Friday, July 31, 2009

Zucchini Lasagna Rolls

It is fitting the last day post of July encompass elements that transition perfectly in to August. While the zucchini are plentiful in my parents garden mine have yet to really sprout. The age old question of what to do with a lot o zucchini plagues most gardeners. My approach is simple use zucchini in place of pasta. The combination of fresh ricotta, ribbons of zucchini and a fresh tomato sauce is fabulous, simple and uses up a lot of zucchini. I baked a batch and froze a second for the miserable winter months when fresh garden vegetables are the further things from reality. The filling can easily be adjusted some other items I considered was sauteed mushrooms, pancetta, feta or spinach.

Zucchini Lasagna Rolls
Serves 4-5

1 large zucchini, sliced in 1/8 inch ribbons (about 10 slices)
2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated fontina
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup basic tomato sauce

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Carefully add zucchini ribbons and boil for a minute or two until zucchini softens. Remove zucchini pieces and place on paper towels to drain.

In a small saucepan heat the olive oil, add the shallot and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until soft and fragrant.

In a large bowl combine the ricotta, fontina, shallots, garlic. Mix in the parsley, salt and pepper.

Place 2 tablespoons ricotta filling on end of the zucchini closest to you. Roll and place on a baking sheet. Repeat and top with Parmesan then tomato sauce.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Avocado is an acquired taste. Only recently have I warmed to its most popular application- guacamole. I am truly kicking myself for missing out. What initially turned me off is the brown bitter mess served at most restaurants. A friend insisted I try some from Whole Foods and since then I was hooked. What isn't exactly pleasing about purchasing at Whole Foods is the price. Making this at home allows me to control the flavors and the price. If you like more heat add more jalapeno or add more tomato for a more summery flavor. What I liked best about this approach is the avocado is still a bit chunky and each ingredient ensures that the avocado tastes better. Enjoy!

Inspired by Whole Foods
Serves 2

2 ripe Haas avocado, seeded
juice of half of lime
1 roma tomato, seeded and finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley or cilantro
1 small jalapeno, seeded and diced

Remove the avocado skin and chop into medium sized pieces. With the back end of a fork, mash the avocado until slightly smooth with small chunks. In a separate bowl, combine the tomato, shallot, flat leaf parsley and jalapeno and mix well. Add the lime juice to the avocado. Then add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Feta Pita Pizza

So simple, yet so good. I am almost ashamed to admit there is barely any cooking involved in this recipe. It came together in about 15 minutes. While I opted to make on an indoor grill, this pizza would be perfect for outdoor grilling.

Inspiration for the pita pizza's came from Big City Cooking. The idea of using flat break pita's is fabulous and you could use a variety of toppings. Enjoy!

Feta Pita Pizza
Inspired from Big City Cooking
Serves 2

2 flat bread style pita's
1 large sweet onion, sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta
2 tablespoons kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 roma tomatoes, sliced
1/2 tablespoon Greek oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
Heat olive oil in a heavy pot pan. When oil is warm add onions. Cook over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes. Place pita's on warmed grill. Top with feta, onions, tomatoes and olives. Top with oregano. Cook for an additional 5 minutes until feta is slightly melted. Serve warm.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

BB: Peach and Blueberry Crumbles

Crumbles, cobblers and crisps, oh my. Frankly the difference between these various approaches to serving seasonal fruit escapes me. In come Ina with something I would have never tried if not for joining a group dedicated to trying her recipes.

Tart, sweet, flaky, smooth and delicious this is very simple yet so very good. I halved the below recipe from Barefoot Contessa Family Style. I would suggested reducing the sugar if using very ripe peaches. Also it needed a bit more topping so if crumbly is your thing make a bit more of the crumble.

Many thanks to Aggie of Aggie's Kitchen a brilliantly written and photographed blog, for an excellent seasonal selection.

Peach & Blueberry Crumbles
From Barefoot Contessa Family Style, pages 197-198
Serves 5 to 6

For the fruit
2 lbs firm, ripe peaches (6-8 peaches)
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fresh blueberries (1/2 pint)

For the Crumble
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 lb (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until their skins peel off easily. Place them immediately in cold water. Peel the peaches, slice them into thick wedges, and place them in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and flour. Toss well. Gently mix in the blueberries. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into ramekins or custard cups.

For the topping, combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until it’s in big crumbles, then sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and back for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops are browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature. If you want to make these early, store the unbaked crumbles int he refrigerator and bake before dinner. Serves 5 to 6.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Toasted Orzo with Roasted Garden Vegetables

It took a bit of time to think of an appropriate title for this dish because it is complex in flavor, yet so easy to make. The key flavor is centered around summer vegetables that please so many like me, who suffer through snowy and long winters.

My family requests this dish for summer functions because it can be served warm or cold. What distinguishes this dish from your typical orzo pilaf or salad, is toasting the orzo. Such an approach not only brings a contrast of color, but enhances the flavor of the pasta.
As for the vegetables, the simpler the better. Once again, you do not have to do much to fresh ingredients. The dressing focuses on lemon, which complements the richness of the pasta and roasted vegetables.

Toasted Orzo with Roasted Garden Vegetables
Serves 4-6

For the orzo:
1 16 oz. box orzo
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
5-6 cups water
3-4 zucchini, sliced thin
2 medium sized Italian eggplant, quartered then sliced
2-3 yellow summer squash, sliced thin
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon black pepper

For the dressing:
2 shallots, minced
juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Kefalotyri or Roman cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Place seasoned vegetables on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.

While vegetables are roasting, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottom 6 qt. pot. Over medium heat toast half the box of orzo, stirring frequently for about 5-10 minutes until golden brown. Be careful not to burn. Remove pot from the heat. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining untoasted orzo and water. Bring to boil. Season with 1 tablespoon salt. Cook for 10 minutes until water is absorbed and orzo just tender.

Combine the orzo and roasted vegetables. Mix the shallots, lemon juice, olive oil, cheese and parsley. Toss the orzo mixture with the dressing. Serve warm at room temperature or cold.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Zatar Pita Chips

Greek pita bread is a flat bread closer in texture to Indian Na'an than Middle Eastern pocket pitas. While most associate pita bread with Gyros, my favorite way to serve Greek pita is to cut it up, season and toast. Perfect for dips or with a salad, these wedges are a perfect snack.

Zatar Pita Chips
Serves 4

3 Greek-style pita bread
2 tablespoons zatar seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/4 cup olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Using a pizza slicer cut pita's into 8ths. In a large bowl drizzle with olive oil and season with zatar and garlic powder. Place seasoned pita wedges as an even layer on a half sheet pan, lined with parchment paper. Cook for 10 minutes until crisp. Place on cooling rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Whiskey Pork Chops

Pork chops have an unwarranted bad reputation for being fatty and dry. Those who tend to view pork chops in this light also are the type that drown boneless, skinless chicken breast with ranch dressing and cream of yuck soup. The preparation is equally important as the cut and quality of the product. A balanced diet based on moderation and rotation of various meats works best for me.

Chops are easy to work with, cook quickly, and can be seasoned in so many different ways. As for the health concerns with eating pork, a balanced diet with various meats seems to work best for my household. This marinade combines flavors and seasoning that both tenderize the meat and provide a glaze. The lime works really well with the whiskey, while the dried spices give it a bit of bite. I really enjoyed these chops and will tinker with whiskey in other pork recipes.

Whiskey Pork Chops
Adapted from Cook's Country
Serves 2

4 thin-cut loin or rib pork chops
1/2 cup Jack Daniels whiskey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion
2 teaspoons table salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Combine the whiskey, vinegar, oil and lime juice. Whisk in the brown sugar and mix until sugar is dissolved. In a separate bowl combine cayenne, salt, pepper, granulated garlic and onion. Rub the spice mixture on each chop. Set aside for 15 minutes at room temperature. Place rubbed chops in to the marinade. Refrigerate for 1-4 hours. Remove chops from marinade about 15 minutes before grilling. Pat dry and heat grill to 400 degrees. Carefully place chops on grill and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cajun Red Snapper Fillets

Red snapper is one of my favorite fish. While I prefer working with whole fish, such a preparation is often not practical. My local market has fresh filleted portions which are convenient and lend well to dredging and pan frying. The seasoning of this dish was inspired by Cajun flavors. I enjoyed experimenting with various spice concoctions and look forward to more opportunities to visit the world of Cajun and Creole dishes. The fish was very flaky and the seasoning gave a nice bit of heat. Served with braised spinach and lemon slices, the meal was light and tasty.

Cajun Red Snapper Fillet
Serves 2

2 8 oz. red snapper fillets
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons table salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil

Rinse the fillets and pat dry. In a small bowl, combine the flour and seasoning ingredients. Place flour mixture on a flat plate or cutting board. In a cast iron or heavy bottom pan, heat the oil until very hot. Dredge the fish in the flour mixture. Shake off excess flour. Place dredged fish in the pan and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes on each side. Serve warm.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Feta Hash with Poached Eggs

Feta and I were on a break. Easter was rough, because we had a lot of lamb and feta leftover from the holiday. We worked our way through the barrel of feta and made a vow to go our separate ways until tomato season. I am convinced God created tomatoes simply to be served with feta and crusty bread. Anyway, I could not wait until tomato season and we reconnected for this simply delicious dish.

Salty feta, crispy potatoes, fresh onion, a runny poached egg and butter- simple, straight forward, and hands down the best dinner I have had in a long time.

Feta Hash with Poached Eggs
Serves 2

3 medium sized white potatoes, peeled and dice into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
2 springs green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon black pepper
touch of cayenne
2 poached eggs
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt.

In a large pot bring a few quarts of water to a boil. Add salt. Carefully pour in potatoes. Cook for 8-10 minutes until tender and cooked through. Drain and pat dry. Allow to cool to room temperate. Gently combine the potatoes, feta and green onion.

In a skillet or flat top electric grill, melt the butter. When surface is very hot, place potato mixture as an even layer on the skillet. Season with pepper. Cook for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are very crisp.

Serve warm and top with a soft poached egg.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

BB: Pasta with Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Food snobs have any number of coveted spectacular ingredients where the premium price reflect the reputation. Sun-dried tomatoes are such an item. While the concept of preserving tomatoes by drying in the sun and then soaking in olive oil sounds tasty, the chewy texture does not please my palate. Even with such a skeptical perspective on the key ingredient, I was pleased when Cat of Delta Whiskey chose Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes for the first July Barefoot Bloggers recipe.

Substituting oven roasted grape tomatoes mimicked the flavor of sun-dried tomatoes while creating a more pleasant texture with a price that fit my budget.

This recipe was a winner and is an excellent addition to any summer dinning table. The flavors were rich while still light for summer, with a bit of tang. Below is my adaptation, for the original recipe visit The Food Network or buy Barefoot Contessa Family Style.

Pasta with Oven-Dried Tomatoes
Adapted from Ina Garten Barefoot Contessa Family Style pg. 58
Serves 4

1/2 pound Gemili pasta
Kosher salt
Olive oil
1/2 pound ripe tomatoes, medium-diced (half-pint grape tomatoes)
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, medium-diced

For the oven roasted tomatoes:
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved long wise and seeded
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of sugar

For the dressing:
Oven roasted grape tomatoes
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of oil to keep it from sticking together. Drain well and allow to cool. Place the pasta in a bowl and add the tomatoes and mozzarella.

For the oven-roasted tomatoes: pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine, sliced tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on sheet pan and sprinkle with sugar. Cook for 30-40 minutes until almost burnt. For the dressing, combine the oven-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, olives, salt, and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth. Pour the dressing over the pasta, sprinkle with the Parmesan and parsley, and toss well.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Vinaigrette Potato Salad

Nothing says summer parties more than chilled salads like potato salad. Sad as it may be- I never warmed to the mayo, mustard and egg rendition. However, I did not want to miss out on this classic, so this recipe omits the mayo, is light and easy, and above all does not spoil in the hot sun as quickly as its cousin.

I liked the texture of the red potatoes as white or russet varieties tend to fall apart. The vinaigrette is light on the vinegar part and certainly can be adjusted to taste. Focusing more on the olive oil gives a great flavor that is not masked by a tart component. Herbs round out the salad and green onions gives some bite. Enjoy!

Vinaigrette Potato Salad
Serves 2-3
1 lb. redskin potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
2 fresh green onion springs, chopped
2 teaspoons table salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery salt

In a large pot bring 4 qt. of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of table salt and carefully drop in the potatoes. Cook for 20 minutes until soft and cooked through. Drain potatoes and cut in 4ths. Place in a large bowl and carefully fold in the dill, parsley and green onion. Mix the vinegar and mustard, and slowly pour in the olive oil until thickened. Fold in the vinaigrette. Season with the remaining salt and pepper. Allow to cool to room temperature then refrigerate. Serve cold.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sockeye Salmon Ala Helen

At length I have discussed the great many things I learned from shadowing my mother in the kitchen. Her wisdom is never lost on me. Helen's rustic baked salmon with almonds and dill is another family favorite. In this version, finely chopped toasted walnuts with lemon zest and fresh dill encrust a beautiful piece of sockeye salmon. There is a fine line between undercooked and overcooked salmon, and while I may have moved closer to the overcooked side, the flavor more than made up for the cooking time error. Bottom line-- watch the fish! Since sometimes all you really need to serve is one, this dish can obviously be adjusted for a crowd.

Walnut Encrusted Sockeye Salmon
Adapted from my mom (Helen)
Serves 1

1 8 oz. sockeye salmon fillet
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
2 fresh springs dill, finely chopped
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon whole grain mustard

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor grind the cooled walnuts until finely chopped. Add the dill, lemon zest, salt and pepper, and pulse for a few seconds until everything is combined. Apply a thin coat of mustard to the fish. Place an even coat of walnut mixture on top of the mustard. Place onto a greased pan and bake for 15 minutes.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Oregano Rubbed Chicken Legs

Next to salt and pepper dried Greek oregano is the most used spice in my pantry. Oregano complements most meats and can be a central spice in ones arsenal. Spice rubs are an easy way to flavor typically boring and bland chicken. Blending spices is a great way to reflect your personality in food and there is no better canvas then chicken. This dish is common on my dinner table. After playing around with different spices and proportions you can't go wrong with the earthy flavors and heat offered by the oregano and cayenne.

Oregano Rubbed Chicken
Serves 2

2 chicken leg quarters
2 tablespoons dried Greek oregano
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 lemon slices

In a small bowl combine the spices. Liberally rub the chicken with the spice mixture. Set aside at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile heat the grill to about 450 degrees. Apply a small amount of olive or canola oil to the grill grates. Place the chicken skin side down on the hot, oiled grates. Grill for 10-15 minutes, then flip. Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked Rest for 5 minutes then serve with grilled lemons.

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