Dishing It

Dishing It: Sirloin Tips and Arugula Rice Pilaf

March 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm , by

I’m a cheater. I went vegetarian in January to see what it was like, and I haven’t eaten meat in almost three whole months. Well, I should say hadn’t. My newfound love for Indian food and chickpeas aside, I just couldn’t say no to Rachael Ray’s sirloin tips and arugula rice pilaf from LHJ‘s March issue. When I signed up to try this recipe for “Dishing It,” I thought it’d be easy to hand over the sirloin tips to my roommate, but after cutting and trimming and spicing and cooking, how could I resist? I deserved a feast, I thought. And a feast it was… at least for me. I hadn’t eaten meat in three months (except for that pepperoni pizza incident–an accident, I swear!) Anyway, this recipe really could not be easier. If I, a just-out-of-college, clueless-in-the-kitchen, cheating vegetarian, can handle it, then I’m pretty sure anyone can. food2

My biggest issue when cooking is that I’m impatient. I also never read the recipe through, and I always, always end up doing things out of order or cooking things too long because I’m googling a cooking term I don’t understand. For example, deglaze. What the heck does deglaze mean?  Zest? What exactly is zest? This time, probably because I knew I was going to have to share this experience with all of you, I pre-googled and was ready.

I set up my ingredients, and got to work. I did make a few substitutions–instead of chicken broth, I used veggie broth. At this point I was still operating under the assumption that I wasn’t going to eat steak. Instead of grated Parmesan cheese, I used the powdered stuff because it’s what I had. Same goes for dried parsley, instead of fresh. I’m sure it would’ve been that much better with those two, so if you have the time to get them, I highly recommend it. I also used whole grain brown rice because I’m healthy like that!


As per the directions, I started by toasting the orzo and then adding the rice and broth. While my pilaf was simmering, I turned my attention to the steak. I trimmed and cut, salt and peppered, and then cooked. Easy! After adding the parsley, garlic and zest, it was then I knew I was going to cheat. The temptation was unbearable. It smelled delicious, and as easy as it was, I made it myself. It would’ve been wrong not to indulge, am I right? Once my rice was done, I mixed in the arugula and my powdered-Parmesan. Man, I wish I had gone with grated, I thought. But hey, it still works.



Dishing It: Scallops with Tomatoes and Mango

March 10, 2011 at 6:50 pm , by

Before we discuss the dish I made for this week’s “Dishing It,” I have one question: Do you know Bal? Bal Arneson, that is. She’s is one of the Cooking Channel‘s newest culinary stars…and with good reason. Bal completely demystifies Indian cuisine on her show Spice Goddess with simple recipes that anyone can make. (Even I, a culinary school grad, am not ashamed to admit that Indian recipes sometimes intimidate me.) She’ll even sell you the organic spices to prepare them, with proceeds benefiting women and children in her native India—talk about DO GOOD!

I chose Bal’s recipe from the March 2011 issue of LHJ (Dinner Made Easy) mainly because I adore scallops and was intrigued by the sweet/spicy sauce that accompanies it. Plus, as a food editor, it’s always fun to try other chefs recipes—especially chefs I admire, like Bal.

I did make a few changes to the recipes. For starters, I used mango instead of papaya, because I prefer it and since the recipe calls for ground coriander, I took the opportunity to also test out McCormick‘s new line of roasted spices. If you haven’t tried them yet, they’re great. The roasted coriander I used had a much more powerful flavor than traditional ground coriander. It was perfect in a dish like this, with just a few ingredients. Also, instead of serving my scallops with shaved Parmesan, I served it with a sprinkling of freshly chopped cilantro.

This recipe could not be easier, with minimal prep. You basically start by searing the scallops. The directions say 2 minutes per side which is the perfect amount of time to cook them. They were tender and moist inside and not overcooked at all. Overcooked scallops are often tough and chewy—no one wants that.

After you cook the scallops and remove them from the pan to rest, you toss in your minced garlic and cook for just a moment. Then you add the spices and cook them for another moment. Then you add the tomatoes. (I used an assorted variety of cherry tomatoes, halving the large ones and leaving the smaller ones whole. This was a good move since the halved ones got a touch over cooked.) Cook them for a few minutes before adding the mango (or papaya) to cook a few minutes more. Add the scallops back to the pan to coat in the sauce and serve over rice. That’s it! So, so, so easy, but also very sophisticated. I would totally serve this dish to guests. I’m definitely adding this recipe to my regular repertoire.

As I devoured the dinner (like I said, I adore scallops), I realized that you could prepare this meal with different ingredients and it would be just as delicious. Chunks of cod or salmon could be substituted or, if you don’t like fish, you could always use strips of chicken or pork. Even cubes of tofu if you are vegetarian. Yum!

Dishing It: Lamb and Feta Meatballs

March 3, 2011 at 7:23 am , by

photo[1]For this week’s Dishing It, I made the Lamb and Feta Meatballs featured in the March 2011 issue of LHJ. I absolutely had to make these after tasting them on the photo shoot a few months back. I decided to test them out on Monday for what my friends and I call “Family Dinner Night.” We started this tradition a few months back when I complained that I wanted to cook more, but lived alone and had no one to cook for. So now every Monday I prepare dinner for two of my best friends and we watch a movie and drink old fashioneds. As I was at the grocery store after work I got a text from my friend saying he wasn’t going to be able to make it because he had to work late. Normally, I would have just left the store and gone home, but not tonight–tonight I was having lamb and feta meatballs!

I’m not used to cooking lamb, even though it is one of my favorite meats to eat, so I was a little nervous at first. But I thought, “How hard can it be, is it really any different from ground beef or pork? Nah!” This turned out to be one of the easiest dishes to make, and one of the tastiest. Basically, you throw everything into one big bowl and mix. Then you have the choice of cooking them up in a sauté pan or baking them. I’ve never baked a meatball before so naturally I just went with what I knew and threw them in a sauté pan. I think this probably wasn’t the best option. The lamb is a lot more tender than beef and I had to be extra super careful when rolling them over so they wouldn’t fall apart.


So I cooked up a pan full but realized I had tons of extra meat mix (I mean it was just for me after all). So I decided to follow our food editor Tara’s tip and freeze the rest. Super simple: Just roll them into balls, place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze. The next morning I put them in a Ziploc bag. Done and done.

When the meatballs were done cooking, I decided to go the healthy route and serve them on top of salad. I cut up romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers and kalamata olives, and crumbled feta on top. Then I just sliced up a few meatballs and threw them in. I topped it off with the yogurt sauce that Tara suggested, and voila! A healthy and super tasty meal. So even though I didn’t get to enjoy them with my Family Dinner Night crew, I did get to plop down and enjoy them with my Golden Girls marathon (don’t tell my friends but it was secretly just as much fun). And what will I be serving at next Monday’s Family Dinner Night? Well frozen lamb and feta meatballs of course. —Laura D’Abate

Dishing It: Curried Mac and Cheese

February 24, 2011 at 11:08 am , by


On to this week’s installment of “Dishing It,” I made Chef Roger Mooking’s recipe from LHJ’s March 2011 issue: Curried Macaroni and Cheese. I wanted to make it because I love gourmet updates of macaroni and cheese. I’ve had lobster mac and cheese, last night my friend had an interesting artichoke and olive mac and cheese and my most memorable was a truffle mac and cheese I had 2.5 years ago. (I think about it often). Anyway, the addition of curry intrigued me and I love asparagus! (I took this asparagus photo 4 years ago in Rome- enjoy!)

I learned something from my last “Dishing It” post (see my whoopie pie experience) and read the recipe before starting. This was a good thing because it serves 8-10 people and I was making this just for little ole’ me. Even half of this was a lot. One should note the recipe is highly addictive and is far from a light meal. Just ignore the nutritional info below the recipe (although it’s based on using whole milk and I used skim, so I’m sure I cut the calories down by half- right?) That being said, it’s a delicious dish–just make it for a group so you don’t end up eating it all yourself–which, for the record, I did not do!!! Having it for dinner and lunch the next day was enough. I resisted finishing it off and shared it with the office.

The recipe was very easy to make. The only issue I had was with the chili pepper. First, they didn’t sell Thai peppers at my super market so I grabbed another one, whose name I quickly forgot on the way home. Next, while cleaning out the seeds from the pepper the hotness caused me to start choking (my friend on the phone thought I was dying). Finally, I actually messed up the chili part of the recipe–(you’d think after it almost killed me I would’ve paid more attention) I chopped it instead of just putting a large piece of in it. I have a knack for always messing up one thing, but luckily it rarely affects the outcome.

don't comment on my cheap knives. they work quite well.

stirring... la la la

it's going in!


I leave you with a thought: Mooking states that his experience in the kitchen is like  Bruce Lee “because he saw practice as an opportunity to master his craft. In the kitchen, repetition helps you do things better.” So I sit and pondering who my kitchen inspiration is. I don’t think I can say Bruce Lee because I have a tiny kitchen and can’t perform martial arts in it. After much thought, I think my kitchen experience is like an episode of “Three’s Company” minus the sexual innuendos. There’s misunderstandings, falls and sarcasm but in the end all is good and everyone is happy!

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Dishing It: High-Fiber Peanut Butter Bran Muffins

February 10, 2011 at 12:50 pm , by

High Fiber Muffins

Let me guess. You first saw the word peanut butter in this muffin recipe from our February issue and got all excited to make it. But you then saw that the first ingredient was wheat bran and grumbled. I can just hear you now…

I just know wheat bran will be SO hard to find.
OK, so this is might be true, depending on where you live. I went to my local supermarket only to turn up empty-handed, and even Whole Foods had just one option in their bulk grains aisle (which actually turned out to be quite a find, as you’ll see below). However, our trusty food editor Khalil tells me to look more closely next time among the Bob’s Red Mill grains and head to a health food store like GNC for more options.

Sure, but even when I do find it, I’m sure it will be expensive.
The total for my self-serve bag of wheat bran came to a whopping 32 cents, and I had leftovers! What else, I ask you, can you get for 32 cents these days (besides this cancer-fighting, heart-healthy grain!)? Plus, I guarantee you already have the rest of the muffins’ ingredients in your pantry, so you won’t break the bank.

You’ll never use the leftovers, though! What a waste!
How about stirring some into your morning oatmeal? Or adding it as a healthy boost to pancakes? Or – make more muffins!

But… but… WHEAT BRAN??
Stop right there. Try this recipe and I promise you’ll be singing a different tune, and be well on your way toward getting more of that little powerhouse nutrient we here at LHJ keep reminding you to eat (psst – the correct answer is fiber).

Baking these muffins is a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, which is exactly what I did. In a nutshell, you put the wet ingredients in one bowl, the dry in another and stir until combined (I also gave the peanuts a quick spin the food processor to chop them up – but don’t go overboard or you’ll end up with mush!). Totally easy for even the baking-phobic.Honey PeanutsPeanut Butter

Click “read more” below to see how they came out!

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Dishing It: Carrot-Sweet Potato Soup

February 7, 2011 at 5:18 pm , by

There is something special about a hot, thick, body- and soul-warming soup, especially on frigid winter days when your house is surrounded by more than four feet of snow and ice and your roof carries almost as much—plus icicles everywhere. Yep, when it is so cold that even pets don’t want to go outdoors, that is the time for something like the Carrot-Sweet Potato Soup featured in “Slow-Good Soups” in our February 2011 issue (page 124). Truth be told, this numbered among the easiest soups I have ever made, and my wife, Lindsay, would rank its degree of preparation for beginning cooks. But on the scale of satisfaction (more on that in a moment) it definitely merited a perfect 10.

Preparation: We followed the recipe to a tee except we used two Knorr vegetable bouillon cubes in lieu of chicken broth (we eat no meat) and we had only dark honey purchased locally in Fairfield County, Connecticut, so we used that (not clover honey). And since we had our woodstove cranked up the entire weekend, we decided to slow-cook this soup on top of it instead of in a slow cooker. Why not? That was how our forebears used to make dishes like this, and we had all day long to let it heat.

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Dishing It: Brownies Made Healthier

January 27, 2011 at 12:14 pm , by

Who’s ever heard of a healthy brownie? Not me—at least not one that tastes good—until I saw this recipe in our February issue for “Brownies Made Healthier.” I love baking, and most of my favorite recipes include more butter and sugar than I’d like to admit, so I knew I had to give this whole healthy brownie thing a shot.

The ingredients certainly surprised me. The health boost mainly comes from a few sneaky ingredient swaps, including squash and olive oil instead of butter and whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour. As for the recipe itself—it was a piece of cake! (Or brownie?) The only trouble I ran into was defrosting the squash. I forgot to leave it in the fridge that morning so it could defrost while I was at work, but if it weren’t for that little hiccup the prep probably would have taken me only about 5 to 10 minutes. Next, the brownie batter went into the oven at 350 degrees for 23 minutes.

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