Pineapple Salad, Steak Banh Mi, and Other Dinner Ideas

Hi everybody! I’ve been having a lovely time staying home with Henry- he is nice and very very fat. We sit outside in the mornings, and have been able to start going for walks now that the temperature has dropped out of the 100 degree + range.  During Henry’s naps (he’s still sleeping on/next to me for every nap :/ ), I spend my time reading food blogs and looking for dinner ideas on my magic phone. It occurred to me that, with minimal effort on my part, I could snap a picture of the dinners I make during the week, post a link to the recipe, and tell you my overall impression of them.  And then you might get some dinner ideas from me! So this post will cover what we ate for dinner this past week, and hopefully I’ll keep this up in future weeks. Only time will tell!

The salad you see at the top of this post is Pineapple, Greens, and Tofu with Roasted Chile Coconut Dressing.  It was outstanding! And vegan! Andy was predisposed to hate this salad, and thought it was fantastic. It’s also surprisingly filling. Instead of straight old boring tofu, I made tofu cheese, which sounds horrifying but is really great- this technique gives the tofu great texture and a subtle miso flavor- s’nice! One other note- the dressing recipe yields more than one-and-a-half cups of dressing. We used less than a tenth of it, I’d say.  The next time I make this, I’ll scale that way down.

My sister and I had a girl’s night and watched Bridesmaids! Naturally, we also ate a lot of cheese.  We had a collection of cheeses from the $3 or less cheese-bits drawer at Whole Foods, plus tabbouleh, raspberries, honeycrisp apples, almonds, and some of our friend Abbie‘s delicious peach/mango chutney!

With the temperature dipping into the 80s this week, I took that to be as good a sign as any to start making cool-weather foods. This was one of my favorites from last winter- Smothered Cabbage Risotto.  It’s not glamorous, but it’s completely wonderful. Also, if you like science-y food articles, this one offers a really easy risotto cooking technique.

This is a Sausage and Kale Tart, the winner of “Your Best Dirt Cheap Dinner”, a recent food52 contest.  Though I wouldn’t describe it as dirt cheap (sausage + wine + ricotta), it was tasty! I replaced the crust with my favorite partial whole-wheat one, and used two bunches of chard instead of kale.

Steak Banh Mi! Not at all authentic, but a pretty easy and totally delicious weeknight version. This was Andy’s favorite dinner this week, and I loved it too.  Especially with a baguette from Baguette et Chocolat, which sells the best baguettes and batards (and pain au chocolat!) in Austin, which you can buy from their shop or from the farmers’ market at the Burger Center.

Last but not least, Wednesday was my darling sister‘s birthday and she requested a strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting.  I didn’t want to resort to using a cake mix, so I was ecstatic when a reliably awesome food blogger posted this recipe.  It turned out beautifully, and was moist and lovely and not too sweet.  The cream cheese frosting was also perfect, with a little bit of strawberry jam mixed in.  The recipe calls for 10 oz of cake flour, or 2.5 cups- I weighed out 10 oz of flour on my new kitchen scale, and then measured it just for fun, and it yielded only 2 cups, so that’s crazy.

Ok, that’s all! Stay tuned next week for smoked sausage kolaches, creamy tomato soup, and roasted chicken with apple panzanella, among others!

Sicilian Tomato Salad

What makes this salad Sicilian, you might ask? Well reader, I haven’t the slightest. But it’s good! It’s real good. This is my attempt to copy my favorite dish (of the same name) from Mandola’s, a pretty good Italian place up in the Triangle. While we’re on the subject- I say this place is ‘pretty good’ because I’ve had both lovely dishes (this salad, spaghetti carbonara, cookies!) and lackluster ones (a very blah caprese panino, so-so marinated vegetables on an affettati plate).

Anyway, in my days before The Lumpy Dumpster was on the scene, my friend Erin and I used to eat here all the time for work lunches, and we would both always order this salad.  It just has everything going for it-sweet tomatoes, briny olives, rich olive oil-soaked bread, and salty cheese. Come on! That’s tasty.

To recreate this dish, I used a basket of beautiful cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market, added wafer-thin slices of red onion, oregano from my garden, and a handful of kalamata olives. For the vinaigrette, I decided to add a couple tablespoons of finely grated pecorino cheese (which I looked up, and actually is Sicilian!(it’s fun to learn because knowledge is power!)) to a simple red wine vinaigrette, and the results were really enchanting.  Every bit of the salad is flecked with a nutty aged cheese! The grilled bread in the bottom is a very basic bruschetta, which I learned how to make from David Rosengarten’s cookbook, Taste. That’s the fun thing about making a restaurant dish at home- at Mandola’s you only get that one delicious, tomato juice-soaked piece of bread at the bottom of the bowl.  At home, Andy and I each got three slices. And let me tell you friend, we ate the hell out of them.

Sicilian Tomato Salad

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced very thinly
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated aged pecorino
  • pinch of kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 thick slices country white bread
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • kosher salt and black pepper, for sprinkling
  • 2 ounces ricotta salata, grated
  1. Fire up your charcoal grill or preheat a gas one.
  2. Combine the cherry tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives, and oregano in a medium bowl.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, the grated pecorino, and a pinch of kosher salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Pour over the tomato mixture and toss to coat.
  4. Grill the slices of bread a minute or so on each side until handsomely charred. Rub the slices of bread with a smashed garlic clove, and drizzle both sides with olive oil. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  5. To assemble, place a slice of grilled bread in the bottom of two bowls. Spoon the tomato mixture on top of the bread slices and finish with the grated ricotta salata. Serve with extra bruschette!

Gazpacho

Guess who shelled out $10 at the ole HEB for a Wacky Wild Bakugan Battle Brawlers slip-n-slide?! This guy! Most people I ask feel that this is a fairly bad idea.  That adults were not meant to hurl their bodies at wet tarps on the ground.  But to them I say, Good Day!  I’m excited.  The glorious waterslide will be unfurled on Memorial Day.  Stay tuned for a full report.

Why do I share this with you now, in my post about gazpacho?  Because, dear reader, it is quintessentially summery! No dish speaks more of summer to me than my mom’s gazpacho.  I have tried so many varieties of this dish (Most recently: Martha Stewart’s. Most disgustingly: Opal Divine’s.  Egads it was terrible- like a jar of Pace salsa thickened with cornstarch and sweetened with Equal), and none come close to this one.  This is fresh and bright, and has the perfect consistency for me (half of the vegetables are pureed, half are left in a small dice).  And happily, we’ll soon be able to make a batch using Helen‘s tomatoes, which are coloring up nicely!

Ok, bye!

Gazpacho

  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 6 large ripe heirloom tomatoes, seeded and diced small
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced small
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced small
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced small
  • 2 cups organic tomato juice
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, meyer if available
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Rub the inside of a large serving bowl with the smashed garlic clove.
  2. Put each of the remaining ingredients in the bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Transfer half of the gazpacho mixture to a food processor and process until smooth.
  4. Pour the processed mixture back into the serving bowl and stir to combine with the unprocessed vegetables. You’re done!
  5. In my opinion, this gazpacho tastes best at room temperature, so if you must refrigerate it before serving take it out about 30 minutes before you intend to dig in. Enjoy with crusty bread 🙂