Scallops with ricotta-spring pea mash and chive oil

scallop-pea-mash1Welp, in typical Chicago fashion, Mother Nature has dumped a few more inches of snow across the city even though it’s technically Spring. Never fails, there’s always one last wintry slap in the face, and today is as good a day as any. While Mother Nature is dealing with her personality disorder, you can bring a little Spring into your kitchen with this dish.

I wasn’t totally sure how I’d make this vegetarian friendly without just serving up a plate of the mash and saying “bon appetit”. Looking around the kitchen, I spotted some potatoes on the counter and decided I would make “scalloped” potatoes for Terry. I cut them down to what a decent sized scallop would be, parboiled, then pan seared them to get the browned edges and finished them off in the oven. They actually looked better than my real scallops and I was proud of myself for being so clever. I had to use bay scallops because nobody had anything bigger, and they don’t sear up as good as larger ones, so I wasn’t able to get the browned caramelized color on them. But they tasted just fine.

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Spice-crusted carrots with harissa yogurt

spice-crusted-carrotsI am about 4 dishes behind on the blog! I’ve been cooking as much as usual, but haven’t had as much time to follow up with a post. Of the dishes I’ve recently made, this one is a stand out and looks really beautiful on the plate.

I recommend doing a trial run if you plan to serve it for a party. It is a little labor intensive, but you can do some of the work ahead of time. Unless you have a huge skillet, you’ll want to take the time to find similar-sized carrots so they all fit and can cook in the same amount of time. Keeping the greens on is also key for presentation.

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Goat cheese and caramelized onion crostini

caramelized-onion-crostiniWeek nine of baking and pastry yielded lots more bread – 3 baguettes, 2 challah loaves and a pint of ice cream to be exact! I selfishly took everything home and now I have more bread than I know what to do with…until I thought of crostini.

I whipped this up for an afternoon snack. If you’ve never caramelized onions before, the trick is to be patient and make sure you have at least 45 minutes to let them simmer. You can’t rush the process, otherwise you won’t get that perfect, yummy caramelization. Bon Appetit has some great tips here.

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced (I used Vidalia)
  • 1 baguette
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 5 tbsps butter
  • ½ c olive oil, plus more to drizzle on the bread
  • 1/4 white wine, red wine or balsamic vinegar

Heat the butter and olive oil in a 12” skillet over medium heat until the butter is just melted. Add the onions and stir to coat with the oil and butter. Keep the onions on the heat for 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally until well caramelized.

Once the onions are well caramelized, deglaze the pan with the wine to reincorporate the fond that has formed on the bottom of the pan.

While the onions are cooking, slice and prepare the bread. Turn on the broiler to low when there are about 5-6 minutes left for the onions to cook.

Coat the top of the bread with olive oil, then spread a good amount of goat cheese on the bread and top with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Place in the broiler and broil for 3-4 minutes until the cheese is heated through. Top the crostini with the onions and serve.

 

Caramelizing the onions
Caramelizing the onions

 

Prepping the bread
Prepping the bread

 

All done!
All done!

Tomato soup with feta, olives and cucumbers

tomato-greek-soup2There are few things I look forward to getting in the mail as much as my food magazines. Last week I came home the newest issue of Food & Wine and didn’t even have to open it up to know what I was going to make for dinner over the weekend.

The cover recipe was a beautiful tomato soup with Greek salad garnish. The recipe is ridiculously easy to make and the payoff is huge. The flavors are amazing – especially the onions. Cooking them down tames the flavor a little bit so you won’t end up with dragon breath when you’re done. And because the base is just pureed tomatoes and nothing more, it’s extremely light. You could serve a good sized portion of this without it ruining your appetite for the main course.

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Greek flatbread

I have a feeling that while I’m in school, my weekend cooking will either take a back seat or become substantially more low-key. But maybe not. In any case, this quick and easy meal was just the right thing to make after a busy week. Serves 2.

greek_flatbread

Ingredients

  • ¼ lb Kalamata olives
  • ½ pint cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 4 oz feta cheese crumbles (I use Athenos brand)
  • 4 tbsp plain hummus
  • 3 oz marinated artichoke hearts
  • Fresh oregano
  • I package Udis flatbread (or comparable item)

Instructions

  • Quarter the olives, artichokes and the tomatoes, set aside
  • Chop the oregano and set aside
  • Lay out the flatbread and spread 2 tbsp hummus on each
  • Top each with the artichokes, olives, tomatoes, feta and oregano
  • Cook according to flatbread package instructions, 7-9 minutes
  • Slice and serve!

Tomato Salad 2 ways

tomato_stackHello, summer. Hello, summer heirloom tomatoes and your delicious, beautifully colored, lumpy shaped form. Is there any better fruit (yeah, fruit) than the fresh, summer tomato? I think not.

I just finished reading Tomatoland and learned way more than I ever intended about the tomato industry. Tomato agriculture actually has quite a sad and shocking history. Ever had a bright, red tomato in the dead of winter? Chances are that tomato was harvested by a slave. Modern-day slavery is alive and well in many produce industries, but none more than what was depicted in this book in the Florida tomato agriculture. Thankfully, steps have been taken to abolish slave labor and provide better wages and housing for farm workers, and that story is well documented in the book. But there’s still a long way to go.

Also well-documented in the book is the stringent checklist of attributes a tomato must possess to be deemed worthy by the Florida Tomato Committee, none of which is taste. Is the fruit the right shape? Check. Is it the right size? Check. Is the fruit the right color? Check. (By the way, nearly all tomatoes are picked when they’re green and then stored in a warehouse where they’re treated with ethylene gas to give them the red color we’ve come to cherish. Exception being organic tomatoes.) Has optimal taste been ensured? Um…uhhh…. No. The answer is no. Taste is almost never a factor in the cultivation of tomatoes. Ever had a mealy, bland tomato? I bet it looked beautiful because it passed all the other points on the checklist.

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Broiled chèvre and avocado open-face sandwich

Summer weather was out in full force this weekend, and I took very advantage to soak up the awesome temps as much as I could. Yesterday I cleaned up the grill and put it to use for the first time this season, and today, after some quality time in the sun that included a snooze, breaking into my newest tome, The New Making of a Cook by Madeleine Kamman and a run, I decided a light dinner was in order.

This recipe was a great match for what I was looking for. Full of flavor and so easy to pull together, you could use this recipe for virtually any meal of the day. Top with a poached egg and serve it for breakfast, downsize the portion for an easy crostini appetizer or serve with a side of grilled vegetables for a light lunch!

Have fun with this one!

broiled-chevre-sammich

Ingredients

  • Any bread of your choice
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • Chèvre cheese
  • Avocado, sliced
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Greens of your choice (I used arugula microgreens)
  • Black pepper, salt and balsamic glaze

Instructions

Turn your broiler on to low. Drizzle olive oil over the sliced bread (be generous) and place in the oven on the middle rack.

Broil for 2-4 minutes, keeping an eye out not to let it burn, until light golden and crispy.

While the bread broils, prep your avocado, tomatoes and greens.

To make the balsamic glaze, heat ¼ – ½ cup balsamic vinegar in a pan and reduce until thickened.

To assemble, plate the bread and layer with the chèvre, then avocado, then tomatoes and greens. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle on the balsamic glaze.

Stuffed mushrooms

It’s always great when you can re-purpose ingredients for a new dish. Today for a lunch appetizer, I used the leftover ricotta filling and pesto sauce from the tortellini I made for Terry. Both ingredients freeze well, just take them out the day before you want to use them to let them thaw. Let the pesto thaw in the fridge and then take it out several hours before you need it so it comes up to room temperature.

Just get some fresh mushroom caps (any variety will do, I used white button and baby portabella would be great, too). Stuff with the cheese, top with the pesto and voila! Easy appetizer. Pop them in the oven for 12-14 minutes and serve.

Original recipe here!

stuffed_mushrooms

Baked zucchini stacks

Hello, new favorite appetizer. This dish makes me crave summer. Also, anything with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and balsamic glaze is pretty much guaranteed to please.

I don’t have a lot to say about this dish, other than holy cow, it’s so simple and easy and tastes SO good. If you’re having people over for dinner and want to impress them with a great appetizer, try this one out. It’s so simple and has big flavor.

Just be careful how thick you slice your zucchini and tomatoes – and how high you stack them. They’re prone to falling over if you move too quickly. (How do I know? Because two of them fell over while I was trying to get a damn picture. Cursing ensued.)

zucchini1

So if you want tall stacks, slice things thin. If you want small stacks, slice things thick and just use one slice of each ingredient. It will still be a perfect bite to get your appetite going!

zucchini3

So many layers of delicious.

zucchini2

Recipe courtesy of Eat.Drink.Love.

Ingredients:

For the balsamic glaze:

  • 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs. brown sugar

For the baked zucchini:

  • 1 zucchini, sliced into about 12 1-inch slices
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

For the stacks:

  • Baked zucchini slices
  • fresh mozarella, sliced
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • balsamic glaze
  • fresh basil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. To prepare the baked zucchini, beat the egg in a shallow bowl. In another bowl, mix together the flour, panko bread crumbs, and the salt.
  3. Dip each slice of the zucchini into the egg and then into the bread crumb mixture. After all of the slices have been coated, arrange them on the baking sheet and spray the tops with non-stick spray. Bake for about 10 minutes, flip them over and then bake for another 5 minutes or until the slices are golden.
  4. To make the glaze, add the balsamic vinegar and stir in the brown sugar in a small sauce pan on medium heat. Bring to a simmer and heat until the vinegar is reduced by half. Turn off the heat, but leave the pan on the stove.
  5. To make the stacks, layer with a slice of zucchini, followed by a tomato slice and then the mozzarella. Repeat. Drizzle some of the glaze on top. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve promptly.

Cherry tomato jam

I’ve sort of been binge cooking this weekend. Seems that lately I want to cook anything I can get my hands on, whether I have to make a special trip to the store for one ingredient or if I have everything I need at home.

I recently had a dish at Sienna Tavern of tomato jam with burrata cheese. It was surprisingly savory and awesome. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I mean tomato jam sounds kind of weird, right? But it was amazing. It was so good it inspired me to make my own. I looked for a recipe and chose this one here.

cherry_tomato_jam1

This is a pretty simple dish to make, it only requires an occasional stirring so the sugar in the pan does not burn. I followed the recipe, which says to let it cook for 70 minutes. So I stood there, stirring, tasting, stirring some more. So far it tasted good and I was happy with the way it was going.

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