Tidewater Kitchen - January 2009

Make Cooking Easy

by

Pamela Meredith-Doyle

   For many of us, the responsibility of shopping for and cooking food can be overwhelming. For some people, it is a job that they come to dread after a long day of work, looking after kids and other various tasks. Hopefully some of my favorite quick and easy recipes will help you answer the question of what to cook.
    A comprehensive pantry list is always helpful in keeping you organized so you can grab things in a pinch when you are busy with other things. You can download my pantry list from the Tidewater Times Web site at www.tidewatertimes.com under the story archives section.
    On average, a person used to spend 60 minutes per week in the grocery store. Today we try to spend as little time there as possible – about 20 minutes per week. Learning some basic techniques will save you time in the grocery store, as well as time preparing your meals. Some of my favorite meals taste like I spent hours on them, but I really haven’t.
    In order for you to cook in a shorter amount of time, you must organize yourself differently than you used to. Use the best possible ingredients you can afford. Always read through your recipe completely while you plan your menu. If not, you may not have all the ingredients you need. It will also take longer to prepare. It is also best to choose cooking techniques such as broiling, boiling, sautéing, steaming, grilling or poaching for ease of preparation.

PROSCIUTTO BREAD STICKS
1 (11 oz.) container of refrigerated breadstick dough (Pillsbury)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
24 paper-thin slices prosciutto
1 T. Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a large heavy baking sheet with a silpat (non-stick baking mat) or parchment paper. Tear the dough along the perforations into strips. Using a pizza cutter or a large sharp knife, cut each dough strip in half lengthwise to form thin strips. Working with one dough strip at a time, roll each strip in the Parmesan cheese and twist. Transfer the dough strips to the prepared baking sheets.
Bake until the bread sticks are golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes. Cool the bread sticks completely on the baking sheet.
Before serving, spread some mustard on each slice of prosciutto and wrap around the cooled bread stick. Arrange on a platter and serve.

BLACK BEAN and CORN SALSA
This is always such a huge hit and it’s easy to make. It’s also very healthy!

2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained
2 cans Mexican Fiesta corn
½ medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup mild picante sauce, optional
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
½ t. ground cumin
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 avocados, optional

Peel, seed and chop the tomatoes and dice the onion. Seed and mince the pepper. Combine all ingredients, except the avocado.
I like to add the avocado right before serving. Avocados do have fat in them, so it is your choice if you want to add it. If so, peel and finely chop the avocados and mix with the rest of the ingredients. Serve with low-fat tortilla chips.

CHEESE GARLIC and HERB BREAD
½ cup softened unsalted butter
6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 t. fresh rosemary leaves
1 t. fresh thyme leaves
1 t. fresh oregano leaves
1 loaf sourdough country white bread

Preheat oven to 450°. Oil the inside of the bowl of a mini food processor. Add the softened butter, garlic, cheese and herbs. Pulse until well combined.
Slice the bread into 1-inch-thick slices. You will need 12 to 16 slices.
Spread the butter mixture onto one side of each slice of bread. Arrange the slices, butter side up, in the oven and cook until lightly toasted, about 5 to 8 minutes.

HOMEMADE CROUTONS
4 cups crusty French bread cubes
3-4 T. flavored olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 t. rosemary or thyme (optional)

Cut French bread into bite-sized pieces. Place in a bowl and drizzle with your favorite flavored olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, freshly ground pepper and mix with the crushed garlic.
Spread the seasoned croutons on a cookie sheet.
Pre-heat oven to 425° and bake croutons for 5 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve on top of a crispy salad with crumbled Feta cheese or freshly grated Parmesan and a classic vinaigrette.

MARK SALTER’S CLASSIC VINAIGRETTE
2 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. honey
2 T. wine vinegar
6 T. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the mustard, honey and vinegar in a mixing bowl. Use a wire whisk to whip them until smooth and creamy.
The key to making vinaigrette is to incorporate the oil slowly. You want it to emulsify. If you add all the oil at once and try to stir together it will not get smooth and creamy.
Slowly add the oil to the creamed mixture, whisking the whole time. Do not add oil unless you are whisking. Gradually finish adding the oil.
Season with salt and pepper.

Options: Use a flavored vinegar: raspberry, blueberry, champagne, tarragon or garlic.
Use a different oil, such as walnut, basil, safflower, garlic, etc.
Add fresh herbs, minced shallots or a little mashed garlic.

MY MOM’S DELICIOUS POTATO SOUP
A great dish to take to a sick neighbor – you will make a friend for life and it only takes a half hour to make!

2 T. butter
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped - or
3-4 onions, chopped
6 potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
2 cans Campbell’s chicken broth
2 cans water
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 cups heavy cream or milk
1/8 t. celery salt
Fresh watercress leaves or parsley (optional)

Heat the butter in a saucepan without letting it brown, then add the leeks or onions. Sauté them for a few minutes without browning them.
Add the potatoes, chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Check the potatoes after 10 minutes. As soon as the potatoes come to a boil, turn the burner to simmer. Be sure to cook the potatoes in a deep pan.
Add the watercress or parsley and the salt and pepper. Simmer for another 2 minutes.
Add the cream and reheat gently before serving.
Serve with croutons.

Note: If you use homemade chicken broth or College Inn broth, eliminate the water as Campbell’s is the only one that is double strength.

ITALIAN BEEF and SPINACH PIE
1 unbaked 9-inch pastry shell
½ pound lean ground beef
¼ pound mild ground Italian turkey sausage
¾ cup chopped red sweet pepper
½ cup sliced fresh mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup water
½ cup tomato paste
1½ t. dried Italian seasoning, crushed
½ t. salt
1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2/3 cup light ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (4 oz.)
1 cup chopped tomato
Fresh oregano sprigs (optional)

Line pastry shell with a double thickness of foil. Bake at 450° for 8 minutes. Remove the foil. Bake for 4 to 5 more minutes until shell is set and dry; set aside.
In a medium skillet cook the beef, sausage, pepper, mushrooms and garlic until the meat is brown and the vegetables are tender. Drain off the fat. Stir in water, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and salt. Heat to boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl stir together the spinach, ricotta cheese and half cup of mozzarella cheese. Spoon the spinach filling into the baked pastry shell. Top with the meat mixture. Cover the edge of the pastry with foil to prevent over-browning.
Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Remove foil. Top with tomato and remaining half cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake for 2 minutes more or until heated through and cheese is just melted. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Garnish with fresh oregano if desired. Makes 8 servings.

KAREN KETTERMAN’S AWESOME FIESTA PASTA
8 oz. linguine
2 T. olive oil
1 large zucchini, finely chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
1 large red pepper, finely chopped - or add canned chilies
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 (14 oz.) can chopped Italian tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup olives, chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese

Sauté zucchini, onions, peppers and garlic until tender.
Add canned tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until thick. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.
Cook the linguine according to package directions and top with zucchini mixture. Serves 2.

ROSEMARY CHICKEN and POTATOES
Using extremely fresh rosemary, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt is the key to this simple, yet fabulous meal!

4 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin on
8-12 small new potatoes, washed and cut in half
1 small onion, diced fine
2 T. fresh rosemary, washed and chopped
Good amount of sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°. Toss everything in a large bowl.
Arrange potatoes on an oven-safe pan (or sided cookie sheet) that is sprayed with Pam or smeared with oil or butter. Place the chicken on the pan, making sure all the ingredients are in the cooking pan.
Place into hot oven, uncovered, and bake for 40 minutes until chicken is cooked through and golden.

CHOCOLATE-ESPRESSO LAVA CAKES
These individual soft-centered cakes are baked and served in ovenproof mugs or 8 ounce ramekins. Soufflé dishes can also be used.

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 t. instant espresso powder or 3 t. instant coffee
1½ t. baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
12 T. semisweet chocolate chips
Your favorite ice cream

Sift flour, cocoa powder, 5 teaspoons espresso powder and baking powder into a medium bowl.
Place butter in a large bowl and add both sugars and whisk until well blended. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, and then add the vanilla. Whisk in the dry ingredients.
Divide the batter among six 1-cup ovenproof coffee mugs, filling about 2/3 full. Top each with 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips. Gently press the chips into the batter. Cover and refrigerate mugs for at least 1 hour, and up to 1 day.
Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°. Let mugs with batter stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Bake uncovered until cakes are puffed and crusty and tester inserted into center comes out with thick batter attached – about 30 minutes.
Cool cakes for 5 minutes. Top hot cakes with vanilla or coffee ice cream and sprinkle evenly with the remaining teaspoon of espresso powder.

CROSTATA with your FAVORITE PRESERVE
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 T. sugar
1½ t. grated lemon or lime peel
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½-inch pieces
¼ t. salt
4 T. ice cold water
Flour for dusting, as needed
1 jar (¾ cup) of your favorite preserves
1 T. fresh lemon or lime juice
1 T. sliced almonds, toasted
Powdered sugar, for dusting, optional

Mix the flour, sugar and lemon peel in a food processor. Add the butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add salt. Pulse in the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until moist clumps form. Gather the dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to an 11-inch round. Transfer the dough onto a heavy baking sheet that has been lined with a silpat or parchment paper.
Stir the lemon juice into the preserves and spread on top of dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the dough border over the filling to form an 8-inch round, pleating loosely and pinching to seal any cracks in the dough.
Top with sliced almonds and bake crostata in middle of oven until golden, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack. Top with powdered sugar.