ROASTED TOMATO SOUP

This post is a bit nostalgic, as this was the last recipe I made in the nano-kitchen, but we left L.A. before I had a chance to write it up. A very simple recipe designed with the idea of using ingredients hanging around before our departure from California. It turned out so delicious! Plus, it was a nice match for the weather we were having then. Now that the thermometers are wonderfully stuck in the high 90’s, the thought of soup is not particularly appealing, but this one would work equally well chilled.

ROASTED TOMATO SOUP
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

8-12 ounces of grape and/or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 shallots, cut in half
1 garlic clove, unpeeled
kalamata olive oil (or another olive oil of your choice)
splash of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
vegetable stock (or water)
2 Tbs orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
chives for garnish

Place the tomatoes, shallot pieces and garlic in a bowl and add enough olive oil to just coat them lightly. Transfer them to a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil or parchment paper, set the tomatoes with the cut size down. Sprinkle some salt and pepper all over, and a splash with balsamic vinegar.

Roast in a 425F oven for 20-25 minutes, until the tomato skins and the edges of the shallots start to get brown. Remove from the oven, let it all cool slightly, and using gloves peel off the skin of the tomatoes (you can leave them on if you don’t mind their texture in the soup). Squeeze the garlic out of its peel, and transfer it together with the tomatoes, shallots and any liquid accumulated in the pan to a food processor. Process it until smooth, pour into a sauce pan over medium heat, and add enough vegetable stock to give a consistency you like. Let it come to a gentle boil, add the orange juice, orange zest, taste for seasoning, and serve with chives sprinkled for garnish.

ENJOY!

                             to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I had a mixture of grape and cherry tomatoes that needed to be used, and a couple of yellow grape tomatoes went into the mix too. Feel free to improvise, nothing can go wrong with this soup: add different types of herbs, or go for a cumin or cayenne blast. I had planned to make some parmiggiano crisps to serve with the soup, but the electric burners in the nano-kitchen failed, and I was left with a big lump of cheesy mess. Once the weather cools, I’ll revisit this soup – cheese crisps included – and add some mushrooms to the roasting pan. I bet a roasted tomato & mushroom soup will be very flavorful.

ONE YEAR AGO: Turkey Meatballs

TWO YEARS AGO: Focaccia

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SEARED TUNA is MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO

…. Get out of the steak you’re in! 😉

We don’t often dine out, simply because we prefer to cook at home:  it’s less expensive, less caloric and more satisfying.  The only real exception is sushi, which I don’t attempt to make.   But,  if a restaurant menu offers “seared tuna,”  then that’s usually my selection!   I like  it served cold (our local sushi restaurant makes a killer seared tuna salad with creme fraiche and wasabi dressing), I like it served warm (over pasta, rice, or soba noodles), and I feel great after eating it.  Seared tuna is a fantastic, weeknight-friendly dish:   ten minutes tops from the refrigerator to plating.

I slightly adapted this recipe from “The Improvisational Cook“, by Sally Schneider, and served it with a crispy potato / spinach / escarole salad based on this recipe.   It’s a healthy, tasty dinner, that reinforced my infatuation with seared tuna.

TUNA WITH SESAME SEEDS, CRACKED CORIANDER and CRISPY GINGER
(adapted from Sally Schneider)

2 ahi-tuna steaks (sushi-quality)
3-inch piece of ginger, sliced very thin
3 Tbs peanut oil
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup cracked coriander seeds
1/16 cup nigella seeds
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the ginger slices and cook over low heat for 7-8 minutes until the ginger is crisp. Transfer to paper towels with a slotted spoon, season lightly with salt, and reserve the ginger slices and the oil.

Place the sesame seeds, cracked coriander, and nigella seeds in a plate. Season the tuna steaks with salt and pepper, then press both sides of the steaks on the seeds mixture.

Heat the ginger oil in a non-stick skillet until hot, but not smoking. Place the steaks in the oil, and cook for 90 seconds on each side for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board, slice with a sharp knife, scatter the crispy ginger, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you can’t find top-quality tuna steaks, then don’t attempt this recipe.  The fish will be nearly raw in the middle, so only the best quality tuna will rise to the challenge. If you prefer it a little more cooked, then give it an additional 30 seconds on each side, but avoid over-cooking.

To crack the coriander seeds I placed them in a small ziplock bag and used a meat mallet. Be gentle because they crack easily; you don’t want to turn them into powder.   Other mixtures also work well, like cracked black pepper or mustard seeds.  Nuts easily burn, but the searing takes less than 2 minutes,  so it’s not a problem as long as the oil isn’t smoking hot.

I’d never tried crispy ginger, and my husband thought it was a bit strong, but I liked it a lot.  Cut the slices as thin as possible.  The mandoline didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, so I ultimately used my chef’s knife.  Amazingly enough, I still have all ten fingers. 😉     Even if you don’t like the fried ginger, it is worth making it for the infused oil.

And now for something completely different…. savor this!

TURKISH CHICKEN KEBABS

It’s hard to find a simpler recipe that ranks as high in the taste department as this one.   Either place the meat in the yogurt mixture  an hour before cooking, or do as I did, and prepare it in the morning for a stress-free dinner later.   A yogurt-based marinade with the right spices  does wonders for chicken and pork, as this dish deliciously confirms.

A friend pointed me to this recipe, one of her favorites of 2009.  It’s  from Steven Raichlen,  in Bon Appetit. You can read about it here.

YOGURT-MARINATED CHICKEN KEBABS WITH ALEPPO PEPPER

(adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2009)

1 1/2 Tbs Aleppo pepper
1 cup yogurt
3 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 Tbs tomato paste
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 lemon, unpeeled, thinly sliced
2.5  pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut in large cubes
Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes before using

Place the Aleppo pepper in a bowl an add 1 Tbs of warm water, letting it stand for a few minutes to form a paste.  Add the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, tomato paste, salt and pepper, whisking to blend.  Stir in the garlic and lemon slices, add the chicken and mix enough to coat all the pieces.  Leave the chicken in the fridge at least an hour, up to overnight.

Thread the chicken pieces onto pre-soaked bamboo skewers, sprinkle with salt, and grill until golden brown, turning once.  For chicken breasts, about 8 to 10 minutes total.

Serve with lemon wedges.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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DINNER IN A HURRY

I made this in “desperation-mode”, when there was very little available in our fridge: a bunch of Swiss chard harvested from our garden, and a little over half a cup of tomato puree leftover from another recipe.   All I needed was to defrost a bag of large shrimp, and a quick, tasty dinner arrived at the table!

FETUCCINE WITH SHRIMP, SWISS CHARD AND TOMATOES

dried fetuccine (enough for two)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
big bunch of Swiss chard
12-15 large shrimp
zest of a lemon
tomato puree
salt and pepper

Place a large pan with salted water to boil.

Shred the chard leaves after removing the central, tough stem. If you have extra time, dice the stems and start sauteing them a few minutes before adding the rest of the leaves; otherwise send them to your compost bin.

Heat the olive oil, add the diced shallots, cook for a couple of minutes, add  the chard, season lightly with salt and pepper,  and cook in medium heat until it starts to get soft, about 5 minutes.  Increase the heat to high and add the shrimp.  Cook until they turn opaque, add the tomato puree, lemon zest to taste,  simmer a couple of minutes, adjusting the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve a little of the pasta cooking water, drain the pasta and add it to the skillet with the shrimp mixture.  Simmer everything together to perform the beautiful marriage of sauce and pasta, adding some of the pasta cooking water if necessary.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Normally I don’t add Swiss chard to a tomato based sauce, but this worked so well, I intend to do it again.  Amounts are all very flexible, of course.  Most people will enjoy sauteing  some garlic with the shallots, so go right ahead…

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PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI STRANDS AND SHRIMP

The pasta of my childhood was all about the sauce, either a heavy red sauce,  or an equally heavy white sauce, often loaded with cheese.  I loved them both, and I still make slightly lighter versions every once in a while.   But, over the past few years my taste buds gravitated more and more towards pasta with veggies.  Now the sauce plays a secondary role, formed in part  by a simple ladle of the pasta cooking water, full of  the starch released during cooking.

The possibilities for this kind of dish are nearly endless.  I’m fond of cutting zucchini to match long stranded pasta, like spaghetti or fettuccine.    This recipe, which I threw together in minutes the other day, is perfect for weeknights: quick, simple to make, not too heavy, but substantial enough to leave you satisfied and happy at the end of a busy day.

PASTA WITH ZUCCHINI STRANDS AND SHRIMP

served

(serves two, amounts are pretty flexible)

dried spaghetti, fettuccine or any long strand pasta
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2-3 medium size zucchini
1 shallot, finely diced
1 T olive oil
1/2 ounce goat cheese, crumbled
lemon zest
salt and pepper

Place a large pot with water to boil.

Prepare the zucchini by cutting off both ends and using a mandolin or food processor to cut it lengthwise  into fine strands. Ideally, you want the dimensions of the zucchini to match the pasta, but don’t worry too much about it, just make sure to have long, even-sized strands.

When the water boils, add the pasta:   while it cooks, heat a little olive oil in a large saute pan, add the diced shallot, season lightly with salt, and cook for a couple of minutes in medium heat.  Add the shrimp and cook on both sides until opaque, do not overcook.  Remove the shrimp to a plate and add the zucchini to the pan, increasing the heat to high.  Season with a little salt and pepper, and when the zucchini cooks down return the shrimp to the pan.  Cook it together with the zucchini for a minute.

When the pasta is cooked al dente, remove 1/2 cup of the cooking water and set aside;  drain the pasta and add it to the zucchini/shrimp mixture.  Add some of the pasta water to get the consistency you like, immediately sprinkle the goat cheese and mix everything gently to allow the cheese to slowly melt and incorporate into the dish.  Right before serving sprinkle lemon zest on top of the pasta, and adjust seasoning if necessary.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Zucchini strands or ribbons are a busy cook’s best friends!  If you have a food processor, it takes just seconds to cut, but if you prefer not to deal with washing the processor, a mandolin or a box grater, which is what I used, works well too.

julienne1

The amounts are flexible:  the higher the proportion of zucchini, the lighter the dish will be.  It’s is a wonderful way of “stretching” the pasta, by shaving off some calories without compromising flavor.

I like the combination of goat cheese with zucchini and shrimp.   Some people find that seafood and cheese don’t go well together, but in this case I beg to differ.

You can make many variations on this basic dish – omit the shrimp, add black olives, sun dried tomatoes, fresh herbs such as oregano, mint, or basil.  Zucchini is very “social”, enjoys playing with all sorts of flavors, so let’s profit from it  😉

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