Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Delightfully Surprised

This Week's Menu:

The first time I made this soup I was excited and delightfully surprised at how good it was.  It was better than any I had had in a restaurant.  

1. Wonton Soup
Adapted from Simply Soups
makes 6-8 servings (I cut it in half)

8 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 t kosher salt
1/2 t white pepper
2 T sliced scallion

6 oz (about 1/3 lb) ground pork
8 oz (1/2 lb) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and finely chopped
1/2 t grated ginger
1 T low sodium soy sauce
1 T white wine vinegar
2 t finely chopped scallion
pinch of sugar
pinch of white pepper

wonton wrappers
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Stir together all of the wonton ingredients (up to the white pepper).  Place about one teaspoon of the mixture in the center of a wrapper.  Lightly brush the edges with the egg white and bring the opposite corners to each other, press to seal the tips and all of the edges.  Bring the stock to a boil with the salt and pepper.  Add the wontons and boil for about 5 minutes, until the wrappers begin to wrinkle around the filling when lifted out of the broth.  Spoon the soup into individual bowls and top with the sliced scallions.      

A friend of mine recently gave me a nice bottle of real maple syrup that I was anxious to use.  I decided to try it in something unconventional.  Thanks Elizabeth!     

2. Maple-Glazed Salmon with Pineapple
From Real Simple
makes 4 servings (I cut it in half) 

1/2 cup maple syrup
2 T dijon mustard
4 6-oz salmon fillets
kosher salt
black pepper
1/2 fresh pineapple, cut into 1/2" thick triangles
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
2 cups cooked rice (I used brown rice)

Heat broiler.  Whisk together the maple syrup and mustard in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile place the salmon in a foil lined baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Scatter the pineapple and jalapeno around the salmon.  Brush the salmon and drizzle the pineapple with the syrup mixture.  Broil for 5 - 7 minutes, or until the salmon flakes easily and is the same color throughout.  Serve atop the rice drizzled with the remaining glaze, if desired.


I was going to have a leafy green salad along with these sandwiches but ended up running late for a meeting and didn't get it made.  I think it would have been a good addition.

3. Sausage and Peppers
makes 2 servings

olive oil
4 hot italian sausages, cut in half lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
kosher salt
black pepper
2 hard rolls, halved and toasted (under the broiler)
dijon mustard

Heat about 1 t olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the sausages and and cook turning until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 7 - 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, in another skillet, heat 1 t olive oil.  Add the peppers and onions and cook until softened and golden.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve the sausage and peppers on the hard rolls topped with mustard.    

A couple of weeks ago my hubby and I spent the weekend in Vermont where we visited King Arthur Flour so I could use a gift card I got for their store for Christmas.  One of the goodies I picked up was a very cool pair of herb scissors.  I knew just the dish to try them out on.

4. Pasta with Garlic and Fresh Herbs
From Cabbagetown Cafe Cookbook by Julie Jordan
makes 4 servings

1 lb pasta
3 T olive oil
8-16 cloves of garlic, cut into thin slices
2 cups finely chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley, basil and oregano, which came conveniently packaged together, labeled "Pasta Mix" at my market)
1/2 t kosher salt
black pepper
1-2 cups milk or heavy cream (I went with it and used the heavy cream, delish!)
fresh lemon juice
parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  In a small skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the garlic until very lightly browned.  Return the pot of drained pasta to medium heat and add the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper.  Add the milk or cream to the pot slowly until a little sauce forms around the pasta.  Taste and reseason if necessary (I found it needed a little more salt). Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and parmesan cheese on top.   

This was my lunch a couple of days this week.  Yum!  I love this salad!

5. Spinach Salad with Cranberries, Walnuts, Red Onion and Feta
baby spinach
thinly sliced red onion
dried cranberries
feta cheese 

olive oil
balsamic vinegar
kosher salt
black pepper

6. Mexican Meatballs with Red Rice
From Real Simple
makes 4 serving (I always make the full recipe because these make great left-overs.)

2 T olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 lb ground pork
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 large egg
2 t kosher salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 t ground cumin
1 16 oz jar salsa

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat 1 T of the oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and jalapeno and cook for 1 minute more.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Ina large bowl, combine the pork, bread crumbs, egg, salt, pepper, cumin and onion mixture.  Shape into 12 meatballs.  Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining 1 T of oil.  Heat over medium high.  Brown the meatballs on all sides, about 7 minutes total.  Pour the salsa over the top and and bake until cooked through, about 25 minutes.   

Red Rice:
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, including liquid
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t kosher salt
1 cup long-grain white rice

Combine all of the above ingredients (to the salt) in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in the rice, cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.     

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

From Steak to Eggs

Dinner used to be a huge source of stress in my life. Everyday I would get home from work and have to dig though the fridge looking for something to make and most of the time we would end up with something unhealthy, or we would go out. Finally, I decided to plan an actual menu for a week and get everything I needed ahead of time. That doesn't sound very novel I know, but for me it was a totally new process that really gave me a new outlook on cooking. Making dinner is now one of my favorite times of the day (most of the time). When I am cooking I am forced to focus on what I am doing in that moment and everything else fades away. And the satisfaction I feel at taking a pile of raw ingredients and putting them together into a meal is immeasurable.

This week's menu:

1. Seared Sirloin w/ Balsamic Red Onions and Oranges
Modified from Real Simple
makes 4 servings ( I cut it in half)

1 1/2 lbs sirloin steak, about 1 1/2" thick, cut into 2" cubes
kosher salt
black pepper
3 T olive oil
1 med red onion, halved and cut into 1/2" slices
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
baby spinach
2 oranges, peeled and cut into rounds

Sprinkle the steak on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1 T of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the steak pieces and cook 4-5 minutes on each side for medium rare. Remove from the pan and cover to keep warm. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the onion, tossing occasionally until crisp tender and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook 2 minutes more. In a large bowl, mix the spinach with the orange sections and the remaining olive oil. Divide the steak between four plates or shallow bowls and top with the onions. Serve with the spinach and oranges.

2. Smoky Chicken Corn Cakes
From Real Simple
makes 4 servings ( I made the full recipe of the corn cakes and half of the chicken)

For the Chicken:
2-3 cups shredded chicken
1 T canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped
3 T fresh lime juice
1/4 t kosher salt
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 plum tomatoes
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup sour cream

In a medium bowl combine the meat, chipotle, lime juice, salt, onion, tomatoes and cilantro. Set aside. (In the future I might try blending all the above ingredients in the food processor and pouring it over the shredded chicken because it was a little dry.)

For the Corn Cakes:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t black pepper
3/4 t kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 cup part-skim ricotta
10 oz frozen corn, thawed
2 t canola or veg. oil

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, pepper and salt. Stir int eggs and ricotta until no lumps remain. Fold in the corn. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Spoon about 1/4 cup of batter for each corn cake onto the skillet and cook until golden brown and set on one side, 2-3 minutes. Flip the cakes and cook one minute more. Divide he cakes among plates and top with the corn mixture. Serve with the sour cream.

3. Tuna w/ Artichokes and Lemon (over brown rice)
From Real Simple
makes 4 servings (I cut it in half)

2 T olive oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cans artichoke hearts in water, drained and halved
1 lemon, cut into 8 slices (I used the lemon I had already zested for the next item on the list)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 sprigs fresh thyme (I didn't have any, it was fine without)
1 1/2 lbs fresh tuna, cut into 1" cubes
kosher salt
black pepper
2 cups cooked rice (I used brown)

Heat 1 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the artichokes, lemon, garlic and thyme. Cook until heated through, 3 more minutes. Transfer to a plate. Season the tuna with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet. Cook the tuna, turning to brown all sides, to the desired doneness, about 2 minutes for medium. Return the artichoke mixture to the skillet and toss to combine. Serve over rice.

4. California Italian Wedding Soup
From All Recipes via Twila M.
makes 3-4 servings

1/2 lb extra-lean ground beef
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 T italian seasoned bread crumbs ( I used plain)
1 T grated parmesan cheese (plus more for topping)
2 T fresh basil, shredded
1 T flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
5 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth (1 large can)
2 cups escarole, finely sliced (you can substitute spinach but the escarole is really delicious in this)
zest of one lemon (save the lemon for the tuna recipe above)
1/2 cup orzo, uncooked

Mix together the meat, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, basil, parsley, and green onions. Shape into 3/4" balls (I have a nifty scoop for baking that makes perfect meatballs). Bring the broth to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Drop in the meatballs. Stir in the escarole, lemon zest and orzo. After the broth returns to a boil reduce the heat to medium. Cook. stirring frequently for 10 minutes, or until orzo is tender. Serve sprinkled with cheese.

5. Swedish Meatballs

Sorry folks, no recipe here. These meatballs were frozen and the sauce came from a mix. Check your market. (I still need a no brainer meal once in a while.) I served the meatballs over egg noodles with corn on the side.

Bonus!!! (I normally only do five dishes on the menu)
6. Huevos Ahogados (drowned eggs) in Salsa Verde
makes 2 servings

3 cups tomatillo salsa (or green chili)
4 eggs
4 corn or flour tortillas

Purée the salsa in a blender or food processor. Add a little water if desired. It should be about the consistency of tomato soup. In a small saucepan with a lid, bring the salsa to a simmer. Carefully crack each egg right above the pan and nestle it in. Cover the pot and cook for 3 minutes. Remove the lid and check to see if the whites are cooked. If not, return the lid and check every minute until there is no more transparent white. Divide the eggs and sauce between two bowls and top with a dash of salt (and cilantro, if that's what your into). Serve with warmed tortillas to mop up all of the goodness.

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