Tag Archives: olive oil

Ending the Summer with Orzo with Roasted Vegetables!

It’s hard to believe that the summer is drawing to a close, although I have to say, the cool weather is a welcome change. I keep seeing leaves falling from our many trees, and it’s getting me excited for fall. However, I know, there still are a few weeks left. As your squeezing in those final summer get togethers and Labor Day picnics, take a look at this recipe! Orzo with roasted vegetables is a delicious alternative to potato salad or cole slaw, or whatever you normal take. It’s pretty easy, travels great, and is absolutely delicious.

Peel and chop 1 small eggplant into 1 inch pieces. Chop 1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, and 1 red onion into 1 inch pieces as well. Throw them all on a sheet pan. Add 2 garlic cloves, minced, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat all of the vegetables in the oil, then spread out on the pan. Cook at 425 for 40 minutes until browned. Turn them once with a spatula about half way through so they don’t stick and get evenly browned.Ready for RoastingGetting ThereDone!

Meanwhile, cook ½ lb. orzo according to the package directions. If you’re not familiar with orzo, it’s a pasta, similar in shape to rice. You can find it in your pasta aisle. Once it’s cooked, drain and add it to a large bowl. Add the roasted vegetables when they are done, and any delicious liquid that may have accumulated in the pan. Make the dressing by combining 1/3 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons), 1/3 cup olive oil, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Whisk to combine, then add to the other hot ingredients. Stir, and let them all combine while they cool to room temperature.OrzoRoasted VeggiesJuicing LemonsLemon JuiceOlive OilPepperAlmost Ready

If you’re going to use the salad in a day or so, you can cover and store this salad in the refrigerator before adding the rest. The day you’re going to serve, take the salad out of the refrigerator several hours early to allow to come to room temperature. Add 4 minced scallions (both white and green parts), ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, ¾ lbs. crumbled feta, and 15 basil leaves, thinly sliced.ScallionsBasilPine NutsFetaCombined

Toss everything to combine, and there you go. The recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, and really is a delicious one. Give it a try at your next get together. I guarantee you’ll get rave reviews, and lots of requests for the recipe!

Tomatoes and Cucumbers…the Fruits of the Season!

Wow, where has the time gone? I can’t believe it’s already August. And I can’t believe that it’s been so long since I’ve had a blog post. I guess vacations, cleaning up the overgrown yard of the new house, and every day life got in the way. So sorry, I’ll do better, I promise!

The warm weather and humidity continues in this area, Heat waves and thunderstorms have been a regular occurrence, it seems like since June. The only good thing is that the produce has been delicious and abundant. During this time of the summer, tomatoes and cucumbers are especially delicious, and they make the perfect summer salad.

For me, nothing says summer like cucumber and tomato salad. With the addition of some basil and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette, it’s the perfect side for any meal. Not to mention, it’s great to keep the oven and stove off!

To start, use about equal parts cucumbers and tomatoes. I used 2 cucumbers and 3 large, ripe tomatoes (I know there are 4 in the picture, but I only used 3). Core the tomatoes, and slice into chunks. Add to a large bowl. Peel the cucumbers, and slice into rounds. Add to the same bowl. Finally, add fresh basil. Use 10 basil leaves, thinly sliced, and add to the same bowl.tomatoesslicedchoppedcucumberpeeledready for dressingbasilNext, grab a small bowl to make the vinaigrette. Use equal parts Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar. I used about 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Whisk the two to combine. Add about 3 times the amount of olive oil. I used about 3 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk until emulsified. Add salt and pepper. ingredientsmustardbalsamicPour the vinaigrette over the vegetables and stir to combine.

My favorite way to enjoy this salad is after it’s sat for about 30 minutes, so the juices of the tomato combine with the vinaigrette. One caveat though, be sure to let the salad marinate on the counter. The salad is best at room temperature, and it really is delicious. Fresh, crunchy, and tangy…just perfect!

Enjoy this last month of summer before it’s gone. And stay cool!

Packing My Lunch with Rosemary Chicken Salad

Roast ChickenAlmost 3 months ago to the day, I started a new job.  I absolutely love the new position and the people I work with.  It’s really my dream job, although there is one drawback.  I have had to start packing my lunch.  It’s not that I can’t run out every once in a while, but it just seems to be easier to pack.  So, after about 15 years not really ever packing, I’m back to brown bagging for lunch.  And, one of my favorite things to bring is rosemary chicken salad.

I am a huge fan of chicken salad.  If it’s on the menu, I’ve probably already had it before, or I’m going to order it.  However, probably as a result, I’m pretty picky about it.  I don’t like a Choppedton of mayonnaise, but I like it flavorful and bold, and love chicken salad with fruit or nuts, and this recipe has both.

To start, you have to roast the chicken.  I know some people will disagree and say they boil chicken, or, the trendy way of saying it, poach, but I think it leaves you with a flavorless, rubbery bird.  Instead, I like to roast boneless, skinless chicken, and infuse flavor every step of the way.

I use boneless, skinless breasts for this.  You really could use bone in or skin on, but I find this is easier, as you’re going to take it off.  Keeping the chicken on the bone would impart a Ingredientsbit more flavor, but let’s face it, I don’t have all day.  I rub 5 chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt, pepper, and chopped fresh rosemary.  I like to roast the breasts in a cookie sheet.  Also, I don’t cut out all the fat when I’m roasting the chicken.  I find it’s easier to pick it off after it’s cooked. Put them in a 425 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes, until cooked through, then let them rest and cool.

Once the chicken is cool, I chop it into cubes and put it in a large bowl.  Next, add 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, 1/2 cup dried cranberries or Craisins, and 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary.  Add about 1/2 cup rosemarymayonnaise to chicken mixture there stir to combine.  You may find you need to add a little more mayo if you have big pieces of chicken, or if you like more mayo.  Feel free to adjust.

While I would love a nice, chewy roll to eat with my chicken salad, I go for simple to take to work.  I pack it with some saltine crackers.  It’s easy, and delicious.  Happy lunch packing!

Good Use for the Harvest…Roasted Peppers

Red PepperI will admit, I am absolutely terrible when it comes to growing bell peppers.  I’m not sure why.  I know tons of friends who have an abundance of delicious peppers in all colors, shapes, and sizes, but for some reason, every year I’ve tried to grow them, I got maybe one sad little pepper.  That’s it.  So, needless to say, I gave up on growing peppers a long time ago.  But, if you’re not like me, and you have success with peppers, or if you just find a good deal at the grocery store, one of the best ways to use them up is to roast them.  And, bonus, they are delicious and easy!

I learned my roasting technique fromReady for the Oven Lidia Bastianich and her “Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen” cookbook.  She gives two ways to roast peppers.  One, turning them over a gas burner until they’re charred, seems like torture to me.  But the other version, roasting at a high temperature in the oven, is as easy as it gets.

Before I start, I always cover my sheet pan in aluminum foil.  It just makes the clean up that much easier.  Then, as Lidia suggests, I turn the temperature to 475 degree.  Make sure your rack is at the highest spot that you can put it but still get the sheet pan with the Out of the Ovenpeppers on it in the oven.  Then, just spread the peppers out on the pan.  I usually use 4 large red peppers, which makes a nice batch and doesn’t crowd the sheet pan.  I’m not sure why I always use red, but it just seems like you should.  And all you need to do to the peppers is wash and dry them thoroughly…nothing else…and put them in the hot oven.

I check the peppers after about 5-7 minutes.  You want the skin to start to char and blister.  The first side can sometimes take a little while, but keep checking.  Once it’s Covered in Plasticcharred and blistered, turn the peppers a quarter turn.  Keep them in for about another 3-4 minutes until that side chars.  Then, just keep checking and rotating until all sides are charred, and the peppers have softened.  It will only take 15-20 minutes.  And don’t worry if you don’t get every side, as long as they have some color and are softened, they will have that great flavor.  But don’t be afraid of the charred, burnt look.  It really does add a tremendous amount of flavor.

PeelingAs soon as you take the peppers out of the oven, transfer them to a bowl that you can cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Drop them all in and cover.  This will steam the peppers as they cool and make the skins very easy to remove.  Lidia says to leave them for about 40 minutes, but I usually just go and do something else and forget about them for a while.  Once you can handle them, pull out the stem and seeds, and peel the skin away.  It should come off very easily with your hands.  It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it!

Ready to EatOnce I have my peppers roasted and cleaned, I like to slice them into strips and add some flavoring.  I add 3 garlic cloves, crushed, along with about 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and a few tablespoons olive oil.  Give that a stir and let it rest for the flavors to come together.  I usually like to make them the night before I’m serving them, but you don’t need to.  You can store them in the refrigerator.  I like to take them out early before serving so they come to room temperature.

Roasted peppers, some crusty bread, maybe some wine…sounds like a great dinner for a warm late summer night!

Using Up the Harvest…Sauteed Zucchini and Summer Squash

Zucchini and Summer SquashIt seems like you wait forever to get the first harvest from the garden, but then when you do, it just keeps coming and coming.  That’s what seems to be happening right now with my zucchini and summer squash, but I’m not complaining…YET! I’ve been harvesting these two for a few weeks, and they have been delicious.  And while I’m sure later in the summer, when I’m sick of them, I’ll be pulling out my trusty zucchini bread recipe, right now I’m enjoying them one of my favorite ways…a simple saute with onions in butter and olive oil.

ChoppedWhen harvesting zucchini and squash, I like to catch them before they get too big.  Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t had gigantic ones in the past…and I know some of my coworkers can attest to that as I always brought in the extras to them.  But, when I’m on top of things, I like to harvest when they are no more than 10 inches.  I find that they aren’t as watery, and their flavor is more intense.  However, if you weren’t paying attention, or, as I’ve done almost every year, there is one that hides under some leaves and you find it when it’s two feet long, just cut it in half and scoop out the seeds before chopping.  When they are that big, you want to avoid the seeds.

OnionsFor this recipe, I used 2 zucchini and 1 summer squash, all about 10 inches long.  Simply cut off the stems, and chop them.  I like to quarter then and slice them into about 1/4-1/2 inch slices.  You’ll also want to chop 1 small red onion and mince (or use the garlic press) 3 cloves of garlic.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted and the oil is hot, add the onion.  Cook for a few minutes until they start to get some Finishedcolor, then add the garlic.  I don’t like to add the garlic too early, because it can burn easily.  And when garlic burns, it has a horrible taste.  After just about 1 minute, add the sliced zucchini and squash.  Stir everything around, and let them cook down.  You’ll want to stir periodically, but it will take about 10 minutes for them to soften and get a little bit of color.  Add some salt (I used about 1/2 teaspoon salt) and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon pepper as well), and stir to combine.

This is a great side dish in the summer when the vegetables are fresh, and It really is a simple recipe.  However, it really brings out the flavor of the vegetables.  Enjoy!

Tomato, Basil, Garlic, Olive Oil…Ah Bruschetta

I am not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I love tomatoes.  I love them in all forms, cooked, raw, doesn’t matter.  And one of my favorite ways to eat tomatoes is in bruschetta.

Bruschetta is incredibly simple to make, and absolutely delicious.  And, because it’s all about fresh ingredients, it’s a perfect summer recipe.

Diced TomatoesTo start, find nice, ripe tomatoes.  I prefer the Roma or plum tomatoes for bruschetta because they aren’t as juicy.  Their texture holds up well.  However, really any tomato will do.  And if you have them fresh from the garden, well, they are always the best!  For this recipe I use 5 tomatoes.  And, you may remember a while ago me going on and on about ceramic knives for cutting tomatoes, but I really do taste a difference.  So if you have a ceramic knife, now is the time to use it.  Remove the seeds and dice the tomatoes and add them to a bowl.

Minced GarlicAdd to the tomatoes 3 garlic cloves, minced.  In traditional bruschetta, the garlic would be rubbed on the toasted bread, but I find this works well and is easier.  You want the mince to be pretty small to avoid people getting a huge piece of garlic.  Also, I should warn you, I love garlic, so you may find 3 cloves is a bit much for you, or you may want more.  Feel free to adjust.

To the tomatoes and garlic, add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.  I also add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.  I think purists would probably just stick with the olive oil and not include the vinegar, but I think it adds a great flavor to the bruschetta.

BasilFinally, add 6 basil leaves.  I chiffonade them.  Sounds impressive, right?  Well, it just means you roll the leaves up and cut them into strips. Now give the bruschetta a stir and you’re done.

I prefer bruschetta at room temperature.  Also, as it sits, the tomatoes release their juices, adding to the delicious liquid.  Serve the bruschetta with toasted sliced Italian bread.  Just grill the bread, or toast it on a cookie sheet in the oven.  The crispy bread Bruschettadoes a great job of soaking up the delicious juice.

Bruschetta makes a great appetizer, but it’s also a good side.  And it works well at barbeques or picnics.  I might whip up a batch for Memorial Day!  Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone!