Easy Summer Pico de Gallo

4 Jul

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 mangos, peeled, seeded and chopped

1-2 jalapenos (depending on your spice-tolerance/preference), seeded and finely chopped

3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1 lime

2 avocados

1. Combine chopped tomatoes, red onion, mango, jalapeno and cilantro in a medium-sized bowl.  Add fresh-squeezed juice from 1 lime.  Stir to combine.  Add salt to taste.  Place mixture in the refrigerator until ready to serve, preferably overnight.

2. Before serving, add chopped avocados and stir to combine.  Serve with tortilla chips.

I have to give primary credit for this recipe to Mary McMullin who asked me to come up with a salsa to serve with simple grilled chicken breasts, using her 2 mangos, a few tomatoes and an avocado.  I insisted that we add onion and jalapeno to spice it up and have since added the lime which helps to preserve the ingredients and adds a nice citrusy splash.  I just served this on a camping trip in Michigan.  I divided the batch into two servings, tossed them in the cooler and added 1 avocado per serving to keep it fresh.  Great way to use those farmer’s market tomatoes and serve a big crowd.  You can also mix it up by adding different peppers such as any bell pepper or chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.

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).

Paella with Poblanos, Corn, and Clams

16 May

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 poblano chiles, seeded and chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
3/4 cup uncooked short-grain brown rice
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
2 cups water
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
2 pounds littleneck clams
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
8 lemon wedges

1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. Heat oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, poblanos, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; sauté 3 minutes. Add rice and saffron. Cook 2 minutes; stir constantly. Add 2 cups water, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and red pepper; bring to a boil.
3. Bake at 450° for 50 minutes or until rice is done. Stir in corn and tomatoes. Nestle clams into rice mixture. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until shells open, and discard unopened shells.
4. Return the pan to medium-high heat, and cook without stirring 10 minutes or until liquid evaporates and rice browns. (It should smell toasty but not burned.) Top with parsley; serve with lemon wedges.

Mark Bittman, Cooking Light , May 2011

I made this paella last night before heading out to watch the bulls wins (!) so I was drinking a sauvignon blanc and managed to burn myself not once or twice but three times on the pot.  Once the pot goes in the oven, keep the mitt on if you are in the habit of holding the handle while stirring your skillet-cooking foods.  Yes, I am an idiot, but hopefully this warning will help others avoid the same finger-burning fate.

The burns were worth every second!  I’ve never had a dish with saffron or poblano that I didn’t like and this was certainly no exception.  I’ve made paellas in the past, but this is hands down my favorite.  The wealth of smoky heat is balanced by the citrus of fresh squeezed lemon pouring from the perfectly cooked clams.  Nothing overpowers here.  The corn adds texture and a nice sweetness.  This dish is perfect for entertaining because the hands-on time is relatively short, but the product is complex and impressive.   Or you can make it for two to spice up an otherwise average Sunday night.

I strongly recommend serving with a light white wine.

Croutons

3 May

I am always buying baguettes because it goes with most anything, especially cheese which is, let’s be serious, half my daily diet these days.  But things tend to get a little busier at this time of year and I hate to see baguettes go to waste so although it may seem common sense, I just thought I’d remind you all that it’s super easy to transform stale baguettes into tasty croutons in all of 10 minutes.  Honestly, the hardest part is breaking up the bread.  Simply toss the bread pieces with a little olive oil, fresh garlic or garlic powder and a few of your favorite fresh or dried spices (I prefer thyme, oregano and rosemary).   Pop it in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes and you’re good to go.  Far exceeds the store-bought options and reduces guilt caused by wasted food.

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.

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!

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.