Dinner for my Veggie Friendly Friend :)

My friend Jessica, recently became a vegetarian, and when I had her over for dinner I wanted to make sure she had something to munch on that would also please my other guests.

So I made an olive tapenade, something salty and briny that was a hit with everyone. And for the main course, I made her mushroom risotto with sherry.

Crostini with Olive Tapenade – 12 crostinis
3/4 cups pitted green picholines and black nicoise olives
1 1/2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red wine
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
Freshly ground white pepper
1/8 cup olive oil
12 thin slices of baguette

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the olives, capers, parsley, garlic, red wine, lemon juice and white pepper. Pulse once or twice to combine roughly, then add the olive oil and pulse briefly, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The texture should be chunky, rather than a smooth. Set aside so that the flavors can meld.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

Transfer the toasted baguette slices to a serving platter. Spread each one with tapenade, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Side note for the tapenade, you can add 1 teaspoon anchovy paste.

Mushroom Risotto – 2 servings
1/8 cup olive oil
1 small red onion, minced
1/2 pound (8 oz) portabello mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
3/4 cup Arborio rice
4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat, add onions and cook until softened – not browned. Add the mushrooms and saute until lightly browned. Add the rice and stir until thoroughly coated in oil.

Add a laddle of stock at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Continue stirring while adding more stock (a laddle at a time), waiting until the liquid is absorbed each time. Continue to do this until the rice is tender and creamy, about 18 minutes.

Add the dry sherry and cook until there isn’t an alcohol smell, and the alcohol is absorbed. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and Parmigiano. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and divide among 2 warm plates – serve immediately.

Bon Appetit!

Soupe au Tomate

In our home soup is often times dinner. This is one of those soups that’s got a lot of flavor and can easily be altered. For instance, you could add a roasted/peeled red pepper to add a sweet touch, or a little cayenne at the end to give it a kick.

Whatever you do, you can’t go wrong serving this soup with extra Pecorino toasts, and some extra grated Pecorino on the side.

Cream of Tomato Soup with Rice and Basil – 4 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup onions, chopped
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic clove
1/8 cup basil
14 ounces canned plum tomatoes
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (or vegetable broth)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup rice, cooked according to directions
1 tablespoon basil, chiffonade
8 thin slices baguette
Freshly grated Pecorino
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dry dill sprigs

In a large saucepan heat olive oil, over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic, cook until translucent and not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, basil, tomatoes including the juice. Simmer until everything is tender, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare rice.

CAREFUL! Puree small batches of soup in a blender.

Return the pureed soup into a clean saucepan, and bring to a low simmer. Add the heavy cream, and cook until you’ve reached the desired consistency, about 5 minutes more. Add the rice just before serving.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place bread on a baking sheet,
top with percorino, freshly ground pepper, dill , bake until crisp, about 10 minutes.

Divide soup into individual bowls or cups, garnish with basil chiffonade, place 2 pecorino toasts on side of the bowl, or on top of soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Truffled Lobster Mac n’ Cheese

My fishmonger sometimes has freshly cooked lobster meat that has been cleaned, and is ready to use.  Other times, he has freshly steamed claws that are perfect for this sort of thing.  Never use frozen lobster meat, or lobster meat packed in water – it will not be worth it. 

Note: Although the lobster brings this mac and cheese over the top, you can choose to omit it, just add the truffle oil to the melting butter for the roux.
 
 

Truffled Lobster Mac n’ Cheese – 4-6 side servings
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1/2 lb cavatappi noodles
2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 ounces Gruyere, grated
6 ounces extra-sharp white Cheddar, grated
1/4 teaspoon black truffle oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 lb freshly cooked lobster meat, bite size chunks
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil, and add olive oil. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes is usually the perfect time for al dente pasta. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk and in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. In a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Turn off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, salt, the pepper, and nutmeg. Taste the sauce and adjust salt and pepper.

Heat black truffle oil, in a small sautepan, add lobster and cook, tossing for about 2 minutes. Add the cooked macaroni and lobster to cheese sauce and stir well. Place the mixture in 4-6 individual gratin dishes or one large dish.

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top. Serve immediately.

Enjoy with steak, fish, chicken – whatever you would like! It’s the ultimate side dish to a rich dinner. Or if your John, just eat an entire bowl for dinner – with a glass of riesling.

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La fete de St-Valentin

This year John and I decided to cook dinner with one another instead of going out and eating a “romantic” dinner surrounded by 100’s of other people also having a “romantic” dinner. 

We decided we’d have a more romantic time at home drinking wine and cooking together…and came up with a menu fit for 2.

We decided to have Lobster Mac n’ Cheese on the side with our fish, you can find the recipe on a seperate page.  Also, the cream of tomato soup is on it’s own page – be sure to give it a try!

Baked Goat Cheese with Mesclun, Pears, and Toasted Almonds – 2 servings
Small goat cheese log, chilled
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
1/4 pound mesclun
1/8 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pear, cored, sliced into thin wedges
1/8 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Slice the goat cheese into 1/2-inch thisk disks, 2 disks for each plate. Carefully coat the goat cheese with breadcrumbs and place on a dish.
Heat grapeseed oil in a nonstick pan on medium-low heat, add the goat cheese disks, turn heat to low, and fry about 4 minutes per side or flip when golden brown. While they are frying make the dressing.

In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss the mesclun salad with dressing. Divide among 2 bowls, and mound in the middle. Lay 4 thin slices of pears overlapping, and place goat cheese on the side of the salad. Sprinkle with walnuts and serve.

Bass and Scallops en Papillote – 2 servings
2 6-oz pieces of sea bass fillet
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/8 cup dry vermouth
1/2 cup baby red potatoes, thinly sliced
1/8 cup carrots, julienne
1/8 cup yellow summer squash, julienne
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon
1/8 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
6 ounces bay scallops, cleaned
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parchment paper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a large saucepan, combine broth and vermouth, bring to a simmer. Individually cook the potatoes, and carrots in the stock mix until tender. Drain the vegetables and toss with summer squash.

Combine garlic, lemon zest, parsley, and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add scallops to lemon mixture, mix gently, season with salt and pepper.
Cut two 16-inch sheets of parchment paper. Fold in half, and cut into half a heart shape. Lightly grease the paper with butter.

Divide the vegetables on one half of the paper heart. Top with the bass, skin side up and add 3 ounces scallops to each package. Top the scallops with the lemon mixture.

Fold the top of each heart over the fish and vegetables, and crimp the edges of the paper to seal it tightly. Refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place fish packages on a baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes. The package should be puffy and the paper should be brown. Serve on individual dishes, and let the person open their own papillote.

This makes for such a beautiful presentation.

Grand Marnier Chocolate Fondue 2 servings
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoons freshly grated orange
Pinch of kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
1/8 cup Grand Marnier
Assorted fruit cut into bite size pieces (strawberries, bananas, pineapple, raspberries, ect)

In a small saucepan, bring an inch of water to a boil. Place a heat proof bowl over the boiling water, add both chocolates, whisk to melt and remove from heat.

Quickly combine cream, orange zest, salt and honey in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. Strain the cream mixture over the chocolate, and whisk together until well combined. Add the grand marnier and mix thoroughly. Serve in a warm ceramic bowl or fondue pot.

Joyeuse St-Valentin!

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Prepare yourself!

Valentine’s day is Monday, and tonight I will be in the kitchen with John preparing a really wonderful dinner – that you could easily prepare for that special someone.

I will post it late tonight, after we enjoy our dinner!

You and your loved one have this wonderful menu to look forward to:

Baked Goat Cheese with Mesclun, Pears, and Toasted Almonds

Bass and Scallops en Papillote

Truffled Lobster Mac n’ Cheese

Grand Marnier Chocolate Fondue

The Magic of Spaghetti Squash

My mom would make spaghetti squash for dinner when I was a kid – and my sisters and I loved how fun it was to eat/play with. The only thing I was never crazy about was the spaghetti sauce she’d put over it. I on the other hand would just top it off with butter, salt, and cheese.

I was always excited to help my mom make this also, so make sure to have your kids help you, they could use the fork to scrape out the cooked flesh(carefully!). With your supervision, they can scoop out the other veggies, and chop them carefully. Just make sure to supervise, and teach your kids the right way to hold a knife.

Also, this dish isn’t really all that magical other than the fact that it will have your kids loving this super healthy vegetable! And let’s face it, they will think it’s cool!

This is perfect for a light dinner, and can be halved easily – John and I love it.  Plus the noodles have a a little crunch to them!

Magic Veggie Spaghetti – serves 4
2 large spaghetti squash
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons capers, drained
2 zucchinis, seeded and diced
2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
about 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (add according to taste)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 roma tomato, seeded and diced
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet with a silpat.

Cut both squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out all the seeds. Rub the squash inside and out with olive oil, and season the inside with salt and pepper. Place the squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the rind is slightly soft. Remove the squash from the oven – carefully place squash on a cutting board. Using a fork, scrape out the flesh into an baking dish, creating thin strands of “spaghetti”. Cover with aluminum foil, turn heat down to 200F and place in the oven to keep warm.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Brown the butter carefully, swirl the pan to evenly brown butter, it will turn a darker brown, but won’t burn. Add the capers, zucchini, and red bell pepper, stir quickly to stop the butter from burning. Remove from heat once everything has cooked through, and lightly browned. Add the diced tomato, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper.

Transfer the squash to a large serving bowl, and mix the squash with butter-sauce mixture. Sprinkle with parmigiana and serve immediately.

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