Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dinner at Room Temperature: Pasta Pomodoro

Dinner in a flash....this is where the quality of your ingredients can make or break the meal. Use the freshest, juiciest tomatoes you can find--heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes would be the best. Only fresh herbs will do. And, sorry but it's just not the same if you use Parmesan cheese that's powdery from a plastic container. Do yourself a favor and use the real stuff.

Also, my recipe is heavy on the "sauce" and light on the pasta--a bit healthier than the traditional recipes. But you can always add more or use non-whole grain pasta--truth be told, I think it tastes a bit better with regular white flour pasta--but hey, can't say I didn't try....

This is an awesome meal for a hot summer night.


2 tomatoes, cored & chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
Salt & pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper (optional)
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (optional)

1/2 package of whole wheat angel hair pasta (8 oz.)

1/2 medium onion
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/3-1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or as much as your conscience will allow)

In a medium bowl, gently toss the chopped tomatoes with the basil and parsley. Season with salt and pepper (and crushed red pepper and/or vinegar, if using). Let the mixture sit and marinate at room temperature so all the flavors can blend.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 9 minutes, or until "al dente"--or cooked to still have a bit of a firm texture. Drain. Reserve a bit of pasta water, if possible.

In a medium pan, saute the onion in the olive oil for a few minutes. Then add the garlic. Continue to saute until lightly browned. Some people like to saute the tomatoes as well, but I think you don't need to if you use really good tomatoes--if you have winter tomatoes, go ahead and saute them.

Add the pasta and Parmesan cheese to the tomato mixture and combine. If mixture seems to dry, add some of the reserved pasta water. Taste and season accordingly.

Pasta is best served with a bit more cheese sprinkled on top of each portion.

Makes approximately 4 portions if serving with a salad or vegetable on the side. Otherwise, you can consider it 2 "restaurant" portions.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fruit Tapioca-A Grown Up's Jello

Here's another relatively quick summer dessert without using your oven!

I learned to make this in college when I took a healthy cooking class at one of the local churches with my friend, Christina. We both loved this! I did, however, forget that this recipe made so much! If you are not entertaining a huge crowd, I suggest you halve the recipe. Either way, you can keep it refrigerated only a couple days.

The great thing about this fruit tapioca is that you can make it taste however you want depending on the fruit and juices you use. The amount of honey or agave nectar you use can vary depending on how sweet/tart your other juice(s) are. I recommend you add a bit less sweetener (I felt mine was a bit on the sweeter side), taste after it simmers for a while, and then add more if you think necessary. But below is what the original recipe calls for....


Combine in saucepan:

5 cups orange-pineapple juice or orange juice or combination of both (I used cherry juice & mango juice)
½ cup tapioca
½ cup honey (I used 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup agave nectar)
Dash of salt

Let mixture sit in saucepan for 5 minutes. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until mixture boils. This is what it will look like:

Cool slightly and then stir in gently:

2 cups fruit such as sliced strawberries, diced peaches, orange sections, blueberries, or sliced nectarines, or whatever other fruit you wish to use. Personally, I love peaches, strawberries, and pineapple. Also, I like to use a little more fruit--so I think mine came closer to 3 cups of fruit.

Tapioca can be served warm or cold with or without a spoonful of whipped topping. The texture is wonderful!!!

Serves 8-10.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Drunken Peaches

Classy name, huh? I'm going to preface my entry by saying this is definitely a "champagne" recipe due to the third ingredient.

While going through my cupboards the other day, I found a small bottle of this sweet dessert French wine called Monbazillac. I got talked into buying it a few years ago as a substitute for Sauternes due to the difficulty of locating the latter. So, while researching, I found an interesting NYT article comparing the two here. All of a sudden, I felt very exotic and sophisticated--like I had discovered something no one else had (ha! As you can see, it doesn't take much)--even though Monbazillac is the poor man's Sauternes. Eyeing the over-ripe peaches on the counter, I decided to improvise on Ina Garten's "Peaches in Sauternes." (And yes, you can boil the alcohol out)

Below is half the original recipe portion. Ina likes hers WAY stronger (but it's summer!) and without the pomp and circumstance of a creamy side, but what I can tell you is that she is missing out--when you mix these peaches with Edy's Light Vanilla Bean ice-cream....well, there's just nothing like it!

This is an instant (special occasion) classic in our house now--eliciting, "WOW!"

3-4 very ripe peaches
1 Tbsp. sugar (or simple syrup)
1/3 (375 ml.) bottle Sauternes (or Monbazillac)
1 tsp. orange-flavored liqueur (she recommends Grand Marnier, Stirrings Triple Sec is just as good)

This is what Ina says: Bring a pot of water to a boil and immerse the peaches in the water for 1 to 2 minutes, until the skins come off easily. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Peel the peaches and then slice them in wedges off the pit and into a bowl.
I say: Peel the peaches.

Gently stir in the rest of the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Ina says: Serve cool but not cold.

I say: Serve them any which way, but especially with vanilla bean ice-cream.

Makes 2-3 servings.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Grilled Margarita Orange Roughy Tacos with Fresh Salsa

I have another (sweeter) fish taco recipe that I will post sometime, but in the meantime, these were SO GOOD! I used a smoky, agave tequila (yes, with worm still in the bottle) that I got it in Mexico for exactly this reason: for cooking.... the smokiness of the tequila with the bit of char from the grill made for an excellent pairing with the tangy, creamy goodness of the salsa. Also, I used a "natural" triple made from real orange peels, not artificial flavorings. If you are interested, check out the Stirrings line.

You don't even need sour cream if you let the salsa sit for a while--all the tomato juices blend with the ripe avocados and fresh-squeezed lime juice. We make a little extra salsa because we love to scoop it up with tortilla chips.

The perfect summer food....takes me back to the Baja Peninsula...


2 Orange Roughy Fillets
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup triple Sec (or orange juice)
Juice of one lime
Salt, taste
Black pepper, to taste
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 ripe avocado, chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 a small purple onion, diced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1 green onion, diced (optional)
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
Salt, to taste
Juice of 1/2 a lime

To serve:
2-4 Tortillas (depending on how big you make yours)
Lettuce, chopped
Shredded Mexican cheese blend

Place fish in a glass dish large enough to hold fillets in a single layer. Combine tequila, triple sec, lime juice, salt, garlic and oil; pour over fish, rubbing all over. Cover and marinate the fish for 1 hour at room temperature or for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator, turning occasionally--either way you decide to let it marinate.

Before serving time, combine salsa ingredients in a serving dish. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors mix into each other.

Heat grill to the highest setting. Remove fish from the marinade (you can either discard the marinade, or you can boil it for about 2 minutes and spoon over the cooked fish fillets at the end). Cook the fish on the grill--about 4 minutes per side or until fish is opaque.

Heat tortillas (some people put them on the grill very shortly--but I've never tried it). Add fish, cheese, salsa, and lettuce into your tortilla and roll up. Great to serve with Mexican rice on the side.

Serves 2-3 (good sized portions depending on how big your fish fillets are).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Basil Grape Refresher

While other people are using the basil in their yard to make pesto this summer, we are making drinks! This sweet, tart, and spicy drink comes to us by way of our friends, the Gareys. We first had this concoction at a Jake's (which is owned by McCormick and Schmick's), in Portland, Oregon. Now, it's one of our favorite house drinks.

The key is to use frozen grapes--keeps your drink colder too. And for those of you who have never heard of simple syrup, it's essentially a 1:1 mixture of sugar and water that is used to sweeten drinks without the graininess of sugar (sugar is dissolved over heat).

Also, Angostura bitters are a blend of herbs and spices that is a product of Trinidad (found next to the club soda, ginger ale, sweet & sour mix in the grocery store).


(Makes one drink)

8 grapes (3 for garnish)
3 fresh basil sprigs (1 for garnish)
1 ½ oz. vodka (optional)
½ oz. simple syrup
¾ oz. fresh lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
Ginger ale, to fill glass

Add 5 grapes and 2 large basil sprigs to cocktail shaker and hand muddle. (Totally fine to add a few grapes, basil leaves, lime juice and simple syrup to each glass and muddle in the glass before adding ice and ginger ale too; however, refresher will be a bit harder to drink (pulpy)--see picture--I HIGHLY suggest straining.)

Add the remaining ingredients and fill glass with ice.

Shake vigorously for 5 seconds. Strain over fresh ice into cocktail glass.

Garnish with 3 grapes and large basil sprig and maybe even a lime wedge.

Makes one very delicious, refreshing drink.