Flavor Starters

Cilantro-Lime Flavor Starter

Flavor Starter Cube by somethingwewhippedup.com

What’s for dinner tonight? Or breakfast tomorrow for that matter? I’ve always got an answer in my back pocket when I’ve got a stash of flavor starter cubes in my freezer. My most recent batch came together after I found myself with an abundance of cilantro. Instead of letting it wilt away, I blended the leaves up with some garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice and olive oil and filled an ice cube tray with the mixture.

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Cilantro-Lime Flavor Starter Cubes (somethingwewhippedup.com)

The frozen cubes are a great way to get a quick meal started. Around our house, we use them most often to whip up a delicious batch of scrambled eggs that are anything but ordinary. Simply put the frozen cube in your skillet, heat and let melt. Once it’s melted, swish the herb and olive oil mixture around your pan and add eggs. Cook your eggs as you normally would and you’ll enjoy a refreshing flavor that goes way beyond just seasoning your pan with a bit of butter or oil.

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Adding a frozen flavor starter cube to a skillet (somethingwewhippedup.com)

In addition to eggs, you can use flavor starter cubes to season a pan before searing chicken or cooking up some vegetables. I’ve even used one to add a little something extra to a classic grilled cheese.

Cilantro-Lime Flavor Starter Cubes

Makes about 12

  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 large bunch cilantro (about 3 to 4 cups)
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the garlic in a blender or food processor. Pulse until well chopped. Add the cilantro, lime juice and olive oil. Blend until well combined, adding more olive oil if necessary to get a liquid consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Pour herb mixture into an ice cube tray. Freeze then transfer cubes to a zip-top bag for extended storage.

SWWU Tip 1: I don’t always fill the each well of the ice cube tray to the top. Smaller cubes are great when you’re making something for one person. Experiment making your cubes different sizes and see what works well for you.

SWWU Tip 2: Have other herbs on hand? This recipe works equally as well if you substitute parsley, basil or more. The lime juice can be substituted with lemon juice or left out entirely.

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Going Green

My secret ingredient for adding a little something special to my homemade pizza is a bit unconventional. For me, nothing perks up a pie quite like a sprinkle of fresh cilantro leaves. Yes, I know the taste of this herb can be very polarizing, with many people claiming to “hate” the ingredient. But I think this versatile herb deserves a bit more credit. The leaves can instantly add freshness to the dishes it’s added too and it provides an unexpected burst of flavor.

Fresh Cilantro (somethingwewhippedup.com)

Fresh Cilantro (somethingwewhippedup.com)

But you know what? I’ve never had a problem with any of my friends clearing their plates—and they usually go back for seconds—when I serve my now-famous Summer’s Bounty Pizza. It’s topped with all the goodies currently tempting you at your local farmers’ market (including cilantro) so this is a pie you can feel good about eating.

Summer's Bounty Pizza by somethingwewhippedup.com

Summer’s Bounty Pizza by somethingwewhippedup.com

Summer’s Bounty Pizza

Makes 1 pizza

  • 1 round premade pizza dough
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound summer squash (we usually use a mix of pattypan, yellow and green), cut into a 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/4 cup jarred tomato sauce
  • 1/2-pound fresh salted mozzarella, diced
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

1. Peheat oven to 475°F. Roll out the prepared dough onto a pan (I usually make our pizzas sort of rectangular, but you can form dough into any shape you like) and brush with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook for 6 minutes or until lightly browned (pop any bubbles that form with a fork). Remove from oven.

2. Meanwhile, place garlic and remaining olive oil in a pan and heat over medium for 1 minute. Add the squash and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 to 15 minutes or until browned. Set aside.

3. Top the pizza crust with the tomato sauce, then evenly distribute the cooked squash. Evenly top with the mozzarella and tomatoes and sprinkle with cilantro.

4. Cook for 7 to 9 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

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No-Fuss Fish

Brian recently picked up some bluefish from the local farmers’ market. It’s not a pick I’ve tried before, and I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. As the name suggests, the fish does indeed have a blue tint to it, though it gets lighter as it’s cooked. It’s also a bit more oily than my normal go-tos, but it’s loaded with protein (about 22 grams per serving). We decided on a simple foil pack filled with fresh lemon and herbs from our window garden.

Bluefish Foil Pack by somethingwewhippedup.com

Bluefish Foil Pack by somethingwewhippedup.com

It was a quick and easy dinner to put together and I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. The fish has a rich flavor, but I wouldn’t call it fishy. I think the lemon really helped to cut the fattiness and make this a nice, light summery supper. We paired ours with some roasted potatoes and sautéed kale and mushrooms. It all came together in about 30 minutes. Not bad!

Bluefish Foil Pack Dinner by somethingwewhippedup.com

Bluefish Foil Pack Dinner by somethingwewhippedup.com

Bluefish Foil Pack

Makes 4 servings

  • 2 1/2-pound bluefish fillets
  • 2 lemons, sliced thin with seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 o 10 sprigs lemon thyme (or any herb of your choosing)
  • 4 tablespoons dry white wine

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place two pieces of aluminum foil on you work surface (when folded, they should be large enough to cover the fish completely). Place 5 pieces of lemon, slightly overlapping, in a row in the middle of each piece of foil. Top each with a piece of fish and sprinkle the butter evenly over the top. Season with salt and pepper and top with the remaining lemons, creating another row on top of each. Evenly divide lemon thyme over the top of each and pour 2 tablespoons white wine on top.

2. Secure each foil pack by bringing your two longest pieces together and rolling them down to the fish and folding the sides in. (Don’t worry about making this part neat. You just need to foil the foil down so the fish is sealed in so it can be cooked with steam).

3. Transfer packs to a sheet pan and place in oven. Cook for 20 minutes or until done.

SWWU Tip 1: Bluefish does not freeze well. Cook this pick within a day or two of buying it.

SWWU Tip 2: You can cook this in as many or as few foil packs as you like. Cook a whole 1-pound fillet for a nice group presentation or break it up into smaller pieces if you desire. 

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Showing Off Some Mussels

Brian and I picked up a few pounds of fresh mussels at the farmers’ market over the weekend. And you know what? I don’t know why we haven’t done so more often. The dinner we whipped up was full of flavor, super inexpensive and quick to make. Once the mussels are cleaned and debearded it only takes about 15 minutes to bring everything else together.

Mussels Marinara With Beer by somethingwewhippedup.com

Mussels Marinara With Beer by somethingwewhippedup.com

This meal works well for date night (just make a bit less pasta) or for a crowd (you could easily double this one). Go ahead, make some mussels!

Mussels Marinara With Beer

Makes 4 servings

  • salt
  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (such as Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crusted Tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 sprigs tarragon, leaves removed and roughly chopped
  • pepper
  • 1 12-ounce bottle light beer
  • 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded

1. Heat a large pot of salted water over medium and cook the pasta according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, heat the butter, garlic and onions in a large pan over medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the unions are translucent.

3. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, parsley and tarragon. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until heated through, then add the beer.

4. Gently add the mussels to the broth and toss to coat. Put a lid on and cook for 3 minutes, stir, then cook for 3 minutes more. The muscles are done once they are all opened. Discard any that stay closed.

5. Divide the pasta evenly among four plates and top with mussels. Serve immediately with crusty bread if desired.

SWWU Tip: We served our mussels over pasta, but this dinner would be just as good noodle-free and served with a few extra pieces of Garlic Parmesan Toast to soak up the delicious broth.

Garlic Parmesan Toast

Makes 4 servings

  • 4 pieces thickly cut peasant bread
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • garlic powder (we like Salento Farm)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Heat oven to 425°F. Coat bread with butter and sprinkle with garlic powder to taste. Top each piece with 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano.

2. Place bread on a baking sheet and cook for 5 minutes until browned and bubbly. Remove from oven, cut each piece in half lengthwise and serve immediately.

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Quick and Delish: Vegetarian Dinner

Brian and I both love to cook. The only thing that gets in our way is time. Our demanding jobs keep us at the office past the dinner hour on some nights, so quick meals that don’t make us sacrifice on taste and healthfulness are a must. The first person to arrive home gets the dish started and the other is usually able to lend a hand at least midway through. If not, dish duty it is! Last week we whipped up this tasty meal in no time (we’re talking 20 minutes or less) with ingredients we happened to have on hand. It’s definitely going to be a new staple in our repertoire. I bet you’ll enjoy it just as much!

Maple-Tahini Noodles with Vegetables by somethingwewhippedup.com

Maple-Tahini Noodles with Vegetables by somethingwewhippedup.com

Maple-Tahini Noodles with Vegetables

Makes 2 servings

  • 4 ounces udon noodles (2 sleeves)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1/3 cup sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch long pieces
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then cook the udon noodles according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, tahini, soy sauce and mayonnaise until well combined. Set aside.
  3. Add the sesame oil to a large pan and heat over medium. Add the broccoli and cook stirring occasionally for 3 to 5 minutes or until just tender. Mix in the snap peas and cook 1 to 2 minutes more until heated through. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the maple-tahini sauce and toss to coat. Add more sauce if desired.
  4. Strain the noodles and toss with 2 tablespoons of the maple-tahini sauce. Divide evenly between two plates and top with vegetable mixture. Additional sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

SWWU Tip 1: The maple-tahini sauce can also be used to make a tasty chicken salad. Just make the sauce as stated above and combine with cooked shredded chicken.

SWWU Tip 2: Make this dish gluten-free by swapping in gluten-free soy sauce and replacing the udon with soba noodles. Be sure to check the package to make sure you’re using 100 percent buckwheat noodles; some are made with a bit of wheat flour.