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Monday
Aug122013

Flavorful Potato Veggie Frittata

Flavorful Potato Veggie Frittata

I’m in love with this frittata! I’ve made them once or twice before, but they never really thrilled me. This one does. Last week, Billy wanted “some kind of eggs” with mushrooms and tomatoes. Um, okay… That could end up being very boring. But not this way! Trying to avoid another boring frittata, I’ve added diced potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, green onions, and also some thyme, tarragon and garlic. It’s so full of flavor! Season at each cooking step and you can’t get anything but lots of flavor.

Flavorful Potato Veggie Frittata

I’m working against the clock here, but if I finish this post today, this will be a great recipe for Meatless Monday.

This frittata is made in a 9 x 13 inch pan. You know what that means. Leftovers! I can vouch for this being just as delicious the next day. It could also mean that this recipe is good for when you need to feed more than a few people. I cut ours into eight squares. You could certainly cut them smaller if you were putting them out for a brunch buffet or even a holiday breakfast.

Now let’s get to the recipe. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. This “recipe” is a guideline. I love it as is, but if you absolutely hate one of the ingredients, go ahead and substitute something else. No big deal! If you’re adding in a watery vegetable, it’s a good idea to sauté it first and get the extra liquid out so you don’t have a watery frittata. Do you want to add some sausage, ham or bacon? Be my guest! In fact, those would be wonderful additions. Want to switch cheeses? Do it! No matter how you make it, it’s a hearty meal.

Flavorful Potato Veggie Frittata

Flavorful Potato Veggie Frittata
Makes a 9 x 13 pan

12-15 small potatoes, diced in about 1/2 inch chunks
Olive oil, for sautéing vegetables
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound sliced baby Portabella mushrooms (or your favorite)
5-6 green onions, sliced (both white and green parts)
6 -7 ounces grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 large garlic clove, minced
Pinch of dried thyme
Pinch of dried tarragon
1 dozen large eggs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup half and half
Crumbled feta cheese, enough to sprinkle over the entire frittata (I used the better part of a 12 oz container. Because I love cheeeese.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil, lightly grease, and set aside.

Heat a few teaspoons of oil in a skillet that has a lid on medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes and sprinkle in some salt and pepper to season them. Let them sit without stirring for a few minutes to let them get brown on the bottoms. Sauté for about 5 minutes total, reduce heat and cover for about 3 minutes, then stir and give them about 3 more minutes, uncovered. Stir occasionally.

When the potatoes are done, pour them in the prepared 9 x 13 pan, spreading them all over.

In the same skillet, add a little more oil and then add the mushrooms, green onions, tomatoes, garlic, a couple pinches salt and pepper, the thyme and the tarragon. Cook until the vegetables are cooked down, about 8-10 minutes or so. When they're done, pour them over the potatoes in the pan. Again, try to get some everywhere in the pan so you get some in every bite.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, parmesan cheese, half and half, and a couple pinches of salt and pepper. Whisk it all up well! Pour over the vegetables and potatoes in the pan. Top with feta cheese.

Bake for 40-45 minutes. It's done when you stick a knife in the center and it comes out clean. Mine was done at 40 minutes, so start checking then.

Flavorful Potato Veggie Frittata

Friday
Jul202012

Insalata Caprese with Fried Buitoni Ravioli

Insalata Caprese with Fried Buitoni Ravioli

Billy and I absolutely love Insalata Caprese. We have it all summer long with tomatoes and basil plucked right out of the garden. It’s incredibly simple to make, and especially wonderful on a hot afternoon or evening when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen. The sweet tomatoes, warm from the sun, the fragrant basil, and tender, fresh mozzarella slices--drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar is absolutely perfect. We also love some fresh cracked black pepper and a touch of kosher salt sprinkled over.

Insalata Caprese with Fried Buitoni Ravioli

Sometimes though, you’re left feeling hungry a while later. What if we turn that Insalata Caprese into a meal? Yes, let’s! Enter Buitoni Fresh Chicken Marsala Ravioli with all natural white meat chicken, roasted Portobello mushrooms and caramelized onions with Ricotta, Parmesan, and Asiago cheeses, accented with Marsala Wine. It’s one of their new fresh pasta products and it’s wonderful! I was given the opportunity to try some of their new ravioli--and how could I say no? We love Buitoni’s products!

I pan fried the ravioli to give them a nice crunchy texture to contrast with the soft tomatoes and mozzarella. They’re so simple to prepare this way and it doesn’t take long at all. I had dinner ready in under 30 minutes, and most of that time was used slicing the salad ingredients.

Insalata Caprese with Fried Buitoni Ravioli

Insalata Caprese with Fried Ravioli

Serves about 4 people, depending on their appetites.

I like to serve a nice baguette alongside to soak up the oil, vinegar and juices from the tomatoes that you’ll have left in your plate. You don’t want to waste those!

A note about the bread crumb mixture. I hate it when I’m breading something and I run out of the mixture and need to stop and make more, so I always make more than I need. This makes enough to bread three 9 ounce packages of ravioli and them some. So I did 3 packs so we could have leftovers. Dip them in marinara for a fun snack!

2-3 (9 oz) packages of fresh Buitoni Ravioli (your choice of flavor)
3 eggs
1 tbsp water
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
oil for cooking
4-5 medium tomatoes (I used a mixture of garden and Kumato tomatoes-see note)
1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
One good sized bunch of basil
Olive oil
Balsamic Cream or balsamic vinegar (see note)
A bit of kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Beat the eggs in a bowl with the 1 tbsp of water. Set aside. In another bowl, big enough to coat the ravioli in-but not huge, mix the panko, the parmesan and Italian seasoning.

Take the ravioli and one at a time, dip them in egg to coat, then drop in the bread crumb mixture. Be sure to coat them all over. Set them aside on a plate or large cutting board until you're ready to cook them. Don’t stack them or they’ll get soggy.

Heat a large pan over medium to medium high heat. When it's hot, add enough oil to coat the bottom with about 1/4-1/2 inch of oil. Let the oil get hot--you don't want to drop the ravioli into cold oil. They'll just sit there and soak up oil and not fry correctly. To test the oil, drop a bit of breadcrumb in the pan. If it sizzles, you’re good to go. If not, let it heat a little more.

So, your oil is hot. Drop the ravioli in the pan in a single layer. Give them about a minute then flip when they're golden brown. Cook on the second side for another minute or so, until they're golden brown all over. Drain on paper towels. I was able to fit one pack at a time in the pan--about 11-12 ravioli. If you see your ravioli is getting too dark, reduce the heat.

Bread crumbs have a tendency to hang out in the oil and burn, so I emptied the pan and started with new oil for the second batch. You be the judge, but burned bread crumbs will make them taste awful. And really, it only takes 2-3 minutes to fry each batch, so it's a really fast process, and not a lot of work. I hope you'll try these!

To assemble the salad:  On a plate, alternate the ravioli, tomato and mozzarella slices and basil leaves in a wreath shape. If you want single serving sizes for appetizers, give each guest a little stack of alternating ingredients in their own plate.

Drizzle with a good fruity olive oil and balsamic. Sprinkle some salt and pepper lightly over the top. Don’t forget your bread to soak up the juices in the plate!

  • NOTE: We love Kumato tomatoes when our garden isn’t giving us tomatoes yet. They are amazingly full of fresh tomato flavor. Trader Joe’s has them, but I’ve seen them popping up in grocery stores, too.
  • NOTE: Balsamic Cream. Pastene is the brand I find in my grocery store, but last week, I saw that Trader Joe’s is carrying some, too. What is it? Aside from being delicious, it’s thick and slightly sweeter than regular balsamic vinegar. Try it--I’ll bet you fall in love with it like we did.
  • For quick dinners, pick up some pastas and sauces from Buitoni! And don’t feel limited to just boiling them, even though that’s fine. Experiment and have fun! I took some ravioli and turned a lighter salad into a heartier main dish--get creative!

Insalata Caprese with Fried Buitoni Ravioli



Thursday
May312012

Breaking Bread: Italian Deli Focaccia

Italian Deli Focaccia

I love bread. Especially when it’s fresh and warm (or steaming hot!) from the oven. Focaccia is one of those breads that is so versatile. You have the basic dough, and then as far as toppings, they sky is the limit--do you want savory, sweet, herby, cheesy, meaty, or veggie? Use your imagination!

That’s just what I did when Shulie of Food Wanderings asked me if I’d like to join the Bread Baking Society. They want to (from Lora’s site) “inspire you to bake more bread in your kitchen. We want you to bake along with us every month and break bread with your family and friends. We want to spark a bread baking passion across the nation and the world around.” There are three founders--Shulie, Lora of Cake Duchess, and Marnely of Cooking with Books.  Please see Lora’s site, Cake Duchess for the info on the BBS!

When Shulie asked me to join in, she said she couldn’t wait to see my twist on a focaccia. Uh oh...a twist. Hmmmm… “I’d better make it something good,” I thought. I’m so happy that she put it that way, because it really got me thinking! While talking to Billy about what I could top it with, the idea slammed right into my head. Italian deli sandwich. I could take my favorite things from one of those and top off this bread! I couldn’t put everything on it, of course--that would be too much. But I pulled some of the most flavorful aspects from the sandwich to use here.

Italian Deli Focaccia

Salty hard salami, sharp Provolone, sweet red onion, and tender tomatoes. And how could I not use vinegar, oil and some flavor packed dried herbs? I also picked up a jar of sliced deli peppers to use--and forgot to add them. Gah! Next time.

For the bread, I went with pretty much my bread baking usual, the Artisan Bread in Five method. In a busy home with six people, this bread baking method has changed my life! It takes literally five minutes to mix up the dough, and there’s no kneading. Just let it rise in the container for 2 hours at room temp, then toss it in the fridge. Want bread? Take some of the dough, shape it, let it rest 20 minutes, and bake. EASY. And you can bake any kind of bread your heart desires! If you’re still on the fence about trying it, I urge you to please give it a try.

I used the Master Recipe from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day. If you like pizza and other flatbreads (and who doesn’t?) you need to give this book a try. Whip up the dough and you can be having a pizza party in no time. Your family and friends will love you for it!

Italian Deli Focaccia

Italian Deli Focaccia

Italian Deli Focaccia

Makes one Focaccia, roughly 17 x 12 inches

  • Prepare the Artisan Pizza and Flatbread Master Recipe, found here. Just the water, oil, yeast, salt and flour, not the toppings. You’ll have half the dough left, so you can make another focaccia or some pizza!
  • Let it rise for 2 hours at room temp, and for easier handling, chill it in the fridge for a bit

Toppings:

6 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp freshly minced garlic (one clove)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
pinch of kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Sliced Hard Salami, cut in strips (about 1/2 cup total)
Sliced Provolone cheese, also cut in strips
Thinly sliced red onion
About 1 cup of grape tomatoes, halved

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line an 18x13 inch (or roughly the same size) baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly brush it with olive oil, set aside.

Whisk the oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper in a small bowl, set aside.

Sprinkle the dough in the container with a bit of flour. With a serrated knife, cut the dough in half, and using floured hands, pull half of it out. Quickly shape it into a ball and set it on your lined baking sheet. Flatten it with your hands and keep gently pressing and dimpling it with your fingertips until it's filled most of the sheet.

Brush it with the oil and vinegar mixture. I used all of it, being sure to get most of the garlic and herbs on the dough, and also--brush the oil all the way to the edges of the dough.

Gently press the tomatoes on the dough, and then sprinkle the other toppings over. Let it rest for 20 minutes.

After the 20 minutes, dimple the entire focaccia again with your fingertips. This helps the toppings stay on during baking.

Place the sheet on the middle rack in your oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Check it after 15 minutes to see if it's browning too quickly. If it is, turn the pan around.

Remove from the oven when done, and place the focaccia on a rack to cool for a few minutes. Then pig out like we did! OINK!

  • This is great as is, but we made open faced sandwiches with it for dinner. I took squares of the focaccia, topped them with a slice of salami and a slice of provolone, and heated them under the broiler to melt the cheese.
  • Don’t feel limited to these toppings--use what you like! And don’t forget the peppers, like I did.
  • Picnic season is upon us! This would be fabulous at any outdoor gathering. 

Italian Deli Focaccia



Monday
Jun202011

Bowties with No-Cook Mascarpone Pesto Sauce

Bowties with No-Cook Mascarpone Pesto Sauce

Yeah, I know. It’s hot, and you don’t want to cook. Totally get that. If you can stand the heat long enough to boil some pasta, then you can enjoy a fantastic dinner with this no-cook sauce. The sauce is a super easy blend of mascarpone, parmesan, pesto and a few other seasonings. It’s rich, creamy and packed with flavor. Plus, it's Meatless Monday!

No-cook sauces are such a great thing to have in your recipe arsenal in the summertime! You can quickly get the pasta made and while it’s cooking, you can throw a fabulous sauce together in no time at all. Use your favorites, and if you’ve got a garden, you’re ahead of the game! Tomatoes, herbs, peppers, cucumbers--you name it. Add some cheese and any seasonings you like, as well. Got leftovers in the fridge? Maybe some bacon, chicken, or shrimp? Add that in, too! Pick up a baguette to go with it and you’ve got a great meal.

Mascarpone. It’s easy and relatively inexpensive for me to find at Trader Joes. I’m positive that Whole Foods has it, but not sure of the price. I can’t always find it at my local regular grocery store. Not to worry of you can’t get it easily! Go ahead and use some ricotta instead. Check out these other ideas from one of my favorite sites, The Cooks Thesaurus:

Substitutes: Blend 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 1/4 cup whipping cream. OR Blend 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup cream OR Blend 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 1/8 cup whipping cream and 1/8 cup sour cream. OR Whip ricotta cheese in a blender until smooth (lower in fat)

I use the Paul Prudhomme Pizza and Pasta Magic seasoning in this recipe--well, I use it in a lot of recipes! I just happened to come across it at the store one day and threw it in the cart. It’s one of my new secret ingredients. If you can’t find it locally, you can pick some up at Amazon. It’s worth it! You’ll start wondering what else you can add it to.

Bowties with No-Cook Mascarpone Pesto Sauce

Bowties with No-Cook Mascarpone Pesto Sauce

Nicely coats one pound of cooked pasta. This can be used as a guideline-add what you like and make it to suit your tastes.

-No-cook sauce:
8 oz mascarpone
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1 tsp Paul Prudhomme Pizza/Pasta Magic or other comparable seasoning
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
3 heaping tbsp prepared pesto, or more to taste
fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water (taken out of the pot while it's cooking)
_______________________________________________________

16 oz pasta
16 oz small heirloom tomatoes, or cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half 
1/2 cup sliced fresh basil
more parmesan for sprinkling over

-Optional:
pine nuts

Mix all of the sauce ingredients together with a whisk, being sure to add some of that hot pasta water to loosen it up. Set aside.

After pasta is cooked and drained, pour it into a large bowl. Pour the sauce over the pasta and gently mix, stirring in the tomatoes and basil.

Check for seasoning and serve. Sprinkle with more parmesan, if you like, and pine nuts, if you've got them.

Bowties with No-Cook Mascarpone Pesto Sauce



Wednesday
Mar232011

Gyros For Those Who Don’t Like Lamb

Gyros

I’ve been meaning to make these for ages! Can you believe I’ve never had a Gyro? It’s true. The problem is…I don’t really care for lamb. Some of you will respond “You’ve never had it done properly, then,” to which I say “Correct!” It’s true. I had a pretty good bite of it once, from a local Greek restaurant, off of a friend’s plate. It was better than I’d anticipated, but not really any wow factor to make me rush out and get my own. I had a horrible experience one Christmas…I won’t say who in the family cooked it, (because I love my husband and don’t want to piss off his mom, haha!) but it was inedible. Like chewing on a gamey, rubber soled shoe. That had been cooked beyond recognition. And then boiled to death. So, yeah-not a fan of lamb.

Billy loves Gyros, so I wanted to find a good recipe for them. I had nothing to go on, since I’d never had one, but you really can’t miss with Alton Brown. While I was looking at recipes for authentic Gyros, his recipe was mentioned on several sites and given very high praise for being spot on, so I went with his.

Brown’s recipe calls for two pounds of ground lamb. I was expecting this. I was going to be brave. I knew I’d recently seen ground lamb at my local grocery store, but they were completely out when I went shopping. Plan B: A meatloaf mix of pork, beef and veal. It would have to do, because I wasn’t going to go all over town looking for lamb.

The recipe is simple-you’re just basically making a meatloaf. The difference is that when it’s done cooking, you’re going to weigh it down (with a brick) to get that loaf all compressed--so it isn’t going to crumble up like a soft, tender meatloaf would.

While I’m on the subject, why do most TV chefs/cookbook authors assume that every household has a brick lying around? We don’t have a brick. No pile o’ bricks out back next to the old clunkers hidden by the long grass. No. None of that stuff. I suppose I could go out and buy a brick. One brick. How silly! We weighed it down with some heavy cans from the pantry and a ten pound weight. It was a little wobbly, but it did the trick.

You can find the recipe at FoodNetwork.com. It even has rotisserie instructions, if you’d like to torture yourself by trying to cook two pounds of ground meat on a small stick. A big debate I saw when looking at recipes was whether or not to sauté the meat slices before assembling the Gyros. Some do, some don’t find it necessary. Since Billy likes them sautéed, that’s what we did. It also adds some nice color and a bit of flavor to the meat, which looks very pale out of the oven.

Notes:

  • Billy gave these two thumbs up! He said they’re just like the ones he’s had over the years. I also loved them-and will definitely make them again! These will be a fun summer food, and since the meat is sliced so thinly, it’ll serve a crowd.
  • We couldn't find any flatbreads we really liked, so we took pizza crust dough, rolled out small rounds, and cooked those on hot stones in the oven for two minutes on each side. PERFECT. Soft, fluffy-and yet sturdy enough to hold the fillings without falling apart or leaking. You could also do those on the grill!
  • The Tzatziki sauce, I thought, was lacking something. The first time I added a bit of cilantro, and the second time--fresh dill. We really enjoyed both!
  • Don’t worry if the meat itself is a little bland tasting. It’s meant to be eaten with the Tzatziki, tomatoes, and onions. When you have all of them together, it’s a flavor packed sandwich.
  • I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the recipe, but I do completely trust Alton. So, please, no comments about this being “not the way it’s done,” or “a slap in the face to the Greek culture and it’s food,” hehe. Yes, it’s happened before. Winking smile

Gyros

See how sautéing the meat slices gives it a nice color? Better color than this:

Gyro Meat

But that’s to show you how compressed it’ll be after weighing it down for 20 minutes.

Gyros