No-sweat Cooking, Day 9

Smoked Trout and Cucumber Salad

31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. And to those of you who made your way over here via, welcome!

Mike and I are off to beautiful Newport, RI shortly to attend the Farm Fresh Rhode Island 2010 Local Food Fest, and while we’ve got a wonderful day of delicious local fare ahead of us, we didn’t want to head out without a little something in our stomachs. A light lunch was in order, and this refreshing Smoked Trout and Cucumber Salad fit the bill perfectly. Tinned fish like these Cole’s Applewood Smoked Trout filets are a pantry staple, and were a delicious addition to a salad of Arcadian Fields arugula, thin slices of City Farm lemon cucumbers, and Wishing Stone Farm English cucumbers, all dressed with a silky, tangy dressing of fresh lemon juice, chopped fresh dill, extra virgin olive oil, and Narragansett Creamery yogurt. I suspect this salad would make a terrific light dinner with some chopped hard-cooked egg, slivers of young red onion or shallot, and a hunk of crusty bread.

Get the recipe: Smoked Trout and Cucumber Salad

No-sweat Cooking, Day 4

31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray

Pasta with pesto is a favorite this time of year, when fresh basil is so abundant most people can’t keep up with what their gardens are producing, but I have to admit I get bored with it sometimes. Melissa Clark’s no-sweat version has a couple of fun grace notes added in the form of crisp crumbled bacon and creamy ricotta – two additions that make this simple dish sing.

zucchini ribbons

I made a couple of minor changes to the original recipe, using ribbons of zucchini instead of asparagus since that’s what we had on hand, and adding a spritz of lemon juice to the pesto for brightness. The dish came together in minutes and had a wonderful combination of textures and flavors – it was just what I needed after a long day at the office.

Get the recipe: Arugula Pesto Pasta with Ricotta and Bacon

Fast Fresh Food

Dinner: May 18, 2010

Full disclosure: this was not last night’s dinner. It was actually from a couple of nights ago, the same night my ridiculous commute got me home very late and in a lot of pain. I’ve been trying to regroup from that since, by staying home in bed yesterday and working an abbreviated schedule today, but I keep thinking about how darned good this meal was, how simple and satisfying, and that despite everything I was up against that night, it came together in a flash.

The fussiest part was the prep, and even that wasn’t terribly taxing. I sliced a 1.5 lb. pork tenderloin into 6 relatively equal portions, pounding them thin between sheets of parchment and seasoning them well with kosher salt. I rinsed and spun some arugula dry, whisked up a quick lemon vinaigrette, shaved some radishes on my mandoline (then parked the slices in some ice water until I was ready to toss the salad so they’d stay crunchy), and then I got to work on the breading for my pork medallions.

I combined about a cup of panko with about half a cup each of freshly grated parm and roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves, scooped some AP flour onto a plate, and beat a couple of eggs. I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter with an equal amount of olive oil in our trusty iron skillet, gave the pork medallions a dip in the flour, then the egg, then the panko-parm-and-parsley mixture, then fried them in batches – just a couple of minutes per side, until they were golden brown and cooked to an internal temperature of about 160.

I gave the pork medallions another sprinkle of chopped parsley as they came out of the pan, as well as a scattering of flaky sea salt. I arranged them on our plates (three medallions each), then just before serving I tossed my arugula and shaved radishes (dried well) with the lemon vinaigrette, piling big mounds of the salad on top of the pork and finishing each plate with a few generous grinds of black pepper and some shaved curls of Pecorino Romano.

We loved this particular spin, but I can’t stop thinking that this is one of those dinner templates that is endlessly adaptable, which makes it even more attractive if you’re pressed for time but still want to get a home-cooked, real-food meal on the table in well under an hour. Don’t eat pork? Substitute chicken, turkey, or veal (heck, even slabs of eggplant or meaty portabella caps might work well). Fresh out of arugula? Try mustard, mizuna – any young, peppery greens will do. And young turnips, shaved fennel, or even ribbons of asparagus or carrot would probably make a fine substitute for the radishes. Use your imagination, or what you have on hand. Most importantly, have fun with it.

Summer Fruit Salad

stone fruit

For a girl who has never been much of a fruit eater, it’s a bit shocking to look back at the amount of it I’ve tucked away over the last week. What it boils down to, I suppose, is how much better real, farm-fresh fruit tastes than stuff that has traveled from another continent. Though this salad originally appeared in my Weekend Eats wrap-up, it was such a hit with us that I wanted to post about it here for this week’s edition of Summer Fest 2009.


Since I still prefer savory to sweet, it has been fun to find ways to incorporate gorgeous summer fruit into our meals. Breakfast lately has been a scoop of creamy ricotta with berries or stone fruit or both, and salads have gotten fruity, too, with peach and basil bread salad getting fairly heavy rotation. But my favorite fruit-filled salad has to be the one I made over the weekend, inspired by Suzanne Goin’s Summer Fruit Salad with Arugula and Marcona Almonds from Sunday Suppers at Lucques.

figs + berries

It’s a simple salad, a combination of (not local to us) figs, (definitely local) stone fruit and berries, peppery arugula, and crunchy Marcona almonds, but the dressing was perhaps my favorite part of the dish. It’s a simple vinaigrette, given richness and body with the addition of a bit of muddled fruit. To make it, I took the softest, ripest fig we had purchased, chopped it up and used Mike’s wooden cocktail muddler to pound it to a chunky puree, then I whisked it together with a pinch of salt, some of my quick-pickled shallots (chopped), sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

summer fruit salad

The dressing had a great sweet and sour flavor that married extremely well with our juicy plums and peaches, the tart black raspberries and blueberries, and the salt and pepper punch of the almonds and greens – this, to me, is exactly what a fruit salad should be.


green tomatoes

Since the day Michael Ruhlman announced his BLT challenge, I’ve had that classic sandwich combo on the brain, and while last night’s version was certainly not our entry into the contest, it was a way to get our BLT mojo flowing.

A really good tomato is, for me, the most important component of a BLT, and since we’re still a couple of months off from from prime tomato season here in New England, I decided to work with what we do have around now: tart green tomatoes.

While my bacon cooked on a rack in the oven (my favorite way to keep the slices flat and stackable), I sliced up my tomatoes and gave them a dunk in some beaten egg seasoned with salt and a dash or three of hot sauce. The egg-coated slices then got a coating of cornmeal before going into a hot pan to fry until golden.

When the last batch of tomatoes had been fried and the bacon was ready, I started layering: a lightly toasted slice of sourdough, a layer of bright green basil mayo (you can make your own mayo, of course, but I didn’t and the world didn’t end), then some bacon, peppery arugula (my leaf of choice for BLTs), some of the fried green tomatoes, and another mayo-spread slice of bread on top.

Dinner:  June 23, 2009

The “soup” I made to accompany our sandwiches was… not so good. (Even after thinning it with a bit of water and readjusting the seasoning, it was more like paste than something potable. Your mileage may vary.) But the marriage of BLT and fried green tomatoes was such a happy one, we barely missed our soupy side dish.

Bread Gone Wild

I’m a little obsessed with bread salads.

durum round

A summertime panzanella with ripe, juicy garden tomatoes is truly a thing of beauty, and I think I like the Zuni Café bread salad Mike makes even more than I like the accompanying chicken. Bread salads are so easy to make, so inexpensive, and so versatile that I’m a little surprised that they’re not a year-round, go-to meal.


At least in this household, that’s going to change.

wild rocket

Last night’s version of bread salad was full of wild springtime edibles: some of the ramps Mike brought back from his recent trip to NYC, separated and sautéed in a little olive oil, cubes of Seven Stars durum round added to the oniony oil and toasted until crisp and golden, some fiddleheads from Saturday’s farmers’ market trip, also sautéed just until they turned bright green, and a generous amount of wild rocket, which also made the trip from New York, and which was tossed raw with the warm bread cubes and other veggies.

Dinner:  May 4, 2009

I dressed everything with my standard Sherry vinaigrette, and topped our plates with toasted pine nuts and shards of Rudie’s Romano, a raw goat milk cheese from Meadow Stone Farm. This was a great combination of flavors and textures, and a fun way to turn a salad into a substantial meal.

Summer simplicity

Dinner:  August 30, 2007

This is about as simple as it gets – I rubbed a couple of tuna steaks down with a mixture of chopped fresh garlic and Herbes de Provence, seasoned them with salt and poured over a healthy amount of olive oil, then grilled them over hardwood for about five minutes per side. I served them with a dollop of homemade lemon pesto (sans cheese) and a salad of arugula, radish, fresh corn and tomatoes. Light, bright and delicious – this was everything I want in a late summer supper.