Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Orange Dressing

This salad is another example of flavors that get along like they've known each other since kindergarten. Roasted beets, sweet orange juice, goat cheese, and walnuts are far from a motley crew. Their flavors and textures complement each other beautifully. It's simply logical.

I don't have much more to say, other than this is one of those "fancy" salads that would go very well as a first course (in smaller portions) before some equally fancy entree. And the effort is minimal.

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Orange Dressing
serves 3


3 medium-sized beets, root and stem ends trimmed
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice (about 1/2 orange)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups (loosely packed) chopped red leaf lettuce
1 ounce fresh goat cheese, crumbled
handful walnut pieces, toasted


1. Preheat toaster oven (or oven) to 400. Wrap beets in foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. Unwrap and let cool. When the beets are cool enough to handle, scrape off the skins with the blunt side of a knife. Cut into quarters (or smaller if using large beets). Place in a bowl.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the orange zest, juice, vinegar, oil, and salt. Pour about half of it over the beets and toss to coat.

3. Assemble the salad: divide the lettuce among three plates, topped with a third each of the beets. Top with goat cheese crumbles and walnut pieces. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Serve.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Mache and Leek Soup

I'm guessing right about now you have two questions. The first one is, what the heck is mache? And the second one is, how do you pronounce it? Well I'll leave the second question to our French friends. But the first question I can answer. It's a tender, small leafy green, also called lamb's lettuce. It has an interesting flavor that is best described as somewhere between spinach and watercress, with an unexpected hint of pea. That's right, pea. I can't explain it, I can just cook it and eat it. And I hope you will too.

If I'm going to be completely honest, this soup was supposed to be made with watercress. Watercress, I have discovered, is remarkably hard to find. They often have it at my supermarket, but it looks discolored and sad. They occasionally have it at the farmers market, but they didn't this past weekend. And Trader Joe's let me down. So I opted for mache, and was pleasantly surprised.

This soup has a very mild flavor, but it isn't bland. It's comforting and wholesome and all those usual adjectives I tend to use when I describe soup. This is basically a potato-leek soup given an extra vitamin boost. It's quite nice. Pick up some crusty sourdough and you'll have yourself a very satisfying meal.

Mache and Leek Soup
adapted from Everyday Food
serves 3


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts only, chopped
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 small to medium baking potato, peeled and chopped
4 ounces mache
drizzle of fresh lemon juice


1. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leek, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes.

2. Add broth, water, and potato. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, partially covered, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until potato is tender.

3. Add all but 1 cup of the mache and stir it in so it all gets incorporated into the soup. Cook until bright green and tender, about 3 minutes. Puree the soup in batches, or using an immersion blender.

4. Toss the remaining mache with the remaining oil and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Serve the soup topped with a handful of the mache salad.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Baked Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Fall officially began a few days ago, but it took California a little while to get the memo. We had insanely hot weather the past few days, but I wasn't having any of it. I insisted on making a fall-inspired lunch today, and apparently the weather checked its calendar. I kid you not - literally as I was cooking, the clouds rolled in and a cool breeze kicked up, and the temperature dropped about ten degrees. Spooky.

But instead of being spooked, I rejoiced that suddenly this meal fit the day perfectly. It's filled with rich, indulgent flavors, but it's actually incredibly nutritious and not very fattening at all. You have your salty, your sweet, your tangy, and your peppery, all on one plate. You can create your perfect bite if you get all the elements on your fork at once. It's an experience to seek out, my friends. I recommend it.

The balsamic glaze is magical - make sure you use high quality balsamic vinegar, since you will be concentrating its flavor. The prosciutto provides a fantastic salty meatiness to contrast the sweet flesh of the potato. The arugula is refreshing and spicy at the same time. It all just comes together in a beautiful symphony of flavor.

Baked Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray
serves 2


2 medium-sized sweet potatoes
2 ounces diced prosciutto
1/4 cup high quality balsamic vinegar
2 cups loosely packed baby arugula
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Cut ten 1/2 inch slits in each sweet potato and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, or until very tender.

2. When the sweet potatoes have about 10 minutes left to go, sprinkle the diced prosciutto on the baking sheet next to the sweet potatoes and return to the oven. Bake the prosciutto along with the sweet potatoes for the remaining time, until prosciutto is crispy and browned.

3. In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until reduced by about half, and syrupy, about 5 minutes.

4. Toss arugula with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

5. Cut an X into the top of each sweet potato and peel back the skin around it. Mash up the flesh of the sweet potatoes lightly with a fork. Serve topped with arugula, prosciutto, and drizzled with balsamic glaze.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

This week's Craving Ellie in my Belly recipe was the lovely and simple Ellie Krieger variation on grilled cheese. There is something timeless and indescribably fantastic about a well-made grilled cheese sandwich. Whether you're a purist who just wants the cheese + bread + butter formula, or someone who likes a bit of zing in her grilled cheese, you can't deny that it's simply wonderful. Of course its best friend is tomato soup, but since this was a slightly fancier grilled cheese, I thought it would go well with yesterday's carrot salad.

This grilled cheese tastes like something you'd get in a diner or a deli. It has some serious oomph, for lack of a better word. And it's all thanks to the grilled onions. As I virtually inhaled this sandwich, I marveled at the fact that it actually felt like there was meat in there, thanks to the melty cheese and the grilled onions conjuring up memories of In-n-Out cheeseburgers of yore. But there is no meat, folks. None. Vegetarians, check it out.

A lot of things can go into a grilled cheese sandwich to jazz it up, but this one doesn't take it too far. Grilled onions, tomato slices, and some peppers give enough flavor to make everyone happy. Ellie's version used cheddar and pepper jack, but I decided to use cheddarella (cheddar and mozzarella mixed, for those of you unenlightened folk) with some diced pimiento peppers. Yum!

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
serves 2


1 teaspoon canola oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
salt and pepper
4 slices whole wheat bread
2 slices of cheddarella (or similar) cheese
1 tablespoon diced pimiento peppers
1 medium heirloom or plum tomato, sliced
cooking spray


1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onion. Cook, stirring, until onion is golden and brown around the edges. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

2. Assemble the sandwiches: place a slice of cheese on two of the slices of bread, top with the onion (half each), the pimientos (half each), and the tomato slices. Top the sandwiches with their missing bread slices.

3. Clean the skillet and coat with cooking spray. Heat over medium-high and then place the sandwiches in the skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low. Place a panini press or another skillet on top of the sandwiches to weigh them down while they cook. Cook until the undersides are brown but not burned, and cheese is mostly melted, about 5 minutes.

4. Flip the sandwiches over, replace the weight, and cook on the other side for about 4 minutes, until browned on both sides. Cut in half and serve.

Enjoy! You know you will.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lemony Carrot Salad

We went to a barbecue a few months back, and a friend brought a fantastic carrot salad. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since, so tonight I decided to make my own version. It's so easy, with so few ingredients, that you have to promise me you'll use the best quality ingredients you can find if you make this. When there are only three items on the grocery list, you might as well get the best ones, right?

This is a great side dish or starter. If you plop it on a pile of baby greens, you can serve it as a salad all on its own. We're having ours with some lovely grilled cheese sandwiches, to be posted tomorrow.

Lemony Carrot Salad
makes about 3 cups


zest of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 medium sized carrots, grated
a handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste


1. In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together the zest and juice of the lemon. Stream in the olive oil, whisking constantly.

2. Add carrots and parsley to the bowl and toss to coat with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

There you have it. Enjoy!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Quick Corn Chowder with Toasted Tortillas

This was an impromptu dinner that I hadn't intended to make this week. My husband hasn't been well, and soup seemed like a good idea. I wish I could say I used gorgeous summer sweet corn from my CSA for this soup, but I had none, and had to turn to frozen corn instead. If you have fresh corn on hand, please use it!

This soup is remarkably simple, a sort of fluid polenta-that-isn't-actually-polenta, topped with yummy Mexican-inspired toppings and featuring lots of interesting colors. I took Nigella's recipe and ran with it, throwing in some things I happened to have in the fridge. The result was a tasty and soul-satisfying meal; everything soup should be, if you ask me.

Blue corn tortillas are a fun and more interesting chip, but feel free to use white or yellow corn chips if that's what you have.

Quick Corn Chowder with Toasted Tortillas
adapted from Nigella Express
serves 3-4


3 cups frozen sweet corn, defrosted (or fresh corn kernels)
2 scallions, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons semolina flour
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
salt to taste
handful lightly salted blue corn tortilla chips
1/2 cup grated cheese (cheddar or mozzarella are best)


1. Drain the corn and put into a food processor with scallions and semolina. Process to form a paste, leaving some texture but very few (if any) whole kernels.

2. Warm the broth in medium pot over medium-high heat. When hot, stir in the corn paste. It will break up and distribute throughout the broth as it heats up. Stir in the bell pepper and about half the jalapeno. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer for about 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, preheat toaster oven (or oven) to 375. On a foil-lined baking sheet, spread out the chips and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for about 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and starting to brown.

4. Serve the soup, about two ladles per person, topped with the cheesy chips and remaining jalapeno.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Greek Style Bread Salad with Lemon-Caper Dressing

This is a great meal to make for dinner when you're atoning for a fairly indulgent lunch. Or, a fairly indulgent week, as the case may be. It's a Greek-inspired version of bread salad, which usually showcases more Italian flavors. To be honest, I'm not sure how "Greek" this really is, but it's good. The dressing is slightly creamy, but totally guilt-free. The salad features two of my favorite things - capers and tomatoes. And who doesn't like crusty bread in their salad? Please.

Go ahead and make yourself a healthy supper that is yummy enough to make you forget the atonement aspect.

Greek Style Bread Salad with Lemon-Caper Dressing
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray
serves 2


6 slices of baguette (about 1/2 inch each)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 clove garlic, cut in half
2 1/2 tablespoons lowfat Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 head romaine, coarsely chopped
1 heirloom tomato, chopped
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon capers, drained
freshly ground pepper


1. Preheat toaster oven (or oven) to 350. Brush both sides of each slice of baguette lightly with oil. Bake for about 10 minutes, until browned, flipping over about halfway through. Rub one side of each slide with the cut side of half the garlic clove.

2. Mince the remaining garlic clove half, and whisk with yogurt, lemon juice, and remaining oil. Toss the parsley, lettuce, tomato, scallion, and capers with the dressing. Season with pepper. Serve the salad with the bread slices.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Maple-Mustard Chicken with Roasted Nutmeg Cauliflower

This meal is a nice twist on the typical. The ingredients are not particularly exotic, but they're not particularly obvious either. You probably have them all in your fridge and pantry already, so just grab some chicken and a head of cauliflower, and you'll be set.

The chicken is really delicious, with a sweet-spicy contrast in every bite. Feel free to serve it with a different vegetable if you're not a cauliflower follower. You don't want to miss on the chicken, believe me. Neither of us are huge cauliflower fans, and I hoped that this somewhat unusual variation would win us over, but I'm afraid neither of us were totally convinced. The nutmeg certainly made the cauliflower more interesting, at least.

Bottom line? This meal is easy, tasty, healthy, and worthy of a Friday night dinner.

Maple-Mustard Chicken with Roasted Nutmeg Cauliflower
adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
serves 2


1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
3 tablespoons grainy mustard
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup


1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Lay the cauliflower in a baking dish and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with nutmeg and salt, and toss to coat. Cover with foil.

3. Pat the chicken breasts dry with a paper towel and place in a baking dish. In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, garlic, marjoram, and maple syrup. Spread half of the mixture on each chicken breast, creating a thin layer of coating.

4. Put the covered cauliflower dish and the chicken dish in the oven. Bake the cauliflower for about 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes, or until cauliflower is starting to get tender. Bake the chicken for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the mustard sauce forms a crust and the chicken is cooked through. Serve.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chard Risotto

I'm sure I've said it before, but risotto is the ultimate comfort food for me. It's relaxing to make, and incredibly satisfying to eat. Even a very basic risotto with no meat or vegetables is tasty, but I love bumping it up to a full meal by adding things to it.

I had a gorgeous bunch of rainbow chard, and decided to try my hand at incorporating it into a risotto. The result was magnificent. Incredibly hearty and comforting, and absolutely packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to make me feel good about eating it.

This is a bit more brothy than your typical risotto, but it's not quite a soup. Something about it just felt like if I were coming down with a cold, this would be the recipe to help knock it out of the park.

If you haven't experimented much with chard, I encourage you to let this be your gateway recipe. I think it may have trumped kale as my favorite leafy green. It's softer, like spinach, but it doesn't get mushy when it wilts. I think we'll be seeing it a bit more in this blog, just so you know!

Chard Risotto
adapted from Bon Appetit's Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook
serves 3


2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
3/4 cups arborio rice
3 cups coarsely chopped rainbow or red chard leaves
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
salt and pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced


1. Bring broth to a simmer in a small pot, and keep warm.

2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in arborio rice to coat with the oil, and then add the chard. It will fill up the pot completely, but be patient and stir carefully until it starts to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add wine and stir. Cook until mostly absorbed, about 2 minutes.

3. Add the broth and stir. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, until the broth is almost completely absorbed and the rice is starchy and creamy, about 20 minutes. Stir in parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with the scallions.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Roasted Tomato Pasta with Shrimp

I took the day off from work today to reward myself for a particularly grueling trial that is now OVER, thank goodness. I decided to treat myself further by going to visit my parents in their new home, and commandeering their beautiful new kitchen to cook us all lunch. I had recently seen an episode of Cooking for Real on the Food Network where Sunny Anderson made a gorgeous looking pasta with a "pesto" made out of garlic infused oil and roasted cherry tomatoes. It had to be mine, my friends.

The garlic infused oil can be made a few ways. The idea is to roast the peeled cloves from an entire head of garlic in extra virgin olive oil, and then make use of both the roasted garlic cloves and the oil in this recipe. I ended up discarding the garlic cloves because I burned them and they became bitter. I would not recommend burning them, folks. Just in case you were considering it. Still, I made use of the oil and it was lovely. If you want to take a shortcut, you can buy garlic-infused oil at the grocery store.

The sauce has a deliciously creamy texture without any cream whatsoever - it's the genius of the puree function on your blender or food processor. My mother loved the sauce, even though she despises all things creamy, and said if she hadn't watched me make it she would have sworn there was cream in there.

We all know by now that when you roast things, they become sweeter. This recipe is a wonderful celebration of that fact.

Roasted Tomato Pasta with Shrimp
adapted from Sunny Anderson's Cooking for Real
serves 4-6


1 pint of sweet cherry tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
salt and pepper

12 oz. whole wheat penne or other short-cut pasta
1/4 cup garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil (see discussion above)
2 cups pre-cooked frozen shrimp, thawed
pinch red pepper flakes
handful fresh basil


1. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400. On a baking sheet, lay out the cherry tomatoes in a single layer. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until tomatoes are starting to wrinkle and burst. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain.

3. While the pasta is cooking, put about half of the garlic-infused oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add shrimp. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until warmed through.

4. Puree remaining garlic-infused oil, tomatoes and their juices, and basil in a food processor or blender. Toss the pasta with the pureed sauce, and serve topped with the shrimp.

A little bit different, but still easy! If you are making use of the roasted garlic cloves in this recipe, puree them with the oil, tomatoes, and basil.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Now that school is starting up again, it seems like a good idea to have after-school snacks around the house. Or after-work snacks, as the case may be. I know the best after school snack of all when I was a kid was home made cookies with a glass of cold milk. Some things never change. And here is a low fat version to make it seem slightly less cheeky.

Most avid bakers are well aware that you can substitute applesauce for about half of the fat in many recipes, but they don't do it for fear of having cookies that taste like applesauce. Here is the proof that this fear is unfounded. These cookies are chewy and cakey and sweet and chocolatey...everything a chocolate chip cookie should be. No undertones of apple are detectable.

I used to make these cookies all the time, and after the first couple of batches I just stopped telling people they were low fat, because that automatically builds a prejudice against them. I don't want a "wow, these are pretty good for low fat cookies" as a compliment. I just want a "Mmm, yum" or "Are there any more?" And I've found when you leave out "low fat" from the description, that's exactly what you get.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Sunset's Quick, Light, and Healthy
makes 2 dozen


1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup smooth unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups regular rolled oats
6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon granulated sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350, and line two cookie sheets with silpat liners or parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a stand mixer, or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter, oil, and brown sugar until smooth. Add egg, applesauce, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl; stir in oats and chocolate chips.

4. Working quickly so the dough doesn't dry out, spoon 2 tablespoon portions of dough onto prepared cookie sheets, spacing cookies evenly. Dip fingertips in granulated sugar and then pat cookies into rounds about 1/3 inch thick.

5. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, switching positions of the baking sheets about halfway through, until just golden. Let cool a few minutes before serving.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Fig Spread

Fig season is still in full swing, and I brought home a beautiful basket of them from my CSA to prove it. The fresh fig is a bit of an oddball, and while it goes beautifully with certain ingredients (arugula, goat cheese, honey, to name a few), I was starting to run out of ideas of what to do with them. I love their flavor, but I don't particularly love eating them straight up. I need them to be an ingredient, not the whole dish.

I found this recipe in Heidi Swanson's beautiful book, Super Natural Cooking, and it seemed like the perfect solution. A jam that is not quite a sweet and not quite a savory, so it can be used in a variety of situations. Perfect for a cheese plate, in a sandwich, or just on toast, this is a sophisticated and delicious spread that you can use in all sorts of ways.

If you haven't experimented much with fresh figs, this might be a good entryway for you. I am already looking forward to using mine up.

Fig Spread
adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking
makes about 2 cups


1 lb. fresh black mission figs, stemmed and diced
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds


1. Toss figs and lemon juice in a bowl, and stir in honey and black pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes. The mixture will get soupy.

2. Put the fig mixture into a heavy pot over medium heat and bring to a slow, gurgling boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until figs start to reduce and thicken, about 10 to 15 minutes. Mash them up gently with a potato masher if desired. Stir in sesame seeds and remove from heat.

3. Let sit 5 minutes, taste, and add more pepper if needed. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold. Will keep in the fridge for about one week.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pulled BBQ Turkey Sandwich (CEIMB)

I think I died and went to BBQ heaven. Seriously.

I had a bit of trepidation about this week's Craving Ellie in my Belly recipe, as many people commented that the recipe didn't have enough flavor. Taking this into account, I tweaked the ingredients to add a bit more zing and sweetness - I reduced the molasses and water, added honey and red pepper flakes. I also slightly increased the ratio of liquid smoke. And I don't know if it was my tweaks, or what, but there was so much flavor in this sandwich, I don't even know what to say.

This BBQ sauce is packed with spice and smokiness. I am officially a convert to the magic of liquid smoke. I bought the bottle just for this recipe, thinking I'd probably never use it again, but I was soooo wrong. I can foresee all sorts of recipes featuring liquid smoke in the future.

The original recipe called for a rotisserie chicken, but I opted for a roasted turkey breast, since both my husband and I steer away from brown chicken meat, and I thought this way I could use the entire thing and not waste any of it. It made the sandwich feel a little bit extra special, and I think come Thanksgiving time we should all remember this recipe for using the leftover turkey meat. You can certainly use chicken meat here if you prefer.

I can't say enough about the beautiful flavor combination in this sauce. Please, just try it. Words cannot express how good it is.

Pulled BBQ Turkey Sandwich
adapted from Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger (2008)
serves 3


2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon molasses
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 roast turkey breast, skin removed, shredded into thin strips (about 2 cups)
3 whole wheat hamburger buns
3 large green lettuce leaves


1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.

2. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, honey, water, vinegar, molasses, pepper, liquid smoke, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Add the shredded turkey meat and stir to combine well. Bring back to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Serve on buns with lettuce leaves.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fancy Manchego Macaroni with Chorizo

I have to admit, this is not a very pretty meal. I was somewhat embarrassed to serve it. After all, it bears a striking resemblance to Hamburger Helper. But I promise you, with all my heart, it tastes much fancier. And more delicious.

I actually would like to try this meal again without the chorizo. I haven't worked with it much before, and while it smelled delicious, and does pack a pretty fabulous flavor, the texture wasn't all that welcome in this dish. So unless you're a big fan, I'd either swap it out for some spicy Italian sausage, or just leave out the meat altogether and make this a vegetarian dish.

That aside, this meal is actually really good. The sauce is unlike any mac & cheese sauce you've had before. The flavors of dry sherry and manchego cheese fuse together in a beautifully elegant way. The pimientos and peas add some interesting texture contrast. It's a surprisingly sophisticated dish, in spite of its appearance.

If you've seen the classic (yes, classic) film Kissing Jessica Stein, then you'll know what I mean when I say that this dish is the culinary equivalent of sexy-ugly. So go forth and give it a shot.

Fancy Manchego Macaroni with Chorizo
adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray
serves 3-4


salt and pepper
1/2 pound short-cut whole wheat pasta
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1/4 pound raw chorizo sausage, casing discarded, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup skim or low fat milk
1 cup shredded manchego cheese
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons diced jarred pimiento peppers


1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente, and drain.

2. Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.

3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour, followed by the sherry. Stir in broth and milk and cook until thickened, about 5 more minutes. Season with pepper. Stir in the cheese, peas, and pimientos.

4. Toss the pasta with the sauce, and either stir in the chorizo or sprinkle it over the top (or skip it altogether, as I suggested above).

Enjoy! I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, September 7, 2009

French Potato Salad with Green Beans

It's rather ironic when you think about it. People associate creamy, rich foods with the French, and yet French potato salad is a much lighter version, with a vinaigrette rather than gobs of mayonnaise. It's the American potato salad that mustn't sit out in the sun too long for fear of food poisoning. So let's go with the French one, shall we?

Today we're going to a labor day bbq, and I knew before our hostess even asked us to bring something that I wanted to make a French potato salad. I decided to amp up the color factor (not to mention the nutrition) by adding in green beans, continuing with my I'm-in-love-with-green-beans-in-salads trend of this summer.

I love this particular combination of ingredients, because none of the flavors are too intense, yet no one can say this recipe lacks for flavor. The dressing is perfectly balanced, with not too much acid and not too much oil. Everything melds together to form a lovely picnic side dish.

French Potato Salad with Green Beans
adapted from Everyday Food
serves 4-6 as a side dish


1 1/4 pounds baby white or red potatoes, halved or quartered
3/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 red onion, finely minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme


1. Place potatoes in a medium-large pot and cover by one inch with cold water. Salt generously and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and simmer for 10 minutes, or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Drain and rinse briefly with cool water.

2. Meanwhile, bring another, small pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add green beans and blanch for about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

3. While both pots are boiling away, make the dressing: in a large bowl, whisk the oil, mustard, vinegar, onion, parsley, and thyme. Taste it, and season with salt if desired. (I didn't find that it needed it). Add potatoes and green beans and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Grilled Steak and Romaine

This meal is so incredibly easy, and yet looks and tastes rather gourmet. You can definitely impress company with this one, and it requires so little effort that they'll be amazed.

The steak is pretty obvious - simply marinated and grilled. But the romaine is quite another matter. You see, I get a head of romaine lettuce in every single one of my CSA bags, and I'm starting to get a little bored with it. It's a great bed for salads, but who wants another romaine salad again? I had seen on a couple of different Food Network shows recently this new variation on romaine salad - grilling the romaine. Who knew? It brings out this whole other level of flavor that no one gave it credit for.

The romaine gets slightly caramelized and sweet; the leaves wilt just a bit, but the heart stays crunchy. It serves as a wonderful backdrop to the steak, but of course it could be used in all sorts of ways. Try it - if you don't like it, you can have my next head of romaine.

Grilled Steak and Romaine
serves 2


1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 lb. NY strip steak, about 3/4 inch thick, trimmed
freshly ground pepper
cooking spray
1 head of romaine
salt to taste
red wine vinegar for drizzling


1. Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into a shallow casserole (or similar) dish. Add the garlic, followed by the steak. Turn the steak to coat. Season generously with pepper. Cover and marinate for 30 minutes, or up to overnight. (If you are marinating longer than 30 minutes, refrigerate).

2. When ready to cook, heat a grill pan over high heat. When it's hot, spray with cooking spray and cook the steak to desired doneness, about 6 minutes per side for medium rare. Set aside to rest and tent it with foil.

3. While steak is cooking, remove outer leaves of romaine. Cut in half lengthwise, down the middle, leaving most of the stem in tact so the leaves are held together. Brush lightly with olive oil on both sides and season with salt.

4. Wipe the grill pan with a paper towel to absorb excess juices. Reduce heat slightly to medium-high. Place the romaine onto the grill pan and cook, about 2 minutes per side, until beginning to caramelize and just starting to wilt. Serve drizzled just slightly with red wine vinegar.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Broccoli & Cannellini Bean Soup

I had a bit of a forced hiatus the past few days, thanks to a particularly unpleasant (but thankfully finished) bout of stomach flu. I tell you, the hardest part after the first day or so was not being able to cook and eat real food. Today is the first day I've ventured outside the realm of saltines, bananas, applesauce, and clear chicken broth. Hallelujah.

I didn't want to dive in too fast, though, so I chose this nutrient-packed, soothing soup that is mostly pure broccoli and cannellini beans, with some liquid and scant seasonings to make it into a soup, plus good old sharp cheddar to make it a bit more fun. This soup almost gives off the illusion of being cream-based, but it's all thanks to the magic of the cannellini bean, which works wonders when pureed.

This is definitely good-for-you food, so put this in the "recovery" file.

Broccoli & Cannellini Bean Soup
adapted from Eating Well in Season
serves 4


1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
3/4 cups water
1 small head broccoli, trimmed and chopped (about 4 cups)
1 14-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar


1. Bring broth and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add broccoli and cover, reducing heat to medium-high. Cook until broccoli is tender, about 8 minutes.

2. Stir in beans, salt and pepper, and cook until beans are warmed through, about one minute.

3. Puree in batches, adding part of the shredded cheese to each batch. Serve warm.