June 29, 2011

Pasta with Ruby Chard and Cranberries

My mother sent me the link to this recipe (thanks!). I loved the strong garlic with sweet cranberries and earthy chard. Yum.

A little secret: I never, ever cook up a pound of pasta at a time. Most pasta recipes call for a pound of pasta, which is entirely way too much for two people. I always use a half pound (or less) and still have enough for leftovers. If I have too many leftovers, I get really tired of the dish and then don't want to make it anymore.

Pasta with Ruby Chard and Cranberries
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking For Health by Joanne

1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 lb chunky-shaped whole grain pasta, like penne
3 bunches ruby or red swiss chard (1.5-2 lb)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When it comes to a rapid boil, ladle a few tbsp of it into a bowl. Add the dried cranberries and set aside to soak. Cook the pasta until al dente and drain.

2. While the water heats, rinse the chard and remove the bottom 1/2 inch of the stems. Discard. Cut the remaining stems crosswise into 1/2 inch slices and set aside. Chop the leaves. Set aside.

3. While the pasta cooks, warm the oil in a large soup pot on high heat. Add the chard stems and saute for a minute. Add the garlic and the chard leaves and cook, uncovered, stirring often, until the chard is limp but the leaves are still bright green, about 5 minutes. Stir in the salt. Add a sprinkling of black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.

4. Drain the soaked cranberries. Divide the pasta into serving bowls and top with the garlicky chard, plump hot cranberries, and toasted walnuts. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

June 28, 2011


Tabbouleh is a Lebanese salad made primarily of herbs. It's crisp and fresh and delicious. It also has a sprinkling of fine-grain bulgur and tomatoes. I ate it with pita bread and homemade hummus, which has to be my favorite vegetarian sandwich.

from David Lebovitz

3 tablespoons (30g) fine bulgur
3 medium (600g) firm ripe tomatoes, diced into small cubes
2 (50g) spring onions or scallions, trimmed and very thinly sliced
14 ounces (400g) flat-leaved parsley, most of the stalks discarded, leaves washed and dried
2 cups (20g) mint leaves (no stems), washed and dried
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (or Lebanese seven-spice mixture)
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
salt to taste
juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
2/3 cup (150ml) extra virgin olive oil

4 gem lettuce heads, washed and quartered

1. Rinse the bulgur in several changes of cold water. Drain well and put in a bowl. Stir it with a fork every now and then to help it fluff up.

2. Put the diced tomatoes in a bowl and set aside while you prepare the herbs. A word of warning: do not chop the herbs with a mezzaluna. This will only bruise them.

Using a razor-sharp knife, grab as much of the parsley and mint as you can handle in a bunch, and slice them very thin, to end up with nice, crisp slender strips.

3. Drain the tomatoes of their juice and put in a large bowl. Add the spring onion and herbs. Sprinkle the bulgur all over. Season with the cinnamon, allspice and pepper. Add salt to taste. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Serve immediately with the quartered gem lettuce.

June 27, 2011

Pasta Salad with Mozzarella, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Olives

In a desperate attempt to make dinner while running low on ingredients, I found I had all needed for this pasta salad. I have soft spot for intensely flavored items like capers, cured olives, and marinated sun-dried tomatoes.

I'm not too wordy lately...I apologize if you wanted some entertainment.

Pasta Salad with Mozzarella, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Olives
adapted from Bon Appétit by The Parsley Thief

6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoons capers, drained
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 pound Campenelle pasta
1 large red-ripe tomato, diced
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into chunks
1 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted & halved

Add the olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, red wine vinegar, capers, & garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Blend until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain & transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the dressing & toss to coat. Cool to room temperature, tossing occasionally.

Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, Parmesan, & olives. Toss to combine. Taste & season with salt & pepper, if needed.

June 25, 2011

Millet Muffins

Millet is a gluten-free whole grain, a staple in Africa, India and Northern China, which may be why I'm not familiar with it. Added raw to these muffins, it provides a delightful crunch. These slightly sweet, slightly lemon flavored muffins are a perfect breakfast food. I made a batch and put half of them in the freezer to pull out as needed. They pair well with strawberry jam.

Millet Muffins
from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

2 1/4 c./10 oz. whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 c./2 oz. raw millet
1 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. fine-grain sea salt
1 c./8 oz. plain yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. barely melted unsalted butter
1/2 c. honey
grated zest and 2 Tbsp. juice from 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 F with a rack in the top third of the oven. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan or line with paper liners.

Whisk together the flour, millet, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, butter, honey, and lemon zest and juice until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until the flour is just incorporated. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, spooning a heaping 1/4 cup batter into each one, filling it a bit below the rim.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the muffin tops are browned and just barely beginning to crack. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn the muffins out of the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 12 muffins.

June 23, 2011

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar and Cream

It's been a strawberry party at my place lately. Aren't these local strawberries luscious with red centers, not white? I recently discovered how fabulous balsamic vinegar tastes, even quite exposed, like in this recipe. Someday I hope to try this with a high quality, aged balsamic vinegar.

This recipe was simple and delightful. I kept the cream unsweetened, but feel free to add powdered sugar and vanilla.

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar and Cream

Slice fresh strawberries and add a splash of balsamic vinegar and sugar. Let sit for a half hour. Serve topped with unsweetened whipped cream.

Tips for whipping cream:
- put the bowl, beaters, and cream in the freezer for 15 minutes before whipping
- use heavy cream
- if your kitchen is hot, set the whipping bowl inside a larger bowl filled with ice for added chill

June 21, 2011

Lemon-Zested Bulgur Wheat

My continued quest to incorporate more whole foods into my diet not only includes fruits and vegetables, but also whole grains. I just checked out a great cookbook from the library called Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck. The introductory section has a section that gives basic information about many different grains and their common preparation. It's very helpful and I can't wait to try some of the recipes too.

From the book, I learned that bulgur wheat, which is made by boiling whole wheat, and then drying and cracking it, has the bran removed but still has a high amount of fiber (higher than some other whole grains like quinoa). It is sold in various sizes, like fine, medium and coarse, and the size will affect the cooking time. So while bulgur is not a strict whole grain because it has been processed, it is still very healthy and worth eating. Let's face it - whole wheat is usually changed or processed in some manner so that it's more edible, and bulgur is a valuable product.

Heidi Swanson is a genius - this simple preparation for bulgur was delish. Try this breakfast cereal alternative to expand your grain-cooking repertoire.

Lemon-Zested Bulgur Wheat
from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

1 cup coconut milk
about 1 1/2 cups water
1 cup fine or medium bulgur
1/2 tsp. fine-grain sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. poppy seeds
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 Tbsp. honey, or to taste
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the coconut milk and 3/4 cup of the water to a simmer. Stir in the bulgur, bring the mixture just to a boil, then dial down the heat and simmer the mixture, stirring often, for 5 to 20 minutes, or until the bulgur is creamy but still retains some texture. The size of the bulgur grains will dictate how long they need to cook. If the liquid in the pan is absorbed before the bulgur has fully cooked, stir in more water, 1/4 cup at a time, until done. Stir in the poppy seeds, lemon zest, and honey. Serve hot in individual bowls topped with the toasted almonds. Serves 4.

June 20, 2011

Butterflied Roast Chicken and Potatoes

I've been making this roast chicken for several years and love it every once in a while, but lately I prefer this simple roasted chicken. But if you want something with more character, try this recipe, as you can add herb-flavored butter for varying flavors.

In this recipe, the butterfly method allows the chicken to cook faster than if left whole. Using a broiler pan, the chicken sits on top with potatoes in the bottom, so the fat and juices from the chicken drip down and flavor the potatoes, which is sinfully good.

Butterflied Roast Chicken with Potatoes
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

1 c. kosher salt OR 1/2 c. table salt, for brine
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 whole chicken, 3 1/2 to 4 lbs, giblets removed, fat around cavity removed
2 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes (4 to 5 medium) or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick
Vegetable cooking spray
3 Tbsp. butter or flavored butter - see note
1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil
¾ tsp. table salt
ground black pepper

Dissolve salt and sugar in 2 qts. Cold water in large container. Immerse chicken and refrigerate until fully seasoned, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Line bottom of broiler pan with foil and spray with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.

Remove chicken from brine and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Cut through bones on either side of backbone, then remove and discard backbone. Flip chicken over and use the heel of your hand to flatten breastbone. Slip your fingers between skin and breast, loosening the membrane. Scoop some of the butter onto a spoon, slide it under breast skin, and push off with your fingers. Work butter under skin to cover breast evenly. Work remaining butter under skin on each drumstick and thigh. Transfer to a broiling rack and push legs up to rest between thighs and breast. Thoroughly pat chicken dry with paper towels.

Toss potatoes with 1 Tbsp. oil, salt, and pepper to taste in medium bowl. Spread potatoes in even layer in foil-lined broiler pan bottom. Place broiler pan rack with chicken on top. Rub chicken with remaining 1 1/2 tsp. oil and sprinkle with pepper.

Roast chicken until spotty brown, about 20 minutes. Rotate pan and continue to roast until skin has crisped and turned a deep brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 160° in thickest part of breast, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to cutting board. With potholders, remove broiler pan rack; soak up excess grease from potatoes with several sheets of paper towels. Remove foil liner with potatoes from broiler pan bottom and invert foil and potatoes onto cookie sheet or second cutting board. Carefully peel back foil, using a metal spatula to help scrape potatoes off foil as needed. With additional paper towels, pat off remaining grease. Cut chicken into serving pieces and serve with potatoes.

Note: To make flavored butter, soften butter and add desired seasonings - dried or fresh herbs. Mix to combine.

June 18, 2011

Peach Berry Crumble

I had an abundance of fruit recently that I needed to use up. I had fresh peaches and strawberries that I thought would pair well together, but ended up adding frozen blueberries waiting patiently in the freezer too. This fruit crumble was delightful; I especially liked the addition of almonds to the crumble crust. I love the fruits of summer!

Peach Berry Crumble
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 large lemon)
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound medium strawberries or mixed berries, strawberries halved
1 1/2 pounds yellow or white peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup light brown sugar

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup old fashioned style oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.

For the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and flour until smooth. Add the strawberries/berries, peaches and brown sugar. Gently toss until the fruit is coated. Pour the fruit mixture into the prepared pan.

For the topping: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, oats, almonds, brown sugar, cinnamon, and sea salt. Pulse until mixed. Add the butter. Pulse until the butter is the size of peas. Sprinkle the mixture over the filling and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the top is light golden. Cool the crumble for 5 minutes.

Spoon the warm crumble into bowls and serve with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.

June 17, 2011

Dessert Crepes

Dessert crepes are so easy and so wonderful. They are extra easy if you make the crepes (see this recipe) ahead of time and freeze them (stack with wax paper in between each crepe and store in a gallon-sized ziploc bag). When ready to serve, warm them in a skillet over medium-low heat or in the microwave.

Crepes with Nutella and Strawberries

strawberries, sliced

On a warm crepe, spread Nutella. Roll up crepe and top with strawberries. Voilà!

Crepes with Lemon and Sugar

fresh lemon juice
granulated sugar

On a warm crepe drizzle fresh lemon juice. Then sprinkle sugar on top to soak up the lemon juice. Roll up crepe and enjoy.

June 14, 2011

Pasta alla Gricia

A year ago I posted a pasta recipe and mentioned my quest to replicate the best pasta dish I've ever had. I've tried several recipes, and while none have quite lived up to the pasta in my memory, this one is definitely worth repeating.

The pasta dish I'm seeking after is one I had in Rome that was made with rigatoni, cheese, olive oil, black pepper, and tiny, tasty morsels that were most likely guanciale. Guanciale is a pork product with a very high fat content (like bacon). I was able to find guanciale in the amazing international grocery store in town. I bought a half pound piece and divided into four sections and froze them to use as needed.

This recipe has the added ingredient of onions, so it's not The Dish, but it tastes great. Also, rigatoni has recently become a favorite pasta. Don't overcook it - keep it al dente for a slight chew.

Pasta alla Gricia
from the New York Times

1 pound bucatini or rigatoni
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, sliced thin
6 ounces guanciale, in 1-inch slivers 1/4-inch thick
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated aged pecorino cheese, more for serving

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add bucatini or rigatoni.

2. Meanwhile, place a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, onion and guanciale. Cook until onion is translucent and barely starting to brown. Remove from heat.

3. When pasta is al dente, drain it, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Transfer pasta to skillet, place over medium-low heat and toss with guanciale and onion. Season with salt and generously with pepper; fold in about half the pasta water and the cheese. Toss, adding more pasta water as needed to help cheese coat pasta. Check seasoning and serve, with more cheese on the side.

June 13, 2011

Stir-Fried Vegetables

There's a new vendor at the farmer's market who sells beautiful mushrooms. He even sells kits so people can grow their own (no manure involved). He explained the process - it's fascinating, though too complex for me to try and recount.

After having bought shiitake mushrooms without any specific plans, I had to come up with one. I found a recipe for a vegetable dish that got me inspired to do this simple preparation for mixed vegetables: stir-fry them with a simple flavoring of garlic and ginger. I am in love! The first time I used shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, red bell pepper, and onions. The second time (pictured): shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, snap peas, swiss chard, and onions. The mushrooms had a nice, meaty texture contrast to the other vegetables.

Stir-Fried Vegetables

olive oil
garlic clove, minced
fresh ginger, grated
onions, diced
choice of vegetables: broccoli, thinly sliced carrots, shredded bok choy or cabbage, red bell pepper, mushrooms, sugar or snow peas, etc.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil. After the oil is hot, add one garlic clove, minced and 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger. Saute for 1 minute. Add chopped vegetables (1 head broccoli, cut into florets; 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces, 2 Tbsp. onion, diced, and 1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms) to skillet. Stir-fry (which means actively stir the vegetables while they cook) for 3 minutes. Then cover the skillet and cook for 3 more minutes. Sprinkle with a little salt.

For a more substantial meal, add diced tofu with the vegetables. Serve with a splash of soy sauce over rice.

Two handy tools to make this a snap: garlic press and microplane zester.

June 10, 2011

Baked Oatmeal

This is the best oatmeal I've ever eaten. I almost thought I was eating dessert, yet it's not overly sweet. My favorite part was the bananas that form the bottom layer - warm bananas warm my heart. I made this one day and ate it for breakfast the rest of the week - it still tasted great stored in the refrigerator and rewarmed.

Triple endorsement: my friend made this recipe as well and she and her husband loved it too. We both used blueberries for the berry element.

Baked Oatmeal
from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

2 cups/7 oz/200 g rolled oats
1/2 cup/2 oz/60 g walnut pieces, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup/2 oz/60 g natural cane sugar or maple syrup, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 cups/475 ml milk
1 large egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2-inch/1 cm pieces
1 1/2 cups/6.5 oz/185 g huckleberries, blueberries, or mixed berries

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C with a rack in the top third of the oven. Generously butter the inside of an 8-inch/20cm square baking dish.

In a bowl, mix together the oats, half the walnuts, the sugar, if using, the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, if using, the milk, egg, half of the butter, and the vanilla.

Arrange the bananas in a single layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle two-thirds of the berries over the top. Cover the fruit with the oat mixture. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture over the oats. Gently give the baking dish a couple thwacks on the countertop to make sure the milk moves through the oats. Scatter the remaining berries and remaining walnuts across the top.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and the oat mixture has set. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Drizzle the remaining melted butter on the top and serve. Sprinkle with a bit more sugar or drizzle with maple syrup if you want it a bit sweeter.

June 7, 2011

Pork Medallions with Mustard Sauce

This dish is super easy and very flavorful. Pork tenderloin is pretty moist and tender, so it's hard to mess this dish up. Since the sauce has an intense flavor, I like to serve it with rice. Add a vegetable side dish for a complete meal that is restaurant-worthy!

Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Creamy Mustard Sauce
from my mother

2 Tbsp. butter
1 whole pork tenderloin (about 1 pound), sliced into 1-inch thick medallions
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. sour cream
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. white pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh minced dill or 1 tsp. dried

Heat butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Add pork medallions and cook until browned, 5 minutes per side. Remove pork from skillet; cover and keep warm. Add garlic to skillet; cook 30 seconds. Add chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits. Simmer liquid 2 to 3 minutes to reduce. Remove skillet from heat and very slowly whisk in sour cream, mustard, white pepper and dill.

Return pork to skillet along with any juices that have accumulated. Cook pork over medium-low heat 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a platter and pour sauce over pork. Serve immediately, with rice, if desired.

June 6, 2011

Reuben Sandwich

One of my all-time favorite sandwiches is the Reuben. The combination of flavors is just perfect, but any sandwich pan-toasted in butter and served warm can't go wrong. After I made rye bread, Reuben sandwiches were the obvious solution to use up some of the loaf.

Someday I'll have to try my hand at homemade corned beef and sauerkraut, but for now high-quality deli products work well.

Reuben Sandwich

1/2 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
rye bread
swiss cheese, sliced
corned beef

Mix ketchup, mayonnaise, and relish in a small bowl to make sauce. Set aside. Butter two pieces of rye bread. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add bread, unbuttered side down. Heat for a minute. Flip bread over and add swiss cheese, a pile of beef and a good helping of sauerkraut. Top with the other piece of bread. Cook for a few minutes. When golden brown, flip the sandwich over. Cook the other side until golden brown. Remove from skillet to a plate. Lift up one piece of bread and spread a tablespoon or so of sauce. Serve immediately.