Search This Blog

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tuscan Bean Stew and Lemon Kissed Salad

Time to once again eat goodies from the garden.  The first asparagus spear is poking it's head out of the ground so it's really spring.  This evening was the third one that we've dug into the red-veined sorrel.  The first time I made salads with beets and feta cheese.  Last night we tossed some into our salads.  And, tonight we had lemon kissed salads.  Some of the kale overwintered but that that we cut today was fresh and new and so tender.  Last, but not least, Connie found some oregano leaves under the leaf mulch from last fall.  We had a maple tree taken down today.  It was a total mell of a hess.  Loads of whirlygigs plus it shaded the area where we want to put a permanent herb garden.  Our neighbors are adding on so they had tree guys out to take out four trees.  Connie wandered over and they said they'd do the deed for $275.  Sold.  We wandered the yard this evening and mapped out the path for the new herb garden then spent dinner talking about all the goodies we'll grow.  What comes back - parsley, oregano, thyme, cilantro, tarragon, dill...  and what doesn't - basil.  We take the pots of rosemary and sage to the office every winter and manage to save most of them.  We'll also put out some edible flowers and pots with the invasive guys like mint. 

Tuscan Bean Stew
1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can white kidney beans or great northerns or cannellini, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with basil and oregano
1 T white wine
2 T diced Kalamata olives
4 leaves kale, chopped
2 6" pieces of kielbasa, cut in half length-wise then sliced 1/2" thick
1 t fresh oregano leaves

Briefly saute the garlic in the olive oil in a medium saucepan.  Add the other ingredients and heat through until the kale has wilted and the flavors have melted together - about 15 min. 

Lemon Kissed Salad
1 head of romaine, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 c red-veined sorrel leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 can hearts of palm, drained and sliced about 1/4" wide
1/4 c toasted pecans
1/2 small red onion, sliced VERY thinly
1/4 c lemon olive oil
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1 T lemon juice
1 t dijon mustard
1 t crushed garlic
1/3 c crumbled feta cheese

Toss the first five ingredients and a bowl.  Mix the next five in a small bowl to make the dressing.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss.  Sprinkle with the feta and serve.


Both of us love risotto.  It's a perfect meal after a hectic day.  You've got to stand there and stir.  You can't hurry it.  Kind of forces you to relax.  I've gotten braver with risotto as I 've cooked it more.  Started with just mushrooms and romano cheese.  Then, we discovered how wonderful white truffle oil is in that mix.  So, that became my new go-to dish.  One of the primary ingredients is chicken broth.  I'm a big fan of making my own.  I throw a chicken in a pot with some celery, carrots, onions, black peppercorns and whatever herbs I feel like.  Once the chicken is cooked, I cook down the broth.  Then, I refrigerate it over night and skim the fat off it the next morning.  I've always got several pints of homemade broth in the freezer ready for making risotto.  Last night our friends Donna and Phil drove down from Lafayette for dinner.  It was kind of a last minute deal and I knew I'd not escape the office at a reasonable time, so risotto it was. 

Shrimp, Spinach and Feta Risotto

1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1/2 white onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 shallot, finely diced ( Penzey's freeze dried)
1 c Arborio rice
1/4 c white wine
4-5 c chicken broth (preferably homemade), simmer in a saucepan
2 t white truffle oil (optional)
1/2 pound shrimp (25-30/pound size)
2 c fresh spinach
1/2 c crumbled feta (plus more for serving)

Melt the butter.  Add the olive oil, onion, garlic and shallot.  Stir until softened.  Pour in the rice and stir until it's shiny.  Pour in the white wine and stir until it's absorbed.  Add the broth 1/2 c at a time.  Stir until each addition of the broth is absorbed.  When the rice has reached a creamy consistency and the broth is absorbed, stir in the shrimp, spinach and feta.  Serve immediately.  Pass more crumbled feta for topping.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

In a Hurry

We've been working 80 hours a week and I've not had a day off since early January, so quick is REALLY good.  Well, tonight was quick.  I had a bag of the individually frozen tilapia in the freezer so even though Ina Garten's recipe called for what I would call fishier fish, I used that.  It was fabulous.  Turns out Connie kept his opinions to himself when I described the dishes for the week.  His first reaction was, Mustard?  and Fish?  Not gonna be a good combination.  Fortunately, he was wrong.  We gave the fish a five and would love to have it again tomorrow night!  The bread (brought it home from Eddie Merlot's) was fabulous.  And, the green beans were a four.  Great sauce, but just weren't as good as the fish.

Mustard-Roasted Fish
4- 8 oz fish fillets (we used tilapia)
4 oz sour cream
3 T dijon mustard
1 T whole grain mustard
2 T minced shallots (freezed dried from Penzeys)
1 T drained capers

Preheat the oven to 425.  Combine the last five ingredients. 

Lay the frozen tilapia fillets in an ovenproof baking dish. 

Dollop a tablespoon of the mustard sauce on each and spread it to cover the entire top of the fillet. 

Bake for 10 min or until fish flakes easily.

Adapted from Ina Garten's Back to Basics.

We served this with a crusty loaf of bread slathered with garlic cheese butter (Brady Street cheese sprinkles from Penzeys) and

Roasted Green Beans with Toasted Cashews

16 oz green beans
2 T sesame oil
2 T soy sauce
2 T diced shallots
1/2 t ginger powder
sprinkle of crushed red pepper
1/2 c chopped, lightly roasted cashews

Preheat the oven to 425.  Toss 16 oz of green beans (cut into 1" pieces) with the sauce (made with the next five ingredients.)  Bake 20 min, stirring occasionally.  Serve sprinkled with the cashews.

Last week we tried a pea and parsely pesto on linguine.  Not good.  It was gummy and flavorless even after I doubled the amount of garlic.  Along side that we had some roasted peppers that were fabulous.

Roasted Peppers

Seed and quarter a yellow, orange or red bell pepper
Drizzle it with a bit of olive oil and broil for 6 min on each sice. 
Put the pepper pieces on the serving plate and drizzle them with a mixture of 1 T olive oil, 2 t balsamic vinegar and 1t brown sugar. 
Sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese and top with either fresh or dried basil.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Low Fat and Doesn't Taste It - Score!

Each year, Channel 13 (the NBC affiliate) does a cookbook to raise money for charity.  The first time I bought it just because it was for charity.  The second time was because so many recipes in the first were fabulous.  It's been no surprise, then, that this year's cookbook has some real gems.  Two of our favorites are Chuck Lofton's Honey Baked Chicken and Dr. Oz's Mediterranean Chicken with Tomatoes, Olives and Herbed White Beans.  The latter, unfortunately, was barely warm when baked as per the recipe instructions.  So, my instructions are based on how I saved the dish from being served raw.

Honey Baked Chicken
2 cups Crispix crushed to 1 cup of crumbs
1 t paprika
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground black pepper
1/4 c honey (the recipe calls for less but this is how much I used...)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves cut into strips

Preheat the oven to 375.  Coat a baking dish with cooking spray.  Add the spices to the crushed cereal (in a large plastic bag.)  Brush each chicken strip with honey and toss in the crumb mixture.  Lay them in the baking dish and bake until cooked through - about 20 min. 

We had these leftover for lunch the next day and they were still yummy!

Mediterranean Chicken with Tomatoes, Olives and Herbed White Beans
2 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 T olive oil
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
12 kalamata olives, chopped
1 T red wine vinegar (balsamic is fine)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-16 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 c chopped fresh herbs (or whatever trips your trigger dried)

Saute the thighs and the onion in the olive oil until they're almost done - about 10-15 min.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook thru. 

This certainly tasted like it was wicked.  One of our goals is to eat beans several times a week.  They're much better if you soak and cook dried beans but the lure of the ease of the canned beans is most often too much for me to ignore. 


Who'd Have Thought Harry Caray?

Late Sunday afternoon I typically sit down with the pile of recipes I've clipped and a cookbook or two and try to come up with the week's menus.  The goal is to have at least half new dishes.  For example, this week we're having a honey lemon chicken from Rachael Ray's latest magazine, a pea and parsley pesto sauce for linguine and a mustard roasted fish from Ina Garten's Back to Basics. Then, Connie heads to the grocery store while I start Sunday's supper. 

We had leftover crab cakes from Saturday evening so they were repurposed into crab benedicts on Sunday evening. Growing up, crab cakes were not one of my favorites.  They were gooey with filler and lacking real crab flavor.  Then, about seven or eight years ago, I had some at Sangiovese that were incredible.  Just enough filler to hold the crabmeat together.  Bursting with flavor.  That set me on a quest to find my own fabulous crabcake recipe.  I even bought a cookbook of 50 crab cake recipes.  Believe it or not, the best recipe I've found is from Harry Caray's Restaurant Cookbook.  Yup, a Chicago restaurant.  Jane and Michael Stern are known for their cookbooks highlighting well-known restaurants.  They were Guy Fieri before Guy was Guy! 

In November of 2005 I sprang for a can of crabmeat from the fish store across the street from the office.  Pulled every cookbook that I thought might have a crab cake recipe.  This was the one that sounded best so I made it and fell in love with these crab cakes.  Three notes, the fish store is long gone so I now get my crabmeat at Trader Joe's.  It's relatively reasonably priced there.  Yes, I've modified the recipe a bit.  And, these crab cakes are awesome as an appetizer.  I've made them for the annual holiday party.  Takes forever to make dozens of tiny patties and brown them but they're worth it. 

Crab Cakes
1 lb can crab meat, flaked
1/4 c finely diced red onion
2 finely diced shallots (I buy the dried ones at Penzeys)
3/4 c Panko
1/3 c half and half (cream if you really want to cheat)
1 T Dijon mustard
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t Tabasco
1 t Old Bay seasoning
1/2 t granulated garlic
2 eggs
1 T lemon juice
1/2 c flour
olive oil

Mix everything together except for the flour and olive oil.  The best way is to use your hands and gently toss it all together.  Heat the olive oil in a skillet until a couple of drops of water sizzle.  You'll want to just coat the bottom of the skillet.  This recipe makes six big crab cakes.  Form the crab cakes then lightly coat them with flour and brown them in the sizzling oil.  They're awesome served with Remoulade Sauce.

Remoulade Sauce
1 c mayonnaise (Hellmans made with olive oil)
2 T capers
2 T finely diced red onion
2 T Dijon mustard
1/2 t Old Bay seasoning
1/4 t paprika
1/4 t Worcestershire
1/4 t Tabasco
1/2 t lemon juice

Combine and serve.

Now for the leftovers.  Our joke in the morning is to ask the one who got up first, "Where's my Eggs Benedict?"  I'd intended to actually surprise Connie with Crab Benedict on Sunday morning but we wound up heading to the office early instead.  So, I made them for him Sunday evening.

Crab Benedict
2 whole grain english muffins, split and toasted
2 crab cakes, warmed and split in half
4 eggs, poached

Stack a muffin half, then a crab cake half, then a poached egg and top with Hollanade Sauce.  What is Hollanade sauce, you ask?  Eggs Benedict is traditionally served with Hollandaise Sauce.  We had leftover Remoulade Sauce.  Around here, leftovers can take on new identities!  So, I made a packet of Hollandaise sauce (I know, homemade is much better but I knew the mix would be less likely to separate and would therefore work better) and mixed it with the leftover Remoulade sauce (about 1/2 c was leftover.) 

I may never go back to Eggs Benedict again.  The flavors played so well together!