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Archive for the ‘Fresh Herbs’ Category

A Holiday Worthy Appetizer

According to the looks of my Google Reader, it is definitely the holiday season, and there is no doubt that everyone has sweet treats on their mind. I have seen so many incredible recipes for cookies, cakes, bars and candy. I am pretty sure I have enough recipes saved to last me for a few holiday seasons to come, and I would like to thank you fabulous cooks/bakers out there for sharing them.

With that said, we can’t possibly live off of sweet treats alone for the next month. Although many of you may beg to differ, I think even my large sweet tooth will need a break here and there.

With the holidays comes entertaining, and with entertaining usually comes a need for appetizers. I know when I entertain I like to make as much as possible from scratch.  There is just something about people enjoying something that you created. Although, I have learned from experience that if you want to enjoy yourself, you have to pick and choose your battles. For some reason though, it always seems like the great sounding appetizers are also time consuming, and are best prepared right before serving. Obviously the last thing you want to be doing when your guests arrive is slaving in the kitchen with those appetizers. Well my friends, I have found an appetizer that is not only a cinch to make, but will make your taste buds forget all about those sweet treats we have come to love this time of year.

The fabulous Ina Garten has come through once again. When I saw her make a roasted tomato caprese salad, there was no doubt in my mind that I would have to try it. Oh, and try it I did! Twice actually! I made it for my husband as part of his birthday dinner, and we fell in love with it. After raving about it to my dad, he insisted that I make it for him as well. So, when my dad’s birthday rolled around last week, I was sure to put it on the menu for his birthday dinner as well. He loved it, my stepmom loved it, and my husband and I loved it all over again.

It is a must try recipe! It is simple, doesn’t call for a lot of ingredients, and (although it takes a while to cook) it doesn’t take much prep time at all. What more can you ask for? I promise, it will be a hit!

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tomatoes big

Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad

courtesy of Food Network and Barefoot Contessa

12 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeds (not cores) removed
1/4 cup good olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 ounces fresh salted mozzarella
12 fresh basil leaves, julienned (or left whole)

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Arrange the tomatoes on a sheet pan, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with the garlic, sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 2 hours until the tomatoes are concentrated and begin to caramelize. Allow the tomatoes to cool to room temperature.

Cut the mozzarella into slices slightly less than 1/2-inch thick. If the slices of mozzarella are larger than the tomatoes, cut the mozzarella slices in half. Layer the tomatoes alternately with the mozzarella on a platter and scatter the basil on top. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Serve at room temperature.

Note:  I left the basil whole the first time I made it, but the second time we julienned it.  Personally, I preferred it julienned and found it easier to eat that way.

Yields: approximately 6 servings

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Perfect Pesto & More

As you may have noticed, I was absent for about two weeks, up until two days ago. My husband and I were actually in Long Island and NYC for a wedding and vacation for a few days and then I had family visiting for a week. So it has been a bit hectic and I apologize for my lack of posting. I promise that I will be sharing some highlights from our NYC trip very soon though. Needless to say, we had some amazing food during our visit.

While wandering around the city we decided to check out the market and shops in Grand Central Terminal. We were very excited to find a Penzey’s, since we don’t have one in South Florida and have always ordered online. We were also intrigued by this little oil and vinegar shop we came across, Oliviers & Co or O & Co. I let my husband take a peak while I ran to a different store to pick something up for my mom. When I returned he seemed quite excited about what he had found in the shop. The lady pretty much let him taste every oil and vinegar in the shop, even the bottles that were priced well over $100. They also had a great selection of imported pastas. So now the question was, what do we buy? So I tasted a few and we finally made some decisions.

Our final choices included:
Gaec Salvator Extra Virgin Olive Oil – France
Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fig Vinegar – Provence
Purple Basil Vinegar – South Asia
Penne with Wheat Germ
Straccetti with Wheat Germ

We were so excited to return from our trip and find our products were shipped right behind us and arrived a couple of days later. My husband’s birthday was quickly approaching and he loves pasta, so I knew this would be a great opportunity to try out some of our new goods. I decided to do a pasta tasting for his birthday dinner. One of the dishes would have to be pesto, because I felt that would be a great way to showcase our new Gaec Salvator. I started searching for a great, simple recipe. Of course I turned to Cook’s Illustrated and was happy to find a classic version in my The New Best Recipe book. I figured I couldn’t go wrong with that.

The outcome? A perfectly simple pesto that was made even better with our incredible EVOO.

Stay tuned for more recipes to come using our delicious new additions!

Pesto 2

Classic Pesto

courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated,
The New Best Recipe

1/4 cup almonds (pine nuts or walnuts are fine too)
3 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves (optional-I did not use)
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Toast the nuts in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant, 4-5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a plate.

Add the unpeeled garlic to the empty skillet. Toast, shaking pan occasionally, until fragrant and the color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Let the garlic cool, then peel and chop.

Combine the basil and parsley (if using) in a heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bag. Pound the bag with the flat side of a meat pounder or rolling pin until all the leaves are bruised.

Place the nuts, garlic, pounded herb(s), oil, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a food processor. Process until smooth, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the workbowl. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, stir in the Parmesan cheese, and adjust the salt to taste.

The surface of the pesto can be covered with a sheet of plastic wrap or a thin film of oil and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Yields: about 3/4 cup

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Chicken and Herbs…you can’t go wrong!

As someone who loves to cook, I enjoy using fresh herbs. Unfortunately they are quite pricey at the grocery store and when we do buy them, half usually goes to waste. We have tried growing herbs before, but didn’t have much luck, as they would eventually be taken over by bugs. Since we are now living in a townhouse that has a balcony, we decided to give it a shot again. We are hoping that the elevation will help keep some of the bugs away. We went out and purchased flat leaf parsley, basil, thyme and chives. So far they have been very good.

While searching through the blog, Elly Says Opa, I found many wonderful recipes that I am dying to try. One of which was Chicken with Herbed Pan Sauce. I thought this would be a great recipe to use some of our fresh herbs in. It’s also a new chicken recipe, which you can never have too many of. I knew that Greg would probably be a big fan of this as well. So with all of the arrows pointing to “make it,” I quickly added it to our weekly menu.

Although I adapted it a bit to fit with the ingredients I had on hand, the outcome was excellent. This will definitely be a repeat on our menus to come.

herb-chicken

Chicken with Herbed Pan Sauce

adapted from Elly Says Opa

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 chicken breast halves, pounded to about 1/3-inch thick
1 small shallot, diced (I used onion since that is what I had)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme, rosemary & chive (I substituted the original spices with what I had, feel free to do the same)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil to pan. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and then cook in the oil, about 4 minutes per side or until done. Remove the chicken and keep warm.

Add the shallots (or onion) to the pan and sauté until tender. Add the garlic and herbs and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Pour in the white wine and reduce down by half. Add the chicken broth and do the same. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve sauce over chicken.

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