Monday, August 30, 2010

8/14/10 - Weekend Breakfast...bacon, egg and cheese

Living in the city, there is pretty much a deli on every corner selling the ubiquitous breakfast hang over cure - a greasy bacon, egg and cheese. If you had a bit too much to drink the night before sometimes the only way to make it through the day is by coating your oh so sensitive tummy in this heart attack in a bulkie roll. While this homemade version probably isn't any healthier for you, I have upgraded the ingredients to at least give it a hint of class.

The only way to make this is to just go for it - any low fat or "healthy" versions will just leave you wishing for the real thing. Plus after tossing back a dozen or so tequila shots just a few short hours ago why even pretend to be healthy? While I have to admit that though I have lived in NJ for 4 years now I am still not familiar with the pork roll (aka taylor ham) version of this breakfast treat, thick sliced bacon is hands down my meat of choice. I added some nice local NY state sharp cheddar as my base on a Nature's Pride Country White Roll* and topped it all off with 2 farm fresh fried eggs. For condiments, I went with some fresh herbs (chives, thyme and parsley) from my window box (remember this is the city still! we don't have gardens here) and some spicy ketchup... however a fresh Jersey tomato slice would also be right at home here as well.
Serve it with a nice tall ice cold bloody mary if you need a little "medicine" to get you going or a steamy hot cup of coffee.

*As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker's program I receieved samples of this product.

Friday, August 27, 2010

8/18/10 - Fish Simply Two Ways

The summer is the best time to eat simply. When its cold, I love spending hours in the kitchen coming up with some exotic combination. But when farms all over the state of New Jersey are working hard to provide me exquisitely ripe and juicy produce, I go with it. In my last post, I took a look at one of my favorite parts of the summer months - fresh tomatoes. Growing up my whole life, I was lucky to have grandfathers who kept amazing gardens. Summer was always filled with zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, arugala (long before I knew anything about rocket or fancy mixed baby greens) and tons of basil - everything a good Italian kitchen could need.

The top dish pictured is a fresh salsa served over pan seared swordfish with a cajun rub. I accompanied the dish with a side of wilted swiss chard and red onion.
The dish below was a one skillet meal. While I usually make this dish in the oven, the temperatures outside had me looking for another option. First, I sauteed the vegetables (peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli)  and then removed them from the pan. I added the haddock and once it was ready to flip (3-5 min), I returned the vegetables to the pan. I topped the fish with the tomatoes and covered the pan to allow it to heat through (5 min).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

8/17/10 - Fresh Salsa

It's amazing how many uses I have for some nice delicious salsa.... this one bowl ended up in 2 dinners, a lunch and there was still a few nacho's full left over! A friend recently asked me what to do with an overflow of mangoes (she is living in sunny, beautiful Hawaii) and my first thought was SALSA! Dress it up in a wonton cup as a fancy hors'doeuvres or smother it in cheese for the big game...either way its a hit! The biggest secret to fresh salsa is dicing all the ingredients up nice and fine so that there is a lot of surface area for all the flavors to mingle together. Also salsa is always better when it is made in advance and it has time to rest and let all of the juices blend together.

This is a very basic salsa made with nice ripe jersey tomatoes, however you can feel free to add most fruits to a salsa as well - mango, peach, strawberries all work well!

3 plum (or roma) tomatoes - diced
1/2 red onions - diced
1 bunch cilantro - leaves only diced
1/3 green pepper- diced
1 jalapeno - diced (seeds removed) 
juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper
2 garlic cloves - smashed & diced

1) combine all ingredients together and refrigerate overnight

Thursday, August 19, 2010

8/13/10 - Seafood Extravaganza

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend who lives near a great seafood market. He is so lucky to have delicious fish straight off the boat at a great market with helpful service. We decided to have a fun little dinner where he would bring some thing fresh from the market and I would see what I could come up with. He was kind enough to call when he was at the store so I had a little advance notice - we were having a red snapper that he bought whole but had them fillet and some calamari. I was tempted by the idea of soft-shell crab earlier in the week so I had to stop by the store to grab a few of those as well.

I was really excited to cook with the red snapper since it was new to me and I have seen so many great recipes with the whole fish (though a check of the Seafoood Watch list made me feel bad! I know why I have never used it). We weren't really ready for a whole fish just yet but the fillets worked out perfectly. I decided to go for a marinade with lime, cilantro and garlic and then I baked it. Before marinading the fillet, I attempted to remove some of the bones but it was pretty difficult and was a bit messy so I abandoned that quickly - any tips besides just going at them with pliers should I get this or another similar fish? 
Keep reading for more info and the recipe!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

8/12/10 - Tomato Basil Quinoa stuffed 8 ball Zucchini

These cute little mini zucchini were calling me from the farmer's market table. Like so many others, I couldn't help but imagine them hollowed out and stuffed - the perfect little vessel. I knew that Jeremy wouldn't be interested in zucchini no matter the shape so I decided to have a girl's veggie night with my friend, Tova. Each 8 ball was the perfect size for a single serving for each of us along with a nice big salad. I was having trouble decided exactly what direction to go with my stuffing but once I starting peaking around I found a recipe using basil.... hmmm guess who just got another big bag of basil from the CSA? Since I didn't have any sun-dried tomatoes I had to go with a little splash of sauce but I think I might have to try recipe as written some time (though going with out some cheese when baking something just seems wrong!)

This stuffing can be used for a variety of veggies including eggplant and peppers. Since quinoa is a complete protein it makes for a great meal for vegetarians. When stuffing the 8 ball zucchini it is best to first hollow them out using a spoon (cut off the top first) and steaming it for a few minutes (I placed mine upside down in about 1" of water in a covered wok pan). After softened fill with the quinoa mixture and top with some shredded cheese. Place in the broiler for 2-5 minutes or until cheese is bubbling. You can also add a soft cheese like feta or goat to the stuffing before broiling.

Monday, August 9, 2010

7/24/10 - Another Chopped Caprese Salad

When I saw this salad last summer on Smitten Kitchen's page I knew I would be weak against it. My favorite flavors combined and diced into bite size little cubes for easy consumption? I made a version souped up with some baby arugala and pancetta. This time I kept it simple (and vegetarian friendly) and it still was delicious. The perfect afternoon snack to tide us over from brunch to a late dinner with friend or a great start to a "bruscetta bar" served with garlic bread rounds to entice your guests. 

This easy salad is a combo of fresh mozzarella, drained and rinsed canellini beans, diced fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, diced garlic, salt & pepper, EV olive oil and a small splash of balsamic vinegar.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Guest Post: Stef's Wedding Cake by Ruthie

Hi there readers - this past weekend I was attending my cousin Stefanie's wedding and was able to spend some time with her friend Ruthie, who made her wedding cake (and a bunch of mini-pies!). Coincidentally, Ruthie actually only lives a few blocks away from me.... but we had to drive about 8 hours north to finally meet one other! Ruthie was kind enough to do a guest post about her experience making a wedding cake and with out further ado.... here is what she had to say! (Oh and for the record not only was the cake delicious..... but I had 2 pies!)

Thank you for letting me guest blog.  I am not a big reader or a writer, but I definitely follow a few food blogs. I am, however, a "big" baker (read: I love it). A bit of a background on me, perhaps? I love to bake but with an almost-nine-month old at home and a full time job, I often struggle to to find the time to bake. I never was a great cook, mostly due to the fact that I never spent the time playing around trying things out in the kitchen when I was young.  My mother and older sister did it all while growing up, and now I'm lucky enough that my husband does the majority of the cooking.  When I do throw something together,  I find myself "baking" my dinners so quiches and roasting are popular.  I basically can sum it up with being much more comfortable with the oven than the stove top.
Keep reading for info on the wedding cake!

Monday, August 2, 2010

7/22/10 - Lamb Chops

I really love the taste of lamb but the price usually has me looking for alternatives. Earlier this year I splurged on some Frenched baby lamb chops.... and boy were they delicious! This week we were expecting company again and some how I had nothing ready so a quick run to the store was in order. I was pleasantly surprised to see that lamb loin chops were on sale for a very reasonable $5.99/lb while they weren't exactly like the ones from Whole Foods I didn't mind paying 50% of the price! Only Lamb rib chops are "Frenched" (which means cutting away the meat as to expose the bone) so they didn't have the lovely little 'handle' instead they were more like a little miniature T-bone! But either way I found them to be very good.

Again all I did was a simple seasoning with a bit of "steak seasoning" (salt, pepper, garlic, dill, crushed red pepper) that I have in a grinder and seared them on a hot grill pan for about 3-5 min per side. I served them with an ancient grain mix from Trader Joe's which is my fast easy go-to when company unexpectedly arrives. I also made a veggie mix (not pictured) of sauteed zucchini, onion, pepper, mushrooms, new zealand spinach, and some diced tomatoes in some garlic seasoned with salt & pepper.