Friday, July 29, 2011

Simply Summer Roasted Pepper Salad

Peppers are coming in season about's a nice salad that keeps well and adds a little tang to your plate.

6 large cubanelle peppers
2 Hungarian hot peppers or 4 jalapenos
1 cup seeded, cored diced tomatoes
1 cup finely diced sweet onion
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Roast the peppers on a gas grill or on a gas stove top until they begin to blacken and blister a bit.  Cover and set aside until cool.
Once cooled, peel and remove the seeds and stems.
Cut the cubanelles into a one inch dice.
Very finely dice the Hungarian hots or jalapenos until they're almost like mush.
Combine everything in a bowl and then park in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors blend.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Zucchini Rice

I'm so far I've only picked one small zucchini from the garden and I'm seeing only blossoms - no fruit. At least I made this tasty rice dish with that small veggie...

3 Tbl butter
3 Tbl diced red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbl of your favorite taco seasoning
1 small zucchini, diced
3/4 cup raw rice
About 2 cups water

In a sauce pan, saute the onion, garlic and zucchini until the onion starts to soften.  Add the taco seasoning and rice and stir everything together.  Add the water, bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.  Simmer covered for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is done.   

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Ajvar (pronounced I-vahr) is a thick spread traditionally made with fresh paprikas, eggplant and garlic.  It's great slathered on country bread, as a dip for vegetables and pita chips and as an accompaniment to grilled chicken, lamb or fish. I like a few dollops of it on pasta or as a spread for sandwiches.  Balkan in its roots, you find variations from Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia.  I like to kick mine up with a little serrano or jalapeno and since I have a hard time finding fresh paprika peppers, I've substituted red and yellow bell pepper.

For the eggplant:
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1  1/2 inch cubes
3 minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Toss all ingredients together, spread out evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 350F for 30 minutes, stirring at the half way point. Set aside in a bowl and cool.

For the spread:
4 red bell peppers or a combination of red and yellow
1 heaping Tbl diced serrano or jalapeno pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced onion
1 Tbl dried sweet paprika
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
The roasted eggplant cubes
Additional salt and olive oil for adjustment, if necessary

Roast the peppers either on a stove top or grill until blackened and beginning to blister.  I actually halved mine and placed the skin side up under the broiler of my oven.  Set aside and when cool enough to handle, peel of the skin and scrape out the seeds.
Saute the onion in the 2 Tbl olive oil along with the Tbl paprika until the onion softens a bit and the paprika becomes fragrant.
Place everything in the bowl of a food processor and process until relatively smooth. Taste and adjust the salt and olive oil if desired. Chill to let the flavors blend before serving.  Makes about 4 cups

Friday, July 22, 2011


Make your own little mini burgers at home...these taste a lot like the the ones you buy by the sackful.  I found about three recipes that I liked the elements of and turned them into this recipe.

1  1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 egg
1/3 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
1 package dry onion soup mix
1/4 cup water
1 medium onion, finely diced
12 slider rolls or smallish dinner rolls halved
Hamburger dill chips

Mix the beef, egg, soup mix, crumbs and water thoroughly together.
Press the meat evenly in a 10 by 14 inch rimmed baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes at 350F
Take out of the oven and sprinkle the top evenly with the finely diced onion and return to the oven for 10 more minutes.
Take out of the oven again and cut the "meat sheet" into 12 squares, leaving them in the pan.
Place the cut side of the bottom of each roll on top of each patty and then place the top of the roll cut side down on top.
Return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes to heat the rolls.
Take each burger and add ketchup, mustard and pickles.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Make Your Own Pita Bread

This past weekend as I was preparing to make Kim's Feta and Mint Dip, I realized that I had forgotten to pick up pita bread or chips for the recipe.  I did a little research and decided I could make my own (If I can do it, you can too).  I made 12 pitas and turned some into chips.  The rest were used the next night for Kebapcheta With Tzatziki.

1 package dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water ( about 100F)
3  1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
1  1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup  fairly warm water
Olive oil for coating

Dissolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup warm water and add the sugar.  Let stand 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture starts to foam a little.
Whisk the flours and salt in a large bowl.
Make a little depression in the four and add the yeast mixture and start to stir.
Add the one cup of water a little at a time stirring constantly.  The mixture should
start to stiffen.
On a floured surface, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic, adding more flour if necessary.
Roll the dough in some olive oil to cover the surface, place in a bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.
After the rise, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and set the pieces on a floured surface for about 10 minutes.
Roll each piece of dough into a 6 to 7 inch circle (you'll need a well floured surface and rolling pin for this).
Pre heat the oven and baking sheets to 500F. Place your pitas on the baking sheets and bake for 4 minutes.  Flip with a spatula and bake for 2 more minutes. I did this in batches. The pitas should puff up a bit but if not will still be delicious.

Here's the pita chip recipe: 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Kim's Feta and Mint Dip

Next door neighbor Kim makes this wonderful feta and mint dip for all kinds of gatherings and was kind enough to share with me.  I made this yesterday and Tom and I devoured half of it! (Thank goodness we'll have some left for tonight) The recipe comes from the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Booklet  "All New Simple and Elegant Recipes" copyright 1990.
I'm posting the recipe as it appears in the booklet, but then afterwards adding Kim's changes and variations.

8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbl plain yogurt
1 Tbl chopped fresh mint or 1/2 tsp dried
1 clove minced garlic
1 chopped tomato
1 diced cucumber
1 green onion

Beat the cheeses, yogurt, garlic and mint in an electric mixer.  Spread the mixture on a 10 inch tart pan or pie plate.  Chill.
When ready to serve, top with the tomatoes, cucumber and onion.

Kim adds extra garlic to the mix ( I followed and added 3 cloves) and she likes Kalamata olives as a topping and black pepper in the cheese.
You could use red or yellow bell pepper, radishes, etc for a nice change.

Thanks Kim...we really enjoyed this!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Double Red Eye

The Red Eye - tomato juice, vodka and beer.  I've jazzed this one up to make it extra spicy, so if you can't handle the heat, cut back on the hot sauce.

For the cubes:
1  12 ounce can V8 Juice
1 tsp dried dill weed
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbl Cholula hot sauce

Mix all ingredients and pour the mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze.

For 2 glasses:
1 double shot vodka
6 ounces beer
6 ounces V8 juice
7 of the cubes
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbl Cholula ( or less)
Fresh lime juice ( optional)

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until slushy.  Pour into 2 glasses.  If you like lime stir in about a tsp per glass.  If you like, pour your drink right over a few cubes.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I've been reading about different methods of cooking pork shoulder to create a melt in your mouth experience, especially on a tortilla.  I know people will slow cook the pork and some will do it in the oven and then some do a slow cook on top of the stove.  I took hints from all the processes and came up with this recipe which combines slow baking in the oven and top of the stove finishing and shredding. 

2.5 pounds of pork shoulder meat (don't cut off any of the fat) cut into about 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes.
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tbl salt

Place the pork into a 9 x 12 inch roasting/baking pan and toss with the salt.
Pour the chicken broth into the pan, cover tightly with foil and bake at 325F for one hour.
After an hour, remove the cover and raise the heat to 425F and continue to bake for about 45 minutes, occasionally turning the pieces of meat until you have just a little liquid left in the pan.The meat at this point should be very tender and at this point you can set the meat aside until almost time to serve.
When ready to serve, brown the meat with the liquid in a large saute pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until all the liquid is gone.
Serve on tortillas with all your favorite toppings! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Osso Bucco

The other day when I made the Pea and Parmesan Risotto I also made osso bucco, braised veal shanks.  Pictured above are the shanks just after I browned them.  I couldn't get a good picture of the finished product, but trust me, this is a wonderful melt in your mouth dish. Part of the pleasure is the wonderful marrow in the round bone.

About 2 1/2 pounds veal shanks cut across the bone, about an inch thick
Flour for dusting
4 strips bacon, diced
Salt and pepper
1 cup diced onion
1 large stalk celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 minced garlic cloves
Olive oil
2 to 3 Tbl tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 to 3 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
Instant flour (Wondra) for thickening

In a large pot cook the diced bacon until crispy. Remove and reserve the bacon, leaving the drippings.
Season the meat with salt and pepper and dust with the flour.
Brown the meat on both sides in the bacon drippings and then remove from the pot.
Adding a little olive oil if necessary, brown the onions, celery, carrot and garlic until the onion softens.
Add the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes.
Add the wine and cook, scraping up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, for about 3 minutes.
Return the shanks to the pot and add 2 cups of the broth, the bacon bits and the bay leaf.
Bring to a simmer and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the meat is very tender, adding more broth if necessary.
After 45 minutes, remove the meat and place in a baking dish.
Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce a bit.  Add some instant flour to thicken.
Pour the sauce over the meat and cover and bake in a 350F oven for twenty to 30 minutes. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pea and Parmesan Risotto

Well, not true risotto because I used long grain rice instead of a short grain like arborio, and I also added orzo to the mix, but the technique was there.  This takes about 30 minutes to make and you have to stir almost constantly, but you end up with creamy flavorful rice.

1 cup raw rice
3 Tbl butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
About 3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup raw orzo
1 cup shelled garden peas
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup half and half, whole milk or cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan, saute the garlic in the butter for about a minute.  Add the rice and stir around for a couple of minutes until all the grains are coated with the butter.
Add the wine and over medium heat, stir until the wine is almost evaporated.
Add about 1/4 cup chicken broth and continue to stir until the broth incorporates into the rice.  Continue doing this, a little broth at a time until you've added about 2 cups of the broth.
Add the orzo and keep incorporating the last cup of broth, a little at a time.
You should end up with a creamy mixture.
Stir in the peas, parmesan and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fresh Raspberries with an Almond Cream Cake Backdrop

This cake has 3 creams - sour cream in the cake and mascarpone cream and whipping cream in the icing - all put together to highlight fresh raspberries.

For the almond cake:
8 Tbl softened butter
1  1/2 cups packed powdered sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup sour cream
2 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
About 20 fresh raspberries
Prepare a 9 inch spring form pan by lining it with parchment paper and the buttering and flouring the parchment and sides of the pan.
Cream the butter and sugar and then beat in the eggs one at a time until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Stir in the sour cream and almond extract.
Whisk the flour with the baking soda and baking powder and then stir into the liquid mixture until thoroughly combined (batter will be thick)
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and push the raspberries into the batter randomly leaving some of the tops exposed.
Bake in a pre heated 350F oven for 40 to 50 minutes.  Cool and refrigerate.

8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 pint ( or more) fresh raspberries
With a hand mixer or electric wire whip, whip the mascarpone, sugar and almond extract until smooth and creamy.
While whipping, slowly add the whipping cream and whip until light, creamy and fluffy.
Remove the cake from the pan and place it on a serving plate. Frost the cake on top and sides (use all the frosting)
Stud the cake with as many raspberries as your heart desires.
Serve in wedges showered with more raspberries.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Patty Pan Gone Wild!

Normally when I find patty pan squash they're rather small, about an inch or two in diameter.  Last week at the farmer's market I found huge ones, about five inches in diameter. I sliced them about a quarter inch thick and then cut them crosswise. Then I layered them in a casserole topping each layer with salt , pepper, butter and fresh basil leaves.They took about 45 minutes to bake in a 350F ovenUnlike the small patty pan which remind me of zucchini, these were more winter squash like in texture and flavor.  If you find some, give them a try.  Next time I think I'll stuff them with something!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shrimp with a Spicy Raspberry Cocktail Sauce

Great for summer on the deck....and easy as pie!

1 cup mayo
1 Tbl Sambal Oelek ( spicy fresh chili paste)
2 Tbl fresh lime juice
4 Tbl honey
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 to 2 pounds peeled, deveined cooked shrimp, tails on
Salt for seasoning

Place all ingredients except shrimp in a mini food processor and process until smooth.  Taste and add salt and more Sambal Oelek if desired.

Place sauce in serving bowl and surround with beautiful shrimp!

Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4, 2011

Have a safe and happy holiday everyone...spend the day enjoying our freedom!

(Sorry...I couldn't get a good pic of our American Flag flying in front of the house)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Zucchini with Almond Basil Pesto

This is a nice little salad for one although the pesto makes enough for many. Certainly double, triple or quadruple the salad ingredients if you need more.  Substitute peanut butter for the almond butter if you like.

For the pesto:
1/4 cup almond butter
1 to 2 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Place all ingredients in a mini food processor or blender and process until smooth.

For the salad:
1 small zucchini about 8 inches long
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbl of the almond basil pesto
2 Tbl very finely diced red onion
5 or 6 parmesan shavings
Salt and pepper for seasoning if desired

With a vegetable peeler, peel strips along the length of the zucchini about 1/2 inch wide, peeling until you come to the seedy part.  Include the dark green peel.
Place the zucchini in a colander, toss with the 1/2 tsp salt and let rest for about 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, rinse the zucchini thoroughly and pat as dry as possible with paper towels.
Place the zucchini on the center of a salad plate and drizzle with a Tbl of the pesto.
Top with the red onion and cheese shavings.  Salt and pepper if desired.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Tuna and Artichokes

Leftover burger buns? Warm night? Don't know what to make for dinner? Too late to make anything complicated?  How about tuna and artichoke sandwiches on burger buns?  Two cans of drained tuna, a 14 to 15 ounce can of artichoke hearts, chopped, a little diced celery, black pepper and mayo and you've got 4 hearty sandwiches.