Sunday, May 25, 2008

just try and bite this gigantic muffuletta without making a mess

i am not kidding you, this sandwich is gigantic and messy and so delicious. and as i've said 800 billion times in the last two weeks, vegetables are so in this season. when i saw in my now treasured june/july 08 rr magazine this recipe for a vegetarian muffuletta, i went out and secured all of the ingredients posthaste. i knew i'd like it: grilled veggies, bread, olives. i think i was meant to be french. or greek? i don't know...but i could do the whole eating bread dipped in olive oil, with a side of cheese and olives. whoever does that all day, everyday - that's who i want to be.

but not to sidetrack here. husband and i loved this sandwich. i know, because after consuming the leftovers the next day, i received an email from him: "i could eat one of these everyday". before we move to the recipe, my two tips: don't skimp on any of the ingredients because they are all important and try to do as rr says and put everything in a big bread bowl..not these individual things i used. i'm thinking they might be a little easier to eat. maybe not, but worth a try...unless you don't mind having your entire face covered in pesto.

spinach pesto and spicy vegetable & olive salad

this is what it all started with. i saw "olives and marinated vegetables" in the recipe and i was sold. cheers to husband for whipping these two toppings up...even if i did have to explain how to use the food processor. twice.

veggies grilling and the start of the end: the hollowed bread slice

this is before it got serious. everything seemed so simple, so easy. my hands (nay, forearms) were still clean.

grilled vegetable muffuletta (rr june/july 08)
1 eggplant, sliced 1/2 in thick
1 zucchini, sliced 1/2 in thick on an angle
1 red bell pepper, quartered lengthwise
1 large portobello mushroom cap
1 red onion, sliced 3/4 inch thick
salt and pepper
1/2 c olive oil
6 ounces baby spinach
1/3 c pine nuts
2/3 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1 cup pickled vegetable salad
1/2 cup pitted olives
1 8-9 in round loaf crusty bread
1/4 lb sliced provolone cheese

1. brush the first five vegetable ingredients with 1/4 c olive oil and salt & pepper
2. grill veggies over medium-high heat until charred on both sides, turning once
3. in a food processor, puree spinach, pine nuts and parm-reg cheese, season with salt and pepper
4. drizzle with 1/4 c olive oil while machine is running and transfer to a bowl when combined
5. in a food processor, pulse the pickled vegetables and the olives into a coarse relish salad
6. slice the top quarter off of the bread and scoop out the insides
7. spread the half the pesto on the bottom and layer with half the grilled vegetables
8. repeat with another layer of veggies and pesto 
9. top the grilled vegetables with provolone and the olive & vegetable  salad
10. set the top of the bread in place and firmly press down; cut into wedges to serve

**obviously, I did not make the whole bowl and chose to do this my own crazy way. if you're serving 4 or so, the bread bowl is probably a good way to go. anyway, my point is: my pictures do not follow the instructions above. 

a sequence of ridiculous assembly photos - totally out of control

it was at about the photo on the bottom left that i started to wonder how i would ever be able to eat this. i continued to shove more grilled vegetables into the bread crescent and knew i would need 10-12 napkins for this one meal. husband, on the other hand, was not concerned. bigger hands? bigger mouth? i'm not sure, but he was ready for it.

the final touch - trying to fit olive & veggie salad onto this overloaded sandwich

it really isn't a muffuletta without the olive salad. it's true. i looked it up. that's what this baby is all about. so if you don't like olives and you've made it this far thinking you could go without: you're wrong. probably could make this sans olive salad, but don't you dare run around calling it a muffuletta.

i'm not sure why this last photo has such a yellow tint.

and there you have it! with all of these goodies, you won't miss the missing meat and you'll be sure to have a great time trying to figure out how to open your mouth wide enough and bite down just right so as not to push all of the fillings out the other side. good luck!

short and sweet

i've been cooking up a storm and posting like all i do is work in the kitchen. i promise, i've been doing other things. making other things. but, i'll be honest, i have been taking some crafting downtime...i'm not sure why. maybe because spring means so much tasty produce that i just have to get my paws on everything colorful and fresh. i'm easily persuaded by good looking food...who can blame me?

anyway...i did make one crafty thing recently. literally, one item.

husbands sister, my sister-in-law, (whom i refer to normally as just sister) graduated from college a week or so ago. a little card with her school colors went into the mail to congratulate her. didn't i luck out in finding that perfectly matching paper for the envelope liner? yes, i would say so.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

up close and personal with a versatile and healthy salad

i got a little macro lens crazy and shot the ingredients for this salad as close as i could get. i'm pretty into veggies, though, so these insanely close shots are a-ok with me.

i first had a version of this dish at a house warming gathering years ago. the host was just about my favorite person and she could have served almost anything and i probably would have loved it. everything about her was (and i'm sure still is) so cool and chic and effortless. i pretend i'm like that when i whip up variations of this salad. i say variations because you can put whatever you like in with the wheat berries and dressing and i'm guessing it will always be great.

i don't have and don't use a standard recipe, so i'll do my best to offer up the necessary info. this "recipe" comes from a variety of web searches; play around with it until it suits your tastes. (i'm kicking myself for not even writing down exactly what i did for today's salad!)

wheat berry salad
1 1/2-2 cups uncooked wheat berries
10-15 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
a few stalks of broccolini, sliced into 1 inch pieces
a few handfuls of string beans, sliced into 1 inch pieces
3-4 scallions, sliced (white to medium green portions)
1/4 finely chopped red onion
3 tbsp olive oil (+1tbsp for cooking)
3 tbsp balsamic, red whine or champagne vinegar (you choose!)

1-2 tbsp lemon juice
few shakes of dried dill
salt & pepper
(you can add a few shakes of sugar if you find the dressing too tart)

1. add wheat berries to a large pot of b
oiling water, cook for 45 minutes to an hour, uncovered, until soft
2. drain wheat berries and rinse with cold water, shake in a colander to remove all excess liquid

3. blanch broccolini and bean pieces*
4. in a large bowl combine tomatoes, broccolini, beans, scallions and cooled wheat berries
5. saute red onion in olive oil until soft, allow to cool
6. in a small bowl combine red onions, vinegar, lemon juice, dill, and s&p
7. slowly whisk in the olive oil with the rest of the dressing ingredients
8. pour dressing over wheat berries and veggies and toss to combine

*i totally used the same boiling water the wheat berries were in...dropped the veggies in, scooped them didn't seem to effect the cooking of the berries one bit

veggies and cooked wheat berries - so close you can lick your screen and taste them

i love this salad because it's hearty (a good sized portion fills you right up) and so tasty. i also love that you can use almost any vegetable...try colored bell peppers, thinly sliced carrots, diced cucumber, zucchini...whatever your garden or grocery store has to offer (not plums). it also keeps wonderfully - the berries won't get soggy and the flavor of the dressing on the veggies is even better on day 2.

it seems i need a few white dishes for picture purposes

we ate this with some balsamic chicken that i didn't really like. husband enjoyed it, but this is my blog and he only gets one post for the month of may.

Monday, May 19, 2008

shrimp and noodles in spicy coconunt broth

oh, rachel ray. i do love her magazine. easy recipes without the verbal yum-o after every sample. but i'm not sure how authentic this recipe is. the meal was pretty good and the shrimp was nice and flavorful...but the broth was just meh. not bad, but nothing to write home about.

maybe it was my ingredients. i did choose "lite" coconut milk...and before you even have time to think it, yes, that is jarred ginger there. i promise, i'm big on fresh stuff. but the grocery store (you know, the one that doesn't carry plums...) didn't have any. none! the bin for fresh ginger appeared to have been empty for weeks. so i bought this jarred stuff, which was next to where the fresh stuff should have been and i moved on with my life.

also, my friend helen claims that this rooster sauce is in no way authentic to real asian cuisine. this might be true, since i've only seen it in americanized chinese restaurants...but i happen to like it for spiciness. plus, i'm pretty sure that's authentic fish sauce i used and that has to win me some major points.

so on with it. this recipe is from my current rr (june/july 08). it has the most easy, decent sounding recipes in one magazine that i've seen for a while now. page after page, there are things i'm ready to try. i did cut this recipe in half, as it makes for 3 meals, she says.

shrimp and noodles in coconut broth
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
half 14.5 oz can chicken broth
1/2 tbsp asian fish sauce
1/2 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tsp chopped ginger
1 tsp ht chili sauce
1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 lb raw shrimp, shells & tails removed
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
3/4 pasta noodles, cooked

1. bring the coconut milk and broth to a simmer over medium heat
2. stir in fish sauce, garlic, ginger, chili sauce and lime juice, cook for 2 minutes
3. stir in the shrimp and cook until opaque
4. stir in the cilantro and remove from heat
5. serve shrimp and broth over cooked noodles

I wouldn't go all YUM-O on this dish...but it wasn't bad. I just needed more from the broth. i think the full fat coconut milk would have helped and more flavors from the ginger and garlic.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

husband bakes

a neatly stacked pile of dark chocolate chip cookies

i'm lucky. i have a husband that enjoys taste testing random foods, does the dishes, takes out the trash and, on occasion, isn't afraid to step into the kitchen for some actual food preparation. he often cooks on the stove top or in the toaster oven - eggs and tuna melts could be considered his specialties. (his eggs always stay sunny side up and the yolks break open all over my toast...i'm not so good at that part so he usually makes my eggs for me.) occasionally, he will make dinner. not like, some noodles and sauce. he'll make a three course meal (champagne risotto and crab legs was once whipped up as a surprise dinner for me.) and, on rare days, when i haven't baked in weeks he will tie on his apron and make himself a sweet treat.

i usually come out to find him elbow deep in flour and sugar, carefully measuring and making a bit of a mess. then i poke around, tell him his butter isn't soft enough or that he should use a different bowl...just generally bugging him. then i get booted from the kitchen and have to wait until the batter is ready. he brings me spoonfuls and i relish in the fact that cookie dough just came my way and i didn't have to lift a finger.

ok, yes, he's a nice guy. husband is doting and loving and all that jazz. but, i'm going to be honest here. his track record in the baking arena is not so good. in the past his cookies efforts have resulted, multiple times, in a pancake like food stuck to my good cookie sheets (he swears they were separated when they went in the oven). yes - one giant, thin cookie mess that can only be consumed by chipping away at it and eating the crumbles.

oh, but not this time!

this time the stars were aligned and the butter was the right temperature and husband's cookies came out golden and perfect. soft on the inside, just a bit crunchy on the outside...and lots of melty chocolate. we ate them and he took pictures of them like an old blogging pro. he stacked them up for their photo shoot and got closeups from all angles.

soft kronch

and i took a picture of my own. yum! three cheers for husband, who has seen baking success with his hershey's special dark chocolate chip cookies (recipe can be found on the back of the bag).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

skewer time

peach and apricot skewer with chicken and red onion

i pretty much love kabobs. i have requested or made this grilled meal more times than i can remember for birthdays, trips home, and hot summer evenings. usually, i like it classic: beef and chicken, bell peppers, onions and mushrooms. i probably ate that exact skewer combo on 15 separate occasions just last summer. this summer, we're getting married, kabobs and me. i know this because i'm sure the feelings are mutual and because rachel ray just did a feature in her june/july issue and there are three new recipes for me to try. and i know my old stand-by will be walking me down the aisle, but before we commit, i decided to try out the others first. ;)

oh, stop. this new format isn't THAT cool. ok, is.

this recipe actually calls for plums, but the grocery store had not a single plum (i'm feigning shock here, people). luckily i had read in the rr magazine that apricots and peaches would be great substitutions. funny story: if you stack your fruit bowls too high, an apricot might fall onto the table. that motion might cause it to roll onto the floor. it might then look like a toy ball and your dogs might take it into another room and hide it. needless to say, husband was confused as to why i had put produce under a chair in our entryway... 

husband said: the king of all red onions. the most beautiful i have ever seen!

ok, i'll admit it. this post is a little picture heavy. very few ingredients and i may have managed to include more photos than a number of my other, more involved recipes. well, i don't care. i have a new lens - yay me. maybe you'd like to recipe to temper this visual overload?

chicken, plum, and red onion kebabs (rachel ray magazine june/july 08)
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/3 c apricot jam
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 lbs chicken tenderloins, cut into chunks (ok, rr calls for thigh meat here)
8 plums sliced (i used 2 apricots and 2 peaches)
1 red onion cut into chunks (i used half of my giant beauty)

1. whisk first 4 ingredients until combined
2. add chicken to marinade and refrigerate for at last 30 minutes and up to 4 hours
3. transfer chicken to plate and pour marinade into a saucepan, boiling for 2 minutes
4. thread plums, chicken and onion onto skewers (rr says 8, i did 9 or 10)
5. grill on medium heat, turning occasionally and basting with boiled sauce often
6. continue until chicken is cooked through and plums and onions are softened (12-15 minutes)

pre-cooking                                                                    grillin' up

the magazine suggests couscous with toasted almond slivers, so i did the same. good call. the crunch of the almond, the basic flavor of the couscous and the fruity, juicy skewers were a good combo. i don't know if i'd consider an open relationship for these guys...but, they were tasty.

summah time grilling (done indoors...) and an easy couscous side

Thursday, May 8, 2008

cupboard dinner

some new ingredients for you to add to your pantry...i did!

ok, so i made this meal before my new lens, but those pictures were good enough before...and they're still good enough now. moving on, i haven't had pasta in what seem like years. it's probably only been a month, but i was missing me some heavy carbs and saw these new (to me) little noodle "straws" at tj's and bought them in a moment of weakness. i'm also working on my feelings towards artichokes (we haven't been super close, but i think we're making progress) and picked up a jar of these marinated guys. i brought my goodies home and found a number of pantry ingredients to make a totally unplanned pasta dish. it was good and i recommend keeping many of the following ingredients on hand from here on out (like, for eternity). 

i'll give you a synopsis of what i included, but it's called cupboard dinner for a reason. use what you've got.

-bucati noodles (cooked as the bag says)
-jarred roasted red peppers (i used yellow and red and chop them into large pieces)
-marinated artichokes (again, chopped)
-can of stewed tomatoes (if you don't have 6 jars of these on hand at all time, i'm not sure we can be friends)
-some cooked chicken breast (sautéed with garlic, sure*)
-spices (basil, oregano, anything that complements what you're using in the dish)
-lemon juice (add it at the end, off the heat)
-parmesan cheese (stir in some, then top the bowls off with it)

*i believe i cooked the chicken in some leftover white wine and some chicken stock, too. chicken stock is another pantry staple - i don't think i ever have less than 4 cartons. and then i have 2 vegetable stocks in there, too. have i mentioned this before? i feel like i have and now i'm all paranoid. so what, i like to have a lot of stock on hand! 

 i don't know why i used a whisk here. inappropriate use of a kitchen utensil.

go ahead and add all of these (or your) ingredients to a large saute pan, heat it up, and serve. it's not complicated but it's pretty good. it must be my newfound love (actually, it's "like" still, but don't tell them) for artichokes...or the roasted peppers...or the lemon juice. i think those are all key. plus the bucati are fun. they are also messy. they slid out of my bowl and onto a dress leaving an obvious stain. i guess i'm over that, but i was mad at the time.

cupboard dinner for all!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

is it may? already? and i haven't made anything worth blogging about since april? how sad!

i can say that i made something, though, and that's making it through another year. today is my birthday and i got special things on my special day. husband got me a very great gift that we'll all benefit from - a canon 100mm macro lens! apparently he thinks i'm decent at food photos and would like to see me have more success at close ups. i'll tell you, it was tough to be at work thinking about that new lens just waiting to be used. i got a few quick shots in this morning after i opened it, but we had a mini photo shoot this evening and wow! it makes everything look so pure - i can't wait to see tiny flecks of vanilla in my frosting..or little sugar crystals...or ripe, juicy fruits. drooling yet? too! this picture is my one of the first shots from the new lens - my birthday breakfast made by husband. pancakes with mixed berry syrup, fresh raspberries and whipped cream. i'm a pretty lucky birthday girl!

and i know this lens can capture nature like whoa. here is a hibiscus flower from our tree - it bloomed especially for me this morning!

i took this while getting ready for work - can you make out my makeup? oh who cares, do you see that detail?? i'm not even good at this yet and i have little to no idea what i'm doing, so thank you, lens, because you're making me look good...i hope?

i hear it's good for pet portraits, too. Miles plays camera shy, but he was rolling around working it for me like nobody's business.

Hoss was "working" it as well. Poor guy, his neck makes him look like a little doxie linebacker. oh, i love him so and when my flash* isn't blinding him, he loves me too. (*yes i used the flash. i know it's a horrible thing to do. i'm still learning and without it or a tripod, you'd have vomited from image motion sickness about three pictures ago.)

so we went out to eat and i had plum wine sangria and spicy salmon with spinach and chick peas and rice and lentil sides (husband had scallops atop asparagus and lo mein and a wicked strong ginger martini)...and i came home to this cake batter confetti and red velvet ice cream cake. and hey, i didn't make one thing but that's ok because it's my birthday!