Monday, August 30, 2010

Meatless Monday - Tomato Flatbread

Tomato plants across my neighborhood are producing so much fruit that you can often see the bright red produce exchanging hands; "I have so many tomatoes, I don't know what to do with them!"  Pots of herbs are also sprouting fragrant leafs, waiting to be brought into the kitchen to add brightness to dishes.

Here is a delicious meatless meal that can help you use some of them up.  The dough is so moist and delicious, you'd think an Italian chef prepared it himself.

Flatbread with Summer Tomatoes

For the dough:
  • 1 package of dry instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 & 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 & 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 T olive oil
For the rest:
  • 2 large or 3 medium tomatoes, sliced in thing slices
  • 4 oz. fresh mozarella or goat cheese
  • 2 T chopped fresh herbs, such as chives and parsley
  • Handful of fresh basil
To make the dough: Dissolve the yeast in the water and sit for 5 minutes.  Sift in flour, salt and pepper and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.  Add the oil, knead for a bit in the bowl, then turn out to a floured surface.  Knead until a soft dough forms.

Line a large glass bowl with olive oil.  Add dough ball and cover with a warm, damp kitchen towel.  Let rise 1 hour, or until doubled in size.  Punch dough down, and let rise, covered, an additional hour.

Roll dough out to approximately 15x10 inches.  Slide onto a cookie sheet, cover again with damp towel, and let rise for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Arrange tomato slices on a stack of paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt and place a few more paper towels on top.  Lightly press down to remove excess juices. 

Arrange tomato slices over dough and top evenly with cheese.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned at the edges.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with herbs, arrange basil, and crack additional black pepper on top, if desired.

Slice, and enjoy!


Friday, August 27, 2010

Peach Chutney

Rounding out a shipment of local produce, I had a bunch of peaches that were reaching past-prime status.  I hate... absolutely detest.. wasting food, so I came up with a plan to utitlize the over-ripened fruit.

With my Ball jar kit in tow, I set out to make a delicious chutney that would be an excellent addition to chicken, pork, or even atop cheese and crackers.

Peach Chutney
  • 6 ripe peaches
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 jalepeno pepper, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 T fresh lime juice
Bring first 6 ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan.  Reduce heat so low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

Stir in jalepeno and cover again.  Simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Stir in parsley & lime juice and cool to room temperature before serving.



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Roasted Acorn Squash

Acorn squash is one of those easy-yet-elegant side dishes that is just so good, you think you should be punished for eating it with dinner rather than a dessert.  This winter squash is just beginning to appear on local farmstands and I am happy to welcome it here!

Try this method for a simple yet satisfying accompaniment to your next meal.  It is so effortless that with a small head start, you could add this to any weeknight meal for a special touch.

Roasted Acorn Squash
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 & 1/2 T butter
  • 2-3 T brown sugar
  • 2 T chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut acorn squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds, making little bowls.  Place the bowls in a baking dish.

Divide butter in each "bowl" and top with brown sugar.  Add walnuts and roast in center rack of oven for 40-50 minutes.  Don't be afraid, it is hard to overcook this squash!

That's all!  I told you it was easy ;)




Monday, August 23, 2010

Meatless Monday - Roasted Cauliflower Gratin

I am growing terribly upset that summer is almost over.  Though it is still quite hot outdoors, summer vegetables are less abundant.  I love fall veggies but there is nothing quite as bright and ethereal as those produced in June or July.

Making my way through a recent delivery of local, farm-fresh veggies, I pondered what to do with a head of Cauliflower.  A self-proclaimed Gruyere maniac, I thought there would be no better dish suited for this delectable white vegetable.

Roasted Cauliflower Gratin
  • 1 medium (about 2 lb.) head cauliflower trimmed and cut into florets
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • /2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese, divided
  • 2 T finely chopped chives
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups fat milk
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  • 3 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and white pepper
Preheat oven to 400°.

Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray and add florets.  Season with salt and white pepper, toss to distribute.  Bake for 30 minutes, remove from oven and set aside.

Preheat oven to broil.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then remove from heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs. Stir in 1/4 cup of the cheese and all of the chives.

Heat canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion to pan; saute 4 minutes or until almost tender.

Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add flour and stir over heat for a minute to get rid of the raw flour taste.  Gradually whisk in the milk and bring to a boil.  Cook, stirring constantly, until milk has thickened, 3 or 4 minutes. 

Remove from heat and stir in remaining 1/4 cup cheese, parsley, nutmeg, 1/4 tsp of salt and a large pinch of white pepper. Pour milk mixture over cauliflower mixture and top with the cheese mixture.  Broil 3 minutes or until golden brown and thoroughly heated.

Stay tuned for a recipe for another late-summer produce gem appearing in markets across the regions... acorn squash!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rice Pudding

Rice pudding reminds me of my childhood, my mom always has a container of Kozy Shack rice pudding in the fridge.  We would serve up a bowl, sprinkle with cinnamon & sugar, and enjoy this unique treat.

This recipe is a very easy & quick way to enjoy this time-honored dessert.

Rice Pudding
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • pinch of salt
  • Cinnamon
In a small pot, add the rice and cover with water.  Cook on medium heat to bring to a slow boil.  Once water is boiling, cook for 5 minutes.  Drain in a colander and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In the same pot, add milk and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, add sugar and vanilla bean, and cover for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove the vanilla bean and scrape the little seeds out with a sharp knife.  Add the seeds to the milk and stir in the pinch of salt.

Add the rice to the milk and bring to a boil.  Empty all contents into an 8x8 baking dish. 

Bake for 20 minutes, until think and bubbly.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve warm.



Thursday, August 12, 2010

Marinated Grilled Steak

Grilling a steak isn't that hard, but I often wonder how restaurants achieve such a tender, juicy cut of meat.  The trick: marinating.  Not only does marinating your meats supply a wonderful tenderness, but it also infuses your meat with an extra POW of flavor. 

Marinating requires a bit of forethought.  You want to marinate anything for an absolute minimum for 1 hour, up to 24 hours.  My fiances father even told me he sometimes marinates his steaks for 3 days!  A simple marinade is just dumping a bottle of good Italian dressing over your cuts of chicken or beef and leave it to bathe in the fridge for several hours.  Marinating with lime or lemon juice and olive oil is a good idea, too.  When marinating with citrus, be careful not to leave it for longer than an hour.  The acid in the juice actually begins to cook the meat!

This is a wonderful recipe for marinating strip steaks, or any other fine cut of grilling meat.

Marinated Strip Steaks
  • 2 strip steaks (about 16 oz. each)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 bottle of dark beer
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds & ribs removed and finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
Season both sides of steaks with salt and pepper, then brush with olive oil.  Place in a dish, just large enough to fit the steaks. 

In a medium bowl, combine beer, lime juice, jalapeno, onion, garlic, and parsley or cilantro to make the marinade.  Pour over the steaks, cover, and marinate for 2-6 hours.  The longer you marinate, the more flavorful and tender your meat will be.

Heat grill to direct, high heat.  Remove steaks from marinade, pat dry with paper towels, and season with more salt and pepper.  To grill steaks to medium-rare (in my opinion, the best way to get the most flavorful steak) for 4-6 minutes per side.

Transfer plate to a platter and cover loosely with foil, let rest for 5-10 minutes.

Serve and enjoy.  No need for steak sauce here!!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Food News: A Great Article on the Meat Free movement!

NPR recently ran a story on the history of Meatless Monday and how people everywhere are trying to spread the word.  Read the article here.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Chicken stock

Using the remains after the organic roast chicken I made earlier in the week, I made a flavorful chicken stock to use later on, when the weather starts to get a bit chillier, and I am craving some good homemade soup.

Making chicken stock takes a little bit of inactive time, but it is extremely simple and well worth the end results!  You just can't buy the same essence in a pre-made stock.

Chicken Stock
  • The remains from a 5-lb. roasting chicken, including the giblets
  • 1 large yellow onion, unpeeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots, unpeeled and halved
  • 2 stalks of celery, with leaves, halved
  • 1 large handful of fresh parsley sprigs 
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 5 or 6 whole cloves of garlic
  • 1 T of kosher salt
  • 1 T whole black peppercorns
Throw all ingredients in a large stock pot.  Fill with water until about 2" to the top of the pot.

Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 3-4 hours.

Strain the liquid into storage container, the large soup containers from Chinese take-out work perfectly for this.  Store in your refrigerator for 4-5 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

It's that easy!


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Roast Chicken and Asian Noodles

Earlier this week, I wrote about making a roast chicken for a satisfying weekend meal.  I wrote how I used the remainder of the meat for another meal, and the remainder of the chicken after that to make chicken stock.  So resourceful, if I do say so myself...

Here is the recipe for this meal, which puts some seasonal produce to work...

Roast Chicken and Asian Noodles
  • 1 cup sliced leftover roast chicken
  • 1/2 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
  • 8 oz. sugar snap peas
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions, sliced into 1" pieces
For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 T rice wine vinegar
  • 3 T soy sauce (I like Pearl River Soy Sauce)
  • 1 T + 2 tsp. dark sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. honey (if you measure this in the same spoon as the sesame oil, the oil allows the honey to slide right out of the spoon)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. grated ginger
To finish:
  • 2 T toasted sesame seeds
  • 1-2 T chopped fresh parsley
  • Small handful of roasted, salted peanuts
Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water to package directions.  Remove spaghetti with tongs & set aside. 

Add snap peas to the water, return to a boil, and cook 3-5 minutes, until bright green and crisp tender.  Remove snap peas with a spider or slotted spoon and place in an ice bath to stop the cooking.  Drain.

To make the dressing, whick together the canola oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, garlic, ginger, and peanut butter in a medium bowl.

Combine the spaghetti, snap peas, peppers, and scallions in serving bowl.  Pour the dressing over the mixture, bit by bit, until your liking.  You may not use all of the dressing.

Garnish with sesame seeds, parsley, and peanuts.

Serve, and enjoy!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It all began with an organic chicken...

One whole chicken, so many uses.  This past weekend, I summoned my inner-Barefoot Contessa and whipped up a delicious roast chicken for Ryan and myself.  This ambrosial bird provided not one, but two meals' worth of meat... and that was only the beginning!

Serving the roast chicken with roasted sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions provided a gourmet weekend dinner for 2.  There was enough meat left over for a second meal, so I blithely contained the remains and stored them away in my refrigerator for a meal later in the week; a gratifying Roast Chicken and Asian Noodles.

With the remains of the chicken (I just can't bring myself to use the word "carcass" when describing food), after carving all of its moist, flavorful meat off the bone, plus the giblets which I set aside, I made chicken stock.  Sure, you can buy chicken stock at the grocery store, or even doctor up some boring ol' chicken broth by adding bullion and other flavors, but nothing - NOTHING - beats the flavor of homemade chicken stock.  I froze the chicken stock to use later to make a hearty soup.

One chicken, three potential meals.  Nothing went unused.  That is what I call a superfood!

Check back later this week for my Roast Chicken and Asian Noodles and Chicken Stock recipes.

Roast Chicken and Vegetables
  • 1 5-6 lb. organic roasting chicken  
  • Kosher salt  
  • Freshly ground black pepper  
  • About 30-40 sprigs of thyme, divided 
  • 1 lemon, halved  
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise  
  • 2 T butter, melted 
  • 2 sweet potatoes, diced into 1" chunks
  • 1 large onion, sliced into about 1" slices
  • 4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks 
  • Olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the chicken giblets, save for making chicken stock.

Rinse the chicken inside and out, pat the outside dry with paper towels.

Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with half of the thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic.

Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Place in the center of a roasting pan, cross the legs and tie together with kitchen string .  Tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.

Place the potatoes, onions, and carrots around the chicken. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, the remainder of the thyme, and olive oil.

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Place the chicken on a platter and surround with vegetables.  Cover with aluminum foil for about 15 minutes to allow the juices in the chicken to redistribute.

Carve, serve, and enjoy!

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