Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Farmers Market and Summer Squash Salad

I have been traveling a lot as of late for work so it was such a fantastic relief to spend a lazy weekend at home finally. Husband was out of town, the weather was gorgeous, and I was still on another time zone so when I popped out of bed at an absurdly early hour on Saturday I decided to do something I rarely get to….explore the SF Ferry Building farmers’ market before the tourists arrive en masse! Now this particular farmers market is one of the more fancy pants ones…meaning it’s by no means an economical shopping option, but the setting can’t be beat and the selection is delectable. Thus, I spent my very early morning hours wandering glassy eyed about the stalls of produce, fresh cheese and other mouth watering, tasty options.

The squash I had found was just beautiful. I picked up 5 or 6 different types in bright greens and yellows and all different shapes and sizes. The goat cheese was also a major find. The farmer was a lovely man who quite honestly, very closely resembled one of his own goats, endearing to say the least. He was hawking a cheese that was to die for, soft and creamy; he had made it only the day before! I immediately bought a hunk.  Then I stumbled across the tomatoes. I know, it’s absolutely not tomato season, but you wouldn’t know that by tasting these ruby beauties!

With all this gorgeous fresh food I went about creating something fun to eat. After a morning of sun and farmers, it seemed only fitting to turn my market booty into something summery and fresh. The result was a grilled summer squash salad, a bright, colorful salad bursting with flavor that took next to no time to make. Grilling the squash helps keep its sweet flavor while adding a fun look of grill marks and that essence of summer. The tomatoes added a major juicy boost while the soft crumbles of tangy fresh goat cheese, fresh green basil, some indulgent prosciutto and a lemon and balsamic dressing came together to make an irresistible dish. I served it with a fantastic salmon (a recipe I shall have to share soon) but could easily find a million homes for this one. It was so good! And very healthy (leaving room for the copious amounts of mac n cheese I ate the next day…another future post). So hit up your local farmers market or favorite produce section because this one is a major winner!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Goat Cheese and Roasted Veggies Make Yummy Pasta

A while ago I saw Giada make this penne dish with goat cheese and roasted squash. Now I love squash and so pairing it with my two food obsessions (cheese and pasta) was like a squash supernova. I also happen to be a serious goat cheese fan. This was not always the case. I remember literally spitting out the very first taste of goat cheese I had. What makes that story worse was that I was with my mother in a nice restaurant in Georgetown, embarrassing to say the least. Amazingly enough, it was an appetizer my mom later served that ended up turning my tastes for goat cheese around. Ok, so technically it was her best friend Stephanie whose goat cheese and tapenade bruschetta officially won me over. It was the warming of the goat cheese gently in the oven that mellowed out the flavor and made it much more accessible to my palate. Today I’ll eat goat cheese any way I can get it but this dish is a really good one for those who are timid about goat cheese. The hot pasta melts the cheese and while warming it kicks that goat cheesey tang down and lets the creamier and rounder flavor of it out. The roasted vegetables bring a nutty sweetness to the dish that pairs so well with the more savory cheese.

That brings me to another serious reason to try this recipe out….if you don’t like fennel, you sure will after you eat this. Truth be told, I adore fennel, but again, that has not always been the case. I hate black licorice (insert shudder of disgust) and so I used to avoid fennel like the plague; not very Italian of me. Then one day I tried a recipe for roasted fennel (one I will post shortly) and I have never looked back. Roasting fennel completely transforms its flavor. It takes on a mellow sweetness that when seasoned right with a bit of salt and pepper and some parmesan is absolutely undeniably my favorite vegetable side dish on earth. So break out those adventure pants and take a stab at this one, penne with roasted butternut squash, fennel and onions in a creamy goat cheese sauce.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No Grill Required Tender BBQ Ribs

We’re pretty big meat eaters in this family so when ribs went on sale this week husband nearly flew to the store. One of the best things about cooking ribs is how seriously easy they are. You absolutely do not need a grill to make fall off the bone amazeballs ribs. As you probably have surmised by now, A Girl and Her Kitchen is all about the pinch of this and pinch of that school of cooking. It’s how my mom generally cooks and while the measuring cups and spoons have a time and a place, they tend to spend more time than not decoratively hanging on my wall. This recipe is no exception to that rule. I took the base inspiration from an Emeril recipe, which is surprising because I tend to want to smack that man any time I see him, but alas there is always a first time for everything.

So despite its dubious roots, this recipe is fabulous.  The rub gives the meat fastastic earthy undertones while the BBQ sauce brings a bright and rich flavor. Your loved ones will give you a standing ovation for these suckers and never know that your hard work amounted to a solid 5 minutes of prep and the rest the meat did on its own. You do however need a few hours to sit at home while they cook in the oven so unless you are lucky enough to work from home like yours truly, this might have to wait for a weekend dinner night, but they are well worth it. So grab a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce, a couple of pantry seasonings and make the easiest yet tender, mouthwatering ribs you have ever eaten in your own kitchen.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chicken Tetrazzini

I just started a new job. My new firm is based in the DC area and since I’m based in the Bay Area that means more travel for yours truly. I’m spending my first two weeks on the job out in DC at what I am sure will be a simply spectacular Residence Inn. Not sure you will be getting too much cooking out of me while I am there, so hopefully I can round up some more guest bloggers to keep you all satiated while I’m away.

With this long trip looming ahead I’ve been feeling very homey. This led me to make tuna noodle casserole a couple weeks ago, a spectacular dish that had husband and I fighting over the last morsels. So I decided to embrace my 50s era casserole cooking theme and try my hand at Chicken Tetrazzini, which is essentially tuna noodle casserole except there’s chicken involved. I added a few other things here and there (one of which being chopped asparagus because I have been swimming in asparagus) and it was fabulous! Best of all, I made two trays of it, one of which I froze so husband doesn’t starve while I’m away. :-)