Appetizers, Salads

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Bites

The first official weekend of summer is finally upon us. Take a deep breath and let the beauty of that first sentence sink in … aahhhhh.

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Now, cube watermelon, crumble feta cheese, tear mint leaves, and assemble this lovely and straightforward gem of a summer dish. Wonderful as an appetizer or a salad. If you’re making this into a salad, place all of the ingredients into a bowl and toss together.

These three ingredients blend perfectly. Summer. Easy. Beautiful. Simple. Delicious.

You can’t mess this up … unless you use pre crumbled feta cheese … NEVER use pre crumbled feta. (Emily Always Cooks PSA announcement.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 watermelon, rind discarded and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 8 oz block feta cheese
  • Fresh mint leaves, torn into small pieces

Directions:

  1. Place watermelon pieces onto a plate or platter.
  2. Sprinkle/top with feta cheese.
  3. Top with fresh mint.

 

 

 

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Salads

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

I’m writing this at 2pm on Friday of Labor Day weekend. We’ve all mailed it in at this point, right? We’re done doing “actual’ work. So, in the spirit of Labor Day, I give you this fantastic dish. Ideal for a lazy summer weekend afternoon. Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken.  Vibrantly flavored, full of crisp vegetables, and easily adaptable. (Did I throw in enough buzz terms there?)

I made a vinaigrette packed with fresh ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce and a hint of heat from the chili paste. A subtle bit of spice. Just enough.  Soba noodles, often times labeled as buckwheat noodles, can be found in the Asian section of your supermarket. They’ve got a distinct flavor and sweetness. I love ’em.

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with ChickenSesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with ChickenSesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

Easily modified by using any variety of vegetables you have on hand.  Asparagus in your crisper drawer? Shave thin and toss it in (That was an unintentional rhyme). Bright and beautiful green beans at the farmers market? Quickly blanch along with the soba noodles during the last minute of cook time, then add ’em to the party.  Looking for a meatless meal? Simply leave the chicken out. You’re the boss.

Whip this dish together before fall flavors take over the market. Unique, delicious, and (obviously) a cinch to put together. Now, let’s get after this long weekend!

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with ChickenSesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp canola oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced or fresh ginger paste
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp chili paste
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 8 ounces soba noodles
  • 1 lb (2 large) boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, combine 2 tbsp canola oil, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 4 garlic cloves, 1 tbsp minced ginger, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 2 tbsp honey, and 1/2 tsp chili paste. Pulse until combined.  Pour sauce into a bowl, add toasted sesame seeds, and set aside.
  2. Cook soba noodles according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat a large skillet with 1 tbsp oil over medium heat.  Add chicken, season chicken with salt and pepper, and cook until golden brown and just cooked through.  Add 1/3 of the sauce to the chicken, toss to coat, remove from heat, and set aside.
  4. Toss together noodles, cucumber, carrots, red pepper, cilantro, green onion, chicken, and another 1/3 of the sauce.  Add additional sauce if necessary.
  5. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Servings: 4

Main Course Recipes, Pasta Recipes, Seafood Recipes

Zucchini Noodles and Spaghetti with Pesto, Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Shrimp

Pesto Zucchini Noodles and Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Shrimp

 

I’m a pesto loving fool.  I’m also a tomato loving fool.  Thankfully, this dish has ’em both (plus super cool spiraled zucchini noodles).  I’m a fool in love, and in this particular instance I’m referring to my dinner.

What do I love about this dish (other than the pesto and tomatoes?):

  • The harmonious balance of slightly chewy al dente pasta and crunchy veg achieved through the combination of pasta noodles and zucchini noodles.
  • The sweetness from the roasted garlic.  Enough said.
  • The toppings. Shrimp, garlic and herb panko breadcrumbs, lemon zest, fresh basil, and the parmesan cheese.

Tomatoesphoto 1photo 2

 

Spiral that fresh zucchini and slice up those pretty multi colored cherry tomatoes. Tear up that fresh basil, and take in that delicious aroma from the roasted garlic.  Lady Summer is still hanging around for a while, and she loves when you get a little foolhardy with her fresh ingredients … she told me so.

Pesto Zucchini Noodles and Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Shrimp Pesto Zucchini Noodles and Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Shrimp Pesto Zucchini Noodles and Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Shrimp Pesto Zucchini Noodles and Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Shrimp

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti (or 2 oz per person)
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • A small pinch of Herbs de Provence (or dried oregano)
  • A small pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 head roasted garlic, squeezed from skins, and mashed with a fork
  • 1/2 cup pesto, homemade or store bought
  • 3 zucchini, spiraled (use a vegetable spiral slicer or a julienne peeler)
  • 1 lb large (16-20 count) shrimp, shelled and deveined (Ask your butcher for them this way.  If you have to devein your own shrimp, follow these steps.)
  • The zest from 1/2 of a lemon (approximately 1/2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Reminder: If you haven’t already done so, roast your garlic now. This takes about 35 minutes!
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the sheet pan, drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat, then spread out into a single even layer.  Roast for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions until al dente.  You want the pasta to be tender but slightly firm to the bite.  Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of starchy pasta water.  Reserve pasta.
  5. Meanwhile, add 1 teaspoon olive oil, panko bread crumbs, minced garlic, Herbs de Provence, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt to a small skillet.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the breadcrumbs are toasted and fragrant.  Remove from heat and reserve.
  6. Combine roasted garlic, pesto, and a few tablespoons of the reserved cooking water in a small boil.  Stir to combine and reserve.
  7. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add spiraled zucchini, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until zucchini is cooked through.  (Note: Watch your spiraled zucchini carefully. You do not want it to overcook and become mushy. The goal is for it to retain a nice crunch.)
  8. Meanwhile, add 1 tbsp of olive oil to another large skillet over medium high heat.  Season shrimp with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, and cook for 5 minutes until cooked through.  Cover to keep warm and reserve.
  9. Once spiraled zucchini is cooked through, add the cooked spaghetti and pesto mixture to the pan. Toss to coat and cook for 3 minutes.  Add more pesto or pasta water if necessary.  You want the spaghetti and zucchini to be coated with a nice layer of pesto.
  10. Add the roasted tomatoes to the pan. Toss to combine and cook one additional minute.  Sprinkle with half of the toasted bread crumbs, lemon zest, fresh basil, and reserved shrimp.
  11. Transfer to a serving platter, or serve right out of the skillet.  Serve with remaining  bread crumbs and fresh parmesan cheese on the side.

Serves: 4

Salads

Summer Salad Round-Up

The 4th of July is almost here!  Although according to my assessment of downtown Chicago, most people have celebrated “Independence Eve” by taking the 3rd off as well.  Bravo!

In preparation for the festivities, I put together a list of my favorite go-to summer salad recipes.  These recipes are perfect for BBQ’s, picnics, and potlucks … or pretty much any summer day.

Here’s wishing you and yours a holiday filled with fresh and simple summer eats.  And, plenty of cold ones!

Lentil Orzo Salad

Lentil Orzo Salad

 

Greek Quinoa Salad

Greek Quinoa Salad

 

Corn and Kale Salad with Basil Lime Vinaigrette

kale and corn salad

 

Mexican Couscous Salad

Mexican Couscous Salad

 

Mediterranean Farro Salad

Mediterranean Farro Salad

 

Charred Corn Salad with Peppers and Feta

Charred Corn and Pepper Salad with Feta

 

Tabbouleh Pasta Salad

Tabbouleh Pasta Salad

 

Greek Balsamic Orzo

Greek Balsamic Orzo Salad

 

 

 

Sauces, Marinades, and Dressings, Vegetarian Recipes

Fresh Summer Tomato Sauce

Fresh Summer Tomato Sauce

 

This is the perfect time of the year to share my fresh homemade tomato sauce.   Tomatoes are in abundance at the farmers markets, and they’re at their peak of freshness.  This is definitely a summer tomato sauce.  Light, extremely flavorful, and oh so fresh tasting.  This sauce will ruin all other tomato sauces for you (sorry).

My favorite way to serve this sauce is over warm pasta with grated parmesan cheese and plenty of fresh basil.  If you prefer meat sauce, add to browned Italian sausage or pancetta.  If you want to up your vegetable intake, combine sauce with roasted zucchini, mushrooms, and red peppers.  Use in any recipe that calls for your favorite marinara sauce, or simply tear off a piece of fresh bread, dip, eat, and repeat.  The opportunities are endless.

Make it soon, before tomatoes say goodbye to us for the winter!

Summer Tomato Sauce

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 large ripe tomatoes (2-3 lbs) – you can use any type of tomato, many swear by romas for making sauce, I just use whatever tomatoes look ripe at the market or are on hand
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • pinch red pepper flakes, more if you like it spicy, leave out if you like no heat
  • 1 bay leaf
  • fresh basil, to finish

Directions:

First, you need to blanche and peel your tomatoes.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl (just like it sounds…add ice and water in a bowl large enough to hold all of your tomatoes).  Cut a small x into the bottom of each tomato.  Place the tomatoes in boiling water and blanche for 15-30 seconds.  Immediately place blanched tomatoes into your prepared ice water bath to stop the cooking process.  Your tomatoes are now ready to peel.  The skins should easily come off, but if you are having a hard time, just add the trouble tomato back into the boiling water for 10 seconds.  Discard the skins.

Next, you will need to remove the tomato seeds.  Cut tomatoes into quarters or in half.  Squeeze tomatoes over a strainer placed over a bowl to catch the juices.  Discard the seeds and reserve the tomato juice.

Note: If you live in a region where fresh tomatoes are not prevalent, use canned whole tomatoes in their juice (2 28oz cans should do the trick).  Just disregard the first 2 steps and skip straight below.

Place prepared tomatoes into a food processor or blender and pulse until a puree is formed.  If you prefer a chunkier tomato sauce, mash tomatoes with a potato masher.  Add reserved tomato juice to tomato puree and reserve.

To prepare your sauce, add olive oil to a pot over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes until translucent.  Add reserved tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf.  Let sauce come to a boil, then reduce heat and allow sauce to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove and discard bay leaf, and add fresh basil.  Adjust seasoning to suit your taste and enjoy!  This will result in a light, fresh, summer tomato sauce.  If you prefer a more caramelized sauce, allow to cook for an additional 30-45 minutes.

Yields: 3 1/2 – 4 cups.  This recipe is ideal for canning or freezing.