Posts Tagged With: peaches

not-so-quick lunch – 6.29.12 – a tasty salad (and why I shouldn’t tempt fate)

Some foods just don’t make sense.

Some are oxymorons, like jumbo shrimp.

Others are food products that don’t exist in nature, like fat-free cheese, meatless chicken nuggets, and non-dairy creamer.

And then there are foods that flat-out laugh in the face of the laws of science: baked Alaska, fried ice cream, fried mozzarella sticks, Paula Deen’s deep-fried butter balls.

How do you heat something that’s supposed to melt–a substance that should barely survive room temperature, much less a 400-degree oven or a vat of bubbling oil–and end up with a cooked item that retains its shape like a solid rather than oozing like the liquid it rightfully should be?

I’ve never trusted myself to cook any of these nature-defying treats because, frankly, I have a hard enough time avoiding kitchen disasters when I follow recipes that do make sense.

The more I cook, the better I succeed at averting catastrophe, but some rules just weren’t meant to be broken.

At least, not by a klutz like me.

I’ve dropped entire pans of cookies on the floor; turned out many a busted Bundt cake or pan of crumbled cornbread; shredded wooden spoons with the whirring blades of my blender; burned my hands, arms, and face–yes, my face–making mashed potatoes.

Kitchens are minefields, and it’s a wonder I haven’t yet blown off my legs.

Over the years, I’ve come to terms with my kitchen clumsiness, often taking extra precautions to compensate for being accident-prone.

I make Micah pick up heavy things like Dutch ovens and cast-iron skillets.

I stand on stepstools instead of tiptoes to reach glass items on high shelves.

And I tend not to cook things like baked Alaska or fried cheese because, really, why push my luck?

So when the folks at Putney Farm shared gorgeous photos of a salad topped with golden brown and crispy baked goat cheese,

  1. I should have stopped before even reading the recipe.
  2. I should have definitely not commented on their post about how intimidated I am by science-defying baked cheeses, which only invited an encouraging reply from the friendly folk at Putney Farm.
  3. I should have absolutely not let the thought cross my mind that we happened to have goat cheese in the refrigerator and panko bread crumbs in the pantry.
  4. And, once instilled with ingredient excitement and a false sense of security, I should have without a doubt NOT attempted to bake that goat cheese myself.

Especially while also juggling a salad spinner full of greens, a pile of tomatoes and pickled beets to slice, a vinaigrette to whisk, a cast-iron skillet of bacon to crisp and pecans to toast and peaches to roast.

But I did read the recipe, did comment on it, did receive warm encouragement, did scan the contents of my kitchen for the needed ingredients, did bake my own goat cheese in the midst of all my other salad prep.

I tempted fate.

And when you test the kitchen gods, you’d better be prepared to deal with the consequence.

The consequence should’ve been a golden brown and crispy disc of firm but gooey cheese, solid enough to pick up and place atop my crisp, cool salad, but baked just enough to ooze creamy goodness into every green bite. A delicious trophy rewarding my culinary bravery.

Instead, my consequence was a searing hot baking sheet flowing with a lava-like lake of breadcrumb-speckled, melted, messy goat cheese.

My cheese didn’t defy the laws of science.

It followed them precisely.

Not pretty.

But damn it, I wanted goat cheese on my salad, and I hadn’t endured that harrowing trial just to scrape my cheesy clustercuss into the trash.

Instead, I scraped that gooey, gloppy puddle together into two misshapen globs and slapped ’em onto our salads anyway.

It wasn’t pretty, but we ate it.

And it was good.

well, okay, the salad was pretty…but the goat cheese was not

What’s in it:

  • 4 ounces goat cheese (use something kind of firm, NOT Humboldt fog  this is where I went wrong)
  • a little bit of olive oil
  • a handful of your favorite herbs
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3-4 cups salad greens
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1/4 cup halved pecans
  • 2 small peaches, quartered
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/4 cup pickled beets, sliced into slivers
  • a quick vinaigrette (2 teaspoons brown mustard, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 4 tablespoons olive oil, salt & pepper to taste)

Step-by-step:

  • Cut or mold your goat cheese into discs. Sprinkle the discs with herbs, drizzle with olive oil, and let marinate while you preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Dredge the discs of cheese in the breadcrumbs to lightly coat them on all sides, arrange them on the pan, and bake for about 6 minutes. Pray your cheese doesn’t spread like frosting all over your pan. 🙂
  • Meanwhile, heat the bacon in an oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Cook it until it’s nice and crispy, then remove the bacon to cool–but leave all that tasty bacon fat in the pan.
  • Add the pecans to the skillet and cook ’em in the bacon grease until they start to smell warm and toasty–just a few minutes–then scoop out the pecans and add the peach quarters, cut sides down.
  • By this time, your cheese should be out of the oven. That’s good, because now it’s time to put your skillet o’ peaches into that 400°F oven and roast the fruit for about 10 minutes while you assemble your salad.
  • Divide your greens between two really big plates. Artfully decorate the greens with tomatoes and beets. Crumble one slice of bacon over each salad, then sprinkle on some toasted pecans.
  • Whisk together your vinaigrette if you haven’t already, then drizzle it over the salads.
  • Top your salads with warm peaches and your (hopefully lovely) baked goat cheese crouton.

What this salad wasn’t: easy to make, stress-free, boring.

What it was: a tasty mix of hot and cold, crispy and gooey, sweet and salty, light and hearty. Delicious, and pretty perfect for a summertime lunch.

Even if it was a disaster.

you know how people turn their Christmas trees to “the good side”?
yeah, same with a sloppy mess of a baked goat cheese salad.

Advertisements
Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

gluten-free experiments, part two: fruity nutty cocoa bites, cranberry coconut almond muffins, and a bonus recipe: peach & tomato gazpacho!

I know the title of this post promises an overflow of information, so I’m going to try to keep the hemming and hawing to a minimum and get quickly to the recipes!

The reason I’m sharing so many at once here is because in the last two weeks, I made two more batches of gluten-free goodies to share with my Red Clay buddies, and then I made some peach and tomato gazpacho (both vegan and gluten-free) to bring to the end-of-institute potluck dinner on Tuesday. All this food was for the same audience of eaters, so I decided to put it all in the same blog post, too, for easy sharing. 🙂

For my third-ever gluten-free experiment last Monday, I decided I wanted to make some of those no-bake fruit-and-nut balls that I’ve seen around the blogosphere/interwebs. I looked at a few recipes to get an idea of the proportions, then (of course) winged it based on what I actually had in the cupboard. In the end, these chewy little bites ended up being rich, a little sweet and a little salty, and overall pretty darn tasty!

worried about sticking, I used little paper mini-muffin cups to transport
these safely (probably unnecessary, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt)

What’s in it:

  • 6 dates, pitted
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup dried, unsweetened shredded coconut

Step-by-step:

  • Blend all of the ingredients except for the coconut in a food processor until you have a thick mixture, almost like cookie dough.
  • Put the coconut in a shallow dish.
  • Use your hands or a cookie scoop to pick up about 1-2 teaspoons of the mixture at a time; roll and press your scoop of dough into a tightly packed ball. (Warning: your hands will get sticky!)
  • Roll the ball in the dried coconut.
  • Repeat until you run out of stuff! 🙂

For me, this made about 3 dozen little bites, which was perfect for sharing with a group. Though I’ll admit, I probably ate a little more than my fair share. 🙂

Next up was my attempt at gluten-free muffins for this Monday, which I adapted from a recipe on the Gluten Free in Boulder site (with minor changes, as always, because I didn’t have blueberries or quite enough cornmeal.)

stacked upside down because, well, why not?

What’s in it:

  • 2/3 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup dried, unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1-1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup honey (I would reduce this to 1/4 cup next time)
  • 2-1/2 cups milk (I would reduce this to 1 1/2 cups next time)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups dried cranberries

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F and prepare two 12-cup muffin pans. (I would recommend using liners as I didn’t and my muffins were a little too sticky!)
  • In a food processor, blend together the almonds, coconut, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt until you have a coarse meal that looks kind of like sand.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, milk, and honey.
  • Add the dry ingredients from the food processor and whisk until combined. If you follow the original recipe like I did, your batter will be pretty soupy, which was kind of hard to work with and made for a fragile muffin–so if I make these again, I’ll adjust the recipe.
  • Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into each of 24 muffin cups. Top each muffin with dried cranberries.
  • Bake for about 25-30 minutes. (After the original recipe’s recommended 15, my muffins were nowhere near done!)
  • Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before (carefully) removing them to a wire rack to reach room temperature.

Like I said, these muffins were very delicate when they came out of the oven, I think because the batter was just too wet, so I would reduce the liquid as noted above. And I also thought they were a little too sweet, so for my personal tastes, I would reduce the honey, too. Still, made following the directions posted here, these sweet and nutty little cakes were a big hit with my classmates.

and the last leftover muffin was pretty tasty
warmed up and topped with some vanilla ice cream

The last thing I made for my Red Clay friends was for our potluck on Tuesday evening. Since it’s been so dang hot here in Georgia, and since it’s the perfect time of year for peaches (free from Earth Fare!) and fresh local tomatoes…

tomato or not tomato, that is the question….

…I decided to resurrect one of my favorite soups from last summer, a cool and refreshing peach and tomato gazpacho from Epicurious. Besides doubling the recipe, here are the changes I made:

  • I used dried tarragon instead of fresh (so, 1 teaspoon dried in place of 1 tablespoon fresh)
  • I used rice wine vinegar in place of the white wine vinegar
  • I doubled the ice and skipped the water
  • I didn’t strain it at the end (and straining wasn’t really necessary anyway!)

I think last year I might have also added a dollop of Greek yogurt to this, but this time I wanted to make it vegan. And since I pretty much stuck to the original recipe, I won’t re-type it up here. But I will show you how lovely it was!

mental note: parsley looks pretty on this soup, but it’s not the best flavor
combination….more tarragon or maybe some mint would have been better!

This stuff got polished off at the party, but I did save just a little bit for Micah and me to enjoy with dinner later in the week.

But more on that in my next post. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: