Sunday, July 24, 2011

Frozen Strawberry Margaritas

Brittany was our first guest in California! After an exhausting afternoon on the beach, Brittany, Brent and I decided to spend Friday night working hard to try to get the proportions to this margarita just right. It took several batches, making for a fun night! One warning though, this drink will turn you into a margarita snob. You'll never go back to expensive, syrupy restaurant margaritas.

3 1/2 cups strawberries
2 1/2 cups crushed ice
2/3 cup tequila
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Cointreau
Lime wedges

Combine strawberries, ice, tequila, lime juice, sugar, and liqueur in a blender, and process until the mixture is smooth. Pour the margaritas into 4 large glasses. Garnish margaritas with a lime wedge, if desired. Serve immediately.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sweet Corn and Mascarpone Lasagna

Americans are fascinated by the Royal Couple. Even Hollywood biggest celebrities were star struck by the newlyweds on their recent visit to Los Angeles.  Southern California was proud to host Kate on her first visit to the United States. Their itinerary included the BAFTA Brits to Watch gala in Beverly Hills, a visit to an enrichment program called Inner-City Arts near my old middle school in Skid Row, and a charity polo match in Santa Barbara with a meal prepared by Giada De Laurentiis. I love Giada's dishes, and when she revealed the mini lasagna recipe she prepared for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge I knew it would be a dish worth making. These lasagnas are rich and creamy, making the mini portion perfect. The sweet corn and mascarpone add delicious sweetness to this savory dish. I scraped every last bit of lasagna out of my ramekin. It was just that good. 

Butter, for ramekins
12 lasagna sheets
3 cups frozen sweet corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup whipping cream, at room temperature
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 cup (4 ounces) finely grated Pecorino Romano, plus 1/2 cup
1/2 large lemon, zested
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup packed chopped fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded sharp Provolone
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
6 ramekins


1. Arrange an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter 6 (10-ounce) ramekins. Set aside.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain. Using 2 cooked lasagna noodles in an "x" shape, line each ramekin, pushing the noodles gently into the bottom of the ramekins, allowing any excess pasta to overhang on the sides.
3. In a food processor, blend the corn, cream and garlic until chunky. Add the mascarpone, 1 cup of the Pecorino Romano cheese, the lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth. Add the basil and pulse until just combined. Spoon 1/4 cup of the filling into the bottom of each ramekin and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the Provolone. Fold 2 overhanging pieces of pasta over the filling. Add another 1/4 cup of filling to each ramekin and top with another 2 tablespoons Provolone. Fold over the 2 remaining overhanging pieces of pasta.
4. Spoon any remaining filling on top of the pasta. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano and drizzle with olive oil. Arrange the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake until the tops are golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes.

Not adapted at all :) Giada De Laurentiis

Monday, July 11, 2011

Black Bean and Beef Burritos

I can't figure out why everyone raves about Chipotle's burritos. They're not bad, but they lack the freshness I crave in Mexican-American food. After a recent Chipotle outing I challenged myself to prepare a healthier, tastier burrito. I also attempted to create a flavorful burrito that did not require gallons of water to re-hydrate from all the sodium. Being on summer vacation gave me the time to go all out on these burritos. I made the guacamole, pico de gallo, cilantro lime rice, and seasoned beef and beans from scratch. On a work night this can be modified with store bought ingredients for a quick and hearty meal. I have also included instructions below on how to roll a burrito. Brent was amazed to learn how simple it is to roll a burrito saying, "I knew the people at taco bell weren't smarter than me."

Pico de Gallo
2 cups ripe tomatoes seeded and diced (about 4 medium tomatoes)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced white onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 jalapenos (stems and seeds removed) diced
1 lime, juiced
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste

1. Dice and mix all ingredients.
2. Stir, let sit for thirty minutes, and enjoy!

2 avocados
1 jalapeño pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup lime juice
3 cloves of garlic
1 roma tomato
1/2 cup of cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Dice and mix all ingredients.
2. Stir and enjoy!

Seasoned Beef and Beans:
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
3-4 tablespoons taco seasoning mix

1. In a large skillet cook ground beef, onion, and garlic until beef is no longer pink, stirring to break up meat. 
2. Drain. 
3. Add the beans and taco seasoning mix with a touch of water to distribute the seasoning; simmer for 5 minutes.

Cilantro Lime Rice
1 teaspoon butter
2 tsp. fresh cilantro coarsely chopped
2/3 cup brown basmati rice
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Lime

1. In a 2-quart heavy saucepan, heat oil or butter over low heat, stirring occasionally until melted. 
2. Add rice and lime juice, stir for 1 minute. 
3. Add water and salt, bring to a full rolling boil. 
4. At boiling, cover, turn down to simmer over low heat until rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes. 
5. Fluff rice with a fork. 
6. Before serving stir in cilantro.

How to Roll a Burrito:
1) Heat your 10-12 inch tortilla for 20-30 seconds in the microwave. (Of course I am going to suggest you use a whole wheat tortilla)
2) Lay the tortilla out on your serving plate, and place your meat, beans, rice, guacamole, pico de gallo and any other ingredients you wish to include in your burritto in the center. Do not overfill!
3) Fold the tortilla in half.
4) Fold over the ends.
5) While holding the ends of the burrito roll the burrito over.
6) If you really want to make it chipotle style, cover with aluminum foil. That also makes for an easier clean up. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad

Our boxes have been unpacked, everything has been organized and put in its place, and we are finally feeling settled in California. With every move, something always seems to go missing. This time it's my camera. Brent's iphone camera has been taking photos of the dishes I have been preparing during my time off. This disappearance might be a sign I need a new camera. I've been frustrated at the quality of the photographs of my meals. I promise they look tastier live! Just like this pasta salad. It looked so bright and colorful in the bowl, but this picture looks so blah. I prepared this dish for the Winkler family 4th of July celebration in Dallas. It was light and refreshing, and perfect for a 100 degree day. One note: the recipe calls for a food processor for the dressing, but simply whisking the ingredients works too. 

1/2 pound whole wheat fusilli pasta
Extra virgin olive oil
1 pound ripe tomatoes, medium-diced
3/4 cup kalamata, pitted and diced
1/2 pound reduced fat feta cheese, medium-diced
6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

For the dressing:
5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, diced
1 teaspoon capers, drained
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of oil to keep it from sticking together. Boil for 12 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Drain well and allow to cool. Place the pasta in a bowl and add the tomatoes, olives, feta and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

For the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth.

Pour the dressing over the pasta, sprinkle with the Parmesan and parsley, and toss well.