All Posts By: NANCY DeLUCIA REAL

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Hummus Heat with Pitas & Vegetables

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods, Vegetables On April 9, 2010 4 Comments

Hummus is a garbanzo bean dip from Mediterranean countries but has now become popular all over the world. Even kids are reaching for a pita wedge or a carrot stick to dip in hummus. My addition of the chipotle chile accounts for the “heat”. Make Hummus Heat for your friends and family and watch it disappear in moments.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Makes: 2-1/2 cups

Ingredients:
1-1/2 to 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained -or-
One 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
4 tablespoons sesame Tahini*
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Juice of 1 small lemon
1/2 chipotle chile** in adobo sauce
2 fresh parsley sprigs
2 to 3 six-inch pita breads, cut into wedges
4 to 5 celery stalks, peeled and julienned
2 to 3 large carrots, peeled and julienned
1 large or 5 small Persian cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick circles

1. In a food processor, blend the garbanzo beans, tahini, garlic, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, lemon and chiles to a grainy paste.

2. Taste and adjust olive oil, salt, lemon and chipotle chile levels (you may add more, to taste).

3. Transfer the hummus to a 3-cup serving bowl. Make a small well in center (about 1/2-inch deep) and fill it with olive oil; place parsley sprigs as garnish in center of olive oil in well.

4. Serve as an appetizer, accompanied by pita wedges, celery, carrots and cucumbers.

Tip: For a thinner consistency, add more olive oil or 1 tablespoon of sour cream.

Note: “Cooked garbanzo beans” refers to dry garbanzos and following package cooking instructions.

*Sesame tahini is a paste made with ground sesame seeds and can be found in the ethnic foods section of large supermarkets or in Middle Eastern grocery stores.

**Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce are sold in cans and can be found in the ethnic foods section of large supermarkets or in Latin American grocery stores.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Spicy Indian Chicken

In Poultry On April 2, 2010 0 Comments

Prep time: 30 minutes
Serves 4

I created this recipe for my husband who rates Indian food as his number one choice whenever we go out to dinner. While I avoid the heavily condimented dishes such as curries, I enjoy lighter fare which usually includes lots of vegetables. This chicken dish is spicy, aromatic and a feast for the eyes and palate!

Ingredients:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (safflower or sunflower oil preferred)
1 to 2 Serrano chiles, stems discarded and flesh cut into thin circles
1 each red and green bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 large red onion, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rings
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/8 teaspoon each ground cumin, chili and curry powder
Salt, to taste
One pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/3 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro leaves
3 tomatoes, quartered (pulp removed and discarded)

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch skillet and stir fry the chiles, peppers and onion on medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, spices and salt and stir fry 30 seconds longer. Transfer the stir fried vegetables to a plate and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the same skillet and add the chicken pieces; stir fry on medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup chicken broth; cover and cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for an additional 3 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (cut into one piece and taste it).

Add the stir fried vegetables to the chicken in skillet, followed by the chopped cilantro leaves and tomatoes. Stir to heat for 1 minute, and add salt, to taste.

Serve immediately with steamed rice and a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio wine.

Vegan Variation: Replace chicken with one package extra firm tofu, cut into 1-inch squares. Instead of chicken, stir fry tofu pieces in 4 tablespoons oil, on medium-low heat, 1 to 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Follow remaining recipe directions.

Tip: If desired, add a little more cumin, chili or curry, to taste. If making this recipe with kids in mind, do not add more spices and omit the Serrano chiles.

Note: I prefer a curry powder called Neera’s Curry Masala (An Authentic Indian Spice Mix), which is a blend of over 20 different exotic spices used for curries and vegetable sautes. This product is sold on Amazon.com, at gourmet and ethnic food shops.

Text and Photographs © Nancy Real 2010

Easter Biscotti

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets, Holidays On April 1, 2010 6 Comments

These biscotti were inspired by a traditional recipe my maternal grandmother Nonna Nuccia used to make. Every year, during Easter week, Nonna made a panettone (an Italian sweet bread) decorated with multicolored nonpareil candies. My biscotti logs are sprinkled with the same candies and when sliced, they surprise you just like Easter eggs.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 30 to 40 minutes
Makes: 4 to 4-1/2 dozen biscotti

Ingredients:
3-1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (use lesser amount for a lighter flavor)
4 large eggs
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup shelled raw pistachios
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots (cut into 1/4-inch pieces)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 teaspoon water (for egg wash)
Multicolored nonpareil candies (for decoration)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 12 X 18-inch baking sheets and set aside.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl and with a hand mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla extract on medium speed until well blended.

4. Stir in the pistachios, blueberries, raisins, apricots and cranberries.

5. With mixer set on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture (1 cup at a time) to the wet ingredients, mixing well after each addition.

6. Transfer the dough onto a smooth, floured surface and, with lightly-floured hands, lightly knead the dough until smooth and uniform.

7. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into a log measuring 14 inches long by 2 inches wide.

8. Transfer the two logs onto each prepared sheet, at least 2 inches apart.

9. Gently press each log to flatten slightly. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat each log with the egg wash.

10. Sprinkle each log abundantly with the nonpareil candies.

11. Bake logs, 10 minutes and then invert sheets (transfer sheet from upper rack to lower rack and vice versa).

12. Bake logs 15 minutes longer or until golden and they firm to the touch. If logs are too soft, bake an additional 5 minutes.

13. Transfer sheets to a wire rack or on the kitchen counter. Let logs cool in baking sheets for 6 to 8 minutes.

14. After 6 to 8 minutes, place logs on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, cut logs crosswise and on a diagonal slant into 3/4-inch thick slices.

15. Arrange biscotti on the same baking sheets, cut-side down, in a single layer.

16. Return baking sheets with biscotti to oven and bake 4 to 5 minutes, turning biscotti over. After turning biscotti over, bake an additional 4 to 5 minutes.

17. Allow the biscotti to cool completely in baking sheets set on counter. Once cool, store the Easter Biscotti in double plastic freezer bags. They will keep frozen up to two months.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real
Photograph of Dove Candies ®, which are a registered trademark.

Nancy’s Express Tomato Bruschette

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods On March 26, 2010 1 Comment

 TomatoesfromGardenWatermark

One night last week I came home from work late and realized I had not prepared dinner in advance – I usually do this a day earlier. I looked around my kitchen and spotted some ripe tomatoes in a basket. I made these bruschette (Italian for “toasts”) in a rush – 10 minutes.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
8 one-inch thick slices Italian bread
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
4 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped red onion (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or Italian parsley leaves
3 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup grated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano)

1. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and position 6 inches away from top oven broiler-grill.

2. With oven setting on “broil”, toast the bread slices on one side only.

3. Transfer the bread slices onto a platter and drizzle them lightly with some oil; set aside.

4. In a medium bowl, gently toss together the tomatoes, onion, chopped basil or parsley with 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper.

5. Taste and adjust oil and seasonings.

6. Spoon equal amounts of the tomato mixture over the bruschette and top with some cheese.

Serve immediately.

Note: Traditional bruschette recipes begin with the rubbing of a cut clove of garlic on each slice of bread, followed by the toasting procedure.

Tip: To remove the bite but not the flavor from sliced or chopped raw onions, place them in a bowl of cold water, give them a squeeze and drain. Use in recipe as directed.

Text ©2010 Nancy Real

Springtime Strawberry Jam

In Fruit and Jams On March 19, 2010 0 Comments

Spring and all of nature’s bounty are finally here! I was so excited when I saw the first fresh crop of strawberries at my local farmers’ market, that I immediately created this recipe for homemade strawberry jam. It’s natural, light and delicious on toasted bread, or as a topping for ice cream, yogurt or cookies. And the best part is that it only takes about 20 minutes to make.

Active prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Inactive prep time: 2 hours (for cooling)
Makes: 1-1/2 to 2 cups

Ingredients:
4 cups (1 quart) whole fresh strawberries
1/2 cup pure cane sugar (this sugar is light golden and less processed)
1/2 cup water
Juice of half a lemon
1-1/4 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water in a small cup or glass

1. Rinse and dry the strawberries.

2. Remove stems and cut the strawberries into fourths lengthwise.

3. In a 3-quart saucepot, combine the strawberries, sugar and the water.

4. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. After 3 minutes, mash the strawberries with a potato masher, and cook an additional minute. Stir in the lemon juice and the  cornstarch mixture.

6. Taste and, if a sweeter jam is desired, add 1 additional tablespoon sugar. Cook and stir for an additional 30 to 45 seconds.

7. Remove from heat, cover and cool completely.

Transfer to an airtight glass container and refrigerate up to one week.
Makes 2 cups

Text ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real