Italian

Take My Hand

Swiss Chard Pasta

I want to start this post with a quick garden update, mostly because I actually have a garden to give updates on!  At this point I have 14 tomatoes, including one that is starting to redden.  I also have 21 peppers, including two on my red bell pepper plant!  With the peppers I think I should have the first one in the next week or so with the rest following soon after.  I am starting to work some pepper recipes and can’t wait to test them with my own fresh veggies!  I’m just hoping that the strong wind we have been having lately doesn’t take out any of my lovelies.

This recipe doesn’t feature tomatoes or peppers however it does feature a vegetable that is in season and often overlooked.  I had my first taste of Swiss Chard about 15months ago, at Old Town Alexandria’s Majestic.  It was served as part of an amazing cannelloni dish along with fresh cheeses and a wicked cream sauce.   Quick disclaimer:  my memory has been labeled as freaky however the reason for such detail is my first experience with Swiss Chard happened to be my first “real” date with Joe so…I remember these things.  However it wasn’t until reading about a dozen blog posts about amazing CSA reens that I finally got the courage to try cooking it on my own.  I stuck with a basic pasta dish in order to make sure the chard had a chance to shine.  Finding out the sauce turned a pleasant pink shade was an added bonus.

Ingredients: (serves 4-5)

  • 1/2 lb Ziti (or other tubular) noodles
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, well diced
  • 1 lb Swiss Chard, well rinsed and coarsely chopped (cut off the bottom of the stem)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

  1. Cook the pasta according to the directions until al dente.  Drain and return to pan.
  2. Meanwhile heat the olive oil over medium heat, once hot add the garlic and onion.  Cook 5 minutes, until garlic starts to turn golden.  Add the swiss chard is slow amounts, letting it wilt before adding more.  Cook until the chard is tender, about 7minutes.
  3. In a small bowl mix the ricotta cheese with the vegetable stock.  Pour over the drained pasta and toss before mixing in the chard mixture.  Season to taste with salt and pepper then top with the Parmesan Cheese.  Serve warm!

This recipe is quick and simple and a great way to try out a new green most would work well in this recipe.  I am looking forward to testing out some other chard recipes to see what else I can turn pink and will hopefully have tons more to share.

Dessert · International Incident Party

I Know of Thee

Very Berry Terrine

When I saw the theme for this month’s International Incident Party I was a little confused.  What in the world is a terrine?!? I had never heard of such a thing and a quick search of the internet did not really alleviate the confusion.  Suddenly I was seeing pictures of very strange and interesting meat dishes that resemble the wet food dishes I serve my puppies.  I’ll be honest, I thought about passing on this month.  After all, I’m a vegetarian so how in the world can I do a “French forcedmeat dish?” Then I saw a fruit terrine done by SusanV and realized that I could easily do something like that and so I signed on up.

After gaining confidence that I could in fact do a vegetarian friendly terrine I started brainstorming ideas until it came down to two ideas.  This battle can basically be summed up by chocolate vs. fruit.  In the end the temperature settled it for me and I decided to go with the more summer-esque fruit style terrine.  The basic inspiration for this dish is my insanely unhealthy obsession with cheesecake and my strong need to avoid using an oven.  I decided to use Nilla Wafers instead of graham crackers in order to please a certain someone.

Ingredients: (serves 8-10)

  • 12 oz. low fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp caramel syrup (or vanilla extract)
  • 2 cups cool whip (or homemade whipping cream)
  • 1 cup raspberries, diced
  • 1 cup strawberries, diced
  • 1 cup crushed vanilla wafers
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 20 whole wafers

Directions:

  1. Line a loaf pan with wax paper, leaving enough over the sides to cover the top.
  2. In a medium bowl mix together the cream cheese and the sugar.  The stir in the caramel syrup before slowly folding in the cool whip.  Split the mixture in to two smaller bowls.  Fold the raspberries in to one bowl and the strawberries in to the second bowl.
  3. In the same original bowl used to mix the cream cheese and sugar, blend the crushed vanilla wafers with the melted butter.  Press the mixture into the bottom of the loaf pan before going half way up the sides with the remaining mixture.  Slowly and gently pour the raspberry cream cheese mixture into the bottom of the loaf pan.  Smooth out the top then add the strawberry mixtures.  Take the whole vanilla wafers and press them along the side of the pan, between the wax paper and the strawberry mixture.  Use the remaining wafers to line the top.
  4. Fold the excess wax paper over the top of the loaf pan and use pie weights to keep the wax paper pressed down.  Place into the freezer and keep in there for at least 6hrs.  Remove to refrigerator to thaw for 2hrs before serving.  The terrine can remain in the fridge for up to three days however it won’t last that long.

Other fruits can easily be substituted based on taste and what is available in your market.  If using moist fruits such as watermelon, pineapples, or peaches leave out the extract otherwise the mixture won’t keep its shape as well.
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Quick Weeknight Recipes · Side Dish · Simple and In Season

Lying on the Grass

Zucchini Fritters with Cucumber Sauce

So turns out there are advantages to this warm spring, namely my amazing garden.  As of this moment I have five gorgeous tomatoes and eight (8!) baby green peppers.  So far no luck with the eggplant but I’m still hopeful that maybe something will grow.  Until then I will take advantage of the farmers markets in the area and keep enjoying all the wonderful vegetables that are showing up at the stands.

When I was in middle school and high school one of the few vegetables we never had to purchase were zucchinis.  My mom’s zucchini were always in abundance and we were always trying to find new ways for serving them.  Zucchini bread was always a favorite but one night my mom started shredding them and made these amazing pancakes.  It took me a few dozen attempts but I was finally able to replicate them.  These are best when using fresh vegetables which makes them perfect for this months Simple and in Season entry.  To top them off I added some cucumber sauce which is basically my lazy version of the Greek Tzatziki sauce.

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

  • 2 zucchini, peeled and shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp fresh dill, diced
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 2 tbsp Greek yogurt (DF or otherwise)
  • 2 sprigs cilantro, diced

Directions:

  1. Place the shredded zucchini on a plate lined with paper towels and press out as much liquid as possible.  Once dry move the zucchini to a bowl and mix in the eggs, bread crumbs, and dill.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add the zucchini mixture to the oil using a 1/4 measuring cup.  Cook the zucchini for 5minutes on each side, pressing down slightly to flatten out the pancakes.  Remove the pancakes to a plate lined with paper towels.
  3. To make the sauce blend the cucumber with the yogurt and cilantro.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve on top of the zucchini pancakes and enjoy!

If making a large batch of pancakes keep them warm in the oven while waiting for the last batch to finish up.  Just preheat the oven to 250 and place a cookie sheet on the middle rack.  This also works to cook off some of the extra oil, which I find to a be a plus.  If there is any leftover sauce it works great over eggs or on top of toast.  I have also been known to eat it straight but I’m strange like that.

Casserole

Get Myself Into

Get Myself Into

So the weather has gone from hot hot hot to cool and springy.  While I’m not missing the ridiculous heat I am wishing it was slightly warmer, a nice 82 if I could.  However an advantage to the cool weather is being able to use by oven again without fear of sending my AC into overdrive.  I had some broccoli in my fridge that was threatening to turn on me and I was in the mood for some cheese…very large amounts of cheese.  Luckily cheese can always be found in my house so I had a very large selection to choose from before settling on some extra sharp cheddar and monterey jack cheese, however this recipe can easily be adjusted for whatever cheese you have on hand.

Ingredients: (serves 4-5)

  • 2 cups rice (cooked)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 can canneloni beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup monterey jack cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.  Lightly grease the bottom of a 2qt casserole dish.
  2. Place half of the rice in the casserole dish then top with half of the beans, broccoli, garlic, onion, and cheddar cheese.  Layer on the remaining rice along with the remaining beans, vegetables, and the monterey jack cheese.  Place the remaining 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese aside.
  3. Cover and bake for 30minutes.  Pour in the vegetable stock and top with the cheddar cheese that was set aside.  Bake uncovered for a final 15minutes, until cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.  Enjoy!
Asian · Vegan

Day by Day

Black Bean Stir Fry

The heatwave is still going strong and a number of records have been broken making this one of the hottest summers I can remember.  I am trying to focus on the positive, such as my pepper plants that are growing like crazy and my tomatoes that are quickly ripening.  Last year I had one little tomato grow, along with a basil tree.  So far this year I have two tomatoes, one green pepper, one eggplant (!), a mini-basil tree, cilantro, and thyme.  Still a little early to tell if the vegetables will full ripen but I’m hopeful that this year I’ll actually be able to cook up some of my own veggies.

This heatwave also has me working on some new recipes, ones that involve very little cook time.  With my kitchen being as tiny as it is any amount of cooking causes the temperature to skyrocket so I’m trying to be in and out in under 15 minutes so that I can avoid the furnace effect.  While a few recipes have crashed and burned others have been very successful.  I have found a new appreciation for my wok which is the perfect tool when it comes to quick cooking.  This recipe is very versatile and could also work with beef and chicken in place of the tofu for the meat eaters out there.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 1 tbsp veg oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1/4 tsp ginger, diced
  • 2 scallions, diced
  • 1.5 lbs broccoli, cut into 1in florets
  • 8 oz tofu, cubed
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 2 tbsp Asian Black Bean Sauce (I use Kikkoman)

Directions:

  1. Heat the vegetable oil and the soy sauce in a wok over medium high heat.
  2. Once the oil is hot add the garlic, ginger, and scallions and stir well for 1 minute then add the broccoli, tofu and carrots.  Cook for 5minutes, stirring well to prevent burning/sticking.  Add the black bean sauce and toss well cooking for 2minutes, season to taste with soy sauce.  Serve over brown or fried rice.

This recipe brings quick cooking to a whole new level, including prep time this meal is on table in well under 20minutes.  Nothing like quick easy and tasty!

Salad

Filled with Fire

Cannellini Bean Salad

Mother Nature seriously needs to turn down the heat, not even summer but we are already in the upper 90s which feels like 100+ thanks to humidity.  I am trying to avoid using the oven as much as possible in order to avoid a total melt down, so I’m messing around with all of my college salad recipe.  In college salads were a necessity since I didn’t have access to an oven/stove until my Junior year and I still needed fuel for studying.  One of the first non-lettuce salads I messed around with involved chickpeas and I quickly learned that chilled chickpeas are not my favorite thing.  However the remaining ingredients were simple and tasty so I decided to swap the beans around until finding the “right” ones.  I hit the jackpot with cannelloni beans which were the perfect fit for my taste! The real trick with this recipe:  chilling the beans for a few hours before making the rest of the salad.

Ingredients (serves 4-5)

  • 2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed WELL and chilled
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrot, shredded
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 springs cilantro, diced
  • 1/3 cup Italian Dressing or Red Wine Vinaigrette or Balsamic Vinaigrette

Directions:

  1. After the beans have been rinsed chill them in a large covered bowl in the fridge for at least an hour.  Add the remaining ingredients and toss well!  Serve as a side or serve on fresh ciabatta bread as a simple dinner.

There is nothing like a dinner that doesn’t involve cooking, especially during these totally insane heatwave!  This also goes well paired with shredded chicken or turkey, which many of my friends did during those college years.

Asian · Vegan

A Part of It

Szechaun Eggplant

I apologize for the slight lack of posts this past weekend, I was slightly distracted by all that is New York City.  I went up with Joe to visit his new nephew who is, for the record, beyond adorable.  This trip was my first time exploring Harlem, or rather anything on the West Side north of 79th, and I was impressed.  From the amazing variety in restaurants to the incredible looking fruits at the various African markets I was shown a side of the city I had never seen before.  I also witnessed the most amazing breakfast idea EVER: Red Velvet Waffles w/marscapone cream and vanilla.  OMGoodness it took all sorts of self control to not order some to go along with my latte.  For those of you in the city check out Society Coffee for this amazing gastronomic treat 😀

I wish I could say this recipe was inspired by my trip however this is what Joe and I were noshing on while waiting for the wonderful DC traffic to let up so we could start our drive north.  This recipe is inspired by the one I found in Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian Cookbook, which is an AMAZING cookbook addition for anyone looking to branch out and try new things.

Ingredients: Serves 4

  • 1 eggplant roll cut
  • 8 oz extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 3 tbsp veg. oil
  • 2 scallions, diced
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ginger, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp low sodium light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Thai chili paste (start with 1/2 and add until desired temp)
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 1/4 cups water

Directions

  1. Place the rice and water in a rice cooker, or saucepan, and place a steam basket over.  Put the eggplant in the steam basket and cover with a firm fitting lid or with tin foil.  Cook until the rice is done about 15minutes.
  2. Meanwhile in a small bowl mix the soy sauces, thai chili paste, and red wine vinegar.
  3. When there is about 3minutes before the rice is finished, begin to heat a wok over medium high heat.  Add the oil and allow to fully heat up.  Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger and cook until start to brown stirring the entire time to prevent burning.  Add the eggplant and tofu, stir to combine and then pour the soy sauce mixture over top.  Taste the sauce and add chili paste as needed, cooking and stirring about 5minutes or until eggplant has fully absorbed the sauce.  Serve over the cooked brown rice!

Lesson for the future: take picture of dish BEFORE eating….oops!