Saturday, July 31, 2010


Every once in a while I get struck with a thought that scares the holy bejesus out of me. It happened a few weeks ago when I was sitting in my beach chair, eating cherries, soaking up the sun, and digging my toes in the sand in Ocean City. It happened when I drove along the shore later that day, windows down, sucking in deep breaths of sea air. It happened again when I went to the fish market and bought these sea scallops, dry packed and caught literally that morning. I thought to myself, "Thank God I live in New Jersey."

What? Shut the front door! Me? Loving New Jersey? It's like I've become a pod person. Who the hell do I think I am? I'm meant to hate this Yankee lover's armpit of the country, but lo and behold! It is growing on me, not unlike a fungus, albeit a tasty one. I think it's got to do with being land locked in Michigan for two years (I know, I know, Michiganders, it's the Great Lakes State! But seriously people, you can't get farther from the ocean and we all know that Whitefish you all rave about is just that. White fish). The lack of fresh seafood was incredibly painful for a girl who can wade out into the bay for clams whenever she wants (not that I ever did that in RI, to be honest. I let E and his step dad take care of the heavy labor). Being back shore side, especially in the summer, has brought me back to a place I can actually enjoy the food and the landscape. Amazing. Who knows, Jersey may actually end up like home.

Seared Sea Scallops with Spicy Peach Salsa
(say that one three times fast!)

1 lb. sea scallops (preferably dry)
2 peaches, peeled and chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 Tbls. honey
1 Tbls red wine vinegar
dash of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1 Tbls. olive oil

Toss peaches, jalapeño, onion, honey, and vinegar in a bowl. Season with cayenne, salt, and pepper and set aside.

Heat olive oil and a pat of butter in a large skillet (preferably not a non-stick skillet!) over medium high heat. Wash scallops and remove any of the little muscles clinging to the sides. Pat dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Once your pan is very hot, add scallops flat side down, being sure not to crowd the pan. By now you've all watched enough Food Network to know to leave them alone. Resist the urge to touch them and turn them! Give the scallops at least 3 minutes to brown before you peek. If they are nice and crusty, turn them. Give them another 3 or 4 minutes to brown on the other side and remove immediately from pan. Trust me, the last thing you want is a tough, overcooked scallop!

Arrange on plates and serve with a generous scoop of peach salsa.

I like it raw

Ok, so it's raw foods week over at IHCC. I have to admit, the whole raw foods movement makes me shake my head. Maybe it's only because one of the most vocal spokesman of the whole affair is Woody Harrelson. Don't get me wrong, I dig Woody. He was funny on Cheers and I enjoyed Zombieland, but I don't care about how he eats. The man lives on a private island compound where they produce their own energy and grow all of their own food, so he's not exactly dealing with what most people consider reality. I sometimes wish celebrities would just hide out in their little imaginary universes and be quiet, but then there wouldn't be any Talk Soup or E channel, and I couldn't handle that. So anyway, while this isn't a food lifestyle I'd ever adopt, I certainly appreciate the idea of utilizing fresh local foods in a minimal effort, super fast way. I just couldn't stop singing Wu Tang while I made this salad, shimmy shimmy ya shimmy yeah shimmy yay. I'm so hardcore.

This isn't much of a recipe, to which anyone can attest. More like an assemblage, but you know it's good. Make sure, as Mark advises, you get the very best heirlooms you can, the very freshest basil, and some good cheese. Otherwise this easy five minute dish is a waste of five minutes.

Heirloom Caprese Salad
Inspired by Mark Bittman's 101 Summer Salads

2 or 3 heirloom tomatoes
1  ball of fresh mozarella
6-8 basil leaves
olive oil
salt and pepper

Cut tomatoes and mozzarella into thin slices. Arrange in alternating stacks. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and top with a pile of chopped basil.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Happy National Hot Fudge Sundae Day!

I just love me some random food celebration holidays! But honestly, who comes up with this stuff? It's like a group of food execs just gathered in a conference room one rainy day and started assigning things to empty calendar slots. "Hmmm, May 17th is open, how about National Jalapeño Poppers Day?" Actually, May 17th is National Cherry Cobbler Day, just so ya know. I'm way too lazy to scan the whole list for Jalapeño Poppers, but if they do have a day, let me know. I also love me some Jalapeño Poppers.

In honor of National Hot Fudge Day though, I'm making you a pie. Not just any pie, but a pie featuring one of my favorite flavor combos and one of my favorite cookies. When I was a kid, my mom always bought Archway cookies, and the Dutch Cocoa were the ultimate. I used to sandwich huge globs of peanut butter between two of them and go to town. Since Archway is hosting a little recipe challenge through BakeSpace, I had to give it a go. This is attempt numero uno, and yes, I'm going to save most of it in the freezer until E comes home from his scandalous business trip during which he crashed a Days of Our Lives party and was hit on by Chloe Lane. More on that later.

Peanut Butter Hot Fudge Sundae Pie

For the crust:
8-9 Archway Dutch Cocoa Cookies, pulverized to make 1.5 cups of crumbs
1/4 c. melted butter

Mix crumbs and butter and press into a 9 inch pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool and Set aside.

For the ice cream:
1 c. heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
generous pinch of salt

Pulse all ingredients in a blender until well combined. Pour into ice cream maker and process according to instructions for a soft set ice cream.

To assemble:
12 mini or 6 full sized peanut butter cups, roughly chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
1 cup whipped cream
Maraschino cherries
Hot fudge sauce

Pour ice cream into cooled crust. Sprinkle with chopped peanut butter cups and freeze for at least one hour. When ready to serve, spread a pool of hot fudge on each plate. Top with a slice of pie. Top pie with whipped cream, sprinkle with peanuts, and add a cherry.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

All by Myself...

...don't wanna be. All by myself, anymoooore! God, I'm so over being stuck in the house by myself this weekend, and it's only Saturday afternoon! E's been on a very long business trip, and I've done a pretty good job of entertaining myself in his absence, like going to the Farmer's Market, going Down the Shore, almost dying on a dilapidated Corkscrew ride, and losing my keys for three days and being locked out of my house and car. It's been awesome. I've also been eating like a pig and somehow still losing weight according to the Wii Fit, so I think I may have actually broken that this week, too. I'm batting a thousand.

Since it's potluck week over at IHCC, I decided to do something I don't normally do and make just enough food. I like leftovers. I love a freezer stuffed to the gills. But I'm all alone after all, so I may as well just cook for me. I found these adorable white eggplants at the Farmer's Market, and even though I've been on eggplant overload the past two weeks, I just had to cook them up using one of Mark's recipes. My copy of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is due back to the library cause some other jackass has it on hold, which means I either have to cough up the dough for my own copy, or refuse to give it up and start racking up late fees. I'm torn. 

Curried Eggplant with Coconut Milk for 2 (or 1 if you wanna be a pig like moi)
Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, page 296

1 lb. eggplant (about 2 small eggplants, white, Japanese, whatever!)
Scant 1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
Heaping teaspoon curry paste (I used Pataks Biryani Curry)
1/2 cup coconut milk

If your eggplant is nice and firm, you don't need to peel it, otherwise go for it! Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes and toss with salt.
Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add garlic and curry paste and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add eggplant and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes, until eggplant begins to release some of the absorbed oil. Continue to cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes. (As Mark notes, this time may vary depending on your eggplant, so keep an eye on it.) Stir in coconut milk and cook another 10 minutes until eggplant is very soft. Adjust seasoning if needed. Serve over rice or with pita, garnished with chopped cilantro.

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P.S. I have to give a shout out to the awesome cooks who make IHCC work like clockwork every week. They are all really amazing with food, and each write lovely food blogs in addition to participating in about a jillion blog roundups and other online foodie endeavors. Thanks Kim, Heather, Deb, and Natashya! Be nice and go see what the other ladies cooked up this week for Potluck Week at I Heart Cooking Clubs!


Beating the Heat

So yeah, here, like just about everywhere, it's hot. Crazy hot. But it's also been stormy and bizarre, so much so that we had tornado warnings last night. I was at the movie theater with the J's when the power suddenly went out, kids started screaming, and they evacuated the entire mall. It was a total shit show. A Jersey mall on a Friday night is packed tighter than a CAFO, and security was trying to herd everyone out the doors at once. Typically, a ton of morons didn't want to go out to their wet cars in the downpour, so they milled around or stood stock still in groups, blocking stairwells and adding to the choas. I've never seen mall cops so irate. I was kind of  hoping they'd start tasing people, but they only yelled. Oh well.

When I finally got home, soaked and sweaty, I was really only pissed that we missed the last 15 minutes of "Ramona and Beezus." I consoled myself with a big bowl of this frozen yogurt and "Coraline," two of my favorite things.

Blueberry Peach Frozen Yogurt
4-5 peaches, peeled and sliced into chunks
1 cup blueberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup plain yogurt
dash of lemon juice

Add the peaches, blueberries, water and sugar to a medium sauce pan over medium high heat. Cook until sugar is dissolved and fruit is softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor, add yogurt, and pulse to combine. Transfer to the fridge to chill, at least two hours. Stir in lemon juice and then process according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

*Note: next time, I think I'll cook and process the fruits separately and then add the blueberry puree as the fro-yo churns in the ice cream maker. I think it would be pretty to have the tie dye effect of peach yogurt swirled with the berries, instead of one big mass of purple.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Birthdays and Blueberries

It's a month of birthday madness around here, but I'm not making any more cake! Yesterday was Anniebelly's birthday party, today is my sister's birthday, and my friend's daughter Sky turns 10 today, too. My boss' birthday is Wednesday and I have 3 friends with birthdays last week. Luckily I don't actually have to celebrate each one with plates full of cake and ice cream, just mailing cards and presents! Actually Annie's was the only birthday I got to spend with the birthday girl, and in true princess style, tiaras and all. She had an ice cream cake, so I just made these muffins for breakfast before the guests showed up. They are a Gourmet recipe with a streusel topping added just because, and everybody really liked them, including this little lady. 

Cinnamon Streusel Blueberry Muffins

5 Tbls unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. sugar
dash of cinnamon

*Mix all ingredients with your fingers until moist and crumbly.

For muffin batter: 

6 Tbls. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. milk (I used vanilla soy)
1 large egg
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. blueberries 


Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners. 

Whisk together egg, brown sugar, butter and milk and set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and stir to combine. Fold in blueberries. Divide evenly among muffin cups. Top with streusel. Bake 25 minutes our until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

For the Love of Yeast

I've been a bad baker. Neglectful, remiss, borderline snobbish in my refusal to bake bread for weeks now. See, E was getting irritated by the huge 60's era Tupperware cake carrier-turned-dough tote that had taken up permanent residence on the bottom shelf of our fridge. That's usually where the beer lives, so you'll understand his aggravation. I figured subbing one yeasty product for another wasn't such a bad thing. The I realized it was summertime, aka beach time, aka bathing suit season, and was forced again to look at my massive carbohydrate intake as a possible road bump in my goals. With all of the parties we had coming up, I had to make a choice. Cupcakes or bread? That was a no brainer.

Now that I've consumed my weight in cake and icing, the parties are almost over and I'm back in the bread baking saddle. As luck would have it, the week I decide to rejoin HBin5 is another gluten free week. Blast! Forget that crap, yo. Like last time, I blew off the assignment (I've skipped so many I doubt anyone cares) and made a big batch of Whole Wheat with Olive Oil instead. It makes my second favorite pizza dough (the Soft WW Sandwich Dough is awesomer) and was another perfect way to help me get rid of the massive amount of produce I bought last week. This one is zucchini, red onion, kalamata olives, roasted red pepper, artichoke hearts and goat cheese. Yum!

The rest of the dough was turned into a leftover saver and is all wrapped up and ready to go to the Ibey's today. It's Anniebelly's 2nd birthday party and I'm in charge of "Adult Appetizers." Normally, that would mean an ice luge and a handle of vodka or two, but the party starts at 10 AM, so I figured I'd make food instead.

Italian Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Sandwich Loaf
adapted from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients

1 lb. portion of any whole wheat dough
1 cup cooked Italian sausage, crumbled or chopped
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp. each red pepper flakes, oregano, and dried basil, mixed
olive oil

Grease a loaf pan (I always line it with parchment, too).
On a floured work surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.
Sprinkle with cheese, spinach, basil, and sausage.
Roll dough over the fillings, pinching seam and ends shut and folding them over.
Place the roll, seam side down, into the prepare pan and let rest for 60 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and when ready to bake, brush the loaf with olive oil. Sprinkle with spice mixture and salt and pepper to taste.
Bake for one hour or until top is browned and bread is firm. Cool slightly before removing from pan.
Slice and serve warm or at room temp.

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Don't forget to visit Michelle's blog in case you are curious about Gluten Free breads. Not everyone in the group is a scaredy cat like moi!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

One For My Girls

My two best girl friends are a vegan and a vegetarian. They weren't always, as I specifically remember Jessica eating the occasional cheeseburger in high school. That was back when eating vegetarian meant ordering the bean burrito at our school's Taco Bell  and substituting two Snickers bars  for a ham sandwich. Jenny was the first person I ever knew to eat hummus, way before it was "normal," but then again, she's always been the hippie in our group. When Jenny and I did a stint as roommates, I remember her cooking up indiscriminate one-bowl concoctions of veggie fare all the time. I never quite knew what she was eating, but that was way before I  had delved into the idea that not eating meat at every meal might be a decent idea. Now that I'm eating vegetarian meals at least half of the time, I'm the one making big bowls of only-I-know-what.

Although we are now all spread out between LA, RI, and Jersey, I figured this is a dish I could definitely make if we all three could get together for dinner. Leaving out the onions would allow Jessica's fiancé to join us, but it's Girl's Night at this imaginary party, so he's not invited. Jenny, you'll be so proud to know I actually bought soy yogurt to make this! And I liked it! Don't tell E though, cause he liked it, too, and I'm too cheap to buy it all the time.

I've actually made this recipe in its original form twice now, and we love it. This time I wanted to use up all the local veggies I found at the market, so I made a bunch of changes: adding squash, zucchini, and chick peas. I also cooked them on the grill, which worked just as well as broiling. It's super easy and versatile, and I think it will be one of the Bittman recipes that I continue to cook way after this challenge is over.

Roasted Eggplant with Peppers, Onions, and Yogurt
Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food, page 298

3 or 4 small or 1 or 2 large eggplant, trimmed and cut into slices lengthwise
3 red or yellow bell peppers, sliced into strips (I left these out this time!)
1 large zucchini, cut into slices lengthwise
1 large yellow squash, cut into slices lengthwise
2 tomatoes, halved
1 onion, peeled and halved
1 avocado, halved
1 cup chickpeas, cooked
1 tsp. fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried
2 cups yogurt
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Preheat grill or broiler. If grilling, brush all veggies with olive oil. If broiling, pour 1/4 cup olive oil into a roasting pan and turn eggplant, peppers, and squashes in it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until tender, turning once, about 5 minutes per side.
Transfer the veggies to a bowl and put onion, avocado and tomato in the pan or on grill, cut sides down. Cook until just blackened (the avocado will take only a minute or two, but the onion needs more time). Allow these veggies to cool enough to handle, then scoop out the avocado and slice into chunks. Separate onion into slices and chop tomato. Add to the bowl of veggies. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Add chickpeas, yogurt, and lemon juice and  toss to coat.
*Optional step! Return to roasting pan. Broil about 5 minutes or until bubbly and lightly charred on top.
Serve over brown rice and top with thyme and red pepper flakes.

*Jessica and Jenny, I hope you guys make this because you'll love it! And it totally fits into the pre-wedding "don't eat crap that will prevent us from fitting into our dresses" diet. One month to go! Woot woot!

This is my submission for IHCC's Girls' Night In Week!

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Seriously Overdue

But that's what happens when you decide to run off to a cottage on the beach and ignore technology, the modern world, and even the Real Housewives for over a week. E and I got back from our fabulous vacation full of sand and sun, birthday parties, Red Sox games, food, family, friends, and biking Block Island to a huge stack of mail and an even more huge amount of emails. My Google Reader had over 1000 items in it, but I'm not even going to try and catch up. The only catching up I'm doing is posting this corn chowder, which I ended up making twice in two weeks using my second sample of heirloom beans from Marx Foods. It was that good.

I love chowders, and I certainly ate my fair share of it back in RI, but I am not a fan of the amount of cream and butter often used to make them so thick and rich and, let's face it, worth eating. This recipe cuts all of that out by using pureed corn as the thickener, and it is so simple to make, literally done in ten minutes.

Chipotle Corn Chowder
8 ears of corn, cooked (I prefer them done on the grill, since it adds that smoky flavor!)
1 cup cooked white beans (I used the Marrow beans from Justin)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 chipotle pepper, diced (from a can of chipotles in adobo, found in the Mexican food aisle) 
Salt and pepper to taste
Red onion, cilantro, or parsley to garnish

Slice all of the corn off the ear, getting as close to the core as possible. Pour 2 cups of stock and half of the corn into a blender and pulse to puree. Pour into a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in remaining corn, stock, beans, and chipotle pepper. Season with salt and pepper and heat through. Serve with chopped onion or herbs to garnish.

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