Monday, July 28, 2008

Quinoa with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, and Spinach

What better way to make use of my time when Jon's away than play in my kitchen! So after spending an hour on my deck with a book and a glass of wine, I decided to get to work.

Quinoa was my secret ingredient of the night...

What is quinoa? Althought it is usually referred to as a grain, it's actually the seed of the leafy Goosefoot plant, and is a relative of spinach, beets, and Swiss chard. It is used in place of grains because of its cooking characteristics
(source). To me it looks a bit like cous cous, but with a heartier texture, and more versatility in cooking.

I wanted to try different ways of making it; the first time I cooked quinoa was in place of rice in stuffed tomatoes; the second was seasoned quinoa that was a side with chicken in a chipotle sauce.

Tonight I thought about my favorite types of food and ingredients. Italian and Mexican, of course!

I made a list of ingredients for each. The Italian quinoa would include roasted garlic, tomatoes from my garden, and fresh spinach. The Mexican quinoa (see post below) would include jalapenos from my garden, corn, red pepper, and Mexican spices.

Quinoa with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, and Spinach

  • 1/2 c quinoa, rinsed and drained (it is important to rinse quinoa to wash off any residue which can be bitter in taste)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional, I like them for some kick)
  • 2 tbsp dry white wine
  • 1 c vegetable broth
  • 1/2 bulb roasted garlic (about 6 cloves), chopped
  • 1 small tomato, seeds removed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 tbsp shallots, chopped
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • Heat olive oil in a pot
  • Add shallots and red pepper flakes and saute for 1-2 minutes
  • Add quinoa and stir for 1-2 minutes
  • Add wine and stir until absorbed (wait until you see how the quinoa jumps around in the pot when liquid is added!!)
  • Add broth and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and cover. Let simmer until broth is absorbed, about 12-15 minutes.
  • Once the broth has absorbed, stir in the roasted garlic, tomatoes, spinach, and cheese.
  • Serve immediately.
Quinoa # 1 of the night = success!

2010 Edited to Add: This recipe was chosen to be featured in Cooking Light Magazine! It was in the August 2010 Issue.

2011 Edited to Add: I made this again (triple the recipe) and served it at room temperature as a salad at a small brunch party - delicious! I also mashed half of the roasted garlic and mixed it into the quinoa when I added the broth, and the entire dish was really infused with the roasted garlic flavor.

This turned out exactly how I thought it would. It could easily take the place of creamy orzo dishes, or other small pastas. From what I know about quinoa, it's also healthier than pasta.
On to my next quinoa of the night...

Chili-Cumin Seasoned Quinoa with Jalapenos, Corn, and Red Peppers

Quinoa Experiment - Part Two

My second quinoa of the night included spices, flavors, and ingredients found in Mexican food. (click here for the first post)

  • 1/2 c quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 c chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 of a small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp shredded cheddar
  • Optional: 1 tbsp lime juice (I meant to add this at the end but completely forgot. I didn't miss it so I'm not sure it's necessary)
  • Sour cream for topping, if desired


  • Heat half of the olive oil in a pot
  • Add quinoa and stir for 1-2 minutes
  • Add half of all of the spices, the chicken broth, and bring to a boil.
  • Turn heat to low, cover pot, and let simmer until the broth has absorbed (about 12-15 minutes)
  • In the meantime, heat the rest of the oil in a small saute pan
  • Add veggies and the rest of the spices. Saute for 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
  • When the quinoa is done, stir in the veggies and cheese.
  • Serve topped with a touch of sour cream.

Say goodbye to Mexican rice - this is my new side for Mexican food! So much healthier, deeper flavors, and a nice change from rice. Now the real test...getting Jon to eat it!!

I had a lot of fun playing in my kitchen tonight, and it felt great coming up with two recipes that I'd love to share with all of you, and that I'll definitely make again.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fried Rice with Green Onions and Water Chestnuts

(This side was served with the meal in the post below - marinated beef kabobs and bok choy with fried shallots)

I have never made fried rice, but have eaten it plenty of times (every Saturday in college - Chinese food is the perfect hangover food!). I knew that it was basically rice sauteed in oil with soy sauce with egg, peas and carrots.

I don't like egg in my fried rice, so I came up with my own recipe for fried rice with green onions and water chestnuts. That just reminded me of something funny - when I was little, I loved going to Chinatown in Philadelphia with my parents. I loved water chestnuts, but would always call them water walnuts. My dad still teases me to this day...
Back to cooking - I have no idea if this is authentic or if it's the right way to make fried rice, but it worked for us!! I just wish I could have gotten that nice color and crispiness that you see in restaurants - any tips?

  • 2 cups cooked rice, chilled for several hours
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 can water chestnuts, chopped
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil; I used olive oil
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce


  • Heat oil in a large pan or wok over high heat
  • Add green onions and water chestnuts and saute for 4-5 minutes
  • Add the rice and and stir constantly so it doesn't stick
  • Add the soy sauce and continue to stir until everything is nicely mixed

So this is definitely not authentic, but was a nice change from white rice which is what I'd normally serve with meals that have Asian flavors.

I love rice with beef kabobs, so adding a few ingredients - the soy flavor and crunch of the water chestnuts - was perfect for this meal.

Bok Choy with Fried Shallots

Tonight we grilled beef kabobs - some with red onion, green peppers, and red peppers, and some with red onion and pineapple. The marinade I used for the beef was one I whipped up once before (see original post here), and I've been dying to use it again. It's one of those marinades that has a lot of different flavors and ingredients, and you can really taste each and every one as you are eating the meat - sweet and spicy. Since the marinade uses a lot of ingredients found in Asian cooking (soy, sesame oil, Hoison, etc.), I wanted my sides to have an Asian influence as well.

We both love bok choy and I usually mix it into stir-fry dishes or saute it with red peppers and garlic. Wanting something different (I always want to try something different), I did a search on Epicurious for Asian veggies and found
this recipe for Bok Choy with Fried Shallots.

Ingredients (for ten servings; I made enough for 2 people with leftovers)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 lb shallots (about 6), thinly sliced crosswise and separated into rings
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (we love garlic so I still used 2 large cloves)
  • 1 3/4 lb baby bok choy, halved lengthwise if large (2 to 2 1/2 inches long), bottoms trimmed but left intact (my market didn't have baby bok choy so I had to use one bunch of regular bok choy, roughly chopped. The baby bok choy would have been so pretty on our plates so I'll definitely look elsewhere for it next time)


  • Heat a wok or 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until a drop of water vaporizes instantly.
  • Pour oil around side of wok, then tilt wok to swirl oil, coating side.
  • When oil just begins to smoke, fry shallots in 3 batches, stirring, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per batch. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Toss fried shallots with 1/4 teaspoon salt (shallots will crisp as they cool).
  • Pour off all but 3 tablespoons oil from wok, then add garlic, bok choy, and remaining teaspoon salt to wok and cook over moderate heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Serve topped with fried shallots.

Mmmmm - absolutely delicious! Jon loved it, I loved it, and it couldn't have been more perfect with the kabobs and rice. Plating is something I definitely need to work on, but how beautiful are all of these things together?

Give this one a try - if you love bok choy, I doubt you'll be disappointed!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Creamy Roasted Tomatillo Chicken Enchiladas

When I planned my meals this week, I decided to try a recipe for
Enchiladas Suizas I came across on the Epicurious web site. But once I printed it out and started to review it for tonight's dinner, I realized that it was too similar to the enchiladas I made a few months ago, and I wanted something different.

I decided to experiment on my own instead. First I thought about boiling the tomatillos, sauteing jalapenos, and combining both with cilantro before pureeing and reheating with some cream and cheese. Then I decided to deepen the flavors a bit by roasting the tomatillos with garlic and jalapenos before pureeing and turning into a creamy sauce.

Creamy Roasted Tomatillo Sauce

  • 10 small/medium tomatillos; remove husks and wash; cut into halves or quarters
  • 2 jalapenos, roughly chopped (I used my first 2 jalapenos from my garden!)
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 cup cilantro, thoroughly washed (cilantro tends to be very sandy in my experience)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup light cream (amount is approximate, I didn't measure as I was adding it)
  • 3 oz Monterrey Jack cheese
  • Dash of salt


  • Combine the first 5 ingredients in a baking dish. Roast on 450 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until tomatillos are tender.
  • In a pot, melt butter and add flour to make a roux.
  • Add roasted veggies, cilantro, and the salt. Mix everything together and then puree. I used my handheld immersion blender, but if you don't have one you could use a blender.
  • Slowly add the cream.
  • Add the cheese and stir until melted.
  • Let lightly simmer until you are ready to assemble your enchiladas, stirring occasionally.

I took a picture of the sauce but deleted it by accident, so here is how it looked once the enchiladas were assembled. The color was beautiful, and it tasted delicious. Sweet, tangy, and lots of heat all at the same time, with a nice, creamy consistency. I was eating it out of the pot with a spoon when I was done using it on the enchiladas!!

The Chicken
Marinating isn't just for grilling. I love marinating chicken that will be used in dishes prepared on the stove, most recently my
chicken parm and chicken caprese. Today I marinated my chicken for about 6 hours in a mixture of:

  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1/3 bunch of cilantro,
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp lime juice - added about an hour before cooking.
After removing the chicken from the marinade, I sauteed it until golden brown on all sides. The color of the chicken was so beautiful from marinating in the rich colors of the marinade. Then, because I didn't feel like shredding the chicken, I chopped it up into rough cubes.

Making the Enchiladas

I'm still having a tough time working with corn tortillas. Last time I tried dipping them in hot oil, but they were too greasy for me. This time I wrapped them in wet paper towels and cooked in the microwave for about 40 seconds. They were soft and somewhat pliable, but they still cracked when I rolled them. Next time I'm going to heat them over the open flame on my stove. Any other tips?

So now we have the sauce and the chicken for the enchiladas; the rest of the mixture consisted of:

  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 3 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1/4 c shredded cheese; I used a Mexican blend (more cheese for topping the enchiladas)
  • Dash each of chili powder and cumin


  • Heat olive oil in a pan. Add peppers and saute for a few minutes.
  • Add cream cheese and shredded cheese; stir until creamy.
  • Season with spices.


  • Coat the bottom of a baking dish with some of the tomatillo sauce.
  • Take a tortilla shell and add the pepper/cheese mixture, then some chicken, and top with a sprinkle of shredded cheese. Roll it and put into the baking dish, seam side down.
  • Continue until you have filled the casserole dish, making sure the enchiladas are tightly packed together (but not overlapping).
  • Spoon the sauce over the enchiladas, and finish with a sprinkling of shredded cheese.
  • Cover and bake on 375 for about 25 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

I've now made enchiladas with three different sauces - traditional red sauce, tomatillo sauce, and now the creamy roasted tomatillo sauce - and this creamy sauce is by far my favorite. I loved the depth of flavors, sweet from the onions, tangy from the tomatillos, and lots of heat from the jalapenos, especially after roasting them.

The mixture inside was so nice and creamy. I see so many recipes for enchiladas that just call for dry chicken. That wouldn't work for me - the cream cheese and pepper mixture kept the inside of the tortilla moist and each bite was nice and creamy.


I make this side dish a lot, it is so simple, and goes perfectly with Mexican food. I heat some olive oil in a pan, add 1/2 of a chopped red pepper and about 1/2 c of frozen corn. As I'm sauteing the veggies, I add just a few shakes of chili powder and cumin to bring all the flavors of the meal together.

The Perfect Summer Pasta Dish

We don't eat much pasta in the summer because it's often heavy, especially because I prefer cheesy pasta dishes or cream based sauces. But I stumbled upon
a recipe for a pasta dish (Epicurious) using an uncooked sauce of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and herbs, and was intrigued by how light and fresh - almost refreshing - it sounded. I made it last night with just a few revisions.


  • 1 lb Gemelli pasta
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (Fresh from my herb garden, but we used less - this would have been too much for our tastes)
  • 1 cup packed fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves
  • 1/2 pound lightly salted bocconcini mozzarella (these are bite-sized pieces of fresh mozzarella balls; I didn't have them so I cut fresh mozzarella into tiny pieces. Make sure you use fresh mozzarella as it will melt the best)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, or to taste
  • 1 cup packed small arugula leaves (Didn't' use this - the herbs provided enough color and we had a ton of leftover veggies to finish)
  • ADDED: 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • ADDED: 1/2 tomato, chopped (on my pasta only)


  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for pasta.
  • Cook pasta in boiling water, stirring occasionally, until al dente and ladle out and reserve pasta water. Drain pasta in a colander.
  • Mince garlic and chop herbs.
  • Quarter large bocconcini and halve smaller ones (or chop large fresh mozzarella into tiny pieces).
  • In a large bowl toss cheese with garlic, herbs, red pepper flakes, oil, and salt to taste.
  • Stir vinegar and arugula into cheese mixture
  • Add hot pasta and 1/4 cup reserved pasta water, gently tossing (and adding more pasta water as needed if mixture becomes dry) until combined well.

I did NOT need to use any of the reserved pasta water. I think the oil coated the pasta just fine, and any of the water may have diluted the flavor. Below is a picture of the finished product -

When serving the pasta, I topped mine with some chopped fresh tomato (pictured at top).

Jon was very, very hesitant about the uncooked sauce in this dish, but he loved it in the end, probably even more than I did! The raw garlic definitely gave the dish a punch - you must love garlic to enjoy this pasta! I think that if you are unsure about eating the garlic in raw form, you could toss it in a pan with some olive oil for about a minute or so. Jon had no problem with the raw garlic - he'll sometimes be eating it off the cutting board as I'm chopping it! ( do I!)

Fresh herbs, especially in this quantity and use, give such a light and summery flavor to dishes. I will make this one again, and may play with the herbs, seasonings, and vegetables that I incorporate.

On Tuesday night we roasted a ton of veggies - summer squash, zucchini, red onion, green pepper, red pepper, garlic, tossed with olive oil, white truffle oil, Kosher salt, pepper flakes. I warmed them up tonight and served them alongside the pasta.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chicken Parmesan; Sauteed Broccoli Rabe

Over the weekend I gave Jon a list of about 15 meal ideas so he could help me decide on our menus for the week, and one that he picked was Chicken Parmesan. I made it last night for Jon and my parents.

I have chicken parm in this blog already, but I made it a little differently this time so I thought I'd repost.

Marinate the Chicken

This is something I didn't do last time, but it really helps to keep the chicken moist. After pounding the breasts out just a bit, I marinated it for about 6 hours in a mixture of olive oil, freshly chopped basil, black pepper, and finely chopped red onions. I would normally use garlic, but I didn't want to overwhelm my mom with too much garlic!

Cook the Chicken


  • 6 chicken breasts, marinated
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Breadcrumbs mixed with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Cooking spray
  • Fresh Parmesan cheese (a few slices per breast)
  • Tomato sauce (I used doctored up jarred sauce...still haven't mastered my own)


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Spray glass baking dishes with cooking spray
  • Remove chicken from the marinade, remove large pieces of basil and onion. Dredge each piece in flour, shake off excess, dip in egg, then coat each side with breadcrumbs. Place in the baking dish.
  • Bake on 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, flipping once.
  • Check to make sure chicken is cooked. Top each piece with slices of Parmesan cheese, some sauce, and then some shredded cheese.
  • Return to oven, bake a few minutes, and then turn the broiler on for a few minutes at the end.

Chicken parm is traditionally fried, but I wanted to keep it a little healthier by baking it. I think Jon was worried that it wouldn't be crispy, but it was! Actually, it was even crispier than I thought it would be. I believe adding cheese to the breadcrumbs, using the cooking spray, and turning on the broiler at the end contributed to the crispiness.

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe

We often cook broccoli rabe with pasta, but I always forget about it when I'm making a veggie side. Since normally used in Italian cooking, it was a no brainer to make it along with the chicken parm. I love the bitterness and the crunch - but if you have never tried it, don't let the bitter flavor scare you away. It's really more of a subtle bite that comes out after the initial taste.


  • 1 large bunch broccoli rabe, ends trimmed, washed
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt


  • Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add broccoli rabe and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove from pot, or dump out the hot water, and immediately run the broccoli rabe under cold water to stop it from cooking. We don't want limp or mushy rabe!
  • Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat
  • Add garlic, saute for 1-2 minutes
  • Add broccoli rabe, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, and salt.
  • Saute until every piece has been coated with the oil and garlic.
  • Serve immediately. I grated some fresh Parmesan cheese on top of the entire platter.

Hope everyone has a good week! I'll be back later this week with a review of a new pasta dish I'm trying, as well as Enchiladas Suizas.

Cucumber Salad with a Homemade Italian Seasoned Dressing

We're in the middle of our third heat wave of the summer and I can't take it anymore!!! Of course I still cook as much as ever, but the A/C is really getting a workout. So last night I decided to make a cool, crisp, and refreshing summer salad to go with the chicken parm.


  • 3 cucumbers, quartered lengthwise and then chopped
  • 1/4 of a large red onion, chopped or sliced (Next time I'll use my mandolin for super fine slices)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dry oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash of black pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

Mix olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper.

Pour over the cucumbers and onions and mix well.

Chill at least 2-3 hours before serving.

I don't make too many salads but this is one I'd make again. The dressing was the perfect complement to the cucumbers, and I loved the Italian seasonings in it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Risotto with Caramelized Onions and Spinach

Have I mentioned before that I love risotto? I also love adding different ingredients and experimenting with new flavors and textures, and have been happy with all of my creations so far. Click here to see all of them.

I've been loving caramelized onions lately so I decided to keep it going and try them in risotto.


  • 1 large onion sliced into thin rings
  • 2 cloves raw garlic, chopped
  • Olive oil (about 1 tbsp for the risotto and 1 for the onions)
  • Butter (about 1 tbsp for the risotto and 2 for the onions)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 5 cups low sodium chicken broth, warmed
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 cup fresh chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Caramelize the onions (heat oil and butter in a pan over medium heat, add onions and stir for 30-40 minutes until golden brown, being careful not to burn the onions or pan as you'll be using this pan to cook the risotto)
  • Remove onions from the pan and add the rest of the oil and butter
  • Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute.
  • Add the rice; stir for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the white wine and stir until it is absorbed.
  • Add the chicken broth 1 ladle-full at a time, letting it fully absorb before adding more. This process takes about 17-25 minutes, depending on the day!
  • Before the final ladle of broth, add the caramelized onions and spinach. I chopped the onions so they wouldn't be too long and stringy next to the small grains of rice.
  • When your final ladle of broth is halfway absorbed, add the cheese. This is my trick for making the risotto creamy.
  • Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Another delicious risotto! Using the pan that the onions cooked in was a great way to infuse the oil with the sweetness of the onions, therefore giving the risotto more flavor overall. We both loved this and I think it might be my favorite yet. Another one to add to the list!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Grilled Roasted-Garlic Polenta with Caramelized Onions

Polenta is something I made for the first time just a few months ago. I had tried the packaged polenta before, but knew homemade would be much, much better.

My first polenta dish was an
herbed polenta with tomato ragout, and on Mother's Day I made an appetizer of polenta tartlettes with different toppings. For tonight's dinner of Chicken in a White Wine Sauce with Lemon and Sage (see below post), I decided to make a roasted garlic polenta, and then grilled it and topped with caramelized onions.
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 cups stone ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 bulb roasted garlic, mashed to a paste
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • A few dashes each salt and pepper


  • Roast the garlic - cut off the top of the bulb and top with olive oil. Wrap in foil and bake on 450 for about 30 minutes, or until soft. Let cool, then squeeze each clove into a bowl. Mash to a paste with a fork. Set aside.
  • Heat olive oil in a pot.
  • Add shallots and saute 1-2 minutes.
  • Add broth and bring to a boil.
  • Lower heat to medium/medium low and slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Keep whisking as you add the cornmeal, and continue to whisk for about 15 minutes until creamy and the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pot.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and stir in the garlic paste, cheese, and parsley.

You can eat the polenta like this, but I let it set up overnight so I could grill it tonight. If you choose the latter option, spray a pie plate or casserole dish with non-stick spray. Pour the polenta into the dish and smooth the top. Cover and put in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.

When we were making dinner tonight, I sliced the polenta like a pie (it was in a round pie dish). My mom heated the grill, coated it with olive oil spray, and then added the slices of polenta. We cooked the polenta for about 2-3 minutes on each side until it was warm and we had nice grill marks.

To serve, we topped each piece of polenta with caramelized onions (slice onions into thin rings, cook in a pan with butter and olive oil over medium low heat for 30 minutes, stirring often, until golden brown. I also added a pinch of salt, sugar, and dried thyme). You could also add some fresh Parmesan and herbs as a topping.

Between three of us, we ate almost the entire pie of polenta! I love polenta, will never buy the premade stuff again, and I think now I'll always make it with roasted garlic, although I'm sure I'll find some other flavors to try. It's so versatile and could be served with so many things. When I had my second serving, I topped it with some of the white wine sauce from the chicken (see above post). It would also be great with a fresh tomato sauce.

I have to get Jon to like polenta because I could eat it every day! It's tiring whisking over the hot stove for almost 20 minutes, but well worth it.

Chicken in a White Wine Sauce with Crispy Sage

My favorite thing about cooking is coming up with new creations of my own - thinking about flavors and ingredients, being creative, experimenting, and the best part, tasting everything.

I wanted to cook dinner for my parents tonight, and I planned on coming up with a completely new menu. Something I could create without recipes, simply relying on what I know, flavors I like, and a dash of creativity.

The Menu

- Chicken in a White Wine Sauce with Hints of Lemon and Sage Garnished with Crispy Sage

- Grilled Roasted-Garlic Polenta Topped with Caramelized Onions (see post above)

- Grilled Summer Squash and Tomatoes

Chicken Ingredients

  • 3 boneless chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded just a bit
  • 1/2 c flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 shallot finely chopped
  • 1/3 c dry white wine
  • 1 c low-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 sage leaves (2 finely chopped leaves for the sauce, 6 whole leaves for crisping)
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil


  • Heat 3 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper, dredge in flour, shake off excess, and add to the pan.
  • Cook on each side until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from pan and keep warm.
  • Lower the heat and add the rest of the butter and oil to the pan.
  • Add shallots and saute 1 minute.
  • Deglaze pan with the white wine, scraping up all of the brown bits. Let wine cook off for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the lemon juice, chicken broth and chopped sage and bring to a simmer.
  • Return chicken to the pan and let simmer about 8 minutes.

In the meantime... heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a small pan. Holding the sage leaves by the stems, add to the oil. Cook for about 1 minute on each side until dark and crispy. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

To serve... Plate the chicken and top with some sauce. Put 2 crispy sage leaves on each piece of chicken.

Although the picture above didn't turn out that great, the chicken did! What a perfect chicken dish for a summer day. It was flavorful, but light and fresh at the same time. I loved the taste of the sage with the lemon, and the crispy sage was the perfect garnish.


While I was cooking the chicken, my mom grilled the veggies on an indoor electric grill (why go outside when we could cook in the kitchen together?). The tomatoes came from the local produce store (I'll have tomatoes from my own garden in a week or two!!), and the squash came from the garden of our family friend (it was a beauty!!).

I sliced 3 tomatoes in half, poured some olive oil over them, and sprinkled with salt, pepper and parsley. I sliced the summer squash into long, thin pieces, and gave them the same seasonings as the tomatoes. My mom grilled the squash for about 10 minutes (5 on each side), and the tomatoes just a touch longer.

There is nothing like fresh, grilled veggies, especially when they come from a friend's garden! The squash was the most delicious squash I have ever tasted, and it didn't need anything more than the oil, salt, and pepper.

The polenta was so good that I thought it deserved its own post..see above.

During dinner we watched the All-Star Game Parade, and after dinner we watched the introductions. Baseball is something we have always loved as a family, and watching it with dad is always fun :)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pan-Fried Trout with Bacon; Lyonnaise Potatoes

Jon loves seafood and I really want to like it, so on Sunday I picked up trout at the market.

As I've mentioned before, I don't like the overall seafood flavor that seems to be in every salt water fish I have tried. I don't mind catfish (farm raised), so I thought I'd try trout, another fresh water fish.

I found a recipe for Pan-Fried Trout with Bacon on my favorite web site for recipes - Epicurious. I made a few small changes noted below.


  • 4 bacon slices
  • 5 tablespoons butter (I used less butter and added some olive oil)
  • 2 8- to 10-ounce trout, boned
  • All purpose flour
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions (I didn't have any so I used finely minced white onion)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons drained capers (didn't use these)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon (used parsley after discovering we both don't like tarragon!)
  • Added: 1/3 c chicken broth


  • Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Crumble bacon.
  • Pour off all but 3 tablespoons drippings from skillet. (I had less than this so didn't need to pour any off)
  • Add 1 tablespoon butter and stir to melt.
  • Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Coat flesh side of fish with flour; shake off excess.
  • Add fish, flesh side down, to skillet. Cook 2 minutes. Turn fish over. Cook until just opaque in center, about 2 minutes. Transfer fish to 2 plates.
  • Pour off drippings from skillet; wipe skillet clean. (my skillet was such a mess so I just used a clean one for the next step)
  • Melt 4 tablespoons butter in same skillet over medium heat. (I used 1-2 tbsp butter and a bit of olive oil)
  • Add all but 2 tablespoons onions; sauté 3 minutes. (I did all of the onions)
  • Stir in bacon, lemon juice, capers, and tarragon. (I didn't use capers or tarragon; I added chicken broth at this step and a bit of the parsley; let simmer for a few minutes)
  • Season sauce with salt and pepper.
  • Pour sauce over fish.
  • Sprinkle fish with 2 tablespoons green onions. (I didn't want raw onions on the fish, so I topped it with the sauce and finished it with a sprinkling of fresh parsley).

This sauce was very good on the fish. I was hesitant about the bacon with the fish, but it worked. And I am so, so glad we both tasted the tarragon before I started cooking. It tasted like anise, a flavor we both don't care for at all. My only complaint was that the market didn't do a very good job of cleaning the fish. Trout is a very bony fish to begin with, but we shouldn't have had to pick out this many bones. I'd make this dish again, but maybe with something like flounder.

Fish needs light sides, in my opinion, so I decided on this recipe for Lyonnaise Potatoes, and also made Sauteed Spinach. Potatoes are normally a heavy dish, but I sliced them very thin and ended up with a perfect, light potato casserole. And I added my favorite secret ingredient...truffle oil. White this time.

  • Olive oil
  • 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced (I used 4 Yukon Gold Potatoes and used my mandolin to thinly slice them)
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • I added about 1 tbsp white truffle oil
  • I also added freshly chopped parsley


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Lightly coat a small baking pan with olive oil.
  • Layer potatoes and onion in pan. Season with salt and pepper. I then poured some white truffle oil over the top.
  • Pour stock over potatoes and onion
  • Cover and bake 30 minutes.
  • Lightly spray or brush with olive oil and return to oven, uncovered, 10 more minutes to lightly brown potatoes. I simply broiled them for the last 5 minutes instead of adding more oil - worked perfectly.
  • Once done, I sprinkled them with some fresh parsley.

I love how light these potatoes tasted!! Thinly slicing them worked perfectly for this dish. The addition of the white truffle oil was a good call - how can you go wrong with the flavor of truffles? It was also very easy and is something I will make again.

My sauteed spinach is pretty standard - olive oil, spinach, and some kosher salt over medium high heat for about 2 minutes.

Have a delicious week everyone!

Blueberry Banana Muffins

What's this, a baking post?? I don't bake!! Well, I had the urge yesterday. I was craving a muffin so I went in search of an easy recipe.

I don't know what it is about baking - all of the precise measuring maybe? And I don't feel that I can be creative. I don't understand the role of the different ingredients - baking soda, for example - so I don't know how to make changes. And I also don't like sweets, so why bother! Creative cooking is definitely more my thing!

The recipe I decided on was
this one for Blueberry Banana Muffins. I followed the recipe exactly..of course!


  • 1 and 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (I used fresh)
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup oatmeal - quick or instant
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
  • 1 large egg - slightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Prepare 12 muffin cups with papers or generous coating of cooking spray.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, oats, baking powder and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the bananas, milk, egg, oil and lemon juice.
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just moistened.
  • Fold in the blueberries.
  • Fill each prepared muffin cup a little more than 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Stick a toothpick in the center of one of the muffins. If it comes out dry, the muffins are done. If there's a little batter stuck to it, you need to cook the muffins longer.

This recipe noted that it would make 12 muffins, but I ended up with 16. They are good, too!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Restaurant Review - Bobby Simone's in Doylestown

Saturday night, date night. A new restaurant opened in our town several months ago so we decided to make reservations for Saturday night - Bobby's Simone's.

A local magazine did a review last month and they described it as a steak house - this is not all they are. There is definitely something for everyone here.

Over the past several years, this location has been home to two other restaurants, so it was interesting to see the changes they made. The main building houses a small bar and restaurant. Half of the restaurant has hardwood floors, dark brown leather banquettes, and granite tables. The other half of the restaurant has a raftered ceiling with translucent window panels, some covered in taupe window coverings. All of the decor is brown and white - very soothing and a bit contemporary, but Jon and I both agree that white tablecloths would really enhance the decor.

The building across the alley also belongs to the restaurant and features a large bar and several highboy tables. You can also choose to eat outside in between the two buildings.

Upon reviewing the menu, we discovered that Bobby Simone's offered a lot more than steaks. The appetizers featured crab cocktail, pork spring rolls, gazpacho, a soup of the day, and about 6 other options. There were also a few salad options. The entree menu was very nice - filet mignon, NY strip, American Kobe, pork, chicken, a daily risotto, and lobster ravioli. They also had two seafood specials - swordfish and grouper.

After reviewing the wine list - a nice mix of wines by the glass and several good bottles, including 2 Ridge wines, we both chose a glass of the 2006 Ridge Three Valleys Zin. Following the wine, our server brought out a bread basket and small dish of oil. She didn't tell us what it was, but we both guessed that it was a sundried tomato infused oil with some red pepper flakes. The bread had sesame seeds - I think a simple baguette would have worked better.

We started with the crab cocktail. It was presented in a martini glass with about 10 pieces of jumbo lump crab with cocktail sauce and lemon. The crab was very sweet, fresh, and light, and cocktail sauce had just enough kick. Our favorite crab cocktail is at another local restaurant,
Earls, but this one was also very good.

Jon had a wedge salad with bacon, tomatoes, and blue cheese that was also very good - the blue cheese was so mild and creamy. I ordered the gazpacho and I'm glad it didn't list the ingredients or I wouldn't have ordered it. I discovered that it included grapes, cantaloupe, and honeydew along with the tomatoes, peppers, and red onion. I don't normally like fruit in food, but this was great!! The crispy plantain chips were the perfect garnish.

Now the real test - could they cook a good steak? Yes, they could. Don't yell at me - I always order my steak well done. Hey, I'm a recovering vegetarian and it's the only way I can eat it! I love a good filet, and a good chef should be able to cook a filet well done and still keep it moist. When our plates were delivered, I took one look at the height of my steak and seriously doubted that it could be cooked well done. I was wrong - it was absolutely perfect and buttery and tender and just delicious. Jon's medium well filet was also perfect. Score a few points for Bobby Simone's!! The entrees were served with a very large portion of Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and grilled veggies - eggplant, squash, zucchini, and red pepper.

After devouring our entrees, we listened to the dessert offerings (great menu!) and Jon decided on the chocolate raspberry cake. The cake was several layers of cake and chocolate mousse with just a touch of raspberry. Mmm, creamy and chocolaty without being too rich or sweet. Jon even said "this may just be the perfect cake!"

The service was good as well - just enough, and not annoying or pretentious.

All in all, we were very happy to discover this new restaurant in our backyard. I can't wait until they put a full website up so others become interested and try it as well.

Just a few very, very minor notes, and they are all about the setup and decor, and the overall image. Like I mentioned before, white tablecloths would work well in the space - they would help break up all the dark wood, chairs, and granite. Second, the sugar packets area always on the dining tables - we both feel sugar should only be brought out with coffee, or if you request it with iced tea. Third, the gathered taupe curtains on the windows should be replaced with sleeker, transparent shades. I feel these would help with the contemporary look they seem to be going for. Finally, while fresh flowers are always nice, the small vases on each table didn't bring much to the overall look. Simple candles would have a much stronger impact. These simple things would complete this restaurant, bring it to the next level, and would complement the great food and menu that they offer.

Jon is extremely picky and hard to please at restaurants, and he gave Bobby Simone's an A-, and his only reasons for the minus are those I listed above about the decor.

If you are in or around the Doylestown area, definitely try Bobby Simone's. We'll definitely spread the word to friends, and will be going back again soon.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Chicken Caprese with Cappellini

Caprese refers to an Italian salad of fresh mozzarella, plum tomatoes, and basil seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil. I used that as my inspiration for tonight's dinner - Chicken Caprese served with Cappellini with Tomatoes and Garlic and Roasted Asparagus.

Chicken Caprese


* If you are pressed for time the marinade is optional, but I feel it added a lot of flavor to this dish. Instead, season the chicken with salt and pepper, and season your flour with oregano, garlic powder, and onion powder.
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 5 basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • 3 chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded to a semi-thin breast

The rest:

  • 1/2 c flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 c dry white wine
  • 3/4 c low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tomato, chopped (not too small)
  • A few slices of fresh mozzarella (use lowfat for a healthier version)
  • Basil for garnish


  • Mix marinade ingredients and pour into a plastic bag with chicken. Marinate in the fridge for several hours.
  • When ready to cook, remove chicken from the marinade and make sure all of the pieces of pepper and onion are removed.
  • Heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat in a large saute pan.
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper, and then dredge chicken in flour, shake off excess, and add to the pan.
  • Saute for 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
  • Remove chicken from the pan onto a dish and cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Lower heat to medium and add wine. Let simmer for 1-2 minutes while scraping up brown bits.
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
  • Return chicken to the pan, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Top each piece of chicken with a few pieces of mozzarella. Top with tomatoes from the pan, sprinkle with basil, top with some freshly ground black pepper if desired, and serve over pasta.

Making chicken using this method - dredging in flour, searing, then making a wine/broth sauce - is a good base for any chicken dish. You can change the flavors and make it anything you want. Some other dishes I've made this way include Creamy Dill Chicken, Chicken with Tomatillos and Roasted Poblanos, Chicken with Crimini Mushrooms in a Sage Sauce, Chicken in a Chipotle-Red Pepper Sauce, Chicken Piccata, Lemon Dill Chicken, Chicken with Artichokes/Lemon/Thyme, and even Fish in a Lemon-Wine Sauce.

I was so happy with this chicken and would highly recommend it, especially if you love the flavors of fresh tomatoes and basil.

Cappellini with Tomatoes and Garlic


  • 1/2 lb cappellini or another thin pasta
  • 4-5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 of a small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 can of diced tomatoes with juice (or 1 fresh chopped tomato - I would have preferred fresh but didn't have another tomato)
  • 1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper


  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. I like to add some olive oil to the water.
  • Cook pasta.
  • In the meantime, heat olive oil in a saute pan.
  • Add garlic and onions and saute until soft, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and juice. Let simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Once pasta is cooked and drained, add to the oil mixture. Toss.
  • Add Parmesan cheese and top with basil, if desired.

The size of the cappellini made it a nice, light summer pasta dish. It went perfectly with the delicious chicken - I'm definitely making this one again!!

And to round out the meal, I made roasted asparagus. I tossed fresh asparagus spears with olive oil, salt, pepper, and just a touch of red pepper flakes. The asparagus roasted in the oven on 400 for about 8-10 minutes.

I loved everything about this meal - it had all of the summer flavors that I love and was pretty healthy, as well. I hope you enjoy this if you make it too!

Filet Mignon with Rajas Con Crema

Finally, a day to cook! Last week was too busy and we were out and about the entire holiday weekend, so I was excited to have the time to try something new on Sunday.

I planned out our meals for this week and decided to grill filet mignons yesterday. But since I always have to try something new, I was browsing through recipes on the Epicurious web site for ideas when I came across this one for Filet Mignon with Rajas Con Crema, or roasted poblano strips in cream. I love poblanos and cream sauces, so I was instantly in love with this recipe.

We - I mean, Jon - kept the filets simple. Just some salt and pepper then onto the grill. I have to brag a bit here...these filets were probably the best cooked of any filet Jon has ever grilled. They stayed juicy, had beautiful grill marks, and were cooked exactly how we both prefer.

Rajas Con Crema


  • 3 fresh poblano chiles
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 small white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 12 large epazote leaves, thinly sliced (optional - I left these out)


  • Char chiles over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and seed chiles; slice thinly.
  • Heat both oils in large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes.
  • Add poblanos, cream, and epazote, if desired; simmer until rajas thicken slightly, about 3 minutes.
  • Season with salt.

This recipe made enough for 4 steaks, but it was nice to have some extra for the rice. It had a touch of sweetness from roasting the poblanos, but not too sweet. I loved it, Jon thought it was good, but I've decided that a cream sauce on a steak is a bit much. Yummy, yes, but not necessary!

I picked up some yellow squash and decided to grill them to go along with this meal. But first, I wanted to infuse them with some flavor, so I made a marinade.

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno, roughly chopped (with seeds)
  • Small handful roughly chopped cilantro
  • Approximately 1 tsp chili powder
  • Approximately 1/2 tsp cumin

The squash marinated in this mixture for about 2-3 hours before Jon grilled them. I can't believe how quickly they took in all of the flavors! We both loved them and I'd make this simple marinade again, especially for veggies.

Now it's back to work for the week - it's always so much harder after a long holiday weekend! Hope everyone had a good one!