Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bulgarian Salad

(Shopska Salata)
 I first discovered this delicious salad on one of my trips to the Pittsburgh Folk Festival.  After eating the small sample (I had been sampling everywhere!) I decided to try to replicate the recipe. Since then, it has been made in ample batches each week during the hot summer months. Actually, I am surprised at how quickly this salad is consumed! Now that the warm weather is here and the requests are for "light food", this salad will once again be part of the weekly menu. If only I could keep up with the demand...

Bulgarian Salad 
4 large Cucumbers
3 medium Tomatoes chopped
1 medium Green peppers chopped
2 tablespoon Sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Vegetable oil
1/2 cup Red wine vinegar
8 ounces Feta cheese, crumbled

Peel cucumbers and slice in half. Remove seeds with a spoon and chop into 1/4 inch squares. Place into a large bowl. Add green peppers and tomatoes. Pour vinegar and oil on vegetables and sugar and salt. Mix vegetables and dressing mixture and refrigerate for one hour to allow the flavors to combine. Serve with crumbled feta cheese.

Cucumber Salad on Foodista

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saffron Rice and Corn

(Arroz Amarillo y Maiz)
I love to cook with rice, and this version of a Latin American dish is one of my favorites. I pair this bright flavored rice with pernil, tacos and rotisserie chicken. And sometimes I just toss chicken in the rice and use the combined mixture as a main dish.

As always, the better the ingredients, the better the dish. And this is sometimes hard for me as I do my best to keep a tight food budget. Unfortunately, I love cooking and trying new flavors. I try to keep to my philosophy of using inexpensive staples with one or two star ingredients. I think that the food traditions of nations who have been challenged throughout history to feed their people have the most to teach about this idea. It is these people who can produce food that is extraordinary using inexpensive staples such as rice or beans with amazing depth of flavor. They are my inspiration. My star ingredient today is saffron - the most costly seasoning in the world. My favorite is Penzeys CoupƩ Spanish Saffron. It is one of their best saffrons, packing the most flavor and color into those little pinches. A little goes a long way, and I can't resist it. The fresh cilantro is costly in the grocery, but I keep four large pots of it growing on my porch.

Saffron Rice and Corn
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups long grain white rice
2 cups sweet corn
1 cup chopped onion
1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 pinches saffron threads
1 bay leaf

In a pot, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add rice, saffron, bay leaf and olive oil and boil for one minute before covering and turning to low. Simmer on low for about 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed into rice and rice is tender. While rice is cooking, saute onion in butter in a skillet until translucent and just barely golden in color. Set aside. When rice is finished, remove bay leaf and add onions and corn. Stir and warm until corn is heated through. Add cilantro and serve.

Saffron Brown Rice on Foodista

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bacon Bars

Warning: this blog post contains pork which may not be suitable for all viewers. Oh yes, three sinful delights all combined into one treat - bacon, chocolate and peanut butter. After posting my favorite peanut butter bacon sandwich, it only seemed natural to add the chocolate. After all, to many devotees, bacon is indeed meat candy. The combination of smoke, sweet and salt are combined beautifully into one delicious treat. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bacon Bars
2 lbs lean smoked bacon
2 16-ounce bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips

Line a cookies sheet with aluminum foil and set aside. In a skillet, fry bacon strips until crispy, making sure that all of the bacon is cooked and evenly done. Crumble into pieces and set aside. In double boiler, melt semi-sweet chocolate chips until smooth. Microwave 1/2 cup of peanut butter chips until smooth. Add 2/3 of the bacon to the chocolate and pour into cookie sheet, spreading to a thin layer. Pour remaining bacon pieces along with the peanut butter chips on top and press gently into the chocolate. Chill in the refrigerator until set. Cut into small bars and serve.

Bacon on Foodista

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pasta with Uncooked Tomato Sauce

I was informed last week by cyber buddy Antonio that I had no recipes from Italy. His observation led me to much pondering. We are truly creatures of habit, even those of us who think we are experimental. Growing up and for the most part to the present, Italian food is pizza from a restaurant or Spaghetti with Ragu from the jar. Occasionally we might visit a restaurant and enjoy spaghetti or ravioli. But throughout my life, no Italian food was homemade. My sister Kathy was blessed with Italian in-laws who shared a few recipes, but still she and I tend to shy away from something we perceive as easier to cook from a jar. As my Mother's recipes were no help, I turned to my Grandmother and did find a good recipe to begin learning about this fabulous cuisine.

As the weather is turning warm, I prefer a lighter meal over one steaming on the oven. My lack of central air conditioning plays a big part here. Grandma's Pasta with Uncooked Tomato Sauce was just the ticket to learn about fresh Italian cooking. There isn't a lot of messing around here. The quality of your ingredients make or break this delicious sauce.

Pasta with Uncooked Tomato Sauce
1 to 1 1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup of fresh chopped basil
1 cup fresh mozzarella or fresh buffalo mozzarella, diced
1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt to taste
generous pinch red pepper flakes
1 pound pasta

Blanch the tomatoes by dropping them into rapidly boiling water for one minute and then dropping them into a bowl of ice water. Peel skins from the tomatoes and gently squeeze to remove the seeds. Chop tomatoes and place in large bowl. Combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil, mozzarella, oil, vinegar and salt and pepper flakes, to taste, and let stand, covered at room temperature for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. To serve, cook pasta until it is al dente, drain well and add it to the sauce. Toss and serve immediately.

Pasta With Uncooked Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Sauce on Foodista

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Salsa with Fresh Cilantro

Local Mexican restaurant Compadres serves up the most delicious salsa. Never before did I have a salsa that kept me dipping in the bowl and wanting more. I often went there begging for takeout salsa like a junkie looking for a fix and having it packaged with fresh cooked tortilla chips for munching at home. I began to search everywhere for an equally good jarred salsa. I opened jar after jar of flat tasting cooked tomato chunks that didn't make my tongue happy at all. So I started experimenting, and came up with this delicious salsa. Compadres is still a favorite, but this one makes my tongue cry for mama!

Salsa with Fresh Cilantro
2 14.5-ounce cans of whole peeled tomatoes
1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes with jalapeƱos
1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Goya hot sauce
1 bunch fresh cilantro
fresh ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients except onion and cilantro. Blend with hand blender until salsa is preferred consistency (I like mine to be on the smooth side). Add diced onions and chopped cilantro and chill for several hours to blend the flavors.

Salsa on Foodista