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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.

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.

Vegetable Frittata

2 Mar

  • 3 large eggs, plus 3 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup 2% reduced-fat cottage cheese
  • 4 ounces smoked gouda cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped Kosher salt
  • 1 16-ounce package frozen mixed vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and carrots), thawed
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 scant teaspoon paprika
  • 4 slices multigrain bread

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Whisk the whole eggs and whites in a bowl. Add the cottage cheese and whisk until almost smooth. Whisk in the gouda and rosemary.

Cook the garlic in the olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until it starts to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the onion, season with salt and cook 2 minutes. Add the vegetables, increase the heat to high and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium. Spread the egg mixture evenly in the pan. Cook, undisturbed, until a thin crust forms on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Run a rubber spatula around the edge to release the egg from the pan. Continue cooking until the bottom is golden, 2 to 3 more minutes. Sprinkle with the parmesan and paprika; transfer to the oven and bake until just set, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover and let sit, 5 to 7 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with the bread.

Food Network Magazine, March 2011

This is the perfect recipe for those sunny yet chilly February mornings.  The rosemary adds piney, earthy tones and the gouda adds smoke, bringing back flavors of fall and winter.  At the same time, the wealth of veggies adds a fresh, complex flavor, hearkening much-needed spring.

I used the Harvest Blend of frozen veggies from Trader Joe’s which includes watercress, baby corn, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and whole green beans.  You could also use fresh veggies, whichever veggies you prefer,  just be sure to saute in a little olive oil until tender before adding to the frittata.  I would also recommend cutting the onion in half because the whole onion has the potential to overpower the mild eggs.

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.

Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Hazelnuts

21 Jan
  • 1  (9-ounce) package refrigerated fresh fettuccine
  • 1  tablespoon  butter
  • 1/4  cup  chopped blanched hazelnuts
  • 1  tablespoon  olive oil
  • 4  garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3  (4-ounce) packages presliced exotic mushroom blend
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 2  teaspoons  chopped fresh sage
  • 2  ounces  Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped chives

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid.

2. While water for pasta comes to a boil, melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add hazelnuts to pan; sauté for 3 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon. Add oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add garlic and mushrooms to pan; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Sauté mushroom mixture for 5 minutes; stir in sage. Add pasta, reserved cooking liquid, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to pan; toss well to combine. Remove from heat; top with cheese, toasted hazelnuts, and chives.

Cooking Light, January 2011

I made this recipe exactly as called for except I used finely chopped green onions instead of chives because that’s what I had on-hand and I used 70% portabella and 30% white button mushrooms because that’s what Trader Joes had on-hand.  I was weary of this recipe when I initially read the ingredient list, but the flavors could not complement on another better.  The mushrooms and hazelnuts give this pasta a savory, earthy flavor and the sage and Parmesan add a piney, floral finish, the combination of which reminded me of a stroll through the woods on a breezy, sunny spring day.  It is pure heaven and – I would guess – a vegetarian’s delight with its hearty, earthy flavors.

This is, however, not the pasta for those who like super saucy pasta dishes.  It is an oil-based sauce and Tom didn’t love it because he said it was too “dry”.

Just a tip – If you can’t find blanched hazelnuts, it is actually very easy to do it yourself.  Simply roast the nuts on a baking pan for about 10 minutes.  Give them a few minutes to cool and then rub several nuts at a time (yeah, yeah, that’s what she said) inside a paper towel.  The skins will fall right off.   It is important to use blanched hazelnuts rather than raw as the raw nuts will have a different flavor and texture.

Serve with additional shaved Parmesan – Perfect!

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.