Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
You always need a pasta salad recipe. It's one of those recipe ideas that changes each time you make it, using what you have on hand, and allowing it to be as big or small as you need - it tends to grow before your eyes! I pulled this pasta salad together quickly for lunch on Sunday, with little effort and using only a handful of ingredients. It's perfect for summer, it's light, low-fat, has a ton of veggies, and more importantly can be eaten cold! Switch out some of your junk in favor of lighter healthier fare, no one will know the difference and you can save yourself some points, calories and gram-o-fat! This recipe is kind of informal - increase or decrease the quantities as needed. I made do with what I had in the kitchen, grabbing a handful of this and a can of that. It's better if you use fresh vegetables and a homemade salad dressing, but you can take some short cuts and use a good bag of frozen veggies; a decent low calorie or fat free salad dressing, and a few canned products like - olives, capers, artichoke hearts, beans, and sundried tomatoes (not soaked in oil). You can also use fresh or dried herbs - if using fresh, you can use a lot more; dried herbs are much more intensely flavored than the fresh counterparts.
- 1/2 Pound Uncooked Whole Wheat Rotini
- 1/2 Cup String Beans - blanched and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 medium carrots - peeled and small dice - blanched
- 1/2 red bell pepper - seeded and small dice
- 2 medium celery stalks - small dice
- 1 - 14 to 16 ounce can small or medium pitted black olives - drained
- 1 14- 16 ounce can cecci beans (garbanzo or chick peas) - drained and rinsed
- 1/2 Cup Loosely Packed Fresh Flat Leaf or Italian Parsley - roughly chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon each of the following dried herbs and spices: Parsley, Thyme, Basil; Garlic Powder, Onion Powder or Dried Minced Onions
- 1/2 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Salt - Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
- 1 Cup Rice Vinegar
- 1/4 Cup Red or White Wine Vinegar
- 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
- In a large measuring cup or mixing bowl, combine the dried herbs and spices - herbs through the sugar. Whisk to combine.
- Mix in the prepared Dijon Mustard. Pour in the rice vinegar and red/white wine vinegar. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuously whisking to incorporate and emulsify.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. If the dressing is too acidic, add in a bit more olive oil. If the dressing is too thin and watery, and you want to watch the oil content, whisk in more Dijon Mustard and another pinch of salt, pepper and sugar. Set dressing aside. The salad dressing will hold, refrigerated for up to 2 weeks in a tightly covered container.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. When the water reaches a boil, add in 2 tablespoons of salt and the dried pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente - about 12 minutes or according to package directions. When the pasta is cooked through use a slotted spoon or fine mesh strainer ladle and remove the pasta from the hot water, but retain the water to blanch the vegetables. Drain, rinse and cool the pasta. Set aside in a large mixing/serving bowl.
- Prepare the vegetables. Use the pasta cooking water to blanch and cook the string beans until they are crisp tender - about 6 minutes. Drain, rinse and cool and add the cooked string beans to the cooked pasta.
- Blanche the carrots until they are tender - about 4 minutes. Drain, rinse and cook the carrots and add them to the cooked pasta.
- Dice the celery and peppers, adding them to the cooked pasta.
- Add in the olives and cecci beans.
- If serving later, such as the next day, cover and refrigerate the pasta salad, undressed at this point. Otherwise, mix together the salad dressing and pour it over the pasta salad. Toss to combine thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Pasta salad can be served and enjoyed cold or at room temperature. Makes 8 sides servings.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
It amazes and astonishes, flabbergasts and flummoxes me that there are so many people who don't like vegetables, who cannot cook vegetables and who don't understand the benefits of eating more plant based foods. It's cheaper, healthier and far easier to consume the green stuff than to spend the green stuff on McProcessed In-and-Out fast/fatty foods. Like my culinary hero, Mr. Mark Bittman espouses, ya gotta eat more of a plant based diet to keep this Green Earth Green! In honor of Earth Day, and as a service to my fellow readers, I'm offering up a little cooking lesson of simply prepared veggies. From time to time I plan to write lessons on the wonders and delights of simpler fare. Should you have any questions or would like to see a featured post, send me an email or post a comment. I would love the input of ideas from ya'll!
String beans are one of the many veggies I eat on a daily/weekly basis. Yes, as a child, I ate many a can of The Jolly One's salty, grey/green French cut string beans, and yes, they were disgusting. Not much better is the bird's eye viewpoint of Mr. Clarence's frozen food world - mixed square cuts or freeze dried/frozen green beans. Stringy or freakishly shaped, these versions of chilled to the max vegetables are a tad better for you but ultimately it's best to think in terms of KISSing the cook and preparing your own haricot vert, snow peas or sugar snap peas. You will be surprised at what your taste buds have been missing.
The original idea - mind you I have none of my own, came from my chef'ing days working at Whole Foods Market and Andro's Fine Foods at the Reading Terminal Market. At Whole Foods, we would actually deep fry the string beans in canola oil! Those were cooked by the 50 pound case, daily. They tasted great, but oye vey, the fat calories and greasy mess! This technique is a prime example of how to totally screw up a perfect food and fool people into thinking that they are eating something "healthy". I know a lot of vegetarians and vegans who would be shocked to learn that those Chinese green beans in black bean sauce they've been consuming are higher in fat and calories than the General Tao's Chicken their friends are scarfing down, and that most likely the green beans were fried in the same vat 'o grease as the Generals chicken!
Mr. Andros had the right idea when it came to whole food cookery. His delicious cakes may have been full-fat affairs, drenched in artery clogging buttery caramel sauce, but the savory meals were not so bad. We would make several pounds of steamed green beans with dill, olive oil, salt and pepper for our prepared fare. It's an easy 5 ingredient recipe. Variations for seasonings would be using a mustard vinaigrette, a simple balsamic and olive oil dressing or my Essential Soy Sauce dressing. One recipe begets another, get the basic technique down, i.e. steaming, boiling, saute, grill or roast your vegetable and the dressing choices are up to your imagination.
- Perfectly Cooked String Beans Ingredients:
- 1 Pound Fresh String Beans - stem end snipped off, and if necessary, any dry or brown ends trimmed
- 5 Cups Cold Water
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt - divided
- 2 1/2 Tablespoon Dried Dill - divided
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper - to taste
- Use a 4 quart or large sauce pan and heat the 5 cups of cold water over high heat until it comes to a boil. When the water begins to boil, add in 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of the dried dill.
- While the water is heating, wash and trim the green beans. Keep them as whole as possible, there's no need to cut the string beans into small pieces. Once the water has come to a boil add in the string beans, stiring once or twice to fully submerge them. Allow the water to come back to a rapid boil, then reduce to medium low and cook the string beans for 6 minutes.
- After 6 minutes, drain the string beans in a colander and shake off any excess water. Put the cooked string beans either back into the pot or put them into a large serving bowl. Season the string beans with the reserved salt, dried dill, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold. Enjoy! These are delicous!
Monday, April 13, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Whole Wheat Vegetable Lasagna Ingredients:
- 1 Medium/Large Eggplant - washed and cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds
- 4 Medium Zucchini - washed and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices or rounds
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 3 Medium Carrots - peeled, washed and coarsely grated
- 1 Box (about 12 ounces to 1 pound) Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles - uncooked (Ronzoni makes a great version)
- 42 Ounces (about 5 Cups) No-Salt Tomato Sauce (this was one large 28 ounce can and one 14 ounce can)
- 1 Small Can Pumpkin Puree (about 2 cups or 14 ounces)
- 4 Tablespoons Dried Italian Seasonings or a combination of Parsley, Thyme, Oregano and Basil - divided
- 4 Garlic Cloves - minced
- 1 16 ounce container Non-Fat or Low-Fat Part Skim Ricotta Cheese
- 1 Package Firm Tofu (about 1 pound or 14 ounces) - frozen then defrosted and drained and squeezed of excess moisture - shredded or crumble once defrosted
- 1 Large Egg
- Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper - to taste
- 1 - 8 ounce Package of Shredded Low-Fat, Part Skim Mozzarella Cheese
- 9 by 13 Deep Dish Baking Pan
- 1 or 2 Sheet or Baking Trays
- Grill Pan - if grilling the zucchini and eggplant
- Box Grater to shred the carrots and/or the mozzarella
- Aluminum Foil
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a sheet tray or in a large mixing bowl, toss the zucchini and eggplant with the olive oil and season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange the vegetable slices on a preheated grill pan or arrange the zucchini and eggplant on sheet trays and roast in a preheated, 375 degree oven until its knife tender - not cooked all the way through, but still has some bite to it. If grilling the vegetables, grill on each side about 2-3 minutes. If roasting, cook for 10 minutes, turn the vegetables over and roast an additional 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a platter and cover lightly with aluminum foil; set aside to cool while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.
- Peel, wash and grate the carrots on the coarsest side of a box grater. Set them aside.
- Mix together the tomato sauce, pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons of Italian Seasonings, minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Set aside to allow the dried seasonings to rehydrate in the tomato sauce mixture, while you move onto mixing together the ricotta and tofu.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, crumbled/shredded tofu and the remaining 2 tablespoons of Italian seasonings. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Once the ricotta mixture is seasoned to your liking, add in the large egg and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Spoon some of the tomato sauce mixture onto the bottom of your lasagna pan. Layer the lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan, breaking the noodles to fit the in the entire bottom layer. Spoon more tomato sauce on top of the noodles. Next add a layer of the ricotta mixture on top of the tomato sauce. Layer the eggplant on top of the ricotta. Spoon another layer of tomato sauce over the eggplant and then sprinkle with some of the shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Add another layer of lasagna noodles over the eggplant layer. Spoon more tomato sauce over this next layer of noodles. Layer the zucchini over the tomato sauce and scatter more of the shredded mozzarella over the zucchini.
- Create another layer of lasagna noodles, repeating with adding more tomato sauce, the remaining ricotta cheese and the shredded carrots. Finish this layer with the last of the lasagna noodles and tomato sauce. Bake, covered with tin foil, in a preheated oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese over the top and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the top layer of cheese is melted and begins to turn golden brown. Allow the lasagna to set for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
Equipment and Ingredients to make 6 Hard Boiled Eggs
- A 3 or 4 Quart Sauce Pot with a tight fitting lid
- Cold Water from the faucet
- 6 Large Fresh Eggs - white, brown or Martha Stewart pretty coloured shells, it makes NO DIFFERENCE!
- Pinch of Salt - Kosher is best but any table salt will do
- Heat - from the stove, gas, electric, or shudder, those invection glass top monstrosities
- Carefully put the eggs in the sauce pot and add enough cold tap water to cover the eggs by one inch above their shells.
- Put a pinch of salt into the pot. This is in case the eggs crack, it will help keep the egg white from spewing out. It also increases the water's boiling time and boiling point.
- Put the lid on the pot.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high. Bring the water to a rapid boil. Don't walk out of the kitchen or go too far away, you need to be aware of when the water begins to boil rapidly.
- Once the water has come to a rapid boil - where big bubbles are forming and there is a lot of steam and noise because the eggs are jostling around in the pot, TURN THE HEAT OFF!
- Remove the pot from the hot burner and place it on another burner that is off and cool. Keep the lid on the pot and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 10 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs. USE A TIMER! Medium to large eggs, 10 minutes; extra large to jumbo up to 12 minutes. Double yolk eggs - what, you got money to burn, forgetaboutit! Don't use 'em for hard boiled eggs!
- After the timer has dinged, carefully pour the hot water out of the pot and start to run cold tap water over the eggs. If you have any ice sticks or ice packs in the freezer, carefully toss one or two into the pot with the eggs to help cool them down. Chill the eggs under cold water for about 5 minutes. Remove the eggs from the cold water, they should now be cool enough to handle. Refrigerate immediately, separating them from uncooked eggs or marking them with a pencil, distinctly so you know which eggs are raw and which are cooked, unless you want to spin the eggs, in which case you should know that a hard boiled egg will spin on it's end like a top and a raw egg will just weeble over and wobble.