Friday, March 30, 2012

Roasted Red Bell Pepper, Fresh Mozzarella, and Basil Roll Ups


This a vibrant and flavorful appetizer (or side dish) that is a great alternative to the beloved Caprese salad (tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil).

If you have roasted bell peppers in your freezer, you can make this roll ups very quickly - How to Roast and Freeze Red Bell Peppers




Roasted Red Bell Pepper, Mozzarella, and Basil Roll Ups

Defrost the red bell peppers by placing them (inside the freezer bag) in a bowl filled with hot water. After 15 minutes they should be ready to use.


Slice each bell pepper into 3 or 4 long strips and pat them dry with a paper towel.


Season each strip with salt and pepper.



And drizzle them with a very good quality olive oil.


Place a thin slice of fresh mozzarella over each strip of bell pepper. Make sure to slice the cheese as thin as possible - that will make rolling the peppers much easier.


Top it with a fresh basil leaf.


And gently roll it.


Keep it all together with the help of a mini skewer or a toothpick.


Serve as an appetizer or side dish.


A drizzle of balsamic vinegar reduction would be a great compliment!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Eat it or Freeze it - Roasted Red Bell Peppers




My mother-in-law has the great habit of roasting and freezing red bell peppers. She often gifts me with bags of frozen peppers and I cannot tell you how much that has changed my life!


First of all, roasted bell peppers freeze beautifully - they keep their taste and texture like you would not believe. Secondly, they defrost very quickly, which means a lot to me! And finally, they are an incredibly versatile vegetable that has the power to add tons of flavor and beautiful color to any dish.


Here is what I do to have roasted bell peppers at any season:


I start by rinsing as many peppers as I want to roast:




I pat them dry and place them on a baking sheet that has been lined with aluminum foil:




Then I roast them at 450F, turning occasionally, until the peppers look charred and are fork tender. That will take about 30-45 minutes.




I transfer roasted peppers to a bowl:




Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (that steamy environment will will make peeling the skin out of the peppers much easier):


When peppers are cool, I peel their skin and remove their seeds:




All done:


I label freezer bags:



Fill them with about 2 to 4  peppers:


And freeze them for up to 3 month or more.


When I need them, I either transfer them from the freezer to the refrigerator or to the kitchen counter top, and use it when it is defrosted. Or, if on a hurry, I immerse the freezer bags in hot water until the peppers are defrosted (that takes 10 to 15 minutes):


I will come back soon with a couple of ideas on how to use your roasted bell peppers.


The first one is a lovely appetizer that is a great alternative to the typical tomato+mozzarella+basil combo. This is my new favorite!


And the second one is an amazing and versatile roasted red bell pepper pesto that can be eaten as a dip to vegetables, as a topping to crostini, or as a dressing to meats such as salmon, chicken, lamb, pork, or beef - perfect for summer grilling! SO GOOD!




Thursday, March 22, 2012

Slow Cooked Pork Chops with Onion and Bell Pepper


Some of the best cooks I know have something in common: they keep it simple. To be delicious, a dish doesn't need 25 different ingredients (including some that you have never heard of). A well-executed meal, might need just a few high quality ingredients to be unforgettable.


My mom makes these pork chops that fall off the bone and are a delight of flavors. She only uses pork, salt, oil, garlic, and water. But the WAY she cooks it - that makes the dish. It is not complicated, but is almost impossible to write it down. It is just like cooking should be - it is her and the food, and they understand each other.


The funny thing is that when I was a little girl I did not like pork. I used to get upset at my mom when she cooked those pork chops - something about the smell of it made me nauseous! I laugh when I think about that, because today I cannot imagine life without it! 


I am lucky that my husband and kids also love slow cooked pork chops! I make it all the time. But I do not try to make my mom's recipe very often. It is almost as if she owns it. I need her to cook that one for me:) 


I like to play around with my pork chops and use different combinations of simple ingredients like these ones I am sharing with you today. What I love the most about this particular recipe is that the red bell peppers add a subtle and lovely sweetness to this dish. The meat is super tender and the flavors are as comforting as can be!


TIP: If you own a pressure cooker, you can get this dish on the table in 30-45 minutes. That is what I do when I do on busy days.


Slow Cooked Pork Chops with Onion and Bell Pepper

Ingredients

4 thick bone-in pork chops
1 yellow onion, cut into thick slices
1 large red bell pepper, cut into thick strips
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups low sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed
1 cup of water, plus more if needed
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Rinse pork chops and pat them dry. Sprinkle both sides of the pork chops generously with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Set them aside.

Heat a large skillet (or a Dutch oven pan) over high heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the pork chops and sear them on both sides until golden brown. Transfer pork chops to a plate.

Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Season with a couple of pinches of kosher salt and black pepper. Cook over high heat for 3 minutes. Add white wine and 2 cups of chicken broth, stir to combine and add the pork chops. Cover skillet and cook over medium heat for 1 hour and 25 minutes. Flip pork chops, add 1 more cup of chicken broth and 1 cup of water. Cover and cook for another 30-45 minutes or until meat is very tender and sauce has reduced and thickened. If pork is still not tender, keep adding a little bit of chicken broth and/or water and cooking until meat starts to fall off the bone! Lovely when served with rice!

Visualize

Pat pork chops dry and season them on both sides with salt and pepper.



Heat a skillet and add olive oil. Brown pork chops on both sides and remove from the skillet.


Add a little more olive oil to the skillet and cook onion, pepper, garlic, and rosemary for 3 minutes.


Add some white wine.


And some chicken broth.



Put pork chops back in the skillet.




Cover and cook for 1 hour and 25 minutes. Add more chicken broth and some water, cover and cook for another 30-45 minutes.

You want the meat to be super tender. There should be enough sauce to pour over the chops when you serve them. They should look like this:



 





And it will taste amazing!





Monday, March 19, 2012

Shrimp, Pasta, Broccoli, and Bell Pepper Stir Fry



 

I absolutely love pasta stir fry and, although I am not and expert on Asian cuisine, I cook it all the time! This kind of dish is very easy and quick to put together. I often cook it on weeknights using shrimp, chicken, or beef, and whatever vegetables I have in the refrigerator. 


A one pot meal that makes the adults and the kids in my family very happy!






Somehow this post turned out super long! I will stop taking now so you can start cooking! I hope you enjoy this very favorite of mine!






Shrimp, Pasta, Broccoli and Red Bell Pepper Stir Fry


Ingredients


16 large raw deveined shrimp, tails on
1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
8 oz broccoli rabe, chopped
6 scallions, cut into 3 inch sections
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped




For the marinating and cooking stir fry sauce


1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha spicy chilli sauce
3 tablespoons sherry cooking wine
2 tablespoons corn starch


Directions


To make the stir fry sauce, mix all the ingredients in a measuring cup until well combined. 


Place shrimp in a bowl and add 1/4 of the stir fry sauce. The shrimp will marinate in that sauce while you get the other ingredients ready for cooking. 


Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain it and coat with a little bit of sesame oil. Set it aside.


Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil and the broccoli. Cook it for 2 minutes, add 1/2 cup of water, cover the skillet with a lid and cook until the water has evaporated and the broccoli is slightly tender but still has some crunch to it. Transfer broccoli to a bowl.


Turn the heat to high, add 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil and the bell pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes or until peppers are slightly tender. Transfer peppers to the same plate you put the cooked broccoli. 


There should be enough oil in the skillet to cook the shrimp. If not, add a little more. Cook shrimp (discard marinating sauce) for a few minutes or until it turns pink in color (keep in mind that shrimp will continue to cook later). Now add the scallions and cook for 2 minutes until scallions start to soften. Turn the heat to medium, add the broccoli and pepper back to the skillet, add half of the stir fry sauce and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Transfer it to a bowl.


Add 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil to the skillet. Add cooked pasta and the remainder of the stir fry sauce. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add the shrimp and vegetables back to the skillet and stir to combine. If sauce is too thick or the pasta seems dry, slowly add water until pasta and other ingredients are nicely coated with sauce. Try the pasta and adjust salt, if necessary (you can use salt or more soy sauce). Try the pasta again and make sure you cannot taste the corn starch (if you can taste it, just cook pasta a little longer).


Top pasta with plenty of roughly chopped fresh cilantro and serve immediately.  


Visualize


Start by making the magical stir fry sauce! Pour 1/2 cup of low-sodium soy sauce in a measuring cup. To that add:



And grated ginger: 



And finally the following:



Ask a little cute girl with tiny hands to whisk it all together for you:



Now pour 1/4 of the sauce over the shrimp. Allow the shrimp to marinate while you prepare the other ingredients.



This is the pasta I like to use. I found it at Lunds. Alternatively, you can use regular spaghetti.


 

I like to use broccoli rabe - I love its flavor and texture. I chopped mine into small pieces just to save me some time when cooking it. At this time also chop the bell pepper so it is ready for when you need it.


Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli, stir it around for a couple of minutes. 


Add water and cover the skillet with a lid. Cook until broccoli is slightly tender but still has some crunch to it.



Transfer the broccoli to a bowl and set it aside.



With the heat on high,  a little more oil to the skillet. Add the bell peppers and cook for a few minutes, stirring around often. You just want the pepper to  get slightly tender, just like you did with the broccoli. 



Transfer pepper to the same bowl you put the broccoli in.



Now add the shrimp to the skillet (discard marinating sauce).


Cook for a couple minutes over high heat until shrimp looks pink (you don't need to cook it through at this point). Now add scallions:


Cook for another 2 minutes until scallions start to soften. Transfer broccoli and pepper back to the skillet.


Add about half of the stir fry sauce:


Stir to combine and cook for a few minutes (stirring often). 


Transfer the shrimp, broccoli, and pepper to a bowl. Add a little more oil to the skillet. 


Add the cooked pasta and the remainder of the stir fry sauce. Cook, stirring often, for a couple of minutes.



Add shrimp and vegetables back to the skillet and stir to combine. At this point you can slowly add some water if the sauce gets too thick.  You want to make sure the pasta is coated in sauce and it is very moist.


Ready!


Plates it and top with plenty of fresh cilantro:



So delicious!