Baked Leftover Pasta with Heirloom Tomato Bisque, English Peas & Three Cheeses in Ramekins

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

As promised, another recipe made up from several other recipes posted this week.  This one uses leftover fettuccine from my Cilantro-Serrano Pasta post and leftover Tomato Bisque and some of my Homemade American Cheese.   You can use freshly cooked pasta or leftover, if you have it.   The soup can be replaced with ANY pasta sauce you prefer from a simple arrabiata to a marinara to an alfredo.  The cheese can also be substituted with goat or Parmesan or whatever you have handy.  I used English peas because I had them & I love them.

This particular effort isn’t that pretty because green noodles & a pink sauce make for an odd combination but let me tell you – it is friggin’ DELICIOUS.  I made it & just meant to taste one & stood there & inhaled an entire serving.   Really, really good!  I had intended to make little wonton baskets for each of these but forgot to – so a version using wontons is likely in my future.   At any rate – if you use a white pasta & a red sauce – or some other more compatible color combination – your effort should come out prettier.

I cooked 6 of these ramekins in a larger pan with water that came up about half way on the ramekins – and one just out there on its own in the oven.  In the future – I will blow off the whole water business because it achieved nothing that I could appreciate except maybe slowing the heating process a tad – and there is no practical purpose for that in this recipe.  So – you will see images of the larger pan & water but I am not recommending you do it that way.  The only thing it adds is a VERY real danger that you will scald yourself with the hot water as you remove these from the oven.

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Baked Leftover Pasta with Heirloom Tomato Bisque, English Peas & Three Cheeses in Ramekins

INGREDIENTS

4 cups cooked pasta

1 1/2 cups leftover bisque or other pasta sauce

1 cup fresh English peas (optional)

2 large balls fresh mozzarella – sliced

1 2″ cube homemade American cheese or other cheese of your choice

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Fresh basil and/or chopped fresh tomato – as garnish

Extra bisque or pasta sauce – as garnish

Fresh Parmesan to shave – as garnish

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Blend the pasta, sauce and whatever cheese(s) you are using (NOT the mozzarella) in a bowl.  Add the peas – if using.

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Spray 7 ramekins (sorry – it just worked out to 7) with cooking spray.  Divide the pasta mix among them.  Try not to over-fill them or they will get messy in the oven.  Top with a little extra bisque/sauce & put a slice of fresh mozzarella on each. Grind some pepper on them.

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Place on a cookie sheet & cover each with a sheet of foil that has been greased with cooking spray.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Remove foil & bake another ten minutes.

Remove from the oven & let cool a minute or two.  These can be served in the ramekins or flipped over & served on a plate.  Either way, garnish each with chopped tomato and/r fresh chopped basil and/or some freshly shaved Parmesan.

Devour & be proud of yourself for using up your leftovers!  Maybe even serve with some leftover Artisan bread!!!

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Leftover Tomato & Artisan Bread Soup with Buffalo Mozzarella

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

Ok, kiddies.  I am going to post two different dishes today that are made from leftovers of the recipes I posted last week.  This one uses the Roasted Heirloom Tomato Bisque and the Crazy Super Easy & Quick Artisan Bread.

Simply, brush some olive oil on a slice of Artisan bread & toast it in your oven (at about 350 – 400 degrees) for about ten minutes.  Add a few slices of fresh mozzarella & return it to the oven for a few minutes or until the cheese is melted.  Plunk this bad boy into the center of a warmed bowl of tomato bisque.  Garnish with leftover basil oil (I forgot to!!) and some fresh tomato (I used some Heirloom cherry tomatoes), fresh basil & fresh cracked pepper!  Ymmmmm!

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Tomato, Avocado & Jalapeno Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Homemade American Cheese on Artisan Bread – or – Garlic Broccoli Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

So – I have been building to these grilled cheese sandwiches for a few days now.  I posted the Homemade American Cheese recipe HERE

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and the Homemade Artisan Bread HERE

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And a Tomato Bisque recipe HERE.

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Now it is time to get down to business!  There is no need to make every item on this menu from scratch but it is, of course, more impressive if you do.  The two grilled cheese sandwiches I present here are only the tip of the iceberg of possibilities.  You can use any variety of bread you choose & any sort of cheese.  You can use canned soup (egads!).  These are presented as ideas & to spark your imagination.

I used red jalapenos because I had them & they are pretty.  Use green if you want to.  I used heirloom cherry tomatoes because, you guessed it, I had them.  These – I do NOT recommend.  They do not stay in place in the sandwich well.  I recommend a larger tomato & I recommend it be sliced very thinly.  That said – may I present:

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Tomato, Avocado & Jalapeno Grilled Cheese Sandwich

INGREDIENTS

Artisan Bread or other bread of your choice

Homemade American cheese or other cheese of your choice

Butter

Avocado – sliced thinly

Tomato – sliced thinly

Jalapeno – seeded & sliced thinly

Cilantro

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees & place a greased cooking sheet in there while it warms up.

Butter one side each of two slices of bread.

Melt some more butter in a frying pan.  Place one slice of bread, butter side down, in the pan & top with some cheese.  Layer the avocado, tomato, jalapeno & cilantro on top & top with more cheese.  Place the other slice of bread atop this, butter side up, and grill.  Or you can assemble the sandwich on the counter & place into pan complete.

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I used a pot lid to apply pressure.  After a minute of so, CAREFULLY flip the sandwich & toast the other side.  Repeat this until you get to the level of toasting you prefer.  Then – place sandwich in warm oven for another minute or so to completely melt the cheese.

Slice it up & shove it in your face.

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OR —-

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Garlic Broccoli Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

3 cups chopped broccoli (about enough for about 3 sandwiches)

Bread

Cheese

2 cloves garlic – minced

1 tsp crushed red pepper (or to taste)

S&P to taste

2 TBS olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees & place a greased cooking sheet in there while it warms up.

Butter one side each of two slices of bread.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan & saute broccoli & crushed red pepper until the broccoli is vibrant & it begins to soften.  Add garlic & continue cooking being careful not to burn the garlic.  After a minute or two, add a few TBS water & cook off on high heat – steaming the broccoli.  Remove from heat.

To assemble, simply melt some more butter in a frying pan.  Place one slice of bread, butter side down, in the pan & top with some cheese.  Layer the broccoli & more cheese & top with the second slice of bread.  I used a pot lid to apply pressure.  After a minute of so, CAREFULLY flip the sandwich & toast the other side.  Repeat this until you get to the level of toasting you prefer.  Then – place sandwich in warm oven for another minute or so to completely melt the cheese.

This is also now ready for slicing & face shoving.

Serve with Vegan Roasted Heirloom Tomato Bisque for increased pleasure!

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Vegan Roasted Heirloom Tomato Bisque

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

This soup is spicy & tastes rich & creamy despite its total lack of dairy.  It gets the rich creamy element from soaked & pureed cashews.  Ymmm!  There are a few steps required but all are simple.  Do not be intimidated.  I used lots of celery because I had it & it needed to be used.  I also used heirloom cherry tomatoes – for the same reason as the celery – but larger tomatoes are more desirable.  You can use heirloom or Roma or any variety of tomato.  My soup came out less red than your average tomato soup because not all my tomatoes were red & because I did not use tomato paste.  Also – I used a red onion because that was what I had.  Yellow or brown might be better.  Also – since spending 90 minutes caramelizing an onion might be too labor intensive for you & make you blow off this recipe entirely – know that the caramelized onion ingredient can be omitted without a huge loss in flavor.  Also – cashews can be soaked overnight rather than boiled & soaked for an hour.  Also – this soup need not be vegan.  Heavy cream added at the end is a nice touch if that appeals to you – and would make the cashews unnecessary.  I recommend trying the cashew version at least once, though.  It is a healthier option.

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Vegan Roasted Heirloom Tomato Bisque

INGREDIENTS

2.5 – 3 lbs heirloom (or other) tomatoes

10 celery stalks – chopped (VERY optional)

1 vegetarian bouillon cube (optional)

4 serrano (or jalapeno) peppers (optional)

10 garlic cloves – or to taste

1 cup raw cashews

olive oil

6 or more fresh basil leaves – chopped

1 TBS crushed red pepper flakes (or less – to taste)

1/2 tsp dry thyme

1 tsp oregano

1 large onion – quartered & slices 1/4 inch thick

2 or more TBS tomato paste (optional)

S&P to taste

GARNISH OPTIONS – more fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, grated cheese, blue cheese or goat or feta (crumbled on top), fried sage leaves, shaved Parmesan, homemade basil oil, sour cream, creme fraiche, heavy cream, croutons – whatever you like.  And LOTS of fresh cracked pepper!

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

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In a small pan, cover the cashews with water & bring to a boil.  Remove from heat & allow to soak one hour.  Or, conversely – let them soak overnight.

Cut your tomatoes in half (or if using some cherry tomatoes, as I did, leave them whole) & toss all the tomatoes & FIVE of your garlic cloves & serrano or jalapeno peppers with 4 TBS olive oil, crushed red pepper, thyme, oregano & a sprinkling of salt.  Place tomatoes cut side down on a greased (with cooking spray) or parchment paper lined cooking sheet & roast in the 350 degree oven for about one hour.

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Meanwhile, saute the onions in 1/4 cup olive oil on low to medium-low heat, stirring often, for about 90 minutes.  This will release their sugar & caramelize them nicely.  Once they are caramelized, add tomato paste (if using) & saute for a few more minutes – stirring to blend with the onions.  Set aside.

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Once the cashews have soaked for an hour, puree them in a blender or food processor with the water until perfectly smooth.  Set aside.

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If using celery, saute the celery in 2 TBS in a large stock pot in olive oil for 5 minutes or until it becomes tender.  Add the 5 remaining garlic cloves & continue cooking another 2-3 minutes.  Or – if not using celery – start just by sauteing the 5 cloves or garlic for a minute or two & carry on as follows.  Add the caramelized onion & tomato paste mixture.  Add the cashew puree.  Stir.

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When the tomatoes are done roasting, see if any of the charred skins can be easily plucked off.  Be careful not to burn yourself.  Pluck off the skins that come away easily & discard.  If the skin resists, leave it be.  Cut the stems off your serrano/jalapenos & then add all the roasted items and any juices to the stock pot.  Stir to combine.  Add the chopped basil and the bouillon cube (if using).

At this point, you may or may not want to add some water.  This is a judgement call based purely on how thick or thin you like your bisque.  I went VERY thick & did not add much water at all – less than a cup in total.  I used & immersion blender & pureed everything in the stock pot.  You can do this or blend it in batches in a blender or food processor.   Whether or not you add much water, once the soup is blended, taste it & add salt & pepper to taste.  If you want a really creamy bisque, adding a half pint of heavy cream would achieve this nicely.

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Tomato Bisque three ways: with balsamic vinegar and with grated cheese & with fresh basil.

Crazy Super Easy & Quick Artisan Bread

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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I had this sort of Artisan bread when I had the pleasure of being a guest at the Arkansas home of my friends Ed & Andrea.  Andrea has a cool food blog of her own called On Life & Beans.  HERE is her recipe for a large quantity of this sort of dough.   It is a simple, hearty, rustic bread that works well for everything.  Hers was delicious!

I started smaller than her recipe.  The secret to this bread is 1) making the dough & letting it rest for AT LEAST 2 hours but up to 12-18 hours and 2) putting a pan of water in your oven when you bake the bread – which results in a crazy awesome & crusty exterior.

There are few recipes more simple than this one.  You can make as much dough as you like & it will keep, raw, in your fridge for up to TWO WEEKS for you to rip hunks off of at will & bake yourself some fresh bread any day.  It’s kind of a miracle.  I cannot recommend strongly enough that you try this at least once.

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Crazy Super Easy & Quick Artisan Bread

INGREDIENTS

6 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 TBS salt

1 1/2 TBS yeast (or 1 1/2 packets of yeast)

3 cups warm water

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DIRECTIONS

Whisk the yeast into the warm water in a very large bowl.

Add the salt & let it dissolve.  Add the flour & blend with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated & you have a very sticky dough.  Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking oil & let it sit for 2-5 hours in a warm spot in your kitchen.

At this point, you can bake immediately or you can put the bowl of raw dough in the fridge.  It will keep for up to two weeks!!!  I let mine chill overnight but this is not necessary.  You can bake it after the two hour rising & get on with the show.  Here is how it looked after a night in the fridge:

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To bake, pre-heat the over to 450 and be sure to let it get to 450 before you put your bread in there.  I used a pizza stone that I never use for pizza – but only because the thing lives in my oven anyway – so why not put it to SOME use?  You could use a cookie sheet or a cast iron pan or cast iron Dutch oven.  Place a pan (or pie tin or something) on the bottom of your oven with a cup of water in it.  This is critical as it will steam your bread into – counter-intuitively – a very crusty exterior.  If you hate crusty bread (weirdo!) – skip the pan of water.

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I tore off a hunk of dough (about 1/2 the entire quantity I made) & rolled & stretched it a bit until I formed a loaf that was sorta smooth & round on the top.  I slashed the dough a few times with a serrated knife & then placed the dough on parchment paper & then put this on the pizza stone on the middle rack.  No parchment paper?  No worries.  Cornmeal works to keep the dough from sticking.  Do not be alarmed if the cornmeal browns & smokes in your oven.  That is some excess flour you see on the parchment paper.  It smoked & burned & smelled bad & I will not get any on my paper in the future.

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I baked mine bread for 25 minutes.  Time will depend on the size of the loaf you make.  It should look nice & golden – even browned – on the outside.  Be sure to let it get golden or your risk a wet & doughy center in your loaf.

Remove from the oven & let cool or devour immediately.

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Homemade White American Cheese

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.
This is not a very pretty post.  Making white cheese from other white cheese doesn’t make for very pretty images but this will lead up to something in the near future.

American cheese is popular mainly for its melting qualities.  And its mild flavor.  This recipe can be tweaked by using different cheese(s) than I did.  Use a Colby or a pepper jack or a sharp cheddar.  It doesn’t matter.  I had a huge bag of pizza cheese – so I just used that.

You might want to use a smaller loaf pan than I did & get a more blocky shaped cheese.  Maybe even use a disposable foil one.  My cheese came out only an inch thick because my loaf pan was too big but it doesn’t matter.  This cheese was made to be used for grilled cheese sandwiches – so – the shape of the cheese is irrelevant.

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Homemade White American Cheese

INGREDIENTS

3 cups grated cheese (Colby or cheddar or pepper jack or mozzarella or a blend of cheeses of your choice)

1 TBS powdered gelatin

2 TBS water

2 TBS milk powder

Salt to taste – go very light

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup plus 4 TBS milk

DIRECTIONS

Line your loaf pan with plastic wrap.

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Combine the cheese, milk powder, salt & cream of tartar in a food processor.  Pulse in the grated cheese.

Dissolve the gelatin in the water & let sit a minute or two.  Do not wait too long or it will completely gel.  Pulse the gelatin into the cheese.

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Heat the milk in a pan until it simmers.  Pour this milk into the food processor  while it is running & puree until completely smooth – a minute or two.

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Pour this into the lined loaf pan.  Press flat to squeeze out any air pockets.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Slice it up & use it the way you would use any other American cheese.

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Fresh Cilantro & Serrano Homemade Pasta with Grilled Chili-Lime Shrimp & Avocado

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

People must be tired of hearing me declare than the dishes I make are inspired by or limited to ingredients I already have on hand – but it is very often true – and will be more true in the future. I spent $8200 last year on groceries (which includes beer & wine for ME & for dinner parties etc).  I live alone!  $700 a month on groceries is obscene – even for a food porn blogger.

I bought a bag of 5 avocados at Costco.  They were cheap (for avocados) but the problem is, you get 5 avocados all ripe at the same time.  So – you guessed it.  It’s going to be avocado city here for a bit.

I also had some cilantro & lots of serranos – hence this unconventional pasta.  I have been enjoying the challenge of creating new pasta varieties.  Homemade pasta is one of the most satisfying efforts you can ever engage in.  It is a completely different animal than dried pasta.  So light & never leaves you feeling stuffed – no matter how much you eat and the flavor is so gorgeous & subtle.  You really should try it!

The shrimp in this particular dish were of the frozen ilk – the kind that REALLY shrink when they cook.  They were still frozen when I put them in the marinade so I never cleaned them and they still had tails.  😦

I recommend using larger, fresher shrimp than the freezer burned ones I used here.  The marinade is not a science so don’t feel too anal about the ingredients.  Lose some, add others.  Marinades are very forgiving.

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Fresh Cilantro & Serrano Homemade Pasta

PASTA INGREDIENTS

2 cups flour

1 large bunch cilantro – lower stems removed

3 serrano peppers – seeded & chopped

3 eggs

1 tsp salt

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PASTA DIRECTIONS

Put the cilantro & serranos into a food processor & blend with the salt  and eggs until the green ingredients are pureed.  Add the flour & process into a moist dough.   Knead the dough with a little extra flour until it loses all tackiness.  Then roll it out like instructed in the recipe here – PASTA DOUGH.  Add more flour if the dough rolls out wet.  Once you roll & cut the noodles – let them dry on a counter for at least an hour.  They will cook in boiling water in less than two minutes.  You can tell they are done because they begin to float up to the surface.  Do not salt the water as homemade noodles tend to absorb the salt quickly & that can over power their delicate flavor.

Drain the noodles – toss with a little olive oil to prevent them from sticking together.

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Grilled Chili-Lime Shrimp & Avocado

INGREDIENTS

20 Shrimp – peeled & cleaned

3 serrano peppers – seeded & diced

2 scallions – chopped

3 garlic cloves – minced

1/4 olive oil

2 TBS sambal oelek (chili paste) – or more if you like heat

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp salt

2 TBS honey

2 stalks lemongrass – bruised & chopped (VERY optional)

1 TBS crushed red pepper (optional)

1 avocado

GARNISHES

Cilantro or parsley and extra lime wedges and maybe some chopped red jalapeno or tomato

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DIRECTIONS

Blend all the ingredients EXCEPT the avocado & shrimp in a bowl.  Add shrimp & mix to coat well.  Marinate the shrimp in the fridge for at least an hour – but the longer the better.

Grill the shrimp or pan fry them. Err on the side of under-cooking a bit because they will continue to cook after you remove them from heat.

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Peel & chop the avocado.   Squeeze some lime or lemon juice onto it so it doesn’t brown.

To assemble – put pasta then shrimp & avocado on each plate & then garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley & lime wedges and chopped red jalapeno or tomato – if using.

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Vegan Broccoli Soup with Avocado & Jalapeno or Basil oil or Gremolata

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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This recipe makes a lot  A LOT – of soup.  Be prepared to freeze some.  I had a 3 pound bag of broccoli from Costco & it had to be used & used fast.  I find freezing fresh vegetables renders them a yucky, mushy, unappetizing mess – but freezing dishes MADE with vegetables works out just fine.  I suppose you could cut this recipe in half easily – so maybe consider doing that.

This soup would be amazing with a homemade vegetable stock (there is a recipe at the bottom of the post HERE) but it works out just great using bouillon, too.

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This soup can be served with all sorts of little garnishes from the avocado-jalapeno combo to the basil oil drizzle I show here to the gremolata that I also show here of with crispy bacon crumbles or some blue cheese crumbles or feta cheese.  Use your imagination!  Add some corn or steamed broccoli or tortilla strips.  Go nuts!  I found these red jalapenos at an Asian market & I love them because they are so PRETTY!  But green ones work just as well.

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Vegan Broccoli Soup with Avocado-Jalapeno or Basil oil or Gremolata

INGREDIENTS

2 large heads of broccoli (or two pounds florets)

2 large onions – chopped

1/2 cup fresh parsley

1 large potato – cubed

8-10 cups of vegetable stock – depending on how thin or thick you like your soup

S&P to taste

2 TBS olive oil

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GREMOLATA

1/2 cup parsley – chopped very fine

4-5 garlic cloves – minced

1/4 cup lemon zest

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OR BASIL OIL

1 packed cup of fresh basil

3/4 cup high quality olive oil

Salt to taste

JALAPENO -AVOCADO

Sliced avocado

diced jalapeno

cilantro

DIRECTIONS

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot.  Cook the onions until they are soft & translucent.  Add broccoli, potato, parsley and the stock.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low & simmer.  Once the broccoli & potato are tender – puree in batches or use an immersion blender.  Blend until very smooth.  If the soup is too thick – add a bit of water.  If it is too thin, cook it over med-low heat until it reduces to the thickness you prefer.

Zest the lemon, chop the garlic & parsley.   Blend them in a small bowl.

OR

BASIL OIL –

Blanch the basil in boiling water for 10-20 seconds than plunge into ice water.  Squeeze out the water & puree in a food processor with olive oil & salt to taste.  Go light on the salt.  Set aside.

Serve the soup with either the avocado/jalapeno combo or a drizzle of basil oil or a hefty portion of the gremolata.  MMMMM!

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Arugula Salad with Shaved Parmesan & Lemon

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.
Say – want a nice, light salad to go with that chowdah?  I got just the thing!  I happen to love arugula.  It is my favorite green – all peppery & spicy.  I also like a nice Parmesan and who doesn’t like lemon?  This salad couldn’t be easier.  Not even any chopping required.  For ingredients plus S&P.  Simplicity defined.

Arugula Salad with Shaved Parmesan & Lemon

Fresh arugula

A wedge or block of high quality Parmesan or some store-bought shaved Parmesan (not grated)

Lemon

Olive oil

S&P

DIRECTIONS

In a salad dressing bottle – combine olive oil & lemon juice.  I like a ratio of about 2 parts oil to one part lemon.  You might like more – or even less – lemon.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Put arugula on plates.  Drizzle with the dressing.  Use a veggie peeler to shave fresh Parmesan – and a good quantity of it – over the greens.  Serve with more fresh ground pepper.  With lots of wine.  LOTS.  You earned it.

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Spicy Vegan Corn Chowder with Coconut Cream, Cilantro & Lime

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

I apologize for posting so many straight recipes & no adventures lately.  Year end expenses etc have kept me pretty much at home and alone nearly every day & night for at least the last month.   If I blow off the gym, as I did in the week between Christmas & New Years, I can go days & days without ever seeing another human, outside of Ed, my early morning donut dealer.  As fascinating as I’d like to consider myself – a month of watching Maury reveal paternity results & MSNBC squawk on & on about fake crises like the fiscal cliff & the debt ceiling has left me with something akin to a test pattern humming in my head & my jaw slack.  And weekends are worse. I fucking hate “Caught on Camera” which is MSNBC’s new weekend wall-to-waller for injury fetishists.  And SOMEHOW it got DVR’ed – so the fucking series is getting recorded every time it plays and I cannot figure out how to cancel it.  And Lock Up?  Seriously.  They run Lock Up marathons on MSNBC sometimes from Friday night at 7 through Sunday evening, only breaking for the insufferable Meet the Press.  Who watches six hours of prison inmates with tattooed faces & then thinks to themselves, “You know what I am in the mood for now?  Another hour of prison inmates with tattooed faces, bitchez!”   Ugh.

So – I sit in my kitchen & stare blankly at my TV and simultaneously play the 40 million Scrabble & Words with Friends games I have running – 30 million of which are with my mother who is the best GD word game player ever – in real life.  But on the iphone apps – she mostly just phones it in (get it?) – and I feel like I am doing endless homework way beneath my intellectual ability.  I am a hamster stuck in a Habitrail repeating the same limited and mindless actions ad infinitum just waiting for death or for someone to get close enough so I can bite them.

So – I drink wine so that I at least have an excuse for the stupid look on my face and I cook.  And cook.  And I eat some and freeze more & then I cook.  I wish I had more mouths to feed here & more money to do it with because the cooking is the best part of my days but I can’t just endlessly cook food in quantities I cannot possibly consume just so I can be distracted & then take some pretty pictures.

Aren’t you glad NOW that I have been keeping to myself?

OK – so – yesterday I had a bunch of fresh corn to use.  Again – I challenged myself to make a dish that didn’t require a grocery store run.  I wanted to make a corn chowder but I had no dairy or soy milk or anything like that in the house.  But I DID have cans of both coconut milk & coconut cream.  Not knowing the difference (having never yet used coconut cream) – I opted to use the cream version.  I still don’t know what the difference is.  Once I broke up & blended the solid chunk of whatever at the top of the can – it looked & tasted like coconut milk to me.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say:

Coconut cream is very similar to coconut milk but contains less water. The difference is mainly consistency. It has a thicker, more paste-like consistency, while coconut milk is generally a liquid. Coconut cream is used as an ingredient in cooking, having a mild non-sweet taste.

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Anyway – coconut cream/milk is a perfect substitute for the dairy in  this chowder.  The fresh corn is the real key here so try to use fresh corn rather than canned or frozen.  The fresh corn is far sweeter than the coconut cream & overpowers the coconut almost completely.  In fact – my boyfriend says he hates coconut but I bet if I served him this chowder – he would never guess what it was made from.

This is easy as pie.  And really good!  If you do not like spicy food, omit the jalapenos & hot sauce.  If you cannot find red jalapenos (or are eschewing them entirely) add some diced carrots or diced red bell pepper – just for color.

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Spicy Vegan Corn Chowder with Coconut Cream & Cilantro

INGREDIENTS

8 ears fresh corn on the cob

1 13.5 oz can of coconut cream or coconut milk (light version if you prefer)

1 large potato – peeled & diced

1 large onion – diced

2 (or more) jalapenos (red if possible) – seeded & diced (use a red bell pepper here if you do not like spice)

4 cups vegetable stock

2 tsp sriracha or other hot sauce (optional)

1 lime

fresh cilantro

olive oil

S&P to taste

DIRECTIONS

Cut the corn from the cobs.  Take the dull side of a large knife & run it down all sides of each corn cob with a bit of pressure – over a bowl.  This is called “milking the corn.”  Reserve this corn milk.

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Heat 2 TBS olive oil in a stock pot.  Add the onion & jalapenos & saute until the onions are soft & translucent.  Add potato & corn & stir.  Add the stock, hot sauce, corn milk & the coconut milk.  Stir.  Add about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low & simmer for about 30 minutes or until the potato & corn are tender.

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See the corn “milk” mush on the top??

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With a slotted spoon, scoop out some (maybe a cup or two) of the solid veggies & reserve in a bowl.  You will use this later to garnish the soup when you serve it.

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With a blender or food processor or immersion blender – puree the remaining soup.  Add S&P to taste.  At this point – you can squeeze in the juice of half a lime – or you can opt to serve the soup with lime wedges & let folks control the amount of citrus in their chowder.

To serve – ladle some puree into bowls.  Top with a spoonful of the solid veggies & some more chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley) and a wedge of lime.  Fresh cracked pepper – more hot sauce?  Your call.

Some crispy fried shallots would be pretty nice on this – as would a good drizzle of basil oil.

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Brown Rice Arancini or Fried Rice Balls with Three Cheeses

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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I love arancini which are simply breaded rice balls traditionally made with risotto.  I made these once with grits (recipe HERE) & absolutely loved them – maybe more than the risotto variety.  They froze & reheated very well, too.

Looking at my giant container of bulk rate brown rice – I thought – why not try making arancini with brown rice rather than arborio?  And so I did.  I fried mine but I think you can bake these at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes & get virtually the same (and somewhat healthier) result.

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Brown Rice Arancini or Fried Rice Balls with Three Cheeses

INGREDIENTS

4 cups cooked brown rice

3-4 eggs

1 tsp each of S&P

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup grated Parmesan (or grated Gruyere)

Fresh mozzarella AND/OR goat cheese – cubed

Olive oil (enough for frying the arancini – if you are frying – less if you are baking them)

2 cups bread crumbs or panko (maybe more)

1 cup flour (maybe more)

several sprigs fresh rosemary – finely chopped

additional chopped parsley as garnish

And you might was some spicy tomato sauce to serve these on.

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DIRECTIONS

Cook the rice & allow it to cool.

Blend the rice with ONE egg, salt, pepper, oregano, basil and grated cheese.

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In the palm of your hand scoop a small quantity of this mic & press a cube of either mozzarella or goat cheese (or other cheese) into the center & add more rice mix on top.  Form into a ball about the size of a golf ball.  Place onto a wax paper lined cooking sheet & repeat until all the rice mix is gone.

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CHILL the arancini at least 30 minutes so they can solidify a bit.

Pre-heat your oven to 425.

To assemble – mix the chopped rosemary into the flour.  Put the flour in one bowl, whisk the two eggs in another bowl & place the breadcrumbs or panko in a third bowl.  Dredge each rice ball first through the flour then the egg & then the breadcrumbs.  You might need to add more flour or egg or breadcrumbs to the bowls to complete all the arancini.

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If frying – heat enough olive oil to reach about half way up the rice balls.  Fry in small batches, placing the finished balls on a cooking sheet in the warmed oven until all are fried.

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OR – skip the frying & simply drizzle a little olive oil on the arancini & bake them all at 425 for 20-30 minutes or until the balls are evenly golden.  They might require being turned a bit.

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I serve these with my easy arrabbiata sauce and extra chopped parsley as a garnish.  Again – these freeze & reheat very well.

Enjoy!

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“Back off, Bitch” Rigatoni & Vodka Sauce Eggplant Timbale with Basil Oil

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

 

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A long, long time ago, I had a boyfriend – a different boyfriend than my current beau, the charming Miles Miller.  And that boyfriend had – egads! – ex-girlfriends.  One of these ex-girlfriends was (and remains) a famous actress.  A beautiful, famous actress.  She had been reaching out to him to “reconnect.”  My boyfriend at the time announced that he would be having dinner with this ex at some point in the future.  I informed him that I would be attending this dinner myself.  He looked at me like I was crazy.  “Nothing’s going on,” he explained.  “She just wants to get together.  We are friends.”  I explained that, as his live-in girlfriend, his friends should be my friends, too, and asked that if everything was so innocent, why couldn’t he just invite her over to our home for dinner.

It took a bit but I won this debate.  The invitation was extended & then the pressure was on.  ME.  On me because I had to cook the damned dinner – a dinner to impress this chick.  I wanted to impress her with both my culinary skills & with the level of our domesticity.  It was a passive-aggressive counter-attack to what I sensed were not entirely innocent intentions on her part.

This was pre-internet and pre-40 million cooking shows – so I had only my trusty collection of cookbooks to consult for ideas.  After hours of deliberating – I ended up making two dishes I had never made before – always very dangerous if making a good impression is your top priority.  I made a two-color soup much like this one (this one here is not my creation):

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Photo borrowed from HERE.

And I made an eggplant timbale as shown here in this blog.  As fate would have it, my dinner was a huge success & the ex-girlfriend was smart & funny & charming & the two of us were quickly gabbing like old friends, nearly cutting my boyfriend from the conversation completely.

And – for the record, ladies (and gents) – this ex-girlfriend never “reached out” to “touch base” again – to either me or my boyfriend.  So – my instincts had been correct.  She had been perhaps interested in rekindling more than just old times.  But – to her credit – once she met me, she was forever respectful and was never again a threat to our domestic bliss.

So – if you ever need to impress someone or scare off some interested interloper from meddling with your love life – serve them this whopper of a dish.  It is far easier to make than folks guess and it tastes delicious – and it is classier than a slap fight & hair pulling.

As a side note – I didn’t really manage to get a photo of my effort last night that captured how impressive & elegant this dish can be.  I really underachieved on that front this time.  HERE are the Google images of other versions of this dish.  Some people cut the purple off their eggplant and some simply bake the eggplant into pliant submission.  In these cases – the result is a more uniform, monochromatic exterior that I feel is far less appealing.  They end up looking oddly slimy or, worse yet, fleshy.  So – I recommend the grilled version not only for the flavor that imparts but also for the visual.

I originally intended to add peas to this dish – also for the visual – but decided on a vibrant green basil oil, instead.  But if you like peas – just add a cup when you mix the filling.  The basil oil is a nice touch but TOTALLY optional.  Also – if you want a lighter dish – just use straight arrabbiata – rather than vodka sauce.  T o achieve this – simply omit the heavy cream from the recipe below.  I used mozzarella & goat cheese in this.  You might want to use feta or cheddar or smoked mozzarella, instead.  Smoked mozzarella with arrabbiata in this dish work really well.  Experiment.  Use your imagination.  You can’t really mess this up.

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Also – as an aside, I bought this fucking gigantic can (I know canned tomatoes are bad but sometimes you gotta bend rules) of tomato sauce for $2.69.  That is practically free!  It makes 12 cups of whatever the Hell sauce you are making.  I made arrabbiata (surprise, surprise) and I froze 8 cups of it & used 4 cups of it to make the vodka sauce in this recipe.

Here is the recipe using the entire 6+ pound can shown above.

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Arrabbiata Sauce – large quantity

INGREDIENTS

12 cups tomato sauce

1 cup olive oil

10 garlic cloves – chopped

2 TBS crushed red pepper

1 cup chopped parsley

1 cup chopped basil

1 TBS pepper

1 TBS sugar

1 tsp salt

1 TBS oregano

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil & saute garlic, crushed red pepper & oregano for a minute or two.  Add the tomato sauce – being careful not to get burned by the sputtering oil.  Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low & simmer for 30 minutes or more.

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“Back off, Bitch” Rigatoni & Vodka Sauce Eggplant Timbale with Basil Oil

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE VODKA SAUCE:

1/3 cup olive oil

3 garlic cloves – chopped

2 tsp crushed red pepper

1/2 cup parsley – chopped

1/2 cup basil – chopped

4 cups tomato sauce

1 pint heavy cream

1/2 cup vodka (optional)

1 tsp pepper 1 tsp sugar

1 tsp oregano

salt to taste

FOR THE BASIL OIL:

1 packed cup of fresh basil

3/4 cup high quality olive oil

FOR THE TIMBALE:

1 pound rigatoni

1/2 pound fresh mozzarella – diced

3 oz goat cheese

3 large eggplants

bread crumbs

Chopped tomato or chopped fresh parsley or basil – as garnish

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

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BASIL OIL –

Blanch the basil in boiling water for 10-20 seconds than plunge into ice water.  Squeeze out the water & puree in a food processor with olive oil & salt to taste.  Go light on the salt.  Set aside.

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VODKA SAUCE –

Heat oil & saute garlic, crushed red pepper & oregano for a minute or two.  Add the vodka & cook for a minute or so being careful not to get burned by the sputtering oil – then add the tomato sauce & heavy cream.   Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low & simmer for 30 minutes or more until sauce thickens a bit.

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FOR THE TIMBALE –

Slice the eggplants into 1/4 inch slices.  You can go the long way or the other way – creating round disks.  Place in colanders or on paper towels & sprinkle with salt on both sides.  Let the eggplants drain for about 30 minutes.  This not only helps remove moisture from the eggplant but also minimizes bitterness.

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You can either rub olive oil into your eggplant before grilling or you can dip them in an Italian salad dressing – really just to lubricate them so they do not stick to the grilling surface & tear apart.  Grill (a grill pan works, too) the eggplant until they get nice grill marks on one side, turn them & repeat.  Remove & set aside.

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Cook the rigatoni according to the box directions.  Err on the side of under-cooking – as they will cook more in the oven.  Drain the rigatoni & mix in a bowl with cheeses (you can substitute smoked mozzarella or Parmesan or cheddar cheeses – if you prefer) & 2 cups of vodka sauce.  Add more sauce if you like a really wet pasta.  You will have extra vodka sauce that you can use to add as a garnish to the finished slices of timbale or to use in another recipe.  It might be nice to have extra sauce for the timbale when you are in the leftovers phase.

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ASSEMBLY-

Grease a spring form pan & then put some bread crumbs inside.  Swirl the pan to coat all the surfaces with bread crumbs.  Throw any unstuck bread crumbs away.

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Line the inside of the pan with grilled eggplant.  You can either do as I did here or, if you have circular disks, fan them on the bottom of the pan & then stick some, overlapping, up on the sides.  However you do it – try to cover every part of the pan with eggplant.  Pour the pasta & vodka sauce & cheese mix in.  Top with any remaining eggplant slices.

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Cover the timbale in foil & place some heavy dishes on top & put in the fridge to compress for about 30 minutes.

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Then – remove the foil & bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  Let rest, unmolested, for at least ten minutes and then put a serving dish on top of the timbale, flip the whole thing over & then very carefully – remove the spring form pan.

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Place slices on plates & drizzle with basil oil (if using).  Garnish with either chopped tomatoes or chopped basil or parsley.

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Thai Chili Lemongrass Grilled Shrimp with Sweet Basil & Lime Fried Rice

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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I went to the Asian market yesterday & bought a few things that struck me as suiting shrimp well.  While some of the ingredients I bought (and used in this recipe) might be hard to find where you live – no one of them are critical to this dish & most can be substituted with ingredients found in most large grocery stores.  So – do not be intimidated by the ingredients in this dish.  Once the shrimp have marinated  & the rice is cooked – this comes together very easily & is bursting with flavors.  Treat yourself!

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Thai Chili Lemongrass Grilled Shrimp with Sweet Basil & Lime Fried Rice

INGREDIENTS

1 lb large shrimp – peeled & cleaned

4 cups cooked rice (your choice on variety)

FOR THE MARINADE:

1/4 cup fish sauce (or oyster sauce – if fish sauce is unavailable)

1/4 cup fresh lime (or lemon) juice

1 TBS chili paste (sambal oelek or sriracha)

1 stalk lemongrass (or the zest of half a lemon) – bruised with a rolling pin & sliced

1 red (or green) jalapeno – seeded & diced

2 serrano (or other spicy) peppers – seeded and diced

20 Thai (or other) basil leaves – diced

1/4 cup sugar

1 TBS oil (I used olive oil)

4 garlic cloves – minced

FOR THE RICE:

1 TBS chili garlic paste (or sambal oelek or sriracha)

30 Thai sweet basil leaves (or other basil)

1 ear corn – kernels cut from cob (or equivalent canned or frozen) –  optional

1 bunch bunashimeji mushrooms (or enoki or chopped white mushrooms) – optional

2 limes

fresh cilantro

4 TBS oil (I used olive oil)

3 shallots – diced

4 scallions – sliced thinly

6 garlic cloves – minced

2 red (or green) jalapenos

2 TBS fish sauce (or oyster sauce)

3 TBS oyster sauce

1 red bell pepper – seeded & chopped

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DIRECTIONS

Cook your rice to net 4 cups cooked rice.   Clean the shrimp.

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Bruise the lemongrass (if using) by smashing it with a rolling pin to split the sides.  This releases the flavor & aroma.  Chop it up in 1-2 inch chunks.

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Whisk the fish (or oyster) sauce with the juice of your lime (or lemon) and then whisk in the sugar until it dissolves.  Combine all the other ingredients (chili paste, lemongrass (or lemon zest), jalapeno, serranos, chopped basil, oil & garlic_ and toss with the shrimp to coat completely.  Marinate in a glass bowl or zip lock bag – in the fridge – for as long as possible (at least an hour but 3-4 is even better).  Agitate the marinade ever 30 minutes or so to evenly distribute flavors.

Heat a grill or grill pan & cook your shrimp over high heat until JUST cooked through.  Err on the side of under-cooked as they will continue to cook after being removed from the heat.

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In a wok or other large frying or saute pan, heat the oil and add the chopped shallots, garlic, scallions, jalapenos, bell pepper, corn, mushrooms, & about HALF of the chopped basil.  After a few minutes, add the fish & oyster sauces, the chili garlic paste and saute another 5 minutes or so.  Add the 4 cups of cooked rice & blend well.  Right before serving – stir in the rest of the chopped basil and squeeze in the juice of half a lime.

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Serve by placing a portion of rice on each plate & several grilled shrimp.  Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro & be sure to squeeze fresh lime over the rice AND the shrimp.  Place a lime wedge on each dish.  Serve!

Get ready to eat like a prison inmate, crouched over your plate, protecting its contents and growling at any errant hand that strays too close for your comfort.  This dish is ridiculously tasty!

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Fried Green Tomato & Mozzarella Napoleon Towers with Fresh Basil Chiffonade

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

I love fried green tomatoes.  I had my first one ever in Vicksburg, Mississippi on a cross country driving trip & I have been obsessed ever since.  Sadly – I find they are seldom well executed – even in the south.  Sometimes too bready, sometimes soggy, sometimes laden with icky cheese – whatever.   For these ones here – I intentionally skipped the three stage dredging thru flour, dipping in egg & then in breadcrumbs so that I would get the thinnest possible crust.  I used a cornmeal mix & wet tomatoes only.  Once they were frying – I removed each from the pan & again pressed them into the cornmeal because the single layer was too fragile for the hot oil.  I was very happy with the result.  If you want a breadier exterior – simply add salt & pepper to some flour in one bowl, whisked egg in another & then either this cornmeal mix or a breadcrumb (regular or panko) variation in a third – and simply coat your tomato in first the flour, then egg & then breadcrumbs – & proceed with the rest of the recipe or just eat them up on the spot.

I didn’t use a real green tomato here.  I used a fairly hard green heirloom tomato.  It worked wonderfully.  If you know where to buy green tomatoes in Los Angeles – let me know!

The quantity below was for two little towers.  Increase it at will.

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Fried Green Tomato & Mozzarella Napoleon Towers

serves one

INGREDIENTS

1 green tomato

1 ripe red or heirloom tomato

4 slices of fresh mozzarella or several bocconcini (slices will be easier)

1/3 cup corn meal (or breadcrumbs)

1/4 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp flour

1/4 tsp Cajun spices (optional)

Ranch dressing (optional)

oil for frying ( I used cheap olive oil)

fresh basil chiffonade (explained HERE) –  or just chop it up into ribbons for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the green tomato so you have 4 decent 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices.  Get two equally sized slices from your red or heirloom tomato & then dice the rest for garnish.

Blend all the dry ingredients in a small bowl.

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Wet the green tomato & coat with the cornmeal mix.

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Heat the oil & when hot – fry the green tomatoes.  You can dip them in the cornmeal a second time during the frying process to get a better coating.  When nicely golden – remove from the oil & drain on a paper towel.

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Assemble the Napoleon towers by putting two slices of fried green tomato on a greased cooking sheet.  Tom with the red or heirloom tomato then with the mozzarella then the other green tomato slices & then more mozzarella.  I spiked mine with half a wooden skewer (to hold them upright) – but toothpicks will work, too.  Bake at 350 for ten minutes or until the mozzarella is all melted.

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Put on a plate, remove the toothpicks & garnish with the chopped tomato & basil chiffonade.  I watered down a few tablespoons of a good Ranch dressing & drizzled it over these but I don’t think I will in the future.  Serve!

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Collard Green Burrito Wrap with Hoppin’ John Leftovers

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

These guys are awesome!!!  Sure – I filled mine with even MORE leftover Hoppin’ John – but these could be made with any filling – warm or cold – that you prefer.  Maybe ground beef & rice or a chopped salad or beans & cheese.  Anything goes.  Stuff them with anything you would put in a burrito or a cold wrap or something with which you would stuff cabbage or bell peppers.  Top them with a red sauce and cheese or a meat sauce or dip them in a dressing or aioli.  These wraps are perfect for those not wanting the gluten or calories of a traditional wrap.  The collard greens are pretty substantial, too, and really stand up to some manhandling.  There is really no formal recipe to post.  The ones pictured here were stuffed with a blend of 3 cups of Hoppin’ John & 2 cups of cooked white rice.  I had more stuffing that the eight wraps I had required.  I then topped it with the heirloom tomato & avocado salsa of my Hoppin’ John Fritters post.

All you need to do is get some collard greens & cut the spine out.  Then immerse them in boiling water for about a minute, then plunge them into cold water.

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Take each leaf, cut it in half, overlap the sides, place a bit of filling on top, tuck the sides in & roll – continuing to tuck the sides.  In the case of a cold wrap – you are done.  Mine required heat so I put them in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

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Leftover Hoppin’ John Fritters with Heirloom Tomato & Avocado Salsa

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

Follow @celisemccarthy

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

I made enough Hoppin’ John to cater a friggin’ party.  I’ve been eating it since a few days before New Year’s & I froze some & I still have more than I can possibly eat.  I had to find a way to reinvent these black eyed peas so that I could keep eating them & not waste any.  Necessity – the mother of invention.  Let me present to you – Hoppin’ John Fritters with a delicious tomato & avocado salsa!!!

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Very easy & really delicious.  I served it with leftover white rice & I was quite delighted with myself.  I also made myself little fried green tomato & mozzarella towers – but I will post that recipe later this week.

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Leftover Hoppin’ John Fritters with Heirloom Tomato & Avocado Salsa

INGREDIENTS

Makes about ten fritters

2 cups Hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas)

1/4 cup flour (I used a gluten free variety)

1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used panko AND regular ones)

1 cup additional breadcrumbs

1 egg

SALSA

DOUBLE (maybe even triple) THIS SALSA RECIPE if you are serving all ten fritters.

1 large avocado – diced

1/2 jalapeno – diced fine (optional)

1/2 heirloom tomato – diced

12 cherry or grape tomatoes – quartered

juice of 1/2 lime

drizzle of olive oil

cilantro – chopped (for salsa & garnish)

S&P to taste

oil for frying (I used cheap olive oil)

DIRECTIONS

For the Fritters:

Put two cups of Hoppin’ John in a bowl & mash them up a bit with a potato masher.  Blend in the flour, egg and 1/2 cup bread crumbs.  Form into patties (I got 10 out of this quantity) and press each patty into the remaining bread crumbs to coat all sides.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or more) to let them solidify a bit.

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Meanwhile, for the salsa:

Try to get different color cherry or grape tomatoes & a different color heirloom tomato for a pretty salsa.  Simply mix all the ingredients except for the avocado.  Add that just before serving.

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Take your fritters from the fridge.  I pressed a little extra bread crumbs into them.  Heat the olive oil and carefully place your fritters in – a few at a time.  Fry until they are golden (2 minutes or so) & turn.  When evenly browned – remove & place on a warm pan in the oven until all your fritters are done.

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Served topped with salsa, fresh cilantro & a nice side of rice!

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