Monthly Archives: August 2011

Out of Reach

Summer Squash Orzo

Labor Day weekend is fast arriving, and with it the end of summer.  While I understand that summer doesn’t officially end until later in September, to me Labor Day will always be the end of summer.  Maybe it’s because of the school buses back on the roads, or the lack of college interns at work, or maybe it’s the closing of the local pools.  Not sure which of those is the real reason but however I look at it I have to accept that soon my garden will be buried under snow.  Luckily I am ending my summer on a high note, because the end of summer means that all the vegetables I love are in their full glory.  Tomatoes of all colors, squash in all sorts of shapes, and sweet vidalia onions…yummy!  This recipe utilizes all of these vegetables and depending on the variety in your market the variety of color combinations is mind boggling!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 vidalia onion, diced
  • 5 basil leaves, torn
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 oz extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 yellow squash, cut in .5in rings
  • 1 zucchini, cut in .5in rings
  • 2 cups tomatoes, halved and divided(I used a variety of Heirloom Cherry)
  • 8 oz orzo, cooked per box and set aside
Directions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5minutes, until the garlic starts to turn golden.  Add the tofu, squash, and zucchini and cook an additional 5 minutes until adding the tomatoes.
  2. Puree 1 cup of the tomatoes with the basil along with some salt and pepper until slightly chunky.  Add the mixture along with the tomatoes halves to the saucepan.  Cover and cook for 10minutes over medium low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  3. Pour the vegetable mixture over the orzo and toss well.  Serve with Crusty Bread and enjoy!
I don’t think it can get any easier than this, especially if all your ingredients are located in your backyard.  I think my favorite part was picking out which cherry tomatoes to use, and making sure I had a few of each of the varieties in order to really showcase the colors.  I am hoping to get one last gathering of tomatoes before it all ends but even if I don’t this was a very successful summer garden and I’m looking forward to improving upon it next year.

Take You Over

Mexican Style Quiche

International Incident Party

Greetings from the state that Mother Nature is trying to destroy, first an earthquake and now a Hurricane.  I’m not sure why we have been blessed enough to have two events in one week, but so far my house is standing and my power is on!

I was fortunate to travel to Mexico many years ago with my Girl Scout troop, and have fond memories of many of the dishes.  When coming up with ideas I went thru a number of the more basic ideas, such a huevos rancheros or a breakfast quesadilla.  I had done my first quiche a few months ago, for the Simple and in Season challenge, and for some reason I thought it would be fun to try a Mexican twist.  This is easily one of those dishes that can be changed and adjusted based on personal taste, as written it has a slight kick but nothing too powerful.

Ingredients:

  • 5 corn tortillas, burrito size
  • 1 cup corn off-the-cob
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 green chiles, diced & deseeded (optional)
  • 1 cup red onion, diced
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 and light grease a 9in pie pan.  Lay the tortillas in the pan, going up the sides and slightly overlapping.  Rip as needed.  Bake for 15minutes, until start to brown.
  2. Meanwhile cut up the vegetables.  Mix the eggs with the milk and set-aside.  Take the shell out of the oven and add the vegetables in layers before pour the egg mixture over top.  Bake for 35 minutes.
  3. Remove the quiche from oven, add the cheese, then return to oven and bake for a final 15minutes.  Use a toothpick to make sure the center of the dish is full cooked. Serve with Sour Cream and/or salsa and Enjoy!

One of my favorite things about quiches is that they are great hot or cool, so a great make ahead dish when expecting early company: human or hurricane.

Record Play

Fiesta Rice & Beans

So there is currently a culinary throw down between the sharp-tongued Anthony Bourdain and the butter-loving Paula Deen, and lines are being drawn in the risotto. While I am Team Bourdain I am also a fan of one of his other targets, Sandra Lee.  While I rarely watch her Semi-Homemade show I love the concept of using some processed ingredients in order to come up with quick and family friendly meal.  In the year following my house purchase I used a number of her tricks in order to stretch ever last dollar as far as possible.  While I no longer need to scrimp as much, some of those shortcuts are still useful especially those that result in a great taste for little effort.  I think the original hint for this dish was for making Spanish Rice but the concept of using a flavor packet to add an extra punch can be utilized in many areas, if you don’t believe me just look at the back of Knorr’s packet next time you are at the grocery!

Ingredients: (serves 4-5)

  • 1 tbsp butter/margarine
  • 2 cans black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 packet fajita mix
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped (used Heirloom Cherry)
Directions:
  1. In a medium saucepan mix the fajita mix with the water before adding the rice, place on burner and turn heat to high.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15minutes.
  2. Meanwhile in a saute pan over medium heat add melt the butter and then add the beans, onions, and pepper.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.  Once the rice has finished cooking, add the bean mixture and mix well.  Serve topped with sour cream and/or cheese.
Nothing like a quick and simple dinner for a crazy weekday night.

Hey Baby

Herbal Tuna Salad with Hummus

This recipe is a marriage of two of my favorite salads: Rubino‘s Italian Tuna Salad and Gordon Biersch‘s Pita Hummus Salad.  I decided to modify them and come up with a dish that had the best of both flavor profiles while being quick and easy.  I had intended to add some tomatoes to this dish but my garden did not cooperate.  Any type of pasta could be used for this dish, including orzo but there is something about the tri-colored pasta noodles that add the right pop in taste and color.  For the dressing I decided to do a simple oil-based herbal dressing but a balsamic or red wine vinaigrette would work as well.  The trick is to make sure the dressing doesn’t overpower the dish, so NO ranch!

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 1 lb tri-colored rotini pasta, cooked and cooled
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 tins tuna, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 6 basil leaves
  • pinch of salt/pepper
  • 1/2 cup hummus (here for BEST recipe)
Directions:
  1. Mix the pasta, onion, and tuna.  
  2. Blend together the remaining ingredients and then pour over the pasta, toss well! 
  3. Top with 1-2 tbsp of the hummus and then enjoy :-)
This is also one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day, just add a little more oil before refrigerating in order to prevent the pasta from drying out.  

In the Middle

Vegetarian on Vacation

The Middle and the Bad of Indianapolis

Midwest.  Farm County.  Steakhouses. Welcome to Indianapolis where there is a steakhouse on every corner.  While a number of these well established restaurants are expanding their menus to include some non-red-meat options, they are few and far between.  The other ones will bring a veggie plate if requested, but then dinner is regulated to a few roasted vegetables with little protein in sight.  The following are places that are either on the right track, and haven’t yet reached the station along with those that aren’t even trying to find the station.

St. Elmos – They offer a vegetable plate, and that’s it.  They are a true blue steak house with everything you would expect a steakhouse to have.   PERIOD

West Coast Tacos – Confession: I love food trucks.  However I think Food Trucks should be like every other restaurant when it comes food offerings and include something veggie friendly.  With Tacos there are plenty of easy veggie options starting with black beans and avocado and just building from there.

Palomino – There are options here, not many, but they are there and they are DELICIOUS!  They have one of the richest tasting mushroom soups I have ever had.  If you get the right waitor they are also willing to work with you to find the perfect dish, which is always a great touch.  While they still need to expand on their veggie friendly options they are heading in the right direction and I can see a vegan entree in their near future.

The Ram – It should be noted that for GenCon they have a special themed menu, one that has NO vegetarian options to include the salads.  They do offer veggie burgers however they are frozen, tasteless, and extremely overpriced.  It didn’t help that the service was horrid, of the 6 people at the table only two got the correct order the first time out.  Hopefully their normal menu has more variety and hopefully their kitchen has a better track record under normal circumstances.

While typing this up I noticed a breaking news release about a stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair, my thoughts and prayers with all the families effected.  I look forward to traveling to Indy again next year for GenCon 2012, and look forward to trying out some new places!