Monday, September 29, 2008

Terrific Turkey Chili

The turkey chili I made on Friday night was, indeed, terrific ... this picture? Not so much. Unfortunately, the focus is on the cruet set, not the dish. Eh, you get the idea. The important thing is that the chili was magnificent. The husband proclaimed it the best chili ever and says he now prefers the use of the left-over roast turkey to the usual ground turkey breast. He thought the flavor was richer and more meaty than our usual variety. I like them both equally, but was delighted with the finished product. We both had seconds!

I used my standard turkey chili recipe and adjusted the technique somewhat to account for the already cooked turkey. You can certainly substitute ground turkey breast if you don't have any roast turkey on hand. In that case, I would add the ground turkey just after the vegetable have sauteed, allow it to brown and then proceed accordingly.

When making chili, I will often use a packaged spice mixture, such as Wick Fowler's 2 Alarm Chili Kit, pictured above. I don't use the recipe printed on the box, but find the little bags of spices very handy. They're fresh and the amounts included are enough to make more than one batch of chili - because I don't use the entire amount of spices included. I've certainly made chili without this kit - but its nice and easy to have everything at the ready. It really cuts down on the spice-search time. I don't know about you, but my spice cabinet overfloweth! Really, its out of control. I'll post a picture sometime and you'll see what I mean.

If you can't find, or don't want to use, this chili kit - go right ahead and use the spices in the amounts I've listed. The only change being the oregano-cumin mixture ... both spices are combined in this kit - so if you're not using it, just use a teaspoon of each, or to taste. Its all flexible.

Roasted Turkey Chili:

  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium to large onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • dash of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup of low-sodium chicken broth*
  • one 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • one 14.5 oz. can of DelMonte Petite Diced Tomatoes with Zesty Jalapeno
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. of the oregano-cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. of paprika
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tsp. of dried onion flakes
  • 1 tsp. of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups of skin-less, roasted turkey breast, chopped
  • one 15.5 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • dash or two of Tobasco or other hot sauce, to taste
Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat and add the onions, garlic, green peppers and a dash or two of the crushed red pepper flakes. Saute for 3 or 4 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Add the chicken broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes with jalapeno and stir to combine.

Add the chili powder, oregano-cumin powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, onion flakes and cocoa powder and stir well to combine. When the mixture begins to thicken slightly, add the cooked turkey and the black beans. Let the mixture come to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover, and allow the chili to simmer for at least 30 minutes or longer so the flavors will meld, stirring occasionally. At this point, the chili can cook/simmer for as long as you like. You really can't over-cook it. Have some additional chicken broth on hand to add if necessary.

After it has simmered for awhile, taste for seasoning and adjust - adding more of anything you wish as needed. I will often add some extra cayenne, chili powder and hot sauce to amp up the heat. At this point I would also add some Kosher salt and a grinding of fresh black pepper as well. When it tastes delicious, as it most certainly will, its done. Serve and enjoy!

I like to serve the chili over brown rice that I've cooked in non-fat chicken broth topped with any and all of the following ...


  • 1/2 of a small red onion, diced
  • shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • non-fat sour cream
  • chopped fresh parsley - flat leaf only, please
Cilantro would make a wonderful garnish as well, but for some reason I prefer the bite of fresh parsley as a foil for the spicy chili. If you're not on The Beach, you certainly couldn't go wrong with some crushed tortilla chips as a topper as well. Live it up!

* Typically, I like to use a mixture of chicken broth and beer ... but we were out of beer on Friday night. If I'd had some I would have used 1/2 cup of chicken broth and 1/2 cup of beer - lager style, not a dark beer. Hopefully you'll have some in your fridge, because the beer is a nice touch and really enhances the chili. As written this will serve 4 to 6. We certainly had plenty left over ... guess what's for dinner tonight?

Bon appetite!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Meme and Menu Musings ...

Its a dreary day here in the city. Rain soaked and wind swept, and what I want to do is spend the day in my pajamas, curled up with a good book. What I need to do is figure out what to do with the remainder of that monster turkey breast taking up space in my fridge. My first instinct would be to make a yummy pot-pie, but the necessary double crust is none too Beachy - so that's out. I'm not a great fan of turkey soup, so that's a no-go as well. I'm thinking chili. What could be more welcoming that a piping hot bowl of spicy, savory chili topped with the sharpest cheddar imaginable and oozing with rivulets of melting sour cream? (Non-fat, of course!)

I think I'm sold! Unfortunately, this will necessitate some hunting and foraging on my part ... which will necessitate a clothing change. While I may be prone to wearing the kitten ears from time to time, I've never shopped in my pjs ... and I'm not about to start now.

While I'm out battling both the crowds and the elements, do peruse this meme that Scarlet tagged me with last week. I'm winging it in terms of creating the chili, so stayed tuned for a full report and the resulting recipe on Monday.

Four Times Meme:

Instructions: Copy/paste the meme into your blog, type in your answers and tag four people on your lists! Don't forget to change my answers to your own.

(A) Four places I go over and over: my office, the pool, Sephora, various supermarkets.

(B) Four people who e-mail me regularly: the husband, my mom, my sister in laws, Talbots!

(C) Four of my favorite places to eat: at home, Modern Apizza, Nice Matin, El Faro ... this list could go on and on, but I'm sticking to the rules.

(D) Four places you'd rather be: at the beach, in Paris, in bed, at a Rolling Stones concert.

(E) Four TV shows I could watch over and over: Project Runway, Top Chef, Tim Gunn's Guide to Style, Seinfeld.

(F) Four people I think will respond: Sass, Miss Caught Up, Jo Boston, Having It Girl.

Today's picture was taken at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens, at twilight last Thursday. It was a beautiful evening and the gardens themselves were magnificent. I hope to return in day light sometime.

Now, I'm not sure who will or will not respond - but those were the four names that came to mind. If you're not on the list, feel free to pick a few and answer in the comments. Curious Diva wants to know ... especially as relates to your four favorite places to eat!

Have a great weekend and make it Divalicious!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Left-over Magic ...

I'd like to begin this post with a small, yet entirely valid, opinion ... peeling sweet potatoes sucks. Period. Doesn't matter if they are raw or cooked, peeling them is a huge drag. Be that as it may, its a necessary evil ... and one that will lead to much culinary greatness in the recipe to follow.

I roasted a turkey breast on Tuesday night, for the sole purpose of having enough left-over to make the most outstanding sweet potato turkey hash. We did enjoy the roasted bird for dinner on Tuesday night, but last night's hash was the more interesting meal by far. A recipe from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave served as my inspiration for the dish. Though, as always, I've made a few changes - the main one being the addition of some red bell peppers. I can't imagine making this hash without them. I've also added some additional spices, because as Deb pointed out in the comments awhile back, some of her dishes are a bit under-seasoned for my taste.

Sweet Potato Turkey Hash:

  • 2 medium to large sweet potatoes, baked, peeled and diced
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 of a large red bell pepper, diced (1/2 to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups of roasted turkey breast, diced
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle chili powder, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. Bell's Poultry Seasoning, or to taste
  • a grating of fresh nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 large eggs, poached
Heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and red peppers to the skillet, along with some Kosher salt and ground black pepper, and saute until the vegetables begin to soften, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the thyme leaves from the stems and add to the pan, stirring to combine. (Hint do not drop the thyme stem into the pan ... because when you stick your hand in to fish it out and burn yourself for the fourth time this week, your husband will mock you.)

Add the sweet potatoes, turkey, chili powder, poultry seasoning and nutmeg to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until the potatoes begin to brown - about 5 to 6 minutes. (Hint number two: if you'd like to add the teeny-tiniest little bit of butter here, it probably won't kill you. I'm just saying ...) Flip the hash over as needed to facilitate the browning process. Add the broth to the pan, 1/4 cup at a time and continue to stir and flip to incorporate the liquid, adding a bit more if needed. Taste and adjust the seasonings adding more of anything you wish. When the hash is well browned, turn the pan to low and keep warm while you poach the eggs.

Serve the hash topped with some fresh eggs, poached to your liking and enjoy! This meal can certainly be enjoyed for breakfast, but there's something so cozy and altogether charming about having breakfast for dinner - its one of my favorite things. As written, this recipe will serve four. Don't forget to have some Tobasco or other kind of hot sauce on hand for at-table enhancement. It really adds a nice touch. I hope you'll try it!

So, tell me about your favorite breakfast for dinner meal. Hungry Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!

p.s. - the first picture was taken in Huntsville, Alabama's historic Twickenham District. Incidently, the home is currently for sale ... imagine all the eggs you could poach in that kitchen!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Dearth of Vegetables ...

As decadent as that BBQ lunch was on Friday, I must say that I did rather well diet-wise while away. Or, at least I did as well as can be expected. I love to travel, but part of me always wishes I could take my kitchen with me - or at least my fridge. Eating every meal out wears on one's sense of control and no matter how hard I try I can never seem to fit in all the vegetables I typically consume when dining at home.

Take for example, my lunch on Thursday. I had spent the morning walking around the NASA Space and Rocket Center located just behind our hotel. (Hence the picture of the Saturn rocket above.) Then returned to the hotel for a quick lunch before spending the rest of the afternoon poolside. I ordered a cup of white chicken chili and a side salad. While both were surprisingly good for hotel fare, the salad was minuscule. Honestly, it was so tiny it seemed like something more fit to be served in a doll house. I should have taken a picture of it. The last time I had a salad this small, we were dining at the now defunct March (of Wayne Nish fame) and the bill was heart-stoppingly large. Fortunately, my tiny little hotel lunch didn't set me back much ... but it didn't exactly fill me up either.

And dinner that night, such as it was, hardly served to improve my veggie content for the day. Invariably, when I return from a trip, I find myself craving a giant, fresh salad, packed to the rim with as many vegetables as I can find. I did make that salad and along with it I decided on an old and easy favorite: kielbasa stir-fry. Now, this meal isn't going to win any prizes for innovation or presentation to be sure. But it is tasty and full of fresh veggies. Its what I like to call a "charming cheat." Cheat as in I'm using a processed product, Hillshire Farm's Turkey Kielbasa, which is rather uncommon for me - yet perfect for a quick week night meal. We don't have it often, but its a treat when we do.

This meal will cook up quickly and you should feel free to use whatever vegetables and or spices you prefer. I consider the green peppers and zucchini a "must do," but your miliage may vary, of course. In pre-Beach times I would serve this over a mass of No Yolks noodles - and still do for the husband. For those on the Beach you can easily skip the noodles or use some form of whole wheat pasta instead. Lastly, the turkey kielbasa does contain a bit of sugar, so if you're being 100% strict take that into consideration and subsitute some other form of protein. I think its fine as an occaisional indulgence but, like most processed foods, would not recommend it for routine consumption.

Turkey Kielbasa Stir-Fry:

  • 1 pkg. Hillshire Farm's Turkey Kielbasa
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 of a large Vidalia onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium to large zucchini, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
  • crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. dried summer savory
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • some cooked whole wheat pasta or No Yolks noodles
Slice the kielbasa into 1/2 inch thick rounds and reserve.

Heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add the green peppers, onion and carrots and saute, stirring as necessary, until the peppers just begin to soften. Add the garlic and saute for one minute. Add the sliced kielbasa to the pan and let the mixture saute, stirring frequently, until the kielbasa begins to brown.

Add the sliced zucchini, crushed red pepper flakes, savory and oregano and stir to combine. Add in 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, reduce the heat to medium and let the mixture cook, stirring as needed until the zucchini begins to soften adding more chicken broth as needed or desired.

At this point, the amount of additional cooking time is up to you. If you like your zucchini on the crisp side, just give it a minute or two. If you prefer it to soften, continue cooking until it has reached the desired consistency. The same goes for the broth - add more if you'd like the stir-fry to be on the saucy side, less if you prefer it dry.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding some salt and freshly ground black pepper if desired. Serve the stir-fry over the pasta or noodles and garnish with the Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Here's the finished product. As written, this recipe will serve four - but amounts can easily be increased as needed. I hope you'll try it.

So, what's your favorite quick and easy "go to" dish? Hungry Diva wants to know!

Its a Love Thang ...

The charming and ever so lovely Scarlet of Jamjarsuperstar and Scarlet's Culture Garden has graced me with this really sweet award. Thank you so much, Scarlet, the feeling is mutual!

As with all awards there are certain rules to follow:

1. Link to the giver.

2. Nominate up to seven other fab blogs and link to them.

3. Leave messages announcing their rise to greatness. (Note - You may have been given this already, so that means you are a GREAT blogger.)

I would like to award this to the following fellow bloggers who are my daily reads no matter what and I genuinely enjoy their blogs. Here goes:

1. Scarlet - of Scarlet's Culture Garden (ok, this may be breaking the rules, but she has two blogs and I want to return some love to her.)

2. Sassy - of Life of Luxury

3. Miss Caught Up -of Caught Up In Life

4. Michele - of Life, Lightly Salted

Of course there are dozens of other blogs that I love and read daily - you know who you are - but I wanted to pass this one to some that I haven't previously tagged in some way.

Rest assured a new recipe is forthcoming soon. We're having a bit of a crazy day here in Divaland and I'm hoping to find the time to write. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Love at First Bite ...

Have you ever had a meal so delicious, so exactly right for the moment, that it spoiled you for an entire genre of food? I have. It happened last Friday. We arrived at Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q, in Decatur, AL, so hungry and exhausted I thought I might faint. The husband and I had spent the morning walking through Huntsville's historic Twickenham District and had worked up quite an appetite. Happily, Big Bob's delivered in a big way!

The menu options were all so enticing it was difficult to make a selection. We asked the waitress which dishes were the most popular and she suggested: the brisket, pork ribs and Big Bob's special BBQ baked potato. The husband went with the brisket and ribs combo and I opted for the baked potato with BBQ chicken ... which shocked the hell out of me when it arrived because it was the size of a football!

The potato came fully loaded with butter, sour cream, chives, bacon bits, shredded cheddar cheese and chopped BBQ chicken. I topped it off with Bob's Habanero BBQ sauce and let me tell you it was magnificent. The chicken was succulent, flavorful and oh so tender - and the sauce had just enough spice to really make things interesting. As you can see below, this potato was more than a meal in and of itself. It was stunningly good and no surprise that its wildly popular. Almost every table there ordered at least one potato.

As for the husband, he was rendered nearly comatose with joy by the deliciousness of his ribs/brisket combo. Simply put this is the best BBQ we've ever had. The ribs were meaty, falling-off-the-bone tender and, for a refreshing change, they actually tasted like pork. Magnificent, savory pork. They were not overly smoked or overly sweet - as is so often the case here with east coast versions of BBQ - and they were not greasy either. The bark on the ribs was dark and crisp while the meat inside was remarkably moist. I'm almost always disappointed when ordering ribs - but not this time. I was more than happy to help the husband work his way through the enormous plate.

Bob's brisket was just as good. It was fairly lean and absolutely fork tender, with a beautifully developed smoke ring on the outer edges. Again, the meat was not overly smoked or sauced, which allowed the rich, wholesome beef flavor to really shine. This is BBQ in the truest sense of the word - meaning rich, deep flavors that are brought to light by long, low, slow cooking. It in no way resembles the saucy, sweet mess that passes for BBQ here in the city. I may never be able to eat BBQ again, I've been spoiled by Bob's.

The combo platter came with a choice of sides and they are really besides the point. The husband chose the baked beans and potato salad - and they were fine, even good, but when the meat is this extraordinary - and the potatoes this decadent - who really cares about the sides?

Some of you may recognize Big Bob Gibson's from their many appearances on The Food Network. They've won dozens and dozens of awards for both their meat and their sauces - and the awards are well deserved. I was so enamored of the habanero sauce that I bought a few jars to take home ... and then foolishly packed them in my carry-on bag and had them confiscated by airport security. Liqiuds ... duh! Needless to say I'll be ordering some replacement sauce online later today. Ah, such fun to live in these post-terror times. Not.

Suffice it to say that this Diva was not on any diet while dining at Big Bob's - though I am in full repentance mode this week. Stay tuned for a new - and healthy - recipe tomorrow ... and if you're ever anywhere near Decatur, AL, do make a pilgramige to Bob's and get your feed bag on.

Bon appetite!

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Fond Farewell ...

As you may or may not know, last night marked the final home game at Yankee Stadium. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance ... sort of ... we were seated in the bleachers, much to my absolute horror. I haven't been relegated to the bleachers since the 1980s. It was the best they had to offer when I was fighting for tickets online last winter. Eh, we were lucky just to be in the building because this was the hottest ticket in town last night. Period.

I've been to more games at the stadium than I could even begin to count and last night was certainly the most emotional. Such a strange, almost subdued, feeling overhung the crowd. It was certainly a bittersweet event. So many glorious memories held in that building, such a rich and storied past. As difficult as it is to leave that all behind, there's no denying the fact that the venue itself is in decline and that the move to a new stadium is needed. I'm looking forward to it, but I'm also sad to say goodbye to this old field of dreams.

I snapped this photo as we arrived at the Yankee Stadium subway platform - I think it captures the wistful spirit of the night. Every person who got off that train stopped for a moment to drink in the sight of the stadium one last time.

In other news, the husband and I have just returned from a brief trip to Huntsville, Alabama. He was there for a business conference and I was riding shot-gun and soaking up the southern sun. This is why I've been separated from my stove.

We did have some tasty food while we were there and I will have a full report as soon as I unearth myself from the pile of virtual mail that accumulated while I was gone. Look for some Alabama photos and a mini-vacation food round up late tomorrow afternoon. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What's Wrong with This Picture?

This is a picture of my stove. It is neither clean nor being used. I'm having one of those weeks where life gets in the way of blogging ... and cooking. The reality is I won't be near my stove or keyboard again until the weekend. I just wanted to let you know I haven't broken up with my stove or dropped off the face of the earth. Rest assured, I'll have a full report come Monday afternoon ... and hopefully the stove and I will be reunited in due course. Stay tuned for more deliciousness next week.

In the meanwhile, have a look around at the archives if you're new ... and if you're not, take a spin through my newly expanded BlogRoll. I've added some great new links. Or come back and tell me what's cooking in your kitchen this week. Hungry and curious Diva wants to know!

Have a great rest of the week and I'll see you again on Monday.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Special Report: Missing Tacos

Have you see these tacos?

They were ordered for delivery from Fresco Tortilla on Saturday afternoon by the husband ... and they have yet to arrive. I wish I were kidding. I'm not.

For the first time in all the years we've lived here a food delivery failed us. The order never arrived. Strange too, because its not like it was a peak delivery time - and he has successfully received food from Fresco in the past. We called them back twice to inquire and both times were told: "they're on the way" ... which is delivery speak for "the check's in the mail." After more than an hour he gave up and went to our local deli for a sandwich. Sad.

Suffice it to say that Fresco Tortilla is off the list chez Diva. The menu has been discarded, their name never to be mentioned again. Sad.

I should note two things for the record: one, I was a good kitten and made myself a lovely salad for lunch that day. And, two, this photo is no way related to Fresco Tortilla. It was taken in San Luis, Colorado at Mrs. Rios' Restaurant. The husband has been cropped out of the picture and - though the image is really pretty terrible - I can assure you the food was outstanding. If you ever have occasion to find yourself in San Luis, CO, do yourself a favor and have a meal at Mrs. Rios. What it lacks in decor is made up for by far in the truly magnificent and authentic food. Order anything. Order everything! It will all be delicious ... and unlike this tale of delivery woe, you'll come away nourished and satisfied.

Bon appetit!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Shabu-Shabu 70

Having the exact right meal at the exact right time is one of life's greatest pleasures. I was fortunate enough to experience this once again on Friday night. We were supposed to be going to the Yankee game, but it was pouring and the husband and I decided to grab dinner on the upper east side first, and then make a decision about heading up to the stadium later on. As it turns out, the game was postponed and we'd made the right call by choosing to dine at one of our most favorite restaurants - Shabu-Shabu 70.

Located on East 70th Street, near Second Avenue, Shabu-Shabu 70 has been in business for 29 years and we've been dining there for 13 of those years. In all that time I have have never had a bad meal, in fact every one of them has been delightful ... and never more so than on Friday night. We arrived cold, wet and hungry and emerged hours later warm, happy and very well-fed.

For those unfamiliar with the dish, Shabu-Shabu is the Japanese version of a "hot-pot" wherein paper thin slices of beef, chicken and a variety of fresh, crisp vegetable are cooked in a steaming pot of broth at one's table. Its a fun and participatory meal! Yes, this is one of those places where you basically cook your own meal, and that's the fun part. The beef and chicken are of such exceptional quality, and so very thin, it takes almost no time for them to cook. You simply place them in the seasoned broth, wait a few minutes and then fish them out and run them through either the luscious sesame or tangy Ponzu dipping sauce before eating. The plate of vegetables that accompanies the meal is truly magnificent: fresh snow pea pods, large slices of onion, watercress, cabbage, shitake mushrooms, scallions to name but a few. As the meat and veggies cook, the broth develops into a wonderful soup - which will be put to glorious use when you add the fresh udon noodles at the end of the meal. It is traditional to finish the dish by poaching an egg in the resulting soup ... but we've never made it that far. We're always too full by the time we've fought over and slurped down the last noodle.

Shabu-shabu is a perfect meal for us because, as you well know, the husband prefers his beef still mooing ... and I need mine cooked. All the way cooked! Conversely, I like my veggies crisp while he prefers his dead. Shabu-shabu is a win-win for both of us.

We began the meal with an appetizer of tempura figs dipped into a mixture of green tea powder and sea salt. What an outstanding combination! It was a seasonal offering and one I'd be happy to have again. Shabu-Shabu also has a wonderful sushi bar - staffed by a personable and talented duo. We like to sit in the back of the restaurant, near the sushi bar, so we can watch these guys do their thing. Like the rest of the staff, they are incredibly warm and friendly. The owner, and much of the staff, always recognize us and treat us well - but the same courtesy and care is extended to all who dine here. I can't say enough good things about Shabu-Shabu 70. Its everything you'd want in a neighborhood restaurant and certainly worth the trip if it is not in your 'hood. I should know, I've been making the dreaded cross-town trip to dine here for more than a decade. I recommend it highly.

My only regret is that ... thinking I'd be at the ball game ... I didn't bring my camera. Next time for sure.

So, what's your favorite local, ethnic restaurant? Hungry Diva wants to know!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy Friday!

This is a picture of the grape arbor in Mama and Papa Diva's yard ... and it has nothing to do with today's post ... other than for me to ask Pixelgal: how's that jelly coming along? ;)

Its Friday and I have one million errands to do before what will be a busy weekend. Also, we had left-overs last night so its time for something quick and easy here. I stole this meme from Jo at Taking Over the World One Bite at a Time. Click the link and you can read her answers - then scroll down for her report on the recent slow-food event in San Francisco. Looks like it was amazing! If you're a fellow blogger, you can steal this from me and link back your answers in my comments if you like. If you're not a blogger, pick a few interesting questions and sound off in the comments. Hungry Diva wants to know!

Sweet or salty?


Which ingredient(s) do you use most?
Garlic, chicken, zucchini

What’s the cooking sound you most love?
Not really cooking, but I love the whistle of my tea kettle. Conversely, when I'm deep in the throws of holiday baking, I'm tortured by the sound of my kitchen timer. It haunts me in my dreams and by the time the last batch of cookies enters the oven I'm ready to stick a fork in my ear.

What’s your favorite cooking smell?
The smell of homemade sauce and meatballs simmering on the stove.

What are the qualities you most admire in a dish?
Texture and great, balanced, flavors.

What is your most treasured possession in the kitchen?
My Kitchen Aid mixer. (See above holiday marathon baking reference.) It was a birthday present from my mom some years ago and it completely revolutionized the baking madness.

What is a dirty word in your kitchen?
There are several: frying ... never do it, fat ... try to avoid it, liver or organ meats ... no, just no!

What are afraid to do in the kitchen?
Nothing that I can think of, I'm pretty intrepid.

What won’t you eat?
Liver or any organ meat, oysters, snails, goat, black pudding, lamb, several kinds of fish ... shall I go on?

Have you ever lost your appetite for a food you once loved?
Not that I can recall.

Have you ever had a change of heart involving a food you once disliked?
So many that I can't even begin to list them.

If you could choose one historical or living cook to make you a meal right now, who and what would it be?
She is neither historical nor living, but I'd have to say my grandma Pam. She's historical to me, to my family, so I guess that counts. I want her to make me ziti and meatballs or her homemade pizza. There's not a single celebrity chef who could hold a candle to either of those dishes. Period.

Who are your favorite cookbook authors/food writers?
Is it wrong if I say myself? (Kidding, I'd probably say Dorie Greenspan.)

What is your favorite food-related word?

What is your favorite food-related scene from literature or the movies?
Weird, but I can't think of an answer for this one. I'm stumped.

What’s your favorite food-shopping errand or journey?
This only happens when we're in CT ... but it happens *every* time we're in CT ... going to Liuzzi's market.

To which country would you move for the food?
I'd stay here in the USA because we have so many great food options. I love to travel, but I'm always happy to come home. If pressed, perhaps Italy ... but after spending 3 weeks there I was soooo ready for some fat-free yogurt and a salad!

What’s your poison?
Poison as in a good thing - chocolate, pasta, New Haven pizza.
Poison as in a bad thing - you know I'm going to say the sea creatures. See also above referenced organ meats. ~brrrrr~

What’s your standard outfit in the kitchen?
A t-shirt and jeans ... or sometimes ... ok, often ... pj bottoms!

You wish to die with what in your stomach?
I plan to live forever so this question is irrelevant.

If heaven exists, what do you hope they have on the menu?
Grandma Pam's ziti and meatballs. Sensing a theme here?

If you came back as a fruit or a vegetable, which one would it be?
Neither, I want to be a lap cat.

What are you craving right now?
A vacation!

Have a great weekend, all ... and make it Divalicious!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

And Now ... A Word About Our Sponsor:

Before we get to the recipe of the day, I must admit that I agonized a bit over what to post today. I try to keep things light here at Beach Eats - that's just how I roll. But there's no ignoring the fact that today is a difficult day. Its difficult for all of us. I want to acknowledge that and offer my public prayer for peace in our world and for peace in the hearts of those personally affected by the events of September 11, 2001.


I do a fair bit of kidding about the husband - what with the meat and the cooking duties and all - but I should also say a few words in his defense. Its not like he's never cooked a meal. He's been the chef plenty of times. He roasts a mean chicken and is solely responsible for any steak cooked chez Diva. Breakfast is his domain as well. I'm capable of much culinary greatness but my scrambled eggs are plateful of woe. Really. The husband is the egg man. Period.

He has a far more adventurous palate than I ever will - and, as long as it doesn't contain peas, he's happy to eat almost anything I put in front of him. He's been nothing short of 100% supportive of all my dietary whims ... and there have been many, and is always game for trying a new dish. I literally could not do this without him. Not the blogging, not the SB dieting. He is the sponsor to which I refer.

Despite his flexibility, I kinda, sorta figured I could slip the whole wheat orzo by him the other night. Its not that he's against WW pasta per se, but it wouldn't be his first choice. I assumed that all the flavors going on in the dish would hide the fact that it wasn't regular pasta. Nothing doing. After heaping much praise upon both the chicken and the orzo, the husband said: "what kind of orzo is this?" Uh oh. I had a brief moment of contemplation before admitting the truth ... then breathed a sigh of relief when he pronounced: "its really good!" I'm not sure I can convert him entirely, but its a start.

This orzo is my take on a Giada De Laurentiis recipe. I've tweaked it to make it South Beach friendly ... and left out the peas to make it husband friendly. I'm well pleased with my version. Its creamy, satisfying and very flavorful. I hope you'll try it!

Whole Wheat Orzo in Tomato, Basil, Parmesan Cream:

  • 1 cup of whole wheat orzo
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • pinch of dried crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 2 ripe, red plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped*
  • 1 1/4 cup of fat-free Half and Half
  • 1/2 tsp. good quality dried basil*
  • grating of fresh nutmeg
  • generous grinding of fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 (or more to taste) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • pinch of Kosher salt
Cook the orzo according to package directions, making sure to leave it al dente as it will continue to cook in the sauce. Drain and reserve.

In the same pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the shallot, garlic and red pepper flakes and saute, stirring constantly for one minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and saute, stirring, for 3 or 4 minutes or until the tomatoes just begin to soften. Add the fat-free half and half and stir to combine. Rub the dried basil between the palms of your hands to crumble it and add to the cream sauce along with the nutmeg and black pepper. Raise the heat and bring the sauce to the boil. Return the orzo to the pan, stir well to combine and lower the heat. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir to blend. Allow the pasta and sauce to simmer gently, stirring often, until some of the cream has been absorbed and the sauce is off a desirable consistency ... approximately 5 minutes or so. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more of anything you wish and a pinch of salt if necessary. Serve and enjoy!

*As written this dish will serve @ 4 people as a side dish. Amounts are flexible so feel free to experiment! As for the tomatoes - the original recipe calls for canned, diced tomatoes and those would certainly work. At this time of year, though, it would be a shame not to use fresh. I chose to use dried basil because it was simmered in the sauce, if you prefer fresh I would wait and add it at the end, just before serving. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Brief Interchange Before Dinner ...

Dramatis Personae: The Diva and The Husband

Scene: Diva's kitchen. La Diva is at the stove, the husband is preparing to set the table.

The Husband: "What's for dinner? It smells tasty!"

The Diva: "Chicken Piccata."

The Husband: "Have we made that before?"

The Diva: ... turns and stares quizzically at the husband ... "We?" ... pause for effect ... "Since when do you employ the royal 'we'?"

The Husband: "Huh?"

The Diva: "I'm certain that we have not made this dish before - but I know I have."

The Husband: ... blinks ... "Oh."

The curtain is lowered as laughter ensues and a merry feast is had by all. The End.

And a merry feast it was indeed. The yummy chicken piccata was accompained by some whole wheat orzo in a tomato, basil and Parmesan faux-cream sauce and some lightly steamed zucchini. I haven't re-invented the wheel or anything with this recipe ... its pretty standard. The only change being that I used some whole wheat flour, in place of the verboten white stuff, to coat the chicken breasts. And, really, there is no reason not to do so. The whole wheat flour adds a lovely, almost nutty dimension to the dish. I hope you'll try it!

Chicken Piccata:

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp. Bell's Poultry Seasoning
  • dash of Kosher salt
  • generous grinding of fresh black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup non-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • juice of one whole lemon
  • 1 tbsp. of capers, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • a handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Place the flour in a large, shallow dish and add the poultry seasoning, a dash of Kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mix the flour and seasonings well with a fork to combine. Dredge the chicken breasts in the seasoned flour on both sides to coat, shaking off the excess.

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown and cooked through out. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your pan, add more oil if necessary. When the chicken has cooked, transfer to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Reserve.

If necessary, add a drizzle of oil to the pan and saute the garlic over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for one minute. Raise the heat to high and add the broth and lemon juice. Stir well, deglazing the pan and letting the sauce come to the boil. Allow the sauce to simmer and reduce for @ two minutes. Add the capers, parsley and some freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Return the chicken breasts to the pan and turn them in the sauce to coat. Serve the chicken with the remaing sauce and enjoy!

Here's a picture of the finished plate. Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you about the outstanding orzo.

Bon appetite!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A New Day, A New Modem

Hooray, we're back up and running chez Diva. Turns out my modem had died for good - which is what I suspected. So frustrating! I hope this will be the end of my connectivity woes for a while now. I *need* my internet!

You'd think that with the internet down and all that free time that I'd have been cooking up a storm ... or at least penning some brilliant new posts ... and you'd be wrong. We had the left-over chard soup for dinner on Friday night and on Sunday we went to a local Greek place for a quick and yummy meal.

I did make a lovely roast pork loin for dinner on Saturday - to go with the rest of the lemon roast potatoes. Sadly, there will be no picture to go along with today's recipe. I couldn't find my camera. Where was it? Hiding in plain sight on top of my computer armoire. No one knows why. If I had to guess I'd say it was because Zelda was busy launching herself onto the desk and I must have moved it out of her reach. She is one destructive little cat!

Anyway, that's why you're looking at this picture of our roving garden gnome instead of my delicious roast pork. This little gnome travels the garden in hopes of scaring off the bunnies who live beneath Mama Diva's pine trees. I guess he must be working because so far bro hasn't lost any crops. I wonder if he'd be able to protect my internet connection? Must look into that.

And now for the recipe of the day. I've combined two favorite recipes here. The rub for the pork is courtesy of my friend Deb - she of the Talapia fame - and the garlic and rum I used come from Julie Rosso's "Fresh Start" cookbook. Julie Rosso was part of the "Silver Palate" duo and "Fresh Start" was written after she had some health issues. Its a collection of wonderful, healthy and flavorful recipes. I do recommend it, but I think it must be out of print - because I could not find it on Amazon.

Normally this rub is used for pork tenderloins and I must say it is outstanding. Deb passed this one on to me years ago and it has been a favorite ever since. This is the first time I've tried it on a full loin roast and it worked just as well. I almost never make this rub the same way twice - sometimes I'll add in some herbs de Provence, or maybe some thyme ... I use the basic ratio of salt/pepper/spice and just add in whatever sounds good to me at the time. It is as delicious as it is versatile.

Garlic Infused Salt and Pepper Pork Roast:

For the rub:
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. good quality dried rosemary*
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
Combine the pepper, salt and rosemary in the bowl of a mortar and pestle and grind until the consistency of a fine powder is achieved. Add the minced garlic, stir to combine and reserve.

* By good quality, I mean not the dessicated stuff that has been hanging around your cupboard for six thousand years. Keep your spices fresh - so they will have some flavor.

For the Pork Roast:

  • one 4.5 pound center-cut loin of pork roast*
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
  • 1 tbsp. dark rum
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, cut into large slices
  • some low-sodium chicken broth
  • water
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Using a sharp knife, make several vertical slits all over the top of the pork roast and insert a sliver of garlic into each. Pour the tablespoon of rum over the roast and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Sprinkle the reserved salt/spice/garlic mixture over the roast and rub it in over all sides. Cover and allow the seasoned meat to rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

Heat oil in heavy oven-proof skillet over high heat. (I use a cast iron skillet.) Add pork and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add the sliced onions to the bottom of the pan and transfer the skillet to the pre-heated oven. Roast at 350 degrees for approximately 1.5 hours - depending on the size of your roast - or until the internal temperature of the roast reaches 165 - 170 degrees on an instant-read meat thermometer.

Remove from oven, transfer the roast to a cutting board, cover with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Meanwhile, deglaze the bottom of the skillet with a mixture of chicken broth and water to form a thin sauce. You can certainly reduce it, or make a proper gravy - but I don't usually bother with that. Just serve the pork, topped with the pan sauce and call it dinner!

*I used a 4.5 pound roast, but if you're cooking for a larger crowd, you'll need a bigger one and will need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. As written, this will make @ three servings. The rum will cook away and the meat will be left with a nice savory, garlicy flavor. A perfect accompaniment to the lemon roast potatoes. I hope you'll try it!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I Hate My ISP Redux

The connectivity gods have taken exception to me once again ... this time for good. After spending 2.5 hours on the phone with the ISP's service department last night, the problem could not be fixed - or diagnosed for that matter. They are sending a technician out on Monday between 12 and 4 pm. So it looks like I won't be back online until Monday evening or Tuesday afternoon at the earliest ... that is, of course, dependent on the problem being fixed. Ugh. I'm at my wit's end.

I came into my office so I could post the warning and, once again, ask for your good thoughts with respect to my connection being fixed. I might die before Monday. Really.

In the meantime, if I owe you an email, or comments, or whatever, know that I am not ignoring you - I'm just in ISP hell. Bear with me and I'll be back up and running as soon as I can.

Have a wonderful weekend and let's hope all will be well come Monday afternoon.


The saddest Diva imaginable.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Forbidden Recipes: Part One

And so begins another ongoing feature here at Beach Eats.

I was tempted to title this post: "In the Garden of Eatin'" - but that is, perhaps, a bit too twee. And, really, the "forbidden" nature of this feature applies only to those of you playing along at home on The South Beach Diet. As you know, white potatoes are rather off-limits during the first two phases of South Beach - but for my bro's homegrown variety I will absolutely make an exception.

You already know how I feel about "cheating", so it goes without saying that I don't consider the occasional potato dish a cheat. Especially when the ingredients are as good and pure as those grown in one's own family's soil. Strictly speaking, there are very few foods that are truly off the menu in Divaworld. Much as there is good naked and bad naked - there is good forbidden and bad forbidden. Bad forbidden would be scarfing down an entire bag of Cheetos in one go; good forbidden is having a very small portion of something wonderful, natural, and healthy. Mindful indulgence in a luxurious product. In Divaworld, these potatoes qualify.

Now, I'm quite certain that none of my kitchen-savy readers actually need a recipe for roast potatoes. But, I love this picture of bro harvesting his wares and wanted to post something to go with it. The resulting recipe isn't earth-shattering or anything, just a simple and simply delicious side dish. My latest version of a classic. I hope you'll try it!

Lemon Pepper Roast Potatoes:

  • 2 very large (or 4 medium) russet potatoes, skins left on
  • scant 2 tbsp. good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • scant 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon pepper
  • generous grinding of fresh black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (do not use bottled)
  • 2 tsp. of grated lemon zest, minced
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Pre-heat your over to 375 degrees.

Wash the potatoes well and leave the skins intact. Cut the potatoes into small chunks, approximately 1/2 to 1 inch squares. Place in a large bowl, add the olive oil, salt, lemon pepper and black pepper and toss to coat. Stir well to be sure they are evenly coated.

Place the potatoes on a large, rimmed baking sheet in a single layer - spacing them out so that they are not touching each other. Roast in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes or until light golden brown. Cooking time may vary - if your oven runs hot you may choose to roast them at 350 degrees, adjust accordingly.

Remove the sheet from the oven and sprinkle the potatoes with the lemon juice and grated zest and stir, using a spatula, to coat. Return the pan to the oven and continue roasting for @ 5 more minutes.

Remove and toss the roasted potatoes with the chopped parsley, serve and enjoy!

The finished potatoes have a lovely, light lemon flavor and are bit crisp on the outside, with a soft, tender inside. Delicious, and well worth the minor indulgence.

So, what qualifies as "good forbidden" in your world? Hungry Diva wants to know!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Fox in the Hen House ...

This amazing picture is of bro's okra plant in bloom. The flower is so stunning and a bit unexpected ... at least from my perspective ... which is that of someone with a distinctly black thumb. Who knew that okra came from such a beautiful plant? Surely not I. Beneath the bloom you can see the okra pods just begging to be picked. I wonder why I didn't take any home with me? Such a shame.

As mentioned, the weather here has been particularly egregious this week. We hit 90 degrees this afternoon. Yuck! I'm pretty happy I decided to make that soup on Wednesday night and not today. Delicious as it is, I don't think I could get behind the idea of soup for dinner tonight.

Actually, I won't be cooking anything at all. I'm dining at the home of a friend, in her back yard ... yes, we have those here in the city. Or, at least a lucky few New Yorkers do. We've been planning this get together for a few weeks now and doing so took so long that we missed the blissfully cool nights that we had at the end of August. C'est la vie.

Since I'm not cooking I thought I'd offer you a few more pictures from the weekend. Below is a picture of Frankie's, a farm stand not too far from Mama and Papa Diva's house. Though their selection of vegetables was truly lovely last weekend, we typically go there for Frankie's fresh
eggs. Sadly, there were none to be had this time ... a fox had gotten into the hen house and decimated both his flock and the new chicks. Much as I love foxes, I was very sad to hear this. We were told that new hens would arrive this week - so hopefully the egg business will be back up and running soon. There were a few hens and chicks running around the front yard, so all was not lost. Though we've only recently discovered Frankie's it was an instant hit with the husband and I. The whole shebang is entirely charming. The run down road-side shed, the bizarre cast of characters who farm and sell the wares, and the lovely heard of Dachshunds they raise all add to the wacky, homespun ambiance of the place. Its a treasure!

Our last pic of the day is of one of the friendly goats that lives at Hindinger's Farm ... my absolute favorite local farm stand. Located in Hamden, CT, the Hindinger family has been farming this 120 acres of land since 1893. They are warm and wonderful people and their produce is spectacular. For me, its not truly summer until I've had my first bite of Hindinger's corn - and corn is just the tip of the iceberg. They're also known for their yummy peaches and some wonderful varieties of apples in the fall, as well as a host of other local offerings.

I wish I'd snapped a few shots of the farm stand itself, and will certainly remedy that in the fall when we return for pumpkins and apples. If you're ever in this area of CT, do make a stop at "Hindy's", as we like to call it, and be sure to visit - or even feed - the goats. I can never leave Hindy's until I've spent a few minutes talking to the goats ... what can I tell you, this city Diva is wild life deprived!

Enjoy the photos and stay tuned for a new recipe tomorrow. Mwah!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

An Abundance of Chard ...

If there's a more photogenic vegetable in the garden than Swiss Chard, I'm not sure what it is. True, the tomatoes might give chard a run for its money, but you just can't beat the gorgeous ruby stems of this beauty. I snapped the pick for posterity because this lovely bunch came back to New York City with me on Monday.

I've been meaning to make something different with the chard this time and had a white bean soup in mind. The weather is not cooperating with my plan. Its 400 degrees here again. Distinctly un-soupy weather, save for the humidity. But, I want to make soup, dammit! I'm going to make soup and we're going to eat it too, even if it means cranking the a/c up as high as it will go.

Before we get to the recipe of the day, I will - at last - share my news. You may have noticed the little "Featured Publisher" badge on the top right side of the blog. It will link you to, which is the foodie version of a social networking site. Its an awesome resource for all kinds of food related fun - full of great blogs, recipes, photos, restaurant reviews and more. About a month ago I submitted Beach Eats for inclusion in their Featured Publisher Program and I've been accepted! I'm thrilled to be associated with such a cool new site and I look forward to the possibilities for Beach Eats. I've already met some wonderful blog friends through Foodbuzz and I'm excited about the potential for gaining increased readership. Whether or not that will actually happen remains to be seen - but, at a minimum, it means that someone has read my content and found it acceptable. Color me as bright and happy as this chard!

And now, let's get cooking. I didn't really have a specific recipe in mind when I made this soup last night - just got a bunch of ingredients together and let the soup develop as I went along. Its all pretty standard really and the amounts listed are entirely flexible. I used some whole wheat orzo in the soup, but you could certainly substitute any variety of small pasta - or even leave it out. I also used some turkey bacon and I'd like to talk about that for a minute. If you choose to use turkey rather than real bacon, be sure to buy a brand that is as chemical-free as possible. I've had good results with Applegate Farms nitrate-free turkey bacon. Its lean and has a nice, unprocessed, smoky flavor. I once made the mistake of buying Jennie-O turkey bacon and it was awful. Tasted like a mouth full of chemicals. Horrid! I ended up throwing it out. So, please don't use that brand in this soup.

Swiss Chard and White Bean Soup:

  • one large bunch of Swiss Chard
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tbsp. minced onion
  • 1 rib of celery, leaves included if possible
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 pieces of turkey bacon
  • 2 -3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 4 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp. of good quality curry powder*
  • 2 inch piece of Parmesan cheese rind
  • one can of cannellini beans
  • one can of small white beans (I used Goya low-sodium brand)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • some cooked whole wheat orzo or other small pasta

  • chopped fresh parsley
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • some smoked salt
  • wedge of lemon to be sprinkled over the soup at table
Remove any large, tough stems from the chard and wash it well. Drain and chop into bite sized pieces. Reserve.

Heat a large, heavy bottomed, stock pot over medium high heat, add the turkey bacon and saute until well browned. Remove and reserve for later. Add the olive oil, shallots, onion, garlic and celery to the pot and saute, stirring often to pick up the browned bits on the bottom and sides of the pan. Continue sauteing for @ 3 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.

Begin adding the chard, in bunches, to the pan and saute, stirring constantly until wilted. Once the greens have cooked down, add in another handful of the chard and repeat the process until all of it has wilted. This process will take some time, be patient.

Stir in the rosemary and saute for one minute. Add the chicken and vegetable broths to the pot, along with the curry powder and stir to combine. Add the piece of Parmesan cheese rind, bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer the soup for 15 minutes. Remove the Parmesan rind after simmering and discard. (Hint, it is used for flavor, but don't waste the lovely, melty bits of cheese that will develop while simmering. Scrape them off and eat them. Delish!)

While the soup is simmering, prepare the beans. Drain and rinse the cannellini beans and reserve. Drain and rinse the small white beans and mash them to a paste, either using a fork or your food processor. Reserve. Once the soup has simmered for the recommended time, add in the mashed beans and stir vigorously to blend. Add in the reserved whole beans and stir to combine. Chop the reserved turkey bacon and add it to the pot. Let the soup simmer for @ 5 more minutes to heat through. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and a generous grinding of black pepper to taste.

Place some of the cooked pasta in the bottom of a bowl and ladle the chard and bean soup over it. Serve with any or all of the above listed garnishes and enjoy! I particularly recommend the smoked salt - it adds a wonderful flavor and is great with any egg or pasta dishes as well.

I should note for the record - the finished product is decidedly un-photogenic, hence no final pictures here. But, what it lacks in visuals is made up for in taste. This soup is a healthy, hearty, meal in a bowl. I hope you'll try it!

*One final note about the curry powder ... this soup will not taste like a curried soup. I always add a hint of good quality curry powder to any chicken broth based dish I make. When using a canned stock, it can often lack depth and I find the hint of curry really compliments the chicken flavor and adds to the overall richness of the soup. Give it a try next time you're making a chicken soup - you won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Interesting Vegetables: Part Six

I finally remembered to bring my camera to CT with me this weekend. Took a bunch of garden pics and a few of some other local attractions - I'll be posting them here and there throughout the week. Stay tuned. This one is a general view of bro's garden. The long row in the middle is broccoli, to the right you can see a bit of the radishes, and behind them are peppers, ground cherries and the first year's growth of the asparagus bed. Its going to be a long wait for the first asparagus harvest - 3 years - but so far it looks promising.

As expected, I raided the garden. We took the last two ears of corn, a variety of tomatoes, boat loads of swiss chard, the last yellow squash, a bunch of potatoes and some very interesting radish. They're white on the outside and deep magenta on the inside. So cool looking - and spicy too. Love 'em!

I put the radish to good use last night in a salad I adapted from the Ellie Krieger book. Actually, I made an entire meal from "The Food You Crave." And ... wait for it ... it included some fish! Shocking! The fish was actually my way of atoning for the weekend's food consumption. Let's just say that I was decidedly *not* on The Beach this weekend ... if pressed, I might even admit to enjoying some pizza, Cheetos and a brownie or two along the way. Whee! But, I got back on the beam in a big way last night by swimming a mile and then preparing an astonishingly healthy dinner.

I made Ellie's "Sole with Vegetables in Foil Packets", using some lemon sole, zucchini, crimini mushrooms and orange bell peppers. It was outstanding. The fish was accompanied by Ellie's Herbed Bulgur-Lentil Pilaf, which is so good it could be a meal in itself, and my radish salad. I will post the salad recipe here because I've made a few changes, but the original is from "The Food's You Crave." I'm 100% in love with this book already and will be cooking from it often.

Here's a pic of the weird, but delicious, radishes from bro's garden. They were the star ingredient in this salad, though you could certainly use the traditional variety. I left out the sugar in the original recipe, added some chopped fresh mint and a dash of dark sesame oil as well. I also altered the vinegar to include two different varieties; seasoned rice vinegar and red wine vinegar. The seasoned rice vinegar does have some sugar, so feel free to use un-seasoned rice vinegar instead if you like. Its all flexible, so feel free to experiment here.

This is the finished salad ... not my best photographic effort, I'm afraid ... I have yet to master the art of food photography! I can assure you that the dish was exquisite. Great combination of flavors and the addition of the chopped mint was perfect and necessary. I hope you'll try it!

As for my news update ... I'll be posting that tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Radish and Snow Pea Salad

  • 2 cups snow peas
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 large radishes (or 4 or 5 small), cut into julienne strips
  • 1/8 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. walnut oil
  • 2 or 3 drops, dark toasted sesame oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
Place the snow peas and the water in a microwave safe bowl, cover tightly with waxed paper and microwave on high for one minute. Pour into a strainer and rinse under cold water to cool. Let the snow peas drain completely.

Trim off the ends of the snow peas and cut them diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces. Place the snow peas, scallions and radishes into a medium sized bowl and reserve.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegars, walnut oil, sesame oil, salt and pepper to taste and whisk together until well combined. Pour over the reserved vegetables and toss to coat. Add the chopped mint, stir to combine, serve and enjoy!

Happy September!

Greetings, lovely readers! I hope you all had a spectacular weekend. We definitely did. I'll have something new to post late this afternoon, in the meanwhile, enjoy these pics from the weekend.

The first is of some sunflowers in bro's garden. The second is a rare glimpse of the Diva with her two favorite nephews ... the furry one is Sluggo ... one of bro and sister-in-law's three pugs. Enjoy!