Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kidney Bean and Yam Stew with Oranges

Winter's not giving up its frigid grasp and the colds are making their rounds again. So this thick Indian stew sounded perfect to fight off the chills and sniffles. Yams, kidney beans, oranges, garlic, about a bowl full of health. How much beta carotene, vitamin C, fiber, protein can one really cram into a single meal? I refuse to get sick now, with spring so close!

adapted from Everyday Indian by Ball Arneson

Serves 4

The Ingredients:

2 Tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
2 Tbsp finely chopped ginger
2 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp garam masala
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp rosemary, dried or fresh
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
one 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 cups cooked, cubed yams (approximately 2 medium)
1 cup water
one 14 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups peeled, cubed oranges (approximately 2 medium)

The Process:
Place the oil, ginger, garlic and fenugreek seeds in a big pot over medium-high heat and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cumin, garam masala, bay leaves, oregano, rosemary, turmeric, and salt, and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, yams and water: increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 7 to 9 minutes. Add the kidney beans and oranges and cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes. remove bay leaves and serve.

My Modifications:
I lacked fenugreek seeds in whole form, but had the ground seeds on hand. I substituted that at half the amount. And while on the subject of spices, I've begun making my own garam masala blend. My recipe consists of whole cloves cumin seeds, green and black cardamom pods, coriander seeds, peppercorns, a bay leaf, a cinnamon stick, and a pinch of nutmeg. Countless variations of this Indian stable abound. Feel free to experiment...or pick up a pre-made variety at the store.The original recipe did not specify that the yams be cooked, though given the short cook times listed it seemed unlikely the tubers would be tender without a little pre-stew prep. I prefer to bake mine in the oven for about an hour, but in a pinch the microwave will do the trick. The original recipe also did not specify to peel the oranges. The thought to chewing on orange peel did NOT their exteriors were disposed of prior to cubing and adding to the pot. Mine oranges were a seedless variety.

The Review:
The warm oranges were a bit odd, and the cumin a tad overpowering, but overall the stew was a big hit. It struck me as sort of like the Tex-Mex chili's long lost cousin. The kidney beans gave the stew the hardy parallel. And the cumin lent a familiar flavor. But the meat was hardly missed. It's nice to have another vegan friendly main course in the arsenal.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Porchetta-style Pork Loin with White Beans

Sometimes it's nice to find an Italian influenced recipe that is not drenched in marinara or served with a heart stopping side of pasta.

Adapted from "The Short Order Cook" in Men's Health magazine, January/February 2011

The Ingredients:
3 cloves of garlic, minced
grated zest of 2 oranges
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 pork loin, about 2 lbs
2 cans (14 oz) cannellini beans, drained
juice of one lemon

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 450

On a cutting board, combine the garlic, orange zest, fennel seeds, and 1 Tbsp of the rosemary. Chop the mix until a thick paste is formed. Scoop into a small bowl and add the olive oil. Stir to combine.Season the pork with salt and pepper and rub all over with the paste. (if you like you can allow the meat to marinate up to 4 hours prior to cooking.) Place the pork in a roasting pan and bake for 25 to 30 or until a thermometer inserted in middle reads 160. Remove the roast from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

In a saucepan, heat the beans, lemon juice and remaining rosemary until heated through. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice the pork and serve with the beans.

My Modifications:
Very few...I needed to roast to pork closer to 40 minutes before it reached the appropriate internal temporature. And I halved the bean portion of the recipe.

The Review:
The pork was incredibly tender and juicy. The flavor was rich, though a bit subtle. If I try the recipe again I am planning on marinating the pork in the fennel/orange paste prior to roasting. And the beans, while flavorful, were a bit to acidic for our taste. A slight touch of honey or sugar substitute may be in order next time, to hold back the full citric assault of the lemon juice.

The recipe also suggesting trying lemon zest and sage in lieu of orange zest and rosemary for the paste. I'm storing that one in the back of my mind for future roast chickens.

But all in all, it was simple enough to make any night of the week, but fancy enough to impress company.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Oven-Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

Sometimes you just need to try out something other than frozen veggies, warmed over on the stove top--

The recipe is my own

Serves 2-3

The Ingredients:
1/2 medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 stalk of broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 red pepper, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 450.

Combine the cauliflower, broccoli, red pepper and onion in a 4 qt baking dish. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, orange juice, oregano and cumin. Drizzle over vegetables and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until vegetables are tender and begin to brown on top, stirring once.
The Review:
We'll be having something similar again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Eggplant Lasgana

Like the gluten-free love child of eggplant Parmesan and lasagna. Although, the picture is not much to look at...

After several successful attempts at eggplant Parmesan I wanted to try something with a similar flavor, but without the breading or frying. I have, over those Parmesan trials, developed a process to prep the eggplant in a way to minimize its bitterness and make the flesh much denser (and less slimy when cooked). It adds an hour to the prep time, but I find the payoff far worth it.

The recipe is my own.

serves 6

The Ingredients:
1 medium eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/4" slices
kosher salt
1 cup shredded mozzarella, divided in thirds

The Sauce

1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (4 oz) tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp sugar substitute
salt and pepper to taste

Spinach filling

1 Tbps olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 large white onion, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh baby spinach

Ricotta filling
8 oz low fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano

The Process:
Generously salt both sides of the slices of eggplant and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheets covered with paper towels. Top the slices with additional paper toweling and cover with a second baking sheet. Weight the sheet down with books or baking ware to compress the eggplant. Leave for one hour. When ready to use, wipe off excess salt.

Preheat the oven to 350.

For the sauce, in a medium saucepan, combine the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, parsley and basil over medium heat. Stir until well blended. Bring to a gentle boil, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the garlic and onion. Saute until the onion begins to turn tender. Add the baby spinach and saute until the spinach has wilted, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, basil and oregano until well blended.

Mist a 9"x9" baking dish with cooking spray. Layer about 1/3 of the eggplant in the bottom of the dish. Top with 1/2 of the spinach mixture, 1/2 of the ricotta mixture, 1/3 of the mozzarella and about a third of the sauce. Repeat the layers, starting with the eggplant. Top the any remaining eggplant, and sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and, if desired, Parmesan cheese.

Bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes or until heated through and the eggplant is tender. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

The Review:
We had a guest who had never tried eggplant before and even she truly enjoyed this dish. The flavors are simple (granted the prep is not). And with all of the textures and flavors, you really don't miss the noodles or meat. I would have loved to add portobella mushrooms to the spinach mixture; however, fungus is regularly shunned from any shared meals. And to shorten the prep time, any jar of sauce will do,as will ricotta without all the extras. I just prefer my own seasonings.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Truffles

Chocolate truffles....nuff said

Adapted from The South Beach Diet Taste of Summer Cookbook by Arthur Agatston M. D.

makes approximately 32 truffles

The Ingredients:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa or higher) finely chopped
1/3 cup fat-free half and half
4 ounces cherries, pitted and finely chopped
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

The Process:
Place chocolate in a medium sized heat proof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat half and half over medium heat. When it comes to a simmer, stir in the cherries and return to a simmer. remove from heat and pour the mixture over chocolate. Add salt and stir until chocolate is melted.

Place the bowl in the freezer until the chocolate is set...about 10 minutes, removing the bowl to stir about every 2 minutes. The chocolate is ready to form into truffles when it no longer has a pudding-like consistency and starts to harden.

Scoop out 2 teaspoons of chocolate mixture and roll with moistened palms to form a small ball. Repeat with remaining chocolate to make 32 balls (you will needed to wash and re-moisten your hands frequently). If the chocolate is soft, place the balls in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm.

Place cocoa powder in a shallow dish. Roll balls in cocoa powder to coat, then roll between your palms to adhere the powder to the truffle. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an air tight container for up to one week.

My Modifications:
High quality chocolate is key to such treats...I opted for Ghirardelli's 70% cocoa extra bittersweet chocolate baking bar.

As it is the middle of winter, cherries are a wee bit hard to come by. Unless you're in the freezer section. Our grocer just so happened to have unsweetened flash frozen whole pitted cherries in stock. Once thawed, blotted and finely chopped they work the same way. If not even juicer.

I fell into the trap of using the low fat dairy substitute. After reading the label on the the fat-free "half and half" and seeing corn syrup as the second ingredient, I should have come back to reality and opted for the real deal, or whipping cream instead. But no...the truffles here are, in the end, the "skinny" version using the faux dairy creamer.

The Review:
Even with "half and half" these turned out really, really good. Though what's not to like about a creamy, smooth ball of chocolate decadence. They were, however, far better fresh than they were 24 hours later. In that one day in the fridge the truffles had already developed a slightly grainy texture (I blame the inferior fa- free faux creamer). Though the the cherry flavor had become much more pronounced. But between us and a few friend the truffles didn't lasted long enough to see another day in the fridge. Which I suppose is the final word on how well they were received.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Souffle" Stuffed Chicken

I've been eyeing this recipe for a while, but the inclusion of a specific convenience food item made me wary. Who's to say when a company such as Stouffer's may decide to nix an item from their product line. Well, not only does Stouffer's still make the spinach souffle used to stuff this chicken, the froze side dish appears to have a solid following. The cashier at the supermarket raved and raved about it after she saw it in our pile of groceries...

Adapted from The South Beach Diet Cookbook by Arther Agatston, M.D.

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1 package Stouffer's frozen spinach souffle, not thawed
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4" thickness
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp chopped parsley

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350.

Using a serrated knife, cut the spinach souffle crosswise into 4 equal pieces. Top half of each whole breast with one of the pieces of souffle. Fold half of the chicken over the filling and fasten the edges with wooden picks.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until golden. Discard the garlic. Add the chicken breasts to the skillet and cook for 7 minutes per side, or until well-browned on all sides.

Remove the chicken breasts to an oven-proof dish. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest portion registers 170.

While the chicken bakes, add the broth, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce is reduced about half.

Top serve, remove and discard the wooden picks from the chicken. Arrange the chicken on a serving platter, and spoon the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with parsley.

The Review:
I definitely need to work on my stress relief was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be to pound the chicken breasts into a uniform 1/4" thickness. But with a little finagling I did manage to secure the chicken around the frozen souffle. Once the meat hit the skillet, everything sort of sealed up anyway.

Despite the early frustrations, the dish itself turned out well. The chicken looked to suffer for a touch of dryness upon coming out of the oven, but appearances are only skin deep. The combination of the sauce, the filling and the earlier pounding actually yielded a fairly tender and juicy entree. And the Stouffer's spinach souffle was as light as air.

Perhaps next time I'll nix the chicken and just stick with the (gasp!) prepackaged side dish.

The lemon dijon sauce too, may make an appearance in future recipes...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chilled Espresso and Mayan Mocha Custards

This post is a two for one deal. I've been craving desserts as of late...anything sweet really. But when cutting the sugars a lot of traditional sweets are off limits. As custard is simply egg, milk, sweetener and flavoring it seemed to fit the bill. Two recipes are below.

Adapted from The South Beach Diet Cookbook by Arther Agatston, M.D.

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups 1% milk
2 eggs
3 Tbsp sugar substitute
2 tsp espresso powder or instant coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract

The Process:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar substitute, espresso powder, and vanilla extract until well-blended. Pour into four 6-ounce custard cups or ramekins and place in a 10" skillet.

Fill the skillet with water to 1/2" for the tops of the custard cups. Bring water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove the cups from the skillet, cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the custard and refrigerate for 3 hours or until chilled.

My Modifications:
I find sugar substitute often sweeter than the real deal so I reduced the sweetened from 3 Tbsp down to 2. And sadly, I have only two ramekins in my possession, but the recipe halved nicely. The end ratio was 1egg : 3/4 cup milk : 1 Tbsp splenda : 1 tsp instant coffee : 1/2 tsp vanilla.

The Review:
Like digging into a thick iced a good way. Though the consistency was a little more slippery than smooth.

After some poking around (mostly courtesy of the red gingham checked staple of my kitchen: The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook) I decided to try baking the custards instead of using the stove top hot water bath. And I reduced the milk in the milk to egg ration from 3/4 cup per egg to 1/2 cup per egg. The flavoring was inspired by a Mexican hot chocolate.

The recipe is my own

serves 2

The Ingredients:
1/2 cup 1% milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp sugar substitute
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

The Process:
Set the kettle on to boil and preheat the oven to 325.

In a medium bowl paste together the cocoa powder and about 2 Tbsp of the milk until the chocolate reaches an even consistency. Add the remaining milk, the egg, sugar substitute, vanilla, cinnamon and cayenne pepper to the bowl and whisk together until well blended, but not frothy.

Arrange two 4 ounce ramekins in a 9" x 9" baking dish. Fill the ramekins with the mixture. Pour boiling water into the baking dish around the ramekins to a depth of 1 inch. Bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center of the custard comes out clean.

Remove the cups from the water and set on a wire rack to cool. Or refrigerate until ready to serve.

The Review:
The consistency was much, much improved...the custard being thicker and smoother than the first attempt. I had an aesthetic little surprise upon breaking the custard's smooth skin. The cocoa powder, despite being well blended prior to baking, had settled slightly. As a result the custard had formed two layers...a darker more chocolaty band on the bottom, topped by a lighter layer of vanilla and spice.
With a base custard down in my arsenal many more flavor combinations are in the future. If only I had realized earlier how easy custards were to make!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sage and Rosemary Pork

Well, in our case it was thyme and rosemary pork. The thought of butterflying a pork loin has always been intimidating to me. And while I believe I started the initial cut a little too thick, the entire process was a lot easier than I thought it be. (For a step by step photo tutorial, check out this site.)

Adapted from The South Beach Diet Cookbook by Arther Agatston, M.D.

serves 6

The Ingredients:
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage or thyme
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
pork loin
1 boneless center cut loin pork roast (about 2 lbs)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

The Process
To make the filling: in a small bowl combine the parsley, sage or thyme, rosemary, garlic, oil, mustard, salt and pepper.

The prep the pork loin: preheat the oven to 350

Butterfly the loin. Sprinkle the top side of the loin with half of the salt and pepper. Spread the filling evenly across the loin, leaving about a 1/2" border along the edge where you made the first cut.

Beginning on the opposite edge, roll the loin up to wrap the filling. Using kitchen twine, tie the loin every 1 1/2" to hold it's shape

Rub the loin with the oil and sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper. Place the loin in a small roasting pan and position on the center rack of the oven. Roast for one hour or until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 155 and the juices run clear. Let stand 10 minutes before carving.

My Modifications:
Our loin was just over a pound which was perfect for two people, with some leftovers remaining. However, the only ingredients I reduced to accommodate the smaller roast size was the oil, salt and pepper. And we used fresh thyme in lieu of the sage.

The Review:
The roast was well received, accompanied by garlic roasted potatoes for Ross and steamed broccoli for myself. I don't regret not reducing the herbs in the filling for the smaller roast. The flavor was in no way overpowering. And now that I've tried the butterflying and filling technique, I eager to explore other flavor combinations!