Monday, December 28, 2009

Coq au Riesling

Tonight I had a taste for something hearty. I pulled out a few cookbooks and the first one I opened was Nigella Express. I haven't made too many recipes from this one and I knew that her food would be perfect on a cold winter's night. I didn't have to flip through too many pages before I saw her recipe for Coq au Riesling and I left for the store right away.

Wow! My house smelled amazing while making this one. Something about the bacon and chicken simmering together... It is a very easy recipe and besides slicing up the bacon and some veggies, everything just gets dumped into the pot.

I did have to make a few substitutes though. I couldn't find a leek at the store so I substituted green onions. I don't think I tasted them so I would definitely like to try this with a leek. Also, I didn't write down the amounts for the bacon or the mushrooms. I ended up with enough bacon but not enough mushrooms. I got some kind of chef's mix which has some oyster mushrooms and some other types as well. I do wish I got twice as many because the mushrooms were really great in this.

Unlike Nigella's suggestion, I ate this one as soon as it was ready and I did indeed add the cream. She's right and it probably would have tasted better the next day, but it was still really good and my entire family really enjoyed it. I did serve it with buttered German egg noodles and that was a really good combo. But there was so much amazing juice in the pot it might have been good enough to serve this in bowls with big hunks of crusty bread.

Coq au Riesling
Serves 6

2 tablespoons garlic-infused oil

1 cup cubed bacon

1 leek, finely sliced

12 skinless chicken thighs or 2¾ pounds thigh fillets

1 750-ml bottle Riesling wine

10 oz. oyster mushrooms, torn into strips (4 cups)

3 bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste

heavy cream, optional

1 to 2 tablespoons freshly chopped dill

Heat the oil in a casserole or large wide pan and fry the bacon until crisp.

Add the sliced leek and soften it with the bacon for a minute or so.

Tip in the chicken thighs, wine, mushrooms, and bay leaves.

Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, cover the pan, and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring in the cream for the last couple of minutes if you want. Like all stews, this tastes its mellowest best if you let it get cold and then reheat the next day. But it's no hardship to eat straight off. Whichever, serve sprinkled with dill, and with some buttered noodles on the side.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sea Scallops Alla Caprese

In my quest for learning how to grill, I was excited to try something from Mario Batali's Italian Grill cookbook. I decided to start with Sea Scallops Alla Caprese because, well, I love scallops!

His technique calls for a "piastra". But a piastra is like a griddle so if you have a flat-surface grill pan that is cast iron and can go on the grill, go ahead and use that. In all the drama I've had attempting to roast veggies before, I never thought to whip out the "indoor grill" and use it on the outdoor grill. But now I'm glad I know because it was really easy to manage the roasting of the vegetables this way.

As for the use of heirloom tomatoes, I don't understand what the big fuss is, espeically since you are grilling them. I thought were an unnecessary expense, however the did make the meal more colorful.

Sea Scallops Alla Caprese
Serves 6

2 pounds mixed great heirloom tomatoes
24 fresh basil leaves
3 medium red onions, cut into 1-inch-thick slices
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 to 6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
12 giant diver scallops (about 2 ounces each)
Maldon salt or other coarse sea sale
1 lemon, cut in half

Preheat a gas grill or prepare fire in a charcoal grill. Place a piastra on the gill to preheat.

Slice the tomatoes creatively (leave very small ones whole, or halve them) and lay out on a platter. Tear the basil leaves over the tomatoes, strewing them about. Set aside.

Season the onion slices on both sides with salt and pepper. Place them on the hot dry piastra and cook, unmoved, for 7 to 10 minuntes, until well charred on the first side. Using tongs, carefully turn the slices over and cook for 7 to 10 minutes on the second side, until well charred and softened. Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly, then separate the onion slices into smaller rings and scatter them over the tomatoes. Drizzle the whole mess with 3 to 4 tablespoons of the olive oil.

While the onions cook, carve a checkerboard pattern about 1/4 inch deep into one side of each scallop. Season the scallops all over with salt and pepper, toss them in a bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and stir gently to coat.

Place the scallops on the dry clean piastra, design side down, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, unmoved, until almost cooked-they should be opaque almost all the way through. Flip them over and sear for just 30 seconds, them remove and arrange on the tomato salad.

Sprinkle the scallops and tomatoes with Maldon salt, squeeze the lemon halves over them, and serve.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Grilled Basil-Lemon Cornish Game Hens

Okay, the weather was great this past weekend so I needed to bust out the grill for the first time this year. And what is a better Spring-y thing to make than Cornish Game Hens? I made them with Grilled Summer Squash and Crushed Potatoes with Olive Oil, Parmesan and Basil and it was an amazing dinner. Well amazing even though the hens turned out kind of raw because I have no idea how to grill... but baby steps! Thank the heavens for microwaves! But really, this recipe is great and super impressive. If you are interested in grilling Cornish Game Hens, I strongly suggest you give them a try. And make sure you do the Myer Lemon Salsa if if Myer Lemons are in seasons because they are neat to work with.

Grilled Basil-Lemon Cornish Game Hens
Makes 8 servings

1 cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup grated lemon zest
¼ cup basil
¼ cup chopped mint
2 tbsp minced red jalapeno

8 Cornish game hens, halved
2 Tbsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup Meyer Lemon Salsa (below)

Combine the lemon juice, oil, lemon zest, basil, mint and jalapeno to make a marinade. Place the game hens in a large, shallow pan. Pour the marinade over the top, and turn the hens to coat evenly. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.

Preheat a gas grill to medium-high; leave one burner off. If you are using a charcoal grill, build a fire and let it burn down until the coals are glowing red with a moderate coating of white ash. Spread the coals in an even bed on one side of the grill. Clean the cooking grate.

Remove the game hens from the marinade and brush off any excess marinade. Season with the salt and pepper.

Grill the game hens over direct heat until marked, about 4 minutes per side. Move the hens to indirect heat and continue to grill, covered and turning as needed, until cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes more.

Serve the game hens on a heated platter or plates with the salsa on top.

Meyer Lemon Salsa
Makes 2 cups

1 Meyer lemon
1 cup minced shallots
¾ tsp salt
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp Meyer lemon juice, optional

Cut the whole lemon, unpeeled, into crosswise slices about 1/8 inch thick. Remove the seeds and cut the slices into 1/8-inch dice. Place the diced lemon in a mixing bowl.

Add the shallots and salt to the lemons, and stir to combine. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Add the parsley, and gradually whisk in the oil until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper. Add additional lemon juice if desired.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grilled Summer Squash

So I mentioned that 2009 is the year I am going to learn how to grill, right? One of the cookbooks I really leaning on is the Culinary Institute of America's Grilling: Exciting International Flavors from the World's Premier Culinary College. That and some Bobby Flay and Mario Batali books I got last year. But this one from the CIA is REALLY great because it does give a whole lot of lessons.

I know that grilled veggies aren't exactly complicated, but since I'm LEARNING I wanted to document it here. The marinade has to be key and these were really great. But this took a ridiculous amount of time to prepare. I could only fit so many strips on the grill! I think I had to make these in about six different batches. The good news is that they taste amazing at room temperature.

Grilled Summer Squash
Makes 8 servings

4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup rough-chopped parsley
2 Tbsp thyme leaves
½ cup lemon juice
1 cup olive oil
3 tsp salt
1½ tsp ground black pepper
4 zucchini
4 yellow squashes

Mix together the garlic parsley, thyme, lemon juice, olive oil, 2tsp of the salt, and 1 tsp of the pepper to make a marinade.

Cut the zucchini and squash lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick strips using a mandolin or a chef's knife. Place the strips in a zip-close bag and pour the marinade over the vegetables. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Preheat a gas grill to medium-high. If you are using a charcoal grill, build a fire and let it burn down until the coals are glowing red with a light coating of white ash. Spread the coals in an even bed. Clean the cooking grate.

Remove the vegetables from the marinade and allow excess marinade to drain off. Season the slices with the remaining salt and pepper. Grill uncovered over direct heat, turning as necessary, until marked on both sides and tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove the vegetables from the grill and cut lengthwise into ¼-inch-wide julienne to make grilled squash noodles. Serve immediately.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Crushed Potatoes with Olive Oil, Parmesan and Basil

I got the New Scottish Cookery: 160 New and Traditional Recipes Using the Best Produce from Scotland cookbook when I was in Scotland this past September and have not had a chance to make anything from it until now. I know smashed potatoes aren't all that original, but these are really great. The fresh herbs really make it pop. These are so easy to make and can be an impressive staple for any Sunday meal.

Crushed Potatoes with Olive Oil, Parmesan and Basil
Serves 4

1 lb. new potatoes, scrubbed
Freshly ground sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
5 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
1 oz. Parmesan cheese, shaved

Cool the potatoes in simmering, salted water until tender. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and, with the back of a fork, gently crush each potato until it just splits. Season, then add the basil and Parmesan. Mix carefully until all the oil has been absorbed. Don't overwork it or you'll lose the texture.

You can serve the potatoes in a pile or use a 3-inch scone cutter to shape them into nice little cakes.

The mixture can be made in advance and cooled, and then reheated as potato cakes. Put them on an oiled baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Love is all around you...

- Rachel

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pork Chops with Orange & Fennel Salad

Fennel is becoming one of my favorite ingredients. There's something gourmet yet homey about cooking with it. Maybe gourmet because it has a fresh, healthy taste and homey because it reminds me of Italian cooking. Whatever it is, I like to try it out whenever I see a new recipe that calls for it.

I think fennel and orange is a classic combination and it works perfectly with the pork chops. This dish does not have any strong flavors individually, but it has a very sophisticated taste when complete. It kind of reminds me of spa food - even though you probably wouldn't find pork chops at most spas. It is fresh and light yet flavorful. My family loved it.

Pork Chops with Orange & Fennel Salad
Makes 4 servings

3 naval oranges

1 teaspoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon cornstarch

½ teaspoon salt, divided

4 4-ounce boneless porkchops, ½-inch thick, trimmed

2 teaspoons fennel seeds, roughly chopped or coarsely ground in a spice grinder

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced

1 shallot, chopped

3 cups watercress or arugula, tough stems removed

Remove the skin and white pith from oranges with a sharp knife. Working over a bowl, cut the segments from their surrounding membranes. Squeeze juice in the bowl before discarding membranes. Transfer the segments with a slotted spoon to another bowl. Whisk lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and ¼ teaspoon salt into the bowl with the orange juice. Set aside.

Season pork chops on both sides with fennel seeds, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chops and cook until browned and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add sliced fennel and shallot to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add watercress (or arugula) and cook, stirring, until it begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes more. Stir in the reserved orange segments, then transfer the contents of the pan to a platter.

Add the reserved orange juice mixture and any accumulated juices from the pork chops to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Serve the pork chops on the fennel salad, drizzled with the pan sauce.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Broiled Tofu with Spicy Mango Sauce

Well, I found out that I can't stand mustard greens. Actually, I didn't eve use mustard greens when making this, I used broccoli raab, a suggested substitution since I didn't think I would like mustard greens and I assumed broccoli raab would taste more like broccoli. So I would recommend not making this recipe in full unless you actually LIKE greens.

This recipe comes from the "Green Party" feature of the January, 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times. Like most people, I'm always trying to figure out new ways to get more dark, leafy greens into my diet. But obviously this one didn't work out for me.

Nasty greens aside, the tofu and mango sauce is really good. I like playing with new ways of preparing tofu and I have never broiled it before. The mango sauce was tasty. I ate it for dinner on top of the bed of mustard greens but had the tofu and sauce for lunch the next day with some green beans. The tofu I'd make again. But I don't think I'll be steaming broccoli raab anytime soon.

Broiled Tofu and Steamed Mustard Greens with Spicy Mango Sauce
Serves 8

2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 small onion, quartered and thinly sliced (½ cup)
1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped (½ cup)
¾ cup hot mango chutney, such as Patak's
1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped (¾ cup)
2 16-oz. pkgs. extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry
1 12-oz. bunches mustard greens, thick stems removed

Heat oil in medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, cover, and cook 10 to 15 minutes, or until vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally. Stir in mango chutney and tomato. Cover, and simmer 5 minutes more. Keep warm.

Preheat oven to broil, and place over rack in highest position. Coat baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Halve each tofu block crosswise to make pieces the size of thickness of sandwich bread. Cut each tofu piece into 4 triangles. Brush each tofu triangle on both sides with mango mixture (it's OK if some bell pepper and onion bits stick to tofu); season with salt and pepper, if desired; and place on prepared baking sheet. Broil 4 to 5 minutes. Flip triangles, and brush with more mango mixture. Broil 4 to 5 minutes more, or until brown and crispy.

Meanwhile, bring 1 cup water to a boil in large pot. Add mustard greens, cover, and steam 5 to 7 minutes or until greens are crisp-tender, turning occasionally with tongs to make sure greens cook evenly.

Divide mustard green among serving plates. Top each serving with 2 tofu triangles, and drizzle with ¼ cup mango sauce.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Curried Cauliflower Soup

I'm afraid of cauliflower. Not to eat it of course, I love eating it. but to cut it. I just don't get it. It appears so solid and then when I do get the florets broken off they can crumble into a mess. But I think the concept of cauliflower soup is neat so tonight I decided to try and cut up a cauliflower. And you know what, it wasn't so bad. Since it was just going into soup I didn't need to figure out how to make bite sized pieces either.

The soup was pretty flavorful, but mine didn't turn out anywhere near as smooth as the one pictured in the magazine. It had that grittiness that always remains after a puree unless you add more liquid to it. I didn't mind the consistency though, in fact it the soup was quite hearty. And it might have been because I used the entire large cauliflower and did not measure to ensure it was only six cups.

Curried Cauliflower Soup
Serves 6

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)

1 medium tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped (1 cup)

1 Tbsp. curry powder

1 clove garlic, sliced (1 tsp.)

1 large head cauliflower, chopped into 1-inch pieces (6 cups)

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 tsp. honey or agave nectar

1 tsp. rice wine vinegar

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, and saute 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft and golden. Stir in apple, curry powder, and garlic, and cook 2 minutes more, or until curry powder turns deep yellow.

Add cauliflower and vegetable broth, and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes. Cool 20 minutes, then blend in food processor or blender until smooth. Stir in honey and vinegar, and season with salt, if desired.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Warm Beet & Spinach Salad

Beets are an ingredient I hardly every use but I have been inspired to make something with beets ever since I had an amazing beet salad at C-House last week. Red and yellow beets were the highlight of this regular item on the menu. I don't see beet salads to often on any menu so I was interested that Marcus Samuelsson chose to feature this as one of only two salads on the lunch menu.

This salad highlights beets as well, but the beets get warmed and then are placed on a bed of fresh spinach. The sweetness of the beets acts in place of a dressing. Kalamata olives and balsamic vinegar add an interesting contract. It only took me about 10 minutes to throw this all together. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Warm Beet & Spinach Salad
Makes 4 servings, about 2 cups each

8 cups baby spinach
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons sliced Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups steamed beet wedges or slices, 1/2-1 inch thick (see Tip)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Place spinach in a large bowl.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, olives, parsley and garlic and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 3 minutes. Add beets, vinegar, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the beets are heated through, about 1 minute more. Add the beet mixture to the spinach and toss to combine. Serve warm.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thai Chicken Soup with Chinese Black Rice

I wanted to try something made with "Forbidden Black Rice" because I thought it would be fun to play with a new ingredient. The rice is short and sturdy. You have to rinse it a few times and as you do the water gets somewhat reddish. I did not notice any distinct taste in the rice, but it does seem more filling than regular rice and is not powdery at all. I found a good Chinese black rice by Lotus Foods called "Forbidden Black Rice" at Whole Foods.

I really like most Thai soups so I am somewhat easy to please, but I was not expecting such complex flavors in something I made by myself! Really, this recipe yields restaurant-quality tastes. I took my time making this recipe on a Sunday afternoon (cook chicken, cool chicken, shred chicken, etc.) and while it did take me a while, it is actually quite a simple recipe. The only difficulty is chopping the veggies. The soup is quite healthy and if you want to trim some fat you can use a lowfat coconut milk instead of regular. I hope you try to make this impressive this soup yourself.

Thai Chicken Soup with Chinese Black Rice
Serves 4

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 can (15 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk

2 to 3 teaspoons. Thai red or yellow curry paste

1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes, including liquid

1½ pound bone-in, skinned chicken thighs or split breasts

4 scallions, thinly sliced (keep white and green parts separate)

¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper

1½ cups cooked Chinese black rice

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or basil

2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Thai fish sauce or soy sauce (optional)

Lime wedges, to serve at table

In a 4-quart pot, blend the chicken broth, coconut milk. and curry paste to taste. Set the pot over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, chicken, scallion whites, and bell pepper. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked, 20 to 30 minutes, depending upon size.

Remove the chicken. When it is cool enough to handle, shred or chop the meat and discard the bones. Return the chicken to the pot and stir in the rice. Add the cilantro, scallion greens, lime juice to taste, and fish sauce, if needed to perk up the flavors.

Before ladling out each portion, stir well to bring the rice up from the bottom. Serve with lime wedges.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spicy Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Just like the lettuce wraps from P.F. Changs's! Well, the vegetarian version anyways. I love the idea of using lettuce as a wrapper or taco shell so I was excited when I saw this recipe in the January, 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times. And this is a great recipe to introduce people to tofu, either by preparing it or just eating it. All the other flavors are very well and since it is crumbled the consistency is like scrambled eggs and works perfectly was the filling for a wrap.

Definitely take the time to prepare the garnishes because they really make these unique. Especially the flavor of the mint and the crunchiness of the peanuts.

Spicy Tofu Lettuce Wraps
Makes 16 wraps

2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1½ cups)
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. minced lemongrass
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
1 lb. extra-firm tofu, crumbled
1 8-oz. can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
4 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
4 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 to 2 tsp. vegetarian chile sauce, such as vegetarian sriracha
16 butter lettuce or iceberg lettuce leaves

1 large carrot, peeled and grated
½ cup chopped green onions
½ chopped fresh mint
½ finely chopped peanuts
Hoisin and chile sauces

To make Filling: Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, ginger, lemongrass, and garlic, and cook 7 to 10 minutes, or until onions are soft and beginning to brown. Add tofu and water chestnuts, breaking tofu into small crumbles; cook 4 minutes, or until heated through. Stir in soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and chile sauce. Transfer to serving bowl.

Place lettuce leaves on platter and set out garnishes in small serving bowls. Let guests wrap tofu mixture in lettuce leaves, and top with their choice of garnishes.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto with Pesto

I'm not usually a big pesto fan, but here I think pesto is more like a secret ingredient! Using it as a base for sauteing onions made the kitchen smell wonderful. Also, I admit that I DID buy a real squash for this, but I also found frozen squash at Whole Foods. So when I couldn't figure out how to peel the butternut squash within 90 seconds, I tossed it and started defrosting the frozen stuff. Perfect!

I did not create this recipe but and I printed it out from Notepad so I have NO IDEA where it came from or who to attribute it to. I wish I knew though because it came out so well I want to know some more recipes from this source.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Pesto
Serves 6

3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
¼ cup prepared pesto, divided
1 cup chopped fresh or frozen onion
1½ cups Arborio rice
3 cups fresh or frozen cubed butternut squash (1 small squash)

Bring broth and 2 cups water to a boil in large saucepan; turn off heat.

Heat 1 Tbsp. pesto in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and saute 6 minutes. Stir in rice, followed by 1/2 cup hot broth. When rice has absorbed broth, add another 1/2 cup. Continue adding broth in this manner 5 minutes.

Stir in squash, and season with salt and pepper. Resume adding broth, 1/2 cu pat a time until rice has absorbed all liquid. (This should take about 15 minutes.) Remove from heat, and stir in 1 Tbs. pesto. Spoon risotto into 6 bowls and top each with 1 tsp. pesto.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Egg & Salmon Sandwich

Apparently, this is what Mary Lou, or other Olympians, eat for breakfast. It's an example of a "pre-training" meal. This is according to the article in the July/August, 2008 issue of Eating Well magazine. And if it's good for them, the it should be good for me.

I don't usually do the egg whites thing, I'm just too lazy and I think they taste bland, but here it seemed like a good idea because salmon itself has a strong taste and I didn't need to mix in too much richness with the egg yolks.

I'm a sucker for lox and bagels with all the fixin's. This is a much healthier breakfast option but gives the same satisfaction.

Egg & Salmon Sandwich
Serves 1

½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. finely chopped red onion
2 large egg whites, beaten
Pinch of slat
½ tsp. capers, rinsed and chopped (optional)
1 ounce smoked salmon
1 slice tomato
1 whole-wheat English muffin, split and toasted

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tilapia over Italian Asparagus

I love tilapia and since it's such a light fish, I always like to serve it with something healthy. It seems like a waste to smother it with some type of fatty sauce. Usually I'll just top it with salsa, but tonight, I decided to use the fish as the topper on top of some Italian-style asparagus.

Tilapia over Italian Asparagus
serves 4

8 tilipia filets
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound fresh asparagus
1 cup finely chopped plum tomato
¼ cup fat-free Italian dressing
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish

Snap off tough ends of asparagus spears. Arrange asparagus in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and steam 4 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the broiler. Season tilapia fillets with salt and pepper on both sides. Place tilapia on a broiling pan and broil 3-4 minutes per side or until fish gets brown around the edges and flakes when you touch it with a fork.

Remove asparagus from steamer and place in a shallow dish; add tomato and remaining ingredients, and toss gently.

Place asparagus on dish and top with two tilapia fillets. Garnish with parsley.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Shrimp Veracruzana

Shrimp Veracruz is a standard at most Mexican restaurants. Of course there are so many other cheesy options, I rarely order it. I do like it though because it is light yet flavorful. I made this big batch and we just ate it with our forks, but it also is great to wrap up in tortillas if you have any on hand.

Shrimp Verzcruzana
Serves 4, about 1 cup each

2 tsp. canola oil
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and very thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound peeled and deveined raw shrimp (16-20 per pound)
3 medium tomatoes, diced
¼ cup thinly sliced pitted green olived
1 lime, cut into 4 wedges

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bay leaf and cook for 1 minute. Add onion, jalapenos and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in shrimp, cover and cook until pink and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and olives. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-ow, replace cover and cook until the tomatoes are almost broken down, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove the bay leaf. Serve with lime wedges.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Polenta with Baby Spinach

I confess, I made this healthy dish more low-cal by using some fat-free ingredients. But you can use the regular version if you wish with regular chicken broth and cream in place of the evaporated milk.

Polenta is great to eat in winter because it's warm and creamy. Putting this whole thing together takes less than 15 minutes, and that's including chopping the spinach and boiling the broth.

Polenta with Baby Spinach
Serves 4

3½ cup fat-free chicken broth
1 cup instant polenta
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
2 cups baby spinach, stems removed, chopped
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
¼ cup fat-free evaporated milk

Heat broth to boiling over high heat in a medium-size, heavy-bottomed pot. Gradually add polenta, stirring constantly to prevent lumps; stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg and spinach.

Reduce heat to low and simmer until mixture is thick, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes; stir in cheese and milk. Simmer until cheese melts, about 1 minute; serve immediately. Yields about 3/4 cup per serving.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kale-and-Avocado Salad

I never know what to do with kale. Last year I kept getting it my farmer's basket and always ended up throwing it out or giving it to my bird. I KNOW it's super healthy and I should incorporate into my diet, but I just haven't got there yet. Well, until this salad.

This recipe was on the same page in Food & Wine Magazine as the recipe for Strawberry-Almond Smoothie, which I had torn out. One day when I was flipping through all the recipes I had torn out of magazines, I read this one out of curiosity of what to do with kale. I was intrigued at the instruction to "knead the kale with salt" so I decided to try it.

So it ends up that I do like kale! Especially when it is smothered in avocado like in this salad. And I didn't realize it until I was preparing the salad, there really isn't any dressing. The avocado and lime juice serve as it, even though it is all mushed together. The end result is kind of like guacamole with an Asian twist (due to the sesame seeds).

Kale-and-Avocado Salad
1 serving

1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 cup packed chopped kale leaves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Hass avocado, quartered
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup packed arugula leaves
1 small tomato, coarsely chopped
1 radish, diced
2 large pitted green olives, diced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

In a skillet, toast the sesame seeds over moderate heat. Transfer to a plate.

In a bowl, knead the kale with salt until it begins to wilt. Add the avocado and lime juice and mash until chunky. Add the arugula, tomato, radish, olives, cilantro and sesame seeds, toss gently and serve.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Strawberry-Almond Smoothie

Isn't part of the fun of cooking getting to use new ingredients? I love trying new things and experimenting with new ingredients. Of course it's not always so easy to FIND the new ingredients.

I found this recipe for a Strawberry-Almond Smoothie under the well-being detox diet section of the December, 2008 issue of Food & Wine Magazine. By the name it seems quite simple, but I was intrigued by the ingredients... coconut water, agave nectar and figs? Those are not the usual ingredients I expect in a smoothie. And this one has NO DAIRY!

Luckily, I had some leftover figs from when I made Polenta Crostini with Fig and Kalamata Olive Tapenade at Christmas. I headed to Whole Foods in search the coconut water and nectar agave.

If you are feeling creative, I hope you give this a try. The cinnamon is perfect to balance the sweetness. It's good for breakfast or a snack.

Strawberry-Almond Smoothie
1 serving

2 Tbsp. raw almonds, soaked over night and drained
1 cup coconut water
Pinch of salt
1 cup frozen strawberries
2 dried white figs, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. agave nectar
Pinch of ground cinnamon

In a blender, puree the almonds with the coconut water and salt until smooth. Strain the almond milk through a fine sieve. Rinse out the blender. Add the strawberries to the blender with the figs, agave nectar, cinnamon and the almond milk and puree. Pour into a tall glass and serve.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Azteca Squash Soup

There's nothing like a batch of yummy and healthy soup when it's cold outside! I found this recipe for Azteca Squash Soup under as "Spa Food at Home" section in the December, 2008 issue of Bon Appétit Magazine. While this is not a quick soup, it feels good because you make it in little parts throughout the day. And roasting the butternut squash makes your house smell great! Save some time and use an immersion blender if you have one instead of transferring batches of soup to a blender and pureeing a bit at a time.

Azteca Squash Soup
8 servings

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1½-pound butternut squash, halved lengthwise,seeded
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1¾ cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 cups (or more) vegetable broth, divided
1 tsp. group cumin
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed, drained
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro plus sprigs for garnish
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. minced seeded serrano chile
Coarse sea salt
Plain nonfat yogurt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray. Sprinkle cut halves of squash with salt and pepper. Arrange, cut side down, on prepared sheet. Roast squash until tender, about 1½ hours. Turn squash cut side up and cool. Scoop squash out into medium bowl.

Heat oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add 1¾ cups chopped onion and saute until pale golden, about 10 minutes. Mix in 1 cup chopped celery and 2 chopped garlic cloves. Add 1 cup broth. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add squash, 5 cups of broth, and cumin. Cover and simmer 20 minutes to blend flavors.

Working in batches, puree squash soup in blender until smooth. When finished pureeing all batches, return all soup to pot. Thin squash soup to desired consistency with more vegetable broth. Add 1 cup black beans, 1 cup corn kernels, 1 cup chopped red bell pepper, ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, and 1 teaspoon minced serrano chile. Cover soup and simmer 10 minutes. Season soup to taste with coarse salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish each with dollop of yogurt and sprig of cilantro

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Broccolini and Spinach with Garlic, White Beans, Tomatoes and Parmesan

This may look like a salad, but it's not. At least according to my definition of a salad - which is cold. This dish is all cooked and it is nutritious, delicious and filling!

I inspired by a recipe for "Broccolini Raab with Garlic, White Beans, Tomatoes and Parmesan" found in the September, 2008 issue of Vegetarian Times. But I could not find Broccolini Raab. Also, I heard it was bitter so I was a bit nervous about trying it. Anyways, I finally decided to substitute the Broccolini Raab with a combo of spinach and broccolini! I thought it was a bit more fun than just spinach alone.

Broccolini and Spinach with Garlic, White Beans, Tomatoes, and Parmesan
Serves 5

3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 gloves garlic, minced
8 cups baby spinach
1 1/2 lb. broccolini
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 14-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Saute garlic until it sizzles, the add the broccolini and red pepper flakes. Saute about 7 minutes or until broccolini is tender but crisp. Transfer broccolini from wok to plate.

Add spinach to wok. Saute, tossing constantly, until spinach is wilted. Transfer spinach to serving plate. Place broccolini on top of spinach.

Add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to wok. Add tomatoes and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until skins brown and tomatoes begin to split, stirring occasionally. Stir in white beans and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until heated through. Spoon tomato-bean mixture on top of broccolini. Sprinkle Parmesan on top.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mediterranean Tostada

I'm always looking for something to do with leftover rotisserie chicken and this is a good one. It's really healthy and super fast to put together. Chopping the tomatoes and cucumber is the most time consuming part.

I prefer to use pocket-less pitas for this because it ensures and crispy bottom, but you can also use the regular pocket pita. The hummus I prefer is Cedar's Artichoke and Spinach Hommus. And Krazy Salt with cucumber is one of my favorite combos, but use regular salt if you can't find it.

Mediterranean Tostada
Serves 1

1 pocket-less whole wheat pita
2 oz. shredded chicken breast
2 Tbsp. hummus
1/2 cup diced tomato
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1 oz. crumbled feta cheese
4 kalamata olives (optional)
Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt (optional)

Pre-heat over to 350 degrees. Place pita on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 15 minutes. Spread hummus on pita. Sprinkle chicken, tomato cucumber and feta. Top with olives and Krazy Salt if desired.