Monthly Archives: April 2011

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Tax day has come and gone, meaning it is time for the annual Feast.  We have a lovely barter deal with  our friendly CPA to prepare and file our taxes.  She gives us a nifty planner to fill out each year, we add the required forms and documents, hand it to her and she does all the rest.  While she certainly is honest in the preparation, she also knows how to get us every single deduction possible no matter how seemingly insignificant.  Gotta love that.  And in return, I make her family a feast for dinner just after tax season ends.  Talk about a win-win situation!

Each year I ask her what she would like, and each year she gives that awful response that cooks hate, “oh anything since everything you make is great.”  Sigh, no direction there to point the way.  Fortunately, her teenage son was home while I dropped off the paperwork this year, so I asked him.  Bingo!  He had an answer.  The beef skewers with peanut sauce were a hit with him last year, so this year the meal was built around that along with shrimp and vegetable skewers.  This Mediterranean orzo salad, loaded with veggies, was the perfect accompaniment.  It was simple and delicious, with clear flavors that don’t overwhelm the main dish.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

inspired by this recipe at My Recipes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 3 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 3 TBS red onion, chopped
  • 3 TBS kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1  jar marinated artichoke hearts
  • 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled, divided

Directions:

  1. Cook the orzo according to the package directions, omitting salt and oil.  Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. In a large bowl, combine orzo, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, olives, salt and pepper.
  3. Prepare artichokes and vinaigrette by removing the artichokes from the jar, leaving the oil behind.  Chop artichokes and add to orzo mixture.  Add 1/2 of the feta cheese to the oil in the jar, put the lid back on the jar and shake to mix.
  4. Finish salad by adding feta vinaigrette to the orzo salad and tossing gently.  Sprinkle with remaining feta.

Notes:

  • May be served cold or at room temperature.  
  • This was easy to double by just using a larger jar of marinated artichoke hearts.
  • Check your grocery store’s olive bar for kalamatas so you don’t have to splurge for a whole jar.  Unless they are a staple in your pantry, of course.
  • This recipe was originally printed in Cooking Light magazine in 2005.
  • The full menu: beef, shrimp and vegetable skewers, peanut dipping sauce, Joe’s Stone Crab sauce, Caribbean Cocktail sauce, grilled asparagus, Mediterranean Orzo salad, lemon pound cake with fresh strawberries.
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Lemon Bars

Spring has sprung, and although on one hand this is expected, so many things are new as if for the first time.  California poppies line the highways and byways of daily travel.  Sunlight in the evenings invigorates.  The sun seems to be everywhere … in the sky, in the mood, and in the food.

Lemon Bars

inspired by the amazing Ina Garten

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
    3 cups sugar
  • 2 TBS grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 cup flour
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Try not to eat too much of the “extra bits” as you do this.  Chill.

2.  Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

3.  For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

4.  Cut into bite sized pieces and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Notes:

  • My favorite grocery store has the most wonderful lemons in stock.  They are the size of limes and just full of juice.  These were certainly what got me onto the lemon bar kick.
  • Lemon bars make great thank you gifts for people who have jumped in to lend a hand.  😉
  • I love this plate.

Linguini with Sausage and Zucchini

“Pasta with.”  About twice a month we have what I’ve come to call “Pasta with” for dinner.  Sometimes it is spaghetti with cheap canned sauce.  Sometimes it is tortellini with pesto.  In the summer, it’s often bow tie pasta with fresh tomatoes, a bit of olive oil, and torn basil.  Winter begs for pasta with Sunday Gravy.  In order to accommodate the preferences in the household, the pasta is drained in the colander and the “with” is in a skillet or bowl nearby.  Everyone gets as much pasta and much topping as desired.

But then, I was watching a bit of Lidia on the local public TV station. Lidia doesn’t seem to do pasta with, but does pasta in.  Long story short, I’ve been playing with ingredients, proportions and timing for a few months now and have finally found the perfect weeknight dish.  One, it is really tasty.  Two, the timing is, dare I say, perfect.  Put the water on the stove, get the skillet heating, prep the veggies and sausage, start cooking the pasta at the same time as the other ingredients, and both finish at the exact same time.  Bon Appetit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb linguine
  • 2 hot Italian sausages, casings removed,
  • 1/2 lb medium shrimp, shells and veins removed
  • 1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2 in pieces
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 2 TBS Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Set pot of water and pan on medium – high heat while ingredients are being prepped.
  2. When water is boiling, set pasta in water.
  3. Add sausage to pan, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring to prevent burning.  Add tomatoes, and stir for 1 minute.  Add zucchini, and let set for 2 minutes.  Add 3 ladles of pasta water to the pan, followed by the garlic.  Let cook another 2 minutes.  Add shrimp and stir the mixture gently.
  4. Drain pasta in a colander.  The shrimp should be a bit translucent in the middle, but go ahead and add the pasta to the pan.   Using tongs, gently mix the sausage and vegetables into the pasta.  The pasta will absorb the liquid in the pan.
  5. Plate and top with a bit of Parmesan if desired.

Notes:

  • This recipe / technique has been tried and tried again at home.  Finally I came upon the correct timings, ingredients, and flavors. Enjoy!
  • Yes, this was tried with wine, but I found that the wine and sausage were just not a lovely pair.
  • Adding the tomatoes at the start was a stroke of perfect luck!  They add into the flavor, aroma, and color of the dish in the most beautiful way.
  • Mmmmmm, finely diced garlic in pasta broth.  Heaven!

Nutella Crepes

Let’s try a bit of logic today to figure out why it took so many darned years to make these delectable treats.  We will have two individual logical equations followed by one that connects the two.

  • LivinLocal does not like hazelnut flavored coffee beans.
  • LivinLocal does not line hazelnut flavored coffee additives, hence
  • LivinLocal does not like hazelnuts.
  • Nutella contains hazelnuts, hence
  • LivinLocal does not like Nutella.

Secondly,

  • LivinLocal usually manages to get food to stick to her expensive nonstick pans.
  • LivinLocal never has sticking problems with her cast iron skillet pans.
  • LivinLocal wants to make crepes.
  • Making crepes requires ninja crepe flipping skills
  • LivinLocal has no such ninja crepe flipping skills, hence
  • LivinLocal cannot make crepes because they require a nonstick pan and she is unable to use one properly, and crepes require ninja crepe flipping skills that are not currently evident.

In conclusion,

  • LivinLocal will not be able to make crepes nor would she like any Nutella filling

In short, wrong!   So, in avoidance of the clear lapses in logic above, we move quickly to the recipe.

Nutella Crepes

Crepes inspired by Paula Deen, Nutella inspired by my daughter

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups low fat milk
  • 3/4 cups flour
  • 4 TBS butter, melted, plus a tad more for the pan
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs until light and frothy.  Vigorously whisk in remaining ingredients until incorporated, allowing for some small lumps to remain.   Set aside for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat a nonstick saute pan over medium heat.  Add a touch of butter, swirling to coat the bottom of the pan.  Add just enough batter (a scant 1/4 cup) to coat the bottom of the pan when swirled around.  Allow to set until the edges bubble lightly.  Gently flip the crepe and cook for 30 seconds on the other side.  Transfer to a plate. Continue making crepes until the batter runs out.
  3. Place one crepe on a plate, schmear Nutella on half of the crepe.  Fold in quarters.  Repeat.  Dust with powdered sugar.

Notes:

  • Yes, the serious whisking burns enough calories for you to have a second crepe.
  • The recipe called for 1/4 cup of batter in the pan, but that was too much.  When I got the technique down, I found that just over half of that was needed.
  • These crepes include enough butter in the batter to keep them from sticking.  Even with my pans.
  • People told me that after tossing the first crepe, the rest would be easy.  Let it be known that I tossed crepes 1, 3, 4, and 7 before getting the hang of it.
  • Crepes will become a regular part of my repertoire as they are really quite fun to make!

Deep Fried Pizza

Spring is arriving in this little nook of California.  The trees are showing off their spectacular blossoms, the asparagus is peeking out of the earth and the harvest has begun.  Strawberry stand owners are seen getting their little shacks ready to open for business.  The Brentwood Sweet Corn has been planted but doesn’t seem to be growing quickly yet, which is the only thing making local foodies grumpy.  But that happens every year.  We have the, ahem, pleasure of seeing this delicious food being planted and watching it slowly grow for what seems like six months before actually getting to cook up those cobs and munch away.  All in all a perfectly lovely time of year.

During our recent Spring Break, the husband and son went to Arizona to watch the first rounds of March Madness.  That left the 16 year old daughter and I at home on our own.  So what do we do?  Go on a total homemade junk food bender, of course!  Here my friend are directions on how to shop at a perfectly healthy grocery store and turn those prime ingredients into the most delicious junk food you have ever made at home.  Bon Appetit.

Fried Pizza

Adopted from the Panzarotti recipe in James McNair’s Favorites which is actually a book full of healthy recipes

Ingredients:

  • pizza dough
  • fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • pepperoni, sliced
  • marinara sauce
  • vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Heat 2 inches of oil to 360 degrees in a dutch oven or other heavy pot.
  2. Roll out pizza dough into a rectangle and cut into 4 smaller rectangles.
  3. On one side of each rectangle, spread a bit of pizza sauce, and top with cheese and a few pepperoni slices.  Fold over and pinch the edges tightly, as if making empanadas.
  4. Fry one at a time, turning frequently until golden, about 5 minutes.  Remove and drain on paper towels.

Notes:

  • I purchased all but the oil at Trader Joe’s.
  • Not being a pepperoni fan, I used zucchini in mine.