Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pasta with No-Cook Cherry Tomatoes

Pasta with No-Cook Cherry Tomatoes

Our harvest of cherry tomatoes are the best this summer. We planted a variety called, "Juliette Cherry Tomatoes": http://naturehills.com/gardening/blogs/featured_plants/archive/2009/04/09/juliette-cherry-tomatoes-are-flavorful-and-organic.aspx. These cherry tomatoes are big, sweet, juicy and meaty. I like to saute these tomatoes with vegetables or just eat them like grapes. I had over 2 pounds in the refrigerator for over a week so I decided to use them to make a pasta dish. With the inspiration from Martha Stewart's No Knife Spaghetti, I put this dish together:

2 pounds cherry tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup olive oil (3.4 ounces)
4 large cloves garlic, finely minced (0.9 ounce)
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (1.3 ounces)
1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley (0.7 ounce) 

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (0.3 ounce)
1 tablespoon kosher salt (0.3 ounce)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound whole-wheat penne or farfalle pasta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (2.0 ounces)

In a large bowl, combine the cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, parsley, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano and red pepper flakes. Toss together until well combined. Let stand at room temperature at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours to blend flavors (the longer it sits, the more flavorful). If you decide not to use them until the next day, cover bowl with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use within 24 hours.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and continue to cook pasta, partially covered, for about 12 to 13 minutes or al dente. Drain pasta, but do not rinse. Immediately add hot pasta to the the cherry tomatoes mixture. Lightly toss in Parmesan cheese. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle more Parmesan cheese on top, if desired.

Yield 6 to 8 servings

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Muffin

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Muffins
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

Although Cooking Light already came out with a good Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe, it took me several modifications to come up with a moist muffin using 100% WHITE whole wheat flour. After experimenting with several types of cocoa powder, I prefer using the Dutch-process cocoa powder in this recipe which delivers a more intense chocolate taste. Replacing the water with buttermilk made the muffins more moist, tender and light. I'm pretty satisfied with these modifications. The muffins are not too sweet and perfect for breakfast.

1/2 cup semisweet MINI chocolate chips (3.2 ounces)
7.9 ounces WHITE whole wheat flour (about 1-3/4 cups)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (4 ounces)
1/3 cup sifted Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder OR Hershey's Cocoa Special Dark (1 ounce)
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten (1.8 to 1.9 ounces)
1-1/2 cups well-shaken cultured low-fat buttermilk (12 ounces)
1/4 cup EXTRA LIGHT olive oil or expeller-pressed canola oil (1.7 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Position oven rack to the center of the oven. Spray 11 standard-size muffin cups with nonstick baking spray. Set aside.

Measure 1 tablespoon chocolate chips (0.4 ounce) from the 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to a separate small dish. Set both aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir well with a whisk, using your fingers to break up any lumps of brown sugar. Set aside.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk, olive oil, and vanilla. Whisk until thoroughly combined.

Make a well in center of the flour mixture. Add the entire buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Using a wire whisk, gently stir the flour mixture with the buttermilk mixture just until dry ingredients are moistened. Gently fold in the 1/2 cup of chocolate chips using a rubber spatula.

Divide batter among 11 prepared muffin cups, about 3/4 filled. Sprinkle with remaining reserved 1 tablespoon chocolate chips and very lightly press the chips into the batter. Bake for 16 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing muffins from the pan and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield 11 muffins, approximately 224 calories per muffin

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Semi-Home Made Chicken Sausages and Pepperoni Pizza

Semi-Homemade Chicken Sausages and Pepperoni Pizza

A new item at Safeway: fresh 16-ounce package of WHITE WHOLE WHEAT pizza dough (5 grams of fiber per serving). Regular price is $1.99 per package, but watch for some good sales coming up. The pizza dough are displayed in the Deli section of Safeway. This dough is easy to work with and bakes nicely. Easy to follow directions on the package. All I needed to do is to purchase the toppings:

Trader Giotto's Pizza Sauce (purchased at Trader Joe's)
Pepperoni (purchased at Trader Joe's under a brand name)
Part-skimmed shredded Mozzarella cheese
Mild Italian-style chicken or turkey sausages, casings removed
Thinly sliced cremini mushrooms
Sliced black olives
Frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and diced, sprinkled with some sea salt and a little olive oil
Fresh minced garlic

Place pizza stone on an oven rack position in the center of the oven. Preheat oven at 450 degrees for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove pizza dough from the refrigerator and let the dough sit out in its packaging at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes (30 minutes if kitchen is warmer and 60 minutes if kitchen is cooler).

Meanwhile, set out a large wooden cutting board, rolling pin, pizza peel, some whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour), and corn meal. Have ready all the topping ingredients set out on the counter ready to go. Sprinkle a little corn meal on the pizza peel and set aside.

Generously dust your cutting board with flour. Unwrap pizza dough and lay on the cutting board. Dust both sides of dough with the flour and flatten first side of dough with your finger tips. Turn dough over and gently slide around to get more flour on the underside of dough. Flatten the second side of dough with your finger tips. With floured rolling pin, gently roll out pizza dough a few times just to flatten pizza dough more. Pick up dough and stretch the dough by holding the dough by the edge and stretch, turn, stretch, turn until you reach full circle. Place the dough on the knuckles of both hands (fingers turn in and don't forget to remove your jewelry). Stretch the dough by pulling your knuckles of both hands apart; then turn the dough, either right or left to rotate the dough, stretch and turn, stretch and turn until you reach full circle. It is also easier to stretch when the dough is slightly angled vertically than horizontally so that the weight of the dough can help with the stretching. Repeat the knuckle stretching until you get about 12 inches in diameter. For better clarification, you can watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72oe_j-0gwE

Place pizza dough on the pizza peel dusted with corn meal. Shake the pizza peel to make sure pizza dough is not sticking. Make a little dam around the edges of the dough to prevent any oil/liquid dripping off the edge of the pizza. Give pizza another shake to make sure pizza is not sticking to the peel.

Now top pizza with the pizza sauce, Mozzarella cheese, artichoke hearts, olives, mushrooms, chicken sausages, pepperoni, and some minced garlic. (I did not precook the sausages or mushrooms. When placing the chicken sausages on the pizza, just break up the sausages into very small pieces using your fingers and drop it on the pizza, like in the pizzeria. The mushrooms should be thinly sliced.) After toppings are placed on the pizza dough, it's ready to go in to the oven. Carefully shake pizza peel and slide the pizza on top of the pizza stone. Bake for 13 minutes turning pizza halfway of baking time. (Turn pizza by sliding the pizza back on the peel and turn the pizza 90 degrees and slide back on the pizza stone.)

When done, remove pizza from the oven with the peel and transfer pizza onto a pizza pan or pizza rack. Let pizza rest about 5 minutes before slicing. Slice into 8 wedges.

I made two pizza so there will be some extra slices for someone's lunch. One 12-inch size pizza will serve 2 to 3 adults.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Roasted Broccoli

Roasted Broccoli

This is my favorite way to enjoy broccoli. I used to steam my broccoli, but ever since I roasted broccoli in the oven, this is the only way I cook my broccoli from now on.

2-3 broccoli crowns or 1 large bunch broccoli, separated into florets with the stems attached (about 1-1/2 pounds)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Position oven rack to the center of the oven.

In a very large mixing bowl, toss the broccoli florets with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the broccoli onto a shallow-rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Roast 15 minutes or until the edges are crispy and browned and stems are crisp tender. Toss with lemon juice, if desired.

Yields 4 to 6 servings

Herb Salad with Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette

Herb Salad with Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

This is a very simple salad with a delicious vinaigrette. What I love about this vinaigrette is that it doesn't have a lot of oil like most salad dressings have. The roasted shallot gives the vinaigrette a lot of flavor.

1 medium shallot, peeled (0.9 ounce)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (0.6 ounce)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (0.4 ounce)
1 teaspoon agave nectar (0.2 ounce) or sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (0.2 ounce)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
One 4-ounce package of herb salad or spring salad mix

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Position oven rack to the center of the oven.

Wrap the shallot in aluminum foil. Place shallot directly on the oven rack and roast for 35 minutes. Remove foil from oven to cool, about 10 minutes. Transfer shallot to a cutting board to finely minced the shallots.

In a small bowl, combine the minced shallots, vinegar, oil, agave nectar, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir well with a small whisk. Add salad mix and toss to coat.

Yields 2 to 4 servings