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Archive for June, 2011

The other week I was responsible for bringing a pasta salad to a picnic outing.  The problem was I knew I wasn’t going to have much time to dedicate to getting groceries or cooking, so I wanted to make something relatively easy that I already had most of the ingredients for.  I then found this salad and knew I was set.  All I had to pick up was tomatoes and basil.

Make sure when preparing this salad that it has time to cool down before serving.  It is supposed to be served at room temperature, however I think it could also work cold.  But definitely be sure to give time for the dressing to soak in and for all the flavors to blend together.

 

Orzo Salad with Chickpeas – 1 Knife (Adapted from Food Network)

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Orzo (about 1½ cups)
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • 1 pint container of grape tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion
  • ½ cup fresh basil
  • 3-5 mint leaves
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil

Prep:

  1. In a medium to large pot bring the chicken broth to a boil over high heat.   While the broth heats up you can prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Wash the grape tomatoes.  Cut all of the tomatoes in half and set them aside.
  3. Peel the red onion and chop up the whole onion into a small dice.  Set aside with the tomatoes.
  4. Open the can of chickpeas, drain the liquid and set aside.
  5. Wash and dry the basil and mint leaves.  Cut the leaves into thin strips but cutting down the length of the leaves.  Then cut the strips into a small dice.  Set the basil and mint aside.
  6. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into a small bowl.  Be sure to remove any seeds that fall into the bowl.
  7. Add to the lemon juice the vinegar, honey, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Stir well until combined.

Cook:

  1. Once the chicken broth is boiling cook the orzo according to the directions on the package.
  2. While the orzo cooks combine in a large bowl the chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, basil and mint.  Stir to mix.
  3. Once the orzo has cooked strain it from the chicken broth, discarding leftover broth.
  4. Add the orzo to the bowl with the chickpeas and other ingredients.
  5. Immediately pour the dressing from the small bowl over the orzo.
  6. Stir the salad until all of the ingredients are well mixed.
  7. Allow it to chill in the fridge until the salad is at least room temperature, serve and enjoy!
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DC has been nasty lately.  Temperatures so high it feels like it’s over 100 degrees out.  When it is this gross out, the only foods I can eat are cold and refreshing.  Cucumbers and yogurt are one of my favorite salads for this type of weather.  In general I find foods with a Mediterranean influence to be incredibly refreshing and simple to make over the summer.  A few years back I threw a huge Greek dinner for my mid-July birthday and it was fabulous.

Now with this particular recipe I am calling it a salad since I like to keep the yogurt thick, however it can also be paired with grilled meats or watered down to be soup.  Also if you wanted a smoother version you could substitute regular plain yogurt for Greek yogurt.

 

Cucumber and Yogurt Salad – 1 Knife

Ingredients:

  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 17.6 oz container Greek Yogurt
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2-3 mint leaves

Prep:

  1. Peel the garlic clove and mince into small pieces.  Set aside.
  2. Cut the mint leaves into a mince by cutting the leaves into long slices and then cutting the slices into small pieces.  Set the mint aside with the garlic.
  3. Wash and peel the cucumber.  Using a large grater, grate the whole cucumber into a large bowl.

Cook:

  1. Add to the bowl with the cucumber the Greek yogurt.  Stir until well mixed.
  2. Add to the bowl the salt, garlic, mint, dill and honey.  Stir well until the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
  3. Add the water to the bowl and stir carefully until the yogurt reaches a uniform consistency.  If you prefer stiffer yogurt use less water, or if you prefer a runnier yogurt you can add additional water.
  4. Allow to chill in the fridge for at least one hour so the flavors can coalesce.  Serve and enjoy!

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One of my favorite parts of Ben’s potluck dinners is trying other people’s food.  People bring family recipes or experiment wildly much as I do.  One of my favorites is my friend Becca’s macaroni and cheese.  Now I understand that the recipe came from a friend of hers, however since in my world its only ever been made by Becca, it gets named for Becca.

This mac is rich.  Becca doesn’t scrimp on the cheese, and she adds asparagus for fantastic flavor (and nutrients).  I realize that the cheeses involved can be a bit indulgent, however I recommend sticking with them as the flavor is out-of-this-world amazing.

I have cooked on this blog with a roux before, but I wanted to do a quick refresher.  A roux is a mixture of flour and fat, in this case butter, that is used as the base for a sauce.  The trick with roux is to constantly stir it with a whisk or fork while it is forming, otherwise it can stick to the bottom of the pan.  But don’t feel intimidated by this!  No matter what happens this recipe with all of that delicious cheese will still taste fantastic.

 

Becca’s Macaroni and Cheese with Asparagus – 2 Knives

Ingredients:

  • 1 16 oz box of shell or spiral pasta
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup shredded jarslberg cheese
  • 2/3 cup shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

Prep:

  1. Wash the asparagus and chop off the rough ends (about 2 inches from the bottom).
  2. Chop the asparagus into 1 inch pieces.
  3. Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Add the asparagus and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the asparagus are tender.
  4. Once cooked strain the asparagus and set aside.
  5. While the asparagus is boiling shred the jarlsberg, gruyere and cheddar cheese.  When shredding the cheddar set 1/3 cup aside.
  6. Mix the cheeses together in a bowl and set aside, you should have 2 cups of cheese plus the additional 1/3 of cheddar.
  7. Pour the 2 cups of milk into a measuring cup and set aside.  You’ll want to be able to grab this quickly when working with the roux.

Cook:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.
  3. While the pasta water is coming to a boil, in a large sauté pan (one with sides at least 2 inches high), melt the butter over medium (more low than hot) heat.
  4. Once the butter is melted add the flour.  Stir the flour and butter to mix well and then continue stirring as the mixture bubbles.  Make sure to constantly move around the roux and not let it stick or cook onto the pan.
  5. Once the roux begins to brown , remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the milk to the pan.  Place the pan back on the heat and stir to mix the milk and the roux.
  6. Add to the mixture the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  7. Add to the milk mixture your 2 cups of shredded cheese.  Stir the mixture well so that the cheese is fully melted into the milk to create a thick, silky sauce.
  8. Once the pasta has finished cooking, strain it in a colander and then return to the pot, but not on a hot burner.
  9. Stir the asparagus into the pasta and mix.
  10. Pour the cheese sauce into the pasta and stir so that the pasta is all evenly coated.
  11. Transfer the pasta into a 13×9 inch baking pan.  Cover the pasta evenly with the remaining 1/3 cup of cheddar cheese.
  12. Place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving, and enjoy!

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