Sunday, July 31, 2011

Over the Top

I can't get enough caramelized onions into my diet lately, so I just made what now ranks as my favorite appetizer or side dish- Ciabatta Garlic Bread with Parmesan and Caramelized Onions. I simply added caramelized onions to my cheesy garlic bread recipe and the result is simply over the top- salty, sweet, cheesy and downright decadent.

Ciabatta Garlic Bread with Parmesan and Caramelized Onions

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Take one loaf of ciabatta bread and slice it horizontally almost all the way through, then open it like a book. Slather one side of the loaf with 2T softened butter and top with cooled caramelized onions. On the other side of the bread place semi-cooked garlic and olive oil (see original recipe) and top with 3T shredded Parmesan cheese.

Close bread and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes. Remove foil from top of bread and bake another 8 minutes. Let cool slightly before cutting and serving. Simply delicious!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Green Goddess Dressing

Have you noticed a major change in the dairy aisle of your supermarket? I sure have. It seems that my market has been slowly replacing good old Dannon and Yoplait with the pricier, richer "Greek Style" yogurt. I hadn't tried this newcomer because I'm stubborn and also very brand loyal. But then I saw that the recipes in the cooking magazines I read were featuring Greek yogurt in so many dishes that I just had to give it a shot. I have a standard Green Goddess salad dressing recipe that I make with lite sour cream and decided to swap plain, no fat Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream. The flavor of the dressing didn't change much, but the richness is definately over the top. Maybe a bit rich for me, but I'll let you be the judge.

Greek Yogurt Green Goddess Dressing

6 oz plain fat free Greek yogurt
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 small scallion chopped
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp anchovy paste
1 garlic clove minced
1 T Italian parsley chopped (or 1 T Gourmet Garden Parsley Blend)

Place all ingredients except parsley in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add parsley and whirl until combined and the mixture becomes a light green color. Serve on your favorite salad. I used Bibb lettuce, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, scallions, homemade croutons and a hard boiled egg. A little bacon would have been nice. All in all, very tasty. And very rich.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Caramelized Onions, Sweet...

After running around after work yesterday in 100 degree heat, I thought for sure when I got home I'd crash and watch some stupid TV. But that wasn't the case. I've had a craving for caramelized onions lately, and with air conditioning keeping me in the comfort zone, I proceeded with the task ahead. I love the sweetness that slow cooking brings to onions. It's almost like making jam or jelly. If you haven't done this lately or ever before, it's simple, doesn't take much time and is the perfect condiment for sandwiches, salads, pizza, vegetables, soups, savory bread pudding and absolutely perfect for eating right out of the bowl.

Caramelized Onions
3 large onions- I used 2 Vidalia and 1 red
1T olive oil
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar- I used Splenda no calorie sweetener
2 T water

Heat large pan on medium high and add oil. When oil is glistening, add onions and stir to coat. Lower heat to medium or medium low (my stove cooks HOT, so I use medium low). Spread onions evenly in pan and let cook, stirring occasionally. After about 8 minutes, add salt and sugar. If onions seem to be drying out snd sticking to the pan, add 2T water. Continue cooking onions about 30 minutes stirring every few minutes. You'll know the onions are done when they're dark brown, dense and a bit gooey. And when you taste them, the concentrated flavor is sweet and heady. Here's the progression:

Grilled Fontina and Caramelized Onion Sandwich

2 slices Italian bread

2 T caramelized onions

Shaved Fontina cheese- I buy a wedge and shave it for excellent meltability

Cooking spray

Mist stove top grill pan or griddle with cooking spray. Heat to medium/medium high. You can guess by now I use medium. Place caramelized onions on one side of bread. Top onions with shaved Fontina (use as much as you like). Cover with second piece of bread and place on grill. Cook about 3-4 minutes per side. I sometimes add pressure to my sandwich by placing a heavy saucepan on top of the sandwich and pretend I have a pannini press and that works great. When you've got nice grill marks on the bread and the cheese is oozy and hot, your sandwich is done. Eat, enjoy and get ready to make some more. They're that good!

Feel free to add cold cuts like turkey breast or roast beef, additional vegetables such as roasted peppers or tomatoes, or omit the Fontina completely and substitute with a mixture of mayo and blue cheese. Or really, just enjoy the intensity of the onions alone on a crisp cracker. This is a great condiment that needs nothing but a little imagination.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Son of Street Food

When I last left you I had made sausage, onion and pepper hoagies. Fran and I finished only two portions, so after vegetating at the pool today I put together a pasta cheese bake with the leftovers. All the work was basically done yesterday, and today I chopped some fontina cheese (best melting cheese you could ever ask for) and cooked some penne pasta.

Sausage, Pepper and Onion Pasta Cheese Bake

Leftovers from original sausage, onion and pepper hoagies
1-1/2 cups Dreamfields penne rigatte -this pasta claims to be low carb and tastes just like the real thing- I use it all the time
1-1/2 cups marinara sauce
1 cup cubed Fontina cheese
2 T grated Parmesan cheese

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions. Combine leftover sausage mixture with marinara, Fontina, and pasta . Pour into prepared dish (I use a glass 8"x8" pan misted with cooking spray). Sprinkle sausage mixture with Parmesan and bake uncovered 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool about 10 minutes and serve. I think the Fontina makes the dish. You may just like how all the flavors work together. All in all, it's a great way to end a relaxing three day weekend and definately stretch a dollar. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Street Food at Home

Last year on what was a glorious, celebratory July 4th weekend (do you remember the heat wave?) I enjoyed the company of my very good friend Sharon on Boston's waterfront. This year I've been laying low, hanging out at Fran's pool and cooking some of my favorite dishes. I've always been a sucker for street food and fell in love with sausage, onion and pepper hoagies the first time I had them at a festival in the North End. I knew then they'd become a finalist on my list of favorites. So today, after a balmy day at the pool I decided to give this dish a try at home. I perused the internet for some tips and ideas and came to the quick realization that nobody makes sausage, onions and peppers the same way. I turned off my computer, relied on my instincts and I must say, I'm pleased with the results.

Sausage, Onion and Pepper Hoagies

1 large onion sliced
2 green peppers sliced
1 clove garlic chopped
2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage
3/4 cup marinara sauce
3/4 cup water
Small sub rolls or sliced Italian bread

Heat oil in large pan on medium low heat. My stove top cooks high, so medium might work for you. Add onions and cook uncovered 5 minutes. You want the onions to soften and not brown too quickly. Add peppers, garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes if using. Cook about 10 minutes.

Remove onion/pepper mixture from pan and keep warm. To same pan add sausages and cook on all sides until brown. The sausages are not cooked yet, so add water and marinara sauce, cover pan and simmer about 10 minutes. This will finish the cooking process. Uncover the pan, and cook a few minutes more to let most of the liquid evaporate.

Remove sausages from pan and either leave whole or slice. I cut the sausages into 1/4 inch rounds and mixed with the peppers and onions. I toasted slices of Italian bread since I didn't have any rolls on hand, added a little mustard and chowed down. What a simple way to celebrate America's birthday. Yum!

This recipe will serve four to six people, but with the same amount of sausage and twice the amount of onions and peppers, you can really get a bang for your buck. You should be able to feed 10 people. Very cost effective, unless they want seconds.