Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Salsa With A Kick

Last week I still had some farm stand tomatoes left over, and what better way to use them than to make salsa? It's quick, easy, and can go with a lot of foods. In honor of the occasion, I bought an avocado. It doesn't take much incentive for me to buy an avocado. Aside from having a smooth, buttery texture and mild flavor, they are full of healthy fats, fiber, potassium, and some other good vitamins. Mmmm...don't you just want to go out and buy an avocado right now? The salsa was pretty chunky, which is how I like it, and I put it on a tortilla with some grilled tofu. You can also pair it with chicken or black beans. Cheese might be a nice addition too, but not necessary. The salsa is quite flavorful on its own. Leave out one or both of the jalapeno peppers if you can't take the heat.

Ingredients:

2 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced (with pit thrown into the salsa)*
2 seeded and minced green jalepeno peppers
1/3 cup chopped onion or 4 green onions, cho
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1 lemon or lime (use 2 if they're not very juicy)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (can substitute basil)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Mix everything together and chill for 30 minutes in order to bring out the maximum flavor.

*Just in case you're not quite sure how to pit and peel and avocado, here's how:
1) Using a paring knife, slice the avocado in half lengthwise, curving around the pit.
2) Hold the half that contains the pit in your hand. Take the knife and jab the edge of the blade into the pit and then twist it out.
3) Use a large spoon to scoop the flesh out, staying close to the edge of the skin. You should end up with two avocado halves that are mostly in tact, just without their skin on.
4) Cut into small cubes.

Also, if you leave the pit in with the salsa, it helps prevent the avocado from browning. Lemon juice or lime juice is also a must in order to prevent browning.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fresh Farmer's Market Pizza

Justin and I stayed at a bed and breakfast in southern Maryland on the bay last weekend. We biked, ate seafood, hiked, relaxed, visited a couple of wineries, and just had a great time. We had planned to stop at a restaurant on our way home yesterday, but we were just too tired to find activities to do until dinnertime, so we headed home early. Knowing that we had a pizza shell and leftover grilled chicken in the freezer, we stopped at a farm stand to get some veggie toppings. We ended up with some beautiful tomatoes and a fine looking bunch of spinach.

Since we brought back with us some leftover red wine from Cove Point Winery, I decided to make a sauce. I started with some onions and garlic, added diced tomatoes and spices, and simmered it in red wine until the mixture was reduced and very fragrant. It turned out to be quite flavorful and made the perfect amount for one pizza. Use this sauce on your favorite whole wheat pizza dough recipe or store-bought shell (I prefer Trader Joe's).

For toppings, we kept it pretty simple: cheese, tomato, spinach, and grilled chicken. Sometimes less is more. The flavor of the sauce is what really makes the pizza, so the toppings were light and fresh to enhance the sauce. We love to put goat cheese on our pizza -- the creamy richness adds so much to the other flavors!

Sauce

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Quarter of a medium onion (about 1/2 cup), diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium ripe tomato, diced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon oregano
salt and pepper

Heat oil in small saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onions and minced garlic, cook for about 4 minutes until onions are tender. Add tomato, oregano, salt, and pepper. Let flavors cook together for about 2 minutes. Add wine and simmer over medium-low heat until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 10 minutes).

Toppings

About 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
About 1/2 cup goat cheese
1/2 of a medium ripe tomato, sliced into half moons
leftover grilled chicken (about 1/2 breast) cut into strips
2 cups loosely packed spinach, rinsed

Preheat oven according to package/recipe directions (if using a Trader Joe's crust, preheat oven to 450 degrees). Steam spinach until wilted. Brush edges of pizza shell with olive oil. Spread sauce over shell, add cheeses, tomato, chicken, and steamed spinach. Bake according to package/recipe directions (Trader Joe's pizza shell says to put pizza in oven on bare rack, reduce heat to 425 degrees, and bake for 10-12 minutes).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pan-Seared Garlic Ginger Tilapia

I found some good-looking tilapia on sale, frozen, and I was excited to create a recipe for it. What I came up with is so simple and took about 20 minutes (including sides) to make. I wanted to have fish, asparagus, and good bread. So I got asiago cheese bread from Panera (it's not whole grain, but I just couldn't resist asiago cheese!), broiled some asparagus, and tried my hand at pan-frying a couple of fish fillets (or rather, pan-"searing." It sounds healthier). In the past I've only ever broiled fish, but I was very impressed with how tasty and easy it was to pan-sear it.

I put together fresh grated ginger, garlic, and a bit of lemon juice and sprinkled it over both sides of the tilapia fillet. After searing it for a couple minutes on each side, it turned out to be a nice buttery texture with a fabulous flavor. Justin and I drank a crisp chardonnay with the meal. Here are the directions for each part of the meal (serves two).

Asparagus

Preheat toaster oven broiler for about 5 minutes. Snap off the tough ends of 12 asparagus spears, rinse, and place on toaster oven pan. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in toaster oven for 10 minutes until you can pierce it easily with a fork, but not for so long that it turns mushy.

Fish

Pat dry two thawed tilapia fillets with a clean cloth or paper towel. Grate about 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger and place in small bowl. Add about 1/8 teaspoon lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, and 2 cloves of crushed garlic. Stir together and spread half of the mixture over both tilapia fillets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Preheat large grill pan over medium high heat. Right before you put the fillets on, spray the pan with canola oil or olive oil. Place fillets garlic side down on pan and sear for about 2 minutes. Spread other half of ginger mixture over the "naked" side of the fillets and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You will see the edges of the fillet start to turn white -- this is how you know when to flip it. Turn the fillets to the other side and cook for about one minute longer. Serve with lemon wedges.

Bread

Cut two thick slices of asiago cheese bread or other good bread. Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter and brush over one side of each slice. Place bread butter side down on the grill pan at the same time you cook the fish. After about one minute, brush the bare side of the bread with butter and flip, then cook for one minute longer.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

I've been looking forward to strawberry and rhubarb season for a while now -- I even saved a strawberry rhubarb crisp recipe on Epicurious about a month ago. On Sunday Justin and I were driving back from visiting family in Pennsylvania, and there was an open-air market along the road with mostly plants, but a few fruits and veggies as well. They had a lovely little carton of bright red strawberries, and I thought to myself, I guess I'm making strawberry rhubarb crisp this week! I got the rhubarb from Whole Foods, since the rhubarb at the market was too green.

The enchanting ingredient in this crisp is cardamom. I bought it special for the recipe, but I had been looking for a reason to buy it for a while. It gives it such a nice flavor, but not so strong that it's overpowering. Other interesting ingredients include nutmeg and chopped almonds in the topping. I'm used to making fruit crisps with cinnamon, and I was tempted to use it in this recipe, but at the last minute I went with the nutmeg and am glad I did. It goes really nicely with the cardamom. I didn't have an occasion to make this recipe, so I halved it to get only four servings. That's the perfect amount for me and Justin to finish off in two days. I baked it in a loaf pan in my toaster oven. I even found lactose free vanilla ice cream to put on top! Breyer's makes it, and I must say, it really made this dessert complete. I love warm fruit crisp with vanilla ice cream on top. The ice cream starts to melt and then you get tart-sweet-creamy flavor all in one bite.