Sunday, September 13, 2009

Potluck surprise: Orzo and veggies with ricotta cheese

Is there any better venue for Sunday lunch than an awesome church potluck? We had some 500 people show up today for a party to help christen our beautiful new facilities at St. James Church in Wichita. And everyone brought excellent food.

I was among parishioners alphabetically assigned to bring a vegetable dish. I got up early this morning and made up this recipe; wasn't sure how it would turn out, but it was good, and I'm happy to report there wasn't much left by the end of the party:

Zucchini , spinach and tomatoes with orzo, ricotta and basil

15 ounce container of ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 cup orzo
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
4 small zucchini , sliced
2 small yellow squash, sliced
7 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons freshly grated Romano cheese
1/2 pound fresh spinach leaves
Olive oil

Cook orzo according to package instructions. In a medium bowl, while pasta cooks, combine ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup Romano cheese, eggs, basil and garlic. Mix well. Rinse cooked pasta and drain. Add to ricotta mixture.

Brush a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish with olive oil. Place a layer of zucchini in the bottom of the casserole dish. Top with 1/2 of the ricotta/orzo mixture. Top with half the spinach, a layer of zucchini and tomatoes, then add remaining ricotta/orzo mixture. Top with yellow squash and the remaining zucchini, spinach and tomatoes. Top with 3 tablespoons grated Romano cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from oven. Brush top lightly with olive oil. Bake for another 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Leftover steak is lovely in spinach salad with Romano

Dinner last night was fresh spinach leaves topped with tomatoes, slices of carrot and green pepper, just a few walnut pieces and diagonally sliced strips of rare flatiron steak Dave had grilled the night before. Here's my balsamic dressing: 1/2 cup olive oil, mixed with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and about an 1/8 teaspoon sugar. (That bit of sugar is essential.) Mix well and dribble over your salad, then top with shaved Romano cheese.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Top healthy pasta with shrimp, roasted veggies

It's harvest time; a great time to cook up an abundance of healthy food. Tonight, I grilled green, red and yellow pepper pieces on skewers along with big sweet onion chunks, all brushed with olive oil. (The key to grilling veggies on skewers just right is to keep the gas grill temp at around 350-400 degrees and let the veggies cook on an upper rack until they're soft and juicy, but not charred.) Then I mixed those veggies with shrimp and fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes to make this pasta dish:

Pasta with shrimp, tomatoes and roasted peppers

3 cups uncooked whole wheat rotini
7-10 medium fresh tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup water
1 pound cooked medium-sized shrimp, shelled, with tails removed
2 cups green, red and yellow pepper chunks
1 large sweet onion, cut into large pieces
3/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons cup fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh grated romano cheese

Grill pepper and onion pieces on skewers as described above. Set aside. Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta cooks, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add chopped tomatoes, basil and garlic. Stir well. Add vinegar, red wine, lemon juice, water. Cover and simmer for about 6 minutes. Add peppers, onions and shrimp. Simmer 'til shrimp is heated through. Stir in feta cheese. Drain pasta; spoon sauce over rotini. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with parsley, pine nuts and fresh romano cheese.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shrimp, peppers and lemon sauce over rice, so nice

Tonight I was determined to cook something beautiful for dinner. I'd picked up a loaf of ciabbata this morning that was so appealing, it inspired me to come up with a dish that would go well with -- and look good with -- the bread.

While rice was cooking in the microwave, I heated 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat, then added a diced sweet onion and two cloves garlic, chopped. I cooked 'til onion was soft, about 8 minutes. Then I added a diced red pepper and half a diced green pepper and cooked about five minutes. I added 1 cup fresh mushroom slices, then added juice from one lemon and 3/4 cup Sauvignon Blanc, along with 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes. I threw in a pound of cooked cocktail shrimp, and heated just for a couple of minutes. Tasting the broth, I realized it was pretty sour, so I added 2 teaspoons sugar and let the dish simmer. I added three tablespoons chopped fresh parsley from my garden, just before dishing the shrimp and sauce over a platter of rice. I served this dish with fresh steamed farmers' market green beans. Very pretty. And tasty too.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Easy, easy chicken in peanut sauce

Summer meals at our house have been all about the grill, but this weekend it cooled down a little so I decided to wok it on out. Thanks to a couple shortcuts in the way of Asian sauces, I managed to put together a beautiful and very tasty dinner in about 20 minutes.

While cooking a batch of rice in the microwave, I heated about 2 tablespoons canola oil with a couple shakes of peanut oil at medium high heat in my electric wok. I added one pound of chicken tenders, chopped into bite-sized pieces. After four minutes, I stirred the chicken to brown the other side for a few more minutes. Then I set aside the chicken on a plate.

To the oil in the wok, I added a handful of chopped carrots and a half of a Vidalia onion, diced. I stir-fried those 'til carrots were lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Then I reduced heat to medium, added a cup of fresh green beans, and covered the wok for five minutes. Then I added chopped red and green pepper and two tablespoons of Kikkoman Classic Stir-Fry sauce. I heated that 'til the peppers started to turn soft. Then I added a shake of red pepper flakes and some sesame seeds. I emptied that into a small bowl and covered to keep warm.

Then, I put the chicken back into the wok with about a cup of House of Tsang Bankok Padang Peanut Sauce. I heated that for five minutes. Then I added two tablespoons chopped fresh parsley from my garden. I served the veggies and chicken with rice with Man Vintners Chenin Blanc, a wine we've come to particularly like this summer. Mmm.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Make the most of summer tomatoes and basil

So far only one tomato from our crop has ripened and omigod it was so delicious. Now we have six tomato plants in the garden heavy with green tomatoes, so we're looking forward to more garden goodness in the coming weeks.

'Til those ripen, the farmers' market is a great place to pick up tomatoes. We've been eating a lot of Caprese Salad, one of my favorite summer side dishes; tomato slices with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and a dribble of balsamic vinegar. Sometimes I vary the formula a little by adding Greek olives, pine nuts and avocado slices.

For brunch on the Fourth of July, I served Caprese Pesto Bruschetta-- a very easy appetizer that everyone seemed to enjoy. To make, spread pesto on baguette slices (I used storebought pesto for ease, as I don't have enough garden basil to make pesto). Top slices with one ripe tomato slice, then fresh mozzarella, and a fresh basil leaf. Add a couple pine nuts. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden. Serve right away.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Summer's almost here; time to savor fresh flavors

What's to love about this time of year? Tomatoes from the farmers' market, topped with fresh mozzarella, basil from my garden and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Yellow and red bell peppers with sweet onions, brushed with just a bit of olive oil and grilled to perfection. Simple green salad of fresh-picked romaine topped with a light vinaigrette, a few dried cranberries, pecans and shaved parmesan. Fresh cut chives to garnish grilled new potatoes. A sprig of garden parsley on every plate. Dinner on the deck.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Roast pork with fresh rosemary, oregano and lemon

I love springtime, when we can make use of our first cuttings of fresh herbs from the garden. Tonight for dinner, I roasted two pork tenderloins. I like to buy the unseasoned variety so I can jazz it up myself. In a foil-lined pan, I brushed the tenderloins with olive oil, then rubbed fresh rosemary (does anything have a nicer scent?) and chopped oregano leaves to coat, sprinkled on juice from half a lemon and cut some slots to insert slices from two cloves of garlic into the meat. Roasted at 425 degrees for about an hour. Halfway through the cooking time, I added boiled potatoes to the roasting pan, brushing those with olive oil also. Mmm. Fresh herbs sure beat dried, every time.