Friday, September 22, 2017

Roasted Cauliflower with Pasta and Walnuts

Last Year's Post: Korean Rice Bowls
Two Years Ago:  Healthy Baked Apples

This is an excellent and somewhat unusual pasta dish that can be served warm, room temperature or cold which makes it a good choice for any time of the year.  Plus, it's much lighter and healthier than most heavy red-sauce pastas.

I've recently discovered vegetables that I thought I didn't really care for all that much such as cabbage or cauliflower can actually become wonderful when they're cooked to the point that they turn into something else.  For cabbage, that means cooking it down until it's very tender and sweet (see cabbage and spring onion tart) and for broccoli or cauliflower that means roasting or sauteing  until they're pretty well torched (see chicken and caramelized broccoli ramen) which results in a much deeper and nuttier flavor.  The roasted cauliflower is a highlight of this salad, along with the walnuts and bacon.  (You could also use a combination of roasted cauliflower and broccoli if you want.)   Leave the bacon out and you've got a great vegetarian meal.



The sauce is very simple - good olive oil with a little garlic flavor (or a lot, depending on your taste). You could also add additional red pepper flakes to spice things up - there's just a small amount on the cauliflower.  The cauliflower only roasts for about 20 minutes so you could make this meal in the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta, making it a good choice for a weeknight meal.

Leftovers are excellent cold for lunch - just add a few drops of olive oil and maybe a squeeze of lemon to fresh things up.

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Roasted Cauliflower with Pasta and Walnuts
Serves 4

 1 small head cauliflower, large stems removed, florets separated and halved
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (more for serving, if desired)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
9-10 ounces short-cut dry pasta (such as penne or ziti)
2/3 cup frozen peas
¼ cup olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 slices bacon, chopped, fried until crisp and drained (optional)
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped


Preheat oven to 450d.

Add cauliflower to a mixing bowl with olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and sea salt.  toss to coat, then spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the florets over.  Turn the oven to broil and return to the oven for 5 minutes or so, watching closely, until browned.  Remove and let cool.

Heat a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions, adding the peas to the cooking water during the last 1-2 minutes.  Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, add the garlic cloves to the ¼ cup olive oil in a small saucepan and warm gently for a few minutes over low heat.  Remove the garlic cloves.

Return the pasta and peas to their cooking pot and add the garlic oil, parsley and parmesan, tossing to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings.


Serve with the walnuts and optional bacon scattered on top and additional parmesan on the side.  Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.  (If refrigerated, add a little additional olive oil and toss before serving.)

Friday, September 15, 2017

California Chicken, Avocado and Goat Cheese Salad

Last Year's Post: Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
Two Years Ago:   Mexican Baked Egg Casserole

I do love a beautiful green salad, don't you?  They're so refreshing and healthy.  One thing I've discovered is that if your salad has a large number of ingredients you can cut down on the amount of chicken to make it even healthier.  Of course, feel free to up the amount listed below but honestly we felt it was plenty and were perfectly satisfied.

If you marinate the chicken in advance, it's very easy to throw together the vinaigrette while the chicken cooks (or make that in advance too).  Then all you have to do is a little ingredient slicing and you're good to go.

One of my favorite tricks to make a salad even more appealing is to chill the salad plates in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so. It makes the salad seem restaurant-special.

Have you discovered watermelon radishes yet?  They taste like a mild version of a regular red radish but they're so pretty with the pink center and pale green ring on the outside.  I always have fun at checkout when I buy one because the cashiers never know what they are. Like the trick of chilling your plates, adding one unusual ingredient can elevate your entire salad to a new level.  Here's what they look like in the store - you'd never know how pretty they are on the inside.


 And take some time arranging the ingredients to make sure the colors look good next to each other.  My final suggestion for this salad is to use smoked almonds rather than regular almonds because again, it just adds a little extra flavor.  And it seems very California-y.

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California Chicken, Avocado and Goat Cheese Salad
Serves 4

Note: because there are so many other ingredients the recipe calls for less chicken than, say, in a chicken Caesar salad.  Feel free to increase the amount as desired.

8 ounces boneless skinless chicken tenders or cutlets
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon kosher salt and pepper
2 heads romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
1/3 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 watermelon radishes, thinly sliced (can substitute red radishes)
1 avocado, sliced
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese
½ cup smoked almonds, coarsely chopped
Large handful of sprouts or micro greens

White Balsamic Vinaigrette:
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, parsley, basil, paprika, cayenne, and salt and pepper.  Between 2 pieces of plastic wrap, gently pound the chicken tenders or cutlets to an even thickness.  Place them in a zip top bag and pour the marinade over.  Close the bag, massage the chicken to coat evenly, and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to overnight.

To make the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients in a glass jar and shake well.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Keep stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium high.  Grill the chicken for 2-3 minutes per side, until cooked through.  Let rest, and then thinly slice the chicken.

In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, cucumbers and vinaigrette.  Divide among 4 large plates, preferably chilled.  Divide the chicken slices between salads, and surround with avocado slices, radish slices, cherry tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese and almonds.  Garnish with sprouts and serve.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Lemony Kale and White Bean Soup

Last Year's Post: Italian Tuna
Two Years Ago:   Grilled Hawaiian Filipino Adobo Pork

This is a wonderfully comforting soup with the touch of lemon, rich chicken broth, and creamy beans, plus it's incredibly good for you.  For some reason I think white beans are very soothing, maybe because they're so creamy.  Anyway, this would be a great dinner to have during a particularly stressful week because it's light, healthy, warm and comforting all at the same time.  Make it in advance and all you have to do is reheat it on your worst day.  And because the soup is relatively light, it makes a nice transition into fall without going all the way to a big bowl of chili.

The chicken broth plays an important role her so use the best quality that you can find, or make your own.  I did that recently and it was actually a fun project plus I have containers sitting in my freezer just ready for the next recipe. Click here if you're interested.

If you don't want to make your own broth, be sure to use a low sodium variety.  One of the main reasons to make your own soup is to control the sodium.  Prepared soups (whether canned, from the deli or in a restaurant) have unbelievable amounts of sodium - check it out next time.  I love Panera soups, for example, but a bowl of their soup can have as much sodium as you should consume in a day, if not more.  I didn't list the amount of salt to add to the soup because it all depends on the sodium level in your chicken broth - start with a small amount and taste as you go.  You can always add more at the table.

Serve the soup with some crusty bread for a very satisfying meal.

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Lemony Kale and White Bean Soup
Serves 4-6

Note: There are no amounts given for salt and pepper because it really depends on the chicken stock you use.  I used zero-sodium chicken stock and add ½ teaspoon of both salt and pepper while cooking and it still needed more salt at the table.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large stalk or celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, diced
1/8 cup dry sherry
6 cups good quality low-sodium chicken stock
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 bunch Tuscan (Lacinato) kale, stemmed, washed and chopped
2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or 8 oz dried white beans, cooked and drained)
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon



In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the celery, carrots, garlic and shallots and sauté until just tender, 5-8 minutes.  Deglaze with the sherry, then add the stock, bay leaf and thyme.  Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes.    Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

Remove the thyme and bay leaves, then add the kale and simmer for an additional 8 minutes. Add the beans and lemon zest and juice and cook, stirring, for 5 more minutes to make sure everything is hot.  Taste and adjust seasonings again if needed.  Serve hot.




Friday, September 1, 2017

Chicken with Fresh Corn Sauce and Wild Rice

Last Year's Post:  Mayan Quinoa Salad
Two Years Ago:    Wine Bar (or Brewery) Platters

This chicken and fresh corn sauce recipe recently caught my eye because it's still fresh corn season in many areas.  The recipe is courtesy of the esteemed French chef Pierre Franey, which inevitably means it contains butter and cream.  I debated whether to make the recipe healthier by replacing the cream with corn puree but ultimately decided that once in a while a treat is in order.  And am I glad!  This is a restaurant-quality dish, definitely worthy of company.  Just to give you an idea about the sauce, The Lawyer told me "do NOT throw out the leftover sauce".  When I asked him what he was going to do with it (the chicken and rice were all gone) he said, "I don't know, but I'll eat it straight up if nothing else".  Enough said, I guess.

When I first read the chicken recipe I envisioned it with one of my favorite recipes for wild rice on the side, thinking that the contrast in color, texture and taste would go well with the chicken and sauce.  It went so well that I'm including the recipe for the rice here as well.  If you don't want to make them together that's up to you but I strongly suggest it.  Both the chicken and wild rice are very fast to prepare as long as you cook the rice in advance; if not, add about an hour to the 20-30 minutes it takes to make everything else.

Yes, there is some butter and cream involved.  But what better way to celebrate fresh corn and the last fleeting days of summer?

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Chicken with Fresh Corn Sauce and Wild Rice
Serves 4

Note:  the wild rice needs to be cooked in advance; it may be prepared up to the day prior and refrigerated, covered.

For the chicken and sauce:
4 skinless, boneless chicken cutlets
Salt and freshly-ground pepper
1 large ear of corn, shucked and kernels cut off
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup minced shallots
½ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2/3 cup heavy cream
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley

For the wild rice:
1 cup uncooked wild rice
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped roasted red pepper (from a jar)
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

To cook the wild rice: rinse the rice in a strainer, then place in a medium saucepan and cover with water until the water is an inch or two above the rice.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover (the rice should be at a low simmer) for 45-50 minutes until the individual grains have mostly split but are not fully opened and curled.  Check the rice partway through cooking and add more water if it begins to get dry – there should be some left in the pan by the end of cooking.  Drain and set aside.

To prepare the chicken, rinse and pat dry.  Season both sides with salt and pepper.  Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the chicken.  Cook 2 minutes and turn, then cover for an additional 2 minutes until cooked through.  Remove and set aside.  Do not wipe out the pan.

At this point, start the rice: melt the 2 tablespoon of butter in a second large skillet over medium heat.  Add the pecans and lightly toast for a minute or two, then add the green onions and red pepper.  Stir for a minute or two, then add the garlic salt, cooked wild rice, and parsley.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes until the rice is heated through and slightly crispy.

While the rice heats, make the sauce:  add the shallots to the skillet the chicken was in and cook briefly.  Add wine and bring to a boil.  Add the corn and stir in the mustard.  Add the cream and stir to blend.  Bring to a boil for a minute or two to reduce slightly, then add the parsley.


To serve:  place a portion of wild rice on each plate.  Add a chicken cutlet and spoon sauce and corn over the chicken.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Spicy Pork and Noodles with Herbs


Last Year's Post: Coconut Curry Rice
Two Years Ago:   Summer Harvest Quiche

There are two ways you can go at this recipe.  You can treat it as an adventure and an excuse to visit your local Asian market, or you can use the ingredients you have on hand or can find at your regular grocery store.  I was particularly intrigued by the casual mention at the very end of the recipe about serving the chile oil and chile oil solids on the side at the table.  Chile oil solids?  Not in any brand I've ever purchased at my local grocery store. Happily, we have wonderful and extensive Asian markets in Phoenix so I took a trip and found not only the specific chile oil the recipe calls for, but even the Sichuan preserved vegetables (they're actually pickled mustard greens).



I asked the guy at the checkout counter if he'd ever had the chile oil because it looks like it could be fiery.  He just nodded and smiled and as I left he said, "be careful with that one".  Ohkaaaay.  I took that advice seriously and only added a little chile oil at the table (with said solids) and it was plenty for me.  But it wasn't as explosively hot as I expected.


If you want to go the other route, skip the preserved vegetables (truth be told, I couldn't really taste them anyway) and use a chile oil from the Asian aisle of your local grocery store. You could even use Sriracha or another hot sauce to give it some spice if you don't want to buy chile oil at all.

This is a very easy recipe to prepare and can be served hot or at room temperature.  The important part, however, is to make sure the pork mixture becomes browned and crispy because the texture is very appealing with the noodles, herbs, radishes and peanuts.  I debated long and hard whether to substitute ground turkey for the ground pork, which I would normally do to cut down on fat and calories, but decided for the sake of authenticity to go with the pork.  Although the pork was very good, I think you could substitute ground turkey or chicken without too much change in flavor as long as you make sure to brown the meat until it's crisp.

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Spicy Pork and Noodles with Herbs
Serves 4

1 pound thin, round rice noodles (or other thin noodles)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon black vinegar
1 tablespoon chile oil (like Lao Gan Ma brand)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
½ pound ground pork
1 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 1-inch piece ginger, chopped
2 scallions, light parts chopped, green parts reserved for garnish
1 tablespoon yacai (Sichuan preserved vegetables, optional)
 Handful of herbs like mint, basil and cilantro leaves, washed
¼ cup salted, roasted peanuts, chopped
4 radishes, sliced


Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook noodles according to instructions. Drain noodles while running under cold water, until they are cool to the touch. Toss with sesame oil to avoid sticking.  Set aside. Mix dressing by whisking rice vinegar, soy sauce, black vinegar, chile oil and sugar until sugar dissolves. Set aside.


Cook the pork topping: Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat, and add ground pork and salt. Pan-fry, breaking meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until no pink parts and no liquid remain in the pan, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and scallion whites, and stir occasionally until the raw smell has disappeared and the meat is starting to brown in places, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetables, if using, along with a tablespoon of water, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes more, or until mixture is darkened and thick.  (The pork should be browned and crispy.)

Divide noodles between four individual bowls, and top each with a tablespoon of vinegar dressing followed by a pile of ground pork, herbs, peanuts and radishes. Serve with additional chile oil and chile-oil solids, on the side.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Grilled Spiced Salmon with Corn Relish

Last Year's Post: Mexican Chicken Pasta
Two Years Ago:   Roasted Tomato Californian

It's corn season, and this is a fun and different way to use fresh corn.  Almost nothing says "summer" more than grilling so celebrate the end of summer and the fleeting corn season with a healthy and delicious salmon and corn dinner.

I made fairly drastic changes to a recipe I found in the New York Times that featured halibut, but I'm sure the halibut would be equally good.  Their recipe called for pre-cooked corn which made no sense if you're going to be grilling anyway, does it?  If it's not corn season, just use frozen thawed corn - Trade Joes even has a bag of frozen roasted corn with nice char marks already on it that would be perfect.

Note that the recipe says to marinate the fish with spices for up to 3 hours, although I'm not sure why.  I think you could skip that step and go directly from rubbing on the spice mix to the grill, letting the fish sit and marinate on the side while you grill the corn.

Regarding the spices, they're fairly potent so use your discretion regarding how much to add to the salmon and how much to add to the corn relish.  I preferred a light hand with the spices so I could taste them more as a background note to the fresh salmon and corn. If you really like the spices in Indian food, by all means increase the amount.  Just remember you can always add more later but you can't take some out.

The yogurt might seem like an unusual addition but the neutral creaminess goes really well with the spices and the rich salmon.  If you skip (or shorten) the marinating step, this is a really easy weeknight dinner.  Start the grill, rub the spices on the salmon, then start some rice.  Grill the corn, then put the salmon on the grill while you (or a helpful friend) make the corn relish.  Start to finish, I would say this shouldn't take any longer than about 45 minutes.

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Grilled Spiced Salmon with Corn Relish
Serves 4

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 salmon fillets, 5-6 ounces each
2 lemons (1 juiced and 1 quartered)
1 large or 1 small ears fresh corn, shucked (about 2 cups of kernels)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves plus more for garnish
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
Hot cooked rice


Combine cumin, coriander, fennel, ½ teaspoon black pepper and ½ teaspoon salt.  Rub salmon fillets with juice of ½ lemon, then sprinkle on some of the spice mix (light to medium as preferred), leaving at least 2 teaspoons spice mix for the corn relish.  Rub the spice mix in, then refrigerate the salmon for up to 3 hours.

Preheat a grill to medium-high.  Brush the ears of corn with the vegetable oil, then grill for 2 minutes per each of 4 sides until grill-marked and tender.  Remove and let cool.

Place the salmon fillets on the grill skin side down for about 5 minutes, then carefully flip with a spatula (the skin should come right off).  Grill another 3-4 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 140d.  Remove and let rest for 5 minutes.

While the salmon is grilling, prepare the corn relish:  stand the ears of corn upright and cut the kernels off the cobs.  Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet, then add the chopped onion and sauté until tender.  Stir in 1-2 teaspoons spice mix (depending on preference) and sauté, stirring, until you can smell the spices.  Add corn kernels and the juice of ½ lemon.  Cook briefly to heat through, then add the cilantro and stir to combine.

To serve, place some rice on each plate.  Top with a salmon fillet and corn relish.  Add a dollop of yogurt or sour cream on the side and garnish with a lemon wedge and cilantro sprig.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Chicken Paillards

Last Year's Post:  Spanish Omelet
Two Years Ago:   Cold Sesame Noodles with Cucumber

Paillard (pie-yar) is just a fancy term for a chicken or veal cutlet that's been pounded until it's thin and then grilled or sauted.  It's often cooked in a skillet with the pan drippings used to make a sauce, but I like this particular recipe because it's healthier - the additional flavor comes from seasonings, greens and a mustardy vinaigrette instead of a butter sauce.  It's a very quick, elegant and healthy weeknight dinner.

My inspiration for making it this week was the container of baby kale that I found at the grocery store.  Baby kale?  Totally cute, ridiculously healthy, tender and delicious.  If you can find it, try it, but if you can't, use arugula for a similar tender-yet-slightly-bitter taste.


All you have to do is toast some nuts, gently pound the chicken, make the vinaigrette, cook the chicken for about 4 minutes, and toss the greens.  I think it took less than 30 minutes from start to finish.




One last note about pine nuts:  I added them here because I thought they would go perfectly, and they did.  However, there must be a worldwide pine nut shortage because they're expensive and hard to find at the moment, so feel free to substitute toasted almonds or walnuts.



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Chicken Paillards
Serves 4

2 large or 4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garlic powder
Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon grainy mustard
8 cups baby kale, baby arugula, or mixed greens
Shaved parmesan cheese
½ cup toasted pine nuts


To make the dressing, whisk the lemon zest and juice, mustard, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a bowl until combined (or shake in a small jar).  Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.

Preheat a grill pan, outdoor grill, or large nonstick pan to medium high.

If using large chicken breasts, cut each in half horizontally to make two cutlets.  Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound gently using a meat hammer until each is an even thickness and quite thin – about ¼”.  Remove the chicken pieces from the plastic and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, massaging it into both sides with your hands.  Sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

If using a nonstick pan, coat lightly with oil.  Grill or sauté the chicken pieces for 2-3 minutes per side until cooked through.  Place on individual plates


Combine the greens with just enough dressing to coat lightly, then mound on top of the chicken.  Top with parmesan shavings, toasted pine nuts and additional freshly ground black pepper.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Zucchini Parmesan

Last Year's Post:  Savory Kale and Corn Galette
Two Years Ago:    Spanish Shrimp

It's summer, which means fresh tomatoes and zucchini are everywhere.  If you have a garden or made a recent trip to the farmer's market this is a perfect way to use some of them up.  I recently made a similar recipe for zucchini roll-ups stuffed with ricotta and topped with a tomato sauce that was very good but pretty fussy and time-consuming so the idea of simply layering the zucchini, cheese and sauce was appealing.

The original recipe didn't have ricotta cheese, which made it a nice light side dish.  Adding the ricotta makes it a satisfying vegetarian entree. It's your choice either way.

If you don't have a bunch of fresh tomatoes, you could always used good quality canned tomatoes.  To make it even easier,  you could buy a marinara sauce at the store.

First you thinly slice the zucchini, then bake until tender. Layer the zucchini, sauce, and ricotta mixture (if using) with Parmesan and bake.  I wanted to use a pretty oval baking dish for the pictures, but couldn't quite figure out how to layer the rectangular zucchini slices in an oval dish.  Next time I think I'll just bake more zucchini and overlap them every which way, if that makes sense.







This is not only healthy, but truly delicious.

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Zucchini Parmesan
Serves 6


For the tomato sauce:
2 to 2 ½ pounds fresh ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped 
2-4 garlic cloves, to taste
Salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar
2 sprigs fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

For the zucchini parmesan:
2 to 2 ½ pounds zucchini
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
2 garlic cloves, grated
3-4 sprigs fresh basil


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 

Line 2 sheet pans with parchment.  Trim ends off zucchini and cut in half crosswise, then cut into thin lengthwise slices about ¼ to 1/3” thick.  Season both sides with salt and pepper and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Arrange zucchini slices on baking sheets in a single layer and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.  Roast for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned and tender.  Remove and let cool.  Reduce oven to 375d.

While the zucchini cooks and cool, make the sauce:  if you have a food mill, quarter the tomatoes.  If not, peel, seed and chop them.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add onion.  Cook, stirring often until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and basil sprigs.  Increase heat to medium-high.  When tomatoes are bubbling briskly, stir and reduce heat to medium.  Cook, stirring often, until tomatoes have cooked down and are beginning to stick to the pan, 15-25 minutes.  Remove basil sprigs; taste and adjust seasonings.  If using a food mill, put sauce through medium blade.  If not, pulse sauce in a food processor until just coarsely pureed.  Stir in chopped basil.

To assemble and bake:  place the ricotta, egg yolks, grated garlic and basil in a small food processor and pulse to combine.  Set aside. Oil a 2-quart dish with olive oil or nonstick spray. Spread ¼ cup tomato sauce over the bottom of the dish.  Arrange a third of the zucchini slices in an even layer over the tomato sauce.  Spoon a third of the remaining sauce over the zucchini and sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmesan.  Repeat one additional layer, then spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the second layer.  Add one more layer of zucchini, sauce and Parmesan.  Drizzle on the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. 


Bake 30-35 minutes until bubbling and browned.  Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.  

Friday, July 28, 2017

Grilled Shrimp Quesadillas


Last Year's Post: healthy white bean dip
Two Years Ago:  chicken quinoa salad with nectarine vinaigrette

Ahhh, summer.  Ideal summer foods are light, simple and tasty.  If they involve grilling, so much the better.  These shrimp quesadillas fit the bill in every way - they involve a grand total of five ingredients (not counting vegetable oil, which really shouldn't count) plus two brief grill visits to create something pretty special and very delicious.

You start by grilling some shrimp and red onion.  While they grill (a total of maybe 10 whole minutes) you could a) sip a glass of wine and enjoy the breeze or b) shred some cheese for the next step.  If you're really good you can do all three at the same time, but stay close to the grill - those shrimp go fast.



When the shrimp and onion are done, the onion is chopped and the shrimp sliced in half to form crescents.  Dump the cheese, onion and shrimp on flour tortillas and grill until pretty, folding partway through.  Serve with your favorite salsa or pico de gallo - just nothing too hot or bold that might overpower the shrimp.




A note about this recipe - it's from Rick Bayless, one of my favorite chefs.  He calls for a young Manchego cheese, which is Spanish.  He probably specifies young cheese because it gets stronger as it ages and again, he doesn't want to overpower the shrimp.  It was very good with Manchego but you could certainly substitute Monterey Jack if you felt like it.  You could also add lobster or crab in addition to the shrimp to make the quesadillas really special.

One quesadilla per person makes a light dinner with a side salad, or you could cut them into small pieces to use as an appetizer or part of a Mexican party table.

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Grilled Shrimp Quesadillas
Makes 6 quesadillas

½ medium red onion, cut into ½-inch rounds
12 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp
 ¼ cup vegetable oil, divided
3 cups (about 12 ounces) shredded young Manchego cheese
6 (8-10 inch) flour tortillas
Salsa, for serving

Heat a gas grill to medium-high on one side, medium on the other, or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with white ash, then bank the coals to one side. Using an oil mister or pastry brush, oil each onion round on both sides and lay on the hottest side of the grill. Cook, flipping them half way through, until soft and grill-marked, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool, then cut into ½-inch pieces.

Place shrimp on skewers for easy cooking.  Oil the shrimp on both sides and lay the hottest side of the grill. Cook, flipping halfway through, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes total. When the shrimp are cool enough to handle, cut them in half through the back making two crescents.

Lay the tortillas on the cooler side of the grill. Top each with about ½ cup of cheese and cook until the cheese starts to melt.  Divide the grilled onion and shrimp among the tortillas. When the cheese is about half melted, fold the tortillas in half, enclosing the filling. Cook the quesadillas until the tortillas are lightly grilled and the filling is warmed through, about 2 minutes per side. Serve with your favorite salsa.




Friday, July 21, 2017

Sicilian Grilled Swordfish

Last Year's Post: Chinese Chicken Salad
Two Years Ago:   Grilled Salmon with Kale and Maple Mustard Vinaigrette



If you like swordfish, you're going to love this recipe.  Relatively thin swordfish steaks are quickly grilled and then soaked in a lemon, olive oil and oregano sauce.  Since they're thin and pierced with a fork before pouring the sauce over the hot fish, the flavor permeates throughout the fish while the sauce keeps it wonderfully moist and tender.  If you can't find thin swordfish steaks, just ask you fishmonger to cut a thick one in half horizontally (or do it yourself).



Because it's easy to overcook swordfish until it becomes dry and tough and particularly if it's thin, I strongly recommend buying an instant thermometer if you don't have one already.  They're invaluable for testing the doneness of meats and poultry in addition to fish.  The new thermometers read the temperature within a second or two after insertion so you don't need to fool with one of those thermometers that stay in the food in your oven or grill and you can quickly test the temperature in multiple spots which is particularly helpful with something like chicken or turkey.



I served the swordfish with an orzo salad on the side with black olives, roasted tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and lemon dressing to continue the Sicilian theme.  Leftovers made a great lunch salad the next day.




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Sicilian Grilled Swordfish
Serves 4

Note: If you can only find thick swordfish steaks have the fishmonger cut them in half horizontally for you.

4 relatively thin (1/2” or so) swordfish steaks, 5-6 ounces each
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, cut into quarters


Preheat a grill (or indoor grill pan) to medium-high.

For the sauce, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Set aside.

Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes on the first side, then flip and turn for another 1-2 minutes until almost cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 120d.  Remove to a flat dish, prick holes in the fish with a fork, and pour the lemon sauce over the fish while it’s hot.  Cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes to soak up the sauce and finish cooking.


Serve the fish with sauce poured over and a lemon quarter on the side.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Spanish Chicken Salad with Manchego and Smoky Almonds

Last Year's Post:  Spiced Carrot Soup (Hot or Cold)
Two Years Ago:   Baked Falafel

This is a sophisticated salad that's incredibly easy to throw together in the time it takes to toast some almonds.  But there are a few somewhat unusual ingredients that are key:  Manchego cheese, smoked paprika, piquillo peppers and really good sherry vinegar.  Manchego cheese is a Spanish cheese similar to Gruyere that you can find in most good cheese shops.  Smoked paprika can be found in some spice aisles and at Penzeys, my favorite spice store.  Smoked paprika is very Spanish and makes the salad much more interesting so don't be tempted to substitute regular paprika.  Piquillo peppers can be found in most grocery stores next to regular jarred roasted red peppers.  I think they have a brighter and more interesting taste than regular roasted red peppers but if you can't find them, regular roasted peppers would be fine.



And finally, sherry vinegar.  Sherry vinegar is my favorite vinegar ever since I had the opportunity to sample a really good quality one from Spain, and I'll never go back.  Please don't buy one of those little bottles from the grocery store.  Take the time and effort to get a high-quality bottle from your local gourmet store or online - the difference in taste is amazing.  I bought this one online from iGourmet.





Anyway, after you buy the Spanish ingredients it's a very quick salad to assemble because you use precooked deli chicken.  The only cooking you do is to toast the almonds.  Stay nearby and stir frequently while they toast because they can burn fast.







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Spanish Chicken Salad with Manchego and Smoky Almonds
Serves 4


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup sliced almonds
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 cups salad green, preferably red and green
½ cup drained piquillo peppers from jar, cut into thin strips
4 cups shredded deli chicken meat
1 cup Manchego cheese, cut into cubes or strips


Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add almonds and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes.  Watch closely so they don’t turn too dark.  Transfer almonds to paper towels and sprinkle with smoked paprika and salt.  Let cool.



Whisk shallot, vinegar and oil in a small bowl (or shake in a small jar with lid) to blend.  Season dressing with salt and pepper.  Place salad greens in a large bowl.  Add dressing and toss to coat.  Divide among plates, then top with rows of chicken, peppers, cheese, and almonds.  (Alternately, toss everything together except the almonds and divide between plates, then sprinkle almonds on top.)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Grilled Korean Shrimp

Last Year's Post: Coconut Chicken Fingers
Two Years Ago:   Ravioli with Fresh Corn

If you like Korean food or spicy food in general, you'll love these shrimp.  The sauce gives them big, bold flavor with enough kick to make your lips tingle for a few minutes so be sure to serve them with a nice cold beverage. I particularly like the look of the shrimp and onions after grilling.

They're very quick and easy to make (no marinating) and would be perfect as part of a summer grilling party - serve one or two shrimp with green onions on mini-skewers for each person.  Larger skewers could be served over a big green salad, or with fried rice, or as I did over a tangle of noodles with garlic, olive oil and parsley.

The Lawyer said this picture looks like music.  :-)
The only unusual ingredient is Gochujang, which is a thick, dark red Korean spice paste that's essential to Korean cooking.  At one time I would have hesitated to post a recipe using it, but I recently found it in the Asian section of my local Fry's store so it's getting much easier to find.  If your grocery store doesn't carry it, you can find it at your local Asian market.



One of my favorite parts of the recipe is the green onion - crispy-charred and spicy from the basting sauce, they taste sort of like spicy fried onions.  This is a unique and unusual twist on grilled shrimp that's completely delicious.


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Grilled Korean Shrimp
Serves 4

16 colossal (U10-12) or 20 extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 green onions, trimmed, white and light green part cut into 2 inch lengths
Kosher salt

Gochujang sauce
1/4 cup Gochujang paste (Korean red pepper paste.)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Wooden skewers, soaked

  
Using 2 skewers side by side, alternately thread on pieces of green onion and shrimp, beginning and ending with green onions. Sprinkle the skewers lightly on both sides with the kosher salt. Whisk the Gochujang sauce ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (400°F).

Put the skewers on the grill over direct medium-high heat and cook for three minutes. Flip the skewers and baste with the sauce.  Cook for another two minutes, flip the skewers, and baste again. Cook for one more minute. Remove the skewers to a platter, and brush one last time with sauce (or serve with additional leftover sauce on the side).   Serve hot or at room temperature.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Spaghetti with Lemon and Walnuts

Last Year's Post: Grilled Lobster Tails
Two Years Ago:   Southwest Grilled Shrimp Salad

If spaghetti with marinara and meatballs is classic winter comfort food, then this is its summer cousin - spaghetti with a light but very flavorful sauce of lemon, garlic, parsley and walnuts. It's definitely an unusual combination for spaghetti, don't you think?  You can serve it either warm or at room temperature, making it even more appealing for warm summer months.  And of course you could add some grilled chicken or shrimp if you really want, but I find it very satisfying as a vegetarian entree.

I think of this recipe as being minimalist in concept but definitely not in taste.  Just because it doesn't have a long list of ingredients, don't be fooled.  Each ingredient plays an important part for big impact: fruity olive oil, fragrant lemon zest and bright juice, mellow garlic slices, grassy parsley, crunchy toasted walnuts, grated Parmesan, and freshly ground black pepper.  Because there are so few ingredients, be sure to use the best you can find.

The original recipe called for adding the parmesan into the pasta while it's still in the pan, and stirring to make a "creamy sauce".  I found it made big gooey clumps of parsley and half-melted cheese instead, so I adapted the recipe to add the parmesan later.  Same tastes, happier result.


Spaghetti with Lemon and Walnuts
Serves 3-4

May be served warm or at room temperature.

8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for drizzling
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Zest from ½ lemon
2 ½ ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 2/3 cup)
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 lemon, cut into quarters, for garnish


Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 teaspoon salt.  Add pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions.  Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid, then drain the pasta.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook 2 minutes until pale golden-brown.  Place the pasta in the skillet, tossing to coat.  Add the parsley and toss, adding some pasta water if the pasta looks dry.  Taste and adjust salt if needed; sprinkle with pepper. 

Divide among shallow bowls and garnish with lemon zest, parmesan and walnuts.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and add lemon quarters on the side for squeezing.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Thai Chicken Salad (Copy Cat Panera Spicy Thai Salad with Chicken)

Last Year's Post: Salmon Nicoise Salad
Two Years Ago:   Muffuletta

This is my favorite Panera salad by far.  I think it's the spicy peanut drizzle along with the crunch of Romaine, edamame, wonton strips and nuts that makes it so satisfying while still low-fat and healthy.  Although I found several versions of the recipe online that supposedly re-created the salad, a lot of them had strange variations (yogurt in the sauce?  I mean, really.)  I KNOW this salad and wanted to re-create it as faithfully as possible so I combined various elements from all the recipes and was very happy with the result.  (OK, true confession, I substituted peanuts for cashews because that's what I had on hand.  Same difference.)

As you go through the Panera ordering line, the server first tosses the greens with dressing, then adds a scoop of edamame/carrots/red pepper and another scoop of sliced chicken.  The peanut drizzle, wonton strips and nuts go on last.  Can you tell I've ordered it a few times?  This recipe mimics that process.  The only thing I couldn't tell is whether they marinate their chicken before cooking, but I found an interesting marinade in one of the recipes so I tried it.  The resulting flavor is delicate but complements the salad very well.  If you don't feel like marinating the chicken I don't think it will impact the salad much with all those other big flavors, which means you could make it quickly any night of the week using a grilled or rotisserie chicken breast from the deli.




The good news is that the only somewhat unusual ingredient is Thai sweet red chile sauce, which you can find in the Asian condiments at any grocery store.

Start by marinating and cooking the chicken, if applicable, so it can cool.  You could also do this in advance.  Then saute the veggies so they can cool which only takes a few minutes, or it can also be done in advance.  Make the salad dressing and peanut drizzle, then you're ready to assemble.


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Thai Chicken Salad (Copycat Panera)

Chicken Marinade:
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, grated
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 small lime, juiced
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts

Salad:
Vegetable oil
1 small carrot, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup shelled edamame (defrosted if frozen)
8-10 cups Romaine hearts, chopped (about 3 hearts)  
½ cup chopped cilantro
4 green onions, sliced
1 cup wonton strips
½ cup chopped cashews or peanuts

Dressing:
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup Thai sweet red chili sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Pinch of salt and pepper

Peanut Sauce:
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Thai sweet red chili sauce
2 tablespoons water (more if needed)


In a ziplock bag, combine all ingredients for the chicken marinade.  Add the chicken and massage the bag to coat the chicken on both sides, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Cook the chicken on a grill or in a 350d oven for about 30 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165d.  Set aside to cool, then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Preheat a nonstick skillet to medium, and then add a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil.  Cook the chopped carrot, red pepper and edamame until charred and slightly soft.  Cool mixture and set aside.  In a small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients; taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  In a second small bowl, combine all the peanut sauce ingredients; thin with a little additional water if it seems too thick to drizzle. 

In a large bowl, combine the Romaine, cilantro, and green onions. Toss with enough dressing to barely coat.  Divide among serving bowls, and then top with chicken and vegetable mixture.  Drizzle with the peanut sauce and top with wonton strips and nuts.



Friday, June 16, 2017

Cubanos

Last Year's Post:  Tomatillo Salsa Verde
Two Years Ago:    Farro and Kale Salad

This is another installment in my occasional and erratic series of famous sandwiches of the world.  Past posts have included pan bagnatbanh miItalian tunachicken schnitzel, and buffalo chicken sliders to name a few.  Cubanos originated in Florida and are made with Cuban rolls, roast pork, ham, pickles, Swiss cheese and mustard, all pressed together on a griddle or grill until warm and crisp.  Outside of Miami they also often include salami.  Although the most authentic version calls for yellow mustard, I used a combination of both whole grain and Dijon mustards for different textures and flavors.  And again although Cuban bread is authentic, you probably won't find it outside of a Mexican market in most cities.  Any soft oblong roll will work - just don't use a hard crusty French roll because it won't compress and crisp they way it should.

If you can find roast pork in the deli, that's great, otherwise plan to make Cubanos with the leftovers next time you make a pork roast or tenderloin.  Use the best quality Swiss cheese you can find, and slice everything as thinly as possible.  Placing cheese on both the top and bottom of each roll ensure the whole thing sticks together as the cheese melts.







Cubanos are like the best ham and cheese sandwich you've ever had, all crispy and warm and gooey.  There's a reason they're famous.

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Cubanos
Serves 2

2 (8 to 10”) Cuban rolls (or soft Bolillo or hoagie rolls)
4-5 ounces roast pork, leftover or purchased from the deli
4 thin slices of smoked ham
6 slices best-quality aged Swiss cheese
Yellow mustard or Dijon mustard
2 medium dill pickles, thinly sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoons softened butter or olive oil


Preheat a Panini press or large skillet over medium heat.

Split the rolls lengthwise.  Slice the leftover pork as thinly as possible.

Spread a thin layer of mustard on the top and bottom of each roll.  Tear each piece of Swiss cheese in half and place 1 ½ slices (3 rectangles) on the bottom and top of each roll.  Layer the pork, ham and pickles on the bottom of each roll.  Close the sandwiches, pressing gently together.

Brush the top and bottom of each sandwich with softened butter or olive oil.  Place the sandwiches in the press, using moderate pressure, for about 8 minutes until crisp on both sides.  If using a skillet, use a second pan to press on the top of the sandwiches for about 4 minutes, then flip to crisp the second side.  Sandwiches should be somewhat compressed but not completely flat.

Slice sandwiches in half and serve.