Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Mushroom Parmesan

I guess I've been in an Italian mood lately, so tonight I made yet another recipe from Giada. This was a very simple recipe for Mushroom Parmesan. As a huge fan of eggplant parm, I decided to try this one with mushrooms.

It was pretty OK. I loved the grilled portobellos - I need to throw them on my grill pan more often because it gives them a stronger, meatier flavor. They were pretty good with the tomato sauce and cheeses, but it just kind of seemed like something was missing. Maybe if the mushrooms had been breaded/fried like eggplant parm? Though then that wouldn't have been very healthy at all. I liked it, but I probably won't make it again.

Mushroom Parmesan
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the grill pan
4 to 6 portobello mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill.

Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over both sides of the mushrooms. Sprinkle the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil on the grill to prevent the mushrooms from sticking. Grill until the mushrooms are heated through and tender, about 5 minutes per side.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Place the grilled mushrooms on top of the marinara sauce and top with the remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle with the cheeses and top with the butter pieces. Bake until the cheese melts and the top is golden, about 15 minutes. Serve.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Monday, September 25, 2006

Autumn Apple, Pear and Cheddar Salad with Pecans

In theory, this salad was going to be a nice little meal to welcome in the fall season. It has so many components I enjoy (fruit = good! nuts = good! cheese = good!) with a simple dressing. It got very good reviews, as well.

Sadly, I was very disappointed by it. It didn't tie together as nicely as I'd hoped, I didn't really like the dressing that much, and I ended up just eating the fruit pieces out of the bowl and leaving the rest of the salad. I have some other fruity autumny salads I will probably try soon, but I will not make this one again.

Autumn Apple, Pear, and Cheddar Salad with Pecans
from Cooking Light, July 2005

1 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon extravirgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 cup gourmet salad greens (about 10 ounces)
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1 medium McIntosh apple, cored and cut into 18 wedges
1 medium Bartlett pear, cored and cut into 18 wedges
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted

Place apple juice in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced to about 3 tablespoons (about 10 minutes). Combine reduced apple juice, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper, stirring with a whisk.

Combine greens, grapes, apple, and pear in a large bowl. Drizzle with apple juice mixture; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with cheese and nuts.

Yield: 6 servings

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cheesy Baked Tortellini

Yeah, I don't know if you've noticed but I spent a lot of time in the kitchen today.

My dinner tonight was Cheesy Baked Tortellini, a recipe by Giada de Laurentiis ( <3 ). It was very good and surprisingly filling. The mascarpone makes the sauce soooooo creamy and it binds to the pasta so beautifully. I suppose you could substitute ricotta, but you'd be missing out. I've never cooked with mascarpone (except for making tiramisu) so that was fun and exciting. I would make this again. My changes: I halved the recipe (obviously) so it took less time to cook (about 25 min). I also didn't use fresh herbs - when do I ever? - and omitted the thyme completely because I don't like it. Instead of smoked mozzarella, I used a combination of shredded mozzarella and sliced provolone. Cheesy Baked Tortellini
Olive oil
2 cups marinara sauce
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 pound purchased cheese tortellini
2 ounces thinly sliced smoked mozzarella
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish.

Whisk the sauce, mascarpone cheese, parsley and thyme in a large bowl to blend. Cook the tortellini in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain. Add the tortellini to the sauce and toss to coat. Transfer the tortellini mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top the mixture with the smoked mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover and bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheeses on top melt, about 30 minutes.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Photo added 4/23/09:
tortellini

Greek Pasta Salad

The sample-lady at Trader Joe's was handing out little plates of this pasta salad a couple months ago, and it was very yummy so I kept the recipe. I decided to make a big batch of it to take to work this week for lunches. It is very, very easy and quick and very tasty. I will make this again.

Greek Pasta Salad
Recipe from Trader Joe's

1 pkg Trader Joe's Fusilli - cook and rinse to chill
1 jar TJ's Roasted Red Peppers - cut in 1 1/2 x 1/4 slices
20-25 TJ's pitted kalamata olives - quartered lengthwise (should equal 1/2 a cup)
1 1/4 cup TJ's crumbled feta cheese (tub)
1/2 tsp TJ's garlic powder
2 tsp TJ's dry oregano - crush with fingers
1/3 cup TJ's Olive Oil of your choice
1/4 tsp salt or to taste
1/8 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp lemon juice (fresh is better)

Combine the above ingredients.

Outdoor safe and keeps well in fridge for days!

Chocolate and Peanut-Butter Filled Blondies

I found this recipe on the Hershey's website. In theory, I'm going to take them with me to work tomorrow for people to eat. However, I might just keep them all for myself because they are very, very tasty. I would definitely make these again.

My changes: I couldn't find the mini-baking-Reese's called for in the recipe so I just used a combo of milk chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. I doubled the recipe, but I still used the same amount of butter (accidentally) and it turned out just fine. If you double the recipe, cook the bars for about 30 minutes rather than 25. Oh and I mixed the chips into the dough before putting it in the pan, rather than doing the layering thing in the recipe.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Filled Peanut Butter Blondies
3/4 cup REESE'S Creamy Peanut Butter
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margaine, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 cups (8-oz. pkg.) REESE'S Milk Chocolate Baking Pieces Filled with Peanut Butter Creme

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease 8- or 9-inch baking pan.

2. Beat peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in large bowl until well blended. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add to peanut butter mixture, beating until well blended.

3. Spread one half of batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle baking pieces over batter. Drop remaining batter by 1/2 teaspoonfuls over mixture, covering baking pieces.

4. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. About 16 bars.

Picture added March 28, 2009:
blondies

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mushroom and Cheddar Fritatta

Tonight I made a fritatta from an episode of Good Deal with Dave Lieberman. It was excellent. I didn't make the arugula salad, but I did still have a salad with it. I would definitely make this again.

Mushroom and Cheddar Fritatta and Arugula Side Salad
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (10-ounce) package mushrooms, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
8 eggs
4 egg whites
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar
Arugula Salad, recipe follows

Preheat the broiler and set the rack about 4 to 5 inches from the heat source.

Heat oil in large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute mushrooms until browned, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add onion and saute until tender.

Whisk eggs, egg whites, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour over vegetables in skillet and mix gently. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet, and cook until eggs are set around edges, about 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and then place skillet under broiler and cook until cheese is melted and just browned, about 2 minutes. Let frittata stand 1 minute before cutting into 8 wedges. Serve with salad on the side.

Arugula Salad:
1 large bunch arugula leaves, washed and dried
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
10 grinds black pepper
Couple pinches salt

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to coat leaves with dressing and serve with the frittata.

Yield: 8 servings

Friday, September 22, 2006

Green Bean Casserole

I have been craving comfort food, and to me that means Thanksgiving food. So tonight I made some green bean casserole and mashed potatoes. Yum yum yum. If you haven't made the traditional green bean casserole before, you are seriously missing out.

Green Bean Casserole
from Campbell's Soup

1 can (10 3/4 oz.) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup OR Campbell's® Condensed 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. soy sauce
Dash ground black pepper
4 cups cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 cups French's® French Fried Onions

MIX soup, milk, soy, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in 1 1/2-qt. casserole.

BAKE at 350°F. for 25 min. or until hot.

STIR . Sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake 5 min.

TIP: Use 1 bag (16 to 20 oz.) frozen green beans, 2 pkg. (9 oz. each) frozen green beans, 2 cans (about 16 oz. each) green beans or about 1 1/2 lb. fresh green beans for this recipe.

Yield: 6 servings

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lemon Spaghetti

I've seen like a million people review Giada's Lemon Spaghetti and rate it very highly, but it never seemed substantial enough to constitute a meal. Then someone on the CLBB posted about things she added to it to make it a big substantial dish, and it sounded delicious so I went ahead and made it.

My changes: I used shrimp instead of scallops and arugula instead of spinach (since spinach is still off-limits due to e.coli).

I thought it was very good. It was so quick to put together yet still looked and tasted fancy. I wasn't blown away by the lemon spaghetti; I have no idea why it's so beloved because it isn't particularly special. But with the addition of shrimp, arugula, and tomatoes it was quite tasty. The lemon complimented the other flavors very well. I would make this again sometime for a quick weeknight dinner.

Lemon Spaghetti
Recipe by Giada, notes by Robyn1007 on CL

1 pound spaghetti
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the oil, Parmesan, and lemon juice in a large bowl to blend.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the lemon sauce, and the reserved cooking liquid, adding 1/4 cup at a time as needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with lemon zest and chopped basil.

Suggested Variation (CLBB - Robyn1007): Made the Lemon Spaghetti which was entirely too easy! Then I seared the scallops with a bit of salt and pepper in olive oil. Set aside to keep warm. In the same pan I sauteed minced garlic in olive oil and then added a touch of balsamic vinegar and chopped ripe tomato and sauteed until just warm. At the same time I wilted some spinach. To serve I placed the spinach in the pasta bowl, topped with spaghetti then scallops and the warmed tomatoes. Top with basil and parmesan and YUMMY!

Yield: 6 servings

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Loaded Potato Pizza

I really wanted to try this recipe from Mr. Emeril Lagasse, but didn't feel like putting forth so much effort (making mashed potatoes from scratch, rolling out pizza dough, etc) so I decided to simplify it.

This is what I did:
*Used Boboli pizza crust instead of dough
*Got a tub of store-bought Bob Evans Mashed Potatoes and mixed a little garlic and butter into it, and used it in place of the homemade mashed potatoes
*Put all the toppings onto the Boboli and baked for 8 minutes at 450 degrees.

My other changes: I added some green onions, omitted the Fontina, and used veggie bacon cooked in the same pan that I caramelized the onions in.

It was very simple and turned out to be extremely delicious. I would like to try it with the homemade garlic mashed potatoes sometime, but for now Bob Evans is my friend. I will definitely make this again. When I do, I will probably use shredded Cheddar or a Cheddar-Jack combo in place of the provolone. It was good, but the bacon (veggie bacon, in my case) added enough of a smoky flavor, so the provolone was a little bit of overkill. Plus, I put cheddar cheese on my baked potatoes so it seems appropriate for this pizza.

The Loaded Potato Pizza
Garlic Mashed Potatoes:
15 medium red potatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can chicken broth
6 large cloves garlic
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Basic Pizza Dough, recipe follows (J/K, I didn't copy the recipe for that part, so you'll have to be creative)
2 cups garlic mashed potatoes
3 ounces sauteed onions
3 small tomatoes, sliced thin
4 ounces shredded provolone
4 ounces shredded fontina
4 ounces bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 teaspoon onion salt

Garlic Mashed Potatoes: Combine potatoes, broth, and garlic in a large saucepan. Add additional water if necessary in order to keep all potatoes completely submerged. Bring to boil than reduce heat to low. Continue to cook until potatoes are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Drain and mash the potatoes and garlic. Add butter, salt, pepper, and whipping cream. Whip until it has a creamy texture.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with a pizza stone.

Roll out the dough into a 1/4-inch thick circle. Place in a pizza pan or on a pizza peel. Spread on the garlic mashed potatoes. Evenly sprinkle the sauteed onions. Layer the sliced tomatoes. Evenly sprinkle the cheeses, bacon crumbles, cracked black pepper, and onion salt. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Black Bean Quinoa Salad with Basil-Lemon Dressing

This is probably the most nutritious thing I have ever eaten in my life. If you are lacking in nutrients and trying to eat healthier, this is your meal.

When I first saw the recipe in the pages of Cooking Light, I thought it sounded pretty gross. "What is this? Lima beans? Tofu? And quinoa?" I asked myself. "Gross." But it kept being highly reviewed and recommended to me, so I gave in.

I am glad that I did, because it was really good. Granted, you do have to like the components to really enjoy it. Luckily, I do like them so I enjoyed my dinner. I will take this to lunch this week since it tastes best when chilled.

My changes: I used a little bit of dried basil instead of the cup of fresh, and used some edamame (green soy beans) instead of lima beans. I loved the edamame in this dish. I highly recommend everyone make this change.

Black Bean Quinoa Salad with Basil-Lemon Dressing
Cooking Light, March 2006
Quinoa contains more protein than any other grain. Edamame makes a tasty substitute for lima beans in this recipe. For an attractive presentation, serve the salad on a bed of baby greens or spinach.

1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
3 cups organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)
1 (14-ounce) package reduced-fat firm tofu, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1 cup chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (10-ounce) package frozen baby lima beans
4 cups chopped tomato (about 3 medium)
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

Combine quinoa and vegetable broth in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until broth is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Remove from heat.

Place tofu on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 5 minutes. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sauté tofu 9 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from heat; cool completely.

Combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, basil, and next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk until blended. Stir in quinoa.

Cook lima beans according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Cool completely. Add the lima beans, tofu, chopped tomato, green onions, chopped carrot, and black beans to quinoa mixture; stir gently to combine. Store, covered, in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Yield: 10 servings

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Pasta Puttanesca

Ever since I read first few books in Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events, I have wanted to make Pasta Puttanesca. I don't remember which book Violet makes it in because I read it quite awhile ago, but I think it's the first book. Whatever. Point is, it made me want to eat it, so today I made some.

The recipe I used is from 101 Meatless Family Dishes by John Ettinger. I guess a traditional puttanesca sauce would involve anchovies, but this one does not use them. It was good, albeit time consuming (the sauce simmers for an hour and a half). I also am not sure yet if I like capers. I would make this again, but I'd like to find a recipe that is quicker to make so I can enjoy it during the week. I'd also like to find a healthier recipe, since the sodium content and calories for the recipe as it's written are astronomical (though I did cut down on the olive oil significantly, so that probably helped).

Pasta Puttanesca
1 lb spaghetti or other pasta
12 fresh, peeled tomatoes with juice or 2 cans (28 oz each) chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 carrot, grated
3 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 1 1/2 Tbsp dried
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil or 1 1/2 Tbsp dried
2/3 cup red wine
2 Tbsp drained capers
1 cup pitted and sliced black olives, preferably kalamata
Grated Parmesan cheese

Puree half the tomatoes and set aside. Heat oil in a skillet and add onion. Saute 3-4 minutes, then add garlic and saute 1 minute more. Add parsley, carrot, oregano, and basil and cook another minute or two. Add the remaining half of the tomatoes and tomato puree and bring to a boil. Cook down 5 minutes, stirring, then cover and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Add the red wine, capers, and olives, and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes longer. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Toss sauce with pasta and top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Friday, September 15, 2006

Toasted Ravioli

I put this recipe on my week's meal plan, bought the ingredients, and printed out the recipe only to discover that - gasp! - it was a Rachael Ray recipe that somehow managed to remain in my recipe program after I deleted a ton of her stuff a couple weeks ago. But since I already had all the stuff for it, I went ahead and made it.

It was actually very, very good. I didn't make the marinara sauce (I skipped step 2 entirely and just used a jar of tomato-basil marinara from Trader Joe's), so I'm guessing that part is the part of the recipe that would have sucked. But the ravioli itself turned out really nicely. I was surprised. I would make this again.

My changes: store-bought marinara, Pecorino Romano instead of parmesan, and lite 4-cheese ravioli instead of spinach & cheese ravioli.

Toasted Ravioli
2 eggs
Splash of milk or half-and-half
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups Italian bread crumbs, eyeball it
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a couple of handfuls
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
12 large fresh spinach and cheese ravioli, about 3/4 pound
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 roasted red peppers, drained
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Beat eggs and a splash of milk seasoned with salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs with cheese and parsley in a second dish. Coat the fresh pasta in egg then bread crumbs. Heat 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat in a skillet then toast the ravioli until deep golden, 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

In a small sauce pot heat the remaining extra-virgin olive oil and the garlic and red pepper flakes over medium low heat. Grind the roasted peppers in the food processor and add to garlic after it sautes for a couple of minutes. Stir in tomatoes and season the sauce with salt and pepper. When ready to serve, transfer sauce to a small bowl. Surround the sauce with toasted ravioli for dipping and serve.

Yield: 2 servings

Picture added July 25, 2008:
ravioli

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

PABST Sandwich

Another non-recipe recipe, for a tasty and quick sandwich. It was pretty good. I would make it again, though I'm not so sure about the provolone because it kind of overpowered the other flavors. Maybe I would omit the cheese next time. I think I found this recipe on the CLBB, but it was originally posted on everybodylikessandwiches.blogspot.com.

PABST Sandwich
rye or sourdough bread, sliced
butter
good quality mayo
garlic, crushed
dijon mustard
Provolone cheese, sliced
Avocado, sliced
Bacon, turkey or veggie work wonderfully
Sprouts
Tomato, sliced
salt & pepper

1. Fry up turkey or veggie bacon according to package directions until crisp. Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix up a couple blobs of mayo along with a bit of crushed garlic. Slice up tomatoes and avocados and cheese.

2. Toast bread and spread with butter. Spread a thin layer of dijon on one side of the bread, and spread some garlicy mayo on the other side. Add a thin layer of cheese to one side of the bread, and cover with avocado and then the bacon. On the other side, add one layer of tomatoes and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Add the sprouts and press the two sides together making one tasty, tasty sandwich.

3. Eat and repeat.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tortellini with Mushroom Sauce

It is of note that although I do a good job cooking with recipes, I am incapable of producing food without a recipe. So sometimes the recipes I use are so simplistic and it just seems silly that I've even required a recipe, but the sad fact is that I always do. I may not physically use the recipe again the next time I make this dish, but I will always know that I did not come up with it on my own. :)

The pasta dish I made for dinner tonight comes from Everyday Food's June 2005 issue. I was drawn to it because it was in a section called "Cooking for One." I'm having issues trying to learn to cook for only myself, without hundreds of days worth of leftovers, so this seemed good. Plus it is quick and simple for a weeknight dinner.

It was very good! I liked how quickly it came together, and it was tasty. Not the most complex dish, but still very yummy. I would make this again, and could easily vary the types of mushrooms and cheeses to whatever I have on hand. I also think it might be nice with a little mascarpone or cream cheese melted in to make it creamy. Yum yum.

My changes: I used baby portobello mushrooms instead of shiitake, and I added about 1/4 cup of frozen peas as well. I also used shaved Pecorino Romano cheese instead of grated Parmesan.

Tortellini with Mushroom Sauce
1 1/4 cups frozen cheese tortellini (1/2 of a 16-oz bag)
8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps halved and thinly sliced
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 Tbsp cold butter
2 tsp olive oil
Ground pepper and coarse salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook tortellini according to package instructions; drain.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are tender, about 7 minutes.

3. Add 1 cup water; season with salt and pepper. Cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; add tortellini, Parmesan, butter, and parsley. Toss to coat; serve.

Note: If you find fresh tortellini, you can use that instead of frozen; cook in a pot of boiling salted water until the pasta floats to the top, about 3 minutes.

Yield: 1 serving

This is what it looks like if you make it with peas instead of mushrooms (which is very tasty):
peas
Photo added 10/9/2008

Monday, September 11, 2006

Middle Eastern Platter

I was inspired by a recipe from Everyday Food magazine to create a platter of vegetarian Middle Eastern foods. I had planned to just follow the recipe, which involved making a dish similar to tabbouleh from scratch, but I was lazy and instead decided to just buy some tabbouleh. So my plate consisted of: tabbouleh, roasted garlic hummus sprinkled with paprika, kalamata olives, a nice big piece of feta cheese, and warm pita bread. It was exactly what I needed - virtually no prep work, yet a delicious meal is produced. I will definitely do this again.

The recipe that inspired me is:
Middle Eastern Platter
Everyday Food, June 2006

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 or 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 English cucumber (about 1 pound), seeded and diced
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1 small red onion, diced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 container (8 ounces) store-bought hummus
1/2 teaspoon paprika
8 ounces feta cheese
1 cup black olives, such as kalamata, pitted
4 pita breads (6-inch)

1. Prep: In a small container, combine lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil. In a medium container, combine tomatoes, cucumber, and parsley; place onion in a separate plastic bag. If preparing this recipe in advance, see storage instructions (below).

2. Serve: Add onion and dressing to vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Serve with hummus (sprinkled with paprika and remaining olive oil), feta (thickly sliced), olives, and pita.

Note: Store dressing covered, in refrigerator; tomatoes, cucumber, and parsley covered, in refrigerator; onion in plastic bag, in refrigerator.

Yield: 4 servings
Picture from EDF:

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Roasted Vegetable Spread

I made this cream cheese spread from Alton Brown ("Good Eats") to put on bagels for my lunches this week. It is excellent and delicious. I am a big fan of vegetable cream cheese, and this is a really good one. The recipe made enough to get me through the week, which will be perfect. I would definitely make this again.

Roasted Vegetable Spread
1 red bell pepper, sliced into rings
1 medium onion, sliced into rings
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces cream cheese
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Challah, foccacia, or pita bread, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the bell pepper, onion, garlic, zucchini, and olive oil in a medium mixing bowl and toss until the vegetables are coated.

Spread the vegetables evenly on sheet pan lined with foil and place to the oven. Roast, tossing occasionally, until they are soft and are beginning to turn brown around the edges, approximately 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Place the vegetables in the bowl of a food processor along with the cream cheese and process until well combined and spreadable; do not process until completely smooth.

Taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Spread on soft bread, such as challah, foccacia, or pita bread. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Good Fennels Pasta

Another losing recipe from Miss Rachael Ray! The woman is just not a good chef. I've only had maybe one or two good recipes from her, and any other ones I try have been just terrible. This recipe sounded delicious, but it was not. I did substitute a couple of things (veggie sausage for real sausage; red wine for white) but those were not what was causing the recipe to be un-tasty. I don't know what it was, it just wasn't good. The whole thing went into the trashcan. It is too bad because I really love fennel.

Good Fennels Pasta
1 pound bucatini pasta (hollow fat spaghetti)
Salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
1 bulb fennel, trimmed, quartered and core cut away, very thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, very thinly sliced
2 cubanelle peppers, seeded and very thinly sliced
Pepper
1 cup dry white wine or stock, eyeball it
1 (28-ounce) can crushed San Marzano (Italian imported) tomatoes
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus some to pass at table
1 cup basil, 20 leaves, shredded or torn
Crusty bread, for mopping

Place a large pot of water on to boil for pasta. Salt water and add bucatini and cook to al dente.

While water comes to boil and pasta cooks, make the sauce. Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan. Add sausage to the skillet and break up the sausage into small bits. Brown sausage all over then transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Return pan to heat and add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, the garlic, fennel, onions and peppers. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Cook, turning frequently, 7 to 8 minutes until tender but do not allow the fennel and onions to brown - reduce heat a bit if they begin to. Add the wine or stock next and reduce 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and the sausage. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until pasta is done.

Drain the pasta very well and add to the sauce. Sprinkle the pasta with 1/2 cup cheese, a couple of handfuls, then toss pasta with thick sauce to combine. Transfer pasta to a large shallow platter and cover with the pasta with basil leaves. Serve with extra cheese and pass crusty bread at the table to mop up the plates.

Yield: 4 servings

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Aloo Gobi

Aloo gobi is generally a delectably spicy Indian dish with potatoes and cauliflower in a flavorful curry sauce. I order it at Indian restaurants all the time. However, replicating it at home has proven to be difficult. I keep trying new recipes, and they all seem to come up short. Tonight's recipe, yoinked from the CLBB (and apparently originally found on the Bend it Like Beckham DVD extras), was probably the most disappointing one I have tried in my entire life. It had so many spices in it - garam masala and turmeric and cumin and ginger, etc. - but still managed to be one of the most flavorless Indian dishes I've ever had.

I did not alter the recipe much, except to reduce the amount of oil (to just a couple of tablespoons), add peas (I like my aloo gobi to have peas in it), and increase the cooking time (to about 30 minutes, because the potatoes took a long time to cook). I served it with some excellent store-bought tandoori naan, which I heated and sprinkled with melted butter, garlic, and cilantro. That naan was the best part of the meal by far. I would not make this particular aloo gobi recipe again.

Aloo Gobi
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and cut into small pieces
Large bunch of fresh coriander, separated into stalks and leaves and roughly chopped
Small green chilies, chopped into small pieces (or one teaspoon chili powder)
1 large cauliflower, leaves removed and cut evenly into eighths
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into even pieces
1 LARGE 28oz can of diced tomatoes with juice (or two regular cans)
Fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Fresh garlic, chopped
1 Teaspoon Cumin seeds
2 Teaspoons Turmeric
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoons Garam Masala

Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan. Add the chopped onion and one tablespoon of cumin seeds to the oil. Stir together and cook until onions become creamy, golden, and translucent.

Add chopped coriander stalks, two teaspoons of turmeric, and one teaspoon of salt. Add chopped chillis (according to taste). Stir tomatoes into onion mixture. Add ginger and garlic; mix thoroughly. Add potatoes and cauliflower to the sauce plus a few tablespoons of water (ensuring that the mixture doesn't stick to the saucepan). Ensure that the potatoes and cauliflower are coated with the curry sauce.

Cover and allow to simmer for twenty minutes (or until potatoes are cooked). Add two teaspoons of Garam Masala and stir. Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves on top of the curry. Turn off the heat, cover, and leave for as long as possible before serving.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Spicy Wok Shrimp with Coconut Rice

This recipe is from Gourmet magazine's July 2006 issue. It looked tasty to me. I made it for dinner tonight and it was pretty good but nothing special. It also wasn't too spicy so I would add more Sriracha next time. The coconut rice was excellent (I made it with instant rice so it cooked quicker than in the recipe) and I would make it again. But the shrimp part was just OK.

My changes: instant rice; broccoli and baby corn instead of broccolini; vegetable bouillon instead of chicken broth; and tiny frozen shrimp instead of large fresh shrimp (hey, it was $2.99 for a lb of them).

Spicy Wok Shrimp with Coconut Rice
Coconut milk ties this dish together, adding a tropical note and balancing the heat of Sriracha sauce (a Thai bottled sauce of puréed red chiles).

1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups well-stirred unsweetened coconut milk (not low-fat; from a 13 1/2- to 14-oz can)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 lb Broccolini
2 lb peeled and deveined large shrimp (raw; 20 to 25 per lb)
2 1/2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Accompaniment: lime wedges

Rinse rice in a sieve under cold water, then shake well to drain and transfer to a 1 1/2-to 2-quart heavy saucepan. Add water (1 1/2 cups), sugar, 1 cup coconut milk, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, partially covered, then reduce heat to low and cover completely. Cook 20 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

While rice cooks, trim Broccolini, discarding 1/4 inch from bottom, then cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths. Toss shrimp with Sriracha sauce and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl.

Stir together cornstarch, 1/4 cup chicken broth, and remaining 1/2 cup coconut milk in another bowl until cornstarch is completely dissolved.

Heat a 12- to 14-inch well-seasoned flat-bottomed wok or a 12-inch heavy skillet over high heat until it just begins to smoke, then add oil, swirling to coat. Add Broccolini and stir-fry until bright green, then add remaining 1/4 cup chicken broth and stir-fry until liquid is evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add shrimp mixture and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Stir cornstarch mixture, then pour it down side of wok and boil, stirring, until sauce is slightly thickened and shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 minutes more. Fluff rice with a fork and serve with shrimp immediately.

Yield: 6 servings
shrimp

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Smoky Corn & Black Bean Pizza

This recipe, from Eating Well, was very quick and simple, and very good. I didn't have any more tomatoes, but it was good even without the tomatoes. Oh and obviously I don't own a grill so I made it in the oven. I would make this again.

Also, the barbecue sauce I bought for this meal was Sweet Baby Ray's, which was recommended on SA. It is the best barbecue sauce ever. It reminds me of the sauce at McDonalds that I love, except better.


Smoky Corn & Black Bean Pizza
1 plum tomato, diced
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 pound prepared whole-wheat pizza dough
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella, preferably smoked mozzarella

1. Preheat grill to medium.

2. Combine tomato, beans and corn in a medium bowl. Sprinkle cornmeal onto a large baking sheet. Stretch the dough into about a 12-inch circle and lay it on top of the cornmeal, coating the entire underside of the dough.

3. Transfer the crust from the baking sheet to the grill. Close the lid and cook until the crust is puffed and lightly browned on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes.

4. Using a large spatula, flip the crust. Spread barbecue sauce on it and quickly sprinkle with the tomato mixture and cheese. Close the lid; grill until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the crust is browned, 4 to 5 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings

Monday, September 04, 2006

Vegetable Biryani

This recipe from an old issue of Martha Stewart Living has always looked delicious to me, but the long ingredients list has always intimidated me. I decided to make it for dinner tonight because a)why not, and b)I can take it in my lunches to work this week. Plus it gives me an excuse to use my saffron from India that I was given for free.

My changes to it were numerous: I used microwave basmati rice (Patak's is excellent) instead of cooking it myself; ground cumin instead of whole cumin seeds; omitted the cloves; and used frozen cauliflower and green beans.

My thoughts: It was excellent. It tasted exactly like the biryani I order at Indian restaurants. Make sure you remove the cinnamon sticks before putting it in the baking dish, but don't omit them because cinnamon is an important flavor. Next time I will probably use fresh green beans because the frozen ones just didn't do it for me. I will forever use this microwave basmati rice because it is amazing. In general, an excellent recipe that I will make again.

Vegetable Biryani
from Martha Stewart

1/2 tsp saffron, crumbled
1/4 cup nonfat milk
1 1/2 cups basmati rice, soaked in cold water 10 minutes and drained
3 Tbsp canola oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 cinnamon stick, broken into 4 pieces
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
3 plum tomatoes (about 1/2lb) peeled, seeded, and chopped
6 oz green beans, cut into thirds (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 2 cups)
2 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 oz (about 1/2 cup) cashews

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Combine saffron and milk in a small bowl; set aside. Place rice in a medium saucepan with 1 1/2 cups cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stir once, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until rice has absorbed all the water, about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onions; cook, stirring, until golden brown and slightly crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove half the onions from pan, and reserve. Add remaining tablespoon oil along with the spices, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

3. Pour 1 cup water into pan; bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Add green beans, cauliflower, carrots, chickpeas, and salt; reduce heat to a simmer and cover pan. Cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Add peas, and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

4. Place one-third of the rice in a 3 1/2 quart heavy-bottom casserole or baking dish with a tight-fitting lid. Drizzle half the saffron milk over rice. Using a slotted spoon, transfer half the vegetable mixture to the casserole, leaving liquid behind. Place one-third of rice on top; drizzle with remaining saffron milk. Repeat with remaining vegetables and rice. Spread reserved onions over the top; sprinkle with cashews.

5. Cover, and bake until casserole is heated through and aromatic, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool slightly before serving.

Photo added on May 27, 2008:
biryani

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I wanted to make some cookies to take to work so I can slyly win everyone over, so I decided on this recipe from Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day cookbook (posted on the CLBB). It's always been highly reviewed, and I had all of the ingredients on hand already, so I chose this one.

I was a little bit disappointed. They're good and have an excellent texture - nice and thick. However, they just aren't good enough to take to work. I had hoped they would be a little more impressive. As is, I am enjoying eating them and will happily take them in my lunches this week. :) I probably won't make this recipe again because there are better peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipes out there, but it was good.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
8 TBS (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or grease lightly.

2. Cream the butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until the ingredients are combined.

3. In a separate large bowl, stir the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Stir the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture until the flour is no longer visible. Stir in the chocolate chip until evenly distributed.

4. Scoop the dough with a 1/4-cup measure or ice cream scoop and drop it onto the prepared cookie sheet, leaving 3 in. between the cookies. Use the tines of a fork to flatten the tops of the cookies to 1/2-1/4-inch thickness with a crosshatch pattern.

5. Bake the cookies on a center rack for 15-17 minutes, rotating the pans halfway for even baking, until the cookies are golden brown. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Egg & Sausage Burritos

My ma used to make these when I was younger, but then I stopped eating meat and the world was sad. But then I discovered vegetarian sausage, which tastes remarkably like real sausage since the sage and other herbs are what make it taste good in the first place.

This isn't a "real" recipe because you can vary it however you want, but I will approximate what I used. Keep in mind that I am only one person but I was hungry today so I made two burritos. Usually one burrito + a breakfasty side dish (hashbrowns or something) is more than enough food. So I guess this recipe is for two people.

Egg & Sausage Burritos
3 eggs
3 veggie sausage patties (or about 1/3 of a package of Gimme Lean), cooked according to package instructions and cut into small pieces
1-2 Tbsp diced green chiles (from a can)
2 fajita-sized tortillas
Sour cream
Shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend of Cheddar, Jack, and Cotija)

Scramble the eggs in a frying pan. At the last minute, throw in the chiles and cook a little bit more. Add the sausage. Divide mixture between the two tortillas and top with sour cream and cheese. Roll up and consume.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Spinach Dip

I found this recipe for Spinach Dip somewhere- maybe on the CLBB? Not sure. But it appealed to me because it's a variation of the ever-present Knorr's Spinach Dip that I love so much.

It was very good, and I enjoyed it with some Harvest Grain crackers. I probably will not make this version again, as I continue my quest for the definitive spinach dip. But I would recommend it to others. It was yummy.

Spinach Dip
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach -- thawed
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts -- chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup dairy sour cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 cloves garlic -- minced
Salt and pepper

Drain spinach and squeeze dry. In a bowl, combine dip ingredients; season with salt and pepper; Chill 8 hours or overnight. Adjust seasoning before serving.

Yield: 3 cups of dip