7/29/11

Sour Cherry & Sweet Cherry Frozen Yogurt

Here's another post about my adventures with an ice cream maker.

This time around I decided to give frozen yogurt another try (check out my Mango Peach Frozen Yogurt).

I had a few bags of frozen sour cherries on hand and some fresh sweet cherries. I decided to combine them with tangy yogurt for a refreshing, pretty and relatively healthy summer treat.

Since my last frozen yogurt turned out incredibly frozen, I thought why not try one of the suggestions some of you left for me and add light corn syrup in hopes that this frozen concoction would not be as hard as rock.

And I got to use these two cute containers I bought at Crate & Barrel Outlet: do you like them?





Sour Cherry & Sweet Cherry Frozen Yogurt
Ingredients
3 cups plain yogurt
2 cups pitted defrosted sour cherries with juices (or use fresh ones)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup pitted sweet cherries, halved

Directions
1. In a blender, puree yogurt, sour cherries and corn syrup.
2. Add the mixture to your ice cream maker and churn for about 30 minutes.
3. Add halved sweet cherries. Churn for 5 more minutes and transfer to a freezer-safe container.

(before and after)


The final result was still really really frozen and I had to let it sit out on my counter and melt a bit before I could scoop it out. The flavor, though, was terrific! If you don't love incredibly sweet desserts, you are going to really like this one.

Have a wonderful weekend!

7/27/11

Grilled Peach Summer Salad

{Update: 7/2/12: I'm entering this recipe in the OXO Cherry Recipe Contest}

If the first thing that pops into your head when I say salad is lettuce, you will be quite surprised by the ingredients in this Grilled Peach Summer Salad.

The entire salad came together randomly, just as many of my recipes do. I saw some peaches on sale at the grocery store. Washington State cherries were also on sale. As were the figs and prosciutto.

My original idea was to do something with figs, procsciutto and blue cheese, but alas my grocery store did not order the figs.

Not to worry. I decided to grill peaches using my panini maker and to mix them with peppery arugula, salty blue cheese, and sweet cherries. I added ribbons of prosciutto and thinly sliced red onions for a bit of a bite.

Ingredients
1 peach, cut in half, pit removed, cut into wedges
5-10 sweet cherries, pitted, halved
2 tablespoons blue cheese, crumbled
2 slices prosciutto, torn into ribbons
small wedge of red onion, thinly sliced
olive oil to drizzle
hand full of arugula


Directions
1. Using a grill or a panini maker, grill your peaches. You can also do it in a pan.
2. Mix arugula with a bit of olive oil, cherries and red onions.
3. Top arugula mixture with crumbled blue cheese, ribbons of prosciutto and grilled peaches.
4. Serve immediately. {You want the heat of the peaches to hit the blue cheese and start to melt it just slightly. Note that there is no need to add salt or pepper to this salad as you get a lot of flavor from blue cheese and prosciutto.}


Is this gorgeous or what? How do you like to add summer fruit to your salads?

7/25/11

Sweet, Sticky & Spicy Tofu

A few weeks ago I randomly bought a package of extra firm tofu at the grocery store without really having any idea of what to make with it. In fact, it's been sitting in my refrigerator all this time, and I've been doing a great job ignoring it.

Yesterday I decided to make Sweet, Sticky & Spicy Tofu. The "recipe" is just something I came up with on a whim by looking at what I had on hand. If I were to do it over again, I'd definitely make a few changes.

First, I would add some fresh ginger,but alas I somehow forgot to buy it at the store. And I would probably add some minced garlic.

Still, the combination of Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, chives and red pepper flakes gave a lot of flavor to the otherwise plain tofu.

Ingredients
1 block of extra firm tofu, pressed, cut into cubes
3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1-2 pinches of red pepper flakes
olive oil

Directions
1. Combine Hoisin sauce with soy sauce, chives and red pepper flakes. Add cubed tofu and marinate for at least 20 minutes.


2. Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan and saute cubed tofu until it's golden on all sides. The Hoisin sauce will give the tofu it's sticky and sweet quality; while the red pepper flakes will add some spice.


Yesterday I ate the tofu with some arugula, chickpeas, tomatoes, zucchini ribbons and sesame seeds in a salad. For the dressing I simply drizzled a bit of olive oil and a few squirts of fresh orange juice.



Today, I had the tofu cold with brown rice and green peppers: perfect for Meatless Monday.

How do YOU cook tofu?

7/22/11

Mint & Parsley Chili Chutney & an Indian snack

A few weekends ago I went over to my friend Sangeetha's house for brunch, followed by what else: shopping!

It was great to see her new house, catch up, and taste some wonderful Indian food that she prepared for me.

One of the dishes at the brunch table was a bowl of puffed rice with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and a few chutneys.

One of the chutneys was made with cilantro, mint, chili, garlic and a bit of yogurt. Another was a tamarind-date chutney.

It was refreshing, fun to eat and really colorful. Before we headed out to Old Town for some shopping therapy, Sangeetha gave me a container of this puffed rice to do with as I pleased at home.

So last weekend I decided to recreate the dish and have it for breakfast.

Alas, not only did my grocery store not have either the chili or tamarind chutneys, they also did not have fresh cilantro. I had to just make do with what I had in my refrigerator.

Mint & Parsley Chili Chutney

Ingredients
1 handful mint, chopped
1 handful parsley, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 chili pepper, chopped {use more if you like more heat}
salt to taste
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
juice of one lemon


Directions
1. In a food processor puree all of the ingredients.
2. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.


And now for the rest of the snack: chop tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion.


Combine with the puffed rice.



Mix in the chutney and eat immediately.



The mint/parsley/chili chutney is also great added to potato or tuna salads, spread on a sandwich or even mixed with eggs.

Have a wonderful weekend!

7/20/11

Cold beet soup with potatoes, cucumbers, herbs & buttermilk

Oh, beets, how I love thee! In cold months of winter, roasted in the oven, sliced and topped with goat cheese, you are divine.

In the fall, mixed in with citrus, blue cheese and toasted nuts, you warm me up.

In the summer, peeled and shredded with carrots, daikon radish and mixed in with sesame oil, cilantro and soy sauce, you invigorate me.

And you make me jealous when you appear in the kitchen of my parents and are made into a cold summer soup and eaten by everyone in my family but me.
I don't mind that my fingers turn pink when I touch you, or when you accidentally stain my favorite tshirt. I can deal with it!

Last weekend I picked up a bunch of beets and decided to make a version of a cold Russian beet soup I absolutely love and crave often in the summer. 

{Note: don't throw away the green leaves: instead, make this lovely Swiss Chard & Beet Greens with Sour Cream Dressing dish.}


Ingredients
3 medium sized potatoes, cooked till tender in salted water, cooled, peeled, cubed
3 beets, scrubbed, peeled, cubed, cooked in salted water, cooled {do not discard the water!}
to taste:
cucumbers, chopped
chives, chopped
dill, chopped
buttermilk

optional
radishes, hard boiled eggs, parsley

Directions
1. Add potatoes, beets, cucumbers, and chives to the bottom of a soup bowl.


2. Ladle the cooled cooking liquid fro beets.


3. Add in buttermilk. Mix.


I've had this soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What can I say? I absolutely LOVE it. It's best when it's absolutely and utterly cold. The buttermilk make the soup a gorgeous maroon color. Please make this and let me know what you think!

7/18/11

Food52's beet greens with sour cream dressing

Last Thursday I went to the Penn Quarter farmers' market and strolled around while catching up with my friends Melissa and Daphne, and trying to figure out what I should buy.

Sometimes I can be oh so very indecisive!

At the end, I picked up a big bunch of basil, a bag of arugula and a bunch of Swiss chard.

I did not really have any specific ideas in mind for what to do with any of my purchases.

I ended up making salads with arugula and basil with tomatoes, chickpeas, peppers and cucumbers. The basil also went into sandwiches and soups.

The Swiss Chard, however, just hung out in my refrigerator. That is until I saw a recipe link on Twitter (have I mentioned lately how much I Twitter?) to food52's Warm Beet Greens with Sour Cream Dressing.






What does this have to do with Swiss Chard? Don't worry, there is a connection. Over the weekend I bought a bunch of beets to make one of my favorite cold beet soups. I thought why not combine beet greens and Swiss chard to make the recipe? And so I did.

How gorgeous  are these greens?


Unlike food52, I decided to chop my beet greens and Swiss chard (and also use the stems of both).


First thing first, you need to make a dressing. It includes sour cream, a bit of sugar, salt and pepper and cider vinegar. I must admit I was a bit dubious about the addition of cider vinegar, but I had nothing to worry about. The dressing was creamy, tangy and a bit sweet. Do not use low fat sour cream! Just don't :)


And for the beet greens, you simply steam them in a skillet with a bit of water. No salt, or pepper or oil. Simple and healthy! I think next time I'd add a bit of hot pepper flakes.


Serve the greens in a plate or a bowl and top them with the sour cream dressing.


I absolutely loved this combination. I loved it so much, I ate it straight out of the refrigerator for a late night snack and again this morning for breakfast. Have you ever cooked with beet greens or Swiss chard? Share your ideas!

7/15/11

What to cook when it's so hot out?

How hot is it where you live? In DC area the temperatures have been near a 100 degrees. Add to that the humidity, and sometimes it's almost unbearable to think about cooking.

But cooking is still something I do when it's hot out because 1) I like to eat 2) Robyn makes me :)

I should explain the second reason: I do freelance cooking and photography for Robyn's Fabulous Food Finds blog, so most of the weekends I have two dishes that I make regardless of the weather.

I thought I'd share with you three of the dishes I've made for Robyn in the last few months (her recipes, my labor) that follow into three categories that could be customized to whatever your tastes and dietary needs are. Quick stir fries, not your typical lettuce salads, and kabobs.

Let's start with quick stir fries: The photo on the left is of the Gluten free vegetarian stir fry. It consists of ginger, garlic, scallions, red peppers, celery, broccoli, gluten free tamari, lime juice and cashews. The dish is not only pretty, takes minutes to put together, but is also really high in nutrients. And you would not need to heat up your entire house: that's the best part about stir fries: they are very quick.

Variations: add any of the vegetables you like (zucchini, green beans, fresh peas, or even corn), serve this over rice or noodles; add chicken, shrimp or beef (or go with mushrooms for an all vegetarian dish). This is also an excellent dish to double and eat cold the next day as leftovers for lunch.

Now for the not your typical lettuce salads: the photo below is of the Orange, Arugula & Pecan Salad. Forget your typical salad of lettuce, a few slices of tomatoes and cucumbers. Use your creativity to come up with something a bit more interesting. The slightly bitter arugula in this salad is offset by the sweet oranges and is balanced by salty olives and toasted nuts.

Variations: use any type of stone fruit (plums, nectarines, peaches), try using peppery watercress, add some blue cheese. Best part? You are not heating up anything in your kitchen!



And finally, kabobs. Know what's really fun about these? You can have your family members or friends help you in building whatever kabob they want. Don't have an outside grill? Use your broiler or even a panini maker. The photo below is of Shrimp and Pineapple Kabob. Of course the beauty of shrimp is that it takes only a few minutes to cook, so your kitchen will stay relatively cool. Yet the meal is filling enough to have as lunch or dinner.

Variations: go with an all vegetable kabob of zucchini, cherry tomatoes, yellow peppers and maybe even chunks of hard cheese. Or you could use chunks of white chicken breast, marinated mushrooms and roasted peppers.


I hope you like these ideas. Please share what YOU are cooking when it's hot outside.
Have a lovely weekend.

7/13/11

Shakshuka with a twist: Domenica Marchetti's The Glorious Pasta of Italy

A while ago I decided to treat myself to dinner at Bibiana. This was no ordinary dinner: it was a celebration for Domenica Marchetti's new cookbook: The Glorious Pasta of Italy.
The night included tasting some of the dishes from the book prepared by the Executive Chef Nicholas Stefanelli, sipping on wine, and listening to Domenica describe the origins and the stories behind some of her favorite dishes from the book.

Surprisingly, I wasn't completely immobile after multiple courses of pasta. Instead, I left the restaurant feeling happy to have been able to support such a lovely, talented and humble woman, taste amazing ways of preparing pasta other than spaghetti and meatballs, and just a little bit tipsy because of the wine.

I also received Domenica's cookbook as part of the dinner.  Sitting on the Metro, I paged through the book, admired the stunning photos, and was determined to make something from the book very soon.

But then life happened. It wasn't till several weeks later that I got a chance to make one of the recipes from the book. Domenica invited me to a cookbook party thrown for her by one of her good friends and asked me to make one of the recipes from the book.

Let me tell you this: I was intimidated. My dish would be sitting on the same table with the dishes prepared by Joe Yonan and Bonnie Benwick of Washington Post Food section. I felt pressure.

But I had nothing to worry about. The recipe Domenica chose for me was simple to make and did not require making pasta from scratch. It was Gemelli with fresh herbs and chopped olives.


Check out this definition of gemelli from Wikipedia:

Gemelli is a type of pasta. The name derives from the Italian for twins.
Gemelli are not twin tubes twisted around one another, as they may appear to be, but rather a single s-shaped strand twisted into a spiral.
You know what's so cool about this? I have a twin! So the dish seemed oh so very fitting for me.

The dish was such a success at the party, that I decided to make it at home, but with a twist. Instead of making the tomato sauce with herbs, garlic and olives and serving it with pasta, I decided to use it as a base for one of my favorite dishes: Shakshuka.

Here's the recipe for the sauce from The Glorious Pasta of Italy

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
3 tablespoons mixed  chopped fresh herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme)--> I used thyme in bouquet garni, to make it easier on myself instead of removing all the leaves from the stems and chopping them
1 cup chopped kalamata olives + 2 tablespoons brine from olives
28 oz good quality canned tomatoes in their juices, crushed
kosher salt
ground black pepper


Directions
1. Warm oil in a heavy bottomed pot
2. Add garlic
3. Heat oil with garlic on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes
4. Add herbs, olives and brine. Raise the temp to medium. Stir and cook for 1 minute
5. Add tomatoes, salt & pepper. Raise heat to medium-high, simmer for 15-20 min
6. For pasta, serve with 1 pound gemelli, fusilli or other short, sturdy pasta.

I skipped the last step. Instead, I removed the bouquet garni, lowered the heat till the sauce was just simmering, and carefully dropped in 4 eggs into the sauce. Covered and cooked till the whites were opaque and the yolks were still runny.


This was a delicious take on one of my favorite quick dinner meals.


I think that's what good cookbooks do: they inspire you to make new dishes and give you a different way of looking at some of the dishes you've been making for a while. It gives you a chance to spruce up your cooking repertoire and step just a little bit outside of your comfort zone.


I can't wait to make other dishes from the book.

7/11/11

Could you eat at a gas station? Yes, you can! Fast Gourmet in DC

We all lead such busy lives. Sometimes it takes almost a month {or more} before I'm able to come up with a date for a get together with a friend that works for both of us.

One such get together finally happened last month with my friend Jenna, who has been especially busy lately ever since she's opened up Whisked! with Stephanie

But back to our get together: Jenna and I decided to go see Bridesmaids and then have dinner at Fast Gourmet. The movie was great: I laughed, I cried, I cringed, and left the theater knowing how lucky I am to have friendships with some amazing girls in my life.

And then it was time for dinner. You know where we had dinner? At a gas station. That's right! A gas station.

But although Fast Gourmet is attached to a gas station, this was not your typical gas station food establishment. From their website:


We are Fast Gourmet, a place where you will find tasteful dishes on the go to satisfy your taste.

You’ll find that not only do we serve high quality food but we’re an eco friendly business as well with our sustainable natural free trade coffee from around the world, natural fruit juices, organic bread and our environmentally friendly to-go containers. You’ll be glad to know that we don’t serve processed food.
Everything is prepared fresh daily at your request by our chef. Free WIFI, hip ambiance and sharp service. We also deliver!
So the question you have to ask yourself is. Are you tired of unsatisfying food? If you are step up to Fast Gourmet and treat yourself the bistro way!



After admiring the urban decor of the Fast Gourmet, and inhaling the delicious smell of food, it was time to pay attention to the menu, which was quite extensive. It took us a few minutes to decide what we wanted.


In the end, I chose a pulled pork sandwich and the Russian potato salad. If you've been following my blog, you have read about my love for the Russian potato salad with peas, carrots, pickles, eggs, mayo, etc. I was eager to try Fast Gourmet's version.


The pulled pork was incredibly tender, with combination of sweet and tangy flavors. The bun seemed to have been toasted to withstand the big scoop of pulled pork, which was also topped off with some cole slaw.

The Russian potato salad looked right, but lacked salt, which was easy enough to fix. I was quite pleased with my meal.


Jenna ordered a side of sweet plantains and a Cubano sandwich. The plantains were spot on and brought back the memories of plantains my friend Laura, who is Puerto Rican, cooks any time we get together.


The Cubano showed up with gorgeous grill marks, full of delicous meat and with a side of hot, crispy fries.


I was definitely impressed with this gas station food and look forward to trying other items on their menu.

What's the best gas station food you have ever had?