Monday, May 31, 2010

CARAMELIZED ONION DIP with GREEK YOGURT and VEGETABLES


Happy Memorial Day 2010! 
My recipe for "caramelized - onion dip with vegetables," is very apropos for a Memorial Day get together, and the ingredients, such as Greek yogurt and fresh vegetables, are undeniably on the healthy side of living.
To caramelize onions, one has to cook them slowly for a long time.  As they caramelize their natural sugars break up and mix with the onions, giving them that lovely brown color.  They become sweet and flavorful.  This dip is not hard to make at all, and it's hands down better than the one bought ready made at the store.  You can even caramelize the onions ahead of time.  You'll be dipping your crunchy vegetables in it and loving the taste!
Ingredients:
  1. 3 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 2 large onions, diced
  3. Salt
  4. 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  5. 1 cup Greek yogurt, either total fat or 2%
  6. 1/2 cup sour cream
  7. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  8. 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more for sprinkling
  9. a few sage leaves, chopped
  10. 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  11. 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  12. raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, etc



Directions:
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over low to medium heat. Cook the onions with the sage and a little salt, stirring often, until they are caramelized, about 30 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 yogurt with the sour cream, lemon juice, cayenne and garlic powder.  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.  Serve the dip surrounded with the vegetables.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

HOAGIE SALAD

Make a hoagie without the bread, and you'll have this delicious hoagie salad. I made it for this Memorial Day's get together, and it was a hit with every one! 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 in 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup basil leaves, cut into strips
1/2 pound Genoa salami, sliced into strips
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup garbanzo beans
2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half if desired
2 cups rotisserie chicken breast, cut in small pieces
1 bunch green onions, sliced thinly, white and pale green parts only
1 yellow pepper, seeds removed, sliced into strips


Vinaigrette (recipe below)


Directions:



  • Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl. When ready to serve, add the vinaigrette and combine.
  • You can make this ahead of time, but add the lettuce and basil leaves at the last minute, so that they don't wilt.

Here's a picture of the version without onions or mustard

Vinaigrette
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 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

  1. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients except the oil and parmesan.
  2. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow steady stream until incorporated. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
  3. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, May 24, 2010

LEMON - POPPY SEED COOKIES

Lemon-poppy seed cookies!!!
I can't resist lemons.  I love lemon everything.  Add lemon juice to soup, add lemon rind to desserts.  Heavenly flavor.  Case in point:  I made this wonderful, luscious cookie recipe that I discovered on Martha Stewart’s web site (originally published in Martha Stewart Living, August 2004).  These cookies are highly recommended! Lemony, crunchy, just the right amount of sweetness, one of the best cookies I've tasted.  No exaggeration!  Lemon butter gives these guys an extra special taste.

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.
  • 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.
  • Shift 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 one 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).
Spray the pan,  flatten the cookie balls with the bottom of a glass.
  • 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 bottom 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, May 18, 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 yogurt, dill and cucumber make a refreshing combination, something very welcome on a summer day. The word tzaztiki is of Middle Eastern origin and it has been incorporated into the Greek vocabulary. If I say the word over and over I am reminded of the chirping crickets make in the summer.



Ingredients:
  • 2 cups strained yogurt, or use commercially available Greek yogurt
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 2 cloves garlic (or a little bit more if you are fond of garlic and have plenty of mouthwash on hand)
  • 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 yogurt in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Peel the cucumber and cut it in quarters lenghwise. Remove any large seeds and discard them. Chop the cucumber in small dice. Let it rest for a few minutes in a colander so that its excess liquid drains. You can help this process along by using a paper towel to press down on the cucumber. Dry the cucumber in paper towels and then incorporate it into the yogurt.
  3. Peel the garlic and chop it finely. Add it to the yogurt.
  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 will be nice. Olives tend to discolor the yogurt so I don't use them as garnish.
  7. Here are some hints about making tzatziki: Always use strained yogurt. What is sold as "Greek Yogurt" is in essence strained yogurt. Straining removes some of the water content and the whey, and gives yogurt a thicker consistency. (Traditionally yogurt was hung for a few hours inside a cloth bag made of muslin, and that got rid of the extra liquid). So you want a thick yogurt, and also, if you want to have the full, rich taste of tzatziki, don't use the low fat variety. Tzatziki can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week. Storing it intensifies the flavor of the garlic, so you might not want to use a large amount of garlic in your recipe.

Monday, May 17, 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, May 14, 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.

Monday, May 10, 2010

QUINOA, APRICOT AND NUT CLUSTERS


I decided to give quinoa a try by making Quinoa, Apricot and Nut Clusters, from a recipe found on Martha Stewart's web site.  

I had heard of quinoa, but had never cooked with it, nor had I ever tasted it. I am, in the quinoa department, the novice of novices. So the first thing I decided to do was check Wikipedia to find out more about it: The quinoa plant originated in the Andes region of South America, where it has been an important food source for 6,000 years. As a plant it's undemanding and altitude hardy. Today it is favored for its nutritional value. It is high in protein (12% - 18%), which makes it a healthy choice for vegetarians and athletes. It's also gluten free and easy to digest. When cooked, quinoa has a light, fluffy texture, and a mild, nutty flavor, something which makes it an alternative to rice or couscous. So quinoa can be boiled, it can be used in baking, and it can be made into flour. Quinoa kernels in their natural state bear a bitter tasting coating of a chemical compound named saponin. This compound, when shaken in water, produces a soap-like lather, thus its name saponin, which derives from the Latin word for soap. Due to its bitterness, saponin makes quinoa kernels unpalatable, therefore they must be rinsed several times before they can be used in cooking. Quinoa sold commercially in North America has been processed to remove this bitter coating.


I got my ingredient list ready and went to the supermarket to make my first purchase of quinoa. I looked all over for it and finally found it in the gluten free section.  What an adventure!!! LOL! 



Quinoa looks a little like bird seed.  It tastes like corn but with a crunchy exterior. It's also more nutritious than corn.  I think quinoa can make a very nice savory side dish. I am about to find out how it fares in the dessert department  Here is the recipe:


Ingredients: (makes about 20 clusters)

3/4 cup white quinoa

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup shelled raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup shelled raw pistachios, chopped
1 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
Vegetable-oil cooking spray




Directions:



  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Rinse quinoa thoroughly in a fine sieve; drain. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add quinoa; return to a boil. Stir quinoa; cover, and reduce heat. Simmer until most liquid is absorbed and quinoa is slightly undercooked, about 12 minutes; transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, fluffing with a fork occasionally, until pale golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in a large bowl.
  3. Spread oats on baking sheet; bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add oats to quinoa.
  4. Spread sunflower seeds on baking sheet; bake until lightly toasted, about 7 minutes. Add to quinoa mixture; let cool.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.
  6. Toss pistachios, apricots, sugar, and salt with quinoa mixture.
  7. Beat honey, oil, and vanilla into eggs; stir into quinoa mixture.
  8. Line a 12-by-17-inch baking sheet with parchment; lightly coat with cooking spray. Spoon 1/4 cup batter onto sheet for each cluster; space 3 inches apart. Flatten to 1/4 inch thick.
  9. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until crisp, about 25 minutes.
  10. Let cool on a wire rack. Store, loosely covered with foil, up to 2 days.



My dad's verdict? He said all those ingredients reminded him of bird food. Dad was trying to expend some nervous energy by joking. Tomorrow he is scheduled to undergo cataract surgery. My verdict about the cookies? Well, I love each one of the ingredients used in the recipe. Pistachios? Yum! Dried apricots? Yum! Sunflower seeds? Yum, Yum! However, when all the ingredients are melded together, they do not make what I would call an "uber" cookie. Having said that, these cookies are a great choice for people with dietary restrictions. For those who are lactose intolerant these are good because they are dairy free. For celiac disease sufferers, or for those who have other gluten allergies, these cookies would make an excellent choice, since they contain no gluten to trigger symptoms. I am glad I got to make them. In the process, I found out all about quinoa. Also, I got to step outside of my cooking comfort zone and experiment with something new!


A serving suggestion, pictured below: Eat your quinoa apricot and nut clusters sprinkled over yogurt, as I did for breakfast. Drizzle honey over them, add a few slices of apple, some mint, and you're in business. That tastes good! By the way, even though yogurt is dairy, in most cases it can be consumed by those who are lactose intolerant. That's because the fermentation processes during the making of yogurt breaks up the lactose molecules. Be careful though... Read the label. Sometimes cream is added to yogurt to give it a richer taste. I, who am lactose intolerant, found this out the hard way! So choose carefully.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

BANANA TEA BREAD with DATES


Here is a recipe for banana bread that I have been making for years and years and years. It comes from Craig Claiborne's "New York Times Cook Book," which I bought right when I was beginning to learn how to boil water. I learned so much, an enormous amount, by studying that cook book. This banana tea bread is a proper dessert to make for tea time, thus its name. Do you have displayed on your counter top some bananas that have ripened way too much? You know you really aren't going to eat those darlings, but still you are hesitant to throw them out. One solution is to use them in this recipe. It calls for ripened, mushy bananas. Not very appetizing on their own, but excellent when used to make banana bread! This recipe will make one loaf.
Ingredients:
1 & 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable or corn oil
2/3 cup sugar
3 mashed ripe bananas
2/3 cup coarsley chopped nuts
1 cup finely chopped dates
*very optional: If you are a chocolate fanatic, sprinkle some chocolate chips on top of the batter before baking. Some members of my family like this, but I find that the strong chocolate flavor diminishes the unique flavor of the banana bread.
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
  • In the container of an electric mixer beat the sugar and oil thouroughly to blend.
  • Add the eggs and beat well.
  • Add the flour mixture and beat well.
  • Beat the bananas into the batter.
  • Fold in the dates and nuts.
  • Turn into a greased bread pan and bake for about one hour.
  • For easy slicing the banana bread must be cold. Let it cool, then remove it from the pan and refrigerate.

Monday, May 3, 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.