Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bruschetta with Checca

It's been way too long since I've posted. With the semester coming to a close, I've been busy writing a paper and putting together a presentation. I've also been spending several weekends in northern Georgia doing field work. I'm happy to say that I'm almost done collecting data, so all that's left is data analysis and writing my thesis.

One of the other little appetizers I made last weekend happens to be one of my favorite to order at Italian restaurants. It's also an appetizer that has gained a lot of popularity in the last several years. This bruschetta is the one I think most people idealize: toasty, grilled bread topped with checca, which is a salsa of tomato, olive oil, basil, and fresh mozzarella. Just describing it makes me crave it.

I just have to make one distinction before I write the recipe. Well, it's sort of a nit-picky of my pet peeves. Here it is: the bread is the bruschetta, not the topping. The reason bruschetta came about was because olive oil makers would test their first pressing of oil on grilled bread that they had toasted in the pressing house. The word bruschetta, in Italian, basically means toasted bread. Ok, rant over---here's the recipe:

Bruschetta with Checca
Printable Recipe

5-6 tomatoes (I like roma or the tomatoes that still have the vine attached)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and coarsely-ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
8 oz fresh mozzarella (cut into cubes if using a whole piece, or use mozzarella pearls)
6 cloves garlic
1 large baguette

1. Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and finely dice them. Add them to a medium bowl along with the olive oil, 4 minced cloves of garlic, salt and pepper. Toss the mixture and let is sit in the refrigerator at least and hour before serving, and allow it to come to room temperature before serving.
2. Right before serving, cut the bread into 1/2-3/4" slices. To prepare the bruschetta, you can use a broiler, an outdoor grill, a grill pan, or justbake them in the oven. To broil: heat your broiler and place the bread on a sheet pan. Place the pan on the top rack of your oven and toast for 2 minutes on each side or until they become browned on the edges. To grill: heat your grill or grill pan until warm and then toast the sides of each piece of bread for about 2 minutes or until grill marks show. To bake: arrange the bread on a sheet pan and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the bread for about 10 minutes, or until they become browned on the edges.
3. Once the bread is done, immediately rub each piece with one of the halved garlic cloves.
4. Toss the tomatoes with the basil and mozzarella. Top each piece of bread with the checca.

  • Servings per recipe: 14
  • Calories: 160
  • Fat: 5.8 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 9 mg
  • Sodium: 273 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 19.1 g
  • Fiber: 1.4 g
  • Sugar: 2.2 g
  • Protein: 8.1 g

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sun-dried Tomato and Cannellini Bean Dip

This weekend I had a chill-out night on my porch with my neighbors because we all seriously need a break! I really wanted to make Italian appetizers, so we could have something to eat while hanging out. I wanted to make something easy and different from my other two appetizers (posts yet to come), so I thought I would throw together an easy, healthy dip with veggies. I love cannellini beans, especially made into a dip. I made this dip special by adding sundried tomatoes, which are sweet and turned the dip a pretty peachy color and also add little bits of red. The lemon and herbs make pretty yellow and green specks, too. I love the contrast of the lemon with the creamy beans, and the sundried tomatoes are sweet and earthy. I think this looks really special with the variation in color. I garnished mine with an extra drizzle of olive oil, another chopped tomato, and some parsley to make it pretty.

Sun-dried Tomato and Cannellini Bean Dip
Printable Recipe

3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 lemon
2 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
6-8 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or the olive oil the tomatoes were packed in
2 tbsp fresh parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
black pepper and kosher salt to taste
crudite, for serving

1. Fit your food processor with the metal blade, and with the machine running, drop in the garlic to mince it. Turn the machine off.
2. Add the zest and juice of the lemon to the food processor along with all the rest of the ingredients. Pulse the mixture at first, then allow the machine to run until the dip comes to the consistency of your preference.
3. The dip can be made a day in advance and chilled. Serve with various crudite.

  • Servings per recipe:  10
  • Per servings:
  • Calories: 86
  • Fat: 3 g
  • Saturated fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 67 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 12.2 g
  • Fiber: 4.3 g
  • Sugar: 3 g
  • Protein: 3.9 g

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sweet Spiced Steak

As I have said many times before, I love combining spices like cinnamon, which is seen in sweet dishes, with meat. Without lots of sugar, spices like cinnamon and cloves add a warmth that accentuate the flavor of the meat. Beef especially stands up to these sorts of spices. I did a little globe trotting with this one between the spices, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar, but they all work together. And yes, this is another balsamic vinegar recipe. One of my best friends likes to point out the fact that it's one of the ingredients I use most often, but it has nearly no calories yet provides a lot of flavor. It's a pantry staple.

Sweet Spiced Steak
Printable Recipe

1 medium onion, cut into 3/4-inch thick slices
2 cloves garlic, cracked open and peeled
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 orange, cut into wedges and juiced, rind reserved
2 whole cloves
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 lb 1/2-inch thick lean beef steak, such as boneless sirloin tip, London broil, or flank steak

1. Combine all ingredients in a gallon-sized plastic bag and massage the liquid into the meat. Place the bag in a dish to catch any dribbles that could otherwise land in your fridge and refrigerate at least 2-24 hours.
2. Once marination has finished, extract the steak from the bag and pat it dry with paper towels. Extract the onions and discard everything else in the marinade.
3. Heat a medium skillet over high heat, spray it with cooking spray, and add the onions*. The onions will take longer than the steak. Add the onions to the skillet and cook 10 minutes ahead of the steak.
4. Then, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray and add the steak. Cook for 2 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Remove the steak from the pan and allow it to rest 5 minutes, by which time the onions should be translucent and cooked through.

*Some people may have a problem cooking and eating onions after they've touched the raw meat and marinade that's had raw meat juices on it. Because the onions will be cooked all the way through and the remnant marinade boils around them, I feel this is safe. If you have a problem with this, go ahead and omit this step. You can just cut a fresh onion and saute it on the side for sort of the same effect.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 263
  • Fat: 9.5 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 62 mg
  • Sodium: 946 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 9.7 g
  • Fiber: 1.7 g
  • Sugar: 6.5 g
  • Protein: 33.4 g

Friday, April 2, 2010

Roasted Tuna with Tomato-Basil Relish

Yesterday I got a surprise Easter present in the mail from my parents. It was a new cookbook from one of my favorite, most inspiring chefs, Jacques Pepin. It was his book called Fast Food My Way. It's the perfect type of book for me because it has gourmet recipes that can be prepared easily. I love how this food features whole, real food made quickly instead of using store-bought mixes and "Frankenstein foods" that are full of preservatives and salt. I was eager to cook from this book, and I found a recipe for roasted tuna. I had bought tuna on sale a few weeks ago and had put it in the freezer while I waited for the perfect recipe, and this was surely it! One thing is that I thought I had all the ingredients for. Little did I know that in my eagerness I was missing a few, so I had to improvise. My few changes were delicious, however. For the tomato relish, I didn't have chives, so I used fresh basil. I used scallion instead of sweet Vidalia onion. To have the original recipe, all you have to do is substitute my changes for the original ingredients. Another thing is, my poor oven wasn't staying at the 200 degrees F that the recipe called for...I put the fish in for the 20 minutes, and when the time was up it wasn't even cooked! Alton Brown from the Food Network show Good Eats has said before that can happen for some ovens. So, what I did was raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and roasted the fish for 10 minutes to get it cooked to medium doneness. If you like your fish rare or medium-rare, just shred off a few minutes. Or, if you have an oven that is more awesome than mine, go for the slow roasting.

As this is Good Friday, you might be getting to the end of the line for your fish recipes, so this would be a nice one to have for a special Good Friday dinner. It's so perfect for a spring meal because the lime and basil taste so fresh. I love how the tomato juices sink into the fish.

Roasted Tuna with Tomato-Basil Relish
Printable Recipe

2 4-oz tuna steaks
2 tbsp fresh prepared salsa (there is a recipe for salsa in the book, but I have not made it yet)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 scallion, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
non-stick cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a foil-lined baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Season both sides of the tuna with salt and pepper and place the fish on the baking sheet. Bake the fish for 10 minutes until medium, or until it reaches your desired doneness.
2. Meanwhile, blend the salsa, oil, juice, tomato, basil, scallion and some salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside until the fish is done.
3. Once the fish is done, serve it whole or cut it into slices and top it with the relish.

  • Servings per recipe: 2
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 304
  • Fat: 16.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 35 mg
  • Sodium: 161 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 7.7 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Sugar: 4.2 g
  • Protein: 31.7 g
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