Monday, June 18, 2007

Caprese Pasta Salad

I am a planner. It is hard for me to be spontaneous and do things on the spur-of-the-moment. But yesterday we enjoyed a leisurely and delicious brunch with friends. The conversation and the food were both excellent, and then suddenly the topic of dinner came up. And just like that, we were hosting an impromptu dinner party. And it was fun! The planner in me had a moment of panic, but then I just went with the flow.

Having established plans to have people to dinner, the next thought that popped into my mind was of course what to make. M. is all about the grill these days. I am loving grilled veggies myself, but M. is loving experimenting with different preparations of meat. So he and our friends were browsing the meat counter at a local butcher's shop. Bored, I browsed around the perimeter of the store looking to see what I could entertain myself with while they shopped. Frozen tortellini, marinated fresh mozzarella balls, sundried tomatoes.... an idea for a pasta salad loosely based on a Caprese salad began to take shape.

This salad was delcious. The creamy cheesiness of the pasta compliments the tangy vinaigrette nicely, and the addition of the fresh parsley wakens what would have been an otherwise bland salad. The amounts in the recipe are based on my recollection of what I did. Feel free to adjust them to your tastes (more vinegar, less mustard etc) and enjoy the results.

We sure did.

Caprese Pasta Salad
original recipe
Serves 6 as a side salad

1 lb frozen (or fresh) tortellini
1/8 pound sundried tomatoes, sliced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 a head of Italian parsley, washed and chopped
1/2 pound marinated mozzarella balls, quartered (bocconcini)

Dressing -
1/4 cup basalmic vinegar
1 tablespoons dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
splash of red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Boil water for pasta. Cook pasta according to directions on package. Rinse and drain.
2. Assemble salad ingredients. Add pasta to salad bowl.
3. Mix vinaigrette. Adjust to taste.
4. Add vinaigrette to salad. Mix until dressing is thoroughly incorporated.
5. Chill until ready to serve.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sesame Brown Rice Salad with Shredded Chicken and Peanuts - Cooking Light June 2007

Yes. I am still vegetarian. Yes, I know that the title of this post contains a salad made with chicken. I approached this recipe with a plan, and it was a success. Stay with me.

One of the best skills a vegetarian can acquire is learning how to adapt a recipe. In the beginning, one sees a recipe calling for chicken, beef or some other meat and tosses it aside thinking that it simply cannot be made. Eventually, one learns to be creative. I looked at this recipe in this month's Cooking Light and thought that it would be delicious made with my favorite tofu recipe. And it was. It was delicious, and even M. the non-vegetarian praised the final dish. As previously discussed, he's quite fond of the vegetarian cooking despite being a decided omnivore. But only rarely does a dish make him stop and say with frank appreciation, "This is GOOD!". This salad achieved that lofty status.

And so it is with pride that I offer my recipe for Sesame Brown Rice Salad with Sweet Ginger Tofu and Peanuts. Take it, share it and enjoy!

Sesame Brown Rice Salad with Shredded Chicken and Peanuts
Cooking Light, June 2007

1 cup long-grain brown rice
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/3 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced

Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Transfer rice to a large bowl; fluff with a fork. Cool. Add chicken, carrot, onions, 2 tablespoons peanuts, 2 teaspoons cilantro, and salt to rice; toss to combine.

Combine juice and remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Drizzle oil mixture over rice mixture; toss to combine. Place 1 1/2 cups salad on each of 4 plates. Sprinkle each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons remaining peanuts and 1/4 teaspoon remaining cilantro.

CALORIES 393 (30% from fat); FAT 13.3g (sat 2g,mono 6.3g,poly 4g); PROTEIN 27.8g; CHOLESTEROL 60mg; CALCIUM 44mg; SODIUM 424mg; FIBER 4g; IRON 1.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 40.2g

Sweet Ginger Tofu

The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen - Peter Berley

Yield: 4 to 6 servings (I don't think we've ever gotten six servings out of this delicious tofu!)

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 Tbs minced gingerroot
2 Tbs light sesame oil -- (note: I only use 1 Tbs)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 pound firm tofu -- rinsed, patted dry, and sliced 1/2 inch thick

Preheat the oven to 350F In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, honey, ginger, oil, and garlic. Lay the tofu slices in a baking dish that can hold them in a single snug layer. Pour the marinade over the tofu. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the tofu is nearly dry and well browned. Serve hot or cold.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The New Digs

We are so excited about our new apartment that I can't resist posting a couple peeks. And I also know my mom is dying to see some pictures. So, two birds with one stone yada yada ... Feel free to skip this post if it doesn't interest you - I would totally understand although I do love looking at pictures of bloggers' homes myself.

This is one view of the living room. I took it crouched from one corner, so that's why the angle is a touch off. It's a hard room to photograph, since it is open along one side.

Here's a view from a more central position.

Two views of the kitchen/dining room. One came out a bit blurry - sorry about that!

A couple pictures of the space fast becoming one of our favorites. M. has done all the work on making this a garden. We arrived to one Japanese maple tree and a few planted bulbs, he's done the rest. The large metal ladder is an old-school clothes line tower. A rope would run from the building out to the ladder, but since each apartment needed their own line it had to be tall enough to accommodate the three floors of the building. All the buildings have them, I don't know if they are a Brooklyn thing or common to many cities, but it was a new concept to us.

And, finally perhaps the room most important to those of us who love food but aren't gifted with high speed metabolisms - the home gym. There was a point in time I made it to the gym quite frequently, however in the past couple years my schedule has made that very difficult. As a result, I'm excited to have a means to get moving right here at home. And I'm proud to say I've used the elliptical a fair amount since it arrived, and plan on using it more and more as my schedule eases this summer.

Hope you enjoyed the peek into our new space. Now my kitchen is set up, there will be many cooking and more traditional posts to come. And, with our new grill, the world of outdoor vegetarian grilling is now beckoning. So, make sure to come back and see what's cooking! :)

A Sleepy Sunday Morning...

Hello internet folks!

I'm back, and as determined to get back into the blogging world as ever! It has been a very long month. While I "know" moving is hard, it really is amazing how long it takes to get life back into order. And we're still not all the way there - we ran out of steam for one last room. Isn't that always the way?

Anyways, there wouldn't have been much to report in the past month. Not too much cooking happened around the move - although we did discover an amazing pizza at our new local delivery restaurant. :)

To celebrate my return to civilization, I treated myself to an indulgent Sunday brunch. I included an order of parbaked frozen croissants in my latest online grocer order, and tried the first one today. It bakes for about 7-10 minutes, and contained every bit of the buttery deliciousness I wanted. The jam is a new favorite of mine. How can you go wrong with Raspberry Peach Champagne Jam - there's a hint of a special occasion in the name alone!

I enjoyed this treat outside on our new patio with a fresh latte by my side. This experience gave me the strength and motivation to update my blog with the several new posts I have waiting in the wings so stay tuned . . .