Nectarines and Arugula on Filo Dough

Nectarines and arugula on filo doughMiss me? I’ve been pretty busy with some house hunting/packing/moving of late. Dinner usually comes after a long, exhausting day, and I’ve been gravitating to a few standbys to get me through the evening cooking process. I’m going to give you the low down on how I cook healthy meals while being super swamped, but for today, I have slightly fancier fare.

Nectarines have just come into season in California. They’re one of my favorite fruits, and I love to incorporate them into both sweet and savory meals. I decided to take them and some other in-season ingredients and plop them on some filo dough for a crispy — though rather messy, dinner. I discovered this meal in its open-faced layout required a knife and fork to eat it. If you’d like something a bit easier to eat, fold over the filo into square or triangle pockets so you won’t need a knife. (You’ll just need to add the arugula before folding.) Either way you go about it, pair with a rosé, and enjoy a quick meal after a long day.

Nectarines and Arugula on Filo Dough


Serves 6-8

3 white nectarines, sliced
1 package of prosciutto
15 ounces of ricotta cheese
a few dollops of soft goat cheese (I used my Farm to Table shipment of laychee with chive flowers.)
handful of fresh arugula
8 sheets of filo dough
walnut oil (or olive oil)
black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, roll out the 8 sheets of filo dough. Drizzle, or spray if you have an oil sprayer, a fine layer of oil over the filo. Spread the ricotta in a nice, even layer, followed by the dollops of goat cheese. Lay the prosciutto evenly over the cheese, followed by the nectarines. Drizzle or spray a little more oil and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
Cook for about 10 minutes or until the edges of the dough turn golden brown. Sprinkle on the arugula and return to the oven just long enough for the arugula to wilt, three to five minutes more.
Remove from the oven. Let sit for five minutes, then cut with a pizza cutter into eight pieces, and serve.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

strawberry spinach saladToday’s post is a quick one, as every spare moment has been filled with busy work this week. I’ll be telling the whole tale on my other blog, but for now, why don’t we take a break and enjoy a superb salad?

There are a lot of strawberry spinach salads out there, and for good reason. They’re a wonderful mix of flavors, and they’re good for you, too. Mine has the protein upped a notch with the addition of pecans and thin slivers of Pecorino cheese. After a little drizzle of papaya poppy seed dressing and a glass of rosé, this salad was ready to be a sensational supper.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

  • Difficulty: super easy
  • Print

Serves 2

2 cups baby spinach
4-6 strawberries, sliced
1 Tablespoon coarsely chopped pecans
1 avocado, sliced into small pieces
2 Tablespoons thinly sliced Pecorino cheese
salad dressing (I used Annie’s Papaya Poppy Seed)

Arrange the spinach on two plates. Layer the other ingredients. Drizzle the dressing and serve right away.

Slow Cooker Vegetable Bean Soup

Vegetable Bean SoupWell, hello there! Things were a little quiet on the blog last week because I was on a short vacation, enjoying the wildflowers in Death Valley. Charles and I don’t do complicated camp food. Our cooler is reserved for beer, so everything else is just boil-in-a-bag. After a few days of eating Tasty Bites Jaipur Vegetables for dinner, I was in the mood for anything different.

It was a busy week for us after our break, as the reality after trips often is. I wanted something healthy and inexpensive, and I didn’t want to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, since I didn’t have a great deal of time. That’s where my favorite kitchen tool — other than my Japanese chef’s knife, the slow cooker came into play. After a night of soaking beans, it was a day of slowly cooking a mishmash of ingredients, and by the time I got home from work, soup was on!

One of the best things about soup is it’s not an exact science. I tend to eyeball the amounts when I’m making it, so don’t feel freaked if you only have 30 ounces of tomatoes or vegetables. It will still be tasty.

What’s even better, there are plenty of leftovers. We’ll have more soup tonight, probably paired with a Zinfandel or Sangiovese, and I’ll freeze the rest in two-serving containers for more easy, soup-filled evenings in the future.

Vegetable Bean Soup

  • Difficulty: super easy
  • Print

Serves 10

1 cup dried Orca beans (Black turtle beans or little navy beans would also work.)
water
32 oz canned, fire-roasted tomatoes
32 oz (2 bags) of frozen, assorted vegetables (Buy these while they’re on sale and hoard them for whenever you need a veggie addition to a meal.)
2 cups of stock (You know I always have plenty in my freezer.)
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried parsley
roasted red pepper flakes to taste
salt and black pepper to taste

In an eight quart slow cooker, soak the beans in water overnight.
The next morning, drain the beans in a colander. Return them to the slow cooker and add the rest of the ingredients. Add water to the pot until it’s 3/4 of the way full. Put on the lid, turn the slow cooker onto low, and let cook eight to ten hours.
Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Serve with some crusty bread, if you’re into that.

Veggie Wrap with Green Bean Fries

veggie wrapOh, fresh vegetables, you call to us during the winter months, promising crunch and flavor and energy…

Sometimes, I marvel at the world we live in, where we can get tasty, vitamin-packed veggies out of season. I started the week off on a less than healthy note, eating Chinese take-out for two days straight. I had neglected my usual grocery shopping the weekend before, so before take-out, I think we ate something like frozen cheese pizza. These things happen occasionally, but man was my body screaming for fresh food after that stint!

Wraps are always good for containing a great deal of vegetable goodness in an easy-to-eat format. To turn our veggie consumption up to 11, I made a side of green bean fries to go with it. We paired dinner with a Pinot Noir. There was just enough fruit in the wine to be a nice companion to the roasted red bell pepper and tomato, plus the lovely mineral characteristics were great with the mushroom.

Veggie Wraps with Green Bean Fries


Serves 2-4

2 spinach wraps or large tortillas
1 tomato, sliced thinly
4 Tablespoons of grated carrot
1/2 avocado, sliced
2 pieces of roasted red bell pepper, sliced
2 Tablespoons of thinly sliced spring onion
1/2 portobello mushroom cap, sliced
2 handfuls of baby spinach
choice of condiments (I used a drizzle of ranch dressing and a smear of stone ground mustard per wrap.)

2 cups of green beans
sprinkle of grated Parmesan
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Turn oven to 400 degrees F.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook green beans until they turn bright green.
Drain in a colander. Toss with olive oil and Parmesan.
Spread onto a cookie sheet and cook until the beans — and Parmesan — just begin to brown, about as long as it will take you to assemble your wraps.
inside wrap
On two plates, place spinach wraps. Add condiments, and then layer up the vegetables, staying to just right of the middle of the wrap. Turn the plate so the right side is now the bottom. Fold in the sides of the wrap. Using your thumbs, fold the bottom of the wrap over the veggies and then slowly roll until the vegetables are fully encased, making sure the sides stay in as you go.
Cut the wrap in half, add the green bean fries, and eat right away.

Baked Pasta with Veggie Crumbs

baked pastaThe words, “pasta bake” have been floating around my head for the past month. Pasta! Cheese! Creamy sauce! How could I go wrong?

While I wanted to make this Mediterranean casserole of gooeyness, it wasn’t until I saw a post on “veggie crumbs” on epicurious that my desire became a must-happen. I mean, it’s easy to find gluten-free pasta these days, if that’s what you need, but an extra serving of vegetables in the form of crumbs? You had me at food processor.

A pasta bake is also an amazing vehicle for vegetables of all sorts. I packed a head of broccoli, 4 cups of baby spinach, and 2 cups of mushrooms into mine, as well as an entire head of cauliflower for the crumbs. Sure, there was cheese in there too, but, vegetables! There were lots and lots of vegetables!

The mushies and light, creamy sauce meant a Pinot Noir was the pairing choice. I chose Husch Vineyards‘ 2010 Pinot. It was scrumptious with the food and amazing on its own.

Baked Pasta with Veggie Crumbs


Serves 6-8
1 package of noodles such as fusilli or rigatoni, cooked to package instructions
1 head of broccoli, chopped into small pieces
2 cups of mushrooms, cooked (I used a variety of mushies.)
4 cups of baby spinach
1/2 cup caramelized onions
1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers
1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella
25-32 ounce jar of creamy marinara sauce (I combined Alfredo I made from scratch with a jar of spicy marinara sauce — yum!)

1 head of cauliflower, romanesco, or broccoli, separated into florets
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a processor, toss in florets and Parmesan. Pulse until the the cauliflower is the same size of bread crumbs. Drizzle in a little bit of evoo, and pulse until everything is nicely coated.
On the stove top, mix all ingredients together (except cauliflower and Parmesan) in a large pot. Once the cheese begins to melt, turn off heat and run a spoon over the top of the pasta until it’s level. Sprinkle “crumbs” evenly over the top and cook for 22-25 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
Turn on broiler to high and cook about two minutes, until the crumbs have turned a golden brown.
Remove from heat and serve right away.

Salad Days

nectarine saladThere’s just something about the tender-green of baby kale coupled with the sweet tang of nectarines that I’ve been finding extremely satisfying of late. This crisp salad is a mouthful of summer and delicious enough to tempt me away from evening writing projects.

bellafinaDinner arranged, the challenge of pairing was presented — the sparkle of the dish was heightened with a Prosecco, perfect for a balmy twilight.

My choice of the Bellafina Prosecco was a happy accident, an impulse purchase that had then been absentmindedly shoved into the back of the refrigerator. Maybe it was actually kismet, as the flavors of stone fruits, lemon cream, and almonds were harmonious with the varying sweet and lush flavors of the salad. The wine’s orange bitter finish was paradisiacal with the kale. Isn’t it marvelous how good food and great wine always seem to find each other?

Nectarines & Baby Kale Salad

two handfuls of baby kale
1 nectarine, sliced into thin wedges
1/2 avocado, cubed
a sprinkling of tamari pumpkin seeds
a sprinkling of shredded coconut (Leftover, perhaps, from your coconut shrimp?)
drizzle of poppy seed dressing

Toss everything together and serve right away, appreciating the crisp, refreshing qualities of both the salad and the Prosecco.

The Start of Local

Local ProduceThere hasn’t been much in terms of cooking in casa de Hannum over the last week and a half. I’ve been fighting a nasty bug.

That aside, it’s the beginning of our local produce season, when farmers begin to deliver truckloads of fresh, beautiful food to the store and farmers markets.

My favorite way of consuming spring goodies is to process them as minimally as possible, celebrating their tender flavors, either in a quick stir fry or gathered raw on a platter along with cheese, olives, and Blue Diamond’s pecan crackers for a savory, light supper.

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

slow cooker pork shoulderYou’re probably beginning to realize that while I occasionally enjoy creating a complicated meal, my stand-bys are simpler meals that have a few layers of flavor but are easy peasy to make. And I love my slow cooker. I have a small one that’s perfect for smaller meals as well as small roasts — even a chicken.

A couple of days ago, I found a pork shoulder in the freezer (that place is a constant source of surprise for me) and decided it needed to be dinner. After thawing overnight in the fridge, I slow cooked that bad boy until it was a tender, falling-off-the-bone flavor extravaganza and served it with some smashed potatoes.

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

One pork shoulder
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of mixed sweet and hot peppers (I had a bag of pre-sliced sweet bells, jalapenos, etc. that were in the freezer. I recommend a 3 to 1 ratio of sweet to hot.)
2 cups sweet cherries

Throw it all in the slow cooker. Set on low, and go to work. It will be cooked and the flavors will be nicely incorporated by the time you get home. Serve with veggies, potatoes, etc. — whatever side speaks to you.

Any leftovers can be turned into pulled pork sandwiches. I used a gluten-free hamburger bun that I toasted on the grill with a little garlic butter before filling. I added a couple of dollops of Larrupin Red Sauce to the pork for a bit more sweetness and heat.

Thai Green Curry

Thai green curryI find curry to be an amazing comfort food. Maybe it’s because of the endorphins released by the spicy heat. Maybe it’s because the flavors meld so beautifully. Whatever the cause, when I’ve had a rough work week, nothing helps me wind down quite as well as a nice bowl of curry and a glass of slightly sweet Riesling.

This is a simple Thai curry recipe that requires a small amount of prep and a bit of waiting, but the sigh you exhale with the first spoonful is worth that bit of work. Bonus, the money you save by making it yourself means that you just might be able to purchase that pair of strappy sandals you’ve been eyeballing. Comfort food + retail therapy = fully recovered!

Thai Green Curry
serves 4

2 cups water
1 cup jasmine rice
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped Galangal (Thai) ginger
2 cups mixed vegetables
pinch of salt
1 block of tofu, cubed
3 Tablespoons Thai green curry paste
2 cans of organic coconut milk (Give those cans a good shake before opening them.)
2 Keffir lime leaves if available (We have a local farmer who sells them.)

Put rice and water in a pot over high heat. Once it begins to boil, turn heat down to low and simmer until water cooks off. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside if curry isn’t quite done. It’s rice. You probably know that already, but just in case I have any beginners, that’s how it’s done.

Cook veggies and ginger until they’re just beginning to soften up, toss in tofu and salt, and stir. Pour in the coconut milk, curry paste, and lime leaves. Stir. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove lime leaves.

In a nice, deep bowl, shovel in some rice, pour curry over the top, and serve. Take a sip of that slightly sweet Riesling. Inhale through your nose. Exhale through your mouth. Repeat until dinner is finished. Don’t you feel better?

Slow Cooker Roast Beef

roast beef sandwichI work full time, as many of you do, and I’ve found that one of my best friends on a busy day is my slow cooker.

When it’s slow cooking beef, I’ve found another friend — Mr. Sauerkraut.

Mr. Sauerkraut does an awesome job of breaking down a tougher cut of meat during the day and creating a tender, flavorful star for a sandwich.

A couple of days ago, I was poking around in the freezer, trying to find inspiration for dinner. I found a flank steak from my meat CSA. A few days before, I had made a simple meal of sausage, potatoes, and sauerkraut and had picked up an extra package of the fermented wonder. (Just like other condiments, I find it’s good to have an extra package of sauerkraut hanging out in the fridge for last-minute meal ideas.)

Knowing that a tender roast beef sandwich was only a crock pot away, I allowed the steak to defrost in the fridge overnight and then tossed it into the slow cooker with the entire package of sauerkraut, turned it onto low, and left for work.

When I got home that evening, I drained the beef in a metal colander while browning a roll of whole wheat French bread on the cast iron skillet. While the bread browned, I put together a simple salad of tender baby greens of chard, kale, and spinach and threw on some grape tomatoes and avocado for good measure.

Once the bread was ready, I smeared a healthy layer of horseradish on the roll, and dinner was served. We were chowing down with a nice barleywine to drink within a half hour of arriving from work. What could be simpler?