Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Taco Pasta


I had originally planned on making tacos last night, but just wasn't feeling it. When we do have tacos, Jon always takes the meat and mixes it with pasta and all of the cold, raw vegetables and ingredients for a taco pasta next day. I took my inspiration from this, but did a cooked-vegetable version.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb ground meat
  • Spices - I didn't measure (never do!) - chili powder, cumin, coriander, cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder, a touch of salt
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 each green and red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno, chopped (optional)
  • 8 oz canned chopped tomatoes (crushed would work well, too)
  • 6 oz canned black beans, rinsed
  • 6 oz chicken broth
  • Handful of shredded cheese, I used a Mexican blend
  • Cooked pasta; I used rotini, about 6 oz
  • Sour cream and shredded lettuce for serving

Directions

  • Heat a large saute pan. Add meat and cook until just about done. Season with the spices.
  • Add the onions and peppers, cook 2-3 minutes
  • Add the tomatoes and beans, cook another 2 minutes
  • Add the broth and bring to a simmer while your pasta is cooking
  • Add pasta to the meat mixture, and toss with the cheese
  • Plate, top with some more cheese, lettuce, and sour cream.


This was incredibly delicious, flavorful, and was a nice way to enjoy taco ingredients without the taco shells. I think it would also do well mixed with more cheese and baked for a taco casserole.


I'm giving this one a Mexican tag purely because of the flavors, spices, and ingredients used - it's not authentic Mexican at all, but it can help to satisfy those Mexican food cravings!



Breaded Basa Fish with a Garlic Cream Sauce


Jon has been asking for fish for dinner for a few weeks and as you know, I'm not the biggest fan of seafood. I am always willing to try it though, so when I saw that our local market had Basa Swai, I picked up 2 filets.

Now, what to do with them? I need to add a lot of flavor to fish when I cook it, and was craving something like the
Chicken Florentine I made last year. I also thought of something like a Chicken Francese - nice thick breading and a lemon sauce. I combined the two ideas and came up with a breaded basa filet with a garlic cream sauce served with spinach and noodles.

Ingredients

  • 2 Basa filets (basa is a very light, white fish from Vietnam; this dish would work with similar fish such as flounder)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs mixed with a touch of paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1/4 c white wine
  • 1/4 c light cream
  • Optional: a touch of dried parsley and red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan
  • Dredge fish in flour, dip in egg, and coat with the bread crumbs. Add to the pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a baking dish and finish cooking in the oven - about 2-3 more minutes.
  • Add 1 tsp olive oil to the pan where the fish cooked
  • Add shallots and garlic, saute 2 min
  • Add wine and stir quickly for about a minute
  • Add cream and bring to a simmer; season with red pepper flakes and dried parsley
  • Whisk in the Parmesan cheese
  • Serve sauce over the fish



I think this meal took me about 20-25 minutes from start to finish, including the prep time to chop the garlic and shallots. The sauce had so much flavor and went perfectly with the crispy fish. I really like this fish because it's very light, but not terribly flaky - it has some meat to it but isn't overpowering. I think I'd compare the consistency almost to that of sea bass, but on a much thinner scale.

I only saw Basa Swai for the first time a few months ago. If you like light, white fish, keep your eyes open for this one. To see other ways I have prepared it, type "basa" into the search bar on the right side of this blog.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Lemon-Thyme Chicken


How is it Monday already? Weekends should really be three days long.

We ate so much all weekend - take-out after happy hour on Friday, a
Bull's BBQ Shredded Pork Sandwich at the Phillies game on Saturday, and a day full of eating and drinking yesterday for Father's Day. So let's stay away from the carbs tonight, ok?

I picked up some boneless chicken breasts yesterday as well as some broccoli rabe. I came up with this quick and easy lemon thyme chicken for dinner tonight.

The Marinade
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Marinate chicken in the marinade for a few hours.


Cooking the chicken

  • Remove chicken from the marinade and shake off any chunks of garlic or shallot.
  • Mix flour with salt, pepper, and a touch of thyme.
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat; preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Dredge chicken in flour, and add to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • Transfer chicken to the oven to finish cooking, about 8-10 minutes.

Optional - Sauce

  • Once the chicken has finished cooking in the oven, remove it from the pan and keep warm.
  • Heat the pan over medium heat
  • Add 1/3 c white wine and scrape up all of the brown bits
  • I didn't do this, but I will next time - add 1/2 c chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and dried parsley flakes if you want some color.
  • Turn heat to low and whisk in about 1/4 c light cream.
  • Serve sauce over the chicken.

I served the chicken with sauteed broccoli rabe.

This chicken was so juicy and full of flavor. The lemon was so bright and fresh, and paired nicely with the garlicky broccoli rabe. I loved it, and will make some chicken salad with the third breast that we didn't eat.

After dinner we enjoyed a glass of wine on the deck. These pics aren't related to cooking, but I had to share.

My hibiscus tree is finally looking healthier and has several of these beautiful and colorful flowers -

And how cute is our dog?? She loves to peek her head through the deck like this so she gets a bird's eye view of our yard - always have to be ready to chase that bunny that likes to visit us!!

Grilled Garlic-Lime Pork with a Jalapeno-Red Onion Marmalade


For Father's Day - my sister and I decided that grilling something for our dad would be nice, and how lucky are we, it didn't rain! Finally, a nice day. We sat outside all afternoon and evening enjoying frozen margaritas and beer with appetizers, and even ate dinner out on the patio.


The dinner menu -
- Grilled Garlic-Lime Pork Tenderloin with a Jalapeno-Red Onion Marmalade
- Roasted Potatoes

The recipe for the pork tenderloin is from the Epicurious web site and can be found here.
Note - I am listing the sauce as a marmalade because that is how it was listed on in the recipe. However, I think it was more of a relish, or chutney.
Ingredients

For the marinade:

  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Cayenne to taste (I didn't use this)
  • 4 pork tenderloins (about 3/4 pound each), trimmed (I used 2 tenderloins but still used the full amounts for the marinade as listed above - this wouldn't have been enough for 4)
For the marmalade:
  • 1 1/4 pounds red or yellow onions, chopped fine (about 4 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 fresh jalapeño chilies, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons honey or sugar (I used honey)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
Directions
To make marinade:
  • In a blender or small food processor blend marinade ingredients with salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a large sealable plastic bag combine pork with marinade. Seal bag, pressing out excess air, and put in a shallow baking dish. Marinate pork, chilled, turning occasionally, at least 1 day and up to 2 days.
  • Prepare grill.
  • Let pork stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before grilling. Remove pork from marinade, letting excess drip off, and grill on an oiled rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals, turning every 5 minutes, until a meat thermometer registers 160°F., 15 to 20 minutes. Jon heated the grill to 400 degrees before adding the pork.
  • Transfer meat to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes before slicing.
  • Serve pork with onion marmalade.

To make the jalapeno onion marmalade:

  • In a large heavy skillet cook onions in oil with salt and pepper to taste over moderate heat, stirring, until softened.
  • Add jalapeños and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  • Add honey or sugar and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  • Add vinegar and simmer, stirring, until almost all liquid is evaporated.
  • Add water and simmer, stirring, until mixture is slightly thickened and onions are very tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Season marmalade with salt and pepper (I didn't need to do this). Marmalade may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered. Reheat marmalade before serving.

Pork tenderloin, to me, is one of the easiest things to make, and it's so versatile. I liked this recipe a lot. The flavors were not too intense, even with 6 cloves of garlic. And the marmalade - wow! I really thought it was going to be spicy, but it was the perfect mix of sweet and spicy.

If I made this again, I think I'd blend the marmalade ingredients to make more of a sauce, but that's the only change I'd make.

Happy Father's Day!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cheese Tortellini in a Tomato-Garlic-Wine Sauce


What is with this rainy weather in the Northeast? I'm so sick of the rain and just want a dry, sunny day. I feel so blah and have no inspiration, and couldn't think of a thing to make for dinner tonight.

But since we didn't feel like going out to eat or getting take-out, I decided to whip something up. I had a package of frozen cheese tortellini to use, as well as 2 tomatoes, so I went with that to come up with this quick and easy dinner.

Ingredients

  • 10 oz frozen cheese tortellini
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (less if you like less heat)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 c white wine
  • 1/3 c water from the pot of tortellini (grab the water before you drain the pasta)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  • Cook tortellini
  • In a large saute pan, heat olive oil
  • Add shallots and garlic; saute 3 minutes
  • Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, and red pepper flakes; saute 3 minutes
  • Add wine and let simmer for 5 minutes
  • Add reserved water
  • Toss with tortellini, top with Parmesan cheese

This was the perfect quick and easy dinner on a night when I had no energy or motivation to cook. But surprisingly, I ended up with a delicious dinner with little effort. I served it with roasted asparagus, and Jon had flounder stuffed with lobster that he picked up at the local market.



Monday, June 15, 2009

Lemon-Parsley Risotto


When people ask me my favorite thing to cook, I always respond with Risotto. I love how versatile it is, and always experiment with new ingredients and flavors.

I make risotto year round, so in the warmer months I like to play with lighter flavors in my risotto. My favorites in the winter are heavier - like shiitake mushrooms, gorgonzola, and black truffles. So for a lighter dish tonight, I decided to use up some fresh parsley and lemons from the weekend.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 c arborio rice
  • 1/3 c white wine
  • 4 c low sodium chicken broth (vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp light cream
  • 1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Handful chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Lemon zest

Directions

  • Heat chicken broth
  • Melt butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat
  • Add shallots and garlic; saute 3 min
  • Add rice and toss until coated
  • Add wine and stir until absorbed
  • Add 1 ladle of broth and stir until absorbed. Continue to add broth 1 ladle at a time until you have used all of the broth, or until rice is cooked through, but not mushy. This process should take about 18-20 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the cream
  • Add the lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, and parsley
  • Plate the risotto and zest the lemon over it; top with parsley

I served the risotto along side chicken marinated and grilled by Jon. He marinated chicken breasts in a mixture of olive oil, fresh garlic, freshly ground black pepper, onion powder, oregano, and red pepper flakes. So delicious, and I love the grill marks -

I have one chicken breast left over and I plan on making chicken salad with it.

This risotto was the perfect spring or summer risotto. The flavors were so bright, light, and fresh.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Grilled Steak with Chimichurri


On Saturday nights, instead of going out to a restaurant, we usually look for new recipes to try while enjoying a nice bottle, or two, of wine. In the summer that involves the grill, and Jon picked up a nice French Tip cut of beef at a local farm. The butcher described it as something between a London broil and flank steak. It was somewhat thin with nice marbling.


I have had
this recipe for chimichurri saved for a while, and wanted to try it with grilled steak. Chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce usually used as a marinade or sauce for grilled steak. Many versions use parsley as the base, and others add cilantro. I chose one that used both cilantro and parsley.

Cooking the Beef
Jon prepped the steak by rubbing it with cumin, coriander, chili powder, salt, and pepper. He heated the grill to 400 degrees, seared it, and then cooked it for 20 minutes to medium.

Chimichurri Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (I was out, so I used red wine vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (I used Mexican oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper

Directions

  • Place garlic in food processor; pulse until finely chopped.
  • Add cilantro, parsley, onion, vinegar, oregano and pepper flakes. Add olive oil in a thin stream and process until smooth.
  • Add salt and pepper. Refrigerate, covered, up to 1 week. Makes 1 cup.

I really liked this cut of beef. It was leaner than flank steak, and very tender without having to marinate it. The chimichurri added just the right amount of flavor, bite, and acidity to round out the smoky flavors in the beef.

Idea for leftovers - make a sandwich on a nice baguette with the chimichurri, cold sliced beef, and possibly arugula or sprouts and even tomato.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Chicken Cordon Bleu...My 300th Post!


There are so many options for ingredients for stuffed chicken. My favorites include Spinach, Red Pepper, and Gruyere and Boursin Chicken. Surprisingly, I have never made Chicken Cordon Bleu, so why not give something new a try on a random Monday night?

Even better, let's celebrate my 300th blog post with a yummy new dish!!

I invited my parents over to join Jon in being my test subjects. I won't make you scroll to the bottom of the post to see the results - everyone loved it and cleaned their plates. It was very simple, clean, and classic tasting.

I knew the basics of making this dish - pound out the chicken, layer with ham and Swiss cheese, roll, bread, bake. But to get the flavors and seasoning right, I followed the instructions and basic ingredients in this Tyler Florence Recipe. My adaptation is below.

Ingredients
  • 4 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2 inch thickness, maybe even less. Be careful not to tear the chicken.
  • 4 slices deli ham
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/2 c breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 c panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Updated November 2011: I also add a touch of Dijon mustard mixed with just a bit of minced garlic to the inside of the chicken before layering with the ham and cheese. If you don't have Dijon, sprinkle them with dry mustard.

Directions

  • Season inside of chicken with salt and pepper and a touch of thyme
  • Layer with ham and cheese, roll tightly and secure with a toothpick. I then transferred them to the fridge until I was ready to cook them an hour later.
  • In three consecutive dishes, put: flour mixed with some salt and pepper, egg beaten with 1 tbsp water, breadcrumbs mixed with some salt, pepper, and the thyme
  • Coat chicken in flour, dip in egg, then roll in the bread crumbs. Place in a baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
  • Bake on 375 for 40 minutes, turning the broiler on for the last minute.

Here is the chicken right out of the oven -

What a nice spiral once cut!

When thinking about this recipe, I thought that it needed a sauce, so I turned to this recipe on the blog Le Petit Pierogi.

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, chopped (I used 2, pressed)
  • 1/2 cup half and half (I used about 3/4 c)
  • 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • Splash of white wine
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Shredded Parmesean cheese (I used about 1/3 c)

Making the Sauce

  • Melt butter in small saucepan or skillet.
  • Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Add a splash of white wine and cook another minute or two.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together half and half and cornstarch then add it to the wine/butter mixture. Keep whisking everything in the pan until thickened and smooth.
  • Add salt, pepper and a little bit of shredded Parmesean Cheese.
  • Drizzle over Chicken Cordon Bleu just before serving.

By this point I was so ready to eat that I didn't put too much effort into the picture, but you get the idea of what the sauce looked like -

Again, we all loved this dish. The flavors were so simple on their own, but together were the perfect combination in this classic French dish.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pork Chops with a Marsala-Sage Sauce


Over the past few weeks we have been doing a lot of grilling, especially pork chops. So tonight I felt like doing something different, and was inspired by the
Chicken Marsala I made several months ago.

I changed up some of the ingredients, simplified the cooking method, and came up with a wonderful pork dish.
Ingredients
  • 3 boneless pork chops
  • Salt, pepper, flour
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped shallots
  • 1 c chopped mushrooms; I used a mix of baby bellas and white mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 1/3 c Marsala wine
  • 1 tbsp cream (I used half and half, light or heavy cream would work as well)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Heat chicken broth in a small pot and let simmer until reduced by half
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan. Season chops with salt and pepper and dust with flour. Cook chops for 4 min per side, or until golden brown. Transfer to a baking dish and put in the oven to finish cooking, about 10-15 minutes depending on their thickness.
  • Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan. Add shallots, cook 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, cook 2 more minutes. Add sage and toss. Deglaze pan with the Marsala wine and stir rapidly for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Whisk in cream and let sauce simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Serve sauce over the chops

This was a very nice, earthy sauce, and felt like a fall meal with the mushrooms and sage. I will definitely make this one again, and would love to try it with a pork tenderloin, sliced before adding the sauce.

I served the pork with these roasted fingerling potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Garlic



I picked up some fingerling potatoes today to go with our Pork with Marsala-Sage Sauce. I love roasted potatoes, so decided to roast them to keep it simple.

I tossed the potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and 3 cloves chopped garlic and roasted them on 400 for 25 minutes. Perfect!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Spicy Taco Chili



Today didn't feel like a typical June day - cool, gray, and windy. It felt more like fall so I was craving comfort food.


A few months ago I created a recipe for Spicy Taco Soup. I loved the flavors, and thought I could use the idea and ingredients for a thicker, chili dish.

Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Chopped bell peppers - I used 1 green, one red, and one orange
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 Poblano pepper, chopped (using up what I had in the fridge!)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 20 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 14 oz can dark red kidney beans
  • 1 tbsp chile powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp adobo seasoning (I had it so I threw it in!)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lime
  • Toppings: chopped fresh cilantro, shredded cheese (I used cheddar-jack), and sour cream
Directions
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add meat and cook until browned.
  • Add onions, saute 1 min
  • Add all of the peppers and garlic, saute 2 min
  • Add spices and mix
  • Add tomatoes and beans, mix
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low and let simmer for 45 minutes or more
  • Add lime juice and let simmer just a few more minutes
  • Serve over rice, top with cilantro, cheese, and sour cream

Woo this had heat (of course, would you expect anything else from me?). I'm looking forward to tasting this tomorrow, as chili is always better the second day.

And how gorgeous are all of these colors?

As we were eating it, Jon thought it would be a great burrito filling. It would! Especially mixed with the rice.

It was nice to be able to eat comfort food in June, but after I eat the chili again tomorrow, the warm weather and sun can come back!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cheese-Nip Chicken



Growing up, we enjoyed home cooked meals every night. No matter how busy my mom was or what activities we were involved in, she always cooked us a well rounded meal and we sat at the table together.

One dish she made that I loved was what she called Cheese-Nip Chicken. She would put a piece of cheddar cheese in a boneless chicken breast, and coat the chicken with crushed up Cheese-Nips. I made this dish for Jon several years ago, and out of nowhere he requested I put it on this week's menu.

Random tip - if you are like me and don't bake, you probably don't own a rolling pin. So to crush the Cheese-Nips, I put them in a bag and started to pound, but I wasn't getting the fine consistency I wanted. I looked up and spotted an empty wine bottle waiting to go out to the recycle bin. Yes, an empty wine bottle worked as the perfect substitute for a rolling pin. I don't suggest using it on dough or whatever else you use a rolling pin for, but for crushing crackers to a powder in a bag it worked perfectly!


I have changed the recipe a bit since my mom made it. Below is my version -


Ingredients

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Spices: salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard
  • 1 wedge Laughing Cow Cheese
  • Handful shredded cheddar; I used a cheddar/jack mix last night
  • 2 handfuls cheese nips, crushed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp flour


Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Season the chicken breasts with just a few shakes of the spices on each side. Cut a pocket in the chicken. Spread the Laughing Cow cheese evenly between the chicken and spread it in the pocket. Put some cheddar cheese in the pocket and press the seam closed.
  • Put three dishes next to each other - flour, beaten egg, cheese nips (mix in some cheese and onion powder with the cheese nips if you want!). Dredge chicken in flour, dip in egg, repeat. Double dipping will give you a thicker, crispier crust. Finally, coat in the cheese nips.
  • Place the chicken in a baking dish, seam side up, and bake on 400 for 30 minutes. Turn on the broiler for the last 2 minutes.
Look how crispy that crust is, and how oozy the cheese is in the middle -


The last time I made this I didn't use the garlic powder, onion powder, or dry mustard. I could really taste a difference by adding these spices. Jon liked it so much that he ate one and a half chicken breasts! This is a pretty big deal since the guy usually groans when I say I'm doing something with chicken (at least I try to mix it up for him by trying new things quite often!).


I don't think my mom has had this dish in many, many years, so I think I'm going to have to have her over for Cheese-Nip Chicken soon.