Thursday, June 30, 2011

"A+ Pizza" (says my husband)

Start with a ready-made whole-wheat crust, spread with pesto (freshly made from garden basil yesterday), top with veggies, fruit and cheese. After that bakes, top with arugula that's been tossed with a little olive oil.

The toppings I used were roasted red pepper, chopped; thinly sliced tomatoes; and sliced fresh figs. The figs were disappointingly unripe, so I drizzled a little honey over them to add expected sweetness.(Why have figs if they aren't sweet?) Sprinkled with goat cheese crumbles and some shredded "pizza cheese" from the dairy case.

Bake at 450 degrees, directly on the rack in the middle of the preheated oven, for about 10 minutes.

Adding salad greens after baking is something we saw in Italy and in Italian restaurants throughout Europe. It does make for a complete meal on a slice!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More Good Eats for Independence Day

Grilling brings out sweetness even in bitter greens
I'm tweaking my menu for the holiday, which will be cooked mostly on the backyard grill. Along with burgers (some of bison) and chicken, I'll do a vinaigrette-dressed potato salad, sliced farm-fresh tomatoes, and perhaps this grilled radicchio -- something I love to grill, although my husband is less of a fan.
This is another recipe from the NY Times, in this case from their nice selection of recipes for the grill.

RECIPE: Grilled Radicchio with Tapenade/Anchovy Paste
Makes 4 servings

2 to 4 small round radicchios, halved lengthwise, or 1 large round one, quartered
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plus more as needed
Coarse sea salt and black pepper
2 anchovy fillets (or to taste), drained
2 tablespoons olive paste or tapenade

1. Arrange the radicchio cut side up in a baking dish. Drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Marinate for 30 to 60 minutes.
2. Prepare a grill for direct grilling over medium heat. Brush and oil the grate. Place the anchovies in a small bowl and mash with a fork. Add the olive paste or tapenade and mix.
3. Arrange the radicchios on the grill cut side down slightly on the diagonal to the bars of the grill grate. Grill until lightly browned, 6 to 10 minutes, rotating each radicchio a little halfway through to create a crosshatch of grill marks. Baste with some of the marinade.
4. Turn the radicchios over. Spread each with a little anchovy and olive paste. Continue grilling and basting until a skewer or knife pierces the radicchio easily, about 3 minutes more.
5. Transfer to plates. Drizzle with a little fresh olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Recipe for a Healthy July 4th Party

White bean pate on toast
On Tuesdays, I always check out Martha Rose Shulman's "Recipes for Health" column in the New York Times. Today she shares this white bean pate, which could be a nice addition to your appetizer roster for a July 4th cookout.

Recipe: White Bean Pate
Serves 8-10


1 can white beans, rinsed, or 1 2/3 cups cooked white beans
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 eggs
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
Salt to taste (about 3/4 teaspoon)
Freshly ground pepper to taste


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or oil a 5-cup pâté tureen or baking dish, or a bread pan.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the onion and carrot. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Add 2 cloves of the garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Stir in the parsley and sage. Remove from the heat.
3. Turn on a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and drop in the remaining clove of garlic. When the garlic is chopped and adhering to the sides of the bowl, stop the food processor and scrape down the bowl. Place the beans and eggs in the food processor. Turn it on, and add the lemon juice and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Process until smooth. Add the onion mixture, and pulse to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Scrape into the prepared baking dish, and cover tightly.
4. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until set and the top is just beginning to color. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool. For best results, refrigerate overnight. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Variation: Substitute cooked black-eyed peas for the white beans.The pate will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator, so it's a good make-ahead dish for parties.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Random Eats: Aroma, Rookwood Pottery, Take the Cake

Sushi Bento Box/Aroma
One new restaurant experience (Aroma) and a return to two favorites round out my weekend dining ventures. For lunch on Friday I tried Aroma in the Kenwood Mall for the first time. Although there's an extensive menu of fresh sushi and many salads and hot entrees, we found the bento box lunches irresistible. My companion had chicken terriyaki bento and I chose the sushi bento box (pictured) -- fun, tasty, and just the right amount of food. 
I don't usually have lunch at such nice places, so I also splurged on a glass of pinot gris wine, which took the zing out of my afternoon and reminded me why I don't drink alcohol at lunch, except sometimes while on vacation.
Friday night my girlfriend Susan and I had dinner on the deck at Rookwood Pottery in Mt. Adams. They have a short but interesting list of craft cocktails; our waiter recommended their gin & tonic because he adores the house-made tonic, so I went with that. (Great recommendation!) For dinner, Susan had her favorite dish there, a grilled veggie sandwich, and my chicken breast on spring peas/ramps risotto was not exactly light, but the risotto was excellent, and the chicken was fine, too.
Grilled veggie sandwich/Rookwood Pottery

Chicken/risotto @ Rookwood
Finally, we had a quick brunch after church on Sunday at Take the Cake in Northside, which makes some of the best biscuits you have ever tried. The last photo shows the biscuit with zucchini, tomato sauce, ricotta cheese and a poached egg.

Brunch at Take the Cake

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rose: Summer's Perfect Wine

Looking for a wine to go with an array of summer foods, from grilled chicken and shrimp to meal-size salads or homemade, lighter pizzas and flatbreads? Look no further than the blushing beauties from France, California, Spain and Italy. In addition to their food-friendly, dry to semi-dry flavors, most roses are priced to move. They don't usually cellar well and are meant for drinking young, so look for the 2009 or 2010 vintages.
Here are a few suggestions.

2009 Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence Rosé

This great value offers delicate floral aromas that shift to wild strawberry and watermelon flavors. An underlying spiciness on the palate carries through into a broad and crisp finish.

2009 La Vieille Ferme Côtes du Ventoux Rosé

A dark pink hue hints at the tart berry and currant flavors to come in this rich rosé. 

2009 Jules Côtes de Provence Rosé

Julian Faulkner works with different boutique growers each year, which allows him the flexibility to source grapes "wherever the best value and quality can be found on a particular vintage." His aromatic rosé—a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and the lesser-known Tibouren—is elegant, fruit-forward and herbal.

Rosados from Spain -- try to find one made from 100% garnacha, such as Bodegas Borsao Borsao

Crios de Susana Balbo Rose of Malbec 2010
This Argentinian winemaker is known for malbecs and torrontes, but I also love this rose, which has more body than most and a deep pink color.

"Eye of the Toad" 2010 Toad Hollow Rose
Most California roses just don't measure up, IMHO, but this one is done in the French style: very dry, good body and delicious.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quick, before it's gone!

Asparagus season is coming to a close, and soon there will be nothing but supermarket stuff shipped in from who knows where. Last Saturday only one vendor at our main farmers' market still had the tasty, local crop. This salad with thinly sliced raw mushrooms, a handful of herbs (I used oregano and parsley) and a lemony vinaigrette was a great way to use it.
Feel free to substitute spinach or your favorite lettuce for the arugula.

Recipe: Asparagus and Mushroom Salad
(serves 4-6)

1 pound asparagus
1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon and chives
1 cup baby arugula
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (to taste)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 small garlic clove, minced or pureed
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ounce slivered Parmesan

1. Steam the asparagus for three to five minutes, depending on how thick the stalks are. It should be tender but still have some bite. Rinse with cold water, and drain for a minute on a kitchen towel. Cut into 1-inch lengths. Place in a salad bowl, and toss with the mushrooms, herbs and arugula.
2. Whisk together the lemon juice, salt and pepper, garlic and olive oil. Toss with the asparagus mixture and the slivered Parmesan, and serve.

Source: New York Times

Monday, June 20, 2011

Early summer treat: Wheatberry Salad

Bulghar wheat provides the high-fiber, whole grain base for a refreshing salad. Use cucumbers for crunch, olives for salty tang, the first tomatoes of the summer for juicy goodness, and lots of lemon and parsley to pull it all together. If I am mistaken in thinking that wheatberry and bulghar are the same thing, my apologies. Although you can substitute many grains in this recipe -- including quinoa or rice, even wild rice -- my intention is to use bulghar, the grain in the middle Eastern dish taboulleh.

Recipe: Wheatberry Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumber and Parsley
Serves 4-6
1 cup bulghur wheat (toasted for 10 minutes in a dry saucepan, if desired)
1 cup boiling water
1 large or 1-2 small seedless cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise and very thinly sliced
1/2 to 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Juice of one lemon, divided
1/4 cup high-quality olive oil
2 T chopped green or black olives
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, preferably unpeeled
Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste

Place bulghur in a medium mixing bowl, pour boiling water over grains, cover bowl and let sit for 20-30 minutes
Fluff grains with a fork and add a little salt and juice of half the lemon. Stir in remaining ingredients, adjusting seasonings as needed. Add remaining lemon juice.

Salad may be refrigerated and served chilled, or served at room temperature.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gourmet-to-Go at the Market

Cincinnati's historic Findlay Market draws hundreds (thousands?) of shoppers every weekend, especially in the growing season, for the farm-fresh produce and top-quality meats and cheeses. It's also home to an array of fine bakeries, from artisan bread-makers Blue Oven Bakery to the gourmet pastries of Skirtz and Johnston, among several others.
But you can also find a nice selection fully-cooked, wonderful dishes that need only to be reheated (or served cold), as well as entrees and side dishes that require just a little bit of extra work.
For instance, Bouchon sells this array of raviolis, pastas and pasta sauces -- everything from the luxe crab and lobster ravioli to the vegan black bean ravioli.
Pasta and sauces at Bouchon, inside Findlay Market
  Grandma Debbie's Kitchen, which I've blogged about before, has everything from a selection of salads (chicken salad, bean salad, rice salad and so on) to unusual meats (I bought a stuffed lamb roast for Easter dinner) and soups and stews.
Grandma Debbie's roasted sweet potatoes/beets (C)
My favorite gourmet-to-go at Findlay Market, though, is Fresh Table.
A few of their offerings are in the final three photos.

Panko-coated chicken (front) and Gazpacho

I bought some of the cous-cous salad, back left

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Healthy, delicious dining in Atlanta

Highlights from a short trip to Atlanta: Seasons 52 and Iberian Pig. 
Seasons 52 is a small, newish chain with a decidedly healthy orientation to dining. Their twist: every dish on the menu is 475 calories or less -- or so they claim. And it's a really varied and interesting menu, worth checking out. Click here for a taste of what they offer.
In addition to two Atlanta-area locations, they're also in FLorida, Texas, California, New Jersey and a couple of other locations, the closest of which to me is in Indianapolis.
I managed to hit both Atlanta locations, by chance, for lunch two days in a row. The best thing I tried was this excellent ravioli filled with goat cheese and enhanced by roasted garlic and fresh tomatoes. It was filling, light and delicious.

The other restaurant of note was Iberian Pig in Decatur, just to the east of the city of Atlanta. I'd been there a few months ago and it was soooo good, I had to get back there. It did not disappoint! The Spanish menu offers tapas portions as well as larger plates, and while it seems heavy on the meat/sausage (not my thing), I was able to find plenty of good veggie and seafood options.
Pictured are the fabulous Marcona Ensalada, my friend's octopus (tapas portion), and my whimsical, exotic-veggie laden Quinoa y Verduras.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Overweight: the new normal

Alas, we are super-sizing everything, from theater seats to serving/portion sizes in food, to "vanity sizing" of clothes. Here's a chart -- not well reproduced here, sorry to say -- that shows the increase in the percentage of American kids and adults who are obese.

Obesity rates have gone up for almost all age groups 1999-2008

Garbing the girth
Clothing outlets have expanded plus-sized inventories. Bulky clothes are available for children as young as 3, and Target and Forever 21 offer plus-sized fashions for teens. Quadruple-extra-large shirts are on the rack for men with 60-inch waists.

"Vanity sizing," in which manufacturers adjust apparel size downward so it's more palatable for women, is spreading. A size 4 today was, 20 years ago, a size 8. Some 62 percent of American women wear a size 14 or larger.

But full-size fashion has its price: Plus-sized clothing, which uses more material, costs 10 to 15 percent more than regular apparel.

High-volume cargo

Federal officials have increased the average passenger weight for buses and commercial boats, from 150 pounds to 175 pounds for bus passengers and from 160 pounds to 185 pounds for boat passengers. Buses must be stronger and bigger to handle folks of amplitude, and boats must trim their passenger lists.

Government regulations for car seat belts, set in the 1960s, require them to fit a 215-pound man with a hip circumference of 47 inches. In 2003, however, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that more than 38 million people, or 19 percent of Americans, were too large for their seat belts. To accommodate heftier drivers, some car manufacturers include seat belts that are 18 to 20 inches longer, or offer seat belt extenders.

SOURCE: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gobs of Good Reasons to Eat Less Meat

Back in the days when meat was scarce and expensive, people were happy for even small amounts of these high-protein (and often high-fat) foods. As the 20th Century progressed, however, Big Agriculture learned how to produce massive quantities of livestock, and we filled our plates and bellies with far too much of the stuff.
I eat meat on occasion, but nothing like I used to in my 20s and 30s. Here are nine good reasons why we should all cut back on meat consumption, all having nothing to do with the greater good of reducing greenhouse gases and other environmental ills caused in part by the overproduction of livestock on our planet Read more about these healthy reasons to reduce meat in your diet at the Nursing Degree Website from which this article was adapted.

1.You’ll live longer: Although eating less meat may not necessarily add years to your life, it can prevent a premature death. Cutting back on red meat and processed meats may reduce your risk of developing heart disease and cancer, the two biggest killers of Americans. Red meat contains a high amount of saturated fat, which raises bad cholesterol levels and can increase your blood pressure making you more prone to having atherosclerosis, stroke and heart attack.

2.You’ll reduce the risk for heart disease and diabetes: Eating fewer processed meats can have a significant impact on your health. Cutting back on bacon, sausage, hot dogs and cold cuts can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and help prevent diabetes.
3.You’ll reduce the chances of getting a bacterial infection: Eating less or no meat at all may be your best defense against the drug-resistant superbugs that are appearing in supermarket meats these days. Antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been popping up in raw beef, chicken, turkey and cow’s milk, therefore, increasing the risk for hard-to-treat bacterial infections in humans.

4.You’ll increase vegetable and fruit consumption: For years, Americans have been falling short of the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables can help lower the risk of obesity and certain chronic diseases, as well as reduce your chances of having heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. If you choose to eat less meat, you’ll have more opportunities to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption and reap the health benefits.

5.You’ll reduce the risk of osteoporosis: Eating less meat may reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis by maintaining a healthy bone density.

6.You’ll lose weight: Eating less meat may be the ticket to losing those extra pounds and maintaining a healthy weight. High-protein diets may be the culprit of weight gain and the reason why people can’t shed the unwanted pounds. Of course, exercise and lifestyle play a major role in the weight loss process, but cutting down on your daily meat consumption may help you lose the weight faster.

7.You’ll get enough protein: Increasing your meat consumption to get enough protein in your diet is not necessary. In fact, most people get enough protein from their diets without needing to add more meat to the mix. Cutting back on your meat consumption will not make a big difference in your protein intake or your health. Try replacing the meat you would have been eating with another high-protein source like eggs, milk, tofu or cottage cheese.

8.You’ll lower your cholesterol: Eating less meat can have a significant effect on your cholesterol. The saturated fats in meat raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack or angina.
9.You’ll reduce the risk of bowel cancer: Bowel cancer, also called colon cancer, is a deadly killer that takes thousands of lives every year. One important way to reduce your chances of developing bowel cancer is to eat less meat. Cutting back on meat, specifically red meat and processed meat, can significantly lower your chances of getting colon cancer because you’ll be lowering your fat intake.

Thanks to the folks at Nursing Degree for passing along this great information!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Four Must-Have Carbs to Lengthen Your Life

In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, the best foods for health and long life are whole grains.

Whole grains, aside from delivering more nutrients, including fiber, minerals and vitamins, are nuttier and chewier than refined grains. Oats, quinoa, bulgur, barley and other whole grains also add flavor to everyday meals and—because of their fiber—can help you feel full longer. An Archives of Internal Medicine study suggests that eating more whole grains (and fewer refined ones) might help you live longer. Scientists suspect that the fiber in whole grains reduces your risk of dying from cardiovascular, respiratory and infectious diseases.

See a selection of recipes for the four great grains: OATMEAL, QUINOA, POPCORN and WHOLE GRAIN PASTA here (click on link). One with oatmeal is below. Enjoy!

Get whole-grain goodness from this breakfast treat
 Recipe: Oatmeal-Rhubarb Porridge
Makes 3-4 servings

1 1/2 cups nonfat milk or nondairy milk, such as soymilk or almond milk

1/2 cup orange juice

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup 1/2-inch pieces rhubarb, fresh or frozen

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

2-3 tablespoons brown sugar, pure maple syrup or agave syrup

2 tablespoons chopped pecans or other nuts, toasted (see Tip) if desired

Combine milk, juice, oats, rhubarb, cinnamon and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, cover and cook at a very gentle bubble, stirring frequently, until the oats and rhubarb are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in sweetener to taste. Top with nuts.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Craft Cocktails a Highlight at "Eat Local for the Globe"

Molly Wellmann with Woodstone Creek Vodka
We may all have melted at Findlay Market's fundraiser if not for Molly Wellmann's refreshing, from-scratch cocktails. Although the temperature was at or above 90 all evening -- the event ran from 6 - 9 PM -- Molly juiced countless citrus fruits and mixed Norwood's own Woodstone Creek vodka with many other interesting ingredients to cool us all down while we sampled food treats from several of Findlay Market's vendors. In the photo, Molly is holding a bottle of this locally distilled vodka. (Check out the Woodstone Creek website to see the other liquors they make, and find out where you can buy some.)
Her Summer Breeze was based on grapefruit juice and lavender,  Johnny Iced Tea had fresh apple juice among its ingredients, and (my favorite) China Garden combined cucumber juice and lychee nuts with some of that local vodka.
Beyond the cocktails, we liked a bison ribeye salad from Fresh Table best of the several food choices. Dojo Gelato also had an interesting "float" with fermented pineapple (from Fab Ferments) and basil gelato.
Pretzel Bites

Vietnamese Sandwiches

Molly's Table

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chicken sausage, beans & peas, pesto and pasta

This is almost a one-pot dinner, except that you have to brown the sausage slices in a frying pan before adding to the pasta mixture. You can use store-bought pesto or make your own, now that basil is in its prime growing season. I like to add additional herbs to my batches of pesto, such as mint, cilantro or oregano. Another variation that makes the pesto milder is to cut it with fresh spinach leaves or arugula. Use fresh or frozen green peas in this recipe, depending on whether you can still find fresh peas (I did).

Recipe: Pesto pasta with Chicken Sausage and Green Veggies Serves 4

12-14 ounces pasta, such as bow ties or fusilli, preferably whole grain
1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup green peas
1 T canola or olive oil
8 ounces cooked chicken sausage links, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pesto
Parmesan cheese, at table (optional)

Add pasta to a large pot of rapidly boiling, salted water and cook until pasta is al dente. Add the green beans to the pot about 3-4 minutes before pasta is done, and add peas a minute or two before it's done. Reserve a cup of the cooking liquid; drain the pasta and veggies and return them to the pot.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add the sausage and stir-fry until it browns, about 6 minutes.
Add the sausage, pesto and 1/2 cup of the pasta-cooking liquid to the pasta/veggies and stir well. Add more cooking liquid if necessary.
Serve in bowls and pass the cheese.

All you need with this is some crusty bread. Many wines would go well with these flavors, so just drink what you like. I'm partial to sauvignon blanc with pesto, but a spicy red such as zinfandel would complement the sausage nicely, as well.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rev up your engines!

Many research studies have concluded that even a small amount of cayenne pepper (or other hot spices) can speed up your body's metabolism, thus not only boosting your energy but also burning calories more efficiently. Here are a couple of ways to add more spice to your life: a grill-friendly shrimp barbecue over fresh tomato salad (just in time for tomato season that's almost upon us), and a complex tasting party dip that also makes a tasty spread for turkey or vegetable sandwiches.

Spicy Shrimp with Tomato Salad

Serves 8


1/3 cup packed basil leaves, plus extra leaves for garnish

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 1/4 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons pure ancho chile powder

1 1/2 teaspoons light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

24 jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 tablespoons canola oil

3 large yellow heirloom tomatoes (1 1/2 pounds), sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced


In a blender, puree the 1/3 cup of basil leaves with the olive oil until smooth. Season the oil with salt and black pepper.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. In a small bowl, mix the sweet smoked paprika with the pure ancho chile powder, light brown sugar, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Brush the shrimp with the canola oil and season all over with the spice mixture. Grill the shrimp over moderately high heat, turning once, until they are lightly charred and cooked through, about 4 minutes total.

Arrange the tomato and onion slices on a platter and drizzle with the basil oil. Top with the shrimp, garnish with the remaining basil leaves and serve.

Red Pepper and Nut Dip

(Makes 3 cups)


1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup walnuts

1/4 cup unsalted roasted pistachios

1/4 cup unsalted roasted cashews

3 medium red bell peppers (1 pound), cut into 2-inch pieces

1 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup toasted bread crumbs

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Cayenne pepper


In a small skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the pine nuts and almonds and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the nuts to a plate.

Add the walnuts to the skillet and cook, stirring, until toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer the walnuts to a food processor and let cool completely. Add the pistachios and cashews and pulse until the nuts are finely chopped. Scrape the finely chopped nuts into a medium bowl. (Serve with crackers, pita triangles or corn chips)

Add the bell peppers and onion to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer the pepper mixture to a fine-mesh sieve and press to extract as much liquid as possible. Add the mixture to the chopped nuts. Stir in the pine nuts, almonds, bread crumbs and olive oil. Season with salt and cayenne and serve.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Return to Jean-Robert's Table

My first dinner at Jean-Robert de Cavel's lovely downtown restaurant a few months ago was pleasant enough, but I thought the food too rich and caloric for my taste. So it took this long to get back. Happily, the spring menu emphasizes lighter dishes and ingredients, and that problem went away.
Actually my friends and I had a delightful meal and good time. A highlight was the Burgundy wine suggested by the sommelier, which went great with both my filet mignon (a special) and my companions' fish dishes.

In the photos (from top):
  • Shrimp salad, a nightly special appetizer
  • The filet mignon
  • Seared sea scallops from the regular menu
  • Roasted cod, an entree special
  • Strawberry-mint Bavarian, the one dessert we split three ways.
My meal was the shrimp salad, filet, and part of the dessert, and I can recommend every bite of each of those dishes. My favorite was the entree, a perfect piece of meat, cooked to medium rare and sliced, atop some veggies and with a few bites of melt-in-your-mouth roasted potatoes.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Grill this, grill that -- voila! Summer variety

I'm probably way behind most folks, but until my husband got a sudden desire to take up grilling, it has not been a frequent method of cooking at our house.
When it was up to me to do all parts of the dinner -- stove, fridge, table AND go in and out of the house to mind the grill -- that last task just was over the top.
But things have changed now that I have a helper.
Here are a few things we've grilled over the past week or so (from top):
Two shots of our Memorial Day feast, which included marinated pork loin, filet mignon and chicken sausages, along with sides;
Crab cakes;
A vegan dinner of grilled polenta and grilled radicchio.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Watch this video: Easy, Foolproof Salmon

Mark Bittman, who wrote "The Minimalist" column in the NY Times for years and has taken over most of the food writing in the Sunday Times Magazine, has a terrific how-to video on the Times web page today (Friday 6/3).
He does a step by step instruction on making perfect, spice-rubbed salmon steaks for four in just a few minutes.

Click here to watch this 5-minute video. (Scroll down about halfway on the page until you see the "Play Video" button.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Food expiration dates: A recipe for massive waste?

Are you a slave to the "use by," "best by" or "expiration" dates on food products? According to a recent news article, you might be contributing to the estimated 30-plus BILLION tons of food that Americans waste every year. A spokesperson for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that with the exception of expiration dates for infant formula, all of those designations are not intended as hard and fast deadlines but simply as guidelines. To avoid throwing out perfectly good food, experts suggest you use common sense and follow what your nose tells you. Here's some advice by Scott Hurd, a professor at Iowa State University who studies food safety, from an article posted on MSNBC.Com.

"If you can't go strictly by the use-by date, and you don't have an in-house microbiologist, how can you tell if there's too much salmonella in your meat? It turns out you have a pretty good, if primitive, microbiology lab: your nose.

"Dangerous food pathogens such as salmonella, listeria and E. coli don't directly rot food, and thus don't produce any decomposition smells, but other bacteria that spoil food grow alongside these harmful bugs.

"According to Hurd, the food rot can serve as the canary in the coal mine. "The 'spoilage bacteria' will usually notify us if we're getting too much bacterial growth," he said. If there is enough spoilage bacteria to produce an odor, there's a good chance that salmonella and the others are present in dangerous quantities as well.

"In brief, use the powers of smell and taste that nature gave you. "What one has to do is look at the expiration date of milk, for example. If it's past or near that date, then take a small taste. Spoilage bacteria is your clue," Hurd said.

"If it doesn't taste funky, don't throw it out: You can probably drink it without worry."