Archive for April, 2009

30
Apr
09

orzo stuffed peppers.

Normally I don’t allow such a lapse between posts, but my roasted vegetable panini really went the distance last week. I had no idea it could stretch that far. After five to six straight days of veggie lovin (if you will), I’ll never again doubt its limberness. It was almost whore-ish, really. Ha, who am I kidding? I enjoyed every minute of it.

Come Sunday or so, I sawed off the last of the ciabatta and had one final go of it. It was delicious, as expected, but I think I’ve had my fill…for now. It was undeniably beautiful this weekend, and in NYC that means street fair time. Woooooo. I came across one in the Gramercy/Kips Bay area that was just pimping Latin food. Yeah, I think pimping is a fair description. There were all these amazing looking arepas and these fried custard desserts (whose name is escaping me), but I resisted all the Red Light District-esque temptation and went to the gym. I am just that dedicated. It’s almost Summer, so I’ve really been stepping it up on the sweaty side. Guess who just joined a running club? This girl. I’m still waiting for my membership stuff, but that’s all on deck. Also, I went to an ab class last week! That’s dedication.

Since I’m getting all extreme with the sweaty stuff, I decided to step up the spiciness as well. I loves me some stuffed peppers, but I generally fill them with couscous or rice and call it a day. This time, I cooked some orzo  in vegetable broth and water for like 10 minutes.  Orzo is technically a pasta like masquerading as a rice or grainy thing, so it’s quite the departure as a stuffing. Well, actually, Giada did it once. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I chopped some leftover zucchini and portabella mushrooms (of veggie panini fame), along with some Roma tomatoes and pepper jack cheese. I mixed all these together for my filling, which looked like this:

the innards

the innards

Meanwhile, I gutted and parboiled my peppers for about 10 minutes in a pot, and I pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees. Once my peppers were done, I stuffed them with the orzo mixture and tossed them in a pan. Then, I topped them with bread crumbs and a fair amount of cayenne pepper. I let them wade in like an inch of vegetable stock, and then covered them in aluminum foil and baked for about 20 minutes. Then, I removed the foil and let the peppers bake topless for like 7 minutes. See below for the before:

pre-baked peppers

pre-baked peppers

They were so shiny and virginal, right? That was before. After the oven, they came out slightly more…mature, I guess. They were learned, sophisticated, into poetry and far too knowledgeable about wine. Like, enough with the tannin talk. Ordinarily, I would have found this very pretentious, but my peppers somehow pulled it off. I ate the orange one first with lots of habanero lime salsa. I totally burned my mouth with all that cayenne pepper on top, but it was so worth it. See below for my feast:

orzo stuffed pepper

orzo stuffed pepper

20
Apr
09

Roasted Vegetable Panini.

Winter in New York is far too long. As in, it starts to tease its way in around October or so, and come December it’s gotten MUCH too comfortable using your theoretical toothbrush. By March, it’s drinking milk directly from the container and always finishing the toilet paper, but then neglecting to replace the roll. And you’re all, “Get the hell out!” and it’s all, “Yeah, yeah, I’m going.” And then it’s around for at least two more months. It’s pretty inconsiderate.

This weekend, we got a little preview of what it will be like come mid-May. The sun was out, the weather was 70s-ish, and people were busting out the shorts and sundresses in droves. I went with a group to the Central Park Boathouse for champagne and Lily Pulitzer-spotting. It was like Class and Prep had a lovechild, and I somehow finagled an invite to the bris. I planned to use my new camera (complete with TWELVE mega pixels- thanks Daddy!) to capture all the sun-soaked day drinking, and I somehow ended up with one picture to commemorate the day:

Saturday

Saturday

Doesn’t his face just say it all? I don’t even know this kid, but I found him fascinating. WHAT was with the flower?!  Blind date? Spring fetish? I can’t be sure. He was everything that was right about Saturday at the Boathouse, though.

After several hours of park time, I was in need of a serious meal that no food cart could remedy. I went home and fired up the Panini Press, and sliced tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, portabella mushrooms and red onions for my innards. I roasted the veggies with olive oil, salt and pepper in the toaster oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes until they looked like this:

roasted veggies

roasted veggies

Meanwhile, my Press was like raring and ready to go, so I lubed up the ciabatta (with olive oil, duh) and pressed the slices for 4 minutes. Then, I layered the veggies along with a slice of brie, and prepared to press.  Before flattened, my panini looked like this:

pre-pressed panini

pre-pressed panini

I know I should love all my paninis equally, but this one was really special. Like, I’m pretty sure it would take care of me in my old age. I’d like to think the pear and taleggio and the apple and brie wouldn’t hang me out to dry as soon as I start losing bowel control and whatnot, but I really can’t be sure. Gun to my head, I’d have to say that roasted vegetable would build an extension on its house and buy me the complete DVD series of “Saved by the Bell” long before apple and brie could be bothered to inconvenience itself. I guess only time will tell.

Anyways, I served my roasted vegetable panini with that delicious champagne pear vinagrette I mentioned before. A-maze-ing. See below:

Roasted Vegetable Panini

Roasted Vegetable Panini

14
Apr
09

warm vegetable salad.

Lately, I’ve been the exact opposite of creative with the sweaty side of this thing. I’ve been mainstream. Damn near Middle America. Basically, I let my sweaty half atrophy, and the spicy had to get all Cirque du Soleil to compensate. I fell into a sweaty rotation of treadmill/elliptical/cybex, and I realize how very little that interests anyone.

First up in the name of sweaty variety? Beach body, a class my gym claims will help train a different muscle group each week until people start mistaking me for Edyta.

doppleganger

doppleganger

It’s really only a matter of time. I had every intention of going tonight, but felt overwhelmingly “meh” about trekking all the way to the Upper West Side location of my gym. I fell back on my old standby, hip hop Mondays. I was a regular on Mondays for the longest time, but I rarely enjoyed myself because that class attracts the most aggressive crowd in LIFE. The group that goes Wednesdays is more my style, so I decided to stop the Monday madness months ago. Fortunately, the aggression level was only moderate tonight, so I enjoyed myself. Also, TWO of my classmates are now huge and preggers. That’s nothing short of delightful.

Once I got home, I set to work on a warm vegetable salad that I KNEW would be nothing short of life altering. I chopped asparagus, Roma tomatoes, portabella mushrooms, and red onions, and then I tossed them in a little olive oil. I added a couple of cloves of minced garlic along with some salt and pepper, and then I laid them down in a little pan like so:

pre-baked veggies

pre-baked veggies

I housed my veggies in aluminum foil, and then I tossed them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Then, I cut a piece of ciabatta bread and toasted it. I KNOW 😦 It’s still very much Passover, and I’m all yeasting it up over here. In my defense, I had a college friend come to town this weekend, and we met up at a Mexican place for equal parts reminiscing and sangria consuming. Try as I might, my willpower is no match for chips and guacamole, and so I betrayed Moses. I’d feel like a fraud denying delicious bread when chips are getting the go-ahead, so I let down all my walls of defense.

the inspiration

In other news, I found this amazing champagne pear vinaigrette at Trader Joe’s, so I basically planned my meal around it. I tried it yesterday with part two of my tuna and green beans meal, and it was soo succulent. Can I use that word when describing a sauce? I’m going to go with YES.

After 20 minutes passed, I took the top off my aluminum foil and let it bake uncovered for 5 minutes. Once that was done, I served myself a little and drizzled it with the champagne pear vinaigrette. In a word? Life-altering. The vegetables were cooked like midway between raw and flaccid, which I’m pretty sure is how they’re intended to be consumed. Also, I can’t imagine a better vehicle for mopping up the vinaigrette than that crunchy ciabatta. I’d like to think Moses would forgive. See below:

warm asparagus, tomato, mushroom and red onion salad

warm asparagus, tomato, mushroom and red onion salad

13
Apr
09

tuna & green beans amandine.

When I first realized it was Passover, I held an impromptu vigil for my Panini Press. If ever there was a week when the Press would be dead to me, it would be Passover, right? Who needs to press matzo, like, ever? That’s like freezing a Rice Krispee Treat. NO ONE wants that. Plus, it’s senseless because matzo is nothing if not crunchy, rendering the Press pointless. I just can’t have that.

In the name of Press preservation, I found a use for it not two days into Passover. My favorite multitasker has always been a decent indoor grill, so I decided to let the Ahi-tuna-I-got-for-like-$3-at-Trader-Joe’s meet its acquaintance. I rubbed the steak with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon pepper, and LOTS of cayenne pepper, and then laid it atop the grill. Those two hit it off immediately:

tuna meets grill

tuna meets grill

I knew they would. I have an eye for these things. As the first side cooked for about 5 minutes, I started making my green beans amandine. I always wing it with these beans, so every time I make them they come out a little different. This time I sauteed the beans with butter and lemon juice for about 5 minutes, and then I added some salt and slivered almonds. Meanwhile, I flipped the tuna over for 5 minutes on the other side, and then continued to cook the beans for another 5 minutes. They looked like this:

haricots verts

haricots verts

In sweaty news, I’ve felt the need to hit the gym extra hard since I started using matzo as a gateway nosh to consume pounds of peanut butter and Nutella. Along with my weekday A.M. workouts, I hit the gym Saturday for an hour-long elliptical..jog? I’m not sure how to classify that bouncy thing I do on there, but it WORKS. I woke up this morning with soreness in, like, my delts or something. When one works out as often as I do, being sore is a rarity. I was THRILLED that it was painful doing the cybex today. Seriously, I almost stopped like four times. Then again, that could be attributed to the fact that Sunday morning programming is LAME. The various TVs around me offered nothing more than fitness infomercials, newsy stuff, and VH1’s Tough Love. I suffered through 45 minutes of the latter. I deserve a medal.

Anyways, see below for my Ahi tuna steak and green beans amandine, which I served with homemade honey mustard. The tuna was deliciously spicy, and the amandine was probably my best yet. Passover food done right:

ahi tuna and green beans amandine

ahi tuna and green beans amandine

08
Apr
09

stir fry.

I come from Cracker Barrel loving people, and I’m not ashamed of it. Growing up, the five of us went on road trips to visit the extended fam in Memphis, so we’re talking 17+ hours in a cramped sedan with nothing but Raffi tapes and that “A my name is Alice” game to pass the time. Cracker Barrel provided reprieve with their delicious buttery cornbread and array of overtly tacky gift shop toys. Also, they have lavender-scented soap in the bathrooms. How fucking QUAINT is that? For a chain? Come on. So very quaint.

My sister and I went to our old road trip stomping grounds a couple of times in college, most notably during Passover. We would both order the Country Vegetable Platter, but we refused the complimentary muffins and cornbread to do Moses proud. The waitress was all, “Are you sure? Sticking to your diets? Good for you!” Let it be known that I would NEVER turn against carbs for a diet, but I do banish them in the name of Passover.

That said, Passover starts tomorrow night. I did my weekly TJ’s love fest with that in mind, so I planned to make a stir fry which I would serve with no grains involved. I started by cutting up half a package of tofu and pan frying it in olive oil. Once those started to get all golden and gorgeous, I added a package of frozen Asian style veggies. I had zucchini left over also, so I added that to the mix. See below:

veggie stir frying

veggie stir frying

As that was stir frying, I realized I had a couple of days before the carb-shunning begins, so I made a pot of wild rice. Ohh wild rice 😦 I’ll miss you, dear friend. It bears repeating that I would never willingly cut out carbs. Honestly, I’d sooner sell my internal organs on the black market rather than cut out all things yeasty. Post April 16, it is ON. In the meantime, there she is:

wild thing

wild thing

I tossed the tofu and veggies with TJ’s spicy chili sauce, and then I served it atop the wild rice. Easiest meal ever, and it’s totally Passover-compliant if I leave out the rice. Meanwhile, I felt the need to eat as many carbs as I could the weekend (read: beer and bloody marys), so I was feeling a little lardy come Monday. Since I like to go down swinging, I went to the gym before work and ran three miles. I just had to brag about that. Anyways, see below for my stir fry:
veggie and tofu stir fry

04
Apr
09

salmon sammich.

I have had a lifetime of disappointing thawing stories. For instance, I once thawed some salmon steaks in college, only to get home at such a mature hour (10ish, prob) that pasta was the only logical choice. I had PLANS for that salmon, yet my precalc-crammed brain was incapable of bringing anything to fruition. Except, like, spaghetti with olive oil, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese, AKA my old standby. Reliable, simple, yet pales to what can ONLY be described as ghastly in comparison to blackened salmon steaks.

A few similar experiences turned me against thawing for quite some time, but Thursday morning, pre-gym (2 weeks strong!) I decided to throw caution against the wind and thaw a salmon fillet. Lady balls to the wall, right?! Amazingly, I made it home that night at a somewhat reasonable hour (9ish, I think), and started making my salmon sandwich.

I seasoned my fillet with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and lemon pepper, and baked it in the aforementioned aluminum foil pocket at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. While it was baking, I chopped some zucchini for a side of “fries.”

Side bar: fries are fantastic. There, I said it. I’m really into health and all that, but Pommes Frites is probably in my top five of Places I’d Like to Die By. Seriously, I’d like to eat four pounds of those delicious Belgian fries soaked in pomegranate teriyaki sauce in one sitting, and then die while waiting for my heart to gain its bearings amongst all that sodium and cholesterol. Too much?

That said, I am a fan of substituting fries with veggies like zucchini or eggplant, dipping them in milk and then a bread crumb and cayenne pepper mixture, and then baking them in the toaster oven for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. I proceeded to do just that on Thursday, which you’ll see to your immediate right:

zucchinis, mid bake

zucchinis, mid bake

Meanwhile, I plugged in my famed Panini Press and made some dill dip, recipe courtesy of my dad. It consists of plain yogurt (nonfat, but of course), lemon juice, chopped dill, salt, pepper, and a little Dijon mustard. Once my salmon was done in the oven, I cut a loaf of ciabatta bread and pre-toasted it in the Press for 3-4 minutes. Then, I topped one side with salmon covered in arugula and its partner with some dill dip which you’ll see below:

salmon sandwich, mid-press

salmon sandwich, mid-press

Isn’t she lovely? By the time my sandwich was lovingly pressed together for approx five minutes, my zucchini fries were finishing up in the toaster oven. I served the fries with a giant pool of dill dip, because I loves to dip, and I’ve never pretended otherwise. The sandwich was really great, and the dill sauce was just spicy enough to contrast with the arugula perrrfectly. See below for my feast, and please excuse the unnatural ghastly appearance of my dill dip. I assure you it had far more melanin in person:

salmon sandwich with dill dip and arugula, served alongside zucchini fries

salmon sandwich with dill dip and arugula, served alongside zucchini fries




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