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A Little Taste of Greece – Rocket & Spinach Salad

October 4, 2007

A little less than a month ago I returned from an amazing trip to Turkey and Greece. Istanbul, Mykonos, Delos, and Santorini, to be exact, with over five hundred pictures to show for it. Much to the chagrin of my traveling buddy Lisa, many of them were food shots (NO EATING until I take the picture!). While I still haven’t printed any of them, I’ve gone over most of the food ones and am saving the rest for a rainy day. It’s just too nice out right now to spend time indoors poring over pictures. 

I have so much to say about this trip I don’t know where to start. It’s hard to put into words every sight, sound, and feeling I experienced. I don’t feel I can do it justice. Let’s just start with the easiest. Food!

During my travels I enjoyed some amazing food. From croissants slathered with Nutella and fresh fruit on the side (from the local produce market) for breakfast to Lamb Kleftikos and Rocket salads for dinner, I was spoiled for choice.

 

Produce Market in Mykonos       produce-market.JPG

 

Everywhere I went the sight and smell of food was in the air. Food is a major part of these cultures and I was able to see that in the most unexpected places. In Istanbul, many of the cafes display their food in glass deli cases right on the sidewalk! What better way to entice a hungry tourist like me than to show off your delicious lamb kebabs as I’m walking by. Who could resist? In Mykonos and Santorini, delicious crepes (sweet and savory, crepe cafes are plentiful) and sweet shops are on every corner. In Santorini, the hot and humid weather was all the excuse I needed to indulge in a large scoop of gelato. The flavor? Profiterole (creamy vanilla with nutella swirled in). It was my daily dose of heaven in a waffle cone. Profiterole, I miss you!

In Santorini, Lisa and I discovered Lamb Kleftikos (more on this in a future post) and a very special salad at very special restaurant called the Roof Garden. We enjoyed the food and hospitality of the staff so much we ate there again on our very last night on the island. We ordered the same dinner and I memorized the ingredients in this salad so I could reproduce it at home. The simple name, Rocket Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette doesn’t really inspire much awe. It is a simple salad that requires the freshest, best ingredients you can find. The tartness of the pomegranite seeds and the sweetnees of the kiwi contrasting with the crunchy saltiness of the shaved parmesan is an amazing flavor burst in your mouth.  Trust me, you will enjoy this one.

 

 Rocket & Spinach Salad with Honey Balsamic Dressingrocket_spinach-salad.jpg

 

Oh, and one more thing! Rocket is just Arugula to us Americanos…

Ingredients

For the dressing (from Epicurious.com)

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Salad

  • 3 cups rocket/arugula
  • 2 cups spinach 
  • 1/4 cup pomegranite seeds
  • 1 cup chopped kiwi
  • 1/4 cup freshly shaved parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

Directions

For the dressing – combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and using a whisk, pour in the olive oil. Whisk rapidly as you pour in the oil in a slow stream to emulsify the mixture.  Cover and set aside.

For the Salad – Wash and dry the rocket and spinach. Combine all the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl except for the shaved parmesan. Pour a small amount of dressing to lightly coat the leaves. Just before serving sprinkle the salad with more pomegranite seeds if you like and top with the shaved parmesan. Serve dressing on the side.

Note: You can adjust any of the salad ingredients according to your taste. I personally prefer more honey in my dressing and more pomegranite seeds in the salad….

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies

September 24, 2007

 

 

 

 

A tall, cold glass of milk is in order for these brownies. They are very easy to make (boxed brownie mix) and so very good! Eating them right out the oven as my friends and I did is best. They are warm and gooey and oh so delicious. I refrigerated a few brownies overnight as well just to see how that would taste and while I definitely prefer them warm, cold was equally good. These are very dense brownies and really turn into more of a bar once in the frig.

 

 I used boxed brownie mix as I was pressed for time but really only recommend one brand. The Trader Joe’s Chocolate Truffle Brownie Mix is the next best thing to made from scratch brownie batter, I think. Most people cannot tell the difference and I always get tons of compliments!

 

You’ll Need

1 9×13 baking pan, buttered

 

Ingredients

2 boxes of Trader Joe’s Chocolate Truffle Brownie mix, prepared according to directions

1/3 cup raspberry preserves

1 cup cheesecake batter

 

For cheesecake batter – adapted from Epicurious.com

8 ounces cream cheese, well softened

1/3 cup sugar –  (I started with 1/8 cup sugar and then added a spoonful at a time until I got the desired sweetness. The brownies and the jam make this a rich dessert so you don’t need an overly sweet cheesecake batter)

1 large egg yolk

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the cheesecake ingredients together with a whisk until any lumps disappear. Try not to overly beat/mix the cheesecake batter. Set aside.

Pour the brownie batter into the buttered baking dish. Spread evenly so the brownies will be the same thickness when baked.

Carefully spread the raspberry preserves over the batter. I find that if I put several dollops of jam over different parts of the batter it’s easier to spread than if I just poured it all at once and tried to spread it that way. Also, if the jam has been in the fridge you can microwave it for about 15 seconds. It will spread more easily. A small spatula works really for this.

Next, CAREFULLY pour the cheesecake batter over the jam layer. I poured it in long pouring motions up and down the length of the pan. Using the spatula, I gently spread the batter until it’s spread evenly over the jam. The thickness of the cheesecake layer is up to you…I personally prefer about 1/4 inch or less. Again, these are pretty rich so more cheesecake might be over the top. Basically it’s your preference. If you do a thicker layer I would suggest covering the top of the pan with foil halfway through cooking to prevent the cheesecake from browning too much.

With a butter knife gently make swirl patterns over the cheesecake. Push down with the knife so you just reach the top of the brownie batter. You’ll get a marbled effect. Try to not swirl too much or you’ll end up with pink cheesecake batter!!!

Bake at in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

You can see from my picture that the top browned alot so if you don’t mind that no problem. Or you can use the foil trick I mentioned.

Enjoy!

Where in the World Is….

August 29, 2007

Don’t think I forgot about my blogging friends!!! I have been enjoying my summer way too much and haven’t really had time to blog. I haven’t had much time for cooking either since I’m too busy getting a tan!! 

I’m also currently traveling and can’t seem to find a computer that will let me upload pictures. The internet cafes aren’t really set up for that…..but I promise when I get back I will have so much to share!!!

I will leave you with this little tidbit…..I took a great one day cooking course in Istanbul and can’t wait to show off some new recipes and pics soon!!

Can you guess where I am???

 Hint:  There have been some pretty intense fires in the news recently in this country…..

Penne in Vodka Cream Sauce

July 10, 2007

 

 

penne_vodka-cream-sauceii.jpg

 

 

I have a confession to make. 

 

I.made.a.Rachael.Ray.recipe.for.dinner.last.night.

 

Her “You Won’t Be Single for Long Vodka Cream Pasta” to be exact.

 

Yeah, I know….why does she have to call it that? It’s so annoying! Supposedly, a fan wrote to her saying that a second helping of this recipe is what prompted her boyfriend to propose…hmmm….good job Rach! Anyways, I digress. It was Sunday night, I had a splitting headache (darn allergies) and I needed nourishment. I was also cooking dinner for Mom and Dad and well, let me put it to you this way, several years ago we a hit a fork in the road of culinary tastes and we went our separate ways. BUT, they’ve eaten this dish before so I knew they definitely liked it. Also, it’s just really easy to make. 

 

A good dinner was had by all, as was evidenced by the fact that my parents started eating without me!

 

So here it is. Courtesy of Oprah’s website, word for word!

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow stream

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 shallots, minced

  • 1 cup vodka

  • 1 cup chicken stock

  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)

  • Coarse salt and pepper

  • 16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • 20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn

 

Serve with:

  • Crusty bread, for passing

 

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic and shallots. Gently sauté shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan (3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup). Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Pass pasta with crusty bread.

 

 

 

P.S. If I was ever fated to meet Anthony Bourdain this probably killed any chance I ever had……sigh.

Humpty Dumpty….

July 4, 2007

 

had such a great fall that I had no choice but to make deviled eggs out of him (and his friends too)!

 

 

dozen_eggs.jpg

 

The eggs really are the star of this recipe. I bought these organic, free-range, farm fresh eggs from my local farmer’s market. There is something about fresh eggs…for one thing, the yolks are orange and not yellow like the eggs from the grocery store. They just taste different. Kind of like the hugely enormous taste difference between tomatoes grown in your garden and the ones you buy at Vons/Safeway/Ralphs.

 

I love deviled eggs and my standby recipe includes mayo, yellow mustard, vinegar, salt/pepper and lot’s of sweet pickle relish. I make them this way all the time and I never get tired of eating them. I have plenty of fresh basil around as my plant is doing extremely well, so I need to find some creative ways to use it. Basil tastes good in pretty much anything in my opinion so why not deviled eggs? I made these the other night and I even ate the leftover mixture as a “dip” with Flaming Hot Cheetos. Delicious.  

 

And hey…. about the cheetos…..don’t knock it till you try it. :)

 

 

four_eggs_vibrant_green.jpg

 

Ingredients

6 hardboiled eggs

1 small to medium shallot, finely chopped

4 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped

3 heaping tbsp. mayonnaise 

2 tsp. vinegar

1 tsp. sweet pickle juice (or 2 tsp. sweet pickle relish)

Kosher salt

2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives for garnish

 

Directions

Cut the eggs in half, lengthwise, and GENTLY scoop out the yolks into a small bowl. Set the 12 egg halves aside until ready to fill.

Using a fork, gently mash the yolks until you have small crumbs. Mix in remaining ingredients except for chives and salt. Taste and add salt to your preference. Using a small spoon, gently fill each egg half with the mixture until you have filled each one completely but not so much that they fall over.

Chill for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Arrange on a platter and garnish with chives. Serve.

Portobello vs. Portabella – Garlicky Stuffed Portobellos

July 3, 2007

 

According to gourmetsleuth.com the portobello is:

  •  a “brown crimini mushroom in disguise” (sneaky!)

  • once the crimini grows to 4″-6″ in diameter it is now a portobello

  • can be called portobello OR portabella

  • can be grilled, oven roasted, or sauteed

 

portabellas_raw1.jpg

 

 

I keep getting requests to make more main dishes and for some reason I keep craving vegetables! Over time I’ve noticed I’m losing my taste for red meat especially (bummer!) but I promise I’m gonna work in some heartier fare very soon. I’ve got a few dishes in mind and I just need to buckle down and make them. But for now try these! I don’t really like mushrooms but there is one way I do enjoy them and that is stuffed. Cooked portobellos are definitely a “meatier” mushroom, so for those of you out there who dislike mushrooms give this one a try. Pared with a salad dressed in a lemony vinaigrette, these would make a nice, light lunch.

 

 

stuffed_mushrooms_1.jpg

 

 

Ingredients

10 medium sized portobello mushrooms, stems removed (2 reserved for the filling)

1/2 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped into bite size pieces

3 tbsp. chopped sundried tomatoes (in oil, reserve the oil)

1/2 cup freshly grated parmiggiano reggiano cheese

1/8 cup pine nuts

4 large cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 leaves fresh basil, roughly chopped

4 tbsp. bread crumbs

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Up to a 1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1 tbsp. 

 

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Using a basting/pastry brush lightly brush the outside of each mushroom with the tablespoon of olive oil. Using the same brush, lightly coat the bottom of a baking sheet. Place the mushrooms on the baking sheet and set aside.

Finely chop the 2 reserved portobello’s and, using a fork, combine with the artichoke hearts through the bread crumbs. Pour half of the olive oil over the mixture and season with salt and pepper. Mix with the for and taste. At this point you can add more red pepper flakes and salt/pepper, depending on your preference. If the filling is too dry add more olive oil. It should be very moist (if you still see dry breadcrumbs, this is a sign that you need more oil) but not oily.

Using a spoon, fill each mushroom so that the cap is completely filled and there is a nice mound on top (see pic). Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until mushrooms have turned dark brown and are fork tender. Allow to cool for a few minutes and serve.

Eggs w/Herbs de Provence and Asparagus

June 29, 2007

 

 

eggs-de-provence-6-29-07.jpg

 

 

I’m back from my mini blog break!! June is always a crazy month for me. Grandma’s birthday, Mom’s birthday, Father’s Day, parent’s anniversary, friends’ birthdays and graduations too. So while my bank account has seen better days, I’ve been able to stay at home a few nights to do some cooking and do have some recipes to share! 

 

The other night I was craving breakfast for dinner which was a dilemma since I don’t really like breakfast!!! I know, I know…EVERYBODY likes breakfast. I can eat it for lunch or dinner but I don’t like breakfasty foods in the morning. Or maybe I should clarify – brioche and jam, maybe a cup of tea, or a chocolate croissant and some fruit…..now that’s a breakfast! Scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon, fried potatoes, omelettes etc….just not really my thing. Probably because I’m not a morning person and my stomach takes awhile to wake up (along with the rest of me). There is ONE exception though….I will eat this kind of food in the morning when it is liberally doused with one of the following:  Tabasco, Tapatillo or Chalula (if you live in Southern California, you get this…lol). Anyway, I decided to try an egg scramble using asparagus that I had on hand and it turned out much better than expected! I added the yogurt  toasts on a whim and they were a really nice complement to the eggs…this turned out to be a pretty good dinner!!

 

 

Ingredients:

4 eggs

3 tbsp. greek yogurt

1 tsp. herbs de provence

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pat of butter

2 tbsp.  fresh chives 

 

Directions:

In a saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk the eggs, yogurt, herbs de provence, and salt and pepper in a small bowl and pour in the pan. Cook until the eggs are scrambled to the consistency you prefer. Sprinkle the chives over the eggs and serve.

 

Yogurt Toasts

2 slices  toasted whole wheat bread

1 tbsp. greek style yogurt

1 tsp. chives

 

Directions:

Spread the toasts with the yogurt and sprinkle the chives on top.

 

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