Monday, March 31, 2008

Fish Tacos

Last week I made fish tacos with some great trout that my father-in-law caught on one of his frequent fishing trips. It's great having such an outdoorsy father-in-law, especially when you reap the rewards of his hard work. To prepare the fish I cut the fillets into small chunks. I used the Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia coating for the trout and then fried them in a small amount of olive oil over medium heat for no more than 2 minutes per side. If your fish chunks were thicker you would need to increase cooking time. I let the fish nuggets drain on a paper towel while I got the rest of the taco fixings ready. I also chopped up a quick and easy pico de gallo- two plum tomatoes, 1/4 medium red onion, appx. a tablespoon of chopped cilantro, juice of half a lime, and a pinch of coarse salt. This is what I did, but really just eyeballing what's going into the ball and making sure that there is a good ratio of flavors will get you a good result. This was the first time I'd made pico de gallo and it was delicious. We had our fish tacos on warmed corn tortillas, with the pico, shredded green cabbage, and some sour cream. Josh added bit of cheese to his tacos as well. I have some more fish in the freezer and I'm thinking I need to make this meal again very soon.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mmminestrone With Collard Greens and White Beans

I'm going a bit out of order, as I still have Monday night's cooking to post about, but this soup was so good and easy that I felt the need to write about it now. This was my first time cooking with collard greens. I know that they are somewhat of a staple in Southern cooking, but that didn't seem to tempt me to get acquainted with them before. But I was looking for a simple vegetarian recipe for this week's menu and came across this one, from the October 2007 issue of Everyday Food. I was also painfully aware that I haven't really been trying new things, like I had resolved to do at the new year. This recipe certainly fit both those bills so I decided to give it a go. And I'm so glad that I did. Another healthy green added to our diet is definitely a good thing. Collard greens are rich in calcium, vitamins B1, B2, B9, C, beta carotene, and of course is a good source of fiber. So this is a soup that definitely packs a punch. So glad to have another great go-to soup recipe and to have had a great experience with collard greens.

Minestrone with Collard Greens and White Beans
Recipe from Everyday Food; Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 lb., about two bunches, collard greens, stalked removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 19 oz. cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
Grated Parmesan, for serving

  • In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, until onion is coated, about 30 seconds. Add collard greens, thyme, and red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until collards start to wilt, 2 to 4 minutes.
  • Place 1/4 of beans in a bowl, and mash them with the back of a spoon (this will help thicken soup). Add all the beans to the pan, as well as tomatoes with juice and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer, until collards are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; serve with grated Parmesan, if desired.
My notes: I used 2 15 oz. cans of beans. Where are these magical 19 oz. cans that keep popping up in my recipes? Make sure to clean your greens in several rinses of water, as they can have grit on the leaves. And definitely use the Parmesan, it adds a wonderful flavor. Josh really liked this soup too, and we are both looking forward to enjoying our leftovers for lunch. I think a smaller portion would make a great starter when we have our vegan friends over (minus the cheese for them, of course). And a big, steaming, flavorful bowl is just 260 calories! All those good vitamins and nutrients and so low in calories- you can follow it with a cookie!

Friday, March 21, 2008

My Monsieur

This pleasant sandwich is something that I love to make on the weekends. It's sort of a variation on the basic croque-monsieur idea. I use quality sourdough (I get mine from the Central Market bakery), smoked ham, and mozzarella. Add to that a little fresh ground black pepper and dried rosemary and it sends me over the moon. I generously butter my sourdough slices, top slice with mozzarella, sprinkle with pepper and rosemary, layer several slices of ham, and top with the second slice of bread. Toast over medium-high heat on each side, let set just a moment once it's done so that you can slice it without the cheese sliding too much, and then just enjoy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Penne With Broccoli and Some Ricotta for Good Measure

This is a recipe I made last week for a quick and easy dinner. And that it was. Recipes like these are going to be very helpful for me over the coming weeks, as it's Dancing With The Stars time again. Already you ask? Yes, thankfully. :) Anywho, I was looking for a veg recipe to fill in my weekly menu last week and I decided to go with this one, which had been on my to-try list for quite awhile. It's actually a recipe for one, so I just doubled it up and we were good to go. I ate mine with ricotta, and Josh ate his without. Either way, we both enjoyed it.

Penne with Broccoli
Recipe from Everyday Food; Serves 1

Coarse salt and ground pepper
3/4 cup penne
1 cup broccoli florets
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 small red onion, cut lengthwise into 1/2" thick slices
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese, room temperature

  • Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add penne, and cook 2 minutes less than package instructions for al dente; add broccoli. Cook 2 minutes or until penne is al dente and broccoli is bright green. Reserving 1/2 cup pasta water, drain pasta and broccoli; set aside.
  • In the same pan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until onion is tender and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add pasta water as needed to help loosen any browned bits from bottom of pan.
  • Add penne and broccoli, and cook until warmed through; season with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta mixture to a serving dish. Top with ricotta; season with salt and pepper.

Friday, March 14, 2008

More Yogurt Cake? Merci!

So, when I bought the yogurt I needed to make the Ina Garten yogurt cake, I ended up getting a big tub of it as I couldn't find any small containers at the store. Which left me with a lot of leftover yogurt. What should I do with it? Make another yogurt cake you say? I like your style. Because that is exactly what I did. This recipe comes from a wonderful book by Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini. Josh was kind enough to give me her Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures In A Parisian Kitchen as a Christmas gift. This was the first recipe I've made from it, but it won't be the last. I have so many pages tagged that I didn't know where to start, but having an excess of a key ingredient on hand helped me choose this cake. I'm planning on making this cake again this weekend to take over to the In-Law's for a Sunday afternoon lunch.

Yogurt Cake
Recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini

1/3 cup vegetable oil, plus 1 teaspoon to grease pan
1 cup plain unsweetened whole milk yogurt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon light or amber rum (optional but recommended)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Good pinch of fine sea salt

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the sides of a 10-inch round cake pan or springform pan with oil and line the bottom with parchment paper if the pan is not springform.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt and sugar. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla, oil, and rum, if using, and whisk again.
  • In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pour the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture, and whisk until just combined.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the pan to loosen. If you're using the springform pan, unclasp the sides. Otherwise, flip the cake onto a plate and flip it back on the rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
My notes: I didn't have any rum on hand, so I used 1 teaspoon almond extract, and it was delicious! Also, my cake pan is 9", so I had a bit of batter leftover that couldn't fit. But, I didn't think to reduce the cooking time a smidge, so at 35 minutes my cake is a very golden brown, ha. It didn't affect the taste at all though, but now I know to shave a couple minutes off. My friend Holly was over for a movie day, and despite her being an incredibly picky eater, she really liked the cake. Josh and I both loved it too! I look forward to making more great recipes from this fantastic book.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sausage, Pepper & Onion Sandwiches with Oven Frites

Josh and I both stayed home on Friday- me because it's my day off, he because it was his "snow day", despite the fact most of the snow we got had melted by sun up. Anyway, I usually don't cook Friday nights, but we had decided to go to Chipotle Thursday night instead. That left me holding the bag for Friday's dinner. I got the idea for these sandwiches from Jane at This Week For Dinner. She uses chicken sausage and mustard. I had some Italian pork sausages in the freezer, so I went in a slightly different direction. And these frites helped me keep up with one of my cooking resolutions as it comes from one of my cookbooks, The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: Original Classics. I got this for Christmas from my mother-in-law and it's chocked full of great recipes which I looked forward to trying, especially if they come out as nice as these frites did.

Sausage, Peppers, and Onion Sandwiches with Oven Frites
Recipes adapted from This Week For Dinner and Martha Stewart Original Classics

Sausage, Pepper and Onion Sandwiches
2 links Italian Pork Sausage
1 bell pepper (I prefer green), ribbed and seeded, sliced lengthwise
1/2 white onion, sliced
1/4-1/2 cup jarred spaghetti sauce
Olive oil
2 wheat buns

  • Butter the cut sides of your buns and toast in skillet over medium-high heat. Once toasted, wipe out frying pan carefully, to remove crumbs, and add olive oil. Add sausage to pan and cook till sides are well browned. Remove from pan.
  • Add more oil if necessary and add peppers and onions to pan. Season with salt; cook, stirring occasionally, till softened. Meanwhile, cut your sausages in half crosswise, then each half in half again lengthwise. Add sausage back to skillet, cut side down to make sure cooked through.
  • Once peppers and onions have softened and sausages are cooked through, add sauce and stir to combine. Divide between buns and serve.
Oven Frites
2 medium baking potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place a heavy-duty baking sheet in the oven. Scrub and rinse potatoes. Cut lengthwise into batons. Place potatoes in a medium bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • When baking sheet is hot, about 15 minutes, remove from oven; place prepared potatoes on baking sheet in a single layer. Return to oven, and bake until potatoes are golden on the bottom, about 30 minutes. Turn potatoes over, and continue cooking until golden all over, another 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
My notes: These sandwiches were delicious, but messy, ha. Almost like a pizza sandwich. Mmmmm. I used wheat hamburger buns because that's what I had, but the sandwiches would probably be a bit messier with split hoagie rolls. These frites were really good too, Josh commented on them several times. The only thing I'd do differently is cut them a bit thicker than I did. I'll definitely use this recipe again.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Salmon Burgers and Black Eyed Pea Salad

I was supposed to make these delicious Salmon Burgers Tuesday night, but I got all caught up in my civic duty and didn't have time, so they got shuffled to Wednesday night. I had been craving them for awhile, so I'm glad that I finally added them to the menu. This recipe makes 4, and I cook 2 and freeze the other 2 so I'll get to have them again real soon. I can't remember where I got this recipe at all. It's one of the first one's I tried when we started eating a bit better. At the time I had just scoured the interwebs for recipes, not paying much attention to where they were coming from. That was before I even had the idea to have a cooking blog. In fact, that search for recipes is what lead to my discovery of a lot of the food blogs I still read today. Anyway, I've got no idea where this one came from, but it's a keeper for sure. I served it with one of my favorite sides, Black Eyed Pea Salad. This dish is easy to throw together and has a great kick to it.

Salmon Burgers
Makes 4

16 oz. canned salmon, drained, cleaned and flaked
1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup fine, dry, unseasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 egg
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

  • In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients until well mixed. Divide into 4 equal parts and form 1/2" thick patties. Preheat a generously greased skillet on medium-high heat.
  • Cook 8-10 minutes or until browned, turning them after 4-5 minutes.
  • To freeze extra patties: place on waxed paper on baking sheet and flash freeze for at least 30 minutes. Then transfer to freezer bag or air-tight container and replace in freezer.
Black Eyed Pea Salad
Recipe from Everyday Food; Serves 4

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 10 oz. package frozen corn, thawed
1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • In a medium bowl, whisk mustard, vinegar and oil. Add all vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, toss to combine. Serve room temperature or slightly chilled.
My notes: See, didn't I tell you it was easy. Since the only real prep work is dicing the pepper and scallions I can pretty much get this salad together while my salmon burgers cook and everything is ready to go to the dinner table in a flash. This salad goes great with lots of things, from salmon, turkey, and beef burgers to some nice pork or chicken. Love it!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Tortellini with Peas, Please!

I made this quick and fast recipe last week. Really yummy, this is another recipe that I'd seen and had been floating around in my head, waiting for the day it would land on the menu. This is going to be a great recipe to add to the repertoire, because it truly is one of the easiest. Yum! It would be so easy to have the handful of ingredients in your kitchen at all times, leaving you with a super speedy meal when you just don't know what to make. It's also so fast to throw together it would make a good meal for last minute entertaining. In fact, with a main dish as easy as this, you could spend a little time on a great dessert and impress your guests with how quickly you brought dinner together in a crunch.

Tortellini with Peas
Recipe from Everyday Food; Serves 4

Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 lb. frozen cheese tortellini
1 10 oz. package frozen peas
2 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

  • In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook tortellini about 2 minutes less than package instructions. Add peas; cook until pasta is al dente and peas are tender, 2 minutes more. Reserving 1 cup pasta water, drain. Set aside pasta and peas.
  • Melt butter in pasta pot over medium-low heat. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Discard garlic.
  • To pasta pot, add pasta and peas, Parmesan, and 3/4 cup reserved pasta water; season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Add more pasta water, if necessary, to thin sauce. Serve, topped with additional Parmesan if desired.
My notes: Now see, how easy is that? Especially because frozen pasta takes no time at all to cook. My frozen tortellini took all of 3 minutes. This could also be delicious with a full-blown alfredo sauce, but I guess that would really push the calorie count up, ha.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

I had noticed this recipe before. It had wormed it's way into a back corner of my mind, and slept there, waiting for the day it would be awoken. And last week while I was planning my weekly menu, it finally arose. Molly mentioned it once again on her blog last week, which brought it to the forefront of my mind. I decided it would be perfect for this week, and as it turned out I picked the perfect night to make it. It was quite cold last night, and sleet came shining down most of the evening. This sauce was bright, but also very comforting. Josh is not always the biggest fan of sauce. He has been known to skip out on it completely and just coat is spaghetti with butter and Parmesan instead. But he seemed pleased to try this, and in fact had a second helping. Huzzah, a very simple and delicious sauce that my husband is happy to eat. In the future I would like to pull this recipe out for entertaining.

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
Recipe from Orangette, adapted from Marcella Hazan; Makes 4 servings

2 cups whole, peeled, canned plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juices (about one 28-oz. can)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt, to taste

  • Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter, and the onion halves in a medium saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, at a very slow but steady simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary, for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free from the tomato. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and salt as needed.
  • Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta.
My notes: I think one of the things that I really liked about this is that it reminded me very much of the simplest of simple meals my grandmother used to make when I was growing up- macaroni and tomato juice. Yep, that's about as simple as it gets, short of just dry macaroni. This had a similar, but so much fuller flavor. Loved this sauce. Try it. I added some cracked black pepper and a little freshly grated Parmesan. Josh added a lot of Parmesan, as per usual.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Lemon and Blueberry Yogurt Cake

This weekend I was in the mood to do some baking, and I was also in the mood to work on my cooking goals- to cook at least two recipes from all of my cookbooks this year. It was a really Springy day yesterday, great way to start off the month of March, which put me in the mood for something light and bright. I decided to try out Ina Garten's Lemon Yogurt Cake from The Barefoot Contessa At Home. While looking over the recipe I decided I would add a handful of the frozen blueberries I had- a special touch for Josh who loves blueberries. This turned out really good, although a little stouter than Ina's since my loaf pans dimensions are a bit wider than what the recipe called for. No matter, as it's all in the taste and the taste is great. Just finished off another slice before starting this post, as a matter of fact. :)

Lemon and Blueberry Yogurt Cake
Recipe from Ina Garten; Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cups vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/4 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease over paper and flour the pan.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into one bowl. In another bowl, whisk the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle in the blueberries, and top with the rest of the batter. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the load comes out clean.
  • Meanwhile, cook the 1/2 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
  • When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully, place cake on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.
My notes: The recipe also called for a glaze of 1 cup confectioners sugar with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, but I wanted to keep it a little lighter. Instead once the first pouring with lemon-sugar mixture had finished dripping off the cake and had soaked in, I poured the mixture from the baking sheet back into the measuring cup and made another pass over the cake with it. Doubling it over gave it a nice soft glaze, but kept it feeling light since it's not a hard icing. I really like this cake, and Josh remarked on it's great flavor several times while eating his slice. Definitely going to make this recipe again.

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