A Dijon Viniagrette Salad Dressing

This recipe is simple:

Dijon viniagrette

Vinaigrette

Juice of 1/2 lemon
Add rice vinegar to make 50 mL / 1.7 fluid ounces total volume atop the lemon juice (I used one of those Ball half-pint canning jars, and just added everything directly to that.  The metric side of the scale on the jar was more convenient to me.)
1.5 teaspoon Dijon mustard
75 mL / 2.5 fluid ounces of oil.   I recommend a 1:1  mixture (approximately 37.5 L/1.25 ounces of each) extra virgin olive  oil to avocado oil.  See below, and no, I don’t expect this to be measured out Exactly!
Two teaspoons Penzy’s Herbes de Provence dried herbal concoction.  (I have also (first) used the Country French Vinaigrette mixture, but that one for some odd reason does contain sugar, if you are choosing to avoid).
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper (approximate)

If you don’t have the Penzy’s, or if it is no longer fresh (dried herbs go south fairly fast), you can make your own blend of:  rosemary, fennel, savory, thyme, basil, tarragon, dill weed, oregano, lavender, chervil, or marjoram.  Or simply find a good Italian spice mixture.

Lemon juicer -- handy for capturing the seeds

Lemon juicer — handy for capturing the seeds

The vinegar/lemon juice ratio to olive oil is 1 part acidic constituents to 1.5 parts oil.  The mustard, besides providing additional flavor, helps the mixture stay together without separating out immediately, and it seems — in these hands, at least — that this ratio of vinegar (water-soluble liquid) to oil is about the minimum oil you can use and keep the emulsion stable.  At any rate, add everything to your container, seal tightly, shake vigorously for 2-3 minutes.

Grey Poupon Dijon mustard.  I think this is the reason as a child I thought "gray" was spelled with an "e" here in America.

Grey Poupon Dijon mustard. I think this is the reason as a child I thought “gray” was spelled with an “e” here in America.

While I am a big proponent of healthy oils, as these are, a lot of recipes out there call for 1 part vinegar to three or even four parts oil.  I think a bit much.  I used rice vinegar and lemon juice because this cuts down on some of the acidity, while still providing flavor, which truly oil-based recipes do not.  They’re just sort of slippery!

Those Ball jars have both ounce and metric measurements on them, and things just happened to line up with metric when I’ve been making this, and thus I used conversion software for the English measurements.  Since this is not going to be canned for long-term storage — please DO keep this in your fridge!   Unless you have a pressure canner, (and even then, I really wouldn’t…) store this in your fridge for up to 6 days.

About the oils:  There’s been a lot in the news, especially after Consumer Reports helped break the item last winter, about the (lack of) truth in advertising regarding extra virgin olive oil.  As in the old joke, “Yes, virgin.  Virgin ten times…”  I surfed around and found an oil that seems to be accepted as the Real Thing, and although it costs a bit more, it is still not as pricey as some of the more dubious ones.

While I love the taste of quality extra virgin in any Mediterranean-based salad dressing (hey, I like olives on my pizza!), it is understandable that some would like to mute that flavor down a bit.  In addition, the stuff used alone tends to congeal up after three or four days in the fridge, which is decidedly rather unpleasant and beyond irritating.

Costco, at least mine, now sells avocado oil, which is both healthy, and seriously less pricey than at any other venue I’ve seen it at.  Avocado oil is a neutral-tasting oil, and has a high temperature cooking/flash point (which isn’t important if you are going to use it for salads), but finding it at Costco (serendipitously, as I was on the hunt for hearts of palm in that section of their store), I’m seriously sussed.  I’m recommending a 1:1 mixture of the two oils to each other at the moment, but certainly feel free to experiment on the ratio in either direction.

Avocado oil:  Chosen Foods/Costco.  EVOO:  Olea/Whole Foods.  Hearts of Palm from Costco and not in the dressing (but certainly welcome in the salads!)

Avocado oil: Chosen Foods/Costco. EVOO: Olea/Whole Foods. Hearts of Palm from Costco and not in the dressing (but certainly welcome in the salads!)

This originally was made to top a salad I brought to a recent potluck late April, and I’ve been fine tuning it ever since.

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Crawfish Boil

Wow, one of the local groceries carried crawfish (crayfish to some of you) last week.  I don’t usually like posting two recipes in one day, but there’s a backlog here.

crawfish or crayfish boil

Taking on the World

I picked up a half pound or so of them, asking for the most vibrant crawlers, which the fish monger was all to happy to give me (as these were intent on making escapes where ever they could, and the fish department was already busy in its own right, and they really aren’t used to penning in mobile food there…)

Crawfish are an awesome New Orleans treat – I remember my first visit down there back in the early ’90′s, a venue very near the Conference Center which served up crawfish by the bucket loads, followed by a great (raisin-less, yay!) bread pudding.

Anyhow –

I got my batch of little guys home, and wondered what the cats would think of them.  The cats ignored them.  And I ignored the bread pudding idea this time around.  I wanted to concentrate on crawfish.

crawfish crayfish boil

Drained

Crawfish are best cooked within 24 hours (at least from the supermarket — if you get them fresh from the bayou or from the pond you raised them in, there will be more leeway, of course).  I had these for lunch today.

I made my own crab (crawfish)  boil, which doesn’t come without risks, as I will explain.

Half pound or so of crawfish per person.  

Only increase the seasonings in ratio to the amount of water you use — you obviously don’t need to double the water for two servings, or quadruple it for four.  You just want to  adapt the amount of  the water in  your pot to be able to cover the crawfish with liquid while cooking, and the spices will go in ratio to that.

3-4 cups of water
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon medium-hot chili powder (sourced from Penzey’s in my case)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1.5 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

While you get the water to boil, add all of the above.  The hazard I discovered, and this is NOT  a potent hot result, is that the seasonings as the heat from the pot began working on them, caused me to start coughing.  This is transitory, but forewarned is best armed.  I could deal, as the culinary results were worth it.

crawfish crayfish boil

Three of the largest in this meal

Leave them boiling about 2-4 minutes, and drain.

Break off the tails, suck out the meat from the belly, break into the tail meat (use your thumb or a knife) and eat.  Generally the claws are too small to bother with.  But, hey.  A couple of mine weren’t.

I was happy enough with the boil, as far as taste goes, that I prepared no dipping sauce for them.  I served them with a simple leaf lettuce salad.  The boil seasonings were sufficient for me, and this was a mid-day meal (which for me tends to be lighter than breakfast or dinner).

crawfish crayfish boil

Good eating

 

 

 

 

 

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Moroccan Lamb Shanks

This is a recipe adapted from the cookbook, Staffmeals from Chanterelle, by David Waltuck, owner of Chanterelle (a restaurant in New York City I’ve never dined at, but the comments on Amazon enticed me to try the book).  A quick Google tells me that this restaurant has closed, but that the book’s author is opening a new restaurant.  This is largely not the food they serve the patrons, but staff food for the back end chefs and cooks to enjoy — mostly simple to prepare, or things that can be done in advance and enjoyed later (but before the customers come in).  This recipe probably requires a bit more attention than staff may have to spare on a regular basis towards their own food, but it is certainly worth it on special occasions.

Moroccan Lamb Shanks

(Also served with potatoes and the cooking sauce)

This is my adaptation of a lamb shank recipe.   I love long-roasted lamb shanks; when I first discovered the cut (years ago, as the cheapest supermarket cut of the lamb), I cooked it like I would a leg of lamb (which it is, just further down the bone), to medium rare.  Having discovered that slow roasting this cut, or even crock-potting it, was also entirely tasty, perhaps even better than my original cooking method, I was interested in putting an international spin on the dish.  Up pops this recipe!

Serves 3.

2 lamb shanks, trimmed of excess fat (leave some on, if you have meat from a grass-fed source — these were New Zealand grass fed lamb shanks).
1 teaspoon olive oil (at most) for the meat; 1 teaspoon for pan frying the onion
3/4 pounds baby potatoes (or larger ones chopped to baby size).  I’m partial to the “gold” varieties.  Naturally creamier.
1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (or in my case, smashed up with the edge of a knife)
1 half lemon, squeezed for juice
1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt (sea salt or pink Himalayan)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/4 teaspoon shredded fresh ginger
1 cup dry white wine

3/4 cup boxed low sodium vegetable broth or stock (or make your own)
3/4 cup canned tomato sauce (I used a tomato-basil pasta sauce sold in a glass jar, because the metallic taste of canned is irritating to me — and I also checked it for minimal ingredients)

The author also suggests saffron, which I don’t have, and bay leaves, which I didn’t feel like digging around to find.  He uses chicken broth over vegetable broth, but I felt that since my stock of homemade chicken broth is limited here, I’d rather not use it in something where the tomato would swamp its wonderful flavor, and so I went with vegetable.  (As he points out, being a good restaurant, they always have plenty of honest-to-goodness chicken stock or bone broth lying around.)  I also drastically cut back on the suggested amount of oil!

Oh, and the potatoes are my addition.

Preheat oven to 500 F.

Rub the meat all over with the oil, and place in a suitable pan.  (The purpose is to prevent the meat sticking to the pan.)  Roast for 40 minutes, turning the shanks occasionally so that they become nicely browned.   Afterwards, reduce the temperature to 375 F.

On the range-top, saute the onion and garlic in the oil in medium heat until translucent, around 6-8 minutes.

Add the ingredients from lemon juice through the ginger, stir well and allow to cook another couple minutes.  Then add the wine, stock and tomato sauce, turning heat up high, and allowing it to come to a boil.

Moroccan Lamb Shanks

Boil, boil, toil and trouble…

Meanwhile, lay down your bed of potatoes, lay the lamb shanks atop, pour the contents of the saucepan over the meat and potatoes.  Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an hour.

Reduce oven temperature to 325F, remove foil, and bake for another 50 minutes or hour, turning the shanks occasionally during cooking.

The meat should be near to falling off the bone.  If the sauce isn’t thick enough to your liking, heating it further on the cook top in a saucepan will help, while the meat rests.

This is a dish that may best re-heated the second day as it is easiest to de-fat any grease after a night in the fridge.  At any rate, it was plenty good with the three meals I made out of it, whether first night or last.

A very good recipe.  Next time, I’d probably use either ghee or avocado oil (I found some of the later at Costco recently!)  instead of olive oil, as the other two oils take high heat better than olive.  But since I used so little, it wasn’t really an issue here.

 

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Mom’s Chicken in Creamy Mushroom Sauce, Makeover

When I was a kid, one of the dishes I’d pester Mom to make was this one.  It served four people back in the day, but of course that was during our teen years…  Since a major component of this dish was Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup (or, sometimes, Golden Cream of Mushroom Soup), I haven’t made this item in years.  I mean, nowadays I read ingredients on packages… Nuff said.  But it was indeed one of my serious childhood/teen-age comfort foods, and I really have been planning on doing something about re-creating this dish that I’ve been hankering for with real food for the past year.

Chicken, Cream of Mushroom Soup, Home made, Makeover

Yum! Old memories come drifting back!

Warning, this is indeed pretty rich.

1 whole chicken, cut up (or about 2.5 – 3 pounds of chicken parts, bone-in & skin preferably on but your mileage may differ.  We also put in the back and the neck and the gizzard and the heart — the latter two items are hard to find in whole chickens now, and birds are getting seriously neck-less fast these days.  Anyhow, just to show you how outrageously weird I am, and how thoroughly I HATE the notion of “children’s food”,  as a small child I considered the chicken heart to be a major gustatory prize!  (I have not ever changed my mind.)
Condensed cream of mushroom soup, see homemade and healthy variant down below.  Approximately one can-equivalent – 8 ounces.  If you don’t get your homemade cream of mushroom soup down to the level of thickness that’s in one of those Campbell’s soup cans, don’t worry.  Make this measurement approximate.
Sour cream, 8 ounces.  I sourced this locally.  (Back when first out on my own, I tried yogurt instead of sour cream — not remotely close.)
Mushrooms, button.  2-4 ounces.  These are in addition to those used in the homemade mushroom soup component of this recipe.  Cleaned and coarsely chopped.  If the stems look good use them, otherwise omit.  Wipe the shrooms off to remove any debris with a mildly damp cloth before cutting them.
Onion, 1/2 medium or small, finely chopped (optional)
Mild curry powder, 2 teaspoons.  (Since this is not an Indian dish, go ahead use the pre-mixed supermarket stuff.  The mild variety works better for this specific  dish than spicy hot.)
Garlic powder.  1/2 – 1 teaspoon.  (or, smash up a couple peeled cloves…)
Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Optionally, briefly saute the onion in a little butter or oil until translucent.  Not essential, but nice.

Layer out the chopped up chicken (or parts of chicken) throughout the pan.

Mix the makeover condensed cream of mushroom soup with that approximately equal part of sour cream, spices and seasonings, and those additional mushrooms and onions.

Take this mix and spread it over the chicken, covering nooks and crannies, and checking to see that mushrooms and onions that you are adding in, are coated. (In the photo below, I removed two random pieces from the pan to exhibit, prior to cooking).

Chicken with Home Made Cream of Mushroom Soup

Ready to Cook

Bake at 350 F for 1 hour fifteen minutes (if using just boneless white meat, stop at one hour, or even 55 minutes).

Is this healthy?  I think it depends on how you source your ingredients, how much you eat at a time, and how you move your bod.

The Makeover Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

I am indebted to Wholesome Mommy, who is definitely in the real food corner of nutrition, although I made some changes.  At any rate, she has a good and fascinating site to peruse.

As with the Catalina salad dressing, I miss this soup.  Not as soup itself — I really don’t remember dining on it straight up out of the can, mixed one to one with water and boiled.  Maybe we did — but that wasn’t what was memorable about it.  It was the combination of the condensed can contents with the ingredients that went into one of Mom’s signature Chicken in Creamy Mushroom Sauce.

I have previously posted a mushroom soup with neither dairy nor ersatz dairy, in the past — one that remains an accomplishment I’m proud of, but it is not something that would lend itself as I made it, to this recipe.  The old one does stand alone; this one needs to be incorporated into other foods.

:The Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup Recipe Portion:

You can use this for any recipe that calls for it.  By itself, “meh”.  Now I understand why I don’t remember it by itself in my childhood.  We used it WITH things.  Check Wholesome Mommy for her version.  I adapted hers pretty closely,  and I think if I’d just added more salt, it would have been just about right on.

Button Mushrooms

Button Mushrooms

6 oz of fresh white button mushrooms, sliced thin and chopped.  Stems on or off depending on freshness.  Yes, I am a ‘shroom fanatic!
2 Tbsp of butter, I used butter from pastured cows.  Ghee would work.  
2 Tbsp tapioca flour, or arrowroot flour/starch.  It’s gluten-free, and if that doesn’t matter to you, adapt accordingly.
1.25 cup boxed veggie broth.  For including in the above recipe, I’m sure chicken broth would work wonders, but I have a hard time buying boxed chicken broth when I know the massive nutritional and taste value of homemade, and I didn’t have the chance to thaw out my real stuff.  So, it’s boxed veggie broth when I can’t use my own chicken bone broth.
1.25  cup half and half, which I sourced out of Whole Wallet…, er, Whole Foods.
salt to taste

Saute  mushrooms with  butter  or ghee in a skillet until soft. Add the tapioca flour and continue to stir until everything mixes.  Add the veggie stock (or chicken stock), and then the half and half.  Keep all this under a full boil, but at a simmer (otherwise the milk will burn, and or scald to the bottom of your cooking pot).  Continue on until this ends up at your preferred consistency.  Add the salt, and if you wish “authentic”, that would probably be a fair amount…

Halt cooking, let cool, and add to your fave “cream of…” recipes.  As in, perhaps the chicken recipe at page top.

 Like the Catalina salad dressing I recreated recently, I miss this soup.  Not as soup itself — I really don’t remember dining on it straight up out of the can, mixed one to one with water.  Maybe we did — but that wasn’t what was memorable about it.  It was the combination of the condensed can contents with the ingredients that went into one of Mom’s signature dishes.

I have posted a mushroom soup without dairy nor ersatz dairy in the past — one that still remains an accomplishment I’m proud of, but it is not something that would lend itself as I made it, to Mother’s Chicken and Mushroom Soup recipe.  Maybe because that one lacks the dairy?  Anyhow the old one does stand alone.

Ah, for those of you who think there’s a category of food that should be labelled “Children’s Food”, have I found a video for you!  It’s all in how you bring up your child.   Or, perhaps, not…

(This ten year old kid has convinced me that maybe someday I will just try balut…)

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Poultry | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Rare Fruits

On a whim last time in my grocery, I nailed three fruits I’d never tried before.  They are all obscure in North America, and so hence are not local, but I figure I’d give them a try.

Chirimoya, Kiwano, Dragonfruit

Chirimoya, Kiwano, Dragonfruit

They are:  Dragonfruit, Cherymoya, and Kiwano.

Summary:

Dragonfruit:  From China and Indochina.  Skin inedible, seeds edible.

dragon fruit

Mild, texture between ripe melon and custard, with a hint of crunchy (from the seeds no doubt). Sweet rather than sour, not overpoweringly so. Very cooling
fruit.  Worked well eaten at breakfast along with an omelette.

Dragon fruit

Cherimoya (chirimoya):  From Peru and neighboring vicinities:  Skin inedible, seeds inedible.  (The seeds contain a toxin.)

cherimoya

Very custardly, mellow, a hint of banana.  Sweet rather than sour, and less sweet than the dragon fruit. Do spit out the seeds.  Cooling, if not as much as the dragon fruit.

cherimoya

Kiwano:  From Africa and, apparently, New Zealand:  Skin inedible, seeds edible like cucumber seeds.  Somewhere online I saw that this fruit made it onto a Star Trek episode, presumably because it does look quite alien.  (I hope it was capable of the Vulcan Mind-Meld…)

kiwano

Seeds are the texture of those from cucumbers, and they are edible.  This item is more tart than the above fruits, but not as tart as your typical citrus fruits.  Very juicy, and flavor is mild.

kiwano

I like them all, even if I am not probably going to put any of them on a regular fruit rotation in this house.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

EPIC Protein Bars & a News Item

For me, this is history in the making.  I’ve never eaten a protein bar ever.  I’ve heard about them, but they sounded dry and uninteresting, and when I got to the point in my life where I started reading food labels, those things were decidedly uninteresting in spades.

Epic Protein Bar Bison

Yes, I eat at the computer sometimes.

I just picked up this one yesterday.  The brand is EPIC, and this is their BISON bacon-cranberry bar.  Well, I could have chosen their bison bar with Habanero peppers in it, but wasn’t in the Habanero mood at the moment.  They also had a beef choice and a turkey choice at the health food store I patronized.

On a splurge, I bought it.  Though at first I mis-read the caption “100% Grass Fed Bison Used” to mean “100% Used Grass Fed Bison”, which has an entirely different connotation.  Um.

I noted that the package had some flex to it.  Ergo, not a hard bar.  Good.  Hate the sensation of ripping out my canines while eating something.

I read the ingredients:  “Bison, uncured bacon – no nitrates/nitrites added* (pork, water, brown sugar, salt, vinegar, celery powder*, sea salt), dried cranberries, (cranberries, apple juice concentrate), lactic acid, celery powder*, sea salt.”  Not perfect, but intriguing.  Relatively short.  No tree nuts (to which I’ve relatively recently discovered a serious food sensitivity that definitively spreads from pistachios to pine nuts. A shame, as I’d just at that time discovered I REALLY liked Trader Joe’s pre-shelled un-dyed pistachios, and I devoured way way too many on that occasion… so, NO tree nuts, please!).  Sugar doesn’t dominate the ingredient list on this package, and there’s not that long line-up of usual nasty suspects.

* – Just so manufacturers can add nitrites/nitrates to foods one usually finds them in, and not say they did so, they add the celery powder.  They all do that.  In the fine print, they have to say they did that.  Frankly, I’m not worried about occasional nitrites/nitrates in my food — I don’t subsist on bacon, much as I like it as an occasional treat.  And I just simply assume that regular celery must contain nitrites and nitrates since its powder is so often used, and we all (most of us) still eat celery!  

All right:  pulling the lid off the cover — as it were:

Epic Protein Bars - Bison

Sniff.  

Smells like bacon mixed with sausage.

Taste.  

Hmm.  Not bad.  It’s more dry-sausage-like than (what I’d imagine) bar-like would be.  The seasonings work well.  It is not bland and it is not overpowering.  It is not greasy — I photographed the bar on a paper envelope for contrast, and there was absolutely no grease residue on the envelope after.  As a note, there’s a little “fresh pac” absorbent packet inside the wrapping.

Epic Protein Bar - Bison

I LIKE this.  I’ll get more.  This particular bar said “USE BY 10-18-14-4″, and I’m not entirely clear on what this means.  October 14th,  2018?  October 18th, 2014?  I suspect the latter.  But the additional 4?  Four AM?  And, that specific on a deadline date four years (or half a year) off, even if the -4 means something else?  (If someone could enlighten me here, I’d appreciate.)

If nothing else, this might be handy and nutritious enough to have hanging around for camping and hiking trips, for road trips where your other alternative is fast “food” (this is faster, and appears far better), for long-term power outages, or for your favorite Doomsday Prepper / Zombie Apocalypse scenario.  Unfortunately they’re not cheap, but after having spent all these years without consuming protein bars, I’m not apt to be buying that many.

For further info, their website is epicbar.com.  I have no connection with these folks, and I have no idea how these stack up taste-wise with other protein bars.  But — I liked it.  (Mikey would be proud!)

AND, IN THE NEWS:

Marinating pork steaks in black beer for four hours proves to decimate (by more than half) the production of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons upon grilling.  These hydrocarbons occur in smoked or grilled meats, and are linked to cancers.   I think I will be buying some dark/black stout this week.

Links to the story are here and here.

 

 

 

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Pears and Gouda Two Ways

Pears and Gouda Two Ways

Pears and plums are my two favorite non-berry fruits.   (A case can also be made for avocado, but that’s a fruit in its own category.)  At any rate, after the complexities in the last post, I decided to go simple, and really wanted to savor pears and Gouda cheese together.

First:  Baked Pear with Gouda and Cardamom

Pears Gouda cheese

An appetizer for two, or a small lunch for one

 

1 pear
about 1 ounce Gouda cheese (or your favorite melting cheese), in small slices
Olive Oil
Sprinkle of ground cardamom (cinnamon would work as well)
Ground black pepper
Watercress or parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut the pear in half, and use a melon ball-er or a spoon to scoop out the core.  Cut off any stem or bad spots.

Wipe down the cut surfaces of the pear with olive oil on a paper towel.

Sprinkle with a little cardamom and just a pinch of the pepper.  Put the pear halves in a baking dish, and situate them so that they are boats, and so that nothing will roll out of them.  I used a little aluminum foil, rolled up, to position under their necks.  Can’t have the cheese drooling out and getting lost, can we??

Bake for about ten – fifteen minutes.  Remove from oven, add the cheese slices, especially to the center of the pear halves.  Bake another ten minutes, or until the cheese melts nicely.

Remove and serve, with a garnish of watercress (if you have) or parsley.

 

Second:  Pear and Gouda Salad

Pear Gouda cheese salad

Pear and Cheese salad

1 pear, cored and diced.  Remove any bad bits. 
About 2.5 ounces Gouda, diced.  (Or, your favorite cheese.)
A slice of onion, chopped – red or Vidalia would work best but I went with what I had.
A handful of greens (watercress shown here).
A slice of bell pepper, chopped (optional; I had some left over from a different dish)
About an ounce of vinaigrette
(you can use a little olive oil with a little apple cider vinegar, optionally made with about a 1/4 teaspoon or less of ground mustard, shaken together)
Salt and pepper to taste

Assemble and serve.  If made as a side for a meal, this could serve two.  As it was, it made a great lunch all on its own.

PS:  the WordPress spell checker does not know the word, “pear”.  It keeps trying to tell me I am eating pairs and Gouda.

 

 

 

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