Thursday, August 28, 2014

Calabacitas Tomato Sandwich

The end of summer is a perfect time to highlight Colorado's glorious produce. And glorious it is. Palisade peaches from High Country Orchards and Kokopelli Farms should not be missed. They were perfect this year. Sweet and juicy, they were some of the best I remember in a long time. Colorado kale from Full Circle Farms and heirloom tomatoes from Dooley Farms were often on my dinner table, along with subtle encouragement to Manservant to eat his veggies. And now I'm trying to get the last of the Olathe corn and  sweet cantaloupe. 

Boo hoo. I can't believe the end is near and wonder how it came so fast. Oh-summer I will miss you. I will miss your corn and tomatoes and cherries. Your chilies and zucchini and kale. And thank goodness for one last weekend of eating. That's one reason I love Labor Day. I still get a chance to squeeze all of summer's bounty into three last official days of summer. (OK, maybe these are my last official days of summer...) Yes, there's still time to bake a fresh peach cobbler, while making applesauce from the fallen apples from my tree. That tree is certainly a giving tree and I have more apples than I know what to do with. We can't pick them up fast enough! But apples signal Fall, and I'm not quite there yet.

Tomatoes are at their peak and since I'm making up for not eating tomatoes in my childhood years, I decided to give you this great recipe for a unique tomato sandwich. (For lack of a better title, this is what I came up with.) I couldn't decide which tomatoes to buy; there were so many to choose from. I made it easy on myself though. I just chose my favorite colors! Zucchini is everywhere and chilies are beginning their short season. I spotted a few fresh roasted ones last week at Whole Foods and I know if I drove to Federal, the aroma of roasting chilies would be everywhere. Corn is still smelling and looking good, so I thought what better way to end summer than combining many of my favorite veggies.

I know you will like this calabacitas tomato sandwich. My father in law declared it disgustingly healthy, but then was pleasantly surprised to discover its salsa cream cheese filling. It is a pretty dish to serve your family and friends and quick and easy to prepare. I love its subtle spice, and adore the creamy filling. And even if it is disgustingly healthy, no one need ever know!

Calabacitas Tomato Sandwich
Yield: 6 Servings with some leftover filling
Time to make: 30 minutes with an extra 15 minutes to bake
2 T olive oil
1 c chopped onion
3 minced garlic cloves
4 c fresh corn OFF the cob
4 c sliced and quartered zucchini
1 chopped jalapeno (I left the seeds in!)
2 c buttermilk
1 4 oz can drained green chilies or Hatch chilies
1 t oregano
1 t salt
Fresh black pepper to taste

Salsa Cream Cheese Filling
8 oz cream cheese softened
1 t garlic powder
1 t oregano
1/2 c grated cheddar
1 T salsa

3-4 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced into 12 thick slices
Sprinkle of oregano, salt and pepper
2 T Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat 2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Ad onions an garlic and cook until translucent. Turn heat own to medium. Add corn, zucchini and jalapeno and cook about 5 minutes or until veggies have softened. Add buttermilk and simmer mixture on low about 15 minutes. (Vegetables should still have a bit of bite to them.) Stir in green chilies, oregano and salt to season.

Preheat oven to 350. While mixture is cooking, prepare filling. Stir softened cream cheese with seasonings and cheese. Stir in salsa to thin out mixture so that it is easily dolloped on tomatoes.

Slice tomatoes into 12 thick slices. Place 6 slices into an oiled dish. Top each slice with a heaping tablespoon of filling. Then top with a large spoonful of calabacitas, drained if necessary. Top with a slice of tomato. Sprinkle with some grated parmesan, oregano and salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes. The tomatoes will be softened and the cream cheese filling should be warmed and oozing goodness. 

Labor Day Feast Recipes:
Apricot, Blue Cheese and Chorizo Appetizer
Buttery Garlic, Parmesan Potato Chips
Red Onion, Blueberry and Pesto Tart
Zucchini Chips
Old Fashion BBQ Chicken
Grilled And Lightly Smoked Peruvian Chicken
Kale Salad with cherries, Almonds and Feta
Farro Summer Salad with Grilled Veggies
Elote Corn in a Bowl
Real Potato Salad
My Mom's Secret Cole Slaw
Blackberry, Blueberry, Basil and Browned Butter Cobbler
Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Larb, Hollywood, and Fast Friday!

It's been a long time since I've done a Fast Friday but I find myself again in Phoenix. We are making headway and managed to clear out many of the garage cabinets. I think my mother must have saved every vase that was ever given to her. She also had numerous clay pots of every size and shape. And yes, many of them, never held a plant! I don't even want to go into the carry on bags that accumulated over the years before wheels on bags had yet to be invented. But that is behind us now and tomorrow we can move into the air conditioning! Thank goodness for that!

Recently my mom found out that she is prediabetic which means no sugar, flour or grains. I am not quite understanding the rationale of some of this, but she is doing what she is told. She finds breakfast the hardest meal to eat, because she misses her toast. I am going to make her this egg casserole, which I think will be a nice change from scrambled eggs. And I am going to make her today's recipe, just because it is so good.

Larb isn't an easy sell when it comes to its name. Really Hollywood does a much better job promoting second rate actors. Larb just sounds kind of lardy and who wants to eat that. But after one bite, you will love me. I promise. This is a great dish. Now if one could just think of a better way to promote it. Perhaps Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt feeding each other spoonfuls of larb? Maybe...

Larb is a minced meat salad, often thought to be from Thailand but it is actually the national dish of Laos. Frankly, I don't care where it's from, as long as I can eat it. This is a great summer dish and so easily prepared. It is perfect to keep in your fridge for something healthy and easily snacked on. Perfect wrapped in a lettuce leaf or even in a tortilla; it can also be served over steamed rice. Dice up a few mangoes for a side salad and one has a perfect meal on a hot summer's day! 

Feel free to use any ground meat in this dish. You could use already ground chicken, beef, pork or turkey if you want to skip the food processor, but I like the grinding of the chicken with all the spices. It seems to blend everything together well. This dish has lots of salty tanginess and frankly makes the best lettuce wrap I've had in awhile. However I must tell you that it also tasted great straight out of a container that sat in the fridge for a few days. Nothing was lost in translation! Just add a squirt of sriracha and a few ground peanuts and you won't need air conditioning any more! 

Chicken Larb
From: From Away
Yield: About 4 servings
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar

For the chicken:
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons lemongrass paste
Zest from one lime
1 small red Thai chile, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
8 small iceberg lettuce or hearts of romaine leaves
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
Sriracha, to taste
Cilantro leaves and stems, roughly torn

Mix up dressing ingredients and set aside.
Place chicken, shallot, lemongrass paste, zest of a lime, chile, garlic, fish sauce, salt, and 1 T of oil in food processor. Pulse until meat is minced. Do not over process or this will make the mixture too fine.
Heat remaining oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add chicken mixture and cook until chicken starts to brown, breaking up meat as it cooks. When finished cooking, stir in dressing and top with peanuts, cilantro and a good squirt of sriracha! Serve with lettuce leaves to wrap or over rice.

Other great Asian dishes:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Caprese Grilled Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes and Burrata on Quinoa Cakes

Quinoa cakes are one thing I haven't made, until now. I've made quinoa as a side dish, like I would make rice, but I've never tried it in other forms. So... I looked up the ingredients in the quinoa cakes that I sampled when Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake and I went to breakfast. I had a simple breakfast sandwich and Liz ordered quinoa cakes with a poached egg. She kindly offered me a bite and it was one memorable bite. Didn't you think so, Liz?

Well, that bite stuck in my mind and though I didn't duplicate that quinoa cake, I did make one that is quite good. You see, I am a refrigerator cook. I take whatever I can find in my pantry and fridge and generally turn out a respectable dinner. The fridge held leftover quinoa, so I went with it. The quinoa cake that Liz ate had lemon ricotta and zucchini in it, according to the menu, and mine just has lemon zest, but for one layer of a dinner entree it really worked out well. 

Lately, I've also been admiring the gorgeous tomatoes that are showing up in the market and trying to make good use of them. Manservant is not a tomato fiend so I have to disguise them in ways that usually require me to mash them to bits or cook the hell out of them. He will eat a caprese salad if the tomatoes are full of flavor and not mushy. However quartering them and adding them to a salad, just means I'll find tomatoes resting on the side of the plate when he is finished eating. It does appear though that fresh basil, syrupy balsamic vinegar, and fresh, creamy cheese work their magic on him. Thank goodness something does.

Well, one thing led to another and these ingredients led to this perfect summer entree. Manservant even declared its virtues, so it was a good thing I wrote it down as dinner came together. And then Zoe called and I realized that this is a perfect dish to fit her needs.  She has been living in a temporary apartment until her new one becomes available in September. Seems this has thrown her into a rut when it comes to eating but the daily 4 flights of stair climbing have increased her muscle mass! I don't think I'd want to be lugging groceries up four flights, but I guess that is part of the joy of city living.

Give this perfect lemony, grilled chicken with roasted balsamic tomatoes placed on a lemony quinoa cake and topped with creamy, lush burrata cheese a try. It contains all of summer's favorite flavors in one dish.

Caprese Grilled Chicken on Lemony Quinoa Cakes
Yield: 4 Servings
Time: About 1 hour start to finish

For chicken marinade:
2 lemons, juiced
1 t oregano
1/2 t salt
1/4 t fresh ground black pepper
2 pressed garlic cloves
1 T olive oil
2 large chicken breasts or 4 portions

For Roasted Tomatoes:
16 small tomatoes
2 T olive oil
2 cloves thinly sliced garlic
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 t salt
1/4 t fresh ground black pepper

For Quinoa Cakes:
2 c cooked quinoa ( I prepare this accoring to package directions but I saute a few T of onion in a T of olive oil. I then add the quinoa and cook according to package directions using chicken broth instead of water.)
1 diced shallot
1 egg
1 lemon, zested
1 T fresh basil
3 T parmesan cheese, grated
2 t olive oil

2 balls of burrata
Fresh basil leaves

Pound chicken breasts until thin and divide into 4 portions. Combine lemon juice, all seasonings and olive oil for marinade. Marinade chicken while preparing other components. When ready to grill, preheat grill to high an brush grates with olive oil. Place chicken breasts on grate and turn heat down to medium high. Cook about 5-8 minutes on each side.

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare tomatoes by slicing into quarters or slices. Place with all marinade ingredients in an 8" dish. Roast for about thirty minutes or until vinegar has thickened and turned a bit syrupy. Remove from oven. These are OK kept at room temperature.

Combine quinoa with all ingredients except the 2 t of olive oil. Form into 4-8 cakes. Brush both sides with olive oil and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350. The outsides will be crispy an the insides creamy.

To assemble: Place one quinoa cake on a dinner plate. Top with one serving of a grilled chicken breast. Top with a big spoonful of tomatoes and some fresh basil leaves. Top with buratta. Drizzle with syrup from the baked tomatoes. Be prepared for compliments!

July's winner of the Whole Foods giveaway is: Calli W. August's Whole Foods giveaway is fresh summer produce. What are your favorite dishes?

Summer Stuff:
Green Onion Garlic Chive Skillet Corn Bread
Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cookie Dough Frosting
White Chocolate Crumbs
Hot Fudge Sauce
Blackberry, Blueberry, Basil Cobbler
St Germain Lemonade

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The White Chocolate Blueberry Brownie That Made It To Red Rocks

I know what you're thinking. Well, I think I know what you're thinking. Yeah. Colorado, the pot state. Or in a state of pot. Depends how you look at it. OK. We all know my informative years were in the early 70's. I missed the 60's. Darn it! But I lived in a small town, so it took the 60's awhile to get there. I think. I was never very good at math. So what do white chocolate blueberry brownies have to do with Red Rocks?

If you don't live in the colorful state of Colorado (yes, that is really on our license plate) you may not even know what Red Rocks is. And yes, it does involve red rocks. Red Rocks is a natural amphitheatre that is one of the top concert venues in the United States. With wonderful acoustics and a phenomenal view of the skyline of Denver, Red Rocks has been a concert venue since 1906.  It even saw the Beatles perform in 1964 and was the only show that didn't sell out for them on their US tour. (How's that for trivia, Charles?)

Red Rocks is known for some pretty amazing concerts. Of course, one can also run up and then down the steps for exercise, which happens, I think, every Saturday. My kids used to do it. They show movies there. They have a museum, too. And if you celebrate Easter, you can go there for a sunrise service. But the best thing to do at Red Rocks, in my opinion, is to eat brownies. Umm. I meant listen to music. 

The first concert I saw at Red Rocks was with Manservant in 1977. It was our second date. We drove from Fort Collins to see Bonnie Raitt. He wanted to impress me, I guess. And Red Rocks is pretty darn impressive. The hardest thing about Red Rocks besides the climbing, is deciding to sit close or more towards the middle of the venue. Close is great if you really want to see the band, but the middle is more for the view. As the sun sets, the view of the skyline and the plains of the Great are stunning and mesmerizing.

There is never any reason to not accept a date at Red Rocks. When our friends called to say they had 2 extra tickets and would we want to go, there was no question in my mind as to what we were doing that night. It was a perfect evening. And Red Rocks was just as I remembered it. Except the audience was a tad older. The hair cuts were most definitely different. There was still a sweet pungent odor to the air. The music was not quite how I remembered it, as this concert involved the Denver Symphony and Bonnie was nowhere around! But Red Rocks still enchants.

(So now as I sit here drinking a Diet Coke that says, "Share with a Go Getter"; (which I guess means you are all go getters...) the can reminds me of a story Alex told me about a friend of his from Australia, who when going to  a bar and being asked what he did, would reply in his strong Aussie accent, "I'm a real go getter". According to Alex this also helped him pick up all the girls.) But back to the picnic... yes, we brought a picnic. A pretty good picnic. I made a miso dip. We had mango, coconut, shrimp summer rolls with peanut sauce and we picked up banh mi's. With some fruit and veggies we were good to go. Of course we started with the brownies-just kidding! Get your minds out of the gutter. This wasn't a Pretty Lights concert, for Pete's sake!

We finished with the brownies and they were decadently good. I know these aren't your traditional type of brownie and they aren't fudgy like one, but they are dense; almost like a bite of poundcake. We like them chilled which makes them more fudgelike than cakelike. Their crumb is sticky, not at all dry and crumbly. Really, how could eating a dense, huge brownie studded with blueberries and covered thickly with chocolate frosting, on a gorgeous night with good friends, while listening to music and watching the sunset, be bad? Just one thing was missing. Bonnie, where were you? 

And all right. Just one more thing. The brownies, for the record, are still quite magical.

Last chance to enter Whole Foods Giveaway!

White Chocolate Blueberry Brownies with Dark Chocolate Frosting
Adapted From: Ghirardelli
Yield: 16-32 servings (Depending on if you like them baby size or MONDO size)

16 oz Ghirardelli white Chocolate (Broken into pieces)
2 sticks unsalted butter
4 lg eggs
1/3 c sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
1 T vanilla
2 c flour
3/4 t salt
1 c fresh blueberries, washed

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

4 squares (1 ounce ) Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
½ c butter
1 pound confectioners sugar
½ c milk
2 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.
Line a 13 x 9 pan with parchment paper. Melt white chocolate and butter. (I use a microwave, but white chocolate is notorious for burning. Do this slowly while mixing in between.) Stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
Beat one egg at a time into cooled chocolate/butter mixture. Stir in sugars and vanilla. Fold in flour, salt and blueberries.
Bake 30-45 minutes. Top should not be jiggly. Do not over bake as their texture will not be dense and fudgey. Cool and chill.

To make frosting combine chocolate and butter in microwave safe bowl. Microwave as above until mixture is fully melted. If you want a darker frosting you may add another ounce of unsweetened chocolate.

Combine sifted confectioners sugar, milk and vanilla in bowl. Stir until smooth. Add the chocolate mixture. Stir until well combined. To thicken place bowl in a pan of ice water and beat with a spoon until frosting is thick and holds its shape.
Frost if desired. The recipe above is enough frosting for a three layer cake. It is delicious frosting.
Slice into squares and feel the magic. 

More Good Things:
Lemon Thyme Biscotti Crackers
Grilled and Lightly Smoked Peruvian Chicken
Crispy Chipotle Shrimp and Corn
Spaghetti Bolognese
Meatball Vietnamese Noodle Bowl
Donburi Bowl
Strawberry Spiral Biscuit Pie