Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day "Pasta" Salad with Sausage and Halloumi

I dropped off my boyfriend at the airport for a business trip and prepped for a small family barbecue celebrating Labor Day. My assignments were easy - some type of hors d'oeuvres and a side. The starter is easy - a triple creme brie, hard salami, crackers and roasted and marcona almonds.

For the side, I did a take on a "pasta" salad with a mix of seeds/grains from Trader Joe's called Harvest Grains Blend with Israeli couscous, red and green orzo, split dried garbanzo beans, and red quinoa. I tossed that with some chopped sweet red peppers, sliced chicken sausage and a tangy vinaigrette - plus the salty and fantastic Halloumi cheese. Delicious and it made TONS so plenty for lunch tomorrow and to send home with my little brother John who is often broke, in college and perpetually starving.

Happy Labor Day all - hope it was a relaxing weekend!

Harvest Grains "Pasta" Salad:
(serves 8-10 as a side dish)

1 bag Trader Joe's Harvest Grains (or use orzo or other pasta)
3.5 c chicken or beef broth
4 large links chicken or turkey sausage
1-2 sweet red peppers, chopped
1 block Halloumi cheese, cubed (approx 4-6 oz)
.5 c chives, snipped
1 tbs Djion mustard
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 c Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or as needed)

Bring broth to a boil. Add grain mix and bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cover and let stand 10 minutes (or less if using pasta). Meanwhile, saute sausage in a bit of olive oil until golden brown and cooked through. Let cool, then slice into half moon pieces.

Meanwhile, chop peppers, Halloumi and chives.

Mix chives, mustard, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar in a deep bowl. Whisk in oil until desired consistency or amount of oil. I used just 1/4 cup.

Once grain mix is done, toss and cool in a large bowl. Once room temperature, toss with dressing, then peppers and sausage. Top with cheese and a bit of reserved chives for garnish. Chill if not serving immediately. Serve at room temperature. Toss well just before serving,

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sweet Summer Pasta with Shrimp, Asparagus, Corn, Tomatoes & Cream

Where do I begin?

Nine days at the beach in Orange County, Calif. for my annual beach vacation? A whirlwind trip to New York City and Los Angeles for media events to launch the soon-to-open resort I work for? Eating out and cooking the same old thing because it's fast and easy? Or, with me being too tired and hungry to take some decent pictures and share my cooking adventures with the world?

The latter is probably the most accurate.

But tonight I am back to cooking (and sharing the results) I picked up the best looking, fresh things at the store and made a sweet and comforting pasta...with leftovers for lunch all week.

Cheers to good cooking on a Monday night!

Sweet Summer Pasta:
(serves 4)

8 oz pasta - I used Mafalda (a skinny lasagna-like noodle)
1/3 lb fresh sweet shrimp (medium is best), deveined and peeled
1 lb asparagus, tips only, stems discarded or saved for another use
1 c sweet fresh corn kernels, scraped from the cob
2 cloves garlic (or to taste, I used 3), minced finely
2 fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and chopped roughly
Olive Oil as needed
Salt and Pepper
1/2 c heavy cream
Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated (if desired)

Bring a large stock pot of water to boil, add ample salt (salty like ocean water - this matters in this recipe because a lot of the ingredients are naturally sweet and you need a balance). Add pasta, stir quickly to prevent sticking.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add approximately 1 tbs olive oil. Saute garlic briefly, then add asparagus. Splash with a bit of pasta cooking water to steam asparagus slightly. Add corn and saute briefly. Salt and pepper.

Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 c cooking liquid. Add shrimp and pasta to skillet. Add pasta cooking water and cream. Simmer on medium heat, tossing, just until sauce is thickened. Add tomatoes and toss briefly. Salt and pepper to taste - add freshly grated Parmesan cheese if desired. Serve immediately with a crisp green salad and a chilled white wine.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Pan-Seared Halibut with Fava Bean Puree

After an amazing, simple and light meal at T Cooks a few months back, combined with a wandering, confused hour at Sprouts (too many great choices!), I arrived at Halibut with Fava beans for a luscious Saturday night dinner.

No, I have not made favas before, and I probably won't make again often. Think homemade tamales, refried beans, raw shrimp with heads and tails, whole lobster and any other crazy-long prep item. Literally, serving 2, I peeled and blanched and peeled favas for about 2 hours. Two whole hours. Consider yourself warned, or order them at a restaurant!! :)

Pan-Seared Halibut with Fava Bean Puree:
(serves 2)

1 lb fresh halibut fillets
Olive Oil as needed
Butter as needed
Salt as needed
Pepper as needed
2 lbs fresh Fava Beans
Water (as needed)

Peel favas from pod, rinse and then boil for 1 minute in boiling salted water. Shock in ice water. Peel from waxy bean pod. Meanwhile, salt and pepper halibut fillet.

Heat 2 pans over medium high heat. Saute fava beans with butter (approx .5 tbs) adding salt and pepper to taste. Puree half cups of favas with water until desired texture and flavor is achieved. Hold on low heat.

Meanwhile, sear halibut until just cooked through, careful not to overcook. Literally 2 minutes per side is about right. Serve halibut over fava puree.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Grilled Lamb Steaks with Heirloom Tomato Salad

Post 5 p.m. today I inherited a great bottle of wine to the tune of over $55 retail, over $150 restaurant/bar price, already open (but quite recently) and 90% full. And most importantly...delicious and well-reviewed!

Immediately I felt tremendous (but positive) pressure to cook something fitting of a wine this good.

2004 Rodney Strong Symmetry - Alexander Valley Red Meritage was the bottle, and at the first sip I was sold. So, to pair, I grilled lamb steaks and served alongside a very refreshing heirloom tomato/basil/citrus salad.

I adore inherited wine, a simple supper and being back to blogging again!

Grilled Leg of Lamb Steaks with Heirloom Tomato Salad:
(serves 2)

2 leg of lamb steaks, 1 lb total (ask your butcher if you can't find this cut)
1 garlic clove
2 tbs fresh chopped rosemary
1 lb grape-sized heirloom tomatoes
2 tbs fresh-squeezed orange juice
10 leaves basil, fresh, julienned (chopped into ribbons)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil as needed

Chop garlic, rosemary, generous pinch of salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil into a paste. Rub on all sides of lamb steaks. Meanwhile, heat grill pan to smoking hot.

At the same time, julienne basil, toss with rinsed tomatoes, salt, pepper, juice of 1/2 an orange and approx .5 tbs olive oil. Set aside.

Grill lamb about 2 minutes per side, remove from heat and let stand on grill pan until desired doneness. Rare or medium rare is recommended for this cut of meat.

Serve with tomato salad and this (or any other) amazing wine!

If you happen to have any wine left over, I highly recommend a deep bath scented with essential oils, candles glowing, Dave Matthews (or your favorite music) blaring, 82% cacao dark chocolate and this wine. Enjoy!!!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Prosciutto Arugula Salad

The weather is warm, swimsuit season is fully upon us here in Arizona, and today I prepped all day for a Mother's Day dinner. But along the way, I needed to eat, and this light salad - which could serve as a first or light main course - was perfect. I also served it as a first course for Brian and I for dinner last night. It's definitely that good.

Smoky, fresh, tangy...delicious!

For my mother's day dinner I served:
* Cheese, crackers, grapes, Sauvignon Blanc
* Giant mixed greens salads with yellow peppers, grape tomatoes, raspberry vinaigrette
* Thai peanut marinated shrimp and chicken skewered and grilled
* French bread and butter
* Vanilla yogurt and fresh strawberry & blueberry parfaits

Happy Mother's Day all!

Prosciutto Arugula Salad:
(serves as many as needed
Sliced prosciutto
Baby arugula
Lemons, halved for juicing
Olive oil (good quality)
Salt & Pepper
Parmesan cheese for shaving over salad

Lay out prosciutto slices on a plate, top with mound of arugula. Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally over top of salad. Drizzle with oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Shave Parmesan cheese over top. Serve.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Easy Vegetarian Chili

It's well into the 80's every day here, so not sure why any kind of chili sounded appealing, but I went with it and loved the results. This is seriously easy, very satisfying, delicious and as a pleasant bonus - healthy!

Easy Vegetarian Chili:
(serves 4)

1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can white beans (drained and rinsed)
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes & juice (no salt added)
3 c corn (fresh or canned/frozen, no sugar or salt added)
12 oz water or beer
1 chipotle chili, roughly chopped
2 tbs chili powder
1 tbs cumin
Salt and pepper to taste (the beans have salt, so you may not need much)
2 tbs (or to taste) hot sauce
Sour cream, greek yogurt, crema, cheese, etc. for serving
Snipped chives for garnish

Combine, heat, simmer until desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Seared Jumbo Scallops with Cauliflower Puree & Grilled Asparagus

I unexpectedly had a long weekend and Brian was out of town...and so I finally cooked something new!

Summer definitely feels here in Arizona - today was in the mid-80's and I spent a few hours at the pool. All those things combined inspired this recipe. It's filled with delicious, light summer flavors, and each serving has about 300 calories - perfect for pool (bikini) weather. And, finally, it was delicious.

Seared Jumbo Scallops with Cauliflower Puree & Grilled Asparagus
(serves 2)

1 lb jumbo sea scallops (about 10)
1 small head cauliflower
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch asparagus
2-4 tbs snipped fresh chives
1/2 c Greek yogurt
1/2 tbs butter
Olive oil spray (or you can brush/drizzle)
Salt and pepper to taste
Seasoning salt

Bring a large stockpot of water to boil. Add chopped cauliflower and whole cloves garlic. Simmer until cauliflower is fork-tender. Drain and remove from heat, mash with a fork until cauliflower and garlic are completely pureed. Add chives and Greek yogurt, stir to incorporate.

Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over medium heat. Spray or drizzle asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill until just done and still crisp.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan, heat butter until foam subsides. Season scallops on both sides with seasoning salt. Place scallops in pan and do not move until they can be moved freely (not sticking at all). Turn over and remove from heat. The heat of the pan will continue to cook until perfect.

To serve, mound approx 1 c cauliflower puree in the center of the plate. Top with asparagus spears, then scallops. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.