Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Prosciutto Bundles & Parmesan Wine Bread

Earlier this month, I made little prosciutto & date bundles, polenta, green beans, and Parmesan wine bread. It was delicious and really easy!

Parmesan Wine Bread
2 c. Bisquick
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 c. parmesan, grated
1/4 c. melted butter
1/4 c. dry white wine
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c. milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the first 3 together. Add 1/4 c. of the parmesan, along with butter, wine, egg, and milk. Mix well and spread evenly in greased 8" pie plate or cake pan. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Bake 20-25 minutes. Serve warm.

While the bread is baking, cook some instant polenta, adding parmesan. Steam or roast a mess of green beans. Then, wrap strips of prosciutto around Medjool dates (pitted ones) that have been stuffed with goat cheese. I bet this would be really terrific with fresh figs.

Potato & Black Bean Pancakes

This is a lovely dish to make for your favorite vegetarians (I made it for my mom, the ovo-lacto, & Jeannene, the flexitarian, in March), but it's also hearty enough for the carnivores you hold dear.

3 large potatoes, peeled, grated and squeezed dry
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 scallions, thinly-sliced
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
2 tbsp. white vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 c. flour
Oil for frying

Mix all but flour & oil. Add enough flour to hold it all together. Fry in oil as you would latkes. Good plain or with sour cream.

The same night, my mom made grapefruit spritzers:
Mix 4 c. pink grapefruit juice with 1 bottle dry white wine & 2/3 c. sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add thin slices of pink grapefruit & 2 c. sparkling water just before serving over ice.

Slaw Variation for Non-Slaw Eaters

I usually abhor coleslaw, but I love this veggie-licious side I made this spring:

Thousand Island Slaw

2 c. bagged coleslaw mix
1 c. zucchini, julienned
1/4 c. finely-chopped red onion
1/3 c. thousand island dressing

Mix veggies together. Toss with dressing. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Maple Balsamic Strawberries with Amaretti Topping

This superb dessert is a perfect light finish to a summer meal!

6 c. sliced strawberries
1/2 c. sugar
2 tbsp. amaretto
A drizzle of maple syrup
A drizzle of balsamic vinegar
7 Amaretti cookies, crushed (my preference is for Lazzaroni)
7 tbsp. sour cream

Mix strawberries with sugar & amaretto. Chill 4-8 hours. Spoon into 6 dishes. Drizzle with maple & balsamic. Top with sour cream & sprinkle with Amaretti.

Easy Summer Pita

What you put in this is entirely up to you, but for a simple & refreshing summer sandwich, I like to fill a pita half with salami, provolone, sliced olives, cucumber & green pepper slices, artichoke hearts, and Italian dressing. Good with potato salad and peach slices.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Simple Suppers for the Start of Summer

Last night & tonight, the dinners I made were quick & easy, just the sort of thing for our ridiculously hectic life. It was breakfast for dinner last night, with breakfast tarts, hash browns (pre-made from the refrigerator case at the grocery), cantaloupe, and strawberries.

Breakfast Tarts:
1 can (7.5 oz.) whomp biscuits
Finely diced cooked ham, 3-4 oz.
Shredded cheese (your favorite...I used a blend of 3 Cheddars)
4 eggs
A splash of milk
A healthy pinch of lemon pepper
A healthy pinch of parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 10 wells of a muffin tin. Press a biscuit in each, pushing up the sides to make a little cup. It won't cover the whole inside of the cup. Fill with ham & cheese. Mix rest & pour over ham & cheese. Place on baking sheet & bake 10-15 min. Let cool a few minutes before releasing from cups & serving. You could get really creative with these! Feta & olives, Brie & prosciutto...

Tonight's supper was Cobb sandwiches, Amy Sedaris' farmer's salad (or, my version, without her recommended sliced, cold baked potatoes because I forgot to bake them last night), & strawberries with Cindy's Kitchen fruit dip.

For the salad, I threw some spring mix in a bowl with sliced cucumbers, diced red onion, avocado chunks, roasted & salted sunflower seeds, golden raisins, really good olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, & pepper. Then, I tossed it well. Amy Sedaris recommends dandelion greens, but I didn't find any. It was superb anyway. I chopped some tomatoes for Jeannene's portion.

The Cobb sandwich idea came from Rachael Ray & it was crazy good. I cooked some bacon & toasted a couple English muffins. I mixed some blue cheese chunks with ranch dressing & sliced scallions. I tossed avocado slices with a little key lime juice. I put everything on the muffins, along with deli turkey, lettuce, and sliced tomato. Easy as can be!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Asparagus: Get It While It's Good!

Jeannene's most favorite vegetable is asparagus. She loves it so much that she cheerfully eats it year-round, lightly disregarding my disapproval. But right now, it still has the depth of flavor and the silken-crunchy texture I love. So, a couple weeks ago, I adapted a Nigella Lawson recipe from "Summer" to make a splendid asparagus pasta.

Cavatappi with Asparagus & Lemon
2 bunches asparagus, washed & trimmed
1/2 c. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice & zest of 1 lemon
1 lb. cavatappi or other short pasta
2 tbsp. parsley, chopped
Shaved Parmesan

Cut asparagus into 3/4 lengths, diagonally and leaving tips whole, and steam just a few minutes. Cook & drain the pasta. Warm garlic gently in the oil just until it turns golden. Add pasta & toss to coat. Add asparagus & lemon juice & toss again. Sprinkle with parsley & lemon zest. Serves 4.

I served this with an Italian beet salad from the same cookbook. It was beautiful and tasted very wonderful. Here's my adaptation:
1 red onion, sliced in thin rings
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 cooked beets, 2 red and 2 golden
2 tbsp. olive oil
Chopped mint (you can skip the chopping & just scissor it on when the time comes)
Maldon sea salt
Fresh pepper
Fresh goat cheese

Let onions sit in vinegar about half an hour. Slice beets & arrange on platter, topping with onions. Drizzle with liquid from the onion bowl & oil. Sprinkle with mint, salt, & pepper. Crumble goat cheese on top.

Curry, Coconut, Coriander

Tonight, there is a hint of a chill in the air. The sun shone brightly on the green leaves as it bid us adieu for the night, but inside the house, that spring coolness lingers. It turned out to be a perfect night for coconut curry lentil soup, turkey cucumber pitas, and orange & onion salad with warmed coriander oil. The flavors of everything were so clear and bright. It was an easy dinner to put together, too, with the crockpot doing most of the work.

Around 12:45, I left my book and threw the following into the crockpot:
1 & 1/2 c. red lentils
1 onion, diced
3 c. chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
2 tsp. curry (I would up it to 2 tbsp. next time)
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. garlic salt (I would use minced garlic next time and more salt)
I cooked it on low until Jeannene got home from work. (It takes 6-8 hours)

The salad was very easy, as well, and tasted very fresh & unusual. This is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Splendid Table's "How to Eat Weekends."
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/4 c. good olive oil (I used Cat Cora's extra-virgin)
1 generous tbsp. coriander
2 tsp. orange zest
3 oranges, sliced
27 nicoise olives
Maldon sea salt
Freshly-ground black pepper
A pinch of sugar

Arrange orange slices & onion on platter. Warm coriander, orange zest, & olive oil 1 minute in microwave. Let cool a bit. Scatter olives on salad. Drizzle with coriander oil, to taste. Salt & pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with sugar, to taste. Serves 2-4.

The sandwiches were pretty free-form. Mine was deli turkey, cheddar, and cucumber slices in a pita, with blue cheese for dipping. Jeannene chose to forego the turkey & slather with mayonnaise, rather than dipping.

Lemon Chicken with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Last night, we had a truly lovely dinner. It was Jeannene's first night home after an intense couple of days overnighting for work. She worked 18 hours Tuesday, so I wanted something stellar for her. This did not disappoint. The peanut sauce is Thai-ish, but mostly not, so don't be disappointed when it doesn't taste authentic. This is a quick & easy dinner, but you have to remember to marinate it! Yesterday before heading to work, I popped mine in marinade I'd mixed up the night before. When the chicken was ready, I served with with the sauce, a Thai-inspired cucumber salad, basmati rice, honeydew melon, & kiwi slices. The recipe is adapted from a Ina Garten recipe.

Lemon Chicken with Peanut Dippibg Sauce

Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 c. key lime juice
1/2 c. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
A good grinding of black pepper
1/4 tsp. thyme
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Put chicken in gallon Ziploc with all the other ingredients. Smush around to coat chicken. Marinate in fridge at least 6 hours. Broil 7 min. Turn & broil 5 min.
Cool slightly, then cut into thinnish slices.

Peanut Dipping Sauce:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 small red onion, diced finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. ginger, minced (peel first)
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
1/4 c. dry sherry (please use real sherry & not "cooking sherry")
1/4 c. ketchup
Juice of 1 lime

Cook olive oil, sesame oil, onion, garlic, ginger, & pepper flakes until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the rest & cook another minute. Cool slightly before serving with chicken.

For the salad, I peeled, seeded (a melon baller comes in handy for this) & chopped a cucumber. I chopped about a quarter cup of red onion & minced half a jalapeño. I tossed these with about a quarter cup of sugar, a couple tablespoons of rice vinegar, and a healthy pinch of salt. Scrumptious & refreshing!

Asparagus Sandwiches

I had the recipe for these asparagus sandwiches for years before I actually made them. You shouldn't wait that long. They are truly wonderful. We had them with a green salad and perfectly ripe cantaloupe earlier this week.

Asparagus Sandwiches

14-16 thin stalks asparagus, well-washed & trimmed
8 oz. cream cheese (neufchâtel is fine)
1 tsp. Dijon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp. dill
3/4 c. milk (skim is fine)
4 slices rye bread
Your favorite cheese, sliced (I like extra-sharp cheddar, either Cabot or Tillamook)

Steam asparagus. Melt cream cheese in double-boiler, stirring often. Add Dijon, lemon juice, and dill. Slowly whisk in milk. Cover and simmer while you finish the sandwiches. Put bread slices on baking sheet. Top with asparagus & cheese. Broil until cheese is melted & bubbly. Serve with cream cheese sauce. Serves 4.

Cajun-Style Catfish

I really have been cooking, but have been a dreadful slouch about posting here! Last week, I had some catfish in the freezer, so I mixed up a batch of Cajun seasoning for it.

Cajun Seasoning:
2 tbsp. paprika
5 tsp. salt
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. oregano

Mix all these together & rub into shrimp or fish about 10 minutes before grilling or broiling. It's strong, so don't use a whole bunch!

I served the catfish with baked potatoes & green beans I tossed with a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of water, and a little salt & pepper, then roasted on a foil-lined baking sheet for 7 or 8 minutes in a pre-heated 500 degree oven. Yes, 500. This also works beautifully with asparagus.