ROASTED TUSCAN PEPPERS

We all have our “safe” favorites dishes – the recipes we keep up our sleeve that we can knee-jerk back to when in doubt – knowing that it will always turn out perfectly. This dish has been up my sleeve for many years now and it never fails to delight dinner guests. I only wish I could make it year round, but since I refuse to use non-organic bell peppers (the are one of the veggies on the “Dirty Dozen” list,) organic peppers are only available & affordable right now in August.

I wasn’t having a dinner party – I’m actually out of the dinner party groove right now – dunno why, but I am. Perhaps it’s because it’s the last 2 weeks of Summer vacation and everyone’s all over the place. Anyway, I made these for dinner for my husband and I. I served them with a spinach, goat cheese & hazelnut salad (a favorite combo,) and a warm ciabatta loaf (which is mandatory with this recipe to soak up all the good juices).

I’m not always fussy about ingredients, but when it comes to olive oil and tomatoes I am. For this recipe, I recommend using the best olive oil you can lay your mitts on. The tomatoes aren’t so important, as you’re going to be roasting them and you can roast a below average tomato and make it pretty delicious.

The recipe includes anchovies only for those who love them. I’m a great fan because I’m a salty girl through and through, but my husband begged me not to put them near his! So custom make them for the family.

Roasted Tuscan Peppers

Serves 2

2 large organic bell peppers

8-10 cherry tomatoes

8tbsp (approx) good olive oil

8 Kalamata olives

Sea Salt and Pepper

1 bunch of fresh basil leaves

1 small tin of anchovies (You’ll only be using half the tin, so perhaps make a Ceasar dressing with the rest.)

Pre-heat oven to 400 F

Carefully half the peppers lengthwise. Do not take the stalk off, but carefully slice through it. It looks pretty to keep it on. Carefully de-seed the peppers and place them in a deep baking dish.

Pop two cherry tomatoes, 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, 2 olives, 2 basil leaves inside each pepper half. Season with salt and pepper and add the anchovies if using.

Place in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check after 45 minutes – the edges of the peppers should be beginning to turn black and the actual body of the pepper should be slightly withered.

Allow to cool and serve at room temperature. You can cover them and chill overnight but make sure you leave them out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving as the flavors come out at room temperature. Garnish with a couple of leaves of fresh basil.

Roasted Tuscan Peppers

 

Roasted Tuscan Peppers

Serves 2

2 large organic bell peppers

8-10 cherry tomatoes

8tbsp (approx) good olive oil

8 Kalamata olives

Sea Salt and Pepper

1 bunch of fresh basil leaves

1 small tin of anchovies (You’ll only be using half the tin, so perhaps make a Ceasar dressing with the rest.)

Pre-heat oven to 400 F

Carefully half the peppers lengthwise. Do not take the stalk off, but carefully slice through it. It looks pretty to keep it on. Carefully de-seed the peppers and place them in a deep baking dish.

 

Pop two cherry tomatoes, 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, 2 olives, 2 basil leaves inside each pepper half. Season with salt and pepper and add the anchovies if using.

Place in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check after 45 minutes – the edges of the peppers should be beginning to turn black and the actual body of the pepper should be slightly withered.

 

Allow to cool and serve at room temperature. You can cover them and chill overnight but make sure you leave them out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving as the flavors come out at room temperature. Garnish with a couple of leaves of fresh basil.

GREEN TEA MUFFINS

I often feel like a little something mid-morning. Sweet is good – but not too sweet. I came back from yoga the other day and knew just want I wanted with a mug of nutty green genmaicha (the one with toasted rice,) tea – a light green tea muffin.

I whipped them up in less than 15 minutes and the tray was half gone by the end of the day. My husband and daughter are great culinary judges because if they come back a second time (spoiled as they are,) I know it’s a huge hit.

My daughter says they’re “awesome” with a glass of milk, my husband likes them as is and I like mine with my tea.

Unlike most muffins, they are very light, and not too sweet. They are made with matcha green tea powder, which you can get from some health food stores (Wholefoods for sure,) and a number of websites. I purchased mine from www.birdpick.com which is great tea house. They actually sell the matcha powder mixed with a vanilla sugar, which is incredible used in a latte with rice or almond milk. For this recipe you can either use plain matcha powder or the vanilla Bird Pick mix. Oh, also – if you happen to have a Japanese store anywhere near where you live, go there to get your matcha powder, as it will be a quarter of the price.

Finally I added some Maca Powder to these babies. This is absolutely optional so forget it if you don’t know or care about this weird super food. I’m a huge maca fan because it’s a super food, which is amazing for balancing hormones, improving your energy, and stimulating your libido! It has a slightly nutty taste, which is not noticeable when you bake with it. So up to you – you can find it at health food stores or Navitas Naturals.

 

 

GREEN TEA MUFFINS

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1cup whole wheat flour

1/2tsp baking powder

3tsp matcha powder (use Bird Pick or Gotcha Matcha is fantastic.)

1 tbsp Maca Powder

1stick butter (or vegan marge) When I go dairy-free, I use Earth Balance coconut spread.

¾ cup brown sugar

3 eggs (or egg replacer)

¾ cup coconut milk

Pre-heat oven to 350 F

 

Arrange unbleached muffin cups in a muffin tray

 

 

Place the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a whisk to make sure all the ingredients are well combined.

Cream the butter and sugar together. I use an electric mixer to get them as light and fluffy as poss.

Blend the eggs and then add slowly, while mixing.

Still mixing, add the coconut milk.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine well.

Fill each muffin cup ¾ full and place the tray in the oven for 20- 25 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

 

Corn Cakes with Smoked Salmon & Creme Fraiche

I made these for mom and dad when I was in England last week. My dad loves pancakes of any description and I found some beautiful smoked salmon in Marks & Spencer – if you’ve ever been to England, you’ll know the huge chain store, which is commonly known as “M & S”. If I lived in England, I’d do a lot less cooking because their pre-prepared dishes are so incredibly good – yes, I’m afraid I’d get very lazy. The other thing that you just have to buy at M & S is underwear – their bras are legendary – however, let’s get back to the recipe!

The corn cakes are crunchy and light – teamed up with the rich, smokiness of the salmon and the tangy creme fraiche – you’ll fall in love. Creme Fraiche is a combo of sour cream and cream, so if you can’t find it, use sour  cream and add a couple of teaspoons of cream. I know Trader Joe’s carries and great Creme Fraiche and many of the large grocery chains in the US are beginning to stock it.

Make sure that you get the best quality smoked salmon/Lox that you can find. As you are only using a little in this recipe, you can afford a small pack of the best.

This recipe makes a perfect Summer lunch or light Al Fresco dinner. It also works well as as appetizer for a dinner party if you just serve 1 pancake per person.

 

1/2cup cornmeal

¼ cup plain flour

corn cut away from 2 corn cobs

3 large eggs

1/3 cup milk

1/3 cup butter, melted

½ tsp sea salt and 2 grinds of black pepper

3 scallions, use green parts only and finely mince them.

grapeseed oil for frying

Sliced smoked salmon

1cup crème fraiche

 Place the first 7 ingredients in your food processor and pulse two or three times. You don’t want to over-process the mixture, as you still want discernable pieces of corn in the batter.

Pour the batter into a pouring bowl or large pitcher and stir in the scallions, reserving a small handful for garnish.

 Heat the grapeseed oil in a large skillet until hot and almost smoking. Drop in tablespoon dollops of batter into the hot fat and fry for about 3 minutes or until bubbles appear in the top of the pancake. Very carefully, using a splatter cover, turn the pancakes over and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and put in a low oven to keep warm.

When you are ready to serve them. Place them on a pretty plate and spoon a dollop of creme fraiche on each pancake. Top with a sliver of smoked salmon and scatter some scallions over them to finish. Eat right away!

Corn Cakes with Smoked Salmon & Creme Fraiche

1/2cup cornmeal

¼ cup plain flour

corn cut away from 2 corn cobs

3 large eggs

1/3 cup milk

1/3 cup butter, melted

½ tsp sea salt and 2 grinds of black pepper

3 scallions, use green parts only and finely mince them.

grapeseed oil for frying

Sliced smoked salmon

1cup crème fraiche

Place the first 7 ingredients in your food processor and pulse two or three times. You don’t want to over-process the mixture, as you still want discernable pieces of corn in the batter.

Pour the batter into a pouring bowl or large pitcher and stir in the scallions, reserving a small handful for garnish.

Heat the grapeseed oil in a large skillet until hot and almost smoking. Drop in tablespoon dollops of batter into the hot fat and fry for about 3 minutes or until bubbles appear in the top of the pancake. Very carefully, using a splatter cover, turn the pancakes over and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and put in a low oven to keep warm.

 

When you are ready to serve them. Place them on a pretty plate and spoon a dollop of creme fraiche on each pancake. Top with a sliver of smoked salmon and scatter some scallions over them to finish. Eat right away!

HALLOUMI CHEESE KEBABS

In the Summer months I love to use Halloumi Cheese – I’m actually a bit obsessed with it when it comes to grilling because it has a really high smoke point, meaning that it is perfect to throw on the grill. Halloumi cheese originally came from Cyprus and was made from sheep’s milk. Nowadays it’s often made from cow’s milk, but if you can get you hands on some made from sheep’s milk, it’s much tastier (I think Wholefoods carries it.) You can always ask you local grocery store to get some in for you. Halloumi Cheese that is uncooked has a thick waxy texture, which is perfect for threading onto kebab sticks. When melted, it’s insanely delicious – all gooey and slightly salty.

If you are in a hurry, as I always am, this is a great recipe for an al fresco dinner or a quick lunch. You can use any Summer veggies you want, but I think the best combo is what I’ve put together for this recipe. Once you’ve done your shop, marinate the halloumi right away because it needs a few hours to soak in all the lovely herbs.

You can either serve it with rosemary oven-roasted potatoes (a personal favorite,) or stuff them into a warm wholewheat pitta.

Halloumi Cheese & Veggie Kebabs

The amounts of the following ingredients will obviously depend on how many you are cooking for.

1 pack of Halloumi cheese

4tbsp olive oil

1cup chopped fresh herbs: mint, oregano, basil, thyme (whatever you have to hand, but definitely include mint.)

Assorted veggies: Onion, green & red bell pepper, mushrooms, zucchini (all cut into bite sized chunks.)

Place the oil and herbs in a medium bowl or pyrex container, and blend well.  Chop up the cheese into bite sized cubes and add to bowl. Mix the cheese around making sure it’s well

coated with marinade.

Cover your bowl/container and chill for at least 2 hours – better if you leave it overnight. The best way is to make this in a reusable glass or plastic container with a lid because whenever you remember, you can give it a good shake to make sure that the cheese gets re-coated.

Make sure your veggies are chopped into perfect bite-sized chunks, except for mushrooms, which should stay whole.

If you are using bamboo sticks, soak them in cold water for about 30 minutes prior to using. Thread veggies and cheese onto sticks.

Place on a medium grill for about 10 minutes, continually turning.

When cooked, the veggies should be well grilled and the cheese browned.

I love to serve with roasted new potatoes, as I think melted cheese and waxy Summer potatoes are a marriage made in heaven.

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes:

Chop new or fingerling potatoes into bite sized chunks and place in a bowl. Coat with olive oil, chopped fresh rosemary, sea salt and pepper. Use your fingers to coat the potatoes well. Arrange them in a singe layer in a baking tin and cook in a hot oven (400 F) for about 30 minutes.

 

LAVENDER ALMOND & QUINOA COOKIES

Lavender Almond and Quinoa Cookies

1 stick butter

1 & 1/4 cups almond meal

1cup quinoa flour (available at most decent health food stores.)

1tsp baking soda

1/2tsp sea salt

2 tbsp brown rice syrup

2tbsp agave nectar

2 drops of lavender essential oil

Pre-heat oven to 325 F

Place all the ingredients in the food processer and blend until you have a sticky dough.  With your fingers, dig out a walnut sized lump and roll between your palms to form a ball. Press the ball down to form a disk and place on baking sheet

 

Bake for 14 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

 

LAVENDER ALMOND & QUINOA COOKIES

 

I love to experiment with different flours, especially quinoa flour as it’s so full of protein. I also love to use almond flour in baked goods, as it gives for a sweet/nutty texture and makes virtually anything you bake, lighter.

I had a good friend coming over for tea -she’s as into green tea as I am, so I decided to roll out my best wedding China (it hasn’t seen the light of day for quite a few years,) and try to impress her with the kind of cookie that we drool over at a seriously over-priced/pretentiously-healthy cafe down the street. Since all their cookies and cupcakes are infused with herbs and essential oils, I decided on lavender. Lavender essential oil is wonderful in cupcakes, cookies or infused into cream & ice cream, but it’s easy to overdo – I had to make these twice, as I put way too much lavender in the first batch.

Lavender Almond and Quinoa Cookies

1 stick butter

1 & 1/4 cups almond meal

1cup quinoa flour (available at most decent health food stores.)

1tsp baking soda

1/2tsp sea salt

2 tbsp brown rice syrup

2tbsp agave nectar

2 drops of lavender essential oil

Pre-heat oven to 325 F

Place all the ingredients in the food processer and blend until you have a sticky dough.  With your fingers, dig out a walnut sized lump and roll between your palms to form a ball. Press the ball down to form a disk and place on baking sheet

Bake for 14 minutes or until lightly browned on top.