Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vacationing In France

I won a trip to France and have been enjoying my week in La Baule.  I get to stay at a 5 star restaurant and get one gourmet meal a day.  I've had some incredibly fancy appetizers and desserts.  My favorite so far was a puff pastry filled with goat cheese and honey.  Mmmm.  However, my entrees have been a little less than spectacular.  Why?  Apparently France doesn't have many vegetarians.  The wait staff and chef have been incredibly gracious in designing dishes for me, but are admittedly at a loss for ideas.  Bummer.

Oh, and I may have committed a cardinal sin, per my New Haven CT friends.  I ate French pizza and LOOOOOOOOVED it.  The crust was so thin and flaky, there were spices on the bottom of the crust and the flavor combination was wonderful.  I may now be banned from Wooster Street . . . .

But, I do plan on learning how to make chocolate croissants.  Yum.

 creamed asparagus with goat cheese

 ice cream with Grand Marnier brulee and a cookie

chocolate cake

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Southwestern Salad With Avocado-Lime Dressing

2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 15oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup grape tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 ripe avocado
3/4 cup prepared (not chunky) salsa
1/2 cup sour cream
3 Tbs lime juice
4 drops Tabasco sauce, optional
1/3 cup crushed corn tortilla chips (about 20 chips)

1) Combine lettuce, beans, tomatoes and corn in a bowl. Sprinkle green onions and cilantro on top.
2) Mash avocado in separate bowl, and whisk in salsa, sour cream and lime juice. Season with hot sauce (if using), and salt and pepper, if desired. Pour dressing over salad, toss well, and top with crushed corn chips.

Review: I let Mike mix things up and it ended up not being a layered salad. We used spinach instead of romaine lettuce, two cans of beans and I quartered the tomatoes. I ended up forgetting to put in the cilantro and left out the scallions. I used a small can of salsa from the ethnic aisle and it had a great, chipotle flavor. I loved this salad, but Mike thought I made it too hot.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hominy Salad With Basil Shallot Vinaigrette

1 small shallot, minced (2 Tbs)
2 Tbs white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 15oz can white hominy, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups frozen lima beans, thawed
1 cup halved grape or teardrop tomatoes
1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese or shaved Asiago cheese
    1) Whisk together shallot and vinegar in small bowl. Whisk in oil until emulsified, then whisk in basil. Add white pepper and salt, if desired.
    2) Toss together hominy, lima beans, tomatoes and bell pepper in serving bowl. Drizzle with dressing, and toss again to coat. Sprinkle with cheese, and serve.

    Review: My shallot yielded more than 2 Tbs, but I didn’t think too much of it. After serving a bowl, I regretted using the whole shallot. Whoo, it was overpowering! Make sure not to use too much, and you’ll love this dish. It had a great mix of vegetables and flavors. I’d recommend doubling the recipe to make it a main dish. And, once again, I wish champagne vinegar wasn’t horribly expensive. I’m watching for it at T.J. Maxx, but have not scored a deal yet.

    Monkey Breakfast

    On the weekends, Mike typically makes breakfast.  It's wonderful.  This morning, he made me a very special breakfast - a monkey breakfast. 

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    Spinach Almond Pesto With Linguini

    1 (10oz) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed almost dry
    1/2 cup pine nuts
    1 cup slivered almonds, divided
    6 cloves garlic, roasted and peeled
    1 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
    1/2 cup vegetable broth
    1/2 cup olive oil

    1) Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
    2) Meanwhile, place almonds and pine nuts in a single layer in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast, stirring occasionally until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.
    3) Combine all ingredients except 1/2 cup of the slivered almonds in a food processor, blending just until smooth.
    4) Mix sauce with pasta.  Serve with remainder of slivered almonds for extra crunch and flavor.

    Review:  I didn't use frozen spinach, substituting several handfuls of fresh baby spinach, instead.  I used a full cup of vegetable broth, mostly because my broth comes in one cup containers.  I then tossed all of the almonds into the food processor, as I just finished a crown and the dentist told me no hard foods for a few days.  I also substituted four cloves of garlic, as I misread the instructions.  I thought it said 6 cloves and thought that was far too much garlic.  After I threw the cloves into the food processor, I read that the garlic was supposed to be roasted.  Bummer, especially since I had roasted garlic in the freezer!!  Oh, well.  It turned out wonderfully, anyway.  And, this was a great green sauce, not really a pesto.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Chickpea & Spinach Salad With Cumin Dressing & Yogurt Sauce

    2 (15oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
    1/2 cup chopped red onion
    1/4 cup olive oil
    3 Tbs lemon juice
    1/2 tsp lemon zest
    1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
    1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
    salt and pepper
    4 cups baby spinach leaves
    Yogurt with Orange Essence, recipe below, optional
    2 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves, optional

    * In a medium bowl combine the chickpeas, parsley and onion. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the chickpea mixture and toss to combine. Serve the chickpea salad over a bed of spinach leaves. Top with the yogurt sauce and a sprinkle of mint, if using.

    Yogurt with Orange Essence:
    1/3 cup lowfat plain yogurt
    1/4 tsp orange zest
    2 Tbs orange juice
    1/2 tsp honey

    * In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, orange zest, orange juice and honey.

    Review: I left out the lemon ingredients, which is typical for me. :) I also did not use mint.  This was super yummy, though. I really liked the yogurt sauce and believe it’d be a great dressing on any type of salad. It wasn’t too sweet and had just a subtle hint of orange flavor.

    Saturday, May 8, 2010

    Asparagus, Snap Pea & Avocado Pasta

    coarse salt and ground pepper
    1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
    1 lb sugar snap peas, strings removed
    1 lb bow-tie pasta (farfalle)
    4 Tbs butter
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
    1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, parsley, or basil
    1/2 cup shredded Parmesan or pecorino cheese, plus more for serving, if desired

    1) In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook asparagus until bright green, about 2 minutes. Add snap peas; cook 30 seconds. With a slotted spoon or a small sieve, scoop out vegetables; transfer to a bowl.
    2) Return water to a boil; add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water; set pasta aside in colander.
    3) In pasta pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add asparagus, snap peas, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter, cooked pasta, avocado, herbs, cheese, and reserved pasta water. Toss to combine; season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with additional cheese, if desired.

    Review: This was pretty yummy. I loved how the butter balanced all the flavors. I used 1/4 cup of mint and 1/4 cup of parsley, as I didn’t have enough mint. I effectively trashed the kitchen, but it was great to have a freshly cooked meal for lunch.

    Thursday, May 6, 2010

    Tabbouleh With Mint & Pistachios

    1/4 cup fine bulgur
    3 Tbs lemon juice
    1/4 tsp honey
    1 1/3 cup finely chopped pistachios
    1 cup finely chopped curly parsley
    1 small cucumber, finely chopped (1 cup)
    1 medium tomato, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
    4 green onions, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
    1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
    3 Tbs olive oil

    1) Place bulgur in large bowl and add 1/3 cup boiling water. Let stand 5 minutes.
    2) Stir in lemon juice and honey, and let stand 5 minutes more, or until all liquid is absorbed.
    3) Fluff bulgur with fork, and stir in remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

    Review: I don’t like cucumbers, so I decided to substitute a zucchini. However, Mike made this while I went to my sign language class. He put two zucchinis in the dish. This ensured that there was plenty of food, but it meant I now lack a zucchini for a dish slated for later in the week. This was nothing like regular tabbouleh, but was still a yummy grain salad. Maybe it’s because I really like pistachios. :)

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010

    Broccoli Cheddar Salad With Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    1/2 cup plain yogurt
    2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
    1 Tbs sugar
    4 cups broccoli florets cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    2 medium carrots, grated (about 3/4 cup)
    1 small onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
    1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
    1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

    1) Whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar and sugar in large bowl.
    2) Add broccoli, carrots, onion and cheese, and toss to combine.
    3) Season with salt and pepper. Chill overnight, or up to 2 days. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds just before serving.

    Review: This had a sweet taste to it. I’m not a big fan of sweet dinners, but the pumpkin seeds and cheddar helped balance the sweetness. If I make this again, I’ll likely leave the sugar out.

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    A Meaningful Beaning-Ful Bean Salad

    1/2 lb string beans, cut in half
    1 15oz can chick peas, rinsed and drained
    1 15oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    3 cloves of garlic, minced
    1 1/2 Tbs dry oregano
    1/2 large red onion, sliced
    1/2 lb oil cured Greek olives
    1 celery stalk, diced
    8 to 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
    1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    Salt and pepper
    Crushed red pepper flakes
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup red wine vinegar

    1) Cook string beans in boiling salted water until fork tender (then put in ice bath), drain until dry.
    2) In a large pasta bowl add string beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, garlic, oregano, onion, olives, celery, basil, parsley. Add salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste. Mix well.
    3) Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, toss with salad until combined. Let sit for 1/2 an hour, mixing every 10 minutes to get all ingredients coated with mixture.
    4) Chill for at least 1 hour and serve, salad can be made 1 day ahead of time.

    Review: Well, oil cured olives are not sold at my grocery store. I recently saw a jar at TJ Maxx, but even on clearance it was $4.50 for the jar. And it was as many olives as a normal can of black olives. I don’t think I’m that gourmand, to pay that much for olives! So, I substituted a jar of whole black olives. This didn’t make much food. I was expecting more, but it ended up being about 3 servings. It was pretty tasty, and quite filling. I’ll definitely make it again.

    ** I think I have a plan for the summer. I believe I’m going to develop a summer menu. I’m going to try to find lots of different salads that are similar to this. That way, I can come home from work and have a cold salad while it’s still hot out. Then, once the temps cool down in the evening, I’ll make a salad to refrigerate overnight. It’ll be a continuous cycle, but I think it may work. We’ll see.