Orzo Pasta Salad with Lemon, Cucumber and Feta

On April 6, 2014, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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It’s summer again in Los Angeles.  After a cooling spell of a week in the 60s, we are back to 80 degree weather in April.  So what better time to bring out a recipe my wife found on Pinterest she has wanted to try.  The combination of fresh lemon juice, cucumbers and one of my favorite pastas, Orzo, it was an attractive choice for our lazy Sunday afternoon.

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The best part is this dish is simple to make. There is no cooking, unless you consider boiling water and putting pasta in for 6-8 minutes cooking then I guess it has some minor cooking.

I used a sheep and goat cheese feta I bought at Whole Foods that added a nice creaminess to the dish, yet it was firm enough to not melt into the warm pasta when added to the bowl. Of course, any feta will do.

If you are looking for a great dish to impress at a potluck this dish is sure to meet the need.

Full recipe at Fork Knife Swoon blog: [Lemony Orzo Pasta Salad with Cucumber and Feta]

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Lentil and Feta Spinach Salad

On December 27, 2013, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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There are a few go to dishes I have when making a quick lunch or needing something for a picnic or potluck.  This dish is one of those go to options. It only take about 30 minutes to prepare and most important it tastes great.  The dijon vinaigrette adds a lot of flavor that adheres well to the lentils and cheese.

It’s also a great alternative to a pasta dish for weekday night dinners. Serve it with a side salad and some fresh bread to make a more complete meal.

You can substitute the feta with goat cheese or substitute the spinach with kale.  There are a lot of options here to fit what you may have available in your garden or fridge.

Lentil and Feta Kale Salad
Serves 4

1 cups lentils, dry
4 cups water

1 bunch spinach, rough chop
2 celery stalks, 1/4 inch cut
2 carrots, 1/4 inch cut
1 bell pepper, 1/4 inch cubed cuts
1/2 red onion, diced
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon vinegar
coarse ground black pepper

Cook lentils in a pot with 8 cups of water, or follow your package directions.  Heat to a boil and then simmer covered for 20 minutes.  You want them firm, not mushy. Drain and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to saute pan on medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes then add the carrots, bell pepper. and celery. Cook for an additional 3 minutes and add chopped spinach cooking down the kale for about 2-4 minutes.

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In a small bowl, mix the balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard. Combine slowly the olive oil continuing to stir to keep the dressing thick. Add more olive oil if necessary.

Finally, in a large bowl combine the lentils and vegetable saute mixture.  Pour over the dressing and add half of the crumbled feta cheese.  Mix.  Finally, add the remaining feta to the top of the dish and serve.

 

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Grilled Corn Asparagus Pasta with Brown Butter Breadcrumbs

On September 15, 2013, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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Our family is moving closer to becoming vegetarian. For the past several years we have made it a point to eat 2 to 3 vegetarian dishes a week for dinner. The past year it’s been 4 or 5 dinners a week. Finding recipes that don’t use meat is not easy in a society that consumes so much of it.

When I find new vegetarian dishes that make me forget I’m not eating meat and thereby not missing it, it’s a good thing.

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This dish sounded a bit odd, but I had bought some corn this week and wasn’t sure what do with it until I saw this post from one of my fellow Sunday Supper bloggers, Paula at Vintage Kitchen Notes. The thought of anything other than a marinara sauce on spaghetti noodles just feels foreign, which is pretty funny considering how experimental I am with food. Also, the dish really doesn’t have a sauce, it uses the brown butter and breadcrumbs to coat the noodles. And what no Parmigiano-Reggiano?  Feta? Feta on spaghetti? Sacreligious.

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The dish does take some time, about 30-40 minutes. It is great for a quick weekend meal than a rushed after work meal.

The full recipe is below. I followed it with one exception. Stephanie doesn’t like jalapenos so I substituted red chili pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon.

Full Recipe: Charred Corn Asparagus Pasta with Brown Butter Breadcrumbs

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This is my first time contributing a recipe to the great #SundaySupper group organized by Isabel.  This week’s theme is Back to School Meals.  Each recipe must be easy to make in less than 30 minutes making it an easy fit for cooking at home during a school night.

Well this is something I live by as the sole cook and income in our household, so coming home after a long day of work means I need to be able to make a great dinner with little time and with so many great peaches at our Farmers’ Markets here in Southern California I decided to do a simple, yet flavorful salad.

End of Summer Grilled Peaches and Chicken Salad
Serves 4

1 lb chicken, boneless skinless breasts
2 peaches
1 bunch of green or red leaf lettuce
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat grill for cooking chicken breasts and peaches.  In a bowl place 1/4 cup of olive oil and salt and pepper mixing together then coating boneless, skinless chicken breasts with mixture.  Place chicken breasts on half of the grill. Keeping the other half of grill free for cooking peaches. Cook chicken for about 10 minutes per side being sure not to burn.

Cut some ripe but not too soft peaches into halves and remove the pits.  Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on the exposed inside half of the peaches. Put them non-skin side down on the grill grates and cook for 5 minutes.

For the vinaigrette, mix 1/2 cup of olive oil, honey and balsamic. Whisk together and add some salt and pepper to taste.

Turn the peaches over and brush with small amount of honey balsamic vinaigrette blend. Turn them a couple times cooking skin and non-skin sides for a few more minutes on each side being sure not too burn. Remove from grill.

Meanwhile continue grilling chicken breasts and remove when finished.

Wash lettuce and slice chicken into smaller slices laying the peach half in the center of salad and sliced chicken to the side.  Sprinkle salad with crumbled feta cheese and drizzle honey vinaigrette dressing over salad.

Serve with slice of bread.

Hope you like it and please checkout the other recipes from the rest of the #SundaySupper food bloggers!

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Orzo with Walnut Pesto, Olives and Feta

On July 27, 2012, in Featured, Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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I’m only a week away now from ending my time cooking at the hotel.  The house is ready August 1st and while I’ve enjoyed the challenge of making meals with a limited kitchen I am excited about having a full kitchen soon.

If you haven’t figured it out, it’s fairly easy making pasta in a small kitchen.  All I needed for this recipe was a 4 quarter stock pot that I had brought with me; though, Extended Stay America does have a small pan you can use to boil pasta.

The thing I constantly find I miss as I cook in a hotel kitchenette are bowls – mixing bowls to be precise. To get around this I’ll cook my pasta then drain it and use the pot I just made the pasta in as a mixing bowl.  For this recipe I combined the drained pasta, pesto, feta, olives and lemon juice.

I really like this recipe, for hotel cooking, because it takes only 10 minutes to make. I recommend buying some pre-made pesto. I found some Walnut Pesto at the Studio City Farmers Market last Sunday which was a nice substitution.

One pound of pasta makes enough for three meals so you can easily use this for a couple dinners and a lunch or a couple lunches and a dinner. Enjoy.

Full Recipe: Orzo Salad with Spinach Pesto, Olives & Feta.

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It’s been 90 plus degrees all weekend in Dallas meaning the time is now for some summer recipes.

A new one I found last week is a simple salad that brings together watermelon and feta. I added some chicken and a few drops of fig balsamic vinegar to the source recipe from the Savory Sweet Life blog.

I pan seared a couple boneless, skinless chicken beasts with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  A half a chicken breast per person should be enough so plan accordingly.

Full Recipe: Watermelon Feta Mixed Green Salad

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Arugula, Tomato, Feta Couscous

On October 30, 2011, in Featured, Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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Every Saturday morning the boys and I head to swim class where they learn to navigate the water and I spend time figuring how I’m going to navigate my cooking for the coming week.  It’s a great 30 minutes to explore new cooking blogs.  One recent find is the blog The Kitchn (Kitchen – minus the “e”, because I’m sure thekitchen.com was already taken.)

I bought some arugula at the Farmer’s Market and was looking for something new to do with it. Thinking I had some orzo pasta at home too the Dinner Quick: Arugula with Orzo and Garden Tomatoes looked like a good choice for lunch today. When I arrived home, I was out of orzo pasta but had some Trader Joe’s Israeli Couscous I decided to substitute. I made a few other tweaks too, including added saute pine nuts.

Arugula, Tomato, Feta Couscous
Serves 4

1 cup Israeli couscous
1 bunch of arugula, large chop
Olive oil
1 Tablespoon dried basil
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 ounces goat or feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper

Cook the Israeli couscous per package instructions. While that is boiling, saute the pinenuts in a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Let them brown, cooking for about 4 minutes, turning often. Empty the pine nuts into a mixing bowl.

Add a little more olive oil to the saute pan that had the pine nuts and cook the chopped arugula till it just starts to wilt. Add it to the mixing bowl. Add some olive oil again and saute the tomatoes adding the dried basil, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 3 minutes then add them to the mixing bowl.

Crumble the feta cheese into the mixing bowl once the couscous is ready.  Now add the couscous and add a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper to taste.

Serve.

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Cilantro-Parsley Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes and Feta

On October 2, 2011, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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A few fresh ingredients make this no basil pesto pasta enjoyable

There is always cilantro in the house now that we live in Texas. It’s mostly used for tacos or on the occasional vegetarian dish chopped up to enhance flavor to a dish. With an Italian heritage, it’s hard to imagine a pesto without basil. After trying this dish that I found on the food blog Blue Kitchen, I have to admit my pro-Basil pesto stance has changed forever.

Proving Pesto Does Not Require Basil

Making pesto is easy and making it fresh is far more flavorful than buying a ready-made store bought pesto that has half the flavor richness of a just-made pesto. I used walnuts for this version (you can use pecans or pinenuts.) There is no Parmesan cheese in this pesto so it’s also quite affordable to make.

Sweet 100s require more slicing, but they are worth it

For the tomatoes in the recipe, I went with some Sweet 100s; though, any grape tomato will work fine. I’ve become a big fan of the Sweet 100s since we started seeing these “tiny grape tomatoes” at the market. They are sweet, hence the name, and add a nice flavor to this dish.

Whole Foods is carrying more local products and for the feta cheese I opted for the local choice. The one I bought here in Dallas is from Brazos Valley. Brazos Valley is in the central region of Texas. I did some Googling and found out more about this local cheese maker. You can learn more on their website.

The cheese is a bit mild so if you like a stronger flavored Feta I’d recommend a Greek feta for this dish.

You can use any pasta that you like and I had every intent of making fresh linguine for this dish but forgot I ran out of eggs. The dried penne noodles worked better than I thought and are a good substitution.

Note: I only used half of the pesto in the recipe below. The other half I froze to use another time.

For the recipe: Give Basil the Night Off Cilantro-Parsley Pesto Takes Pasta in a Lively New Direction.

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20-Minute Tabbouleh with Chicken

On July 28, 2009, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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This simple recipe is all prep. In fact, if you don’t want to cook a single thing all you have to do is substitute the chicken I use with a store-bought rotisserie chicken. This would leave you with only having to heat a cup of water to a boil, remove from heat and add the bulgar wheat to thicken. Beyond that, all you have to do is chop, chop some more and keep chopping until you finish a few simple dashes of spice and some crumbled feta cheese. Easy.

The best part is that this meal is really, really good. It’s the perfect summer meal or dieting meal. There is so little to it that all you have to do is make sure you wrote down all the ingredients before making a trip to the market.

Here is the recipe using boneless-skinless chicken breasts. Like I said above you could substitute the chicken with a rotisserie store-bought and avoid cooking altogether.

Chicken and Feta Tabbouleh
Serves 4

3/4 cup uncooked bulgar
1 cup boiling water
2 cups shredded chicken breast, skinless boneless
1 cup chopped plum tomato
1 cup chopped cucumber
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup (2 oz) crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic (or 2 chopped cloves)
1/2 teaspons ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Place bulgar in a medium bowl; cover with 1 cup of boiling water. Let stand for 15 mintues or until liquid is absorbed.

Slice chicken into bit-sized chunks and saute in a pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat cooking and turning for about 8 mintues. Remove from pan and set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add bulgar to mixture and toss gently to combine. Spoon out mixture on plates and top with chicken.

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Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

On July 21, 2009, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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The idea of a burger made from anything not red kind of repulsed me until today. Sure I’ve had garden burgers, but they always leave something to be desired like, oh I don’t know, animal? Recently, there has been a bit of a movement for turkey burgers as an alternative to beef hamburgers.

It wasn’t until this weekend that my wife found a recipe that looked appealing. Why? Because we both agreed it was a recipe that didn’t try to replicate a traditional burger with bun, ketchup, mustard, lettuce, onion and tomato but was made with ground turkey. Why not just make beef burgers if you are going to do that? Instead this recipe uses pita bread, tzatziki and arugula. It looked refreshing and fit well with a lighter meat.

Mediterranean Turkey Burgers
Serves 4

1 pound ground turkey
1/2 panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1/4 cup (1 oz) crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon minced red onion
2 tablespoons commercial pesto
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups arugula or mixed greens
4 pitas, toasted and halved

Tzatiki:
1/2 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup finely chopped, seeded cucumber
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a bowl; mix until combined. Divide mixture and shape into four patties about 1/2-inch thick.

Mix Tzatiki ingredients by combining all into a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat grill and add patties cooking about 6 minutes on each side until done.

Slice patties and pita bread in half. Stuff pitas with Tzatiki sauce, arugula, and turkey patty. Serve.

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