Monday, September 13, 2010

Greek Dressing Goodness

Hi Readers!  It's been a while and for that I apologize, but life is getting back to its old routine of school, work and more.

I'm off and running (literally) with new lighter, healthier ideas these days as I am hoping to take the weight I've wanted to lose for a few years off...finally.  So in honor of that, I'm posting a recipe for a yummy dressing I made up tonight.  It's kind of like a tzatziki, but thinner and with no cucumbers (although, the dressing on cucumbers is dynamite).

Greek Yogurt Dressing

1/2 cup nonfat Greek-style yogurt (I used Voskos - delicious and nothing but milk and active cultures)
2 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (cuts the acidity and gives the dressing a nice "mouth-feel")
1 clove garlic (minced or pressed)
2 tsp. fresh chopped chives
1-2 tbsp. non or low-fat milk (to thin out as needed)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a container and serve with your favorite mixed greens and veggies.

I paired this dressing up with my standard salad of romaine, red bell pepper, cucumber, and red onion.  You could definitely omit the milk and keep it thicker if using as a dip.  Oh, the possibilities!  It was completely delicious and totally low fat.  To borrow a term from a friend of mine, you could definitely call this dressing "awesomesauce."  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sometimes Simple Is Better

This is going to be a short post tonight - long day of hiking is behind me and I'm ready for a shower.

Today's the kind of day where I didn't want to make an elaborate meal and I wanted to use what I already had available in the fridge and my pantry.  I knew we all wanted salad, so I went a Greek route with romaine lettuce, red pepper, cucumber, red onion, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese dressed with a simple red wine vinaigrette:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/3 cup of olive oil

Whisk first five ingredients together, then slowly whisk in the olive oil to emulsify.

I found a New York strip steak in my freezer and decided to defrost that and two small chicken breasts.  I marinated them for about 45 minutes with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and dried oregano, just enough to coat both sides of the meat.  I threw the meat on the grill and that was that.

I also chose to make popovers as it is the simplest bread you could possibly make (makes 6 popovers):

1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Grease a jumbo muffin tin or a popover pan.

Whisk all the ingredients together, being careful not to over-mix (if you do, they won't "pop" like they're supposed to).  Fill each cup up to about halfway. Bake popovers at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, decrease heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

So easy. So simple. So delicious.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

French Potato Salad or I May Never Go Back to Regular...

After hanging out with one of my friends who is a dynamite cook, I decided to try her version of a French potato salad, which usually means it's vinaigrette based rather than mayonnaise based.  OMG.  It is to die for.  You can eat this warm, room temperature or cold.  We're eating it cold because it is frickin' hot here today.

French Potato Salad (ala Emily via Andrea)

1 1/2 pound red potatoes, cut in half if small, quartered if larger
4 strips of bacon, sliced into 1/2" pieces and cooked crisp; save bacon drippings for cooking shallots
4 large shallots, sliced into rings
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. fresh tarragon, finely chopped

For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. grainy mustard
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Steam potatoes for about 15 minutes or until the end of a sharp knife pierces the potatoes easily.  Place them into a large bowl.  Whisk (or shake if you use a jar) all the ingredients for the vinaigrette together and pour over the hot potatoes.  This allows the potatoes to soak in the dressing - don't worry if it seems like too much.

Meanwhile, cook the shallots over medium to medium-low heat in the bacon drippings and 1 tbsp. butter. You want to caramelize them slowly, allowing them to get dark and crisp.  This should take about 20 minutes.  Just keep your eye on them, not moving them too much, but also making sure they don't burn. Drain briefly on a paper towel and let cool.

Gently, mix the bacon, shallots and tarragon into the potatoes.  You can eat it now, but my advice would be to refrigerate for at least 2 hours and let the ingredients combine for maximum flavor.

Tonight it will be a basic sauteed filet of Dover sole with lemon butter to accompany this delectable side dish.  I cannot wait!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Olé! It's Salsa Time!

I'm one choosy woman when it comes to salsa.  I don't like it to come in a vacuumed-sealed jar on an inner aisle of a grocery store.  And it most certainly better not taste like chunky, spicy ketchup.  Blech.  If I buy store-bought, it has to at least come from the refrigerated section.  My favorite store-bought salsa is Trader Joe's Salsa Especial.  OMG.  So wonderfully delicious.

I'm definitely not an expert on making salsas, but it is something that is not very hard, especially when you have good ingredients.  One of my favorite salsas to make after I had something similar at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh is a pineapple-mango salsa. It pairs really well with fish, chicken, even beans (including tonight's Refried Black Bean Quesadillas - I've posted the refried bean recipe here).

Pineapple Mango Salsa

1 ripe mango, peeled, seeded and cut into a small dice (mangoes are ripe when the flesh gives under your thumb)
1 cup pineapple, cut into a small dice (it's okay to used canned - I usually buy the pineapple rings)
1 minced jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1/2 red onion, chopped finely
1 red bell pepper, chopped finely
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl or plastic container.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let the flavors combine together.

I plan on delving into the world of homemade salsas more regularly as it is a fun way to make boring food lively.  I'll keep you all updated on my experimentation!  Until then, try this out-of-the-ordinary salsa sometime soon.

Make Your Burgers Better

I love a good burger, but with the recent scare of tainted meat (see 1 Million Pounds of Ground Beef Recalled), I think it's best to stick with ground turkey or organic, grass-fed beef.  Turkey can be boring, like really boring, so I like to create delicious ways to enjoy it more in burger form.
I went to my friend's house today for some poolside catching-up and brought over the tried and true Greek Turkey Burgers.  I've not met a person yet who doesn't like this recipe.  Try it and you'll love it.  I promise.

Greek Turkey Burgers

1 pound lean ground turkey (do NOT buy the extra lean unless you like eating sawdust)
6 ounces crumbled feta cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, just until they are all incorporated.  Don't over-mix as meat will get tough when cooking.  Let meat rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to let the flavors combine.

Preheat grill (or pan) on medium heat.  Form four patties of equal size. Cook burgers thoroughly, about 7 minutes on each side, or until juices run clear.

Ground meats are such empty canvases, so experiment with whatever flavors you like.  Drop me a comment if you have a great burger recipe to share!

All I Am Saying Is Give Tofu a Chance

Today is Monday.  And being Monday, I read another post about Meatless Monday via the NPR Facebook page, Campaign Aims to Make Meatless Mondays HipNow I’m not one to follow trends too closely, but I think there’s a lot of benefit to giving up meat for one day when you’re not already a vegetarian – and maybe if you’re a vegetarian, go vegan for the day…this recipe happens to also  be vegan.  Anyhow, I have quite a few great non-meat meals in my arsenal, but tonight I made one of my favorites, Stir-Fried Tofu with Green Beans and Cashews.  It’s adapted from a Williams and Sonoma cookbook that I happened to page through at my friend Anna’s house one time several years ago.  Seriously.  I saw the recipe once.  Did I mention I have a near photographic memory?

I often hear that people think they don’t like tofu.  I honestly think that if more people learned about what tofu is in its almost infinite varieties, they would change their minds.  A quick primer about tofu before I get to the recipe.

There are two main kinds of tofu: silken and regular. Silken tofu, also called soft, silk or Japanese-style tofu has a softer consistency than regular tofu and will fall apart if not handled carefully. You may notice that silken tofu (soft tofu), unlike regular tofu, is sometimes packaged in aseptic boxes that do not require refrigeration. Because of this, silken tofu is sometimes sold in a different section of grocery stores than regular tofu, which is packed in water and requires refrigeration.Both silken and regular tofu can be found in soft, medium, firm and extra firm consistencies. They are made from the same ingredients, but they are processed slightly differently, and are not interchangeable in a recipe.

Silken Tofu

Most recipes will let you know when silken tofu is needed. I find that there is little difference between firm and extra firm silken tofu, and for most purposes, the different kinds of silken tofu are interchangeable, so don’t worry if your grocer only stocks one kind.
Salad dressings, sauces and desserts usually use silken tofu for a thick and creamy texture. Silken tofu in an aseptic container has a shelf life of up to a year, unopened. Once opened, submerge any used portion with water in a container, cover, and refrigerate for up to a week.

Regular Tofu

Regular tofu, also called Chinese-style tofu or bean curd is more common than silken tofu and comes in a plastic container in the refrigerator or produce section of most grocery stores. Firm or extra firm regular tofu is best used in stir fries, tofu bakes or any dish where you will want the tofu to retain its shape. For recipes that call for crumbled or mashed tofu, such as mock ricotta or scrambled tofu, firm tofu will work just fine, though medium or soft tofu will have a smoother consistency.

Tofu information courtesy of

So, students, which kind of tofu did I use for my recipe tonight?  That’s right, regular extra-firm tofu.  The main thing to remember about tofu is that it is like a sponge.  It will soak up anything you put it in, so always always always marinate it first if you want flavor.  And, so, without further ado…

Stir-Fried Tofu with Green Beans and Cashews

1 pkg. regular extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
12-16 ounces of fresh green beans, stems removed and cut in half
1 medium brown or yellow onion, diced
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. cooking sherry (unless you have real sherry in your house, this will do just fine)
3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1 tbsp. peanut oil or canola oil (whichever you have on hand, although peanut oil will give more flavor)
3/4 cup toasted whole cashews
1/3 cup of cold water
1 tbsp. corn starch
Salt and pepper to taste

For the marinade: Mix the soy sauce, cooking sherry, garlic and ginger in a measuring cup.  Place diced tofu into a medium bowl and pour marinade over it.  Let sit for 10-15 minutes while prepping the green beans and onion.

Heat wok or extra-large skillet over high heat.  Pour peanut oil into the hot pan and sauté onions for about 3-5 minutes being careful not to burn them.  Add green beans and stir frequently.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook green beans for 5 minutes.  Add the tofu with its marinade and gently stir to combine being careful to not break up the tofu.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add cashews and cook for 1 additional minute.

Whisk cold water together with the corn starch in a small bowl or measuring cup, making a slurry.  Push green beans and tofu to the side of the pan slightly and add slurry to the  liquid already in the pan making sure to stir constantly.  This will thicken up the marinade and make it more of a glaze or sauce.  If it gets too gummy, add some vegetable stock, more soy sauce or water to loosen it up.  Once the sauce comes together, there’s no need to cook it any further.  Serve stir-fry with steamed rice or Asian noodles.

I’m telling you, give tofu a chance some Meatless Monday.  You’ll be glad you did!

Asian Food Memories

Tonight, we are hosting two of my favorite people in the universe for dinner, Marc and Ozzie.  I love them.  No, I really LOVE them.  They are two of the best friends a gal can have.  They are generous and kind and, lord, are they funny.  They are helping us out for the next month by being our house-sitters, so the least I can do before I give them the keys and instructions for our cranky elder-kitty is to make them a fantastic meal.
I decided that the menu should be Asian-inspired, so in honor of that, I am going to make this amazing roasted chicken that I learned how to make from a woman named Diane in Boston.  Diane was my boss when I lived in Boston.  I was a nanny for her four children, the youngest now a high-school graduate (oy, does that make me feel old!).  Anyway, Diane is Chinese and is an amazing cook.  I learned her recipe for Soy Sauce Chicken and I’m going to share that deliciousness with you.

Also on the menu: Wasabi Mashed Potatoes, Mixed Green Salad with Ginger Dressing, and homemade Green Tea Ice Cream.  Oh, yeah, it’s going to be fantastic!

Soy Sauce Chicken

1 whole chicken (4-6 pounds)
6 cloves garlic, smashed
4-6 scallions (white and green parts), roughly chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into slices
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup soy sauce (I prefer the dark Chinese soy sauce found in Asian markets, but regular old Kikkoman will do)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Wash and pat dry chicken and place into a glass 9 x 13 inch baking dish (you can also use a roasting pan).  Stuff chicken cavity with garlic, scallions,  and ginger.  Rub the chicken with the canola oil.  Sprinkle the salt all over the chicken and then pour the soy sauce over the whole chicken as well.

Roast the chicken at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees.  Continue to roast the chicken for another 1 1/2 hours or until the juices run clear.  During this process, baste the chicken with the soy sauce and juices in the pan to get the most crispy dark skin, approximately every 20-30 minutes.  You want an internal temperature in the thigh (being careful not to hit the bone) to read 180 degrees.   Let the chicken rest on a cutting board for at least 10 minutes before carving.

Wasabi Mashed Potatoes

1 1/2-2 pounds of russet potatoes
1/3 cup whole milk (more can be added if potatoes seem a bit dry)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
4 oz. sour cream
3 teaspoons of prepared wasabi paste (easily found in the Asian aisle of your supermarket); you can certainly increase the amount according to taste if you like
Salt to taste

Peel and cut potatoes into medium chunks and put into a stockpot.  Cover with cold water so that there is an additional 2 inches of water above the potatoes.  Salt your water!  If you read my last post about salting your rice water, please do the same here.  1/2 tablespoon works well for potatoes.  Cook potatoes over medium-high heat until a boil is achieved, then turn heat down to medium-low.  Boil for approximately 15 minutes.  The tip of a knife should easily pierce the potatoes. Drain the potatoes in a colander and return them to the stockpot.  Shake pan with potatoes over low heat to dry for about 30 seconds.  Turn off the heat.  Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes coarsely.  Add all the ingredients and mash the potatoes until light and fluffy.  Taste for seasoning.  If you feel it needs more salt, add more salt.  If you want more spiciness, add more wasabi paste.

Mixed Green Salad with Ginger Dressing
1 bag of prepared lettuce (whatever you prefer – I like romaine)
1 red pepper, cut into half inch pieces
Half an English cucumber, halved and sliced
1/4 of a red onion thinly sliced
1/3 bottle of ginger dressing (I have a favorite that is found with the refrigerated dressings in my produce section.  It tastes exactly like the kind you get at Japanese restaurants)

Combine lettuce, pepper, cucumber, and onion in a large bowl and toss the salad with the dressing.

Green Tea Ice Cream

* You will need an ice cream maker for this recipe.  Trust me, it’s the best appliance ever and you’ll never buy ice cream in a container again.  Cuisinart makes one for about $50. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions about how to deal with the freezer bowl.

1 cup whole milk, well chilled
5 green tea bags
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Several hours before or the night before, steep green tea bags in heated milk.  Let cool to room temperature, cover and chill milk with the tea bags in the refrigerator.
In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer or a whisk to combine the milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved, about 1-2 minutes on low speed.  Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.  Turn machine on, pour mixture into freezer bowl through ingredient spout and let mix until thickened 25-30 minutes.  Either eat now or let ripen in the freezer for 2 hours.
I hope you like these recipes as much as I do.  Enjoy!