Friday, June 26, 2009

Ultimate Ginger Cookie

So I was home sick today (okay, not really sick, but with a slight case of the shingles and I must be quarantined from all babies and elderly people) and was watching the Barefoot Contessa when I saw this recipe on her show. I said to myself, "hey, I have all those ingredients already!" How do I have crystallized ginger, you ask? Well, it just so happens I had some leftover crystallized ginger my sister in law gave me when I first started getting morning sickness (btw, to any new preggies out there, crystallized ginger really works when you're feeling nauseous and gross. Just suck on a little piece). The cookie result: spicy, gingery, crunchy, chewy, did I mention spicy? I'm sending my Matthew a batch because he loves spicy cookies...hmm, maybe that's why he married me?

INGREDIENTS (16 cookies)

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped crystallized ginger (6 ounces)
  • Granulated sugar, for rolling the cookies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt and then combine the mixture with your hands.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, oil, and molasses on medium speed for 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed, add the egg, and beat for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat for 1 more minute. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the crystallized ginger and mix until combined. Scoop the dough with 2 spoons or a small ice cream scoop. With your hands, roll each cookie into a 1 3/4-inch ball and then flatten them lightly with your fingers. Press both sides of each cookie in granulated sugar and place them on the sheet pans. Bake for exactly 13 minutes. The cookies will be crackled on the top and soft inside. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Turkey Meatballs

After four tries, I've finally come up with the perfect, flavorful and juicy turkey meatballs. Yes, you heard right: turkey. I believe that the key to these meatballs are fresh breadcrumbs, none of that store bought stuff. I also think that the cheese adds additional creaminess. The recipe is a combination of a Dave Baggs ground beef meatball recipe slightly altered by me. The reason I do turkey instead of ground beef is because there are members in my family that don't eat red meat.

Use these turkey meatballs in a meatball sub and top with your favorite marinara sauce or use them in spaghetti (make it whole wheat spaghetti if you want to add more fiber and protein to your diet) and you will have yourself a really good, hearty meal and you won't even miss the ground beef!

INGREDIENTS (makes 24 to 28 meatballs)

  • 2 to 2-1/2 lb. ground turkey
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes or 4 Tablespoons of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups fresh, soft breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup grated mild cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients until they are well distributed. Don't worry about overmixing. Place it in the fridge for 30 minutes to let the breadcrumbs absorb all the flavors.

Form turkey mixture into golf-sized meatballs.

Place them in a greased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Turn meatballs over and bake another 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. At this point you can store them and use them the next day (I find that leaving them in the fridge overnight makes the meatballs taste better the next day) or place them in freezer bags and freeze and store whenever you need to use them.

To make fresh breadcrumbs: place 1/2" pieces of French bread or thick white bread in a food processor and whiz until you get your breadcrumbs.

To make a very simple marinara sauce: saute 1 large minced garlic clove in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 30 seconds. Add 1 teaspoon fresh oregano and 1 bay leaf. Let it saute 30 more seconds. Add one (28 oz) can of "6 in 1 Tomato Sauce" and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and several grinds of black pepper. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if needed.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Homemade Frozen Yogurt

I had my first Pinkberry experience last week and I have to say I really liked their frozen yogurt. I especially liked all the exotic flavors the have to offer, but I thought it was a bit overpriced. Then this week I discovered a restaurant in the food court called the Salad Farm and they sell Greek style frozen yogurt. I tried their version and I have to say it rivals Pinkberry's. I actually liked the Salad Farm's version best because it was much tangier and I am I believer in all things Greek!

I remembered that I had an ice-cream maker in the mini-basement and I decided to make my own version of frozen yogurt. Unfortunately, I could not find the Greek yogurt I usually buy as they were out and I'm not a big fan of the Bulgarian yogurt. So I got your regular store bought plain yogurt and strained it (remember 2 cups of plain yogurt will yield 1 cup of strained yogurt). This version came out pretty good, but I can't wait to try it with real Greek-style yogurt.

INGREDIENTS (makes 1 quart)

  • 3 cups strained yogurt (see below) or Greek-style yogurt
  • 2/3 sugar (if you want yours sweeter, use up to 3/4 cup sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix together the yogurt, sugar, and vanilla. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Refrigerate 1 hour. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Note: to make 1 cup of strained yogurt, line a mesh strainer with a few layers of cheese cloth. then scrape 16 ounces or 2 cups of plain whole-milk yogurt into the cheesecloth. Gather the ends and fold them over the yogurt, then refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. So, for the above recipe start with and strain 6 cups of yogurt.

Recipe from David Levobitz via

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Homemade Tomato Sauce

Our tomato plants are producing so much fruit that I've ran out of ideas what to do with them. I am getting a little tired of tomato salads! But I finally decided to make tomato sauce. These tomatoes are not "ideal" for sauce because they are sweeter than your Roma tomato, and their skins are very thin. I found that I prefer the tomato sauce these tomatoes produced because the sauce came out slightly sweet, slightly tangy and I didn't have to seed any of the tomatoes.

INGREDIENTS (makes about 6 cups)

  • 15 to 20 small to medium ripe and sweet tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion (I used spring onions from our garden)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped (I used Italian parsley from our garden)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped (I used Greek oregano from our garden)
  • 3 fresh sage leaves, finely minced (I also used fresh from our garden)
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine

First cut a small "x" at the bottom of each tomato. Place them in a large pot of boiling water and boil for 30 to 45 seconds to loosen skin. Immediately remove tomatoes and place them in an ice-bath. When cool enough to handle, peel off skin.

Working in batches, place the peeled tomatoes in a blender and blend for 10 seconds. Set tomato sauce aside.

In a large pot heat olive oil on medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, oregano and sage and gently cook for another 5 minutes. Raise heat to medium-high and add the blended tomato sauce, white wine, one teaspoon salt and1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and add the remaining teaspoon of salt, if needed.

Let sauce cool to room temperature. Place in the fridge overnight. You can jar it in plastic containers and freeze or use immediately in your favorite recipe using tomato sauce.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Panna Cotta with Strawberry Sauce

Next to flan, this is probably my second favorite custard. What's so great about this dessert is that there is no oven involved. Just a little cooking on the stove top and the rest of it is done in the fridge. Also, this is quite a refreshing dessert because there is not too sugary and the strawberry sauce really makes it quite lush. Anyhoo, if you've never had panna cotta before, I think you'll like this recipe--which came from the Barefoot Contessa herself!

INGREDIENTS (4 servings)

For the panna cotta:

  • 1/2 packet (1 teaspoon) unflavored gelatin powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 1/3 cup sugar
For the strawberry sauce:
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • A few squeezes of fresh lemon juice

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin on 1 1/2 tablespoons of cold water. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to dissolve.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup of the cream, the yogurt, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds. Heat the remaining 3/4 cup of cream and the 1/3 cup of sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Off the heat, add the softened gelatin to the hot cream and stir to dissolve. Pour the hot cream-gelatin mixture into the cold cream-yogurt mixture and stir to combine.

Pour into 4 (6 to 8-ounce) ramekins or custard cups and refrigerate uncovered until cold. When the panna cottas are thoroughly chilled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

For the strawberry sauce: Place the strawberries and sugar in food processor and puree. Strain the sauce to a fine sieve to separate from the seeds. Add few drops of fresh lemon juice and refrigerate.

To serve panna cotta: Dip the panna cotta molds, one at a time, into a bowl filled with hot water. Leave for about 5 seconds. Invert onto a serving plate. Press two fingers on the bottom of the mold and then shake slightly to loosen. Carefully remove the mold from the panna cotta. Top the panna cotta with a spoonful of strawberry sauce.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Chicken Paillard with Tomato-Arugula Salad

I realized that I need to start eating more protein because I have a little alien growing inside me that I need to feed. And if she plans on taking over the world, she's gonna need some good nutrition. My cravings and aversions tend to change from week to week, but this week I started craving all things chicken. And it just so happens that I caught an episode of Tyler Florence's Ultimate show where he made chicken paillard and it's surprisingly easy, fast and very tasty. The only thing I changed was the dressing; I made my own vinaigrette instead of making homemade Caesar dressing since I can't have raw egg yolks at this point. I guess paillard is just a fancy word for schnitzel, because the breading is similar, and I think if you serve the chicken paillard with ketchup, even kids will like it!

INGREDIENTS (2 servings)


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, whipped slightly with a splash of half and half or milk
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon orange marmalade
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup organic grape tomatoes, halved (I used our homegrown tomatoes)
  • Fresh baby arugala (enough for two servings)
  • Shaved Parmesan, for garnish
  • Lemon wedges, for garnish
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

For the chicken: Begin by pounding out the chicken breast gently between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Prepare a breading station with flour, whisked eggs and milk, and panko crumbs. Season all with salt and pepper. Coat the breasts in flour, egg then panko. Lay the coated breasts out on a flat tray and refrigerate to let the crust dry out (about 10 minutes) this will ensure there is less moisture and less chance your coating will break when frying. Shallow fry the paillard in hot oil for approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side depending on how thick the breasts are. Drain well, season with salt and set aside when done. For the vinaigrette: Put the marmalade, cider vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper into a small bowl. While whisking, pour the olive oil in slowly for the dressing to emulsify.

Prepare the salad by splitting the grape tomatoes in half through the middle lengthwise, mixing in arugula in a mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette and toss the salad well. Add more vinaigrette, if needed. Refrigerate the remaining for another day.

To serve lay the warm, crispy chicken paillard on the base of the plate and top with the salad. Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese, a wedge of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Couscous a la Mexicana

Well, this dish was just an experiment. It was OK, although I feel that there was something missing. Maybe some minced jalapenos or some garlic. The beauty of couscous is that it cooks in 5 minutes and you can add any flavors, veggies or proteins you like. I went with a little Mexican theme and it wasn't too bad. After I made it, though, I realized that I'm not supposed to eat Mexican queso fresco since it's I had to take it off. Next time I'll just use pasteurized feta.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

  • 3/4 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • Pinch of cumin
  • 2 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 small avocado, roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro or parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. currants (optional)
  • Queso fresco or feta cheese

In a medium saucepan cook onion in 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat until tender. Stir in cumin; cook for 30 seconds. Carefully add broth and bring to a boil; stir in couscous. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand for five minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the chopped tomatoes, avocado, cilantro and currants in a bowl. Add the juice of half a lime and drizzle in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add a little salt and pepper to taste and gently mix to combine.

Add the tomato mix to the couscous and fluff couscous with a fork before serving. Garnish with queso fresco and more cilantro sprigs, and drizzle more olive oil, if desired.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Fresh Garbanzo Bean Hummus

I twittered the other day that I was in a cooking funk and my friend, who is a chef in training, suggested I go to the market and pick an unusual ingredient and invent something with it. Well, yesterday I was at my favorite market, North Park Produce, and while I was browsing around I found a bag of weird looking peas...or were they grapes? I had no idea. I asked the produce guy he said they were fresh garbanzo beans. I had never seen fresh ones, so I bought the bag, which was $2.19. I got home and the first thing that came to my mind was to make hummus, but I didn't have tahini, so I made up this recipe and, my goodness, it was delish and it tastes like a very light hummus, with hints of white beans and edamame. Just note that it takes FOREVER to shell the garbanzo pods. It took me 12 minutes just to get 1 cup, so this would be a good task for your hubby or wife or your kids to help you with. Thanks, Kerry, for your inspiration!

INGREDIENTS (makes 1 cup)

  • 1 cup of fresh green garbanzo beans, shelled
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 small garlic clove or half of a large one, roughly chopped
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. ground coriander
  • Coarse salt and fresh black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (about a palm full) of fresh parsley
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Good olive oil
  • Paprika, for presentation (optional)

Place the shelled garbanzo beans in a steamer basket over simmering water and steam for 15 to 20 minutes until tender but not mushy. Drain and cool in an ice-bath or put in fridge to cool off.

In a small pan or sauce pan (the smaller the better) add the sesame oil and the crushed garlic and gently cook over low heat just until garlic begins to lightly brown. Add the cumin and coriander and toast for 30 seconds more and remove from heat. In a food processor add the cooled-off garbanzo beans, the sesame-garlic oil, parsley, juice of the half lemon, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Process until smooth. Taste and add more salt, if needed, or more olive oil depending on how creamy you like your hummus (I added one more tablespoon to mine) and blend again. Place the hummus in your serving bowl; sprinkle some paprika over it and serve with warm pita bread.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Pasta, Eggs and Bacon

I have been in a cooking funk lately, and I think it has to do with me being preggers. I just had no motivation to cook. All I was craving was oatmeal and fruit, but my cravings seem to change on a weekly basis. Then, suddenly, today I wanted bacon! If you recall, just the smell of bacon would make me nauseous during the first trimester of my pregnancy, but today I was craving it. To make matters worse, I was craving spaghetti alla carbonara and that's definitely something my doctor would not recommend I have. Authentic carbonara is spaghetti with lightly beaten eggs (or egg yolks) that are just barely cooked with the heat of the pasta, giving the pasta a shiny, eggy sauce that is nowhere near scrambled. Some people shy away from this dish because the eggs are not fully cooked all the way. So, I had to come up with my own variation and that's why this is pasta, eggs and bacon because it's nowhere near authentic carbonara, but dang, was it tasty!

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

  • 1/4 pound spaghetti
  • 4 thick cut bacon slices, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus more for sprinkling
  • Coarse salt and fresh black pepper
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt is very generously and add your spaghetti and cook 8 minutes or according to package directions.

In the meantime, cook bacon pieces in a skillet just until nicely browned and crisp. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Reserve 1 teaspoon of the bacon grease. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half and 1/4 cup Parmesan, a tiny pinch of salt and some fresh ground black pepper.

Place the reserved bacon grease back in the pan (no need to clean it out) and reduce heat to medium. Add the garlic and cook gently until it becomes fragrant. Your pasta should be done by now. Drain the pasta and add the pasta to the skillet. Raise heat back up to medium-high and working quickly, add the egg-milk mixture, the bacon bits and the peas. Keep tossing the pasta until all strands are coated with the egg sauce and keep cooking and tossing until the eggs just begin to set and just barely start to scramble and there is no raw egg left. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Sprinkle a little more Parmesan and just a tiny pinch of red pepper flakes. This makes a great breakfast dish, too!