Unexpected Treats

It’s funny what we do and don’t know about our coworkers. I once knew the ins and outs of a former colleague’s tumultuous relationship all because she spoke just a little too loudly while she was chatting on the phone with her girlfriends. Sure, it’s an interesting story, but please, leave your drama at home. This week, I learned something much more appealing about one of my current coworkers: she has a green thumb. A really green thumb! Check out the treasures she shared with me from her home garden:

Unexpected Treats by somethingwewhippedup.com

Unexpected Treats by somethingwewhippedup.com

I was so excited to get the beautiful tomatoes and fresh herbs (including rosemary, basil and parsley) home so I could whip something up. Brian was out for the evening, so I had the kitchen and the menu planning all to myself. Instead of going straight for the tomato-basil combination, I decided to make something that would highlight the fresh rosemary. I had a sheet of puff pasty in my freezer and some shallots and goat cheese hanging around, too. This is how they all came together:

Summer Tomato Pastry Puffs by somethingwewhippedup.com

Summer Tomato Pastry Puffs by somethingwewhippedup.com

I paired the pastry puffs with a small salad and a glass of crisp white wine. It was the perfect summer dinner to treat myself with. I recommend you do the same sometime soon.

Summer Tomato Pastry Puff

Makes 6 puffs

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 7 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • good quality olive oil
  • sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Divide the pastry dough into six equal rectangles (see picture below). Place on prepared baking sheet, brush with the egg and sprinkle rosemary on top. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and puffy. Remove from oven.

2. Meanwhile, place the garlic and butter in a medium pan and heat over medium until butter is melted. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until caramelized. Once browned, remove to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.

3. To assemble, top each puff with a bit of the goat cheese and caramelized shallots. Arrange tomatoes on top of each. Drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with sea salt.

SWWU Tip: Don’t care for rosemary? You can substitute any fresh herb when prepping the puff pasty pieces: thyme, flat-leaf parsley and, of course, basil, would all be delicious.

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Summer Side Show

I wish I could take credit for this idea, but Brian was making this refreshing summer salad long before I came into the picture. It regularly makes an appearance at family get-togethers and a slimmed-down version sometimes pops up as a weeknight dinner side. If you time it just right (usually sometime in July or August) you can get all of the ingredients while they’re at their peak for freshness and flavor.

Brian's Summer Salad by somethingwewhippedup.com

Brian’s Summer Salad by somethingwewhippedup.com

We recently whipped up a big batch and it was gone in less than 48 hours. Yes, it’s that good. Go ahead, make some and see for yourself.

Brian’s Summer Salad

Makes about 8 to 10 servings

  • 1 pound sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 5 ears corn, cooked and cooled
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, diced
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the sugar snap peas and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove from heat and plunge into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process, drain and set aside.

2. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and sugar. Whisk until sugar is dissolved and set aside.

3. Cut the corn from the cobs and place in a large bowl. Add the sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Top with dressing and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well to combine. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow flavors to develop.

SWWU Tip 1: We’ve also prepared this salad with string beans instead of sugar snap peas. Both are equally delicious. Just choose whichever one looks the freshest. 

SWWU Tip 2: This salad also makes a lovely topping for mixed greens. 

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Relishing the Radish

It wasn’t until last year that we started to appreciate radishes. Sure, they’re pretty, but we didn’t have too much experience with them beyond the kitschy carved flower garnishes that were popular platter adornments in the 80’s. Our love affair started out simply, with a quick appetizer, and now we’re using the peppery vegetable in everything from side dishes to main entrées. We’re hooked! Here are three delicious ways we’ve recently featured this surprisingly versatile veggie:

Radish Bites by somethingwewhippedup.com

Radish Bites by somethingwewhippedup.com

Radish Bites

This appetizer couldn’t be easier to put together (or a better value), especially when last-minute guests show up. Simply cut a baguette into thin pieces, top each with a thin coat of good-quality, room-temperature butter (this is where you should splurge a bit), then sprinkle with sea salt. Top each with 1 to 3 pieces of radish (cut very thin) and serve.

Roasted Radishes by somethingwewhippedup.com

Roasted Radishes by somethingwewhippedup.com

Roasted Radishes

We served this slightly sweet side dish at our Easter dinner this year. It’s a quick one that you can easily make while multitasking on other projects. Just slice radishes down the middle and add olive oil, salt and pepper; toss to coat. Roast in a 375°F oven for 15 minutes, turn and cook 15 minutes more or until tender. Remove from the oven and drizzle with freshly squeezed lemon juice and toss with roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm.

Caramelized Shallot, Radish and Arugula Pizza by somethingwewhippedup.com

Caramelized Shallot, Radish and Arugula Pizza by somethingwewhippedup.com

Caramelized Shallot, Radish and Arugula Pizza

We whipped up this last dish after a long day of farm projects. We got a little help from some time-saving store-bought dough, but feel free to make your own. Roll out prepared dough onto a pan and brush with olive oil. Cook in a 475°F oven for 6 minutes or until lightly browned (pop any bubbles that form with a fork). Remove from oven and top with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, thin radish slices and caramelized shallots. Cook for 4  to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted, then top with arugula and a few thin slices of Manchego cheese. Heat for 1 to 2 minutes more or until the arugula has wilted and the cheese has melted. Let sit for 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

SWWU Tip 1: Flavor does matter with this veg. We’ve noticed that grocery-store finds tend to be a bit bitter and less sweet than the ones available at the farmers’ market. Buy radishes with the greens still on for the best flavor. And don’t toss them out! You can add a few to a salad or cook them down like you would spinach greens.

SWWU Tip 2: You’re likely to see a few different colors and varieties of radishes at your farmers’ market. Try them all out and see which one suits your own tastes. We’re especially liking the mild flavor of the French breakfast variety these days.

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Cutting the Mustard

I have a confession: I’m not a fan of fancy homemade ketchup. My heart always sinks a little when I’m out to dinner and the server puts down a burger and fries and presents me with a ramekin of their chef’s own special creation. Perhaps it’s years of conditioning, but nothing beats the classic Heinz 57. Some things are just better left alone. But for everything that homemade ketchup is not, a fresh batch of DIY mustard certainly is a tasty treat. Brian and I recently made some to go along with a ham dish we were serving some friends. The spicy spread was a big hit and we have been dipping into it frequently.

Whole-Grain Stout Mustard by somethingwewhippedup.com

Whole-Grain Stout Mustard by somethingwewhippedup.com

Here’s how we did it:

Whole-Grain Stout Mustard

(Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, published on August 10, 2011)

Makes a little over 1 cup

  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/4 cup brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dark beer (such as Shipyard Blue Fin Stout)
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, plus more as needed

1. Combine the yellow and brown mustard seeds in a small glass bowl. Top with the vinegar and beer, then cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours.

2. Transfer soaked seeds and all their liquid to a food processor, add the brown sugar (the more sugar you add the sweeter it will be) and pulse to desired consistency. Transfer to a glass container with a lid and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours, then transfer to the fridge for storage. The spread should last for several weeks.

SWWU Tip 1: Unfortunately, this dish is not something you can test too much along the way. It takes some time for the flavors to ripen and develop, but it’s well worth the wait. 

SWWU Tip 2: Craving a sweeter mustard? Try adding 1/4 cup honey along with the brown sugar before you blend everything together.

SWWU Tip 3: Play around with the amount of brown and yellow seeds. Yellow ones are a bit more mild, while the brown ones provide a pungent bite. Changing up the ratio of these ingredients will result in a completely different flavor profile. Mix it up and have fun!

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Quick and Delish: Vegetarian Dinner

Brian and I both love to cook. The only thing that gets in our way is time. Our demanding jobs keep us at the office past the dinner hour on some nights, so quick meals that don’t make us sacrifice on taste and healthfulness are a must. The first person to arrive home gets the dish started and the other is usually able to lend a hand at least midway through. If not, dish duty it is! Last week we whipped up this tasty meal in no time (we’re talking 20 minutes or less) with ingredients we happened to have on hand. It’s definitely going to be a new staple in our repertoire. I bet you’ll enjoy it just as much!

Maple-Tahini Noodles with Vegetables by somethingwewhippedup.com

Maple-Tahini Noodles with Vegetables by somethingwewhippedup.com

Maple-Tahini Noodles with Vegetables

Makes 2 servings

  • 4 ounces udon noodles (2 sleeves)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1/3 cup sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch long pieces
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then cook the udon noodles according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, tahini, soy sauce and mayonnaise until well combined. Set aside.
  3. Add the sesame oil to a large pan and heat over medium. Add the broccoli and cook stirring occasionally for 3 to 5 minutes or until just tender. Mix in the snap peas and cook 1 to 2 minutes more until heated through. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the maple-tahini sauce and toss to coat. Add more sauce if desired.
  4. Strain the noodles and toss with 2 tablespoons of the maple-tahini sauce. Divide evenly between two plates and top with vegetable mixture. Additional sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

SWWU Tip 1: The maple-tahini sauce can also be used to make a tasty chicken salad. Just make the sauce as stated above and combine with cooked shredded chicken.

SWWU Tip 2: Make this dish gluten-free by swapping in gluten-free soy sauce and replacing the udon with soba noodles. Be sure to check the package to make sure you’re using 100 percent buckwheat noodles; some are made with a bit of wheat flour.