Tag Archives: roasting. peppers

emerging from hibernation

Good evening readers and eaters! As I mentioned two posts ago, I have an exciting life project that occupies my evenings—hence the lack of recent recipes. I have indeed been cooking and photographing lovely meals to share with you. Warning: this blog is about to grow in its proportion of heart-healthy, veg-filled delights.

Andrew and I are really cutting back on saturated fats these days: it’s not about a fad diet or vegan trends. As we venture into our fifth year of marriage, we’re unhappy with the weight gain we’ve experienced in this brief time—over 20 lbs. between the two of us. Neither of us is overweight, but 20 lbs. in 5 years is a scary trend considering the inevitable metabolic slow in the coming 5 years. A generous topping of high-fat cheese was making its way into too many of our meals.

My two years immersed in Nutrition grad studies taught me that the most realistic way to weight loss is small, simple dietary substitutions. One less soda a day, less fattening milk, etc. For Andrew, this meant switching from sandwiches to soup for most workday lunches. For me, this meant cut-up fruits and veggies as snacks before meals insteaPhoto & Video Sharing by SmugMugd of my infamous feed-a-family lunch portions. Smaller portions, more frequent meals. Now Andrew eats breakfast. We eat smaller dinners and finish the evenings with yogurt fruit smoothies.

So now I must share my thrilling very-recent discovery: ethnic markets. I had heard about the affordable produce prices for years, and finally visited my local Korean and Hispanic supermart. Not only were the prices one-third of what I paid at Shoppers (which I had found less expensive than my other local chains), but the produce was fresh, abundant, and varied beyond my imagination. Where Shoppers has carried three to four moldy eggplants the past five months, Fresh World had hundreds of firm, blemish-free eggplants—five different varieties! I realize I am spoiled in my metropolitan area, but if you have the opportunity to explore an international market, this is a wonderfully affordable way to incorporate far more fresh ingredients into your meals. I left with seven stuffed produce bags  for barely $40.

Sometimes, we’ve just got to stop complicating dishes with steps and stress. Have a simple, fresh meal. Give yourself a break, your body a boost. Here was our light Friday night…Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Pita and Feta with Vegetables

inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Very Full Tart” recipe (minus eggs, heavy cream, buttered pie crust)

do substitute/omit ingredients per availability

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced

handful cherry tomatoes, halved

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced (1-inch)

1 zucchini, diced

1 large onion

4 tbsp. grapeseed/vegetable oil

4 oz. feta, crumbled

whole wheat pita for serving, cut into wedges

Preheat the oven to 400F. On at least two baking sheets, scatter the chopped vegetables into an even layer. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with dried thyme or oregano as you like. Roast the veggies about 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until potatoes are fork tender and browning occurs. Season with ground pepper and sprinkle with feta. If you have fresh oregano or chives, add them here.

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We spooned this vegetable mixture into whole wheat pita pockets, dunking the pita into homemade baba ganoush as well. Surprisingly satisfying.

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Filed under budget, dinners, health, the basics

small summer bites

My dear readers, I cannot keep you in the dark a moment longer about this mind taste-bud-blowing corn pesto I made over the weekend. As you read most recently, I bought an abundance of fresh goodies at Saturday’s farmer’s market, which have supplied extra deliciousness to this week’s meals.

I agree seven ears of corn is potentially overwhelming for a family of two, but Bon Appetit inspired my own version of Corn Pesto that is not to be missed. And, yep, you’ll need a lot of corn.

I do not consider myself a food / recipe visionary, but… After spotting these precious peppers, I imagined them sliced in half, roasted, and filled with ribbons of basil and corn pesto. (Let’s hope the inspiration continues!) Bon Appetit featured a corn pesto sautéed in bacon fat and served over pasta, but it sounded too heavy and starchy for the light meals this weather encourages. The idea of corn pesto, however, was too intriguing to pass up my own rendition…

Because I wanted to start with a strong flavor base (in lieu of bacon grease), I must first tell you about the other hors d’oeuvre I made to accompany my stuffed peppers:

Lindsey’s Herbed Tarts with Feta and Caramelized Onion

Is it apparent by now how I so enjoy any excuse for caramelized onions?? For cousin Kelly’s sweet 16, I volunteered to bring hors d’oeuvre (one of my favorite things to make), and what’s a great appetizer without sweet, succulent onions?

Click here for details of how I make my (shortcut) tartlettes. My experimental variation this time around includes pressing fresh chopped herbs (parsley here) into refrigerated pie crust. I would prefer chives or basil, but parsley had to make due and indeed it worked!

I unrolled a store-bought pie crust, sprinkled herbs over top, and rolled very thin. I was cautious here on using too much parsley (which I pressed into both sides of the dough), as I didn’t want its peppery flavor to be overwhelming. To my delight, I found the flavor almost completely muted once cooked, and the herbs contributed only a dainty greenery to my tarts. Just what I wanted! As I will try chives or basil next time, I will be more generous with the amounts.

I’m telling you, this is really as simple as can be. After a mere two minutes of rolling the dough, cutting out circles with the lip of a drinking glass, the dough pressed right into an ungreased mini muffin tin. (Poke plenty of toothpick holes to prevent puffing). 10 minutes later are these impressive, elegant, and tasty tarts. Could it be any easier??

With the tarts complete, I simply filled each with caramelized onions (click here for my method) and a nice cube of feta.

I don’t doubt these are delicious under the broiler for two minutes, the feta just golden and melting into the onions. Unfortunately, the severe power outages over the weekend (and into the week) prevented me from heating the tarts before serving. But, thankfully for me and your future guests, these serve beautifully at room temperature, and are guaranteed to be gobbled regardless.

Hopefully your host (or aunt-in-law) will have a lovely plate for their display. But I can’t make any promises, blink and they’re gone.

There was only the peeking sun (post-storm) offering light for this photo, but hopefully you enjoy a glimpse of the finished product.

Now onto the main (and more versatile) dish…

Lindsey’s Roasted Baby Peppers Stuffed with Corn Pesto & Purple Basil

Perhaps you’re not making both of these appetizers, but I must let you know I saved the pan with browned onion bits as key flavor for my corn pesto. A few chunks of caramelized onion intentionally joined the corn saute, so consider searing, say, 1/8 of an onion before adding your corn…

(As with most pestos, you will need a food processor.)

adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)
  • 1-2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Slicing the kernels from 6 ears of corn sounds disastrous, but was not so messy (and scattered) as you may fear. I sliced off both ends of each cob and sliced straight down with a sharp knife in a gentle sawing motion. Completing this prep work over an 8-cup measuring bowl sure makes things a little easier…

    Heat one and a half tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. After the oil is hot, add corn, coarse salt, and pepper.

    Sauté over medium-high heat until corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes. Add the minced garlic during the last minute of cooking, stirring well. Reserve 1/4 cup of the corn kernels in a small bowl, scraping the rest of the corn mixture into the food processor.

    While the corn is cooking, toast your pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat—keep an eye on them! You want them beautifully golden, but they can burn in a blink.

    Into the food processor with the piping hot corn, add 1/2 cup Parmesan (get the good stuff, though it doesn’t have to be Parmigiano) and the toasted pine nuts.

    Like most pesto, the processor does all the work for you, and the dish is practically done from here. With the machine running, add olive oil through the feed tube and blend until pesto is also smooth. You’re done!

    Now what to do with this amazing, amazing buttery batch? Here’s one of many inspirations…

    I sliced a handful of sweet mini peppers in half (stem on for extra dose of adorable) and brushed the cut sides with olive oil to help the edges char.
    On a rimmed baking sheet (parchment paper beneath to prevent sticking), these peppers were cooked to perfection after about 8 minutes at 400F. You want to see the edges brown, but don’t cook them so long they soften and lose shape. That is, if you want little cups for your corn pesto! (P.S. Vegetables as containers for other ingredients seriously makes me smile. At our wedding, we had this sautéed mushroom medley in halved acorn squash… just gorgeous).

    You can see here that the peppers are glistening with oil and charred slightly on the inside. Like the corn pesto and the onion tarts, these store wonderfully at room temperature, should your serving conditions lack, say, electricity.

    For easier filling, I transferred some corn pesto into a plastic bag with a cut corner. From here, it’s super fast to pipe the pesto into the peppers (say that five times fast) and top with ribbons of purple (okay, or green) basil. You recall I didn’t have much lighting to work with for a good photo, but you get the idea…

    If you like, sprinkle the filled peppers with the reserved corn kernels. Or, you can serve this thick, chunky mixture as a delicious dip for pita chips or multigrain crackers—it’s just as enjoyable this way, too. 

    Do write about how you use your corn pesto! I hope this also becomes a summer favorite in your kitchen 🙂

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    Filed under dinners, small bites

    their eyes were watching dog

    Andrew and I have the very privileged job this week of dog-sitting Gus, my golden retriever dog-in-law. Also Lucy, the royal cat. This entails house-sitting, too, so when my Pops said he was going to come by, I got to cook him a scrumptious dinner in a nice big kitchen for a change.

    As I’ve mentioned before, my Dad has historical vegephobic tendencies, so I take it upon myself to cook him something extra healthy (never sacrificing delicious).

    With an obesity exam until 4pm, this had to be a last-minute, 5pm-run-to-the-grocery-store dinner, and couldn’t require excessive preparation. Quesadillas! Quick, crowd-pleasing, adaptable to carnivores!

    Another rare occasion: indulgent grocery money. I found an excuse to visit my friend Mark at Whole Foods and discuss produce recommendations. He introduced me to champagne mangoes… oh, you wouldn’t believe them! They have a thin yellow peel, sweet flavor, and buttery texture. They’re hanging out here in front of the avocados and fresh herbs.

    I envisioned simple, sweet onion-filled whole-wheat tortillas with a festive fruit salad. If you’ve been reading my posts lately, you know I’m on quite the avocado fix—today was no exception!

    First, the guacamole. I typically mash avocado with lime juice, red onions, and cilantro. Today’s inspiration was from Bon Appetit: a simple guacamole with basil, lemon, and shallots. For the recipe, click here! I loved this new combination for basil, and will surely be making this again.

    I also love servingware, so it was fun to present my food in Alice’s colorful dishes!!

    My frequent Vegetarian Times reading introduced me to the idea of using citrus zest & juice to dress fruit salads. Come to think of it, lime zest would have been spectacular to brighten my dish even further. With such ripe pineapple and special mango, I didn’t want to complicate things. A squirt of lime juice and chopped fresh mint was…mmm… just enough to keep things interesting.

    With the accompaniments prepared, the quesadillas were about fifteen minutes of prep and assembly. Grilled onions would be divine here, but I stuck them under a high broiler, which was far more accessible in my cooking rush. I brushed sweet onions and red onions with a little bit of olive oil on both sides and flipped them after about 3 minutes until barely charred.

    a sheet of foil beneath for easier clean-up!

    Set these aside in a small bowl to reuse the baking sheets for my quesadillas. Since I had the luxury of purchasing fresh herbs for this evening’s meal, I also treated us to fresh cilantro. To accompany the sweet onions, I chopped up some roasted piquillo peppers (jarred from Trader Joes!), proceeded to slice a valuable finger (impeding my current typing abilities), and also included cilantro and lime juice with shredded Monterey jack cheese. Next time, I’ll add even more cilantro and lime for kick.

    As you can tell, these tortillas were so huge, two scarcely fit on a single baking sheet. I decided to fill only half and save myself space in the oven, which I heated to 500 degrees—I hoped to melt the cheese quickly and crisp the tortillas.

    I did brush a teeny bit of olive oil on the outside of the tortillas, flipping the halves over after five or so minutes, once the tops were golden brown. You may be envisioning these flimsy flour wraps spilling their contents upon flipping, but whole-wheat tortillas are so hearty, this was no problem. Besides the whole-wheat contributing obvious nutritional value, the quesadillas had such crunch you don’t often find with white flour! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. And did I mention easily delicious?

    Dad digs in (happily)!

    Of course, Gus was disappointed we offered my dad the leftovers.

    This meal may sound indulgent, and it tasted so for sure. But with minimal cheese, this meal was low in saturated fats and packed with nutrient-dense ingredients. When you’ve got a creative menu filled to the brim with fruits and veggies and, oh yes!, whole grains, you’ve got the flavors for something memorable.

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    Filed under dinners, lickety-quick

    unpredictable winners

    When you’re married to a filmmaker (who thank-the-Lord shares your indifference for athletics), Oscar Night is like the Super Bowl. But more fun 🙂

    Naturally, important televised events call for superb dips, so I was grateful to come across this one on my new favorite food blog: Canadian Closet Cooking. Apparently there are other adventurers making the most out of their teeny kitchens! Kevin, the author of this blog, created a really easy Greek dip  called Htipiti. Don’t ask me to pronounce it. With a food processor, this is a very quick and yummy roasted red pepper and feta cheese dip!

    Fresh roasted peppers are a teeny bit more effort, though purchasing jarred versions take all the work out of this effortless appetizer.

    To roast peppers (and jalapeno, as I did here), just slice in half and broil for about 7 or so minutes until completely blackened.

    Place the piping peppers in a freezer bag until cooled. Steaming them makes the skin so easy to pinch off.

    Now I had never worked with jalapeno peppers before, and I’m also a wimp when it comes to heat. I began with 1/4 of a pepper in the dip and actually found that to be medium spicy. If you want a very mild dip, just add 1/8 pepper and adjust to your liking.

    This is likely the fastest homemade appetizer ever. Just toss everything in the food processor: feta, roasted peppers, green onion, lemon juice, sun-dried tomatoes, and one clove of garlic! 

    My love for pita is indescribable, so you can only imagine my adoration for pita chips! I used whole wheat pita, which I of course enjoy because it’s so nutritious and hearty. Pita chips also toast in about 2 minutes, so they’re a healthful alternative to pretzels or potato chips. This time around, I brushed them with olive oil (& chopped garlic mixed in) before toasting. It made absolutely no difference, and even made them a bit soggy. I suggest toasting them dry, as I’ve done in the past. No need to add the additional fat if it’s not enhancing the flavor. I couldn’t taste the fresh garlic either—dried garlic may have been more effective.

    In my dip-making excursions, I also attempted an impromptu french onion dip. I roasted some garlic and chopped onion while the (toaster) oven was still hot from the pepper-roasting. I mixed this in with plain yogurt (having no sour cream on hand), salt, a dash of teriyaki, and a little dried onion powder. Not bad! I’m not a regular purchaser of potato chips, but this, after all, was a special occasion 😉 

    If you want to try Kevin’s Greek dip, visit the recipe here on his blog.

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    Filed under here to share, lickety-quick

    Keens, Beans, and Greens

    Keenie-Beanie, n.  a lifelong nickname for my sweet cousin Colleen which whom I had a great conversation tonight about vegetables!

    mmmmm, veggies!

    This weekend’s meals have been unique in unusual repetitions of leftover pizza and PB & J. Thus, little cooking-talk for the blog. However, you can thank my little cousin (okay only by 11 months) for asking me the most beautiful question this evening, “Lins, I’m trying to like vegetables. How can I make them taste interesting?”

    Her second question was, “I know there are all kinds of spices and things out there, but what do I absolutely need in my cupboard??”

    Oh, Keenie, you made my night! Well if you haven’t already checked out my growing list of cupboard essentials, you probably want to know my answer to this last question which ties right in with the first. Here it is: I create almost all of my flavorful and simple weeknight veggies with olive oil and coarse sea salt. That’s it!

    If you’ve already read my post about roasting, you may predict where I’m going next… I told my Keen-Bean a few things:

    1. I agree with the great chefs out there that herbs are a fantastic method for flavoring vegetable dishes. However, with my basil in permanent hibernation, and my refusal to regularly spend $3 for fresh herbs at the grocery stores, I often prefer technique to bring out natural flavors.
    2. I know Keenie, like myself, probably grocery shops on a budget. And while I do enjoy tossing toasted pine nuts on my veggies, I’d rather emphasize the natural qualities of the ingredient, rather than adding ingredients to taste.
    3. Olive oil and a bit of sea salt can help maintain the nutritional integrity of vegetables (vs. seasoning packets or calorie & sodium-packed dressings) with methods such as roasting or sautéing.

    On the right, for instance, are roasted tomatoes…the richest veggie sidedish you can imagine! Divine with homemade mac and cheese.

    And guess what went into this? Olive oil and coarse salt sprinkled over sliced tomatoes on a baking sheet and baked until soft and shriveled. I know it’s not time for tomatoes yet, but you can do the same with potatoes, onions, fresh green beans, broccoli, carrots, etc. etc. etc.

    Though this post isn’t about meat, olive oil and coarse salt are a great cooking foundation for roasted shrimp or chicken. Just 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper tossed with shrimp, roasted for 6 minutes at 400 degrees produces painless, perfect shrimp. Ask my dad, who’s now a believer 🙂

    unpeeled shrimp (though peeled would work even better) with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper

    just 6 minutes later and ready to enjoy! (well, by the seafood lovers that is...)

    even this skillet-roasted chicken began with olive oil and salt, and ended with a simple pan-sauce of lemon and fresh thyme

    Minimizing ingredients can help you enjoy (and benefit from) the natural, nutritional content of your food.  Remember, just keep it simple, fresh, and healthy.

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    haloumi, ha-LOO-mee!

    It may be obvious by now how I cherish great words as much as great ingredients. HALOUMI! It’s as much fun as shouting Oo-pah! though I would argue perhaps even more.

    I want to talk about a few fun things today: making flavored oils, pasta, and of course: haloumi. I promise to stop tossing this word at you without further explanation. Haloumi (just in case you didn’t know), is a Greek/Middle Eastern cheese made from both goat and sheep’s milk. It has an appearance and texture similar to mozzarella, though I find it to have more mild and salty flavor. But that’s not what’s exciting about it.

    What’s intriguing about haloumi is that you can grill or fry it without it melting. Here’s the reason I’m so excited to tell you about it. A testimonial, if you will. I like browning haloumi inside hollowed roasted veggies (oh boy, you saw it coming). Well, yes, good for me, but I made this for my Dad whose indifference to exotic vegetables compares only to my feelings about meat. And my Dad, who raised a curious eyebrow upon seeing these funky white squares stuffed in the red peppers on his plate, later admitted he didn’t know peppers could be that good.

    A comment on my cooking abilities? Not so much. Remember the theme here: great food is something we can all produce at home. No, this was evidence that the to combination of simple, intriguing ingredients, marinated with a little roasting know-how, produces something memorable. (See Roasting post).

    So let’s talk about the wonders of homemade oil. Okay, well infused oil. Fresh garlic (you know, those white bulbs that keep the vampires away?) tends to be bitter here in the States. The version we find in grocery stores tends to be more pungent than garlic found in other regions, so I find garlic most delightful when roasted, sautéed, infused into oils…

    I love garlic oil best drizzled over (homemade!) pasta, but it’s also great to brown something such as, say, haloumi! I don’t have much technique when making garlic oil—the most work is just peeling the garlic.

    So once you’ve got your big head of garlic (looks for bright white, with tight cloves at the store), peel the outer paper off and separate the cloves by hand or bang the head with a large knife (or bottom of a pan) to break the cloves apart. (Despite the mental picture, this need not be a violent act). There are a number of shortcuts to removing the paper from the individual cloves. You could take a large, wide knife and press firmly into the clove to crack the paper and peel it right off. Less hands-on work: 6 seconds in the microwave also does the trick.

    Now just slice the cloves in half (or more pieces if you life) and place in half a cup of Olive Oil (not Extra-Virgin, too fruity). If you need a good deal of oil (or want some to use later in the week), just increase the ratio of garlic cloves to oil. I usually put about 3 crushed/sliced cloves in oil. I don’t heat it, but you can to help release the flavors–just heat gently until bubbling. (Option: Add fresh rosemary or chiles or any other flavors you want to infuse along with the garlic).

    In making garlic oil, pour your mixture (cloves + oil + optional herbs) into a heatproof bowl to leave in a cool place (like a cabinet) overnight. THEN STRAIN THE OIL! Anything stored in the oil long-term can develop harmful molds. Top with a little more (plain) oil and store sealed.

    Now enjoy over pasta, marinate veggies/meat to be roasted, the possibilities are endless. And if you want to incorporate haloumi into your dish—oh how brilliant of you—this is great to drizzle on haloumi with some pine nuts and maybe some herbs at the end. Broil until crispy. Yum!

    Above is a typical 10-minute Lindsey-dinner (although this happens to be homemade spinach and bell-pepper pasta, which is not a project I tackle daily). I took my garlic oil, sautéed (frozen) spinach until almost brown and crispy, and then tossed my pasta into the hot pan with some parmesan. So easy it sounds silly, but with sophisticated results.

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    Filed under dinners, techniques