Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Last Meal of Summer

Open-faced Caprese Sandwich

This isn't really a recipe, but if I wanted to get fancy, I would call it an Open-Faced Caprese Sandwich. With halved Juliet tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, pesto made from local basil on top of this Oatmeal Sandwich bread, I don't need much of a recipe. This was delicious and quick, the perfect meal after getting home late from school and work.

Summer is winding down. The sunset is coming earlier, and a cool breeze blows, lightly mitigating the August sun. I'm back in school, attending classes and working. But there are still a few last warm days to spend sitting on our patio, drinking rose, and enjoying the waning summer harvest.

Open-Faced Caprese Sandwiches
Sliced bread
Sliced fresh mozzarella
Summer tomatoes, halved or sliced depending on the size

Toast the bread lightly under the broiler. Top with pesto and mozzarella cheese. Place back under the broiler until cheese melts, slightly. Top with tomatoes and eat with knife and fork.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread

Today begins the first day of my last year of seminary, and as expected, I'm getting a wee bit nostalgic. Even though I've only had two years of schooling, it's kind of amazing to think of all the things I've learned and how I've changed in those two years. Things that were abnormal or scary two years ago are now commonplace. Two years ago, I couldn't have talked about the Donatist Controversy or the Gnostics or anything theological, but now those conversations take place over lunch. It reminds me of when I was learning to drive a manual transmission car. At first, I over-thought the whole process and ended up stalling out. Once I figured out how to go with the flow, it was second nature.

Another thing I couldn't do two years ago? Bake my own bread. I was terrified of yeast and sticky dough that got on everything. Now, I stumble upon a recipe like this one from Orangette and think, "Maybe I'll make that this weekend." And since school is now in session, many sandwiches will be schlepped to school and eaten. I made one loaf as a housewarming present for a friend and another loaf for Joe to eat since I'm traveling to Texas on Wednesday for my ordination candidacy interviews with my diocese. 

This bread has a nice dense, even crumb, and I love the addition of oatmeal which adds a touch of sweetness. I also found the dough very easy to work with. I might add the step of letting the dry ingredients soak in the moisture for about thirty minutes because it really seemed to add a silkiness to the dough. It may not be "the bread of life" but it's pretty darn good sandwich bread.

What have you learned to do that was difficult at first but is now second nature?

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread
adapted slightly from Orangette


1 package (2 ¼ tsp.) active dry yeast
3 Tbsp. dark corn syrup
2 ½ cups white whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 ¼ tsp. table salt, or to taste


Grease a large bowl and a 9X5X3 loaf pan with butter or cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups warm water, the yeast, and corn syrup. Stir briefly, and then allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes. Add the flours, oats, and butter, and stir to mix. The dough will look rough and shaggy. Cover with a towel, and let stand for 30 minutes. [This rest allows the dry ingredients to absorb the liquids, making for a dough that’s easy to work with and even-crumbed.]

Add the salt, and knead by hand for about 15 minutes, adding flour as needed. The dough should be soft and supple and slightly sticky.

For the first rise, put the dough into the greased bowl, cover with a towel, and leave it to rise for about 1 hour, or until it is doubled in size. To see if it’s ready, gently push a floured finger into it. If the dough springs back, it needs more time; if the dimple remains, it’s ready for the next step.

To shape the dough, scrape it onto a floured work surface. Press down on it, working it into a square shape, taking care to depress any bubbles. Fold the dough down from the top to the middle, then up from the bottom to the middle. Next, bring the newly formed top and bottom edges together, pinching the seam to seal. Pinch the sides together, and roll the shaped dough back and forth, plumping it so that it’s evenly formed and about the size of your pan. Place the dough in the pan with the seam side down, and press it gently into the corners of the pan.

For the second rise, cover the dough with a towel, and let it rest in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough rises to half again its size. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

When the dough has finished its second rise, bake for about 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The loaf is ready when the top crust and bottom crusts are nicely browned. To see if the bread is ready, give the top of the loaf a thump with your hand. If it sounds hollow, it’s ready; if not, give it another few minutes in the oven. Remove the finished loaf from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Resist the urge to cut in until it’s fully cooled, so that the crumb has time to set and the flavor can develop.

Yield: 1 loaf

Monday, August 16, 2010

Slow-Cooker Stuffed Bell Peppers

Crockpot Stuffed Bell Pepper

My brother has recently discovered the wonders of the slow-cooker and with good timing too. See, he just graduated from college and is heading out to Denver for his first job. So when I had a glut of bell peppers to use, I wanted to find a recipe that he could use as well. Not only would dinner be ready for him when he walked through the door, but he can also take the leftovers for lunches throughout the week, saving me, uh, him money that can go towards buying beer at Happy Hours or towards skiing and snowboarding once winter rolls around.

I health-ified these a bit, subbing ground turkey breast for lean ground beef and brown rice for white rice. Honestly, I just don't think I'm a fan of bell peppers in their whole form. I like them in things and maybe I would like red bell peppers slightly more in this recipe. The peppers did have a nice roasted flavor from the slow-cooker. Joe liked them and took them to work for lunch the next day with a little salsa for an extra kick.

What recipes would you pass on to your siblings, real or imagined?

Slow-Cooker Stuffed Bell Peppers
adapted from: A Year of Slow Cooking

5-6 bell peppers in a color of your choosing, tops cut off and reserved, seeds and membranes removed
1 lb ground turkey breast, ground turkey, or lean ground beef
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 14.5 oz can of Italian-flavored or fire-roasted tomatoes
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic salt
1/3 cup water

In a bowl, mix the ground meat with the rice, tomatoes, Worcestershire, ketchup, black pepper, and garlic salt.
Stuff each pepper with the mixture.
Nestle the peppers in your slow-cooker and top with the reserved pepper tops.
Pour the 1/3 cup of water into the bottom of the slow-cooker to prevent the peppers from burning.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Buffalo Chickpea Patties

Buffalo Chickpea Patties

One of the most common things I hear on the cooking message boards I'm active on is, "My husband doesn't like vegetables" or, "I want to eat healthy but my husband only eats hamburgers and french fries." Fortunately, my husband isn't nearly that picky, but if left to his own devices, he probably wouldn't be making Eggplant and Tofu in Spicy Garlic Sauce, know what I mean? One of the flavors that he really enjoys is Buffalo Chicken, so I had an inkling that these might be up his alley more than the standard vegetarian patty. Sure enough, he was a fan. And I could fill myself up with healthy protein and fiber.

If you like this, you might also like:

Have you ever "health-ified" a flavor?

Buffalo Chickpea Patties
Yields 6 patties


1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. buffalo sauce, plus more for serving
1 egg white
1 small yellow onion
1 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper

For serving:
Buffalo sauce
Ranch or blue cheese
Carrot Sticks


Add chickpeas to a bowl, use a potato masher and mash until about 2/3 of the chickpeas are pasty and 1/3 are in pieces or whole.
Add the buffalo sauce to the chickpeas.
Add the oats to a food processor, pulse to create a crumb, add to the chickpeas.
Beat the egg white in a small dish to a froth, add to the chickpeas.
Grate onion into the chickpeas, finally add the garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Use a spatula and fold mixture, combining ingredients well.
Heat a griddle over medium, spray with nonstick spray or add 1 tbsp. EVOO.
Use a 1/3 measuring cup to portion out chickpea mixture onto griddle, this yields about 6 patties.
Cook patties for 5-7 minutes, until crispy and brown, flip gently and cook for another 5-7 minutes.
Serve immediately to retain maximum crispness.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Seared Tuna with Wasabi Aioli

Seared Tuna with Wasabi Aioli

A few months ago, Joe and I ate dinner at 360 Bistro where I had a tuna steak that changed my entire perception of tuna. It was a deep ruby red on the inside and tasted rich and creamy on my tongue. It also came with this very complex sauce with honey, cilantro, and wasabi in it. Since then, I have longed to make something similar in my own kitchen. While this aioli doesn't have the depth of the 360 Bistro sauce, it contributes some heat and creaminess to the tuna.

Another "ah-ha" moment came when Joe and I realized that we could put the cast iron pan on the grill and cook things that way. It gets hotter than my flat-top electric stove and doesn't heat up the kitchen. Since we wanted the pan super-hot for the tuna, we also tossed some baby bok choy brushed with olive oil onto the grates and toasted a few whole wheat baguette slices on the top rack. Active cooking time for the whole meal? Approximately 5-6 minutes. And the tuna was just the way I remember it. This would make an impressive special occasion dinner or just a healthy, quick weeknight dinner, particularly when tuna steaks are on sale!

Seared Tuna with Wasabi Aioli
Yields 2 servings


2 tuna steaks
Soy sauce
1 tbsp olive oil (or sesame or canola oil)
1 tbsp wasabi powder (found in the Asian/international section of grocery store)
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup mayonnaise


Place tuna steaks in a dish and pour a couple tablespoons of soy sauce over them. Let marinate for about 30 minutes at room temperature, turning once.

Mix together wasabi powder and water and then whisk in mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Pat tuna dry. Heat a medium skillet to medium-high. Heat oil. Sear tuna steaks for about 45 seconds per side for rare.

Serve with wasabi aoli.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Gazpacho with Roasted Tomatoes and Peppers

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Gazpacho

It's been a pretty extreme year so far, weather-wise. We had a particularly snowy and icy winter, an epic flood, and a hotter-than-average summer. This past week was especially bad, and many of the schools cancelled afternoon sports practices due to the heat. I lazed around in the air-conditioning and made gazpacho. This gazpacho sort of defeats the point of a no-cook dinner since you roast the tomatoes and the pepper, but it adds such a nice smoky touch that it's worth heating up the house for a little while. It'll cool down in time for you to enjoy a cold dinner, particularly for those nights when it's almost to hot to even eat.

Gazpacho with Roasted Tomatoes and Peppers
source: Fat Free Vegan Kitchen 
serves 2 as a main dish


1 pound cherry, grape, or small roma tomatoes
1 small red bell pepper
1/2 large cucumber (or 1 small), peeled
1 clove garlic
1/2 slice day-old bread, crust removed (optional)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1/8-1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup cold water


Preheat oven to 425F. Spray an 8×8-inch baking dish lightly with olive oil and place the tomatoes in it in a single layer. Spray a smaller dish, and place the pepper in it. Roast for 15 minutes. Stir the tomatoes, turn the pepper, and roast for 10 more minutes. When tomatoes are wrinkled and have exuded their juice, remove them from the oven to cool. (Larger tomatoes will need more time.) Turn the pepper and continue to roast until the skin has darkened on all sides and is lifting from the pepper. Remove it from the oven and place it in a paper bag or seal it in a storage container until it is cool enough to handle. Peel off the skin, discard the seeds and stem, and cut it in half.

Once the tomatoes are cool, put them in the blender. (Note: If you used larger tomatoes, first remove the core and chop them roughly.) Add half of the bell pepper and half of the cucumber, cut into chunks. Set the remaining bell pepper and cucumber aside. Add all of the remaining ingredients, except ice cubes, and puree until vegetables are finely chopped. Refrigerate until chilled.

When ready to serve, finely chop the remaining bell pepper and cucumber and add it to the gazpacho. Serve in individual bowls or glasses.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Peach-Cantaloupe Salsa

When life hands you a cantaloupe, make salsa out of it! Except that my original plan was foiled when I cut into our brand new cantaloupe and smelly goop poured out of it all over my cutting board. Panic ensued until Joe suggested I chop up a peach instead. So my cantaloupe salsa turned into peach-cantaloupe salsa.

I really love variations in texture, temperature, and flavor in the food I eat, so this salsa on top of freshly grilled mahi-mahi was perfection. The heat of the mahi mahi contrasts with the coolness of the salsa. The soft, sweetness of the fruit contrasts with the crunch and the heat of the onions and peppers. Per usual, I was worried about the salsa not being hot enough, so I left in the membrane and seeds. Bad idea. Good thing I rationed my avocado to help me quench the flames. You can also take out the membrane and seeds to modify the heat. This salsa would go equally well over a seasoned, grilled chicken breast, and it looks and sounds a lot fancier than it is.

Peach-Cantaloupe Salsa
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yields 2 cups of salsa

1 cup diced cantaloupe
1 cup diced peach (about 1 medium-large peach)
1 diced serrano pepper, seeds and membrane removed
1/4 cup diced sweet onion or red onion
2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lime juice
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together and eat immediately.
2 tbsp lime juice

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tourlou Tourlou

I have to admit, I'm a teensy bit jealous of people who have a strong cultural background. They state confidently that they are Greek or German or Italian, and they have the food traditions to go along with it. But me? I'm about as WASPy as they come, so I have to borrow from my Greek and Italian and German friends to get some good recipes. Like this one. Don't worry if you can't pronounce the name. You can just call it "roasted vegetables of heaven" since that's what they taste like.

Before going into the oven for two hours, this amalgamation of chopped up vegetables is a perfect way of using up the summer harvest: eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, or whatever else you have lying around that sounds good. When I picked up my CSA, I nabbed a bouquet of herbs that included parsley, sage, thyme, and a little basil (no rosemary though!) from another vendor at the farmers market and added it to this. After two hours, the vegetables had turned to butter, so smooth and sweet and creamy. Perfect for eating alone or as a side dish for some roast chicken thighs. I suppose that's a Greek take on a Southern Sunday supper.

Tourlou Tourlou
source: Elly Says Opa!


1 eggplant, sliced into about 1/2″ slices (peeled or unpeeled depending on preference)
2 large zucchini, sliced
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 large yellow or vidalia onion, cut in half and then sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 lbs. potatoes, peeled and sliced or cut into chunks
1 green bell pepper, sliced or cut into 1″ bites
1 bunch of fresh mixed herbs
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 375. Toss all the vegetables, salt (use a healthy amount, it’s a lot of vegetables!) and pepper, and the herbs with the olive oil in a large pan. Mix the crushed tomatoes with 1/2 cup of water and then pour the mixture over the whole pan.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 2 hours.