Monday, April 29, 2013

Comforting Crab Risotto

It's Monday, and that tends to make people crabby.  

That inspired me to create a comforting dish to soothe any irritations.  Since my sage plants were growing in abundance, they got me to thinking about pesto.  That didn't quite do it for me, however, so I went with the French version - pistou.  This is a great link from the NY Times explaining the difference between Pesto and Pistou.  I prefer pistou, and for those who cannot tolerate garlic, I recommend pistou, as it needs no garlic to be flavorful.  I used zero garlic in this dish, as it is rich enough without the perfume of ail (aka garlic).

Enjoy a cheerful, comforting meal of Crab Risotto with Sage &Walnut Pistou.  

Sage and Walnut Pistou


1 cup sage leaves
2 heaping tbsp. raw walnuts
1/3 cup (add more if needed) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 scrapes of lemon zest with a rasp or zester

Spin leaves, walnuts, salt, olive oil in a small food processor.  True pistou is done in a mortar and pestle, but time was crucial for me, so processor won out.  Add zest and a dash more olive oil if needed, then spin till smooth.  Pour into a small serving dish.  Warning - this is salty!  Be prepared.  Use little.  

April's Crab and Parmesan Risotto


3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 lb. box risotto (Bellino brand)
46 oz. seafood stock, heated
2 cans white crab meat
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 oz. good parmesan

Follow the box directions...which may mean you need to alter your liquid amount, greater or less, depending on the brand you purchase.  Check before you leave the market.

It takes about 30 minutes to cook the risotto and broth, then add in the butter and cheese.  Once that's done, add in crab meat.

Serve with a drizzle of pistou and extra cheese if desired.  Bon Appetit!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Herbs de Provence

My rosemary plant has outgrown its bed, hopping the wooden border and invading my lavender.  Since the new growth really isn't causing any trouble, I'm allowing it to roam freely.

(sage flower)

I cannot make a strong enough argument to own and maintain an herb garden.  Whether indoors or out, having fresh herbs will not only make your meals fabulous, but will inspire you to create new meals.

I made a nice herb-inspired meal from basil and rosemary.  I had to buy the basil, as my plants aren't quite ready yet as the season is still early.  If you don't own an herb garden, don't let that stop you from trying these recipes.  Your local grocer should always carry basil and rosemary.  Don't use dried.  It's not even close and your culinary outcome will be less than wow.

The salad I served with the roasted chicken breasts came from Patricia Wells' "The Provence Cookbook".  The chicken recipe I made up with what I had in the kitchen.  One piece of chicken fed two of us, with loads of chicken left over.  I pulled it from the bone and will have enough to make chicken salad for at least two people.  But first, the salad!  Mine is a slight adaptation...enjoy!


1 lemon
4 tomatoes
1/3 cup capers, drained
4 slices of whole grain French bread, toasted and cut into cubes
1 bunch of basil, chiffonade-style
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. good red wine vinegar
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Note - the lemon needs to be sliced with a mandoline, that way they are paper thin and easy to indulge in.  If you do not have one, use a super sharp knife, being very careful.

Slice lemons over a bowl or dish.  Core tomatoes and cut lengthwise.  Place on top of lemons.  Add bread, layering.  Add capers and basil, then drizzle with olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper.  Toss well.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes.  Note - I used a flax and bran baguette from my local market and had the clerk slice it for me.  I'll use that kind of baguette again if possible as it held up really well and tasted very nice.

Roasted Split Chicken Breasts with Rosemary and Garlic Oil
Serves 4 healthy portions


3 Split chicken breasts, skin on
1/4 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 sprig rosemary, chopped fine
Salt and fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 375.  Pour olive oil into microwave safe cup and add garlic.  Heat for 30 seconds.  Place chicken into a roasting pan.  Strain oil, discarding garlic pieces.  Pour oil over chicken, then sprinkle on the rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Roast for 60-75 minutes or until juices run clear and skin is crispy.

Yes, it's really that easy!   The chicken was moist and tender.  Tres magnifique! 

We also had a lovely little dessert that would make a great snack or even breakfast.  This was so simple, maybe get the kiddos to join in and prepare the sweet stuff!

Lemon Greek Yogurt with Blackberries, Walnuts, and Honey
Serves 2


1-6 oz. container zero fat lemon Greek yogurt (like Chobani)
1 half pint blackberries, washed and dried
2 tbsp. walnuts, 1 tbsp. per portion
2 tbsp. honey, 1 tbsp. per portion

Place a dollop of yogurt in the bottom of two parfait or dessert cups.  Layer a few blackberries over, then finish off yogurt into each cup.  Add remaining berries.  Sprinkle 1 tbsp. each walnuts then honey onto each. 
Serve immediately.

These are heart-healthy meals that also won't break your bank.  Take the time to enjoy foods close to their natural form.  Make your meals simple yet flavorful.  Use what you have and explore!  Cooking should be an  adventure, so jump in and have fun!  Bon Appetit!!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Speedy Suppers

I have been hearing more and more lately how disappointing dining out is.

I know that there are times I wonder how in the world a restaurant can possibly charge so much for something so lacking in...every culinary quality desired.  

I thought having a two-person household would cut my dining out bills in half, but I find it's still dreadfully expensive.  That being said, I am taking a new tack on shopping for food.  I still believe in the rules of grocery shopping - never buy on impulse, never pick a recipe where don't have at least some of the ingredients, and never ever buy out of season.  

Instead of buying packaged raw poultry and meats, I've been going to the butcher counter and seeing what they have on special.  Chicken breasts bought by the piece saved me $5 that way instead of in the big pre-packaged deal, which always has one piece too many.  The pork chops were nice, and I bought some inexpensive Sicilian pork sausages.  Give your butcher counter a try.  You'll be pleasantly surprised at the quality you come away with. 

So here are a few quick and affordable ideas to maybe change your mind about dining out on a weeknight.

Fresh Marinara with Buffalo Mozzarella and Basil and Spaghetti
Roasted Chicken Tacos with Black Beans and Homemade Pico de Gallo 
Italian Sausage Bake with Veg and Balsamic Vinaigrette

For the Marinara and Pasta, I used DeCecco Spaghetti  and made a quick marinara.  

Serves 4

Ingredients - 
1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes with basil
1/3 cup chopped onion
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup cubed Buffalo Mozzarella
Basil leaves, torn
Drizzle of olive oil

Saute onions, thyme, and pepper flakes in olive oil, covering on med-low until soft.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add canned tomatoes and cover, simmering while you boil the pasta water.  Salt the water if desired, then cook according to package directions.  Drain immediately at al dente and then place right back into the pasta pot.  Add several ladles of marinara, the drizzle of olive oil, and cubed mozzarella.  Toss well.  Add hand-torn basil leaves and serve.  This goes well with grilled chicken, fish, shrimp, sausages, even steak.  

The Roasted Chicken Tacos are super easy...

Serves 4

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, roasted on a sheet for 45 minutes at 350, then shredded
1 can black beans, rinsed
2/3 cup water
1 packet taco seasoning
Chopped cilantro leaves

Cook all above ingredients in a saucepan until heated through and well combined.  We ate our taco filling in Mission brand taco shells, cooked according to package directions.

Homemade Salsa -

3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 cup purple onion, diced fine
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Juice from 1/2 lime
Salt to taste
Pinch of garlic powder

Toss all ingredients to combine and serve immediately. 

The freshness of the cilantro in the tacos and the homemade salsa really make this feel like a night out at the

The Sausage and Veg Bake is too easy for words, and the clean up is fab as it's all roasted on aluminum foil!

Serves 4

Ingredients - 

4 Italian-style pork sausages from your local butcher
1 small bag mixed baby potatoes, cut into quarters
1/2 purple onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, cut into eighths
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into large chunks

Vinaigrette - 
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Italian seasonings or Herbs de Provence

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425.  Line large sheet with foil.  Scatter veggies on both ends and mix vinaigrette over them, then sprinkle salt and pepper.  Toss well.  Place sausage links in the middle of the sheet and drizzle just slightly with olive oil.  Roast for 45 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender. Turn veggies and sausages halfway through roasting.  

If you're tired of paying high dining bills and want to eat at home without breaking the bank while marketing, try focusing on the weekly specials.  Your taste buds, belly, and wallet will thank you!