Monday, June 29, 2009

Cheesy Twice Baked Potatoes with Yogurt Spice Paste

I eat a lot of potatoes. They are sort of my go-to comfort food to the point that I am always looking for new delicious recipes. Naturally, when I came across these gems in this month's Bon Appetit, I just had to try them. They have a feature this month on exotic barbecue that explores a bunch of new-to-me flavors. Let me say these potatoes were worth every random extra ingredient that I had to pick up at the store! These little guys are a flavor party in your mouth! In the magazine, it says to barbecue the potatoes, but I chose to twice bake them to save myself some time.

Ingredients (serves 6)
Potatoes and Stuffing
large unpeeled russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese
tablespoons butter, melted
tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
green onion, finely chopped
serrano chile, seeded, minced
tablespoon sesame seeds
Coarse kosher salt

Yogurt Spice Paste
garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
teaspoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
teaspoons sweet or hot paprika
teaspoon salt
teaspoon ground coriander
teaspoon ground cumin
cup plain Greek-style yogurt
teaspoons vegetable oil
teaspoons fresh lemon juice
cup sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce potatoes with a fork and cook in oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and slice in half.

Using a spoon, scoop out the insides of the potatoes into a bowl leaving just the shell. Mash and mix in cheese, melted butter, cilantro, green onion, chile, and sesame seeds. Season potato mixture generously with salt and pepper; divide among potato shells.

For the yogurt spice paste, combine first 6 ingredients in a food processor or blender. Using on/off turns, blend until mixture is finely chopped. Add yogurt, oil, and lemon juice and process until smooth puree forms. Transfer to small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To flavor the potato skin, dip the bottoms of the potatoes in the yogurt paste and dredge in sesame seeds. Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet and pour equal portions of the remaining yogurt sauce on top of each potato. Sprinkle with remaining sesame seeds. Bake the potatoes at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Serve warm. These make great leftovers if you can't finish them all.

* If you have leftover yogurt sauce, it makes a wonderful lowfat dip for fresh veggies!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

French Onion Soup

You either love it or you hate it. For me, I've always had this sick love for French onion soup— the salted broth, the crunchy croutons, the crusted cheese on top— every time I see it on a restaurant menu, I just have to order it. This recipe is adapted from Julia Child's own recipe. Adding cognac to it gives the broth a rich, decadent touch so I suggest you pair it with an equally fancy cheese topping.

Ingredients (makes 6+ bowls of soup)
2-1/2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2-1/2 quarts vegetable stock
4 to 5 tablespoons Cognac (I used Brandy- I'm cheap!)
1 cup dry white vermouth

Serve with
sliced baguette
sliced Gruyere cheese
grated Parmesan cheese


Melt the butter in a large stock pan and melt. Next add in the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook covered over medium heat until the onions are tender and translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in the salt and sugar and raise the temperature to a medium high heat. Cook the onions, uncovered for about 30 minutes, until they are golden in color.

Add the flour and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups heated vegetable stock. Add the remaining stock and alcohols and simmer covered for an hour over low heat.

To prepare the bowls, pour soup into individual oven safe bowls. Add a thin slice of toasted baguette and top with cheeses. The amount of cheese used will vary on your preference, but a small handful of cheese for each bowl should be good. Broil bowls in the oven until the topping is golden and bubbling. Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh herbs or Italian seasoning.


  • This soup is inexpensive and wonderful to freeze for an easy weeknight meal. Just add the toppings after thawing.
  • Slice the onions as thin as possible. I would recommend using a mandolin if you have one.
  • You may choose to skimp on cooking the soup for a full hour, but do not skimp on browning the onions before adding the liquid. It will result in nasty potent oniony soup. I know from experience :)
  • I used a stock photo for this article as to not ward people off from trying this lovely soup recipe. Although my soup looked similar, my photo of it turned out terrible!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mediterranean Cous Cous

I made this for a little falafel night at my friend Jenna's house. It was pretty tasty and had a nice range of sweet / salty / sour flavors going on. I was really unsure about adding apricot to the salad, but it ended up adding a nice punch to the flavor. It also made for some nice leftovers— I made too much and we ended up eating this for a week. I would definitely recommend hunting down some Israeli cous cous. I had never tried it before, but picked some up at Trader Joe's, and the texture is out of this world!

3 cups cooked cous cous- I used whole wheat and Israeli
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup diced kalamata olives
1/4 cup shredded mint leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped dried apricot
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup diced roasted peppers

3 T olive oil
2 T lemon juice
1/4 clove garlic, minced finely
salt and pepper to taste

Cook cous cous according to package directions. When done, fluff with a fork and transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil and set aside. Get to chopping all your salad fixings and add them to the bowl as you go.

Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice and garlic and toss into salad. Serve room temperature or cold.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Yogurt Marinated Chicken Kebabs

I adopted this Turkish recipe from this month's Bon Appetit because we were lacking in some of the required spices. It was an amazing balance of spicy and creamy. I served it with spanakopita triangles, lemon zest roasted broccoli, and corn barbecued in chili pepper and garlic.

Ingredients (makes three dinner sized skewers):
2 t crushed red peppers
2 t paprika
1 c nonfat Greek yogurt
3 T olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T tomato paste
2 t kosher salt
1 t fresh ground pepper
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 sliced lemon
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks for grilling

Mix peppers through garlic in a bowl and whisk together. Add lemon slices and chicken. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to one day. Remove chicken from bowl and thread onto skewers. Barbecue over medium heat 12 minutes, turning twice.

This would have been wonderful served with pita bread, hummus, plain yogurt, feta cheese, and a greek style salad as well.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tofu Satay with Rice and Vegetables

I did it... After all these months of cooking predominantly vegetarian, I finally tried cooking tofu.

My sister and I grew up fearful of this slimy white substance. I have fond memories of our aunt visiting from Napa Valley for the weekend and bringing various goodies from sake to chocolate cheese. She was an advocate for tofu and always tried to trick us into eating it. I remember sampling some dessert mousse that she brought over and once we knew it was tofu, it instantly became inedible regardless of how good it was. We were just plain picky-as-you-can-get kids.

I'd have to say after all these years, I am no longer a picky eater and have become quite adventurous when dining. Knowing that tofu is quite good for you and packed with protein, I decided to take a stab at tofu satay. It was pretty good... definitely a light meal that I felt good about eating. Try it for yourself if you dare.

Ingredients (serves 4)
1 block of extra firm tofu, rinsed, drained and patted dry
2 T tamari soy sauce
2 T Asian sesame oil
2 T sherry or sherry vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 seranno pepper, minced

3/4 cup canned coconut milk
1/2 cup natural-style peanut butter, smooth or chunky
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 t curry powder
1 1/2 T brown sugar
1 T lime juice
1 T canola oil
1 1/2 T tamari soy sauce
Dash cayenne pepper

1 large yam, peeled and cut into sticks
2 cups green beans, trimmed
12 fresh basil leaves
3 cups cooked brown rice

Cut the tofu into bite sized pieces and pat dry again with a paper towel. Let tofu marinate in a bowl with the soy sauce through serrano for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

In a blender, combine satay sauce ingredients and let set until ready to serve.

Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a pyrex pan, lay out marinated tofu and drizzle with a little satay sauce. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden and firm.

Meanwhile, steam the yams and green beans. The yams will take approximately 10 minutes (test with a fork) in a steamer attachment and the beans will take 6 if you want to keep them crispy.

When tofu is done cooking, divide rice equally among plates and top with basil, veggies and tofu. Drizzle with satay sauce.

  • If you are feeling lazy, you can substitute home made satay sauce for bottled satay sauce. You can find this pretty easily in the ethnic foods section of most grocery stores. This would make for a very easy weeknight meal.
  • Make sure to get firm or extra firm tofu or it wont roast to the proper texture.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Chive Dressing

Beets are a "nutritional powerhouse" of vegetables and can be cooked in a variety of ways. The rich, colorful hues of beets make for a dramatic presentation in any salad. When beets are in season, (summer through winter) they are tender and sweet which pairs nicely with tangy goat cheese. They have also become a recent fixture in fine dining where you may see anything from beet soup to beet "carpaccio."

Ingredients (makes 4 dinner sized salads)

1 T fresh chopped chives
1/2 t minced shallot
2 T balsamic vinegar
3 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

2 cups cooked barley- cook in vegetable broth with a little salt for added flavor
3 cups mixed greens- I used mache, spinach and red leaf lettuce
2 beets, peeled and sliced into thin circles
1/2 a red onion, sliced into rings
4 ounces herbed goat cheese

Prepare dressing by combining ingredients together and whisking vigorously. Let dressing set while cooking the remainder of your salad to let the flavors marry.

In a steamer attachment on your stove, steam beet slices for approximately 12 minutes or until you can pierce them with a knife. Let cool to room temperature.

Assemble salad by putting a bed of grains on your plate. Add greens, beets and rings of onion. Drizzle with dressing and top with crumbled goat cheese and fresh cracked salt and pepper.

  • When purchasing beets, get ones that are about 2 inches in diameter that still have healthy looking greens attached. They can be stored in the refrigerator for about two weeks.
  • The highly nutritious green tops of beets can be eaten as well– in a salad or cooked like you would spinach.
  • Next time, I might add mandarin orange wedges to this salad

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Baked Beans

This is a great recipe to accompany anything at a summer barbecue. This recipe belongs to our Grandma Midge and has been in the family for years. I am pretty sure our dad ate this as a kid. It reminds me of many family Fourth of Julys. I have been making this recipe a lot since the purchase of the new grill. It sounds labor intensive due to the cook times, but once you have prepared the sauce, you can leave it alone and just remember to check on it occasionally.


1 lb dried navy beans or small white beans, rinsed and soaked for up to 8 hours
8 oz bacon chopped (I used prosciutto or it could be eliminated all together)
1 cup finely chopped white onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
2 c ketchup
6 T maple syrup
6 T dark molasses
1/4 c Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t pepper

Rinse beans after soaking for up to 8 hours. Boil in an oven proof pot for 45 minutes until tender, drain and reserve 1 c of cooking liquid. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Cook bacon in flame proof baking dish, until crisp, add onion and garlic, saute an additional 5 minutes. Add brown sugar and cook until dissolved and slightly bubbly. Add remaining ingredients. Cook in oven 2 1/2 hours stirring every half hour. Remove lid and cook an additional 30 minutes prior to serving. Add reserved cooking liquid if sauce becomes too thick.

Two Bean Salad with Tarragon Dressing

Who doesn't love cold salads? This recipe is perfect as a healthy side dish to serve at summer barbecues and can even be made a day in advance. The dressing has a nice balance of sweetness and tang which compliments the flavorful crunch of the green beans.

Recipe Adapted from Vegetarian Times


1/4 c balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp maple syrup
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 c olive oil
1 tbs fresh tarragon

1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
15 oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 c cherry tomatoes, halved
6 oz can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 c pitted kalamata olives, halved
1/4 c sliced red onion
1/4 c finely chopped Italian parsley

Fill large pot with 1 inch of water and set steamer basket in pot. Cover, and bring water to a boil. Place green beans in steamer basket. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and steam 2 - 3 minutes, or until green beans are crisp-tender. Cool.

Toss green beans with all remaining salad ingredients and place in large serving bowl.

For the dressing, blend vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, garlic, salt and pepper in blender or food processor until smooth. With machine running, gradually add oil and tarragon through feed tube, and blend until smooth. Pour dressing over salad, and toss to coat. Serve at room temperature.