Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Parmesan Crusted Zuchinni Fries

What about this does not sound good? Crispy, crunchy, cheesey crusted zucchini= YUM! I actually baked these and didn't fry them so you get the added bonus of having a low fat delicious snack and you can still feel like you're eating french fries- though between you and me these are ten times better than french fries. They are best served with some marinara sauce and if you think that is a weird combination just try it and get back to me. The combo of the crispy hot fries in the cool marinara is H-E-A-V-E-N-L-Y!! I used the dark skinned zucchini here which I am finding more and more readily available here rather than the light skinned squash because I think the flavor is better, the texture is better and the color peaks through the crumbs and looks better, but if after all that PR for using dark zucchini doesn't get you than you can use the squash and it will be just fine. Enjoy!

5 large zucchini, cut into strips and patted dry
1 large egg
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbl  dried parsley
1 tsp granulated garlic
salt and pepper
3 Tbl oil

Whisk the egg in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl mix the panko, cheese and herbs and season with salt and pepper. Preheat your oven to 400. Pour 3 Tbl of oil onto a baking sheet and place in the oven to heat up. Meanwhile dip the zucchini first in the egg and then in the crumb mixture. Place them flesh side up (skin side down) on the hot oil and spray the tops with cooking spray. Bake for about 15 minutes until they are golden brown.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Asian Sweet Potato Salad

This is originally a Bon-Appetit recipe that was also printed in Epicurious that eventually found its way to me. I love sweet potatoes, they are healthy, sweet, have great texture and are easy to cook and I grew up eating them just simply mashed with a little brown sugar. I like the idea of pairing the mildly sweet sweet potatoes with the more salty asian ingredients because who doesn't like the sweet/salty combo (ie: salted caramel, chocolate covered pretzels)?? The recipe itself got rave reviews everywhere I saw it and I just slightly adapted it to my tastes. To be honest, it wasn't the usual all around hit but if you are a fan of Asian ingredients and like dishes such as peanut noodles then you will love this. Just a little unusual to be interesting but with ingredients you mostly have in your pantry. Enjoy!!

2 lb's sweet potatoes
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 Tbl Mayo
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
4 tsp sesame oil
4 minced garlic cloves
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or a Tbl of sirracha chili sauce, optional)
1 Tbl Peanut Butter
2 Tbl Brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts
1 Tbl toasted white sesame seeds
2 tsp toasted black sesame seeds

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into chunks. Boil them until fork tender but not too mushy or they will fall apart. Cool the sweet potatoes. Whisk the ingredients of the sauce together and pour over the sweet potatoes mixing gently. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with the scallions, peanuts and sesame seeds.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Green Goddess Dip

No, I did not just name this dip myself and no, I have no idea why it is called Green Goddess (except that it is green-ish) but it is a famous dressing/dip that goes back decades. The green comes from lots of herbs and my secret ingredient- avocado- which also adds great texture and subtle flavor. It is super flavorful and if you are taken aback by the sour cream and cream cheese you can use the light versions instead. I served this with crudite at a party but I think it would be delicious slathered on some mild fish or even salmon and baked or spread on some bread and topped with tomato. Either way, all it requires is a food processor and a whole lot of greenery to prepare and the result is creamy, herby, goodness. Enjoy!

4 scallions
4 Tbl dill
4 Tbl parsley
2 Tbl tarragon
2 Tbl basil
1 Tbl capers
1 ripe avocado
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cream cheese
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp honey
salt and pepper

In a food processor combine the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, tarragon, and capers  and process till they are very well chopped. Add the ripe avocado and puree till smooth. Remove to a bowl and mix in the sour cream, cream cheese and the rest of the ingredients. Refrigerate before serving for at least half an hour to allow the flavors to meld.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Caramelized Mushroom Pasta

How do you elevate the simple white button mushroom to a gourmet experience? Caramelizing them over high heat and tossing them with butter and wine is a good start! These mushrooms are adapted from a Michael Chiarello (lovvvvvvvvvvvvveee him!)recipe that I have been wanting to make forever. Finding myself with a few extra boxes of mushrooms was my inspiration to make this and tasting the sauce the mushrooms make with just a few other simple ingredients made me think just how delicious this would taste tossed with pasta. Well, I could not have been more right- the butter, wine, parsley and mushrooms made an incredibly flavorful pasta sauce that I could not stop eating. Truth be told, the mushrooms would just be great as a side dish by themselves but I think they probably wouldn't stay long enough in the pan to make it to the table with all the sticky fingers I have over here (mine included.) The absolute key to this is the caramelization of the mushrooms which requires high heat and NO moving the mushrooms until they are browned. That is actually a pretty hard thing to do for me considering that when I'm standing over any pan I have intense compulsions to mix everything and it took more will power than I thought to leave them alone. Well, it was all worth it because it was just yummy and I know you'll enjoy it because who doesn't love a great mushroom dish??? (yes, DR, I know you don't but your'e just missing out.) Enjoy!!

6 Tbl Olive oil
3 cartons button mushrooms, wiped clean (cut the bigger ones into quarters)
4 Tbl butter
1 Tbl minced garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbl lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup white wine
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 lb spaghetti
1 cup grated parmesan, optional

Heat the oil over high heat. When the oil is hot add the mushrooms and DO NOT MOVE THEM. Let them cook over high heat for about 3 minutes until they are caramelized (check on one by lifting it gently by its stem.) Once they are caramelized mix them and cook another 3 minutes. Add butter, and saute another 3 minutes. Season the mushrooms with salt and add the wine, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, red pepper flakes and thyme and let the mixture cook until the alcohol smell has evaporated. In the meantime, boil your pasta. When the pasta is just about done, drain and transfer directly into the mushrooms and let it cook another minute until the sauce has been absorbed into the pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with the parsley and top with the parmesan and serve.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pear-Pecan Muffins

Is it normal that it makes me unbelievably happy to cook things from overabundant ingredients in my house? When I notice extra anything in my house, zucchini, mushrooms, oranges, apples etc. that will go bad soon it's like I get kicked into high gear and I spend an embarrassingly long but gleeful time trying to use them up. Maybe its my "waste not" instinct, I don't know, but I love it. This week I was faced with pears that looked like they only had another day or so to live and so I had to come up with something quick. These muffins were the result and the over ripe pears gives them such sweet and distinct pear flavor where the taste of pears is usually more subtle. Now, I don't usually bake with nuts, the combination just doesn't do it for me (brownies with walnuts make me ANGRY!) but for some reason the pecans here really add good flavor and some mild texture. But if putting the pecans in gives you the same reaction I have when faced with a walnut brownie then leave them out. These are perfect for breakfast, brunch or a light dessert and they freeze beautifully so I can enjoy them long past the time the pears would have expired. Enjoy!

1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup pear sauce (or applesauce)
4 ripe pears, peeled, cored and diced
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix the eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla and pear sauce together. Add the pecans and pears and mix again. In a separate bowl mix the flour with the rest of the dry ingredients. Add to the wet mixture and mix until just combined. Spray a muffin pan and fill each cup 3/4 of the way full. Bake at 350 for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Not Yo Grandma's Gourmet Tuna Noodle Casserole

By now, all men have already stopped reading. The women are reading with curiosity tinged with disdain- gourmet tuna noodle casserole? An oxymoron if they have ever heard of one. But let me tell you, it is possible. Using fresh portabello and button mushrooms, a home-made buttery bechamel sauce (no gluey canned cream of mushroom soup here!), lots of good cheese and good tuna (you know the kind packed in olive oil, not the anemic stuff drowning in water) makes for a scrumptious and GOURMET tuna casserole albeit one my father would still never touch. I grew up hearing the story of my father's first meeting with his in -laws which included my very America grandmother serving my father (who had only eaten the finest Hungarian food growing up) tuna noodle casserole. He has been scarred ever since and can't look at the stuff.

Now, when it comes to baked pastas I firmly believe there should be some sort of crust.  Whether it be lots of cheese that forms its own crust on the top or a crunchy cheesey bread crumb topping, or potato chips (gasp! but I have been known to use that on top of tuna casseroles and its deeelish) the contrast of creamy and crunchy is crucial. In that vein, I decided to go a different route, topping my casserole with french fried onions (which as you know are delicious in their own right) and the combination is ridiculously good. You can make your own or just use the bagged kind, either way would be divine. Make this, tell your manly man that its just creamy mushroom pasta (omitting the word casserole and tuna is crucial) and watch him devour it. I for one will have to try it on my father sometime soon. Enjoy!

1 lb short pasta ( I like medium shells but rotini, penne or elbows would work)
3/4 cup frozen green peas
1 Tbl butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 1/2 pounds assorted mushrooms (I used baby bella and white button), chopped
2 Tbl white wine
2 cans good quality Italian tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked (or you can use regular tuna in water but it will be less flavorful)
5 Tbl butter
5 Tbl flour
4 cups milk
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups French Fried Onions

Boil pasta in salted water- 2 minutes before the pasta is ready add the frozen peas- continue cooking until the pasta is raed and then  drain. Saute the onion, celery and garlic in 1 Tbl of butter until the onion softens. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook another two minutes. Add the wine and cook until most of the liquid has cooked out of the pan. In a sauce pan melt the 5 Tbl butter. Once melted add the flour and whisk constantly until it gets light golden brown. Raise the heat and add the milk. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Mix the pasta with the milk mixture and mushroom mixture and add in the two cans of tuna, most of the mozzarella cheese and the parmesan cheese. Pour into a buttered or sprayed pan and top with a little more mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle the onions on top and press in a little so they stick to the cheese when cooked. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.
a glimpse of the creamy, mushroomy inside...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Grilled Garlic Portabello Mushrooms

I think I'm obsessed with Portabello mushrooms. It's rare that I see them in the supermarket, and it's rare that I buy them but every time I do I question why I didn't buy more and wonder why I can't plant a Portabello tree. How amazing would that be? Portabello's you can just pick from your garden, whenever! Too bad they grow in the ground and the sorry excuse I have for a garden is practically frozen most of the year. Flavorful and meaty, they take well to strong seasoning and are lovely grilled, roasted, baked or fried. I served these as a side dish for our anniversary meal and I have to say, they almost outshone the goose! Simply marinated in garlic, balsamic and a touch of rosemary and then grilled till perfection they were tender and flavorful and easy to make. If you don't have a grill or grill pan you can simply pan fry them or broil them in the oven. Enjoy!

6 Portabello mushroom caps, wiped clean
1/4 cup oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp rosemary
salt and pepper

Mix the oil, garlic, vinegar and rosemary in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. Marinate the mushrooms in the mixture making sure they are all  coated (the mushrooms will absorb a lot of the oil so you may need to brush the marinade on them as well) for about half an hour. Grill or pan fry until tender.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

SUPERBOWL recipes!! and Corn and Black Bean Salsa

It's SUPERBOWL time!!! By now, I have been subjected to no less than a month of sports radio played in my house constantly to the point that I am ashamed to admit I actually know the names of many of the players playing, their stats and their injuries and have been singing the WFAN jingle in my head (it's so catchy and that Kars for Kids song? Can't get it out of my head!)I have said it once and I'll say it again, I am no fan of the sport which to me just seems like a legal barbaric way for men to get their testosterone out by knocking each other down and smacking into each other. Kind of sounds like the cave men, no? But I have also admitted that I do like the food culture of the super bowl - the dips and chips, wings and all the good stuff and being the ever good wife it is incumbent on me to provide food for my dear, football loving, glued to the game, hungry hubby. Over here, the game will be watched at 3 in the morning or so, and while I'm sure no one would object to eating deep fried wings at that time of morning whilst never taking their eyes off the screen, it makes me feel better to provide a healthy-ish snack as well. Enter the corn and black bean salsa- a refreshing, hearty, spicy and tasty "salsa" or salad that goes great with taco chips and even scoops up great into celery for those avoiding the chips. Of course, the other, more typical food is required as well so I posted a few oldies but goodies from the blog that would be perfect for your super bowl party. Enjoy!

For the salsa:
1 can of sweet yellow corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small jalapeno, diced
one small red onion diced
1 tomato, diced finely
1/2 a red pepper, finely diced
3 scallions, diced
1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
 6 Tbl olive oil
3 Tbl lime or lemon juice
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the corn and vegetables and toss lightly. Whisk the parsley, garlic, oil, lemon, and cumin and pour over corn mixture. Mix gently and let it marinate for at least half an hour for the flavors to meld. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

And now for a couple of Super Bowl faves...