Friday, August 31, 2007

Grouper with Tomato and Basil

Kroger had a sale on flash-frozen fish, so I bought some grouper. I've only had grouper when I've vacationed in Florida and it was in the form of a sandwich, so I didn't know a good way to cook these. I had to make dinner in a hurry a few nights ago so I made this recipe. It was pretty good, not fabulous but a quick weeknight meal. I don't cook fish very often, so I think I cooked it a little longer than I should have. I used local organic tomatoes, basil, and garlic.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Strawberry Sorbet

I made another David Lebovitz recipe, this time from his sorbet section of his book The Perfect Scoop. I picked up a pound of fresh strawberries from the grocery store since they were on sale. I prepped everything the day before so that I could have the pureed strawberry mixture chilled overnight. I think the old adage "patience is a virtue" was spoken in the context of making homemade ice cream. When the instructions say that the mixture needs to be chilled overnight, it needs to be chilled overnight. Not for two hours like I have before because I was impatient and wanted ice cream already.

This sorbet has a fresh, intense strawberry flavor - this one will get repeated in our house! It was still good the next day too. I don't know how it is two days later, since it was all gone by then!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I just love butternut squash. I discovered it last year, and it is such a wonderful flavor. I usually make a lasagna out of it but wanted to try some quicker (but equally delicious!) ways of making it. I made this soup for dinner tonight and it fit the bill. It was very easy to make - just pop the squash in the oven for 40 minutes, puree it in the food processor, and then mix it with a few other ingredients. I also roasted a leek and a couple cloves of garlic with the squash and pureed them all together. I used a big pinch of nutmeg, and used half-and-half instead of milk (whole milk would have been good too). With the leek and garlic, the soup has a lot of depth to it. We loved it and I'll definitely make it again.

Chocolate Ice Cream

I borrowed David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop from the library this week. I made his Philadelphia-style chocolate ice cream this weekend. It was very rich and creamy - just out of the ice cream maker it tasted like a chocolate mousse. I think the chocolate taste was a little too strong - and this is coming from someone who loves bittersweet chocolate! I liked the texture, but I may look for a different recipe or use semisweet instead of unsweetened chocolate.

Monday, August 20, 2007


I like bruschetta. I first tried bruschetta in college, at those afternoon special lectures that different groups would host that would get catered. I probably went to half of them just to eat bruschetta, shrimp cocktail, and fruit kabobs. Mmmm.....

For an appetizer last night we bought some baguettes that were already cut up into 1/2 inch slices. I broiled them for 2 minutes on each side - they got a little burnt so next time I would lower the rack a notch. I loosely followed the recipe from the Joy of Cooking. I rubbed garlic onto one side of the toasted baguettes, and then topped half of them with grated mozzarella and put them under the broiler again to melt the cheese. Then I topped all of them with fresh diced tomatoes mixed with chopped fresh basil and a little salt. Yum! These were great. I liked the mozzarella topped ones a little better. I will definitely make these again for company.

Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte with Parmesan

We had company over last night, and I wanted to try to use up our summer squash. I found this recipe and tweaked it a little bit. Instead of green onions, I caramelized some Vidalia onions. I didn't have fresh Parmesan so used sharp cheddar instead. I also threw in a couple of sliced leeks since I'm not really sure what else to do with those. I also used russet potatoes instead of Yukon golds, and yellow zucchini instead of crooknecks. I didn't really measure the amounts of potatoes or zucchini - I just cut up enough to fill two 9x13 inch pans. I also used a little more olive oil because it just didn't look like enough - although the cheese does have some oil to it and I hadn't accounted for that. I guess I basically made a whole different recipe. But hey, isn't that what real cooking is all about? Tweaking?

This was pretty good except it was way too salty, so salty that it made it much less enjoyable. I didn't realize that there was so much salt in cheddar cheese. If I made this again I would omit the salt altogether. It was a little too much work for something that was good but not amazing, so I don't know if I'd make it again.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Orzo with Roasted Red Peppers, Feta, and Basil

Came home this afternoon and needed to make a quick lunch. We have a lot of vegetables in our house now since we joined a CSA, so I wanted to use some of them up. My husband decided that he wanted microwaved potatoes with barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese, which he has decided to name "Barbechetatoes." I on the other hand, decided I wanted some orzo. So I made this up as I went along. Now that I've been cooking more seriously for the last year, I have gotten a little better at making up recipes and knowing what flavors go well together. It was quite good and I would happily make it again for a quick weekend lunch. Here's the recipe for one serving:

1/2 cup orzo
1 red sweet pepper, 1/2 inch diced (I had a banana pepper, but half a bell pepper would be fine too)
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 ounce feta cheese, 1/4 inch diced
A few fresh basil leaves, torn
Salt and pepper to taste

Turn oven on to broil.

Cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7-9 minutes and drain. Meanwhile, toss the red pepper with the olive oil, place on a baking sheet and broil until they look like they are done, oh, about 5 minutes or so. Mix the orzo, peppers, feta, and basil in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to your heart's desire.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

I bought an ice cream maker. I have wanted one since I got married, but didn't think I would use it enough to justify buying one - reasoning which has kept me from buying a tart pan, a waffle maker, and various other cooking implements that collect dust quite nicely in most people's kitchens. But I've been hankering for an ice cream maker, and I got a $30 Target gift certificate for my birthday, and wouldn't you know a Hamilton Beach 1.5 quart ice cream maker is $30 at Target?

I never pick easy recipes, even when I should. I picked this cinnamon ice cream recipe because I love that flavor and you don't see it very often. It is a custard based recipe, which is much more labor intensive - but worth it! I used vanilla extract because vanilla beans are so expensive. The recipe doesn't state when to add the cream, so I added it in after mixing the milk and egg mixtures together. Looking online afterwards, I think you are supposed to add it after heating the mixture and before cooling it to room temperature.

The recipe states that you can just let the mixture cool to room temperature, but next time I would chill it in the fridge for a few hours. My ice cream did not freeze a whole lot even after an hour in the machine. I had to put it in the freezer to harden it up. After an hour it was still slushy, but we each took a spoonful and oh my word was it good. The next day it was harder and a little icy, but still very tasty. I can never look at store-bought ice cream quite the same again.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts.

Our friends who came over last night also got to enjoy these brownies. These are incredible, if you like fudge and peanut butter (I'm so glad I don't have a peanut allergy!). I was making the peanut butter frosting, and had a taste of it when I was done with it... I almost had to sit down. It's amazing how good peanut butter mixed with butter and powdered sugar can taste. Mmm.

I used bittersweet chocolate for the brownies as that's what I had. For the ganache I used 1 cup of semisweet morsels and 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate. Maybe next time I will try using all semisweet chocolate - I love the taste of bittersweet but I think it overpowers the oh-so-delicious peanut butter frosting. I also used creamy peanut butter instead of chunky. This is definitely a brownie you make for parties and company - your friends will love you and will think you are the best baker ever.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Butternut Squash Lasagna

We went to the Abingdon, Virginia Farmers Market yesterday and one of the vendors was selling butternut squash - the first local ones I have seen this season. I made this lasagna twice last fall, and it is one of my favorite dishes. It is very labor intensive so I don't make it that often, but it is so much better than the other ways I have made butternut squash. For the first ones of the season I decided to indulge. I used some organic basil from our weekly CSA basket, and also a few leaves from my own basil plants. I always skip the amaretti cookies and the lasagna is still outstanding. I also use low-fat mozzarella and it taste just fine. I think that about 3-4 pounds of squash is perfect - I think I used about 5 pounds this time and the squash overwhelmed the basil sauce. This is definitely a great dish for company, but only if you have a few hours to prepare it. And the best thing is, I still have half the lasagna in my fridge for leftovers!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Couscous with Spiced Zucchini and Tofu

I was given a large, green, round summer squash a week ago, and I decided to make this recipe with it. It kind of looked zucchini-like so I thought I could just substitute it. This was just okay. The squash didn't taste at all like zucchini - it was more, I don't know, squashy - and the skin was a lot tougher. I threw in some pan-fried tofu to make it more of a substantial meal - I used a different brand than I usually do, and it was just okay. I can tell when a meal bombs when my husband goes to the fridge and gets out the barbecue sauce. Oh well. At least it wasn't turnip soup bad. It was okay, it just wasn't that flavorful.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Super Sloppy Joes

I have never made Sloppy Joes before, but I had volunteered to make the main course for a lunch meeting at work and needed something easy that could be kept in a crock pot. Though I generally follow a self-imposed ban on all things Rachael Ray because I find her annoying (and any chef whose cupcake recipe starts off with cake mix is NOT a real chef), I chose her recipe for these because it got a lot of good reviews.

I tripled the recipe to feed about ten people, and that made plenty with leftovers for a few sandwiches the next day. I used about half a cup of brown sugar down from 3/4 cup, and skipped the bell pepper because of food allergies in the crowd. I also only used 4 cups of tomato sauce and that was plenty. These were pretty good, didn't knock my socks off but what Sloppy Joe has? I think this would be a good recipe for a family with kids, but I will happily stick to my usual foodie-type recipes for the two of us.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

I have made this one a few times and it is one of our favorites. It's not a quick meal, but not horribly labor intensive either. I usually use zucchini and/or summer squash instead of eggplant, and sometimes I just use green bell peppers instead of red and yellow to save money. I also skip the green onions and don't even notice a difference. The feta really makes the dish, so don't skimp on it!

I have been trying different olive oils in the past month to find a cheap one that tastes good. I bought some Colavita olive oil from the grocery store and it has a nice flavor - not too strong. I've tried the Walmart brand and it is a little off smelling. The Carapelli brand is okay. I have to start tasting the oil from now on and compare the flavors. We use olive oil all the time and I want to use a good one without breaking the bank.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mellowed Fresh Tomatoes for Pasta

I subscribe to Weeknight Kitchen, a weekly e-newsletter from The Splendid Table. I was planning on just making spaghetti tonight - and today's recipe was for pasta and fresh tomatoes, which was perfect! I had a few homegrown tomatoes that I needed to use today, which were great. Local tomatoes are so much better than store bought. I also have a basil plant at home and just plucked off a few leaves for the dish. This was easy and delicious. It was a nice departure from the usual spaghetti and Walmart pasta sauce combo. It actually made spaghetti feel fancy!

I picked up a couple of boxes of Barilla Plus spaghetti for this - it is a new multigrain pasta which was actually pretty good. I've tried whole wheat spaghetti and didn't like the texture, so this was a nice alternative that is a little more healthy than plain old spaghetti.

Mellowed Fresh Tomatoes for Pasta
Copyright 2007 Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Serves 6 to 8 as a first course, 4 to 6 as a main dish

* 1 clove garlic, split
* 3 pounds richly flavored tomatoes (if possible, one-third cherry type, one-third mellow-tasting, and one-third low-acid), unpeeled, unseeded, cut into 1/2-inch dice
* 2 generous pinches hot red pepper flakes
* 1/3 cup good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
* 1 pound spaghetti, or linguine
* 6 quarts boiling salted water
* 1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, or to taste
* 3 tight-packed tablespoons fresh basil leaves, torn
* 1 cup fresh-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)

1. Vigorously rub a pasta serving bowl with the garlic and discard the clove. Add the tomatoes, red pepper, oil, and the salt. Gently combine. Let stand at room temperature from 30 minutes to 3 hours.

2. When ready to eat, cook the pasta in fiercely boiling salted water, stirring often, until tender yet firm to the bite. Drain in a colander and turn it into the pasta bowl. Quickly add the black pepper and basil, and toss everything together. Taste the pasta for seasoning and serve. If you like, pass cheese at the table