Charred Tomatoes with Fried Eggs on Garlic Toast

I first came across this recipe in June this year. It immediately reminded me of being in a country farmhouse somewhere out west. Crunchy rustic bread with a slight hint of garlic, sweet, bright red tomatoes, and country farm eggs with deep golden yolks. Well, the closest to country farmhouse I could get to was the Alps! Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to make this breakfast dish during our stay in Austria over the summer. It takes a little more effort than simply frying some eggs and toasting bread, but boy is it worth it! The charred tomatoes and garlic add so much flavor to the dish that you won’t ever want to have your eggs any other way!  Continue reading

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

I discovered this recipe during my quest to find a baked pasta dish that wasn’t lasagna or baked ziti. No offense to either of those dishes (I love them both), but I wanted to make a pasta dish that didn’t include any meat or tons of ricotta cheese. I was watching the Food Network Channel one day and saw an episode of Everyday Italian with Giada. She made it look super easy to prepare and so yummy! So I decided to give it a try.

Michael was a little skeptical the first time I made this dish because there wasn’t any meat in it; however, he was pleasantly surprised after taking a few bites. There are just so many different flavors in the dish, ranging from the herbs de Provence in the roasted vegetables to the melted smoked mozzarella, that your taste buds are surprisingly satisfied. After playing around with the recipe a few times, I made a few tweaks to make it even more perfect for my own taste buds :). I portioned the recipe to make about four “normal” servings; however, Michael and I nearly finished the dish after one sitting ;). The leftovers taste even better the next day, but you can definitely separate the pasta into two portions before baking. Simply put one portion in a baking dish for today and freeze the other portion in an airtight container to bake another day. Continue reading

Baked Salmon

This quick and delicious salmon recipe was inspired by Michael. The first dish he ever made for me was salmon baked in parchment paper. He piled chopped tomatoes, garlic, and onion onto salmon fillets and wrapped them up with parchment paper. This allowed the fish to steam in the oven, creating moist and quick-cooking fish fillets. I’ve continued to use his recipe and cooking method, but simply changed a few things ;). I added herbs and spices to the recipe, and use foil instead of parchment paper. I find that it’s easier to fold and wrap, and is less expensive than parchment paper.

What I love about baking fish in foil or parchment paper is you could use almost any type of fish fillet and toppings. We eat a lot of fish during the week, and this cooking method allows me to make healthy dinners in a short amount of time. Besides this salmon recipe, I’ve also made codfish topped with shitake mushrooms, scallions, ginger, soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil. YUMMY! Continue reading

Tomato, Cucumber, and Onion Salad

This fresh and light summer salad is dedicated to my friend, Peggy. Thanks to her CSA (community-shared-agriculture), I had about five cucumbers and six large tomatoes sitting in my refrigerator last week! Making a boring green salad would’ve been such a waste given the freshness of the cucumbers and tomatoes. Then I remembered watching an episode of 30 Minute Meals where Rachael Ray made this yummy looking salad. It was so quick and easy to make. I already had all the ingredients, but added a few spices to kick things up a bit. Even if you don’t like raw onions, please don’t omit them from the recipe. They lend such a nice flavor to the dish that it would be very bland and boring without them! Red onions are milder than yellow onions, and get even milder because of the vinegar in the salad. You can reduce the quantity of onions in the recipe if you’re still skeptical ;). Continue reading

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

I think okra is something you either love or hate. I am definitely an okra lover; however, it is a bit of a pain to prepare. Since fresh okra gets extremely slimy when cut into, I typically prefer to use frozen chopped okra instead. Nonetheless, I received a bag of fresh okra last week from my friend, Peggy’s, CSA (community-shared-agriculture). Even though Michael wanted me to fry them up, I opted for a healthier and less messy option – stewed okra and tomatoes. I grew up in the south, and this dish practically screams south :)! I love serving this side dish with fish or meat. It’s such a great accompaniment to almost any meal.

Okra, also known as “lady finger,” has many health benefits too. It’s very low in calories and has zero cholesterol. It is also an excellent source of fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and D. So go ahead and pick up a pound of okra the next time you see them at the farmer’s market or grocery store! These pods not only taste good, but they’re good for you too! Continue reading

Quick and Easy Chicken Ratatouille

My friend, Peggy, is part of a CSA (community-shared-agriculture) at her workplace. Since she went on vacation this week, she arranged for me to pick up her share of vegetables and fruit. I’ve never gotten so many different types of vegetables at once before! There must’ve been at least four pounds each of squash, eggplant, and tomatoes. As I was thinking of what to make that would require using most of the vegetables, one dish came to mind – ratatouille! (You know you want to say it in a French accent. Go ahead, no one’s listening. ;))

There are many debates over the proper way to make a traditional ratatouille, ranging from layering and baking the vegetables in a casserole dish to simply sauteing the vegetables. My version is definitely not a “traditional” ratatouille, but rather a quick and easy way to achieve most of the flavors in a traditional ratatouille. It’s also a great way to use up the vegetables in your refrigerator, such as squash, eggplant, zucchini, onions, carrots, peppers, etc. Obviously, traditional ratatouille doesn’t include meat, but I added chicken for the extra protein to keep me full longer. I chose to use chicken thighs because I like the taste better and it’s extremely inexpensive; however, you could also use chicken breasts instead.

You could serve this dish by itself (which I do on my low-carb nights), or with rice, quinoa, couscous or slices of fresh baguette to soak up all the nice juices! I hope you give my chicken ratatouille a try sometime. It’s such a nice homey meal to make for yourself and those you love most :). Continue reading

Tomato and Basil Salad

I don’t think I need to mention again how much I LOVE tomatoes. I made this salad last night to serve with steak because I needed to use my Italian basil. We were away for vacation and the basil grew out of control! I whipped this salad together with just a few ingredients I already had in my kitchen. When tomatoes are this sweet in the summer, you don’t really need to add much to them. I used pearl tomatoes on the vine, but you could use any sweet tomato that is available in your store. Grape or heirloom tomatoes would be delicious as well. This salad could be served as an appetizer or side dish. It is so fresh and light – perfect for any summer meal! Continue reading

Fettuccine with Heirloom Tomatoes, Basil and Pecorino

I absolutely LOVE tomatoes, especially when they are cooked with pasta. So when I saw this dish on the menu at Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark, I knew it was a must try. Boy, was I in for a treat! The fettuccine tasted homemade and was cooked perfectly al dente. The heirloom tomatoes were so sweet and still had a bite to them. The most interesting part, however, was the use of lemon verbena. I’ve only had lemon verbena in tea, but never in an actual dish. Just a few of these leaves added a wonderful citrusy, bright, and refreshing taste to the Pecorino’s sharpness. It was truly the perfect combination. Continue reading

Bún Riêu

The first Vietnamese dish I ever made was bún riêu, pronounced “boon rew,” which is a tomato and crab noodle soup. Of all the Vietnamese noodle soup dishes, I think this is the easiest to make because it requires the least amount of time and ingredients. This doesn’t mean there aren’t many ingredients, it just means less. 😉 Vietnamese cooking is all about flavor and finding the perfect balance between sweet, savory, spicy, and sour. So that means a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. Continue reading

Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil

Michael LOVES plum tomatoes when they’re in season. Not only are they sweet and juicy, they also have less seeds than other kinds of tomatoes. We were at the market one afternoon and saw the freshest plum tomatoes ever – bright red, perfectly ripe, but still firm to the touch! I wasn’t really in the mood to have a hot meal for dinner because of this everlasting heat wave, but I didn’t want just a salad either. As a compromise, we decided to make bruschetta. Plus, we had plenty of fresh Italian basil in our herb garden!

I kept the ingredients in this recipe very simple to ensure that nothing overpowers the sweet tomatoes. You could, of course, use any kind of tomato if plum tomatoes aren’t available or to your liking. Pair these little bites with a bottle of cool, crisp white wine and you’re set! Continue reading