Pesto Pea Salad

Thursday, July 29, 2010

One thing that I absolutely LOVE and look forward to each summer is making delicious, refreshing and flavorful salads.  One of my all time favorites is a recipe by Ina Garten, Pesto Pea Salad.  Something about the delecate baby spinach leaves paired with toasted pine nuts and sweet little peas popping between your teeth is just so refreshing...and screams summer to me.

Pesto Pea Salad

Here's what I used:

2 cups of frozen peas
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
2 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
4 tbsp pesto (see recipe below)


1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pine nuts
9 cloves diced garlic (about 3 tbsp)
5 cups fresh basil leaves (1-2 bunches)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Here's what I did:

Toast pine nuts in a dry saute pan and cook over medium heat for 4 minutes, or until evenly light brown and fragrant, set aside.

Cook the peas in a pot of boiling salted water for 1 minute, and then blanch in a bowl of ice water (this will keep the peas from overcooking).  Drain when peas are fully cooked.
Rinse, pat or spin spinach leaves dry, and add to a salad bowl. Sprinkle the peas and pignolis over the spinach and add the pesto and toss.

To make pesto dressing, combine first 6 ingredients in a food processor or blender, and then slowly drizzle in olive oil.  Add parmesan during the last minute, as pesto is binding together.

Orzo Caprese Salad

Monday, July 19, 2010

One thing I like to do, to mix things up is adapt some of my favorite salads into a pasta side dish.  These work great for summertime gatherings, BBQ's and more...and add more of a filling quality to otherwise light salads.  This time I decided to work with Orzo Pasta because I like the texture and shape of the pasta, its very much like rice, but in pasta, and think it lends itself to a cool summer salad dish.

Orzo Caprese Salad

Here's what I used:

1 box orzo pasta
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, cubed small
1/2 red onion, fine chopped
6-8 fresh basil leaves, rough chopped
4-5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp garlic salt

Here's what I did:

Set large pot to boil with liberal sprinkling of salt in water.  Cook orzo 8-10 minutes, or until al dente.  Drain and add olive oil to pasta, to keep small pieces from sticking.

Once pasta has cooled to a luke warm, add all ingredients, and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm or cold.

Lemon Garlic Hummus

Friday, July 16, 2010

This one is too easy.  Anyone could do it.

Lemon Garlic Hummus

Here's what I used:

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
juice 1/2 lemon
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp champagne vinegar
1/2 tsp pepper
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 package whole wheat pita bread

Here's what I did:

Simply combine all ingredients except for olive oil in a food processor or blender and begin to blend.  Slowly pour olive oil and allow mixture to become smooth.  Continue to process until the mixture reaches the desired consistency.  I like mine as smooth as possible, with no grainy texture. 

Transfer hummus to serving bowl and drizzle top with olive oil.

To accompany hummus, toast whole wheat pita bread in a toaster oven or conventional oven (at 350 degrees) for 5 minutes.  Using a pizza cutter, cut pita bread into wedges and serve warm with fresh hummus.

Pan Roasted Chicken with Mushroom Quinoa Risotto

Monday, July 12, 2010

I have been looking for a good recipe to use Quinoa, and I think I have found it!  I was excited about using Quinoa (pronounced "kee-noa") for the first time.  Quinoa is a gluten-free grain, high in essential amino acids and a complete protein source - making it an excellent choice for vegetarian's as well as health-conscious folks looking to make the best choices in their food selections.

My inspiration for this recipe was a Bon Appetit recipe, that I altered in a few ways.  I first reduced the amount of white wine, and replaced 1/2 of the quantity with chicken broth.  Also, shitake mushrooms are hard to come by, so I substituted white button mushrooms for them.  Finally, I added chicken breasts to pair with the risotto to make it a more complete "dinner".

Pan Roasted Chicken with Mushroom Quinoa Risotto

Here's what I used:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup dried, rinsed quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tsp dry thyme
1 med onion, chopped
1 tsp chopped garlic (1 clove)
6-8 button mushrooms, stemmed, sliced thin
6-8 oz package bella (crimini) mushrooms, stemmed, sliced thin
shredded parmesan (topping, optional)

Here's what I did:

First I added olive oil to a non-stick skillet and set to medium heat.  Meanwhile I rinsed, patted dry, and seasoned the chicken breasts with thyme, salt and pepper.  Once oil is heated, add chicken (should sear) for 3-4 minutes per side.  Once a light browning has been achieved, add the white wine and chicken broth, and let cook for another 6-8 minutes, flipping 1-2 times.

Meanwhile, set a medium pan to boil with water and salt for quinoa.  Add rinsed quinoa and cook for 13 minutes at a simmer, covered, or until all liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat.

Once chicken is well-cooked, or has reached an internal temperature of 160, remove from heat and set aside.  Add olive oil to same pan with juices from chicken remaining.  Saute onions for 5 minutes, add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.  Add mushrooms and thyme, and saute until mushrooms are heated through.  At this point, add white wine and chicken broth, and let simmer for 3-5 minutes, or until liquid becomes slightly thicker. 

Add mushroom mixture to quinoa pan, and incorporate all ingredients.

Plate mushroom quinoa with chicken.  The original recipe suggests topping this with grated parmesan, however we did not really like that combination.  So I would suggest trying it out to see if you like it, otherwise omit.

Chicken Tagine with Fennel and Onion

Friday, July 9, 2010

This recipe is another Bon Appetit find that I had dog-eared for later.  I love Chermoula, another Moroccan dish, so I was sure that Chicken Tagine would be right up my alley.  I did make several modifications from the original recipe.  Nick hates olives, so I swapped in onion for them.  I also added wild rice to the plating of this, as we usually try to pair dinners with a starch, but it can be easily left out, so that the final product is more of a stew.

One thing I love about the results of this dish is that it reminds me of Tom Yum soup at a Thai restaurant.  Something about the lemon citrus, paired with a broth and a hint of heat from the cayenne really rang true to my taste buds.  I will definitely be adding this to my rotation of C2B Kitchen Classics (I just made that up).  ;)

Chicken Tagine with Fennel and Onion

Here's what I used:

1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
6 skinless boneless chicken thighs (1 1/2 pounds)
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 medium fennel bulbs, stalks trimmed, bulbs halved vertically, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 white onion, chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 bag 90 second Wild Rice from Uncle Ben (gasp.)

Here's what I did:

Mix all spices in a large bowl. Cut chicken crosswise into thirds. Add chicken to bowl of spices, and stir to coat.

Add 1 tbsp oil to large non-stick stock pot (I used my Mario Batali Dutch Oven) over med-high heat.  Brown chicken, about 2 minutes per side, and then remove.  Add 1 tbsp oil, fennel and onion to same skillet. Sauté until golden brown in spots and onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Return chicken to pot, add broth and lemon juice. Bring to simmer, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until chicken is cooked through and sauce begins to thicken, about 20 minutes. Stir in cilantro just before serving, and add salt and pepper to taste.

I plated this in a soup bowl, with about a cup of rice, topped with 2 heaping ladles of chicken, vegetables and broth.

Spaghetti and Meatballs All'Amatriciana

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Nick had his eye on a past issue of Bon Appetit magazine, when my dad planned to come over last night to help me finish my homemade drapery panels (see yesterday's post here).  He made two trips to the store to get what he needed, and the most incredible aromas wafted upstairs into our bedroom while my dad and I furiously ironed and steamed the stubborn wrinkles out of my Home Depot drop cloths...

Meanwhile the banging of pots, hiss of steam and insanely yummy scents of what awaited us quickened our resolve to finish my latest project.

These spicy, rich, decadent meatballs may be the best I've ever had.  No joke.

Spaghetti and Meatballs All'Amatriciana

Here's what he used for the Meatballs:
6 ounces uncured applewood-smoked bacon (about 6 slices), diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds ground beef (15% fat)
2/3 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from jar
2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup coarsely grated onion
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice (preferably San Marzano)
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
6 ounces uncured applewood-smoked bacon (about 6 slices), cut crosswise into thin strips
1 tablespoon (or more) extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups finely chopped onions
1 1/2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram

1 1/2 pounds spaghetti
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Here's what he did:

Pulsed bacon in a blender/processor, and ground it into a coarse paste. Transfered to large bowl. Mixed beef and with remaining meatball ingredients and let rest for a few minutes.

Using moistened hands  roll meat mixture into 2-inch meatballs, cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to cook.

Meanwhile, puree tomatoes with juice and garlic for sauce in batches in blender until smooth. Cook bacon in large (nonstick, if available) pot over medium heat until crisp; transfer bacon to plate.  Add 1 tbsp of oil to drippings in pot and heat over medium heat. Add half of meatballs. Cook until brown on all sides, turning carefully with small metal spatula, about 9 minutes.  Transfer meatballs to baking sheet. Add more oil to pot if needed and repeat with remaining meatballs.

Increase heat to medium-high. Add onions and crushed red pepper to pot. Sauté until golden, about 6 minutes. Add wine; boil until reduced by half, stirring up browned bits, about 8 minutes. Add tomato puree and marjoram. Boil until sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Mix bacon into sauce. Add meatballs; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until meatballs are heated through and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Finally, cook spaghetti in pot of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons oil and marjoram. Divide spaghetti among bowls. Top with meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and serve, passing additional cheese separately.

This one was outstanding!

Dropcloth Drapes: Designer looks on a Budget!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

We have lived in our house for nearly 4 years, and our master bedroom has always had bare windows.  Every time I would browse the usual suspects: Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, West Elm, Restoration Hardware - I got a knot in my stomach.  To do window treatments for all 5 large windows, would be a small fortune!  So there they sat, lonely and undressed.

Recently I ordered 10 panels of a nice modern grommeted drape from Overstock, along with a pewter colored rod and tiebacks.  Once they came, I realized that the choice I made would not fit the I returned all but the rods. 

I continued to search sites, and came across several inspirational dropcloth window dressings.  I was Inspired! 

Here's why they're so great:

1.  CHEAP.  6x9 foot panels are under 10 dollars each
2.  HEMMED.  All edges are finished
3.  CHARACTER.  Oatmeal colored, but flecks of other threads make each panel slightly unique
4.  EASY.  No sewing required.  I used Stitch Witch and an iron for all modifications
5.  BIG.  Designer looks of puddled draperies for big effect

Here's what I bought:

I bought 12 6x9 foot Canvas Drop Cloths.  2 panels per window, and 4 panels for the large 3-casing window at the far end of the room.  You can find them here.  They also have similar dropcloths at Lowe's and Walmart, from what I have read.  I spent about 120.00 on dropcloths.

I also bought 12 yards of a coarse black linen, which had a similar grainy texture to the dropcloths.  I was able to come upon sales at Hancock Fabrics and Jo-Ann fabrics.  I got 12 yards (for 72" x 16" black stripes at the bottom of each drape).  At an average of 4.00 a yard, that was 48.00

I purchased 4 rolls of 13 yard Extra Stengh Stitch Witch, at 4.00 a roll, for a total of 16.00

I got 2" wide drapery rings with clips at Target on clearance for 6.00 each (7 rings per pack).  The total for the rings was 72.00.

My total for materials (less rods) was 256.00.  (The items I returned to Overstock totalled over 400.00).

I already had an iron, and the rods.  That's all you need!

Here's what I did:

First I washed all the panels in hot water.  I had to do this in two batches of 6 panels.  Then I dried them for just about 10-15 minutes, and then laid them all flat to decrease the wrinkles.

Next came the tedious task of ironing/steaming each panel until they were as flat and pressed as possible.  I added a 4" fold to the top of each drape, where the clip rings would attach, and to add some interest to the top portion of each panel.  And then attached the panels to the clip rings on the rods. 

I then divided the black linen into 3 yard sections, and cut each 3 yard block into three equal rectangles at about 3 yard x 18".  These would become my black color blocks at the bottom of each panel.

Using my Stitch Witch, I finished off one long side of each black linen strip, folding over about 1/3 to 1/2".  Then, while the panels were ALREADY hanging, I moved my ironing board under each panel, and using the Stitch Witch again, steamed/ironed each panel so that the finished edge of each black linen strip was 16" from the bottom (allowing about a 2" or more at the bottom and sides, to cleanly fold and adhere them behind the panel.

I have only finished 6 panels at the time of this posting.  But here is what they currently look like, to give you an idea.  I have not finished the bottom seam yet, I will do that at the end, so that I get the exact same break at the bottom of all the panels.

I love how they've turned out!! 

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