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Posts Tagged ‘mushrooms’

you be the chef

 

The sky is the limit.

Money is no object.

Add anything you like.

Use all of these ingredients.

What is your creation?

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i love these peopleI’ve just returned from a beach trip with my husband’s family.  We had a really lovely time.  Really.  I can only think of one teensy complaint about the week (okay, two if I include the fact that my head is still peeling ): Jon’s family does not place any value in eating well.  Allow me to paint the picture for you by highlighting some of the most memorable concoctions; buttered pop tarts, cheesy poofs (which would have been dipped in sour cream had it been available), and coffee sweetened with ice cream, artificial creamer AND sugar.  This is no joke.  This is real. 

At the beginning of the trip I’m simply thinking of a nicely crusted piece of salmon or some flavorful chicken –  by the end of the trip I am so desperate for a vegetable that I’m considering a handful of grass or that piece of seaweed I saw lying listlessly next to my beach towel.  The reasons that we don’t just cook our own food at the beach condo are too complex to discuss, and I really don’t want to be obnoxiously pushy about the fact that we like to eat food and nourish our bodies.  Already we are introduced as such, “This  is my brother Jon and his wife Amanda.  They’re healthy.”  The second sentence is said in a more hushed, foreboding tone, kind of like when you’re announcing a family member that is a little slow, or, I don’t know, terminally ill. 

The most amazing thing is that all of these wonderful family members that I truly adore do not weigh four hundred pounds.  Miraculously they are all slim, trim and stunning; either a small miracle or a testimony to the influence of good genes.   

I’m telling you all of this just so that you understand my desperate desire to eat something that grew from a seed and sprouted through the earth, something that was plucked from a vine or was once covered in dirt.  These are my thoughts as I’m wandering through the market on Sunday, loving every minute of my reclaimed freedom of food choice.  I planned to overload the menu with veg, while as usual, be thrifty and use all of my purchased ingredients.  I knew I would have some extra arugula and decided to just grab a small assortment of vegetables to grill up and serve on top of the remaining greens.  I’m so fortunate to be able to buy individual vegetables as opposed to a pre-packaged bunch; this is the beauty of the farmer’s market.  So, I selected a zucchini, a summer squash, a few portabello mushroom caps and a red onion.  Remembering the balsamic that I just brought back from Italy and a jar of roasted red peppers in my fridge, I think that this will be so easy to throw on the grill, taste amazing, and feed the screaming veggie monster that had yet to be satisfied. 

I just finished my lunch, and what I thought was going to be a very simple preparation of grilled veggies on some

beautiful grilled veggie goodness

beautiful grilled veggie goodness

left over greens (I’ve done this before, you know), turned out to be a symphony of tangy, warm, toasty, flavorful, satisfying goodness.  Oh yes.  And to think that I was also eating on the cheap and nourishing my deprived body?!  There is a God who loves me. 

I’ve thrown this little menagerie together before, but a few minor tweaks really made it special.  For starters, I used arugula instead of spinach.  If you think arugula is bitter or strong or just plain gross, erase this notion from your brain immediately.  Toss those greens in some lemon and good quality olive oil, get over it and enjoy.  Pair them with something complementary like red onion or soppressata or cauliflower or tomato sauce.  But I digress; the arugula that I tossed in lemon and olive oil as a bed for my grilled vegetables elevated the flavors of each vegetable, as did the pairing of lemon with the balsamic that I poured over my vegetables.  (It also probably didn’t hurt that I used some balsamic from Italy…).  What really added panache though was a little side bowl of whole milk ricotta cheese that I mixed with a smidge of grated fresh garlic and salt and pepper.  Oooooooohhhh, a little bit of arugula, some portabello, a piece of onion and a little dollop of that pillowy cool ricotta, scented with the fresh garlic – heaven!  Or maybe a little bit of arugula with some roasted red pepper and a piece of summer squash, and another little schmear of that glorious ricotta – perfection!  The sweetness of the vinegar, the balancing sour of the lemon, the roasty flavor of the vegetables, the assertive flavor of our darling arugula, and the crown of that beautiful ricotta – a revelation!  Each bite was chosen for a new combination of flavors, each one announced as the best so far.  

Did I mention that this was also easy as pie?  You could really go overboard and throw in some toasted flat bread or pour the greens and veggies over a nice little serving of quinoa or couscous.  You could toss in some fresh herbs, like basil or thyme.  You could grill some chicken alongside your veggies. (And speaking of grilling, you also must get one of those cast iron grill pans that go over two burners.  It will change your life.  It makes all of this so simple and quick to cook and clean.) 

little ricotta cloud

little ricotta cloud

If I sound bossy here I do apologize; maybe it’s because I just spent a week trying to avoid buttered preservatives and sugar encapsulated in trans fat, forbidden to indulge my omnivorous desires for real food.  This is hard for me.  It makes me sassy when I’m back in control. 

The recipe below is for two; very easy to adjust for any number of people.  I do hope that you will recreate this meal immediately and enjoy every single unique bite as Jon and I just did.  While you savor each little flavor explosion, meditate on the fact that you are capable of making this fabulous food, that your body is singing a chorus for all of this lovely veg, and that most likely what you put on your grill cost less that a box of cheesy poofs or a gallon of ice cream.  Glory!

delicious grilled veggie and arugula salad with pillowy garlic scented ricotta

  • one zucchini, sliced into half inch rounds
  • two summer squash, sliced into half inch rounds
  • one medium red onion, peeled and quartered
  • two portobello mushroom caps, sliced into manageable chunks
  • a few good quality jarred roasted red peppers
  • a few generous handfuls of arugula, rinsed and dried
  • one lemon
  • about a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • one half clove of garlic, grated or pushed through a press
  • a few tablespoons of whole milk ricotta
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. toss squash, zucchini, shrooms and peppers in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper, and add them to a well oiled grill pan over medium heat, about 4 minutes per side or until desired doneness
  2. meanwhile, toss the arugula with a dressing of salt and pepper, the juice of a fresh lemon and olive oil; lay on a platter or places
  3. add garlic to the ricotta and season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside in a little serving bowl
  4. top the arugula with the finished vegetables and gently toss so that arugula slightly wilts; serve with the ricotta on the side and enjoy every bite

You could really use any kind of mediterranean style vegetables that you like, including eggplants or artichoke hearts – this is a great way to use any left over vegetables.

While the ricotta cheese is a fantastic companion to the salad, parmesan or goat cheese or any other cheese may be a great accompaniment; I happened to have some extra ricotta in the fridge – get creative and use what you’ve got!

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figs with goat cheeseMy friend Becky is near and dear to my heart.  She is smart, compassionate, soulful, thoughtful – I’m thankful to know her.  She was born on Cinco de Mayo; we celebrated Cinco de Becky last week with “tapas” at her house.  It is so wonderful to know people who LOVE food.  It’s even better when these same people all bring food to a party. 

We ate so good.  SO GOOD.  We had so much food at this party that we didn’t end up cooking it all!  Lots of little crostinis, crispy with a creamy and delicious red pepper spread (I ate four pieces myself – FOUR), asparagus wrapped in serrano ham, tangy pork riblets, sweet and smoky Japanese style chicken and beef on skewers (who doesn’t love meat on a stick?), and tamarind margaritas (one of the best margaritas I’ve ever had). 

Being the quasi-purist that I am, I had to make things that seemed at least a little shroomsSpanish, so I made some mushrooms sizzled in a smoked chipotle and smoked paprika butter, little crostinis of serrano ham, manchego cheese and fig jam, and little crostinis of caramelized figs with goat cheese and basil. 

The shrooms will be soft and browned – the butter will give them this smoky richness that is outstanding.  The serrano ham marries so well with the assertive flavors of manchego and the sweetness of the fig jam.  The figs with goat cheese were kind of a last minute addition in an effort to use up some dried figs that were sitting in my pantry.  I reduced them down with some dry sherry, sherry vinegar and brown sugar.  W-O-W.  Those figs in combination with tangy goat cheese and the freshness of the basil will make you sing. 
ham and manchegoIt makes me happy to share these tasty little bites with you.  You should make them immediately and eat them.  Invite some friends over and ask them to make something extremely delicious and call it a party!

 

 

 

 

mushrooms sizzled in smoky spicy butter

  • a couple of tbsp of butter, softened
  • 1 heaping tsp of dried chipotle powder
  • 1 heaping tsp of smoked paprika
  • salt to taste
  • 12 oz or a few packages of whole mushrooms, either shitake or cremini (don’t use button mushrooms – they have too much water)
  • little wooden skewers if you’d like (be sure and soak them in water first)
  1. mix the spices with the softened butter to form a delicious, spiced compound butter
  2. gently sautee your mushrooms in a skillet or sautee pan over medium high heat until they have released their juices and are softened
  3. removed them from the pan and place into a bowl or on a plate and cover so that they can steam a little
  4. skewer them, if you want
  5. heat some of the butter over medium high heat and sizzle the mushrooms for two to three minutes, watching butter so that it doesn’t burn (if you are using skewers put the butter and shrooms in the pan in batches)

little serrano ham and manchego crostini with fig jam

  • one baguette
  • a few tbsp of fig jam
  • a small wedge of manchego cheese
  • 6 or 7 thin slices of serrano ham or prosciutto de parma
  1. cut the baguette on a bias and toast the slices under the broiler (spread with a little butter before going into the over if you’re feeling naughty)
  2. smear a thin layer of the fig jam on the toasted bread, top with a thin shaving of the manchego and a piece of the ham – could this be any easier? 

little crostinis with sherry glazed figs, goat cheese and basil

  • one baguette
  • a handful of dried figs
  • fresh goat cheese (I prefer a “log” for this)
  • a few leaves of basil, cut “chiffonade” style
  • about 1/2 cup of sherry, depending on how many figs you have
  • about 1/2 cup of good quality sherry vinegar, depending on how many figs you have
  • about 1/4 cup of brown sugar, packed
  1. bring figs, sherry, sherry vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt to boil over medium high heat in a medium sized saucepan
  2. reduce and simmer over low heat until liquid is very syrupy and almost gone, careful to prevent burning (taste as you go and adjust the amount of sherry/vinegar/sugar to taste) – this will take about 25 to 30 minutes
  3. meanwhile, cut the baguette on the bias and toast the slices in the broiler
  4. top each piece of bread with a little medallion of goat cheese, a fig or two and a generous sprinkle of the basil

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