Archive for December, 2009

Top 10 Recipes of 2009

Here are my top 10 recipes (in no particular order):

Goat Cheese and Tomato Crostini

Chicken Tiki Masala

Grilled Pepper Poppers

Grilled Salmon with Thai Curry Sauce and Basmati Rice

Mascarpone Brownies

Grilled Cumin Chicken with Fresh Tomatillo Sauce

Veggie Sliders

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Caprese Salad Bites

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche


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When you have an abundance of basil in your garden, the best thing to do is make pesto. Lots and lots of pesto. It freezes so well that you can enjoy it for several months after your basil plants have stopped producing. I love to use it for pasta, pizza, and even just to dip bread into. Its super simple to make too.

Basil Pesto (Joelen’s Culinary Adventures)

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (2-3 bunches)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Place all the ingredients in a food processor; pulse a few times, then process until fairly smooth, or to the desired consistency, scraping down the sides occasionally.

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Goat Cheese and Tomato Crostini

This is one my favorite appetizers! With the New Years approaching, I highly recommend this appetizer for your cocktail party. Of course, anything with goat cheese is usually good, right?

Goat Cheese and Tomato Crostini (Pinch My Salt)

Cherry, grape or pear tomatoes (or whatever tiny tomatoes you prefer)
Garlic cloves, unpeeled
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Combination of dried Italian herbs (such as fennel, oregano, basil, or thyme)*
1 baguette
1 garlic clove for crostini
8 oz goat cheese

1. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper and heat oven to 225 degrees.

2. Cut enough tomatoes to fill the sheet pan (about 2 small baskets should do the trick) and place them cut-side up on the parchment paper. Scatter a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves throughout the tomatoes.

3. Drizzle olive oil all over the tomatoes, then sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

4. Mix together some of your favorite dried Italian herbs (or just use a commercial blend) and measure out about 2 teaspoons of the mixture. Grind the herbs into a powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle then sprinkle evenly over the tomatoes.

5. Bake tomatoes at 225 degrees for 3-4 hours, or until they have shriveled but still contain a bit of moisture inside. The time will depend on the size of your tomatoes, so start checking early.

6. Let cool

7. Cut baguette into slices. Brush with olive oil and bake at 350 until toasted. Rub with a cut garlic clove.

8. Spread a layer of goat cheese on each crostini and top with slow roasted tomatoes.

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Dinner Party – Part 4

Part 4 covers the dessert course of my dinner party.

  • Bruschetta w/White Beans, Sun Dried Tomatoes & Basil
  • Spinach, feta, raspberry, candied nut salad w/ raspberry vinaigrette
  • Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomato Sauce
  • Saffron Rice and Red Pepper Pilaf
  • Strawberry Mascarpone Tart

This tart was wonderful and tasted delicious. It was a great end to a wonderful meal!

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart (Gastronomer’s Guide)

2 pounds strawberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
12 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Remove stems, hull, and halve or quarter strawberries depending on size. In a large bowl, combine strawberries, granulated sugar, lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to macerate.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice, mascarpone, vanilla extract, and confectioners sugar. Mix thoroughly until silky smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the glaze, strain the macerated strawberries over a small saucepan. Add balsamic vinegar and heat over medium-high until liquid is reduced by more than half. It should foam and thicken to a syrup. Let cool to room temperature.

Spread chilled mascarpone mixture in tart shell. Arrange strawberries on top. Brush with glaze. Serve immediately. Yield: 8 slices.

Tart Shell

Tip: A small portion of whole-wheat pastry flour in the dough makes the tart shell extra crispy. If not at hand, use all-purpose flour.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (I used APF)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, and salt. Mix together with a whisk to aerate

Add butter and work with a pastry blender until mixture resembles course meal.

In a small bowl, beat together egg yolk and 3 tablespoons ice water. Drizzle liquid mixture into dry ingredients. Mix until dough comes together. If too dry, 1 tablespoon ice water can be added.

Form the dough into a flat disc and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour before rolling.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out tart dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to fit a 10-inch fluted tart pan. Carefully lay dough over pan. Press dough up into the sides. Remove excess dough by running rolling pin over pan. Fill any holes or cracks with excess dough.

Chill shell for 10 minutes. Using a fork, prick the bottom of the pan all over. Line the inside of the pan with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Then carefully remove pie weights with foil. Continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

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Where am I???

Wow.. this blog has gone silent. The last 2 months have been crazy busy between going to Egypt for vacation and I’ve been training for a marathon which takes a TON of time.

But now, my marathon is done! I plan to get back into cooking up a storm for the holiday season and get back to normal. I have missed being able to cook new things, but when you run 36 miles a week.. that doesn’t leave time for anything else.

So my few readers out there, you should see a new post soon!

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