"What's for Dinner?!" I'm always thinking about it, thought I'd share.

"What's for Dinner?!" I'm always thinking about it, thought I'd share.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Deviled Eggs

8 large eggs
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Paprika, for garnish

Place eggs in a medium saucepan; add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove pan from heat; cover, and let stand 13 minutes. Drain, and run eggs under cold water to cool them.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, shallot, and Tabasco.

Peel eggs, and halve lengthwise; remove yolks, leaving whites intact. Transfer yolks to bowl with mayonnaise mixture, and season with salt and pepper. Mash with a fork until smooth.

Mound yolk mixture into whites. Sprinkle with paprika just before serving, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 8 hours.  Serve and Enjoy!

Weekly Menu March 30th - April 5th

Chicken and Butternut Squash Pot Pie
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts

Sunday- Easter Dinner
Cocktail Hour
Deviled Eggs
Smoked Salmon, Dill Cream served with Rye Points
Baby Greens Salad with Apples and Toasted Walnuts, Citrus-Herb Vinaigrette
Roasted Leg of Lamb with a Rosemary and Garlic Red Wine Sauce
Mixed Potatoes with Herb Butter
Crispy Asparagus with Pancetta
Baby Carrots with Sweet Onions, Ginger, and Curry
Carrot cake

Vegetarian Chili
Garden Salad, Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Mystery Night, "eat out of the freezer"

Oven Roasted Chicken
Wild Mushroom Gravy
Brown Rice Pilaf
Mixed Vegetable Sauté

Dinner out

Dinner out 

Roasted Broccoli and Sage

Yesterday I was thinking of a different way to do broccoli.  I just didn't feel like steaming it or tossing it with some type of compound butter.  I actually was thinking of doing brussels sprouts, which is why I ended up roasted these.  I saw some left-over sage in the refrigerator and a red onion and threw this together. It's really excellent and roasting the mixture made the broccoli  crispy and nutty.  I served it with some sliced NY strip with herb butter and a baked potato.

 1 large broccoli, cut into florets
 1/2 red onion, sliced
 8 fresh sage leaves, torn
 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
 Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

This will make 4 servings.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread broccoli in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Layer onion and sage leaves over broccoli; drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle salt, garlic powder, and black pepper over broccoli mixture; toss to coat.

Roast in the preheated oven until broccoli is browned and crisp, 20 to 30 minutes.  Serve and Enjoy!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Mixed Roasted Potatoes with Herb Butter

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Cut the potatoes into 2-inch cubes. Add them to a large pot, cover them with cold water, and add salt. Bring them to a boil, cook for 10 minutes, drain and cool for 20 minutes. The potatoes will now be only partly cooked and should be completely dry before you roast them.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss the potatoes with the oil and salt and pepper, to taste, and spread them in one layer on a baking sheet. Roast until crispy and cooked through, about 45 minutes.

While the potatoes are roasting, make the herb butter: Mix the softened butter with the parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme and season it with salt and pepper, to taste.

When the potatoes are done, put them into a large bowl and toss with the herb butter. Serve and Enjoy!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Passover Recipes

It's Passover, known to Jews all of the world as "Pesach".  It's our spring festival that commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.  
Probably the most significant observance related to Pesach involves avoiding "chametz" (leavened food; sounds like "hum it's" with that Scottish "ch") throughout the holiday. This commemorates the fact that the Jews leaving Egypt were in a hurry, and did not have time to let their bread rise.  
This Monday at sunset, we have a huge feast, called a Seder, where we tell the age old story of how we won our freedom.  Foods of the season, wine and sweets are a major part of the celebration.  Some of the traditional foods we eat as part of the ritual side of the holiday and history behind why we eat them during Passover are;

Matzoh: Three unleavened matzohs are placed within the folds of a napkin as a reminder of the haste with which the Israelites fled Egypt, leaving no time for dough to rise. Two are consumed during the service, and one (the Aftkomen), is spirited away and hidden during the ceremony to be later found as a prize.
Maror: bitter herbs, usually horseradish or romaine lettuce, used to symbolize the bitterness of slavery. 
Charoses: a mixture of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon, as a reminder of the mortar used by the Jews in the construction of buildings as slaves 
Beitzah: a roasted egg, as a symbol of life and the perpetuation of existence. 
Karpas: a vegetable, preferably parsley or celery, representing hope and redemption; served with a bowl of salted water to represent the tears shed. 
 Zeroah: traditionally a piece of roasted lamb shankbone, symbolizing the paschal sacrificial offering 
 Wine: four glasses of wine are consumed during the service to represent the four-fold promise of redemption, with a special glass left for Elijah the prophet.

Here are a couple of really excellent recipes that I've made over the years for Passover dinner:

Haroset (Charoses)

1/2 pound walnuts
1/4 pound dried apricots
1/4 pound dried prunes, without pits
3 peeled apples, cored and quartered
1 large navel oranges, with skin, quartered
1/2 cup sweet wine (Manischewitz is what our family always used)
2 tablespoon brandy
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon lime juice

 Using the steel blade of a food processor, pulse (you're only looking to break up the ingredients, not looking to make a paste) the walnuts, apricots, prunes, dates, apples and orange. Add the wine, brandy, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and lime juice.  Serve and Enjoy!

 Makes 6 cups

Oven Roasted Chicken With Mushrooms, Dates, and Leeks

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 whole Chickens (deboned, cut into 8 pieces)
3 Tbsp. Flour
4 Tbsp. Butter
2 Leeks (whites only, sliced thinly)
1 Lg. Onion (sliced thinly)
1 Cup Portabella Mushrooms (sliced thinly)
8 oz. Dates (thinly sliced)
1 Can Mushroom soup
2 ½ cups chicken stock
1 Bay leaf
Thyme, fresh coarsely chopped (to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Nutmeg, ground (to taste)

Pre-heat oven to 375˚ F.

Put chicken pieces in mixing bowl and season well with salt, pepper, thyme, and nutmeg.  Add flour and dust well. Heat olive oil a large sauté pan until it just starts to smoke.  Add chicken in small batches and sauté until golden brown on all sides.  Once the chicken pieces are done reserve off the heat in the baking pan.  Repeat this step until all the chicken is done and then add leeks, onions, and butter to sauté pan and cook until translucent.  Add garlic and sliced mushrooms, cook for 1 minute and add mushroom soup and chicken stock.  Stir until mixture is smooth.  Add dates and bay leaf and if needed, correct seasoning with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.   Pour leek and mushroom mixture over the chicken pieces in the baking pan and cover with tin foil.  Place in hot oven and cook for 1 hour.*
Once done, garnish with fresh herbs and serve hot.

* This dish is best when made a day or two ahead of time and then cooled.  Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  Then one hour before serving reheat in 375˚F oven for 30 minutes and serve hot.

Prune and Almond Braised Short Ribs:

Time: 3 hours and 15 minutes, plus time for cooling and overnight chilling

7 pounds beef short ribs, cut in 4-inch portions
Salt and black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large Spanish onion, diced
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and smashed
2 cups ruby port
2 cups red wine
4 cups pitted prunes
1 1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
4 ounces shiitake, crimini or other mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup (loosely packed) chopped parsley
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 stick cinnamon
1 clove
1 star anise
Zest of 1 orange, in strips
4 cups veal or beef stock, more as needed.

The day before serving:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Place a heavy wide pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add beef and brown well on both sides. Transfer to a plate.

Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic and ginger to the pan, and stir until the onions begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Add port and wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Simmer until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy braising pan, combine 2 cups of the prunes, 1 cup almonds, and the mushrooms. In a piece of cheesecloth, tie up 1/4 cup of the parsley with the thyme, bay leaf, cinnamon, clove, star anise and orange zest, and add to the pot. Add the meat, the vegetable mixture and enough stock to cover. Place over high heat to bring to a boil, then transfer to the oven. Cook, covered, until the meat is falling off the bones, about 2 1/2 hours. Cool completely in the pan, then refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove from refrigerator and skim the fat, then transfer beef to a large bowl, discarding any loose bones. Discard the cheesecloth packet, and transfer remaining broth and vegetables to a food processor. Purée, then return to a clean pan. Add meat and remaining 2 cups whole prunes. Place over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until gently reheated. Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup parsley and 1/4 cup almonds.  Serve and enjoy.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Beef Brisket-

4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles striped from the stem and chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 (4 pound) beef brisket, first-cut
Coarsely ground black pepper
4 large carrots, cut in 3-inch chunks
3 celery stalks, cut in 3-inch chunks
4 large red onions, halved
2 cups dry red wine
1 (16-ounce) can whole tomatoes, hand-crushed
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

On a cutting board, mash the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt together with the flat-side of a knife into a paste. Add the rosemary and continue to mash until incorporated. Put the garlic-rosemary paste in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil; stir to combine.

Season both sides of the brisket with a fair amount of kosher salt and ground black pepper. Place a large roasting pan or Dutch oven over medium-high flame and coat with the remaining olive oil. Put the brisket in the roasting pan and sear to form a nice brown crust on both sides. Lay the vegetables all around the brisket and pour the rosemary paste over the whole thing. Add the wine and tomatoes; toss in the parsley and bay leaves. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven. Bake for about 3 to 4 hours, basting every 30 minutes with the pan juices, until the beef is fork tender.

Remove the brisket to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes. Scoop the vegetables out of the roasting pan and onto a platter, cover to keep warm. Pour out some of the excess fat, and put the roasting pan with the pan juices on the stove over medium-high heat. Boil and stir for 5 minutes until the sauce is reduced by 1/2.

Slice the brisket across the grain (the muscle lines) at a slight diagonal. Arrange on the vegetables on the platter and serve with the sauce.  Enjoy!

Braised Lamb Shanks

Extra-virgin olive oil
4 lamb shanks (each about 1 1/4 pounds; 1 shank is a portion)
Kosher salt
1 large Spanish onion or 2 small yellow onions, cut into 1-inch dice
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 cloves garlic
1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste
2 cups hearty red wine
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
10 to 12 thyme branches tied together in a bundle
3 to 4 cups water
4 bay leaves
Gremolata, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat a large Dutch oven generously with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Season the shanks generously with salt and add them to the pan. Brown well on all sides.

Meanwhile, puree the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in a food processor until it becomes a coarse paste. Remove and set aside.

Remove the shanks from the pan to a sheet tray. Discard the excess fat from the pan. Add a little more oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add the pureed vegetables. Season with salt, to taste. Sauté the vegetables until they are very brown and aromatic, about 20 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and brown for 5 minutes. Stir in the wine, chopped rosemary and thyme bundle. Stir frequently and cook until the wine has reduced by about half.

Add the shanks back to the pot and pour in 3 to 4 cups of water. The shanks should be submersed, if they are not, add more water. Add the bay leaves to the pan, cover and put in the preheated oven. The cooking time will be about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Turn the shanks over about halfway through the cooking time. Check the shanks every 45 minutes or so. If the liquid has reduced too much add more water. Defat as you go.

Remove the foil during the last 30 minutes of cooking time for maximum browning. When the shanks are done the meat should be incredibly tender and flavorful. Transfer to serving plates and garnish with Gremolata. Serve and Enjoy!

1 orange, zested
1 lemon, zested
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and set aside until ready to use.

Smoked Salmon and Dill Matzoh Brei

6 tablespoons sweet butter
2 large onions, peeled and diced
3 matzoh boards
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups diced smoked salmon
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat 4 tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan over medium low heat. Add onions and cook slowly until golden brown, approximately 15-20 minutes.
Submerge matzoh boards in warm water for 30 seconds. Remove.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Break matzoh into egg mixture and add onions, smoked salmon, salt, and pepper.
Heat 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium high heat. Add egg mixture and let cook until eggs are just set, about 2 to 3 minutes. Fold in dill and serve immediately and enjoy!

Mediterranean Fatoush Salad

Spiced matzo chip, recipe to follow
1 (8-10 inch) English cucumber, peeled
3-4 heads Belgian endive, separated into leaves
1/8 cup fresh mint leaves (discard stems)
1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves (discard stems)
1 cup small grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup arugula
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
Pinch of coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the matzo chips:

4 whole matzo boards
Olive oil
1 teaspoon shwarma spice (equal parts ground cumin, ground coriander, garlic powder, half as much turmeric and black pepper, a quarter as much paprika, ground cloves,  and cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Brush matzo boards with olive oil. Sprinkle with shwarma spice, parsley, turmeric, and garlic. Place on baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes. Break into shards.

For Salad: Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out and discard the pulp. Chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Place into a large salad bowl.
Thinly slice the endive and place into the bowl. Lay the mint leaves in a pile and tear them; they will bruise if you cut them with a knife. Add to the bowl. Toss in the parsley, tomatoes, and arugula. Mix in the lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, tossing to combine. Allow to marinate for a few minutes.
Stand 2 matzo chips in each salad.

Roasted Spring Vegetables

1 pound assorted spring vegetables (such as carrots, asparagus, radishes, spring onions, or sugar snap peas), trimmed or peeled if needed, cut into same-size pieces
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Combine vegetables, garlic, and oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Spread out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring halfway through, until tender, golden brown, and charred in spots, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Passover Honey Nut Cake in Soaking Syrup

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon finely minced orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon ( or 1/2 teaspoon for a more pronounced cinnamon flavor)
1/2 cup matzoh cake meal
1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Soaking Syrup
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Generously grease a 7-inch round layer cake pan (if you do not have one, you can use a round foil pan of the same or similar size available in the supermarket baking aisle).
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, using a wire whisk, beat the granulated and brown sugars with the oil and eggs until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Stir in the remaining batter ingredients. Turn the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is light brown and set. Cool for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the Soaking Syrup.
Soaking Syrup:
In a medium saucepan, combine the ingredients. Heat to dissolve the sugar and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes syrupy. Cool well.
Pour the cooled syrup over the cooled cake, poking holes in the cake with a fork, to permit the syrup to penetrate. Allow it to stand for 2 to 4 hours to absorb the syrup. I prefer to refrigerate this cake so that while it is absorbing the liquid, it is also firming up. Also, chilling the cake offsets its sweetness and makes it easier to cut. Serve it on splayed muffin liners.

Roasted Chickpeas with Bacon

I love the crunchy, salty, smoky flavor of this great cocktail hour snack and so will your guests.  Serve this at your next party and wow everyone!

2 15-ounce cans chickpeas (rinsed, patted very dry)
3 coarsely chopped bacon slices
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Old Bay seasoning, to taste

Toss two 15-ounce cans chickpeas (rinsed, patted very dry) with 3 coarsely chopped bacon slices and 2 bay leaves on a rimmed baking sheet; season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast at 375°F, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas are crunchy, 60-70 minutes. Toss with a spoonful of Old Bay to taste.  Serve and Enjoy!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lamb and Eggplant Potpie with Feta-Potato Crust

Think rich, luxurious, and plate licking good.  Its a spin on moussaka (no béchamel) and this dish will wow them all.  Even if you don't think you like lamb, this baby will convert you.  The lamb mixture in this preparation improves in flavor if made and kept, covered and chilled, overnight.

Lamb mixture-

two 1-pound eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 pounds ground lamb
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons crumbled dried mint
1 1/4 teaspoons crumbled dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
32oz canned Italian plum tomatoes, drained, reserving 1 cup of the juice, and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

For the topping-

3 pounds russet (baking) potatoes (about 6)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/3 pound grated Feta

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

In a colander sprinkle the eggplant with salt and let it drain for 30 minutes.

Lamb mixture-
In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon oil over moderate heat, add the onion, stirring, until it is softened. Add the garlic and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the lamb and cook the mixture, stirring and breaking up any lumps, until the lamb is no longer pink. Pour off any excess fat from the skillet, add the cinnamon, the mint, the oregano, and the allspice, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with the reserved juice, the tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste and cook the mixture, stirring, for 15 minutes, or until it is thickened. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the Parmesan.

In the same skillet heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over moderate heat, add the eggplant, patted dry, in batches, stirring, for 15 minutes, or until it is tender but still holds its shape, and transfer to the lamb mixture, combine the mixture well, and spread it in the buttered shallow 3-quart gratin dish.

Make the topping-
In a large saucepan combine the potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces, with enough cold water to cover them by 1 inch, bring the water to a boil, and simmer the potatoes for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are tender. Drain the potatoes, return them to the pan, and cook them over moderate heat, shaking the pan, for 30 seconds to evaporate any excess liquid. Force the potatoes through a ricer or the medium disk of a food mill into a bowl, add the butter, the Parmesan, the Feta, and salt and pepper to taste, and stir the mixture until it is combined well and butter is melted.
Spoon the topping over the lamb mixture, spreading it to cover the lamb mixture completely, and dot the surface with the butter, cut into bits. Bake the potpie in the middle of a preheated 400°F. oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until it is browned lightly.

Mahi-Mahi with Charred Onion, Tomatoes, and Tapenade Vinaigrette

This preparation makes me think of summer.  The simply broiled fish is transformed by the complex flavors of the vinaigrette.  I served this with quinoa or couscous.

1 medium red onion, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
3/4 pound cherry tomatoes
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 (6-ounces) skinless mahimahi fillets (1 inch thick)
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons black or green tapenade (olive paste)

Preheat broiler and line a large shallow baking pan with foil.

Toss onion and tomatoes with 3 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in lined baking pan, then spread evenly in one half of pan.
Pat fish dry and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, then arrange, skinned side down and spaced apart, next to vegetables in other half of pan. Drizzle fish with 1 tablespoon oil and broil 4 to 6 inches from heat until vegetables are charred and slightly wilted and fish is just cooked thorough, 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together vinegar, tapenade, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil.
Serve fish and vegetables over quinoa on a warm plate. Stir pan juices into vinaigrette and drizzle on top. Enjoy!

Ziti with Grilled Gazpacho Sauce and Sausage

I found this awesome recipe in Gourmet the summer of 2007 and have made it ever since.  Since the sausages are cooked separately, if entertaining vegetarians, there's no problem.  If you aren't able to grill outdoors, broil vegetables (cut each onion into 6 wedges) in oiled foil-lined large heavy baking pans 4 to 6 inches from heat, turning occasionally. Broil sausages on rack of a broiler pan. Times may vary from recipe below.

10 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes
3 bell peppers (any color)
2 medium red onions
2 pound zucchini (4 medium), trimmed and halved lengthwise
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausages
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 pound ziti
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup crumbled or thinly shaved ricotta salata or French feta

Stir 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper into 6 tablespoons oil. Toss tomatoes with 1 tablespoon seasoned oil, then put onto skewers.

Trim off bottoms and tops of bell peppers, then halve peppers lengthwise. Quarter onions lengthwise, leaving root ends intact. Brush onions, peppers, and zucchini generously with some seasoned oil.
Put garlic on a double layer of foil and drizzle with some seasoned oil, then wrap tightly in foil, twisting to seal. Put vegetables on a large tray.

Brush sausages lightly with some seasoned oil and put on a plate.

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas). Grill vegetables, garlic, and sausages, in batches if necessary, covered only if using a gas grill, turning occasionally (frequently for garlic), until tomatoes are charred and slightly wilted, 3 to 5 minutes; bell peppers are blackened in spots, 8 to 10 minutes; onions and zucchini are tender, 8 to 12 minutes; garlic is softened and caramelized in spots, about 10 minutes; sausages are browned and cooked thorough, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer as cooked to a platter (or platters) and keep warm, covered.

Peel peppers. Coarsely chop 2 bell pepper halves and 2 zucchini halves and transfer to a blender. Add garlic, 4 pieces of onion, vinegar, sugar, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, half of tomatoes, and remaining 1/4 cup oil and purée until as smooth as possible.
Transfer remaining tomatoes to a large serving bowl and keep warm, covered. Chop remaining peppers, onion, and zucchini and add to tomatoes.

Meanwhile, cook ziti in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (3 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water) until al dente. Drain in a colander, then add to grilled vegetables and toss with sauce. Sprinkle with herbs and cheese, then serve with sausages. Enjoy!

Chicken Gyros with Cucumber Salad and Tsatsiki

So, it just snowed again after having a week of near 60 degree weather.  I am thinking of golf, hanging out on our beach at the lake, not shoveling the white stuff.  So, to brighten my mood and think of warm breezes and sun burns, this Mediterranean sandwich will do the trick (for now).  Hint, the Tsatsiki can be made 1 day ahead and chilled.

2 Kirby cucumbers, divided
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt (3/4 pounds)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, divided
5 garlic cloves, minced, divided
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 rounded teaspoon dried oregano
1 rounded teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
1 (12-ounces) package naan bread (four 8-inch pieces)
or 4 (8-inch) pocketless pita rounds
1/2 roast chicken, skin discarded, meat shredded (about 2 1/4 cups), and carcass reserved for stock
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced

Preheat broiler.

Peel and grate 1 cucumber, then squeeze it with your hands to remove excess water. Stir together with yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, one third of garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to make tsatsiki.

Cut remaining cucumber into 1/4-inch pieces and stir together with tomatoes, onion, parsley, mint, remaining 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to make salsa.

Gently simmer oil, oregano, rosemary, remaining garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a small heavy saucepan, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant but not browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Toss chicken with 3 tablespoons garlic oil and brush one side of bread with remainder.

Heat bread, oiled side up, in a 4-sided sheet pan, covered with foil, 3 to 4 inches from broiler 3 minutes. Uncover and broil, rotating bread for even coloring, until golden in spots, about 2 minutes.

Spread some of tsatsiki on warm bread and top with chicken and some of lettuce and salsa. Serve remaining lettuce, salsa, and tsatsiki on the side.  Enjoy!

Chicken and Mushroom Lasagna

By using no-boil lasagne noodles in this recipe we're going to cut out a lot of time and turn this crowd pleaser into a dish you can make during the week. This is especially so if you use a cooked chicken from the store or remembered to cook a second bird the last time you cooked a chicken and froze the cooked meat.

Makes 6 servings

1 (10-ounce) package cremini or white mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 roast chicken, skin discarded, meat shredded (about 2 1/4 cups), and carcass reserved for stock
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
12 Barilla no-boil egg lasagne noodles (less than a 9-ounce package)
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère (3 ounces)

Preheat oven to 425° with rack in middle.

Cook mushrooms, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are softened, about 3 minutes. Add wine and simmer briskly 2 minutes. Transfer mushroom mixture to a large bowl and stir in chicken. (Set aside saucepan.)

Bring milk to a bare simmer in a medium saucepan. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and cook roux, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Add hot milk in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Add thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve 1 cup sauce. Stir parmesan into sauce remaining in pan, then stir into mushroom filling.

Pour half of reserved plain sauce into baking pan, spreading evenly to coat bottom. Add 3 lasagne sheets, overlapping slightly, and one third of mushroom filling, spreading evenly, then sprinkle one fourth of Gruyère over top. Repeat 2 times. Top with remaining 3 lasagne sheets and remaining plain sauce, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with remaining Gruyère.

Cover with foil, tenting slightly to prevent foil from touching top of lasagne but sealing all around edge, and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until cheese is golden, about 15 minutes more. Let lasagne stand 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Roast Chicken with Pan Gravy

Here's a truly excellent recipe for roast chicken. Although basting the chickens seems like a chore, it will make the finished product beautiful for presentation at the table. By cooking two birds together, you can have dinner tonight and enough leftovers for three more meals. Go the extra mile and save both chicken carcasses for the stockpot (they can be frozen if desired) is key.  If desired, you can also add herbs such as thyme or rosemary to cavities before roasting.

2 whole chickens (about 3 1/2 pounds each)
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, divided
6 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 lemons, halved
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups water

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.

Pull off excess fat around cavities of chickens and discard, then rinse chickens and pat dry. Melt 4 tablespoons butter with garlic and brush butter all over chickens. Season both chickens inside and out with 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper (total). Put half of garlic and 1 lemon half in each cavity and loosely tie legs together with string.
Roast chickens in a large (17-by 11-inch) flameproof roasting pan, basting with pan juices using a spoon (remove pan from oven and tilt if necessary) every 20 minutes, rotating pan, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into fleshy part of a thigh of each chicken (do not touch bone) registers 170°F, 50 to 60 minutes total. Baste chickens once more, then carefully tilt them so juices from cavities run into roasting pan. Transfer chickens to a cutting board (reserve pan) and let rest 15 minutes before carving.

Make gravy while chickens rest:

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pan, then cook remaining drippings over medium-high heat until deep golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Stir in water and simmer, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in remaining 4 tablespoons butter and lemon juice to taste (from remaining lemon halves). Season with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a gravy boat.

Serve and Enjoy!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pork Stew with Apples and Beer

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut in 1 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
2 medium apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1 cup diced canned or fresh tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth (bouillon)
1 bottle (12 ounces) beer
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Cooked Spaghetti Squash

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Brown the pork well in batches. Remove to a bowl.

Wipe casserole clean and heat the remaining oil over low heat. Add onions, carrots, and apples. Stir until softened, 10 minutes, adding the garlic in the last 3 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients except spaghetti squash. Return pork and any juices to the casserole . Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, stirring, until the meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Discard bay leaf; adjust seasonings.

Serve over spaghetti squash in shallow warm bowls.  Enjoy!

Corned Beef and Potato Stuffed Cabbage

Here is a spin on the traditional St. Paddy's day meal.  I've decreased the amount of meat in the stuffing, so you still get the flavor but added more vegetables to try and "healthy" it up.  I'm also  serving this with lots of vegetables on the side.  

Makes 6 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes and their juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large head Savoy or green cabbage, including outer leaves

For the filling:
1- 1 1/2# cooked Corned Beef, chopped into 1" pieces
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup shredded zucchini squash, flesh only, discard seeded core
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1" pieces
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onions, and cook over medium-low heat for 8 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, brown sugar, raisins, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Remove the entire core of the cabbage with a paring knife. Immerse the head of cabbage in the boiling water for a few minutes, peeling off each leaf with tongs as soon as it s flexible. Set the leaves aside. Depending on the size of each leaf, you will need at least 14 leaves.

For the filling, first in the same pot you softened the cabbage leaves in, par-boil the potatoes until they just start to soften about 8 minutes.  Drain and reserve on the side.

In a large bowl, combine the corned beef, eggs, onion, zucchini, bell pepper, breadcrumbs, potatoes, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add 1 cup of the sauce to the meat mixture and mix lightly with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To assemble, place 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a large Dutch oven. Remove the hard triangular rib from the base of each cabbage leaf with a small paring knife. Place 1/3 to 1/2 cup of filling in an oval shape near the rib edge of each leaf and roll up toward the outer edge, tucking the sides in as you roll. Place half the cabbage rolls, seam sides down, over the sauce. Add more sauce and more cabbage rolls alternately until you ve placed all the cabbage rolls in the pot. Pour the remaining sauce over the cabbage rolls. Cover the dish tightly with the lid and bake for 1 hour or until the potatoes are tender. Serve hot and Enjoy!

Weekly Menu March 16th - March 22nd

Seafood Stew
Brown Rice with Vegetables

Cabbage Stuffed with Corned Beef and Potatoes
Oven Roasted Carrots with Thyme and Onions

Chinese Vegetable Lo Mein

Rich Pork Stew with Apples and Beer
Spaghetti Squash with Sweet Onions
Chopped Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Turkey Meatloaf
Green Beans and Shallots

Sautéed Shrimp with Garlic and White Wine
English Peas and Pearl Onions with Vermouth

Chef's Night Off - Dinner out

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Chicken Meatballs with Basil and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

This is a delicious and healthy way to make meatballs.  These work very nicely for dinner in a marinara sauce over pasta or for guests at a cocktail party.  I've served them with everything from a yogurt cucumber sauce or spicy barbecue glaze to just by themselves.  

Makes 24-30 meatballs

2# ground chicken
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C. Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 C. milk
1/2 C. Bread crumbs
1 slightly beaten egg
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, fine chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, fine chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh Oregano, fine chopped
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

In a medium skillet heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic for 2 minutes or until softened. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. In a large bowl place the ground chicken. Add the onion mixture, sun tomatoes, herbs, milk, bread crumbs, egg, salt, and pepper.

Gentle mix until ingredients are well combined. Cover and refrigerate, for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Take a heaping tablespoonful, of the mixture, and shape it into a meatball, and roll between the palms of your hands to shape. Place the balls ½ inch apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, turn once while cooking. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.  Serve & Enjoy!

Chicken Cacciatore

 4 chicken thighs
2 chicken breasts with skin and backbone, halved crosswise
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons drained capers
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
Fresh grated Parmesan Cheese

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly.

In a large heavy sauté pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, sauté it in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces, and 20 minutes for the thighs.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a warm platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon off any excess fat from atop the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with the basil and grated Parmesan.  Serve & Enjoy!

Weekly Menu March 9th - March 15th

Oven Roasted Salmon Topped with a Five Onion Jam
Quinoa with Spring Onions
Asparagus with Red Pepper and Shallots

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Shredded Radicchio and Kale Slaw, Sesame Vinaigrette

Turkey Sausage Hash with Eggs

Texas Style Beef Chili
Vegetable's O'Brien with Apple Smoked Bacon

Cauliflower Crust "Pizza" with Veggies and Sausage
Chopped Italian Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Chicken cacciatore with Zucchini Pasta

Dinner out with Friends

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Baja Fish with a Chopped Salad, Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

This recipe originally comes from The Culinary Institute of America.  I'm substituting Talapia for the Mahi-Mahi and to make this a lighter version, I am grilling the fish.  Traditionally the fish is battered, fryed and served in a warm soft taco.  I'm omitting the taco and serving it over a very favorable salad tossed in a Cilantro-lime vinaigrette.  This will serve 8.

2 # Talapia
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp lime juice
5 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

8 cups romaine lettuce, washed, spun dry, and chopped
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup Sliced radishes
1/2 cup Shredded carrot
1/2 cup sliced celery, crosswise on the bias
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and sliced
Sliced Jalapeños, optional
Lime wedges, optional
1/2 cup vinaigrette (recipe to follow)
1/2 cup Frontera Mango Key Lime Salsa (any store bought fruit salsa you like)
1/2 cup Mexican Crema or sour cream slightly thinned with some water
Queso Fresco

Preheat a gas grill to medium-high. If you are using a charcoal grill, build a fire and let it burn down until the coals are glowing red with a moderate coating of white ash. Spread the coals in an even bed. Clean the cooking grate.

While waiting for the grill to heat, make dressing.  Juice two limes into a small mixing bowl.  Add the zest of 1/2 of one of the limes, 1 tablespoon minced shallot, 1 clove garlic minced, 1 tablespoons of honey, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup chopped Cilantro, dash of Coriander and mix.  Slowly drizzle in 1/2-3/4 cup good olive oil, while whisking, to form the dressing.  Correct seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Reserve.

In another bowl combine all of the salad ingredients.  Reserve cold. Toss with the vinaigrette just before bringing it to the table.

Cut the Talapia into 16 equal slices.  In a large bowl combine the oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, coriander, garlic, and salt. Coat the fish with the marinade.

Grill the fish on the first side over direct heat until the flesh is firm and well-marked, about 1-2 minutes. Turn the fish and grill until cooked through, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes more.

Dress the salad with vinaigrette and toss.  Arrange a serving of greens on each plate and top with grilled fish.  Spoon a little fruit salsa on top, sprinkle with Queso Fresco and add a dollop of Mexican Crema.  Garnish with a couple of jalapeño slices and a lime wedge, serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Gluten Free Lava Cake

We recently went to a dinner party and our host prepared these fantastic desserts.  They are decadently rich and gooey and awesome.  I did everything in my power not to lick the plate when done!  Any chocolate lover will flip with this one.

8 ounces semisweet chocolate (1 1/2 cups chocolate chips)
1/4 lb butter (1 stick)
4 eggs
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare four 6 ounce ramekins or creme brûlée dishes by covering the insides with a thin film of butter, then add enough white sugar to coat the film of butter. Remove excess sugar.  Reserve to the side.

Melt the chocolate & butter together in a double boiler. In the meantime, whisk together the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl. 

When the chocolate and butter have melted, pour them into the egg mixture and whisk together. The batter will thicken as you whisk it together. Fill the ramekins 3/4 full, leaving enough room for the cake to raise. Because this desert is served straight out of the oven, refrigerate until just before you need them.  When ready to bake, place the ramekins on a rimmed sheet tray.

You'll want to under bake them so that the center stays soft. If you've refrigerated them beforehand, it will take a little longer, about 15 to 20 minutes. If you are baking them right away, 10 to 15 minutes should do it.

Check them every 5 minutes or so, and more often near the end. You don't want to overdo it, because then the center isn't soft and runny.

To serve, gently invert the ramekin onto a plate and dust with powdered sugar. Vanila ice cream goes really well with this rich chocolate dessert.  Serve and Enjoy!

Flourless Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

In our search for wheat-free dessert alternatives my wife found this excellent recipe in a 1999 Bon Appétit.  They are terrific and super easy to make (the reason my wife loves to make them.

1 cup super chunky peanut butter
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips (about 3 oz.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Mix first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Mix in chocolate chips. Using moistened hands, form generous 1 tablespoon dough for each cookie into ball. Arrange on 2 ungreased baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.

Bake cookies until puffed, golden on bottom and still soft to touch in center, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes. Transfer to racks; cool completely.  Serve and Enjoy!

Weekly Menu March 3rd - March 8th

Baja Fish served over a chopped Salad tossed in a Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette
Spicy Black Beans
Salsa Fresco

Barbecue Pulled Chicken
Garden Salad with a Creamy Honey Mustard Dressing

Thai Style Red Curry and Coconut Vegetables
Brown Rice Pasta with Ginger and Cilantro

Indian Red Lentil Stew with Vegetables
Roasted Potatoes with Bell Peppers and Onions

Oven Roasted Salmon Topped with a Five Onion Jam
Quinoa with Spring Onions
Asparagus with Red Pepper and Shallots

Texas Style Beef Chili
Vegetable Hash with Apple Smoked Bacon