Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grandma Bea's Nut Bread


One of the Christmas traditions on my mom's side of the family was the making of the nutbreads.  I don't know how many batches she makes in any given year, but she usually wraps them up and hands them out as gifts.  This year, I decided it was time for me to partake in this tradition.

I THINK this recipe was written, or at least adapted by my Grandmother.  It's not trivial, but it makes 8 loaves, so the work goes a long way.  One could serve these with dinner, as a dessert option, or for breakfast.  YUM.

Ingredients
Bread
6 EGG YOLKS (SAVE EGG WHITES FOR NUT FILLING)
1 WHOLE EGG
1 CUP (2 STICKS) MELTED UNSALTED  BUTTER
1 TABLESPOON MELTED SHORTENING
8 OZ. SOUR CREAM
3 PKG. DRY YEAST
1 CUP WARM MILK
1 CUP SUGAR
1 TEASPOON BAKING POWDER
6 TO 8 CUPS FLOUR
0.5 tsp salt

Filling
2 LB. GROUND WALNUTS
6 EGG WHITES
1/4 CUP HONEY
1 CUP SUGAR
1 CUP (2 STICKS) MELTED BUTTER
2 TEASPOON VANILLA
2 TEASPOON CINNAMON
0.25 teaspoon salt

Instructions
1.  Soften the yeast in the cup of warm milk.  Mix in cup of sugar
2.  Wisk together flour, baking powder, and salt
3.  Beat eggs
4.  Mix sour cream, melted butter, and shortening into eggs
5.  Mix yeast mixture into egg mixture
6.  Slowly encorporate dry ingredients into wet ingredients
7.  Allow dough to rise until doubled for about 1 hour

8.  Preheat oven to 350

9.  Grind nuts in food processor
10.  Mix filling ingredients in order listed
11.  Punch down dough
12.  divide dough into 8 portions
13.  Roll out each portion dough into 10 in. x 10 in. square
14.  Spread one eight filling over portion of dough
15.  Roll up like a jelly rolld
16.  Place rolls close together (not touching) on a greased baking sheet
17.  Poke holes in top of rolls with fork
18.  Bake 30 minutes at 350

Friday, November 21, 2008

Leek Asparagus Frittata


Fast.  Easy.  Relatively healthy.  Versatile.

Source:  Bon Apetite

Ingredients
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 cup chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
1 12-ounce bunch thin asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 cup sliced stemmed shiitake mushrooms
8 large omega-3 eggs
1 cup diced Fontina cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Instructions
Preheat broiler
Melt butter in heavy broilerproof 10-inch-diameter nonstick skillet over medium heat.
Add leeks and sauté 4 minutes
Add asparagus and shiitake mushrooms, sprinkle lightly with salt, and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes. Whisk eggs, 3/4 cup Fontina cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl
Add egg mixture to skillet; fold gently to combine. Cook until almost set. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup Fontina cheese and Parmesan cheese over
Broil until frittata is puffed and cheese begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. 
Cut into wedges and serve

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sage rubbed pork chops with cinnamon apples and stir-fried grated sweet potatoes


I know, it's been two months since I've had an entry.  Bad Natalie.  Fall was a whirlwind.  My busy September and October took their toll on my waistline and wallet.  I'm pretty sure that I put on 3 or 4 pounds, but refuse to step on a scale.  Additionally, Christmas with all of its expenses is quickly approaching which includes two plane tickets to Mexico City to visit the in-laws plus a live in house-sitter to take care of our two kujos and our 20 lb. attack-cat.  Cha-ching.  I promise to take lots of food pics and report from Mey-heee-koe.  And if any of you have any suggestions about where to eat in Mexico City, drop me a line. 

So, my point is that the next six weeks I vow to be cooking at home.  More specifically I vow to be making relatively healthy meals so that I don't look like a Baluga next to my beautiful, older, skinny, sisters-in-law.  

On the the recipes!

Pork Chop with Cinnamoin Apples
Source - Cooking Light

Now stop that internet!  Don't gag at the mention of cooking light.  True, some of their recipes are aweful, but there are some goodies in there.  

Ingredients
Dry Rubbed sage
salt
pepper
4 boneless pork loin chops
1 tsp butter
4 peeled sliced apples
1 Tblsp brown sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions
1.  Season pork chops with salt and pepper, coat with sage
2.  Cook pork chops in large skillet
3.  Melt butter in skillet
4.  Add apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and a dash of salt
5.  Saute until just soft
6.  Serve apples atop pork chops

Grated stir-fried sweet potatoes

So I saw this idea for stir fried sweet potatoes one of Bittman's articles.  Love that guy.  This is my new favorite way to prep sweet potatoes.  I changed the seasoning because I didn't want to add more butter to my meal, and because I didn't want to over-do it with the sage (see recipe above).  So, I took his suggestion and just sprinkled with a bit of soy sauce.....SOOOOO GOOOOD.  The taters were all carmelized, and savory, and a little sweet.  Can't wait for my leftovers tonight.

My ingredients
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

Instruction
1.  Heat oil in large skillet
2.  Toss in taters, sprinkles with salt and soy sauce
3.  Stir occaisionally until done (maybe 5 minutes)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Zucchini pizza with bacon and tallegio


Source: Jaimie Oliver

I totally dig Jaimie Oliver, the tv chef personality, and yet I don't think I've ever made any of his food before. I don't remember where I saw him do this pizza, but he has at least one show dedicated to pizza making, and this version was one quarter of his "pizza four ways". Truth be told, we just really needed to use up some CSA zucchini, and the thought of grilled zucchini, stir fried zucchini, soup with zucchini, or zucchini bread kind of made me want to stick a knife in my hand. So I remembered his pizza; add bread, tomato sauce, expensive cheese, and bacon to anything and it will make you want to lick the hot pizza stone (warning, you just might do that when you've come to the end of your pizza and you think, oh crap it's all gone).

Ingredients
1 premade whole wheat pizza crust (or make your own if you're not like me and aren't making this after work while you're already famished)
a couple of tablespoons of tomato sauce
1 large zucchini, sliced extremely thin (I use a vegetable peeler)
1-2 pinches chile flakes
3 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
a bunch of tallegio cheese (fontina if you can't find tallegio)
olive oil for drizzling

Instruction
Preheat oven to 475
Build pizza on pizza stone or baking pan in this order: crust, sauce, zucchini, bacon, chile flakes, cheese
Drizzle with olive oil
Bake until cheese begins to brown (10-12 minutes, but will depend on your crust situation)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Vegetable Casserole

Please, do not judge me before reading the recipe.  I know what "casserole" conjures in you head. Something mushy, salty, and flavorless in a pfaltzgraff baking dish.  Something laden with cream of mushroom soup with crunchy fried canned onions on top.  But alas, this is nothing like that so take your pre-conceived notions elsewhere.  And, AND, it's got an Italian name, Tortiere di Verdure al Forno, so see?  This would not be consumed aside jello salad with marshmallow fluff.

This dinner was inspired by a recipe from Mary Ann Esposito, who used to (maybe still does, not sure) have a cooking show on PBS when I was a kid.  Her cooking is very homey and comforting.

This casserole is a snap to put together, is great as a light main course or as a side, and must must must be eaten with some quality bread for dunking in the cheesy wine sauce that sits at the bottom of the pan that is reminiscent of fondue.

Ingredients
1 T butter
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices (Russet)
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 pound plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 medium yellow squash, sliced thin
1 cup grated Pecorino cheese (or combo of cheeses, such as a nice cheddar or gruyere)
2 tablespoons dried oregano (I used Herbs de Provence)
Salt to taste
1/2 cup white wine (or more)


Instructions
1.  Preheat oven to 375 F.
2.  Butter baking pan
3.  Layer potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and squash sprinkling with salt, herbs, and cheese as you go
4.  Pour wine into one end of pan
5.  Bake covered with foil 30 minutes
6.  Bake uncovered until cheese is bubbley

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Red wine risotto with peas

Source: Giada DeLaurentis

I can't believe I haven't posted this recipe yet. We make it all the time. I guess I probably haven't posted it yet because risotto is just one of those dishes that you really don't need a recipe for. You kind of just toss in what you got and what you like. But I really do like this particular combo of red wine, which gives the dish a beautiful rich hue and the bright green peas. And I know that Giada is just a food tv personality, but I've got to say that I genuinely enjoy many of her recipes. Most of the time her recipes are light without much, if any butter and cream and they are almost always incredibly easy. And to top it off, not in this recipe, but in many of her other recipes she is very heavy handed with the lemon. Any gal that uses a lot of acid in her cooking is a gal after my own tastebuds.

Note, once you learn the basic risotto method, you can make up your own versions. The gist is this: soften your onions / garlic in fat, add the rice and toast, add some wine until absorbed, then add hot liquid about 1/2 - 1 cup at a time, only adding more when the previously added hot liquid has been absorbed. This slow addition of liquid will allow the rice to release its starches and your texture will be velvety smooth.

Mmmmm....risotto.....so yummy....so versatile.

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups chicken broth,preferably homemade but can substitue low-sodium boxed or flavorful veggie broth to make vegetarian
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup arborio rice, or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for garnish (I always add more)
Salt and freshly ground black peppe
r

Instructions
1. Heat your broth in a sauce pan, keep it warm and covered.
2. Melt butter in a separate large pan over medium heat, sweat onions until transluscent, add garlic, saute 1 minute.
3. Stir in rice until transluscent, about 1 minute.
4. Add red wine, stir until absorbed, about 1 minute.
5. Add 3/4 cup hot broth, reduce heat to low to the point that the broth and rice are just simmering. Allow liquid to be absorbed, stirring occaisionally (about 5-8 minutes).
6. Repeat addition of broth until broth is gone and risotto is nice texture.
7. Stir in peas and parsley. Season to taste.
8. Garnish with parmesan and serve hot.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Corn Fritters with sriracha dipping sauce



I'm pretty sure that one of the reasons I like our local Asian-fusion restaurant, PM, is their heavy use of the spicy Thai chile sauce, sriracha and their tendency to prepare many foods tempura style. I do not deep fry, ever. It is less of a health conscious decision and more of a I am clumsy and copious amounts of hot oil is a bad bad bad idea for me. So today, I had some corn to use up before my next CSA delivery, and as I've noted previously, I don't love corn on the cob. Cooked by me, it is generally alright, nothing special. Cooked by other people, I find it inedible because it seems like most folks are trying to create creamed corn on the cob and way way way over cook the stuff.

Anyway, I was thinking corn and I was thinking sriracha. A few google searches later, thanks to this guy, I decided on corn fritters. I pulled up a basic corn fritter recipe from Allrecipes.com and used a dipping sauce similar to engineering dude, but with some honey added in. Let me tell you, the sweet / spicy / savory combo never ever fails. Usage of sriracha is not for the faint of heart, but I like my food spicy. So if you can take the heat, I recommend you start dipping everything and your mother in this sauce.

Ingredients Fritters
6 ears fresh corn
4 eggs
0.5 cups all-purpose flour
0.5 teaspoon salt
canola oil for frying

Dipping sauce
equal parts low sodium soy sauce and sriracha
honey to taste

Instructions
1. Cut corn kernels from cobs
2. Mix corn, beaten eggs, flour, and salt
3. Drop batter into pre-heated oil (about 1 inch deep in cast iron skillet)
4. Cook to brown on each side

Dipping sauce
Mix

Note: the chicken in this pic was quite unremarkable. I was trying to go for something akin to this recipe by Michael Simon. But, duh, of course it didn't because there was no frying and no butter. But the spice "marinade" which I used as a rub was decent. The star of dinner, though were the fritters. B said "I could eat a million of these things". Poor poor fried-food deprived man.

Update: Note to all, this dipping sauce was even a little too spicy for me. I recommend starting with soy sauce and adding the sriracha to taste.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Zucchini / mushroom tacos with our without chorizo

Source: Rick Bayless

This recipe goes out to all of you ladies (or men...I shouldn't be presumptuous) who might enjoy some sausage in your tacos. Or, for those of you who do not enjoy sausage in your tacos, you may omit and it'll still be delish. Who am I to judge? Spanish and Mexican chorizo differ significantly. Spanish sausage is firm (eh hem) and pre-cooked. Mexican sausage is more similar to Italian sausage and is not pre-cooked. This is a nice way to use late summer squashes in an unexpected way.

Ingredients
4-6 oz. chorizo
1 medium white onion, sliced
4 oz. mushrooms of your choice
1 canned chipotle in adobo (not 1 whole can...one individual pepper)
1 T adobo sauce
1 15 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes
2-3 medium zucchini or late summer squash (I used zephyr because I had it)
salt to taste
fresh corn tortillas
queso fresco

Instruction
1. Remove casings from sausage, brown over medium-high heat
2. If necessary, drain fat from pain leaving sausage
3. Add onions, saute until translucent
4. Add mushrooms, saute until almost cooked through
5. While mushrooms cook, blend together tomatoes (drained) with chipotles and adobo
6. Add to pan, stir, cook 3 or 4 minutes
7. Add zucchini, cook until just tender
8. Salt to taste

Serve atop warm fresh tortillas with crumbled queso fresco

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Okra!

I haven't uploaded pics of dinner from last night, but it was a southern produce feast. I was raised a Yankee, so the world of Southern produce is still new to me. One of the items on the menu last night, Okra. I like okra. I like it fried, in gumbo, and pickled however I was not prepared or in the mood for any of those preparations. So after a bit of internet searching, I discovered that many folks really like it roasted. Who knew, roasted okra? Roasting is just about my favorite way to prepare most veggies, so I thought this was right up my ally. And, since there is no cutting involved you can avoid the gross okra slime, which somehow disappears during roasting. AND, since the veg has a nice built-in handle, they make a great finger food.

Ingredients
Okra
Olive oil
course salt (kosher or sea)
Any other seasoning you like (curry powder, cayenne, etc)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350
Wash and pat dry whole fresh okra
Toss to coat in olive oil
Sprinkle generously with salt and seasoning
Roast 20-25 minutes

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Corn Soup

Source: Bon Appetit August 2008
Here's a confession; I don't really love corn on the cob. I like it if it is REALLY excellent corn, but only one delivery of my super awesome CSA met my straight up corn standards. I think it is years of braces that did it for me. That said, I love the flavor of fresh corn and this recipe captures it in a soup. Unfortunately, I made it as a main course, and it is really more of an appetizer. After straining it, it is really smooth and velvety but not hearty enough to stand alone. But the lightness of the texture with the sweet corn flavors makes it an EXCELLENT summer appetizer. OR, it would be a nice side to a good salad. Make this with the last of your summer corn.

Ingredients
Soup:
3 cups whole milk
3 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut from cobs, cobs broken in half and reserved
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 cups water
2 large fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 bay leaf
Ground white pepper

Garnish:
2 thick bacon slices, diced
1/3 cup fresh corn kernels cut from about 1/2 ear of corn
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Pinch of cayenne pepper Crème fraîche,* stirred to loosen

Instructions

1. Cut kernels off cob, set kernels aside. Bring milk to a boil with cobs, remove from heat, cover, and let steep while you cook veggies.

2. Sweat onion in butter until translucent, add corn kernels, carrot, celery, garlic and cook until soft. Salt veggies.

3. Add 2 cups water, herb sprigs, bay leaf, and
milk with corncobs. Increase heat and bringto boil. Cover partially, reduce heat to low,and simmer 20 minutes to blend flavors.

Discard corncobs, herb sprigs, and bay

leaf. Cool soup slightly. Working in batches,puree soup in blender until very smooth.Strain into large bowl, pressing on solids toextract as much liquid as possible. Seasonsoup to taste with salt and white pepper.DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead.Cover and chill.

For garnish:

Cook bacon in small skilletover medium heat until crisp. Using slottedspoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.Transfer to small bowl. Mix in corn, greenonion, and pinch of cayenne. DO AHEAD:Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Rewarm soup over medium heat.

Divide among bowls. Sprinkle garnish over,drizzle with crème fraîche, and serve.

* Sold at some supermarkets and at specialty

foods stores.
milk with corncobs. Increase heat and bringto boil. Cover partially, reduce heat to low,and simmer 20 minutes to blend flavors.

4. Discard corncobs, herb sprigs, and bayleaf. Cool soup slightly. Working in batches,puree soup in blender until very smooth. I used a hand immersion blender. Strain into large bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. It would help if you had one of those cone shaped sauce strainers, which I do not.

5. Season soup (liberally) to taste with salt and white pepper

For garnish:

Cook bacon and drain. Mix in corn, greenonion, and pinch of cayenne. Divide among bowls. Sprinkle garnish over,drizzle with crème fraîche, and serve.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bailey's Chocolate Cheesecake

Source: My friend Betsy....don't know where she got it

My former coworker, Betsy is wonderful in many many ways. I think of her as wise in most of the ways of life and I forsee in my future that I will be emailing her with all child-care related questions. She is also a very good baker and would make all of the birthday cakes. This made frequent appearances as it was often requested. It is an incredibly rich, delicious cheesecake. It will spoil you and you will never be able to eat restaurant cheesecake again.

Ingredients
Crust
1-2 C chocolate crumbs
1/4 C melted butter
1/2 t cinnamon
Mix and press into 9-10 inch springform pan

Filling
3 - 8oz packages of cream cheese softened
1 C sugar
1 - 8oz of sour cream
8 oz semisweet choc chips melted
3 eggs
1/3-1/2 C Baileys Irish Cream
2 t vanilla

Instructions
Cream the cream cheese and sugar and then add eggs. Beat well then
add sour cream, choc chips, Bailey's and vanilla. Pour over crust.

Bake 325 for 50-60 minutes

Neglect officially over and Carrabbas

July and the first part of August was a whirlwind. Between traveling for work, deadlines for work, and a beach vacation, I just had to let this site slide a bit. But I'm back and will be posting recipes regularly again now.

I took our busy schedules + a defunct kitchen due to new counter top installations to use a gift certificate we had lying around. Like my fellow Nashville food blogger, Lannae, Carrabba's offered me a $50 gift card to go, try their restaurant, and write about it. When I got their email, I was rather hesitant, because I felt like maybe I was "selling out" but B knocked some sense into me reminding me that we are poor scientists and who were we to pass up free food. Touche.

So off we went deep into suburbia (Cool Springs location) to Carrabbas. What I knew about Carrabbas previously was that it was a chain Italian restaurant and that they sponsor a 10K in Raleigh every year, to which I say yeah to them. Funny thing is, I am REALLY anti-chain, so I thought it was sort of funny that they sent me, of all people, this gift card. We arrived late-ish (for me) around 7:30, and had about a 10-15 minute wait. I was surprised that it was so crowded on a Tuesday night, especially considering the place is huge.

So onto the food, we started with calamari, which was actually solid. It wasn't chewy, and it wasn't greasy, so kudos to them on their frying skills. I thought it was under-seasoned, B thought it was over-seasoned, so we came to the conclusion that the seasoning was unequally distributed. And, the portion was kind of ridiculous...not an appetizer for two people, probably intended for more like 4-6 people. We each had a salad. I had a house salad, which was a major disappointment: not very good romain lettuce, canned black olives, some under-ripe tomatoes, some dried cheese sprinkles, and bottled dressing. Bleh. B had a Ceasar salad, which was unremarkable. Then onto main courses. Due to the size of the appetizer, we feared the size of our entres, which proved to be more reasonable. I had manicotti, which was decent, but not spectacular. But then again, it's cheese, it's noodles, it's tomato sauce. How can you go wrong. B had a baked pasta florentine, which was similar to manicotti, but stuffed with chicken, spinach, and cheese. He preferred my dish.

In conclusion, Carrabbas was pretty much what I expected. It was decent, but unspectacular food that was not extraordinarily expensive, but not a bargain either. The service was good and the ambiance contrived, but fun for little ones. B and I would not spend our own money there. BUT, the restaurant was decent, and seems like it would be kid friendly, so if that is your stage in life, then it wouldn't be a bad choice.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Delicious summer veggie soup

Another Tuesday, the night before Wednesday CSA delivery equals empty out fridge. this week, we made soup and it was deeeelightful, I am sure never to be replicated. Of course, if I were you, I wouldn't really follow this recipe. I'd just toss what you got in a pot. I hope your bounty is as super sweet as mine.

Ingredients
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
2 carrots cut into chunks
2 zephyr squash, cubed
1 pint pear shaped teeny-tiny tomatoes
2 small green heirloom tomatoes, cubed
1 bag dried tortellini
1 can canelli beans, rinsed
4 cups homemade chicken stock
1 cup wax beans

Instructions
Heat oil over medium high heat
Sautee shallots and carrots in olive oil until shallots are translucent, add pinch of salt and pepper
Toss in squash, salt the squash, saute 2-3 minutes
Toss in tomatoes, salt, saute another 2-3 minutes
Add chicken broth and bring to a biol
Add in tortellini, bring back to a boil,
Add canelli beans and wax beans, reduce heat to low-medium, simmer gently about 10 minutes until tortellini is done
Add salt
Garnish with fresh basil if you have some

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Creme Fraiche and Redemption

I made a chicken dish this weekend that I found via the Wednesday Chef blog with a lemon and creme fraiche sauce. Basically, you sear the chicken and then finish cooking it in the oven. Then make a sauce by de-glazing the pan with lemon juice and lots of creme fraiche. And I've got to say, that while I love creme fraiche as an accent ingredient, I just didn't love the sauce. It was just a little bit too much and too rich for my taste. Just personal taste I guess.

I also successfully made a basic chocolate mousse recipe, which I topped with beautiful berries from the Nashville farmer's market. Not a big deal you say? Everyone can make chocolate mousse. I was recently reminded by my mother that my childhood best friend and I attempted to make chocolate mousse several times for our French class as young teenagers quite unsuccessfully. I believe we finally settled on mixing chocolate pudding with cool whip. But a failure I am no more. TAKE THAT FRENCH KARMA! Whose your bitch now?

PS: The chocolate mousse recipe was a bit boring....not really sure what it was missing....maybe some cinnamon would do the trick. Or maybe my displeasure with most foods this weekend had everything to do with the heat. The only thing that tasted DELICIOUS to me were the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes I picked up at the farmer's market....sliced with a little salt and olive oil. It doesn't get better than that in July.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Summer Ice Box Pasta

I threw this together last night with items we were trying to use up from our last CSA delivery. We get a new delivery on Wednesday, so sometimes Tuesday night it's a fun chore to figure out how we can throw together what we have left over.

What we had on hand were some long, thick green beans with purple speckles, I don't know exactly what they were, tomatoes, garlic, and some nice Greek feta that gets moldy pretty quickly.

It is imperative to use the proper pasta method, which allows for the flavor of the sauce to permeate the pasta. Otherwise what you get is bland pasta with sauce sitting on top with a weird texture contrast. I'll describe it for those of you who aren't familiar. If you're a proficient cook, I apologize for the detail. Some of my friends and family have probably never learned to cook pasta this way, so I thought it might be fun to explain it to them. It makes such a world of difference.

What I was thinking about when I cooked this up was Italian style green beans cooked in 'maters and what I got was much much better! We loved it so much that there is no picture as evidence.

Ingredients
1 lb whole wheat angel hair pasta
2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1-2 cups green beans trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
2 cups diced fresh tomatoes OR 1 large can good quality diced / or whole tomatoes (San Marzano are my favorite)
2 T fresh basil or 1 t dried basil
kosher salt
4 oz. feta cheese
kosher salt
pinch sugar

Instructions
1. Fill VERY large pot with cold water, cover and bring to boil. More water is better.
2. While the water heats up, heat oil in a large skillet over medium- high heat.
3. Add onion, saute until translucent.
4. Stir in garlic, cook 1 minute. Add large pinch of salt to onion-garlic mixture.
5. Stir in green beans, add large pinch of salt, and saute about 2 minutes until start to turn bright green.
6. Stir in tomatoes (if using canned, include liquid). If using dried basil, stir in now....otherwise wait.
7. Season with 2-3 pinches of salt and one pinch sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let simmer.

8. Your pasta water should be boiling. Season LIBERALLY with salt....I'm talking a good handful. If you don't season your pasta water, your pasta will be bland.
9. Add pasta to water, stir well. Cook until about 2-3 minutes shy of being done...which in the case of whole wheat angel hair is only about 3 minutes.
10. RESERVE 2-3 CUPS HOT PASTA WATER, strain pasta. Don't worry about getting all the water out. That water is going to add body and flavor to you sauce.
11. Transfer partially cooked pasta to skillet with sauce and toss well. Spoon in 2-3 ladles of pasta water and let the pasta water blend with sauce and become absorbed into pasta until pasta is al dente (taste it to know if it's done).
12. Move pasta and sauce to very large bowl, season with another 2 pinches of salt.
13. Crumble feta over pasta and stir well.

What you'll get by adding the salt a little bit of time is that every part of your sauce will be well seasoned, it won't be salty I promise. By finishing the cooking of the pasta in the sauce, the flavor of the sauce will be permeate the pasta. And the combination of the starchy pasta water, plus the feta will make a delightfuly velvety texture that you can't replicate by cooking sauce separately and just dumping it on pasta. That would end up a watery mess.

14. Consume pasta.

An aside: my personal blog is about to spill into my food blog a bit here. Using this method always makes me think of my dad. If you knew my dad, you'd be scratching your head right now because he didn't cook, at all. His idea of cooking was boiling hot dogs. So, my mother makes this really delicious Italian sausage tomato sauce that is one of my husband's favorites. My parents really love B, so when we visit, my mom will frequently have either pasta with the sauce or a baked pasta dish using the sauce awaiting us. Upon our arrival, we were always tired, but happy to be in their home and very happy to get some food and my parents would sit down with us even if they had already eaten. One of these nights, my father felt it necessary to explain to me that it is important to finish cooking the pasta by mixing it with the sauce. I have no idea where he learned that, but it makes me laugh to think about that.

He and I had a lot in common in our lives, but our taste in food was not one of those things. Yet somehow, many of my memories of him and everyone who has been important to me are totally wrapped up in food. And this is one of the reasons I take so much care and effort to make sure that what we eat has been prepared with love. An unhealthy relationship with food? Perhaps.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Picky Eater's Grilled Chicken

So we had some neighbors over for dinner on Saturday night. Somehow we ended up in a neighborhood of people who are absolutely nothing like us, which is just fine by me. All of our immediate neighbors are empty-nesters, mostly native to TN. This actually turns out to be an ideal situation because most of these people have lived life enough to be decidedly un-fussy.

I happen to know the male half of the couple that came to our place for dinner is very picky and has pretty different taste than us. His wife teases him because he thinks Italian food is exotic. What the heck was I going to feed him. We eat almost exclusively foreign-inspired cuisine, don't eat much meat, and almost never make southern food. Plus, I didn't really want to cook indoors.

So, I went with grilled chicken, which seems pretty universal for non-vegetarians at least.

This recipe, Peruvian Grilled chicken, is from Gourmet. I felt like the ingredients were fun enough to satisfy B and myself, but tame enough for the non-adventurous neighbors. It was, indeed, delicious. It'd be great for kids.

Ingredients
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
5 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika (I used smoked paprika for a little oomph)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), quartered

Accompaniment: lime wedges

Instructions
Marinate chicken:
Blend soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, cumin, paprika, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and oil in a blender.

Put chicken in a large sealable bag and add marinade. Seal bag and marinate, chilled, 8 to 24 hours.

Grill chicken:
If using a charcoal grill, open vents on bottom and lid of grill. Light a large chimney starter full of charcoal (preferably hardwood). When coals are lit, dump them out along opposite sides of bottom rack, leaving a space free of coals (the size of the quartered chicken) in middle. When you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill rack directly over coals for 3 to 4 seconds, coals will be medium-hot.

If using a gas grill, preheat all burners on high, then reduce heat to medium-high.

Discard marinade, then pat chicken dry. Oil grill rack, then grill chicken over area with no coals (or over a turned-off burner), skin side down first, covered, turning over once, until cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes (add charcoal to maintain heat).

Cooks' note: If you aren't able to grill outdoors, chicken (quartered) can be roasted in middle of a 500°F oven in a 13- by 9-inch roasting pan with 1 cup water 30 minutes, then tented with foil and roasted until browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes more.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Chicken / Veggie / anything you want fried rice

Alrighty folks. Let's talk about home made fried rice. This is a fantastic time of year for fried rice because it is a quick, adaptable dish that you can make without turning on your oven. If you're like me and are the recipient of lots of seasonal veggies, either from your garden or a CSA, you'll be looking for some fun things to do with them.

BUT, you need to remember that I am Croatian / Hungarian / German / English. This is SOOOO far from authentic, but good none the less. The method for making fried rice couldn't be simpler, the key is good ingredients, of course. I'll show you what I made tonight going through step by step, but please be creative and use any veggies, protein, spices that you like.

Ingredients for tonight's rice
1 cup dry jasmine rice cooked according to directions on package
canola oil
1 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed small (omit if want vegetarian)
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
two crookneck yellow squash, cut into small cubes (use anything on hand: carrots, cabbage, peppers, etc)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 eggs
0.5 cups frozen green peas
Tamari
kosher salt
1-2 teaspoons butter

Instructions
1. Cook rice on stovetop according to directions

2. Pre-heat large wok or skillet over medium-high heat

3. Salt cubed raw chicken liberally

4. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to wok, add chicken.

5. When chicken is brown and cooked throgh, remove from skillet
and set aside

6. Add another tablespoon canola oil to wok, add onions, garlic,
and ginger. Sprinkle with pinch of salt and cook until translucent.

7. Add squash to wok, cook about 2-3 minutes.

8. Add red pepper flakes.



9. Push veggies to exterior of wok, add two beaten eggs and cook,
stirring, until just scrambled and solid.


10. Add in froze peas, give a good stir to distrubute.






11. Add cooked rice and chicken to wok.

12. Sprinkle with good quality soy sauce (I use tamari) until top layer is coated well. Stir well.

13. Finish rice off with 1-2 teaspoons butter.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Pork Tenderloin with Port Sauce

Source: "James" via Martha Stewart via my mother

Note, this recipe isn't on her site anymore, so I can't link it.

This is my second favorite way to prepare pork tenderloin. My very favorite is pork with balsamic vinegar from Marianne Esposito, but this recipe is much quicker and really really good. It's a great weeknight dinner. Best of all, I almost always have the ingredients on hand!

Ingredients
2 Tbl olive (or vegetable oil)
2 pork tenderloins - (1 lb ea)
Coarse salt -, To Taste
Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup port wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbl butter - (1/4 stick), Unsalted
1 Tsp red-wine vinegar, or more to taste

Instructions
1. Heat oil in a medium, heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat.
2. Remove silver skin from pork tenderloins, pat dry, season with salt and pepper and slice crosswise into 1-inch pieces.
3. Brown medallions in oil. Transfer to a warm platter; set aside.
4. Remove skillet from heat. Discard fat, and add port; return skillet to heat. Deglaze sauce, scraping with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits from bottom of pan. Continue cooking until sauce is reduced to about 2 tablespoons.
5. Add broth, and cook until sauce is lightly syrupy, about 4 minutes.
6. Whisk in butter, a little at a time, gently shaking pan while whisking. Stir in vinegar. Taste, and adjust for seasoning. Spoon sauce over pork, and serve immediately.

Super Easy Peach-Blueberry "Cobbler"


Source: Betsy

Tomorrow marks the start of July, which is the beginning of blueberry season here in the south. To celebrate, I'm posting one of my favorite blueberry recipes. It is not your traditional fruit topped with biscuit topping cobbler. It is a little more cake-like, but not all that sugary sweet. Best of all, this recipe could not be easier. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients
1 1/2 C self rising flour
1 1/2 C sugar
1/1/2 C milk
1 stick butter melted
add in some cinnamon and nutmeg
A bunch of sliced peaches (maybe 4-6 cups)
A bunch of blueberries (one or two pints)

Instructions
mix it up and dump the fruit on top. Bake 350 ~ 1 hour.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Restarant review: PM

Subtitle: Fried Pickles, WHO KNEW?

I'm feeling very guilty, food blog-o-sphere for neglecting this blog. I am currently having several issues. First, because it is the height of summer, my diet is filled with very simple things that you really don't need to hear about. Sliced cucumbers with vinegar, oil and salt, grilled chicken breasts with balsamic reduction, grilled yellow squash with olive oil, etc. Exciting eh? Second, I don't feel much like writing. Third, I haven't uploaded photos recently.

I DID make beer butt chicken this weekend, which was good, but not spectacular. I think it has the potential to be excellent with a bit of tweaking. I dare not post that entry without the pics. What fun is beer butt chicken without beer in a chicken's butt?

A recent meal, which we really did enjoy quite a bit was a visit to PM. I know, I'm way late for jumping on the PM band wagon. But you've got to cut me some slack, we've only been in Nashville for about a year. So many restaurants, so little money. And so many have been a disappointment that I am hesitant to try new places sometimes.

So the husband and I went on Saturday evening with three friends. We met at 7 pm, and JUST beat the dinner rush. The patio is really nice, though the larger tables were full, so we sat inside. It's a casual place that has a definite college campus vibe, one I personally dig. We had read some reviews suggesting the service wasn't great, but our waiter was awesome, genuinely friendly, attentive, fun, and knowledgeable.

As I've mentioned before, I don't dig the umami scene, so I was really excited about their fairly extensive vegetarian menu. Plus, two of the five of us are vegetarian, so this was a great place. We ordered a smorgasbord of big plates, small plates, and appetizers, so I really can't go into everything we ordered. I'll just touch on highlights and disappointments.

Highlights
Sweet potato bisque- Unfortunately for you vegetarians, this soup apprently has a bit of sassage in it, so it's not for you. It was perfect, a little sweet, a little spicy, and SMOOOTH. I would've licked my bowl if I were at home.

The famous burger - I didn't try this, but my husband loved loved loved it. He felt guilty about order the burger with such a cool menu, but had to try it since it has become a legend in Nashville.

Fried pickles - My vegetarian friends ordered these, who I might mention are so NOT southern. They are Indian, so didn't really have a history with friend pickles. Actually there was not a southerner at the table so none of us expected much. But, wow were they delicious. I think the pickle slices were butter, not dill. It was a perfect little bite of tangy, sweet, juicy, crispy goodness. My Mexico city native husband, who DESPISES pickles loved these things. Get ye to PM and order fried pickles, I say.

All of the desserts we tried - Green tea ice cream, Lychee sorbet, and Thai pudding. All delicious and not too sweet. I had green tea ice cream, but I think my regular is going to be Thai pudding.

Disappointments
Now, when I say disappointments, I don't mean I didn't like these things. Everything was good, but I won't order these things again, because they weren't perfect.

Tempura vegetables - They were a nice mixture of veggies, and were fried very well, but they weren't salted after frying. Tempura needs a little bit of seasoning. The sauce was more sweet than salty, so it just wasn't perfectly balanced.

Lump crab wontons - Good, but unremarkable.

There was more, but I won't go on anymore. I'll let you make up your own minds.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sichuan-style Shrimp


Adapted from Foolproof Chinese Cooking via Epicurious.

I was looking for something to make for dinner last night that was quick, didn't heat up my kitchen with the oven, and had my favorite protein, shrimp. Love me some shrimp. This was a great option because it also has garlic, which I just got a head from my CSA yesterday and I could throw in some extra veggies from my CSA delivery. And I promise you, that if you go to the ethnic aisle of your grocery store, or better yet K&S, and start playing with some of their sauces you'll be less tempted to patron the by-in-large crappy Chinese restaurants here in Nashville (there are a few exceptions). Seriously, stir frying is so easy, quick, adaptable, and healthy.

Note, I was not a good foodie, and didn't go to K&S for my ingredients. I went to Publix because I was in a hurry. They didn't have Chinese black vinegar, so I substituted cider vinegar. Regardless this was delicious. Also note that I love love love love love tomato paste in a tube. No opening a can, no throwing away what's left, just squeeze into your pan.

I also threw in some onion with the garlic and ginger and broccoli with the shrimp. Serve with rice.

Ingredients
1/2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
2 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
1 lb raw shrimp, shelled and deveined

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons chili bean sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar or cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Cilantro sprigs, to garnish (optional)

Instructions

1. Heat a wok over high heat. Add the oil, and when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the ginger, garlic, and scallions.

2. Stir-fry for 20 seconds, then add the shrimp. Stir-fry the shrimp for about 1 minutes.

3. Add the sauce ingredients and continue to stir-fry for another 3 minutes over a high heat. Serve at once.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The start of no cook season

In the summer, the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven, and thus begins my season of "I don't want to cook" season. I still want to eat well, and don't mind preparing food, but turn on the oven and roast veggies, I don't think so. The oven makes the house too flippin hot, even with AC. This is TN afterall.

So, my posts may be a little bit more infrequent because you don't want to hear about chopping up some veggies and tossing them with a nice vinegar and salt. Last night, for example, we used tomatoes and cucumbers from our CSA to make a salad with some nice, expensive Greek sheep / goat milk feta along with some pita bread and hummus. A good dinner, yes, but not exactly a recipe.

I assume many of you feel the same way I do about turning on the oven in 95 degree heat. So, here is an awesome Bittman minimalist article from last summer on some quick summer meal ideas. I hope it inspires you the way it has inspired me.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Nothing new

Due to my husband's recent wisdom tooth surgery, I didn't do much cooking this weekend beyond making lots of semi-solid items. Our weekend was a beige extravaganza filled with scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, squash casserole, milk shakes, and smoothies. I suppose I could make solid food for myself, but making mushy food takes a lot more effort than making nice crisp food, so I just don't have the motivation to make two sets of everything.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Grilled "Halibut" with Lima Bean and Roasted Tomato Sauce


There are oh so many things that I miss about Chapel Hill (NC). I could go on and on with the list, but I'll save that for another day. Chapel Hill is only a couple hours from the beach, so we could get really incredible seafood for a reasonable price. Maybe I just haven't found a decent fishmonger yet, but I am just not thrilled with the quality of fish I can get here. And, fish is so friggin EXPENSIVE here. I was all ready to make this recipe as is, only to find halibut was $22 a pound at Whole Foods. I just can't talk myself into spending that much money on a piece of fish for a quick weeknight dinner just to cover it in a flavorful sauce. So I bought trout.

The trout itself was just alright. I know it would've been way better if I'd used Halibut as the recipe called for. And, I forgot to buy basil. Regardless, the sauce was super super yummy and should be put on everything: Pork, shrimp, maybe beef (though I'm not down with beef....I'm just not into the umami scene), chicken, pound cake....just kidding. Wanted to see if you were still reading.

Anyway, the recipe was great. The execution was less than perfect.

One more quick story. I picked this recipe because both B and I LOVE roasted tomatoes and lima beans. Every once in a while, when speaking of succotash, B has an ESL moment and calls it sasquatch. Tee Hee.

Source: Jonathan Waxman in Gourmet 2005

Ingredients
4 large tomatoes (preferably heirloom; 2 lb total)
3 garlic cloves, cut lengthwise into slivers
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lb fresh lima or fava beans in pod, shelled, or 10 oz frozen baby lima beans or shelled edamame (soybeans; 2 cups), not thawed
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 (6-oz) pieces halibut fillet (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick)

Instructions
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.

Core tomatoes, then halve crosswise.

Stud the cut side of each half with garlic slivers, then sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (total). Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, in a lightly oiled shallow baking pan, then drizzle evenly with 1 tablespoon oil. Roast until just soft and wilted, 15 to 20 minutes.

While tomatoes roast, cook beans in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until just tender, 5 to 8 minutes.

Drain in a colander and cool slightly, about 10 minutes. When beans are cool enough to handle, gently slip off skins. Coarsely chop beans and roasted tomatoes, then toss with basil, remaining tablespoon oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and lemon juice (to taste).

Prepare grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas).

If using a charcoal grill, open vents on bottom of grill, then light charcoal. When charcoal turns grayish white (about 15 minutes from lighting), hold your hand 5 inches above grill rack to determine charcoal heat. It is medium-hot when you can hold your hand there for 3 to 4 seconds. If using a gas grill, preheat burners on high, covered, 10 minutes, then reduce to moderate setting.

Pat fish dry and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Grill on lightly oiled grill rack, covered only if using gas grill, turning over once, until just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes total.

Serve fish topped with bean and roasted tomato sauce.

Prove me wrong

Okay people, my CSA had delivered its first bunch of beets to us. Thing is, neither I nor B like beets. However, in the spirit of the CSA, I would like to at least TRY and like them. I need your help. How can I prepare them that will turn me into a beet-loving convert?

Am I looking in the wrong place?

Is it my imagination or does Whole Foods not carry Creme fraiche?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tacos Al Pastor



Tacos Al Pastor are a childhood favorite of my husband's. They are pork tacos served in taquarias across Mexico but are thought to have originated from Labanese imigrant's shawarma. The pork is slow roasted on a spit, much like lamb served in greek gyros, with a pineapple atop so that the juices run down and coat the pork as it cooks.

This cooking method has prevented me from ever trying to replicate the taco. Obviously, I don't have the equipment for it. But the May issue of Bon Appetite and then the June issue of Gourmet both featured recipes trying to replicate the flavors of Al pastor using a backyard grill. Hooray!

I chose to try the recipe from Bon Appetite, and it was fantastic. I chose to pair it with a mixed green and fresh pea salad with a lime vinagrette, Rick Bayless's Guajillo salsa, fresh corn tortillas from La Hacienda here in Nashville, and a chilled Rhone Rose.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that these were slammin. My husband claims they are the best he's had outside of Mexico. He'll frequently order Al Pastor at various Meixcan joints, and we're always disappointed, but not these!

Ingredients
large white onion, halved
1 pineapple, peeled, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup guajillo chile powder ( I used 2 T arbol chile powder, because I had it on hand)
3 garlic cloves, halved
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large or 2 small chipotle chiles and 1 to 2 teaspoons adobo from canned chipotle chiles in adobo
1 2 1/2-to 3-pound boneless pork loin, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Corn tortillas
Lime wedges
Instructions

Coarsely chop 1 onion half.

Coarsely chop 2 pineapple rounds, discarding core; cover and chill remaining pineapple.

Place chopped onion and chopped pineapple in blender. Add orange juice and next 7 ingredients; puree marinade until smooth. Marinate pork in fridge at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat).

Grill remaining pineapple until warmand slightly charred, 4 to 6 minutes perside.
Grill pork with some marinadestill clinging until slightly charred andcooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side.Transfer pineapple and pork to worksurface; chop pineapple into 1/2-inchcubes, discarding cores. Chop pork.Transfer to platter; toss to combine.

Meanwhile, finely chop remaining

onion half and place in medium bowl.Add cilantro; toss to combine. Grilltortillas until warm and slightly charred,about 10 seconds per side.

Serve pork-pineapple mixture with

onion-cilantro relish, Smoky Two-ChileSalsa, and lime wedges.

Test-kitchen tip: To make your own

guajillo chile powder, finely grind about6 large dried seeded guajillo chiles in aspice mill to yield about 1/4 cup powder.
Grill pork with some marinade still clinging until slightly charred and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side.

Transfer pineapple and pork to worksurface; chop pineapple into 1/2-inchcubes, discarding cores. Chop pork.Transfer to platter; toss to combine.

Meanwhile, finely chop remaining onion half and place in medium bowl. Add cilantro; toss to combine. Grill tortillas until warm and slightly charred,about 10 seconds per side.

Serve pork-pineapple mixture with onion-cilantro relish, Salsa, and lime wedges.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Red Lentil Soup

I know. May in Tennessee is not technically soup season. However, I came across this recipe a few months ago in the NY Times. At the time, I had thought you could only find red lentils in ethnic markets. While I live about a mile from Nolensville Rd., the meca of ethnic food in Nashville we've been very very very busy this spring and have had a hard time scheduling another errand. About two weeks ago, a random woman asked me to help her find quinoa at Whole Foods (I apparently look like I know my carbs....don't know how I should feel about that). I led her to the bulk aisle and found quinoa in the top row. And HARK, right next to it was red lentils. I am constantly buying things from the bulk section and I never noticed them because the top row is above my head. So I bought some and made this soup.

This soup actually works in warm weather because of the flavors. Lemon and cilantro freshen it up. B loves lentil soup, but I generally have mixed feelings about it. The color of normal lentils is less than appealing, and I find many versions are too thick and rely too much on the flavor of bacon with no other complexity. This soup was really incredible. It fixed all of my lentil soup "Issues". I encourage all of you to make it. Serve with some grilled pita or naan and a side salad made from this season's fresh greens and radishes.

Source: Melissa Clark, NY Times

Ingredients
3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of ground chili powder or cayenne, more to taste
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup red lentils
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.

Instructions

1. In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.

2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.

3. Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.

4. Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.

5. Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mango Fruit Salsa

Is it obvious that the weather has turned warm here for good? Warm to me means MANGO (insert man in shiny pants slapping his bottom). MANGO. And I am all about the yellow mango, aka, champagne mango, aka Ataulfo mangos. You can find them in whole foods and even Publix, Teeter, or Kroger when they are in season like RIGHT NOW. They are smaller and more tart than a normal mango. I really love a lot of acid in my food. Always have and always will. I first had yellow mangos when I visited my husband's family for the first time in Mexico City. They probably just thought of me as "the crazy lady who doesn't speak Spanish by the fruit bowl". And now they probably think of me as "the crazy daughter in law who doesn't speak Spanish by the fruit bowl....but she has been making a lot of Mexican food." I'd like to say it is in preparation for our future children....to learn their heritage....ah but it's more like because there is a lot of great produce is Mexico and I dig that.

My grad school roomie, Brandi, originally found this recipe. Isn't it funny how people in our lives affect what we eat. I associate each one of my roomies with a distinct style of eating / cooking and each has left a definite mark on how and what I cook. Don't remember where this recipe comes from, but everyone I know requests it. Eat it with chips, or by the spoon, or by the bucket.

Ingredients
1 large or 2 small mangoes, cubed
3 kiwis, cubed
0.5 red onion, diced
kernels 1 ear of corn, blanched and cut off cob
0.25-0.5 cups cilantro chopped
Juice 1 lime
salt to taste

Instructions
Mix and shovel into mouth

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Eggplant Method Confirmed

So last week, I finally got around to making eggplant parmigiana ala Dave Grecco. Indeed, pealing the eggplant and slicing paper before frying gives the texture a major upgrade. Even, B, who had previously claimed not to like eggplant devoured the dish. The downside, it's more labor intensive and messier, but worth it if it means I get to add it back into our repetoire.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Mango-Jicama and Cucumber Salad

Soooooo good for summer.

Source, Rick Bayless via foodtv.

Ingredients
2 medium (about 1 1/2 pounds) mangoes, peeled, flesh cut from the pit and sliced into 1/2-inch "fingers" or wedges (see technique below)
1 medium (about 1 pound) jicama, peeled and cut into long 1/2-inch-wide "fingers" or wedges
1 long seedless "English" cucumber (or 2 regular cucumbers), cut into long 1/2-inch-wide "fingers" or wedges
1 teaspoon pure ground chile (buy pure guajillo or ancho chile in a Mexican grocery, make it yourself, or substitute a little cayenne)
Salt
2 limes, each cut into 6 wedges

Instructions
Cutting the mangoes: Peel the mangoes, then cut the flesh from the pits: A mango pit (to which the flesh clings tightly) is flattish and oval, more-or-less a smaller version of the mango's overall shape. To cut the flesh off the pit, stand a mango on one end and slice the flesh from one side of the pit. Turn the mango around and slice the flesh off the other side. You'll be able to get a couple thin slices of flesh off the pit on each end. Cut the large pieces into long 1/2-inch-wide "fingers."

Salad: In pointed Sno-Cone cups (you'll need a snow-cone holder or a glass to support each cup) or in paper cups or glasses, combine a portion of mango, jicama and cucumber "fingers" or wedges (they will be standing in the cups). Mix the chile and 1/2 teaspoon salt; sprinkle over the "salads." Serve with lime wedges for each guest to squeeze over the pieces as they eat them.

Variation: Cut the mango, jicama and cucumber into cubes instead of "fingers," and mix together in a large bowl. Juice the limes (rather than cutting them into wedges) and drizzle over the mixture. Sprinkle with the salt and chile, and serve on a buffet or pass this at the table.

Fish Tacos with Guac

Okay, so this isn't really a recipe at all as much as it is an idea for a dinner. Fish tacos is just one of those dishes that lends well to winging it

Ingredients
Fish
Firm white fish (I used mahi)
Lime
olive oil
salt
pepper

Guac
2 haas avacado, cubed
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup white onion finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro
juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste

Corn or Flour tortillas

Instructions
1. Marinate fish in lime, olive oil, salt, and pepper 15-20 minutes
2. Grill
3. While fish grills, mix together ingredients for guac
4. Grill tortillas 15 second on each side, just until starting to brown a bit
5. Serve fish and guac atop hot tortillas

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sweet-Hot Bbq Tater Fries

These were in the same feature from which I got the spicy turkey burger recipe. They were really really delicious. I cut back on the brown sugar a bit, because I prefer the spicy over sweet. But you really can't beat a sweet / spicy combination. Go heavy on the fresh rosemary!

*Photo from www.epiciruous.com
Source: Bon Apetit

Ingredients
2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, peeled, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices, each slice cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon (packed) golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Additional olive oil

Instructions
Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Place potatoes in 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Add 1/4 cup oil, chopped fresh rosemary, brown sugar, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper to potatoes. Sprinkle potatoes with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Brush grill lightly with oil. Place potatoes on grill, spacing about 1 inch apart. Grill until potatoes are tender and slightly charred, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes total. Transfer potatoes to bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

Spicy Turkey Burgers

Turkey burgers are one of those dishes that has the potential to be really really bad, especially if you are trying to be health conscious and use extra lean ground turkey breast. The burgers tend to turn into hockey pucks. Normally, I just wing making the burgers, but yesterday I decided to try an actual recipe and was very very pleased with the results. You mix salsa and fresh cilantro into the meat of these burgers and it makes them lighter and more moist. I liked these so much that I think I'll be tempted to make them again this weekend. Serve with a side of spicy grilled sweet potatoes.

Source: Bon Apetit

Ingredients
1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey
1 cup mild salsa, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 tablespoon chipotle-flavored hot sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


4 crusty rolls, halved horizontally, toasted if desired
4 lettuce leaves


Instructions
Mix ground turkey, 1/2 cup salsa, shallots, cilantro, 3 tablespoons oil, hot sauce, cumin, salt, and pepper in large bowl. Shape turkey mixture into four 3 1/2- to 4-inch-diameter patties.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add burgers; cook until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Reduce heat to low. Sauté until burgers are cooked through, about 4 minutes, turning occasionally.

Arrange roll bottoms on 4 plates. Place lettuce, then burgers on roll bottoms. Top each burger with 2 tablespoons of remaining salsa, then roll tops.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tomatillo-Sauced Enchiladas with Spinach and Mushrooms

Source: Rick Bayless Mexican Everyday

This recipe is phenomenal. Make this recipe, that's all I can say. Also, you can omit the chicken and substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth to make it vegetarian. Neither really add much to the flavor, they just beef up the protein content. The key of the dish is really the yummy yummy sauce.

Ingredients
garlic cloves, peeled
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (I used 2 serranos, 1 jalapeno would work too), stemmed and quartered
1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut into quarters
3/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, olive oil, or bacon drippings
2 cups chicken or veggie broth
8 ounces mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 large red onion, thin sliced
10 ounces spinach
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (optional)
Salt
12 corn tortillas
3 tablespoons Crema, sour cream, heavy cream or creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 cup Queso Fresco or feta

Instructions

Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. With a food processor or blender running, drop in the garlic and chiles one piece at a time, letting each piece get finely chopped before adding the next. Add the tomatillos and cilantro; process until smooth.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil or bacon drippings in a medium (3-quart) saucepan over medium-high. Add the puree and cook, stirring nearly constantly, until the mixture has reduced to the consistency of thick tomato sauce, about 7 minutes. (The more you cook it the richer and sweeter it will be). Add the chicken broth and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes to blend the flavors.

While the sauce is simmering, heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil or drippings in a very large skillet over medium-high. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring nearly constantly, for a couple of minutes, until they begin to brown. Add about three-quarters of the onion and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for another minute or two, until the onion looks translucent. Add the spinach and optional chicken and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or so, until the spinach is wilted. Season with salt. Cover to keep warm.

Lay out the tortillas on a baking sheet and spray or brush lightly on both sides with oil or bacon drippings, then stack them in twos. Slide the tortillas into the oven and bake just long enough to make them soft and pliable, about 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and stack them in a single pile; cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm.

Stir the crema into the sauce. Taste and season with salt (add the sugar here too if you’re using it). Holding a tortilla by the edge dip it into the sauce, then lay it on a plate. Spoon a heaping 2 tablespoons filling down the center, roll up and lay seam side down on a dinner plate. Repeat with 2 more tortillas, arranging them on the same dinner plate. Douse the enchiladas with about 1/4 cup of the warm sauce, sprinkle with a quarter of the crumbled cheese and garnish with some of the reserved onion and cilantro sprigs. Assemble the rest of the servings, and carry to the table without hesitation.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Vegetarian Enchiladas

These are really not authentic at all, but are wonderful. I got the recipe from my college roommate, Robin who got it from her mother, so I don't know the original source. Regardless, this dish epitomizes comfort food to me.

Ingredients
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1 16 oz. can tomatoes, diced, undrained
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1.5 T. Chili powder
.5 t. oregano
.5 t. cumin
15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
12 oz corn, drained
.5 c. sliced black California olives
1 c. ricotta
4 oz. chopped green chilies, drained
2 c. shredded cheddar (8 oz.)
10 6" corn tortillas.

Instructions
Sauté onion and garlic in oil.
Add tomatoes & next 4 ingredients, bring to a boil. Reduce, simmer uncovered for 25 min.
Place 1 c. sauce into greased 9 x 13 cake pan.
Add black beans, corn, olives to remaining sauce.
Combine ricotta, chilies, & .75 c. cheddar.
Fry tortillas in .25 c. oil, 5 seconds per side. Put 2 T. cheese mixture in each tortilla, roll, place in pan.
Spoon remaining sauce over them, bake at 350 (F) covered for 20 minutes. Uncover, add the rest of the cheese, and bake uncovered for 5 minutes.

Strawberry Almond Pie

I love fruit and am a fruit purist. I love it in its natural form without any adornment. My husband grew up in Mexico City, where they have the most amazing fruit. His family was thoroughly amused that I pretty much parked myself next to their fruit bowl and shoveled in Ataulfo mangos, little bite sized plums, and miniature bananas by the dozen.

So because of my love of fruit, I have a love-hate relationship with fruit pies. I really hate overly sweet pies that are more goo than fruit. I started making this pie during strawberry picking season after my roommate and I went strawberry picking and I could not possibly eat the strawberries before they went mushy. And I am just not a fan of frozen strawberries or strawberry jam.

This recipe is great. The "goo" is made from crushed strawberries, so it honors the fruit. The almond extract also adds a nice bit of richness. I usually cut back on the sugar in the recipe as I like my desserts not overly sweet.

And for you chocolate dessert purists out there (ehem, KRISTA) who do not believe that fruit is dessert, this pie makes an excellent breakfast.

Source: Allrecipes.com
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups crushed pecan
shortbread cookies
1/4 cup blanched slivered
almonds
1/3 cup butter, melted
6 cups fresh strawberries,
hulled
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In small bowl, stir together all crust ingredients. Press on bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool completely.
3. Mash enough strawberries to equal 1 cup. In 2-quart saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in mashed berries and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and comes to a full boil (8 to 15 minutes). Boil 1 minute; remove from heat.
4. Stir in salt and almond extract; cool 10 minutes. Fill baked crust with remaining fresh strawberries; pour cooked mixture over fresh berries. Refrigerate at least 3 hours. Garnish with whipped cream and walnuts if desired.

Eggplant Parmigiana

I'm taking a risk publishing this recipe, because I've never made it. However, after seeing this on tv last night, I'm almost positive it's going to be awesome. Normally I wouldn't even use a recipe for eggplant parmigiana. There's really nothing to it. But this guy who was on Bobby Flay's Throwdown had a super interesting way of prepping the eggplant. B doesn't like eggplant, but I think he doesn't like the chewiness of the skin. This method gets around that issue by peeling the eggplant and then slicing it very thin longways with a deli meet cutter (I'll try a mandolin). The result is thin slices of eggplant that he fries, dips in marinara and uses like lasagna noodles. BRILLIANT. Be creative and use whatever kind of cheese you want and whatever sauce you want. I can't wait to make this.
Source: Dave Grecco via Foodtv.

Ingredients
Oil
2 large eggplants
All-purpose flour
4 eggs
Bread crumbs (recommended: Arthur Avenue Italian Deli)
1 quart marinara sauce (recommended: Arthur Avenue Italian Deli)
8 ounces sliced dry mozzarella (recommended: Arthur Avenue Italian Deli)
4 ounces grated Romano (recommended: Arthur Avenue Italian Deli)


Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and heat oil in a large pan, Dutch oven or deep-fryer.

Peel the eggplant and slice into 1/4-inch thick slices. Coat each side of the eggplant with the flour.

In a separate bowl beat 4 eggs and dip the eggplant into the egg to coat both sides. Then take your bread crumbs and do the same to coat each side.

Once the oil is hot, put the eggplant in the hot oil and fry until golden brown. You can also use a deep-fryer and leave in for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Once all of the eggplant has been fried, get a rectangular baking pan and start the layering by adding the marinara sauce to the bottom of the pan, then the eggplant, more sauce, fresh mozzarella, Romano cheese, and continue to layer until you have reached the top of the pan. Top off with sauce, mozzarella, and grated Romano

Place the eggplant into the oven and cook for 20 to 25 minutes.

A viewer, who may not be a professional cook, provided this recipe. The Food Network Kitchens chefs have not tested this recipe and therefore, we cannot make representation as to the results.

Chicken Salad Balsamic

I believe that my grad school roommate, Brandi originally found this recipe to take on a picnic. It is a really nice alternative to standard chicken salad because there is no mayo to spoil in the heat. It's light and refreshing, perfect for summer.

Source: Allrecipes.com

Ingredients
3 cups diced cold, cooked chicken
1 cup diced apple
1/2 cup diced celery
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
1. In a large bowl, toss together the chicken, apple, celery, onion and walnuts.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and oil and pour over the salad. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Let rest 10 to 15 minutes, mix again and chill.