Sunday, June 26, 2011

Smokey Salmon Salad with a light buttermilk dressing

Smokey Salmon

Another very pleasant morning spent at Suffern farmers market. This time my whole family hung out in the weather which held promise. We've had some crazy thunder storms and very damaging flash flooding in Rockland County in the last couple of days. But yesterday morning the sun was trying to come out and indeed did show it's happy face for a while at the market.

Our most interesting purchase yesterday was a bottle of Jin Ja from "Auntie El's" farm stand. This ginger mixer or cordial as we would call it in Ireland, has cayenne and lemon, mint and green tea in it. It's totally delish on it's own although super refreshing with selzer. But of course I had designs on it for a weekend cocktail. Much fun testing it with some watermelon juice last night. More on that when cocktail recipe is perfected.

Anyway, on to the point of today's blog; grilled salmon. I've been on a marinade kick this week and I read a great article in the latest Bon Appetit Magazine, breaking down the components of a marinade. It appealed to me and the way I organize information in my mind; they suggest all marinades basically the following; An acid, salt, an allium (someone from the onion family), a touch of sweetness, some heat (e.g. chile) and some herbs.

Using this formula, I came up with the following marinade for my salmon. I've been on a smokey flavor kick in the last few days; I read a recipe using smoked trout, that really appealed to me. However, in the absence of some smoked trout, I was drawn to the smoked paprika in my spice cabinet. So I used that as my heat, lemon juice for the acid, salt, garlic, a little maple syrup and chopped chives. I also added some extra virgin olive oil, which just seemed to marry the whole lot together nicely.

This, coupled with some new potatoes, and a farmers market salad with buttermilk dressing made for a delicious summer dinner. The added bonus, my girls ate the salmon too; less so the salad but they'd gobbled some guacamole already so I felt that checked the veggie box.

Smokey Salmon

Smokey salmon and a light buttermilk dressing

4 salmon fillets
1/3-1/2 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 fat garlic clove minced
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 tablespoons maple syrup


  1. Mix together all the ingredients and pour over the salmon
  2. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
  3. Bring back up to room temperate before grilling
  4. Grill on medium high until cooked to your preference; approx 3 minutes a side for us.

Light Buttermilk Dressing

I've been working on a great tasting but light buttermilk salad dressing for weeks. I have set myself the goal of no store bought dressings in the house this summer. I really love this one and it's very healthy to boot. I haven't persuaded the kids to eat it yet, but am nowhere near giving up!


1/2 cup low fat buttermilk
1/2 cup low or non fat greek yogurt
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced to a paste
dash of tabasco
finely chopped herbs (I use chives, basil and parsley)


  1. Mix everything together and refridgerate for up to one week.
I served this with a salad of leaves and cucumbers alongside new potatoes.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Summer Appetizer

Zucchini and Ricotta Dip

We visited our "parallel life" friends on fathers day; they are also a Scottish/Northern Irish couple, living in the US. In fact, they are our surrogate American family; we often spend holidays together where most other US extended families are together. Our similar backgrounds are very comforting at times and Jayne and I both love our food. I've had many a good recipe and tip from her.

Anyway, they were hosting us for lunch, so I offered cookies and a dip. Quite honestly my cookies were not my best effort, but uncharacteristically I think I did a better job of the savory part of the offering.

We're in zucchini/ courgette season here. I know a lot of people get fed up of the bounty of zucchini over the summer but I never tire of them. In their simplest form they bring me right back to my summer holidays as a child on the campsites of France. They must have been cheaper and more available in France, as that's my first memory of them; cooked in butter on the portable camping stove.

So I decided zucchinis were to be featured in the dip along with the ricotta I seemed to have bought in a job lot last week. A quick search for inspiration and Martha Stewart came up with an idea. I added garlic and lemon a simple, creamy but refreshing dip resulted.

Add this one to your summer repertoire.

Zucchini and Ricotta Dip


2 medium zucchini
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely or minced
2 teaspoons of chopped thyme (I used lemon thyme)
3 lemons, zested
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Grate the zucchini using a box grater or food processor
  2. Heat the oil on medium high in a large pan and fry the zucchini and garlic
  3. Add the thyme after a few minutes and cook until the zucchini is soft and just beginning to brown in parts
  4. Take off the heat and cool
  5. When cool, add the ricotta, lemon zest and juice and season.
Serve with pita chips or any other substantial chip. It's delicious with a Margarita too...


Monday, June 20, 2011

A wee bit about Northern Ireland

The wee beach at Portstewart

My Mum reminded me the other day, that I haven't yet waxed lyrical on my trip home to Northern Ireland. I had planned on posting a few tidbits while across the pond but it just proved too difficult to do. I did, however, bank a few thoughts on my favorite food memories of the trip. And today, the day after Rory McIlroy made it 2 in a row for Northern Ireland winning the US Open, it seemed timely to get my thoughts out onto paper, so to speak.

Despite zero hours sleep the night of our flight over, even my tired eyes could not miss the fields full of sheep, lambs and cows on our drive to my parents home, from the airport. I was amazed I had forgotten the fields are alive in Ireland! All the fuss in the US about grass fed beef, and in Northern Ireland, there is pretty much nothing else available!

We hit lamb season perfectly, so I did make sure to order it at a great little restaurant called Molly's Yard in my old University haunting ground in Belfast. I was not disappointed. I then dragged my husband down Botanic Avenue for a nostalgic stroll, to find there are only 2 storefronts that remain unchanged in the intervening 20 years (yikes) since I lived there! Now, there are numerous interesting restaurants and shops and all in all everything is much fancier that when it was my student stomping ground.

The same is true of Belfast in general, it's revitalization and transformation on the last 15-20 years is gobsmacking! There is a fantastic vibe about the city, great stores and restaurants and culture.

The Griddle Bakery

Those of you who have read my Iris's Wheaten Bread post, may recall my enthusiasm for the  bakery in my childhood hometown of Portstewart; The Griddle. So we visited and devoured some amazing potato bread, scones (yes they were wheaten ones) and a few other fancies. The storefront has changed but the traditional breads and scones are as good as ever. ahhh

the scones at The Griddle

My mums fridge did not disappoint either; Coleraine Strong Cheddar; the creamiest yet strongest flavored cheddar I know of. Eggs; fresh from my Mum's friend's farm (including a feather!) and back bacon; lean and tasty.

Her tupperwares were suitably stuffed with home baking (not for long though!) Gypsy creams, chocolate broken biscuits and a tea bread style cake. Mmmmm.

Gypsy good

Ok, now that I've made your mouth water I'm leaving you hanging because I can't use these fantastic ingredients now I'm back. I will crank out the gypsy cream recipe as soon as I get the holiday overindulgence issue back under control again!

In the meantime, enjoy the view...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Scallions or leeks?

Marinated Flank Steak and Grilled Scallions

Scallions or leeks? I'm embarrassed to say but honestly I had to ask the farmer at the market; the scallions, I was informed, were so huge. So I bought some. I was sure Nigel Slater; my current obsession, would have some inspiration for what to with such a huge bunch of scallions (or green onions as you may call them). Alas, he doesn't have much to say on the topic so I took to the web. It turns out Emeril is the man tonight.

I had already decided that the flank steak in the fridge was the partner for these monsters so I took a lead from Emeril and marinated the steak all day in the aforementioned scallions plus garlic, lemons and parsley. Emeril suggested limes and cilantro but I didn't have any cilantro in my garden yet, so a tweak was called for. Then he suggested I grill the scallions whole, and I added a fresh picked salad from our garden.

A couple of weeks before we left for our trip home, we planted arugula (rocket), spinach beets, parsley and sugar snap peas in our tiny veg patch. Our garden is very shaded so there's really only one patch, right at the front of the house that is veg growing friendly. We have a lot of wildlife here; deer, groundhogs, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks. Most sensible vegetable gardeners would fence around their patch, but as the bed is right beside the front door, aesthetics have got the better of us and we have no fence.

So, every day I'm able to harvest something from it, I count myself lucky that the furry friends have left us something. We're doing pretty good on that front for now, but unfortunately during the time we were away, the rocket and spinach bolted. so we're just harvesting the last leaves from those plants as the only new growth we're getting now are flowers. We're very new to the veg growing game so any advice appreciated! Anyway, there was enough salad for the dinner and that fills me with ridiculous but simple pleasure!

The meal was delicious, and checked off my favorite box in terms of making dinner; I was able to make most of it ahead of time. Also, in all fairness to my husband, most of our grilling is done by him. So over the summertime, I cannot take full credit for the tastiness of the food served in this house (although I will claim most of credit as I'm the brains behind the operation and the kitchen grafter!)

A side note, the girls and I had the leftovers tonight, re-purposed in a fajita fashion with peppers and zuchinni and served with crusty bread. I offered them greek yogurt and peach salsa alongside and they gobbled!

Marinated flank Steak and Grilled Scallions


1 1/2 lb flank steak
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
zest from 2 lemons
1/4 cup lemon juice (from approx 2 lemons)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup scallions, chopped

one bunch scallions

  1. Place steak and all the other ingredients, except the bunch of scallions, in a ziplock bag. Seal and squish until steak is thoroughly coated.
  2. Put the bag in the fridge all day.
  3. 20 minutes before cooking, take out the meat to bring it up to room temp.
  4. Preheat the grill to medium high
  5. Take the steak out of the bag and toss the marinade
  6. Place the steak on the grill for about 5 minutes per side for medium rare.
  7. Take it off when cooked to your preference, cover it with foil to rest.
  8. Toss the scallions in a little olive oil (I cupped my hand and poured in 1 tablespoon, then smeared it all over the scallions)
  9. Place the scallion bunches directly on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes or until slightly charred and softened.
  10. Slice the steak thinly and serve on a bed of scallions with a salad


Saturday, June 11, 2011

It's Summer cocktail time!

Blackberry Cocktail

Tell me you don't want one of these! I love a cocktail and a summer cocktail is just the best. So when my cocktail making, other half returned from trader joes today with blackberries, I hatched a plan. True, it was a vague plan but it involved blackberries, ice and some booze. The rest I generally leave up to my husband.

So when we arrived home this evening, somewhat overwhelmed from our first US dance recital experience, a blackberry cocktail was all I could think of. Quickly delegating the task to my husband, I turned to my children whose dinner I'd given no thought whatsoever.

All was not lost, I did make it to the opening day of Suffern Farmers Market today. Despite some light rain (which I'm much less put off by, given my recent trip home!) we had a great time. The girls carried their shopping bags and umbrellas and spent all the cash in my purse. They colored at the kids stand and I listened to the live music and drank a cup of coffee. What pleased me most was that they asked to come back next week.

Anyway, tonight, out rolled a quick standby; whole wheat gnocchi. I paired that with my farmers market pesto, followed by some fresh strawberries, Greek yogurt and honey. So I salvaged my guilt at my selfish, 'me first' cocktail thought, by serving them some farmers market produce.

That done and a goodnight tv show on for the girls, we sampled our blackberry cocktail. Oh my! A perfectly refreshing, totally hit the spot, summer drink. Quite honestly, way too drinkable for a Mummy who needs to get up with a clear head tomorrow morning. But very very yummy.

Try it for yourselves

Blackberry Cocktail
(please excuse the slightly vague recipe, my husband was in full creating mode and not taking notes!)


20 blackberries
1 medium lemon, juiced
1 heaped teaspoon icing sugar
Decent glug vodka
Soda water


1. Blend the berries, lemon juice, icing sugar and vodka
2. Strain to remove the berry seeds
3. Place into 4 tall glasses
4. Add a generous amount of ice
5. Top up with soda water to your taste
6. Garnish with a slice of lemon


Thursday, June 9, 2011

The triple whammy dinner...


By that I mean, it's super tasty, healthy and kid friendly!

It's been 5 weeks of visiting our families in Scotland and Ireland and then adjusting back to home life again. Since returning home, the distraction of a 2 year old struggling with jet lag (and simply being 2!!), a Mummy fighting a throat infection and an unfinished construction project in our bathroom made me wonder if my blogging mojo was gone forever. Now all three obstacles are removed my mind cleared and I was inspired. Don't get me wrong, I've made some tasty dinners since we got back but nothing I felt moved enough to share...until tonight that is.

I've visited 2 farmers markets since I got home. To be honest, I couldn't wait to get there. We had a great trip with our families but it was certainly nice to know we were returning to warmer weather, flowers in our garden, bountiful farmers markets and al fresco eating.

Our local farmers Market is on a Saturday but as that was when I was fighting the throat lurgy, I was forced further afield. No hardship, I headed to Nyack on Thursday and Warwick on Sunday. I had never been to the Warwick one before and what a treat! I could have dropped a serious amount of money as there were so many enticing stalls of produce and artisan products. My favorites were the rustic parmesan pepper bread and and keilbasa sausage.
My girls vote was resoundingly won by a brownie they shared from Jean Claudes Artisan Bakery.

But I found myself thrown by the choice of produce; for the past 4 years we have been members of a farm co-op. I haven't had to decide which seasonal produce to select, it has been done for me. All I needed to do was decide what to do with the veg. I thought it would be nice to make my own choices so I opted out this year in favor of farmers markets, but the reality threw me. Probably not helped by having my small munchkins in tow, distracting me somewhat.

Anyway, that said, I looked at my meat choice in the freezer today and the ground turkey spoke to me. That, and the mini pita bread, reminded me of my "go to" turkey burger recipe. The recipe originates from Martha Stewart Everyday Food but is endlessly tweakable. It results in a burger that is tasty and moist; a tricky twosome with a turkey burger.

I call this a hit, as my 4 year old ate 2 mini burgers and asked for more and my 2 year old ate almost every bite of hers also.

Healthy Mini Turkey Burgers in Mini Pita Breads

laced with ketchup and mustard as requested by my 4 year old


1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
1/2 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
1 small bunch of chives finely chopped
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 garlic clove minced
salt and pepper

  1. preheat grill on high
  2. In a medium bowl mix all the ingredients with your clean hands.
  3. form into mini pita sized patties
  4. oil the grill
  5. place the patties on the grill and turn down to medium
  6. cook for approx 4-5  minutes each side or until cooked thoroughly.
  7. Warm the pita breads briefly on the grill
  8. Slit open the pitas and serve "like clams" with some grilled vegetables or a salad
Freezable note:
I often make a double batch, form the patties, freeze on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper then place in a freezer bag when frozen.