Monday, October 29, 2007

Basil Roasted Vegetables Over Couscous

I have been wanting to make couscous for a while now. Not as a side dish, but as a main course. I used to have some fabulous couscous salads with fresh cucumber and tomatoes, but I enjoy those in summer time. Fall is upon us and I wanted something warm and hearty. While I have plenty of cookbooks to choose from, I just couldn't find what I was looking for. So I looked into my "recipes" folder on my computer. I have been carrying around this recipe (saved in notepad) from the June 1996 issue of Cooking Light. But it is still just as good as it was ten years ago. And my family agrees as well! Most of them were afraid of the goat cheese but once they tasted it the realized that it really made this dish special.

Basil Roasted Vegetables Over Couscous

According to folklore, basil is a harbinger of romance. Should a man give a sprig to a woman, she will fall in love with him and never, ever leave him. In Italy, if a woman puts a pot of basil on her windowsill, it means she is ready to receive her suitor. She might have many suitors if she serves this recipe, too.

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch slices
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium red onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 (8-ounce) package mushrooms
3 cups hot cooked couscous
1 (3-ounce) package basil-flavored chèvre (goat cheese), crumbled
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Fresh basil sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; stir well. Add zucchini, bell peppers, onion, and mushrooms; toss well to coat. Arrange vegetables in a single layer in a shallow roasting pan. Bake at 425° for 35 minutes or until tender and browned, stirring occasionally.

Spoon roasted vegetables over couscous, and top with cheese. Sprinkle with pepper. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 cup vegetables, 3/4 cup couscous, and 1 1/2 tablespoons cheese)

CALORIES 65(3% from fat); FAT 0.2g (sat 0.1g,mono 0.1g,poly 0.0g); PROTEIN 2.5g; CHOLESTEROL 1mg; CALCIUM 67mg; SODIUM 59mg; FIBER 0.0g; IRON 0.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 13.3g

Monday, October 22, 2007

Roast Leg of Lamb

My mother surprised me and brought me a 5 lb. roast leg of lamb that I could "do something with" for dinner. While I really appreciated the gesture (and challenge) this had me pulling my hair out! I am used to cooking based on recipes . . . not buying the main ingredient first. I spent a good hour scouring my cookbooks for lamb recipes that seemed basic and used the leg of the lamb - with the bone in. I ended up turning to the well trusted Joy of Cooking. Actually, I have not made too many things from this cookbook but I figured I was making a basic roast and this would be the book to turn too.

The recipe calls for adding slices of garlic into slits in the roast - YUM! It added a really great flavor. This was fed to five people with different tastes and everyone raved about it. I did struggle with cooking time a bit because my roast was 2 lbs. smaller than recommended in the recipe and somehow it still took LONGER too cook than the suggested cooking time. But I relied on the temperature and everything came out perfect.

I chose to make a Lemon Egg Sauce which was one of the suggested sauces in Joy of Cooking. Only one person didn't like this because they were used to eating roast with brown gravy. But I thought it gave the roast a more exotic taste and besides - people didn't HAVE to add it. The meat was good enough to stand alone.

Roast Leg of Lamb
(10 servings)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pat dry, trim, and prepare:
    1 whole bone-in leg of lamb (7 to 8 pounds)
Combine in a small bowl:
    1 Tbsp. black pepper
    2 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. finely minced fresh rosemary or 1/2 tsp. finely crumbled dried rosemary

Rub the wide end of the leg with half of the seasoning mixture. Add to the remaining seasoning mixture and toss to coat:
    2 large garlic cloves, cut lengthwise into slivers or slices
Cut 15 to 20 evenly spaced slits in the roast, and insert the seasoned garlic slivers. Rub the surface of the roast with:
    3 Tbsp. olive oil
Rub any remaining seasoning mixture over the roast, and arrange it meatier side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Place it in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Roast until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat reads 140 degrees for medium-rare, or 160 degrees for medium, 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours (the temperature will rise about 5 degrees out of the oven). Remove from the oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes.

Lemon Egg Sauce (Avgolemono Sauce)
(2 1/4 cups)

This favorite Greek sauce is good with lamb or green vegetables, or it can be added to soups, stews, and casseroles - anything, say the Greeks, that is not made with garlic or tomatoes.

Bring to a simmer and keep warm:
    1 cup vegetable or chicken stock or broth
Beat with an electric mixer in a bow until thickened:
    3 large eggs
Beat in:
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Beat half of the hot stock into the egg mixture, then whisk this mixture back into the remaining stock. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat until the sauce is thick and creamy and coats the back of the spoon; do not let the sauce boil, or it will curdle. Remove from the heat and season to taste with:
    Salt and black pepper
Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Anginares Me Araka (Stewed Artichokes and Peas)

I finally made something from my Modern Greek cookbook. I wanted to find a vegetable side dish I could serve with the Baked Shrimp with Feta, so I chose Anginares Me Araka which is Stewed Artichokes and Peas.

I'm not sure this dish goes well with the Shrimp and Feta, but I thought it was excellent. I have a bunch left over and I think it will be good cold as a light lunch tomorrow. The flavors are excellent. My mother thought the peas were over-cooked since they weren't bright green, but I like the softness of them with the artichokes (it is supposed to be a stewed dish after all).

This recipe calls for both fresh shelled peas and artichoke hearts - I used neither. I bought organic artichoke hears in the can and a bag frozen organic peas from the freezer section. It might have been better if all were fresh, but I thought it was tasty as is. This dish might go really well as a side dish for a roast or even as a vegetarian option as part of a buffet.

Anginares Me Araka
Stewed Artichokes and Peas
(servers 4)

8 fresh artichoke hearts with stems trimmed, quartered
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely diced
6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint
1 pound fresh peas, shelled
Freshly ground pepper

Place the artichoke hearts in a bowl of acidulated water until ready to use. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic for 10 minutes or until softened. Add the tomatoes and mint and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the peas and drained artichokes and continue to cook, stirring well, for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add enough water to just cover the mixture and simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Serve either hot or cold.

Baked Shrimp and Feta

I know I just made something from the October issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, but when I saw this recipe for Baked Shrimp with Feta I just HAD to make it. And I'm so glad I did. I served it tonight to my mother and sister and their guys - all gave it rave reviews. It was even suggested as a dish to prepare for our next dinner party . . .

Baked Shrimp and Feta
6 to 8 servings

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Juice of 1 lemon, plus wedges for serving
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 350°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the shrimp with the lemon juice and arrange in a single layer. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato puree, oregano, bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf and pour the sauce over the shrimp; sprinkle the feta on top. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then place under the broiler until the feta is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve with the lemon wedges.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Zucchini, Potato and Ham Soup

I'm back! I'm back and in a new place. A new, old place actually. I have moved back to Chicago. I spent the last two weeks driving up here and getting unpacked. Now I have my cookbooks all up on the shelf and all of my cooking utensils unpacked - so I'm ready to go! It's been about 6 months since I've been actively cooking. So much has gone on in my life. But now I am home and I have people to cook for so I am so excited! Tonight was my first night in the kitchen after a long time - and it was a new kitchen to boot. But, I have a Whole Foods right down the street from me and I am in Heaven.

I knew I wanted to cook tonight but I have not gone through my cookbooks to pick out something special yet. I turned to the October issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine and flipped to the "7 days, 7 dinners" section and picked something out. I chose the Zucchini, Potato and Ham Soup because it seemed quick and tasty. And I wanted to make sure I got in an entry for The Doubly Delicious Two Year Celebration of Weekend Herb Blogging. It just cooled off here in Chicago so soup was the perfect thing for me to prepare.

This soup feature fresh dill. I LOVE the smell of Dill. I haven't found it to be an very versatile herb because if something contains dill you usually know it distinctly. However zucchini is one of the most versatile ingredients out there. Use it raw in salads, roast it up, puree it to make bread . . . the possibilities are endless! And according to the entry in Wikipedia, "In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed the Zucchini to be the Britain's 10th favorite culinary vegetable." I'm not surprised at all!

This Zucchini, Potato and Ham Soup is super easy to make. The hardest part was peeling the potatoes - I used a mandolin to slice the potatoes and zucchini and a chopper for the onions. My mom and I had it for dinner tonight with nothing else but the suggested Pumpernickel bread and a glass of Syrah. My mother is a much more cautious cook than I am. She'll try anything at a restaurant but she tends to prepare old standards of meat and potatoes at home. The first thing she told me when she saw me cooking tonight was that she usually doesn't like creamed soups (but she'll try whatever I make). I explained to her that this soup doesn't have any cream in it and that it is very healthy. She watched me break out the immersion blender and was impressed with the results. She commented at least five times how much she liked this soup. I thought it was a tasty and healthy dinner to enjoy on a cool night. Perfect for fall.

Zucchini, Potato and Ham Soup
1 tablespoon butter
2 onions, chopped
2 large yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon gold (about 1 pound total), peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 zucchini (about 1 pound total), sliced 1/4 inch thick
One 32-ounce container (4 cups) chicken broth
Two 1/4-inch-thick slices cooked ham (about 8 ounces), finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Pinch nutmeg
Pumpernickel bread, for serving
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Add the potatoes and zucchini and season with salt. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil; cover, lower the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Using a blender, partially puree the soup, leaving some chunks. Stir in the ham, dill and nutmeg and serve with the bread.

Check out the round-up for the The Doubly Delicious Two Year Celebration of Weekend Herb Blogging by the gal who started it all at Kalyn's Kitchen.