Showing posts with label grape tomatoes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grape tomatoes. Show all posts

Friday, June 4, 2010

Quickies Challenge: MISSION...POSSIBLE!


SECURITY LEVEL:
Eyes Only

THE MISSION:
Take on the Quickies Morning, Noon and Night Cooking Challenge

KEY INGREDIENTS:
Avocado and Feta Cheese must be used!

VARIABLES:
Open – add any ingredients to complete the dish

THE JUDGES:

Chef and author Denise Fletcher of Quickies on the Dinner Table; Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks; and Natasha of Five Star Foodie Culinary Adventures.

FULL DISCLOSURE: 
Although one of the prizes for winning this challenge is Denise’s gorgeous cookbook, Quickies: Morning, Noon and Night, I must confess that I already purchased it, and I’m so very glad I did.



Quickies: Morning, Noon and Night
by Denise Fletcher
Denise's Quickies is not just a book of recipes. It's a joyous, vividly illustrated trek through breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, and desserts with a knowledgeable culinary professional by your side chatting wonderfully witty insights as you go. The recipes themselves are by turns eclectic, exciting, comforting, and inspiring. (I LOVE this book!)

In fact, inspired by the many useful tips she includes throughout (like how to pair wine and food or choose a tender cut of meat), I decided to make my own cheap, little visual aid to go with this recipe. Just click the arrow in the window below (and please hold your guffaws until you've finished reading the entire post…).




So what is my mission here? Amuse Denise, Lazaro, and Natasha with my own fumbling attempts at a recipe using any ingredients I wish as long as they include avocado and feta cheese.

Okay, here we go…

My first try working feta and avocado into the same recipe was this savory cheese tart. Pretty, isn’t she?

The filling for my tart (ricotta and feta) was delicious with the tomatoes and thyme. I planned on creating an avocado-cilantro coulis to drizzle over the slices, but ... I took a wrong turn with the crust. Instead of pastry dough, I wanted to try something very different. Too different as it turned out. You see, I’d just made a graham cracker crust for a frozen key lime pie (a Terry Odell special, stay tuned for that delicious recipe) by pulverizing sweet crackers and mixing in butter.

I decided to try the same kind of press-in crust method by swapping seasoned bread crumbs for the graham crackers and olive oil for the butter. Sounded logical. Tasted like shite.

Try, try again, right? But as I prepared to re-make the tart, another thought struck me. With the start of summer here in the USA, many households will be looking for meals to make on the grill or stovetop—anything to keep from using that oven.

I also thought about the ricotta, which is a very neutral carrier of flavor, just like...avocado. So, why not just mix the avocado pulp with the feta cheese? A generous squeeze of lime was a no-brainer for flavor and to keep the avocado pulp nice and green. (Note better living through food chemistry – an acid will prevent your avocado’s flesh from darkening right away.)

While you can certainly eat this yummy feta guacamole with tortilla chips, I had a much better idea for lunch. You see, I live in Queens, New York, a short hike from the neighborhood of Astoria, where Greek immigrants bake the most delicious pita bread in the US (IMO). So I decided to make the base a pita bread—Naan bread, flatbread, or a pre-baked round of pizza dough will work just as well.

Toppings? When nobody’s looking, I’ll be piling it on (red onions, roasted peppers, black olives, anchovies…) but since my Quickies pita pizza needs to be photographed, I decided to stick with sweet, brilliant and currently plentiful grape tomatoes. A little chopped cilantro adds aromatic floral fun for the olfactory senses as you bite and chew.

And that’s the ticket. Probably not a dish that will get me hired onto Wolfgang Puck’s gourmet pizza brigade, but a nice, light summer lunch just the same—easy, healthy, colorful, and best of all Quickies-inspired.





Quickies Challenge

A “Quickie”
Fresh Summer Pizza
with Feta Guacamole

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

1 round of pita bread (or Naan or 8-inch round of flatbread or baked pizza dough)
1 tablespoon olive oil (approximately)
1 small ripe avocado (I use Hass)
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 ounces (about 50 grams) feta cheese
8 grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

Method:

Step 1 - Toast the pita bread: For an outdoor grill: lightly coat the pita on both sides with olive oil. Place the round over the heat of your grill and turn several times until bread is toasted and crusty. For a stovetop: Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil. When the pan is good and hot, add the pita bread, turning several times. Bread should not be soft when you remove it. You are doing more here than simply heating the bread; you are making it firm and crunchy. Plate the bread.

Step 2 – Make the feta guacamole: Remove the flesh from the avocado and mash it with the prongs of a fork. Mix in the lime juice. Crumble the feta cheese and continue mixing with a fork or spoon until you’ve created a smooth paste.

Step 3 – Assemble, top, and serve: Spoon the feta guacamole onto the toasted pita and use the back of the spoon to work it into a smooth, even layer. Place the grape tomato halves on top of the pizza, sprinkle on the cilantro. Slice into quarters and serve.

Additional topping ideas: This pizza is also delicious with roasted red peppers, black olives, anchovies, and red onions. Instead of cilantro, you might try chopped parsley or thyme leaves. You might also try tossing the grape tomato halves with olive oil, cumin, oregano, and sea salt before placing on the pizza. Then...







Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

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Monday, October 12, 2009

The Perfect Fall Salad!

Each week is turning out to be a mini-gourmet experience for me and my husband. Starting on Monday, I try to come up with some new cheese dish for this blog and/or The Cheese Shop Mysteries. Ah, research. Such an undertaking...not. It's so much fun! And tasty!


So this week, I saw a salad with zucchini and lentils in the local newspaper and I thought, gee, I like those things, but what else could I add to zing it up? Cubes of America Grana.

What is grana? It is a cow's milk and tastes and "acts" like parmesan. Hard, flavorful, grainy with a hint of fruitiness. It is offered by Bel Gioioso (found in local markets). The company started in 1979 when the owner's family moved from Italy to Wisconsin.

Anyway, I made the following salad, and, get this, my taste-tester husband said it's possibly the best salad he's ever had. He eats a lot of different salads, so I took that as a total compliment.

Remember, it's always fun to play with your food.


Take a recipe.
Put a spin on it.
You might find something you
absolutely adore because of one addition.
Be daring and enjoy!


LENTIL SALAD WITH ARUGULA AND GRANA


Salad for two

Ingredients:

1 small zucchini, diced in 1/2-inch cubes
1 tsp salt (more to taste)
1/4 cup lentils
1 Tbsp. chopped chives (do with scissors)
1 clove shallots, diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. ground pepper
1 small tomato diced
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup torn arugula leaves
1 Tbsp. pine nuts
1 oz. Bel Gioioso American Grana, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Directions:

Dice zucchini, pour into colander, sprinkler with 1/2 tsp. salt and let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse the lentils and boil in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes. Drain under cool water and dump onto a paper towel to drain.

Mix the lentils, chives, shallots, olive oil, pepper, and 1/2 tsp. salt.

Stir in the zucchini, the chopped tomatoes and the vinegar. Fold in the arugula leaves, pine nuts and lentils.

Serve.

If you prefer more arugula, this may be served on top of a bed of arugula. In that case, you might want to add another tablespoon of olive oil.
And if you'd like to learn more about The Cheese Shop Mysteries, come visit me and my growing cast of characters at Avery Aames website.
Say Cheese!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Welcome Guest Blogger - Jessica Conant-Park!

Guest Blogger Jessica Conant-Park, author of the Gourmet Girl Mystery series

What an honor to be asked to come hang out with the lovely women of Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen! Since I co-write the Gourmet Girl mystery series (with my mother, author Susan Conant), I feel a major kinship with this group. And, well, being here is a good excuse to write about food. My series is set in the Boston restaurant scene and follows Chloe Carter, a twenty-something half-hearted social work student who would much rather be frequenting local restaurants or browsing gourmet food shops than studying somatoform disorders and marching at the State House. Chloe’s love life and academic life are a constant challenge, but she does hook up with a hot young chef, Josh, and gets an inside look at the tumultuous and chaotic world of professional restaurants. The books are a blend of cozy mystery, chick lit, humor (well, at least, I think so… I suppose it depends on how weird your sense of humor is), romance, and food, and there are tons of recipes at the end of the book so that you can cook up some of the delicacies that you’ve read about. The fifth in the series, COOK THE BOOKS, will be out next February/March.

I also do a Food Fiction newsletter with Michele Scott (of the Wine Lover’s mystery series) and we dole out food news, recipes, guest author spots, and lots of great contests. Stop by our site http://foodfiction.weebly.com/ and sign up for the newsletter and our August giveaway!

Now, on to food! Summer is a glorious season for cooking and I find it so much easier to whip up something absolutely delicious and full of flavor in a fraction of the time it takes in winter. Relying on fresh produce and herbs means you need very little else to doctor up a dish. I’ve been glaring rather sharply at my tomato plants recently, begging them to hurry up and produce perfect tomatoes, because if I eat one more vile, pink tomato this year, I’m going to scream. Even those supposedly “vine ripe” tomatoes that cost a fortune at the grocery store have been flavorless… I’ve had it and refuse to buy another. My way around this? Grape tomatoes. These little guys are working out just fine and are proving to be a pretty good substitute (for now) for the coveted Beefsteak tomatoes I’m craving.

My other garden favorite is arugula. Yes, I’ll admit right off the bat that there is one giant drawback to growing your own: washing it. You must wash the leaves over and over again in a salad spinner. Then wash them a few more times. I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly care for little spiders and grains of dirt in my food… So, suffer through the washing and you’ll be rewarded with a spicy, crispy, bitter-in-a-good-way treat. The store bought variety is also perfectly good, but I still recommend a thorough washing, too. My father spent years lamenting what he considered to be the severe neglect and under appreciation of the potato. Hah! Everyone knows about the boring old potato. If you ask me, arugula is much more neglected. I think we should be tossing it into practically everything. Stir a bunch into hot pasta and tomato sauce and you will have a much improved winter meal; mix with your favorite dressing as a salad; or add a few leaves to an otherwise mundane sandwich.


I’ve been making a lot of pasta salad this year, and one of my favorites makes use of both arugula and grape tomatoes. Simply cook cheese-filled tortellini and drain it well. (Never rinse pasta under water, as you need the starch from the pasta to make salads work well.)Toss it with a good glug of olive oil, and add in a generous handful of fresh arugula (the heat will wilt it nicely), grape tomatoes sliced in half, more fresh basil, and salt and pepper. If you like some heat, a sprinkle of hot pepper flakes or freshly minced cayenne would be fantastic. Toss in some parmesan cheese. I highly recommend that you pay a little extra for a fresh wedge of parm that you run over a grater. Well worth the cost. That’s it! Let your salad rest so it comes down to room temperature and the flavors a chance to come out.

So until those fat and fabulous tomatoes start showing up on my plants and in the farmer’s markets, I’ll be doing what I can with the littlest tomato out there, and washing and re-washing my arugula.
Jessica Conant-Park

Wonderful idea. Delicious and easy! Thanks for joining us at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, Jessica!

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