Archive for July, 2009

From Dish Jess:

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad

I have two words for you, readers: Tomato Season!! Here in California it starts way earlier than on the East Coast, and we’re in the height of it right now.  There are gorgeous heirloom varieties everywhere, and I can’t get enough  – sungold, early girls, cherry charm – even their names are irresistible. Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods – their versatility and richness of flavor makes them indispensable in sauces, salads and sandwiches, and they lend themselves equally beautifully to grilled, roasted or sautéed dishes.

This saucy salad was part of a light summer meal that I threw together on a weeknight. I’d been eating a LOT of meat, and knew I needed a healthy vegetarian dinner. I’ve never been a fan of mayo-based salads (though a great potato salad easily breaks me down), but I wanted to make something fresh and healthy that would satisfy my craving for chewy pasta and veggies drenched in something super-tasty.  I’ve been on a condiments kick recently, so I decided to make a dressing with a little more depth than your average vinaigrette.

Dressing ingredients

For the dressing:
2 tbsp water
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove
2 small strawberries, trimmed
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp diced red onion
small handful of fresh basil leaves
salt and coarse black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender or mixing bowl. I used an immersion (hand) blender to blend; a stand-alone blender would be fine as well.  Puree until all ingredients are mixed and no chunks remain. The dressing should be a little thicker than chocolate milk (whole milk please!); if  it’s too thick, add a teaspoon or two of water and blend again. Let the dressing sit while you assemble the salad; this can even be made a day in advance since the flavors mix well as they steep together.

For the salad:
½ lb whole wheat penne
2 ½ cups fresh baby spinach
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 cup chickpeas
8 oz fresh mozzarella, diced ¼”
½ cup chopped fresh basil
3 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted

Boil and drain the pasta, toss lightly to cool. When still warm but not hot, mix the spinach in.  Add tomatoes, chickpeas, cheese, basil and pine nuts.  Add your Strawberry Balsamic Dressing, toss to coat evenly, garnish wish a sprig of basil.

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad

I served this with a personalized take on garlic bread – a baguette that I cut, brushed with a garlic & herb marinade leftover from the weekend, and toasted in foil until perfectly crusty and hot. Serves 4, with bread.

Jess with Pasta Salad

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From Dish Jodi:

Blueberry brown butter Tart

On Saturday Night, the man and I, exhausted from a day of printing and assembling our wedding invitations (81 days to go, yipes!), went to one of my favorite LA Italian restaurants, Angeli Caffe. Run by the satin-voiced Evan Kleinman, host of KCRW’s “Good Food” radio show (which I jog to on my iPod in the mornings — so dorky) Angeli is also the future site of our upcoming Rehearsal Dinner (80 days to go, yipes!).

Though I’ve eaten there a bagillion times, Neal and I spent the dinner trying stuff that could be served that we hadn’t tasted. Rosemary roasted chicken so tender it flopped from the bone on to the plate, crispy croquettes of eggplant and risotto, and best of all, the dessert – which we’re usually WAY too full to order.

We shared an amazing blueberry tart with shortbread crust. Neal loves “bloobs” more than any fruit and I love anything baked with flakes of butter, so this was heaven. Today at the market, blueberries were so freakin’ cheap, I had to attempt a re-creation. Here goes:

1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar, plus one tbsp
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp lemon zest
1 stick butter – cold, cut into cubes
½ stick butter – melted and browned
1 egg yolk
1 ½ pints blueberries (or two, or however many will fit!)
1 ½ tbsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a food processor (key to any crust making if you ask me), pulse the flour, salt, sugar and lemon zest for a few seconds to mix. Pulse with the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg yolk and pulse until dough begins to form a ball – or at least sticks together when you squeeze it.

mixing dough

Press dough evenly into a 10” tart pan with removable bottom. Pierce bottom with a fork about 20 times and bake for about 15 minutes until it starts to look golden brown.

Pie crust

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine blueberries, remaining sugar, and cornstarch. Fill pre-baked tart with berries, disperse evenly and drizzle warm browned butter (made by swirling butter in a pan on a burner til it starts to look and smell roasty…mmm.) over. Place back in oven and bake for another 45-60 minutes, or until berries cook and ooze their juices.

Let cool, cut and serve!

Jodi with tart

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From Dish Rachelle:

Vegetable dumplings

I work from home two days a week and it was one of those days – shh, don’t tell – when I really had nothing to do. Usually, when I’m between projects or waiting on feedback from someone, I’ll take care of unglamorous life stuff: doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom. Aware that my SLD recipe was nearly due, however, I decided to make myself an ambitious, website-worthy lunch. Two hours later and amidst a battalion of dirty dishes, I sunk my teeth into the freshest Asian dumplings I’d ever tasted.

But let me rewind for a minute. I settled on dumplings because I had picked up a container of beet kimchi from the farmer’s market in Ft. Greene, which is delicious – salty, spicy, pickled – but not exactly versatile. I wanted to use it as a condiment for an Asian dish, and I’d heard wonton wrappers are easy enough to find at the supermarket (especially if one of your neighborhood markets is a 24-hour Korean organic superstore). I planned to stick with vegetarian cooking since my main meals the day before had been a bagel, and chicken tenders with french fries at the Long Beach snack-shack, and I was heading to a backyard BBQ at Dish Gwen’s for dinner that evening where the food is always wonderful, but I find it difficult to resist the grilled sausage. I walked to Sunac Natural feeling confident. It was just a few minutes later, when I’d already filled my basket with ingredients, that I learned no, they did not have wonton wrappers in stock, and the panic began to set in.

But I’m a badass cook with nothing to do, right? I would make my own dough. Behold my first go at homemade dumplings: a bona fide roller coaster of emotion that ended on a surprisingly high note.

Ingredients (makes about 12 large dumplings):

For filling:
6 oz. (just shy of half the package) extra firm tofu, diced small
1 lg. scallion, greens and whites chopped finely
¼ cup red bell pepper, diced small
1 tsp. freshly minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 lg. cabbage leaves (roughly ½ cup), parboiled and chopped finely
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
red pepper flakes, to taste

Set a pot of water on the stove, and chop the tofu and vegetables. When the water boils, add cabbage leaves and boil for 1-3 minutes, until wilted but not mushy. Run the leaves under cold water and chop. Combine finely diced vegetables, including garlic and ginger, in a bowl, and set aside, reserving a pinch of scallion for plating. Wet ingredients – egg, soy sauce, sesame oil – will be added after the dough is finished.

Diced vegetables for filling

For dough:
1 ¼ cup flour
¾ tsp. salt
½ cup COLD water

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and knead into a ball with your hands. When dough is smooth, move onto a floured surface. Roll dough into small balls, roughly 1-inch in diameter. Flatten and roll out with a rolling pin (hand in the picture below to show scale). Keep a bag of flour nearby to re-dust surface, your hands, and the rolling pin, because the dough is sticky; remember, these ingredients are also used to make paste. (NOTE: for this reason, I’d recommend washing the rolling pin immediately after use, unless you want to be peeling off tiny paper mache samples of the wood grain). Do not rest freshly rolled wrappers one on top of the other for longer than a few minutes. They will stick together, and the only way to rectify the situation will be to mash them into a ball and roll them out again (this was the moment in my cooking experiment when I was sure that lunch was ruined, and I wondered if I could sauté the filling by itself and eat it).

Fresh dumpling skinFilling with wet ingredients

Add wet ingredients to your filling and mix. Spoon ½ to ¾ tsp. mixture onto rolled-out wrapper, and fold over into a half-moon, closing the edges with the tines of a fork (if you find the wrapper won’t stick to itself – shockingly – run a wet finger around the edge).

When dumplings are assembled, heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil in a non-stick pan over high heat. Place dumplings in the pan and fry until golden brown, roughly 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan, and let rest on a plate with a dry paper towel to remove excess oil. The resulting texture will be somewhere in between a delicate gourmet dumpling, and a down-and-dirty doughy one from the average corner takeout.

For dipping sauce:
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tsp. honey or brown sugar

Whisk ingredients together and serve in a small bowl alongside dumplings. Track down beet kimchi, if so inclined.

Oh dumpling, how you’ve challenged me…

Rachelle with dumpling

Recipe inspiration from Alton Brown, About.com, and Epicurious.

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From Dish Paige!:
Grilled Swordfish w/ Salsa

My favorite thing about summer in Bushwick (which I’m assuming also translates to other parts of Brooklyn, and maybe even into the other boroughs but don’t quote me on it) is that things just tend to happen. Plans aren’t necessary – all that’s really required, it seems, is a penchant for iced coffee in the mornings and a bicycle (don’t forget your helmet – safety is sexy!!!!). Yesterday I started off my morning at the Wyckoff Starr for the aforementioned cold-brewed beverage, and who do I run into but Guest Dish Anna, stopping by for a little while on her way to Yoga at Starr Space. After a little prodding (following about a year of suggesting I go), and a lot of question asking on my part (e.g. can I do yoga in cut-off shorts?), I caved and joined Anna in a little Vinyasa. After the class, we decided to continue our Practice by giving the sun a proper salutation (e.g. going outside and enjoying it!) with a glorious bike ride to DUMBO. We checked out the Brooklyn Flea, refreshed ourselves with Peach & Tarragon People’s Pops, rested for a little while at the Brooklyn Bridge Park, and relaxed further with a drink at Superfine. Continuing on our Path of Discovery, Anna revealed that she had lemons, swordfish, Thai Basil and a grill at her house. I remarked that some veggies, mangoes & a bell pepper were in my fridge. And so upon our arrival back in our neighborhood, we combined our ingredients, cracked open a bottle of wine, and let the day come to its cosmic conclusion with a healthy, delicious & supremely satisfying meal.

2 swordfish steaks
2 mangoes, diced
1 small can of corn
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup (loosely packed) Thai Basil (cut in a chiffonade)
3 lemons
olive oil
salt & pepper

Start off by marinating the swordfish in the juice of 2 lemons, about 1/4 cup of olive oil and some salt & pepper. Place the swordfish in the fridge while preparing the rest of the meal. In a separate bowl, combine diced mango, bell pepper, corn & Thai Basil. Dress the salsa with the juice of 1 lemon, coat lightly with olive oil, and add some salt & pepper to taste. The salsa should rest for at least half an hour in the fridge before using. Once you’re done chopping & mixing the salsa, the swordfish (and your grill) should be ready to go – it takes about 7-10 minutes per side, depending on how thick the swordfish steaks are. Since we had them lying around, we threw some asparagus and zucchini on the grill as well. Once everything’s done cooking, top the fish with the salsa to complete.

Paige! with swordfish

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Turkish Breakfast

Turkish Breakfast

A number of summers ago, I had an opportunity to go to Turkey. It was a life changing trip and far exceeded my few expectations. I didn’t know what Turkish food was like, and no one told me it would be so wonderful. I believe that in addition to the green chile running through my veins, this must be the food of my ancestors- my body understands it like water and air. I love to eat many different little things on the same plate, and after it is over I feel happy, healthy, and engaged.

Breakfast View 2Watermelon

I remember to eat this way again in the summertime because of all the fresh things available. Turkish breakfast usually includes some form of cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, cheeses, melon, an egg, bread, yogurt, jam, and tea or coffee. Today my version has three types of cheese: soft fresh menouri, a firm salty feta, and Kasar Peynir: a smooth provolone-type Turkish cheese. My tomato takes the form of a fresh tomato- garlic dip (1 huge tomato, a couple cloves garlic, olive oil, S+P, and cayenne in the food processor). Alas I have no runny sour cherry or rose jam, perfect to drizzle onto cheese and bread or swirl into yogurt, but I have some watermelon for that sweet component. It is simple to have this meal, especially if you cut up the elements and leave them stacked in a tower of pint containers in the fridge, and all you have to do is make coffee and cook the egg.

Amelia with cheese

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Sesame Cookies

Every so often, Saucy Little Dish will feature a guest blogger. Welcome Anna: SLD friend, Dish Paige’s colleague, and Bushwick, Brooklyn resident!

Sesame Cookies

I was so excited when Dish Rachelle said that I could do a guest post for SLD. Now I know what all those fan fiction writers must feel like!

In honor of my dad’s birthday last week, I decided to make his favorite baked good: Italian Sesame Cookies. This recipe was passed down through my grandmother’s family and perfected by Nanny over the years to contain just the right amount of everything (she tells me that it’s even better than her aunts’ version!). The recipe is simple, and with the exception of roasted sesame seeds (which I have trouble finding in the NYC metro area) the ingredients are staples for any baker and easily accessible to everyone. I’ve been making these cookies for years (including in my Iowa County Fair days) and they seem to go over pretty well with most folks. They’re a little bit unusual, not too sweet and – as desserts go – not all that bad for you!

2/3 cups butter* (room temp)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 lb roasted sesame seeds**

*I use salted butter but I think most bakers would recommend using unsalted butter and adding a pinch of salt with the flour.
**If you can only find raw sesame seeds, roast them on a flat sheet lined with parchment paper at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes – but they need to be monitored as they burn quickly!

Cream together the butter and sugar (ideally in a mixer, but just fine to do it by hand) until fully mixed and fluffy. Add the 3 eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, gradually add the flour and baking powder, mixing well. Cover the dough and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Cookie ingredients

When you’re ready to get baking, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Take not-quite-full spoonfuls of chilled dough and roll into oval shapes, being careful not to over-work the dough (handle them just enough to make the right shape). Roll the ovals in sesame seeds, coating them evenly and then place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, until lightly brown. Once out of the oven, transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Cookies ready to bake

Yield: about 10 dozen cookies (they’re little!)

Thanks, SLD!

Anna with cookie

Have a recipe you’d like to contribute? Email us at saucylittledish@gmail.com.

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Watermelon & Mint Salad

MMMmmm….mint. The car reeked of it on a drive back from Bridgehampton this past weekend. Some friends and I were fortunate to come home with an enormous bundle of it from a garden overrun with the tallest stalks of mint I’ve ever seen. We were doing the garden a favor, really…

Pal Andrei with our bushel of mint!

Pal Andrei with our bushel of mint!

We’d helped to prep, cook, and serve an incredibly decadent meal the previous evening, and luckily also got to sample much of what we served. As we drove back to Brooklyn, I contemplated what light n’ fresh summery dish I could make myself for dinner that would counterbalance some of the excessive indulgences of the night before. As I pondered, another burst of mint hit my nostrils. Okay—something with mint. Definitely.

This salad is served at one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, Sweetwater:

½ Watermelon, meat cut from rind and cut into 1″ cubes
12 oz Feta, diced into tidy ½-inch cubes
1 medium-large sized red onion, thinly sliced
1 ½ c pitted olives, roughly chopped (I used a medley marinated in oil)
¼ c virgin olive oil
½-3/4 c pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
2 c fresh mint leaves, chiffonade
liberal pinch salt
pepper to taste

Salad fixings

Toss cubed watermelon, feta, onions, and olives into large serving bowl. Pour olive oil and sprinkle salt on top. With tongs, mix together so ingredients are evenly coated. Now toss almost all pepitas into mixture, reserving a handful. Do the same with the mint. Toss once more, this time adding a bit of black pepper. Now sprinkle the remaining seeds and mint on top to garnish.

This is a great addition to any pot-lucky BBQ. Super easy and delightful. …and lusciously summery!

Danielle serving salad

Danielle with watermelon

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