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Salade Niçoise

It was such a gloriously sunny day that I had to celebrate with one of my favorite salads. This salad just brightens up your day with all the colors and freshness.
Originally from Nice, in southern France, there has been great debate about the ingredients used in this salad, such as sweet peppers, artichokes, boiled potatoes, and even the type of lettuce that should be used. I however, like my Salade with the works.

Photography by Robert Demetrius


These are the ingredients I used:

3 ounces of baby greens
5 ounce can of tuna in oil
4 anchovy filets
4 small petite red potatoes (9 ounces)
2 hard boiled eggs
4 ounces green beans
2 whole canned artichokes cut in half
1 medium tomato, (6 ounces) cut in wedges
1 ounce sliced red onions (1 ounce)
4 jumbo black olives cut in quarters

For the vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon grated garlic
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt

In a pot add 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of salt along with the 4 small petite red potatoes. It should take 25 minutes till the potatoes are cooked. Make sure that they are not overdone, or else they will be mushy. Just use a fork to check them. Once they are done, drain and set aside to cool while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

While the potatoes are cooking, bring another pot of water, 4 cups, with some salt to boil. Once the water comes to a boil, add the green beans and cook for 3 minutes. When just about done, prepare a bowl with ice cubes and water. Once done, remove the beans from the pot with a slotted spoon or tongs and place in the bowl with ice water so that the process of cooking stops immediately. Just leave them in the ice water for 1 minute, then drain.

Do not discard the boiling water, because you can use it to boil the eggs. Boil eggs for 10 minutes.

While the eggs are being boiled, start preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Open the can of tuna and drain the oil. Quarter the potatoes, cut the whole artichokes in half, cut the tomato into wedges, slice the red onions and quarter the jumbo black olives.

In a large plate start arranging the ingredients. Put the mix of baby greens on the plate. Arrange on top of the mixed greens, the green beans, quartered potatoes, tomato wedges, artichoke halves, sliced red onions and olives.

The eggs should be done. Remove them from the hot water and cool with cold water. This will allow the eggshell to be removed easily.
Cut the eggs in half and arrange on the plate with the rest of ingredients, along with the tuna and 4 anchovy filets.

Salade Nicoise Ready to be Enjoyed!
In a bowl, mix 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, a pinch of salt, ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard and 1/8 teaspoon grated garlic, blending them well together, then a slowly whisking in 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil until it has emulsified.

Salade Nicoise
You are now ready. This serves 2 generously for lunch. Just before serving, drizzle with vinaigrette and enjoy immediately. Voilà. This is another beautiful, simple and quick salad. A crisp glass of white wine or a rosé would go well with this salad as well as some crusty French bread. Enjoy!

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Tarragon Mushrooms

This is an easy side dish that brings along a new bold flavor, tarragon. Tarragon is an aromatic herb that tastes quite like anise. It’s fresh, light and has a touch of sweetness to it. Use sparingly if you have never used before as it can also be quite overpowering if you are not accustomed to the taste.

Photography by Heaven on Hearth
8 ounces mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons tarragon, roughly chopped

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a heated pan, toss in the mushrooms, and sauté for 1 minute, then, add, roughly chopped tarragon leaves, incorporating evenly among the sautéing mushrooms for 2 more minutes. Just before taking the skillet off the burner, sprinkle mushrooms with salt and pepper to taste, toss again and serve right away. Voilà.
Serves 4 as a light side dish. This would also go well with my Spinach, Bacon, Onion and Goat Cheese Frittata

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Lemony Garlic Rosemary Chicken and Broccoli Sauté

This is a brilliantly quick, light, fresh and easy dish bursting with zesty lemon, garlic and rosemary. A perfect dish for the warm weather.

Photography by Robert Demetrius



Ingredients you will be needing:
1½ pounds chicken breast, in ¼ inch thick slices
5 cups broccoli florets
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Ingredients
Slice chicken breast in ¼ inch thick slices, season with salt and pepper. Chop garlic and rosemary, finely. Rinse florets. That’s all the preparation.
Garlic, Lemon Zest and Rosemary Heating in Olive Oil
Pour 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet, adding 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary, 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic and 1 tablespoon lemon zest. 
Chicken in Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary Oil
Turn the heat on to low for about 3 minutes, then turn the heat up to medium then add the sliced chicken breast and sauté for 8 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
Chicken and Broccoli
Then add the 5 cups of broccoli florets and toss for 2 minutes before pouring in 2 tablespoons lemon juice over the chicken and broccoli, giving one more good toss and it’s done.
Lemony Garlic Rosemary Chicken and Broccoli Saute
Voilà. A tasty, easy and quick dish. Serves 4. A crisp glass of white wine, some crusty bread and a salad. What more do you need? Bon appétit!

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Chicken and Portobello Mushroom Stuffed Ravioli with Melted Tomatoes

We had invited some friends over who just love Italy and Italian food, so I thought an Italian dish would be appropriate for the occasion.

Photography by Robert Demetrius




For the fresh ravioli:
2 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup of flour for dusting
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons olive oil
4½ tablespoons water
1 gallon and 2 cups of water
1 tablespoon salt

For the chicken and Portobello filling:
6 ounces ground chicken
3 ounces Portobello mushrooms, finely diced
3 ounces Marsala
2 ounces onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 large basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
¼ cup heavy cream
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the sauce:
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
handful fresh basil, cut in chiffonade
32 ounces diced canned tomatoes, drained
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper

Browning Ground Chicken
Heat a skillet at medium heat before adding 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Brown 6 ounces of ground chicken, seasoned with ¾ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper 
Ground Mince with Garlic, Onions, Thyme and Diced Portobello Mushrooms
and 2 tablespoons fresh thyme for 2 minutes before adding 2 ounces finely diced onions, 1 teaspoon garlic finely chopped and 3 ounces finely diced Portobello mushrooms for a further 2½ minutes. 
Deglazing with Marsala Wine
Then deglaze with 3 ounces Marsala wine for 1½ minutes, making sure that you scrape all the yummy bits from the bottom of the pan. Toss in 1 tablespoon bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese as well as 1 tablespoon of olive oil just to keep the mixture moist while it cools and take the skillet off the burner. Mix all ingredients well together and put aside to cool, as we will be putting the mixture in the food processor or chopper later on.

Drain two 28 ounce cans of diced tomatoes. Leave them to drain until you are ready to use. Do not discard the tomato juice as you can use it for another dish, on another day.

Before commencing with the ravioli dough, prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper so that once the dough is done, you can put the cut out pieces of dough on the sheet.
Mound of Flour
Now to the ravioli dough, while the filling is still cooling down. On a clean surface, measure out 2 cups of all purpose flour, mixing in 2 teaspoons of salt and mound on a flat surface.  
Well filled with Eggs and Olive Oil
Form a well in the middle of the mound, so it looks a bit like a bowl so that you can pour in all the wet ingredients. Crack 2 eggs into the well, add 2 teaspoons olive oil and 4½ tablespoons water. 
Incorporating Flour into Wet Ingredients
Use a fork to whisk the wet ingredients, slowly allowing the flour to gradually incorporate into the mixture until it becomes sticky and heavy and are able to knead the dough with your hands. 
Wet Ingredients Nearly Completely Incorporated with Flour
Continue to knead until the dough is smooth. If the dough is too dry, add a bit more water, but just a little at a time.
Kneading Dough
Put the dough, covered, on the side for a few minutes while you finish the filling. First clean the surface, scraping off all the dried bits of flour if necessary. Use some of the ¼ cup of flour, that was set aside, to dust the surface, just before you start rolling out the dough.
Pulsing Chicken and Mushroom Mixture
The mixture should be cooled by now, so spoon into the food processor or chopper and pulse until you have a fine paste like consistency. 
Adding Remaining Breadcrumbs and Parmesan Cheese
Add the remaining breadcrumbs, Parmesan and 4 large basil leaves that should be roughly chopped. 
Adding Heavy Cream and Egg Mixture




Blend together ¼ cup of heavy cream and 1 egg then pour into the mixture and mix well. The filling is now ready to be used.

Take the dough that has been resting and place on the flour dusted surface and cut into 4 pieces, as it is easier rolling smaller pieces.
Rolling Out Dough
Take a piece of the dough, pressing it flat with the heel of your hand, then roll out the dough, with a rolling pin as thin as you possibly can. Place the other three pieces to the side, making sure you cover them so that they don’t dry out.
Cutting Pasta Pieces
Once the dough is completely rolled out, as thin as you possibly can, use a cookie cutter that is about 2½ inches in diameter and cut out the pasta pieces. Place the pieces on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet and start with the next batch, until they are all done.
Pasta on the Parchment Lined Cookie Sheet
I did two batches of dough, then filled them and created my chicken and Portobello mushroom stuffed ravioli then continued with the other two batches. The cookie sheet couldn’t hold all the cut out dough at once, so I did it in batches.

Each piece of dough should yield about 13 pieces of pasta.
Filling the Pasta
Take a piece of pasta, wet the edges with water then add a heaping teaspoon of filling, then cover with another piece of pasta. 
Closing Ravioli Edges with a Fork
Taking your thumb and index finger, gently press the two pieces together, then take a fork and press the edges close and your ravioli is done. Continue until all the dough and filling is done. 
Stuffed Ravioli
Keep on the cookie sheet until ready to drop into the boiling water.

In a nice large pot, pour 1 gallon and 2 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. That should take about 20 -25 minutes, so while the water is heating, start with the melted tomatoes. By now, the tomatoes should be well drained. Measure out 32 ounces of drained tomatoes. You may have some tomatoes left over so you can pour it back in the juice and place in the fridge.
Heating Olive Oil Slowly with Garlic
In a large skillet, pour ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic and heat slowly at low heat, as you want to infuse the oil with the garlic, but not burn the garlic.

Grab about 3 to 4 sprigs of basil and remove the leaves from the stems, that should give you a nice handful of basil, which you will need to cut in chiffonade, just before serving. Do not discard the stems, as you will need them.
Drained Tomatoes Seasoned with Salt and Basil Stems
Once you have finished separating the leaves from the stems, turn the heat up to medium low until you see the garlic starting to get golden which will only be a few seconds, then carefully pour in 32 ounces of drained diced tomatoes and mix well with the hot garlic oil. Add the 3 or 4 stems of the basil to the tomatoes so that while the tomatoes are melting away in the garlic oil, it is also being infused with the basil.  Season the tomatoes with ½ teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper.
Water Boiling
The water should be boiling now. Add the ravioli and cook for about 6 -7 minutes. 
Dropping Ravioli into Boiling Water
The ravioli will initially fall to the bottom of the pot and then float to the top. 
Ravioli Floating to the top
Since the pasta was done by hand, not all pieces will be exactly the same thickness and therefore you will need to check around the 4 - 5 minute mark. Just use a fork to stick the edges and if it is hard, you know you will need a bit more time.
Melted Tomatoes with Basil
While the ravioli is cooking, take the basil leaves, cutting them in chiffonade.
Remove the basil stems from the melted tomatoes and turn off the burner. Toss in the basil chiffonade.
Chicken and Portobello Mushroom Stuffed Ravioli with Melted Tomatoes
Use a slotted spoon to take out the ravioli and place 4 or 5 on each plate and spoon and mound of melted tomatoes in the middle of the plate. I also drizzled some olive oil over the ravioli.
It's time to have a bite!
You can also put the ravioli in the skillet with the melted tomatoes and toss gently, then spoon on a plate.
Voilà. Another easy home cooked dish that is so satisfying. Serves 4 to 6, depending on how hungry you are. I served 4 on each plate and my guests came back for more! Serve with a nice bottle of Italian wine. You can also end this wonderful dinner with a few scoops of gelato or sorbetto for dessert. Buon appetito!

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Stuffed Sweet Peppers

My Omi used to make the most delicious stuffed sweet peppers in a paprika sauce. I decided to take a try at it in my own way.

Photography by Robert Demetrius





For the stuffing:
1 pound ground pork
1 ¼ cup cooked long grain rice
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the sweet peppers:
6 medium sized sweet peppers
1 teaspoon salt
8 cups boiling water

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons tomato paste
¾ cup broth
1 teaspoons crème fraîche
1 tablespoons sour cream
Sweet Peppers
Start by bringing 8 cups of water to a boil. The boiling water will be used to parboil the sweet peppers before stuffing them. By doing so, it will reduce the cooking time when stuffed. This may take about 20 minutes so you have a bit of time to you the rest of your prep work.
Cleaned Sweet Peppers
While the water is heating, clean 6 medium sweet peppers, by cutting off the caps, removing the seeds and membranes and rinsing them out. Do not discard the caps, as we will be using then to cover the sweet peppers. Place the peppers in a deep baking dish that is not too large, making sure the peppers have enough room to stand up and not fall over on their sides. Place the caps in the baking dish but along the sides of the sweet peppers, so that they are also parboiled with the peppers.

Once that is done, we will start on the stuffing. I have used a heavy hand on the spices since the peppers will not be seasoned and I want the flavors of the stuffing to infuse into the peppers.
Onions, Garlic and Herbs
Pour 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a heated pan, on medium low heat before tossing in 1 medium onion, finely diced along with 2 cloves garlic, finely diced, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon dried marjoram, two tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley with a pinch of red pepper flakes. Make sure the heat is at medium low because I made the herbs infuse in the oil for about 5 ½ minutes and you don’t want the herbs to burn. 
Ground Pork with Onions, Garlic and Herbs
Then add 1 pound of ground pork, seasoned with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Try to break up the ground pork as best as you can, as we don’t want clumps of meat once we blend the rice and meat mixture together. Sauté the meat for another 6 minutes so that it is well cooked through, then remove from the burner.
Sweet Peppers Filled with Boiling Water
The water should be boiling by now. Use a ladle to carefully pour the hot water into each sweet pepper cavity and pour the rest of the water into the baking dish. Leave the peppers in the hot water for about 10 minutes until they soften.

Pork Mixture and Rice
While the peppers are soaking in the hot water, mix the pork mixture with 1¼ cup cooked long grain rice and 2 more tablespoons freshly chopped parsley.

Pre-heat the oven to 450° Fahrenheit.

As soon as the 10 minutes have passed, take a pair of tongs and carefully pour out the water in the sweet peppers as well as discard the water in the baking dish, just make sure not to discard the caps. Place the peppers back into the baking dish, without the caps and sprinkle the peppers with 1 teaspoon salt. Just keep the caps on the side until we are ready to place the baking dish into the oven.
Stuffed Sweet Peppers Before Baking
Lightly beat an egg, adding it to the to the pork and rice mixture then fill the sweet peppers and cover then with their respective caps, placing them back into the baking dish.

Olive Oil and Tomato Paste
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and carefully add 3 tablespoons tomato paste, try to even the paste all over the pan until the olive oil starts turning red, then add ¾ cup of broth. 

Tomato Sauce
Let it simmer until it starts thickening for about 3 minutes then add 1 teaspoon crème fraîche and 1 tablespoon sour cream. Pour the sauce in the baking dish with the sweet peppers.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes in the oven.

Stuffed Sweet Pepper
Once the peppers are done, place the peppers in a plate and pour some of the sauce on the plate and drizzle a bit over the pepper. Serves 4.Voilà. Enjoy!

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