Monthly Archives: March 2012

Warm Olive and Tomato Salad

As with many of my recipes this one came about on the fly.  I was having people over for dinner one Friday night a few years ago.  Before having guests for a meal I often go into a last minute panic that I will not have enough food.   The funny thing is that I ALWAYS have more than enough.  I am constantly sending people home with packages of food.  More often than not, I have leftovers for the next two days.  I do not know why this happens!  I have been cooking for people my entire adult life. I have made countless Shabbat dinners.  Why do I always think that I will not have enough food at the last minute.  Does this happen to anyone else?

In my panic I decided that I must make another dish.  I searched through my pantry, found a bottle of olives and this recipe was born.  The good thing is that it can be put together in no time.  The great thing is that it really is delicious.  One of my friends who came over for dinner that night asked me for the recipe because she liked it so much.  This is also a nice recipe for Passover (right around the corner)!

 

Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Yield: 4 – 6 servings

 

1 (9-10 ounce) bottle of Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos, drained
1 lemon
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
¼  teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less depending on your heat tolerance – optional)
2 scallions, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, rinsed well
2 teaspoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees  F

Place the drained olives into an oven safe baking dish.  Zest half a lemon onto the olives and add fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon of olive oil and toss together.  Seal the dish with tin foil so that the olives can steam.  Bake for 10 minutes.

While the olives are in the oven chop the scallions and cut the grape tomatoes in half.  Place them in a medium sized bowl.  Add a pinch of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

When the olives are ready add them along with all of their cooking juices to the bowl with the tomatoes.   Add the juice of half a lemon, 1 teaspoon of olive oil and mix well.

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Filed under Salads, Vegetarian

Kitchen Gadgets – Part 2

Back in January I posted about my favorite kitchen gadgets.  To make my list they had to be inexpensive (under $50) and small (tiny cabinets!).  I really do believe that you do not need gizmos and gadgets to be a successful cook, but I do have some favorites that make life easier.  I love to cook and spend time in the kitchen, but I also have a lot of other important things to take care of in the course of the day.  So, anything to make life easier is great!

I have two new gadgets to add to my previous list of four.  Like the others on my list these are both compact and inexpensive.

Meat Thermometer – I think it is a hostess’s worst nightmare to food poison her guests.  I think it is even more of a nightmare for a mom to food poison her family (G-d forbid).  That is why I think a meat thermometer is a great gadget to have.  You can find them ranging in price anywhere from $10 to $110.  There are hundreds of thermometers on the market.  There are traditional thermometers, digital thermometers and even grill forks with built in thermometers.  I do not think you need to spend a lot of money on this.  You really just want something that is easy to read and accurate.   The one I have is digital and costs $20.  It is great because you are able to definitively tell the internal temperature of whatever you cook.  I really only use this for meat, mostly poultry.  Yes, there are other ways to tell if your food is cooked properly, but it’s nice to know for sure 🙂

The Misto – I love this thing!  It is a spray bottle that uses air to create a mist of whatever oil or vinegar you put in your Misto.  You simply fill it half way with oil, put the cap on and pump, pump, pump.  When you spray you get a fine mist to coat your pan or food.  It is a great tool for healthy cooking in that you are using less oil than pouring from a bottle.  It is a cook’s friend in that you can get a nice even coating on whatever you are cooking without spots of oil collecting in one area. It is non-aerosol so it is better for you and the environment.  Also, it does not have any chemicals or propellants which is important to me.

I use my Misto all the time.  I keep it filled with a good quality olive oil.  I have a friend who keeps a few around – for two or three different oils and vinegars.  I make eggs often and use it to spray my pan before cooking.  It is also great to spray on breads or vegetables before roasting or grilling.  I do not know who thought of this invention, but I am happy they did!

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Indian Omelet

With Passover around the corner I am seeing lots of recipes for brisket, potatoes and flour-less cakes.  With all the heavy food and pressure to come up with impressive meals I thought it would be nice to talk about a simple and light dish.  So, I have a recipe that I want to share that is great for Passover or any time of the year, my family’s version of an Indian omelet.

I love eggs – sunny side up, sunny side down, scrambled, omelets, frittatas.   I love them all!  I do not think that eggs are just for breakfast and eat them any meal of the day.  In fact, I eat eggs at some point in the day almost every day.  They are an inexpensive source of protein and vitamins.  I do have a few rules that I try to stick by when making them.  I use one whole egg and one egg white per serving to cut down on the cholesterol and fat.  I also try to always incorporate some kind of vegetable into the recipe.  I literally have dozens of egg creations so stay tuned for many other egg dishes.

This omelet is close to my heart as it is the way my dad made eggs for me when I was growing up and still to this day.  Whenever my friends would sleep over at my house they would be treated to this omelet the next morning.  Maybe that is why I had a lot of sleep overs 🙂  This is the only time that I ever make eggs without sautéing the vegetables first.  It is actually a really easy recipe  in that you just throw everything into a bowl and then everything into the pan.  Although I love when my dad makes this for me, there are a few ways in which I have made this recipe my own.  First is that my dad would normally make this with chopped yellow onion.  Since the vegetables do not have the chance to cook before adding the eggs, I prefer to use scallions as they have a more mild onion flavor.  I also tried to make the recipe more health conscious by using both whole eggs and egg whites and by spraying the pan with oil as opposed to cooking them in a layer of oil.

If you do not like spice you can leave out the chile, but I really recommend putting it in and just taking out the seeds and ribs which is where the heat lies in the pepper.  If you do like spicy food then leave some or all of the seeds in, just beware!  This is also a recipe that you can easily make for one by halving the ingredients or make for a crowd by doubling or tripling them.

 

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time:  10 Minutes

Yield: 2 servings

 

Cooking Spray or Olive Oil in a Misto (preferable)

4 eggs, 2 whole, 2 whites only

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

½ serrano chile, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped (if you want it spicy you can leave the seeds in)

1 roma tomato, seeds removed and chopped into a small dice

2 scallions, chopped

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

 

Crack two whole eggs and two egg whites into a medium bowl.  Beat the eggs until the yolks and whites are combined.  Add the scallions, chili, cilantro, tomato, salt and pepper.  Beat until all the ingredients are mixed.

Spray a medium sized frying pan with olive oil and place over medium heat.  Once the pan is hot, pour in the eggs and vegetables and stir with a flexible spatula so that all the vegetables are distributed across the pan.  Lower the heat to medium-low.

Continue to pull the egg away from the sides of pan as they set.  Once the bottom of the eggs are set and the eggs pull away from the side of the pan, place the spatula under the eggs and flip the omelet.  If it seems like the omelet is not going to flip then place the pan under the broiler cook and the eggs until the top is firm (2-3 minutes at the most).  If your pan has a plastic handle leave the handle sticking outside of the oven and only place the pan under the broiler.

Turn the omelet onto a plate.  Enjoy!

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Lemon Herb Chicken

I would normally write a food related post this time of the week, but I had a request for this recipe.  To be honest it really is one of my favorites so I was excited to get it out there.  It also happens to be the first recipe that I ever wrote down.  I was in college living in my first apartment and doing a lot of experimenting in the kitchen.  I came up with this recipe and ended up making it at least once a week because it was so easy and delicious.  One of my closest friends was making dinner for her new boyfriend and asked me for a suggestion of something easy, yet impressive that she could make for him.  I thought of this recipe and wrote it down for her.  Fast forward a few years, and she is now married to the boyfriend and has two adorable children 🙂  The recipe has gone through some modifications over  the last decade, but it is pretty much still the same.  This is a time where I really do recommend using fresh herbs as opposed to dried – they really make a huge difference!

There is always a great debate in my house – boneless chicken breast or bone-in dark meat chicken.  I personally like the breast meat.  It is quick cooking, easy to chop up and throw into a stir fry and readily takes on the taste of whatever marinade or sauce you put on it.  I also do not love the taste of plain chicken and the breast has a mild flavor.  My husband only eats dark meat chicken on the bone.  For someone who does not know how to cook he is remarkably picky. He likes the tenderness of the bone in chicken (I admit chicken breast can easily dry out), and the fact that it really tastes like chicken.

The great thing about this recipe is that it can be made with either type of chicken or with a combination of both.  I mostly make a combination if I am serving it to guests as I find that people really are passionate about what cut of chicken they prefer.  Another really nice thing is that this is not very labor intensive.  After creating the marinade there is not much to do  – it just has to sit for a while and then put it in the oven.   The best part is that it looks pretty when you serve it and people think it took lot of effort.  It is also a great for Passover and leftovers are delicious!

 

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time:  20 – 45 Minutes

Yield: 6 – 8 servings

 

6 – 8 pieces of chicken breast or chicken thighs (can be a combination of both)

fresh herbs

2 tablespoons Italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

3  lemons, 1 for juice, the rest sliced into rounds

3 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the herbs, olive oil, juice of one lemon, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Pour the mixture over the chicken and marinate anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour.  It is easiest to marinate in the dish you will be baking the chicken in (unless you are using a foil plan, then marinate in a zip loc bag and transfer to the foil pan when ready to cook).

Before baking place a lemon slice on top of each piece of chicken.  Cooking time will depend on what cut of chicken you are using.  If you are just cooking chicken breast it will be about 20 to 25 minutes depending on size of the breast.  If you are using chicken thighs on the bone then it will be about 35 to 45 minutes.  If you are doing a combination of chicken on the bone and plain breast make one tray of each so that you can take the breast out and can continue cooking the thighs.  Cook the chicken until the juices run clear when pierced with a knife and the internal temperature reads 165 degrees F.

Before serving drizzle with pan juices and lightly press baked lemon onto chicken so that the warm lemon juices run over each piece of chicken.

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Peanut Noodles

If you are looking for an easy vegetarian dish this recipe is for you!  We only eat meat once or twice a week so I am always on the lookout for satisfying meals that are meat free.  This one is a go-to because it is healthy, filling and tastes great.  I use whole wheat spaghetti to add protein and fiber.  I use frozen vegetables  (broccoli, peppers or a veggie mix) to cut down on the chopping time and tofu to add lean protein.    I use frozen vegetables as this is a common week night recipe for me and my time is very limited.  You can always add fresh vegetables if you wish.  I put the tofu as optional because a lot of people think that they do not like tofu.  I recommend at least trying it once in this recipe.  The sauce is so flavorful and the tofu just tastes like the sauce.  Even my husband who swears he does not like tofu will eat it in this dish.  It is great, hot, room temperature or even cold as leftovers!

 

 

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Cook Time:  20 Minutes

Yield: 4 – 6 servings

 

 

1 box of whole wheat spaghetti

1 block of tofu, cut into cubes (optional)

1 tablespoon of sesame oil

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, either grated or finely chopped

2-3 scallions, chopped

Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

½ cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

½ cup hot water

½ cup peanut butter

1 packet frozen vegetables (you can use fresh if you would like)

 

 

Prepare the spaghetti according to the package directions. Drain.

While you are waiting for the water to boil and the spaghetti to cook, sauté the tofu in the sesame and canola oils in a large pan over medium heat.  Add the chopped garlic and ginger, red pepper flakes and stir.  Then add the scallions and sauté until tofu starts to firm up, about 5 minutes.  At this point you can throw in the fresh or frozen vegetables. Cook until the vegetables are tender, but not soft.

Pour in the soy sauce, red wine vinegar and the peanut butter.  Add 1/2 cup hot water and stir the mixture.

Keep adding peanut butter until you get a thick sauce consistency and cook until melted.  Add hot water if needed to thin out the sauce.

Toss the pasta with tofu mixture and sauce until well combined.

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Filed under Pareve, Pasta, Vegetarian

Salt

I did not truly realize the importance of salt in cooking until I was not allowed to use it.  When I was pregnant with my son I was having issues with retaining water and my blood pressure was elevated.  Doctor’s orders – cut out all sodium from your diet.  Little did I know how hard that would be.  It is virtually impossible to go to a restaurant and not eat salt. Most items on a menu are at least partially prepared before you order it and you would be hard pressed to find something that did not contain some salt.  Forget prepackaged, frozen, canned or convenience foods – most often those are loaded with sodium.  During that time I did a lot of eating at home, but could not believe the difference not adding salt to my food made to the taste of the dish.  Recipes that I had made hundreds of times tasted terrible!  My favorite foods tasted blah.  It taught me that salt really is an important ingredient in cooking.  It brings out the flavor, essence if you will, of the food.  Tomatoes taste more like tomatoes, beef tastes more like beef, etc.  I do not think that food needs to be overly salty, just that it should be salted appropriately.

Watching your sodium intake is a smart thing to do.  So, I am not recommending that everyone go out and start eating a ton of salt.  I actually find that if you salt your food in stages you do not need to use a lot of salt at all.  For example, if I sauté vegetables for a stew I will add some salt to the vegetables as they cook down.  The  salt will actually draw out the moisture from the vegetables.  Then I will add a bit of salt when I add the meat.  Then I will add a bit of salt when I add the broth.  The end product does not taste salty at all, but tastes really flavorful.

I try to use low sodium products whenever possible.  Many prepackaged, frozen or canned products are loaded with salt.  I would much prefer to control the amount of sodium in my food.

Then there is the debate of what type of salt to use.  Here are the three most common types:

Table Salt – This is the salt that I grew up with.  This was the salt that was in the salt shaker on the kitchen table and the type of salt my parents used when cooking.  Table salt has a sharp taste and is made up of very fine crystals.  A teaspoon of table salt actually contains more salt than a tablespoon of kosher or sea salt because its grain is so fine.  This is also why you need to be careful of it in cooking because it can be pretty potent.   The only time I really use table salt is in baking because it dissolves easily.

Kosher Salt – This type of salt has a larger grain size than table salt.  It is called kosher salt because of its use in the koshering process and usually contains no preservatives.  This is the salt that I prefer to use as it is inexpensive and easy to grab a pinch of it with its course texture.  It was a pleasant surprise to me when I started to use kosher salt in my cooking as opposed to table salt.  My food was so much better!  I have never gone back.

Sea Salt – The name says it all.  Sea salt is salt that is harvested from evaporated seawater.  It receives little or no processing and the minerals flavor and color the salt.  These salts are usually more expensive.  It has a really nice crunch and texture and a unique flavor.  When you cook with sea salt you loose the distinctive flavor so I really only use it as a finishing salt adding it only right before serving for special dishes.

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Cannellini Bean and Vegetable Salad

Beans are a superfood.  They are full of fiber and protein and many beans are a great source of antioxidants.  For all of these reasons I really love beans.  They are perfect for salads, soups, stews and sauces. Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans – there are so many varieties that I am sure most people can find some type that they like.   They are wonderful for vegetarian dishes.  I have a few recipes that I plan to share where beans are a main component of the dish.

I love the convenience of canned beans.  They are a huge time saver.  If you are making beans from scratch you first need to soak them for hours, then they need to be cooked for hours.  Even then you cannot be sure that they will have the right texture when you are done.  Canned beans have the perfect texture and only require opening up a can.  I do think it is a good idea to thoroughly rinse off the canning juices before using them.  I also try to buy low sodium canned beans when possible.

You eat with your eyes first and this salad is so colorful it looks great even before you take a bite.  It is also delicious and healthy!  It is a fantastic side dish, or can be served on a bed of greens as a simple lunch.  It is easy to make and very quick to prepare.

 

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 0 Minutes

Yield: 4 – 6 servings

 

1 (15 ounce) can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 stalk of celery (close to the heart), diced

1 small zucchini, diced

½ small red onion, diced

2 large roasted red peppers, drained and cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

 

When chopping the vegetables make sure they are in a small dice and similar in size.  In a large bowl combine the beans, all the vegetables and parsley.

To make the dressing pour the vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Add olive oil and whisk until well incorporated. Pour the dressing over the beans and vegetables and stir to combine.

Reserve some roasted red pepper strips to garnish.  I place them in a small pile in the middle of the bowl.

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Filed under Beans, Salads, Vegetarian