Monthly Archives: April 2006

04/04/06

Orzo with Spinach Pesto

Serves 6

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large bunches spinach, washed well
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup pine nuts
4 to 5 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups orzo pasta (whole wheat preferred)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. In batches, add the spinach, with the water still clinging to its leaves, to the pan. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and cook 2 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the spinach, cover and cook 2 minutes longer. Repeat until all the spinach is wilted and tender, transferring each batch to a colander set over a bowl to drain. When cool enough to handle, press down to extract as much liquid as possible. Coarsely chop the spinach, reserving the juice.

Wipe out the pan, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and sauté 1 to 2 minutes, until lightly golden. Add the garlic and cook while stirring, about 2 minutes, until its aroma is released. Stir in the spinach, adjust the seasonings, and cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat.

In a large saucepan, bring a generous quantity of salted water to a boil. Cook the orzo, stirring occasionally, about 9 minutes, until tender. Drain thoroughly and transfer the orzo to the skillet with the spinach mixture, along with the reserved spinach juice. Toss to evenly mix, taste for seasoning, and reheat gently. Stir in lemon juice, sprinkle with cheese, and serve in pasta bowls.

04/04/06

Warm Baby Artichoke Salad

Serves 4

12 baby artichokes (about 2 inches in diameter)
2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano

Remove dark green outer leaves as well as about a 3/4-inch slice from the top of each artichoke. Trim stems and cut each artichoke in half. Lay flat side down on a cutting board and slice lengthwise as thinly as possible.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add olive oil. When almost smoking, add shredded artichokes, salt, and pepper. Sauté artichokes for 5 to 7 minutes while stirring and shaking the pan often.

Season with lemon juice and grated Parmesan and serve immediately.

04/04/06

Grilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce

2 bunches asparagus, trimmed

Extra virgin olive oil to taste
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 recipe Lemon Vinaigrette (see below)
1 recipe Romesco Sauce (see below)

Preheat grill or stovetop grill pan to medium high.

Toss asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper and grill until tender-crisp, about 3 to 6 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus stalks. Remove from the heat to a large plate or shallow bowl. Toss with the Lemon Vinaigrette. Arrange asparagus all in one direction on a platter and top with a large dollop of Romesco Sauce. Serve immediately.

Lemon Vinaigrette

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine ingredients in a blender and puree until emulsified.

Romesco Sauce

4 cloves garlic
1 cup unsalted roasted almonds
5 Roma tomatoes, charred black on grill, stovetop grill pan, or under the broiler
2 ancho chiles, seeded and rehydrated in simmering water, or 3 tablespoons paprika
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place garlic and almonds in food processor and pulse to break into smaller pieces. Add remaining ingredients, except for oil, and puree. While continuing to puree, add the olive oil in a slowly, steady stream until a smooth, thick sauce forms. Serve at room temperature.

04/02/06

Bananas: The Loveable Mutants in Your Kitchen

Yes, it’s true! The sweet yellow banana, America’s most popular fruit, is actually a mutant strain which developed from the original red and green cooking bananas now known as plantains. After its discovery on a plantation in Jamaica in 1836, the sweet yellow Cavendish variety was cultivated and quickly gained popularity. Today, Americans consume an average of 25 pounds of bananas per person annually!

In addition to the Cavendish, there are now several other varieties of bananas widely available in the U.S., including the Burro Banana which has an interesting lemony flavor, the finger-sized Manzano that turns black when ripe, and the Saba and Brazilian which are somewhat tart.

It’s Good to Go Bananas
Nutritionally, bananas are a nearly ideal food. They are an excellent source of potassium and magnesium and contain significant amounts of vitamin C and vitamin B6. They also contain tryptophan, the amino acid found in turkey, which makes you sleepy. Because bananas contain less water than other fruits, their carbohydrate content by weight is higher, making them a favorite of endurance athletes. Got heartburn? Bananas are a natural antacid. Headed for a hangover after a night of partying? Because depletion of potassium and dehydration are the main causes of a nasty morning after, eating a banana and drinking a large glass of water before going to bed is a great way to prevent a hangover.

The Top Banana: Tricks of the Trade
While they may be nutritious and delicious, working with bananas can be a bit tricky. Here are some helpful hints:

• To speed ripening, place bananas in a loosely closed paper bag with an apple.

• Once ripened, you can store bananas in the refrigerator to slow down aging. Although their skins will turn dark, the bananas will be perfectly edible for up to two weeks. Bring refrigerated fruit to room temperature before consuming for full flavor.

• Dip peeled and sliced bananas into lemon, lime, or orange juice to slow browning.

• Salvage overripe bananas by peeling, wrapping in plastic wrap, and freezing. Eat them frozen or thaw them and use in baking, where peak sweetness and “mushiness” is desirable.

• Bananas are great on the grill! Place unpeeled fruit, halved lengthwise, directly on the grill until heated through. In an oven, place halved bananas cut-side up under the broiler for about five minutes.

Savory and Sweet Banana Treats
Armed with all the banana basics, now it’s time to enjoy the fruit of your labor. In honor of the almighty and versatile banana, Mary Sue and Susan have created a couple of truly sensational savory banana dishes, plus an old favorite sweet banana treat they’ve been serving at Border Grill for years.

Banana Corn Fritters
Spicy Banana Dip
Banana Cream Pie

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