Monday, July 27, 2009

Herb Infused Oils

Herb-Infused Oil

This technique can be used for making infused oil whether the ingredient is basil, rosemary, oregano, garlic, chiles, chervil, chives, cilantro, mint, mushrooms or citrus fruit. (Tarragon works best in early spring, otherwise it is quite bitter when infused.)

The ratio of olive oil to flavoring ingredient of your choice is one cup of oil to two cups of tightly packed soft leaved green herb. I rarely make an entire cup of infused oil as it should be used within a week, I usually use 1/2 cup of oil which calls for only one cup of herbs, or other ingredient as listed above.


Fill a large bowl with ice water, set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the herbs, blanch for 5 seconds (make sure the leaves are submerged.) Drain into a strainer and immediately plunge the herbs into the bowl of ice water until cold. Drain the herbs well and squeeze out all liquid.

Puree in a blender with olive oil (blender works better than a food processor here.) Strain puree immediately through a fine-mesh strainer. Strain again through three or four layers of cheesecloth (rinsed in clear water and squeezed dry before straining the herbs.) Put the oil in a sterilized glass bottle, cover tightly and refrigerate. For best flavor, use within one week.

For most purposes I don't mind if the oil is not transparent so I simply drain through two fine metal sieves, one placed inside the other ~ it catches most of the herb sediment.

Important Notes~

It is imperative that no fresh herbs (or any other flavoring ingredient you are using) are added back into the oil before bottling because this could introduce the risk of the food borne illness, botulism.

This method is adapted from Michael Chiarello.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pan Seared Salmon Filets with Toasted Almonds, Blueberries on Spinach with Black Fig Drizzle

I've seen recipes for Salmon with the unlikely paring of blueberries before, but none really appealed to me.
However, finding the kitchen overrun with fresh blueberries was encouragement enough to rethink this combination.
I still wasn't able to find a recipe that called out to me, set out to invent my own ~
I devised this simple salad which received THUMBS UP around the table. :)
If you've been following my blog, you know by now that I often "wing it" when it comes to cooking, I love the creativity it provides ~ and this recipe (more of a guideline) is no exception.
The steps are easy ~
Prepare the salad ingredients: rinse and drain baby spinach leaves, sliver as much red onion as you like, wash the blueberries, and toast almond slivers (directions follow.)
In a medium-hot saute pan (big enough to hold salmon filets in one layer), toast almonds in dry pan, stirring often until lightly toasted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In same pan add 2 teaspoons up to 1 Tablespoon or so of olive oil (you can use more but I use as little oil as possible), allow to heat over medium-hot flame.
Lightly salt and pepper (4 to 6 ounce portions ~ one per person) salmon filets, add them to the hot pan and cook turning once about 4 to 6 minutes per side (depending upon thickness of the filets)
When salmon is cooked, arrange on the beds of spinach, add about 1/4 cup of Sweet Black Fig Vinegar* to the pan the filets were cooked in and reduce over medium heat until thick, but still pourable. Drizzle over the spinach leaves and salmon.
Sprinkle toasted almonds, slivered red onion, and blueberries over the salad, then enjoy!

* The salad dressing/sauce is simply a reduction of

Cuisine Perels' Black Fig Vinegar it is DELICIOUSLY sweet, and not too tart.
(click the link to learn more.)
Please click HERE to return to Once Upon a Plate.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Fruit Torte

My mother would make this Marian Burros recipe frequently, using the fruit from our backyard trees ~ Apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums, pears, apples, berries ~ almost any fruit will do. It was always a family favorite, and is very simple to put together.

I'll post the original recipe, and then the changes I've recently made to make it a bit more diabetic friendly. It is not too sweet and the original version can be sucessfully frozen. My modified version bakes up a little differently; the fruit doesn't sink into the batter, so it's best eaten fresh.

Summer Torte by Marion Burros

1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour; sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
fruit of your choice; sliced into pieces
cinnamon sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 350 (F)
Cream butter and add sugar, add eggs one at a time and beat (it's okay if at this point the mixture looks curdled or separates, it will come creamy and smooth when you add the dry ingredients.)
In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Blend this mixture into butter/egg mixture. Spoon spoon batter into (oil sprayed or oil brushed pan) 9 or 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom, or a springform pan work well. With flexible spatula spread batter to distribute evenly to edges. Arrange fruit on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (amount depends on the sweetness of the fruit).

Bake for 30 to 45 min, until lightly golden and puffed.

To make it lower in carbs and more diabetic/cardio friendly:

Note: The appearance will be a little different with these alterations, the whole wheat pastry flour batter is more sturdy, and the fruit will not bake into the the cake as with the original white-flour recipe, but you can push the fruit into the batter before baking if you want.

Substitute 1/2 cup Splenda (you can also add some agave nectar if you like; about a generous tablespoon.)
Whole wheat flour (either whole wheat-white flour, or whole wheat pastry flour.)
1/2 cup egg substitute instead of the 2 eggs.

I used only 1 teaspoon of regular sugar mixed with 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon for the topping sprinkle.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Grilled Turkey Burgers with Middle Eastern Flavors on Pita Bread

This is best made with dark meat ground turkey; I didn't have that so I used white meat ground turkey and added a a little extra olive oil and scant tablespoon of water to make up for the lack of turkey fat. (I'd rather eat olive oil than turkey fat any day! :))

Turkey Burgers with Middle Eastern Flavors, on Whole Wheat Pita Bread and Spicy Cucumber Salad

Serves 4

1 1/2 lb. ground turkey meat (because of our dietary requirements I reduce the amount of turkey, 4 ounce patties are about right for us.)

2 medium cloves garlic

Kosher salt

1/4 cup lightly packed chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup lightly packed chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Cucumber and Yogurt Sauce (recipe follows)

In a large bowl break the meat into large pieces . Mince the garlic, sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and mash to a paste. Gently mix the garlic paste, mint, parsley, olive oil, paprika, cumin, coriander, and cayenne into the turkey. Shape, the meat into 4 equal 1-inch-thick patties. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 20 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Prepare a medium charcoal or gas grill fire (or stove-top grill pan.) Grill the burgers until nice grill marks appear and just cooked through (an instant-read thermometer inserted in a burger should read 165 degrees F), 4 to 6 minutes per side.

Serve with Whole Wheat Pita Bread (click for the recipe) and Cucumber and Yogurt Sauce.

Cucumber and Yogurt Sauce

Makes about 1 cup (I love this, so I always make a little extra)

1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and finely diced English cucumber

2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

Kosher salt

1/2 cup plain whole-milk or lowfat yogurt, preferably Greek (I use non-fat Greek yogurt)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

Pinch of sugar

Pinch of cayenne or Aleppo pepper; more to taste

Combine the cucumber, onion, and 1 teaspoons salt in a bowl. Allow to set at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. Drain off the liquid and rinse to remove excess salt. Drain well and taste a few pieces; if it is still salty, rinse and drain again.

In a small bowl, combine the cucumber and onion with the yogurt, cilantro, sugar, and cayenne or Aleppo pepper. Let sit for 30 minutes for the flavors to develop.

Season to taste with salt and cayenne.

Adapted from "Fine Cooking" magazine # 94


Monday, July 20, 2009

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

This recipe is suitable for a 1 1/2- or 2-pound loaf machine

1 1/4 cups warm water

Pinch of sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 cups bread flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons SAF yeast


Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Place all the ingredients in the bread machine pan according to manufacturer’s instructions. Program for the Dough cycle and allow cycle to complete.

The dough ball should be soft, but not sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface dusted with whole wheat pastry flour; divide it in half. Cover one half with plastic wrap to prevent it from forming a skin. Divide the first half into 5 equal portions and form each into a balls. Allow dough balls to rest for 10 minutes, covered, while dividing the second section of dough in the same way.

The resting period will allow the dough to relax, hence making rolling it out much easier.

On a flat, floured work surface, with a rolling pin, roll out each ball into a disk about 5 to 6-inches in diameter, approximately 1/4-inch thick. As each disk is rolled out place on a floured kitchen towel; cover lightly with plastic film and allow to rest for approximately 25 minutes, then transfer to the parchment lined baking sheets. 5 pitas will fit on each half-size sheet pan.

When the pitas are on the baking sheets rising, place a baking stone on the lowest rack of the oven and allow to preheat to 450* (F)

At the end of the 25 minute rising time, bake the pitas. Place one pan at a time, directly on the hot stone. Do not open the oven door for a 4 minutes, to allow the pitas to puff with steam. Watch carefully that the pitas do not overbake or burn. Bake for about 8 to 14 minutes (ovens vary), until fully puffed up, and just lightly browned so they remain pliable.

Remove the puffed hot breads with a spatula and stack between clean kitchen towels to keep soft.
For longer storage, cool completely and store in air-tight containers, refrigerate or freeze if not using immediately.

Adapted from "The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook" by Beth Hensperger

Please click HERE to return to Once Upon a Plate.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Chicken Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Terrific as as snack or party food, Chicken Satay is a favorite dinner at my house as well. Last night I served it with steamed broccoli, and a lightly seasoned Asian-style slaw. Traditionally the chicken is served on lettuce leaves, I skipped the lettuce this time.

If you do an internet search you will find slight variations in the seasonings used for the chicken marinade, and the peanut dipping sauce ~ these are the recipes I usually use, both are slightly simplified versions. I use curry in the yogurt marinade instead of ground cumin, coriander and tumeric, and increase the garlic a bit. For the peanut sauce I don't use coconut milk, and opt for creamy peanut butter rather than grinding peanuts ~ it's delicious! :)

Chicken Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Makes about 20 skewers

1 cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon curry powder (I use Madras brand)
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
wooden skewers, soaked in water 15 to 20 minutes (so they won't burn while grilling)
Vegetable oil, for grilling
Butter lettuce leaves
Fresh cilantro leaves
Sliced fresh limes

Peanut Sauce (recipe follows)

To make the marinade: Combine the yogurt, ginger, garlic, and curry powder in a mixing bowl, stir to combine. Place the chicken strips in the yogurt marinade and gently toss until all strips are coated. Cover and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but no longer than 2 hours.

Thread the chicken pieces onto the soaked skewers like ribbon candy (see photo.) Place a grill pan over medium heat, just before placing the chicken on the grill, brush grill with oil. Cook the chicken satays for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Serve the satays on a platter lined with lettuce leaves and cilantro; serve peanut sauce in a bowl on the side.

Peanut Sauce
This makes plenty, about 3 cups. (I usually halve the recipe.)

1 cup creamy (smooth) peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce (low-sodium works fine here)
1 to 2 teaspoons red chili paste
1 to 2 tablespoons honey, or brown sugar
juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup hot water
chopped peanuts, for garnish

In a food processor or blender combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, red chili paste, honey or brown sugar, and lime juice until smooth. With motor running, gradually add enough hot water to thin to desired consistancy (you don't have to use it all.) Transfer sauce to serving bowl, garnish with chopped peanuts if desired.

Use as a dip or drizzle with the Chicken Satay.


Please click HERE to return to Once Upon a Plate.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Spinach Salad with Chevre or Panela Cheese and Chilatas

To make this salad you need to make the Chilata's condiment sprinkle first. Click HERE for the recipe.

Chilatas is an interesting Mexican condiment; a crunchy combination of toasted and ground seeds seasoned with chile and salt. Simple to make, and it stores well, tightly covered in the refrigerator or freezer.

Salad dressing:
1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil or a nut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon grated fresh Parmesan cheese (optional)

8 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup drained ricotta, chevre, (or panela cheese, cut into cubes)

Chilatas (see above for link to the recipe)

Form the soft cheese into balls by using a very small food scoop, or if using Panela, cut into bite size cube.

Toss the spinach dressing, sprinkling in about half of the chilatas mixture. Reserve remaining chilatas for another use.

Portion spinach mixture onto 4 plates, and garnish with the cheese balls or cubes.

Recipe adapted from Terry Conlan of Lake Austin Spa

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Incredibly Delicious Low Fat Blueberry Bran Muffins

This is my favorite low fat Blueberry Bran Muffin recipe yet! It's difficult to believe they are low in fat. I made them virtually sugar-free, but feel free to use brown sugar instead of Splenda (tm). The recipe is a conglomeration of several recipes from my cookbooks and the from the internet.

Incredibly Delicious Low Fat Blueberry Bran Muffins
Makes 12 regular size muffins

1 cup All Bran cereal (TM) (~ or 1 cup wheat bran)
¼ cup wheat bran
¼ cup oat bran
2 Tablespoons wheat germ

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 cup nonfat milk, buttermilk, OR 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons non-fat plain or vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce OR 1 large banana, mashed
1 egg, OR egg substitute to equal 1 egg
1/2 to 2/3 cup brown sugar (I use 2 T. Brown Sugar Splenda tm and 2 T. regular Splenda tm.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, or less
1 to 1 ½ cups blueberries*
Optional: ½ cup broken walnut pieces


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Spray muffin cups with cooking spray or use paper muffin liners.

1.) Mix together wheat bran and yogurt or milk, and let stand for 10 minutes.

2.) In a large bowl, mix together applesauce or banana, egg, sugars, and vanilla. Stir/whisk in bran mixture.

3.) In another bowl, or on waxed paper, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir into bran mixture until just dry ingredients are just moistened (don't overmix.)

4.) Fold in blueberries. Add nuts if using. Scoop into muffin cups.

5.) Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly touched.

* Can also use shredded apple, diced pear, diced peach, nectarine, etc. in place of the blueberries.

Please click HERE to return to Once Upon a Plate