Monthly Archives: July 2012

Grilled Corn, Poblano, and Black Bean Salad

I’ve been noticing how few vegetables have been making their way into my kitchen lately so when I went to the store early on Saturday morning, I spent a lot of time in the produce section, picking up zucchini, squash, peppers, oranges, corn, avocado, and tomato amongst others. I’m trying to make a deal with myself that I won’t eat anything unless it has a fruit or veggie in it or with it. Not a bad way to live, I assume. This means that if I splurge on an egg sandwich in the morning, I have to be prepared to bring in a baggie of spinach to put on it or at least pick up a piece of fruit to eat with it. It doesn’t help that I can’t stop watching the Olympics and seeing all of these physically fit athletes are really sending me into a self-loathing spiral. First up is Grilled Corn, Poblano, and Black Bean Salad which is perfect on a summer day.

Fresh Jersey corn, red pepper, poblano pepper, avocado and scallions are all grilled until brown and soft before being tossed with cilantro and black beans. A light coating of freshly squeezed lime juice, olive oil, ground cumin, salt and pepper, round out this light summer salad which truly tastes like summer in a bowl. Don’t have a grill or a grill pan? Just use your broiler instead (a great way to make this recipe year-round). The red peppers and corn are perfectly sweet while the grilled poblano (my latest obsession) gives a subtle kick of heat. The avocado, true to form, provides a slightly creamy element and the ground cumin adds a hint of smoky flavor. I can’t think of another word to describe this vibrant salad other than lovely. Eat this plain or with your favorite grilled burger for a true summertime moment.

The ingredients:

Place green onions, avocado, bell pepper, and poblano on a grill rack coated with cooking spray and preheated on high heat. Grill onions and avocado 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Grill bell pepper 6 minutes on each side or until blackened and peel (put peppers in a plastic storage bag for a few minutes to loosen skin, in necessary). Grill poblano 9 minutes on each side or until blackened and peel.

Brush corn with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and grill corn 12 minutes or until beginning to brown on all sides, turning occasionally.

Cut kernels from ears of corn and place in a large bowl.

Chop onion, bell pepper, and poblano and add to the bowl with corn.

Add remaining olive oil, cilantro, lime juice, ground cumin, salt, black pepper, and black beans to bowl. Toss well.

Cut avocado into thin slices and place on top of salad.

Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions: None

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Cooking Light Magazine

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Summer Squash and Ricotta Galette

Seriously, someone take my television away from me.  I can’t stop watching the Olympics.  Or checking scores online.  Or looking on my iPhone for Ryan Lochte’s latest tweets.  I woke up early on Sunday after staying up until midnight (watching the Olympics, of course) and turned on my television which was showing the Women’s Cycling Road Race.  I’ve never watched a bicycle race in my life because I never cared to, but there I was, sucked right in.  Seriously.  Someone stop me.  After ignoring my growling stomach and caffeine addiction, I finally decided to take a break during volleyball to make Summer Squash and Ricotta Galette, one of the best dishes I’ve ever made, hands down.

Zucchini, summer squash, garlic and olive oil are tossed together and placed over a mixture of ricotta, parmesan cheese, egg, fresh thyme and lemon inside a buttery pie crust.  After baking and slightly cooled, fresh basil leaves tops the dish to add yet another fresh element.  I used a store-bought pie crust as opposed to making my own dough as shown in the recipe, simply because my food processor is broken and I’ll take a short-cut when I can anyway.  Not to mention that I would probably eat dirt and dandelions if it was served inside a pie crust.  Don’t judge.  The pie crust is flaky, the ricotta perfectly lemony, and the vegetables tender and sweet.  Using this ricotta mixture, I plan on making this again and again, using whatever veggies and herbs I have on hand.  Broccoli, spinach, red pepper, asparagus and/or tomato would also make an excellent galette.  The problem with this dish is that it’s hard to just eat one wedge because it really is so good.  It deserves a gold medal.  Sorry, I had to, you know I’m cheesy.  And yes, Ryan Lochte, I now consider myself a Lochtenator.

If you like this, also check out Rustic Summer Squash Tart.

The ingredients:

Combine olive oil, zucchini, squash, and garlic in a large bowl.

Stir together ricotta, parmesan cheese, thyme, lemon zest, lemon juice, black pepper and egg in a medium bowl.

Place pie crust dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Spread ricotta mixture over dough, leaving a 2-inch border.

Arrange zucchini and squash slices alternately, slightly overlapping, in a circular pattern over ricotta mixture. Sprinkle zucchini and squash with salt.

Fold edges of dough toward center, pressing gently to seal.  In a small bowl, whisk together 1 teaspoon water and egg white and brush mixture over dough edges.  Bake in a 400°F oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes and sprinkle with basil.  Cool an additional 15 minutes.  Cut into 6 wedges.

Additions:  None

Omissions:

  • Flour
  • Baking Powder

Substitutions:

  • Refrigerated pie crust dough
  • Shredded parmesan cheese

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Cooking Light Magazine

Summer Salad with White Wine Vinaigrette

Sometimes you just need a salad. After my birthday celebration this past weekend that lasted a day longer than we all anticipated, I need several salads. And several more after that. My problem is: I. just. don’t. like. salad. I do like salads at restaurants that have bad stuff, like crispy chicken, fatty dressing, tons of cheese and nary a vegetable anywhere. You know. The ones nutritionists and dietitians tell you in magazines that you should never order? Fortunately, the building where I work not only has a cafe with a large salad bar, but one floor up from that is another salad spot where you can have someone make one for you. Unfortunately, I hate those salads. I don’t know if it’s the dressing, the lack of options or what, but each time I get one of these salads, I’m miserable and disappointed. I have figured out though, I like salads I make myself, where I control the ingredients and only put in what I know I like. And I since I don’t really like bottled dressing, I like simple vinaigrettes where I can control the fat and the flavor. So after work last night, I stopped at the store and started filling my basket with both fruits and veggies that I knew would not only be tasty but would also take advantage of summer’s colorful (and local!) produce. Hence, the homemade Summer Salad with White Wine Vinaigrette.

A simple butter lettuce/red leaf lettuce combination is topped with Jersey plum tomatoes, baby carrots, avocado, red pepper, mango, and toasted almonds before being drizzled with a vinaigrette of white wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. The almonds, carrots and red pepper give a yummy crunch while the avocado provides a creamy texture. And the mango…oh the mango. Some people don’t like fruit in their salads but I think nothing is better. The slightest bit of sweetness in the mango mixes so well with the other produce and gives this salad the perfect ending note. The vinaigrette is simple and light and especially good with a dash or two of garlic powder. Use any vinegar you like and as little or as much oil as you prefer. This salad didn’t leave me feeling unsatisfied or unhappy. It’s one salad I can definitely get behind!

Summer Salad with White Wine Vinaigrette (makes 2 servings)

  • 4 cups salad greens (your preferred choice)
  • 1 or 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup baby carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 avocado, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 mango, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted (or any preferred nut)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)

Combine extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinaigrette, salt, pepper, and garlic powder (if using) in a jar or bowl. Shake or whisk to combine. Divide lettuce between two plates, and top with even amounts of tomato, carrot, red pepper, avocado and mango. Top each plate with one tablespoon of toasted almonds. Drizzle each plate with dressing, using as little or as much as you like. Finish with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

Combine extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinaigrette, salt, pepper, and garlic powder (if using) in a jar or bowl. Shake or whisk to combine.

Divide lettuce between two plates, and top with even amounts of tomato, carrot, red pepper, avocado and mango.

Top each plate with one tablespoon of toasted almonds and drizzle each plate with dressing, using as little or as much as you like.

Finish with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

Crab Cakes with Spicy Mustard Sauce

I’ve never been a shell-fish person but once I started eating meat again after being a vegetarian, I kept trying crab cakes thinking I would learn to like them.  But I always found them too fishy.  Then three summers ago, I attended War By The Shore, an annual boiled-crab-versus-steamed-crab battle held by two friends (one from Mississippi, one from Maryland – see more details about the battle here) where a side crab cake battle took place.  Plates of crab cakes ended up on every table at every corner and I tried cake after cake.  After that fun-filled day three Junes ago, I officially became a crab cake person and now it’s something that I order often when I’m at a restaurant.  I’ve been tucking away different crab cake recipe and tossed away any fear I had of making my own in order to make these Crab Cakes with Spicy Mustard Sauce.

Crab meat is tossed with panko, red pepper, scallions, a little mayonnaise and eggs and shaped into patties before being dredged in a light layer of additional panko.  They are then fried in a pan with the teeniest bit of oil until golden brown and warmed through.  The sauce is both light and spicy and provides a nice creamy element to these crab cakes.  I used whole-wheat panko which worked out fine but I think regular would have turned out better.  I also think using two whole eggs instead of one egg and one egg white might have made the crab meat stay together better.  The pan gets really hot so I suggest keeping the heat closer to medium than medium-high.  Only about 2 or 3 of my finished crab cakes looked presentable because the rest either fell apart or I nearly burned them.  And I was so concerned about making sure my smoke alarm didn’t go off from all of the smoke from the pan that I didn’t get a picture of the cakes cooking.  Oh well, you get the gist.  Regardless, I ate every single one of these cakes for lunch and dinner over a couple of days.  I loved them.  They are light on the filler, just the way you want crab cakes to be.  I’m so glad I’m a crab cake fan now…but I’ve got a long way to go before I start handling crab legs!!

The ingredients:

Combine red pepper, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, scallions and eggs in a large bowl.

Add 1/3 cup panko and crab; toss gently.

Divide crab mixture into 8 equal portions; shape each into a 3/4-inch-thick patty. Place remaining panko in a shallow dish. Gently dredge patties in panko.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add half of the oil to the pan and add 4 crab cakes to pan.  Cook 4 minutes on each side. Remove from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining oil and crab cakes.

Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, Dijon, white wine vinegar and cayenne pepper in a small bowl.

Serve sauce with crab cakes.

Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:

  • Whole-wheat panko
  • Light mayonnaise

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Cooking Light Magazine

S’mores Sea Salt Martini

I’m a birthday girl.  Meaning I love my birthday.  Not only is it the one day of the year where I can truly do whatever I want without any outside influence from anyone else, but I also get to celebrate another year of my life.  I’ve never been one to moan and groan about my age.  It is what it is and I can’t do anything about it.  Rather than be sad or depressed that I’m yet another year older, instead I look at it as I’m a year younger than I’ll be next year!  Some people don’t like a big fuss about their birthdays and that’s fine.  And honestly, I don’t like a lot of fuss about mine either – I just like to celebrate it.  When my birthday falls on a weekday, I always take the day off.  Period.  My boss makes fun of me, saying he doesn’t know anyone who likes their birthday as much as I do but the reality is that I just know that working is the last thing on Earth that I want to do.  Even if I have no other plans, you won’t see me at work.  My birthday is this Sunday so since I’m already off, I’m taking a nice long weekend.  I’m heading to the beach today and then heading to Baltimore with my girl friends tomorrow just to get out of Dodge for a while and let off some steam.  And I’m planning on taking these S’mores Sea Salt Martinis with me.

S’mores flavored vodka is mixed with half-and-half and served in a chocolate-sea salt rimmed martini glass.  I’m a big fan of Three Olives Vodka so when I saw the S’more flavored bottle, I didn’t know whether to be excited or frightened.  But I went for it because if I were on a deserted island, I would want to have s’mores with me.  So why not a s’mores cocktail too?  This cocktail is good but I think I’m going to experiment with it a bit.  I’d probably omit the salt, mix chocolate syrup in with the half-and-half, and maybe add in some Baileys or chocolate liqueur.  There are all kinds of possibilites with this.

Anyway, having your birthday in the middle of the summer could be a real bummer as a kid.  For people whose birthdays fell during the school year, I got to watch as they had their lockers decorated, cookies were brought in, and people chimed “Happy Birthday!” as they passed in the hall between classes.  Not only that, but if they had a party planned for the weekend, it became all everyone talked about on Friday at school.  When your birthday is in the summer, you don’t get any of that (although a co-worker made me brownies and decorated my office with streamers yesterday).  On the bright side, I never had to go to school and I always got to go to the pool.  So there.  My mom always made my birthdays special so they are still special to me.  She doesn’t get anymore birthdays so I will celebrate each and every one of mine for as long as I can.  Now as an adult, around where I live, everyone disappears for the shore in the summer.  So it’s kind of like being a kid all over again.  But that’s ok, I’m used to it.  Later on today, I’ll be at the shore too.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

The ingredients:

Dip the rim of martini glass in chocolate syrup and coat with sea salt. Drizzle the chocolate syrup inside the martini glass.

Pour vodka and half and half into a martini shaker filled with ice.

Shake and strain into martini glasses.

Garnish with toasted marshmallows if you prefer.

Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:

  • Fat-free half and half

Overall Rating:  Like It

Source:  Three Olives website

Green Beans with Honey-Mustard Glaze

I love the produce section at the store in the summer because seeing bin after bin of $0.25 summer fruit and vegetables gets me slightly giddy.  And even better, the produce is usually locally grown.  I live in New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia, and in the summers, markets and farm stands go crazy with tons of locally grown produce that you just can’t beat.  Signs everywhere scream “Jersey Tomatoes!” or “Jersey Corn!”  I bypassed both of these this weekend and instead headed for some locally grown green beans which I scooped up by the handful.  I didn’t really have anything particular in mind when I bought these so I can home, scanned my recipes and made Green Beans with Honey-Mustard Glaze.

Fresh green beans are boiled until bright green, cooled, and tossed in a simple glaze of honey, rice vinegar and mustard seeds.  The result was perfectly cooked sweet and tangy green beans.  I have to admit though, as I was making this glaze, I thought Why in the world did I want to make this recipe?  Smothering a vegetable in sticky honey isn’t really the most healthy way to eat, right?  I ended up only using about a third (if not less) of the glaze on these beans (because either I didn’t make enough green beans or too much glaze was made) and actually, they were tasty.  But I was still disappointed, mostly in myself.  This is a typical case of me being too busy worrying about if I liked the ingredients in a recipe, rather than if I would like the end product.   I like honey in my tea and on my biscuits.  Not my vegetables.  And especially not my locally grown vegetables.  Consider my wrist slapped.

The ingredients:

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil and drop in the green beans.  Cook uncovered for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender but still crisp. Drain.

Dry the saucepan and return it to the stove.  Toast the mustard seeds over low heat just until they pop, about 1 minute, stirring to prevent scorching.

Add the honey and vinegar and cook until the sauce boils and becomes syrupy.

Add the green beans and toss.

Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  So-So

Source:  Real Simple Magazine

Garlic and Herb Oven Fries

When it comes to potatoes, I can take them or leave them.  Really.  I do love a good, creamy, buttery mashed potato from time to time but it’s not something I crave.  However, when it comes to French fries, that’s a whole other story.  I can eat French fries any day, any time, every day, every meal.  I’m obsessed.  Shoestring fries, curly fries, wedge fries, sweet potato fries, with or without Old Bay, plain or with cheese, whatever!  I love them.  So, considering they are truly one of my most favorite foods on this Earth (along with Reese’s peanut butter cups and s’mores), it’s a wonder that I’ve never attempted to actually make them myself.  I figured, now is as good a time as any.  The result was these Garlic and Herb Oven Fries.

Plain baking potatoes are cut into matchsticks and baked in the oven with nothing but a little canola oil.  After baking, they are tossed with melted butter, garlic and fresh parsley.  Easy peasy.  The longest part of this process is cutting the potatoes into fries.  Be patient.  I put the matchstick potatoes in a bowl of water to keep them fresh as I cut the rest.  I also recommend spraying the pan with non-stick spray because despite the canola oil, many of my fries still stuck.  And while these fries aren’t crispy the way restaurant fries are (duh, because they aren’t fried), I still devoured these.  Like I said, I love fries.  Even bad fries.  Not that these were bad.  If you are going to make fries at home, this is a good way to go.  But if it’s faster or you prefer to order fries in, do it.  I won’t judge.  I know what it means to have a fry fix.

The ingredients:

Preheat a roasting pan and oven to 450°F.  Peel potatoes and cut potatoes into 1/4-inch matchsticks and toss with canola oil.

Arrange potato sticks in pan (in a single layer if possible) and bake at 450°F for 5 minutes.  Turn oven to broil and broil for 20 minutes or until browned, turning once.

Melt ­butter in a skillet and add minced garlic, sautéing for 30 seconds.

Add fries to butter-garlic mixture and cook for 1 minute.

Toss with chopped parsley, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Like It

Source:  Cooking Light Magazine

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