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Eggplant Relish Pasta Sauce/Crostini

28 Aug

Leftover pasta tossed with eggplant relish and feta

Anyone who knows me is aware of my love of purple, so it should come as no surprise that when I saw bright purple mini-eggplants at the farmers market, I had to buy a couple.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a plan for what I would actually do with them, so a week or so went by before I got around to finding a recipe to use them in.  Luckily the eggplants were still usable, and I found a very yummy-sounding recipe in Emeril Lagasse’s “Farm to Fork” for Eggplant Relish Crostini.  I had some miscellaneous pasta leftover, so decided to use this relish type thing as a topping/sauce for pasta instead of on bread.  There are lots of rumors about eggplant being hard to get right as it can remain bitter when cooked, but this was pretty simple, and absolutely delicious.  The eggplant shrinks down a lot, so it doesn’t make a huge amount, and next time I will definitely make more and buy some bread to make the crostini.  I used sundried tomatoes instead of roasted red peppers because I had those in my fridge, but the tomato flavor really came through and were one of the highlights of the dish, so I would use them again instead of red peppers.  This does have a quite long list of ingredients, but most of the ingredients are fridge/pantry staples anyway, so this could be an easy weeknight dinner or a great party appetizer served on toasted bread.

Eggplant Relish Crostini/Pasta Sauce
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s Farm to Fork
Makes about 3 1/2 cups relish

Equipment: Knife, peeler, frying pan, wooden spoon,

Ingredients
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds eggplant (about 2 large), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes stored in olive oil (about 3 from a jar)
1 1/2 tablespoons basil leaves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped nonpareil capers
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper/red pepper flakes
Crumbled feta cheese for garnish
French bread brushed with olive oil and toasted (for crostini)

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan or skillet over medium-high heat.  Add half of the cubed eggplant and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Cook, stirring often, until eggplant is tender and caramelized, about 8-10 minutes. Remove to a bowl and repeat with the remaining eggplant.  Set eggplant aside until cooled to room temperature.

Add all of the remaining ingredients to the cooled eggplant (except feta and bread, if using), and stir gently to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  Set relish aside for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to mingle.  To serve, toss with pasta and top with crumbled feta, or serve on toasted rounds of bread drizzled with olive oil and topped with feta.

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Walnut Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

22 Aug

Banana bread with chocolate and walnuts

Is it really the 22nd of August- when did that happen?? Clearly the summer has gotten away from me, as I was in England and Italy for the first half of the month and barely had time to recover before going to New York to pack up our house before my parents’ impending move.  Given that I start grad school next week, I have a feeling my posts will be getting even more infrequent, but I do have a stack of things to post over the next few weeks.  I will start with this, which is sure to relieve any start of school stress we may be experiencing.

As usual, we had some almost-rotten fruit sitting in our fruit bowl  which had to be eaten immediately, so I decided to try out this recipe for banana bread from Smitten Kitchen.  Of course, I had the wrong pan so decided I would make the bread into brownie-sized pieces, and once I decided that I thought I might as well throw some chocolate chips and walnuts into the mix.  The result was wonderful, and lasted for over a week kept in the fridge.  Although the chocolate chips and butter don’t make this the healthiest breakfast, it is certainly one of the most tasty.

Walnut Chocolate Chip Bread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Equipment: Large mixing bowl, wooden spoon, 9×13 pan or 4×8 loaf pan

Ingredients
4 very ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter (add a bit more salt if you have unsalted)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped finely

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.  Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla, and then the spices.  Make sure to mix in the egg well.  Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in.  Add the flour and mix.  Finally, add the chocolate chips and walnuts and mix to incorporate.  Pour mixture into a buttered 9×13 pan, and bake for about 30 minutes.  Check after 25 minutes to see if a knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Allow to cool for a few minutes, cut into squares and enjoy!  Keeps well at room temperature or refrigerated, stored in clingfilm or tinfoil.

Corn Risotto and Stuffed Risotto Balls

23 Jul

Fried risotto balls!

I have been seeing delicious corn recipes all over the place recently- charred corn salsa, corn tacos, grilled corn with feta, but yet when I impulsively bought two ears of corn at the farmers market I was at a loss for what to do with them. I decided to make risotto, and threw in some snow peas for good measure.  The fresh corn goes well with creamy risotto, and both the corn and the snow peas add a crunch to the finished dish.  In addition to the Parmesan that goes into pretty much any risotto, I crumbled feta in right at the end and sprinkled some on top of the risotto.  It was a delicious and filling summery dish, and (bonus!) I was able to make fried and stuffed risotto balls with the copious leftovers.

Yum corn risotto

Since risotto is a dish that needs to be made in large amounts I am always able to make at least three meals out of a batch, but this time I decided to play around and make risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella and fried.  The result was arguably even better than the risotto was when I first made it.  The cold risotto is mixed with breadcrumbs, egg, and more herbs, then a cube of mozzarella or other melty cheese is placed in the middle of a golf-ball sized risotto ball, and they are rolled in more breadcrumbs and fried to golden brown perfection.  These would make a great appetizer or starter at a party, but for me, several of them made an extremely satisfying dinner.

Fresh Corn and Snap Pea Risotto
Serves 6

Ingredients
6 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2-3 ears of corn)
5 oz snow peas, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup crumbled Feta chees
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

After chopping the vegetables, bring the chicken stock and bay leaf to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  In a large pan heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions to the oil and sautee for 2-3 minutes, until softened.  Next add the rice and cook until opaque, about 3 minutes.  Add wine and cook until absorbed, another minute or so.  Then begin adding the stock, 1 cup at a time.  Add each cup of stock and cook over medium heat until absorbed, stirring frequently.  When the stock is absorbed into the rice add the next cup, and continue until all of the stock is gone and risotto is cooked, about 25 minutes.  Stir in the Parmesan, butter, basil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Crumble the feta into the risotto and mix in, then sprinkle plates with more feta if desired.

Stuffed Risotto Balls
Adapted from Giada de Laurentis’ Everyday Italian

Ingredients
Serves 4-6 (I assume as an appetizer, as I ate all of mine.)

2 cups cooked and cooled risotto
1 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
Vegetable oil for frying

Put 1 cup of breadcrumbs in a shallow dish.  In a bowl combine 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs, the risotto, Parmesan, basil, and eggs.  Mix to combine, and then begin to form the balls.  With damp hands take about 2 tablespoons of the risotto mixture and shape into golf-ball sized balls.  Make an indent in the center of the risotto ball and add a cube of mozzarella, then cover the whole.  Roll the risotto balls into the breadcrumbs to coat. In a large saucepan, add about an inch of vegetable oil.  Heat over medium-high heat until about 350 degrees- to test without a thermometer fry a piece of bread in the oil, it should brown in about 2 minutes.  In batches, fry the rice balls, turning occasionally, until golden brown- about 4-5 minutes.  Take out of the oil and drain on paper towels before serving.

Homemade Pico de Gallo and Guacamole

8 Jul

Yum Pico!

This post is well past due, as Mexican food is one of my favorite cuisines (the margaritas may have something to do with this), and guacamole is my favorite Mexican condiment.  I first made this for a barbecue a few weeks ago, and made it again for camping this past weekend.  Although fresh guacamole really doesn’t keep more than 24 hours, it worked well for camping, as I made the pico de gallo and then brought the whole avocados, so all we had to do campfire-side was cut and mash up the avocados and mix the whole thing together.  Some of our group was napping in our tent during the guacamole making/eating, and we only very half-hardheartedly yelled down the path to tell them about it.  Hey, no one wants to share guacamole.  It’s not like they starved, I promise- camping meals included lamb burgers, greek salad, bbq chicken, spicy sausages, and chocolate chip/walnut/raisin cookies.  Clearly we don’t mess around when it comes to food, even if it does have to be cooked over a fire.

Buttery Avocado Deliciousness

To make the pico and guac, you just have to chop up some vegetables and herbs, season with lime and salt, and mash with very ripe avocados.  Although I am sometimes weary of lots of heat, the jalapenos do add a great extra kick to the pico, and they don’t make it overly spicy at all, especially if you take out most of the membrane and seeds.  The most important thing for both of these is to taste and adjust the seasonings at least once- our resident Cali-girl Alicia was an expert at getting the perfect lime to salt to avocado ratio, and you can be too as long as you keep adjusting the flavor until you have perfect guacamole.  Just be careful not to set the plate down unattended, this stuff goes pretty fast.

Pico de Gallo
Makes one small bowl

Ingredients
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/3 onion, diced
1-2 jalapenos, diced (seeded and de-membraned if you’re spice-adverse)
1/2 bunch cilantro, or to taste
Lime juice from half a lime
Salt to taste

Chop up all the ingredients and add to a medium sized bowl.  Use less cilantro if you want, just discard the stems and chop up the leaves roughly. Mix together, add lime juice and salt to taste.  Pico will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Guacamole
Serves about 4

5 whole avocados
Pico de Gallo
Lime juice from half a lime
Salt to taste

Cut the avocados in half lengthwise, and take out the pit (I use a knife to stab it and rotate, but assume no responsibility if someone chops off their hand with this method).  Scoop out all of the avocado flesh using a spoon, and place all of the avocados on a plate.  Mash with a fork, but leave chunky.  Add a pile of pico de gallo to the avocados and mix together.  Season with lime and salt to taste, and add more pico if desired.  Keeps 24 hours, covered with clingfilm in the fridge.

Mushroom and Spinach Quesadillas

23 Jun

Quesadillas!!

Mmmm Mexican food.  It is one of my favorite cuisines- just tonight I was planning on going to yoga, got hungry, and ate a burrito instead.  Story of my life.  These mushroom and spinach quesadillas with goat cheese are not really Mexican-y, but they do demonstrate how easy quesadillas are to make with a variety of fillings.  The main filling is mushrooms cooked with wine and spinach, combined with not one but two types of cheese. They were simple to make and assemble, and I’ve made a few more quesadillas since using leftovers such as the grilled chicken we made over the weekend.

The assembly process

I made these particular quesadillas twice in one week to use up all of the ingredients, and altered them slightly the second time to improve them.  Fontina cheese was suggested, but I didn’t want to buy yet another type of cheese when I currently have NINE different varieties in my fridge (Yes, nine. I just checked. And that doesn’t include what my roommate has. We may have a slight cheese-obsession).  I tried these with mozzarella, but I found the texture to stringy for quesadillas, so I used my cheddar/Gruyere mix the next time which was much better in terms of both texture and flavor.  I think any mildly flavored cheddar or non-soft cheese would work just fine.  When assembling the quesadillas, just make sure that the non-soft cheese is both the bottom and top layer, as this is what keeps the whole thing from falling apart.  I also added some onions and garlic to the veggies the second time around, which greatly upped the interest, and put more wine in the mushrooms.  The end result was delicious, and to continue with the Mexican theme look out for a homemade guacamole recipe in the next few days!

Mushroom and Spinach Quesadillas
Adapted from Pioneer Woman
Makes 1 quesadilla, serves 1 for dinner

Equipment: Knife, frying pan, grill pan (or reuse a large frying pan), cheese grater

Ingredients
1/2 pint cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 bag baby spinach
1 clove garlic
1 shallot or about 1/4 an onion, diced
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup wine or sherry
2 large flour tortillas
3 oz grated cheese such as Fontina or cheddar
2 oz goat cheese
Salt and pepper
Extra butter for tortillas
Salsa for serving (optional)

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a frying pan or skillet over medium-high heat and add sliced mushrooms, garlic, and onion.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute for 2 minutes, then add wine and continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are brown, another 6-8 minutes.  Remove the mix from pan and set aside.

Return pan to heat and reduce heat to medium-low.  Melt 1 tablespoon butter in pan, and add the spinach.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for about 2 minutes, until spinach has just wilted. Remove and set aside.

To assemble the quesadillas, heat a grill pan (or large frying pan), over medium-high heat.  Spread some butter on the grill pan and put the first quesadilla in the pan, followed by 1/2 of the Fontina cheese, then the mushroom mix, then spinach.  Crumble some goat cheese over the spinach and finish with the rest of the Fontina.  Top with the second quesadilla and smear butter on top, then flip and cook the other side.  When both sides are golden brown with some grill marks remove and cut into four pieces with a pizza cutter or knife.  Serve with salsa if desired.

Summer Vegetable Pastas

20 Jun

Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream

Taking a break from the plethora of potluck recipes (don’t worry, they will be back- I made amazing grilled ricotta chicken and homemade guacamole for our BBQ this weekend), I thought it would be nice to showcase some summery pasta dishes, using the fresh spring vegetables that are miraculously avaliable everywhere now.  Plus, clearly I can’t go a week without making some kind of pasta concoction, and I figure the addition of mounds of veggies helps me justify eating half a pound of pasta in one sitting.

So many vegetables- Pasta wtih Snap Peas, Asparagus and Goat Cheese

The first recipe is for pasta with prosciutto, snap peas, cream and mint, and I immediately bookmarked it when I saw it on Food 52 a couple of weeks ago.  Not only did I already have prosciutto in the fridge, but I love snap peas, AND it gave me an opportunity to use the first of the mint in our ever-burgeoning herb garden.  It may seem like this has a lot of things going on, but all of the flavors compliment each other nicely, and the snap peas add a crunch which is unexpected in a pasta dish.  I enjoyed that the mint added an extra fresh springy flavor, but if you don’t love mint in savory dishes this would be almost as delicious without it.  Despite having quite a few ingredients, this really just requires some chopping and then throwing everything into a pan, and it came together in pretty much the time it takes to boil and cook  the pasta.

After my discovery of this great combination of flavors I used leftover snap peas and some asparagus I had in the fridge for another summer-inspired pasta dish.  I was out of prosciutto and omitted the cream in this dish, but added goat cheese and fresh basil (also from our herb garden!) for an even simpler version.  Both recipes come together in under half an hour and are great uses of summer vegetables, so go down to your farmers market and get shopping!

Our herb garden! The basil is doing slightly better than the parsley. The mint is separate as apparently it is mean and overtakes everything.

Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream
Adapted from Food 52
Serves 4

Equipment: Saucepan, frying pan, wooden spoon or spatula, knife

Ingredients:
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound prosciutto shank, finely diced (regular thin prosciutto works too)
4 shallots or 1/2 onion, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound fresh snap peas, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
3/4 pounds small pasta such as farfalle, penne, or orechiette
Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by chopping your vegetables. Put a pan of salted water on to boil.  Add pasta whenever it is boiling, but start to get your sauce ready in the meantime.  Do this by heating the olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan- when it is warm add the garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant but not burnt.  Add prosciutto and cook an additional 3-4 minutes (if using thin prosciutto cook only 1-2 minutes).  Add the shallots or onions and cook until they are beginning to soften, 3-4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

With about 3 or 4 minutes left until the pasta is ready, add the peas to the frying pan.  After 2-3 minutes add the cream and quickly bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add the cheese, stir in, and reduce heat to low.  Drain the pasta when it is ready, and toss everything together in a big bowl. Add the chopped mint, garnish with more Parmesan cheese, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Pasta with Snap Peas, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese
Serves 2

Equipment: Saucepan, frying pan, wooden spoon or spatula, knife

Ingredients:
6 oz fresh snap peas (really however much you want- I used half of a 12 oz bag), chopped
1/2 bunch fresh asparagus, tough ends discarded and then chopped
1 clove garlic
4 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/8 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Put salted pasta water on to boil and chop your vegetables.  Add the pasta to the water when it is boiling, and heat up olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  When the oil is warm add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Next add the snap peas and asparagus, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to the vegetables.  Turn down the heat if the vegetables begin to brown while you wait for the pasta to cook.  Drain pasta when it is ready, reserving some of the pasta water.  Immediately toss with the vegetables, goat cheese, basil, and Parmesan.  If the sauce needs thinning add some of the pasta water, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately with more Parmesan to garnish.

Fingerling Potato and Tuna Salad

12 Jun

Dinner! Or lunch! Or a snack! This works for everything.

I found this recipe on Serious Eats and immediately bookmarked it because it is made almost entirely of ingredients that are lurking somewhere in the depths of my very messy fridge or cabinets.  I don’t usually eat canned tuna, but after this I was reminded how versatile and tasty it is- I got the good-quality stuff packed in olive oil, but I’m sure regular old canned tuna would work just fine.  This isn’t a recipe for you if you don’t like quite strong flavors, as it includes red onions, capers, and the tuna, but since the potatoes make up the bulk of the salad the other ingredients aren’t too overwhelming, and all complement each other nicely.  This was delicious as a dinner served warm, and every bit as good straight out of the fridge the next day.  I simplified this a bit from the original, which called for multiple bowls and carrots and onions pretty pointlessly boiling with the potatoes to flavor them.  I’m making this salad again right now for lunch this week, and added some asparagus that I bought today to the mix to spice things up a bit and make it even more summery.

Fingerling Potato and Tuna Salad
Adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 2-3 (The original says 4, so apparently I eat twice as much as they anticipated.)

Equipment: Saucepan, bowl, knife
Ingredients:
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 pound fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 can tuna in olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped capers
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Small handful arugula
1/2 bunch asparagus, chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Put potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil with a bay leaf if you have one.  Boil until tender, then drain and slice.  Toss with olive oil and vinegar in a large bowl.  Drain tuna and add to the bowl, along with the chopped onion, capers, asparagus, and parsley. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more olive oil or vinegar if needed.  Add the arugula and toss together.  Serve warm or keep in the fridge and serve cold.


First Attempt at Empanadas

1 Jun

Not the prettiest empanadas around

I think there are definitely some foods that are easier to cook if you grew up watching them being made in your kitchen. I may not have picked up the exact recipe for risotto from my mom, but I made a pretty good version on my first attempt because I knew what the technique was all about from watching her make it many times. Empanadas, however, had never been seen in our kitchen until a couple of weeks ago, when I decided to try making them. My parents noted that they are essentially Cornish pasties, a British staple, with a different dough… but that didn’t help much, as we’ve always bought Cornish pasties instead of making them. So I was on my own here, hoping the sauce was the right consistency and inexpertly rolling out discs of dough to inconsistent thicknesses. I’m sure they would have been prettier (and maybe tastier) if I had had years of experience watching and helping someone make them, but I think they turned out pretty delicious regardless, and hopefully I will just get better at it. Next time, I would probably chop the chicken finer and thicken the sauce even longer, as I felt I ended up with mainly big chunks of chicken in these, instead of all the other delicious things.

Making things round is hard

Empanadas, and especially these empanadas, are definitely not a quick dinner. The dough can be made ahead of time, and I would suggest making the filling well ahead of time, as well, so that you are not sitting around hoping it will hurry up and cool already. The original recipe from Smitten Kitchen/Gourmet made extra dough for the amount of filling. I went the opposite route and made more filling than dough (because I couldn’t be bothered thinking through too many conversions). I still came out with 12 empanadas, which left lots of leftovers after 3 of us ate them for dinner, and the filling was delicious on its own for lunch. I also accidentally had Mexican/fresh rather than Spanish/dried chorizo. It worked fine but required pre-cooking, which the Spanish would not.

The finished filling

Chicken, Chorizo and Olive Empanadas (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 12 empanadas, with leftover filling
Equipment: Baking sheet, preferably with silpat; large skillet with lid
Ingredients
Dough:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 stick (1/2 cup, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold
1 large egg
1/3 cup ice water
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar

Filling:

About 2 pounds chicken. Whole legs (including thighs), or whole bone-in breasts, split.
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 oz (1/3 cup chopped) dried Spanish chorizo, or 2-3 links fresh Mexican chorizo
1/2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
1/4 cup chopped pitted green olives
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 egg for egg wash

Make Dough: Up to six hours ahead of time, sift flour with salt into your largest bowl. Cut butter into 1/2 inch cubes, and work into flour with fingertips or pasty blender until it resembles coarse meal, with some (roughly pea-sized) lumps. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture, mixing with fork until just incorporated, the mixture will look shaggy. If bowl is big enough, gather dough in bowl and knead gently once or twice with heal of your hand until it just comes together. If your bowl is not big enough, do this step on a lightly-floured surface. Form dough into a flat rectangle and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 1-6 hours.

Make Filling: If using fresh chorizo, remove from casings and brown in large, heavy skillet over medium heat until some fat has rendered out. Drain fat and remove chorizo. Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the large, heavy skilled over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken, turning over once, about 6 minutes total, and transfer to a plate. Halve onions lengthwise and then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Mince garlic cloves. Saute onions, garlic and bay leaves in fat remaining in skillet, stirring frequently, until onions are softened, 4-5 minutes.

Add chorizo and paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add olives, wine, and broth and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Return chicken to skillet along with any juices accumulated on plate, then reduce heat to moderately low and simmer chicken, covered, turning over once, until tender, 25 to 30 minutes total.

Transfer chicken to a clean plate. (Sauce in skillet should be the consistency of heavy cream; if it’s not, briskly simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.) (Gina’s note: no idea if my sauce was the right consistency, but it seemed pretty thin even after simmering for a few minutes.)When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones and coarsely chop meat. Stir chicken into sauce and discard bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper, then cool filling, uncovered, about 30 minutes.

Form Empanadas: Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Divide first dough into 12 equal pieces and form each into a disk. Keeping remaining pieces covered, roll out 1 piece on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 5-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick).

Spoon about 2 tablespoons filling onto center and fold dough in half, enclosing filling. Press edges together to seal, then crimp decoratively with your fingers or tines of a fork. Transfer empanada to a baking sheet, lined with a silicone mat or waxed paper. (Mine stuck fiercely to parchment paper.) Make eleven more in same manner.

Beat an egg with 1 tbsp of water. Lightly brush empanadas with some of egg wash and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer empanadas to a rack to cool at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

Rhubarb-Onion Compote plus Top Chef tour

18 May

Rhubarb compote, pork chop, and roast veggies. Yum.

I am a huge rhubarb fan, and have been craving some delicious rhubarb baked goods since the season started. But last night we were having pork chops for dinner, and I thought I’d pick up some rhubarb to try it out in a savory dish. We often make an apple-onion compote to go with pork chops, so I thought I’d sub in rhubarb for the apple and see how it turned out. I was pretty pleased with the results, though it hasn’t quite satisfied my craving for strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb-Onion Compote
Equipment: Heavy-bottomed saucepan, knife, wooden spoon
Ingredients:
1/2 tbsp butter
1 medium-sized onion
About 7 stalks rhubarb
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp sugar, or to taste (I used turbinado/raw sugar)
1 tsp ground ginger
Method: Roughly dice onions. Discard ends of rhubarb and chop into half-inch pieces. Melt butter in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook over low heat until they are starting to soften, a few minutes. Add rhubarb, balsamic, and about a tablespoon of sugar, and ginger. Turn heat to low, and simmer for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure the bottom isn’t burning. Add a splash of water if things are starting to look dry, but rhubarb has a lot of water in it. Taste after fifteen minutes. If it is too tart, add more sugar. Rhubarb is quite tart, but the onion provides some sweetness as it cooks. It is done when the onion has lost all of its crunch. Serve over grilled pork chops.

In other food-related news, the Top Chef tour stopped at the Stew Leonard’s near us today, so I went to check it out. The basic idea of this tour is that they have two previous contestants, who come up and have fifteen minutes to make a dish using certain ingredients (they were given some time to prep beforehand, so this wasn’t exactly like the high-stress quickfires on the show). Then judges decide which chef wins. There were two judges from Foodspotting already there, but they picked one from the audience as well. Thanks to my Top Chef trivia knowledge, I got picked! The two chefs were Ash and Angelo, and the food was delicious. Angelo, of course, went all Asian-inspired with a mock kimchi and a spicy chocolate sauce on his beef (the sauce was incredible, but kind of overpowered everything else). Ash made a very fresh herby salad, with an amazing aioli that he made in front of us. We went with Ash as the winner, though I might try out that sauce of Angelo’s when the recipe goes up online. It was fun being able to chat to the chefs and eat the food that I’m always craving when I watch the show… definitely check out if the tour is stopping by near you!

Here are some pictures from the day:

Angelo's dish, a bit more Top Chef-y

Ash's winning dish

Ash makes his aioli

Angelo doing some blending action

Shakshuka (Eggs in Tomato Sauce)

8 May

Does this look like Mickey Mouse to anyone else?

I am a big fan of cheap dinners that use mainly ingredients I already have in my cupboard, and this is one of my favorite go-to weeknight dinners for when I want something more exciting than pasta or a baked potato.  It is an Israeli dish of a spicy tomato sauce with poached eggs and feta cheese, and is seriously delicious.  I suppose the addition of eggs make this a brunch-appropriate meal, but I will eat eggs any time of the day, and have always made this for dinner.  It really only takes about 15 minutes to throw together and another 20 or so to cook, so is easy enough to make whenever you want.  I usually make a big batch, and eat it a couple nights a week, heating up the sauce and adding more eggs as needed.   You can also use any leftover sauce with pasta, cous cous, or as a pizza sauce if you don’t want the eggs every time.  The spice level can also be adjusted to your tastes- I usually err on the side of caution and only add 2 jalapenos, but if you’re making a big batch I would recommend adding one more, as the peppers really lose their spice once chopped up and cooked.

Shakshuka
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen/Saveur Mag

Poached eggs simmering away

Serves 4 to 6

Equipment: Knife, large saucepan, wooden spoon, bowl

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
5 Anaheim or 3 Jalapeno chilies, stemmed, seeded and chopped finely
1 small to medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced thinly
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (diced works too)
6 eggs (or as many as needed)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
Pita bread for serving
Salt

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, then add chilies and onions and sautee until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, another 2 minutes.

Put tomatoes and their liquid in a large bowl and crush with your hands (this is a seriously good stress reliever).  Add the crushed tomatoes and liquid to the saucepan, along with 1/2 cup water, and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly.  Season with salt, then crack eggs over the sauce.  Cover saucepan and cook until the whites are set and yolk still runny, about 5 minutes.  Spoon out eggs and tomato sauce onto plates, and sprinkle the feta and parsley over each plate. Serve with pitas for dipping, or alternatively cous cous on the side.