Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Quesadilla Me!

Since I know my grandmom likes quesadillas, I decided to try a quesadilla pie tonight. We had a salad with it, very simple dinner, very tasty.

Quesadilla Pie
Crust for 2-crust 9" pie
1 c. chopped onion
1 tbsp. butter
1 chopped tomato
4 oz. can sliced olives
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 eggs
2-3 drops hot sauce
4 oz. shredded Monterey Jack
4 oz. shredded Cheddar
Sour cream
Salsa (I am partial to Newman's Own)
Put crust in pie plate. Put oven rack in lowest position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook onions in butter until tender. Add tomato, olives, seasonings. Beat eggs with hot sauce. Reserve 2 teaspoons of egg mixture. Add 1/2 cup of each cheese to eggs. Put rest of cheese in bottom of pie crust. Spoon onion mixture in. Pour egg mixture over and spread evenly. Put on top crust and seal. Vent the crust (it's fun to do this with mini cookie cutters). Brush with reserved egg mixture. Bake 45-55 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before cutting. Serve with sour cream and salsa. (I think some green chiles would be good in this, too, just a little can)

Barbecue and Banana Pudding

Today, my aunt Jeanie and I went shopping and then had lunch at City Barbecue in Beavercreek. I'd been wanting to try the Centerville location since it opened several years ago so I was glad when Jeanie said barbecue sounded good to her. When I first moved back to Ohio after living in a little farm town west of Nashville for a few years, I loudly bemoaned the lack of good barbecue. This has been remedied. I have found three spots that have the real thing now. Rudy's Smokehouse Barbecue in Springfield is up to par, as is Bubba's Q in Avon. Now, I can add City Barbecue to the list. I'd heard good buzz on the place and expected it to be decent, but was surprised by how very good the food was, how perfect the sweet tea and how kind the staff.

It's strictly casual, with a counter for ordering and big round metal trays to carry your sandwich, on waxed paper, to a table. The fact that there are tables sets it apart from a number of great joints I used to hit in Tennessee, but that didn't diminish it for me. Had the weather been a smidge warmer, we could have sat outside, but it was comfy inside, too, with old signs on the walls and the blues playing on the sound system. As far as I'm concerned, blues and country are the only proper music for a barbecue joint.

We both chose the pulled pork sandwiches, but Jeanie got hers North Carolina style, with vinegar sauce and slaw on top, while I had mine straight up. They were piled high with extremely tender meat that really had been slow-cooked and had acres of flavor. The tables were graced with a number of sauces to try. I went for the original, a red-brown sauce with a nice balance of sweet and smoky. I had a side of mac & cheese, one of the world's most perfect foods. It was the creamy kind with a heavy hint of cheese, tasting like someone's mama made it. I also had a side of thin-sliced cukes and onions in a sweet vinegary sauce, a refreshing accompaniment I found at add-a-dishes during my Tennessee tenure.

When I'd finished my meal, I found that I really did want to try that banana pudding. Banana pudding is something I wouldn't even touch until I lived in the South. Now, however, I am very fond of it. My auntie had been smart and picked up a serving with her meal. I went back for it, saying, "I decided I need the banana pudding." Amazingly, the woman at the counter told me, "It's okay. You're fine" when I opened my purse to pay. It was almost like hanging out with family and boy, was that pudding good! It wasn't fancied up at all, but just like something from a southern grandma's kitchen. While I adore the Max and Erma's yankeefied rendition of banana pudding, this was, like the meat, the real deal. Beautiful!

Fish Night at Clyde's Dale

Last night, I tried a Bon Appetit recipe for tilapia with balsamic butter sauce, had steamed rice and green beans on the side. The fish turned out lovely. My auntie has a rice cooker from Japan and the rice was splendid. I'd always kind of pooh-poohed the whole rice cooker idea since my rice usually turns out good, but the texture was very nice and it kept the rice warm for us while I finished the rest. Jeanie made an absolutely delicious strawberry spinach salad to go with it all. That made a great dessert for me!

Tilapia with Balsamic Butter Sauce
2 tbsp. olive oil
6 (4-5 oz.) tilapia fillets
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1 minced clove garlic
1 stick chilled butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
Simmer vinegar and garlic until reduced to a thick syrup, about 5 minutes. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in each of 2 skillets, on high. Salt and pepper the fish. Sauté until golden, about 2 minutes per side. On medium-low heat, whisk the butter into the balsamic reduction, 1 piece at a time. Serve over fish. Serves 6.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Light Dinners

Since my aunt Jeanie and I are both trying to lose weight, I made a couple of light dinners this week. Last night, we had garlic shrimp with jasmine rice and spinach salad. I like the Cuban version better, but this was pretty good and terribly easy. It was also easy to do so that my grandmom didn't have to have garlic in hers. Tonight, it was a not-completely-traditional version of sopa de albóndigas, Mexican meatball soup. It's rainy in Ohio tonight, so it was a good soup night.

Garlic Shrimp
2 lb. large frozen, cooked, ready-to-eat shrimp
2-3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. butter
Pinch cayenne
1/2 c. minced flat-leaf parsley
Thaw and rinse shrimp. Pat dry. Put in microwave-safe bowl. Top with garlic. Dot with butter. Microwave on high for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Stir well. Sprinkle lightly with cayenne and add parsley. Makes about 50. I added a little fresh lemon juice, too.
Mexican Meatball Soup
1 lb. lean ground beef
2 eggs
2 oz. diced pimiento
1/3 c. chopped parsley
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. cumin
Salt & pepper
4 (14 oz.) cans reduced-sodium beef broth
1 tsp. hot sauce
2 diced carrots
2 diced zucchini
2 diced tomatoes
1 chopped onion
1 chopped green pepper
3 c. shredded cabbage
Mix beef, eggs, pimiento, parsley, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper together. Shape into 1" balls. Bring broth and hot sauce to a boil in a large pot. Add meatballs. Return to a boil. Reduce heat and skim off any foam that has formed. Add all the vegetables but cabbage. Simmer, covered, on medium-low heat for 25 minutes. Add cabbage and cook 5 minutes.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Chicken Fattoush

This is my adaptation of a WW recipe. I think their version has 8 Points per serving. This is probably the same. I served it with red grapes, Marcona almonds and Boursin cheese.

2 tsp. + 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. chicken breast, scalloppine-style, cut in thin strips
3 pita rounds, toasted and cut in thin strips
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 English cucumber, sliced
1 red onion, sliced very thin
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp. mint, cut in chiffonade
3/4 tsp. cumin
Salt & pepper

Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in skillet on medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken and add to skillet. Sauté until cooked-through and golden. Put in large bowl with pita strips. Add rest and toss thoroughly. Serves 4. Easy and fresh-tasting! I don't think this is completely authentic because there is no sumac or za'atar, but it is good and doesn't make my mouth itch the way sumac does.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Ridin' the Range Once More

Just a quick one, though, before I hit the mall with my wife and boys. I made a Bolognese sauce that turned out not so great for Friday night. It was fine and my 15 y.o. really liked it, but I was disappointed with it. I guess I expected more since I followed the recipe to the T and put a lot more effort into it than I usually do spaghetti sauce. It was just kind of boring. Oh, well, the bucati from Trader Joe's that we had it over was fabulous. That's my new favorite pasta shape. Last night, we had burgers with chili and cheese, Cowboy burgers. Pie chose to eat his plain, but I would definitely eat them with chili again. I was lazy and just opened a can of Campbell's chili. I think they'd be much better with my own chili, but it was easy and quick, which is always good when the fam's been swimming at the rec center and is really hungry. I served a baby greens and herbs salad, fries and tangerines with the burgers and we had a Sara Lee cherry pie for dessert at the request of my oldest.