Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gorgeous Beets + Beautiful Carrots = New Spring Salad!

I hate to brag but look at these beautiful vegetables I pulled from my garden this morning.  It's just so satisfying and humbling to me to be able to pick my dinner from my back yard. 

As is the mantra this summer~~what to do with what I just picked?  Well, I happened to find a Beet and Carrot salad recipe while thumbing through my recent Cook's Illustrated magazine.  Again, with a few adaptations, I made what I (and my wonderful husband) thought was a delicious salad for dinner :)  I hope you're not tired of my salad recipes :/  But this is the time of year to take advantage of all the beautiful vegetables growing in one's garden or at the farmers' markets!

Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad
1 pound beets, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey (see note below about this honey!)
1 medium shallot, minced
1 small bunch red leaf lettuce, washed, spun and torn into bite sized pieces
1 small bunch romaine lettuce, washed, spun and torn into bite sized pieces
1 small bunch arugula, washed, trimmed and torn into bite sized pieces (optional...can also use watercress)
Crumbled blue cheese (optional...can also use feta or goat cheese)

Toss lettuces together and set aside. 

Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place large rimmed baking sheet on rack and heat oven to 450F.

Toss beets and carrots with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and sugar in large bowl. 

Carefully remove hot baking sheet from oven and working very quickly, carefully transfer beets and carrots to hot sheet and spread in even layer.  Quickly return to oven. 

Roast until vegetables are tender and well browned, 20 minutes.  Do not stir during baking and do not wash bowl.

Meanwhile, whisk remaining tablespoon oil, vinegar, honey, shallot and 1/4 teaspoon and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in now empty bowl. 

Toss hot vegetables with vinaigrette and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. 

Stir vegetables and place over lettuces, top with cheese if using and serve.  I hope you find this salad as delicious and refreshing as we did!

Buon Appetito!

A note about the honey I used.  In a word...d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s!

For Mother's Day, my son Mike and his wife Katie gave me a trio of beautiful, artisan honey they bought on a recent trip to Savannah, Georgia.  The one I used for this recipe is called Tupelo honey and it is so delicious it deserves its own mention.  It's smooth, sweet, buttery and very rare. 

It was such a thoughtful gift because they know I love to buy local honey from any place I travel to because each local honey has a flavor unique to that region.  I can't wait to try them all! 

Thank you Mike and Katie :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shrimp Cobb Salad with Fresh Greens

I still have plenty of Lolla Rossa red leaf lettuce and Little Gem romaine lettuce in my garden so I'm trying to come up with new salads using these beautiful greens.  I also picked the first of the carrots.  Aren't these gorgeous?!

I can across a Shrimp and Cobb Salad recipe in a recent Bon Appetit magazine that I thought looked good.  After reading the list of ingredients and checking to see what I had on hand, I thought, "OK, this will work...with some adaptations :)"

Look at these beautiful greens I picked from the garden!

This is the first time I've grown either of these varieties and I must say I'm very happy with both of them.  The Lolla Rossa red leaf produces beautiful heads and none has not bolted yet, despite our very warm temperatures.  And I like the Little Gem romaine because the heads are compact with tender leaves and very tasty!

So here is my version of Shrimp Cobb Salad with Fresh Garden Greens

1 small head of red leaf lettuce, thoroughly washed, torn into bite sized pieces
1 small head romaine lettuce, again, thoroughly washed, spun out and torn into bite sized pieces

4 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled and set aside

1 pound peeled, devined shrimp, marinated in a little extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic (1 clove) the zest and juice of one lemon

1 pint of cherry tomatoes (mine are not ready yet!), halved

1 small bunch of carrots, scrubbed and shredded

1 small avocado, peeled and diced

And one of the best things about this salad is the dressing.  It is killer!  (Thanks to son Keith and his wife Abby for this one!)  I'll share the recipe at the end of this post.

It's pretty simple from here.

Tear the lettuces and toss to combine.  Then top with carrots, tomatoes, shrimp, bacon and avocado.  Drizzle dressing over the top and serve.  And one of the great things about this salad is it can be adapted in so many ways using whatever fresh vegetables you like and/or happen to have on hand.  I hope you try this one (and don't forget the dressing!)

 Buon Appetito!

Lemon-Dijon Honey Vinaigrette

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 peels of lemon zest - use veggie peeler
2 small shallots
1-2 garlic cloves, cut into quarters
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard (we use horseradish dijon...delicious!)
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons Canola Oil
1/2 cup good Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Combine salt and lemon zest in food processor.  Buzz several times to blend...about 6, 3-second pulses.

Add shallots, garlic, honey, dijon mustard, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper.  Blend for 30 seconds to combine.

Combine oils and slowly add to food processor to emulsify.  Taste for seasoning....and done!  This recipe makes about 2 cups and it keeps very well for at least a week in the refrigerator.  This has become my go to salad's simply delicious!

Thanks Keith and Abby! :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Son

My son is a 1st Lieutenant, an Infantry Officer, in the United States Marine Corps.  He left today for Afghanistan.  Harry and I pray every day for his safe return to his beautiful loving wife and precious baby boy.  We will fly this deployment flag in our son's honor until he is safely home with his family.  We are so very proud of him.

Godspeed Mike...Semper Fi

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gorgeous Compost

We gardeners get excited about the strangest a pile of composted horse manure and pine shavings!  But seriously, only a gardener would think it's even remotely cool to write about something like this...much less post pictures...and then actually think people would care!  But look at this a gardener, this is like gold!

My wonderful friend Shelly has a gorgeous mare named Izzy, short for Giselle. Shelly invited me out to the barn where she boards Izzy to pick up some manure compost for my garden.  I jumped at the chance!  Yesterday morning, I went out there and hauled back three big contractor bags full of this stuff.

It's been sitting in the hot sun for about six months and it is completely composted and the perfect mulch for my garden.  Yesterday afternoon I spread it on three of my beds and watered it thoroughly.  My beds look beautiful!

Maybe it will help my struggling peppers :/


And this stuff is full of good nutrients for my soil and is better than anything I can buy in a bag.  And the good thing is there is plenty more where this came from!

And here is the beautiful Izzy who helped contribute to this pile of organic love for my garden :)

 Thanks Shelly!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bullock's Oriole

We were at our ranch house a couple of weekends ago, and this gorgeous pair of Bullock's Orioles, male and female, stopped by to visit us.  They do frequent our feeders in the summer months and they found great pleasure in drinking from the hummingbird feeder!  I looked in my Birds of Texas bird book and I'm pretty sure these are Bullock's Orioles, the first spring male and the female.  Aren't they beautiful?!

Neat, huh? :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tomatos and Peppers

I thought I'd post an update on how the tomatoes and peppers are doing.  The tomatoes are doing very well...lots of blooms and even a few tomatoes beginning to form!  They are growing tall and are very healthy.  And so far, no bug problems...yet.

My peppers on the other hand are struggling.  I gave away all the good seedlings this spring and the ones I had left are having a difficult time taking hold.  It has been very windy up here on my hill and the wind has really given my little pepper seedlings a beating.  I have three Red Ruffled Pimento plants that are doing OK and one Corno Di Toro that is doing well and two others that are not.

I just hope they survive.  I may have put these little ones in the ground too soon.  But I had to.  We were leaving town for a few days and I had no one to come in and water them inside.  At least outside, they get watered every day by the sprinkler system.  All I can do is wait, hope and pray :/

I have one Italian White Eggplant that is doing well and two others that are not.  This is a new variety for me so we'll have to see how they do in this climate.  I do hope at least one does well and produces some fruit for me.  I'm anxious to try this variety of white eggplant.

So as you can see, my garden this year is, once again, a mixed bag.  Some plants are doing well...others not so well.  But I still get enormous pleasure out of my that I'm out there.  I take the good with the bad and love every minute of it :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beautiful Spring Salad

Here is a sample of what dinner salads in my house have been looking like for the past few weeks.  Take a Little Gem Romaine, add some spicy arugula and finish it with some gorgeous Lolla Rossa red leaf lettuce.  Top with a crumbling of blue cheese, some good peppery olive oil and voila~~a spring garden salad.

Doesn't get any fresher than this :)