Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fresh Ravioli w/ Tomatoes & Raw Almond Pesto

Almost everything in this dish I bought at the farmers' market, and made it that night.  It was so fresh and satisfying.  Considering the fact that summer is winding down, I may be in a mad rush to make this just one more time before the glorious fall arrives!

Ravioli w/ Tomatoes &Raw  Almond Pesto
1 lb ravioli (I used Alfresco's, 1/2 lb Italian cheese, 1/2 lb roasted garlic and spinach)
1 C small tomatoes, halved or quartered (I used some gorgeous tiny orange ones)
Almond Pesto:
3/4 C fresh basil leaves
1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C chopped raw almonds*
3 lrg cloves roasted garlic
1 med clove raw garlic
1 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
1 tsp sea salt

   Puree all ingredients for the pesto together.
   Quickly saute tomatoes until the soften just a little bit. 2-3 minutes.
   Cook pasta in boiling salted water about 30 sec shy of being totally done.
   Add pasta and pesto to tomatoes.  Cook about 90 sec.
   Serves 2-4. (2 main dish, 4 sides)

*If you can't find raw almonds, use unsalted roasted almonds.  If you find them in the bulk section or baking aisle, they are usually roasted for less time than the snack nuts and will give you a softer texture.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Quinoa & Zucchini Stuffed Bell Peppers

I absolutely adore stuffed bell peppers.  Something stuffed inside something else always feels so indulgent.  This dish is really, really healthy, though: loads of veggies, whole grain, and just a little bit of cheese.  You absolutely need to use a high quality cheese for this dish.  There isn't much cheese, so a variety with tons of flavor is a must.  I used Jarlsberg, a Swiss style cheese from Norway.  Gruyere or a nice aged gouda would be lovely as well.

Quinoa & Zucchini Stuffed Bell Peppers
2 lrg sweet bell peppers
3/4 C quinoa, cooked*
1 sm onion, diced
3 sm/med zucchini, diced
2 med cloves garlic, minced
5-6 lrg basil leaves, chiffonade
1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp herbs de Provence
zest 1/2 lrg lemon
juice lemon (~1 1/2 Tbsp)
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
~1/2 C shredded Jarlsberg (or Gruyere, Gouda, Emmentaler...)
salt, pepper, oil

   In a little oil over medium heat, saute onion until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add zucchini and garlic, saute for another 2 minutes.
   Mix into cooked quinoa with herbs and lemon zest.  Salt and pepper to taste.
   Cut peppers in half from top to bottom.  Clean out ribs and seeds.  Fill with quinoa mixture.  Place in baking dish.
   Combine tomato sauce and lemon juice.  Pour over filled peppers.  Top with cheese.  Cover.
   Bake at 350 deg F for 15 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 10 minutes until cheese is slightly browned.
   Serves 2-4.  (2 as a main dish, 4 as a side)

*To cook quinoa:
   2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa, like rice.  Bring liquid to a boil.  Add a little salt and quinoa.  Bring back to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low.  Cook ~20 minutes, until you can clearly see the germ layer ring around each grain.
   If you can't find quinoa or just don't like it (I think you are crazy, but whatever...), you can substitute brown rice.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wild Flours

A few weeks ago, I was tempted to pause in the middle of human traffic jam by the promise of free bread.  I have passed by the Wild Flours (also check out their FB page) booth at the Saturday market every weekend of the summer so far, but never stopped to browse their goods.  Well, that was a mistake on my part because they offer some incredibly delicious things.  Now, I can't get enough.  It is a physical feat to restrain myself from buying everything they have on Saturday mornings.

This lovely group of ladies, and maybe some behind the scenes men, I have no idea, have been in operation for a little over a year now selling their delectable baked goods at several local Murfreesboro venues.  Soon, they will be getting their very own store front, which means that I will have easy access to muffins and cinnamon rolls... not the best thing for my future, but great for them!  

Oh, and did I mention these crazy bitches grind their own wheat and cornmeal?  Seriously.  I love food, but that is a labor of love.  Pun FULLY intended.  It makes a difference too.  The goods have a softness to them that I don't think I could recreate even sifting the highest quality of store bought flour.  Everything is organic and all their products are sweetened with honey, not sugar.  I absolutely adore that, because I love the unique florally sweetness honey adds to food.  And it is better for your body than processed white sugar blah blah blah whatever.

If you don't live withing driving distance of Murfreesboro, TN.  I suggest you email them and see if you can sweet talk them into a mail order.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Herbs de Provence & Wine Pickles

The season is winding down for cucumbers.  That means the next few weekends I'll be in a mad scramble to buy ALL the cucumbers!

My first pickling session, I used a lot more of my staple ingredients than expected.  I had to come up with some creative flavorings to I could just get all the cucumbers pickled.  A jar of Spice Islands herbs de Provence was lurking behind vanilla and hot paprika in my spice cabinet, and I thought, "Why not?"  They turned out to be some of my favorites!  They are really mild with a unique twist from the lavender.
Yes, I write my labels with crayon.
Herbs de Provence & White Wine Pickles
2 sterilized pint jars filled with Kirby cucumbers sliced 1/4 in thick (~3 lrg cucumbers)
2-3 cloves crushed garlic in each jar
1 heaping tsp herbs de Provence in each jar
3/4 C dry white wine
1/4 C each of white vinegar, cider vinegar, and tarragon vinegar
1/2 C water
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1.5 Tbsp sugar

Assemble jars.
Combine wine, vinegars, water, salt, and sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Divide liquid evenly between jars.  Seal jars as quickly as possible, while the liquid is still very hot.  The "button" will pop down as they cool.  Gently press it down if it doesn't pop on its own, it should stay down.
Makes 2 pints.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cajun Fried Okra

I could most likely eat my body weight in fried okra.  There are about 3 lbs of fresh okra in my refrigerator right now.  Growing up, I didn't care for the vegetable.  My grandma likes boiled okra, and that slimy bowl of vegetal bits adorning the dinner table was gag-inducing.  Because of that, I stayed away from okra in all forms.  I don't know when I started to eat fried okra, but it was a turning point for me.  When handled properly, there is almost no slime!

Cajun Fried Okra
1 lb okra
~1 C coarse ground cornmeal
vegetable oil
1 Tbsp bacon fat (optional)
Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning

   Slice okra into ~1/3 inch thick disks, discard the fibrous tops.  After it is cut, wash it.  (Doing things in this order cuts down on slime if you are concerned about that.)
   Put cornmeal in a plastic container or bag of some kind.  Add okra and shake to coat.
   In a cast iron skillet (important)*, pour vegetable oil about 1/4 inch deep and add bacon fat. Heat over medium/med-high to ~350 deg F.  (When a wooden toothpick is is dipped into the oil, bubbles should rise rapidly from it.)
   Place a single layer of okra in skillet.  Fry until golden brown.  Drain.  Liberally sprinkle with Tony Chachere's when still hot and a little wet with oil.  Continue in batches until it is all cooked (you may need to add more oil to maintain 1/4 in depth.)
   Serves 2-4.

*You can use a deep fryer if you have one, but nothing beats a well season cast iron skillet.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Alfresco's Crawfish & Andouille Ravioli

I love Alfresco's pasta.  Is there a word stronger than love?  Because, really, that is how I feel about these pasta artists.  I was first introduced to this company a few years ago at the Franklin's Farmers' Market.  Last year, when I started frequenting the Murfreesboro Saturday Market, I was so happy to see they had a little booth there as well.

The product list is larger than you may expect from an artisan company.  There are seasonal offerings, gluten free pasta (which I do not believe in, but whatever... I'll share my feeling on that subject at a later time), and they strive to use as-local-as-possible ingredients.  Quality is their focus and I have yet to eat anything less than spectacular from them.  I am not entirely sure if they ship, but the people I have met from the company are really nice and it never hurts to ask!
Alfresco's Crawfish & Andouille Ravioli w/ Cajun Cream Sauce and Shrimp 
1/2 lb crawfish and andouille ravioli*
1 tsp bacon fat (or olive oil)
1/2 C chopped andouille sausage
1/4 lb peeled and deveined shrimp, tossed in salt and pepper (I used a 56/60 count)
1 C diced tomatoes (canned or fresh, peeled if fresh)
1 clove garlic, minced
~ 1/2 C half and half
1/4 tsp dried thyme
dash of Tabasco

   In salted boiling water, cook ravioli for about 3 minutes.  (This is will not cook them all the way through.)  Drain.
   Heat bacon fat over medium heat in a non stick skillet.  Saute sausage until the edges start to brown.  Add tomatoes and garlic.  Cook for ~2 minutes, stirring constantly.
   Add thyme, Tabasco, and half and half.  Bring to a simmer and cook ~3 minutes.  Toss in shrimp and ravioli.  When shrimp are done, the ravioli should be done too.
   Serves 2.

*You may have noticed in the picture that there are only three ravioli on the plate and 1/2 lb doesn't seem like much.  Yes, I could eat an entire 1/2 lb by myself, but these babies are little pricey.  Also, they are huge (the size of my palm), so really, three is good...  I always hear you don't need to much of a good thing.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Avocado and Basil Crema

What I am about to say to you may come as a shock:  last week I made tacos and we had no cheese.  We did have an avocado, though.  Now, I am not saying this lovely little sauce is a substitute for cheese.  But it does give you a certain creaminess that regular old sour cream doesn't.

Avocado and Basil Crema
1 avocado
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
juice of 1 lime (~2 tsp)
1 tsp minced fresh basil
1/2 tsp sea salt

   Mash avocado so it is almost smooth.  Mix in all other ingredients.
   Makes ~1 C (but it depends on the size of your avocado).  Put it over anything.