pomegranate & ricotta toast

January 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

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I made a few wonderful things over the holidays, meals that take longer to prep and are meant to be shared. I made fresh potato gnocci, something I haven’t done since I lived in Florence six years ago. I made jam, Rice Krispie treats and spicy pretzels to munch on. Most of these things were gobbled up quickly, no leftovers to spare, but a few things traveled back home with me, which forced me to think of new ways to finish them.

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I think it’s important when cooking to think outside the box a bit. I made this wonderful pomegranate jam which I had on toast and English muffins for more than a few breakfasts, but that got old quickly. I stirred it into yogurt with a side of granola. And to finish up the last jar I made this crostini with creamy ricotta. I never would have thought of this combination if I hadn’t made the jam to begin with.

I have found myself over the last few months, walking into the grocery store in a daze. Buying the same vegetables, the same fruit and the same grains. Even if my recipes are a bit different each week, the flavor profile ends up being much the same. How boring. I am hoping to be a bit more adventurous over the next year. I know this will lead to some horrible recipes, more findings of ingredients I don’t necessarily like, but I will also discover some wonderful food that I won’t believe I have been living without for so long. Every once in awhile we need to reboot in the kitchen. I can’t wait to share my new discoveries with you!

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Pomegranate & Ricotta Toast
crusty bread
olive oil
ricotta
pomegranate jam (see recipe below)
fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice bread rather thinly. Place slices on a baking sheet and brush the tops of each with a bit of olive oil. Bake for 6-8 minutes until the tops are just slightly browned and crisp to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

When bread is cooled, spread a layer of ricotta on each and top with the pomegranate jam and a sprinkling of thyme.

Serve immediately while the bread is still slightly warm, otherwise it will become too soft from the cheese.

Pomegranate Jam
Inspired by Green Kitchen Stories

1 1/2 cups pomegranate seeds (from 2-3 pomegranates)
1 cup frozen raspberries
1/3 cup agave syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Slice the pomegranate in half. Pull the membrane apart and pick out the seeds. Discard the membrane and place all the seeds into a medium sauce pan. (Mind you this is a messy job. Pomegranate juice will stain and it likes to get everywhere; prepare accordingly.)

Add the raspberries and agave to the pomegranate pot and set on medium heat. Stir until combined and then allow everything to come to a boil. Once boiling, turn heat down to medium-low and allow to simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, sterilize a cute jar or two, and allow to fully dry.

Add the lemon juice and thyme to the pot and simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes. This jam will be on the soupier side so do not wait for it to thicken.

Remove from the heat and pour into the jam jars. Allow to cool completely before covering and keeping in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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kids thanksgiving with edamame & walnut couscous

December 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Like in years past, both my sister and I spent Thanksgiving day with our in-laws’ family. We had the traditional fixings of turkey, mashed potatoes, two kinds of stuffing, green beans and cranberry sauce. After lots of chatting, a few more drinks and over-stuffing ourselves with dessert, we hopped back in the car and rode home in the dark. On Friday though, instead of dealing with crowded stores and buying more than we should, my sister, brother and I, the kids, decided to do our own version of second thanksgiving.

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We all gathered at my little brothers new home in Connecticut. We bought a pre-roasted chicken, prepped a few side dishes and relaxed on the couch together. We nestled in with a few blankets, the puppy and a new TV show. We chatted when we felt like it, but most of the time we just enjoyed having a day with no real agenda. When the buzzer rang to tell us the roasted chicken was warm again, we sat down to a very nontraditional thanksgiving meal of chicken, roasted veggies, edamame couscous and garlic bread. It was delicious and simple. We brought some tradition to the table with a classic apple pie and pear and cranberry crumble for dessert.

I know Thanksgivings like this will happen less and less in the future. Lives get busier, people move, families expand and traditions end up changing. And even though this year was so nontraditional, it was wonderful to be with family. I am lucky each year we get to see one another and was very thankful that this year was no different.

Serves 4-6 as sides
Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen

1 (5.8 oz) package of couscous (I used roasted garlic and olive oil)

1 bag (12 oz) edamame beans
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, packed

1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Bring a large pot to boil. Add the edamame to the pot and wait for the water to return to a rigorous boil. Once boiling again, turn the heat down to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the cooked edamame into a colander and spray with some cool water to stop the cooking process. Set aside to cool slightly.

Prepare couscous according to package direction.

In a sauté pan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Once warmed, add the chopped walnuts and fry for 4-5 minutes until the nuts are fragrant and slightly browned. Set aside.

Push out all the edamame beans with your fingers into a food processor, discarding the shells. Add the rice vinegar, lemon juice, toasted sesame oil and parsley. Pulse until the mixture is slightly smooth but still has some chunks for crunch.

In a large bowl combine the edamame, couscous and walnuts. This dish can be served warm or cold.

peach, mozzarella & sweet balsamic salad

July 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

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The peaches are here! The peaches are here! I have been spending the last few weeks heading to the farmers markets hoping to find peaches in one of the large blue bins. There were a few weeks of anticipation and then disappointment when they had not yet arrived, but they are officially here. And so my love affair with peaches has begun.

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I think I could eat three peaches a day for the rest of summer and still not be satisfied. Some people might call my addiction a little out of control but I don’t care. The good peach season is so short that I am terrified of the day when I get a mealy, mushy peach signifying the end of summer. So for now I’m buying as many as I can, multiple days a week and eating them with almost anything. Peaches are great on cereal in the morning, yogurt for lunch and in salads at night. And when you have good peaches you don’t have to do too much else to make a recipe great, hence the simplicity of the peach and mozzarella salad.

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And the reduction for this salad, simply stated, is great. Reductions sound fancy, they look pretty, they have distinct flavor and yet are so simple to make. There are few recipes that only have three ingredients and taste so complex but this is one of them.

Happy peach season!

Serves 2 to 3 as sides
Inspired by Real Simple

2 peaches, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, sliced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Pour balsamic into a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the balsamic to a boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer on low, stirring occasionally until the vinegar reduces by half. This should only take a minute or two. Remove from stove and cool completely.

Arrange the sliced peaches and mozzarella on a platter and drizzle with the balsamic reduction.

shrimp salsa salad

July 16, 2013 § 1 Comment

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I love our little condo for so many reasons. It limits the amount of cleaning and decorating I have to do, the air conditioner cools it down real quick in the summer heat and all our rooms feel cozy and full with very little effort. The biggest down side might be the lack of outdoor space. We have absolutely none. And in the summer time it becomes very apparent when we can’t grill. I love the idea of grilling. The men of the house usually leap on this responsibility, clean up couldn’t be easier and the flavor is a nice mix up from sautéing and baking inside.

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We don’t plan to leave our little place anytime soon so when we want to “grill” we plug in our mini George Foreman and, honestly, it does the job quite nicely. You can still get a great char; the only limit is space, I have to do all my veggies in batches. But it’s worth it and it achieves just the flavor profile I am looking for in summer. I would suggest this small investment to any and all that can’t have a real grill.

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The Foreman came in quite handy for this summer shrimp salad. Obviously this recipe can be done on a full size grill, and I do envy those who have access to one, but either way this is a recipe everyone can enjoy.

Serves 2 as mains, 4 as sides
Inspired by Eat, Live, Run

The Salad*
1 cup corn
6 scallions, sliced
1 small red pepper, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 avocado, chopped
1/4 cup chives, chopped
1/4 cup basil, chopped
juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

The Shrimp**
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 pound shrimp, cleaned
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

On your Foreman, a small grill pan, or a real grill,* char the corn, scallions and red pepper. Toss into a large bowl and let cool. Add in the tomatoes, avocado, chives and basil. Stir in the lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and toss a couple more times. Stick in the fridge to cool everything down. (See note)

Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Once warmed, add the olive oil then garlic. Simmer for 30 seconds and add the shrimp. Sprinkle with a pinch of red pepper flakes and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until shrimp is completely pink.

Toss the shrimp into the salad and serve immediately or keep refrigerated.

*If you are cooking on a real grill, use one to two ears of corn and grill everything whole and then chop accordingly.

**You can also make this into a dip and serve with tortilla or pita chips. The only change is that you will want to chop up your shrimp into bite size pieces before adding to the veggies.

Note: Strangely enough I really love this salad with all the veggies cold and the shrimp warm. You can really eat it any way you like, but this is my preferred choice.

simplest orzo salad

June 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Last weekend was a girls’ weekend. A weekend away in Connecticut entailed a formal bridal shower in the morning and a crazy bachelorette at night. It’s wonderful to be able to see old friends and even more pleasant to be surrounded by just women for an entire day. Oh and live it up with more than one glass of wine, maybe even a shot or two. There is just this energy when you’re surrounded only by women. We nibbled on munchies, danced until we were sweaty and chatted constantly until we fell asleep.

As I get older I see this happening less and less. My daily responsibilities get in the way along with further distances. No one seems to live in the same state anymore. So it’s an indulgence to have a girls get together. It makes me feel young to not have a care all day, sipping wine and snacking on hors d’oeuvres as if life is grand.

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The funny thing is, as much as I love being away, it makes me miss home and the boy waiting for me there. It’s funny how the simple things we take for granted, that are now just a part of our routine, are things we can actually miss. I miss my little condo when I’m not in it. I miss not being in my kitchen cooking my own food. And I miss the boy on the couch with a little nook always ready for me.

I guess it’s these weekends away that show us what’s really important. And I know a big part for me is having my home and making food in it. Even just simple food like this salad. It’s usually never about showy food for me, especially at lunch time. I’m usually starving on the weekends by noon and need something quick and easy. This fits the bill quite nicely. So I am enjoying this indulgence as well; making simple, fresh food and enjoying it in my quiet home with warm company.

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Serves 2 to 3 as main or 4 as sides

3/4 cup orzo
2 1/2 cups spinach
1/2 zucchini, diced
generous amount of salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic
1 teaspoon thyme
1 large garlic clove, minced

Cook orzo according to package directions.

While the orzo is cooking, combine the spinach and zucchini in a large bowl and add a decent amount of both salt and pepper. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, balsamic, thyme and garlic. Pour the dressing over the greens and mix well.

Once the orzo is cooked, pour cold water over the pasta while straining to release most of the heat (you want the orzo to be quite cool so that it doesn’t steam your spinach). Toss orzo into the large bowl and stir to combine everything.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve cold.

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