Monthly Archives: May 2010

Garden Mania

What a fabulous weekend! The weather was warm and sunny. We did our errands in the convertible, saw friends, ate well, and I was productive in the garden, though there is so much more to do.

I planted all the annuals and shrubs I bought last weekend. I still have to find homes for the plants I bought the Lexington Field & Garden Club’s annual plant sale. I promise to add some garden photos to a future post.

I put out most of my garden ornaments though I guess that, last year, the ones that hang on the house took an indoor vacation. We had the house painted last summer, and when I went to hang things up in their historical spots, I noticed that all the nails are gone. We went in search of stainless steel nails (no rust) with limited success. Ended up with galvanized, but nothing hung. The hanging becomes a weeknight project. However, the things that don’t get hung are in place: the gazing ball, the various metal insects, the concrete animals, you get the idea.

This year, Mama Robin is back too. She’s building a nest in her usual spot on the shady wisteria pergola. We’ve hosted fledgling families for many years. Fortunately for us, she picks a location that allows surreptitious viewing from the kitchen window.

To fuel all this garden activity, I made Taco Salad for lunch. Do you ever wonder what you can do with all the baby chips at the bottom of the bag of tortilla chips? You know, the ones that are too small to dip into salsa or guacamole? Some people might just throw them out. I save them for taco salad.

Many of the ingredients in my pantry and refrigerator lent themselves to Tex-Mex flavors. That means that taco salad doesn’t require much advanced planning. It’s really more of an idea than an exact recipe. You just make it with what’s on hand. If you don’t have something, leave it out. If you have something else that appeals to you, add it in. I usually make it with as a vegetarian salad with beans, but you can add or substitute chopped chicken or fish if you have it.

Taco Salad
Serves 2 – 4 (depending on appetites and accompaniments)

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped and washed
Whole leaves from a generous handful of cilantro (you can throw them into the salad spinner when you wash the lettuce)
Chopped tomatoes (half of a 1 pint container of grape tomatoes)
2 – 3 scallions, sliced
1 avocado, diced
2 cups cooked black, pinto, or kidney beans, drained and rinsed well, if canned
(listed in my personal order of preference)
2 oz Pepperjack (or sharp Cheddar) cheese, grated
¼ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
½ cup (or more) crushed tortilla chips
Salsa Dressing

Other ingredients that are nice additions: chopped chicken, leftover grilled salmon, corn kernels, chopped olives (I like Kalamata)

Combine all the ingredients in a large salad bowl. Toss with salsa dressing. You probably won’t use all the dressing. Use as much as you think it needs.

Because of the tortilla chips, this salad doesn’t keep well. The chips get too soggy.

Salsa Dressing:
¼ cup salsa (red, green, whatever you have and like)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup canola oil (not olive, it’s too strong for this)
Combine ingredients in a mini-blender


Dinner, (Pretty) Fast

Not to sound like a broken record, but I have another tip I learned from Dorie Greenspan’s blog last week. She wrote about a new website called No Take Out. Susan Herrmann Loomis is one of the contributors. She is another cookbook author that I’m a fan of. I have all of her cookbooks.

This site has a daily menu for a dinner that is relatively quick to put together. If you sign up for the email, every morning (for me, usually before I leave for work), you receive an email with the day’s menu. They break it down to ingredients you might need to pick up on the way home, ingredients you probably have in your pantry, and step by step instructions to pull the meal together once you get home.

The only thing I’m not wild about is the way they write the ingredients and instructions. Everything for all the components of the meal is jumbled into one list. The steps are in order, but I had a hard time visualizing how each part would come together.

On Monday, the menu looked appealing, so I decided to give it a try. The menu was a
Swiss Chard Frittata served with steamed asparagus & a big spring salad & crusty bread. I used this as a guide, but changed it around a little bit.

I had some baby arugula, so I mixed that with the Boston lettuce for the salad. I also prefer my vinaigrette with a 2:1 oil to vinegar ratio rather than 4:1, so I made the dressing my way.

One other thing I changed up was to cut the asparagus into 1 to 2-inch lengths before steaming. Then, instead of serving the steamed asparagus on the side, I added the asparagus to the frittata.

Not counting the stop for vegetables at Wilson Farm, dinner was on the table within 45 minutes of arriving home. The meal was delicious, and we had the leftovers for lunch the next day. I’ll definitely be trying another dinner from No Take Out the next time one piques my interest. Check it out and give it a try.

Here’s my version of the meal:

Swiss Chard and Asparagus Frittata
Adapted from No Take Out
Serves 4

1 bunch Swiss chard
½ lb asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1- to 2-inch lengths,
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
6 eggs, beaten
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp paprika
Salt & pepper to taste

To prepare the Swiss chard, cut the leaves away from the stems. Chop the leaves coarsely. Rinse well. Do not dry – let the water cling to leaves.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat in an 8-inch ovenproof skillet. Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the Swiss chard, and stir to combine with the garlic. Cover, and cook until the greens are very wilted, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to be sure the greens aren’t sticking to the pan.

While the greens are cooking (or before you start), steam the asparagus until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus to the wilted greens in the skillet. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to prevent the eggs from sticking.

Preheat the broiler. Whisk together the eggs, Parmesan cheese, paprika, and salt & pepper to taste. Pour the eggs into the skillet. Stir with a rubber or silicone spatula so the eggs get under the vegetables. Cook until the eggs are set on the bottom, about 5 to 7 minutes. The eggs will still be runny on the top. Place the skillet under the broiler until the top is lightly browned and the eggs are cooked on top.

Let the frittata cool for a few minutes. Then, cut into quarters and serve. Serve with salad and crusty bread.

Spring Salad
Adapted from No Take Out
Serves 4

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
½ head Boston lettuce, leaves, coarsely chopped
2 -3 cups baby arugula
1 shallot, peeled and sliced thin

To make the dressing, whisk vinegar and mustard together. Slowly whisk in the oil. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Wash the salad greens well, and spin them dry. Place the salad greens in a large salad bowl. Top with the sliced shallot. Add salad dressing and toss well.