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Mother’s Day: Mamma Mia x 3 + A Blueberry Citrus Tart

In our family of 17-around-the-table-for-holidays, there are only 4 cooks…me, my sister, my son and my niece. My son was busy when we started making plans for Mother’s Day so it was left to the 3 mothers to plan the dinner. (But he did step up for dessert and it was FABU!)
The senior mothers (my mom and aunt) retired from hosting family dinners a while back but, in deference to the occasion, we asked them what they’d like for Mother Day. It wasn’t brunch…it was a resounding “pasta” dinner. So the 3 chef-esses decided to do 3 different pastas. 

My niece who has the 2 smallest children decided to do a typical red sauce pasta with tiny meatballs (left). My sister made a delicious pesto pasta with fresh tomatoes and olives (right) and I did what I call a ‘Flavors of the Mediterranean’ pasta. I plan to publish the recipe in a special event pasta post I’m planning; but, meantime, here’s a teaser of the approximate 15 ingredients that go in before the pasta.

This time ‘save the best for last’ was a real truism…a citrus custard tart with fresh blueberries. I think Jim will be posting the recipe on his blog, Our Family Food Fight.

I hope you all…mothers, fathers, daughters, sons…had a nice day.

5 small meals with BIG FLAVORS

I’d like to lose 15 lbs., but I’d be happy with 10. Hell, I’d be happy losing 5…but how? I almost never eat junk food or fast food. I don’t bake or fry (and I don’t bring those products home). I don’t have a sweet tooth and I maintain a fairly regular exercise routine. In a nutshell, I embrace a pretty healthy food plan that is driven by fresh vegetables. 

O.K., I must admit to the empty calories that come from drinking wine at dinner. So I’ve now taken to skipping a night here and there. But I’m not happy about that. I recently started to wonder if my problem was that in an effort to eat healthy, I embraced the “balanced” meal theory (particularly at dinner)…a protein, vegetables, a starch…
but like Dr. Phil says:
how’s that working for you?” And the answer would be…NOT!

So, my new food plan is small meals with BIG(ger) FLAVORS. Forget the balance. Just put something really tasty and small on the plate. I already do a lot of bold flavors and finishing touches so I guess the key is to kick it up a notch and narrow it down to one main item with a few garnishes. For example:

Warm Octopus Salad

This was so good and so simple. 1 can Goya pulpo en aceite de oliva (octopus in olive oil) warmed in a skillet with fresh garlic, some grape tomatoes, and minced chili pepper. Add a few stuffed green olives and capers, a squeeze of lime and pour over about 1/4 cup of rice. [The rice was totally not needed, but I had yellow rice left over from Cinco de Mayo which I used as the base.}

Garbanzo & Israeli Couscous Salad

A small amount (like a teaspoon) of minced chorizo sauteed with garbanzo, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh spinach and Israeli couscous cooked in chicken broth. Toss everything together and add a drizzle of olive oil. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a sprinkle of feta cheese.

Adult Chicken Fingers with Cilantro Dipping Sauce

Trying to make it adult by spicing it up and non-fattening by not breading and frying, I cut 2 cutlets into strips and coated them with a blend of 2 teaspoons no-fat sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon aji amarillo paste (or chili sauce or hot sauce), and a sprinkle of coconut (totally not needed). They were baked in the oven at 375 and served with a cilantro dipping sauce made from no-fat sour cream blended with cilantro sauce leftover from the Cinco de Mayo dinner.

Tomato Surprise

This is sort of a clean-the-refrigerator dish: a piece of leftover chicken, half of a baked acorn squash, a half-cup of Israeli couscous, some leftover raw red cabbage from the Bavarian Burger, and some of the usual kitchen staples like marinated artichokes, dates, capers, toasted walnuts, fresh lemon juice and olive oil. I tossed them all together and stuffed a tomato, topping with a homemade Indonesian Peanut Sauce which someone gave me.

Individual Spinach & Artichoke Omelet Muffin

I’m sending this small meal with BIG FLAVORS off to my friend, Nuria in Barcelona who writes Spanish Recipes. She is currently running an international Blog Your Omelet event. 

For the omelet: Pulse 2 eggs, 3-4 pieces of quartered marinated artichokes, handful of fresh spinach, a few pinches of shredded mozzarella, a couple of teaspoons of grated parmigiano, S&P to taste. Bake in individual (silicone) muffin cups in 350 degree oven until set (about 20 minutes). Add a sprinkle of mozzarella on top and place under broiler for a moment. Let omelet sit for a few minutes before placing on sauce and serving.

For the sauce: Pulse a handful of cherry tomatoes, a few piquillo peppers, olive oil, a small clove of garlic, and a handful of walnuts. 

I think other small plates with BIG FLAVORS include some of these egg dishes I presented before:
Poached Egg Pizzaiolo
A Dozen Good Eggs
2 More Dressed Up Poached Eggs

Lamb Chops – the American Way

Long before FoodTV, long before fusion cooking, long before the globalization of cuisines, and long before you or I ever thought about broadcasting what we had for dinner on the internet, American homemakers served lamb chops with mint jelly. And pork? Well, that was easy. Mott’s Apple Sauce was the perfect complement and all you had to do was open a jar. You didn’t even have to heat it. 

It’s been a long time since I had either of those dishes prepared in that way. Lamb to me today is done in the Greek way with lots of garlic, oregano and lemon juice. And I’m sure if I was planning to serve pork with apples, I’d be in the kitchen cutting on a diagonal, carmelizing, and I-don’t-know-what.  Time passes, styles change, but I thought I’d present a “Father Knows Best” meets “Ozzie & Harriet Nelson” moment from the 50s (though I’m fairly certainly they didn’t tower food back then).

So, with deep respect for the Olympic King of Lamb, Greece, (and a nod to Italy for dishing it up with hot cherry peppers), remember when?

Qué Viva Mexico!

I don’t know how many Mexicans will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo this year because of the health problems they are currently facing. But, here in South Florida in FOODalogue’s kitchen, with a heart full of hope and good wishes for the health and prosperity of a wonderful country, I decided to make a Mexican-inspired dinner. It started with a poblano pepper I bought at the market.

Interestingly, while Cinco de Mayo is considered only a “regional” holiday in Mexico, it’s a big deal in the U.S. It’s a day when everyone comes together and celebrates all things Mexican. And, for many, it’s a real good excuse to go out and consume pitchers of Margaritas!
I recently saw a Bobby Flay ‘Throw-Down’ where the subject was stuffed poblanos. His was stuffed with an eggplant mixture and the Mexican chefs he was battling made vegetarian stuffed poblanos with nogales (cactus). P.S. The Mexicans won.

Neither one of these thrilled me so I decided to stuff mine with rice, grill some shrimp, and serve them over a cilantro sauce with a rough-salsa.

First you have to char the pepper. I did it in a 450 degree oven and then placed it in a paper bag to sweat the skin off.  As I saw on that Throw-Down show, I then cut a T in the pepper to ready it for stuffing.

• Saute finely minced onion, green pepper and garlic in a little olive oil and soften.
• Add rice to toast for a minute or two.
• Then add liquid (I always use chicken broth).
Seasonings: Sazón with culantro & achiote, S&P, a little chipolte powder and some fresh cilantro.

Cilantro Sauce
• Pulse a bunch of fresh cilantro with the juice of a lime, a dash of hot sauce, olive oil, a little salt, and a drop or two of honey.

• Marinate shrimp in olive oil, garlic, lime, salt, and a little Sazón. Sear on high in dry pan, then add a little of the marinade and cover for 1-2 minutes to cook shrimp through.

• Chop fresh tomato, toss with cilantro, fresh lime juice and a little salt.

To Finish
Stuff poblano with rice and cover with cheddar cheese. Place under broiler a few minutes until cheese begins to bubble.

Final Comment
The drop or two of honey in the cilantro sauce was just the right counterpoint to the heat of the rest of the meal. Good call!

Other Mexican-inspired dishes from FOODalogue:
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