Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cherry Trifle


We all have fond memories that we associate with the holidays.  And I would venture a guess that I'm not the only one whose fond memories are packed with food.  (Anyone? Anyone?)   One of those desserts that I associate with home, family, and holidays, namely Christmas, is trifle. 

My mother has her own way of making trifle that is a little bit different from the traditional recipes I've seen, but it means that to me, this is traditional.  If I go with the lady fingers and the custard then suddenly it's not really trifle for me anymore.  British food scholars, if such a thing exists, will disagree with me.  But when they try this easy and delicious version that my mother concocted, I think they might change their ways. 

There are three major elements to this trifle that will determine how easy or hard this recipe will be - the cake, the cream, and the pudding.  If you choose to buy all three, this is one of the easiest desserts you will ever make.  In my case, I chose to make just one - the whipped cream (by whipping together 1 cup heavy cream, 2 teaspoons sugar, and half a teaspoon of vanilla until thick) - because I couldn't face the hydrogenated oils and whatnot that are in pre-made whipped cream.  If you want to make the pound cake from scratch, there are a lot of easy recipes out there.  Same for the pudding.  But I'll be honest with you - if you use an Entenmann's pound cake and Jell-O pudding mix, no one will judge you.

So this is how the Williams family makes trifle (with varying fruit selections - I chose to go with all cherries).  See what you think.

Cherry Trifle
serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups frozen cherries (not thawed)
1 loaf of pound cake, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup cherry preserves (the good stuff)
1 ounce dry sherry
1 1/2 cups whipped cream (more or less is fine)
1 1/2 cups vanilla pudding, not quite set yet

DIRECTIONS:

1.  In a large glass bowl (preferably a trifle bowl as picture above, but any glass bowl will do), assemble the trifle in layers.  First, put in about a third of the cherries in the bottom.  Top with a single layer of pound cake slices, each slice spread with jam.  Drizzle half the sherry over the pound cake.

2.  Repeat with another third of the cherries, another layer of cake spread with jam, and drizzle with the sherry.  (You may have some pound cake left over - don't force it in there, you just want two single layers - though a bit of overlap is okay.)  Top with the last of the cherries.

3.  Spread a layer of whipped cream (homemade is best - see headnotes) over the top layer of cherries.  When vanilla pudding is starting to set, but not completely set yet, carefully pour it over the whipped cream to create a top layer. 

4.  Note:  if you made the pudding on the stove top try to let it cool most of the way before doing this, or the whipped cream will get melty and peek up through the pudding.  This is what happened to me - oops.  But it still tasted fantastic.

5.  Refrigerate until ready to serve, at least an hour.   Serve cold.

Enjoy a Williams family tradition!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Roasted Kale


I've said it before and I'll say it again - almost any vegetable is made tastier by roasting.  I could get all Alton Brown on you and explain caramelization, if I really understood the science of it myself.  But what I do know is that veggies get browned and yummy in the oven, and therefore I want to try roasting as many of them as I can get my hands on.

Today I tried it with kale.  (And radicchio, as you can see above, but the radicchio did not fare so well, so please disregard it - consider it a mere addition for Christmas colors.)  The kale was crunchy and yet chewy - sweet and yet savory - delicious and yet...just delicious. 

This is a side dish that will go with just about any main course.  Try it out and see for yourself.

Roasted Kale
serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

1 bunch of kale, tough stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat oven to 375. 

2.  Spread out kale on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss everything together.

3.  Bake for about 10 minutes, tossing everything around about halfway through, until kale is starting to brown at the edges and get crispy.  Serve.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stir Fried Chicken with Baby Bok Choy



It seems almost ridiculous to share a recipe for a stir fry.  Stir fries, by their very nature, don't really require a recipe.  But this is one that is particularly easy, quick, and delicious, so I thought I ought to share.

I think we all can agree that the only hard part about a stir fry is all the chopping that has to be done before the heat comes on.  Well, in this one, there is barely any chopping at all.  If you have a garlic press and a microplane, then the only chopping you have to do is to the cut the stem bottoms off the bok choy.  And you can use kitchen shears to cut up the chicken.   This is the lazy man's stir fry, my friends.  And it tastes pretty great.

Serve over steamed brown rice, or go crazy and make some yummy noodles.

Stir Fried Chicken with Baby Bok Choy
serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (or other Asian chile sauce)
1/2 pound baby bok choy
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Mix together the sherry, soy sauce, and Sriracha, and set aside.  Chop the stem bottoms off the bok choy and separate the leaves.

2.  Heat one teaspoon of oil in a wok over high heat.  When it's hot, add the bok choy and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until just wilted and still crisp tender.  Remove from wok and set aside in a bowl.

3.  Add remaining teaspoon of oil to the wok and heat over high heat.  When hot, add the garlic and ginger and cook for only about 10 seconds, stirring, before adding the chicken.   Stir fry until chicken is browned and nearly done.  Add the sauce and bok choy to the wok and toss everything together, cooking about one additional minute.  Serve.

Enjoy!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Toasted Ravioli with Red Pepper Sauce


I'll admit I was a little skeptical about how this recipe would turn out.  Even right up to the point of plating it, I was not so sure.  My husband called and asked what I was making, and I said I'd have to get back to him.

Well, my doubts were unfounded.  This is a slightly messy, extremely delicious meal.  I'm glad I stuck it through to the end to see how it would end up, instead of taking it in a completely other direction.  These are fresh ravioli, coated with seasoned bread crumbs and pan-fried in olive oil.  Not exciting enough already?  Then how about adding a gorgeous roasted red pepper dipping sauce?

We had ours over a bed of arugula, but these could easily be finger food, dunked into the sauce instead of slathered in it.  Decide for yourself.  The bottom line is that this is an easy meal that comes together quickly and has a fantastic reward waiting for you at the end.

Toasted Ravioli with Red Pepper Sauce
adapted from Rachael Ray's Book of 10
serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

2 eggs
a splash of milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
a handful of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
12 large fresh ravioli (I used 4-cheese; spinach would work)
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
a pinch of red pepper flakes
3 roasted red peppers, drained
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Beat eggs and the splash of milk in a shallow bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Combine bread crumbs with cheese and parsley in a second dish.  Dip the ravioli into the eggs, then coat with bread crumbs (you may find they don't stick too well - just do your best to make sure some kind of coating happens).

2.  Heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a large skillet, and toast the ravioli until deep golden, about 4 minutes per side.

3.  In a small saucepan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil with the garlic and red pepper flakes over medium-low heat.  Grind the roasted red peppers in a food processor and add them to the pot after cooking the garlic for a couple of minutes (be careful not to burn it).  Stir in the tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper.  Heat through.

4.  Serve toasted ravioli with the dipping sauce, either on the side or on top.

Enjoy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Whole Wheat Banana Bread


I have baked many a banana bread in my lifetime, and it's safe to say that this is the best one yet.  The crust is crisp, the innards are soft and tender.  It's loaded with natural banana flavor without being overly intense.  It is, in a word, perfection.

I do a lot of baking with whole wheat flour - in fact, all my baking these days is with whole wheat flour.  My two personal favorites are King Arthur Flour's white whole wheat and their whole wheat pastry flour.  I took a regular white-flour recipe for banana bread and decided to try using half white whole wheat, and half whole wheat pastry flour.  It came out absolutely magnificent.  Now, I'm sure it would be just as good with all of one or the other, so if you don't feel like investing in two different types of whole wheat flour, fear not.

This is a banana bread you can feel pretty good about eating - low fat, whole grains, loads of bananas.  But I promise that if you give it to someone, they won't taste it and say "Oh is this some fancy healthy kind of banana bread?"  It's got that same down-home goodness of traditional banana bread, only even tastier.  It is the mecca of banana bread, people.  Please try it and enjoy.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread
adapted from Cooking Light Complete Cookbook
makes one loaf

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
3 medium sized ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cooking spray

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat oven to 350.

2.  Whisk together flours, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

3.  In a stand mixer or large bowl, beat sugar and butter at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute).  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended.  Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until just moist.

4.  Spoon batter into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack, then remove from pan and cool completely on the wire rack.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sirloin with Grainy Mustard Sauce and Steak Fries


This is a hearty, rib-sticking meal.  And yet you don't feel like you need to be rolled home afterward.  It's that typical Ellie Krieger magic.  She takes what should be heavy and heartburn-inducing and somehow makes it refreshing.  Who knew such a thing was possible?

All you need to know is that this is a delicious meal.  Beautiful sirloin steak topped with a spicy, tangy sauce, and accompanied by crisp-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the-inside fries.  I don't think I need to say any more.

Sirloin with Grainy Mustard Sauce and Steak Fries
adapted from Ellie Krieger's So Easy
serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

The Fries
Cooking spray
1 russet potato, scrubbed
1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
salt

The Steak
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium veggie or chicken broth
1 boneless sirloin steak, about 3/4 pound
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Start the fries first.  Preheat toaster oven to 450.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Cut the potato into wedges and toss with oil.  Lay out on the baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until browned and crispy on the outside.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.

2.  In a small saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon of oil over medium heat.  Add shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook for 30 seconds.  Stir in broth, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, cook the steak.  Pat dry with paper towels and sprinkle both sides lightly with salt and pepper.  Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the steak and cook, turning only once, about 5 minutes per side or to desired doneness.  Set aside to rest and tent with foil.

4.  Add the shallot sauce to the skillet where you cooked the steak, and bring to a simmer over low heat.  Stir and scrape up the browned bits from the pan.  Stir in mustard, and season to taste with salt.

5.  Thinly slice the steak and serve topped with the sauce, alongside the fries.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Carrot Leek Soup



Cool weather = soup weather.  It's a pretty simple equation.  This soup is a particularly tasty and hearty one - a smooth mixture of carrot, potato, and leek, with just a hint of yummy spice and zesty lemon juice to push it over the top into fantastic territory. 

Grab a hunk of bread, whip up this budget-friendly meal, and tuck in.

And a word to the wise - when attempting to thinly slice multiple carrots, the slicer blade on your food processor is your best friend.

Carrot Leek Soup
adapted from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper
serves 3-4

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 pound carrots, thinly sliced
2 small or 1 medium potato of your choice, peeled and cubed
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Film the bottom of a soup pot or Dutch oven with the oil and heat over medium heat.  Add leeks, garlic, and nutmeg, and cook, stirring often, until soft.  Try not to brown the leeks and garlic.  (Reduce heat if necessary).

2.  Stir in carrots, potato, and broth.  Top up with water to just cover all the veggies.  Bring to a boil, then partially cover the pot and let simmer for 15 minutes, or until veggies are fork tender. 

3.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender or food processor, until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the lemon juice.  Serve.

Enjoy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies


Every year my office has a holiday party.  There are many avid bakers in our office, so each year we have a potluck dessert situation.  The past couple of years, it has been declared a "bake-off celebration"  (read:  competitive and intimidating).  Still, I have participated each time, without trying too hard to knock anyone's socks off.  I make simple and yummy things that I think people will eat but not necessarily vote for.

Well this year, I might have broken that tradition.  Yes, they're cookies, and not a big fancy cake or cheesecake or giant cupcake.  But they are special. You see, they feature nutella.  They also feature quality cocoa and chopped hazelnuts.  They are decadent and delicious and beautiful.

Still, I won't hold my breath for a win.  There are some veteran bakers in our office and I wouldn't presume that I'm even in their league.  Either way, these are wonderful little holiday treats and they made our house smell terrific.

Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
makes 28 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup (lightly spooned into cup) whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
1/3 cup Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread)

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment or silpat liners.

2. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk.

3.  Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).  Whisk egg yolks with instant coffee and add to the butter along with vanilla.  Beat well.   Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat at low speed until just combined.  The batter will have a thick, fudgy texture.

4.  Turn dough out onto a sheet of wax paper.  Knead a few times until smooth and shiny.  Shape dough into 28 1-inch balls.  Roll sides of balls in the chopped hazelnuts, pressing gently.  (Not a lot of nuts will stick - don't stress over it).

5.  Arrange balls 1 inch apart on baking sheets.  Press thumb into center of each cookie, leaving an indentation.  (The indentations will be less intense after baking - you might need to recreate them with the back of a spoon while cookies are still hot).  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Remove cookies from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

6.  Spoon a scant 1/2 teaspoon of Nutella into the center of each cookie.  Use a toothpick to swirl the Nutella into a pretty pattern (see picture above). 

Enjoy!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Broccoli & Cheddar Stuffed Potato Skins (CEIMB)



When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to order in restaurants were potato skins.  Of course I'm sure I had no idea just how decadent and evil they were - the skins were probably fried, and I can't even imagine what was piled on top of them.  This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly pick is a fantastic healthy variation on my childhood favorite.

I decided to upgrade this to a full-sized Russett potato rather than small Idaho potatoes, to make this a meal-sized dish rather than a more appetizer-sized one.  Or maybe it was just my excuse to eat more.

These came out so well.  They taste incredible, with the salty crispy skin and the zesty creamy avocado topping.  Make mini ones for your upcoming holiday guests, or just horde them for yourself like I did.  These are way too good.

Broccoli & Cheddar Stuffed Potato Skins with Avocado Cream
adapted from Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger
serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

2 large Russett potatoes, scrubbed and dried
cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 head of broccoli, coarsely chopped (about 2-3 cups)
2 pieces Canadian bacon, finely diced
1/2 cup grated extra sharp cheddar
1 small avocado
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1 small clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Pierce potatoes several times with a fork, wrap in paper towels, and microwave on high for about 15 minutes, or until cooked through.  Set aside until cool enough to handle.

2.  Preheat toaster oven (or full-sized oven, if you must) to 450.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out all but 1/8 inch of the inside flesh, leaving skin intact.  Reserve scooped potato flesh for another use (see me attempt knishes later this week, unless they are disastrous and I decide not to post them).

3.  Spray inside and outside of potatoes lightly with cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt.  Place on the baking sheet, skin-side down, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until skins are crisp and edges are browned.

4.  In the meantime, prepare filling.  Steam broccoli until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and preheat over medium-high.  Add Canadian bacon and cook until crisp, stirring often, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Reserve.

5.  To make avocado cream, combine avocado, sour cream, lime juice, cilantro, garlic and salt in a food processor and process until smooth.

6.  Fill potato skins with broccoli and cheese.  Reduce oven temperature to 400 and return the skins to the oven, cooking until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.  Serve topped with avocado cream and bacon bits.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Broccoli Rabe and Couscous



Sometimes you come home from a long day at work (or jury duty, as the case may be) and you really don't have the energy to spend more than about 15 minutes making dinner.  There is definitely a temptation to reach for the phone and call for some takeout, but if you have a few ingredients on hand you can probably make something much healthier and more rewarding for yourself.

Case in point.  This is a meal with very few ingredients, yet it has complex flavors and is incredibly satisfying.  One non-pedestrian vegetable, one fluffy little grain, and an optional salty meat component - plus a few basic pantry staples - and you're set.   I say the meat is optional because it is there more for extra flavor than anything else.  This can easily be converted into a vegetarian dish.

Feel free to downgrade this to a side dish, but if you heap it into a bowl and plop down with a fork, you won't need anything else. 

Broccoli Rabe and Couscous
adapted from Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express
serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup low sodium vegetable (or chicken) broth
3/4 cup couscous
salt
1 bunch broccoli rabe, stems trimmed
2 tablespoons diced prosciutto (optional)
freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon

DIRECTIONS:

1.  In a small pot, bring the broth to a boil.  Stir in the couscous, turn off the heat, and cover.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

2.  Meanwhile, bring a larger pot of water to a boil.  Salt it and add the broccoli rabe.  Blanch for about 2 minutes, just until crisp tender, then drain.  Chop the broccoli rabe into bite-sized pieces.

3.  While the couscous is cooking, also heat the diced prosciutto in a small skillet over medium heat, if using, until sizzling and slightly browned.

4.  Stir the broccoli rabe and prosciutto into the couscous.  Add salt and pepper to taste, olive oil, and lemon juice, and stir everything together.  Serve.

Enjoy!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Crunchy Pear & Celery Salad



This is a fabulous late fall salad.  It's filled with fantastic texture and flavor contrasts.  You have salty cheddar, the slightly sweet and nutty pecans, the crunchy celery and pear all on a backdrop of peppery arugula coated with a tangy-sweet dressing.  Yum.

If you're looking for a salad that is more interesting than the usual, and is easy to throw together in a pinch, look no further.

Crunchy Pear & Celery Salad
adapted from Eating Well in Season
serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
pinch of salt
2 stalks celery, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Asian pear (or other pear of choice), seeded and diced
2 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup finely diced sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Whisk together vinegar, honey and salt in the bottom of a large bowl.  Gently toss the celery and pear in the dressing to coat.  Then add arugula, cheddar, and pecans, and toss everything together.  Season with pepper.

Enjoy!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tuscan Potato-Kale Stew


Today I did something questionable in the kitchen, and it actually turned out pretty great.  I took a fairly elegant soup recipe and turned it into a chunky, hearty stew.  It doesn't look gorgeous, admittedly, but it tasted wonderful, and it was a remarkably satisfying bowl of yumminess.

This is a healthy, easy way to get a load of flavor into a bowl.  Potatoes, kale, and sausage are the three musketeers of soup, and everything that is good about them joins together to form a wonderful meal.  A little spicy, a little creamy, with earthy dark greens throughout - this is a winner.  And perfect for a cold evening.

Tuscan Potato-Kale Stew
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
serves 3

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 hot Italian turkey sausage links, casings removed
handful of sage leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
1 bunch of kale, stems removed, coarsely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Heat oil in a medium-large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat.  Add sausage and sage leaves, and use a wooden implement to break up the sausage as it cooks.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until sausage browns and sage leaves get slightly crispy, about 4 minutes.  Scoop out the sausage and sage with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2.  Add onion and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until onion softens and garlic becomes fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add potatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Saute for about 2 minutes, then add chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

3.  Puree the mixture carefully, using a food mill or immersion blender, or your preferred method.  Be sure to leave a good deal of texture - we don't want completely whipped potatoes here.   The mixture will be quite thick.  Return to low heat and stir in the milk and parmesan.

4.  Bring a separate pot of water to a boil and blanch the kale until bright green and somewhat tender, about 2 minutes.  Drain well, reserving about 1/4 cup of the cooking water.  Add the kale to the soup pot and stir.  If the soup is too thick, add the reserved kale cooking water.  Stir in reserved sausage and sage, and serve.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tomato-Basil Chicken over Polenta


This is a similar concept to a recipe I posted fairly recently, but trust me.  It's quite different.  My love affair with polenta continues, and I went back to making it the old-fashioned way just for kicks.  If you want to make it the brilliant oven-baked way (see link above), please be my guest. 

This is a simple, comforting and tasty meal that should please just about any palate.  Traditional Italian flavors of tomato, basil, and garlic rest atop a slightly spicy chicken breast, on a bed of creamy polenta.  What's not to love?

Also, a note - when I say two chicken breast cutlets, I mean one large chicken breast butterflied through the middle and then cut into two pieces, creating two thinner pieces of chicken breast.  I just want to be clear, here.

Tomato-Basil Chicken over Polenta
adapted from Rachael Ray's Book of 10
serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup polenta (coarse ground cornmeal)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 chicken breast cutlets
salt and pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 pint red grape tomatoes
handful fresh basil, coarsely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

1.  In a small pot, whisk together 1 1/2 cups broth with the polenta and butter.  Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally.  Reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, whisking occasionally, until polenta is a thick porridge-y texture.   Season with salt and pepper just before serving.

2.  Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Season chicken cutlets with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.   Add to skillet and cook for about 2 minutes each side, until lightly browned.  Add onion and garlic to pan and cook for about 2 more minutes, until onions are lightly browned.

3.  Add remaining chicken broth to the skillet and cook until reduced by about half, approximately 3 minutes.  Turn the chicken occasionally.   Add tomatoes and cook about one minutes, or until they are heated through and just starting to burst.  Stir in basil, and serve chicken with tomatoes and sauce over a bed of polenta.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pasta Primavera


Pasta Primavera is a generic sort of term for pasta with fresh vegetables.  This variation fits that definition, but is anything but generic.  It's a light and yet hearty meal full of vibrant colors and flavors, with a delicate sauce and a ton of nutrients.  In short, it's a great recovering-from-Thanksgiving meal.

The original recipe called for button mushrooms to be added to the mix, and if you like mushrooms, I'd recommend including them.  We are a mushroom-free household due to my husband's preference, so I left them out.  Either way, this is anything but your standard old pasta and veggies.

So get out your good knife and before you know it, dinner will be on the table.

Pasta Primavera
adapted from Ellie Krieger's So Easy
serves 2-3

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti or linguine
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon white whole wheat (or all-purpose) flour
1/2 cup low sodium chicken (or veggie) broth
1/4 cup nonfat milk
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 small carrot, sliced into thin strips with a peeler
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup chopped chives

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it.  Cook pasta until just al dente, according to package directions.  Drain.

2.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, for one minute.  Add bell peppers and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.  Add asparagus and tomatoes, and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.

3.  Stir flour into the veggies and cook for one minute.  Add broth, milk, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until liquid has thickened slightly (it won't get super thick), about 5 minutes.  Stir in the carrots.

4.  Add cooked pasta to the veggies and toss everything together.  Serve garnished with parmesan and chives.

Enjoy!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Smashed Potatoes with Sour Cream and Chives (CEIMB)


This week for Craving Ellie in my Belly, we each were to make an Ellie dish for our Thanksgiving spread.  I chose something simple - I had offered to be in charge of potatoes, and no Thanksgiving is complete without some kind of mash.  If you like your mashed potatoes smooth and creamy, you might prefer something like this.  These, however, are a lovely rustic smash with the peels still on, the occasional chunk, and yet they still have a lovely smoothness to them.

I think we all know that the traditional topping for a baked potato is sour cream and chives.  I have never been a huge sour cream fan, but somehow when you mix it all together with the fluffy potato innards instead of letting it rest on top, I like it.  And that's exactly what this mashed potato recipe is.  You'd never even guess that there isn't a drop of butter in the recipe.   Also, it's one of the easiest side dishes ever, apart from the exercise of mashing the potatoes, but that's a great way to let out aggression!

I doubled the recipe for our group of eleven, and there was still way more than enough.  If this is your only side dish at a non-thanksgiving meal (such as bangers and mash, perhaps?) then believe the serving count as it is.

Smashed Potatoes with Sour Cream and Chives
adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/4 pounds baby yukon gold potatoes, large ones halved
salt
1/4 cup low sodium vegetable broth, warmed
1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream (NOT nonfat)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Place potatoes in a large pot and fill with cold water to about 1 inch above the tops of the potatoes.  Salt it, cover it, and bring to a boil over high heat.  When the water comes to a boil, uncover and reduce heat slightly to medium-high.  Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until potatoes are knife tender.  Drain.

2.  Return potatoes to the pot and add the warm broth.  Mash with a potato masher to the desired consistency - I'd recommend getting rid of any serious chunks of potato, but leaving a somewhat rustic texture.

3.  Stir in sour cream, chives, and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Maple and Sage Roasted Butternut Squash



Happy Thanksgiving!  As we all know, thanksgiving is a day that is all about appreciating things.  Especially side dishes that showcase fantastic fall flavors.

One of my contributions to today's feast is this fantastic and simple maple roasted butternut squash side dish.  It features my favorite herb, sage, and my favorite sweetener, maple syrup.  It comes together quickly, it makes your house smell like donuts, and it's delicious.  Nuff said.

Maple and Sage Roasted Butternut Squash
makes about 4 cups

INGREDIENTS:

1 3-lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
handful fresh sage leaves

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat oven to 400.

2.  Lay out the squash on a ridged baking sheet and toss with the maple and oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 30 minutes, taking it out once about halfway through to turn the squash. 

3.  Add the sage and toss everything together, then bake for another 15 minutes until golden brown and sizzling.  Discard any burned chunks of maple syrup - they won't taste too good.  Serve.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Spanakopita



Oh my god.  Yes, this is that good.

Tonight I conducted an experiment in my kitchen, adapting the recipe for spanakopita filling from the barefoot contessa and making one big spanakopita instead of the individual triangles.  It was so incredibly fantastic, I don't know where to begin. 

Spanakopita is often served as an appetizer, but this variation can easily be your full meal.  Salty feta, earthy spinach, and gorgeous spices encased in a crispy phyllo shell - this is vegetarian bliss.   Yum. 

Eloquence is escaping me, so let's get straight to the recipe.

Spanakopita
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics
serves 4-5

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan
2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup small-diced feta cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
5 sheets frozen phyllo dough, defrosted and cut in half
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat oven to 375.

2.  Warm olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes, just softening, not browning.  Add scallions and cook for two additional minutes.  Remove from heat.

3.  Meanwhile, squeeze most of the moisture from the spinach and place in a large bowl.  Add onions and scallions when they're done cooking.  Stir in eggs, parmesan, bread crumbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Gently fold in the feta and pine nuts.

4.  Lay out the phyllo sheets on a work surface.  Brush an 8 x 8 baking dish with vegetable oil using a pastry brush.  Working quickly so they don't dry out, brush a small amount of vegetable oil onto each phyllo sheet.  Lay the first five halves into the baking sheet after oiling each one.  The edges will go up the sides of the baking dish, so lay them in different directions to create a sort of crust coming up the sides of the baking dish.

5.  Spread the filling evenly over the phyllo.  Top with the remaining five halves of phyllo dough after brushing each one with oil in the same manner you did with the first five.  When all the phyllo is in the pan, fold down the edges that are coming up over the top of the baking dish to create a sort of seal.  Sprinkle lightly with salt, and bake for 30 minutes, or until browned and crisp.  Serve hot.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sweet Potato and Red Onion Tart



Tonight I took one step further into the realm of pastry crust.  This time it was a free-form tart, a galette of sorts, and one of the savory variety.  While the crust came out a little bit crumbly, the tart was in one piece and it tasted fantastic, so I think I can safely pat myself on the back.

This is a very elegant meal on its own, or with a simple green salad.  It could also work as an appetizer or side dish on Thanksgiving day, if you are looking for a last minute addition to your menu.  The flavors are mild and lovely, with just a hint of robust rosemary to liven things up a bit. 

I suppose if I'm really going to get good at the whole pastry crust thing, I need to go for the full fat, white flour and butter variety.  But these experiments with the more healthy alternative are still quite fun.  So enjoy a relatively guilt-free tart, on me.

Sweet Potato and Red Onion Tart
adapted from Eating Well Magazine
serves 8-10

INGREDIENTS:

crust
3/4 cup walnuts
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
7 tablespoons ice cold water

filling
1 large sweet potato, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
1 egg white, mixed with 1 teaspoon water

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat oven to 425 (unless you are making the pastry dough ahead of time, which you can feel free to do).

2.  Pulse the walnuts in a food processor until finely ground.  Add flour, rosemary, salt and pepper, and process until smooth.  Dump out into a large bowl and form a well in the center.  Pour EVOO and water into the well, then gently stir everything together, gradually combining the dry and wet ingredients, until a cohesive dough begins to form.  Knead with your hands to form into a ball, just until it comes together.  Pat into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or up to 3 days.

3.  Combine sweet potatoes, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.  Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet (but leave room for the onions).  Toss onion in the bowl with 1 teaspoon oil.  Spread evenly on remaining space of the baking sheet.  Roast for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and reduce heat to 375.

4.  Line a work surface with parchment paper.  Lightly dust with flour, and then lightly dust the disk of dough with flour.  Roll out to a rustic 15-inch circle, adding more flour if necessary to prevent sticking.  Transfer to a baking sheet with parchment in place.

5.  Leaving a 2 inch border, sprinkle cheese over the dough.  Maintaining the 2 inch border, create an overlapping circle of the larger slices of sweet potato around the perimeter.  Follow with another circle of onion, and finally fill in the center with overlapping sweet potato.  It will look sort of like a bulls-eye. 

6.  Pick up edges of crust with a spatula and fold over, covering the edges of the sweet potato slices.  Dough may be crumbly, so be patient and smoosh it with your fingers as necessary.  Brush the crust with the egg wash.  Drizzle veggies with remaining teaspoon of oil.

7.  Bake until lightly browned on the edges, about 50 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

A few more steps than my typical recipe, but well worth it!  Enjoy.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Double Chocolate Brownies


There are brownies, and then there are brownies.   I can't even count the number of brownie recipes I have tried in my lifetime, one of which I posted on this blog before.  But sometimes a brownie recipe comes along that makes you want to share with all your friends.  For brownie purposes, it is The One.

And best of all, it's fairly low fat.  It comes from Ellie Krieger, after all (with my tweaks).  It was published in the Food Network magazine a few months ago and I finally got around to trying it today.  It is cakey and fudgy at the same time - super chocolatey and rich without giving you the sensation of instant artery clogging.  Definitely one to add to the holiday repertoire!

Double Chocolate Brownies
adapted from Food Network magazine
makes 24 small brownies

INGREDIENTS:

cooking spray
6 ounces dark chocolate (60% to 70% preferred), coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup white whole wheat four
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350, and coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.

2.  Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler (or a makeshift double boiler - heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water).  Stir occasionally until melted.  Turn off the heat and let cool slightly.

3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda.

4.  In a large bowl, whisk eggs and brown sugar until smooth, then add yogurt, oil and vanilla and whisk to combine.  Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until blended.  Add dry ingredients and mix until just moistened.

4.  Spread batter in prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.  Cool in the pan before slicing.

Enjoy!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lion's Head (Pork Meatballs with Napa Cabbage)


Obviously it is not uncommon for me to try cooking something I've never cooked before.  But occasionally I am so crazy that I try cooking something I've never even eaten before.  I know.  I'm a maniac.

Tonight's dish was motivated by a particularly beautiful head of napa cabbage that I picked up at the farmers market last weekend.  I sought out a recipe that put a spotlight on this lovely pale green cabbage, and found Lion's Head.  I was intrigued.  And considering I got the original recipe from Rachael Ray, I'm guessing it's not the most authentic Chinese cuisine.  But it's tasty.

This is a meal meant to be served over rice, but I chose to have it as a shallow sort of soup.  It reminded me of matzo ball soup, only with giant meatballs instead of matzo balls.  The flavors are mild, so if you're looking for something with more zing I'd add ginger or maybe hot chilies to the meatballs.  As it stands, it's a comforting and hearty meal that is pretty inoffensive, and maybe even yummy.  You be the judge.

Feel free to substitute ground turkey or chicken, though if it's too lean it will be too dry.

Lion's Head
adapted from Rachael Ray's Book of 10
serves 3

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound lean ground pork
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 egg
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
3 scallions, green parts only, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 small to medium head of napa cabbage, cored and chopped

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Combine pork, soy sauce, egg, garlic, scallions, bell pepper, and one tablespoon of the cornstarch in a bowl.  Stir together until combined, but do not overmix.  It's kind of gross, but you should probably use your hands.  Form into six large meatballs.  Dust the meatballs evenly with remaining cornstarch.

2.  In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil over high heat.  When it is starting to ripple, add the meatballs and fry for about 2 minutes on each side, so the meatballs are nicely browned all over but not cooked through.

3.  In a medium to large Dutch oven or soup pot, bring the chicken broth to a bubble.  Add half the cabbage, followed by the meatballs, followed by the remaining cabbage.  The pot should be pretty much filled up to the top.  Put on the lid and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove the lid and let simmer for about a minute.  The cabbage should be mostly wilted and the meatballs should be cooked through.  Serve.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Berry French Toast Bake (CEIMB)


This week's Craving Ellie in my Belly recipe was for Peach French Toast Bake, which sounded lovely.  The recipe uses frozen fruit, so you actually get to enjoy out-of-season fruit on your French toast.  I opted to go for berries, since it's what I happened to have in the freezer.  I also made a few other adaptations to the recipe, including shrinking it down to a single (or double, if you're not that hungry) portion.

The results were good, but I don't know if I'm convinced that I want to switch from my normal French toast method.  The overnight soaking didn't produce anything magical.  But the flavors were nice, and it was somewhat more elegant than your typical French toast.   All in all, a success.

Berry French Toast Bake (CEIMB)
adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
serves 1-2

INGREDIENTS:

cooking spray
2 slices whole wheat bread
1 egg
1/4 cup nonfat milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup mixed frozen berries
2 tablespoons brown sugar

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Coat a small baking dish with cooking spray.  Lay the bread slices in the pan.

2.  Whisk egg, milk, and vanilla together in a bowl.  Pour the mixture over the bread slices.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Scatter the berries over the bread, and sprinkle the top with brown sugar.  Top with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

3.  In the morning, preheat the oven to 350.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until browned and puffed up.  Serve.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winter Squash Cassoulet



I'm giving you another hearty, warm and comforting fall dish today, people.  And again, miraculously, it's vegetarian.

I think if you've browsed this blog at all you have gathered by now that I am not a vegetarian.  Still, I try to eat a well-balanced and wholesome assortment of food, and the goal is to not eat too much meat.  Both for environmental and for health reasons.  This meal is a great example of how you can have a complex and filling dinner and not even notice the lack of meat.

Use whatever winter squash you like in this recipe - I used buttercup squash, but butternut, acorn, or pumpkin would be fabulous too.  The squash, beans, roasted garlic and caramelized onions all have a lovely melty texture that goes wonderfully with the crisp bread crumb topping.

Winter Squash Cassoulet
adapted from Williams-Sonoma's Eat Well
serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

1 head of garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 14.5 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 small winter squash, 1-2 lbs, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 slice whole wheat bread, processed into crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat toaster oven (or oven, if you must) to 375.  Cut garlic head in half crosswise and wrap the two halves together in foil.  Bake until soft, about 30 minutes.  Cool, then squeeze cloves from cut halves into a bowl, discarding papery skins.  Set aside.

2.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onions and saute, stirring often, until they soften.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and caramelized, about 20 minutes.  Turn off the heat and preheat the oven to 375 (if you didn't already use the full sized oven in step 1).

3.  Stir beans, squash, broth, thyme, salt, pepper, and reserved garlic in with the onions.  Cover and bake until squash is tender, about 40 minutes.  Mix bread crumbs with parmesan and remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil, and sprinkle evenly over the top.  Return cassoulet to oven (uncovered) and bake until bread crumbs are browned, about 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Roasted Balsamic Tomatoes over Polenta


There is nothing wrong with simplicity.  In fact, it is a magnificently beautiful concept that gives rise to dishes like this one.  I have been craving polenta for weeks, and I finally decided to partake this evening in a rustic, hearty and comforting dish with beautiful Italian flavors.  There are very few ingredients, but they are good quality ones.   This is a perfect meal for a cool fall evening, with a glass of wine and some good music in the background.  Bliss, my friends.  Bliss.

The other fantastic aspect of this meal is that it gave me a chance to try out a different way of making polenta, and I am officially a convert.  I had heard about this method many times before, and finally got around to trying it.  Why would I ever go back?  You'll see in the instructions below that your days of whisking almost constantly on the stovetop are behind you.

Please try this.  If you have a hunk of crusty bread nearby, even better.

Roasted Balsamic Tomatoes over Polenta
serves 2-3

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup polenta (coarse ground cornmeal)
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons quality balsamic vinegar
handful basil leaves, torn
3 large garlic cloves, crushed with the flat edge of a knife
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat oven to 425.  In an 8 x 8 baking dish or similar sized casserole, combine polenta, water, broth, milk, butter, salt and pepper to taste.  Bake for about 40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until polenta thickens and has a porridge-y consistency.

2.  While the polenta is baking, place the tomatoes in a single layer in a small baking dish.  Drizzle with EVOO and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.  Add garlic cloves and basil, and toss everything together.  When the polenta has been baking for about 15 minutes, add the tomato dish to the oven.   Each time you open the oven to stir the polenta, stir up the tomatoes, too.

3.  When there are about 5 minutes left in the baking time, stir parmesan into the polenta.  When everything is done (tomatoes are mostly burst, polenta has thickened), serve tomatoes and juices over the polenta.

Enjoy!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fall Persimmon Salad




I've had a few fuyu persimmons hanging out in my fruit bowl for a couple of weeks now.  I have to admit, I'm not a big enough fan to enjoy eating them straight up.  Unfortunately, most baked goods that contain persimmons call for the much pulpier hachiya persimmon, so I was running out of ideas of how to use these guys.

Then it came to me.  The fuyu persimmon is sweet and crunchy, much like an apple.  Apples are great in salads along with nuts, cheeses, and other such things.  Inspiration struck.  I turned to the Barefoot Contessa for the dressing idea, and decided to build a festive, fall-oriented salad.  There are so many delicious flavors in the bowl, that even if you're not a huge persimmon fan, I promise you'll enjoy it.  And if you are, well, there's no question.

Note - use a good quality blue cheese for this recipe, one that tastes good on its own, so that you don't botch the flavor of the salad with a nasty cheese.

Fall Persimmon Salad
serves 2 as a main course

INGREDIENTS:

2 ounces diced prosciutto
5 ounces mixed baby greens
2 fuyu persimmons, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/4 cup walnut halves, toasted in a dry skillet and chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

the dressing:
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

1.  In a small skillet over medium-high heat, cook the prosciutto until crispy.  Set aside to cool.

2.  Combine the greens, persimmon, walnuts, cranberries, and blue cheese in a large salad bowl.  Add prosciutto when it's not too hot.

3.  Make the dressing by whisking all ingredients together, streaming in the oil last, or by putting all ingredients in a salad dressing shaker and shaking vigorously.  Pour just enough dressing over the salad to coat the greens (don't drench them), then toss everything together.  Serve.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Karahi Chicken



My sister and I took an Indian cooking class a few months ago taught by the lovely and talented Neelam Batra.  She told us about her published cookbooks, and I immediately fell in love with one of them.  It's called Chilis to Chutneys, and it features an assortment of recipes that combine Indian flavors with more western style dishes.  And thank heavens, it does NOT refer to itself as "Indian Fusion." 

The fact is, I love Indian food.  With most of my heart.  An even bigger portion of my heart, however, I use to love my husband, who does not dig the Indian food.  So this cookbook is a great solution - it brings Indian spices within his comfort zone.  Case in point with this dish.  At first glance, it's just your typical stir fry.  But when you take a bite, it surprises you with some bold Indian spices that you weren't expecting.  He definitely liked it.

It also features one of my favorite flavors, cilantro.  I realize there are cilantro haters out there - and they will want to skip this dish.  But it reminds me of a delicious cilantro chicken my mother always made that is one of my all time favorites of her recipes.  Something about cilantro and tomato - it's just a beautiful combination.

I improvised a bit with what I had on hand, so this is my version of Ms. Batra's recipe.  Feel free to change up the spices to use whatever Indian goodies you have in your cupboard.

Karahi Chicken
adapted from Neelam Batra's Chilis to Chutneys
serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz. can unsalted diced tomatoes, drained
1 generous cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound chicken breast tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the onion and ginger, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Mix in the garlic and tomatoes, and cook, stirring, until a cohesive sauce starts to form, about 5 minutes.

2.  Add cilantro, garam masala, cumin, salt, pepper, and chicken.  Cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is mostly cooked, about 5 minutes.  Add bell pepper strips, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes to marry the flavors.  Serve over rice, or with naan.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Roasted Potatoes with Bacon, Leeks and Sage



Well hello, fall comfort food.  Thank you for turning up on my dinner plate.

This is such an easy dish that showcases some incredible fall flavors.  Baby fingerling potatoes, crispy and brown on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside?  Check.  Pungent fresh sage leaves, turned crispy after a visit to the oven?  Check.  Roasted leeks and crispy bacon to tie it all together with a power chord of flavor?  Check.

It's that simple.  And it's that good.  This sounds like a side dish, but trust me, you won't need anything else.

Roasted Potatoes with Bacon, Leeks and Sage
adapted from Bon Appetit
serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish

INGREDIENTS:

1 strip of bacon, chopped
1 pound of baby fingerling potatoes, halved
1 leek, white and light green parts only, chopped
5 or 6 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat oven (preferably toaster oven) to 375.  Line a baking sheet with foil.

2.  Heat a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon pieces and cook until browned and crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.

3.  Toss the potatoes, leek, and sage with the olive oil (and drippings from the bacon, if you like, in which case reduce the amount of oil).  Season lightly with salt and pepper, place on the baking sheet, and bake for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are getting evenly browned, and leeks and sage are getting crispy.

4.  Add the bacon pieces and toss everything together.  Raise oven temperature to 400 and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until everything is browned and crispy, and potatoes are tender.  Serve.

Enjoy!