Friday, December 30, 2011

Artichoke Hummus

Adding a drained can of artichoke hearts to our basic hummus recipe adds a new and delicious flavor twist.

When possible, I like to buy the canned artichoke hearts that are already quartered, to reduce the prep time. With that done, this hummus can come together in less than 5 minutes!

Serve with Pan-Grilled Pita Wedges, pita chips, and/or fresh veggies for dipping.


1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained, reserving the chickpea liquid
1 (14.5 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 small clove garlic, crushed through a press or finely minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor, including 2 tablespoons of the chickpea liquid. Puree until fairly smooth. If too thick, add more chickpea liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled.

-- 8 appetizer servings

Friday, December 23, 2011

Crepes with Creamy Dijon-Cognac Mock Chicken

This is a variation on our recipe for Mock Chicken with Dijon-Cognac Cream Sauce. Here, instead of serving the sauce atop a mock chicken breast, we dice up the mock chicken, mix it with the sauce, and wrap it in savory homemade crepes.

Making the crepes ahead of time helps this dish come together surprisingly quickly and easily.


2 mock chicken breast portions or 2 servings of unbreaded mock chicken patties or strips, thawed if frozen, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1 tablespoon cognac or brandy
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 Basic Skillet Crepe Shells
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Toss the "chicken" pieces in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess.

In a medium skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the butter along with the "chicken", and saute until the "chicken" is lightly golden on all sides. Remove the “chicken” from the skillet and set aside.

Add the shallots, vermouth, and brandy to the same skillet. Turn the heat up to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by half.

Whisk in the mustard, then whisk in the cream, along with salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat to medium, and cook, whisking occasionally, for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is the consistency of a light gravy.

Add the "chicken" back into the skillet. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, to blend the flavors. If the sauce seems too thick, add some water, a tablespoon at a time, until it is the desired consistency.

In a baking dish or pan, fill the crepes with "chicken" mixture. Fold each side over to enclose the filling.

Cover and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crepe filling is bubbly.

Transfer to serving plates and sprinkle with the parsley.

-- 2 servings (2 crepes per serving)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dates Stuffed with Cream Cheese and Almonds

For this healthy snack, I started with our recipe for Dates Stuffed with Cream Cheese and simply added some lightly toasted almond slices or slivers.

Quantities are not included, as it's easy to vary the amounts to make as few or as many as needed. As a general rule of thumb, use 3-4 ounces of Neufchatel or cream cheese per 8-ounce package of dates.


Raw sliced or slivered almonds
Pitted dates
Neufchatel or cream cheese

Toast the almonds in a dry skillet over low to medium-low heat for few minutes until lightly golden. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cut each date lengthwise along one side to "butterfly ".

Stuff each date with some of the cheese, and then top each with a few of the almond pieces. Gently press each stuffed date partially closed while still exposing some of the cheese and nuts.

Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. For best flavor, serve at room temperature.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Roasted Potatoes and Onions

This recipe makes an inexpensive and easy side dish that's great for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner.

Roasting makes the onions sweet and tender, while the potatoes are golden on the outside and tender on the inside.


1 pound red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes
1 small yellow onion, cut vertically into 8 wedges
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, toss the potato cubes and onion wedges with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange the potato-onion mixture in a single layer in a deep baking dish or roasting pan.

Cover with foil, and roast for 15 minutes. Uncover and stir.

Return to oven and roast uncovered, stirring occasionally, for another 20-30 minutes, or until the potatoes and onions are tender and golden.

Sprinkle with the parsley (if using), and serve.

-- 3-4 servings

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cauliflower Fritters with Lemon

My Italian grandmother always made these cauliflower fritters on Christmas Eve, as a vegetable side dish in the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

I like to serve them with lemon wedges, for optional sprinkling over the fritters before eating, for an added flavor dimension.


1 head of cauliflower
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 or 2 lemons, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut the cauliflower into medium-size florets. Cook in boiling water or steam in microwave for 7-12 minutes, until tender. Drain. Coarsely chop the cauliflower florets and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until well beaten. Whisk in the milk, and then whisk in the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth.

Add the cauliflower and parsley, and stir to coat all of the cauliflower with the batter.

Heat 1 or 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Use just enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the skillet. Do not let the oil get too hot, or the fritters will brown too quickly on the outside and remain uncooked inside.

In batches, drop the cauliflower mixture into the skillet by tablespoonfuls, as many as will fit in the skillet at one time. Cook until the underside is golden, about 4-8 minutes. Turn the fritters and press down gently with a spatula to slightly flatten them. Cook until the other side is golden, about 4-8 more minutes. Add more oil as needed in between batches to keep the bottom of the pan lightly oiled.

Transfer cooked fritters to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain any excess oil. Keep cooked fritters warm in the oven until all fritters are finished.

Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over the fritters as desired.

-- 6-10 servings

Note: Leftovers should be refrigerated. To reheat, bake covered at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, and then uncover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until hot.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Onion and Parsley Frittata

I've always liked the egg/onion combination in Chinese Egg Foo Young. Here is a Mediterranean-style version.

This frittata features ingredients that are typical refrigerator staples, and therefore is great for serving last-minute guests. Like most frittati, it can be served hot or at room temperature for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or as an appetizer or light supper.

Many frittata recipes instruct the cook to brown the top of the frittata under the broiler. My Grandma Marianna never did this. Instead, she would flip the frittata over using a plate as described below, and then brown the other side on the stove. I still prefer to use her method.


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
8 large eggs, or equivalent in egg substitute
2 tablespoons milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian flat-leaf parsley)

In a 9-inch or 10-inch non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and saute for 3-5 minutes, until the onion is soft and lightly golden.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, beat the eggs well. Beat in the milk, salt and pepper, and then stir in the parsley.

Add the egg mixture to the cooked onion in the skillet.

Using a spatula, stir the contents of the skillet to distribute the onion and herbs evenly throughout the egg mixture. Cook for 3-6 minutes, gently lifting the edges of the frittata to allow the uncooked egg to run underneath the cooked section, until the eggs start to set and the underside of the frittata is golden.

Flip the frittata by placing a flat plate over the top of the skillet and turning it upside down so that the frittata is resting on the plate, cooked side up. Gently slide the frittata back into the skillet, cooked side up. Cover and continue cooking over low heat until the other side is golden and the eggs are set, about another 3-5 minutes.

Slice the frittata into 4 wedges, and serve.

-- 4 servings

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Grand Marnier Strawberries

In this recipe, strawberries are spiked with Grand Marnier, which adds a rich orange flavor with the smooth kick of a good liqueur.

When fresh strawberries are not in season, I use frozen unsweetened strawberries, thawed per the package instructions. Often the frozen strawberries are tastier than the fresh ones, because they are frozen immediately after picking. And they can be enjoyed all year long.

They're great served alone, warm or cold, as a light dessert or snack. I also like to serve them warm over ice cream, yogurt, or plain pound cake. They're also nice for breakfast/brunch, either alone or as a topping for French toast or pancakes. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint, if desired.


2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
3 cups sliced fresh or frozen strawberries (thawed if frozen)

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, sugar, and Grand Marnier. Stir to blend.

Transfer the lemon juice mixture to a medium saucepan. Over medium-high heat, bring the liquid almost to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.

Add the strawberries to saucepan, and stir to coat all the berries with the liquid. Simmer over low heat for 3-5 minutes.

-- 4 servings

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bowtie Pasta with Chickpeas and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

This pasta recipe is quick, easy, delicious, and nutritious. The subtle tang of the sun-dried tomatoes beautifully compliments the earthiness of the chickpeas, pasta, and parsley.

It's made from ingredients that I usually have on hand, so it's one of my favorites to serve unexpected dinner guests.


1/2 pound dried bowtie/butterfly pasta (farfalle)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained but not rinsed
3 tablespoons oil-packed-dried tomatoes, cut into julienne strips
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian flat-leaf parsley)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add the garlic, along with the red pepper flakes (if using). Saute for a minute or two, until the garlic is fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn.

Add the pasta, chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, and parsley to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Saute for 3-5 minutes, until heated through.

-- 4 servings

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Crostini with Gorgonzola, Walnuts, and Honey

These crostini are easy to make, but are elegant and delicious enough to serve to your most sophisticated guests.

The crunch of the walnuts, the smooth tang of the gorgonzola, and the sweetness of the honey are a delightful combination.


French baguette or submarine/hoagie rolls, sliced into 12 (1/2-inch) slices
3/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup walnut pieces

Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet. Broil until one side of the bread is lightly golden. Turn the bread slices over and broil until the other side is lightly golden. Remove from broiler.

Top the bread slices evenly with the gorgonzola and then the walnuts, pressing down lightly to make the toppings stick to the bread.

Broil for a minute or two until the walnuts are lightly toasted and the cheese starts to melt.

Arrange the crostini on serving plate(s), drizzle liberally with honey, and serve immediately.

-- 6 appetizer servings