Category Archives: Cook’s Treat

I’ve always loved to cook! Learned it from my grandmother and mother. Can spend hours on a meal because I love seeing and tasting how it turns out, although lately, I haven’t had much time to cook! Join me here for some favorite recipes and some really simple recipes that I hope you will try out!

Caponata #TipTuesday #CooksTreat

It’s that time of year when there is a bounty of vegetables available to cook. One of my favorites is eggplant. Whether grilled, a la parmigiana or rollatini, it’s a tasty treat!

Today’s tip is how to make caponata which is a type of eggplant spread. It’s great over crostini or if you want, tossed with pasta.

Caponata

Ingredients:

    1/2 cup olive oil
    1 onion finely chopped
    1 celery stalk finely chopped (I like the inner hearts with the leaves)
    2-3 garlic cloves finely chopped
    1 1/2 pounds eggplant diced into half inch cubes (remove some of the skin to reduce bitterness)
    4-6 Roma tomatoes, diced (remove the seeds and skin if you wish. I normally don’t)
    1 8 oz can tomato sauce
    1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
    2-4 tbsp sugar
    1/2 cup capers (rinsed clean of salt or squeezed to remove vinegar)

Directions:

    Put 1/4 cup olive oil in large skillet and heat.
    Add onion and celery and saute until you they are just starting to get a caramel color.
    Add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic, and heat.
    Add the eggplant and stir until the eggplant is getting browned.
    Add the apple cider vinegar and deglaze the pan.
    Mix in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, capers and sugar.
    Cook until all the vegetables have melded together. About half an hour.
    Salt and pepper to taste. Also, caponata has a sweet/sour kind of taste to it. Add vinegar/sugar to taste.
    Place in a container or toss some with pasta!
    Caponata will keep for about a week in the fridge.

I hope you enjoyed today’s Tuesday Tip!

Turnip Redux Recipe #TuesdayTip #CooksTreat

My hubby and I love root vegetables, especially carrots, beets and turnips. It’s great to be able to go to the farm market near my office and pick up some locally grown veggies and the one vendor actually has them for really reasonable prices. Here’s a photo of what the green market looks like on a regular day!

Last weekend I picked up some lovely turnips whose greens were still fresh and vibrant. Perfect for making what I call Turnip Redux which was inspired by a recipe from A Chef’s Life on PBS. This recipe uses both the turnip and the greens hence the redux.

For those of you who have not tried turnips, please give them a shot. They are cruciferous veggies that have lots of health benefits. Cancer-fighting, bone and lung health, cardiovascular and digestive aid thanks to Vitamin K and fiber in the greens. Plus, low in calories!

Turnip Redux

2 pounds turnips, peeled and cubed
Turnip greens, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil
2 tbsp butter (optional)
2 slices bacon chopped (optional)

Directions

Cook the turnips in salted boiling water until tender. Drain and coarsely mash.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the bacon (optional). Once the bacon is close to crispy, remove from the oil and add the chopped onion. Sweat it out until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute of two. Add the greens and cook until almost soft. Add the mashed turnips to the greens and cook for another five minutes or so. Add the butter and toss. Garnish with the crispy bacon. The last two steps, butter and bacon are optional.

That’s it! This makes a great side dish for any grilled meat and again, HEALTHY! Enjoy.

Jersey Shore Sangria #WineWednesday

With summer hopefully arriving in a few days, I love having a pitcher of sangria ready for when I come off one of the lovely Jersey Shore beaches. It’s a delightful way to cool off on hot summer days and nights. I’ve been playing with the recipe and have created this refreshing variation on the traditional mix! I hope you enjoy it. Why is it Jersey Shore Sangria? ‘Cuz that’s where I drink it the most. LOL!

Caridad’s Jersey Shore Sangria

Ingredients

    1 bottle red wine (a Malbec, Rioja, Cabernet or Pinot Noir will do. For those near a Wegman’s, their $6 Tempranillos, Malbecs and San Giovese will work great in this recipe!)
    1/2 bottle Chilled Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider (or any other sparkling cider)
    2 oranges
    1 cup frozen strawberries
    1/2 cup grapes

Directions

  • Peel oranges. Cut into eighths and then cut the eighths in half. Cut grapes in half. Cut frozen strawberries in half.
  • Place fruit into a pitcher and add wine. Let fruit and wine macerate for at least 10 minutes in the refridgerator. If you can wait longer, the flavors will be better.
  • Add chilled sparkling cider to fruit and wine mixture.
  • Remove some fruit from this mix and place in individual glasses. Pour wine/cider mixture into the glass and serve.

What I like about this mix is that you get the extra fruitiness and sweetness with the addition of the cider and don’t have to add sugar to get that.

Some recipes call for lemon in the mix and also don’t ask you to peel the citrus, but I find that the lemon and the peels make the mix too acidic. For a change of pace, cube some apples and toss them in or go even more tropical with some pineapple and mangop. Change up the recipe with a white wine which is just as tasty. A moscato would be perfect for a white sangria. You can also freeze a whole peeled orange and then toss that into the pitcher to keep the mixture cool, but not have it watered down. Thanks to my sister for that tip!

If you want an extra kick in your sangria, add a shot of either grenadine, creme de cassis, B&B, or Gran Marnier.

Hope you enjoyed today’s Wine Wednesday!

10 Tips for Growing Tomatoes #TuesdayTip

There is nothing tastier than a ripe tomato right off the vine, warm from the summer sun. A rinse, some salt or a little balsamic vinegar and you have an amazing treat.

Here are ten tips for how you can grow your own tasty tomatoes:

1. When choosing a tomato, make sure it’s right for your area and see if it is determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes will yield fruits for only 1 to 2 months, while indeterminate will bear fruit season long. ROMA tomatoes are a popular kind of determinate tomato. BETTER BOY or BIG BEEF are indeterminate types of tomatoes. You can visit Bonnie Plants for a list of more varieties or check the plant sticker in the pot at the nursery.

2. When planting, place your seedlings and/or transplants right up to the first set of leaves. You’ll get new roots all along the stem and more roots mean more tomatoes! However, don’t buy plants that are too leggy and overgrown.

3. Tomatoes will grow best in sandy or loose soils. They also like soil on the slightly acidic side. Add peat moss or coffee grounds to the soil to keep your tomatoes happy.

4. During season, water at least once every 5 days. During especially hot or dry weather, shoot for 2 or 3 times a week. Water the roots and not the leaves if at all possible. I set up a soaker house with a timer in my garden that waters just a little bit every day. Soaker houses are also great since they go directly to the roots and avoid water waste. You should also water regularly to avoid blossom end rot (that black stuff on the bottom of the tomato).

5. Tomatoes need about 8 hours of direct sunlight. That can be a mix of morning and afternoon sun.

6. Don’t crowd your plants. Tomatoes like space and it will avoid bugs and fungus moving from one plant to the other and also allow them to get the sunlight they need.

7. After you water, mulch. The mulch helps keep weeds from growing and keeps the soil from drying out too quickly. I use a cedar mulch since cedar also helps to keep away bugs.

8. Once the plant starts to get taller, trim off the bottom leaves. They are the ones most likely to get wet and develop fungus. Trimming them off may help stop that.

9. Be sure to stake/support your tomatoes. Tomato cages work will as do trellises in larger garden plots.

10. Fertilize your plants when you first plant them, but then wait until you have the first fruits to fertilize again. Too much fertilizer will encourage lots of leaves and growth, but not fruits.

I hope those tips help you get lots and lots of tomatoes from your garden this year!
tomato_growing_tips

Corn on the Cob with Chile Lime Butter #TuesdayTip

The warm weather has me already dreaming of BBQs on the Jersey Shore. What goes better than BBQ than corn on the cob, but making perfect corn can be tough. Overcook it and it’s too mushy. Timing is everything, but here’s a cooking tip for you and a delicious butter for you to try!

“Boiling” the Corn

The secret to boiling the corn is not to boil it! Yep, you read that right. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil for up to 6 ears of corn. DO NOT ADD SALT! Once the water has come to a boil, shut off the heat, add 4 to 6 year of corn, cover, and let sit. For 4 ears, let sit for 10 minutes. For 6 years, let sit for 15 minutes. After that the corn is done and will keep for up to 30 minutes without being overdone.

Chile Lime Butter

Melt one stick of unsalted butter. Add 2 tsp chile powder and 1 tsp salt. Heat the mixture for about 2 minutes to release the flavors from the chile powder. Add the juice of one lime and about 1 tsp lime zest. You can also add black pepper (I do not like black pepper hence why I omit it!). For a spicier version, add a little hot sauce or cayenne pepper to the mix!

Serve over the corn when you are ready to eat.

Corn on the Cob with Chile Lime Butter

A Typical Cuban Meal #Tuesday Tip

I’m in the process of writing #2 in the At the Shore Contemporary Romance series and am working on a scene where the hero visits the heroine at her condo in Jersey City. The heroine is Cuban and she knows that the hero loves Cuban food. Unfortunately, she’s been hard at work over the weekend, but she still knows where to go to pick up some great Cuban food before she comes home.

So what’s a typical kind of Cuban meal? I’ve shared some recipes with you before, so here’s a list of what you’ll see in the scene I’m busy writing. You can click on the links for the recipes or visit my Cook’s Treat page.

Black beans and rice for sure!
Citrus-marinated Roast Pork
Plantains of some kind – how about Mashed ones or ripe plantains (maduros)?
Ropa Vieja (a shredded beef dish)
Flan for dessert

I’m thinking maybe a nice sangria to help wash everything down!
Ropa Vieja

Look for ONE SUMMER NIGHT, #1 in the At the Shore Series, in October 2017. You can pre-order this contemporary romance at the following sites:

Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/2krMwfE
Amazon Paperback: http://amzn.to/2kYLWZV
B&N: http://bit.ly/2kNuo0p
iBooks: Coming Soon!
Kobo: Coming Soon!

Steak Done Just Right #TuesdayTip

We love steak, but since we can’t have a gas/charcoal BBQ anymore, we’ve had to experiment with how to grill steak just right and have finally found the way!

For starters, you’ll need a nice thick cut of beef – about an inch thick. Whether it’s London Broil or a more expensive cut of meat, this will work for you. When I do London Broil, I generally marinate it, but that’s not a necessary part of this recipe.

What you will need is a pan that you can get really hot. I recommend something like the Lodge Cast Iron Square Grill. This Lodge grill is pre-seasoned which is great although it’s not that tough to season cast iron. Just clean it when you buy, oil it up and let it sit in a low temp oven. Once you’ve got that first coat, be sure not to scrub too hard when washing. Just a little soap and water. Nothing beats cast iron for cooking.

Except maybe black steel or carbon steel. These pans are lighter, but can deal with high heat situations. They need seasoning as well, so a pre-seasoned one is your best bet.

Back to the steak. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Once it’s heated, place the steak on an oiled pan and cook for about 30 minutes or until the internal temp is 125 degrees.

Then, remove from the heat and get the cast iron/black steel pan heating. Give it a little spray of cooking oil and once it’s hot enough to be smoking, add the steak. Sear each side for one minute or until the internal temp is about 140 for medium rare or 155 for medium.

How can you tell the temperature? I highly recommend one of the instant read thermometers. They can be pricey, like the Thermoworks, but it is worth it.

Once you’ve seared the steak, set it aside off the heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Why should you let it rest? Heat forces the juices toward the center of the steak and if you cut it immediately, those juices will run out of the center. Letting the meat rest will allow the juices to flow back through all the parts of the steak. For a more scientific explanation about the benefits of resting meat, you can visit the Food Lab!

Use this process for any other meats you might want to grill, like lamb or pork chops!
steak