Monday, May 25, 2015

Savoring the Seasons: Avocado and Pineapple Salad

Cool summer salads like this one makes me want to throw open the patio doors, fire up the grill and let the Florida summer months begin! In spite of knowing, I will regret this comment in August when the swamp heat arrives (laugh).

This is a cool summer salad. The fresh flavors, highlights the season and keeps you out of the kitchen and out doing the things you enjoy. Paired with roasted pork? Shut the FRONT DOOR!

There are just a few key ingredients fresh pineapple, avocado and thinly sliced red onion drizzled with a light fresh squeezed citrus vinaigrette-that's it!



Avocado and Pineapple Salad
Serves 10
Recipe from Fine Cooking


Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. fresh orange juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced crosswise
1 habanero chili, seedd and finely chopped
1 large Florida avocado, or  medium Hass avocados, sliced 1/4-inch thick lengthwise, then cut crosswise into halves or thirds
1 small pineapple (about 2-1/2 lb.), peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick

Directions:
Whisk the oil, lime and orange juices, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a medium bowl.  Add the onion and habanero and toss,  Set aside at least 10 minutes and up to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, shingle the pineapple and avocado on very large flat platter or 2 smaller platters.  Using a fork, scoop  the onion slices out of the vinaigrette and scatter them over the avocado and pineapple.  Drizzle the remainng vinaigrette over the entire platter.

Season with a little salt and serve within 1 hour.

Enjoy!

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Casual and Comforting: Farfalle Pasta with Arugula

My boys consider meals that do not include a chunk of meat a snack.  Since our teenager appears to be eating less meals with us these days, I am beginning to shift the focus to easy to prepare "empty nesters" meals.  It won't be too much longer, and it will be just my husband and myself at home. Gone will be the days of trying to find meals to pack in the most carbs, protein and calories into my very active teenage son.  His parents surely do not have a physical need for such food combinations. The attention is shifting to lighter, plant based meal options (eye roll from husband at the mere sound of "plant based").

This easy to prepare pasta dish focuses on flavor packed ingredients such as sun dried tomatoes, arugula, and kalamata olives. Walnuts and beans are added for a good source of healthy proteins, and  the dish finishes off with a generous grating of sharp Asiago cheese.

If you are looking for a good "go to" satisfying casual meal then add this recipe to your file.



Farfalle Pasta with Arugula
Serves 6
Recipe from New Leaf Market

Ingredients:
12-ounces farfalle (bowtie) pasta
4 tablespoons butter, divided
4 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
5-ounces arugula
1/4 cup pitted, chopped kalamata olives
1 cup canned great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 lemon, zest and juice
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 ounces Asiago cheese, shredded

Directions:
Bring large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles until al dente, about 8 minutes.  Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large pot.  Sauté the garlic for 1 minute and add the cooked pasta, sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.  Add arugula and wilt for a few minutes, then add the olives, beans, lemon zest and juice and the remaining butter and stir well.  Remove from heat and season with salt and black pepper.  Stir in Asiago cheese and serve.

Enjoy!
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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Savoring the Season: Peach and Vanilla Cream Panna Cotta

The doors of peach season are on the brink of being thrown wide open.  Florida peaches have already made their debut but the Georgia and South Carolina peaches in May will be when the party really starts.

There is no better way to showcase summer peaches than to prepare this absolutely delightful
panna cotta- literally translated is Italian for "cooked cream" A simple blend of cream, milk and sugar with a texture and flavor similar to custard but with a lighter feel on the palate.  An incredibly easy dessert to prepare that provides a perfect foundation for summer peaches to take front and center.

Fresh summer peaches are chin dripping juicy and it is a crying shame if you don't take advantage of enjoying this fruit when they are in season.


Peach and Vanilla Cream Pan Cotta
Serves 6
Recipe from Imperial Sugar


Ingredients:
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup extra fine sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups peaches, pitted and diced
1/4 cup water

Directions:
1.  Pour milk in a saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over top.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes while the gelatin blooms and forms a wrinkled layer on top of milk.

2.  Over medium-low heat (do not simmer or boil), add sugar and stir.  Once the sugar has completely dissolved, about 5 minutes, whisk in cream and vanilla  until well incorporated.  Remove from heat.

3.  Divide 1 cup of diced peaches between 6 small glasses or large glasses.  Pour the cream over leaving 1-inch of space at the top of the glass.  Transfer glasses to the refrigerator and refrigerate for 3 hours to overnight.

4.  Before serving, combine the remaining peaches, brown sugar and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and allow to simmer until the water has reduced by half and has formed a syrup, about 8 minutes.  Spoon on top of each panna cotta and serve.

Enjoy!

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Weeknight Madness: Pasta Fagioli (Italian Bean and Pasta Soup)

Pasta Fagioli or as it sometimes called Pasta "Fazool" is an Italian style peasant soup which includes two inexpensive ingredients pasta and beans.  You just need to add a few readily available ingredients  and you have a delicious, healthy and satisfying soup.

What I love about this soup is it is forgiving.  A little less of this, a little more of that, it's all good.  A
 key ingredient for complexity and depth of flavor is to add a small piece of Parmesan to the simmering stock (A wedge of Parmesan lasts forever wrapped properly in the refrigerator).

I have made this soup with a variety of ingredients over the years and have never been disappointed. The recipe below is a great foundation for a wonderful soup. Don't hesitate to experiment.  Add a little pancetta, roasted chicken or green it up with spinach or kale.  Either way, you are going to love it.

This is a great weeknight soup easily prepared and served in under 30 minutes. You can prepare a batch for freezing, serving a crowd or enough for a table of two.



Pasta Fagioli
Serves 4


Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3  garlic cloves, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
14-ounces chopped, crushed or pureed tomatoes
1 queart chicken stock
2- 14 ounce cans Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Parmesan rind (optional)
1-1/2 cups small pasta
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions:
Heat olive oil in a medium (6-quart) Dutch oven.  Add onion, celery, and carrots. Cook until almost soft.  Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.  Add basil and oregano.

Add stock: add beans, Parmesan rind, and tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer (about 15 minutes).

Add pasta.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until pasta is al dente (about 10 minutes).

Add a grating of Parmesan cheese to each bowl and chopped parsley.

Serve and enjoy!

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Savoring the Seasons: Hearts of Palm and Avocado Salad

It is time to get more creative with salad! With a few twists and turns combining flavors and textures, you can create a healthy salad to be served alone or as a hearty side dish.

In this salad, hearts of palm takes center stage, and it is best described as similar to white asparagus but tastes of an artichoke.  The heart of palm is the edible stem in a variety of palms grown in the U.S., Costa Rica and Brazil. Hearts of palm are readily available in supermarkets and can be located easily in your canned food aisle.

This is a Brazilian version using lime zest and fresh lime juice blended with a small amount of mayonnaise and oil to provide a creamy citrus dressing for the hearts of palm, cherry tomatoes, avocado and slivers of onions.

If you have not discovered the versatility of the hearts of palm this is a good place to start with this easy to prepare, and delicious salad.


Hearts of Palm and Avocado Salad
Serves 4
Recipe from Food and Wine


Ingredients:
1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 small sweet onion, cut into thin slivers
Two 14-ounce cans hearts of palm, drained and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 Hass avocado, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons canola oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:
In a medium bowl, toss the halved cherry tomatoes with the onion slivers, hearts of palm, avocado and chopped parsley.  In a small bowl, whisk the lime zest and lime juice with the mayonnaise and oil;  season the dressing with salt and pepper.  Pour the dressing over the salad, toss gently and serve right away.

Enjoy!
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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies

Wine and chocolate can be an incredible pairing, together competing for immediate attention.  Eating these cookies is like eating "fudge, a brownie, and a cookie at the same time" and paired with a cabernet or zinfandel is cause for swooning, and an intense in your face experience.

Saturday evening was reserved for Wine Club and Cabernet Sauvignon was the theme.  If you are not familiar with Cabernets they are a full bodied wine with naturally high tannins, which allow this variety to spend time in oak barrels, aging beautifully.  This is a wine that goes better with food, it can be overwhelming on its own.

I have sung the praises for wine and chocolate-it can be easily said a tall glass of cold milk or a couple of cookies neatly packed in a lunch box is also reason for swooning.

These are the ultimate chocolate cookies.


Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies
Makes 36 cookies
Recipe from Allrecipes


Ingredients:
1/2 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup flour
1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon instant-coffee granules
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
1.  Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

2.  Beat butter with brown sugar and white sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then stir in coffee granules and vanilla until well blended.  Stir in melted chocolate.  Add flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.  Cover, and let stand 35 minutes so chocolate can set up.

3.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto prepared sheets, spacing 2-inches apart.

4.  Bake until cookie edges are set but centers are stil very soft. 10-12 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Enjoy!
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Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Warmer Side of Winter: Citrus Chicken Chili

Winter in Florida means there is an abundance of citrus fruits.  There are great ways to add a little zest or juice to your dishes to brighten the color and flavor.  This citrus chili dish is a perfect example.

The twist in this recipe is the broth which includes a variety of peak season citrus juices (lime, orange and lemon).  Garbanzo beans (chick peas) replace the more traditional chili beans.  I am almost hesitant to call it chili because it is brothy and light, not heavy.  The addition of crumbled feta and minced parsley add a pop of color and a hint of saltiness.

A beautiful, so easy, so delicious chili reflecting the elements of a warmer winter climate.



Citrus Chicken Chili
Serves 8
Recipe adapted from Bush Beans

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 teaspoons dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1(16-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 pound chicken, cooked and shredded
4 cups chicken stock
2- 16 -ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine.
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, green pepper, oregano, cumin and chili powder.  Cook 3-4 minutes until vegetables are soft.

Add tomatoes, citrus juices, chicken, stock and beans.  Lower heat; simmer 20-25 minutes.

Serve topped with feta cheese and parsley.

Enjoy!


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