Thanksgiving veg 2010

My family always argues over a Thanksgiving vegetable dish.  My dad doesn’t like the classic green bean casserole made with Cream of Mushroom Soup and crispy fried onion ring crumbles.  He can’t get past the condensed soup flavor.  When I asked him last year what vegetable I should make instead, he suggested lima beans.  We made green bean casserole anyway.

One year my Mom and I tried making this dish from scratch.  We figured, fresh green beans lightly steamed, thick chunks of mushrooms, a silky white sauce, and what could be better?  That was the year I determined that part of what I like so much about the classic green bean casserole is… the taste of processed condensed soup.  I can’t help it.  I love the savory, umami saltiness of it, and the homemade substitute was just not an acceptable replacement for me.

One year at Thanksgiving with some family friends, they brought a big salad to supplement our carbohydrate-rich, overloaded plates.  The bowl was passed around the table.  No one took any salad except L, who had made it in the first place.  When she protested, her husband uttered the truest words anyone has ever spoken: “Thanksgiving is not about lettuce.”  So salad, too, failed the test.

Now that October is over, the challenge again rears its head: which vegetables can I dress up to complement the comforting classics we always serve?  While N. was gone at a conference recently, I fiddled around with some trial dishes and voila, Thanksgiving Veg 2010 was born: creamed spinach and artichoke bake.  It’s the comfort and familiarity of creamed spinach, with the flavors and reminiscence of spinach artichoke dip.  Perfection, no?

Here’s what you need:

4 TB butter

4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

1 – 2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, chopped fine

4 TB flour

Generous grating of fresh nutmeg

2 cups milk or cream

4 oz. cream cheese

At least 10 oz. spinach (that’s the amount in one frozen box, but I used fresh because I prefer it)

16 oz. can of artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered

Salt and pepper to taste

Topping:

2 TB butter

½ cup or more of Panko bread crumbs

2-3 TB parmesan cheese, grated

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  When it is nearly all melted, add the garlic and sauté for just a minute or two, until the aroma is enticing.  Add the leeks and sauté until they are softened.  Leeks are a new love of mine.  They are the least aggressively flavored members of the onion family, and I think they taste like a cross between a sweet onion and garlic.  They don’t have that astringency onions sometimes do, and I think they are like a stalk of springtime.  I’ve started putting them in frittatas, and when I had one left over on the night I made this little concoction, it seemed like the perfect thing to add in.

When the leeks are tender but not browned, add the flour and nutmeg.  Add some pepper too, if you like.  Stir in until well incorporated with no huge floury lumps, and cook for a minute or two until the flour is pale golden in color.  Then add the milk, slowly, whisking the entire time.  I added it in installments of probably half a cup each, stirring until the milk was fully integrated into the flour mixture.  I found this helped avoid lumps, making a smoother base overall.  Add the cream cheese and mix in.  Whisking fairly constantly, let the milk come to a boil.  It will thicken as it heats.

When the milk is quite thick, add the spinach and artichoke hearts.  The spinach will wilt quickly, and as soon as it is looking soft, kill the heat.  Since this is going to bake for a while, you don’t want to overcook the spinach because it will lose its beautiful color and begin to look muddy.

Salt and pepper to taste.  You could stop here and eat this whole delectable mess right out of the skillet, but I wasn’t ready to quit yet.  After all, it takes my dad about half an hour to carve a turkey, so the oven is (mostly) free.  Why not take advantage of that?

With your oven at a preheated 350F, carefully dump the spinach and artichoke mixture into a baking dish (I used a glass nine-inch pie pan).  Set it aside for a moment while you make the topping.

Mix together the Panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese with the softened butter.  Drop the buttery crumbs in little clumps all over the top of the spinach and artichoke mixture.  If you don’t get the vegetables completely covered, that’s okay.  In fact, it’s good, because it means any exposed edges of leeks or artichokes will get a little toasty and golden.  More texture = more exciting to eat!

Bake the whole thing for about half an hour at 350F, or until the crumbs on top are browned and the sauce is bubbling at the edges.  Remove and consume.

What I liked about this dish was… well, innumerable.  But the basics: I love creamed spinach, and this was a more extravagant, luxurious take on it.  I also love spinach dip, and this reminded me of it, but without the excessive mayonnaise, the MSG-laced spice mixture, or the pounds of parmesan that go into a hot artichoke version.  The bread crumbs on top were a welcome textural element, especially for a Thanksgiving table, where stuffing, mashed potato, and even the tender juicy turkey, all lack an essential crunchiness.  Not that you would want your mashed potatoes to be crunchy, but it is a sensation for your mouth often missing from this meal.

I told my mom about this dish when I spoke to her on the phone this weekend, and before I could finish explaining what it was, she had already confirmed that this, indeed, would be our Thanksgiving vegetal offering.  Challenge met, and challenge exceeded!  Now I just have to wait for the end of November…

Three-Bite Tableau

I like small sized food. I like its charming appearance, its potential for fanciness, and, not least, its ability to fool otherwise intelligent people ((i.e. yours truly) into thinking they can eat extra, because it’s so petite it must be calorically harmless as well.

To qualify, I think this sort of food must be consumable in three bites or less. Ideally this should be possible without a fork, but of course (especially with desserts) there are exceptions to this ideal. At any rate, three-bite foods should be attractive to the eye, enticing to the nose, and should carry far more flavor than seems possible for their small size.

Here are two I’ve constructed recently: one that turned out to be a snack superstar, and one that carries as yet underrealized potential for true greatness

Artichoke Spinach dip cups

Two of our colleagues and dear friends got married in Long Island recently. As N. and I were both teaching a summer class (and subsisting on graduate student salaries), we were unable to jet-set across the country to attend. But to our delight, G. (the bride) informed us that her father would make a toast to friends and family not physically present. We gathered with some friends, some wine, and some snacks, and at 4:10 pm PST we raised our glasses to G. and T. I brought these little dip cups, bubbling and creamy in brown crisp phyllo shells. This is an adaptation of a recipe for hot artichoke dip that I usually make in a pie plate, but the elegance we were attempting to emulate and the stark truth of half a box of phyllo sheets in my refrigerator made me change my plan. Note that these ingredient amounts are almost all approximations.

In a medium bowl, I mixed:

4-6 oz. cream cheese

½ cup mayonnaise

5 oz. spinach, steamed or boiled, drained, and roughly chopped

1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts in water, drained and roughly chopped

2 TB parmesan cheese, divided

black pepper to taste

After a serious taste test and careful alterations, I set the dip aside and considered my phyllo. I had about 10 sheets, which I swept with butter and layered in the usual way, before cutting into twelve even stacks (3×4). I pressed each stack carefully into a mini muffin tin, letting the edges point out every which way in hopes of creating crisp, crunchy tips, and then loaded the buttery vessels with spoonfuls of dip. I probably used about 2 TB per cup, topped each with a generous extra grating of parmesan cheese, then stowed them in a 400F oven for 20 minutes. Depending on your oven, they are ready when the edges of the phyllo cups are dark golden and fragile, the parmesan cheese atop the dip is beginning to color, and the dip itself is slightly bubbling. Or just when the phyllo is brown, if you are impatient.

We were impatient. How could we not be, when the smell of cooking cheese was filling the kitchen, and the promise of that perfect balance of crispy and creamy whispered how wonderfully it would compliment our champagne?

Crab cakes

Now visiting family in California for a few weeks before the term begins again, my mom and I have been bonding the way I like best: in the kitchen. Three days ago, we decided to make crab cakes and salmon cakes to go with a half dozen luscious ears of sweet corn.

I like crab cakes, but like pesto, I am still searching for the right ratios in my collection of ingredients. This version, while tasty, is no exception, particularly because while we did look up a recipe, we ended up barely consulting it and, ultimately, not following it at all.

Working delicately in a medium bowl, so as not to break up the crab too much, we mixed:

3 6 oz. cans of crab meat (1 lump, 2 regular if you’re skimpy like us, all lump if you’re really looking to impress)

1-2 TB each, or to taste, finely chopped green onions, dill, and flat-leaf parsley

2 TB lemon juice

2 tsp lemon zest

scant 1 cup or less fresh bread crumbs

1 egg, lightly beaten

salt and black pepper, to taste

I recommend adding the egg last, so you can taste and test flavor balances and add extra herbs or lemon before dousing the mixture in raw egg. I also recommend adding the bread crumbs a little at a time, because depending on how you like your crab cakes, a full cup might be too much. Crab has such a sweet delicate flavor that too much bread or too many herbs will hide it completely.

Again, with extreme care, we patted the mixture into five palm-sized cakes, trying to help it hold together without overworking it. We plopped our fragile quintet onto a plate and refrigerated them for about 45 minutes to let the flavors meld and the cakes mesh together more firmly.

While they were chilling, I mixed up a little dipping sauce in the food processor, dropping in:

½ cup mayonnaise

2-3 generous TB strong horseradish

5-6 basil leaves

3 TB flat-leaf parsely

3 garlic cloves

generous squeeze of lemon juice, to taste

When the cakes had thoroughly chilled and our stomachs were rumbling with anticipation, we heated just enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet and carefully patted the cakes with dry bread crumbs, sliding each into the heated oil as soon as it had received its crisp coat. We fried them for 4-5 minutes a side, or until the bread crumb coating had become crunchy and golden. They threatened to collapse into pieces, and two cracked severely down the middle, but with careful coaxing and dextrous spatula work, we managed to keep them together fairly well.

They tasted good. They were light and herbaceous and not eggy at all, but they didn’t scream “crab.” Oh they suggested seafood, but I think we overdid the quantity of bread crumbs, and playing it cheap by adding leg and claw meat might have been a miscalculation. Topped with the horseradish mayonnaise, however, they were delightful. It was creamy and smooth, but the spice hit the back of your tongue just as you swallowed, and lingered for a moment or three.

Three moments of spice, three piles of herbs, three cans of crab. What does it really matter, then, that it took me five bites to finish my cake? At its core, this was a three-bite item. Matching delicate flavor with delicate table manners was my downfall. I should have, as my tongue urged, anxiously cut bigger pieces, urgently indulged, finished the whole little patty in only three tasty bites. Everyone else did.

The Week of Magical Eating: Day One

With my exam over, and firm commands from my adviser to give myself a break for a week or two (she said a month, but she and I are both too dedicated and both such workhorses that I doubt that will happen), I can concentrate on the important things: food, and husband.  Fortunately, since he needs to be fed, these important things can work in tandem.  So I send my apologies to Joan Didion, and promise to report to you a Week of Magical Eating.  Some dishes will be fancy, fresh, and well prepared.  Some will probably be valiant attempts to use up leftovers.  Either way, I will try to check in with my results.

Day one, yesterday, also happened to be Valentine’s Day.  Neither N. nor I particularly support this Hallmark holiday, likely as a result of residual bitterness before meeting one another and deciding that no one but each other should ever be subjected to either of us again.  However, thanks to my rapidly ebbing stress and rising ability to enjoy normal activities like shopping and cooking without feeling guilt about not studying, I was able to secure ingredients for dinner on the special side.  Not for VDay, but for each other.

As a congratulatory gesture for passing my exam, one of my officemates gave me the ingredients for Kir Royale: champagne and crème de cassis.  This blackcurrant liquor smells sweet with the promise of a bite.  Mixed with champagne, it was much less sweet than I had imagined; my taste buds were prepared for something dessert-like, but the mix was delicious and fresh, and the color was appetizing too.

With our aperitifs poured, and an acorn squash halved, liberally basted with butter, honey, mustard, and shoved unceremoniously into the oven, I embarked on Jaime Oliver’s spinach and goat cheese risotto.  I’ve made this dish before, and was craving its fresh green notes and rich tanginess.  To make things extra special, and since between the two of us on a Sunday night we deemed it unwise to drink an entire bottle-o’-bubbly, I used champagne instead of white wine to deglaze my risotto pan after lightly toasting the rice and onions.  In the end result I couldn’t taste a difference, but I like to think the champagne contributed to the light tang of the final dish.

Piled high on a plate, it was creamy, it was luscious, with pockets of goat cheese slowly melting in amidst the kernels of rice that never lose their bite completely.  The acorn squash as a vegetable side, though it has a completely different flavor profile, works nicely with this risotto, I think, in part because the color contrast is so striking.  After an hour in the oven, the rind gets thin, flexible and yet crackling at the same time, and if you don’t mind burning the tips of your fingers, you can hold the caramelized edges with one hand while you scrape the flesh out with a spoon held in the other.

Nothing bitter here.  Honey, crème de cassis, goat cheese, sweetness layered on sweetness, but not enough to be cloying.  Exactly, perhaps, how Valentine’s Day ought to be.

Homage to Stratigraphy: Lasagna #2

After both taking and making suggestions for improvement about the lasagna I made here, I decided to take advantage of the last few weeks of outdoor Farmers’ Markets and take a second stab.  I believe I have now created the ultimate: Wild Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna with Arugula Pesto and Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce.  Since I have had several requests, I am willing to share the recipe with y’all.  Here goes, and keep in mind that most of my measurements are approximations.

Preheat oven to 350F and make sure you have a 9×9 square glass baking dish.

Ingredients:
1/2 lb (?) mixed wild mushrooms (I used reconstituted dried shiitakes and golden chanterelles from the Saturday Market)
1-2 bags baby spinach leaves
2 bunches arugula
(your own mix for pesto, or my cheat: 3-4 TB premade pesto, to blend with arugula)
Olive oil
4 TB butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk or cream (or a mixture)
Splash of white wine (if desired)
salt and pepper
2-4 TB sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 16oz. container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan
no boil lasagna noodles

Procedure:
1. Roughly chop the mushrooms and fry them in a medium saucepan in olive oil or butter to your liking.  Don’t rush them.  Keep them on about medium heat and wait, patiently or impatiently, until they have sucked up all the butter, expelled their own liquids, and then regained those liquids to become browned but still tender.
2. Add the spinach and cook just until it has wilted but still retains its bright green color, then set the mushroom and spinach mixture aside.
3. Meanwhile, whir together arugula, premade pesto, and a little extra olive oil in a blender or food processor (or just make your own arugula pesto).
4. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant. Add flour and combine well to make a roux. When flour is well incorporated and has cooked for a minute or two, add milk or cream slowly, stirring or whisking well until clumps are incorporated. Season with salt, pepper and white wine to taste.  A little grating of fresh nutmeg might also not be amiss.  Add sundried tomatoes and stir gently until thickened to your liking.
5. Combine all three cheeses
6. Assembly: spread a layer of sauce in the bottom of your pan and add a layer of no-boil lasagna noodles. Then, add layers in your preferred order. I stacked cheese, arugula pesto, mushroom and spinach mixture, then sauce in that order before adding another layer of noodles and repeating the process. Repeat until you run out of filling ingredients (should be about half a box of noodles, if you are using Barilla and a square pan). After adding the final layer of pasta, top with any remaining sauce, cheese, and/or pesto, and then add a generous layer of grated Parmesan. (If you don’t have sauce to add to the top, the final layer of noodles will not soften as nicely as they should.  I discovered this as I made my first cut.)
7. Bake for 45 minutes or until the cheese on top is browned and looks a little crunchy, and the fillings are bubbling up on the sides. If possible, wait for five minutes before cutting in, because the slices will hold together better this way.

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Enjoy.  Gorge.  Disintegrate.  Burn your mouth on the cheese and decide you don’t care, eat chilled slices you cut out of hand straight from the fridge at midnight, or have your neighbors over and just decimate the whole thing in one sitting, for I declare this the ultimate spinach and mushroom lasagna.

My First Lasagna

Since I’ve been in California for roughly the past two weeks, I haven’t shared any foodie experiments or revelations.  Yes, I cooked and ate delicious food on my trip, and yes, I brought my camera with me.  However, I neglected to bring the correct cable to plug the camera into a computer and upload the photos.  I’m home now, and certainly have things to share, but for the moment I’m much more excited about tonight’s dinner, which is currently just starting to emit cheesy delicious aromas from the oven.

I have never made lasagna before.  I’ve heard a lot of complaints about how it’s labor intensive and time consuming, and since two of the major ingredients are ground beef and tomato sauce, I’ve steered clear.  I like ground beef in hamburgers, and occasionally in burritos or meatloaf, but I’d prefer that it stay away from my pasta.  As for the tomato sauce, since I’ve entered adulthood cooked tomatoes in almost any form upset my stomach.  Therefore I have found a large number of alternative pizza and pasta toppings so I can still enjoy Italian cuisine.  But lasagna… that was always a roadblock that I wasn’t overly inspired to circumvent.

Then N. and I went to Ashland for our two year wedding anniversary.  In addition to the delicious food that we ordered from Pasta Piatti on Main Street (a must-visit, in my opinion), I salivated over most of the options on the menu, including, to my surprise, their take on the perennial classic: lasagna.  Here’s their description, and tell me this doesn’t sound amazingly delicious: roasted wild mushrooms, layered pasta, spinach, ricotta, parmesan, arugula pesto, white sauce.  I mean, I guess if you’re not a mushroom fan then it wouldn’t sound amazingly delicious, but I suspect substitutions could be made.  I scribbled down this description on the back of a receipt that I’d jammed in my wallet, and it traveled through the state (and into the next!) with me for the next few weeks.  Then we saw a dip into what might be the beginning of the fall season.  The temperature dropped.  The rain returned for the morning.  It was conveniently Saturday so that I could go and pick up a few things from the Saturday Market.  It was cool enough to turn on the oven, and so I decided to brave the lasagna.

It was a little bit time consuming, if only because there were multiple steps, but I wouldn’t call it particularly labor intensive.  Here’s what I did:

  • Reconstituted a package of shiitake mushrooms in a mixture of warm water and white wine for half an hour (tip: never buy dried shiitakes in the produce section; they cost about twice as much for about half as many mushrooms as they do in the Asian foods aisle!)
  • Chopped and blanched a bunch of Italian kale and about ½ lb. of baby spinach, drained and cooled in a colander.
  • Sliced and fried a generous handful of crimini mushrooms in butter, adding some pepper and the drained, squeezed, sliced shiitakes when the criminis were about half done.  When both kinds were done to my liking, I deglazed the pan with some white wine (I had about a ¼ of a bottle I was trying to finally evict from my refrigerator) and then continued to cook the mushrooms just until the liquid had evaporated.  Then I set them aside in a bowl to cool.
  • While the mushrooms were cooking, I made the arugula pesto.  I must confess, I love the idea but hate the practice of making my own pesto.  I can never seem to get the ratios right.  But for this dish, I had what I must call an ingenious fix.  I had a container of store-bought pesto in the fridge, and I combined four or five TB. of this with probably 2 cups of arugula in my food processor and pulsed them together.  Flawless, and so much easier than making it from scratch.
  • Using the same pan as I cooked the mushrooms in (I’m big on reducing the number of dishes needed for a meal), I made a roux with about 3 TB. each of butter and flour, then added between 1 and 2 cups of milk to create a white sauce.  When it was thickened, I added some pepper, freshly grated nutmeg, and the last few tablespoons of that pesky bottle of wine.
  • Then it was time to assemble.  Since I’ve never made this before, I actually found deciding which order to add ingredients to be the most challenging part.  I put down some sauce first, then a layer of no-boil pasta, then a mixture of ricotta cheese and arugula pesto, topped by the veggies and sauce.  Then I repeated, confining myself to three layers of pasta so our dinner would be heavy on the vegetables.  On the top layer of pasta, I spread the last little bit of sauce, a little bit more ricotta and pesto, and then a generous layer of grated parmesan cheese.  When I stuck it in the oven, it looked like this*:

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When it came out 45 minutes later, it looked like this:

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The cheese was browned and crusty, the sauce was bubbling up around the corners, and miraculously, my worst fears did not come to fruition, as the no-boil lasagna noodles were soft and chewy.  I was secretly afraid they would be crunchy, because I’m not familiar enough with the product to know how they work.  Here’s my review: the mixture of both greens and mushrooms was great, and made the dish taste satisfyingly healthy (well, as healthy as cheese-laden pasta gets, I suppose).  The arugula pesto added a satisfying bitterness, which I’m sure was helped along by the kale.  And of course, it was creamy and cheesy and actually came out of the baking dish in servable pieces, rather than collapsing all over itself in messy piles.  Actually, if I may toot my own horn for a moment, the whole thing was rather beautiful.  Somehow, despite not really knowing what I was doing, I got the proportions of fillings to cheese to pasta to sauce pretty much right.  A nice crisp white wine would go nicely with a large square of lasagna, which is convenient as you could simply drink the wine you were also soaking and deglazing the mushrooms with.

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All in all, it was a good, tasty dinner, but it’s definitely a work in progress.  N. and I both decided that, lacking the usual piquant, acidic bite of the tomatoes in a red sauce, the dish was actually missing something.  The flavors of the cheese, the pesto, and vegetables were good, but they were a little muddy without that sweet tangy top note of tomato.  For next time, I will be making a few additions.  To attempt to compensate for the missing acidity of the tomatoes, I’ll add extra lemon juice to the pesto mixture.  We both agreed that maybe adding a sprinkle of parmesan cheese along with the ricotta in each layer would add a nice touch; I don’t use much salt when I cook, and sometimes the deep greens like spinach and kale need some to enhance their flavors.  Extra parmesan mingling with the vegetables while they bake might accomplish this without actually having to add salt.  I might also add some of my beloved Penzey’s Black and Red pepper blend the next time to the white sauce, just to spice it up a little bit.  It was creamy and thick and good, but really, milk, butter and flour cooked together have only so much flavor on their own.

Other additions, or accompaniments, that have occurred to me since dinner include mixing finely chopped sundried tomatoes into either the white sauce or the mushrooms.  They would add that intense tomato flavor without the heavy sauce that upsets my stomach.  Thinly sliced fresh tomatoes in between each layer, or maybe only on the top layer underneath the parmesan cheese, might accomplish the same thing.  Finally, an old friend from high school T. just told me about a sauce she makes of roasted tomatoes and red peppers that might do the trick, and I wonder whether a plain old roasted red pepper sauce would have the same zippy tang as tomatoes?  Certainly it would be pretty, even if it was drizzled over the top or added plate-side.  Lasagna #1: down.  Lasagna #2 awaits…

* Nota bene: as a geologist’s daughter, I am all but obligated to understand and appreciate cross-sections as a method of conveying information.  Conveniently enough, this seems like a perfect strategy for photographing lasagna!

Cheese, please!

Once upon a time ago, N.’s parents bought him a quesadilla maker.  I’m not sure what this was in response to, but my first reaction might have been a giggle.  I can make a quesadilla, you just fold a tortilla in a frying pan!  I resisted the quesadilla maker.  I begrudged it the space it took up in our moving boxes when we moved in together.  I glowered at its awkward shape in our cabinets.

Since those early days, the quesadilla maker and I have become good friends.  I still use a skillet for plain cheese quesadillas, but when I want to go all out and add other vegetables, the dual surface cooking mechanism is helpful in preventing flip-related spills and leaks.  In fact, we’re down to a fairly standard recipe that one of us employs once every month or two.

Tonight, inspired by the need to use up some vegetables, I dug out the trusty quesadilla maker and layered in the standards plus a few additions.  I usually fry some sliced mushrooms and defrosted corn in olive oil until the mushrooms are soft and the corn has just started to caramelize against the bottom of the pan.  Then I layer Monterey jack cheese, baby spinach, the mushroom and corn mixture, and a little bit more cheese onto the bottom tortilla before slapping on the top.  Today, since I’ve been reading everywhere to eat a rainbow of colors in your fruit and veggie diet, I added some chopped radicchio that I had hanging around in my crisper drawer.

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While I was waiting for the mushrooms and corn to do their thing, I addressed several aging avocadoes in our fruit baskets.  I’ve recently made a few alterations to my old standard guacamole thanks to a shortage, and am pleased enough with my new strategy to share it.  I’m not calling this a recipe, because I still adjust things every time I make a batch.  Tonight’s avocado-and-a-half was joined by four or five strips of julienne cut sundried tomatoes, chopped cilantro and garlic scapes from the back garden, lime juice, sea salt, one finely chopped miniature pickled jalapeño, sea salt and black pepper.  Sometimes I use garlic powder and some green onions instead of the garlic shoots, but the key ingredient, the fundamental change, is the move from fresh tomatoes to sundried.  There’s a pleasant textural difference, and I like the intensity of the flavor profile that the dried tomatoes lend.  Tonight’s spice from the pickled jalapeño was a bright change as well, that cut nicely through the thick cheesiness of the quesadilla itself.  I cleansed my cheesy palate with a Hornsby’s hard cider, but I suspect any pilsner or lager would have done the trick just as nicely.  A crisp pinot grigio or some other fruity white wine would have paired well too.

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