I find there are many situations we believe require us to follow protocol exactly: Croutons in your salad. Chocolate chips in your cookies. Cream in your coffee. And then of course the one we are all afraid to mess with...MEAT in your entree!
I have some news for you. Many of these rules can be seriously ignored -- and still be totally survivable -- requiring very LITTLE psychotherapy to regain balance. (I have a few names if you need them!)
My favorite rebellious act is to leave meat out of your dinner entree completely. Even if you're having a party!! As Westerners, we eat so much meat. It's not that good for us and protein in available in so many other foods, so just for today, why not accept this notion, and try my delicious pasta dish shown above?
We eat with our eyes. (I hope you use a fork, too!) So the color and composition of a meal without meat needs to feel finished and complete. This strategy will give your diners sensory cues that satisfy that need to see all food groups on their plate. This pasta dish features beautifully sauteed baby bella mushrooms that are then presented in a silky browned butter truffle sauce over pappardelle noodles with a little fresh thyme, so I think I'm giving you something pretty darned amazing to begin your meatless journey, yes?
To add a luxurious note of extra flavor I added some truffle salt and browned the butter while making the sauce. Then it is finished with a roasted red pepper tzatziki sauce. In fact, there is so much velvety umami goodness in here, you'll plan a meatless night every week!!
Get the recipe below and start to defy the rules, now!
RECIPE: Sauteed Mushrooms in a Browned Butter Truffle Sauce over Pappardelle with Red Pepper Tzatziki
Serves 4 / Click here for printable version
2 pints baby bella mushrooms sliced thinly
10 oz pappardelle pasta noodles
6 T of unsalted butter
1 C of chicken stock
1 t truffle salt (or 1 t truffle oil + ½ t salt)
Handful of fresh thyme leaves
3 T olive oil
6 oz plain yogurt
2 garlic cloves grated
2 t lemon juice
3 T roasted red peppers chopped finely (I buy the bottled when needed)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the yogurt, grated garlic, lemon juice, red pepper, and a little salt and pepper in a small bowl. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
Bring 10 C water to boil in a large saucepan. Cook the pasta until al dente.
Rinse, pat dry and thinly slice the mushrooms. While the pasta cooks.Heat a large saute pan to high heat and add 3 T olive oil and 3 T butter. Add the mushrooms and saute on medium high until browed and caramelized. About 5 minutes. Use a large pan so you don’t crowd the mushrooms. Add the other 3 T butter to the mushroom mixture and cook just until the butter begins to barely brown. Immediately deglaze with the stock, stirring to incorporate all ingredients. Then, add the truffle salt or truffle oil. (Taste your sauce during the process so you know if it is salty enough. If using the oil you may need a bit more regular salt.) Add the thyme, reserving a bit for garnish and stir. Now ladle the pasta into the sauce, right from the boiling pot. No need to drain. Stir well to cover. Serve with a bit of the tzatziki sauce and a dusting of the fresh thyme.
Let's just put it out there. It is too hot to cook, and almost too hot to eat! (Well, that last part isn't true....but raising your fork to your mouth when our Southern weather is about as sticky and nasty as it gets can be a chore.)
You're using electricity faster than a 3 year old eats Cheerios, and three showers a day is the norm. There's only one solution: SALAD FOR DINNER!
But here's the rub....How do you get inventive, and stay healthy, as well as entertain beautifully, when your apron strings are doing their best to keep perspiration from gently dripping off your glowing brow? My solution is go BIG on flavor, use fruit, and let herbs be the star.
If you can push the button on your food processor, blanch a vegetable, and otherwise saute some cute little chunks of chicken, you're nearly all the way there. Actually, if you want to buy pre-cooked chicken strips, that would work JUST AS WELL! The point is you can present a meal with flavor, substance and nutrition.
There. You just created your own cool version of #blingcuisine. Now where is the nearest swimming pool???
RECIPE: Parsley Rosemary Pesto Chicken and Raspberry Salad
Six, 6 ounce boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 C light vegetable oil
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 t black pepper
1 t kosher salt plus a little more for good measure
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t paprika
2 T corn meal
3 C buttermilk
Soak the chicken in the buttermilk for about an hour. Mix all the other ingredients together with a fork. Bring the oil to almost smoking in your fry pan. The pan should be big enough so that the chicken does NOT have to touch. You don't want to crowd the pan! Take your chicken from the buttermilk and then lay it in the flour mixture, coating well and then gently tapping to remove extra flour. Place in hot oil and then lower the temperature to medium high. Turn when they're very brown, and cook on the other side. Total cooking time for thin chicken thighs is about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove, drain and devour!
RECIPE: Brown Sugar Balsamic Roasted New Potatoes with Leeks and Hot Peppers
4 T olive oil divided
1 leek, white part only, sliced thinly
1 small red hot chili pepper seeded and julienned
3 T sweet balsamic such as fig or cranberry
2 T brown sugar
Salt and pepper
RECIPE: Lemon Cardamom Raisin Cookies with Nutmeg
¼ C soft unsalted butter
2 T + 1 t water
1 egg, beaten
½ t ground ginger
½ t ground cardamom
Zest from 2 large lemons
Fresh nutmeg pods for grating on top of cookie
¾ C golden raisins
I minored in theater in college, and I'm pretty sure that even today, many decades later, my drama episodes are Oscar-worthy. (If Ron were here, he'd agree with a raised eyebrow or two.) Seriously, though, I approach life 'in character,' because all the world is a STAGE!
When it comes to cooking we spend a lot of time showcasing the stars: Filet Oscar, Boeuf Bourguignon, Chicken Milanese...and so forth. But everyone knows that the star shines more brightly if surrounded by the perfect supporting cast! That's why you'll find my website includes not only the headliners, but also the supporting dishes as well. From the smallest appetizer, to easy rice dishes, to inventive salads, I believe in the whole shabang!
RECIPE: Herbed Roasted Potatoes and Golden Beets
Dash of paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
1 t dried or fresh oregano
¼ C olive oil
2 T flavored oil, like Tuscan
2 T butter, salted
Note: Make sure that if you soak the potatoes and/or beets in cold water to preserve them between prep and roast, that you DRY THEM COMPLETELY.
RECIPE: Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad
1 pint yellow grape tomatoes
2 medium multi-colored heirloom tomatoes
2 stalks celery diced
1 ½ C arugula
¾ C white shoe peg corn, thawed
½ yellow pepper cut into long strips
6 or 7 very thin slices of white sweet onion
1/3 C basil chopped
½ lb fresh milk mozzarella cheese cut into 1/8 inch slices
1/3 C fine olive oil
3 T apple cider vinegar
1 t kosher salt, ½ t black pepper
2 T white sugar
Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar together well. When ready to serve, add the basil to the salad cut chiffonade style. Then and add the dressing and toss all together until dressing coats the salad. Then place the slices of mozarella on top, add a little salt and pepper, and serve.
Scenario B: You have guests to impress the holy bejeebies out of. YES: This is your dinner.
Scenario C: You're tempted to use a bottle of Marinara from your pantry, but you don't embarrass yourself and just make spaghetti. YES. This is your dinner!
Once I took that first bite, I was actually surprised at the transcendent experience of it all! It tasted like pearls and silk, and a spray of the sea. So moist, and velvety. So fresh and firm yet the fork went through it perfectly, flaking in a way that reminded me of of how Grace Kelly might bow, or how Marilyn Monroe might take a seat. JUST THAT GORGEOUS.
Hopefully you will feel the same when you try it!
RECIPE: Tuscan Baked Wahoo, with Corn Meal Yogurt Fried Eggplant, Pasta and Marinara
1 small red chile pepper diced finely
4 C fresh arugula
1 medium sized eggplant cut: 1 ½” discs
1/3 C (+ or -) good olive oil
2 T Tuscan olive oil
Salt and pepper (Generous amounts! See recipe for how to season)
¼ C corn meal
¼ C all-purpose flour
½ t oregano
½ t coriander powder
¼ C plain yogurt
Milk to moisten
2 C bottled marinara sauce
1 T good white balsamic
Flat leaf parsley to garnish
3 ounces angel hair pasta
1/3 C fresh grated parmesan cheese
Dash of garlic powder
Bring a large saute pan to high heat and add enough olive oil to be about ¼ inch deep. Dip the eggplant in the better, covering WELL, and fry in the oil until crispy and light brown. (I typically turn the heat to about medium high after they begin to cook so you can keep your oil at a constant temp. If you’re using a deep fryer, fry at 375 degrees F.) Remove, drain. Don’t cover, they’ll get soggy.
In a shallow baking dish, place the Wahoo skin side down, rub with 2 T tuscan flavored olive oil. (You can use plain if you’d like. Don’t use any other strong flavor, though. Wahoo is GREAT on its own. Just a hint of flavor is what you’re after and I find the Tuscan oil to be balanced and perfect for this dish.) Sprinkle with 1 T kosher salt and ½ t cracked black pepper. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove and cover with foil and let sit for about 3 minutes.
Cook pasta in 6 C boiling water to al dente. Drain, add the cheese, 1 T oil and garlic powder. Toss. Heat the marinara in a saucepan.
To plate. Toss the arugula with about 1 T oil and 1 T balsamic. Place on dish. Place 2 of the eggplant discs on the plate, and then the pasta. Spread the marinara over. Then top with the cooked fish and garnish with the chopped chili peppers and the parsley. Serve!
And nowhere is that more true than by the sea in the summer.
I believe every moment spent near the water offers insights, and healing. Here on Hilton Head Island, there are no roaring waves, no 50 foot cliffs that drop into sapphire springs of swirling foam like they do in San Diego, or Pismo Beach. No cool evening breezes. It's hot and very sticky. Why walking out in the air at midday will produce sweat in a matter of seconds as though you're moving forward through an invisible wall of melting gel. Here everything is intensified into a relentless, carnal furnace that demands a larger and larger glass of sweet tea be consumed with ever greater urgency.
But know this, the soil is conscious, and alive, and knows you're there. This is the gift of the sea.
Vicky and Richard our gracious hosts and partners in crime, literally gave me their wonderful kitchen. They provided a calm and beautiful place to stay, and Vicky's shutter snapped like the ticking of a clock, capturing my spatula, knife or spoon as I transformed each Farmer's Market ingredient into something as pretty as possible.
During the entire week of searing, sauteing, spreading, slicing and braising I realized that doing so in a place that is surrounded by the sea is a constant reminder of how all of life ebbs and flows. I just found myself wanting to swallow each memory as it crashed upon me, curling my toes around these moments that rise, fall, ebb, flow and complete me. I couldn't get enough of the bright food, the azure water, the lazy and twisting Spanish Moss. Everything was just perfect.
I'm not really sure how we packed so much into such a short amount of time. But isn't that just like life? You blink and you're 50. You can't wait for the perfect wave. You just have to enjoy every moment.
Enjoy the recipe narrative and photos!
Roasted Farmer's Market Veggies with Grilled Dijon Chicken Breasts and Rosemary Crostinis
Filet Mignon with a Fig, Port and Balsamic Reduction alongside Butter Sauteed Sweet Potatoes
Seared Pork Loin and Asparagus Spears with a Spicy Peach Ginger Sauce
Eggplant Tomato Marinara and Rotini Pasta with Farmer's Market Italian Sausage, with Butter and Truffle Crostinis
Simple Blueberry Scones
Now you did NOT hear me say that I get tired of making things pretty. In fact, that is really what makes the whole process infinitely worthwhile! I love seeing beautiful food and serving it to the people I love.
So as you gaze at these beautiful photos and think about how yummy this would be, keep in mind it was FAST. And fast is always FABULOUS when you're too tired to do ANYTHING.
RECIPE: Balsamic Chicken Thighs, Garden Veggie Quinoa with a Lemon Rosemary Vinaigrette
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 T sweet balsamic such as cranberry
2 T olive oil plus 2 T extra for the pan
Salt and pepper
2 C of low sodium chicken broth
1 C of quinoa
2 medium carrots, peeled into strips
2 scallions, cut on the diagonal
½ small zucchini chopped
3 large radishes, sliced thinly
6-7 cherry tomatoes cut in half
3 T lemon juice
2 T rice wine vinegar
¼ C fine virgin olive oil
2 t fresh chopped rosemary
1 T white sugar
¼ t kosher salt for water and then salt and pepper to taste
3 ounces goat cheese
2 T fresh basil for the quinoa and some extra for garnish
To make dressing combine the olive oil, lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, rosemary, salt, pepper and sugar. Whisk vigorously to combine. Set aside.
When you’ve brought the chicken to room temperature, brush each thigh generously with oil and then the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bring the stock to boil in a large sauce pan. Add a sprinkle of salt to the pan. You can taste it later and add more salt if needed. Add the quinoa when water is boiling. Cover pan, reduce heat to very low, cook for 20 minutes.
While the quinoa is cooking, first, drain the vegetables of the cold water and make sure all water is gone. Add the tomatoes to these vegetables, and set aside. Secondly, heat a large saute pan and then add the 2 T oil. When shimmering, add the meat, cooking by searing on each side until done. Depending upon your pan it should only be about 3-4 minutes per side. Don’t move the meat around. You want a nice caramelization on each side. When cooked, remove and put on a plate covered with foil.
When the quinoa is done, add in the vegetables and about 2 T chopped basil and stir. Taste for seasoning needs. Let sit in the pan for a minute or two, just to let the carrots wilt a tiny bit.
To plate, serve up a portion of the garden quinoa mixture, dot it with some of the goat cheese, place a thigh on top and drizzle generously with the lemon and rosemary vinaigrette. Garnish with extra basil. SERVE!
Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.
Want to get spontaneous with me? It's pretty exciting. Let's all find out what happens when, "I Feel Like Cooking."
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