Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Weekend Stir-fry, Part II

I haven't made a recipe the way it was written in years. And it's not because I don't trust the author, it's just that I normally find something I want to add to it or switch around. When I read a recipe, my brain immediately starts firing with a zillion other things that I want to try. Even my own recipes aren't safe. When I make a recipe I've already made, I usually find something I want to change about it. I think the creative aspect and the flexibility of cooking is what I love so much.

Case and point - I made this weekend stir-fry last year, trying to use up all of the loose ends of vegetables I had lying around in my refrigerator. Anyone who cooks often knows that sometimes you end up with a fridge full of vegetables that are slowly turning over to the dark side. I hate to be wasteful, so I like to try and find ways to use them up before they are completely gone.

Stirfries and soups are excellent ways to use up produce, and I loved the recipe for the stir fry. However, I started making it today and changed a few of the ingredients, adding some vegetable stock, which really brings up the flavor quite a bit. It's not much different than the original, but it's still exceptionally tasty. Go ahead - clean out your refrigerator and give it at try!

*This is also an entry into Project Foodie's Leftover Tuesdays #11 roundup, which is on the crusade against throwing away leftovers.

Weekend Stir-fry, Part II

Weekend Stirfry, Part II
Serves 4

1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 extra-large* vegetable bouillon cube, dissolved in 1/4 c hot water
1 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 c warm water

(I used about 6 cups of assorted vegetables, which I sauteed in small amounts of sesame oil until tender.)
In wok over medium-high heat, add sesame oil. Add ginger and garlic and saute for 20-30 seconds. Add oyster sauce, soy sauce, and bouillon cube mixture and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, then whisk in cornstarch mixture. Boil until thickened. Remove from heat and toss over cooked vegetables.

*Or use 2 regular small square cubes

Monday, January 28, 2008

5-Minute Mushroom Sauce

Mushrooms are definitely one of those things that I hated as a child, but now I can't live without them. I often have them in my refrigerator and love to find new uses for them. I wanted something quick to make for lunch and to pack for lunch at work tomorrow and wanted to use up a box of mushrooms that were sitting in the fridge.

This may actually be the quickest and easiest mushroom sauce in the world. It literally takes 5 minutes from start to finish, yet it's huge on flavor. And not only is it super easy, but almost all of the ingredients are already in your pantry. While this was cooking, I threw some seasoned tilapia filets in the broiler for a few minutes and heated up some brown rice, and within 10 minutes I had lunch ready to go. Go ahead and give this too-easy-to-be-true sauce a try!

5-Minute Mushroom Sauce

5-Minute Mushroom Sauce
Serves 3 or 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
pinch of salt
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, warm olive oil. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and salt, cover, and saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add butter, thyme, and balsamic vinegar, stir well, and cook an additional 2-3 minutes until mushrooms are tender. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hearty Vegetarian Sub

I work at a fairly large hospital that has a pretty decent cafeteria during the week. However, on the weekends, the choices are typically chicken fingers or....well, chicken fingers. We normally order out, but pizza shops aren't the most vegetarian friendly. Sometimes I just get a hankering for something tasty, like a good solid sub.

The veggies, combined with the tasty tomato sauce, make an incredibly hearty and filling sub. It also packs well for brownbag lunches - just heat up the veggie mixture in a separate container and then stuff into a roll. I'm sure it would also be equally tasty tossed with pasta for a different lunch idea.

No matter how you serve it, I can guarantee you'll enjoy this hearty vegetarian mixture.

Hearty Vegetarian Sub

Hearty Vegetarian Sub
Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 c onion, chopped in slivers
2 c baby bella mushrooms, sliced thickly
2 c zucchini, cut into 1" long slivers
1 green bell pepper, cut into slivers
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tsp fennel seed, crushed
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes

In large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add onion and bell pepper and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms and zucchini and saute an additional 5 minutes. Add spices and stir for 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients, stir well to combine, lower heat and cook, covered for an additional 10 minutes until veggies are tender. (I wanted some texture to remain, so I didn't completely cook them until done). Serve on hoagie rolls with cheese.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Chili Lime Peanuts

I lived in a small town in Guatemala a few years ago, teaching English at a nicely sized private school. The town was very small, not many people had vehicles, so much of the transportation was done on the old feet. You would think that walking so much would have helped me lose weight, but I gained almost 10 pounds while I was there. Most was due to the excellent food I ate on a daily basis, cooked by the staff of the guest house I was staying at, but a majority was due to the country's obsession with snack foods.

Almost every activity or event is capped off by walking to the local store and buying a snack or treat of some sort. And we're not just talking the same old chips and cookies we have here. They have all sorts of different flavors of things, but the most prevalent and my favorite is the Chili Lime flavor.Almost everything comes in Chili Lime flavor, from Doritos to Fritos to candy to cookies. They even sprinkle a chili lime seasoning on their fruits, which is actually really delicious.

I wanted to make a new glazed nut to add to my growing list and decided to pay some homage to perhaps one of the greatest combination of flavors. Like the rest of the glazed nuts (check after the recipe for more links), these take about 20 minutes to make. They are the perfect food for snacking and would be a great little nibbly to serve guests.

Feel free to increase or decrease the amount of crushed red pepper. The 1 tsp will give you about a 2.5 out of 5 on the 28 Cooks' Hot-o-Meter.

Chili Lime Peanuts

Chili Lime Peanuts
1 c dry roasted unsalted peanuts
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp crushed red pepper
zest of 2 limes

In large pan, combine peanuts 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 pepper and continue to cook for an additional 30 seconds, until nuts are well glazed and pepper is well mixed in. Add lime zest and stir until well mixed. Pour onto sheet of wax paper on a cooling rack and spread out. Allow to cool. Store in tightly-sealed container.

Looking for more?? Try these:
*Lemon Pepper Cashews
*Jasmine Tea and Ginger Almonds
*Chili Chai Walnuts
*Sweet and Spicy Walnuts
*Green Tea Wasabi Almonds

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lentil Sambusas

I discovered a love of Ethiopian food when I was living in Kenya and I've been enchanted ever since. I was recently introduced to an Ethiopian restaurant in Baltimore called Dukem. The menu is fantastic for both meat lovers and vegetarians and everything has been very tasty so far. If you haven't had Ethiopian food yet, I strongly recommend you give it a try.

As soon as I tried their veggie sambusas with lentils, I immediately knew I wanted to try and recreate them. With the help of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and his recipe for Ethiopian lentils, which I modified a bit to suit my tastes, I had my filling for the sambusas in a jiffy. Although these take a little longer to prepare, they freeze well uncooked and would be great to have on hand to pop in the oven when you are looking for something different for dinner. Make smaller sambusas and serve as a great little appetizer at your next party. No matter what size you make them, I can guarantee these will be big on flavor!

Lentil Samusas

Lentil Sambusas
Makes 8

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 c dry red wine
2 c vegetable stock
1 c lentils
1/2 pkg phyllo dough, thawed

In medium saucepan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, and saute until tender. Add paprika, ginger, allspice, cayenne, coriander, cardamom, and cumin seed, and saute for 30 seconds. Add red wine, vegetable stock, and lentils, turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 375. Remove phyllo dough from package and unroll. Cover with slightly damp tea towel. Remove one sheet, brush with olive oil, layer with another sheet. Repeat 2 more times for a total of 4 sheets. Cut sheets in half lengthwise for 2 long strips. On the corner of one sheet, place about 1/4-1/2 c lentil mixture. Fold sheet over and fold like a flag making a triangle shape. Fold all the way to the end, sealing the overlap with oil. (For a visual demonstration, check out this link) Place on cookie sheet lightly sprayed with cooking oil. Place into preheated oven and bake 20 minutes, flipping halfway through, until sambusas are golden brown and flaky. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Smoked" Salmon Spread

Like I said in last week's post, I absolutely love making dips and spreads. I could make an entire meal out of dips. Wait, scratch that - I'm sure I already have. But dips are fun and easy to make and are great to serve to guests.

This is a great quick and easy dip to make. Although I've used the substitute of canned salmon and liquid smoke, it's got flavor that is spot on. I bet that most tasters won't be able to tell that this dip doesn't include the pricier real thing. Serve with crackers, grilled bread rounds, or try the Crispy Flatbread.

Smoked Salmon Spread

"Smoked" Salmon Spread
2 (7.7 oz) pkgs salmon, drained
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbsp prepared horseradish (or more to taste)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp liquid smoke

In medium bowl, add salmon. Using a fork, make sure salmon is well flaked and doesn't remain in large pieces. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Allow to chill in the refrigerator before serving for flavors to get friendly. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Crispy Flatbread with Everything

Obviously I love to make dips. If you look at my recipe drop-down menus, you'll see that it's loaded with entries. But one of the dilemnas of making all of those delicious dips is finding something to serve them with.

That's why I love recipes like this. Like the polenta crackers, these take just a few minutes to make and are extremely versatile. The added beer gives these a light, flaky texture and adds crispy bubbles during baking. Although I've used a mix of spices to make these like everything bagels, you can easily use whatever herbs and spices you need to suit your purpose.

Everything Beer Flat Bread

Crispy Flatbread with Everything

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 c beer
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp poppy seeds
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp dried minced onion
1/2 tsp dried minced garlic

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cookie sheet in oven to preheat as well. In small bowl, combine olive oil and minced garlic and set aside. In large bowl, sift flour and salt together. Add beer and mix with hands until dough forms. Knead for 2-3 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. On slightly floured surface, roll dough out very thinly. (The thinner the dough, the crispier the flatbread will be) Place on parchment paper the size of the baking sheet. Brush dough with garlic olive oil and sprinkle liberally with seasoning. Lightly press seasoning into dough. Place into oven and bake 5-10 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool on baking rack. Break apart when cool.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Lemon Confit & Kalamata Olive Bruschetta

I received a nice stack of cooking magazines for Christmas this year, one of them being the January 2008 Bon Appetit. As I normally do, I started making a list of ideas and recipes that caught my attention. For some reason, I was drawn to the article on making confit. Confit means "preserved" and can be used with duck, garlic, or lemon. I immediately wanted to try the lemon confit, since it sounded like something perfect to have on hand to jazz up recipes.

It's fairly easy to make, although it does take about an hour to simmer. However, it stores in the refrigerator for up to a month. It smells delicious and I'm looking forward to finding new ways to use it. Here, I've tossed it with kalamata olives and fresh thyme and served it over grilled sourdough bread to make a quick, yet tasty appetizer. It can also be used with any fish or seafood dish, and would be great tossed in with steaming mussels. With so many possible uses, this is definitely something you need to keep on hand.

Lemon Confit with Kalamata Olives

Lemon Confit
Courtesy of Bon Appetit, January 2008

4 lemons
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 c canola oil (I used Smart Balance)
1 clove garlic, halved
Pinch of sea salt

Using vegetable peeler, peel lemons in long strips. Squeeze 6 tablespoons of juice from lemons. Blanch peel in small saucepan of boiling water 10 seconds, drain. Repeat twice. Bring 6 tablespoons of lemon juice, oils, garlic, and salt to simmer in small saucepan. Add lemon peel and simmer over low heat until peel is soft, about 1 hour. Cool. Keep chilled and completely covered in oil.

Lemon Confit & Kalamata Olive Bruschetta
1/2 c kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
1/4 c lemon confit, chopped
2 tsp of oil from confit
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

Combine in a small bowl. Serve over grilled bread. (If you have a Foreman grill, just brush pieces of bread with olive oil and grill - super easy and it gets great grill marks) Enjoy!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Mushrooms

Every home cook needs a recipe that is their "ace in the hole." Usually, it's something that can be whipped up in the least amount of time possible, uses ingredients that are usually stocked in your kitchen, yet looks like you spent hours slaving over the stove.

These stuffed mushrooms are amazing. Not only do they whip up in just a few minutes, but most of the ingredients are readily found in any well-stocked refrigerator and pantry. I normally hate to use prepacked seasoning mixes or sauces, but the Lipton Garlic and Herb mix adds just the right amount of spice in seconds. Although I haven't tried them, I'm sure you could freeze these to always have them ready to go for a delicious yet gourmet appetizer.

If you are a meat-eater, this would also be fantastic stuffed into a chicken breast and baked until done. The filling by itself also makes an excellent hot or cold dip, as a coworker of mine recently found out.

Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Mushrooms

Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Mushrooms
1/2 pkg (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach
1 1/2 pkg (8 oz each) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 c shredded parmesan
1 c canned artichoke hearts, chopped
1 pkt Lipton Garlic and Herb dry soup mix
18 baby bella mushrooms, washed with stems removed

Cook and drain spinach. Combine spinach, cream cheese, parmesan, artichokes, and soup mix in a medium mixing bowl. Stuff mushrooms generously with mixture. Place on a oiled cookie sheet covered with foil. Place into 375 degree oven and bake 20-25 minutes, until mushrooms are soft and stuffing has started to brown. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Year in Review - Nibbly Style
Part II

Welcome to the second part of my year in review.

7 Pepper Hot Sauce
July was an interesting month for me. I did a 21-day detox, which felt fantastic once I made it past the initial 4 days. But that also meant that there wasn't much cooking going on. However, I did make this fabulous little 7 Pepper Hot Sauce. I love all things spicy and this definitely kicks things up a few notches.

Green Tea & Wasabi Glazed Almonds
I added 2 new varieties of glazed nuts to my repertoire, Green Tea and Wasabi Glazed Almonds and Sweet and Spicy Walnuts. Both are quite tasty and would make a great little nibbly bit to put out for guests. And one of my favorite recipes I've ever made was posted this month, my Horseradish Hummus. I'm a lover of all things hummus, but this one is probably my current favorite. It's got a perfect little kick.

Roasted Potatoes with Green Olive and Caper Vinaigrette
I think these Roasted Potatoes with Green Olive and Caper Vinaigrette would be perfect finger food for a party. Fried potato goodness is usually loved by almost everybody, and the bite of the vinaigrette makes a lovely companion.

Spinach and Toasted Pinenut Hummus
Unfortunately, October saw an overload of schoolwork, so there wasn't much cooking to be had. However, I did add another hummus to the list - a lovely Spinach and Toasted Pine Nut Hummus. Hummus is usually a great healthier dip option to serve to guests and this one will do quite nicely.

Red Pepper and Feta Spread
I'm a huge fan of this dip, which also fits in nicely with the holiday festive color scheme. This Red Pepper and Feta Spread can be used in a variety of ways. Pipe into cucumber or phyllo cups or serve as a dip - no matter how you serve it, I think you'll enjoy its kickiness.

Cranberry Jalapeno Spread
And finally we end up with December's Cranberry Jalapeno Spread. This is a lovely little spread that pairs wonderfully with cheese. The jalapeno adds a mild little bite to this tasty spread that was made for holiday entertaining.

Hopefully you've enjoyed this year's review and will find a recipe or two that looks tasty. I also wanted to send out a huge thank you to all of my readers who stop by 28 Cooks. This blog wouldn't exist without your support and for that I'm a truly grateful!
I wish you a very Happy New Year full of peace and hope!