Katie: Fully equipped with canning equipment, we decided to begin by trying Roasted Red Pepper Spread from the Ball cookbook. Our first step was to find the ingredients. After buying out two venders and accumulating two bags full of red bell peppers, we still needed to buy two more peppers from the store to reach six pounds. The peppers roasted nicely in the broiler and the skins can off pretty easily. They smelled great!
After pureeing the skinned and deseeded peppers and tomatoes in the food processor, we mixed in roasted garlic, roasted onion, fresh basil, red wine vinegar, and a little salt and sugar, and simmered it down to a thicker paste. It became a little dangerous when the sauce started spurting really high. My mom even got some in her hair! But we got it back under control.
Next, we relied on the canning techniques we’ve been acquiring. We filled jars that were sterilized in the dishwasher, measured the correct head space, cleaned the rims, and sealed the jars. Then, we boiled them in the canner. We were happy that they came out clean without exploding and we even heard the lovely pop of the jars sealing. Now we have jars of delicious pepper spread to store, give away, or enjoy whenever we want.
Katie: Compared to the beginning of summer, the farmer’s market seems to be offering a wider variety of produce as the summer goes on. We’ve gotten heirloom tomatoes a few times, which have been very flavorful. Last weekend, I also bought some small purple eggplants. I wanted to try something different with them, so I tried this recipe for Eggplant, Tomato, and Smoked Mozzarella Tart from Cooking Light. I couldn’t find smoked mozzarella at the store, so I just used regular mozzarella cheese, and I skipped the mint leaves and just added extra basil. My tart doesn’t really look like the picture in the recipe, but I think it turned out pretty well for my first tart. The fresh herbs and heirloom tomatoes made it very flavorful. I was also able to convince two non-eggplant eaters to try it! I might try a variation of this recipe again, maybe with other roasted vegetables, such as zucchini.
Matthew: Recently, my friends at work have been obsessed with putting eggs on top of dishes that one wouldn’t always think of putting an egg on top of. I think the appeal of this is if the yolk is runny, you can then break it open and it will become a sauce for whatever food items it is perched upon. These eggs also add more sustenance and can turn snack-like foods into meals. For my “put an egg on it” dinner, I tried making a sandwich with CSA veggies and Madison Sourdough bread. I toasted the bread, then topped it with grilled patty pan squash, heirloom tomatoes, basil, feta, salt, pepper, and olive oil. For the egg, I followed the overly complicated directions for poached eggs in The Joy of Cooking which involved putting the egg in boiling water with vinegar until set and then transferring it to 150 degree water. I had a hard time getting water to be 150 degrees, so my eggs ended up slightly over-done. They weren’t bad, but after they alighted on my sandwich, the yolk failed to run. I’d like to try my hand at poached eggs again, perhaps following a different recipe. I do have to say that after trying it, I like the idea of putting eggs on things. I will definitely be doing more of this.
Katie: Asparagus is in season here in Germany, and Germans are crazy about asparagus. Just check out pictures of the “Asparagus Princess” and “Asparagus Parade” if you don’t believe me! While white asparagus remains the most popular choice, green asparagus seems to be becoming more readily available.
Rather than preparing asparagus as a side dish, I’ve tried a few recipes this spring that include asparagus in a main dish. So far, I’ve tried Roasted Strawberry and Asparagus Quinoa Salad, which was a great combination and Roasted Asparagus and Red Pepper Farro Salad, in which I substituted buckwheat groats for farro.
This time, I decided to try a Cooking Light recipe, Gnocchi with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Pesto. Since I wanted something a bit lighter than gnocchi, I decided to substitute whole wheat spiral noodles. This was a dish that was pretty simple to make. It turned out well and was a good choice for a simple, but interesting and flavorful meal. The only change I would make if I made this again would be to use less garlic powder, since it was a little strong. This would probably be good with other pesto recipes as well, maybe even Strawberry Basil Pesto, which I’m curious to try!
Katie: While I was home sick last week and didn’t have enough energy to move from the couch, I wasn’t feeling too great, but I was at least able to catch up on looking for some new recipes to try. One that caught my eye was this recipe for Greek Baked Beans from Closet Cooking. It looked really good, and I had never tried cooking with dried beans before, so I added it to my list of recipe ideas.
Once I was feeling better again, I decided to give Greek baked beans a try, using this recipe for Baked Gigantes in Tomato Sauce from Cooking Light. First, I soaked the beans overnight, and then cooked them the next day in water. I then prepared the tomato sauce, which was really flavorful and included carrots, onions, celery, a few different herbs, and honey. It smelled really good! Then, I mixed the beans and sauce together and baked them in the oven. I had read a few comments warning not to overcook beans or they would fall apart, so I tried not to cook them too long. Unfortunately, I think I overreacted, since the beans could have been softer. The sauce was very delicious, so I would still recommend this recipe, but with the tip of making sure that the beans are soft enough before combining them with the sauce. I served the beans with Italian bread.
To go along with the beans and bread, I decided to make chicken. I remembered hearing Mom talking about a good recipe for stuffed chicken, and I think it may have been the same one that I decided to make. This recipe for Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes from Cooking Light was surprisingly simple to prepare and definitely lived up to the rave reviews. Even though it wasn’t perfect, this was still a very tasty meal!
Posted in Appetizers, Dinner
Tagged balsamic vinegar, basil, beans, carrots, celery, chicken, Greek, onions, shallots, sun-dried tomatoes, tomatoes
Katie: On Friday evening after a stressful week, I wanted a quick meal that wouldn’t take too long to prepare. This recipe for Tuscan Tuna and Bean Sandwiches from Gourmet was just what I was looking for. The recipe is a retake on a classic sandwich filling, healthier and more flavorful. It includes a bean mixture, similar to humus, skipping tahini and adding fresh herbs, and a tuna mixture, that uses olive oil instead of mayonnaise to bind everything together. I made a few changes to the original recipe, including replacing some of the olive oil with plain yogurt, which worked well. Fresh basil and lemon add a lot of flavor. I served the tuna and bean mixtures with whole wheat pitas. They were really good! I would definitely make these again. Here’s the recipe with the changes I made:
Tuscan Tuna and Bean Pitas (Adapted from Gourmet)
- 1 (14- to 15-oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (other beans would probably also work well)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For tuna salad
- 2 (6-oz) cans tuna, drained
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, finely chopped
- 1 celery rib, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Prepare beans: Coarsely mash beans with a fork in a bowl, then stir in garlic, lemon juice, oil, basil, salt, and pepper.
Make tuna: Flake tuna in a bowl with a fork, then stir in basil, olives, celery, onion, oil, yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and pepper until combined.
Assemble pitas: Cut pitas open and toast. Spoon one fourth of bean mixture into each pita, then top with one fourth of tuna salad. Add sliced tomatoes, greens, or other fresh vegetables, if desired. Enjoy!
I served the leftovers with Rosemary Rutabaga Fries (roasted in the oven and seasoned with garlic, fresh rosemary, and sea salt).