Tuesday, June 29, 2010

White Sangria with Berries and Peaches

"Summer is here and the time is right, for dancing in the streets." Do you know the tune? Mick Jagger and David Bowie reprised it in the mid 1980's during my teenage years and that's the soundtrack that always runs through my mind when I make fun summer drinks, like sangria.

Most people are familiar with the traditional red sangria - made with citrus fruit and red Rioja wine. But a few years back I discovered white Sangria and found I prefer it. White sangria is lighter and, to tell the truth, since it's easier to see the fruit in your glass, I find it more appealing to serve to guests.

As with so many "country" style recipes, there is a different version depending on who's making it. I like my white with peaches and berries, but that's just my preference. Experiment with what you like and what looks good at the grocery store. Don't skimp on the sugar or the additional liquor, it does make a difference!

White Sangria with Berries and Peaches

1 bottle dry white wine (Spanish is preferred, like a Rioja or other dry white blend)
1 peach, pitted and sliced
1/4 lb strawberries, trimmed and cut
1/4 cup raspberries
1/4 cup blackberries
3 tablespoons sugar
3 shots brandy or fruity liquor (triple sec, grand marnier)
frozen grapes (optional garnish)
sparkling water or club soda (optional)

Combine all but wine in glass pitcher and toss to soak in sugar and liquor. Add wine and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (longer is better). Either serve in chilled wine glasses or fill large drinking glass half full with sangria and top off with sparking water and add frozen grapes to keep drink chilled.

Recipes currently inspiring me:

Wine You'd Be Happy to Drink at The Perfect Pantry
Herb and Cheese Pasta Salad at Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bacon, Kale and Blue Cheese Pasta Al Forno

Have you ever noticed that if you name a dish using another language, it sounds exotic? That's what this is, an Italian version of Mac and Cheese.

Al Forno simply means "in the oven" and so this is cooked pasta with cheese, kale, bacon and some 1/2 and 1/2 baked for 30 minutes to a delicious creaminess. Unlike old fashioned mac and cheese with a white sauce this version is quicker to prepare. Also to make it a one pot meal I added onions and kale in a vain attempt to create the impression that dish has some health benefits!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Grilled Marinated Vegetables - Italian Style

Grilled marinated vegetables is one of those dishes that is simple yet stunningly delicious. With these sorts of recipes, I always wonder who first discovered this incredible combination; grill vegetables, dust with salt, red wine vinegar, a dash of olive oil and some chopped basil and allow to marinated for at least 2 hours. Rather than creating a vinaigrette the liquids soak into the veggies and render them even sweeter and more distinctively squash or mushroom or onion like. Astounding!

I first read this particular recipe in Mario Batali's latest cookbook (already lauded here) and while I left out the red pepper flakes in consideration of my particular dining companions, I'm sure it's just as good with them!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mediterranean Hors d'oeuvres Plate

For the longest time I had hostess insecurity. I had so little confidence in whipping up a hors d'oeuvres plate when someone happened to stop by. Part of this stemmed from the fact that my sisters had worked in upscale restaurants for years so it came naturally to them. Usually I put out too many cheeses, or they looked a mess on the plate or cutting board. I finally discovered the secret; less is more.

Obviously, this post is not a recipe but I wanted to share this picture and discuss the elements of this display that I love: savory cured meat, one or two cheeses (this was a young Manchego, nutty and easy to slice), olives (a variety if possible), and in this instance I added some sliced oranges for a bit of sweetness and cirtus. Inspired choice if I do say so myself (and it looks pretty too!)

Dear reader, if you have any go-to appertizes that you keep on hand in case of unexpected guests, please share!


Recipes currently inspiring me:

Fish and Tahini Salad at An Edible Mosiac
Broccoli Rabe with Caramelized Onions at Simply Recipes
Roasted New Potatoes at Thyme for Cooking - the Blog
Spicy Barley with Snow Peas and Feta at The Kitchen Illiterate

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cucumber and Pepper Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing

Happy Summer Solstice! It's the longest day of the year and the offical opening of summer, so here come the veggies!

Here's a gorgeous way to kick off the summer, crunchy cucmbers, peppers and spring onions swirled in a creamy garlic dressing. That's just the basics, add whatever takes you're fancy.

I also love this dressing as a dip with crudite (cut vegetables) and it regularly makes an appearence at summer apertizer plates, especially when the summer grill is going. Grilling is often so meat heavy that a green salad just doesn't give me enough veggies. This dip can be whipped up in 5 minutes from refrigerator pantry items and only gets better as it ages!

Cucumber and Pepper Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing

1/4 Persian or English cucumber, cut in quarter dice
1 red pepper, diced
1 large carrot, cut in 1/4 inch rounds
1 spring onion/scallion, sliced thinly

Creamy Garlic Dressing

3 tablespoons yogurt, plain
2 teaspoons mayonnaise
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons smooth mustard, like Dijon style
1 lemon juiced (or 1 tablespoon cider vinegar)

Place cut vegetables in bowl. In separate bowl combine yogurt, garlic and mustard and mix well. Add lemon juice or vinegar and blend. Add mayonnaise one teaspoon at a time until it cuts the yogurt flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste. If possible, allow dressing to chill 1 hour or more to allow flavors to marry and garlic to soften and mellow a bit. Spoon 1/2 of dressing over vegetables and toss well to coat.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Chicken and Green Olive Tagine

Eons ago (or maybe is was just last Christmas!) I received The Tagine Deck as a gift, one I had pleaded to receive. While I have only made one other recipe from the Deck - Fish Stew with Chermoula - they have both been superb and I highly recommend the Deck if you're interested in some variety with your slow cooker or just delving into another Mediterranean cuisine.

This was a spectacular tagine, easy to make with lots of complex chicken flavor. Very savory compared to some other tagines in the Deck, and being a huge olive fan, I loved how the olives stewed in the chicken broth.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pan Bagne with Sundried Tomato Pesto, Feta and Fresh Basil

Pan Bagne, meaning "bathed bread", is a great French peasant invention for creating flavorful sandwiches with inexpensive ingredients. The "bathed" part is simply drizzling olive oil over whatever goodies you place inside a baguette (or long loaf style bread) and then wrapping it in foil and allowing it all to marinate at least over night, weighed down with something heavy. The oil makes all of the ingredients seep into the bread, transforming old crusty bread into a delicious meal!

This is the perfect picnic food since it is already "packaged" and you can tailor it to clean out the fridge or buy special food just to make it. I love using sundried tomatoes, basil and usually some cheese (slices of parmesan or in this instance a creamy goat feta) and usually olives because I can never get enough of them!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mixed Seafood and Red Pepper Salad

This is a copy cat dish, similar to one I had at a new neighborhood restaurant, Momed (Modern Mediterranean, fantastic and fabulous! Check it out if you're in the Los Angeles area!)

The original seafood salad included shrimp, calamari and squid (calamari as the equivalent to cuttle fish) in the lightest lemon vinaigrette I have ever tasted until I realized the seafood were actually cerviche, and the salad just had some olive oil added to it. I stuck with the vegetables from Momed's version, thinnly sliced fennel, onion (their's were red) and added some red bell pepper for color. Fantastic lunch over fresh spinach!

Mixed Seafood and Red Pepper Salad

6 large shrimp, deshelled and deveined, cut in half along the vein
12 bay scallops (or 3 large scallops, quartered)
1 whole red bell pepper, diced
1 fennel bulb, sliced as thin as possible
1-2 spring onions, sliced thinnly
6 lemons, juiced
2 limes, juiced
1 jalapeno, deseeded and cut in juilliene
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
olive oil

Combine shrimp, scallops, garlic, jalapeno and citrus juices in bowl deep enough so that seafood is submerged; marinate for 1-2 hours or until scallops and shrimp are "cooked" ala cerviche style (shrimp will be pink and scallops will have lost their opaqueness.) Remove seafood from marinade, brushing off any garlic pieces and place in separate bowl. Add vegetables and toss all together and allow to sit for 30 minutes, refrigerated. When ready to serve, drizzle olive oil over all and add salt and pepper as desired. Serve on salad greens such as spinach or arugula.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ham and Cheese Roll

As I've mentioned many times, poverty was the best cooking teacher I ever had. When I realized that 5 lbs of flour at $3.99 a bag could make quiches, pizza, and scacciatas, in addition to bread and rolls, I knew that these were things I needed to make a constant in my cooking life. The only thing I had in abundance in grad school (besides school work) was time on my hands, so I quickly became adept at making quiche/pie crust and pizza dough.  Wrap pie or pizza dough around cheese, and some other ingredients and you have a full meal.

As a vegetarian I would usually wrap cheese and dough around cooked broccoli or spinach. In this case, I served these ham rolls the same night I made the Spinach Scacciatas so I added the ham in for variety. The more traditional Italian version would be with sweet or spicy Italian sausage, but ham is a great replacement and cheaper if you're keeping track of your pennies.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Presto Pasta Night #167

Welcome to Presto Pasta Night #167! This week is especially exciting with a few new folks who are joining for the first time.

My apologies to anyone who saw the earlier post that was clearly unfinished. I was recently promoted at work and my new job involves both new responsibilities as well as some literal heavy listing (I'm the new cheese, wine and specialty manager at Coopporunity) and forgot to finish the post before falling into a dead sleep! So without further ado, let's see what's on tap for this week!

Sarah of What Smells So Good? brings us Gourmet-for-One Morel Pasta, an incredible mushroom dish she whipped up just for herself but kindly shared the recipe in case you want to share. Sounds like being alone in the kitchen is the perfect inspiration for Sarah!

Daphne of More Than Words sent us this Black Bean Seafood Udon for our dining pleasure. A "better use these things up sauce" produced a gorgeous udon noodle dish using just eight ingredients! Perfect for a quick dinner night and budget friendly as well!

Little Inbox of Eating Pleasure, provides us with Linguine Aglio Olio, her answer to the recent spate of food bloggers making this traditional dish - combine a bulb of garlic with veggies and olive oil and presto! A gorgeous, flavor packed pasta night!

Denise, of Oh Taste N See made EZPOT Pasta (Ratatouille Pasta) combined her desire to make Ratatouille and her husband's pasta craving to make this festive dish. EZPOT for those who are wondering, is the mantra for making ratatouille - eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onion and tomato - brilliant!

Kevin from Closet Cooking made Asparagus and Mushroom Japchae a traditional Korean dish made with cellophane noodles made from sweet potato starch. While he stuck the recipe most of the time he did add lots of enoki, shiitake and oyster mushrooms, definite favorites of mine!

Joanne of Eats Well With Others made Crispy Gnocchi with Green Beans and Peas with divine intervention as her alibi, at least to instructors when they wonder why she wasn't studying. Lucky us, we get the pleasure of making this gorgeous dish. Good luck with the exam Joanne!

Claire of Chez Cayenne made Spicy Peanut Pasta to share with Presto Pasta Night - her first time here - welcome Claire! This is good hot or at room temperature and is especially great for potlucks. Not only is it both vegan and vegetarian but with lots of spice to boot!

Christine of Kits Chow made Chiang mai noodles, Khao soy. Despite the name this is a one pot meal with a few basic ingredients - quick, easy and delicious! Hard to beat that with a wooden spoon!
Shannon, another new blogger to Presto Pasta Night, Welcome! - writes at Culinary Collegian and made Cold Medicine: Minestrina on the advice of her Roman roommate. Minestrina is a tomato, pasta and parmesan soup full of comfort and easy on the tummy when you're achy and cranky from feeling sickly. Sounds like something I need to have after a hard day of lifting wine boxes!

Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything made Whole Wheat Ramen with Prawns, magical looking dish of elegant simplicity - hearty noodles with red miso, prawns and some wakeme. Lovely and amazing looking!

Beth Ann of The Seventh Level of Boredom shared her Asparagus Pesto Orzo her solution to using pesto without losing most of it to the pan. Asparagus pesto has been making the rounds of the blogs this spring and this looks like the perfect way to try it out if you haven't already!

And here's my submission Sundried Tomato Pesto. I was craving a briney meal and sundried tomatoes and Moroccan oil cured olives certainly fit that bill! I added some capers for extra omph!

Thanks to everyone for returning (or sending in your first submission!) I think it's a fabulous round up and hope you'll all be back next week when The Sweet Kitchen is hosting. Send your entries to sweetkitchen (at) rogers (dot) ca and cc me ruth (at) 4everykitchen (dot) com by next Thursday. I already have mine ready!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sundried Tomato Pesto for Presto Pasta Night 167!

I love briny, acidic flavors like olives, vinegar and full bodied red wines. When I need a quick go-to pantry dinner I often throw this one together because I always have olives and sundried tomatoes on hand.

While pesto usually calls to mind Genovese basil pesto, pesto actually means "pounded" and that is what is essentially happens with this one, only in a blender. This pesto can be made in the time it takes the pasta to cook if you set the sundried tomatoes to soak in boiling water 15 minutes ahead of time. I used Moroccan oil cured olives since the extra oil helps reduce the use of additional olive oil.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chick Pea and Tomato Tagine

I am fascinated by chick peas/garbanzos/ceci, whatever you want to call them. Not because I love them so much but because they are the most unusual looking bean. They don't really look like a bean to me, more like a little yellow brain or a scrunched up face like those dolls made with shriveled apples for heads. I'm also intrigued by them since they are one of only three legumes that are indigenous to Europe and the Mediterranean in particular.

Although I was a vegetarian for 15 years yet I didn't progress beyond using chick peas in hummus or in green salads. But recently after exploring The Tagine Deck I realized that they would make an amazing base for a vegetarian tagine. While I didn't end up using a specific recipe I did get a sense of what is needed to make a balanced tagine, ingredient wise.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Summer Squash and Green Garlic Saute

Last week I made another Moroccan feast, including two tagines, muhammara, tzatziki and this vegetable saute, which was Moroccan inspired. It was an amazing meal, all the more so because I didn't follow any specific recipes and everything turned out incredible! Not only that, but my guests loved the food as well, and they were not your typical adventurous foodie types. It was a rousing success and a fabulous memory I will live on for quite some time!

All crowing aside this particular vegetable saute reminded me that when done right, summer squash is a lovely vegetable too often overlooked in my repertoire. Remember the Algerian style potato wedges that included finishing touches after coming out of the oven? I went with that idea and squeezed some lemon juice over the saute a minute before removing the veggies from the pan and then tossed in some minced mint. Fantastic!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Presto Pasta Night!

Once again I'm hosting Presto Pasta Night, the fun weekly round up of pasta dishes from all over the world, literally! If you want to play, send me a picture of your dish and a link to the post by next Thursday, June 10 and then check back for all the fun on Friday, June 11.

Please send your submission to kirstenmlindquist (at) gmail (dot) com as well as a cc to ruth (at) 4everykitchen (dot) com, founder of Presto Pasta Night and writer of Once Upon A Feast - Every Kitchen Tells its Stories.

Looking forward to all the delicious fare!


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Muhammara - Magical Dip of the Middle East

If you've ever dined at a Middle Eastern restaurant and eaten Muhammara you know what all the fuss is about with this wonderful dip. If not, hold on for the ride, because it's a fun one!

Muhammara - roasted red peppers, walnuts, olive oil and pomegranate molasses - is a lesser known cousin to hummus, baba ghanoush, and foule, middle eastern dishes that are usually part of a Mezze (little tasting) plate served as an appetizer. The surprising taste of muhammara is the pomegranate molasses which is a sweet and tart syrup made by reducing pomegranate juice. It imparts a depth of flavor to this dip that is almost uncanny. Combined with the hot spiciness of either paprika, cayenne (or the traditional Aleppo pepper if you can find it) and the sweetness of roasted red bell peppers this dip makes your senses sing!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Seafood Thai Red Curry

Thai food is one of those gorgeous cuisines that without a few key ingredients you can never come close to duplicating it at home. That's why when I decided to make some Thai curry for my family I went on an urban foraging trip to find ingredients like fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and fish sauce.

Fish sauce is probably more familiar to people since it is generally available in most grocery stores, along side bottled Thai curry paste. But lemon grass and especially kaffir lime leaves are usually only found in Asian markets. The great thing about lime leaves is they freeze well, so stock up when you find them. As for lemongrass, it does not keep well and needs to be used within a few days. However, if you find yourself really cooking Thai a lot, it's very easy to grow lemongrass; I purchased two plants in the mail and they grew to huge bushes in one summer and wintered over inside the house nicely.

I posted about this version of curry here, but I updated it to include the fish sauce, lime leaves and fresh lemongrass. I think it makes a difference. Of course you could substitute any vegetables or protein you desired (except beef or pork, they don't work as well with curry). I think an assortment of mushrooms would be lovely or even eggplant, especially the little round green Thai eggplant. Just follow the principles of cooking harder foods first and ending with quicker cooking foods like greens or bell peppers or seafood last.

Seafood Thai Red Curry

10 raw shrimp, shelled
4 large scallops, cut in half
1-2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (according to desired heat level)
1 tablespoon safflower/sunflower oil
2 stalks broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
1 red pepper, cut into bite size pieces
3 stalks lemongrass
4-6 lime leaves
1 tablespoon fish sauce
15 oz can coconut milk
5-6 basil leaves, chiffonaded

Trim the end and peel the outer leaves of the lemongrass and set aside two. Split the third stalk down the middle and remove two more layers of outer leaves and finely mince the soft inner stalk; set aside. In large stock pan heat oil over high heat. Add curry paste and mash it up to saute in the oil, 2-3 minutes. Add coconut milk, lime leaves, minced lemongrass, 1 can of water, and place whole lemongrass stalks in pot and bring to boil. Reduce to medium high heat and add fish sauce and broccoli and cook 2-3 minutes. Add peppers and shrimp and scallops and cook until seafood is done. Add basil after removing from heat and ladle curry over cooked rice.