Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Smashed Beans with Asparagus on Toast & a Giveaway

Another day, another cookbook.

This one is a good one.
Chock full of easy weeknight recipes, hence the name, Dinner: Changing the Game.

I love Melissa Clark's recipe column in the New York Times.....her recipes like her oven roasted shrimp & broccoli have become staples in my weeknight repertoire.

Here, I made the recipe for smashed white beans on toast w/ spring asparagus from her new book.

I pan seared my asparagus in a cast iron skillet instead of roasting them....(they stay crispier that way, less mush), and used canned beans instead of soaking dried beans overnight.

It is important to use a microplane to shave the garlic, otherwise the garlic flavor will be too assertive.

This is a great lunch, or party crostini for spring.

Here's how: (I cut the recipe in half to serve just the 2 of us)

1 can of cannellini beans, drained
1 large garlic clove, shaved on a microplane
zest of a lemon
1 tbsp of lemon juice
salt & pepper
a few cooked asparagus spears
toasted bread slices
olive oil
dried sumac for garnish (optional)

Heat the beans with the shaved garlic, a little oil and lemon juice in a pan until it smells good...about 5 minutes on low.
Mash some of the beans, leaving some of the beans whole. Set aside.

Cook your asparagus however you like....roast, steam, or pan sear. Cut the stalks into small pieces, good enough size to fit your toasts.

Spread some of this yummy warm bean mixture on warm toasts and top with asparagus spears.

Top with some lemon zest and season w/ salt & pepper.

A drizzle of olive oil to finish and some sumac powder for color......


I am giving away 2 copies of Melissa's new cookbook to my readers......please leave a comment and don't forget to leave your name!

Have a good day and eat your beans!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Weeknight Paella

When you think of paella, you think of a complicated, all day affair.

You have to have the right paella pan....the right type of short grain rice (Calasparra or Bomba)....assorted shellfish...and saffron.

Too many rules for me.

It's easy to put a paella together on a weeknight.

Just use a heavy skillet (not nonstick) and instead of expensive saffron, use turmeric, that wonder spice that is supposed to heal everything......it will make the rice yellow.

Spanish chorizo and frozen shrimp is all the protein you need....the rest you have in the house.

This comes together in no time and everyone loves it!

Here's how:

2 cups of cooked short grain rice (arborio is easiest to find)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp tabasco sauce
salt & pepper
1/2 cup of canned or boxed chicken broth
1 lb. uncooked frozen shrimp, defrosted
1 stick of Spanish chorizo, chopped (I take the skin off)
1/2 cup of frozen peas, defrosted
roasted red pepper slices for garnish
fresh parsley for garnish

In a large heavy skillet, heat some olive oil and cook the onion, chorizo, red bell pepper and garlic about 2 minutes, until onion is translucent.

Add in chicken stock (broth) and bring to simmer. If it absorbs too much of the stock, just add in more liquid as you go.

Add in cooked rice and turmeric.

Last, add in the defrosted shrimp and peas.

Cook for 3 minutes, stirring, until shrimp are fully cooked thru.

Add in a dash of tabasco. Taste and season w/ salt & pepper.

Garnish w/ roasted red pepper slices and fresh parsley.

Best eaten within half hour of cooking.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

As if you needed another brownie recipe.

This one is a good one, and they're pretty too.

Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies is my new favorite brownie.

It's fairly simple, here's how:


3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extra
A few pinches of flaky or coarse sea salt


3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon flaky or heaped 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Heat oven: To 350°F (175°C).

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment and coat the bottom and sides with nonstick cooking spray or butter.

Make peanut butter batter: Whisk all ingredients in a bowl until smooth. I thought about not adding in the sugar, but it needed it, trust the recipe.

Make brownie batter: In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted. You can also do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula.

Assemble brownies: Spread a thin layer of brownie batter (about 1/3 of total batter, but no need to be exact) in the bottom of prepared baking pan. Dollop peanut butter batter all over in big spoonfuls. Dollop remaining brownie batter in pan between the peanut butter dollops. Use a butter knife to swirl the batters together. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake: For 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in the pan for easier cutting.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Summer Rolls, Not Summer

I took a cooking class this winter in NYC and learned how to make "summer rolls".

Not spring rolls, but SUMMER rolls.....

"Spring" rolls are delicious fried things filled w/ veggies.....sort of like eggrolls.....that you get at the Chinese takeout place.

And even though it is spring, we are making "summer" rolls.....which are rice paper rolls filled with crunchy vegetables, rice noodles (vermicelli) and originate from Vietnam. Many times you will see cooked shrimp in traditional summer rolls, to confuse you more.

I am new to all of this.....but I like a challenge.

I suggest you watch a video on how to roll these rice paper wrappers.....it takes some practice, but once you get the hang of it, it will be easy.

You have to place the rice paper in a dish with warm water to soften, about 5 seconds on each side....then you have to work FAST, or the paper gets sticky.....but it is forgiving. You can just wet it again and work thru it, and enough rice paper rounds come in the package so you can throw it out and start again!

It's like a rolling a burrito.

Make sure you have everything sliced and ready and your bowl of warm water ready and a place to roll and wrap your bundles!

I used what I had:

thin slices of red bell pepper
cooked shrimp, sliced in half (tails removed)
sliced scallions
sliced blanched asparagus (I blanched the asparagus for only 1 minute)
thin slices of heirloom red carrots
fresh dill (because I did not have cilantro....which is more traditional)

You can also use pretty lettuce leaves and thin slices of radish.

Remember, the packages are see through, so you want to lay the shrimp down so the outside of the shrimp is showing (the red side).

I bought some Chinese vermicelli rice noodles, but I wouldn't bother next time....it was an unnecessary step, and did not add any flavor to the rolls.

I made a dipping sauce with soy sauce, Asian sesame oil, scallions and sesame seeds.

These were crunchy, fresh and DELICIOUS!

These are a great party food too......very pretty.

All that hard work....but worth it.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Asparagus with Gribiche Part 2

We all know my love for eggs and egg salad (I could eat an egg salad sandwich everyday....but I don't).

Last spring I made Gjelina's asparagus w/ that wonderful gribiche sauce.....a French sauce made of hard boiled eggs, mustard, vinegar and herbs.

Well, I am always in search of the perfect recipe, and I think I may have found it.

This month's Bon Appetit magazine had a recipe for the gribiche, but they folded the cooked eggs and herbs in last, so it was more about the rustic look of the sauce.

I did my own thing, and instead of the usual chopped cornichon (little French gherkin pickle), I used those horseradish pickles from the farmer's market last week.
I think bread & butter or dill pickles would be good here too.

This sauce would be delicious on any roasted vegetable (especially potatoes!!!).

This is scary good, I could eat the whole platter.

Asparagus w/ Gribiche Sauce: (adapted from Bon Appetit)

6 cornichons or dill bread & butter pickles, chopped (I also used some of the juice from the pickles)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped drained capers
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs (such as tarragon and parsley)

Whisk chopped pickles, oil, vinegar, capers, and mustard in a small bowl to emulsify; season with salt and pepper.

Gently fold eggs and herbs into dressing.

Cook your asparagus however you like....lately, I like to pan sear it, so it is still nice and crisp.

Serve the egg sauce on top of the asparagus. I added some pretty pink pickled onions, cause I always have them!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cheesy Artichoke Squares

I recently had these artichoke squares at a dinner party and I loved them.

I went online searching for the recipe and every recipe was an oldie from either Parade, Sunset & Good Housekeeping Magazines.
The recipe is from the 1970's when Americans were cooking with canned soups and decorating plates with olives for a "fresh" look.

Cream cheese stuffed celery stalks were all the rage (not in my house), and everything was "cheesy"....you can take that anyway you like.....the fashion, hairstyles and all the American processed cheese that was used in recipes back then.

Here, you use the marinade from one jar of artichokes to cook the onions, garlic and artichokes in (the ingredients in the marinade are usually sunflower oil, vinegar, garlic and spices, nothing horrible).

Then add in some fresh herbs and any cheese you like to the egg mixture to make a quiche type snack that is so good!

This is a great appetizer for your Easter buffet. You can make them a day ahead and they travel well!

Cheesy Artichoke Squares: (adapted from Sunset Magazine)

2 small jars of marinated artichokes
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 eggs
2 cups of cheddar cheese (any cheese works)
1/4 cup of dry seasoned breadcrumbs
salt & pepper
a few shakes of tabasco
3 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Butter an 8" square dish (a brownie pan works).

Preheat oven to 350F.

Drain only 1 jar of artichokes, pouring the marinade into a skillet (throw the other marinade away from the 2nd jar).

Chop the artichokes and add them to the skillet w/ the onion and garlic.

Cook about 7 minutes on medium, just until the onions are cooked. Let mixture cool.

Whisk the eggs with the scallions, parsley, breadcrumbs, cheese and season w/ salt & pepper. Add a few shakes of Tabasco (don't skip the hot sauce, trust me).

You can use thyme or oregano if you like too....the more the merrier.

Pour the cooled artichoke onion mixture w/ the cooked marinade into the egg mixture and combine.

Pour into the prepared greased pan and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Let fully cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting into squares.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Can be made ahead and reheated.

Watch them disappear!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

One Pan Dinner: Salmon, Leeks & Asparagus

This is quite lovely to look at, and lovely to eat.

I went to my favorite supermarket in town and picked up 2 leeks to make this dish.....when I got to the checkout they weighed in at $9 bucks.
No thanks, I put them back. It's all waste. I throw away the entire green part, leaving me with almost nothing. I can't do it. Why do they charge by the pound, when you throw most of it away?

So, I drove to another neighborhood and they were $1.99 a BUNCH, for 2 FAT beautiful leeks.
Ok, happy now.

Let's begin the recipe.

Start with a nice piece of skinless salmon. I say "nice", because no one likes mean salmon.

It's spring, so go buy some fresh local asparagus stalks (mine were from Mexico, because there is nothing here yet in NJ).
Cut off the woodsy ends.

Take out a half sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil.

Lay the asparagus stalks on the pan and place the piece of salmon at the other end of the pan.
Sprinkle the fish w/ kosher salt & pepper.

Chop some fresh parsley and place on fish.

Slice 1 leek into small pieces and throw on top of the parsley and fish.
Drizzle with olive oil.

Squeeze a lemon over the entire pan.

Roast the tray in a 425F oven for 15-18 minutes, depending on the thickness of your salmon.

Eat and enjoy.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Passover Coconut Almond Macaroons

I make these every year for Passover, each year changing it up just a bit.

I buy the bag of Baker's sweetened coconut which has a great recipe right on the bag, but I no longer add in sugar to the recipe, since the coconut is plenty sweet enough!

*If you are using natural, unsweetened coconut, then add in 2/3 cup of sugar to the recipe.

The original recipe calls for flour, but since flour is not kosher for Passover, I substituted in almond flour (which is just ground almonds!).

These were a little harder to keep together, so use wet hands when shaping.

These were delicious. The best ones I have made to date.

Coconut Almond Macaroons: (makes 15 cookies)

14 oz. sweetened coconut (like Baker's brand), see *note above
4 egg whites, whipped to stiff peaks (using a hand mixer)
1/8 tsp almond extract
6 tbsp almond flour (or regular flour if not making for Pesach)
some sliced almonds (optional)

Mix coconut with almond flour and sugar (if using).

In a separate bowl, whip your egg whites until they form nice peaks.

Fold your egg whites and almond extract into the coconut mixture.

Drop tablespoonfuls onto a greased parchment lined cookie sheet, or form with wet hands. (make sure you spray the parchment paper w/ PAM, so they don't stick).

Bake at 325F degrees for 20-22 minutes until lightly browned on the tops.

Let sit a few minutes on the cookie sheet before removing to a cooling rack to fully cool.

When completely cooled, dip in melted chocolate (which I melt in the microwave), then place back on clean parchment paper and place in fridge for at least an hour so the chocolate hardens.

These are fantastic!

Have a happy Passover tonight!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Cannoli Pound Cake

When I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, I knew it was for me.

It has everything I love in a cake....it's a loaf (my favorite) cake; it is made w/ olive oil; it has ricotta and pistachios in it....and it has the word "CANNOLI" in the title.

You had me at cannoli.

I love cannoli.
Personally, I love citron in mine, but I know many of you are adverse to candied fruit. Too bad.

I took the liberty of adding in chopped candied orange peel, because that is what a proper cannoli should have (in NJ, anyway).

This cake is so simple to make....it could be up there with top 5.

Just in time for Easter, when I make a ricotta torta.

Cannoli Pound Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):

butter or cooking spray to coat pan
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
finely grated zest from 1 orange
finely grated zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup (120 ml) mild olive oil (I use Colavita)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) sweet marsala wine or 2 tablespoons white wine (optional)
1 cup (250 grams) whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 or 2 pinches allspice
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (170 grams) mini-chocolate chips or 6 ounces semisweet chocolate bar, chopped into tiny bits
1/2 cup (60 grams) pistachios, chopped
handful of candied citron or candied orange peel, chopped (optional)

Mix the zest in with the sugar to make wet sand....I love saying that.

Then add in the ingredients one at a time, as they are listed.
It's not rocket science.

Make a nice batter and pour into greased loaf pan.

Bake for 50 minutes at 350F and let rest in pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack.

When cake is fully cooled, dust with powdered sugar.