Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mixed Tapas Platter

It's still super hot here and we are having company for dinner. I wanted to prepare something light, refreshing, flavorful and, of course, special. I love to eat tapas, so I decided to prepare a mixed tapas platter. I decided on three different salads, one chicken and one salmon tapa. Salads are easy and quick to prepare, and the ones I chose had very different flavors. I also made some bread to go with dinner. For dessert we had HubbyGrouch's favorite again: Raspberry Dream. I didn't have enough merengue left and didn't find them in the store! I had two choices: not to make the dessert or to come up this a replacement ingredient. We had animal crackers at home so I tried those. HubbyGrouch was of course skeptical at first, that I might have spoiled the dessert. But far from it. We all had seconds and finished the whole bowl! In case you were wondering how someone with two small children could have time for all this on a weekday, here is how. LittleGrouch was in daycare. All recipes were quick and easy to prepare, and the chicken and salmon were done on arrival of the guest.

This was today's Tapas selection:
Tomato, Cucumber, and Olive Salad
Zucchini Salad with Raisins and Pine Nuts
Fennel Salad with Oranges
Fresh Salmon with Mojo Sauce
Garlic Chicken
Bread Machine French Herb Bread

Raspberry Dream

 Fennel Salad with Oranges

4 large juicy oranges, skin removed completely and sliced, juice reserved
1 bulb fennel, finely sliced
1 onion, finely sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
12 black olives, pitted and sliced

Arrange oranges, fennel, and onion on plates. Top with olives. Whisk together oil and orange juice, and drizzle over salad.

 Fresh Salmon with Mojo Sauce

1 1/2 pounds fresh salmon fillet
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Mojo Sauce
2 cloves garlic, mashed
2 tsp paprika powder
1 tsp ground cumin
4-5 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Remove skin from salmon (you can leave it on if you prefer. Cut fish into 2 inch sized cubes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add salmon and cook on all sides until just opaque in center, about 10 minutes. For the sauce, Whisk together all ingredients. Transfer salmon to serving plates and drizzle with sauce.

 Tomato, Cucumber, and Olive Salad

2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4-5 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 tsp paprika powder
4 tomatoes, diced
12 stuffed green olives, halved lengthwise
1/2 cucumber, diced
2 small shallots, minced
1 tbsp capers, drained

Whisk together vinegar, oil, garlic, and paprika. Season to taste with salt. Place remaining ingredients in a bowl and toss with vinaigrette.

Garlic Chicken 

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, each cut into 4-5 pieces
1 tbsp paprika powder
salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup sherry
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
8 garlic cloves
2 tbsp minced flat parsley

Sprinkle chicken with paprika, salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. Add chicken in badges, using remaining oil, and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add all the chicken to the pan and add sherry. Cook for 1 minute. Add broth and bay leaf, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Mash garlic and mix with parsley. Add to chicken and simmer for another 10 minutes. Server hot.

 Zucchini Salad with Raisins and Pine Nuts

1 pound small green zucchini, thinly sliced
4 tbsp garlic olive oil
2 ounces pine nuts
2 ounces raisins
3 tbsp fresh mint, minced
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini and fry until they soften, stirring often. Place zucchini in a bowl. Add pine nuts, raisins, mint, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Toss well. Let salad cool and put in the fridge for 3 1/2 hours before serving. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Add more lemon juice, olive oil, salt or pepper if desired.

 Bread Machine French Herb Bread

Ingredients for one 2-pound loaf:
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried, crushed French Herbs
1/4 tsp dried, minced garlic
1/4 tsp garlic powder
4 cups bread flour
2 tsp active dry yeast

Place all ingredients in the above given order in the bread pan of the bread machine. Choose program for French Bread (or White Bread).

Raspberry Dream

You can find the recipe here. Just substitute animal crackers for half the merengues.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Rustic Salad with cheese and Black Forest prosciutto

Today we went for a family outing to the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls. It was a nice little place with cute displays. We also included in a short walk down to the water to look at the falls. The water was quite high and fast, LittleGrouch enjoyed the sight of it. On the way back we stopped for lunch at the People's Pint in Greenfield, where they serve food made from local ingredients. The staff is friendly and they have some toys to keep the kids busy. We had burgers for lunch, so I decided to just prepare a nice cold salad for dinner. HubbyGrouch doesn't like lettuce, so I arranged his salad on a bed of baby spinach and mine on mixed greens.

3-4 ounces salad greens of you choice (e.g. garden mix, baby spinach, spring mix)
4 inch piece of cucumber, quartered lengthwise, then cut into thin slices
1/2 of a yellow bell pepper, cut into 1 inch by 1/4 inch sticks
2 plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
2-3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1 inch by 1/4 inch sticks
4 slices Black Forest Prosciutto, chopped
1/2 apple, cut into 1 inch by 1/4 inch sticks
12 stuffed green olives, halved lengthwise
2-3 tbsp chopped walnuts

salad dressing of your choice
rustic bread (e.g. pain au levain, peasant loaf, rye bread, multigrain)

Spread the greens onto to dinner plates. Then top with remaining ingredients in the given order (or other). Serve with dressing and bread of your choice.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Simple Steak and Salad Dinner

The weather is hot, hot, hot. So, not much real cooking going on in my kitchen. I just made a simple Steak-and-Salad dinner. This is not really a recipe but as this blog is also my dinner diary, I feel I should post this.

4 Filet Mignons, 3/4 inch thick, about 3 oz each
Montreal steak rub
1-2 tsp olive oil

Season meat with steak rub on both sides. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add meat and cook about 4 minutes per side for slightly pink inside. Serve with a side salad and bread of your choice.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mini Chocolate Fudge Tortlets

I have prepared this recipe several times. Serve them as a dessert, bring them to a potluck dinner or for a picnic, for a buffet, for finger food parties, etc. You can make them in any size you like, round or square. I usually prepare them in a mini-muffin form nowadays, so they are the right size for small kids. I have sometimes prepared the shortcrust from scratch but I usually buy refrigerated pie crust.

1 package refrigerated pie crust (2 crusts at 7 oz each)
dried lentils or beans for blind-baking
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
1/4 pound dark hard shell chocolate
1/4 pound heavy cream
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400°F. Unroll pie crusts and with a 2 3/4 diameter round cookie cutter, cut out  24 circles. (They have to overlap slightly to get 12 circles out of each pie crust.) Gently press circles into the slots of a 24-count mini-muffin form. Fill with dried lentils or beans and bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Remove lentils and let cool on a cooling rack. For the fudge filling, heat butter, chocolate and cream over a water bath until melted and smooth. Preheat oven to 250°F. In the meantime, whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla extract. Mix in chocolate mix. Put tortlet shells back into muffin form and fill in chocolate-egg-mixture. Bake for about 25 minutes until fudge is set. Let cool for 5 minutes, then put the tortlets on a cooling rack. Serve as they are or use whipped cream or white icing and chocolate sprinkles to decorate.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Burgers with Danish Blue Cheese and Port

As the weather is getting warmer, I will use my oven and range less to avoid extra heat. Burgers are a good start into the summer season and this recipe from Food & Wine ("Umami Burgers with Port and Stilton") sounded interesting. I was going to make the umami dust (refer to original recipe) but didn't have the time to pass by the Asian grocery store to pick up the ingredients (like almost everything else here, that store is about 20 minutes away). I have to admit that I had never had a Port reduction before and I really liked it. I will try to incorporate it into other dishes as well. For the meat patties, I used my own recipe with two changes: I left out the onion and I used Italian seasoning instead of thyme.

Meat patties recipe
2 tsp Italian seasoning
olive oil
1 1/2 cups ruby port
4 ounces Rosenborg cheese (Danish Blue Cheese), sliced
4 soft rolls, split and lightly toasted

In a small saucepan, cook the port over moderate heat until reduced to 3-4 tbsp, about 20 minutes. Prepare the minced meat as directed in the recipe. Heat 1-2 tsp oil in a large enough skillet over medium heat. Form 4 meat patties slightly bigger than the buns, and not thicker than 1/2 inch. Fry about 3-4 minutes per side, until cooked through. Place one patty on each lower half of the buns, top with cheese and melt cheese under the broiler (about 6 inches away from heat source). Top with the port reduction, serve with the top of bun and a side of vegetables or salad. (Prepare more meat patties from leftover meat mixture and have as a lunch snack the next day.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Germany: Herring in Yogurt Sauce (Eingelegter Hering)

I know that herring is not a "love-at-first-bite" food for most people. I have to admit that except in this dish, I don't really like it either. However, this particular dish has always been a favorite of mine. Maybe even my all-time favorite dish. The cold yogurt dip is very refreshing in the summer, and I love potatoes. I never formally checked into the history of this dish but I have been asked about the seemingly unusual combination of ingredients several times. What I came up with as an explanation is this: This dish (and similar ones from North Sea bordering countries like the Netherlands and Denmark) is traditionally eaten in May and June. In other words, during the months before new and fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit are available. So all there is to eat, are the long lasting, stored and pickled leftovers from last years crop (i.e. potatoes, pickles, onions and apples). The herring used in this dish, are traditionally young male herring caught before the first spawning. They are then salted and kept in oil. So there you go. I also make other yogurt sauce and potato dishes like a simple mix of yogurt, sour cream, dill, garlic, salt & pepper. I might add some radishes and yellow pepper to that as well. For this dish, I used low-fat yogurt and sour cream but you can choose the regular ones if you like.

1 pound low-fat yogurt
1/3 pound low-fat sour cream
1/4 tsp black pepper
1-2 tbsp Dijon mustard
3-4 tbsp liquid from dill pickles
1 small onion, finely chopped
4-6 dill pickles, chopped
1/2 apple (e.g. Braeburn, Cortland), cut into 1/4 inch by 1 inch sticks
8-9 ounces herring in oil
2 pounds baby potatoes (e.g. Yukon Gold or White)

Whisk together yogurt, sour cream, pepper, mustard, and pickling liquid. Add onion, pickles, and apple, and mix well. Drain herring and pat dry. Cut into 3/4 inch squares and fold into yogurt sauce. Marinate in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours. Cook potatoes in boiling water for about 20 minutes, until they are soft. Peel potatoes (or not) and serve with the yogurt sauce.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chicken Wingettes and Drumettes with Apricot Glaze

This recipe from Food & Wine ("Spicy Apricot Wings") is meant for the BBQ. However, I decided to bake the chicken in the oven as we don't have a gas grill and I didn't want to go through the hassle of starting the charcoal etc.

Here is supposed to be a picture of the dish.
And if it weren't for two
fussy kids, there would be one.

1/2 cup apricot preserves
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sweet paprika
2-3 dashes cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3 pounds chicken wingettes and drumettes

Preheat oven to 450°F. Whisk together all ingredients except the chicken pieces. Toss chicken with half the sauce and let stand 5 minutes. Spray a rack with non-stick cooking spray and place on top a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place chicken pieces on rack and bake for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice, until brown and crisp. Serve with remaining sauce.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"I don't care" and "Whatever you want" Pizza

When I asked HubbyGrouch what kind of pizza he wanted today, that's what he said: "I don't care. Whatever you want." I am a good little wifey and listen to my hubby, so he got what he asked for  ;-)

"Whatever you want" Pizza 
"I don't care" Pizza

Pizza dough
8 oz can tomato sauce
black pepper

"Whatever you want" Pizza
dried or fresh dill weed
3-4 ounces smoked salmon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1-2 tsp capers, drained
6 slices fresh mozzarella, 1/4 inch thick

"I don't care" Pizza
Italian seasoning
2 ounces thinly sliced black forest style cooked ham
10 stuffed green olives, halved lengthwise
6 slices fresh mozzarella, 1/4 inch thick

You can find instructions for the preparation and baking of the pizza dough here. Spread tomato sauce on pizzas and season to taste with pepper. For the "Whatever you want" pizza, sprinkle dill weed onto tomato sauce, then top with salmon, capers and mozzarella. For the "I don't care" pizza, sprinkle tomato sauce with Italian seasoning, then top with ham, olives and mozzarella. Bake as instructed.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

French Toast

After an enjoyable breakfast of French toast, we went for a day trip today. It was the last day of the M.C. Escher exhibition at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield and we did not want to miss it!. Before going to the museum, we had lunch at "La Fogata", a Colombian restaurant. It was an opportunity for HubbyGrouch to have some quasi-childhood dishes to eat. The people were friendly and we liked the food. After that, we enjoyed the museum. LittleGrouch loved the big dinosaur at the entrance as well as the stuffed animals, minerals, world in miniature, and the aquarium; while HubbyGrouch and me got to see the Escher exhibition.

And now for today's recipe. I already mentioned on this blog that I don't particularly like a sweet breakfast. I don't like the French toast that is served in restaurants here for that reason. For me, French toast is lightly salted and maybe prepared with bacon if I have some. HubbyGrouch, on the other hand, likes the classic sweet version with maple syrup. You can use the bread of your choice (i.e. sourdough, panini sandwich bread, whole wheat, rye etc.). Also, I like to toast the bread before soaking, to make it easier to handle and give it more structure.

French Toast with Maple Syrup
Savory French Toast with Pancetta

5 large eggs
1/4 cup cream or half-and-half
vegetable oil
2-3 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into cubes
4-6 slices toasted bread of your choice, toasted
Maple syrup for serving

Whisk together eggs and cream in a wide shallow dish. Season to taste with salt. Heat 1 tsp oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Immerse half the bread slices in the egg mixture and let soak for a 1-2 minutes, pressing bread down carefully. (You will see air bubble come up as you squeeze the bread. When you release the pressure, the bread "inflates" again and thus takes up more of the egg.). Turn bread over repeat. Transfer bread to skillet and cook about 4-5 minutes per side. Serve with Maple syrup. Add pancetta to skillet and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Soak remaining bread slices in egg mixture and cook as described above, using up all the egg mixture.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Germany: Soft Pretzel Sticks with Cheese and Salami (Laugenstangen mit Käse und Salami)

I prepared those for today's bake sale at the library. I loved them! Too bad I didn't make that many and only had one.  :-(    This is a very versatile recipe. You can prepare 12 big pretzel stick or 24 small ones or 36 mini-sticks. You can make them plain (just with salt), or just with the cheese of your choice (Swiss, American, Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Gruyere, Gouda etc.) or with cheese and salami. They are great snacks for a picnic or a (kids) birthday party, for Sunday brunch or a buffet.

20 ounces (3 3/4 cups) bread flour, plus more for dusting
2 tbsp unsalted butter, soft
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup baking soda
1/2 pound Swiss cheese, sliced and cut into 1 inch wide strips
4-5 ounces salami, thinly sliced and halved
coarse salt

The dough and preparation are the same as for the Bavarian-Style Pretzels. If using a bread machine, place warm water, salt, butter, flour, and yeast into bowl. Use kneading program and let dough knead for  about 20 minutes. Switch off machine and let dough rest for about 10 minutes. If you don't have a bread machine, you can use and electric mixer with a dough hook for kneading, or your hands. Divide dough into 12 equal parts. On a lightly floured surface, form each part into a 10" long rod. (For smaller pretzel stick, cut the rods into 2 or 3 pieces.) Put pretzel sticks on 2 or three baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Cover with a light dry towel and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes until volume is slightly increased. Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil. Preheat oven to 400°F. With a sharp knife, make an incision along the length of each pretzel stick, leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch at the ends. Carefully dissolve baking soda in the boiling water (add in several steps as it will boil violently). Boil each pretzel stick for 15 seconds per side, drain briefly and put back onto baking sheets. Stuff the cheese into the incision of each pretzel stick, then top with salami. Sprinkle coarse salt onto the ends of the sticks. Bake for about 15-18 minutes until they are shiny-brown and risen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Broccoli and Shrimp

I don't think I have come across many recipes that have shrimp and broccoli as the two major ingredients. So when I found this one, I just had to give it a try. It's a nice and simple dish for a busy weekday.

1 1/3 pound broccoli
2/3 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
zest and juice of 1 lime
2-3 cloves garlic
2-3 dashes dried red pepper
1 ounce fresh ginger, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
2-3 tbsp sesame oil
2 ounces shallots, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, minced

Cut broccoli florets off, discard stems. Cook 4-5 minutes in salted water, drain. Toss shrimps with lime juice and zest, set aside. Whisk together garlic, red pepper, ginger, and soy sauce. Heat oil in wok over high heat. Add shallots and sauté, stirring, 2-3 minutes. Add soy sauce mix and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Add broccoli and broth, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add shrimps with marinade and cook 3-4 minutes longer. Serve with rice and sprinkled with cilantro.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Greek-style Stuffed Meatloaf

Living in a hardcore capitalistic country stuns me time and again. The way people are crazy about making money, even if it is a tiny amount, is just baffling. There seems to be constant scheming, everybody is trying to screw everybody else over money. People fall for coupons, being persuaded to believe that they save money (when they are actually spending it on things they wouldn't usually buy). I admit that I love to use coupons as well - if I find one for something I was going to buy anyway. Everything is called "business" or "industry". The expression "health industry" conveys in two words the whole perversity  of the business (I might even go as far as calling it an oxymoron). Another favorite scheme of mine is college education. Schools make you pay - excuse the following expression - a shit load of money to get your degree. Most students end up starting their post-college life having to pay off a loan. And yet, at the same time, many schools make their students feel like they owe something to the school and are proud to make alumni donations to their alma maters.

But now for today's dinner. When I announced to HubbyGrouch that we were going to have meatloaf and potatoes he was envisioning his basic culinary nightmare. He vaguely remembers some traumatizing incident of having a soggy meatloaf at a high school cafeteria or something. Well, he ended up liking the meatloaf more than I did. It was the first time I made one; I just wanted to try it out. I think, I will stick to the meat patties that I know from childhood (maybe I'll try the spinach stuffing for those some time). I might make a plain meatloaf without stuffing in the future, we'll see. I would definitely recommend not to use all the spinach mixture. The recipe required one pound of spinach but that was way too much! 10 ounces is more than enough I think.

10 ounces fresh baby spinach
salt, pepper
1 ounce pine nuts
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 large eggs
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 medium onion, minced
1 1/3 pound minced beef
2 tsp mustard
1 tbsp oil

Blanche in spinach in batches for 30 seconds in boiling salted water. Rinse with cold water, drain well, squeeze water out, and chop coarsely. Roast pine nuts in a small skillet without oil. Mix spinach with feta, garlic, 1 egg, and pine nuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, pour 1/4 cup water over bread crumbs. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add onion, minced meat, mustard, and 2 eggs. Season with about 1 1/3 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Mix well. Spread oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread about half the meat mixture on baking sheet, forming an about 10" by 5" square. Place spinach mixture along the mid-line of the meat mixture, then cover carefully with remaining meat, so that spinach is not visible. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Serve with tomato salad and potatoes.

Tip for serving: (I would have done this if I had had the time) Cook 1 1/2 pounds small potatoes in boiling salted water for about 20 minutes. Drain and peel. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry potatoes until golden brown. Add 1 pound of cherry tomatoes and 5 twigs rosemary. Fry for 2-3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. For serving, arrange potatoes and tomatoes around the meatloaf.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

Today, I decided to prepare pasta with a very simple, no frills tomato sauce. I hadn't done that in a really long time. The recipe is from Bon Appetit ("Pasta al Pomodoro"). This is one of the sauces that actually do go well with spaghetti. In my opinion, because of practical reasons, spaghetti are only good with smooth sauces. If it's a chunky sauce, the pasta of your choice should be short. I hardly ever use the kind of pasta a particular recipe suggests because it's not a good pairing. Don't get me wrong, spaghetti are maybe my favorite pasta - I just love to twirl them on my fork. But most of the time, the chunks from the sauce fall of and remain on the plate, so it's better to use a short pasta.

4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1-2 tsp dried minced garlic
black pepper
one 28-oz can diced tomatoes, puréed in a food processor
1-2 tsp dried crushed basil
12-16 oz spaghetti
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino

Heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. Add basil, cook for 1-2 minutes and remove from heat. Meanwhile, cook pasta until 2 minutes before al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 of cooking liquid. Heat sauce over high heat and add cooking water if needed. Add pasta and cook, stirring, until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat, add butter and cheese, and toss until cheese melts. Serve with more cheese if desired.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chicken (or Pork) with Gorgonzola and Apricots

This is a great recipe for a week-night dinner party. It's quick, easy, and has a great combination of flavors. The original recipe uses pork medaillons and I have made that dish several times. When I made the meal plan for this week, I thought about this dish. As we hadn't had chicken in a while, I thought I'd try this new version. I wasn't completely sure whether the gorgonzola wouldn't be too strong for the chicken but it worked out fine. If pressed, though, I have to admit that I do prefer the version with pork.

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 12 pork medaillons (about 1 inch thick)
salt and pepper
garlic powder
1-2 tbsp oil
12 canned apricot halves, drained
5-6 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, in 1/8 inch slices

Preheat oven to 400°F. Season meat with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add meat and cook 5 minutes per side. Place meat in an oven-proof dish in one layer. Place apricots and then cheese on top of meat. Bake for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve with mixed greens and baguette slices.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Himbeertraum, please!

For today, HubbyGrouch had requested one of his favorite desserts - Raspberry Dream - again. The recipe can be found here. Enjoy!

Bruschetta with Roasted Tomatoes, Ricotta, and Black Forest Ham

This is one of my favorite types of bruschetta. The original recipe is from Bon Appetit ("Bruschetta with Rosemary, Roasted Plum Tomatoes, and Prosciutto"). I prefer to use Black Forest Ham (the real, smoked variety, not the cooked ham of the same name that you can find at deli counters) if I can find it, instead of prosciutto. But that is simply a matter of personal taste and you can use either one. Bruschetta is usually an appetizer but we like this kind so much that we eat it as a main dish.

6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried crushed rosemary
freshly ground black pepper
6 large plum tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), quartered lengthwise
12   thick slices ciabatta
1/2 pound low-fat ricotta cheese
6 slices Black Forest ham or prosciutto
1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup baby arugula

Preheat oven to 425°F. Stir olive oil, garlic, rosemary, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper in a bowl. Add tomatoes and stir to coat. Let stand 5 minutes. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lift tomatoes from marinade and arrange on baking sheet, cut side down, reserving marinade for bread. Roast tomatoes until skin is browned and blistered, about 35 minutes. Cool tomatoes on sheet, maintain oven temperature. Meanwhile, arrange bread slices on another rimmed baking sheet. Brush top of each with reserved marinade (including rosemary and garlic), leaving 1-2 tsp oil in bowl. Roast bread until top is golden, about 10 minutes. Cool toasts on sheet. Spread 1-2 tbsp ricotta on each slice of bread, sprinkle with pepper. Place ham on ricotta. Arrange 2 tomato quarters atop ham. Whisk lemon juice with leftover marinade, salt, and pepper, then toss with arugula. Top bruschetta with arugula and serve. (The bruschetta is easier to eat if you put the ham on top but it doesn't look as nice.)

Apple Walnut Waffles

In general, I am not a great advocate for sweet breakfast dishes. However, I love blueberry pancakes and these waffles. I have prepared them several times for visitors and so far, everybody liked them.

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup honey toasted wheat germ
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 cup low-fat milk
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 apple, shredded
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Mix together flours, wheat germ, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together sugar, milk, eggs, oil, and vanilla extract. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir until smooth. Stir in apple and walnut. Let batter rest for 5 minutes before using. Preheat waffle iron on medium setting. Use about 1/3 cup of batter per waffle. Makes about 8 waffles. Serve immediately with maple syrup.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pizza for UncleGrouch

This weekend, UncleGrouch is visiting us while his wife, HappyRed, is going to a reunion at a near-by college. HubbyGrouch is happy to have is brother around to chat and LittleGrouch has someone to play soccer with. And me? Between feeding MissChubbyCheeks and cooking, I actually find some time to work on other projects and relax a little.

Black Olive and Green Pepper Pizza
Salami Pizza with Capers

Preparation and Ingredients:
The recipe for the salami pizza and the pizza dough can be found here.
This time, I also added some capers to the salami pizza.
For the Black Olive and Green Pepper Pizza you'll need (beside the tomato sauce and black pepper):
fresh or dried basil
8-10 black olives, pitted and halved
1/3 to 1/2 of a green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2-3 anchovies, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp parmesan
1/8 onion, finely sliced
6 slices fresh mozzarella

After spreading tomato sauce on the pizza and adding pepper, sprinkle basil and anchovies onto sauce. Add parmesan, olives and onion. Then add mozzarella and green bell pepper on top. Proceed as explained in the basic recipe.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Short Rib Sandwiches with Arugula

I have made this recipe before and it's one of the best sandwiches I've had. The meat is very tender and tasty, the onions contrast that with a slightly acidic note, and the arugula adds a nutty flavor and some crunch. The original recipe is from Bon Appetit ("Grilled Cheese and Short Rib Sandwich with Pickled Caramelized Onions and Arugula").

Short Ribs
5 pounds beef short ribs
2-3 tbsp butter
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup beef broth
1/3 cup medium-dry Sherry
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and quatered
3 bay leaves
1 - 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper

Pickled Caramelized Onions
1 tbsp butter
2 large red onions, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
4 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sugar

Greek-style flatbread, toasted on the outside and halved horizontally
about 12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, sliced
3-4 cups baby arugula

Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a large wide pot over high heat. Brown beef from all sides, set aside. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add celery, carrots, and onion to pot and sauté until beginning to soften and brown, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add wine, broth, Sherry, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a boil, season with salt and pepper. Return meat to pot, arranging the ribs in a single layer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 1 hour. Turn ribs over, cover pot, and simmer until ribs are tender and sauce is very thick, about 1 1/3 hours longer. Uncover, let cool slightly, and transfer beef to a large plate. Discard bay leaves and spoon fat off sauce. Remove meat from bones and trim off excess fat. Pull meat with two forks and return to sauce. Keep warm. In the meantime, prepare the onions. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, sprinkle with salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to soften and brown, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar and cook until almost all vinegar is absorbed, 2-3 minutes. To assembly sandwiches, arrange arugula on bottom half of bread. Top with onions, then beef and cheese. Grill under broiler until cheese is melting. Cover with top half of bread and serve.

Spinach and Citrus Salad with Salmon

Finally, the weather is getting warm and sunny and I am in the salad mood. We often eat salads as a main dish in summer. I like to combine different greens, veggies, fruits (such as nectarine, strawberries, rasperries etc.) with meat, poultry or seafood. Then you add your favorite dressing plus some dried cranberries or such and maybe the nuts of your choice for some extra crunch. Olives, bacon, eggs, avocado, and cheese are other recurring ingredients. I have made a lot of different combinations over the years and there will be a lot appearing on this blog.

6 ounces baby spinach
1 big yellow pepper, cut into 1/4 by 1 inch strips
6 inch piece of cucumber, quatered lengthwise, then cut into slices
2 oranges, cut into fillets
1 pink grapefruit, cut into fillets
4-5 tbsp dried cranberries
4-5 tbsp pine nuts
8-10 slices of bacon, fried and crumbled
1/2 of a small onion, cut into very fine rings
1 pound salmon fillet, cut into bite size pieces
salt, pepper
1-2 tsp olive oil

Citrus-Dill Vinaigrette
3 tbsp orange juice
3 tbsp grapefruit juice
1-2 tbsp dijon mustard
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp vinegar
salt, pepper
1-2 tsp honey
1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped

Divide and arrange the spinach, yellow pepper, cucumber, citrus fillets, cranberries, and pine nuts on four plates. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and fry, turning often, 5-6 minutes. Divide salmon among plates. Then top salad with onion and bacon. Whisk all ingredients for the vinaigrette together. Serve the salad with vinaigrette and bread of your choice.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Carrots and Broccoli

This is gonna be a very short blog entry. I have prepared this dish before and the recipe can be found here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Orange-Marinated Shrimp with Guacamole

What's the buzz in Belchertown? Well, right now "The Good People of Belchertown" are in a very emotional state, politically. Lawn signs keep popping up like mushrooms in front yards all over the town. (I always wonder where they come from. Are there secret meetings where they are being distributed? Also, I have never actually seen someone putting up a sign. As I said - they seem to appear over night.) The whole ruckus started with a dissent over whether or not to renew the contract for the police chief. At this point I have to say again that I have only lived here for four years and still neither fully understand the town politics and organization nor how the "small town mind" works. In short, I am an outsider. But as such, small town life is often rather funny to observe (the current "lawn sign war" for example). Before coming here, I did not have any experiences with lawn signs. I guess Germans don't feel the urge to express themselves in writing in their front yards. With those current goings on, I also had the idea to just drive around town with a map and check off the houses where people have a) lawn signs I don't agree with, b) an American flag, and/or c) a pick-up truck. But as HubbyGrouch pointed out, this "mapping of idiots" would hardly leave anyone for me to talk to, so I abandoned the idea.
Enough of that. Tonight, we had a nice Mexican meal for dinner. It was simple and quick to prepare, with the orangy shrimps and creamy guacamole making a nice combination.

24 large shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 dashes cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika powder
2 tbsp orange juice
finely grated zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper
2 ripe avocados
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/4 fresh green chili, seeded and finely chopped
1-2 tbsp lime juice

Combine the shrimp with the cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika powder, orange juice, zest, oil, and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mash the flesh of the avocados with a fork and mix in onion, chili, lime juice, and season with salt and pepper. Place the shrimp on a parchment lined baking sheet and broil in the oven 2-3 minutes per side. Serve the the guacamole and tortilla chips.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pork with Mozzarella and Prosciutto

This was a nice, quick & easy recipe. It's a variation of the classic Italian "Saltimbocca". This goes definitely on the list of recipes to be repeated.

2 boneless pork chops, 1/2 inch thick
garlic powder
4-6 ounces mozzarella, thinly sliced
salt, pepper
4 slices prosciutto
dried crushed sage
2-3 tbsp butter

Trim excess fat from the meat. Then pound to 1/4 inch thick (or thinner if desired). Cut meat in half. Sprinkle meat with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and sage to taste. Place mozzarella on top of meat slices. Cover with prosciutto, letting it fall into folds. Melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until the meat is tender and the cheese has melted. Serve with a side of pasta or rice.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Baked Avocado with Mushrooms

As I have already mentioned, I do not like mushrooms. That is to say, the taste can be quite nice sometimes but I really detest the spongy texture. So, on rare occasions and when a recipe just sounds very interesting, I do use chopped or pureed mushrooms. This recipe is definitely is one such exception. It's quite simple to prepare and the taste is great. We had one avocado per person with mixed greens as a side. It would also make a nice appetizer if you serve half a small avocado per person.

1 tbsp butter
8 ounces mushrooms of your choice, chopped
4 tsp all-purpose flour
pinch of dry mustard
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
4 ripe avocados
1 egg, separated

Herbed Crumbs
2 tbsp butter
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs
pinch of salt
2 tsp chopped fresh dill
2 tsp chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a small saucepan, melt butter. Add crumbs and cook, stirring, 3-4 minutes or until just beginning to color. Remove from heat and stir in salt, dill, and parsley. Set aside. In another saucepan, melt 1 tbsp butter. Add mushrooms and sauté 2-3 minutes until tender. Stir in flour and mustard, cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and gradually stir in milk. Return to heat and cook, stirring, until thick and smooth. Stir in cheese. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt and pepper. Halve and pit avocados. Scoop out some flesh, leaving a 1/2 inch thick shell. Coarsely chop flesh and add to sauce. Stir in egg yolk. Whisk egg white until stiff, fold into sauce. Fill avocado halves and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with crumbs and bake about 20-25 minutes or until hot. Serve immediately with a side salad.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Apricot Pilaf with Lamb Meatballs

This dish has a very interesting combination of flavors. The apricots are sweet and slightly sour, the pine nuts give a nice crunch, and then there is the typical strong flavor of the lamb meatballs.

2/3 cup chopped dried apricots
4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp dried minced garlic
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
2 1/2 cups beef broth
salt and pepper
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 pound lean ground lamb
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
1 egg
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 tbsp parsley, chopped

Cover apricots with boiling water and let soak 1 hour, drain well. Heat 2 tbsp oil, add onion and fry until softened. Add allspice, garlic, and rice and fry, stirring often, 1-2 minutes. Add broth, bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper, reduce heat, cover and simmer until liquid has been absorbed. Meanwhile, soak bread crumbs in 1/2 cup water for 5 minutes, squeeze dry. Add lamb, tomato paste, cumin, egg, about 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Mix together thoroughly. With dampened hands, roll into 1 1/2 inch balls. Heat remaining oil, add pine nuts and fry, turning constantly, until golden brown. Remove from pan. Add meatballs to pan and fry quickly 5-8 minutes, until golden all over. Meanwhile, add apricots, pine nuts, and parsley to cooked rice, cover and heat through. Fluff rice, arrange on plates and top with meatballs.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Vegetable Quiche

I had wanted to take a short cut with the dough for this recipe and just use ready-to-use pie crust. But although I had taken the package out of the freezer the night before, it had not completely thawed. When I tried to unroll it, it broke and so I had to do the crust from scratch. Normally, that wouldn't have been a problem except that both kids decided to go crazy and demanding in the middle of all that. Well, just one of those days when preparing dinner ends up being absolutely rushed and un-enjoyable. I did get the quiche in the oven at the end, later than I wanted to of course, but we enjoyed eating it. Even LittleGrouch ate a piece but only because he wanted a chocolate cookie for dessert.
You can of course use the vegetables and cheese of your choice for this quiche.

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg
4 tbsp milk
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 bunches scallions, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
7 oz Gruyère cheese, grated
7 oz heavy cream
4 large eggs
1-2 tbsp snipped chives

Place all ingredients for crust in a food processor, using 2 dashes of salt. Pulse a few times to blend ingredients together. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in refrigerator for 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll dough out thin and place into 9 or 10 inch quiche form (or use about 10 individual 4-inch tartelet forms) , covering the sides and cutting off excess dough. Prick with fork.  Mix all vegetables and place on crust. Sprinkle with chives, then cheese. Whisk together eggs and cream. Season well salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour over cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes, then serve with mixed greens.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Turkey and Filo Roulade

Working with filo dough can be rather tricky as I experienced on former occasions. This time, therefore, I tried not to hurry and to be very careful. Well, it was easier than I had thought. Well, I guess I'll try something more complicated with filo dough soon.

10 thin turkey cutlets
salt and pepper
10 small smoked ham slices
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
3-4 oz gorgonzola cheese
10 sheets filo dough (9" x 13" each)
2-3 tbsp butter, melted

1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 oz gorgonzola cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/3 cup half and half
2 tbsp snipped chives
salt and pepper

Season each turkey cutlet with salt and pepper, place one slice of ham on top. Then sprinkle with walnuts and divide cheese among cutlets. Roll up loosely like a jellyroll, set aside. Preheat oven to 375°F. Take one filo dough rectangle and brush with butter. Put a turkey roulade at the lower end. Roll up from the short side, folding in pastry at sides. Repeat with remaining turkey and pastry. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush all over with butter, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until crisp and golden. To make sauce combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Heat gently, stirring frequently. Serve turkey roulades with sauce and mixed greens.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fettuccine with Creamy Orange Sauce and Prosciutto

This simple and fast pasta dish has a great flavor! The sauce is creamy but not heavy, the orange flavor is just the right strength. I will absolutely repeat this recipe. Maybe nuts would be I nice addition to the sauce to give it an extra crunch. I try to keep that in mind for next time.
P.S.: I found the recipe for this dish in Bon Appetit ("Tagliatelle with Prosciutto and Orange").

12 oz Fettuccine
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 1 inch pieces
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 finely grated parmesan

Cook the pasta in salted water until 1 minute before al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Add reserved pasta water, orange juice, zest, cream, parmesan, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low. Add pasta, cook, stirring, until sauce coats pasta and thickens, about 3-4 minutes. Season to taste with more salt, pepper, and parmesan if desired.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Beer-Braised Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Tomato Sauce

Give HubbyGrouch some meat in a sandwich (without veggies) and he is happy! When I saw this recipe for "Chile-Braised Pork Shoulder Tacos" in Bon Appetit, I just had to try it out. The preparation is easy, it's enough for 2-3 meals - what more can you ask. I used a lot less chile than the original recipe, though. HubbyGrouch doesn't eat very spicy and I don't like food that is so hot that you can't taste any other flavor. I also used thick Greek-Style flatbread instead of tacos. It's one of my favorite breads, great for sandwiches and BBQ meats. We loved this recipe (even LittleGrouch!), and it was even more flavorful the next day.

2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp lime juice
1/4 - 1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper
3 pound pork roast (I used pork loin roast)
black pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 bottle (12 oz) dark beer

Tomato Sauce
2-3 tsp prepared salsa (not chunky, medium hot)
1 can diced tomatoes, pureed
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika powder
cayenne pepper
2-3 tbsp tomato ketchup

Greek-style flatbread for serving

Whisk together sugar, lime juice and red pepper. Preheat oven to 350°F. Season meat with pepper and generously with salt. Heat oil in an oven-proof pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, coriander, cumin, and allspice. Cook until onion is soft, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Add beer, bring to a boil. Add pork to pot. Spread lime juice mix over pork, cover and transfer to oven. Braise pork, basting occasionally with pan juices, until very tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Transfer pork to a large platter. Let cool slightly, then shred with two forks. Transfer back into pot, mix well with pan juices, season to taste with salt. For the tomato sauce, bring  salsa, tomatoes, onion powder, paprika powder, salt, and cayenne pepper to a boil over low heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in ketchup and season to taste with vinegar and salt. Serve meat and tomato sauce on bread.