Monday, July 30, 2012

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Salad

I adapted this recipe from the lovely folks over at Laa Loosh which is both healthy and full of flavor. It's a good side dish for a mediterranean inspired dinner, and also in bigger portions, can be a nice lunch salad all by itself. I admit, it's not the quickest meal, but was interesting enough to include.

Total Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Cook Time: 50 minutes

What you will need:

2 medium to large sized eggplants
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
5 minced garlic cloves
Juice from one lemon
1 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
Sea salt
Parchment paper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash the eggplants, then slice them into 1 inch thick round disks, and quarter the disks. For larger disks, you can cut them into eighths.

Put the eggplant pieces into a large bowl and sprinkle thoroughly with sea salt. Let these sit while you mix the marinade I describe below. The reason you want it to sit? Since we're roasting the eggplant, we need as much water out of it as possible. Salt on the eggplant draws moisture from the vegetable.

In a small dish, mix together the oil, vinegars (both cider and balsamic), dry spices, and garlic. You can accomplish this with a fork or a whisk. DO NOT INCLUDE the soy sauce or the lemon juice; these will be added separately later.

Turn your attention back to the eggplant. Approximately 15 minutes should elapse between the time that you put the salt on the eggplant and when you take this next step. Some small beads of water should have accumulated on the eggplant from the salt. Wipe them away if possible with a paper towel.

Pour the marinade over the eggplant and mix well, making sure the marinade gets to all pieces of eggplant. Pour the eggplant on to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and try and get all of the eggplant to form one single layer.

Bake at 400 for approximately 40 minutes, stirring and flipping every 15 minutes. After 30 minutes, check the eggplant carefully because you do not want it to burn. Remove from the oven when the eggplant easily yields to a poke from a fork. 

Let the eggplant cool while you mix the soy sauce and the lemon juice together in a small dish. Transfer the eggplant to a serving bowl, then pour the soy/lemon mixture and the goat cheese into the bowl with the eggplant. Stir lightly so the eggplant and goat cheese begin to melt together, serve, and enjoy! It tastes even better the next day when completely cold :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Caprese Salad

Who doesn't love this Italian classic? It's light, refreshing, very impressive, and only takes 15 minutes from start to finish. Sometimes I like to prep this first and snack on it as I cook the rest of my meal. Delish!!

It is important to note that due to the fact that there are only a few ingredients in this dish, having quality ingredients really makes a difference. I try and use the freshest mozzarella I can find, and will skip making this dish if I can't find it packed loosely in a container of water, rather than vacuum packed. I also use my "upscale" balsamic and olive oil for this dish due to the fact that neither are cooked and they really impart a lot of the flavor in this dish. If you can splurge for some quality ingredients, I think it's worth it.

Total Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Cook Time: NONE!!!!!

What you will need:

Two vine-ripe tomatoes (you can also use the larger beefsteak tomatoes for a bigger salad)
One container of fresh mozzarella packed in water (for the vine-ripe tomatoes, I use medium sized balls of mozzarella; if I use the beefsteak tomatoes, I use the bigger balls of mozzarella)
Balsamic vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Fresh basil

Slice the tomatoes in flat slices like this:

Arrange them on a plate, as they will serve as the foundation for the rest of the ingredients.

Drain the mozzarella and cut each ball flat the same way you cut the tomatoes.

Place a piece of mozzarella on each slice of tomato.

Next, you will mince up your basil. I have always had a hard time chopping basil and other herbs until a friend of mine taught me (this weekend!) a neat trick: ROLLING your basil leaves. Who would have thought?

Stack three basil leaves, approximately the same size.

Roll the basil up like a little cigar.

Slice through your basil cigar, which will create thin ribbons of basil.

Sprinkle the ribbons of basil on the mozzarella and tomato combination.

Next, drizzle olive oil and balsamic over all of the slices. Be careful with the balsamic, as a little goes a long way. Sprinkle sea salt and black pepper over the slices, to taste. Serve, and enjoy!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Curry Roasted Cauliflower

This is a flavor-packed side dish with excellent texture and low calories. It's also heart healthy and low-sodium, which has recently come to the forefront of my mind--one of my good friends and co-workers' sister, Gail, was recently diagnosed with some pretty severe heart problems. My friend has been trying to come up with creative and tasty dishes that are low-sodium but not bland to help make the family eat healthier for Gail. So one of my new goals is to try and find some low-sodium foods that won't take away any of the flavor.

Total Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Cook Time: 30 minutes

What you will need:

(ignore the sea salt in the picture, that's left over from the last dish I made)
1 head of cauliflower
2 tbsps olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry powder

Preheat your oven to 400.

Cut the cauliflower into small florets, avoiding the heart of the cauliflower.

Put the cauliflower florets into a large bowl, then drizzle the olive oil, cumin and curry powder over them. Mix well with your hands so each piece of cauliflower is coated and has a slightly yellowish tinge. If you have turmeric, you can throw 1/2 a tsp in too to add some more vibrant flavor and color.

Dump the coated cauliflower onto a baking sheet.

Cook for approximately 25-30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Test with a fork to determine if the florets are tender.

Serve, and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Spinach and Green Pepper Lasagna Roll-Ups

Little individual servings of vegetarian lasagna. These are fun to make and also easy to package up as individual re-heatable servings for lunches and dinners on subsequent evenings. You can put pretty much any vegetable you'd like into your cheese mixture on the inside; I sometimes like to put mushrooms in there, but didn't have any on hand when I made this batch. 

Total Prep Time: 30-40 minutes

Total Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

What you will need:

1 box of lasagne noodles
1 tall container of part skim ricotta cheese
1 bag of shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
1 bag of fresh baby spinach (you can use frozen spinach, thawed as well if you prefer but I like fresh ingredients)
1 bell pepper of any color (mine is supposed to be green but it's an organic pepper so it's more yellow)
2 tbsps minced garlic
2 tbsps pesto
1 egg
pasta sauce of your choice
Olive oil
Parchment paper

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Set a pot of water to boil, pour in some olive oil so that your noodles won't stick, and boil your lasagne noodles according to the instructions on the package. You can and you should start working on your  filling while the noodles are cooking, but make sure you keep an eye on them. Drain your noodles in the sink and let them cool in the colander while you finish up whatever prep you may have on the rest of the filling.

Dice your green pepper into small pieces.

In a large bowl, dump the entire large container of ricotta cheese, three ounces of shredded mozzarella, the egg, pesto, garlic and bell pepper. 

I typically mix all of this together before slowly adding in 1/2 of the bag of baby spinach and mixing well to make sure the baby spinach is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

Set the mixture aside. Lay out as much parchment paper as your counterspace will tolerate. On the parchment paper, lay your lasagne noodles, like so:

Spoon a thin layer of your ricotta mixture down the length of each of your noodles.

Now here comes the fun part: start rolling! Start from the far side and roll towards you. You want the rolls to be fairly compact, but not so tight that they are practically pinwheels. They should just feel secure. You'll know it when you feel it.

Once you complete all of your rolls (there should be enough ricotta for all of your lasagne noodles, or close to all of them at least), then place them in one or two large glass baking dishes. I find that it typically takes two large glass baking dishes to fit them comfortably. You don't want to crowd them! They need their personal space.

Pour some pasta sauce over the roll-ups, and then spread mozzarella over the sauce.

Bake at 400 for approximately 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, the cheese should be nice and melty. Turn on the broiler for a few minutes and stand there watching it like a hawk. The cheese should begin to bubble and brown a bit. Pull it out immediately. Serve, and enjoy!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dijon Curry Chicken Breasts

I admit, we eat a lot of chicken. And I have to get creative with how to make it, because you can only dress a chicken breast up so many ways. But this is a good one.

Total Prep Time: 20 minutes (not including marinating time, which is anywhere from 30 minutes to all day)    

Total Cook Time: 25-30 minutes

What you will need:

1-2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (you can also make this with boneless skinless chicken thighs if you prefer dark meat)
1/2 tbsp Curry powder
2 tbsps Dijon Mustard
Red pepper flakes
1 tbsp Soy sauce
1/2 tbsp Maple Syrup (I'm serious)
Black pepper
Plain panko breadcrumbs (you can also make this with regular breadcrumbs)

Preheat your oven to 400

In a glass dish which has a cover or in a gallon sized plastic bag, combine your dijon, curry powder, red pepper flakes, soy sauce, maple syrup, and a shake of black pepper. After combining, taste the marinade to determine if you like the ratio of flavors. Provide additional seasoning to taste; be wary of adding too much mustard.

Cut your chicken breasts into thinner strips (approximately two strips per breast). Marinate the strips in the mustard sauce for anywhere between 30 minutes, if you're making it at night, or all day if you put it in the marinade before you go to work. Keep in refrigerator while marinating.

Remove from refrigerator and allow it to warm up just a bit. While the chicken is sitting on the counter, pour some panko crumbs onto a plate. Dip each strip of chicken into the panko, lightly coating on all sides. Place in glass baking dish.

Bake at 400 for approximately 20-25 minutes; halfway through cooking time, turn the pieces over in the baking dish. Serve, and enjoy!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Brisket Old-School (Old World?) Style

This is a nice Jewish brisket recipe. It comes out just the way I always remember my grandmother and mother making for me. This takes longer than an hour, but it's an excellent crock pot meal that if you prep the night before, you can put in the crockpot in the morning, and let it cook for 8-10 hours while you work. 

What you will need:

a 5 lb (approximately) lean brisket, trimmed of as much fat as possible
4-5 large new potatoes, cut into eighths (alternately, 6 red potatoes)
two large carrots, peeled and sliced into circles
2 large white onions
6-7 cloves of garlic
1 large container of beef stock
1 small can of tomato paste
1-2 tbsps of canola oil
Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
1 bay leaf

First things first: Slice your onions into circles and extract your garlic cloves:

Set the onions and garlic aside in a bowl. Then slice your carrots and potatoes:

Set these aside in a separate bowl. Next, you will rinse and trim your brisket. Note, it is considerably harder to trim the fat off of a brisket than it is off of a lamb roast, but can be accomplished in approximately the same manner. Liberally season both sides of the brisket with sea salt and black pepper.

In a large flat saute pan, heat your canola oil. It should coat the bottom of the pan pretty evenly. After it is heated, drop in all of the onions and garlic, and saute for about 2-3 minutes, or until they are slightly translucent. There will be a wonderfully delicious aroma, I promise you.

After they are finished cooking, take the onions and garlic out with a slotted spoon, and put them back in their bowl. Transfer the brisket to the saute pan and turn the heat as high as it will go, as you will be searing the meat. It's ok if it hangs out a little bit; you can pick it up and sear each area.

Leave each side down for about 1-2 minutes; your sear should look something like this:

In the crockpot, pour half of your onion/garlic mixture on the bottom. Then pour in half of your carrots and potatoes. Then pour half of your container of chicken broth in, and place the bay leaf in as well. Mix in 1/2 tbsp of tomato paste. Place the brisket on top of the layer of veggies; it's ok if you have to sort of fold it to get it to fit. Just get it in there. Then spread a thin layer of tomato paste on top of the brisket. Pour the rest of the veggies and chicken stock on top of the brisket, and mix in another tablespoon of tomato paste. shake in some more salt and pepper while you're at it. 

Cook on "low" heat for 8-10 hours. If you are at home, you can take the brisket out around hour 6 and slice it then return it to the crock pot to continue cooking that way; but if not, no worries, it still tastes good if you leave it alone.

To slice the brisket, do as so:

Serve with the delicious vegetables and broth over it, and enjoy!