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20 September 2014

These Cucumbers Aren't Cool

Okay, so we were at Jasper White's Summer Shack last weekend and The Husband's dish came with a side of buttered cucumbers. He was quite excited by the idea of them, but the actual application left him disappointed. Too peppery, he said. No butter flavor, he said. Not terrible as such, he said, but not what he wanted.

What did he want? Oh, my dulcet darlings, I've been pestering him for days and he cannot even begin to articulate what he wanted from buttered cucumbers. Except more butter flavor and less pepper. Which is maybe not quite enough to go by.

Browsing my cookbooks for cooked cucumber recipes, I found a recipe for "Hannoversches Gurkengemüse" in my mother's 1972 copy of German Cooking: Savory German Dishes Prepared in the Traditional Way, a volume in the collection 'Round the World Cooking Library. As far as I know, my mother never owned any of the other volumes ... nor did she ever cook from this book and, truth be told, I hadn't cooked from it in the five years since she passed it along to me.

But now I have! And while "Hannoversches Gurkengemüse" is nothing like The Husband's lamented buttered cucumbers or whatever it is he wants buttered cucumbers to be, he ate them all and said, without hesitation, he would eat them again. I thought they were surprisingly good ... although, at points, my tongue was pretty sure I was eating yellow squash so ymmv.


I tweaked the original recipe -- it wanted sugar, which was a definite no, and I thought the instructions were a bit vague. I tried to make my dish resemble the book's photo as much as possible but, frankly, without much success. Mine's definitely creamier looking, for instance, and my tomatoes broke down much more.

Braised Cucumbers with Sour Cream and Tomatoes
Serves 2 generously

Ingredients
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 English cucumber
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 small red onion, chopped
¼ cup water
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried dill weed
[fresh would be better, of you have it]
½ cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Peel, seed, and chop cucumber into 1-inch pieces.

Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add cucumbers and onions. Cook, stirring constantly, until onion is tender. Add tomatoes, water, lemon juice, and dill. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until most of the tomato juices have evaporated.

Remove from heat, stir in sour cream, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

(German Cooking translates "Hannoversches Gurkengemüse" as "Braised Cucumbers," but it's more like "Hanovarian Cucumbers" which makes me harken back to the House of Hanover and "Her Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India." Also, Google is pretty adamant it's "Hannoversche)."
18 September 2014

Improv Challenge: Milk & Honey

Every time I sat down with my notepad to think up interesting combinations of milk and honey for September's Improv Challenge, I ended up with lists of cakes and puddings. Which would be fine ... if I hadn't recklessly decided to stop eating (as many) cakes and puddings. Every autumn and winter, I gain weight. Every spring and summer, I struggle to lose that gain. It's annoying. It's boring. I'm tired of it.


Long story short, I made a salad for September's Improv Challenge. And it is tangy-sweet delicious. And pretty healthy.

Salmon Salad with Creamy Honey Mustard Dressing
Serves 2

Ingredients
For the salmon:
2 6 oz portions skinned boneless salmon fillet
olive oil
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper

For the dressing:
¼ cup buttermilk
¼ cup sour cream
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard [Maille]
2 Tbsp honey
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried parsley flakes

For the salad:
spring mix with herbs [Nature's Promise Organic]
chopped, peeled, seeded cucumber
small slivers of red onion

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Place the salmon fillets in a baking dish. Brush the tops lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake 12-15 minutes, depending on how well done you like your salmon.

While the salmon bakes, dump all the dressing ingredients into a bowl and whiz with an immersion blender until smooth and uniformly blended. A regular blender or bowl-and-whisk combo will work, too, obviously. Makes about 6 ounces of dressing.

Toss lettuce blend with cucumber and onion. Divide between two plates.

Gently remove the salmon fillets the tray and place atop the salads. Drizzle with the honey mustard dressing. Serve.

You could also omit the olive oil and brush the salmon with some of the dressing before baking it. Of course, this would mean assembling the dressing first! Also, the recipe makes more dressing than you'll need for two salads, but it will keep in the fridge for a few days (can't exactly say how long since I tend to eat it all within 3 days).

The dressing is a bit runny, but I don't know how to fix that without changing how it tastes and it will thicken up a bit if you refrigerate it (well, the first batch thickened up ... but the second didn't).

I used linden honey in this recipe, but any mild-tasting honey would work just fine.




15 September 2014

Menu Plan Monday: 15 September

Once again, it's Menu Plan Monday! Woo-hoo! There will be food!

Monday
Slow cooker chicken thighs -- semi-thawed bone-in chicken thighs with balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, rosemary, capers, and garlic cooked for 10 hrs on low -- with carrots and rice.


Tuesday
Tilapia fillets (from the freezer) thawed, brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt-free Italian seasoning blend, and baked until flaky. Served with baby spinach sautéed with chopped garlic in olive oil and unsalted butter.


Wednesday
Baked marinated pork tenderloin served with sliced garden tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and white wine vinegar.

Thursday
Baked salmon patties served with chopped baby bok choy sautéed in olive oil with mushrooms and garlic.

Friday
Grilled marinated boneless chicken breasts served with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onion tossed in olive oil and white wine vinegar.

Saturday
Grilled marinated boneless pork chops with foil pack peppers, mushrooms, and onions.

Sunday
There must be a fair somewhere!
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