Sunday, August 29, 2010

Homemade Bloody Mary Mix

I often refer to this as the Breakfast of Champions. But actually I can drink a bloody mary at any time of day because I love them! Honestly, how many cocktails can you think of that are packed with this many vitamins and nutrients? It's a meal in a glass (with a little kick!).

Today I had my last Boot Camp class - I've been going every Sunday in August at 7am in Kenwood Park. It was a stretch for me, I usually don't like to "work out" and instead I prefer my scenic lake walks. But I felt the need for a late summer challenge and I'm proud that I went every week and worked my butt off. I contemplated going to the bakery to reward myself this morning but decided a bloody mary was a healthier, yet still indulgent treat!

The amazing crop of tomatoes this year seems a perfect reason to make my own veggie-packed bloody mary mix. If I was ambitious, I'd can a bunch of it - but that seems like too much work. This recipe yielded 4 pints of mix - one for the fridge and the other 3 went into the freezer.

Now that I've made bloody mary mix from scratch, I can give you this advice: you can't go wrong. If you already like bloody marys, just add veggies you like, and the level of spiciness you can handle. It will taste good with vodka, beer, or just plain.

The only trick is how thick or runny you like your bloody marys. I usually prefer my bloodies thick and chunky so I didn't strain my veggies. There ended up a few strings of celery in my finished drink, which I don't mind but you might. If that's the case, just use a fine mesh strainer and push the mix through with the back of a spoon, then discard the leftover pulp.

Homemade Bloody Mary Mix (adapted from Charleston Magazine)
10 local in-season ripe roma tomatoes (or any mixture of ripe tomatoes - about 4 lbs), roughly chopped and cores removed
1/2 cup water
3 ribs celery, including leafy parts, chopped
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 Tbsp horseradish
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp celery salt
10-15 leaves fresh basil
1 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
hot sauce, to taste

Mix first 10 ingredients (veggies, water, sugar, and salt) in big pot. Cover and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool completely.

Add remaining ingredients and mix together.

Working in batches, blend thoroughly in blender or food processor. I added about 1 cup of water to thin the mixture to my desired consistency while blending (now that I think about it, veggie broth would have been good too!). If it's too chunky or thick for you, strain. Refrigerate or freeze.

To drink, serve over ice. I like to add a shot of vodka, a splash of beer (for the fizz), a teaspoon each of pickle and olive juice, and and a few extra drops of hot sauce. Garnish with something pickled and/or celery!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pesto Tofu Kebabs

Fresh basil should be a perfume scent. I'd buy a case and bathe in it. Right now this delicious-smelling herb is the best bargain at the Farmer's Market - a gigantic bundle for only a dollar. I bought two last Saturday and used most of it for a big batch of pesto.

Thinning out the pesto with some lemon juice turns it into a marinade for protein and veggies. I had super firm tofu as my protein. I used to have such trouble cooking with tofu - it would crumble and fall apart. Apparently I was buying the wrong kind because I love this Wild Wood brand. It's so dense that I can eat it raw in salads and love the flavor and texture. This recipe would also work really well with chicken or even a firm white fish like halibut.

My veggies were zucchini, pattypan squash, red onion, and yellow bell peppers. Chop everything into bite-sized pieces. Marinate, skewer, grill - easy as 1, 2, 3.

I served my kebabs over orzo. Orzo is pasta that's shaped like rice. That means it's super quick cooking, which is nice for a change!

Pesto Tofu Kebabs
1/4 cup prepared fresh pesto, homemade or store bought
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
additional salt and pepper to taste
super firm tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces
fresh vegetables, cut into bite-sized pieces

Whisk pesto, zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper in small bowl. Put tofu and veggies into large zip-top bag and add pesto mixture. Shake bag until everything is coated with pesto. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (or refrigerate overnight).

Thread veggies onto skewers. Grill at medium-high heat 3-5 minutes on each side or until charred. Serve with a grain of your choice (rice, couscous, pasta, etc).

ONE YEAR AGO: Panzanella Salad

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer Pasta Toss

I refuse to believe summer is nearly over. It feels like mid-July today and I need to get outside asap to enjoy it! It makes me sad to think in just a few short weeks, delicious summer meals like this will be only a distant memory. Because believe me, there is NO WAY you can make this with out-of-season ingredients. It just wouldn't even compare.

I was feeling like things haven't been green enough on this ol' blog so I stopped at the Midtown Farmer's Market yesterday on my way back into Minneapolis after a gorgeous wedding "up north" to stock up on some emerald veggies. I got green beans, fava beans, baby zucchinis, pattypan squash, tons of basil, and kale.

There are about fifty gazillion ways to make pasta, here are the four things I suggest are required for a Summer Pasta Toss like this one.
  1. Pasta - any kind, shape, or size (and I recommend whole wheat pastas because they taste better, are more filling, and are loaded with fiber and other vitamins and minerals).
  2. Green Vegetables - again, any kind. But make sure you have a lot of them - I would even say have more green stuff than pasta!
  3. Roasted Cherry Tomatoes - sure, you could use fresh tomatoes but roasting makes them sweet and juicy and complex. It also lets the olive oil create a kind of rich tomato sauce that will coat the pasta.
  4. Basil - lots of it. Add a big handful, then add some more. When you think you've added too much, put in 5 more big leaves.
The roasted tomatoes are crucial here. I got a big bag of FREE cherry tomatoes from my mom's friend Connie. I used a bunch to make gazpacho and the rest were starting to get soft and wrinkly so I threw them in the oven a few days ago coated in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake until they start to turn brown on top and are sizzling and juicy (they may pop in your oven and make lots of noise!). At this point, you can use immediately, freeze for some later delicious creation, or refrigerate to use within a few days.

I used an entire big bunch of kale, sauteed with an onion for extra flavor. I also added about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar just to give that extra something special. It might be no surprise to regular readers that the kale was my favorite part of this pasta, it gave a chewiness and richness that was needed to make a complete meal.

Then I boiled up the other green veggies with the pasta during the last 3 minutes of cooking.

Toss it all together and add tons of basil, then if you want to you can garnish with toasted pinenuts and parmesan cheese.

This pasta toss will taste amazing freshly made and piping hot, room temperature, or even cold like a pasta salad. I have tried it every which way and enjoyed it equally all times. Truly, you should try this dish. It's fantastic and I'm already thinking about making it again.

Summer Pasta Toss
1/2 box whole wheat pasta (I used spaghetti)
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
2 cups green veggies, chopped into bite-sized pieces (I used zucchini, pattypan squash, and green beans)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 head kale, ribs removed and chopped
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Roast tomatoes: coat tomatoes with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees on rimmed sheet for 30 minutes or until slightly charred and sizzling

Saute kale (or other greens): sweat chopped onions in olive oil, salt, and pepper in big skillet over medium-high heat. When soft, add chopped kale and stir. Add 1 Tbsp water and 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, then cover to wilt about 5 minutes.

Boil pasta: follow package instructions. During the last 2-3 minutes, add chopped green veggies. Drain.

Mix everything together. Add lots of chopped fresh basil. If you want to, garnish with toasted pinenuts and finely shredded parmesan cheese.

ONE YEAR AGO: Mexi-Hippie Chow

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chopped Ceviche and Sangria

One of the first cooking shows I ever watched on the Food Network was one with Nigella Lawson. She is gorgeous, has a beautiful English accent, and she loves food as much as I do. She thinks green peas are stunningly pretty and she says words like "blitz" when talking about using a blender or food processor. She's endlessly entertaining to watch.

I bought one of her cookbooks and it has a couple really smart recipes. One that I'd always wanted to try was Chopped Ceviche because the way Nigella described it was intriguing. She says she "gobbles" it up because it's so good.

Ceviche is typically raw fish or shellfish (shrimp or scallops usually) cooked not with heat, but in acid (like citrus juice or vinegar). The acid "cooks" the fish after a short period of time (usually 30 minutes or so). I'm a little nervous to serve raw shellfish, even if it is soaked in lime juice. So I went to Coastal Seafoods to ask the experts what they recommend.

Coastal Seafoods is THE best place in the Twin Cities to get fish or seafood. Everything is fresher than you can imagine, and the staff are super knowledgeable about everything they sell. Plus, I swear every guy who works there is SUPER cute. No lie - they're all smoking hot. It's worth the trip alone just to browse and admire the merchandise, if you know what I mean.

So, the foxy fishmonger advised me that his favorite fish was Barramundi, plus it is sushi-grade so it's extra safe for a ceviche preparation (meaning OK to eat raw in case I screwed up the ceviche part). Didn't take much convincing for me to buy it.

Nigella's Chopped Ceviche is very Mexican-y flavored, with lime juice and cilantro. She says you can serve on crostini or baguette rounds, but I used tortilla chips. I thought it tasted very fresh and it had zero raw taste at all. In fact, with the lime and cilantro, it tasted like a cold fish taco - in a good-tasting refreshing way.

I made Sangria to quench our thirst. Last weekend, I had some awesome sangria at El Meson while sitting on the sidewalk watching the world go by and I gained a big appreciation for this fruity yet sort of dry-winey drink. You can literally dump just about any combination of wine and juice together to make sangria and it is basically fool-proof. Plus it looks so pretty in a glass!

Chopped Ceviche, adapted from Nigella Lawson
1.5 lbs Barramundi, skin removed and chopped as finely as possible
juice of 2 limes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
5 scallions, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 handful cilantro, chopped

Let chopped fish sit in lime juice with salt and oregano for 15 minutes. Drain off excess liquid, then add scallions, jalapeno, and cilantro. Mix. Make sure fish has completely turned white before eating. Serve with tortilla chips.

1 bottle red wine (I used cabernet sauvignon)
1 bottle rose wine
2 cups limoncello (vodka steeped in sugar and lemon peel)
NOTE: feel free to substitute any other regular or flavored vodka, gin,or even brandy for the limoncello.
1-2 cans ginger ale (for sweeter version, or club soda for drier version)
Lots of fruit - I used sliced lemon, lime, tangelo, raspberries, blueberries, and a nectarine.

Mix together and let macerate in the fridge overnight. Serve over ice. Eat the boozy fruit when the sangria's gone!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Southwest Turkey Burgers and Jicama Slaw

Two hundred!!!! This is my 200th post. I can NOT believe it. When I started this blog in January 2009, I was skeptical that I'd even meet my goal of posting for a full year. Now, almost 20 months later, I'm still hugely motivated to try new recipes with the intent of showcasing them on this blog! It seems there are unlimited ways to eat great food with real ingredients and I'll keep on posting about my experiments as long as I can. Thanks for playing along!

It's been crazy hot this week in Minneapolis. My teeny air-conditioner has been chugging away, giving a valiant effort to combat the humidity while I enjoy no-cook or grilled dinners. Since I'm feeling sympathetic to those in the Southwest U.S. who frequently deal with this kind of heat, I'm paying homage to those brave souls tonight with my Southwest Turkey Burger.

Usually, when I make turkey burgers, I add dried cranberries and feta cheese. Those salty/sweet burgers are fantastic! But to make these burgers southwestern, I decided to add beans, veggies, and spices.

Turkey burgers are so lean that they can sometimes end up dry. To keep my burgers moist, I grated in about a quarter of a red onion. To that, I added some leftover grilled balsamic red pepper, a half cup of home cooked black beans, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. On top of each toasty bun and grilled turkey burger, I added some mashed avocado spiked with lime juice, a spoonful of roasted salsa, and some pickled jalapenos. SO GOOD.

Southwest Turkey Burgers
1.25 lbs lean ground turkey
1/4 red onion, grated
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 roasted red pepper (or grilled)
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together gently, form 4 patties and grill 3-5 minutes on each side or until cooked through.

Place on toasted bun and top with lettuce, avocado, salsa, and pickled jalapenos.

The burgers were hot and savory, so I needed a cool side dish. This jicama slaw was a great accompaniment - mildly sweet, super crunchy, and very veggie. If you've never had jicama, just know it has sort of a sweet carroty taste but with a waterier texture. I love it and find it to be very refreshing.

Jicama Slaw (adapted from Bobby Flay)
1 medium jicama root, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
1 small red chili pepper, seeded and chopped finely
2 slices red onion, diced finely
1 handful cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 juicy lime
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 healthy squeeze honey
2 Tbsp olive oil
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together and enjoy! It gets better the longer it sits.

ONE YEAR AGO: Quick Zucchini Saute

Monday, August 9, 2010

Grilled Balsamic Veggie Sandwich

Here are some of my food obsessions right now: marinating, grilling, and hand-held foods (such as sandwiches and wraps).

Usually, I'm too much of a last-minute cook to marinate anything. And grilling used to seem like too much work. But now that I know what I'm doing, it's super easy! So tonight is a combination of all my obsessions in one yummy sandwich.

First, I marinated some veggies in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper overnight. Then I charred them up on my grill and layered them with greens and goat cheese on a ciabatta roll, which also spent a minute or two on the hot grates to toast.

Something about the combination of tangy balsamic vinegar, smoky charcoal, and creamy goat cheese makes me very, very happy. These veggies would also be great on a salad, in a wrap, or just chopped up and eaten as a summer side dish.

Grilled Balsamic Veggie Sandwich (makes 2 sandwiches)
2 portobello mushrooms, stems removed and brushed clean
1 pattypan squash, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into 4 big flat pieces
2 thick slices red onion
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
goat cheese, softened
spring mix (or other greens like lettuce or spinach)
bread, rolls, or wraps

Combine veggies, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper in large zip top bag. Marinate 30 minutes or up to overnight. Heat grill to medium. Add mushroom and red pepper first (skin side down).

Grill 7 minutes or until pepper skin is charred. Flip and add remaining veggies. Grill another 5-7 minutes or until all veggies are cooked through. Add bread to toast for 1 minute or so.

Peel skin from red peppers.

Spread a bunch of soft goat cheese on both sides of bread. Add a layer of greens, then all your grilled veggies. Eat immediately.

ONE YEAR AGO: Mustard Dill Fish

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Veggie Hummus Wrap

I found a package of burrito-sized flour tortillas in my freezer. They were left over from a giant pan of enchiladas I made for a big family gathering a few months ago. I pulled those babies out ASAP. Hence the burrito post earlier this week and the wrap post tonight. Tortillas are irresistible to me and wraps are fun to eat. Plus it's hot this week so these no-cook meals are important.

Also, I made my best batch of hummus ever. And I realize I'm terrible at writing recipes because the more I create things in my kitchen, the more I find I'm an instinctual cook. I keep adding pinches of this and that here and there so I can't give you an accurate recipe. This hummus had 1 pint of garbanzo beans with some of the cooking liquid, juice from 1 and 1/2 lemons plus zest, 4 big sprigs fresh thyme, tahini (1/4 cup?), salt, pepper, 2 cloves garlic, and olive oil. All mixed together in a food processor until super creamy and delicious.

I prepped a whole bunch of fresh veggies to go with my hummus and tortilla: field greens, thinly sliced yellow squash and zucchini, tomato, shredded carrots, scallions, and toasted pumpkin seeds. I ate one last night for dinner with a beer and the Twins, then wrapped up another one in tinfoil like a Chipotle burrito for lunch today.

It was a fantastic lunch - and probably cost me only pennies to make! Can you imagine how much it would be from a deli? I'm thinking $6.95! Good for your body and your wallet.

Also, another meal free from the clutches of evil cheese (Cass, I'm totally kidding! It's purely coincidental that this is cheeseless).

ONE YEAR AGO: Local Green Dinner

Monday, August 2, 2010

Chili-Lime Veggie Burritos

I continue to be very proud of myself for using my outdoor grill. I hadn't used it for a couple of years because it's always just seemed like too much work, especially if I'm just cooking for myself. But, I've realized it's actually FUN to grill, keeps my house as cool as possible, and the food tastes amazing!

A few weeks ago, Catherine the Food Snob saved a crappy day by making tacos for dinner. She wondered if there exists any person who doesn't like tacos....I thought and thought and decided she was right - everyone likes tacos! Then of course all that thinking made me crave tacos, which was convenient since I saw Crystal's awesome recipe for chili-lime grilled veggie tacos.

I dumped some chili powder, cumin, and salt into a big ziploc bag with sliced veggies, the juice of 2 limes (I love limey stuff so I used a lot of juice) and a glug of olive oil. After my usual hour-long nightly walk, the veggies were begging to be grilled up!

I had a freshly cooked batch of black beans that wanted to go with my veggies so I spiced them up with some chipotle peppers, red onion, fresh sweet corn, and sliced grape tomatoes. I left the cooking liquid in so the beans would stay all saucy.

All the sliced veggies and spicy bean mixture were layered on a giant flour burrito shell, which was also charred up on the grill. Then topped with some sliced fresh avocado. Notice something? No cheese. You don't need it with the creamy beans, charred chili-lime veggies, and buttery avocado. These giant burritos are mega good for you!

Chili-Lime Veggie Burritos, adapted from Crystal Grobe
Veggies such as red onion, portobello mushrooms, zucchini, and yellow squash (colored bell peppers would also be great here), sliced into grillable planks
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
juice of 2 limes
2 Tbsp olive oil

Mix all ingredients in zip top bag, marinate in fridge for at least 1 hour. Heat grill to medium-high. Grill veggies for a few minutes on each side until nicely charred but not burnt. Remove from grill and slice all veggies. Char a flour (or corn) tortilla on your grill and top with your sliced veggies. Add Spicy Corn and Beans in lieu of salsa and top with a sliced avocado. Roll up and eat!

Spicy Corn and Beans
1/2 red onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 chipotle peppers, plus sauce, chopped (I used 2 and it was very spicy!)
1 can or pint black beans, with liquid
2 cobs fresh sweet corn, kernels removed from cob
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

Saute red onion in olive oil, salt, and pepper in skillet over medium high heat until soft. Add chipotle peppers and beans with liquid. Bring to a simmer and let most of the liquid cook off. Add corn and tomatoes and remove from heat.

ONE YEAR AGO: Gazpacho