Monday, June 11, 2007

The Real Thing

Have you had an heirloom tomato yet? If not, track one down, cut it, sprinkle with a little salt (preferably sea salt) and enjoy the taste of summer. Heirloom tomatoes are the real thing--grown from tomato seeds that have not been engineered to create the perfectly round, red, tasteless thing you find in the supermarket. Heirlooms are knobby with crazy color variation--in a word ugly--but they taste like real tomatoes.

We picked up a couple of beautifully ugly heirlooms and made a quick bruschetta. I combined the diced heirlooms with some basil, EVOO, salt and pepper and a touch of garlic and served the mixture on top of toasted slices of French baguette that I brushed with EVOO and rubbed with garlic.

To go with the bruschetta, I made some kebabs. Almost any meat and veggie combo will work on kebabs, the key is to cut everything into chucks that will cook at the same rate.


Is there anyone who doesn't love bacon? Carbonara is so often my go-to meal. It has few ingredients that I usually have on hand and it's super quick. And did I mention that it has bacon?

There's no real recipe here, most things are to taste. Fry bacon until crisp and then crumble it (I usually use 3-4 slices per person). While the bacon fries, cook the pasta (I prefer linguine, but any long pasta will do). Toss the cooked pasta with cracked egg yolks (like 2 per person). The heat from the pasta will cook the egg and create a sauce. Grind lots of fresh black pepper over the pasta. Top with the bacon and grated Parmesan. Delicious!

Note: This dish is delicious as is, but can be turned up a notch by subbing pancetta for bacon. Also, it's delicious to saute some shallots before adding diced pancetta and cooking until crispy. tossing some chopped parsley at the end adds a nice color and peppery flavor.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Twist on Pizza

J loves pizza. I like it too but I'm not always in the mood for red sauce and pepperoni, so I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light.

1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine warm water and yeast in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add 1 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt to yeast mixture; stir until blended. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead dough until elastic (7-8 minutes) adding remaining flour, a little at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise about 45 minutes. While dough rises, prepare topping.

1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Saute the pancetta and thyme over medium heat until pancetta is just crisp. Remove from heat and add garlic, salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 475°.
Punch dough down, re-cover and let rest it 5 minutes. Roll out dough and spread topping evenly it. Arrange the asparagus over topping; sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake at 475° for 10 minutes or until crust is golden. Top with the slivers of Parmesan.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

An Oldie and a Newbie

Rosemary Pork Chops, Fried Green Tomatoes, Garlic Parmesan Spaghetti Squash
I planned to cook pork chops and spaghetti squash. While cleaning out the fridge, I found a green tomato that I had bought at the farmer's market a while ago and forgotten, so I decided to free it.

For the pork chops, I did a very simple preparation. I chopped some fresh rosemary and garlics. I rubbed that and a little EVOO on the pork and put it in the fridge.

In the meantime, I cut the ends off the squash, sliced it in two vertically, and scooped out the seeds. Then, I popped it on a sheet pan cut-side down and into a 400 oven for about 45 minutes until tender. After it cooled a bit, I shredded it into the "spaghetti."

While the squash roasted, I prepared the green tomatoes by slicing them fairly thin and tossing them in a mixture of 1 cup flour to 3/4 cup corn meal. As a southern girl, I've eaten my fair share of fried green tomatoes. I must admit that I still don't get them exactly right. It's frustrating. I tend to put too much oil in the skillet and that makes then soggy. Next time, I'll start with just enough veg oil to cover the bottom and get it quite hot before adding the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are in the pan, they should be salted and peppered heavily (very heavily on the pepper). When the bottom is a deep golden brown, flip and salt and pepper that side too.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Happy Birthday to J.

I decided to try to surprise J with a nice dinner for his birthday. This was the menu:

Filet Mignon

I liberally sprinkled the 1 1/2 inch steaks with kosher salt. I added a pat of butter to a small cast iron skillet heated to medium high. I seared the steaks for about 3 mins. on one side, turned it, seared for 2 mins. on the second side. Put them into a 400 degree oven for 3 mins. to finish. They came out a perfect medium.

Rosemary Mushroom Risotto

Ah, this side dish was going to be penne pasta with garlic cream sauce and mushrooms. except I forgot to buy cream at the store. So, I improvised. It turned out great.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

dried rosemary

1 cup arborio (risotto) rice

a splash of dry white wine

3 cups chicken stock

1 cup beef stock

1 large portabella mushroom cap, cleaned of the "gills" and sliced.

Parmesan cheese

In a separate pan, warm the combined stocks to a simmer.

I first sauteed the shrooms in about a tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil until golden and removed from pan. I added an tbsp. of oil and sauteed the shallots and garlic until tender. I added the arborio rice stirring until it turned translucent. Then added a splash of vermouth (mmm the aroma). Once the vermouth was absorbed, I added the stock a ladle at a time until absorbed, stirring constantly. To finish I added 1/2 tsp. rosemary and the mushrooms back in. Topped with the cheese.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Grilled Fish Tacos and Black Bean Salsa

We've been attempting to eat healthier. This is one of my favorite dishes that it tasty and high in protein and pretty low in fat.

Grilled Fish Tacos
3 tilapia filets (any mild fish would work)
Cajun or blackening seasoning
shredded lettuce
diced tomato
minced jalapeno (to taste)
4-6 6" tortillas

Liberally sprinkle the fish with blackening seasoning. Grill until opaque (approx. 3-4 minutes of the George Forman). Allow to cool for 5 mins and break up into bite size pieces. While fish is cooling, warm the tortillas in microave or oven. Top with remaining ingredients to taste. A squeeze of fresh lime is nice.

Black Bean Salsa
15 oz. can black beans
1 avocado, diced
1/4 red onion chopped
8 oz. corn (frozen or canned)
1/4 cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped (remove seeds and veins for less heat)

Combine all ingredients and top with dressing:
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

The seeds...

I've recently discovered a number of food blogs and decided it might be fun to try one myself. Hope you enjoy.