At Poppy’s house, we start most meals with a salad. More often than not, the greens used are baby spinach or a blend of baby spinach and spring mix. Spinach ranks number 2, right below kale as the healthiest salad greens. But unlike kale, spinach doesn’t constantly remind you how healthy it is while you’re eating it.
If we are making even a pretense of eating healthy, the last thing you want to do is use some store-bought dressing packed with calories and chemicals, especially since making a basic salad dressing is so simple and quick. If you have the ingredients handy, I would say 30 seconds, maybe a minute if you’re listening to some good jazz, having a glass of wine and dancing around the kitchen (just sayin’).
My go-to dressing is a variation on the basic Balsamic Vinaigrette:
3 parts good quality EVOO to 1 part balsamic vinegar – use more or less vinegar depending on your “tart tolerance”.
1 or 2 teaspoons of Dijon Mustard.
This is where Poppy (sometimes), steers this recipe away from the traditional version … I add enough fresh ground Parmesan (whisking the dressing briskly) till it becomes a slurry.
You can take it a step further by adding some chopped red onion.
Sometimes I toss the greens with the dressing, sometimes I just drizzle it over the top … can’t miss.
Lets jump to the fun part. We have stretched our canvas (the greens), primed the canvas (the dressing), now it’s time to get out our paints.
- cheeses: Parmesan, Feta, Mozzarella, etc.
- halved grape tomatoes
- peeled sliced cucumber
- orange or tangerine chunks
- pine nuts
- almond slivers
- grilled Piquillo peppers
- red onion
- watermelon chunks
- olives: green, ripe or Kalamata
- coarse ground black pepper
You can mix these any way you want, some pair very naturally (Feta cheese and Kalamata olives for example), but don’t hesitate to experiment. If you keep enough of these paints (ingredients) on hand, your salads will never be boring.
I’m strong to the fin-ich, Cause I eats me spin-ach– (sorry couldn’t resist)
I’ve been on a roasted potato kick lately, this is a variation of Poppy’s Cajun Roasted Potatoes. This time I’ve added sweet onions and wilted spinach.
It couldn’t get any simpler or more delicious. Cooking for three tonight (with planned leftovers) I cubed 4 scrubbed Yukon Gold potatoes (skins intact) into 3/4″ cubes. This was followed by dicing a medium-sized sweet onion into equally sized segments. While the oven was heating to 400°, the potatoes and onion were tossed with a couple of tablespoons of EVOO, then spread on a foiled lined baking sheet. The potato and onion chunks were then treated to a generous grid of coarse black pepper and a sprinkling of Cajun seasoning.
Ready to go into the oven, I set the timer for 35 minutes. I had my oven set to roast with the convection turned on. Your mileage may vary, but don’t sweat it, an extra few minutes won’t hurt anything.
While the potatoes and onions were roasting (and sending a marvelous smell throughout the house), I chopped 4-5 ounces of baby spinach and tossed it in a skillet with a very slight drizzle of EVOO. Stir on your stove top with a medium to low setting until the spinach has wilted. remove from the heat and set aside.
Once the potato and onion mixture is done (slightly browned), transfer them to the skillet with the wilted spinach, toss then sprinkle with some fresh ground grated Parmesan and you are good to go.
Tonight this served as a side to Poppy’s “Honest Burger”, but that’s a post for later.
This savory soup has been known to chase away the blues, sniffly noses and mulligrubs! It takes less time to prepare than any other soup I make, has a fresh pick-me-up flavor (courtesy of the lemon juice), is healthy (no cream in this baby), and I believe could be made gluten-free just by substituting rice for the orzo. What are you waiting for? Quick, run to the kitchen and start cooking!
This soup was inspired by a recipe from the “New England Soup Factory Cookbook“, if you are going to have only one soup cookbook, it should be this one. Of course Poppy has to modify everything at least a little … so here is Poppy’s version!
- 8 cups low sodium chicken stock
- (1) rotisserie chicken (pulled into smallish pieces)
- ¾ cup orzo
- 3 eggs (lightly beaten)
- 2 lemons (juiced)
- 6 ozs. baby spinach (coarsely chopped)
- garlic salt to taste
- 1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper (or to taste)
Bring the chicken broth to a boil in your stock pot on high heat. Add the orzo, reduce the heat to medium, keeping a slow boil and cook for 5-6 minutes. Once the orzo is done, drizzle in the beaten eggs, stirring constantly until the eggs have cooked into threads. Add the chicken meat, spinach, garlic salt, pepper and ½ of the lemon juice. Why only ½ of the lemon juice, Poppy? Because all lemons are not created equal, this is where you start tweaking …(tweaking, not twerking, don’t get the two confused). Slowly add more of the lemon juice and black pepper until you get the taste you want. You can always add more lemon juice but you can’t take it out …(not even by twerking)!
An old Italian man lived alone in Jersey. It was spring and he wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very hard work for the aging man, as the ground had compacted over winter. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:
I am feeling sad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. If only you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me, like in the old days.
A few days later he received a letter from his son:
Don’t dig up that garden. That’s where the bodies are buried.
At 7:00 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived at the old man’s house and dug up the entire garden area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.
That same day, the old man received another letter from his son:
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.
Aaah, the things we will do for a good tomato … but lets get cooking!
This dish will delight at least 3 of your senses, it looks great, smells wonderful and tastes delicious. I guess if you ate it with your fingers we could add one more sense to the list (let me know how that works out for you).
Orecchiette pasta originates in the sunny southern province of Puglia, Italy and translated means, “Little Ears”). Traditionally made by curling bits of pasta dough over one’s thumb, the little cup-like shape is great for holding sauces and veggies. It’s slightly chewy texture is the perfect complement to the intense flavors of the roasted tomatoes. Continue reading