Friday, May 30, 2014

Tuscan Cannellini Bean Stew w/ Garlic and Parmesan Stock

The best recipes are as easy as they are delicious, utilizing the flavor inherent in great ingredients and fabulous taste combinations. This recipe is easy and fairly light, and translates easily into a vegetarian version by using vegetarian Parmesan.*

Creamy and slightly nutty Cannellini beans (a.k.a. great northern or white kidney beans) form the basis of a popular soup in Tuscany. The beans are complimented by vegetables, fresh herbs and most of all garlic. I have heard the story that it was made as a great way to soften up stale bread and when served over thick slices it makes a hearty, healthy, filling dinner. A few of the recipes for Tuscan Cannellini bean soup suggest using grated Parmesan. I suggest using the brilliant, authentically Italian trick of using Parmesan rind to flavor the broth. It really ramps up the flavor, slightly boosting the beans' nuttiness and adding a pleasantly salty richness. If you want to make a vegetarian version but can't get your hands on a vegetarian Parmesan cheese, swap out the water for low sodium or homemade vegetable broth. I served this stew ladled over crusty multigrain bread and alongside a version of my smoked trout & citrus vinaigrette salad .

Tuscan Cannellini Bean Stew

(Makes approx 6 servings)

2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced into roughly 1/2" pieces
2 carrots, scrubbed and sliced into 1/2" pieces
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
3 - 4 sprigs Italian (or flat) parsley, leaves and stems chopped finely
3 cups water
1 rind of a Parmesan wedge
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
6 thickly cut slices of bread of your choice

1. Set a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat and add olive oil and garlic and allow to marry, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
2. Turn up the heat and add parsley and all veggies and sautee for about 5 minutes. Stir frequently.
3. Add beans, butter, water and Parmesan rind and salt and pepper and bring to a lazy boil.
4. Continue to cook at just above a simmer (lazy boil) for about 35 to 45 minutes. As you stir, gently mash the beans with the back of the cooking spoon. This will help some of the bean paste to thicken the broth.
5. Slice stale bread or toast sliced fresh bread. Ladle stew over bread and serve.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

*A quick internet search tells me that at least one big box store carries a brand of Parmesan made with vegetable rennet.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Pulled Pork Stew with Tomatoes, Wine and Leeks

This dish was inspired by question on a cooking forum I browse. A question about what to do with a wild boar roast (would that I could get my hands on that! But top loin of pork will have to suffice...) that inspired me to suggest a slow cooker stew over pasta with a broth of tomatoes and white wine, complimented by some type of allium flavor (the shallots, onions, garlic and leek family). Then I thought the idea sounded so tasty I'd have to try it for myself! I used my slow cooker to make this stew, but it is possible to make it in something like a dutch oven or stockpot, simmering over a low heat for a few hours. Some suggestions as to what to serve it over: fresh made wide noodle pasta, such as pappardelle or fettuccini. If you're feeling particularly ambitious this sauce would probably be fabulous with some homemade gnocchi.

Pulled Pork and White Wine Stew with Tomato and Leek Broth

(Makes enough to serve over 1 1/2 pounds of pasta)

2.5 lbs pork top loin
12 roma tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 1/2 to 2 leeks, well cleaned, trimmed and chopped into roughly 1/2" pieces
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
(optional) 1 Tablespoon buckwheat (or similarly dark) honey

1. Combine pork loin, tomatoes, leeks, wine, butter, salt and pepper in slow cooker or stew pot. If you're using a slow cooker, set it on low for 8 hours. If you're cooking it on the stovetop, bring to a boil, then turn heat down to the laziest simmer and set your timer for 4 1/2 hours.
2. When meat is fall-apart tender, remove meat and shred with a fork. Pour some broth into the shredded meat and set aside.
3. Transfer remaining broth, tomatoes and leeks into a saucepan to reduce the liquid. Cook on medium low, stirring occasionally, until the liquid had reduced by approximately 1/2.
4. Taste and adjust for seasonings. If the tomatoes are making the sauce too tart, drizzle (a little bit at a time) up to 1 Tablespoon buckwheat or wildflower honey.(optional:) puree sauce. If you are pureeing the sauce, return the sauce to the pan and add the pulled pork (if you're not pureeing, just add the meat when the liquid has been suitably reduced); heat on low flame until the meat has just been warmed up.
5. Ladle over pasta and enjoy. Parmesan and Italian parsley sprinkled over the finished dish taste wonderful.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

*Cook pasta, especially fresh pasta, minutes before you intend to cover the pasta in sauce.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Teriyaki Turkey Burgers

This recipe makes some fantastic turkey burgers! Now, you can easily make your own teriyaki sauce for the recipe, but if you don't have the time store bought will do as a substitute. This is perfect for the meat-lover that is looking for a lighter burger. Salty and sweet teriyaki sauce lends the leaner meat a fabulous complexity of flavor. Umami indeed.

Teriyaki Turkey Burgers

Makes 8 - 10 burger patties

2.5 lbs. ground turkey
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup teriyaki
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. combine all ingredients in a big mixing bowl
2. Separate mixture in two equal parts. Each part will make 4 - 5 large patties.
3. Brush olive oil on grill grating and grill over medium flame for about 5 minutes per side. Make sure they are thoroughly cooked before taking them off of the flame.
4. Serve on burger buns with your favorite fixings.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Creamy Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Tzatziki Dressing

I don't know about you, but I love salads with creamy dressing. They are always rich-tasting and delicious. My only problem with most creamy salad dressings is that they pack so many calories they defeat the idea of a healthy salad. The perfect salad dressing, therefore, would be so rich, creamy and flavorful that it would be impossible to believe it's actually waist-line friendly. Not only does this dressing deliver, it is a perfect compliment to chopped cucumbers and sweet grape tomatoes. The tzatziki style dressing is heavy on garlic and dill, which also compliments. I recommend you serve this as a side dish alongside my Chicken Shawarma Skewers (, or any type of grill food, really.

Creamy Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Tzatziki Dressing

Makes about 8 salad bowl-sized servings

1 1/2 garden cucumbers, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt, to taste

For the Tzatziki Dressing

1 (8 oz) container 2% milkfat plain Greek yogurt
1 - 2 cloves garlic, peeled*
3 - 4 extra large sprigs of dill
juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Pulse dressing ingredients in a blender until the dressing is smooth throughout.
2. Together with cucumbers and tomatoes, toss dressing in a large salad bowl.
3. Serve as a starter or a side with Greek style grilled meat.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback

*I like it with 2 cloves, but this makes the garlic flavor quite strong and the salad a little spicy

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Chicken Shawarma Skewers

It's grilling season once again! These lemon-y, shawarma-spiced chicken skewers are flavorful and tender--perfect with fries or rice and a yogurt dressing. The skewers are more yakitori style than Greek kabob style and this makes them more moist. Best of all, it's an easy, healthy dinner on the grill with an easy cleanup!

Chicken Shawarma Skewers

2 chicken breasts (approximately 1 lb total)
4 chicken thighs, fat somewhat trimmed (approx. 1 lb total)
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 Teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 Teaspoon smoked paprika (sweet Hungarian paprika)
1/2 Teaspoon ginger powder
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
6 spice cloves, ground in the mortar
1/4 Teaspoon allspice
1/4 Teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

1. Soak 12 skewers in water.
2. Grate zest of 1/2 lemon into a flat-bottomed bowl or storage container.
3. Chop chicken into bite sized pieces and lay over lemon zest.
4. Add lemon juice, spices and olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
5. Allow to marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes while you build your coals.
6. Set 2 skewers vertical and parallel on a dinner plate with the pointed ends facing the ceiling. Add a piece of breast meat chicken, piercing the chicken with both skewers. Add another piece of breast meat and push down next to first piece. Keep adding pieces until the chicken covers the skewers from about 3" from the bottom and about 3" from the top (see photo). Now repeat the process with all thigh meat pieces. Continue until you have about 6 or so skewers.
7. Brush grill with olive oil and add chicken skewers. Cook over medium-high coals for 3 minutes on each side, then flip it over a third time and cook for another 3 minutes. You can check for doneness by peering in between the largest pieces on a skewer.
8. Serve on or off the skewers.

I served this dish with baked potato fries and a cucumber, grape tomato salad with a tzatziki salad dressing. Yum!

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Basil, My Grapefruitini, Please!

This post is a little...different. Different in that not only is this recipe easy, it requires absolutely *no cooking* and is a delicious, refreshing cocktail to beat the late spring, early summer heat. In fact, I'm sipping one occasionally as I type this!

Hopefully this works to cool you down, as well! This cocktail would probably be great with a lemon-y greek dish (or something with citrus flavors, like a simple lemon butter trout) and would also compliment a curry, particularly a coconut milk based Thai or Malaysian curry--particularly if made with Thai Basil.

Fizzy Basil Grapefruitini

(fills 2 6 ounce martini glasses)

Juice of one ruby red grapefruit

1/3 cup soda water

4 basil leaves, torn into large pieces

3 ounces gin

1/3 cup ice cubes

1. Add ice to your cocktail shaker and then scatter shredded basil over the ice. Using the handle of a wooden cook spoon, crush the basil gently into the ice.
2. When the basil smell starts to get strong and you begin to notice its liquorice scent, add all other ingredients.
3. Put the lid on the shaker and holding it down, shake to combine all ingredients. Count to five slowly as you shake.
4. Strain and serve with a basil bud and a little strip of grapefruit skin* as garnish.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

*If you wish you use a grapefruit skin garnish remove a part of the skin with a vegetable peeler prior to squeezing it for juice. I noticed my edges were uneven, so I trimmed it with a paring knife.