Thursday, May 31, 2012

Strawberry Fields Forever!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Walnut Streusel Topping
I was a latecomer in appreciating rhubarb, that strange bitter red plant that becomes inexplicably delicious when paired with ripe spring time strawberries. My grandfather used to scare my mother and aunts away from eating his share of rhubarb by exclaiming, "It'll put hair on your chest." When my mom told me this family story, I took her at her word and decided, "Well, I don't want a hairy chest." Conditioned by a childhood fear as real as the Boogie Man, I avoided rhubarb well into adulthood. My loss. My mom made my brother and I a strawberry rhubarb pie in my mid-twenties and I was instantly converted to deeply respecting the complexly tart flavor yielded by this crisp springtime stalk. I put this lovely pie together as a celebration of Spring's best bright red produce. The brown sugar streusel topping takes it to the next level. I suggest it as the perfect post barbecue dessert- served with fresh whipped cream or luscious vanilla ice cream.

- 1 lb. fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced
- 1 lb. fresh rhubarb, trimmed and diced into 1" pieces 
- 1/2 c. granulated sugar
- 1/4 c. honey
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1 Tbsp. Tapioca 
- 1 Tbsp. corn starch
- salt
- 4 tsp. cinnamon, divided
- 1 c. rolled oats
- 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 9 1/2" pie crust (I used my perfect pie crust recipe halving the amount for this struesel topping.)

In a large bowl combine strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, honey, lemon juice, tapioca, corn starch, 1 tsp. salt, and 2 tsp. cinnamon. Stir gently to combine ingredients. Allow berry and rhubarb mixture to sit for about 20 minutes so that the fruit can soften and begin to yield their juices.

While the filling is sitting, preheat the oven to 425˚F and line a large baking sheet to foil. Set aside and prepare the struesel topping. In a medium bowl combine oats, remaining cinnamon, butter, walnuts, flour, and 1 tsp. of sugar. Using a pastry blender or folk, mash together and work ingredients into a crumbly, but well-combined consistency. Set aside and prepare pie crust.

Roll pie crust into a 9 1/2"pie pan and set pan onto the prepared baking sheet. Trim off any excess dough and crimp edges in a decorative pattern using fingers or with a fork. 

After the berries have sat and softened, pour into the prepared pie crust. Spread berries evenly through the shell.

Sprinkle an even layer of the streusel topping over the fruit later. Place pie in oven and bake 20 minutes at 425˚F. After first twenty minutes, turn the oven down to 350˚F and continue baking until the juices run out of the pie in a bubbly matter. Remove the pie from oven and cool on a wire rack. 

Cool pie completely before slicing and serving. Serve wedges with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream or a good dollop of fresh whipped cream. It's very, very yummy.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Blessed Occasion! For Soup!

Italian Wedding Soup with Kale
Typical of Oregon spring weather . . . the sky can't decide on a blisteringly hot sunny day or wind and grey overcast. After a week of being able to embrace flip flops and sleeveless shirts, things are right back to layers and extra blankets. It's not all bad, of course, because cooler evenings mean soup nights! The heavy cream soups of mid-winter have definitely given way to something a bit lighter but equally as soul-warming. I came up with this version of Italian Wedding Soup to include spring's bounty of kale with flavorful turkey meatballs and fresh herbs. Enjoy!

- 1 lb. ground turkey 
- 1/2 c. dried breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 6 fresh basil leaves, diced
- 4 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley, divided
- 1 onion, half grated and half diced
- salt and pepper
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 qts. chicken broth
- 1 bunch of kale, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
- 3/4 c. dried ditalini, orzo, or other small shaped pasta
-  1 Parmesan rind plus extra grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling
- olive oil for frying

In a medium mixing bowl, combine ground turkey, egg, breadcrumbs, basil, 2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, grated onion, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. ground pepper. Use hands to knead mixture together until thoroughly combined. Form about 16 or so 2" meatballs with hands and set aside on a plate. Meanwhile, heat 4 Tbsp. of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high. Add the meatballs in batches and brown on all sides. Do not overcrowd the pan and add more oil as needed to keep meatballs from sticking. 

Handle the meatballs carefully with a pair of tongs. Remove from oil when they are nicely browned and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. The meatballs don't need to be cooked through as they will finish cooking in the boiling soup. When the meatballs are finished browning, add the chopped onions to the remaining oil in the pan and cook over medium heat until they begin to soften and turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and celery to the onions and cook an additional 5 minutes. Scrape any browned bits of turkey from the bottom of the pan and sprinkle cooking vegetables with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring chicken broth to a boil over high heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. When the onions, carrots, and celery are softened and fragrant add to boiling broth with any remaining oil or brown bits from pan. Add kale, Parmesan rind, remaining Italian parsley, and browned meatballs to the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove cover and add pasta to the soup, stir ingredients to combine. Continue boiling soup for an additional 8-9 minutes until the pasta is al dente. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and serve with grated Parmesan cheese. Yummy!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Green Goddess Goodness

Quinoa and Kale Salad with Avocado Lime Cilantro Green Goddess Dressing
Okay, so technically "Green Goddess Dressing" is given its characteristic green hue from a variety of herbs, in particular, tarragon. Now . . . I've got absolutely nothing against the classic anchovy and sour cream-infused dressing/dip/amazing condiment, but I wanted to see how I did with a vegan version. This dressing is made creamy and satisfying with a nice, ripe avocado. Tossed together with fresh seasonal kale, crunchy cucumbers, and a hearty helping of quinoa, this is a salad truly fit for any green goddess!

- 3 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
- juice from one lime
- salt and pepper
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted, then sliced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 bunch fresh chives, minced
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 14.5 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
- 1 c. uncooked quinoa
- 1 bunch fresh kale, leaves removed from stems and torn into 3" pieces

In a small dish or blender place minced shallot, chives, cilantro, lime juice, and white balsamic vinegar. Pulse to a puree with a blender or an immersion blender. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. of salt and several grinds of fresh ground pepper. Add avocado and blend until dressing becomes smooth and creamy. Thin out with olive oil and season to taste with additional salt and pepper if desired.

In a medium sauce pan, combine 1 c. of uncooked quinoa with 2 c. of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, and reduce to low. Simmer for 12-15 minutes until the quinoa has absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, bring a skillet with about 2" of salted water to a boil. Add kale pieces to boiling water, cover, and blanch for 1-2 minutes until kale is bright green. Remove from heat and drain water in a colander over sink. Immediately rinse with cold water.

Combine cooked quinoa, garbanzo beans, cooked kale, and diced cucumber in a medium serving bowl. Toss ingredients to combine. Pour half of the dressing over the salad, toss ingredients together. Pour remaining dressing over the salad and toss thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature. This "side dish" makes for a great lunch on its own or perfect for dinner along side chicken or a tasty cut of seared salmon.

Best of Both

Garlicky Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas
I cannot deny that I'm a meat-eater, but I try and temper my carnivorous tendencies with a healthy respect for where my food comes from. But let's be practical, the efforts to eat meat consciously can get expensive! In order to balance my body's needs with my ethical viewpoints and my budget, I incorporate vegetarian meals several nights per week and find ways to stretch out that package of organic free-range chicken into multiple dinners. This huge, family-feeding dish of chicken enchiladas was made with a single chicken breast. With beans, olives, and lots of oozy cheese on top I think you'll find it to be packed with protein and incredibly satisfying.

- 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 c. chicken broth, divided
- 12 oz. jar of medium red salsa
- 3-4 chiles in adobo sauce, diced
- salt and pepper
- 14.5 oz can black beans
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 10-12 small corn tortillas
- vegetable oil for frying
- 1 can sliced black olives
- 4 fresh green onions, trimmed and roughly chopped
- 12 oz. can or bottle of your favorite enchilada sauce
- 1/2 c. sour cream
- 3 c. grated pepper jack cheese

Season chicken breast on both sides with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a small sauce pan over medium. Add minced garlic and cook, stirring gently for 1-2 minutes until the garlic becomes soft and fragrant. Remove from heat and add jar of red salsa, 1/2 c. chicken broth, chiles in adobo sauce. Mix ingredients together and add chicken breast, making sure it is covered with the sauce. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, and reduce to low. Simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken becomes very tender.

While the chicken is simmering, prepare the tortillas and the black bean filling. Working one tortilla at a time, heat about 2 tsp. of vegetable oil in a small nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Fry tortillas about 30 seconds per side in the hot oil until they become soft. Remove from oil and drain between layers of paper towels. Allow the tortillas to cool before filling.

Drain and rinse can of black beans and pour into a small pot with remaining 1/2 c. of chicken broth. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, cumin, and chili powder, stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed by the beans. Remove from heat and mash the beans slightly with a wooden spoon.

When the chicken is ready, it will be extremely tender and easily shredded with a pair of tongs and fork. To check the chicken, poke with the tines of a fork, it should be very easily pierced. When chicken is ready, remove from heat and shred, mixing the tenderized meat with the red sauce.

To prepare enchiladas, heat oven to 350˚F. Spritz a 13x9" baking dish with cooking spray, set aside. Fill each tortilla with about a tablespoon of bean mixture topped with about 2 tablespoons of the shredded chicken. Basically you want each tortilla to have an equal distribution of fillings. Top the chicken with a small dollop of sour cream. Roll the filled enchilada and place side-by-side, seam down in the prepared baking dish.

Once all the enchiladas have been placed in the dish, top with an even coating of enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with onions and sliced olives and then top with shredded cheese. Bake in oven for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and begins to bubble. Serve enchiladas with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole. And of course . . . your favorite cerveza!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Modest May

Figgy Salmon with Sesame Avocado and Garbanzo Bean Salad
Along with the return of open-toed shoes and long, sunny days, May means produce sections full of bright leafy greens. I rejoice in this time of year and all the tasty salads I can come up with. A stroll to the neighborhood co-op led me to a cheerfully green bundle of peppery watercress and a crisp bunch of scallions. I came up with the avocado salad as a compliment to a quick and easy glazed salmon recipe, but I also recommend it as an alternative to the same ol' guacamole dip. I think your pallet will be pleased!

- 2 ripe avocados, peeled and diced
- 1 14.5 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 c. roughly chopped watercress
- 2 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 4 scallions, trimmed and roughly chopped
- 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely diced
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
- 3 Tbsp. grape seed oil, divided
- 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
- 2 tsp. Sriracha
- salt and pepper
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
- 2 cloves grated fresh garlic
- 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
- 4 6-7 oz. salmon fillets
- 2 Tbsp. fig butter
- 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

In a small dish whisk together lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp. grape seed oil, sesame oil, 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, Sriracha, garlic, 1 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Set aside. In a medium bowl toss together cucumber, jalapeño peppers, scallions, garbanzo beans, watercress, and cilantro. Carefully add diced avocado and gently combine. Drizzle vegetable and bean mixture with dressing and toss thoroughly. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Set salad aside while you make the figgy salmon.

Preheat oven to 350˚F and line a glass baking dish with foil. Spritz lightly with cooking spray and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together fig butter, Dijon mustard, and remaining soy sauce. Season both sides of each fillet with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. of grape seed oil in a large, heavy skillet over high. Add fillets to skillet and sear, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer salmon fillets to prepared baking dish and brush tops with fig butter mixture. Bake in oven for about 10 minutes until the salmon is cooked through. Serve with salad! A great spring time dinner you'll love!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Souper Bowls!

Potato, Kale, and Sausage Soup with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic Croutons
I adore the ease and flexibility of one pot meals. The very idea of getting a tasty and filling bowl balanced with protein, starch, and fresh veggies with such ease makes for one happy girl at dinner time. Cooking for two with conflicting schedules can be a challenge, so meals spent together are a treat. A huge pot of delicious leftover soup means sitting down to a quick meal together before one of us needs to run off to work or rehearsal. Plus, just like a fine wine . . . soups only get better with age!

- 1 lb. cherry tomatoes, halved
- 6 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 2 tsp. oregano, divided
- 2 tsp. dried basil, divided
- salt and pepper
- 1 c. thinly sliced shallots
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely grated
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 c. dry white wine
- 1 bunch kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
- 2 qts. chicken broth
- 3 c. diced yellow-fleshed potatoes such as Yukon Gold
- 12 oz. flavored fully-cooked chicken sausage, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 old Parmesan rind
- 4 c. leftover good quality bread, cubed into 1 1/2" pieces
- grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Begin by roasting the tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 450˚ F. Line a heavy baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Spread halved tomatoes evenly on sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and 1 tsp. each of dried oregano and basil. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp. of olive oil and roast in oven for about 20 minutes until the tomatoes are softened and begin to turn brown. Mix up the tomatoes about halfway through roasting time to help cook more evenly.

While the tomatoes are roasting, heat 2 more Tbsp. of olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shallots begin to brown lightly. Add the celery and carrots and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Turn heat to high and add wine to deglaze the pan. Use a wooden spoon with scrape any browned bits from the pan. Add minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. When the tomatoes are finished roasting pour into the pot with their juices and turn down the oven to 350˚F.

Add the chopped kale, chicken broth, diced sausage, Parmesan rind, and potatoes to the soup pot and turn the heat to high to bring soup to a boil. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper. Once the soup is boiling partially cover and turn heat down to low. Simmer soup for 25-30 minutes until the potatoes are tender and the flavors have began to meld.

While the soup simmers over low heat, line a baking sheet with foil. In a small bowl whisk together 2 remaining Tbsp. of olive oil with 1 tsp. salt, grated garlic, and remaining oregano and basil. Place the bread cubes in a gallon-sized freezer bag and then drizzle with the garlic and olive oil mixture. Seal the plastic bag and shake until the bread cubes are covered evenly. Spread oil-covered bread cubes evenly on prepared baking sheet and bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until they croutons are dried out and turning golden brown.

After the soup has thoroughly simmered, remove from heat. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle each serving with a little grated Parmesan cheese. Add several toasted croutons to each bowl. Eat up! It's delicious!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Taming of the Chew

Nutella Chews with White Chocolate and Pecans
On occasion, I like to bring little treats to my acting students. I find that the promise of a sweet treat during a scene critiquing session can help the feedback go down a little easier. On the scene menu for tomorrow? Scenes from (my least favorite of Shakespeare's works) The Taming of the Shrew. Maybe I'm the one that will be in need of a cookie. These cookies were put together with interesting ingredients I found in my pantry. The bold characteristic taste of Nutella with little hints of sweet, creamy white chocolate and salty pecans makes for one tasty treat! I think you'll be a fan.

- 1/2 c. butter, room temperature 
-  2/3 c. granulated sugar
- 1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
- 2 large eggs
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 c. Nutella
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 c. white chocolate chips
- 1 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl cream together butter, sugars, vanilla, and Nutella with an electric mixer. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add eggs and blend until light and fluffy. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients slowly with the mixer running. When everything is completely blended, add the chocolate chops and pecans and mix thoroughly.

Drop tablespoon sized dollops of the dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, about 3" apart. Bake in oven about 10 minutes until cookies are cooked through but still chewy. Let cool on rack completely. Bake remaining cookies in batches. Yum!