Monday, 31 May 2010

CARAMELIZED ONION DIP with GREEK YOGURT and VEGETABLES


Happy Memorial Day!

Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Onions, 1881


My recipe for "caramelized onion dip" is very apropos for a Memorial Day get together, and the ingredients, such as Greek yoghurt and fresh vegetables, are undeniably on the healthier side of living.

To caramelise onions, one has to cook them slowly for a long time. As they caramelise their natural sugars break up and mix with the onions, giving them a lovely brown colour. The onions turn sweet and flavourful. This dip is not hard to make at all, and it's hands down better than the ready-made storebought variety. You can even caramelise the onions ahead of time. You'll be dipping your crunchy vegetables in it and loving the taste! 

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 large onions, diced
sage leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic finely minced1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cup Greek yoghurt, either 2% or total fat 
1/2 cup sour cream or omit the sour cream and only use 2 cups of yoghurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more for sprinkling
raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, etc


Directions:
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over low to medium heat. Add the onions and the sage plus the brown sugar and cook, stirring often. 
  • Make sure to keep stirring so that the onions don't burn. Keep a few drops of water handy to add to the onions if they become too dry. 
  • Cook about 20 to 30 minutes until the onions are caramelised, then add the minced garlic and stir for another two or minutes.
  • To deglaze the pan, add the balsamic vinegar and scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Place the onions in a bowl and let them cool for about 45 minutes.  
  • Mix the yoghurt with the sour cream, lemon juice, and the cayenne pepper. Add it to the onions and stir to combine.
  • Refrigerate the dip for 1 to 2 hours.  To decorate the top sprinkle it with some cayenne pepper and a few chopped sage leaves. If you like, reserve a tablespoon of caramelised oninons and use it for garnish along with the sage and cayenne.  
  • Serve the dip surrounded with the vegetables.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

HOAGIE SALAD

Make a hoagie without the bread, and you'll have this delicious hoagie salad. I made it for the Memorial Day's get together, and it was a hit with everyone! I actually made two versions: The regular one, and another without the onions or mustard, because some of our guests do not like them.

Ingredients:

2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped 
1/4 cup basil leaves, cut into strips (chiffonade)
a few mint leaves, chopped
3 scallions, sliced thinly, use the white and pale green parts only
2 cups rotisserie chicken breast, cut into small pieces
1/2 pound Genoa salami, sliced into strips
1/2 pound deli ham, sliced into strips
1/2 cup finely chopped provolone cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup garbanzo beans
2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half if desired
3 scallions, sliced thinly, use the white and pale green parts only
1 yellow pepper, seeds removed, sliced into strips
pickled peperoncini for garnish 


For the Vinaigrette:


1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (or a bit more if you like mustard)
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup vinegar (I like to use white balsamic)
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

  • In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients except the oil and parmesan.
  • Whisk in the olive oil in a slow steady stream until incorporated. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.
 To assemble the salad:
  • Combine the lettuce, scallions, and basil leaves.
  • Layer them onto your serving platter.
  • In a large bowl, toss the rest of the ingredients together. When ready to serve, add the vinaigrette and mix. Place the mixture on top of the lettuce. 
  • You can make this ahead of time, but add the lettuce mixture at the last minute so that it doesn't wilt. 

Monday, 24 May 2010

LEMON - POPPY SEED COOKIES

Lemon-poppy seed cookies!!!
I can't resist lemons.  I love lemon everything.  I add juice to soup and I add lemon rind to desserts. Heavenly flavour!  Case in point:  I made this wonderful, luscious cookie recipe that I discovered on Martha Stewart’s website: these cookies are highly recommended! Lemony, crunchy with just the right amount of sweetness, they're some of the best cookies I've tasted. Lemon butter gives these guys an extra special taste.

Lyndsey's version of lemon poppy seed cookies


Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (2 to 3 lemons)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375° F/190°C.
  • Make lemon butter: bring the lemon juice to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until reduced by half. Add 1 stick butter and stir until melted.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Cream the remaining stick of butter with 1 cup of sugar on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  • Add the egg and the lemon butter. Mix until pale, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the vanilla and 2 teaspoons of the lemon zest, and mix.
  • Add the flour mixture and the poppy seeds and mix, to finish making the cookie dough.
  • Make a sugar mixture by stirring together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the rest of the lemon zest.
  • Roll spoonfuls of cookie dough into 1 1/2-inch balls; roll them in the sugar mixture.  (This step will add a lot of sweetness to the cookies so you might want to give them just a light coating of sugar mixture. Unless you love the sweet stuff. At any rate, you should have some sugar mixture left when you are finished).
  • Place the dough 2 inches apart on baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray. Press each piece of dough with the flat end of a glass dipped in the sugar mixture until they are all 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle the cookies with poppy seeds.
  • Bake until just browned around the edges, 10 to 11 minutes. 
  • Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.
  • Makes about 30 cookies. (Mine came out to 37, could have easily made 40).

Loved them, loved them, loved them!!!

 Irresistible!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

TZATZIKI or YOGURT AND CUCUMBER APPETIZER


This is a popular Greek appetizer, or mezé, or dip... There are many ways in which to serve it. It certainly makes an interesting dip served with some pita chips. It can accompany souvlaki or other grilled meats, and it can go on the meze table as an appetizer with drinks before dinner. It's a ubiquitous dish in Greek homes, especially when the weather is warm. The yoghurt, dill and cucumber make a refreshing combination, something very welcome on a summer day. The word tzatziki is of Middle-Eastern origin and has been incorporated into the Greek vocabulary. 

This has nothing to do with the recipe, but if I say the word tzatziki over and over, I am reminded of the chirping that cicadas make in the summer, and cicada singing is a lovely sound to listen to on a hot summer day ... Exceptionally calming!


Here's my tzatziki recipe:




Ingredients:
  • 2 cups Greek yoghurt
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 cloves garlic 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 or 3 mint leaves, chopped (don't use too much mint)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, and a bit more to drizzle on top for garnish

Directions:
  1. Place the yoghurt in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Peel the cucumber and cut it into quarters lengthwise. Remove any large seeds and discard them. Chop the cucumber into small dice. Let rest for a few minutes in a colander so that any excess liquid drains. You can help this process along by using a paper towel to press down on the cucumber: dry it in paper towels and then incorporate it into the yoghurt.
  3. Peel the garlic and chop it very extra finely. Add it to the yoghurt.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. You have now created tzatziki!
  5. Pour the tzatziki into a nice serving bowl and drizzle some olive oil on top for garnish.
  6. You can also garnish with some dill or mint or little pieces of cucumber... whatever tickles your fancy. A radish garnish is nice. Olives tend to discolour the yoghurt, therefore, refrain from using them. 
  7. Here are some tips for making tzatziki
Always use Greek yoghurt, which is essentially strained yoghurt. Straining removes some of the water content and the whey, and gives yoghurt a thicker consistency. (Traditionally yoghurt was hung for a few hours inside a cloth bag made of muslin, and that got rid of the extra liquid). 

If you want a thick yoghurt, and also, if you want to have the full, rich taste of tzatziki, don't use low-fat yoghurt. 

As you may have noticed, this recipe calls for just one clove of garlic because the longer tzatziki hangs around, the more intense its garlic flavour tends to become. It's best not to use a large amount of garlic in this recipe because garlic does have a loud voice.

Tzatziki can be stored in the refrigerator for about two days.

Monday, 17 May 2010

POTATO AND ZUCCHINI HASH




I love the combination of potatoes and zucchini. Add an egg on top and you're in business.  I often make a somewhat similar version (minus the egg), baked in the oven and served as a side dish. The trick is to have the potatoes and zucchini finish cooking at the same time, so as to prevent the zucchini from overcooking. I solve this little problem by precooking the potatoes for a few minutes in the microwave, just to soften them up.  The recipe featured here will make an excellent brunch.  

Ingredients:


2 medium golden potatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1 medium zucchini
4 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese for garnish


Directions:
  1. Peel the potatoes, quarter them lenghwise and slice them thinly crosswise. Rinse them under cold running water, then drain and pat them dry. You want the potatoes to be in small pieces, about a half inch dice. Cook them in hot water until they are almost done, drain well and set aside.
  2. Quarter the zucchini lengthwise and slice it thinly crosswise.
  3. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until the the zucchini is crispy tender.
  4. Lower the heat to medium, add the potatoes, the parsley and dill, and cook, stirring, until the zucchini is soft, and the potatoes are cooked through and browned.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, remove from heat and keep warm.
  6. Melt the butter in a skillet and cook the four eggs sunny side up. Season them with salt and pepper.
  7. Divide the potatoes and zucchini among four plates. Top with one egg each, sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top for garnish, and serve.

This was a really nice hash! The potatoes should be precooked, that is a definite. And... I loved the way the egg tasted mixed in with the rest of the ingredients. 


My recipe for potato and zucchini hash was based on one that was published in the May 2010 issue of Every Day Food.   

Friday, 14 May 2010

ROASTED PEPPERS MEZE


I made this mezé for my brother, who loves peppers. It was a small gift I took to his house, where he and his wife hosted this year's mothers day dinner. All the ladies got flowers and gifts, so I figured he should get a small something, since he did a lot of the cooking. This is a popular mezé, or appetizer, in Greek cuisine, usually enjoyed with a slowly sipped drink before dinner.

Ingredients:

10 peppers, cut in half, stem and seeds removed (have a combination of colors, such as red, green, yellow or orange)
1 head garlic, split in half horizontally, no need to peel it, but remove the excess skin
1/4 cup olive oil, divided in half
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoon red wine vinegar

juice of half a lemon
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon mint, chopped
1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano


Directions:
In a bowl toss the peppers and the garlic with half of the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake on a tray at 450° F for about 30 minutes, or until the skin of the peppers is blistered and charred.


Remove them from the oven and place them in a plastic container with a lid. Cover and let the peppers steam in the container until they have cooled. The trapped steam will help to separate the skin from the flesh of the peppers making the eventual peeling easier.


Peel the peppers and remove the roasted garlic from its skin. The garlic will be served with the peppers. Keep as much of it as you are comfortable using, and discard the rest. Marinate the peppers and garlic with the remaining olive oil, the red wine vinegar, lemon juice and herbs. Serve as an appetizer.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

BANANA BLUEBERRY BREAD WITH DATES TASTES GREAT WITH A NICE CUP OF TEA




"Banana Bread," is one of the more searched for recipes on the Internet. Why? What's so sexy about banana bread? Is it an aphrodisiac? To answer my own question, no, it's not. It's just that people tend to be "banana affluent." They buy more bananas than they can possibly consume. What to do with the ones leftover? Use them to make banana bread perhaps? It's an option, and here in this post of posts, I share a recipe with you for banana bread.  


This banana bread recipe is one have been making for years and years and years. It's slightly adapted (I include blueberries in mine) from the original "Banana Tea Bread" in Craig Claiborne's "New York Times Cook Book." I bought the cookbook right when I was beginning to learn how to boil water and I learned an enormous amount by studying its pages.

I ask you: do you have displayed on your countertop some bananas that have ripened way too much? You know you really aren't going to eat those darlings ... Instead of throwing them out, why not make banana bread with them? Overripened bananas?  Not very appetizing on their own, but excellent when used to make banana bread! This recipe will make one loaf.


However, before we go on to the recipe, let's talk politics: bananas are grown thousands of miles away from the US shores, and yet they are plentiful and much cheaper to buy than the apples, or oranges, or peaches that are grown locally. How come? Doesn't that sound odd? At the end of this blog post, I include an excerpt from a New York Times op-ed which discusses why the enigma. Definitely worth a read. And now, on to the recipe: 





Ingredients:

1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Sift the above ingredients together and set aside.

1 cup softened butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
3/4 cup finely chopped dates
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

Directions:
  • This recipe will make one loaf. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Prepare a bread pan by greasing it well. 
  • With an electric mixer beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. 
  • Add the eggs and vanilla extract; beat well.
  • Add the flour mixture alternating it with the bananas. Beat only until smooth - do not overwork the mixture.
  • Fold in the dates, blueberries, and nuts.
  • Turn into the pan and bake for about one hour.

  • For easy slicing, the banana bread must be cold. Let it cool well before removing from the pan. Banana bread slices can be frozen for up to a month. Take a slice out of the freezer when you want one, bring it to room temperature, and enjoy it with a nice cup of tea!
Here's a little something about the United Fruit Company and the economics of bananas:

Dan Koppel, author of Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World, wrote an Op-Ed in The Times that is packed with interesting stuff about the Freudian fruit. The economics are particularly interesting:
That bananas have long been the cheapest fruit at the grocery store is astonishing. They’re grown thousands of miles away, they must be transported in cooled containers, and even then they survive no more than two weeks after they’re cut off the tree. Apples, in contrast, are typically grown within a few hundred miles of the store and keep for months in a basket out in the garage. Yet apples traditionally have cost at least twice as much per pound as bananas.
Americans eat as many bananas as apples and oranges combined, which is especially amazing when you consider that not so long ago, bananas were virtually unknown here. They became a staple only after the men who in the late 19th century founded the United Fruit Company (today’s Chiquita) figured out how to get bananas to American tables quickly — by clearing rainforest in Latin America, building railroads and communication networks, and inventing refrigeration techniques to control ripening. …
Once bananas had become widely popular, the companies kept costs low by exercising iron-fisted control over the Latin American countries where the fruit was grown. Workers could not be allowed such basic rights as health care, decent wages, or the right to congregate. … Over and over, banana companies, aided by the American military, intervened whenever there was a chance that any “banana republic” might end its cooperation. … Labor is still cheap in these countries, and growers still resort to heavy-handed tactics.
The final piece of the banana pricing equation is genetics. Unlike apple and orange growers, banana importers sell only a single variety of their fruit, the Cavendish. There are more than 1,000 varieties of bananas — most of them in Africa and Asia — but except for an occasional exotic, the Cavendish is the only banana we see in our markets. … By sticking to this single variety, the banana industry ensures that all the bananas in a shipment ripen at the same rate, creating huge economies of scale. The Cavendish is the fruit equivalent of a fast-food hamburger: efficient to produce, uniform in quality, and universally affordable.
Some readers may recoil at this description and vow to never eat another banana. Others may thank their lucky stars that free markets are able to deliver a tasty, healthy, peel-intact fruit to their corner stores at very affordable prices.
Koppel’s larger message is that the Cavendish banana is under fungal threat and may disappear. And, because Koppel seems to endorse the locavore movement (unlike some of us), he doesn’t sound all that sad:
In recent years, American consumers have begun seeing the benefits — to health, to the economy, and to the environment — of buying foods that are grown close to our homes. … [B]ananas have always been an emblem of a long-distance food chain. Perhaps it’s time we recognize bananas for what they are: an exotic fruit that, some day soon, may slip beyond our reach.
from:
http://freakonomics.com/2008/06/19/the-economics-of-bananas/

Monday, 3 May 2010

MUSHROOM RISOTTO with PEAS


I guess you can tell from looking around this blog that I love rice. I truly do! (The funny thing is that rice was one of my most hated foods when I was growing up). Here is a wonderfully tasty risotto recipe I adapted from the "food network" web site. It is creamy, and comforting, and oh, so good. Just what you need after a hard day at work!


Ingredients:

6 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use canola)
1 large onion, minced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine
7 cups chicken stock, heated
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 ounces of mushrooms, sliced (use any type or combination of mushrooms you prefer)
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and very, very finely chopped
1 cup frozen sweet baby peas
4 tablespoons butter, chilled, and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


Directions:


In a saucepan heat the vegetable oil. Over medium-high heat, sauté the onion and garlic just to soften, stirring all the while, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and continue to stir with a wooden spoon, coating the rice with the oil and onion.


Deglaze with the cup of white wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Pour in chicken stock to cover, about 3 cups. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the liquid is absorbed.


Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the olive oil. Sauté the mushrooms over medium heat, just to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, mix in the peas and parsley and reserve.
Pour another 3 cups of stock into the rice, turn the flame to medium high, and stir in a pinch of salt and the tomatoes. Keep stirring until the rice is tender.

Add the mushrooms and peas, stir, then slowly add the rest of the stock as needed. It may not be necessary to add this last cup of stock, or you may need to add just a bit or all of it. The best way to tell is to taste and judge for yourself. The risotto should be creamy, not runny.



The risotto should be creamy, not runny.


Remove from the flame, vigorously beat in the chilled butter and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan until completely dissolved.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.