Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade

I made this for a Fourth of July gathering this summer.  I spread it on some bruschetta, sprinkled some bleu cheese crumbles sprinkled on top, and stuck it back in the oven so the cheese could melt a bit.  I don't have any pictures of it, but you can probably imagine this red, white, and (bleu) appetizer.  This tapenade also makes a great pizza sauce (we put it on a grilled pizza with caramelized onions and bleu cheese).

Total Time: a minute
Makes a little over a cup


3/4 C sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1/4 C drained capers
1/3 C reserved oil from tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
olive oil


Pulse tomatoes in food processor until finely chopped; add the next 6 ingredients and pulse until well combined.  With the processor running, slowly add enough olive oil to make a think, spreadable paste, about 6-8 seconds (I make this a little thinner for a pizza sauce).

Here is the Fourth of July cheese and fruit platter I served as another appetizer. Raspberries, blueberries,and butterkäse. As a final touch, I drizzled a balsamic-port reduction on the top of the skewers.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Here's a recipe I adopted from Bon Appétit's November 2003 issue. (You can find the original on Epicurious.)  I thought the recipe was okay as is, but made some slight changes with the spices (using whole instead of ground).  I also added my own homemade vegetable stock--highly recommended for flavor and controlling the amount of salt.  Here's a good recipe for a light vegetable stock.  Don't be tempted to leave out the blackened onions!  They add this wonderful sweetness and crunch to the dish.

The mujadara, waiting to be topped with the blackened onions.
Adapted from:
Lebanese Lentil-and-Rice Pilaf with Blackened Onions 
Bon Appétit | November 2003

2 large onions, thinly sliced

4 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced finely
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp cumin seeds
2-inch cinnamon stick
3 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp ground allspice
28 oz vegetable broth
3/4 C dried lentils, rinsed, picked over
1 C basmati rice

3 tomatoes, quartered lengthwise 
1 cucumber, peeled, cut into rounds

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add thinly sliced onions, season with salt, and sauté until soft and beginning to blacken, 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, and cardamom pods and cook until toasted and fragrant; add garlic and allspice and cook until garlic turns golden. Add chopped onion, season generously with salt and pepper, and sauté until onion softens, about 3 minutes. Add broth and lentils; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Stir in rice; return to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook until liquid is absorbed and rice and lentils are tender, about 15 minutes longer (add some water and cook down if rice is not tender).

Season pilaf to taste with salt and pepper, if necessary. Transfer to plates; top with blackened onions. Place tomatoes and cucumber alongside.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Italian Shimp and Grits

Serves 4

Total Time: about 45 min.

1 C corn meal for polenta
1 shallot, minced
2 tbsp butter
1/4 C good cheese (shredded or grated)--I suggest parmesan or similar hard cheese, but I'm sure a cheddar would be good too)
1/4 lb bacon (or pancetta)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
4 oz assorted mushrooms (or whatever is your favorite)
1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 pound large shrimp, peeled (I left the tails on)
1 bottle dry white wine
freshly ground black pepper

Cook polenta (usually use about 1:3 ratio of cornmeal to boiled, salted water). I added the shallot when I added the cornmeal.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in 12-inch skillet until hot but not smoking (medium heat). Add the bacon and cook until it starts to brown and get crispy. Add onion and cook until starting to soften. Add mushrooms and cook until softened. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant. I add some freshly ground pepper to each of these ingredients as they are added to the pan.

Add the tomatoes with juices, throw in the shrimp and simmer until only a little liquid remains and the shrimp are almost done. Add 1/2-3/4 C wine and simmer until about a 1/4 to 1/3 C liquid remains.

When polenta is done, add the butter and cheese (and, if needed, salt) and stir until the fats are melted. Spoon the shrimp/tomato mixture over the polenta and drink the rest of the wine.

Penne with Mushrooms, Spinach, Tomatoes, and Mascarpone

This is one of my favorite quick meals and comfort foods.  I don't have a picture of this one because it's an older recipe, but I'm sure I'll make it again soon.

Serves 4

Total Time: less than 30 minutes

8 oz penne (or rotini, or your favorite small noodle that catches some sauce)
4 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes (or Campari tomatoes if you'd like something sweeter), quartered.
8 oz baby spinach
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
8 oz mascarpone
black pepper

Boil water, add pasta and cook until just before al dente; drain, and set aside. If you like your sauce to be somewhat thin, reserve a tablespoon or two of cooking water.

Meanwhile, cook bacon over moderate heat in a 12-inch skillet until it's as crispy as you like (it will soften slightly when soaked in sauce). While the bacon is cooking I like to add some freshly ground pepper. I usually season each ingredient I add to the pan separately so that everything is well-seasoned and flavorful.  Add onions and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. You shouldn't have to put any extra fat in the pan since you will have all that great bacon fat.

Add spinach and cook until slightly wilted. Now add the tomatoes, scraping off all the crusty bits from the bacon. Cook until the some of the tomato skins start to fall off.  Take off the heat, add the mascarpone, and stir until melted. Stir in the pasta until the well-incorporated.

Indian-Spiced Okra and Tomatoes

Last night I was looking for a nice vegetable dish to go with our mujadara.  Since okra is still in season, I decided to stew it with some tomatoes, seasoning it with some of the spices that went into our lentils and rice.

Serves 4-6

Total Time: about an hour

2 Tbsp ghee
1 small red onion, diced
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
3 green cardamom pods
1 tsp turmeric
28 oz canned, stewed tomatoes (can reserved)
1 lb okra, stemmed if you prefer, sliced into ½-inch pieces

Heat large skillet over medium-high heat and melt ghee.  Add diced red onion, and cook until softened.  Clear a space in the center of the pan and add the cumin seeds and cardamom pods.  Toast until cumin seeds are slightly browned; mix in with onions.  Add turmeric and toast for about a minute.

Add tomatoes, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon; reserve can(s).  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and let simmer until liquid has reduced by about a half (8-10 minutes).  Add okra; fill tomato can with about ½ cup water and add to pan.  Bring to a boil, then cover, lower heat, and let simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Tofu and Udon Stir Fry in Spicy Garlic Sauce

Serves 6-8

Active Time: about 35 min.
Total Time: about 1 hr, 35 min.


Tofu and Marinade:
1 lb extra firm tofu, drained and cut into small cubes
1/3 C lite soy sauce
1 ½ Tbsp Sriracha, or to taste
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp sesame oil

Stir Fry:
3 Tbsp sesame oil
½ C diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
5 medium carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally into thin pieces
1 lb green beans, ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces

1/2 C soy sauce
2 Tbsp Sriracha, or to taste
2 Tbsp mirin
1 clove garlic, minced

21 oz udon noodles (I used three of those 200g packages of Japanese-style udon)

sesame seeds, toasted
2 green onions, green parts chopped


Marinate tofu and fry:
Combine soy sauce, sriracha, rice wine vinegar, and pepper in a large shallow bowl.  Add tofu and gently stir to coat.  Let marinate for at 45 minutes to an hour.

Heat 2 tablespoons sesame oil 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add tofu and fry, turning occasionally until tofu is well browned and crispy.  Transfer tofu to a plate.

Cook vegetables:
In the same skillet, heat 3 tablespoons sesame oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook until softened.  Push the onions to the outer edges of the skillet, leaving an empty space in the center of the pan.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant (about a minute); incorporate the garlic and ginger mixture into the onions.  Add the carrots and green beans and cook until they start to soften (6-8 minutes).

Meanwhile, boil a pot of water and cook udon according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

Finish stir fry:
Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl.  Add tofu and noodles to stir fry, coat with sauce, and cook until tofu and sauce is warmed.  Serve, garnished with toasted sesame seeds and green onions.