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Main Dishes

Comfort Food

Presto, Pesto!

March 18, 2015

What is it about Pesto that it makes everything extra scrumptious? Pesto is a very handy ingredient to have around if you have unexpected company and don’t know what to make in a pinch. Ditto if kids come over: Like Mac’ ‘n Cheese, almost everyone likes some kind of noodle smothered in Pesto.

Not everyone where I live has tasted Pesto, and I love to take in the look of happy surprise when a child takes a first swallow of warm pasta with yummy pesto. Pesto is also really convenient to have on hand since it can be served hot or cold, and it both freezes and defrosts well.

If you have access to fresh basil, it’s easy to make your own, plus some extra for freezing. If you don’t feel like whipping it up, there are many tasty brands to be found at the supermarket in jars (I don’t like the Pesto flavoring envelopes.)

It’s not always easy or within my budget to find pine nuts, so I have come to substitute Walnuts as my standard recipe, and so far, no one has noticed.  Plus, Walnuts are healthy. Here’s my recipe for Pesto sauce, served in the photo over gluten-free rice noodles and then mixed — at the last minute and while the noodles are hot — with whole Arugula or Spinach leaves. (Although not shown in the photo, this dish is nicer and more finished when topped off with toasted Walnuts or Pine Nuts or Pecans.)

Pesto, My Way
In a food processor, blender, or using a hand-blender, process:

2 Cups packed, fresh basil leaves
3 Teeth garlic, smashed
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 – 1/3 Cup Olive Oil (or drizzle in a little more if you see you need it when you start blending)
1/3 Cup Walnuts, lightly toasted (or Pine Nuts, which is traditional)
Juice 1/4 Lemon
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Tip: If you find you don’t have quite enough sauce, you can make it “stretch,” do this:  just before serving , add to your Pesto 1/2 cup boiling water and 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (not you, Vegans!).

Tip: Break the rules: don’t be married to using only the traditional Pine Nuts. I have gotten quite used to Walnuts, and I think it would be interesting to experiment with other nuts you have handy, such as Brazil or Pecan.( But not peanuts.)

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Main Dishes

Layer, Layer

March 18, 2015

Layering food for a lasagna, or in this case, a Mexican Inspired Dish, is a little like wearing fancy under clothing. You might be the only one who knows, but you feel better. Still, layering flavors and ingredients evenly in your dish will ensure that all the flavors you put into your meal are distributed and enjoyable with each bite.  Here’s a recent concoction, Mexican inspired and gluten-free, that I cooked up, beautifully layered, completely delicious.

12 Corn Tortillas
3 Breasts of Chicken, Poached, then pulled
Shredded Cabbage
Sliced Tomatoes
Sliced Onion
1 Cup Ricotta Cheese
1/2 Cup Natilla (or anything like creme fraiche, which is sweeter than sour cream)
8 oz Salsa Verde
Provolone OR Mozzerella

Coat your casserole dish with a bit of light oil or Pam
Lay down 6 Tortillas (I like to trim mine to fit the corners)
Spoon on and spread some Salsa Verde, just to moisten
Layer on your pulled chicken
Layer on some shredded cabbage
Lay down your sliced tomatoes
Cover with 6 more Tortillas and begin again
This time Layer on:
Chicken
Tomatoes
Salsa Verde
Ricotta
Cream/Natilla
Onions
Salsa Verde
Provolone or Mozzerella
Top with remaining 6 Tortillas
Cover with cheese & bake at 350 until bubbling hot, about 30 minutes.

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Main Dishes

Delicious Gluten-Free Lasagna

February 26, 2015

Gluten-Free LasagnaIf you’re eating gluten- or carb-free, you can substitute Zuchinni noodles for lasagna noodles! I promise, no one in your family will miss the pasta.

It is ik to replace any pasta noodles with Zucchini noodles for any of your favorite lasagna recipes.

This dish turned out so scrumptious I am posting the recipe, below. It is a lower calorie recipe and uses only mozzarella cheese. No ricotta! But we didn’t even notice!

Sauce

Have sauce handy, either canned, jarred or make your own sauce.
Ladle 1/4 cup on the bottom of a lasagna dish, 9 x 13 or close to that size.

Noodles
Using a sharp, good potato peeler, peel 2 large Zucchini or 4 small ones into very thin noodle shaped strips.
Lay the strips, raw and not heated, across the bottom of your casserole dish to cover the bottom entirely, reserving the remainder for 2 more layers.

Meet or Filler
Sautee 1 pound of ground beef (I prefer 1/2 beef and 1/2 ground pork) in a sautee pan laced with a tbsp of olive oil
To the meat, add 1 tsp of ground Fennel (I ground my fennel up swiftly in a coffee grinder! Easy  Breezy!)
Make sure your meat is crumbled well.
This dish will not be the same without this ground Fennel.

Cheese
Grate, or very thinly slice, 8 oz Mozzarella and set aside for layering.
This is the only cheese for this lasagna. That’s right. No Ricotta!

Assembly
You already have a layer of Zucchini noodles down, over some sauce.
Atop this, sprinkle with 1/2 the meat mixture, including the juices from the pan.
Sprinkle with Salt & Pepper to taste.

Next, sprinkle grated or sliced Mozzarella to cover lightlly. Don’t lay it on too thickly.
Spoon a good 1/2 cup of sauce over all.
Now, cover the cheese entirely with an evenly placed layer of the Zucchini noodles.

Repeat, layering meat; cheese; sauce,

Again, place your last layer of Zucchini noodles over all.
Add a final layer of cheese.
Finish off the dish by sprinkling about 10 chopped, fresh basil leaves all over (See cover photo)
Cover with aluminum foil.
Refrigerate until ready to heat.
You can remove from fridge before heating, and let it set to room temperature.
Keep the foil on the dish until you serve.
Heat about 30 minutes in preheated oven at 325.

 

Main Dishes

Warm Steak Salad w/ Pear & Egg

February 19, 2015

This salad gives you almost perfect food combining (okay, the virtuous can legitimately argue the pear is just all wrong), mixing fresh, hydroponic greens with happy proteins. But hey, use any greens you have handy! It’s so easy to make a beautiful salad out of what you have handy!

The filet mignon featured here is grass-fed & neither the cow nor Miss Hen had miserable, factory-farmed lives. Indeed, as far as I know, the little hen is still running free in Rumelia’s yard.

I use Arugula a lot because for me, it’s so rich in substance and flavor, it’s like the “steak of all letuces.”  It adds oomph to your whole salad meal.

And I use (pureists will cringe) ice berg lettuce whenever I feel like it. The way I see it, I’m using so many nice, green leaves, who cares if I throw in some ice berg? The truthy is, most people are relieved to have something to crunch their teeth into! Again, use any lettuces  you have, but do break them up smallish. The French will balk but I say “P-Shaw!”  becaueI really hate looking like an odd animal when I a giant leaf of lett’m all dressed and then have to try to fold a piece of lettuce the size of a baby’s head onto a fork and then  cram it into my mouth. So, unsophisticated me … I’m all for the bite-sized salad. It’s only radical until everyone is doing it! Ha! Then it’s chic!

Easy Preparation

LETTUCE: Use two or three varieties.
Soak 2 large handfuls of Arugula in a bowl of water laced with 1/3 cup white vinegar, for 10 minutes
Soak 4 large handfuls of any other lettuce you like as well, to make a total of 6 hands full of lettuce.
Spin lettuce dry in a salad spinner. Nothing ickier than drippy, wet lettuce!

Place the dry lettuce into a bowl. Into the bowl…

  • Shake 3 shakes of Olive Oil.
  • Squeeze in juice from 1/2 an orange or 1/2 a mandarin right on top (2 tbsp orange juice if you don’t have fresh!)
  • Sprinkle 1/4 tsp fresh or ground, bottled thyme right on top
  • Sprinkle pepper & salt to taste.

Now, mix all the lettuce up in the bowl, using a pair of scissors to chop and stir as you mix …
When lettuce is bite-sized and coated, arrange the dressed salad to cover 4 plates

Around the edge of the plate, arrange:

  • Sliced tomato
  • Sliced boiled egg
  • Sliced pear from a can, or fresh pear if you have it (or fresh, sliced apple or any fruit of your choice)

In the center of the plate, arrange your sliced Filet Mignon.

Serve!

 

Breakfast

Shakshuka – Gluten-Free, Delicious

February 18, 2015

Shakshuka is an egg dish poached in a tomato sauce.

It’s my understanding that Shakshuka is originally a peasant dish, something  less wealthy folk slapped together with ingredients on hand. I’ve heard that every Jewish grandma has her own way of making it, so you can take my recipe and make it your own.

My first &  only Shakshuka was delicious &  prepared by an Israeli woman whose family is from a village so old, it’s mentioned in the traditional Seder ceremony.  I liked the dish so much, but never got her recipe for the pungent paprika-garlic paste she made ahead of time for her tomato sauce.

So I made up my own recipe.

Shakshuka

Lace a large sauce pan with about  two tablespoons of olive oil.

ADD
6 teeth minced garlic
6 Medium, chunked tomatoes
1 Can of diced tomatoes
1/2 Can of tomato paste
1 Chopped green pepper
1/4 Cup finely chopped parsley
1 Cup of water

NOW ADD
2 Tbsp paprika
1  Tsp cumin
1/2 Tsp cinnamon
1/2 Tsp turmeric
1/2 Tsp hot pepper flakes, or any hot sauce you desire.
Go slowly, or use none at all if you are serving children!
Salt & pepper to taste.

Over medium heat, simmer down until vegetables are soft.
Puree with a hand or table top blender until rough.

Crack  6 Fresh Eggs into the sauce, now cover & poach over low heat until the yolk is soft &  whites are firm — about 5 minutes.
Ladle sauce into bowl, then place eggs gently on top.
Garnish all over with finely chopped parsley