Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chicken Orzo Soup with Dill and Lemon

Few things are as comforting as a bowl of chicken soup.  Especially since we seem in the midst of the chilly spring that won't quite come full bloom.  But unlike many a hearty winter or fall dish, this Greek inspired soup is steeped with the bright and hopeful taste of summer.  Lemon and dill keep the soup as light and refreshing as it is filling.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1 Tsp Olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium leek
1 celery stalk
12 oz skinless boneless chicken thighs
6 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup orzo
1/4 cup fresh dill
1 lemon, quartered
 salt and pepper to taste

The Process:
Rinse the leek well to remove grit and cut in half lengthwise and then sliced crosswise, 1/2 inch thick.  Cut the celery crosswise into 1/2 inch slices.

In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic, leek and celery.  Saute until the vegetables are fragrant and tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the broth and chicken thighs and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring the broth to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 15  minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and allow to rest until cool enough to handle.

Return the broth to a boil and add the orzo.  Cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.

Shred the reserved chicken into bite sized pieces and return to the pot.  Allow to heat through.  Remove pot from heat and stir in the dill.

Serve with lemon for a squeeze to finish.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Creamy Barley and Cranberry Salad

Barley...not just for beer...

Summer is fast approaching, though with our chilly evenings and rainy days it's a bit hard to believe.  With summer comes a plethora of backyard barbeques and picnics.  Grills are going full throttle and dishes arrive by the bowlful to pass.  Pasta salads will certainly be in over abundance, as usual.

Change it up.

This salad is not that unfamiliar.  But the barley is an unsuspected twist.

adapted from a recipe by Bryan Marcel

serves 6

The Ingredients:
½ cup uncooked pearl barley
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 stalks celery, diced
½ cup dried cranberries 
2 small carrots, julienned
4 cups mixed greens (mesclun, frisee, radicchio, red and green oak leaf, etc)

The Process:
In a medium saucepan, bring 1 ½ cups of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the barley, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the barley is tender and the water is absorbed.  Spread the barley in a single on a baking sheet to cool.

Meanwhile whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, oil, mustard, salt, and pepper.   Fold in the celery, cranberries, and carrots. Add the cooled barley and toss to coat.

Serve over mixed greens.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sweet Potato and Gruyere Stacks

I very quickly tire of the tried and true.  Why else would I be pushing myself to try 100 new recipes every year?  Don't get me wrong...I love traditions.  And I absolutely adore sweet potatoes.  But I can only tolerate them slathered in brown sugar and marshmallows for a very, very limited time.  I've tried them scalloped, which was a nice change of pace. But this preparation truly steals the cake.

My mind in now a-whirling about other spuds to apply this to.

The key to a less stress mess is to find sweet potatoes no larger in diameter than the width of the cups of your muffin tin. Trust me...skip the bigger tubers.

Adapted from Southern Living

yields 12 stacks

The Ingredients:
3 small sweet potatoes, about 2-2 1/2 inches in diameter
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme, divided
2/3 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2  tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper 

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly oil a 12 count muffin tin

Peel and thinly slice the sweet potatoes.  Starting with the smallest slices and working up in diameter, layer the sweet potato slices about halfway up the muffin cups.  Sprinkle each stack evenly with the thyme and Gruyere.  Continue to fill the muffin cups with the remaining potato.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream.  Whisk in the garlic, salt and pepper.  Simmer briefly.  Remove from heat and spoon about 1 Tbsp over each sweet potato stack.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until cheese has melted.

Run a knife around the outside of each cup, and carefully lift and transfer each stack to a serving platter.  Garnish with a sprinkle of thyme.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Black Beans and Brown Rice with Ginger Salsa

Keep it simple, keep it cheap...

I should really work on making this a regular mantra.  Good food needn't be fussy.  It certainly doesn't have to be expenxive. 

Want a quick, inexpensive and aboslutley delicious dish layered with flavors?  This dinner is for you.  The most time consuming part is cooking the rice.  Of course, my work around was to make the rice a day ahead of time while I prepped that day's dinner.  The rest comes together in no time flat.

adapted from Bon Apetit

serves 4

The Ingredients:
for the rice:
1 Tbsp olive oil, divide  
2-3 Tbsp chopped onion
1 cup brown rice
2 cups vegetable stock or water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
pepper to taste
 for the beans:
1 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 Tbsp chopped onion
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
1 cup vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
for the salsa
2 red Fresno chiles, stemmed, halved, seeded, and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 Tbsp chopped onion
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 Roma tomato, finely diced
1 Tbsp lime zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
salt and pepper
to serve
1 avocado, halved, pitted, and chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta
fresh cliatnro
Lime wedges
The Process:
for the rice:
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender, about 45 minutes.  Remove saucepan from heat. Let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and fold in cilantro.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
for the beans:
In a medium saucepan heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add coriander and cumin; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beans and broth.    Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer.  Cook until heated through, about 8-10 minutes.  Mash slightly.
for the salsa
Using the flat side of a knife against a cutting board, or a mortara and pestal, mash the chiles, garlic, ginger, tomato,  lime zest, and onion until a chunky sauce forms. Spoon into a bowl and mix in the lime juice.  Season salsa with salt and pepper to taste. 
to serve:
Spoon rice into one half of a bowl, and scoop beans alongside.  Top with a dollop of ginger salsa and sour cream.  Sprinkle with feta and cilantro, Serve with avocado and lime.  Omit cheese and sour cream for a vegan dish.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pea Pancakes with Herbed Yogurt and Prosciutto

Spring has finally sprung!  With our ridiculously long winter, it may be a few more weeks before we begin to see some truly fresh produce.  In the meantime, I am perfectly content making due with a few frozen pantry essentials.

This meal is incredibly light, but surprisingly filling.  It makes an wonderfully refreshing dinner on a warm day as well as an invigorating brunch or breakfast.  The sweet peas compliment the tangy herbed yogurt and salty prosciutto so well...each bite added more layers of flavor than the last.  Who said pancakes can't be savory?

adapted and embellished from Bon Apetit

serves 4

The Ingredients:
for pancakes:
1 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup peas, thawed  if frozen

for the yogurt:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 small sprigs fresh dill, chopped (1-2 Tbsp)
1 small bunch fresh chives, chopped (2-3 Tbsp) 

to serve:
1 green onion, thinly sliced
8 paper thin slices of prosciutto

The Process:
for the yogurt:
In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and herbs.  Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes.

for the pancakes:
Combine the salt, eggs, cottage cheese, flour and oil in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.  Transfer batter to a medium bowl and fold in the peas and green onions.

Heat a large, lightly-oiled skillet over medium heat.  Working in batches, pour a scant 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet making 4-inch rounds and cook until bubbles form on top, 3-5 minutes.  Flip and cook an additional 2 minutes or until the middle is set. Remove cakes from heat and keep warm.  Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve with herbed yogurt, prosciutto and sliced green onion.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bacon Wrapped Trout with Chives, Tarragon and Dill

The presentation of a whole broiled fish is quite an impressive sight. Perhaps a little intimidating for some.  Wrapped in bacon and you may even forget that dinner is staring at you with mouth a gap in a silent scream. But, oh is this fish so good...
 The cavity of fresh, cleaned trout is the perfect way to infuse the fish with flavor from the inside.  The bacon neatly holds everything together, while basting the fish with its salty fat.  I tried a similarly ingenious thai twist on trout a while back, and had promised I wouldn't shy away from preparing whole fish in the future.  I am looking forward to a plethora of other fresh herb combinations...and perhaps someday in the warm summer months ahead...a camp fire or grill.


adapted from recipes at Bon Appetit and Epicurious

serves 2

The Ingredients:
2 whole trout 10-12 oz each, cleaned
1 Tbsp salt
1/4 tsp cracked pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 small sprigs of fresh dill
1 small sprig of fresh tarragon
1 small bundle of chives
4 slices of lemon, about 1/8-inch thick
4-6 slices of bacon

The Process:
Preheat the broiler.

Line a broiler pan or shallow baking dish with foil.

In a small bowl, mix together the salt, cracked pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika and garlic powder.

Generously sprinkle the inside of the trout with the seasoning blend.  Layer two lemon slices, one spring of dill, half of the tarragon and half of the chives in the cavity.

Repeat with the other trout.  Wrap each trout with 2-3 slices of bacon.

Place the fish on the foil lined pan and broil, about 4 inches from the heat, for 7-9 minutes per side.  The bacon and skin of the fish should be crispy and blistered, and the flesh of the fish should flake eaily.

Garnish with lemon and chopped chives.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Oven Roasted Cumin Cauliflower

Poor cauliflower...overlooked among the crudites and asked to parade around as something it is mot whenever someone feels the need to cut the carbs, but NEEDS mashed potatoes.  One day, you will have your moment of glory.  But rest assured, you will always be a staple in my produce stash.  This has become my go-to method for enticing others to enjoy this under-appreciated brassicaceae. 

The recipe is my own

Should serve 3-4, we're lucky if it serves 2

 The Ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
5-6 kalamata olives, minced

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 400

In a large bowl or zip top bag, combine all of the ingredients and toss to coat.  Layer the cauliflower in a 9x13 baking dish.  Roast for 35-40 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender and begininng to brown.

Dig in immediately.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fig and Belgian Dubbel Reduction

Move over wine.  It is time to share the culinary platform.  Meet the Belgian dubbel.

This recipe, as with my previous pancake post, was nudged--nay--pushed along by a recent class on cooking with beer taught by Sean Paxton.  The idea had been stewing for a while, largely thanks to the quantity of time I seem to spend at Boom Island Brewing Company during their sample room hours.  It is hard not to get excited about food and beer when you can talk directly to the people whose passion creates that lovely beverage in hand.  Using beer in lieu of wine for a reduction had come up many a time during these visits to the brewery.

This recipe is sort of a trial run for a future dinner.  I have grandiose plans for this sauce.  Tonight, it was served over dredged and seared boneless chicken thighs.  But mark my words...as soon as I have the time to head to one of our nicer meat markets or co-ops, duck breast will be featured prominently.

The beer of choice for the reduction was Boom Island's Hoodoo.  To date, they do not distribute outside of Minnesota.  But do not despair...several great Belgian dubbels are available through out the country.  Chimay Premiere, Westmalle Trappist Dubbel, Goose Island Pere Jacques and Ommengang Abbey Ale are all excellent brews to try this with.

To bring out a bit more of the dark fruit sweetness, and cut an potential bittering from the cooking process, I opted to saute up the shallots with an equal amount of dried fig.  The thought had crossed my mind to soak the figs first in some of the dubbel...or perhaps even bourbon.  But baby steps, baby steps.

The sauce is my no means sweet, so much as rich.  I was initially surprised by the amount of unami in the sauce as I sampled though out.   I am really looking forward to playing around with this reduction again.

the recipe is my own

yields enough sauce for about 4 entrees

The Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small shallot, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)
4-6 small dried figs, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)
1/3 cup beef stock
2/3 cup Belgian dubbel
3 Tbsp butter, cut into cubes
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
salt and pepper to taste

The Process:
In a medium saucepan, or the skillet used to sear your protein, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the shallots and figs and saute until the shallots are translucent and beginning to caramelize.

 Splash a little of the beef stock into the pan and deglaze.  Add the remaining stock and the beer to the pan.  Raise the heat to medium high and simmer the mixture until reduced by half, about 15 minutes.  

At this point for a smoother, thinner sauce, strain the mixture through a fine sieve. Return the liquid to the pan and discard the shallots and figs.

For a thicker, richer sauce, puree a portion of the mixture with an immersion blender and return to the saucepan.

Add the butter and thyme, stirring until the butter has melted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over protein of your choice.