Saturday, July 30

Easy Sole Meuniere

Whew, thanks for bearing with me while I was off having the time of my life with some fabulous ladies!  I'm back now and with lots of good recipes to share during the next few weeks. 

And now to catch you up on my most recent promise... Ina Garten's easy sole meuniere recipe.  This was the other recipe my Mom and I made during her recent visit. 


As it turns out, I kind of have some issues cooking fish.  I'm not sure how someone can be so inept at cooking something that seems so easy, but 75% of the time I cook fish, we end up eating PB&J or frozen waffles and the fish ends up in the trash.  The other 25% of the time, I cook salmon which is the only thing I seem to not screw up.  Seriously, I have an amazing recipe for fish tacos with a lime guacamole sauce that I made a few weeks ago.  But can I post it here?  No, because the fish was so bad I had to substitute leftover chicken in the tacos.

So when my Mom and I decided to stay in and cook, this was an obvious dish for us to try.  Mainly so I could get a little cooking lesson from the expert herself.

Ignore the clumpy lemon zest, I did a bad job sprinkling

Here's what I learned:
  • Your fish should not smell.  If it smells fishy, it's turned.  Toss it and order a pizza.
  • The fish should feel firm to the touch.  Ask the fishmonger to smell and touch the fish before he wraps it up.  Don't feel awkward, they should be proud to show off their goods.
  • Use a fish spatula. It's long, skinny and metal and is specifically designed to work with fish which can be so fickle.  It will help keep the fish from falling apart.  You'll know when the fish is ready to be turned because the spatula will slide easily underneath the fish.
  • Unknown fact: your fish spatula also doubles as a whisk.
  • Don't buy fish on Sunday or Monday mornings.  There haven't been any fresh shipments and you'll be getting bottom of the barrel.

So just what the heck is sole meuniere?  Well, meuniere refers to both a sauce and a method of preparation.  It is simple, unelaborate and rustic.  It's one of my favorite ways to cook, basically using just a few ingredients and letting them shine.  In this case it was lemon, butter and sole.


Now that I'm out of my "fish rut" I plan on adding this to my regular rotation.  I saved some leftovers for Roy but unfortunately they didn't make it past lunch the next day (I made sure to tell him how good it was though :)  If you're fish challenged but willing to learn, give this a shot!


Ina Garten's Easy Sole Meuniere 

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 fresh sole fillets, 3 to 4 ounces each
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and have 2 heat-proof dinner plates ready so you can keep your finished fish warm.

Pat the sole fillets dry with paper towels and sprinkle one side with salt.  Combine the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a large shallow plate. 

Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat until it starts to brown. Dredge 2 sole fillets in the seasoned flour on both sides and place them in the hot butter.

Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes. Turn carefully with a metal spatula and cook for 2 minutes on the other side. While the second side cooks, add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice to the pan.

Carefully put the fish filets on the ovenproof plates and pour the sauce over them. Keep the cooked fillets warm in the oven while you repeat the process with the remaining 2 fillets.

When they're done, grab your filets from the oven, sprinkle with the parsley, salt, and pepper if needed and serve immediately.

Note: if your lemons aren't super juicy, microwave them for about 30 seconds and then cut and squeeze them.  You will be shocked and how much juice was hiding in there.

Thursday, July 28

Gone Girls Weekend 'ing

I know I promised a post on Ina Garten's sole meuniere last week.  And I really meant to write it up and post it.  But then Thursday rolled around.  And I had to take off for girls weekend.  And it was amazing and wonderful and I completely forgot about the sole meuniere.  But it's coming, I promise!

To tide you over, I'm sharing a few photos from girls weekend.  Mainly of the food we ate on the 3 day weekend that took me from Harlem to Hoboken.  Lots of these are with my cell phone camera because it was ungodly hot on the east coast last weekend and carrying a big honking camera (that I still don't really know how to use) was just too much. 

I started at Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem with old friends Shannon and Clara. To quote Shannon when Clara told us where we'd be going... "I'm not leaving till my waist band snaps".   Well ok then!  Challenge accepted...

Clara, Shannon and Rachel in Boston in 2009

We chowed down on fried green tomatoes that made you forget how far north of the Mason-Dixon line you were. 

Fried green tomatoes at Dinosaur BBQ

Then there was a smorgasbord of pulled pork, ribs, and some amazing mac n cheese.

Pulled pork, slaw and butter potatoes

And finally, a little bit of dessert with some fresh berries and shortcake.  Thank goodness calories don't count on girls weekends!

Fresh berries and shortcake

After that I made my way to Hoboken to meet up with my college girlfriends.  We met when we were freshman and sophomores at Virginia Tech and we've been holding a "girls affair" annually for the past 7 years.  The location and activities may change, but the junk food and trashy magazines (ok, and wine) are a constant. 

The staples of girls weekends

To complement the theme, I brought our hostess this bacon and chocolate chip pancake mix as a thank you.  It's from an unbelievable store in Chicago called Vosges Haut Chocolates that was one of the first to get on the bacon and chocolate train.  I'm regretting not getting one for myself but something tells me I'll be rectifying that soon!

Mo's Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancake Mix

Our weekend in Hoboken let me indulge a number of my "eater" passions.  We swung past Carlo's Bakery from the TLC show "Cake Boss".  Instead of seeing Buddy, the head honcho, we saw a line over a block long in triple digit temperatures and immediately continued on to an air conditioned bar.   

In the battle of baked goods versus air conditioning... the AC won. THAT'S how hot it was!

We also stumbled upon the Garden of Eden Gourmet Market.  It's the same chain featured in the Bravo tv show "Rocco's Dinner Party", which my Mom has just gotten me hooked on.  I swooned, freaked out, made someone take a photo of me and in general, made enough of a fuss that the girls wanted to come inside to see what all the commotion was about. 

Hi Mom!!
Seriously, how drool-worthy is this place?

I would have taken more photos but we had decided to come back later to get dinner and I didn't want to get the boot before I'd even had a chance to sample the goods. 

To add insult to injury, the prices were reasonable!  They were the same or less than I'd pay in Chicago.  I pretty much want to move in upstairs.

Goodbye Garden of Eden, I will miss you

We ended up walking about 4 miles in 95+ degree temps with humidity.  So when we saw a Crumbs Cupcake store, I felt about zero guilt for stopping in to try something.  All my NYC friends rave about it so it felt wrong NOT to go eat a cupcake. 

Hello lovelies!

We picked up red velvet and original chocolate.  They didn't disappoint!

It was an amazing weekend.  These visits are just good for the soul.  They're full of belly laughs, gossip, girly movies and bad reality tv. We rehash old memories and admire how far we've all come while remembering and appreciating who we are at the core. They remind us of how blessed we are to have friendships like these.

After all, not just any friends will stage an intervention to tell you it's time to give up the jean jacket.  And then still love you when you refuse and continue to bring it everywhere :)

Modeling the various jean jackets I brought to Girls Affair 2008

Until next time ladies,

Tuesday, July 19

Heirloom Tomato Tart

My Mom was in town for a visit this past weekend.  We had a wonderful time!  We wandered around the farmers market, explored some of the little shops in my neighborhood and enjoyed the beautiful weather by eating at as many sidewalk cafes as we could. 

Thanks to a crazy coincidence of timing, we even got to cook Sunday brunch for the residents of a Chicago Ronald McDonald House (RMH).  RMH is an organization that both my Mom and I support in our different geographies although as a regular volunteer, she does a lot more work with them than I do.  It was really special to be able to do that together.

Of all the great experiences we shared during her trip, my favorite was the last night when we decided to stay in and cook.  The Royfriend had left town earlier in the day to go to a family reunion so we were free to relax and go at our own pace.  We mixed up some cocktails (gin, limeade and seltzer water... my new favorite summer drink in case you're wondering) and just enjoyed the experience of cooking together.  Looking back at my stubborn resistance to cooking as a child and as a teenager (ok, and as a young adult), I'm pretty sure neither of us saw this coming.

We tackled the GORGEOUS cover recipe from the July/August Food Network Magazine and at the last minute, decided to make the Barefoot Contessa's sole meuniere too.  Both were amazing, but I'll save the sole meuniere later this week.


The recipe for the heirloom tomato tart was intense.  Because I was cooking with the original Lazy Woman, aka: my mama, we changed it up a bit so it worked for us.  Namely, we skipped making the crust from scratch.  She's not a baker and I only make baked goods that come from mixes in a box, so I used a refrigerated pie crust instead.  I also used regular tomatoes instead of heirlooms.  Then I picked up the recipe at step 4 and it was smooth sailing from there. 


Holy cow does that little tart pack a punch!  On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it an 11.  The tomatoes were bursting with flavor and the cheese and onion mixture along with the fresh herbs added a lot of depth.  You could taste all the different layers... the tomatoes, the cheese, the herbs, the sweetness of the crust... it was succulent and rich and so, so good.  This is officially a favorite and is on my list for the next time I host book club or have company.

A few notes... the manchego cheese is expensive but worth it.  Spend a few extra dollars to get that instead of a substitute cheese.  You should be able to get what you need for under $10.  The way I see it, this is a main dish that I'd serve along with a side salad, so it was worth spending the extra $$ on.  If you want to skip the manchego, the reviews say that Parmesan is a good substitute.

I used a mandolin to thinly slice my onion.  It worked so much better than my paltry knife skills.  If you have a mandolin (mine was $10 from Target), try it.  You may have to cut your onion in half but it will work all the same.  Just make sure you watch those fingers! 

And finally, if you go the pre-made pie crust route (which I HIGHLY recommend), lightly flour your pie dish so the crust doesn't stick.


Happy Eating!


Heirloom Tomato Tart (Food Network Magazine)
Prep and cook time: 2 hours
Serves 6
I've amended the recipe to use a refrigerated pie shell.  If you want to make the original version with crust from scratch, then follow this version.

1 - 9" refrigerated pie shell (Pillsbury makes a good one)
3/4 cup shredded manchego cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 1/4 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes
Kosher salt
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used light mayo)
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Freshly ground pepper

Lightly flour your pie dish.  Bake the refrigerated pie shell according to directions on the package.

While the pie crust bakes, thinly slice the tomatoes and toss with 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a colander.  Let drain about 30 minutes, gently tossing occasionally.

While tomatoes drain and pie shell bakes, thinly slice the onion.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Combine the manchego, mozzarella, mayonnaise, breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons each chives and parsley, the thyme, 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper, and the sauteed onions in a bowl. Spread in the crust. Arrange the tomatoes on top. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with pepper.

Bake at 375 degrees until the tomatoes are browned, about 50 minutes. Top with the remaining 1 tablespoon each chives and parsley.

Wednesday, July 13

Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette

A couple of weeks ago I went to a work event where asparagus was served alongside a lemon vinaigrette. It was so simple that I'm also embarrassed to admit how much it blew my mind.  Is this a new trend?  Has this secretly been happening since the 80's and I've just been unaware? 

Whatever the case, I immediately made a mental note to try it again at home.  I'm all for asparagus but it's like broccoli... much better when it's "accessorized" with some additional flavors like Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar glaze, butter, lemon, etc.

This is a super easy vinaigrette that I nabbed from Epicurious to use on a salad last summer.  It worked perfectly for the asparagus and is made up almost entirely of pantry ingredients. 

I learned at the cocktail reception for work that if the vinaigrette should happen to make it's way towards the other food on your plate, it ends up being a delightful accident.  So I took a more liberal portion when I made this at home and dragged my roasted potatoes and garlicky grilled chicken through it.  Amazing!

Give it a shot sometime this summer while you've got the grill fired up and let me know if you have any other "accessories" for asparagus!

Happy Eating!


Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (the juice of about 1 lemon)
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel (the zested peel of about 1 lemon)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1.5 lbs fresh asparagus
PAM olive oil spray

Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper.

Wash and trim ends off 1.5 lbs of asparagus (medium or thick stalks).  Mist asparagus with PAM olive oil spray and grill over medium heat for 4-8 minutes.  Drizzle with vinaigrette and enjoy.

Note: can be made a day ahead.  Keep chilled in the fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.

Monday, July 11

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Last weekend Roy and I loaded up the car and went to celebrate the 4th of July at a friend of a friend's lake house. 

It was a -- perfect -- Midwestern summer day.  The kind that make all those brutal winter days worth it.  It was toasty, but not so hot you broke a sweat.  The sun was shining and had warmed the lake water up, but it was still refreshing when you jumped in.  There were literally tables and tables of food and the most welcoming and friendly group of people I've ever met.  And the day wrapped up with some fireworks over the lake that easily rivaled (and to be honest, beat) the city of Chicago's firework show.  It was one of the best "4th's" I've ever had.

My contribution to the feast was Buffalo Chicken Dip.  It's spicy, filling and can be made ahead of time, making it one of my favorite dishes to bring to a party or tailgate. 

I also decorated a batch of pretzels with red, white and blue sprinkles after seeing some inspiration online.  The ones with M&M's are just Hershey Hugs melted on top of pretzels with an M&M in the middle.  The other set were just dipped in some white chocolate and rolled in sprinkles and candy sugar. 

Anyway, back to the good stuff... for the 4th I made Hungry Girl's version of the buffalo chicken dip which features a handful of substitutions to eliminate some of the fat and calories.  My fellow "foodie" friend Rachel introduced me to this recipe and having had both the full fat version and this skinnied down version... I can promise you - you will not know the difference. 
I serve the dip with tortilla chips, celery and carrots.  Hungry Girl also suggested red bell peppers.  Whatever you do, don't be afraid to hang on to any leftovers and turn them into lunch! 

Happy Eating!


Hungry Girl's "Buff Chick Hot Wing Dip"

Two 10-oz. cans 98% fat-free chunk white chicken breast in water, drained
One 8-oz. tub fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup fat-free ranch dressing
1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt (Fage 0% is the best)

Place softened cream cheese in a medium bowl and stir until smooth. Mix in Frank's RedHot sauce, mozzarella cheese, ranch dressing, and yogurt. Stir in chicken until thoroughly combined.

Spoon mixture evenly into a deep 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, or until mixture is heated through. Stir well and enjoy!

PER SERVING (1/15th of recipe, about 1/4 cup): 68 calories, 1.5g fat, 616mg sodium, 2g carbs, 0g fiber, 1g sugars, 10g protein -- PointsPlus® value 2

Wednesday, July 6

Summertime Strawberry Pie

For years now, the start of summer has been marked in my family by strawberry pie.  It's sweet and light and the perfect ending to a long summer day.  Or if you're Roy, it's the perfect Saturday morning breakfast.



Years and years and years ago (seriously, we're talking early 80's here), my Mom convinced the manager of a Shoney's restaurant to give her this strawberry pie recipe.  She was young and working for the IRS and had that irresistible charm that can sway people into giving away important proprietary information, like pie recipes. 


It was one of the first recipes I "mastered" when I started cooking and it's my go-to when summer rolls around.  The simple ingredient list really lets the sweetness of the berries shine and because the base is a jello mixture, it's lighter than traditional pies.  Perfect for warmer weather. 


When compared to some of the more complex pie recipes, this one definitely falls into the "Lazy Woman" category.  It's pretty hard to mess up although I'd be a bad blogger if I didn't admit that one time I put a whole pie together and got it in the fridge before my roommate kindly reminded me that I hadn't actually baked the pie shell.  Oops.


So grab some fresh berries from the farmers market and a little bit of whipped cream and use this as an excuse to slow down to enjoy a little bit of summer with friends.

Happy Eating!


Summertime Strawberry Pie

1 - 9" pie shell
1 quart strawberries
1 small package of strawberry jello
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
4 T cornstarch

Prebake the pie shell according to directions on the package and cool.

While the pie shell cools, slice the berries.

Mix jello, sugar, water and cornstarch in a pot. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring frequently (approximately 5-7 minutes). Line the pie shell with berries and pour the mixture on top. 

Refrigerate until the jello sets (about 4 hours). Serve with whipped cream.

Saturday, July 2

Quick Tip - cutting watermelon

I love watermelon, but I hate the mess it makes when I'm cutting it up at home.  The juice ends up everywhere and invariably, someone walks thru it and spreads it around the rest of the house.  And my OCD personality just can't handle it.

Late last summer I brought home a cool yellow watermelon from the farmers market and was digging around for a cutting board which I conveniently store right next to my bacon cooking dishes.  That's right.  I said dishes.  Plural.  As in more than one.  I don't mess around with bacon.

The larger bacon dish caught my eye and immediately a light bulb went off. If I cut the watermelon on the raised edges in the dish, the juice would all run down the tray and collect at the end, where the bacon fat normally goes. The sticky, messy juice would stay contained, there would be less to clean up, and everyone would be happy!

Flash forward through the long winter to a few weeks ago when the Royfriend brought home a 10 lb watermelon from the store.   What's that you say?  A 10 lb watermelon for just the two of you?  Are you secretly competing to be the next Duggar family?  No, no we are not.  Apparently someone had a case of "my eyes are bigger than my stomach, my fridge, and all the tupperware in my house".

Anyway, turns out Mr. Engineer thought my idea was pretty brilliant.  And I was beyond excited about how little mess came from that 10 lb watermelon.  Everybody wins!

The Eater