Posts tagged ‘spice’

October 30, 2013

Burger Bash NYCWFF 2013

A juicy, medium rare Pat LeFrieda blend burger with caramelized onions, toasted sourdough bread, and finished with a creamy béchamel and emmental cheese.  This was both my first and last taste at this years Burger Bash, and it wasn’t because it was the only burger I tried.  As I maneuvered my way from station to station I took in the view of the Hudson River and New York’s Upper West side.  Pier 92 was a stunning location to house some of the country’s best chef’s burger creations.  About half way through the event I think I went through a burger haze/coma, but it didn’t stop me from making the necessary rounds.

I’ve always enjoyed a very traditional burger.  Load it up with garden fresh tomato, crisp greens and a healthy spread of ketchup and I’m in burger heaven.  I can see the BBQ heating up by the lawn while my dad blares Annie Lenox out of the loud-speaker and maneuvers his way around the pool in an awkward, dance like fashion.  Warm days of summer are crowded with memories of long  days swimming and tennis followed by evenings by the pool chowing down on burgers and homemade fries.  Harold Moore, chef and owner of Commerce Restaurant in New York City’s Greenwich Village, captured these summer moments with his American burger.  To me, a traditional American burger is all about the meat, and the toppings are merely there for decoration.  Tasty decoration, but decoration nonetheless.  If the meat isn’t good then forget the rest of it, you can add as much bacon as you like it’s not going to help.  Harold didn’t mess with tradition; he delivered a perfect burger, grilled to a moist medium rare with fresh toppings found at your local farmers market.  On first glace you might pass this one up – but let me remind you that the classics and still around for a reason.

Next on my hit list was Ai Firoi’s White Label burger by PJ Calapa.  Fresh, spicy pickles, American cheese and bacon marmalade with a side of crispy cacio e pepe tater tots. The bacon marmalade added a delicate smokiness and hint of sweetness, while the pickles added tang and freshness.  Let’s just say I was sold at bacon marmalade and I also have a soft spot for tater tots… I may be guilty of still making them on Saturday mornings when no ones home and inevitably end up being both my breakfast and lunch.

Burger Bash Ai Fiori White Label burger

My second helping of tater tots came courtesy of Cast Iron’s executive chef Franklin Becker.  Before I tell you what’s in this burger, I must ask that you try to hold off judgment.  Don’t immediately dismiss this… are you ready?  Cheeze whiz.  Yes, I said it, cheese whiz.  But this is not your grocery store, neon-yellow cheese pump you had in your college dorm.  This is cheese whiz on CRACK.  Joe Wildmer’s Wisco cheese whiz burger with jalapeño pickles, Nueske bacon and special sauce was a balanced combination of charred beef, buttery cheese and smoky bacon.  If that wasn’t enough, the tater tots were also lucky enough to get a stream of melty goodness.  I never thought I would crave cheese whiz in my adult years but this burger took it to a whole other level, thank you Chef Becker.

Burger Bash Cast Iron The Wisco Bacon Burger

My next victim was a creation from Shane Lyons, executive chef at Distilled, who opted for poblano relish and crispy fried onions on his beef burger.  Fried onions you say? Sign me up! Lyons was able to create a seamless combination of heat and charred beefy flavor; the sour, brine of the pickle cut the richness of the burger and offered up a “healthy snack” among all the French fries and potato chips.  In case the burger wasn’t enough, it was topped with a crispy tater tot rectangle.  I was beginning to see a trend with tater tots, not just your average Sonic version (while I do love those too) but unique versions with truffle oil, sweet potato, corn and cheese toppings.

Burger Bash Distilled Burger 2

But the highlight of the night was the French Onion Soup Burger concepted and presented by Le Rivage’s executive chef and owner, Paul Denamiel.  I have a warm space in my heart for creamy, rich French onion soup – its transcendent aroma engulfs you as you dive into the deeply dark and flavorful broth. Toasted baguette and bubbly cheese on top of the caramelized onions are the ultimate in flavor. While I never imagined it would translate into anything more that a beautiful soup, Chef Paul was able to bridge two seemly unconnected dishes into something extremely unique.  The sweet caramelized onion flavor perfumed the burger, while the toasted English muffin offered a contrasting, chewy texture.  I couldn’t get enough, which is why I ended up having three servings throughout the night.  Le Rivage’s burger took home the Judge’s choice award for best burger, a clear winner against some very honorable competitors.

French Onion Soup Burger concepted and presented by Le Rivage’s executive chef and owner, Paul Denamiel

A week later I’m still in recovery mode.  It was an unforgettable night with great food and even better company.  With over 30 outstanding burgers on the menu I’m looking forward to next years Burger Bash.  Who’s coming with me?

October 5, 2013

Grains of Paradise and Cayenne Oatmeal Cookies

Living in Houston I’ve learned that Texans LOVE spicy, hot food.  They serve everything with a side of Tabasco or hot salsa that makes your forehead sweat, and it’s already hot enough without the spicy food.  Eggs, steak, salads, burgers… everything is bursting with heat.  I spent my first few months in Houston downing gallons of milk every time I attempted to conquer the red salsa at our local Mexican restaurant.  Sadly, I never succeeded.  But in an effort to enbrace my new home I’ve tried to incorporate some spice into my classic recipes to satisfy my friends cravings.

Grains of Paradise and Cayenne Oatmeal Cookies

The thing I like about these cookies is that they don’t immediately smack you in the face with heat, it gradually hits at the end and lingers ever so slightly.  I didn’t want to mess with a classic too much, but I do think this takes a traditional oatmeal cookie to a more grown up level.  The cranberries add to the chewy texture of the oats and give it an added sweetness needed with the earthy spices. I purposely left out cinnamon, usually a staple in oatmeal cookies, as I didn’t want it to mask the other spices. 

The secret ingredient in these cookies is grains of paradise, a spice native to West Africa. I crushed the grains with my mortar and pestle which released the most heavenly aroma — a combination of black pepper, cardamom, coriander and citrus with a lingering scent of something floral and woodsy.  If you crack one between your teeth, the flavor follows in much the same order as the aroma.  If you only get one thing from this recipe I hope it’s an introduction to this wonderful spice.  The floral, peppery flavor is going to make a wonderful addition to just about all your favorite foods.  Your grilled steaks, fish, vegetables and potatoes will thank you.

If you’re looking for something a little more special, pop two cookies in the oven at 350 for a few minutes and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have a perfect ice cream sandwich. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you are adventurous)
  • 1 tsp. grains of paradise
  • 1 tsp.  baking soda
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped and toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups traditional Quaker Oats (not quick cook)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F
  2. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. This helps the cookies crisp by being closer to the heat source or at the very top where the heat accumulates.
  3. Place nuts in a small pan and toast on medium heat for 5-7 minutes.  As soon as they become fragrant take them off the heat and space them on the side to cool.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cayenne, grains of paradise and salt thoroughly and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, beat butter, white and brown sugar, and vanilla until the mixture changes color and becomes a smooth, pale white… this is what you want so you have light, fluffy cookies.
  6. Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
  7. Add oats, pecans and cranberries and stir until mixed well.
  8. Scoop dough on to ungreased cookie sheets, I use a mini ice cream scoop to make it easier.  I also spray the spoon with pam so the dough doesn’t stick.
  9. Bake for 8-10 more minutes until the cookies are golden brown
  10. Let the cookies cool on pan for 1 minute before placing on wire rack.
  11. Enjoy!

 

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!

October 10, 2012

Black Pepper Cranberry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

I have an influx of oatmeal in my pantry…  every time I go to the store I seem to think I’m out so I buy more.  And of course when I get home I realize I have pounds of it!  (I’ve had the same experience with foil and butter…. )  So I needed to find some ways to get through it apart from my morning breakfast.

Black pepper oatmeal cookies with cranberries and walnuts

Thankfully, oatmeal can be used for a variety of healthy and tasty treats… granola and cookies being two of my favorites.  The change of seasons also makes me warm up to those heartier breakfasts and the cold harsh winter in Houston.  OK, harsh is probably overdoing it but we did get snow my first winter in Houston!  After a few not-so-subtle hints from my husband I finally had a free evening to bake up some goodies.

Home-baked cookies seem to be the perfect vehicle for little warm nuggets of heavenly pecan, walnut and macadamia.  It’s the perfect amount of crunch to balance the chewy exterior, and helps level out the sugary sweetness of plain cookies.  These are buttery, chewy and indulgent, and the hints of black pepper and nutmeg give this traditional recipe an interesting twist.  The tart cranberries contrast well with the black pepper and allow both flavors to spark while not overpowering one another.  You’ll friends will know they’re different, but they won’t know why…

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted (1½ sticks)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups traditional Quaker Oats (not quick cook)
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts (or your favorite nut)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Method

  1. Remove butter from fridge and let warm to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Place chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8-10 mins.  When you kitchen smells like heaven they’re ready.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool on the side.
  5. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Your cookies turn out so much better with parchment paper. I don’t know why but it works and then there is less to clean up!
  6. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and black pepper; set aside.
  7. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until it becomes a light cream color and fluffy in texture.  The color should significantly change from when you start, so just turn up that mixer and let it go!
  8. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk for 2-3 minutes until light and creamy.
  9. Mix in the flour mixture until just blended.
  10. Add the oats, walnuts and cranberries and mix with a wooden spoon. Mix until just blended.
  11. Use a tablespoon and scoop out small balls of dough onto parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes. Do not over bake. The edges should turn very light brown, which is sometimes hard to see in the oven light, so I think I over baked these the first few times I made them.  The centers should still be slightly soft.
  12. Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack (I usually try to eat one right off the tray and always burn myself… but it’s so worth it!
  13. Repeat and 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!

February 28, 2012

Chocolate Chip Nutmeg Cookies (and extra crispy coffee chocolate chip for crunch lovers)

Soft or crispy?  It’s the never-ending debate for all cookie enthusiasts.  I personally go for a soft center with slightly crisp edges, but let’s tell the truth here… any cookie is hard to resist.  Cookies bring you back to your childhood, can turn around a stressful afternoon, and usually come along with friends, family and laughter.  I wouldn’t encourage eating a whole batch, but share them with your friends after a BBQ or a day at the beach and you’ll be guaranteed a good end to your meal.

I wanted to make a twist o the traditional chocolate chip cookie.  I know, why change such a perfect thing, but I always like to try something new.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.  (I tried adding lemon zest into a back to oatmeal cookies to give it a zesty flavor and they came out tasting like a cookie coated in pledge.  Fail.  This one however received much better feedback.)  As a spun my spice rack I noticed my nutmeg grinder looking sadly neglected after the eggnog-filled holiday months so I decided to break it out for the occasion.  The nutty, warm scent of nutmeg mixed with the almond extract gives this ordinary cookie a flavor that makes your willing cookie takers say, “mmm, what’s in these??”.  I made these especially for a coworker’s birthday and they were a big hit.  By 10am that morning all of them were gone.

And of course they cookies always seem taste better when they’re right out of the oven.  If you miss that freshly baked taste, pop a few in the oven at 350 for 3 minutes and enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour (unsifted)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Method

  1. Pre heat oven to 375°F
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, white sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color.  I recommend mixing it roughly with a fork so the sugar doesn’t go flying around the kitchen when you turn on the blender.  Start slow and gradually bring up to medium until it’s a fluffy, creamy consistency.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, mix on low-speed until incorporated.
  4. And vanilla and almond extract and mix on low-speed until incorporated.
  5. In a separate bowl, stir flour, baking soda, nutmeg and salt.
  6. Gradually blend in the dry mixture into creamed mixture.
  7. Stir in chocolate chips.
  8. Drop tablespoon sized balls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  9. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 minute.
  11. Carefully remove cookies with a spatula and let cool on wire racks for 2 minutes before digging in.
  12. Return for seconds, and then pack up the rest for later.

If you prefer crisper cookies, here’s a tip to making them more your style.  It’s about the eggs, skipping them results in a flatter cookie with a great crunch.  Super crispy, crunchy, chocolate chip goodness coming right up!

CRISPY COFFEE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. cold strong coffee (save a small amount from your morning brew)
  • 2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. anise extract

Method for Supreme Crunch

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F
  2. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. This helps the cookies crisp by being closer to the heat source or at the very top where the heat accumulates.
  3. Line two large baking sheets with foil with the dull side up.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt thoroughly and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, combine butter, white and brown sugar, coffee, corn syrup, milk, vanilla and anise. Mix until smooth.
  6. Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated.
  7. Add chocolate chips and stir until mixed.
  8. The dough will be very soft.
  9. Divide the dough in half.
  10. Divide one half of the dough into 10 equal pieces, each about 1/4 cup
  11. Place 5 pieces of dough least 3 inches apart on each lined baking sheet. Use your fingers covered with a piece of plastic wrap to flatten each scoop until it is 3 inches in diameter. Remember, the cookies will spread even more as they bake so leave room!
  12. Bake the two sheets for 8 minutes.
  13. Rotate the sheets from the top rack to the bottom and from front to back.
  14. Bake for 7-10 more minutes, watching closely, until the cookies are evenly dark golden brown all over. Pale cookies will not be crispy.
  15. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes.
  16. Slide the foil with cookies onto racks.
  17. When the baking sheets are cool, repeat with the remaining dough.
  18. Cool cookies completely before snacking, stacking or storing.
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.

January 27, 2012

Asian Barbecue Chicken Wings

This may sound crazy, but it wasn’t until about 3 months ago that I had my very first chicken wing.  How I went almost 30 years of my life never having enjoyed these marvelous, spicy, tender chicken tenders we call Buffalo wings is beyond me.  I blame it on my British heritage.  I guess you could say growing up eating Shepard’s Pie and beans on toast had its drawbacks, but English mince pies make up for all that.  But I’ll get into those at a later date.

I fashioned this recipe after I my boyfriend went grocery shopping… something he rarely does unattended – as he usually comes home with extra bags of Cheetos puffs, tortilla chips and ice cream.  This time he came home with a bag of frozen wings – I’m not sure how he wandered into this section, by guess was he was looking for corn dogs.   I never buy frozen meat, but decided I’d give this a try since he was so excited over his discovery.   I think he was more excited by how cheap they were than anything else… you can’t really beat $6 for a 4lb. bag of chicken.  We started by looking up recipes online, but inevitably all of them consisted of at lest 3 things we didn’t have.  So, we made it up.  I have to admit I was happily surprised and since then we’ve already made then 4 more times.

You’re probably thinking chicken wings aren’t in your diet, since they’re traditionally fried and then glazed in a thick sauce.  The great this about these is they’re baked!  They come out just as crispy and juicy with less than half the calories.  You also have complete control over the type of sauce and how much you add.  I like this BBQ based sauce, it keep them healthy and they have a great tangy, Asian flair.

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs. frozen chicken wings
  • 1 1/4 cup BBQ sauce (I use Stubbs spicy BBQ sauce but feel free to use your favorite.)
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. dried onion
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. Habanero pepper sauce (I recommend using a hot sauce that’s not vinegar based, but one that lists chili as the first ingredient.  Depending on level of heat, add more or less)
  • Fresh carrots (side)
  • Fresh celery (side)
  • Ranch dressing (dip)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Lay frozen chicken wings on a shallow baking pan in a single layer.  The pan I use has a rim around the edge to catch the juices.
  3. Place in oven to bake for 50-60 mins.  Check the wings every 20 mins and drain the extra fat from the pan.  Turn wings over 40 mins into cooking.  I’ll increase the heat 10° to 385°F for the last 5-10 minutes to get a little extra crisp.
  4. While the chicken bakes, it’s time to make the sauce
  5. In a small bowl mix all ingredients: BBQ sauce, soy sauce, honey, dried onion, garlic powder, sesame seeds and Habanero pepper sauce.
  6. Mix with a fork and taste.  You’ll likely want to adjust some of the levels of hot sauce and honey to suit your own taste.  The combination above is my favorite, but you can pay around and make your own combinations too.
  7. When the chicken in cooked through with a nice golden crust, remove from oven.
  8. Place in a large bowl and pour half the sauce on the wings.
  9. Shake bowl lightly until the sauce covers all the pieces, add more sauce as needed.
  10. When the wings ready, I like to sprinkle on some extra sesame seeds.  It looks fancy and I love the taste!!
  11. Serve with fresh carrots, celery and ranch dressing.  Any extra sauce can also be serves as a dipping sauce.

I hope you enjoy these healthy wings.  They’re a great alternative to spending lots of money at a local restaurant, and baking the wings helps keep you in shape for spring, or hopefully a fun vacation!  After making these at home I doubt I’ll ever have wings out again.  Half the price and all the flavor!

December 6, 2011

Thyme Couscous

Like pasta, couscous doesn’t have much of a flavor itself.  But that’s one of the best things about it; you can add a variety of flavors, textures and spices to make it fit any mood.  When I’m already busy putting together a main dish, couscous is the perfect addition when you have your hands full.  It only takes 5 minutes to create fluffy, delicate pillows of joy.

Since couscous is so delicate, you need to be careful with the spice level and what you use.  It will add a great deal of flavor; so if you add something spicy like cayenne that’s all you’ll be able to taste.  I also want to steer you away from using dried herbs, fresh ones are in a completely different category.  It’s like comparing a fresh, crisp Fuji apple to those chewy dried fruit slices better known to me as foamy rubber nothingness.  Couscous cooks in 5 minutes, so the dried herbs don’t have a chance to reconstitute and end up getting stuck in your teeth apart from anything else.  So have fun with fresh herbs, and enjoy these combinations.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Line baking sheet with foil and distribute pine nuts evenly
  3. Toast pine nuts for 10 mins.  Remove when they’re slightly golden around the edges and set aside to cool
  4. In medium saucepan, add couscous, water, butter, salt, fresh thyme and garlic powder. Stir with fork to distribute thyme.  I pinch the thyme with my fingers before adding it in as it helps release the oils and favor.
  5. Bring to a light boil, quickly stir with fork, remove from heat and cover
  6. Let stand 4-5 minutes
  7. Fluff with fork
  8. Add cooled, toasted pint nuts

Here are some of my other favorites!

Basil and Sun-dried Tomato Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped (add it after the couscous has cooled or the leaves will turn dark brown)
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp. black olives (optional)

Curry and Raisin Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. curry powder
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tbsp. fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. toasted ground peanuts

Cranberry & Feta Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup crumbles fresh feta
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds
  • Fresh parsley for garnish
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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