Friday, April 30, 2010

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I absolutely love walking in the kitchen and seeing a beautiful cake on a crystal pedastel under a dome. It looks so elegant, but also homey at the same time. However, these cakes have a magical way of disappearing quickly in my home, so I don't make them often. Since we had a house of six last week, I thought a coffee cake on the counter would be nice for anyone to eat for breakfast, snack on with a cup of tea, or cut a small slice for dessert. The cake was gone in 2 days!
When I was a barista at Starbucks (best job ever), one of my favorite things to snack on was the reduced fat cinnamon swirl coffee cake. When I stumbled upon this Ina recipe, it brough back memories of that cake. It's simple and clean in flavor, but is so tender with a great crunch. I think next time I make it, I'll double or 1.5x the strudel portion because I would have liked a more defined swirl layer in the middle, but other than that, this was the perfect coffee cake. I did omit the icing just because I didn't think it needed more sugar, and my family prefers icing-less pastries.
Also, I realized I had no tube pan when it was time to make this, so I improvised! I used a spring form pan lined with parchment, then placed a soda water can full of water in the center, wrapped the bottom in parchment and greased it. The center wasn't perfect looking, but it held its shape well!

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
adapted from Ina Garden

For the cake:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour 
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the streusel:
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan (or a 9" springform pan with soda can in the center...)
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light.
Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined.
Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.
For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble.
Mix in the pecans.
Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife.
Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.
Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate.

Improvised tube pan

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mashed Cauliflower with Hummus and Feta

I almost didn't think I should blog this recipe because it's hardly a recipe. However, it was one of the most delicious vegetable side dishes I've made in a long time. I know there are those out there who substitute cauliflower mash for mashed potatoes, but it's not the same. Not at all! Cauliflower has it's own amazing flavor, texture, and sometimes I prefer it to mashed potatoes. Yes, it is lower in calories and has a different nutritional profile, but there's nothing wrong with eating potatoes in moderation.
I've made quite a few cauliflower purees and mashes, recipes can be seen here and here. As I've said, JJ doesn't like cauliflower, so it has become a treat for me to enjoy when he's not home at dinner. Isn't it odd when you look at cauliflower as a treat? Oh well, I'll be the odd girl, cause I just can't get enough! What I tend to do is just pick up a head, and then see what my inspiration is the night I'm preparing it. So for this one, I had a hummus surplus, and a few random cheeses to choose from. I guess I took it in a Mediterranean direction, but really, I took it in a delicious bowl of comfort and flavor direction.

Mashed Cauliflower with Hummus and Feta

1 head of cauliflower, stemmed and cut into florets
1 cup vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Pinch of dried oregano
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup plain hummus, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, plus extra for garnish

Place cauliflower in a pot, add stock, salt and pepper.
Cover, bring to a boil, turn to low and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
Pierce with a knife, cauliflower should be tender and most of stock will be evaporated.
Remove from heat, add oregano, red pepper, hummus and feta.
Use a potato masher and mash to desired consistency.
Garnish with an extra dollop of hummus and sprinkle of feta.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Roasted Tomatillo and Sour Cream Enchilada Casserole

It's not very often that I repeat a dinner recipe. I'm constantly on the search for new things, so a dish has to be really good, or a classic that we love, to be made time and time again. I made this dish about a month ago, with a chicken variation and a bean and pepper variation for company. The enchiladas looked gorgeous, rolled well, and tasted great. However, as it often happens when I have company for dinner, I forgot to photograph the food. I made a mental note to photograph the leftovers the next day because I made 2 full trays, but this time JJ and I were so ready to eat the delicious enchiladas that I forgot!
Last weekend when I was at the farmer's market, one of the vendors had enormous baskets of tomatillos, and he talked me into buying them. I figured I'd make this enchilada sauce again, and finally, hopefully get a photo. Well when it came time to roll the tortillas, they were all cracking. To avoid kitchen-rage, I decided to make it into a tortilla lasagna instead. Not exactly a pretty photo, but this enchilada sauce is just too good not to share! It tastes great no matter what you fill the enchiladas with (I've used grilled, tequila-lime chicken, homemade refried pinto beans with roasted red peppers, and roasted garlic smashed pinto beans).

Creamy Roasted Tomatillo Enchilada Sauce

10 small/medium tomatillos; remove husks and wash; cut into halves or quarters
2 jalapenos, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Olive oil
1 cup cilantro
1/2 cup light sour cream

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a baking dish.
Roast at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until tomatillos are tender.
Remove from oven, cool for 5 minutes.
Add roasted veggies (and the water that cooks out), cilantro and sour cream to a blender, puree.
Taste and adjust seasonings.

To assemble, either layer tortillas and fillings with sauce, top with cheese and bake until melted or dip tortillas in sauce, roll around filling, top with extra sauce and cheese, bake.

Again, not pretty, but the sauce is just so good!

Monday, April 26, 2010


Since The Bread Baker's Apprentice came out, I've seen countless recipes on blogs featuring absolutely delicious looking breads. I don't make yeasted breads very often because I just don't have the patience and time to follow the directions exactly, measure exactly, wait the specific amount of time to do each step, etc.
When I saw bagels on many blogs, I admired them, but thought it seemed like a lot of work, and I can get some great bagels from the bakery, and I'm happy to support small, local bakeries. But still, something about making a bagel struck me as so exciting.
For the past week, my parents and sister and brother in law have been on vacation at my house. My sister recently told us she's pregnan (yay!!!) and when we talked about what she was able to eat, she told me lots of plain bagels. I knew this was my opportunity to finally make the bagels! So that's just what I did. They were as much work as I thought they'd be, and they came out very close to what you'd buy from a bagel shop.

from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhardt

For the sponge:
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
4 cups (18 ounces) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 ½ cups (20 ounces) water, at room temperature

For the dough:
½ teaspoon (.055 ounces) instant yeast
3 ¾ cups (17 ounces) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 ¾ teaspoons (.7 ounce) salt
2 teaspoons (.33 ounce) malt powder

To finish:
1 tablespoon baking soda
cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
sesame seeds

1. To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.

2. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining ¾ cup flour to stiffen the dough.

3. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all the ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees F. If the dough seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achiever the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feels satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

4. Immediately divide the dough into 4 ½ ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. Form the pieces into rolls.

5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

6. Line two sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Proceed with shaping the bagels by pushing a hole through the center and stretching out the hole to 2 ½ inches in diameter.

7. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pan. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

8. Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float, return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

9. The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500° F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

10. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 2 minutes flip them over and boil another minute. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-line sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour.

11. When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation.

12. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Asiago Spinach Cakes

Last week, I hosted another Bite Club event for the Folio Weekly Bite Club. It was at The Fish Co., a restaurant and fish market in Jax Beaches. All of the food was phenominal, but there was one thing we had that stood out in my mind, a spinach cake served with sea bass. The cake was not meant to be the star of the dish, but everyone at the event loved it, and commented on it.
I asked Bill, the owner, what was in it, and he told me Asiago and Dijon (I had suspected horseradish, it did have a spicy kick, but it was Dijon). The fish was served with a key lime butter, which melted and pooled around the crisp cake, and added more delicious flavor. You can read about the entire meal and see photos of each course here.
When it came time to construct my version of the spinach cake, I decided to use frozen chopped spinach because it has a sturdier texture than cooking down and wilting spinach leaves. I also decided to finely cube the asiago so there would be nice pockets of the cheese. I used panko bread crumbs for extra crunch and texture, and rather than slather it with key lime butter, I squeezed a lemon on top to keep it healthy. I cooked the cakes in a dry, nonstick skillet to avoid fat, but they can be cooked with a bit of butter or EVOO for an even richer flavor and crust. These cakes were absolutely delicious, almost like a quiche, but with so much spinach flavor. And the dijon adds such great spice and flavor. Thanks, Fish Co., for the inspiration!

Asiago Spinach Cakes

2 boxes frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained well
1 egg, beaten
4 oz. asiago cheese, finely diced
1 yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 cup panko bread crumbs, separated
1/2 tsp. each salt and fresh ground black pepper
Nonstick cooking spray, EVOO or Butter
Lemon wedges

Add egg, mustard, oregano, salt and pepper to a mixing bowl, whisk to combine.
Add spinach, cheese, onion and garlic, fold into egg mixture.
Add 1/4-1/2 cup breadcrumbs to reach consistency where cakes stick together, but aren't overly dry.
Form into 8 cakes, dredge in remaining panko
Heat a nonstick skillet (I used a griddle) over medium heat, grease or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Dredge cakes in remaining panko, press to coat.
Place cakes on griddle, cover and cook for 5 minutes, flip gently and cook for another 5 minutes, until toasted, and cheese begins to ooze out.
Serve imediately with wedges of lemon.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lemon Cumin Quinoa with Avocado, Raisins, and Apricots

Well, if you haven't seen a quinoa recipe lately, you must be living under a rock. In recent months/years, quinoa's popularity has grown because of its superfood status. It's a personal favorite of mine because it is kind of a protein/carb combo, and I'm always looking for meat-free protein options.

For the first two years of my cooking blog, I selected a country, researched it, and blogged many popular and traditional dishes and ingredients (see the links on the right side of my blog for countries completed). When I chose Bolivia one week, I read about the history of quinoa. Here's what I wrote in my blog 2 years ago, "For this week's country challenge, I decided to go back to South America. What struck me most were the number of recipes using Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), a grain native from the Andes. The Incas spread the use of Quinoa all over South America. Quinoa is naturally bitter, and must be rinsed many times. It declined in popularity in the nineteenth centry due to widespread belief that it was killing pigs owned by peasants. They stopped growing it, and it almost disappeared. Recently, I have seen quinoa appear in many cooking magazines and shows because of it's health benefits. The dishes I have chosen for Bolivia all use quinoa in one form or another, showing it's versatility."

So when I saw this recipe on Erin's Food Files, I immediately starred it and put it on the menu. I knew my husband would love it because of the avocado and raisins, and I love dried apricots and cumin. The recipe was intriguing, many big flavors and seeminly random ingredients, but they paired so well and this dish was delicious.

Lemon Cumin Quinoa with Avocado, Raisins and Apricots
via Erin's Food Files  adapted from Fine Cooking

3 tbsp. raisins

3 tbsp. dried apricots, thinly sliced
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
Kosher salt
1 large lemon
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. sweet paprika
1 medium firm-ripe avocado pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 medium scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
3 tbsp. toasted sliced almonds
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, soak the raisins and apricots in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a 2-quart saucepan, bring 2 cups water, the quinoa, and 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil over high heat.
Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is translucent and tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
Fluff the quinoa with a fork and turn it out onto a baking sheet to cool to room temperature.
Finnely grate the zest from the lemon and then squeeze 1 tbsp. juice. in a small bowl, whisk the lemon zest and juice with the olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika, and 1/4 tsp. salt.
In a large bowl, toss the vinaigrette with the quinoa, raisins, apricots, avocado, scallions, and almonds.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Minted Orzo and Zucchini Salad

I often have readers, friends and family ask me how I keep coming up with recipes to blog about, or where I find many of the recipes I make. I honestly am constantly on the look-out for delicious recipes that fit my style. Some of my favorite resources are magazines like Eating Well, Clean Eating, Real Simple, Cooking Light, and Vegetarian Times. I also like to search other blogs, many of which I have linked to on here. I also take cookbooks out of the library every now and then, especially when I am cooking ethnically. Lastly, there are a few websites I like to browse, like Whole Foods, Williams-Sonoma, and Foodtv.
This salad comes from the Whole Foods website. I was looking for a one-pot-dinner-salad type meal, which is my current meal of choice (if you haven't noticed...) This was the first one that popped up, and lucky me, my herb garden has taken off, and mint is abundant!
I ate this salad warm/room temperature, but Whole Foods suggests serving it chilled. I think it would be delicious either way! I also didn't have Kalamata Olives, so I substituted generic green Spanish olives.

1 cup dried orzo
2 large zucchini, thickly sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
6 ounces feta cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
Ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Add orzo and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.
Drain well, rinse in cold water and drain again.
Meanwhile, arrange a rack about 6 inches from the heating element and preheat broiler.
Brush zucchini with 1 tablespoon oil and arrange on a baking sheet.
Broil, flipping halfway through, until tender and deep golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
Set aside to let cool and then roughly chop and transfer to a large bowl.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, orzo, lemon juice, mint, garlic, feta, olives, tomatoes and black pepper and gently toss to combine.
Cover and chill for several hours until flavors blend.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mediterranean Cous Cous

When it comes to a quick, easy side dish, cous cous really can't be beat. It only takes about 5 minutes to cook, can be flavored a million ways, and doesn't leave you slaving over the stove!
You can purchase boxes of cous cous with little seasoning packets, but it's so much cheapier, healthier, and more versatile to buy a big container of plain cous cous. For dinner I had prepared baked falafel, so I took my cous cous in the Mediteranean direction. I simply sauteed some vegetables, added stock and cous cous, and then finished it with fresh herbs and feta cheese. It was so incredably flavorful, but quick and easy to make!

Mediterranean Cous Cous

1 tbsp EVOO
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
Salt and pepper
1 1/4 c. vegetable stock
3/4 c. cous cous
1 tsp. fresh oregano, minced
1 tsp. fresh mint, minced
1/4 c. feta cheese, crumbled
5 green olives, sliced

Heat EVOO in a small soup pot over medium heat.
Add onion, garlic and red bell pepper.
Season with salt and pepper.
Saute' for 5 minutes, until softened.
Add stock to vegetables, turn heat to high, bring to a boil.
Pour in cous cous, stir, cover and turn heat off.
Rest for 5 minutes.
Remove lid, fluff cous cous with a fork, toss in herbs, cheese and olives.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sarah's Delicious Chana Masala

When my sister Becky visited a few weeks ago, she mentioned her former roomate makes the best Chana Masala. I've had it in restaurants before, and it's definitely my go-to item on the menu when nothing else catches my eye. So I decided to ask Becks for her recipe and give it a try. When it comes to Indian or other Asian dishes, I like to have a recipe or at least ingredient guidelines because I'm not 100% sure of myself to make something up on my own. However, as I eat and cook more Indian food, I'm able to discern the spice profiles and combinations.
After recieving Becky's email with the recipe, I found out Sarah cooks just like me, taste and add, taste and adjust. This was the reply she gave me "garlic+onions+oil+curry+red pepper+turmeric+cumin+chickpeas+water+more of same spices+paprika+more of same spices = sarah's delicious chana masala. Serve over rice. She eyeballs everything."
So I could leave you with that recipe... or I could give you my approximate measurements. I'll give you my approximations, but honestly, I'd advise you to do it Sarah's way, and make it your own!

Sarah's Delicious Chana Masala

3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced (after eating this, I wish I had used a mince rather than a dice)
2 tbsp. EVOO
1 tbsp. curry powder (I use Penzey's Maharajah)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. cumin
2 15 oz. cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes
1-2 cups water

Heat a soup pot over medium, add EVOO, garlic and onions.
Saute' for 5 minutes, or until edges begin to brown.
Add curry powder, cayenne, turmeric, cumin, paprika and tomatoes.
Bring to a simmer, use a potato masher and gently crush tomatoes (be careful, they spit when you smush them!)
Add chickpeas and 1 c. water, stir well and simmer for 30 minutes.
Taste, adjust seasonings, add more water if simmering longer, if not serve over rice (I had cous cous on hand, so I used that instead)
Serve with chopped cilantro.

Sugar-Free Spring Trifle

For dessert on Easter, I had to make a dessert that was two things: easy and sugar free. I made a traditional German dinner, which requires many appliances, pots, pans, and dirty mixing bowls. In an effort to save myself even more mess, I decided to make a dessert I could prep ahead of time, and just arrange on Easter morning. Since my Popie and Father-in-Law are diabetic, I chose to make something low in sugar so they could enjoy dessert as well.
I browsed through some traditional German desserts, but thought a trifle seemed so springy! I used to use many sugar-free and chemically produced products in my food to cut calories, fat, and sugar, but have found that those products don't fit in my diet anymore, and I try to eat as cleanly as possible. Because of this, I had a difficult time creating a dessert. I finally decided that I would have to use some artificial sweeteners, but would also try to use naturally sweet ingredients as well. This dessert is really lovely, easy to make (with store bought angel food cake), and can be prepped ahead of time. 
If I had more time, I would have baked the angel food cake myself, and made a sugar free lemon curd mixed with whipped cream in place of the pudding. I like adding the zest to the pudding just to give it an extra fresh lemon flavor. Perhaps next Easter I'll make it from scratch!
Note: I put the trifle together about 8 hours before eating it, and there were no sogginess issues.

Sugar Free Spring Trifle

1 sugar-free angel food cake
1 box of sugar free lemon pudding mix
2 cups skim milk
2 pints strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1 pint raspberries
2 cups heavy whipping cream, very cold (you can substitute sugar-free cool whip, if desired)
1 tbsp. splenda or other sugar substitute
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lemon, zested and for garnish

Whisk together pudding mix and milk, add lemon zest, stir, refrigerate until set.
Slice strawberries, set aside.
Cube angel food cake, set aside.
Place the bowl of a stand mixer and the whisk attachment in the freezer, freeze for 10 minutes.
Pour whipping cream in to bowl, add vanilla extract.
Turn mixer with whisk attachement on low, then gradually increase speed.
When soft peaks form, add splenda.
When peaks get somewhat stiff, turn mixer off.
Arrange trifle levels as follows:
1/3 of the angel food cake
1/3 of the strawberries
1/2 the raspberries
1/2 of the pudding
1/3 of the whipped cream
1/3 of the angel food cake
1/3 of the strawberries
1/2 of the raspberries
1/2 of the pudding
1/3 of the whipped cream
1/3 of the angel food cake
1/3 of the whipped cream
Remaining sliced strawberries and sliced lemon, for garnish

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Best of Spring Potato Salad

I rarely go to the grocery store and pick up items that aren't designated for a meal. Not only does it keep the budget in check, but it keeps me from buying unnecessary junk. However, when there's a great sale, and I have coupons, I'll buy almost anything. A brand of frozen vegetables were buy-one get-one free last week, and I had coupons for 10 items, so I really stocked the freezer!
Rather than only buy the things I knew I'd use (frozen spinach, peas, green beans), I decided to grab a bag of little onions, an ingredient I haven't had in years. I've only ever seen them paired with peas, so I searched for peas and onions, and found this recipe from Tyler Florence. I loved the idea of paring the dish with potatoes, but I wanted it to be a cold, main dish type salad, not a warm, dinner side dish.
As I was looking for small potatoes, I found the Purple Perivuan variety, which I've been trying to find for years! So I began to construct this salad, and thought it needed another vegetable, and why not incorporate another splash of color, so I threw in a red bell pepper. I also love mint paired with peas, and mint paired with lemon, so I picked from fresh mint from my garden, and I was all set.
I really enjoyed the cold salad I came up with, but I still have 2/3 of a bag of onions to use, and I think I will eventually try out Tyler's dish, as written, for a dinner side one evening.

Best of Spring Potato Salad

1 lb. Purple Peruvian potatoes
1 cup spring peas
1 cup pearl onions
1 red bell pepper, minced
10 fresh mint leaves, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp. raw sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tbsp. EVOO
Fresh black pepper and salt

Add potatoes to a small pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, turn to low and simmer for 10 minutes, until fork tender.
Add shallow, sugar, lemon zest and juice, EVOO, salt and pepper to a large bowl, whisk to combine.
Add peas and onions to a colander, rinse with cold water for a minute to partially defrost.
Drain and add to the dressing bowl, add red bell pepper, toss to combine.
Drain potatoes, cool for a few minutes, dice and add to the mixing bowl, toss gently.
Serve or keep chilled in the refrigerator.
Garnish with extra mint and/or lemon wedges, if desired.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Napa Cabbage Gorgonzola Slaw

Slaw salads are one of my favorite things to eat. Not only are they fresh and flavorful, but they're filling and dependent on what's in them, often low-calorie. When I was at the market last weekend, I found a giant head of napa cabbage for only $1, so I snatched it up quickly. I knew it was destined for a slaw, but wasn't sure what kind. While I tend to love vinegar based slaws more, I recently had a blue cheese slaw at a restaurant that was delicious.
A quick internet search later, I found myself eyeing up this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. While it wasn't exactly what I was looking for, it was very close. It was buttermilk based, rather than mayonaise, and Deb explained that blue cheese crumbles could easily  be added. I decided to adapt it a bit to my taste (NO celery!), and go with it! It was delicious, well balanced, tangy but creamy with lots of crunch.

Napa Cabbage and Gorgonzola Slaw

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, from Gourmet, November 2007

1/2 cup well-shaken, non-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons plain greek yogurt
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Salt and pepper
1 pound Napa cabbage, cored and thinly sliced crosswise (4 cups)
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

In a large salad bowl, whisk together buttermilk, yogurt, vinegar, red onion and sugar in a large bowl until sugar has dissolved, then whisk in chives.
Toss cabbage, taste and season with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle with gorgonzola, gently toss a bit.
Serve immediately, keep chilled.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spinach, Strawberry and Feta Wheatberry Salad

Just about every restaurant that serves lunch-time salad and sandwich fare has a variety of the spinach, strawberry and feta salad on the menu. I usually find myself torn between this salad and the usual asian chicken salad. Sometimes it's served with grilled chicken, toasted almonds, or red onion slices. The optional add-ons are endless!
In order to make this a heartier, dinner salad, I decided to introduce a grain. I looked through the pantry and passed on quinoa, barley and rice, and settled on wheatberries, one of my new favorites! I love the texture of these, there's a bit of chewiness and they just taste healthy, but not in the alfalfa-wheat grass shot way.
I made a simple, light dressing for this salad, and served it at room temperature, next time I might add some sliced almonds for crunch, and some sliced chicken breasts or tempeh for protein.

Spinach, Strawberry and Feta Wheatberry Salad

1/2 cup wheatberries
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups baby spinach leaves, packed
10 strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

honey-balsamic dressing:
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp. tarragon, minced
1 tbsp. honey
1/4 c. aged balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. EVOO
Salt and pepper

Add wheatberries to a bowl with 4 cups of water, cover and soak overnight.
Drain wheatberries, add to a soup pot with 1.5 cups of water and salt, bring to a boil, turn to low and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
Taste to determine if wheatberry is cooked enough, drain any excess water and turn heat off.
Add spinach, toss and wilt.
Whisk together dressing ingredients in a serving bowl, taste and adjust.
Drain wheatberries and spinach, add to dressing and toss.
Cool to room temperature, add stawberries and feta, toss and serve.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pumpkin Ravioli with Cilantro Pesto and Artichokes

Last week, I made this delicious dinner, Pumpkin Ravioli in Broth with Vegetables and Beans. As I described in the post, I have a deep love of all things pumpkin, especially ravioli, but have a hard time finding sauces that aren't cream based. That recipe was a huge success, and I almost made it again with my leftover frozen ravioli!
But as I was making the ravioli that Saturday afternoon, I was brainstorming on what to do with the leftovers. See, ravioli making is a process, so when you commit to it, you might as well go all out and make a few batches. I'm hoping to one day locate ravioli forms, which do make it a bit easier, but for now, it's truly a from scratch, handmade affair.
My thoughts went from sauce to sauce, I didn't want something heavy, and since it was a weeknight, I needed something fast. Enter pesto. I absolutely love pestos of all kinds, from the flavorful fresh herbs to the variety of cheese and nut combinations, it's truly a clean out the fridge type sauce that seems elegant and is just so simple to make. One of it's downfalls though is though it's not creamy, it can still be very high in calories and fat. Though nuts and EVOO contain the 'good fats', and the calories are from a good source, it needs to be kept in check.
I like to make my pesto on the thicker side and use a bit of the starchy cooking water to thin it. I also opt for less nuts and cheese, and really pack it with herbs. The best part of making a pesto is it's foolproof. Keep adding the ingredients until you reach the consistency and flavor balance you want.
These ravioli would pair well with almost any herb, basil would highlight the sweet flavors, parsley would make it more earthy, spinach would also work well, but I chose cilantro. Pumpkin and cilantro are a common combination in Indian and Thai cooking, and they really complient eachother well. I chose to add some artichokes because I wanted more vegetables, but roasted red peppers would also be a nice addition!
I see another weekend of ravioli making in my future because it literally took just a few minutes to throw this dish together for an easy weeknight meal.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Cilantro Pesto and Artichokes

1 can of quartered artichoke hearts
1 bunch of cilantro, about 2 cups, packed
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup reduced fat feta cheese
Handful of almonds
1 tbsp. EVOO
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp - 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt and add ravioli.
Add cilantro, garlic, feta and almonds to a food processer.
Pulse to create small bits.
Season with salt and pepper, add EVOO, pulse again.
Use a measuring cup and spoon out some of the ravioli water, drizzle into food processor and pulse to create desited consistency.
Add half the pesto to a bowl, drain ravioli, add to the bowl, top with the remaining pesto.
Gently toss to coat, add artichokes, toss, top with extra feta and serve.

Monday, April 5, 2010

German Easter Dinner

For Easter dinner, I decided to do something a little non-traditional, and make a German dinner. Since my grandparents were visiting, I knew they would enjoy it. I also invited my in-laws and JJ's cousin so they could try a German dinner. Everyone really enjoyed this meal, which made me so happy! JJ isn't overly fond of vinegary dishes, but he said it was tolerable.

I have already posted these recipes, however I don't think there were many people reading my blog back in April 2008, so I'll post them again!

On the Menu:
Sauerbraten (German Pot Roast) & Gravy
Red Cabbage
Kartoffelklosse (Potato Dumplings)
Spätzle (Egg Noodles)
Roasted Asparagus

Red Cabbage

2 lbs. red cabbage, sliced thin
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
2-4 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
½ cup finely chopped onions
1 bay leaf
1 cup water

Add all ingredients to a soup pot over medium-low heat.
Cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring every half hour.
Taste and adjust seasonings for salt, sugar and vinegar.
Remove bay leaf and serve.

Kartoffelklosse (Potato Dumplings)

1 slice of bread, toasted, buttered and cubed
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup farina
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
3 1/2 cups potatoes, put through a ricer
2 eggs

Combine flour, farina, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
Beat mixture a little at a time into potatoes.
Lightly beat the eggs and beat them into potato mixture.
Beat until the dough forms a ball when picked up with a spoon, add more flour if necessary.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt heavily.
Using wet hands, form 2" balls. Stuff a bread square into each, lay on a plate. When all balls are made, drop gently into the water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.


2-3 lbs. boneless beef bottom round

4 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
10 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 onions, chopped
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
15 oz. beef stock
1/4 cup cornstarch

Add all ingredients in a Tupperware container, place in the fridge for 1 day.
Remove the meat from the marinade, and place on a plate.
Heat 2 tbsp. EVOO in a pot on medium-high, brown the meat on all sides.
Pour the marinade into the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, simmer for 3 hours.
Remove meat from the pot.
Pour the cooking liquid through a strainer and back into a pot on high.
Bring to a simmer, add 15 oz. beef stock.
Whisk cornstarch with 1/4 cup water in a small dish, pour into gravy.
Season the gravy with salt and pepper.


2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs
½ cup water

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt heavily.
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients.
Spoon batter into a spätzle press, and boil for 5-7 minutes per batch.
Use a mesh colander to pull spätzle out and drain well.
If you don’t have a spätzle press, you can use a colander with small holes. (Press shown below)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pumpkin Ravioli in Broth with Vegetables and Beans

Pumpkin ravioli are one of my absolute favorite foods, but I don't have them often because it's hard to find a way to prepare them that doesn't involve some sort of creamy sauce or brown butter. Even if you make your sauce "light" with a cannelini bean, cottage cheese or tofu puree, it still has a tendency to overpower the pumpkin flavor.
Last week I was scrolling through the recipes on Herbivoracious and found this recipe for Pumpkin Ravioli in a light broth with vegetables and beans, it was perfect! A complete meal featuring pumpkin ravioli, but also with beans and vegetables in a simple broth - just what I was looking for.
Unfortunately it's not fall, and sugar pumpkins are not available, so I used canned pumpkin puree, which was a chore to find! I also decided to really pump up the pumpkin by making the ravioli dough with half pumpkin and half egg. Not only does this flavor the dough, but it makes it even healthier!
I loosely followed the recipes from Herbivoracious, and found this dish to be excellent! Though it may seem like a fall-like dish, the leeks and carrots and vegetable broth make it spring-frendly. I am looking forward to creating a dish with the other half of the ravioli I made and froze, and I've got a few ideas in mind!

Pumpkin Pasta

2 1/2 - 3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. EVOO

Add 2 1/2 cups of flour to the bowl of a mixer, make a well in the middle.
Add eggs, pumpkin puree, salt and EVOO.
Attach dough hook, mix dough on low speed for 5 minutes.
If it is wet and sticky, sprinkle in more flour, if it is too dry, add warm water 1 tbsp. at a time.
Remove from mixer, knead for a minute, roll into a ball and rest for 10 minutes.
Divide dough into fourths, run through a pasta roller to create long, thin sheets.
Let dough rest again.
Yield enough dough for 3 dozen ravioli with leftover scraps.

adapted from Herbivoracious

1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
3 leaves fresh sage, chiffonade or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a saute pan over medium-low, add the butter, onions and garlic.
Season with salt and pepper, saute for 4-5 minutes, until translucent.
Spoon into a mixing bowl.
Add chili flakes, sage, parmesan, nutmeg and pumpkin puree.
Stir to combine.

Scoop 1 tsp. mounds of mixture onto pasta sheets, place another sheet on top, press air out around filling, press edges to seal, slice off rough edges and cut pasta.
Place on a flour dusted baking sheet and place in the freezer, continue until finished.
Yield about 2.5-3 dozen ravioli.

adapted from Herbivoracious, serves 2

2 large leeks, white parts only, cleaned and sliced thin
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
3 medium carrots, fine dice
3 cloves garlic, minced 
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine
1 15 oz. can cannelini beans or other white beans
4 cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese and chili flakes for serving

Heat a soup pot over medium heat.
Add EVOO, leeks, carrots, onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper.
Cook for 5-10 minutes, until vegetables are slightly caramelized.
Add white wine, reduce by half.
Add stock, bay leaves and beans.
Simmer for 20 minutes.
While broth simmers, bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Season with salt, drop in ravioli (I made 1 dozen for 2 servings), cook for 5-7 minutes, until ravioli float to the top.
Remove from water with a slotted spoon and add to the broth.
Ladle broth and vegetables into a bowl, add ravioli, top with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.