Monday, November 29, 2010

Cannellini Bean Soup with Kale & Garlic-Olive Oil Crostini

I found this recipe on the (courtesy of Dave Lieberman). I was looking for a warm, healthy, nutrition-packed meal. This seems to fit all of those criteria. I'm making tonight and will add pictures and review once I'm done!



1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the bruschetta
6 to 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, plus 1 or 2 more whole cloves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 quarts chicken stock, water, or a combination
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch kale, large ribs removed, chopped
1 baguette

Heat oil in a large pot. Add garlic and oregano and cook no more than a minute. Add tomato paste and vinegar, and cook another minute. Add beans and stock and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Add kale and simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour. Season, to taste, again with salt and pepper before serving.

Slice baguette on a heavy angle to create long slices. Toast in a toaster or in the conventional oven. Rub once or twice with half a garlic clove. Season a shallow plate of extra-virgin olive oil with salt and dip each side of bread into the oil. Serve as accompaniment to the soup.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Warm Pistachio Encrusted Goat Cheese Salad

Today I decided to make one of the most amazing “salads” I have ever had the pleasure of consuming. My father and I took my mom to a small Italian restaurant in Birmingham, AL last month for her birthday. We entered Gianmarco’s off Broadway Street in Homewood a little after 9pm. The establishment was crawling with people in search of never-ending bottles of wine and a hearty meal. To my surprise, we were seated right away for our 9pm reservation. I decided to order a salad to start the night prior to trying that night’s special: Veal Chop Parmesan. I ordered what seemed to be a simple salad, but what turned out to be an out-of-body culinary experience like I had never had before! After trying my hand at a few different recipes and finally finding the closest one to the dish, I present to you now my favorite salad recipe to date: Warm Pistachio Encrusted Goat Cheese Salad.


1 12oz. log goat Cheese (I used Silver Goat) very cold or frozen
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 egg
1 TSP Dijon mustard
1 TSP lemon zest
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
½ cup finely crushed pistachio nuts
French Bread
2 TBSP Olive Oil
2 TBSP canola oil
Balsamic Glaze

Beat together egg, mustard, lemon zest, salt & pepper. Set aside. Crush/pound shelled pistachio nuts until finely crushed. Set aside. Cut goat cheese log into equal portions forming the goat cheese into 1.5 inch discs. Take one disc and dust with flour. Then take cheese disc and dredge in beaten egg mixture. The roll disc around in crushed pistachios until fully covered.

Meanwhile slice a crusty French baguette into one inch thick slices. Drizzle with olive oil and toast in oven for 3-5 minutes on low broil.

While bread is toasting, heat canola oil on medium-high heat in non stick skillet. Once hot, add goat cheese disc to skillet. Pan-fry the goat cheese disc until golden brown on all sides.

Serve warm goat cheese disc atop a bed of arugula. Slice watermelon into thin wedges and arrange on plate. Drizzle balsamic glaze over greens, fruit and cheese and serve toasted crostini alongside the salad. Enjoy!

TIPS: Substitute strawberries or another sweet fruit in place of watermelon if it is not in season. If you do not have a balsamic glaze, you can make your own by boiling balsamic vinegar and sugar down to a thick reduced glaze. Also, feel free to make multiple "mini" goat cheese discs instead of one larger one. Finally - if you freeze the goat cheese, it will slice much easier without crumbling!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Quick-n-Healthy Chicken Enchiladas

This is my version of a much lighter and much quicker version of traditional Mexican enchiladas. One of these babies is enough to fill you up. They are tasty and are always great for those nights where you don’t feel like slaving away in the kitchen for hours using 50 of your 55 dishes to make one meal! I used Rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, 99% fat free cream of chicken soup and reduced fat cream cheese. Feel free to mix it up based on your tastes. Serve these enchiladas alongside a big scoop of Spanish rice and an ice cold Corona J


2 TBSP Olive Oil
3 cups cooked/shredded chicken (I used Rotisserie chicken, but you can also use canned chicken, boiled chicken breast, etc)
1 TSP each: cumin, Mexican chili powder, dried cilantro & paprika
½ TSP cayenne pepper
1 can cream of mushroom (feel free to use cream of chicken) 99% fat free
¼ block of cream cheese (I used reduced fat)
½ can black beans
1 small can diced green chilies
2 cups Mexican shredded cheese
1 can red (or green) enchilada sauce
6 Flour tortillas
Freshly chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 350F.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add cooked chicken and spices. Toss skillet around in the skillet to ensure all pieces are coated with spices (about 2 minutes). Add the soup and cream cheese. Continue to stir until ingredients are blended and cheese is melted. Add in beans and green chilies and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove skillet from

Add two large, heaping spoonfuls of mix to each of the 6 tortillas. Sprinkle 1 cup of the cheese over the mixture on each enchilada. Lightly cover bottom of a glass baking dish with enchilada sauce. Fold each tortilla over and place fold side down in the baking dish. Cover all enchiladas with enchilada sauce and then use remaining cup of cheese to sprinkle over each tortilla. Finish by sprinkling fresh cilantro over each enchilada.

Place dish in oven and bake on 350F for 15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly. Serve with a side of Spanish rice and enjoy!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

I found a quick and easy recipe for mini pot pies on the food network and decided to put my own spin on it and create one large pot pie. This recipe serves as a healthier option since it contains no cream, butter or milk. I was amazed at how tasty the dish turned out without all of the fatty ingredients usually called for! Once you remove the dish from the oven, let stand for a good 10 - 15 minutes to cool and let the contents thicken a bit (I dove right in and it was a little runny at first). I had my girlfriends over to enjoy this dish and they loved it! I served a small mixed greens salad and a bottle of Pinot Grigio with the Chicken Pot Pie and it was a hit.


1 box pre-made pie crust
2 (bone-in/skin-on) chicken breasts
4 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes - peeled and diced into bite size pieces
1/2 large white onion - diced
2 stalks celery - diced
2 carrots - peeled and diced
Salt & freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/2 bag of frozen green peas

Take the pie crust out of the refrigerator to let sit at room temp. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the chicken breasts in a medium pot and cover with 4 cups of chicken both. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the chicken is completely cooked through, about 40 minutes. Remove chicken, to a cutting board and when cool enough to handle remove the meat and dice into 1/2-inch cubes. Reserve the broth the chicken was cooked in.

In a medium pot heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes, onions, celery, and carrots and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Slowly stir in the flour, poultry seasoning, and salt/pepper to taste - cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly pour in the reserved 4 cups of chicken broth, whisking to remove any lumps. Add the diced chicken and peas (make sure to rinse these under warm water before adding). Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.

Line the deep pie dish with part of the pie crust. I used a circular 9-inch corning-ware dish. Add the entire mixture to the dish on top of the crust-lined dish. Then cover the dish with a round piece of dough and press around the edges to seal.

Cut 3 steam vent slits in the top and brush with oil or milk to prevent burning. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Let sit for 10-15 minutes to allow sauce to thicken before diving in. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Perfect Shrimp Etouffee

This recipe blew my socks off. I was shocked how simple and quick it was to cook an otherwise gourmet meal! If you get the roux right - you will be so impressed with this dish. Add a bit more cayenne pepper if you like it hot. I served the Etouffee and rice in a 1:1 ratio - 1 cup of Etouffee for one cup of prepared rice.


1/4 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 TBSP all-purpose flour
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced celery
2 TBSP minced garlic
1/2 cup fish or shrimp stock
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
2TBSP chopped parsley
1 TSP cayenne pepper
1/12 lbs peeled & deveined shrimp
1 TSP fresh lime juice
Steamed white rice
1/4 cup chopped green onion

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Slowly add the flour to the melted butter. Whisk/stir constantly for around 5-7 minutes on medium heat until roux is a golden brown color. To the roux, add onion, celery and garlic. Cook veggies until translucent - around 5 minutes. When vegetables are cooked, whisk in stock and water, bay leaf, parsley and cayenne pepper - bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low and add shrimp to mixture. Stir and cover. Let cook on low for 8 minutes. Top with lime juice. Serve steaming hot over rice and top with choppen green onion. Don't forget to remove the bay leaf!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

Straight from the famous Nick & Toni's in the Hamptons, I decided to try my hand at an authentic Italian Vodka sauce from scratch. The restaurant chef was featured on the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network preparing this exact recipe.

I followed the recipe exactly. However, I added a bit more red pepper flakes than the recipe called for. The smell was invigorating. My little apartment smelled like a restaurant straight out of Florence. The result was near perfection. I don't think I'll add the extra pepper next time around though - as the dish was a bit on the spicy side. I served the sauce with Rigatoni instead of Penne and it was a hit with my friends. We ate the dish with French bread and a big salad. Wonderful first recipe and experience to post about! Serve with a full-bodied Cabernet or Pinot Noir and enjoy.


1/4 cup good olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 cup vodka
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound penne pasta
4 tablespoons fresh oregano
3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
Grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof saute pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.
Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes through a sieve and crush them into the pan with your hands. Add 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.
Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan.
Reheat the sauce, add 2 tablespoons fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh oregano on each plate.

TIPS: I used one medium white onion instead of a "spanish onion." I also used Hunts whole peeled tomatos (no mention of "plum" on the label).

Beginning My Collection of Colorful Culinary Creations

Thus begins my culinary journey. I'm infamous for losing recipes I have made, not writing down recipes I've created and forgetting some of my favorite dishes. Therefore - I have decided to begin a blog that will capture not only recipes and dishes that I love - but will also host related articles, recipe feedback, ideas/suggestions and cooking tips galore.

Please note: I am by no means a chef or professional. This is just a down and dirty way for me to track my life's culinary journey and make notes of my learnings along the way. I hope you enjoy reading the posts as much as I know I'll enjoy writing them.


Feel free to make comments, offer suggestions, send tips or ideas and offer feedback to any of the recipes I post.