Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Spinach and Lamb Stew

I don't remember much about my maternal grandmother - she lived with us when I was quite young - but I do remember her spinach soup.  It was  tomatoey, garlicky with very little meat but a lot of spinach.  I loved it and through the years my mother would make versions of it and now I make a version which is more like a stew served over rice. ( although I have added more broth and thrown the rice right into the pot for soup now and again ).  It's great comfort food for cool nights.

1  1/2 pounds lamb shoulder meat cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
2 Tbl olive oil
A little salt and pepper to season the meat
1 very large onion, diced
4 cloves thinly sliced garlic
3 Tbl Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
One 28 ounce can whole plum tomatoes with its juice
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp minced winter savory
1 pound fresh baby spinach leaves
Salt and pepper for re-seasoning
Hot cooked rice for serving

Season the lamb pieces with a little salt and pepper and brown them in a large soup pot in 1 Tbl of the olive oil in batches if necessary.  Remove the meat from the pot.
Add the other Tbl of the olive oil to the pot and saute the onion until softened and starts to pick up a bit of the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  Add the garlic and saute another minute.
Stir in the paprika 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper and 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes.
Add the tomatoes, crushing them up with your clean hands as you go, along with the juice.  Stir with a wooden spoon to pick up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pot, bring up to the boil and then lower the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the meat is tender.
Add the parsley and savory and the add the spinach a handful at a time until it is all wilted.  Re-season with salt and pepper if desired.
Place a few spoonfuls of hot cooked rice in the bottom of your bowl and ladle some stew over.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Campanelle Pasta with Tuna and Cherry Tomatoes

Pam made this recipe last week and sent it along with a picture...sounds yummy and relatively easy to make! 

1 pound Campanelle pasta (trumpet pasta)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 6 ounce can or jar of Italian tuna in olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
8 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and quartered
2 Tbl capers, drained and rinsed
2 Tbl chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally until tender but firm to the bite about 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water.
In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil over medium high heat.  Throw in the onion and cook, stirring frequently until soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until aromatic.  Add the tuna, using a fork to break it into chunks.  Spoon in the cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers and thyme.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes begin to soften, about ten minutes.
Add the cooked pasta, the remaining olive oil and parsley.  Toss until all is coated using a little pasta water to thin out the sauce.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to a serving bowl and serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Peachy Cream Cheese Ice Cream Pie

I love the combination of mixing whipped cream cheese into vanilla ice cream.  I first saw Rick Bayless add quince to the mixture a few years back and was sold.  Adding fresh peaches and turning it all into a vanilla wafer almond crust makes for a great summer treat.

For the crust:
40 crushed vanilla wafers ( about 1 1/2 cups crushed)
1/2 cup whole almonds placed in a food processor and ground
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
Combine all the ingredients and press into the bottom and about an inch or two up the sides of a 10 inch spring form pan. (Note: You may not need all the crumb mixture)
Bake the crust for 10 minutes at 350F and cool completely.

For the pie:
4 very large peaches, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
3 Tbl granulated sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp almond extract
8 ounces softened cream cheese
5 cups softened vanilla ice cream

Place the peaches, sugar and lemon juice in a sauce pan and over medium heat, cook the mixture for about 5 minutes until the peaches soften and start releasing juices.
Mash the mixture a bit with a potato masher, remove from the heat, stir in the almond extract and cool completely.
When the peaches have cooled, whip the cream cheese until fluffy, stir in the softened ice cream and fold in 2 cups of the peach mixture.
Pour the mixture into the prepared crust, cover and freeze overnight.
With the remaining peach mixture, blend it in a blender or with a stick blender until smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, remove the pie from the freezer for about 10 minutes before removing the ring of the pan.  Cut into wedges and drizzle with a little of the peach puree. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'm a Finalist!!

Hey everyone...I'm a finalist in the Whole Foods Market Cooking Contest in Green Hills, Tennessee for my Tomato, Orzo and Chickpea Salad.

Go here, sign up and vote!!! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Wedge

Here's a different take on the Machus Salad I wrote about many months ago...some of the same ingredients served on a lettuce wedge.  A little retro. but the dressing isn't as heavy as the traditional heavy blue cheese laden wedge.

For the dressing:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
4 Tbl granulated sugar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Place all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake, shake shake.

For the wedge:
1 pint small cherry or grape tomatoes
6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1/2 cup diced red onion
3/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
10 to 15 parsley leaves (flat leaf)
The dressing
4 wedges iceberg lettuce

Halve the tomatoes and gently stir in the bacon, blue cheese, onion and parsley.
Gently toss the salad with about 1/2 of the dressing.
Place 1/4 of the tomato salad over each lettuce wedge.  Add more dressing if you like.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pork Boudin Balls

Boudin is a sausage that tastes a bit like dirty rice but with more meat.  Very popular in Louisiana, this sausage can be made and turned into a tempting appetizer without sausage casings.  This recipe makes 25 to 30 morsels and can be frozen before breading and frying for a great make ahead.

1  1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder cut into 2 inch cubes (don't lose the fat)
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped white onion
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 Tbl salt
1 tsp black pepper
1  1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1  1/2 cups cooked white rice, divided
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup sliced green onion
3 step breading station set up with flour, egg beaten with a little water and seasoned bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for pan frying

In a 4 quart pot, place the pork, onion, green pepper, salt, black pepper, garlic and cayenne.  Cover with water to reach about 2 inches over the mixture.
Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and simmer for about 1  1/2 hours until the meat is very tender.
Remove the mixture from the pot, reserving the broth, and place in the bowl of a food processor.  Add some of the broth, the parsley, green onion and 3/4 cup of the cooked rice and process until pretty smooth ( a pate consistency).  Add more broth if needed...I used about 3/4 cup.
Remove the mixture to a bowl, stir in the reserved 3/4 cup rice.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight if you wish.
When ready to cook, form the meat mixture into smooth little balls a little bigger than a walnut but smaller than a golf ball.  At this point you can freeze any that you don't want to cook...just partially thaw before breading.
With your breading station set up, dust the balls with flour, then into the egg mixture and finally the seasoned crumbs.
Pan fry for about 2 or 3 minutes on each side and drain on paper toweling before serving.
We served ours with a a dipping sauce of 1/2 cup mayo, 1 Tbl Dijon mustard, 1 Tbl creole seasoning and 1 Tbl hot sauce.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cherry Tomatoes and Zucchini with Buttery Noodles

A nice side dish for a few people....

18 cherry tomatoes
1 small zucchini about 8 inches long
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil
4 ounces egg noodles
Chicken or vegetable broth for cooking the noodles
2 Tbl butter
Salt and pepper to taste

With a vegetable peeler, peel the zucchini into ribbons about 1/2 inch wide until you reach the seeds.  Cut the ribbons into pieces about 2 inches long, place them in a colander and toss with the 1/2 tsp salt.  Let rest for about 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, rinse the zucchini thoroughly and pat dry with paper toweling.  Place in a serving bowl.
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place in the bowl along with the crushed garlic, basil and oregano.
Cook the noodles in the broth.  Drain, reserving some of the broth.  Stir the butter into the noodles and then toss with the vegetable mixture.  Add a little reserved broth to loosen and season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Roasted Tomato Pasta ...For the Ladies

This is my take on pasta alla puttanesca, that salty somewhat spicy pasta that legend tells the ladies of the night would make.  Mine isn't a quick sauce, but rather a roasted one which highlights the saltiness of the olives and the sweet freshness of the tomato.  You may worry that the sauce is too salty, but after combing with the pasta, you'll see that it's perfect!

2 pints small cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 Tbl tomato paste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping Tbl minced garlic
1 cup kalamata olives
8 anchovy fillets, packed in oil and finely chopped
2 Tbl capers in brine
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 Tbl chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup sliced fresh basil leaves
10 ounces dry pasta

Stir the tomato paste into the wine until it dissolves.
In a 9 x 13 inch glass or ceramic baking dish, combine the tomatoes, wine an tomato paste mixture, garlic, anchovies, olives, crushed red pepper, capers and olive oil.
Roast the mixture uncovered for about an hour at 350F until the tomatoes start to soften and wrinkle a bit.
Cook the pasta according to package directions just before the sauce is finished.
When the sauce comes out of the oven, use the back of a slotted spoon to "break up" a few of the tomatoes.
Stir the oregano and basil into the sauce and combine with the hot cooked pasta. Serve it up nice and hot!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ragin' Cajun Popcorn

No...not popped corn, but crawdaddies, mudbugs, crayfish, crawfish,  breaded in a spicy flour and corn meal mix and eaten out of hand like popcorn.  If you can't get crawfish tail meat, feel free to use small gulf shrimp or rock shrimp.

1 pound cooked crawfish tail meat, thawed if frozen, rinsed and drained
2 cups buttermilk
1 Tbl hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
1 cup flour
1/4 cup yellow corn meal
1 Tbl cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Enough peanut or vegetable oil to fill a large frying pan about an inch

Stir the buttermilk and hot sauce together and add the crawfish meat.  Let marinate for about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, make the breading by whisking the flour, corn meal, salt, pepper and cayenne together and then place in a small paper or plastic bag.
After the 20 minutes, drain the crawfish meat well.
Heat the oil in the frying pan until almost smoking.  Add about a third of the crawfish to the flour filled bag and coat well.  Fry the crawfish in the oil for no more that 2 minutes or until golden.  Remove with a spider or large slotted spoon and drain on paper toweling.  Repeat with the rest of the crawfish.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stuffed Collards I stuffed some of the collard greens in my garden with a dirty rice  dressing.  I must admit, they're pretty darn good. I used leaves a little bigger than the size of my hand, so if you buy large ones, just cut the thick stem out and cut them in half.  The individual leaves can get quite large.

About 16 collard leaves or halves, blanched in boiling water for about a minute and then rinsed and cooled
1  1/2 cups cooked white rice
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
2 tsp creole seasoning
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chicken broth

Brown the ground pork in a saute pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go, until it loses its pink color.
Add the onion, celery, bell pepper and creole seasoning and continue to saute until the veggies soften a bit.  Cool.
Once the meat mixture is cooled, add the rice and beaten egg.
Place about 2 teaspoons (like the ones you stir your coffee with) just above the base of a collard leaf. Roll up the bottom, tuck in the sides and roll the rest of the way.
Repeat for all the other leaves and place in a shallow casserole dish.
If you have any extra filling, just sprinkle it over the top of the rolls.
Pour the 1/4 cup chicken broth over the casserole, cover tightly and bake at 350F for about 1 hour.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Souvlaki - Meat on a Stick

Call them what you will - kebabs or souvlaki - these little grilled pieces of meat on a stick are heaven in the summer.  Add veggies or not - it's up to you!

1  1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, boneless lamb shoulder or boneless chicken, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp paprika

Whisk all ingredients except meat in a bowl.  Place the meat in a heavy duty zip lock bag, pour the marinade in and seal.  Refrigerate for as long as you can (4 hours is good), turning the bag over a few times.
Remove the meat from the marinade and thread equal amounts on to 4  twelve inch wooden skewers which have been soaked in water for at least 30 minutes.
Add pieces of onion, green pepper, red pepper, zucchini or mushrooms if you like.
Grill on medium heat to your desired doneness.
Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the skewers just before serving if desired.
Makes 4 skewers

Sunday, August 7, 2011


No recipe today but I'm seriously thinking about  stuffing these with some pork and rice this week...what do you think?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cajun Corn and Rice

We love fish and rice together for dinners and last week when I found two beautiful pompano at Whole Foods I knew we had to grill and have spicy rice.  I paired the rice with fresh corn for a sweet crunch.  The recipe has creole seasoning in it.  You can use a store bought one or find my recipe for it here:

4 slices bacon, diced
2 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup diced white onion
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup seeded diced tomato
1 cup raw rice
1 Tbl creole seasoning
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups fresh corn kernels
3 Tbl finely diced green pepper for garnish (optional)

Fry the diced bacon until crisp, saving the fat to saute the vegetables.
Saute the onion, green pepper and garlic in the bacon fat and the olive oil until the onion softens.  Stir in the rice making sure it's coated with the fat.
Add the diced tomato, creole seasoning and cooked bacon and give all a big stir.
Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil and then bring down to a low simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the rice is done and the liquid is mostly incorporated.
Stir in the fresh corn kernels and garnish with the finely diced bell pepper if desired.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Warm and Spicy Pasta Caprese

Here's a spicy version of my Hot Pasta...Raw Sauce recipe... this time with a few hot peppers and fresh mozzarella.

4 cups seeded diced tomatoes
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbl red wine vinegar
3 Hungarian hot peppers or 4 to 6 jalapenos
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
8 ounces spaghetti or linguini
Chicken broth for cooking the pasta
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cut into a small dice
1/4 cup sliced fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper for serving if desired

Roast the peppers on a grill or stove top.  Cover, cool, peel, seed and cut into a fine diced.
Combine the peppers, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium size bowl and park on the counter for a few hours ( or even more ).
Cook the pasta in the chicken broth according to package directions.
Combine the hot pasta with the tomato sauce and stir in the cheese and basil.
Season with more salt and pepper if desired.
Note:  Cook the pasta in water for a vegetarian version.