Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rice with Pecans and Dried Cranberries

I know, I know, I just recently posted a rice recipe good for just about any occasion, but now I have another. Believe me, you'll thank me, it's that good. This one is adapted from the Whole Foods Cookbook and has a bit more crunch than the other, I'd say, mainly due to the raw vegetables. It's just as delicious and versatile (think lunch, dinner, potluck, debauched face-smothering).

And did I mention easy? Because easy is the best part. My grade: A

Rice with Pecans and Dried Cranberries



6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons raspberry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 - 2 tsp sugar


1 cup rice (I use calrose because I'm a Hawaii girl and addicted to calrose, but wild would probably be even better and you could also use brown)
water, enough to cook rice (see instructions according to rice used)
1 cup pecan halves, toasted
1/2 red onion, diced
1 yellow or orange pepper, seeded and diced
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup minced parsley
8 green onions, chopped


For dressing, combine vinegars, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper and mix well. A blender is good for this.

For salad, cook rice according to specifications and reserve. Let cool.

Once rice is cool, add pecan halves, pepper, cranberries, parsley and green onions. Other nice bits for this salad might be celery and carrot. Combine the dressing with salad ingredients, starting with a quarter of the dressing and increasing until you are comfortable with the taste. For example, I do not use all the dressing called for this recipe -- probably about 3/4ths, actually.

Chill before serving.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook: 45 minutes for rice, 20 minutes for chopping/dressing -- 1 hr 5 min, all in

Sonoma Turkey Salad

This recipe is a riff on the Whole Foods Cookbook recipe which actually calls for chicken instead of turkey. I picked turkey, however, because first of all I prefer the taste and second, it's also a SuperFood. I always try to get a few SuperFoods in each day, and this is one easy way to do it (in fact there are three SuperFood ingredients within this recipe, which I note with an asterisk).

This dish is tremendously easy to make and also extremely summery. It would be great at a potluck or eaten as a light entree with a crisp white wine or an ice cold margarita. I also imagine adding a bit of horseradish to the dressing would give it some interesting punch -- though I have yet to try it. Excellent stuff! My grade: A+

Sonoma Turkey Salad



2 lbs turkey breast, cooked, cubed, chilled * (I buy mine cooked from Trader Joe's, but you can make your own, or use chicken breasts)
2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
1/2 red onion, diced
3/4 cup roasted pecan halves *
(sunflower seeds would probably also be great in this)


1 cup mayonnaise
5 teaspoons good honey (the darker the better) *
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar (I use raspberry red wine vinegar for added dimension)


In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, honey, poppy seeds and vinegar. Mix until thoroughly combined and there are no lumps.

In a separate bowl, add cubed turkey, pecans, diced onions and halved grapes. (Celery would also be good in this for some nice crunch.) To this mixture add the dressing, a quarter of a time. I never use all the dressing I make, but would rather have it on hand then not have enough. I usually use about three-fourths of the dressing for this entire dish. (The rest of the dressing is great on salads or can even be used as a marinade for fish, etc.) Mix well. Serve chilled as an entree (with a nice spinach salad) or in a sandwich.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/cook: 20 minutes (unless cooking your own turkey or chicken)

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Most Delicious Caprese Paninis Ever, I SWEAR

Have you ever had a Caprese salad? They're delightful, really; thickly sliced tomatoes piled with fresh buffalo mozzarella and sweet basil leaves, and drizzled, typically, with balsamic vinegar and fine olive oil. They're fabulous in the summer. I sometimes add a little salt to my Caprese salads, but not always, since fine herbs and good vinegar/oil usually does the trick.

I decided to kick my Caprese salad up a notch, making a panini sandwich out of it. I thought I'd incorporate my Easy Breezy Every Day Pesto into it to add some nice punch and flavor. Because it's important, I made sure that all the ingredients were as fresh as possible.

The result was something out of this world -- fresh, light and even healthy. I made mine in a waffle maker because honestly? Do you think I'm going to spend $50 for a panini maker? Hardly. A waffle maker will do just fine, and if you don't have one of those, try toasting the sandwich in a cast iron skillet, the sandwich weighed down by another heavy pan or pot. Works expertly. My grade? To the moon and beyond! A++

The Most Delicious Caprese Paninis


3 Roma tomatoes
Good balsamic vinegar
Good extra virgin olive oil
1 container buffalo mozzarella in water
15 - 20 leaves fresh sweet Basil
1 loaf sliced Italian bread (or ciabatta)

About an hour before panini making, marinate thinly sliced Roma tomatoes in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The tomatoes will let off liquid into the oil and vinegar, creating a nice marinade.

About ten minutes before panini making, turn on waffle maker or begin to heat pan.

One hour later, arrange two bread slices for sandwich making. Slather both pieces with homemade pesto (the more the merrier, depending on how much you like the green stuff). Atop the pesto create a layer of marinated Roma tomatoes. Atop the tomatoes layer thinly sliced buffalo mozzarella. Atop the mozzarella drape the sweet basil leaves. Create sandwich, lightly buttering the outsides of both pieces of bread, and then brushing on a light layer of olive oil.

Place sandwich into waffle maker and close lid. Watch closely, making sure cheese melts and tomatoes and basil become sufficiently wilted. Pull sandwich when bread is golden brown. Cut in half and serve immediately.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook time: 30 minutes prep, 5 minutes cooking (per panini)

Easy Breezy Every Day Pesto

Pesto is good in so many ways. With pasta, on sandwiches, or as an enhancement to other condiments like mayo or olive oil. And pesto is most fabulous when made fresh. There's nothing to it, even I can do it! For this recipe I pulled herbs from the garden and mixed it with simple store-bought items to make a panini entree too good to be believed. My grade: A

Every Day Pesto

2 cups fresh sweet basil
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup - 1/2 cup quality olive oil
1/4 cup - 1/2 cup quality Parmesan cheese (Pecorino is also quite nice)
2 - 4 garlic cloves (I use 4!)
Kosher salt to taste if you like (I rarely use any salt)

Take all ingredients and combine in food processor. Start conservatively with both olive oil and Parmesan cheese, tasting all the while. Blend until nicely mixed, presenting as a somewhat smooth and nutty texture.

This pesto will last several weeks in your refrigerator. You can add olive oil periodically to moisten the mixture.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook: 10 - 15 minutes

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wild Rice Salad

I came across this mouth-watering recipe on Simply Recipes, a site I really enjoy and also highly recommend. I knew I had to try it; the sesame oil, wild rice and cranberries seemed bound to be delightful. And they were; all of it was. I made a pig of myself with this dish, seriously. I did modify the it a bit to suit my particular tastes, which the recipe here will reflect. Feel free to do the same. Get creative. My grade: A+

Wild Rice Salad

  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 8 green onions, sliced
  • 2 cups thawed frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 Tbsp dark sesame oil


1 Put the vegetable broth in a medium sized saucepan. Add the rice and wild rice, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover. Let cook for 40 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool completely. (I used calrose rice for this, and made both rices in a rice pot. Worked out nicely.)

2 Heat a small skillet on medium high heat. Add the almonds. (If you like, lightly coat the bottom of the skillet with oil.) Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted. Remove almonds from pan and let cool.

3 Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil.

4 In a large bowl gently mix together the cooled cooked rice, green onions, peas, dried cranberries, almonds, and dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

Chill completely before serving. Serves 8-10.

Difficulty: Easy

Oven Roasted Tomato Bruschetta (on Focaccia)

Surprisingly we're still doing the vegetarian thing, though now we're calling it the "no red meat thing", because every once in awhile (usually on Sundays, for barbecuing) we eat chicken. I don't miss it though, especially when there are so many fabulous tasting meatless meals to enjoy.

This bruschetta is a perfect example. Not like typical bruschetta, which is made with raw tomatoes and usually served on a more crusty bread, this bruschetta is made with "candied" tomatoes piled high on soft, toasted focaccia with mozzarella and fresh basil from the garden. It's a nice twist on the old standard. Additionally, these tomatoes would be fabulous in paninis, and for that reason I'll indicate their preparation separately from the entire dish. My grade for the bruschetta: B+

Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Several ripe Roma tomatoes, seeded and cored
Good balsamic vinegar
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Take the prepared tomatoes and lay them out on a cookie sheet. Drizzle as liberally as you like with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

When finished, chill and then set aside. Reserve some if you like for a jar. These last awhile in your fridge.

Oven Roasted Tomato Bruschetta (on focaccia)
One loaf store-bought focaccia (I use Trader Joe's)
Olive oil
Reserved oven roasted tomatoes (chilled)
12 - 15 leaves fresh sweet basil
Buffalo mozzarella, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced

I realize I don't have exact measurements here, and that's because I like a lot of basil and a little less mozzarella. I often omit the butter (though I like the taste it imparts). Prepare according to your proclivities.

Slice focaccia about 1/2 inch in thickness. Lay on cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Add a little bit of butter to each slide if you like. Broil on hi for approximately 5 minutes. Watch closely; they toast quickly and can burn. When finished, set aside.

Grab your oven-roasted tomatoes, now chilled, and if you like, add some garlic. If they need some more balsamic, add conservatively. Slice sweet basil in long thin strips. Arrange mozzarella on top of toasted focaccia, and then add tomato mixture and basil. Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Best Hummus, Tabbouleh and Tzatziki you'll ever put in your big vegetarian mouth

This week we're being vegetarians.

I personally am doing this for spiritual reasons; the rest of my family, however, is doing it because I have to do it. Not to make it sound harsh or draconian; it's actually been pretty lovely eating this way. Vegetarian food doesn't have to suck, come to find out. In fact it can really be great, especially with recipes I'll be giving you today.

My husband loves hummus. I always thought it looked a bit like toddler poop and so was never really game to eat it. Until about four years ago, when I finally tried it slathered on pita bread and topped with tzatziki and tabbouleh which my husband insisted I try. Now, you won't hear me admitting this often, but my husband? He's been absolutely right, all along!

Here are three recipes for these dishes that are both easy and delish. They'd be great as an appetizer, but we enjoy them for dinner and no one is left unsatisfied. Enjoy! My grade: A+

Easy and Delicious Hummus (Hummous) (as adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine)


2 16 oz cans chick peas (garbanzo beans)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4th cup olive oil
1/2 - 1 teaspoon Kosher salt


Add all ingredients into food processor and puree. I'm serious. It's that easy. Add more or less oil to get the consistency you prefer. If you don't want to use too much oil, warm water works well, too. Always taste during the process so the spices are just right. You can add olive oil and additional lemon juice on top of the hummus upon serving. I usually just do the oil, though, because the lemon used is adequate.

For a nice variation, add sun-dried tomatoes and/or roasted garlic.

Tabbouleh (as adapted from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook by Diana Shaw)


1 cup bulgur wheat
1 1/2 cup water, boiled
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cucumber, seeded, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
2 scallions, minced, white part only (I also use shallots)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt to taste


Bring water to a boil. Add bulgur wheat and remove from heat. Let sit for a 1/2 - 1 hour. In this time the bulgur wheat will soak up the water, enlarging. At the end of allotted time drain bulgur through sieve, making sure to remove all water. Transfer to bowl.

To bulgur wheat add add chopped cucumber and tomato, parsley, garlic, mint, olive oil and lemon juice, mixing thoroughly. Serve room temperature or refrigerate up to 3 hours.

Tzatziki (Cucumber-Yogurt Dip) (as adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine)

1 1/2 cups plain whole milk yogurt (I like Greek)
1 cucumber, seeded, diced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh mint
2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh mint for garnish

Mix yogurt, salt and garlic. Add to this the diced cucumber (making sure to drain all excess water from cucumber), vinegar, mint, dill and olive oil. Stir to blend and season with more salt if needed. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Serve all three on whole grain pita bread. I like to layer first with the hummus and then atop that add razor-thin slices of cucumber and tomato. Atop that I add the tzatziki and then tabbouleh. Brilliant!

Difficulty: Easy
Serves: 4 people well

Spicy Tomato, Orange and Cucumber Salad

I like to make it a point to serve a side salad with nearly every meal, not simply because it's nutritious, but also because I love salads of all types. I also want to teach my child to love them as much as I do, and although it's been a long road to hoe with her, it seems we've finally hit a nice stride.

Case in point is this recipe, which was provided to me by the ever lovely Amy D. My daughter loved it (we served it with the Red Chile Grilled Chicken below, which she also loved), probably because of the orange slices and lime juice. Doesn't matter, though. It's nutritious and I'll take it! My grade: A

Spicy Tomato, Orange and Cucumber Salad


4 Roma tomatoes, seeded, chopped
1 large orange, peeled and without pith, chopped
1/2 - 1 cucumber, peeled if you prefer, chopped
1 lime, juice of
1 tsp chili powder


Chop all vegetables and fruits. Squeeze lime juice over mixture and add chili powder; toss. Add or increase lime as you prefer; same with the chili. A bit more orange in this might be nice, too.

Serve right away (if you let sit, the tomato and orange will devolve into a vinaigrette) with grilled meats.

Difficulty: Easy
Serves: 3 - 4, modest (side) portions