Caprese Salad

I know – Caprese Salad recipes are a dime a dozen on the interwebz.  But what the heck – what’s one more?

Since we are absolutely overwhelmed with tomatoes right now, we’ve been eating the dickens out of this; it’s just a lovely dish.  The first time I made it I used a balsamic vinaigrette, which was nice, but made the salad kind of “muddy” looking.  Afterwards, I began making a reduction of the balsamic and I couldn’t be more pleased with it; it adds a ton of flavor to the dish.

Also, my sweet basil has been struggling a bit this season but the Thai basil has gone absolutely nuts, so I’ve been using that instead.  Thai basil is more “peppery” than sweet basil, and has licorice undertones; it makes an interesting addition to this ubiquitous summertime salad.

Caprese Salad. A lovely salad of sliced tomato, mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves gets a drizzle of sweet, tangy balsamic vinegar reduction.

Click the image to enlarge

Caprese Salad
Serves: 2
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 8 leaves fresh Thai basil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Balsamic Reduction
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  1. [i]Make the reduction[/i]: Whisk together the balsamic vinegar and honey in a small saucepan. Add the rosemary and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat slightly and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to thicken a bit. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.,
  2. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of the balsamic reduction on a large plate. Arrange the tomato and mozzarella slices with the basil on top of the reduction. Drizzle with the olive oil and serve.
  3. Nutrition (per serving): 258 calories, 20.7g total fat, 25.2mg cholesterol, 130.1mg sodium, 284.8mg potassium, 10.6g carbohydrates, 1.3g fiber, 8.2g sugar, 7.2g protein

Beef Liver with Apples and Onions

This is one of those dishes that, if you’re a fan of organ meats, make you want to sing hosannas to The Gods of Liver.

Yeah.  It was good.

Really, really good.

Now, having said that, I’m a tad prejudiced because I’ve always liked liver.  Beloved, on the other hand, did not – I practically had to force him to eat it the first time I made it for him (up until that point, the only time I got to eat it was when I ordered it at a restaurant).  These days, he has a very different attitude towards offal, and we eat liver, both beef and chicken, on a fairly regular basis, and enjoy odd bits such as tongue, heart, jowls and sweet breads as often as we can.

It’s all good.  And good for you.

Of course, how you cook liver has a lot to do with how palatable – or in this case, delicious – it is.  Over cooking it will turn it into a mealy, nasty piece of shoe leather.  Cooking it to a nice medium, leaving it delicately pink in the center, makes it tender and tasty.  Beef liver also tends to be pretty strong flavored, especially compared to calf and chicken liver, but soaking it for a couple of hours in milk, coconut milk or some sort of marinade greatly mitigates that.

Anyhoo, this recipe came about because 1) apples are just now beginning to come into season and B) I needed something to do with the leftover white wine from a couple of nights prior.  I have to say, I couldn’t be more pleased with how the dish turned out, and Beloved simply devoured it.    It was simply marvelous served over a roasted parsnip puree.

Fall is right around the corner.  This is a good thing.

Beef Liver with Apples and Onions. A great variation of Liver & Onions - the sweetness of the apples and onions pairs well with the earthiness of the offal.

Click the image to enlarge

Beef Liver with Apples and Onions
Serves: 4
  • 4 ounces sliced bacon
  • 4 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter, divided
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large firm sweet apples, such as Gala, cored, peeled and cut into 2″ cubes
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound beef liver, cut into 2-inch by 1-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  1. In a large skillet cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp; transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off the fat, reserving 4 tablespoons.
  2. Return 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat to the pan and add 2 tablespoons of the ghee. Cook the onions over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and beginning to turn golden. Add the apples and continue cooking until the fruit is a light gold color. Stir in the vinegar, sugar, and wine; increase heat to medium-high and continue cooking for 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Transfer to a plate or dish and keep warm.
  3. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee and bacon fat over high heat. Pat the liver dry, and sprinkle it lightly with salt and pepper. Cook the liver, turning it frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it is browned but still slightly pink in the center.
  4. Divide the liver between four plates and top with the apple and onion mixture. Crumble the reserved bacon over the top, garnish with the chives and serve.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 441 calories, 28.5g total fat, 361.7mg cholesterol, 318mg sodium, 539.7mg potassium, 16.6g carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, 8g sugar, 27g protein

Fried Okra, Revisited

The Young One is officially a college student and we are officially empty nesters.  And Beloved is officially going crazy attempting to track down odd noises in the house, which I also hear. (For what it’s worth, I think we’re so accustomed to noises from the second floor of the house that we’re hearing things that aren’t there.)  Things are still crazy busy in Sushi Land, but hopefully it will all start to wind down soon, and I can actually cook something again that is worth posting.

Now, on that note, we’ve begun harvesting the late summer crops from our garden; mostly tomatoes, but we’ve got some kale and chard ready to go – we’ve even harvested a huge spaghetti squash.  But among our favorite late summer foods is – yes, we’re southern – the humble okra.

Okra probably originated somewhere around Ethiopia , and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians as early as 1200 B.C.  It came to Caribbean and the U.S. in the 1700s, probably brought by slaves from West Africa, and was introduced to Western Europe soon after.  Despite the fact we treat it like a vegetable, like tomatoes, okra is really a fruit.

And a tasty, tasty fruit it is!  Many people don’t like okra because of its mucilaginous quality, which is a polite way of saying that it can get “slimy” when cooked.  Leaving the pods intact, such as Roasted Okra, combining it with acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes (Tomato Okra Soup) or vinegar, or long, slow cooking, such as gumbo, will often help mitigate the sliminess.

Slicing, “breading” and frying it will also keep the “slime factor” to a minimum.  It will, in fact, turn the okra into a crunchy, delicious bit of heaven.  When I first posted this recipe two years ago, I just used almond flour as a substitute for the traditional white flour and cornmeal; delicious, but a little on the heavy side.  In this version, I replace half the almond flour with tapioca flour – it lightens up the coating, and helps keep it crisp.  A little more carby, perhaps, but still considerably better than the traditional version, and every bit as tasty.

Fried Okra is well loved in the south – and for a good reason!  This one is gluten- and corn-free.Click the image to enlarge

Fried Okra, Revisited
Serves: 4
  • 2 cups sliced okra
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 cup tallow or other fat suitable for frying
  1. Mix the almond and tapioca flours with the salt, pepper and cayenne in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate. In a small bowl, whisk the egg together with the water. Set aside.
  2. Melt the tallow or cooking fat in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat to a temperature of 350 F. Toss half the sliced okra in the egg wash and remove using a slotted spoon, allowing the excess to run off. Add the okra to the seasoned flour mixture and lightly toss until well coated.
  3. Fry the coated okra until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes, turning once about halfway through. Remove the okra from the fat with a spatula or slotted spoon, transferring to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  4. Repeat with the remaining okra. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 395 calories, 32.9g total fat, 74.4mg cholesterol, 492.4mg sodium, 263.8mg potassium, 19.9g carbohydrates, 3.7g fiber, 1.2g sugar, 2.7g protein

Lamb Burgers with Mint-Pistachio Pesto

Well, the boy is safely ensconced in the hallowed halls of Kent State University.  If he can avoid the National Guard, he should be okay. 😛

I finally got an opportunity to cook something worth posting yesterday at lunch.  I’d taken a pound of ground lamb from our recent purchase out of the freezer a couple of days ago, but hadn’t had a chance to make it (and was unsure exactly what to do with it).  Worried that it was going to go bad if I didn’t use it soon, I decided I’d make some burgers for lunch before driving The Young One out to Kent, which is about 45 minutes from where we live.

The idea of burgers just seemed kind of, well, plain, and I began looking around for things I had that might make a good sauce or condiment for them.  Mint is traditional with lamb, and we grow three different kinds in our herb garden, so I went and picked some plain peppermint (we also grow spearmint and chocolate mint).  While I was there, I noticed the parsley and cut some of that, as well.

Back in the kitchen, I had some roasted pistachios; I grabbed them and began shelling a few.  There was a bottle of olive oil on the counter, as well as a lemon and more garlic, and before I knew it all of the ingredients were in the food processor.

The resulting pesto was surprisingly delicious and was the perfect complement for the lamb burgers.    As lunches go, it was quick, easy, unusual and simply scrumptious – Beloved and I scarfed them down with some fresh cherry tomatoes from our garden, a good helping of Fermented Peach Chutney and some lacto-fermented pickles (recipe coming as soon as I can make them again; they are so incredibly good that by the time I thought to take a photo, they were more than half gone).

Note:  There’s no cheese in the pesto, but if you’d like to add some, a tablespoon or so of a good quality hard Italian cheese would probably be quite nice in it.

Lamb Burgers with Mint-Pistachio Pesto.  A riff on the classic pairing of mint and lamb, these burgers are quick, easy and delicious.

Click on the image to enlarge

Lamb Burgers with Mint-Pistachio Pesto
Serves: 4
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 2 tablespoons grated red onion
  • 1 large clove garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Pesto
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 small clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Gently combine all of the ingredients for the lamb burgers in a large mixing bowl. Form into 4 patties and cook over moderate heat until the internal temperature reaches about 145 F; the inside will still be slightly pink.
  2. While the burgers are cooking, put all of the ingredients for the pesto except the salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor or high-performance blender and pulse until the ingredients are well mixed. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve the burgers topped with the pesto.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 441 calories, 36.9g total fat, 76mg cholesterol, 539.1mg sodium, 431.6mg potassium, 4.4g carbohydrates, 1.7g fiber, <1g sugar, 23.1g protein

Another Milestone

No recipe today – I simply have not had time to really cook (and I’m rather sick of eggs, to be perfectly honest).  Hopefully things will return somewhat to normal tomorrow, but in the meantime today we’re driving The Young One to Kent State and moving him into his dorm room.

We spent most of yesterday evening getting him packed up and all of the stuff deposited next to the front door (which we rarely use).  Today, I’ll print out the directions for lofting his dorm furniture, print his schedule for “Welcome Weekend,” program the GPS directions into my phone and try not to be an emotional mess.

I don’t know why I’m so nervous; my stomach is just all in knots.  All I can think of is how much I’m going to miss him and how worried I’m going to be.  Will he do well?  Will he make friends?  Will he party too much?  Too little?  Will he be homesick?  Will he not be homesick?  Will he live off of junk food?  Will he find his niche?

And to think, all of these years I’d been looking forward to the time they’d all be grown and on their own.