Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tropical Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is perfect hot weather food.  No cooking and lots of flavor.  You already know how to make the usual tabbouleh, cracked wheat soaked in water and tomato juice and garnished with tomatoes, cucumbers, lots of mint and parsley and a good dash of lemon juice and high quality olive oil.  Now try a tropical version with fruit juice, pineapple, mango, scallions, cilantro and mint. 

Tropical tabbouleh goes really well with any grilled food and I've been bringing it to the office for a light lunch on steaming hot days.  I soak the wheat in its liquid overnight in the refrigerator then add fruits and herbs.  Most recipes call for soaking for an hour and that is fine if using bulgar wheat in your recipe.  If using cracked wheat, plan on at least three hours or more to get the grains to swell to a nice, chewy consistency.

Tropical Tabbouleh
Yield: about 2 cups, recipe can be doubled

1/3 cup cracked wheat (bulgar wheat may be substituted)
2/3 cup liquid (combination of water and fruit juice such as apple or pineapple juice)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch salt
1 cup chopped fruit--any combination of fresh pineapple, mango, jicama, Asian pear*
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh, chopped mint


  1. Mix wheat, water, juice and salt in a bowl or resealable container that can hold about one quart.
  2. Cover and store in refrigerator until wheat has absorbed the liquid and had softened.  Plan on 1-3 hours.  
  3. Stir in fruit, scallions, red pepper and herbs. Taste and add additional salt if needed.  
*Tip: try using a fresh fruit salsa as the fruit in this recipe.  Many markets sell healthy ones like mango salsa that already have some onion and bell pepper too.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cold Corn Soup

Three leftover ears of corn, a lime and a can of light coconut milk are all you need for a cold soup on a day when it's too hot to cook. We spiced ours up two ways.  American style with chopped heirloom tomatoes from the farmers market and Asian fusion style with sliced hot red peppers, cilantro and mint. 

Buy that extra half dozen ears of corn at the market this week and you'll have what you need.  This recipe serves three or four as a first course.  We served them as shooters and had enough to serve eight generously. 

Cold Corn Soup
Yield: 3 cups, four 2/3 cup servings

3 ears of corn, cooked and cooled
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
juice of one lime
1/2-2/3 cup water
Garnishes: chopped tomato, sliced hot pepper (red or green), extra lime, mint leaves, chopped cilantro

  1. In a deep bowl or pot, use a serrated knife to cut kernels away for corn cob.
  2. Add coconut milk and half of the lime juice.
  3. Use an immersion blender to puree soup.  Or puree in a blender.
  4. Add water, 1/4 cup at a time to create a pourable consistency.   
  5. Taste and season with salt.
  6. Chill at least three hours for most refreshing flavor. 
You will need a blender or an immersion blender for this recipe.  If you do not own either, I would recommend an immersion blender with a small bowl attachment as the most versatile investment.  You can puree hot or cold soups, mix pesto, create smoothie concoctions and even smooth out a lumpy gravy.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Pantry Pickle Relish for Hot Dog Season

File this under the semi-homemade if you'd like.  The internet is clogged with recipes for truly homemade pickle relish that first requires you to make your own pickles.  We wanted one that could be put together in minutes using already canned and preserved pure ingredients.

Instead of starting with cucumbers, we start with your favorite jar of pickles.  We like dill pickle chips; you might like bread & butter pickles instead.  Roasted red bell peppers are the other main ingredient, either jarred or your own.  Heat seekers reading this are already making the leap.... your favorite hot pepper can be used in place of or in addition to red bell peppers.  Try jarred peppadews for a sweet/hot flavor or pickled jalepeños for a serious kick, for example. 

The ratio of pickles to peppers is about 2:1.  You can adjust this up or down to suit your tastes.  The great thing about using pure ingredients to create your own condiments is that you get to use your own taste buds to find your favorite flavor balance.  Design your own Pantry Pickle Relish and bring it to the next grilling party.

Pantry Pickle Relish
Base recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups relish

1 16-ounce jar dill pickle chips, drained
1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
Optional: pinch cayenne pepper


  1. Place drained pickles in a food processor.  
  2. Roughly chop roasted red peppers and place in food processor with pickles.  
  3. Process/Pulse a few times until you reach the desired rough or fine chop for relish.  
  4. Taste.  Add cayenne if desired.  
  5. Serve immediately or pack in sealed container and use within 4-5 days. 
At our house, this pickle relish is de rigueur on grilled hot dogs with a smear of Dijon mustard.  You can also use pickle relish in egg salad, ham salad or mix it with a bit of mayonnaise to slather on a fried fish sandwich.  One of my sisters would put this in potato salad, I'll bet. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Jalepeño Popper Chicken Casserole

There are several ways to prepare the jalepeños for this dish.  I like to grill them the night before but you can also dry-saute them in a cast iron skillet before making the rest of the dish.  If the peppers are very spicy, it may keep the fumes down to roast them as you prepare the cream cheese filling, as described in the recipe below.  In a pinch you can use canned green chilies and skip the cooking the peppers but the dish will not be as spicy. 

Jalepeño Popper Chicken Casserole
Yield 6-8 servings

8 jalepeños, halved and cored
4 ounces cream cheese
2 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, divided
2 packages thinly sliced chicken breasts (about 10 pieces)
1 egg
2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for pan

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Line a small baking dish with 1-2 inch sides with tin foil.  Oil lightly (or use spray oil.)
  3. Roast jalepeños in prepared pan until wilted and a bit charred, about 10-12 minutes.  Remove jalepeños and allow them to cool.  
  4. In a food processor mix together the cream cheese,  shredded cheddar and one tablespoon mayonnaise to form a thick cheese paste.
  5. Lay chicken breasts out on a platter and cover each with a layer of the cream cheese mixture.  Use the back of a large spoon to spread the cheese evenly.  
  6. Lay one-two jalepeños on each chicken breast and roll up.  Place rolled chicken breasts in the roasting pan.
  7. Mix together one egg and the other tablespoon of mayonnaise in the bowl of the food processor or small mixing bowl that the cram cheese was in.  Spoon this sauce over the chicken breasts and sprinkle panko bread crumbs evenly over the top of the rolled chicken breasts.
  8. Bake at 425˚F uncovered for 30 minutes.  Lower the heat to 325˚F and cook another 10 minutes.  A thermometer stuck into the center breast meat portion should read 170˚F.  Remove the pan from the oven and let casserole sit for 10 minutes before serving.
 This dish may may be cooked ahead, cooled completely and frozen.