Flashback Friday – Oven Roasted

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 8/27/08 at Exit 51.

Oven Roasted

It would seem illogical to crank up the oven in the middle of summer.  But the application of intense heat can transform simple summer staples into oven roasted nirvana.  Got a bumper crop of tomatoes? Tired of gazapcho?  Break out the sheet pan and turn the oven on.  In one afternoon, you can work some magic of your own.  The oven does all the hard work, leaving you free to spend a few hours doing something you REALLY enjoy, not standing in front of a hot box.  And really, isn’t that delicious?


Oven Roasted Tomato Soup

Adapted from The South Beach Diet

  • 2 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, halved
  • 1 onion, thickly sliced
  • 2 roasted red peppers (jarred is ok)
  • 1 can vegetable broth
  • sweet paprika (or smoked, if that’s your thing)
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Place onions and tomatoes (cut side up) on baking sheet.  Be sure not to crowd them on.  You want them to roast not steam.  Use a second pan if needed.  Drizzle cut tomatoes and onion with olive oil and season with kosher salt.

Roast until the tomatoes sink into themselves.  Start checking after 40 minutes. If they start to sink but also start to scorch, turn the heat off and let them sit in the oven with the door closed for about an hour.  Remove from oven and place in food processor.  Add one half cup vegetable broth and process until smooth.  Transfer mixture to medium sauce pan set over medium heat.  Meanwhile, place two roasted red peppers (discard liquid if using jarred peppers) in food processor and pulse till smooth.  Add red peppers to saucepan and stir to combine.  Add additional vegetable broth to reach a consistency you like.  Season to taste with paprika and balsamic vinegar.

Enjoy for lunch, dinner, or a quick snack.

Eat Fresh

Fresh Picked

The following originally appeared on 5/13/09 at Exit 51.

Eat Fresh

Advertising executives may want you to believe that eating fresh means patronizing a certain fast food chain.  To me, it’s something entirely different.  My definition of eating fresh is cutting down, as much as possible, the  journey fruits and vegetables take from the grower to my plate.  Since I’ve come to peace with the fact that I will never be the house in the neighborhood that has a killer vegetable garden, I am eager to find an alternative.  See those beautiful spears of asparagus?  That was my first attempt.

I should preface all this by saying that there was a distinct lack of fresh vegetables in my house as a child.  We ate vegetables, but they came out of either a can or a bag and were destined to be boiled down into unappetizing mush on the stove.  Tomatoes were the exception.  There was always a  plate of  fresh (from the grocery store) tomatoes in the house.  My grandmother would work wonders with even the toughest, driest  tomatoes turning them into blt’s or frying them up in her cast iron skillet until the crust was perfectly browned and crisp.  Those were some of the best summer breakfasts.

So I grew up thinking that asparagus was mushy and tinny and came with an overabundance of sodium.  It has only been as an adult that I’ve discovered the true nature of the spears.  And thanks to the folks at the farm stand, I now know what asparagus aspires to be.  Having just been picked the day before I bought them, these spears still had life.  They were firm and strong, breaking with a clear snap.  The tips, usually the first place to show signs of  having been sitting around for a while, were tight and unbruised.  And the color?  It just screamed fresh.

Best of all was the taste.  The folks at the farm stand, who did the growing, assured me that I would taste a difference.  The only word I can come up with to describe what they tasted like is ‘green’.  It was like I was tasting Spring.  Bright and clean.

Now that’s eating fresh.

Pan Roasted Asparagus

This is our favorite way to fix asparagus (and string beans).  If you don’t have an indoor grill pan, use a large nonstick skillet.  This would also work well on a grill.  Just be sure to lay the spears perpendicular to the grill grates, skewer them together to make an asparagus raft, or use a grill basket.

  • Fresh asparagus, rinsed and stems trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Lemon zest

Lightly oil a nonstick grill pan, using either a silicon basting brush or paper towel to get a thin coat of oil.  Preheat pan over medium high flame.  Add asparagus and a big pinch of kosher salt.  Turn asparagus with tongs as they cook.  The color will turn bright green and the spears will begin to soften.  Dress with freshly grated lemon zest.


Mustard Roasted Shrimp

The following originally appeared on 5/27/09 at Exit 51.


Despite my best efforts to the contrary, there are just days when time is not on my side.  I’ve got too much to do and not enough time to get it done.  Or cosmic forces conspire against me and suck huge chunks of time out of my grasping hands, never to be seen again.  A trip to the grocery store that should take 30 minutes turns into an hour.  Too bad life doesn’t come with rollover minutes, like in the AT&T commercial.  I’d definitely pay for that upgrade.

The problem with poor time management is that something ultimately suffers.  You cut corners, trying to wedge a square peg into a round hole, and the end result isn’t exactly the right fit.  It will do in a pinch but you know you could do better.  That’s how I feel about Mustard Roasted Shrimp.

The clock was already ticking when I set out to make the shrimp.  Dinner had to be done and I had to be out the door in little more than an hour.  So the notion of marinating the shrimp in mustard, olive oil, and tarragon for an hour in the fridge was immediately dismissed.  And soaking bamboo skewers so that the shrimp could be  broiled?  That would have to wait for another day.  These need to be in the oven NOW.

Did you ever notice that when you’re trying to hurry, even the simplest tasks get complicated?  Like peeling shrimp.  Sure, the package says EZ Peel but should it really take twenty minutes to peel two pounds of large shrimp?  In tv land there would be an assistant to instantly transform them into peeled and cleaned morsels.  In my kitchen, there’s just the cat sitting there looking mildly interested in me dropping one of those morsels on the floor.

By now, my hour is down to about 40 minutes.  Sorry shrimp but the best I can offer you at this point is a short stay in the marinade out on the counter.  The oven gets heated, sheet pans get prepped, and the timer ticks down to less than 30 minutes.

Finally, the shrimp go in the oven.  At this point, I stop looking at the clock.  It will take as long as it takes and since my superpower to stop time has yet to develop, clock watching isn’t going to do me any good.  As soon as I start to smell the aroma of hot mustard, it’s time to turn the shrimp over.  Tick-tock, tick-tock, I can’t turn the clock in my head off.

At last the shrimp is bright pink and the mustard marinade is just starting to brown on the sheet pans; time to come out of the oven.  Sprinkle a quick pinch of salt and onto the plate we go.  In the five minutes or so that I have to actually eat, I keep thinking how this is ok but it could be so much better.  Each bite mocks me with flat flavor.  Even the next day, the leftovers lay there on the plate, not living up to their full potential because of me.

I take full responsibility.  I rushed what could have been a very good thing.

Broiled Shrimp with Mustard and Tarragon

Adapted from Bon Appetit: Fast, Easy, Fresh

  • 1/3 cup dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 green onion, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 1 1/2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8 wood skewers, soaked for 30 minutes

Whisk first four ingredients in a medium bowl to combine.  Add shrimp; toss to coat.  Chill 1 to 3 hours.

Heat broiler and line sheet pan with foil.  Thread shrimp onto skewers.  Season with salt and pepper.

Broil shrimp until cooked through, approximately 2 minutes per side.

BAH Note: I’m including the comments from the original post as well.

on 2 June 2009 at 6:13 pm missmobtown said:
I blame Bon Appetit — labeling something as “fast, easy, fresh” when it needs to sit for an hour? Or three? Come ON.

on 3 June 2009 at 7:04 am pmf1852 said:
Indeed, not the quickest meal in the book. We made it again last weekend. Oddly enough, letting it sit longer really didn’t make it taste much different. I think the key is to definitely cook it with high heat. I may have to get over my fear of the broiler and see if that turns up the flavor.

on 27 July 2009 at 8:28 pm Lara said:
Ok, I tried this tonight and both my husband and I thought it was very good but the flavor almost overpowering. Next time I will use less mustard and perhaps half of the marinade recipe. A good make ahead and a great little appy!

on 28 July 2009 at 6:59 am Wendi said:
Would you say it’s a happy appy? Definitely play around with the ingredients to get the taste you like best.

Flashback Friday – Mission Impossible

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 8/20/08 at Exit 51.

Mission Impossible

The beauty of South Beach Phase 2 is that you get to reintroduce foods that were to be avoided during Phase 1.  Sounds easy enough, right?  The catch is that you aren’t getting an even swap.  That cereal we munched on in the days before South Beach?  That’s gone.  Instead of Raisin Bran, you get something that’s high fiber but low sugar.  And that can take some sleuthing out. I found this out the hard way. Continue reading “Flashback Friday – Mission Impossible”

Flashback Friday – I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mashed Potatoes

Flashback Friday


The following originally appeared on 8/11/08 at Exit 51.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mashed Potatoes

Some thoughts on our South Beach journey, now into its 10th day.

My desire to bring the camera into the kitchen is not so strong these days.  I’m not yet on friendly terms with these recipes.  I don’t know what to expect from them – will they misbehave?  So I’m more focused on trying to figure them out.  Hopefully as we stumble across ones that become favorites, I’ll be more gung-ho to capture the moments.

Also, all the prep that goes into getting ahead of the curve absolutely wrecks my kitchen.  I prefer a somewhat orderly approach to cooking.  Instead, my weekend cooking days have seen stacks and stacks of dishes on every available horizontal surface.  By the time I get all the week’s “snacks” prepped, it’s time to start fixing an actual meal.  And then all those dishes have to get cleaned up, and oh look, time to start pulling things out for dinner.  It’s a weary cycle right now.  My little dishwasher has gotten more use in the last ten days than ever before, sometimes running twice a day (but it is a really teeny tiny dishwasher). Continue reading “Flashback Friday – I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mashed Potatoes”

More Cowbell

image from http://www.istockphoto.com

While I’m away on my imaginary vacation, I’m leaving the pantry stocked with posts from Exit 51 that would have been part of the Flashback Friday series. The following originally appeared on 6/10/09 at Exit 51

More Cowbell

I love the Saturday Night Live skit with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken about the rock band and the cowbell.

The point is that while what the band was doing was good, it would have been even better with more cowbell.  Do you ever have days like that?  Days where you’re in a groove, doing your thing, and you just know that if you could have a little something extra it would be phenomenal.  Yeah, you need more cowbell.

More cowbell can be anything – a steady breeze on a balmy day, all green lights on your way home, a leisurely nap on a lazy Sunday afternoon – anything that puts whatever you’re doing over the top.  The French have a phrase for it – je ne sais quoi – literally meaning I know not what.  Because sometimes, it’s something you can’t quite put your finger on.  Other times though, you know exactly what that cowbell would be. Continue reading “More Cowbell”

That Was Easy

One thing I left off my “Perfect World” list was an Easy Button.  Or maybe I just assumed that because it was a Perfect World, that it would automatically come with both an Easy Button and an Undo Button.  How great would that be?  Like that time when I was 17 and I asked the wife of my brother’s friend when her baby was due?  I totally could have used an Undo Button right then.  Or the earth could have opened up and swallowed me whole.  Either one would have been preferable to my size 7 Sebago firmly lodged in my big, fat, stupid mouth. Continue reading “That Was Easy”

Super Charged

With summer’s heat ready to breathe down our necks any minute now, I’ve got a quick and easy alternative to gazpacho.  It also gives you another tasty weapon in your arsenal to combat the pending zucchini onslaught.  You can thank me later.

Curried Zucchini Soup

Adapted From South Beach Quick and Easy

BAH Note:  I found this soup to be equally good hot or chilled.  If you use a stick blender, your soup won’t be silky smooth.  For velvety smoothness, process the soup in a blender or food processor.  Either way is fine to enjoy zucchini with hints of ginger and super charged with sweet curry and garam masala heat.

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced in 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sweet curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (optional)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • kosher salt

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened, approximately 5 minutes.  Add the zucchini, ginger, curry powder, and garam masala (if using) and cook until the zucchini softens.

Add the broth and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and add kosher salt to taste.

Working in batches, carefully process the soup in a blender until smooth.

Serve plain or garnish with a dollop of sour cream, greek yogurt, or plain yogurt.

{printable recipe}

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