Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pennsylvania Sweet Corn



I just love summer...the light of the evenings, swimming at the community pool, picking blueberries at a local orchard, eating watermelon on the stoop of the front porch, and, of course, buying fresh Pennsylvania sweet corn from the side of the road. I've been a little down with thoughts of Labor Day approaching, schools starting, and pools closing, so I decided to cheer myself up and relish the last days of the season with one of my favorites- Corn Chowder made from locally grown corn. Like with most of the soups I make, I used an alternative to cream to give the soup texture by simmering the shucked, de-kerneled cobs in milk and pureeing half of the soup in my magic bullet at the end. It helps keep the waistline in check for next year's bathing suit, but is still hearty, satisfying and packed to the brim with flavors of summer, yum!

RECIPE:
Corn Chowder

  • 3 cobs of corn, shucked and de-kerneled
  • the corn kernels from the cobs
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 c vegetable stock
  • one small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into a small dice
  • 1 celery stalk, cut into a small dice
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into a small dice
  • 2 c milk
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • melt the butter in a medium pot and add the stock, onions and celery
  • bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes
  • add the milk, the carrots, the potatoes, and cobs, bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, 10 minutes
  • remove the cobs and add the corn and continue to simmer, uncovered, until kernels are tender
  • remove about 3/4 c of the vegetables from the soup with a ladle or slotted spoon and puree in a blender, food processor, or magic bullet, and return to the soup
  • add the salt and pepper and parsley and stir well to heat through
as a note, my 2 year old LOVED this soup, which is amazing as he's been insisting on eating tofu pups, watermelon, and macaroni and cheese for, oh, the past month!!!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Colorful Cous Cous Salad

This is a quick and healthy dish I whipped up a while ago and have been making ever since. I actually measured how much I was putting in rather than a pinch here and a pinch there so that I could post it here for you. This salad is good served warm, at room temp, or even cold, and can be served as a light lunch or as a side dish with some grilled seafood or baked, marinated tofu kabobs (hmm, we just had tofu, but maybe next week...)


Recipe:
Colorful Cous Cous Salad

  • 2 c cous cous
  • 3 c water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 c coarsely chopped baby spinach
  • 1/3 c chopped scallions
  • 1/3 c quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 of a yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • one carrot, peeled, and grated
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or a mix of half parsley/half mint for a little extra kick)
  • the juice of one lemon plus 1tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 c feta cheese crumbles (more can be used if serving as a main dish)
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • in a large pot, combine the salt, water and olive oil and bring to a boil
  • stir in cous cous an let boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute, remove from heat, spread spinach over the top, and cover, letting it stand for 8 minutes
  • remove the lid and, using a rubber spatula, fluff the cous cous, combining with the spinach
  • add the rest of the vegetables, the lemon juice and zest, the feta cheese, the fresh ground pepper and combine well
  • NOW EAT!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It's a Good Thing

I always have a protest from first time tempeh eaters, especially if they see it in the package before I fry it up. Sure, it's bumpy and moldy and foreign, but it's darn tasty and such a fantastic source of soy protein and isoflavones, essential amino acids, and beneficial digestive enzymes, that I really must assure you - it's a friend, and a keeper at that. For those who have yet to sample the humble yet noble food, try this preparation; it really jazzes it up and comes from the marinade my dad uses for his famous grilled steaks. The veggies I just whipped up with the dribs and drabs in my produce drawer, and I just did the good old microwave routine on the rice.
Be brave! It really IS good.

RECIPE:
Three Grain Crispy Tempeh Bites with Stir Fried Sesame Vegetables and Steamed White Rice

For the Tempeh:
  • 1 package of three grain tempeh
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • vegetable oil for pan frying
  • whisk the ingredients from the soy sauce through the sugar in a bowl
  • cut the tempeh lengthwise and then cut across the tempeh to make 2 inch pieces
  • place the cubed up tempeh onto a deep plate and pour the marinade over evenly
  • marinate for 2-3 hours in the fridge, turning once if possible
  • when time to cook, heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a medium skillet over high heat till sizzling
  • add the marinated tempeh pieces quickly, fry for 3 minutes, turn with a fork, and fry another 3 minutes until crispy
  • remove from the oil and let drain on a stack of paper towels

For the Stir Fried Sesame Vegetables:
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 crown of broccoli cut into flowerets
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1 rib celery, cut diagonally
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut diagonally
  • 1/4 of a red bell pepper cut into thin strips
  • a splash of vegetable oil
  • a couple of shakes of soy sauce
  • splash of rice vinegar
  • a few sprinkles of toasted sesame seeds
  • bring water to boil in a small sauce pan
  • add the broccoli and carrots and boil for 1 minute, drain, and run under cold water
  • heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over high heat, add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds
  • add the celery and stir fry for about 1 minute, add the bell pepper and stir fry for about 30 seconds, add the broccoli, carrots, scallions, soy sauce and rice vinegar
  • stir fry for about 1 more minute
  • put into a serving dish and sprinkle with the sesame seeds

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Quickie

This is a fast, healthy go to meal that can be served for brunch, lunch, or a light supper for two. It can easily be doubled or tripled to serve more, however, a larger skillet would be needed.


RECIPE:
Vegetable Frittata with Red New Potato Rosemary Home Fries

For the frittata
  • 1/2 an onion, finely diced
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp butter plus1 tsp olive oil
  • 8 spears of asparagus lightly steamed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 5 large white mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
  • 1/4 of a red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/8 c parmesan cheese
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • preheat the broiler
  • melt the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a small, oven safe skillet
  • add the onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until tender (about 5-8 minutes)
  • add the garlic and bell pepper and cook, stirring, 2-3 more minutes
  • add the asparagus and shake the pan to evenly distribute the vegetables
  • sprinkle the parmesan onto veggies and season with salt and pepper
  • pour the eggs over the veggies and cheese and let set
  • lift the edges of the frittata carefully allowing the uncooked egg to flow under neath
  • when the frittata is pretty much set except for the top, place it under the broiler for about 3 minutes or until fully cooked (keep a close watch, it can easily be overdone)
  • invert the skillet onto a large plate
  • slice the frittata into wedges and serve with a little sprinkle of parmesan on top
For the potatoes:
  • scrub 10-12 red new potatoes and either halve or quarter depending on their size
  • heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat
  • add the potatoes, toss them to coat in the oil, and season generously with salt and pepper
  • reduce heat to medium low and cover, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 20-25 minutes)
  • sprinkle with a 1/4 tsp of crushed rosemary and serve

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Experimenting

I used to love grilled chicken on salad, and of course everyone already knows about the torch I carry for my old flame, bacon. So when I came across the new display case of Morning Star Farm's products at my local grocery, it hit me...A VEGETARIAN COBB SALAD! Of course being that I was at the local Shurfine Market and not my beloved Wegman's, there was no gourmet lettuces to be found let alone watercress or chives. Yet my creativity and curiosity had been piqued, and being that there were some lovely firm, ripe, hass avocados, I decided that a romaine heart and a red onion would have to suffice. Yay! An absolutely "ishus" (bambino's pronunciation of delicious:-) Cobb Salad AND a product review just for you!

RECIPE:
Vegetarian Cobb Salad for Two
  • one romaine heart, washed, dried and chopped
  • one hard boiled egg, chopped
  • 1/2 c blue cheese crumbles
  • 8 strips Morning Star Farms Chik n' Strips
  • 4 strips Morning Star Farms Veggie Bacon Strips
  • half of a hass avocado, diced
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved and quartered
  • 1/8 of a small red onion, finely diced
  • cobb salad dressing (recipe below)
  • brown the chik n' strips in some vegetable oil over medium heat (about three minutes)and remove from skillet to a small bowl
  • brown the veggie bacon strips in some vegetable oil over medium heat (1 minute each side), remove from skillet, drain and cool on a paper towel, and crumble
  • to plate the salad, evenly arrange lettuce on two large plates and top each with half of the chik n' strips, half of the crumbled veggie bacon strips, half of the egg and cheese, and half of the veggies
  • drizzle each plate with the dressing and serve immediately

Dressing
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/8 c water
  • 1/8 c red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • quick squeeze of a lemon
  • 1 heaping tsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 small handful of fresh parsley
  • Mix all ingredients in a food processor, blender, or magic bullet (alternatively, finely mince garlic and parsley and mix altogether in a dressing container or other covered container)
REVIEW:
I tried both of the products after I browned them, and I have to say I was pretty impressed. The chik'n strips had a very meaty texture to them and were seasoned really nicely. The veggie bacon strips were not so convincing texture wise, but were very tasty. I think they'd be really good on an egg and cheese toasted english muffin (there's an idea). All in all, I'd recommend these products and they were just great on this salad.

Monday, August 13, 2007

In the Middle of August!?

Sometimes men make the strangest requests. Like baked stuffed shells in the middle of August. Whatever. We have had the air conditioning on full blast, so I figured I might as well. This concoction is basically my mother's most requested lasagna that I adapted into a recipe for spinach stuffed shells. This is definitely a very homey, comfort casserole. It makes a TON, and is great for a casual crowd (esp. a crowd of omnivores, pescetarians, and vegetarians...they'll never miss the meat!). It also freezes beautifully. To freeze, place cooled shells in foil three at a time. When it's time for a no hassle meal, simply pop a packet into a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, make a quick tossed salad and presto! - dinner. Better than Lean Cuisine as far as I'm concerned.
this is dedicated to my vibrantly beautiful and fabulous mother


RECIPE:
Spinach Stuffed Shells
  • 24 pieces jumbo shell pasta
  • 32 oz container of part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz package of shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 16 oz bad of thawed frozen spinach
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese plus 1/8
  • 2 lightly beaten eggs
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1tbsp oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • handful of toasted pine nuts
  • one large jars of a favorite marinara or a batch of my favorite 'home-made'
  • (recipe below)
  • preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • bring a large pot of salted water to boil and boil shells for about 8 minutes, they should be slightly underdone as they will continue to cook in the oven
  • meanwhile, squeeze the spinach handful by handful over the sink to remove water
  • mix together the cheeses reserving about 1/2 c of the mozzarella and the 1/8 c parmesan and then add the eggs, spinach, garlic powder, salt, pepper and mix until well combined
  • drain the shells and rinse with cold water until they're cool enough to comfortably handle
  • fill the bottom of and 9 by 13 inch baking dish with about 1 1/2 inches of the tomato sauce
  • fill each shell with filling until heaping and place shells into the baking dish with 6 shells across and 4 shells down
  • gently and evenly pour the remaining sauce over the shells
  • evenly sprinkle the remaining cheeses over the top
  • cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, remove foil, and bake another 10 minutes or until lightly golden and bubbly - oh and it should weigh about 50 pounds, so be careful
  • remove from oven and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts and some fresh, minced parsley on top
  • let sit about 10 minutes and serve with a big, crunchy tossed salad and crusty bread (inviting friends over is a good idea too)
Recipe:
My Favorite Tomato Marinara Sauce
  • 2 32 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1/2 c dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp of dried, crushed thyme leaves
  • 1-2 tsp salt (to taste)
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • heat the oil over medium low heat and add the garlic, cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant
  • add the rest of the ingredients, cover, raise heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 10 more minutes
This sauce is great for pasta dishes and also as a dipping sauce for batter fried calamari or mozzarella sicks (recipes to come!)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

New Single - Check it out!

click the logo to go to the band's homepage with some older songs


Check out sweetie's new single, November, on his band's myspace http://www.myspace.com/thedramaclub
(just give the audio a few seconds to load)

It Rocks!!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Inside Out Grilled Cheese with Veggies


This is a really yummy sandwich. So scrumptious in fact that there's only half of one in the photo; I just had to dig right in. Sweetie was having rehearsal here, so I made several, and they vanished pretty quickly, like in five minutes! I made sure to use really fresh, artisan style sourdough French boule, but any dense bread with a really crusty crust would work fine.

RECIPE:
Parmesan Encrusted Vegetarian Sandwiches
(adapted from a Food and Wine recipe)
  • 6 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 thick slices of really fresh, artisan style sourdough French boule
  • 1 tbsp mayo
  • 1 tbsp good dijon mustard
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 thin red onion slices
  • 2 cups alfalfa sprouts

  • blend the butter with the parmesan cheese in a bowl and season with salt and pepper
  • spread 1 side of each bread slice with the parmesan butter mixture, keeping sure to know which pieces go together
  • blend the mayonnaise with the mustard in a small bowl
  • put the cherry tomatoes in a food processor, blender or, hehe, magic bullet and pulse till slightly pureed
  • cut the avocados in half, remove the pit either with a spoon or by hitting the pit with the blade of a sharp knife and then twisting to "pop" the pit out
  • thinly slice the avocados, put them on a plate, and sprinkle them with the lime juice
  • heat a large skillet over medium heat
  • put 2 slices of the buttered bread, buttered side down, in the skillet set over moderate heat and cook until the bottoms are crisp and rather browned, being careful not to burn
  • remove the toasted bread from the pan and repeat with the remaining bread
  • place 4 of the toasted slices browned side down on a piece of waxed paper or foil
  • layer1/4 of the tomato puree, 1/4 of the avocado slices, one of the onion slices, and 1/2 c of the alfalfa sprouts
  • spread 1/2 tbsp of the dijon mayo onto the untoasted side of the remaining slices, place on top of the alfalfa sprouts, dijon mayo side down, and cut in half, and say abracadabra because they disappear before the eyes

Monday, August 6, 2007

Sun-dried Tomato Pasta Salad

This is another quick and easy summer pasta dish using fresh basil. It is great as a bring along dish to summer parties or picnics, and leftovers keep well in the fridge for several days. What's better than that when it's a zillion degrees out?

RECIPE:
  • 1 lb fusilli pasta (spirals)
  • 16 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
  • 1 c shredded parmesan cheese
  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 c fresh basil leaves chiffonade http://frenchfood.about.com/od/frenchcuisinebasics/ss/chiffonade.htm
  • 1/2 c oil packed, sun-dried tomatoes rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (to suit personal taste, i just really like garlic!)
  • 2 tsp capers (drained)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to directions.
  • meanwhile place all the ingredients from the sun-dried tomatoes to the capers in a food processor, blender, or magic bullet and pulse until combined into a sauce. set aside.
  • drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 c of the pasta water (allow it to cool). rinse the pasta under cool water to about room temperature.
  • either in a large bowl or the pot used to cook the pasta (i'm all for doing less dishes!) combine the pasta, cheeses, tomatoes, basil, pasta water and sauce. season with salt and fresh ground pepper and mix well.
A yummy, quick, summertime meal that makes a ton without even hardly cooking - you gotta love it, I do!



Thursday, August 2, 2007

Spanakopita



I used to live in the Astoria section of Queens in NYC which is densely populated with many generations of Greek Americans and their gastronomical delights. Let me just say...that is where my obsession with spanakopita originated. Obsession? Yes. It is just so absolutely delectable, savory, light yet hearty, and ever so satisfying. (living in Astoria also gave my a whole new outlook on olives, but that's another story).
After moving from the neighborhood, however, I was in for a rude awakening - no pie! I'd come across a 'version' here or there in my travels, but it never came close to the spanakopita that I'd grown to love so much in Queens. Being a somewhat determined individual, the only solution was obvious; make it myself! This recipe represents my epic quest to recreate the original and is taken from many recipes, grandmothers, and internet searches. It is awesome. Enjoy!
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped (green part)
  • 2 16 oz bags chopped, frozen spinach
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 lightly beaten eggs
  • 12 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ c unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 package of phyllo dough
note: if using frozen dough, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  • melt the butter and olive oil in a medium sauté pan. add the onions and garlic and sauté over low heat until very tender (10-15 minutes), remove from heat, and let cool.
  • meanwhile, microwave the spinach in a large bowl for a few minutes until just thawed (not hot). squeeze the spinach, handful by handful, over the sink to remove water from the spinach, place in another large clean bowl, and let cool.
  • mix together eggs, feta cheese, nutmeg and coriander in a small bowl. mix the scallions, lemon juice, onions and garlic into the squeezed spinach and combine thoroughly. add the egg and cheese mixture to the spinach bowl and mix well.

working with phyllo:
phyllo dough is very thin and flaky causing it to dry out if exposed to the air. to keep the dough supple, cover it with a DAMP (not wet), clean dishtowel between layering.




phyllo covered with a damp towel




assembling the pie:

  • unroll phyllo dough. cutting through all the sheets at once, cut in half vertically, making each dough layer about 13 by 9 inches. cover the cut dough with the damp towel.
  • brush a 13 by 9 inch glass baking pan with the melted butter.
  • remove the towel from dough. place 2 sheets of dough in the pan. brush top layer of dough with the melted butter and add two more layers of dough, brush with melted butter, and repeat layers until there are 4 layers of dough (8 sheets total).
  • use fingers to spread out a thin layer of spinach filling as evenly as possible.
  • repeat process four times, finishing with dough. the assembled pie is layered dough, spinach, dough, spinach, dough, spinach, dough. (it’s easier than it sounds, just think lasagna).
  • bake for 25 minutes or until top is golden and flaky.
let the pie sit for about 10 minutes and cut into squares