Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pasta from the Pantry with Mediterranean Flare

Some days you just want to make a dish that is completely easy to throw together but doesn’t skimp on the flavor. I’m also trying to make a dent in my freezer and pantry. So with all this in mind I came up with a tangy pasta dish that not only hit the foodie spot but also helped me use up some of my staple pantry items. It combines the bright Mediterranean flavors of artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, herbs and lemon, with the creamy, tangy bite of goat cheese all melty and delicious over hearty whole wheat pasta and grilled lemon and herb chicken. Truth be told you could skip the pasta all together and serve the chunky sauce right over the chicken in a slightly more figure friendly rendition, but I find it physically impossible to skip pasta when provided the option, so I’ll just let you all go down that road on your own. This dish is a serious keeper so clean out your pantry while you eat and enjoy!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Updating a favorite – Creamy, Tangy Mac n Cheese

I know it’s only been a few weeks since I posted my macaroni and cheese recipe but as fate would have it, I came across a magnificent example of my favorite dish just down the street from me, inspiring some tweaking of my standard go to recipe. For this round I have decreased a touch of each of my trio of cheeses to make room for a fourth player – GOAT CHEESE! I know there are folks out there who are not fans of goat cheese and that is just fine (even though y’all crazy!) I will reiterate my pledge that goat cheese when warm is a whole other breed of delicious, creamy, mind blowing goodness. Adding just a few ounces of goat cheese to the sauce for this is genius…and I can say that perfectly honestly because it totally was not my idea, bias completely avoided. The goat cheese adds a very subtle tang and boosts the creamy factor without being overly goaty (yes, I definitely made that word up), which by the by I wouldn’t mind at all, but it’s just not the case here.

I really love this new cheese combination. The instigator of the goat cheese idea, though I know it’s not novel, was 2223 Restaurant in San Francisco. They combine a luscious mixture of goat, gruyere and parmesan into a gooey, over the top, decadent, heart stopping dish. And I do mean heart stopping. I felt my arteries clogging even more with every bite and it was f.a.n.t.a.s.t.i.c! I will try my hand at recreating their version one of these days. For now, check out this new twist on a classic that never gets old and always makes you a member of the clean plate club. My only trouble with this recipe is once it comes out of the oven I get so excited to eat it that I without fail forget to take a final picture of the dish before diving in. I guess you’ll just have to make it to find out what the fuss is all about.

And a special shout out to my girl Sierra, for whom I made a tray of my revamped Mac n Cheese for her going away party. She’s leaving the foggy city for the wonders of Seattle. Good luck girl! We’ll miss you!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Adventures in Vegetarian Cooking – What the heck is Halloumi?

This week a friend of ours was nice enough to share the bounty of his vegetable box with us. For those of you not familiar with the concept of veggie boxes, in many places you can sign up to receive weekly boxes from a local farm of whatever fresh produce has been harvested as of late. It’s seasonal, it’s local, it’s typically organic, and the food tends to be spectacular! His delivery also came with a fun looking recipe for Roasted Vegetable salad with Halloumi. One problem, what the heck is Halloumi?

Turns out it’s a cheese and we all know how much I adore cheese so I was totally excited to try something new! I had to do a little research. Turns out Halloumi is a traditional Greek cheese from Cypress that is a hard cheese made from a mixture of goat and sheep’s milk. It’s billed as “the grilling cheese” because it has a high melting point. When cooked, the cheese softens and its salty flavor mellows. You can find Halloumi in most stores, certainly whole foods but do check in with your local international foods market as well.

So I took the opportunity to try out two different recipes, one that roasted the cheese in the oven for a salad and the other that pan-fried it as little appetizer bites. Both were delicious. In fact the salad was downright superb, largely I think due to freshness of the vegetables and the dash of amazing red wine vinegar I recently bought (not all vinegars are the same folks! It’s worth investing is some really good ones.) I found Halloumi cheese quite appealing right off the heat when it was soft and tender and it’s flavor was slightly salty but mellow and reminded me a bit of a feta and mozzarella love child. Delightful. However, within minutes as the cheese cools it hardens slightly, becoming chewier and less appealing texturally in my opinion, though depending on your tastes this may be moot. Pairing the cheese with the red wine vinegar in the salad and the lime juice in the appetizer was really successful as the acid helped balance the cheese. Overall, I really liked both these dishes and I would definitely try Halloumi again, though I might stand over the stove to eat it quickly while it’s nice and hot and soft!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting Back in the Saddle with Grilled Fish and Grapefruit Salad

First of all, I need to apologize to A Girl and Her Kitchen readers. I took this new job a couple months ago and it has taken over a significant portion of my life. As such I am sad to say my blog has suffered. But fear not! I am slowly weaving cooking, eating and blog updates back into my life. Viva la blog!

Today’s dish is a nod to the fresh, light food we all tend to eat during the summer. This one will help keep that figure friendly but doesn’t skimp on taste at all. The bright flavor of lime, cayenne and agave nectar (a most fantastic natural sweetener) liven up halibut (though any white fish will do). Grilled to perfection with a fresh side salad of warm roasted fennel and fresh grapefruit segments tossed with tender but spicy baby arugula makes this one a serious summer hit. It’s a really satisfying meal that is a synch to put together. Sweet, spicy and clean tasting with that zing from the citrus. If you’ve never done a supreme of a grapefruit or other citrus fruit, it’s a fabulous kitchen tool! Really an easy thing to do once you've tried it a few times. For a pretty good back to basics review check out Chef In You’s post on the subject. Enjoy!