Monday, February 23, 2009

Tyrokavteri: Feta and Roasted Red Pepper dip

Once again, this is another recipe inspired from something I tried at a restaurant. It was at Giorgio's in Milford, NH. They have a great menu in general but sadly I don't think this appetizer is on it anymore. My version is a little thinner and spicier than Giorgio's but the flavor is very similar. It's creamy, sweet and tangy and takes all of 5 minutes to make.


8oz block light cream cheese, softened
2.5 oz feta cheese
1 large roasted red bell pepper, drained
1 large garlic clove
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons half and half or light cream
2 teaspoons Oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (use less if you're sensitive to spice)
black pepper

Pulse the cream cheese, garlic, and roasted bell pepper in a food processor. When the pepper is well broken up and the mixture becomes a salmon color, add the feta, oregano, pepper flakes and black pepper. Pulse until the feta is broken up thoroughly. While the machine is running, add the lemon juice and half and half and blend for 20 seconds or so. I don't add salt because the feta is salty enough for my taste. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve with pita chips or raw vegetables.

All text and photographs © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Simple Mac and Cheese

I was making dinner tonight and realized I needed a starch or I'd be pigging out again in three hours. While the chicken grilled and the greens were braising, I rummaged around in the cabinets to see what our options were. I didn't feel like rice, couscous, or bulgur. Pasta might work but, I didn't have any store bought sauce and I didn't feel like making something that was going to take 45 minutes. Mmmm, mac and cheese? Well, shells and cheese, I guess since that's what I used.

I can't stand boxed mac and cheese and most baked are too dry (despite being loaded with cream and fat!) I'm not even remotely skilled when it comes to making white sauces but I had some cheddar and goat cheese in the fridge that need to be used up (I don't like to waste food-learned family trait!) so I figured I'd at least try. If it didn't work out, we could always just have some toast with the rest of dinner.

Anyhow, it came out creamy and smooth and since I used chicken stock instead of several cups of cream, it's slightly better for you than what you've probably had in the past. I bet it would be awesome with some broccoli stirred in.

This makes 4 large side dish portions but the recipe can easily be doubled to feed more.


2 tbsp butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup low sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half
couple shakes of worcestershire sauce
couple light shakes of hot sauce
kosher salt
black pepper
1/2 tsp ground dry mustard
2 oz goat cheese
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
6oz of your favorite pasta shape (makes about 3 cups cooked)

Fill a pasta pot with water, add a dash of salt and a small drizzle of olive oil (the oil prevents the water from boiling over) and bring to a boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil, heat a medium saucepan to medium and melt the two tablespoons of butter in it. Next, add the flour and stir frequently until the flour is well mixed in and browned (3 minutes or so) then add both the half and half and chicken stock and raise to a simmer, stiring occasionally. When the mixture has thickened (4 or 5 minutes), add salt, pepper, worcestershire, hot sauce and dry mustard. Stir well and turn off heat. Cover. Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to the directions. Drain pasta when tender and return to pot. Add goat and cheddar cheese, and pour in your sauce. Mix until the cheeses have melted and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve!

Try stiring in broccoli, spinach or tomatoes, or substituting gruyere, emmentaler, or gouda for the goat cheese. Or add some cooked bacon and mushrooms. Yum!

I promise, one of these days I'll post a couple recipes that don't have dairy in them!

All text and photographs © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Calzones with Roast Beef, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onions

Growing up, my mom made calzones for almost any occasion: Birthdays, Christmas Eve, Saturday night dinner etc. She'd bake pizza dough filled with layered spinach, lunch meats (like salami, ham and turkey), american cheese and cooked green and red peppers and onions. As a kid, I hated vegetables like most kids, and my sisters and I would pull the peppers and onions out and give them to my mom or dad to eat. Mom made the calzones frequently enough that they now rest in my mind as one of the ultimate comfort foods. This is a little richer than the ones Mom made but just as tasty, I think! I have never been able to master rolling out the dough and wrapping it uniformly around the meats. My mom had a lot more patience and skill than I do and so her calzones always looked pretty and even. My way is a little more haphazard, but it gets the job done and the food into the belly. I use many of the same ingredients mom did, but have changed some of the ingredients to make my own version. This can be served hot for dinner or straight out of the fridge cold as a snack.

I use rare roast beef sliced thin from the deli here. I know a lot of people worry about the safety of using undercooked meats but you're going to be cooking. I think regular roast beef gets too dry during the cooking process. Rare will be cooked well by the time it comes out of the oven, but it will still be juicy and flavorful. Again, just one of my personal preferences.

Blue cheese is very pungent and there are a lot of bad blue cheeses out there. I try to use a good blue like (English) Stilton, (French) Roquefort, or (Italian) Gorgonzola. I've used Danish Blue before but I think it's too sharp and salty. You can smell it when you open the refrigerator and that's too much for me. If you aren't a big blue cheese fan, try the blue cheese crumbles in the deli section of your store. The flavor is a lot more mild than the cheese I mention here (and you don't have to get messy trying to crumble your own!).


1 ball raw pizza dough (found in the bakery or deli area)
1 10 oz box frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3/4 lb rare roast beef, thinly sliced
1-2 oz good blue cheese, crumbled
1 large red bell pepper, roughly chopped
10 oz mushrooms, white button or portobello
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
kosher salt
black pepper
couple tbsp of flour
optional: 1-2 tbsp of cornmeal
*You'll also need a handful of toothpicks

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat the butter and 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat till hot but not smoking. Place the sliced onions in the pan, and give them a quick stir. Cook without stirring for 3-4 minutes. Give another stir and lower heat (hot enough to still cook but low enough so they don't burn!) Cover with a lid and don't touch them for 10 minutes. While the onions are cooking, heat the other tbsp of olive oil in another skillet over medium heat and add the mushrooms and red bell pepper and cook until the mushrooms are brown and the peppers are softened. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper in the last minute or two of cooking and remove to a plate till ready to use. Check the onions and give a stir. They should be browning. Sprinkle generously (not heavily though!) with salt. The salt will help draw out the rest of their moisture and aid the caramelizing process. You do NOT need to add sugar to caramelize onions. Cook for 5-10 more minutes, stirring occasionally and keep covered.

While the onions are finishing up, sprinkle a clean surface with a little flour. Rub flour onto a rolling pin and roll out your dough into a rectangle. It should be just slightly smaller than the cookie sheet you will put the calzone on. If you're like me, you will have great difficulty getting the dough to remain in the shape you want it to (suggestions anyone?). If you are using cornmeal, sprinkle it lightly on the cookie sheet and put the dough rectangle on top. The cornmeal prevents the dough from sticking to the pan. (I always wondered what that gritty stuff on the bottom of your pizza was. It's cornmeal!) Stretch the dough to fit the pan as much as you can and then evenly distribute the spinach down the center of the dough (see picture). Next, layer the roast beef down the center, overlapping until you've used all the roast beef. Evenly distribute the blue cheese down the center, use your (clean of course!) hands to break it up if you are not using crumbles. And last, pile the vegetables down the middle. You'll have a ton of veggies and they will spill all over the sides. It's not a big deal.

Here's the part, that, try as I might, I can't get right. I'm afraid I am dough-challenged. If you're normal and can work with dough properly, tuck in the head and foot flap of dough over the mound of ingredients and then fold the left side of the dough on top, then fold over the right (sort of like closing a box lid), stretching the dough if you need to. Seal in the center with toothpicks (I end up with 7-9 down the center). If you have troubles, like me, your dough will keep returning to the cookie sheet. So, I pin with toothpicks as I go, pulling left and right sides of dough as if I'm semi-braiding the dough together. Please see pictures and feel free to ask questions. (I know that I'm not explaining this as well as I could!)

Once you've got the whole thing wrapped up and toothpicked, slice vents in the dough every two inches or so, in between your toothpicks and then bake for 20-22 minutes. The calzone will be lightly browned and the dough cooked all the way through when it's ready.

Cool slightly and then cut into pieces by slicing along the vents. 1 calzone serves 4 (about 2 pieces each). You'll find yourself making this again and again.

All text and photographs © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Few of my Favorite (Food) Things

I'm a big fan of making most things from scratch. Especially for things that really don't take much time to make yourself ( salad dressings, pesto, sauces, soups etc). Why buy a pre-made version that's full of sodium and preservatives or high fructose corn syrup (and probably doesn't taste all that good), when you can whip it up yourself? But we all run into occasions when we need to use something premade, because of a lack of time (you just got out of work and have a party to go to in an hour) or a need for convenience (you're exhausted and just boiling water for pasta seems like a monumental task) and at those times I'll cheat and use a store bought product. However, this isn't the only time I cheat. Once in a while a store bought product comes along that tastes good enough to be home made (and isn't filled with bad for you ingredients). This is a starter list of my favorite pre-made / store bought items (in no particular order!). Scroll over the titles for links to websites.

1. Wildly Delicious Fine Foods, Peppercorn Shallot Merlot Bread Dipper

I stumbled upon this one year while doing Christmas shopping when I lived in Portsmouth and J and I both immediately fell in love with it. Of course, the store I found it in stopped selling it shortly after so I went on a quest to find it elsewhere. I found it finally and have been ordering it in large shipments ever since. As the label says, it's absolutely delicious to dip your crusty bread into (who needs butter?) and I recommend using it also as a salad dressing or marinade for chicken. It's the perfect mix of tangy vinegar and oil. A 12.6 oz bottle retails around $11. The website (link above) can point you to online retailers as well as local stores near you that may carry it. They sell 6 or 7 other flavors that you may also want to try.

2. Taverna Classic Spinach Pie

You'll find this one in the freezer section of most grocery stores and it retails for almost $4. It comes in a green cardboard container that you actually cook the pie in (yay, no dishes!). My mom started buying this after realizing that it tasted pretty close to her own homemade Spinach Pie (which tasted delicious but took hours to assemble). I bought it a few times in college since I didn't know how to cook and the directions were easy and I've continued to buy it since to keep on hand when I don't feel like cooking but want something yummy, healthy and can essentially cook itself! Pop it in the oven and 50 minutes later dinner is done. Think of all the things you can get done while it's cooking! I serve it with some butternut squash with butter and brownsugar. Lots of iron, Vit K, A, & C, folate, magnesium, and potassium and it tastes good without too much fat or sodium. Oh and it's made in Boston (and it's nice to buy somewhat locally).

3. Northeast Kingdom Spicy Maple Mustard

I love my mustards (and no, I don't make my own so I guess this doesn't fit the bill in my description above but it's staying!) and I'm always trying new flavors. We were camping in Vermont this summer and visited the Cabot Creamery when I discovered this one. They have a room where you can sample just about anything. J, me and our friends pretty much spent a good 40 minutes hovering around the cheese table poking toothpicks into each flavor of cheese (so many to try!) and then we moved on to their flavored mustards, dips and maple syrups. Awesome! This mustard is just one of the great products they sell there, I absolutely recommend stopping in if you are ever near Cabot (which is also near the Long Trail Brewery, could be a great day tip, oops, I've gone off on a tangent!). I wouldn't normally think maple and mustard would go together. The idea actually grossed me out, but I have a young unrefined palate, I have no clue what goes together till I taste it. It's pretty spicy, just a little sweet and only has ingredients you can pronounce. A 9.75 oz jar will run you $5. As an adorable side note, I ordered my second set of jars (we finished the one we bought at Cabot within a week of coming home) in December and when they arrived they came with a personalized note from the Wheeler family (the owners). So cute! Must order more to support their small business.

This list shall be continued in future posts!

*I am not employed with or affiliated with any of these companies. I receive no compensation for mentioning these products here. They're listed here purely for you to enjoy because I enjoy them.*

All text and photographs © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley