Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Champagne Vinaigrette on Salad with Israeli Couscous

My evil plan has worked! Mwah ha ha ha. Todd revealed to me the other day that he now likes the iced tea I make for him better than the kind in the bottle! I guess it's not that evil, but it is gratifying. I may have mentioned previously that Todd is not a coffee drinker, but instead has a morning iced tea. Well, early on I became a bit concerned about the amount of things he drinks from a bottle given his Nantucket Nectar's Half and Half usage, and the Vitamin Waters he drinks each day. My concern was with the amount of waste in the bottles. Even though we recycle them, it'd be better to not produce the waste at all. Secondly, I wanted to be able to curb the amount, as well as the form of sugar he was taking in. I made several batches to find the right amounts of tea bags, sugar and lemon to suit his taste. I've been using that same concoction for a while, but I (secretly) cut back just a tad on the sugar every few times. My hope is to wean him down to a less sugary mixture. Next up - a Vitamin Water reduction. Please don't tell him though. This is going to be a more difficult intervention, so my moves will have to be subtle.
Speaking of sweet, here is another salad dressing. A while back, Todd had a salad at the Cambridge Commons he enjoyed so I tried to replicate it at home. The more atypical ingredient was the Israeli couscous which makes for a heartier dinner salad. I tried many dressings before I got one that I think is close to the one at the restaurant. From what I remember, it was equally tangy and sweet. It also had chicken on it, so I use a chicken replacement. We should probably go back and have the salad again if it's still on the menu. I may have morphed it into something completely different over time.

The salad:
Greens of your choice (I usually use green leaf or romaine)
Chopped cucumber
A bit of red onion
Some chopped tomato
Cooked Israeli couscous
Goat cheese
Pistachios or some toasted pine nuts(this is an improvisation to the original)
Quorn brand chicken breast

The dressing:
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tblspn dijon mustard
1/4 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
2 tblspns lemon juice
2 tblspns honey
2 or 3 dashes of hot sauce
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 tspn pepper
1/2 cup canola oil

Monday, September 6, 2010

Corn Chowder

It's 9:00 on Monday night of Labor Day weekend. This signifies the end of many things. It's the end of a long weekend. It's also the finale to summer - while not yet the autumnal equinox, it's time for the kids to go back to school, and office chairs will once again be full - including mine. My 2 plus weeks of vacation is very quickly coming to a close. I am grasping at the last few minutes here. I realized I never wrote a single blog entry the whole time, so I am doing a little vacation cramming.
My vacation was not necessarily all I hoped it would be, since it was rainy, cold and dreary for four solid days during the first week, but I had a really nice trip to Colorado with perfectly sunny, dry days every day that made up for it. And, most importantly, I was able to fully disconnect from work and relax. In fact, I did such a good job at this that I'm really anxious about returning to a structured lifestyle tomorrow. Just the thought of having to get up, get dressed for work and be someplace at a specific time seems a little on the hectic side to me.
We had many tasty meals while on vacation. Appearing on the list of most memorable for me were the Olathe Farm Corn soup we had at the Timberline Restaurant in Crested Butte and then the Organic Carrot & Thai Red Curry soup from Root Down in Denver. I really do love eating and making soup, which is why I'm so happy that we are embarking on soup weather here. To celebrate, I made some corn chowder yesterday. I originally set out to make a soup like the one we had at Timberline, but I think I became influenced by the book I was reading The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry. It's about a woman who is let go of her corporate type job, and uses the opportunity to follow her dream to attend cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu. Since many of the recipes discussed were meat stuffed meat or swathed in butter and cream, I think I felt the need to do something at least a bit decadent.
I'd never cooked with fresh corn before, instead reaching for the bag from the freezer. I am now going to try to fit in as many corn dishes as I can before it's totally out of season. Cutting the kernels from the cob was much easier than I anticipated and the effort is definitely worth it.
This is a very basic recipe and one you could add to.
Edit: I have made this subsequently and used a stock made from the corn cob. If you have the extra time I highly recommend doing this.

Corn Chowder
3 tblspns of butter
1 tblspn olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1/4 cup all purpose flour
6 cups non tomato based veggie stock (or see recipe for corn cob stock)
2 cups heavy cream
2 Russet potatoes, diced
6 ears of corn kernels removed from the cob
salt and freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1. In a soup pot, heat the butter and olive oil on medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and thyme, cook until soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Dust the vegetables in the pot with the flour and mix to coat everything.
3. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
4. Add the cream and the potatoes. Bring to a boil and boil hard for about 7 minutes, until the potatoes start to break down.
5. Cut the kernels from the cob and add to the soup. Add salt and pepper and simmer until the corn is soft, about 10 minutes.
6. If you want add parsley and stir in a bit more olive oil.