Sunday, April 25, 2010

Let's Have Breakfast for Dinner!!

I love breakfast. However, five days a week my day starts too early to do it justice. It's usually cereal and yogurt with berries in my office, at my desk in the library before we open the doors. I made omelette's and other breakfast favorites on weekends. Since I began this project, other food preparation has taken most of the time I usually spent for those favorites. Restaurants offer 'big breakfast's' of juice/fruit, bacon, eggs, fried potatoes and other favorites. I decided this week to indulge myself and prepare several dishes I have been saving in a folder for a bit. Most of them a bit on the unusual side.

Scrambled Eggs in Potato Baskets
Jalapeno-Cornmeal Pancakes/Apricot Jalapeno Topping
Maple Bacon
Greek Yogurt Cheese with Rhubarb/Berry Sauce
Fresh Rhubarb Punch

I have not purchased prepared fresh hash browns found in the dairy case until now. They turned out to be a good thing. They potatoes are mixed with sauteed onion, salt and pepper and beaten eggs to bind the potatoes together. They are then spooned into sprayed muffin tins. When the cups are full a well is made with the back of a spoon. The nests are then baked until golden and set. Meanwhile eggs are scrambled with fresh chopped chives, tarragon and mascarpone cheese. Cook with a bit of oil until soft and creamy. Carefully remove the nests, plate and spoon the egg mixture into them. A bit of chopped parsley on top. This is a fairly simple preparation, but a pretty one. I think I overdid the tarragon a bit and would cut back on that herb next time.

These pancakes were a pleasant surprise. In addition to cornmeal batter mixture, seeded diced jalapeno, grated Parmesan cheese and chopped green onions are added. The small pancakes are cooked using 3-4 tablespoons of the batter. A sauce of apricot jam, orange juice, chopped green onions and seeded chopped jalapeno pepper is heated and spooned over the cakes. Bacon painted with maple syrup and baked in the oven is served along side.

I have recently become a fan of Greek Yogurt. It is less tart and much creamier. I placed a cup in a double layer of cheese cloth and set it over a bowl. The liquid milk solids drained out leaving a nice firm ball of cheese.

Rhubarb is a spring favorite and I cooked it with sugar and water until it was soft. It was divided and strawberries and raspberries added to half of it. This mixture was cooked until the berries are soft. The sauce is spooned over the yogurt cheese. Loved it! The texture of the cheese is much like softened cream cheese without all the salt and fat.

The remainder of the rhubarb sauce was put in a blender with pineapple and lemon juice and blended until smooth. Fill a tall glass half way with the sauce and top off with sparkling white wine. An alternative to the familiar mimosa. Really good and very refreshing.

I enjoyed this week ends offerings and will do breakfast menus again. I will be taking next week off. I will be attending my high school class reunion...50 th. Good grief! Have a good couple of weeks and enjoy the spring weather.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cooking Light/Mediterranean Light

Cooking Light is not only an excellent magazine, but they publish a number of cookbooks that are equally excellent. Mediterranean cooking works well with the concepts of light cooking. Last week halibut was cooked in parchment. This week chicken is cooked in the same way.

Greek Country Salad on Grilled Romaine Lettuce
Artichoke with Roasted Garlic-Wine Dip
Chicken Breast en Papillote

The salad is composed of chopped vine ripened tomatoes, English cucumber, green bell pepper, and red onion. The lettuce is quartered and left intact; drizzled with a bit of EVOO and grilled. Served on a plate with spoon fulls of the vegetables, chopped Kalamata olives and reduced Feta cheese. The dressing is a vinaigrette of fresh herbs, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, salt and pepper. I used a Tuscan Olive Oil from The Olive Tap in Long Grove. Just a light drizzle is needed to bring the flavors together. I also toasted cubes of a multigrain roll over the top.

Springtime brings lots of fresh vegetables. One of my favorites is the artichoke. Big round globes of tightly compacted leaves. The stem is cut off and the tips of the leaves snipped. It is cooked in boiling water until a knife pierces the base easily. The dip begins with roasted garlic cloves simmered in white wine. Then vegetable broth is added and reduced by half. A tiny piece of butter is melted into it. The mixture is blended until smooth along with an additional couple of garlic cloves. A sprinkle of parsley and is served warm for dipping the artichoke leaves. The choke is removed and the heart is cut up and some of the dip is poured over them.

I really like preparing an entree in parchment. Placing the pouch on the plate is a bit dramatic. Cutting open the pouch so the aroma and flavors are released is a special experience. The chicken breast is placed on the parchment, drizzled with a bit of EVOO and salt and pepper. Garlic, shallot and mushrooms are lightly sauteed in a bit of EVOO. Diced tomatoes are added and seasonings are adjusted. The mixture is spooned over the chicken and grated lemon zest is dusted over all. The pouch is sealed and baked for about 40 minutes.

An enjoyable meal. Wonder what else I can prepare using a parchment pouch? Will give it some thought.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Halibut two ways!

I've been trying to add more fish to my diet and since there are many varieties, I will try different methods of preparation. This week the fish is halibut; a nice meaty fish. I tried two very different preparations and served them with a cous cous side dish.

Lemon-Artichoke Halibut en Papillote
Grilled Halibut with Mango Cucumber Salad
Black Bean and Spinach Cous Cous

En Papillote is a French term for food baked in parchment paper. The steam in the packet cooks the contents and creates a sauce. The fish is placed on a bed of chopped shallots on the paper. A spoon of salsa is spread on the fish along with artichoke hearts and lemon slices. Salt and pepper the mound and seal up the pouch with narrow folds. The packet is cooked on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes and served in the pouch. Cut the pouch open and enjoy the fish and the sauce. It is a very nice meal and I will try the papillote method again with other types of fish.

The second piece of halibut was also very successful. It was lightly oiled and seasoned with salt and pepper; grilled for about 5 minutes per side. It is served atop a salad of sliced cucumbers and radishes, chopped onion, diced jalapeno and mango. A light dressing of lemon juice, EVOO and white wine vinegar. This fish is an entirely different taste, but also one I will use again. The salad has just a bit of a bite to it and compliments the fish very will.

As a side dish for both preparations was Israeli cous cous (a larger grain than other cous cous) cooked in broth. a box of frozen spinach is thawed and the liquid squeezed out. Along with rinsed and drained black beans it is mixed into the cooked cous cous. A bit of lemon juice and salt a pepper is the only dressing. It is served at room temperature.

All in all this was a good week. Will need to think about what to do next week.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Easter!

Easter was a great week-end. I think I should not be surprised that even though we don't communicate much about the menu, our meals turn out fabulous every time.

Arrived on Saturday and Chris made a pasta dish for dinner that was great. Poached chicken, artichokes, Kalamata olives, Feta cheese, & sun dried tomatoes sauce over pasta. With garlic bread, super!!

After church on Easter we began to put together the dinner. The ham was great with a special glaze: honey, mustard and juice of an orange. Great! Thank you!

Hors douvers were provided by Loretta; tortilla scoops, crackers and lots of fillings, sloppy Joe's, tuna salad and goat cheese with cranberry relish (my favorite) on top. Also Feta cheese filled olives.

Dinner :

Sliced Glazed Ham
Cheese Scalloped Potatoes With Bacon
Caprerse Salad
Loretta's tossed salad with OJ's, Beans and Croutons/French Onion Rings
Spring Vegetable Saute
Lime Glazed Angel Cake with Pistachio's

Basically an easy preparation for this meal.

The glaze was heated and added to the already cooked ham after heating a couple of hours. The potatoes were put together on Saturday and cooked on Sunday. Potatoes, cheese, bacon, onion, etc. The Caprese Salad is made of grape tomatoes ane mini Mozzarella's balls, basil, EVOO and salt and pepper. Lori's salad is filled with many good things, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, beans, Mandarin Oranges and other salad ingredients and a dressing of choice.

The vegetable medley is blanched green beans, broccoli, asparagus, snow peas and small peas. Tossed with EVOO, sauteed shallots, and red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

An all together good menu.

Dessert was a Lime Angel Food Cake with Glaze and Pistachio's with coffee or tea.
After dinner we always watch a movie. This year was "A Blind Side" A good film we all enjoyed.

A great meal and good company. The drive home in the rain and traffic....not so much; but worth the weekend.

Next week?? Halibut in Papillote (parchment paper)

Have a great week!