Archive for the ‘Sides’ Category

Herb & Rice Stuffed Pepper

Cooking for other people can be tricky.  Especially if it’s Bikenut!  He’s so picky, but I guess the challenge keeps things interesting.

Bikenut has expressed before that he doesn’t care for stuffed peppers.  So, when I had the idea to make some stuffed tomatoes, with herbs and fresh bread crumbs, I thought, “Hey, he likes tomatoes, so he might like those.”  But Bikenut informed me he doesn’t like stuffed tomatoes.  Rather, he doesn’t like stuffed vegetables of any sort.  So, I decided that I would just chuck the idea altogether.

That obviously didn’t last long, and I decided that I would make myself a stuffed pepper to go with the kebabs I was attempting that night for dinner.  (Separate post for that one coming later.)  I prefer any other color bell pepper than the green ones.  They just have some overly pungent flavor to them.  Not to say they aren’t good in some dishes… but to me, they’re best reserved for pizza toppings.  Although, I have to say, they are good with the ground beef and rice version of stuffed peppers.  Maybe it’s the combination of tomato and green bell pepper that appeals to me, but otherwise, forget it.  Anyway…

I had some leftover jasmine rice from dinner the night before, and I decided that I would use that to stuff my pepper.  If I had to start from scratch, I’d have used basmati for this recipe.  I was, afterall, going for a Middle Eastern flavor.  As it turned out though, this wasn’t too bad!  It’s filling though, so I’m really glad I forgot to make it when I threw all of the veggies in to roast for the kebab meal last night.  I only had about half of this pepper for lunch and I’m, well, stuffed!  So, perhaps if you’re making it as a side or for light eaters, half a pepper per person might be about right for a dinner portion.

Herb & Rice Stuffed Pepper

Ingredients:

  • 1  medium bell pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups of cooked rice (leftovers work great!)
  • 2 Tablespoons red onion or shallot, finely diced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cold butter, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: turmeric, paprika, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder
  • Dash each: cumin, cardamom, garam masala, salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Rinse and dry pepper.  For one single serving pepper, cut off top of pepper at the stem end.  For two half-pepper servings, cut out stem, then halve the pepper from stem to bottom.  Remove seeds and ribs.  Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine all remaining ingredients, reserving one tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.  Stir all ingredients together until well mixed.
  4. Firmly pack stuffing mixture into the pepper.
  5. Place stuffed pepper in a baking dish and rub outside of pepper with oil to coat.
  6. Bake pepper in oven for 25-30 minutes, or until pepper is tender.
  7. Top pepper with remaining Parmesan cheese and broil until golden brown.

Peep’s Panzanella

I haven’t had a panzanella before.  I’ve seen a few, but never had one myself, let alone made one.  This could be attributed to the fact that I never really liked tomatoes, and bell peppers have always been a love/hate type of flavor for me.   But a friend sent me a link to a panzanella salad, and it looked so good I had to try it myself.  Of course, I had to tweak it a bit.  It’s just in my nature.

I had a little loaf of french bread on the counter that Bikenut bought for some purpose but never got around to eating.  I cut that up into little cubes, tossed them with some olive oil, garlic powder, paprika and dried parsley, and baked them for about 15-20 minutes at 350°F.

When I went to the store to buy all my ingredients, none of the Roma tomatoes I saw looked particularly ripe, so I opted for the tiny little grape tomatoes instead.  I decided to roast them in the oven alongside the bread cubes, rolling them around in the leftover oil on the sheet pan and sprinkling them with a little sea salt.   I know, it goes against the freshness of the salad, so feel free to just toss them in raw if you prefer.  The roasting sweetened the tomatoes, and I wanted a softer texture from them than I’d get if they were whole in the salad.  I could have cut them in half, sure, but I didn’t want tomato goop all over the rest of everything, and it would be a pain to halve and de-goop that many tiny tomatoes!

While the croutons and the tomatoes were roasting away, I got to work on the rest of the ingredients.  I had really hoped to keep the green color of the cucumber intact, but I wasn’t able to find any hothouse (or English) cucumbers at the market, nor could I find a decent yellow bell pepper.  (What the heck, Whole Foods??)  So, I ended up with the regular old waxy cucumber, which I peeled and seeded, and a red and an orange bell pepper.  I tried to cut everything in even, bite-sized pieces, keeping in mind that everything does actually need to fit in your mouth.  With the knife work and the croutons done, I put all of the veggies and croutons into a large bowl.  I added all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette into a mason jar, shook it up, poured it over the salad and gave it a good toss.

I had to have a little taste right then, and it was delicious!  It was almost better having let it sit for about an hour so that all the flavors mingled, and the croutons had soaked up some of that vinaigrette and softened (but were still crunchy in the middle.)  I hope you enjoy it!

Peep’s Panzanella

Ingredients for the salad:

  • 1 small french bread loaf, cut into 1″ cubes (day old/stale bread works great!)
  • Olive oil to drizzle
  • Garlic powder, paprika, dried parsley, salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 handfuls of grape tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces (mix up the colors!)
  • 1/2 large red onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves, chiffonade or tear by hand

Ingredients for the vinaigrette:

  • 1 clove finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tablespoons citrus champagne vinegar (or champagne vinegar and a squeeze of lemon juice)
  • 1/3 cup of your favorite olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  On a large baking sheet, drizzle bread cubes with olive oil, then sprinkle with garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper and dried parsley.  Toss to coat.  Move bread cubes to one half of the baking sheet, arranged into a single layer.  On other half of the baking sheet, place tomatoes (whole) and roll in the olive oil remaining on the sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until bread cubes are golden brown.
  2. In a small jar, add all vinaigrette ingredients.  Cap the jar and shake until well blended.   (You can also whisk it together in a bowl.)
  3. In a large bowl, toss together the cucumber, bell peppers, onion and basil.  Add the roasted tomatoes and bread cubes, then pour the vinaigrette over and toss.   Enjoy!

Easy Peasy Corn Bread

Why would you make it from a box, when it’s soooo easy to make it from scratch?  To be honest, it was my first time making it without a little blue box, or a pouch from a restaurant that’s known for their corn bread.  And to be honest, I liked it much, much better!

There are things to be grateful for, aside from the corn bread being super yummy.  I’m grateful for knowing that three teaspoons equals one tablespoon.  It comes in particularly handy when you drop in two half-tablespoons of baking powder into your bowl of dry ingredients, thinking that you actually grabbed the teaspoon instead.  Hooray for saving the mixture, especially since I had already put the last of my corn meal into the bowl.

I’m too tired from making dinner to be bothered to take a picture, but you’ve all seen corn bread (or in this case, corn muffins) before so I wouldn’t be showing you anything new. 😀

Easy Peasy Corn Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 beaten egg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F, and grease an 8 or 9-inch pan, or muffin tin.
  2. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
  3. Stir in milk, oil and egg, mixing just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  4. Pour batter into pan or muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until light golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.
  5. Serve warm with homemade honey butter.

Mushroom Risotto

Every time I tell Bikenut I’m going to make risotto, he always asks the same question, “That’s pasta, right?”  “No, silly.  ‘Risotto’ is Italian for ‘rice’.  You are thinking of orzo, which is a rice-shaped pasta.”  “Are you sure?”  Who is the cook here!?  Of course I’m sure!!!

mushroom_risotto3-2

Every time I make risotto, I always hope that it will take less time to cook this time than it did the last time.  That never happens.  I’m always standing in front of the stove for about 45 minutes, but the reward for that effort is usually worth it.  This time was not an exception.

I’ve made a few risottos since I became somewhat obsessed with them a couple of years ago.  Surprisingly, with mushrooms being one of my all-time favorite ingredients, I’ve only attempted a mushroom risotto once before.  (That happened to be one time that the effort was not well-rewarded.)  I opted to try it again because I needed to use up the mushrooms I bought at the farmer’s market this past weekend.

First things first, the mushrooms (a combination of both white and brown) had to be cleaned and sliced.  I don’t know about you, but I wash my mushrooms under running water.  I go as far as to use a vegetable brush on them.  And each time I clean mushrooms, I think of my friend and one-time co-worker saying, “I bet you’re just like me and scrub those things!  I don’t trust that ‘Just brush them with a damp paper towel’ business.”  Yeah, me either!  It was another saying that would circulate through our group that reinforced that behavior — “They treat us like mushrooms — keep us in the dark and cover us with ****…”  Not something I want in my risotto, that’s for sure!

I started the risotto off by heating up some chicken broth (a 32oz carton) in a pot, and putting my 10″ stainless steel pan over medium-high heat and adding a swirl of olive oil.   Once that was good and warmed up, I added a little bit of butter and 3/4 of a cup of rice, gave it all a stir to coat the rice in the oil, then tossed in the mushrooms along with some salt and pepper, a half teaspoon each of dried thyme, garlic powder and onion powder.   (You could use fresh thyme, garlic and onion, but I didn’t have any on hand.)  I sauteed the mixture until the rice took on a nice golden color.

mushroom_risotto1

Toasty rice... and mushrooms!

From this point on is where all the time and devotion to risotto is spent.  Once your rice is all toasty, you start adding the hot broth.

TIP: The trick to risotto is to use HOT broth, and to add it in stages until the rice is cooked through.  I typically add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of broth at a time, then stir, stir, stir until the broth has been absorbed.  Once the risotto starts looking dry again, it’s time to add another 1/2 cup of broth to the rice, and stir, stir, stir.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

You may need to heat additional broth (or if you are like me and run out of broth, you can use hot water) to continue this process until the rice is fully cooked.  I usually start biting into undercooked grains of rice at about the time I have one to two more portions of broth left to determine if I need to start heating more.   In this case, I did need to heat some water, but before adding the last bit of chicken broth, I tossed 2 sliced green onions into the broth to blanch them a bit, then poured it all into the risotto pan when it was ready for more broth.

mushroom_risotto2

Almost time for more broth!

I have started to cheat on my risottos.  I don’t stir constantly, like every recipe I have seen has said I should do.  My arm gets tired!  And to be honest, my best risottos have been the ones where I’ve “forgotten” about it between adding the broth and giving it an initial stir.  Once the rice starts to puff up and is mostly al dente, then the constant stirring is actually more critical because it starts to stick together (and to the pan) a little more.

When I notice that the risotto starts taking on this creamy appearance, I start tooth-testing a bit more.  My advice to you is, once you think that it’s done, hit it with another dose of broth.   It usually won’t suffer for the added liquid, and it’s better to be safe than to have spent 45 minutes stirring rice and broth around only to have undercooked risotto in the end.

Give it a final taste for seasoning adjustments, and you’re done!  To serve it up, just put it in a nice bowl or along side a nice pork chop, top it with some fresh herbs or maybe a little grated parmesan if  you like, and enjoy!

peep_marker_trio

Mushroom Risotto

mushroom_risotto3-2Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of rice (arborio or other short/medium grain white rice)
  • 1 – 32oz container of chicken broth
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 2 green onions, white and light green portion, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, or fresh garlic, onion, thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • Fresh herbs or grated parmesan cheese to garnish

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat broth.
  2. In a large pan, over medium-high heat, add olive oil and butter.
  3. When butter has melted, add rice to the pan, stir to coat.
  4. Add mushrooms, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, salt and pepper.  Stir.
  5. When rice appears golden in color, add 1/2 cup of heated broth to the pan.  Stir.
  6. When the added liquid appears to be absorbed, add another 1/2 cup of heated broth to the pan.  Stir.
  7. Add green onion to the risotto.
  8. Repeat Step 6 until rice is cooked through and risotto appears creamy.  You may need to heat additional broth or water.
  9. When rice is fully cooked, remove risotto to a serving dish and garnish with fresh herbs or grated parmesan cheese.