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Caprese Sandwich

Caprese Sandwich

Oh tomato season how I rapturously, enthusiastically, and happily enjoy you!  Too many adverbs?  Probably.  I really do love tomato season though.  Tomato season is finally here in the PNW.  Despite some cooler temperatures, even my plants have started to ripen up a tomato or two (little ones, barely worth the mention, but still).  Fortunately, the grocery stores and the farmer’s markets have tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, not the horrible off-season cardboard tasting ones that make me long for summer. 

This week, I have a very short work week due to the holiday, vacation and traveling.  It seemed worth it to make something quick and easy for work – particularly something that would celebrate tomatoes, as I had a full two pounds of heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joe’s.  Half went into pico de gallo and the other half became lunch.  I also have an abundance of very happy basil growing in my own backyard, and since I’m down a food processor (don’t ask), I feel compelled to start eating basil in everything I possibly can before fall creeps in. 

Solution?  Caprese sandwiches.  Caprese is usually a salad – simply made of fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and olive oil.  These sandwiches are a simple variation layering bread, mayonnaise, fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil.  The real genius here is the assembly at the desk (or picnic, or whatever venue in which you might eat these).  This isn’t even really a recipe, but an easy idea. 

Take two pieces of bread (I used regular wheat sandwich bread), and spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on both slices.  Put them together with the mayonnaise sides facing inward and put them in a plastic sandwich bag or other container).  Slice a tomato.  Slice a ball of mozzarella.  Gather some basil leaves.  Put the tomato, mozzarella and basil in a separate container (separate from the bread).  Leave in the refrigerator overnight (if preparing the night before).  Assemble wherever you choose to eat lunch.  Enjoy!

caprese sandwich layer 1 caprese sandwhich layer 2

caprese sandwich layer 3 caprese sandwich

Time for Iced Tea

Time for Iced Tea

We’ve had some warm days here of late in the PNW.  A couple of days of eighty here and there, punctuated by some cooler days and rain.  Even though we are currently living in a rental and I can’t go digging up the grass (as much as I’d like to), I’ve been busy gardening in pots.  My last addition was a chocolate mint plant that I don’t fully trust not to climb its way out of the pot and colonize the yard.  So be it – it will at least smell good.

chocolate mint

I started to think that today would be a great day for iced tea, so did some pruning on the chocolate mint.  The result was this lovely iced tea.

iced tea up close

Chocolate Mint Iced Tea
Serves 4

4 or 5 sprigs fresh chocolate mint
4 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 lemon

Steep the chocolate mint in the boiling water for 5 minutes or until desired strength is reached.  Add one teaspoon sugar and stir. Cool and then refrigerate until cold.  Serve with slices of lemon.

 

What I Ate and What’s Coming Up

What I Ate and What’s Coming Up

I feel like I’ve been eating my way through the Portland and Salem metro areas.  We’ve been trying out the various Pho places near where we live – and have found a definite favorite.  We have at least one more to try.   I’ve also been traveling quite a bit – I was fortunate to spend the morning in Salem at my favorite coffee shop:  Archive Coffee.  In addition to making a perfect dry cappuccino, they also serve amazing scones and muffins – each with a particular herb or spice featured.

salemmuffin

Saturday was all about the farmer’s market.  Asparagus is in season here – I think we may have bought three pounds of asparagus – not sure what we’re going to do with it all.  I think there is a fermented asparagus recipe in my future.

Sunday was all about dim sum.  We went to the House of Louie in downtown Portland and ate, and ate, and ate some more.  I am not entirely sure what we ate – I just know it was all so good.

dimsum3 dimsum1 dimsum2 dimsum4

We went to dim sum with my cousin and her significant other.  She sent us on our way after with a cherry tomato plant, because it’s planting time, and a home-brewed, micro-brew IPA.

IPAHomebrew

But Monday is looming, so it’s back to little lunches.  Coming up this week: a recipe featuring morels!  And one with pickles! It’s going to be a tasty week.

morel pickleandchicken1

Fromage Fort

Fromage Fort

This is less a recipe and more of a confession: sometimes my cheese tries to get away from me.  As we were preparing to go shopping this past weekend, Clay says to me, “you know you still have cheese in the refrigerator, right?  I think it’s gone off.”  I did remember I had cheese still – honest.  I was also pretty sure it was just fine, even though Clay thinks just about any cheese I buy that has the capacity to ripen and run has gone off from the minute I first pick it up in the store.  As long as it isn’t funny and it still smells like cheese, I’m usually not worried about it.  This time, though, I was aware of the fact that I will be away from my desk and at meetings this week, so might not be able to save my cheese in time.

Fromage fort to the rescue.  Fromage fort is strong cheese (not, unfortunately, building a fort out of cheese, hiding inside with a bottle of wine and nibbling one’s way out).  It’s a spread or dip made out of cheese that’s been lurking in your fridge, white wine, garlic and herbs.  As far as I can tell, the garlic and herbs are optional.  The white wine is not.  I made my batch with two of the cheeses leftover from my cheese plate cheeses of several weeks ago, along with about a half cup of parmesan cheese.  I doused it gently with white wine – just enough to keep the consistency spreadable – and blended in the food processor until it was smooth.  It’s been good on toast and on bagels.  It guarantees that the cheese will all be used up. 

Some recipes note that it’s wise to include blue cheese in fromage fort in sparing quantities.  I can attest to this – about half of what I had was a very ripe blue cheese and the flavor is definitely strong – fromage fort strong after all. 

fromage fort 2 fromage fort

This Week in Little Lunches – Week of April 10

This Week in Little Lunches – Week of April 10

spring pesto salad with radish macaron2 fromage fort granolablueberry pea shoot pesto farmers market bounty early spring

Just a little preview of what’s coming this week on fixmealittlelunch.  Oh the happiness of being settled enough to go to the farmer’s market, cook some good food, and make granola again.  Check back this week for recipes for Dried Blueberry Granola, Pea Shoot Pesto, Fromage Fort, and Quick and Easy Focaccia.

If I’m Not Eating, I’m Dreaming About Gardening

If I’m Not Eating, I’m Dreaming About Gardening

On my top five list of things I do that aren’t work, gardening is not very far behind cooking.  It’s one of the reasons I so love living in the PNW, as there are so many flowers and vegetables that grow happily here.  I particularly enjoy the fact that there are any commercial flower growers that have display gardens around here that are open to the public.  I stumbled on one last spring by chance – Schreiner’s Iris Garden has fields of iris that adjoin I-5.  I don’t even recall why I was on that stretch of I-5 at that time of year, but had to pull off to go wander the iris fields and take home several dozen stems of assorted iris.

I’d heard rumor of a similar tulip garden, as well as a dahlia garden.  Today, we made it to the tulip garden – it’s at the Wooden Shoe Tulip festival near Woodburn, Oregon.  I spent an hour wandering the fields and taking pictures.  Good thing we’d had brunch first.

Brunch Southwest Omlette

Southwestern Omelet at the Kitchen Table Café

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A Duo of Sausages, Warm Potato Salad, Red Cabbage, and Sauerkraut at Gustav’s.

Of course, after, we also had to have a good dinner.  Now that I’ve shared the obligatory food photos, on to the tulips.

20160403_143151_resized 20160403_143334_resized_1 128_resized 20160403_143002_resized 20160403_142849_resized_1 148 156

I have one day out of the office tomorrow, so won’t be cooking lunch until tomorrow night.  I’m pretty sure I’ll have several recipes with spring greens coming up this week, as I need to finish a tub of baby kales as well as a bunch of curly kale, along with some cheeses from last week.

Cheese Plate Basics

Cheese Plate Basics

For all of my adult life, I have had a serious abiding passion for cheese.  I’ve heard that it has been scientifically proven that one can be addicted to cheese, and I think as far as addictions go, this doesn’t seem to me to be so bad.  I think my predilection for stinky cheeses came from my first taste of chevre from the farmer’s market back when I lived in Denver.  The tangy goatiness of chevre made me want to explore other soft cheeses, so various blue cheeses were the next step for me.  I don’t remember the first time I ever had a cheese plate, though I would imagine it was probably traveling somewhere when I was a vegetarian and trying to find the most innocuous vegetarian thing I could on some restaurant menu.  I have a memory of a particularly good cheese plate at a hotel restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, which was my first introduction to membrillo, which is a sweet paste made out of quince fruit.  I also have fond memories of traveling alone and grabbing a bit of cheese, some bread, some fruits and veggies and dark chocolate and having an informal dinner of cheese in my hotel room.  It was a matter of time before I tried to reproduce these experiences as my lunch.

The key to a good cheese plate is a little variety, but not too much.  Three cheeses are a good amount of cheese.  In this case, I used one riper nearly blue cheese, one soft cheese, and one hard cheese.  I’m fortunate that we are finally living in an area where such cheeses are accessible.  If I was still somewhere very rural, I’d likely go with easy-to-find cheddar, some chevre and a blue cheese of some sort.  From there, it is good to have some accompaniments for the cheese.  In this case, I went with fruit – apples and strawberries; nuts – almonds; cherry chutney (I was so glad I was able to find this one jar among hundreds that are still packed); and whole wheat Ritz crackers.  Cheeses definitely need a vehicle for serving and I find either simple crackers or bread work well, as does, honestly, a slice of apple.  I probably used about an ounce of cheese total – it doesn’t take a lot to be filling.  I also had a salad with me, which paired well.

I’ll sign off today with my favorite cheese story.  Clay and I had been living in rural New Mexico, and I had a chance to go to New York City for a conference.  It ended up being a crazy trip that involved flying to both NYC and Denver in a short time span.  I had been doing some research about cheese and learned about Murray’s in NYC, which has wonderful cheese tasting classes.  I convinced Clay that we had to sign up for one.  In that process I was introduced to a cheese that was super runny when ripe.  It was grassy and sweet and I had to have some, so we bought a small block.  This was a cheese that is highly aromatic when ripe and it was ripening very quickly.  The hotel in NYC had a refrigerator, but it was the intervening transportation to the airport and on the plane that had me worried.  It was all fine – the cheese made it through in my checked luggage, but my bag was searched, and I do wonder what the TSA agent must have made of my stinky, runny cheese.

cheeses

From the top, going counter clockwise: Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog (this is a ripened chevre); Le Delice De Bourgogne French Triple Creme(this is a ripened cow milk cheese); Midnight Moon Goat Gouda (this is an aged goat cheese – nicely firm).

cheese and chutney

This is the triple creme cheese and the Humboldt Fog with my cherry chutney.

cheese plate 2

The final cheese plate.  To pack for lunch, I put the cheeses, fruit, and almonds in a glass Pyrex and the chutney in a separate container.  The crackers went into a plastic sandwich bag.  Don’t forget to bring a knife for spreading the cheese on crackers.  The only thing missing for me was a good glass of wine – I think I’ll have to try this combination on a weekend sometime.

Cheese Plate Basics
One lunch size portion

6 – 8 crackers or small pieces of baguette
10 or so almonds or other nuts
1 or 2 ounces of assorted cheeses, with various textures and styles, sliced into small pieces
1/2 an apple or other fruit, sliced
2 tablespoons of chutney or other preserves

This Week’s Lunch – March 28

This Week’s Lunch – March 28

We are still recovering from our move.  Slowly, but surely, there is art on the walls, the numbers of boxes in the garage is starting to dwindle, and I can (mostly) find what I’m lookin g for in the kitchen.  We’re building up our condiments again and I even found a Chianti red wine vinegar in our new go-to market.  Part of the challenge to fully settling in is that we are also trying to get our house in the southern PNW ready to go on the market.  I’ll end up with half a weekend the next few weeks, which makes it a bit challenging to do wide-scale food prep, not to mention find the time to really shop.  I decided this would be a good week to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: create my own cheese plate for lunch.  So this week is a picnic-style cheese spread and a kale and radish salad to celebrate spring.

I was unbelievably happy that I was able to find, on the first go, my cherry chutney in the boxes of pickles and preserves that I still haven’t unpacked.  I’m also delighted that where we live has no fewer than four natural foods markets that all sell really good cheese.

Here’s a photo preview of the week.  I’ll post more about the cheeses and the salad later this week.

cheese plate 1radish and kale salad1

 

This Week’s Lunch – March 21

This Week’s Lunch – March 21

I’m slowly but surely returning to something that resembles normalcy.  We went to the local farmer’s market this weekend.  Luckily, we live in a place where the farmer’s market runs for two days – both Saturday and Sunday, so while Saturday was busy with shopping and unpacking, we braved the rain on Sunday to check out what was available and got a nice early spring haul of eggs, spinach, radishes, garlic and flowers.

spring market

 

I’m currently in an office space that has no external window, so flowers on my desk are essential.  Ok – fine – even when I had an office with a window, I still brought flowers in every week.

spring flowers

I suspect I’ll be having a combination of lunch out and lunch at my desk, at least for the first few weeks.  Today, Clay stopped by and we found this wonderful food right across the street.

pho

I wish I’d gotten a better picture of just the herbs.  This bowl of pho came with the traditional basil, but also a narrow-leaved herb that tasted like a more mild basil.  A little research and I’ve discovered it’s an herb called culantro (common names include Mexican coriander or saw-leaf herb).  It’s the saw leaf herb on the far left that you can just see in this photo.

The rest of my week looks like this:

bagel 3 bagel 2 grapefruit

The top two photos are of the bagel sandwich I put together tonight for tomorrow’s lunch.  I made a veggie cream cheese with carrots, cilantro and a few red pepper flakes, which compliment quick picked radishes and carrots, avocado and spinach.  Given I haven’t had much time for food prep, I’m also taking Terra chips for a side snack, and broiled grapefruit with honey and granola for later in the afternoon.  I had to buy granola this weekend (gasp!) but hope to be back to normal home granola production soon.

I’ll have a recipe for the quick picked spring veggies coming up tomorrow on the blog.  For a preview pic, check out my instagram feed (fixmealittlelunch).

Fix Me a Little Lunch is Back!

Fix Me a Little Lunch is Back!

You may have noticed my extended absence over the past few weeks from the blog.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was searching for a new desk for my little lunches.  About three weeks ago, I was offered a job in the beautiful northern part of Oregon – in Portland.  It all happened very quickly, and the last few weeks have been a frenzy of moving, starting a new job, and settling in.  I’m finally getting my feet back under me, but thought I’d at least share what we’ve been eating since we moved.

First up – Portland and surrounding areas are a haven for brunch.  On the first weekend we were here, we ventured to Vancouver, WA and brunched at  Dulin’s Cafe.  The wait was long, of course – that seems to be a theme for brunching around here.  However, the wait time conversations can be enlightening, and in this case, the woman I was sitting next to and chatting with highly recommended the eggs benedict.  I have to confess – I’d never had eggs benedict before.  I’m more an omelet kind of girl.  I went out on a limb though, and had the asparagus and Dugness Crab eggs benedict and…food bliss.  brunch1

Today, we went to Gravy Restaurant.  Again, there was a wait, though it was a short one and we were fortunate to have a sunny day for a change in the PNW.  I tried out the corned beef hash.  We have enough leftover to have breakfast for several days here at home.brunch2

Beyond this, we’ve had some great lunches at Sen Yai Noodle, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before.

Sen Yai1

We also found a lovely Indian restaurant: Abhiruchi   This meal produced both a wonderful dinner, but also leftovers of my mutter paneer for lunch.  This was, technically, my first real lunch at my desk after I started my new job.  All and all, in the first week, I had a sandwich at the local coffee shop, Indian leftovers, two days of Amy’s Macaroni and Cheese and Pesto Tortellini, and one day out for lunch at a Lebanese restaurant that has food that defies description – it was that good.   I wish I’d gotten photos at the Lebanese restaurant – they have two full shelves of house made pickles.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be going back, though.

indianlittle_desk_lunch_indian

Meanwhile, at home, we’ve alternated to desperation meals (Chipotle, Burgerville), some great meals out, and then these two home-based meals: easy, easy chopped salad, and roast chicken and spinach salad with simple focaccia on the side.  I have to say that the latter has made home feel like home finally, as it represented us being unpacked enough to find key cooking equipment, like my stacking bowls and the meat thermometer.

chopped saladchickensalad

 

All and all, I’m super excited about this new adventure, and super excited to be food blogging again.

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