Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer Pasta with Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Basil

There are few meals that are quicker and easier to throw together than pasta.  Additionally, the variations you can do with simple pasta are endless.  This one utilizes fresh garden tomatoes and basil, along with some white beans and goat cheese for protein.  A perfectly light and delicious meal!

Summer Pasta with Tomatoes, Goat Cheese, and Basil

1/2 lb (8 oz) angel hair pasta (or your favorite type of pasta)
2-3 medium tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and torn into bite-size pieces
4 T fresh goat cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 T olive oil
8 oz (about half a can) of Cannellini or Great Northern beans

Cook pasta according to directions on package.  When pasta is done cooking, drain, and then put into serving bowl.  Toss pasta with olive oil and then garlic powder.  Add goat cheese and toss for a minute until the cheese is slightly melty.  Toss in the tomatoes, beans, and basil.  Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


I love crepes.  Since I was a child they had this aura of being exotic and rich and special and, above all, delicious.  When we went to places like IHOP (which was a rarity for my family), I always checked to see if they had crepes. 

When I was 15 I flew to Paris to spend a month with my sister, who was there doing a semester abroad.  The two of us often stopped to buy an enormous crepe from the sidewalk vendors. I was fascinated with watching them pour the batter out of the ladle onto the huge spinning skillet, flipping it with skill, and then deftly folding it into quarters, sprinkling it with powdered sugar and lemon juice, and plating it up.  My mouth still waters when thinking about them.

So you can imagine my delight when I married into a family that made crepes for lots of special occasions.  My mother-in-law patiently taught me the tricks of getting the batter evenly distributed around the pan, how to turn them without tearing them, and the best fillings and toppings.  Now I'm a pro (or so I think, though hers are still thinner than mine!) and we make them on special occasions at my home, or sometimes just on a random Sunday morning. 

They still make my mouth water.

Recipe by Ruth Beal

1 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 T sugar
3 eggs

In a mixing bowl combine flour, milk and salt with a whisk.  Add the lemon zest, sugar, and eggs and beat well.  Set aside for 10-15 minutes.

You'll need something to grease your pan with.  My mother-in-law using shortening, but I use cooking spray.  I think it's easier and you get more consistent results.  But you use whatever you'd like. 

I use an 8-inch skillet, though you could use one larger, you would just have to pour in more batter.

Heat your pan over medium to medium-high heat (my stove works best when set at number 6 out of 10).  When it's hot, grease it lightly, then take 1/4 cup of batter (or more if you're using a larger pan) and pour it quickly into the pan WHILE tipping the pan in a circular manner to let the batter evenly coat the pan.  This is really the trickiest part of the whole enterprise and mostly requires practice, so don't give up if you don't do it right the first (or fourth) time around.  They still taste good regardless of how they look.

You'll notice that the edges (which are generally thinner) will start to brown and crisp up before the rest. 

Once you notice them browning a bit, run around the entire edge with a thin pancake turner or spatula.  I've found that I like plastic ones better than metal because they slide easier without breaking the crepe. 

After loosening the edges, I usually grab one bit of the edge with my finger and start to lift the crepe up, while sliding the pancake turner underneath.  Then you just lift up carefully and flip the crepe over. 

It only needs to cook a little while on the second side, and then place it on a plate.  Regrease the pan and begin again!

Makes about 15 crepes.

We eat these with fruit, jam, Nutella, yogurt, syrup, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, or anything else that seems good at the time.  My husband's family spreads the following mixture on the crepes, then rolls them up and tops with a fruit compote or jam:

Cream Cheese Filling:
1 package cream cheese
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs milk
A squeeze of lemon juice and zest

Beat the above with a mixer until light and fluffy. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Breaded Chicken Pita Sandwiches

We spent some time with my sister-in-law and her family this past week, and this was one of the things we ate there.  I thought it was so tasty, pretty quick and simple, and everyone liked it.  That pretty much makes for a perfect dinner in  my opinion.

Breaded Chicken Pita Sandwiches
Recipe by Emily Nuzman

1 lb chicken, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup milk
2 T olive or vegetable oil
6 pocket pitas, cut in half
Tomatoes, diced
Cucumbers, diced
Red peppers, diced
Green onions, chopped
Ranch dressing

In a small bowl combine breadcrumbs and garlic powder.  Place milk in a separate small bowl.  Heat oil a skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  Toss chicken pieces into milk, then breadcrumb mixture, then into the hot pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is browned and cooked through, about 6-8 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Line half a pita with lettuce leaves, then add chicken and desired vegetables, topping with a drizzle of ranch dressing.

Serves 6.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Peach and Basil Salad

My sister told me about this salad, which a friend had made for her, and I decided I had to try it.  It's so simple and delicious, and the flavor combinations are unique and beautiful.  This is a great way to showcase the peaches that are in season right now.  If you'd like, you can drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar on top just before serving, but it's plenty delicious without it.

Peach and Basil Salad
Recipe by Rachel Morrissey

5 peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 large basil leaves, thinly sliced into long strips
2 T goat cheese or feta

In a medium serving bowl toss together the peaches and basil.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 6.  Just before serving, remove peaches from refrigerator and crumble cheese on top.

Makes 4-6 side dish servings.

Lemon Meltaways

These cookies are quick to make and quickly disappear!  The original recipe calls for lime, but I had lemons so that's what I used. I love that you can make these ahead of time and throw them in the fridge or freezer until you're ready to bake.  A busy mom's dream!

Lemon Meltaways
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, divided
Zest of 2 lemons
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T vanilla
2 cups flour
2 T cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt

Put butter and 1/3 cup powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add lemon zest and juice and vanilla and mix until fluffy, about 1 minutes.  In a separate bowl combine flour, cornstarch, and salt.  Add to butter mixture and mix on low speed just until combined.

Divide dough in half.  Place each half on an 8x12-inch piece of parchment or wax paper.  Roll dough to form a log 1 1/4-inches in diameter.  Wrap up in parchment or wax paper and refrigerate  until cold and firm, at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Remove cookie dough from fridge and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds.  Place rounds 1 inch apart on baking sheets.  Bake cookies until barely golden, about 13 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool slightly, just for about 8 minutes.  Meanwhile, place remaining 2/3 cup powdered sugar in a resealable plastic bag.  Toss warm cookies gently in bag with powdered sugar until coated.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Chicken, Asparagus, and Black Bean Enchiladas

Many years ago, when I first got married, someone gave me a cookbook called Intercourses, which supposedly contains recipes full of aphrodisiacs.  It has lots of fun recipes in it, but the one that I have gone back to multiple times is the one for Chicken, Asparagus, and Black Bean Enchiladas.  I can't say that it makes me feel anything other than happy that I'm eating something delicious, but since that's my main requirement for food, I'd say it passes the test!  This is how I make it.

Chicken, Asparagus, and Black Bean Enchiladas
Recipe adapted from Intercourses by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge

2 T olive oil
1/2 - 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups salsa, divided
1 (15-oz) can black beans, undrained
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground chile powder
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup sliced green onions
6 flour tortillas
3/4 pound blanched asparagus (about 18 stalks)
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan.
In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and garlic and stir fry until tender and cooked through, about 5-6 minutes.  Stir in 1/4 cup salsa, beans, bell pepper, cumin, and chile powder.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for 7-8 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Sir in the green onions.
Spoon the filling down the center of each tortilla.  Add 3 asparagus stalks and top with cheese, reserving 1/4 cup for garnish.  Roll up and place seam-side down in the baking dish. Enchiladas can be prepared up to this point and then refrigerated up to 8 hours, or can be baked immediately.
Combine remaining salsa with sour cream and pour over the top of the enchiladas.  Bake at 350F for 15 minutes.  Top with remaining cheese and bake an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts.  Can serve with chopped tomatoes, guacamole, and/or additional salsa.
Makes 6 enchiladas.