Monday, May 23, 2005

Greek Couscous Salad

Summer has suddenly arrived! It's hot - hotter than normal for this time of year - and I don't like heating up the kitchen, so it's time to turn to hot weather items and the grill for sustenance. This salad is simple and fast....couscous cooks up in no time at all.

3/4 cup couscous
Bring 1 1/3 cups of water to a boil, then turn off heat, add the couscous and cover. Let stand five minutes. Fluff with a fork and refigerate to cool.

Chopped veggies (add as many or few of each as you like):
1/2 cucumber
a handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
green or red bell pepper
red onion

Toss with the couscous, along with a good handful of feta cheese.

Greek Dressing
juice of 1 lemon
several mint leaves, minced
several oregano leaves, minced
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil - about 1/4 cup
Combine the lemon juice and herbs, then whisk in the olive oil.
Add to the couscous. Chill until ready to serve. Then serve on a bed of shredded lettuce leaves.

Cool and refreshing!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Insalata di Risotto

In other words, Rice Salad!
This is a great hot-weather dish, and since the weather has suddenly shot up into the 90s here, it was a very refreshing side dish to our grilled chicken last night. I vary the veggies based on what's freshest or what is left-over in the fridge.

1 cup arborio rice
Bring abundant water to a boil, add the rice and boil, uncovered, until al dente. Drain and rinse. Cool.

Assorted chopped veggies:
green onions
bell pepper
fresh peas
chopped fresh spinach
chopped marinated artichoke hearts

Combine all together in a large bowl. Toss with creamy vinaigrette. Refrigerate to let the flavors mingle until ready to serve.

Creamy Vinaigrette
1/4 cup mayonaise
a clove of garlic, minced
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
2 TBSP olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Wisk together. Toss with the rice salad.

Che buono!

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Lentils are a great legume. They do not require soaking, they cook up fairly quickly, and they're a good source of both protein and fiber. They're also pretty versatile, taking on flavors easily. I throw them into tacos, mix them into risotto, and add them to soup. In Italy, it's traditional to eat lentils with sausages on New Year's, the coin shape of the lentils are thought to usher in a prosperous year. This recipe is a great side for grilled bratwurst or sausages.

About 1 cup lentils
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 cup hot beef broth
salt and pepper
Chopped fresh parsley
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Fill a large pot with water and add the lentils and a bay leaf. Cook until lentils are tender but not falling apart, about a half-hour. Drain.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute and the onion and garlic, about 3 minutes. Add the lentils, and broth. Simmer until it is absorbed, adding more broth if needed to keep from drying out. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the parsley. Grate on some fresh parmigiano. Serve.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Turkish Stuffed Eggplant

Turkish Stuffed Eggplant (Karniyarik) with Yogurt Sauce
I can't take credit for this recipe; it came from my friends, Mary and Ahmet. Ahmet is from Ankara, and this is one of the many Turkish dishes he likes to prepare. It's quite easy and very delicious. I made this several times last summer when my garden was overflowing with eggplant. Once it's in the oven baking, you can attend to side dishes like a big Greek salad or a cucumber salad as an accompaniment.

3 to 6 eggplants, depending on size
Olive oil
1/2 pound ground beef, lamb or turkey
1 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
16 oz. tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
salt and pepper to taste
1 TBSP paprika
1/4 C. basmati rice

Oven 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil; add the onion and green pepper and saute until softened. Add the ground meat and brown., stirring to break it up. Add the chopped tomatoes and rice along with the spices and simmer 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to peel strips off the eggplants. Slice in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving shells. Fill with the meat and rice. Pour reserved tomato juice over and into the pan, adding a little water if necessary to keep it from drying out. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, until eggplants are tender when poked with a fork.

Serve with yogurt sauce.

Yogurt Sauce
1 cup fresh plain yogurt
about 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
Combine all. Refrigerate.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Ziti alla Valeria

Ziti alla Valeria - for lack of a better title!
I concocted this recipe one evening a few years ago when time was short, I had a chicken breast in the fridge that needed to be used, and little else in the house after a few weeks' of traveling. I used the Italian ingenuity for coming up with simple dishes based on only a few ingredients on hand. This has been a much-used recipe ever since. I occasionally "rich it up" by stirring in about one-half cup of fresh ricotta just before serving. It's done in the time it takes for the pasta to cook. Teamed with a salad or freshly steamed veggies, dinner is on the table in about 20 minutes.

Ziti, penne, rigatoni, or other "chunky" type of pasta
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 or 2 boneless chicken breasts, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP sundried tomato paste*
2/3 C. chicken broth
about 2 tsp. fresh parsely, chopped
grated Grana or Parmigiana cheese

Boil the pasta to al dente.
Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy skillet. Add olive oil and saute the minced chicken and the garlic together until the chicken is cooked and garlic is softened, about 3 minutes. Add the sundried tomato paste and the chicken broth, stirring together until well combined. Partially cover and let simmer about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and add to the pot. Stir and cook together about a minute to let it absorb the flavors. Serve dusted with freshly grated cheese.

*Do not substitute regular tomato paste. If you can't find the tubes of sundried tomato paste, buy a jar of sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil, and blender it with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider

Thursday, May 12, 2005

New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp

Mr. B's Bistro is a lively place in the heart of New Orleans' famed French Quarter. The house specialty is barbecue shrimp, which arrives at the table in a large bowl, the whole shrimp swimming in sauce. "There's only one way," laughed our waiter, "you got to get your hands wet!" With a plastic bib around his neck, Bryan plunged in and used his fingers to behead and peel all the shrimp. The instant the last peel hit the bowl, the waiter reappeared with a steamy, damp towel for Bryan to clean up with. Then he dug back in with his fingers to consume all those tasty shrimpies. Be sure to serve this with plenty of fresh, very crusty French bread to soak up all the wonderful sauce. I usually use peeled shrimp for the sake of time and mess, but the shrimp cook up with more flavor and tenderness if you leave them in the shells.

This delicious dish is done in ten minutes!

Mr. B's New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp. Creole or Cajun seasoning
4 TBSP worcestershire sauce
2 cloves chopped garlic
3 TBSP water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 stick of butter, cut into pieces (don't even think of substituting margarine!)

In a sauce pan over medium-high heat, place all the ingredients except the butter. Cook until the shrimp begin to turn pink, then reduce the heat to medium and add the butter one piece at a time, stirring constantly until it's melted. Serve in a large bowl on the table with crusty French bread.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Beans and Radicchio

Beans with Radicchio
I took a recipe I had for an Italian version of "beans and greens" and substituted chopped radicchio instead. Buono! Radicchio is a red chicory, slightly bitter, which can be used in salads, but is also good grilled or wilted, as in this recipe. When I buy radicchio in the grocery store, I always seem to stump the clerk who thinks it is a head of red cabbage.

1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 head of radicchio, chopped
a small handful of fresh parsley chopped (about 1 tablespoon when chopped)
a sprig of fresh thyme, minced
a can of cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil then saute the onion and garlic until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the radicchio and herbs, and cook over medium heat until wilted. Add the beans and stir well. Just before serving, drizzle on the balsamic vinegar, toss it and serve.