Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pesto Pita Pizza With Tomato and Avocado Salad

I know I have said this before, but this week's meal is REALLY easy. Compared to my normal fare, I am totally Rachael Ray-ifying tonight's dinner.

This is a good summertime recipe for warm days, or for when you get home from work and want to fix something that is quick.

Once again, the ingredients are easy and natural, and unless you are crazy you will like this recipe and use it over and over.

- 1 large pita (such as King of Pita Bakery, pictured below)
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- 3/4 cup pesto
- Fresh mozzarella
- 3-4 fresh mushrooms
- A few dashes crushed red pepper
- 1/2 avocado
- Fresh grated Parmesan (PLEASE not the stuff in the green shaker -- buy a fresh block!!)
- 1 bottle red wine

While you can use store-bought pesto, there is no replacement for the real thing in the summertime. I won't go into how to make it here, but it is essentially a combination of basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil. Further, if you would rather not have this spicy, simply omit the crushed red pepper.

Pour a glass of wine, put on some music, preheat the oven to 425, and it's time to get to work ...

First, mince garlic and chop mushrooms. Cut one tomato and the fresh mozzarella into slices (about 4 each). Add crushed red pepper to pesto and stir well.

Next, spread the pesto over the pita -- this is your pizza sauce. Make you sure cover it well, almost to the edges. Then, arrange toppings -- tomato and fresh mozzarella slices, minced garlic and mushrooms in typical pizza fashion.

Place in over and bake for 15 minutes, or until mozzarella slices begin to brown.

While that is cooking, prepare the salad. Cube avocado half and other tomato, and place mixed pieces on a small plate. You could play with the presentation options here; I cubed my avocado half but kept the shape of it, and then placed the tomatoes around it. When your pizza comes out of the oven, grate fresh Parmesan on top of the salad.

Let your pizza cool for about 2 minutes, and then slice four ways. Because the pita crust is thin, one pizza is enough for one person, though depending how hungry you are, you may have a slice leftover.

Pour another glass of wine and enjoy.

Tonight's music: Dave Brubeck's Greatest Hits, Kostelanetz Plays Gershwin, and Chris Squire's Fish Out Of Water.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Green Curry With Tofu and Vegetables

Tonight's recipe is another easy one, proving again that most of the time, simplicity is best.

Most of the ingredients can be had at a supermarket, or if you are so inclined a whole foods or world market. As usual, I make mine pretty hot and spicy, so reduce the amount of crushed red pepper and/or curry paste to your taste. This dish is a staple of Thai cuisine, and while I am making a vegetarian version of it here, one can easily use beef, chicken or shrimp in lieu of tofu.

- 1 cup jasmine rice
- 3 Tbsp green curry paste
- 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 lime
- 1- 1.5 cups tofu, cubed
- 1/4 red onion
- 2-3 radishes
- 1.5-2 cups broccoli
- 1/2 green or yellow bell pepper
- 1 Tbsp crushed red pepper
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- White wine OR vodka and cranberry juice

Make/pour a drink, put on some music, and get started cooking ....

1 - Mince garlic and chop onion, and place both in a skillet with sesame oil on medium heat.
2 - Chop/slice vegetables. Add to saute mixture, periodically stirring with wooden spoon.
3 -Meanwhile, place 1 cup jasmine rice in a saucepan with 2 cups water. Turn on medium heat and cover.
4 - Cube tofu and add to saute mixture. Stir-fry for 10 minutes, or until tofu starts to slightly brown. Then, add vegetables to saute mixtures and stir-fry for 7-10 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften.
5 - Add coconut milk and juice of 1/2 lime, stirring mixture to coat. Then, add curry paste and crushed red pepper, stirring to coat. Maintain on medium heat, stirring periodically, for 10 minutes.

6 - Meanwhile, rice should be boiling. Reduce to low and keep covered.

As the curry mixture finishes cooking, the water in the rice should finishing absorbing and evaporating. Scoop 2-3 helpings out with an ice cream scoop onto a plate. Serve curry mixture in a bowl, and spoon over rice. This dish goes nicely with some plain white yogurt and some nan or pita bread on the side (as pictured at the top of this post). Make/pour another drink and enjoy.

Tonight's music: The Royal Scam by Steely Dan, and Elephants: Teeth Sinking Into Heart by Rachael Yamagata.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tandoori Chicken With Carrot Lime Salad

Tonight's recipe is once again quite easy, so long as you have all the ingredients. I am borrowing the bulk of it from Gourmet Magazine -- which if you haven't checked it out, you should! It is less calorie-conscious than pubs like Cooking Light, but the recipes and the insight are brilliant ... and hey, you really should be eating FOOD. Substance is more important than the minutia of nutrients.

This dish comes from India, for anyone who is wondering. A Tandoor is a type of oven; and, while a toaster oven, convection oven, regular oven or grill with suffice with this recipe, I wanted you to know where the name of the dish is derived from.


For spice paste
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 small fresh red or green chile such as serrano or cayenne
  • 1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh gingerroot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
For meat
  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds total)
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
For carrot salad
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
For drink
  • 2 beers, OR
  • vodka, cranberry juice and lime
... okay, for starters, fix a drink ... either crack that first beer, or fix a vodka and cranberry (in a tall glass, pour two shots vodka over ice, cranberry juice to taste, and lime wedge, squeezed in). Put on some music. Now, we're ready to start ....

Make spice paste:
Mince garlic with salt and mash to a paste. Wearing protective gloves, mince chile (including seeds for a spicier paste) and in a bowl stir together with garlic paste and remaining spice paste ingredients. PLEASE, use wood!!!!!

Make 3 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep in each chicken breast and rub spice paste into cuts and all over chicken. Marinate chicken, covered, 30 minutes at cool room temperature.

Halve onion through root end. Thinly slice one onion half, separating layers, and in a small bowl soak onion slices in ice water to cover while broiling chicken. Stash other half for another day.

Then ....

- Preheat broiler and line broiler pan with foil.

- Arrange chicken without crowding on rack of broiler pan. Brush chicken with 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and broil about 3 inches from heat 8 minutes. Drain onions and spread on top of chicken.

- While that cooks, finely shred carrots in a food processor, and put in bowl. Add lime juice and cilantro, tossing to coat. Chill until game time.

- Then, it should be about time to turn chicken over and brush with remaining teaspoon vegetable oil. Broil chicken until lightly browned and just cooked through, about 6-8 minutes more.

Depending on your oven, chicken may take more time to finish, you will just need to keep an eye on it, checking the insides through the slits you made ...

- When finished, plate chicken with some of the onions atop for garnish, carrot salad on the side, and a generous dollop of fresh, plain yogurt. Make another drink ..... and eat :)

Tonight's music: The Hot Rock by Sleater-Kinny, Parade by Prince and the Revolution, and Around The World In A Day by Prince and the Revolution.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Spicy Peanut Noodles With Shrimp, Broccoli In Oyster Sauce and Edamame

Tonight's meal is simple. You only need to make sure you have all the ingredients ready, and bear in mind to cook on medium-low heat. Any of these sauces are available at world food/asian food markets, as well as many supermarkets.

Thai food often features a rich array of spices, and as usual, I make these peanut noodles pretty hot. Thus, temper crushed red pepper to taste. And even though it's not in the recipe below, when sauteing the base ingredients, feel free to try a little chopped ginger or basil.


2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 lbs. shrimp, peeled
1 small head broccoli
1/3 box vermicelli
1/2 cup peanuts, smashed
1 cup spicy peanut sauce
1/2 cup oyster sauce
2-3 Tbsp crushed red pepper
3/4 lime
2 cloves garlic
3/4 chopped green onion
Dash turbinado sugar
1 bag frozen edamame
Cranberry juice

Put ice in a tall glass. Pour two shots vodka in, add cranberry juice to taste. Squeeze in juice of a lime wedge. Put on some music, and drink while cooking.

- In a medium saucepan, add 3/4 full with water. Put on medium heat to boil for pasta.
- Chop garlic, onion and broccoli. Smash peanuts.
- Put sesame oil in skillet, heat on medium-low. When it starts to get warm, add garlic and onion. Saute with a WOODEN spoon for 10 minutes ... while you're doing that, add the oyster sauce to a medium saucepan and add 1/4 cup water and turbinado sugar. Put over medium-low heat. Swish pan periodically to mix.

- As saute mixture heats up, add shrimp. Cook until done. When finished, add peanuts and saute for 2 minutes. Then add lime juice, saute one minute, then add peanut sauce and crushed red pepper. Saute for 5-7 minutes, continuing on medium-low heat.

- Add broccoli to pan with oyster sauce. Toss to coat, reduce heat to low and cover. Check and stir periodically.

- When water for pasta boils, add vermicelli. Boil until done and drain. Then, add to peanut sauce mixture, tossing well to coat. Reduce heat and let sit for 5 minutes while everything else finishes.

- Put Edamame in microwave and cook 5 minutes to finish. Put in bowl and lightly sprinkle sea salt or kosher salt over it.

- Broccoli in saucepan should be about done. Uncover and toss one more time.

Plate pasta and broccoli. Drizzle a little excess oyster sauce over broccoli. Serve alongside edamame.

Refill drink and enjoy with your Thai dinner. And hey, don't be a jerk -- use chopsticks.

Tonight's music: Wilco: The Album, U2: Live Under A Blood Red Sky, and U2: No Line On The Horizon.

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UNDO - ctrl-z/apple-z
NEW TAB - ctrl-t/apple-t
QUIT - ctrl-q/apple-q
PRINT SCREEN - print screen/apple-shift-3
BOLD - ctrl-b/apple-b
ITALIC - ctrl-i/apple-i
UNDERLINE - ctrl-u/apple-u

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Jerk Chicken and Coconut Shrimp

Jerk Chicken with Avocado, and Coconut Shrimp with Spicy Black Bean Salad and Mango Sauce

Okay, tonight's meal sounds complex but it's really pretty easy, you just have to keep a handle on your timing and ingredients. This can be done inside or outside, and I'll be sure to give notes regarding whether you are broiling, grilling, etc.

I am often taken with presentation of my food, and while it is not always a big deal, I do like to make a nice dish of things in terms of colors and proportions, not to mention flavors and textures.


2 Chicken Breasts
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and de-veined
Jerk Seasoning (see below)
Black Bean Salad (see below)
Mango Salad (see below)
1 mango
1 avocado
1.5 cups peanut oil (for frying)
1/4 cup fresh parsley (for garnish)
1 large bottle cold white wine

-Pour glass of wine, refilling as needed. Chop herbs. Pour peanut oil in skillet or pan, heat to medium-high heat. Then, prepare the following ....

Jerk Rub
2 tablespoons dried minced onion
1 tablespoon garlic powder
4 teaspoons crushed dry thyme leaves
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

-This makes enough for you to keep and use for awhile. Using off-the-shelf herbs is fine, though if you have them fresh, all the better. Mix everything together in a bowl, and place in a seal-able plastic bag or covered spice jar. Rub onto both sides of the chicken, leaving the skin ON. Heat convection or traditional oven to broil temp ... OR, if grilling, heat up to high heat .... get ready to add chicken when told ....

Black Bean Salad
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can black beans
2 green onions
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup cilantro
1 lime (for juice and zest)
1 banana pepper, chopped
1/4 avocado, chopped

-Place olive oil in a skillet, heat to medium. Add garlic and whites of onion. Saute until soft (use a WOODEN spoon, MF!), then add beans, banana pepper, 2 tbsp lime juice and lime zest until cooked down. Remove from heat, add remaining lime juice, green onion tops (green parts), 2 tbsp cilantro. Reduce heat and keep warm ... just before serving salad, the 1/4 chopped avocado will be placed on top.

Shrimp Batter
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tbsp sea salt
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1-1.5 cups dry white wine

-Combine all ingredients except wine in a bowl. Mix well, then add wine. Mix again, then add shrimp. Toss to coat. If batter is too thick, add more wine. Get ready to fry them when instructed ...

Mango Sauce
1 mango, pureed
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 orange juice
Dash crushed red pepper

-Combine ingredients in a bowl, stirring together. Adjust ingredients further to taste. Reserve for finished shrimp.
- Place chicken into broiler or onto grill. If the former, let cook 9-12 minutes or until juices are clear. If the latter, grill 4 minutes on sear per side with hood up, flipping for grill marks (for a total of 16 minutes).
- Chop 1/4 avocado into cubes to top black bean salad, then chop remaining 3/4 into slices to garnish chicken.
- In skillet with peanut cooking oil, begin to add coated shrimp (5-7 per batch), frying for 5 minutes or so until golden brown. Place atop a paper towel on a plate as they finish.

- As shrimp finish, check on chicken ... it should be about done ... when there, remove from heat. Place finished breast on a plate with avocado slices around. Add parsley garnish. In two ramekins, place black bean salad (in one) and mango sauce (in other) ... then, place shrimp on a small plate with sauce ramekins .... serve alongside jerk chicken ... and another glass of white wine.

Tonight's music: Steely Dan Katy Lied and Wilco: The Album

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