P is for Panzanella

P is for Panzanella

I am so excited to share today’s recipe! This recipe has been on my list since I started this alphabet venture so without further ado, today I bring you panzanella!

Panzanella is a great way to celebrate and highlight the tomato in a fresh summer salad. This Italian dish is great for a light lunch or dinner and requires little prep, definitely the number one priority when cooking in the summer heat. Tomatoes, bread, basil and a light dressing, what more do you need? A touch of burrata couldn’t hurt 🙂 I hope you enjoy this salad as much as I do!

Ingredients

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces mixed mini heirloom tomatoes or 8 ounces assorted tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups cubed sourdough bread
  • 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil, divided (½ and 2)
  • ½ tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • â…› teaspoon dijon whole grain mustard
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil (approximately 4 leaves)
  • Suggested side serving: burrata cheese topped with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt and pepper

Making the Panzanella

  • Slice the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and place in a colander.
  • Sprinkle the salt over the tomatoes and toss to coat evenly.
  • Set the colander over a bowl to catch the drippings and leave to rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes, tossing every few minutes.
  • While the tomatoes are resting, preheat your oven to 350F and bake the bread for 10 to 12 minutes, taking care not to let it brown.
  • After the tomatoes have drained, whisk in the vinegar, shallots, garlic, and whole-grain mustard.
  • Continue whisking and slowly incorporate the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Salt and pepper dressing to taste; taste the dressing before adding either as you may only need a bit of pepper.
  • Toss the toasted bread with the dressing and basil in a medium bowl and let it sit for 20 minutes or until the dressing has been completely absorbed. During the 20 minutes, toss occasionally to continue to coat the bread.
  • Grab a fork and enjoy!

*Original recipe featured on Serious Eats

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H is for Hobo Packets

H is for Hobo Packets

While Summer is fast approaching and I am not ready for the heat, I am definitely ready for the flavors the season brings. Simple dishes whose flavors are heightened with the help of the barbecue char…mmmm…yes please! Summer does not have to be all about the backyard barbecue though, another classic dish is the shrimp boil. Usually prepared for a large group of people, a shrimp boil consists of three main ingredients: shrimp (given, it’s in the title people), red potatoes, and corn. Throw in some spices and a squeeze of lemon and you have a dish that no one can refuse! Reeling it back in though, in my kitchen for one, I decided to take a spin-off of this dish and prepare it as a Hobo Packet instead (phew, we made it back to the letter H).

Hobo packets are a great way to put together dinner with minimal prep, few dishes, and a short cook time, the trifecta of cooking for yourself has been achieved! Toss all of your ingredients in some olive oil and seasonings, fasten them into a makeshift pouch constructed from foil, and let the oven take it from there. You can easily change-up the veggies for what is in season or omit the protein and serve over a bed of rice. Cook a few packets at a time for leftovers the next day or a last-minute guest. This recipe is quite versatile which is why it makes a great staple in your weekly meal rotation.

Enjoy the last bits of Spring while feasting on this Summer inspired dish!

Ingredients

  • 6 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (some grocery stores offer shrimp already prepped in this manner, but if you are unable to find that, here is a simple tutorial on how to devein shrimp)
  • 1 ear of corn split in half
  • 2 small red potatoes, each cut into sixths
  • ÂĽ teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley (garnish)
  • Lemon quarter (garnish)
  • 2 sheets of foil (1 ft x 1 ft)

Prepping the Packet

  • Preheat oven to 425F.
  • In a bowl, gently toss the shrimp, corn, and potatoes with olive oil and seasonings.
  • Place ingredients in a single layer on one sheet of foil and add the crushed garlic clove to the center.
  • Place the second sheet of foil on top and fold each side so as to create an enclosed packet.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Carefully open the packet as steam will escape (steam burns are the worst!).
  • Garnish with parsley and a squeeze of lemon if desired.

Let’s Get Grillin’ Veggie Tacos

Grilled Veggie Tacos

Yay it’s summertime! Longer days, popsicles and lemonade, and best of all, food from the grill! I love all things barbecued and grilled. There is just something about a little smoke and char that really brings out the natural flavors in food; you really don’t need to add much else to enjoy them. While my apartment complex does not have a grilling area and my balcony is way too small for me to own one, I did receive the bestest Christmas gift a grill-loving, apartment dwelling girl could ask for: a grilling pan. Okay, so I don’t quite get the full effect of the smoke, but I definitely can achieve sear-line greatness with this thing. With the winter and spring months behind me, I thought it was about time to break this thing out and see what it could really do!

First up on the grill, veggie tacos! Remembering that It is still summer and the one downside to grilling, especially inside, is that it gets warm really fast, I thought it best to go with a quick recipe this first time round. Veggie tacos are light and fresh and you really don’t need to season them with much as the grilling brings out their natural, bright flavors. When composing a taco made solely of vegetables, I try to choose ones that have different textures and colors so as to not be one note in the taste department. I like to retain the crispness of the veggies when grilling, so I only grill them long enough to where they start to soften and get a nice sear, about three minutes per side. If you are looking for a more “well-done” veggie, I suggest increasing your cook time. Next we have the tortilla. I know what you’re thinking, corn tortillas are often flimsy and fall apart, why did I not double up in the tortilla department? My answer: La Tortilla Factory Handmade Style Tortillas. This company uses a blend of corn and wheat flour in their tortillas so you get the taste of a corn tortilla, but the heartiness of a flour tortilla. It really is the best of both worlds and I highly recommend them! All that’s left are your garnishes, a little queso fresco, squeeze of lime juice, avocado slice (of course!), and a dash of salsa.

You can have a light, healthy meal and spend less than twenty minutes in the kitchen so you can go and enjoy your summer evening! Happy grilling!

Ingredients

  • 3-inch piece of zucchini, cut into sixths
  • 2 quarter-inch round slices of yellow onion
  • 3 mini sweet peppers, quartered
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 small corn tortillas (I used La Tortilla Factory handmade yellow corn tortillas)
  • Optional Garnishes: queso fresco, avocado slices, salsa (I used my new obsession, Hatch Green Chile salsa from Trader Joe’s), sliced lime

Let’s Get Grillin’

  • In a small bowl, gently toss the cut veggies with the olive oil and cumin until evenly coated.
  • Preheat grill pan or grill over medium heat.
  • Grill is ready to go when water droplets sizzle on it.
  • Evenly distribute the veggies in a single layer on the grill.
  • Cook the veggies for 3 minutes undisturbed.
  • Flip the veggies and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
  • Remove the cooked veggies from the grill and turn off the stove/grill.
  • Heat tortillas on the warmed grill for 15 seconds on each side.
  • Fill your tortillas up with the grilled veggies and desired garnishes!

 

Easy, Peasy, Creamy Polenta

Cheesy Italian Polenta

Polenta is a traditional Italian dish made from cornmeal and while simple in its nature, it can be dressed up and takes on other flavors very well. My favorite polenta dish is at the Black Cat Bistro in Cambria, CA where it is complimented with three cheeses (goat cheese, asiago, and mozzarella, a tasty trinity!), various veggies, and a tomato coulis. This dish was so amazing that I still think about it….five years later! While I did not get as adventurous on my first go around (only one cheese here people), polenta is surprisingly really easy to make and I do not know why I did not experiment with this dish sooner. Boiling water, stirring in cornmeal, and a few consecutive stirring sessions later, your polenta is done! In an Italian fashion, I topped mine with a simple homemade tomato sauce and shredded chicken breast with a sprinkle of basil. Once you get this simple process under your belt of easy dishes to impress, you can stray from the traditional and get creative! Best of all, polenta can be enjoyed the next day, sliced and baked or grilled, opening a new door of possibilities. Caramelized onions and fig preserves anyone?

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup of finely ground cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • Optional toppings: 1/2 cup cooked chicken, 5 tablespoons homemade tomato sauce, pinch of dried basil

Simple Steps to Creamy Polenta

  • Bring water to a boil in a medium pot.
  • Reduce heat to low and whisk in polenta and salt.
  • Once polenta has thickened enough so that it does not sink to the bottom of the pot, put the lid on the pot and set your timer for 25 minutes.
  • Every 5 minutes, vigorously stir the polenta, making sure to scrape the corners and bottom of the pot so that it cooks evenly; return the lid after every stirring session.
  • After 25 minutes, check the consistency of the polenta. If you desire a thicker polenta, cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the butter and cheese; remove from heat once it has been thoroughly combined.
  • This dish should be served immediately as it starts to solidify after about 15 minutes off the heat. Enjoy as a side dish or top veggies and protein for a complete meal!
  • Since polenta solidifies in the shape of the container it is stored in, I suggest transferring leftovers immediately to a parchment-lined square baking dish. Cool in the fridge and then slice into squares. Leftover polenta is great grilled or baked!

No Shell Sweet Potato “Taco”

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Okay so you may not be able to actually pick up this “taco,” but sometimes it is fun to stray from the familiar and try something new! Sweet potatoes are not just for a marshmallow-topped side dish at Thanksgiving. I try to incorporate them into my meals a few times a week since they are a great source of Vitamin A. This dinner (or lunch!) can be ready from start to finish in under twenty minutes which makes it a perfect candidate for your busy week night entrĂ©e. I decided to go with classical taco toppings since I already had everything on hand, but get creative and have fun with it!

What are your favorite taco toppings? I’m sure they will go great atop a fluffy sweet potato 🙂

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces steak, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon of salsa
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • taco toppings of your choice such as cheese, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, avocado, hot sauce

Building the “Taco”

  •  Pierce sweet potato several times on each side with the tines of a fork.
  • Cook sweet potato in microwave for 4-5 minutes until cooked throughout.
  • While the sweet potato is cooking, stir fry the steak with the one tablespoon of salsa in a small saute pan for 3-4 minutes until the meat is browned.
  • Once the sweet potato is cooked, make a slit down the center of one side and “fluff” it with a fork breaking apart the large pieces.
  • Dash the sweet potato with your favorite hot sauce, add the steak and other desired toppings, and enjoy!

Quick Chicken and Pasta Dinner

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After making that spicy tomato sauce last week, I couldn’t wait to try it out in a recipe. At first I was leaning toward a chicken parmesan dish, but decided to go the gluten-free route instead with a quick chicken and pasta dish. With the pasta sauce already made, this dinner can be put together in under 30 minutes which is great for the busy week night.

Cooking chicken can be tricky and in the past I had a tendency to steer away from cooking it often because unlike beef, this protein needs to be cooked ALL the way through. This used to result in chicken that had definitely been cooked all the way through, but to the point of a dried out little chicken that couldn’t be saved with all the sauce in the world. After experimenting and researching, I have finally found an easy way to cook chicken thoroughly without drying it out. Victory dance time!

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What is this miracle method you ask? Broiling. Before cooking chicken with the broiler, the only other time I had used this part of my oven was when melting cheese on french onion soup. Turns out, it is great for cooking chicken and quickly too! Just broil for seven minutes on each side and you’re set. This method is universal and by switching the sauces up, you have endless possibilities for dinner just by mastering one easy technique. I chose to heat up some of the spicy tomato sauce I made last week (Roasted Sweet Pepper Tomato Sauce) and cooked up some gluten-free spaghetti. I must issue a precaution in regards to gluten-free pasta: be sure to carefully watch the cooking time and do not overcook it. To overcook will result in gummy pasta that will not be a good accompaniment to our tasty chicken.

And that’s all there is to it! Skip that drive-thru on the way home and head to the kitchen!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of pasta sauce (I used my homemade roasted sweet pepper tomato sauce)
  • 1 chicken breast, halved
  • gluten-free pasta (can be substituted with any pasta)
  • 1 tbsp. parmesan cheese for topping

Steps to a Quick Dinner

  • preheat broiler
  • trim fat off of chicken breast, slice in half and place on foil lined baking sheet
  • once broiler is heated, cook chicken for 7 minutes
  • while chicken is cooking, heat pasta sauce on low heat in small saucepan for 5 to 7 minutes
    • if pasta sauce was frozen, increase cooking time until sauce is heated throughout; I recommend defrosting sauce one day in advance
  • start to boil water for pasta
  • after 7 minutes of broiling chicken, flip each half and brush with ÂĽ cup of pasta sauce, entirely coating upward facing side
  • pop chicken back into broiler and cook for an additional 7 minutes
  • while the chicken is finishing cooking, cook pasta according to instructions on bag or box
  • tip for cooking gluten-free pasta: do not overcook as it will become gummy, make sure to carefully watch cooking time and test tenderness when time is close to being up as cooking times can vary slightly
  • once chicken has finished cooking, let it rest on the pan on the stove top for two minutes before slicing to ensure that all of the juice is retained and does not escape and dry out the chicken when you slice into it
  • slice chicken into quarter-inch thick pieces and place on top of pasta
  • drizzle remaining sauce on top of chicken and pasta and top with sprinkled parmesan cheese

Tasty Trinity: Spicy Sausage, Sweet Peppers, Grilled Onions

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Cooking for one, sometimes it may be hard to get motivated to cook dinner after a long day of work. To break that temptation to dial for a pizza, most of the recipes I come up with require little effort and skill, and can be whipped up in under twenty minutes. Often times, I will already have everything stocked in the fridge and freezer so no trip to the grocery store is necessary either!

While this recipe only contains three ingredients, it packs a punch of flavor! First you have the onion which when sautéed is one of my favorite smells to fill the apartment. To help reduce the inevitable flood of tears that happen when slicing an onion, I recommend refrigerating your onion before slicing and running the fan about your stove or kitchen. I don’t know why this works, but I can usually get through slicing the onion without a complete tear induced breakdown. Yellow onions have a pretty strong flavor that get sweeter the longer they cook so keep that in mind if you prefer a more subtle flavor. Not a fan of onions? Double up on the pepper or swap them out for mushrooms or zucchini.

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Next come the sweet peppers which I try to pick one pepper of each color to add vibrancy to the dish. Fun fact about sweet peppers, they are high in vitamin C, even more so than citrus fruits so eat up and toss these little guys into salads, top your burgers, or chop and add into your scrambled eggs. As sweet peppers are usually sold in a large bag, I usually end up adding them to meals throughout the week. Next week, I’ll shop you how to mix things up with your basic tomato sauce by adding sweet roasted peppers!

At the end of the work day, I need more than just a plate of veggies which is why I added spicy italian sausage to build this tasty trio. I try to stock a variety of meats in my freezer and italian sausage is definitely one of them. This recipe is substitution friendly so have fun with it and substitute in your favorite sausage.

Put these three ingredients together in one pan and you’ve got a quick, easy comfort meal that you’ll be glad you skipped the drive-thru for!

Ingredients

  • ÂĽ yellow onion
  • 4 sweet peppers
  • 2 spicy italian sausages
  • olive oil for coating the pan

Preparing the Dish

  • slice the onion in â…› to ÂĽ inch think slices, making sure to keep the slices even so that they cook at the same rate
  • cut the stems off of the peppers and slice them into ÂĽ inch thick pieces, keeping the seeds intact for added flavor; as these are sweet peppers, the seeds do not add heat to the dish
  • in a medium sauce pan, drizzle enough oil to coat the pan and set on medium-high heat
  • add the sausages and cook for 7-8 minutes, turning to brown evenly
  • turn the heat down to low, push the sausages to the outer edge of the pan and add the sliced veggies to the center
  • continuously stirring, saute the veggies for 2-3 minutes until they are tender to the touch and the onions have taken on an opaque look
  • cover the pan and continue cooking on low for 2 minutes
  • slice the sausage into ½ to 1 inch slices and place with sautĂ©ed veggies in a bowl and enjoy!

There you have it, dinner ready in under twenty!