Category Archives: Quick

A Last Taste of Summer: Caprese Salad

This summer, I had the joy of watching the little seeds and starts I plopped into my little edible garden stretch and blossom. As a new vegetable gardener, I expected that not everything would go as planned. A “cabbage” grew up to be a giant Brussels sprout that took over a corner of the garden, shading out a few things planted a little to closely. Some purple radishes never really plumped past a skinny root, carrot seeds never quite figured out that summer had come. I had squash blossoms aplenty, but little in the way of actual squash.

But oh, the tomatoes. A couple plants snaked their way through the garden, bloomed and were produced prolifically. Also on the garden’s plus side were basil, sage and lettuce that added fresh flourishes to summer meals.

And with some of the little that remains, I recently made my favorite summer meal.

Caprese salad is a somewhat new-found taste. Though I may have had it before, the first time I remember it clearly  was eating it at a North Kitsap fire station. I’d been invited to a meal there, and among the other great dishes was caprese salad. (Side note: I learned from being a crime and public safety reporter was that firefighters make some darn fine meals, so if you ever see a chance for such a meal, jump at it.) Though wary at first, from the first bite I was in love. The combination of basil, tomatoes, olive oil and Balsamic vinegar was a simply beautiful bit of summer in my mouth.

So, in honor of the waning days of summer, this is what I made. I drizzled olive oil and dropped 12-year-old Balsamic and shook some coarse salt and freshly ground pepper over it all.

Quick Fix: Fried Rice with Bacon and Greens

Fried Rice with Greens
Fried Rice with Greens

In last week’s post on greens, I revealed my newfound love of bacon and greens with scrambled eggs.

Recently, I added another bacon/greens combo concoction to my growing list of greens recipes.

One quick note before I get to the recipe, I should put in a quick note about identifying the greens. If you are one of those people who didn’t get the benefit of asking or forgot to ask the farmer what on earth all that green stuff was you had in your bag, a couple websites offers some help identifying greens. has a decent list of greens with pictures and tips for uses. I’m looking for others, but that seems to be the most complete. PCC Natural Markets also has a basic primer on greens.

Also, while I was out in Internet land, I found a few other greens recipes and added them to my Food Stories page.

And now to the recipe, or rather “recipe” because it’s an approximate of proportions I used to make the dish on the fly:

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Quick Fix: Shrimp, Orzo and Green Beans

Tomatoes (I also used yellow), garlic and parsley
Tomatoes (I also used yellow), garlic and parsley

I’ve been taking to heart some meal-planning and time-saver suggestions given by readers. There were some great tips, some of which I’ll elaborate on in the future.

One of the things that helps when faced with a late night and the need for a quick meal is having a well-stocked kitchen. I read through simple food guru Mark Bittman’s suggestions for core supplies.

Fresh out of the oven
Fresh out of the oven

Among the suggestions (and one I was a fan of anyways) is a bag of frozen shrimp. It’s really a versatile little critter than can be cooked quickly in a million different ways.

In the past couple years, I’ve seen several variations of recipes including shrimp and my favorite tiny pasta, orzo. A couple weeks ago, I threw together my variation based on what I had in the house. I made double what I noted below because if you really want to save time, you eat leftovers. Let me know if you try this out and if you make or should make any variations: Continue reading

Edamame, Haricot Vert and Orange Salad

With all the fresh veggies about to come out in the farmers markets, salads are going to be making more appearances with dinner (and lunch).

I couldn’t quite wait, though, and utilized some frozen veggies to dress up a salad this weekend.

I ate this before I managed to take a photo, but with the green and orange and touches of red from the onion and the lettuce, it was pretty. Well, since you can’t see it, it was downright gorgeous, I mean you’ve never SEEN a prettier salad. Really. I swear.

The recipe below reflects how I  served it up. The next day I ate the leftovers for lunch, and it was even better after the bean mix had marinated for a night and I added some chopped avocado.

Edamame, Haricot Vert and Orange Salad

Serves 6

3 Tbs rice vinegar
2 Tbs walnut oil (or olive oil)
1-2 Tbs sake
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/4 tsp pepper

The salad
1 1/2 cups shelled edamame*
2 cups haricots verts (small green beans)
1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1-2 oranges, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
Mixed salad greens

*If you’re using frozen edamame and/or green beans, make sure not to fully cook them (only leave them in the boiling water a few minutes) and rinse them with cold water so they stay cool and crunchy for the salad.

Toss together beans, onion and orange. Leave out the greens until you’re ready to serve.

Whisk together all dressing ingredients. Pour half over bean mix and marinate for an hour or overnight. Before serving, toss remaining dressing with greens and beans mix.

Quick Fix: Grilled or Broiled Salmon with Rosemary, Lemon and Onions

Prepping the salmon
Prepping the salmon

I have a little pile of handwritten or memorized recipes in my daily dinner arsenal that I call my “go-to” meals. They’re things I can make that don’t take a huge amount of preparation, but that I wouldn’t be ashamed to serve to guests.

The list grows as I learn to cook better and find new recipes.

With the sun shining today, I’ll likely go to one of my favorites that works well for either a grill or a broiler: salmon.

This is really no recipe at all, just a throw-together kind of thing. I make use of the now gigantic rosemary bushes in my backyard and a pretty forgiving fish. Plus it’s a really easy after-work kind of way to break out the grill.

The prep takes about all of 10 minutes. Here’s what you need (base the amount of everything else on the size of your salmon fillet):

salmon fillet
sweet onion (like Walla Walla or similar variety)
lemon, thin sliced
fresh rosemary sprigs
salt & pepper

Rub salt and pepper on the salmon, layer lemon, onion and rosemary sprigs on the fillet and close over with foil. Broil or grill until firm in the center and fish flakes (about 10-15 min. under the broiler, depending on the thickness of your fillet).

I play around with it, and have added garlic salt and a touch of cayenne to the rub. The foil helps seal in the moisture, and I don’t always layer the ingredients in the same order. I think having the onions closer to the fish gives them a better flavor.

Dessert for Breakfast

My oatmeal breakfast this morning
My oatmeal breakfast this morning

I’m a late convert to oatmeal. Chalk it up to my aging, no wait, maturing, taste buds.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t stand the stuff. My mom tried to compromise, still trying to get me to eat a hot breakfast, by buying chocolate-flavored Malt-O-Meal. After a bit of begging and complaining that that stuff didn’t taste very good either, she’d allow me to put in 1 Hershey Kiss. I always sneaked two or three and sunk them into the bottom. It was far more like dessert that way.

In some ways, that’s still how I eat my hot cereal —  as a dessert — though a little less heavy on the sugary goodness.

In the past couple years, I’ve been playing around with how I eat it, only occasionally plain. A couple times, I’ve tried overnight versions in the crockpot, like one from Alton Brown with figs, cranberries and steel cut oats (steel cut has more fiber, just had to throw that in there), but haven’t had a lot of success. It comes out kind of gloppy and/or burned on the bottom. I think the problem primarly is with my crockpot, less with the recipes I’m trying.

I generally cook it with half water/half milk. I’m also a fan of cooking it with water and adding a tablespoon of cream.

I also have a few go-to variations for dressing it up (both are for two servings):

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Another High-Fiber Recipe: Three-Bean Chili

This recipe uses red, white and black beans
This recipe uses red, white and black beans

Here’s another high-fiber recipe that was pretty simple to make. I made it while my cassoulet was baking this weekend and froze some for giving away and for later in the week.

I’ve copied their recipe below, but I made my own additions while it cooked because the original recipe seemed a little tart and lacked some depth. I added about two tablespoons of brown sugar and a heaping tablespoon of cocoa to the mix. I also simmered it about 10 minutes longer than recipe called for.

Serving size is about two cups, and each serving has about 16 grams of fiber. It’s only supposed to have 294 calories (and it’s pretty filling for having that much), but if you add the sugar like I did, that’ll obviously add up.

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Quick and Tasty Mussel Dinner

Mussels steamed in wine
Mussels steamed in wine

After bringing home goodies from the market (mussels, pears, truffle oil and a few other things), I was pretty eager to cook them up, but after spending the day in Seattle, not too keen on an hour in the kitchen.

So I took another note from that Mark Bittman article I’d recently read and made a quick mussel dish, though I forgot to grab a bunch of basil (which I’m kicking myself for because it was only $1.99 for a big handful).

Here’s how Bittman suggests making them:

“Put three pounds of washed mussels in a pot with half a cup of white wine, garlic cloves, basil leaves and chopped tomatoes. Steam until mussels open. Serve with bread.”

I made due sans basil by tossing in some chopped parsley and cooking it for a couple minutes with the mussels.

Instead of bread, I opted to go on carb overload and cook up some Linguine, tossed with the mussel and wine juices, a few tabelspoons of olive oil, and a tablespoon of that white truffle cream I also bought at Pike’s Place market and a little salt and pepper.

It was pretty good, though I still wish I had gotten the basil to give it a little more depth. Next time.

Tomorrow: What I did with my pears.

Quick Fix Dish: Italian Sausage, Peppers and Penne Pasta

Sometimes I get so caught up in the idea that a decent meal has to require a fair amount of work in the kitchen. It’s not true at all, as I was reminded by recently reading an older New York Times article Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less

It’s especially not true when I still find myself at work at 8 p.m. and really, really don’t want to hit the local fast food joint.

So here’s a quick meal I made last night, which I don’t think is too horribly unhealthy and is way better than a similar dish I used to make when I was in college (I used to douse spaghetti noodles in butter with parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, which doesn’t provide much nutrition, but tasted way better than Top Ramen).

The longest part of the whole process was boiling the noodles. It’s not fancy, but it’s filling and makes for an easy meal.

Italian Sausage and Penne Pasta (recipe follows):

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