Posts tagged ‘olive oil’

October 15, 2013

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

The way I get myself over the loss of something… in this case, the warm, comforting embrace of Summer… is to consider what I am looking forward to next.  Chilly days and cozy nights, pumpkins and squash, and the beautiful deep colors of the falling leaves that are echoed in the change in my wardrobe.  Lush sweaters, leather jackets, textured cords, hats, knits, scarfs and my favorite of all, boots!!   You never see me procrastinating to pull out the sweaters or prepare the house for fall.  The time for reflecting on the year and gearing up for a strong finish does not escape me.

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On a cool Thursday night, after weighing our dining options, my mom and I slide into one of the wooden banquettes of the local Italian eatery Pizza Antica.  A generous bowl of warm, salted focaccia with rich olive oil is set on our table as we relax into our booth and peruse the menu.  When I came across the warm Brussels sprout salad I didn’t need to keep reading. With the onset of cool, autumn weather brings us Brussels sprouts at the peak of their growing season.  By the end of summer I’m anxious to dig into fall’s harvest and at farmer’s markets the landscape shifts to display a new array of deep reds, yellows and creamy whites. Gone are the strawberries, corn and stone fruits of summer; in their place, root vegetables, squash and cold-weather tree fruit emerge. It’s an exciting time of transition, and also a delicious one.

This salad is a celebration of fall and combines all that is good in the world – bacon, Brussels spouts, garlic and homemade croutons for a variety of flavors and textures.  The nutty flavor of the pan-fried sprouts is complemented beautifully by the smoky bacon, creamy egg and chew of the toasted bread.  Everything is brought together with a light, garlic vinaigrette which compliments the tender sprouts without overwhelming the dish.  This recipe was inspired by Pizza Antica, and I encourage you to adapt it as you go.  Sometimes I throw in some toasted almonds for crunch or top it with finely grated Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

  • 1/2 slab bacon (9 slices of pre-cut bacon)
  • 4 tbsp. extra light extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tbsp. for croutons
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 slices sourdough bread, cut into 1/2″ squares
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Vinaigrette

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra light extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. First we’ll make the vinaigrette and set it aside for later.  To make the vinaigrette, soak the garlic, shallots, and thyme in vinegar for roughly 45 minutes.
  2. After soaking, slowly whisk in the oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and reserve covered.
  3. Preheat oven to 300°F for the croutons.
  4. Toss cubed bread with light extra-virgin olive oil and toast in the oven for 20-25 mins until golden brown and crispy.  Allow to cool to room temperature and set aside.
  5. Cut bacon into 1/2″ squares and cook over low to medium heat until almost crisp; drain off the fat and set aside.
  6. In the same pan you cooked the bacon, heat 2 tbsp. light extra-virgin olive oil.  If you have some remaining bacon fat leave it in the pan and just add any extra oil as needed.  The extra light olive oil has a higher smoking point so if you don’t have it, replace it with canola oil.
  7. Sauté sliced onions over medium-high heat until golden brown, two minutes before you remove it from the heat add the garlic; drain and set aside.
  8. In a small saucepan, cover the eggs with cold water and bring to a low boil.  Once boiling remove from heat and cover.  Let the eggs stand in hot water for 8-9 minutes.  Then run cold water over eggs to stop the cooking – this will give you hard-boiled eggs with a firm yolk.
  9. Peel eggs and dice finely (about the size of a small pea) and reserve covered in the refrigerator.
  10. Clean the sprouts by removing the first few dark leaves and discarding. Cut off the stem, and separate the leaves one by one. When you get to the light green center and can’t pull off the leaves, either slice the heart very thin or reserve for other uses.  Peeling the leaves is definitely the best way to make this salad, but if you are short on time you can also shred them in a Cuisinart.  It will save you at least 30 mins but you won’t get the same texture.
  11. In a large sauté pan, heat remaining extra-virgin olive oil until almost smoking and add sprouts leaves; toss until wilted (about 3 minutes), season with salt and pepper.
  12. Add reserved onions and bacon and warm until hot.
  13. When hot, add vinaigrette and toss to distribute evenly.
  14. Add croutons and chopped eggs and toss to incorporate.
  15. Serve!

Recipe sourced from http://www.pizzaantica.com/

 

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July 22, 2013

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Lasagna

Pasta carbonara, pizza Margherita, and a fresh panzanella salad.  I love classic Italian dishes, but sometimes I like to experiment.  I had to make a vegetarian dish for a dinner with friends, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to take a new look at lasagna, traditionally interweaving layers of pasta, ricotta, ragù, béchamel, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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But let’s take a step back. Many of you might be remembering that dire lasagna from church potlucks – soggy pasta and waterlogged ground beef.  I recall separating the pasta and pulling out clumps of tacky ricotta, while trying to remove the cracked fluted edges of noodle from the top layer.  Please, try not to associate frozen lasagna with a freshly made version – it’s not even comparable.

The key to this lasagna is the pasta, which lends a wonderful texture and coarseness to the dish.  Its chewy, dense consistency reminds me of traditional Italian pastas, perfectly al dente with a slight bite.  What I love about this dish is it’s combination textures from creamy ricotta, silky butternut squash, and an earthiness from the crimini mushrooms.  The luscious combination of ingredients can stand up to one another, and among all the flavors I can still pick out subtle hints of nutty parmesan.

This recipe is inspired by one I found in an old copy of Bon Appétit.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup salted butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, diced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 14-ounce carton vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped and divided
  • 4 tablespoons fresh sage, sliced and divided
  • 3 15-ounce containers whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese, grated and divided
  • 2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated and divided
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 2 9-ounce package lasagna noodles.  (My favorite brand is Rustichella d’Abruzzo Lasagne all’uovo These noodles need to be boiled before being layered into your lasagna.  The original recipe calls for no cook noodles if you want to take out a step)

Method

  1. Melt butter into a large skillet over medium-high heat.  I recommend using a skillet with high sides so you can use one pan for all your steps – heads up you’ll need to simmer your squash and noodles in vegetable broth so pick a larger pan than you might think.
  2. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 8 minutes and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Increase heat to high; add mushrooms and cook until tender, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and then transfer the mushroom mixture to a bowl and set aside until you’re ready to assemble the pasta.
  5. In the same skillet, add squash, broth, 3 tablespoons thyme, and 3 tablespoons sage. Cover and simmer over medium heat until squash is just tender, about 6 minutes. Uncover and cook until squash is very soft but still retains shape, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Skim the squash from the skillet and set aside.  Don’t worry if it starts to fall apart a little, and discard the thyme and sage.  Keep any vegetable broth left over in the pan.
  7. Add 4 cups of water to the broth and bring to a low boil for your pasta sheets.
  8. While your broth comes to a boil, mix ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, spring onion, and remaining 1 tablespoon thyme and 1 tablespoon sage in large bowl.
  9. Mix in eggs and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  10. Once your broth is at a low boil, place pasta in broth and let simmer for 3 min.  Once slightly softened, you can turn off the heat and begin to assemble your lasagna.
  11. Brush 13x9x2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with oil. Spread 1 cup ricotta mixture over bottom. Arrange 3 – 4 noodles on top (I usually cut a few so I can cover the entire dish). Spread 13/4 cups ricotta mixture over noodles. Arrange 1 1/3 cups squash mixture over. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mushrooms and 1 cup mozzarella. Top with 3 noodles, then 1 3/4 cups ricotta mixture, half of remaining squash, 1/2 cup mushrooms, and remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Repeat with noodles, 1 3/4 cups ricotta mixture, remaining squash, and remaining mushrooms. Top with 3 noodles. Spread remaining ricotta mixture over; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.
  12. Cover with oiled foil.
  13. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake lasagna, covered, 35 minutes. Uncover; bake until heated through, about 25 minutes longer.
  14. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
  15. Serve with a fresh arugula salad!
October 15, 2012

Rosemary Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato basil soup paired with a stringy mozzarella grilled cheese sandwich is a classic.  It’s been copied and modified a million times over and I still think the traditional rosemary scented soup and crunchy buttered sandwich makes any Tuesday night a little more special.

Soup should really be considered it’s own food group.  I pride myself in being the sole person to order a warm tortilla soup in the middle of Houston summer, or chilled cucumber-melon bisque when it’s 20 below.  (I happened to have both melon bisque and puréed corn chowder with chili oil at my wedding.)  There’s something about soup I find utterly addicting.  The combination of flavors, the variety of textures, and most importantly the crunchy garlic croutons, crispy bacon, or fresh herbs that get delicately placed on top and slowly sink into the silky, savory bisque.

The roasted, sweet tomatoes combined with the tangy bite of rosemary sourdough bread soothes the soul and takes the edge off a brisk day.  The bread gives this soup a thick texture with a mouthy richness I often find missing in perfectly velvety broths.  Aromatic sweet basil with hints of mint and pepper brighten the flavor and offer you a taste of summer just when you think fall has taken over.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes, 28oz
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. salted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • 4 large slices of sourdough rosemary bread
  • 3/4 cup light whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • Freshly sliced mozzarella cheese for topping
  • Basil for garnish

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
  2. In a heavy bottomed stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Add butter and red pepper flakes and sauté for 10 minutes on medium heat.  Onions should become transparent but should not brown.
  4. Add stewed tomatoes, canned tomatoes (including juice), salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a large saucepan on medium heat.
  5. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Roughly tear the bread into smaller pieces and add to the pot.  I break up the bread so it’s easier to spoon out and purée.
  7. Next you’ll puree the soup in small batches, so I usually remove it from the heat and let it cool a little before I begin this process.  The soup should still have texture and not be completely smooth.  The soup will not be nearly as enjoyable if it’s perfectly silky in texture.
  8. Carefully puree, along with the basil leaves in small batches. You can use a blender, food processor, or better yet, one of those handy hand-held food blenders, right in the pot.  If you use a blender BE CAREFUL!  The heat will force the top off the blender and you’ll be cleaning soup off your ceiling for weeks, or you’ll burn your hands so just fill it up half way and pulse it gently.
  9. Return to saucepan and add cream and milk, while stirring, over low heat.
  10. Garnish with basil leaves, mozzarella cheese and serve with a warm slice of sourdough bread.

For a healthier version, leave out the butter and replace the cream with non-fat milk.  Enjoy!

July 11, 2012

Capellini with Arrabbiata Sauce and Grilled Chicken Breast

I can’t bring myself to buy jarred pasta sauce when it takes less than 10 minutes to make it from scratch.  It just doesn’t compare to the bright flavors of freshly made pasta sauce – and it’s not just better tasting it also better for you.

The simplest, and most authentic marinara is a quick sauce, seasoned only with onion, garlic, pepper, and, if you like, basil or oregano. The pieces of tomato are left chunky, and the texture of the finished sauce is fairly loose.  It’s that easy. Toss with your favorite pasta and you’re weeknight meal is a quick trip to Italy!  Once you have this base, with just a few adjustments, you can make a range of sauces from a few simple ingredients.

Today we’re making Capellini with arrabiata sauce.  This dish’s name – arrabbiata – comes from the Italian word for “angry” because of the spicy tomato and red pepper.  The sweet tomatoes balance the heat from the peppers and will awaken any palate.  The salty, charred flavor from the grilled chicken offsets the heat and adds an element of texture to this luscious bowl of pasta.  No need for take out tonight, make a large bowl of pasta for your family and I promise you’ll go to bed with full bellies and a full wallet. 

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breast
  • 1 packet Capellini pasta (angel hair)
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, 8 oz.
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes, 16 oz.
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. Italian Seasoning
  • 2 tbsp. red-hot chili pepper (use more or less depending on the level of heat desired)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tbsp. Fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • Handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped

Chicken seasoning

  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Method

  1. Place large pot of water on stove to boil for the pasta.  Once it boils lower it to a simmer until everything else is ready.  The pasta only takes 4 minutes to cook so it’s the last thing you want to do, but you want to have the water ready to go.
  2. Place skillet on medium heat and add olive oil.
  3. Saute onion, garlic, salt and pepper for about 5 minutes.  You want the onions to turn opaque; you don’t want them to brown.
  4. Add diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir in Italian seasoning and red-hot chili peppers and return to a low simmer.
  5. Carefully spoon out about half the mixture and place it in a food processor.  You can also use a blender but be careful and hold the lid down tightly since the heat will want to push it up.
  6. Blend half the sauce and add it back into the skillet.  This will add richness to the sauce while still keeping some texture.
  7. Add Parmigiano-Reggiano and lower heat to low.  Now it’s chicken time!
  8. Turn grill on medium~high (350 degrees)
  9. Mix chicken spices in a small bowl and sprinkle on top and bottom of chicken breast
  10. Spray hot grill with PAM and place chicken over direct heat.
  11. Close lid and cook for approx. 6 minutes, then flip and cook another 6 minutes with the lid closed.  Chicken’s done at 165 deg. There is no rare or med rare for chicken. You have to cook it done every time! Try not to prick the breast much, it will make the juices run out and cause it to be dry.
  12. Remove chicken from grill and let it rest while you cook the pasta.  Don’t slice immediately; wait until you’re ready to serve.
  13. Return water to a boil, salt water (1 tbsp. salt) and add pasta.
  14. Stir well and let boil for 4 minutes.  Start the 4 minutes as soon as you drop in the pasta.
  15. While pasta cooks, add parsley and basil to the sauce.
  16. Drain well and reserve a cup of pasta water to add to the sauce.  This thin pasta is very delicate and will turn to mush if you over cook it.
  17. Add drained pasta directly into sauce and stir.  Add some of the pasta water if needed; it will help loosen the sauce if it gets too thick.
  18. Fill a large bowl with a healthy serving of pasta and top with sliced chicken breast.

Diverti!

April 9, 2012

Dry Rubbed Seared Salmon

It’s officially springtime, and with Easter passing I’m beginning to go through my lighter dishes to go with the change of seasons.  I get giddy thinking about fresh grilled corn on the cob, summer salads full of fresh veggies, pears, apples and toasted nuts, and most of all the selection of fresh fish in the local market.  One of my all time favorites is salmon, however, one badly cooked salmon can turn me off for months, so I have to choose wisely when I dine out.  The dry, chalky taste of overcooked salmon is one of the most devastating things you can be met with at the dinner table.  Similar to a burnt cookie, overcooked pasta, or a hockey puck steak, overcooked salmon is a major offense in my book.  But when it’s done well, you’ll want to have it every day of the week.  The beauty of salmon is that it can pick up a variety of flavors, teriyaki, garlic, white wine and butter, and its meaty texture lends itself to a variety of cooking methods.  I don’t recommend cooking Dover sole on the BBQ, but a salmon can stand up to this summer time classic.

The delicate crispy, golden crust that forms on the outside is a perfect contrast to the juicy, meaty flesh.  It’s a symbol of summer and health, and gets you on the track to looking stunning in your new summer swimsuit.

Perfect pan-seared salmon demands on a very hot pan. Use a heavy cast-iron skillet, which heats evenly. Warm the pan before you add the oil – either extra light virgin olive oil or vegetable oil; this trick allows the pan to get it really hot without burning the oil. A preheated pan also requires less oil.  Once you master this method you’ll be able to whip up a gourmet dinner in less than 10 minutes – golden brown outside and tender inside.   I like to serve salmon with a fresh mixed green salad with a tangy vinaigrette, a refreshing contrast to the rich, yet delicate fish.

Ingredients

  • 2 6 oz. salmon fillets (skin on) one per person
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, coarse grind
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 2 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

Method

  1. In a small bowl, mix garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, seal, pepper, lemon pepper, and ginger.
  2. Brush the salmon with olive oil on all sides.
  3. Take the spice mixture and generously coat both sides of the salmon.
  4. Set a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. When a drop of water skitters on the surface, add the oil.
  5. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly and heat until the oil is almost smoking, about 30 seconds.
  6. Place the salmon skin side up in the cast iron skillet.
  7. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes.
  8. Turn the salmon and cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes on the other side.
  9. Then lower heat to medium, place lid over skillet to trap heat and finish cooking an additional 2-3 minutes.
  10. With a minute to go, add a tbsp. of butter and let is melt in the pan, spoon it over the top of the salmon right before you turn off the heat.
  11. To check if the salmon in ready, stick a thin knife in the thickest part and gently look at the color inside.  It should be juicy and barely turning opaque.  If you over cook the fish it will be extremely dry and very white in color.
  12. When salmon is cooked enough to eat safely it will lose its translucency and become opaque. It should also flake easily when tested with a fork.
  13. Serve with a fresh salad and enjoy your very healthy yet tasty dinner!

March 13, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash and Ginger Carrots

Piping hot out of the oven, or room temperature on a sizzling summer day, roasted veggies serve as a perfect side dish to just about anything.  The variety of flavors you can unearth from diverse spices and oils allow you to adapt your dish to go perfectly with a roast chicken, seared salmon, or simply grilled steak.

The irresistible crunchy, caramelized edges, warm tender center, and rustic quality remind me of Italy.  There’s a time and place for perfectly cut vegetables, but it’s not in my kitchen.  The more time I can spend enjoying the food and less time prepping the better, especially on a busy weeknight. No need to stress yourself over perfect knife cuts – I know chefs everywhere are cringing over that statement – but honestly, as long as they’re all about the same size they will cook evenly and that’s all you need.

The fresh, clean tang of ginger contrasted with the sweetness of the carrots help brighten their natural flavor.  Garlic slowly warmed in the oven with a coating of healthy olive oil; mixed with the deep, creamy earthiness of butternut squash is a blissful combination.  The two together were simply flawless, and set side by side with a grilled steak and you’ll feel like you’re in paradise (or an Italian vacation in the middle of Tuscany).

Garlicky Butternut Squash

Ingredients

  • 2 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. black truffle infused olive oil
  • 1 tsp. coarse ground salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, coarse ground
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Wash and peel squash, and cut it into bite size squares.
  3. Place squash in a glass baking dish and drizzle with extra light olive oil.  Extra light olive oil has a higher burning temperature so I find it better for roasting.  Due to valuable antioxidants and ability to help lower total cholesterol, I always use extra light olive oil as a substitute for butter, shortening and other vegetable oils.
  4. Sprinkle with garlic, salt, ground black pepper and crushed red pepper and mix with a spoon until the squash is evenly coated with oil and seasoning.
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins
  6. After 30 mins, remove foil and continue baking for 10 minutes
  7. Just before removing he dish from the oven, turn the broiler on high for a few minutes
  8. Watch the oven, as the broiler will be hot and will burn the squash if left unattended.  It goes quickly, all you’ll need is 2-3 mins.  Once the butternut squash gets a slight golden color to the edges remove from oven and let cool for 5 mins before serving.

Ginger Carrots

Ingredients

  • 8 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 tsp. course ground salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, course ground
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 chicken bullion cube

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Place all the squash in a glass baking dish and drizzle with extra light olive oil.  Extra light olive oil has a higher burning temperature so I find it better for roasting.  Due to valuable antioxidants and ability to help lower total cholesterol, I always use extra light olive oil as a substitute for butter, shortening and other vegetable oils.
  3. Sprinkle with garlic, salt and ground pepper and mix with a spoon until the squash is evenly coated with oil and seasoning.
  4. Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins
  5. After 30 mins, remove foil and continue baking for 10 minutes
  6. Just before removing he dish from the oven, turn the broiler on high for a few minutes
  7. Watch the oven, as the broiler will be hot and will burn the squash if left unattended.  It goes quickly, all you’ll need is 2-3 mins.  Once the butternut squash gets a slight golden color to the edges remove from oven and let cool for 5 mins before serving.

March 3, 2012

Chinese Meatballs with Udon Noodles

I didn’t grow up eating meatballs; they were very foreign to me.  I was raised on Italian Bolognese, shepherds pie, and bacon sandwiches.  Yes, bacon sandwiches are just as they sound, toasted bread, ketchup, and bacon.  I simple, peasant style dish originating in the UK, and often called the “hangover cure”.   But that isn’t on today’s menu.  Today we’ll be having a much healthier meal, but just as satisfying.    OK, back to the meatballs.

My idea of meatballs was a dense, dry rock of unseasoned meat, or if you want to get even classier, those artificially tasking Chef Boyardee meatballs swimming in a thin copper red sauce – a far cry from a basic tomato sauce.  I can’t remember where or when this happened, but I eventually got over my fear.  The variety of flavor combination you can get from one simple dish never leaves you bored.  Italian, Swedish, Irish, Spanish… each culture has their own take and I urge you to try them all, and make some of your own.  Now you don’t hear of a “Chinese meatball” very often, but why not?  I incorporated all the same flavors you get in a stir fry and toss it with some Japanese udon noodles and you have a perfect fusion of flavors and textures.

Once you pop these in the oven and the aroma will envelope your kitchen.  And on those stressful days where you want the comforting flavors on Chinese takeout, you can spare the menu and the cost and whip this up in under 30 mins and you can rest easy you fed yourself a well-balanced meal.   A Rachel Ray recipe I found a few years ago inspired this dish.  The original is delicious but I wanted to switch a few things up and make it easier to cook on a school night. The original recipe can be found at the following link.  Chinese Spaghetti and Meatballs by Rachel Ray

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 3 scallions finely chopped
  • 1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 tablespoons Tamari (dark soy sauce)
  • 2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, 1 tbsp for the meatballs and 1 for the noodles, available on the Asian foods aisle of market
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (you’ll have plenty of salt from the soy sauce)
  • 1 pound udon noodles, you can find them on the Asian foods aisle or substitute with spaghetti
  • 2 beef bullion cubes
  • 2 tablespoons extra light olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, available on the Asian foods aisle of market
  • 1 zucchini, julienned
  • 1 yellow zucchini squash, julienned
  • 1 scallion, finely sliced for garnish
  • 3 tbsp. cilantro, roughly chopped for garnish

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Place a large pot of water with bullion cubes on to boil for the noodles. The bullion helps flavor the noodles without overpowering your palate with soy sauce.  When it comes to a boil.  Lower it to a simmer until you put the meatballs in the oven, then it’s time to bring it back up to a boil and cook your udon noodles, don’t worry, I’ll let you know when to come back to these.
  3. Place the pork in a mixing bowl along with an egg, five-spice powder, scallions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, salt, pepper, and panko breadcrumbs.
  4. Mix gently but thoroughly with your hands.  If you use a spoon you will likely over mix the meat and you’ll end up with tough, dry meatballs.
  5. Form 1 1/2-inch balls and place on a baking sheet.
  6. Brush the meatball with extra light olive oil and roast for 15 mins.
  7. Now that the meatballs are in, bring your water back up to a boil.
  8. Follow the directions on the noodle package.
  9. While the noodles and meatballs cook, julienne the squash and zucchini and set aside for garnish.  Roughly chop a good handful of cilantro and thinly slice 2 scallions for your garnish.
  10. When your noodles are ready, drain and return to pan.
  11. Toss noodles in 2 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. sesame seed oil.
  12. When the meatballs are ready, remove from oven and assemble your dinner.
  13. Begin by placing noodles at the bottom of your bowl.  Add meatballs and slices of zucchini.
  14. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, scallions and cilantro.
  15. Enjoy!

February 12, 2012

Flip’s Spiced Chicken Sausage Soup

I came back from a business trip with a box of tissues, cough drops, and a sore throat that wouldn’t pass.  By day 4 I developed a hacking cough so I eventually gave in and went to the doctor.  Well, there I was, 2 ear infections and bronchitis and my other half had just left for New Zealand for 2 weeks.  I was miserable.  After a hot shower and a little dusting off, I decided to end my pity party and headed to the store for some key ingredients.

With all my congestion I wasn’t able to taste anything.  I know, my worst nightmare.  So, the traditional chicken noodle soup was going to need a little kick.  I made a twist on the original with a little heat and some Italian sausage.  It’s as if gumbo and chicken noodle soup had a child.  On day 1 I wasn’t really able to taste it, but it did have a great combination of textures from soft vegetables and tender meatballs swimming in a warm, silky broth.  I figured I’d let it stew overnight before adjusting the spice, in hopes my taste buds would make a quick recovery.  Thanks to some antibiotics, prescription strength cough syrup and decongestants, I woke the next morning to the fragrant bouquet of rosemary and Italian sausage seeping through the house.  Ok, I’ll admit it, I had it for breakfast.  I just couldn’t resist!!  The hint of spice and cumin, mixed with the expected aroma of thyme, rosemary and soft tender chicken was a welcome home.  By the end of day 2 I feel like a new person.  It has everything I needed in one bowl to fight back, who can ask for more than that?

I packed up my weeks worth of lunches, and as long as I stop sneaking into the refrigerator for another bowl it should last me until Tuesday.

Ingredients

Stock

  • 4lb. raw chicken
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. peppercorns
  • 1 bullion cube
  • 1 gallon cold water (enough to cover the chicken and all the contents)

Soup

  • Homemade stock (above)
  • Chicken from stock, shredded
  • 2 tsp. cayenne
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 handfuls baby potatoes, quartered
  • 5 Italian sausages, casing removed
  • 1 bullion cube
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

Method

  1. Wash raw chicken with cold water and remove giblets
  2. Place in large stockpot and add onion, celery, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, thyme, rosemary, salt, peppercorns, and bullion cube.  Don’t worry about chopping anything nicely, this is just to flavor the stock and it will all be strained out when the stock is ready.
  3. Fill pot with water until chicken and all contents are fully covered
  4. Place on stove on high and bring to a boil
  5. Once boiling, bring heat to low and simmer for 2-2½  hours.  The longer to simmer the better the flavor.  You can always make the stock the night before and let it sit overnight in the fridge.  Then you can strain it in the morning and you’re ready to make your soup.
  6. Remove chicken and strain stock
  7. Place stock back on stove and turn off heat.  Let sit for 10 minutes and then skim some of the extra oil off the top.  No need to go crazy, just skim some of the extra.
  8. Let the chicken cool about 15 minutes. Carefully remove and discard skin and bones and shred chicken with a fork.
  9. Sprinkle shredded chicken with cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper.  Mix spices into chicken and return to stockpot.
  10. In a  sauté pan, cook onions and garlic in a tbsp. of olive oil.  Sauté on medium~high until slightly golden (about 7 mins).
  11. Add onions and garlic to stock along with celery, carrots, and potatoes.
  12. Use the same sauté pan for the sausage.  Remove sausage from casing and drop small bite size balls into pan and cook until slightly golden.
  13. Remove sausage from heat and add directly into stock.
  14. Add bullion cube and tomato paste, stir and let simmer.
  15. Let soup simmer on medium~low for 1 hour, taste and add salt/pepper if necessary.
  16. Serve and sprinkle with cilantro and Parmesan cheese.

I ran out of Parmesan so decided to try it with a little French feta crumbled on top.  Let me say, it’s worth trying!  The salty bite was perfectly balanced with the warm spice of the soup.

December 2, 2011

Dijon Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Onion Relish

The secret ingredient in this recipe comes from my mom.  Growing up she would make this for “family dinner” night and inevitably it would result in no leftovers and everyone asking for more.  Pork tenderloin was always one of my favorite dishes until I left home and had it in several restaurants and prepared by others not known as my mom.  Dry, bland, tough and disappointing.  It was never the same.

So, there was only one thing to do… I replicated my mom’s method and added a few of my own touches, and it’s now become a staple in my home.  Every time I make it the smells and flavors bring me back home to Sunday night dinners with my family.  It was our one night a week we would have a “proper” dinner, which my mom defined as, one, being in the “nice room”, two, using cloth napkins, and three, using double the plates (half of which didn’t go in the dishwasher).  I know because I was the designated plate dryer as my dad dunked them in scalding hot water and pass them to me with bright red fingers.  I dedicate this post to my family, and hope that it becomes a tradition in your home too.

Ingredients

  • Pork tenderloin
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. Dijon mustard

Topping

  • 1 yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. hot ground mustard (Colman’s British hot mustard powder)
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • Sprinkle of salt (to taste)
  • Sprinkle of freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Splash of water or stock (if needed)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. fig jam

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Heat a large heavy bottom pan on stove on medium/high.  Add mustard seeds and fennel and tilt the pan so the oil lightly covers the bottom of the pan and all the spices
  3. While the oil heats up, sprinkle the pork tenderloin with salt, pepper and rosemary. Rub the spices into the meat so they don’t fall off when you drop it in the pan, it really helps flavor the tenderloin. This is your only time to season it, so if you don’t add it now it will be too late.
  4. Place tenderloin in hot pan and sear on all sides.  The mustard seeds and fennel will stick to the sides of the pork as it sears.
  5. Sear the pork, approximately 3 minutes per  side, and remove from pan.  Set in a roasting pan on a wire rack.
  6. Let it cool for a few minutes, and then spread a thick layer of Dijon mustard over the entire tenderloin.  You might need more than 3 tbsp. Just keep spreading it on so you cover the top.
  7. Place in oven and cook for 35-40 minutes
  8. While the meat cooks it’s time to make the topping!
  9. In the same skillet used to brown the meat, add sliced onions, garlic, salt and pepper and cook on medium/low until soft and translucent.  You may need to add a little more oil to avoid burning. 
  10. Add ground mustard, mustard seed, Worcestershire and a splash of water and continue to cook down for 10 minutes on low heat.
  11. You want to caramelize the onions, which is a slow and delicate process so be patient and let them cook down at a low heat.
  12. Add jam and butter and stir well.  Once it’s ready, cover leave on low heat.
  13. Check the pork with a meat thermometer.  Pork should reach 145°F
  14. If it’s under put it back in for 10-15 minutes and check again.  It depends on the thickness of the tenderloin, so it will vary every time.
  15. Once the meat has reached the right temperature remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing so the meat juices have time to redistribute.  If you cut it right away all the juice will run out of the meat and give you a very dry piece of tenderloin.
  16. Slice pork and top with sweet onion sauce

This pork is flavorful enough to eat on it’s own, or add a topping, or just a simple spoonful of applesauce.  The spicy mustard keeps the pork moist and adds the perfect amount of heat to the delicate tenderloin.

Below is an alternate topping my loving boyfriend made for the following evening.  The dates disintegrated in the warm sauce resulting in a sweet jam like marmalade.

Alternate Topping

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 jalapenos, diced
  • 6 dates, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • Sprinkle of salt (to taste)
  • Sprinkle of freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. butter

November 10, 2011

Red Thai Curry

There’s a multitude of Thai restaurants in a 2-block radius of my office and yet I still can’t find one that makes me want to return.  I find myself suffering through waterlogged, tasteless, or blistering hot curry at lunch, with the most random ingredients from string beans to rhubarb, and my ultimate favorite…. beets?!?  I’m all for experimentation, but these vegetables just don’t belong in a traditional Thai curry.  Let’s face it, if it’s good don’t mess with it.  What happened to good old-fashioned Thai curry with the sweetness of coconut and the balancing heat of red chili and ginger?  As a result, I had to take matters into my own hands.

It may seem like a long list of ingredients, but it’s one of those dishes you can make in one pot, so the clean up is easy, and the stove does all the work.  I like to make it on a Sunday and then have it for dinner Monday night.  It’s always better the second day as the spices have a chance to develop, so now I just plan it out that way knowing the following night I’ll be in Thai curry heaven.  In the winter I make it with heartier root vegetables, and in the summer I lighten it up with a thinner sauce and readily available summer veg.  The one here is good  year round, it’s harmonious blend of spicy, sweet, and sour is a satisfying end to any day, the only thing missing is a fresh bowl of steaming rice.

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. red curry paste
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Sauce

  • 1 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp. ginger, finely diced
  • 6 Thai chili peppers. Finely dices seeds removed (leave the seeds in if you like it very spicy)
  • 3 tbsp. red curry paste
  • 3 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 small head cauliflower, broken into bite size pieces
  • 1 handful cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. semolina flour (for thickening)
  • Bunch of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (for garnish)
  • Small handful on unsalted peanuts (for garnish)

Method

  1. Heat a large heavy bottomed pot on the stove on medium/high
  2. Add oil, turmeric, cumin, mustard seed, and red pepper flakes and cook the spices in the hot pan for 1-2 minutes until the aroma of fresh spice fills your kitchen
  3. Add red curry paste and stir until it dissolves in the hot oil
  4. Salt and pepper the sliced chicken and drop into the hot pan,  Sear on all sides, 6-8 minutes
  5. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside for later, no need to wipe out or rinse the pan, it’s good to go
  6. Add a little more oil (1-2 tbsp.) and add onion, garlic and ginger to pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  7. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes
  8. Add red curry paste, turmeric, cumin, coriander, mustard seed, and red pepper flakes and coat the onions with the spices until they’re speckled with red and orange.
  9. Add Thai chili peppers and continue to cook on medium for another 5 minutes until onions are translucent
  10. Pour in 2 cans of coconut milk, whole milk, bay leaves, lemongrass and tomato paste.  Stir well and bring to a low simmer.
  11. Add the chicken back in along with all the juices that accumulated on the plate (that’s where a lot of the flavor is!).
  12. Add chopped carrots, cauliflower and whole tomatoes, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  13. Add semolina flour to thicken the sauce, I usually start with 2 tbsp. and add a little more later if needed.  It will take a minute to thicken so wait about 5 minutes before adding more.  Semolina flour is a good alternative to cornstarch and is very fine so it doesn’t result in a grainy texture.
  14. Poke the carrots with a fork to make sure they’re tender; once they are you’re ready to go!
  15. Serve with steamed rice and a garnish of cilantro and peanuts.  The cilantro add a nice freshness and the peanuts add to the nutty flavor of the sauce and much needed crunch alongside the tender vegetables and moist chicken.
  16. Don’t forget to remove the lemongrass stick before serving!

You can easily make this a vegetarian dish, just skip the chicken and add whatever you like, Chinese eggplant, potatoes, and acorn squash are some of my favorites.  I also like it with brown rice, as the chewy texture soaks up all the sauce and creates a curry stew at the bottom of your bowl!

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