Wish Upon A Dish: September 2014

September 29, 2014

Moroccan Chicken Salad with Oranges and Almonds

I want to apologize for the recent rush of unfinished posts. Due to an unplanned hospital emergency last week, I was not able to stop blogger from doing it's job when I did not do mine. I have all intentions of finishing what I started but for now, those posts will remained tucked away in my draft file.
If all goes as planned in a few days, my dad and I, will be back in our respective homes and life will be back to normal.
Here is the post that was to be published instead.
See you in a few days.

If you love Mediterranean flavors, this salad is for you.
The America's Test Kitchen's newest cookbook is all about make ahead meals and because I have a subscription for their on-line sites, they sent me a preview of a few recipes.
I love just about everything that ATK publishes and proud to be a part of their recipe testing program.

I changed two things and added one.
I subbed out the apricots for Mandarin oranges (apricots are not faved in this house), and I used a bagged baby romaine instead of a mix of Romaine and watercress.

I always have Kalamata olives, so I threw in a handful or more.
Either way, it was delicious but light and extremely flavorful.

If you are looking for a low carb meal that is satisfying, I would put this on the menu.
A perfect take-along lunch for work, which can be grazed on all week. The sturdy lettuces will stand a test of time and the chicken only gets better as it soaks up the dressing.

Moroccan Chicken Salad with Apricots and Almonds

* 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
* Salt and pepper
* 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 teaspoon garam masala
* 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
* Pinch smoked paprika
* 1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed
* 1 shallot, sliced thin
* 3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped coarse
* 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
* 2 romaine lettuce hearts (12 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces
* 4 ounces (4 cups) watercress
* 1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted and chopped coarse
1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown chicken well on first side, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip chicken, add 1/2 cup water, and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until chicken registers 160 degrees, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer chicken to carving board, let cool slightly, then slice 1/2 inch thick on bias. Let cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, microwave 1 tablespoon oil, garam masala, coriander, and paprika in medium bowl until oil is hot and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk 3 tablespoons lemon juice, honey, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper into spice mixture. Whisking constantly, drizzle in remaining oil.
3. In large bowl, combine cooled chicken, ­chickpeas, shallot, apricots, parsley, and half of dressing and toss to coat; cover. Whisk remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice into remaining dressing; cover.
4. Toss romaine, watercress, and almonds together in separate bowl; cover.
5. Refrigerate chicken mixture, dressing, and ­lettuce mixture separately for up to 2 days.
6. Remove chicken mixture, dressing, and lettuce mixture from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Whisk dressing to recombine, drizzle 2 tablespoons dressing over chicken mixture, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss lettuce mixture with remaining dressing and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer lettuce mixture to serving platter and top with chicken mixture. Serve.

Save Some Dressing

To flavor our fresh chicken salad, we made a bold dressing of lemon juice, honey, and warm spices. We used half the dressing to marinate the chicken overnight, ­infusing it with flavor, and stored the remaining dressing and the lettuce separately. We brightened the remaining dressing with a squeeze of lemon juice before adding it to the salad on day two.

September 25, 2014

Shrimp Etouffee ♥ One Master Sauce, Five Meals

So tell me, do you know the difference between etouffee and gumbo? Is it really all that important?
To someone living in NOLA it is.
I knew there was a difference but the minutia escaped me so I hit Wikipedia.

From what I read, an Etouffee (smothered) is thicker than a gumbo and usually focuses on one main ingredient, shrimp or crawfish where a gumbo can be made of many.
The roux is also different, gumbo being espresso dark and etouffee lighter, like peanut butter. While we like the crawfish (or crayfish) version in this house, fresh is never available so I decided to showcase shrimp since they can be found across the world.

Since I am using the master sauce in this recipe, preparation took no time at all. Remember, the master sauce has all the flavorings that go into the sauce for this dish so the majority of my time was spent making the roux and simmering the sauce, all done in under thirty minutes. Enough time to cook the brown Basmati rice.

As with most creole dishes, you will need the Holy Trinity and I always have a bag of frozen onions and peppers in my freezer, so all I needed was some celery, Creole spices and garlic. I like to add a spicy sausage to a highly spiced Creole dish, and with a good Mexican chorizo in the freezer, I was ready to roll. If you can find good andouille, use that but if you can't, a hot Italian sausage will do just fine.
I bought a half pound of shrimp (or the two of us), shelled and veined because of time and I got lucky, it turned out to be the cheapest in the market that day. As a guideline, use 1/4 pound per serving.

One cup master sauce, a few tablespoons of cajun seasoning (Tony or Emeril's) and a cup of chicken broth is really all that is needed. Oh, and brown Basmati rice (if you want rice, this is the best for a Diabetic).

I am loving this concept of using one master sauce for 4 dinners. The sauce has garlic, onions, bay leaves, and tomatoes already in it, so this was by far the easiest dinner yet.

I have to say, this was much better than I expected and really good and when The Nudge eats this for lunch next week, I know he will agree. As a matter of fact, I made all the dishes while he was traveling, so I have 4 nights of dinners that just need defrosting (yup, one of the perks).

Easy Shrimp Etouffee
makes 4 servings

* 1 pound of shrimp, cleaned & veined
* 1 cup master sauce
* 2 tablespoons flour
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 tablespoon creole seasoning, divided
* 1 cup chicken broth
* 1 spicy sausage, sliced into coins (andouille, chorizo, hot Italian)
* 1 cup each peppers, onions and celery (large dice)
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 scallions, sliced

Brown Basmati Rice

1. Heat the oil and when shimmering, add the flour and stir continuously until the mixture is the color of a penny (this will take about 5 minutes).
2. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Creole seasoning on cleaned shrimp and when the roux is ready add the sausage and saute until cooked. Add the garlic, the vegetables, remaining  tablespoon Cajun seasoning mix, and salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender.
3. Add the shrimp, and when cooked add the broth and the master sauce and stir until the sauce is thick and coats the shrimp.
4. Serve with rice and sprinkle with scallions.

Four dishes made from one Master Sauce:
Shrimp Etouffee
Braised Ribs in Tomato Sauce
Miso Cod in Sichuan Sauce
Spanish Meatballs

September 22, 2014

Dried Carrots - Get Your Hydrator On ♥ Recipe Redux Challenge September 2014

First let me say something........

OK, now that I got that off my chest.


Sorry, it just came out.
Here in New Jersey we had the summer of my youth this year, the way summer's were in the Garden State growing up. Only two days over 90 degrees, sun and breezes. Perfect for growing vegetables and flowers. The don't call New Jersey the Garden State for nothing. I had a bumper crop of Sweet 100's and Big Boys, my miniature eggplants grew to about plum-sized, and my chard was bountiful.

I bought a dehydrator many years back and I finally got the chance to use it this year.


I mostly dehydrate aromatics, you know, carrots, peppers, tomatoes. Not for using during the cold winter months but to concentrate their flavors for use in sauces, all year round. Most of the dried goodies never reconstitute to what they were, certainly not like mushrooms, but the reward is in the juice that leaches out of these foods. For me it is all about the burst of flavor they can give to a sauce, adding nutrients as well as a huge burst of flavor. Just like you get when using anchovies and tomatoes in a tube.

My secret weapon to sweeten a sauce naturally without the addition of sugars, is to throw in a tablespoon or two of dehydrated carrots. See the color of the carrot soaking liquid? That goes into your sauce. One sip and you will be convinced to buy a few bunches of carrots, slice them as thin as possible on a mandolin and dry them overnight. You could use a dehydrator (Ron Popeil still sells them) or on a Silpat in an oven as low as the heat can go.
The flavor you will extract is a safe way to sweeten dishes and that's something a Diabetic can love.

But hey, I think with all the recent high fructose awareness, everyone could benefit from natural sweetening. Honey is wonderful, but sometimes you just want a light sweetness that is not pronounced, like in a wine sauce, a cream sauce, a pasta sauce, or a meat gravy. For those who don't like cooking with wine (for what ever personal reason), throwing a handful of dried carrot slices instead, will sweeten a sauce just enough to balance the acid.

Italians use the dried porcini soaking liquid in many sauces, so I took my inspiration from them.



September 21, 2014

Insanely Good Oxtail Stew ♥ Master sauce for four more meals

You know that saying..."Inspiration comes in many forms."
Recently I was inspired to make use of 4 cups of sauce, leftover from an oxtail stew.

Not wanting to throw away a gift of a highly flavored sauce, I challenged myself to create four other recipes from that one sauce.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that other people might actually be interested in this concept.
I came up with a set of rules.
Rule #1: I must use at least 1 cup of the master sauce per recipe.
Rule #2: I must make create these recipes using 10 ingredients or less.
Rule #3: Each recipe must create a dish totally different from all the rest.
Rule #4: The recipe for the 1st dish (which will be referred to as "the master sauce") must yield at least 4 cups of leftover sauce.

Now that I have completely confused you, let me try to explain by example.

Since this recipe yielded 1.5 quarts of sauce, I had 1 quart of leftover sauce.
I then sat down at my computer and created four completely different dishes using 1 cup of the master sauce in each and froze the ones I did not need immediately.

A Sichuan Braised Cod, Spanish Meatballs, a Shrimp Etouffe and an Oven Braised Italian Spare Rib dinner.

I will post each of those recipes as the week progresses, so stay tuned to see how they all turn out.
I have made two additional dinners so far and today I will braise the ribs and on Monday, make the cod.

Let's get cooking.......

Insanely Good Oxtail Stew
Adapted from Jamie Oliver

Serves 8-10

* 5 pounds oxtails
* sea salt
* olive oil
* 2 medium leeks
* 2 stalks of celery
* 4 medium carrots
* a few sprigs of fresh thyme
* a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
* 4 fresh bay leaves or 3 dried
* 4 whole cloves
* 2 tablespoons AP flour
* 2 (28oz) can plum tomatoes
* 9 ounces porter (beer) or red wine
* 1 carton beef stock
* Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 425°. Place a large roasting tray in the oven to preheat.
Carefully remove the hot tray from the oven; add the oxtail. Season with salt & pepper and drizzle over the oxtail. Toss to coat and place back into the hot oven for 20 minutes, or until golden and caramelized.

Meanwhile, trim and halve the leeks and celery lengthwise, then chop into rough 1-inch chunks. Peel and chop the carrots into 1-inch pieces, then place into a large Dutch oven over a medium-low heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Pick, roughly chop and add the thyme and rosemary leaves, then add the bay and cook for around 20 minutes, or until soft and sweet, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, remove the oxtail from the oven and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 325ºF.

Add the cloves and flour to the veg, stirring well to combine, then pour in the tomatoes and porter (or wine, if using). Add the oxtail and any roasting juices, cover with the beef stock or 1 quart of cold water and stir well. Turn the heat up to high and bring to the boil, then pop the lid on and place in the hot oven for around 5 hours, or until the meat falls away from the bone, stirring every hour or so and adding a splash of water to loosen, if needed.

Remove the pot from the oven and leave to cool for about 10 minutes. Using rubber gloves, strip the meat from the bones and return to the pan, discarding the bones. Add a good splash of Worcestershire sauce.

I added fresh corn cut from the cob and a dusting of grated cheese and served over whole wheat egg noodles.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving):
Calories 523cal
Carbs 12g
Sugar 6.4g
Fat 38g
Sat Fat 14.2
Protein 28.4g

I pureed the vegetables with the stock and strained everything into a large container.
I created the label for this series - "One Sauce-Five Meals".

I hope that this series of recipes will make it easier for a homemade dinner to appear at your family dinner table for 4 week night meals in under 30 minutes.

September 19, 2014

Blueberry Banana Bread Crumble

I had very ripe bananas and blueberries in my freezer. I could make this, it looked really good and I was looking for something different than my usual old fashioned banana bread (not that there was anything wrong with it). I have also made a new favorite lemon pear breakfast bread a few times but I had bananas not pears (but ask me again in a few months).

The idea of a crumble on top intrigued me and if I added whole grain oats it would be a little more healthier. The last time I made a blueberry cornbread the blueberries overtook the bread and so the berries would not sink to the bottom (contrary to common belief, flouring them does not stop that), I made a line of crumble down the middle to act as a barrier. As you can see it did make a difference. Yay for me!!

I think next time I make this bread I will not only add oats but chopped nuts to the crumble mix.

If you are a fan of a dense banana bread, then you will love the addition of the blueberries and the crumble. We both had a slice for breakfast and it was gone before I knew it.
Time to make another.

Blueberry Banana Bread Crumble
Adapted from Right at Home
makes 1 loaf

Banana Bread:
* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1/2 cup light brown sugar
* 2 large eggs
* 2 ripe bananas, mashed
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 cup fresh blueberries  (I used frozen ones, defrosted)

* 1/2 cup all purpose flour
* 1/3 cup whole grain oats 
* 1/3 cup light brown sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 stick unsalted cold butter, cut into pieces 

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. 
2. In a bowl, stir to combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside until needed. 
3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer, beat butter and sugars together on medium-high until fluffy, about 2 minutes. On medium-low speed add eggs, mashed bananas, and vanilla and mix until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until the flour is just incorporated. Add blueberries and fold in by hand with a spatula. 
4. Pour half the batter evenly into the prepared loaf pan. 
5. To make the crumble, combine all ingredients for the crumble in a bowl. With your hands or a fork work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles peas. Pour the crumble evenly on top of the banana bread batter. Pour the remaining batter over the crumble and spread evenly over the crumble.Spoon the remaining half of crumble on the top of the batter.
6. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Carefully remove the bread from the pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack. Slice and serve.

Nutrition Facts: 1 slice (129g)
Calories 400g
Calories from Fat 150g
Total Fat 17g
Saturated Fat 10g
Cholesterol 80mg
Sodium 270g
Total Carbohydrates 58g
Dietary Fiber 6g
Sugars 33g
Protein 5g

September 15, 2014

Chicken Tostadas ♥ It's good to know we are doing it right

Like everyone that eats Tex-Mex food such as tacos, tosdadas, enchiladas, burritos and fajitas to name a few, we have all tweaked them to satisfy our personal preferences.

Those dishes we can't make, we find a place that does and everything is good in the world. I suppose that the majority of us have no idea if we are even eating authentic Tex-Mex the way they did when Texas was part of the Mexican territory.

Being overly curious about such things I decided to look into the history of tostadas.

Tostada is a Spanish word which literally means "toasted". It is used in Latin America to name several different traditional local dishes which only have in common the fact they are toasted or uses a toasted ingredient as the main base of its preparation. Note there's a gender difference between "tostada" (feminine) and "tostado" (masculine). Despite the fact both terms means exactly the same (toasted), tostado is used in reference of a specific degree of toast, (coffee, roasted grains and seeds or bread toast) while tostada is usually the name of a particular dish.

In Mexico it refers to a flat or bowl-shaped (like a bread bowl) tortilla that is toasted or deep fried. It also refers to the finished dish using a tostada as a base. It is consumed alone, as a salty snack known as nachos, in Tex-Mex cuisine, or used a base for other foods. Corn tortillas are the ones usually used to make tostadas, although in some regions it is possible, but rare, find tostadas made of wheat flour.
Tostada initially has its origin in the need to avoid waste when tortillas went stale, no longer fresh enough to be rolled into tacos, but still fresh enough to eat. The old tortilla is submersed into boiling oil until becomes golden, rigid and crunchy, like a traditional slice of toast bread (hence the reason of its name). Then is served alone as companion for different kinds of Mexican food, mostly seafood, and spicy stews, such as Menudo, Birria and Pozole. This last one is usually accompanied with tostadas dipped in acidified cream.
An extremely popular way to eat tostadas in Mexico is as a dish of its own. Beans, cheese, acidified cream, chopped lettuce, sliced onions and salsa are spread onto the tostadas like an "open faced" rigid taco, mostly like a pizza. Then is finally topped with the main ingredient, usually meat cooked and chopped specially to dress the tostada. In most cases, is cooked chicken meat or pork. The "Tostada de Pata" (chopped pork fingers in conserve) has become an icon of Mexican tostadas, and it is found in almost every place where tostadas are prepared. As a general rule, due to the flat and fragile body of the tostada, the main topping must be sticky or pasty enough to stay on top. This helps prevent the other toppings or garnishes from falling off while it's being eaten, although due its natural fragility, tostadas have the tendency to break noisily when eaten.
In addition to ingredients typically used as taco fillings, tostadas are also extremely popular topped with seafood, such as cooked tuna, shrimp, crab, chopped octopus and ceviche or as companion for spicy shrimp stew.

Wow, I like the idea of octopus or crab but other than that, that I guess in this world of fast food convenience, the tostada has remained the same.
I admit that I was layering the ingredients wrong so with this batch I did it the right way. I put the chicken on top of the beans, queso blanco, lettuce, pico and avocado and used the sriracha crema as the sticky glue to hold everything in place.

I liked the new set-up. Usually all the toppings would fall off as soon as I took a bite and I just wasn't a fan (like making a taco with those useless hard taco shells).
There really is no recipe here, nothing special with the food. I used leftover roasted chicken, homemade black refried beans, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, Wholly Guacamole and a sriracha sour cream. A final snowing of queso blanco and pico for garnish and my dinner was done.

I would spray the tortillas with a spray and then bake them in the oven until they are crispy brown.
I seasoned mine with Adobo to give them some flavor but I think a packet of taco seasonings would also work well.

A fairly healthy meal if you use vegetarian refried beans (or homemade) and use grilled or roasted meats.
These are the perfect vehicle for using leftovers and I don't know anyone that does not like crunchy, spicy, creamy, and sweet.

Consider changing your boxed taco night to a tostadas party and save the ground chuck for spaghetti and meatballs.

September 11, 2014

Tomato Cheddar Pie ♥ Love Italian Style

I don't ever remember eating a tomato pie, let alone baking one. Probably because up till a few years ago, I refused to eat cardboard tomatoes and I had no luck growing a garden in the backyard. I basically gave up on garden fresh tomatoes and with no farmers markets nearby and not a CSA in site, when I made sauce, that was my allotment of tomatoes in my diet.

Then I started a container garden on my upper deck (no scavengers there) and have never looked back. The sun was way to hot for large tomatoes and the small grapes were all that grew, but that was alright. Those sweet babies went into everything. Salads, pizzas, fresh tomato sauces, salsas and, the best, scrambled eggs! Wow, I guess I forgot how good a tomato, picked warm off the vine, tasted.

This year our Spring started out like summer (hot!!) and not wanting to waste good money on a bad thing I planted eggplants and peppers, but no tomatoes. A few weeks into June the weather turned beautiful so I took the plunge and bought two big boy plants, four Sweet 100 cherry plants, four baby eggplants and two pepper plants. Although late in starting, this summer I harvested enough cherry tomatoes for 4 salads, one pasta primavera and a sheet pan of roasted tomatoes which are now in my freezer for later. I managed to grow 10 eggplants which are about golf ball sized and I have my fingers crossed. A pot of Swiss chard that is growing on my grill in the cooler backyard has given us two substantial side dishes and the only thing that did not grow, was the peppers. Go figure.

At least this year we seemed to be heading in the right direction but to hedge my bets, I bought a market umbrella in case next year it's another hottie. I have just the place for a pot of zucchini. I hear those plants will grow anywhere.

Now I have more Big Boys than two people can eat, only they all ripened while there was only one of us home. I certainly did not want to screw this up, I have waited 5 years for big luscious beauties.

The Nudge is in South Carolina (where it is 95°) and due home tonight. Since they were at the point of imploding and he might not have made it home in time to enjoy the Big Boys he planted before they got too soft, I made him a Tomato Pie.

Yes, bought my crust and yes, it is a double crust pie. Since pot pies must have two crusts in this house, I thought I would wow him with this beauty. For those looking to reduce their carbs, omit the top crust. The pie will still be excellent. I take my top crust off and give it to the The Nudge.

Making your first tomato pie with the last of the tomatoes calls for careful consideration of what, besides those tomatoes, should go into this pie.

Most of the tomato pies I saw on the Internet used cheddar cheese. I figured that the first tomato pie recipes posted were from Southern bloggers and down south cheddar is their choice for cheese (think pimento cheese). As the pie made the rounds, other cheeses appeared. Mozzarella (pizza pie, tomatoes, get it?) and then the Vegetarians started adding additional veggies to make it a more substantial dinner. I thought of spinach and corn (all great compliments to the tomatoes) but they would have taken away from the pure sweet tomatoes.

After all, this is a Tomato Pie. If it ain't broke...........

I was breaking tradition just adding a top crust. Sorry all you traditionalist out there. If it will make you feel any better, you have my permission to start a "hate double crust Tomato Pie" campaign on Twitter.

I had enough full sized tomatoes for two layers and in the spots between the slices, I popped a few Sweet 100's. I wanted the tomato experience in every bite.

I took the traditional way and added a small Italian influence with a sauce comprised of mascarpone, Parmesan, goat cheese, eggs, roasted garlic and basil.

I have to say that my first try was a winner!! The tomato flavor shown through, then the cheddar, and the crust. Everything else just melted into the background.

To stop the moisture from gumming the crust, I salted the tomatoes, sandwiched them between paper towels and placed a weight on them to drain. Even though I baked this pie for almost an hour, the bottom crust stayed crisp and the tomatoes were juicy.
A simple side salad of baby greens (I choose baby Romaine) tossed in a light vinaigrette rounded this very substantial summer dinner.

Tomatoes are ripe with nutrients and I think people take them for granted.
  • Tomatoes are one of the low-calorie vegetables; hold just 18 calories per 100 g. They are also very low in any fat contents and have zero cholesterol levels. Nonetheless, they are an excellent sources of antioxidants, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins. On account of their all-round qualities, dieticians and nutritionists often recommend them in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction diet-programs.
  • The antioxidants present in tomatoes are scientifically found to be protective of cancers, including colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic tumors.
  • Lycopene, a flavonoid antioxidant, is an unique phytochemical present in the tomatoes. Red varieties are especially concentrated in this antioxidant. Together with carotenoids, lycopene may help protect cells and other structures in the human body from harmful oxygen-free radicals. Studies have shown that lycopene protects the skin from ultra-violet (UV) rays and thus offers some defence against skin cancer.
  • Zea-xanthin is another flavonoid compound present abundantly in this vegetable. Zea-xanthin helps protect eyes from "age-related macular related macular disease" (ARMD) in the elderly persons by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays.
  • The vegetable contains very good levels of vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as α and ß-carotenes, xanthins and lutein. Altogether, these pigment compounds are found to have antioxidant properties and take part in vision, maintain healthy mucus membranes and skin, and bone health. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids is known to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • Additionally, they are also good source of antioxidant vitamin-C (provide 21% of recommended daily levels per 100 g); consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.
  • Fresh tomato is very rich in potassium. 100 g contain 237 mg of potassium and just 5 mg of sodium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure caused by sodium.
  • Further, they carry average levels of vital B-complex vitamins such as folates, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin as well some essential minerals like iron, calcium, manganese and other trace elements.

The tomatoes were a gift from the Mayans. In the late 1700's, a large percentage of Europeans feared the tomato. A nickname for the fruits was the "poison apple" because it was thought that aristocrats got sick and died after eating them, but the truth of the matter was that wealthy Europeans used pewter plates, which were high in lead content. Because tomatoes are so high in acidity, when placed on this particular tableware, the fruit would leach lead from the plate, resulting in any deaths from lead poisoning. No one made this connection between plate and poison at the time; the tomato was picked as the culprit.
We can credit the Italians in the 1800's (think pizza in Naples) with introducing Europe to the good things in a tomato. Woohoo, for them!! 

I am happy to say that today, I adore tomatoes, as long as they are homegrown and have flavor, but just in case we have another scorching summer, I should think about growing those zucchini, it just so happens I found a great family recipe for zucchini bread.

Cheddar Tomato Pie
makes 1-9" pie

* Pastry crust for a double crust pie, divided
* 3 large tomatoes, preferable homegrown or heirloom + cherries for filling the holes
* 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
* 3.5 ounces good cheddar cheese, grated
* 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
* 1 tablespoon instant polenta or cornmeal
* 1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic granules
* salt & pepper
* 2 large eggs
* 2 oz. goat cheese
* 1 teaspoon soy sauce
* 5 basil leaves, torn

Spring form pan
Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 375°.
Slice the tomatoes and place on a sheet pan lined with two paper towels. Salt the tomatoes and place another double layer of paper towels on top. Add another sheet pan with a large can of tomatoes on the sheet pan. Press for 30 minutes.

1. Spray the spring form pan and add a circle of parchment paper.
2. Lay 1 crust on the paper and evenly up the sides of the pan. Press the dough to the pan and into the corners.
3. Place the mascarpone, cornmeal, eggs, goat cheese, garlic, soy, basil and half the Parmesan in the processor or blender and pulse to a smooth sauce consistency (makes 1 1/2 cups).
3. Sprinkle a tablespoon of Parmesan on the crust, and then a light layer of cheddar. Layer half the tomato on the cheddar and season with freshly ground black pepper. Top the seasoned tomato slices with half the remaining cheddar and Parmesan; spoon half the cheese/egg mixture evenly over the tomatoes (3/4 cup).
4. Repeat another layer with the remaining ingredients, ending with the last 3/4 cup cheese/egg mixture.
5. Top with the other crust and roll the edges down the sides of the pan until rolled crust hits the bottom crust. Press gently to adhere. Make 8 slits in the crust.
6. Egg wash the top and edge of the dough, pepper and salt the crust and place in the bottom half of the oven, uncovered.
7. Check the pie 30 minutes into the baking period and rotate the pan.
8. Bake an additional 25-30 minutes. As soon as the juices start to bubble up the slits, remove from the oven and cool for 1 hour. Remove the pie to a plate, cover lightly with plastic wrap and serve at room temperature.

You will love this pie, I promise.

September 8, 2014

Sesame Asian Chickadeels ♥ Marco Polo would be sooooo happy, just ask his wife.

Yes, Broccoli and Cavatelli was always called cavadeels in my house and from what I have read in many Italian food blogs, it's the same in almost every Italian household across America. How cool is that, you may ask? but I want to know how that is possible?
My grandparents are from Naples & Rome and maybe to an eight and 11 year old, their heavy accent sounded like cavadeels to us, but what about Italian immigrants that were from the north or even better, Sicily?

Do all Italian accents sound the same? Do they in the US? All countries no matter where in the world, have accents relative to their immediate area (here it's counties), just like the south and even NYC.

So how is it possible that the majority of second generation Italian immigrants call the same dish by the same regional name? 

Turns out even in Italy this pasta has several different names depending on the dialect : cavadeel, gavateel, cavatelli.
This part is the best..............
There is a legend surrounding cavatelli, about a bride to be who had her thumb inspected by her future mother-in law. Do you want to know why? Because if the finger looked well-used and somewhat worn, it was the tell-tale sign that she knew how to make cavatelli and this would make her a great match. Talk about pressure! (no pun intended....lol)

Whatever you call it in your house, cavatelli and broccoli is one of the most loved and sustainable dishes of just about anyone that has eaten it and I swear it was our ramen of many budget twenty-year-olds, in their first apartment. I confess that this was the dinner of choice when I entertained boyfriends for dinner and this is what I served. Not only delicious but extremely affordable. Back then, only Italians knew the secret to what made this dish irresistible and made me a cook a Mother in Law could love. Ever hear of engagement chicken? This was mine.

Just when you think it was safe to go back into the kitchen, there is the discussion of exactly how to prepare this dish. Like the name, the preparation was just as different. Cooks from the south cook the broccoli until it turns into a semi-sauce. I just think that's too long. The Tuscans like their veggies crisp and the northerners add cream and butter to the olive oil (I tried to once, than happily changed my mind). The Southerners use sheep's milk hard cheeses (Pecorino), while the rest of Italy favor cow's milk (Parmesan).
What ever way you think your family would like this, that's the way you make yours, as long as there is enough garlic to kill a vampire!!
Yes, you can crush them and remove them after cooking (just don't let me know, please), but I will bet if you do that, you've never had the pleasure of having this prepared by an Italian.

I make my basic cavadeels by cooking the broccoli in olive oil with sliced garlic until a knife slides in and out of the stem easily. I then season with salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes. Toss the cooked cavatelli into the pan (with a few spoonfuls of pasta cooking water), toss to coat, shut off the heat and spoon the grated cheese over the pasta while tossing. If there is no longer any moisture in the pan, add more of the pasta cooking water to the pan and serve immediately. Easy peasy!
I like garlic in this dish as much as I love tons of cheese. Something about broccoli and cheese, yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

Even with all this chatter about traditional cavadeels, I thought I would tip the apple cart and add an Asian spin. Yup, you read this right.

Please forgive me Nonna, but a cooks gotta do what a cooks gotta do, right?
I did not mess with it too much. I kept to the simplicity of the dish itself, but I add chicken, a Thai Sweet Chili Sauce (instead of the hot pepper flakes) soy sauce (instead of the salty cheese) and sesame oil (in addition to the olive oil). The rest is the same.Yes, that means all the garlic stays the same!!

OMG, this was an awesome rendition. The best part? I had a side of broccoli for one dinner and enough for a second. Nonna would call that smart.

If you make any changes to this dish, do not change the type of pasta. Try to find the frozen fresh cavatelli (my store sells Celantano). I honestly think the dried version adds nothing to the finished texture of the dish. I would prefer you to use Orecchiette or Campanelli instead of the dried cavatelli.
I wonder if we should call this version Sesame Asian Chicka-deels?  heehee

Yes Nonna, I will promise 5 Hail Mary's but I swear, it was really really good!!

Asian Sesame Chicken Cavatelli
makes 4 servings

* 1 package frozen fresh cavatelli
* 20 ounces broccoli, cut into spears
* 1 large boneless chicken breast, cooked and cut into 2-inch fingers
* 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
* 2 tablespoon Red Thai-Style Chili Sauce
* 1/4 cup light soy sauce
* 2 teaspoons sesame oil
* 1/4 cup EVOO
* 1 tablespoon salt for pasta cooking water
* 1 cup reserved pasta cooking water
* 1/4 cup Romano cheese, grated
* Freshly ground black pepper
* Toasted sesame seeds, garnish optional

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Cook pasta for 9 minutes, but not all the way through.
3. In a saute pan (with a lid), heat the olive oil and the sesame oil. Add the broccoli, cover and saute for 4 minutes. Add a tablespoon water, cover again and steam for 3 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce, chili sauce, a drop of fresh sesame oil and the pasta. Toss to coat. Add the chicken and cheese and toss to combine. Add pasta water to keep the ingredients flowing.
5. Check for seasoning. Right before serving sprinkle on sesame seeds.

OMG, this was excellent. Tons of flavor and the cavatelli was right at home. I will make this many times. The Nudge gave it two thumbs up and cleaned his bowl.

September 5, 2014

Korean Short Ribs, Chicken Thighs, Chicken Legs and a Lemonade Layer Cake ♥ Excellent Day!

I hope your last long holiday weekend of the summer was as nice as ours was. With the weather in the northeast as temperamental as my cats, we decided Saturday was the best day for our get together (plus Monday was a travel day for The Nudge, the Swedes don't have a Labor Day).

I wanted to share a few of the recipes for the foods I prepared. Everyone had their assignments and the vegetables and appetizers were my SIL's, the meat and dessert were mine and the salads and condiments were my BIL's. It all worked out well and there was more than enough food so everyone got leftovers for the rest of the weekend. I rarely take back my own contributions but I insisted on at least a 2piece slice of the cake (recipe at the end).

On my Wish Dish List was Kalbi (Korean Ribs) and since my BIL does not eat red meat, I also cooked chicken legs and thighs with the same marinade/sauce. We started with an old fashioned cheese ball (remember them?) It was a nice change.

We also had a German and American Potato Salad, a Swedish Cucumber Salad, Baked Beans, Corn on the Cob, a Zucchini and Red Pepper Bake, Korean Short Ribs, Chicken Thighs & Legs, Hot Dogs, and for dessert, Rugelach and a Lemonade Cake.

Think we had enough food???

OMG, these short ribs were gone in two minutes. I had my butcher cut 2 pounds of beef short ribs flaken-style (crosswise across the bones) at no more than a 1/2-inch thickness. The key is to grill these on a screaming hot grill for barely 4 minutes a side. Trust me, they will be tender, flavorful and super easy and I was skeptical myself.

The edges caramelize and the meat practically falls off the bones. I know that these will make an appearance a few more times till the snow comes and the grill is accessible.

Since there was no heat in the marinade (my family is made up of wussies) I split the marinade in half and filled one large zip bag with the ribs (there were 8 of them for 4 carnivores) and 8 each, chicken thighs and legs (for the wussies, lol). Since the chicken would take longer than the beef, I grilled them first, cleaned off the grill and right before the corn was done, cranked up the heat and blasted those ribs.....yum!!

These were one of the easiest chicken parts I grilled. The marinade provides enough moisture so no basting is required. I have to say, the beef marinade was just as good on the chicken and this will also be making a few grilled dinners the next couple of months. I am even thinking Giants tailgating in two weeks. So easy and portable.

Now for the cake.

I love lemon anything and a lemon layer cake with cream cheese frosting? did not go unnoticed on Pinterest a few weeks ago. I had to bake this cake.

Now I am not a baker but I planned the making of the cake as if I was planning D-day. It had to be perfect and there was no time for do-overs.

First problem...I could not find my round cake pans. Luckily I always have aluminum ones in my pantry that I use for my 3 part breading stations.

Road Block #1 - taken care of

Then disaster struck. I needed two whole large eggs and two egg whites. I had four eggs. So far, so good. As I grabbed the eggs out of the fridge, one-by-one, Humpty Dumpty showed up and made a mess on the floor. Geez.
Luckily I freeze whites I don't use and had three of them, so all I needed was one whole egg + those three yolks. I did know that one less holk would effect the texture of the cake but I compensated by adding an additional tablespoon of butter.

Road Block #2 - hurdled

Last minor problem occored when I did not prepare the pans with butter and flour and the bottoms were sticky, making it difficult to move around. I was afraid they would tear up while icing. I used two pre-cut  9" parchment paper rounds and problem solved.

Road Block #3 : diverted

Once I spread the lemon curd between the layers, I wrapped additional strips of parchment around the outside and slide the unadorned cake into a snug carrier to wait it's final appearance.

BBQ, here we come!!

I will say one thing before I type in all the recipes. If you love lemon you should seriously think about making this cake. I could have, and would have, eaten the whole cake if it was in this house.

I think that the next time I make this (and I will next week), I am going to bake layers in my mini cheesecake pans, wrap them and freeze them. This way I can pull two out when the craving hits me and we will each have a very nice, affordable half of a very cute lemonade cake.

Kalbi (Korean Grilled Beef Ribs) & Chicken Legs and Thighs
adapted from Saveur.com
serves 8

* 2 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs, flaken cut, 1/2" thick
* 8 chicken thighs
* 8 chicken legs
* ½ cup fresh pineapple juice
* ¼ cup soy sauce
* ¼ cup sugar
* 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
* 2 tbsp. sesame oil
* 2 tbsp. sesame seeds, lightly toasted, plus more for garnish
* 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
* 5 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
* 1 small white onion, grated

Split the beef and chicken into two gallon zip bags and pour half the marinade into each. Marinade for up to 2 hours.
Light a large, hot fire and grill the chicken for about 5 minutes each side and the beef ribs for 3 minutes on each side.

Lemonade Layer Cake
adapted from myrecipes.com
makes 16 servings

* 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
* 6 tablespoons butte, softened
* 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
* 3 tablespoons thawed lemonade concentrate
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 2 large eggs
* 2 large egg whites
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 1/4 cups fat-free buttermilk

* 2 tablespoons butter, softened
* 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
* 2 teaspoon thawed lemonade concentrate
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 8 ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese
* 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
* 1 jar lemon curd

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. To prepare cake, place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and egg whites, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda; stir well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat well after each addition.
3. Pour batter into 2 (9-inch) round cake pans coated with cooking spray; sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
4. To prepare frosting, place 2 tablespoons butter and the next 4 ingredients (2 tablespoons butter through cream cheese) in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, and beat at low speed just until blended (do not overbeat). Chill 1 hour.
5. Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with lemon curd. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Store cake loosely covered in the refrigerator.

September 2, 2014

Zippy Salsa Fresca ♥ A tale of two sandwiches that got married

I have to admit, although not the best meal for me, we are sandwich people in this house. When I can convince The Nudge that there is more to life than a grilled cheese, I am happy when he remembers a healthy version of a hero (or submarine or hoagie or grinder) I made a year or two ago.

This time around I pumped up the volume and performed a marriage ceremony between the Muffaletta and the Italian sub. While the muffaletta is Italian in origin, like many dishes that hit USA soil, over time they take on a life all it's own and the city becomes the origin.

It seems that at least once a month, a recipe I post is featured on America's Test Kitchen weekly testing notes. While my version is slightly different than theirs (I used a jar of Alcaparrado, they broke it down to individual ingredients) the recipes could be kissing cousins. That makes me happy to know I think like a professional test kitchen. This zippy vegetable salad topping is more in line with a salsa fresca and can be used for many applications. The Italians spoon a version of this onto cold steamed mussels as a great summer appetizer and it would make a great appetizer or amuse-bouche for your next party. It's also great on a sliced steak, fish fillet, cutlets or with anything fried.

It cuts through the fat and adds a zing to your food as well as being healthy, carb-free, vegan, Paleo, diapropriate and just plain tasty.

So easy to do, all you need is a processor, nut chopper or sharp kitchen knife. Buy one big jar each Gardineira, Pepperoncini, Alcaparrado and oil-brined Kalamata or Nicoise olives. Dump the contents into the processor and pulse until you have a texture similar to pickle relish.

Along with a few extra spices and herbs, spoon the mixture into a large container and on the shelf in your fridge for up to a month. Once you start using this you will find yourself putting a bowl of this on the table in place of ketchup on a burger or hot dog, instead of mayonnaise in your tuna salad, as a nice pick-me up to your deviled eggs and add some to your next vinaigrette. It is addictive.

Zippy Vegetable Salsa Fresca
makes 1 quart
* 1 large jar Gardiniera
* 1 large jar Alcaparrado
* 1 jar pepperoncini
* 1 large roasted red pepper
* 6 each Kalamata and Nicoise olives, pitted
* 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
* 1/4 cup rice vinegar
* 1 teaspoon Dijon
* 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
* Juice from the jars to cover the finished salsa

One large container (I prefer a large Ball quart jar)

1. Pulse all ingredients until a fine mince and store in a container for up to one month (if it lasts that long).

Italian Muffaletta Sandwich
makes 4 sandwiches

* 1 sub roll (ciabatta, Italian loaf, French baguette, Boule or and crusty bread)
* 1/2 pound ham
* 1/3 pound provolone cheese
* 1/2 pound hot capicola
* 1/2 pound salami
* 1/2 cup salsa fresca

Slice the bread in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides (save for bread crumbs). Spread the top and bottom with the salsa fresca. Starting on the bottom layer the meats, in any order, top with the provolone cheese and the top bread. Wrap in plastic wrap, place a platter or sheet pan on top along with two large cans of tomatoes or whatever is available. Let it sit for at least 1 hour before unwrapping and slicing into servings.
Can be made into a few foot longs for tailgating or parties.

Best part? Does not need immediate refrigeration, so it is perfect for a picnic.