Sunday, September 27, 2009

"O" Recipe - Onion Soup with Loads of Thyme and Giant Gruyère Crostini

I really wanted to help support this great cause (ovarian cancer awareness) (please see below). I searched through many "O" recipes and ended up choosing an onion soup recipe. It is a cool fall day here in NJ, so it just seemed like it would be a good choice. I followed the recipe but made 1 1/2 times since three of us are home tonight. I am counting the days until my older daughter is home from college for a week! Ahhh cooking for four again - can't wait!

Onion Soup with Loads of Thyme and Giant Gruyère Crostini
Epicurious February 2009
by Jessica Strand
Cooking for Two: Perfect Meals for Pairs

1 pound yellow onions, halved and thinly cut lengthwise
3 to 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Fresh cracked pepper
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups beef stock
1 cup water
1 1/2-inch-thick slice of ciabatta bread cut in half
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups grated Swiss Gruyère cheese

In a heavy 5-quart pot melt the butter over low heat. Add the onions, thyme, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste and cook until the onions are deep amber and exceedingly soft, stirring occasionally, 25 to 30 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then add the wine, increase the heat, and let the wine bubble away for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beef stock and water, and let the soup simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to broil. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven.

Place the ciabatta on the middle rack of the oven and toast until crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs from the soup and discard. Pour the soup into two ovenproof bowls, float the toasted ciabatta on top, and cover it with a thick layer of the Gruyère. Put the soup bowls under the broiler on the middle rack and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese is fully melted and golden.

"September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and for the second year in a row, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are hosting the O Foods Contest to raise awareness of this important health issue.
There are TWO WAYS to take part in the O Foods Contest:
ONE: Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato); include this entire text box in the post; and send your post url along with a photo (100 x 100) to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.
PRIZES for recipe posts:
1st: Signed copy of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma, Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who is currently battling ovarian cancer, inspired this event, and will be choosing her favorite recipe for this prize;
2nd: Signed copy of Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home by Mario Batali (winner chosen by Sara);
3rd: Signed copy of Vino Italiano: The Regional Italian Wines of Italy by Joseph Bastianich (winner chosen by Michelle).
TWO: If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word and send your post url to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.
Awareness posts PRIZE:
One winner chosen at random will receive a Teal Toes tote bag filled with ovarian cancer awareness goodies that you can spread around amongst your friends and family.
From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:
Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose, but include bloating, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).
There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.
In spite of this, patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.
When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.
And remember, you can also always donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at our page through FirstGiving!
Please help spread the word about ovarian cancer.Together we can make enough noise to kill this silent killer.

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's Mallomar Season in NJ

We have tomato season, blueberry season, etc., but did you know that we have Mallomar season? A NJ original only available the end of September through March! Same recipe since 1913 - how many products can say that?!

What is a Mallomar? A round graham cracker, topped with a marshmallow, and coated in dark chocolate. The first packages were sold in West Hoboken (NJ). 70% of all Mallomars are sold in the NY/NJ metro area. Similar treats are enjoyed all over the world. Originally created in Denmark, they are known as chocolate teacakes in the UK and Krembo in Israel. Check out this link to see how important a part of the American culture Mallomars are. A packaged cookie (Nabisco) with such a rich history - who knew?
It's been a very busy and long week! Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day Boat Scallops with Cilantro Lime Sauce

I love living at the Jersey Shore! One of the many reaons I love living here is the availability of day boat scallops. They are called day boat scallops since the boats that "fish" for the scallops return the same day instead of dredging for longer periods. What does this really mean? It means that we are able to buy extremely fresh, sweet, delicious scallops right off of the boat. Supermarket "water added" scallops are not at all the same. To quote my daughter, "they are flubbery!" Day boat scallops are perfect so many ways. I really love them pan seared. I brush the scallops lightly with vegetable oil and add to a hot grill pan. Grill for a few minutes and turn over once they are browned. They only take a few minutes per side so be careful not to overcook them. I made a cilantro lime sauce since I had the ingredients on hand. I simply sauteed a minced shallot in a little olive oil until softened, next I added 1/4 cup of white wine and a tablespoon of fresh lime juice and reduced until most of the liquid evaporated. I then whisked in a few tablespoons of butter. I finished with a handful of chopped fresh cilantro. A great thing about scallops is that they are so quick to prepare and extremely versatile!

An aside, tonight is my very last back to school night - EVER. My first daughter just went off to college :( and my younger daughter is now a senior in high school. I can't even think about this time next year... Wasn't I just sitting in a tiny chair in the kindergarten classroom on back to school night?!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Roasted Yellow Pepper Bruschetta

Thursday post a little late...

Thursday nights - I love Thursday nights! What's to love? Well for one, Friday, my favorite day is tomorrow (end of the work week, wear jeans to work, everyone is in a good mood at work...)! Oh and two, my favorite show is on - "The Office!" I don't watch much tv but I have been with this one since the beginning... and it's hysterical! Season premier - must make something quick, so... I made soup (Tuscan white bean with spinach) and Roasted Yellow Pepper Bruschetta (since it's pepper season in NJ). Both came together quickly, were really good and I was all set to watch with a glass of cabernet (well I was a little late but thank goodness for DVRs!) - oh how I love Thursdays!

My inspiration for the bruschetta was from I followed the recipe pretty closely. Really good.

Also, Happy New Year to my Jewish friends! I hope that you enjoy the holiday!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Only 2 Cloves of Garlic in the House!

It was really late and I hadn't started dinner or even thought about dinner. I usually at least have an ingredient for inspiration - tonight nothing. I always have a bag of shrimp in the freezer for the rare occassion when I lose focus of my food obsession! Shrimp scampi - quick, delicious, no recipe to follow. I defrosted the shrimp and started gathering the rest of my ingredients, a lemon, butter, olive oil, kosher salt, red pepper flakes, white wine, parsley, and of course plenty of garlic. WAIT - 2 cloves of garlic - that's all I have??!! Can't be! I always buy garlic. Funny thing is that I grew up in a garlic-free household and now I would say that garlic is in at least 90% of things I make! I bought it on Sunday - gone without a trace. I am seriously perplexed! Meanwhile, I burned the olive oil and butter. Poured it out - no salvaging burned butter. About 1 minute away from declaring that everyone is on their own tonight, I recalled Tyler Florence's shrimp scampi recipe that calls for shallots, and yes, 2 cloves of garlic! I made some angel hair pasta and steamed zucchini on the side. Delicious! I still don't know what happened to the garlic...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fresh Baked Pita

Fresh pita is so very good and really very easy to make. So much better than store bought - I don't think I can go back after having them fresh from the oven. They are perfect with Mediterranean or Middle Eastern sandwich fillings or dips. I made falafel since my husband loves it. Homemade tabbouleh, tahini sauce, and fresh vegetables - mmm...

I followed the recipe on The Fresh Loaf. Step by step directions and pictures make this super easy to follow. The only change I made was to up the oven temperature to 500 degrees. I also used my trusty KitchenAid with the dough hook attachment instead of hand kneading.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bitter Melon and Trenton Farmers' Market

My younger daughter and I took a road trip out to the Trenton Farmers' Market and Halo Farm. We looked around at the produce stands for anything unusual that is not available at my local farm markets. Not too much interesting - but wait -we spotted bitter melon and both agreed that we should try it. Not sure what we will do with it - but we love to try new things - and love most all vegetables. Funny looking, kind of like an ugly cucumber or some kind of gourd. Hey - I like a lot of ugly vegetables. A dollar for a bag of 4 - sold!

Well, we googled bitter melon when we got home to try to find some inspiration. Instead of inspiration, we read warnings! May cause headaches, birth defects, convulsions, spontaneous abortion, coma...??!! Supposedly it has health benefits for diabetics. Needless to say, since we are not diabetic, we are passing on the bitter melon! I am not sure that I know of any other vegetable with similar warnings. Well, we spent a dollar, learned something new, and had a good laugh about bitter melon, as we looked at each other and both said, "I don't want to try it!"

Highlights of the trip included the absolutely best soft pretzels from the Amish stand - so very good! Worth the drive for the pretzels alone. We also picked up one of their barbecued chickens - great as well. Very nice people - we'll be back!

Next on to Halo Farm which shares a parking lot with the market. 1/2 gallon skim milk, 1/2 gallon lactaid-like milk, 1/2 gallon lemonade, 1/2 gallon iced tea, 1 lb. butter, and 3 pints of ice cream (chocolate peanut butter, vanilla m&m, and coffee heath bar) all for $10.40! All natural, no hormones, no antibiotics, pure cane sugar in the drinks - a huge bargain!

Best of all, I spent time with my daughter! Priceless!

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 - I will never forget...

Many from my area, including those I know well, were deeply and personally affected by 9/11. I wish them all love, happiness, and peace. I will never forget... I am saddened today but respect so much the first responders, survivors, and family members who had to stay strong and live on. God bless them all.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Part-Time Vegetarian

I am trying out a new eating plan - 3 nights meat, 2 nights seafood, and 2 vegetable main course nights. Can I pull this off? I've eased my husband into this; he's fine with the black bean tacos and falafel but we will see if vegetarian nights works on a regular basis. Any suggestions would be appreciated! I am adopting this plan for both health and monetary reasons. I am spending much more on organic/grass-fed/free-range meats. I also really do like many of the vegetarian recipes that I make (so not too much of a sacrifice - for me anyway!). Tonight's recipe was inspired by Cooking Light Cavatappi with Spinach, Beans, and Asiago Cheese. I adapted the recipe based on the comments and my personal preference. I served the pasta with a basic green salad and Italian bread (served with fresh roasted red peppers, asiago cheese, and olive oil dipping sauce). I can definitely make this work!

8 oz. DeCecco Fusilli
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 tsp, red pepper flakes
10 oz. fresh baby spinach chopped
1 can of cannellini beans drained and rinsed
3/4 cup grated asiago cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Cook the pasta according to package in salted water.
Heat the olive oil in a small skillet, add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook the garlic until softened. In a large bowl combine the beans, asiago cheese, salt, pepper, and the cooked garlic. Place the spinach in a colander. When the pasta is done, drain it in the colander containing the spinach. Add the hot pasta and wilted spinach to the other ingredients. Toss and serve immediately. Fast, healthy and budget-friendly. Perfect for a busy weeknight!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Eggplant with Angel Hair Pasta, Feta, and Basil

I love eggplant! The end of summer is a little (well a lot) depressing but the eggplants in NJ are plentiful and delicious this time of year. The other day two co-workers were discussing their dislike of eggplant - it was almost too painful to listen to - bitter, spongy, hate it... How could it be? Maybe they have not had them properly prepared? I love eggplant fried, parm, rollatini, baba ghanoush, grilled, and so on and so on... I love feta also and I think that the combination works really well together. Ricotta salata would be great also.

Eggplant with Angel Hair Pasta, Feta, and Basil

Cube 1 medium sized Italian eggplant, salt liberally, and placed in a colander for 30 minutes to draw out some moisture. Meanwhile prepare the sauce. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan. Add 1 chopped onion and cooked until the onion begins to soften. Next, add 4 minced garlic cloves. Once the onion and garlic are softened, add a large can of diced tomatoes (29 oz.) and season with salt, pepper, and a dash of sugar. Simmer for half an hour. Rinse and pat dry the cubed eggplant. Next, toss the eggplant in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and roast on a baking sheet in a preheated 400 degree oven - toss it every so often so that it will cook evenly. Cook the angel hair pasta when the sauce and eggplant are nearly done. I like to place the finished sauce in the food processor for a beautiful smooth consistency. When the pasta is done toss with the eggplant, sauce, and top with crumbled feta and fresh basil. Simple, delicious, and not at all heavy.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thai Shrimp Stir-fry with Tomatoes and Basil - Slimmed

This recipe is a personal favorite - colorful, healthy, spicy, and delicious! It is a little time consuming but worth the effort - oh and best yet - less than 400 calories per serving! My inspiration for making this dish was the gorgeous yellow pepper that I picked up at my local farm market. Well, the end of summer is upon us but peppers and eggplants will still be growing for a while - thank goodness!

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons Southeast Asian fish sauce
4 teaspoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon grated, peeled, fresh ginger
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 medium red onion, cut in 1-inch dice
1 medium yellow pepper, seeded, cut in 1-inch dice
1 jalapeno chile, thinly sliced into rounds
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Serving suggestion: Jasmine rice

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, water, fish sauce, and sugar; set aside. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and chile flakes, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and stir-fry until pink but still translucent in the middle, about 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon. Add the onion, pepper, and chile to the skillet, and stir-fry until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Return the shrimp to the pan along with the soy sauce mixture. Bring to a boil, and stir-fry until the sauce glazes the shrimp, about 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes and stir until coated with sauce, about 15 seconds. Remove pan from the heat, stir in the basil, mint, and lime juice. Transfer to a serving dish, serve immediately."