Thursday, August 30, 2007

Shrimp and Celery Salad

I made this salad specifically for us to take to work for lunch. And we did. However.

Once made, what happened is this: I daydreamed about parties. I'm not sure why, and maybe it's just me, or maybe it was just the parties I went to, but shrimp, celery, and curry powder in combination = party to me. Much in the same way pizza combos = the pool. And with the combo association, I have a hard time eating them at any other point.. they were just the go-to snack.

Could also be that my grandma was in both the neighborhood sewing and gardening clubs, so we always had old ladies over... maybe thats what old ladies eat at get-togethers? :)

Whatever my taste memories mean, this salad was super easy to make, and I can see it also being tasty in a nice roll, in a lettuce wrap, in a croissant... and super excellent for a PARTY!

One piece of advice... don't use all the sauce like I did. Or use extra shrimp. I found the mix to be a bit gloppy.

I will say, too, that this maybe didn't feel very much like an actual meal, so its good I had it for lunch. I think I would have then been on the hunt for second dinner.

Shrimp and Celery Salad
From: The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook: 200 Delicious Recipes Ready in 30 Minutes or Less

½ cup reduced-fat sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1 ½ teaspoons curry powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ pounds peeled, deveined, and cooked medium fresh or frozen shrimp (thaw if frozen)
4 large celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced

Whisk together sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice, lime zest, curry powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add shrimp, celery, and cucumber, toss gently to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 4 (1 ½ cup) servings.

Per serving: 330 cals, 17 g fat, 4.5 sat fat, 37 g protein, 6 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 670 mg sodium

See the recipe...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Gazpacho (Chilled Heirloom Tomato and Cucumber Soup with Avocado)

My goodness, its hard to come back from vacation! Inertia really took hold, let me tell you! All of that laying by the pool! ;)

We weren't very consistent with our picture taking, and even then, it was all done on our cell phones... so once we're able to transfer those around, I'll share what we did photograph! I cannot wait to gush! :)

I do want to say this one little thing, though. I still cannot get over the iced tea my husband ordered at San Marco. Not specifically because of the tea, mind you. My joy stems from the fact that rather than bring him sugar or sugar substitute, they brought a little glass of simple syrup - and more with each refill! Beside myself, I tell you!

Now, on to the soup!

We'd received a TON of tomatoes in our CSA before we left for Vegas. Which is nice, because now that we've gotten so much water, the tomatoes are splitting and rotting on the vine... which means less tomatoes each week... so I'm glad we got them in while we could!

I had never skinned a tomato before... Until now, whenever I needed whole tomatoes, for a sauce or something, I always bought canned. I decided that it was time to learn, so that I could make this dreamy gazpacho with our lovely farm veggies! I am happy to report that it isn't the least bit tricky. Messy, absolutely - but that is half the fun!!!

All the veggies blended together nicely, and I love love love that I was able to slip so many vegetables into this soup. It was so so fresh and lively, delicate and simple. I highly recommend it. I am already planning my coup at the farmer's market - I'll take all the tomatoes they have! And I'll fight you for 'em!

I'm really loving my blender, too. So what if it sounds like a lawn-mower at higher speeds?

Gazpacho (Chilled Heirloom Tomato and Cucumber Soup with Avocado)
From Dona Tomas: Discovering Authentic Mexican Cooking

1 large English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
About 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
4 pounds heirloom tomatoes
½ white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 small jalapeno chile, stemmed and coarsely chopped
2 avocados, cut into ¾ inch dice, for garnish
½ bunch cilantro, stemmed and chopped, for garnish

Place the cucumber in a blender and puree on a low speed until a coarse consistency is achieved. Add the vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pulse 2 to 3 times to incorporate. Pour into a serving bowl and set aside.

Place a saucepan filled about halfway with water over high heat and bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Stem the tomatoes and slash an X into the skin at the bottoms. Submerge the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skins, drain, and immediately plunge into the ice bath. Drain again, then peel off the skins. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and squeeze the tomatoes into the strainer, using your fingers to extract as many of the seeds as possible. The goal is to remove and discard the seeds while reserving the precious juice in the bowl.

Working in batches if necessary, transfer the tomatoes and their juice and the onion, garlic, and jalapeno to a blender. Puree on high speed until liquefied and smooth. Pour into the bowl with the cucumber puree, stir well, and adjust the seasoning with salt if necessary (cold soups will often need more salt than hot soups).

Cover and place the soup in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, until well chilled. Ladle into chilled bowls and garnish with the avocado and cilantro. This soup can be refrigerated in a plastic container for up to 2 to 3 days, but is best enjoyed within 24 hours of preparation.

See the recipe...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Easy Summer Chicken Chili

I had big plans for today. I was going to spend hours (well, maybe not hours) updating the blog here, to give you things to read while we go on vacation (flight in 5 hours), but then I blew up my back yesterday (doing chores, no less) and then Squito got sick, so both he and I went to the doctor today. The vet kept him (thought it better to board him while we were gone) and I went to the pharmacy and took a nap! Now I have to go figure out what to make with all my remaining veggies and pack! Yikes! We'll be back Sunday, so I'll blog my heart out when I return. While I've never actually taken photos of what we've had at restaurants, I might try, since we're going to eat like eating is out of style in Vegas. I mean, its Vegas. ;)

To tide you over, I give you this ridiculously easy south beach diet chili recipe. Its been a little while since we had it, but I remember that it was tremendously satisfying, and it made for a really great lunch the next day. The cumin and chili powers added nice smokiness and depth.
I'd been concerned about the low volume of added liquids, but it turned out just fine. I loved all the vegetables, and I loved the big chunks of chicken - and going forward, I might just try to make ANY chili chunkier.

That, and it was a one-pot meal and you really can't beat that!!

Anyway, see you guys in a week!

Easy Summer Chicken Chili
From The South Beach Diet Taste of Summer Cookbook

1 small avocado
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 medium jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (15 ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with juices
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes

In a small bowl, gently stir together avocado, lime juice, and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt.

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, zucchini, jalapeno, chili powder, and cumin; stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have begun to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth, beans, and tomatoes and their juices; bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add chicken and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Return to a simmer and cook until chicken is cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Divide chili among 4 bowls, top with avocado, and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 380 cals, 12 g fat, 2 g sat fat, 36 g protein, 33 g carbs, 10 g fiber, 560 mg salt

See the recipe...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Creamy Lemon-Vanilla Ricotta Soufflés

OMG, I need a set of ramekins! I totally wasn't thinking, and made these cute little souffles in a giant muffin tin - and when it came time to eat them.... omg! I need ramekins! Dave and I stood there and blinked at each other with "what now?" looks on our faces! Its a good thing we aren't fussy, because we huddled together over the tin with our spoons and ate right out of it! (It was actually pretty cute!)

One of the non-food things I miss during our SBD phase is baking desserts. I might only bake once a week, or every other week, but I miss knowing that I could whip up a batch of brownies or cookies or more of that Winning Hearts and Minds cake just because I felt like it. Its even harder with all of the tasty sweets you guys have been cooking up lately! Know that I have a full file folder full of them, so that when I'm free, I can bake up a storm! (My new work people had better watch out!) :)

These souffles were light and dainty and very refreshing. While I really dug them as they were, I imagined them being even better with a nice sauce! On top of that, the flavoring was so easy, I think I'm going to try to fiddle with it, to give us some souffle dessert options.

I'll keep you posted! In the meantime - do you guys have any flavoring suggestions?

Creamy Lemon-Vanilla Ricotta Soufflés
The South Beach Diet Taste of Summer Cookbook

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons granular sugar substitute
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon lemon extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly coat 4 (4 ounce) ramekins with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk ricotta, egg yolks, 1 tablespoon of the sugar substitute, lemon zest, lemon extract, and vanilla until combined.

In another large bowl, with an electric mixer at high speed, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar substitute and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold a third of the egg whites into ricotta mixture until combined. Repeat with remaining egg whites.

Spoon ricotta mixture into prepared ramekins and bake until soufflés have risen and are set and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 (1/2 cup) servings.

Per serving: 130 cals, 7 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 10 g protein, 5 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 180 mg sodium

See the recipe...

Steamed Halibut with Bell Pepper and Summer Squash

I'll admit it, I'd never steamed fish before. Much less steamed it AND the veggies all in the same pot!

If you've had a long day, and you neither want much prep OR many dishes to clean, this healthy, easy meal is for you. Chop a couple of veggies, mix the sauce, get your steam on and bam! dinner. (No Emeril's Essence required!)

Of all the fish/squash dinners we've had lately, this might be my favorite. The lemon-Dijon sauce was to die for and I generally find easily prepared dinners to be tastier. You know its true... my interest in actually eating the meal is inversely proportionate to how difficult it was to prepare... (or however that goes)... I find I'm either too tired, hot, or annoyed at it to eat it. This is probably why I break meals into as many prepare-ahead stages as I can.. so that I'm charged and ready to dig in!

My point with that was - this was easy and extra delicious because of it! Whew!

Steamed Halibut with Bell Pepper and Summer Squash
From: The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook: 200 Delicious Recipes Ready in 30 Minutes or Less

4 (6 ounce) halibut fillets, about ¾ inch thick)
1 orange bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/8 inch, half-moon slices
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fill bottom part of a steamer with 1 inch of water; bring to a boil.

Season fish with salt and pepper and arrange in the steamer basket. Reduce to a rapid simmer, and cover with a lid. After fish has steamed for 3 minutes, arrange bell pepper and squash on top and around fish. Steam until fish is opaque and vegetables are tender, for a total of 6 to 8 minutes.

While fish and vegetables are cooking, whisk together oil, lemon juice, and mustard; add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Serve fish and vegetables hot, spooning sauce over the top.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 270 cals, 11 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 36 g protein, 4 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 190 mg sodium

See the recipe...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Asian Turkey Meatballs in Lettuce Cups

My husband is in love with this diet - not just because he's lost a couple of pounds, but because most of these recipes have a sauce of some kind, and he L-O-V-E-S sauce. Can he dip it? Spoon it on top? Bathe in it? Sure! Have some! He used to pick on me for accidentally buying some sauce (fish or soy, usually) when we already had some, but now I think he'll back off, knowing that the more bottles of something I have, the more sauce I can make him! :)

I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but this was yet another wonderfully easy-to-prepare, and flavorful dinner. Again. We personally dig the lettuce cups/wraps, because we get the involvement of putting it all together AND we can pretend we're having tacos. Woo!

Right, back to the point. These were good! I think I added too much juicy stuff to the meat, because the balls were a little squishy to start, but they browned up nicely. I will re-mention the tasty sauce, because, well, it was tasty! I highly suggest using lettuce that's friendly and pliable and not iceberg. I recently made the switch to Boston, and its dreamy. I've decided, to continue on the taco theme here, that iceberg is like crunchy tacos and Boston is like soft. So.. if you have your own preference, use it!

O, I also skipped the mint leaves. I knew I'd purchased them, but they were jammed in the way back of the crisper and couldn't find them... So I assumed I'd forgotten them... even though I was pretty sure they were in there... anyway... Yah. Now I'll have to find something to use the mint leaves on.

Asian Turkey Meatballs in Lettuce Cups
From: The South Beach Diet Taste of Summer Cookbook

1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Pinch red pepper flakes

1 pound ground turkey breast
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
12 large Boston lettuce leaves
1 small cucumber, cut into matchsticks
1 cup mint leaves

For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together fish sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and pepper flakes; set aside at room temperature.

For the meatballs: In a large bowl, stir together turkey, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, vinegar, and soy sauce. Form mixture into 24 (2 inch) meatballs.

Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Add meatballs in two batches and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes for each batch.

Lay 3 lettuce leaves on each of 4 plates. Place 2 meatballs on top of each leaf. Top meatballs with cucumber and mint leaves, drizzle with dressing, and serve.

Makes 4 (6 meatball) servings.

Per serving: 180 cals, 6 g fat, 0.5 sat fat, 30 g protein, 4 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 480 mg sodium

See the recipe...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Italian-Style Tofu Bake

Italian-style tofu what? It might not look like much, but it made me really happy. I have had pizza on the brain for the better part of a week, and while this wasn't a perfect match, it was pretty close. And close in a really useful way. You know how you have a craving for M&M's, but you try to be good and have an apple instead? And then maybe you have some baked lays? But deep down, you still really want those M&M's, and eventually you get them, and you're satisfied, but now you've ALSO had the apple and chips? Yah, this dinner was like that, except it kinda worked. (Next time I make it, though, I'm going to follow the Hubs' suggestion and add sausage or pepperoni and maybe a little tomato sauce).

Whoa. What all that meant was: this was a light, healthy dinner masquerading as pizza (or lasagna maybe?), and I'm okay with that. I think it has a lot of potential - lots of different ways to mix and match, according to your tastes and state of mind. Want sausage? Or maybe mushrooms? No? Green pepper maybe more your style? Add it!

Worth noting - make sure you press the tofu slices between paper towels before you line the baking dish with them (or really, press them out before you do anything with tofu). A lot of liquid comes out, and it will lead to a nicer textured tofu (less squishy)(unless you like that).

O! I also used some fresh basil on top, rather than dried, and I used smoked sun-dried tomatoes and smoked mozz... added nice depth.

Italian-Style Tofu Bake
From: The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook: 200 Delicious Recipes Ready in 30 Minutes or Less

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 ounces fresh spinach, thick stems trimmed (5 cups packed or 10 cups loosely packed)
1 (15 ounce) package firm tofu, sliced lengthwise into 8 pieces
1 tablespoon dried basil, divided
4 sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), drained and thinly sliced
½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400°F.

Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add garlic and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Add spinach, cover, and cook until wilted and tender, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Lay tofu slices in a single layer in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle each slice with a pinch of the basil.

Top tofu slices evenly with spinach, tomatoes, mozzarella, Parmesan, and remaining basil. Bake until tofu is hot and cheeses are melted and bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 190 cals, 12 g fat, 3.5 sat fat, 19 g protein, 6 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 280 mg sodium

See the recipe...

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Seared Salmon with Zucchini

As if you haven't already seen us eat enough fish or zucchini, here is another Fish and Zucchini dinner! Awesome! Wooooo!

I actually really liked this meal, so don't let my jokeyjoke turn you away. This salmon differs from earlier salmon meals of ours in that it wasn't crispy. I also chose a different version of salmon, so I don't know if that helped me like it better (I was prepared not to). (I asked the fishmonger what the difference was between the 4 or 5 different types, and he compared them to cars "this one's a buick, this one is a mercedes, this one is a jaguar" or something close - I'm not too familiar with cars, but I got his point. I'd started with the tricked out salmon, and this one might have been the one between the buick and the mercedes.)

Less fancy and un-crispy salmon. Still very yummy. I preferred the un-crispiness because it left the salmon dense and buttery and subtly salmony... The veggies were simple and nice. I added red pepper flakes and dried oregano, for kicks.

While this meal might not have been anything particularly special, it really exceeded my expectations and its a perfect simple meal (would have been awesome with a chilled glass of white wine, too!!)

Seared Salmon with Zucchini
The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook: 200 Delicious Recipes Ready in 30 Minutes or Less

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
½ small red onion, minced
2 large zucchini, thinly sliced into rounds
4 (6 ounce) salmon fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini and cook until softened and lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and cook 2 minutes more. Season vegetables well with salt and pepper; transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

Season salmon with salt and pepper. Heat remaining oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon, skin side down, and cook until lightly browned, 3 minutes per side. Serve with vegetables.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 400 cals, 26 g fat, 5 g sat fat, 36 g protein, 6 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 190 mg sodium

See the recipe...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Vietnamese Pork Rolls

If I could ask you to tilt your head to the left to look at the photo from an angle... I'll wait... Ah, there you see our lovely pork roll dinner! I don't know why I photographed at such a jaunty angle... but... this way, we get to interact! Woo!

Speaking of which, is anyone else sad that Age of Love is over? Yes, it was a terribly lame show, but the creative editing of the women and their interaction with each other and then with Mark? OMG, television gold. I adore drama - so long as it belongs to someone else - and this show was our guilty little pleasure. Week after week, Age of Love delivered a silly little hour of laughter, and frankly, I'm depressed its over. Depressed! (That, and I think the "kitten" he ended up with is totally creepy...)

Anyway, back to the meal. If you look at the photo and then at the recipe, you'll see that I used different bell peppers. We have a slew of peppers growing on our porch, none red, of course, and I couldn't justify buying red ones when I had perfectly nice green, orange, and purple ones. We have some squiggly red ones, so you'll see those in future posts.

Right, so.... these rocked. I think each time I make something out of one of these SBD books, I expect the worst, because of the scanty ingredient list... but then when we actually eat it, I'm reminded that I just need to tell that worried voice to stuff it. (I was even in the band in school, so you'd think I'd know by now that even if your part stinks, as a whole, it all fits together beautifully!)

The dressing was zingy and flavorful and while it will seem like it isn't enough sauce, it is. Just toss a little on the pork and toss it around on the veggies, and you're fine. You don't need to make double. I made only three cutlets, and it was more than enough for the two of us for dinner and then lunch the next day.

We have more pork in the freezer and more napa cabbage, so we'll likely have this again soon.

Vietnamese Pork Rolls
From: The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook: 200 Delicious Recipes Ready in 30 Minutes or Less

1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound pork cutlets
1 (1/2 lb) head napa cabbage, shredded (3 cups)
1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
8 large Boston lettuce leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing: Whisk together fish sauce, lime juice, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.

For the pork: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season pork with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned, 3 minutes per side. Remove from heat and slice into thin strips. Toss with 1 tablespoon of the dressing.

Combine cabbage, bell pepper, and remaining dressing in a large bowl. Lay lettuce leaves on a clean, dry work surface. Divide pork among leaves. Top with cabbage mixture and roll tightly, tucking edges in as you go. Place rolls, seam side down, on a cutting board, cut in half, and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 220 cals, 10 g fat, 2.5 sat fat, 26 g protein, 6 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 490 mg sodium

See the recipe...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Summer Squash Soup with Basil

Whoa baby. You are going to see A LOT of South Beach Diet phase 1 dinners over the next few weeks.... so be prepared! We're going on our Anniversary Vacation soon, and we plan to eat as fancily as we can afford while in Vegas... so... we need all the spare calories we can get! (That, and I imagine the bulk of our days will be spent lounging at the pool... in swimsuits... you see where I am going with this?)

So anyway, Dave suggested we do the SBD... and initially, I hated the idea. I still remembered the first time, years ago, that we did phase 1... and how cranky and miserable we were... sure, we both lost a delightful amount of poundage... but still... No cereal or crackers or ice cream? Fiiiiiine. I was resistant, very resistant, but realized that this was what he wanted to do, and I'm the one that makes the food.. so... by default.. I had to go along for the ride, too. (And considering all the stuff *I* get *him* to do... its only fair!)

All that aside, what's different this time around is that we have better resources. I have two more SBD cookbooks (and they rock) and we have a far better understanding of how to cope with our various cravings... so... bring it on! (and it helps that in the last week, we've both slimmed down) (yay motivation)

Anyway, this soup recipe has a skoshy bit of flour in it, and it was on our menu before our rules had been established, but I think that it mostly still counts... its vegetable and stock based, and the flour itself plays such a minor role... Sure, I'm rationalizing... but whatever.

The recipe didn't call for curry or Cayenne pepper, but I added them at the end, after I'd blended everything together. I thought it needed a little something, and I knew squash soup and curry were friends. This recipe was also useful for us, because it allowed me to cook up all the yellow squash my mom brought over, so that I didn't incur any guilt letting it rot. Thanks, Mom!

Quick, easy, tasty, and healthy. I'll take it.

Summer Squash Soup with Basil
Recipe courtesy of Curtis Aikens, via Food Network

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ¼ lbs zucchini, crookneck or pattypan squash, roughly chopped
1 large onion, chopped
6 cups Summer Vegetable Stock
½ cup julienned basil
1 ½ tablespoons butter, softened
1 ½ tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
Sour cream or plain yogurt as an accompaniment

[Added curry and cayenne pepper to taste.]

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or stockpot, add zucchini and onion. Sauté for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent and zucchini is crisp tender. Then add stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and partially cover and cook for 25 minutes. Add basil during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Mix the butter and flour together into a paste. Remove 1 cup of simmering stock and whisk in butter mixture until smooth. Add back into soup, stir until thickened. Remove soup from heat to a blender and puree until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.

See the recipe...

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Orangette's Gâteau au chocolat fondant de Nathalie

We had my mom over for dinner a couple of weeks ago for a repeat of the Dona Tomas shrimp tacos. She came over on a Tuesday, and I want to say I prepared most of this the Sunday before. (I only did the shrimp that night.)

I also made dessert the night before. I pulled the recipe off of Orangette's site. I wish I read her blog more often, because every time I go, I love what she has to say and the recipes she has to offer. Specifically, this cake.

Now, I will say that I was terrified of this cake. I baked it for 30 minutes, instead of the suggested 22. Why? Because it still seemed really goopy. However, I didn't want to go too long, and have a sad, dry cake for my mom. I ignored the goop and got it onto the cake plate to let it hang out overnight, as the directions suggest. Once we were done with dinner and room for cake, I whipped up some cream with a little splenda and a dash of vanilla.

OMG. Make this cake. Do it now. There is absolutely a reason it's nicknamed the "Winning Hearts and Minds" cake. The cake was completely decadent - thick and soft and oh so chocolatey. We sent half home with my mom and put the rest in the fridge (and it was almost just as delightful cold) for the next night's dessert.

This will be the dessert I bring to my next dinner party or potluck or evening of watching Grey's, once its back. This cake is meant to be shared (and not just because its packed full of butter!!) :)

Please click through to her site to find the recipe. You won't be disappointed!

See the recipe...

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Grilled Salmon with Smoky Tomatillo Sauce and Cucumber Salad

While I really like the idea of having posts saved as a draft for later posting, I've found that if I wait too long, my memory of the dish isn't as useful. Arrgh! :)

What I do remember is this: I made this sauce at the same time I was making the tomatillo rice for the barbacoa dinner (similar ingredients and all). And as you can see from the photo and recipe, I used salmon instead of trout, because that's what they had at the grocery store. The photo itself could have been better, but I plated the cucumber too early, and it oozed all over the place. O well!

The husband and I really enjoyed the fresh creaminess of the cucumber salad in contrast with the smoky heat of the tomatillo sauce, and both were really nice with the crispy salmon. I have extra sauce in the freezer, and I plan to try it on chicken at a later date. Or I might just make this again, and hopefully with actual trout.

Grilled Trout with Smoky Tomatillo Sauce and Cucumber Salad
c/o Alex Roberts, featured in Food & Wine Magazine, August 2007

One medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced into thin half-moons
2 dried guajillo chiles
1 dried chipotle chile
2 cups boiling water
5 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed out (6 ounces)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped mint
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup sour cream
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Four 6- to 8-ounce trout fillets, with skin

In a colander, toss the cucumber with teaspoon of salt and let stand until wilted, about 25 minutes. Pat dry.

Meanwhile, soak the guajillo and chipotle chiles in the boiling water until softened, 20 minutes. Discard the stems and seeds and coarsely chop the chiles.

Light a grill. Grill the tomatillos over high heat until they are charred all over, about 5 minutes. Discard the charred skins and coarsely chop the tomatillos.

In a small skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add two-thirds of the minced garlic and the onion and cook them over moderate heat until softened, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a blender and add the chopped chiles and tomatillos and the cilantro and mint. Puree the sauce and season with salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, toss the wilted cucumbers with the sour cream, jalapeño, parsley and the remaining minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

Brush the trout fillets with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Oil the grate and grill the fish over high heat, skin side down, until the skin is crisp, about 3 minutes. Turn the fish and grill until it is just cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer the fish to plates and serve with the chile-tomatillo sauce and cucumber salad alongside.

MAKE AHEAD The chile-tomatillo sauce can be refrigerated overnight. Bring the sauce to room temperature before serving.

WINE Trout, like most freshwater fish, is fairly delicate (even when grilled), so a large-scale wine is apt to overwhelm it. A California rosé is light enough to pair with the trout but has enough ripe fruitiness for the spicy tomatillo sauce. One good option is the melony 2006 Beckmen Purisima Mountain Vineyard Grenache Rosé.

See the recipe...

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Chorizo-Crusted Cod with White-Bean Puree and Sherry-Vinegar Jus

My apologies for not keeping up with you guys lately. I logged into my Google Reader today and it told me I had 100+ entries to read... And considering I probably have close to 100 blogs in my reader, I would guess that the entries available to me are much higher than the 100+. I promise I'll catch up!

We revisited the cucumber soup tonight, but I added a porch chile and swapped out the basil for cilantro. Still a keeper. I still recommend using greek yogurt for a creamier soup.

That said, since its something you guys have seen before, I'll post this dish from the weekend! (Yet another from Giada's Weekend Getaway! We had a handful saved up and blew threw them quickly.) I'll grant you that the picture doesn't look like much, the chorizo wouldn't stay put as I had it in the pan, and the sauce sort of oozed all over... but don't let all that prevent you from trying this! (If anything, check out the fantastic photo on the recipe's link)

I really adored the white bean puree. Its at least equal parts mashed potato, but thats ok - I love them too! I'd never used sherry vinegar before, and I really loved the flavor it gave to the puree and to the sauce. I think I'm going to google-search recipes that list it as an ingredient, just so I can have more.

So yah, keeping the chorizo on the fish was tricky - but only getting it INTO the pan. The flip was easy enough. The sausage's smokiness was dreamy with the fish, and especially nice with the puree (think bacon and potatoes - YUM!). Oh, and this dish has a lot of butter in it... so while I liked this dinner, its def. going in my Special Occasions file. Yikes. Butter is delicious, though.

Chorizo-Crusted Cod with White-Bean Puree and Sherry-Vinegar Jus
C/o The Modern, New York City

4 thick cod fillets, skinned, 3 to 4 ounces
1 egg yolk
½ lb chorizo sausage, sliced very thin
1 cup rich chicken stock
6 ounces unsalted butter
3 ounces sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 ounces olive oil
White-Bean puree (recipe follows), as needed
Whole white navy beans, cooked, for garnish
Fresh herbs, for garnish
Brush cod fillets on side where skin was removed with egg yolk; arrange chorizo in overlapping layers on fish to resemble scales.

Place chicken stock in pot and reduce by two-thirds. In another pot, reduce sherry vinegar by half. Combine reduced chicken stock and vinegar, add butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in blender; set aside.

Heat nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat; add olive oil. Place fish chorizo-side down in pan; cook about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Carefully flip fish over and finish in 325F oven, about 2 minutes.

Place large spoonful of bean purée on one side of plate, place fish with chorizo side facing up in center, and scatter whole beans around. Drizzle sauce around plate and finish with fresh minced herbs.

Yield: 4 servings

White-Bean Puree

1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled, chunked
10 oz. white navy beans, cooked in vegetable broth or water with smoked bacon
3 ounces sherry vinegar
5 ounces butter, softened
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes in salted water until tender; press through ricer. Reserve, warm.

Drain hot cooked beans well, reserving some for garnish; smash rest with fork. Mix with potatoes. Add vinegar and butter; mix until smooth. If mixture is too thick, add chicken stock little by little as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Yield: 5 ½ cups

See the recipe...