Thursday, August 30, 2012

Truffle Oil & Parmesan - a Powerful Pair!

Lemon Truffle Parmesan Salad,

 Truffled Portobello Pizza,

 and Baked Truffled Cheese Fries

     Truffle oil, actually a plain oil infursed with truffle extract, is very potent stuff!  It usually elicts a strong reaction;  either you love it or can't stand it.  Our family is enamored with the earthy flavor and strong aroma in truffle oil - especially in dishes that also call for the buttery nutty taste of Parmesan cheese. The combination of these two ingredients takes a recipe over the top and beyond the ordinary!  In this post I have included three of our favorites. 
     The Lemon Truffle Parmesan Salad is adapted from one of my most used cookbooks, The Family Chef by Jewels & Jill Elmore.  When our Uncle Bruce had it, he raved about it so much that Aunt Betsy gave  him a bottle of truffle oil in his Christmas stocking!                                 
     The Truflled Portobello Pizza is Jenn's invention and a Sunday supper favorite.  She came up with the idea of using arugula, mushrooms, a couple different cheeses, and a drizzle of truffle oil. By using a premade homemade crust, it is so easy and simple to make. All I can say is that it is truly fabulous! 
    Last is a recipe for Baked Truffled Cheese Fries.  I patterned them after the truffle fries we get at our favorite "after church" restaurant.

    Enjoy these yummy truffle oil and Parmesan pairings!

 Lemon Truffle Parmesan Salad                                                                                       
    2 bunches of romaine lettuce
    2 handfuls of arugula (optional)
    1 (15oz.) artichoke hearts, drained
    1/2 chopped hazelnuts
    1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
    Toss all ingredients together.
    1 cup olive oil
    1 tablespoon truffle oil
    1/4 cup lemon juice                                                                                   
    2 tablespoons shallot, finely chopped
    1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper                                                
    Whisk all ingredients together.

Steps for Truffled Portobello Pizza
1.  Gather the Ingredients
You will need 3 baby portobello mushrooms, 2 cloves pressed or minced garlic, 1 handful washed arugula, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons truffle oil, 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, and one premade whole wheat pizza crust.

2.  Prepare the Crust

Brush the crust with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.  Spread the garlic over the crust.  Wash, dry, and slice the mushrooms.  Arrange the mushrooms on top ot the crust.

3.  Continue to Build

     Sprinkle the on the two cheeses and then arrange the arugula on top.  Drizzle the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

4.  The Finishing Touches

     Bake in a 450 degree preheated oven for about 13 minutes.  Before slicing, drizzle the 1 1/2 teaspoon truffle oil over the top of the pizza.

Step for Baked Truffled Cheese Fries
1.  Gather the Ingredients

You will need 4 peeled russet potatoes that have been cut into 1/4 inch wide long strips, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, 2 cloves garlic that have been put through a press, 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, and 2 teaspoons truffle oil.

2. Rinse and Soak

1/4 wide inch strips can be made by cutting the potato lengthwise every 1/4 inch and then cutting those slices into 1/4 inch strips.  Rinse the strips and drain them.  Then put them in a bowl and cover them with hot water.  Let the potatoes sit in the hot water at least 10 minutes.

3. Prep and Bake

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Cover a cookie sheet with foil.  Drain the potatoes, give them a final rinse and drain again.  Dry the strips off by using paper towels to blot off the moisture.  Put the potatoes in a dry bowl and toss them with the olive oil.  Place them on the cookie sheet in a single layer.  Bake them for about 30 minutes, making sure you turn them over every 10 minutes.  At the end of the cooking time, they should be nicely browned.

4.  Mix the Seasonings

Mix together the parsley, grated Parmesan, garlic, and truffle oil.  When the potatoes have finished baking gently toss this combination on them while they are still very hot.  Then sprinkle on a little salt.

5.  Serve with a Dipping Sauce

Mix together 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 clove garlic which has been put through a press, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.  Yum!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chiles Rellenos Con Picadillo Dulce - Stuffed Peppers!

Got a lot of peppers?  Try chiles rellenos

Yummy filling in a healthy  "wrapper"!

          Wikipedia says that serendipity is a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise".  Yesterday, I was lucky enough to have one of those occurrences.  Roy's office manager, Tamela, had sent him home with a bag full of peppers the night before.  Kindly, they were labeled as either hot or mild and most of them looked like the sweet yellow variety.  I was organizing the cabinets above the kitchen desk and found a 2008 publication put out by Kraft foods called Comida y Familia.  Since Allison is a Spanish major and subscripes to People en Espanol, we sometimes get advertisements and other promotional mail written in Spanish.  Right on the cover was a gorgeous picture of stuffed sweet peppers!  Also fun was the fact that every recipe in the magazine was written in Spanish.  Jenn and I have signed up for a continuing education Spanish class and this was a great opportunity for me learn some vocabulary words by doing my favorite thing - cooking!  I do have to confess that I also consulted my favorite Spanish cookbook, Greatest Ever Spanish & Tapas Recipes by Pepita Aris. The results were quite tasty; the combination of the sweet raisins and almonds with the savory beef, tomatoes, and seasonings made us go back for seconds!  It's different but delicious!

Chiles Rellenos Con Picadillo Dulce
1.  Prepare the Filling

     Put 2 tablespoons of raisins in a cup of hot water and let them soak while you brown 1 pound of lean hamburger and 1/3 cup diced onion over medium heat. When the meat is evenly browned, drain off any grease. Return the meat and onion mixture to the stove and add 2 cloves of garlic which have been put through a press. Stir the garlic into the meat and cook for 30 seconds.  Add 1 (15oz.) can of diced tomatos, 1 tablespoon chopped mint, 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 cup chopped almonds.  Drain the water from the raisins and mix them in.  Let this simmer while you prepare the peppers for stuffing.

2.  Get the Peppers Ready
     Halve about 10 peppers, leaving the cores intact.  Scoop out the seeds and the membranes.  Brush both the insides and the outsides with olive oil.
3. Stuff, Bake, and Enjoy
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with foil.  Place filling in the cavity of each pepper.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Garnish with a few extra chopped almonds and herbs.  Serve with a little sour cream or Greek yogurt if desired.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Making Mediterranean at Home

     Our family has always enjoyed eating foods from all different cultures and countries.  One of our favorite types of food is what I guess you could call  Mediterranean.  At the present time, the restaurant of choice for birthdays and such is a place called "The Mediterranean Grill".  The food there is very yummy, but also very expensive!  The last time I was there, I asked a few questions and made some observations.  The manager of the restaurant told me that all the meat was seasoned with Green Za'atar.  My friend Marina, who has lived in Israel, introduced this mixture to me a while back.  It's actually a blend of roasted thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds.  Although Marina and I bought it in a Middle Eastern shop, I have seen it in the international isle in our local grocery store.  I tried it out in some kabob marinades and the results were delicious.   In this post I have also included a healthy salad that includes lentils, tahini sauce, a "relish" to serve with the kabobs, and some spreads we love on pita bread or sliced vegetables.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention that mixing some tahini sauce into the "relish" is really delicious with falafils. (I do not make falafils from scratch - I use a store bought mix!)  After serving these dishes to company several times, these recipes are now family favorites that I am glad to share!



If using wooden skewers, soak in water for at least 20 minutes.  Cut your choice of meat up into cubes.  Whisk up the marinade and pour over the meat cubes.  Cover, refrigerate, and let the meat cubes marinate for a couple of hours.  Then, thread the cubes (and vegetables if you wish) on the skewers.  Place on a medium hot grill and cook about 5 to 7 minutes a side.


Marinade for four chicken breasts

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon Green Za'atar

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Marinade for a pound of top sirloin

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Green Za'tar

  2 teaspoons dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 clove garlic, put through a press

Tahini Sauce - (from the jar of Ziyad Tahini)

1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt

1 clove garlic, put through a press

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup hot water

Mix the ingredients together.

Mediterranean "Relish"

1 cucumber

1 tomato

1 small bunch of parsley

2 tablespoons diced red onion

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, and then in half lengthwise again.  Run a knive down each cucumber length to get rid of the seeds. Quarter the tomatoe, get rid of the seeds, then dice it.  Finely chop the parsley leaves.  Mix the cucumber, tomato, parsley, and onion together in a bowl.  Add the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.  Mix well.

The "relish" is clean and fresh as is, but it is absolutely fabulous if you mix in about 1/4 cup of the Tahini Sauce and serve it with the kabobs or falafils (made from astore bought mix).

Chickpea Spread

                        1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed                      

2 tablespoons of lemon

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle of paprika for garnish

Blend well in food processor. Put in serving bowl, drizzle with oil.  Sprinkle the paprika on top. Serve with veggies or pita bread.

 Yogurt Walnut Spread

                    1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt                  

1/2 cup crushed walnuts

2 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons diced red onion

1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

Mix all the ingredients together. Put inn serving bowl.  Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

Both the chickpea and the walnut yogurt spreads are great when served with pita or  Middle Eastern type bread that has been brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with Green Za'atar, and warmed in the oven.  Sliced cucumbers or other vegetables are good  as well.

Mediterranean Salad with Lentils

1/4 cup lentils, cooked according to package directions     

1 cucumber, sliced

1 tomato, cubed

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon mint, chopped

1 "jumbo" romaine heart

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

4 thin slices red onion

1/4 teaspoon ground sumac berries (optional)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 clove garlic, put through a press

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram

Wash the romaine lettuce and put on the serving platter.  Arrange the cucumber and tomato pieces on top.  Sprinkle with the parsley and mint.  Scatter the lentils all around.Put the thin slices of red onion in the middle and shake the sumac(if you are using) on top. Disperse the feta over the whole thing.Then whisk the oil, vinegar, salt, oregano, garlic, lemon juice, pepper,and marjoram together.  Pour the dressing mixture over the top and serve.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In Honor of Julia - Salad Nicoise!

     Tomorrow, August 15th, will be Julia Child's 100th birthday.  I have always been a big fan for several reasons.  One is that she possessed a sort of humble optimism laced with humor.  A couple Mother's Days ago, the girls gave me a little portable DVD player and I ordered Julia's first PBS cooking shows.  Back then they were recorded live and her spontaneity and joy really comes through. I love the show where she is trying to flip potatoes cooking in a pan and they wind up all over the stove.  As she is scraping them up in front of the camera she says, "When you flip something, you must have the courage of your convictions, I did not... but when something like this happens, nothing is lost, you can just turn it into something else!" Then she proceeded to pour cream and dot butter over the top and placed it in the oven.  I bet that turned out to be delicious!  Another reason I admire her is that Mastering the Art of French Cooking is my "gold standard" - when my short cuts fail, I look to it to see how I really should have done something!  For instance, her tried and true Pate A Choux recipe (cream puff paste) uses the same method as churro dough!
     Julia's PBS show, The French Chef, made Salad Nicoise popular in the U.S.  It is healthy, delicious, and perfect for a summer supper.  It is actually made of three salads (French potato, bean, and lettuce) that could stand alone on their own, but when combined together on a platter it turns into a yummy feast!

1.  Gather the Ingredients

You will need enough of the following according to how many people you wish to serve:
Green beans
Boston lettuce
Potatoes (I used red skin)
Canned tuna
Diced shallots

Other ingredients that are very nice to include:
Black olives
Anchovy filets

Proportions and components of the dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, put through a press 

2.  Prepare the ingredients

Hardboil the eggs:
Place the eggs in a sauce pan and cover them with cool water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to just below simmering for 15 minutes.  Take off stove and run cold water over the eggs to cool them down.

Cook the green beans:
Snap the ends of the green beans, rinse them in a colander, and drain them.  Place them in a pan with enough boiling water to cover them, then turn the heat down to a simmer.  Cook just until tender, then run cold water over them to cool them down.

Cook the potatoes:
Cut the potatoes up into small, bite sized pieces.  Place them in a pan with enough boiling water to cover them, then turn the heat down to a simmer.  Cook just until tender. I did not do this but,  Julia suggested that at this point you drain them and pour a bit of chicken broth and white wine over them while they are still warm.  She said it would help the salad dressing to adhere to them when you put it on later.  If you don't do the Julia step, then drain the potatoes and run cold water over them to cool them down.

Get the extas ready:
Drain and rinse the black olives.  Drain the capers and the anchovies.

3.  Dress the main ingredients

Apply dressing
Whisk the dressing ingredients together.  Put the lettuce, potatoes, and green beans in separate bowls. Add the diced shallots to the potatoes.  Add just enough dressing in each bowl to coat it well.

4.  Arrange

Make it look pretty
Put the dressed lettuce on the platter and then arrange the beans, eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, black olives, capers, and anchovies.  Drain the can of tuna and put it in the middle.  Enjoy - this combination is really, really yummy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


     My mom was not the best at ordinary cooking.  In fact, her cooking disasters are part of our family lore.  She had the endearing habit of leaving out key ingredients that, shall we say, changed the character of a recipe.  But, when it came to adventurous cooking, she was really on board.  Although she often had my dad run to the store for the missing component needed in a gourmet dish, she and I had a lot of fun trying out dishes that were more diverse from what she usually prepared.  She and my dad had a small vegetable garden at the very back of their property.  They always planted tomatoes and beans, but for several years they also grew basil.  By August, the basil plants produced tons and tons of wonderfully fragrant leaves.  We discovered that one great thing to do with all that basil was to make batches of pesto.  It freezes well and it is incredibly delicious on so many things such as: pasta, in soups, in vinaigreette, mixed in butter, on any meat, or spread on crusty, warm Italian bread.

The addition of a dollop of Pesto to the great Italian soup, Minestrone, makes a really delicious cool weather meal.  

Steps for Making Pesto

1.  For every 1 cup (2 herb packages) of tightly packed, rinsed, drained, basil leaves you will need: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, 2 medium cloves of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 1/2 tablespoons Romano cheese

2.  Put a bit of olive oil in a skillet and saute the pine nuts over low heat until they are browned.

3.  Combine the pine nuts, basil leaves, garlic, salt, and olive oil in a food processor or blender.  Then put in a bowl and stir in the cheeses.  The aroma is intoxicating and it tastes great on everything!