Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Hangover

Seared Salmon on Baby Greens with Shallot and Pomegranate Sauce

I really do love the holidays- parties, spending time with friends and family, and the general holiday cheer is a welcomed way to break up the gloomy chill of these months in the Northwest. I am sure, however, that I'm not alone in craving a lighter meal in the midst of heavy red meat dinners and rich, creamy desserts. Surveying my cupboards and freezer this week I stumbled across several ingredients (tangy cranberries, buttery Marcona almonds, and a couple of thick salmon fillets) I thought would hit just the right notes to ease my holiday hangover and help me kick start the new year with a healthy dose of antioxidants, fiber, Omega-3s, and (as always) good taste! This meal also incorporates my new favorite ingredient- pomegranate molasses. So tangy! So delicious!

Ingredients
- 2 7 oz. salmon fillets, seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper
- 4 shallots, peeled and sliced
- 5 oz. mixed baby greens
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
- 1/4 c. dried cranberries
- 1/4 c. Marcona almonds
- 1/4. c crumbled feta cheese
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 4 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses, divided
- salt and pepper

In a small non-stick skillet heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium. Add shallots and sauté until softened and browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. While shallots brown, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add salmon fillets and cook 4-5 minutes per side. When salmon is cooked through, remove from heat and tent in foil.

Add two Tbsp. water and 2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses to small skillet with shallots. Simmer over medium until sauce reduces and thickens, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses, red wine vinegar, and 3 Tbsp. olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Divide greens, avocado, feta, cranberries, and almonds among two plates and dress with vinaigrette. Top each salad with salmon fillet and then divide pomegranate shallot sauce evenly and top fillets. Eat! It's good stuff and good for you!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's Greek to Me!

Super-Tasty Lamb Casserole in Phyllo Dough

Lately I've been a bit obsessed with lamb. I can't help myself- it's so good. I have also been craving delicious Greek food. In my current city of residence, however, I have yet to find anything even resembling the most mediocre of Greek food. With that in mind, I wanted to put together a recipe that combined some of my favorite Greek flavors. This dish is basically a twist on a traditional Greek moussaka. But rather than topping it the lamb and eggplant with
béchamel sauce, I decided to give a nod to one of my other favorite Greek noshes, spanakopita, by topping it with a sauteed spinach and feta mixture covered with a golden-baked phyllo dough. This is a great one-dish meal- full of veggies and general deliciousness.

Ingredients

- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1 medium eggplant, sliced crosswise into 1/4" disks
- 2 lbs. baby spinach, rinsed
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 handful chopped curly parsley
- 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes in their juices
- 1/4 c. dry red wine
- 8 oz. crumbled feta
- 1 tsp. dried mint
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. died oregano
- thawed frozen phyllo dough
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp. melted butter
- 6 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and arrange eggplant slices on sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Roast eggplant slices in oven for 10-15 minutes until eggplant begins to soften and turn slightly brown. Remove from oven, but leave heat on to bake casserole.

As eggplant roasts, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet oven medium heat. Add onions, season with salt and pepper and cook until they begin to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add ground lamb and cook over medium heat, breaking up meat with wooden spoon. When lamb is cooked through, about 5 minutes, add red wine, tomatoes in their juices, dried herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes for juices to thicken.

While the lamb mixture simmers, heat 2 Tbsp. in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add half the spinach and cook, stirring occasionally until spinach begins to wilt. Add the remaining spinach and parsley and cook, stirring, until cooked through. Season spinach with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, add feta, and stir to allow cheese to melt into the spinach.

Layer casserole ingredients in a 13x9" baking dish. Put lamb mixture on bottom, top with roasted eggplant slices, top with spinach and cheese mixture (spreading evenly). Unroll defrosted phyllo dough and top casserole with 10 thin sheets of pastry. Brush top of phyllo dough with melted butter. Bake in oven for 30 minutes until phyllo dough begins to puff up and turn brown. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Tea Time

Beth's Scones
The British get the tea-time ritual just right- who wouldn't want to take a moment of pause in the midst of a hectic day with a hot cup of Earl Grey and a snack? In the spirit of Oscar Wilde and everything British we're having a tea party tomorrow as part of our read-through to kick off rehearsals for An Ideal Husband. I've been whipping up tea-party treats all day (finger sandwiches, shortbread, and an apple and caramelized onion tart to name a few). No tea party would be complete without scones slathered in clotted cream and strawberry jam.

My friend Beth gave me this recipe. The scones are buttery and delicious and a snap to whip up. You can find clotted cream at fancy grocery stores- I've had the best luck at Cost Plus World Market. It's friggin' delicious!

Ingredients

- 2 c. flour
- 1/2 c. powdered sugar
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 6 Tbsp. butter (cold)
- 1 egg
- milk

Preheat oven to 400˚ F. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, powdered sugar, and baking powder. Cut in butter. In a measuring cup, mix together egg and enough milk to make 3/4 c. liquid. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid. Mix lightly with a fork or pastry blender until it forms into a sticky dough. Knead briefly. Pat out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1" thick. Cut into eight wedges. Bake on parchment-lined baking sheet 9-12 minutes. Serve with tea, clotted cream, strawberry jam, and your best British dialect. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Spicy Meatball!

Spaghetti and Mega-Meatballs

As far as comfort food goes . . . is there anything heartier and more comforting than spaghetti and meatballs? Today the sun was out, but the air was crisp and cold- it was a delightful December 1st. I wore my mittens as I walked the dog this morning and thought of a warm and filling dinner to enjoy later with a friend who would be joining me.

I put up my holiday decorations today and was definitely in the mood to have a tomato-based sauce simmering on the stove-top for over an hour. "What ever shall I do with all this marinara sauce?" I asked myself. The answer was, of course, obvious. Save some for later and use the rest tonight for a filling cold-weather meal. Classic spaghetti and meatballs came instantly to my mind.

You can throw these meatballs into any old marinara sauce you have handy. I used my Simple and Delicious Marinara Sauce (see "Feelin' Saucy"- September 27, 2009 for recipe) for these babies and it was a delightful dinner. I call them "Mega-Meatballs" due to the mixture of beef and pork. The ground pork sausage adds to a richer flavor and a delicious twist on an old classic and the red pepper flakes gives it just the right amount of bite to differentiate it from the same-ol' spaghetti and meatball rut.

Ingredients

- 1 lb. ground beef
- l lb ground sweet Italian pork sausage
- 1/2 c. plain toasted breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 large handful chopped Italian parsley
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
- 6 c. marinara sauce
- 1 lb. cooked pasta

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spritz a 9x13" glass baking dish with cooking spray. In a large mixing bow, combine all ingredients. Work together with hands until all ingredients are well combined.

Form into 15 2"-sized round meatballs and place in prepared baking dish. Bake in oven for 30 minutes until meatballs are cooked through. Toss together with 1 lb. cooked pasta and 6 c. warmed marinara sauce. It makes for a very filling meal, but I think it's something you'll enjoy on a chilly evening.

Top with extra grated Parmesan cheese. Eat! Enjoy! It's a cold-weather classic . . . and so freakin' tasty! I think you'll love it. This recipe makes enough to feed an army. Seriously . . . it will easily feed four . . . probably six- plus leftovers!









Tuesday, November 24, 2009

So Cheesey!!!

Mac and Triple-Cheese with Ham and Peas (If You Please)

I have had a life-long love affair with mac and cheese. Really, what's not to like? Pasta and melted cheese is a match made in Foodie Heaven. From my early encounters with powdered-cheese Blue Box Mac to my current and constant quest for new cheese and pasta combinations- the passion and commitment is very real.

When planning my menu this week, I did my typical fridge/pantry inventory for inspiration and found several intriguing remaining items from previous recipes including several cheeses, a cup of half and half, a cup of chicken broth, Canadian bacon, and (for some reason) bags and bags of frozen peas. The solution seemed obvious and I'm always up for a little culinary experimentation. Ham and peas go together as naturally as peanut butter and jelly and I think you'll really enjoy this velvety, mild cheese sauce playing off the crisp freshness of Italian parsley. I hope you love it.

Ingredients

- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 lb. medium shell pasta
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 1/4 c. flour
- 1 c. chicken broth
- 1 c. half and half
- 2 c. whole milk
- 2 c. grated mild white cheddar cheese
- 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 oz. diced Canadian bacon
- 1 lb. frozen peas
- one bunch chopped Italian parsley
- 1/2 c. plain toasted bread crumbs
- salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray a 9x13" glass baking pan with cooking spray, set aside. In a large stock pot bring water to a boil to cook pasta. Boil pasta to al dente. While water is boiling, melt butter in a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook until tender (about 5 minutes), season with salt and pepper. Add flour and whisk together with butter. Whisk constantly for 1 minute to create a thick paste. Slowly add chicken broth, whisking constantly to combine. Add half and half and milk, a little at a time, and whisk to combine until smooth. Cook over medium heat until sauce begins to thicken and can coat the back of a spoon. Add grated cheddar cheese and feta and whisk sauce until smooth. Remove from heat, add peas, Canadian bacon, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When pasta is cooked, drain and add to cheese sauce. Stir until pasta is well coated. Transfer to prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes until top begins to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving. It's a tasty dish!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Freeze . . . Jive-Ass Turkey!

Turkey and Butternut Squash Chili

I slept for one hour last night. I'm not kidding . . . ONE. Although I am an admitted "mutant" in need of less sleep than the average . . . a single, insignificant hour is not enough to fully rejuvenate my mind and body. Needless to say . . . today was LONG. I survived the commute, classes, meetings, and students from moment to moment with a steady stream of coffee and the promise of a cozy evening in my fuzziest of sweatshirts with a yummy fall dinner that would warm me from the inside out.

Chili is one of the fastest, easiest, and most filling meals on my dinner roster. This meal was put together with very little effort (perfect for an evening such as this when I barely had the energy to pull on my sweatpants) and very little time. It was inspired by a two classic Thanksgiving flavors and perfect to get you in the mood for that particular upcoming fall feast!

Ingredients

- 1 lb. ground turkey
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
- 2 lbs. peeled and cubed butternut squash pieces*
- 1 14.5 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilies
- 2 15 oz. cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), with their juices
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 Tbsp. chipotle chili powder
- 2 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. cardamom
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- sour cream or grated cheddar cheese

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium. Add diced onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add turkey and cook until not longer pink (about 5 minutes), breaking up with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, beans with their juices, squash, chili powder, cumin, cardamom, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer chili for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let sit about 5 minutes before serving. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls and top with sour cream or grated cheddar cheese. Delicious dinner in no time!!!

*The sheer ease of this meal was made possible by the blessed availability of Trader Joe's pre-washed, cubed, and packaged butternut squash pieces.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Too-Many-Blueberries-Blues

Blueberry Pumpkin Bread
When budding Kitchen Diva Lacey presented me with the problem of what to do with an over-abundance of frozen blueberries, I promised her I'd devise something delicious. At first I thought of the more conventional choices- blueberry pancakes, pie, muffins . . . etc. Although these are indeed tasty uses for bags and bags of frozen blueberries, I wanted to develop something more in the spirit of fall baking. Combining pumpkin with one of my favorite berries seemed like a perfect fit . . . enter Blueberry Pumpkin Bread. It's a snap to whip up. Try it for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning to give you energy for the busy day of cooking ahead of you!

Ingredients
- 1 15 oz. can pumpkin
- 1 1/4 c. sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 1/2 c. vanilla yogurt
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- zest from one lemon
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease the bottom of a 9x5x3" loaf pan with butter or vegetable shortening. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, oil, yogurt, pumpkin, and vanilla until smooth. Add dry ingredients and whisk gently to combine. Add blueberries and lemon zest and combine thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in oven for about 1 hour and 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool ten minutes in baking pan then turn out on wire rack and let cool completely before serving. That's it! Nothing to it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This Little Piggy . . .

Fast and Fancy Onion Smothered Pork Cutlets with Sautéed Kale and Peas

This is an extremely fast, yet surprisingly elegant, meal. I got home tonight at 5:50 . . . by 6:20 I sat down to a great dinner! Pork is a fantastically versatile protein to include in your regular dinner rotation. I find that it lends itself particularly well to hints of sweetness- caramelized onions, for example, are the perfect compliment to this marvelous meat. A generous helping of hearty greens adds a healthy dose of fiber and antioxidants to the meal. This is a very fast meal (the thin sliced pork cutlets brown up in no time at all) for weeknight family dinners, but it also makes a very pretty plate for guests served with a big glass of white wine.

Ingredients

- 8 pork cutlets, sliced thin (about 1/2"), seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 3 large sweet yellow onions, peeled and sliced crosswise into disks
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 2 Tbsp. dry vermouth
- salt and pepper
- 1 shallot, peeled and diced
- 3 bunches kale, rinsed, stems removed, and torn into pieces
- 1/4 c. dry white wine
- 1 c. frozen peas, defrosted

Preheat oven to 350˚ F. While oven is heating, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until onions soften and are turning brown, lower heat. Just before serving, add vermouth to onions and simmer for about 2-3 minutes until liquid soaks into onions. Remove from heat.


While onions are cooking, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, sear pork cutlets (about 1 minute per side). Transfer cutlets to an oven proof baking dish and finish cooking in oven for about 10 minutes. Remove cutlets from oven and tent with foil until serving.


While cutlets are in the oven, add remaining olive oil to pork cutlet skillet and heat over medium. Add white wine and shallots, stir over heat and scrape brown bits from bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add peas to pan. Working in three batches, cook kale in skillet, covered, for about 2 minutes per batch, allowing kale to soften before adding new batch. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Remove kale and cooked onions from heat. Plate the meal by portioning out kale, then top with 2 pork cutlets. Top with caramelized onions. Enjoy! It's really good and delicious. Pork cutlets are thin, so two per serving will do it for a filling meal for four.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Everything's Better With Bacon

Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with Roasted Garlic Smashed Potatoes and Bacony Brussels Sprouts

Meatloaf is just one of those great comfort foods perfect for warm and fuzzy family dinners or (in my case tonight) friends and Scrabble. A moist and well-seasoned meatloaf is a great and hearty meal for meat-lovers and a sneaky way of slipping lots of vegetables onto the plate of a picky eater.

This recipe is a full dinner menu- complete with two easy and delicious side dishes. The roasted garlic addition to the mashed potatoes steps up a tried and true side dish to something a little more elegant and, in the case of the Brussels sprouts (as this blog title would indicate) . . . bacon just makes it better! The sides can also compliment other great dinners, try them with roast chicken or a pork loin.

Ingredients

- 1 lb. ground beef
- 2 slices of whole wheat bread, ground up in food processor into breadcrumbs
- 3 carrots, peeled and minced
- 3 sticks celery, trimmed and minced
- 1 large onion, peeled and minced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 Tbsp. grill seasoning
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1 Tbsp. ketchup
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 c. barbecue sauce plus 1 Tbsp.
- 8 slices bacon
- 1 head garlic
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 lb. russet potatoes, scrubbed clean and quartered
- 2 Tbsp. half and half
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- fresh chives, minced
- 1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed
- 3 slices bacon, diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tsp. dried Herbs d' Provence

In a large mixing bowl combine ground beef, bread crumbs, ketchup, 1 Tbsp. barbecue sauce, celery, carrots, onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, egg, grill seasoning, and salt and pepper. I find that the best way to combine meatloaf ingredients is with your bare hards. Work the mixture until all the ingredients are well combined. Transfer mixture to an 13" oval or rectangular baking dish and shape it into a 10x4" loaf shape. Brush loaf with half of the 1/4 c. of barbecue sauce, then wrap loaf in eight strips of bacon laying them lengthwise across. Brush bacon layer with remaining barbecue sauce. Place loaf pan into a preheated 350˚ oven and bake 40-50 minutes until meat is cooked through.

While meatloaf is baking, take head of garlic and trim top 1/2" away to expose individual cloves, place in a small sheet of foil, drizzle with 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Wrap head of garlic in foil and then place in oven on rack beside meat loaf pan. Roast garlic about 30 minutes, remove from oven, and allow to cool before handling.

While garlic is roasting, scrub and quarter potatoes (leave skins on), trim brussles sprouts, chop chives, dice bacon, and bring two medium heavy sauce pots of water to a boil. Place potatoes in boiling water and cook until they are soft enough to pierce easily with the tip of a knife (about 12-15 minutes). Drain potatoes and return to pot, add half and half, butter, chives, salt and pepper, and squeeze roasted garlic cloves from their skins into mixture. Whip potatoes with a hand-held mixer until creamy, add more salt and pepper to taste. Cover to keep warm.
When meatloaf is cooked through, remove from oven, cover with foil, and allow to rest about 10 minutes before cutting.

While meatloaf is resting, blanch brussles sprouts in boiling water until slightly softened and bright green (2-3 minutes). Drain. While sprouts are blanching, cook diced bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until it begins to brown. Remove bacon from skillet and allow to drain on a paper towel-lined plate, reserve 2 Tbsp. rendered bacon fat in pan. Return pan to medium heat, add sprouts, and cook 3-4 minutes until softened. Season with salt and pepper and Herbs de Provence. Remove from heat and toss with diced, cooked bacon.

That's it! While not a lightening-fast dinner in 30 minutes, it's easy enough to put it all together in about an hour . . . not too shabby. Serve it all together! What a lovely plate. Serve potatoes with extra butter and try the meatloaf with either ketchup or barbecue sauce as a topping. It's quite tasty and really filling. I think you'll like it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mmmmmm, Lamb-tastic!

Tasty Lamb Ragu with Pappardelle for a Chilly November Night
My friend Jordan likes to say, "The cuter the animal, the tastier the meat." While perhaps a rather barbaric sentiment in certain ways, I suppose it's true in the case of lamb. As a commonplace protein in Eastern European and Italian cuisine, perhaps it's just in my blood to enjoy the rich and distinct flavor of good lamb. Or maybe it's just a damn tasty meat to put in my mouth.


This quick and tasty pasta dish with a savory, brothy sauce is a nice break from the old chicken-or-beef-routine. The creamy tanginess of the crumbled feta cheese plays nicely with the lamb and fresh herbs. Serve with a good quality crusty bread to sop up the extra sauce. (I was lucky enough to be given a loaf of amazing sourdough bread straight from San Francisco today and it was perfection with this dinner.)

Ingredients

- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1 lb. cherry or grape tomatoes, rinsed and halved
- 3 large shallots, peeled and minced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 c. beef broth
- 1 c. red wine

- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, minced
- 1 large handful Italian parsley, minced
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- crumbled feta cheese
- 10 oz. fresh pappardelle noodles (wide noodles)

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat, add ground lamb. Cook, season with salt and pepper, and break up with a wooden spoon, until it begins to brown (about 4-5 minutes). Add shallots and garlic, cook until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.


Add tomatoes and sugar, mix with ground lamb and cook until tomatoes begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
Add vinegar, wine, and broth to mixture, raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, add minced herbs, and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes for broth to thicken. Stir occasionally while cooking and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

As sauce simmers, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil to cook noodles. When water is at a rolling boil, cook. Fresh noodles take very little time to cook (1-2 minutes, really) so pay attention to the timing. Cook noodles and drain.

After sauce has simmered, remove from heat and toss with fresh noodles. Divide pasta with lamb ragu among four bowls. Pour extra broth over pasta. Top each bowl with crumbled feta cheese. Serve with a nice glass of wine and bread to sop up extra sauce.

This is a great dish for a quick weeknight meal, but the mystique of the lamb makes it "fancy" enough for guests- they'll never know how easy it actually was to throw together in about 30 minutes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stewin' in Your Own Juices

Oh So Tasty Beef and Beer Stew

Two of the many things we are never lacking in the Northwest are rain and delicious, locally brewed beers. This yummy stew recipe brings together a uniquely Northwest experience- perfect for a rainy evening when you need to be warmed from the inside out. The rich, bitterness of a good porter with a nice pot of slow-cooked beef? It's everything you're craving on a chilly November night.

Ingredients
- 3 lbs. stew beef, cut into 2" cubes
- 1 1/2 lbs. pearl onions, peeled
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 spring fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. fresh sage leaves, minced
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 pt. dark beer (such as a stout or porter)
- 2 c. beef broth
- 1/2 lb. baby carrots
- 1 lb. small red potatoes, halved
- salt and pepper
- pinch of sugar

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Sprinkle beef cubes with salt and pepper.
Working in batches, brown beef cubes in Dutch oven, turning to brown all sides (about 5-6 minutes per batch). Transfer beef to a bowl and cover with foil. In same Dutch oven, add remaining olive oil, onions, garlic, and chopped herbs. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes to soften onions. Add flour and tomato paste. Stir for one minute, creating a thick paste. Add broth and stir until thick, scraping up brown bits from bottom of Dutch oven with a wooden spoon (about 2 minutes). Add beer, a sprinkle of sugar, and beef and any juices back to Dutch oven. Cover partially, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes.

Remove cover, add carrots, potatoes, and 1 tsp. of salt and pepper. Simmer, partially covered, until beef, carrots, and potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and wait 5 minutes before serving.

While super easy to throw together, this stew is not a quick dish. Plan ahead to put it together for a filling weekend family-style supper or a night when you have a little more time to watch the stove. The prep time is fairly minimal, but allow for about 90 minutes for the stew to . . . well . . . stew! It's definitely worth the wait. If you have a crock-pot, brown the beef in a skillet, then add it and the other ingredients to the slow-cooker. Cook over low for 6-8 hours and enjoy a hearty meal when you get home from work.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Well Equipt 2

Cozy Autumn Pumpkin Soup with Cheesy Garlic Toasts

Oh immersion blender . . . how ever did I prepare delicious, creamy soups without you?

The immersion blender, sometimes referred to as a "stick blender" or as my mom calls it, "the motor boat," is an extremely useful, small, and inexpensive kitchen tool. It's basically exactly what it sounds like: a blender on a stick. It has all the chopping/whipping action of a blender without the hassle of having to clean the blender or running the risk of spraying the ceiling with hot soup. I use mine to whip up salad dressings, smoothies, and (obviously) creamy soups in a snap. It is (almost) as easy to make this soup recipe with a regular blender- just work in batches and make sure the soup isn't too hot (unless you wish to learn the hot-soup-on-the-ceiling-lesson for yourself).

The weather is definitely changing, I had to wear my cute new mittens on my commute to and from work today. Not that I'm complaining- the mittens are extremely cute and I really enjoy getting home from a long day and enjoying a warm, comforting bowl of soup while the rain is beating on the windows outside. I put together this creamy and satisfying concoction in about 30 minutes- it's really yummy and makes tons of leftovers for many more upcoming chilly fall evenings.

Ingredients

- 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- l red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 30 oz. canned pumpkin
- 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 qt. chicken broth
- 7-8 oz. mascarpone cheese
- 1 small handful Italian parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper
- good quality sliced crusty bread
- butter
- ground paprika
- sliced provolone cheese
- crushed garlic

For the soup, heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic and cook until softened and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth, canned pumpkin, tomatoes, parsley, and brown sugar. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

As soup simmers, prepare the garlic cheese toasts. For each toast use 1 Tbsp. butter, one slice of provolone, and 1-2 cloves crushed garlic. In a small bowl mash together butter and garlic with a fork. Spread each slice of bread with butter mixture, sprinkle with a pinch of paprika, and top with a slice of provolone. Preheat broiler and place toast slices on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Place toasts under broiler and toast for about 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly (keep an eye on your broiler).

After soup has simmered, remove from heat and blend in batches in blender until smooth OR use your fantastic immersion blender. Add mascarpone cheese to blended soup and stir over low heat until cheese is melted and well combined. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste and serve with garlic cheese toasts.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Eggplant to Cure a Bitter Heart

Delicious and Authentic Eggplant Parmesan

Vegetarian friends coming over for dinner? In the mood for something filling, but not too heavy? This is one of my favorite recipes my mom brought back from a trip to Tuscany. It is delicious, easy, and elegant enough to impress your friends. Serve with a bottle of Pino Gris and enjoy this little taste of Tuscany.

Eggplant is a great ingredient for soups and stir-fry dishes. The spongy texture takes on flavors extremely well. The trick to making fantastic eggplant is to salt it liberally and allow the salt to work its magic, drawing the bitterness from the plant. Slice the eggplant crosswise then lay the slices out in a single layer on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes until the salt dissolves and beads on top of the eggplant. Flip over and do the same on the other side. Once the eggplant has been salted, rinse the excess salt, then pat eggplant dry. Now . . . your eggplant is ready for battle!

Ingredients

- 1 large or 2 medium eggplants, sliced crosswise into 1/4" rounds and salted (see above)
- flour for dredging
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying
- 3 eggs, beaten
- salt and pepper
- a pinch of sugar
- 6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1 handful fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Salt and prepare eggplant (see above). While eggplant is "sweating" out the bitterness prepare the tomato topping. In a medium bowl, combine diced tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

After eggplant has been salted, rinsed, and patted dry, heat olive oil over medium-high in a large skillet. Dredge slices, one at a time, through beaten egg and then through seasoned flour. Fry eggplant slices in batches in skillet until they just start to turn golden brown (1-2 minutes per side). Drain on paper towel-lined plate.

Lightly spritz a 13x9" glass baking dish with cooking spray and arrange eggplant slices in 2 layers with slices of mozzarella cheese. Spread tomato mixture over eggplant and cheese then sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Bake in oven for 35 minutes until the cheese starts to turn golden brown.





Melted cheese, delicious tender eggplant, fresh tomatoes, crisp herbs? What's not to love about this tasty dish? Enjoy with a nice glass of wine and a great group of friends! You're going to love it. Really.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fallin' for You

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchilada Casserole

The seasons are changing! There is a constant wet drizzle and grey clouds above (at least here in the Pacific Northwest). The chill in the air means it's time to take advantage of great fall ingredients and some savory dishes to warm you from the inside out. Even though I live in the Northwest now, I'll always be a California girl at heart. I think everyone from California grows up developing a taste for great Mexican food- spicy peppers, tender-crisp tortillas, slow-cooked meats in savory sauces . . . what's not to like? The enchilada in its classic form is a corn tortilla filled with various meats or vegetables and covered in a chili pepper sauce. I developed this recipe as a vegetarian (and wheat-free) fall-themed twist on one of my favorites and layered it in casserole form. It's savory and rich without being too heavy. I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients:
- 12 corn tortillas
- 1 14 oz. can red enchilada sauce
- 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 poblano chili peppers
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1" cubes
- 1 c. crème fraîche
- 3 c. grated Manchego cheese
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- vegetable oil for frying
- 1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. cardamom
- salt and pepper

Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange poblano chilies on baking sheet. Broil chilies (about 4 minutes per side) until skin begins to bubble. Remove peppers from oven an place in a resealable plastic bag or container. Let cool. After the peppers have cooled, the skins should peel off easily. Remove skins and seeds from peppers, dice, and place in a medium bowl.

Meanwhile, toss cubed squash with 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Arrange squash cubes on foil-lined baking sheet. When peppers are roasted and out of oven, change temperature to 400˚ F. Roast squash in oven until softened (about 20 minutes). While squash roasts in oven heat 2 tsp. vegetable oil in a small non-stick pan over medium-high heat. One at a time, fry tortillas in 2 tsp. of oil until softened (about 30 seconds per side). Drain on paper towels.

When squash is roasted, remove from oven and reduce oven heat to 350˚. Place squash in a medium bowl with roasted peppers and toss with drained beans, cumin, chili powder, cardamom, and season with salt and pepper. Mix together, mashing beans and squash slightly with side of spoon.

Arrange four tortillas in the bottom of a 9 x 9 glass baking pan. Spread half of the squash mixture over beans. Dollop half of the créme fraîche over mixture, pour 1/3 of the can of enchilada sauce over créme fraîche, sprinkle 1 c. of cheese on top. Cover with four tortillas then repeat layers of squash mixture, créme fraîche, enchilada sauce, and cheese. Cover layer with last four tortillas, pour remaining enchilada sauce over tortillas, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake casserole in oven for 25 minutes, until cheese begins to brown and bubble.

It's yummy!




Thursday, October 15, 2009

Home Cookin'

Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Creamy Kale

Few things are more comforting that the smell of a chicken roasting in the oven. This is definitely not a meal I make on one of my commuting days- but it is cheap, easy, and a great way to plan ahead for other meals. The leftovers are perfect for enchiladas, chicken salads, pizzas, and anything else your imagination can concoct. The dinner itself provides a juicy and flavorful chicken with two fantastic and tasty sides. So great!

Ingredients

- 1 whole chicken (5-6 lbs.), rinsed, butterflied, and seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/4 c. plus 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 tsp. dried herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, whatever you like!)
- 1 lb. of mixed small potatoes (red, purple, Yukon Gold, whatever you like!)
- 1 small bag of baby carrots
- 2 bunches of fresh kale, stems removed and torn into small pieces
- 1 large shallot, minced
- a handful of Italian parsley, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 3 Tbsp. dry vermouth
- 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
- salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Cut whole chicken down the back bone, clean out innards, rinse, and spread out flat in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, mustard, soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, dried herbs, and 1/4 c. olive oil. Brush chicken inside and out with half the sauce. Arrange potatoes and carrots around the chicken in roasting pan. Sprinkle vegetables with salt and pepper and drizzle with 3 Tbsp. olive oil. Roast chicken in oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes. About half way through cooking, remove chicken with oven, brush with remaining sauce, and stir potatoes and carrots. Return to oven. When chicken is cooked through, remove from oven and cover with foil to rest for about 10 minutes before carving.

While chicken is resting, heat butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add vermouth, parsley, and kale. Cover and cook until kale begins to soften, about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and add cream. Cook for 1-2 minutes until cream is heated through and reduced slightly. Season with salt and pepper.

Carve chicken and serve with veggies. You'll love it! So good!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thai Me Up!

Avocado Curry Noodles

In the most blessed kingdom of cheap/fast/one-dish meals- few things can beat an old fashioned stir fry. Packed with crisp, colorful veggies and a generous helping of lean protein over your starch of choice- these meals are healthy, filling, and delicious. This recipe was devised based on an unusual dish I found at one of my favorite Thai restaurants. When I first saw Avocado Curry Noodles on the menu, I thought, "Really? Avocado curry? Weird." But being the intrepid foodie that I am, I had to try it- and I'm glad I did. This dish has all the elements of a great stir fry- but with the surprising creamy twist of the avocado. Seriously good. I hope you like it!

Ingredients
- 1 lb. boneless chicken breast, sliced thin diagonally across the grain and sprinkled with salt
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
- 1 onion, peeled, halved, and sliced thin
- 1 bunch of broccoli, trimmed and separated into florets
- 2 medium avocados, peeled, pitted, and sliced
- 1 14 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tsp. cardamom
- 3 Tbsp. green curry paste
- 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 1-2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- salt
- 8 oz. rice noodles

In a medium heavy-bottomed sauce pan, bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add rice noodles and cook 3-4 minutes until noodles are tender. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium. Add 1 Tbsp. curry paste, cardamom, and chicken. Stir fry over medium heat until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a large bowl. Add remaining oil to pan, heat, and add onion and bell pepper. Stir fry 3-4 minutes over medium-high heat until vegetables begin to soften. Sprinkle with salt and transfer to bowl with chicken. Return pan to heat and add broccoli and 2 Tbsp. water. Cover pan and let broccoli steam 2-3 minutes so that broccoli is tender-crisp. Transfer to bowl. Add coconut milk, pepper flakes, fish sauce, and remaining curry paste to same skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook on stove top about 3 minutes for sauce to thicken. Return chicken and vegetables to skillet and stir to combine. Add rice noodles to mixture and toss until sauce and ingredients are well combined. Remove pan from heat, top with avocado slices, and toss gently to distribute. Eat up! I know you're hungry.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chili October Nights

Kick-Ass Chili for Carnivores

Chili . . . a staple of tailgate parties, potlucks, game day gatherings around the t.v., and community cook-offs. This is a perfect one-pot meal. It's filling, easy, fast, and cheap- full of fiber, protein, and plenty of spice. I threw together this recipe for all the meat lovers out there! It's pretty spicy, so if you prefer things a bit milder back off on the red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper.

Ingredients
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 4 slices thick cut bacon, diced
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp. chipotle chili powder
- 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
- 1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes with green chilies
- 1 15 oz. can pinto beans
- 1 15 oz. can black beans
- 1 15 oz. can kidney beans
- grated pepper jack cheese
- 1 small bag of thick cut corn chips such as Fritos

Place chopped bacon in a large sauce pot or Dutch oven and heat over medium. Cook bacon until it just begins to brown- don't let it get crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon from pot and drain on paper towels. Set aside. Put chopped onion into pot with bacon fat and cook over medium heat until onion begins to turn translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add ground beef and garlic. Cook over medium heat until meat begins to brown, about 3 minutes, breaking meat apart with wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Add cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cardamom, and pepper flakes. Stir to combine and cook for about 1 minute. Add beans with the liquid and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer chili for 20 minutes to thicken. Add bacon to chili and stir to incorporate all ingredients. Remove from heat. Season to taste with extra salt and pepper. Sprinkle a few chips into each bowl for serving then spoon chili over the chips. Sprinkle with pepper jack cheese and serve.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Curry in a Hurry

Thai Style Red Coconut Curry and Beef

We all have those days . . . yes, even me- the Dinner Diva. My day started at 5 a.m., I commuted an hour and twenty minutes (nearly 80 miles) to get to work, spent a day on my feet teaching and maintaining a level of frantic energy for my students, ran work-related errands, and after all that . . . had a two hour rehearsal! I was ready for dinner on the table and in my face immediately after rehearsal . . . but, unfortunately, had another 80 mile commute to get back home. I spent much of the drive thinking to myself, "I don't want to cook tonight- I'm friggin' tired! Perhaps . . . take-out?" But then about three miles from good old Exit 283, I remembered several things. First of all, most of my days are like this- busy and crazed! Second, I have everything sitting there in my kitchen waiting for me to make my own delicious take-out Thai food in less time than it would take me to get home to let the dog out, get to the restaurant, order the food, wait for the food . . . you get the idea! Third, the process of cooking dinner is a relaxing experience. Sautéing vegetables and sipping a glass of wine can actually be a great way to unwind at the end of the day. And my reward for sticking to my planned menu and not taking the road to Take-Out Town? A delicious and inexpensive meal in about twenty minutes after I walked in the door.

I love Thai food! So spicy! So colorful! So yummy! Unfortunately the town where I currently reside is devoid of anything even resembling Thai food. I devised this recipe as a quick and inexpensive way to enjoy the take-out experience at home on a weeknight. The recipe can easily feed four (maybe more) for about ten bucks. Really.

Ingredients

- 1 lb. stir-fry beef (skirt steak or some cheap cut of beef, sliced into strips), seasoned with salt
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
- 1 carrot, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
- 1 onion, peeled, halved, and sliced thin
- 1 Japanese eggplant, sliced into disks
- 1/2 c. frozen peas
- 1 14 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 Tbsp. red curry paste
- 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 1-2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- salt
- 8 oz. rice noodles

In a medium heavy-bottomed sauce pan, bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add rice noodles and cook 3-4 minutes until noodles are tender. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium. Add 1 Tbsp. curry paste and beef. Stir fry over medium heat for about 4 minutes until beef is browned on the outside with a little pink in the middle. Using a slotted spoon, remove beef from skillet and put into a large bowl. Add remaining oil to pan and add eggplant. Stir fry 1-2 minutes over medium heat then add carrot, onion, and bell pepper. Stir fry 3-4 minutes over medium-high heat until vegetables begin to soften. Season with about 1 tsp. salt and stir to combine. Add vegetables to bowl with beef. Add coconut milk, pepper flakes, fish sauce, and remaining curry paste to same skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook on stove top about 3 minutes for sauce to thicken. Add peas to skillet and cook over heat for about 2 minutes. Return beef and vegetables to skillet and stir to combine. Add rice noodles to mixture and toss until sauce and ingredients are well combined. Remove from heat. Serve. Put in your face!

As a note . . . don't bother with light coconut milk. The slight calorie difference is not worth the loss of creaminess you get from using regular coconut milk. Really.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Comfort Food: Italian Style

Quick Bolognese Sauce and Whole Wheat Spaghetti

Long day? Ready for something hearty and delicious on a cold, dreary evening? Traditional Bolognese can be quite a lengthy affair requiring hours of stove top cook time. It
yields a rich, flavorful sauce . . . but there is a time and a place for everything! This recipe delivers on the flavor in less than a hour and is perfect for weeknight dinners with a nice glass of red wine . . . the bottle is already open anyway!

I like things pretty spicy and use hot Italian sausage and very generous amounts of pepper flakes in the dish! If you prefer a milder taste, ease off on the pepper flakes and substitute the spicy sausage for a sweet variety.

Ingredients
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 lb. hot Italian pork sausage removed from casings
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1-2 tsp, crushed red pepper flakes
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1/2 c. dry red wine
- 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes w/ juices
- 1/3 c. heavy cream, room temperature
- a generous handful of chopped Italian parsley
- 8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
- 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 3-4 minutes. Add carrot and cook until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add sausage, garlic, and pepper flakes to pot, cook and stir 3-4 minutes breaking up sausage as it cooks with a wooden spoon. Cook until meat is light brown, but not yet cooked completely through. Add tomato paste and wine and stir into mixture. Simmer about 2 minutes to reduce liquid. Add tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes for sauce to thicken. Remove from heat and add cream and parsley, stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. While sauce simmers, boil pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving some cooking liquid. Add pasta to sauce and toss to combine. Add some of the pasta cooking water if the sauce is too thick. Divide pasta among plates and top with Parmesan cheese. Serve and enjoy the tastiness!

Serves 4

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Variations on a Theme

Rustic Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce

Vodka. It's not just for dirty martinis. This yummy variation on my Simple and Delicious Basic Marinara Sauce recipe never fails to impress company. The saltiness of the prosciutto coupled with the slight sweetness of the sauce is a sophisticated flavor combination that makes guests believe you were slaving over the hot stove all day 1950s housewife-style, when really it can be on the table in 30 minutes flat. Really. The creamy, tangy sauce (sans chicken and prosciutto) is also great for vegetarians
.

Ingredients

- 16 oz. penne pasta
- 3 c. Simple and Delicious Basic Marinara Sauce (see Feelin' Saucy: 9/27/09)
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced diagonally across the grain to 1/4" thick
- 5-6 oz. sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/2" strips
- 1/2 c. heavy cream, room temperature
- 1 c. descent quality vodka (just don't use bottom-shelf gut-rot crap)
- 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste

Bring basic marinara sauce and vodka to a boil over high heat in a large sauce pot or Dutch oven. Reduce heat to low and simmer sauce, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes to thicken.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook penne to al dente (about 9 minutes, but follow package instructions). Drain pasta and set aside.

While pasta and sauce are working, heat olive oil over medium-high in a large non-stick pan and add sliced chicken. Allow chicken to work until cooked through and no longer pink. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

When sauce is ready, remove from heat and stir in grated Parmesan cheese until well-combined. Slowly add heavy cream (make sure the the cream is room temperature- cold cream will curdle in the hot sauce) and stir to combine. Add cooked pasta, chicken, and prosciutto to sauce, and toss until well combined. Divide among plates and sprinkle additional grated Parmesan over pasta if desired.

Serves 4-6.

It's really, really good.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Well Equipt 1

Whisked Away: Homemade Garlic Aioli

Part of making magic in the kitchen is having the right tools for the job. While some of my favorite kitchen gadgets are fancy pieces of pricey machinery (I fully intend to write love letters to my food processor and stand mixer), others are basic, low-tech, inexpensive tools that are indispensable in creating delicious creations. The first of these is the humble whisk. I have two of these handy tools in my drawer- a silicon whisk I use with my non-stick and enamel cookware, and a regular wire whisk for other jobs. Dressings, whipped cream, fluffy eggs, sauces, meringues, and rues can all be accomplished with a flick of the wrist and your trusty whisk. So let's all celebrate this utensil and its knack for effectively incorporating air into some of our favorite recipes.

You may ask . . . "Why the hell would you bother making your own mayonnaise?" Uhhh . . . because it's delicious and easy to make. This garlic aioli takes a little bit of elbow grease, but is a tasty and versatile condiment- use it as a dip for sweet potato fries, a sandwich spread, or a topping for grilled salmon. Seriously . . . try it and you'll be hooked.


Ingredients
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 clove garlic, minced
- fresh ground pepper

Combine egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, Dijon, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk until well blended, about 30 seconds. Slowly (seriously, this is important) add 1/4 c. olive oil a few drops at a time into egg mixture, whisking constantly for about 4 minutes. The aioli will begin to thicken. Then gradually add the remaining cup of olive oil in a very slow, thin stream, whisking constantly until mixture becomes thick (about 8 minutes). Don't rush this process or the mixture won't thicken. When the aioli becomes thick, add minced garlic and season with fresh ground pepper to taste. Cover and chill. Aioli can be made two days ahead of time. Keep chilled. Remember, there is raw egg in the recipe, so it's not the kind of thing you want sitting around for weeks. The fresh, creamy taste is unbeatable! You'll never want to go back . . . although, admittedly, your arm will get a little sore from the whisking.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Feelin' Saucy

Simple and Delicious Marinara Sauce

Periodically I like to whip up this simple and delicious sauce. The recipe makes a bloody ton of this tasty, vegetarian sauce which is great on its own and can serve as the basis for a variety of pasta sauces and other recipes. Although it has to simmer for about an hour, this sauce is a great time saver for us busy, working people because it can be divided up and used for so many other dinners. I use about 3 cups for dinner that night and then divide the remainder into 3 and 4 cup portions destined for the freezer for future recipes. Master this recipe and a world of new doors will be opened to you! (I promise to include twists on this basic recipe in future blogs that mean fast and cheap dinners for family and buddies.)

I usually chop all my carrots, onions, garlic, and canned tomatoes in the food processor. If you don't have a food processor, just chop ingredients up to a fine mince with a sharp knife and try to buy crushed canned tomatoes.

Ingredients
- 3 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes, finely chopped up in food processor
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely minced
- 2 carrots, peeled and minced
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
- salt and fresh ground pepper

Heat olive oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add minced onions and cook over heat, stirring often, until softened (but not browned), stirring occasionally, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and carrots. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, and thyme, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover partially, and simmer for about an hour (maybe a bit longer), stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve about 3 cups of finished sauce over 16 oz. of your favorite pasta or divide up and save for future deliciousness.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dressing Up 1

Quick and Easy Steak and Salad with Balsamic Shallot Dressing

Here is another super fast, easy, and delicious meal. It's all about the salad dressing. I never buy salad dressing from the store. It's so fast and tasty to make it yourself because you can make it exactly the way you like and there are thousands of dressings and sauce variations that can be made from the simple oil and vinegar ratio (3 parts oil to 2 parts vinegar). This is Part 1 in my many, many part series on dressings. One of the great things about this meal is that it is so versatile. Greens and berries can be swapped for whatever is seasonal, steak can be swapped for sliced chicken breast or seared salmon . . . whatever! Trust your own taste buds and make it the way you like it. This is just one of my gazillion variations of this recipe. Yum.

Please note, I prefer my steaks bloody rare, but cook it to your desired doneness. I find that searing the meat and letting it rest under tented foil for about five minutes makes for a juicy steak even if I buy a really cheap cut of meat (which I usually do because I'm poor and I still like to eat good food).

Ingredients

- 2 7 oz. strip steaks (Or whatever is on sale. Really.)
- 1 5 oz. bag mixed baby greens
- 1 c. strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted, halved, and sliced
- 1 small cucumber, sliced
- 5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp. honey
- 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
- salt and pepper

Pat steaks dry with a paper towel then season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in medium pan over medium-high heat. Sear steaks in pan (1-2 minutes per side for rare). Remove steaks from heat, place on plate, and tent with foil. Let steaks rest about 5 minutes.

Toss together greens, avocado, strawberries, and cucumbers in medium bowl. Set aside. Put honey, vinegar, shallot, and mustard in a small bowl. Whisk in remaining 3 Tbsp. of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pour about 2/3 of the dressing over salad mixture and toss to combine. Divide salad among two plates.

After steaks have rested (really this is an important step to keep them juicy), thinly slice across the grain. Top salad with sliced steak and then top each steak with remaining dressing. Eat. It's delicious. You'll love it.




Friday, September 25, 2009

Clam-tastic

Linguine with Clams

This is one of the easiest, fastest, and cheapest dinners to make. Thirty minutes for dinner? Please. How about ten? Fifteen if you're slow.

Ingredients
- 9 oz. fresh linguine
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 6.5 oz. cans chopped clams
- juice of 1 lemon
- a generous handful of chopped Italian parsley
- grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- white wine
- salt and pepper

Bring a 6 quart pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles according to package instructions. (Fresh noodles take no time to make, 2-3 minutes tops! Drain reserving a cup of cooking water and set aside.

Heat butter and olive oil in large non-stick pan over medium. Add garlic to pan and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add clams and their juice, lemon juice, parsley, and a splash of white wine. Simmer over medium heat until sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and toss with cooked linguine, adding some of the reserved cooking water if mixture is too dry. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and serve. Easy does it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Food of Love Play On!

I am starting this blog for several reasons. The obvious reason is because I love food, making food, and entertaining people. It's fun and I'm good at it. I want to share recipes and cooking tips with friends and family who say things like, "You should open a catering business" or "What's the recipe for . . . "

The less obvious and more selfish reason for entering into this self-important world of blogging is because while I am eager to entertain friends and family and really believe few experiences in life are as wonderful as sitting down to share a meal with good conversation and people you love- few people I know seem to share this sentiment. I often hear people my age talking about how they don't know how to cook, how it seems "too hard," "too expensive, " or "just too much of a hassle." I would like to dispel these myths and encourage and inspire people to cook at home, have parties, and entertain friends. Selfish you say? Yes. I want to get some invitations for some home-cooked meals!

Rules to Feeding Yourself and Others
1. Cooking is not some mysterious activity that only few can do competently, people have been feeding themselves since the beginning of time. Like any other skill, it just takes a little practice to do it well.
2. Cooking at home is infinitely less expensive than eating out all the time. It is perfectly possible to serve a family of four a yummy and healthy dinner for less than ten dollars. Really.
3. A little organization goes a long way in saving time and money.
4. If it tastes good to you, it probably will taste good to other people. When people say, "I can't cook," I usually ask, "Are you able to taste food?" Your mouth will tell you whether or not something is properly seasoned, the right texture, whatever.
5. Don't be afraid of trying new things.

There you have it. I'll share a recipe tomorrow. Something yummy and easy. I promise.