Monthly Archives: August 2012

Fresh Tomato & Roasted Chile Salsa

Standard

Salsa. I am so glad salsa exists. It is the perfect light snack and there are endless variations to how you can prepare it or eat it. I love salsa with chips, salsa mixed with a mashed avocado, and even on my eggs. I love when Mexican restaurants have fresh salsa or a variety of salsas to choose from. There’s a restaurant in Amherst called Veracruzana that has 6 different freshly prepared salsas, from salsa verde to super-hot habañero salsa; even salsa made with beer!

My favorite salsa comes from a restaurant in Plymouth (and on Cape Cod) called Sam Diego’s. I’m not sure how they make it, but to me, it has the perfect balance of flavors. Tangy, slightly spicy, and with plenty of fresh cilantro and lime juice. I tried to re-create it today and while it doesn’t taste exactly like Sam Diego’s, I think it’s still pretty delicious.

This salsa uses all fresh veggies, but if you’re pressed for time or don’t have fresh vegetables available to you, feel free to use canned. I wanted to take advantage of fresh summer produce while I could. I don’t personally have a garden (hopefully next summer!), but I know lots of people have tomatoes and peppers coming out of their ears right now, so this is a perfect way to use up all those extra veggies!

Fresh Tomato & Roasted Chile Salsa
makes 1 – 1.5 cups

Ingredients:

  • 4 – 5 roma or plum tomatoes
  • 1 Anaheim, Poblano or Hungarian Wax chili pepper (or use a can of fire-roasted green chiles)*
  • 1 small shallot (or 1/2 cup diced red or yellow onions)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (or half for less heat), seeds and ribs removed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • juice from half of one lime (about 1 Tbsp)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper, to taste

*Note that these chiles are mild in taste and will not add significant heat to your salsa.

I unfortunately forgot to include the Hungarian Wax chili pepper in the photo, but this is what they look like:

Directions:

  1. To roast the chile pepper, preheat your oven to 400°F. Lightly spray the pepper with cooking spray and place on a cookie sheet. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until skin is bubbly and browned.
  2. While letting pepper cool, chop tomatoes and shallot into large chunks. Place in food processor along with chopped jalapeño, green onions, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and lime juice. Pulse a few times until blended.
  3. Cut stem of chile pepper off, slice in half, and remove seeds. Slice into large chunks and add to food processor. Pulse a few more times.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tortilla chips.

This is what the chile pepper will look like after it’s been roasted.

After pepper is cooled, cut top off and scrape seeds out using a knife.

chop up remaining ingredients and add to food processor.

Blend all ingredients together. If a chunkier consistency is desired, add some of the chopped tomatoes at the very end.

yum 🙂

Sweet & Sour Pork Stir-Fry

Standard

 

 

No story about this one, other than generally loving Asian stir-fry and teriyaki sauce!

Ingredients:
serves 4-6

  • 1 lb. boneless thin-sliced center-cut pork chop
  • Homemade sweet & sour teriyaki sauce:
    • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
    • 2 Tbsp olive oil
    • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
    • 2 Tbsp honey
    • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
    • 2 tsp hot chili sauce (such as Sriracha or other Asian chili sauce/paste)
    • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
    • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
    • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 5 cups assorted diced veggies (I used a cup each of onions, peppers, mushrooms, and 2 cups  chopped broccoli)
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil + 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic + 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 6 cups cooked rice (or about 1 1/2 – 2 cups uncooked rice – follow whatever measurements come with your rice)

Directions:

  1. Cut pork chops into thin strips, about 2 inches long and  2 cm wide. Place in a shallow tupperware container or bowl.
  2. To prepare the marinade, simply combine all ingredients for homemade sweet & spicy teriyaki sauce and whisk together until well combined. Pour teriyaki sauce over pork chop strips, making sure each piece is well-coated. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  3. While pork is marinating, cook rice according to box directions (if not cooked already). Set aside and cover.
  4. In an extra-large frying pan, heat olive oil and sesame oil. Add diced veggies and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes).
  5. While veggies are cooking, lightly spray a separate frying pan with cooking spray and heat to medium-low. Add pork chops, including all of the sauce, and cook until meat is done (about 6-8 minutes), flipping pork occasionally.
  6. Add pork chops (with sauce) and rice to pan with veggies (this is why you need an extra-large pan) and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Serve with chopped scallions and cilantro.

whisk ingredients for teriyaki sauce together

cut pork chops into thin strips

pour teriyaki sauce over sliced pork

after marinating for 1-2 hours, remove from fridge and cook in a skillet over medium heat

 

once pork is cooked, add to cooked veggies

stir in rice, and your meal is complete!

 

🙂

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Standard

Lately I’ve been experimenting with different cookie recipes, trying to find what I like and what I don’t like.  I came to the realization that I had no idea how to make good cookies when, a few months ago, I quickly baked up some sugar cookies that came out thin, bland, and burnt around the edges. Not exactly my favorite type of cookie.

A somewhat recent issue of the Food Network had a great piece on chocolate chip cookies, and how to make them exactly how you want them  – thick and chewy, thin and crispy, cakey, etc. I, like many others out there, love thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies, so I eagerly read on.

I learned a lot, but I think these are the two most important things to know when you’re trying to make really good thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies:

  1. Using a high brown sugar to white sugar ratio will yield a chewier texture, because brown sugar has a higher moisture content than white sugar.
  2. Chilling the dough is pretty essential to making thicker cookies. This hardens the dough and prevents it from spreading out too much in the oven as it bakes.

And another tip that I personally find makes a different: Use good chocolate, if accessible, and buy it in bar form. You don’t have to go out and buy expensive chocolate from a local chocolatier or anything, but opting for a slightly higher quality brand such as Ghirardelli or Lindt over Nestle can really make a difference. Freshly chopped chocolate is more moist and your cookies will have a deeper, more intense flavor.

Knowing this new knowledge, I made a second attempt at chocolate chip cookies. I found a recipe for Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures (love that blog!) and immediately knew I had to try them. I do love my coffee.

They were seriously some of the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve had. Thick, moist, slightly crispy on the outside and extra chewy on the inside. Though I do love the flavor of coffee, I decided the particular type of espresso I used left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth, so the second time I made these I left it out. I also added some cinnamon and nutmeg, but otherwise the recipe remained pretty much the same.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies at Tracey’s Culinary Adventures – find the original recipe here

Ingredients:
makes about 24 cookies

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature (or pop it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar (yep, that’s right, only 3 Tbsp!)
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon and a sprinkle of nutmeg
  • 1 4 oz. bar semisweet Ghirardelli or other quality chocolate (I used 60% cacao)
  • 2 Tbsp mini chocolate chips (optional – just for fun)

Directions:

  1. In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk to incorporate everything.
  2. In a separate large bowl, add butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Cream butter and sugars together, just until combined. Add whisked egg and vanilla, and stir again.
  3. Add flour mixture to butter and sugar. It may be easier to add a few small portions at a time rather than all at once. Stir until well-incorporated.
  4. Using a mallet, pound unwrapped bar of chocolate for about 30 seconds, or until it seems to be broken up into lots of little pieces. Carefully unwrap chocolate and stir into cookie dough. (Also add in mini chocolate chips, if using)
  5. Cover bowl with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight for best results.
  6. When ready to cook, remove dough from fridge and preheat oven to 300°F.
  7. Form dough into roughly 1 inch balls and place on lightly greased cookie sheet. I used a tablespoon to measure mine out.
  8. Bake for 13-15 minutes. Let cool and enjoy with a tall glass of milk. 🙂

whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together

cream butter and sugars together

add in flour to form dough

Use mallet or other heavy object to break up chocolate

once broken up, it will look something like this

add chocolate to dough

form little cookie dough balls

voila!

 

Knowing how to make really good chocolate chip cookies is convenient but also dangerous. Dangerously convenient. To me, there are few things better than a warm cookie fresh out of the oven. Better stick to making these just for special occasions. 😀

yum. 🙂

Basil-Feta Pasta Salad

Standard

Pasta salad is one of those things I really only eat in the summer. In the winter, I’m all about hot pasta with marinara sauce or some creamy pesto. But in the summer, with frequent cookouts with my family, pasta salad just seems so appropriate.

This salad came about due to my love of basil. When I was younger, I used to hate basil and wouldn’t touch any dish that had strong basil flavor. As I got older, I learned to appreciate the flavor of basil, and now I love it.

I even bought a basil plant at the beginning of the summer, hoping to use the leaves in lots of recipes. For a few weeks, it was really nice having fresh basil at my disposal whenever I needed it. After about a month, though, it started to dry out and always looked limp, even when I kept it moist and let it get enough sunlight. And now, it looks like this:

… Oops. Needless to say, I was not blessed with the green thumb. Yeah…

Anyway, onto the food!

This pasta salad features a thick, creamy sauce made from basil, feta cheese, garlic, and a couple other spices. I was a big fan of the sauce. It’s similar to classic basil pesto, but with the addition of tangy and salty feta cheese. Feta cheese has always been one of my favorites. Like most other cheeses, it is fatty, but I recently realized feta has a lot of protein – 7g per 1/4 cup! So, while it should still be eaten in moderation, at least you’re getting your protein and calcium.
I also added fresh tomatoes and sweet peppers to the pasta for a little crunch, but you can add any type of veggie your heart desires.

Basil-Feta Pasta Salad
serves 5-6

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • For the pasta:
  • 1 box pasta of choice (I used penne)
  • 1 large tomato, diced (or 1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved)
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • For the sauce:
  • 2  cups fresh basil leaves (stems removed), rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider)
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 shallot, finely diced
  • 7 oz. hunk of feta cheese (or about ~1 1/2 cups crumbled), cut into small chunks
  • 2 Tbsp fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • pepper, to taste (the cheese is pretty salty so you’ll probably find you don’t need any more salt)

your ingredients for the sauce

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to box directions. Rinse with cold water and let drain.
  2. In your food processor, add chopped basil, 1/3 cup olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and shallot. If you have a small food processor, you may need to add some of the basil, blend it to break it down, and then add more. Pulse until well-combined, scraping down the sides when necessary.
  3. Add feta and parmesan cheese (I did this in two batches) and blend again until smooth. If it’s too thick, add another Tbsp of olive oil, or a small amount of water. Add oregano, red pepper flakes, and pepper. Pulse a few more times.
  4. Add basil-feta sauce  to cooled pasta and stir well. Note: you may not need all of the sauce – I used ~3/4 of it (it made about 1 cup), so I’d recommend adding some, stirring, and then seeing if you need more. It may also be necessary to add extra olive oil at this point to loosen up the pasta.
  5. Add diced tomatoes and peppers and stir. Serve immediately or chill for a few hours (it also tastes great heated up!). Leftovers should be eaten within 3-4 days.

rinse that basil!

separate the stems from the leaves

combine basil, olive oil, shallot, and garlic

pulse until all leaves are broken down

add feta, parmesan cheese, and spices

blend until smooth, and it’s done!

I had this pasta salad as a side dish, and also served it as a meal with diced grilled chicken. Yum. The sauce would also be delicious on a sandwich or a pizza!

Honey-Lime Baked Chicken

Standard

I haven’t been able to update as often as I’d like lately due to my summer class. For those of you who don’t know, I’m taking one last class to complete my biology degree – organic chemistry, yuck! The work is quite challenging and I am struggling to say the least, but I only have one week left.

This chicken dish is inspired by a recipe I found on foodnetwork.com a few years ago. I was looking for a summery marinade for chicken and found one that included honey and lime  juice. I remember it being really tasty, so I decided to re-create it and elaborate on the ingredients a bit.

The chicken is marinated in a sweet, tangy sauce and then topped off with a refreshing pineapple and avocado relish. I would call it a Mexican-inspired dish with an Asian twist? If that makes sense…

Baking the chicken in the oven makes it incredibly tender and juicy. Or you could throw it on the grill and serve at a cookout or party!

Honey-Lime Baked Chicken (with Pineapple-Avocado relish)
serves 3-4

Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each sliced in half (the long way, so each piece is thinner)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp minced ginger (optional)
  • cayenne pepper and/or chili powder
  • salt and pepper

your ingredients (forgot to put garlic and ginger in the picture)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except chicken breasts and salt/pepper. Whisk until well-combined.
  3. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and place into a lightly greased 8×8 baking dish.
  4. Pour honey-lime mixture over chicken, making sure each piece is as well-coated with marinade as possible. (If desired, let chicken marinate in fridge for 1-3 hours.)
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping chicken once halfway through.
  6. After removing from oven, let chicken sit for a minute or two and top with pineapple-avocado relish (see  recipe below).

combine olive oil, soy sauce, honey, and lime juice

Add cumin, garlic, ginger, and sprinkle of chili powder. Whisk until well-combined.

Season chicken breasts with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.

Pour sauce over chicken and cover. Let marinate if desired, or cook immediately.

Bake chicken at 400ºF for 15-20 minutes, or until it is golden-brown and cooked all the way through. Notice how the chicken has plumped up and soaked up all of the marinade? Mmm.

Pineapple-Avocado Relish
makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple
  • 1/2 cup diced avocado (or about half an avocado)
  • 1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients: Stir well and serve with honey-lime chicken. (Or add some diced tomatoes to make it salsa!)

tangy and refreshing.

Serve on top of chicken:


I also made some pearled couscous to go with this and poured the extra chicken marinade on top:

Mmmm!