Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Be Sneaky with Your Kids (and Yourself!)

I made spaghetti with red sauce last night for dinner and added a finely grated small zucchini to the pot of sauce.  I hadn't done this in a while, but it got me thinking about how I'd sneak vegetables and other healthy things into my kids' diet when they were young.  There all all kinds of things you can do...finely grated carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, pureed roasted red pepper...just start with a little at a time.  Trust me, the kids won't notice if you start gradually. Start making your spaghetti sauce with half ground turkey/half ground beef to start.  Eventually you and the kids will like the ground turkey just as well as the beef.  If they pick out the green pepper in the spaghetti sauce, puree the peppers (and chunks of onion also).  You know they love the flavor!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Arugula and Burrata Pasta

An easy to put together vegetarian pasta with peppery arugula and creamy burrata cheese.  Burrata is usually available at markets such as Whole Foods, but if you can't find it, fresh mozzarella will do in a pinch.  The barely cooked tomato and garlic add a nice punch.

Serves 2

1 cup seeded diced plum tomatoes (small dice)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
6 ounces dry spaghetti
2 cups torn arugula leaves
4 ounces burrata cheese torn in small pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl combine the diced tomatoes, minced garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, oregano and basil.  Park the bowl on the kitchen counter for about an hour (or more) to let the flavors mingle.
When ready to cook, boil the spaghetti in salted water about 2 minutes shy of al dente.  While the pasta is cooking, heat the tomato mixture in a large saute pan.  Drain the pasta, saving about a cup of the cooking liquid.
Add the pasta to the tomatoes and stir in the arugula leaves.  Continue to cook, adding some of the pasta cooking liquid, until the arugula has wilted.
Off the heat, stir in the burrata and re-season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Eggplant, Tomato and Zucchini Casserole

Almost Eggplant Parmesan, this casserole really highlights summer produce and makes an excellent vegetarian meal...

1 large eggplant, pared and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch rounds (if the rounds are large, cut in half again)
1 to 2 cups Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 eggs beaten with a few tablespoons water
Enough vegetable oil to fill a large skillet up about 1/2 inch
1 large leek (white part) cut lengthwise and then thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup green bell pepper cut in a 3/4 inch dice
1 medium zucchini cut into a 3/4 inch dice
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbl olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 nice size tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 Tbl chopped fresh oregano
6 to 8 large fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated parmesan(divided)
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Set up a breading station for the eggs and bread crumbs.  Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet and dip the eggplants slices in the beaten egg and then lightly in the crumbs.  Fry the eggplant on each side until golden and then drain on paper toweling.
Clean your skillet and the saute the leek, green pepper, zucchini and garlic in the 3 tablespoons of olive oil until the vegetables soften.
Add the diced tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer until the juices are all but evaporated. Turn off the heat and stir in the basil and oregano.  Let the mixture cool a bit.
In a shallow casserole dish (about 7x11) place a layer of eggplant.  Top with the zucchini-tomato mixture and sprinkle on 1/4 cup of the parmesan.  Top with the remaining eggplant and then sprinkle on the remaining parmesan and all of the mozzarella.
Cover tightly with foil and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 30 minutes.  uncover and then bake about 15 more minutes until the casserole gets bubbly.  Let rest about 5 to 10 minutes before digging in!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Green Bean Finalist

I'm a finalist in the Whole Foods Market Cooking Boulder "Your Best Green Beans!  Take a minute and go here...and if you feel so inclined please vote!

And aren't the Whole Foods photos just beautiful?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fresh Tomato, Herb and Bacon Pizza

I was home alone and since I've been trying out my not so adept pizza making skills, I decided to give it another try.  This one turned out pretty good !

Makes one 12 inch pizza

For the crust:
2 cups bread flour
3/4 cup warm water (100 to 105F)
2 1/4 tsp granulated active yeast
2tsp salt
1  1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tbl olive oil

Stir the yeast into the warm water and let sit about 5 minutes. Stir in the salt, sugar and olive oil.
Stir the liquids into the 2 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl.  Knead the dough right in the bowl for about 5 minutes. Transfer the dough into another mixing bowl lightly coated with olive oil.  Turn the dough so that all of the dough is coated with the oil.  Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and park on the counter for a few hours. (Make the dough early in the day...the longer it sits, the better it develops)

For the topping and baking:
2 Tbl olive oil
1 clove finely minced garlic
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 large tomato peeled, seeded and finely diced
4 large basil leaves, finely sliced
1 Tbl fresh oregano, minced
2 slices almost crisp cooked bacon chopped into small pieces
The pizza dough
A few ounces fresh mozzarella thinly sliced

In a small skillet, heat the olive oil, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for a minute or two until fragrant(don't burn the garlic!)
Add the finely diced tomato and heat for a few minutes until the tomato gets a little gooey.  Take off the heat and stir in the basil and oregano.

Crank the oven up as high as it will go (mine goes to 525F)

Sprinkle a few pinches of corn meal onto a baking sheet.
Roll the dough out into a 12 to 13 inch circle and then place on the cornmeal dusted baking sheet.  Fold up the edges a bit.
Spread the tomato mixture over the dough and add the bacon pieces all over.  Top with the sliced mozzarella.
Bake in that screaming hot oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned.  Let sit a few minutes before slicing.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Easy Gazpacho

With all the summer produce available and the warm, warm days we've been having, I thought making a "cool as a cucumber" soup would be a great idea.  This one is so easy and doesn't have a lot of ingredients.  The jalapeno gives it a nice spicy flavor. Serve it up in small glasses or cups.

Makes 4 to 6 small servings

3 cups peeled, seeded chopped cucumbers
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced
12 ounces V-8 juice
1 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 to 3 Tbl red wine vinegar
3 Tbl extra virgin olive oil

Place everything in a blender or food processor, but just add 2 Tbl of the vinegar to start.  Blend until almost smooth.  Chill until ice cold.  Re season with salt, pepper and the extra vinegar if you feel it needs it. Enjoy!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dilled Zucchini-Potato Salad

A vegan, gluten free option for potato salad with a garden zucchini, this one uses creamy tofu in place of mayo or sour cream.

Makes about 4 side servings

For the dressing:
10 to 12 ounces extra soft silken tofu
1 Tbl vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
2 Tbl fresh lemon juice
1 Tbl minced fresh dill

In a mini food processor or blender process all of the ingredients until smooth.  refrigerate while preparing the salad.

For the salad:
1 medium zucchini cut in 3/4 to 1 inch cubes
1 tsp salt
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes peeled and cut into 3/4 to 1 inch cubes(about 4 cups)
3 Tbl finely minced red onion
The dressing
Salt and pepper for seasoning if desired

Toss the zucchini cubes with the teaspoon of salt and place in a colander for about 45 minutes in order to drain some of the liquid from the zucchini and tenderize it a bit.  After the 45 minutes, rinse well under cold water and place on paper toweling to dry.
Place the potato cubes in a medium pot in cold water, bring up to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, 10 to 15 minutes.  Drain and let cool to lukewarm.
Combine the zucchini, potatoes and red onion in a mixing bowl and start blending in the dressing.  I normally reserve a few tablespoons of the dressing just in case the salad soaks too much of it up while chilling.
Chill the salad for at least 2 hours and when ready to serve, taste and adjust for salt and pepper.  Add a little of the reserved dressing if necessary for a creamy consistency.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Braised Greek Green Beans

For years we would travel to Detroit's Greektown to eat at The New Hellas Cafe, a restaurant owned and run by Gus Anton.  Gus took over the restaurant from his father in 1950 and was always there.  Flaming cheese, lamb chops, Greek antipasto platters, spanakopita, moussaka....Gus had it all.  Usually when we went, it was with a group of six or more and we would order our meal "family style".  A huge platter of lamb chops would arrive at our table along with side platters of potatoes, rice and vegetables.  The vegetables would vary...sometimes cabbage, sometimes okra....but always there were green beans which I loved!  And they were always stewed until very, very soft.
Gus closed his restaurant in 2008 and sadly, passed away last week at age 85.  He is truly missed.

Makes about 4 servings

2 Tbl olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
5 cloves garlic, halved or cut in thirds if very large
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbl fresh minced dill
A small pinch of cinnamon
1 pound green beans, washed, trimmed and cut in half if long
3/4 cup chicken broth

In a 4 quart pot heat the oil, add the onion and saute over medium heat until soft.  Stir in the tomatoes, salt, pepper, garlic dill and cinnamon.
Add the green beans and then pour in the chicken broth.  Bring up to a boil and then simmer slowly for at least an hour, partially covered.  Give everything a stir occasionally.  You want the beans to be soft and velvety and the garlic to be sweet.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Skillet Pot Soup

My dear friend, Pam, makes a lovely Colcannon recipe with a little horseradish added for "zip".  See her recipe here: 

This inspired me to turn Colcannon into a soup.  I did some research and found that Colcannon is not just an Irish dish, but also the name of a song sometimes called" The Skillet Pot Song" which starts out this way:

"Did you ever Colcannon made from lovely pickled cream?"

After days of research, I could find only one reference to pickled cream, that being buttermilk or soured cream.  Buttermilk sounded just right for my little "zip".  This one's good warm or chilled.

Makes about 2  1/2 quarts

5 Tbl butter or 4 Tbl butter plus 1 Tbl rendered bacon fat
1 large leek, white part only, sliced lengthwise and then cut crosswise into 1/4 inch moons
4 cups chopped cabbage
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
4 to 5 cups peeled, diced redskin potatoes (3/4 inch dice) 4 to 5 potatoes
6 cups chicken broth
1 bunch chopped kale (5 to 6 cups) chopped
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup half and half

In a Dutch oven or soup pot, melt the fat and add the sliced leeks.  saute them until they soften.  Add the chopped cabbage and continue to saute until the cabbage softens up.
Add the salt, pepper, diced potatoes and chicken broth, bring up to a boil and then simmer until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.  Cool the soup to lukewarm.
While the soup is simmering, steam the chopped kale in a little water until wilted and tender.
Once the soup has cooled, process it in batches in a food processor or blender until pureed.  Return the soup to the pot and stir in the kale, buttermilk and half and half.
At this point re warm the soup (don't boil!) or if you would like it chilled, refrigerate for a few hours before serving.