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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.

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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.

Mushroom-Asparagus Strata

31 Dec

  • 8 oz.  asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 5 cups  French bread cubes
  • 2 cups  shredded Gruyére or white cheddar cheese, (8 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup  chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup  chopped chives or green onions
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 10 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups  milk

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boiling. Add asparagus; cook 5 minutes or until bright green.

2. In a greased 3-quart baking dish spread half the bread cubes. Top with cheese, onion, chives and half the mushrooms and asparagus. Top with remaining bread.

3. In a bowl whisk together four of the eggs and the milk. Evenly pour over layers in dish. Press down bread pieces into the egg milk mixture with the back of a spoon. Top with remaining mushrooms and asparagus. Cover; refrigerate until ready to bake.

4. Bake, uncovered, in a 325 degrees F oven 30 minutes. With the back of a wooden spoon, press 6 indentations in top of strata. Pour a whole egg into each indentation. Bake 20 to 25 minutes more or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of strata registers 170 degrees F and eggs are set. Let stand 15 minutes.

5. Cut into squares to serve. If desired, drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Better Homes & Gardens, December 2010

This was originally a Ham-Asparagus Strata, but I substituted mushrooms for ham since I personally don’t eat much of the stuff.  If you like meat in your breakfast, use 8 oz. ham instead of the 8 oz. mushrooms.  I made this to celebrate the new year – mixed it up last night and popped it in the oven this morning.  The pictures say it all.  Perfect way to start the holiday.

Happy New Year!

Simple Roasted Asparagus

30 Dec

One bunch of asparagus

1/4 – 1/2 medium red onion, sliced

1-3 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped

Olive oil

Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the bottom 1-2 inches off of each asparagus stem.  This part tends to be tough and impossible to chew.  Lay the asparagus stems in a roasting or baking pan.  Spread onions and garlic on top of the asparagus.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper.  Roast between 7-10 minutes or until asparagus reaches the desired texture (I prefer it a little crispier, my boyfriend like it very tender – all a matter of personal preference).

Asparagus is one of my favorite side dishes because it is one of the heartier greens, pairs nicely many different flavors and dishes and cooks both quickly and easily.  This is my favorite way to cook it – nice and simple – but my friend, Carin has also roasted them with pine nuts, blue cheese and balsamic vinegar and my mom likes to roast them with grated Parmesan and garlic salt.  The possibilities are endless – so have some fun, experiment until you find a combination that you like.

Chickpeas with Spinach and Smoky Paprika

13 Dec

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cups thinly sliced onions

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup organic vegetable broth

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

1 (9-ounce) package fresh spinach

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic to pan; cover and cook for 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in smoked paprika and cook for 1 minute.  Add white wine, vegetable broth, and tomatoes; bring to a biol.  Add chickpeas; reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens slightly (about 15 minutes), stirring occasionally.  Add spinach; cover and cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts.  Stir in parsley and vinegar.

Yield: 10 servings

Cooking Light, December 2010

I made this for the holiday party we had at our house over the weekend.  It takes about 20 minutes total, but only uses one pot, so it’s great for a last minute snack at your house.  Perfect for me considering our sinks were backed up until 5:30 p.m. the night of the party, at which time an awesome plumber from Amazing Plumbing came and saved my party.  The only substitution I made was using balsamic vinegar instead of sherry vinegar because I simply couldn’t find it.  But it tasted great none-the-less (although it was easily overshadowed by the Date and Walnut Cheese Ball – see post).