Thursday, June 30, 2011

Farfalle with Shrimp and Red Bell Pepper

This dish is my take on a recipe posted on the blog Gourmet Fashion. It's a light, quick and easy summer dish for busy days when you don't have a lot of time to prepare dinner.

10 ounces Farfalle pasta
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch by 2 inch strips
25 raw medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, halved
2 garlic cloves, smashed
3 large plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
black pepper
2-3 tbsp fresh basil, cut into thin strips

Cook pasta as instructed. In a large skilled, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet, set aside. In the same skillet and same oil, cook shrimp until just opaque in center. Remove from skillet, set aside. Add tomatoes and garlic to pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes until garlic softens. Add bell pepper and shrimp. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes, add basil. Serve with pasta.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chicken Strawberry Salad

Here is another great summer salad. Lots of fruit, chicken, and easy to prepare.

Ingredients (for 2 servings):
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper
1/2 small iceberg lettuce, cut into 1 inch squares
300 g strawberries, quartered
1 14-ounce can apricots (or fresh apricots), quartered
1  10-cm (4 inches) piece cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced
100 g (3-4 ounces) greek yogurt
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp pickled green pepper (or fresh black pepper)
1 dash sugar

Whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, (green) pepper, salt, and sugar. Arrange lettuce, fruits, and cucumber on plates. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring often, until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange chicken on salad and serve with dressing and bread, if desired.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Family Recipe: Potatoes with Yogurt Dill Dip (Kartoffeln mit Joghurt-Dill-Sauce)

I love potatoes. And during summer, I love to eat them with a cold yogurt-based dip. It takes only minutes to prepare and is simply delicious. I have to admit though, that HubbyGrouch doesn't like it. So he got to eat beef fajitas instead. Instead of boiling the potatoes, you could of course serve the dip with baked potatoes but I don't like to use the oven in hot weather.

375 g (1 1/2 cups) low-fat yogurt
125 g (1/2 cup) light sour cream
2-3 garlic cloves, mashed
1-2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
black pepper
750 g (1 1/2 pound) baby white potatoes

Mix together yogurt, sour cream, garlic, and dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours before serving. Boil potatoes about 25 minutes. Peel potatoes and serve with the dip.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Broiled Mahi-Mahi with Mango-Avocado Salsa

This is a nice, simple, and light summer dish. It's another one of Gwyneth Paltrow's recipes from Bon Appetit ("Grilled Halibut with Mango-Avocado Salsa"). I have tried a few of her recipes and this one is the best, so far. I didn't want to light up the grill for just two pieces of fish, so I put them under the broiler.

1 medium ripe avocado, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 medium mango, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tbsp thinly sliced basil leaves
olive oil
3-4 tbsp lime juice
black pepper
2 mahi-mahi fillets

Gently combine the avocado, mango, tomatoes, basil, 1 tbsp oil, and 2 tbsp lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside at room temperature. Drizzle 1-2 tbsp oil and 1-2 tbsp lime juice over the fish. Season with salt and pepper. Let marinate at room temperature for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Place a broiler rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place fish on rack and broil, 6 inches away from heat, for 3-5 minutes per side. Serve with salsa and rice.

Meal Plan for June 27 - July 1, 2011

Monday: Broiled Mahi-Mahi with Mango Avocado Salsa

Tuesday: Potatoes with Yogurt-Dill-Dip
               Simple Beef Tortillas
Wednesday: Strawberry Chicken Salad

Thursday: Farfalle with Shrimp and Red Bell Pepper

Friday: Rabbit Stew
            Raspberry Kiwi Cake

Go to Menu Plan Monday to check out lots of other meal plans and ideas for this week's dinners.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pizza Once More

"Luckily", we had some cooler days here, so I jumped at the chance to use the oven once more before closing it down for the summer. The recipes for the pizzas can be found here.

Feta Olive and Rosemary Pizza
Salami Capers Pizza

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Slow-Roasted Tomato and Sardine Oreganata Pasta

This is a slight variation of a recipe from Bon Appetit ("Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Oreganata Pasta"). It was a nice dish. I used sardines instead of anchovies because they don't have such a strong taste. I must also say that the roasted tomatoes were too sweet for my taste. I think, I prefer to roast the tomatoes at a higher temperature for a shorter time, so they won't get as sweet. Also, I used a short pasta instead of spaghetti. I think, spaghetti are often used in recipes just because you can arrange for a nice picture or the dish, but they are not practical for the sauce of that dish. Spaghetti mostly suited for a smooth sauce; chunky sauces are better with short pasta.

4 cups of cherry tomatoes
olive oil
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
fresh black pepper
16 sardines (canned, in oil)
10-12 ounces short pasta
2 garlic cloves, smashed

Preheat oven to 200F. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil, add 2 cups of tomatoes. Stir in 1-2 tbsp olive oil and some salt. Roast for 4 1/2 hours. Set aside. Increase oven temperature to 400F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay sardines 1/4 inch apart on baking sheet. Mix together breadcrumbs and herbs, season with salt and pepper. Mix in 1 tbsp olive oil until mixture resembles wet sand. Pack mixture over sardines. Drizzle with 1 tbsp oil. Bake until golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Set aside. Cook pasta according to instructions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Meanwhile, place remaining tomatoes in a bowl and crush with your hands. Heat 2-3 tbsp oil over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and a little bit of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until juices thicken, 8-10 minutes. Add roasted tomatoes. Add drained pasta and toss to coat, adding reserved cooking liquid as needed. Remove from heat. Serve pasta topped with sardines.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pot Roast with Gravy

Today, I had two kitchen helpers to prepare the sides for dinner. Unfortunately, they only helped for 5-10 minutes, but that's a start and I took some cute pictures. I am starting to like my slow cooker. It's so very convenient. Although I would probably appreciate it more if I were working. I sometimes get somewhat impatient because I can check on how the food is doing in the slow cooker during the day. This recipe is from the Taste of Home webpage. It turned out very tender and tasty. That one's a keeper. Note: I doubled the amount of sauce from the original recipe to cover the meat fully in my 6-qt slow cooker. You might not need that much if your crockpot is of a smaller size.

1  3-pound beef bottom round roast
4-6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
garlic powder
black pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
4 bay leaves
1 large onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tbsp beef bouillon granules
1 cup boiling water
2 cans (10 ounces each) condensed cream of mushroom soup (undiluted)

Cut roast in half horizontally. Rub with 2 tbsp vinegar, then sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, pepper on all sides. Heat oil in a skillet over high heat. Brown meat on all sides, then transfer to a slow cooker. Place garlic, bay leaves, and onion on top of meat. Dissolve bouillon granules in the boiling water, stir in soup and remaining vinegar. Pour sauce slowly over meat. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or until meat is tender. Remove from pot, keep warm. Discard bay leaves. If sauce is too thin, whisk some cornstarch into cold water, add to sauce. Cook over high for 15 minutes or until gravy is thickened. Slice roast, return to slow cooker and heat through. Serve with a side of vegetables and spaetzle pasta or boiled potatoes.

HubbyGrouch and LittleGrouch adding oil to the pasta water.
HubbyGrouch and LittleGrouch peeling carrots.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ratatouille (French Vegetable Stew)

We made good use of the great weather yesterday by going for a stroll and drive at Mount Tom State Reservation. We only got two mosquito bites each, not too bad. Which brings me to one of two little oddities that I encountered during the last 24 hours. There have been a lot of complaints lately about the rising and too high gas prices. But yesterday, lots of people were having a picnic in the park and one group got their musical entertainment from a large pick-up truck with the engine running while the radio was turned on. So, I guess the gas prices are not too high after all. The second thing happened during my grocery shopping trip. A senior citizen was admiring MissChubbyCheeks. He told me that he had 13 children and 42 grandchildren. Then he said: "But I don't live here. I'm from Arizona." He made it sound like that was a self-sufficient explanation for such a large-size family. Normally, I would think such an explanation rather strange, but hey, we've heard a lot of strange things from Arizona lately, legislation-wise, I mean. So maybe they have a special law that requires white/caucasian Americans in that state to make reasonable efforts to outgrow the (illegal) hispanic population.

1 large eggplant, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/3 inch thick slices
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
125 ml (1/4) cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp sugar
black pepper
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
100 ml (6 tbsp) red wine

Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until golden brown. Add eggplant slices and fry until golden brown. Remove from pan. Add zucchini and garlic to skillet and cook until golden brown. Put eggplant back into pan, sprinkle with sugar, black pepper and salt. Add vinegar, then tomatoes and wine. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with rice or baguette.

Meal Plan for June 18 - 24, 2011

                Grapefruit Tarte

Sunday: Leftovers

Monday: Ratatouille and Rice

Tuesday: Pot Roast with Gravy (slow cooker)

Wednesday: Leftovers

Friday: Homemade Pizza

Go to Menu Plan Monday to check out lots of other meal plans and ideas for this week's dinners.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Grapefruit Tarte

What to make for dessert when you can neither use milk products nor any kind of red fruit/berries? I'm sure there are a lot of options if you have the time to think about it. I didn't have much time to come up with something, though. But luckily, I had recently looked through desserts that I had prepared at one time or other, and I remembered seeing this tarte. It is very refreshing when eaten fridge-cold. The next day, I tried a piece with some whipped cream and that was even better.

150 g (1 1/3 stick) unsalted soft butter or margarine
90 g (1/2 cup minus 2 tsp) sugar
3-4 dashes of salt
4 egg yolks
1 tsp lemon zest
300 g (2 cups plus 2 tbsp) flour
6 pink grapefruits (300 g each)
150 g (5 ounces) apricot jam or preserves

for glaze:
100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
12-15 grams (1/2 ounce) pectin

Mix together butter, sugar, salt, egg yolks, lemon zest, and flour until you get a smooth dough. Lightly butter a 12-inch tarte form. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough about 1 inch wider than the form. Line form with dough, press dough well against rim, and trim edges. Prick dough with a fork all along the bottom, then refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 360F. Bake pie crust for about 35 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the grapefruits into fillets, reserve juice. Keep the fillets in a strainer to drain them well. In a small saucepan, boil apricot jam for 3-4 minutes, then spread onto hot pie crust. Place grapefruit fillets in a circular fashion and slightly overlapping on pie crust. Let tarte cool completely. In a small saucepan, bring 150 ml (1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp) grapefruit juice with 100 g sugar and 12-15 g pectin to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes, let cool, stirring, over a water bath, until beginning to gel. Spread over grapefruit fillets. Let set completely. Serve tarte with whipped cream, if desired.

(This post is linked to Fusion Fridays)

Crockpot Pork Roast Dinner

We had company this weekend and I had planned to make one of my favorite oven pork roasts. However, the weather was too hot to use the oven, so I did a slow cooker recipe instead. While HubbyGrouch and LittleGrouch took our guest to the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls and to Mount Sugarloaf, MissChubbyCheeks and I were on kitchen and house cleaning duty. I found this recipe at It turned out ok, although not as good as the intended oven roast would have been. Also, because of the last minute change of recipe, I got the slow cooker started too late. I tried 5 hours on the high setting, but that wasn't enough. The potatoes and carrots were still too hard. So I just put everything in a regular pot and cooked it on the stove-top for 20 minutes to finish the dish.

1 pound baby white potatoes, halved or quartered
1 pound carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 pounds boneless pork loin roast, trimmed of fat
4-6 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups beef broth

Place potatoes and carrots around bottom edge of a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Place onion and garlic in bottom of slow cooker. Combine mustard, herbs, salt, and pepper. Spread over pork roast. Place roast on top of onion and pour broth over all. Cover slow cooker and cook on low for 8-9 hours until pork is 150F and vegetables are tender. Remove pork and vegetables to serving platter. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. To thicken pan juices, mix 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch with 3 tbsp water. Add to slow cooker and cook on high for 10-15 minutes until thickened.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Greek Salad with Gyro-Style Pork

This is an easy recipe for a busy day. I like the taste of the gyro seasoning, and I use the pan juices as dressing for the salad.

Two 1/2 inch thick pork chops, cut into 1 inch wide strips
1-2 tsp gyro seasoning
2-3 tsp olive oil
iceberg lettuce, cut into bite size pieces
5-6 cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
6 black olives, halved lengthwise
2.5 inch piece of cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced
crumbled feta cheese

Whisk together gyro seasoning and oil. Add pork and toss to coat. Let meat marinate on the counter while you prepare the salad. Spread lettuce on a dinner plate, top with cucumber, tomatoes, olives, and cheese. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add meat and stir-fry for about 3-5 minutes, until cooked through. Serve meat on the salad.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shrimp Saganaki

This is another favorite recipe. It's adapted from Food & Wine ("Shrimp Saganaki"). It's quick and easy and has a great taste. And be sure to serve it with some bread to dip into the yummy pan juices. I served it with homemade artisan bread. The recipe can be found here. Artisan bread is a little project I started to work on a few day ago. I will post about that later as I am doing a series of experiments to get the best result. The starting point of these was the recipe for today's bread.

2 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
black pepper
24 medium shrimp, shelled, peeled, and deveined, (optional: halved lengthwise)
12 kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
crusty bread for serving

Heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook until softened, crushing them with the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and olives and cook until the shrimp are cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Stir in the dill and feta cheese, and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Serve with the bread.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rotini Pasta with Broccoli

This is one of my favorite pasta recipes and one of the few dishes where I actually enjoy the broccoli. There are lots of variations of this classic pasta dish. I have tried three or four different ones, but this is my favorite.

500 g broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
350 g (3/4 pound) rotini pasta
5-6 tbsp olive oil
6 anchovy fillets
6 medium cloves garlic, pressed
2-3 dashes crushed red pepper
black pepper

Cook the broccoli in lightly salted water until soft, about 10 minutes, drain. Prepare the pasta according to instructions, drain. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan or skillet, heat the oil over low heat. Add anchovies, garlic, red pepper, and season to taste with black pepper. Heat through for 15 minutes. The anchovies will dissolve, and the flavors melt. Toss hot, drained pasta with anchovy-garlic-oil, then fold in broccoli and serve.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Egg Nog Cherry Bundt Cake

Tina from Flourtrader's recent post for her Amaretto Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake reminded me that I had wanted to try this recipe for a long time. I still had Egg Nog liquor and frozen tart cherries, so no excuse for further delay. The cake turned out moist and juicy, yet with a firm texture. In one word: luscious. The dough is rather liquid when you pour it into the form, but don't add more flour! It will turn out just fine. Also, because the dough is quite fluid, it is very important to mix the cherries with flour, so they slide all the way to the bottom of the cake form.

1 jar (720 ml / 24 ounces) tart cherries, drained
225 g (1 2/3 cups) flour
1 tbsp baking powder
200 g (1 1/2 cups) confectioners' sugar
1 package vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
5 large eggs
200 ml (5/6 cup) vegetable oil
200 ml (5/6 cup) Egg Nog liquor
75 g (2 1/2 ounces) dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F). Take 3 tbsp of the flour and put aside. Mix together remaining flour, baking powder, sugar, and vanilla sugar. Bit by bit, add eggs, oil, and Egg Nog. Pat cherries dry and mix with 3 tbsp flour. Fold into batter. Pour batter into a prepared 2.5 liter (2.5 qt) bundt mold (Wipe form with butter or spray with cooking spray, then pour in1/2 bread crumbs and swirl to coat mold.) Bake cake for 60 minutes. Eventually cover with aluminum foil after 45 minutes. Let cake cool in the mold for 15-20 minutes, then turn onto a cooling rack and let cool completely. Melt chocolate and pour over or brush onto cake.

Spelt Flour Bread from the Breadmachine

Today, I felt like baking some bread. Recently, I mainly used my bread machine for making pizza dough but I thought it was time to use it again for its original purpose. The total amount of flour for this bread is 540 g (4 cups). The amounts of white and whole grain spelt flour can be changed according to preference.

Ingredients (for one 2-pound loaf):
360 ml (1 2/3 cups) lukewarm water
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
360 g (2 2/3 cups) white spelt flour
180 g (1 1/3 cups) whole grain spelt flour
2 tsp active dry yeast

Place all ingredients in the above order in the bread pan of your bread machine. Choose the 2-pound loaf setting for white bread.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sweet and Saucy Ribs

Today, I made my first-ever slow cooker dish. I found the recipe on It was - like most slow cooker recipes I have seen - very easy to prepare. The ribs were very tender and had a nice flavor. So, while they were simmering away all day long, we went to the Springfield Science Museum. We had never been there and were very positively surprised. LittleGrouch loved the animal displays and fish tanks. We'll definitely go again.

4 pounds pork baby back ribs
2 tsp ground black pepper
5 cups BBQ sauce (not mesquite flavored)
2 jars (8 oz each) cherry jam or preserves
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
Additional salt and black pepper

Trim excess fat from ribs. Rub 2 tsp pepper over ribs. Cut ribs into portions and place into slow cooker. Combine BBQ sauce, jam, mustard and 1/2 tsp salt. Pour over ribs. (The ribs should be covered with sauce.) Cover, cook on low for 8-9 hours or until ribs are tender. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Serve ribs with sauce and a side salad.

(This recipe is linked to Tastetastic Thursday)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Family Recipe: Soft-boiled Eggs with Mustard Sauce and Lemony Carrot Salad (Eier in Senfsoße)

I decided to include more childhood dishes and German food into my meal plan. Today's dinner was always a favorite of mine. I already mentioned that I am a sauce junkie, and mustard sauce is just great. Yes, American people, you heard correctly. Mustard can be so much more than just a condiment for your hot dog. I actually have a whole cookbook with recipes that use mustard. At home, we usually had mashed potatoes or boiled potatoes with this dish. If I had had more time, I there would have been homemade mashed potatoes. But today, the instant ones had to suffice. The mustard sauce also goes well with vegetables, fish, and meat. Unfortunately, when I was finally ready to take some pictures of dinner, the battery of the camera died. So the picture you see here is all I could manage. I should probably also mention that HubbyGrouch refuses to eat this dish for two reasons: First, he doesn't like egg dishes for dinner. For him, eggs are very much a breakfast "thing". Second, he doesn't particularly like this dish. LittleGrouch wasn't terribly keen on it this time, either. I guess this might become a dish for the days when there are only enough leftovers for one person.

1-2 large eggs per person
1 package instant mashed potatoes

20 g (1 1/2 tbsp) butter
20 g (2 1/2 tbsp) flour
300 ml (1 1/4 cup) broth of your choice
200 ml (5/6 cup) milk
1 tbsp medium mustard
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Carrot Salad
4-5 large carrots, grated
juice of 1 lemon

Toss together grated carrot and lemon juice. Season to taste with sugar, set aside. To prepare the sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in flour, whisking constantly. Continure whisking for about 2 minutes. Mix broth and milk, heat, then slowly add to flour, stirring constantly. Continue stirring and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute until thickened, remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm. Prepare mashed potatoes as directed. Boil eggs to desired softness (about 3 1/2 minutes, depending on size). Peel the eggs and serve together with mashed potatoes, sauce, and salad.

Meal Plan for June 11 - 17, 2011

I have been thinking for some time whether I should by a slow cooker or not. I was trying to figure out what I would cook, if slow cooker dishes would fit into my meal plan etc. With the weather getting hot, I figured a slow cooker would be rather practical: I could just plug it in outside and not have to heat the kitchen. For the same reason, I bought a 2-plate burner last summer. So, this week's meal plan features my first-ever slow cooker dinner!

Saturday: Soft-boiled Eggs with Mustard Sauce and Lemony Carrot Salad

Sunday: Sweet and Saucy Ribs (Slow Cooker)

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: Rotini Pasta with Broccoli

Wednesday: Shrimp Saganaki

Thursday: Chicken Strawberry Salad

Friday: Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Oreganata Pasta

Go to Menu Plan Monday to check out lots of other meal plans and ideas for this week's dinners.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Friday, June 10, 2011

Leftover Tortillas

Something I find really disgusting in this area, is the amount of roadkill in the streets. It's mostly squirrels but quite often skunks, possums, sometimes even a raccoon. They are usually in the street, of course, but once I almost stepped on a dead squirrel on the sidewalk. Incredible as it sounds, that one wasn't actually roadkill, it looked like it had died a natural death. I usually manage to avoid hitting a living animal when I see them, but sometimes they seem to be rather suicidal. In four years, my contribution to the roadkill numbers comes up to two animals. One squirrel which, after sitting on the marker line in the middle of the road, decided at the last moment to cross the lane I was driving on. The second was a chipmunk who one second too late decided to cross the street before I was passing it. Does this talk about roadkill make your mouth water? Certainly not mine. This is just an aspect of New England life that I wanted to send out into the ether. Maybe this was inspired by the fact that the meat part of our leftover tortillas looked like mashed roadkill. (The taste was perfectly fine. In fact, HubbyGrouch liked it better today than in the original dish yesterday.)

I sliced the leftover meat from yesterday and mixed it with the remaining sauce and some extra tomato salsa. I had tortillas in the fridge and an avocado (which I sliced also). I didn't have sour cream, so I mixed equal parts of plain yogurt and ricotta, and seasoned it with lemon juice and salt. I heated the meat in the microwave. To assemble the tortillas, I spread a little yogurt mix, topped it with meat and then avocado. Then you roll it up and eat it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Russia/Georgia/Ukraine: Pork with Spicy Red Wine Marinade

Today's recipe is from the "Dacha Grilling Party" article in the June issue of Food & Wine. I was going to prepare the "Pork Shashlik with Spicy Red Wine Marinade" with the suggested side of "Spicy Plum Sauce". I love plums and prunes and I know they go really well with pork. But alas, it was not going to happen. The store had neither fresh nor frozen plums of any kind. I remembered two days ago when the same thing happened with peaches. I was tempted to pull the baby food stunt again but then I had another idea. The marinade used in the recipe is basically being discarded. Well, why waste perfectly good food? So, I made a dip sauce from the marinade. I also knew I wasn't going to light a grill for a few shashliks and had decided to use my sandwich grill again. I ended up pan-frying the meat instead (I didn't look forward to cleaning the grill). I had also overlooked that the meat was supposed to marinate over night, so I ended up marinating it for only 6 hours. What I liked about preparing the marinade, was grating the tomato. I had never come across a recipe that required it (grated the onion was much less enjoyable). I served the dish with a side of fried summer squash strips, inspired by another recipe in the same issue of the magazine "Spinach Fettuccine with Tangy Grilled Summer Squash".

4 garlic cloves, mashed
3 plum tomatoes, coarsely grated
1 medium onion, coarsely grated
1 cup dry red wine
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika powder
1.5 pounds trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch thick schnitzel
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper
3-4 tbsp ketchup

Pan-fried Summer Squash
3 medium summer squash, sliced lengthwise1/8 inch thick
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, mashed
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped tarragon

Combine the garlic, tomatoes, onion, wine, cilantro, red pepper, oregano, and paprika powder. Add the pork and toss thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours (better overnight). Sprinkle the squash slices with salt and let sit in a colander for 1 hour. Heat oil in a pan over high heat. Add squash and cook, stirring, until starting to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Season with pepper, garlic, and lemon juice and cook until flavors develop, about 1 minutes longer. Set aside. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper, add to the skillet, and cook until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side. Pour the marinade into a small saucepan, salt lightly, and boil over medium-high heat until sauce thickens, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in ketchup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve pork with sauce and summer squash.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Couscous Salad with Herbs and Chickpeas

As I mentioned a few days ago, I was trying to improve the appeal and quality of my pictures. One simple thing I had noticed on other food blogs and photographs of food in general, that a light (white) background and dish make a better contrast to the colors of the food. So, instead of continuing with my beloved black plates, I bought some (cheap) white plates to try it out. In addition, as a non-professional, mommy-fied solution, I placed 1-2 white card board around the plate and shone a reading lamp (clipped to a kitchen cabinet) onto them. Voilà, my easy-setup-and-take-down photo shoot. I am pretty satisfied with the results so far but I will of course continue with improvements.

Now for today's recipe. This is a great summer dish that I prepared once or twice last year. It's quick and easy, can be done in advance, you can eat it chilled, at room temperature, lukewarm - whatever you like best. The herbs and lemon juice give it a taste of summer. You can use the chickpeas directly from the can (you should drain them, of course) but I find them too hard. I usually cook them for about 15 minutes with their own liquid, then drain them and let them cool. I didn't use the pickles lemon because I can't find them in this area (and as I hardly use them it wouldn't be worthwhile to make them myself or order them online).

10 ounces Couscous
1 15-ounce can chickpeas
3 ripe plum tomatoes, diced
1/2 red onion, minced
2 tbsp fresh, minced mint
3 tbsp fresh, minced cilantro
2 tbsp fresh, minced flat parsley
2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp pickles lemon (optional)
salt and black pepper

Prepare the couscous as directed on the package. Optional: Cook the chickpeas for 15 minutes to soften them. Toss together chickpeas, tomatoes, onion, herbs, 2 tbsp lime juice, oil and about 3/4 of the couscous. Add pickled lemon and more couscous if desired. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve at preferred temperature.

(From:"Frische Küche", ISBN 3-89836-371-6)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Grilled Chicken with Peach-Ketchup Marinade and Simple Tomato Salad

Both, Bon Appetit and Food & Wine recently had articles promoting Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook. I am always somewhat skeptical when some celebrity "writes" a cookbook. I think very often they just give their name and pose for some pictures. In this case however, I tend to be persuaded that she really is a "foodie" (I don't really like this silly expression but, well, it's out there and widely used so I might as well use it, too.) and can cook. I like the style of her recipes, and I have quite a few on my list to try out. So, for today I had "Grilled Chicken with Peach BBQ Sauce" from Bon Appetit on my meal plan. I think I already mentioned that I hardly ever follow a recipe to the letter. I probably did when I first started cooking but now, there is usually something I change. This recipe called for fresh or frozen peaches. They should be easy to find, right? Wrong! The store I went to (a big store, mind) had fresh peaches that were not even close to being ripe, and they didn't have frozen ones. What to do? It was already late afternoon and I didn't have time to go elsewhere. LittleGrouch and MissChubbyCheeks were getting fussy and I was stressed out. But then: the light bulb above my head! The peaches needed to be cooked and then pureed for the marinade. Well, why not take BABY FOOD peach puree? That was the ultimate mommy-fication of the recipe. I could just whisk together the sauce and heat it in the microwave to blend the flavors, and save quite a bit of time. (I briefly thought about canned peaches as well, but they often have sugar added and I would still have to puree them.) How would that compare to the "real and intended" flavor of the recipe? If I am ever going to find out, I'll post it. We did end up enjoying the dinner of grilled (in a panini grill) chicken. It is a quick and simple summer dish. I served it with a simple tomato salad and no carbs. The grilling was another issue. I didn't want to fire up the charcoal grill for a few chicken breasts. I don't have a grilling pan or an electric indoor grill. When I looked at small electric table-top grills, it occurred to me that they looked just like my panini grill. Et voilà, that's what I was gonna use instead of buying another kitchen gadget. Let me tell you, it worked just fine! Even LittleGrouch who, until now, never liked chicken, ate 1 1/2 grilled chicken tenders.

10 ounces baby food peach puree
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/2 tsp liquid from jarred jalapeños
salt and pepper
10 boneless chicken tenders (about 1 pound)
vegetable oil

Simple Tomato Salad
4 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 shallot, minced
2 tbsp parsley, minced
1-2 tbsp vinegar
3-4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Combine peach puree, ketchup, garlic, lime juice, garlic and chili liquid in a microwave save bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat in the microwave until bubbling and flavors are coming together, about 4 minutes at 800 W. Let cool. Marinate the chicken in half the sauce for 30 minutes at room temperature. Prepare grill, brush grill rack with oil. Grill chicken until browned and almost cooked through, 1-2 minutes per side. Baste with marinade and grill until cooked through, another 1-2 minutes. For the salad, combine all ingredients, season to taste with salt and pepper, and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes or until chicken is ready.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Last Stop Before Summer: Pizza!

It's getting hotter and more humid every day. Oh, those New England Summers. Our house is situated in close proximity to wet lands. This means that as soon as the snow melts, the mosquitos are coming out. I would love to have my meals outside on the deck but here is the dilemma. Well, ok, around breakfast time the mosquitos are not out, so that is the only possibility for eating outside. Otherwise I would have to use a repellant spray (which I hate to do), or use some kind of candles or torches (which is not really an option with a three-year old running wild, or just live with the bites. I guess I could get a huge mosquito net installed around the deck but again, with a toddler running in and out of an enclosed area, the mosquitos would probably get in there anyway. Enough of the complaints. Today was probably the last chance this summer to have pizza, and so we did.

Pizza with Ham, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, and Orange Bell Pepper (left)
 and Pizza with Salami, Olives, and Mozzarella (right)
 The recipe for the Salami Pizza can be found here. I use whichever kind of olives I have in my fridge (black, green, stuffed, plain....). To see the recipe for the Ham Gorgonzola Pizza, click here. Today, I added 2-3 slices fresh Mozzarella as well, instead of just topping the pizza with gorgonzola.

Pizza with Salami and Olives
Pizza with Ham, Bell Pepper and Gorgonzola

Meal Plan for June 5 - 10, 2011

I usually make my meal plan on Fridays and do the shopping on Saturdays. It often happens that one recipe gets pushed over to the next weekend because we have a leftover night. But this is this week's plan:

Sunday: Spaghettini with Olive Oil and Lemon

Monday: Pizza (Salami Olive Pizza and Ham Gorgonzola Bell Pepper Pizza)

Tuesday: Grilled Chicken with Peach BBQ Sauce

Wednesday: Couscous Salad with Chickpeas and Herbs

Thursday: Pork Shashlik with Spicy Red Wine Marinade and Spicy Plum Sauce

Friday: Grilled Halibut with Mango-Avocado Salsa

Click on the image to go to the Menu Plan Monday website.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Spaghettini with Olive Oil and Lemon

I recently joined and have since been checking out a lot of other food blogs. It's just incredible how many of those are out there, how many different cooking and recipe exchange web resources. It's a lot of fun to look at them. When I started my blog, it was basically to keep an online dinner diary with a picture of what we eat on a daily basis. However, after seeing so many nice food presentation photos in other blogs, I feel compelled to improve my picture-taking. I don't know how I can fit that into my busy enough schedule, though. I also like to eat when dinner is ready and hot, and not spend time taking the perfect shot of my plate. Plus, LittleGrouch would probably all over the setup.

Okay, today we had a very simple pasta dish. A few ingredients, lots of summer-ish lemony flavor - that's it. Not a culinary revelation but a nice eat.

1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely minced
1 cup flat parsley, minced
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
pound spaghettini
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and parsley, and cook for about 3 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Add lemon juice and zest, and cook for another 1-2 minutes. In the meantime, cook pasta al dente and drain. Reheat parsley-lemon mix slowly, whisk in egg yolks and immediately add the pasta. Toss well, then incorporate parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with additional parmesan and pepper if desired.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Refreshing Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

There is nothing (or at least not much) better than freshly picked strawberries from your own garden. Three years ago, I bought 12 strawberry plants and they just keep multiplying. In another three years, my whole vegetable patch will probably have turned into a strawberry field. These little (or sometimes not so little) red cones in a way represent the beginning of summer after about 4-5 months of winter and about 1 month of spring. As today was HubbyGrouch's birthday, I made this yummy yummy yummy strawberry cake. I had tried the recipe once, about 1 1/2 years ago for LittleGrouch's birthday (which is in November). We really enjoyed the cake then, but really good strawberries made it even better. It was a warm day, I did some gardening in the sun blah blah blah. What I am getting at is that that's my excuse for having two pieces of this refreshing treat and I am looking forward to eating another one (or two) tomorrow.

3 large eggs, separated
2/3 cups sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar
1 dash salt
zest and juice of one lemon
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup corn starch
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 envelopes gelatine
2 cups plus 2 tbsp buttermilk
1 pound strawberries
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
chocolate sprinkles or mini chocolate drops or chopped nuts for decorating

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whip egg whites until stiff. Slowly add 1/3 cup sugar, vanilla sugar and salt. Carefully mix in egg yolks and lemon zest. Mix together flour, starch and baking powder, and carefully fold into egg mixture. Line a 9 1/2 inch spring form with parchment paper. Fill in dough, smoothing it, and bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely. Mix together gelatine and 1/4 cup water. Bring remaining sugar with the lemon juice to a boil. Remove from heat, add gelatine and let dissolve completely. Mix in 1/4 - 1/2 cup buttermilk, stirring constantly. Then mix with remaining buttermilk. Put in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Cut 10 ounces strawberries in halves or quarters. Whip 1 cup of cream until stiff. When buttermilk starts to gel, fold in strawberries and cream. Cut cake in half horizontally. Put spring form around bottom part. Fill in buttermilk-strawberry mix and cover with upper cake layer. Let set in the fridge for about 4 hrs (or over night). Whip remaining cream, spread about 2/3 on cake, and decorate the cake with the remaining cream and strawberries. Sprinkle with chocolate or chopped pistachios etc. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge until serving.

Thursday, June 2, 2011