Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Year in Review - Nibbly Style
Part I

Can you believe it's the last weekend in 2007? This year has flown by and it seems like just yesterday I was celebrating my 1-year anniversary of starting 28 Cooks last January. As I mentioned in my last post, I've had so much to be thankful for this year.

There's nothing I love more than entertaining guests. I've always said that if I were to write a cookbook, I'd do an entertaining one full of recipes that would be perfect for serving at cocktail or tapas parties. I thought I'd take a look back at the year and highlight some of my favorite appetizer and nibbly recipes. Stop back by tomorrow for Part II!

*This is also part of the Best of 2007 round-up hosted by One Hot Stove. Be sure to visit the website for the official round-up and see the best of the food blogging world!

Lemon Pepper Glazed Cashews
January's best nibblies were definitely the glazed nut trio. Although the Lemon Pepper Cashews were my favorite, the Chili Chai Walnuts and the Jasmine Tea and Ginger Glazed Almonds were right up there.

Lemon  & Green Tea Granola II
Lemon and Green Tea Granola was my favorite recipe of February. I love homemade granola, especially since I can control how much fat and sweetener I add to the recipe. This one is quick, easy, and tasty to boot! And although it isn't a recipe, this was the month of the "Behind the Apron" round-up which was a great opportunity to see the chefs behind some great food blogs.

Potato and Cauliflower "Samosas" with Tamarind Mint Chutney
A great recipe for entertaining are the Baked Potato and Cauliflower "Samosas" with Tamarind Mint Chutney. You can make a large batch of these ahead of time, freeze them, and then cook as needed for entertaining. The chutney is also fantastic, either served with these samosas or with anything else.

Green Chile and Coconut Chutney II
I love recipes that can be used a million different ways, like this Green Chile and Coconut Chutney. It's great served with tortilla chips and would probably make an excellent topper for a few other things. Another great snack food is the Micro-popcorn. I was so enchanted when I discovered that you can make popcorn this way. Although I think it's best with hot sauce, it's fantastic with almost any seasoning you throw in the bag.

Plantain and Queso Fresco Puff Pastry Spirals with Roasted Tomatillo and Parsley Cream
What started out as a challenge ended in a fantastic recipe. The Plantain and Queso Fresco Puff Pastry Spirals would be perfect to serve at a cocktail party and aren't your normal pig-in-a-blanket. The roasted tomatillo and parsley cream is great served with the spirals, but is absolutely fantastic by itself. It's a great dip for chips or spread on a sandwich or wrap.

Basil Habanero Pesto
I'm in love with this Basil Habanero Pesto. I love all things spicy and all things pesto, so the combination of the two is perfect. Although it's not for the faint of heart, it's delicious if you're a lover of spicy foods. Another great nibbly to serve at your next party would be the Warm Cannellini Bean Bruschetta. It's full of flavor and has a great fresh taste. It's guaranteed to be a hit!

Tomorrow I'll be ringing in the New Year at a sushi making party. Although none of us have actually made sushi before, we're all fairly confident in our cooking abilities and are hoping it all comes out well. I'll let you know how it goes. If you are so inclined, leave me a comment with how you'll be spending the holiday.
See you tomorrow with the rest!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas To All!!

You know, it's been a great year. Although there were some bumps in the road, I can't help but be grateful for everything and everyone that's been a part of my life this year.

As most of my readers know, I lost a very dear and close friend not too long ago. And although it's been hard and there are still days I can't believe she's gone, losing her has taught me to cherish the loved ones I still have and to take the time to tell them before it's too late. Although she wasn't at my birthday celebration as she had wanted to be, I was surrounded by people that love me and that truly care for me, and that's what I'm most thankful for.

This time of the season, the hustle and bustle of shopping, opening gifts, and attending Christmas parties can sometimes overshadow the true meaning of Christmas. It's crucial that we take a moment, look at all that we've been blessed with, and say thanks to those who help enrich our lives on a daily basis.

For part of my schooling this semester, I spent a few hours volunteering at a soup kitchen as well as a women's emergency shelter. Being there was such a huge dose of reality for me, and it was impossible to not feel grateful for all that I've been blessed with.

This holiday season, I wish you all the best and a season full of love, joy, hope, and peace.

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cranberry Jalapeno Spread

You can breathe easy now - I'm back. Finals have been handled, the 30th birthday was a grand success (more on that later), and it feels great to be back in the kitchen. And it's not a shade too soon - the holiday is right around the corner!

I wanted to make something different but I really had no idea what I was looking for. I was digging through my refrigerator when I discovered a bag of cranberries I had picked up on a whim a week or two ago. I didn't want to make the traditional cranberry spread, so I thought I'd try something new.

This spread would work in so many ways. The slight sweetness is accented by the little kick of the jalapeno*. It would be perfect on a bagel with cream cheese or spread over goat cheese on a cracker. If you're of the carnivore variety, this would be perfect for basting a pork roast. Heck, it's good enough to eat by itself by the spoonful! It would also make a great gift for a foodie or keep it all for yourself. No matter how you use it, I can guarantee you'll find it to be a perfect little holiday treat.

*On the 28 Cooks' Hot-O-Meter, this ranks a very low 1 out of 5. If you're looking for more of a punch, add another jalapeno.

Cranberry Jalapeno Spread

Cranberry Jalapeno Spread
Makes 2 cups

1 (12 oz) bag fresh cranberries
1 c brown sugar
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of allspice

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes until thick. Remove from heat and cool. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Bad, bad, bad.

I know. I've been a horrible blogger. But round these parts, it's been a crazy time known as end-of-semester crunch time. I haven't had a minute to stop and think since the last time I posted.

I would like to say thanks for all of the kind words of encouragement and all of the prayers. Being at the funeral was completely surreal and one of the hardest things I've gone through. There are still days I can't believe she's gone, but I'm doing my best to carry on and remember her the way she'd want to be remembered. Please continue to keep her family and friends in your thoughts over the holidays as they all celebrate the first without her lovely presence.

And I know that there has been a lack of food posting on here lately, but I ask for your patience while I finish tying up my loose ends at school. I'm doing my best to make it through to December 10th, which is when all of my projects are due (yes, all 14 of them). I promise to have some lovely holiday recipes fit for entertaining after that - you just gotta hang on.

Now excuse me while I take the next day or two to celebrate December 3rd, a day I've been looking forward to for quite awhile - my 30th birthday!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Today I received some terrible news that a very good and special friend of mine passed away suddenly, leaving behind 2 beautiful young daughters and a wonderful husband, Bill. The shock and sadness felt over the loss is almost overwhelming.

We met in such a weird way many years ago. We both belonged to a knitting email list and she contacted me after discovering we were about the same age. We emailed constantly and spent hours on IM and the phone talking about almost everything in our lives. After a few years of an online friendship, we finally met when she flew down to see me. The instant we met, we knew we'd be friends for life. We had an instant connection that made if feel as if we'd been friends for a lifetime. She was a constant presence in my life and we helped each other through some of the most significant events in our lives.

We spent the years alternating visits, me flying up to New Hampshire to see her or her flying here to see me. I just emailed her earlier this week about coming down for my birthday in a few weeks, and although she was unable to, we were making plans to visit each other in the near future.

She was beautiful, fun, vivacious, and an incredible mother. She had a way of lighting up a room with her presence, was liked by everyone that met her, and was an amazing person. I will miss her terribly. Please pray for her family and friends as they come to terms with the loss.

The Biffs

I love you, BIFF.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Red Pepper and Feta Spread

I can't believe the holidays are rapidly approaching. And with those holidays are plenty of opportunities to entertain. It's always key to have a few solid recipes that not only can be thrown together at a moment's notice but are also versatile enough to suit a variety of purposes.

That's why I love this recipe. This recipe originally started out as a dip for fresh vegetables but can be used in a host of ways. Here I've made some cups out of baby seedless cucumbers and piped the spread into it. It's got a great tangy flavor that's kicked up ever-so-slightly with the green peppercorns. It's also a great festive color and is sure to be a hit at any of your upcoming functions. The best part - only has 4 ingredients, so you can make it anytime!

If you don't use this as a dip, try these different uses:
*Spread on a tortilla, roll, and slice into pinwheels
*Use as a great sandwich starter
*Pipe into phyllo cups for a great little appetizer
*Serve on endive leaves
*Pipe onto melba toasts, bagel crisps, crackers, etc

Red Pepper and Feta Spread

Red Pepper and Feta Spread
4 tbsp olive oil
2 red bell peppers, deseeded and sliced
1/2 red jalapeno or serrano pepper, deseeded and sliced
4 oz feta cheese
1 tsp green peppercorns in brine, drained and minced (optional)

Heat olive oil over low heat in a heavy pan. Add peppers and saute over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until peppers are completely soft. Remove from pan and place onto a paper towel-lined plate to get rid of some of the excess oil. Place into food processor and process until smooth. Add feta and process until smooth, about 5-8 minutes. Add peppercorns and pulse until mixed in well. Allow to chill in the refridgerator for 30 minutes or so for flavors to meet. Enjoy!

Monday, November 05, 2007

It's here - it's really here!

I can't believe we're already in the beginning of November. It seems like just yesterday I was enjoying 90-degree weather and walking around in sandals. But fall is here, as is the ending part of my semester.

Man, it's been crazy around here. Between classes and work and life, I just haven't had the chance to make it into the kitchen. Of course that doesn't mean I haven't been enjoying some good food. I actually had some lovely appetizers at one of our new local restaurants, Fenz, over the weekend. Although the atmosphere feels as if you've walked into the middle of one of your parent's parties, I think they have some solid food offered on the menu. Everyone from the hostess to the busboys recommend the Pickle Fries, so we ordered them. I must admit they were rather tasty. Forget what you know about pickles - when you deep-fry them, they become a completely different animal. Served with a lovely aioli, they were quite the tasty treat. As their companion, we ordered the french fries which are liberally doused with the nectar of the gods, aka. truffle oil. I'm of the opinion that there isn't anything a little truffle can't make better, so these were a very lovely little nibble.

I hope to be back later on this week with some new Fall recipes, as well as a new Top 5 on my sidebar. But while you're waiting, go ahead and take a peek through the archives - there are plenty of great recipes that would come in handy on a cold evening.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cleveland and Tamales

This weekend was all about the tamale. I've always loved them ever since I was little, but since I've become a vegetarian, I haven't had one. I finally found some vegetarian tamales at the West Side Market and quickly snatched a few of them up. After enjoying them immensely, I decided to try my hand at making them this weekend. I was pleasantly surprised at how relatively easy they were to make, although they do take a considerable amount of time. I am still working on fine-tuning the recipe, so I have nothing to post yet, but we're almost there.

But now, more about the market - absolutely amazing. I unfortunately forgot my camera at home, so I was at the mercy of a friend's, but we still came away with some good pictures.

I was absolutely floored by how fabulous the market was. They had so many fresh fish and seafood stands.

WSM Fish

This was one of the fresh pasta stands. There must have been about 40 different varieties of homemade pasta with about every combination of flavors you could imagine. Surrounding it were more perogie varieties than I ever dreamed possible. Although I'm not crazy about them, my friend Abby brought a bunch home (blue cheese and potato, shiitake mushroom and white wine, bourbon wine, as well as 3-cheese) and declared them all fantastic.

WSM Pasta

The butcher stands were fairly amazing too. Every cut of meat from almost any variety was available. Everything looked so amazing it *almost* made me wish I ate meat again. Almost. I did bring my father home some of the best looking beef jerky I've ever seen. He's loving it so much it's actually on a ration status and he is only allowing himself a few bites per day.

WSM Meat

I definitely know that next year, I'm taking a huge cooler and finding some dry ice so I can bring more than just a few things home. I did pick up some non-perishables that were too tasty to pass up, such as smoked Alaskan salt and some other odds and ends from the Mediterranean stand.

Until then, we love ya, Cleveland....

*Pier CL

*If you're interested in reading more about Cleveland, here are some fantastic food blogs I've discovered:

*Cleveland Foodie
*Craving Cleveland
*Eating Cleveland
*A View from the Kitchen

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Vegetarian Jambalaya

Now that the fall weather is upon us and the air has a little snappiness to it, it's time to start making those hearty, filling, and stick-to-your-rib dishes. You want food that not only fills you with comfort, but keeps you satisfied for hours. This jambalaya fits perfectly into that category.

I love okra, but I don't use it enough, so I wanted to find a dish to incorporate it. Although this is a far cry from a traditional jambalaya with shrimp, chicken, and sausage, the addition of mushrooms and black eyed peas make it hearty enough to be satisfying. The chipotle bouillon cubes add a great smoky flavor but not much heat, so don't be afraid to add as much Louisiana hot sauce as you desire.

Vegetarian Jambalaya

Vegetarian Jambalaya
Serves 8

2 tbsp olive oil
1 c chopped red onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Knorr Chipotle Bouillon cubes*
1 c red bell pepper, diced
1 c yellow bell pepper, diced
1 (20 oz) can chopped tomatoes
1 (8 oz) pkg baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1 tsp salt
4 cups vegetable stock or water
1 (10 oz) pkg frozen okra
1 (15 oz) can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
2 cups uncooked rice
Tabasco sauce to taste
1/4 tsp liquid smoke

Heat olive oil in large saucepan. Meanwhile, take okra out of freezer, unwrap, and allow to sit on counter during preparation to start thawing. In pan, saute onion, garlic, and crumbled boiullon cubes for a few minutes until onion starts to become tender. Add peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, thyme, basil, and salt. Stir well to combine. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add okra, black eyed peas, and rice and return to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer. Cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender. Remove from heat, and add Tabasco and liquid smoke.

*If unable to find Knorr Chipotle Bouillon cubes in your area, then substitute 1-2 well-minced canned chipotle peppers.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Spinach and Toasted Pine Nut Hummus

I love traveling because it always provides such great inspiration for cooking. This weekend was no exception. We hit some amazing places and restaurants, which I'll post about later this week, once the pictures are downloaded. One of the most memorable places we went was the West Side Market, which practically deserves its own post to describe the greatness it holds. But while walking through the market, we came upon a Greek stand that proclaimed they made "Cleveland's Best Hummus." They had about 4 different varieties, most of which I've made before, but it was the spinach hummus that caught my eye. I immediately put it on my list of things to make.

While driving to the grocery store this morning, I was trying to think of ways to kick it up a bit. I came up with a few variations, but nothing really interested me until the thought of pine nuts came across my mind. Not only do they add a great toasted flavor, but they also add a nice little texture variation.

Spinach and Toasted Pinenut Hummus

Spinach and Toasted Pine Nut Hummus

2 tbsp pinenuts
1 (10 oz) pkg frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, cooked*, and drained
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp tahini
1/2 tsp salt
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 c olive oil

In a small skillet, toast pine nuts over medium high heat until slightly golden. Set aside to cool down. Drain half of the package of spinach and place into food processor. Save remaining spinach for another use. In food processor, process spinach and lemon juice until well chopped. Add pine nuts and pulse until nuts are finely chopped. Remove from processor and set aside. Add remaining ingredients to processor and process to desired texture. Add spinach mixture and pulse until well mixed. Allow to chill in the refridgerator for an hour or two for flavors to shake hands. Serve and enjoy!

*I cooked it according to the directions on the back of the package, which just involves putting it into a covered dish with a tbsp of water and throwing it into the microwave for 2 minutes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hey Look - Shiny Things!!

Okay, okay, I don't have anythiny shiny. I wanted to find something to distract you from the fact I haven't updated 28 Cooks in well over a week. But I've got nothing except the promise that we'll return to our regularly-scheduled content next week.

My fall semester seems to be in full swing and the days I set aside for cooking have been filled up quickly with other things. And this weekend is the yearly "Celebrate Life" weekend which takes myself and my closest friends to Cleveland. Long story short - 3 years ago, my very best friend, Lina, had emergent, serious, and very complicated open heart surgery that almost left us without her presence. Every year since, we've taken a trip back out to Cleveland to celebrate life and remember those things that we're extremely grateful for, including her life.

So I bid you a good rest of the week and look forward to being back in the 28 Cooks saddle next week!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Vermouth-poached Tilapia with Mushrooms and White Grapes

Part of having people over for dinner and serving them a home-cooked meal is the "Wow" factor. You want them to walk away from the table being satisfied, yet being impressed at your culinary prowess. It's always good to have recipes that look as if you spent all day in the kitchen, slaving away over a hot stove, but in actuality only take minimal amounts of time to prepare. That's where a recipe like this comes in. Just the title of this dish sounds gourmet and time consuming, right?? Yet I had this on the table in less than 15 minutes. The most time consuming thing you'll do is slice mushrooms and chop grapes, and then it's just a matter of a few minutes in the pan. This would be the perfect recipe to prepare ahead of time and throw together right before serving. I can guarantee you that your guests will be sufficiently "wowed" by this masterpiece.

Vermouth-poached Tilapia with Mushrooms and White Grapes I

Vermouth-poached Tilapia with Mushrooms and White Grapes
Serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 tilapia fillets, seasoned with salt and pepper
1/4 c dry vermouth*
1/4 c dry white wine
1/2 c seedless white grapes, quartered

In a flat-bottomed pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add lemon juice and mushrooms and saute until liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are starting to become tender. Push mushrooms to the side of the pan and add seasoned tilapia fillets. Pour vermouth and white wine over top of fish, cover, and simmer util fish is almost done. (Mine took about 3 minutes in total) Right before fish is completely done, add grapes to pan and stir, being careful to not disturb fish. Cook until done. Serve fillets topped with mushroom and grape mixture.

*If you do not have vermouth, simply substitute more white wine.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mushroom Curry

I know I've mentioned before how much I love Indian food. Ever since I had my first Indian meal at a great restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya, I've been hooked. The combination of flavors and spices is almost obscene in its goodness. For me, Indian food is comfort food at its best.

I have also grown to love mushrooms, especially now that I've become a vegetarian. They're meaty and filling, easy to find, and have great flavor. This recipe combines both the spice of Indian food and the greatness of mushrooms. This would make the perfect side dish to another Indian entree or is hearty enough to stand alone as the main event. Another great thing is that this recipe is super easy and can be on the table in about 15 minutes. I like my food more on the spicy side, so if you're heat sensitive, I'd use less jalapenos.

Mushroom Curry II

Mushroom Curry
Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin seed
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
4 c mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used a mixture of white and baby bella)
2 jalapenos, sliced
1 c onion, chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 c water or vegetable stock
1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp creme fraiche or sour cream

Heat oil over high heat. Add cumin seed and stir for 10 seconds. Add garlic, ginger, mushrooms, jalapenos, and onion. Cook for 5 minutes or until mushrooms are soft. Add coriander and garam masala and stir for another 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce and water or stock, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro and creme fraiche and cook for 1 more minute. Serve over rice or by itself.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Roasted Potatoes with Green Olive & Caper Vinaigrette

Here's another dish for you olive lovers out there. I needed a quick side dish and was pawing through my refrigerator when I noticed a forlorn bottle of green olives in the side door. I used them as a basis for this quick little vinaigrette and tossed them with some freshly roasted potatoes. The saltiness of the olives, along with the zing of the fresh lemon, is the perfect combination for this warm salad. The dressing is also versatile enough to toss with salads or other favorite roasted vegetables.

Roasted Potatoes with Green Olive and Caper Vinaigrette

Roasted Potatoes with Green Olive & Caper Vinaigrette
3 cups of potatoes, washed, cut, and roasted
1/2 c green olives, pitted
2 tsp capers, drained
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

Roast potatoes until crispy and brown. (I normally just toss them in a 375 degree oven with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 30-35 minutes) Coarsely chop olives and capers. Place in a small bowl. Add remaining ingredients and whisk until well combined. Toss desired amount with warm potatoes and serve.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kalamata Olive Hummus

I know, I know - you're going to start thinking I'm only a one-trick pony that is only capable of making hummus. But this one was a request by a dear friend of mine, so I felt compelled to give it a try.

I love olives. They are one of those food things that I hated growing up, but the older I got, the more I really started to appreciate them. A good loaf of Kalamata olive bread or some nicely marinated olives will definitely hit the spot. And quite often, when I make my hummus wraps with fresh veggies in a pita, I often toss in a few olives. It's only natural that an olive hummus would be amazing, right??

And I was right. The saltiness of the calamatas are perfect with the chickpeas, and it makes a lovely little dip for fresh veggies or spread on crackers. Go ahead and try this latest variation of hummus - I promise you'll like it! And Bethany, this one was for you.

Kalamata Olive Hummus

Kalamata Olive Hummus
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp brine from olive container
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garam masala
A generous 1/4 c of chopped Kalamata olives

In a food processor, combine chickpeas, lemon juice, brine, olive oil, salt, and garam masala until creamy, or desired texture. Stir in olives. Allow to chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two for flavors to mix together.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lists and Lists

So yesterday I had a funny thing happen to me. I was talking to one of my classmates at school* about being a vegetarian. We were talking about recipes and cooking when she turned to me and said, "Hey, if you love to cook, there's a great website one of my friends recommended to me. It's 28 Cooks!"
It took me a minute to process before I started laughing and told her it was mine! It was very flattering.

And now onto the mega-list of food writing and cookbooks that were suggested during my contest. There are some really good ones on here, and my Amazon Wishlist is bulging under the pressure.


Alton Brown - I'm Just Here For the Food
Chef Paul Prudhomme - Fiery Foods That I love
Sherry Yard - The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts
Vegan with a Vengeance
Dorie Greenspan - Baking From My Home
Alford and Duguid - Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet
Alford and Duguid - Mangoes and Curry Leaves
Doris Janzen Longacre - More With Less
Fine Cooking Annual
The Soup Bible
The Moosewood Cookbook
Trish Deseine - Je Veux Du Chocolat
Deborah Madison - Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Madhur Jaffery - Taste of India
Claudia Roden - Arabesque
Ruth Reichl - Garlic and Sapphires
Ruth Reichl - Tender at the Bone
Ruth Reichl - Comfort Me With Apples
Nick Malgieri - How to Bake
Colette Rossant - Memories of a Lost Egypt
Joy of Cooking
Cook's Illustrated - New Best Recipe
Suzanne Goin - Sunday Supper at Lucques
Marcus Webb - Herb and Spice Companion
Albi and Walthers - Greens Glorious Greens
The Un-Cheese Cookbook
Marlene Spieler - Vegetarian Bistro
The Artful Vegan
The Millenium Cookbook
Weight Watchers - Around the World
Weil and Daley - The Healthy Kitchen
Chocolate and Zucchini
Cooking the Best
Culina Mundi - World Cooking
Sally Fallon - Nourishing Traditions
Jeff Cox - The Organic Cook's Bible
Anthony Bourdain - Les Halles
Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything
Laurie Colwin - Home Cooking
Aniko Gergely - Culinaria Hungary
The Bread Bible
Amy Sedaris - I Like You
The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook
Mediterranean Summer: A Season on France's Cote d'Azur
Nick Malgieri - Chocolate
Jamie Oliver - Jamie's Italy
Sarah Kramer - La Dolce Vegan
Giada DeLaurentiis - Everyday Italian
Vegan World Fusion Cuisine
Eat, Drink, and Be Chinaberry
Rose Elliot - Veggie Chic

*Currently pursuing my Masters in Social Work

Monday, September 10, 2007

3-Bean Salad with Sun dried Tomatoes

First off, let me thank everyone for chiming in with their favorite cookbooks. Unfortunately, my Amazon wishlist has grown quite a bit because of it, but a lot of you are reading really good books! I'll be posting a list on Wednesday of all of the books that were suggested, either via comments or emails.

But now for the winner of the contest. Congratulations to Genie of the Inadvertent Gardener who will be receiving Morimoto's new cookbook. Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I do.

And now, today's recipe...

I'm always trying to find new ways of using beans. So full of fiber and flavor, it's impossible to not want to give them a try. This salad is no exception. The addition of the sun dried tomatoes really kick it up a bit, and the dressing is the perfect complement.

This would be perfect to throw into a brown bag for lunch, and works perfectly on top of a bed of lettuce.

3-Bean Salad with Sundried Tomatoes

3-Bean Salad with Sun dried Tomatoes
1 can each red kidney beans, black beans, and cannelini beans
3/4 c red onion, chopped
1 c oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, julienned
1/4 c oil from sun dried tomatoes
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 c fresh basil, chopped
1 1/2 tsp green peppercorns in brine, drained and chopped
1/2 tsp mustard powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 c pomegranate balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic vinegar)

In a large bowl, combine drained and rinsed beans. Add onion, sun dried tomatoes, parsley, basil, and green peppercorns. In a small bowl, whisk oil from sun dried tomatoes, mustard powder, salt, and vinegar. Pour over salad and stir well. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, September 03, 2007

A contest!

Here it is - the first contest here at 28 Cooks. Being a food blogger, I'm a huge fan of cookbooks. Although I haven't followed a recipe in years, I love to read about food and cookbooks provide perfect inspiration for me to create my own recipes. I used to have well over 200 cookbooks, but due to space constraints, I had to seriously weed out my collection. I still enjoy adding to my collection, but I am a little more selective in my choosings.

One of the great perks about owning a food blog is that often I will receive things in the mail that companies want me to try and review. I am very upfront in letting them know that while I don't mind receiving them, I will be very honest about my feelings about them.

One of the things I love the most is getting cookbooks. Over the past few months, I've received 2 very excellent books. The first is called Street Food, which is exactly the type of cookbook I would write if given the opportunity. It's part travelogue, part recipes, and beautiful pictures. It's full of great street food from all over the world, and the recipes are easy enough for the home chef to follow.

The second book I just recently received is Morimoto's new cookbook, Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking.I was completely floored by this one. Although the recipes are definitely more for the gourmet chef, the history and pictures are absolutely beautiful. And here's the best part - I have 2 copies so I am offering one of them to one very lucky reader. All you have to do is leave me a comment telling me what your favorite food book or cookbook is before Midnight (Eastern Standard Time) on September 9th in order to be put into the drawing. On the 10th, I'll randomly pick a comment and the book is yours. If you do not win, however, I highly recommend at least looking through the book. The pictures are absolutely incredible, and if you love Japanese food, you'll love this book. Note - anyone is eligible, regardless of location, provided you can receive a package by post.

Now go ahead, leave me a comment and put yourself in the running for this fantastic book!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sweet & Spicy Walnuts

So here it is - the second of my attempts at a different type of glazed nut. I thought I'd switch it up with these walnuts and do a combination sweet and spicy. The brown sugar adds a wonderful dimension of flavor, which is kicked up by the chili powder and other spices.

These, as well as the other 4 variations, would be great in gift baskets for a foodie, or a great finger food at your next get-together.

Sweet and Spicy Walnuts

Sweet & Spicy Walnuts

1 c raw walnuts (or roasted and unsalted)
1/4 c brown sugar
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of pepper and/or cayenne pepper

In large pan, combine walnuts and sugar over medium high heat. Stir frequently until sugar starts to melt. Lower heat, and stir continuously for 3-4 minutes, or until sugar starts to fully melt and cover nuts. Add spices and continue to cook for an additional minute or two, until nuts are well glazed and seasonings are well mixed in. Be careful not to burn! Pour onto sheet of wax paper on a cooling rack, and spread out. Allow to cool. Store in tightly-sealed container.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Green Tea & Wasabi Glazed Almonds

A while ago, I did a trio of glazed nuts that were absolutely fantastic. Although the Chili Chai Walnuts and the Jasmine Ginger Almonds were amazing, the Lemon Pepper Cashews were by far my favorite. I've been wanting to try some different variations, especially since glazed nuts are 1-2-3 easy to make and make such a great snack. They are also the perfect finger food to have on hand for guests and look quite elegant.

These Green Tea and Wasabi are quite tasty. They aren't as spicy as you would think, but they do have a nice touch of heat. The freshly cracked pepper add a whole new dimension and I think these nuts will be perfect for your next little gathering. Stop by on Monday for a new variation of glazed walnuts.

Green Tea & Wasabi Glazed Almonds

Green Tea & Wasabi Glazed Almonds

1 cup raw almonds (or roasted unsalted)
1/4 c sugar
pinch of salt
The contents of 1 green tea bag (or 1 tsp bulk tea)
1/4 tsp powdered wasabi
1/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper

In large pan, combine almonds and sugar over medium high heat. Stir frequently until sugar starts to melt. Lower heat, and stir continuously for 10 minutes, or until sugar starts to fully melt and cover nuts. Add tea, wasabi, and pepper, and continue to cook for an additional minute or two, until nuts are well glazed and seasonings are well mixed in. Pour onto sheet of parchment paper on a cooling rack, and spread out. Allow to cool. Store in tightly-sealed container.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Asian Grain Burgers

I admit it - I love to go grocery shopping. I would gladly go every day if I could. I don't even mind driving an hour to go to a better store. I make biweekly trips to my nearest Trader Joe's and Wegmans, which are at least an hour away. And I love it. My shopping style is this - I'll usually have a list of what I need, but I always pick up at least 1 or 2 things I haven't used before or have no idea what to do with. Then I come home and try to figure out what to do with them. Of course that makes for an overloaded pantry at times. I don't think there's a food blogger out there who doesn't have a pantry full of all sorts of fun things. Mine is full of spices, grains, pasta, canned goods, etc.

So when I saw this Pantry Raid challenge over at Project Foodie, I knew I wanted to join in. I always have a ton of grains in my pantry - millet, amaranth, quinoa, barley, rice, etc. I wanted to use at least 1 of them so I decided to make a vegetarian burger. Millet is a very healthy grain and is high in B vitamins, iron, and the protein-building amino acid, lysine. Amaranth is also a great grain, full of calcium and iron, as well as lysine, and is also gluten-free.

These are relatively easy to make and freeze well, so you can always have them on hand. They are great between a bun or in a wrap, or simply serve them over a bed of lettuce. The beets give them a great color and flavor, and even if you don't like beets, I promise you won't even taste them. Go ahead - give these a try!

Asian Grain Burgers

Asian Grain Burgers
Makes 6 burgers

1/2 c amaranth, uncooked
1/2 c millet, uncooked
1 c fresh beets, shredded
1/2 c carrot, shredded
1/4 c onion, diced
3/4 c mushrooms, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp chili garlic sauce
1 tsp minced ginger
1/2 c cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce

Prepare amaranth and millet as you normally would. (I normally toast both grains over high heat for a few minutes until golden brown, then add 1 cup water and a touch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cover. Stir once or twice. For millet, simmer until all water is absorbed and millet is tender and fluffy, about 15-20 minutes. Amaranth takes less time, about 8-10 minutes, and will have the consistency of Cream of wheat when done.) Cool grains slightly and add to a large mixing bowl. Add veggies and lemon to bowl. In a food processor, add remaining ingredients and process until well mixed. Add mixture to bowl and stir until well combined. With slightly-oiled hands, form into 6 patties. Allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour to firm up. To cook, heat skillet over medium high heat. Lightly spray with cooking oil and add patties. Cook for about 5 minutes, flip and cook other side for 4-5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Thai Coconut Curry Hummus

So you know how I love hummus, right?? I could honestly eat it every day, and since it's so versatile, it's easy to make a meal out of. Hummus is the perfect healthy base for wraps, sandwiches, or even grilled pizzas. I love making my own, not only because it's super quick and easy, but it's also healthier than the storebought versions.

I have a "hummus file" where I jot down ideas and flavor combinations I want to try. I've had the notes "coconut and curry" written down for a few months now, but it wasn't until this weekend when I thought I'd make it happen. And wow- what a great combination of flavors. The curry paste is so full of flavor and pairs nicely with the slight sweetness of the coconut. I promise you won't be disappointed if you give it a try.

Thai Curry Coconut Hummus

Thai Coconut Curry Hummus

1 can (15.9 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 c olive oil
2 tbsp red curry paste
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c sweetened flake coconut

Combine all ingredients, except for coconut, in food processor and blend until well combined. Remove from processor, place into medium bowl and stir in coconut. This hummus does need to chill in the refrigertor for at least an hour before serving for the flavors to get nice and friendly. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Shrimp & Asparagus in Wine Basil Sauce

I've had a huge craving for shrimp since I started the detox, so I knew it was going to be one of the first things I made. For my first meal out, I ordered a Caesar salad with grilled shrimp, and the shrimp was so dry and overcooked I was sorely disappointed.

Although this recipe, with the butter and olive oil, isn't the type to make every day, it is definitely something I would make quite frequently. It's a great way to use up any fresh asparagus you have lying around. I also love that the recipe is super easy to make, so you can have this elegant-looking entree on the table in about 20 minutes. Although I have it tossed with angel-hair pasta, it's also excellent over whole-grain rice.

Pasta with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Basil Wine Sauce

Shrimp and Asparagus in Wine Basil Sauce

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red serrano pepper, diced
1/2 c white wine
1 tbsp butter
1/2 lb large shrimp, peeled, deveined, with tails intact
15 asparagus stalks, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups fresh basil, thinly sliced
Rice or pasta

Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and pepper, saute for 1 minute. Add wine and butter, bring to a boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add shrimp and asparagus, and saute until done, about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and basil and toss until basil is wilted. Serve over pasta or rice.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Horseradish Hummus

I can't tell you how good it feels to be in the kitchen again, making real food! And I thought what better way for me to get back to food blogging than by having a new hummus recipe. I was recently named "Queen of Hummus" by 2 of my favorite food bloggers, Kalyn and Alanna, which is very flattering. I love all things hummus, as you can tell from my 12 different variations in my archives. Not only is hummus super easy to make, but it's also a great healthy snack.

Those who know me best know I love anything spicy and horseradish fits that bill perfectly. Feel free to decrease or increase the amount of horseradish, based on your own personal taste. This spread is great on tortilla chips, crackers, or fresh vegetables.

Horseradish Hummus

Horseradish Hummus
1 can (15.5 oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp freshly ground horseradish (I used the jarred kind)
1/4 c good extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until well combined. Chill in refrigerator for an hour or two to allow flavors to get friendly. Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Food for Thought...

So much of my world revolves around food. And somehow, I always knew that, but I think being on the detox has only magnified that. The very first day, I stopped at Barnes and Nobles to hang out for a bit. I grabbed a hot cup of tea and went wandering off throughout the store. I suddenly realized that my normal browse of the newest cooking magazines, then the cookbook section, and then the food writing section probably wasn't the most supportive thing for me at that time. I almost felt at a loss without my normal routine.

I also spend quite a bit of my free time during the week either cooking, developing new recipes, or even doing the pleasurable task of grocery shopping. If you looked at my budget, I can guarantee you that the thing I spend the most on is food or food related things.

If you haven't gotten the chance to see Time Magazine's spread on what the rest of the World eats, then definitely check it out. I saw this posted over at Sweetnicks's and it immediately struck me. It's a very interesting view of what different families from all over the World consume in a week, and it's interesting to see how little is spent in some families on an entire week's worth of food. Check it out.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Things I'd Eat Right Now If I Could.....

Although I'm honestly not having any many cravings during my detox (stroll over to 28 Detoxifies if you want to know how it's going) I thought it would be fun to do a "What I'd eat right now if I could" post.

Here are some things that I will definitely be making once the 21 days are over. Many of these are older recipes from the beginnings of 28 Cooks, but I think they are some of my favorites.

Cauliflower & Potato Curry

Cauliflower Curry

Carmelized Leek, Grilled Pear, and Blue Cheese Pizza

Carmelized Leek Pizza

Not-Your-Mama's Brussel Sprouts


Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

And for my lovely mother, who asks me daily how my orchid is doing:
It's doing beautifully.....


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Midsummer's Cleanse

So I've been kicking around the idea of a detox for a few months now since it's been years since I've done one. Although I eat fairly healthy and consume plenty of veggies and fruits, I do still ingest a fair shair of toxins and unhealthy foods.

My father decided he wanted to do a 21-day juice fast, so I've decided to join him. Starting tomorrow, for the next 21 days, we plan on only consuming fresh fruit and vegetable juices, supplemented with vitamins and plenty of water.

But have no fear, 28 Cooks' readers, for I will post at least twice a week with cookbook reviews, some remixes of some older but still fabulous recipes, and highlight some of the blogs that have been catching my eye. If you're interested, you can follow along with me on the companion blog, 28 Detoxifies.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

7 Pepper Hot Sauce

As I've said before, I grew up with a mother who carried a bottle of hot sauce in her purse wherever we go, which means I came into a love of spicy things almost from birth. I was recently at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants and had fish tacos, topped with their house-made "salsa picante." It was a freshly-made habanero pepper sauce which was absolutely delicious.

I haven't made hot sauce in awhile, so I thought I'd try a batch, especially since it's so easy to make. Although it's not the prettiest or doesn't have a cute little name like most of the hot sauces in the stores, such as "Slow Burn," "Satan's Elixir," or "Your Mom Called and Wants Her Hot Sauce Back," it is extremely delicious. It would be the perfect use for any of those fresh-from-the-garden hot peppers.

Although you can add this to any of your favorite recipes or dishes, it is quite delicious by itself on tortilla chips. Although this isn't the hottest hot sauce I've ever had, it definitely ranks at least a 7.5 on a hot sauce scale of 1-10.

7 Pepper Hot Sauce

7 Pepper Hot Sauce

7 habaneros
7 jalapenos
7 serrano peppers
2 cups chopped carrots
1 1/2 c chopped vidalia onion
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ground mustard powder
1 tsp turmeric

In a small pot of boiling water, blanch peppers for 1 minute. Remove from water, cut off tops, and set aside. (You can deseed them to make the sauce milder) Add carrots, onion, and garlic to boiling water, return to boil, lower heat and simmer vegetables until fork tender. Drain and cool slightly. In food processor or blender, place all ingredients and puree. Cool, place into glass jars, and refrigerate. This will last in the fridge for weeks.

Other Hot Sauce Recipes:
*Red Chili Sauce

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cracked Pepper Seasoning Blend

I've been doing extremely well in my goal of not buying lunch at work, and have been packing hearty and healthy lunches. One of the things that makes its way into my lunch most often is a nice piece of tilapia that's been seasoned and then either grilled or broiled. Not only is it healthy but it's also extremely easy to make.

This weekend, while grocery shopping, I came across a Cracked Seed Seasoning blend at my not-so-local Wegmans. As soon as I got home, I fired up the Foreman grill, liberally sprinkled it on a piece of tilapia, and promptly fell straight into love. Since Wegmans is about 50 minutes away, I immediately started trying to dissect the blend so I could try and make my own.

This recipe is pretty much spot on, although I did make a few adjustments for my own taste. The recipe makes about enough to well-season 4 large filets of fish, but it can easily be doubled or tripled. It would work well on seafood, and probably just as good on chicken or turkey. It would also make a pretty fantastic addition to a foodie gift basket.

Cracked Pepper Seasoning Blend I

Cracked Pepper Seasoning Blend
2 tbsp black peppercorns
2 tsp coriander seed
1/2 tsp dill seed
1/2 tsp crushed hot peppers
1 tsp dried minced garlic
1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt

Cracked Pepper Seasoning Blend II

In a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder, crush pepper, coriander, and dill seed to desired texture. Pour into bowl and stir in remaining ingredients. Note - I love a good pepper-crusted anything, so I deliberatly left my blend more coarse. Feel free to make yours as fine or as coarse as you desire.

Cracked Pepper Seasoning Blend III


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Slaw with Gingered 3-Seed Dressing

There must be something about this time of year that screams "coleslaw!" As I made my way around the food blogs, I saw so many variations of this old standard that I just had to get in on the action. Last week, I posted one of my favorites, the Citrus Asian Slaw. This week, I wanted to take it in a little bit of a different direction.

This Gingered 3-Seed dressing is my take on a recipe from "The Passionate Vegetarian," which is a huge cookbook, chock-full of good recipes. It makes about 2 1/2 cups, so it's perfect to have on hand for salads, as well as impromptu potato salads and coleslaws, like this one.

Gingered 3-Seed Dressing

Slaw with Gingered 3-Seed Dressing

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1 c plus 2 tbsp vegetable stock
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 c red onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced peeled ginger
1/3 c cider vinegar
2 tbsp pomegranate infused balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic vinegar)
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp sesame oil
Almost a 1/2 c light-tasting oil
1/2 c honey
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp celery seeds


6 cups shredded cabbage
1 c snow peas, thinly sliced
1 c radishes, thinly julienned
1/2 c dried cranberries

In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of vegetable stock to a boil. Whisk the cornstarch into the remaining 2 tbsp until smooth and stir into boiling stock. Whisk until thickened and clear, which happens almost immediately. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In the meantime, combine onion, ginger, vinegars, sugar, mustard, soy sauce, and salt in a food processor and process until smooth. In a 1/2 c measuring cup, place 1 tbsp sesame oil and fill to the top with other oil. Slowly add oil mixture and honey to processor and process until emulsified. Pour into bowl and whisk in seeds. Slowly whisk in thickened stock mixture until well combined.

In large bowl, place all slaw ingredients and toss with 1 cup of the dressing. Serve immediately or allow to chill in the refrigerator until served.

Coleslaw with Gingered 3-Seed Dressing

Other great salads:
Creamy Asian Slaw by Everybody Likes Sandwiches
Napa Cabbage Salad by Simply Recipes
Blue Cheese Coleslaw by Kalyn's Kitchen

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Coffee Granita


Well, it's time for the "Chilled Out" round up here at 28 Cooks. I was really happy to get some very different recipes submitted from some very good food blogs. But before I get into their amazing treats, here's my own submission.

I'm a huge fan of coffee. It's very rare that I start off a day without it, and a trip to get an iced coffee in the middle of a summer day does wonders for my mood. In light of all of that, it was only natural that I incorporate coffee into some type of frozen treat. And let me tell you - I think I have a winner here. This coffee granita is perfect by itself, or if you like it a bit sweeter and creamier, top it off with a touch of sweetened condensed milk, as pictured below.

Although granitas get a bad rap for being a bit time consuming to make (you have to stir it every 30 minutes for a few hours) it actually ended up being fairly easy for me. After the first 2 initial stirs, I ended up leaving the house, completely forgetting the granita in the freezer. The next morning, I simply pulled it out, set it on the kitchen counter, and let it thaw for about 30 minutes. At that point, I just stirred it with a fork and it came out perfectly. It will then store in the freezer for weeks and maintain its crumbly texture. That also makes it perfect to have on hand to serve to unexpected guests on a hot summer day.

Coffee Granita II

Coffee Granita
1/2 c sugar
3 cups strong coffee or espresso

In large container, combine sugar and coffee. Cool to room temperature. Place into deep dish, cover with foil, and place into freezer. Check it in an hour, and break up any large chunks of ice. Place back in freezer and stir with a fork, every 30 minutes, until granita has an even texture (This should take about 2-3 hours) or use the method described above. Divide into dishes and top with sweetenend condensed milk if desired.

And now onto the round up.

You have to visit The Well Seasoned Cook to see a picture of Susan's Violet Granita. It's absolutely gorgeous and looks like it would be the perfect ending to a lovely outside meal.

I must admit my ignorance and say I didn't know what a quark was or what it could do until I received Ulrike's submission of Lemon Quark Ice Cream. Now I must positively get my hands on some to try.

I'm such a huge fan of all things green tea, so Ashley's Green Tea Ice Cream sounds absolutely amazing to me. I bet it would be amazing after a lovely Thai meal.

Head on over to Trial and Error to see Nabeela's contribution, a Roasted Banana Ice Cream. I love the soft pale color of it, and can't wait to whip out my ice cream maker to give it a try.

And finally we end up with something different - a well-detailed recipe from Where's the Revolution on how to make the perfect mojito. For those who have tons of mint growing in their backyard, this is the absolute perfect way to use it up.

Thanks for joining myself and the rest of these talented food bloggers on the "Chilled Out" round up!

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!