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Archive for August, 2010

We all want to eat healthy food (at least most of the time!), and, if you are anything like me, there’s not a lot of time or energy left at the end of a busy day to invent and prepare new, tasty meals.  That’s why I try to keep a few things on hand that make dinner prep easy and give me time to relax and enjoy good food even after a long day at work.

Pasta (one of the staples I always have in my pantry) paired with homemade pesto (this is something I make on weekends and then keep refrigerated or frozen for use later) has always been one of my favorite go-to, quick dinners.

This version, which includes some tofu (handily disguised so any tofu rejecters in your house won’t even know it’s there) for extra protein and flavor, is particularly delicious.

For this dish I used Parsley Pesto (which I made by combining one bunch fresh parsley, stems removed, 3/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, three cloves of garlic, a generous pinch of salt, and 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil in the food processor) and 12 ounces of medium firm, organic tofu (I like the local, Ota brand).

After whirring the pesto and tofu together in the food processor I simply tossed about a cup of the mixture in a big bowl with some al dente pasta.

The result was fresh-tasting and also hearty.  It’s a new favorite in our house!

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Fennel and zucchini salad

As the summer growing season reaches it’s peak, even the grocery store has fresh, local produce in abundance.  This weekend I couldn’t resist the incredible bulbs of fresh fennel I found at New Seasons.

As I was paying for my groceries the cashier asked me how I liked to prepare fennel and I realized I wasn’t quite sure what I planned to do this time.  I love roasted fennel — roasting mellows the bubls’ natural anise flavor to a rich sweetness that goes well with chicken or almost any fish.  I also love raw fennel — I usually make a salad of thinly sliced fennel paired with a simple olive oil and lemon dressing.

Given the heat of this particular day, I decided to make a salad.  For a change, though, I chose to experiment with a dressing using the cherry vinegar I made a few weeks ago.  To mellow out the fennel flavor, I turned to one of my other favorite (and abundant!) late summer vegetables:  zucchini.

Preparation was quick and easy:  I julienned the fennel and zucchini and added a little bit of finely minced (very fresh) onion.

For the dressing I whisked together 1 part cherry vinegar, 1 part freshly squeezed lemon juice, three parts olive oil, a tablespoon of dijon mustard, and hearty pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper.  The result was a beautifully pink, slightly sweet and tart, vinaigrette.

The final salad was the perfect accompaniment for the bar-be-qued chicken and oven-roasted sweet potato fries that made up the rest of our dinner — all washed down with a lovely bottle of dry rose wine.  A delicious late summer supper.

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We’re in the thick of blueberry season now and I can’t stop myself from buying more every time I go to the grocery store or the farmer’s market.  The berries are plump and juicy, perfectly sweet, and the ideal addition to oatmeal or waffles.  They are also great eaten alone.

Given my recent interest in making jam, though, and my discovery of a tantalizing recipe for Savory Blueberry Jam on the beautiful blog Z Tasty life, I had to give blueberry jam a try.  I was particularly intrigued by the idea of a savory jam that was intended to serve with cheese and crackers.

I also liked the idea that I could make this jam on the stovetop.  And to top it off, blueberries are so naturally full of pectin (the ingredient that makes jellies “jell”) that you don’t need to add Sure-Jell to make the jam thicken.  All in all, a simple and tasty idea, I thought.  And I was right.

I quickly sautéed some finely chopped shallot in olive oil and added the berries and sugar (I used a bit less than one cup of sugar — these berries were already pretty sweet) to the pan.

Balsamic vinegar, chopped rosemary, nutmeg and pepper went in next as the berries began to simmer.  As the liquid evaporated and the berries broke down, the jam thickened nicely and the fragrance of berries, rosemary and balsamic vinegar perfumed my kitchen.

After about 15 minutes the jam was ready and I spooned it into jars (I didn’t sterilize them — I’ll keep this jam in the refrigerator and use it within the next few weeks).

You can find the recipe here.

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