Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Summer Salad

Chicken marinated in sesame ginger sauce, grilled, topped with fresh Parmesan cheese. Organic greens tossed with sesame ginger dressing, grilled chicken and toasted almonds. Served on a bowl of thin cucumber slices. Refreshing and perfect for a hot day!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cut Back the Calories

The urge to bake hit me last weekend. I picked up a cookbook where I had some recipes bookmarked. I actually chose one that didn't sparkle my interest the first time I saw it. It's funny how my taste and interest change overtime. It happens to so many things. Sometimes I put away a pair of earrings I no longer like, few months later I find it and all of a sudden I like them again. Same thing happens with recipes. When I browse my cookbooks I put a sticky to mark the recipes I want to make. If I go back to the same book months later chances are I will unmark some and mark others I wasn't interested in the first time around. The recipe was an Upside Down Pineapple Cupcake made with ginger, whole wheat flour, fat free sour cream and brown sugar. Both recipes are very health conscious, cutting down and replacing ingredients without compromising the flavor and texture.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcake (light and low-fat)

2 Tbs. light butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
6 maraschino cherries
8 oz. crushed pineapple (canned)
1 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
2/3 cup 2-percent buttermilk
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Mix butter and sugar, then place a dab into each cup of a six-cup muffin pan. Place a cherry in the center, then add crushed pineapple around that. Fresh pineapple won't work well for this recipe.

In a medium-size bowl, mix dry ingredients - flour, sugar, powder, salt and ginger. Make a well in the middle once it's thoroughly mixed, then pour in the buttermilk, applesauce, egg whites and vanilla extract.

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry until thoroughly moist and mixed through. Fill each of the six muffin cups, then bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes, then invert on a rack and serve.

Strawberry Swirl Loaf (light and low-fat)

1/3 cup strawberry jam *
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg white
3/4 cup fat-free sour cream
Cooking spray

* Don't use sugar-free jam for this recipe. You will have the best results with natural jams with no sugar added. I particularly like the brand 365 Organic (made by Whole Foods).

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine jam and walnuts in a small bowl.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine sugar, butter, lemon rind, 1 teaspoon vanilla, egg, and egg white in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add flour mixture and sour cream alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Spread half the batter into an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Spoon jam mixture over top, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Spread remaining batter over raspberry mixture.

Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Unwinding Outdoors

What Happened to the Restaurant?

One night last week, my husband and I talked about a restaurant we used to go before we moved here. The place is just 20 minutes away - on the weekends, during the week you can plan to drive 20 mph in a highway that looks like a parking lot. It was a Mongolian Barbecue style restaurant with a great bar. It was always jam-packed after work hours. It seemed that it was a great spot for happy hours. Located across the street from the metro station, in a very popular neighborhood, had great food, hip decor, good atmosphere, had everything going for it. We drove there, parked on the street, looked where the restaurant was located... What happened to the restaurant? It was gone. I can't imagine why. It was always so busy. A Lebanese Restaurant opened in the same location. We were disappointed and considered other restaurants on the same street we have been to. But we decided to stay and try this new place. I am glad we did. Their food was great. We ordered Sfiha for appetizer and kebabs for lunch. The kebabs were served with flat bread and a delicious rice made with almonds, pine nuts and Cinnamon. The spices used in Lebanese cuisine are not something we eat everyday so the flavors stand out. I've got to try some Lebanese recipe at home.

Just Because

I bought this cute brioche mold at Williams-Sonoma. I didn't plan either on making brioche or buying something that day. I went to the shopping mall for some storage furniture for the baby room and ended up checking out Williams-Sonoma just because. I bought some dish towels I needed and this cute brioche mold. When I looked at this form, I instantly remembered the bakeries in Brazil. I could smell brioches being baked. I couldn't resist. It's funny how memories are made of. Brioche brings back aromas and tastes from my childhood. The box came with a standard recipe. I'll give it a try hoping they will be as good as the ones I remembered.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Ops, I did it again

It all started with an enticing recipe from the food section of the Washington Post. A combination of bay scallops, cinnamon, orange, chickpeas, and cucumber seemed interesting. In my mind it would be savory and sweet, aromatic, and exotic. Last night I made this recipe and it went from the stove to the trash can. It tasted bad and smelled even worse. That was my second failed attempt to make scallops. I have to admit that both recipes were exotic and edgy, but I have no clue what went so wrong. The first time I made sea scallops and lentils with two time consuming sauces, one made of apple cider, the other one made of mascarpone cheese. It turned out tasteless and not worth the time and money I put into it. The second recipe of Bay Scallops with orange and cinnamon came out inedible. From now on, scallops are banned from my kitchen.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Chili-Glazed Tofu over Asparagus and Rice

Tofu can be pretty boring if served plain. Luckily there are several ways to infuse tofu with flavor. Here is one of my favorite recipes. I made it last week and wasn't expecting too many stars from my husband's review. When he asked why I didn't make more tofu I knew it passed the test.

Chili-Glazed Tofu over Asparagus and Rice

4 cups water
4 ounces long-grain rice
2 1/4 cups chopped asparagus (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon bottled minced ginger
1 teaspoon hot chili sauce with garlic
1 pound extrafirm tofu, drained and cut lengthwise into 9 pieces
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup preshredded carrot
3/4 cup currant
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

Bring 8 ounces water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Add rice, boil 10 minutes. While rice cooks, blanch asparagus in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain.
Heat peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and chili sauce in a small bowl. Sprinkle tofu with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add tofu to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Add soy sauce mixture; cook 20 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Combine rice, asparagus, 1/2 teaspoon salt, carrot, currant, and sesame oil. Serve tofu over rice.

Basil Shrimp with Feta and Orzo

Another great recipe for a weeknight dinner. It is low in fat, low in calories, and can be made ahead and baked when you are ready to serve.

Basil Shrimp with Feta and Orzo

1/2 cup uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided, more for coating pan
1 cup diced tomato
3/4 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450°. Coat a large shallow baking pan with olive oil.
Cook the pasta in boiling water 5 minutes, omitting salt and fat; drain. Place the pasta in a large bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon oil and next 7 ingredients (1 teaspoon oil through pepper). Place the orzo mixture in prepared baking pan. Combine shrimp and basil. Arrange shrimp mixture on orzo mixture. Seal with aluminum foil. Bake at 450° for 25 minutes or until the shrimp are done. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil and serve immediately.

Spaghetti with Stuffed Meatballs

The Williams-Sonoma catalog published this recipe with mouth-watering pictures. I adapted the recipe to lower the calories by using light ingredients and baking instead of frying. It turned out really good. Even my husband who doesn't like ground beef liked it. This recipe is great for gatherings because it can feed a crowd on a budget.
This dish + friends + red wine = party.

Spaghetti with Stuffed Meatballs (adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

1/3 cup skim milk
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
3 lbs. lean ground beef
1/3 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/3 lb. mozzarella or provolone cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
About 6 cups homemade tomato sauce
2 lb. spaghetti, cooked and drained
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the milk and bread crumbs. Add the ground beef, the 1/3 cup parsley, the eggs, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix briefly with your hands. Form the mixture into 2-inch balls. Press a mozzarella cheese cube into the center of each ball, sealing it inside.

Place meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until done.

Pour the tomato sauce into the pan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and cook for 10 minutes more.

Put the pasta in a warmed large, shallow bowl. Top with the sauce and meatballs and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately and pass the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table.

Serves 10 to 12.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tuna Steak with Creamy Wasabi and Sauteed Edamame

There is no such thing as too much seafood. Most of the dishes I make have something from the ocean in it. This week I had some tuna steaks and wasn't sure how to make them. I could either use a newer recipe I made a couple of weeks ago and I really liked or try a brand new recipe. I went with the new recipe and I am so glad I did. This recipe is delicious and easy. It was the first time I sauteed edamame. I always have edamame with coarse salt for snack (yum!) but garlic, ginger, and soy sauce kicked it up a notch.

Tuna Steak with Creamy Wasabi

2 teaspoons wasabi paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 (6-ounce) tuna steaks
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and black pepper

Combine wasabi and soy sauce. Stir in mayonnaise, sour cream, and salt.
Prepare a grill pan with olive oil over high heat (or use the skillet used to sautee edamame, recipe below). Sprinkle black pepper and salt over tuna steaks. Grill 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Serve with wasabi cream.

Sauteed Edamame

2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
16 ounces frozen shelled edamame, thawed
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute. Add edamame and soy sauce and cook 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and serve.