Monday, November 21, 2011

Garlic and Sea Salt has moved!

To all of my readers, I have decided to combine my two blogs so Garlic and Sea Salt will now be a part of my Fragrant Vanilla Cake and all of my savory posts and recipes will be a part of that page.  I will keep this page here so that the past recipes will be available, but visit my blog, Fragrant Vanilla Cake for future ones!  Here is the link:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Roasted Squash and Carmelized Onion Soup Au Gratin

We all have one of "those" days once in a while.  You know, the character building type where you get home and ask..."Where is my big glass of wine and comfort food?"  I had one yesterday.  We were short at work, I wasn't feeling the best due to a cold, and I felt like I was wishing there were 3 Amys to do my job as it seemed like there was not enough time to get everything done.  Alright, so maybe it wasn't so least my coworker's and I had time to laugh in between the chaos and joke about the glass of wine we would all be needing after work!  I was tired when I got home, but was in a good mood at least despite the character building day at work.  As I walked in the door I was feeling a bit chilled due to the cool weather that has found its way to Minnesota this week, and so I decided I needed a big bowl of something comforting and delicious for dinner.  Afterall, I needed something to go with my wine. My favorite soup came to mind, roasted squash and caramelized onion soup au gratin.  Who doesn't love a soup topped off with toasted bread and bubbly cheese? 

I hadn't made it in a while, and it was about time!  So I poured myself some wine and got to work.  Little did I know that a bit of the sort of work day I had would follow me I was trying to unclog the cooking spray so I could roast my squash to go in the soup I totally nailed myself in the face.  So I admit, it was rather funny, and at least I didn't get my eyes...but really?  I hadn't even drank but a few sips of wine either!  Luckilly the rest of the soup making went smoothly and my kitchen was starting to smell of sweet onions and herbs from the pot simmering on the stove.  By the time I had ladled the soup into a bowl, topped it off with toasted bread and cheese and broiled it to perfection I was about drooling.  It was just as amazing as it always is.  Sweet squash and caramelly onions, fragrant herbs, and crusty bread with ooey gooey cheese...pure deliciousness!  I can't believe I haven't shared this one on my blog yet, but it is amazing, and sure to make you forget anything unpleasant that happened earlier in the day.  What Wednesday?  Did that really happen?  Well, if you would like to enjoy some for yourself, here is the recipe!

Roasted Squash and Carmelized Onion Soup Au Gratinserves 4

This is the perfect fall soup, great for warming you up on a dreary fall or winter day! This is my absolute favorite soup recipe.

1 large kabocha or buttercup squash, cut in half from top to bottom, and seeded
non-stick spray
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 medium red onions, halved and sliced thinly
6 garlic cloves, pressed
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 cup white wine (of the quality that you would drink)
4 cups veggie stock
1 baguette, cut into 1 inch thick slices (there should be 12), and toasted
6 oz gruyere cheese, grated
6 oz mozzarella cheese, grated

Heat the oven to 475, and line a baking sheet with foil. Spray with non-stick spray, and place squash cut side down on the sheet. Roast for about 40 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, then remove skin, and cut flesh into large cubes, and set aside. In a large dutch oven or pan, heat the oil, over medium heat and add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally until starting to turn golden and carmelizing, about 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and herbs, as well as salt and pepper, and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Add wine, and scrape up any brown bits or carmelization on the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and squash cubes and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and let cook for at least 20 minutes until squash is falling apart. Add more salt if needed. Turn the oven on to broil. Ladel the squash into 4 large shallow bowls, and top each with 3 pieces of toasted baguette, and the gruyere and mozzarella cheeses. Place under the broiler, and broil until the cheese is brown and bubbly, about 3 minutes more or less depending on the oven. Let cool a few minutes, then serve!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Melange of Roasted Autumn Veggies with Tempeh Bacon

No use crying over spilt milk...or burnt carrots.  Yesterday I had sliced 25 lbs of carrots for a salad at work, and thrown them in the oven to roast thinking they were going to come out all delicious and toasty, only to have my timer fail on me and smell burnt carrots about 45 minutes later.  Oh the joys of relying on technology...but that is what happens when you are multitasking and can't keep an eye on the oven yourself!  But you know what?  I didn't get upset, in fact I found it kind of funny the fact that I went through all that work and would have to do it again.  Sometimes I wonder with the amount of chopping I do with my right arm why it isn't twice the size of my left.  I sliced more carrots, placed them in the oven and this time they emerged perfectly roasted.  Success!  I am not one to give up...especially in the kitchen.  When I got home I did not simply heat up some soup I had in the freezer for dinner, instead I decided that I would like some roasted veggies!  How odd, after my carrot burning experience, but that is what I craved.  I had all sorts of delicious things to roast that I knew would make a delicious melange of sorts. 

Some chanterelles and lobster mushrooms I was expecially excited to enjoy along with brussels sprouts, carrots (yes I didn't hate them), red peppers, purple potatoes, and rutabagas.  I threw in some onions as well and roasted them all to deliciousness.  I needed some protein, so some tempeh bacon was added as well, and to give it all a wonderful flavor a balsamic thyme vinaigrette with a touch of truffle oil.  It was nice and hearty, which was nice for a cool night.  Never mind the burnt carrots, when I have a plate of good food in front of me I don't remember the negatives of the day.  Here is the recipe for my roasted veggies if you would like to try it.  It is simple to prepare, but so good!

Melange of Roasted Autumn Veggies with Tempeh Bacon
Serves 2

olive oil
2 cups purple potatoes (or other small potatoes), halved if bigger
2 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3 cups mixed mushrooms, cut into bite sized pieces if large
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1 cup sliced rutabaga
2 large carrots, sliced
1 8 oz pkg tempeh bacon

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp truffle oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dried thyme
2 cloves of garlic, minced
sea salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Since the veggies take different times to roast, they need to be dine separately.  Toss the potatoes and brussels sprouts with olive oil and spread out on a baking sheet.  Do the same with the mushrooms, bell pepper and onion on another sheet. Then the carrots and rutabagas on another.  Place the sheets in the oven and roast for about 15-20 minutes until the veggies are tender and browned at edges (may take longer for potatoes) then remove from the oven and place in a large bowl.  Meanwhile, Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a non-stick pan and cook tempeh bacon until crisp on both sides, about 4 minutes per side.  Remove from pan and when cool enough to handle, cut into small pieces.  Place in a bowl, along with roasted veggies.  Whisk together olive oil and truffle oil, balsamic, garlic, thyme and sea salt and pepper to taste, then toss it with the veggies and serve!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sweet and Sour Vegan Meatballs

When I was little and I would be begging for something I couldn't have, my Dad would sing me the song "You Can't Always Get What You Want", by the Rolling Stones.  It would irritate the crap out of me and I just hated hearing that song.  I am sure I heard the song hundreds of times played or sung over the years.  The funny thing is though, now as an adult, I appriciate it.  It is true, as the lyrics go..."you can't always get what you want...but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."  Life is misreable for anyone who doesn't believe this.  If I didn't I would have been really upset last night when I went to make Vegan Italian meatballs but didn't have any canned tomatoes or pasta on hand.  Instead of getting upset, I decided that it was not meant to be an Italian night, but instead and Asian night for dinner. 

I had the ingredients for Asian flavored meatballs, so I made Sweet and Sour Vegan Meatballs with sauteed veggies.  And you know what?  They were amazing...and I happened to have some plum saki in my fridge to serve them with!  Lesson learned, not getting what I wanted can lead to creativity and a delicious new recipe.  Here it is if you wish to try it! 

Sweet and Sour Vegan Meatballs
Serves 4

1 Tbsp peanut oil
1 cup chopped red onion
3 cups chopped crimini mushrooms
1 Tbsp fresh ginger
1 cup shredded carrots
1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts
2 cups dried whole wheat bread crumbs, or as needed
2 Tbsp miso
2 Tbsp tamari
2 tsp sea salt
red pepper flakes
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
red pepper flakes
1 1/4 cups apple cider
1/4 cup tamari
2 Tbsp mirin
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3 Tbsp water

1 Tbsp peanut oil
3 cups brussels sprouts, halved
2 large carrots, halved and sliced
2 cups mushroom, sliced

toasted sesame seeds
rice to serve

Preheat the oven to 475.  To make meatballs, heat 1 Tbsp peanut oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, ginger, and carrots, and saute until softened, about 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms and saute until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and saute another minute until fragrant, then remove from heat.  Place mixture in a food processor along with walnuts, breadcrumbs, miso, tamari, sea salt, and pepper.  Process until smooth.  Add a little more breadcrumbs if too sticky, then shape into 16 little balls and place on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with non-stick spray.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes until heated through, and starting to brown.  Meanwhile, whisk together the sauce ingredients and set aside.  In a large non-stick skillet heat 1 Tbsp peanut oil and add the brussels sprouts, carrots and mushrooms.  Saute until starting to soften, but still slighlty crunchy, just a few minutes.  Add the sauce, and cook until thickened, just a few minutes.  Remove from heat and add meatballs.  Carefully stir to coat (meatballs are fragile, so be careful), sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with rice if desired.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Autumn Roasted Carrot and Apple Farro Salad

Yesterday at work, a customer asked me how to prepare farro, as she was trying to incorporate more whole grains into her diet.  Luckilly, I knew how to cook it and was able to help!  One of my favorite parts of working in the deli at a health food store is being able to help people like her.  It makes me happy to be able to give good advice on food, and help people eat healthier in turn.  After the little tutorial on farro, I started to think about how good it would be in a salad for dinner.  A leafy salad just wouldn't cut it as I was hungry, but a grain salad would be perfect!  Not wanting to spend money I decided that I would make it with things I already had on hand.  A carrot, a cipollini onion, and an apple.  Perfect!  I decided to roast them to bring out the flavor, then combine them with cooked farro, some fresh thyme and toasted walnuts in a cider vinaigrette.  It was delicious! 

All too often I forget about how tasty grains other than the usual rice and quinoa are.  Thank goodness that lady asked me about the farro and gave me the idea to make it venturing out of the same old rut!  Funny how that worked, I helped her, but she also helped me.  Here is the recipe I made if you would like to enjoy it!

Autumn Roasted Carrot and Apple Farro Salad
Serves 2

2 cups water
3/4 cup farro
1 medium cipollini onion, cut into wedges
1 large carrot, sliced
1 medium tart apple cut into large dice
olive oil
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp walnut oil
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp dijon
sea salt and pepper to taste

Combine the water and farro in a medium saucepan. Add 1 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the farro is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well, and then transfer to a large bowl to cool.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 475 degrees, and line a large sheet pan with foil.  Toss carrots and onions with just enough olive oil to coat and spread out on one side of sheet pan.  Scatter apples on the other side and roast for about 10 minutes until the apples are starting to soften.  Remove apples from pan, and add to bowl with the farro.  Return carrots and onions to the oven and continue to roast until starting to brown at edges and carrots are tender.  Let cool slightly then add to the bowl.  Add walnnuts and thyme, then whisk together vinegar, oils, syrup, mustard and sea salt and pepper to taste and add to the bowl.  Toss to coat, and serve at room temperature. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Squash and White Bean Chili

You would think that after making soups at work during the week when it has been 80 degrees in Minnesota, the last thing I would want to be making on the weekend would be chili...wrong.  It may be hot outside, but for sime reason I decided that I had to have chili today.  Maybe because it is Sunday, and the football game was on?  Those two things go together right?  I don't think that was what influenced my decision.  Although I watched the game today, and was pleased to see that the Minnesota Vikings actually won a game for the first time this year...I would not consider myself a football kind of girl.  Good for them though, hopefully they will win a few more before the year is up!  Anyways, more than likely it is the feeling of autumn that I got when going for a walk this afternoon through the woods and admiring the beautiful firey colored trees and crunching the leaves beneath my feet that said to me "it is fall, you should make chili!"  Nevermind the warm temperatures. 

I had piles of ripe tomatoes from my Grandpa ready to be roasted and thrown into chili as well as a good selection of hot peppers and buttercup squash begging to be eaten.  So chili it was!  Being that I only had navy beans in my cupboard, this was to be white bean chili.  In the deli where I work I always catch a hard time from all of my coworkers every time I use navy beans.  This is because they know it is my favorite bean and more than likely it is what I am putting into anything containing beans.  My friend Gabrielle even put a lable on the white beans that read "Amy's White Beans".  So I had to laugh to myself when they were the only beans I found on my search through the cupboard this afternoon.  I had all day to putz with this chili, so cooking the beans myself and using oven roasted homegrown tomatoes and squash in the chili were no problem.  Some ingredients I don't normally put in chili found their way into the pot this time making it even more irrisistable when I snuck a taste...raisins, almond butter and red wine.  My kitchen smelled wonderful as the chili simmered away!  I couldn't wait enjoy a bowl! 

I whipped up a batch of vegan cornbread and was ready for dinner!  It was scrumptious!  It was sweet and spicy, savory, and autumnal.  Not bad for a throw together on a whim.  If you would like to experience the chili for yourself, here is the recipe!

Sweet and Spicy Squash and White Bean Chili
Serves 8
1 Tbsp peanut oil
2 large onions, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 habanero, seeded and minced
1 cup carrots, sliced
8 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground chipotle pepper, or to taste
1 Tbsp smoky paprika
1/4 cup red wine
3 16 oz cans organic fire roasted tomatoes
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp tamari
2 Tbsp almond butter
4 cups veggie broth
4 cups cooked navy beans
1/4 cup raisins
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cups cubed cooked buttercup or butternut squash*

vegan sour cream
sliced scallions

In a large stockpot or dutch oven, heat the peanut oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, habanero, jalapenos, and carrots, and saute until softened, about 6-7 minutes.  Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, oregano, paprika, chipotle powder, and cook for a minute until fragrant, then add the wine, tomatoes, red bell peppers, cider vinegar, cocoa powder, maple syrup, tamari, almond butter, veggie broth, and bring to a boil.  Simmer until flavors have blended, stirring often, about 20 minutes.  Add cooked beans, raisins and squash, and sea salt and pepper to taste, and continue to cook until heated through.  Serve hot with vegan sour cream sliced scallions to garnish and cornbread if desired.

* Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Cut 1 large buttercup squash in half from top to bottom, and remove seeds.  Place cut side down on baking sheet, and roast for about 25-30 minutes until tender.  Remove from oven and let cool until cool enough to handle, then remove skin and cut into cubes. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Roasted Chanterelle and Leek Salad with Pears and Pecans

While I was visiting MontrĂ©al last week, I visited a restaurant called DNA.  The atmosphere was wonderful and the service excellent!  They had the most beautiful orange decor, but more importantly the food was delicious! 

I ordered some delicious pappardelle pasta scattered with local mushrooms including chanterelles.  It was delicious and earthy due to the flavorful mushrooms. 

I had every ambition to try and recreate the $30 plate when I arrived home, and I even found some locally grown chanterelles at the market, but my day had other plans.  Instead of putzing with home made pappardelle today I visited a local winery, St. Croix Vineyards for some wine tasting.  Of course I ended up buying wine there, as well as some late harvest riesling vinegar. Being that it was a warm day, and that I was feeling a bit lazy in the dinner department, I decided that the chanterelles would be lovely in a salad also using some of that vinegar that I had bought.  So I roasted some chanterelles (as well as a bit of crimini mushrooms which are more affordable) and some leeks and tossed them with some ripe d'anjou pears and toasted pecans for a delicious salad! 

I dressed it with a riesling maple walnut dressing with a bit of thyme and voila!  Deliciousness!  It wasn't a good day for pasta anyhow, and the salad paired perfectly with some dry riesling I had also picked up today.  Maybe I will make pappardelle when the weather chills out a bit, but for now this salad did the trick to showcase the chanterelles!  If you have access to them you should try making it yourself!

Roasted Chanterelle and Leek Salad with Pears and Pecans
Serves 2

1 large leek, sliced
10 chanterelle mushrooms, halved if large
10 crimini mushrooms, halved
olive oil
1 large D'anjou pear, sliced
1/2 cup toasted pecans
1 large head leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bite sized pieces

2 Tbsp walnut oil
2 Tbsp riesling vinegar
2 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp honey dijon mustard
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  Toss mushrooms and leeks with just enough olive oil to coat, and spread out on baking sheet.  Roast in the oven until tender and starting to brown at edges, about 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature, then add to a large bowl along with the pear, pecans and leaf lettuce.  Whisk dressing ingredients together, then pour over salad and toss well.  Serve!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Italian Stuffed Eggplant

I had the urge to buy eggplant at the store last Saturday but I had no idea what I was going to do with it.  That is the fun part I guess when you impulse buy produce.  It was local and it looked really fresh so I couldn't resist.  The thing I love about eggplant is it is a blank palette of sorts, able to soak up whatever delicious flavors you choose to add to it.  So Sunday the question was what to make?  Eggplant parmesan sounded too heavy and bready so I decided on stuffed eggplant.  I guess I kind of wung it on this one having no recipe, which was a bit brave since I was making it for me and my boyfriend Scott who hasn't had a whole lot of exposure to eggplant.  Good thing he is always a good sport and tries my experiments along with me. 

I sauteed the inner part of the eggplant along with onions, bell peppers, garlic and Italian herbs, and combined it with cheese to make a delicious filling, then bathed it in my home made roasted tomato sauce (but in the recipe below I have just specified a can of tomatoes to make it easier on you should you choose to make it), and baked it until bubbly.  It was beautiful! 

I have to admit I was rather proud of how it looked and it smelled like a lasagna!  It was delicious as well thank goodness, a successful experiment.  I will definately be making it again if I get my hands on more eggplant before they go out of season!  It is a lot easier to make than it looks, so I would encourage you to try the recipe as well! 

Italian Stuffed Eggplant
Serves 2-4

1 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 15 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fennel seeds
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 medium eggplants
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 oz grated parmesan cheese
5 oz shredded mozzerella cheese

To make sauce, heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper and saute for 30 seconds, then add balsamic, tomatoes, herbs, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Let simmer for 20 minutes to develop flavor, then remove from heat and keep warm. 
To prepare eggplant, heat oven to 400 degrees, and line an 11x7 inch baking dish with foil.  Spray foil with spray and set aside.  Halve each eggplant lengthwise and scoop out middle of each halve leaving a 3/4 inch boarder.  Chop insides for filling.  In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and add onions.  Saute for about 5 minutes until softened and add garlic, eggplant, peppers herbs, and sea salt and pepper to taste. Saute until eggplant is very soft, another 5-7 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in 1/2 the tomato sauce, parmesan and 4 oz of the mozzerella reserving the rest for topping.  Place eggplants cut side up in dish, and stuff each with the eggplant mixture dividing evenly between the 4 halves.  Top with remaining sauce, then place in the oven and bake for about 30 min.  Add cheese after they are heated through and eggplant shells are tender and bake until it is starting to bubble another 5 minutes. Serve hot. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wild Mushroom Barley Risotto

A chill is in the air, and risotto season is here once again!  There is nothing I love more than sitting down to a bowl of creamy comfort food for dinner on a chilly day, or just when I am craving a food hug.  A few years ago when I first discovered the deliciousness of risotto, I would make it about 3 times a week in the cool months, not even counting the sweet risotto dessert I would make quite often.  It was something that I would come home from work wanting, so creamy and rich, and the best part was I could make it with whatever I had on hand and in my pantry.  Arborio rice is so delicious when cooked properly and it can be made very rich if you are in a naughty mood or veganized if not but still tastes just as delicious!  In the last year however, I have fallen in love with barley risotto.  Hulled barley needs a good soaking before cooking it if you want it to be ready faster, but I feel like I am getting more of a nutritional bang for my buck when I use it in place of the white rice. 

Last weekend when I came across a large selection of local mushrooms at the market, I had to buy them, because in my head I was invisioning a creamy dreamy mushroom risotto!  I thought it would be the perfect thing to make for me and my boyfriend Scott on Sunday for dinner.  I also grabbed some locally grown kale and crimini mushrooms as well as some truffled cheese and I was already looking forward to the deliciousness that would result.  Scott helped me grate the cheese and prepare the kale while I chopped the mushrooms and sauteed the crimini and it was wonderful to actually help me with dinner!  I suppose most of the time I am a control freak and I just do it all myself, but he is rather cute in the kitchen so I welcome his help.  Once the mushrooms were added to the risotto the kitchen was filled with the most wonderful earthy rich mouth was watering and I couldn't wait for the barley to finish cooking.  It smelled even better once the truffled cheese had been added and truffle oil had been drizzled over it! 

It was as delicious as it smelled...hearty grains bathed in silky earthy mushroom sauce, dare I say it...heavenly!  Scott enjoyed it as well, even if the kale was a new thing to him.  I always appriciate that he is a good sport with my recipe experiments...luckilly this one was a success!  If you would like to try some, I have included the recipe. 

Wild Mushroom Barley Risotto
Serves 3-4

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup hulled barley, soaked for at least 2 hours in water
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup white wine
4 cups mushroom (or veggie) stock, heated to almost boiling
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
7 cups assorted mushrooms, sliced
2 cups kale, torn into bite sized pieces
4 oz grated Cacio Di Bosco Tartufo cheese or other truffled cheese, grated (if not available pecorino romano or  parmesan will do)
truffle oil, for finishing
1 oz Cacio Di Bosco Tartufo shaved, for garnish

In a large stockpot, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat and add shallots.  Saute until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic, herbs and barley and saute a minute more.  Then add wine, 1 cup of stock, and sea salt and pepper to taste.  Let simmer and stir occasionally until the barley has absorbed most of the liquid.  Add another cup of stock, and let absorb.  Repeat with remaining stock, and when last cup has been added, add mushrooms and allow to cook until they are tender.  Add kale and cook until wilted and bright green.  Add shredded cheese, stir in and allow to melt, then taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.  When barley is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, spoon into bowls, drizzle with truffle oil, and top with the shaved cheese. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Roasted Tomatoes on Toast with Chevre, Poached Egg and Fresh Basil

Tomatoes fresh from the garden are one of the most heavenly vegetables.  I had a big pile of tomatoes on my counter that I had recieved from my Grandpa and I decided that they needed to be included in my dinner.  I could have simply made a caprese salad and had them raw, but I love them so much roasted that that is what I did with them. 

I had some crusty peasant bread to top with the roasted tomatoes which I decided to do up crostini style except for the fact that don't have a grill so I oven toasted them.  Still just as delicious because what was important was the tomatoes.  I sprinkled them with chevre for richness, basil for herby freshness and lastly a poached egg, which I love on just about any sort of toast.  As a whole it was delicious, but what made it was the tomatoes.  Roasting them brought out the essence of intense sweet tart bright flavor which I love and you can only find in fresh summer tomatoes.  I would encourage you to try this, it is perfect for a light dinner, or brunch and so simple to make!

Roasted Tomatoes on Toast with Chevre, Poached Egg and Fresh Basil
Serves 2

3 medium tomatoes, cut into eigths
olive oil
sea salt

2 medium peasant bread slices
olive oil
1 garlic clove

Poached eggs:
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 cups water
2 large organic eggs
2 oz chevre, crumbled
2 Tbsp fresh basil, cut chiffonade
balsamic syrup (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
To roast tomatoes, preheat oven to 475 degrees, line two large baking sheets with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Spread out tomatoes on one baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Roast for about 15 to 20 minutes, until tender and starting to brown at edges.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with sea salt and set aside. 
To make toast, brush olive oil over each bread slice and place on other baking sheet.  Toast in the oven until browned then cut garlic in half and rub over each toast slice using the cut side.  Set aside. 
To poach eggs, heat water to a simmer in a medium saucepan with the vinegar and salt. Crack an egg into a ramakin. Stir water with a spoon to swirl, and carefully pour egg into it. Let cook for 3-4 minutes or preferred doneness, and remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with other egg.
To plate, place a piece of toast on each plate, then top each with tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese and a poached egg, and lastly basil and a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Drizzle balsamic syrup around the plate and serve!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Roasted Blueberry Salsa

I am not sure how I decided that I needed to add blueberries to my salsa, but for some reason it had to be done.  Afterall, many people add fruit to their salsa but it is usually something like mangoes or pineapple...not berries.  My Mom said it sounded disgusting and thought I was crazy for doing such a thing, that is until she tasted it and was won over.  Every summer we get a large amount of tomatoes from my Grandpa's garden and much of that goes to making roasted chipotle salsa.  Many different things have been added to it my favorite of which is habaneros for a kick but never blueberries. 

So last week when I threw the tomatoes, onions, garlic and berries on the pan and hoped that this experiment would be delicious.  It sure smelled good...but of course it had to cool before we could properly taste it.  Once cool, I added lime, basil, and chipotle and I was right about my premonition that this would be good.  It had a deep tomato flavor with a hint of tart and sweet from the berries which lended almost a jammy note.  I had blended it pretty smooth because that is the way my Mom likes it and I was to share it with her, but I think next time I would leave it chunkier were I making it for myself.  It was perfect with some home made chips I had made in anticipation of the salsa making. My Mom admitted that it was good and I have to say, she has eaten most of it the salsa lover she is!  So if you are looking for a salsa that is a little different here is the recipe!

Roasted Tomato Blueberry Salsa
Makes about 6 cups

6 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 8ths
1 red onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves
olive oil
2 cups organic blueberries
1/2 cup fresh basil
juice of 4 limes
sea salt
1 Tbsp chopped chipotle in adobo sauce
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp agave nectar

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and line a sheet pan with foil.  Spread out tomatoes, onions, and garlic on sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil.  Place in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes until softened then add blueberries and continue to roast for about another 10 minutes until the berries have burst and everything is starting to caramelize and brown at edges.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Place in a food processor along with basil, lime juice, sea salt to taste, chipotle, freshly ground pepper to taste, and agave nectar.  Process to desired consistency and chill before serving. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Blueberry Basil Quinoa Tabouli Salad

Today was one of those days where I felt like I needed a break from too much rich food.  Too many sweets and indulgence on Saturday was the problem, but luckilly I had lots of fresh produce in my fridge.  Nothing but fresh, cool vegetables or fruit was sounding good to me for dinner.  I had a large container of blueberries from Wisconsin that were some of the best I have tasted in years, plus a large pile of cucumbers from my Grandpa's garden so I decided that those two things needed to be included in whatever I decided to make.  For some reason quinoa tabouli came to mind.  It is a favorite of mine in the summer, classic, or a twist changing up the veggies and dressing.  Although I had some tomatoes from my Grandpa's garden as well, I decided swap them out for blueberries to be a little different and not make classic tabouli this time! 

I threw in basil and toasted almonds, and it was delicious!  It was a little like original tabouli in that it contained mint, cucumbers, lemon and garlic, but it was something a little different as well!  I had used a mixture of black and white quinoa because I enjoy both, but it made the salad a little more appealing to the eyes as well as the taste buds.  It was fresh, and like something you would enjoy at a spa, or a light dinner to leave you feeling healthy.  The berries provided welcome little tart sweet pops of flavor among the savory ingredients! So much for feeling yuck from over indulgence.  Here is the recipe if you would like to try it!

Blueberry Basil Quinoa Tabouli Salad

2 cups water
1 cup quinoa, rinsed (I used a mixture of black and white)
1 cup fresh organic blueberries
1 large cucumber peeled, seeded and diced small
2 scallions, sliced
1/2 cup fresh organic basil leaves, minced
1/4 cup fresh organic mint, minced
3/4 cup toasted almonds
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 large garlic clove, minced
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Place quinoa and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed about 15 minutes, or when all the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated. Drain, and let cool. When quinoa is cool, combine with the berries, cucumber, basil, scallions, and almonds. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Toss dressing with salad, and chill.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Melange of Roasted Summer Vegetables with Poached Eggs and Basil Chevre Cream

When summer is at its peak, I can think of nothing better than a nice big pile of roasted veg.  Eggplant, corn, peppers, zucchini...I love it all, the beautiful colors like confetti on my plate.  A few nights back I raided my fridge, and found lots of veggies to roast.  I tossed them with a little olive oil, threw them in the oven, combined them, and what resulted was an intensely flavored beautifully colored dinner, just what I crave in the summer.  I call it a melange, because it was many different veggies, contributing different delicious flavors and textures. 

I topped my veggies off with poached eggs for protein, because I love the way they ooze silky rich yolks when you cut into them.  They were the perfect accompaniment to my veggies with some crusty bread for dinner.  I also included a bit of creamy chevre to add some richness and textural contrast to the veggies.  It was a delicious hearty meal showcasing local prouce at its best!  This is the way I feel I should eat every night.  Whatever veggies you have laying around you should try this out, feel free to substitute for my list with veggies local to your neck of the woods! 

Melange of Roasted Summer Vegetables with Poached Eggs and Basil Chevre Cream
Serves 3

Olive oil
1 large eggplant, cut into large dice
2 medium zucchini, halved and sliced thickly
1 cup fresh corn kernals
12 crimini mushrooms
2 red bell peppers, cut julienne
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
sea salt to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 cup fresh basil
2 Tbsp fresh oregano
2 Tbsp fresh parsley

Chevre Cream:
3 oz chevre
goat milk (enough to thin)
2 Tbsp fresh basil, minced

Poached eggs:
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 cups water
6 large organic eggs
To roast veggies, preheat oven to 475 degrees, line 2 large baking sheets with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Toss eggplant, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, corn and scallions with just enough oil to coat and spread out on 2 pans.  Roast for about 15 to 20 minutes, until veggies are tender and starting to brown at edges.  Remove from oven.  Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan and add garlic.  Saute for a minute until fragrant, then add balsamic, tomatoes, sea salt, red pepper flakes, and let simmer for 10 minutes.  When other veggies are done roasting add them to the pot, along with the herbs and stir to combine.  Remove from heat and keep warm. 
To poach eggs, heat water to a simmer in a medium saucepan with the vinegar and salt. Crack an egg into a ramakin. Stir water with a spoon to swirl, and carefully pour egg into it. Let cook for 3-4 minutes or preferred doneness, and remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with other eggs.
To make chevre cream, mix chevre with just enough goat milk to make it the consistency of sour cream, then stir in basil.
To plate, spoon the veggie mixture between each of 3 plates dividing evenly, then top each with 2 poached eggs and a little of the chevre cream.  Sprinkle eggs with a little fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper if desired.  Serve!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thai Tofu Lettuce Cups

I am all for simple things for dinner as of lately as it seems like I never have a free moment to just sit.  So last week when I wanted something fast for dinner, I decided that the tofu I had in the fridge was a good option, combined with veggies I simply needed to chop. 

I have seen lettuce wraps on restaurant menus, but they almost always have pork, beef or some other sort of meat...and being vegetarian I would never try them.  But I would try and make some for myself which is exactly what I did with the tofu. 

I combined it with a sweet savory dressing and some local peppers and scallions, then simply wrapped it in lettuce I had bought at the farmer's market.  Super simple, but that is what was needed and it was delicious!  I don't know why I waited until now to try making them! 

I even made a Thai Pineapple Martini to go along with it...and if you are interested the recipe will be on my other blog, Fragrant Vanilla Cake! 

Happy Monday, and hope you all have a wonderful week, even if it may be busy. 

Thai Tofu Lettuce Cups
Serves 2

10 oz tofu, cut into small cubes
1 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp peanut oil

1 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 garlic clove, minced

1 red bell pepper, minced
2 scallions, sliced
6 large leaves of lettuce

To make tofu, preheat oven to 475 degrees, line a sheet pan with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Toss tofu with tamari and peanut oil and spread out on pan.  Roast for about 15 minutes until starting to brown and remove from oven.  Whisk together dressing ingredients.  In a bowl, combine tofu, pepper and scallions and toss with dressing to coat.  To serve spoon tofu mixture into the lettuce leaves and eat taco style. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cucumber Watermelon Salad with Pecorino Romano, Toasted Pine Nuts and Basil

Last weekend my Grandpa brought me over a bag of home grown cucumbers from his garden and I have been enjoying them all week.  There is simply no substitute for growning them yourself, the ones from the store never taste the same!  I love to simply eat them with hummus for a snack, or blend them up into a cold soup, they are so good!  I was given a watermelon yesterday, and so I thought, what better to pair it with than the cool cucumbers! 

It has been hot and humid all week afterall, and I think we are all in need of a bit of cooling from the inside out.  Nothing complicated here, just the cukes and melon, to which I added a bit of fresh basil from my herb garden and some pine nuts and pecorino romano for richness.  Then to top it off I drizzled it with a bit of lemon juice and basil oil I had on hand.  So refreshing!  Simple summer produce at its best!  This is a wonderful combination you can only enjoy at the peak of summer.  Here is the recipe if you would like to try some for yourself!

Cucumber Watermelon Salad with Pecorino Romano, Toasted Pine Nuts and Basil
Serves 3

1 medium organic cucumber, sliced into rings
1 1/2 cup organic watermelon, cut into chunks
3 Tbsp pine nuts
3/4 oz pecorino romano cheese, shaved
a few fresh basil leaves cut into chiffonade

1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp basil oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

On each of 3 plates, arrange cucumber and melon decoratively, sprinkle with pine nuts, pecorino and basil leaves.  In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and basil oil and drizzle over the salads.  Sprinkle with a little sea salt and pepper if desired.