Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fresh Fruit Drinks

If you're ever in Baltimore looking for a fruity cocktail check out my article and photo slideshow for Baltimore Metromix:
Poisons: Fresh Fruit Drinks

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Tuna Salad

Well, actually, I changed it to Salmon Salad because I was too lazy to go to the fish store for sushi-grade tuna. I don't trust the tuna at the grocery store to be sushi-grade. So I just settled on a nice piece of salmon from my local grocery store. It worked super in this tasty salad. I LOVED LOVED LOVED the dressing that Ina makes to go with this!! I did pare back the salt content though - I only used half of both the kosher and soy sauce amounts she dictates. And I found it to be perfect. Just the right amount of salt, tart and wasabi bite. I really loved the flavor.
Instead of pan searing the salmon, I decided to grill it. The grill flavor went so well with the rest of the ingredients. Some other additions I made to this were grilled asparagus, chopped tomato and chopped fresh basil. I then served the salmon mixture over a bed of lettuce. It was such a satisfying summery meal and perfect for a hot humid evening.
I would DEFINITELY make this again! It would be great for a sweet summer picnic. I'm really hoping my husband and I can take a picnic to the National Arboretum at some point this summer. It will allow me to combine some of my favorite things - cooking for the picnic lunch, photographing the beautiful arboretum and spending time with my husband. Sounds like a perfect day to me!! If this rain ever stops then we'll get there sooner rather than later. Come on summertime!!

Here's a link to the recipe if you're interested:
Tuna Salad

And here's a link to Barefoot bloggers to see how everyone else made this dish.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu with Grilled Potato Wedges

It's almost officially summer! That means it's time to dust off the grill, get out those grilling instruments and fire up the barbeque. I love to grill. In actuality, my family grills all throughout the year because we love grilled fish and steaks so much. But it's a double joy in the summer because you get to enjoy the warm, fresh air while you cook over an open flame. It just makes me feel so cowboy. Or cowgirl, I guess. It's a one-with-nature kind of cooking experience - even though I'm using a gas grill. Oh well. Close enough! Maybe one day I'll actually cook over a real open flame. Til then, my trusty gas grill from Sears will have to do. And it does just fine.
For some reason I was thinking about Chicken Cordon Bleu the other day, but I didn't want to do the traditional sauteed version. So I thought, why don't I grill it? In addition, I saw Bobby Flay grill potato wedges on his show and it sounded delicious! And much healthier than real french fries yet something different than roasted or mashed potatoes. I used my own set of herbs for the potatoes - I think Bobby did a Southwestern twist with cumin and chili powder - but followed his method. Quite good, a little dry. I don't know why? And of course I had no ketchup. But still tasty. The grill flavor on the potatoes was very nice.

The chicken turned our great! A lighter, fresher version of an old favorite. I really stuffed my chicken too with two slices each of ham and cheese. If that's too much for you feel free to use just one per breast. Enjoy!

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu
Source: Me
2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
4 slices of deli ham
4 slices of swiss cheese
two tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
olive oil
salt and pepper
4 long wooden skewers (to secure your rollups)

After you've pounded your chicken breasts thin then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay down your slices of ham first and then top with your slices of swiss cheese. Roll up your chicken breasts and secure with two wooden skewers. Next, drizzle olive oil over the entire roll up and then sprinkle with your fresh rosemary. If you want to get your hands dirty then you can massage the olive oil and rosemary into your secured roll ups. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat your grill. Place a piece of foil over the grill plates, spray it with cooking spray (like Pam). Once the grill is hot, place your rollups on the foil.
They'll take about 8 to 10 minutes per side - you will have to flip them. Once done, remove from the grill. Remove the skewers and serve. It's not in the picture but I drizzled them with some very sweet, aged Balsamic vinegar that I had bought in Little Italy in Philly. It was about $25 for a small bottle, but it's worth it. It was delicious! The rich, aged vinegar added a sweet, tangy bite. If you don't have this in your kitchen and just have regular balsamic you can make a balsamic reduction and drizzle that over your chicken.

Grilled Potato Wedges
Source: Adapted from Bobby Flay
2 red skinned potatoes
olive oil
1/4 cup combo of chopped fresh herbs (I used chives and cilantro)
salt and pepper
grated parmesan or romano cheese

Put your potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Boil the potatoes whole until they are tender. Once tender, drain and then cut the potatoes into wedges. Toss the wedges with a good amount of olive oil as well as your herbs. Season with salt and pepper and they are ready for the grill.

Grill directly on the grill plates.
Keep an eye on them to make sure they aren't burning. Turn occasionally so they grill evenly on all sides. Once they have some nice grill marks remove from the grill. Toss with a nice handful of grated cheese and serve.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Baby Shower

I hosted a baby shower for my sister-in-law Irene who is due in July with their first baby. We had about 40 people and it was probably one of the largest crowds I've ever cooked for. But the entire party was a success! Thanks to the help of many in the kitchen with me as well.

Here's a picture of the menu I created:
Roasted Red Pepper Wrapped Mozzarella Balls
Cheesy Spinach Palmiers
Crab-Filled Crescents (I added some Old Bay seasoning to this mixture. Every single one of these little gems disappeared! So good for a party, and easy to put together too.)
Artichoke Hummus
Giada's Spiced Cocktail Nuts
(These were a big hit! They were spicy and a bit sweet. People were asking me where they could buy them! They looked disappointed when I told them I made them myself so they couldn't be bought. Delicious!)

Main Dishes
Greek Orzo Salad with Feta, Cucumbers, Pepperoncini, Olives and Grape Tomatoes
Mixed Greens Salad with Dried Cranberries, Slivered Almonds, Mandarin Oranges and Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken (I used PW's Ranch Chicken marinade and just eliminated the bacon and cheese topping)
Grilled Sundried Tomato Salmon (This went like hotcakes!)

Fruit Salad

Here are some other pics:
My Sister-in-Law Irene

The cute favors I found online at .

The cute diaper cake that my co-planner made and a nice shot of the main table.

The party planners and mom-to-be.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Prosciutto-Wrapped Mozzarella Chicken with Blistered Basil Tomatoes

I'm sure this has been done before, but I didn't follow a recipe for this. I just knew the flavors would go together well. It was a simple weeknight meal with a ton of flavor. Enjoy!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Mozzarella Chicken with Blistered Basil Tomatoes
1 package of thinly sliced prosciutto
1 8 oz. ball of fresh buffalo mozzarella
a large bunch of basil leaves
4 chicken breasts
1 package of grape or cherry tomatoes, whichever you prefer
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Cut a pocket in your chicken breasts. Stuff each breast with two slices of your buffalo mozzarella along with a few fresh basil leaves. Close up your chicken, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and then wrap each chicken breast with one to two pieces of prosciutto. Whatever it takes to cover and close the breast.
Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven to cook for about 35 minutes.

In a separate bowl combine your tomatoes with a handful of chopped fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss with olive oil. If you have a grill you can grill these in a foil pan over the heat. Otherwise, you can toss them in the oven with the chicken. Allow them to cook until they start to blister and the skins pucker.

Once your chicken is done and the juices run clear, it's ready to serve. Top with your basil tomatoes and serve.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pesto Chicken with Risotto Cakes

One of the best things about making risotto is making risotto cakes with the leftovers. In fact, my husband enjoys the fried little cakes much more than the risotto itself! And honestly, it's probably one of the most elegant ways I've ever seen to serve leftovers.
There are so many various ways to prepare these little gems too. You can hide a piece of cheese in the middle, bread them with flour or breadcrumbs only, or do what I did and dip them in flour, then egg and then breadcrumbs. You can serve them as a side dish or even an appetizer - plate them up with a marinara dipping sauce and it's party time! How fun! Is it getting you excited? No? Just me? Ok then...

Anyway, I will say this - it took me two tries to get the hang of making risotto cakes. I found the trick to be to keep them small, about the size of a meatball. They spread out when they cook and if you make your risotto ball too big it just falls apart in the grease leaving you with an oily mess that you'll just end up throwing away.Believe me, I've been there.

I served these risotto cakes with baked chicken and then drizzled them with your basic pesto sauce .
What a delicious dinner!

Risotto Cakes with Pea, Leek and Mushroom Risotto
leftover risotto (of any variety will work, I just happened to have Pea, Leek and Mushroom on hand)
3 eggs, beaten
flour, about 2 cups
breadcrumbs, seasoned or panko style, about 2 cups
lots of olive oil

Pour olive oil into a deep skillet until it reach about 1 to 2 inches up the side of the pan, depending on how deep it is. Heat over moderate heat.

Meanwhile, form your risotto into balls about 2 to 3 inches around, the size of a meatball. If the risotto is too soupy and not sticking together you can add some flour to the risotto to help it stick together a little more. You can also add one beaten egg to the risotto to help it adhere if you're having trouble. Once you've formed your balls then dip them first in the flour then in the beaten egg and then in the breadcrumbs. Once the oil is hot place your balls in about 4 to 5 at time, don't overcrowd the pan.

Allow them to cook until golden brown on both sides. Remove and serve however you please.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pea and Leek Risotto

I love making risotto. I remember the first time I tried to make it too. It was quite a challenge. But it's truly something that gets better and easier with practice. And yes it's time consuming and no you can't rush it no matter how much you want to. It kind of reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, My Cousin Vinny . Remember when Joe Pesci was questioning how much time it took for one of the witnesses to cook grits? He said something like, "You're telling me that on your stove it only takes 2 minutes for water to soak into a grit when it takes the rest of the grit-making world 30 minutes? Are these magic grits? Did you get them from the same place where Jack got his magic beans?"
Like grits, risotto takes a certain amount of time to soak in the water and wine you cook it in to get it to that special, creamy texture. If you let it go too long however, it gets mushy, but take it off too soon and it's too hard to bite into. The best tip I can share for making risotto is to use room temperature wine and heat your chicken stock. The first few times I made risotto I read those instructions to heat the stock and thought - that can't make a difference?? I was wrong. It certainly did. I went from spending two hours trying to get my risotto to be supple and creamy to having it reach that consistency in about 45 minutes. I made this particular risotto for Easter dinner and it was delicious. I really liked the addition of the leeks and the fresh basil and pea puree gave it a beautiful bright green color. Perfect for spring! Enjoy.

Pea and Leek Risotto with Basil
The Wine Lover Cooks With Wine, by Sid Goldstein
1 cup salted water
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 pounds green peas, shelled (I used a package of frozen peas)
5 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons butter
1 leek, including light green parts, rinsed well and finely diced
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoons minced shallot
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons goat cheese (I substituted shavings of Parmesan cheese)
2 tablespoons minced tarragon (I left this out because I don't care for tarragon)

In a small saucepan bring the salted water to a boil. Add the basil and cook for 1 minute. Turn off heat and stir in 1 cup of peas. Let stand for about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a food processor. Puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a low simmer. In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter and or olive oil over medium high heat. Add the leek and onion and saute until the leek begins to soften, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the shallot and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the rice and stir until it is opaque. Add the wine and summer, stirring until completely absorbed. Add 2 cups of the hot stock and simmer until absorbed by the rice, stirring often. Continue to add the stock in 1/2 cup increments, stirring constantly, until each addition is absorbed. When all the stock has been added, the rice should be almost al dente.

Stir in the puree and the remaining peas. Cook and stir until the peas are just cooked through and the rice is al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the goat cheese (or parmesan) and tarragon. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To serve, divide the risotto among warmed pasta or soup bowls. Garnish with parmesan shavings and serve.

Roasted Eggplant Spread

I'm back!! Finally. Our internet has been temporarily restored so I'm working feverishly to upload all my photos before they go to work on the root of the problem, which is a severed cable. So until then...I'll be updating as much as possible.

We made this Roasted Eggplant Spread for Easter as an appetizer. This dip pairs sweet roasted peppers with rich eggplant, garlic and onion. The vegetables are then pureed into a creamy dip with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. This is an Ina recipe that has become a staple for parties and holiday gatherings in our family. It's not only healthy but tastes great and pairs well with some grilled crostini. Enjoy!

2 medium eggplants, peeled
1 red bell pepper, seeded
1 red onion, peeled
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into 1-inch cubes. Toss them in a large bowl with the garlic, olive oil, cayenne and salt and pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft, tossing once during cooking. Cool slightly.

Place the vegetables in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the lemon juice and tahini, and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Taste for salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and add the chopped parsley. Garnish with extra parsley.