Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Whole Wheat Linguine with Mushrooms and Lemon-Garlic Gremolata

My family came out to visit my husband and I for Christmas.  We had a great visit (and some great food, of course).  I made a few of my favorite recipes for my family, but one night my brother said he was going to cook.  Now you might think I was nervous, but I wasn't at all.  My brother is a great cook!  I'm tellin' ya - this has a lot to do with my mother who is a great home cook (and by the way, so was my grandmother).  The following recipe is one of my brother's "go-to" recipes.  He has made it so many times that he no longer needs the original recipe, and now just cooks it by "feel and what looks good" - love when that happens.  It all started one day at work when my brother's co-worker heated up something in the microwave for lunch that smelled so good he just couldn't stand it anymore, and asked her what in the world she was eating.  I'm so glad she gave him the recipe and the cookbook reference.  The original recipe is from Vegan Planet: 400 Irresistible recipes with Fantastic Flavors from Home and Around the World by Robin Robinson. The linguine recipe is on pg. 242 and the gremolata is on pg. 243.  The following is my brother's version.

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Whole Wheat Linguine with Mushrooms and Lemon-Garlic Gremolata
For the Gremolata
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
5 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
grated zest of one lemon (the largest you can find), reserve the juice from 1/2 of lemon

For the Linguine with Mushrooms
1 lb box of whole wheat linguine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium shallot, minced
2 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms (First choice: 1 pack oyster and 1 pack cremini; Second choice: 1 Large pack of oyster, crimini, and shiitake; Third choice: 1 pack white mushrooms and 1 pack baby portabella mushrooms)
salt and pepper
1 recipe gremolata, above
garnish with shaved Parmesan

1) Mince the garlic, parsley, and lemon zest together until well blended.  Makes about 1/3 cup. Cover and refrigerate (can be refrigerated up to 24 hours - but the fresher the better).

2) Cook the linguine from box directions to al dente - usually 8 - 10 minutes.

3) While the pasta is cooking heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the shallots and cover and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the pan; cook mushrooms until softened and cooked through. (If you use the white and baby bella mushroom mixture, continue cooking the mushrooms until there are no natural juices left).  Add mushrooms to the gremolata mixture.

4) Drain the pasta and place back into the pasta pot for easy tossing (no heat).  Add the mushroom mixture, the remaining olive oil, and the gremolata. Toss gently to combine and serve in a pasta bowl at once. (Goes great with sauteed chicken if your not a vegan).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Quick Spicy Black Bean Soup

When I lived in California and could shop at Trader Joe's, I would sometimes buy a carton of spicy Cuban black bean soup that they carried.  I thought it was reasonably healthy for being so convenient.  The only listed ingredient that bothered me was cane juice.  The soup didn't need it.  I always wanted to be able to make my own version of this soup without sugar.  This recipe is quick and easy because it calls for canned beans instead of dried.

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Spicy Black Bean Soup
1 small to medium onion, chopped
1 medium to large carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 (15 oz) can no salt added black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can no salt added kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon oregano
3 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil
sour cream and fresh cilantro for garnish, optional

1) Heat a small amount of extra virgin olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) in a sauce pan.  Saute the chopped onion, celery, and carrots on medium low heat for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally so the mirepoix mixture doesn't brown.  Add pressed garlic and continue to saute mixture for another 2 minutes.

2)  Add beans, spices and the chicken broth to the mirepoix mixture.  Bring to a soft boil, turn down the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

3) Remove from heat and blend the soup with an immersion blender until pureed.  Garnish with sour cream and cilantro.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Crispy Garlic Smashed Potatoes

A few weeks ago I happened to catch Food Network's Giada at Home called, "When Life Gives You Lemons."  The show was a cute premise.  Her friend gave her a lemon tree, and when the lemons where ready she cooked a lunch for that friend using those lemons.  How clever! One of the dishes she made really stuck in my mind. So much so, that the next time I went grocery shopping I bought fingerling potatoes. As Giada was cooking the potato dish she gave a nod to someone else, (another chef?), giving that person credit for boiling fingerling potatoes in chicken broth, and then sauteing them in olive oil.  I thought that was genius. Here is the link to Giada's menu for that show.  Here is my take on the potatoes inspired from that show.

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Crispy Garlic Smashed Potatoes
1 bag (one pound) of fingerling potatoes
8 cloves of garlic
1 quart of chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

1) Clean the potatoes and peel the garlic cloves. Place in a sauce pot with the chicken broth. Boil on medium high heat until soft and cooked through.

2) Drain potatoes (reserving broth if desired - makes for a great base for potato soup) and carefully smash each fingerling on a cutting board with the flat of a large knife.  Carefully smash garlic cloves.

3) Heat olive oil over medium heat and place garlic and potatoes in a single layer in a frying pan.  This may take two batches.  Fry for about 7 minutes on each side until brown and crispy.

4) Add salt, pepper and fresh parsley before serving. These crispy garlic potatoes are a great alternative to french fries and go great with burgers.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Chili and Fixings

I have made this recipe a few times now. I usually triple or quadruple the recipe, put it in my crock pot and then chili is waiting for us when we come home with guests.  What makes this special is all the optional fixings.  I decorate the table with several bowls of fixings such as shredded lettuce, scallions, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, and cilantro. I once quadrupled this recipe to serve 10 people. Serve the chili with chips, salsa, and a tasty dessert and you will have happy guests. (Optional idea: have beer and margaritas available too:-)

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Chili and Fixings
For the Chili
1 1b ground beef
1 15oz can of diced tomatoes
1 15oz can of kidney beans, not drained (preferably low sodium or no salt added)
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cilantro
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Fixings
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 large bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped
8 oz cheddar cheese
8 oz sour cream
1 avocado, cubed
6 scallions, chopped
2 cups shredded lettuce

1) Heat olive oil in large pot and saute onions over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and heat for an additional minute stirring constantly so the garlic doesn't burn.

2) Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink.  If there is a lot of fat in the pot run a paper towel through the mean and onion mixture to absorb the excess fat.

3) Add tomatoes, beans, all the spices and bring to a steady simmer.

4) Cover and continue to simmer low for 30 minutes, or refrigerate the mixture until you are ready to simmer on the stove top or put into a crock pot.

5) Place all of the fixings in separate bowls.  Serve chili and fixings with chips and salsa.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Baked Mediterranean Chicken and Tomatoes

You know I love to cook.  Sometimes that means I make a mess in my kitchen, and then there is a big clean up.  I do have a wonderful husband who helps a lot with the dishes, but I never want to take his help for granted.  Isn't it great to find tasty healthy dishes with minimal clean up? Here is a delicious recipe that takes minimal effort to make and clean up, perfect for a great week night meal.

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Baked Mediterranean Chicken and Tomatoes
2 Chicken Breasts
1 pint container of cherry or grape tomatoes
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 teaspoon dehydrated garlic granules
1/8 cup crushed pine nuts
1/8 cup Parmesan
salt and pepper
fresh basil for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350. Wash tomatoes. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Hand toss with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper, and 1 teaspoon of dehydrated garlic granules. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes.

2. While tomatoes are baking, butterfly the chicken breasts like I showed in the Spicy Almond-Encrusted Chicken Breast post.

3. Place the four chicken halves in a shallow dish with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  This helps to keep the chicken from drying out when baking.

4. In another small bowl mix the crushed pine nuts, Parmesan, and salt and pepper.

5. After 35 to 40 minutes remove tomatoes from the oven. Move tomatoes to 1/2 of the baking sheet. Arrange the chicken pieces on the other half of the baking sheet.  Divide the pine nut topping between the four chicken breast halves only coating the tops.

6. Return the sheet pan to the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. (It is very easy to overcook the chicken so be careful).

7. Garnish with fresh basil and serve with green beans.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Penne Pasta Bake

A challenge no more! As I mentioned in this post my microwave and stove (which was attached in one unit) was from the paleozoic age.  The microwave didn't work at all, and last week the two largest burners went out.  Be still my heart, the Landlord agreed to replace the unit.  For the inaugural meal on our new stove, I picked a new weeknight favorite - Penne Pasta Bake.  This dish is not only great on a weeknight, but also for any occasion you would like to have something assembled before hand.  Then all you have to do is bake.  Easier than lasagna but just as tasty this casserole can be assembled with many pantry staples.

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Penne Pasta Bake
1 1lb box of penne pasta (I have used both whole wheat and fiber enriched)
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce or homemade sauce
12 oz of mozzarella
15 - 16 oz of ricotta whip (recipe below)

For the Ricotta Whip
1 (15 or 16 oz) tub of whole milk ricotta
1 egg
2 cloves of garlic
1/8 cup of freshly chopped parsley
1/8 cup of fresh grated Romano cheese
1/8 cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is boiling, assemble all the ingredients for the ricotta whip in a bowl and blend with a fork

2.  Place a small amount of pasta sauce in the bottom of a 2 quart casserole dish

3. Layer 1/2 of the penne pasta

4. Add more sauce

5. Add 1/2 of the ricotta whip

6. Layer 6 oz of mozzarella cheese

7.  Repeat layers by adding the rest of the penne and sauce

8.  Add the remaining ricotta and mozzarella

9. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Serve with basil or parsley

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Turkey Dumpling Soup

This will be my last turkey related post for a while - I promise.  As I mentioned in my Classic Turkey Stuffing post, our Christmas dinner is usually Thanksgiving dinner part II.  What can I say? My husband loves my turkey, stuffing, and  mashed potatoes.  Therefore, I had  enough turkey "scraps" to make a batch of homemade turkey stock so that I could make my new winter favorite - Turkey Dumpling Soup (Southern style).  Step one is to make homemade turkey stock* just like I make homemade chicken stock substituting turkey bones instead of chicken.  I usually make the stock a day before I want to make the soup.  The dumplings for this soup are inspired by Paula Dean's dumpling recipe rather than the fluffier biscuit-like dumpling that cooks on top of a soup or stew.  See the rest of the recipe below.

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Turkey Dumpling Soup
For the soup:

1 tablespoon of canola oil
3 cups of mirepoix - equal amounts of chopped onion, celery and carrots
1 clove of garlic, pressed
1/4 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
2 teaspoons of rubbed sage
1/8 teaspoon of white pepper
2 quarts of homemade turkey stock (*see note above)
3 - 4  cups of (leftover) cubed roasted turkey (I used breast meat)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with enough water to make a thick liquid mixture (optional)
1/4 cup of fresh chopped parsley (optional)

For the Dumplings: (Inspired by Paula Dean)
2 cups of sprouted wheat flour
1 teaspoon of  salt
a large pinch of poultry seasoning
3/4 cups of ice water

1) Heat canola oil in a large soup pot, add the onions, celery and carrot mixture (mirepoix), and saute for 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the pressed garlic and saute for another minute stirring constantly so the garlic doesn't burn.

2) Add 2 quarts of homemade turkey stock and heat over a medium heat for 5 minutes.

3) Add poultry seasoning, sage, and white pepper, and turn down to a low simmering heat.  Simmer until the vegetables are tender and the spice flavors steep into the broth (about 20 minutes).

4)  Add the cooked cubed leftover turkey, salt and pepper (to taste).  Continue to simmer the soup.

5) While soup is simmering make the dumplings by making a well with the flour, and add 3/4 cups of ice water to the flour well.  Slowly mix the flour and water to make a dough. As the dough comes together, kneed the dough a few times and form a ball.  Let the dough rest a minute.

6) Roll out the dough in a rectangle about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Using a pizza cutter cut into 1 inch squares.

7)  Bring the soup to a gentle boil and add the dumplings one at a time.  Maintain the gentle boil for 5 minutes.

8)  If you would like a thicker soup add the cornstarch mixture to thicken - stirring very gently. Add the parsley, and if needed adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

My New Year's resolution is to blog more consistently.  It is sad to go through my blog reader and click through the list of blogs I like to find that somebody stopped blogging.  I'm sure that in some cases it was for very good reasons.  By that I mean, in the big picture of life, food blogging is not high on the list of priorities - at least for me.  It's a hobby and frankly the actual cooking is more important than the blogging itself. I work full time. And, it does not take priority over my little family (my husband and my cat:-).  All that said, I don't want to become one of those blogs that falls by the wayside.  I am going to tackle 2011 with a renewed spirit for my foodie journey.  After all, some things haven't changed.  I do want to record my culinary journey.  I'm simultaneously fascinated and confused by all the food philosophies out there.  I have so many *recipes that I want to try, and I have so many kitchen gadgets that I would like to learn to use better. More importantly, I want to know exactly what I'm feeding my family by learning how to make real food from scratch, and eliminating convenient packaged foods with ingredients that I can't pronounce.

*This is a picture of the top two shelves of my kitchen bookcase.  It doesn't include the the other five shelves, the stacks on each of my end tables and the one by my bedside.  Did I mention that I read cookbooks and cooking magazines like some people read romance novels?  Can anyone else out there relate?


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