Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spicy Skillet Red Snapper with Tomatoes, Olives & Garlic

This is one of those meals that has it all. Healthy, elegant, flavorful and super fast makes it a hard weeknight meal to beat. And since everything's cooked in a single skillet, you’ll have dinner on the table in about twenty minutes.

Oh, and it’s tasty and so very good as leftovers over a mound of creamy mashed potatoes for lunch.

Though Jesse and I loved this meal I admit, the kiddo didn’t like it at all. In fact she refused to taste it period, but she’s nine. She doesn’t like much of anything right now. Except Ding Dongs, Doritos and Spaghettios.

You know the kinds of foods kids like. (Or maybe just my kid.) Basically anything that comes straight out of a pretty box with plenty of unpronounceable ingredients.

If your child is a perfect eater please don’t tell me. I’ll just feel guilty that I fed Clara spaghetti when she refused to eat the fish, tomatoes and olives. Which of course was the entire thing. Someday, she’ll like these beautiful dishes. Right? Please tell me she will. I need this disillusioned security in my life.

When do children start enjoying fresh healthy foods anyway? Let me guess, when they have kids of their own!

Spicy Skillet Red Snapper with Tomatoes, Olives & Garlic
Printer Version
Twenty minutes to dinner! Seriously, I need more meals like this in my life.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 to 1 1/2 pounds red snapper
Salt & pepper
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 cup Greek Green Pitted Hot Pepper Olives, chopped (Look in your local grocery store olive bar)
4 cloves garlic, minced

1. Rinse the red snapper in cool water. Pat dry. Season with salt and pepper.

2. In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Carefully slide in the fish. Do this in batches if you need. Cook about 3 minutes per side until fish is cooked through.

3. Turn off the heat. Leaving the oil in the skillet, move fish to a plate and set aside.

4. Over medium heat cook the tomatoes, chopped olives and minced garlic together until tomatoes start to shrivel. Be careful, tomatoes can pop and explode if too hot! Turn down the heat if needed.

5. Slide fish back into the skillet. Cook until warmed through. Plate and serve.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fried Cauliflower Wraps with Lemon Garlic Mayo

I had no idea fried cauliflower could ever make a fantastic sandwich. Ok honestly, I had no idea cauliflower would go well in a sandwich at all.

Ah, but now I know, and my life (or taste buds) have changed for the better. Though now I want one of these babies all the time and I’m not sure how healthy all that fried cauliflower will be in the long run.

Crusing through New York’s own Serious Eats a few weeks back I came across a fried cauliflower sandwich from Rainbow Falafel & Shawarm. They thought it deserved some love and so did I, but with no recipe provided, I had to make up one of my own.

The fried cauliflower part comes from Food.com. The rest I threw together as a compliment for those tasty tender breaded veggies. Rainbow Falafel & Shawarm uses a tahini sauce on their sandwiches, but I thought lemon-garlic would go well here.

Fried Cauliflower Wraps with Lemon Garlic Mayo
4 to 5 large tortillas or pitas of choice
Fried cauliflower, recipe below
Lemon Garlic Mayonnaise, recipe below
Iceberg lettuce, shredded
Tomato slices
Onion slivers
Salt & pepper

Warm the tortillas in the microwave between two napkins. Place one tortilla on a plate and top with cauliflower, lettuce, tomato slices, onion slivers, salt and pepper. Drizzle with the mayo. Fold up bottom and roll into a burrito. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Lemon Garlic Mayonnaise
1 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced well
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

Mix all the ingredients together. Chill until ready to use.

eep Fried Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, washed and broken into bite-size florets
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 dash cayenne pepper (use more if you like spicy stuff)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Oil (for deep frying)

1. Preheat fryer oil to 375.

2. Place the beaten eggs, milk and salt in a shallow bowl (or a large baggie).

3. In a separate shallow bowl (or another large baggie), mix together flour, cheese, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, paprika, cayenne, and pepper.

4. Place florets into egg mixture and toss (or shake baggie) to coat well.

5. Remove and place into flour mixture and toss (or shake baggie) to coat well.

6. Fry in batches for 4 - 6 minutes or until golden brown.

7. Drain on paper towels and lightly salt.

Deep Fried Cauliflower recipe by Margie99 from Food.com. Lemon Garlic Mayonnaise, pita recipe and photographs by Laura Flowers.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Asparagus Potato Soup

What a great vacation and Austin is the best town ever! Even though Jesse and I didn’t have access to the SXSW classes, we were able to enjoy free music played on streets and in bars. Texans as always, are friendly and fun and we partied liked two kids at Disneyland. I’m still detoxing from all those freshly squeezed margaritas I developed a fondness for.

It's a bit sad to be back in cold Coeur d’Alene, but nice to hang out with my parents for another week while I finish this real estate course. Then finally, I go home to Moscow Friday evening. For a while at least. Why did Julie talk me into this again? I’ve been living out of a suitcase for four of the past six weeks. Oh, because it’s good for me.

I’m trading fresh green summer salads and grilled Tex-Mex for steamy soup to fight this chilly rain and sleet. Outside my bedroom window the forest floor is still blanketed with snow, and I’m already missing the warm Texas weather.

So for now, soup will be my comfort. Light, fresh, healthy asparagus soup. Trading out the standard cream for potatoes, I lightened up the calorie load and packed in more nutrients, creating a soup that’s both good and good for you too.

Spring Asparagus Potato Soup

Printer Version
Fines herbs is a mixture of several different fragrant green herbs. If you won't use it often, for under a nickel you can usually buy the amount you’ll need in the bulk section.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed and diced
1 pound baking potatoes, peeled and diced small
2 (14.5) ounce cans veggie or chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fines herbs
Dash of cayenne pepper
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

1. Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the onions and sweat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and potatoes and cook for another 5 minutes until the asparagus is cooked through.

2. Add the broth, salt, herbs, cayenne and black pepper. Simmer until the potatoes are tender. About 10 minutes.

3. In a blender or food processor, puree the soup in batches. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil if desired.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Meyer Lemon Bars & No, I'm Not a Little Jealous

SXSW is going on down here in Austin. That means thousands of artists, writers, film people, musicians and foodies of all types are here learning like crazy.

Except me. I’m here without one of those thousand plus dollar tickets.

Ah, but that’s fine for this year. I’m enjoying it all vicariously for free through the local newspaper and bands playing in bars and on sidewalks. I have to admit, I’m a touch jealous. Alright, I'm insanely jealous. There are some very cool food blogger topics I don’t get to be a part of. Plus, there’s a secret dinner in a secret location with secret chefs I'm dying to go to.

No dice. Not this year. However, as tickets are way cheaper ahead of time I’ll be in the middle of the action next year, absorbing into my brain everything there is to learn.

Instead, I’m on vacation and I love Austin. Fresh amazing food, cool city and lots of art type people who play outside all the time. It feels like I fit right in for a change. At home I’m sort of the foodie-artist-photographer-oddball.

Maybe I was Texan in a past life.

These lemon bars come from the talented multitasker medical student by day, amazing cook by night Joanne from Eats Well With Others. She adapted them from Smitten Kitchen. I didn’t adapt them at all. They were thick and luscious without my help.

Unfortunately they were so thick and lemony and luscious, I had to hide the batch in my refrigerator behind bottles of beer and hot sauce. Refusing to eat the pan by myself, I repeated over and over, “There are no lemon bars in the fridge”.

It didn’t work. However, I did leave town before they were gone. So in a way, I won.

Meyer Lemon Bars
Printer Version
Remember to bake the crust first. I nearly screwed up that part. Of course, I also had a lot of packing on my mind. I'm sure you'll do better than me and read the instructions first. Right?

For the crust:
1/2 lb butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 tsp kosher salt

For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp Meyer lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice)
1 cup flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.

2. For the crust, cream together the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter and beat just until mixed. Put the dough on a well-floured board and form into a ball. With floured hands, flatten the dough into the baking pan. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.

3. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes or until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack.

4. For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until set. Let cool to room temperature. Cut into squares or triangles. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Makes 24 bars.

Recipe via Joanne from Eats Well With Others. Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Flax Seed Vegan Cornbread

I'm packing for one week of happy warm sun and one week of freezing miserable rainy cold. Austin, Texas for vacation then back to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to finish that too long real estate course.

Well, I’m supposed to be packing. Instead, I’m thinking sad thoughts as I sit here with a cup of steamy fragrant Japanese tea. Poor Japan, my heart goes out to them. I can’t even imagine an 8.9 magnitude earthquake. I think back to my college geology courses and remember how many thousands of times more powerful an 8.9 quake would be than anything I can comprehend.

My cousin Shea, on her way to Taipei is at the Hokkaido airport right now. They were diverted from landing in Tokyo and ended up sitting for 9 hours in a parked airplane. She’s safe and probably bored out of her mind, but what a surreal experience for a 22-year-old.

Some time ago, I realized we really are a sum of its parts. Connected to each other by our planet. Never truly separated. Global took on a more personal meaning and I became more empathetic.

Maybe this new generation is smarter than mine, more aware of this concept. Take for instance this cornbread. Created by 11-year-old Dana Sly, who wants to eat vegan! When I was eleven I was riding my bike all over town and wondering if dinner would be at McDonald’s. I think the only cooking I did back then, was warming a package of Ramen Noodle Soup on the stove. Which I also happened to survive on during college.

Maybe I’m finally getting smarter myself, more caring, but if I am it’s because I’m learning from intelligent kids, blogger friends from all over the world, and more information to be had then ever via the internet. All to be absorbed and questioned piece-by-piece.

For now, I’ll shake my head in awe and keep on learning.

Flax Seed Vegan Cornbread
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Flax seed, used as a substitute for egg, gives this cornbread a nice nutty flavor. I liked it quite well.

2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
6 tablespoons water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup soymilk (I used almond milk)
1/4 cup canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 425°F Spray 8-inch-square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the ground flax seed; reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer the ground flax seed in the water for 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well-combined. Add the ground flax seed mixture, soy milk, and canola oil to the flour mixture. Beat just until smooth (do not overbeat.)

4. Turn into prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes; invert cornbread onto wire rack, then turn right side up and continue to cool until warm, about 10 minutes longer.

Recipe created by Dana Sly. Found on Food.com. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spicy Smoky Red Beans and Garlic Brown Rice, Vegetarian Style

Just because I’m in the middle of freezing cold Idaho doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate Mardi Gras. Well, ok it does. Though I can still enjoy a big bowl of healthy red beans and rice at home.

I don’t think you’ll miss the ham hocks in this recipe. It’s beautifully smoky without it, with lots of spice and flavor.

Spicy Smoky Red Beans and Garlic Brown Rice, Vegetarian Style
Printer Version Both Recipes
I used canned beans. If you prefer, soak 1 pound of dry red kidney beans over night in a large pot of water. Strain and rinse before using. At the end of cooking time, you’ll need a food processor or blender to puree part of the beans.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 to 5 ribs celery, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from a small can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 to 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped very fine (two will be spicy)
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (found in the spice aisle)
12 ounce Corona Beer (Or other similar style beer)
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
2 to 3 bay leaves (3 if small)
4 (15.25 ounce) cans red kidney beans, strained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, to taste
Cooked rice, recipe below

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper. Cook until vegetables are softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.

2. Add the adobo sauce, chopped chipotle peppers, thyme, oregano, cumin and liquid smoke. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the beer, Tabasco sauce, bay leaves and kidney beans. Bring to a simmer, lower heat to continue to simmer and cook for 45 minutes.

3. Add the pepper and salt. Puree 1 heaping cup of the bean mixture and return it to the pot. Stir and serve beans over rice.

Garlic Brown Rice
This recipe is written for a rice cooker. I prefer a fuzzy logic type myself. They make the best brown rice ever.
You'll only get about four servings out of this, so feel free to double the recipe if you need.

1 ½ cups brown rice (or 2 rice cooker cups)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or soy butter for Vegan
Scant 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder

1. Place the rice in a rice cooker bowl and cover with water and stir. Pour off most of the water into the sink leaving the rice in the bowl. Repeat two more times. This cleans the rice.

2. Fill bowl with water to the two cup brown rice mark. Add the butter, salt, garlic powder and onion powder. Place the bowl in the slow cooker and select brown rice if you have the option. Set aside for the casserole.

Recipes and picture by Laura Flowers.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cooked Italian Style Pizza Sauce, Chunky Style

This pizza sauce is a true opposite to my super speedy go-to American pizza house recipe. It’s deeply rich with tomato flavor from cooking on the stove for an hour, with lots of small soft tomato chunks for texture.

It works particularly well with many Italian style pies, or as a topping for deep dish Chicago pizzas.

Cooked Italian Style Pizza Sauce, Chunky Style
Printer Version
Although easy and inexpensive, this sauce cooks for a full hour on the stove. Make sure you plan ahead.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes in rich juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper

1. In a medium size saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat and sauté the garlic for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the tomatoes with their juice, salt, sugar and some freshly cracked black pepper.

2. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook uncovered over medium to medium-low. Stir occasionally and simmer until all juices have evaporated, the tomatoes have broken up and the sauce thickens. About 1 hour. During the last 10 minutes of cooking time, break the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon.

Optional: For a smooth sauce, skip breaking up the tomatoes. At the end of cooking time puree the sauce with a food processor or food mill.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of sauce.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pesto Pasta Salad with Peas, Pine Nuts & Pecorino Romano

Try to say the title of this one ten times!

Is it spring yet? It’s got to be close, because everything I’ve made or photographed lately has been green. Or maybe I just have a nasty case of spring fever. I’m emotionally done with winter and ready to start riding my bike again.

Too bad Mother Nature has other plans. There’s still heaps of snow over our frozen ground.

So I'll just keep thinking green instead. This cold pasta salad is based off an older Ina Garten recipe. I’ve switched it up a bit, as I couldn’t bring myself to add a whole cup-and-a-half of mayo to a weeknight dinner idea. I also liked Pecorino Romano quite a bit better than Parmesan here, but you can always switch out the cheese for your preferences.

We enjoyed this dish as an easy weeknight meal with toasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with jarred bruschetta, but it would also be good as a side to sandwiches, meats or even as something to bring for a potluck.

Pesto Pasta Salad with Peas, Pine Nuts & Pecorino Romano
Printer Version
Fresh and green, this pasta salad is ready for spring.

3/4 pound fusilli pasta (in the bulk section)
3/4 pound bow tie pasta (in the bulk section)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cups pesto, store bought or homemade
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup good mayonnaise
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Ramano
1 1/2 cups frozen petite peas, defrosted
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large heavily salted pot of water to a boil. Add the fusilli and cook for 2 minutes. Add the bow ties to the water and cook until both pastas are al dente. About 8 to 10 minutes total, but taste for doneness. Strain and rinse gently with cold water. Toss with olive oil and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, cook the spinach in the microwave according to package directions. Strain into a colander, rinse with cold water and press out the liquid with the back of a spoon. Set aside.

3. Place the pine nuts on a microwave safe plate. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Toss and repeat until toasted, about 1 minute total.

4. In a very large bowl, stir together pesto, spinach, lemon juice, mayonnaise, salt and black pepper. Add pasta, pine nuts, peas, and Pecorino Romano and toss together until the pasta is coated. Serve immediately, or chill until ready to use.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers. Recipe based off an Ina Garten recipe from 2001.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Blackberry Creme Brulee with Brown Sugar Sauce

Best crème brûlée ever.

When I die, please bury me in a giant vat of this amazingly perfect custard. It’s so incredible, it made crème brûlée hating Dishboy Scott moan and proclaim it to be about the best thing he’s ever put in his mouth.

It’s that good. It’s so good my husband Jesse, who could care less about dessert, inhaled half the batch in less than 24 hours.

Make this custard and you’ll thank me again and again. In fact, skip dinner and eat this instead. Why bother with dinner at all when there could possibly be such a perfect dessert in your life?

Blackberry Crème Brûlée with Brown Sugar Sauce
Printer Version
Like magic, brown sugar makes it’s own sauce on the bottom of each ramekin.

Special tools you’ll need are 8 four-ounce ramekins, a fine mesh sieve (strainer) and a torch of some kind. I use Jesse’s shop propane torch (more fire=more fun), but you can buy a little brûlée torch at most fancy kitchen stores.

2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch of Salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 1 cup or so fresh or frozen blackberries
8 teaspoons dark brown sugar, divided
Sugar for brûlée

1. Place 8 four-ounce ramekins in a metal 9x13-inch pan. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and set a kettle of water to boil.

2. Place the heavy cream in a 3 quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat stirring often until just the point of boiling. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl whisk together egg yolks, 2/3 cup sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Whisking the entire time, slowly pour about 1 cup of the hot heavy cream into the egg mixture. Then pour the egg mixture into the heavy cream while whisking.

4. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large clean bowl. Place 1 teaspoon brown sugar into each ramekin. Place blackberries over brown sugar so they are nearly touching, but not packed. Slowly ladle cream mixture evenly into the ramekins, scraping all of it out of the bowl with a spatula.

5. Pull the oven rack out about half way and place the pan on it. Pour the hot water into the pan until it’s about half way up the ramekins. Bake for 35 minutes. Custards should be mainly set around the edges, but the center will still be jiggly.

6. Carefully move the custards to a cooling rack. Once cool, move to the refrigerator and chill for at least four hours.

7. To Brûlée: Sprinkle custard tops with about a teaspoon of granulated sugar and torch with fire until deeply golden brown pulling back the torch as needed so the sugar doesn’t char.

Recipe and photographs by Laura Flowers.

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