Monday, August 17, 2009

Brianna's Graduation Party

Hi friends! Sorry for the long absence! It's been a hectic couple of months, what with graduating from Fordham, moving to an apartment in the East Village, and starting "real life". I finally feel like I'm settled in, though, and I'm excited to start posting new recipes again! Actually, this past weekend, my roommate's parents threw her a graduation party in Quincy, Massachusetts... and they asked me to cater it! Of course I was happy to plan the menu and prepare the feast, and I had lots of help from my roommate, her mom, and friends and neighbors. I was a little nervous to cook for so many people (I believe there were over 40 people at the party), but everything turned out pretty well and everyone had a great time!

I decided to go with kebabs as the main dish for the party, since they're easy to prepare and pretty fun to eat. As for the type of cuisine, recently I've been pretty obsessed with the idea of Asian/Latin American fusion, so I tried to stick to that. So, the week before the party, I planned a rough menu and sent my roommate's mom a list of the groceries and supplies that we would need. The day before the party, my roommate, her boyfriend, and I drove up to Quincy. We arrived pretty late, but I was so excited that I couldn't get to sleep! On the morning of the party, we woke up early to start preparing. I had even planned the order in which everything should be made, so as to avoid chaos at the last minute. We started with the marinades, dressings, and sauces for the various dishes. Then came the rice dish, followed by assembling the kebabs, and finally putting together the different appetizers and salads. We fired up the grill, put the kebabs on, and soon everyone was enjoying the feast and partying the night away!

Here are the recipes from the party (keep in mind that all these recipes serve 40+ people!!):

Guacamole is usually always a hit at any party, and sure enough, at Brianna's graduation party, it disappeared even before all of the guests had arrived. I should have doubled the recipe!

5 avocados
1 red onion
2 tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime
salt and pepper, to taste

Finely dice the onions and tomatoes. Halve the avocados, remove the pits, and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Mash with a fork to desired consistency (I like to leave some big chunks of avocado in my guacamole, but some might prefer a smoother, creamier guac). Add the diced onions and tomatoes, along with the cilantro and garlic. Add the juice of 1 lime and season with salt and pepper. Serve with tortilla chips.

Mexican Bruschetta
This appetizer was a hit, too! A twist on the classic Italian bruschetta, this version includes cilantro (instead of parsley), melted cheese, and red pepper flakes.

10 tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 white onions
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil
2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, monterrey jack, or any combination), or more, if you like
3 baguettes

Set the oven to broil. Finely dice the onions and tomatoes. Combine with garlic, cilantro, and red pepper flakes. Drizzle mixture with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Cut baguettes in half, lengthwise. Broil in the oven for up to 2 minutes, just until the bread is toasted on the outside. Remove from the oven. Using a slotted spoon (so that you don't drown the baguettes in tomato juice), scoop the tomato mixture onto the baguettes. Sprinkle with cheese and put back under the broiler, just until the cheese melts. Remove from the oven and slice into individual servings.

Orzo pasta salad with lime cilantro dressing

2 boxes orzo pasta
3 cans garbanzo beans
5 red or green bell peppers, or a combination

For the pasta salad: Cook orzo according to directions on the box. Dice the bell peppers and combine with cooked orzo. Rinse the garbanzo beans and add to the mixture.

5 limes
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon dijon, wholegrain, or horseradish mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

For the dressing: Juice the limes. Add the cilantro and mustard and mix well. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking the mixture, forming a creamy dressing. Add sugar and season with salt and pepper. Dress the salad just before serving.

Avocado, spinach, and quinoa salad with miso ginger dressing

6 avocados
1 bag spinach
1 box quinoa
1 red onion
2 cans black beans
1 bunch scallions

For the salad: Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package. Empty the bag of spinach into a large serving bowl. Rinse the black beans and add to the spinach. Add the quinoa to the bowl. Halve and pit the avocados. Score each halve into slices, then scoop out the flesh into the bowl. Dice the red onion and chop the scallions, adding those to the bowl as well.

1.5 tablespoons white miso paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced ginger

For the dressing: Scoop the miso paste into a large measuring cup. Add the soy sauce and rice vinegar and mix well. Add the sesame oil and mix, then add the ginger. Taste the dressing - if it is too salty, add a little more vinegar and a little more sesame oil. Dress the salad at the last minute, just before serving.

Garlic Saffron Rice

10 cups basmati rice
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 large pinch saffron
2 white onions
olive oil
salt, to taste

Rince the rice under cold water in a large sieve and drain well; set aside. Dice the onions. In a large pot over medium-high heat, saute the onions in olive oil. When the onions begin to soften, add the minced garlic. Saute until fragrant, then add the saffron and a nice sprinkle of salt. Add the rice and saute until the grains are slightly translucent. Add 20 cups water*, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer until cooked through. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

*Take a look at the directions on the package for the basmati rice. If the directions say, for example, that to cook 1 cup rice you need 2.5 cups water, adjust the proportions in the above recipe accordingly.

Steak Kebabs

8lbs tri tip or top round steak
assortment of veggies, such as bell peppers, white mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and onions
wooden skewers, pre-soaked for at least 30 minutes
miso ginger dressing (recipe above)
10 cloves garlic, minced

Cut everything into kebab-sized pieces. Add the minced garlic to the dressing (you will have to at least double the recipe for the dressing if you are using this much meat) and marinate the steak in the dressing for at least 1 hour. Assemble the skewers, alternating between veggies and meat. Grill over medium high heat.

Chicken Kebabs

8lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
4 tablespoons peanut butter
4 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
wooden skewers, also pre-soaked

Mix the peanut butter and water in a bowl until it forms a sauce-like consistency. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil. Cut the chicken into kebab-sized pieces. Assemble the kebabs and grill over medium high heat until chicken is cooked through. Just before removing the kebabs from the grill, spoon or brush some peanut sauce on every kebab.

Tofu Kebabs

4 packages tofu
assortment of veggies
salt and pepper
olive oil
wooden skewers, also pre-soaked

Cut everything into kebab-sized pieces. Assemble the skewers, alternating between veggies and tofu, season everything with salt and pepper, and brush each kebab with olive oil. Grill over medium high heat until nice grill marks appear on the tofu and veggies. Serve with peanut sauce or miso ginger dressing (recipes above).

Fruit kebabs with raspberry sauce and vegan chocolate sauce

My roommate Brianna is vegan, so for this dessert, instead of using regular chocolate to make the chocolate sauce, I substituted vegan chocolate. Simple enough, and everyone was able to enjoy it!

assortment of fruit that will hold when grilled, such as pineapple, strawberries, and firm peaches
wooden skewers, pre-soaked
1 bag vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup soy milk or soy creamer
1 cup raspberry jam
1 small box of raspberries

Cut the fruit into kebab-sized pieces. Assemble the kebabs, alternating fruits. Grill over medium heat, just until there are light grill marks on most of the fruit. Meanwhile, combine the chocolate chips and soy milk and melt, either in a double boiler or a makeshift one. In a different pot, combine the raspberry jam and the raspberries and heat until the jam melts down to a sauce. Serve the fruit kebabs with the sauces on the side.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Peppers stuffed with Tomato Rice

For one of our recent family dinners in the apartment, I made roasted peppers stuffed with tomato rice. If you have leftover tomato rice and some peppers lying around, this makes for a quick, simple, and tasty dinner! Adjust this recipe for the number of people you will be serving.

2 batches Tomato Rice (recipe previously posted)
5 bell peppers (red, yellow, or green)
bread crumbs
grated Parmesan cheese
grated mozzarella cheese (or other melt-y cheese)

Remove the stems of the bell peppers and halve lengthwise. Rinse out the inside so there are no seeds. Turn a burner on your stove on high, and place each half of the pepper, cut side up, directly over the flame, resting on the burner itself. Leave until there are a few black scorch marks on the pepper. Once all peppers have been toasted, line them up in a 13x9 baking dish (you might need 2, depending on how big the peppers are). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Fill each half with 2 heaping spoonfuls of tomato rice. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of grated mozzarella, then 1 teaspoon bread crumbs, and finally 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan on each half. You can eyeball these amounts, and adjust based on your taste. Cook in the oven until cheese is bubbly and peppers soften. If using as a side dish, one half is enough per person; otherwise, serve 1 whole pepper per person.


Every Sunday night, the organization that I volunteer for, National Student Partnerships, has a volunteer training meeting where we discuss client meetings, talk about upcoming projects, or have an issue-specific training. This Sunday, instead of studying for my midterm on Monday (hello, senioritis), I made a little appetizer for the meeting. This recipe is a take on my friend Peter's Italian pinwheels (I forget what they're called in Italian), and also a recipe that I made with my cousin from Giada De Laurentiis' new cookbook. They're fast, easy, and you can fill them with anything you like! I made 2 batches of veggie pinwheels and 2 batches of meat pinwheels. 1 batch (meaning 1 pastry sheet) makes about 12-15 pinwheels.

1 sheet frozen puff pastry*

for the filling:
tomato sauce
sun dried tomatoes
mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese

Follow instructions on puff pastry box to defrost the pastry. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once the puff pastry is thawed, unroll the sheet on a floured surface. Leaving about a half an inch on all sides of the pastry, fill with whatever you like, starting with sauce, such as tomato sauce or pesto. Add cheese, then spinach and sun dried tomatoes, or spinach and prosciutto. Really, anything goes. Roll up the pastry jelly-roll style, tucking in the ends. Using a pastry brush, spread a bit of egg on the closing flap of the roll to secure it, then brush a little bit of egg on top of the roll. Freeze the roll for about 45 minutes on a baking sheet. Remove from freezer and cut crosswise into 1/2 to 1 inch slices. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the slices on their sides, so that the filling is face-up. They will expand in the oven, so leave room on the baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a serving plate.

*You can substitute store-bought pizza dough as well, adjusting thawing process and baking temperature to the directions on the box or tube. Don't cut these before baking; instead, bake first, then cut into 2-inch slices.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Halibut with Artichoke and Spinach Purée

I love spinach and artichoke dip. This recipe is my version of the dip, served over halibut steaks. It doesn't take long to make, either, and the result is just as delicious!

Artichoke and Spinach Purée

5 artichoke hearts (I used the marinated ones that come in a jar)
1 cup frozen whole spinach (if using fresh spinach, use a little more than a cup)
3 cloves garlic

Coat a sauté pan with olive oil and place over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the spinach and sauté until just about cooked through. Add the garlic cloves (whole) and the artichoke hearts. Turn the heat down slightly and sauté for 5 minutes. Season with salt, to taste. Add contents of pan and into a food processor and blend until puréed. Set aside.


1 Halibut steak (approximately 1 inch thick)
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat the same pan (from the spinach and artichokes) with olive oil (there should be some left, too) and heat over medium heat. Season the halibut with salt and pepper and coat the fish in flour. When the oil is hot, place the halibut in the pan until browned. Brown each side of the halibut. Place the halibut in an oven-safe pan and bake for about 5 minutes, until cooked through. Serve with artichoke and spinach purée.

Fried Eggplant with Tomato Sauce

Eggplant is possibly my favorite vegetable. Whenever I'm craving something meaty and delicious, I usually make eggplant. It soaks up flavors so well, and it's especially good breaded and fried. I like to use Kellogg's Corn Flake Crumbs in this recipe, as it makes the eggplant super crispy and delicious. I serve it with tomato sauce (recipe below) and parmesan, and pasta on the side.

For the Eggplant:

1 large eggplant
2-4 eggs
Kellogg's Corn Flake Crumbs
olive oil

Wash and trim the eggplant. Slice width-wise into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices (I like mine thin). Sprinkle the slices with salt and set aside. Heat a quarter to a half cup of olive oil, depending on the size of your pan, over medium heat in a sauté pan. There should be enough oil to fry the slices of eggplant, but not enough to cover them over the top. Line up three plates (it helps if they have a lip to keep the different ingredients from spilling over onto your counter) or three shallow bowls. Pour a decent amount of flour into the first dish. Crack two eggs to start in the second dish, and pour at least a half cup of the crumbs into the final dish. I like to line up the dishes with the one with the crumbs closest to my frying pan, if the kitchen allows. Salt the eggs with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and beat with a fork. By now, the oil should be hot, and you might want to drop a piece of bread in to check if it's too hot. If the bread fries and browns very quickly, turn down the heat to medium-low. Now begin the assembly line to bread your eggplant slices. First coat each slice with flour, then dip into the eggs and coat. Finally, coat each slice with the Corn Flake crumbs. Fry the eggplant slices, in batches if necessary, until golden brown on each side. Lay the slices on a paper towel to drain. Serve with tomato sauce, or use to make eggplant parmesan!

Simple, simple tomato sauce
(This is my favorite tomato sauce. I have made all different kinds with all different ingredients, but this to me is the best! Feel free to use your own favorite recipe, too.)

1/2 of one Vidalia onion, chopped
1 can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes
pinch of brown sugar
olive oil

Coat the bottom of a pan generously with olive oil. Heat over medium heat. When the oil is heated, add the onions. Do not let the onions brown; they should be cooked until translucent and soft. Once the onions have cooked through, add the can of tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a bubble, and add the sugar and salt, to taste. Let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes, or longer, and serve bubbling hot.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Love Frozen Vegetables

Last night I got home from the library sometime after 10:30 pm. I hadn't eaten dinner, and I had gotten to the library before 5 pm, but I was determined to finish my paper before I left. Needless to say, I was famished when I walked through the door of my apartment. I had already kind of planned what I was going to make, and I knew that I needed something fast. Normally on a night like this, I would have instant noodles or mac and cheese, something packaged and quick, but I had been eating prepackaged foods for the last couple of days and I was sick of it. I had these tofu noodles that I found at Whole Foods, and I decided to make use of them. And they didn't even need to be cooked in boiling water! I threw them into a pan with some frozen veggies, added some sauces and spices, and I had dinner in 10 minutes.

Stir-Fry with Tofu Noodles

1 cup frozen mixed veggies
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1 package tofu noodles*
soy sauce
hot toasted sesame oil
brown rice vinegar
brown sugar (optional)
vegetable oil

Generously coat the bottom of a medium sauté pan with vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the frozen vegetables and spinach. Once the vegetables have thawed in the pan, add soy sauce to taste. Add a little bit of the hot sesame oil (a little goes a long way), and a splash of the brown rice vinegar. Add a sprinkle of brown sugar, if using. Once veggies are cooked through, turn down the heat and add the tofu noodles. Toss together in the pan until the noodles are evenly coated in the sauce. Add a splash of soy sauce over the noodles and serve.

*Tofu noodles are made completely out of tofu. They actually do taste quite a bit like noodles. I eat them all the time at a restaurant near my mom's house in the Bay Area. Homemade ones are best, but the ones I found at Whole Foods are a nice substitute. If this idea freaks you out, substitute cubes of tofu, or just some cooked white rice.

I think this recipe speaks a lot to my philosophy of cooking. When I'm cooking, I don't expect to be using a bunch of ingredients that cost a ton of money, especially since I'm still in school. That's why I love frozen veggies. But I do believe that, if your funds allow, you should splurge every once in a while on things you crave, like tofu noodles (I haven't found them yet at a restaurant in New York City!). Also, spending money on staples for your kitchen is well worth it, as they will add to a lot of different dishes and will go a long way. This recipe is also all about with making due (actually, making more than just due) with what you have. I love thinking of new ways to use the things that are in my pantry or fridge. I just threw this dinner together with no recipe, like I do every other night, and it was fun and it turned out great. When in doubt, I gather things that I'm craving from my kitchen, put them in a pile, and just start cooking. More often then not, it turns out to be an inspired creation.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Too Much Risotto!

Tonight I decided to make risotto for dinner. Risotto is very much a comfort food to me... it's creamy and cheesy, and it fills me up. Risotto isn't hard to make; it just takes a bit of time and lots of love and attention. I purchased some of the ingredients for my risotto from Whole Foods in Manhattan, but the rest I got at the local grocery store in the Bronx. I can usually find everything I need in the Bronx, and it's not as expensive as Whole Foods, but I will occasionally stop there for some special items that I think are worth paying the price for. I bought the mushrooms and Arborio rice at Whole Foods, and everything else came from the Bronx. It's important to use Arborio rice when making risotto, because it's so starchy. I didn't realize at first that my ingredients would yield so much risotto, but I'll have it to eat for the next few days, at least. So this is a precaution... this recipe makes enough for about 4 or 5 people!

Half of one large Vidalia onion
8 0z. mushrooms (I had a mix of baby bella mushrooms, button mushrooms, and a few other kinds, but you can use whatever kind you prefer)
4 cups (32 oz.) vegetable stock or chicken stock
Olive oil
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine, optional (I actually skipped this ingredient, as we didn't have any in the apartment at the time)

Heat the vegetable stock in a pot over medium-high heat, turning off the heat once the stock boils. While the stock is heating, chop the onion. Clean and slice the mushrooms. Coat a large, heavy sauté pan generously with olive oil and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Don't let the onions brown. Salt the onions to taste. Add the rice and stir, until the rice begins to look translucent around the edges. If using white wine, add the wine and stir until the liquid has been soaked up. Using a ladle, scoop about 2 ladles full of the broth into the sauté pan. Stir the rice until the liquid has absorbed. Add one more ladle of broth, and stir again until it's been absorbed. Continue, one ladle at a time, until about 2/3 of the broth has been used up. Add the mushrooms and the cheese and stir, then continue to add the rest of the broth one ladle at a time, just like before. Once all of the liquid has been absorbed into the rice, taste for salt, and add more if necessary. Serve steaming hot, with a grind of fresh pepper, and Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Note: If the rice is not cooked all the way when you taste it at the end, heat some water in a pot and add that one ladle at a time, like the stock, until cooked through. Also, if you don't like mushrooms, you can substitute asparagus, and if you don't like that, well, then, be creative! And one more thing: I have two roommates who are vegan. If you have friends that don't eat cheese and would like to partake in your delicious risotto, don't add the cheese until the very end, so they can scoop some out for themselves just before you put it in.

Tomato Rice

Living with 6 other roommates has its perks. We share lots of food, and hardly anyone ever eats alone. We'll also have the occasional family dinner, where we all cook together and eat together. This is a recipe that I learned from my cousin Karen, who I think learned it from her friend Ezzie, and ever since I made it for my roommates for a family dinner, we make it almost every week. It's a staple of sorts in our apartment. If you want the rice to be extra tomato-y, skip the water and substitute more tomato sauce. Karen also suggested adding a can of beans to the mixture (when you add the tomato sauce and water), which I love to do. Serve it with your meat of choice, with taco fixings, or just in a tortilla. This recipe serves four as a side dish, or two if it's the main course. As always, there will be leftovers for tomorrow!

Half of a small yellow onion, chopped
1 or 2 cloves of garlic (I love garlic, so I put 2), minced
1 cup of white rice
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
3/4 cup water
Olive oil

Rinse the rice in a mesh strainer under cold water. Let drain. Place a small pot over medium-low heat and coat the bottom with olive oil to heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until just starting to brown. Add the rice and cook until the rice is translucent, or at least more translucent than it was to start. Add a few dashes of salt. Add the can of tomato sauce and stir, then add water. Bring the liquid to a boil, then turn down heat to medium-low or low, so that it is no longer boiling, but slightly simmering. Cover with a lid so that rice stays moist. Let cook for about 20 minutes, depending on the rice (be sure to check on it, and stir it if it sticks to the bottom!).