30 July, 2010

Lettuce Be Happy Wraps

cus•tom•ize [kuhs-tuh-mahyz] –verb
to modify or build according to individual or personal specifications or preference

Lettuce wraps are so appealing when we see them on a restaurant menu but we rarely think to serve them at home. However, when we serve them at home we can not only control the nutritional value but we can also customize them to our specific audience. With just a couple tweaks you can please omnivores and herbivores; you can please the carb averse and the carb lover; you can please adults and children. You can please everyone!

To make these vegetarian, use soy crumbles or extra vegetables. To make them carb friendly, eliminate the pasta. To make your family happy, try this recipe!

Serves 3-4
Butter lettuce (or iceberg)
10 oz Udon noodles (pasta of your choice)
1 lb ground beef, chicken or soy crumbles
Small white or yellow onion, diced
Green bell pepper, diced
Red bell pepper, diced
3-5 oz shitake mushrooms, chopped
8 oz can water chestnuts, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
1 ½ tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
3 pinches red pepper flakes
1 tbsp lime juice

Rinse your lettuce, separate individual leafs and set aside to dry. Cook pasta according to directions, drain and rinse with cold water. Cut the pasta so that it’s about three inches long. While the pasta is cooking, brown one pound ground beef in a medium sauté pan and about three minutes before you remove from the heat, add two cloves minced garlic. Drain beef and set aside in a bowl.

While the beef is cooking, combine soy sauce, honey, vinegar, red pepper flakes and lime juice, in a bowl and whisk in sesame oil. Set aside.

In the same sauté pan, heat one tablespoon olive oil and add onion and peppers for about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes. Next add about half of your sauce and cook for about 3 minutes before you add the water chestnuts. Once the vegetables are cooked but not mushy, add the beef and remaining sauce to the pan and let simmer on low for about 10-15 minutes. Sccop into cool lettuce leaves and serve for smiles.

27 July, 2010

Eggplant Bruschetta Couscous

“Bruschetta” is an Italian appetizer consisting of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil, salt, pepper, tomatoes, etc. There are many variations of this dish and I am so in love with every variation. My love led me to the creation of what I call “brushetta couscous”. The dish technically isn’t bruschetta because it is not served on bread. Report me to the Italian bruschetta police; I don’t care as long as you give this dish a try. For those not familiar with Israeli couscous, it is a wheat based baked pasta produced in the shape of round pearls. It is tiny and chewy and yummy and if you can’t find it you can replace it with any small pasta, rice or grain of your choice. Quinoa would likely be my second choice.

Serves 3-4 as a side dish
1 1/3 cup dry Israeli couscous
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small eggplant, diced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
Salt, pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

Make a foil packet with diced eggplant, cherry tomatoes, salt, pepper, 1 clove minced garlic and 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Place on the grill on high heat or in your oven on 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Remove the packet when the tomatoes have burst and the eggplant is soft. Be careful to not to spill the yummy juices that have gathered in the packet.

While the eggplant/tomatoes are cooking, prepare your couscous. In a saucepan on medium heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil and couscous and toast for about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup 3/4 boiling water to couscous and once it returns to a boil lower heat to medium low for 10-12 minutes or until water is absorbed. Be careful not to overcook the couscous as it behaves just like pasta.

Once the couscous is done, poor the contents of the foil including the juice on top and serve.

22 July, 2010

Egg & Tomato Toast

If I were to make a list of my favorite things, one of the top listings (after my husband of course) would be breakfast or brunch on a weekend or on vacation. I love to linger over a cup of coffee, leisure conversation and a great bite. I am not sure which I enjoy more; going out for breakfast and getting new ideas from the menu or staying in for breakfast and recreating those menu items in my robe.

I have several routine menu items but the one below involves minimal ingredients that are likely hanging out in your house anyway. Eggs and tomatoes are a perfect match that should get married and live happily ever after. The cream cheese is an indulgence that can be left off or scaled back if one is watching his/her girlish or boyish figure. Or you could indulge and just loosen the belt on your robe.
Serves two

2 pieces whole wheat sourdough bread (or any bread desired)
4 eggs
1 tbsp skim milk
One large tomato or two smaller tomatoes
Whipped cream cheese
Salt and pepper

Crack four eggs in a bowl, add 1 tbsp milk and beat lightly. Cut the tomato into thick slices. Toast bread in toaster or in the oven and spread with desired amount of cream cheese. Layer the tomatoes on top of the cream cheese and salt and pepper the tomatoes.
I recently learned a foolproof method for cooking fluffy eggs: Heat a skillet on medium high and add a pat of butter. Add eggs and don’t touch them for about 3 minutes or until they set up. Once they are set do a push/pull motion with a spatula and leave them for about 2 minutes while they set. Repeat this until the eggs are fluffy and moist. When they look just a bit undercooked than you normally would like, immediately remove from heat. The eggs will cook a bit more on their own and turn out perfect. Layer the eggs on top of the tomatoes, salt, pepper and serve.

Corn Summer Salad

sum·mer 1 (smr)
A period of fruition, fulfillment, happiness, or beauty.

Nothing celebrates summer like corn and tomatoes. They love summer and we love them. As I was perusing my local farmers market this weekend, I ran across a table that was serving samples of corn salad and selling corn on the cob “picked this morning”. Sold! Most recipes I have seen for corn salad uses the corn cut right from the cob with no cooking involved. Eat raw corn? Come on people, we eat raw fish, why not raw corn? Give it a try; I think you will like it. It practically screams summer!

Serves 4 -5

3 ears of corn, husked and cut from the cob
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 small or one large cucumber, diced
½ pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 handful of fresh basil, slivered
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine or red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 block feta cheese *optional

Mix ingredients together in the order listed and serve immediately or haul it over to the neighbor’s house for a cookout.

15 July, 2010

Choppa Style Chop Salad

Lately, my favorite salad is of the “chop” variety inspired by my friend Daymi. A chop salad is one with ingredients chopped into tiny bites so that each bite contains incredible flavor. I promise the time and effort are well worth it. The result is a crunchy salad that you don’t have to haggle with to get the perfect bite into your mouth. (I apologize that the picture doesn't show the bite sized pieces.)

You can adjust ingredients to include your favorite salad fixings but below is a recipe to get you started. For my bike commuter husband who needs additional calories and protein I add lots of chopped salami and some boiled eggs on the side.
Romaine Lettuce (butter lettuce and radicchio are also good additions)
1 can Garbanzo beans
1/4 red onion
3 stalks Celery
1 cup olives
Red bell pepper (or any bell pepper )
1/2 pint Cherry tomatoes
1/2 block Feta cheese or mozzarella
Salami, slivered (chicken or beef)
Boiled eggs-cut in half
Red wine vinegar, olive oil (or desired salad dressing)
salt, pepper and oregano

These estimated amounts serve two very large salads as a main dish. Start by chopping your lettuces  into small bite size pieces and put them into a large salad bowl. Next drain and rinse a can of garbanzo beans and add to the lettuce. Finely dice 1/4 of a red onion, 3 stalks of celery and add. Chop 1/2 of a red bell pepper (or color of your choice),1 can of black olives or a handful of green olives and add. Quarter 1/2 a pint of cherry tomatoes and add. Chop or crumble about 1/2 block of feta cheese and add. Season with salt, pepper, and 1-2 tablespoons of dried oregano (the oregano adds a lot of flavor). Dress the salad with red wine vinegar and olive oil and refrigerate until you are ready to eat. Divide the salad into plates and top with slivered salami or protein of your choice.

Ahhhh! Crunchy and colorful, leaving room for dessert.  Daydream complete.

13 July, 2010

Three Sisters Casserole

This is the recipe that pushed me to press play on the blog. I submitted this for a contest on http://www.food52.com/ . Taking the step to publish one of my recipes left me unbelievably giddy which made me realize it was time to start the blog. A reader on the Food52 site left a comment that I should name this dish the "The Three Sisters Casserole". I did some internet searching and found out that squash, corn and beans were among the first crops for the Iroquois Indians and were called the "three sisters". The rest is history. No really, look it up....it's history!

2 cans cannellini beans drained 
1.5 cups frozen corn, defrosted
3 cups summer squash, diced
salt ,pepper, oregano to taste
Trader Joe's Lavash Bread (or any crusty bread on hand)
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
Red pepper flakes, pinch
Two handfuls of shredded asiago cheese (or any cheese on hand)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Start by making a tomato sauce of your own or use this simple recipe I adapted from http://www.101cookbooks.com/. In a cold saucepan add 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic minced and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Heat on medium until garlic becomes fragrant (3 minutes). Add the can of tomatoes, 1 tsp oregano and simmer on low while dicing the veggies. Turn off the heat.

Add squash, beans, and corn, to the tomato sauce. The more veggies added the thicker the casserole will be. Begin layering a casserole dish with the veggie mixture, topped by a couple strips of bread, followed by a veggie layer, etc ending with a top layer of bread. On the top layer of bread sprinkle two handfuls of asiago cheese. Bake for about 25-40 minutes until veggies are cooked through, cheese is melted and desired consistency of liquid in the casserole is reached. When serving you can remove the top layer of crusty bread and divide among servings to be used as a "scooper" or utensil. I like to serve with a diced avocado on top.

12 July, 2010

Dinner's on me!

1. A state of being pleasantly lost in one's thoughts; a daydream

I have been daydreaming about starting a food blog for two years. Tomorrow, on my 32nd birthday, I will post my first recipe. But today, I just wanted to provide some insight about me and the reverie I have been caught in for a couple of years.

I love food and I like my food to be colorful and simple. I am not a chef and sometimes not even a cook. My meals can be as simple as a salad or sandwich from ingredients that happen to be in my fridge or pantry.

It breaks my heart to throw food away (thanks mom) and often I am serving a dish inspired from leftovers and produce that is a step away from the compost bin/trash. Once I identify possible ingredients I search for ideas from my favorite blogs and websites. If a recipe uses an ingredient I don't have or uses too many pots/pans/tools,  I change it. I dislike measuring so I rarely bake. Because I don't measure it's hard to write recipes; however, I will provide an idea of measurement with room for adjustment. I view cooking as an art not a science and think we should always adjust to our preferences. I am not a vegetarian; however, I rarely cook meat dishes at this time in my life when fresh and seasonal produce is readily available to me. At another time in my life when said ingredients are not available, my recipes will likely adapt.

Four years ago, I rarely cooked or thought about cooking. Then I met my husband and we moved to California. I don't know exactly how it happened but before I knew it I was making dishes that made him say "wow" and this made me happy. While working diligently at my dayjob, I daydream about creating dinner and the weekends farmer's market.

This blog is my daydream. Enjoy!