Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wrap it in a tortilla and call it dinner.

I'm home.  It was a great vacation full of reunions with family and old friends, parties, birthdays and a lot of quality time with my sweet niece and nephew.  As much fun as it is to travel though, it was also very nice to come home.  We just today got everything unpacked and got the house all cleaned up and now I am looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend.  When we left everything was in bloom and it looked very Springy.  Now all of the trees are fully leafed out and the light in the house has totally changed.  It feels like summer.  This menu reflects that I think.        

We came home to a surprisingly small stack of mail but it had a few goodies in it.  One was my June/July issue of Fine Cooking.  I flipped though it immediately and found this recipe in the back.  We spent most of our vacation eating New Mexican food (my favorite, I requested green chili for my birthday and my mom delivered, it was delicious!).  It is really a style all its own and something that is hard to produce anywhere that you don't have access to good green chiles.  So now that we are back we had to a resort to a little Tex-mex.  Not a bad alternative.     

1. Tex-mex Chicken with Chiles and Cheese
modified from Fine Cooking
makes 4 servings

1 1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and slices 1/4" thick
1 t chili powder
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t cayenne pepper
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 T unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen thawed) corn kernels
1 medium jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
3 T lime juice (from 1-2 limes) 
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar
4 tortillas 

Position rack about 4" from broiler and heat broiler on high.  Toss the chicken with the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, 3/4 t salt and 1/2 t pepper.  Lightly dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off any excess.  Melt 2 1/2 T of the butter in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium high heat.  Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.  Add the remaining 1 T butter, the corn, jalapeno, garlic and 1/2t salt.  Cook, stirring, until the corn begins to brown lightly, 2-3 minutes.  Add the chicken, lime juice and 1/2 cup water.  Cook, stirring, until the chicken is just cooked through, about 2 minutes.  Sprinkle with the Cheddar and transfer to the broiler.  Broil until the cheese melts and browns on top, about 3 minuted.  Serve with warm tortillas and lime wedges.


I made the full recipe of this dish intending on having leftovers for lunches.  The leftovers were pretty good but as I have found with most pastas that have creamy sauces, it was much better fresh.  

2. Pasta with Leeks, Peas and Parmesan
modified from Real Simple
make 4-6 servings

1 lb short pasta (shells work especially well because they hold all of the goodies inside)
2 T olive oil
4 leeks (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced (the leeks at my market this week were HUGE so I only used two)
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t black pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1o oz. fresh or frozen (thawed) peas
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan
2 t lemon zest

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the leeks, season with the salt and 1/4 t of the pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 7 minutes.  Add the garlic and peas and cook for 2 minutes more.  Stir in the cream and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan.  Simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 4 minutes.  Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce along with the lemon zest.  Toss and top with the remaining Parmesan and pepper.  

This meal randomly popped into my head as I was planning the menu this week.  It is not something I have made very often but I do like it and remembered Jer ordering it when we went out for Lebanese food one night.  I used the Far East brand mix and wrapped it in tortillas (you could also use pita bread but I didn't feel like spending the extra money when I was already getting tortillas for the chicken dish) with tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce.  The box had a recipe on it for a cucumber yogurt sauce that looked good but, again, I was feeling very frugal and didn't want to buy the extra ingredients.  I put a little mayo and spicy mustard on mine and it was very good. 

3. Falafel Wraps  
one box mix makes 3-4 servings

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I am off for vacation for 10 days staring tomorrow and I wanted to get this post up before we leave.  I have not seen my family in over a year and I am so excited!  Especially to see my little niece and nephew who just turned 4 and 2.  The one thing gets me through going so long without them seeing them is video chatting.  Although it can sometimes be a little glitchy, it is, for the most part, easy and fun!  It makes me feel like I have seen them, or been with them, rather.  So, the menu this week is a little short but it's a good one!  Two out of the three are things I have had my eye on for some time but never gotten around to making before.

Jer's best friend was in town at the beginning of the week and requested (jokingly) a new recipe for the blog.  I was happy to oblige, especially after he told me about google sites (which was the perfect solution for indexing the blog recipes, see the new link on the side bar!) and help me get it set up.  (It is still somewhat under construction but eventually you will be able to search by dietary restrictions, ingredients, whatever!)

1. Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin and Green Beans with Almond and Lemon Brown Butter
modified from Real Simple
makes 4 servings

For the Pork:
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 lb)
kosher salt and black pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4-6 slices bacon
1 T olive oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Pat the pork dry with paper towels.  Season with salt and pepper.  Top the pork with the thyme and wrap it with the bacon.  Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet.  (I used my dutch oven and had to cut the tenderloin in half to get it to fit.)  Add the pork and cook for 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes (until it reaches 155 degrees inside).  Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

For the Green Beans:
1 lb green beans, trimmed
3 T unsalted butter
2 t fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup unsalted roasted almonds, chopped
kosher salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the green beans and cook until just tender, 4-6 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a serving bowl.  Meanwhile brown the butter follow the instructions found here).  Add the lemon juice, almonds and about 1/4 t salt.  Swirl skillet over heat for 30 seconds more to toast the almonds.  Spoon the mixture over the green beans.   

This recipe is simple and delicious.  It does take a little while to roast the zucchini but it is so good.  I love the little bit of spiciness from the red pepper flakes.

2. Ravioli with Roasted Zucchini
from real simple
makes 4 servings

4 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4" rounds
2 T olive oil
1 t dried red chili flakes
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 t black pepper
2 T kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 ld cheese ravioli
3 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  
Place the zucchini in a large baking dish in a single layer and drizzle with the oil, chili flakes, and 3 T of the Parmesan, then season with the pepper and 1/2 t of the salt.  Add the garlic and roast for 20 minutes, until tender and just golden brown.  
Meanwhile, add the ravioli and the remaining salt to the boiling water.  Return to a boil, stirring frequently.  Cook the ravioli for 3 minutes after they begin to float.  Drain and toss gently with the zucchini, half the parsley and half the remaining Parmesan.  Serve with the remaining parsley and Parmesan.  


I took my 7th ARE exam today and as I said a couple of weeks ago I like to have fish the night before.  I'm sure it doesn't really do that much for me but I just like the routine of it.  Mostly I think it helps calm my nerves.  This looked good but then as I was making it I was a little turned off.  It actually came out delicious and I am sure I will make it again!

3. Salmon with Dijon Dill Sauce
from Real Simple
makes 4 servings

4 6 oz. salmon fillets, skin removed
1/2 t kosher salt
1 T olive oil
3 T unsalted butter, cold
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 T Dijon mustard
2 T roughly chopped fresh dill
1/8 t black pepper

Set broiler on high.  Place the salmon on a foil lined baking sheet and season with 1/4 t salt.  Broil until the salmon is the same color throughout and flakes easily, about 7-10 minutes.  
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, over medium0high heat, heat the oil and 1 T of the butter until it melts.  Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 1 minute.  Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and whisk in the mustard, dill, pepper and the remaining salt.  Remove from heat.  Cut the remaining butter into pieces, add to the sauce, and whisk until Incorporated.  Spoon the sauce over the top of the salmon.  


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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cake for breakfast and it's not even my birthday... yet.

I am sitting here eating chocolate cake for breakfast, and I don't feel guilty. I think it's good to indulge sometimes, and so, as a little bonus this week, I am going to post a dessert recipe!

I am actually a baker more than a cook. I think that is why I am such a recipe user and I don't just wing it in the kitchen. I started out baking at a summer camp in Colorado and that lead to a job at Great Harvest in college. It was a good job for a lot of reasons. The people were fantastic, it was a great workout (lifting several hundred pound bowls of dough is not easy!) and it kept me full of delicious and healthy bread and other goodies. My boss was wonderful and let me go when I "needed" to do things like go to Europe for a semester or take a summer studio class that kept me out of town 5 days a week, and then she always took me back. I think I was pretty lucky to have had that job. After we moved to MA and Jer was in school I was able to get a second, part time job at a local bakery and general store. I think the interview question that got me that job was "What is the secret to good muffins?" (For any of you who don't know, the answer is to not over mix them.) I feel like if I am ever in a pinch for a job I can always find one baking and besides that there is no better way to celebrate a special occasion than a decadent homemade chocolate cake. So, since life is short, the first item up this week is:
My mother-in-law called me up a while back and asked if I would like to cater dessert for a gathering she was having. She said that of course everybody coming liked chocolate but that she would leave it up to me to decide what to make. I had this fantastic chocolate cake recipe and I thought it would be fun to try to make it into individual sized servings and add a layer of raspberry between the cake layers. The end result was delicious but I had a little trouble with the ganache frosting. I made it the night before and by the next morning it was too thick to spread. I was able to loosen it up a bit in the microwave but it was a delicate balance between too thick and too runny. In the future I would just go ahead and frost the cakes as soon as the ganache was set. I loved the size they came out to be, just enough to leave you satisfied, not wanting more but not feeling like you needed to unbutton your pants!

1. Individual Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cakes
modified from
makes 3 9"layers or 12 individual cakes

For the cake:
3 oz. semisweet chocolate (the better the quality of chocolate the better the end result will be)
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee (I don't own a coffee maker and don't usually have it around the house but I do keep a jar a instant espresso for baking, I use this. It is not going to make the cake taste like coffee, it is used here to bring out the flavor of the chocolate.)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
1 1/4 t salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil (This is key, cake recipes that call for butter instead of oil always turn out a little dry.)
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 t vanilla

For ganache frosting:
1 lb semisweet chocolate (again, go for the highest quality chocolate you can find and afford)
1 cup heavy cream
2 T sugar
2 T light corn syrup
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

For the raspberry filling:
1/2 cup (approximately) seedless raspberry jam (I use the Pollaner jam that has no sugar added, it is sweetened only with the fruits juices.)

Make cake layers:

Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease 3 9" pans. Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper (Every baker should keep this on hand. Look for it with the wax paper not in the baking isle, they charge a lot more for it there.) and grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until well combined. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined. Divide batter between pans and bake in the middle of the oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. (Caution: this cake will rise A LOT. Do not over fill the pans, they should be no more than 3/4 full and maybe even a little less.)

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around the edges of the pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Make frosting:
Finely chop chocolate. (I like to chop it first and then run it through the food processor.) In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.

Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable (depending on chocolate used, it may be necessary to chill frosting to spreadable consistency).

Once the cakes are cooled and removed from pans cut into circles using a biscuit cutter. Spread 1 teaspoon of raspberry jam on to two cake layers and top with a third. Spread frosting over the top and sides. Cakes keeps, covered and chilled, 3 days. Bring cake to room temperature before serving. Garnish with fresh raspberries.

You could also save yourself a lot of trouble and make a full sized cake ;).


2. Chicken Cesar Salad

This salad is endlessly adaptable. Use whatever ingredients you like. I used romaine lettuce, thinly sliced red onion, tomatoes, avocado, black olives, Parmesan cheese, croutons and chicken tenders seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked in a skillet with a little olive oil. We like the Newman's Own Creamy Cesar dressing on these.

So, this turned into a bit of an experiment but came out delicious! I had ricotta cheese left over from last weeks frittata and I thought I would make stuffed shells to use it up. I only had enough to make half the recipe I was using but when I started mixing the filling ingredients I accidentally used the full amount of all of the other ingredients. I searched the fridge and realized I had some cottage cheese, I used this to even things out. Then, because I was only planning to make half the recipe I didn't have enough tomato sauce. A little pizza sauce remedied this and was delish! In the end I think the dish was better with the changes.

3. Stuffed Shells
modified from
makes 6 servings

2 doz. large pasta shells
2 t kosher salt
15 oz. part skim ricotta cheese
16 oz. cottage cheese
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs, Italian seasoned (if you have plain on hand like I did you can just add about 1 t of Italian herbs; oregano, basil, rosemary etc.)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 T chopped fresh parsley or 2 t dried
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, un-drained
3 8 oz cans tomato sauce (or substitute any ratio of pizza or spaghetti sauce)
1/2 t dried oregano leaves
1/2 t dried basil leaves
1 1/2 - 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook the shells according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water. Set aside. In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until lightly golden. Add the garlic, tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano and basil. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and let simmer until ready to use. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, bread crumbs, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/4 t salt, parsley and egg. Mix until well blended. Pour all but 1 cup of the sauce into a 9"x13" baking dish. Transfer cheese mixture to a large Ziploc bag and cut about 1/2" off of the corner. Pipe the cheese mixture into the shells and arrange, open side up, in the baking dish. Pour the reserved sauce over the shells. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle with the Mozzarella and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Return to oven and bake, uncovered, 10-15 minutes longer. If you want to brown the cheese a little turn the broiler on for the last two minutes of baking.

I do not like ground turkey. I think it is bland and the color kind of grosses me out. So I am not sure what compelled me to try these turkey burgers for the first time but I am glad I did! The addition of all of the veggies add a ton of flavor and make them super juicy. Don't plan on making these on the grill though, they will fall apart. We had some friends over for dinner on Thursday and these, as well as the potato salad, were a hit all around. They brought over the green salad which had mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, Gorgonzola cheese and walnuts (Am I missing anything Elaine?). It was a great accompaniment to the meal.

4. Turkey Burgers with New England Potato Salad
from Real Simple and Cabbage Town Cafe Cookbook
makes 4 servings

3/4 lb ground turkey
1 medium zucchini, grated (A tip for grating zucchini and carrot; cut off the bottom but leave the top so you have something to hold on to as you're grating and getting to the end. It'll save your fingers from the grater!)
1 medium carrot, grated
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 t dried thyme
3/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 egg
3 T olive oil
8 slices crusty bread
4 leaves Boston lettuce
4 T mayonnaise
2 t fresh lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine the turkey, zucchini, carrot, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper and egg. Form the mixture into 4 patties. Heat 1 T of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties, turning once, until no trace of pink remains. (I find it takes quite a while to get them to cook all the way through, just keep the heat at medium and put a lid on the skillet if necessary.) Meanwhile, place the bread on a baking sheet and brush with the remaining oil. Broil until golden brown and crisp, about 1 1/2 minutes. Combine the mayonnaise with the lemon juice and serve with the burgers.

Potato Salad:
6 Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 cup Tarragon Vinaigrette Dressing (recipe to follow)
4 hard boiled eggs, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 red or white onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped green olives
1 cup mayonnaise
kosher salt and black pepper

Scrub the potatoes well but do not peel. Dice into bite-size cubes and cook in water to cover until just tender, about 10 minutes after water boils. Drain and toss with the dressing. Set aside and allow to cool thoroughly.
In a large bowl, mix together the potatoes, eggs, celery, onion and olives. Add enough mayo to make the salad moist but not mushy. Chill thoroughly. Sprinkle with Paprika before serving.

For the dressing:
3 oz. olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 t red wine vinegar
1 1/2 t French mustard
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 t dried tarragon
1/4 t salt
1/4 t black pepper

Mix together all of the ingredients. (To avoid having any chunks of garlic in the dressing smash the clove on the cutting board and rub the salt into it with the side of the knife. It will form a garlic paste which will disperse throughout the dressing.)
This salad was certainly tangy and I think maybe a little too much so. I don't think I will be making it again and I debated even posting it but I decided that maybe it will appeal to some of you and maybe you will be inspired by the concept and play with the dressing. The slavation of the dish was the bacon, it provided a little relief from the tangy dressing.

5. Tangy Lentil Salad
modified from Alton Brown via Phoo-d

1 lb brown or green lentils
1 small onion, peeled and halved
1 large clove garlic, halved
1 bay leaf
1 t kosher salt
1/4 t black pepper

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 t Dijon mustard
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 t fresh thyme leaves

6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped

Spread out the lentils and pick over them to make sure they are free of any small rocks or debris. Rinse the lentils with cold water and place in a large pot with the onion, garlic, bay leaf, salt and enough water to cover the mixture by about 3". Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until the lentils are tender, about 25-30 minutes. Drain off any remaining liquid and discard the onion, garlic and bay leaf. Stir in the black pepper. Meanwhile, whisk together the salad dressing ingredients. Pour over the lentils and top with the chopped bacon. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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