Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pasta Salad with Yogurt-Herb Dressing

This is my favorite pasta salad. And my mom's too!

The star here is the dressing: use fresh herbs (especially if you are growing them in your backyard) and keep the add-ons simple. You can replace the roasted red bell pepper with grape tomatoes and omit the olives if you don't care for them (in that case you may want to add a little more salt).

I like to keep mine vegetarian but add protein by tossing some chunks of rotisserie chicken or a few grilled shrimp in the mix.

Serves 6-8

For the dressing:
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves (packed) = 25 g de jeunes pousses d'épinards
  • ½ cup plain low-fat yogurt = 140 g de yaourt nature
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 oz.) = 60 g de feta, émiettée
  • ½ cup fresh parsley leaves = une petite botte de persil plat
  • a few fresh oregano leaves = quelques feuilles d'origan frais
  • a few fresh mint leaves = quelques feuilles de menthe fraiche
  • juice of half a lemon = jus d'un demi citron
  • Salt and pepper to taste = sel et poivre
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil = 2 cuillères à soupe d'huile d'olive
For the pasta:
  • 8 oz. dry penne pasta = 225 g de penne
  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted and diced = 1 poivron rouge, rôti et coupé en morceaux
  • ⅓ cup pitted kalamata olives, halved = 50 g d'olives kalamata (grecque), dénoyautées et coupées en deux

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente (about 8-10 minutes). Drain.
Meanwhile, combine all the dressing ingredients, except the olive oil, in a food processor. Pulse a few times. Drizzle in olive oil and process until smooth.
Put pasta, bell pepper and olives in a large bowl. Pour dressing on top and toss to combine. Chill for a couple of hours or overnight. Return to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nectarine Cobbler Cake

I am not sure what to call this heavenly dessert. A cake? A cobbler? Well, it's sort of in between, really!

The batter is definitely more like cake than biscuit so instead of topping the fruit with the batter, I like to place the batter in the dish first and let it rise up through the nectarines as it bakes. Peaches or apricots will work well too. Whichever you use, make sure they are ripe and sweet or adjust the sugar accordingly.

Be decadent: top it with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream! It's even yummier!

Serves 8

For the filling:
  • 2 lbs. ripe nectarines (about 6), sliced and peeled = 900 g de nectarines, épluchées et tranchées
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar = 1 à 2 cuillères à soupe de sucre
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice = 1 cuillère à café de jus de citron
For the batter:
  • 4 tablespoons butter, diced = 60 g de beurre, coupé en dés
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour = 160 g de farine
  • ½ cup granulated or brown sugar (or 50/50) = 100 g de sucre ou de cassonade (ou 50/50)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder = 2 cuillères à café de levure chimique
  • Pinch salt = une pincée de sel
  • 1 cup milk = 240 ml de lait
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract = 1 cuillère à café d'extrait de vanille
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (optional) = 1 cuillère à soupe de sucre turbinado ou rapadura , en magasins bio (facultatif)

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.

To prepare filling, combine nectarines, sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl and set aside.

To make batter, place butter in an 8-inch square baking dish. Place dish in oven 5 minutes, until butter melts. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Combine milk and vanilla extract and add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter over butter, spreading evenly but without stirring. Top with fruit mixture, gently pressing nectarines into batter.

Bake at 350° for 40 minutes. If you like some crunch on top, sprinkle with turbinado sugar, and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until crust is golden. If not, just bake for a total of 50 minutes.

Let cool for 15-20 minutes, spoon into individual bowls and top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cucumber Soup

All I can say is “it's HOT”!!! Heat index forecast for today: over 115°F (46°C)! In anticipation, I made this refreshing soup last night and stuck it in the fridge... and that is probably all I will eat for lunch!

Makes 4 servings
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced = 1 oignon doux, coupé en morceaux
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced = 2 gousses d'ail, émincées
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and diced = 1 gros concombre, épluché et coupé en morceaux
  • Juice from one lime = jus d'un citron vert
  • 2 cups low-fat Greek yogurt = 450 g de yaourt grec (ou fromage blanc) allégé
  • ½ cup sour cream = 60 g de crème fraiche
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt = ½ cuillère à café de sel
  • Freshly ground black pepper = poivre noir moulu

Heat 3 tablespoons of water in a pan on low-medium heat; add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, about 6 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent.

Reserve 4 tablespoons of cucumber for garnish.

Add cucumber, onion, garlic, and lime juice to food processor; pulse 10 times. Open lid, scrape sides and add yogurt, sour cream, and salt. Puree until smooth and frothy, about 30 seconds. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or overnight.

Ladle soup into bowls and top each portion with finely dice remaining cucumber and freshly ground black pepper. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tofu Stir-Fry with Mushrooms and Asparagus

For a long time, I wanted to cook tofu but was always afraid to be left with a big bland mess of a dish. As I have been trying to cut back on meat and seafood, but not on my protein intake, I decided to keep trying tofu recipes and cooking methods. The key is to use firm or extra-firm tofu and drain it really well to remove excess moisture, allowing more flavor to be absorbed while cooking.

This recipe is the result of several others thrown together. I am glad I was taking notes as I was making it since my husband proclaimed it was “excellent” (he is by no means a tofu fanatic!) and a definite keeper! Yay!

You can substitute green beans or broccoli florets for the asparagus (make sure you cut off the tough ends), but I recommend keeping the mushrooms as they add a “meaty” flavor to the dish.

As for the hoisin or black bean sauce, just use what you prefer or have on hand. Of course (you know me by now!), I highly encourage you to make the sauce for scratch since the store-bought jars are usually loaded with sugar, salt and preservatives (and possibly artificial flavors and MSG). I found a great recipe for black bean sauce on Closet Cooking and I am still tweaking this Hoisin recipe to get it just the way I want it to taste, I'll keep you posted!

Serve this tofu, mushroom & asparagus stir-fry with brown or jasmine rice, (and if you're weird like me, sip on hot green tea) and you have a tasty healthy vegetarian dinner.

Serves 4
  • 1 lb. extra firm tofu, drained and cut into ½-inch cubes = 450 g de tofu extra-ferme, pressé et coupé en dés
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds = 2 cuillères à soupe de graines de sésame
  • ¼ teaspoon salt = une pincée de sel
  • 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil, divided = 2 cuillères à café d'huile de sésame
  • 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced = 450 g de champignons bruns (cremini), émincés
  • 1 lb. asparagus, cut into 2-inch sections = 450 g d'asperges vertes, coupées en tronçons de 4-5 cm
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced = 2 oignons verts, émincés
  • ½ cup vegetable broth = 120 ml de bouillon de légumes
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin or (fermented) black bean sauce = 1 cuillère à soupe de sauce Hoisin ou de sauce aux haricots noirs fermentés (dans les épiceries asiatiques)
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce = 1 cuillère à soupe de sauce soja (allégée en sodium)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch = 1 cuillère à café de maïzena
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon sambal oelek (fresh ground chili paste) or crushed red pepper flakes (optional) = ½ à 1 cuillère à café de sambal oelek ou flocons de piment rouge (facultatif)

Combine sesame seeds and salt in a large bowl. Add the tofu and toss gently to coat.

Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, then the tofu cubes and stir-fry 7 to 10 minutes. Remove tofu from wok and keep warm.

Pour the last teaspoon of sesame oil in the wok, add mushrooms and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add asparagus and stir-fry for another 3 minute. Reduce heat to medium and stir in green onions.

Combine broth, hoisin or black bean sauce, soy sauce, cornstarch and chili paste. Add to wok and top with tofu. Toss gently to combine. Turn the heat off and let sauce thicken for a couple of minutes. Serve right away. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Breakfast Smoothie

Smoothie recipes have been popping up on a lot of blogs lately, including on my friend's Ann-Marie's Escape to the Kitchen!

In the summer, a nice, refreshing smoothie is my go-to breakfast. It fills me up without weighing me down! It's one of those “recipes” that is super versatile: you can literally use any juice/fruit/yogurt combo you like! For a thicker, frostier smoothie, use frozen fruit or add a few ice cubes, or you can even substitute one cup of fruit sorbet!

I almost always use Greek yogurt because it is packed with protein (which keeps me full longer) but using flavored yogurt that matches up with your fruit is a great option too.

Boost your smoothie's nutritional value by adding some whey or soy protein powder or ground flaxseed (great source of omega-3s and fiber). For a little crunch, add some granola cereal or chopped almonds.

Makes 1 large smoothie
  • ⅓ to ½ cup fruit juice = 80 à 120 ml de jus de fruit
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen fruit = un fruit frais ou congelé (environ 150-200 g)
  • 6 oz. low-fat yogurt = 170 g de yaourt ou fromage blanc, nature ou aromatisé
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup (optional) = 1 cuillère à café de miel ou de sirop d'érable (facultatif)
  • 1 tablespoon protein powder (optional) = 1 cuillère à soupe de poudre protéinée (facultatif)
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds (optional) = 1 cuillère à soupe de graines de lin moulues (facultatif)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons low-fat granola cereal or chopped almonds (optional) = 1 à 2 cuillères à soupe de granola/muesli ou d'amandes (facultatif)

Mix all the ingredients in a blender until smooth. Serve in a tall glass. Enjoy!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Tian

Tian is a traditional dish from the beautiful region of Provence. It typically consists of layers of vegetables, roasted in a shallow dish. Think of it as a healthy casserole or gratin!

When I spotted some zucchini, summer squash and tomatoes at my local Farmers Market, I couldn't wait to come home and make this easy-as-can-be side dish.

Serves 4
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil = 1 cuillère à soupe d'huile d'olive
  • 1 onion, chopped = 1 oignon, coupé en morceaux
  • 2 garlic gloves, minced = 2 gousses d'ail, émincées
  • 2 zucchini, cleaned and sliced = 2 courgettes (vertes), lavées and découpées en tranches
  • 2 yellow squash, cleaned and sliced = 2 courgettes jaunes, lavées and découpées en tranches
  • 2 or 3 tomatoes, cleaned and sliced = 2 ou 3 tomates, lavées and découpées en tranches
  • salt & pepper = sel & poivre
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence or dried thyme = 1 à 2 cuillères à café d'herbes de Provence
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese = 45 g de parmesan en poudre

Preheat oven to 400ºF / 200ºC.

Heat olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes.

In the meantime, arrange the zucchini, yellow squash and tomato slices in a baking dish by overlapping and alternating them. Drizzle or brush a little olive oil on the veggies. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs, and top evenly with the onion/garlic mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and top with grated parmesan. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Note: I like the veggies a little on the “dry” side, if you don't, cover the baking dish with foil to keep them moist and remove only for the last 5-10 minutes of baking.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Easy Chicken Tajine with Olives and Artichoke Hearts

I don't know if this chicken dish really qualifies as tajine. First of all, I do not cook it in a tajine pot, but in a Dutch oven. Second, it doesn't incorporate all the traditional spices and ingredients you would find in a real Moroccan tajine. However, it is clearly tajine-style: the chicken thighs are braised then slow cooked with cumin, paprika and saffron, lemon juice and olives (either black or green will work). I also add artichoke hearts because I love all those flavors together.

Serves 4-6
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil = 1 cuillère à soupe d'huile d'olive
  • 6 bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 lbs), patted dry and seasoned with salt and pepper = 6 cuisses de poulet (environ 900 g), assaisonnées avec du sel et du poivre
  • 2 onions, chopped = 2 oignons, coupés en morceaux
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced = 4 gousses d'ail, émincées
  • 1 cup chicken broth or water = 240 ml de bouillon de poulet
  • 1 cup water = 240 ml d'eau
  • 2 teaspoons paprika = 2 cuillères à café de paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin = 1 cuillère à café de cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed = ¼ cuillère à café de safran
  • Pinch cayenne pepper = une pincée de poivre de cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon salt = ½ cuillère à café de sel
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper = ¼ cuillère à café de poivre
  • Juice from 1 lemon = jus d'un citron
  • 10 oz. canned artichoke hearts, drained and cut in halves or quarters = 300 g de coeurs d'artichauts (en boite), égouttés et coupés en 2 ou 4
  • 4 oz. black olives, pitted and sliced = 100 g d'olives, dénoyautées et coupées
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro = quelques feuilles de persil ou de coriandre

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken thighs to pan, brown 4 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add onion and garlic, stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add broth and water, spices, salt and pepper, lemon juice and artichoke hearts to pan. Place browned chicken thighs back in the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer on low, covered, for about 45 minutes.

Remove lid and increase heat to medium-high, cook, uncovered, until liquid has reduced by half (about 10-15 minutes). Stir in olives. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro. Serve over hot couscous. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

“Whatever” Oatmeal Cookies

Those cookies get their names from the fact that they are so versatile you can put “whatever” dried fruit, chocolate and nuts you have on hand and they come out soft, chewy and delicious every single time.

Oatmeal cookies are my favorite because of their hearty texture and flavor. You can use any quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats. My top choice is the Old Fashioned Oven Toasted Oats by Country Choice Organic. Do NOT use instant or steel-cut oats!

This week-end, to celebrate the 4th of July, I made a red, white & blue version: dried cranberries and blueberries and white chocolate chunks. I omitted the nuts as I was bringing the cookies to a party and was unsure about anyone suffering from a nut allergy.

Here are a few suggestions: mix and match, the sky's the limit!
Dried fruit: berries, cherries, apricots, raisins, pineapple, mango, apple bits...
Chocolate: dark, milk, white chips or chunks, mini M&Ms. Toffee works too!
Nuts: walnut, pistachio, macadamia, pecan, hazelnut, coconut flakes...

Some of my favorite combos:
* cranberry/white chocolate/pistachio
* cherry/dark chocolate/coconut
* apple/toffee bits/pecan
* mango/pineapple/macadamia
* and the easy and healthy “just raisins” option, of course!

Makes 24 cookies
  • ½ cup butter (softened) = 115 g de beurre, ramolli
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar (lightly packed) = 55 g de cassonade
  • ⅓ cup white sugar = 55 g de sucre
  • 1 egg = 1 oeuf
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract = 1 cuillère à café d'extrait de vanille
  • ½ cup all-purpose unbleached flour = 60 g de farine type T55
  • ½ cup (white or regular) whole wheat flour = 60 g de farine complète ou semi-complète
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda = ½ cuillère à café de bicarbonate de soude
  • ¼ teaspoon salt = une pincée de sel
  • 1 ½ cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats = 120 g de flocons d'avoine
  • about ½ cup dried fruit, chopped if needed = 50 à 75 g de fruits secs, coupés en morceaux si besoin
  • about ½ cup chocolate chips or chunks = 50 à 75 g de pépites ou petits dés de chocolat
  • about ⅓ cup chopped nuts = 30 g de noix ou autres fruits à coque, coupés en petits morceaux

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg and add vanilla extract.
Mix the flour, baking soda and salt in another bowl. Combine the dry ingredients into the wet. Gently stir in the rolled oats, dried fruit, chocolate and nuts.

Drop dough onto two cookie sheets fitted with a baking mat one tablespoon at a time.

Because the dough is quite dense, it will not spread much while baking so I recommend pressing each ball lightly with the bottom of a glass to flatten the cookies slightly and insure even baking.

Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy! 
***Happy Independence Day***

Note: the cookies will keep well if stored in an airtight container.

Update: I was invited to participate in "Sweets for a Saturday" from Sweet as Sugar Cookies. Go check out all the yummy treats!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Watermelon-Feta-Mint Salad

3 ingredients, less than 10 minutes and you have an easy, healthy and refreshing salad!

Watermelon is loaded with vitamin C and beta-carotene and it has only 45 calories per cup.

I really enjoy the combination of sweet, salty and tangy together. I find the watermelon juicy enough that the salad doesn't require any kind of dressing. This is a great appetizer on a hot summer day!

Serves 4
  • Half a small, seedless watermelon = ½ petite pastèque (sans pépins)
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup) = 115 g de feta, émiettée
  • A few fresh mint leaves = quelques feuilles de menthe fraîche

Remove rind and cut watermelon into ¼” cubes. Cut mint into fine julienne.
Place watermelon cubes in a 4 small bowls, add mint and mix gently. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Top with crumbled feta and serve right away. Enjoy!