Tag Archives: Vegetables

Mama Mia! Greek Night In

There’s a Greek bistro not too far from where I live called Apollonia.  It rates as one of the casual places I’ve enjoyed locally whose food has had me thinking about it long after I’ve eaten there.  Maybe it’s because I don’t eat Greek food very often, and so my weary taste buds long for something unique.  Or, it could be that the food is just plain delicious.

Valentine’s week (and I have to call it that since my husband treated me to days of lovely surprises) one of my gifts was dinner at Apollonia.  Ohhh, the hummos and the dolmathakia.  The spanakopita and tyropita.  The souvlaki.

Sheer heaven.

Clearly, there was a Greek dinner in the works for us at home after this, and I decided that since the Academy Awards was rapidly approaching, I’d spend the day in the kitchen cooking and watching what my husband calls my “pre-game show” of all things Oscars:  gowns and botox lips, padded rumps and tatooed eyeliner.  You’ve got to love Hollywood at least once a year.

No sooner had I begun the prepping than my oldest son called to ask what we were doing.
“Watching the Oscars and eating Greek food.  Why?”  I asked.
“Because I’m coming over,” he told me and with a quick “See Yah,” he hung up leaving me with my list of what to chop when and Mama Mia running through my mind.  Not the movie — the song.  Well, actually, both.

The connection?  My son is a huge ABBA fan and my husband and I are pretty sappy over the movie, too.  I know.  You can think what you will, but since I was actually around when ABBA’s songs routinely blasted from my car radio, I can be sappy about them if I want.  Besides, who can resist the amazing cerulean water in the film and seriously hunky Pierce Brosnan belting out, “So when you’re near me, darling can’t you hear me…SOS…The love you gave me nothing else can save me SOS!” to an I want to look like that when I’m 60 Meryl Streep.


I see a Greek island vacation in my future.

But in the meantime, I’ll settle for homemade hummus, Briami, and Chicken Souvlaki from Peter of Kalofagas.  With ABBA, of course, and this does involve a bit of dancing barefoot without warning.

I’ve been singing ABBA tunes all day every day for weeks.  In the car, at the grocery store…

Mama Mia.  Here we go again…

I just need a sailboat.

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Scarlet Runner Bean Soup with Vegetables

I love beans.  I always have.  Although you might catch me sampling the piquant flavors of a great baked beans recipe at a barbeque, I’m more of a straight bean sampler.  Someone who enjoys the texture and taste of a big pot of beans without too many other flavors interfering with that of the bean — not all beans, but most, and I’ve sampled quite a few.

I’m always on the look out for ingredients I’ve read about or wanted to try, and when I spot one in the market, it does go in the basket.  There are no particular plans for its use, but I know there will be at some point in time.  This does cause problems in my pantry at times, but at others, it comes in quite handy.

Like now.

Beans are one of those thrifty, stick-to-your-ribs kind of meals that is also very good for you.  And since everyone seems to be thinking about health after the sweet laden holidays, and perhaps trying to recover from the sticker shock as well, beans are perfect.

I swear my shopping cart left skid marks on the floor when I saw the package of heirloom scarlet runner beans.  They were enormous and mottled in color, and until that point in time, I’d only imagined them in full summery scarlet bloom growing chaotically on a picket fence — like sweet peas without the varied pastel colors.  I swear I didn’t know the plant actually produced beans that could be eaten, but I’ve never been much of a vegetable gardener, unfortunately.

The package didn’t appear to hold that many beans, so I didn’t hesitate to prepare the entire bag for the three of us.  Meatless Monday has turned into meatless Tuesday and Wednesday lunch, and yes, there is still enough to share.

Definitely cost effective, but also full of nutrients, like vitamin B-17 which is believed to be a cancer-fighter.  They’re low in saturated fat, and can help reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  It really is true that they’re good for your heart just like that ditty goes.

And then there were those rutabagas…

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So Cal Sarnie: Roasted Veggies & Goat’s Cheese with Arugula on Ciabatta

Several factors have led to my interest in cooking.  Interest was first.  I’ve always been drawn to cookbooks and loved to look at the only one we had in the house.  Yes, I mention it all the time — that old Betty Crocker Cookbook that I still have.  It was the photos.  They opened up a world I would have not been privy to with the staples my mother created.  It’s where I first wondered what popovers tasted like, what Baked Alaska was, and how those flames could be on that “Peach Jubilee Dessert.”

Noticeably missing was a section with photos of sandwiches.  Maybe no one really thought it was necessary.  After all, sandwiches were something made with leftovers, or jam and peanutbutter from a jar, right?

Today, a good sandwich constitutes a whole meal as far as I’m concerned, and we do have them for dinner.  Although I’ll look at a recipe occasionally if the ingredients are unusual, it’s fun to just figure it all out.  I’m not just talking about roast beef and cheddar with a bit o’ mustard, here.  I’m talking about knowing which combinations of flavors you like, and that compliment one another to make a really great sandwich.    Mmmm…do I have a sandwich for you.  Or is it a sarnie?  Well, in this case, it must be a sarnie, because it’s my entry into “Show Us Your Sarnie!” being hosted by Marie at A Year From Oak Cottage.  What a great idea!

A perfect combination of flavors is roasted peppers, sauteed portobellos, and grilled onions.  The sweetness of the peppers, rich caramel of the onions, and earthiness of the mushrooms really works.  In fact, the combination is excellent for a pasta dish or a salad as well.  But to really get my heart singing, two more important ingredients are necessary….goat cheese, and arugula.  You have to try it.  But don’t get fussy about quantities, because that’s not how this works.  You have to be adventuresome.

Although my sandwich is meatless — yes, and it’s excellent — this combination would work very well with beef or chicken.  It just isn’t necessary with these gorgeous mushrooms.

So Cal Sarnie:  Roasted Veggies and Goat’s Cheese with Arugula on Ciabatta

Ingredients:  Crusty bread such as a whole ciabatta, two very large portobellos, three bell peppers (red, yellow, orange), goat’s cheese, dijon, fresh arugula, sweet white onion, olive oil, salt, pepper.
To begin:  roast the peppers. You can do this on the open burner of your stove whether gas or electric.  Just lay them on there until they’re black and blistered.  Make sure to turn on the fan because their fragrance is quite strong and will hover in your house…not something you want to smell in the middle of the night.  Next, place the peppers in a paper bag or closed container and let them sit for at least 15 minutes.  Remove them, and with you fingers, remove the blackened skin, the membranes, stem and seeds.  DO NOT RINSE OFF THE PEPPERS.  Sorry for yelling, but you want to retain the lovely oils and flavor from the roasting.  Set aside.

Next: While the peppers are sitting, cut thick slices of onion.  Keep the slices together, and place in a skillet with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat checking occasionally to see how they’re browning.  Flip them over after they’ve browned to your liking.  Remove them from the pan until you are ready to use them.  You can break them up if you wish from the beginning and really cook them down to caramelized rings — quite tasty as well — but it’s your choice.  Keeping the rings together provides more of a bite on this particular sandwich er, um sarnie

Now: Slice a couple of very large portobello mushrooms.  Mince some garlic as well.  Put a few splashes of olive oil in another skillet (the onions are in the other) and add the garlic when the oil is hot.  After a minute, place the mushroom slices in the skillet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook on one side to brown, then turn to brown the other side.  This takes longer than you would think.  You may need to add another spash of olive oil to get the brown you want.  But avoid soaking the mushrooms in oil.  You don’t want an oily mess.

Okay: After you’ve removed the onions, wipe out the pan (or whip out your still new Panini pan that you got for your birthday) and place the ciabatta sections face down to brown them just a bit.  Then spread a bit of dijon on one piece, and softened goat’s cheese on both

Ready? Place several mushroom slices on one piece, topped with roasted peppers, then onions.  On the other slice, load the arugula.  Carefully slap the two pieces together, then place in the panini pan.  Make sure the lid has been sitting in the pan while it’s heating so that it’s hot, too.  Place the lid over the sarnie and let it sit for a couple of minutes.  If you’re brave, turn it over and let it sit for another minute.

No panini pan? Using a cast iron skillet works just fine.  Sit something heavy on the sarnie and then turn it over and do the same thing.

No cast iron skillet? You’re kidding, right?  No comment, but, wrap the sarnie in foil and pop the whole thing in a preheated oven for about 5-8 minutes.  The arugula will be wilted, but that will be just fine.

Some variations:

  • Use fresh mozzarella if you want a more mild tasting cheese that will melt a bit.
  • Use any kind of pesto you enjoy and spread that on instead of the dijon.
  • Use blue cheese instead of goat’s cheese and skip the peppers, but add tomato and switch the arugula with fresh spinach.


Have fun and enjoy experimenting with my version of a sarnie!  Oh, and chop up the leftovers and saute them with some pappardelle the next day.  It’s even better.

Pasta with Grilled Sausage, Chicken, and Vegetables

Ah…how soon the lovliness of vacation dissapates…and reality smacks you back.

And how how completely pissed off can one be after nearly completing a post and then when working to link a recipe from epicurious a very strange window popped up in the corner of the monitor that looked very official (like a normal software upgrade notice) saying something about a hard drive clearing to protect my marriage and keep us from viewing all the "adult" sites visited on our computer.  Huh?

So of course I DID NOT click it.  I cancelled it.  Of course, that initiated the download, which I then stopped by closing all the tabs.  Excuse me for asking, but while I was away on vacation, did someone replace all the cockroaches in the world with spammers?  What is up with those guys?  They are seriously out of control right now.  How can there be such L-O-S-E-R-S in the world?

And my post.  Shhhheeee—iiiiiiiitttt.  Yes, it was closed as well.  Unsaved, of course because I was working on it.

I am so NOT inspired to write it all again.  At least not the one I was writing.  It was one of those doozies where you throw a bit of this and a tad ‘o that, and it ends up being totally mouth-watering scrumptious. The recipe.  Not my writing. *sigh*   

Well, maybe I’ll write it.  But not the way it was.  This will be the fast version.  You’re on the edge of your seat, right?  Aren’t you so glad I’m back?  Seriously. 

Take Two On:  What to do with all the food you didn’t eat on vacation on your last night there… (it already sounds delicious, huh?)  Bwah-hahahahaha.  But it was because I only cook perfect food.  Of course, there were more than four cooks with their hands in this meal of pasta, salad, grilled garlic bread, and Baked Berry Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream.  No.  I’m so not writing about all the recipes.  You’ll just have to get over it.  Ahem.

The pasta idea probably came about because we (the two groups of friends we went on vacation with) were salivating over recent issues of Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Gourmet before leaving for Lake Tahoe.  Or maybe it was just myself doing the salivating.  Anyway, I had tagged a bunch of recipes and emailed the others to divvy up cooking responsibilities.  We took some food from our own kitchens with us (die hard foodies, doncha think?), we shopped a bit after arriving (uh..two or three times), and borrowed some ingredients from the pantry in the house. 

All said and done, by the time the last day rolled around, we had TONS of food left — even though 11 people had been porking out all week.  So, after scanning the tagged recipes, we concocted a smashing pasta dish that we all enjoyed and can’t wait to try again, tweaking a bit here and there, depending on what we have in the house when we decide to make it again.  Make sense?

Okay, hold your shorts, because my fingers are aflyin’ about now.

The original recipe for the base of the pasta was  "Fresh Tomato-Olive Sauce" by Michael Chiarello whom I love, love, love.  And then, we probably borrowed a bit of this recipe, too, because we sort of had it in our heads.  Or sausage on the brain or something.  And my Berry Crisp was kind of based on this recipe, because we had left over blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, but I didn’t measure anything exactly.  On Vacation?  Come on.  Get a grip.  The salad?  The usual mediterranean chop:  romaine, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, feta, avocado, kalamatas, green garlic stuffed olives, tomatoes, capers…like that.  With a balsamic vinaigrette tossed in.

Back to the pasta: Img_3041

So we grilled some large sausages, chicken thighs (I think we used six of each) salted and peppered lightly, then chopped them after they were done.  No, I’m not the one who threw them on the grill.  Nor am I the one who left them to burst into flames.  Of course when the rescue operation was in full gear, a couple of pieces hit the deck and we saved them on account of the 30 second rule. No one complained of grit at dinner, so we were good. The deck wasn’t, though, greasy morsels that those pieces o’ meat were.  We sprayed and scrubbed, and sweat, and worried a lot about what the home owners would say (not the rental owners — but my friend’s parents who graciously allowed us to enjoy their home for the evening while they were away).  Jeez.  You’d have thought we were a bunch of slobs by looking at those grease spots on that very clean deck.  Stressful!  Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yes…We also grilled red peppers, zucchini, and quartered onions.  I’m sure there was some garlic in there somewhere, too.  Oh, and we grilled four lemon halves until they were caramelized and squeezed the juice over the veggies and tossed.  This alone is quite delicious if you haven’t ever tried it.

The most interesting ingredient was the mushrooms. The mushrooms that were left in the kitchen sink of the rental that my huzbink offered to drive back and get so we could use them. But my friend’s daughter went instead because they forgot to bring the ice cream for the dessert.  My friend recently returned from a business trip to China and brought back the cutest little dried mushroom caps.  So she hydrated them, and sauteed them in garlic, butter, and olive oil.  My goodness we we drooling over the aroma of those while they were cooking.  Are you confused yet?  This was sounding kind of Italian or something, right?  Wot Up with the Chinese mushrooms, you say?  We were emptying the larder for our return trip, remember?  Everything goes.

So here’s how the pasta comes together:

Make the tomato-olive sauce a couple of hours before you eat to let it juice up.  Cook two pounds of pasta (if you’re feeding as many as we were) and make sure it’s al dente.  None of that mushy pasta thing going on. Put the drained pasta in a very large serving bowl.  Add the chopped sausage and chicken, sauteed mushrooms, grilled veggies, and tomato-olive sauce.  Img_3044
Mix well and sprinkle on lots and lots of freshly grated parmesan.  Adjust the seasoning and serve.


It’s completely tasty.  Even better the next day.  Except…I think there was  something missing.  I couldn’t quite figure it out.  I’m thinking the artichoke hearts should have gone into the pasta instead of the salad which was also excellent.  Basil?  Not sure.  But I’ll give it another go before summer’s over and I’ll keep you posted.

Oh, and here are the gratuitous Berry Crunch photos for those of you who can’t live without dessert.

I can’t remember who licked the bowl, but there wasn’t a crumb left.  Not bad for not having a recipe.  Not bad at all.