Friday, July 29, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Mediterranean Chicken Stackers

I have been obsessed with Rachael Ray's August magazine.  I'm not sure why but there are some issues of every cooking magazine that I get in the mail and I just find a treasture trove of recipes.  Then, there are others that I go through fruitlessly without one good recipe. 

My binder has been the subject of other blog posts but it's worth mentioning again.  I noticed I just had too many magazines piling up at home.  I am a keeper.  I love to save everything--hey you never know when you might need it right?  But over the winter I went through all the magazines and took out recipes we wanted to make; they went in the binder.  Lately, I've been weeding through the binder because we haven't made a lot of things I have tagged.  If I haven't made it but I think I might, it stays through the winter; if I haven't made it and it's a summer recipe...and I'm not going to, it gets dumped.

The Ratatouille Boats, also in the August Rachael Ray magazine, left me with half of an eggplant.  It seemed like my living guardian angel, Rachael Ray, was guiding me to make both of her dishes in the same weekend!  Well, I could oblige that.  It was worth it, but I really thought it would be much better on the grill, rather than a skillet.  I found using the skillet the eggplant got cold (or the chicken) depending on which you made first.  The grill, you can cook everything at the same time. 
Mediterranean Chicken Stackers
Serves:  2 (2 stackers)
1 hot dog bun (or hamburger)
3 teaspoon salt
6 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
  OR substitute four above ingredients for 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 eggplant
2 chicken breasts
3 tomatoes, sliced
1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup garlic and herb cheese spread (we used light)

In a mini food processor, grind the hot dog bun with 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, and garlic powder, until the mixture forms breadcrumbs.  Alternately, you could just use breadcrumbs.  Preheat the grill to medium heat.  Slice the eggplant into 4 slices.  Place the eggplant slices in a colander and sprinkle with remaining salt.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Slice the chicken breasts in half.  Season the chicken with the remaining pepper.  Place the chicken on the grill; grill 8 minutes on each side, until fully cooked.  Grill the eggplant about 4-5 minutes per side.  In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the breadcrumbs until they are golden brown and crunchy.  Set aside in a small bowl.  Place the tomato slices in the skillet with olive oil and sautee. 
To plate:  place an eggplant slice down, top with 1/4 cup of garlic and herb spreadable cheese.  Top with tomato slices and then a chicken piece.  Top with more tomato slices.  Then, top with another eggplant slice, 1/4 cup of garlic and herb cheese, tomatoes, chicken, finishing with tomatoes.  Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top of the mixture (we also put some after each layer), and around the plate.  Serve immediately.

These stackers were beautiful presentation and took practically no time at all.  Especially, on the grill.  Even if you're just using a grill pan or indoor grill, these get done a lot better when everything is cooking at once.  Plus, this way there are a lot less steps.  Since the eggplant cooked the quickest, I pulled them off and covered each slice with cheese and just held them until it was time to stack.  This way the cheese sort of melted into the gooey eggplant.  Oh, boy it was good.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fancy Pants App: Baked Jalapeno Poppers

Lately at Haymarket, the jalapeno peppers have been beautiful.  So beautiful that even I think about taking home the requisite pound; they just look THAT good.  Two weeks ago, we finally caved in for the $1/pound and bought a whole pound of jalapenos.

John was in heaven, eating them right out of the washbowl.  Yes, he does that; and yes, I think it is kind of gross.  Anyway, I knew a recipe we had to try with them (you'll get that next week), and John requested Jalapeno Poppers. 

I wasn't about to bread and fry jalapenos (something neither of us need), so I searched around for some baked ones but in the end, did my own thing (so typical).  This is the perfect appetizer on the grill, too!  If you grill them up, they taste great (we tried them when we were home last weekend, and it is true!).  I like that you really can put in whatever flavors you want.  We tried to keep them mostly traditional.
Baked Jalapeno Poppers
Serves:  5 (7 jalapenos; 14 poppers)
7 jalapenos
4 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup shredded mexican cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F OR the grill to medium-high heat.  Split the jalapenos in half, removing the top and deseeding them.  In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, cream, garlic salt and black pepper.  Fold in shredded cheese.  Place the filling in the jalapeno halves, stuffing them until full.  Sprinkle parmesan over the tops and bake for 15 minutes (or grill about 10) until the cheese is golden brown.  Serve immediately.

You could also put a little bit of breadcrumb on there for a "crunch", the kind you would get if the jalapenos were fried.  I found that they cooked a lot faster on the grill with the cover down, than the oven.  They are a perfect appetizer for any barbeque or cook-out.  And, especially, for tailgating. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, July 25, 2011

Time-Out: Caramelized Beer Onions

I've seen a lot of caramelized beer onion recipes lately floating around the web.  But, most of them include caramelizing the onions (albeit slightly) with butter, and then adding the beer at the end.  Hmm, that is not what I wanted to do.  What I wanted was true onions in beer, cooking until golden brown (or dark brown if you use a dark ale).  So, John and I set out to make them last Friday for our pizza night.

First though, we should note that I am terrible at making caramelized onions.  I always forget them, or they burn.  Something always goes wrong (or, maybe, I have a problem with multitasking).  In exchange for making the pizza while I solely tended to the onions, I promised John he could have the leftover beer so with my onion, I only put in half of the bottle.  Luckily it was really no hardship for John to drink another bottle so I ended up using a little under three-quarters of the second bottle.  Note that John wasn't drinking alone; I was drinking delicious Sangria.

It was Friday night, after all.  These onions taste delicious even though we used a very pale ale.  A few reasons for this.  One, that was what we had in the house; and two, we had that in the house because that's what I prefer, and John generally likes the pale / amber colored beers anyway.  However, I am already thinking about how good these would taste with a dark beer.  Yum!
Caramelized Beer Onions
Serves:  2 (1 onion)
1 bottle beer (your choice)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 onion

Combine the beer and sugar in a medium skillet.  Slice the onion into small slices, and separate them.  Place them in the skillet and stir slowly once.  Then, place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook until beer has been evaporated; onions will become a golden brown color (about 10-15 minutes). 

If you want a darker color to the onions definitely substitute brown sugar for the sugar.  These are so easy, and delicious--it's the perfect summer twist on a great condiment! 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, July 22, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Ratatouille Boats

Last week in Rachael Ray's August 2011 Magazine, I found a really great vegetarian recipe.  It was for "Grilled Ratatouille Boats" (on page 72 if anyone bypassed it).  They just stuck out to me; the bright colors and fresh summery vegetables.  I told Mom about it and she said, oh I love ratatouille.  That's it, it had to be made.  And, make it I did!

In Boston, we have the wonderful Haymarket a short T ride away (soon to be one block from my apartment--I cannot wait!) so I knew that finding the vegetables easily and cheaply (less than $4 for dinner) would make this an ideal meal.  John and I made a day of it on Saturday.  We like taking the T in early, wandering through the stalls, checking for the best prices, and then stopping at the stalls we like the best. 

These boats tasted like summer.  We each ate two, which is a whole zucchini; they were small though, so I cut down a lot on Rachael's recipe.  I didn't cut down enough though, we had about 3/4 of a cup of ratatouille mixture leftover.  Not like this is a problem, but I did try to adjust it so you can fill the boats without any leftovers.
Ratatouille Boats (adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine August 2011)
Serves:  2 (2 zucchini)
2 zucchini
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 white onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 eggplant
1 tomato
1/4 cup parsley
1/4 cup shredded mozzerella cheese

Split the zucchini in half (I did not peel the zucchini so make sure you thoroughly wash them).  Using a melon baller (or a spoon), scoop out the flesh of the zucchini leaving about 1/2 inch of zucchini and the two sides in tact.  Set both parts of the zucchini aside.  Chop the onion and mince the garlic.  In a large skillet, add one tablespoon of olive oil.  Cook the onion about 5 minutes, until tender.  Then, add the garlic and cook an additional 3 minutes.  While this is cooking, cube the eggplant and mix with zucchini pieces.  Add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the eggplant and zucchini to the skillet.  Cook about 8 minutes, until zucchini and eggplant are tender.  Chop the tomato into small pieces, and the parsley.  Add the tomatoes and let the mixture cook down about 5 minutes.  Add in the parsley and let simmer on low.  Finally, brush the zucchini boat insides with olive oil and grill, insides down, for about 3-5 minutes, until tender.  Add the ratatouille mixture into the zucchini "boats".  Top with mozzerella and serve immediately.

I want to tell you what I adapted in case you prefer Rachael's way (besides cutting down to reduce leftover veggies).  Rachael does not have you grilling the zucchini boats until the ratatouille mixture is already inside.  But with my way, the inside gets softened a lot faster, and, more fully.  Also, then there is no risk of the ratatouille falling out or spilling over the sides.  I felt like the cheese easily melted on the hot ratatouille on its own.  Put the skillet on the grill as well and you have a really easy meal to make without ever heating the house (and easy to clean up as well!). 

The perfect weeknight meal that is truly summer in a boat!  Or, on a boat!  You get the idea...
Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Fresh Mint Ice Cream and Chocolate Rose Topping

I have found the best, coolest, most apt "Dani" club in the history of the world.  Seriously.  If any of you remember, I finished reading Elizabeth Bard's book, Lunch in Paris a few months back and then made a delicious recipe from the book.  Well, I love the book so much that I also started following Ms. Bard's Facebook page.  Ironically, about 2 weeks prior, she had judged a cooking contest all with recipes from her novel.

It's called the Cook the Books Club, and, dare we say, a marriage of my two favorite things.  I read, on average, 3-5 books a week.  And, I cook, on average, 7 nights a week, 3 meals a day.  I mean, what could be better than this!  Even better, the book they had picked for June/July was Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, a book that I bought when I bought Lunch in Paris.  It was just too coincidental NOT to give this a try.  Of course, this is all for fun; a chance to explore great novels and cook what they do! 

I won't give anything away to my dear readers who want to pick up the book; but Claire, the heroine of the novel, has a very fine sense of herbs, spices, and flowers and their effects on the eater.  It was a really fun book, and an even more fun experience to get to try my hand at Claire's profession.  I used fresh mint which, when paired with flowers, cloaks your intent to the eater.  Once your intent is concealed, rose petals and chocolate trigger romance and love.  Successfully completing my concoction, I then ran all over Boston trying to feed this to as many cute bachelors as I could find.  And by that, I mean, John, of course.  Silly me. 
Fresh Mint Ice Cream and Chocolate Rose Topping (adapted from here)
Serves:  2 (2 cups ice cream)
1 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup whole milk
12 edible rose petals (I found them at Whole Foods)
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 egg white
1/4 cup sugar

Combine the whipping cream, sugar, and mint leaves in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir often until the mixture begins to boil.  Remove from the heat and let the mixture steep for about 40 minutes (taste as it steeps to get the mint taste the way you would like).  Strain and add 1/2 cup milk.  Refrigerate the mixture for at least 2 hours, or overnight.  Then, using your ice cream machine (and following its directions), mix the cream mixture until the ice cream is fully churned.  Place in the freezer until ready to serve.

Make the Chocolate Rose Sauce.  Combine the remaining 1/2 cup milk and 10 rose petals in a small saucepan.  Stir until the mixture begins to boil.  Remove from heat and steep 10 minutes.  Strain.  Add chocolate chips into the saucepan and heat over low heat until the chocolate chips melt and the mixture is smooth.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, before serving.
Meanwhile, add a few drops of water to the egg white and mix well.  Brush the 4 remaining rose petals with the egg white and coat the rose petals in sugar.  Shake off excess and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Let the petals rest for about 12 hours, moving them slightly to keep them from sticking. 

To serve, let the chocolate sauce come to room temperature.  Spoon some over the ice cream.  Top with a candied rose petal and serve to the handsome man or gorgeous woman of your choosing!

Note that I did the rose petals the night before, moved them around on the cookie sheet a couple of times before bed and then once in the morning.  They came out perfect.  The best part of all is that both the sauce and ice cream can be made days in advance of serving; put it all together on that special day and let the magic fly!

July is National Ice Cream Month--and what better way to celebrate it than with someone special (or hey, just yourself--I am a big believer of just treating yourself well!). 

This was such a fun adventure that I know I will find some real kindred spirits in this book club!  I can't wait for the next selection, which I am sure I am going to have a lot of fun with (in fact, I bought the book just last week and it is in my queue to read!). 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, July 18, 2011

Brilliant Brunch: Mediterranean Egg White Scramble

After making those delicious Creme Brulee Cupcakes, I had a lot of leftover egg whites.  Now, I'm not usually a big fan of plain egg whites.  So, luck was on my side.  While making those cupcakes, I had an incident where the yolk broke before it was out of the shell and fell right into the whites.  Tip:  Always separate your eggs over the group you don't need (or in a separate bowl).  It worked out perfectly.  I had 5 egg whites and 1 egg. 

Between that and the delicious mediterranean flavors that have been featured lately (pizza and fresh roasted red peppers) and are still in my fridge, I knew I had the makings to a great weekend breakfast!  Truth be told, I really wanted to make an omelet but John is the omelet maker in the family (it must be a guy thing, because my Dad rocks at omelet making, too!). 

You can easily turn these flavors into an omelet if you prefer, but I love the quickness of the scramble.  The flavors stay fresh and we all know that I am lazy.  And, big enough to admit it!  Honestly, though, you should not think of this as mere scrambled eggs.  The flavors are delicious and fancy enough to serve this to any guest, but don't pass it up for just a casual weekend breakfast with that special someone!   
Mediterranean Egg White Scramble
Serves:  2-3 people
5 egg whites
1 egg
1/3 cup skim milk
2/3 cup roasted red peppers, diced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/2 cup arugula

Whisk together the eggs and milk until well-combined.  Add peppers and red onion.  Cook in a skillet for about 8 minutes, on low, until onion is tender.  Add goat cheese and arugula and let cook until eggs are fully cooked and scrambled.  Serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, July 15, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Creme Brulee Cupcakes

As you all know by now, I've been doing a lot of baking lately for the office.  In fact, I think the guys are really getting a kick out of asking me to make things.  A few weeks ago, I asked one of the guys what he thought I should make, and he replied Creme Brulee.  What a smart aleck!

Well, I gave him a mean look, snarky comment, and walked away.  But, my mind did not walk away.  For days I thought about turning creme brulee into a treat everyone could enjoy (and I could easily transport).  I also read up on a lot of creme brulee cupcake recipes.  Most called for a swiss meringue buttercream recipe.  HELLO?!  Doesn't everyone know that is NOT creme brulee.  If I was going to make creme brulee cupcakes then I wanted them to BE creme brulee cupcakes!!

So, when I finally found this recipe I knew I had struck gold.  Most of the guys in the office (actually most of the guys I know in life) prefer vanilla to chocolate.  Is it just women that get riled up about chocolate?  I will never know.  So I made some cupcakes, made some creme brulee, put it together, and huge success.  What I forgot (because I filled them at work) was my camera.  One of the guys got an extra cupcake for being nice enough to photograph it for me with his phone.  It actually came out very decently considering the phone, lighting, etc.  I should take pictures at the office more often!  Oh, and this recipe also gave me an excuse to get a kitchen blowtorch!  What fun I am going to have with THAT!
Creme Brulee Cupcakes (adapted from here)
Serves:  24 (24 cupcakes)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
5 egg yolks (save the whites for Monday's recipe!)
1 box vanilla cake mix
3 tablespoons caramel sauce
3 eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups water
8-10 teaspoons brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Mix together the vanilla extract, 1 cup of whipping cream, and sugar  in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Stir often (it will quickly form a skin if you're doing other I might have been).  Once it is boiling, remove it from the pan and let it steep for 15 minutes.  Stir in the remaining cup of cream.  Whisk the egg yolks together in a large bowl.  While whisking the eggs, slowly pour in the cream mixture.  Pour into a glass baking dish (I used a 6x9 glass dish).  Then, place the dish into a 13x9 pan and fill the larger pan with hot water (I used tap water on hot) until halfway up the side.  Bake at 300 degrees F for 35-45 minutes, the mixture should only jiggle slightly.  Let cool to room temperature (about 2 hours).  Then transfer to the fridge until ready to use. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine in a large bowl the cake mix, caramel sauce, eggs, oil, and water.  Mix well.  Divide the mix among two 12-cupcake tins that have been greased (or lined with cupcake liners).  Bake for 18-22 minutes, until fully cooked through.  Let cool completely (at least 1 hour). 

To fill the cupcakes, use a paring knife and cut a cone in the middle.  Fill each hole with 2-3 tablespoons of custard, some should be overflowing the top).  Top with brown sugar and torch the tops (you will need a kitchen torch, or a long necked lighter but be extra careful using that!).

Some notes:  I did not strain the creme brulee mixture before baking; as you all know I am lazy but, I also didn't find that it needed it anyway.  You always could just in case. 

Also, the cones that were leftover, I made a trifle with using the 1/4 cup of leftover creme brulee that I had.  Topped it with some whipped cream and served it for a romantic dessert the next day!  It worked out beautifully.

Now put those egg whites in the fridge because I have a great recipe for you Monday that will make quick work of them!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brilliant Brunch: Blueberry Pomegranate Strata

Sometimes, cooking contests are just serendipitous.  When I went home for Fourth of July, my family packed a LOT into the weekend.  I went home for my adorable baby cousin's first birthday (a party that was 4 hours long, and the baby did not cry once!).  We saw fireworks, and I hit the fruit stand with Dad.  The blueberries were on sale 99 cents for a huge box. 

So, we bought 4; Dad and Mom have definitely taught me about a good deal!  When we got home, Mom was overwhelmed by blueberries and insisted I take a huge box home myself.  I'm never going to say no to delicious food (especially when free).  And, then I heard about the Blueberry Council's Make It! Blog It! Win It! Blogger Recipe Contest.

Too perfect to pass up.  When I got home, I started brainstorming exactly what I wanted to make.  I love blueberries and I couldn't think of a better way to eat them than in a delicious breakfast.  This strata also adds pomegranate-blueberry juice, which I just find to be delicious.  Blueberries and pomegranates both have so many antioxidants and health benefits that the combination was irresistable. 

Also irresistable was the ability to make a beautiful looking brunch the night before.  Bake it before company arrives, and they walk in to a delicious smelling house!  It's another recipe that people think you would be up all night making, but, lets you get some beauty sleep!
Blueberry Pomegranate Strata
Serves:  4 (a 6x9 glass baking dish full)
4 English Muffins (about 1 cup when cubed)
1 1/2 cups blueberries, divided
6 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup Pomegranate-Blueberry juice, divided
4 eggs
1/3 cup + 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 tablespoons cinnamon, divided
1/2 cup milk (skim)
2 teaspoons corn starch
1/2 cup water

Cut the English Muffins in half, and then cube them (into about 20 pieces per English Muffin).  Toss 1 cup of blueberries with the cubes and then place the mixture into a greased 6x9 glass baking dish.  Cut cream cheese into 1-inch cubes and evenly disperse over the blueberry mixture.  In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of Pomegranate-Blueberry Juice, eggs, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoons of cinnamon, and milk.  Mix well.  Pour over the blueberry mixture and cover with tin foil.  Let sit overnight (at least 4 hours).  In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the dish (with tin foil) into the hot oven for 20 minutes.  Remove the tin foil and cook an additional 15-20 minutes until the middle is set and the top is golden brown.  Let cool about 5-10 minutes.  Serve warm with sauce.

To make the sauce, combine 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, water, and 1/2 cup of Pomegranate-Blueberry Juice in a saucepan.  Heat on medium-heat until the mixture comes to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Add the blueberries and turn the heat to low.  Cook about 3 minutes.  Serve over the strata.

A great tip is to make the sauce a day ahead of time as well.  Remove the saucepan from the heat after you add the blueberries and just heat it up a little the next day (either on the stove or microwave).  It's a delicious topping for the decadent strata, or a number of other things.  For example, the sauce is also delicious on ice cream (you know how I love my ice cream).

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, July 11, 2011

Stand Out Sides: Roasted Corn Salsa

The other day, John and I were busy making dinner.  Well, the beginnings of dinner anyway.  It always gets to the end of the week and we haven't yet gone food shopping (I haven't made a list, or done my coupons yet), and so we root around for what to eat. 

This week, I had some great corn which I got at the market for very cheap.  So, I decided to make a roasted corn salsa.  I roasted the corn in the oven (sigh, where is my big outdoor grill?), and added basically everything in my cabinets.  The result was a light refreshing salsa that I really enjoyed.  I guess I use the term "salsa" loosely because it is hardly like anything you buy in the food store.

I also made homemade tortilla chips which, are really easy if you're ever eager to try them.  I always wait until I have a few tortillas about to go stale before I make them.  It recycles food we would have otherwise had to have thrown out, and I think they are delicious.  I throw a little salt, pepper, and lime juice on them (because John loves lime juice).  Cut the tortillas into four triangles and put them on a greased cookie sheet under the broiler for about 3 minutes.  They get a really lovely color on them, and they are delicious!
Roasted Corn Salsa
Serves:  4 (2 cups salsa)
2 ears of corn, husked
1 plum tomato, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin
Tortilla chips to serve

Grease the ears of corn and place them horizontally in the oven.  Turn on the broiler and turn the corn after about 3 minutes.  The corn should get browned.  Cut the kernels off the cob and mix with tomato, cilantro, lime juice, and red onion.  Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes (or up to overnight) before serving. 

I'm sure I don't have to tell you but the longer these flavors sit, the better they taste!  And, it is so easy.  I almost always have these ingredients in the house (especially in the summer) that we really should never eat store-bought salsa in the summer again.  It was also much better for you as I didn't add any extra seasonings, salt, etc.  Just pure summer deliciousness!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, July 8, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Mediterranean Matnakash Pizza

This past weekend, John and I took another trip to the Russian food store around the corner.  They had really interesting breads that I had never seen or heard of before.  But, one of them, Matnakash was $1.  So of course, I had to buy it.  We got home and I started searching for Matnakash bread and found out it is a traditional Armenian bread!  Cool!  But as for what we could do with it, I found considerable less information. 

What I found is that it is mostly used to dunk into soups, etc.  Obviously, I'd have to dream up something myself.  Staring at it, I just thought it looked like a big flatbread.  It was tender and squishy and while I ate a little bit of it plain (oops), I thought it would be a nice deep dish style pizza crust!  We thought up summery flavors that I thought would taste good and started making it!

I love goat cheese, and if you don't, you can easily substitute feta cheese instead.  John doesn't love it but the combination all together, he really did enjoy.  We used the Roasted Red Pepper recipe from Wednesday and just lightly sauteed some onions.  The onions would be great caramelized but, I was way too hungry to wait for that to happen.  Sauteing them worked just as good!
Mediterranean Matnakash Pizza
Serves:  4
1 large onion, chopped
1 Matnakash bread (or flatbread)
6 ounces goat cheese
1 cup arugula
1 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Heat a large greased skillet over medium heat.  When hot, add chopped onion and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook ten minutes until translucent and tender, stirring often to prevent burning.  Meanwhile, spread goat cheese on top of Matnakash.  Combine arugula, onions, and roasted peppers in a bowl.  Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the mixture.  Let sit about 5 minutes and then top the goat cheese with the mixture, making sure to add all of the balsamic vinegar as well.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (or the grill to medium-high heat).  Cook about 10 minutes on a greased cookie sheet or pizza stone in the oven.  On the grill, oil the grill before placing the bread on top, and cook about 10-12 minutes.   Once it is heated through, remove and slice.  Serve immediately, topping with extra arugula if desired.

The goal here is to cook it so it is heated through, but not so the bread gets crusty.  After just ten minutes, the pizza was a nice warm pizza, but the bread was still soft; that really added to the deliciousness of this dish.  Even if you just make this with a flat-type of bread, or regular pizza pie it is an incredible tasting dish!  And, perfect for any Friday night!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Time-Out: Roasted Red Peppers

Roasted red peppers are delicious and I put them on almost anything; from burgers to sandwiches to pizza you name it, I load them on!  Most of the winter, I use roasted red peppers in a jar because they are just plain cheaper.  I know cheaper isn't better, but sometimes it is just plain practical.

In the summer, though, I frequently roast my own red peppers.  I know it seems counterintuitive to have the oven on in the middle of the summer, but I have also roasted the peppers on an outdoor grill (you know, when I used to have one), and they come out delicious then, too. 

Roasted red peppers are going to be featured in Friday's post so for that recipe John and I roasted a few peppers ourselves.  We had a lot of fun and they are just so easy!  In fact, this week at Haymarket, John asked for more peppers to roast.  Roasting them fresh, wow, their taste is just delicious.  It's like taking a roasted red pepper and multiplying it by 10. 
Roasted Red Peppers
Serves: 2 (1 pepper, 1/2 cup chopped)
1 red pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil

No real recipe here.  Move a rack in the oven as high as it can go.  Preheat your broiler.  We cut our peppers in half and then oil the outsides of each.  Make sure to get every crease (and a little in the cut sides).  Place the skin sides up on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler.  Watch carefully and in about 2-3 minutes, the skins should be blackened in spots.    Remove the peppers from the oven and carefully place them into a large bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap or tin foil tightly so the steam stays in the bowl.  This helps loosen the skins.  Remove the skins and cut the peppers. 

So easy, so delicious.  And, don't forget to move your rack down to its normal spot.  We forgot and that made for very difficult cookie making the next time I turned the oven on!!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sassy Sweet: Patriot's Berry Chocolate Chip Pie

I was really excited when, a few weeks ago, I realized that Fourth of July would fall on a Monday.  It is one of my favorite holidays (probably because it is summer and the nice weather means we get to hang out in the sunshine, BBQ, all my favorite things).  After John and I visited DC a few weeks ago, I was reminded how unique our country is, and how lucky we are to live where we do.

Once I was posed the question would you rather be lucky or smart?  It seemed like a silly choice.  But, if you think about it, we were lucky to be born here.  If a woman like me was born in Saudi Arabia, I wouldn’t be able to drive a car; I wouldn’t even be able to leave my house without a male guardian.  Regardless of how smart I was, I would still be a woman.

Recently, I started working with a group of international colleagues.  The other day we were all out at a business event and I got asked the question, “what are you?”  I answered it the way most Americans do…Italian, German, etc.  And the man turned to me and said, oh so your dad is from Italy?  I was like no, not even HIS parents were from Italy!  He says, matter of factly, “Well, so you are American”.  Why, when we are young, are we taught to identify with our heritages? I love that we are a melting pot, but he is right.  Really, I am American.  And I’m pretty proud of that.  I hope you other Americans are too, especially today!  And now to celebrate our independence…a sweet treat to cool us off this hot summer day!
Patriot's Berry Chocolate Chip Pie
Serves:  12 (12 slices)
1 batch of Chocolate Chip Cookie dough
2-3 cups vanilla ice cream
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Make the cookie dough (or use premade refrigerated cookie dough).  Split it into two equal pieces and spread out into two 9-inch pie pans.  Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.  Let cool completely.  Meanwhile, let vanilla ice cream soften slightly (5 minutes).  Spread over the chocolate chip cookie pies.  Arrange berries over the top.  Freeze until ready to serve, or serve immediately.  If frozen, let sit at room temperature about 5 minutes before serving.

Happy Fourth of July!  Enjoy your weekend, and I hope you enjoy it with lots of sassy sweets!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, July 1, 2011

Field Trip: Washington, D.C.

As you all know from Monday's post, we had a great time in DC this past weekend.  This coming weekend is another whirlwind adventure as I head home to attend my cousin's first birthday party!  It's a wonderful three day weekend, and I really can't wait to spend it with my family and friends.  I know Fourth of July is Monday and I have a patriotic treat coming to you tomorrow, so look for that! 

For now, though, I really want to focus on the food in DC.  I researched food for the trip knowing that I was going to come back and put it on the blog.  It was on a whim that I did it for Miami, but I am really enjoying it and (since I never go anywhere), wanted to celebrate and share!  What I found while reading up on the places we should eat at, was that DC has a hugely diverse, yet excellent, array of food choices.  From delicious Mexican, to delicious American, to delicious sushi, every cuisine seemed to be not only represented, but at the top of its game in the capitol city.

If you ever need advice on where to eat in Washington DC, start with the ethnic foods you've been dying to try.  The first night we were there, I knew we'd want something hearty.  We spent all day walking for goodness sakes, and we had a big day ahead of us on Saturday. 

So, we hit one of our favorite types of restaurants--Brazilian Steakhouses!  Trust me, if you love meat, and have never been to one, you are really missing out!  All the meat is on these huge turning rotisseries and they bring a stick of meat to the table to you.  They tell you what it is and if you want some, they cut you off a hunk.  The meat cooks all day and is literally melting in your mouth.  Yum.  Fogo de Chao was just steps away from the monuments with a deliciously fresh salad bar and even better meats.  I probably ate 5 pounds of meat.  Not so good considering I had to barbeque the whole next day!

The last night for dinner, we were exhausted though from the cooking to the hot DC weather and then we walked to Lincoln's Memorial.  We estimated that we probably walked about 3 miles and stood up for 6-8 hours.  Neither of us are used to doing that so when we found The Laughing Man Tavern, we stopped immediately.  Great prices (and great weekday specials) and not too far from the monuments made this a must-try (rather than the many overpriced pubs on Pennsylvania Avenue).  We both also had some much needed beverages :) also, sorry for the lack of pictures, but after the excitement of the day, my camera was in the hotel room!

We got breakfast with the hotel everyday which was good for us since we often ate and then dashed to do something else.  At the Safeway BBQ festival, like I said Monday, John and I ate from some of the best BBQ teams stands in the country.  And after tasting them, I saw why!  Wow!  Two of our favorites was Stubbs with their pulled brisket, Famous Dave's chopped pork sandwich, and Johnsonville Brats which they cooked on this huge grill:
I'm already thinking about where our travels will take us next...there is just so much food left to explore!

Until the next time my oven is on...
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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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