Mediterranean Fish with tomatoes, olives & capers — tasty, healthy, simple & quick

     Mediterranean flavors combine in a tasty, healthy, simple and quick sauce that is a perfect compliment to mild white fish.
     We served it over quinoa, but orzo or rice would also be great accompaniments.

Mediterranean Fish with Tomatoes, Olives & Capers   3 to 4 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, coarsely chopped into chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ cup pimiento-stuffed olives, coarsely chopped (we just buy the broken olives for this; they are less costly and work well in recipes such as this), drained
1 (14 ½ oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 to 4 (6 to 8 oz.) tilapia fillets, or use flounder, halibut or sole fillets
  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until onion is tender.
  2. Add olives.
  3. Add undrained tomatoes.
  4. Add capers, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring sauce to boiling.
  5. Gently place fish in skillet; spoon sauce over fish. Return to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 8 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when pierced with a fork.

  6. Serve over quinoa, orzo or rice.

Recipe without photos . . .
Mediterranean Fish with Tomatoes, Olives & Capers   3 to 4 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, coarsely chopped into chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ cup pimiento-stuffed olives, coarsely chopped (we just buy the broken olives for this; they are less costly and work well in recipes such as this), drained
1 (14 ½ oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 to 4 (6 to 8 oz.) tilapia fillets, or use flounder, halibut or sole fillets
  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until onion is tender.
  2. Add olives.
  3. Add undrained tomatoes.
  4. Add capers, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring sauce to boiling.
  5. Gently place fish in skillet; spoon sauce over fish. Return to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 8 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when pierced with a fork.
  6. Serve over quinoa, orzo or rice. 

No soaking or precooking required! Crock Pot Red Beans and Rice

 


     Add dry bean to the slow cooked and cook in water without soaking or even a quick cook! I couldn’t believe this would really work, but just check out the photos below! So easy—just dump and the crock pot really does the rest!
     The recipe below makes a really big batch; I cut it in half for the two of us and even at that we have leftovers for at least one or two more meals.
     I will definitely try this technique with other dry beans as well.

Crock Pot Red Beans and Rice
1 pound red beans
7 cups water
21 oz. chicken broth
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped or minced
1 to 2 teaspoons+ Creole Seasoning – depending on level of spiciness preferred
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 ½ lbs. precooked, smoked sausage, cut into slices 
Cornstarch slurry – about 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with a little cold water to make a paste


-----
Hot cooked rice – I used long grain white rice and cooked it according to pkg. directions
  1. Rinse beans thoroughly. Add beans, water, and chicken broth to the crock pot.

  2. Add remaining ingredients, except smoked sausage, cornstarch slurry and rice, to the crock pot. 
  3. Turn the crock pot on high for 7 hours. During the last 2 or 3 hours of cooking time, add the smoked sausage; during last hour of cooking add the cornstarch slurry to thicken the mixture.
  4. Pour red beans over prepared rice and serve.
    I garnished the dish with a chopped parsley.
Recipe without photos . . .
Crock Pot Red Beans and Rice
1 pound red beans
7 cups water
21 oz. chicken broth
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped or minced
1 to 2 teaspoons+ Creole Seasoning – depending on level of spiciness preferred
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 ½ lbs. precooked, smoked sausage, cut into slices
Cornstarch slurry – about 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with a little cold water to make a paste
-----
Hot cooked rice – I used long grain white rice and cooked it according to pkg. directions
  1. Rinse beans thoroughly. Add beans, water, and chicken broth to the crock pot.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, except smoked sausage, cornstarch slurry and rice, to the crock pot. 
  3. Turn the crock pot on high for 7 hours. During the last 2 or 3 hours of cooking time, add the smoked sausage; during last hour of cooking add the cornstarch slurry to thicken the mixture.
  4. Pour red beans over prepared rice and serve.

Sarah Mullins’ Reinventing Zucchini Bread from COOK’S ILLUSTRATED

   Ever since our July-August 2014 issue of COOK’S ILLUSTRATED arrived a couple of weeks ago I’ve been checking our zucchini plant. Finally, last evening Barry brought in our first crop . . . and I grabbed the magazine so I could try out Sarah Mullins’ Zucchini Bread. Her reinvented recipe uses only ¼ cup of oil yet the bread is very moist; it holds together nicely (no crumbling), is packed full of zucchini and even includes some whole wheat flour.
    Those familiar with COOK’S ILLUSTRATED know that it is characterized by extensive recipe testing and detailed instructions. For this recipe, Ms. Mullins details the steps and tests she completed to achieve her reinvented bread that certainly earns our vote of approval.

Zucchini Bread      Makes 1 loaf
1 ½ pounds zucchini, shredded (the recipe suggests using the large holes of a box grater or the shredding disk of a food processor)
1 ¼ cups packed (8 3/4 ounces) brown sugar
¼ 
cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups (7 ½ ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup (2 ¾ ounces) whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325°. Grease (I sprayed with pan release) 8 ½ x 4 ½ -inch loaf pan.

    I used William Sonoma's Goldtouch® Nonstick Loaf Pan. It releases quick breads perfectly every time!
  2. Place zucchini in center of dish towel. Gather ends together and twist tightly to drain as much liquid as possible, discarding liquid (you should have ½ to ⅔ cup liquid).
  3. Whisk brown sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla together in medium bowl. Fold in zucchini.

  4. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg together in large bowl.
  5. Fold in zucchini mixture until just incorporated. Fold in walnuts, if using.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

  7. Bake until top bounces back when gently pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 65 to 75 minutes.  Note: If using a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness 5 minutes early.
  8. Let bread cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes.
  9. Remove bread from pan and cool completely on wire rack. Serve.



Here’s another outstanding recipe also from
COOK’S ILLUSTRATED — Florentine Lace Cookies



Zucchini Bread recipe without photos . . .
Zucchini Bread      Makes 1 loaf
1 ½ pounds zucchini, shredded (the recipe suggests using the large holes of a box grater or the shredding disk of a food processor)
1 ¼ cups packed (8 3/4 ounces) brown sugar
¼ 
cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
large eggs
teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups (7 ½ ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup (2 ¾ ounces) whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons salt
teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
tablespoon granulated sugar
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325°. Grease (I sprayed with pan release) 8 ½ x 4 ½ -inch loaf pan.

  2. Place zucchini in center of dish towel. Gather ends together and twist tightly to drain as much liquid as possible, discarding liquid (you should have ½ to ⅔ cup liquid).
  3. Whisk brown sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla together in medium bowl. Fold in zucchini.

  4. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg together in large bowl.
  5. Fold in zucchini mixture until just incorporated. Fold in walnuts, if using.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

  7. Bake until top bounces back when gently pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 65 to 75 minutes.  Note: If using a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness 5 minutes early.
  8. Let bread cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes.
  9. Remove bread from pan and cool completely on wire rack. Serve.

Petite Chick Pea Steaks (Falafel) served w/ Kale Salad & Cucumber Sauce

     Crispy and delicious, this Middle Eastern dish traditionally referred to as Falafel, is made from chick peas (garbanzo beans) that are seasoned with lots of spices and lightly fried. Cucumber Sauce (Tzatziki) cools and refreshes the palate while providing a wonderful balance to these meatless steaks.
     I fried just half of the steaks and left the other six for tomorrow’s lunch. And, since we have fresh garden kale, I used it as the base this dish. Chopped up fine, kale makes a wonderful salad base.
     As far as taste, Barry was a little worried but gave these steaks a thumbs up! "Not quite a beef filet, but pretty darn good," he said.  In my opinion, they have a similar consistency to the salmon patties that my mom makes, and they even taste "meaty."

Petite Chick Pea Steaks (Falafel) served w/ Kale Salad & Cucumber Sauce  Makes 12 small steaks 
1 (15.5 oz.) can garbanzo beans (chick peas)
1 to 1½ teaspoons coriander seeds
1 to 1½ teaspoons cumin seeds         
2 to 3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic, smashed and finely chopped
Zest of l lemon
½ of a yellow or white onion, finely minced
About ¾ cup finely chopped fresh parsley  
½ to 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and coarse pepper
1 egg*
Flour, for dusting
Oil for frying (I used a combination of canola & olive)

For serving:
Diced tomatoes
Lemon juice and EVOO, such as The Tasteful Olive’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil + a sprinkling of Kosher salt
Cucumber Sauce (recipe follows)
Lemon Wedges
  1. In a food processor, pulse the drained chickpeas until they look coarse and grainy but are NOT a puree.
  2. In a dry sauté pan, toast the coriander and cumin seeds over medium heat until they are very aromatic, 3 to 4 minutes. Pulverize in a spice grinder until they are a powder. Although, toasting and grinding the seeds, will give you maximum flavors, equivalent amounts of already ground coriander and cumin could be used.
    Toasting the seeds and then pulverizing in a spice blender (we use a coffee grinder that is used solely for spice grinding) add another layer of flavor.
  3. Transfer the pulsed chickpeas to a mixing bowl and add the bread crumbs, cayenne, garlic, lemon zest, onions, ground spices, and fresh thyme. Gently stir to combine. Taste the mixture to see if the mix needs seasoning; add salt and pepper or adjust other seasonings if needed.
  4. Add the egg to help bind the ingredients; mix. *Instead of an egg, save back a little of the pulsed chick pea mixture and pureé it with enough of the liquid drained from the can of chick peas; add enough to bind ingredients.
  5. Form about 3 tablespoons of mixture into balls and gently press to make patties. Lightly dust with flour on both sides, patting off excess.

  6. Place the patties on a sheet tray and refrigerate at least 1 hour; could be prepared a day in advance.
  7. Add oil to a skillet until the oil is about ¼-inch deep. Bring the oil to a medium-high heat. Add the chick pea steaks to the pan and fry them on both sides until they are brown and crispy. Fry in batches and avoid overcrowding pan.
  8. Remove the falafel from the pan and place on paper towels.
  9. To serve: Arrange finely chopped kale on a plate, top with chopped tomatoes and lightly drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon + a dash of Kosher salt. Add several mini chick pea steaks and top with Cucumber Sauce. Add a wedge of lemon on side for squeezing over steaks.


Cucumber Sauce
About ½ to ¾ cup plain yogurt
1 mini cucumber or ½ of a regular cucumber, seeded & finely chopped 
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon fresh lemon
1 to 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Sprinkle of dried red pepper flakes
Kosher salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl; stir, taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Recipes without photos . . .
Petite Chick Pea Steaks (Falafel) served w/ Kale Salad & Cucumber Sauce  Makes 12 small steaks 
1 (15.5 oz.) can garbanzo beans (chick peas)
1 to 1½ teaspoons coriander seeds
1 to 1½ teaspoons cumin seeds         
2 to 3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic, smashed and finely chopped
Zest of l lemon
½ of a yellow or white onion, finely minced
About ¾ cup finely chopped fresh parsley  
½ to 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and coarse pepper
1 egg*
Flour, for dusting
Oil for frying (I used a combination of canola & olive)

For serving:
Diced tomatoes
Lemon juice and EVOO, such as The Tasteful Olive’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil + a sprinkling of Kosher salt
Cucumber Sauce (recipe follows)
Lemon Wedges
  1. In a food processor, pulse the drained chickpeas until they look coarse and grainy but are NOT a puree.
  2. In a dry sauté pan, toast the coriander and cumin seeds over medium heat until they are very aromatic, 3 to 4 minutes. Pulverize in a spice grinder until they are a powder. Although, toasting and grinding the seeds, will give you maximum flavors, equivalent amounts of already ground coriander and cumin could be used.
  3. Transfer the pulsed chickpeas to a mixing bowl and add the bread crumbs, cayenne, garlic, lemon zest, onions, ground spices, and fresh thyme. Gently stir to combine. Taste the mixture to see if the mix needs seasoning; add salt and pepper or adjust other seasonings if needed.
  4. Add the egg to help bind the ingredients; mix. *Instead of an egg, save back a little of the pulsed chick pea mixture and pureé it with enough of the liquid drained from the can of chick peas; add enough to bind ingredients.
  5. Form about 3 tablespoons of mixture into balls and gently press to make patties. Lightly dust with flour on both sides, patting off excess.
  6. Place the patties on a sheet tray and refrigerate at least 1 hour; could be prepared a day in advance.
  7. Add oil to a skillet until the oil is about ¼-inch deep. Bring the oil to a medium-high heat. Add the chick pea steaks to the pan and fry them on both sides until they are brown and crispy. Fry in batches and avoid overcrowding pan.
  8. Remove the falafel from the pan and place on paper towels.
  9. To serve: Arrange finely chopped kale on a plate, top with chopped tomatoes and lightly drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon + a dash of Kosher salt. Add several mini chick pea steaks and top with Cucumber Sauce. Add a wedge of lemon on side for squeezing over steaks.
Cucumber Sauce
About ½ to ¾ cup plain yogurt
1 mini cucumber or ½ of a regular cucumber, seeded & finely chopped 
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon fresh lemon
1 to 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Sprinkle of dried red pepper flakes
Kosher salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl; stir, taste and adjust seasoning as needed

French Toast Soufflés for 2

  
     French Toast Soufflé is something a little different for breakfast or brunch. I made it for two but, of course, you can double the recipe and make the soufflé for four if you prefer . . . or increase to serve six, or even eight.
     This recipe just happened to be a great way to use some of the leftover bread (which I made into crumbs and put in the freezer) from Mushroom Sandwiches.

French Toast Soufflé    Makes 2 (8 oz.) soufflés
2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
½ cup vanilla almond milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 ½ cups bread crumbs (about 2 or 3 slices)
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
For serving, if desired: powdered sugar and extra maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer, whisk cream cheese until smooth.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking after each addition.
  4. Stir in milk and maple syrup until mixture is well blended.
  5. Divide bread crumbs among 2 greased 8-oz. ramekins or custard cups.
  6. Pour egg mixture equally over bread crumbs.
  7. Place ramekins on baking sheet and bake in center of oven for about 30 minutes or until they puff and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, adding almonds slices about the last 10 minutes of baking.
    After 20 minutes I added the almonds to the partially puffed soufflés. 
    During the final 10 minutes of baking, soufflés finish puffing. 
  8. Serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup, if desired.

Recipe without photos . . .
French Toast Soufflé    Makes 2 (8 oz.) soufflés
2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
½ cup vanilla almond milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 ½ cups bread crumbs (about 2 or 3 slices)
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
For serving, if desired: powdered sugar and extra maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer, whisk cream cheese until smooth.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking after each addition.
  4. Stir in milk and maple syrup until mixture is well blended.
  5. Divide bread crumbs among 2 greased 8-oz. ramekins or custard cups.
  6. Pour egg mixture equally over bread crumbs.
  7. Place ramekins on baking sheet and bake in center of oven for about 30 minutes or until they puff and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, adding almonds slices about the last 10 minutes of baking.
  8. Serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup, if desired.

Simple Bolognese Sauce



   Genuine ragù alla bolognese is a slowly cooked sauce, and its preparation involves several techniques, including sweating, sauéíng and braising.  Traditional ingredients include a soffritto of onion, celery and carrot, different types of minced or finely chopped meat (including beef, and possibly pork), wine and a small amount of tomato concentrate.
     Obviously, I have simplified the process, making a very tasty but quick to prepare sauce that also includes a larger proportion of tomatoes and a few variations of the traditional ingredients.

Simple Bolognese Sauce
½ to ¾ lb. ground sausage, or use ground beef
Olive oil as needed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ of a large green pepper, finely chopped
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
About  cup red wine
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 to 3 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3 to 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream, optional (it gives the sauce a nice creamy consistency)
  1. Brown sausage in a skillet on medium high heat; add a little olive oil if needed.
  2. Add onions, peppers and celery; continue to cook over medium heat until vegetables are soft.
  3. Add wine and allow pan to deglaze.
  4. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, dried Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. During last 10 minutes, add fresh basil, parsley, Parmesan and heavy cream.

  6. Serve with preferred pasta and garnish with additional Parmesan and fresh herbs, if desired.

I cooked pasta spirals (a combination of whole wheat and regular) and mixed it in with the sauce right before serving.
Recipe without photos . . .
Simple Bolognese Sauce
½ to ¾ lb. ground sausage, or use ground beef
Olive oil as needed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ of a large green pepper, finely chopped
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
About ⅓ cup red wine
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 to 3 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3 to 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream, optional (it gives the sauce a nice creamy consistency)
  1. Brown sausage in a skillet on medium high heat; add a little olive oil if needed.
  2. Add onions, peppers and celery; continue to cook over medium heat until vegetables are soft.
  3. Add wine and allow pan to deglaze.
  4. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, dried Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. During last 10 minutes, add fresh basil, parsley, Parmesan and heavy cream.
  6. Serve with preferred pasta and garnish with additional Parmesan and fresh herbs, if desired.

Garden Kale goes into summer soup pot — Kale, Chicken & Orzo Soup

Our row of garden-fresh kale was calling to me. Barry had a container of already sautéed onions and peppers in the fridge, and there was cooked chicken available as well . . . so I turned it all into . . .

Kale, Chicken & Orzo Soup
Olive oil
½ of an onion, sliced or diced
½ of a pepper (red or green), sliced or diced – optional
¾ to 1 cup cooked chicken, diced
3 large handfuls of chopped kale that has been cleaned with stem removed
1 quart chicken broth
A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
1 to 2 teaspoons all-purpose seasoning (without salt)
Kosher salt and coarse pepper to taste
About ½ cup orzo pasta
  1. Heat a little oil and sauté onions and peppers. Add cooked chicken and brown slightly.
  2. Add kale.
  3. Add broth and thyme. (I bundled the thyme in string and tied it to the pot handle for easy removal.)
  4. Season to taste and cook, with lid on, until kale has wilted and is tender, about 30 to 45 minutes; add orzo about the last 12 minutes so that it has time to thoroughly cook.
Recipe without photos . . . 

Kale, Chicken & Orzo Soup
Olive oil
½ of an onion, sliced or diced
½ of a pepper (red or green), sliced or diced – optional
¾ to 1 cup cooked chicken, diced
3 large handfuls of chopped kale that has been cleaned with stem removed
1 quart chicken broth
A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
1 to 2 teaspoons all-purpose seasoning (without salt)
Kosher salt and coarse pepper to taste
About ½ cup orzo pasta
  1. Heat a little oil and sauté onions and peppers. Add cooked chicken and brown slightly.
  2. Add kale.
  3. Add broth and thyme. (I bundled the thyme in string and tied it to the pot handle for easy removal.)
  4. Season to taste and cook, with lid on, until kale has wilted and is tender, about 30 to 45 minutes; add orzo about the last 12 minutes so that it has time to thoroughly cook.