Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sauteed Vegetables and Parmesan Pain Perdu

I recently saw a recipe for pain perdu, which is basically a baked, savory version of French toast. I had been thinking about it since I saw it, and I'd also been craving an eggy dish for dinner all day. I also had some nice cheeses and fresh veggies on hand, so I thought I'd make a sort of grilled cheese/omelet/quiche hybrid, and put it in the pain perdu category.

This was a really easy weeknight meal that was rich enough to feel like dinner, but light enough that it didn't undo my whole day.



4 slices French baguette
2 eggs
1/4 c. half and half
1/4 c. grated (packed) parmesan
1 slice sharp provolone cheese
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 zucchini, cut into half-moons
1/4 large white onion, sliced
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh thyme leaves


Preheat the oven to 375. Beat the eggs in a bowl. Add the half and half and parmesan, and some salt and pepper.


Place the bread slices in a shallow baking dish. Pour the egg mixture over the top. Place the provolone over the top of the bread, tearing into pieces so it covers the bread. Bake at 375 until the provolone is bubbly on top and the egg mixture is set, about 15 minutes.


Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Saute the onions and peppers with a little salt and pepper and the thyme. When tender and a little browned, remove from skillet. Add the zucchini to the skillet and cook until a little browned on both sides, about 5 minutes total.


Place a few slices of the bread on a plate (I used three), and top with the veggie mixture. Enjoy!

This was cheesy, savory, and fresh - and super easy. I just used the veggies I had on hand, but spinach, chard, arugula, poblano peppers, shallots, tomatoes - they'd all be great swaps. This would also be delicious topped with a little Romesco sauce or a quick balsamic vinegrette - or just a drizzle of balsamic itself. You could also use whatever cheese you like - feta, chevre, mozzarella, even cheddar. You could also lighten it up with egg whites. Instead of the cooked vegetables, you could top the pain perdu with a fresh salad tossed with just a bit of lemon juice and olive oil.

I think you get the picture: this is a forgiving dish that can really become whatever you want it to be. It would be lovely with some parma ham or sliced turkey. I'd love to try it with my leftover lamb, too - like little open-faced sandwiches.

The French really get the whole bread-and-cheese thing, don't they?

Thanks for reading. Au revoir! More soon...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Whole Wheat Pasta with Zucchini, Tomatoes, & Capers

I watch The Hills. What, you were expecting my grandmother's spaghetti sauce recipe? (Not on your life.)

LC, Speidi, Audrina vs. Justin Bobby - I can't get enough of it. I wait all week for the juvenile drama and cheap thrills of the lives of SoCal's rich, famous, and entitled. This is in no way relevant to the recipe you're about to read, it just feels good to publicly admit to such a shallow and brain-melting pastime.

Were any of The Hills castmates to actually eat anything (it's actually written into their contracts that they have to subsist on only iceberg lettuce and Pear Martinis), I think that they might be able to get away with this one. It's another vegetarian dish that I consider pretty healthy. Of course it has a little fat - for flavor - but this recipe makes several servings - at least four, and the fat plays a very minor role, taking a backseat to the fresh veggies and wholesome noodles.

It's simple, fresh, and flavorful. I can even see modifying the recipe a bit and making it a cold Summer salad - it would be the perfect accompaniment to grilled chicken skewers or the like.



1/4 white onion, chunked
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 and 1/2 c. halved grape tomatoes
1/2 large zucchini, sliced into half moons
3 c. cooked whole wheat rotini
1 c. chicken broth
1/3 c. half and half
1/4 c. drained capers
1 T. chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
grated parmesan as garnish (optional)
*I also added about a 1/4 of a yellow bell pepper, diced, just so I could get rid of it. Not necessary, really.


In a large skillet with lid, heat the butter and oil over medium-high. Saute the onion and shallot, seasoning with a little salt and pepper, until translucent and slightly browned at the edges. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute.


Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, zucchini, herbs, some salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir and cover, cooking on medium-high for about 10 minutes, until tomatoes start to break down and zucchini is tender.


Meanwhile, cook the pasta and drain, setting aside.


Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in half and half and capers. Bring the heat up a little, simmering until the mixture reduces a bit. Stir in the pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes, until pasta is hot. Enjoy!

This came out nicely. I added quite a bit of red pepper flakes, since I love them, so use your judgement and add or leave out what you don't like. If you hate zucchini, use broccoli. If you like penne, use that. Not a caper fan? No big deal. This could easily take on Mediterranean flavors with feta and black olives; it could scream Spring with peas and asparagus; or it could be a nice base for chicken breast or turkey sausage. That's what I love about pasta - it's a blank canvas.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Apricot-Cashew Moroccan Tofu & Couscous

Pardon me while I perch upon my culinary soapbox for a moment: it annoys the [bean curd] out of me when people claim they don't like tofu. Mostly because 90% of those people have never tried it. Most irritating of all is the insipid half-question/half-excuse, "Well, I don't even know what tofu IS...!!!"

To which I might reply, "Ever heard of Wikipedia?" Or perhaps, "And I suppose you know EXACTLY what comprises a Filet-o-Fish?"

Tofu is made from the soy plant. You know, the amazing crop that has sustained civilizations all over the world for thousands of years? The simple, humble legume that contains ALL of the essential amino acids, is high in protein, and is - oh yeah - delicious?!? Many of my cohorts loooove to have edamame before they eat their designer sushi rolls, but a scrumptious tofu stir-fry? Never.

OK, OK, I'll step down off my soapbox now. (Although the view is really quite nice.)

All smug, pro-veg-agenda rhetoric aside, tofu is really a wonderful kitchen staple. It's the picture of versatility - which is why it's so often compared to the egg (that, and its textural resemblance to egg whites). It takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it in, hence its comparison to the ubiquitous chicken, the flavor-sherpa of the animal kingdom.

I had been meaning to pick up some tofu for awhile, and as I think more and more about the many unsettling things I've learned about the American meat industry, I felt that today was the day for a delicious return to a forgotten favorite. I was craving something spicy and restorative after a draining weekend of traveling (not to mention eating crap airport food).

I remembered I had some couscous, which inspired me to create a Moroccan-spiced, (almost) vegetarian dish that completely hit the airport-garbage-laden spot.



1/4 block extra firm organic tofu, cut into chunks
1/2 zucchini, halved and cut into half moons
1 yellow bell pepper, chunked
handful dried apricots
handful whole raw cashews, unsalted
1/2 a medium white onion, chunked
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. Moroccan spice mixture (from The Spice House or specialty store)
2 T. peach preserves (apricot preserves would be ideal, but I had peach on hand)
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 T. Sriracha hot sauce, or to taste
1 c. chicken broth
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 c. dry whole wheat couscous
1 T. butter or olive oil
salt to taste


Heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet that has a lid. Saute the onions until translucent and brown at the edges. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for about a minute.


Add the chicken broth and the rest of the ingredients (except the couscous ingredients, of course), stir to combine, cover, and cook on medium until the veggies are just tender and the liquid is slightly thickened.


Meanwhile, cook the couscous according to package directions. Serve the Moroccan tofu mixture over couscous in a shallow bowl. Enjoy!

This came out lovely. The balance of savory and sweet elements punctuated with a bit of fiery Sriracha was just what the flight attendant ordered. The Moroccan spice blend really complemented the apricot flavor, and the tofu was the perfect protein star player. Next time, I'd chop some fresh cilantro as a garnish (I completely forgot to pick it up - if I didn't live in a dark Lincoln Park shoebox, I'd just grow my own).

This recipe, be forewarned, makes enough for about 3-4 meals. I have an inkling that it will only get tastier with time. I can't wait to have it for lunch tomorrow!

I can see this recipe being a nice introduction to the world of tofu for those who may be uninitiated. If you didn't know that there was tofu in the dish, you wouldn't even notice it - its meaty, silky texture is great with the crisp veggies, but its neutral taste allows the bold, exotic flavors to take center stage.

Hopefully the tofu-shy out there will venture into the world of complete vegetarian protein - if just as a brief departure from omnivorousness.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lamb & Mushroom Calzone with Whole Wheat Herb Dough

I had an idea once to create "Haute Pockets." My whole plan was to start up this boutique-y, niche handpie stand that sold only delicious, gourmet meat pies - haute pockets. Get it? Like Hot Pockets? But not gross. (Have you ever READ the ingredients in a Hot Pocket? Eeeeeeew.)

This meal marks the day that that dream came alive - not in the form of a full-blown restaurant concept, but in the form of a dinner eagerly devoured by myself and my Surname Twin, Lindsay.

(It's worth adding this little anecdote: we had a hard time getting the cork out of the wine, but - undaunted - we shoved the damn thing, painstakingly, down into the bottle, ultimately spraying about a half cup of red wine all over us and the kitchen. It was a volcano of Shiraz. Everywhere. It went absolutely everywhere. But the great thing about runining the cork is that you're basically obligated to drink the whole bottle. Twist my arm.)

The whole idea for this meal came when I thought to myself, "Calzone? How hard can that be?" And it turned out to be, in fact, not hard at all! My theory was basically accurate: imagine making a pizza, then folding it in half. Then baking it. Then eating it much like a starved wolf would descend on a freshly-deceased rabbit.

I also had a whole ball of leftover herb whole wheat pizza dough in the fridge, not to mention enough lamb to feed...someone who could eat 2 pounds of lamb.

It wasn't exactly like folding a pizza in half, but it was really simple. And wonderful: Meat! And cheese! In a handheld pocket! Haute Pocket, indeed. Read on to see how it all came together...


1 and 1/2 c. leftover roasted lamb, cut into smallish chunks
1 whole wheat herb dough ball, cut in half
flour for rolling out the dough
1 container light ricotta cheese, drained
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 lb. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 T. olive oil, plus more for brushing
salt and pepper
fresh thyme leaves
cornmeal for the pizza stone

1 c. crushed tomatoes
2 T. tomato paste
dry Italian herb blend
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
splash of red wine

Mixed salad greens
salad dressing


Preheat oven to 425. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Put the mushrooms in the pan in one layer, and don't touch or stir them for about 5-6 minutes, until they have developed some nice color on one side. Shake the pan and continue cooking them until they are browned well.


Roll out the two dough balls until they are very thin circles. In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, leftover lamb, cooked mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper, and parmesan until well blended. Scoop spoonfuls of the mixture onto one half of the dough, leaving a 3/4 inch edge for sealing. Fold the empty half of the dough over the filling and press the edges to seal, rolling the dough inward slightly to make an edge.


Brush a pizza stone or baking sheet with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal. Make a few small slits in the top of the calzone for steam to escape. Brush with olive oil. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes, until browned and crisp on top and bubbly inside.


While the calzone is baking, heat the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, and seasonings in a small saucepan. Cook until reduced a bit and thickened to make a marinara for dipping. Assemble the salad and toss in a little dressing. Remove calzones from oven. Serve with the marinara and salad and enjoy!

The calzone came out delicious. I made two, but they were so enormous that Lindsay and I split one (I may or may not have had another half after she left. You have no proof!).

Linz, thanks for coming by on short notice. And thanks for reading! More soon...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Whole Wheat Rotini in a Goat Cheese-Red Wine Sauce

I love getting rid of things. I'm always hauling bags of clothes to the resale shop. I love the feeling of using the last drop of shampoo and getting to do away with the bottle. And I absolutely love using up things in my refrigerator.

I had a Ziploc full of Spring Mix that I ambitiously took to work with me, intending on eating it with my leftover lamb and parsnip puree - um, that didn't happen. I didn't want to waste the tender little leaves, and I had been wanting to try incorporating Spring greens into a pasta dish for awhile. I also had about a half a small log of herb goat cheese left, and when I realized I could make something pretty stellar really quickly, without a trip to the store, I knew it was meant to be.

The onion was sort of an afterthought, although it too was begging to be put in something. I thought that caramelizing it, then deglazing the pan with red wine until it soaked into onions seemed like a good idea (I defy you to find a time when adding red wine is NOT a good idea!).

Dinner came together in a flash, and it ended up being super yummy. I am definitely going to have to put this simple dish in my regular pasta rotation (rotini-ation? Um, no.).



2 cups cooked (al dente) whole wheat rotini
1/2 large white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
large handful mixed salad green and/or spinach leaves
about 3 oz. goat cheese (I used herb chevre)
1/2 c. red wine
1 and 1/3 c. crushed tomatoes (about, just eyeball it)
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
crushed red pepper flakes to taste (optional)


Have the cooked pasta ready. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Cook the onions, seasoning with a little salt and pepper, until nicely browned. Add the wine and stir until it has almost, but not quite, evaporated and soaked into the onions.


Add the crushed tomatoes, salt to taste, and red pepper flakes, and reduce heat to medium. Stir in the goat cheese, mixing until it has melted into the sauce. Keep the heat moderate, so the cheese doesn't separate.


Add the cooked pasta and the greens. Cover and cook for about 3-4 more minutes, until the pasta is hot and the greens have wilted slightly. Serve and enjoy!

I rarely allow myself to have seconds, but I just couldn't help myself with this one. If you're a goat cheese fan, you need to make this immediately. If you wanted to make it meaty, I'd throw in Italian sausage. If you want to use spinach, that would be good too, although I liked how the Spring Mix really stood up to the sauce - spinach tends to wilt down to nothing in a flash; the greens held up and had a bit more of a bite to them.

This was a great example of how you don't have to have a lot of ingredients to make something great - it doesn't have to be complicated to be good. An ingredient enthusiast myself, I sometimes forget that, and find myself adding things to dishes when they would really be best kept simple.

Thanks for reading! More soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Roasted Leg of Lamb & Parsnip-Potato Puree

When I bought this leg of lamb, I justified the $35 price tag by reminding myself that I was, after all, helping out my local farmers. Additionally, I knew that the lamb had been raised humanely, wasn't fed any creepy hormones, and was probably loved. But as soon as I bit into a juicy, perfectly roasted bite, I realized that that was the only justification I needed.

Of course, I couldn't have known that at the time. I had no faith, standing there holding 3 and a half pounds of meat, that I could do this little lamb justice. Nonetheless, into my shopping bag it went. About a minute later I texted the LeCroys and told them to cancel any Sunday night plans, because we were going to feast like kings! (It's important to always project confidence.)




3.5 lb. boneless leg of lamb
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
3 sprigs fresh oregano, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
3 T. olive oil, plus more for herb rub
2 T. butter


1 small container beef stock
3 T. peach preserves
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 sprig rosemary
2 T. butter


2 parsnips, peeled and chopped into large chunks
2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 c. half and half
3 T. butter
salt and pepper


spring mix
1/2 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
1 T. dijon mustard
1-2 T. honey
juice of one lemon
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
1 small shallot, minced


Preheat oven to 325. Have a roasting pan with removable roasting rack ready. In a skillet, melt the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Season the lamb on all sides VERY well with salt and pepper. Brown the lamb on all sides. Transfer to roasting rack in pan and pour all accompanying juices/leftover oil with it.


Poke about a dozen small holes in the top of the leg with a knife. Stick the garlic slices in the holes, and also in any natural crevices the meat has. Sprinkle any extra garlic on top and around the lamb. To make the herb rub for the lamb, mix the oregano and rosemary with enough olive oil to moisten the herbs. Add some salt and pepper and stir with your fingers. When the lamb is cool enough to touch, spread the herb-oil mixture over the top, rubbing it into the meat.


Roast the lamb for about 2 hours on 325, until it's medium rare to medium. You can also use a meat thermometer. The meat should be about 145 degrees after a 10-minute resting period.


Boil the potatoes and parsnips in a large pot of salted water until tender. The parsnips may need a bit longer than the potatoes, so you can put them in about 5 minutes before you add the potatoes. Drain.


Heat the half and half in the microwave until hot. Return the potatoes and parsnips to the pot. Stir in the butter until melted. Add the hot half and half and season with salt and pepper. Mash with a fork, then finish by pureeing it in the pot with an immersion blender (or use a food processor or blender).


Bring all ingredients under "SAUCE" except butter to a boil, leaving the rosemary sprig intact. Reduce by about half, until the mixture is thickened. Remove the rosemary sprig. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter.


Wash the salad and toss the cucumbers with the leaves. Combine the rest of the ingredients to make a quick vinaigrette, and drizzle over the salads.


After the lamb has rested for 10-15 minutes, slice it. Serve it on top of a heaping spoonful of parsnip-potato puree, and top the lamb with the peach sauce. Enjoy!


TAYLOR: The lamb was very well prepared. Just the way you want it with a tender inside and flavorful, garlicky exterior. The peach jus complimented it perfectly with a touch of sweetness. The parsnip puree had a nice smooth texture and rich flavor, which provided a nice starch to balance the meat. I'd call this my favorite Fearless Meal of all time, and there have been many, many good ones.

SARAH: Absolutely divine! The sauce and rub had the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. I preferred the pieces that were less red, more in the medium well range. The parsnip mashed potatoes were a perfect creamy side dish. I had no idea I liked lamb so much!

MY VOTE ON MY DISH: 9 stars! Maybe even 9.5. But I give all - ALL - the credit to the lamb and the farmers. I am 100% positive that I would not have had such delicious results with a more inferior piece of meat (i.e., commercially raised/processed, etc.). I was thrilled with how it came out. And Sarah makes a great point about the medium vs. medium-rare parts - the great thing about a large cut of meat like this is that different pieces are at different doneness levels, and people can pick the sections they like best. The parsnip-potato puree is simply a testament to the power of butter and half and half and the magic they work on mashed carbs. I liked that side dish so much, though, that I am definitely going to incorporate it into my repertoire of go-to side dishes when cooking for guests. It has so few ingredients, but is soooo yummy. I thought I might've gone overboard on the garlic (as I am wont to do), but it really only penetrates the top layer of the meat, so it's not overpowering. The herb rub was divine, too. I'm giving myself a pat on the back! And I'm so glad my guests liked it as much as I did.

Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. LeCroy, and thanks for reading. More soon!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Whole Wheat Herb Flatbread with Prosciutto & Chevre

What a gorgeous Saturday!

Today was the first true Spring day Chicago has seen yet this year - it was sunny and 70 degrees, the perfect weather for bike riding by the lakeshore, a morning trip to the farmer's market, and general merrymaking.

And my trip to Green City Market was no ordinary jaunt, either; I had the pleasure of shopping alongside a local chef! I'm doing a little side project for a well-known caterer-cum-consultant who specializes in sustainability, and when he wanted to meet at the farmer's market to chat, I couldn't say no. He knows all the local farmers, and gave me the rundown on everything from amazing apple storage methods to which "green" farmers are actually riding around the backcountry roads in earth-hating Hummers. It was so great to get an insider's perspective on the market offerings.

I picked up a few ingredients there, including a nice green salad mix, which I knew would go nicely with the whole wheat flatbread that I'd been planning on since last night. Since making my own pizza dough recently, I had been wanting to try making it with whole wheat flour. It totally worked! Read on to see how to make it yourself.



For the dough, use the recipe from this post, substituting whole wheat flour for regular flour.**

**NOTE: The dough was stickier than white-flour dough when I began to knead it, so I used regular flour on my work surface while I was kneading, adding more as neccessary.

I added chopped rosemary, dill, sage, and parsley (very well chopped, about 1/2 c. total herbs) just before I started kneading. Over the course of the kneading, they became well-incorporated into the dough.

3-4 slices prosciutto, cut into strips
crumbled herb goat cheese
3 shallots, sliced thinly
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 T. olive oil for shallots, plus more for brushing on dough
freshly grated parmiagiano reggiano
salt and freshly ground pepper
red pepper flakes
sprinkling of cornmeal for the pizza stone


Follow the directions for the dough. Leave dough in refrigerator for a few hours or overnight (you can use it immediately, but it is a bit harder to work with).


Preheat the oven to 425. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Cook the shallots until caramelized, adding sugar in the last 2-3 minutes of cooking time. Set aside.


Roll out dough until desired thickness (I like my thin). Brush the pizza stone with olive oil, then sprinkle with cornmeal.


Brush the dough with olive oil, then season with a little salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Top with goat cheese, proscuitto, and parmigiano reggiano. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes, watching pizza closely. Cooking times will vary depending on the oven, etc. Slice and enjoy!

The slight sweetness of the dough was balanced by the saltiness of the prosciutto, and the creaminess of the goat cheese was a nice complement to the crisp crust. The only thing I felt was missing was a little something to dip the flatbread in - it was a tad on the dry side. Next time, I'd just have some marinara handy for dipping, just like you would for a calzone. The salad, which was nothing more than the lettuce mix drizzled with a simple dressing of lemon juice, dijon mustard, honey, and olive oil, was light, crisp, and springy.

I'm really happy that the whole wheat flour worked out - I can see many a whole wheat pizza in my future!

Thanks for reading! More soon...

The Vegan Bean Soup Project, with...ahem, Goat Cheese

This afternoon at work, I was absolutely dreading the inevitable question, "So what are you doing tonight?"

Frankly, I lied. "Oh, you know, getting some wine with friends, staying out late, maybe some tabletop dancing at the hottest new club."

The truth? All day, I thought about coming home to my Crockpot full of vegan bean soup - the soup I so boldly referred to as a "project" in the title of this post. I settled on Project both for the air of importance it bestowed upon what turned out to be a magnificent soup, but also because it was a meal that required two completely separate cooking sessions.

I was inspired by my new, oft-name-dropped cookbook, Super Natural Cooking. Heidi Swanson's vegetable broth was too intriguing to pass up. (Yes, I find vegetable broth recipes intriguing - do you now see why I feel compelled to lie about my weekend activities?) I shy away from veggie broth at the store, mostly because I find chicken broth so delicious and versatile, but also because I'm just dubious about the ingredients. Processed soup in general, is sort of sketchy - it's always a total sodium party, with who-knows-how-old veggies...and don't even get me started on the type of MEAT you find in those canned soup jobbies.

Heidi's vegetable broth required simple, inexpensive ingredients, only an hour of my time, and I felt really good about building a soup from the bottom up. Liquid karma! (Making chicken broth, on the other hand - I'll file that away under "Someday.") I had also recently seen a bean mix at Trader Joe's that caught my attention - 17 Bean Mix! Seventeen beans! I am 110% positive that if I were forced at gunpoint to name 17 different varities of legumes, I would end up with a fatal bullet wound.

Buying dried beans is somewhat of a new culinary horizon for me, so the plethora of beans in their mix seemed like an easy way to acquaint myself with, well...all of them.

I made the broth while I was cooking dinner, so I only dirtied the kitchen once (since the soup simmered all day in the Crockpot) - it turned out to be well worth the effort.

The goat cheese was a last-minute (obviously non-vegan) addition, but it added to the already creamy beans, and picked up on the lemon juice in the broth. Of course, if you are an actual vegan, this is an ingredient you'll skip. If you are a dairy-phile like me, you could also serve the soup with a dollop of creme fraiche, sour cream, or Greek yogurt. Grated parmesan would also be yummy.




(Reprinted here from Heidi Swanson's recipe; my personal additions have asterisks.)

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, cut into eighths
2 shallots, quartered
1 garlic clove, smashed*
2 celery stalks, chopped
a few springs thyme*
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 quarts water

*I didn't have thyme. Instead, I used a little parsley, sage, dill, and rosemary.
*I added 1 large chopped carrot.
*I think I used 2 cloves.
*I added some fresh ground black pepper and a pinch of my favorite organic all-purpose salt-free seasoning.

NOTE: Because I once saw Ina Garten do this on TV, I left all the peels on my onions, garlic, and shallots. It all adds to the flavor of the broth. I wouldn't recommend doing this unless you're buying organic ingredients, because of pesticides, etc.

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, shallots, garlic, celery, and thyme. Saute 5 minutes and add the salt and water. Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature and simmer for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. Strain and use in soups, risottos, and sauces. Makes 2 quarts.


2 quarts homemade vegetable broth
1 bag 17-bean mix (or other dry bean blend)
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, chopped into small pieces
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste
herbed goat cheese (optional)


The night before you want to make the soup, make the broth and store in an airtight container. Also, soak the dry beans overnight in enough water to cover the beans by a few inches. The beans will soak up a lot of the water.


In the morning, drain the beans. Add the beans, broth, carrot, and celery to the Crockpot. Cook on low all day. When you get home, add the lemon juice and season to taste. Serve with a chunk of goat cheese on top. Enjoy!

I know that making your own broth may sound a little over the top, but this soup came out so yummy that I think it's worth the minimal effort. A little chopping and some patience while it simmers, and bam - an excellent, non-creepy broth for what I imagine to be an endless variety of uses. This recipe is so simple, I can imagine just making batches of it weekly so that I always have it on hand. There are some things that just need chicken broth, but I'm really excited to experiment with vegetable broth in all my favorite brothy things.

The beans were so creamy and hearty, and their beany goodness just permeated the broth as it cooked. This meal is hands-down one of the most healthful things I've made - and completely craveable.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Herbed Chicken & Grilled Romaine with Lemon Sauce

Some people will grill anything. And by some people, I mean men.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. There's nothing like the flavor of those perfectly spaced, charred black lines on a piece of meat. But on lettuce...who knew it could be so amazing?!

I wanted to use up the romaine I had bought for my Green Goddess salad dressing post, and I'd been wanting to try grilling it for some time (something I saw awhile back on the Food Network). Despite my distaste for salads, I actually love lettuce. Strange, given it's not all that flavorful, but there are much worse things to nibble on, right?

I wanted to make this meal with tilapia, but Trader Joe's (and this is its one downfall) only stocks salmon, most of which is already seasoned (I HATE buying pre-seasoned meat - it's like cheating on a test in my opinion). So I settled on chicken - always a safe bet.

I had to change several of my plans for this dish; I wanted to have the whole grilled chicken breast on top of the lettuce, but I got impatient waiting for it to grill that I just sliced it up and tossed it in with the tomatoes and sauce. I think that actually improved it, since the chicken sort of soaked up the lemony sauce as it finished cooking, but it didn't turn out as pretty as I would've liked.



1 small chicken breast, fresh
1 romaine heart, halved lengthwise
1 c. grape tomatoes, whole
2 slices prosciutto, rolled up and sliced
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper
all-purpose salt-free seasoning
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
more olive oil for brushing on the grill pan
chopped fresh parsley


Heat a grill pan over medium heat and brush with olive oil. Season the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper, and all-purpose seasoning. Grill on both sides until almost cooked through (still a little pink in the middle). Set aside.


Wipe out the grill pan and re-brush with oil. Grill the romaine, seasoning on both sides with salt and pepper, until lightly brown and caramelized on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Set aside and keep warm.


In a skillet, saute the prosciutto until lightly browned. Remove from pan. Heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Saute the garlic and shallots for about a minute. Add the lemon juice and the tomatoes. Slice the chicken breast and return it, with any stray juices, back into the pan. Add the parsley and a little salt and pepper, and saute until chicken is cooked and tomatoes are hot. Serve alongside the lettuce. Enjoy!

The lettuce takes on such a delicious, almost sweet flavor when it's grilled, and the lemon-butter sauce was the perfect accent to the chicken and tomatoes. Next time, I'd leave out the prosciutto, since I don't feel like it really added anything. And I think it actually tastes better uncooked (well, it's already cooked, so it doesn't need anything further to be perfect).

This was a fresh, Spring-y meal that came together quickly and was surprisingly tasty. Definitely give grilled romaine a try if you're curious - it's delish!

Thanks for reading! More soon.
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