Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Midweek food musings: Grilled Shrimp with Watercress and Sweet Corn Vinaigrette

Midweek food musings: Grilled Shrimp with Watercress and Sweet Corn Vinaigrette

This is a great summertime salad (yes…I know we’ve entered a new season, but I’m holding on!) Any visitor to Farmers’ Markets will notice the plethora of corn, and I confess that lately I’m also on a shrimp kick!  In this salad, the  slight bitterness of the salad greens offers the perfect backdrop for the flavors of the grilled shrimp and sweet corn vinaigrette; the fresh apple and avocado adds extra flavor and texture contrasts. You can prepare the vinaigrette a day before and then simply add the shrimp, apple, and avocado to the watercress bed. You can serve this salad on its own,  but it can also be served with grilled fish, meat, or chicken. (By the way--it's still grilling I do encourage you to pick up a copy of Latin Grill if you don't have one already!) 
From Latin Grill
Photograph by Dan Goldberg 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunday Dinners: Salads, salads, salads...

"It looks ugly but it tastes delicious!" said the Farmers' Market vendor as she showed me a sample of her just-picked Honey Crisp apples. From there my salad inspiration started to bud.

Salads enhance, complement, or stand on their own. On Friday I saw some gorgeous kirby cucumbers (a bit of a contrast with the not-so-pretty apples!) and thought about combining the two. When we were invited to friends for dinner, and she announced she was making roast chicken, I thought that a cucumber-apple salad would be perfect! And it was.

Cucumber Apple Salad
Serves 6 to 8

10 kirby cucumbers, diced (I leave the skin on--but only if they're from organic farms)
1 or 2 Honey Crisp apples, diced (I peeled the skin because it wasn't pretty!)
1 lime
2 scallions, dark and light green parts chopped
White balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clementine (optional) for garnish (but you could add more and incorporate them into the salad!)

Combine the cucumbers and the apple, and squeeze the fresh lime juice on top. Mix well. Add the scallions, vinegar, and oil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour before serving. Top with clementine segments just before serving.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Midweek Food Musings: Variation on a Brownie Theme...Coffee Blondies with Chocolate Chips

On Monday I fell in love… again.   Pedro Ospina, a Philadelphia and Brazil-based artist, has me fascinated by his work, his energy, and his love of life, children and art. ( As he recounted the tale of his trajectory into his current world—I listened to his words but was mesmerized by his passion for working with all people, children, and communities--and getting people involved in his mission. His passion is evident in all he says and does.

Passion. I feel like this profound word is so overused (I’m just as guilty of being a word-overusing writer/speaker), but fire-like love for something is contagious and motivating. Pedro’s vision of community sparks; he creates “ambientes,” environments, in neighborhoods and schools, in the form of murals, sculptures and more, that are delightful/evocative and that set people in motion in the most positive of ways. In addition, his path and work remind us that there are so many ways to make a life; this, these days more than ever, this is a great message for us all. In encourage you to explore his work.  (By the way—he currently has an exhibition, entitled “Woven in Tension” on display at Westchester Community College in the gallery in the Academic Arts Building.)

So from Pedro Ospina, I move to the exploration of flavors. 

As many of you know,  brownies are one of my favorite treats to bake. But today I was inspired to branch out. I tried making coffee blondies. The result? I like them and hmmmmm….this may be the start of my brownie experimentation phase!

Chocolate Chip Coffee Blondies

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

2 cups packed dark brown sugar

3/4  cup unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons excellent quality vanilla extract (Dominican vanilla—the PURE extract—is my favorite)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons instant espresso
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.   

Batter pre-chips
In a mixer, combine the sugar, vanilla, eggs, and coffee and mix well.  Slowly the dry ingredients and mix just until well blended (using the mixer or by hand). Fold in the chips.

Ready to bake
Ready to serve
Spread the batter into 2  lightly greased 8 by 8 inch baking pans (I use two because I take one to work!) or one bigger one.
Bake the blondies  for 30 minutes, or until a knife in the center comes out dry.  Cool before cutting. Serve with café con leche, vanilla ice cream, or a nice tall glass of milk. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sunday Dinners: Soup's on--Part 1

Two things inspired me to make soup on Sunday:  1) my crazy schedule this week, and 2) the weather.

First,  crazy schedule: Those of you who know me, know that I am not go-to-work-go-home-forget-about-work kind of person; my job—as college administrator and teacher—is totally woven into my life. Because of this attribute/defect, it’s especially hard for me to separate on weekends, during which, my thoughts and deeds bring me back to working. Seriously, when the semester starts, it really does feel like a 24/7 job. So, this brings me to soup: cooking soup on Sunday can help me during the week. When I get home at 9 pm, the last thing I want to do is to make dinner (the first thing I want to do is to have a glass of wine!).  Having a bowl of soup and some fresh bread is the ideal late night dinner.

Second, the weather: we are starting to feel it here in New York—and beyond!
As soon as I feel the kiss of fall, I think about soup; I love the smell of it in my home, and the steamy joy of sipping it.

Soup is beautiful for  many reasons, but one of my favorite attributes of this “dish” is its flexibility—especially this week, when I was also thinking about using the stuff I had in my fridge/pantry. And here’s what I had:

2 red peppers
red onion
a bunch of carrots
white wine
cherry tomatoes
vegetable broth (had about 2 quarts from Trader Joe’s)
cooked rice
some cilantro

Here are the instructions for the soup I made:

Heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and peppers and sauté, stirring frequently, until they start to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and cherry tomatoes. Add a splash of wine and let cook, stirring from time to time, for about 5 minutes or until the wine has been absorbed. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Then lower the flame, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots soften. Turn the heat off and add the cooked rice. Let the soup sit and, just before serving, reheat and add cilantro. Serve with fresh crusty bread.
Starting the soup-

The finished soup (veggies aren't floating!). 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Midweek Food Musings: Grilled Zucchini--and its "new" life on day 2--or 3!

Oven-Roasted Zucchini and Fresh Basil
Since many of you are fans of leftovers I have to share this with you. Often since my weekdays are crazy busy, I take advantage of my Sunday cookfests and make enough so that yes, we can have some during the week--for lunch, dinner and/or both! Here is the original "recipe"--and then possible variations:

Stage one:Fresh Zucchini: Slice on an angle, drizzled with olive oil and coarse salt, grilled  for 3 minutes on each side OR roasted in a 375°-oven in a lightly oiled baking pan, with coarsely chopped red onions, for about 25 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Sprinkle fresh basil on top just before serving.

Stage two: Pull a few slices out and use them as part of a sandwich on a crusty baguette, with a gorgeous tomato, and a slice of your favorite cheese or some pesto--or both!

Another possible stage two: Cook up your favorite pasta and toss in the zucchini, some grated parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

Yet another possible stage two: Make a Spanish-style tortilla (a.k.a. an omelette) with your zucchini--with or without fried sliced potatoes and cheese.

What I did with this week's left over zucchini: I made one sandwich for lunch on Monday, and then I topped some leftover Gallo Pinto (see Monday's entry!) with a few slices, heated it up, sprinkled freshly grated parmesan shavings, and fresh basil... YUM!

So, you see, with leftover zucchini, you have many possibilities. Would love to hear about yours!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sunday Dinners: Peruvian-style Marinated Grilled Chicken

If you are looking for cooking inspiration, visit a farmer's market! 
As I the picture I posted on Facebook last week shows, the New Rochelle's farmer's market is a wonderful place to start; the array of vegetables (purple peppers---and so many others, golden beets? Yum! corn...zucchini, watermelon, much great stuff!) is dazzling. I wanted to use the vegetables, but also provide something for the meat-eating fans (actually all 10 of my Sunday dinner guests happen to be carnivores!). Here was the menu:
Red snapper ceviche served on cucumbers (recipe to come later this month!)
Guacamole and fresh chips
Peruvian-Style Marinated Grilled Chicken and Steak  (recipe here!) 
Gallo Pinto  (from my June 25th post!)
Grilled Corn
Roasted Assorted Zucchini
Roasted Golden Beets and Red Onions
Arugula and Watermelon Salad  (from my August 29th post!) 

This recipe for marinated chicken was very well received! The nice part--or one of the nice parts--is that you can marinate it ahead of time, and then just grill it (or bake it!) at the last minute. In addition to having deep, layered flavors, it's the kind of dish that is easily matched with a variety of sides. Enjoy! 

Peruvian Style Marinated Grilled Chicken 
(Adapted from  recipe for Peruvian Skewered Beef, Mambo Mixers,©2005,   Arlen Gargagliano) 


Serves about 12

2 teaspoons ají amarillo (Peruvian yellow pepper--available in large supermarkets and Latin American markets), or to taste (taste it before you add it!) 
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 cloves  garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper 
1/4 cup olive oil
Coarse salt to taste
4 pounds chicken breasts, boned, trimmed of fat and cut in half

In a blender, combine the ají, cumin, garlic, vinegar, bell peppers, oil and salt. Place the chicken in a large glass bowl or dish, and cover with the marinade. Marinate for at least 1 an hour, and up to 24 hours.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, but reserve it. Heat a grill to medium high. Place meat on the grill, and brush with the marinade. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, or until browned and the desired doneness is reached. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Midweek Food Musings: Block Island Flounder Fillets

Lemon, parsley, and red onion-topped flounder fillets 
Pepper and onion relish 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Block Island (thank you Glenn and Norma!), which is a gorgeous place, off the coast of  Rhode Island. It’s hard not to fall in love with such lovely peaceful beach-encircled piece lush-green and rolling  land…especially when the weather totally cooperates. I did have the idea this weekend that I could spend a summer there, riding my bicycle, enjoying the gorgeous land—sun and surf—writing a lot, perfecting my Kadima (beach paddle game that my husband and I always play) and boogie boarding (totally non-existent as a current skill of mine) and playing with all the local food. Well, hmmm… maybe next summer!

For now, I’m going to share a recipe I prepared for my friends (and husband, who is yes, also my friend! Whew!) on Saturday night. To tell you the truth, flounder is not a fish I usually prepare, and honestly we were thinking of grilling. But this butter-flavored fish is way too delicate (unless you have the right toys for grilling it!) to place atop a grill, and honestly, this worked out beautifully.

The thing about fish—many types of fish is that they have a lot of flavor; you want to keep it simple—and light—and add flavors that complement (this, my friends, is true with everything!).  By the way, I made Prosecco with fresh pineapple chunks (from a different, more southern island!), fresh lime, and a splash of cranberry juice; this worked well with the fish (though some made the switch to New Castle Brown beer!).  We served this with a kind of relish made with a combination of red, yellow, and orange peppers, 2 jalapeños, and 2 red onions—all cooked in olive oil and a bit of white wine.

We also had an arugula salad with red grapes and fresh mozzarella pieces, topped with an excellent balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, and fresh-baked ciabatta bread. (By the way, great bakery goods on the island, though wow—the donuts were just out of this world! But that’s another story…)

Serves 6 to 8

Three pounds of flounder fillets (you can calculate about 6 ounces per person)
4 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
1/2 cup chopped flat-parsley leaves
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 lemons
White wine

Arrange the fillets in shallow ceramic or glass baking dishes large enough to hold them in one layer. Combine the garlic, olive oil,  1/4 cup of the parsley leaves, and the red onion and distribute over the fillets. Add salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate; let sit for at least 1/2 an hour (and up to 2).

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Squeeze two of the lemons (remove seeds) and pour the juice over the fish.  Slice the remaining lemon and add some to the top (you can save some for serving!) Add remaining parsley, and a splash of wine. Bake fish in middle of oven until just cooked through and no longer translucent, 10 to 12 minutes. Check for doneness. Serve warm. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Dinners: Grilled Sea Scallops with a Cumin and Garlic Rub

Grilled Sea Scallops with a Cumin and Garlic Rub

Happy September! In honor of Labor Day,  and because some friends have asked for cooking suggestions, I'm posting my usual Monday post--on Sunday. 
Scallops are one of those delectable sea foods that I feel like I’ve “forgotten”  about when it comes to cooking (I enjoy them in restaurants!), but, my friends, I’m bringing ‘em back.
Actually, not too long ago, on NPR, I heard a story about sea scallops (and Maine Lobsterman giving the farming of sea scallops a go), and it reminded me of how tasty these tasty fruits of the sea are. Actually---they can be lovely with just a bit of garlic, butter, wine, and herbs… Here’s a bit of a different twist, that could be a fun treat for Labor Day grilling soirée. In the book, we suggest serving them atop Grilled Pineapple Coconut Rice (in Latin Grill!). But you could serve them atop a bed of fresh lettuce, withf fresh cilantro and diced tomato on top. (Also--this rub could work well on grilled fish--and chicken!)
Adapted from  Latin Grill: Simple and Sultry Food for Red-Hot Dinners and Parties, By Rafael Palomino with Arlen Gargagliano, (Photos by Dan Goldberg) ©2010, Chronicle Books

Serves 4 as a main meal, and 8 as a side or appetizer

1/4 cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon cilantro
Juice from 1 lime
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 large sea scallops, side muscles trimmed, halved horizontally
8 metal skewers

In a large heavy skillet, heat the  olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and lower the heat to the lowest possible setting. Cook, covered, for about 5 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking over the lowest possible heat until the garlic is barely colored to pale brown and tender, about 8 minutes. Stir it frequently and be sure not to let the garlic brown too much, or it will be bitter. Add the cumin, cilantro, and lime and purée just until blended. Set aside.   

Thread the scallops onto 4 skewers (3 to a skewer) and coat them with the braised garlic mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Light a fire in a charcoal or gas grill.  Grill until the scallops are just opaque in the center, occasionally brushing with more garlic, about 3 minutes per side. Serve immediately.