Thursday, August 26, 2010

Glazed Carrots with Tarragon

I am usually a bit stand-offish when it comes to carrots.  Ever since I was a child I was never completely crazy about cooked carrots.  I love them raw with a nice dip or chopped up and added to just about anything.  But just a big serving of carrots as a side-dish?  Nah.  That is until I read about this recipe from Padma Lakshmi's cookbook Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day (which is a wonderfully fun cookbook, by the way).  She takes carrots, sautés them with onion and then glazes them with some maple syrup and fresh tarragon leaves.  Sounds interesting enough to give a whirl.  Plus tarragon is one of the herbs in my garden that I seldom use.  Not that I don't care for it, it is just a very distinct flavor of black licorice that I'm not usually drawn to.  She says that the maple syrup brings out the sweetness of the carrots and the tarragon gives an earthiness that balances everything out.  Sounds good to me!  Well I finally found "my carrot".  These carrots are now such a favorite of mine, when cooked in this way they move up to one of my most favorite vegetables.  The maple syrup isn't too sweet, and she is totally right, the tarragon does a perfect job at balancing the flavors.  Today I was lucky enough to use fresh young carrots grown from my parents garden which made them extra tender and sweet.  This would be a perfect dish for Thanksgiving dinner.  They are that special.  

Glazed Carrots with Tarragon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 1/2 pounds young carrots, scraped and sliced - 1 inch thick diagonally
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh tarragon
1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/3 teaspoon salt

First - Heat a deep skillet on medium heat; add the oil and butter. When the butter is melted but not burned, add the onions.  lower the heat if the butter starts to burn, and stir for a couple of minutes

Next - Add the carrots, and continue to stir for 6 to 7 minutes, depending upon the width of the carrots.

Lastly - add the tarragon leaves, ripping them apart as you add them to the skillet.  Drizzle the maple syrup into the skillet, add salt to taste, and stir the carrots until they are glazed uniformly, cooking approximately 3 to 4 minutes mores.  Serve as a side dish.  SERVES 4

I linked up my recipe on Mom's Crazy Cooking!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Homemade Applesauce

Last night I was overjoyed to see that I had apples on my tree just ready for picking!  Autumn is on its way and I couldn't be happier!  Of course I had to get them right then and there because I have pesky deer that will undoubtedly beat me to it if I leave them even a day.   As cute as deer are, I don't like to share my homegrown food with them!  They can have the ones that fall to the ground, that is as nice as I get when it comes to my produce. Otherwise- stand clear!  

With my fight against deer, every year I end up picking so many apples at one time I have a race to see how many recipes I can find to use them all up.  My number one stand-by is easily applesauce.  It is quick, delicious, and you can control how much sugar goes into it when you make it at home.  Applesauce is one of those things that you really should never buy from the store.  It is that simple. With having a three year old, we eat A LOT of applesauce in our house and I love knowing I have a freezer full of it whenever we want it! And applesauce isn't only for kids. You've heard of applesauce with pork chops, right? Match made in heaven.  But it is also delicious warm with vanilla ice cream or vanilla yogurt.  Kinda tastes like apple pie this way.  Mmmmmmm.  

Homemade Applesauce
3 to 4 lbs of peeled, cored, and quartered apples. (Make sure you use a good cooking apple like Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji, Jonathan, Mcintosh, or Gravenstein.)
4 strips of lemon peel (a vegetable peeler works nicely to cut your strips)
1- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, depending on tartness of apples
1 large cinnamon stick
1/4 cup of dark brown sugar*
up to 1/4 cup of white sugar*
1 cup of apple cider or apple juice

optional ingredients:
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Place the apples, apple cider, lemon juice, lemon peel and cinnamon stick into a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring often until tender, about 20-30 minutes. Stir in the sugars, nutmeg and any of the optional ingredients. Cook, stirring, until the sugars are dissolved and blended, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and remove the lemon peel and cinnamon stick.

For a chunky applesauce, mash with a potato masher. For a smooth applesauce, run it through a food mill or a coarse sieve. Serve warm or chilled.

*the sugar measurements are just a guideline.  Add a little at a time, tasting to achieve the right sweetness you desire.  My homegrown apples are very tart so I like a good balance between the sweet and tart.

Freezes easily, lasts up to one year in freezer.  I like to freeze them flat in ziplock storage bags.  When you are ready to eat you can easily break off the amount of applesauce you need.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mom's Zucchini Pancakes

Are there certain foods that take you back and remind you of a specific time?  Oh goodness, I have so many.  One of these is definitely my Mom's Zucchini Pancakes.  They are the definition of Summer to all of us and are a staple at many meals throughout the season.  The first time I remember eating these was while we were away on our very first family vacation to OBX (Outer Banks, NC).  We have since gone so many times and have made hundreds of wonderful memories there.  These pancakes are one of them!  I can't eat them without thinking of waves hitting the shore, the smell of salt in the air and laughing till our bellies hurt over delicious fresh fish the men just caught.  

These are an extra special family recipe, and you all should feel very lucky I am even sharing it on here.  (there may have even been a family meeting making sure it was OK for me to post...) It isn't like this is a complicated recipe- the exact opposite actually!  It just holds a special place in our hearts (and bellies!)  But it is one of those recipes that is so darn good, it is a shame NOT to share it.  It's a perfect use for all of those crazy zucchini's that are multiplying like rabbits in everyone's garden.  We double it all the time. Trust me, you will want to do the same.  These have a tendency to fly off the plate super fast and you will want the leftovers!   They are the very best eaten right away, the batter wonderfully fluffy and creamy.  But there is also nothing like having them the next day with breakfast or eaten cold layered in a turkey sandwich... yummmm!   

So please, enjoy this recipe with your family and hopefully it will become a summer staple for all of you as well.    

Mom's Zucchini Pancakes
1/3 cup Bisquick
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 eggs slightly beaten
2 cups zucchini, shredded
chives, chopped (optional)
butter for frying

Mix first three ingredients. Stir in eggs until moist. Fold in zucchini. Fry patties until brown.

*I like to keep an oven proof dish in the oven on warm and put the pancakes in there as they cook. Just be sure to keep them loosely covered with foil so they don't shrink up or dry out.  Diced tomatoes are also a nice addition.  Just be sure to deseed them. You don't want a whole lot of tomato, just enough for flecks of color and a bit of flavor.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Elizabeth Malone

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Elizabeth Malone
Liz and her handsome son Mannie

When you were a child, did your mom make your older brother or sister take you along when they went to play with their friends?  Or maybe you were the one with the permanent tag-a-long?  Although I always loved it, (I mean how cool is it playing with your older sister and her friends?!) my sister did not!  That is until she became friends with this girl Tina.  You see, Tina had a younger sister my age.  So not only could I come along, but I would have a wonderful playmate to have fun with instead of tagging along with the big girls.  It was a win-win situation!  Lizzy was so much fun!  We would play for hours on end, running through my parents woods, feeding the chickens, and doing all things little girls do best. She was a wonderful friend and encompassed quite a lot of my childhood memories.  As we grew up, we drifted apart; different schools= different friends.  It was a bummer, but something that happens so easily when you are a kid.  

Move ahead something like 17 years and there is this new thing called "social networking" ok, ok facebook... and guess who I reconnect with?!  My sweet, wonderful, childhood friend Liz!  It was so great looking at her life now and seeing the amazing things she is doing with herself.  She is married to a devoted man, Pat and has the most handsome son, Mannie.  And just as I remember my Lizzy being, all smiles, bubbly, and full of life- she is that and more now as an adult!  It makes my heart full of joy knowing she is doing so well.  She is right in the midst of launching a national magazine, Felicity.  It is all about happiness, and it is SO Liz.  Keep an eye on this girl- She is going places.

So for today's segment of Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am proud and honored to share with you my blissfully happy friend, Elizabeth Malone.  

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Ethnic food: Middle Eastern, Greek, Italian, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, etc. I love fresh herbs, spices and flavor!

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
Meat! I avoid eating anything that comes from a being with a face or a mom.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
I can’t pick just one! My favorite local restaurants are Falafel Café, Saffron Patch, Mint Café, Organic Energy, Aladdin’s and Tommy’s. I am excited to try Flaming Ice Cube on Public Square. I’ve heard wonderful things about their first location near Boardman.

Music and food go together so beautifully. If you were hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
I have a cooking playlist of Ingrid Michaleson, Maxwell, Alecia Keys, Melanie Fiona, Robin Thicke, Norah Jones, James Blunt, Will Young, Yael Naim, and Mike Posner. Once we sit down to eat, I like to turn off the music and fully enjoy my company.

What would you chose as your last meal here on earth?
For my last meal I wouldn’t be concerned with what I ate, as long as I shared it with the people that I love.

What are you currently reading?
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

What is my favorite kitchen gadget?
It’s a close tie between my Vitamix and Twin Health Marathon Living Juice Extractor.

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
Simple creations. I’ll experiment with delicious combinations of vegetables or fruits based on whatever I have in the garden or refrigerator. Then I’ll cook a grain and legume that tastes good with it. I rarely make the same things over and over. I try to keep a wide variety of foods in my diet. Recently, I tossed homegrown tomatoes with red onion, basil, capers, balsamic vinegar and sea salt. I ate it alongside quinoa (or farro, brown rice, couscous, etc.) and cannellini beans seasoned with fresh rosemary, salt, pepper and a touch of olive oil. When I was little, I never liked the food on my plate to touch. Now when I cook, I still like to make sure all the ingredients compliment one another.

What is your favorite thing about Cleveland?
My favorite thing about Cleveland is the people! We know how to work hard for what we want, overcome obstacles, enjoy moderation because of our inherent extremes (in weather, wealth, sports teams…), we stick together when we need to, and people from Cleveland remember their roots!!

What is your favorite childhood meal and do you cook it still today?
I had so many favorite childhood meals! I used to eat dinner twice, once at my best friend Jenny Iacobacci’s house and again with my family. Mrs. Iacobacci and my mom were the most amazing cooks! My mom wrote the first extensive menu that turned Alfonso’s Pizza into a restaurant. She later opened two of her own restaurants: Moondog’s Diner and Evelyn’s at Lakeside. My dad also contributed to my appreciation of fine food by introducing me to imported Italian food stores, and he always included his kids when he dined at the best restaurants.

I also remember when I came to your house as a child, your parents introduced me to gardening and pickled dilly beans! I have wanted more ever since!

As a teenager, I practically lived with best friends from Greek and Arabic families. I was blessed to become part of their families, and I was constantly surrounded by mouthwatering food! I still have a circle of culinary moms that I learn from, and I adapt their recipes to fit my vegan lifestyle.

My favorite is a Greek recipe called Yemistes. Or as I called it, “yummy stuff”.

Yemistes "Yummy Stuff"
6 big, ripe tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 cup olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
½ cup rice
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup fresh dill
¼ cup fresh parsley
¼ cup raisins or currants (optional)
1 large can of tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste

(Preheat oven to 350 degrees.)
Slice tops off tomatoes and save. Discard any slimy seeds. Scoop out pulp, chop and set aside. Place tomato shells in large casserole. Sprinkle insides of tomato shells with sugar. Sautee onions in ½ cup olive oil until soft. Add chopped tomato pulp, pine nuts, rice, dill, parsley and currants. Add ¼ cup olive oil and mix well. Sautee about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Fill tomatoes with mixture.

In separate bowl, combine large can of tomato sauce with ¼ c olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour half of the tomato sauce over the tomatoes. Place tomato tops on top of the stuffed tomatoes. Cover with remaining sauce. Bake for 50 minutes or until rice is cooked, basting occasionally.

Goes well with…

Romanian Eggplant Dip
1-2 eggplants
1 shallot, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons of Follow Your Heart Vegenaise (a healthier substitution for mayo)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Grill whole eggplant, turning regularly until entire skin becomes charred and blistered.  Allow to cool. Carefully peel off the charred skin and discard.  Place eggplant in food processor or chop by hand into pulp. Mix pulp with shallot, vegenaise, olive oil.  Season to taste and mix well. If you like it creamier, add more vegenaise or less if you like more eggplant flavor (like in baba ghanoush).  Chill overnight. Serve with fresh pita, carrots, thin rice crackers or as a sandwich spread.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
Wow, that’s hard! I know there are more, but the first three that come to mind are: Pay It Forward, Goodwill Hunting, and The Life of David Gale.

What was your happiest moment in life?
I appreciate everything in my life, but the happiest moments are the ones when I feel like the layers between heaven and earth get a little bit thinner, and I experience the synchronicity in my life that confirms I’m headed in the right direction.

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Whole Foods, Heinen’s, Athen’s Pasteries & Imported Foods, Urban Herbs, Aladdin’s Baking Company, the Westside Market and my local farmers’ markets in Geauga County.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
I used to live above a French bakery in Vail, and I could eat an entire loaf of fresh bread when my roommate brought it home. Good bread is probably my biggest weakness because once I start, I can’t stop eating it until it’s gone!

Can you tell me what you are most proud of?
I am most proud of my husband, Pat. He is truly the best person I know. He doesn’t profess to be spiritual or religious, but he lives by example. Pat has taught me more about life, compassion, and love than anyone else I know.

Do you have any culinary resolutions you would like to complete this year?
My culinary resolution is to keep a journal of my recipes because I seldom remember how to make the same thing twice!
One word That best describes you is: Positive

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Eggs Baked in Tomatoes with Prosciutto and Pesto

Eggs Baked in Tomatoes with Prosciutto and Pesto
4 large tomatoes
4 slices prosciutto, sliced very thin
1 tablespoon basil pesto
4 large eggs
1/4 cup Asiago Cheese, grated (Parmesan Cheese would also be nice)
fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking dish/cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.  With a serrated knife, cut off the top of the tomato.  With a spoon, very carefully scoop out all of the seeds and internal membranes.  Please use care not to break through the side of the tomato.  Turn tomato upside down on a paper towel lined plate to drain for 10-15 minutes.  After 15 minutes brush insides of tomatoes with pesto and season with black pepper.  Wrap outside of tomatoes with prosciutto and secure with a toothpick.

Place tomato in prepared baking dish, and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until prosciutto is beginning to crisp and turn brown.  Very carefully break one egg into each tomato and top with grated asiago cheese.  Season with a bit more black pepper.

Return to oven and bake an additional 20-30 minutes until egg is set to your liking.  Serve warm with garlic toast for dipping and sopping up all the heavenly juices.

we served these with roasted vegetables and garlic toast

I was completely inspired to make this dish after reading September's Everyday Food.  Their recipe was slightly different, using fresh corn scrambled into the eggs.  They sounded and looked beautiful, but tonight I wasn't really in the mood for corn.  I was in the mood for the prosciutto I had in my fridge and the homemade pesto I can't stop adding to things.  So I decided to tweak the recipe slightly, and these were born.  And now I think I have found my favorite way to eat an egg.  I love how the tomato is the perfect little edible cup for the eggs and they went lovely with the pesto.  This was a perfect summer dinner, but would obviously be great for breakfast or a simple brunch with friends.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Homemade Oreo Cookies, version 1

Homemade Oreo Cookies, version 1

Cookie Dough
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room-temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream Filling
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room-temperature,
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flou, cornstarch, cocoa and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and then the vanilla, and beat until blended. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture. Divide dough into 3-4 pieces, shape each into a disk and wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with either parchment paper or a silpat.

Pinch off nickle-sized chunks of dough and roll in a ball. With slightly damp fingers, lightly press down on the balls creating a disk about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Smooth them out to make a nice smooth cookie.  Originally I tried using a greased measuring cup to flatten, but the cookies kept sticking to the cup.  So I switched to my fingers and had a much easier time.  Place the cookies about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.  Using a toothpick, poke decorative holes into each cookie, if desired.  Bake for about 9-12 minutes or until firm to the touch (my oven runs a little hot so I found 9 minutes made a crisp, but still slightly chewy cookie and 10 minutes made a crisp and crumbly cookie).

To make the cream filling: place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

To assemble cookie's: place a teaspoon-sized ball of frosting in the center of one cookie and lightly press another cookie, equal in size, together to make a sandwich. You want the cream to work its way all the way to the edges. Repeat to use up the rest of the cookies.

Serve with a huge glass of ice cold milk and be sure to dunk!

I have been wanting to make a yummy homemade Oreo for some time now and in my search have found two different recipes to give a whirl.  One uses Dutch Process Cocoa and one uses regular, natural cocoa.  The difference in the cocoa is supposedly in flavor and color and the way you bake with them.  I really wanted to try the Dutch Process version first because those are to be truer in color and flavor to Original Oreo's, but all I had in my pantry today was Hershey's Natural Cocoa.  So this version came first!

Although I very much liked these cookies, I will be giving the Dutch Process version a try next, for sure.  These ones seem to be very, very sweet- you definitely need a glass of milk to wash them down!  I tasted a cookie after baking my first batch and decided to make sure I made them slightly smaller in size to help with the sweetness factor.  That seemed to help quite a bit.  These were a fun experiment, and one I will play around with, maybe adding different flavors to the cream filling (mint, peanut butter, etc.) to get them just right.

my little helper.... someone needed to lick the spoon!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatball Pie

This is a super yummy dish that is a nice change up for the regular stand-by of spaghetti and meatballs.  Everyone in our house loves it, including my 3 1/2 year old.  It is creamy, jam-packed of flavor and incredibly satisfying.

In the summer when the zucchini's are lining up our countertops and filling my fridge I like to grate some up ahead of time and store in re-sealable plastic bags.  This way it is super easy to grab a handful here or there and throw it into whatever it is I am making at the moment.  Spaghetti sauce is the perfect place to sneak more vegetables into your families diet.  When shredded or diced you honestly have no idea it is there, visually.  But it adds so much extra flavor and nutrition to your meals.  Your kids will never ever know it is there.  If you don't have zucchini on hand you can totally skip it.  This is a nice dish to add or subtract ingredients with whatever you happen to have in your fridge.  But by all means, if you have it use it; grated or matchstick carrots, sliced or chopped mushrooms, grated zucchini, chopped bell peppers... etc.  I have done this dish with no veggies except onions and it turns out good too.  But we all prefer it with the extra veggies.  

Spaghetti and Meatball Pie
8 oz. dry spaghetti noodles (half a box)
2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 well-beaten eggs
1 lb ground turkey or beef, divided (1/4 for meatballs and 3/4 for in the skillet sauce)
1/2 cup sliced onion
1/2 cup-1 cup shredded zucchini (optional)
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 bell pepper, chopped (optional)
1 (8-oz.) can Italian-style stewed tomatoes (don’t drain) or 4 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cottage cheese or ricotta cheese (I prefer cottage cheese for this, but both work.  I use whatever I happen to have on hand)
1/2 cup Mozzarella or Moneterey Jack cheese, shredded

For the meatballs (makes about 4-6 meatballs)
the reserved 1/4 lb ground meat
8 ritz crackers, crushed (or 1/4 cup bread crumbs)
1 teaspoon fresh oregano chopped
1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped
salt and fresh ground black pepper

combine all ingredients and roll into golfball-sized meatballs.  Brown on all sides and set aside.  

For the pie
Cook spaghetti noodles. Drain. Stir margarine into hot noodles until melted. Stir in Parmesan cheese and eggs. Form pasta mixture into a crust shape in a buttered 9-inch pie plate.

In skillet, cook ground beef and onions, bell pepper and mushrooms until meat is browned. Drain. Add to meat mixture, tomatoes, zucchini, tomato paste, oregano and garlic. Heat through. Spread cottage cheese over bottom of spaghetti crust.

Top with tomato/meat mixture.  Cut the meatballs in half and arrange on top.

Sprinkle grated cheese over all.

Lightly cover pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove foil and bake for 5 more minutes until cheese is lightly browned.  Cut into pie wedges and serve.

Special Note: You can also prepare this dish ahead of time and freeze for later.  If you want to go this route, you will cover your pie pan with foil right after assembly; label and freeze.  When you are ready to serve: Thaw. Bake, covered, for 25 minutes at 350 F. Remove foil and bake for 5 minutes more until cheese is lightly browned.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Payday Bars

A few weeks ago at the Cork's cookout, one of Bonnie's friends brought along this dessert to share- they were the talk of the party!  Everyone loved them.  They seriously tasted like you were eating a Pay Day- only better.  I was lucky enough to get the recipe and I think I will be making them for a picnic we are attending this weekend.  I can't wait!

Payday Bars
1 yellow cake mix
1 egg
2/3 c margarine, melted
10 oz bag mini marshmallows
2/3 c white Karo syrup
2 tsp vanilla
12 oz peanut butter chips
¼ c margarine
2 c salted peanuts

Mix cake, 2/3 cup melted margarine and egg to form dough. Press into a greased 10x15 pan. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees. A 9x13 pan can be used for thicker bars. Just increase baking time by a couple minutes. Top with marshmallows and bake another 5-7 minutes. Let cool.

Heat Karo syrup, ¼ cup margarine, vanilla, and peanut butter chips. Stir to a thick sauce. Stir in 1 cup of peanuts. Pour over cooled marshmallows. Top with remaining peanuts.

Refrigerate before cutting.

*Thank you Bonnie for passing on this recipe and photo for me! 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Jen Sale

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Jen Sale
Jen, her husband Brad and son Bek

I have known Jen for simply ages.  She is one of my sisters' closest friends and I in turn have been lucky enough to call her a friend of mine as well.  She is incredibly creative and a wiz in the kitchen.  As you will see in her interview she is forever trying out new cuisine and has zero fear when it comes to cooking.  It is always so much fun to see what she will bring to a party to share for it is always something so fun and not the average potluck fare.  A menu that might be different and strange to you is an exciting adventure to her.  It's wonderful!  

Back in 2004, Jen and her husband Brad welcomed to their world their 11 month adoptive son, Bek from Kazakhstan.  They are a beautiful family of three, but decided that they needed even more joy in their lives.   So they have begun another adventure of adopting their second child, but from Korea this time.  If you would like to read more about their amazing journey, please visit Jen's blog Heart and Seoul.  What an exciting path they are on!  

So for todays Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am delighted to introduce you to my friend, Jen Sale. 

What is your favorite thing to cook?
To date it’s usually something ethnic, but there is so much out there! Vietnamese or Thai noodle dishes, Indian curries, French confits, reductions and emulsions, spaetzle noodles with nearly anything, homemade pizzas, enchiladas with red chili sauce. I also love to put a fried or poached egg on just about anything and anything that includes potatoes. I go through phases when I discover a new ingredient or cuisine. For months I cooked Thai food, then Russian and eastern European and then…so much food, so little time!

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
Processed food, food made without passion or thoughtfulness, food with more chemicals than love. 

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Naming one singular favorite would be tough, but I’ll try to narrow it down! Empress Taytu, India Garden, Siam Café, El Tango Taqueria, Aladdin’s. I have been wanting to try Sweet Melissa in Rocky River. I went in and checked it out – menu and ambiance both look interesting and promising! 

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
Hmm well it might depend on both the guests and the type of food I was serving; but probably a mix of some sort that might include The Killers, The Strokes, Muse, Amy Winehouse, Wilco, the Avett Brothers, The Beatles, Feist, Silversun Pickups, Bob Dylan, Peter Tosh…

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
You know I’ve read this question before in the Plain Dealer and always enjoy reading people’s answers and have thought about what my answer would be. It’s a hard question..I mean YOUR LAST MEAL ever. Ever! I think it might have to be Julia Child’s Lobster Thermidor, that buttery, creamy, mushroomy, topped with French gruyere concoction. A healthy plop of some rich garlic mashed potatoes and a green salad…after that I’d be ready to die and with the butter and cream content I just might not have a choice!

What are you currently reading?
Peter Mayle’s “Anything Considered” and Tracy Chevalier’s “Remarkable Creatures”. 

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
I’m not a big gadget person and think you can do pretty much everything you need to with a good chef’s knife, a whisk and your hands. I do love Williams Sonoma’s rubber spatulas though, great for everything from scrambled eggs to sauces to cake batter.

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
Depends on season/event, but I have a few I make over & over; French potato salad, Chinese peanut noodles (I think I could live on these – ask your sister Bonnie and she’ll tell you we actually did live on them for 2-3 days straight!), grilled Portobello panini with goat cheese and green olive pesto, homemade potstickers. 

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
The availability of great ethnic eats; Within a few miles radius you can pick up fresh Chinese noodles or Korean kimchi and homemade pita bread right off the factory line; homemade tortillas and dried chilis!

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
My Hungarian grandmother’s “palacintas”, similar to a French crepe. Also her stuffed cabbage, halushka, chicken paprikash…she was a culinary superstar and I learned so much from her and my mom! I can remember my mom and my grandmother cooking all day and me standing behind them and watching all day! Also in my early 20’s (that’s still childhood, right?) I was an au pair for a family in Northern France. I learned more about cooking from her than from any cookbook I’ve read or restaurant I’ve worked in. Food is truly and expression of love and art for the French and to this day I still cook the dishes I learned from her. Lunch and dinner both included a green salad with “true” French dressing which became my duty. For nearly two months I made this salad twice a day; a mixture of oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, chopped fresh herbs, salt and pepper, toss with frisee and pass around the table with cheese plate. Heaven!

And a simple grilled cheese with tomato and mayonnaise is still pure childhood delight!

Top 3 Movies of all time?
another tough question…. only 3?!  Star Wars, The Graduate, Goodfellas

What was your happiest moment in life?
In a tiny town in the northern most part of Kazakhstan when our son Bek was handed to us!

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
I can never find everything I need all in one place. Heinen’s, Nature’s Bin, Giant Eagle, Trader Joe’s and various ethnic markets. Also the two farmer’s markets in Lakewood and my parent’s garden in the summer time!

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Potatoes, Butter and Cheese!

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
If you’re talking in general terms in the big picture of life? That would have to be our son Bek. Not only him, as our son and a human being, but enduring the process of adoption that brought us to him! It was amazing and exhausting and stressful and exciting. If you’re talking food? Mastering Julia Child’s mayonnaise by hand, with only a whisk and a lot determination and elbow grease!

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
Just to keep cooking, learning and exploring. I would like to try injera, the Ethiopian flat bread made with the teff wheat flour. And although I’ve experimented quite a bit with it, I’d like to try more dishes from our son’s birth country, Kazakhstan and Central Asia. With a new baby on the way from Korea, I’d like to experiment with Korean food as well. 

One word that best describes you is: 

We are super lucky!  We get two yummy recipes today.  Thanks Jen!

Grilled Portobello & Goat Cheese Sandwiches
This panini-style sandwich pairs the earthy flavor of the portobellos with the mild, tangy goat cheese and salty, robust green-olive pesto.

1 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup pitted green olives, such as manzanilla, coarsely chopped
1 Tbs. walnuts or pine nuts

1 small clove garlic, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup plus 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 small to medium portobello mushrooms, stemmed, gills removed, and wiped clean

4 soft round rolls, such as Portuguese or kaiser, split in half
4 oz. fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Heat a panini or sandwich press according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (Alternatively, heat a nonstick grill pan over medium-high heat.)

While the press is heating, put the basil, olives, nuts, and garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped. With the motor running, add 6 Tbs. of the olive oil in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube and continue to process until thick and smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Brush the mushrooms with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put them on the press, pull the top down, and cook until softened and browned, 3 to 5 minutes (or cook in the grill pan, flipping once). Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly.

Spread the pesto on the bottom halves of the rolls. Put 2 mushrooms on each and then some cheese. Top the sandwiches with the other halves of the rolls. Brush both sides of the sandwiches with the remaining 2 tsp. oil.

Put the sandwiches on the press pesto side up, pull the top down, and cook until browned and crisp and the cheese is melted, 5 to 7 minutes, depending on how hot your machine is. (If using a grill pan, put a heavy pan on top of the sandwiches and cook, turning the sandwiches over once.) Carefully remove from the press and serve.

NOTES: I don’t have a panini press but I do have a grill pan and it works great!  Sautéing portabellos that come pre-sliced works well too.  The pesto alone is worth making, delish just spread on baguette or crackers or on any kind of sandwich.  I don’t bother getting the pitted olives but use the standard pimento stuffed green olives. I like the color it adds too.  I don’t bother chopping the olives or garlic as it all gets thrown into the food processor anyway!  Removing the gills is crucial so you don’t get a black runny mess on your lovely white goat cheese! Just take a spoon and lightly scrape the underside, the gills will fall right off.

Banh Mi
Banh Mi is Vietnamese street food. Essentially it’s a spicy sub sandwich.

1/4 cup rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. honey or sugar
1/2–1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup thinly sliced radish
1/4 cup shredded carrot
steak subs or 1/2 baguette, split in half lengthwise & butter
1 Tbs. low-fat mayonnaise
1 tsp. red chile sauce, such as sriracha
1/4 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
1/2 cup baked Asian-flavored tofu, thinly sliced, or stir-fried tofu cubes (Leftover chicken, pork or beef works too!)
2 6-inch strips cucumber (long vertical strips or matchstick works)
6 sprigs cilantro
6 cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
4 lettuce leaves, torn

Combine vinegar, honey or sugar, and red pepper flakes in small bowl. Add radish and carrot, and stir to mix. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter insides of baguette & place on baking sheet, and crisp 3-5 minutes in oven. Cool a few minutes.

Spread mayonnaise on both sides of bread. Sprinkle with red chile sauce and tamari.  Fill with tofu, cucumber, and cilantro. Drain carrot-radish mixture, and spread on sandwich. Top with tomatoes and lettuce, and season with salt and pepper. Press top half of baguette on sandwich, and slice sandwich in half.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Granola Bars

Granola bars are very popular in our household. Scott loves to grab them for a quick breakfast in the morning on his way to work and Jackson and I like them as a great afternoon snack.  But goodness, they are expensive AND probably 90% of them have gobs of ingredients I don't feel good about my family eating; high fructose corn syrup, tons of preservatives, artificial colors and flavorings....yack.  I know I can do better then that, and in turn save us some money too!

Turns out I was right- these things are delicious.  They weren't overly sweet, but just right and would be wonderful with a glass of ice cold milk or a cup of coffee.  These were my first batch, but I am already a firm believer.  I won't be buying store bought boxed granola bars ever again.  You can alter this recipe using whatever mix-ins you happen to have on hand.  I can't wait to try out different combinations to get fun, new flavors.  Be creative!

Print this Recipe

Granola Bars
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut (we LOVED this in them!)
1 cup sunflower seeds
4 Tablspoons sesame seeds
1 cup nuts of your choice (I somehow had no nuts in my house, so I went without. I would have loved to put almonds in here. oh well, next time!)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup honey or 100% pure maple syrup (I used honey this time)
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon water
1 cup dried fruit (I used a combination of cranberries, strawberries, blueberries raisins and dates)
1 cup chocolate chips (I used mini)

Preheat the oven to 325.  Line a square 8" baking pan with 2 crisscrossed rectangles of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang at 2 opposite ends. The overhang is what will assist you in lifting the granola out of the pan for cutting.

Combine the oats, coconut, seeds and nuts and spread them out evenly on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes. When the oat mixture has been toasting for about 10 minutes, combine the honey, peanut butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, oil and water in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar.

When the oat mixture is done toasting, transfer it to a large bowl and add the honey mixture and fruit; stir to incorporate. Spread evenly in bottom of pan, pressing down to create a smooth, even top.

Bake the granola mixture for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  After about a half and hour, press down again super HARD to make sure everything sticks together and you can get nice, firm bars.  A measuring cup works well for this.

Let cool completely.  I am serious here.  I know it is insanely tempting, but if you cut them too soon they will crumble everywhere and they won't be granola bars anymore.  Just granola.  I waited a full 5 hours before cutting them.   Since I had to work this evening, I held off until I came home.  You don't need to wait that long, but I would recommend waiting at least 2-3 hours before trying to cut them apart.

Once cool, lift out of pan using paper as handles.  Cut into one-inch wide bars with a large, sharp knife. Then, cut them again in half lengthwise. Store in an airtight container.  If you aren't going to eat them all within a week, be sure to refrigerate or freeze them.  There are no preservatives in these, so they won't last forever and a lifetime in your pantry like the store bought kinds.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Basil Pesto

Oh how I love Pesto.  I wait all year until I have enough basil leaves in my garden to make this beautiful sauce.  I know I mentioned this recipe yesterday, but I felt it needed a page of its own. It is incredibly quick to make- no cooking involved! All you need is a food processor (or even a blender will work) and about 2 minutes of your time!  There are so many uses for Pesto. One of the most common is obviously tossing it on pasta for a flavorful sauce.  But remember, if you have never cooked with pesto before, a little goes a long way.  So be sure to add just a little at a time, until you get the flavor you want. You don't pour a ton on like you would a red sauce. This is a very pungent sauce, full of robust, fresh flavor.

There are other uses for pesto, you might not think of off hand.  One of my most favorite is to add a 1/2-1 teaspoon of pesto to your eggs when making scrambled eggs.  Serve it with nice thick slices of garden tomatoes and wow, is this the definition of a summer breakfast!!

Pesto also works great in place of red sauce on your favorite homemade pizza.

Drizzle a bit of pesto over your grilled steak for a lovely herb sauce, that melts right into the meat.

With all of those tomatoes at that are beginning to line up on your countertop, make my mom's Gourmet Tomato Soup, and drizzle a little on the top before serving.

Everyone loves breakfast for dinner.  Have you tried my Pesto and Potato Frittata?  It is elegant, and looks amazing on the table.  But yet so easy to prepare.  Your guests will have no idea that it took you no time to make this lovely dish.  Kids love it too!

At your next dinner party or for a nice light lunch, make up a few of these Pesto, Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomato Crostini. So yummy!

Lightly toss roasted or boiled potatoes in pesto for a vibrant side dish.

I honestly could go on and on.  But hopefully this will give you a good starting point for all the recipes that you can come up with on your own.  Use your imagination and goodness gracious, enjoy one of the simple joys of the season!

Basil Pesto
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts, tosasted
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Next add the cheese right into the food processor and just blended for a quick couple of seconds to incorporate. 

If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cooking with Herbs- Crostini and Pasta with Fresh Herbs

Last night Bonnie and Dawn came over to my house for our monthly Cooking with Friends night in.  Since my herb garden is in full abundance right now we went with the theme Cooking with Herbs.  There is so much that you can do with fresh herbs, and honestly we only just scratched the surface!  But our dinner was delicious and absolutely bursting with herbs!  Bonnie chose to make a pasta that incorporated the use of a bunch of herbs, that really showcased their flavor.  They were easily the star of the show.  It was so yummy and one I will totally be making again and again.  I think the addition of some chopped garden tomatoes would be lovely too.  

I went with a mixed variety of Crostini, some hot and some cold, all using different fresh herbs to show a lot of versatility in one basic little dish.  They all turned out delicious and we had a tough time deciding on a favorite.  But two stood out a little more then the rest- the Roasted Garlic Topping and also the Asiago Cheese and Onion Topping.  These two packed a ton of flavor in just very simple ingredients.   I was thrilled with the outcome of all the crostini and will definitely be making them again. What a perfect appetizer for a dinner party!  ....Although I doubt I will be waiting until a party to make these again- they are too good!  

from left to right: Roasted Garlic with Parmesan Cheese, Basil Pesto with Buffalo Mozzarella and Bruschetta Tomatoes,  Asiago Cheese and Onion Topping

Basic Crostini
1 french bread baguette, sliced thin on the diagonal (about 1/4-inch thick)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Place butter and olive oil in a small sauce pan over low heat and stir until butter is melted.  Brush both sides of the bread slices with the mixture and place on a baking sheet.  Bake in preheated oven, turning once, until golden brown and slightly crisp, about 10 minutes.  Allow crostini to cool, then place in an airtight container until ready to use.

Classic Fresh Tomato Bruschetta Topping
4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
healthy drizzle extra virgin olive oil
shaved Parmesan Cheese

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside, unrefrigerated for at least 30 minutes.  Place onto toasted crostini and top with slices of shaved Parmesan Cheese.

Classic Fresh Tomato Bruschetta Crostini 

Roasted Garlic Topping
from Outer Banks The Bountiful Coastal Carolina Cookbook by Chyrel B. Austin
3 heads of garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel garlic cloves and place in a small oven proof dish.  Pour oilve oil over the cloves; oil should cover the garlic cloves completely.  Cover the dish tightly with a double thickness of foil.  Place on the center shelf of oven and bake until cloves are tender.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain.  Reserve the oil.  Place the garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon of the reserved oil in a food processor and process until pureed.  Season with pepper, transfer to airtight container and refrigerate up to 2 days.

To serve, spread each crostini with a teaspoon of the roasted garlic mixture.  place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until crostini are warm, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve warm.

Asiago Cheese and Onion Topping
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 yellow or white onions, very thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1 teaspoon dried thyme (we used fresh, so it would be 1 tablespoon instead)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 cups grated Asiago cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; add onions. Let onions cook at least 3 minutes before stirring (they should start to brown before you move them around). Continue to cook, stirring only occasionally, about 20 minutes, until onions are well browned. Add thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Spread bread slices with a little mustard. Divide onion mixture evenly over bread slices then top each with cheese.

Place on a foil-lined baking sheet; bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts, tosasted
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Next add the cheese right into the food processor and just blended for a quick couple of seconds to incorporate.

If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.

*for the crostini, I spread the pesto lightly onto the toast, topped them with slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese and a spoonful of the Classic Bruschetta Topping.

Shrimp and Sausage with Asiago Cheese

Shrimp & Sausage with Asiago Cheese Topping
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium green pepper, chopped
1/2 lb. Italian hot or sweet sausage, casing removed
1/2 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fresh chives, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup coarsely grated Asiago cheese

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and green pepper and cook, stirring, until onion is wilted about 3 minutes. Add sausage meat and cook, stirring to break up lumps until no longer raw, about 5 minutes. Add chopped shrimp and garlic, cooking just until shrimp turns pink. Remove from heat and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Preheat broiler. Place Basic Bruschetta slices on a baking sheet. Top with shrimp and sausage mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Broil just until cheese melts (3-4 minutes). Do not let brown. Remove from oven, cut into 2-inch pieces and serve hot. Serves 4.

Pasta with Fresh Herbs

Pasta with Fresh Herbs
1/2 lb uncooked pasta
1/2 cup butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon dried marjoram (we used fresh since I am growing it! Make it 1 Tablespoon if using fresh.  Note:if you can't find Marjoram you can use oregano instead. They are in the same family.)
1 teaspoon ground savory (fresh here again- 1 tablespoon)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sliced black olives (we added more because we all love olives)

Cook pasta acording to package directions.  Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat.  Stir in the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.  Stir in the herbs.

Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl.  Add the butter mixture and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with black olives.  Garnish with sprigs of fresh herbs and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

The big, wonderful bowl of pasta- yum!

*I didn't make this one last night, just ran out of time and bread!  But I want to share the recipe for future use because it sounds wonderful!
Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Topping
Adapted slightly from Williams Sonoma 

2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and
coarsely chopped
2 Tb. slivered almonds or toasted pine nuts
3 Tbs. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 c finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 oz. goat cheese 

Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the red peppers on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Bake for approx 40-45 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. Let them cool and then, seed, peel and chop them.

In the bowl of a food processor or using a hand blender, combine the red peppers, the remaining garlic clove, nuts, cheese, 3 Tbs of the parsley, lemon juice, 2 tsp olive oil and the cayenne pepper. Pulse until a coarse puree forms. Season with salt and black pepper.

Reduce the oven to 350°F.

With the crostini in a single layer on a baking sheet, spread about 2 tsp of the goat cheese on each crostini. Bake until the cheese is slightly soft and the crostini are warm, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a platter and top each with about 1 Tbs of the red pepper pesto. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbs. parsley.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Lindsay Stull

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Lindsay Stull

For today's Fridays, Feasting with Friends I would love to introduce you to my wonderfully creative friend, Lindsay Stull.  Along with having a personality that perfectly matches her beauty, you need to see the amazing knitting she creates.  This ain't your grandma's afghan!  Lindsay Knits is her etsy shop, and it is a perfect place for you to snag up some little lovelies.  She has purses and wallets that I am dreaming sweet nothings of (Scott if you are reading, think green *wink, wink*) And oh my goodness, the precious infant sweaters are even more adorable in person.  I am already picturing my own Baby Owen in the hoodie, and he isn't even born yet!  If you aren't wise to the etsy scene yet, let this be your invite to go, buy handmade and never need to shop in a "big box" store ever again.  This Christmas could be 100% stress free and all of your friends can be sporting these fabulous finds.   You won't be disappointed!

Along with her craftiness, Lindsay is also a wonderful cook!  She and her boyfriend Paul are always having great fun playing around with food.  She hasn't said so, but I think they both understand the way to a love's heart is guided through the kitchen!  Easily my favorite date is to cook a fabulous meal together and then sit down to enjoy the wonderful things you just created.  And these two totally have a blast doing just that.  I always enjoy reading the menus that come out of their home.  Yum!

So for today's Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am thrilled to introduce you to my lovely friend Lindsay Stull.

What is your favorite thing to cook? 
Fish. Salmon, tilapia, orange the simplicity it takes to really make a flavorful dinner!

How about your least favorite thing to cook? 
Cookies. I just don't have the knack...

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
The Greenhouse Tavern is at the top of my list as well as Johnny Mango and Wine Bar Rocky River :) I have been dying to try the tasting menu at Dantes

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist? 
My iPod has a jazz playlist with miles Davis and Billie Holiday, or there's always my girl power playlist which includes Kate Nash, rilo kiley, Ingrid Michaelson, etc.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
Goat cheese mac n cheese with rosemary. maybe with lobster. :)

What are you currently reading?
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
Food processor/blender...I love making homemade pesto and of course...fruit recent favorite is cantaloupe and rasberries! :)

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
When in season, I love to use plums to make what my mom always calls a "plum cake" but it's made with a struessel on top! YUM!

What do you love most about the Cleveland area? 
I love living so close to the West Side Market which is such a gem!

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
My Mom's paprikash (with homemade spaetzle of course) is amazing as well as her german soups. I make a great paprikash and spaetzle, still working on the soups :)

Top 3 Movies of all time?
Dead Poets Society, When Harry Met Sally & Star Wars

What was your happiest moment in life?
Everyday gets happier and I know the best is still to come :)
Lindsay and her boyfriend, Paul

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Depending on what I'm looking for, West Side Market, Heinens, and Giant Eagle :)

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
I love to "dip"...taco dip, veggie dip, sauces...mmmm!

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
Teaching. I am constantly amazed at how emotional and challenging teaching is and still love it more as time goes on.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
I want to work on learning to make a beurre blanc sauce. My boyfriend is classically French trained and promises me he'll teach me and that it's easy....we shall see. ;)

One word that best describes you is: creative
I'll have what she's having!

My recipe to share is a cheesy baked pasta with spinach and artichokes. (from Real Simple Magazine) simple and delicious!!!

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Spinach and Artichokes
8 ounces mezzi rigatoni or some other short pasta (1/2 a box)
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, rinsed and quartered (I actually diced mine)
1 9-ounce package frozen creamed spinach, thawed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce)
2 cups grated mozzarella (8 ounces)
black pepper

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain, and return it to the pot. Heat broiler.  Add the artichoke hearts, spinach, Parmesan, half of the mozzarella, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to pasta and toss to combine.  Transfer the mixture to a shallow 2-quart (or 8-inch square) broilerproof baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella. Broil until the cheese is browned in spots, 2 to 3 minutes.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad with Fresh Dill

We have so many cucumbers coming from the garden it is time to start getting creative!  I have my stand by, Creamy Cucumber Salad that I love.  But I wanted to try out something a little different.  While browsing Epicurious I stumbled upon a cucumber salad from Bon Appétit that doesn't use sour cream.  It looked yummy and took a nice twist on the recipe I am used to.  I made a few alterations to accommodate what I had in my pantry and loved the outcome!  It is crisp, a little sweet, a little sour and a perfect summer side dish.

Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad with Fresh Dill
2 English cucumbers or 4 garden cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp coarse ground kosher salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
fresh chives, chopped

Cut ends of cucumbers, but do not peel. Since I was using quite large garden cucumbers I decided to deseed them to avoid too much moisture.  This step isn't necessary, but a helpful hint.  Slice into thin slices.  I love using my mandolin for this type of thing, but you can also thinly slice the cucumbers by hand.

Put cucumbers in a colander placed in the sink and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon, coarsely ground kosher salt. Stir so all the cucumbers have salt on them. Let cucumbers sit and release water for at least 15 minutes but up to an hour.  The longer they sit the more moisture will be released.

While cucumbers are draining, combine apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, fresh ground black pepper, chopped dill and chives.

Drain cucumbers, pressing to remove the last bit of moisture.  Pat dry.  (Most of the salt should have been washed off by the water that was released.)  Pour dressing over cucumbers and stir to combine. Refrigerate cucumbers with dressing for at least 15 minutes, Serve cold.

**Side note**
I had these today, two days after making them and they totally took on a pickle-like flavor.  They would be so prefect like this topped onto a cheeseburger or any sandwich for that matter!  

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Egg Salad

Egg Salad
6 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
1/4-1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced onions (I prefer red onion. It gives a nice hint of color)
2 tablespoons minced celery
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
pinch of curry powder (this MAKES the salad, so don't leave it out- trust me!!)
fresh dill and fresh chives, chopped

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until cold.

Enjoy as a dip with crisp, fresh vegetables or served on a sandwich.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Last weekend Scott and I got to enjoy a grown up night out at our friends Bonnie and Jimmy's house for a BBQ.  It was great fun, filled with lots of laughs and wonderful friends.  Oh and LOTS of delicious food!  There were quite a few recipes that really stood out and I am going to share one of them today.  It is Dawn's BLT Dip.  Yes, it is really as awesome as it sounds.  Tomatoes, Bacon, a bit of mayo all mixed together to make the perfect bite in your mouth.  Yum!

I had a graduation party to attend yesterday so I thought this would be the perfect appetizer to bring along.   Scott and I both decided that this would also make a delicious spread on a Turkey Wrap with a bit of lettuce and cheese.  My mouth is watering as I type this.... so let's hurry onto the recipe!

1 c real mayo (I used Light, couldn't tell one bit)
1 c sour cream (Light here again...)
3-4 tomatoes (I used one pint of cherry tomatoes, chopped into bite sized chunks.  I didn't bother deseeding these)
1 lb bacon
French bread, sliced into 1/2 inch slices and then quartered

Combine the mayo and sour cream until well blended.  Cook bacon until nice and crispy. De-seed tomatoes if not using cherry or grape. Chop the tomatoes and bacon, mix into the sour cream/mayo mixture. Slice french bread for dipping.  Serve chilled.


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