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roasted vegetable stacks with goat cheese

roasted veggie stacks with goat cheeseI am in veggie heaven with these roasted vegetable stacks and in one recipe I get the daily recommended servings of vegetables; my kind of dish.  Although the end of Summer means goodbye to warmer days (sigh), its departure signals the bounty of the harvest (yay!).  It’s the perfect time of the year to grab all the locally grown goodies from markets and farmers roadside stands.  Continue Reading →

prosciutto wrapped tomato

prosciutto wrapped tomatoThe holiday season is just around the corner and it’s that time of the year when we’re out socializing and entertaining at home. The thought of entertaining can be intimidating for both the novice and the experienced.  When I know I am having friends over, I generate a plan, cook ahead, stay within my limits and remember it is only a party – a time to have fun.  Everybody loves a party where they can reconnect, celebrate and get away from the stresses of daily life.  Entertaining is also about trying new things, new ideas and new techniques.  Which brings me to this insanely delicious dish:  prosciutto wrapped tomato. Continue Reading →

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes by The Culinary ChaseSlow-roasted tomatoes are about the closest I’m ever going to get to sun-dried.  The ones available here are mass produced and to be honest, aren’t that appealing.  According to TLC, the practice of drying tomatoes for use throughout the winter began in Italy, where tomatoes were placed on the tile roofs of houses until the sun baked out almost all of their moisture. This process intensifies the tomato’s natural flavor and preserves its inherent nutritional value; a rich source of lycopene and vitamin C.

I find the best tomatoes to use are the little ones…cherry or grape. You can use campari tomatoes but you’ll need to either quarter or thickly slice them.  Slow-roasted tomatoes are fine dinner companions tossed in salads, pasta, on grilled bread with cheese, spaghetti squash, orzo, puréed into a dressing, couscous and so on.

cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half horizontally
caster sugar
dried oregano or thyme
sea salt

grape tomatoes by The Culinary Chase1. Preheat oven to 230f (110c).
2. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle sugar, salt and thyme lightly over the tomatoes (the pinch method works best).
3. Roast in the oven 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Use immediately or store in the fridge in a mason jar covered with olive oil.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
Deliciously sweet! For enhanced flavor, add a sprig of rosemary and peeled garlic cloves to the mason jar. 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!

Caprese Salad (insalata caprese)

caprese salad by The Culinary ChaseInsalata caprese is a tomato and mozzarella salad from the island of Capri. This simple yet delicious Italian antipasto makes perfect use of local heirloom tomatoes which are available now in grocery stores and markets.  Extra-virgin olive oil highlights the sweetness of the heirloom tomatoes and is the only dressing needed. What makes this salad shine? Like anything else, it’s the quality of the ingredients.   The tomatoes and mozzarella must be fresh – plain and simple, end of story.  If you live in New York or where there’s a large Italian community, fresh mozzarella is everywhere.  It doesn’t matter where I shop, I can always find in-house made mozzarella and with a choice as to salted or not.  I picked up the mozzarella on Sunday and a sticker on the plastic wrap said it was made at 12:30pm…still slightly warm!  I could visualize the salad and couldn’t wait to get home to chow down.

For 2 people, you’ll need –

1 or 2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
basil leaves

heirloom tomatoes by The Culinary ChaseArrange slices of tomatoes and cheese on a plate or platter so that they are overlapping each other. Scatter basil leaves and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: Please don’t add any vinegar or lemon juice as you will kill the delicate flavor of fresh mozzarella.  A chunk of bread will go nicely with this salad to mop up any of the leftover juices from the tomatoes and olive oil. Enjoy!

Gazpacho

gazpachoIt’s funny how conversations get replayed in your head.  I was just thinking now about one I had a couple of months ago with my daughter, Laura.  She asked me if I liked her at this age (20) or when she was younger.  I paused, thought about what she asked, and said that I enjoy this moment in time just as much as before…they’re just different stages in our lives.  She smiled and hugged me.   I spoke to Jason, my son, yesterday and talked about how he was liking his new home, work etc. and of course how the cooking aspect of it was going.   He told me he loves to cook so that’s not an issue.  Jason was always eager to help out in the kitchen while Laura was keen to eat!  They’re two different people (thank goodness) and since Laura has been in an apartment for the past two years (university life), things have changed and she now calls me to ask how to cook this or prepare that.  It makes my heart sigh when I hear they tried a recipe from my food blog and had success.  They know how much I encourage them to eat a sensible diet and hope that this recipe is one they’ll try, too. This Spanish liquid salad is perfect when it’s too hot to cook. Gazpacho originated in the south of Spain and was food for peasants and shepherds.  Packed with vitamins and minerals, it’s a perfect way to incorporate veggies into your diet.

Serves 2

1 cup English cucumber, chopped
1 yellow pepper or red, chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
14 oz. can Italian finely chopped tomatoes
1 large heirloom tomato, coarsely chopped
1 avocado, chopped (bite-size pieces)
1 can (10 oz.) tomato juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
handful cilantro, chopped
1 garlic, minced
Tabasco sauce (to your liking)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

gazpacho ingredientsIn a large bowl, add ingredients and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning and add more liquid (water or tomato juice) if too thick.  Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
If you like, once the soup is combined you can remove half of it and purée, then pour this back into the chunky soup.  Make sure the gazpacho is well-chilled.  Enjoy!

Cedar Plank Grilled Mushroom Stacks

cedar plank grilled mushroom stacksJohn and I barbeque all year round and when Spring and Summer arrive, it’s full on.   Our barbeque gets used on a weekly basis so it’s not unusual to see me out on our back deck firing up the barbie.  I love it…less mess for me to clean up!  I’ve been noticing more and more these days that most food places I shop carry planks for grilling – some individual and some in packages carrying an assortment (cedar, birch, hickory or maple).  Plank grilling originates from the Native Americans from the Pacific Northwest who grilled salmon on open fires over cedar and alder.  The concept is by far not new but certainly merits consideration.

Serves 4

4 portobello mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
2 medium-sized zucchini, sliced
2 medium-sized yellow summer squash, sliced
pesto
tomatoes, sliced
cedar planks
olive oil

Allow cedar plank to soak in water for at least an hour (longer if possible). If using a stainless steel plank saver then soak the plank for 30 minutes. On medium heat, grill portobello mushrooms gill side down, 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove and set aside. Lightly brush olive oil onto zucchini and summer squash slices. Season with salt and pepper. Place on grill for up to 5 minutes and turn. You want the slices to show some grill marks and the flesh to be slightly softened.

portobello mushroomsRemove cedar plank from water and pat dry. Place portobello mushroom (gill side up) on the cedar plank. Followed by zucchini slices, yellow summer squash slices, tomato slices, and pesto. Make sure bbq is at 350f and add plank. Cover with bbq lid and cook 10 minutes. Don’t worry if smoke is billowing out of the bbq – this is normal. The cedar smoke will infuse the veggies. Remove from bbq and serve on a plate and drizzle with olive oil.

Note:  After using, rinse the plank off with soap and water and let dry. Reuse the planks two or three times – if there’s wood left, you can use it. Crumble up charred planks over coals to use as smoking chips and choose planks that aren’t chemically treated.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: This was my first attempt at plank grilling and I liked it. I think I’ll experiment with salmon the next time.   Add freshly grated Parmesan to the portobello mushrooms before adding the vegetables.  Enjoy!

My Husband’s Bolognese Sauce

bolognese sauce with penneWhere to begin?  When John and I were dating, the first meal he ever cooked for me was his bolognese sauce tossed with penne.  I remember to this day how wonderful his condo smelled and how neat it was!  My husband was and still is a neat freak…not that I am at all complaining.  For a bachelor, his place was immaculate – even the cupboards were tidy!  He had the dining room table all laid out: candles lit, music playing and red wine decanted.

We’ve been together 17 years and on the eve of our marriage, he made his bolognese sauce for our family.  The kids love this sauce and he always makes enough for seconds.  Whatever is leftover gets placed in the freezer.  He has no recipe, just puts it in a pot, in sequence of course.  I think fundamentally this recipe captures the essence of how to recreate this yummy dish even though John cooks like his mom, a little bit of this or a pinch of that.  You may need to increase or decrease an ingredient to suit your palate.

Serves 6 to 8

1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped or sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped or sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon Italian herb mix
large can Italian plum tomatoes
olive oil
ketchup
1 lb. penne or other favorite pasta
Parmesan, grated

jb prep workIn a large pot over medium heat add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add Italian herbs and cook until fragrant then add garlic slices.  Add the onions and cook until translucent.  Add ground beef, stir and cook until done (about 10 minutes or until no pink is showing). Spoon canned tomatoes into the meat sauce and add some of the juice. Stir until combined and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.  When the sauce begins to bubble, add a couple squirts of ketchup.  Stir occasionally to break up the tomatoes.  Once the tomatoes have broken up, add bell peppers.  Simmer 20 minutes or until peppers are al dente.  John usually lets this sit for an hour or so.

When ready to serve, cook pasta according to packet instructions, drain and add to bolognese sauce.  When thoroughly mixed, serve in bowls and top with freshly grated Parmesan.
JB relaxing
The Culinary Chase’s Note:
  Many years ago John was told by an Italian friend to add ketchup to the sauce.   If you let the sauce sit, reheat before adding pasta.  Bolognese sauce in Italian is known as ragù alla bolognese (a meat-based sauce from Bologna, Italy).

Buon Appetito!

Roasted Tomato & Garlic Crostini with Truffle Sea Salt

If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating a truffle the next best thing, in my humble opinion, is truffle oil.  That was until I sampled white truffle sea salt!  John and I were food shopping and we never pass the cheese section of Whole Foods without buying…well almost never.  We asked what was new which can be a difficult task as we’ve tried a lot over the past year.  Jason told us about the Gouda infused with black truffles and immediately my eyes lit up.  John isn’t a huge fan of truffles but like a dutiful husband said he’d try a sample.  He liked it!  Yay!  We bought a wedge and then were asked if we had tried truffle sea salt.  Jason said his favorite way is to sprinkle it on roasted tomatoes and bread.  That sounded so good we bought the 1-ounce bottle.

Truffle is an edible fungus and grows underground.  The white truffle is found in northern Italy while the black truffle grows in the south of France.  When eaten raw like mushrooms they don’t taste like their aroma because their gasses aren’t emitted until the acid in our stomach breaks it down and the flavor – get ready for this – is released in a burp!  However, if a truffle is thinly shaved and added to a hot dish it is the heat that releases some of the gas allowing one to savor the truffle taste.

 

rustic farm bread
8 cloves of garlic (more if you like), skin on
campari tomatoes, sliced thick
fresh mozzarella, sliced
olive oil
white truffle sea salt

Preheat oven to 350f (180c).   Place tomato slices on a baking sheet along with garlic cloves.  Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes and garlic.  Roast 15 to 18 minutes or until garlic is soft and tomato slices have begun to shrivel.  Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.  The skin on each clove of garlic should be easy to remove.  Place garlic in a bowl and mash.  Brush a bit of olive oil on both sides of the bread and grill.  If you don’t have a grill or bbq, use a toaster and brush a bit of olive oil on after toasting the bread.  Add mashed garlic to the bread and top with mozzarella followed by tomato slices.  Finish with a pinch of truffle sea salt and drizzle with olive oil.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  This was out of this world and I made it twice over the weekend it was that good!  The second time I mixed goat cheese with the roasted garlic cloves…it was very difficult to choose which one was better.  The truffle salt elevated this already delicious appetizer to a new taste sensation!  Let me know what you think.  Enjoy!