Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Cheese That Grills

Cheese is fabulous in all of its forms, but there is something especially delicious about warm melty cheese. Halloumi is a cheese that you can grill and it will hold its shape without turning into a hot mess in your pan or on the grill. Since it holds its shape so well, it's not particularly good in dishes where you need the cheese to melt into a sauce or a pasta. Save this to use in salads, on kebobs or anywhere else you need a slab of warm, grilled cheese.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Curried Pea Soup

The Indian flavors in this soup are really subtle, so if you're not a big fan or if you're not familiar with Indian cooking, give it a try anyway. It's a nice variation on the usual pea soup.

Curried Pea Soup
Serves 4 as a starter

1 T canola oil
1/2 onion diced
2 garlic cloves crushed
1/4 t crushed ginger
2 t curry powder
1 lb bag of peas
3 cups veggie stock
1/4 t salt

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and cook until starting to turn translucent, about five minutes. Add garlic, ginger and curry to the onions and cook, stirring regularly, for about five more minutes. Add peas and cook until warmed through. Add veggie stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer mixture for about 10 minutes and then remove from heat. Cool slightly before using an immersion blender to puree the mixture. Garnish with a sprig of tarragon before serving and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Oven Dried Tomatoes

I'm not a huge fan of sun dried tomatoes, but these guys are great for salads, sauces or just munching on. I make them with the oven on, but if you've just finished using the oven, you can pop these guys in and let them dry as the oven cools. Use any fresh herb or combination of fresh herbs that you like. I grabbed some parsley and oregano from the backyard for this batch.

Oven Dried Tomatoes

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/8 t salt
2 T chopped fresh herbs

Preheat Oven to 250*
Cut cherry tomatoes in half lengthwise and place in a pan. Spray with canola oil spray or drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and chopped herbs. Add tomatoes to the oven and let dry for two hours or until sufficiently shrivelled. Enjoy!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Seared Tuna Tacos

I usually use some sort of white fish when making fish tacos, but decided to mix it up by searing some tuna. Fontina is a great melting cheese and I think it works really well here, but use whatever cheese you like to go with these tacos.

Seared Tuna Tacos
Serves 2 (2 tacos per person)

3/4 pound good quality tuna
1 t canola oil
8 oz green cabbage
1 mango
1 avocado
1 cup sour cream
3/4 bunch of cilantro
1 t chile powder
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t salt
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
salsa to serve
corn or flour tortillas

Add sour cream, cilantro, chile powder, cumin and salt to a food processor and pulse until dressing is smooth. Toss cabbage with dressing (you may not need all the dressing) and set aside. Peel mango and avocado, cut in half and slice thinly. Sprinkle tuna steak(s) with salt and pepper. Heat pan on high and add canola oil. When the pan is smoking hot, add tuna and sear for about two minutes on each side. If the tuna steaks are very thin, reduce time. Remove tuna from pan and slice into strips. Set out tuna strips with shredded cheese, mango, avocado, cabbage, salsa and tortillas and let people build their own tacos. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Garlic Noodles

This is my kind of comfort food. When you've had a rough day and need something to soothe you, the last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time getting a dish ready when what you need to be doing is curling up on the couch with a bowl of something yummy. This is my go to dish on those days. Fast, simple and soooooo good.

Garlic Noodles
Serves 1 - 2 (depending on how much comfort you need)

2 oz extra thin asian noodles
4 T butter
2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
salt to taste

Boil water and add noodles. Remove from heat and let sit for five minutes. Melt butter in a small saute pan over medium heat and add garlic slices. Drain noodles and toss with butter and garlic. Salt to taste and enjoy!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Peanut Butter Cookies

The last time I visited my parents, my mother made peanut butter cookies. They were delicious, but we both agreed, a bit too crumbly. Ever since, I've been on the hunt for a good peanut butter cookie and I think I may have found them. These are flourless and nice and rich, just like a cookie should be. The recipe called for chocolate chips, but I left them out. Add in one cup of chocolate chips if you want to use them.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 t baking soda
1 t vanilla bean paste
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375*

Mix ingredients together and form dough into 2 T balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes and cool on rack before enjoying.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Golden Beet Salad

Did you grow up eating beets from a can? I don't think I did. I'm not sure if that is a result of my mother not serving them to us or my refusing to eat them, but I have no recollection of eating them. And thank goodness. What you get in the can should not even be considered the same food as what you get when you buy a fresh beet and roast it yourself. I'm partial to golden beets and I've used them here in a simple salad with goat cheese. If you're only familiar with the canned variety, go to the store, purchase them fresh and experience what a beet is supposed to taste like.

Roasted Golden Beet Salad
Serves 2

4 golden beets
1 T canola oil
2 heads frisee (or two servings of your favorite lettuce)
1 oz goat cheese
1 T red wine vinegar
2 T olive oil
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Preheat oven to 400*

Wrap beets in tin foil with a drizzle of canola oil and roast for 45 minutes. Let cool, peel and cut each beet into six segments. Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Crumble goat cheese over lettuce and toss together with dressing and beets. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gratin of Pattypan Squash

This gratin pan is one of my most prized kitchen possessions. The boyfriend gave it to me for Valentine's Day this year. When he was shopping for it he couldn't find the one he wanted, so his mother parted with one of hers so that he could give it to me. Love him and her for such a wonderful gift and am so much happier to have something handed down than brand new in this case.

I needed to use up some pattypan squash from the garden so I decided to bring down my prized pan and make a gratin. I used the three cheeses I had on hand, but feel free to experiment or use whatever you have on hand as long as it's a good melting cheese.

Gratin of Pattypan Squash
Serves 4

3 large pattypan squash (not the miniature ones from the store)
1 clove garlic
1 t butter
2 t salt
1/2 cup grated cheddar
1/4 cup grated mozzarella
1/4 cup grated parmesan
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375*

Smash the garlic clove with the back of a knife. Rub the interior of the pan with the smashed clove then butter the pan. Slice the squash on the medium setting on a mandolin. Place one layer of squash on the bottom of a gratin pan and sprinkle with some of the salt and cheddar cheese. Repeat layers until 1/2 inch from the top of the pan. Do one final layer of squash, but only sprinkle with salt. Drizzle buttermilk over squash and top with parmesan and mozzarella. Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Peach Crumble

There's a peach tree in my backyard that has a nasty habit of dropping its fruit before they have the chance to ripen. It's about this time of the season when the number of fruit on the tree has dwindled significantly, but the ones who do manage to hang on this long are just starting to get ripe enough to work with. Before they all hit the ground to rot or get added to the compost pile, its time to do something with them. A great trick for not quite ripened to perfection fruit is to use it in baking. A little added sugar and you would never know they didn't come off the tree that sweet. Be sure to taste your peaches before making this. If you're starting out with really sweet fruit, reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe.

Peach Crumble
Serves 6

4 cups sliced peaches
1 cup flour divided
1 cup packed brown sugar divided
1 T lemon juice
6 T butter
1/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 400*

Butter a 9 inch round baking dish. Mix peaches with 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 brown sugar and lemon juice and place in baking dish. Add remaining 3/4 cup of flour and brown sugar and salt to cuisinart fitted with the dough blade. Cut butter into small slices, add to cuisinart and pulse until mixture resembles wet, coarse sand (alternately you can mix the butter into the flour and sugar by using a pastry cutter). Sprinkle topping over peaches and bake for 45 minutes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

I love peanut butter. It's a lot more common in baking than in savory dishes, but the opportunity to use it in a main course should not be missed. You may be accustomed to peanut dipping sauces at restaurants, but this is a really easy one to make at home. I have to admit, the chicken skewers were an afterthought because I needed something to dip in the sauce, but with a protective coating of our friend Fage, these skewers came out really delicious on their own.

Chicken Skewers
Serves 6 as an appetizer or 2 - 3 main

2 large chicken breasts
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 t cumin
3/4 cup Fage

Slice the chicken breasts into half inch strips and thread onto skewers (if using wooden skewers make sure you've soaked them in water for at least an hour to keep them from catching fire on the grill). Mix salt, pepper and cumin together and sprinkle seasoning over both sides of the chicken skewers. Brush Fage over the skewers so chicken is covered in yogurt and chill for at least an hour. Oil and heat grill to medium high. Cook skewers for four minutes, flip over and cook for an additional two minutes or until fully cooked.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 T + 1 t soy sauce
2 T canola oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
3/4 cup water

Add first five ingredients and 1/4 cup of water to a small pan and heat over low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk and as sauce begins to reduce add remaining water 1 T at a time. This can be made ahead of time and left resting until chicken skewers are finished. If the sauce has thickened too much while resting, add 1/4 cup of water and heat slightly over low heat. Serve alongside skewers and enjoy!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Quick Gazpacho

The first thing I like to make when I pull full-flavored, homegrown tomatoes off the vine is my quick gazpacho. I've always loved gazpacho, but got tired of all the chopping and prep work involved in it. I make this version in my Cuisinart and it makes really quick work of it.

This may thicken if you let it hang out in the fridge. I always keep extra tomato juice to thin it out if necessary.
Quick Gazpacho
Serves 6

3 cups cherry tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1 cucumber peeled and seeded
3 celery stalks
1/2 vidalia onion
2 cloves garlic
1 T worcestershire
1 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
4 cups tomato juice or tomato vegetable blend (low sodium)

Cut bell pepper, cucumber, celery and onion into large chunks. Put garlic into food processor and pulse until finely chopped. and bell pepper, cucumber, onion and tomatoes to the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Remove vegetables to a bowl and add worcestershire, olive oil and salt and stir to combine. Stir in tomato juice and let chill in the fridge for at least two hours to let all the flavors meld. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tomato Season

Finally. When I went out to the garden today I realized it was the day I had been waiting on for months. Today I was able to pick a bowlful of full-size, ripe tomatoes to go along with the cherry tomatoes that I've been pulling off the vines for a few weeks now. I cannot wait to start using these in recipes, BLTs and simply sliced up with a little salt. I love this time of year.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Quinoa Stuffed Baby Bok Choy

I love getting bok choy at the market. The problem is I always seem to let it go bad before using it. It ends up in my compost pile so it's not a complete waste, but this time I was determined to make something with it. I cooked up some quinoa and then added in sauteed onions and walnuts to create a stuffing that turned this veggie into something almost hearty enough to serve as a light main course.

Quinoa Stuffed Baby Bok Choy
Serves 4 (or 2 as a light main)

2 baby bok choy
1 cup prepared quinoa (according to package directions)
1 T canola oil
1/2 vidalia onion diced
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Soy Reduction (optional)
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 t lemon juice
2 T honey

Prepare quinoa according to package directions (be sure to rinse thoroughly if not pre-rinsed). Put water in steamer and bring to a boil. Heat oil in a small pan and saute diced onion until translucent. Add walnuts and warm through. Add quinoa to onion and walnut mixture (if you're not making the soy reduction you'll want to salt the stuffing at this point, but if making the reduction there will be plenty of sodium in that). Split the bok choy in half lengthwise and remove a few of the inner leaves to make room for the stuffing. Put a quarter of the stuffing in the center of each bok choy half and add to steamer. I have to steam mine in two batches as only two will fit at a time. Steam for 10 minutes and remove.

While bok choy is steaming add soy sauce, lemon juice and honey to a small pot. Bring to a simmer and reduce by about half, then cool. Place each half on a plate and drizzle with reduction. Enjoy!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Chicken over Corn and Mango with Red Pepper Sauce

I love the combination of fresh corn and mango. Using fresh corn is important here as it's not cooked and that unique taste of corn fresh off the cob is what makes this great to me. Looking for a new way to use this salad was the inspiration for this dish (and of course the desire to make something on the lighter side).

Chicken over Corn and Mango with Red Pepper Sauce
Serves 2

The red pepper sauce is simply pureed roasted red peppers. You may want to have a little stock or water on hand to thin it out, but it shouldn't need it. Place 1 1/2 roasted red bell peppers in a blender and puree until smooth.

The chicken recipe can be found here. You'll have enough sauce and salad for two so cook two chicken breasts.

Corn and Mango Salad
2 ears of fresh corn
1/2 mango diced
1 T lemon juice
2 t honey

Remove the corn from the cob into a bowl. Peel and dice the mango into similar sized pieces as the corn and add to the bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey and a pinch of salt. Dress the salad and place half in a mound on each of two plates. When the chicken is finished and has rested for a few minutes, slice it on the diagonal and place it on top of the salad mounds. Finally, drizzle the purreed red peppers over the chicken and enjoy!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

How to Cook a Chicken Breast

This may seem like a really simple concept, but if you haven't tried this technique, you may be missing out. The secret to getting a chicken breast that is still moist when it's done cooking is starting it on the stove and finishing it in the oven. The way I do it is to preheat the oven to 375 and heat a little oil in a small, oven-safe pan (or a large one if you're cooking a lot of breasts). Salt and pepper the chicken and add it to the pan. Brown on one side and flip over. After you turn the chicken over, place the whole pan in the oven. if it's a small piece of chicken you should start checking it after 5 minutes. After you've done this a few times, you'll be able to tell just by touching the chicken if it's done, but if you still need to double check, I find that nothing works quite as well as cutting into the chicken a tiny bit and making sure that pinkness is gone. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Favorite Ice Cream

I have a new favorite ice cream. I'm a big fan of philadelphia-style ice cream that is simply made from a mix of milk and cream. You don't have to bother with egg yolks and cooking a custard. I got a new idea to add sweetened condensed milk to the mix when stopping by Kahakai Kitchen the other day. Here's how I incorporated it.

New Favorite Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

Combine ingredients and freeze according to your ice cream makers instructions.

This needed a little something extra so I decided to make a fudge ripple mix-in from The Perfect Scoop, an awesome book on the ins and outs of ice cream making.

Fudge Ripple
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup corn syrup
6 T cocoa powder

Whisk all ingredients together in a small saucepan and place over low heat. Bring to a simmer and allow to stay at a low boil for a minute. I had to remove mine from the heat a few times to keep it from bubbling over. If this happens to you, be sure to put it back on the heat as it will thicken better. Once it's been simmering for a minute, transfer to a bowl and chill thoroughly.

When you place the ice cream in it's storage container (I use ice cream containers from my local gourmet food shop) layer the ice cream with a healthy drizzle of the ripple. When you go to serve the ice cream you'll be rewarded with layers of sweet ice cream and intense chocolatey ripple. Yum. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Philly Cheese Steak Number One

The boyfriend's favorite sandwich is a Philly Cheese Steak. I've been thinking about how I would make a version for him at home, one that doesn't have peppers as he is not a fan. I finally got around to it and while I will definitely be making a second version soon with slight improvements, he seemed pretty happy with this one. The recipe makes enough for three sandwiches, but it only served two as he went back for a second helping.

Philly Cheese Steak Number One

3 french rolls
1 1/2 vidalia onions
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 lb beef round tip
6 slices provolone
3 T canola oil
1 T butter
salt and pepper
mayonnaise and ketchup to serve

Heat a small pan over medium heat and add vegetable oil. Slice onions and add to the pan. Saute over medium heat and when the onions begin to get translucent (after about 10 minutes) add the mushrooms and continue to saute until onions turn brown. While the onions and mushrooms are sauteing, slice the beef into 1 inch wide strips and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a large pan over high heat and melt butter in pan. Add beef strips to pan and brown on both sides. Toast rolls and add desired amount of ketchup and/or mayonnaise (I don't use ketchup, but the boyfriend slathers it on). Layer 1/3 of the beef on each roll, followed by 1/3 of the onion mixture and two slices of provolone. Allow the cheese to melt slightly before serving. Enjoy!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Buttermilk Biscuit Breakfast Cake

There's nothing like having the time for a good, sit down breakfast. If I know I'm actually going to have some time to relax and savor my coffee, I like to try and put some effort into whatever I make. When I got up, there were four plums sitting on my counter just asking to be used. I wanted to make some kind of fruit or coffee cake with them, but also had a little bit of a craving for buttermilk biscuits. I settled on making a cake-like batter based on the biscuits so I could satisfy both urges. Set this out with some carrot juice and coffee and breakfast is served.

Buttermilk Biscuit Cake

4 plums
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup + 2 T sugar
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 stick butter divided
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400*

Slice plums into 1/8 inch think rings. Use 2 T of butter to grease a 9 inch square dish and sprinkle 1 T sugar over butter. Arrange plum slices in the bottom of the dish as shown and sprinkle additional 1 T sugar over plums. In a medium bowl sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut remaining butter into thin slices and add to dry ingredients. Use a pastry cutter to blend butter into dry ingredients until only small crumbs remain. Add buttermilk and mix lightly until just combined. Drop batter over fruit to cover and place in oven for 22 - 24 minutes. When the cake is golden, remove from the oven and let cool slightly before unmolding onto a serving plate. Slice and enjoy!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Foodie Blog Roll

I Foodie Blog Roll do you? If you have a food blog and you're not on the Foodie Blog Roll, it's time to get with the program! This is a great community started by The Leftover Queen. Check it out and join in.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Green Miso Coleslaw

Coleslaw is such a summer BBQ staple. I'm often sucked into ordering it as a side at restaurants to satisfy a craving. Unfortunately, I'm also often disappointed with what taste like pre-made dressings. The only way to truly satisfy the coleslaw craving for me is to make it myself. If you need a slightly more dressed-up version to serve at a BBQ, try this one. It's green hues are nice to look at and the touch of miso in the dressing gives it a more interesting flavor.

Green Miso Coleslaw
1 granny smith apple
1 10 oz bag shredded green cabbage
1 1/2 stalks celery

1/3 cup Fage
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 T dijon
1 T honey
1 T sugar
1 T + 1 t white balsamic vinegar
1 T mellow white miso
1/4 t salt

Combine all the ingredients for the dressing, making sure the miso is distributed throughout. Set aside. Core the apple by cutting four sides away from the core. Cut each of these sides into very small apple segments the way you would for a tart and cut each slice into matchsticks as shown above. Cut celery stalk into segments that are a similar length to the apples and cut each segment into matchsticks. Combine cabbage with apple and celery matchsticks. Dress and enjoy!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Plum Puff Pastry

File this under super-easy, looks a lot harder than it is, sure to impress desserts. Sometimes all I think about is baking. Other times, when I'm making a dinner that takes some involvement, I forget about dessert entirely. That is until dinner is over and everyone is looking around for something sweet to cap off the night with. This dessert is perfect for those kind of moments. You don't have to pile everyone in the car and run off to the ice cream store. These can be made in about 5 minutes, followed by about 20 minutes of baking time. Just enough time for the boyfriend to finish the dishes if he knows what's good for him (read if he wants to actually eat any of the dessert).

Plum Puff Pastries

2 plums
1 sheet puff pastry
2 oz goat cheese
1 t honey

Preheat oven to 400*

Cut puff pastry into quarters. Cut plums in half, pit and slice each half into thin segments. Layout the segments from one plum half on each of the four puff pastry pieces and bake for 20 - 24 minutes depending on your oven. Combine goat cheese and honey. When the pastries have cooled just slightly, top with the goat cheese mixture and serve. If you don't have goat cheese or don't want to use it, just drizzle a little honey over these when they come out of the oven. That will be enough to offset the tartness of the plums.

*Note: this is just enough goat cheese and honey for the recipe. If you're anything like me, you'll need to make extra because once you taste it, you won't be able to stop nibbling each time you walk by.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Best Yogurt Ever

Have you tried this stuff yet? If not, it's time to go out and buy it right now. If you can't find it in your local store, it's time to go request it right now. This is my favorite culinary product discovery in a long time. You can get more information on Fage's website and check out their other yogurts (they also have 2% and full-fat versions). I'm usually wary of non-fat yogurt in the place of full fat in recipes, but this has held up beautifully. I use it in Tzatziki, frozen yogurt and countless other ways. Mmmmm...Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fried Green Tomato Sandwich

Mmmm. The fried green tomatoes were so good the other day that I couldn't resist making more. I often fantasize about the lobster rolls so common on the east coast. Those sandwiches were my inspiration when I decided to pick up some fresh crab meat and make a crab salad to top the fried green tomatoes. When I went out in my backyard to pick my green tomato, I was delighted to find one small yellow globe of delicious ripeness hanging on the vine. I grabbed it to slice and add to the sandwich as well.

Crab and Fried Green Tomato Sandwich
Serves 2

1/2 recipe of Fried Green Tomatoes
2 french rolls
1 ripe tomato sliced
1/2 pound crab meat
1 stalk celery diced
3 T mayonnaise
1 T dijon mustard
1 t lemon juice
1 t chopped dill

Combine crab, celery, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and dill. Split open and toast the french rolls. If you've just finished making the fried green tomatoes, drain off most of the oil and toast the rolls directly in the same pan. Lay two slices of fried green tomatoes on the bottom of each roll, followed by the fresh tomato slices and finally the crab salad. Enjoy!

*Note: if you're using crab claws like I did, you'll want to first get a little more than a 1/2 pound to account for the shells. Secondly, a good technique for getting every little bit of meat is to pull the two pieces of claw apart as shown until they come fully apart. The connective tissue will pull out the back attached to one piece of claw while leaving all of the meat in the remaining claw shell. 

Monday, July 7, 2008

Fried Green Tomatoes

I first tried fried green tomatoes when I was little girl visiting relatives in the south. I thought the whole idea of eating tomatoes that weren't ripe yet was weird and I wasn't really interested, but today I love them. Still on ripe tomato watch, I decided to make some fried green tomatoes to satisfy my homegrown tomato craving with something a little different.

Fried Green Tomatoes
2 - 3 green tomatoes
1 cup flour divided
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 eggs
2 t salt plus more to taste
8 - 12 oz vegetable oil depending on pan size

Pour vegetable oil into a heavy pan (I prefer cast iron for shallow frying like this) and place over medium heat. Slice tomatoes into 1/2 inch thick slices. Set up three bowls for breading by placing 1/2 cup flour and 1 t salt in the first bowl, 2 whisked eggs in the next bowl and 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal and 1 t salt in third bowl. Once the oil is good and hot (but not smoking) bread the tomato slices. Working with one tomato slice at a time, dip first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then in the egg wash and finally in the cornmeal flour mixture and add to pan. Fry each slice for 6 - 8 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from the oil and salt each side lightly to taste while still hot and enjoy!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Preserved Lemons

I recently bought a couscousier to try a better way of making couscous at home (more to come on that in future posts). While reading up on different cooking methods for couscous, I've seen a lot of writing on preserved lemons and decided to try my hand at making my own.

Preserved Lemons
2 pounds organic lemons
1 cup salt
3/4 L canning jar

After scrubbing the lemons, cut half of them into quarters and toss with 1/2 a cup of salt. Place 1/4 cup salt in the clean canning jar and add salted lemons. Juice the remaining lemons and mix the juice with 1/4 cup of salt. Pour over slices in the jar. Make sure the rim of the jar is clean and close the lid to form a tight seal. Leave the lemons out on your kitchen counter for the first few days and then move to the refrigerator until three weeks has elapsed. At this point, the preserved lemons should be ready to use.

*A little disclaimer: this is my first time making preserved lemons so it's as much of an experiment as anything. I'll post updates over the next three weeks on how they're doing.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Red, White and Blue (and yellow and green) Potato Salad

We needed one more side for our 4th of July picnic yesterday and what could be more appropriate than a potato salad? My local market was selling blue potatoes so I picked up a total of 2 pounds of blue, red and white creamer potatoes and mixed them with some other veggies for a different take on potato salad.

Red, White and Blue (and yellow and green) Potato Salad
2 pounds red, white and blue (purple) new potatoes
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup petite peas
1/4 crumbled blue cheese
1 small bunch scallions, chopped
8 slices bacon cut in half
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 T mustard
Juice from half a lemon

Cut potatoes into half inch chunks and place in a pot with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and let boil, uncovered, for 15 - 20 minutes until just fork tender. Drain potatoes and spread out on a baking sheet to cool. While the potatoes are boiling, cook the bacon strips and allow to drain on paper towels. Chop bacon and place in bowl with cooled potatoes, corn, peas, scallions and blue cheese. To make the dressing, combine mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice in a bowl and mix. If you're not a huge fan of mustard, start with two tablespoons and only add the third if you think the dressing needs it to cut the mayonnaise further. When you're happy with the taste of the dressing, add it to the bowl of potatoes and mix until combined. Salt to taste and let mellow in the fridge until you're ready to serve. Enjoy!

Friday, July 4, 2008

How To Use Leftover Pesto

A spoon. Mascarpone. Pesto. Yum.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Basil Pesto

I am not so patiently waiting for the hoards of green tomatoes in my garden to ripen and the basil plants to grow large enough so I can start to pillage them for pesto. As much as I try to wait for the significantly better homegrown stuff this time of year, I absolutely could not stand it any longer and went to the store for a bunch of basil and some heirloom cherry tomatoes. If you haven't made homemade pesto before, give it try. You cannot beat the freshness.

Basil Pesto
3 cups loosely packed basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place basil and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add the pine nuts and parmesan and pulse again until combined. With food processor running, drizzle olive oil through feed tube of processor. Run until well combined. For this heirloom tomato salad, I tossed about half the pesto with a mixture of heirloom cherry tomatoes. Finish with a sprinkling of salt and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Patriotic Sorbet

If you're like me and heading out of town for the fourth, you don't have a lot of time to work on elaborate desserts. Here is a quick and simple one that's impressive in that not everyone makes their own sorbet and, with a few fresh blueberries scattered on top, you nail the patriotic theme with a red and blue dessert!

Raspberry Sorbet
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
10 oz bag of frozen raspberries

Dissolve sugar in 2 cups of water over low heat. Add raspberries and remove from heat. Stir mixture until raspberries are thawed and everything has cooled to room temperature. I prefer to pass the mixture through a food mill with the finest plate, but you can use a blender if you don't have one. Once the mixture is pureed (even if using the food mill) pass it through a fine mesh sieve to remove the remaining seeds. Cool in the fridge and then freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

Serve the red raspberry sorbet alongside fresh blueberries and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Grilled Nectarine Salad

I got some beautiful nectarines at the produce shop this weekend and decided to use them in a summer salad. I grilled the slices of nectarines and dressed the salad with a sweet and tart balsamic vinaigrette. A good trick with balsamic is to reduce it down a little bit on the stove. This helps turn your everyday balsamic into something syrupy and wonderful, similar to the aged vinegar that costs big bucks for just a small bottle.

Grilled Nectarine Salad
2 white nectarines
1 head frisee lettuce
1 T pine nuts
1 oz goat cheese, crumbled

2 T reduced balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 t honey
1 t Dijon mustard
1 t goat cheese

Pour 4 - 5 T balsamic in a small saucepan and reduce down to 2 T. Slice nectarines and grill slices in a grill pan or over a BBQ. Toast pine nuts over dry heat and combine with the frisee and crumbled goat cheese. Once grill marks have developed on the nectarines, remove from the heat and let cool.

To make the dressing, combine the balsamic with the honey, Dijon and goat cheese. Mixing a little bit of goat cheese into the dressing cuts the tartness of the vinegar and allows the sweetness of the reduced balsamic to really shine through. Once the dressing is made lay the nectarines out on the frisee and drizzle with the dressing. Enjoy!