Archives for category: Feta Cheese

Feb 27 2013 044

I bought a couple of pounds of roma tomatoes at the store.  They were a wonderful color and looked yummy.  These tomatoes were not very yummy.  As a fresh tomato these little fruits were completely useless.

Being frugal I could not throw them out.  Oven drying was the only solution.  This way the sugars in the tomatoes would be concentrated and the flavor enhanced.  I do not like to waste food.

I had some fresh thyme that I had frozen when I realized I would not use it up by the time in turned.  Freezing thyme is a great way to preserve it when you are not going to use the whole bunch.

I tossed the tomatoes in a little bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Threw on some sea salt and pepper and tossed some garlic and fresh thyme on top.

Feb 23 2013 053I set my oven and 250 degrees and let the tomatoes roast for 3-4 hours.

Feb 23 2013 079I took out the thyme stems and saved them in a bag in the freezer for stock and packed the dried tomatoes and garlic in a jar with some olive oil.  The tomatoes last in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks or 2 months in the freezer.  Use the oil to coat veggies, for a tasty salad dressing or spread on some fresh-baked bread.  Do not throw out the oil after you have used the tomatoes as it has a great flavor for the herbs, garlic and sweet tomatoes.

Feb 27 2013 046

These sweet dried tomatoes are very versatile.

Here are 10 ways to use oven dried tomatoes:

1.  Pizza topping

2.  Toss with pasta, olive oil, garlic and a good cheese

3.  Antipasti

4.  Top a salad with bacon and blue cheese

5.  Add to mayo and it is great in a sandwich or as a dipping sauce with fresh veggies

6.  Add to your favorite pasta sauce to punch up the flavor

7.  Add to stew at the end of cooking for a sweet complexity

8.  Add to soup with kale, white beans and garlic

9.  Blend tomatoes, oil that you stored the tomatoes in, and more fresh herbs with some balsamic vinegar for a delicious salad dressing

10. Toss with feta, kalamata olives, olive oil and grilled veggies

What do you use your oven dried tomatoes for?

Check out Lucys Friendly Foods for a great antipasti salad recipe.

I had always wanted to buy that bag of organic farro at Costco.  I would pick it up and just look at it but I would always put it back.  Nothing was coming to mind as to how I would use it.  I love it in soups but I am usually in a salad mood this time of the year.

I read this post from Orangette.  She used farro as a warm side dish with caramelized onions and feta.

I then saw this post from Epicurious.  This salad was a bit closer to what I was looking for.

I had some lovely grape tomatoes, a chunk of french feta and some kalamata olives.  I think you can see where I am going here…

I cooked the farro as per the instructions on the bag but added some herbs and garlic to the cooking water.  Make sure you cook the farro al dente.  It keeps a wonderful chewy texture and sweet flavor if you do not over cook it.

Letting it sit after being cooked in a bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs overnight in your fridge is really the way to go.

I wanted to bulk out the salad and bit so I tossed some baby organic spinach in right before serving and poured some more olive oil over the salad.

Perfect.  Just the right combination of nutty grain, sweet tomatoes, salty olives and feta and the fresh bite of spinach.

Farro, Baby Spinach, Tomato and Feta Salad

Cooking the farro

1 cup dried farro

2 cups water

1/4 tsp granulated garlic

1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil and add salt, garlic and thyme.

Add farro and boil until tender but not over cooked.  Al dente is just perfect for this grain.  Drain water and put cooked farro into a bowl with oil, vinegar and season to taste.  Let sit in your refrigerator until chilled or best yet leave it there overnight.

For the salad

1 cup halved sweet grape tomatoes

1/2 cup kalamata olives

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

5-6 cups fresh baby spinach

Toss farro with the above ingredients in a large bowl and serve.  Add more balsamic or olive oil as needed and season to taste.

Yesterday was bright and sunny when I woke up.  There was a bit of a chill in the air but overall it was sunny and clear.

I went up to the lodge and got the grill ready.  My mother in law, sister-in-law and nephew were coming up for Sunday brunch.

It was a perfect spring day.  I was even thinking we may set up a table on the deck and eat outside.  Was I wrong.   Weather can change fast in the mountains.

I starting grilling and decided to take some pictures from the deck.

It was warm and sunny.  Next thing I know I spot a white mass out over one of the hills.  It almost looked like smoke.

As the mass began to move and drift toward the lodge I realized the it was bringing a chilly wind.  It began to spread out and when it reached the lodge I realized it was snow.

Snow….in May.  Well I do live in the Rocky Mountains.

So here I am standing on the deck in cut offs and sandals grilling in the snow.  It made me laugh because almost every time I pull out the grill it starts raining.  I should grill more often since we are having a dry spring.

Thankfully I was done grilling and could move in a light the fireplace and relax with my family.

Ok, so back to the food….I was planning on featuring a summer salad.  This is a salad that we make nearly everyday during the summer.

But how can I feature a salad when it is snowing?  Shouldn’t I feature a stew or soup?  Well since the rest of the country is not blanketed in snow I will go ahead with my summer salad.  It kept snowing all night.  Most of the snow melted on impact but we got some great precipitation that was needed.

In the warm spring and summer months my  family enjoys salads nearly every dinner.  Sliced ripe red tomatoes, rich and creamy cheese, and bright fresh herbs is our favorite combination.

This salad is made with tomatoes (Compari vine ripe tomatoes from Costco), fresh mozzarella, balsamic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh thyme.

Fresh Tomato, Mozzarella and Balsamic Salad

The key to getting the best flavor from this salad is to thinly slice the mozzarella which can be done if you freeze it for about half an hour or until slightly firm but not hard.  With the thinner mozzarella you can marinate it with balsamic and olive oil and the flavor will permeate the creamy cheese.

8-12 vine ripe compari tomatoes (I used the tomatoes from our local Costco but the salad is best with fresh tomatoes in season)

1 lb fresh mozzarella ( I used Bel Gioioso brand)

1/4 cup good balsamic vinegar (I used my trusty Kirkland Signature Brand from Costco, yes I know I love Costco..)

1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove minced finely

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (you can also use basil, oregano or mint)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Slice your mozzarella thinly and marinate with balsamic, olive oil and garlic.  Let marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours in your refrigerator. 

Slice tomatoes and arrange tomatoes, mozzarella with marinade and fresh herbs on a plate.  Drizzle a bit more vinegar and olive oil and top with fresh herbs.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.   Serve as a first course with crusty fresh-baked bread or as a side dish with a nice piece of grilled meat.

Here are a few variations on this salad:

Fresh tomato, feta cheese, mint and kalamata olives

Fresh tomato, feta cheese, oregano and kalamata olives

Fresh tomato, blue cheese and bacon and arugula

Fresh tomato, brie cheese and pancetta

More great tomato salad recipes:

This one from Jamie Oliver. (I just love how he uses tomatoes of different sizes and shapes.)

Or try this one from Martha.

Here is Elsies’ beautiful version of the tomato mozzarella combo.

I enjoy to just sitting and watching my tomato starts and dream that this season will be long enough for us to actually harvest some tomatoes.  Last year our crops froze before they had a chance to ripen.  We are much more prepared this year.  Wish me luck!

If I am not successful I will have the Boulder Farmers Market at my disposal and in late summer the farmers in the area will have a dizzying array of tomatoes to choose from.

Now I will resume my fresh tomato dreams…..

I will frequently go through a phase where I will make a frittata at least once a week.  I use lovely farm fresh eggs and what ever I have in the fridge.  I never get tired of eating fritattas.  In my house we will eat them for breakfast, lunch with salad or even as a light dinner with salad and crusty fresh-baked bread.

Making fritattas is a wonderful way to clean out all of those little bits of cheese, cooked meats or veg you may have in the fridge.  I have made grilled skirt steak, sharp cheddar and green chile, or ground beef with taco seasonings, salsa and jack cheese combinations.  Kalamta olive, feta, sun-dried tomato and spinach is also a good flavor combination.  You can keep it simple with a classic combination of Ham and Swiss.  You really can’t go wrong.

My favorite is roasted bell peppers, sausage and goat cheese.  When I purchase goat cheese I will often buy Laura Chenel Chevre.  Laura’s goat cheese dairy  is the gold standard of American made French style goat cheese.  The dairy is located in Sonoma California and uses primarily local dairies so you can really taste the terrior of the Napa and Sonoma regions.  Terrior is a delightful French word meaning the flavor of a certain region or land.  We do not have a similar word in English but we should.

In Boulder we are lucky to have a local dairy that produces some excellent goat cheese. I have been purchasing Laura Chenel Chevre for years but lately will frequently purchase Haystack Mountain goat cheese for cheese boards or appetizers.  Haystack makes a goat Camembert that is the best cheese I have ever eaten.  The Queso de Mano is also delightful.  They have a large variety of artisanal goat cheeses.  This is a thriving local business that has grown steadily during the economic downturn and continues to produce excellent cheeses that win awards every year.   I could consume buckets of the Applewood Smoked Chevre.  Seriously….this cheese is light with just a hint of smokiness.  I made a quesadilla with the applewood smoked chevre and roasted green chile.  Very delicious.

Fritatta with Goat Cheese, Roasted Sweet Bell Peppers and Sausage

10 Large Eggs

1/4 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream or Milk (You can use low-fat milk for a lighter taste)

1/2 lb good quality Breakfast Sausage Crumbles (I used Jimmy Dean all natural)

1 Sweet Red, Orange or Yellow Bell Pepper Charred on the grill or gas stove, cleaned of black bits and rough chopped

4 oz Fresh Soft Chevre (Goat Cheese)( I used Laura Chenel fresh soft chevre)

1/4 Tsp Thyme (If you use fresh use 1/2 tsp)( I used some of the lovely French Thyme I bought at Savory Spice Shop.)

1/2 tsp Corn Starch

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray pie pan or cake round with non-stick spray or rub with butter.  Beat together eggs, heavy cream and corn starch.  The corn starch will help the frittata stay light a fluffy during baking.  You can omit the corn starch if you are eating gluten free or low carb.

Cook sausage in a pan and drain off excess fat.

Put sausage, peppers and cheese in the pie pan.  Pour over egg mixture and top with thyme.  Season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until custard is set in the middle.  Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.  Can be served either hot, cold or room temperature.

You can also use the classic italian method with a cast iron pan instead of a pie pan.  Elsie from Simply Recipes has good instructions on how to make a frittata by starting it on the stove top.

After the rib fest this weekend salad seemed like a great idea.  I love the combination of lamb and feta cheese.  This recipe works well as a salad but I usually make up about 40 meatballs and freeze them for other dishes.  The meatballs work well in a curry, soup or with a tomato oregano sauce over rice. 

These meatballs are both low carb and gluten free.  I do not use any bread crumbs as a binder.  Just feta cheese, herbs, organic eggs and red wine with lots of garlic.

Bake the meatballs at a high temperature of 425 until browned and fully cooked inside about 20 minutes.

Cool in oven and serve with organic salad greens, fresh grape tomatoes, feta cheese and kalamata olives.  Drizzle the salad with good extra virgin olive oil and just a splash of red wine vinegar. 

Greek Lamb Meatballs

1 lb Ground lamb

1 lb Ground lean beef

3 cloves garlic minced fine

2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano or 1 tablespoon dried

1/2 cup good feta cheese crumbles

2 organic eggs

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup red wine

Mix everything together in a bowl and let sit in your refrigerator for 1-2 hours or until cold.  This will help all of the flavors blend and the meat to firm and keep a meatball shape better.

Shape meat into balls and bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees.  Let cool and serve with feta cheese, organic salad greens, fresh grape tomatoes, kalamata olives and greek yogurt.  Also good with grilled pita bread.

Freeze remaining meatballs for later use.

 

 

 

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