Moon on a Spoon

Quick Fun Pizza Short Cuts

September 21, 2017 | Issue #701

 

All of us face busy schedules.  Trying to juggle families, work schedules, school, can get challenging. However, even as a Chef I am faced with these same challenges and at times, I too am limited on time.  I find it fun to create delicious, quick and easy meals that taste like I’ve been cooking all day.  One way to ensure cooking something with ease and on a whim, is making sure your fridge and pantry are stocked with some basics.  You should always have product to make white or red sauces, fresh and frozen veggies, various cured lunch meats, that last longer such as pepperoni and various types of cheese etc.

 

Lately there has been a one pan, one pot, one baking dish craze that has proven to be quick and fun and way easier on cleanup.  Whether your roasting chicken and vegetables or making a one pan French toast for breakfast or in this case pizza sandwiches.  They are amazing for parties as an appetizer or for a quick snack for kids.  Who doesn’t love Pizza? You can make them in advance and bake them before serving them or you can have your kids pitch in after school or on a weekend and have them help choose their own toppings so they can enjoy the experience of cooking with you!

 

I personally like to make my own quick and easy tomato sauce from crushed tomatoes, but there are several brands of good quality premade white or red sauces that work just as great and cut the time in half.  Here’s my simple basic recipe, feel free to replace ingredients and add other ingredients and make them as simple or as sophisticated as you like.

 

Ingredients:

1 Pkg. Medium to Large dinner rolls

1 Jar of your favorite tomato sauce

1 Pkg. of pepperoni, or salami

1 Pkg. of shredded mozzarella

½ stick of butter melted

1 tsp. granulated garlic

Pinch of dry basil (optional)

1 nine inch casserole dish

Cooking spray

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375.  Melt butter, add garlic and dry basil.  Spray casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside. Place bottoms of buns in dish and top with sauce.  Add pepperoni or salami and top with cheese.  Place top bun on top and brush with melted butter mixture. Bake for about 15 minutes until cheese is melted and buns are crispy.  Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes and serve.

 

Tip of the week!

You can virtually make this into any favorite pizza of choice.  Try Hawaiian pizza, or use jam, brie cheese, poached pear and black forest ham.  Figs are in season, so you can use prosciutto, fig jam, Havarti cheese and thin slices of fig and or apple on the inside.  Get creative.  Change up the bread too.

The ideas are endless! The important thing is to Have Fun! Try New Things! Happy Eats… Enjoy!

Green Beans with Pancetta, Onions & Garlic Bread Crumbs

September 14, 2017 | Issue #700

 

Green beans are a favorite anytime of the year.  They are in season from May through September, however available all year round.  I love the fact that they are versatile, and as a side dish they can accompany any meal, any time of day.  They can be boiled (blanched & shocked see below) and then tossed with garlic infused extra virgin olive oil. You can immerse them in fresh tomato sauce, or top with toasted almonds.  They are also delicious made into a salad served with boiled potatoes and onions.

 

The recipe I’m sharing with you today, are cooked green beans, tossed with caramelized onions and pancetta topped with garlicky toasted breadcrumbs. Pancetta is cured pork belly.  You can purchase it already cut into dice sized cubes, or  get a chunk at the deli counter in your  grocery store and dice it yourself.  You can also substitute it with bacon.

 

Ingredients:

1 lb fresh green beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium onion sliced

¼ C diced pancetta or bacon

1 tsp granulated sugar

1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs or seasoned bread crumbs

A small bunch of minced parsley

Salt for boiling water (generous amount) plus add to green beans if necessary

Fresh ground black pepper

 

Directions:

In a 4-6 quart sauce pot, boil water and add enough salt for it to taste like the ocean; green beans need quite a bit of salt or they will taste bland.  Add the green beans and cook until tender. This process is called blanching.  In order to keep them looking bright green, have a bowl of water with ice in it and when green beans are tender, take them out of the pot and place them in the ice water.  They will stay bright green.  That’s called shocking.  Hence the phrase blanching and shocking.  It stops the cooking process as well. Remove from ice water after a few minutes and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan on high heat. Add the pancetta cubes and toss around until golden.  Reduce the heat and add the garlic, onions, salt, pepper and sugar and caramelize everything for about 7-10 minutes. Keep stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn, it will turn bitter.

Stir in the bread crumbs and parsley. Cook for about 2 minutes more, pressing down on the bread crumb mixture with a spatula to allow it to become crispy. Again, be careful not to burn.

Stir in the green beans and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.  Serve and enjoy!

 

Tip of the week!

If you want to cook the green beans ahead of time and make the mixture for them before serving you can.  They will keep in fridge for a couple of days.  This helps reduce time in the kitchen for when you are going to serve them. If you like nuts, you can top them with chopped pecans or almonds as well!  The ideas are endless! The important thing is to Have Fun! Try New Things! Happy Eats… Enjoy!

Fresh Pasta, Super Easy

September 7, 2017 | Issue #699

 

Making fresh pasta sounds overwhelming, and for the novice it could be.  But once you make it the first time, you realize it wasn’t that difficult at all.  Lately the food magazines I’ve been getting, all feature fresh pasta.  So to stop my mouth from watering, Sunday I opted to make the dough at work, so that I can have fresh pasta for my Sunday dinner.  It was so easy and super delicious. I wanted to share it with you and although the directions sound tedious, it really isn’t once you go through the steps.  I would love to see any pictures of your dishes if you choose to make this.  Who doesn’t love fresh pasta??? I look forward to hearing from you… Chef Vita

 

Yield makes 8 Servings

Pasta Dough Ingredients:

3 C Double Zero 00 Flour Anna Brand Imported (HEB)

5 Whole Eggs

1 Tsp salt

2 Tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cooking Spray for a bowl that will hold the pasta for 30 minutes before making the noodles

Keep a little water on hand if you need to soften the dough

Extra Flour for dusting pasta while letting it rest

Super Useful would be a pasta drying rack but if you don’t have one, use a couple of large cookie sheets to lay out your pasta once you’ve passed it through the machine

 

NOTE***Need a pasta machine for best results. The pasta machine must have an attachment that can cut pasta into spaghetti, fettucine, unless you’re making ravioli with the dough.   If not… You can use a rolling pin, but keep in mind you must roll out the dough to a thin almost see through layer for a light pasta, and then you need a knife to cut in strips.  This process is much more difficult for a pasta making novice but don’t get discouraged, it’s just pasta.

 

On a table or counter place the flour down and with your hands form a well in the center.  Add your eggs, oil and salt. With a fork, start beating the egg mixture and start to incorporate the flour and keep mixing flour into eggs.  When the eggs are no longer runny, and you start to see dough forming. Start kneading the dough with your hands.  This process needs ten minutes.  If for some reason the dough is slightly dry you may sprinkle a little water, not too much, in order to continue kneading the dough.

 

After kneading the dough for 10 minutes and you form it into a ball, spray a little cooking spray in a bowl, place pasta dough ball inside and spray the top with a little more cooking spray and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap.  Let rest for 30 minutes.

 

After 30 minutes of resting, cut the pasta in 4 quartered pieces.  While working with the first piece, keep the rest covered under the wrap, so a skin doesn’t form, making the pasta hard.  Set up your machine by according to manufactures directions.

 

Before you start to use the machine, with a floured surface, place the dough down and roll it with a rolling pin in order to get thickness reduced enough for the machine.  Also keep the shape of the dough the same width of the machine so that you can run it through smoothly.

 

Set your gauge on pasta machine at the lowest setting.  On some it’s a zero and others it’s a one.  Sprinkle a little flour on the machine and dough before using it.  Run your dough through this setting twice.  Increase your setting by two numbers, therefore your next number will be 3, then 5 and so on.  Do this until your pasta sheet is practically see through. Then run this sheet through the die cut on machine for either a spaghetti noodle shape or fettucine. As your pasta comes out, place on a floured surface and before layering other pasta on top, sprinkle flour on top and continue to make the pasta.

 

Let pasta rest for about 10 minutes and then boil a pot of salted water.  Add a drizzle of olive oil and when water reaches a rolling boil, drop pasta.  I normally drop half a batch, remove that batch when it floats and then cook the other half.  This eliminates clumping.  Pasta will float when it’s ready.  It will be al dente, but remember this is fresh pasta so there will be less of a bite.  You can add any favorite sauce to this dish, or drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, fresh grated parmesan cheese and voila! You have a delicious low fat meal that tastes like you’re in Italy.

This sounds complex, but I am detailed in order for you to learn the process, but it’s truly super-fast and easy recipe and the rewards are grand!!!

 

Tip of the Week:

This dish can be made ahead and frozen in Ziploc bags for future use.  The sheets can also be used for making ravioli.  Cut the sheet in half, add a filling of choice and place the other sheet on top and press with a ravioli cutter.  Cooking ravioli gets the best result if frozen first.

This recipe is super versatile.

 

Enjoy yourself, get creative, try new things have fun!!!  Happy Eats!

 

 

Flavorful Frittata

August 10, 2017 | Issue #695

 

Sometimes having plain ole eggs for breakfast can be boring.  Sometimes we have a fridge full of leftover ingredients and they’re just not enough to cook by themselves as a main dish or side.  But take those ingredients and those boring ole eggs and create a unique and delicious frittata instead.  What’s a frittata you ask?  Let me tell you …

 

Frittata is an Italian word derived from the word friggere which means to fry.  A frittata is basically a crust-less quiche, cooked like an open faced omelet, filled with various fresh ingredients that can be different every time.  However, there are differences between an omelet and a frittata.  A frittata is a dish that is meant to serve 2 or more from the same skillet. It’s cooked both on the stove and finished in the oven.  It cooks longer due to its size and various ingredients.  It’s not folded like a conventional omelet, instead its left open face, and baked to finish cooking.

 

This dish is also popular in other parts of the world also.  In Spain, it’s called Tortilla and is often made with potatoes.  In Persia, it’s called KUKU and it’s made with herbs, nuts and berries. In Arabia, it’s called Eggah, and it’s made similar to a traditional frittata with meat and or veggies.  But in the end the concept of this dish is the same and it’s delicious.  So try it!

 

Mediterranean Frittata Recipe:

6-8 SERVINGS

3 tablespoons olive oil

5 green onions cleaned & chopped

1 Can artichoke hearts drained and roughly chopped

8 ounces cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 cup cooked, seasoned and drained fresh spinach

12 large eggs

1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

1/2 cup shredded Fontina cheese, divided

1/2 Colby Jack (pepper jack) if you like spice

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 350°. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onions; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add artichokes, mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until softened and all liquid has evaporated, 8-10 minutes. Add spinach.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs, crème fraîche and heavy cream, add parsley or cilantro in a large bowl; mix in the 1/2 cup of Fontina cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Pour the egg mixture over the mushrooms, shaking the pan to evenly distribute mixture. Cook the frittata, without stirring, until its edges begin to set, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup Colby Jack cheese over eggs and transfer skillet to oven. Bake frittata until golden brown and center is set, 25-30 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

 

Tip of the week!

Frittatas are great for leftover veggies, or odds and ends you often have in the fridge, such as herbs, cheese, olives, small pieces of sausage, a few strips of bacon etc.  For a quick addition to this frittata, you can cook a potato or two in the microwave and chop them into the skillet with the onions.  Adding them to the frittata, adds flavor as well as a filler when feeding several guests.

 

So when you want to create a frittata to feed a few for breakfast or lunch, this is a great way to keep it interesting and exciting every time. So take a peek and see what fun ingredients you have on hand and cook away! The ideas are endless! The important thing is to Have Fun! Try New Things! Happy Eats… Enjoy!

 

Smothered Cabbage

 

Some humble ingredients get the short end of the stick, such as cabbage.  In Texas, cabbage is pretty well known served raw, in various slaw dishes as a side to our Texas BBQ and many smoked meats. It adds crunch and depth to fattier dishes such as pulled pork, burgers, brisket etc.  However, maybe due to its unpleasant odor while cooking, it’s often overlooked as a cooked side.

 

Because cabbage is bland, it has a tendency to pick up flavors while cooking.  Adding ingredients like soy sauce, sugar, chicken stock, allows the cabbage to absorb those flavor profiles and become a tasty side to almost any dish.  The recipe I am sharing with you today, uses a green head of cabbage, however there are several other varieties that you can choose from.

 

Other varieties include Napa, it’s elongated and a bit more tender and slightly sweeter than the green cabbage.  There is one called Savoy, a head of cabbage that is also a round head of cabbage, but the leaves are much looser, delicate and crinkled. Another common head of cabbage is the Red cabbage.  It’s a bit more floral in flavor, and whether in a slaw or cooked, the color fades or bleeds.  But it adds sweetness and adds color.  Regardless whether you are serving your cabbage raw in a slaw or salad, or you sauté, stuff and bake it or roast it with other veggies, you are sure to get a truly versatile and delicious side dish.

 

Smothered Cabbage:

5 tbsp. butter

2 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 large onion sliced thin

2 cloves garlic minced

1 large head of green cabbage

1 ½ C chicken stock or broth

10 oz Yukon gold potatoes peeled & cut into 1 inch pieces

2 stems fresh thyme leaves (pulled off stems)

2 tsp. salt

½ tsp. ground black pepper

Pinch of chili flakes (optional)

Pinch of sugar

 

Directions:

Melt heat oil and butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic and cook until soft.  About 4 minutes.  Stir in potatoes and the thyme leaves and the rest of seasonings and sauté for about another 4 minutes.  Add the cabbage, stir and add the broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat.   Adjust seasoning and cook until potatoes and cabbage are fork tender.  Gently stir and cook for about 12-15 minutes.  Most of the liquid will be evaporated and absorbed by the cabbage and potatoes.  Serve and enjoy!

 

Tip of the week!

Feel free to use this recipe and add chopped carrots, or use sweet potatoes.  You can add additional broth and it as a soup.  The ideas are endless! The important thing is to Have Fun! Try New Things! Happy Eats… Enjoy!

 

The Best-O Pesto

 

 

Some pestos are made from raw herbs, such as basil, cilantro, mint, parsley etc.  Some pestos can be made from roasted red peppers, chick peas, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes etc.  The important thing is to prepare a pesto that will compliment another dish.  Therefore, whether you mix it with pasta or you place a dollop of pesto under a poached or grilled piece of fish or lamb chops, choose ingredients that will enhance what you are serving it with.

 

Main ingredients to a pesto are the base of all pestos. Such ingredients include, cheese, garlic, toasted nuts (optional), olive oil, salt & pepper etc.  Changing the added ingredient, such as those listed above, will change each pesto, giving you a various ones to add to your recipe collection.  I imagine with the variety of fish and shell fish on the Island, introducing some new fun pestos to top oysters, or spread over or under fin fish, would be a great way to switch things up!

 

I realize certain ingredients are seasonal and you can only have access to them during certain months, therefore I will share a recipe with you that will allow you easy accessibility to those ingredients.  Keep in mind, if you master the basics… you can switch up the pestos by using various ingredients you find throughout the year.

 

Artichoke & Spinach Pesto

2 Cloves Garlic

¼ Cup toasted pine nuts or pecans

1 small jar (3.5 oz) Marinated Artichoke Hearts

1 C Cooked & Drained Seasoned Spinach

2 Anchovies (optional)

1/2 C Light Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice

1 C freshly grated parmesan cheese

½ C toasted bread crumbs

Salt & pepper to taste

Pinch of cayenne (optional)

Directions:

Combine first five ingredients together in a food processor and pulse until ingredients come together.  Add the rest and pulse until a creamy pesto forms.  Adjust seasoning. Be cautious with salt, because anchovies and cheese add their own salt to this dish.  The bread crumbs are added to absorb any additional liquid from the spinach and artichokes.  When ready to serve, add a dollop on a plate and place fish or meat on top.  It can be used in a pasta, or on an oyster, before grilling.  You can switch up the main ingredients and use roasted red peppers, or roasted jalapeños, or broccoli, etc. You can also use different grated cheese, such as Pecorino Romano for a bigger flavor punch.

Tip of the week!

The acid and oil will allow you to keep this pesto in fridge for at least a week.  So if you have extra, store it properly in a tight sealed jar and use it again later in the week.  Spread it over bread and add fresh tomatoes for a delicious appetizer. The ideas are endless!

The important thing is to Have Fun! Try New Things! Happy Eats… Enjoy!

 

 

Craving Some Asian Flavors

 

It's so easy, as I've said before, for any and all of us to slip into a rut when it comes to what we are fixing at home. The same things in the pantry, the same spices, and when we look around to figure out what to make we find ourselves saying, "No, I'm really in the mood for ___"

 

Hey, it happens to me too. This week I was having a craving for Asian flavors. When one of my daughters commented that she was craving some Chinese food, I figured I'd better get busy and take care of our collectively growing need for some Asian flair.

It's surprising to realize that though the thought of making egg rolls seems to be a bit intimidating, they're really not hard to make. If you think about what it is that sets Asian food apart from other ethnic flavors, you realize that some of the ingredients may already be in the house.

 

So what is it in East Asian food (Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, etc.) that isn't in the Western (American and European) flavor combinations? It's things like soy sauce, scallions, sesame oil, rice, rice wine vinegar, soy beans (fermented or fresh), garlic, and ginger. All of that is easy to find at the grocery store.

 

Personally, I'm a fan of egg rolls. Think about it, they can have all sorts of things rolled up inside them. You can use chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, tofu, or even just vegetables. And though the outside texture would be different, egg rolls can be baked rather than fried. (Surprisingly the calorie count isn't that different between the two). So if you're going to fry, choose your fat according to what you like and can use: peanut oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, etc. They can also be pan-fried rather than deep-fried.

 

The process really isn't that hard, and rolling them up just takes a little practice. This is certainly something that can be done with family members. You could even let each person choose their own fillings.

 

I'm including a basic recipe for egg rolls to get you started.

 

 

Ingredients:

1/2-pound ground pork (or beef or thinly sliced chicken or shrimp)

1 1/4 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil, plus up to 1 quart more for frying

1 clove garlic, minced

 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

6 ounces cabbage (about 1/4 head), sliced thin

2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely grated

1/8 teaspoon granulated sugar

Freshly ground black pepper

20 egg roll wrappers

1 egg and a tablespoon of water, mixed together for sealing

 

Place the ground pork in a mixing bowl and add 1/2 tablespoon of the soy sauce, 1/2 tablespoon of the rice wine, and all of the sesame oil. Mix well and set aside to marinate at least 10 minutes.

 

Heat the oil in a wok or large nonstick sauté pan over high heat. Add the marinated pork and cook, stirring constantly, until the meat shows no traces of pink, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low.

 

Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cabbage, carrots, and and stir-fry until the vegetables have softened slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining 3/4 tablespoon of soy sauce, the sugar, and several grinds of black pepper. Continue to stir-fry for another minute, then dump the mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet or large platter and spread it out to cool. One the filling mixture is cool, use paper towels to blot excess moisture that could result in soggy egg rolls.

 

To form the egg rolls, lay a wrapper on your work surface with a point at the bottom, so it looks like a diamond. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of filling on the bottom point as shown. Roll it from the bottom, then fold in the two points on the side as if you’re making an envelope, brushing the wrapper’s top point with the cornstarch mixture so it adheres to itself. Continue with the remaining wrappers, arranging the finished egg rolls in a neat, single layer on a baking sheet, covered with plastic wrap to prevent drying.

 

To fry the egg rolls, fill a wok or deep-sided Dutch oven with 2 inches of oil. Heat the oil to 350°F, using a deep-fry thermometer to help keep the oil at a constant temperature (if the oil cools too much between batches, you’ll end up with greasy egg rolls). Gently slide in or lower about 1/4 of the egg rolls (it’s best to wear long sleeves, to avoid burns from possible splatters), turning occasionally until golden brown about 2 minutes.

Tip of the week!

If you have too many or you want to make these in advance, they can be kept (uncooked) in a sealing plastic bag in the freezer for a week or so.

The important thing is to Have Fun! Try New Things! Happy Eats… Enjoy!

 

Love Crepes But…

 

We Americans love our breakfast foods.  We can’t get enough of eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and the list goes on.  Many of us actually like breakfast foods for lunch and even dinner.  So much so, that our food culture has changed and figured out how to incorporate such foods as waffles, pancakes and crepes into savory day to day meals.

 

For a while… all the rage has been chicken and waffles.  Tune into cooking shows and you’ll see donuts are popular choice for a bun with burger fixings inside.  This rage has been so popular that food trucks, carnivals, and restaurants have now started successfully serving these dishes on a daily basis.

 

So what about the Crepe?  Where does the crepe fit into all of this?  Crepes originated in France and were often served in either a fancy restaurant in a dish called Crepes Suzette, flambéed table side, or as a street food in a creperie stall. Unlike here in the United States, crepes in France can be served as a dessert or as a savory dish.

 

I know most of us assume because it has such a fancy name and they are so delicate that they are difficult to make.  Quite to the contrary, once you learn this easy crepe recipe I am going to share with you today, you can be sure to enjoy it for breakfast with berries and cream, or for lunch with black forest ham and Swiss cheese.  Crepes are also a great choice for dessert with a dollop of Nutella, strawberries and a heaping scoop of ice cream on top.

 

You don’t need a fancy crepe maker for this thin batter delicacy, all you need is a blender and a non-stick 8 inch skillet.

 

Crepe Recipe:

2 Large Eggs

¾ C Milk

½ C Water

1 C Flour

3 Tbs. Melted Butter

Butter for coating the pan

 

Directions for Plain Crepes:

 

Add liquid to blender and then flour and pulse for 10 seconds.  Place in refrigerator for 1 hour.  This allows for bubbles to settle and the crepes will be less likely to break.  This batter will keep for up to 48 hours.

 

Heat a small non-stick pan and add butter to coat.  Pour 1 oz of batter in the center of the pan and swirl the pan and spread the batter evenly while making circles with your wrist.

 

Cook for 30 seconds and flip.  Cook for 10 more seconds and remove it by placing it on a cutting board. Lay them flat to cool and continue with the rest of the batter until done.

 

For Savory Variations: Add ¼ tsp. salt, ¼ C fresh chopped herbs, pinch of nutmeg & cayenne and a savory filling of choice when done.

 

Sweeter Variation:  Add 2 ½ Tbsp. Sugar, 1 Tsp. Vanilla extract, and 2 Tbsp. and you can even add 2 Tbsp. of liqueur of choice.

 

Tip of the Week:

 

Make this recipe and include your family… try both sweet and savory and allow them to choose the fillings and sit down together and enjoy all of your creations together!!! Most of all….

Enjoy yourself, get creative, try new things and most of all have fun!!!  Happy Eats!

Get to Know Your Eggplant

 

This purple glossy teardrop is often overlooked at the supermarket. Eggplants are known as aubergines in other parts of the world, where they're much more popular. India, for one, is said to be the native country of this strange-looking fruit - because that's what it is, rather than a vegetable. They also come in various shapes, sizes and colors.  Some are white, white and purple and they vary in sizes as well. Some eggplants are as small as an egg.  Wonder if that’s why it’s named eggplant?

 

For those of you who have never tried eggplants, they are quite tasty and can be made in various ways. It’s a wonderful fruit to add to your menu whether cooking an appetizer or main dish.

 

When choosing an eggplant, make sure you look for tight, shiny skin and firm flesh.  When preparing it, depending on the recipe, you peel off the skin with a potato peeler or leave it on.  If you peel the skin off be prepared to enjoy a softer, creamier eggplant flesh.  If you leave it on, it holds the flesh together, so if you’re dicing it… it won’t fall apart.

 

Although I would love to share more than one recipe with you on eggplants, for this article I can only share one.  However, I can mention other ways of cooking an eggplant so that you too can check recipes on line, should you want to try others.  Baba Ganoush, is a delicious way to prepare eggplant… you drizzle it with olive oil, season and roast it in the oven until flesh is cooked. You then scoop it into a food processor and make it like you would hummus.  Eggplant A La Parmigiana is layers of fried eggplant slices, topped with fresh tomato sauce, basil and Parmigiano cheese.  Pepperonata is mixture of vegetables that are largely diced and sautéed or baked and then cooked in tomato sauce.  It makes a great sandwich, or a crostini topping, side dish or main dish.  Another delicious way is to eat them is stuffed with ricotta cheese and mozzarella and then rolled up, covered in marinara sauce with more cheese and baked in the oven.  Since your mouth should be watering by now… let me share this last recipe with you.

 

Eggplant Roll Ups

 

2 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise into 1/4”-thick strips

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 c. marinara sauce

1 Egg, lightly beaten

1 1/2 c. ricotta

2 Tbsp. minced parsley

½ tsp. granulated garlic

1/2 c. finely grated Parmesan

1/2 c. shredded mozzarella

Small handful of basil, torn into pieces

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Lay eggplant slices on a paper towel-lined pan. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 15 minutes to draw out moisture. Pat the eggplant slices dry with paper towels and transfer eggplant to a large baking sheet. Drizzle the eggplant with olive oil and bake until the eggplant is pliable, about 8-10 minutes.

 

Meanwhile, make filling. Combine ricotta, parsley, egg, garlic, 1/4 c. Parmesan and 1/4 c. mozzarella in a medium bowl. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

When the eggplant is still warm, but cool enough to handle, spread about 1 tbsp. of the filling onto each eggplant slice. Sprinkle with torn basil and roll the eggplant.

Spread a thin layer of marinara into a casserole dish. Lay the roll-ups in the dish seam side-down. Spoon more marinara over the roll-ups. Sprinkle remaining cheeses on top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is cooked through and the eggplant is tender. Top with more basil and serve warm.

 

Tip of the week!

 

You can make this dish with zucchini or cooked lasagna pasta sheets.  You can also make this dish ahead of time and re heat before serving.

 

The important thing is to Have Fun! Try New Things! Happy Eats… Enjoy!

 

Care to Salsa?

 

Independence Day is approaching and what better way to spend the day than to Barbeque with family and friends!  Anyone grilling on this holiday, surely knows a thing or two about grilling meats and fish.  But sometimes we forget to top off our dish with something other than BBQ sauce.   One thing I love about this time of year, is the array of summer fruits that are available.  Surely we can shop for fruit all year long, but when a fruit is in season and sun kissed by the summer sun, it elevates the eating experience.

 

Some southern style sauces incorporate fruit in their recipes, such as apricots, pineapple and peaches.  The inherent acidity and sweetness add flavor.  When brushing them on proteins over a hot grill, the sugars caramelize adding a sweet crunchy layer.

 

One thing I love about combining fruit and BBQ’s is making fresh fruit salsas.  Some might consider salsas when eating chips or tacos.  Which is a valid.  However, utilizing fruit salsas on a foods like grilled oysters, fresh fish or when topping burgers, brings a pop of flavor and freshness that makes you want another bite.

 

Some fruits are better than others. Harder juicier fruit stand up to the dicing and to stirring when being mixed and the juices add to the flavor.  Such fruits are, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, pineapple etc.  These fruits excrete juice as well as add acidity and add their own sugars for sweetness.  They also pair well with onions, tomatoes, jalapeños, fresh herbs, so that the end result is delicious and compliments any dish including tacos. ;)

 

 Peach, Mango & Pineapple Salsa

 

Ingredients:

1 C diced fresh pineapple

1 C diced fresh peaches

1C diced fresh mango

1 C diced fresh tomatoes

1 C red onion

¼ C minced cilantro

1 jalapeño deseeded finely diced

2-3 Lemons Juiced

3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tsp salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

½ tsp granulated garlic

 

Directions:

Dice all ingredients and add to a mixing bowl.  Add the lemon juice, oil, salt, pepper and garlic.  Mix ingredients well and let sit for an hour.  Place in a nice white serving dish with a few sprigs of cilantro for garnish.  Top any main entrée with this salsa for a fresh summery flavor explosion.

 

Tip of the week!

This salsa is very versatile.  You can change the fruit combinations, you can add diced peppers, for additional spice you can add more heat by using habanero peppers etc.  I don’t recommend making this too far in advance, because the tomatoes may get soggy and it won’t taste as fresh.  The important thing is to Have Fun! Try New Things! Happy Eats… Enjoy!

 

 

 

Lighten Up The Menu

 

Summer heat commands us to incorporate light and refreshing dishes to our daily menu.  Especially when we are looking for some lighter sides to add to our main courses.  However, we tend to get bored with plain salads and sides that scream “overly repetitive”!  One great way to lighten and switch up your sides, is to make some of your average sides into unique and refreshing sides.  For example, rice, or green beans, or corn on the cob.  These ingredients are typically served hot.  Incorporating these very ingredients when cooled, into a fresh salad and by adding olive oil, lemon juice or a variety of vinegars, makes these typical mundane sides, elevated.

 

Other than rice, there are several grains that are often overlooked.  Most likely because they are unfamiliar and sometimes intimidating.  One example is farro.  Farro is a hulled wheat berry that is often used in soups but can also be used in salads.  The great news is, companies have developed ways to cut cooking time by more than half, so can now buy farro that cooks in twenty minutes vs having to soak them and cooking them for a couple of hours.

 

Another option for a light side is Israeli Couscous or Pearl Couscous.  Although they look like a grain, they are actually for lack of a better word… a form of pastina.  Baby pellets of pasta if you will that cooked and cooled, makes a great addition to salads.  Everything I’ve mentioned is available at your local grocer and all have their own cooking instructions.  Some ingredients are in the International aisle and others in the grains aisle.

 

Now that you have an idea on what to add to your menu to lighten and switch it up… what can you add to enhance the flavor?  We chatted about drizzling extra virgin oil and citrus but in addition to dressing it, you’ll want to add fresh herbs.  You can add mint, basil, parsley, dill… the list goes on.  The true fun starts by adding olives, chunks of feta, pickled garlic and red onion, even freshly cooked and cooled corn off the cob.  Making sure your salad / side, looks just as beautiful as it tastes, adding the corn and cherry tomatoes add a great pop of color, and if you’re like me, I always love a bit of a crunch.  I always keep nuts or fun crunchy toppings in the pantry, such as tortillas or sesame chips to make the dish exciting and different.

 

This week try my recipe for Farro Tabbouleh salad.  It’s fresh and light and so full of flavor.

 

Farro Tabbouleh Salad Ingredients:

2 C Farro

1 can chick peas

1 pint cherry tomatoes (halved)

1 C fresh cooked corn (cooled) preferred/can ok

1 Cucumber sliced & diced

2 green onions cut in circles

½ C Kalamata Olives Chopped

Chunk of authentic feta cheese crumbled (French or Bulgarian)

½ C Sunflower Seeds

1 bunch of parsley cleaned chopped

Mint leaves to taste

2-3 Lemons Juiced

¼ C Light Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper to Taste

¼ Tsp granulated garlic

½ Tsp chili flakes (optional)

 

Cook farro according to instructions and let cool.  Boil or grill corn on the cob and cut corn off the cob and add in bowl. Add all the ingredients except feta in a bowl.  In another bowl, whisk ingredients for dressing.  Pour over the salad fixings, stir gently and let sit in fridge for about 15 minutes.  Before serving, add the feta and adjust salt if needed and serve.

Tip of the week!

This salad is truly versatile.  You can add rice, other beans, olives, cheese, etc.   This makes a great side or a great snack served with pita chips.

The important thing is to Have Fun! Try New Things! Happy Eats… Enjoy!

 

 

Guilt Free Pasta Primavera

Growing up as a child there is a huge focus on eating right.  We’re taught to eat everything on our plate.  We’re able to order anything off the menu when at a restaurant, without the guilt of counting calories.  I clearly remember ordering refills of extra butter pats and baskets filled with bread.  Drinking soda with every meal and enjoying candy whenever my sweet tooth desired.

 

As a child, my at home diet consisted of breads, pasta, donuts, ice cream, as part of my daily diet.  That was a blissful guilt free food lifestyle that I personally miss.  Especially being a Chef and being surrounded food all the time, you start to slowly but surely see a few pounds sneak up here and there.  This sets the you in motion to start curbing your cravings and to crossing out foods from your diet.

 

Media also plays a huge roll in this “Food Jail” we’re creating.  They consistently remind us by running ads on studies about obesity, hypertension, how toxic the sugar intake is for our health.

 

After all, it’s definitely a business.  They can now sell things with buzz words, “Fat Free”, “Low Fat”, “Sugar Free”, “Non GMO”, “Dairy Free”, “Gluten Free” and the list goes on.  Does your head hurt yet? Mine does.  I think it’s easier to purchase a car, then to manage our diet these days.  Some days, I eat so many salads, I question if I’m a rabbit.

 

What am I trying to say you ask… I guess my message is to be an educated consumer and don’t always fall for all the hype.  Read labels, read the ingredients and follow a nutritionist’s plan for you, verses ads and commercials.  It’s safer and cheaper.  But most of all, use common sense.  The more you eliminate and restrict yourself from on a daily basis, the more you crave, crash and binge.  So realistically eat in moderation, enjoy life’s bounty of healthy vegetables, proteins and get adequate exercise so you can have a well-rounded balanced life style… not just a few weeks of cutting calories and then get bored and go back to eating poorly… That’s all

 

I’m sharing a delicious recipe this week that’s guilt free.  It’s light, full of vegetables and tossed with cheese to add a natural creaminess.  If you’d like to use gluten free pasta, feel free.  I typically use brown rice pasta or corn.  Corn has more starch.

 

Guilt Free Pasta Primavera Recipe:

Kosher salt

12 ounces fusilli or Penne

1/2 lb sugar snap peas, halved lengthwise

1/2 lb broccoli florets

1 C carrots, Julienned

2 zucchini cut in strips

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 red bell pepper cut into thin strips

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1 bunch fresh basil

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint

4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1 C freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat Oven to 375.  Put a 4 qt to 6 qt pot filled with water on stove to boil.  Add Salt.  On a parchment lined sheet pan, add all the veggies, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, sugar and basil. Bake for about 20-30 minutes until the veggies are cooked yet still have body. Pull out and set aside. While veggies are in the oven, cook your pasta to al dente.  Drain, toss in veggies & goat cheese.  Add ¾’s of the parmesan cheese.  Place in a serving bowl and add the rest of cheese.  Add a large sprig of basil in the center to garnish.

Tip of the week!

***NOTE*** this article is not discounting the diet needs of those with celiac disease or that are lactose intolerant, are diabetic or have health issues in general.  This is for those of us looking to balance foods that are good for you, while dodging all the marketing and media ads set out to confuse us!  You can certainly add various vegetables or change up the cheeses and pastas… make it your own.

The important thing is to Have Fun! Try New Things! Happy Eats… Enjoy!

 

 

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