Tag Archives: butter

Summer: Asparagus, Tuna & Bean Salad

Summer is here, and so are all lighter meals, which is the reason for this salad.  That, and I had a huge craving for tuna!

Summer is one of those seasons that blows by us, it always seems far too brief.  I remind myself to enjoy it- the outdoors, the warm weather (or humidity), the hot sun, and the long days.  It’s that time of the year when we allow some of our obligations to slip away a little (or put off for another day or two).  Instead, we spend it with our friends and family, outdoors.  Sometimes it’s those BBQ’s on our porches, or happy hours outside on gorgeous Thursday afternoons; other times it’s reading by a tree, or enjoy the sand between our toes at the beach.  Yes, that’s what summer is all about.  So keep reminding yourself to sip some cocktails with your friends, linger over a couple more pages in that book, stargaze, daydream or enjoy a nap in the sun.

Summer also brings amazing vegetables (and fruits) that we definitely need to take advantage of- asparagus being one of them.  So go to your farmer’s market, grab a bunch of asparagus, and throw together this salad.  The tuna can be exchanged for chicken (or none of the above).  Cannellini beans can also be substituted for something else that works for you.  Then, take that salad outside with a glass of wine, relax, and enjoy!  Don’t let summer slip away!

Asparagus, Tuna & Bean Salad
Adapted from: Cooking Light (April 2011)

1 bunch of asparagus (about 30), washed & cut into thirds
3 tbsp capers
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter, melted
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
2 tomatoes, diced
1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed & drained
1 head of bibb lettuce (feel free to use others)
1 (5 oz) can tuna, drained

Heat water in a small pot.  Once the water is boiling, steam the asparagus, covered, for about 3 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water, drain.

In a small bowl combine: capers, parsley, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, butter, salt and pepper.  Stir well until all of the ingredients are combined.

In a large bowl combine the asparagus, tomatoes, white beans and the juice mixture.  Chop up the lettuce into smaller pieces.  Add the vegetable and juice mixture on top.  Lastly, add pieces of the tuna over the salad.

Roasted Mushrooms with Parsley

I know there are many of you out there that do not like mushrooms.  I think all of you will change your minds…once you eat this!

This appetizer can withstand the test of time, and will always be there in your back pocket when you have last minute visitors.  It’s not the trendiest appetizer (like cupcakes are for dessert), but it’s ridiculously easy to make!  It provides a great foundation for the other appetizers which you will leave out for your guests.  It’s the one appetizer than can be served warm or if it’s a little cooler it will still taste great.  It’s easy to prep ahead of time (wait to add the oil right before putting it into the over).  Good and simple is what sustains you when you have a million things to cook (or just 3!).

I tried out these mushrooms a couple of months ago- and they were a hit.  I made them again when we had friends over for dinner this past Saturday.  Both times they had disappeared!  And all of the thanks goes to Smitten Kitchen.

Roasted Mushrooms with Parsley
Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen

1 lbs crimini mushrooms (halved if they are big)
4 tbsp capers
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
5 tbsp butter, chopped into small pieces
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup parsley, chopped

Preheat over to 450°F.  Toss the mushrooms, capers, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Pour into a oven-proof dish, or a baking sheet (that has edges).  Sprinkle butter on top.  Roast for about 15 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender.

Once you take them out, toss in the lemon juice and parsley.  Set it out with some toothpicks, so it’s easier to eat!

Sam’s Summer Pasta Sauce

One of the first meals that Sam had made for me was this sauce, and I loved it!  He’s been perfecting this baby for years, so it is delicious.  I couldn’t wait until the tomatoes were in season, since this pasta is significantly better with deep red fresh tomatoes.

It’s finally tomato season!  Hopefully, my pasta sauce recipe will help you figure out how to use them.

It looks like a lot, but really, this one is pretty easy.  I developed this recipe over a couple years of trial and error.  Originally, I prepared the sauce as noted below, but then simmered it for about an hour over the stovetop.  I’ve found that omitting this last step and serving it with the tomatoes and herbs in their raw state gives the sauce a really nice, fresh-from-the-garden flavor.  I hope you like it.

Sam’s Summer Pasta Sauce

1 box, dry pasta (I recommend penne or rigatoni)
3 large, ripe tomatoes, quartered
2 zucchini, slice length-wise & chopped into chunks
2 squash, slice length-wise & chopped into chunks
1 yellow onion, chopped
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced thickly
5 garlic cloves, minced
handful of fresh basil
6 sprigs of fresh oregano
¾ can, drained, pitted, black olives
Dry red wine (a nice Chianti works well)
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)

In a large saucepan, melt the butter together with the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Then add the squash, zucchini, and onion together with the salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.

Now is a good time to start boiling your pasta.  I recommend cooking in liberally salted boiling water until al dente.  When done, drain and rinse in cold water to ensure it doesn’t continue to cook.

When the onions are translucent, add the mushrooms and garlic.  Continue to sauté until the mushrooms soften but still have a bit of a bite.  Remove from heat.

In a large food processor, add quarter of the sauté mixture together with the tomatoes, oregano, basil, olives, and a splash of wine and olive oil.  Pureé and add more salt, pepper, and olive oil as necessary.

Serve the sauce with the remainder of the squash mixture over the cooked pasta and top with a little fresh, grated parmesan (not that powdered stuff!).  Oh, and don’t forget to drink the remainder of that wine!

Buon appetito!

A Delicious Birthday Dinner

Over the weekend our friend B* had a birthday, and we decided to treat him to a delicious dinner.  I’ll give Sam all of the credit- this was all done by him! 

Filet Mignon with Bourbon Sauce, Cheesy Shrimp ‘n Grits, and Oven Roasted Broccolini

Oven Roasted Broccolini

This is definitely the easiest part of the meal, but delicious nonetheless.  Roasting (rather than steaming) maintains the crunch, while adding wonderful flavors of caramelization.  Incidentally, substituting with asparagus, brussel sprouts, or baby red potatoes is a scrumptious alternative.

2 bunches of broccolini (regular broccoli works fine too)
Extra virgin olive oil
Bacon Salt®

On a cookie sheet, coat the broccolini (use your hands here) in olive oil and season liberally with the bacon salt.  Add to a preheated, 400° oven for about 15-20 minutes.  Once the broccolini florets begin to brown, remove from the oven and set aside.

Shrimp ‘n Grits

A southern classic!  The deep flavor and richness of this one is certain to impress.

1 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb smoked bacon (we bought ours at the Farmer’s Mkt)
½ lb shredded sharp cheddar (we recommend a higher-end cheese, not just the yellow block cheese; ours was from Cowgirl Creamery)
1 cup of dry grits  (instant grits are sacrilege)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, diced (don’t even think about discarding the seeds!)
1 quart whole milk
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

In a large pot, bring the milk and butter to a simmer.

Meanwhile, in a large pan cook the bacon until crispy, then set aside on a paper towel to dry.  Roughly chop once cool.  Leave the bacon fat in the pan.

Next, add the onion and peppers to the hot bacon fat and cook until the onions are translucent.  Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the milk.  Add the grits and chopped bacon to the simmering milk as well, whisking occasionally.

Coat the shrimp in salt and pepper and add to the bacon grease for about 4 minutes, or until pink.  Remove them from the grease and stir into the grit mixture.

Once the grits are thick, stir in the cheddar cheese, and season with salt and cracked black pepper.  You can also add more butter if you like.

Filet Mignon with Bourbon Sauce

Filet mignon; that heavenly cut of beef you’ve probably only eaten in restaurants.  Believe it or not, it is surprisingly easy to cook and will rival anything you can find at an expensive steakhouse.  One note: now is not the time to go cheap!  Splurge and get the best, grass-fed, organic meat you can find.  It really does matter.

1 filet per person
2 cups Bourbon
Butter
Salt
Pepper
1/2 cup of half-and-half

A half-hour before you plan to cook, season the filets liberally with salt and pepper, and allow them to come to room temperature.

In a very hot skillet, cook the filets for 3 minutes on all sides.  Then add the skillet to a preheated 400° oven for about 6-10 minutes, depending on how rare you like it.  I like to put a slice of butter on top just before I add to the oven.  When done, remove the pan from the oven and set the filets aside on a plate and cover with aluminum foil to rest.

Bourbon Sauce

First off, let me state that this step involves igniting alcohol vapor and can thus be very dangerous.  Read and familiarize these steps before you begin.  If you’re uncomfortable with dealing with an open flame, substitute the bourbon with a dry, red wine (Chianti works well), which will not ignite.

After you’ve removed your now perfect filets, put your skillet on the cook top and turn your burner off.  Add 2 cups of good bourbon to the hot skillet.  Cover the skillet about ¾ of the way with a pan lid or cookie sheet.  Using a long match, set the alcohol vapor ablaze.  Adjust the pan lid or cookie sheet such that the flame is allowed to burn but that it is not too high.  Turn your burner back on to low.

After about 10 minutes, the alcohol will burn off and the fire will extinguish itself.  If you’re using wine instead, just allow it to reduce by about half, no ignition necessary.

Next, add half-and-half, 1 tablespoon of butter, and a little salt and pepper (about 1 tsp of each) to the bourbon.  Reduce the sauce by about half, whisking occasionally.  When done, plate your finished meal and coat each filet with the rich sauce.

Bon appétit!