Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Tomato Bread Soup

I put leftover crusty bread to good use in my winter version of a classic summer soup, Pappa al Pomodoro. By using jarred tomatoes instead of fresh and swapping out the basil for parsley you can enjoy tomato bread soup all winter long.

Use the best quality canned whole tomatoes that you can- preferably with no additional added herbs or spices. If you have tomatoes that you canned yourself, even better!

½ yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
28oz jar of whole tomatoes
2 to 3 cups water
2 cups crusty bread
Italian parsley
Olive oil

Toss the bread with a bit of olive oil and place in a 350 degree oven until lightly toasted- this gives the soup a hardy texture and nice crunch.

Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and celery, cook until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.

Add the tomatoes (plus all the juice) and 2-3 cups of water. You want to make sure that the soup base has enough liquid so when you add the bread it doesn't soak it all up. Add salt (if needed) and fresh ground pepper. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Run the mixture through a food mill, blender or food processor. Don’t over blend, you want a bit of texture.

Pour the blended mixture back into the pot, add the crusty bread and stir. Simmer on low for another minute or so until the bread is soft.

Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley and fresh ground pepper.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cilantro Lime Tortilla Salad

This crisp tangy salad is a nice side or can work well as a stand-alone meal.

Make the cilantro lime vinaigrette by whisking together the first 4 ingredients while slowly drizzling in the olive oil. Add and bit of salt and pepper to taste.

Thinly slice the onions. Rinse under cold water to take out the bite. Dry well. Thinly slice the radishes (I used watermelon radishes), toss together with the onions in a bit of the vinaigrette and let marinate in a medium bowl for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Wash and dry the lettuce then add to the bowl with the onions and radishes. Add dressing to taste and toss well.

Next add the corn chips and avocado then gently toss.

Top the salad with a few cilantro leaves and serve with lime wedges.

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
2 tbs fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tbs finely chopped cilantro
3 tps agave nectar or honey
¼ tsp (or even a bit less) finely chopped garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper

Ingredients (proportions are according to taste)
Thinly sliced white onions
Thinly sliced radishes
Chopped lettuce- romaine, green leaf or baby lettuces work very nicely
Corn chips broken into bite size pieces

Friday, January 20, 2012

Broccoli Rabe & Blue Cheese Lasagna

Broccoli rabe (rapini) is in season and I've been eating quite of bit of it during the past few months. One of my favorite ways to prepare it is sautéed with a bit of olive oil, garlic and chili, and served as a side dish. But this time, I decided I wanted to try something a little different

I started with my usual preparation, added a few leeks, and used it as a filling for a lasagna. For a bit of a twist I added blue cheese. This was so delicious I’m adding it to my recipe rotation and can’t wait to make it again!

2 bunches broccoli rabe
2 leeks (thoroughly cleaned)
28oz jar crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 garlic cloves
¼ teaspoon chili flakes
12 lasagna noodles
½ cup blue cheese
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until they are cooked through, but not mushy and falling apart. Drain the noodles and set aside.

While you are waiting for the water to boil and the noodles to cook, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan and add 1 clove chopped garlic. Once the garlic is fragrant but not browned, add the crushed tomatoes. If the tomatoes are too chunky, run them through a food mill first (you don’t want big chunks). If you don't have a food mill, you can always smash the larger chunks with a fork or the back of a spoon once the tomatoes have heated up and started to fall apart on their own. Add the oregano. Add salt to taste if needed. Let the sauce simmer on low while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Trim the hard green ends and roots from the leeks. Cut them in half lengthwise, then cut in half lengthwise again and then slice into ¼ inch pieces.

Heat a bit of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until they are soft. Remove the leeks from the pan and set aside.

Trim the stems off of the broccoli rabe at about an inch below the leaves and discard. Roughly chop the leaves and florets into about 1 inch pieces. Rinse the broccoli rabe then gently pat dry. You don't have to completely dry all of the leaves, the moisture will help them steam while they are in the pan.

Add a bit more olive oil to the pan; add the chopped broccoli rabe, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Once the greens begin to soften add the garlic. Sautee until they are soft- but not mushy.

Once the broccoli rabe is done turn off the heat and add the leeks to the pan and gently mix together.

Add a bit of the sauce to the bottom of a 9"x9" baking dish.

Lay three noodles across the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of sauce on top of the noodles. Next add a layer of the broccoli rabe and leek mixture, then sprinkle a bit of the blue cheese over the greens. Top with another layer of noodles. Repeat the layers two more times, saving enough of the sauce to cover the top and a bit of the cheese.

Top the final layer with the last 3 noodles and cover with sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake. After about 20 minutes cover with foil for the rest of the baking time so the sauce does not dry up

Once out of the oven, drizzle with a bit of oil and let the lasagna sit for about 5 minutes then serve. Drizzle each plate with a bit more olive oil and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mini Veggie Corn Dogs

This recipe was inspired by one that I found on the Food Network site several years ago and it quickly became a party favorite. It’s easy to swap out the hot dogs for a meat free version to turn this in to a weekday vegetarian friendly appetizer that’s fun for both kids and adults.

I make these with organic flour, corn meal, milk and eggs and since they are baked, not deep fried, I feel slightly less guilty about this guilty pleasure.

If you decide to make these with real meat, look for nitrate free, pasture raised beef or pork dogs such as Fork in the Road.

1 cup milk
1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting and kneading
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
9 vegetarian hot dogs (I used Smart Dogs
1 egg
Poppy seeds
Flake or kosher salt

Heat the milk in a saucepan to 100 degrees. Pour the warm milk into a medium bowl. Add the yeast and let sit for two minutes.

Add the olive oil, brown sugar and corn meal.

Gently stir until the ingredients are combined.

Add the flour, baking soda, cayenne pepper and salt.

Mix until the ingredients are combined. The dough will be slightly sticky.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about five minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel and set in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Slice the hot dogs in half and place a skewer in the cut end of one. If they are extra long, you can cut them into three pieces.

Gently turn the dough out onto a flour surface, using a knife, cut the dough into 19 pieces.

Using your hands roll each piece of dough out to ten inches. Wrap each piece of dough around the hot dog, gently pinch the edges to seal.

Set each wrapped dog onto a well oiled baking sheet.

Brush the tops with egg and sprinkle with poppy seeds and flake or kosher salt. Place the baking sheet in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Serve on a platter with small bowls of catsup and mustard.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cabbage, Radish & Avocado Salad

Toss together a few handfuls of thinly sliced cabbage, radishes, ½ of an avocado and you'll have a salad that's easy, tasty and nutritious that will leave you satisfied and full.

For the dressing whisk together fresh squeezed lime juice, a bit of fresh crushed garlic (a little goes a long way), a drizzle of honey, a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper. Whisk the ingredients together while slowly drizzling in the olive oil- I don’t measure out an exact amount, I just stop adding oil when the dressing starts to thicken. You can adjust all of the portions of this dressing according to your taste.

The key to this salad is the avocado, so don’t skimp on it. It adds a creaminess to the dish but also gives it a bit of substance, so you won’t feel hungry an hour later. 

A few notes I feel I have to say about avocados. I often hear people say that they don’t want to eat them because they are high in fat. Ok, true, avocados have fat, one medium avocado has about 30 grams. However, most of this is not saturated fat, but monounsaturated fat, the good kind that actually helps lower cholesterol levels. They are high in fiber, potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins and folic acid.

Make sure you use only ripe avocados, otherwise the salad won't be as creamy and flavorful as it should be. One trick that helps them ripen perfectly is to place hard avocados in a small paper bag in the cupboard for a few days until they are soft. Be patient with them, it's worth the wait, once you cut open an un-ripe avocado it will not continue to ripen. 

radish  (I used watermelon radishes)

½ lime
olive oil
crushed fresh garlic
sea salt and pepper

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sweet Potato Ravioli with Walnut "Parmesan Cheese"

The day after Thanksgiving usually means a fridge full of leftovers. I decided to put the extra baked sweet potatoes to good use and make ravioli.

For a vegan version I used an eggless pasta dough, a sage infused olive oil and instead of shaving parmesan over the ravioli, I sprinkled them with a chopped walnut mixture which added a nutty saltiness similar to parmesan cheese.

These were so delicious, I won’t wait until I have leftover sweet potatoes to make them again. And since these freeze well I recommend making several dozen at a time so you’ll have them on hand for a quick and easy weekday lunch or dinner.

2 sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons fresh chopped sage
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil, plus about 3 additional tablespoons
3 cloves garlic

Pasta Ingredients:
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup-1 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt (optional)

Preparing the sweet potatoes:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork. Place on a baking sheet and cook for 40-50 minutes or until soft.

Cool completely, then peel. This can be done several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Once the potatoes are cool, peel and mash. This can be done by hand or in a food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Walnut "Parmesan Cheese" Topping

Add the chopped walnuts to a pan over low heat. Toss or stir often, being careful no to burn the nuts.

Once the nuts turn a light golden brown and are fragrant, take off the heat, pour in bowl and set aside.

Finely chop three cloves of garlic. Sprinkle with salt- I like to use kosher salt for this.

Using your knife, work the salt into the garlic until you have a paste.

Put about three tablespoons of olive oil in a small pan over low heat. Add the garlic paste. Using a wooden spoon smash the garlic into the oil until most of it dissolves. Be careful not to brown or overcook the garlic.

Turn off the heat and add the nuts. Toss together well. Add more salt if necessary. The final product should be nutty and a bit salty. 

The Pasta:

Mound flour on a large wooden cutting board.

Make a well in the center of the flour.

Add water a little at a time, stirring with a fork until the flour has enough liquid for the dough to come together.

The dough will be sticky, but should not be wet.
Kneed the dough for 3 minutes. Scrape up all the sticky bits then re-flour the board. Continue kneading for 3 more minutes. Dust the board with flour when necessary. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky.
Cut the dough in half. Wrap the unused half in a towel to prevent it from drying out.

Press the dough into a rectangle then run it through the widest setting on the pasta maker two or three times. Reduce the setting on the pasta maker and repeat this process. At this point your dough may be quite long, I usually cut it in half and set aside. Dust the dough occasionally to prevent the sticking. Continue reducing the setting on the pasta maker until the dough is 1/8” thick.

Place the sheet of dough on a floured surface and put teaspoons of the filling a few inches apart until you have filled up the sheet of pasta. Brush a bit of water around each mound of filling- you can use your finger to do this.

Roll out another sheet of dough and place on top, press gently around the filling.

Cut out the ravioli. You can use anything to use as a cutter- a cup, biscuit cutter a knife. Make sure each ravioli has a good seal. Set aside on a baking sheet dusted with flour. 
Repeat this until you have used all the dough.

Heat the additional 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Add the chopped sage and sprinkle with a few pinches of good salt. Once the sage is a bit crispy and the oil is fragrant, turn off the heat.

Carefully drop the ravioli into gently boiling salted water. Be careful not to over-crowed the ravioli, you may have to do this in several batches, The ravioli will only take a few minutes, once they float to the top, they are done. Remove the ravioli from the water using a slotted spoon. 

Drain well and place in the pan with the sage and olive oil. Gently toss in the pan making sure that the ravioli are coated with the sage oil.
Place the ravioli on a plates then sprinkle with the walnut “parmesan” topping.