Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Vegetable soup

OK, I'm gonna say it - this was nothing special; just a use-stuff-up recipe.  I still had most of the potatoes, corn, pink-eyed peas, tomatoes and banana peppers that I received in my most recent Pinckney's stash before Thursday rolled around - and I wanted to ensure that I had something vegetarian for myself on the days when I didn't want any meat or dairy.

2 tbsp canola oil
3 mild banana peppers, gutted and diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
1 lb fresh pink-eyed peas, rinsed
4 new potatoes, peeled and diced
1 ear of corn, cooked
2 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 branch fresh rosemary
1 branch fresh thyme
6 basil leaves, torn
pepper to taste

In an 8 qt pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the banana peppers and saute until softened, about 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring broth to a boil in a separate pot. Once it has boiled, add to the pot with the peppers along with the peas and diced potatoes. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.

Remove the husk from the corn and cut the corn off the cob with a serrated knife. Add corn, tomatoes and herbs to the pot, cover and simmer another 30 minutes. Check seasoning and add pepper to taste.

If I make this again, I might make it heartier by using less broth.  (Chris Rock: 'cuz I sho' is hungry!)  Since the potatoes were diced, less liquid was needed to soften them up.  One pleasant surprise, was that most of the thyme fell off the branches while the soup cooked, so when I finally had some on Tuesday, I just had to fish the thyme and rosemary out of the pot and toss them in the compost bin, and the rest I packed up as leftovers.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Another Mediterranean recipe from the Portugal chapter of La cuisine autour de la méditerranée.  It would have been nice to include the onions that are mentioned in the book version, but I had no onions and an oversupply of potatoes, plus some nice, ripe tomatoes (thanks Joyce!) and pretty much everything else this recipe called for:

1/2 cup olive oil
6-7 medium new potatoes, peeled and cut into rounds about 1/3 inch thick
1 cup dry white wine
salt and cayenne pepper
2 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
5-6 small tilapia filets
1 branch worth of chopped fresh rosemary
1 branch of fresh thyme

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a 10 X 14 inch baking pan, add the olive oil and place in oven for 10 minutes. Remove and add layers of potatoes, seasoning each layer with salt and cayenne pepper. (Should end up with 3 layers.) Bake layers of potatoes for about 45 minutes or until fork-tender. Remove, add tilapia in one layer and cover with tomatoes, thyme and rosemary. Bake another 15 minutes or until tilapia flakes with a fork. Serve with white wine.

This made a great dinner last night, and I really enjoyed the leftovers for lunch today! To my surprise, we barely registered the cayenne; maybe it joined with the olive oil and wine in the bottom of the casserole? Also, the original recipe called for cod or another type of fish that is normally sliced thicker than tilapia and said to bake the whole thing for an hour. I went with the tilapia just because we already had it, adding it later so that it would not have time to dry out in the oven.

Completely unrelated, but in case anyone out there is wondering why the emphasis on healthy food, and why I haven't yet fried a single potato (or any other food items in my house) despite the steady supply...well, I haven't been able to run lately because I came away from a half-marathon in April with an IT band injury that's been slow to heal - in part because I put off going to see Dr. Renick. In the meantime, I've been very careful of what I eat so as not to puff up while waiting to start running again. But on Sunday morning, I managed to run for ten whole minutes after walking 20, cleaned house afterward and the IT band still feels OK!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


So, I caught some sort of bug over the weekend and didn’t realize it until Monday morning at work, by which time I'd already made this and the Frogmore Stew. (Steve's still not sick - knock on wood.) Luckily, I had made this in the meantime, which has been just as good to eat while sick as anything else. To my great surprise, there were no squash or zucchini in this week’s Pinckney’s stash, but there was an eggplant and a green pepper in the swap box at my pickup location and a largish zucchini growing in the backyard, so I decided to make the ratatouille. This is great by itself or as a type of primavera sauce over pasta and topped with shredded parmesan.

3 tbsp olive oil
1 eggplant, diced into 1-inch cubes
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large zucchini, diced into 1-inch cubes
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 medium-large tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 branch fresh oregano
1 branch fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

In a pot at least 4 inches deep, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the eggplant and garlic, stir and saute until eggplant is slightly softened, about 5 minutes. (Note: to hold as much steam as possible, keep the lid on between veggie additions.) Add the zucchini, stir and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper, stir and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and fresh herbs, pressing down the herbs so they are fully submerged. Cover and simmer for another 20-30 minutes or until all veggies are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

I usually make a batch at least twice this size when I plan ahead, but with what I had on hand, I figured that a smaller batch would do as well and would cut down on the amount of leftovers that would have to go in the freezer.

It's Thursday once again, I have more produce to pick up from Pinckney's and I'm fairly certain I still won't be up for cooking or eating much of anything tonight, but I can at least be glad that I'm making good use of what I have as I get it.

Frogmore Stew!

Made this Sunday night.  It seemed like an obvious choice because of the potatoes and corn that came in last week’s Pinckney's stash along with the packages of shrimp and (turkey) smoked sausage in the freezer and my never-ending supply of spices and fresh herbs. The red potatoes, corn, smoked sausage and shrimp are all standard across the recipes that I found online. I sort-of went with this recipe because of its flexibility and used the following:

6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 red cayenne peppers, cut in half lengthwise
2 tsp ground Mexican oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp salt
6 small new potatoes, washed (larger ones cut in half)
3 ears of corn, husked and cut in half
1 lb. turkey smoked sausage, sliced every 2 inches
1 lb. frozen shrimp

Bring 5-6 quarts of water to boil, add spices and potatoes and boil for 20 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender. Add smoked sausage and corn and boil another 10 minutes. Add shrimp, turn off heat, cover until shrimp have cooked through or warmed up, about 5-8 minutes. Drain and serve.

Traditionally, you’re supposed to pour the contents of the pot onto a table top covered with newspaper and let everyone eat with their hands. I wasn’t about to disgrace the antique dining table we inherited last year from

Steve’s aunt in that manner, but I did spread out a few pages from the Free Times for the photo. (Yep, it’s the article about Alvin Greene, “The Manning-Churian Candidate.”)

The cayennes were from a co-worker whose definition of “hot” differs dramatically from mine. Had I known that they would taste more like red poblanos, I would have added some cayenne or Yucateco green habanero sauce to the mix. Also, there are different spice preferences along the coastal areas of the Southeast. If I ever make this again, I think that, rather than make up my own seasoning blend (although this wasn’t bad), I’ll go with a sachet of Old Bay crab boil. I’ve made some of my best gumbo with it before and would expect it to do just as well in a Frogmore Stew. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Corn & feta salad and Italian green beans

Tonight was a light dinner because some of us weren't hungry...

Which worked out well enough, considering I still had string beans, corn and a tomato to use up and some recent reading suggested that our bones might be better off for it. The corn and feta salad was slightly different from last time, and it was so sweet that it seemed almost a shame to add salt and vinegar, but the sweetness still came through - the Pinckney's difference!

Corn and feta salad:
3 fresh ears of corn with husks
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 oz. feta, crumbled

Bake corn in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Remove husks and any remaining threads of corn silk. Cut the corn off the cob with a serrated knife. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and then serve.

Green beans:2 tbsp olive oil
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
salt and crushed red pepper to taste
1 vine-ripened tomato, diced

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add green beans, salt and crushed red pepper and stir to coat the green beans. Saute for 5 minutes. Add diced tomato, reduce heat slightly, cover and simmer until green beans are tender but not overcooked, about another 5 minutes.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Since I live in South Carolina, it's wicked hot. So hot that I don't always want to cook and sometimes wonder if I could lower my power bill by leaving things outside to cook in the afternoon sun. And since I do the Pinckney's thing, I have a steady supply of cucumbers. And since I grow some things in my backyard, I also have fresh parsley and mint. Hmm...

For this recipe, I did go out and buy some bulghur wheat and a few vine-ripened tomatoes. I'm not always so good at using up cucumbers before they spoil, but I figured that I could use up my whole supply in one go with this recipe (loosely based on the one in the "Algerie" chapter of La cuisine autour de la mediterranee*):

1 cup bulghur wheat (a.k.a. cracked wheat)
3-4 medium, ripe tomatoes, diced
5 small (pickling) cucumbers, or 2-3 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Place the uncooked bulghur wheat in a mixing bowl (can also be the container in which it will be stored) and cover with the diced tomatoes, transferring as much tomato juice as possible. Add the diced cucumbers, parsley, mint, olive oil and lemon juice and stir until combined. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours; this will allow enough time for the juices to soften up the bulghur wheat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If you eat light, this may suffice as a meal. Otherwise, you could serve this with hummus and pita wedges or maybe some blackened chicken or fish. Since it usually takes me a few days to go through it, I prefer to add salt and pepper to individual portions so that the rest of the batch will keep. It can also be made with couscous instead of the bulghur wheat. Using couscous reduces the wait time to an hour or two, but since it's a processed grain, it also breaks down faster. One thing I learned the first time I made this is, despite the directions in the recipe book referenced above, you do *not* want to cook the grain. Cooking the grain, especially if it's couscous, makes for a very mushy salad. Letting the grain soak up the juices from the tomato, cucumber and lemon not only heads off this problem but also allows the grain to absorb their flavors. This is a great, no-cook recipe on a hot summer day!

Lentil and zucchini moussaka

I made this one on Sunday because, once again, I got a ton of yellow squash and zucchini in my Pinckney's stash. Hopefully I won't run out of ideas for them before my summer subscription ends.

As it happened, I also had a couple of mild banana peppers (also from Pinckney's) and a bag of lentils and a 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes that weren't earmarked for anything. Since I had all this squash, the pantry items and no ground meat on hand with which to make a normal moussaka, I figured I could just cook a cup of lentils and add them to the tomato sauce as a meat substitute that would keep all the layers thick enough to remain distinct in the oven. So, here's the recipe:

4 yellow squash, halved lengthwise
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise
3 cups salted water
1 cup lentils, rinsed and sorted
2 tbsp olive oil
2 mild banana peppers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp dried Italian herbs
fresh ground pepper
28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
3 tbsp Smart Balance
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste (white pepper's good if you have it)

Place the halved zucchini and yellow squash on a plate, skin-side down. Make cuts in each piece in a crosshatch pattern, salt generously and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Bring 3 cups of salted water to a boil. Add lentils, stir and simmer, covered, until lentils are very tender, about 30 minutes.

In a separate saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add banana peppers, garlic, pepper and Italian herbs and saute until peppers have softened, about 5 minutes. Chop the canned tomatoes by running a long, sharp knife through them, then add (with juices) to the peppers, stir well and simmer uncovered (a splatter guard's a good idea) until sauce is very thick, about 30-45 minutes. Check seasoning and add salt if needed (mine didn't need any). Add the cooked lentils to the tomato sauce and stir until blended.

While the tomato sauce is cooking, heat Smart Balance in another saucepan until melted. Add flour and stir well; do not allow to brown. Stir in the milk slowly, taking care to prevent lumps from forming. Add pepper and simmer, stirring often, until sauce has thickened. Stir in Parmesan cheese, check seasoning and add salt if needed.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove zucchini and squash from refrigerator, rinse and pat dry with paper towels. In the bottom of a bread loaf pan (mine are non-stick; if yours isn't, grease it first), arrange half of the zucchini and squash, skin-side down, so that as much of the base is covered as possible. Layer half of the lentils and tomato sauce mixture over the zucchini and squash. Repeat with the remaining zucchini/squash and lentil-tomato mixture. Add the cream sauce by pouring evenly over the top layer of lentils and tomatoes and smooth out carefully with a spoon so that this forms the top layer.

Bake in 350 degree oven for one hour, let cool and serve.

I made this three hours ahead of time, covered it in foil when it came out of the oven, and when we sat down to eat it was still warm and the (delicious!) sauce had permeated the zucchini and squash and also mingled somewhat with the cream sauce on top, which had still formed a crust as I'd hoped. The key, which I learned after several botched attempts at moussaka, is to make each of the sauces very thick so that it will hold its own as a layer after it goes in the oven.

This recipe is pretty much based on the one I've always used, which is in the "Grece" chapter of La cuisine autour de la mediterranee.* Vilma Liacouras Chantiles notes in The Food of Greece that, although we normally associate eggplant with moussaka, traditional Greek/Turkish moussaka can be made with whatever layered vegetables you want; the red and white sauces are the common denominator. I've also gotten excellent results using potatoes sliced about 1/4 inch thick, and I usually use ground turkey in the red sauce with a little salt, pepper and nutmeg. If you're planning ahead to make it this way, it pays to spice the ground meat beforehand. A 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes works just as well as the canned whole tomatoes, as would 5 or 6 very ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced. Also, when using meat, raise the temperature to at least 375 degrees, and the eggplant also might come out more tender after another 15 minutes or so at this temperature, or after 1 hour at 400 degrees.

Barcelona Chicken and Spinach Risotto

Friday's dinner. This recipe didn't use up any of my Pinckney's stash from Thursday, but it did take care of a bag of spinach that wasn't long for this world. I also had about half a can of stuffed olives that I had bought for this recipe a while back, plus a small amount of very dry sherry (also bought for this recipe in the winter) and some chicken breast tenders in the freezer.

The Barcelona chicken is a variation on a recipe from the "Espagne" chapter of La cuisine autour de la mediterranee*, and I still don't remember about the spinach risotto (Giada or Emeril?). When I have peppers, the risotto is one of my favorite stuffings for them, but it also makes a great side dish all by itself.

Barcelona chicken (Pollo al Jerez):
2 tbsp olive oil
1 package chicken breast tenders (8 or 9)
2 tbsp flour
1 cup very dry sherry
12-15 pimiento-stuffed green olives
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a wide, shallow saucepan. Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides and add to the pan (work in batches if needed) and cook for 5-7 minutes, until chicken is most of the way cooked. Remove and set aside.
Add flour to the pan and stir carefully to keep lumps from forming. Add sherry and stir well. Bring to a boil for one minute, then reduce to a simmer. Add the chicken back to the pan, along with the olives. Cover and simmer until chicken is cooked, about 8-10 minutes. Remove lid and cook until sauce has thickened, about 3-5 more minutes. When serving, drizzle the sauce over the chicken and olives.

Spinach risotto:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup uncooked arborio rice
3 cups chicken broth (2 cups broth diluted by 1 cup water)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
8 oz. fresh spinach, chopped small and steamed in microwave
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add arborio rice and stir to coat.

Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of broth and water to a boil. Lower heat and begin adding, half to 3/4 cup at a time, to the pan containing the rice. Stir often, adding more broth as it is absorbed by the rice. Continue until all broth has been added to the rice. Add Parmesan and pepper and stir well. Check seasoning and add salt if needed. Add steamed spinach and stir until blended.

One word about the diluted broth: I haven't always diluted the broth, but I have found in the past that if you don't do this, or use low-sodium broth, the addition of Parmesan at the end can make the end result a little too salty.

Since it nearly reached 100 degrees on Friday, we weren't exactly starving by the time I started cooking. Any type of chicken will do, but I prefer the boneless, skinless kind for quick meals (and to be sure that it cooked through) and for smaller pieces that you can serve a lot of or just a couple, depending on how hungry you are. All in all, this one turned out really well, and I'm really looking forward to the leftovers!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Shrimp Scampi and a lot of hearty Greek-style goodness

After voting in the SC primary on Tuesday, the pressure was on to find a use for two turnips, one bunch of kale and about a pound of string beans. I've also had a bag of new potatoes sitting around (courtesy of an Amsa Yoga regular who gave them away on Memorial Day) that I at least needed to think about using up. Since Steve likes food with a face in at least one meal a day, I had to think of a way to work that in and avoid overwhelming him with veggie side dishes. So, instead of making separate dishes out of turnips, potatoes, string beans and kale, I found combinations that brought the side dish count down to two. The result appears above, and here's how I got there (in roughly this order):

Peloponnesos-style potatoes and green beans*:
3 tbsp Smart Balance
8 oz. tomato sauce
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 lb string beans, strung and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the Smart Balance (butter or any butter substitute will do, and substituting olive oil for 1 of the 3 tbsp is even better) in a wide, shallow saucepan over medium heat. Once it has melted, stir in the tomato sauce. Add potatoes, string beans and just enough water to cover. Stir, cover and simmer until potatoes are fork tender (30-45 minutes depending on heat). Remove lid, stir in salt, pepper, parsley and mint and cook uncovered until sauce has thickened.

Sauteed turnips and kale:
2 tbsp olive oil
2 turnips, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium bunch kale, coarsely chopped, stems removed
salt and crushed red pepper to taste
Rinse the kale well to remove any dirt. Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add turnips and garlic and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the kale, salt and crushed red pepper, cover and cook until kale has wilted, about 5 more minutes.

Shrimp scampi**:
10-12 oz. shrimp (peeled and deveined), thawed
olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and fresh ground pepper
Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir and cook uncovered until sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes.

A couple of things:
I rarely find butter preferable to a vegetable-based alternative except when making cookies, and I recently switched from Brummel and Brown to Smart Balance for the omega-3's and to avoid hydrogenated oils (where the trans fats are, making many butter substitutes even worse for you than butter).

The shrimp I used in the scampi was fully cooked when I took it out of the freezer, which made the end result a tad rubbery. (The original recipe called for uncooked shrimp.) It also called for white wine, which I skipped when I saw how much liquid cooked out of the shrimp; no point in overcooking it more than I needed to. If I ever make this again - and there's a good chance that I will, since it was very tasty despite the texture - I'll either use raw shrimp or set the cooked stuff aside, make the sauce first and slip in the shrimp at the very end, just long enough to warm it up.

Pat on the back: Steve said this meal was the best thing he'd eaten all day!

The next Pinckney's stash arrives Thursday. Stay tuned to find out what I pull out of my chef's hat next!

*Vilma Liacouras Chantiles. The Food of Greece.
**Original recipe available here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer stew with chana dal, squash and pomegranate syrup

Once again, I had a ton of stuff to use up come Thursday night, and I still hadn't used up all the yellow and starburst squash from my previous Pinckney's stash. Since summer's such a great time for trotting out Turkish recipes, I decided to try a variation on one that I like to prepare at least once each summer, based on Musa Vagdaviren's (sic) Summer Stew with Lentils and Eggplant.*

Instead of lentils and eggplant, I had chana dal and about 10 zucchini, yellow squash and starburst squash. This called for using a larger pot than the 8-quart pot I usually use for the stove-top version of this recipe.

3 cups chana dal**, rinsed and sorted
2 tbsp plus 1/4 cup olive oil
10 zucchini, yellow and starburst squash sliced lengthwise
4 banana peppers, diced
2 onions, diced
3 tomatoes, peeled and diced
(8 oz. can of tomato sauce if tomatoes are not fully ripened)
2 tsp. crushed red pepper or to taste
1/2 cup mint leaves (about 25-30 large leaves), chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate syrup***

Bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil, add the chana dal and cook, covered, 30 minutes or until very soft to the bite (i.e. you could easily mash into a paste). Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, slice all zucchini and yellow squash in half lengthwise (for the starburst squash, remove top and bottom and cut in half at the "equator"). Place slices on plates, cut into them in a crosshatch pattern and sprinkle with salt. Store in refrigerator for 30 minutes, then rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

While the chana dal's cooking and the zucchini and squash are in the fridge, combine the peppers, onion, tomato, salt, garlic, crushed red pepper and mint in a mixing bowl. Stir until blended.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 10 by 15 inch (4 inches deep) baking pan. Add just enough chana dal to cover the bottom. Add a layer consisting of half the zucchini and squash (any arrangement is fine as long as spaces are filled as completely as possible). Cover the zucchini and squash with half of the vegetable mixture. Repeat layers and cover the top with any remaining chana dal. Drizzle olive oil over the top and down the sides and repeat with the pomegranate syrup.

Cover with lid or aluminum foil (so any beans on top don't dry out) and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Serve hot or at room temperature. Good alone or over rice or couscous.

The Food and Wine recipe called for slightly smaller amounts of everything, resulting in a yield about 2/3 of what I ended up with on Friday. Theirs also called for lentils, which cook a little faster than chana dal, and eggplant, which increases the cook time to 90 minutes.

What you get: a very bright, citrussy-flavored vegetable stew with very tender zucchini and squash. The result, which I finally sampled today (Monday) for lunch, was just as good as any I've made the usual way, and I've got tons of leftovers that will probably go in the freezer tonight. Hopefully, Steve will help me make a dent in it.

*Wolfert, Paula. "Master Chef of Turkey." Food and Wine July 2004, p. 179.

**dried split chick peas, available in Indian grocery stores. In Columbia, look for Oriental Groceries, across from the Wal-Mart on U.S. 1 in West Columbia, or J.M. Emporium on Two Notch Road, about a mile south of Sesqui (behind Dunkin' Donuts).

***also labeled "Pomegranate Concentrated Juice," available in Middle Eastern grocery stores. In Columbia, look for Aladdin near the corner of St. Andrews Road and Jamil Road (same strip mall as Inakaya).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Greek-Florentine Fusion and the Virtue of Austerity

Before I write again about my own "cooking because I have too much food" experience, I have to share a story from an unemployed food writer in Seattle who has been using his culinary know-how to stretch his food stamp allocation - $200 a month, his sole source of income.

It has occurred to me more than once, including since I started this humble blog, that I could be a little more appreciative of what I have and remember how many of us are one job loss or hospitalization away from having to step from one side of the help counter (as employees, volunteers, etc.) to the other. Certainly, coming up with recipes that maximize the use of our perpetual produce overload makes one more appreciative of the abundance we enjoy daily than does regretfully tossing spoiled ingredients into the compost bin.

That said...I'm not sure if this qualifies as "fusion" or not, there being so much overlap between Greek and Italian cuisine. It occurred to me that, since there's flounder in the freezer and fresh spinach, cucumbers, a big ripe tomato and a small container of plain Greek yogurt all going unloved in the fridge, I could perhaps try my hand at a fish variation on Giada de Laurentiis's Chicken Florentine recipe, substituting a tzatziki-like yogurt sauce for her white wine cream sauce and served with a Greek cucumber and tomato salad (from La cuisine autour de la mediterranee*) and, if it appealed to Steve (which it didn't), a slice of grilled crusty bread drizzled with olive oil. No biggie - if we're hungry enough, we can always fill this one out with rice.

2 6-8 oz. flounder filets, fresh or frozen (thawed if frozen)
1 tbsp plus 1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp Cavender's Greek seasoning

1 tbsp olive oil
1 8-9 oz. bag of fresh spinach, torn
salt and pepper to taste

yogurt sauce:
4 oz Greek plain whole-milk yogurt
1 tsp dried dill (or less if preferred)
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice

Greek cucumber salad:
4-5 small cucumbers, peeled and diced
1 medium-large ripe tomato, diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and thaw fish (if frozen) in the microwave. Meanwhile, start chopping the other ingredients and thoroughly rinse the spinach in a colander.

Once fish is thawed, pour off any excess liquid, line a shallow baking pan with aluminum foil and drizzle on the first tbsp of olive oil to prevent sticking. Place fish on aluminum foil, drizzle on another tbsp of olive oil and a tbsp of lemon juice, then sprinkle on Greek seasoning and bake for 15 minutes. (Note: if fresh or thawed ahead of time, add these ingredients and marinate for 2-24 hours.)

Once fish is in the oven, heat first tbsp of olive oil in a wide saucepan over medium heat. Once heated, add torn spinach leaves, slightly reduce heat, add salt and pepper and mix well. Cook until spinach is more than wilted but not turning brown or very dark green, about 10 minutes.

While the spinach is cooking, chop the tomatoes and cucumbers and place in separate bowls in the refrigerator. To make their dressing, combine salt, pepper, Italian herbs and lemon juice in a small bowl. Drizzle on 2 tbsp of olive oil while stirring with a whisk or fork. Set aside.

To make the yogurt sauce for the fish, combine yogurt, dill, garlic and lemon juice. Set aside.

When the fish is ready to come out of the oven, make a shallow bed of spinach on each plate using half the cooked spinach. Carefully lift off the fish with a spatula and place on top of the spinach. Spoon the yogurt sauce along the length of the fish but do not spread (unless you really want to).

On a separate plate, or in the remaining space on the plate with the fish (see photo), spoon out half of the cucumbers and top with half of the tomatoes. (Depending on the size of the tomato, you might have some left over; save for another use.) Give the dressing a quick stir and drizzle over the salad. Top with feta.

As complicated as this may sound, it was actually one of the quicker meals I've made in a while, since the fish took just long enough for me to prepare the rest while the fish was thawing and then baking. Steve seemed pleased with all of it, too. One thing I have to say, though, is that I confirmed with this meal that I'm not a fan of Greek yogurt. I gave it a try because it's in vogue, but for my taste, it's a little too much like cream cheese. I really think the yogurt sauce would have been lighter and more delicate (and would not have needed to be thinned down with lemon juice) had I used regular low-fat yogurt. Personal preference; anyone reading this should try both and see for themselves.

In the end, I didn't miss the bread/starch that I normally make a point of including, since the meal combined animal flesh with two different dairy products, and this is the type of combination that I'm inclined to avoid. If you're looking for a delicious low-carb dinner, give this a try!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Zucchini and Yellow Squash Lasagna

I actually skipped yoga Tuesday night so that I could come home and make this - not to eat right away, just to use up all the zucchini and yellow squash before the next Pinckney's produce pickup. (How alliterative.) I also had a green bell pepper, ricotta and a couple of boxes of lasagna noodles; otherwise, this might have been a zucchini moussaka.

I just cut into it today (Friday) for lunch and was instantly reminded that my removal of portions from baking pans leaves a little to be desired. (This really was in layers when I baked it.) Oh, well - what can you really tell about food by looking at it, anyway?

1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp dry Italian herbs (oregano, margoram, etc.)
salt and pepper
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/2 inch thick crosswise
4 medium yellow squash, sliced 1/2 inch thick crosswise
1 cup plus 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 16 oz. container of ricotta cheese
2 tsp dry Italian herbs
salt and pepper
5 wheat lasagna noodles

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in the saucepan to be used for the sauce. Add the bell pepper, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and saute until the pepper has softened, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, stir well and simmer uncovered until sauce has thickened significantly (you may need a splatter guard), about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the sliced zucchini and squash on plates (1 slice high), salt liberally and store in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, rinse and pat dry with paper towels. If water continues to come out, pat them with a dry paper towel as needed.

When the sauce has about 10 minutes of cooking time left, boil enough water in another saucepan to cover the lasagna noodles. Add lasagna noodles and cook until tender, about 10 minutes or according to directions on box.

While lasagna noodles are cooking, combine 1 cup parmesan cheese with ricotta cheese, 2 tsp Italian herbs, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

When sauce is ready, spoon just enough to cover the bottom of a non-stick bread-loaf-sized baking pan and spread evenly. Place two cooked lasagna noodles side by side on top of the sauce, carefully trim and slack and set aside. Add 1/3 of the ricotta cheese mix, 1/3 of the zucchini and squash (filling any gaps with the smaller pieces from the neck of the squash) and 1/3 of the remaining sauce. Repeat the layering two more times. The final layer of pasta should be made up of reserved pieces from the first two layers of lasagna noodles plus one intact lasagna noodle. Once the last of the lasagna noodles and sauce have been added to the baking pan, sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and juices are bubbling. Let cool for about 15 minutes. Serve or store in refrigerator.