Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

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Looking for a great vegetarian main dish?  Look no further!  We tried this tonight and it was a big hit.  I was wary at first about eggplant, but it turned out to be perfect.  I ran out of yellow bell pepper, so used zucchini instead.  This would also be great for you non-dairy folks – just omit the feta!  thanks again to Bites for this tasty recipe.

1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound orzo or rice-shaped pasta

For the dressing:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To assemble:
4 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts), toasted
3/4 pound good feta, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled)
15 fresh basil leaves, cut into julienne

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and basil. Check the seasonings, and serve at room temperature.

Classic Gazpacho

There is nothing like fresh gazpacho to celebrate the end days of summer.  Our tomato plants did quite well this year, to my surprise, and I was able to harvest enough to make this delicious soup.  Even Henry loved getting his vegetable intake through gulping down this yummy treat!  If you have a food processor, you have no excuses, as this was simple and easy to throw together!!! 


Classic Gazpacho

by The New Best Recipe Cookbook

Ingredients:

3 medium, ripe beefsteak tomatoes, cored and cut into large chunks
2 medium red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into large chunks
2 small cucumbers, one peeled and one with skin on, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 small walla walla or other sweet onion, cut in 1 inch pieces
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sherry vinegar (although white wine vinegar will do)
ground black pepper
5 cups tomato juice (i accidentally bought tomato cocktail juice and almost didn't finish making this recipe because of my error, but I went ahead and tossed it in, and honestly the sugar in the juice balanced out the tartness of the veges nicely)
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
8 ice cbues
extra virgin olive oil

Directions

1.  Pulse tomatoes in a food processor for 12 one second pulses until broken down into 1/4 pieces.  Transfer to a large nonreactive bowl.  Pulse peppers and cucumbers and process the same, add to bowl with tomatoes.  Add onion, pulse carefully not to liquify the onion, until minced.  Add onion to the bowl with tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.  Add garlic, salt, vinegar, and black pepper to taste. 

2.  Let mixture stand until vegetables just begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the tomato juice, hot pepper (if using), and ice cubes.  Cover tightly and refrigerate to blend the flavors, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.

3.  Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste and remove and discard any unmelted ice cubes.  Serve cold, drizzling each portion with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil and topping with desire garnishes – such as extra vegetables from the soup preparation, croutons, pitted chopped black olives, hard boiled eggs, or sliced avocado. 

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookie

The Nestle Tollhouse chocolate cookie recipe is forever in my psyche – I know it by heart.  For 29 years, I have not been sold on any other recipe.  That is, until I tasted these tantalizing Cooks Illustrated creations.  I cannot boast them enough – they truly are the epitome of everything a chocolate chip cookie ought to be. 

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (best:  ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate chips)
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

Directions:

1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2.  Heat 10 tablespoons butter in a 10 inch skillet over medium high heat until melted, about 2 minutes.  Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1-3 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl.  Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3.  Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated  Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.  Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds.  Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.  Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4.  Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons.  Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet.  Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.

5.  Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10-14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking.  Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

“Starbucks” Chicken Curry Salad

My friend Nickie introduced me to the Starbucks chicken curry salad last year and I was hooked!  After trying it, I become obsessed with tracking it down at any and every Starbucks.  However, to our dismay, Starbucks stopped making this fantastic dish!  So we’ve put our memories to work, and tried to recall everything that was in it.  If you also were a fan of this salad, let me know if you remember something that is missing … so far we have a solid start!


2-3 chicken breasts
curry powder
2 green apples, peeled and chopped into small chunks
2 stalks of celery

a handful of toasted coconut
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
4 green onions, sliced thin
1 package of couscous
1 jar of Trader Joes Green or Red Curry Simmer Sauce (or another curry dressing/sauce)
3 tablespoons mayo (optional)

1.  Season chicken with curry powder, rub in.  Poach chicken in two inches of water, cook until almost done through.  Drain water.  Add simmer sauce, about 1 inch, not covering chicken, on medium heat.  Turn chicken to cover and bring to simmer, until chicken is coated and cooked through.  Drain off extra sauce, set chicken aside.

2.  Meanwhile, follow instructions for making the couscous.  Prepare apples, celery, walnuts, green onions, and coconut.  Cut chicken into cubes.

3.  In a large bowl, mix the finished couscous, apples, celery, walnuts, green onions, coconut, and chicken.  Add desired amount of simmer sauce and mix.  For a creamier, or more spicy dish, mix together mayo and curry powder, add to mixture.  Taste and adjust with curry powder. Serve!

Baked Ziti

this is one of our favorites!  sorry no picture – we ate it up too quickly!

Baked Ziti
by Cook’s Illustrated

1 pound whole milk or 1 percent cottage cheese
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
3 ounces, about 1 1/2 cups, grated parmesan
salt
1 pound ziti or other short, tubular pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 medium cloves of garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press, about 5 teaspoons
1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces low moisture mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)

1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup parmesan together in medium bowl; set aside.  Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large dutch oven (or stock pot) over high heat.  Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften, but in NOT yet cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.  Drain pasta and leave in colander (do not wash dutch oven or stock pot).

2.  Meanwhile, heat oil and garlic in a 12 inch skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant, but not brown, about 2 minutes.  Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano, simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and sugar, then season with salt and pepper.

3.  Stir cornstarch into heavy cream in small bowl; transfer mixture to now empty dutch oven (or stock pot) set over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce, and 3/4 cup mozzarella, then stir to combine.  Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce. 

4.  Transfer pasta mixture to 13 by 9 inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta.  Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup parmesan over top.  Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

5.  Remove foil and continue to cook until cheese is bubbling and beginnign to brown, about 30 minutes longer.  Cool for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of basil.  Serve.

Steak with Mushroom Onion Gravy

You won't find too many posts from me with the word "steak" involved – but my sweet husband kindly requested this delicious dish, so I cut back on other meals for the week to fit this one into the budget.  It was well worth it!  And honestly, it was fairly priced and not over the top by any means.  Plus extra left overs for lunches tomorrow!  The gravy was the best I've ever had.  Here are some pictures of Andrew patiently waiting for his meal!

Steak Tips with Mushroom Onion Gravy
from Cooks Illustrated, Sept/Oct 2009

1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 lbs sirloin steak tips, cut into 1 1/2 chunks (for two people, 1 lb was more than enough)
1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed well
1 3/4 cups low sodium beef broth
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb white mushrooms, stems trimmed, caps wiped clean, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 large onion, halved, and sliced thin, about 1 1/2 cups
1 medium clove of garlic, pressed through a garlic press or minced
1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
4 tsp flour
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

1.  Combine soy sauce and sugar in medium bowl.  Add beef, toss well, and marinate at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour, tossing once.

2.  Meanwhile, cover porcini mushooms with 1/4 cup beef brother in small microwave safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap, cut several steam vents in plastic with a knife, and microwave on high power for 30 seconds.  Let stand until mushrooms soften, about 5 minutes.  Life mushrooms from liquid with fork, and mince.  Strain liquid through fine mesh strainer lined with paper towel into medium bowl.  Set mushrooms and liquid aside.

3.  Sprinkle meat with 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12 inch skillet over medium high heat until smoking.  Add meat and cook until well browned on all sides, 6-8 minutes.  Transfer to large plate and set aside. 

4.  Return skillet to medium high heat and add remaining tablespoon of oil, white mushrooms, minced porcinis and 1/4 teaspoons salt; cook, stirring frequently until all liquid has evaporated and mushrooms start to brown, 7-9 minutes.  Scrape pan to loosen fond.  Add onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt; continue to cook, stirring frequently, until onion begins to brown and dark bits form on pan bottom, 6-8 minutes longer.  Add garlic, thyme, and flour; cook, stirring constantly until vegetables are coasted with flour, about 1 minute.  Stir in remaining 1 1/2 c ups beef broth and porcini soaking liquid, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, and bring to boil.

5.  Nestle steak pieces into mushroom and onion mixture and add any accumulated juices to skillet.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until steak registers 130 degrees on a thermometer, 3-5 minutes, turning beef over several times.  Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with parsley, and serve over rice or egg noodles.

Spinach and Orzo Salad

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Yum, this was fantastic!  A great summer salad that was filling, easy, and delicious.  Highly recommend – and just omit the orzo if you want a carb-free meal!  Thanks again Emilie for the recipe.

1 (16 ounce) package uncooked orzo pasta
1 (10 ounce) package baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
1/2 pound crumbled feta cheese
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

* add 2-3 grilled chicken breasts, sliced or chopped, to make it into a heartier main dish salad!

DIRECTIONS
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in spinach, feta, onion, pine nuts, basil and white pepper. Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate and serve cold.