Category Archives: LadyFingers

Recipes: Summer Has Arrived

If ever there was a theme for a dinner, “summertime” was it this past Tuesday evening at the LadyFingers table!  We had our May winner, Jacky R. and her fiance Tom with us, AND our good friend Kelly joined as well to round out the table at six.  What a fun evening we had!
The menu was fabulous (as usual!) and it was the right amount of light and cool to set off the heat of the evening.  Summer was visiting Pittsburgh this past Tuesday with hot and humid weather with a thunderstorm blowing in for good measure. It was all sunshine around the table, though.
Before getting to the delicious menu and recipes, just a quick reminder that you and a guest can join us around the LadyFingers table in July if you follow along with our June dinner and successfully answer our trivia question about it.  We live tweet the whole process each month and we’d love to have you join us!
The lucky duck who is joining us in June is Ann M!  Ann successfully answered our trivia question and was chosen from among all the correct respondents.  We can’t wait to have you and a guest at our next month’s event.  Congratulations!
Without further ado, let’s get to the good stuff, shall we?
Chilled Ginger Cantaloupe Soup – serves 6
1 large, ripe cantaloupe
¾ cup freshly squeezed juice from 2 oranges
1 tablespoon honey
1 ½ teaspoons peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
4 sprigs Thai basil, leaves removed and roughly chopped
Cut cantaloupe in half and remove all seeds.  Using a large spoon, scoop all of the flesh away from the skin and place the flesh in a food processor.
Add freshly squeezed orange juice to the food processor and process until mixture is combined.

Add honey and ginger and process until mixture is smooth.
Add Thai basil and process just until basil is chopped (Do not over-process as the basil will liquefy and tint the soup green).
Pour finished soup into a bowl and chill for 30 minutes.  Or cover bowl and chill for up to one day.
Serve with Thai basil sprigs as garnish.

Spicy Salmon and Zucchini Patties – serves 6
2 small cans boneless, skinless salmon
2 medium zucchini, grated
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon chili powder
several splashes jalapeno sauce, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup almond flour
3 tablespoons lemon-infused olive oil
Drain salmon well and place in a large bowl.  Using a fork, break up salmon into small pieces.
Place grated zucchini into the center of a clean cotton dish towel.  Bring ends of towel together and twist to tightly enclose zucchini.  Holding over the sink, wring zucchini until all excess moisture is removed (expect a lot of moisture to come from the zucchini).

Measure 1 ½ cups drained zucchini and add to salmon.  Lightly mash mixture with a fork until salmon breaks down (this will help patties stick together).
Add shallots, beaten egg, chili powder and jalapeno sauce.  Mix well to combine.
Place almond flour into a shallow bowl.
Divide salmon mixture into six portions and shape each portion into a patty.  Drop patties into almond flour and lightly coat tops and bottoms.

Heat lemon-infused olive oil in large, heavy skillet until oil is hot, but not smoking.
Place patties in skillet and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes.  Gently flip patties and sauté until browned on second side.
Serve immediately.

Orange-Glazed Carrot Ribbons – serves 6
6 large carrots
2 cups orange juice freshly squeezed from 4-5 oranges
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur (optional)
Salt and white pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Trim and peel carrots.  With a mandoline or a vegetable peeler, cut each carrot into thin ribbons.

Place orange juice, honey and liqueur (optional) into large pot.  Simmer over medium heat until mixture reduces slightly, about 5 minutes.
Add carrot ribbons to pot and stir to coat all carrots.  Simmer, stiring frequently, about 5 minutes or until carrots are crisp-tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Remove carrots to a bowl or to individual plates and sprinkle with fresh chives.
Romaine-Wrapped Halibut with Lemon and Shallots – serves 6
6 6oz halibut pieces (fillet, not steak)
3 teaspoons lemon infused-olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
12 unblemished large outer romaine leaves (from 3 heads)
6 lemon slices
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Rinse halibut pieces and pat dry.  In a small bowl, combine lemon zest, chopped shallots and 1 teaspoon lemon-infused olive oil.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Using a sharp knife, remove center rib from each romaine leaf, leaving two inches intact at the top.  Dunk each leaf into the boiling water and then immediately submerge into a bowl of ice water.  Remove from the ice water and drain on paper towels.

Place halibut pieces on a flat work surface.  Lightly brush each piece with remaining 2 teaspoons lemon-infused olive oil.
Divide lemon-shallot mixture evenly between six halibut pieces and spread over tops.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Using two romaine leaves for each piece of halibut, gently wrap each piece, covering the tops and tucking the ends under.
Place halibut in a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish.  Completely cover halibut packets with a piece of parchment paper.  Cover and seal dish tightly with foil.
Bake at 425 for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on thickness of halibut.
Carefully remove foil and parchment (steam has built up in dish) and serve with lemon slices.

Didn’t I tell you this was quintessential summer?  It tasted even better than it looks.  Positively delicious!
Keep your eyes peeled on Facebook and Twitter to find out when the next cooking demo is going to be.  Follow along, answer the question and you could be our next special guest!
As always, printable versions of LadyFingers’ recipes:
Chilled Ginger Cantaloupe Soup
Spicy Salmon and Zucchini Patties
Orange-Glazed Carrot Ribbons
Romaine-Wrapped Halibut with Lemon and Shallots

Win a Seat at the LadyFingers and First Comes Health June Table!

Ok, readers! Here’s your chance to win an invitation to June’s cooking demo with Diane of LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and dear ole me!
Hopefully you followed along with our tweets last night and watched Facebook to see the May dinner progress from ingredients to table. Now is your chance to show us how much you paid attention.
Here’s the question:
There were three courses in last night’s dinner, each with a distinct garnish.  What were the three garnishes we used?

Responses will be accepted through Facebook or Twitter PRIVATE MESSAGE. Don’t put it on our walls, don’t tweet it to us. Message either Diane or me with your guess.
Fine print:
1. One response per person (And you MUST like LadyFingers and First Comes Health on Facebook!)
2. Entries will be accepted until midnight tonight.
3. One person will be randomly drawn from all the correct respondents.
4. The winner will provide his/her own transportation to Diane’s house on a date in June TBD.
5. The winner can bring one guest to the dinner.
Good luck, everyone!

LadyFingers and First Comes Health - LIVE!

Tonight’s the night, folks.  Join me and Diane of LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering on Twitter tonight starting at 6pm EDT.
Here’s the lowdown:
Diane and I cook a several course meal that is easy to do, healthy, and of course, scrumptious.  Throughout the process we tweet photos and updates on our progress.  Then we sit down and eat the delicious meal with a lucky winner from the previous month.
Now, I’m certain you’re wondering how you can become this lucky winner, right?  Here’s how:
1. Become fans of both First Comes Health and LadyFingers on Facebook.
2. Follow both First Comes Health and LadyFingers on Twitter.
3. Follow along with our live tweet-a-thon tonight starting at 6pm.
4. Correctly answer tomorrow’s trivia question about our preparations.
5. Cross your fingers that your name is chosen from among the correct respondents.
6. Enjoy a wonderful, healthy meal cooked by a professional chef sometime in June.
It’s just that simple.
So, are you in?  Who will we see at next month’s table?

Recipes: A Three-Course Springtime Feast

Not to pat ourselves on the back, but I truly believe that as LadyFingers Diane and I continue to work together, the once per month meals get exponentially better.  Just when I thought that last month’s dinner was tops, Diane came up with a menu for April that blew us away.
First and foremost this dinner was special because it was the first month we hosted a winner from our monthly live tweet contest! Lorianne answered last month’s question correctly and won a seat for herself and a guest at our table.  She brought her friend Susan and we had a ball!  There were more laughs around the LadyFingers table than there ever have been – and that’s saying something!

Just a reminder, we are planning to do the live tweets each month which means you always have a chance to be our next guest.  Diane and I announce on Facebook and Twitter when the dinner will be, when we’ll start our tweets and you simply follow along, answer a question about what we’ve done and cross your fingers that your name is chosen from all the correct responses.
This month was a big hit and we were very pleased with the number of responses we got.  Thank you all for following us!  Our lucky winner for the May dinner is Jacky R!  Congratulations, Jacky!  Diane and I will be in touch with you soon to schedule a date and time.
So contest aside, let’s talk food.  I have to give all credit to Diane for designing a positively fabulous menu.  Let’s go right to the recipes!
Scallop BLTs – serves 6
6 slices bacon
6 “dry” or “diver” scallops, firm and unbroken
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 or 2 tomatoes, the approximate diameter of the scallops (i.e. roma or patio)
12 spinach leaves, stems removed
2 tablespoons wasabi mayo (or Dijon mayo if preferred)
Cut each bacon slice into thirds; place bacon pieces into a large skillet and gently fry so that the bacon remains flat and intact.  When nicely crisp, remove bacon and drain on paper towels being careful not to break pieces.

Rinse and thoroughly pat dry scallops.  Brush lightly with olive oil.
Heat pan over medium-high heat.  When pan is hot, add scallops and sear until the first side is browned and crisp.  Gently turn scallops and sear second side.  If scallops are thick, place a lid on the pan so that scallops cook through.

While scallops sear, slice tomato into 6 ¼-inch slices.
When scallops are seared on both sides, remove them from the pan to a cutting board and allow them to cool slightly.
Slice each scallop in half horizontally. Spread some mayo mixture onto the cut side of each scallop bottom. Place two spinach leaves atop the mayo mixture.  Place the tomato slice atop the spinach leaves. Pick through the cooked bacon pieces and place two of the best pieces atop the tomato. Spread some mayo mixture onto the cut side of each scallop top and place atop bacon.
Serve each BLT as is, or spear with a decorative pick.

Spinach, Orange, and Beet Salad – serves 6
4 small beets – approximately 1/2 lb.
2 large navel oranges
3/4 lb baby spinach, stems removed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 medium shallots, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Trim greens from beets and place in a baking dish.(First Comes Health tip: Save the beet greens and cook them up for a delicious, healthy, calcium rich side dish!)  Add water to a depth of ¼-inch.  Cover with foil and bake until the beets are fork-tender, 40-50 minutes.  Do not overcook.

While the beets cook, cut a slice off of the top and bottom of one orange to expose the fruit.  Stand the orange on a cutting board and slice off the peel in strips following the contour of the orange.  Cut between each section to free the orange pieces from the membrane.  Repeat with remaining orange.

For the dressing, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice.  Add the shallots, salt and pepper and let stand for 30 minutes to allow the shallots to flavor the dressing.
When the beets are cooked, remove them from the oven and let them cool until they can be handled.  Peel and cut into wedges about the same size as the orange sections.  Place in a bowl, add the orange sections and toss with enough dressing to coat. (LadyFinger’s tip: When handling roasted beets, wear hand protection.  The beet juice can stain your skin!)

Place the spinach in a large bowl and toss with remaining dressing.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Divide spinach equally among plates and top with beets and oranges.

Grilled Lamb Loin Chops – serves 6
12 lamb loin chops
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper or seasoning of choice
Preheat grill to high.
Allow lamb chops to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Coat lamb generously on all sides with olive oil. Grind pepper onto tops and bottoms of chops and press lightly with your fingers to make sure pepper adheres.
Immediately before placing chops on grill, turn grill to low. Place chops on grill and cook, covered, for 4 – 5 minutes.  Turn chops and cook, covered, on the second side until desired doneness, 3 – 5 minutes.

Remove chops to a platter and let rest for 5 minutes.  Serve with mint pesto (see below).
Mint Pesto – serves 6
3/4 cup packed mint leaves
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
2 green onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
In a food processor, combine the mint leaves with the parsley, green onions, garlic and lemon zest and pulse until chopped.
With the food processor running, add the olive oil in a thin stream and process until smooth.
Season the pesto with salt and spoon over your favorite meat or serve on the side.
Roasted Vegetable Stuffed Zucchini Boats – serves 6
2 or 3 thin zucchini
2 Japanese eggplant
1 large shallot
1 small tomato
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
grated parmesan cheese, if desired
Preheat oven to 400.
Slice eggplant, shallot and tomato and place on baking sheet.
Brush slices with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes or until soft and slightly browned.
While vegetables roast, cut zucchini into 2 ½-inch sections.  Cut each section in half horizontally.  Using a tomato corer or small melon baller, scoop flesh from the zucchini sections leaving a ¼-inch shell.

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat.  Drop in zucchini boats and cook until fork-tender, about 90 seconds.
Remove squash from pot and plunge into a ice bath to cool.  When cool, pat zucchini dry and place on a cutting board.
Remove vegetables from oven and allow to cool slightly.  Chop vegetables and place in a small bowl.  Add minced rosemary and grated parmesan (if desired) and toss to combine.

Using a small spoon, mound filling into zucchini boats and place on a baking sheet.  Place baking sheet in oven.
Roast for 5 – 7 minutes or until heated through.  Serve immediately.

Five recipes that make a superb presentation and I can tell you from personal experience, each one is scrumptious! As per usual, this was an excellent meal when put all together, but feel free to use these recipes individually.
The contest will continue each month so stay tuned for details on when the next live tweet fest will be.  You could be sitting at the LadyFingers table in June!  Who’s in?!
Printable versions of LadyFingers’ recipes:
Scallop BLTs
Spinach, Orange, and Beet Salad
Grilled Lamb Loin Chops
Mint Pesto
Roasted Vegetable Stuffed Zucchini Boats
 
 

Win a Seat at the LadyFingers and First Comes Health May Table!

Ok, readers! Here’s your chance to win an invitation to May’s cooking demo with Diane of LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and dear ole me!
Hopefully you followed along with our tweets last night and watched Facebook to see the April dinner progress from ingredients to table. Now is your chance to show us how much you paid attention.
Here’s the question:
What was the condiment we used on the scallop BLT?

Responses will be accepted through Facebook or Twitter PRIVATE MESSAGE. Don’t put it on our walls, don’t tweet it to us. Message either Diane or me with your guess.
Fine print:
1. One response per person (And you MUST like LadyFingers and First Comes Health on Facebook!)
2. Entries will be accepted until midnight tonight.
3. One person will be randomly drawn from all the correct respondents.
4. The winner will provide his/her own transportation to Diane’s house on a date in May TBD.
5. The winner can bring one guest to the dinner.
Good luck, everyone!

A LadyFingers Morning

Well, this post is going to have a theme, and that theme is LadyFingers! (Truth be told, it’s one of my very favorite themes.)
In my very first post about LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and Diane, who IS LadyFingers, I mentioned that she is a total inspiration and CrossFitting force.  I admire her dedication to staying in good, strong shape and she is positively devoted to CrossFit.  Love that.
She’s also working on rehabilitating a wonky knee that has kept her from running and a few things we do at the box, so to help it get stronger, for the last several weeks she’s been going home after her 6am workout and climbing a set of municipal steps that are right around the corner from her house.  74 steps total and she does at least 6 ascents (444!) every weekday.  She threw out an invitation on Facebook to anyone who wanted to join her each morning at 8:30 am and has gotten friends and neighbors on the bandwagon!  Today I joined her.

There are a few things I’d like to say about this whole steps endeavor.  First, I think it’s fantastic that she’s created this daily event that’s open to anyone. Nobody is obligated to do more than they feel comfortable with doing, but rather it’s a really great way to get a community started with fitness.  It’s free, easy, and in the neighborhood.  Second, because there is a standing invitation for her friends to join, it’s built-in motivation.  Who doesn’t want to spend a little time in the morning with a friend chatting and getting healthy?  Even if you don’t have something like the steps in your neighborhood getting your friends to join you in a workout is a great way to keep the momentum and excitement going.
This was my second trip to the steps and we had a great time talking about today’s CrossFit WOD, Mad Men, and food as we marched up and down.  In fact, we were so into what we were doing, I didn’t even pay attention to how many ascents we did.  Eight maybe?  Not sure.  But what I am sure of is that Diane and I got to chat for a bit and we definitely worked up a sweat which is how I like to start a day!
Post stair climb we went back to her house (a 60-second walk from the steps) and I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the LadyFingers garden.  I LOVE gardens.  I’m not lucky enough to live in a place where I have a yard or even a balcony for a few pots so I live vicariously through others’ gardens.  To me, there is no better way to feel connected with the food you put into your body than to grow it yourself.  You know it’s fresh, you know where it’s been, you know how it’s been handled, and you cared for it yourself!
Obviously we are very early into gardening season so some of Diane’s plants haven’t even been put into the ground yet.  Something that really impressed me is how many herbs lasted through the winter and are still thriving.  Check out these photos!

(Beautiful culinary thyme)

(Gorgeous chives that Diane just cut back because they were flowering. YUM!)

(Getting ready to be planted – three kinds of tomatoes, two kinds of peppers, and a variety of herbs.)

(Diane and her pots where many of the herbs will go.)

The recipes Diane and I have shared with you for the last several months have always featured fresh herbs that came right from her backyard.
I promise to keep you updated with the growth of the LadyFingers garden throughout the summer and fall, and I want to strongly encourage you to plant something for yourself this year. If you are garden inclined, plant one.  If you have a black thumb instead of a green one, buy a little herb plant and give it another shot.  Getting up close and personal with your food is the very best way to really care about food.  There isn’t a better way to cherish your food or body.
And speaking of LadyFingers and her yummy fantastic food, this Sunday, April 29 at 5:00 pm we will start our live tweet festival while we make this month’s dinner!  AND! We will be hosting the winner from last month!  I am so excited. This morning we finalized Sunday’s menu and let me tell you, you’re going to be jealous of our April winner.  The meal is going to be fantastic!
Here’s the scoop on how you and a guest can get invited to May’s dinner:
1. Become a fan of First Comes Health AND LadyFingers on Facebook (both!)
2. Follow both First Comes Health AND LadyFingers on Twitter.
3. Follow our tweeting this Sunday starting at 5:00 pm.
4. Successfully answer a trivia question about the meal on Monday April 30. We’ll randomly draw from the correct responses and award someone the opportunity to join us at the LadyFingers table in May.
So, now it’s your turn to share.  Let me know in the comments or on Facebook how you and your friends get your sweat on together.  Share photos of your garden or share your planting plans with me!  And don’t forget to tune in to Twitter to win an invite to May’s dinner for you and a guest.  You will NOT want to miss out!
 

Recipes: A Taste of Springtime

I’m from Pittsburgh and around here there are all kinds of jokes and laments about the weather being perpetually gray, cloudy, frigid, and generally blah.  But for the last several days it has been unseasonably warm.  I’m certainly not complaining.  It was almost as if Mother Nature and Diane of LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering were in cahoots because the weather perfectly matched Diane’s menu this month – fresh, light, and inviting, but not quite summertime.  You will not be disappointed!
This month Diane and I kicked off our monthly contest. We’ve been having a great time cooking together and then eating what we make that in February we decided to invite some friends over to share in the good times and celebrate Valentine’s Day.  And when they had a great time, we thought we ought to open it up to everyone.  It was so much fun tweeting to all of you and coming up with a question that was not too difficult, but one that was designed to make sure you were paying attention.
I am so pleased with the response we got!  Everyone who entered got the correct response and we threw all the names into a hat and came up with one winner.  Drumroll…………
Lorianne H. is the winner!!!!!!!!  Congratulations, Lorianne! You and a guest are invited to our April dinner!  Diane and I will be in touch about a date and time.
So, did YOU follow along and see all the tasty healthy goods Diane designed for the First Comes Health readers?  Let’s get to the recipes without further ado!
Savory Squash Soufflé – serves 6
1 medium head of garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium butternut squash or other winter squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ cup sweet onion, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 eggs
salt to taste
white pepper to taste (We used white pepper to avoid having flecks of black in the final product)
Preheat oven to 425.
Spray 6 ramekins or custard cups with non-stick coating.  If you don’t have ramekins, use a large soufflé dish and increase final cooking time to 35 minutes.
Slice off stem end of garlic and place garlic, sliced side up, in the middle of a square of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with olive oil and fold edges of aluminum foil over garlic, creating a sealed packet.

Place packet in oven, directly on rack and roast for 40 minutes.  Remove packet from oven and let cool until garlic can be handled safely.  Squeeze roasted garlic into a small bowl and let cool completely.  This may be done up to 1 day in advance.

Carefully slice butternut squash into 1-inch rounds.  Remove all seeds and place rounds on a baking sheet.  Brush rounds with olive oil and place baking sheet in oven.  Roast squash for 30 – 40 minutes or until squash is tender (test with fork).  Remove squash from oven and let cool until squash can be safely handled.

Reduce oven temperature to 350.
While squash roasts, sauté chopped onion in olive oil until tender.  Set aside to cool. (LadyFingers tip: Preheat your sauté pan and olive oil.  The hotter the oil is when you put the onions in, the less oil they will soak up while cooking.  If your oil is cold or even cool, the onions will absorb the oil and you’ll be left with a greasy, soggy final product instead of wonderfully browned onions.)
While vegetables cool, separate eggs.  Place all egg whites into a mixing bowl.  Reserve 2 egg yolks and set aside the remaining two for a future purpose.
Remove squash flesh from the skin and place 2 cups of flesh into a large bowl.  Add sautéed onion and 1 teaspoon roasted garlic to squash and hand-mash.  Add two egg yolks and continue to mash until eggs are incorporated and mixture is smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.

Beat egg whites until stiff and glossy.  You can use an electric mixer for this or a whisk and do it by hand. Using 1/3 of egg whites at a time, gently fold them into the squash mixture.  Be careful not to deflate the puffy egg whites.


Spoon squash mixture into prepared ramekins and place ramekins into a baking pan.  Fill the baking pan with hot water until half-way up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake for 30 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned.

Avocado Gazpacho Salsa – serves 4
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
½ English cucumber, chopped
½ cup chopped sweet onion
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 avocado
In a medium bowl, combine chopped tomatoes, chopped English cucumber, and chopped sweet onion.
In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together fresh lime juice, white balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil.  Add to chopped vegetables and toss lightly.
Add chopped chives and toss to coat.
Immediately before serving, coarsely dice one avocado.  Add avocado to the salsa mixture and serve.

Lemon-Seared Tuna and Rosemary Skewers – serves 4
4 medium tuna steaks, 1-inch thick
lemon-infused olive oil
4 sturdy rosemary sprigs (Jill’s note: The rosemary we used was from Diane’s backyard garden.  It survived the winter and was perfect with the tuna!)
Cut each tuna steak into 1-inch wide strips, trimming off uneven edges to make nice square logs.  Slice each log into ¾-inch pieces.

Strip the leaves off of each rosemary sprig, starting at the bottom and leaving 1 ½ – 2 inches of leaves remaining on the top of the sprig.

Thread the tuna pieces onto each rosemary stem, keeping the pieces squared up against each other and giving yourself four flat sides on each skewer.

Rub each skewer with lemon-infused olive oil.
Heat a large non-stick skillet to high.  When pan is hot, add skewers and sear for 12 – 15 seconds.  Immediately turn each skewer to the next side, searing again for 12 – 15 seconds.  Repeat on remaining two sides.
Remove skewers from pan and serve over salsa.


While the soufflé takes some time to prepare, it is VERY MUCH worth it.  It is not at all difficult to make and is positively scrumptious!  The salsa and tuna make a fantastic and lightning fast weeknight dinner that is also extremely healthy and light.
We plan to continue the contest from now on, so if you missed your chance to win an invitation to April’s dinner, you’ll have another chance each month!  I predict grilling and outdoor dining coming up for the next several months!  Who’s in?!
Printable versions of LadyFingers’ recipes:
Savory Squash Soufflé
Avocado Gazpacho Salsa
Lemon-Seared Tuna and Rosemary Skewers

Win a dinner with LadyFingers and First Comes Health!

Ok, readers!  Here’s your chance to win an invitation to April’s cooking demo with Diane of LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and dear ole me!
Hopefully you followed along with our tweets last night and watched Facebook to see the March dinner progress from ingredients to table.  Now is your chance to show us how much you paid attention.
Here’s the question:
What was the final ingredient added to the salsa?
Responses will be accepted through Facebook or Twitter PRIVATE MESSAGE.  Don’t put it on our walls, don’t tweet it to us.  Message either Diane or me with your guess.
Fine print:
1. One response per person (And you MUST like LadyFingers and First Comes Health on Facebook!)
2. Entries will be accepted until midnight tonight.
3. One person will be randomly drawn from all the correct respondents.
4. The winner will provide his/her own transportation to Diane’s house on a date in April TBD.
5. The winner can bring one guest to the dinner.
Good luck, everyone!

Winner Winner, AWESOME Dinner!

I normally don’t post on Monday, but I don’t want anyone to miss out on this opportunity tomorrow.
Diane of LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and I will be cooking our March dinner tomorrow night starting at 6pm (recipes and photos to come on Thursday of this week!)  But the really important news is that you have a chance to join the two of us in April for a cook-along AND eat-along.  Here’s how you can score a beautifully cooked, positively scrumptious dinner and an evening with Diane and me:
1. Follow First Comes Health on Twitter
2. Follow LadyFingers on Twitter
3. Like First Comes Health on Facebook
4. Like LadyFingers on Facebook
5. Watch our Twitter feeds for our live tweeting tomorrow night starting at 6 pm and follow along as we cook up a storm.
6. Be prepared to answer a trivia question on Wednesday (which we will put on Facebook) about our cooking event.
7. Cross your fingers that we draw your name from all the correct responses to the trivia question so you can win the April dinner invitation.
8. Mangia bene in April! YUM!
Trust me, dear readers.  You do NOT want to miss out on this!
 

Recipes: A Valentine's Day Love Feast

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!  I am a firm believer that this day does not have to be exclusively about romantic love, but love of all varieties – of family, friends, pets, and of course one of my fondest loves, FOOD.

You, dear reader, are in for a treat today.  Diane at LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering has designed a very special menu for you lovers out there.  Three FAB courses of food that will soften the grumpiest heart.  Southwestern Shrimp and Snapper Stew, followed by Baby Greens wrapped in Prosciutto with Blood Orange Vinaigrette, and Osso Buco alla Milanese.   Didn’t I tell you?  This menu is no joke!  Let’s get started!
I’ll give you each recipe in the order in which it ought to be served, but I recommend doing things in this order:  Start the osso buco and get it to the point where it is braising, then make the stew.  After you and your guest(s) finish eating the stew, prepare and serve the greens and dressing.  By the time all of that happens, the osso buco will be ready to eat.
Southwestern Shrimp and Snapper Stew – serves 6
8 ounces of snapper filets
8 ounces of uncooked shrimp
1 29-ounce can of petite diced tomatoes
14 ounces of chicken broth (homemade rules, but prepared is fine too)
12 ounces of beer or non-alcoholic beer
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup green pepper, chopped
Cut fish and shrimp into 1-inch pieces.
In a four-quart Dutch oven or large saucepan combine undrained tomatoes, chicken broth, and non-alcoholic beer.  Bring to a boil.  Add carrots, onion, chili powder, cumin, oregano and garlic.  Return to boiling; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer on low about 15 minutes or until carrots are nearly tender.

Add red snapper, shrimp, and green pepper and return to boiling.

Reduce heat; cover and simmer gently for 3 to 5 minutes or until red snapper flakes with a fork and shrimp turn pink.  Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.
This is a light stew that has a LOT of incredible flavor and goodness.  It’s not a thick, heavy dish that you might think of when you hear the word “stew”.  It makes an excellent first course, but it also makes a great light lunch to go with a green salad.  The snapper and shrimp are hearty enough fishes to maintain their shape after cooking and will not break up.
Baby Greens Wrapped in Prosciutto with Blood Orange Vinaigrette — serves 6
1 package of baby greens
6 slices of prosciutto – If you are having someone slice the prosciutto fresh for you, ask that it be slightly thicker than normal.  You don’t want thick hearty slices, but you also don’t want paper thin ones either.
1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed blood orange juice
6 tablespoons of blood orange infused olive oil – This is worth looking for and buying in a specialty market.
6 blood orange sections
Salt to taste
Cut each slice of prosciutto in half lengthwise or diagonally, depending on the fat marbling.  You want to ensure that each slice is a good mixture of meat and fat.
Place a handful of baby greens on one end of each prosciutto piece and roll up, making 12 bundles.

Whisk together blood orange juice and white balsamic vinegar until well-combined.  Add olive oil and whisk until emulsified.
Place two bundles on each of six serving plates and drizzle with vinaigrette.  Add a blood orange section to each plate and serve.

I had never had a salad like this until Diane treated us to this ingenious way of serving.  It’s brilliant!  A great way to add a little flair to your dish without being complicated at all.  Impress your Valentine with your culinary prowess without getting complicated or intricate.
Osso Buco alla Milanese – serves 6
3 1/2 pounds of veal shanks cut into 1 inch sections – Do what Diane does and have your butcher take care of this for you.  If you don’t have a relationship with your butcher yet, make friends with him or her.  They’ll look after you and give you the best cuts of meat that come into the market.
Salt and pepper to taste
Flour for dredging – If you’re gluten free, use gluten free Bisquik.  If you’re grain free, use coconut flour.  If you’re opposed to that, skip this step but know that the dredging will thicken the braising liquid into a lovely sauce later on.  If you skip it, your sauce may be a bit thin.
1/4 cup of olive oil
3/4 cup of chopped onion
1/4 cup of chopped carrots
1/4 cup of chopped celery
1 cup of white wine
1 cup of chopped tomato (fresh!)
3 cups of brown stock or beef broth (homemade is best!)
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme
2 cloves of garlic

Generously season the veal shanks on all sides with salt and pepper.  Dredge lightly in flour, shake off the excess.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a heavy Dutch oven (preferably cast iron).  Brown the shanks on both sides until golden (you may to do this in batches).  When you do this step, make sure the Dutch oven is on HIGH heat.  This isn’t the time to get shy about a hot pan.  Having it on high heat will ensure proper browning and give you a nice crust on the outside of the shanks.  This is what you want.

Remove the shanks from the Dutch oven, reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, carrots and celery and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the wine, tomatoes, stock, bay leaf, thyme and garlic.  Stir to combine.

Place the seared shanks back into the Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.  Adjust seasonings and serve.  Our osso buco was served with some roasted asparagus too!

As you can tell the shanks Diane got were positively huge so she used one shank for two people.  Depending on the size of your shanks and the size of your appetite, you might use one shank per person. Also, an optional step that Diane took was to tie each shank around with kitchen string.  This helped to keep the shape.  Just remove the string before serving.
You might have noticed that all of the recipes above serve six people.  This is because when Diane prepared this meal she did so not only for herself and her husband, Jim, but also for me, Dude, and our dear friends Lynsey and Patrick.  It was not only a celebration of Valentine’s Day with some great couples, but also a celebration of Lynsey’s birthday (which is today!) Happy birthday, my friend!
I am wishing all of you a very happy day filled with love.  Everyday is a day to love one another, but take some time to let someone know just how special they are to you.  If you cook this meal, they’ll definitely know that you care!  Enjoy!!
Printable versions of LadyFingers’ recipes:
Southwestern Shrimp and Snapper Stew
Baby Greens Wrapped in Prosciutto with Blood Orange Vinagrette
Osso Buco alla Milanese

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