Salmon was an acquired taste for me. I finally started liking it in my twenties. Up to that point the only salmon I ate was my Mom's salmon patties with ketchup (not that there is anything wrong with those). One night when I was out to dinner with a few coworkers on a business trip in Chicago I ordered the salmon special. I loved it. From that moment I could order blackened salmon with barbecue sauce at restaurants and be confident that I would have a tasty and satisfying meal. This recipe is my version of the salmon I came to love at that Chicago restaurant.

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Pan-seared Oven-finished Salmon with Barbecue Sauce
2 (6oz) thick cut salmon fillets
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper (or more as this will determine "the kick")
4 tablespoons of your favorite barbecue sauce
olive oil

Note: check your labels on spices and barbecue sauce if you would like to make this recipe gluten free.
Note: this is the same spice blend from my "Spicy Pork Loin Chop" post.

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat salon dry with paper towel.

2) Season salmon with the rub.

3) Heat olive oil in an oven proof pan over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the salmon top side down/skin side up and sauté for 5 minutes.

4) Remove from heat, gently flip the salmon.

5) Top each piece of salmon with 2 tablespoons of your favorite barbecue sauce.

6) Finishing cooking the salmon by placing the pan in the preheated oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until your desired doneness is reached. I checked it at 5 minutes, and put it back in for 2 minutes. By the way don't judge me by how much my oven needs to be cleaned.  I don't have a self-cleaning oven.  I'm just glad I have an oven from this century.

7) I served this with green beans but this would be awesome with "Mom's Wax Beans."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mom's Wax Beans With Buttered Bread Crumbs

When I was a kid I loved when my Mom made her recipe for wax beans with buttered bread crumbs. She often served them with pork. As I got older, I even remember begging her to make bigger batches. My Mom made these with canned wax beans which is actually more readily available than frozen or fresh. However, our friends planted their garden early this year and got lucky with no frost, so last week I was the beneficiary of several large handfuls of wax beans. I knew exactly what I was going to do with them.

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Mom's Wax Beans With Buttered Bread Crumbs
4 Cups of whole fresh wax beans, or 2 (15) oz. cans drained (if using canned beans skip step 1 & 2)
1/4 cup of butter
1/2 cup of white bread crumbs

1) Wash and trim wax beans into thirds (or one inch pieces). 

2) Steam the beans for 15 to 18 minutes using an electric steamer or double boiler.

3) Melt 1/4 cup of butter in a frying pan over medium heat.

4) Add wax beans and toss to coat in butter.

5) Add 1/2 cup of white bread crumbs and continue to cook until bread crumbs are toasted (about another 10 to 15 minutes).  Salt to taste.

6) Mom's wax beans with buttered bread crumbs go really well with spicy pork loin chops.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Pulled Pork Sandwiches For a Crowd

My husband and I have been having 4th of July open house parties for the last five years. Now that we live on a golf course with an excellent view of our local fireworks the party is better than ever. For the last two years I've served the makings for pulled pork sandwiches.  I love making pulled pork because it is easy, tastes great, and relatively inexpensive.  Our invitation states that we will provide pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, and baked beans. We ask people to bring their own beverages and a snack, side dish or desert to share.  We had almost people 50 stop by between 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. The fireworks didn't start until 9:20 p.m.  Everyone loved the pulled pork.  I think the secret is all the garlic in the rub.

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Pulled Pork Sandwiches For a Crowd

For the Rub
6 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 teaspoons of black pepper
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1) Squeeze the garlic cloves through a garlic press into a cup with olive oil.

2) Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.

For the Pulled Pork
8 - 10 pound bone-in pork shoulder

1) Place the pork shoulder in a deep roaster. Note: I doubled the rub recipe and bought 3 pork shoulders.  I would have tripled the rub recipe but I didn't have enough garlic in the house.

2) Spread the herb paste evenly over the top of the roast.  Note: this can be done up to three days in advance, and the pork can be kept in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.

3)  Cover with foil and cook low and slow so the collagen brakes down slowly. This is the secret to fork-tender pork shoulder.  I baked the pork for a total of 4 hours and 20 minutes at 300 degrees.  I removed the foil after three hours, and cooked uncovered for the remaining time. Note: next time I try this I'm going to cook lower and slower because there were some parts of the pork shoulder that didn't fall apart and really needed to be "pulled" apart.

4) Let the shoulder rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes and then start pulling the pork with a fork.  You can dig in with your hands when the pork is cool enough. Throw away the fatty portions.

5) When cooking for a crowd I fill a slow cooker with the pulled pork and ladle about two cups of the roasting juice over the pork.  At first I kept the slow cooker on low and eventually turned it down to warm.

6) Pile pork on a bun.

7) Drizzle barbecue sauce over the pork.

8) Pile coleslaw on top of the pork.

9) Pulled pork sandwiches go great with Mom's potato salad.

10) Enjoy the compliments and the fireworks!

For more 4th of July Party ideas check out this "link party" at Tumbleweed Contessa. Also, linked to these parties: Anyonita NibblesBack to Basics, Call Me PMc, Everyday Mom's Meals, Feeding BigHungry Little Girl, I Should Be Mopping the FloorsThe Self Sufficient HomeAcre, and What's Cooking Love?


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