Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mango Salad with Spicy Cashews

I was invited to a friend's house for lunch yesterday. She was preparing an Oriental Shrimp Salad and my job was to come up with a side dish that would complement the main dish. My first thought was something with pineapple or mango - I love those fruits paired with Asian-flavored dishes. Because I wanted a side dish rather than a dessert, I knew some sort of greenery was necessary. The sweet-spicy cashews add a special touch and also tie in nicely with the Asian meal.

As a bonus, not only is this salad colorful and bursting with all sorts of interesting flavors (sweet! juicy! spicy! peppery!) - it takes all of 4 1/2 minutes to prepare. It's so good (and easy to make) that I just made a second batch to enjoy here at home today. Please feel free to mess with the proportions (more mango/less arugula) or make up another dressing (my Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette would be superb with this).

Mango Salad with Spicy Cashews
Serves 2 - 3 as a side dish

1/2 cup unsalted cashews
1 tsp. olive oil (or less)
sprinkling of kosher salt
sprinkling of chipotle powder (or cayenne)
drizzle of honey

Several large handfuls of arugula
1 lime
a little more olive oil
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced

This is very easy! I swear to you!

Step 1: Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the smallest little drizzle of olive oil (I didn't measure but I'm guessing it's 1 teaspoon or less). When the oil's warm, pour in the cashews. Stir to coat. Sprinkle the nuts with the salt and chipotle powder or cayenne pepper. Stir to coat. Drizzle with honey. Stir to coat and remove from heat. The nuts can be used warm on the salad, or prepared hours ahead and used cold.

Step 2: When you're ready to eat, place the arugula in a serving bowl. Drizzle lightly with a little more olive oil and a squeeze or two of lime juice (or any dressing you like). Top the greens with the chopped mango and the spiced cashews and a little sprinkle of salt and serve.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Very Berry Crisp

The picture doesn't do this baby justice. It was bursting with berries, sweet and tangy, with an incomparable crispy brown sugar-oat topping. It was so scrumptious, that sadly, it was gone before I realized the picture stinks.

I guess the blame for the stinky picture is half my fault, as the photographer, and half my husband's fault, as the server of the crisp.

But really, who would serve such a carefully constructed dessert with no regard for the top or bottom of the thing? Especially after his wife carefully prepared this special dessert in such a manner that the berries were on the bottom of the dish and the topping was resting nicely on top (duh). But after the server spooned it out, there was topping all over the place, a slightly grumpy photographer/chef and a less-than-ideal photo.

Fortunately, the taste wasn't affected by the presentation. And this has taught me that I need to stop taking pictures with my cellphone at 8 pm with no natural light. And I will. As soon as I can find the camera.

A Very Berry Crisp
Serves 4 - 6


Mix together:
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into small bits


Toss together in a large bowl:
5 cups assorted berries such as blueberries, raspberries and/or blackberries, rinsed, dried and stems removed
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 to 2 Tablespoons flour

Lightly grease a 9-inch glass pie pan or 9x9 glass baking dish (this just helps at cleanup time). Place berry mixture in pan. Spread topping over all. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 40 minutes, or until topping is light golden brown and berries are bubbling out around the edges. Serve warm, cold or any which way. Vanilla ice cream on top is good, too.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Yin Yang of Tex-Mex

My kids have been at camp for three weeks, and my husband and I have been out and about like nobody's business. I had been pushing for one more dinner out before they return home (TOMORROW!), but we both agreed we'd be better off eating at home tonight. Of course he agreed - I'm doing the cooking. But my most recent dining out experience involved a turkey burger which was not my buddy for the next 48 hours - enough said. Dinner at home actually seemed like a pretty good idea.

Given his druthers, my husband would happily eat at Chipotle at least once a week. Tonight, I decided to make a Chipotle-style dinner at home, featuring Refried Bean Burritos with Green Rice and a Chopped Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing.

The yin yang of this meal is twofold. First off, there's the contrast between the creamy, rich and spicy burritos and the crispy salad with a slightly sweet dressing. Then there's the fact that it's the perfect meal for us: Mr. Simply Delicious loves refried beans, and I never want to see meat again. Yin yang Tex-Mex.

Refried Bean Burritos
Makes 4 burritos

The rice:
1 small can Old El Paso chopped green chiles
1 handful fresh cilantro
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup white rice

The rest of it:
1 can Amy's Organic Refried Beans
- as much shredded cheese as you like
- whatever salsa you like
4 nice tortillas (I discovered Chi Chi's Cafe-Style Tortillas, made with Corn Flour, which were excellent)

In a small blender or the cup of an immersion blender, combine the chiles, cilantro and 1/2 cup of broth. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until it starts to soften, about 2 - 4 minutes. Add the garlic and the rice and stir until the rice is coated with the oil and onions. Then add the pureed pepper mixture along with the rest of the broth (this should total 2 cups of liquid; if it doesn't, add more broth or water). Stir well and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and leave the rice in the pan for 10 - 15 minutes longer (don't lift the lid at all during all of this). When you do lift the lid, the rice should be cooked and all the liquid absorbed.

Meanwhile, lay the tortillas on a clean work surface. Divide the refried beans evenly over the 4 tortillas. Sprinkle with some cheese. Spread some of the cooked rice over the cheese (you won't use all the rice). Top with a bit of salsa and some more cheese. Roll up and place in a greased baking dish. Cover with foil and heat at 350 degrees for 20 - 30 minutes, or until heated through. Serve with additional salsa and sour cream, if desired. Serve the rest of the rice on the side if you're angry that the recipe made more than you needed (my friend Mary Beth's pet peeve about recipes).

Chopped Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing
Serves 4

1 lime, juiced
2 T. canola oil
2 T. olive oil
2 T. honey
2 T. fresh cilantro leaves
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
salt and pepper

- any kind of lettuce you like - chopped
- any vegetables you like, chopped - I used carrots, leftover corn on the cob, celery, cucumber, red bell pepper and tomato. Black beans are great in this salad, but I didn't want to overload us on beans tonight
- mild white cheese - optional - mild feta, goat cheese or cotija would add a creamy element to the salad

Blend all the dressing ingredients until combined. This will be a thin dressing. Toss with the chopped salad ingredients and top with cheese if desired.