Friday, December 8, 2017

The Way Too Easy - No Butter Scone

Last Year's Post:  Baked Egg Bowls
Two Years Ago:    Southwest Eggrolls (baked not fried)

If you like scones, this recipe is for you.  And if you've ever had a dried-out hockey puck of a scone in a bakery, give this one a chance.  Yes, you can buy a scone mix, but this recipe is easier than making cookies and you can customize it any way you want.  My favorite part is that you can mix up the dough the night before and then just bake the scones in the morning while you sip on coffee.  Warm scones for weekend breakfast!  Since I'm not particularly a morning person that really appealed to me.  (Thanks to my good friend Brad for the recipe!)

Scones seem to be sort of a cross between a biscuit and a muffin.  Some recipes lean more toward the more tender/crumbly biscuit end of the spectrum such as this cornmeal herb scone or this savory breakfast scone, but this recipe is soft and skews more toward the muffin side.  You can add your favorite spices, dried fruit, chocolate chips, flavored extracts and even grated lemon or orange zest to make it your own creation.

If you're having people for breakfast or brunch, this is an easy way to serve warm, fresh baked goods without fussing around with muffin papers or fancy pastries.

The Way Too Easy – No Butter Scone
Makes 8

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon (or other spices)
1 ¼ cups raisins (or cranberries, chocolate chips, nuts, or a combination)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups cream, cold
1-2 teaspoons flavored extract (vanilla, orange, etc.), optional

Eggwash (one egg beaten with one tablespoon water) or melted butter
Coarse sugar (can substitute regular sugar, just not as pretty)

Preheat oven to 375d.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, stirring in raisins or other add-ins last.  Add cream and stir until ingredients are just combined.  Form a ball of the dough and place on a floured surface.  Flatten and then fold a few times, then flatten into a circle about 1” thick if you’re going to cut wedges, or into a log about 12” long if you’re going to cut rounds.

Cut the circle into 8 wedges and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  If you formed a log, cut it into 8 equal pieces and put it on the parchment lined sheet.  Brush the tops with egg wash or butter, then sprinkle with sugar.  Bake about 15 minutes until golden.  Let cool on baking sheet about 10 minutes before serving warm.

Make Ahead:  Follow the recipe until you’ve formed the round or log.  Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to overnight.  Remove and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Fall Wild Rice Salad with Persimmon

Last Year's Post:  Wheatberry Salad
Two Years Ago:    Turkey Farro Salad with Candied Chickpeas

I found the inspiration for this recipe a year ago and sent it to my vegetarian friend Nikki, but never got around to trying it.  Then this year, I bought several persimmons as decorations for the Thanksgiving table and decided to find out more about them, since I've never actually tasted one.  (Why didn't we ever have persimmons when we were growing up?)  Several sources described their taste as a cross between apricot and honey, which I would agree with when I tried one. They're available October through February. There are also two kinds of persimmon - Fuyu and Hachiya.  Fuyu are more common and are perfectly edible and sweet even when hard.  The Hachiya are very astringent until they ripen to a squishy gel-like consistency, which didn't sound too attractive to me.  This is what Fuyu persimmons look like.

Anyway, after we tried the raw persimmon on Thanksgiving, I wanted to use them in a dish and remembered this recipe.  The original recipe included cooked beans (as well as wild rice), which I eliminated.  I used a new technique to char sliced Brussels sprouts rather than steaming individual leaves, and was please with the smoky yet firm results.  And I added some Gruyere cheese for protein and taste since I eliminated the beans.  Of course, you could substitute blue cheese or goat cheese (or any other cheese, for that matter) if you prefer.

There are a number of steps and ingredients, so my suggestion is to cook the wild rice, Brussels sprouts and squash in advance.  Then it's just a matter of making the vinaigrette and tossing everything together at the last minute.

The result is a truly beautiful and  spectacular fall or winter salad, full of complex flavors and textures.  It could accompany a roast pork, chicken or turkey, and would be the star centerpiece of a vegetarian feast.  It's perfect for a buffet table since it's served at room temperature. Accompanied by  crusty bread and a glass of wine, it was a very satisfying and sophisticated dinner.

Fall Wild Rice Salad with Persimmon
Serves 4 as an entree, 6-8 as a side dish 

1 cup uncooked wild rice
6-7 Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper 2 cups cubed butternut squash (bite-sized cubes)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup dried cranberries, rehydrated in hot water and drained
2 fresh small Fuyu persimmon, quartered and thinly sliced
1 cup baby arugula
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ cup Gruyere, cut into small cubes (or blue cheese or goat cheese crumbles)

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-2 teaspoons grainy mustard
2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs such as lemon thyme, chervil, or marjoram
Salt and pepper

1 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

Cook the wild rice according to package directions.  When done, drain and place in a large bowl.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to broil.  In a medium bowl, toss the sliced Brussels sprouts with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the center of the oven for 3 minutes.  Stir, then broil for an additional 2-3 minutes until lightly charred on the edges, watching closely so they don’t burn.  Remove and let cool.  Turn the oven down to 400d.

 In a medium bowl, toss the squash cubes with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast until tender, turning halfway through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and let cool.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk the olive oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and herbs together in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a bowl, combine all the salad ingredients except the walnuts and pomegranate seeds. Mix in the vinaigrette, then taste and adjust seasonings. Sprinkle the walnuts (and pomegranate seeds, if using) over the top of the salad and serve.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Honey Garlic Shrimp Bowl

Last Year's Post: Three Sisters Quesadilla
Two Years Ago:  Dried Fruit Sauce

I thought this recipe sounded and looked good, but was a little concerned that it would be too sweet.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the honey adds a smoothness and a lightly sweet note that's much nicer than sugar.  It's also not overly garlicky despite having a tablespoon of minced garlic - I'm not sure how that works but it does.

If you use a quick-cooking brown rice this would be a very easy dinner to prepare in less than 30 minutes during the week and it's also very healthy.  A total win in my book.

Honey Garlic Shrimp Bowl
Serves 4

Note: the shrimp need to marinate for at least 15 minutes, giving you time to prepare the rice and broccoli. Cooking the shrimp takes only a minute or two.

1/3 cup honey
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 large cloves)
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon olive oil
Hot cooked brown rice
Steamed broccoli
Sliced green onions, for garnish

Whisk the honey, soy sauce and garlic together in a medium bowl.

Place the shrimp in a zip-top bag and add about a third of the marinade.  Seal, shake the bag, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 10 hours.  Cover and refrigerate the remaining marinade.

Prepare the rice and broccoli while the shrimp marinate.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Remove the shrimp from the marinade and place in the pan, discarding the remaining marinade.  Cook on one side about 45 seconds, then flip the shrimp and add the reserved marinade.  Cook an additional 1 minute more, or until the shrimp are cooked through.

Divide the brown rice, broccoli and shrimp between shallow bowls and drizzle with the remaining sauce from the pan.  Garnish with sliced green onions.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Fall Spiced Pecans

Last Year's Post:  Whipped Goat Cheese and Green Olive Dip
Two Years Ago:    Split Pea Soup

A year ago I published a recipe for spiced pecans that are spicy, sweet and salty - one of my favorites.  Most recipes along that line have cayenne and other spices along with sugar and salt, but not everyone likes heat.  So, this recipe uses all those wonderful fall spices - cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg - instead of cayenne.  The taste is very reminiscent of pumpkin pie spices and would be great for a big gathering where children and adults can both enjoy the nuts.  The original recipe called for the higher amount of sugar given in the recipe, which would result in a definitely sweet nut.  I cut the sugar in half because I don't particularly have a sweet tooth and found the result to be lightly sweet and warmly spiced.

The typical way to use spiced nuts is for an appetizer or for a gift, but as I snacked on these nuts they also seemed very suited as a garnish for a number of other dishes:
  • chopped and sprinkled on roasted or mashed sweet potatoes
  • on top of roasted squash
  • sprinkled on an ice cream sundae with buttered rum sauce or butterscotch sauce
  • chopped up in wild rice
  • sprinkled over pumpkin pie 
You get the idea.

Fall Spiced Pecans
Makes 3 cups

Note: Using the lesser amount of sugar results in slightly sweet nuts; if you want them sweeter, use the higher amount.

1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
3 cups pecan halves
¼ cup - ½ cup white sugar (see note)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 250d.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg white with the water until foamy.  Add the pecans and stir well.  Transfer the nuts to a strainer and shake, then let drain at least 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse and wipe out the bowl, then add the sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and mix well.  Add the nuts back to the bowl and stir until all the spices have evenly coated the nuts and none are left in the bottom of the bowl. 

Spread the nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake at 250d for 40 minutes, stirring once at 20 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 200d and baking 20-30 minutes longer until dry, watching to make sure the nuts don’t get too dark.

Remove the foil from the baking sheet and let the nuts cool, then loosen any that are stuck to the foil.  Store in an airtight container or freeze.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Jerusalem Salad

Last Year's Post: Lemony Green Beans with Toasted Almonds
Two Years Ago:  Dutch Baby

The reason I'm posting this particular recipe now is because Thanksgiving is coming up, which means one thing: leftover turkey.  Serving this salad in the days following Thanksgiving will accomplish several things, all good - it's a dramatic departure in taste from what you'll have been eating, it's very light and healthy, and it's very easy to make.  Since it's served at room temperature, it's also very accommodating for a house full of guests.  And if some of them happen to be vegetarians (or you are), this salad is excellent with tofu in place of turkey, or without either one because it has plenty of fiber and protein already.  It would be fun to set out a big bowl of each of the ingredients and let everyone make their own salad, taking as much or as little of each as they want.

I call this recipe Jerusalem Salad because I found its inspiration in a recipe from the cookbook "Jerusalem" by the famed chef Yotam Ottolenghi.  I'm a big fan of his Middle Eastern style of cooking and the flavors and textures of that cuisine.  The original recipe was for the vegetable salad and the spiced chickpeas; I added the rest of the ingredients to make it an entree salad.  But the vegetable salad and the chickpeas are the stars.  The vegetable salad isn't just tomatoes and cucumbers and onion, but adds radishes and red peppers for additional crunch and flavor.  It's delicious on its own.

The chickpeas are the exotic taste in the salad due to the spice mix of cardamom, cumin and allspice.  I toned down the amount of spice slightly from the original recipe solely due to personal preference.  My suggestion is to toss the chickpeas in the spice mix as written and then taste one before putting them in the skillet, adding more of one or all spices to your taste as desired.

The key to success for salads is to have a variety of textures, colors and flavors so I added pistachios for crunch, quinoa for nuttiness, and yogurt for creaminess.  Sumac is a fun garnish for the yogurt because it adds a little color and has a slightly sharp taste, but paprika would be a good substitute.  Or just don't worry about a garnish.  I'm aware that I worry more about garnishes than most people, although I'm not completely sure what that says about me.

Split, toasted pitas broken into large pieces are excellent served on the side.

Jerusalem Salad
Serves 4

Note: this salad is excellent served with toasted pita on the side.

For the dressing:
5 tablespoons olive oil
Grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons juice
1 ½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper

For the spiced chickpeas:
1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or the equivalent amount of dried chickpeas, cooked)
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the salad:
½ English cucumber
2 cups cherry tomatoes
4-6 radishes, trimmed
1 red pepper, seeded and ribs removed
½ red onion
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 cups cooked couscous or quinoa
8 large leaves of Bibb or butter lettuce
½ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 cups cooked shredded turkey or chicken, optional, or can use tofu instead
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Ground sumac or paprika for garnish, optional

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a small jar with a lid and shake vigorously.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

To make the spiced chickpeas, put the spices in a shallow bowl and mix well.  Add the drained chickpeas and stir to coat evenly.  Heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet and toast the chickpeas in a single layer for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking (you may have to do 2 batches).  Set aside.

To make the vegetable salad, chop the cucumber, tomatoes, radishes, red pepper and red onion into bite-sized pieces.   Toss together with the cilantro and parsley.

To plate the salad, place 2 lettuce leaves on each of 4 plates.  Top with optional turkey, spiced chickpeas, vegetable salad, couscous or quinoa, and pistachios.  Add a dollop of yogurt to each plate and garnish with sumac or paprika, optional.  Drizzle with dressing and serve.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Last Year's Post: White Chicken Chili
Two Years Ago:   Baked Potatoes with Broccoli Cheese Sauce

I used to actively dislike Brussels sprouts until I tried this recipe which was a total revelation.  For some reason, roasting them until tender gives them an entirely different flavor.  They're so good you'll want immediately start popping them in your mouth like a snack, which is why I like to serve them with a little crunchy salt on top as an appetizer with drinks.  Of course, they're a perfect side dish to any meal and a great addition to a holiday table but they're so good you really need to eat them more often than just at holidays.

Try to get the smallest Brussels sprouts you can find, because they're easier to eat and more tender.  Plus they're cute.  I had to go to three different stores to find these because the big box grocers had giant, unappealing sprouts. I finally found these cute fresh ones at guess where, my local Sprouts store.  :-)

If you think you don't like Brussels sprouts, try them this way to see what you think.  And if you like Brussels sprouts already, you'll love this.  They even smell really good when they're in the oven.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Serves 6

1 ½ pounds small Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Coarse salt for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 400d.

Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves.  Mix in a bowl with olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Spread them out in a sheet pan and roast for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp and browned on the outside and tender on the inside.  Sprinkle with coarse salt (or more regular salt) and serve immediately.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Halibut Nicoise

Last Year's Post:  Halibut with Cucumbers and Ginger
Two Years Ago:   Chicken Schnitzel Sandwiches

I sometimes get inspiration for a recipe when I see a new and interesting fruit or vegetable at the store.  I might not immediately know what to do with it, but it gets filed away for future reference.  In this case, I noticed a bag of tiny multi-colored potatoes at Whole Foods that just begged to be part of a salad.  So, when I came across this recipe for Halibut Nicoise I knew exactly where to buy the potatoes.

This is a new and sophisticated take on the typical Nicoise salad that's not really a salad at all, but a warmer and more substantial dish.  Beautiful baby vegetables surround a warm, meaty halibut fillet for a great fall or winter dinner.  It's definitely a restaurant-quality dish in terms of presentation and taste which makes sense because it comes from Lost Kitchen restaurant in Maine.  And I need to warn you, it's also a fair amount of work and will probably trash your cook top when the oil starts spattering.  But it's definitely worth it.  Just don't try it on a weeknight when you're tired and rushed - a weekend is much better where you can prepare the various ingredients (eggs, beans, potatoes) throughout the day to lessen the workload right before you eat.

The halibut cooking process is classic restaurant style - sear the skin side until it releases, flip and add butter to the pan, then put it in the oven until done,  basting with butter along the way.  Finished with an olive/garlic/anchovy garnish,  it's one of the best-tasting pieces of halibut I've had.  Ah, butter.  Of course, you could substitute sea bass, salmon or tuna for the halibut if that's what looks good at the seafood counter or suits your taste.

Halibut Nicoise
Serves 4

2 eggs
Salt, as needed
½ lb tiny green beans (haricots verts), trimmed
1 lb baby potatoes, any color
½ cup mixed kalamata and green olives, pitted and finely chopped
1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Ground black pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 halibut fillets, 5-6 ounces each
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 head bibb or leaf lettuce, leaves washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 lemon, quartered

Hard boil the eggs:  heat a saucepan of water to a boil, then gently lower the eggs into the water.  Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 11 minutes.  While the eggs cook, prepare an ice bath (ice and water) in a medium bowl.  After 11 minutes, remove the eggs and place in the ice bath for 15 minutes.  Drain and remove the shell under cool running water.  Place in the refrigerator.

In a small bowl, mix olives, anchovy and garlic, and set aside.

To cook the beans and potatoes, fill a large pot with water, season generously with salt, and bring to a boil.  In the sink, prepare another ice bath.  Add the green beans to the pot and cook for 1 minute, then scoop out with a slotted spoon and place in the ice bath.  Add the potatoes to the same pot of hot water and simmer for 12 – 15 minutes until fork tender.  Drain and set aside until cool.  When cool, cut the potatoes in halves or quarters depending on size.  Remove the beans from the ice water and pat dry.

In a large bowl, mix shallots and rice wine vinegar, and let stand for 20 minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and a few turns of ground black pepper.  Add the green beans and toss to coat, the remove to a separate bowl.  Add the potatoes and tomatoes to the remaining dressing and toss to coat.  Season the beans, potatoes and tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 425d.

Divide the lettuce between 4 plates.  Slice the eggs and divide between the plates, then add the beans, potatoes and tomatoes around the sides (leaving a spot in the middle for the halibut).

Heat a large ovenproof skillet, ideally cast iron, over medium-high heat.  Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Pat the halibut dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.  Add the fillets to the hot pan skin-side down and let sear until they release easily from the pan, 2-3 minutes.  Flip fillets, add butter to pan and transfer to the oven.  After 2 minutes, baste fish with melted butter, then return to oven until just cooked through, 2-3 minutes more.

Place a fillet in the middle of each plate and drizzle with any leftover pan juices.  Spoon the olive-anchovy mixture over each fillet, garnish with lemon quarters, and serve.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Winter Squash Agrodolce

Last Year's Post:  Mahogany Chicken with Smoky Lime Sweet Potatoes
Two Years Ago:   Grain Bowls with Halloumi Cheese

"Agrodolce" is an Italian term for sweet and sour, a classic sauce in many cuisines.  It's often used for vegetables and fish, and is perfect for an unusual twist on your typical baked fall squash dish.  You can use any winter squash as long as you can peel it which pretty much eliminates acorn squash.  (I guess you could cut an acorn squash in half and get rid of the seeds, then cut and bake slices without peeling.  That would work just fine as long as your guests are up for cutting the peels off.) 

Butternut squash works well.  I used a kabocha squash just because I hadn't tried one before, and found it difficult to peel.  I finally ended up cutting it in half and cleaning out the seeds, then cutting the slices and peeling each individual slice with a small knife.  Good thing The Lawyer was around to help.  Next time I'll use a butternut.

This would make a great side dish with a roast pork or chicken, and of course would be an elegant addition to a holiday table.  I also like it very much as part of a vegetarian winter salad with fresh greens, toasted pecans, chopped apple and some crumbled blue cheese.

Winter Squash Agrodolce
Yield: 4-6 servings

1 medium butternut or kabocha squash, peeled, seeds removed, cut into 1" wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons golden raisins, chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place squash on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil; season with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat evenly. Roast, turning once until golden brown and tender, 30–35 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring vinegar, honey, raisins, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 8–10 minutes.

Brush half of warm agrodolce over warm squash. Transfer to a platter.  Just before serving, spoon the remaining agrodolce over the squash.

Do ahead
Dish can be made 3 hours ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Mini Croutons

Last Year's Post:  Tuscan Barley Soup
Two Years Ago:    Chicken Limone Pasta

I love how croutons can give a nice crunch to salads and soups, but I don't love store-bought croutons in a box.  They're huge, hard as a rock, and way over-seasoned to compensate for the fact that they have no taste.  Other than that, they're perfect.

My solution is to make very small croutons, which you can scatter over the top of your salad for nice little crunchy bits with every bite.  By contrast, store-bought croutons on a salad need to be approached with care and planning or you'll end up at the dentist since they're the approximate size and consistency of a matchbox car.  Small croutons are also perfect as a garnish for soups and even for pastas such as spaghetti with pesto or baked pasta dishes.  Crush some of the croutons in a small bowl with the back of a spoon and sprinkle over vegetables such as green beans or roasted Brussels sprouts for a little extra crunch.

You can use any type of bread for this recipe, and a few leftover slices from a loaf are just perfect.  A dark rye might be a nice color contrast to potato or cauliflower soup, for example.  It helps if the bread is thinly sliced to start since you'll be cutting it into tiny cubes.  I would advise against trying to use a food processor because in my experience they produce uneven results - some big pieces, some small - unless you grind the bread all the way down to crumbs.

Another advantage to making your own croutons is that you can add whatever seasonings you like.  It's fun to experiment with Italian seasonings, garlic salt, french seasonings, or even some chili powder to spice up some croutons for something like beer cheese soup.  I listed garlic salt because it's a good basic flavor that will go with a lot of things but feel free to use whatever you want.

I bake croutons rather than using a fry pan to toast them because I think it's easier to control the amount of browning and the oven produces more uniform results.  Just be sure to watch them closely near the end because they brown pretty fast when they're small.

Mini Croutons
Makes 2 cups

2 cups bread, preferably thin-sliced, cut into 1/3” cubes (approximate)
¼ teaspoon garlic salt (or other seasonings)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350d.

Place the bread into a bowl and add the garlic salt or other seasonings.  Toss to combine.  Slowly add the olive oil in a drizzle while stirring, one tablespoon at a time, until all the croutons are evenly coated.  Taste and adjust seasonings if  needed.

Spread the croutons in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Place on the middle rack of the oven for 5 minutes, then stir and return to the oven for an additional 5-8 minutes until golden brown.  Remove and let cool completely.  If desired, blot on paper towels before storing in an airtight container.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Broccolini Fried Rice

Last Year's Post:  Apple Strudel
Two Years Ago:    Smoked Salmon Cakes

I left any mention of meat out of the title of this recipe because you can make it with chicken, or any cooked leftover pork or steak, or go vegetarian with tofu or even just cashews.   It's very versatile.  The base recipe has rice, of course, with broccolini, eggs, snow peas, edamame and/or green peas and a very simple but flavorful sauce made from soy sauce, orange zest and orange juice.

Stir fries and fried rice are two different things.  Stir fries require that all the prep work is done in advance and then the actual cooking takes places very fast and at very high heat.  Fried rice also requires advance prep work and some fast cooking at the beginning.  But when the rice is added in the middle of the process, you press it down into the pan and then step back and leave it alone for a few minutes to crisp on the bottom.  After it's crisp, everything speeds up again.  It's important to the final texture of the dish not to rush the rice-crisping step, and it's also very important to use day-old rice because it dries out overnight and won't clump up plus it will crisp up and brown much better.

The prep work here takes 15-20 minutes, but the actual cooking goes fast so this is a good (and healthy) weeknight meal assuming you made the rice the day before.  I particularly like it served with a little chili oil mixed in for some heat, but others may prefer it with soy sauce for a milder dish.  Serve both at the table so everyone can choose for themselves.

Broccolini Fried Rice
4 servings

Cook’s Notes
If using meat that is already cooked or tofu or cashews, sauté the broccolini in the first step as listed (without the meat) and add the cooked meat with the snow peas, edamame and liquids at the end.
If you are preparing rice especially for this dish, you'll need to cook about 1 cup raw rice. Rinse the rice first to remove some of the starch so it's less sticky when it comes time to fry. Spread the cooked rice out on a rimmed baking sheet or plate to cool so the steam can evaporate, then transfer to a resealable container and chill.

1/4 cup vegetable oil, dividedEasy Fried Rice with Chicken and Broccolini Recipe / Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Rhoda Boone
4 green onions, sliced on the bias, divided
1 pound boneless skinless chicken, cut into 1/2" slices (OR cooked chicken, pork, beef, tofu or cashews)
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely grated or pressed
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
1 bunch broccolini (about 6 ounces), ends trimmed, sliced in half lengthwise and cut into 2” pieces
4 cups cooked white rice (preferably day-old, long-or medium-grain)
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 cup snow peas, cut in half on a diagonal
1/2 cup frozen edamame or green peas
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
Zest of ½ orange
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice (from about 1/2 orange)
Chili oil and soy sauce for the table

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet or wok over high. Reserve about 2 tablespoons sliced green onions; add remaining onions to oil and cook, tossing occasionally, about 1 minute. Add chicken, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and ginger, then add broccolini and toss until incorporated. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through and broccolini is tender, 2–3 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl.

Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in skillet over high. Add rice and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, toss to coat, then press rice into a single layer, and cook, undisturbed, until crisped on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes. Lift a corner of the rice to see if it’s starting to turn a light golden color; if not, let it cook for a minute and check again.  When the bottom of the rice is lightly golden and crisp, stir and move it to one-half of skillet and add eggs to other half. Cook, stirring gently to form curds, until soft set and just cooked through, about 1 minute, then fold into rice.

Fold in snow peas, edamame, soy sauce, and orange juice. (This is where you should add cooked meat, tofu or cashews.) Cook, tossing, until warmed through, about 1-2 minutes. Add broccolini mixture and toss to combine. Divide among plates, then top with reserved scallions. Serve with chili oil and soy sauce at the table.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Pasta with Shrimp and Vin Santo

Last Year's Post: Parmesan Chicken Bake (No Mayo)
Two Years Ago:   Sausage, Kale and Potato Soup (Copycat Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana)

This recipe is adapted from one of the pasta dishes at Bar La Grassa, a beloved Minneapolis restaurant.  Isaac Becker is its revered chef/owner.  Bar La Grassa has been red-hot ever since it opened in 2009 and pasta is one of its fortes.  Although I've been to the restaurant I've never had this particular dish, but people rave about it.  So when I stumbled across the recipe in a magazine courtesy of Bar La Grassa, of course I had to try it.  I was particularly curious about Vin Santo because I'd never heard of it.  Turns out it's a not-overly-sweet dessert wine that's not readily available in every corner liquor store, although the larger stores will probably stock it.  It pays to call around.  If you can't find it, the recipe suggests Moscato but I think a sweet Marsala or even brandy would also be a good substitute.

The first time I tried the recipe exactly as written.  Although the flavor was very good, I thought there was too much pasta for the amount of sauce and shrimp and that it was a little one-dimensional.  I scrolled through over 300 photos on Yelp for Bar La Grassa to see if I was missing something, but yup - they serve a bowl of primarily pasta with a coating of sauce and some shrimp.  I don't want to criticize Chef Becker's vision, but I typically like contrasts in flavor, color and texture in a dish so I cut down on the pasta and added peas, toasted pine nuts and a shower of black pepper the next time I made it, and liked it much better.  That's why I say it's "adapted from".  If you want a more authentic version leave out my additions and increase the pasta to 1 pound.  Oh, and use penne.  I used cavatappi because I think it looks more interesting, but the restaurant uses penne pasta.

It's a delicious dish, with a luscious creamy sauce that coats every piece of pasta and shrimp without leaving a big pool in the bottom of the dish.  Granted, I wouldn't eat it every day but it's a wonderful indulgence on special occasions.  Make it for your next date night dinner - it's fast and easy but very special.

Pasta with Shrimp and Vin Santo
Serves 4

10 ounces penne (or other dried short-cut pasta such as cavatappi)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed, cut in half lengthwise
¼ cup dessert wine, either Vin Santo or Moscato
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
½ cup frozen peas
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh basil, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt and coarsely ground fresh black pepper

Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water.  Remove from the heat 1 minute before it’s al dente; drain and toss with a splash of olive oil.

Warm the tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and add the shrimp and shallots.  Add a large pinch of salt and cook the shrimp in batches, if necessary to avoid crowding the pan, until they are barely translucent and not quite done (they will finish cooking later), about one minute per side. Remove the shrimp and set aside. 

Add the wine and cook until mostly evaporated, then add the cream and peas and cooking, stirring, for a minute or two to warm the peas and slightly reduce the sauce.  Add the pasta and shrimp to the pot and continue to cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened and coats the pasta, 2-3 minutes.  There should not be much sauce left pooled in the bottom of the pan.  Add about ½ teaspoon kosher salt and the shredded basil and toss.

Serve in shallow bowls garnished with pine nuts, coarsely ground black pepper, and additional basil.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Roasted Cauliflower with Pasta and Walnuts

Last Year's Post: Korean Rice Bowls
Two Years Ago:  Healthy Baked Apples

This is an excellent and somewhat unusual pasta dish that can be served warm, room temperature or cold which makes it a good choice for any time of the year.  Plus, it's much lighter and healthier than most heavy red-sauce pastas.

I've recently discovered vegetables that I thought I didn't really care for all that much such as cabbage or cauliflower can actually become wonderful when they're cooked to the point that they turn into something else.  For cabbage, that means cooking it down until it's very tender and sweet (see cabbage and spring onion tart) and for broccoli or cauliflower that means roasting or sauteing  until they're pretty well torched (see chicken and caramelized broccoli ramen) which results in a much deeper and nuttier flavor.  The roasted cauliflower is a highlight of this salad, along with the walnuts and bacon.  (You could also use a combination of roasted cauliflower and broccoli if you want.)   Leave the bacon out and you've got a great vegetarian meal.

The sauce is very simple - good olive oil with a little garlic flavor (or a lot, depending on your taste). You could also add additional red pepper flakes to spice things up - there's just a small amount on the cauliflower.  The cauliflower only roasts for about 20 minutes so you could make this meal in the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta, making it a good choice for a weeknight meal.

Leftovers are excellent cold for lunch - just add a few drops of olive oil and maybe a squeeze of lemon to fresh things up.

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Roasted Cauliflower with Pasta and Walnuts
Serves 4

 1 small head cauliflower, large stems removed, florets separated and halved
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (more for serving, if desired)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
9-10 ounces short-cut dry pasta (such as penne or ziti)
2/3 cup frozen peas
¼ cup olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 slices bacon, chopped, fried until crisp and drained (optional)
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 450d.

Add cauliflower to a mixing bowl with olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and sea salt.  toss to coat, then spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the florets over.  Turn the oven to broil and return to the oven for 5 minutes or so, watching closely, until browned.  Remove and let cool.

Heat a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions, adding the peas to the cooking water during the last 1-2 minutes.  Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, add the garlic cloves to the ¼ cup olive oil in a small saucepan and warm gently for a few minutes over low heat.  Remove the garlic cloves.

Return the pasta and peas to their cooking pot and add the garlic oil, parsley and parmesan, tossing to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve with the walnuts and optional bacon scattered on top and additional parmesan on the side.  Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.  (If refrigerated, add a little additional olive oil and toss before serving.)

Friday, September 15, 2017

California Chicken, Avocado and Goat Cheese Salad

Last Year's Post: Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
Two Years Ago:   Mexican Baked Egg Casserole

I do love a beautiful green salad, don't you?  They're so refreshing and healthy.  One thing I've discovered is that if your salad has a large number of ingredients you can cut down on the amount of chicken to make it even healthier.  Of course, feel free to up the amount listed below but honestly we felt it was plenty and were perfectly satisfied.

If you marinate the chicken in advance, it's very easy to throw together the vinaigrette while the chicken cooks (or make that in advance too).  Then all you have to do is a little ingredient slicing and you're good to go.

One of my favorite tricks to make a salad even more appealing is to chill the salad plates in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so. It makes the salad seem restaurant-special.

Have you discovered watermelon radishes yet?  They taste like a mild version of a regular red radish but they're so pretty with the pink center and pale green ring on the outside.  I always have fun at checkout when I buy one because the cashiers never know what they are. Like the trick of chilling your plates, adding one unusual ingredient can elevate your entire salad to a new level.  Here's what they look like in the store - you'd never know how pretty they are on the inside.

 And take some time arranging the ingredients to make sure the colors look good next to each other.  My final suggestion for this salad is to use smoked almonds rather than regular almonds because again, it just adds a little extra flavor.  And it seems very California-y.

California Chicken, Avocado and Goat Cheese Salad
Serves 4

Note: because there are so many other ingredients the recipe calls for less chicken than, say, in a chicken Caesar salad.  Feel free to increase the amount as desired.

8 ounces boneless skinless chicken tenders or cutlets
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon kosher salt and pepper
2 heads romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
1/3 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 watermelon radishes, thinly sliced (can substitute red radishes)
1 avocado, sliced
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese
½ cup smoked almonds, coarsely chopped
Large handful of sprouts or micro greens

White Balsamic Vinaigrette:
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, parsley, basil, paprika, cayenne, and salt and pepper.  Between 2 pieces of plastic wrap, gently pound the chicken tenders or cutlets to an even thickness.  Place them in a zip top bag and pour the marinade over.  Close the bag, massage the chicken to coat evenly, and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to overnight.

To make the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients in a glass jar and shake well.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Keep stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium high.  Grill the chicken for 2-3 minutes per side, until cooked through.  Let rest, and then thinly slice the chicken.

In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, cucumbers and vinaigrette.  Divide among 4 large plates, preferably chilled.  Divide the chicken slices between salads, and surround with avocado slices, radish slices, cherry tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese and almonds.  Garnish with sprouts and serve.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Lemony Kale and White Bean Soup

Last Year's Post: Italian Tuna
Two Years Ago:   Grilled Hawaiian Filipino Adobo Pork

This is a wonderfully comforting soup with the touch of lemon, rich chicken broth, and creamy beans, plus it's incredibly good for you.  For some reason I think white beans are very soothing, maybe because they're so creamy.  Anyway, this would be a great dinner to have during a particularly stressful week because it's light, healthy, warm and comforting all at the same time.  Make it in advance and all you have to do is reheat it on your worst day.  And because the soup is relatively light, it makes a nice transition into fall without going all the way to a big bowl of chili.

The chicken broth plays an important role her so use the best quality that you can find, or make your own.  I did that recently and it was actually a fun project plus I have containers sitting in my freezer just ready for the next recipe. Click here if you're interested.

If you don't want to make your own broth, be sure to use a low sodium variety.  One of the main reasons to make your own soup is to control the sodium.  Prepared soups (whether canned, from the deli or in a restaurant) have unbelievable amounts of sodium - check it out next time.  I love Panera soups, for example, but a bowl of their soup can have as much sodium as you should consume in a day, if not more.  I didn't list the amount of salt to add to the soup because it all depends on the sodium level in your chicken broth - start with a small amount and taste as you go.  You can always add more at the table.

Serve the soup with some crusty bread for a very satisfying meal.

Lemony Kale and White Bean Soup
Serves 4-6

Note: There are no amounts given for salt and pepper because it really depends on the chicken stock you use.  I used zero-sodium chicken stock and add ½ teaspoon of both salt and pepper while cooking and it still needed more salt at the table.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large stalk of celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, diced
1/8 cup dry sherry
6 cups good quality low-sodium chicken stock
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 bunch Tuscan (Lacinato) kale, stemmed, washed and chopped
2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or 8 oz dried white beans, cooked and drained)
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon

In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the celery, carrots, garlic and shallots and sauté until just tender, 5-8 minutes.  Deglaze with the sherry, then add the stock, bay leaf and thyme.  Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes.    Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

Remove the thyme and bay leaves, then add the kale and simmer for an additional 8 minutes. Add the beans and lemon zest and juice and cook, stirring, for 5 more minutes to make sure everything is hot.  Taste and adjust seasonings again if needed.  Serve hot.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Chicken with Fresh Corn Sauce and Wild Rice

Last Year's Post:  Mayan Quinoa Salad
Two Years Ago:    Wine Bar (or Brewery) Platters

This chicken and fresh corn sauce recipe recently caught my eye because it's still fresh corn season in many areas.  The recipe is courtesy of the esteemed French chef Pierre Franey, which inevitably means it contains butter and cream.  I debated whether to make the recipe healthier by replacing the cream with corn puree but ultimately decided that once in a while a treat is in order.  And am I glad!  This is a restaurant-quality dish, definitely worthy of company.  Just to give you an idea about the sauce, The Lawyer told me "do NOT throw out the leftover sauce".  When I asked him what he was going to do with it (the chicken and rice were all gone) he said, "I don't know, but I'll eat it straight up if nothing else".  Enough said, I guess.

When I first read the chicken recipe I envisioned it with one of my favorite recipes for wild rice on the side, thinking that the contrast in color, texture and taste would go well with the chicken and sauce.  It went so well that I'm including the recipe for the rice here as well.  If you don't want to make them together that's up to you but I strongly suggest it.  Both the chicken and wild rice are very fast to prepare as long as you cook the rice in advance; if not, add about an hour to the 20-30 minutes it takes to make everything else.

Yes, there is some butter and cream involved.  But what better way to celebrate fresh corn and the last fleeting days of summer?

Chicken with Fresh Corn Sauce and Wild Rice
Serves 4

Note:  the wild rice needs to be cooked in advance; it may be prepared up to the day prior and refrigerated, covered.

For the chicken and sauce:
4 skinless, boneless chicken cutlets
Salt and freshly-ground pepper
1 large ear of corn, shucked and kernels cut off
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup minced shallots
½ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2/3 cup heavy cream
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley

For the wild rice:
1 cup uncooked wild rice
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped roasted red pepper (from a jar)
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

To cook the wild rice: rinse the rice in a strainer, then place in a medium saucepan and cover with water until the water is an inch or two above the rice.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover (the rice should be at a low simmer) for 45-50 minutes until the individual grains have mostly split but are not fully opened and curled.  Check the rice partway through cooking and add more water if it begins to get dry – there should be some left in the pan by the end of cooking.  Drain and set aside.

To prepare the chicken, rinse and pat dry.  Season both sides with salt and pepper.  Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the chicken.  Cook 2 minutes and turn, then cover for an additional 2 minutes until cooked through.  Remove and set aside.  Do not wipe out the pan.

At this point, start the rice: melt the 2 tablespoon of butter in a second large skillet over medium heat.  Add the pecans and lightly toast for a minute or two, then add the green onions and red pepper.  Stir for a minute or two, then add the garlic salt, cooked wild rice, and parsley.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes until the rice is heated through and slightly crispy.

While the rice heats, make the sauce:  add the shallots to the skillet the chicken was in and cook briefly.  Add wine and bring to a boil.  Add the corn and stir in the mustard.  Add the cream and stir to blend.  Bring to a boil for a minute or two to reduce slightly, then add the parsley.

To serve:  place a portion of wild rice on each plate.  Add a chicken cutlet and spoon sauce and corn over the chicken.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Spicy Pork and Noodles with Herbs

Last Year's Post: Coconut Curry Rice
Two Years Ago:   Summer Harvest Quiche

There are two ways you can go at this recipe.  You can treat it as an adventure and an excuse to visit your local Asian market, or you can use the ingredients you have on hand or can find at your regular grocery store.  I was particularly intrigued by the casual mention at the very end of the recipe about serving the chile oil and chile oil solids on the side at the table.  Chile oil solids?  Not in any brand I've ever purchased at my local grocery store. Happily, we have wonderful and extensive Asian markets in Phoenix so I took a trip and found not only the specific chile oil the recipe calls for, but even the Sichuan preserved vegetables (they're actually pickled mustard greens).

I asked the guy at the checkout counter if he'd ever had the chile oil because it looks like it could be fiery.  He just nodded and smiled and as I left he said, "be careful with that one".  Ohkaaaay.  I took that advice seriously and only added a little chile oil at the table (with said solids) and it was plenty for me.  But it wasn't as explosively hot as I expected.

If you want to go the other route, skip the preserved vegetables (truth be told, I couldn't really taste them anyway) and use a chile oil from the Asian aisle of your local grocery store. You could even use Sriracha or another hot sauce to give it some spice if you don't want to buy chile oil at all.

This is a very easy recipe to prepare and can be served hot or at room temperature.  The important part, however, is to make sure the pork mixture becomes browned and crispy because the texture is very appealing with the noodles, herbs, radishes and peanuts.  I debated long and hard whether to substitute ground turkey for the ground pork, which I would normally do to cut down on fat and calories, but decided for the sake of authenticity to go with the pork.  Although the pork was very good, I think you could substitute ground turkey or chicken without too much change in flavor as long as you make sure to brown the meat until it's crisp.

Spicy Pork and Noodles with Herbs
Serves 4

1 pound thin, round rice noodles (or other thin noodles)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon black vinegar
1 tablespoon chile oil (like Lao Gan Ma brand)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
½ pound ground pork
1 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 1-inch piece ginger, chopped
2 scallions, light parts chopped, green parts reserved for garnish
1 tablespoon yacai (Sichuan preserved vegetables, optional)
 Handful of herbs like mint, basil and cilantro leaves, washed
¼ cup salted, roasted peanuts, chopped
4 radishes, sliced

Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook noodles according to instructions. Drain noodles while running under cold water, until they are cool to the touch. Toss with sesame oil to avoid sticking.  Set aside. Mix dressing by whisking rice vinegar, soy sauce, black vinegar, chile oil and sugar until sugar dissolves. Set aside.

Cook the pork topping: Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat, and add ground pork and salt. Pan-fry, breaking meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until no pink parts and no liquid remain in the pan, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and scallion whites, and stir occasionally until the raw smell has disappeared and the meat is starting to brown in places, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetables, if using, along with a tablespoon of water, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes more, or until mixture is darkened and thick.  (The pork should be browned and crispy.)

Divide noodles between four individual bowls, and top each with a tablespoon of vinegar dressing followed by a pile of ground pork, herbs, peanuts and radishes. Serve with additional chile oil and chile-oil solids, on the side.