Monday, June 30, 2008

.greek steak.

Do you feel like you always make a dish a certain way over and over? I feel this way about steak. I always seem to get ribeye and we usually throw on some Montreal seasoning and grill it up.

I came across a recipe in one of those little food magazines you pick up by the register on your way out of the grocery store. The spinach and feta topping is quite delicious with juicy kalamata olives and tomatoes, and a kick of garlic.

I used frozen spinach. I've used both fresh and frozen and I prefer fresh, but this way is just as good when you're in a pinch and don't have fresh on hand. You'll need about 1/4 cup for two steaks. Thaw by running under cold water. Then wring all of the water out. Break apart the spinach clumps and set aside.

Seed and dice one roma tomato.

Chop one clove garlic.

Take some kalamata olives (I used 5-6) and remove the seeds if they aren't already seeded. Chop up and set aside.

Let your steaks sit out on the counter 30 minutes prior to grilling. This relaxes the meat and will help them cook evenly. Rub both sides of the steak with a garlic clove.

I'm breaking out of the montreal seasoning rut and using lemon pepper.

Rub it on both sides of the steaks.

Put on your bbq grill and cook to your desired doneness. We like our steaks medium rare. Let rest while we make the topping.

Heat some olive oil in a skillet and put in the garlic. Saute for 30 seconds. Don't let it burn!

Add the diced tomato. Cook for a minute or two. We don't want the tomatoes to get too soft so don't let them go too long in the pan.

After about a minute, add the spinach. Use a spoon to break it up even more so it distributes itself evenly.

Season with some fresh cracked pepper and sea salt.

Remove from the heat and grate in some fresh parmesan. Mix together.

Spoon some on the top of the steak. Sprinkle on some crumbled feta cheese and kalamata olives.

Printable version:

Sunday, June 29, 2008

.gemelli with pesto and sun dried tomatoes.

I have no fancy name for this dish. We were in Tennessee for the wedding all week last week. I can't even begin to tell you how BEAUTIFUL that part of the state is. Mountains, mountains, and more mountains! And this gorgeous river that ran right through the middle of the town... just amazing.

The worst part of the trip was all the eating out. Ugh. I was anxious to fix something light and healthy and delicious. So while I was at the commissary yesterday, I suddenly had this rush of inspiration. None of these ingredients were on my shopping list, but I didn't care a bit. When Jim saw that $11.00 wedge of parmigiano reggiano, he cared quite a bit. Oops.

I really did use some good ingredients on this dish, but when you're using nothing but pasta and few ingredients, you want to make sure you don't skimp on quality.

The nice thing about this dish is you can have it on the table in 30 minutes. No joke.

Take a package of gemelli and cook it according to its directions. I wanted these al dente, so I made sure not to let them boil longer than 8 minutes.

Drain and rinse with cold water. No worries... we'll heat this back up in the skillet.

Now let's do our prep.

Roughly chop 1 clove garlic.

Chop up 4-5 sun dried tomatoes.

If you've never used sun dried tomatoes before, you don't know what you're missing. They have this wonderful smoky flavor that is incomparable. We used this a lot at the bakery to add in our bread and quiches.

Roughly chop up some italian parsley.

Cut up 2-3 slices bacon. It would have been better to use pancetta, but I didn't have any on hand and didn't even think of it when I was at the commissary. You don't want to use too much because you don't want to overpower the flavor of the tomatoes and pesto. The bacon is secondary... remember that.

Heat up a skillet and fry the bacon.

When it's about halfway cooked, add a little extra virgin olive oil and the clove of garlic. Let saute for 30 seconds.

Add some diced grilled chicken. I used some pre-cooked breasts that I pulled out of the freezer. They come in handy for quick meals like this. You could grill up your own chicken breasts if you want. It would make this better, for sure.

Add the sun dried tomatoes and the pasta. Stir to coat. If you need to add a little more olive oil, do so right now. Season well with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Pesto comes in a jar like this. It's found in the deli section of your grocer. Pesto is a ground mix of basil, olive oil, pine nuts, and garlic. It's really fragrant and gives wonderful subtle flavor to your dishes.

I put in about 3-4 Tbsp of pesto. Add as much or as little as you like. Stir to coat.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped parsley. Stir well. Taste and re-season if needed.

This is the lovely wedge of parmigiano reggiano. My husband pulled it out of the fridge after dinner was done and broke off some pieces to eat all alone. Whew. He likes his cheese!

You could grate this, but I wanted more substantial pieces of cheese so I used a vegetable peeler. You'll get more flavor per bite doing it this way. YUMMY!

Add it to the pan and stir.

Time to plate up!

I added a little more parmigiano once it was all plated.

Printable version:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

.santa fe chicken salad.

When we lived in Hawaii, we were on a low carb diet and this was when this salad was born. It has since morphed into what it is today, with a delicious corn and black bean salsa, fried tortilla strips, and a southwest ranch dressing.

I have made this for a lot of friends and family and it has become a favorite. In fact, whenever I would fly home, my sisters would have all the ingredients bought so I could make it for them while visiting. They love it that much!

While this salad may look tedious to make, much of it can be made a day or two in advance. It's a delicious dish that I hope your family will enjoy.

We'll begin by making the corn and black bean salsa and dressing.

corn and black bean salsa

Seed and dice two roma tomatoes. Put in a bowl.

Finely dice half of a red onion. Put that in the bowl too.

Take a can of black beans. Drain and rinse well. I let them sit in a sieve for a while to "dry" off a little. I don't like them horribly wet when I add them to the bowl.

Normally I pull out frozen corn from the freezer, thaw and add to the bowl, but I surprisingly didn't have any! I did have fresh corn so I steamed up 2 and cut off the kernels and added it to my salsa.

If you don't want to go to that much trouble, use a cup or so of frozen corn.

Seed and pith a jalapeno then dice. If you want it spicier, leave the seeds or add another pepper to the mix.

Chop up some cilantro.

Squeeze in half a lime. Season the salsa with a little salt and pepper.

Stir well then cover with saran and put in the fridge.

This can be made a day in advance. I wouldn't make it too far ahead because the onions will lose their flavor. Yummy and the colors are gorgeous!

southwest ranch dressing

Take one package ranch dressing mix. Dump the dry mix into a bowl.

Add 1 cup mayonnaise.

Add 1 cup milk. Mix the dressing together.

Add 1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce. I eyeball it. If you want this spicier, add a little more.

Add 1 tsp garlic powder.

Add 1 tsp chili powder.

Add 1 tsp cumin.

Squeeze in half of a lime.

Mix everything together. This dressing can be made days in advance. In fact, the longer it sits, the better the flavors will have a chance to marry and balance out. It's a wonderful dressing.

Now to make tortilla strips!

Take 4-5 fajita sized tortillas and cut in half.

Cut them into thin strips.

Heat some oil in a pot and fry the strips up. When they're nice and golden, pull from the oil and place on some paper towels.

As soon as you pull the tortilla strips from the oil, season lightly with salt. These *can* be made the day ahead. Put the strips in a ziploc or any airtight container so they don't get stale or soft.

Now it's time for the main body of the salad!

Take a package of McCormicks Grill Mates Southwest marinade. My sister, Marcia, was here visiting in March. When we were at the commissary she bought almost their entire stock. I looked at her inquisitively and she told me they can no longer find this in their grocery stores back in Seattle! I can't even believe it. So.. I hope you guys don't have trouble finding this. If you do, use any southwest marinade you can find. This one, in my opinion, is the best though.

Put 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a ziploc. Dump in the marinade (as prepared according to the directions on the package). The packaging says you only need to marinate for 15 minutes. Personally, I like it a little more seasoned, so I let them sit in that marinade all day, overnight if possible.

Now I normally grill these on my bbq, but when I went to go start the bbq, the flame was very small, then extinguished itself. Out of propane. Dang. So, I had to use a skillet on the stove.

Cook until the breasts are slightly firm. This means they're cooked perfectly. If they're squishy when pushed in the center, leave them on a little longer. They're not done!

Remove from the grill or pan and let cool.

Using two forks, start pulling the meat apart. The shredded meat goes a long way vs. cutting into cubes.

Yummy shredded chicken breasts. Mmmm...

Put the chicken in a large bowl.

Chop up 1 head of iceberg lettuce and add to the bowl.

Grate some cheese. I grated more than this. I actually used some cheddar and some monterey jack. Put all the cheese in the bowl too.

Slice up one avocado. You can dice this and add directly to the lettuce bowl if you want. Since I like to make it fancy, I leave them in slices and use on top. You're about to see.

Toss everything in the bowl together. If your family likes olives, you can add some sliced black olives. I'm the only one who likes them here, so I don't put any in. :( Poor me.

Begin by putting some of the salad on the plate.

Put a big handful of corn and black bean salsa on top in the middle.

Put slices of avocado around the plate.

Put a small stack of tortilla strips on top like a haystack. These will be your "croutons" for the salad. I break them up with my fork and mix everything together.

Drizzle on some of the salad dressing and you're done! Time to eat up.

Printable version: