Friday, June 29, 2007

Basil Habanero Pesto

I'm a huge fan of all things pesto. It's such a great little thing to have on hand to pep up everyday food items, like grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta, and omelets. Although I normally keep the jarred stuff in my pantry, I do love making my own fresh pesto.

I thought I'd try kicking it up a notch by throwing in some of the gorgeous habaneros I found at the farmer's market earlier in the week. With 1 pepper, it only ranks about a 2.5 out of 5 on the 28 Cooks' Hot-O-Meter, so if you really like spicy, throw in an extra.

This pesto is perfect to toss with pasta and would be perfect with shrimp or chicken. It also makes a fabulous grilled cheese or a really bangin' omelet.

Basil Habanero Pesto

Basil Habanero Pesto

1/3 c pine nuts
5 cloves garlic
1-2 habanero pepper, seeds and stem removed
4 c fresh basil leaves
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c freshly-shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

In food processor, process pine nuts and garlic until paste starts to form. Add habanero peppers, basil, lemon zest and juice, and oil, and process until smooth. Transfer to bowl and stir in cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hearty Mushroom Barley Salad

You would think that anyone with a food blog would always have ample leftovers in the refrigerator for quick dinners and to pack for lunch. You would think my brown-bagged lunches would always be chock-full with all sorts of good food. However, you'd be wrong. For whatever reason, I usually end up buying my lunch at work about 70% of the time. And while I'm not knocking the pretty decent cafeteria fare, it does end up being expensive and I usually end up eating less-healthy foods than I would have if I would have packed.

This week, I wanted to try and cut back on the amount of food I buy at work and try and pack healthier meals and snacks. That means I needed things that were quick and easy to make, transported well, and would fill me up so I wouldn't be tempted to take a "snack run."

This salad is the perfect brown bagger. The barley is very filling and won't leave you hungry after an hour. It's also a great source of protein and fiber. The mushrooms give it a great earthy taste, and when combined with the flavorful vinaigrette, makes a powerful combination. It is also fairly simple to make and packs easily into your lunch bag.

Hearty Mushroom Barley Salad II

Hearty Mushroom Barley Salad

1 cup hulled barley
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c chopped onion
2 c fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped (I used Baby Bellas)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 tsp fennel seed, crushed
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, minced
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, combine barley, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, or until barley is tender. Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat olive oil. Add onion, and saute 1 minute. Add mushrooms and garlic, and saute 3 minutes. Add italian seasoning and fennel seed, and saute until onions are translucent and mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat and place into large bowl. When barley is tender, drain off any remaining liquid and add to bowl. Mix together well. Stir in fresh parsley. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil, and balsamic vinegar. Pour over barley mixture and combine well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or chilled.

Also, don't forget to sign up for the Chilled Out round-up. Click on the banner for more details!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Warm Cannellini Bean Bruschetta

I'm a huge fan of beans (which works out perfectly for my vegaquarian diet) and I love to find new ways to use them. I was intending to make a cannellini salad and came up with this combination. Although you could easily serve this by itself or as a side dish, it works perfectly over freshly-toasted bread and makes a lovely bruschetta.

I also love that you can easily whip this up in under 15 minutes, and most ingredients are already stocked in your kitchen, which makes it perfect for on-the-spot entertaining.

Warm Cannellini Bean Bruschetta III

Warm Cannellini Bean Bruschetta

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c red onion, cut into thin wedges
1 c chopped fresh mushrooms
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
3 tbsp white wine (or dry vermouth)
1 (19 oz) can cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1 c cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
1/2 c fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In large pan over medium high heat, heat olive oil. Add onion and garlic, and saute 1 minute. Add mushrooms and saute an additional 3 minutes. Add thyme and wine, bring to a simmer, and cook until wine has evaporated. Stir in beans and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and place into large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and combine well. Serve over freshly toasted bread.

Monday, June 18, 2007

28 Cooks' Remix

Sometimes I'm so focused on new things to try out in the kitchen that I completely forget to make some of the recipes I've enjoyed in the past. Here's some of the things I'll be remaking sometime this week:

Citrus Asian Slaw
I forgot how much I love this Citrus Asian Slaw. The fresh citrus juice and the cilantro really help to kick up this asian slaw. Using the pre-shredded bags of cole slaw vegetables will help you have this salad on the table in no time!

Cherry Clafouti
My sweet neighbor E dropped off some lovely bags of sour cherries, so I'll be making this Sour Cherry Clafouti. You can tell by the ingredient list and the directions just how easy it is to make.

Roasted Tomatillo Chipolte Salsa
And although I don't make this nearly as often as I make the official salsa of 28 Cooks, I do love this version. The chipolte peppers and the roasted tomatillos really help to kick it up a notch.

Hope you enjoyed this remix. I'll see you later in the week with something new!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Spiced Cherries

I think I've mentioned before how I am allergic to almost every fruit except for berries and citrus. And yes, it's as hard as you think it would be, especially when it comes to the middle of summer when practically everything is juicy and fresh. I've had to learn ways to cook or process fruits since I'm only allergic to them in their fresh and raw state.

This recipe kind of came about in a very roundabout-try-and-see-if-it-works sort of way. I had a bag of star anise that I picked up at my local Asian market for .99 (seriously, best deals ever in fresh seafood, spices, and dry goods) and some cherries that I wanted to use up. I was originally going to just use the star anise and whole allspice berries when I discovered I was completely out of the latter. As I was digging through my spice cabinet, I spied a jar of pickling spice and thought I'd give it a try.

What a great combination of flavors! These are perfect to eat by themselves, or wonderful served on top of a nice cheese, such as a Camembert or goat cheese. Here I've served them on a creamy Gorgonzola and they add a lovely sweet and tart taste. Go ahead - give them a try!

Spiced Cherries II

Spiced Cherries
1 c sugar
1 c water
1 tsp pickling spice
2 star anise
2 c fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half

Combine sugar, water, and spices in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour over cherries in a small bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature, cover, and store in refrigerator for 24-48 hours. Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Ginger Beer

Summer is the time for picnics, get-togethers, and being outdoors in the lovely sunshine. It's also the time when you start seeking out new ways to cool yourself down, and nothing does that quite like a frosty beverage. (Well, that and the AC on high, but that's a different story)

Last year, I introduced the Ginger Lemon Cooler as a tasty beverage that would be an interesting addition to your summer beverage rotation. I wanted to find another such beverage - one that was refreshing and tasty, yet not your normal lemonade.

I was flipping through "In Nirmala's Kitchen," which is a wonderful cookbook for those who love foods from all over the world, when I discovered this recipe for Bahamian Ginger Beer. I had all of the ingredients on hand, so I thought I'd give it the old college try. I must admit it came out much better than I expected and the combination of ingredients make a very tasty beverage. If you're a ginger lover, then I highly recommend this.

Ginger Beer

Ginger Beer
1/2 lb fresh ginger, peeled
6 allspice berries
2 whole star anise
1/2 c fresh lime juice
1 c brown sugar
Soda water

Grate ginger using a coarse grater. In a large saucepan, combine 8 cups cold water with ginger, allspice, and star anise. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lime juice and brown sugar, and allow to cool completely. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a pitcher and refrigerate until well chilled. To serve, pour over ice, using a combination of 2/3 ginger beer and 1/3 soda water.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Portabella and Wild Rice Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Mushrooms, much like brussel sprouts and asparagus, were one of those things I never really liked when I was younger. There was just something about the texture and that earthy taste that didn't sit well with my underdeveloped palate. But I don't think anyone can have their first taste of truffle oil and not wonder if maybe they should reconsider their dislike of mushrooms. I fell deeply in love with anything truffles a few years ago, and by proxy, also became a mushroom lover. Although it took me a while to get over the texture, I'm firmly ensconced in deep fungus love.

Mushrooms are also very nutritious and 3 ounces of portabello mushrooms contain as much potassium as a small banana, about 400 mg. Other varieties, such as cremini and shiitake, contain high amounts of immunity-boosting selenium and are also antioxidant-rich.

These would be perfect as a vegetarian main dish or would also be a great hearty side dish. The mushrooms and wild rice are kicked up just a bit with fresh lemon juice, fresh mint, and sharp cheddar, and packed into the smoky poblano pepper makes a wonderful flavor combination. These can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated uncooked, which makes them perfect for entertaining. These rank a 3.5 out of 5 on the 28 Cooks' Hot-o-Meter, so if you're heat sensitive, I'd recommend using bell peppers, or omit the peppers and simply bake the filling in a well-oiled baking dish.

Portabello and Wild Rice Stuffed Poblano Peppers II

Portabello and Wild Rice Stuffed Poblano Peppers
Serves 4

4 poblano chiles
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped portabello or baby bella mushrooms
1/2 c red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 c wild rice, cooked (or any other rice)
1 c sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp mint leaves, thinly sliced

Place peppers on flat surface to find their natural bottom. Slice off top layer, creating a poblano "boat." Deseed and set aside. In medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper and saute 5 minutes until just tender. Remove from heat and cool slightly. In bowl, place slightly cooled mushroom mixture, cooled rice, and remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Fill prepared poblanos with rice mixture, mounding filling slightly. Place in slightly-oiled baking dish, cover loosely with foil, and place into heated oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil, return back to oven, and bake for an additional 15 minutes until peppers are tender. Serve and enjoy!

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Sunday, June 03, 2007


It appears that summer has officially arrived, at least here on the East Coast. Temperatures are creeping up into the upper 90's and people are already complaining about the heat. Thankfully, I'm one of those who loves hot weather (the hotter the better, actually) so these are the days that I love. I know my friends think I'm crazy, but I love that feeling when you walk out of an air-conditioned place out into the heat and it's so hot and humid you can barely catch your breath.

In honor of the heat, I thought I'd do another round-up. Since the last one, "Behind the Apron," was so successful, I thought I'd throw out another opportunity for other food bloggers and readers to get involved. This time, I'm looking for your best frozen concoction recipes. I'm talking sorbets, I'm talking granitas, I'm talking frozen smoothies - anything that's icy cool and refreshing, I'm looking for it. If you've got a favorite popsicle recipe or a frosty icy beverage - bring it!

The deadline for entries is June 29th. Submit the URL to your post, your name and location, as well as the name of your blog to 28cooks AT gmail DOT com. Feel free to snag the banner and place it in your entry or on your blog. Please make sure to place a link to this round-up somewhere in your post. The round-up will be posted on July 2, in plenty of time for your 4th of July picnics or any other summer gathering you're going to.

*The banner is courtesy of my super-talented friend Adam over at Pixelspan