Salade Niçoise with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette

Salade Niçoise | Pinky's Pantry
I’m sick as a dog. I caught that terrible flu that’s been going around. I had a fever of 103° and felt pretty darn miserable. Finally got rid of the flu, but my doctor says I now have bronchitis, not to mention I’m wheezing like an old asthmatic. Sigh….. Anyway, since I’ve been laid up in bed, I thought this would be a good time to catch up on the blog and post some of my recipes that have been sitting in draft form waiting for a little tweaking or something before being published, so don’t be surprised to see several posts come out all at once.

Salade Niçoise (pronounced ni swaz) is one of my all-time favorite salads. I believe it originated in France and my understanding is the original is made with anchovies, but never having been to Nice, I can’t say for sure. Every time I’ve had it, it’s been made with tuna and my family likes it that way so I just keep it up — though personally, I wouldn’t mind anchovies. Hey! I happen to like the little guys! Anyway, classic niçoise salad typically has boiled potatoes, green beans, and niçoise olives, but there again from my readings it seems that boiled veggies are frowned upon in some areas of France. Whatever. I happen to think the boiled potatoes and green beans are the best part of this salad! Anyway, give it a try. I guarantee you’ll love it!

SALADE NIÇOISE

(Makes 4 servings)

  • 12 ozs. boston, bibb, or butter lettuce
  • 16 baby yellow potatoes
  • 4 large eggs
  • 10 ozs. haricots verts or slender green beans, trimmed
  • 2 cans (5½ oz. each) tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup niçoise or Kalamata olives, cut in half
  1. Fill a bowl with ice and water and set it aside. You may have to replenish the ice and/or water as needed.
  2. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan, add enough water to cover the potatoes and add a teaspoon of salt.
  3. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to the ice water bath to stop cooking.
  5. When potatoes are cool, remove from ice water, cut in half, and set aside.
  6. Place eggs in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover eggs by one inch.
  7. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  8. Let cook for 6-7 minutes until eggs are hard boiled.
  9. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water to stop cooking.
  10. When eggs are cool, remove from ice water, peel, and set aside.
  11. Add fresh water to the saucepan and bring it to a boil again.
  12. Add the green beans and blanch till they’re bright green, about 1 minute.
  13. Remove green beans with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water to stop cooking.
  14. Once green beans are cool, remove from ice water, and set aside.
  15. Divide the lettuce equally into 4 salad bowls.
  16. Top each with 4 potatoes cut in half, 1/4 of the green beans, 5 tomatoes cut in half, 1 egg cut into 4 wedges, 1/4 of the olives, and half a can of tuna.
  17. Drizzle lemon-thyme dressing over each salad.

LEMON-THYME VINAIGRETTE

  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ⅛ tsp. pepper
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. In a small bowl, combine lemon zest, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, thyme, sugar, salt, and pepper with a wire whisk until well combined.
  2. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly until emulsified.
  3. Dressing will keep in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

NOTE:  We like our dressing with a touch of sweetness, but if you want the dressing to be less sweet, feel free to cut the sugar in half or omit it altogether. 

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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes | Pinky's Pantry
My best friend, Gigi, and I were “born friends” just like my other best friend, Pilar. Gigi’s mom and mine were classmates in the 3rd grade and remained friends throughout their school years and subsequently their married lives. Though we technically didn’t choose to be friends, Gigi and I get along like the proverbial house on fire. Gigi is well-read, open-minded, kooky, generous, and hard-working to a T. She worked for the State of California for years while raising her daughter as a single parent so was often too busy to cook elaborate meals. But a year ago she retired and now finding herself with more time on her hands, she’s been dabbling in the kitchen more and more.

Gigi sent me this recipe for Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. On a visit to Canada a few months ago, she stayed at the Fairholme Manor Inn, a lovely bed-and-breakfast in Victoria, British Columbia. The Fairholme’s owner, Sylvia Main, has published two cookbooks of breakfast and brunch recipes that are served at the inn. These Lemon Ricotta Pancakes are among one of their more popular breakfast items. Anyway, I thought I would give them a try and I must say, they were definitely delicious. Light and fluffy with a hint of lemon flavor, my daughter Bashful loved them! That being said, they were a little tricky to make.

The challenge came not from making the batter, which was unusual to say the least. (I’ve never made pancakes with a meringue mixture folded into them!) The challenge came from the actual cooking process. This pancake batter is sooo soft and light that flipping the pancakes takes care and patience! I would advise pouring the pancakes a little bit smaller than normal-size pancakes to make them easier to handle when flipping. You should also grease the pan with a little bit of butter or margarine before pouring each pancake to ensure it doesn’t stick. It won’t hurt to butter the edge of your spatula, as well. Just stick with it and work slowly. After the first couple of pancakes, you’ll get the hang of it.

LEMON RICOTTA PANCAKES

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2½ tsp. baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1¾ cups (15-oz.) ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup sugar
  1. Preheat griddle or skillet on medium heat.
  2. In a bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks.
  3. Sift and mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Combine with egg yolks, lemon zest, milk, and ricotta cheese.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy.
  6. Gradually add the sugar, creating a meringue.
  7. Gently fold meringue into the egg-ricotta batter.
  8. Lightly oil griddle with butter or margarine and pour about ⅓ cup batter onto center.
  9. Cook until bubbles form around edges.
  10. Carefully flip pancake to cook other side until golden.
  11. Serve with butter and syrup.

[This recipe yielded about a dozen pancakes.]

Mini Lemon Mousse and Berry Trifles with Puff Pastry Stars

Lemon Mousse and Berry Trifles | Pinky's Pantry
I wanted to come up with a new red-white-and-blue dessert for our 4th of July Barbecue this year and thought it would be nice to make individual little trifles. My daughter, Bashful, helped me with these. She’s becoming quite the little sous chef.

These trifles are easy to make because there’s very little baking involved which is perfect for this hot summer weather. I did bake the graham cracker crust, though if you don’t feel like baking it, you could very easily use the crust unbaked. If you want to decorate the trifles with puff pastry stars like I did, those don’t require much more than 10 minutes of baking time either.

I made these in little shot glasses, but you could use little mason jars, small disposable clear plastic cups, or any other small, clear containers you have that would show the red, white and blue layers. If your strawberries aren’t very sweet, sprinkle them with a little powdered sugar before assembling. Also, depending on how many mini trifles you’re making, you could end up with extra graham cracker crust. I just use it to make a pie.
Lemon Mousse and Berry Trifles | Pinky's Pantry

MINI LEMON MOUSSE AND BERRY TRIFLES

  • 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ⅓ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ⅓ jar purchased lemon curd (or you could make your own)
  • fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped into the size of blueberries
  • fresh blueberries

GRAHAM CRACKER CRUMB CRUST

For a baked crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. With a fork, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar together.
  3. Press the mixture into the bottom of a baking pan.
  4. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until crust begins to brown at the edges.
  5. Set aside to cool completely.

For a no-bake crust:

  1. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar together with a fork.
  2. Place about a tablespoon of mixture into bottom of each shot glass and press down with the handle of a wooden spoon.
  3. Chill in refrigerator until ready to use.

LEMON MOUSSE

  1. With an electric mixer, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form.
  2. Add 1/3 of a jar of lemon curd and continue to beat until well-combined.
  3. Taste the mousse and see how you like it. If you want it more lemony, beat in more lemon curd, a tablespoon at a time, until it tastes the way you want it.

TO ASSEMBLE THE MINI TRIFLES

  1. Take the baked and cooled graham cracker crust and crumble it up with a fork. If you’re doing the no-bake crust, you can skip this step.
  2. Place about a tablespoon of crumbled graham cracker crust into the bottom of your shot glass and press it flat with the handle of a wooden spoon.
  3. Place lemon mousse into a piping bag and pipe a layer of mousse over the crust.
  4. Sprinkle some blueberries over the lemon mousse.
  5. Pipe another layer of lemon mousse over the blueberries.
  6. Sprinkle chopped strawberries over the lemon mousse.
  7. Pipe a little dollop of lemon mousse right on top.
  8. If desired, decorate each trifle with a puff pastry star (recipe follows).

Puff Pastry Stars | Pinky's Pantry

PUFF PASTRY STARS

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough, thawed
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • pearl white sparkling sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Cut out stars from puff pastry sheet using a star cookie cutter.
  3. Transfer pastry stars to a non-stick cookie sheet.
  4. Brush each star with a little melted butter.
  5. Sprinkle top of each star with sparkling sugar.
  6. Bake for about 10 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
  7. Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

NOTE:  I also bake the little scraps of leftover puff pastry dough. After cutting out the stars, I take the little leftover scraps and lay them on another cookie sheet. Brush the scraps with melted butter and sprinkle regular sugar on them, then bake them together with the stars. Hand them out to the kids to snack on and voila! Nothing wasted at my house!

Shrimp with Lemon-Saffron Rice

Shrimp with Lemon Saffron Rice | Pinky's Pantry
We were invited to a potluck dinner at our neighbor’s house. I remembered a recipe I had seen in the January 2012 issue of Cooking Light magazine and thought it would be a good one to take for our contribution. I was right!

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, preferring instead to use Vigo Yellow Rice to simplify things. But if you can’t get Vigo rice, I’ve given directions at the end of the recipe for making this dish with regular white rice. The dish turned out tasty and was eaten up by all the guests. It reminded me of paella…… only if you’ve ever made paella, you’ll see that this was way easier to prepare!

SHRIMP WITH LEMON-SAFFRON RICE

  • 1 pkg. (10 oz.) Vigo yellow rice (Mahatma brand is good too)
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter or margarine
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • ½ large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 1 lb. peeled and deveined large shrimp
  • ½ cup frozen green peas
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh oregano
  • 2½ tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  1. In a large pot, prepare yellow rice according to package directions.
  2. Heat olive oil and butter in a large large skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add onion and bell pepper; sauté 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.
  4. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  5. Add shrimp to pan and cook 30 seconds, stirring frequently.
  6. Stir in peas, salt, and pepper, and continue to cook just until peas are heated through.
  7. Pour mixture over cooked rice in pot.
  8. Add oregano and lemon juice and toss all together until well-combined.
  9. Serve with extra lemon wedges.

NOTE:  If you can’t find Vigo yellow rice, you could just as easily make this with regular white rice by following the directions below.

  1. Instead of Step 1, cook 2 cups of white rice in a rice cooker using chicken broth in place of water.
  2. Stir ¾ tsp. crushed saffron threads into the rice and chicken broth before turning on the rice cooker.
  3. Continue with Steps 2-6 above.
  4. Stir in ½ tsp. paprika; then stir in the cooked rice.
  5. Continue with Steps 8 and 9 above.