pan-fried asparagus with tomatoes and black olives (and bacon bits)

Pan-fried Asparagus with Tomatoes and Black Olives (and bacon bits)
2 pounds thick asparagus spears, ends trimmed
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup black olives, chopped
2 -4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 tablespoon bacon, chopped and fried until crisp, drained (optional)
4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (optional)

Trim the asparagus. Hold up one spear and snap off the end. Cut all the other spears to the same length.

Make the tomato-black olive dressing. Use the pan drippings from the pork chops to make the dressing. Over medium heat, fry the garlic in the pan drippings until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and olives. Cook until the tomatoes “spring” water and become wilted. Pour the dressing into a bowl, cover with foil, and reserve.

Cook the asparagus. Rinse out the skillet and dry it with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil. Lay half the spears in the pan in one direction. Lay the other half in the opposite direction. Cover and cook over medium heat until the asparagus turns a bright green, about 2-4 minutes. Remove to a serving dish and pour the dressing on top. Top with cheese, basil, or bacon bits.

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pan-fried fish fillets with mediterranean tomato sauce

I’ve been cooking a lot with tomatoes lately!  Tomatoes are so versatile raw or cooked, so naturally, I had to try this new fish recipe. According to myrecipes.com, this recipe, if made with 6 ounce yellowtail snapper fillets with the skin on, amounts to 282 calories per serving. I used tilapia because it was available (and cheaper) but I think any white fish will do. The sauce has a nice light taste; not overpoweringly tomato-y. In fact,  all the flavors of the herbs come through, so be sure to use fresh as directed in the recipe.

Pan-Fried Fish with Mediterranean Tomato Sauce (adapted from myrecipes.com)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
2 cups chopped seeded plum tomato
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (flat-leaf parsley in original recipe)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 pounds tilapia fillets (approximately 2 large fillets)

1. In a medium skillet heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add tomato to the pan and cook 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the capers, Dijon mustard, and minced garlic. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 2 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley, chives, and tarragon. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper to taste. Cover the skillet to keep warm.

2. In a large nonstick skillet heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with about 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper per side. Add fish to the pan and cook for 3 minutes or until browned. Turn the fish over; cook 3 minutes or until the fish turns white and flakes easily with a fork. Serve fish with the warmed sauce.

pappardelle with mushrooms, rosemary, and light tomato sauce, redux

I’m stubborn. Especially when I like a recipe and it doesn’t work the first time around.

It’s been a challenging week. Just as I was getting used to the rhythm of work, I started an online course last week. I’m keeping up with the assignments but not getting much sleep. It’s been tempting to eat out or to eat prepared foods from the supermarket, and so far I have not given in–though we did eat out once this week, and I told myself it’s just because it’s hump-day.  I am still determined to cook healthy low fat low carb meals, but now they have to be quick and easy recipes or they don’t make it into my kitchen! Still, I was stressed out enough that I needed some baking therapy.  I made Martha Stewart’s white butter cake recipe again, but this time I added strawberries to it. It tasted fine but that recipe needs to be revisited too. The strawberries sank to the bottom. I saw somewhere on the internet to dust the fruit lightly with flour to prevent this from happening. Does anyone knows if this really works?

Pappardelle with (Wild) Mushrooms, Rosemary, and Light Tomato Sauce (adapted from Dana Slotkin)

Serves 8 as a side dish or 4 as a main course

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra ­virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 large red onion, minced
2 garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (15­ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup low ­sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half (It doesn’t need it; I left it out)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound homemade or store­ bought pappardelle (or other wide pasta)
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms, washed well and sliced (I used baby bellas)
Grated Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper, for serving

Preparation
1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over low heat and sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine, increase the heat to medium, and simmer until the wine has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and rosemary and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. Add the broth and cook until thickened slightly, about 10 more minutes. Stir in the cream, if desired; simmer for one more minute, and season with salt and pepper.

Cook’s Note: I had some grape tomatoes that I wanted to use up. I sliced them in half and added them to the onion and garlic mixture. You can never have too many tomatoes!

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

3. Transfer the sauce to a blender and blend the sauce; keep warm.

4. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until it is tender but still al dente; drain (do not rinse) it and set aside.

5. While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat and sauté the mushrooms until they are golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

6. Add the tomato sauce and pasta to the skillet, tossing to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. With a large serving fork, twirl the pasta and transfer it to serving bowls. Top each portion with extra sauce and grated Parmesan cheese. I added a few twists of freshly ground Trader Joe’s four peppercorn mix. I served it with a fresh salad and Hugo’s sushi vinaigrette salad dressing.

chicken sausage with kale and white beans

My cousin Karen sent me this recipe. With my busy schedule, is it ever quick and easy to put together! Dinner was ready in less than half an hour.

Ingredients
4-5 links of chicken sausage (I used Trade Joe’s red and green pepper chicken sausage)
2 cups canned Cannellini or white beans (can be dried and cooked instead of canned), rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 bunch of kale, washed, dried and chopped (enough to fill one colander)
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved) or 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil

Directions

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat; add the chicken sausage.
2. Cook for two to three minutes per side and remove from pan; slice each link one-inch thick. Reduce heat to medium high and add the chicken sausage back to the pan with the remaining olive oil and kale. Cook for two to three minutes to wilt the kale.
3. Add garlic, chili flakes, white beans and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Cook two to three minutes until chicken sausage is cooked through and flavors incorporate.
5. Toss with fresh basil and serve.

Nutrition
Calories: 282 Protein: 24 g Carbohydrates: 15 g Total fat: 15 g Saturated fat: 4 g

chickpea cakes with tzatziki sauce

It was one of those nights where I had leftover sides but no main course. For a healthy dinner tonight I made this chickpea cake with tzatziki or cucumber sauce. I served it with the green apple-corn slaw left over from the grilled fish tacos, and some cannellini and green beans leftover from lunch. I love asparagus so I pan-roasted a bunch and served it with a dressing of tomatoes, garlic, and ripe olives. Simple and delicious!

Chickpea Cakes with Tzatziki Sauce (from America’s Test Kitchen)
Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 slices high-quality sandwich bread, torn into pieces (I used 2/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs and skipped Step 1)
1 cucumber, peeled and halved lengthwise, seeded and shredded
Salt
1 1/4 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
6 scallions, sliced thin
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
Black pepper
2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garam masala (see Cook’s Note)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
Lime wedges for serving (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Prepare to make the chickpea cakes. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350˚F. Pulse the bread in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses. Do not wash the food processor bowl afterwards. Spread the crumbs on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and dry, 10-12 minutes. Let the crumbs cool to room temperature.
  2. Make the Tzatziki Sauce. Meanwhile, toss the cucumber with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a colander and let drain for 20 minutes. Combine the drained cucumber 3/4 cup of the yogurt, 2 tablespoons of the scallions, and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro in a bowl and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  3. Make the chickpea patties. Pulse the chickpeas in the food processor to a coarse puree with large pieces remaining, about 8 pulses. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, 2 tablespoons of the oil, garam masala, cayenne, and 1/8 teaspoon salt together. Stir in the toasted bread crumbs, remaining 1/2 cup yogurt, remaining scallions, remaining 3 tablespoons cilantro, processed chickpeas, and shallot until just combined. Using a 1/3 cup measure, scoop the chickpea mixture and roll into balls. Flatten. Repeat.  This amount makes about 10-12 cakes.
  4. Cook the patties. Spray cooking spray in a 12 inch non-stick skillet and heat over medium heat until hot. Carefully lay half the cakes in the skillet and cook until well browned on both sides, 8-10 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Repeat.
  5. Serve. Transfer the cakes to a plate and tent loosely with foil. Serve with tzatziki sauce and lime wedges.

Cook’s Note: To make garam masala:  1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Per serving (1 cake plus 1/4 cup sauce): Cal 240; Fat 12g; Sat fat 2.5g; Chol 75mg; Carb 23g; Protein 12g; Fiber  5g; Sodium 610mg