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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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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.

Spring Linguine with Basil

3 May


9 ounces uncooked fresh linguine
1 cup shelled fresh green peas
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
2 ounces shaved fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add peas to pasta during the last 2 minutes of cooking time. Drain pasta mixture in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup pasta liquid.
2. Heat oil and butter in pan over medium heat 1 minute or until butter melts. Remove from heat; stir in pasta mixture, reserved pasta water, juice, salt, and pepper; toss well.
3. Divide pasta mixture evenly among 4 bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon basil and about 2 tablespoons cheese. Serve immediately.

David Bonom, Cooking Light, May 2010

I simply can’t get enough of these simple pasta dishes in spring.  The heavier, slow-cooked pastas of winter can tend to conglomerate all of the individual flavors into a single other flavor altogether.  This can be a wonderful thing when you’re incorporating your 20th jar or can of stewed tomatoes for the winter and you’re looking to spice it up, but as more and better quality spring produce becomes available, I want to take each and every component.  This pasta does just that, highlighting rather than overpowering each flavor and the citrusy, floral combination of lemon and Parmesan is just perfect.

I still haven’t found any peas at the local markets and my own peas at home are only about 7 inches tall still, but for those of you in better climates, they should already be readily available.  Enjoy!

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.

Fusilli with Caramelized Spring Onions and White Wine

26 Apr

1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

2 cups thinly sliced spring onions (about 1 pound)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth

8 ounces uncooked fusilli (short twisted spaghetti)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine panko, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon garlic, and a dash of salt in a small bowl. Spread panko mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 6 minutes or until golden brown, stirring after 3 minutes. Cool.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add onions to pan; cook 20 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add remaining 1 teaspoon garlic and wine. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 1 minute. Add broth; cook until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup (about 4 minutes).

4. Cook pasta in boiling water with 1 tablespoon kosher salt according to package directions, omitting additional fat. Drain. Add pasta, remaining salt, and pepper to onion mixture; toss gently. Place about 1 cup pasta in each of 4 shallow bowls; sprinkle each serving with 2 tablespoons panko mixture.

Rori Trovato, Cooking Light, April 2011

I am always a sucker for a nice white wine reduction sauce and this one is no exception.  The caramelized sweet onions never overpowered, but added a little spice and a complexly sweet and hearty flavor.   I substituted veggie broth and used a basic sweet white onion.  The soft, sweet onions are complemented perfectly by the crisp, slightly salty panko crumbs on top.  I absolutely loved the simplicity.  I recommend serving with a dry white wine and a simple salad of greens with a nice vinaigrette.

I just got an awesome pear balsamic vinegar that a friend brought back from Olive & Kickin’ in Asheville, NC that I’ve been eating on all of my salads ever since.  It goes perfect with this dish!  I also tried their sweet cherry balsamic and it was delicious on both salads and as a little marinade for grilled mushrooms.  I will definitely make it a destination if I’m ever in the area and you should too.  They apparently have excellent olive oils as well.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

2 Mar

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 to 4 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more for topping
  • 1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 sprigs oregano, leaves stripped and roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces bucatini or linguine
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley or basil leaves, roughly chopped

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, turning once, until almost cooked through, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet, then add the garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring, until the garlic is soft, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juices, the wine, oregano and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta.

Add the parsley, pasta and shrimp to the sauce along with any collected juices from the plate and toss to combine. Stir in some of the reserved cooking water to loosen the sauce. Season with salt. Divide among shallow bowls and drizzle with olive oil; top with red pepper flakes, if desired.

Food Network Magazine, March, 2011

This is a quick and easy recipe, perfect for weeknight cooking but it is more than good enough to share with friends as well.  The anchovies add a nice salty flavor which balances the acidity of the tomatoes and the wine.  The parsley and basil add a nice fresh flavor as well.  I made it exactly as prescribed and would recommend it to anyone for most any kind of evening.

Portobello Parmesan

22 Feb


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the dish
  • 3 portobello mushroom caps
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Peanut oil, for frying
  • 4 ounces buffalo mozzarella cheese, sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Scrape out the gills of the portobellos with a spoon, then halve the mushrooms horizontally to make 6 thin rounds.

2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the red pepper flakes and garlic; cook 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low, add the tomatoes and basil and cook until the garlic is soft, about 15 more minutes. Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Combine the panko, 1/2 cup parmesan, 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a shallow bowl. Whisk the eggs and 2 tablespoons cold water in another bowl. Put the flour in a third bowl.

4. Dredge the mushrooms in flour, shaking off the excess. Dip in the eggs and then in the panko mixture, pressing to coat both sides. Heat 1/2 inch peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the mushrooms until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.

5. Spread a layer of the tomato sauce in the prepared baking dish. Add the fried mushrooms, then cover with the remaining tomato sauce. Top with the mozzarella and the remaining 1/2 cup parmesan. Bake until browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley.

Courtney Credle, Food Network Magazine, March 2011

Let me start by saying that the tomato sauce for this recipe with a little parmesan would be worth making in itself as a simple tomato sauce for nearly any dish.  The parmesan tames the acidity of the tomato and adds a nice sweetness while thickening the sauce.  Second, it is absolute genius to deep-fry portobellos and cover them in cheese.  The panko-pamersan combination crisps up perfectly as it fries, allowing the portobellos to retain their shape and texture despite being covered in sauce and baked.  I was pleasantly surprised to find none of the mushiness I had fearfully expected.  This is a hearty vegetarian dish, both filling and packed with flavor.  The only change I made was that I used less oil for the frying (about 1/8 inch) which I thought was plenty.  I also nearly doubled the crushed red pepper for added spice and the basil for added flavor.  This is a recipe that encourages play – you could use slight variations of the sauce or add an additional layer – but it’s also perfect just the way it is.  Though not for those of you on a diet!

Spaghetti with Two Tomato Toss

5 Feb

  • 1/2 of a 7- to 8-oz. jar  oil-packed dried tomatoes
  • 4 cloves  garlic, minced
  • 2 pints  red and/or yellow cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 tsp.  cracked black pepper or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp.  salt
  • 1 14- to 16-oz. pkg.  dried corn meal, multigrain, whole wheat or regular spaghetti
  • 4 oz.  bite-size fresh mozzarella cheese balls (bocconcini), halved
  • 1/2 cup  chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley or fresh basil

1. For sauce, drain dried tomatoes, reserving 1 tablespoon oil. Halve large tomatoes. In 12-inch skillet cook garlic in oil from tomatoes over medium heat until tender, about 1 minute. Add cherry and oil-packed tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until fresh tomato skins blister, about 8 to 10 minutes. Season with pepper and salt.

2. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti, with 1 tablespoon salt added to water, according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water (*Using Pasta Water, see below). Drain pasta.

3. Toss spaghetti with tomato mixture in skillet, adding enough cooking water to thin sauce. Serve immediately with fresh mozzarella balls and parsley. Makes 8 servings.

Better Homes & Gardens

I have been making this at least once a month for the last two years.  It is simply a staple at our house.  I can make it in less than 20 minutes but it packs a major flavor punch.  I love that all of the ingredients taste to fresh and no single ingredient overpowers any of the rest.  The citrusy tomatoes are complemented perfectly by the sweet mozzarella.  Also, I am a major sucker for any pasta dish with sun-dried tomatoes.  Doesn’t get much better.

Baked Vegetable Lasagna

31 Jan

  • 3  tablespoons  olive oil, divided
  • 1/2  cup  chopped white onion
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  teaspoon  kosher salt, divided
  • 1  teaspoon  sugar
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/4  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 1  (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2  cup  chopped fresh basil
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh oregano
  • 1  cup  ricotta cheese
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1  (14-ounce) package water-packed firm tofu, drained
  • 1  large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2  cup  thinly sliced green onions
  • 3  cups  finely chopped red bell pepper (about 2 medium)
  • 2  medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1/3  cup  finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Cooking spray
  • 12  cooked lasagna noodles
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add white onion; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute or until golden. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, crushed red pepper, and tomatoes. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in basil and oregano. Cool.

3. Combine ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, tofu, egg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor; process for 10 seconds or until blended. Stir in green onions. Set aside.

4. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, zucchini, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to pan; sauté 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and liquid evaporates. Remove from heat; stir in parsley and remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

5. Spread 1/2 cup tomato mixture in the bottom of a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; top with 3 noodles. Spread 3/4 cup tomato mixture over noodles; top with 1 cup tofu mixture and 1 cup zucchini mixture. Repeat layers twice, ending with noodles. Spread remaining 3/4 cup tomato mixture over top. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes or until bubbly; top with mozzarella cheese. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Let stand 10 minutes.

Corrine Trang, Cooking Light, JANUARY 2010

I made this exactly as instructed except I do not have a food processor so I used a hand mixer instead.  Preparing each of the three layers takes quite a bit of time and effort so I would recommend making this dish on a night where you have a little extra time and are looking for a more involved cooking project.  Is the work worth the effort?  Yes and no.  This is not your standard lasagna which I knew going into it, but I was still disappointed.  Oddly enough, though, it was actually better leftover.  I don’t think the flavors had enough time to blend in the original cooking stages, but they really came together after a night in the fridge.  Also, if you’re a lasagna fiend looking for a healthier fix, this might be just the trick.

In case you’re weary of the tofu addition to the cheese (I was), no worries: the texture is actually incredibly similar to ricotta and, of course, it merely took on the flavor of the other cheeses in the cheese blend.