Monday, June 29, 2009

Roasted Eggplant Pasta Salad

Eggplant gets a bad rap. Draped with a ton of cheese and dripping in batter is the most popular American rendition of Eggplant Parmesan. However, the true flavor of eggplant is masked under these heavy ingredients. This dish focuses on the smoky flavor of the smaller Italian variety and adds a nice element to a typical pasta salad. This recipe requires little preparation and delivers on flavor. Tossed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, the eggplant was roasted in a sheet pan on the outdoor grill. While I normally opt for homemade dressing, this time I used Newman's Own Balsamic, which of all the store bought dressings tastes quite fresh.

Roasted Eggplant Pasta Salad
Serves 6

1 lb box of Rigatoni
2 small Italian eggplant's, chopped into 1/2 in. pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 springs green onion, chopped
2 roma tomatoes seeded and chopped
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Toss eggplant pieces with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place eggplant pieces on half a sheet pan and place on hot grill. Roast for about 15 minutes until eggplant pieces are golden. Let pieces cool. In a large bowl toss the pasta, eggplant pieces, tomato and green onion. Pour in the dressing and mix well. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Kielbeisa Skewers

Whether its kielbasa, chorizo, chicken apple, spicy Italian, or Greek style with orange peel- sausage is truly versatile, difficult to resist, and perfect for summer grilling.

Serving for a large crowd can prove a bit messy. If you cut into bite sized pieces before grilling, the pieces fall through the grates. However, cutting after grilling is not always ideal when a hungry crowd is waiting. By the time I find a clean cutting board, the crowd has already devoured the sausage. Skewering with onions and red peppers is not only convenient but creates a nice presentation. Enjoy!

Update: I received an excellent suggestion from a reader that is worth passing along. She commented that a sprinkle of lemon would be a nice addition and I could not agree more. Many thanks to the reader!!

Kielbasa Skewers
Serves 6

6 6-inch kielbasa, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large red pepper, cut in to medium sized pieces
1 small yellow onion, cut into medium sized pieces
6 metal skewers

Pre-heat grill. Skewer sausage, onion and pepper pieces. Grill for 5 minutes on each side. Serve warm.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Tahini Vinaigrette

In my part of the world, dried beans are principally associated with winter stews and soups, because protein filled beans will help one survive long and nasty winters. To my surprise, I learned that countries where beans play a principal dietary role, experience mild winters. So, I presented myself a challenge to integrate beans into our summer diet. Not in the the traditional sense of baked beans, which are fabulous, but not exactly week night or waistline friendly.

Black-eyed peas have a mild flavor with a firm texture. Often served warm, I like texture served cold with fresh herbs and spring green onions. What completes this salad is a tahini vinaigrette. Tahini brings a nutty flavor to the party. I have used tahini in hummus and dipping sauces for chicken or lamb and until coming across a recipe in Bon Apetit it never occurred to me to use in a vinaigrette. I am sold. Enjoy!

Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Serves 2 as main dish, 4 as side dish
Requires 24 hour soaking time

8 oz. black eyed peas (half bag)
5 springs fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 spring mint, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon celery salt
2 teaspoons black pepper

Soak beans in cold water for at least 24 hours. Pick through and discard any off colored beans. Rinse with cold water and place in large pot. Cover with water, bring to boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes until beans are tender. Meanwhile, chop herbs and place in a large bowl. Drain beans and combine with herbs and seasoning. Dress with tahini vinaigrette. Allow to cool then refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight. Serve cold.

Tahini Vinaigrette

Adapted from Bon Apetit

1 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
pinch of salt and pepper
1 tablespoon, cold water (if need to thin out the tahini)

In a small bowl, combine the tahini, honey, vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. If mixture is too thick which in a bit of cold water.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Honey Lime Grilled Chicken and Jasmine Rice

Summer has finally arrived to the Detroit area and the last thing that sounds remotley interesting is preparing a complicated meal. Even the most seasoned cooks find making anything complicated a chore. Simple weeknight meals are life savers as I would rather be outside enjoying the season than slaving away in the kitchen. This simple marinade with ingredients available in most pantries is a wonderful choice for a simple weeknight meal. Thrown together the night before, then grilled, the chicken stays moist and most of all the grill does the work. Served with a flavorful jasmine rice, scented with lime zest, this dish is light and easy. Enjoy!

Honey Lime Grilled Chicken
Serves 2
Requires 12-24 hour marinating time

1 8 oz. boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
the juice of one lime
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of sesame seeds
12-24 hours prior to cooking, mix all ingredients but the chicken. Pour marinade in a large plastic freezer or storage bag and add the chicken breast. Place bag in bowl and refrigerate. 1 hour prior to cooking remove chicken from marinade set aside. Heat grill and cook chicken from about 5-8 minutes on each side. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes then slice and serve on top rice.

Lime Scented Jasmine Rice
Serves 2
1 cup jasmine rice
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
pinch of table salt
zest of one lime

Bring rice, water and butter to a boil. Add salt and reduce to a simmer and place top on pot. Cook for 20 minutes. Meanwhile zest lime. Fluff rice with fork and mix in the lime zest. Serve warm.

Monday, June 22, 2009


As another birthday approaches it becomes ever more important to document and preserve family recipes. The dishes and treats that make everyone smile aren't often the most complicated or innovative. Simple cookies like this family favorite take me back to a special place and time. I was lucky enough to have my dearest aunt, Theia Sotiria (pictured below on the far left) share her recipe and wisdom.

My dad's sisters have a panache for baking and to my great fortune are pretty good about sharing their techniques. They have a dictatorial approach as in this case my aunt needed an extra blood pressure pill when I hinted butter may be a nice substitution for margarine. Sharing on their terms can lead to interesting recipe discussions and I am willing apprentice as no cook book can teach the approach of not measuring the flour rather just continue adding until it comes together and leaves the hand. That dear reader is the philosophy of those born to bake.

Amygthalota cookies are flaky but sturdy little bites of almond goodness. The recipe is straight forwarding, beating the fat, sugar adding the eggs then the dry ingredients. This version creates an almond sugar cookie that is perfect to serve with coffee or wine. While the more traditional recipes use blanched ground almonds as opposed to flour I like this texture and flakiness of this cookie. Enjoy!

Amygthalota (Almond Sugar Cookies)
Adapted from my beloved Theia Sotiria
Yields 4 dozen

1 lb. unsalted room temperature margarine (fleischman's)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs separated
2 teaspoons almond extract
4 1/2 cups all purpose white flour
8 oz. sliced almonds (unbleached if possible)

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. With an electric mixer beat the margarine and sugar until fluffy and white (about 10-15 minutes). Add the almond extract. Mix in the egg yolks one at a time. Decrease the speed and slowly add in the flour. Beat the egg whites. Place sliced almonds in a shallow plate. Roll dough in to 1 inch balls. Dip in egg what then roll in almond pieces. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool on racks and store in air tight container for up to a week.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lemon Braised Spinach with Pine Nuts

I have always wanted to ask Popeye "Are you smoking crack?". Clearly only someone on drugs could enjoy spinach that much. It's the same question I posed to my husband when early on in the relationship he revealed that spinach was one of his favorite foods. He warned my lack of love for spinach could be deal breaker. Since then I have come a long way. However to move forward one needs to look back. Maybe it was the smell or texture there was something that I just didn't dig about spinach leaves and certainly wasn't a lack of exposure as it is difficult to avoid spinach growing up Greek. My mother's spanakorizo (spinach and rice) is one of her most requested dish. Now a few years have based since I questioned my husbands "drug" problem and luckily he realized both spinach and I could coexist.

My spinach frown has been turned upside down thanks in part to this dish. Spinach tastes so much better topped with lemon with a side of crusty bread and feta. The beauty of this dish is the utter simplicty in cooking witout adding more liquid as spinach has enough or cooking for a long period of time. Both spinach fans and novice will be pleased . Oh and I love the watery, lemony goodness in this pic. It's perfect for dipping bread.

Braised Spinach with Pine Nuts
Serves 2

1 16 oz. bag of curly spinach, washed and stems removed
1 small onion, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried dill (fresh if you have it)

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add grated onion and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Over medium high heat add the spinach. Mix well and cover pot. Allow spinach to wilt about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice, salt, pepper and dill. Serve warm.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fresh Corn and Black Bean Salad

Summer salads can be so very refreshing but often too filling. This salad is truly light, colorful, easy and was inspired by a trip to a local market. Nino Salvaggio is one my favorite places. One could visit Nino's each day for at least a month and still not try the in house pre-made items from four different chicken salads to panzanella the options seem endless. Their corn salad mixed with zesty Italian and creamy French dressing focuses solely on the corn and is a lifesaver and was the inspiration for this dish.

Fresh corn doesn't need a whole lot of doctoring so I omitted the pre-made dressings and opted for a more simple vinaigrette. I further added the black beans which bring a texture contrast to the crunchy corn and red pepper. I will make this again and may substitute black eyed peas and use grilled corn. Thank God summer has finally arrived!

Fresh Corn and Black Bean Salad
Inspired by Nino Salvaggio
Servings: 2 Main Dishes or 4 Sides Dishes

2 ears of corn, cooked and cut off the cob
1 small red pepper, finely chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 cups drained canned black beans
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of half a lime
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
dash of cayenne pepper

Combine olive oil, lime juice, salt and cayenne. In a large bowl mix the corn, red pepper, green onion and black beans. Dress with the vinaigrette and serve at room temperature.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

BB: Curried (Not Really) Couscous

Couscous is a simple, versatile grain that can stand on its own or play a supporting role. It often makes an appearance on my dinner table so I was pleased that Ellyn of Recipe Collector and Tester selected this dish as the first June recipe for Barefoot Bloggers. The part of this selection I wasn't so keen on was the curried part of the recipe. One of the great challenges of cooking along with a group is dealing with ingredients that don't please ones palate. In this case, I took a bit of liberty, scratch that, a lot of liberty and substituted zatar seasoning comprised of sumac, dried wild thyme and sesame seeds. Pine nuts seem to be a natural pairing to zatar and from there I changed the focus of the dish away from curry. Regardless of these substitution this was an excellent choice for the first month of summer. The fundamentals of the recipe are strong and very, very good. The yogurt element was tangy and is something I will integrate in my couscous recipes. Enjoy!

Curried Couscous
Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
6 Servings
1 1/2 cups couscous
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (omitted)
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar (used lemon juice)
1 teaspoon curry powder (substituted with zatar seasoning)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (omitted)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup small-diced carrots (omitted)
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley (used only 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins (substituted pan sauteed tomatoes)
1/4 cup blanched, sliced almonds (substituted toasted pine nuts)
2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts) (omitted)
1/4 cup small-diced red onion (substituted shallots)

Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in the boiling water and pour over the couscous. Cover tightly and allow the couscous to soak for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, curry, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Pour over the fluffed couscous, and mix well with a fork. Add the carrots, parsley, currants, almonds, scallions, and red onions, mix well, and season to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Roasted Lamb with Fresh Herbs

Sunday dinner is my favorite meal of the week. I tend to have more time, patience and over all energy to prepare things that require a little more love. Lamb is perfect dish when time is not a factor and nothing makes more happy than lamb whether stewed, roasted, grilled even poached, I have not met a cut or preparation I could resist. Now certain cuts of lamb such as chops can be prepared quickly others such as this shoulder piece need some TLC. While most in North America consider lamb a restaurant only dish most of the rest of the world treat lamb as a rustic dish suitable for both everyday meals and celebrations. Admittedly I am spoiled living in an area comprised of many nationalities that appreciate lamb thus I have access to affordable cuts not usually found the grocery stores. None the less lamb shanks or leg of lamb would be brilliant in this dish. Considering this roast was on the fatty side I knew it would stay moist and a simple herb rub would ensure the flavor of the lamb would come out. One thing I have not seemed to embrace is medium rare lamb. If that's your thing decrease the cooking time by about a half hour.

But let me make one thing clear the real reason to roast lamb is to make lemon potatoes. :)

Roasted Lamb Shoulder
4 servings
4-5 lb. Lamb shoulder
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
3 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons fresh black pepper
1 large clove of garlic
1/4 cup lemon zest (zest of 2 lemons)
juice of 1 lemon
2 cups water

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse lamb in cold water, pat dry and place in roasting pan or dutch oven, season with half the salt and all the pepper. In a food processor combine the rosemary, thyme, half the kosher salt and lemon zest. Pulse until finely minced. Slowly pour in the lemon juice. Mixture should be somewhat thick. Rub the herb mixture on the lamb. Place in the oven (uncovered ) for 30 minutes. Cover and continue to cook for 1.5-2 hours. Remove lamb from pan and continue on for lemon potatoes. Let the roast rest for 15 minutes. Carve and serve with lemon potatoes.

Lemon Potatoes
4 servings
2.5 lbs. russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled and rinsed
2 tablespoons dried Greek oregano
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil (optional, if lamb has no fat add oil)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1-2 cups of water (optional, if there is plenty of cooking liquid no need for water)
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine potatoes, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix the olive oil if using and lemon. Pour the lemon mixture over the potatoes. Place in the cooking liquid and roast for 45 minutes until liquid is absorbed and potatoes are golden.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

BB: Outrageous Brownies

No words can truly express the chocolaty, gooey and outrageously delicious nature of these brownies selected as the last May recipe for Barefoot Bloggers. May was very hectic and vacay coincided with the deadline for posting this dish. After reading many of the posts I recognized this recipe could not be skipped. While I may be late to the party, please don't be, make these brownies.

Please note, I halved the recipe and broke in my first 9x13 baking pan. I reduced the amount of sugar and coffee by 1/4. The brownies were moist not overly sweet and overall big on chocolate. Please be sure to visit Eva at I'm Boring for an excellent recipe play by play.

Outrageous Brownies

Ina Garten from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Servings: 20 large brownies

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups diced walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.
Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not over-bake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Ricotta

Pasta, cheese and lemon are three of my favorite foods. Each is fabulous on its own, but together the flavors create a wonderful meal. The whole wheat pasta movement has been brought to my grocery store and comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. This variety is a bit more healthy, perfect for summer, and so very easy. I first saw the combination of ricotta and pasta on Everyday Italian on the Food Network. I chose not to follow that recipe to the tee and added more lemon for a summer twist.
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Ricotta
6 Servings
1 box whole wheat spaghetti
16 oz. whole milk fresh ricotta
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup 1% milk
salt and pepper
4 oz. fresh mozzarella, optional, if baking
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. In a separate pan heat the olive oil. Add milk, ricotta, Parmesan and a pinch of salt and pepper. Combine drained pasta with ricotta mixture. Add lemon zest and a pinch of pepper. Serve immediately. For leftovers, top with mozzarella, bake for 10-15 minutes until warmed through and broil for 2-3 minutes until cheese bubbles.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Grilled Parsley Pesto Pizza

Since retruning from vacation laziness has set in and weeknight meals have become typical. When seeking suggestions from my husband pesto always creeps in to the conversation. Now the food Gods may strike me down but I dislike basil and thus pesto is not top on my list. Parsley though, I can live with and have tons always in the fridge. One of the other reasons I dislike pesto is it seems like a ton of bricks has hit my stomach after a meal and the parsley variation was surprisingly light.

Now I am a working girl and am lucky if I have an hour from start to finish to get the meal on the table. I cheated a bit and purchased fresh pizza dough from the market. This truly was unexpectedly light, topped with fresh mozzarella or fresh ricotta (an undervalued kitchen friend) this is very different from the usual cheese and pepperoni. Don't get me wrong nothing can replace my local pizza favorite this dish however is a great homemade alternative.

Parsley Pesto Pizza
Adapted from Michael Chiarello
Servings: 4 six inch pizzas

12 oz. pizza dough
Flour for rolling surface
1/2 cup parsley pesto (see below)
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
4 bocconcini fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
olive oil

Heat grill. Roll the dough in to 4 pizzas, each about 1/8 thick and 6 inches round. Brush each side with olive oil. Grill pizzas over medium heat until lightly brown around 5 minutes. Turn the pizzas over and spoon a few teaspoons of ricotta or 5 slices of mozzarella. Cook until the cheese is about to melt. Remove from grill and serve warm.

Parsley Pesto
From Gourmet
yields 1 cup

Note: pizza recipe called for a 1/2 cup, froze the remaining amount in airtight container
1 cup tight-packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Place parsley, walnuts, cheese, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until well combined. Combine oil, lemon and zest in a small bowl. Add the oil mixture to parsley mixture in a slow stream, pulsing to combine.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin