Sunday, May 30, 2010

CSA Vegetables - Asparagus, Radishes, and Chives

When looking for inspiration on how to prepare our CSA vegetables, I poured through cookbooks, my latest food magazines, and searched some of my favorite food sites.   One of my go-to sites is  They have a great advanced search that has steered me in the right direction many times.  My daughter Ashley was helping with the search and came across this recipe on  She searched for orecchiette, asparagus, and goat cheese since we had all of those ingredients on hand.  I went a little crazy and bought a bunch of DeCecco orecchiette because my local grocery store hasn't carried it in a long time and suddenly it was back, and on sale.  I also bought goat cheese at Costco - so you know that we had plenty.  Oh, and of course we had the gorgeous, fresh asparagus from my CSA box.  The bonus is this recipe also uses chives which were also in my CSA box. 

With delicious fresh produce and recipes like this one, I could easily, and I mean easily, become vegetarian.  My family loved this pasta!  Easy, healthy, and delicious - just perfect!  I later noticed that this recipe is on the list of Food & Wines users' 30 favorite recipes list.  This would be perfect for a "Meatless Monday".  The only changes I made were to up the amount of goat cheese (I know- very bad - but it was so good!) and I also added fresh chive flowers. 

 I served the pasta with herbed butter and radish crostinis.  I had come across an Ina Garten recipe for herbed butter served with whole radishes and toasted French bread.  Stacey, of Stacey Snacks (another go-to site), suggested sliced radishes served on bread with a "swipe of butter".  Stacey is an expert, so I knew that butter, bread, and radishes were the way to go!  I decided to add some herbs (dill, scallions, and parsley) to my butter, and serve it on crostini with sliced radishes.  Just delicious! 

Creamy Goat Cheese and Asparagus Orecchiette
Recipe by Scott Conant
Food & Wine Magazine


3/4 pound orecchiette
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
3/4 pound medium asparagus spears, cut into 1/2-inch lengths
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh goat cheese (I used 4 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon snipped chives

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


1.In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the orecchiette until just al dente. Drain the orecchiette, reserving 2/3 cup of the cooking water.

2.Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook over moderately low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

3.Add the orecchiette and the reserved cooking water to the skillet along with the lemon juice and zest; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the orecchiette is al dente and the asparagus is just tender, about 2 minutes. Add the goat cheese and chives and stir until melted. Transfer the pasta to bowls and serve with Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My First CSA Box

I received my first CSA box today!  It was like Christmas morning!  What's in the box?

Chives (with blossoms)
Zesty Salad Mix (Red Russian Kale, Arugula, Baby Red Leaf Lettuce, Baby Green Leaf Lettuce)
Scallions (Yellow)

Now the fun part - what to make?  I would love suggestions especially regarding the radishes and mizuna.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fresh Picked New Jersey Strawberries

Did you know that a serving of fresh strawberries contains 140% of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C? They also contain flavonoids which help lower bad cholesterol. Better yet, they are low in calories and just delicious!  Enjoy them when they are available locally.   These are a few of the ways that I have been enjoying the fresh berries:

Fresh Picked Strawberries from Cedar Hill Farms, Red Hill Road, Middletown, NJ     $5.50/qt.

Sourdough French Toast topped with fresh strawberries - scrumptious! 

Chocolate Covered Strawberries made with Valrhona Dark Chocolate - oh my!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lemon Cornmeal Birthday Cake with Strawberries

Yesterday was my birthday and a very nice birthday it was!

 I received lots of birthday wishes from dear old friends and...

My father made me this beautiful windowsill herb garden that I just love!  The perfect gift for me! 

My mother gave me a gift certificate for a pedicure at a local spa - Ahhh...

I have three new cookbooks to add to my collection - thanks Cousin!

My husband gave me these pretty flowers although he wasn't supposed to buy me anything - thank you Matt!

Cailyn's friends called and sang Happy Birthday to me - love them all!

My daughters were both home for my birthday dinner - priceless!

NJ strawberries are finally here and they are so delicious!   Fresh strawberry season in NJ goes by very quickly.  I wanted a cake that I could top with strawberries that would not be too heavy or too sweet.  Lemon Cornmeal Cake was just perfect!  The cake recipe was adapted from Everyday Food's Orange Cornmeal Cake.  I substituted the zest of two lemons for the orange zest that was called for in the recipe.  I also used white wine instead of orange juice.   I absolutely love this cake!  I could write a poem about it!  A great thing about it is that there is absolutely no butter or dairy in this cake.  Make sure to use a  good quality, mild flavored olive oil ( I used Frantoia).   I'll be making this cake again soon!  I also will be enjoying every moment of strawberry season in NJ. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grilled Pork Tenderloin Salad

Oh how I love Michael Psilakis's Grilled Pork Tenderloin Salad from Food and Wine.  He describes it as being "like pork souvlaki tossed with a salad."  Spring greens, grilled vegetables (asparagus, onions, and tomatoes), sliced grilled pork tenderloin, prosciutto di Parma, and a zingy vinaigrette - perfect!  It is a healthy and hearty main course salad.  Great sides are olives, feta cheese, pita bread, and tzatziki.  The asparagus was grown in NJ - now all I need are local tomatoes!  I am so happy that grilling season is here!  Opa!

Tzatziki Recipe
1/4 cup grated English cucumber
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Combine ingredients in a bowl.  Refrigerate for approx. one hour before serving. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Homemade Granola Bars

I love Ina Garten's recipe for homemade granola bars because it is so versatile and delicious. Making your own granola bars is nice because you know exactly what is in them. You can feel free to use any dried fruit that you like or even chocolate chips. I used 3/4 cup of Craisins and 3/4 cup of apricots since that is what I had on hand. You can also control the level of sweetness. I accidentally bought sweetened coconut so I decreased the brown sugar to 1/8 cup which worked out just fine. The bars also freeze well. Just make sure to press the mixture firmly into the pan and definitely use parchment paper to line the pan. They tend to break apart easily but any broken pieces are great to have with yogurt.

No excuse to not have a healthy breakfast! I will be grabbing one tomorrow morning as I head for the Garden State Parkway at 7:15 am. Monday morning commutes... ugh...

Homemade Granola Bars
2008, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics


•2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
•1 cup sliced almonds
•1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
•1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
•3 tablespoons unsalted butter
•2/3 cup honey
•1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
•1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
•1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
•1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
•1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
•1/2 cup dried cranberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pan Seared Grouper with Broccoli Rabe

The seafood market had some nice fresh grouper - a fish that I have not had in ages.   I wanted something different so I decided to bring some home.  I had a bunch of broccoli rabe in the refrigerator.  I do love broccoli rabe!   So once again inspired by a menu item at a local restaurant, I put together this dish of pan seared fish atop of garlicky broccoli rabe, with cannellini beans, and grilled tomatoes.   What a perfect combination of flavors - super healthy as well.  On the side, we enjoyed fresh bread with roasted peppers, fresh mozzarella, and olives.   I think that I may have a problem - I am an olive addict!   Happy Wednesday! 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Scallops with Tomatoes, Shiitakes, and Olives

The idea for last night's dinner was inspired by a dish, "Day Boat Halibut, pan seared, with chardonnay, nicoise olives, shiitake mushrooms, grape tomatoes, and fresh basil", served at a local restaurant in Point Pleasant Beach (Daniel's Bistro).  Well, unable to get halibut from the seafood market, I decided to buy scallops.  I have raved about our local scallops before - they are so fresh and delicious! 

I seared the scallops in a pan with a little olive oil and butter.  Once the scallops were cooked, I removed them to a plate.  I added the shiitake mushrooms followed by Nature Sweet tomatoes (the ones in the net bag) cut in half.  I deglazed the pan with some chardonnay and let some of the wine cook off.  Next, I added some olives - the wrong olives!  I could not find Nicoise in any of my local markets and instead used what I had, which was black olives.  Not the best idea - I should have substituted maybe Kalamata or Gaeta because the black olives didn't quite work.  Lastly, I swirled in a pat of butter, some fresh basil, and added back the scallops. 

Even with the slight olive debacle, the dish was just delicious.  My husband pushed the olives to the side and thoroughly enjoyed the scallops.  I would not hesitate to make this again but with different olives. 

I definitely need a Whole Foods or Wegmans closer to home! 

Happy Mother's Day!!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Linguine with Shrimp and Lemon Oil

I absolutely love Giada's recipe for Linguine with Shrimp and Lemon Oil.  This is a great weeknight meal for me because it is quick to prepare and I almost always have the ingredients on hand.  Frozen shrimp, garlic, shallots, lemons, linguine, and olive oil are basic pantry items in most homes.  I am a huge fan of arugula and generally keep a small tub of the Earthbound Farms or Olivia's Organics in the fridge. 

I follow Giada's recipe except that I leave the lemon zest in the lemon oil instead of straining it out.  I omit the lemon zest in the pasta step since I leave it in the lemon oil.  Make sure to use a good quality olive oil.  I used Frantoia and it was fabulous.  Trust me this is delicious! 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata is one of my "go to" weeknight meals.  It is so quick to make and the taste outweighs the effort.  I love the lemon caper sauce  - just delicious!  I make it so often that I don't really follow a recipe or measure ingredients but it is very close to Giada's recipe.  I like her proportions of lemon juice, chicken stock, and capers.  You can always adjust the amount of lemon juice to taste.  I also use her idea of whisking butter into the sauce at the end.  

I served the chicken with Trader Joe's Lemon Pepper Pappardelle.  I was a little skeptical about a flavored pasta but it was surprisingly delicious - you can really taste the lemon and fresh pepper.  I tossed it in a little olive oil and it was just great.  Some roasted asparagus on the side and we had a fabulous dinner in a flash. 

Chicken Piccata
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped


Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.

Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.