JANUARY: Spinach Ricotta Tart

Ingredients:

1 single layer pie crust, preferably home made
2 pkg, 10 oz each) frozen chopped spinach
1 small onion, minced
3 T. butter
1/ 2 tsp salt
dash of pepper
3 eggs, beaten
1/ 4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 container, 15 oz, ricotta
1 c. light crem
1/ 2 c. grated parmesan

Cook the spinach, squeeze dry. Cook the spinach and onion in the butter. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
In a separate bowl combine ricotta, eggs and cream. Add the spinach mix.

Pour into the prepared precooked pie crust ( 5 minutes) and bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until set.

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FEBRUARY: Roasted Greens

Lara, who works with me, showed me how to roast kale last fall. I became addicted and started roasting everything — kale, swiss chard, beet greens, broccoli, cauliflower. The roasting turns  the greens into a crisp chip-like vegetable. I cannot get enough of these vegetables.

Ingredients:

One large bunch of greens, such as kale, chard, or beet greens
OR a bunch of broccoli or cauliflower
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

For kale, chard or beet greens, cut crosswise to remove the stem and wash the leaves.  Spin dry. For the broccoli and cauliflower, slice the whole bulb across. (Fancy magazines will often refer to these as broccoli or cauliflower steaks. )

Place the greens on a sheet pan.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, turning half way through. Broccoli and/or cauliflower will take a little longer to cook.

Let me know if you get as addicted as I am.

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MARCH: Thai Beef Salad

This salad takes little time to prepare, yet it is festive, tangy and so tasty.

Ingredients:

8 oz flank or skirt steak (these are the best cuts for grilling)
8 c torn mixed salad greens (mesclun works sell)
1 c torn fresh herbs; mint, cilantro, Thai basil or a combination (I like all 3)
1/4 c minced red onion
1 medium cucumber, seeded, diced
1 small hot red chili, minced (optional)
juice of 2 limes
1 T sesame oil
1 T fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar

Season the flank steak with salt and pepper. Grill it for about 7 minutes, 3-4 minutes per side. This thin cut of meat grills very quickly, so watch the time for medium rare. Allow the meat to cool for 10 minutes.

In a large bow, toss the greens with the herbs, onion and cucumber. Mix the remaining ingredients with one T of water. Add 1/2 the mixture to the greens and toss. Arrange the greens on a platter.

Cut the steak crosswise to the grain at a low angle into thin slices, reserving juices. Combine the steak juices with the remaining dressing. Arrange the beef slices on top of the greens and drizzle the dressing over all.

Serves 4

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APRIL: Cucumber Soup

This simple recipe requires no cooking and is refreshing on a sunny spring day.

Ingredients:

4 cucumbers, peeled and seeded
1 bunch scallions
2 T fresh dill
2 c chicken stock
1 c sour cream

Cut cucumbers into chunks and combine in blender with remaining ingredients.
Puree until smooth and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Chill and serve with chopped cucumber and sour cream.

Makes 4-6 cups of soup

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MAY: Asparagus and Prosciutto in Phyllo

This hors d’oeuvre is always a hit.

Ingredients:

40 spears of asparagus (about 3 lbs)
6 sheets of phyllo (or 2 loaves soft sandwich bread)
1/ lb prosciutto
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1/4 bunch parsley, chopped
1 scallion
2 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot
salt, pepper and cayenne to taste

Note: If substituting bread for phyllo, flatten the bread slices with a rolling pin.

Lightly poach the asparagus until al dente.

Mix the cream cheese with the herbs.

Cut the phyllo into approximately 40 pieces. Spread phyllo with the cream cheese mixture. Put the prosciutto onto of the cream cheese.

Place an asparagus on each piece of phyllo. Roll the phyllo and contents around the asparagus spear. Brush with melted butter.

Place under broiler until lightly browned.

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JUNE: Spring Soup

I was working on a recipe for a spring soup for a client yesterday. Here is my version.

Ingredients:

4 tbsp. butter
3 scallions sliced
1 leek sliced and washed
1 large head of green leaf lettuce, chopped
dash of pepper
3 cups of frozen peas
5 cups of chicken stock
2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1 tsp. chopped basil
1/2 tsp. fresh marjoram
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
juice of 1 lemon
dash of Tabasco
4-6 tbsp. light cream or to taste
salt to taste

Garnish: dollop of sour cream, whipped cream, or drizzle of light cream.
Chiffonade of any of the following: spinach, basil, mint.

Heat the butter in a soup pot and saute the scallions and leek until soft. Add the lettuce and the peas. Cover with a sheet of waxed paper held on by the lid and let cook at a low heat for 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and waxed paper, add the stock and herbs and let cook until totally soft. Add the lemon juice and tabasco. Stir.  Add the salt to taste.  Puree in a food processor in batches. Taste, add cream to taste.

This soup needs to be put through a sieve to create a fine, smooth texture and remove the solids. I did this by ladling one or two scoops at a time into a mesh strainer over a bowl. Then I used the back of the ladle to push the liquid through.  Discard solids each time.

This soup can be served hot or cold. Serves 6 to 8.

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JULY: Southwestern Black Beans and Mango

Ingredients:

1 onion chopped
1 red pepper diced
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic chopped

2 cans of black beans including the liquid

1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, chopped
1 tomato chopped
2 ears of corn, scrape from the cob
or 1 small can of canned corn

Oregano, to taste
Cilantro and Lime Juice, to taste

1 – 2 mangos, peeled and chopped

Saute the onion and red pepper in the olive oil. Let it soften. Add the garlic, black beans,
Tomato and corn. Cook until flavors have blended.  Add spices and mango, warm through.

Garnish with more chopped cilantro

Great by itself or served with rice.

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AUGUST: Watermelon Gazpacho

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit and had to try it. I have made a few changes and could drink it all day.

Ingredients:

2 cups of basil leaves
4 whole cloves
2 star anise
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup of sugar or more to taste
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 plum tomato
4.5 cups of cubed watermelon
1 cup 1 inch pieces chilled peeled seedless gourmet cucumber
1/4 cup or more fresh lime juice
1/2 red thai chili, thinly sliced

In a small sauce pan place the basil, whole cloves, star anise, bay leaf, sugar and salt.
Add 1.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Using a fine mesh strainer pour the mixture through the strainer into a bowl. Squeeze out all of the liquid. Let the syrup cool completely.

In a second pan bring water to a boil. Cutting a cross into the end of the tomato drop it into the boiling water for 30 seconds or until the skin starts to separate. Cool in ice water. Peel. Slice, discard seeds and chop.

In a blender puree basil syrup, the tomato, watermelon, cucumber, lime juice and chili pepper.

Season with more lime juice or salt to taste.

Chill thoroughly before serving. At this point I put in in a glass and drink it. To be more formal they suggest serving it in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, basil chiffonade and black pepper.

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SEPTEMBER: Linguini With Summer Squash

My friend Debora was here last weekend and she loves to cook on my commercial stove. She also loves pasta.  Since I do not cook it for myself very often I let her have fun and feed me.  She made this delightful dish with local summer squash.

Ingredients:

2 medium sized summer squash
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
a few hot pepper flakes or to taste
1 large onion, large dice
Thin Linguini for 2 portions
1 chopped tomato
1/4 cup feta cheese for garnish or more to taste
Arugula leaves, a hand full
Grated rind of one lemon

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the outside of the summer squash into long lengths like wide noodles.  Do not use the seeded part.
Heat olive oil in a saute pan, add onion and cook until soft.  Add summer squash and pepper flakes and cook again until soft.

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain, saving some of the water for the sauce. Add the pasta to the sauté pan, with a little cooking water to form the sauce and toss.

Put the pasta in a serving bowl. Garnish with chopped tomato, Arugula and lemon rind.
Serve.

To make this low cal and gluten free, just use zucchini and summer squash and skip the pasta. If gluten is not an issue, make it more fun by using straw and hay pasta with the two colored squashes.

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OCTOBER: Deep Dish Phyllo Pie with Swiss Chard and Beet Greens

A friend of mine brought over a huge bag of Swiss chard and beet greens from her garden last week. I sauté these with garlic in the winter to serve on Polenta, but I wanted to do something different.  I remembered my Spanakopita recipe so I used that as a base.

Ingredients:

2 large bunches of Swiss cshard
1 bunch of beet greens
4 T. olive oil
1 bunch of scallions, sliced
1 lb ricotta
1/2 lb feta
6 eggs
1/2 cup of grated parmesan
1/2 cup of parsley, chopped
1/2 cup of golden raisins, soaked and drained
1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts
4 sundried tomatoes, drained and chopped ( substitute the oil for the olive oil above )
Dash of pepper and nutmeg
1/2 lb phyllo dough
1 stick of melted unsalted butter  ( you may need more depending on how generous you are)

Wash  and stem the Swiss chard and beet greens. Discard stems. Slice greens crosswise.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and saute with the scallions until just wilted.

Mix the next group of ingredients, ricotta and nutmeg, in a large bowl. When the greens have cooled add to the cheese mixture.

Melt the butter. Using a 13 x 9 2.5 inch deep casserole layer 1/4 of a pound of the phyllo dough brushed with butter between each layer.  The phyllo will come up the sides of the casserole. Pour the filling into the dish. Layer the second 1/4 of a pound, again  brushing with butter between layers.

Fold the phyllo down the sides to seal the pie. Lightly make straight lines the length of the pan at 2.1/4 inch intervals. Do not cut through. Then cut diagonally across using the same measurement.This will make it easier to cut once it is baked and give you correct portions.

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until the top is nicely golden. Can be frozen and reheated.

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NOVEMBER: Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Thanksgiving is almost here and this is the recipe that my family requested, again! and again! and the year before….

Ingredients:

CRUST
1.5 cups of finely ground gingersnap crumbs.
1/4 cup of soft butter

FILLING
3/4 cup of dark brown sugar
1 envelope of unflavored gelatin
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
3 slightly beaten egg yolks
3/4 cup of whole milk
1 can of pumpkin puree

MERINGUE
3 egg whites
1/3 cup of sugar

Whipped cream for garnish

First, make your crust: Mix the gingersnap crumbs and butter, and press into a 9” pie plate. Bake at 375 for 6 – 8 minutes. Cool. I find that it is soft and has slid down a bit while baking. I often use a spoon to press it back up the sides and then let it cool.

Next, make your filling: Combine the brown sugar, gelatin, salt, and spices in a saucepan. Combine the milk and egg yolks, and stir into the sugar mixture. Cook over medium heat until the mix comes to a boil.  Remove from the heat and add 1.5 cups (1 can) of pumpkin puree. Chill until the mixture mounds when you add a spoon.  Do not let it get too stiff.

Finally, make your meringue: Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks. Gradually add sugar. Fold the pumpkin mix thoroughly into the whites and turn into the crust. Chill until firm.

Garnish with whipped cream if desired.

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DECEMBER: Maple Vinaigrette

A friend gave me this recipe one year and it remains my fall favorite in a salad with apples or grapes, nuts and creamy Vermont goat cheese.  I could eat this everyday for lunch in October and November.  Even in December when the apples are so fresh and crisp.  I took a bottle of this dressing to school one weekend last October and they cleaned the bowl three days in a row.

Ingredients:

1 cup of olive oil
3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup of Maple Syrup
1/4 cup of Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup French’s Mustard

Combine last 4 ingredients.  Whisk in olive oil. Keep in a glass jar.

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