Tag Archives: sweet peppers

Simple Daily Recipes: Readers’ Favorite Recipes — An eCookbook Review

I have always wanted to cook.

Whether it was the simple family recipes my mother showed me how to make when I was very young, or something new I found in her Betty Crocker cookbook and decided to try on my own, I was always interested.  As much as I followed my mother’s recipes fairly closely when I made them, I couldn’t resist trying a new ingredient or two when each dish showed up in our weekly rotation.  I never veered too far off the path, because we didn’t have the pantry to support that kind of diversion — and I think I may not have wanted to risk the wrath of my unpredictable step-father by ruining a meal and having to waste food. But that’s another story.

When I was a young mother of 24, I remember that cooking helped keep my wits about me.  I loved my two little boys intensely but remember feeling at times like I’d lost touch with the world in general.  Many years before the Internet existed, even local telephone calls accrued long distance charges, and our television antenna afforded us three channels with reasonably good reception if I was able to twist the antenna to just the right position.  I remember being incredibly lonely.   To keep my brain occupied, I dug into the few magazine subscriptions I kept to try new recipes.

Although most of the recipes I tried came from Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal, the recipes in Food & Wine are what intrigued me.  The mix of ingredients — many I hadn’t heard of and doubted I could find at my local market — sounded exotic.  The recipes seemed well beyond my ability as well, so I can remember being frustrated by not being able to try more of them and actually wondered, who really ate like that?

Years have gone by, and thankfully, I am now able to get just about any ingredient I want for any recipe I’d like to try.  With much trial and error, and a sense of adventure, I have developed my cooking and baking skills and will continue to do so.  That doesn’t mean we don’t eat simply, because we do.  The type of food and recipes I was raised on, and to a lesser extent, raised my three sons with will always be a part of how we eat.  It isn’t always complicated or what some may call fancy, but the ingredients are always wholesome, fresh, and as much as possible, the food I make is “from scratch.”

It makes sense, then, that when Jill Mc Keever of Simple Daily Recipesa friend I met through blogging years ago announced the newly published compilation of her food blog readers’ favorite recipes, I knew I had to check it out.  Not only have I been interested in the idea of self-published books in general, I wanted to be able to help get the word out about Jill’s new eCookbook, Simple Daily Recipes:  Readers’ Favorite Recipes which is available at iTunes.

I read through all the recipes on a quiet Saturday morning with coffee on my iPad– something not too unusual since I read cookbooks and food magazines like novels and often far more quickly.  Immediately, I was reminded of the recipes I grew up with — busy family, easy to make, wholesome recipes made with ingredients a home cook has on hand.  I also realized the book exudes Jill’s energy and engaging personality.  The recipes are primarily organized by main dinner courses featuring poultry or seafood, for example.  There’s also a chapter that includes rubs and marinades.  Bright photos of process and finished product fill the book.  It’s important to read the “Keep in Mind” section where Jill explains her decision to use liquid aminos instead of salt and low-fat margarine instead of butter.  We all have particular needs or preferences for basic ingredients and although I use neither, a bit of olive oil and pinch of salt work fine for me and are easily substituted in these recipes.  It’s rare that I made a recipe with my own little preferences, so this was no different.

As I read through the recipes, I wondered what would I sample first.  The “Smoky Sweet Rub” recipe since our summer is finally showing itself?  The “Kale, Sausage & Tomatoes with Pasta” reminded me of my mother’s “Goulash” so that got my attention as well.  “Beef Ragout” is earmarked as something I’ll try when the weather accommodates it because I’m a sucker for beef braised in red wine.  But I decided the “Chicken with Tomatoes and Zucchini” was what I’d try first.  It sounded like a pretty lean dish with lots of flavor and I knew the guys would like it.

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Roasted Sweet Pepper Soup

roasted red pepper soup

The calendar asserts that summer is dwindling, but I know better.

Damp air, flat, steely skies until late in the morning and an urge to put on a sweater are only teasers of what will come much later here than most other places in the country.  Usually, I allow myself to be lulled into remembering all that I love about Fall weather after having had weeks of heat and humidity, but not this year.

No, I’ve enjoyed the blue skies and temperate weather — pleasant breezes that keep the house cool and the pots on our patio from needing constant watering.  I haven’t had my fill yet, but know by the time September has passed, I’ll be ready.  It’s usually our warmest month, only once every blue moon or so bringing blustery showers and a thunderstorm.  But it’s been years since we’ve seen that.

So for now, a bowl of soup is fine.

Something bright and full of flavor, but not packed with calories.

Take advantage of all the beautiful sweet peppers at the market right now — or if you’re lucky enough to grow them yourself —  and try this roasted sweet pepper soup.  If you’re thinking it’s still not quite soup weather yet, then freeze it.  It’s worth waiting for.

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Taste & Create: Goat Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Peppers

What a completely exhausting weekend.  Fun, but butt whoopin’ exhausting.  It’s all my fault.  I should know by now when the alarms go off several days in a row (in my head) that I need to NOT do what I’ve planned to do.  Especially with Thanksgiving looming in the near distance.  Jeez.

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Friday, I was going to have a leisurely time in the kitchen preparing a dish as a part of Taste & Create, a blogging event hosted by Nicole at For the Love of Food.  But I got such a late start, I had to put that fun off until Sunday.  So much for dinner on Friday.  *sigh* I was able to prepare the layers of a cake I was going to take to a dinner party on Saturday.  Then Saturday, I would take care of the latest Daring Baker Challenge.  Finally, I’d frost the cake and be off to the dinner party.  At the crack o’ dawn on Sunday, I was going to get up and have some fun with cyber baking buddies on Yahoo Messenger while we cooked.  Uh…..Nope.  Software, Beta versions, PC’s vs. Macs…You name it and it all conspired to keep us apart.  So very sad since I was really looking forward to seeing just how gunked up my keyboard would get cooking and IMing.

But  few weeks ago, I discovered ustream.tv, so I figured at least I could broadcast myself while I was cooking and maybe a few buddies could text while they were laughing their butts off over my "show."  More on that some other time.  Suffice it to say it was a lot of fun, but totally the reason I’m tired.  I made some cinnamon rolls, and finally, the feature of this post: Goat Cheese Ravioli with Bell Peppers & Brown Butter, the dish I was supposed to have for dinner Friday.  I was so out of time considering I had to make it, eat it and post about it by the end of today!  Nothing like being seriously late.  It’s not the first time, however.

Katie of Other People’s Food was matched with me for the Taste & Create event I mentioned above.  If I remember correctly, Katie won the very first blogging event I entered: Hay, Hay, It’s Donna Day where we all had to make chocolate mousse.  That was back in April of this year.  Goodness, how time flies!

So for Taste & Create, Katie and I had to peruse each other’s archives, choose a dish, cook it, and create a post about it.  All in all, a pretty great idea.  I chose the Ravioli linked above from her archives because I love the combination of the flavors.  Katie’s homemade ravioli are so cute perched atop the colorful peppers with just the perfect sprinkle of fresh parmesan. Since I’d never made my own pasta, I thought, "Sure!"  Uh-huh.  Right.  A couple of funny things happened on the way to the completion…

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Outside of talking to those people who tuned into my ustream.tv broadcast, and dealing with cinnamon rolls, rolling pasta was, erm…challenging.  I don’t have an attachment…SANTA!!!!!!!! so couldn’t quite get it thin enough.  How did people do this without all the nifty gadgets that now exist?

Img_4813 I don’t want to hear anyone say anything about what this reminds them of.  Like my husbink just did.  This is a FOOD blog.

The consensus from my huzbink and middle son after tasting the completed dish was that the ravioli needed to be cooked longer. (Think chewy…) And last but not least, while I was yammering away on ustream.tv, I guess I picked up my salt container and confused it with the measured amount of salt I’d set aside for the pasta.  Thankfully, it wasn’t that much more, but it did cause my pasta to be more salty than we like. *cough — water!*

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Fortunately, I also made a few of the ravioli with won ton wrappers which is what the original recipe called for.  These turned out very nicely flavorwise. *whew*  And they were definitely easier to make since I lacked the pasta experience.

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The roasted pepper tomato sauce was excellent.  It would be fabulous on regular pasta.  The richness of the peppers combined with the cheese and fresh herbs (rosemary, chives, oregano, sage, thyme) in the ravioli is quite pleasant.  The bit of chopped nicoise olives and toasted pinones were a very nice touch as well.  (I will confess I added a roasted Green Chili to the pepper mixture.  I couldn’t resist, as I love the flavor and heat. And I had one sitting in my veggie bowl just waiting to be used…)  Here’s Katie’s recipe if you missed it above.

The moral to this story is, don’t bite off more than you can chew!  Not a new lesson, is it?  Still, I’m learning that with time and planning, there are excellent recipes to be tried from other’s blogs simply because they’ve tried it themselves and can share their learning.  Another no brainer, Kelly.  D.U.H. 

I think there’s a bathtub and some bubbles upstairs with my name on it.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to get out of bed tomorrow.  And then the Thanksgiving prep begins….Oh. My. Goodness.

Thanks, Katie, for the recipe!  I will be using the pepper & tomato combo as well as the cheese & herb mix for bruschetta in the near future.  It will be totally scrumptious, don’t you think?

And thanks, Nicole, for a fun event.  Expect to see me again!

Halibut with Veracruzana Salsa & Pasta

I’m on a a tomato pepper kick right now, so thanks for your patience.  It’s partly because of the weather, and partly because when I go to the store, I buy too much produce, and then have to make sure it gets used instead of ending sadly as a science experiment in my veggie bin.  Nothing new has grown in there lately, so I must be doing something right.

And thanks to Michael Chiarello for that.  Another recipe in his cookbook, Flavored Oils:  50 Recipes for Cooking with Infused Oils, is “Swordfish with Mediterranean Tomato Sauce and Linguini.”  It’s one of the only recipes that the Master of the House (MoH) actually requests.  “Can we have some of that fish in — you know — the white paper.  With the tomatoes?”  This would be the recipe he’s talking about.  I’m sure you can find the original in the “Great Places” area at Napa Style.  I, of course, was compelled to do something a bit different.  I can’t help it.

Somebody sends us Coastal Living magazine each month.  We don’t know who or why, but that’s cool, because it’s free.  And it has some tasty seaside type recipes in the back that I like to try occasionally.  In this May’s issue, “Veracruzana Salsa” caught my eye, and I figured I could use the halibut in my freezer and try this new salsa in the place of the tomato sauce called for in the Chiarello recipe.

I promise I’ll get off this toot and try to bake something with sugar and lots of fat calories. Maybe even tonight.  But for now, you’ll have to settle for this.  Oh, and yes, there are two kinds of pasta, because after going to the store twice, I forgot the linguini, so had to get by with what was left in two bags in the cupboard. *sigh* Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Halibut with Veracruzana Salsa and Pasta

1 lb. firm, vine-ripened tomatoes, cored and halved
1 red pepper, seeded and halved
1 yellow pepper, seeded and halved
1 poblano chili, seeded and halved
1 T. olive oil
1/2 c. white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c. cilantro, chopped
1/2 c. Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 c. capers, rinsed
1 c. pitted Kalamata olives, halved
juice of 1 lemon
2 T. red pepper olive oil
Halibut filets cut into 4 pieces about 4 oz. each
8-10 oz. pasta, cooked al dente

Directions
Set oven to broil and heat for 5 minutes.  Prepare pasta and reserve.

  1. Prepare tomato, peppers, and chili as stated above.  Place cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Broil about 6″ from the heat for about 20 minutes or until skins are blistered and getting brown.  The tomatoes may be done sooner, so keep an eye on them and remove them earlier if needed.
  2. Remove from broiler, cool, and remove skin.
  3. Lower oven temperaure to 450 degrees and lower rack to a more central position.
  4. Cut peppers and chilies into strips and set aside.
  5. Cut tomatoes into large chunks.
  6. Loosely mix in a large bowl, peppers, chilies, tomatoes, onion, garlic, capers, cilantro, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
  7. Tear off 4 large piece of parchment paper.
  8. Place about 1/2-3/4 c. pasta on each sheet.
  9. Top pasta with a piece of halibut, then drizzle a bit of the red pepper oil over each piece.
  10. Top each piece of fish with 1 c. salsa.
  11. Bring sides of the parchment together above the layered ingredients and twist tightly.
  12. Position all packages on a baking sheet, and place in oven for 12-15 minutes.  The packages will brown as the fish cooks, and may puff up a bit depending on how tightly they are sealed.
  13. To serve, remove packages from oven, and place on dinner plates.
  14. Open each package and fold down the sides of the parchment a bit.
  15. Place a wedge of lemon inside and enjoy.

Notes
This is another one of those recipes that is easily adjusted to suit your own tastes and flavor combinations.  I highly recommend making the Chiarello recipe exactly as it is to start — and having said that, don’t rip your hair out with the parchment folding directions that I have only attempted once.  Since then, I just do the parchment however I like.  The fish still tastes great, and the pasta, after being cooked in all that fabulous flavor is something out of this world.  I’ve roasted lemons, I’ve used non roasted veggies, but the one thing that I’d recommend you not omit is the Kalamata olives.  There’s just something about that flavor…

So have some fun and take pictures of the packages you make, which I’m certain will be more beautiful than mine! And one of these days I’ll truly figure out how to not have yellow pictures.  I’ve tried all settings, but I guess haven’t been persistent enough.  Look closely — the halibut is under there somewhere.