Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cucumber Gazpacho

Recently my mom was given a full bag of beautiful garden grown cucumbers. Unfortunately, my mom does not like cucumbers so there was no way she could use them all even if she just fed them to my dad. Lucky for me, she handed the bag over to me to come up with some creative way to use all of those cucumbers. Although I like cucumbers in salads and mixed with tomatoes and feta, I didn't think I could use them all that way before they started to go bad or I started getting sick of them. So instead, I decided to make a cold cucumber soup of sorts. I love all different types of gazpacho, which are cold soups generally based around tomatoes. After a quick search on Epicurious, I found a recipe that I liked enough to use as a base and went from there.

To be honest, I didn't have very high hopes for this soup as I was making it. I don't have a food processor or blender (I'm holding out for a possible wedding present!), which would have made this much easier. Instead I used an immersion blender, causing a fair amount of splatter. I was also afraid there wouldn't be enough flavor since cucumbers are pretty mellow on their own. However, the cool and creamy soup was absolutely delicious and was made even better by the sweetness of the shrimp on top and the crunch of the cucumbers left out of the pureeing process. Cold soups are especially wonderful when it's so hot outside and the thought of cooking over a hot stove and then eating a hot meal sounds less than pleasant. I served this soup as an appetizer but with some bread and maybe a tossed salad, this could also serve as a meal. This recipe makes only about 2.5 to 3 cups of soup so plan accordingly.

Cucumber Gazpacho
  • 6-8 small cucumbers or 2-3 large
  • 3/4 cup, loosely packed fresh herbs (I used basil and mint)
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hot sauce
  • 1/4 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
Remove the peel and seeds from the cucumbers. To easily remove the seeds, cut the cucumbers into quarters lengthwise, then cut into each quarter on a diagonal.
Small dice about 1/4 cup of the cucumber and set aside. Roughly chop the rest, about 3.5 cups.
Separate 1/4 cup of herbs and finely dice. Add to the reserved cucumber.
Combine the chopped cucumber, 1/2 cup herbs, garlic, ginger, olive oil and yogurt in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
Season with about 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper and a few dashes of hot sauce.
Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the shrimp for about 1 minute, until pink throughout. Remove and let cool.
Chop the cooled shrimp into small pieces and combine with reserved cucumber and herbs. Season with a pinch of salt and black pepper.
Adjust the seasoning in the soup and ladle into individual bowls. Top each with a small mound of the shrimp and cucumber mixture.

For a printable recipe click here

Friday, July 23, 2010

Miso Soba Noodles

I've spent the last few days gluing, stuffing, stamping and sorting my wedding invitations so I haven't had much time to write. Fortunately they are done (and look beautiful!) and have been mailed off. With that out of the way, I have a few days to catch up on writing and some tv shows, like Top Chef, before the next wedding project gets under way. I hadn't realized how many details and decisions go in to planning a wedding! But it's all fun and I'm very excited. :)

So anyway, I promised in my last post to write about the soba noodles that I made with the Miso Steak, using the same dressing. I loved the way the dressing coated the noodles and gave a ton of flavor to the mushrooms and snap peas. The miso and ginger also mellowed out a bit when cooked as opposed to the tangy flavors of the salad. The two dishes go great together or this noodle dish would also work on its own or with some shrimp tossed in with the stir-fried vegetables. Soba noodles can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets but any pasta would work. I love the nutty taste of buckwheat in the soba noodles and they only take about 3-4 minutes to cook, which is always appreciated.

Miso Soba Noodles
  • 8 oz soba noodles
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4-6 oz assorted mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 oz (or about 2 cups) snap peas, trimmed
  • 6-8 tbsp miso dressing
  • 1/2 cup water, from pasta pot
Boil a large pot of water and cook the soba noodles about 3-4 minutes. Reserve some of the starchy pasta water to thin out the dressing.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Saute the mushrooms until they begin to brown, about 5-8 minutes.
Add the snap peas and 3 tbsp miso dressing.
Pour in about 1/3 cup pasta water and stir to combine.
Cook the vegetables until the snap peas are crisp tender, about 10 minutes. Add more water if the pan becomes dry.
Toss the noodles in with the vegetables, adding more dressing to coat the noodles.
Remove from heat as soon as everything is combined and warmed through.

For a printable recipe click here

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Miso Steak and Salad

In Japanese cuisine, miso is used in all sorts of dishes and is considered a staple in most pantries. Here in the US, we usually associate miso with nothing more than the soup served before dinner at Japanese restaurants. However, miso--made from fermented soy beans--can be used to flavor a variety of dishes and adds a great earthy, slightly salty taste to other ingredients. It can be found in many supermarkets and at specialty stores such as Whole Foods. It looks like a thick hummus and usually comes in white, yellow and red varieties. The white miso, used in this recipe, is the most mild and least salty of the three. Yellow miso would also work as it is still quite mild. Based on a recipe from Bon Appetit, I made this miso dressing and used it as a steak marinade, a salad dressing, and a pasta dish (recipe to come). The dressing took on a slightly different taste in each application, giving the meal dimension while coming together nicely because of the taste of miso throughout. I served the steak sliced over the salad and the pasta on the side but each could be served as separate meals. The following recipe makes enough dressing for all three applications, so adjust accordingly. Or make all of the dressing and have extras for lunch salads.

Miso Steak and Salad
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 6 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4 tbsp white miso
  • 3 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • Garlic salt
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.5 pound flank steak
  • 5 oz mixed baby greens
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
In a small bowl, combine vegetable oil, rice vinegar, white miso and ginger. Whisk to blend.
Season to taste with a pinch of garlic salt and black pepper.
Season both sides of the flank steak with salt and pepper.
Spread 1 tablespoon of dressing over each side of the steak (2 tbsp total).
Allow steak to marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 6.
Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Brush with vegetable oil or cooking spray. Grill steak, 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare.
Toss together mixed greens, cucumber, red pepper and cilantro. Dress with approximately 6 tablespoons of dressing, adding more or less to taste.
Reserve the remaining dressing for other salads or for Miso Soba Noodles.
Allow the steak to rest for 10 minutes before slicing thinly against the grain.
Serve a few slices of steak over the salad with a few slices of avocado.

For a printable recipe click here

Friday, July 16, 2010

Roasted Summer Vegetables with Quinoa and Feta

I did that thing again where I went to the farmers' market and bought everything in sight because it all looked so delicious. Then I had to figure out what to do with it all once I got home. Rather than sauteing the mixed vegetables, I decided to roast them. I always roast winter vegetables (sweet potatoes, turnips, Brussels sprouts) since they tend to be denser and do well with the high temperatures of roasting. Although lighter than winter vegetables, summer vegetables also taste great when roasted and just need less time, which is great for a summertime meal. The roasted vegetables are full of flavor on their own but are transformed when tossed with quinoa, feta and red wine vinegar. The quinoa and feta both add enough protein to make this vegetarian dish healthy and substantial enough to be a full meal. It would also work as a side dish alongside any grilled fish, chicken or meat.

Roasted Summer Vegetables with Quinoa and Feta
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (any color)
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 oz crumbled feta
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 450F. 
Cut the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash into 1/4 inch half moons or quarters, making them all about the same size.
Combine sliced vegetables, cherry tomatoes and thyme sprigs in a 9 x 13 in pan.
Toss with 1.5 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Roast the vegetables for about 20 minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally.
Combine the quinoa with the vegetable stock in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil; turn the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, roasted vegetables and feta cheese.
Toss together with the remaining 1/2 tbsp olive oil and red wine vinegar. Adjust seasoning if needed.

For a printable recipe click here

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Whole Trout with Cherry Tomato Wine Sauce

Whole fish can be somewhat intimidating. For some people the head, complete with eyes, is an absolute deal breaker. But if you can get past the fact that whole fish actually looks like a fish, it can be a simple dish to prepare that tastes great and looks super fancy. Whole trout is not always available at the supermarket but when it is, they have already done most of the work for you by removing the innards and scales. A true fish market will always have whole fish available and will usually do as much butchering as you like.

If you do not want to work with whole fish, this dish would work great with trout or red snapper fillets, with the tomato and wine sauce making it a unique dish. Just season the fillets with salt and pepper and pan sear them, finishing with a squeeze of lemon juice. The tomato sauce could also be served over grilled chicken as a simple way to elevate an otherwise plain meal.

Whole Trout with Cherry Tomato Wine Sauce
  • 2 whole Rainbow Trout (or any similar small fish), about 1.5 lbs total
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 small shallot, diced small
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3-4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper
Preheat a broiler. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.
Rinse off the fish and pat dry. Rub inside and out with about 1 tbsp of olive oil.
Season the fish inside and out with salt and pepper.
Thinly slice half of the lemon into rounds and place them in the center cavities of the two fish.
Broil the fish for about 5 minutes on each side, until fish flakes and is fully cooked.
Squeeze the remaining lemon half over the cooked fish before serving.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
Begin the sauce by sauteing the shallots and garlic cloves until fragrant, a couple of minutes.
Add the cherry tomatoes and thyme sprigs. Season with salt and pepper.
Allow the cherry tomatoes to cook down for about 5 minutes.
Add the white wine to the pan and cook down for another 5-8 minutes.
Adjust the seasoning and serve the sauce alongside the trout.

For a printable recipe click here

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Black Beans and Rice: All Dressed Up

This is definitely not your everyday black beans and rice. Sure it's easy to cook some rice, heat up some beans and toss them together. Easy but not necessarily anything to write home about. With just a bit of extra work, these rice and beans are full of flavor and serve as a great side dish or even as a vegetarian meal on its own. Rice and beans work together to make a complete protein, making them a favorite among vegetarians. Using brown rice along with the beans also makes this dish full of fiber. It goes great with anything spicy, such as the spiced pork and salsa in my last post, as it's slightly sweet. Or you can make it a little spicier on its own by adding some Tabasco sauce if you can't imagine eating rice and beans that aren't somewhat spicy. Either way, these are delicious, healthy and easy to make.

Black Beans and Rice
  • 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, diced small
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 jalapeno chili, seeded and minced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp hot pepper sauce (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked
Heat oil in a large pan over medium to medium high heat.
Saute onion, red bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeno. Season with cumin, oregano and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes.
With the back of a spoon, mash about 1/3 of the beans. Add the beans to the pan.
Add tomatoes, orange juice and hot pepper sauce (if desired).
Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Remove the cover and simmer for a couple minutes more to reduce the liquid. Adjust the seasoning.
Serve the bean mixture over the cooked rice.

For a printable recipe click here

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cuban Spiced Pork with Peach Chipotle Salsa

I love peaches. They are in season right now and I've been buying them by the basketful. I eat them as a snack, over cereal, or incorporated into savory dishes, such as this peach salsa. This pork and salsa meal was inspired by a dish I made in class and a salsa recipe I found on Epicurious.com. I like combining pork with sweet flavors as they pair wonderfully...pork and apples is a classic combination. To bring out the Cuban spices rubbed into the pork, I chose a salsa with chipotles as well as peaches to create a sweet and spicy topping. Chipotles in adobo can be found in most international aisles at the supermarket and come in small cans. They are quite spicy so tailor the salsa to your desired level of spiciness. I served the pork with black beans and rice that were mild and slightly sweet, since both the pork and salsa have a certain level of heat to them. I will post the black bean recipe soon but any mild flavored side dish would work. This pork dish is definitely easy enough to make any night of the week but the salsa makes it special enough to serve for guests. Peaches will be in season for at least another month so definitely give this a try while they are at their best.

Cuban Spiced Pork Tenderloin
  • 1.5 - 2 pounds pork tenderloin (packages usually include two loins at about this weight)
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
Combine the garlic, black pepper, cumin, salt and cayenne.
Rub thoroughly over the pork tenderloins.
Place on a plate or in a container, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375F. 
Heat oil in an oven-proof pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Sear the pork on all sides, a couple of minutes on each side.
Place the pork into the oven and roast until it reaches the desired temperature, 145 for medium.
(A meat thermometer is a great thing to have but if you don't have one, a two inch loin takes about 25-30 minutes, but check it by cutting into the thickest part).
Allow the pork to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing it and serving with the peach salsa.

Peach Chipotle Salsa
  • 3-4 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped small
  • 2 tbsp chipotle in adobo, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
Toss first four ingredients together in a medium bowl.
Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

For a printable recipe click here

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ceviche de Pescado (Fish Ceviche)

Nothing, in my opinion, beats fresh seafood eaten at the beach. There's something about smelling the ocean air and hearing the crash of the waves that makes seafood--or any food for that matter--taste so much better. I am also just happier in general when I am at the beach and in the sun. I was lucky enough to spend the last few days on the beach in Mexico and I definitely ate my fair share of fresh seafood. Although I can't quite recreate the sounds and smells of the beach, I like to make some of my favorite dishes from the beach and Mexico when I'm at home to keep those good feelings for as long as possible. This fish ceviche is an easy way to recreate the fresh tastes of seafood and citrus that are so popular throughout Mexico and the Caribbean. Ceviche is seafood marinated in citrus and is made in a variety of ways in different countries. The acid in the citrus "cooks" the seafood. Because this is a relatively slow process, it is best to marinate the fish for several hours or overnight to ensure that the citrus fully penetrates the meat. To speed the process, shellfish and shrimp can be quickly blanched before being marinated. This recipe uses thin white fish (I used tilapia), which will fully cook overnight. I made this particular ceviche for my cooking final in school, so the martini glass was for presentation. If you're serving guests, martini glasses make for festive containers but bowls would also work as you want to include some of the juices with the fish. Shrimp could also be used in place of the fish but I would recommend blanching it in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute. You can also add any variety of chopped vegetables to the fish, such as onions and bell peppers. Different countries garnish their ceviches with any number of things, such as tortilla chips, popcorn, lettuce or avocado. Choose any garnish you like and enjoy this taste of the beach.

Fish Ceviche
  • 12 oz white fish, such as tilapia, cut into 1/2 x 1 inch strips
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
  • dash of hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tsp parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onion, minced (white section and 1 inch of green)
Soak the fish in lightly salted water for 1 hour; drain and rinse well.
Mix the citrus juices, olive oil, salt, garlic, chile and hot pepper sauce together in a small bowl.
In a small plastic zipped bag, combine the fish and the marinade.
Mix well and seal, removing as much air as possible.
Lay flat and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
When the fish is cooked (opaque throughout), add the parsley, cilantro and green onions.
Add a squeeze of lime and pinch of salt if needed.
Serve the fish with a few tablespoons of the marinade and any garnishes you like.

For a printable recipe click here