Side Salad for Take-Out Pizza

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Sometimes, I get tired and don't want to cook. And this usually happens over the weekend. I tend to cook on most weeknights no matter how much I don't want to, as it helps me relax and forget the day. Then the weekend comes around, and here's my chance to make something extravagant, but I just end up hanging around the house, doing house stuff, and being kitchen lazy. That often means going out. Less often that means ordering pizza.

Last time this happened, I decided to be a little less lazy, and made a salad to go along with the pizza. Nothing too fancy, I just used what I found in the fridge and pantry -- romaine, feta, radishes, tomatoes, chick peas and roasted peppers.Pretty fast, and pretty good. Having a fresh, homemade salad made me feel better about ordering out on a weekend, and having three slices of pizza.


Tomato, Feta and Basil Salad

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I don't love tomatoes. There I said it. I know that some people (the husband) claim there's nothing, nothing, better than a homegrown, sweet, summer tomato, but I usually say "whatever" to those people. I like tomatoes. Yup. They are tasty. I love salsa and marinara sauce, but just biting into a tomato sounds kind of boring. I know that garden tomatoes are like 300 times better than anything you find in the store. But still, I shrug my shoulders, and turn the head sideways when I think about this summer fruit.

Having said all that, sometimes, not often, I really crave tomatoes straight from the garden. I just want to snack on them, and enjoy them all on their own. And having said that, sometimes, even less often, I want a tomato salad. Last week, was one of those times. I picked a bunch of yellow, tear drop tomatoes and basil from our garden, and added feta cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to mix. Paired with an icy cold white wine, I had myself a quick, summery salad, satisfying my tomato craving for at least a couple of months.

Sunday Ladies Brunch

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Brunch is always fun. You eat. You drink. You nap (hopefully after the guests are gone).

A couple of weeks ago, while the husband was enjoying his vacation away from me, I had a few of the office ladies over. We had two great champagne cocktails that afternoon -- champagne with blood orange soda, and champagne with lavender simple syrup. That second combination is especially dangerous, because it tastes like candy! And even though I'm not big on candy, I was hooked after the first sip.
There was giant triangles of cheese and spinach boreg.
We had salami, and cheeses. Not featured here, but surely a highlight of the meal, cream cheese with pepper jam. Who knew that combination worked so well?
French potato salad.
Smoked salmon pizza on lavash.
Melon and mint, another winning combination. There was also berries in sugar.
And champagne cocktails! With 4 bottles between the 5 of us, we got straight to work.


French Potato Salad

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This potato salad is perfect for brunch. How do I know this? Because I've recently served it at brunch, and it was a success. It's light, pretty and tasty.

I'm not sure what actually makes it "French", but I saw a similar recipe on Barefoot Contessa years ago, and Ina Garten called it French. And I can't doubt her. Not with that soothing voice of hers. In the TV recipe, the herbs are different. She used dill, parsley and basil. In my version, I used basil and tarragon, and a dill mustard. I also added French green beans, for that extra Frenchness. But mostly because I had some in hand.

I like potato anything, especially salads, so I'm a big fan of this version. It's also great for picnics as well, since it keeps well, and can go without refrigeration.
KK's French Potato Salad
Serves 8

2 of those cute bags of golden potatoes from Trader Joe's, scrubbed 
2 handfuls of French green beans, trimmed, steamed and cut into 1 inch pieces
basil and tarragon, you need a good amount of both, use your best judgement
3-4 tablespoons dill mustard
olive oil
lemon juice, half a lemon's worth
champagne vinegar, a couple of splashes
salt and pepper

1) Boil your clean mini potatoes in salt water, until they are tender. But make sure not to overcook, so they don't fall apart. 20-30 minutes.
2) Let the potatoes cool, slice them into pieces that will fit comfortably in your mouth.
3) Make your vinaigrette by combining the mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. 
4) Chop your herbs, add to potatoes and top with dressing. Mix well.
5) Taste, adjust seasoning and it's ready to go.


Linguine with Green Beans and Goat Cheese

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When it comes to cooking for myself, I first think pasta, then I think goat cheese. Because sometimes you want a nice, fancy-looking dish that requires no effort. This is it. I've blogged about goat cheese sauces before, and, I'm still a big fan. Goat cheese adds lots of flavor, creaminess, richness, and involves no cooking. Just add your steaming hot pasta, and pasta water to a bowl of cheese, and you're done. Almost. You do have to mix it all up really well. But once the mixing is done, so is your dish.

For this "recipe", which is hardly a recipe, I used herb-coated goat cheese, and french green beans, which I steamed. If I had used plain goat cheese, I probably would have added an herb, like tarragon, for a kick. It took me about 20 minutes, from start to finish, which left me with plenty of time to enjoy my solitude and wine. Now, I don't often drink alone, unless I'm alone, and in that case I do.
Waiting in my bowl, for the pasta, I had the cheese, steamed green beans, salt and pepper. The tender beans added a nice crispness to this dish.


Cucumber Kimchi

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The other day, the husband says to me, "I have a new Korean girlfriend." I was surprised. Who was his old Korean girlfriend? Where does he find these girlfriends? Apparently, YouTube. And Maangchi is his latest crush. She now has music in her blog videos and that really sealed the deal for him.

As a result of his new relationship, we've been eating a lot of homemade Korean side dishes. They have been tasty, and I've had nothing to do with them. I mean, I don't want to stand in the way of this new love. That was until the husband made cucumber kimchi, and I knew I could do better. Mostly because I would use the right kind of cucumbers. The husband used large, watery kind, with huge seeds. I selected small, Persian ones. And that really made all the difference. Well, that and my beautifully shredded carrot and finely sliced onion.

This recipe is super easy, tastes fresh, and makes for a great lunch, especially paired with rice. It won me over. I guess I'll let the husband carry on with Maangchi.
Cucumber Kimchi (sorry, but this blog has no videos with music)

6 cucumbers, I used Persian
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1/4 white onion, sliced thin
2 cups green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup Korean hot pepper flakes
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt

1) Cut your cucumbers in half crosswise.  Make pockets out of cross slits, leaving about ½ inch on end and make 4 slits.
2) Put these in a large bow and sprinkle a 1/4 cup of salt (the recipe suggests 1/2, but that's too much) onto the cucumber pieces, mix them carefully, and let them sit for 30 minutes.
3) In another large bowl, combine fish sauce, hot pepper flakes, garlic and sugar, and mix them with a spoon.
4) To your seasoning paste, add onion, carrot and green onion.
5) Rinse the salt off the cucumbers and drain them.
6) Stuff the seasoning paste into the slotted cucumber and put each cucumber into an airtight container. Use a spoon, or wear gloves.
7) Refrigerate.

You can eat these right after making them, but they get better with time. I'd give them at least a night in the fridge.


Winter Squash Stuffed with Grilled Vegetables

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This little side dish came about accidentally. The husband brought home a winter squash from one of his gardens. But it's summer, and who wants to think about winter in August? So I ignored his winter squash. Then, I ignored it some more. Finally, I felt bad for it, and decided it wasn't this poor squash's fault it was born in the wrong season. It was really the husband's fault for planting the seeds at the wrong time. I chose to make peace.

Looking around the fridge, and an idea popped into my head. Why not stuff this squash with summer vegetables, to lighten things up? We had a variety of grilled vegetables left over from the day before -- bell peppers, eggplant and zucchini. I chopped everything up into little cubes, mixed it together, adding salt and peppers, and added my vegetables into the pre-baked winter squash halves. I baked the stuffed squash for an additional 15 minutes, sprinkling Parmesan cheese on top during the last five minutes. I also added some fresh parsley on top, for extra freshness.

Pretty simple. Pretty tasty. And very pretty to look at.
First, cut your squash in half, remove the seeds, brush the inside with olive oil or butter, season with salt and pepper, and bake for 30 or so minutes, removing occasionally to brush some more.
Add stuffing when the squash in almost done, after 30 minutes or so. Then bake an additional 15 minutes. If desired, sprinkle with cheese the last 5 minutes of baking.


Squid and Potatoes, Croatian-Style

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The last time I blogged about this dish, my brother-in-law made it. And that was over a year ago. I knew it was time to give it a try myself when I found packets of already cleaned squid at the Asian market, for a steal.

Now, I've never been to Croatia and don't know much about its cuisine. But my in-laws have, and apparently, calamari is used in a lot of dishes. I attempted to do some "research" for this post, but I am still recovering from brunch, and my Google results directed me to pages of arguments about how authentic or good this meal really is. And today, conflict does not sound appealing, so I abandoned my "research" and will just tell you what I think. I can't speak to the authenticity factor, but this is one tasty meal. The potatoes make it very comforting, oh potatoes, why are you so delicious? It tastes fresh due to the parsley and garlic. And, even if you're not a fan of squid, its texture here is tender and buttery, you almost don't realize that you're eating an oceanic tube monster.

I did cheat here with buying the pre-cleaned calamari. This meant, I didn't get that pink look, because there was no ink. But, that really didn't impact the taste. I made a few changes to the recipe my brother-in-law posted a year ago. I cut my calamari tubes, just for the hell of it. I also cooked the garlic a few minutes, instead of just adding it in raw at the very end. The husband and I polished our plates until they sparkled, so sadly, there were no leftovers. But, I have another packet of squid in the freezer, so I won't be waiting a whole year before making this meal again. This time, I think I will add some white wine as well.