Category: Recipes

Halibut with Summer Vegetables

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In an effort to lose the last ten pounds of baby weight my diet has taken on biblical proportions of fish and vegetables, results pending.  Luckily it’s the season for fresh produce and everything tastes at its peak, especially if you buy it organic (wink).  In this dish roasted eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes, shallots, capers and thyme provide a savory bed for a tender piece of halibut.  You could easily put the vegetables in a foil packet on the grill as well, whatever your heart and stomach desire, in either case you will be dining on an incredibly light and healthful dinner. Enjoy.

Oven Roasted Halibut with Summer Vegetables 1 pound Halibut 1 tablespoon lemon zest 1 tablespoon dried Mediterranean oregano Juice of 1 lemon 1 White eggplant 1 purple eggplant 1 cup grape tomatoes cut in half lengthwise 1 yellow zucchini 1 green zucchini 2 shallots diced 2 tablespoons capers 1 clove garlic finely minced 3 sprigs of thyme Olive oil Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Dice all vegetables and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme sprigs, minced garlic and capers.  Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour. (Alternatively you can place the vegetables in two packets of foil and place on grill until tender).  Once vegetables are cooked turn the heat up in the oven to 425 degrees Season the Halibut with salt and pepper on both sides.  Whisk together lemon juice, zest, olive oil, and oregano, pour over halibut.  Cook the fish immediately as the lemon juice will break down the flesh if left to marinate.  Cook in the oven at 425 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. (Alternatively you can grill the fish as well)

Serve over the vegetables glass of white wine optional, but recomended.

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French Toast for Dinner

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I’m not sure what I expected, but being a working mother is so much harder and so much easier than I thought, let me explain…

When I do a rundown of all the logistics and particulars that need to be in place in order for the day to function properly I feel a big yawn stretching the sides of my mouth.  When did life become so complicated? And then just as I whisper the question to myself and look for a blanket for which to hide beneath, I hear George laugh and the melody rushes blood through my veins and once again I am awake, alive, and ready to proceed with whatever the day may bring.

In an effort to spend as much time as I possibly can with my amazing little guy I have enjoyed creating culinary shortcuts and quick meals that leave us healthy and satisfied with plenty of extra minutes to listen to that laugh.

This savory French toast is a prime example.

Savory French Toast with Herbs de Provence and Roasted Tomatoes
1 day old whole grain baguette
3 eggs
2 tablespoons herbs de Provence
2 cups of milk
½ cup grated cheese (parmigiano, asiago, whatever you prefer)
6 Roma tomatoes
Butter for frying
Olive oil for caramelizing
Salt and Pepper for tasting

For the Tomatoes:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Slice Roma Tomatoes in half and gently remove the seeds with a teaspoon.  Place face up on a baking sheet and drizzle generously with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for 30- 45 minutes until the sides are gently caramelized and the tomatoes have eliminated most (BUT NOT ALL) of their moisture

While tomatoes are roasting you can cuddle, play or finish doing the laundry!

For the French Toast:
Slice the baguette into 2 inch pieces.  In a Large bowl whisk the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, grated cheese and herbs de Provence.  Submerge the bread slices into the milk and egg mixture and let sit for 10- 15 minutes.

Heat butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Adding only a few at a time fry the soaked bread for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until the slices are browned.  Serve the toast with tomatoes on top and a salad on the side to round out your super quick and super easy dinner. Enjoy.

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Stuffed Artichoke Pasta with minted breadcrumbs

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I will always have fond memories of the first dinner I cooked after the birth of my son, George.  His warm body swaddled against me as I stood sideways at the stove to avoid any splatter.

No one warns you about the cravings you have while nursing, which in my case are more intense and urgent than those experienced during pregnancy, so a couple of days ago when all I could think about was a tenderly cooked, overly stuffed artichoke, I was suddenly struck by my new cooking time limitations which I am certain all mothers face on a daily basis.  There would just not be enough time to properly clean, braise and stuff those delectable thistle’s, so shortcuts ensue.  In the time it takes to boil and cook some pasta, I had a complete meal that satisfied my craving and left me time to marvel at the very existence of my baby boy.

Stuffed Artichoke Pasta with minted breadcrumbs

Ingredients for the pasta:
1 pound whole wheat linguini
2 bags of frozen artichoke hearts
3 cloves of finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup of capers
4 anchovy filet’s
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
Juice and Zest from 2 lemons
1 and a half cups of organic chicken broth
4 tablespoons of butter

Ingredients for the breadcrumbs:
1 small baguette (day old is fine)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4  olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the linguini
Drizzle olive oil in a saute pan and heat to medium high, add the anchovies and stir until dissolved in the oil.  Next add the garlic and saute until softened.  Add the capers, lemon juice and zest parsley and chicken broth and cook for five minutes over medium heat.
When the water is boiling add the pasta and cook according to package directions.
Once you have added the pasta toss in the artichoke hearts and continue to cook over medium heat, adding salt and pepper to taste.
When draining the pasta be sure to reserve 1 – 2 cups of cooking liquid.
Toss the pasta directly into the artichoke sauce and add the 4 tablespoons of butter and any cooking liquid you may need.

For the breadcrumbs:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cut the baguette into small cubes, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
toast the cubes in the oven for about ten minutes, be careful not to burn them.
In a blender or food processor add the mint leaves, lemon zest and toasted cubes and pulse until coarsely ground.

Top the linguini with breadcrumbs and serve immediately.
ENJOY!

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Braised Chicken Legs with Duck Bacon

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Two weeks (?) away from baby and the anxiety is palpable. I keep trying to imagine life once our little miracle arrives, setting up scenarios like case simulations, collecting hypothetical data, what was done right, what was done wrong, all in an effort to narrow the margin of error. Of course I am sure most of this is done in vain as I suspect  parenting is largely on the job training.

All of this excitement and preparation has left my kitchen and the big green bowl a bit empty.  I admit it I have become sluggish when the topic of “whats for dinner?” approaches.  Between my dietary restrictions, some of which are necessary medically and some of which fall into the category of “baby don’t like that” I am  slightly uninspired.

Today however on my 4th Wedding Anniversary I fely it my duty to tie the apron above my bump and get to work on a celebratory meal that will knock Paul’s socks off.  Who knows it may be the last dinner we have before we two become a happy three.

Braised Chicken Legs with Duck Bacon
Ingredients
4 shallots sliced
3 cloves garlic (left whole skin on)
2 leeks sliced (white and light green parts only please)
4 slices of duck bacon (I want to be flexible and tell you to substitute regular bacon, I really do, I just can’t in good conscious flat out LIE to you, I got my duck bacon at Fairway in NY, but I am willing to bet a specialty market or butcher would be able to supply you with yours)
4 organic chicken legs skin on
1/4 cup sherry
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
1 Bay leaf
2 sprigs Rosemary
3 cups of organic low sodium chicken stock

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
In a large dutch oven or any deep, heavy, oven safe pot, heat the olive oil over medium high.  Sprinkle the chicken legs liberally with sea salt and black pepper making sure to cover both sides. Once oil is heated place the chicken, skin side down into the pot and brown for three minutes, flip the chicken legs over and brown on the other side for another three to four minutes. Remove the chicken legs to a plate and set aside.
In the same pot add the diced duck bacon and render a bit of the fat.  Add the shallots, garlic cloves, and leeks.  Saute the vegetables for ten minutes until softened.  You may add a bit more salt and pepper at this point if you would like. Once the heat is high add the sherry in one splash and cook away the alcohol, two to three minutes. Add the chicken stock, bay leaf, and rosemary and bring to a simmer.  Return the Chicken legs to the pot cover with an oven safe lid and place in the oven for 45 – 50 minutes.  At this point you will have fall of the bone, melt in your mouth meat, serve with a fresh salad and very crusty bread.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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Frittata

When Holiday nights ensure that you are too busy to prepare a family dinner but the residual grease from the takeout menu folder makes you a bit queasy, I offer you this simple solution, the frittata.  A quick and healthful go to that’s sure to satisfy and keep you healthy enough to actually enjoy the Holiday season. 

Ingredients:

Makes 1 Frittata

3 eggs (make ‘em organic)
½ cup of veggies (I used some extra white button mushrooms but feel free to experiment)
1 tablespoon fresh herbs ( I used chives)
1 tablespoon ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon grated cheese
Teaspoon of milk or water
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a medium sized bowl combine the eggs, ricotta, grated cheese, milk, herbs, salt and pepper.  Whisk to combine thoroughly.

Coat the bottom of a small OVEN SAFE frying pan with extra virgin olive oil and set over medium heat.

Pour the egg mixture into the pan and allow to set gently pulling edges away with a spatula cook –put pan in the oven and continue to cook for an additional three to five minutes until the entire frittata is firm and set.  Serve with some sautéed chard or an easy mixed green salad.  Enjoy.

 

 

 

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Stuffed Escarole

Sometimes you are too cold, tired, and pregnant to go out and purchase the missing ingredients needed for your usual food gifts when invited to a last minute dinner party.  This is when pantry improvisation can be quite useful.  It’s also, in my experience, how great new recipes are made, assuming your experimental efforts are successful.

Last Saturday I was lucky in one such experiment, when I rolled tender escarole leaves around a sweet and savory filling of breadcrumbs, lemon zest, raisins and pine nuts.  The results were pretty impressive and the best part was I didn’t have to drag my tired, cold, pregnant butt to the store for any of the ingredients.  I can’t say the same for you, I don’t know what your pantry contains- however I will say that this easy recipe was so good, it would be worth the trip.

Stuffed Escarole
1 medium head of escarole left WHOLE- carefully rinsed of sand/dirt and drained well
½ cup of breadcrumbs
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup golden raisins
2 anchovy filets
Zest of one large lemon
Fresh parsley
¼ cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese + more for dusting on top
Freshly ground black pepper to taste (I used about ½ tablespoon)
Sea salt to taste (I used about ½ tablespoon)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil- + more for brushing casserole dish and drizzling on top

Preparation:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a large stock pot bring water to a boil- add the entire head of escarole and blanch for three to four minutes. Remove immediately and rinse under very cold water.  Drain in a colander while you prepare the filling.

In a large mixing bowl combine the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, parsley, raisins and lemon zest.

In a medium sized frying pan toast the pine nuts over medium high heat being carefully not to burn them- toss the nuts into the breadcrumb mixture.

Using the same pan combine a tablespoon of the olive oil with the anchovy filets and sauté until the filets have melted into the oil and are no longer whole. Add this paste to the breadcrumbs along with the remaining bit of olive oil combine thoroughly with a fork or your squeaky clean fingers.

Grease a small casserole pan with olive oil

On a cutting board gently tear away the leaves from the head of escarole one by one trying to keep them as intact as possible- this may prove difficult but fret not, once rolled no one will know the difference and the taste will hardly be affected.

Place about a teaspoon to a teaspoon and half of the breadcrumb mixture in the center of each leaf and roll front to back side to side, anyway the filling remains in place.  Carefully transfer each rolled leaf to the casserole dish and top with grated cheese and a drizzle more of extra virgin olive oil.

Bake for fifteen – twenty minutes until the top is golden brown. Enjoy!

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Pasta with Broccoli & Peas

The countdown to turkey has officially begun and next week’s food shopping list is decidedly bird oriented, but I can’t forget about the dinners that will precede.  I want them to be healthy, light, cheap, and most of all quick! Pasta with Broccoli and Peas is a start.

Though incredibly simple and what the foodie folk would categorize as “cucina povera”, this dish fills my house with a medley of flavors that bring me back to my grandparents.  That Olfactory strikes again and I am wrapped in warm memories.  T he taste is hearty though the dish itself will spare your waistline for that end of the week stretch.  I hope you enjoy.

Ingredients:
Pound of pasta (I used barilla whole wheat fussilli)
2 anchovy filets
3 cloves garlic finely minced
head or organic broccoli florets
2 cups of frozen peas
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
Grated cheese (I am always a fan of Locatelli)
Ground black pepper to taste
Sea Salt to taste
Pinch (or more) of red pepper flakes

Preparation:
Put a large pot of water to boil with a tablespoon of salt.
While you are waiting for the water to boil, heat the 1/2 of the olive oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan.  Add the anchovy filets and melt into the oil.  Add the garlic and saute until lightly browned.
Add the broccoli and blanch for three minutes. Remove with an Asian strainer and toss right into pan with the garlic and anchovies.  Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions.
Toss the broccoli with the 2 cups of frozen peas and the remaining olive oil, add the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, continue to cook until the peas are heated through.
Before draining the pasta reserve 1 – 2 cups of cooking liquid.  Drain pasta and toss with broccoli and peas, add the butter and grated cheese.  Cooking for a minute or two longer, serve immediately.

 

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Blue Hubbard Squash Soup

Weeks ago while heaving bushels of apples into the trunk of my compact car, I spotted a very peculiar looking squash alongside the decorative gourds and pumpkins that lined the bins of the farm stand  out east on Long Island.  Its pale greenish, bluish exterior was shaped like an overgrown misshapen pear with bumps and lumps all over.  I held one up to the shop keeper and asked what it was-
“A Blue Hubbard.” She replied, “Makes a good pie.”

While I am sure the bit about the pie is true, I had something more savory in mind.

Once home I did a bit of research and discovered many interesting little tid bits about the blue Hubbard, most of which you can find here the one bit of information which I found most useful and most entertaining was the tutorial on how to get inside the squash and reveal its  delicious orange flesh- No kitchen knife I own is sharp or strong enough, and while one website did mention something about a saw- I like to keep my food out of the tool shed, and so I went with the suggestion of many- I put the Blue Hubbard in a paper bag and dropped it on the concrete deck outside my house.  The result was effective and cathartic!

For the soup I decided a simple preparation was best, to really bring out the flavor of the squash.  Though I finished mine with a bit of heavy cream and  a simple fried sage leaf from the garden, I’d imagine a mascarpone finish to accompany said sage leaf would be divine and maybe the perfect first course for a certain thankful meal which is soon approaching.

Blue Hubbard Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 large Blue Hubbard Squash (I recently spotted them in Stop and Shop, King Kullen and Fairway so should be easy to locate in season)

1 Large sweet yellow onion
4 russet potatoes skinned, and diced
4 tablespoons salted butter
1 32 ounce container of organic low sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup of heavy whipping cream
4 sage leafs
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Preparation:

Pre heat the oven to 425 degrees

Place the Blue Hubbard Squash in a brown shopping bag roll the top to secure and close, with all your might (really every bit of might you have) heave and smash open onto a concrete or brick surface.  I had to do this three times before the beautiful orange flesh was revealed.
Back in the kitchen, remove the seeds and stringy bits from the flesh, line a roasting pan with aluminum foil and place squash flesh side up, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Roast in the oven for approximately twenty minutes, then turn over so flesh is facing down and roast for twenty minutes more. Once cooled slightly scoop out the flesh with a spoon and puree in a blender or food processor
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large stock or Dutch oven pot.  Add the onions and cook for a few minutes until translucent, now add the potatoes and sauté until tender.  Add the Blue Hubbard Squash puree and season with salt and pepper.  Next add the chicken broth and cook on a low simmer for thirty minutes.  Using an immersion blender puree the soup to desired thickness. (Note if you do not have an immersion blender and you are using a standing blender; please allow soup to cool off a bit before making silky smooth)  Lastly add the heavy cream and stir well to combine.
In a small frying pan heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat, add the sage leaves and fry lightly for thirty seconds per side, transfer to a paper towel line sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.  Top each bowl with a crispy fried sage leaf.
Enjoy!

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Pasta Ala Norma

When describing a pasta dish I always find myself short on words- what is there to say really? It’s a balance, between textures and flavors, and when you get it right, its perfection.  Here mezze rigatoni is tossed with a rich tomato sauce, studded with tender cubes of eggplant and then topped with a generous mound of freshly grated ricotta salata, a classic and a personal favorite.

Ingredients

1 can San Marzano tomatoes, blended lightly and seeds strained
½ sweet onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic
2 medium or 4 small eggplants (we used the white variety from the garden)*salted, diced
¼ cup torn fresh basil leaves
Sea salt
Black pepper
Ricotta Salata for some SERIOUS grating
1 pound of mezze rigatoni pasta (or any pasta that suits your liking)
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil

*A note about salting your eggplant

I have read to always do this, or to never do this, so when a culinary conflict arises I always ask myself “What would Vinnie do?” She would salt the eggplant!

Simply peel and slice the eggplant lengthwise, line a large colander with paper towel and place the slices on top.  Generously salt the eggplant and layer with more paper towel, continue like this until all the pieces are salted and sandwiched between the paper towels.  Next take a cast iron pot or an aluminum pot with cans of beans inside and press down on the colander, let sit for one hour.  Before cooking make sure to rinse or pat the excess salt from the slices. 

Preparation

In a medium sauce pan sauté the onion in extra virgin until translucent, add the garlic and soften one to two minutes more.  At this time add the diced eggplant and more olive oil if needed (The eggplant tends to soak up a lot of oil) sauté for three to four minutes more.  Add the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, simmer for twenty to thirty minutes.

Boil the pasta according to package directions; cook one minute under al dente- drain and toss into the sauce and continue to cook for one to two minutes longer.  Serve with a hefty grating of ricotta salata, enjoy!

 

 

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…and one for good luck- Fried Green Tomatoes

While cleaning out the remnants of our summer garden Paul held up three perfectly formed but very green Brandywine tomatoes to accompany a pout on his face.

“We’ll fry em up.” I said very decidedly, though in truth I have a) never tasted a fried green tomato and b) never made a fried green tomato.

“Yeah?” he asked, skeptical

I looked over some recipes, cornmeal crusted, paprika dusted, buttermilk soaked- I decided that I would fry these tomatoes the same way I would cauliflower or Cardones using good old fashioned breadcrumbs and egg, with the addition of some all purpose flour to crisp up the batter. They were good, really good, tart and tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside. I took their picture, but I did not stop there. After asking Paul how hungry he was on a scale of 1-10 and receiving an exasperated 8 and half I went right to work creating a most indulgent egg sandwich. Slices of pancetta fried to a crisp, tender torn bib lettuce, poached eggs, melted mozzarella, fried green tomatoes, and a gentle smear of Dijon mustard- modesty has its place for sure, but after biting into this creation I felt a little like an evil genius. I hope you take time to make, prepare, and enjoy!

Fried Green Tomatoes
2 un ripened green tomatoes (we used our precious Brandywine’s)
½ cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
½ cup all purpose flour
1 egg
1 egg white
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
Peanut Oil for frying
In one small bowl combine the egg and egg white, beat well. In another bowl combine the flour, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, set aside.
Slice the tomatoes paper thin- this will ensure that they fry up quickly and produce tender results.
Heat the peanut oil over medium high heat ( I usually test my oil by sprinkling a bit of the flour into it, if it sizzles up quickly it is ready, if it sinks to the bottom the oil is not hot enough)
While the oil is heating up coat the tomatoes in flour and breadcrumbs, then eggs, then back to flour and breadcrumbs. Fry until golden on both sides and drain on paper towel or re-used paper bags so they are not soggy. You can sprinkle with some extra salt and pepper for taste if you’d like, but do so while the tomatoes are still hot.
PLFGT-Pancetta, Lettuce, Fried Green Tomato Sandwich
Makes two sandwiches
2 Ciabatta rolls (you could also use hearty sliced bread, or Portuguese rolls)
4 organic farm fresh eggs
4 slices of fresh mozzarella
4 slices of fried green tomatoes
6 thin slices of pancetta
Torn bibb lettuce leaves
Dijon mustard
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Step by Step Preparation:
1. Fry the pancetta until crispy, drain the oil on a paper towel lined sheet
2. Slice the ciabatta rolls in half and layer 2 slices of mozzarella on each roll, drizzle a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper onto the bread and toast until the cheese is melted.
3. While the bread is toasting and the cheese is melting poach your eggs two at time. You can find the simplest most fool – proof poaching recipe here
4. Remove the bread from the oven and spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard onto the cheese-less side
5. Top the mustard with bibb lettuce leaves
6. Top the cheese side with fried green tomato slices (two slices per sandwich)
7. Layer the pancetta on top of the lettuce and the poached eggs on top of the pancetta
8. Put the two sides together, slice in the middle and enjoy bite by delicious bite

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