Monday, August 31, 2009

"Spring" Asparagus Puree

I know it's odd to have a springtime recipe this late in the summer, but strangely, asparagus is still in season. I don't know if it's global warming, or just clever farming, but I got asparagus in my CSA bag again this week (so no, it's not imported from some parallel universe where it's still spring). See if you can still find it at your farmers' market - otherwise, store this recipe for next spring!

This really is another type of pesto, but it's much more robust and filled with bright flavors. Asparagus and spinach are the showmen, and they are accompanied by the hint of a lemony zing. You can make this puree and have it with pasta, or use it as a pizza sauce, a bruschetta topping, or even a dip.

If you're a fellow asparagus fan, get it while it still lasts, and make this sauce!

"Spring" Asparagus Puree
adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking
makes about 2 cups


1 bunch asparagus spears, trimmed and halved
1/2 bunch spinach leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
pinch of sea salt


1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the asparagus pieces for about 2 or 3 minutes, just to blanch them. Drain.

2. Put blanched asparagus, spinach, garlic, parmesan, and pine nuts in a food processor. Puree, and stream the oil in while the processor is running. Continue to process until smooth.

3. Stir in lemon juice and salt. Serve.

If you're using this as a pasta sauce, thin it out with just a splash of the starchy pasta cooking water. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cornbread Crusted Pie

I don't often cook for a large number of people, so when I do, I am all about the casseroles. When we decided to have a family birthday party for my husband at our place, I turned, appropriately, to The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever for ideas. This one practically jumped off the page. I changed a few things, most importantly the use of ground turkey instead of beef, and fresh corn instead of frozen (after all, I just got two beautiful ears in my CSA bag this week). The result is this tasty, shepherd's pie-esque casserole that everyone seemed very happy with.

The cornbread crust is fantastic. It's crisp on top and soft inside, and has a great balance of sweet and savory - everything that good cornbread should be. The meat filling is lovely, filled with spices and fresh vegetables that all marry together to form a united front. We had it with guacamole and chips, as well as a yellow bean salad my sister made. A very tasty lunch!

Cornbread Crusted Pie
adapted from The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever
serves 10


the filling:
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon whole wheat (or all-purpose) flour
kernels from 2 ears of sweet corn
2 14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, with juice

cornbread topping:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat (or all-purpose) flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup nonfat milk
1/4 cup canola oil


1. Preheat oven to 400. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until starting to soften. Add turkey and break it up as it cooks with a spatula or wooden spoon. Cook, stirring frequently, until turkey is browned and mostly cooked through.

3. Add garlic, spices, salt, flour, and corn, and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a boil. Let it boil for a couple of minutes to allow a cohesive sauce to form. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to the baking dish.

4. Make the topping: In a large bowl, stir the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Whisk the egg, milk, and oil together in a medium bowl and then add to the dry ingredients, mixing until well blended. Pour the batter over the filling in the baking dish and spread evenly with a spatula or spoon.

5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until topping is lightly browned and a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean. Serve.


Peanut Butter-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

My husband's birthday was a couple of days ago, and today we will be celebrating with family. There will be children present, and there will be my husband and I present, which I decided meant we had to have cupcakes. Cupcakes that showcase the most glorious dessert combination known to man: chocolate and peanut butter.

These cupcakes are unusual, since there is no real frosting, but with the rich, sweet peanut butter filling, frosting would just be too much. These cupcakes are decadent with a capital D. Made with quality chocolate, all natural peanut butter, and a not-quite indecent (but almost) amount of butter, these are cupcakes fit for a birthday party. And the filling is so full of itself that it not only resides in the middle, but bursts forth from the top of the cupcake as well.

If you are better at food artistry than I am, you might be able to make these look prettier with a swirly pattern on top. Mine are more like little peanut butter volcanoes. But hey, they taste just as good!

Peanut Butter-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
makes 12


the chocolate
2/3 cup white whole wheat (or all-purpose) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 ounces quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

the peanut butter filling
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. Combine butter and chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water; stir until melted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

2. While the melted chocolate cools, make the peanut butter filling. Combine all the filling ingredients and stir together until smooth. Set aside.

3. Whisk granulated sugar into the cooled chocolate mixture. Add eggs, and whisk until mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture; stir until well incorporated.

4. Preheat oven to 325. Line a muffin tin with paper or silicone liners. Spoon 2 tablespoons chocolate batter into each lined cup, followed by 1 tablespoon peanut butter filling. Repeat with another tablespoon of chocolate, and top with 1 teaspoon peanut butter filling. Swirl top of cupcake batter and filling with a wooden skewer or toothpick.

4. Bake, rotating tin halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes. Cool completely in muffin tin before removing cupcakes.

Enjoy, whether it's your birthday or not!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Zucchini Fritters with Red Pepper Dip

It's about that time of year when people who have gardens (lucky so-and-so's, as I call them) are starting to complain about too much zucchini. If they have to have one more stir fry, one more zucchini muffin, one more zucchini boat, they're going to lose it. Well this is the type of recipe to keep things fun and interesting. Fritters that are actually good for you, and a simple dipping sauce to add an extra zing.

The fritters themselves aren't intensely flavorful; it's more about appreciating the zucchini flavor in a yummy crispy-coated little patty. But the dipping sauce is where the flavor is at, and makes the whole meal come together in a very satisfying way. It's a meal made up almost entirely of vegetables, and yet I don't think anyone will complain.

Zucchini Fritters with Red Pepper Dip
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray
serves 2


2 medium-large zucchini
1 large egg
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large roasted red pepper (from a jar is fine)
hot pepper sauce


1. Grate the zucchini in a food processor with the grater attachment, or on the large holes of a box grater. Place in a colander and toss with a pinch of salt. Let sit over a bowl or in the sink for 10 minutes to drain some of the moisture. Then squeeze with all your might (hands work, or hands + paper towels) to get the excess moisture out.

2. Whisk the egg in a large bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper until light and frothy. Use the whisk to stir in the zucchini, followed by the flour.

3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, drop the fritter batter in heaping tablespoons into the skillet, flattening each one gently with the back of the spoon after you drop it in. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, or until nicely browned and cooked through. Add extra oil if necessary for the later batch(es).

4. In a food processor, puree red pepper with teaspoon of oil, salt, and hot pepper sauce to taste. Serve the dip with the warm fritters.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chicken Sate with Spicy Peanut Sauce (CEIMB)

This week's Craving Ellie in my Belly recipe was the ever-popular Thai appetizer, chicken sate. Of course Ellie Krieger gave it a new, healthy spin. The dipping sauce is the stuff of legend - spicy, creamy and rich without a single truly sinful ingredient. The chicken marinade is lovely, but I slathered so much of the dipping sauce on each bite that I probably didn't fully appreciate it.

I opted to do this as an entree rather than an appetizer, and I didn't thread the chicken on skewers before grilling it. I made a cucumber-avocado salsa (also an Ellie recipe!) to have on the side and round out the meal. It was a festival of flavors on my plate, to be sure. I definitely recommend this one. I made a few changes from the original recipe, but the spirit is Ellie's.

As a little shout-out to the love of my life, I should mention that I actually made this a night early (on Wednesday) because Thursday is my husband's birthday and I'm taking him out to dinner. He'll be free of my cooking for a night! (That's a joke. I think.)

Chicken Sate with Spicy Peanut Sauce
adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
serves 2


the chicken
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/2 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into strips
cooking spray

the dipping sauce
1/4 cup creamy natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
juice of 1/2 lime
pinch red pepper flakes
pinch curry powder


1. Make the marinade: Whisk chicken broth, coconut milk, soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, lime zest, and ginger in a dish. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

2. Meanwhile, make the peanut sauce by combining all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and pureeing.

3. After the chicken has marinated for an hour, heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Remove chicken from marinade and discard the excess. Cook chicken 3 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Serve with the dipping sauce.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fresh Fig Toasts

Certain flavors have a natural affinity for one another. Fresh figs are one of those great, unusual fruits that pair nicely with all sorts of sweet, savory, spicy, and salty ingredients to become something completely other than what they start out being. If you haven't experimented with fresh figs before, here are some ideas to get you started.

I made a very simple version for my lunch today, but you can have all sorts of variations on the theme. You could add or subtract as you see fit - a pile of arugula on top would be fantastic, as would some folded up slices of prosciutto.

You could toast it all together so that the figs get warm too, or you could put the toppings on flatbread instead of challah and make a mini pizza. You could put it on puff pastry rounds and serve it as a tray passed appetizer. You could do away with the bread and put the toppings on a bed of greens for an elegant salad. The options are endless.

Fresh figs are in season now, and you can accessorize them as you see fit. Serve any time of day - as breakfast, lunch, at happy hour, or as dessert. It's flexible!

Fresh Fig Toasts
serves one (multiply as you see fit)


1 thick slice of challah, lightly toasted
3 black mission figs, cut in half
pinch of freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons goat cheese crumbles
2 teaspoons honey


1. Assemble: top the toast with the figs, cut side up. Sprinkle with pepper, followed by goat cheese crumbles. Drizzle with honey. Serve.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Green Bean and Celery Salad

You might have noticed that I'm a little bit in love with green beans this summer, particularly in salads. In this incarnation, the versatile green bean is paired with underappreciated celery. Together they are crisp and refreshing, but then you add the dressing to beat all dressings, and this is a simply magical salad. I can tell this is going to be my new go-to salad dressing. And the best part is, all the ingredients are probably in your pantry right now.

Use really fresh, quality green beans for this recipe, and celery ribs from the heart. This is not a very expensive recipe to make, folks, so you might as well use the best available ingredients. Serve as a side salad or as the main event. But either way, be happy as you crunch away, and ooh and ahh over the dressing.

Green Bean and Celery Salad
adapted from Food Network Magazine
serves 2


3/4 pound green beans, trimmed and halved
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon drained capers
handful chopped parsley leaves
handful chopped celery leaves
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced


1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add green beans and cook just until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

2. In the bottom of your salad bowl, whisk lemon juice, dijon, salt, pepper and oil. Add capers, parsley, and celery leaves, and stir to combine well. Add the green beans and chopped celery and toss to coat. Serve.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Southern Kale

Last night I made a hearty, well-balanced meal that made everyone (well, all two of us) very happy. The "test" recipe was one of the side dishes - southern kale. I have been getting a lot of kale from my CSA, and while I love that hardy, leafy green, I've had a harder time selling it on my husband. When I found this recipe, I thought it might be the ticket - after all, add bacon (or pancetta) to something, and it suddenly gets a bit more palatable.

Well the side dish was nice, but I'm afraid it was overshadowed by the grilled chicken and leftover corn pudding. Still, this is a way of cooking kale that might be a bit more pleasing to the masses. You cook the kale to the point where it is so tender and moist, it is almost the texture of spinach rather than its own more robust texture. And the flavor of the garlic and pancetta permeates throughout and makes for a rather bold leafy green side dish.

Don't be tempted to substitute bacon - it will make the dish far too smoky. If you don't want to do pancetta, prosciutto or country ham would work well too.

Southern Kale
adapted from Eating Well in Season
serves 2-3 as a side dish


1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 oz. diced pancetta
1 bunch of kale, tough stems removed, leaves torn
1 cup water


1. Heat the oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high. Add garlic and stir. Immediately add the pancetta and stir. After about 30 seconds, begin adding the kale in handfuls, stirring to make room for all of it. Add the water and cover the skillet.

2. Cook with the cover on (lifting it to stir occasionally) for 10 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until all the visible liquid has evaporated, about 10 additional minutes. Serve.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sauteed Red Pepper Sandwich

I debated whether to post this recipe or not, as it is more an idea for a sandwich than an actual recipe. I had some lovely vegetables that were feeling neglected, and decided to saute them up and make a sandwich out of them. This combination would also work well on pasta.

Almost any kind of cheese would work here, but goat cheese lends itself well to anything with red bell peppers for some reason. Feel free to substitute something else, of course!

Sauteed Red Pepper Sandwich
makes 2


1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 small red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, chopped
pinch of salt
a handful of goat cheese crumbles
4 slices of whole grain or multi-grain bread


1. Heat oil and garlic over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook for about 1 minute, or until garlic is starting to turn golden. Add peppers, asparagus, and sun-dried tomatoes and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, or until vegetables are just starting to soften.

2. Put goat cheese crumbles on two sices of bread, and top each with half the vegetable mixture. Close up your sandwich and eat!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Corn Pudding

I don't know if this has just been a particularly good summer for corn, or if I've just been missing out on the good stuff available directly from the farmers all these years. Since I've been getting corn from a CSA, it's like a whole new awakening. I've always loved corn, but usually couldn't be bothered with coming up with things to do with it. Now that I have this seemingly endless supply, I'm actually having fun coming up with ideas.

Today I made corn pudding, which is a lovely corn casserole filled with gorgeous flavors. Simple seasonings, a bit of milk, some sharp cheese, corn and onion join together with some assistance from an egg and form a beautiful side or main dish. We had ours for dinner along with a side salad, but of course this dish is traditionally seen as a side dish backing up some kind of protein. Really, though, this deserves to be the main attraction.

Make sure you have some really good, sweet corn (preferably white, but let's not be corn-racist) and you can whip this up for a pot luck, for a holiday spread, or simply for dinner.

Corn Pudding
adapted from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors
serves 4


1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely diced onion
3 large ears sweet corn, shucked
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar (or cheese of your choice)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
sea salt and freshly ground pepper


1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a shallow 3-cup baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Melt butter in a skillet over low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, just until it's soft and lightly colored, about 10 minutes. (If you want a deeper onion flavor, go ahead and let it get a bit browned. I think it would be yummy.)

3. While onion is cooking, cut the kernels from the corn into a large bowl. Scrape the cob with the flat side of your knife to get out the corn "milk" as well.

4. Stir the egg, milk, cheese, parsley, marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste into the same bowl as the corn.
Stir in the cooked onion. Make sure everything is relatively evenly distributed. Pour into the baking dish, and sprinkle with a few dashes of paprika on top. Bake in center of oven until puffed and golden, about 45-50 minutes. Serve warm.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Broccoli Calzone

If you have someone in your life who thinks he or she does not like broccoli, it's time to make this and see if you can initiate a change in thinking. This is so incredibly tasty, it makes broccoli into a treat. And it is ridiculously easy.

I made this recipe up as I went along, and I loved the way it came out. With the high quality pre-made pizza dough that you can find nowadays in places like Trader Joe's and Fresh and Easy, you can save yourself some trouble and have this meal ready in no time. There are infinite possibilities as to the filling, but I like the simplicity of this spicy broccoli saute. It's just the right amount of crunch, of cheese, of spice. Give it a try before you start making too many changes.

Broccoli Calzones
makes 4


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (plus more for brushing)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon cracked red pepper flakes
1 head broccoli, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste, whisked into 1/4 cup warm water
1 lb. whole wheat pizza dough
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup part skim shredded mozzarella


1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until garlic is sizzling and turning a golden color. Add the broccoli and raise heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste-water mixture, stir, and cook for another 5 minutes, or until broccoli is crisp tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

2. Preheat oven to 450. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat liner.

2. Divide pizza dough into quarters. Roll out each quarter on a floured board into a shape of your choosing (an oval is a good idea), until less than 1/4 inch thick. Spoon the broccoli, dividing evenly, into the center of each piece of dough. Don't overload the dough; use your judgment. Add 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella to each piece of dough and roll up like a burrito, sealing the dough together with your fingers. (Don't worry if it doesn't look perfect).

3. Transfer the calzones to the baking sheet and brush with a very small amount of olive oil, just to create a slight sheen. Sprinkle with a bit of extra cheese if desired. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tops are browned and dough is cooked through. Serve.

Marinara sauce is almost a must for dipping, but feel free to have it plain, too. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Nectarine and Blueberry Crumble

I had a few nectarines that were looking a bit bruised and sad, so I set out on a quest to find a yummy nectarine cobbler or crumble recipe. Surprisingly, I couldn't find one! I'm sure there are plenty on the internet, but in my cookbooks nectarines were woefully absent from the dessert sections. I figured nectarines and peaches are similar enough in texture that a mere substitution would be acceptable.

So here we have a nectarine and blueberry crumble sweetened with nothing other than the fruits themselves. It's not a super sweet dessert, just tasty in its own right. If you feel like adding a little brown sugar to the topping, it would make this feel more like a dessert than a bordering-on-savory fruit dish. But if you're feeling adventurous, try it as is and see what you think.

This is another almond flour recipe, and the almond flavor truly adds a lovely nutty dimension to the dish. If you don't feel like forking over the cash for almond flour, you could try using wheat flour but I won't make any promises as to how it will turn out. (And you might want to add that brown sugar if you go the wheat flour route, as without the nuttiness of the almonds this will be rather bland).

The bottom line is, this is a dessert that is truly, honestly healthy. Full of healthy fats, protein and unadulterated fruit, you can serve this up with no guilt whatsoever.

Nectarine and Blueberry Crumble
adapted from Elana Amsterdam's Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook
serves 8


4 fresh nectarines, sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed
2 cups blanched almond flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup canola (or other neutral) oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In an 8 x 8 baking dish, lay out the fruit in a relatively even layer.

3. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a medium bowl, whisk together oil and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, until you have a coarse crumbly mixture. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit in the baking dish and cover with aluminum foil.

4. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until topping is browned and the juices are bubbling. Let cool for 30 minutes, then serve warm.

Ice cream or whipped cream would make this a little bit more sinful and desserty. Either way, enjoy!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stuffed Turkey Burgers (CEIMB)

I've really been looking forward to this week's recipe for Craving Ellie in My Belly. Not a lot of people seem to really appreciate a well-made turkey burger. I realize that there are many turkey burgers that are not so well made - underseasoned, too dry, or too tough. But I am a big fan of the turkey burger. I try not to eat a lot of beef, so it's a great way to get a burger fix without venturing into beef territory too often.

This recipe seems almost too simple to be a tasty turkey burger. Somehow Ellie worked her magic, and these just work. Some of the other bloggers mentioned it wasn't flavorful enough, so to be on the safe side I added a little bit of cracked red pepper flakes. It was fabulous, but honestly I think I would have loved it even without the addition.

These are big, satisfying burgers with just the right amount of roasted red pepper and melty cheese inside. They are juicy, filled with flavor, and best of all, relatively guilt free. I had mine with just some lettuce, but if you feel like dousing it with your usual burger toppings, you can certainly feel free. I promise you, though, it doesn't need it.

Stuffed Turkey Burgers
adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
makes 4


1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1 teaspoon cracked red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
cooking spray
4 whole wheat buns


1. Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat.

2. Divide the ground turkey into four even sections. Divide each section in half, and form 8 small(ish) patties, keeping them pretty flat. Top four of the patties with 2 tablespoons chopped red pepper, 2 tablespoons cheese, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes each. Cover with the remaining patties, and work the turkey around the edges to seal the burgers closed. Season fairly generously with salt and pepper.

3. Spray grill pan with cooking spray. Cook the burgers until cooked through, about 5 minutes each side. (Trust me, when you're eating turkey, medium rare is not a good idea). Put burgers in buns and serve.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Israeli Couscous with Pistachios and Apricots

I don't even know what to say. The mere name of this recipe makes me salivate. I had to try it. And it was delicious.

Israeli couscous, that fun-sized pasta/grain that is oh so versatile, strikes again. Today it is commingling with fresh apricots and crunchy pistachios, along with fresh mint, lime, and fragrant spices. It's like a Middle Eastern festival in your kitchen. The original recipe called for dried apricots, but I figured while fresh ones are still in season, we ought to take advantage. You can certainly substitute dried if you make this at a time of year when fresh is not available.

This dish works well as a main course, side dish, or salad. Serve at any temperature you like. I can promise you, it will be good, it will be different, and it will be gone before you know it.

Israeli Couscous with Pistachios and Apricots
adapted from Veganomicon
serves 2


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 small (or 1 large) cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 1/4 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch ground cardamom
salt and pepper to taste
zest from 1 small lime
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 small apricots, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup shelled pistachios
juice from 1/2 small lime


1. Preheat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low. Add oil and garlic, and saute for one minute. Add couscous, raise heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until couscous starts to get golden brown and toasty. (This seriously amps up the flavor. Don't skip this step!)

2. Add water, cinnamon stick, cumin, cardamom, pepper, salt, and lime zest. Raise heat and bring to a boil. When it's boiling, lower heat to low and cover with a lid. Let cook for about 8 minutes, or until most (but not all) of the water is absorbed. Stir in the mint, apricots, pistachios, and lime juice, and cover again. Cook for about 4 more minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.

3. Remove cinnamon stick, fluff couscous with a fork, and serve.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chicken Biryani

When I was a child, my mother occasionally made a biryani side dish from Trader Joe's. It was mysterious to me at the time - who wants raisins in their rice? And funny spices that they don't recognize? Not me, I thought.

I thought wrong. The trick is the "little bit of this, little bit of that" mentality. I found this incredibly simple version of chicken biryani in an issue of Cooking Light, and it was like the light bulb flicked on. So that's why this whole raisins in your rice thing actually works! With delicately exotic garam masala and ground cumin, a hint of garlic, a whisper of cilantro, onion and tomato, it's like a family reunion of gentle flavors. And they all add up, thanks to the help of a minced jalapeno, to be quite powerful indeed. (And really, you skeptics out there, there are very few raisins here. You'll barely notice them.)

If you're looking for a more fun twist on the same-old chicken and rice, here it is. This is a one pot wonder that will whip up in about 40 minutes, and keep everyone happy. Even if they think they don't want raisins in their rice.

A note: this needs some kind of refreshing side dish. I served it with chopped cucumber drizzled with a little lime juice. Some kind of raita would be lovely as well.

Chicken Biryani
adapted from Cooking Light
serves 2-3


1 teaspoon canola oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 large (or 1 small) onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon garam masala*
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of salt
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 cup uncooked basmati (or similar) rice
small handful of raisins
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
handful chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 lime, cut into wedges for serving


1. Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and saute for 3 minutes. Add onion and jalapeno and saute for another 3 minutes, until onion is starting to soften.

2. Add ginger, garam masala, cumin, salt, and garlic, and stir. Add tomato, rice, raisins, and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover with a lid. Let simmer 15 minutes, or until rice is tender.

3. Stir in cilantro and almonds. Serve with lime wedges.

* garam masala is available in most markets. It is an Indian spice mix made up of peppers, cloves, bay, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, mace, star anise, and coriander in varying combinations. Try it. You'll like it.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Chocolate Chip Scones with Almond Flour

One thing that makes cooking infinitely enjoyable is simple experimentation. When I hear about a new ingredient or method that I haven't tried before, I do a little research, often buy a cookbook (any excuse, am I right?), and then I try it out. And you people get to benefit by reaping the results without any of the hard work. Sounds fair, right?

Well this one can hardly be called hard work, other than having to seek out a relatively expensive and hard-to-find ingredient. That ingredient is almond flour. Most people don't bother with almond flour unless they are gluten intolerant or diabetic, but the bottom line is, it is tasty and good for you. And any ingredient that I can put into a baked good and call healthy, well, I'm a fan.

So yes, almond flour is a bit pricey. But if you're lucky enough to be able to use it as an extra curricular ingredient, as I am doing here, rather than a dietary requirement, then you can splurge once in a while, right? Almond flour is loaded with protein and nutrition without all the carbohydrates of wheat flour. You can make it yourself by grinding up blanched almonds, but realistically it's not going to save you much money, if any. Sadly, almonds are not cheap. But they are a superfood, and they are delicious. So we are slaves to them just the same.

Another rather pricey ingredient featured in this recipe is agave nectar, which has a much lower glycemic index than regular sugar, honey, or maple syrup. So again, it's good for diabetics. But if you don't feel like splurging twice in this recipe, you can substitute honey or maple syrup. Just know that your scones are slightly more sinful than mine!

These scones taste fantastic. Gluten-free (not to mention dairy-free and without any refined sugar) can be a beautiful thing, people. I am all about healthier recipes that don't use anything artificial or chemical. And this recipe rewards you with flavors reminiscent of macaroons and toasted almond goodies, with melty chocolate chips and a hint of cinnamon. Fantastic.

Chocolate Chip Scones with Almond Flour
adapted from Elana Amsterdam's The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook
makes 16 scones


2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup canola oil

1/4 cup agave nectar

2 large eggs
3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with silpat liners or parchment.

2. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (almond flour through cinnamon). In a small bowl, whisk wet ingredients (oil, agave, and eggs). Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until well combined.

3. Fold in the chocolate chips. Scoop scant 1/4 cup blobs of batter onto the cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between blobs. Bake for 12 to 17 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes on the baking sheets.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer Gnocchi

Have I told you lately how much I love gnocchi? So tasty, so versatile. Perfect year-round as a background or foreground ingredient. Here it serves as the host for beautiful summer sweet corn, fresh tomato, onion, parsley, and a delicate brown butter sauce. Easy and fabulous.

This recipe was inspired by one in the new Eating Well in Season cookbook, but I changed quite a bit about it. It would work with almost any summer vegetable, but I think corn takes this recipe to new heights. The original recipe used zucchini, and I'm sure that would be fantastic as well. Feel free to use anything you have on hand, so long as it is fresh and in its peak season!

Summer Gnocchi
adapted from Eating Well in Season
serves 4


1 lb. package of fresh or frozen gnocchi (preferably wheat)
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot or 1/2 onion, chopped
kernels from 2 ears of fresh sweet corn
1 large tomato, chopped
salt and pepper
pinch of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped parsley


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook gnocchi according to package directions, until the gnocchi float. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, cook the butter over medium-high in a large skillet until it begins to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add onion and corn, and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes.

3. Add tomato, and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in parsley and drained gnocchi, tossing to combine everything. Serve immediately.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Orzo and Spinach Stuffed Peppers

I realize it's not obvious what you're looking at in the picture above. But take my word for it - it is a beautiful medley of Italian flavors. It is incredibly comforting and filled with nutrients to carry you through the rest of your day.

I had some beautiful yellow bell peppers, a bunch of spinach, and fresh mint just waiting to be used. And thanks to Giada (and a bit of tweaking of her recipe on my part), I found the perfect vehicle. This dish is somewhere between a pasta dish and a soup, yet it seems to be the familiar pot-luck staple, the stuffed pepper. Totally vegetarian and packed with unexpected flavor, however, it is anything but familiar.

The cool mint against the earthy tomato and spinach is a beautiful thing.

I chose to cut my bell peppers length-wise to maximize filling in only two peppers, but if you'd rather cut off the tops and stuff them that way, feel free. The world is your oyster. Or pepper, as the case may be.

Orzo and Spinach Stuffed Peppers
adapted from Giada's Kitchen
serves 3


1 (14.5 oz) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 bunch of spinach, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
salt and pepper
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
3/4 cups orzo
2 large or 3 small/medium bell peppers (red or yellow)


1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes and their juices, spinach, mint, cheese, oil, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

3. Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add orzo and cook for 4 minutes. It will not be completely cooked yet. Drain it in a sieve, reserving the broth, and add the orzo to the large bowl with the veggies. Stir to combine. Transfer the broth to a 2-quart (or similar) baking dish.

4. Slice the peppers in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds and ribs. Lay the pepper halves (open-side up) in the baking dish and fill them with the orzo mixture. Cover the dish with foil (or a glass lid) and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the lid, sprinkle with additional cheese, and continue baking uncovered for 10 minutes. Transfer the peppers carefully to individual plates and serve.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cool Southwestern Salad

While this is the first time I've made this specific recipe, I've certainly made variations on this theme before. The version I'm giving you tonight is a good base for you to play around with. I've suggested some variations below.

This salad is refreshing, zesty and flavorful without being overbearing or overly familiar. You can take that and work wonders with it. A few suggested additions or substitutions are:

- jicama, mango, or watermelon chunks instead of the radish
- diced jalapeno or cayenne pepper for added spice
- omit the lettuce and serve as a salsa/dip instead of a salad
- halved grape tomatoes
- diced chives or green onions
- cilantro instead of parsley
- any type of bean instead of black (pinto, garbanzo, cannelini)
- diced cucumber
- grated zucchini

I think you get the idea. The possibilities are endless here.

Cool Southwestern Salad
adapted from Real Simple Magazine
serves 3


1 small head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 ear corn, kernels cut off the cob
1 avocado, chopped
3 or 4 radishes, diced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper
tortilla chips for garnish


1. In a medium bowl, combine beans, corn, avocado, radishes, and parsley. Drizzle with oil and lime juice, and season with cumin, salt and pepper. Mix well.

2. Serve over individual beds of the romaine. Garnish with tortilla chips.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Canadian Bacon and Broccoli Stuffed Potatoes

In need of comfort food at its finest and easiest? Here you have it. Big baked potatoes loaded with broccoli, cheese, and a bit of bacon (Canadian, that is) really hit the spot when you need a soothing supper.

These don't require a lot of comment - there's nothing overly decadent here, in spite of what your taste buds will tell you when you take a bite. Use good quality cheese, and don't overcook the broccoli, and you'll be golden.

Canadian Bacon and Broccoli Stuffed Potatoes
adapted from Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book
serves 2


2 large baking potatoes
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
cooking spray
3 pieces of Canadian bacon (or turkey bacon)
1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar


1. Preheat toaster oven (or oven) to 425. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Scrub the potatoes and pierce them several times, then place on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 40 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Set aside to cool.

2. While the potatoes cool, spray a skillet with cooking spray and cook the Canadian bacon over medium heat for about 3 minutes per side, or until browned. Let cool, then dice the bacon and set aside.

3. In the same skillet, bring about an inch of water to a boil and salt it. Blanch the broccoli for about a minute or two, just to take the edge off. Drain and put the broccoli in a bowl. Add the diced Canadian bacon, broth, and scallion.

4. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut in half length-wise and scoop out most of the potato flesh, just leaving enough to maintain a thin shell. Add the potato flesh to the bowl with the broccoli and stir it up to combine. Add about half the cheese and stir. Fill the potato skins with the mixture, dividing fairly evenly among them. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve.

A balanced meal stuffed inside a beautiful vehicle - the potato. Enjoy!