To tide you over, I’m sharing the recipe for a salad that we have pretty much every year at Christmas. We always spend Christmas Eve at Fred’s father and stepmother’s house (we spend Christmas Eve morning with Fred’s mother and stepfather at our house for breakfast), and we usually have spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna (I grew up eating a turkey dinner type meal for Christmas, so this was kind of weird to me the first few times). We almost always have this spinach salad with that meal, and since I’m a fan of raw spinach (forget the nutritional benefits – I just LIKE it; I know, I’m weird), I finally asked for the recipe so we could occasionally have it through the year.
It’s a salad you make ahead, and it’s even fairly good (though wilted) the next day. You can’t save it for longer than that, though – it gets way too shriveled and wilted to eat, though I guess you could always pick out the mushrooms and eat those (okay, you CAN do that – I don’t know why I’m acting like I’ve never done that.)
Sliced mushrooms (you could always buy whole mushrooms and slice them, if that’s what floats your boat), spinach (I use baby spinach), red wine vinegar, minced garlic, spinach, salad oil (I use olive oil). Not pictured: salt and pepper.
First, whisk the red wine vinegar, salt, garlic, and pepper together in a plastic dish.
Add the mushrooms, toss, and let marinate in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so.
Put your spinach in a big plastic container, toss with the olive oil.
Add the marinated mushrooms (including any marinade left in the dish) to the spinach, toss, and then chill for a couple of hours.
This stuff is so good and so easy, I hope you give it a try and like it as much as we do – I’m looking forward to having it again next week!
This is my absolute favorite way to eat summer squash. Fred prefers them coated and oven fried, but if given my choice, this is how we’d always eat them.
A reader mentioned this way of roasting summer squash a couple of years ago. I’d credit her if I could remember who it was, but I can’t – so if it was you, please step up and let me give you the credit, please!
First, gather your squash. I used lemon squash this time, because that’s what I had on hand. You can use ANY kind of summer squash – I’ve used crookneck and straight neck squash and pattypan squash as well as the lemon squash.
Leaving the peel on, cut the squash in 1/4″ slices. Don’t worry about being exact – you’ll be able to tell that some of my slices are thicker and some are thinner. I’ve never been very good at getting every slice the same thickness, and it all works out.
Put the squash on a cookie sheet, which has been sprayed with cooking spray or olive oil. I lined mine with foil so you wouldn’t see how hideously stained the pans are and feel nauseous. See? I’m always thinking of you!
Drizzle with olive oil (I have one of those olive oil spray things that you put olive oil in and pump the top a couple of times, and then you can spray the olive oil; I prefer that because I use less olive oil). Sprinkle the squash with salt and pepper and Parmesan. I use the shredded stuff because I buy the big containers at Sam’s (yeah, yeah, the freshly grated stuff is SO much better, I know.), but I’ve also used the powdered stuff that comes in the green containers, too.
Roast in a preheated 425ºF oven. Mine takes about 25 minutes, but I start checking it at 20 minutes. When it’s easily pierced with a fork, it’s done.
I tend to make a ton at a time, because it’s good whether it’s hot or cold (I actually prefer it cold) and I love to eat it for several days in a row. As a note: One cookie sheet full of squash usually makes one meal for two of us, with enough left over so I can have a small serving with lunch the next day.
I also use the squash as “noodles” in a casserole. That’s a separate recipe, and one I’m going to go work on right now. Edited to add: Here it is!
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Every week we’ll post a recipe that we both made. This week’s recipe was Caprese Salad, found over at Tasty Kitchen. Printable recipe can be found at the bottom of this post.
This week’s recipe was Nance’s choice, and I was TOTALLY on board. We’re getting tons of really great-looking tomatoes coming in from the garden (this is the first year I can honestly say that – we haven’t had much luck with tomatoes in the past), and so I was looking forward to using some of them for this recipe.
The ingredients are simple:
Tomatoes, basil (I didn’t grow my own basil this year, unfortunately), mozzarella, and balsamic vinegar.
First, take two cups of balsamic vinegar and put it in a small pot over medium-low heat.
How amazed was I that the entire bottle of balsamic vinegar was exactly two cups? SO amazed. And then I looked at the label where it said that the contents were 16 fluid ounces, and I was like “Oh. Duh.” When I bought it at the store, instead of even looking at the label I just glanced at the bottle and said “That looks like more than two cups. I’m sure it’ll be enough.”
I didn’t get a picture of the vinegar in the pot. You’re going to just have to use your imagination.
While the vinegar sat over the heat, I sliced my tomatoes in thick slices.
Then sliced the mozzarella in thick slices, and arranged the tomatoes and cheese on a plate.
And THEN tucked leaves of basil on top of the slices of mozzarella.
When that was done, I stood over the pot of balsamic vinegar. It took several minutes to come to anything approaching a boil, and that only happened after I got annoyed and turned the heat up to medium. Patience is not my strong suit.
Hey, quick question: did you know that boiling balsamic vinegar steam kind of feels like mustard gas in your lungs? Did you? Because it totally does, and now I’m typing to you from life support because my lungs were destroyed by balsamic vinegar gas. THANKS NANCE. I went back and reread the recipe for the part where it says “Have your windows open and all the fans going, and don’t BREATHE IN the balsamic vinegar steam, you fucking idiot”, but they seem to have left that part out.
So I’m telling you: HAVE YOUR WINDOWS OPEN AND ALL THE FANS GOING AND DON’T BREATHE IN THE BALSAMIC VINEGAR STEAM, DUMMY.
That shit boiled for what felt like three hours. I stirred and looked and pondered and thought, and I was like “This is NOT getting thicker. What the hell?” Finally, when it had been 20 minutes, I decided to take it off the heat because I was afraid it would all just boil away, and I was not going to the store to buy another bottle. I poured it into the measuring cup and found that it had reduced to just over 1/2 cup.
That’s right, y’all. I had MADE A REDUCTION all by myself!
WHO’s the fancy bitch with 73 cats who can make a fancypants balsamic reduction? WHO?
Cap’n Floofypants was terribly impressed, as you can see.
After the reduction cooled off (and it got thicker as it cooled, by the way), I drizzled a bit of olive oil over the tomatoes and mozzarella, and then I drizzled the reduction over that. The original recipe offers that you can “make designs if you want.” But, um, no. I don’t want. But thanks anyway. Sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and it was time to eat!
The verdict? It was surprisingly good! I mean, I knew we’d like the tomatoes and mozzarella because that’s how we eat tomatoes all the time, but I liked the balsamic reduction far more than I expected. Two thumbs up from me.
Fred declared it good, but “too basil-y.” I think that next time I’ll use a lot less basil.
I also refrigerated the leftover balsamic reduction, and used it for the next several days as a dip for my cherry tomatoes (we’re eating a lot of tomatoes these days). ‘Twas really really good. I’m definitely going to make this again – though I’ll be sure to wear my gas mask next time.
This recipe starts out easy enough. You cook the hell out of balsamic vinegar until it reduces into a syrupy sauce (reduction) that you think will be good once you pour it over tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. If you told me a few years ago that I would ever be using balsamic vinegar to cook with, I would have not known what you were talking about because balsamic vinegar was not a part of my world. I was this close to being one of those plain folk. THIS CLOSE, PEOPLE. Thank God for the Internet!
The really sad part is that most of you think I’m just bullshitting up there and it’s the truth. My world was small. Very small.
This is me trying to be like that goody-two-shoes Robyn. There is one very important ingredient that is missing from this picture and there is a reason. A horrifying reason that you will find out soon enough.
Rumor has it that this smells like hell while it’s cooking. I wouldn’t know because I put my husband in charge of it. If it takes more than 5 minutes of my attention, I bail. I honestly cannot help it.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: This is the perfect time to invest in an iPod and start downloading podcasts. I follow quite a few podcasts and they have saved many a meal from destruction. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depends on what kind of mood I am in) my family likes to be around me. If they’re around me while I’m cooking and I can’t listen to podcasts (due to their constant talking and/or the fact that it would be rude to ignore them), then I just put their asses to work.
For those that skimmed: I just took the long way to explain that I wasn’t the one that made the actual reduction. Moving on.
When it was done (although we really were not sure what done meant because no one bothered to time it) we put it in a measuring cup and set it to the side.
It’s amazing how wasteful it feels when you see the amount that two cups “reduced” really is. Just remind yourself that the taste is incredible so it’s worth it.
My “log” of mozzarella cheese. I sent my youngest son to the store for it and I really wasn’t sure what I was going to end up with. Most 18-year-old males only know that mozzarella is the cheese that is used on pizza. And most 18-year-old males pretty much assume that it ends up there by magic. I was truly surprised when he brought home the right thing.
True Confession (s): I cannot cut a tomato. I cannot cut (or do) anything that requires using both hands. My left hand is completely useless and nobody (including myself) can figure out how it is that I can type. I am completely screwed if I have a freak accident and lose the use of my right limb. There, now you know my kryptonite.
The husband is doing an excellent job slicing my tomatoes. But I absolutely loathe the cutting board he’s using. Unfortunately, we have tried others and we always go back to this cheap plastic one. Tack. Ass.
All done and ready to go. We only had three ripe tomatoes so we were totally making do with this recipe.
We had basil plants outside that we completely neglected. This was the ingredient that was missing in the earlier picture. Rick managed to pluck the very few leaves that looked “edible” and we placed them strategically (we also had to unroll them which makes me think that they could have used some life support). I had planned to crop the picture so that no one would ever know, but then I realized that I do not live at Crooked Acres (™ The Anderson’s). And I have more important things to do (hello, Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes/Suri/Scientology!) than worry about tending to a garden.
Please note that I am trying to show you how I pour olive oil on the tomato/mozzarella/basil (shut-up) mess, but I’m sure you can figure out that I was no where near the actual plate. It’s HARD to take pictures and pour at the same time.
glug, glug, glug. I poured that shit all over the place.
Once again, did not actually pour until the picture was already taken.
I had the audacity to attempt a design. As you can tell, that went to hell pretty quick. Check out that Zombie basil hanging in there, man. It totally needed a bullet to the brain.
I salt and peppered the shit out of this thing. And then we pulled the zombie basil out and ate the entire thing. And it was fabulous. Although Shirley (my mom) didn’t care for it because of the whole white cheese thing. White cheese chokes people, remember? Now forget I even wrote that because it’s just a bullshit thing that HER PARTICULAR BRAND OF CRAZY BELIEVES. White cheese is not a cold-hearted killer. I promise.
Caprese Salad - (Nance & Robyn make the same recipe)