And you don’t even have to grill them, though you can if you want. I didn’t. I charred my pepper over the gas flame on my stove, which creates a smoky grilled taste without a grill. And I did the same with my red onion by cutting it into thick slices, like onion rings, and broiling it.
The fourth element is the most important but also the most easily overlooked: the tortilla. When lightly browned and stuffed with melted cheese and savory vegetables, a good tortilla makes the rest of your meal pale in comparison.
Makes: 8 to 10 servings
1 cup stone-ground grits, polenta or coarse cornmeal
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons chicken, fish, veal or vegetable stock, divided
3 tablespoons butter, divided (2 tablespoons cut into small cubes)
Salt, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms
Black pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 small shallots or 1 large shallot, peeled and finely diced
12 ounces cooked, high-quality sausage, cut into cubes, see note
6 ounces Parmesan cheese, see note
Note: This recipe makes a restaurant-quality dish, complete with all the calories. To lower the calorie count a bit, use 10 ounces of sausage and 4 ounces of cheese.
Heat the grits or cornmeal and 4 cups of the stock in a medium or large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the cornmeal is soft, 20 to 35 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the butter and add salt, if necessary.
Meanwhile, remove stems from the mushrooms and discard. Lightly brush any dirt off mushrooms and cut caps into ¹⁄8-inch slices.
Heat a large, heavy pan, preferably cast iron, until it is very hot. Add oil. Add mushrooms and sauté for 30 seconds, sprinkling with salt and pepper to taste while cooking. Add garlic and shallots, but keep stirring so they do not color or burn. After 1 minute, remove from heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of stock to stop the cooking. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of cubed butter and stir constantly until it is melted and thoroughly coats the mushroom mix.
Mix the grits or cornmeal, sausage, shiitakes and 3 ounces of the cheese. Spoon onto plates and top with the remaining cheese.
Nutrition per serving (based on 8): 383 calories; 29 g fat; 12 g saturated fat; 59 mg cholesterol; 16 g protein; 14 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 1,189 mg sodium; 280 mg calcium
Adapted from “The Frog and the Redneck Cookbook” by Jimmy Sneed
Makes: 6 servings
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound small white button mushrooms, washed and trimmed
Salt, to taste
2 cups dry white wine
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Place the coriander seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Cook a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the seeds are fragrant. Remove to a plate to cool. Grind to a powder in a spice grinder, with a mortar and pestle or by carefully crushing with a cast-iron skillet.
In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until soft but not browned, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat if they begin to color. Add the thyme, coriander, bay leaf and pepper. Cook for 1 minute.
Stir in the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt. Add the wine and tomato paste, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until soft, about 10 minutes more. Cool the mushrooms in the cooking liquid.
To serve, spoon the mushrooms and some of the cooking liquid into a bowl, drizzle with the lemon juice and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro.
Nutrition per serving: 190 calories; 12 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 3 g protein; 6 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 394 mg sodium; 16 mg calcium
Adapted from “Bistro Laurent Tourondel” by Laurent Tourondel and Michele Scicolone
BLACK AND WHITE BEAN SALSA
Makes: 8 servings
3 tablespoons corn oil, divided
1 1/4 cups fresh corn kernels or frozen, thawed
1 (15- or 16-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15- or 16-ounce) can Great Northern beans, drained
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 garlic cloves, minced, pressed or mashed
1 large jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
Note: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy, large skillet over high heat. Add corn and sauté until light brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to skillet along with both beans, pepper, onion, lime juice, garlic, jalapeño, oregano, chili powder and cumin.
Cook just until spices no longer taste raw, about 2 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Nutrition per serving: 175 calories; 6 g fat; 1 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 7 g protein; 25 g carbohydrate; 4 g sugar; 4 g fiber; 360 mg sodium; 58 mg calcium
Adapted from “The Bon Appétit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook” by Barbara Fairchild
Makes: 16 servings
1/2 red onion, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch slices
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into ½-inch strips
8 ounces low-fat mozzarella cheese, grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
Pinch of ground black pepper
Preheat a grill or broiler. Brush the onion slices with 1 tablespoon of the oil and grill or broil 6 inches from the heat for 4 minutes on each side. Separate the rings and set aside.
Heat a skillet over high heat. Soften the tortillas by grilling 30 seconds on each side.
Mix the onion, red pepper strips, mozzarella, garlic, marjoram, oregano and pepper. Divide evenly between 4 tortillas and top with the remaining 4 tortillas, pressing them down gently.
Heat a skillet at least 8 inches wide over medium-high heat. Place a quesadilla on the hot skillet and cook until bottom is lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook until other side is lightly browned and cheese has melted, another 2 to 3 minutes. Cut into quarters and repeat with the remaining quesadillas.
Nutrition per serving: 124 calories; 5 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 9 mg cholesterol; 6 g protein; 15 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 318 mg sodium; 173 mg calcium
Adapted from “The Gourmet Gazelle Cookbook” by Ellen Brown
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