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Easy-To-Make Pumpkin Soup

pumpkin soupI enjoy the change of seasons and if you asked me what is my favorite season, I’d have to say autumn.  While I don’t look forward to the cooler and shorter days ahead, I do like all that comes with the fall and  its harvest. The orange signature of autumn…sugar pumpkins (aka pie pumpkins) are abundant this time of the year but don’t get them confused with the large jack-o’-lantern pumpkins (carving pumpkins).  Continue Reading →

Fennel, Grapefruit and Feta Salad

fennel saladLast weekend we entertained our friends from New Brunswick.  It was a weekend getaway for Ralph and Michelle.  They arrived Thursday afternoon and for the next 48 hours it was full-on chatting, catching up, laughing, eating and drinking.  Because Michelle and I are both foodies and write our own food blogs, my goal was to make the first evening together memorable, fun, casual, and taking as much time as was needed to fully enjoy each dish I brought out.   Michelle took photos (you may see them on her blog) as I prepped the food…I felt like celebrity chef! 🙂 Continue Reading →

Baked Feta with Tomatoes and Peppers

baked feta with tomatoes & peppers by The Culinary ChaseVacations are often a perfect reminder of food we’ve enjoyed. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since we were in Greece (sigh)!  Greece, with 227 inhabited islands, is one of those vacation spots we couldn’t get enough of – the people, architecture and of course, the food.  When John and I go out to eat, we usually share a starter otherwise we’d be too full to enjoy the main meal.  Greece is one of the Mediterranean countries where the meze reigns (little plates).  Meze is meant to complement and enhance the taste of the drink as well as a perfect setting for a social gathering…right up our food-philosophy alley!  These little plates allowed us to sample the many culinary delights of Greece.  Baked feta with tomatoes and peppers takes little effort to make and these simple ingredients are mouth-watering delicious!

Santorini collageinspired by The Country Cooking of Greece

tomatoes, cut into thick slices
olive oil
sea salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
oregano
feta cheese, crumbled
bell peppers, cut into rings

Preheat oven to 425f (220c).

Add a splash of olive oil in oven-proof dishes. Place tomato slices evenly in each dish and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and evenly top with feta cheese. Top with a pepper ring and a pinch of oregano. Cover dishes with tin foil and bake 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Remove foil and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Serve immediately and use bread slices to mop up the juices. Enjoy!

Warmed Marinated Feta Cheese

warmed marinated feta cheeseCheese lovers take note…this dish is a cinch to make and unbelievably delicious! Marinating and then warming the feta cheese in olive oil topped with roasted tomatoes and herbs makes for a winning appetizer.  Serve this individually and let your friends dig in.  Their taste buds will be greeted by a touch of heat from the chili, sweetness from the tomatoes, citrus notes from the lemon, and the spreadable feta will calm any heat from the chili.  And presentation-wise, it’ll set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Serves 4
adapted from Cuisine

feta, cut into 4 chunks
4 small fresh bay leaves (you can also use marjoram or oregano)
4 sprigs rosemary
4 sprigs thyme
zest of 1 lemon
black peppercorns
garlic cloves, finely sliced
red chili, finely sliced (optional)
slow-roasted tomatoes
extra-virgin olive oil

Place a chunk of the feta into 4 small ovenproof jars or ramekins. Add one of each of the herbs and divide the lemon zest, peppercorns (3 to 4 per jar), garlic and chili (2 to 3 slices per jar) among the jars. Place a few slow-roasted tomatoes in each jar (if using large tomatoes cut into small pieces) then cover with olive oil. Marinate for a few hours before using.  To serve, preheat the oven to 250f and heat the jars until warmed through, about 8 or so minutes.  Serve immediately with bread.

marinated feta by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note: WOW! This starter was amazing!  Have extra bread slices on hand to mop up the flavored olive oil.  You can keep this in the fridge for a few days but should be brought back to room temperature before heating. Enjoy!

Carrot Soup with Feta and Quinoa

carrot soup with feta & quinoaWhen it’s cold outside there’s nothing more comforting and warming than homemade soup.  Soup, by the way, doesn’t need to be arduous nor does it need to take a long time to make to taste good. Carrot soup with feta and quinoa should make you take notice as this isn’t something ordinary but downright scrumptious! The crunchy chewy texture coming from the quinoa not only adds substance but will keep you feeling satiated longer (always a good thing when trying to stick to those new year’s resolutions!).  Carrots have a host of nutritional health benefits:  helps to cleanse the liver, improves vision, reduces the risk of cancer, anti-aging, and healthy skin to name a few.  This soup can be ready in 30 minutes.

Serves 4
adapted by Gourmet Traveller

2 1/2 lb (1.2 kg) carrots, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup quinoa
300g Greek feta, coarsely crumbled
handful of coarsely chopped mint and flat-leaf parsley
extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)

carrots by The Culinary Chase1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add onion and garlic and stir occasionally until tender. Add carrots, cumin, paprika and lemon rind.  Stir occasionally until carrot softens. Add stock and 2 1/2 cups boiling water, season to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until well-flavored.
2. Cook quinoa in a saucepan of boiling water until tender (10-12 minutes), then drain and set aside in a bowl.
3. Remove soup from heat, add lemon juice and half the feta, process with a hand-held blender until smooth. Top with quinoa, scatter with herbs and remaining feta, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Use a food processor with a grater attachment to speed up the grating process.  *You may need to add more water if soup is too thick.  With so many flavors and textures, this recipe is a keeper.  Enjoy!

Tomato and Feta Fritters

tomato & feta fritters by The Culinary ChaseFarmers’ markets, roadside vegetable stands and grocery stores all are overflowing with ripe, juicy tomatoes.  When Summer ends and Fall begins, this is the time of year I most enjoy.  I am in heaven with the abundance of fresh fruit and veggies.  Consumers might frown or be a bit flippant with regards to the 100-mile diet, but nothing tastes and looks better than produce that is hauled over a short distance.  I have supported buying local long before any locavore awareness campaign began.  It’s one of the reasons I started this blog 7 years ago.

Makes 12 patties
inspired by Kalofagas

2 lbs. ripe cherry tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic, skins on
4 scallions, chopped
1 cup self-raising flour
1 baked potato, mashed
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 egg
crumbled Greek feta, to taste
vegetable oil for frying

Preheat oven to 400f.  In a bowl, toss the cherry tomatoes with a splash of olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic.  Pour onto a lined cookie sheet and roast 15 to 20 minutes or until tomatoes are slightly shriveled. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.  Add roasted tomatoes to a large bowl. Remove skins from garlic and add to the mashed potato. Combine mashed potato with the tomatoes. In a frying pan, sauté the chopped scallions in a tablespoon of olive oil and cook until translucent. Allow to cool and add to the bowl with the tomatoes. Add the flour, egg and herbs and black pepper to the tomato mixture and combine. The mixture will be soft and a bit wet.  If needed, add a bit more flour for binding.

fritter ingredients by theculinarychase.comAdd a 1/2  cup of feta and taste the mixture before adding more.  To shallow-fry the fritters, pour vegetable oil into a large, non-stick frying pan until the bottom is covered. Place pan over medium-high heat. Use an ice cream scoop to drop the fritter mixture into the oil and flatten each fritter into the shape of a patty. Fry each fritter for about 2 to 3 minutes per side until golden brown.  Transfer fritters to a paper towel–lined plate and place in a warm oven until the entire all fritters are cooked.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  These Greek-style fritters were so good!  Make sure the tomatoes are relatively dry otherwise the mixture will end up being too wet.  Serve these with a dip mixture of Greek yogurt, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper and minced garlic.  Enjoy!

Black Bean Salad

black bean salad by The Culinary ChaseBeans. They’ve been around since time immemorial and while there are thousands of varieties, only a tiny fraction are mass-produced for our enjoyment. The only beans I knew growing up was my mom’s baked beans usually made from navy beans and sometimes she’d throw in kidney beans, much to my chagrin.  I really had no appetite for kidney beans until much later on in life. Here’s a piece of trivia for you. According to data from Heinz, the country that eats the most baked beans is Great Britain – 444,908,011 units. Australia comes in second place with 60,000,000 units and Canada with 41,000,000 units.

black beans by The Culinary ChaseBeans should be soaked overnight to reduce cooking time. All you need to do is cover the beans with cold water and allow for expansion in a pot (nearly double in size). The next day drain and cover with fresh cold water before cooking. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 1 to 2 hours. Don’t let the water evaporate, top off with boiling water and don’t add salt to the water as this may make the beans tough.  When the beans have cooled, you can also freeze for future use.

Serves 2

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (or 10oz. can)
handful fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1/2 white onion, minced
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 to 2 tomatoes, chopped
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly squeezed lemon juice (1/2 a lemon)

In a bowl, lightly combine black beans, cilantro, avocado, onion, feta, and tomatoes. Add a splash of olive oil, lemon juice, gently toss and season to taste.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: This salad can be a main course for one or served as a side for two people. Black beans are very high in fiber, folate, protein, and antioxidants, along with other vitamins and minerals. Pair this with brown rice and enjoy a meat-free meal with all the health benefits.

Grilled Vegetable Stacks with a Feta Salsa

grilled vegetable stacks with feta salsaIt’s been a scorcher the last two weeks but that hasn’t stopped us from being outdoors.  Summer for us automatically means using the barbeque more – and we grill anything! Of course we grill the usual suspects such as meat, chicken, fish and veggies.  But we also love grilled bread, pizza, artichokes, onions, romaine lettuce, radicchio, Belgium endive, peaches, pineapple, corn on the cob, flatbread, lemons, halloumi cheese…phew! and that’s only the beginning.  Just about anything you cook inside can be taken outdoors.  For dessert think outside the kitchen box and try grilling pound cake slices, banana nutella s’mores, banana split, watermelon etc.  All stone fruits work well on the grill and they end up with a sweeter taste.

Serves 4 as a side
1 cup Greek feta cheese, crumbled
zest of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
olive oil
zucchini, sliced
eggplant, sliced
yellow summer squash, sliced

Combine feta, lemon zest, garlic, and olives in a small bowl. Add enough olive oil to moisten the feta mixture; stir to combine. Preheat bbq to 350f. Lightly brush olive oil on the veggies, season and grill both sides until cooked – about 5 minutes depending on how thick the slices are. Remove from heat. To serve, place an eggplant slice on a plate followed by a spoonful of feta salsa, slice of zucchini, another spoonful of feta salsa and topped with summer squash slice. Top the summer squash with a small spoonful of the feta salsa. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

feta salsaThe Culinary Chase’s Note: These grilled vegetable stacks can be prepared straight from the grill or served at room temperature. Either way you’re going to love the flavors. Enjoy!

Stuffed Round Zucchini (zucchine tonde ripiene)

Stuffed Round ZucchiniFarmers’ markets always provide interesting selections of fruits and vegetables and most vendors are happy to share their knowledge of their produce.  I spotted these round zucchinis at the Ridge Hill Yonkers’ Down to Earth Farmers’ Market – aren’t they adorable?

Serves 4

4 round zucchinis
1 garlic clove, minced
3 or 4 sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 anchovy fillets, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
olive oil
feta cheese

round zucchiniPreheat oven to 350f. Cut the tops off the zucchini and set aside. Using a teaspoon, scoop out flesh but not too close to the skin. Roughly chop the zucchini flesh. Rub olive oil all over the zucchini rounds. In a large sauté pan, add one tablespoon of olive oil and place over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and anchovies and sauté until onion is soft. Then add zucchini flesh and cook until soft. Remove from heat; add sun dried tomatoes, feta, and parsley. Stir to combine and then stuff zucchini. Place zucchini tops on top.  Add a splash of olive oil in a baking dish and add zucchini rounds. Bake for 30 minutes or until zucchini looks soft. Serve immediately.

zucchiniThe Culinary Chase’s Note: Any leftover stuffing can be used in another dish such as a frittata.  The ingredients are approximate so play around to suit your palate.  Enjoy!

Bulgur Salad with Cannellini Beans, Feta & Mint

Whenever I feel as though we’ve eaten too much red meat, we take a break and consume loads of veggies and ancient grains such as bulgur.  It’s this sort of balance that keeps us healthy…I can’t recall the last time I had a cold or the flu.  Bulgur is made from precooked wheat berries.  It’s a perfect substitute for rice as it has more fiber and is low on the glycemic food index.  We enjoy this ancient grain and especially like its chewy, mild nutty flavor.  I’m sure you’ve eaten it before in dishes such as tabbouleh and pilafs.  Because it’s low in fat and calories, it’s a perfect way to feel satiated without adding pounds.  Bulgur is already partially cooked and therefore needs little time for preparation –  perfect for a quick meal without jeopardizing nutrition.

Serves 4 to 6
adapted from BHG

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup bulgur
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon lime zest
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 cups shredded purchased roasted chicken
1-15 ounce can cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped yellow and red sweet pepper
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped fresh mint
salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan bring water to boiling. Add bulgur and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Return to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes or until water is absorbed and bulgur is tender. Transfer to a large bowl.

In a small saucepan heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat. Add garlic and reduce heat to medium high. Cook and stir until garlic starts to turn golden around the edges. Remove from heat. Stir garlic and oil into bulgur mixture.

For the dressing, in a screw-top jar combine red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, lime zest, and lime juice. Cover and shake well. Stir dressing into bulgur mixture. Add chicken, cannellini beans, sweet pepper, feta cheese, cumin, 3/4 cup of the parsley, and 3/4 cup of the mint to bulgur mixture; toss to mix well.  Season and top with remaining parsley and mint.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  This is such a hearty salad and loaded with nutritional goodness! You can substitute the bulgur for cooked brown rice or quinoa.  Enjoy!