Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Eggplant, Tomato and Goat Cheese Sandwich

eggplant


If you had asked me, before I made this sandwich, if I liked eggplant, I would have probably said "not really." I think that it's a beautiful vegetable, all shiny and deep purple, but the taste...not to crazy about. But this week, I was completely lured into buying it by it's total gorgeousness. So, then I hemmed and hawed about what to do with it. I knew I didn't want something too mushy, so I searched my books and the internet and found a recipe on Epicurious. It called for an open face sandwich, but I made it just a regular sandwich. I photographed it before putting the top slice on, so that you could see how pretty it was. It did make for a thick sandwich, but it was so good! As a bonus, the leftovers are great cold for lunch the next day. This is a wonderful weeknight meal, it was literally ready in 20 minutes.

eggplant


Eggplant, Tomato, and Goat Cheese Sandwich
Serves 2, plus leftovers for lunch

1 1/2 cup chopped, seeded tomato
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (or from your freezer)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 eggplant cut into 1/2 inch slices
olive oil
4 slices country bread (lightly toasted)
4 oz goat cheese (or to taste)

Combine tomatoes, basil, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Preheat broiler. Brush eggplant with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil for 2-3 minutes per side (until golden). Spread goat cheese on bread slices. Top with eggplant and tomatoes.


Description


This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by Anh at Food Lover's Journey and surprise, surprise, it's basil not cilantro! The basil was from my frozen basil from last summer, it was still so bright and fresh.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bleeding Hearts

bleeding hearts


I love bleeding hearts. They have the loveliest light green leaves and the unusual pink flowers really cheer up a shady spot.

bleeding hearts

Monday, April 28, 2008

Produce Code - Who Knew?

produce code


I am physically incapable of going grocery shopping without buying a magazine. I've tried, but really, I need to go to "magazine buyers anonymous" or something. It doesn't matter if I have a stack waiting to be read. So, this past weekend I picked up Cook's Illustrated Light Spring 2008. It has a great mix of recipes from macaroni and cheese, to glazed pork tenderloin, to New York style cheesecake. But one of the things that I found really interesting was that it explained PLU codes of produce here in the US. I had no idea that the 4 or 5 digit PLU code on produce can tell you if it's organic or conventionally grown. If the code is 4 digits and starts with 3 or a 4, it is conventionally grown. If it is 5 digits and begins with the number 9 it is organic. And the most interesting of all, if it is 5 digits and starts with the number 8, it is genetically modified! Did you all know this? I had no idea!

Oh, and my first CSA box of the season starts today! I am so excited. They emailed and said that it would contain: Strawberries, Pac Choi, Arugula, Radishes, Beet sprouts and pea shoots, Kale, and Lettuce! Any ideas, anyone? What do I do with beet sprouts and pea shoots???

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Asian Infused Tilapia with Baby Bok Choy

Description


I can not begin to say enough good things about this recipe. It was amazing. It was delicate and yet flavorful. The fish literally became perfumed with the aromatics. And yet all the aromatics blended together perfectly, you really didn't specifically taste the cilantro, or the lemongrass, or the lime leaves. It was just this heavenly subtle flavor. I took pictures practically every step of the way, because this dish was beautiful every step of the way. And if your wondering why my chilis look a littly frosty, it's because I store them in a ziplock in the freezer, same with the lemongrass and the kaffir lime leaves. The chilis are some tabasco ones that I grew last year, and boy were they hot.

Description


I used a Donna Hay recipe from The New Cook as inspiration. She used swordfish and had you wrap the cilantro stem around the swordfish. I used tilapia, less lemongrass, and just laid the cilantro sprigs on top. She also had you just sort of line your steamer basket with the paper and sit the fish on top, I made individual packets.

Description


I made the individual fish packets out of parchment paper, sort of rolled them up like I was going to roast them in the oven. Then I was concerned that since I was steaming them, I wondered if they have to be opened up to expose the fish to the steam. So I cut out the center folded part, sort of making a parchment bowl.

Description


Asian Infused Tilapia with Baby Bok Choy
serves 4

4 heads baby bok choy, halved
8 sprigs cilantro
8 kaffir lime leaves
2 stalks lemongrass (about bottom 4 inches), halved
4 red chilis (or to suit your taste)
black pepper
lime wedges

On 4 pieces of parchment paper (about 12x12 inches), place baby bok choy. Place tilapia on top the bok choy, and top each with 2 sprigs of cilantro, 2 lime leaves, one half stalk of lemongrass, and one chili pepper sliced. Fold up parchment paper as described above. Place packets in steamer basket. Place steamer basket over simmering water and steam for 6-8 minutes, until fish is cooked. Serve with jasmine rice, a generous sprinkling of fresh ground black pepper, and lime wedges.


Description


Seriously wonderful and easy enough for a weeknight dinner!

Description


This will be my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by Margo from Coffee and Vanilla. And yes, I know it's cilantro, again, but hey, Kalyn used cilantro and tilapia this week also, and she's my hero.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Reuse - One of the Three R's

napkins


You all know the three r's of helping the environment: reduce, reuse, and recycle. One of my favorite ways to reuse is to go to estate sales and garage sales and look for vintage napkins and old silverplate. It's easy and fun and it makes for an attractive, yet eclectic table stetting!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Plank-Grilled Sweet Soy Salmon

Salmon


This was my first foray into using a plank of wood with grilling. I have been curious about it for awhile and when I found a package of four planks for less than ten dollars, I decided it was time to satisfy my curiosity. There was also a recipe in the April issue of Eating Well magazine which was still floating around in the mess that is my brain, so it all sounded like a go.

salmon


Do you read the whole recipe before you make something? I think that it is recommended, and this recipe was a prime example of why you should. I started making the marinade and the second ingredient was sake. Ooops, didn't have any sake. I thought that we always had some in our liquor stash, but apparently not. So, being the quick and resourceful thinker that I am, I substituted mirin. Feeling rather proud of myself, I go on to the next ingredient, which is, you guessed it, mirin. Mmmmm..what to do...what to do. Being the queen of substitutions, I substituted vermouth for the mirin. Why? I don't know, other than I found some when I was searching for the sake.

salmon


The salmon was great. It didn't look as pretty as the picture in the mag (which you can see here, but it was still pretty if you looked at it from just the right angle. Why? Because salmon is a fatty fish and as it cooked it leaked out that unappetizing grayish fatty stuff from the sides, which drops through the grates when you are grilling, but just puddles up on the plank. So, if you are going to serve this to guests, I would suggest either replating (though the plank is a fancy touch), or scraping off the congealed fatty puddles.

I served this with jasmine rice from the rice cooker, which I cooked with 3 slices of lemon to mimic the lemon in the salmon (just kidding, it was because I had three slices left over from the lemon used for the salmon). I also used a little knob of ginger (ditto on the being leftover from the salmon). The vegetable was steamed edamame. This was a lovely, healthy dinner, with lots of flavor!

Plank-Grilled Sweet Soy Salmon
(From Eating Well April 2008, link above)

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup sake or dry white wine
1/4 cup mirin
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped scallions
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh ginger
4 5-ounce wild salmon fillets or steaks, ¾-1 inch thick, skin on
1 small lemon, thinly sliced


1. Soak a grilling plank in water for 2 to 4 hours.
2. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, sake (or white wine), mirin, sugar, scallions and ginger in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
3. Place salmon in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over it. Place lemon slices on top. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes but no more than 2 hours, turning the fish once or twice.
4. Preheat grill to medium-high.
5. Place the soaked plank over direct heat on the grill and heat for 2 minutes. Move the plank so it's over indirect heat. Remove the salmon from the marinade, place it skin-side down (if using fillets) on the hot plank and replace the lemon slices on top. Close the lid and cook until the fish is just cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Use the plank as the serving platter, if desired.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pistachio Cranberry Biscotti

Biscotti


You know how in magazines whenever they have a picture of a baked good with pistachio nuts in it, it is always a perfect slice of the nut? There is just the hint of the green around the outside edge and the inside is all white and creamy. Totally perfect. How do they do that??? Not one of my slices has a perfect pistachio nut. Not one. The two that I chose for the photo were my best possible choices. But no matter, it was good. Plus pistachio nuts and cranberries are so good for you, you really should consider this a health food.

I used a recipe that I previously posted here, which I modified to include the pistachio and cranberries. And I know a lot of people make these around the holidays because with their red and green they are so festive. I was planning to also, late April was apparently the best that I can do.


Pistachio Cranberry Biscotti
Makes 3-4 dozen

1/2 cup pistachio nuts, shelled
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract (I used vanilla)
Zest of 1 orange
1 to 2 tablespoons of milk

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine the sugar, flour, salt, and baking powder in a food processor; pulse to blend the ingredients. Add eggs, vanilla, and zest. Process until it forms a dough ball. If you need to add the milk a little at a time. I didn't need any. Add the nuts and cranberries and pulse a few more times, you don't want to the nuts pulverized, just chopped lightly.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a 2-inch-wide log.

Bake until golden about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 250. When the loaves are cool enough to handle, cut with a serrated knife on the diagonal into 1/2 inch thick slices. Put the slices back on the cookie sheet and back into the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once halfway through. Cool on wire racks.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Garden Bunny

Description


Just a quick photo of this cute garden bunny that we picked up at the nursery the other day! I love spring. I am so inspired to be out in my garden, it's so fresh and green. I have to be careful though, I get all fired up and buy lots of plants and come July and August, I am totally over it. They are all wilted from lack of rain and the weeds are running rampant. Anyone else like that?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

WHB - Watercress, Avocado, and Bacon Salad

Watercress salad


Hey, did you know watercress can be considered an herb?? I didn't! I thought it was a lettuce, and I figured I was going to have to cheat my way through this weeks Weekend Herb Blogging, which I have been known to do on occasion. But no cheating this time. It is actually a member of the nasturtium family and it contains significant amounts of iron, calcium and folic acid. Greenlife has had the prettiest bunches of watercress lately and I bought some without any idea what to do with it. And has sometimes happens in the world, a wonderful little coincidence occurred. That night, I was watching one of my TIVO'd Tyler Florence shows and he did a watercress salad. Don't you love when something like that happens? Anyway, this salad contained watercress, avocado, and bacon! Hello! With bacon and avocado how could it not be great? I sauteed a chicken breast and served it on top of this to turn it into a main dish salad. Perfect! Except that I became impatient and didn't brown the chicken breast enough, so even though it was delish, it was not as attractive as I would have liked it, hence the picture of the salad without the chicken breast. If you want a quick, tasty, dinner salad, this is it! I've adapted it slightly from the original.

Watercress, Bacon, Avocado, and Chicken Salad
Serves 2

1 bunch watercress
1 avocado
3 slices bacon, diced
1 lemon
olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Brown bacon until crispy. Remove and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but one tablespoon of the bacon fat. Salt and pepper chicken breast and brown over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Cover with a lid, reduce heat to medium and cook for 8 minutes. While chicken is cooking, divide watercress among plates. Dice and divide avocado evenly (or give yourself slightly more, you are the chef after all!). Juice 1 lemon and sprinkle over avocado and watercress. Salt and pepper salad, drizzle with olive oil, top with chicken breast and bacon (again, what I said about more avocado for the chef, holds even more true for bacon).


WHB


Eat this and marvel at sheer wonderfulness of this salad. It's unbelievably easy. And, like I said, this will be entry for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Susan at The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mushroom Stroganoff

Mushroom Stroganoff


Technically a stroganoff is a dish with beef braised in sour cream. So, technically this is not a stroganoff, but if you want the flavors of a stroganoff without the beef, this is perfect! I am not a vegetarian, and I am sure I will make stroganoff with beef sometime in the future, but this is every bit as tasty and rich. It would have probably been even more tasty with some more exotic mushrooms, but all I had was the lowly button mushroom.

Mushroom Stroganoff
Serves 4

4 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1/4 cup sherry
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon dried thyme
12 oz fettuccine
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Start water boiling for pasta.

Melt butter over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic, and shallots. Cook until mushrooms release their moisture, about 8 minutes. Add sherry, scraping up the browned bits. Cook until sherry is almost evaporated about 4-5 minutes. Add broth, thyme, salt and pepper, simmer about 5 minutes. Add sour cream and parsley and heat gently. Sometime during this, your water will come to a boil, when it does, cook pasta.

Toss sauce with cooked pasta.


Description


This will be my entry for Pasta Presto Nights at Once Upon a Feast.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ready for Dinner!

Smudge


I take most of my food photographs at my dining room table. Usually with hungry people staring at me rudely, waiting not-at-all patiently for their dinner. But sometimes they get into the swing of things and actually check out to see whose dish looks the best. Since I am most attracted to food photos with pretty settings, I have used that as an excuse to pick up placemats or tablecloths when they are on sale. Hey, I have to. It's for my blog. So, when I found this crisp, white tablecloth on sale at Target, I had to grab it. Using a tablecloth really makes it feel like you're eating a special dinner. And I know that the tablecloth needs to be ironed, but I don't iron my clothes, so it's really too much to expect me to iron a tablecloth. Besides Smudge doesn't seem to mind.

Description


How about you? Do you use tablecloths?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ham, Olives, and Goat Cheese Bread Pudding

bread pudding


A few days after Easter, we grew tired of ham. Tired of ham! Is it possible? Yes, unfortunately one even grows tired of a good thing. So, I wrapped up the ham bone, and diced up the remaining ham and tossed it in my freezer. I've read somewhere that ham doesn't freeze well, but I've never had any problems, probably because it never lasts that long in the freezer! So, with a loaf of bread rapidly going stale, and a desire for something hearty, I searched and found some ideas which I used for this bread pudding. It was everything that I hoped it would be. Of course, with ham, goat cheese and kalamata olives, how could it be anything but delicious?!

Ham, Olives, and Goat Cheese Bread Pudding
4-6 servings

4 cups cubed, stale bread
2 cups diced, cooked ham
4-6 oz crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup pitted and diced kalamata olives
2 cups milk (I used 2 %)
6 eggs
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 2-3 quart baking dish with cooking spray (I used a shallow gratin dish because I like the crispy top part the best). Whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine. Spread into prepared pan. Press on it to allow all of the bread to soak up some of the egg mixture. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

E is for Excellent

The very sweet Chris at Mele Cotte listed me as one of her recipients for the E for Excellent award! Isn't that sweet? She is my very favorite school administrator (shhh..don't tell my principal I said that), and a fabulous food blogger!

Description


The rules are that I'm supposed to award this to 10 more bloggers. But, I'm in a big, big hurry. They are calling for snow showers tonight people! Show showers! I've got to figure out what to do with all my plants outside. So, I'm just going to award it to 5. I know that probably all of them have been awarded it before, because they are all so excellent!

The first is Cathy at Noble Pig. She keeps me constantly entertained, her recipes are wonderful, plus when she gets rich and famous with her winery, she is going to send me some wine. Of course, she can't send it to Tennessee because it's against the law. But we'll work around that somehow!

Peter at Kalofagas - Greek Food & Beyond. Peter is single handedly teaching me everything I need to know about Greek food and cooking. Plus he makes his own phyllo dough. Need I say more?

Mike at Mike's Table. Mike cooks a huge variety of food, I never know what to expect from him next. Plus he shows you step by step how he did it. I think I've bookmarked practically every single one of his posts!

Marjie at Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet. Marjie does everything, she cooks, she sews and she has something like a gazillion children. Really. She is my hero.

Kevin at Closet Cooking. You know what I love about Kevin? He makes something wonderful, like say a sauce for example, and then uses it in three or four more recipes. I want to be creative like that. He is always stepping outside of the box.

And that's it. There are seriously a zillion more people that I could give this to. You know who you are. I visit your blogs daily. But I really, really have to get outside and spread some mulch or something!

The rules are (and obviously I didn't follow them, so I'm not holding you to them!):
Find at least 10 more blogs of any kind which you deem to be excellent;

- Post about which blogs you picked, linking to me and to them;

- Once you've posted, return here to let me know your post is up, and of course let your 10 award winners know, too.

*If you've already received this award in the past, I won't hold you to selecting 10 more.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

WHB - Shrimp with salsa and cilantro rice

shrimp


Hey, it's weekend herb blogging time, and that means it's time for me to blog about cilantro. Really. Ninety percent of the time I blog about cilantro or basil. The other herbs come in a distant second. I can't help it, I play favorites. I always have.

So, with my new style of grocery shopping and cooking, I only plan a few meals a week, and the rest are chosen from whatever is in my freezer or I picked at the grocery store. Today's recipe and the bonus leftover recipe is the result. I always have shrimp in the freezer, cilantro in the fridge, and canned beans in the pantry. The avocados looked good, so I just happened to have one of those.

Shrimp and Salsa with Cilantro Rice
Serves 2 (with bonus leftovers!)

1 lb shrimp
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
olive oil (enough to cover bottom of pan)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
juice of one lime

Jasmine rice
Cilantro stems

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 avocado, diced
1 diced red chili pepper (seeded if you can't stand the heat)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped (use stems for rice)
juice of one lime

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Chop stems from handful of cilantro, it should be about 1/4 cup. Stir into your jasmine rice, and cook as directed on rice cooker. You do have a rice cooker, don't you??

While rice cooks, mix salsa ingredients: beans, avocado, red chili, cilantro leaves, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in cast iron skillet (or whatever you have), over medium-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, cook until fragrant about 1-2 minutes. Add shrimp and cook until just pink, turning once or twice, about 5 minutes. When the shrimp is cooked, add the juice of one lime. Serve with rice and bean salsa.

So good! And it took something like 5 minutes of prep time! I left the shells on the shrimp, (1) because Mark Bittman says that they have more flavor that way, and I always listen to Mark Bittman, and (2) because if I didn't my husband would have inhaled them in about 2 minutes, having the shells on forces you to slow down and savor. Plus you get to lick all the greasy goodness off your fingers. But that's not all, a bonus leftover recipe is included! All for you.

shrimp quesadillas


Shrimp Quesadillas
Serves 2

2 tortillas (whole wheat, corn, flour, whatever floats your boat)
4 tablespoons sour cream
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or a Mexican blend)
leftover shrimp
leftover bean salsa

Preheat oven to 400. Dice shrimp and mix with leftover bean salsa. Mix 4 tablespoons sour cream with 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese. Spread cheese mixture over tortillas, top with shrimp mixture and sprinkle rest of the cheese on top. fold over. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and filling is warmed through.


shrimp quesadillas


Just look at that picture, you can tell how good these were! 2 recipes for the price of one. No, wait, you could count the shrimp as one, the salsa as one, and the quesadillas as one. So, that's three! Who treats you right?

whb


And coming full circle, as I stated in my opening line, this is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week at Jugalbandi

Friday, April 11, 2008

Freezing Cucumbers!

frozen cucumbers


I know I should be posting these later in the summer, when you really need to know about it. But I just opened these up, and I have to tell you about them now!! Last August, I had a lot of cucumbers from my CSA. After eating them every possible way known to mankind, I absolutely could not face another one. Since school had started back, I also could not face the thought of canning them. So, I searched on the internet and found some ideas for freezing cucumbers. I really did not have high hopes for it, but at least if they were away in the freezer, they would not be staring at me every time I opened the produce drawer in the fridge. Yes, cucumbers do stare at you. They do.

Cucumbers for freezing

7 cups thinly sliced cucumbers (I used a slicing disk on the food processor)
2 cups sugar
1 cup vinegar
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Put in containers and freeze. Open sometime in the middle of winter and enjoy!


frozen cucumbers


These were so good! Really! They were crisp and fresh tasting. I let them defrost overnight in the fridge and the next day, we tried a little bite straight from the jar, expecting them to be not very good, or at best, just okay. I ended up having to stop us from eating the entire jar right then and there! This recipe was modified from one found here, because I didn't have any green pepper and I didn't feel like putting any onions in it. So, bookmark this. And at the end of the summer, when you are drowning in cucumbers, you'll thank me!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pasta with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sundried Tomatoes

Description


This recipe is the reason that I have Giada's Family Dinners. I was standing in Home Goods, browsing through their cookbooks. Not buying, just browsing, because I had a self-imposed moratorium on cookbook buying. So, browsing, not buying, when I see this recipe. It sounded so good. I read through it, got the main points and went home and made it a few days later. I completely forgot that it would be on-line, so I kind of went from memory and what I thought would be good. It was excellent. I drove back to Home Goods that weekend and bought the cookbook (again, conveniently forgetting that the recipe was online). Who needs self-imposed moratoriums? The world is a difficult enough place without silly ideas like that.

I pretty much made the recipe as written, except for a few things. I never remove the sausage casing. Usually it is so thin, that I feel like I end up losing more sausage meat than it's worth. The meat sticks to the casing and it seems like such a waste. And yes, I know what the casing is. I chose not to think about it. I also only used one bag of artichoke hearts because I didn't read the recipe carefully enough. Instead of fusilli, I used pappardelle, used no parsley, and no fresh mozzarella. You kind find it online here.


Giada's Fusilli with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Serves 4

3/4 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced, 2 tablespoons of oil reserved
1 pound Italian hot sausages, casings removed
2 (8-ounce) packages frozen artichoke hearts
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
16 ounces fusilli pasta
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
8 ounces water-packed fresh mozzarella, drained and cubed, optional
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil reserved from the tomatoes in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and cook until brown, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces with a fork, about 8 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a bowl. Add the artichokes and garlic to the same skillet, and saute over medium heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, wine, and sun-dried tomatoes. Boil over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the fusilli in boiling water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta (do not rinse). Add the pasta, sausage, 1/2 cup Parmesan, basil, and parsley to the artichoke mixture. Toss until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta. Stir in the mozzarella. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve, passing the additional Parmesan cheese alongside.


Description


And guess what people???? I finally got my act together enough to post this for Ruth's Pasta Presto Night at Once Upon a Feast. Aren't you proud of me! My very first!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Ginger Grilled Beef with Sweet Potato Salad

Description


When I am looking for a handful of ingredients put together in a simple, creative and flavorful way, I always turn to Donna Hay. She never, ever disappoints me. This salad has wonderful flavor and healthy ingredients! You know when you are trying to eat healthy, you need to go for the colors: greens, purples, blues, reds, yellows and oranges. Well, this salad has the green and the orange covered for you! It comes from Flavors by Donna Hay. If you have never seen this book, I urge you to check it out. You really can judge a book by it's cover, just look at how gorgeous and simple the cover of this book is, just like the recipes inside.

Ginger-Grilled Beef with Sweet Potato Salad
(adapted slightly)
Serves 4

steak and marinade
1 flank steak (1 1/4 lb to 1 1/2 lb)
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons olive oil

6 1/2 oz baby spinach

sweet potato salad
1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup sweet chili sauce
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil

Place steak in a shallow dish or Ziploc bag. Combine marinade ingredients and poor over steak. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350. Place sweet potatoes in baking dish, toss with the oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes.

Grill the marinated steaks for 3-4 minutes per side for rare/medium rare. Let rest on cutting board for 5-10 minutes, before thinly slicing against the grain.

To serve, place the spinach leaves on a plate. Top with the sweet potatoes. Combine the sweet chili sauce, 2 teaspoons grated ginger, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Lay steak slices on top.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Dogwoods

dogwood


It's spring in the south and that means the dogwoods are blooming! We have a few of them in our yard and I just love them!

dogwood

Thursday, April 3, 2008

WHB - Garlic Chives Infused Oil

garlic chives


I'm posting an entry for Weekend Herb Blogging that I really wasn't pleased with. I know that sounds silly, but I think the concept is good, I just didn't like the procedure.

garlic chives oil


Last year I made basil, tarragon, and rosemary infused oils using a heat infused method, which you can read about here or here. I kept it stored in my refrigerator and used it all the time. It was great brushed on toasted bread, or grilled chicken, or swirled into mashed potatoes. Really the uses were endless. I will definitely be doing that again this year.

A couple of weeks ago I found, Michael Chiarello's Flavored Oils and Vinegars: 100 Recipes for Cooking with Infused Oils and Vinegars at a discount bookstore, and of course, I had to bring it home. It is filled with wonderful ideas for how to make and use infused oils and vinegars.

The earliest of my spring herbs is my garlic chives. They look wonderful, so I decided to try his method for making chive infused olive oil.

Herb Flavored Oils
Cold Infused Method

2 cups tightly packed soft-leaved herbs (like basil, cilantro, or chives)
1 cup olive oil

Blanch herbs in boiling water for 5 seconds. Drain and immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water. Drain well and squeeze out excess moisture. Puree in blender with olive oil.

Strain puree through a fine meshed strainer. Strain again through four layers of cheesecloth and put in a sterilized glass bottle. Refrigerate and use within 1 week for best flavor.


Weekend Herb Blogging


Okay, this was a pain. The whole blanching and shocking was a hassle. By the time I got all of the wayward chives pushed down, I'm sure more than 5 seconds had lapsed. Then trying to strain it was a mess too. It was oil, so everything was slick and greasy. It took forever to strain, and I ended up dirtying several bowls, a strainer, and the blender. The oil was beautiful, a gorgeous bright green, and tasted heavenly, but compared with the heat infused method, which is so much easier, this just doesn't work for me. He does include a heat infused method in this book, and that's what I'll be using from now on.

So, even though I wasn't pleased with how difficult this was, I wanted to share the concept of making infused oils. Infused oils that you buy in the store are so expensive, and it is so easy to make your own (the heat way), and if you grow your own herbs you really have no excuse not to! This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by it's esteemed creator Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Green is the new White

Non Chlorine Bleach


I've posted before about my efforts to be more environmentally friendly. As I run out of each non-green item, I try and replace it with a better choice. When I ran out of the standard chlorine bleach a couple of weeks ago, I purchased this non chlorine bleach. To be honest, I didn't have high hopes for it. I mean what whitens as good as bleach? Well, this does! Actually I think it's even better. My whites come out positively glowing. I know I sound like some sad housewife in some 1950's commercial, but hey, a nice, white, bright load of laundry pleases me.

Now, in all honesty, when I purchased it, I didn't even read the ingredients. But after I spent a few minutes admiring my laundry, I had to check what was in it. It is hydrogen peroxide and water. That's it. I could probably make my own, but I'm not sure of the proportions, and after reading more on the back of the label, I will probably continue to support this company. Their factor was built with a grass roof for insulation, wood from sustainable forest and bricks from coal mine waste. That sounds pretty impressive to me!