Orecchiette Salad

My Food Network Magazine subscription has paid for itself 10 times over. I have gotten so many wonderful ideas from each month’s pages… last night’s dinner was no exception. The recipe came from the April 2010 mag.

I was on my own for dinner last night. I had been looking through recipes on my lunch hour and decided on making the Orecchiette Salad with Roast Beef. I stopped at the store for some ingredients before heading home from work.

The Ingredients:

8 ounces orecchiette pasta (little flying saucer-shaped discs)
1 cup bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), halved
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
8 small sweet marinated peppers, quartered
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or basil (I used mint since I already had it)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 cups baby arugula
6 ounces of deli-sliced roast beef – cut into strips
Kosher salt and ground pepper

The above is for 4 servings – I cut it in 1/2 and have lunch for today.
Per Serving: Calories 500, Fat 22 grams, Sodium 548 mg, Carbs 51 g, Fiber 3 g, Protein 26 g.

I got the pot of boiling water started while doing my “ingredients” photo shoot. It was second nature for me to rip into the pasta package once the salted water came to a roaring boil…WHOOPS! Hadn’t gotten a good photo at that point, so I had to tape the back of the ripped package, LOL.

I’m an orecchiette pasta newbie – hadn’t ever cooked that shape before. There was definitely some hooking up going on in the pot. They all wanted to be up inside each other. 😉

While the pasta was cooking, I combined the bocconcini, artichokes, marinated peppers and mint in a serving bowl.

I was pretty much ready to eat straight from that bowl. I then added the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste… then I gave it a good toss. I kept tasting the flying saucer noodles and each time determined that they needed more play time in the pot. Wink, wink!

Once the noodles were FINALLY ready… I drained them and set them aside. Do not rinse the pasta…very important.

The next step was to add them to the mixing bowl to toss again.  The last step is to add the sliced roast beef and the arugula and yep…you guessed it – toss again… and if you are crazy like me… plate, photograph and then you can EAT! Hah!

We’ve been having some pretty incredible weather lately. I ended up sitting outside eating my salad while Higgy played. The neighbors probably think I’m crazy. 27 photographs, 5 different locations… then the girl finally sits down to eat – on a different plate… every night. Gotta love having a 2 story house right behind us, ugh!

I later found myself  in front of the TV watching Top Chef Masters. They were cooking some pretty exotic/scary stuff – even I’m not brave enough for that. Black chicken, monkfish liver, sea cucumber, duck tongue, kangaroo, goat, geoduck and other exotic surf and turf. I preferred the show’s Simpsons cartoon Quickfire Challenge – The chefs had to create dishes inspired by a Simpsons character. Donuts, grilled cheese, pasta, sloppy d’ohs …way more my thing. I did not know that Lisa Simpson became a vegetarian in season 7.

While I don’t think I could be a full-time vegetarian, I definitely could do it 4-5 days a week. Sometimes I just gotta have a burger or like tonight… roast beef.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Permanent link to this article: http://foodiddy.com/?p=170

Grilled Baby Bok Choy

When I started getting back into cooking over the past year, I made a promise to myself to try new things. I found myself cruising through the produce section of the grocery store – skipping huge sections – stopping only at my favorites.

Fennel? How the heck do you use that?

Brussels Sprouts… oh yah, the things Dad hated…

Leeks? Turnips? Bok Choy? Parsnips?

It was then that I started thinking… I got this! They are vegetables… not scary math problems. Worst case scenario, I don’t like them… at least I can check them off the list.

Last weekend I decided to grab baby bok choy. I have a new obsession with rice noodles, so I thought I could just do a little stir fry to make a homemade noodle bowl. I grabbed a few of them and off I went.

I got home to find the June/July Everyday w/Rachael Ray Magazine in my mail box. As I flipped through the pages, I came to the “50 on a Stick” article filled with pictures of grilled delights. The second page had Prosciutto-Studded Baby Bok Choy and it looked delicious. I had all of the ingredients except the prosciutto… so I put it on the list for the week.

The Ingredients:

4 Baby Bok Choy
2 Cloves of Garlic
3 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Ounces of Thinly Sliced Prosciutto
Salt and Pepper

The first step was to give the bok choy a good cleaning – similar to the leeks…

It’s really important to get between the leaves and to pat them dry after a good washing…

You then want to cut the bok choy lengthwise – double-check to make sure they are clean between the leaves.

In a bowl, season 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with 2 crushed garlic cloves. Next time I will probably use less oil.

Cut the 3 ounces of thinly sliced prosciutto into ribbons and stuff between the leaves of the bok choy.

This was actually pretty easy…I ended up using kitchen scissors to get a better cut on the prosciutto, it was sticking to my knife too much.

The next step of the recipe called for you to skewer the bok choy. I decided to use a grill pan on the stove instead of the outdoor grill. I skipped the skewer step and went to the next. I brushed both sides of the baby bok choy with the garlic oil and then seasoned them with salt and ground pepper.

It was at this point that the batteries in my camera died… I got the camera battery into the charger (oily fingers and all) and waited 10 minutes – perfect to start the clean-up process.

I also got the grill pan heated on the stove – I set it on high.

With Dan’s help – I put the bok choy onto the grill (prosciutto stuffed face down) – they sparked and sizzled like the 4th of July… it was a little crazy, but it smelled awesome!

They took about 6 minutes – the recipe suggested 8.  The pan was pretty smokin’ hot. The idea is to grill them on one side for the majority of the time and then flip once at the end to get the back side.

You want them to be crispy, yet tender.

They were delicious! The perfect vegetable side to any dish… I actually ate them as my main course. Dan tried them and thought they were a little too oily. Next time I might try an olive oil spray instead of using a brush. I actually already have some garlic infused olive oil spray. Since I didn’t cook all of the bok choy, I’ll use that for next time.

I could not stop taking photos…they were so pretty and vibrant in color.

Happy grilling… bok… bok…

Permanent link to this article: http://foodiddy.com/?p=151

Watermelon salad with a side of memory lane…

Watermelon 101 – Did you know that watermelon rinds are edible and sometimes used as a vegetable? In China they are stir-fried…they remove the skin and cook it in olive oil, garlic, chili peppers, scallions, sugar and rum… they also pickle the rind. Interesting!

My grandmother Nonnie was the queen of Thanksgiving olive and pickle dishes. She always included pickled watermelon rind. I have to say, I was not a big fan. I was more a fan of my cousin Kim putting olives on all of her fingers during our fancy dinners and the mandarin oranges the kids had in lieu of shrimp cocktail. What was I thinking? Sugared mini mandarins instead of yummy shrimp and cocktail sauce? My how my palate has changed.

Some of my best Thanksgiving memories were helping Mom and Dad fill the shrimp chillers with crushed ice from the ice crusher machine. Hey…it was the 70’s – we didn’t have built-in ice crushing capabilities in our avocado colored fridge.

Enough wandering down memory lane. Let’s get back to watermelon…

I’ve had grilled watermelon and it actually tasted pretty good. The hostess coated it in olive oil and cracked pepper and threw it on the grill. She then served it with a raspberry vinaigrette and crumbled blue cheese.

I also had the pleasure of trying an awesome watermelon salad that my brother and his family brought to my Dad’s birthday party a few years back. At first I was a little hesitant, but after having sampled the grilled watermelon, I was up for trying something new. It turned out to be the hit of the party. I’m pretty sure all of the guests have served it at least once since the party. I know I have.

The Ingredients:

Watermelon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Feta Cheese
Fresh Mint
Onion
Salt and Pepper

I ended up using a super small portion from a wedge of the watermelon I had left over from the Mother’s Day Fruit Salad.

I used my pampered chef 1 Tablespoon cookie scoop – birthday hint #2 – I could use a melon baller. The tablespoon was way too big, but I wanted things to look pretty. I wanted balls, dammit!

In a small bowl, I combined a few drops of olive oil – about a tablespoon of balsamic and a handful of thinly sliced white onion, salt and pepper. I julienned some mint leaves and then added those to the mix. I whisked things around and then placed my whopper melon balls into the bowl for a good coating. I then got out my girlie dessert dishes and started creating my masterpiece of a salad. I topped the melon and onion combo with crumbled feta cheese. I then drizzled more balsamic from the bowl and added mint for garnish. Yes, I did all of this for myself. Me, myself and I. This is definitely not a dish for Dan.

I looked online to see if I could find a similar recipe, so you could have the exact measurements for a party sized portion.  I found a Paula Deen recipe for Watermelon Salad with Mint Leaves – it was close. The only difference being that she used red wine vinegar instead of balsamic – I liked the added sweetness of the balsamic.

So there you have it. A perfect summer salad – if you haven’t tried the combo, I think you should!

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