Mediterranean Orzo Salad

    IMG_2659

It’s August, and we are at top temperatures pushing 100 degrees here in Sunny Florida. There are days when I don’t feel like eating very much let alone be in the kitchen for too long. I look for ways to create tasty dishes, and if possible, I prefer not even to turn the oven on. This dish is a very quick, easy and light one. It has a little of everything. There are fresh vegetables for healthy texture and crunch, fresh herbs, creamy feta for a little salty bite, kalamata olives for an unmistakeable Mediterranean flavor, banana peppers for some heat, and of course orzo, which is a nice rice-shaped pasta for salads and side dishes. It’s all brought together with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. This dish is great as a side to any protein you like, or a vegetarian main dish as well. It’s great to bring along to a potluck, a picnic, or just to have something quick to snack on in the fridge. Get creative and use whichever veggies and herbs you like, as well as adding in some grilled shrimp, or chicken for more options. Whatever ingredients you choose, you’ll find this a quick and easy recipe to enjoy any time of year! So here we go…

IMG_2654

Cut all your vegetables into a medium dice, slice your grape tomatoes in half, chop your fresh herbs, and measure out your feta cheese. You can buy it in a block and dice it or do what I did here and buy it already diced.

IMG_2656

Combine the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper, and whisk to combine and emulsify into a nice vinaigrette.

IMG_2657

Cook the orzo pasta according to manufacturers instructions, run under cool water to stop the cooking process, then drain well.

IMG_2658

In a large bowl, toss the orzo, vegetables, herbs and dressing together first without adding the feta cheese just yet. Only add a little dressing at a time, so you don’t over dress it. Keep in mind that the orzo will absorb the dressing as it sits so you need to add enough, but taste it as you go to check it for flavor and also to see if you need to add more salt and pepper. When you are done combining, add the feta cheese and toss gently so you keep the chunky bits in tact.

IMG_2659

Here you have it! Mediterranean Orzo Salad. Enjoy!

MEDITERRANEAN ORZO SALAD (Yields: 8 Servings)

Ingredients:

1 lb Orzo Pasta

1 1/2 c Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half

1 c Green Bell Pepper, medium dice

1 c Orange Bell Pepper, medium dice

1 c Red Onion, medium dice

1 c Cucumber, peeled, seeded, medium dice

3/4 c Kalamata Olives, sliced

3/4 c Banana Peppers, medium dice

1/2 c Fresh Basil, chopped

1/2 c Fresh Flat Leaf Italian Parsley, chopped

1 1/4 c Diced or crumbled Feta Cheese

1 1/2 c Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 c Balsamic Vinegar

1 TBS Dijon Mustard

1 TBS Honey

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Procedure:

  1. Cook orzo pasta in salted boiling water according to manufacturers instructions. Pour cooked orzo into a strainer, rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process, and drain well. Set aside.
  2. Chop all the vegetables and herbs, and set aside.
  3. In a bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the dijon, honey, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper together, whisk until emulsified into a vinaigrette. Check for seasoning.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the orzo, vegetables and herbs. Toss to combine.
  5. Adding a little vinaigrette at a time, toss together until well combined and dressed with the vinaigrette to add plenty of flavor without over dressing. Check for seasoning.
  6. Finally, gently toss in the feta cheese, being careful not to break it up completely, but leave the cheese fairly chunky.

Enjoy!!

Advertisements

Asian Noodle Salad

 

imageI just adore the light vibrant flavors of Asian food. I also adore noodles. Boy do I love noodles. So much so that I try to limit myself to making only one pasta dinner a week. Not that there is anything wrong with pasta, it’s just that for me, it’s that one food that I have a hard time with controlling my portions. I’m sure you’ve all experienced that feeling of wanting more of your favorite food, and your belly is saying “I’m all set at this point” but your mouth isn’t quite on the same page. I think one of the things I love most about pasta is the texture. Now, having said all of that, I also love salad. It’s satisfying, flavorful, has interesting texture and really good for you. It is really versatile too.

In this recipe, I combine three of my favorites. I get my noodle fix, but not too much, I get the wonderful Asian flavors I adore in the dressing, and I get the flavors, textures, and many health benefits of all the various vegetables and nuts. You can add whichever vegetables you like here. Be creative! If you want to keep this vegetarian, you can add tofu, edamame beans, or other protein of your choice. You can eat this salad as a light main meal, or along side chicken, beef, pork, fish or shellfish. It pretty much goes with anything in my opinion.

So lets get started by first making the dressing.

IMG_2559

Gather your ingredients and measure them all out into a bowl or some sort of carafe to shake them all up. This dressing gets better as it sits a bit so if you can make it in advance it’s even better.

IMG_2562

When adding the garlic and ginger, I like to use a microplane. If you don’t have one, it’s ok, just mince them very fine so there aren’t any big chunks of raw ginger or garlic in your dressing.

Go ahead and whisk them all together in a bowl, or shake them in a jar or dressing carafe. Let it sit and get all happy and allow the flavors to marry.

IMG_2564

Next gather all your favorite salad vegetables, fresh herbs, sesame seeds and roasted peanuts together. For this salad I chose fresh spinach, sliced romaine hearts, radishes for crunch and heat, sliced, peeled and seeded cucumbers, grated carrots, shredded cabbage, green onions, fresh mint, fresh parsley(cilantro is also good here), white sesame seeds and dry roasted peanuts. Whew! Now that’s a salad!

IMG_2570

Now take your rice vermicelli, place it in a bowl, and pour boiling water over it.

IMG_2572

Work the noodles into the hot water so that they are all covered. Allow them to soften, about 5 minutes. They will still have a little bite to them, but unlike if you boiled them on the stove, they will be just soft enough without going too far and becoming mushy.

IMG_2574

Drain the noodles well and place them in your large salad bowl.

IMG_2577

IMG_2579

Now pour just enough dressing over them, and toss them to coat them thoroughly. This will not only season them, but will prevent them from sticking together.

image

Finish chopping up all your herbs and vegetables..

image

Place all of them, along with the sesame seeds and peanuts on top of your noodles in the large bowl.

image

Give your dressing a good whisk or shake, and start pouring over your salad. Do this a little at a time..

image

Tossing all your lovely ingredients together, and tasting as you mix. Add more dressing as needed to get it all well dressed but don’t drown it in dressing. You want to still be able to taste all the wonderful vegetables!

image

Finally, pick a pretty serving dish, plate this little beauty, sit back and enjoy. I hope you love this one as much as I do! Let me know what you think! 😀

ASIAN NOODLE SALAD (Yields:6-8 Servings)

Ingredients:

For the Salad:

2 c Fresh Spinach

2 c Sliced Romaine Hearts

1/2 Cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced

5 Radishes, thinly sliced

2 Green Onions, thinly sliced,

1 Lg Carrot, peeled and grated

1/4 c Fresh Mint, chopped

1/4 c Fresh Italian Parsley, chopped

1/4 c Dry Roasted Peanuts

3 TBS White Sesame Seeds

6 oz Rice Vermicelli

For The Dressing:

1 Small Garlic Clove, finely minced

1″ Nub of Fresh Ginger, peeled and finely minced

3 TBS Soy Sauce

2 tsp Mirin( Rice Wine)

3 Limes, juiced

1/2-3/4 c Canola Oil

1 tsp Sesame Oil

1 tsp Sriracha, hot chili sauce

1 tsp Fish Sauce (optional)

1 TBS Honey

Procedure: 

  1. Prepare the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl, or shaking them in a jar or dressing carafe. Set aside.
  2. Place the rice noodles in a medium sized bowl, and cover them with boiling water to soften them, about 5 minutes.
  3. Drain the noodles well, place them in a large salad bowl, and dress with just enough of the prepared dressing to season and coat them well.
  4. Place all the rest of your salad ingredients on top of the noodles.
  5. Slowly add enough dressing, a little at a time, to your salad and toss all together with the rice noodles until the noodle salad is well dressed. Do not over dress the salad so that all the wonderful flavors of the vegetables can be enjoyed. There will be extra dressing left over.

 

 

 

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

IMG_2446

Well here we are, almost another year has gone by…we have been celebrating all the holidays and have eaten countless calories. We have eaten to our hearts content, and then some. This time of year many of us enjoy roasted meats like turkey, ham, beef, lamb and so on. We also tend to eat heavy side dishes and appetizers too. I don’t know about you, but at this point I want something different. So on this “Meatless Monday” I am sharing a very easy, roasted vegetable lasagna with some nice little short cuts for those of us who are very busy with work and life in general. Speaking of which, I have to apologize for the long stretch since my last blog post. A new job and a new home have kept me very busy. I am happy to finally be able to share another recipe with you. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you have the most wonderful New Year!!!

IMG_2386

To start, gather all of your ingredients together. For this recipe, I am using no boil noodles to save time, a good jarred marinara sauce, and a little bottled Italian dressing for the quick vegetable marinade. You can certainly make your own sauce, dressing, and boil regular lasagna noodles. You can also grill your vegetables if you prefer. I’ve done it that way too and it’s great, but this time we are  taking a little help where we can get it😊. You can also add any vegetable that you like, eggplant, asparagus, spinach, there are so many combinations. Have at it! Make it your own!

IMG_2388

IMG_2389

IMG_2390

Slice up all your vegetables and place them in a large zip lock bag.

IMG_2391IMG_2398

Pour the dressing over the vegetables, close the zip lock bag and rub the marinade all over the vegetables to cover them.

IMG_2401

Lay the vegetables out in a single layer onto sheet pans, and place them into a preheated 400 degree oven to roast for about 15 minutes until nicely caramelized and slight char is achieved.

.IMG_2409

While the vegetables are roasting, melt the butter and olive oil together in a large sauté pan.

IMG_2407

IMG_2408

Add the sliced onions and a little salt and pepper to the melted butter and oil mixture, and slowly sauté them until they are soft, sweet and light golden brown. Also add the chopped garlic to the onions and cook until fragrant.

IMG_2423

IMG_2427

IMG_2430

Next mix the pesto into the ricotta cheese.

IMG_2433

In a greased baking dish, cover the bottom with about 1 c of the tomato sauce.

IMG_2434

Place the lasagna noodles on top of the sauce..

IMG_2436

IMG_2437

IMG_2438

IMG_2439

IMG_2440

IMG_2442

Layer 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, the roasted vegetables, the onions, and mozzarella cheese and more sauce, on top of the lasagna noodles. Repeat this 2 more times, finishing the last layer with sauce and cheese.

IMG_2443

Spray some foil with cooking spray(so it won’t stick to the melted cheese) and cover the lasagna. Place it in a 375 degree oven and bake for 50 minutes. Uncover and cook about 10 more minutes until the cheese melts and lasagna is hot and bubbly.

IMG_2447

Enjoy with a nice garden salad!

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna (Yields: 8-10 Servings)

Ingredients:

2 TBS Olive Oil

1 TBS Butter

1c Italian Dressing

1/2c Prepared Basil Pesto

15 oz Ricotta Cheese

1 28oz Jar Marinara Sauce

1 Box No Boil Oven Ready Lasagna Noodles

2-3 Small Zucchini, sliced

1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded

1 Green Bell Pepper, seeded

1 Yellow Bell Pepper, seeded

2 Medium Onions, sliced

3 Garlic Cloves, minced

2c Shredded Mozzerella Cheese

Procedure:

  1. Place sliced zucchini and seeded peppers in a zip lock bag, pour dressing over them. Close the bag, and rub the dressing all over the vegetables. Place the seasoned vegetables on a baking sheet in a single layer, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
  2. Saute the onions and garlic, with a little salt and pepper, in a large sauté pan with melted butter and oil until soft and golden.
  3. Combine the pesto and ricotta cheese together in a small bowl.
  4. Spread 1c of marinara sauce on the bottom of a greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
  5. Layer 1/3 of the lasagna noodles, the ricotta mixture, the roasted vegetables, the onions, the mozzerella cheese, and the marinara sauce, in that order. Repeat this 2 more times ending with the sauce and mozzerella cheese.
  6. Cover the lasagna with oiled  aluminum foil, and place in a 375 degree oven for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and return to the oven for 10 more minutes.

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Kalamata Olives and Peas

IMG_1874

This is one of those dishes that was a result of opening up the refrigerator, seeing what was available to cook, and going with the flow. It may seam kind of odd to combine these ingredients together, but honestly, it works. It is a very quick and easy dish that gives you a clean earthy flavor from the asparagus, sweetness from the peas and a bright briny bite (say that 3 times fast!) from the kalamata olives. Of course like most of my pasta dishes, it all starts with some garlic and onion, a splash of white wine and finished with a little parmesan cheese. This dish is a hit at my house, and I make it quite often. If you aren’t a fan of asparagus (I can’t imagine why) you can add whatever vegetables you like. I love this because it is a nice change from a red sauce based or heavier creamy pasta. It is always good to lighten things up a bit. Just open up the refrigerator and cupboards and get creative! What are some of your pasta ideas? I’d love to hear them too!

IMG_1867

Start off by slicing the onion and kalamata olives, mincing the garlic, and cutting the asparagus into manageable bite sized pieces.

IMG_1868

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, heat the olive oil and soften the onions and garlic.

IMG_1869

Once the onions and garlic are softened, add the cut asparagus. Meanwhile, add the spaghetti to a pot of boiling, salted water and cook to al dente. Save about a cup of the pasta cooking water for a little later.

IMG_1871

Next add the frozen peas and saute for a couple of minutes to warm them. Now you can add a little white wine and reduce it down for a about 5 minutes.

IMG_1872

Add the sliced kalamata olives, and toss in the cooked spaghetti and parmesan cheese. If you need to loosen up the sauce a bit, add a little of the pasta cooking water, a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Season well with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!!

IMG_1875

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Kalamata Olives and Peas ( Yields: 2 Servings )

Ingredients:

8 oz Spaghetti

1-2 Tbs Olive Oil

2 Cloves Garlic, minced

1/2 Medium Onion, sliced

3/4 lb Fresh Asparagus, large dice

1/2 c Frozen Peas

1/8 c White Wine

1/2 c Kalamata Olives, pitted and sliced

1/4 c Parmesan Cheese, grated

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

Procedure:

1. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onions and garlic until soft.

2. Add the cut asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Add the frozen peas and white wine, and saute together for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve a cup of pasta cooking water before draining the pasta.

3. Toss the cooked pasta water with the sauce, add the kalamata olives,  parmesan cheese, and if needed, a little of the pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce and coat the pasta. Cook all together for one more minute to blend all the flavors. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

 

Spaghetti with Prosciutto, Arugula and Peas

IMG_1596

 

Pasta…I love it. Whether it is spaghetti, penne, linguini, bucatini, or any shape for that matter, I love it all. It is so versatile and has endless possibilities. This is a quick pasta recipe that has has a little of everything. It has a nice little savory saltiness from the prosciutto, sweetness from the peas, and a slight peppery bite from the arugula. There is also a smooth light creamy texture and flavor from adding the cream, grated parmesan cheese and a little bit of butter to the dish. You get all of these flavors and textures in one quick easy recipe, and ready in a matter of minutes! If you aren’t into prosciutto, you can substitute bacon instead, or leave the meat out all together. I’ve done all of those versions and like them all equally. What is your favorite pasta? I’d love to know and invite you to leave your ideas in a comment at the end of the post! 🙂

 

IMG_1580

Start off by gathering all of your ingredients. Mince the garlic and slice the prosciutto into thin strips.

IMG_1581In a saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the strips of prosciutto and saute them until they start to get a little crispy along the edges.

IMG_1584Meanwhile, get the spaghetti boiling in salted water, and cook to aldente. The timing depends on the size and type of your pasta so follow the manufacturers instructions on this.

IMG_1585After sautéing the prosciutto a bit, add in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant.

IMG_1586

Next add the peas….

IMG_1588

And the cream…

IMG_1589

And simmer until the cream reduces and thickens slightly.

IMG_1590

Add in all of the arugula, and toss to wilt it down a bit.

IMG_1591

This only takes a minute.

IMG_1592

When the pasta is cooked to aldente, drain it and add it to the sauce.

IMG_1593

Lastly, add the grated parmesan cheese and toss it all together with a pair of tongs. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper.

IMG_1594

There you have it! Quick, easy and oh so tasty!! Enjoy! 🙂

 

Spaghetti with Prosciutto, Arugula and Peas (Yields: 2 Servings)

Ingredients:

8 oz Spaghetti

1 Tbs Olive Oil

1 Tbs Unsalted Butter

4 Pieces Prosciutto, thinly sliced and cut into thin strips

2 Cloves Garlic, minced

1/2c Frozen Peas

3c Baby Arugula

1/2c Heavy Cream

1/4c Grated Parmesan Cheese

Procedure:

1. In a saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the strips of prosciutto and saute them until they start to get a little crispy along the edges.

2. Meanwhile, get the spaghetti boiling in salted water, and cook to aldente.

3. After sautéing the prosciutto a bit, add in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant.

4. Next add the peas, and the cream and simmer until the cream reduces and thickens slightly.

5. Add in all of the arugula, and toss to wilt it down a bit. This only takes a minute.

6. When the pasta is cooked to aldente, drain it and add it to the sauce. Add the grated parmesan cheese and toss it all together with a pair of tongs. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ragu alla Bolognese

imageSo let’s start out this recipe with a clarification. Ragu alla Bolognese is an intensely flavored, rich tasting, wonderful sauce that is either traditionally served tossed with tagliatelle pasta or layered in lasagna Bolognese. It originated in Bologna Italy in the late 18th century, and although it has evolved over the years with slight variations, it is in no way like a typical meat sauce of ground beef and marinara. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with meat sauce, and I certainly have made my fair share of that too, but Ragu alla Bolognese has a much more complex flavor. It is a labor of love which requires time and patience, and a lot of steps but is well worth the wait. So next time you have a few hours to spare, well more like 3-4 hours, pour yourself a glass of wine or two( save some for the sauce), pop in your favorite Andrea Bocelli cd, and get to cooking this delicious Ragu. You won’t be sorry!

The full recipe is at the end of this post.
image Gather all of your ingredients so you stay nice and organized, or as we say in the culinary world, mise en place.
imageDice your onion, carrots, garlic, celery and bacon. You can dice them as small as you like but I like a little texture to the sauce so I do a medium dice. Honestly they cook for so long in the sauce that they break down quite a bit. In a large pot, over medium heat, melt some butter in a little olive oil and add your diced vegetables. Cook them until they are soft but not browned.image
Next add your bacon, ground pork and ground beef.image Cook the meat and stir well while doing this to make sure you break it up. Cook until most of the moisture has cooked off. Add salt and pepper. You will season again later so not too much.image image Next add the wine and deglaze all the yummy brown bits from the bottom of your pot. I told you not to drink it all. I know, you got caught up in the moment didn’t you! 🙂

Cook, stirring well, until most of the wine is absorbed.image Next add some chicken stock. You don’t have to do this but it adds another layer of flavor that I love. You’ve already committed to this now so just do it. Trust me.image Continue to cook and stir occasionally until most of the stock is absorbed. image Next add the milk. I know it seems strange to add this but it makes the sauce rich and delicious. Again, cook and stir occasionally until most of the milk is absorbed.image Ok, now after you put your whole tomatoes through a food processor to puree them, add those to the pot. You can use crushed tomatoes instead but I like crushing them myself. 🙂image Continue to simmer and cook the sauce down until most of the liquid from the tomatoes is absorbed into this thick, rich, gorgeousness.image Add some freshly chopped basil, preferably chiffonade(ribbons) to make it pretty. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste to finish the Ragu.image I can’t explain how yummy your house is going to smell, and how delicious this is, you just have to experience it for yourself. You can serve your Ragu alla Bolognese tossed with tagliatelli or another wide noodle, or pasta of choice. I wouldn’t use anything too thin, you want a pasta that will stand up to this sauce. Also you can layer it with bechamel and parmesan cheese in a lasagna for another delicious classic, Lasagna alla Bolognese.

image


Ragu alla Bolognese (Yield 8-10 servings)

1 Tbs Butter

1 Tbs Olive Oil

3 Carrots, peeled and diced

3 Celery Stalks, diced

2-3 Onions, peeled and diced

4 Garlic Cloves, peeled and diced

1 pound Ground Beef Chuck

1 pound Ground Pork

5 Slices Bacon or Pancetta, diced

Kosher salt and Ground Pepper

1 1/2 c Dry White Wine

2 c Whole Milk

1 28 oz Can Whole Plum Tomatoes

3 c Low Sodium Chicken Broth

1/2 c Fresh Basil, chiffonade

1. Gather all of your ingredients so you stay nice and organized, or as we say in the culinary world, mise en place.

2. Dice your onion, carrots, garlic, celery and bacon. You can dice them as small as you like but I like a little texture to the sauce so I do a medium dice. Honestly they cook for so long in the sauce that they break down quite a bit. In a large pot, over medium heat, melt some butter in a little olive oil and add your diced vegetables. Cook them until they are soft but not browned.

3. Add your bacon, ground pork and ground beef. Cook the meat and stir well while doing this to make sure you break it up. Cook until most of the moisture has cooked off. Add salt and pepper. You will season again later so not too much.

4. Next add the wine and deglaze all the yummy brown bits from the bottom of your pot. I told you not to drink it all. I know, you got caught up in the moment didn’t you! 🙂 Cook, stirring well, until most of the wine is absorbed.

5. Add the chicken stock. You don’t have to do this but it adds another layer of flavor that I love. You’ve already committed to this now so just do it. Continue to cook and stir occasionally until most of the stock is absorbed.

6. Next add the milk. I know it seems strange to add this but it makes the sauce rich and delicious. Again, cook and stir occasionally until most of the milk is absorbed.

7. Ok, now after you put your whole tomatoes through a food processor to puree them, add those to the pot. You can use crushed tomatoes instead but I like crushing them myself. 🙂 Continue to cook the sauce down until most of the liquid from the tomatoes is absorbed into this thick, rich, gorgeousness.

8. Last but never least, add the freshly chopped basil, preferably chiffonade(ribbons) to make it pretty. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste to finish the Ragu.