Insalata Caprese with Smoked Mozzarella and Basil

Caprese 1

This is almost too simple to put here, but I love this version with smoked mozzarella. All you need to do is slice or cut your tomatoes however you want, sprinkle with sea salt flakes and let sit for a few minutes while you cut up the mozzarella and basil. In this recipe, the mozzarella is more of an accent than a equal player; sometimes I do little cubes, sometimes sticks. If I have enough basil florets, I’ll use those; if not, I’ll do a chiffonade. The trick here, for me— and maybe this is just my imagination— is pouring the balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes before putting the mozzarella on top because I think it makes the cheese go tough. Weird. Also, some folks think adding vinegar is a travesty, but I think a little works well here. So, to taste and depending how hungry you are, tomatoes, salt flakes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar (you need very little of this, probably around teaspoon for a cup and a half of tomatoes), fresh cracked pepper, smoked mozzarella, and basil. Pair it with garlic bread and corn on the cob and voila! And a big glass of ice water with lemon, double voila!

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Mono No Aware: Tomato Jungle

IMG_1543IMG_1622

Just a few short weeks ago, the garden was tripping over itself. I used to pluck and trim my tomato plants like Bonsai, but after a few years of awesome tomatoes, I had a run of bad luck: hard tomatoes, yellow leaf disease, spoiled blackbirds who ate but one bite of each. After giving up for a season, I decided to let the plants grow as they pleased and they made themselves a jungle. Now, after the most enormous haul of tomatoes ever, they have given in to exhaustion.

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Southwesterly Salad

SW Salad 2

If you buy a cooked rotisserie chicken or cooked chicken breasts, then this is a no heat in the summer salad. Even if you bake the chicken breasts like I do, it’s a low mess recipe and perfect for tiny kitchens. When I bake the chicken breasts, I dust them with a little salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.

Dressing:
• Small plain Greek yogurt (usually around 5 ounces)
• Juice of one lime
• Quarter cup or so of olive oil
• Two tablespoons of minced cilantro
• Half teaspoon each of cumin and garlic powder
• Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Salad:
• Around two-thirds a cup of cubed chicken per person
• Around two cups roughly cut romaine lettuce per person
• Around a quarter of an avocado per person
• Sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, red peppers and red onion

As always everything can vary. The chicken could be turkey, or maybe smoked turkey, maybe scallions instead of red onions…corn kernels…the leftover fried onions from Thanksgiving….a hit of Ancho chili peppers or Siracha in the dressing…

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Horiatki with Pasta

Greek Pasta 2

This is always my first ‘welcome to summer’ recipe. Although tomatoes won’t be in around where I live until July, they are not the star here so I don’t mind using those Kumato ones. This is a definite tiny kitchen recipe: just one pot for the pasta.

Pasta options: After trying penne and some sort of short ziti, I’ve settled on conchiglie. You could try bow ties or rotelle; there’s probably a lot of fun pastas that would work here.

Other options: You could add some oregano or maybe some sliced Pepperoncini.

Time note: I usually mange to get everything chopped and ready to go by the time the pasta is ready.

For this four person version, you’ll need:
• One pound conchiglie pasta
• Half cup of mayonnaise
• Quarter cup of white wine or rice wine vinegar
• Half cup of good tasting olive oil
• One to four or more cloves of garlic
• Four or five Kumato tomatoes
• Around eight or ten Kalamata olives
• Half a small red onion
• One cucumber
• A handful of parsley
• Around three ounces or more of crumbled feta
• Fresh cracked pepper
• Sea salt flakes

Get the pasta water going; add salt if you want.

Then get a big bowl, big enough to hold all the pasta and the rest of the stuff. I have three white mixing bowls that nest together, I use the largest one.

In a two cup Pyrex measuring cup, add the mayonnaise. Slowly add the vinegar while stirring, then slowly add the olive oil while stirring. Run as many cloves of garlic as you like through the garlic press ( I used four big ones) and add to the mixture. Add pepper to taste. Set aside.

Cut the tomatoes into a small dice. Put them in the bowl and sprinkle with sea salt flakes. Cut the olives into a small dice and add this to the mayonnaise mixture. Next cut the red onion into a small dice and add this to the mayonnaise mixture. Skin the cucumber and cut it in half; with a spoon, remove the seeds, then slice into strips and cut into a medium dice. Put these in the bowl around the tomatoes. Finely chop the parsley and add it to the bowl.

When your pasta is done, run it under cold water to cool it. Once it’s cooled, add it to the bowl and mix together. Then add the mayonnaise mixture and combine, and then add the feta and mix until just combined.

Put in your bowls and serve with? In my house it’s water with lemon.

Notes: For olive oil, I use Columela— it has a sort of spicy flavor, for sea salt flakes, I use Maldon, and for pepper, I use the Tellicherry variety. I use table salt for anything mixed in or cooked and save the sea salt flakes for finishing or roasting. Using these ingredients adds a little extra flavor to the dish and they’re getting much easier to find now.

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Hoisin Tsukune Bentosh

Futon

If my mother saw me eating this, she would scream. When I was a kid, none of my food could touch. Sometimes we would have Swanson’s TV dinners and one section would invade the other; she would have to cut all of the mixed stuff out. And even then, I wasn’t happy because the molecules had been in contact. This was one of the first bowls I did. It was originally a bento box and I wondered how it would taste together. I was super surprised that I liked the combination, especially the rice and the cabbage salad. This is another recipe that can work in a tiny kitchen: you only need one burner —or a rice cooker—and a toaster oven for the meatballs.

Meatball options: I have been using ground chicken breast. I seem to like the kind of mild flavor here, but you could really use any kind of ground meat— pork, turkey, even tofu. I’m also thinking about swapping out the scallions for chives or chopped spinach.

Rice options: I used basmati when I took the picture because I’m trying to use up a ridiculously enormous bag I bought at an Indian market. I usually make it with short grain sushi rice, but I would really be happy with any rice— even brown rice. I also think quinoa would be a good option.

Cabbage salad options: This can really be anything. I used savoy and red cabbage, but green cabbage or napa or any cabbage you want will work. I have been adding carrot and scallions, but you could really use a lot of different things: peppers, radish, what else? kale?

Sauce options: You can use store bought hoisin sauce to coat the meatballs if you have one you like. I used to have one I liked, but it disappeared, so now I make one that is a little more tomatoey than most traditional ones. You could also add peppers or Sriracha to the sauce to take heat level up.

Time note: The meatballs take me around 10-15 minutes to make and then 25-30 minutes in the oven. Everything else comes together while the meatballs cook— unless you use a rice cooker, in which case the rice can take around 50 minutes.

For this four person version you’ll need:
• Around a pound to a pound and a third of ground chicken breast
• Two cups short grain white sushi rice
• Half cup or so of Panko
• One large egg
• Tablespoon or so of grated ginger
• Eight scallions
• One to four or more garlic cloves, depending on taste
• Toasted sesame seeds
• Four cups finely shredded Napa cabbage
• One cup finely shredded red cabbage
• One large carrot grated
• Rice Vinegar (around a half cup, plus two tablespoons)
• Two tablespoons of toasted sesame oil
• Half a cup of ketchup or chili sauce
• Quarter cup of soy sauce
• Two tablespoons of brown sugar or honey
• Two tablespoons of rice vinegar
• Two tablespoons of orange juice (if you have it around)
• Around a tablespoon of canola oil if cooking rice in pot

Cooking equipment I used:
13×18 sheet pan for meatballs (or toaster oven pan)
Pot for rice—I used a 3 quart saucepan, or rice cooker

Get the oven going at 400º F and then start on the meatballs— unless you’re using a rice cooker, then get the rice going first. In a large bowl, beat the egg. Finely mince three scallions (white to light green parts) mince or run through the garlic press one to four cloves of garlic depending on taste (I used four) and mince or grate a tablespoon or so of ginger. Add all of this plus a half cup of Panko to the egg. Now I get my sheet pan out and put it next to the bowl. Add the ground chicken and mix everything together. I usually make the meatballs around two inches diameter, giving me around fourteen meatballs. They’ll spend about 30 minutes in the oven to get brown.

If you’re doing the rice on the stove top, get the pot going on high and mix one tablespoon of canola oil and two cups of rice in the pot stirring for a minute to coat the grains before adding three cups of water. Bring to a boil and then cook on low for 20 minutes.

Now get the cabbage salad ready. Finely shred (I used a little hand-held mandolin) around four cups of Savoy cabbage, put in a large bowl, and coat with around a half cup of rice vinegar. Finely shred around cup of red cabbage and add that, then grate a large carrot and add that, then finely slice three scallions (white and light green parts) and add that, tossing after each addition. Then finely slice the two remains scallions on a diagonal and set aside to garnish. Toss in two tablespoons of toasted sesame oil. Set the salad aside but keep tossing it every few minutes while you make the sauce, tasting once or twice to see if it needs something more. Sometimes I add a little sugar, sometimes I add some red pepper flakes.

I usually make the sauce in a two cup Pyrex measuring cup. Combine two tablespoons of brown sugar or honey with two tablespoons of rice vinegar to dissolve and then add around a half cup of ketchup or chili sauce, around a quarter cup soy sauce, and around two tablespoons of orange juice (I only add this if I have it around). Taste it to see if you want to add more soy sauce or whatever.

By now the meatballs should be done. In a bowl, toss the meatballs until coated with however much sauce you want. Then you can layer the rice, cabbage salad, meatballs and top with scallions and toasted sesame seeds. I try to pause for a moment her to appreciate how cool it looks before I dig in.

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved