Category Archives: tomatoes

Chicken w/ Artichokes in Creamy Mustard Sauce

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This dish adapted from The Splendid Table (which by the way is the best podcast ever) uses one of  my all time favorite vegetables: artichokes. Artichokes have a mild and slightly sweet and tangy flavor that pairs well  with just about anything. Here it is combined with Dijon mustard and chicken to make a quick end of the week dinner that the entire family will eat. In order to keep the flavor subtle, be sure to use plain artichoke hearts and not ones that have been pickled. Serve the chicken over rice so you can absorb all of the yummy sauce.

Chicken w/ Artichokes in Creamy Mustard Sauce

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 teaspoon, divided freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 1/2 cups canned artichoke hearts, drained and sliced

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Chopped parsley, for garnish

  • Season the chicken on both sides with half of the salt and half of the pepper.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken  and brown for 2 to 3 minutes per side. It does not need to be cooked through at this point.
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and reduce the heat to medium.
  • Add the shallot and red pepper flakes and scraping the bottom of the pan, cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the artichoke hearts, lemon zest, oregano and the remaining salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes then stir in the tomatoes.
  • Return the chicken to the pan then add the wine and chicken broth.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so the chicken is at a low simmer and cover.
  • Cook for an additional 8 to 10 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, combine the cream and mustard in a small bowl.
  • When the chicken is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mustard sauce.
  • Top with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.
Serves 4

Stuffed Peppers

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Cooks have been stuffing vegetables for centuries.  Whether it be squashes and peppers or grape and cabbage leaves, vegetables serve as the perfect vessel for holding meats and grains.  Growing up my Polish grandmother would stuff cabbage leaves with meats and rice and we would eat them as fast as she could cook them.  When I went through a phase of cooking Greek food I would patiently stuff and roll grape leaves with rice, herbs, and dried fruits before steaming them.  All of this work was time-consuming but worth it.

Peppers are a much easier vegetable to stuff since they don’t require the tedious rolling process.  Bell peppers aren’t always readily available here in Albania but you can use any variety of peppers you like. I like to use red and yellow peppers since they are sweeter but green peppers work as well.  The larger the pepper the easier it is to stuff but smaller ones are ok too.  If you can’t find ground lamb in the market feel free to substitute a lean ground beef.

STUFFED PEPPERS

6 whole peppers

3/4 pound ground lamb

1/3 cup red onion, minced

1 can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup long grained white rice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
  • Carefully remove the stems and seeds of each pepper keeping the pepper whole and intact.
  • Submerge the peppers in the boiling water and boil for three minutes.
  • Remove from the water and drain on paper towels.
  • In a large saute pan set over medium-high heat, cook the lamb and onion until the meat is cooked and the onions are soft, approximately 5-7 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and their juice, the water, rice, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, salt, and pepper to the meat mixture and bring to a simmer.
  • Continue to cook for 15 minutes or until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Off the heat and add half of each cheese to the mixture.  Stir to combine.
  • Stuff each pepper with the meat mixture until filled and place in a shallow casserole dish.  If you have additional filling place it in the dish around the peppers.
  • Sprinkle the peppers with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake the peppers for 15 minutes or until the cheese is browned and bubbly.
  • Allow the peppers to sit for 3 minutes before serving.

Serves: 6

Pesto Chicken Bake

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This time of year fresh pesto is a regular staple in my refrigerator.  This simple basil and garlic sauce can easily turn pantry basics from ho-hum to fantastic.  When you add ripe tomatoes and fresh mozzarella to the dish you have a new twist on a classic Caprese salad.  Chicken is by far my favorite protein to pair with pesto.  For the sake of time I use chicken filets in this recipe. If you don’t have filets you can make your own by slicing whole boneless chicken breasts lengthwise .  Simply use a meat mallet to pound them to a uniform thickness after slicing and you are good to go.

PESTO CHICKEN BAKE

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

8 chicken breast filets

2 large tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cup pesto

1/4 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into slices

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Coat a medium-sized baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  • Place the olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
  • Sprinkle the garlic powder, salt, and pepper evenly over both sides of the chicken breast filets.
  • Working in batches, quickly brown the chicken on both sides, placing the cooked chicken in a single layer in the prepared baking dish.
  • Spread the pesto over the top of the chicken.
  • Evenly distribute the tomatoes and fresh mozzarella over the top of the chicken.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the chicken is cooked through.
  • Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4

Tomato & Ricotta Tart

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Tomatoes are plentiful now and while it is tempting to eat them as is out of the garden sometimes you want a little more. And at the end of a hot day who wants to spend a lot of time in the kitchen fussing over dinner? (or any meal for that matter). So why not try this easy tomato and ricotta tart? With only a few ingredients, this tart is easy and as a added bonus, you can pre-bake the shell earlier in the day then put the dish together right before serving.

Choose the best tomatoes you can find, either a single type or go for a variety, since they really are the highlight of this dish. I’ve become a huge fan of making my own ricotta cheese but you can also use whichever brand you prefer. And for the crust? Either make your own or use a pre-made one. I like to make it even easier and make a free form crust rather than fussing with a tart plate. However you make it, this is a delicious and easy dish. Enjoy!

TOMATO & RICOTTA TART

1 single pie crust

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese, either purchased or homemade

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced

1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

For the crust:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick and transfer to an un-greased baking sheet.
  • Using your fingers crimp the edges of the crust to form an outer ridge. You don’t have be to exact but try to keep the crust in a circle formation. Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork.
  • Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until it is light brown on all sides. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

For the filling:

  • In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, basil and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Using a small spatula spread the cheese mixture over the top of the prepared tart shell.
  • Arrange the tomatoes over the top of the cheese.
  • Return the tart to the oven and bake for 3-5 minutes until the tomatoes and cheese are warm.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 8

Chipotle Beef & Corn Salad

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Salads make a great summer dinner but for me, they must be satisfying to eat and keep me full (so I don’t get the post-dinner munchies). We grill a lot in our household and most grilling nights I will throw an extra steak (or other protein) on the grill so I can turn it into a dinner salad for the next night. That makes the next night’s dinner even easier.

So here’s a spicy and satisfying dinner salad that I adapted from Williams Sonoma that fits the bill to a tee. The steak is mildly seasoned yet completely satisfying; you can serve it either hot off of the grill or cold. The lime juice makes the corn salsa tangy and the avocados temper the entire dish. Be forewarned: the chipolte dressing is smoky and spicy with quite a bit of heat so a little goes a long way. Of course, I love to pile the dressing on since in my mind there is rarely such a thing as too much heat.

CHIPOLTE BEEF & CORN SALAD

1 flank steak, about 1 1/4 pounds

1 teaspoon adobo seasoning

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup canned chipolte chiles in adobo sauce

Juice of 2 limes

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon water

2 ears of corn, kernels removed

1 orange bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

6 radishes, diced

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup cilantro, minced

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed

2 heads romaine lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces

  • Place the steak on a plate and sprinkle the adobo seasoning, salt and pepper on both sides of the meat. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  • Pre-heat a grill to medium-high heat.
  • Place the meat on the grill and cook for 6-8 minutes per side or until the meat is cooked to your desired level of doneness.
  • Remove the steak from the grill and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Slice the meat into 1/2 inch slices against the grain.
  • To make the dressing, combine the chipolte chiles, the olive oil, juice of 1 lime, vinegar, garlic and water into a small bowl. Using a stick blender, puree until smooth. Set aside.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, combine the corn, orange and green peppers, radishes and tomatoes.
  • Squeeze the juice from the remaining lime over the corn mixture, add the cilantro and stir well.
  • Divide the lettuce amongst four plates. Place 3 slices of steak on top of each pile of lettuce. Add a scoop of the salsa.
  • Divide the avocado amongst the plates then drizzle the salad with the chipolte dressing.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Grilled Peach & Steak Salad

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Entree salads are a favorite summer time dinner. When topped with protein they are cool, crisp and completely satisfying. For me, the trick to keeping salads interesting is continually changing up the ingredients. This salad is built around what is good at the markets this time of year and peaches top that list. Grilling them gives them a slightly charred flavor which complements the steak. Peppers and tomatoes add to the salad’s texture while the blue cheese and sunflower seeds add interest. I’ve kept the seasonings for both the steak and the dressing simple as to not detract from the freshness of the fruit and vegetables. Add other vegetables if you want; after all the key to a good salad is one that includes the toppings you want.

GRILLED PEACH & STEAK SALAD

2 rib eye steaks, trimmed

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

2 peaches, halved and pitted

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

8 cups mixed greens

1 green bell pepper, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, sliced

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

  • Pre-heat a grill to high heat and lightly coat with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Sprinkle both sides of the steak with the garlic powder, half of the salt and half of the pepper.
  • Sprinkle the cut sides of the peaches with the nutmeg.
  • Reduce the grill temperature to medium-high then place the steak on the grill. Cook the steaks, turning after 6 minutes, until they are cooked to your liking. Medium-rare takes  approximately 9-11 minutes. Remove the steak from the grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing along the diagonal.
  • Add the peaches to the grill, cut side down, and cook for 3 minutes then flip and cook for an additional 2 minutes. You want the peaches to be slightly softened but not mushy.
  • While the steaks cook, make the dressing by combining the honey, vinegar and remaining salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Divide the greens, peppers and tomatoes between two large shallow bowls.
  • Top the salads with the sliced steak, drizzle with the dressing then sprinkle with the sunflower seeds and blue cheese.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 2

 

Croque Monsieur, Madame & Provencal

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

One sandwich served three different ways. Its a staple of French bistros and makes for the perfect snack, lunch or light dinner. Its a go-to dish that pleases just about everyone. And as such, it has become my own go-to dish to make at home as well as a reliable dish to order from restaurant menus. What it is? It’s a Croque Monsieur–or Madame or Provencal–if you like.

The concept is simple, take good quality ham and cheese, layer it on bread that has been brushed with bechamel sauce and grill it. Add a slice of tomato to make it Provencal or top it with a sunny side up to turn it into a Madam. It’s a sandwich that is meant to be eaten with a knife and fork and tastes perfect when washed down with a cool glass of Rose wine. Its so easy and so good. So go ahead and make yourself one tonight.

CROQUE MONSIEUR (or MADAME or PROVENCAL) 

To make the bechamel sauce:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

Pinch of ground nutmeg

1 bay leaf

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat.
  • Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute.
  • Gradually whisk in the milk, then add the ground nutmeg and bay leaf.
  • Increase the temperature to high and  whisking constantly, boil until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

For the sandwiches:

4 slices white sandwich bread

4 ounces thinly sliced Black Forest ham

4 ounces sliced Gruyère cheese

1 tablespoon melted butter

1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese

2 slices tomato (optional)

2 eggs, cooked sunny side up (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Spread the bread slices with the bechamel sauce, making sure to extend the sauce all of the way to the edges.
  • Place two slices of bread, bechamel side up, on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Top with the ham and half of the cheese. Add the tomato, if using.
  • Top with the remaining slices of bread, bechamel side up, then top with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake the sandwiches until the cheese is brown and bubbling, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • If you are making Croque Madams, cook the eggs in a hot skillet coated with non-stick cooking spray.
  • When the sandwiches are toasted, slide the eggs on top of the sandwiches and serve immediately.

Serves 2

 

Penne a la Vodka

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Penne ala vodka only sounds complicated but in reality it is a super easy and fast dish to make. This recipe is courtesy of Williams Sonoma and is the perfect way to end a busy week. The combination of tomatoes, cream, and vodka with just a touch of red pepper flakes make for a spicy yet creamy and satisfying dish. The alcohol in the vodka cooks off leaving just a hint of vodka flavor. If you like your dishes on the spicy side feel free to add additional red pepper flakes. The pasta and sauce cook simultaneously so this dish is truly fast. Add a green salad and a bottle of Italian red wine and dinner is done.
PENNE A LA VODKA
1 pound penne pasta
6 large tomatoes
1/3 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup vodka
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water accordingly to package instructions.
  • Meanwhile, seed the tomatoes and cut them into a small dice.
  • Warm the olive oil in a large saute pan set over medium-high heat.
  • Add the garlic and saute until it just begins to turn golden, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and add the vodka.
  • Return the pan to medium heat and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.
  • Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Simmer uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  • When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the tomato mixture in the saute pan.
  • Add the cream and cook, stirring over medium heat until the pasta is well coated with the sauce, about 2 minutes.

Serves 4

Caprice Pasta

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion.  If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This quick dish brings together the best flavors of a Mediterranean summer.  Ripe tomatoes pair with fresh basil and mozzarella to make a flavorful Caprice salad. Add this to pasta and you have a complete meal.  The balsamic reduction brings a rich sweetness to the dish making it fancy enough for a dinner party but also simple enough for a casual meal.

CAPRICE PASTA

1/2 cup good quality balsamic vinegar

1 pound ziti or other tube-shaped pasta

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces

4 ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground salt & pepper to taste

  • Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat until the vinegar boils.  Reduce heat to a temperature that allows the liquid to simmer and continue to cook until the mixture is syrupy and has reduced to approximately 1/4 cup.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
  • Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the pasta and toss to coat.
  • Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil to the pasta and season with salt and pepper.  Stir gently to combine.
  • Divide amongst four serving dishes and drizzle the balsamic reduction evenly over the top of each bowl.
  • Serve immediately

Serves:  4

 

Sausage Tortellini Soup w/ Garlic Croutons

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion.  If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Here is another satisfying and delicious soup idea that is adapted from the Noble Pig. The soup includes spicy sausage (substitute sweet or mild Italian sausages if you prefer) and tender tortellini in a herb filled tomato broth. And don’t forget the croutons since they are really the finishing touch for the soup. Feel free to use slightly stale bread or a different combination of herbs if desired.

SAUSAGE TORTELLINI SOUP w/ GARLIC CROUTONS

For the soup:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound spicy Italian sausage links, cut into bite sized pieces

1-1/2 cups chopped onion

cloves garlic, finely minced

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves

1 tablespoon dried basil leaves

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon dried red chili peppers

1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

10 ounces fresh spinach and cheese tortellini

4 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves

For the garlic croutons:
1 loaf French bread, cubed
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon paprika
To make the soup:
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat.
  • Add the sausage and cook, stirring frequently until cooked through and browned on all sides. Move to a paper towel lined plate.
  • Add the onions to the pan and saute until soft; about 8 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Meanwhile, add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, basil, sugar, chili peppers, pepper and salt to a large, heavy bottomed soup pot. Bring to a boil.
  • Add the onion-garlic mixture and simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes.
  • Add tortellini and cook according to package directions, usually about 7-9 minutes.
  • Stir in the cooked sausage and stir in spinach until just wilted.
  • Serve immediately topped with the garlic croutons.

To make the croutons:

  • While the soup is simmering, melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium-high until foamy.
  • Sprinkle the garlic powder, basil, thyme and paprika to the butter.
  • Add the bread cubes and toss until well coated.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and tossing frequently, cook until the bread is crusty and toasted on all sides, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Serves 4

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