Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Rosemary Shortbread

There's nothing quite like the taste of shortbread. And shortbread is one of those things that holds a fond memory for me. Every time we would travel overseas when I was younger, and we'd have any kind of layover in England or Scotland, my father would rush to the nearest little airport store and buy multiple packages of Walkers Scottish Shortbread. Even now, when I see that familiar red package, I get that old nostalgic feeling.

In this month's Herb Quarterly magazine, there was a lovely recipe for Rosemary Shortbread. I immediately bookmarked it as a "make soon" recipe. Rosemary gives the shortbread a lovely flavor, although I'm sure you could substitute any other fresh herbs you have on hand.

Rosemary Shortbread

Rosemary Shortbread
1 c flour
1/4 c plus 1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 stick (1/2 c) unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350. Sift flour, 1/4 c sugar, and salt into a medium bowl. Stir in rosemary. Add the butter and stir with a fork, or use your fingers to make a soft dough. Divide the dough in half and pat into 2 thin 6" discs on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cut each disc into 8 wedges. Prick each wedge with a fork, and sprinkle the remaining sugar over the dough. Bake the shortbread until lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Re-cut the wedges after removing from the oven, and cool completely on a baking rack.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Smoky Sage Lentil Soup

I'm a huge fan of lentils. Not only are lentils very tasty, but they are also extremely healthy for you, being very high in dietary fiber, protein, iron, and folate.

On one of the vegetarian email groups I belong to, someone posted a recipe for a Lentil Sage Soup. Since sage is one of my favorite herbs to cook with, I knew right away this would be a fantastic recipe. This is my variation on it, and I've made a few slight changes. The liquid smoke added at the end gives a wonderful flavor to this rich soup, and complements the fresh sage perfectly.

*This is also my entry into this week's Antioxidant Rich Food Round up over at Sweetnick's Place*

Smoky Sage Lentil Soup

Smoky Sage Lentil Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 c chopped vidalia onion
1 c chopped celery
1 c chopped carrots
3 cloves garlic
1/4 c fresh sage leaves, minced
2 (14.5 oz) cans vegetable broth
4 c water
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (16 oz) bag lentils, washed
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp liquid smoke

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion, celery, and carrots, and saute 3-5 minutes. Add minced garlic and sage, and saute an additional 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until lentils are tender. Stir in liquid smoke and remove from heat. Serve with a thick crusty bread.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Peppered Parmesan Thins

I love making crackers and flatbreads almost as much as I like making dips and spreads. Like my polenta crackers, these are exceptionally easy to make and take about 25 minutes in total. They can also be taken in a thousand different directions - add fresh or dried herbs, or try a different cheese. No matter how you make them, they're delicious!

(As a sidenote, I'm a huge peppercorn fan, so those who are sensitive to it might want to use the lesser amount)

Peppered Parmesan Thins

Peppered Parmesan Thins
1/2 c white flour
3 tbsp butter
1 egg yolk (or egg substitute)
1/2-1 tsp freshly cracked peppercorns
2/3 c freshly grated parmesan cheese
pinch of ground mustard powder
pinch of salt

Place flour in a medium sized bowl. With 2 forks or a pastry blender, cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add remaining ingredients, and combine well. Roll dough into a log and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Allow to chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 400. Remove dough from refrigerator and slice dough 1/4" thick. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and slide into oven. Bake 10 minutes, until starting to brown. Cool and serve!

Thursday, June 22, 2006


I come from a family that has always loved to travel. As long as I can remember, the trips usually end with a trip to the local grocery store or market to get the three staple souvenirs - coffee, dark chocolate, and spices.

Dukkah is an Egyptian spice blend that I was introduced to, oddly enough, in Bulgaria. On one of the shopping trips to the market, I handed over a fistful of cash and walked away with some bottles of spices. This was one of them, and although it's been long gone from my spice rack, I've always wanted to try and recreate my own.

The heady aroma of the spice blend as it is crushed will absolutely stun you. The freshly toasted coriander, fennel, and cumin seeds, along with the toasted hazelnuts and pine nuts is a winning combination that's also extremely versatile. Dukkah is normally served with fresh bread and with a bowl of olive oil. After dipping the bread into the oil, you then dip it into the spices, and enjoy. Although that is the common method of serving, it would be excellent on any number of things - sprinkle on vegetables or rice, spread over pita bread with olive oil and bake, dip hardboiled eggs into it, or use it as a seasoning blend for the Microtato Chips. No matter how it's used, it will be thoroughly enjoyable.


1 c hazelnuts
1 c pine nuts
1 tbsp fennel seed
1 tbsp cumin seed
1 tbsp coriander seed
1/2 tsp peppercorn
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp sea salt

In a dry pan over moderately high heat, toast hazelnuts and pine nuts until nicely browned, 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool. Add fennel, cumin, and coriander to pan, and toast 2-3 minutes. Place in mortar and pestle, and grind. Place in a bowl. Crack peppercorn with mortar and pestle, and add to bowl. Pulse nuts to a coarse grind in a food processor. Do not overprocess! Add to bowl, along with remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Morning Bran Muffins

I'm back, and I've finally learned to love again after the loss of my dear refrigerator. You never really realize just how much you keep in there until it's gone and you go to reach for it.

As my faithful readers know, I'm a huge fan of quick breakfast foods - something that can be grabbed and thrown in a bag to eat on the way to work. These muffins are perfect for that.

Not only are these muffins quick and easy to grab, but they are also loaded with heart and body-healthy ingredients. They've got wheat bran, flax seed meal, wheat flour, are relatively low in oil and sweeteners, and the addition of the coffee helps keep them super moist.

Morning Glory Muffins

Morning Bran Muffins

1 c cold coffee
1/3 c molasses
2 eggs (or egg substitute)
1 c soymilk
1/2 c light olive oil
1/2 c applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
2 c wheat bran
1 c white flour
1/2 c wheat flour
1/2 c flax seed meal
1/2 c light brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 c raisins or dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350. (While combining ingredients, I soak the raisins or cranberries in 1 c hot water to plump them up. Drain, and add at end of recipe) Combine coffee, molasses, eggs, soymilk, oil, applesauce, and vanilla in a large bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, combine bran, flours, flax seed meal, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Stir into wet ingredients. Stir in soaked raisins or cranberries. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full, or fill 3 greased mini loaf pans 2/3 full. Place into preheated oven and bake, 20-25 minutes for muffins, and 30-35 minutes for mini loaves. Bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven, remove from pans, and cool on wire racks.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Rest in Peace, dear friend....

28 Cooks is currently mourning the loss of a dear, recently purchased but 2 months over warranty friend, Herr Refrigerator. It died with its fickleness, as well as its entire contents.

We'll miss you, old friend. But I think we'll miss the tapenade, the goat cheese, and the rest of your contents more.

28 Cooks will return to its regulary scheduled postings on Monday. By then, we hope to have learned to love again...


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Roasted Garlic & Pesto Hummus

I don't need to explain how I feel about hummus again, do I? Well, this is just another one to add to the Hall of Fame.

I love roasted garlic, and I especially love pesto. Combined together, they are fantastic, and in hummus, provide a unique yet tasty flavor.

(If you don't know how to make roasted garlic, it's simple. Take a head or two of garlic, slice off the top papery part until you hit the cloves, place in a baking dish, pour about 1-2 tbsp of olive oil over it, perhaps season it with pepper and salt, and throw it in a 375 degree oven. I like to continuously baste the garlic with the oil until the cloves are nice and soft, about 30 minutes. Cool, and then sqeeze out each garlic clove.)

Roasted Garlic Pesto Hummus

Roasted Garlic & Pesto Hummus
1 large head garlic, roasted
1 (30 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp pesto (either jarred or homemade)
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Squeeze out cloves of garlic food processor, along with remaining ingredients. Process until smooth. (As a note, I generally prefer my hummus to be fairly dry, and the oil from the garlic and pesto were enough for mine. Feel free to add some additional olive oil if desired.) Chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two before serving.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Sour Cherry Clafouti

Since I have the unfortunate pleasure of being allergic to all fruits except for citrus and berries, I miss out on the fresh bounty of summer's best. Thankfully, I'm able to eat most fruits after they've been cooked, so I don't completely miss out on good fruit.

When my neighbor E brought over a huge bag of sour cherries, I immediately started searching for a recipe. Enter this month's edition of Vegetarian Times. There is a lovely feature on cherries, and 5 different recipes to try. This recipe is adapted from the Mini Cherry Clafouti recipe, and is delicious. I must admit this is my first time making a clafouti, which turns out to be a lovely little pudding-cake I think would be great for dessert, or even breakfast.

Cherry Clafouti

Cherry Clafouti
2 large eggs (or egg substitute)
1/2 c sugar
1/3 c flax seed meal
1/3 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 c soymilk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp almond extract
2 cups pitted fresh cherries, halved
1 tbsp sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Pit and halve cherries. If sour, sprinkle with 1 tbsp of sugar, and set aside. In bowl, whisk eggs and sugar. Add flax seed meal, flour, and baking powder, and whisk well. Slowly add in milk, whisking constantly, until smooth batter forms. Stir in extracts.
Place cherries in the bottom of a greased 8" cake pan. Pour batter over top, and place into oven. Bake 25-30 minutes, until edges start to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Spicy Black Beans

I have an intense love affair with black beans. I've loved them since I was a child, but our relationship was solidified when I lived in Guatemala to teach English. Black beans, or frijoles negros, were something we had every single day. They were served at every meal in the guesthouse I lived in, at every restaurant, and they would be the first thing offered to you if you were visiting someone's house.

These are one of my favorite preparations of frijoles negros. It's a cross between a soup and a side dish, and the flavors take me right back to Guatemala. Serve in burritos, over nachos, or by themselves. If you're heat sensitive, decrease the amount of chipolte peppers.

Spicy Black Beans

Spicy Black Beans
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c vidalia onion, diced
1/2 c celery, diced
1/2 c carrots, diced
1/4 c green bell pepper, diced
3 canned chipolte peppers
1 tbsp adobo sauce from canned peppers
4 (15oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4-1/2 tsp salt (to taste)

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium high heat. Add garlic, onion, celery, carrots, and bell pepper to pan. Cover and lower heat, and cook for 15 minutes, until vegetables and tender and onion is translucent. While vegetables are cooking, puree 1 can of black beans and 1 cup vegetable stock in food processor. Add pureed beans, rinsed beans, and the rest of the ingredients to the pot. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat, serve, and enjoy!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Poundcake with Grilled Pineapple and Peppered Vanilla Syrup

This is another one of those dessert recipes that is almost effortless, yet looks and tastes like you spent a lot of time on it. Grilling the pineapple rings brings out a lovely caramelized sweetness, which lays perfectly on the pound cake base. The syrup, spiced with ginger and peppercorns and finished off with fresh lime juice, is a lovely topper.

Use your own favorite pound cake recipe, or cheat and use a purchased cake. The syrup and pineapple rings can be made ahead of time, so it can be served at a moment's notice.

Poundcake with Grilled Pineapple

Poundcake with Grilled Pineapple and Peppered Vanilla Syrup
1 purchased pound cake, cut into ½” slices
1 pineapple, cored and cut into ½” rings
Cooking spray
1 ½ c water
3 tbsp sugar
4 strips of lemon peel
3 strips of lime peel
3 whole coriander seeds
¼ tsp black peppercorns
2 slices fresh ginger
1 whole clove
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 tbsp fresh lime juice

Slice pound cake and place on individual plates. Spray grill pan or grill rack with cooking spray. Over high heat, grill pineapple slices, 1-2 minutes per side. Place on top of poundcake.
For syrup, combine water to vanilla bean in a small saucepan. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer syrup for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Strain out solids. Serve over pineapple and pound cake.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Pizza with Caramelized Leeks, Grilled Pears, and Blue Cheese

Wow. Seriously. This pizza is amazing. Awhile ago, Mindy posted this recipe and I filed it away, meaning to try it later. While going through my files, I pulled it out and decided to make it. I made a few changes, including grilling the pears, and the end result is absolutely fantastic. The combination of flavors is exceptional, and the grilled pears add a lovely smoky sweetness to it.

Make a full size pizza, or this would be elegant served as individual pies. Feel free to use your own crust, or cheat and use a prepared one. The best part about this pizza is it is extremely easy to make, and will take about 20 minutes from start to finish.

*This is also my entry in the Weekend Herb Blogging Round-up, being hosted by Cate over at Sweetnicks this week. Check it out for some other great recipes!*

Carmelized Leek Pizza

Caramelized Leek, Grilled Pear, and Blue Cheese Pizza
1 12" pre-made pizza crust (or 4 individual pies)
4 leeks
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp dry vermouth
1 bosc pear
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 oz blue cheese

Preheat broiler. Cut off roots and dark green leaves of leeks. Cut leeks in half lengthwise and wash thoroughly to remove all grit. Slice into 1/4" thick slices. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add leeks, italian seasoning, and salt, and cook leeks 6-8 minutes, until tender. Add dry vermouth and cook, stirring constantly, until vermouth has evaporated. Remove from heat.
Slice pear into 1/4" slices, removing core. Toss with lemon juice. Grill either with a grill pan heated over high heat sprayed with cooking spray, or on a gas grill. Grill 2-3 minutes each side. Remove from heat.
Spread a thin layer of olive oil on prepared crust. Spread cooked leeks on crust to within 1" of edge. Layer grilled pears on top, and sprinkle blue cheese as the final layer. Place under broiler for 5-6 minutes, until cheese and crust have started to brown. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pina Colada Granola

There's nothing like granola in the morning, especially when it's homemade. However, most recipes call for too much butter, oil, or sugar, and the health benefits of eating a whole grain breakfast are overshadowed by empty calories and fat grams.

I've tried my hand at a few granola recipes, like gingerbread granola, and I'm always into trying another. This one is delicious, and with the addition of pineapple that was suggested by my good friend E, it has the perfect combination of flavors.

Coconut Granola

Pina Colada Granola
4 c oats
1 c flaked coconut
1 c slivered almonds
1/2 c wheat germ
1/2 c golden flax seed (or regular flax seed)
1/2 c dried pineapple tidbits
4 tbsp butter
1/4 c light brown sugar
1/4 c honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut, almonds, wheat germ, and flax seed in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, melt butter. Add brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Stir together until well combined. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over oat mixture and stir well. Spread on 2 well-greased cookie sheets and place into preheated oven. Bake 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool, without stirring, before adding the pineapple pieces. Store in a airtight container.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Thai Coconut Vegetable Stirfry

I love Thai food, and especially adore anything that contains coconut milk. Unfortunately, coconut milk is a healthy eater's nightmare, weighing in at 140 calories and 14 grams of saturated fat for 1/3 of a cup. However, despite it's hefty nutritional flaws, it is definitely delicious, and if consumed in moderation, shouldn't be too detrimental to your diet.

However, if you're lucky enough to find light coconut milk in your grocery store, you can indulge more often. For 1/3 cup of the light coconut milk, it only contains 50 calories and 4 grams of saturated fat.

No matter which coconut milk you use to make this vegetable stirfry, I think you'll agree with me that it's absolutely delicious. Although I made this one with mushrooms, peppers, and asparagus, you can definitely add any vegetables you choose. Also, if you're of the meat-eating persuasion, you can add chicken to make it a full meal.

Thai Coconut Veggie Stirfry

Thai Coconut Vegetable Stirfry
1 (14oz) can light coconut milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp grated lime zest
2 c sliced asparagus tips
1 c sliced mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, julienned
4 c bok choy leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of sugar
1/2 c fresh basil leaves, julienned

In a food processor, combine coconut milk, garlic, ginger, lemon and lime zest. Pulse until well combined and minced. Place in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add asparagus, mushrooms, bell pepper, bok choy, and red pepper flakes, and simmer 10 minutes.
Stir in soy sauce, lime juice, lemon juice, pinch of sugar, and basil, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Serve by itself or over jasmine rice.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Parmesan Tomatoes with Basil Oil

A good friend of mine got married last year down in the Outer Banks, NC. Her in-laws, who are exceptional cooks, made most of the meals for the event, including the rehearsal dinner. One of the sides for the amazing crabcakes they made were baked tomatoes, laced with fresh herbs. They were delicious, and I mentally filed the idea away to use later.

I wanted to make them, but there's nothing worse than having to fire up the oven on a hot summer day. I came up with this variation, which can be made ahead of time, plated when needed, and makes the most of those super-ripe summer tomatoes.

*This is also my entry into Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging Roundup, a great place to check out what some of the other food blogs have done this week.*

Basil Tomatoes

Parmesan Tomatoes with Basil Oil
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 c seasoned bread crumbs
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
5 tbsp olive oil
1/3 c fresh basil leaves
4 large tomatoes, sliced 1/3" thick

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add minced garlic, and saute 30 seconds. Add breadcrumbs, and toast, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Remove from pan and place in bowl. Add parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Set aside.
In a food processor, combine remaining 5 tbsp olive oil, basil leaves, and a pinch of salt. Puree until smooth.
On a serving dish, arrange tomatoes in a single layer. Drizzle with basil oil and top with parmesan crumbs.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ginger Mint Lemon Cooler

There's nothing more refreshing on a hot and sticky summer day than an ice-cold refreshing beverage. And no beverage says "summer" more than freshly-made lemonade.

This is a classic lemonade, kicked up with a fresh ginger simple syrup and a hint of mint. It's light and refreshing, and with a touch of club soda, this is a beverage that's perfect for all of your summer get-togethers.

*This is another entry for Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging Roundup*

Ginger Mint Lemonade

Ginger Mint Lemon Cooler
Serves 8

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
2" piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 tsp mint extract (optional)
2 cups fresh lemon juice
6 cups cold water
Club soda

In a small saucepan, combine water, sugar, and ginger, and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain out ginger slices, and pour into a pitcher. Add mint extract if desired, lemon juice, and cold water. Stir well. Fill glasses with ice cubes. Pour lemon cooler into glasses, filling about 3/4 of the way. Top off with cold club soda, and garnish with ginger slices and lemon peels.