Friday, February 29, 2008

Feed Me Friday!

This is not what you think.
When I get home after a long day at work, I want something easy and quick, and something that doesn't leave a lot of dirty dishes. So I make a quick little pizza.
What makes this so quick? I don't use pizza dough. I use flour tortillas or some kind of flatbread. I know this is currently "in vogue," but I've been making pizza this way for years.

I use a small amount of pizza sauce, then cheese, then my favorite toppings. In today's pizza I have chicken sausage, red onion, broccoli, capers, mushrooms and yes, slivered almonds. I use some grated mozzarella cheese, of course, but I also add feta or goat cheese, parmesan or even Gruyere or blue cheese (but not all at the same time!)

I have a pizza stone and peel. I heat my oven to 500 F. While the oven heats, I prepare the pizza. By the time the oven is warm, the pizza is ready to bake. I bake it for 9-10 minutes, until the edges are crisp and the bottom is cooked.
I love thin crust, crispy pizza, and this "delivers."

One of these flatbreads will make a pizza for one person. When my son comes over, however, I need to make three!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Potato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup

This recipe is from Rick Rodgers, but I had a little something to do with creating it. I had emailed him about a similar soup my sister and I had tried at a local restaurant and wanted to reproduce. He graciously supplied this recipe. I made it, and emailed him that it was excellent. He subsequently added it his book The Carefree Cook.

I make this soup often, and it is a family favorite for Thanksgiving Day.

Rick says:
“Don't use bottled red peppers, as they are usually packed in vinegar, and that will make the soup too strong, especially with the balsamic on top.

“Here's an easy way to roast peppers. I broil them, which is much easier than any other way and you can do a lot at a time. The trick is to cut the peppers into large, long strips. Cut off the top lid and bottom inch of the peppers--set these two pieces aside, but poke the stem out of the top lid. Cut the pepper vertically down the side and open up into a long strip. Cut out the ribs and seeds (the strips make this chore easier, too). You can do 3 or 4 peppers in no time this way. Now lay the strips, tops, and bottoms on a broiler rack and broil in a preheated broiler until the peppers turn the familiar black. Set aside for a few minutes to cool, then peel.”

I usually dump the roasted peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let them cool. They peel very easily. In fact this whole process is so easy, and the peppers so delicious, I have never bought bottled roasted red peppers since.

Potato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped (enhances the potato and red pepper both)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes (about 14 oz total, because the soup will be too thick if you use too much)
4 cups chicken broth (you may need more -- add if needed to the pureed soup if too thick)
4 red peppers, roasted and peeled (you want lots of red pepper flavor)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Balsamic vinegar, for serving

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the onion, celery and garlic.

Cover and cook until the onion is golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the baking potatoes and broth.

Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, covered, until the potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, add the red peppers and oregano.

In batches, puree the soup in blender or food processor.
Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the vinegar drizzled over each serving.

By Rick Rodgers

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chocolate Fudge Cake

My son loves this cake. It's an 8" square cake, and we think it's best served warm, with the chocolate chips still soft on the top. It is -very- fudge-y and almost demands to be served with a glass of milk. Or vanilla ice cream on the side.

This recipe does not double well - the chocolate chips sink into the batter if you try to make a double batch in an 11" x 13" pan. If I need to make enough for a double batch, I make two cakes.

Chocolate Fudge Cake

1/3 cup butter (5-1/3 tablespoons)
1 cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla
2 ounces baking chocolate, melted
1 egg
1-1/4 cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¾ cup water
½ cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease 8 x 8 inch square baking pan.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together.
  4. Blend in vanilla and cooled chocolate.
  5. Add egg, beating well
  6. Mix together flour, soda and salt, add to creamed mixture alternately with water.
  7. Spread in greased pan.
  8. Sprinkle with chocolate pieces
  9. Bake at 350 about 30 minutes or until cake springs back when touched in center.
  10. Cool in pan.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Curried Vegetable Stew

I've had this recipe for a long time. It came out of the Sunday newspaper many years ago. It's hearty and delicious. Occasionally I will add some rutagaba and/or sweet potato.

Curried Vegetable Stew

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1-1/2 Tablespoons curry powder
6 carrots, peeled, halved and cut into 1 inch lengths
3 russet potatoes cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 medium-sized cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
4 cups vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons honey
1 cinnamon stick
1 can (19 ounces) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup golden raisins
2 cups seeded and diced plum tomatoes
1/2cup chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
4 cups cooked pearl barley (optional; can use rice or couscous instead)

1. Heat oil in a large, heavy pot over low heat. Add onion and cook 10 minutes, or until tender and translucent. Add garlic, cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Sprinkle curry powder over vegetables and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, to mellow flavors.
2. Add carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, vegetable broth, honey, and cinnamon stick.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add beans and raisins; simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Just before serving, stir in tomatoes and parsley. Serve in shallow bowls atop pearl barley (or rice), if desired.

Serves 8

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Cajun Shrimp and Artichoke Dip

This is my go-to dip, except I never add the shrimp. Many people have allergies or just don’t like shellfish, and I worry about leaving it at room temperature during a party. The dip is terrific without the shrimp. Whenever I serve this dip, or bring it to a party, there are never any leftovers!

Cajun Shrimp and Artichoke Dip

Makes 3-1/2 cups
This dip can be prepared up to 1 day ahead

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons Cajun Seasoning (see below, or salt-free store-bought seasoning)
8 ounces cooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp, coarsely chopped**
Two 6-ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/3 cup drained and coarsely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, and Cajun Seasoning in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and scallions, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate to blend the flavors, at least 1 hour, or overnight.
2. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve chilled.

What to dip? Potato chips, tortilla chips, baguette slices, crostini, flatbread crisps, carrot sticks, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, mushroom caps, zucchini slices.

** I never add the shrimp.

Cajun Seasoning
2 Tablespoons sweet paprika, preferably Hungarian
1 Tablespoon dried basil
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground hot red (cayenne) pepper

Combine all ingredients together. Makes about 1/3 cup. Use as a seasoning for dips, popcorn, salads, grilled foods and in Cajun and Creole cooking.

From Rick Rodgers’ Dip it! 2002

Friday, February 1, 2008

Homemade Tomato Soup

I love tomato soup. It's comfort food. It's easy to make, and very versatile. It reheats well, so I make it a lot on Sundays to have for lunch during the coming week. I can add leftover chicken or extra vegetables, or potatoes, pasta or rice. I can top it with cheese.

Often I add old rinds of fresh parmesan cheese to the soup while it cooks. I like the soup smooth and thick, so I blend it with a stick blender. I also use sun dried tomato pesto as an added flavor punch, and frequently use frozen basil pesto cubes in the soup as well.

Homemade Tomato Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled, and chopped
2 Tablespoons Olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 28 oz cans whole peeled or crushed tomatoes
1 quart water
1 cup white wine (optional)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil or some prepared pesto
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato pesto, optional.

In a soup pot, heat oil, and sauté onions and garlic until translucent. Add carrots and celery, continue to cook until soft.
Add canned tomatoes, water, wine, (if using) and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Add basil pesto and/or sun-dried tomato pesto, if desired. Cook until vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf. Add oregano. Remove to blender and puree soup, or use a stick blender. Adjust seasonings. Serve with toasted English Muffin Bread.