Thursday, July 20, 2017

Greek Tortellini Salad

I am always looking to expand my recipe collection and always trying new and different things. I can't even remember where I first saw this recipe whether it was online, in a magazine or from my stacks and stacks of saved folders but this was delightful. A quick and easy recipe, a good summery dish where you don't have to heat up your oven and what's not to like about a pasta salad?
Make it in a large bowl since there is so much mixing and transfer it to a serving bowl. 
I thought this to be a delicious salad packed with fresh ingredients and the vinaigrette is excellent, not too tart but with a definite Greek taste.

Greek Tortellini Salad

1 pound three cheese tortellini pasta, cooked al dente
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small shallot, diced
1 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup jarred artichoke hearts
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
1/3 cup chiffonade of fresh basil
1/2 cup feta, crumbled

In a large bowl combine cooled tortellini, tomatoes, shallot cucumber, artichoke hearts and olives. Mix well and pour dressing (recipe below) over salad. Add in crumbled feta, gently mix again, pour into a serving bowl and sprinkle basil on top.

 Greek Dressing

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 teaspoons finely minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix vinegar, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, sugar, mustard, lemon juice, and salt and pepper together. Slowly whisk in the olive oil so it will emulsify and Pour over the salad.
My Notes: I think some would be inclined to use fresh oregano but as an herb grower I would not do that. Oregano is such a strong herb but also the dried does mix better with this dressing. Thyme is not as strong of an herb but I would still use the dried in this instance. Also, I don't normally peel my cucumber when using an English cucumber but next time I will. Not peeling it gave the salad an ever so slight bitter after taste. My husband didn't even notice it but I have a keen sense of taste, that would be my only change. I also use marinated artichokes which only added to the overall Greek "thing". One other thing, I always, always buy feta in a block and crumble it myself. I find it to have a better taste and I can always tell the difference, it's just much more flavorful crumbling it yourself.
A great summery salad that made a meal for just myself and Mr. Picky Eater. And just so you know, he LOVED this salad. YAH!!!!! That is a big deal to me since I am always trying to cook things that both of us enjoy and it can sometimes be a challenge, hence, why I often call him Mr. Picky Eater.
Pared with a good white wine it made for a perfect summery dinner. I definitely like to eat lighter in the summer but at the same time it was filling.
I hope you will try this salad, it is excellent. I would really like to know if you make this salad and if you enjoyed it as much as I did. This will be made at my house many times for the remainder of the summer. I will be sharing this post for Foodie Friday hosted by Michael Lee at Rattlebridge Farm. To see other shared recipes click HERE.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Updating My Cooking Skills

Last Tuesday, friend, Sharon and myself attended the first of a series of five cooking classes at a local shop, KitchenAble taught by Chef Jessica. The topic of all five classes are "Mother Sauces", exploring the five sauces the famous Chef Escoffier felt were the fundamental basics of French cuisine.  We will also learn some of the “daughter” sauces that can be created using these sauces during the series of five classes.
In the first class we learned how to make a Béchamel Sauce. Now I have made a Béchamel Sauce before but I learned so many interesting things along the way in this class. I found it to be extremely interesting and we also talked extensively  about method and other sauces that begin with a basic Béchamel Sauce. We were served a four course dinner also and it was amazing. We started with Roasted Broccoli with a basic Béchamel Sauce on top, the legendary Hot Brown-from the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY, a magnificent Macaroni and Cheese (Pasta Mornay) and in French tradition ended our dinner with a delicious salad of Arugula, a large shallot sliced, slices of Granny Smith Apples, the chef's own seasoning blend and topped with a Béchamel dressing. The Béchamel dressing is probably the best dressing I've ever had.

I did not take a pic of the salad but I will share the recipe of the dressing.

Béchamel Dressing
1 egg
2 cups prepared béchamel
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh herb (in this case tarragon was used)
1 teaspoon sugar

Allow béchamel to cool slightly, remove some of the sauce to a small bowl to temper the egg. Add the egg to the small bowl and whisk thoroughly. Combine with remaining ingredients whisk to mix thoroughly and serve over lettuce of choice. Yield-2 1/2 cups dressing

Note: She did in fact put the entire mixture over a double boiler and cooked the egg, only for a couple of minutes for food safety purposes but a raw egg can be used as well if you are not squeamish about using raw eggs.
This was the most interesting dressing I have ever had, not overly tart but smooth and very pleasant.

Dinner was in  fact a little on the heavy size but it was so worth it. Our main course was the legendary Hot Brown-from the Brown Hotel in Louisville.  I had never heard of a Hot Brown before but it was absolutely divine and I will be making it for dinner next week, it was delicious. Reminded me a lot of a Croque Monsieur which I dearly love but with much different ingredients.

Not exactly light on calories but it was sooooooooo worth it.
The Legendary Hot-Brown-From the Brown Hotel in Louisville
 1 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
14-ounce sliced roasted turkey breast, thickly sliced
4 slices of Texas toast (crusts removed)
4 slices of bacon
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
In a two-quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined to form a thick paste or roux. Continue to cook roux for 2 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino-Romono cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
For each Hot Brown, place one slice of toast (slightly toasted) in an oven safe dish and cover with 7 ounces turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and two toast points and set them alongside the base of turkey and toast. Pour half of the sauce over the dish, completely covering it. Sprinkle with additional cheese. Place the entire dish under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble. Remove and cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top to serve. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley and serve immediately.
Yield 4 servings
NOTE: Texas toast does not mean the brand that you see in the freezer section of the grocery but any bread of your preference but sliced thickly, 2-inches.
As you can see chef did thin slices of tomato and placed on top of the Béchamel sauce which I think a better idea. If it were me I would use a gruyere in the sauce and top the tomatoes with the freshly grated Romano and then continue with the process. You can also see that instead of laying two slices of bacon crisscross on each piece which is how it would be served in France but instead chopped the bacon. I think this was an excellent idea not just for class serving but I would do the same if serving this at home.
Certainly this is not something I would serve often but since I know my husband would really enjoy this it will definitely be on my menu some time this week. It was amazingly delicious. I also intend to purchase a turkey breast and roast it myself which I think would be more flavorful but deli roasted turkey is also a good alternative. I will pare this with the salad that I gave the recipe above the Hot Brown and will double my Béchamel sauce, the recipe in the top portion of the Hot Brown.
This was a most enjoyable class, it's always a good thing to refresh your knowledge and certainly I learned some new techniques as well. This coming week Chef  Jessica will be teaching a Veloute' Sauce which I have never prepared before. This will be a sauce served over Salmon, YUM. I am taking my daughter so it will be a much needed mother/daughter outing together too. An evening I am looking forward to for more than one reason.
Thank you for visiting my blog and I hope you will give the Hot Brown a try, you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Solitude and Sanctuary

First of all, let me begin by saying how honored and appreciative I am that Pam chose my blog post, "Porch Living" that I shared at the last Gardens Galore party to be featured this week. This has been such a fun and enjoyable blogging party and each and every blogger that has participated has shared so much inspiration. I have already incorporated several things into my own garden that has inspired me by other posts shared. I am in awe with each and every blogger participating and I Thank You Pam for featuring my post. What a great way to start the week by enjoying gardening inspiration.
Gardening is a passion and in our area it becomes a challenge as well. We are in the depths of summer in our area of N FL, the heat index has risen to triple digits and the humidity is like a sauna as soon as you walk outside. However, we have been fortunate to have those daily afternoon showers which most often cools everything off a bit. The amount of rain we've had has also caused some plant material to rot in the ground too.

Most people think of Florida as always sunny and balmy but not true in our area of N FL. We are subject to that intense heat and humidity but during the winter months we are also subject to below freezing temperatures. So as you can imagine, gardening here can be an ever changing and tricky challenge. There are some plant material that enjoy cooler temperatures and we're able to enjoy them for only a short time but we really can't plant in the ground the tropical plants that you would see in central Florida or South Florida.  I do have some tropical but those I choose to plant in pots, again it can be a challenge.

It has not been too terribly long ago when I had daylilies blooming and the snapdragons were doing very well.
But now it's time to pull up and toss the snapdragons, and the daylilies have bloomed out but right behind them are the penta's putting on their show and they attract so much beautiful wildlife.
Another of my favorite plants that attract butterflies is Buddleia or Butterfly Bush. This particular variety is called Black Knight.
The simple pleasures of life, a quiet retreat that soothes the soul.
My Herb bed or some would call a kitchen garden to the far left. I plant basil, different kinds of thyme, lavender, parsley, rosemary and others, all of which I use in my cooking often. I like to mix them in with other plant material and always have something blooming in  baskets hanging on the black iron hooks if we shouldn't have something blooming in this area.

I think garden elements are also essential, like this iron dragonfly, blue gazing ball and the stone rabbit I have popping out from underneath the asparagus fern. I have so many garden elements such as this that I should do a whole post just on it. In the background there is another ball with hand painted flowers on it.
 I strive for year round color and always want something  that I can cut to bring inside for my indoor pleasure.
This is on my screened porch, a hanging flower vase and I always have something cut from the garden in it.
I also like to dabble with orchids and this one is just hanging in a maple tree called a Vanda orchid. There are many different colors of Vanda's but this one is a hot pink. I don't think my pic did it justice.

This is my back yard retreat and the area that we enjoy most often. I hope you have enjoyed my photos and I appreciate you visiting my garden.
I will be sharing my post at Gardens Galore Party hosted by Pam at Everyday Living blog. To see other gardens shared you can click HERE.