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Grilled Zucchini Caprese Sandwiches

26 Aug

 

1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 6 slices
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 (2-ounce) ciabatta rolls, split and toasted
8 large fresh basil leaves
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

1. Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Place zucchini in a shallow dish. Add 2 teaspoons oil and garlic; toss to coat. Arrange zucchini in grill pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until grill marks appear. Cut each zucchini piece in half crosswise. Return zucchini to shallow dish. Drizzle with vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
2. Brush bottom halves of rolls with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Top evenly with zucchini, basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella.
3. Brush cut side of roll tops with remaining liquid from shallow dish, and place on sandwiches. Heat the sandwiches in pan until warm.

Jackie Newgent, Cooking Light, August 2011

At this time of year, there is absolutely no excuse for not eating locally farmed, locally crafted food in Chicago.  The vegetables are literally pouring off the tables at the farmers markets, peaches on being sold at reduced prices and you simply can’t go wrong with buying blueberries straight from farmers in bulk.  The reasons are endless: on average you spend the same or less than major supermarkets but your money goes straight to the hands of small farmers (no corporate middle man), you can talk to the farmers about where your food was grown, their methodologies, even the kind of weather they’ve had all week, if you’re interested.  By the end of the summer, you’ll know their faces and you’ve probably seen or made a handful of friends at the market.   It helps the environment by cutting down on fuel for shipping and encourages varied-crop farming which decreases erosion often found on massive single-crop farms and, let’s face it, it’s a whole lot nicer to look at than an endless field of corn (and yes, I am from Iowa).   And let’s be serious, the biggest reason is taste.  There is simply no comparison.  Luckily, all of these ingredients can be purchased at the farmer’s market in Lincoln Square except the salt and pepper, which hopefully you have in your pantry already.

This is one of those recipes that shines in its simplicity, bringing out the fresh tastes of the basil (from my garden), tomatoes and zucchini.  The acidity of the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar are perfectly balanced by the sweet mozzarella.  The crispy, warm bread, slightly softened by the garlicky olive oil and vinegar is the perfect texture for the softened cheese and veggies.  And I appreciated that this was a one-pan-wonder, ready in 15 minutes since I, and many others, returned back to school this week.

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Blueberry-Peach Focaccia

25 Jul

1-1/3 cups warm water (105 degrees to 115 degrees F)

1 pkg. active dry yeast

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. sugar

3-1/4 to 3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

tsp. kosher or coarse sea salt

peaches

cup fresh blueberries

Tbsp. sugar

tsp. vanilla

to 3 Tbsp. small fresh basil leaves (optional)

1.In a small bowl combine the warm water, yeast, 3 Tbsp. of the olive oil, and 1 tsp. sugar.

Let stand 5 minutes or until bubbly.

In a large bowl combine 3 cups of the flour and 1 tsp. of the salt. Add yeast mixture to flour mixture. Stir until combined. If necessary, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough.

Turn out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that is nearly smooth but still slightly sticky (about 3 minutes).

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning once.

Cover. Let rise in a warm place until double in size (1 to 1-1/2 hours).

2.Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with parchment paper; lightly oil paper. Turn dough into prepared pan and gently press evenly into the pan. Loosely cover; let stand in a warm place while halving, pitting, and slicing peaches.

3.Arrange peaches and blueberries atop dough in pan. Sprinkle with 3 tbsp. sugar and the remaining 1 tsp. salt. In a small bowl stir together remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil and the vanilla. Drizzle over focaccia.

4.Bake about 30 minutes or until peaches are softened and bread is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with basil just before serving. Makes 24 servings.

Make-ahead: After placing dough in the oiled bowl, cover and chill dough up to 24 hours. Let dough stand at room temperature for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until the dough is double in size. Continue as directed in step 2.

Better Homes and Gardens, August, 2010

This is one of my favorite sweet snacks and/or desserts to bring to bigger get-togethers.  It’s both salty and sweet, light and fruity, soft and crunchy.   I also think it allows for some fun experimentation – you could substitute strawberries or raspberries for the blueberries, plums or plucots for the peaches.   You can get creative with the fruit arrangements.  And so far I’ve never served this to anyone who didn’t like it.  Perfect for hot summer block parties and cooler evening grill-outs.

Grilled Grape Leaf-Wrapped Goat Cheese

12 Jul

6 to 8 grape leaves (sold in a jar), drained, rinsed and patted dry
1 3/4-to-1-pound round piece goat cheese, such as bucheron, at room temperature (or 2 smaller pieces, stacked)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt
Crusty bread, for serving

Preheat a grill to medium high. Wrap the grape leaves around the cheese to cover it completely; tie with kitchen twine.

Brush the wrapped cheese with olive oil and grill, turning once, until the leaves begin to char and the cheese is soft, 5 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix 1/4 cup olive oil, the rosemary, red pepper flakes and salt to taste in a bowl.

Transfer the warm cheese to a serving plate, pour the oil on top and remove the twine. Serve with bread.

Food Network Magazine, June 2010

This recipe absolutely made my Sunday night.  This is so incredibly simple, but packs enough flavor that you’ll be thinking about those last few bites for days.  Tom and I made this as an appetizer for our Shrimp and Charred Lemon and Zucchini dinner.  There is nothing better than sitting out on a hot summer night, drinking chilled white wine, playing dominoes and eating this.  If you’re free tonight…

My food pyramid already has a solid base of cheese, beer and chocolate.  Slightly melted, warm goat cheese is downright dangerous.  Add a little olive oil, rosemary and crushed red pepper and I’m a goner.  Plus, its always an extra bonus when I find new ways to use my 5+ year-old rosemary plant in new and easy ways (hands-down, the easiest herb to grow).  Goat cheese is the perfect choice for its sweet, tart flavor and it maintains its shape during grilling better than most alternatives might.  The rosemary adds the perfect earthy spice which complements the slight acidity of the brined grape-leaves.  Crushed red pepper for a bit of spice and you have created the perfect starter.  Perfect for date nights or hosting friends.  Serve with sourdough or nice french bread.

Shrimp with Charred Lemon and Zucchini

12 Jul

16 jumbo shrimp, unpeeled, legs removed (about 1 3/4 pounds)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger1 teaspoon hot paprika
Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, cut into 2 1/2-by-1/2-inch sticks
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsleyToasted sourdough bread, for serving.

Preheat the broiler. Use a sharp knife to make a slit through the shell along the back of each shrimp. Remove the vein, leaving the shell intact. Rinse and pat dry, then transfer to a large bowl.

Whisk 1/4 cup olive oil, the ginger, paprika, 2 teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl.

Add half of the dressing to the bowl with the shrimp and toss.  Add the lemon and zucchini to the remaining dressing  and toss, then spread on a large foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until the lemon and zucchini begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the shrimp and broil until the shells are pink, about 3 minutes. Turn the shrimp, lemon and zucchini and broil 3 to 4 more minutes.

Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, the parsley and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Divide the shrimp, lemon and zucchini among plates and drizzle with the parsley oil. Serve with bread.

Food Network Magazine, July 2010

After stuffing yourself with burgers, brats and loads of potato salad over the 4th of July weekend, this light dish may be just what the doctor ordered.  Rather than broiling, we wrapped the veggies in tin foil and tossed them on the grill so we could enjoy a hot summer night outside (rather than broiling ourselves to heat stroke in our un-air-conditioned apartment).  If you don’t have hot paprika on hand, you can substitute sweet paprika and a little cayenne pepper instead.  After cooking the zucchini/lemon toss for about 5-7 minutes, we added the shrimp to the foil packet and continued grilling until the shrimp turned its tell-tale pink.  We grilled slices of sourdough until lightly browned during the last few minutes of cooking and this was absolutely delicious.  Pairs perfectly with a nice dry white wine.   I also recommend starting with the Grape-Leaf Wrapped Goat Cheese.

Butter-Almond-Crusted Fishwiches

17 Jun

2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons pickle relish
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespooon vegetable oil
1/2 head small cabbageor 1/2 pound shredded slaw mix
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
Flour, for coating
2 eggs, beaten
4 fillets tilapia
3 tablespoons butter
Juice of 1 lemon
8 slices good-quality white bread or split rolls of choice, toasted
Salt-and-vinegar or black-pepper potato chips
1. In a medium bowl, whisk the mustard, relish and honey. Whisk in 1/4 cup oil. Add the cabbage and season with salt and pepper; toss.

2. Using a food processor, grind the almonds. Stir in the breadcrumbs and thyme. Place in a shallow bowl. Place the flour and beaten eggs in 2 other shallow bowls. Halve the tilapia fillets crosswise, making 8 small pieces of fish. Pat the fish dry and season with a little salt. Dip the fish first in the flour, then in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumb mixture.

3. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 turn of the pan, over medium heat. Add the butter to melt. Add the coated fish and cook, turning once, until brown and crisp, 3 minutes per side. Douse the fish with the lemon juice. Stack 2 pieces of fish and a big pile of the slaw on the toast. Halve the sammies and serve with the potato chips.

-Rachel Ray

I’ve been searching high and low for a fish sandwich that can even begin to compare to the delightful tilapia sandwich at Hopleaf in Andersonville.   While this recipe could use a little tweaking here and there (how to get the breading just a little crispier!), it certainly holds its own.  So while I apologize for subjecting you to the ingratiatingly annoying term “fishwich”, I simply had to share.  Is it obvious I’m excited about this?

I have already made a few substitutions including the use of olive oil (and less of it) in the slaw sauce, serving the sandwich on a sliced baguette rather than white bread and I like to splurge on waffle fries, preferable with a tasty aioli sauce (though I’ve still never mastered aioli either – damn you, Hopleaf!).  Nonetheless, the ground almonds are absolutely genius.  They add a mild sweetness, similar to marinating the fish in milk but without the sloppy, soggy mess that can create.  The sweetness of the fish is balanced by the slightly acidic sauce to create the perfect fish sandwich at home.  It’d be a shame not to serve this with a tasty, lighter IPA such as Dales Pale Ale which I recently tried in Denver (a new personal favorite).

Risotto with Spring Vegetables

27 Apr

2 cups shelled fava beans (about 1 1/2 pounds unshelled)
1/2 cup fresh green peas
4 cups chicken or veggie stock2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 cup uncooked Carnaroli or Arborio rice or other medium-grain rice
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
1/2 cup white wine
8 ounces thin asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup (4 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1. Cook beans in boiling water 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Remove tough outer skins from beans; discard skins. Cook peas in boiling water 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain well.
2. Bring Homemade Chicken Stock to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
3. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallots and carrot to pan; cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add rice and saffron; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine; cook 30 seconds or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup stock; cook 4 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of stock is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total). Stir in fava beans, peas, and asparagus with last addition of stock. Remove from heat; stir in cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper.

David Bonom, Cooking Light, May 2010

This risotto is absolutely perfect for those cool, rainy April days we’ve been having in Chicago.  It incorporates plenty of early-spring produce that’s now popping up in local farmers markets, including asparagus, carrots, fava beans, onion and peas.  The white wine and saffron enhance these fresh veggies and the Parmesan adds a nice floral zing.

In case you’re new to the wonderful world of fava beans, as many Americans are, here is a little background.  Fava beans are one of the oldest beans around, originating approximately 3000 BC.  They’ve been a staple in Europe and Asia for centuries, but have remained fairly obscure in the U.S.  As such, there are a little overpriced in our markets, but still doable.  I’ve also found a newfound love of cooking with fava beans because they are so satisfying to shell; the beans are big enough that they don’t get lost in the process and they pop out really easily.  They have a buttery and slightly bitter taste and add quite a bit of texture to this and any other dish.

This is a great weeknight meal but, as with any risotto, be prepared to spend some time hovering over the warm stove.  I’m a major wimp compared those strong Italian women and after cooking risotto my arm is always tired and I’m hot as hell.  No worries, there will be cold white wine at hand.

Southwestern-Style Shrimp Taco Salad

18 Apr
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle hot sauce
  • 3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 ears shucked corn
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 ounces baked blue corn tortilla chips (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/3 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup diced peeled avocado
  • Lime wedges (optional)

1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.

2. Combine lime juice, olive oil, cumin, garlic, syrup, and hot sauce in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place the shrimp in a shallow bowl. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the lime juice mixture over shrimp, tossing gently to coat. Reserve the remaining lime juice mixture; set aside. Thread shrimp onto metal skewers. Lightly coat corn with cooking spray. Place shrimp kebabs and corn on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 8 minutes, turning kebabs once and turning corn frequently until browned. Remove from grill; cool slightly.

3. Remove shrimp from skewers, and place in a large bowl. Cut kernels from ears of corn. Add corn, chopped lettuce, green onions, cilantro, black beans, and plum tomatoes to shrimp. Drizzle reserved lime juice mixture over the shrimp mixture, and toss gently to combine.

4. Divide tortilla chips evenly among 6 shallow bowls; top each serving with 1 cup shrimp mixture. Combine sour cream and diced avocado in a small bowl; mash with a fork until well blended. Top each serving with about 1 tablespoon sour cream mixture. Serve with a lime wedge, if desired.

Margee Berry, Trout Lake, Washington, Cooking Light
MAY 2010

One of my Summer 2011 cooking goals is to move beyond the basics of brats and burgers on the grill so this recipe was a great way to get started.  The most novice of grillers could easily perform the grilling part of this recipe.  I prepped all of the ingredients for the salad, created the marinade and prepared the shrimp and corn before heading outside to grill.  I didn’t have to make a single trip back upstairs which is always appreciated since I live on the third floor and our grill is in the yard.  My boyfriend and I also had time to sneak in two games of bags while the grill heated up and the food cooked.  We got to spend some time outside in the fading sunlight, have a few beers and when we were done, it was a snap to throw it all together.

The marinade is delicious in its own right.  We had a full pound of shrimp so we snacked on a few while we were cooking and they were absolutely delicious.  The Chipotle hot sauce and fire-roasted corn add a nice smoky spice to the entire dish.  It was a lovely bit of summer…

and then it snowed overnight.  My poor garden!

Coconut Cream Pie

2 Mar

  • 1/2  (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2  cups  1% low-fat milk
  • 1  cup  half-and-half
  • 1 1/2  cups  flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1  vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2/3  cup  sugar
  • 1/3  cup  cornstarch
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 4  large egg yolks
  • 2  tablespoons  butter
  • 3  large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2  teaspoon  cream of tartar
  • 1/2  cup  sugar
  • 1/4  cup  water
  • 1/4  cup  flaked sweetened coconut, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Fold edges under; flute. Line dough with foil; arrange pie weights or dried beans on foil. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes; remove weights and foil, and bake an additional 10 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on a wire rack.

3. Combine milk and half-and-half in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 cups coconut. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; stir seeds and pod into milk mixture. Bring milk mixture to a simmer; immediately remove from heat. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a bowl. Gather edges of cheesecloth; squeeze over bowl to release moisture. Discard solids.

4. Combine 2/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add milk mixture to egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Return milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter; whisk until smooth. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 6 minutes, stirring to cool. Pour into prepared crust. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

5. Place 3 egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 250°. Pour hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, beating at high speed until thick. Spread meringue over pie. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Top with toasted coconut before serving.

Kathy Kitchens Downie, RD, Cooking Light, March 2011

Best coconut cream pie recipe I’ve ever tried.  Both the filling and the merengue came out to the perfect consistency.  The filling is light with a subtle flavor and the crust adds the perfect crisp complement.  Instead of using the prepared dough, I recommend using Alan Carter’s Pie Recipe (https://chicagodinnerbell.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/alan-carters-pie-pastry/).  I also use flat rocks that we brought back from Lake Superior as my pie weights.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a nice alternative to having to buy yet another kitchen tool – I, for one, am out of room!

Poached Halibut with Lemon-Herb Sauce

10 Feb

  • 3  tablespoons  olive oil
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 1  tablespoon  grated lemon rind
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 4  teaspoons  chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4  teaspoons  chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 3  lemon sections, finely chopped
  • 6  cups  water
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  black peppercorns
  • 2  green onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1  parsley sprig
  • 1  cilantro sprig
  • 4  (6-ounce) halibut fillets

1. Combine first 8 ingredients.

2. Combine water and next 5 ingredients (through cilantro sprig) in a large skillet; bring to a low simmer (180° to 190°). Add fish; cook 10 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Remove fish from pan with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Serve with sauce.

Deborah Madison, Cooking Light, JANUARY 2011

This recipe was such a pleasant little surprise.  I’ve never actually poached fish before as I usually opt for grilling, pan searing or broiling so I was weary of dunking my lovely cuts of fish in a bath of boiling water.  Delicious!  The slightly seasoned water actually allowed the fish to cook while retaining full moisture and added just a hint of the flavors which are so fully enhanced by the sauce.  And the sauce!  What a nice hint of summer in the midst of sub-zero temperatures.  You could distinctly taste the parseley and cilantro  and the jalapeño adds the perfect heat.  The lemon added the perfect amount of sunshine into my night.  This sauce could be an excellent complement to most any fish.  In fact, I actually used tilapia instead of halibut because halibut was running at $22.00/lb. at the store and it was just perfect.

The total cook and prep time was less than 20 minutes yet the dish packed in a full and vibrant flavor.  I served it with steamed green beans tossed in olive oil with a little salt and pepper and some roasted veggies, but it could go with almost anything.  This versatile dish will become a staple dish at my house for sure.

Tuna-Noodle Casserole

17 Jan

  • 8  ounces  wide egg noodles
  • 2  tablespoons  olive oil
  • 1/2  cup  chopped yellow onion
  • 1/3  cup  chopped carrot
  • 2  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 2 3/4  cups  fat-free milk
  • 1/2  cup  (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 2  tablespoons  Dijon mustard
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  cup  frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 2  (5-ounce) cans albacore tuna in water, drained and flaked
  • Cooking spray

1. Preheat broiler.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and carrot; cook 6 minutes or until carrot is almost tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in milk; cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk until slightly thick. Stir in cream cheese, mustard, salt, and pepper; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

3. Remove pan from heat. Stir in noodles, peas, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and tuna. Spoon mixture into a shallow broiler-safe 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray; top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Broil 3 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Cooking Light, January 2010

I made this over the weekend on a night where I got home a little late and didn’t have much time.  It is super fast and easy, but also incredibly satisfying.  I used whole-grain Dijon simply because my regular Dijon overpowers every dish and I actually thought the whole-grain added a nice texture.  I also added breadcrumbs on top before broiling – again for additional texture – and doubled the peas and carrots because I love them.  The flavor reminds me of a classic tuna-noodle casserole my dad always made, but just a little more grown up due to the Dijon and Parmesan.  It doesn’t knock you out of park with flavor, but it might bring you back to simpler times.   Definitely a staple dish.