Friday, September 19, 2008

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad

I've made this salad twice already this week. They serve it at Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle alongside a pulled pork sandwich, but it's good with everything. Seriously. Everything.

When the Human Vacuum and I hit Costco last weekend, they were hawking seedless watermelon two-packs. What kind of gluttons manage to consume two watermelons in less that 5 days? People who know about this delicious salad.

It's a refreshing breakfast. It's a marvelous side salad. It's a fruit and cheese dessert course. It truly can be all things to all people.

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad

In a large bowl, whisk together:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lemon (or other acid, such as rice wine or fruit vinegar)

Cut into small dice and add to dressing:
1/4 of a red onion

Cut into 1 inch dice and add to bowl:
1 seedless watermelon (or buy precut, I don't mind)

Crumble in:
1 chunk feta cheese, approximately the size of a deck of cards

Roughly chop and sprinkle on:
5-6 fresh mint leaves

Stir and begin to consume immediately, standing in the kitchen, before summer is gone.

NOTE: Delicious variations include adding toasted pine nuts, replacing feta with olives, replacing watermelon with honeydew. But the original is the best.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gumbo, Or Possibly Jambalaya

This is sort of gumbo, and sort of jambalaya. We had okra. We had spicy sausage. We had shrimp. I had a vague idea that all of these things were involved in Cajun cooking. And I was right--they're just not traditionally all in the same dish. I never made it to New Orleans before the hurricane, so what do I know? This dish is a freaky mutant combination of the two.

It was delicious on the night-of, but the leftovers were the real reward. The soft, flavorful rice was a joy for lunch the next day after a night of soaking in the spicy, tomato-y juices. So make lots.

Gumbo, Or Possibly Jambalaya

Heat in a large heavy bottom pan or dutch oven:
3 Tablespoons oil

1-2 large onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

Cook until onion begins to soften, stirring occasionally. Add and cook until warmed through:
1/2 to 1 pound sausage, kielbasa, andouille, or even chorizo, cut into coins

Wash, remove tops and tail, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces, then turn heat to high and add:
1 pound fresh okra

When okra browns slightly, add:
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
1 teaspoon oregano

Cook on high, stirring often, until tomato paste starts to darken and caramelize. Add:
1 can diced tomatoes

Give everything one more good stir, then layer on top:
1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled

Sprinkle on top of that:
2 cups rice, long grain preferred

Add until rice is covered with liquid:
3-4 cups chicken stock, or water, or watered wine
salt and pepper

Turn heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until rice is tender.