Tag Archives: tomatoes

Creamy Orzo Pilaf

I like rice pilaf.  It goes with anything. I’ve always thought “pilaf” was just a fancy way of saying rice with stuff in it to make it more interesting. Some rice pilaf (particularly the kind you get in a box) comes with not-rice that looks like rice, but it’s actually a noodle! And that lovely stuff is orzo. It is always my favorite part.  So I figured I would make my rice pilaf with orzo instead. And to get really decadent, I finished it with a little cream just to make it a little more saucy.  The result? A cross between pilaf and alfredo, with some fresh veggies and herbs thrown in for brightness.

I threw this together as a quick side dish the other night, but we all liked it so much, next time I’m going to add some grilled chicken or shrimp to it and call it dinner!

Creamy Orzo

Creamy Orzo Pilaf

Creamy Orzo Pilaf

1 cup dry orzo
1-2 tomatoes, diced
Small handful of basil, chopped
Small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup whipping cream
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup parmesan

Cook orzo according to package directions (usually 8-10 minutes, until tender). Drain well and add to a bowl with all other ingredients (start with 1/4 cup of cream and add more if you want it more saucy).  Mix well and serve hot or cold.

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Roasted Zucchini Boats on a Creamy Polenta Sea

Last week it was raining in Oregon.  I know, it’s a shocker.  This month I’m doing a 30-day walking challenge, which means instead of enjoying the gentle tapping of raindrops on my roof, I was out slogging away in it, getting drenched in the process.  It’s not all bad.  It smells good.  It’s not very cold.  Things could definitely be worse.  However, all that rain made me wish for a boat.  Since I had no boat, I decided to set sail on zucchini boats instead.

If you haven’t tried polenta, this is a simple but delicious recipe to get you started.  It might look basic, but it was the perfect rich, creamy counter balance for my crunchy, zesty zucchini boats.   If you have any left over, put it in a dish or pan in the fridge and it will set up solid.  Then slice and pan fry, grill or bake it for a crunchy little cake.  It’s like two foods in one!

I made this as a main dish, but if you want something a little heartier, it would be great with a side of chicken or fish or pork chop or…you get the idea.

Zucchini Boats on a sea of creamy polenta.  Mmmm.

Zucchini Boats on a sea of creamy polenta. Mmmm.

Roasted Zucchini Boats on a Creamy Polenta Sea

4 zucchini
1 cup chopped tomato
4 oz. goat cheese
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
3-4 green onions, sliced and divided
1 cup dry polenta
4 cups water or broth
4 oz. cream cheese
1 tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Slice each zucchini lengthwise. Using a spoon or melon baller, scoop the seeds out of your zucchini.

A little zucchini canoe.

A little zucchini canoe.

Fill your boats with tomatoes, cheese and half the green onions.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until zucchini is tender.

While the zucchini boats are cooking, bring 4 cups of water or broth to a boil.  Add one cup of polenta.  Cover and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When all the water is absorbed, remove from heat and stir in butter, cream cheese and the rest of the green onions.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  Ladle some polenta onto a plate and top with zucchini boats.  Serves 4.

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Mediterranean Pizza

I can’t remember the last time I went out for pizza.  There are a few places I like in town, but none are very close to my house, and it usually just seems like too much trouble.  I’ve found it’s much easier to make my own, especially if I want a healthy-ish, gourmet-ish sort of pizza.

I threw this together with a few ingredients I had on hand, and the result was a tasty, Mediterranean style pizza that disappeared in the blink of an eye!  I read an article recently about ingredients you should never put on pizza, and I think spinach was on the list, but what do they know?  I actually really like it on pizza, especially if you cook it at a high enough temp that it gets a little crispy on the edges instead of just wilting.  Because nobody likes a soggy pizza.  This is a great way to get some extra veggies into the little ones (and the big ones!) without it seeming like rabbit food.

If you have a Trader Joe’s in the vicinity, they make a great fresh pizza dough that you can find in their refrigerated section.  It comes in plain or garlic-herb varieties.  If you don’t have a TJ’s close to you, you can use any pizza dough that suits you.

Mediterranean Pizza

Mediterranean Pizza

Mediterranean Pizza

Garlic-herb fresh pizza crust (I used Trader Joe’s pizza crust, but whatever kind you like will work)
1/2 cup basil pesto (click here for my pesto recipe or use store bought)
Pepperoni
1 tomato, sliced or diced
1 cup spinach, coarsely chopped
Assorted olives (I used kalamata and some green Italian ones)
1/2 cup feta
1/4 cup mozzarella
Fresh ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  If you have a pizza stone, go ahead and preheat that too, otherwise you can use any baking pan.  Flatten your dough out with your hands into whatever shape suits you (I usually just make it whatever shape of pan I’m using). Make it as thin or thick as you like.

Spread pesto evenly over crust.

It doesn't have to be perfect, just try to get a little bit all over it.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, just try to get a little bit all over it.

Layer  pepperoni and spinach.

 

Pepperoni and spinach.  For a vegetarian version simply leave out the pepperoni.

Pepperoni and spinach. For a vegetarian version simply leave out the pepperoni.

Pile on the other toppings, sprinkling evenly over crust. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper, or if you like it spicy, scatter a bit of crushed red pepper over the top.

Tomatoes, olives and cheese scattered on top.  Doesn't that look gorgeous?

Tomatoes, olives and cheese scattered on top. Doesn’t that look gorgeous?

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until crust is lightly browned on the edges and bottom.  I like a crispy crust, so I sometimes cook an additional minute or two.  For a softer crust, take it out a bit sooner.

Let it set for a few minutes before slicing.  Cut into wedges and try not to burn the roof of your mouth when you dive in!

Mmmmm!

Mmmmm!

 

 

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5-Minute Capellini with Tomatoes and Olives

I am an expert of the field of minimal effort cooking.  Mostly this happens on days when I’m just cooking for myself (or at the end of busy, crazy days, or lazy ones).  I threw together this light and tasty pasta in about 5 minutes the other night and man, it was good!

You could use any kind of olives in this, but I happened to have some Castelvetrano olives on hand so i used those.  I recently discovered these and it was love at first taste!  They are bright green and round, and very mild and a bit nutty in flavor.  If your grocery store has an olive bar, that will probably be your best bet if you’re interested in picking some up, but I do occasionally see a jar of them here and there as well.  If you can’t find them, feel free to sub the olive of your choice.

5-Minute Capellini with Tomatoes and Olives

5-Minute Capellini with Tomatoes and Olives

5-Minute Capellini with Tomatoes and Olives

Capellini or angel hair pasta
3-4 vine ripened tomatoes, diced
Handful of olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, very thinly sliced or minced
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Parmesan or feta cheese (optional)

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil while you heat a small skillet over medium heat.  Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to the skillet.  Toss in the pasta and keep an eye on it.  Capellini is very thin; it will only take about 4 minutes to cook.  While the pasta is cooking, saute the garlic in olive oil for about 30 seconds, until fragrant but not browned.  Add tomatoes and olives.  Turn heat down to low and give the mixture an occasional stir until the pasta is ready.  You really don’t need to cook the veggies much, mostly you are just heating them up and letting some of their juices release and combine to make it a little more saucy.

Just a little mingle in the heat to really bring out the flavor.

Just a little mingle in the heat to really bring out the flavor.

Taste and add a pinch of salt and pepper if needed (depending on the type of olives you use, you may not need much salt at all, if any).  Drain pasta (reserve a bit of the pasta water) and toss with tomato mixture.  If pasta seems dry you can add in a little bit of the reserved pasta water or drizzle with a touch of olive oil.  Serve immediately with a sprinkle of parmesan or feta if desired.

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Tomato Quiche Cups

I love quickie breakfasts.  Even more, I love quickie breakfasts that are delicious.  Baked eggs are an easy and very tasty way to start the day.  Ever since I bought my ramekins, these have been coming out of my oven on a regular basis.  What I really love about them is that there are so many variations!  Whatever your imagination (and refrigerator) can dream up will most likely turn into a tasty breakfast.

Sometimes I just break the eggs into the cups on top of the veggies and meat.  But I was in the mood for something a bit fluffier so I added a little cream and beat it into the eggs for a more quiche-like texture.  The result?  Fluffy, light and oh so good!

Pretty and so good!

So pretty and so good!

Tomato Quiche Cups

For each cup:

1plum tomato, diced
1 oz. hard salami, cut into matchsticks or small cubes (1-2 tbsp)
2 slices brie cheese
2 eggs
1 tbsp. heavy cream
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray your ramekins with cooking spray.  Place tomatoes and salami in the bottom.

Tomato & salami.  Feel free to sub bacon or pepperoni, or leave out for a vegetarian version.

Tomato & salami. Feel free to sub bacon or pepperoni, or leave out for a vegetarian version.

Top with brie.

Top with brie.  Feel free to use a different cheese if you prefer (or no cheese).

Top with brie. Feel free to use a different cheese if you prefer (or no cheese).

Whisk together eggs, cream and a pinch of salt & pepper.  Pour over veggies and cheese.

All ready to go in the oven.  Be sure to make on a baking sheet, just in case they spill over just a bit as they cook.

All ready to go in the oven. Be sure to make on a baking sheet, just in case they spill over just a bit as they cook.

Place ramekins on a baking sheet (sometimes they poof up so much you get a little overflow so this is a good idea).  Bake 15-20 minutes until eggs are set.  The quiche will be poofed up when you first take it out.

Let sit for a couple of minutes.  The eggs will settle as it cools, looking more like this:

Deflated a bit after cooling a few minutes.  Dig in!

Deflated a bit after cooling a few minutes. Dig in!

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Tomato Feta Spaghetti

Sometimes you have days where you don’t want to cook.  But you still want real food.  For those days, I have dishes like this.  This is a ten minute dinner, folks.  It only takes a couple of minutes longer than making a PBJ and you will not regret the tiny bit of effort.  Simple, healthy ingredients come together in minutes and burst with flavor.

I usually make this (or something like it) when I have produce that needs to be used and I’m not feeling terribly creative about it.  If your grape tomatoes are starting to wrinkle, don’t worry!  A little toss in the pan will plump them right up again.  In summertime, I sometimes don’t even cook the tomatoes and spinach for this, but just toss them with the hot pasta.  In winter, when I want it a little more saucy, I cook them just for a minute or two, so they are warm but still bright and juicy.

Tomato Feta Spaghetti

Tomato Feta Spaghetti

Tomato Feta Spaghetti

1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups spinach, chopped
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup feta cheese
Salt & pepper
1 package thin spaghetti (or any noodle you like)

Do your chopping and slicing first so everything is ready, as this dish comes together very quickly!

Spinach and Tomatoes ready to roll!

Spinach and Tomatoes ready to roll!

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook pasta until tender but not mushy.  While pasta cooks, drizzle a bit of olive oil in a skillet and saute onion.  When onion is tender add garlic and cook one minute.  Add spinach, tomatoes, and a pinch of salt & pepper.  Saute 1-2 minutes, and then turn heat off.

Sauteed veggies.  Note that I have not cooked these things to a pulp.  For a fresh burst of flavor, they just need a little heat for a minute or two.

Veggies in the pan for a quick sauté.  Note that I have not cooked these things to a pulp. For a fresh burst of flavor, they just need a little heat for a minute or two.

Drain pasta and toss with veggies and feta.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  Serve by itself or with a protein or salad.

This worked well as a side dish for Asian-Inspired Pork Loin (or is the pork the side dish?), but it's also great just by itself.

This worked well as a side dish for Asian-Inspired Pork Loin (or is the pork the side dish?), but it’s also great just by itself.

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Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta

I’ve never been a fan of grits.  I think it’s one of those things you have to grow up eating to appreciate.  But I love polenta.  This doesn’t really make sense because they are basically the same thing.  And yet, it’s true.  I don’t know if it’s the way it’s cooked, or the way it’s presented or if it’s just in my head.  I suppose in the end it doesn’t really matter.  In any case, this post is about polenta.  Which is wonderful.  Especially when you mix cream cheese and butter into it.  If you are on a gluten-free diet, or just wanting something different from rice or potatoes to smother with something, eat this.  You can thank me later.

Topping off the polenta is a delicious mushroom and sausage concoction.  Together it was heaven on a plate.  When I first showed this recipe to my daughter Claire she was suspicious of the whole thing.  It didn’t look like much.  But in the end, she made the loudest yummy noises of all.  This disappeared in record time but it will definitely be making a reappearance in our kitchen very soon!

Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta

Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta

Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta
(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces hot Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 – 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup uncooked polenta
4 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon butter

To make polenta, bring broth and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add polenta, stirring well. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 15-20 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, cream cheese, and butter.

Meanwhile, eat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Remove sausage from casings. Add sausage to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms; sauté 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in sausage, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium; simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.  Serve over polenta.

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Quinoa-Stuffed Portobellas

What do you make when you have one dinner guest who’s a vegetarian and one who’s watching the carbs?  It’s a challenge, but not insurmountable.  For this meal I combined these stuffed mushrooms with a big Harvest Salad.  I love portobellos, and they are perfect for stuffing with whatever strikes your fancy.  I gave these a little Greek spin with some feta and kalamata olives and if I do say so myself, they turned out great!  If you’re going “no carb” instead of low carb, add more veggies and ditch the quinoa.

Quinoa-Stuffed Portobella

Quinoa-Stuffed Portobellos

6 portobello mushroom caps
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups spinach
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup feta cheese
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup chopped basil

Cook quinoa according to package directions.  Preheat oven to 375˚.  Remove stems from mushrooms.  Turn upside down on lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  In a little more olive oil, saute onions and garlic until soft.  Add spinach right at the end and saute a minute or so until wilted.  In a bowl combine quinoa, onion and spinach mixture, olives and tomatoes.  Season with salt & pepper.  Scoop into mushrooms.  Top with feta and basil.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

Quinoa-Stuffed Portobellos, ready to pop in the oven.

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Baked Eggs with Tomato & Feta

Breakfast is one of my favorite things and among breakfast things to eat, eggs are tops (second only to hash browns…maybe).  Nobody was more thrilled to watch the health news evolving again from “eggs are evil and will kill you” back to “eggs are good for you.”  I eat them almost every day.  And why not?  They are quick to cook, full of protein and delicious to boot.  Plus you can combine them with almost anything.

I just knew when I bought my little ramekins that I would find many fun things to do with them.  And I was right!  You don’t necessarily have to use ramekins for this, but I like the individual servings and they cook up perfectly (and quickly) in a small dish like this.

Eggs baked with tomatoes, feta and spinach. Yum!

Baked Eggs with Tomato & Feta

1-2 eggs per serving
Tomato, sliced or chopped
Fresh baby spinach
Crumbled feta cheese
Salt & pepper

Spray your ramekin with cooking spray.  Put a slice of tomato (or chopped tomatoes) in the bottom.  Cover that with a little bunch of spinach.  Sprinkle in some salt & pepper.  Break eggs over the veggies.  Top with chopped tomato and feta.  A little more salt & pepper on top and you are ready to bake.

Ready to go in the oven. There is spinach and tomatoes under there somewhere.

Bake at 375˚ for about 15-20 minutes until egg whites are white and yolks are done as much as you like.  Start checking after about 10 minutes so you don’t overcook them if you like them yolky.

 

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Chicken Curry with Onion and Tomato

Every once in awhile you get a craving for a specific restaurant dish and wish you could make it at home.  I get a hankering like that for Indian food all the time.

Last night I made some Chicken Curry that tasted like I had ordered it and had it brought to my table, fresh from the hard-working hands of a team of real life Indian folks in the back kitchen.  And complete with a bill of $12.95 (each!) at the end of dinner.  Except mine costs less than that for the whole darn batch and I got to eat it  in my living room.

One of the great things about this particular curry is that, although it tastes very authentic, it doesn’t require any terribly unusual ingredients.  If you haven’t cooked Indian food before you may have to pick up one or two spices, but they can be found at the grocery store in most cases. And once you have them on hand, you have no excuse not to make Indian food any ole time you’re in the mood for it.

For all you veggie-haters out there (you know who you are), you’ll love this one because all of the veggies (except the mushrooms, which you can leave out) are pureed smooth, creating this yummy sauce.  You won’t even know they’re there.

Chicken Curry with Onion and Tomato

Chicken Curry with Onion and Tomato
(adapted from Indian Home Cooking, by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness)

4 chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
3/4 tsp. turmeric
3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt
1 large onion, roughly diced
5 garlic cloves
A 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into a few pieces
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 cinnamon stick (about a 2 inch piece)
12 green cardamom pods (find in the Asian section of the grocery store)
9 whole cloves
9 black peppercorns
2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 cup water
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lemon
Rice

To cook the rice, bring a pot of salted water to boil.  Add the rice you want (I use 1-2 cups for a batch) and boil for 8 minutes.  Drain the water, put a lid on it and set aside until you are ready to eat.  It will be perfect, with the grains separate, every time!

Combine the chicken, 1/2 tsp. of turmeric, 1/2 tsp. of cayenne and a pinch of salt in a bowl.  Stir to coat the chicken and set aside while you make the sauce.

In a food processor or blender, finely mince the onion, garlic and ginger.  Set aside.

Combine 2 tbsp. oil, the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring, until the cinnamon unfurls, 1-2 minutes.  Add the minced onion mixture and 1 tsp. salt.  Cook, stirring, until onion starts to brown around the edges, about 10 minutes.

Remove and discard cinnamon and stir in the remaining 1/4 tsp. turmeric and 1/4 tsp. cayenne.  Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Set aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tbsp. oil in the same pan over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.  Add the yogurt, 1 tbsp. at a time and stir well after each addition.  Cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes.  Add the mushrooms and stir to combine.

Add the pureed tomato mixture and bring to a boil.  Stir in the water.  Return to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the chicken is cooked through, 20-30 minutes.  Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Then uncover and cook a few minutes more to reduce and thicken the sauce.  Stir in cilantro and lemon juice.  Taste for salt and serve hot over rice.  Serves 4.

 

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