Friday, March 26, 2010

Ooo La La!

"French Onion" Mac n' Cheese
One might argue that I'm a bit obsessed with mac n' cheese. Uhh . . . no argument here! I totally am! There are so very many different delicious cheeses out there just waiting to be combined with pasta . . . it seems like a waste not to try them all out. Right? I had been toying with the idea for a while or throwing together a mac n' cheese as an homage to one of my other favorites, French Onion Soup. Perhaps this whole meal sounds like one big bowl of fat and carbs to you. Well, it is. But it is also pretty freakin' tasty. Give it a try!


- 8 oz. fusilli pasta
- 4 large yellow onions, peeled, halved, and sliced lengthwise
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 3 Tbsp. dry sherry
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 c. grated Gruyere cheese
- 2 c. whole milk
- 1/2 c. half and half
- 1/4 c. flour
- thin toasted Parmesan crackers (I got mine at Trader Joe's)
- 6 slices Provolone cheese

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter a 13x9" baking dish and set aside. Melt 4 Tbsp. butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add sliced onions and season with salt and pepper. Turn heat to medium-low and cook until onions begin to brown and caramelize (about 20 minutes). Add chopped thyme, sherry, and sugar, and cook over medium an additional 10 minutes. Whisk flour into onion mixture over medium heat and cook 1 minute. Slowly add milk and half and half and whisk until sauce is smooth and creamy. Remove from heat and add grated Gruyere cheese.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving some of the pasta cooking water. Add pasta to onion and cheese mixture and stir to combine. Add pasta water to mixture if the cheese sauce is too thick.

Spread pasta into baking dish and cover with foil. Bake 25 minutes until hot all the way through. Turn on broiler. Remove foil and arrange thin Parmesan toasts over the top. Then arrange Provolone slices on top of crackers in a single later. Put baking dish under the broiler and broil about 10 minutes until cheese on top is brown and bubbly. Enjoy!

Stirrin' It Up

Spicy Ginger-Soy Shrimp Stir Fry With Soba Noodles

I come by my foodie ways honestly. My parents are foodies. My mother is the most amazing cook ever . . . I get that everyone says that about his or her own mother, but in my case it's really true. Growing up she always exposed my brother and me to different sorts of foods- Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Russian, whatever. And it was always delicious. While we never lacked for variety at the table, there were certain recipes that would pop up more often than others and a stir-fry was among these frequent dinner time guest stars. Usually chicken, pork, or beef with some kind of vibrant green vegetable, water chestnuts, bok choy, and a heaping scoop of steamed white rice. I loved it. I have many memories of sitting around the table making feeble attempts to use chopsticks while my dad coached me: "No, Liz. Hold it like you hold a pencil."

It wasn't until several years ago when my dad outfitted my brother and me with our own stir fry gear for Christmas that I attempted it on my own. Flipping through the simple cookbook accompanying the wok, chop sticks, wooden paddle, and other related accessories I realized the elegant simplicity of stir fry. Protein, vegetables, starch, and some sort of sauce. Poof! That's it. Fast, cheap, and easy. It's magic.

For my first attempts I stuck with the cookbook and the recipes that sounded familiar. Beef With Broccoli. Pork and Snow Peas. Then strolling up and down the Asian foods section of the supermarket, I realized what a tasty adventure stir fry could be. Elegant jars of duck sauce, bottles of rice wine, new varieties of noodles and rice inspired me to go off-book. I threw this together the other day after picking up a bottle of
Sriracha sauce (the bottle with the picture of the rooster). I hope you like it!

Incidentally, if you don't have a wok . . . any large non-stick skillet will do!


- 1 lb. medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 lb. broccoli florets
- 1 Tbsp. minced ginger
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. Sriracha sauce
- 1 Tbsp. Hoisin sauce
- 2 Tbsp. plum sauce
- l bunch of scallions, trimmed and chopped
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 8 oz. whole wheat soba noodles

In a medium bowl, whisk together ginger, soy sauce, Hoisin sauce, and Sriracha. Add shrimp to bowl and toss to cover with sauce. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together plum sauce and rice vinegar in a separate bowl. Set aside. Chop scallions and garlic. Bring large pot of water to a boil for soba noodles.

After shrimp have marinated. Heat vegetable oil in wok or large skillet over high, swirl around to distribute oil. Add shrimp and stir fry 2-3 minutes until shrimp are pink and nearly cooked through. Remove shrimp from wok, add 3 Tbsp. water and broccoli. Cover and steam 2-3 minutes until broccoli is tender and bright green. Meanwhile, add soba noodles to boiling water and cook 6-8 minutes (see package directions).

When broccoli is cooked, turn off heat. Add garlic, scallions, and cooked and drained soba noodles. Toss to combine. Add plum sauce and rice wine mixture and shrimp. Toss until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Eat with chopsticks! Serve with extra Sriracha sauce if you like things spicy!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rice is Nice

Teriyaki Salmon and Veggie-Packed Fried Rice

There are few things I find more satisfying than a nice, fat piece of seared salmon. It's just so filling and absolutely delicious. What am I not a fan of? Rice. I just don't really care for rice. Pasta or rice? I'll choose pasta every time. Perhaps it's the Italian in me, but whatever. People love rice. It's a staple in many food traditions. And, really, I do eat it. (Honestly, I LOVE it in sushi.) This recipe is one in my regular rotation. I put it together as a way to make peace with my weird rice-aversion.
It worked. I use brown rice because I prefer the nuttier flavor, but feel free to use what you like. It's a snap to throw together, on the healthier side of things, and packed with yummy veggies. Feel free to substitute the salmon fillet with chicken if fish isn't your thing. This is a recipe for two, but easily doubled for families. I hope you like it.


- 2 6-7 oz. boneless salmon fillets (skin or skinless- whatever you like)
- 6 Tbsp. butter, divided
- 3 c. cooked rice (brown or white)
- 1 head broccoli, florets removed from stem
- 1 c. diced carrots
- 6 green onions, cleaned and diced
- 1 c. frozen peas
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 c. soy sauce
- 1/2 c. teriyaki sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- cooking spray

Cook rice according to package directions (about 20 minutes). While rice is working, prepare other ingredients.

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray a 9" round baking dish with cooking spray. Season both sides of salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Place fillets in melted butter and sear (1-2 minutes per side). Place fillets in prepared baking dish and cover with teriyaki sauce. Bake in oven 9-10 minutes until salmon is cooked through.

Meanwhile, melt 4 Tbsp. butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add cooked rice, onions, carrot, broccoli, peas, and soy sauce. Stir to combine all ingredients thoroughly. Make two wells in the rice and crack one egg in each well. Cover and cook 8-9 minutes until egg is nearly cooked through. With a wooden spoon, stir rice mixture, spreading egg throughout. The egg will cook in the hot rice. Remove from heat and remove salmon from oven. Divide fried rice among two plates and top each with a salmon fillet. Drizzle with additional teriyaki sauce. Done and done. Quick and yummy!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Get Yer Goat (Cheese That Is)

Bell Pepper and Goat Cheese Soup With Tuna and White Bean Melts

My best roommate ever, Erin, was unfortunately lactose-intolerant. I say "unfortunately" because while we enjoyed cooking dinners together, my recipes tend toward embracing dairy in its many varied and delicious forms. The exception to Erin's anti-dairy issues was goat cheese. She figured out all kinds of ways to substitute my traditional bovine dairy ingredients with goat alternatives. She taught me this soup recipe and it quickly became a regular in our dinner rotation. The creamy goat cheese with the bright, tangy bell peppers makes for a velvety-textured vegetarian meal. I came up with this riff on a tuna melt to make for a heartier dinner. The ease of the meal comes from a 12 oz. jar of prepared marinated giant white beans (thanks Trader Joe's). If these are not available, make a similar taste by combining a can of Cannellini beans with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1/4 c. diced sun dried tomatoes. I hope you like it!


- 2 large red bell peppers, seeded and diced
- 1 large orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 sweet yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 4 c. vegetable stock
- 7-8 oz. goat cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 12. oz. jar Giant White Beans in tomato sauce (find it at Trader Joe's)
- 1 5-6 oz. can albacore tuna packed in olive oil, drained
- 1 ciabatta loaf, sliced length wise
- 1 generous handful chopped Italian parsley
- 3 c. grated Ibirico cheese (if unavailable go for Provolone)

In a large stock pot, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium. Add chopped onion and cook until it begins to soften and turn translucent (about 3 minutes). Add chopped bell peppers, apple, and carrot and stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add vegetable stock to soup, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place ciabatta halves on top. In a medium bowl, combine tuna, chopped parsley, and white beans. Mix thoroughly and season with salt and pepper. Spread tuna and bean mixture evenly on bread. Sprinkle grated cheese evenly on top of tuna mixture. Put in oven and broil until cheese is melted and begins to brown on top. Remove from oven and slice.

After soup has simmered, remove from heat. Working in batches blend in blender (or use your handy immersion blender) until soup is smooth. Add goat cheese to soup and stir in until melted and soup is creamy. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tuna and bean melts for dipping.

Monday, March 8, 2010

To Meat or Not to Meat . . .

Stuffed Eggplants for Carnivores and Herbivores Alike

When cooking for other people, an intrepid kitchen queen is occasionally confronted with this culinary
conundrum: How exactly can one create a satisfying vegetarian and a non-vegetarian meal with limited time, fuss, and use of cookware? Currently on a lookout for a filling vegetarian meal for myself, I went to one of my favorite go-to protein sources- the humble Cannellini bean. Tender, sweet, and delicious, these Italian white beans are great cooked in a rich tomato sauce or whipped up into a hummus. I love them. For the meat version of this recipe, I figured a hot Italian sausage was the perfect choice. Double the sausage or the beans and go full-on meat or full-on veg. I hope you enjoy the flexibility of this recipe.


- 2 large eggplants, stems removed, rinsed, and sliced in half lengthwise
- 1/2 lb. hot Italian sausage, removed from casings
- 1 15 oz. can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 2 large shallots, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 large handful Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 15 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
- salt and pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4" thick pieces

Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Take eggplants and scoop out seeds and white flesh leaving about a 1/4" rim for filling. Sprinkle with salt and set aside in a 9x13" baking sheet. As the salt draws the bitterness from the eggplant, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add shallots and garlic and season with salt. Cook over medium until shallots soften and begin to turn translucent. Add can of crushed tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and parsley. Stir to combine and let simmer over medium for about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, heat another Tbsp. olive oil over medium in a separate skillet. Add sausage and cook until browned, breaking up into pieces with a wooden spoon.

While sausage and tomato sauce works, rinse excess salt from eggplants and pat dry. Return to baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Fill two eggplants with cooked sausage then top with half of the tomato mixture. Add beans to the remaining tomato mixture and stir until combined. Fill remaining eggplants with beans and tomato mixture. Top with slices of mozzarella.

Place baking dish in oven and cook 30-40 minutes until eggplants begin to soften and cheese melts. Turn on broiler and broil (checking often) until cheese on top turns brown and bubbly.

There you have it: a vegetarian and a meat-atarian meal in one, tidy baking dish. Enjoy!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Green Machine

Easy Mac and Cheesy Bake with Greens and Roasted Garlic

Still going meatless and still looking for quick and easy dinner recipes, I was musing over the idea of roasted garlic and melted cheese. What about this isn't a good idea? This isn't exactly a "mac n' cheese recipe," it lacks the really thick, creamy sauce that makes it a true and hearty comfort food. Instead, this is a lighter, veggie packed, vegetarian pasta bake. The roasted garlic and crème fraîche make for a sweet and tangy meal. Enjoy!


- 1 head garlic
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. elbow macaroni
- 7-8 oz. tub crème fraîche
- 1 lb. extra sharp white cheddar cheese
- 1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 large bunch fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed in microwave, excess water drained
- salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375˚. Cut top of garlic head, place on a square sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and wrap garlic up in foil. Place in oven and bake about 30 minutes, until garlic cloves are soft and turning brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, grate cheeses, chop parsley, and cook spinach. Set aside. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high. Add pasta to boiling water and cook to al dente. While pasta is working, spray a 13x9" baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. When pasta is cooked, drain and reserve about 1 cup pasta cooking water. Return cooked pasta to large pot.

Place grated cheddar into a double boiler and allow to melt until smooth. Add crème fraîche and stir until smooth. Remove melted cheeses from heat, squeeze roasted garlic into cheese sauce and stir until combined. Add spinach, parsley, and a little of the pasta water at a time if the sauce is too thick. Add cheese sauce to cook pasta and stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste and spread in an even layer in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and place dish in oven. Bake 15-20 minutes until the Parmesan cheese is browning on top and the pasta is warmed through.