Friday, March 24, 2017

Baked Four Cheese Spaghetti

Last Year's Post: Vietnamese Chicken Salad
Two Years Ago:  Citizen Public House Chopped Salad

I found this recipe over ten years ago in Food & Wine magazine, and finally found an occasion to try it out when our friends Brad and Mary came to visit for the weekend.  They were going to arrive shortly before dinner time so I wanted an easy make-ahead but still impressive meal.  I made the dish in the morning, so all I had to do when they arrived was throw it in the oven and toss together a big green salad and some garlic bread to go with it.

There's a fair amount of cheese grating involved in the prep, so if you decide to double the recipe for a 9"x13" pan I would definitely break out the food processor. Try to find a Fontina that the label describes as mild because Fontinas vary between mild and pungent.  Mild works best here.  Same thing with the Gorgonzola - I discovered that Gorgonzola dolce is basically a mild Gorgonzola.  I managed to find it in my local cheese shop but if you can't find it, just ask for the mildest Gorgonzola they have.  The cheeses all meld together so no one taste particularly stands out, which means kids will probably like this also.




This dish was very cheesy and very good on its own, but I could definitely see adding some crumbled bacon or prosciutto, or cooked and chopped broccoli rabe.  It's far easier to make than lasagna, and more interesting than your typical baked short pasta dish.  And if you double it, it serves a lot of people.  AND it's vegetarian.  A total winner in my book.

Baked Four Cheese Spaghetti
Serves 4 generously

Notes: the recipe can be made earlier in the day and refrigerated, covered.  Uncover and bake per directions.  Also, the recipe can be doubled for a 9”x13” pan.

¾ lb spaghetti
4 ounces mild Fontina, coarsely shredded
4 ounces mozzarella, coarsely shredded
4 ounces Gruyere, coarsely shredded
2 ounces Gorgonzola dolce, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350d.  Spray an 8” by 8” baking dish (or similar sized dish) with nonstick spray.  Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water until al dente.  Drain well and spread the spaghetti on a baking sheet to cool.

In a medium bowl, toss the Fontina, mozzarella and Gruyere together.   Spread one third of the spaghetti in the prepared dish in an even layer.  Sprinkle 1/3 of the mixed cheeses and half of the Gorgonzola over the spaghetti and season with salt and pepper.  Repeat with another layer of spaghetti, mixed cheeses, Gorgonzola and salt and pepper.  Top with the remaining spaghetti and mixed cheeses.

Baked the spaghetti in the center of the oven until the top is golden brown, about 40 minutes.  If desired, turn on the broiler during the last minute or two to create a few darker brown crispy bits but watch closely so it doesn’t burn.


Let cool for a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Teriyaki Citrus Chicken Salad

Last Year's Post: Cabbage and Spring Onion Tart
Two Years Ago:  Lemon Chicken Teriyaki Rice Bowl

Did you know that there's a citrus industry in Arizona?  Neither did I until I moved here.  Granted, it's not anywhere near as big as in Florida, but it's wonderful to enjoy fresh lemons, oranges, tangerines and grapefruit for several months each year.  I had the luxury of making this salad using fresh tangerines, but you can make it year-round using readily-available oranges from your local store.  You could probably even get by using fresh orange juice out of a carton, but if you go that route I might suggest starting with a little extra juice and concentrating it down to the same half cup to compensate for the lack of zest strips in the marinade.

Anyway, back to the beginning.  This is a slight twist on your normal teriyaki chicken because it includes citrus flavors in the marinade (orange or tangerine), the salad dressing (lemon), and the salad itself (mandarin oranges).  It's light, refreshing and healthy. Although the chicken needs to marinate for a few hours before cooking, that part can be done in advance or even the day or two before you plan to serve the salad.  You can also make the salad dressing in advance, so meal-time prep becomes a matter of slicing and assembly which makes for a quick weekday dinner.

The soy and honey in the marinade give the chicken a beautiful bronze color after it's cooked.


The sesame seeds and toasted almonds add crunch and the mandarin oranges add sweetness to the salad while a little leftover sauce brings a big pop of flavor.  I think fresh pineapple chunks and/or cucumber slices would also be good and might add them the next time around.  True confession:  I forgot to add the almonds to the salad before I took the picture up top.  The salad was good without them but they added extra crunch so try not to leave them out.

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Teriyaki Citrus Chicken Salad
Serves 4

Note: the chicken can be marinated and grilled in advance, then refrigerated.  The salad dressing may also be made in advance, so it will take just a few minutes to slice the chicken and assemble the salads.

For the marinade:
1 cup fresh orange or tangerine juice
½ cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup honey
4 strips orange or tangerine zest (each about 1 ½ by ½ inch)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and gently crushed with the side of a knife
2 green onions, trimmed, white parts gently crushed
2 slices fresh ginger (each ¼ inch thick), peeled and gently crushed
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

For the salad dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt

For the salad:
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
8-10 cups mixed baby lettuces, washed and dried
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 (10.5 oz) can mandarin oranges in natural juice, drained
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 green onions, trimmed and sliced

To make the marinade:  place the orange or tangerine juice in a nonreactive saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Let boil until reduced by half.  Add the soy sauce, honey, zest strips, garlic, green onion whites, ginger, cinnamon stick and sesame oil.  Stir, then let boil until slightly thickened, about 6-8 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool, then remove the solids from the pan using a slotted spoon. 

Remove any excess fat or sinews from the chicken breasts and discard.  Rinse and blot dry.  Gently pound the breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap until they’re an even thickness.  Place in a zip-top bag and pour half of the marinade into the bag, reserving the remaining marinade to use later.  Close the bag and massage the contents to evenly distribute the marinade, then place in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to 4 hours, turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, make the salad dressing:  combine the lemon juice, olive oil and salt in a small screw-top jar and shake to combine.  Set aside.

To cook the chicken, preheat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to medium-high.  Remove the chicken from the bag and discard the marinade.  Arrange the chicken pieces at an angle on the grill grates and cook for 4 minutes.  The outside of the chicken should turn a deep brown in spots from the caramelizing of the sugars in the marinade but shouldn’t burn.  Flip the chicken and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165d, basting each side with some of the marinade (that was reserved earlier) during the last few minutes.  Total cooking time should be roughly 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken.  Remove the chicken and let come to room temperature, then thinly slice at an angle.

To assemble the salads, toss the lettuces lightly with enough salad dressing to just barely coat.  Divide among four plates.  Sprinkle with the sliced green onions, mandarin oranges, and toasted almonds.  Divide the chicken slices between the salads, arranging decoratively on top of the greens.  Spoon some of the leftover marinade on top of the chicken, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve. 


Friday, March 10, 2017

Grown-Up Tuna Salad Sandwich

Last Year's Post: Baked Oatmeal
Two Years Ago:  Mushroom & Pea Risotto

By "grown-up" I don't mean to imply kids won't like this sandwich, I just mean it's a little more sophisticated than the classic tuna with mayo and celery.  I've always loved tuna sandwiches but have found a lot of bland versions in restaurants with way too much mayo and tasteless tuna.  And don't even get me started on the pre-wrapped versions in vending machines and airport kiosks.  Why do I even do that?  Other restaurants try to go high-end by adding curry or almonds and currants, which in my book do not belong in tuna salad.  Ever.

There are three critical parts to a delicious tuna sandwich:  the tuna, the bread, and the flavorings.  First, the tuna - use the best quality you can find, not the water-packed stuff in the grocery store.  You can go one of two ways: either an imported high-quality oil-packed tuna such as the Genova brand I found this week at my local Fry's (which was absolutely excellent) or the Wild Planet brand that you can find at Whole Foods and Costco.  Wild Planet cooks the tuna in the can without any additional water or oil, and the albacore is sustainably pole and line caught.  Yes it's expensive, but Costco sells 6 cans for $15 which is much less than at Whole Foods.  Good tuna has a rich, clean taste that you just can't get from the cheap water-packed cans.

Next comes the bread - I prefer a multi-grain or seeded loaf that's not too heavy and is relatively thinly sliced.  You want to taste the tuna, not just bread.  Toasting the bread is optional - it adds a nice crunch to what is otherwise a soft sandwich, but it's a personal thing.  I lightly toasted the bread in advance because I wanted the tuna salad to be cold.  If you want yours warm you could assemble the sandwich and toast it in a skillet or panini press.




And then the other flavor components:  this recipe originally caught my eye because it includes cottage cheese.  Say what? I think it adds creaminess and allows you to cut down on the mayo.  The recipe also has red onion, celery, lemon, capers, dill and Dijon.   The combination is deliciously light and flavorful - The Lawyer even commented on how good the tuna salad was after just one bite.  If you like a good tuna salad sandwich, this is a great recipe to try.






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Grown-Up Tuna Salad Sandwich
Makes 2-3 sandwiches

1 (5 or 6 ounce) can best-quality tuna, preferably packed in oil
1/3 cup small curd cottage cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
1 celery stalk, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely chopped dill
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Lettuce and sliced tomatoes (optional)
Multi-grain bread (lightly toasted or not, your choice)


Drain the tuna.  If it was packed in water or dry, add a teaspoon of good quality olive oil to the tuna.  Break the tuna up with a fork into small chunks, then gently mix in the remaining ingredients. 

Serve on bread with optional lettuce and tomatoes, or serve on lettuce leaves for a low carb option.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Parmesan Pork Cutlets with Herb Salad

Last Year's Post: Roasted Carrots with Herbs
Two years Ago:  Chicken and Mushroom Gratinate

I often find thin boneless pork chops on sale at the store, and like to find new ways to cook them.  This is a particularly easy and delicious main dish that's full of flavor while still being healthy.  Parmesan and Panko crumbs add flavor and crunch to the pork while a bright lemon mustard dressing and herbs add punch to the spinach salad.

Since the pork chops start out thin, you only need to pound them lightly before coating and cooking them.




They cook quickly because they're so thin, so it's a good idea to make the dressing and assemble the salad greens before you start the pork.  Once the pork is done, toss the dressing with the salad and plate the everything up.

The reason I deliberately omitted the micro greens from the salad and added them to the plate at the end instead is because they're so delicate that dressing will weight them down. If you can't find cute little micro greens at your store, you can always substitute any kind of sprouts or even some baby arugula or baby kale.  But I love the look and taste of the micro greens.


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Parmesan Pork Cutlets with Herb Salad
Serves 4

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 cups baby spinach leaves
1/3 cup lightly packed Italian parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 cups micro greens or sprouts
4 thin boneless pork chops
2 ounces (about ½ cup) grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup Panko bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving

For the salad dressing, combine lemon juice, ¼ cup olive oil, Dijon mustard, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a small jar and shake to combine (or whisk in a small bowl).  Set aside.

For the salad, combine the spinach, parsley, chives, and shallots in a large bowl.  Do not add dressing until just before serving.

For the pork, combine the Parmesan and bread crumbs in one shallow bowl and the beaten eggs in a second shallow bowl.

Lightly pound the pork chops with a meat hammer between two pieces of plastic wrap until they are about 1/3” thick.  Season with black pepper.  Dip each pork cutlet into the beaten eggs to coat both sides, then into the Parmesan bread crumb mixture.  Pat the crumbs onto the pork to make sure they stick.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the pork and cook without moving the cutlets until a golden crust has formed, 3-5 minutes.  Using a spatula, turn each cutlet over and cook until the second side is golden, 2-3 minutes more.

Toss the salad with just enough dressing to lightly moisten.  Divide the salad among 4 plates and top with the micro greens and a pork cutlet.  Garnish with lemon wedges and serve immediately.