Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pasta with Chickpeas

This is another one of those recipes where the well-stocked pantry pays off. I came back from the gym hungry for pasta, but none of the recipes I had chosen for the week were pasta. What to do? Raid the pantry, of course. And the Mark Bittman recipe collection.

If you feel like something spicy, cheap and simple, this is the recipe for you. Chances are you already have all the ingredients on hand - and if you don't, substitute freely. That's what it's all about! But the recipe as it is has loads of flavor, a variety of textures, and oodles of nutrients. It's pretty hard to go wrong with this one.

Pasta with Chickpeas
adapted from Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
serves 3


1/2 pound whole wheat penne (or other short pasta)
1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 teaspoon cracked red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned is fine; rinse first)
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley


1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the pasta according to package directions, until just al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid and drain the pasta. Return it to the pot.

2. Meanwhile, warm the oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small skillet over medium heat. When the garlic starts to sizzle, reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the chickpeas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is puffed up and just browned, and chickpeas are warmed, about 4 minutes.

3. Toss the pasta with the garlic/chickpea mixture and stir in the parsley. Serve.

Easy does it. Enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Carrot Ginger Soup

Soup is not something you often hear described as "refreshing," but this one really is. You take a good quantity of fresh ginger and add it to just about anything, it will probably become at least a smidgen more refreshing than it otherwise was. In this case, that thing you add it to is fresh carrots, thyme, onion, garlic, and herbs. It's a beautiful medley of spring-like flavors with a hint of spice. Just what the doctor ordered on an overcast summer day.

Carrot Ginger Soup
adapted from Art Smith's Back to the Table
serves 3


1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
3/4 pounds carrots (about 4 medium), peeled and sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
2 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup skim milk


1. Melt butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, cover tightly, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in carrots, ginger, and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in broth, thyme, pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover the pot partially. Simmer until carrots are very tender, about 15 minutes. Remove thyme sprig and bay leaf.

3. Puree soup in batches in a food processor, or with a stick blender. Return to the pot and stir in the milk. Heat until very hot, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

This goes very well with whole wheat pita bread or naan. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Baked Couscous with Lemon Parsley Chicken

Forgive the poor quality of the photography on this one - perhaps it can be interpreted as a testament to how yummy this meal was, since I started eating before I realized I hadn't taken a photo. Either way, this meal is easy and quick, as we all love.

I haven't been doing a lot of cooking the past few days because we adopted two new kittens, and they've been keeping me out of the kitchen. But today, in spite of two little orange and white munchkins repeatedly trying to climb into the pantry and the refrigerator, I managed to churn out a really easy and tasty meal. The chicken has a lovely lemon, parsley, and caper topping that contrasts nicely with its bed of subtly flavored couscous. Simple and delish.

Baked Couscous with Lemon Parsley Chicken
adapted from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf
serves 4


2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and halved
2 cups couscous
2 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
cracked black pepper and sea salt
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers, chopped


1. Preheat oven to 400. Heat a little oil in a skillet and cook the chicken for 2 minutes on each side or until golden.

2. Spread the couscous in the base of a medium-sized casserole or baking dish. Pour the chicken broth and oil over it, and season with pepper and salt. Place the browned chicken on top of the couscous, and top with combined lemon zest, parsley, and capers.

3. Bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Fluff the couscous with a fork and spoon onto serving plates, topped with the chicken.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Veggie Mac

I don't often discuss the true stars of this blog, the cookbooks. I recently spotted this cookbook in a Barnes & Noble and just knew I had to have it. Well, to be fair, I feel that way about most cookbooks. But this one really spoke to me. I've been wanting to expose myself to the wonderful world of casseroles - partially because a friend of mine just had a baby, and that seems like the perfect opportunity to flex my casserole muscle.

The cookbook is called The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever, and it's by Beatrice Ojakangas. This is the first recipe I've made from it, and it is appropriately simple and crowd-pleasing. I intend to get into the more complex ones in the near future.

This recipe is really a basic pasta and sauteed veggie dish, but there is something extra homey about it. Maybe because it's baked after cooking, or because it does have a roux-based sauce. Whatever the reason, with my tweaks, I can definitely report that it was tasty and a good go-to meal that doesn't take a whole lot of time or effort.

Veggie Mac
adapted from The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever
serves 3


Cooking spray
1/3 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni
1/2 tablespoon EVOO
3 scallions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 small bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch ground cumin
1 bunch thin asparagus, cut into 2-inch lengths
1 medium-sized tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon whole wheat flour
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup grated parmesan
freshly ground pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400. Spray a small-ish casserole dish (about 2 quarts) with cooking spray.

2. Cook macaroni according to package directions, until just al dente. Drain and transfer to the casserole.

3. Return the saucepan to the stove and heat EVOO over medium-high heat. Add chopped scallions, garlic, and bell pepper, and cook until soft but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in parsley, oregano, cumin, asparagus, and tomato. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, until asparagus is just tender. Mix cooked veggies in with the pasta.

4. Return the saucepan to the stove again and melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk and cook, whisking until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the parmesan and pepper to taste. Stir the sauce into the pasta and veggies.

5. Bake, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, or until pasta is lightly browned and sauce is sizzling.

This is not a crazy cheesy macaroni dish; the sauce is delicate and the veggies play a major role. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

It is an occasional and beautiful thing where I startle myself with how effortlessly I pulled together a delicious meal. I realize it sounds like I'm being extremely egotistical, but I promise I'm not. This meal was just so insanely easy and quick. It only took about 10 minutes, including prep time. And it tasted so, so good. Not to mention the smell. Prepare to swoon!

This is a much healthier and simpler (yet better) version of those Asian lettuce wraps that seem to grace the appetizer menu at every major chain restaurant these days. I guarantee that once you try this recipe, you'll never waste $14.95 at P.F. Chang's again.

A little spicy, a little salty, with a delicate crunch and a heart of meaty goodness - I give you American-Asian fusion in a pinch.

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Eat Well
serves 3


1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 small cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/4 pound extra lean ground turkey
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
6 large lettuce leaves (iceberg or butter lettuce)
handful fresh cilantro, chopped


1. Heat the oils in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant but not browned.

2. Add turkey and stir with a wooden spoon to break it up into small pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, until turkey is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add soy sauce and vinegar, stir, and cook another minute.

3. Serve the turkey mixture in the lettuce leaves, topped with cilantro.

Eat with your hands if you're a brave soul; otherwise you might want to go the knife-and-fork route.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Polenta with Chiles and Cheese

We've discussed polenta before, and my intense love of this apparently controversial grain. The texture isn't for everyone, I suppose. But for me it is like having cornbread in a more socially acceptable form for a side dish. Pretty fabulous. And it's more versatile than you might think; case in point with this recipe. Add some Mexican flavors, including cheese, chiles and cilantro, and you suddenly have a whole meal centered around this lovely little yellow grain.

I was hoping that by baking this casserole, the polenta would get firm and solid, but it still maintained its porridge-y texture. That didn't make it any less delicious, but I think next time I might make it with less liquid. Or perhaps bake it a bit longer and see what happens.

Serve this with a green salad and prepare for the party in your mouth!

Polenta with Chiles and Cheese
adapted from Bon Appetit's Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook
serves 4-6


1 1/2 cups skim milk
1 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal (polenta)
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 7-ounce can whole green chiles, drained
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream


1. Grease an 8x8 baking dish. Combine milk, broth, cornmeal, garlic, and salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly. Cook until polenta is tender and thickened, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in parmesan.

2. Pour half of polenta into prepared baking dish. Cover with half of chiles and half of corn. Sprinkle with half of cilantro and jack cheese. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons cream. Spoon remaining polenta evenly over, top with remaining chiles, corn, cilantro and cheese, and pour remaining cream over the top.

3. Up to this step, you can prepare ahead, cover, and refrigerate. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400. Bake uncovered until heated through, puffed, and golden brown, about 30 minutes.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Zucchini Bread

When I was a child, there were hardly any vegetables that I really liked. I'm glad to say that has changed. But I went through the first couple of decades of my life convinced I didn't like zucchini. I had the good sense, at least, to recognize that there was an exception to the rule, and it came in the form of zucchini bread.

If you've never had zucchini bread, you might be skeptical. But you shouldn't be. Vegetables in sweet baked goods are not a new thing - perhaps you saw my carrot cupcakes last week? Well zucchini bread takes everything that is good about a zucchini - the color, the moisture, the nutritional value - and injects it in such a wonderful way into a dessert. Or more like a coffee cake, I suppose. Whatever you call it, it's delicious.

This is a simple, wholesome bread with a hint of spice. Make the two loaves and give one to a friend. Or keep it all for yourself; I won't judge.

An important note: I highly recommend shredding the zucchini in a food processor with the grater attachment. After you shred them, squeeze the shredded zucchini in paper towels over the sink to get out the excess moisture.

Zucchini Bread
adapted from Betty Crocker's Best of Baking
makes 2 loaves


Cooking spray
3 cups shredded zucchini (about 3 medium)
1 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves


1. Heat oven to 350. Spray the bottoms of two standard loaf pans with cooking spray.

2. Combine zucchini, sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Divide between the two pans.

3. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

These will keep, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to a week. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chicken Saltimbocca

If you're sick of making chicken for dinner, you could use a different variation like this one. This is no ordinary chicken dish. Fresh sage hidden under delicate prosciutto, topped with melted fresh mozzarella, and christened with a buttery wine sauce? I think I've proven my point.

This was delicious, and I hope I remember it the next time we have company. Easy, beautiful, elegant, and full of flavor - a magical combination, don't you think? And it gave me an excuse to use my favorite fresh herb, sage. It's just a vehicle for all kinds of goodness.

We had ours with roasted asparagus spears, but just about any green vegetable would work here. You might want to round it all out with some crusty bread.

Chicken Saltimbocca
adapted from Williams-Sonoma: Chicken
serves 2


2 chicken breast cutlets, lightly pounded to an even thickness
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
2 large slices prosciutto, cut in half
2 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine


1. Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, melt 1/2 tablespoon butter into the EVOO until very hot. Add the chicken breasts and cook until undersides are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn them over and cook on the other side until nearly done, about 4 more minutes.

2. Reduce heat to low. Sprinkle the sage onto the chicken breasts, and then top each cutlet with a double layer of prosciutto pieces (i.e. the two halves on top of each other). Top with mozzarella. Cover the pan tightly and cook for about 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Remove chicken from the pan and put on a dish tented with foil.

3. Raise heat to high. When pan starts to sizzle, add the wine. Cook, stirring to scrape up the browned bits, until wine has reduced by half or more, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the remaining butter. Serve the chicken topped with the sauce.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Spaghetti with Sun-dried Tomatoes

A well-stocked pantry is a beautiful thing. It's the blessing that makes meals like this one possible. Easy, quick, flavorful, and interesting. It's worth having those pantry staples on hand at all times so that you can later be spontaneous. A bit of a paradox, isn't it?

Sun-dried tomatoes have a lovely rich flavor that wraps itself around whole wheat pasta very nicely. If you don't usually keep them on hand, you might want to start right about now!

Spaghetti with Sun-dried Tomatoes
adapted from Giada de Laurentiis' Everyday Pasta
serves 2


5 oz. sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
crumbled fresh goat cheese for serving (optional)


1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook spaghetti until al dente. Reserve about 1/2 cup starchy pasta water and drain the pasta.

2. Meanwhile, warm the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add wine and chopped sun-dried tomatoes and simmer until liquid reduces by half, about 2 minutes.

3. Add cooked pasta and parsley to the tomato mixture and toss to coat, adding enough of the reserved pasta water to moisten the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with goat cheese if using.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Spicy Vegetarian Mulligatawny

Even people who never really watched Seinfeld probably know about the soup nazi episode. And I'll admit that I, like most people, heard about the magical spicy and sweet soup called mulligatawny for the first time from watching that episode. Of course I went on to try it myself at many an Indian restaurant, and it is pretty amazing, to say the least.

There is a reason Elaine pined for this soup. It has an intense flavor of curry and other Indian spices, along with a distinct sweetness from the apples and vegetables. The texture is chunky and fantastic. It's just good, people. Really.

Here is a healthy, vegetarian version that is not exactly traditional Indian fare, but it certainly gets the job done. Keep a glass of water handy, and serve with some whole wheat naan or pita bread to complete the meal.

Please note that the quantities are somewhat variable, depending on the size of each fruit or vegetable that you happen to use. Plan the ratios to emphasize the ingredients you like most (i.e. bigger apple, smaller bell pepper, if you so choose).

Spicy Vegetarian Mulligatawny
adapted from Cooking Light Complete Cookbook
serves 2-3


1 teaspoon canola oil
1 medium-large Gala apple, peeled and chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon whole wheat (or all-purpose) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
salt to taste
14 oz. low sodium vegetable broth
1 large tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons good quality mango chutney
2 tablespoons tomato paste
chopped fresh parsley for serving


1. In a large Dutch oven, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Add apple, onion, carrot, celery, and bell pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Stir in flour, curry powder, ginger, crushed red pepper, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in broth, tomato, chutney, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 8 minutes. Serve sprinkled with parsley.

That's right, it's that easy. Enjoy!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gnocchi with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

It's time to welcome another vegetable to your repertoire. Broccoli rabe appears in a lot of Italian dishes, but otherwise it's fairly unheard of. It's a leafy green studded with clusters of broccoli-esque florets. It's fairly bitter, but the bitterness goes away with blanching. Here it serves as a wonderful complement to golden gnocchi, spicy sausage, and sweet red bell pepper.

This is a great weeknight dish that comes together without too much fuss. It's a wonderful way to expose yourself and your family to something a little bit different without forcing anyone to venture too far from his comfort zone.

Gnocchi with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
adapted from Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book
serves 3


1 package fresh gnocchi
1 bunch of broccoli rabe, stem ends trimmed, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1 hot Italian turkey sausage link, casing removed
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the gnocchi according to package directions. Right before draining, reserve about 3/4 cups of cooking liquid.

2. While water for gnocchi is warming up, bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in a large, high sided skillet. Salt it and add the chopped broccoli rabe. Blanch for about 2-3 minutes, then drain and set aside. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and warm 1 tablespoon EVOO. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon or other utensil. Cook about 5 minutes, or until browned.

3. Add onion, garlic, red bell pepper, and pepper flakes to the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes, or until onions are starting ot get tender. Remove sausage and veggie mixture from skillet and reserve. Add remaining 1 tablespoon EVOO and heat. Add drained gnocchi to skillet and brown lightly for a couple of minutes.

4. Return sausage and veggies to the skillet and toss. Add reserved pasta cooking liquid and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in lemon zest and juice. Serve.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Carrot Cupcakes with Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting

I think I must have lost my mind at some point in time, but I found it tonight. This recipe has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while now, and yet this is the first time I made it. Why?? All this time, I could have been eating these delectable little morsels of heaven. And I could have justified it, too, as they are pretty healthy for a cupcake.

There is a reason why cupcakes are so popular. They're every bit as fun to make as they are to eat. The only part of the process that isn't so fun is making yourself wait for them to cool before you frost them. But the rest of it? Sheer bliss.

These are a healthier version of carrot cake in miniature form. The frosting is beautiful and delicious without being too rich, and the cake is just spicy enough without making you reach for your beverage. Ellie has done it again. These cupcakes are definitely going to be a regular occurrence in our household.

Carrot Cupcakes with Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
makes a dozen


for the cupcakes:
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup natural unsweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrots (about 2 medium)

for the frosting:
4 oz. Neufchatel cheese (reduced-fat cream cheese), softened
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest


1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 12 muffin cups with paper (or preferably silicup) liners.

2. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, brown sugar, and eggs until well combined. Whisk in the applesauce, vanilla and carrots. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined.

3. Divide batter fairly evenly among the muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

4. In an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and lemon zest until smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cupcakes and eat up!

These should be stored in the refrigerator, and eaten within 3 days. Good luck waiting that long! Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

World Famous Guacamole

The point of this blog is supposed to be for me to share my adventures in trying new recipes that I've never made before. I've cheated a few times, but never quite as badly as I am cheating this evening. I just couldn't help but share. Tonight I present, my friends, my world famous guacamole.

I won't claim that it is unlike any other guacamole recipe. There isn't really a secret ingredient, per se. There is nothing revolutionary about it. But there is something magical about it. I don't always make it the same way, but somehow it always comes out deserving of praise.

For one thing, I am a bit of a snob when it comes to the ingredients in guacamole. I don't believe in buying pre-pureed avocado in a plastic pouch. I don't believe in spice packets. I don't believe in stirring in jar salsa. All of these things might be tasty, but to me the goal of guacamole is something incredibly fresh. So while my recipe may not be literally world-famous, I think if you make it and taste it, you might agree that it ought to be. Just maybe.

A side note: I don't really like raw onion in my guacamole, but it does add an extra zing, so if you're a fan, by all means, add about 1/2 a diced onion.

World Famous Guacamole
makes about 2 cups


2 ripe medium-sized avocados
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
chili powder to taste


1. Scoop flesh out of avocados into a bowl, and mash with a fork. Do not mash it until completely smooth, you want a few lumps. Stir in lime juice, salt, and pepper.

2. Add jalapeno, cilantro, and tomato, and stir to incorporate. Sprinkle with chili powder and just barely stir it in. Serve cold with chips, bread, or whatever floats your boat.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Bread Salad with Chicken Bites

I keep seeing recipes for bread salad, and they always sound delicious, but for some reason I've never gotten around to making one. Tonight was the night. This one is fun, colorful, and full of interesting texture contrasts. I added a couple of additional vegetables to the original recipe to give it even more contrast. There's some spiciness, tanginess, crunchiness and more.

It's important that you use good quality tomatoes for this recipe. Tomato season hasn't officially started yet, but I found these amazing tomatoes at the farmers market on Saturday and they spoke to me. Don't use some pale mealy tomatoes from the supermarket. You need the good stuff for this.

Prepare yourself for the onslaught of flavor!

Bread Salad with Chicken Bites
adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook
serves 2


2 cups day-old 1" crusty bread cubes
2 1/2 tablespoons EVOO, divided
1 clove garlic
2 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped
4 radishes, chopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast half, cut into 1" cubes
canola oil for pan frying
handful fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped


1. Preheat oven (or toaster oven) to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil and scatter the bread cubes on it. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon EVOO. Bake, turning once, until golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Set aside to cool. When cool, rub each bread cube with the garlic clove. Set aside.

2. Mince the rest of the garlic clove and put in a large bowl with tomatoes, radishes, cucumber, remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons EVOO, and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.

3. Spread the panko on a sheet of wax paper or a plate and roll each chicken piece to coat with bread crumbs. Put a thin layer of canola oil in a medium skillet and warm over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the chicken bites until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes, turning about halfway through. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove and set on a paper towel to drain.

4. Add the hot chicken bites, bread cubes, and fresh basil to the salad. Toss and serve immediately.

Unfortunately, the bread cubes and chicken lose their crunch after sitting in the dressing, so this is not a make-ahead meal. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Almond French Toast

We've had a very emotionally draining couple of days, and nothing sounded more comforting to me this morning than a decadent breakfast. Yesterday I bought a loaf of "egg bread" at a Jewish deli. It's somewhere between brioche and challah, so either of those breads would certainly work in this recipe, too.

French toast is one of those things that I make a little bit differently every time. This time I decided to fancy it up a bit, adding some almond extract and coating it in sliced almonds before cooking. It turned out rich and delicious, without quite feeling like dessert for breakfast. I personally prefer my French toast without maple syrup, but if you want the extra sweetness, go for it.

This is one of those recipes that comes together really fast, and yet it looks and tastes well thought out and impressive. So feel free to serve this to your special someone on a Sunday morning, with a cup of cinnamon coffee and a newspaper. They will love you for it!

Almond French Toast
serves 2 (or 1 if you're very hungry)


2 thick slices of brioche or challah (or other egg bread)
1 large egg
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (or more if you really love almond flavor)
1/3 cup sliced almonds
cooking spray
cinnamon sugar


1. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and almond extract. Put the sliced almonds on a separate plate. Dip the slices of bread, one at a time, into the egg mixture, coating both sides well. You don't want it soggy, but you want it thoroughly coated. Place the eggy bread onto the plate of almonds, pressing gently, and turn. You might need to scatter the almond slices a bit. Repeat with second slice.

2. Warm a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. Coat with cooking spray. Cook the French toast slices, making sure they don't overlap in the pan. Resist the temptation to crank up the heat, as you don't want the almonds to burn. Sprinkle the French toast with cinnamon sugar while it cooks, and sprinkle the other side when you flip it over. Continue to cook and flip every few minutes until golden brown but not burned, about 6 minutes total. Serve hot.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Grilled Yogurt-Marinated Chicken

It's time for a yummy, far-east inspired meal. It comes together quickly if you're impatient like I am, or you can do it properly and let it marinate overnight, in which case I imagine it would be divine. I only let it marinate for 15 minutes. That's how disciplined I am.

The marinade includes garam masala, a beautiful combination of spices that is traditional in Indian cooking. The marinade also includes yogurt, which is traditional in Indian cooking. It's almost like an Indian meal, but I won't go that far because I'm sure the traditionalists would scoff. It's not spicy or particularly exotic, but it has a hint of Indian flavor that will please those of us who can't get enough of the stuff, without offending those who think they are anti-Indian-food.

Grilled Yogurt-Marinated Chicken
adapted from Everyday Food Magazine
serves 2


1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 large garlic clove, smashed and peeled
juice of 1 lemon, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup plain yogurt (preferably Greek, but regular is fine)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 large chicken breast, butterflied and halved
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
whole wheat pita bread or naan for serving


1. In a food processor or blender, puree the onion, garlic, 1/2 the lemon juice, and ginger until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in yogurt, garam masala, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for as long as you can wait (up to overnight) - longer is better, but mine was still tasty with only 15 minutes of marinating.

2. Preheat grill pan over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, make the salad by combining cucumber, cilantro, oil, and remaining lemon juice in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Spray grill pan with nonstick spray. Remove chicken from marinade, and wipe off excess. Grill until done, about 5 minutes per side. Serve with salad and pita or naan.

This is great made into pita sandwiches. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Arugula Pesto Pasta

Arugula is a magical green. Without adding any spices to it, it tastes peppery and verdant at the same time. It makes cooking a whole lot easier, using only one ingredient to pack the same flavor punch as you might normally get from two or three. This makes it a perfect base for a pesto sauce.

I don't need to teach you the mechanics of pesto, you've seen it before (here and elsewhere). Usually it involves a combination of herbs and nuts - here there are neither, just good old arugula. The only other thing you need to know is that the food processor is your best friend. It has to be the single most used appliance in my kitchen. I couldn't live without it! Well, couldn't cook without it, anyway.

This recipe is so easy you'll want to hug me. Promise.

Arugula Pesto Pasta
adapted from Everyday Italian
serves 2


1 cup (packed) fresh baby arugula
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup EVOO
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
6 oz. whole wheat pasta of your choice

1. In a food processor, process arugula and garlic clove until finely chopped. With processor running, slowly stream in EVOO and process until well blended. Add parmesan, salt and pepper, and process just a moment longer.

2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to the hot pot. Stir in pesto to coat the hot pasta. Serve immediately.

Peppery, simple and delicious. Another for the weeknight file. Enjoy!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mediterranean Grain Salad

Whole grains deserve a bit of experimentation. Tossing them into a salad along with some more traditional ingredients is a great way to introduce yourself and get to know each other a bit better. When you add a whole grain to a leafy salad, it suddenly becomes far more filling. Hold off on the crusty bread, tempting though it may be, with this one.

I chose to use quinoa in this recipe since we've been having a whole grain love affair for several years now. I should warn you, though, that quinoa has a tendency to cling to everything it touches, so you'll end up with quinoa-coated spinach, quinoa-coated cheese crumbles, etc. If this bothers you, you might want to use farro, bulgur or barley. Just pick the grain you feel like getting to know better. The instructions below are for quinoa, so if you use something else, follow the package directions to cook it.

Spicy radishes, creamy goat cheese and a light lemon vinaigrette compliment the quinoa and spinach nicely. This is a pretty inoffensive salad that you can serve to almost anyone. Anyone who knows what's good for them, anyway!

Mediterranean Grain Salad
adapted from Williams-Sonoma's Food Made Fast: Salad
serves 2


1/2 cup quinoa (or grain of choice)
juice of one lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons EVOO
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
a few leaves of fresh mint, finely chopped
3 oz. baby spinach leaves
1 oz. goat cheese or feta cheese crumbles


1. If using quinoa, rinse and drain, then put in a saucepan with 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until all water is absorbed. Turn off heat and set aside to cool for a while. Use this time to prep remaining ingredients.

2. Make the vinaigrette: whisk the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and EVOO together in a small bowl (or shake in a salad dressing shaker).

3. Assemble the salad: Put radishes, cucumber, mint, spinach, cheese, and quinoa in a large bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss gently to combine. Serve.