Caprese salad, two ways

My roommate and I bought a basil plant at Trader Joe’s recently, so I have been on the lookout for basil recipes to make.  I was very excited after my farmer’s market and North End run to make some caprese salad.  Always a delicious dish, I think it only gets better the fresher your ingredients are.  With that in mind, I’m not sure it gets any better than this: fresh tomatoes from the farmer’s market, freshly picked basil leaves from our basil plant, and fresh mozzarella from an Italian deli!

Caprese Salad #1:

It was really delicious!  I think that this is the best (and yet, possibly the cheapest) fresh mozzarella that I have ever bought and it really made the dish.  I know what you’re thinking (…Mom…): what if I don’t have a fancy Italian deli to buy fresh mozzarella at?  Easy, come to Boston, of course!

The dish is pretty simple.  Layer sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on top and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

Caprese Salad #2 (an actual salad):

The next day, I turned this dish into an actual salad in an effort to make a dent in the humongous bag of spinach that I bought.  The ingredients are pictured below.  Going clockwise, I used tomatoes, basil, roasted red peppers, chicken, and fresh mozzarella.

I tossed these toppings with the spinach and added salt and pepper and some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Delicious!

Looking forward to having some more soon!

Our basil plant

Fresh mozzarella

Advertisements

DIY: how to make roasted red peppers at home

With my multitude of vegetables from the farmer’s market the other day, I decided to try to make roasted red peppers myself.  Even if it turned out to be a flop, I knew that I would only be losing $1 and a little bit of time!  They actually turned out really well and I’m looking forward to using them now.

Here’s how I made them (thanks to the hazel bloom for the step-by-step instructions):

Turn on your broiler and pre-heat.  Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place your washed red peppers on the cookie sheet.

The instructions I followed said to broil the peppers for about 5 minutes until they are blackened on top and then turn them (with about a quarter turn), but it took my peppers about 15 minutes to get very black on top.  Not sure if I should have preheated the broiler longer or what, but just broil them until they are blackened on the top.

Since my last experience with a broiler ended with the broiler catching on fire (note: I was not the cook…only an innocent bystander!), I was super paranoid about the oven catching on fire every time I heard the bubbling and hissing sounds of the roasting peppers. Fortunately, there was not even a spark this time!

Once they are blackened on one side, remove the cookie sheet from the oven.  Using tongs, rotate the peppers (pretend they have 3 or 4 sides and rotate them to the next side each time).  I had a lot of difficulty with the rotating since some of the sides were very rounded and wouldn’t stay in place, but I don’t think that matters too much as long as you get as much of the peppers as you can.  After rotating, they should look something like this:

Continue broiling about 5 minutes per side until blackened on all sides.

Once done broiling, place the peppers in a mixing bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  This allows the peppers to continue steaming while they cool, making the skin easier to remove.

Next, cut out the stems and begin peeling the skins off (my pictures of this made them look pretty un-appetizing, so I will spare you from seeing them).  As you do this, remove and discard the seeds.  Do not rinse the peppers with water, as this will make them lose the flavor contained in their juices.

I placed a fine mesh strainer over my mixing bowl and allowed all of the juices from the peppers to drip down in the bowl through the strainer before removing the skins.  This keeps the seeds out of the juices, while allowing you to save the juices for when you store the peppers.

Cut up the peppers to your desired size after removing the skins and seeds.

When you’re done, store them in a jar (or tupperware if you’re like me and have taken all of your jars to the recycling) and cover them with their juices and olive oil.  From the research I’ve done, it looks like they may store well in the fridge for up to three weeks. Pretty easy, right?

Turkey chili with butternut squash

Who doesn’t love chili?  Whenever fall starts to set in, it’s always one of the first recipes that I want to make.

One of the most fun things about making chili is how easy it is to change it up.  I usually start with a pretty standard recipe, and then just add whatever sounds good at the time. This time around, I decided to experiment with butternut squash, thinking it might make for a nice fall dish.  It really added a nice texture to the chili, with the added benefit of upping the veggie count.  In the end, the butternut squash flavor was subtle, but it was still quite tasty.

Here’s the recipe that I used (adapted from a Wendy’s chili recipe).  Check it out if you’re looking for something new!

Ingredients (all ingredients are approximate and can be adjusted to fit your tastes):

  • 1 pound of ground turkey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 10-oz can of french onion soup
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ground cinnamon to taste (I always throw in several good shakes of it)
  • 2-3 cans of beans (I used red kidney, black, and white kidney beans)
  • 6-oz can of tomato paste
  • 8-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1-2 fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • butternut squash, diced (I used one that had been pre-peeled and seeded from the grocery store)

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large chili-sized pot.  Add ground turkey and cook until no pink remains. Saute the garlic and onion with the turkey for several minutes.  Add some of the cinnamon, salt, and pepper.  Add all of the fresh vegetables except for the butternut squash and continue sautéing.  Add the can of french onion soup and simmer.

Add all of the remaining ingredients and season to taste.  Cook on low heat for at least 30 minutes.  The butternut squash should be tender by now; if not, simmer some more.  Serve with some shredded cheese on top. Enjoy!

The Boston farmer’s market

I went to the Boston farmer’s market for the first time on Saturday, and oh man have I been missing out.  I never knew that you could buy such cheap produce.  It’s by the Haymarket T stop, right across the street from the North End.  If you’re in Boston and have never been, you should check it out!

I had no idea what I wanted to buy when I got there, other than some tomatoes to make caprese salad.  The tables and tables of cheap vegetables were a bit overwhelming at first, and I possibly bought more vegetables than I could ever eat, but it was a really fun experience.

My first purchase was tomatoes…3 pounds for $1.50. When the man weighed my small bag of tomatoes and told me it would be $1.50, I was blown away.  I couldn’t believe I would be getting change from the two wimpy dollar bills that I handed him!

My roommate and I meandered around, trying to collect vegetables that could be turned into some sort of meal.  Part of the fun was that I saw lots of vegetables that I have never heard of and couldn’t identify.

Do you know what these large yellow pumpkin-looking things are?  I sure don’t.

After the farmer’s market, we stopped in a couple of small Italian grocery stores and delis across the street to buy fresh mozzarella.  The first store that we went into did not have any, but had tons of fresh homemade pasta of all shapes and sizes.  Will definitely have to go back there!  The second store (pictured below) had just what we needed, and also had some fairly cheap marinated chicken breasts.  Perfect to go with all of these vegetables!

Here are my farmer’s market purchases.  In total, I spent less than $10 on all of this.

As best I can remember, I spent $3 on the 5-pound bag of spinach (not sure how I’m going to eat all of that, but that’s cheaper than a 1-pound bag from Shaw’s), 40 cents on the small bunch of bananas, $1.50 on the tomatoes, $1 on the avocados, $1 on the onions, $2 on the green peppers, and $1 on the red peppers.   I also got a free jalapeno pepper.  They were selling for $1.50 a pound and when I told the man that I just wanted one jalapeno, he tossed one to me and told me to just take it.  What a deal!

Can’t wait to go back after I somehow eat all of this!

Low-carb pasta?

Is there such a thing as low-carb pasta?  I don’t know, but there’s something that comes pretty close: spaghetti squash.  Personally, I had never heard of spaghetti squash until my roommate made some last year.  I will admit that I was pretty skeptical about trying it back then…a vegetable that looks like pasta just didn’t sound quite right.  However, I’m now in the midst of trying to eat a low-carb diet and figured I might as well give it a shot.  It has been called a “dieter’s dream” given it’s low-calorie and low-carb qualities.  How bad can it be, right?

Can you tell that this is a picture of squash, rather than pasta?  Well, pasta lovers beware, it is a vegetable.

As it turns out, spaghetti squash is actually really good.  Who knew? It doesn’t have a strong flavor, but is a little sweet.  It has a different texture than pasta, but otherwise, is pretty darn similar.  Once you accept that it’s just not going to have the exact same taste and texture as pasta, it’s really good.

Continue reading