Sunday, September 28, 2014

Steak & Spinach Salad with Baked Potato Coins

We've been enjoying skirt steak, a cut that was not locally available at a "weekday price" until recently.   By planning for leftovers we used both the leftover cooked steak and extra baked potatoes we cooked for the first night's dinner for a substantial dinner salad the following night. The baked potato "coins" stand in for croutons.

With ingredients ready to go, this pure dinner salad comes together in about 10 minutes.  The only thing to cook is the baked potato coins which almost take care of themselves in a buttered skillet over very low heat while you assemble the salad.

Steak & Spinach Salad with Baked Potato Coins 
Serves 4

4 small or 2 medium baked potatoes, select narrow potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
10-12 ounces leftover steak, rare to medium-rare
4 cups torn lettuce leaves
4 cups baby spinach
8 medium-sized portobello mushrooms
2 mild-medium hot peppers*
optional: 4 ounces blue cheese
Serve with vinaigrette salad dressing
*for milder peppers, use banana peppers or bell pepper, hotter palates might enjoy sliced jalepeños, either fresh or pickled.

  1. Slice the potatoes, skins and all, abour 1/3 inch thick.  
  2. Melt butter in a wide skillet over low heat.
  3. Add sliced potato coins and cook 5-6 minutes per side until golden and slightly crisped.
  4. While potato coins are cooking, slice steak in thin strips and divid into four portions.
  5. Combine lettuce and spinach leaves and portion into four wide bowls.  
  6. Slice mushrooms and peppers and top each salad with vegetables.
  7. Top with steak and potato coins.  If using cheese, dot each salad with blue cheese.  Serve with salad dressing.
Variation: Warm Steak Spinach Salad
If you have a little more time, you can sauté the mushrooms and peppers in a little olive oil.  The warm vegetables and potatoes will wilt the spinach a bit.  We often grill seeded jalapeńos to use in salads like these.  Grilling cuts back the heat of these peppers a bit. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Enjoying the Tomato Harvest

This is the time to make the simplest side dish ever.  Slice those farm or backyard tomatoes into thick slabs of pure flavor.  I like just a sprinkle of flakey salt on mine.  A little extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground black pepper or just-made salad dressing are also viable options.  Just keep it simple for yourself.

Leftovers?  Do as my mother would.  Spread a little mayonnaise on the freshest bread you can find. Top with a slice of tomato. Eat it open-faced style.  This is a once a year sandwich when the tomato crop is at its peak.  Not to be missed.

Thank you Diane, Gerard and Katie for sharing your tomato haul and buffed platter with me!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Coconut Peanut Butter “BBQ” Sauce

I’m making up quick recipes this month, ideas that add a hit of pure flavor with minimal time.  We’re still grilling outside and as the weather turns cooler our new go-to will be this Coconut Peanut Butter “BBQ” sauce to en-robe chicken.  The coconut milk sends the meal in a far east direction and you can adjust the spiciness to suit your tastes or skip the hot chili pasta entirely.    The sauce gets complexity from everyday pantry items including a touch of honey and a scoop of peanut butter. If you don’t have fish sauce, add a salty note with some soy sauce. 

Brush Coconut Peanut “BBQ” Sauce onto cooked chicken just before it leaves the grill.  It will melt a bit as it warms.  Turn the coated chicken and let chicken absorb the sauce away from direct flame.  

Serve extra sauce at the table as there will be plenty of dipping.  You can also bake skinless, boneless chicken breasts right in the sauce if you need an easy baked chicken dish.   Serve over rice; basmati rice would be perfect.    

Coconut Peanut “BBQ” Sauce
Makes a little over one cup

1 14-oz can coconut milk (unsweetened)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons peanut butter
Juice of 1 lime
1-2 teaspoons chili paste (sriracha, sambal are great or shake in some ground cayenne)
1 teaspoon fish sauce (or 2 teaspoons soy sauce)

  1. Combine coconut milk and honey in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and cook until liquid is reduced by half.   
  2. Turn off heat and add remaining ingredients.  Stir to create a smooth sauce.   
  3. Brush on grilled and cooked chicken or pork. 
    While this qualifies as a "white BBQ" sauce, chili paste casts a pink tone. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Blueberries for Breakfast

This summer we uncovered a number of struggling blueberry bushes out back.  After clearing away the vines and other plants strangling them, we found one that was producing berries.  We are hoping the others bear fruit next year now that they have been unburdened of their shackles. 

It takes a while to hand pick enough berries for a cobbler or crisp.  Wild berries are much smaller than cultivated.  Though the bush had many berries, the degrees of ripeness varied wildly.  The same stem held a blue gem, a scarlet comer and several green newborns.   It was clear that it would take three or four rounds of picking to get the most out of our new find.  Once we came back with a little under a cup of berries, usually far less. 

With just a few berries, we settled on a quick breakfast treat to get the most out of our foraged berries.  We served up pre-made waffles, yogurt and berries quickly poached in pure maple syrup to make a purple syrup with lovely warm blueberries poking out.  Wild berries can be more tart than store-bought and the maple syrup strikes a natural balance of real fruit with tree sap sugars. 

Blueberry Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup - enough to just cover berries


  1. Rinse blueberries, pick out stems.  
  2. Place berries in a microwave safe bowl and barely cover with maple syrup.  
  3. Heat on high in the microwave for 10-12 seconds.   
  4. Serve over waffles, pancakes, french toast with a little yogurt or butter.