Sunday, May 31, 2009

Steak Nicoise Salad with Farm-Fresh Green Beans & Lime-Peanut Vinaigrette

Thanks to my favorite blog Simply Recipes, I was alerted to a useful book that helps home cooks learn the ratios behind basic recipes.  The book is  aptly named Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Mark Ruhlman.  I'm not reading the book cover to cover (not at this point), but I have familiarized myself with the book. It is serving as a coffee table book that I periodically pick up, and use for reference. Specifically, I've tried a couple of his vinaigrettes, and last week I was reading up on brines (which has become very popular of late), when an idea stuck me.  What about a meat-and-potatoes type of salad?  My meat-and-potatoes husband and I have been trying to eat healthier:  more vegetables, more fruits, more fish, more lean meats etc.  We haven't had red meat in a while and I had a one-pound top sirloin (organic and from Uruguay to be exact) in the fridge and I didn't have any specific plans for how I was going to use it.  My idea?

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Steak Nicoise Salad with Farm-Fresh Green Beans & Lime-Peanut Vinaigrette
serves 4

12 oz. spinach leaves or (2 ) 6 oz. bags
1 medium red onion, minced
2 medium russet or red potatoes, cooked tender and sliced
1 large container of fresh green beans, cooked tender
1 pound top sirloin, grilled and sliced thin
12 nicoise or kalamata olives, quartered
Peanut oil
Lime-peanut vinaigrette

Marinade for the Top Sirloin

2 tablespoons of Bragg Liquid Aminos or Soy Sauce
1/8 teaspoon chinese 5 spice
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

1) Mix ingredients and marinate at room temperature for 90 minutes, flipping several times.  (My sirloin was partially frozen so I felt comfortable marinating at room temperature.  However, if your sirloin is completely is thawed -- you might want to marinate for a longer period of time in the fridge)

To prepare the potatoes

1) Prepare other salad components while sirloin
 is marinating.

2) Wash and place potatoes in a small pot with enough water to cover the potatoes.  Bring to a boil and simmer at a low boil until potatoes are tender 30 to 40 minutes. Drain and set aside

3) Just before salad assembly begins lightly coat potato with peanut oil and slice in 1/4 inch slices.

Farm-Fresh Green Beans - from Ratio by Michael Ruhlman

1 pound of farm fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
2o cups of water 
1 cup salt

1) Bring the water and salt mixture to a boil

2)  Cook green beans 4-5 minutes until tender not crunchy.  At this point the beans can be served immediately with butter and lemon. Or, drain and submerge beans in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. (At this point the beans can be kept in the fridge until ready to use and sauteed for two minutes with your favorite spices).  In my case, I set aside since I w
as going to use in this salad.

Lime-Peanut Vinaigrette - from Ratio by Michael Ruhlman

1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon minced shallot (I substituted with red onion)
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup peanut oil

1) Combine the lime juice, salt, and shallot in a blender. (I used my immersion blender).  Blend for a few seconds to dissolve the salt and shallot/onion.

2)  Add the remaining ingredients and blend until they are combined.  Set aside.

To make to top sirloin

1) Heat 2 - 3 tablespoons of peanut oil over medium-high heat in your favorite grill pan.  (I used a cast iron pan with grill marks).  Place top sirloin in the pan and cook on one side 4 minutes with the cast iron grill weight on top of the steak.  Flip and cook on the second side for 4 more minutes with the cast iron grill weight on
 top again, (or until your preferred doneness).  This steak came out a perfect medium rare.

2) Remove from heat and tent with aluminum foil for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

3) When ready to slice, use a sharp knife and slice 1/4" slices

Assemble the salad

1) Place spinach in one large bowl and use just enough lime-peanut dressing to coat all of the leaves evenly.  Divide spinach between 4 plates.

2) Arrange sliced sirloin, green beans, potatoes, red onions and olives over the greens.

3) Drizzle with more vinaigrette.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Herb-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I have been buying more fresh herbs lately. Sometimes I feel like those fresh herbs are like a ticking time bomb in the fridge, and my goal is to use them before they die, shrivel to pieces, or rot. Desperate, due to wilting parsley and fresh thyme about to turn into dried thyme, a winning recipe was born.

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Herb-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

2 chicken breasts (bone-in with skin)
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 garlic clove, pressed
salt and pepper
olive oil

1) Preheat oven to 350. Mix the parsley, thyme, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add just enough olive oil to make a paste.

2) Rinse chicken and pat dry. Using your fingers gently pull skin away from the chicken breast and stuff half of the herb mixture in between the skin and the chicken. Stuff the other chicken breast with the other half of the herb mixture.

3) In an oven proof pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat (about 1 minute). Carefully add chicken skin side down in the pan. Continue cooking over medium-high heat chicken skin is golden brown. Flip chicken over cover pan with tin foil and place pan in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove foil and set aside. Baste chicken with some of the juices and cook for 15 to 2o more minutes or until temperature has reached 160 degrees F.

2 Notes:
  • First, if you do not have an oven safe frying pan - transfer chicken to a casserole dish.
4) Remove chicken from the oven, and tent under the foil for 5 minutes to let the chicken rest.  

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kale with Garlic Crunchies

You have heard of wilted spinach, right?  Well, here is another version of a wilted green, and it is oh so good for us.  According to Wikipedia "Kale is considered to be a highly nutritious vegetable with powerful antioxidant properties and is anti-inflammatory.  Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and reasonable rich in calcium."  Also, "kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties, particularly when chopped or minced." Read more about kale on wikipedia. Note: the pictures below show the kale in the same exact bowl.  The greens shrink quite a bit in the cooking process.

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Kale with Garlic Crunchies

1 large bunch of Kale
6 cloves of garlic
3 Tablespoons of Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1) Wash kale.  Trim in such a way to eliminate the tough rib stem and coarsly chop.

2) Peel and thinly slice garlic making slices even (for even cooking)

3)  Heat oil in pan and cook garlic for 3 minutes until golden brown.  Remove with slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. 

4) Saute kale in the heated garlic oil until wilted.  Salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with the garlic.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wild Salmon with Rosemary Sweet Potatoes and Lemon Asparagus

You've seen the sweet potatoes but here is the rest of the menu.  I love this recipe because you make everything in one baking dish.  I even managed to fit all of this in my toaster oven!  I found this recipe in Dr. Mark Hyman's book Ultra-Metabolism and the only thing I did slightly different was add some of the rosemary to the sweet potatoes.  My husband and I are trying to add more fish to our diet.  Frankly, it is tough because we just don't love it.  We eat it because we know that it is good for us but I haven't found a recipe for salmon that will be "the one" I make again and again.  If I can find a recipe that turns out as good as Outback Steakhouse's salmon...that will be "the one."   This recipe calls for applying a paste-like mixture on top of this salmon.  I love the idea, but would like to experiment with the paste.  Fair warning: this paste has a strong kick.  I'm not sure if it is from the dry mustard or the garlic (or both).  Don't get me wrong - I will make this dish again.  We thought it was good which is high rating given that we don't love I'll do some tinkering in the future with the spices for the salmon.

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Wild Salmon with Rosemary Sweet Potatoes and Lemon Asparagus

2 small sweet potatoes or 1 large
1 small to medium yellow onion
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice or the juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, divided
1/2 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
Grated zest of 1 lemon
8 ounces wild salmon fillets cut into two 4-ounce portions

1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Place a sheet of parchment paper in a shallow baking pan.

2) Mince rosemary and set aside.  Wash, peel, and slice sweet potatoes into 3/4" cubes.  Quarter and skin the onion, and cut the quarters in half so onion pieces are similar in size to the potatoes.

3)  Place potatoes and onions in a zip lock bag with the oil, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Shake to coat.  Spread evenly onto the pan lines with parchment and bake for 15 minutes. Keep the zip lock bag handy.

4) Mix garlic, mustard, 1/2 of the lemon juice with the remaining rosemary and set aside.

5) Wash, trim ends and cut the asparagus into 2 inch pieces and place inside the ziplock bag.  Add the last tablespoon of lemon juice and the zest to the zip lock bag with the asparagus.  Shake to coat the asparagus.

6) Remove the sweet potatoes and onions from the oven, flip potato and onion mixture over to allow for even browning, and push to the left side of the pan.  Add the asparagus to the middle of the pan.  Place the salmon on the right side of the pan so that everything fits on one pan.  Spoon the paste mixture over the salmon and return pan to the oven.

7) Roast for another 12 minutes or until desired doneness.  Salmon is done when the flesh flakes with gentle pressure.

Here is another similar recipe from one of my favorite food blogs Simply Recipes:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Roasted Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

I love sweet potatoes!  I didn't know this until last week.  Until now, I have confused sweet potatoes with yams.  I didn't realize that there was a difference until I went to a grocery store that had both and were clearly marked!  Yams are the dark orange ones that usually end up in Thanksgiving day casseroles with a concoction of brown sugar, orange juice, and topped marshmallows.  (Yikes, no wonder we have this only once a year).  While doing a little reading, specifically in Dr. Mark Hyman's book Ultra-Metabolism, I have discovered that sweet potatoes are really good for you.  I recall reading that in the South Beach Diet as well.  Here is my slightly adapted version of a recipe that I found in Ultra-Metabolism for roasted sweet potatoes.

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Roasted Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

2 small sweet potatoes or 1 large
1 small to medium yellow onion
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh minced rosemary

1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. (I love using my toaster oven for recipes like this so I don't heat up the whole house, yet still enjoy roasted veggies). Place a sheet of parchment paper in a shallow baking pan.

2) Mince 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary and set aside.  Wash, peel, and slice sweet potatoes into 3/4" cubes.  Quarter and skin the onion, and cut the quarters in half so onion pieces are similar in size to the potatoes.

3) Place potatoes and onions in a zip lock bag with the oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Shake to coat.  Spread evenly onto the pan lined with parchment and bake 15 to 25 minutes or until desired doneness.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chicken Piccatta

Have you ever been chatting with a friend and before long you're sharing recipes with each other? A couple of my favorite recipes that I make were given to me verbally in just this manner. This dish is just such a recipe. The original called for a full stick of butter however, I now use a butter and olive oil combo and I use much less. I have made some other tweaks, and this is the version I make on occasion. By the way, this recipe is great for unexpected company, since you can make the chicken stretch further by pounding it out.

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Chicken Piccatta

3 Chicken Breasts
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup chicken broth (or homemade equivalent)

1) Cut each breast into 4 smaller slices and pound out to 1/4 inch thickness
2) Mix flour, salt and pepper in a bowl and dredge the chicken pieces shaking off excess flour.
3) Heat oil and butter in pan for 1 minute, and turn oven on to warm setting.
4) Cooking chicken over medium heat in batches, brown the first side until the color you want is achieved and flip until the second side is browned. Keep each batch in the oven on a plate until all the chicken is cooked.
5) Add the juice of one lemon and 1/2 cup of chicken broth, heat on high until reduced by half. (Sometimes I add a generous splash of Chardonnay if I have it on hand).
6) Either add the chicken back to pan and gently toss to coat with sauce or pour the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with rice.
Note: I had two artichokes on hand so I cooked them up and diced the hearts in the pan...just did it on a whim and it really added a nice touch.


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