Thursday, February 26, 2009

Greek Salad

I could eat a Greek Salad for lunch every day. They are so fresh and tasty with big chunks of crisp cucumber, juicy tomato, and salty kalamata olives. The tricky thing about Greek salads, though, is that they really vary in calorie content when dining out. Many salads are loaded with cheese and full-fat dressing, some come with stuffed grape leaves full of rice, or pita bread, which can add hundreds of unwanted calories. If you make your own at home, you know that you can feel good about eating as much as you want!

I like to cut the vegetables and herbs in this salad into big chunks--that way, every bite tastes a little bite might have cucumber and olive...and the next be more tomato and feta. It's more fun to eat if every bite doesn't taste exactly the same.

3 Persian cucumbers or 1 English cucumber, cubed
3 small tomatoes, chunked
1 head romaine lettuce
1/4 c. kalamata olives
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly (optional)*
2 oz. feta cheese, cut into small cubes (or buy crumbled)
2 Tablespoons fresh mint leaves, torn or slightly chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, torn or slightly chopped
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 1/2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1. In a large bowl, combine cucumbers through parsley.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Slowly drizzle in oil while whisking to emulsify.

3. Toss the dressing with the salad and finish with fresh pepper.

Serves 2.

*If you like the taste of onion but raw is a little too sharp for your tastes, soak them in ice water while you prep the rest of the ingredients--this should take the sharp edge off of them.

Printable version here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Grilled Salmon with Maple, Orange, and Thyme Glaze

We love salmon in our house, but the same old grilled salmon gets really boring! This glaze will take you about 2 minutes to prepare, and when brushed on the salmon towards the end of the grilling process, it adds a wonderful tangy sweetness to the fish. If you like Teriyaki, you will love this!

2 salmon filets
3 Tablespoons real maple syrup
2 Tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.

2. Pat filets with paper towel, then rub lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. In a small saucepan, combine maple syrup, orange juice, and thyme leaves over medium-low heat.

4. Put salmon on the grill, skin side up.

5. Stir the maple mixture, making sure not to burn the maple syrup. You want a very slight bubble, not a boil.

6. After a few minutes, flip the salmon. Close the lid. Go get the glaze and a brush.

7. Lift the lid of the grill and brush the salmon with the glaze. Close the lid. After another minute or so, reapply glaze. Depending on how you like your fish, take off the grill when cooked. (Rule of thumb for cooking fish is 10 minutes per inch of thickness--but on a high-heat grill, it takes even less time than that. I cooked my salmon for a total of 8 minutes and it was done.)

Serves 2.

Printable version here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Grilled Brussel Sprouts with Warm Bacon-Date Vinaigrette

(If you omit the bacon, this would be angelic!)

I learned this technique from a warm sweet potato salad that Bobby Flay put in his Grilling for Life book. It works great with brussel sprouts (which get a very bad rap, by the way). Brussel sprouts are delicious, but are often overcooked or cooked poorly which makes them end up tasting like...well....feet. I promise you these brussel sprouts taste nothing like feet! They have the wonderful charred flavor from the grill, paired with the smoky richness of the bacon, sweet candy-like dates, and the tang of sherry vinegar. I promise that if you think you don't like brussel sprouts, you will be a convert after you try these!

1 lb brussel sprouts, washed, trimmed but left whole (just thinly slice the root and remove outer dried leaves)
4 oz bacon, roughly chopped
1 shallot, minced
5 dates, pitted and chopped
splash sherry vinegar
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

2. Put a pot of water over the stove and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, add a generous amount of salt and add brussel sprouts. Boil for 4-5 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and dry thoroughly.

3. Drizzle the brussel sprouts with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. In a skillet, turn burner to medium heat and add bacon. Cook the bacon until crisp and remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel, leaving the bacon fat in the pan. Turn heat to low. Add the shallots and let sweat, stirring occassionally, for 2-3 minutes. Add the vinegar (to taste...if you like it tangy, add a little more...if you want a subtle vinegar taste, add only a Tablespoon or so) and whisk mixture. Stir in dates.

5. Put brussel sprouts on the grill, and let them char slightly, rotating to prevent burning, 2-3 mintues. Take off grill.

6. Toss the brussel sprouts in the warm viniagrette, toss in the crisp bacon bits, and let everything finish together on low heat for another couple minutes.

*Wash the brussel sprouts to make sure there is no dirt hiding between the layers. Cut off a very thin slice of the stem, maybe 1/16", score an X in the stem to make sure it cooks evenly with the less tough leaves, and take off any outer leaves that look dried out or discolored.

Printable version here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Guilt-Free Potato Chip Chicken

My mom used to make Potato Chip Chicken once a week when I was growing up, so this dish is very familiar and comforting to me. I altered my mom's recipe a bit to make it less fattening. Look for your favorite baked potato chip--I used Kettle. These chips are great because they're super crispy, and you should be able to find them easily at any grocery store. Serve with a side of steamed green beans and you're set! The best thing about this dish, though, is that it can be made in under 30 minutes, so it's a great week-night option. Watch out, Rachael Ray!!!

2 small bags (or about 2 oz) baked potato chips
1 egg (or 2 egg whites if you are really watching fat content)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1. Preheat overn to 350 degrees.

2. Trim chicken. If you have particularly thick chicken breasts, pound them lightly between two sheets of parchment paper. (You're not making cutlets here--just making your cooking time a little shorter)

3. In a small bowl, crush up the potato chips.

4. In another small bowl, beat the egg.

5. Pepper your chicken breasts. (You don't need salt because the chips are salty). Dip the chicken first in the egg mixture and then in the potato chips. Place on baking sheet or pyrex and repeat with the other breast.

6. Put in the oven and let cook until no longer pink in the center, 20-25 minutes.

Printable version here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Valentine's Day Menu

What to do on Valentine's Day? Go out to the obligatory prix-fixe at three times the price? It can be nice...but I opt for staying in. A home-cooked meal is the best way that I know to show someone how much you love them. Ok...second best. :)

I've created a pretty easy, light menu for you to create for your significant other...or even just your commiserating friend. The menu has some lovely aphrodisiacs thrown in. Did you know that aphrodisiacs are not so much effective by the chemical reactions they create in your body, but rather, the thoughts that they inspire. Asparagus...eggs...oranges...beets...either by shape, idea, or color, they remind us of...ourselves and of each other....

I think the sure-finder deterrent to a romantic 'end-of-the-night' is getting too full. So, I kept the dishes on the light side. Space them out...take your time...enjoy a bottle of wine and conversation.

I know some people do not like being "forced" to celebrate romance, or consider Valentine's Day a "Hallmark" holiday, but I say: "I will use each and every opportunity to share and celebrate my love!" Really, which party do you think is happier in the end? I hope that you make this meal and feel happy, too. Enjoy.


Blanched Asparagus with Chopped Boiled Egg

Seared Salmon with Blood Orange Beurre Rouge

Heart-Shaped Roasted Beets

Valentine's Day S'mores

Decor Ideas:

Keep this simple. A few bud vases with a favorite flower. A few votive candles (odd numbers are more aesthetically pleasing). Apples, pears, and artichokes all make beautiful centerpieces in combination or separately.

Or for something more whimsical, fill up jars with Valentine's candies or just sprinkle conversation hearts in the middle of the table. Use your creativity. It will be appreciated.

Blanched Asparagus with Egg

You can buy hard-boiled eggs pretty readily in the grocery store. However, if you want to boil your egg yourself, put an egg in cold water to cover in a saucepan. Put over high heet and bring to boil. Once you have established a rolling boil, take the saucepan off the heat, cover it, and let sit 10 minutes. Take out egg carefully and put directly into ice water until chilled.

1 bunch asparagus
1 egg, hard-boiled
Rind of 1 lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

1. Put a large saucepan full of water over high heat. Bring to a boil.

2. In the meantime, prepare asparagus. Wash and trim. (You can either peel the ends or snap one to determine where the stem "wants" to break, and then cut them all at about that length.)

3. When water is boiling, add a few pinches of salt and throw in your asparagus. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Take asparagus out and put under very cold water under the sink, or into an ice water bath. (You're doing this to stop the cooking process and lock in the beautiful green color of the asparagus.)

4. Take asparagus out of the water and pat dry. Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and plate. Sprinkle lemon rind over all.

5. Shell and chop the egg into a fine dice. Sprinkle over the asparagus. Season everything with salt and pepper to taste.

Printable version here.

Seared Salmon with Blood Orange Beurre Rouge

Since it's a butter sauce, I had to rate this "devilish" but it is really light, so it's not too too bad.
This sauce has a beautiful pink color which I think is so appropriate for the holiday. The flavors are delicate, but stand up to the salmon. Use enough sauce to ensure that every bite will have some, but not so much that it is drenched. Serve with the heart-shaped beets.

2 wild salmon fillets
2 blood oranges-grate the rind off one and juice both*
1/8 cup pinot noir (or other light-bodied red wine)
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter, cubed and kept cold
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Preheat a pan on medium-high heat with a couple Tablespoons of olive oil.

3. Generously salt and pepper the salmon fillets.

4. Place salmon fillets, skin side up, into the pan. Don't move them around. Let them cook for a couple minutes (a couple more if you have a particularly thick piece of fish). Protein will release from the pan when it's ready to be cooked, provided that it has enough oil. When the salmon has released, flip it. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, and put into the oven.

5. Place the shallots, orange rind, orange juice, and wine in a small saucepan. Put over Medium-low heat and bring to a simmer. Do not boil--the liquid should be moving but not wildly. Reduce the liquid until it is almost dry (1 Tablespoon or so of liquid left in the pan). Take off the heat. 1 or 2 pieces at a time, swirl the butter into the pan. (This process is done slowly so that the butter does not "break" or separate.) Add a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of pepper--taste and add more salt if needed. When all the butter has been incorporated, strain into a small bowl.

6. Take the salmon out at desired doneness--I recommend medium for maximum flavor potential, and so that it is not dry. Put a little bit of sauce on your serving plate. Top with the salmon fillet. Drizzle a little more sauce on top. Repeat with other fillet.

Note: The beets could be placed in a bunch on the side of the plate, or spaces evenly around the salmon. Whatever floats your boat.

* If you can't find blood oranges, just use smallish naval oranges. The color won't be as dramatic but it'll still taste really good.

Printable version here.

Roasted Heart-Shaped Beets

I used a small heart-shaped cookie cutter for these, but if you don't have one, just use a paring knife. You'll end up with more artsy, homemade-looking beets, which is just as cool. If you're not into beets, you could also do this with potatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplant--use your imagination.

1 bunch beets
1 teaspoon herbes de provence*
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Slice the beets into 1/4" slices. (Don't worry about peeling them because we're using the inside)

2. Cut a heart into each slice and put in a small bowl.

3. Cover the hearts lightly with olive oil, and add the herbes de provence, salt and pepper. (Be generous with the salt and pepper--you're going to need a couple pinches of salt here).

4. Place hearts on a baking sheet. (If you have a Silpat mat or parchment paper available, it's a good idea to use it).

5. Place in the oven and roast for 35-40 minutes.

*Herbes de provence is just an herb mixture of thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and basil. If you don't have it, use your favorite dried herb

Printable version here.

Valentine's Day S'mores

Since I wanted to keep this menu fairly easy, I used some short-cuts from the grocery store. If you want to make everything from scratch, by all means, do! But I find that buying the graham crackers and good-quality marshmallows saves a lot of time and effort, especially for how quickly these will be eaten up! I used marshmallows from the Little Flower Candy Company, which, incidentally, also makes killer caramels.

In this case, you really do need a heart-shaped cookie cutter. If you don't have one or don't want to buy one, forgo the heart shape--it'll still taste good!

I really enjoy the combination of raspberries and chocolate--my husband preferred this dish without, don't use the raspberries if you're not totally into them. If you want a different flavor, you could always put a little liqeur into the chocolate (cointreau for an orange flavor...or a coffee liqeur...amaretto for an almond extract...or a little espresso powder). Go easy, though, so you don't make the sauce too runny.

2 graham cracker sheets
2 oz. semi-sweet good-quality chocolate
2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 marshmallows

1/2 pint raspberries
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon favorite liqueur (brandy, cointreau, framboise, etc)
2 Tablespoons sugar

1. Cut out heart shapes out of graham crackers and carefully set aside.

2. In a double broiler or a microwave at half-power, melt together the chocolate and the cream. Dip the graham hearts in the chocolate and put on a sheet of parchment paper to dry. If you have extra chocolate, save for later. (Wink wink nudge nudge)

3. Mash together the raspberries, vanilla, liqueur, and sugar.

4. Preheat boiler. Put the marshmallows on a cookie sheet and place in broiler with the door open. Watch carefully as these can burn quickly (as I'm sure you already know from campfire memories). Bring to a toasty golden brown color and remove from oven.

5. Assemble. Put one chocolate-covered heart on the plate. Place the marshmallow over that, and then put another heart on top of that. Drizzle the raspberry mixture around.

Printable version here.

Valentine's Menu Game Plan

So, you've decided you're going to make this meal. Hooray! I am so honored that you trust me with your special evening. I am going to try to make this easy for you. So, I have mapped out a game plan for you. This menu is designed for an 8:00 dinner. Adjust accordingly!

Make anytime in the day:

Blanch asparagus
Hard-boil and chop egg
Slice and cut beets
Chop shallots
Cut graham crackers
Make chocolate ganache and coat graham crackers
Mash raspberries with liqueur, sugar, and vanilla


-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Put shallots, wine, orange rind, and orange juice in a saucepan on the stove (no heat yet)
-Slice bread if you're serving it on the side
-Chill wine/champagne


-Toss beets with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbes de provence; put on baking sheet
-Tidy up the kitchen. Tidy up yourself.


-Put beets in the oven.


-Salt and pepper the salmon.
-Put the shallot mixture on low heat.
-Preheat pan for the salmon. Once hot, sear the salmon...flip after a couple minutes.
-Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.


-Put the salmon in the oven.
-Take out asparagus and egg from the fridge. Toss the asparagus in olive oil, salt and pepper. Plate with egg. Grate lemon rind on top.


-Add the butter to the sauce. Strain. Cover with plastic wrap and keep somewhere warm. (Near stove)
-Light candles. Put on music.

-Take salmon and beets out of the oven. Turn oven to low broil.
-Sit down to asparagus.

-Plate salmon, sauce, and beets.

8: ??

-Place marshmallows in the oven. Toast up. (This would be fun to do together)
-Plate with graham crackers and raspberries. Enjoy.

-Get your reward. ( A pat on the back, of course! What were you thinking?)

Printable version here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sexy Spicy Thai Pumpkin-Coconut Soup

It's rainy and chilly today in L.A. Not that I'm complaining about the weather here--but some days, like today, a big bowl of soup sounds just perfect. So, I created this spicy pumpkin soup with coconut, curry, and lime. Pair with a glass of Viognier and you'll feel warm and cozy in no time.

Note: If fresh lemongrass or kafir lime leaves are available in your supermarket, put in the soup and take them out before serving. They will add lots of authentic flavor. However, I have created a recipe whose ingredients will be available to everyone.

2 T butter
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. white wine
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 cans pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 c. chicken broth
1 Tablespoon red curry paste
1 can unsweetened lite coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
Zest and juice of one lime
Salt and pepper

1. Melt butter in large saucepan on medium heat until foamy. Add shallot, garlic, and carrot and sweat until soft, about 5 minutes, making sure not to brown the garlic.

2. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add wine and reduce by half.

3. Add pumpkin, chicken broth, coconut milk, curry paste, honey, and lime zest. Bring to a boil, turn to low and let simmer for 45 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

4. When ready to serve, squeeze with lime and enjoy!

Printable version here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Roasted Cauliflower Slices

Cauliflower is a tricky one...It can taste so, well, bad. Steamed cauliflower--just not my favorite. But roasting turns cauliflower into something really delicious. You get none of that 'feet' smell that comes with steaming or boiling cauliflower (Bleh!), and this wonderful caramelization occurs, bringing out crunchy, toasty bits that almost taste like popcorn. This could also be done with just regular florets, but when you slice the cauliflower like a steak, they look like intriguing 'bonsai-like' trees, which is pretty fun. This is classy and easy--so it'd be great for a dinner party, but it takes so little effort that it's a regular for weeknight meals at my house.

1 head cauliflower
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Take off some of the green leaves from the bottom of the cauliflower, but leave the rest in tact. Slice 1/2" slices across the cauliflower, like you were cutting a steak or a loaf of bread.

3. Spread a thin layer of olive oil on a pan. (If you have a silpat, use it). Delicately put the cauliflower slices over the oil. Now, cover the cauliflower with another thin layer of oil. Salt and pepper generously.

4. Put in the oven and let roast for 35-40 minutes, or until brown and crispy at the edges.

Printable version here.