Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spicy Sugar Snaps

A quick whisk of some chile oil, soy sauce, and sesame oil and you have a spicy dressing for some sweet sugar snap peas whipped up on no time. A sprinkling of sesame seeds adds a bit of nutty flavor.

8 ounce bag of sugar snap peas, steamed
1 teaspoon chile oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds

Whisk chile oil, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Drizzle over peas and sprinkle sesame seeds.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Apricot Jam Bread Pudding

Bread pudding has a wonderful old fashioned feel to it. It is a dish built on a foundation of thrift – using up leftover bread and transforming it into a sweet treat. The allure of making bread pudding is that special moment when you have all the ingredients in your kitchen without needing to run for something at the store. This particular version came about when I had just the right ingredients in my fridge…day-old sourdough bread, dairy products, and some apricot jam just begging to be used.

3 cups cubed sourdough bread
3 cups half-and-half or heavy cream
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces apricot jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the half-and-half, eggs, egg yolks, and extracts. Add the cubed bread and allow it to soak in the mixture for about 10 minutes. Remove enough bread cubes from the mixture to cover the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish. Spread about half of the apricot jam and then cover with the remaining bread cubes. Pour the half-and-half mixture on top of the bread cubes and spread the remaining jam. Bake for an hour, or until the sides puff up and turn golden brown, and the center is set.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Herbed Goat Cheese Dip with Asparagus Spears

A tangy goat cheese dip contrasts beautifully with the unique, almost grassy, taste of steamed spears of asparagus. This makes a simple but elegant appetizer for a party.

5.5 ounce package goat cheese
2 tablespoons chopped basil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt or sour cream
Steamed asparagus spears

Mix all ingredients in bowl. Serve with steamed asparagus. I steamed the stalks in a steamer pan set over boiling water. The thickness of the stalks will affect steaming time. If you are lucky to find super thin spears, it may only take a minute or two until it is tender.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vodka Sauce

Marinara sauce gets some much-needed zing with the addition of vodka. Balance the flavor out with some cream, cheese, and crisped pancetta. This dish reminds us of one served at our favorite Italian restaurant in Philadelphia. It takes us right back to the small, cramped, romantic dining room of the restaurant we visited often in our college youth. A dinner out and a moonlit stroll back to campus was perfection.

Marinara Sauce:
1/8 cup olive oil
½ onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup chopped basil leaves

Vodka Sauce:
Marinara sauce (see above)
¾ cup vodka
½ cup heavy cream, room temperature
½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tablespoon butter
3 ounces pancetta, cubed
2 cups frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound pasta (we like penne)

This recipe is broken into two stages.  First, we make a simple marinara sauce.  Once complete, we transform it into a rich and decadent vodka sauce.

For the marinara sauce... In a medium pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté about 8 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and soft. Add the crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, and salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for an hour. Add basil leaves then take off heat and cool.

In a large sauté pan, combine the marinara sauce and vodka. Simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the mixture reduces by a quarter. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Crisp the pancetta cubes in a nonstick pan. Once the marinara and vodka mixture reduces, add the pancetta cubes and drippings from pan, heavy cream, Pecorino Romano cheese, butter, and peas. When the peas have cooked, adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve with cooked penne pasta.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Swimming Rama

Since today is Seth's birthday, I figured I would post one of his favorite dishes.  Happy Birthday! This has become a favorite dish of mine as well.  One of the best things to result from my pregnancy is a newfound tolerance for spicy food.  Previously, I had absolutely no tolerance for anything spicy.  None.  Now I can finally appreciate the wonderful world of spicy food.  Swimming Rama was a dish that always sounded good to me in theory, but when I actually got the dish in a restaurant, it was too spicy for me and I couldn’t eat it.  Now I find myself craving the stir fried slices of chicken that have been coated with a creamy, spicy sauce and placed on a bed of spinach.

1 lb chicken breast, sliced thinly and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and some fresh lime juice
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 ½ teaspoon chile paste
½ cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon peanut oil
10 ounces spinach

Whisk peanut butter, honey, lime juice, fish sauce, and coconut milk in a small bowl.  Heat oil over high heat and brown chicken.  Reduce heat to medium and add shallot and garlic. Cook until the chicken has cooked through and the shallot is soft.  Add peanut sauce and chile paste and cook for another minute or two to allow the flavors to come together.  Serve over a handful of spinach and with a side of rice.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip with Seasoned Dippers

Great for entertaining hungry guests or spending a lazy Sunday on the couch, spinach artichoke dip is always a classic. By using the right cheeses, garlic and spices, we’ve created a creamy version of this dip that we can’t resist. Pour it in a bread bowl, and add in some seasoned, baked bread squares for dipping, and you’ve got an appetizer that both looks and tastes awesome!

5 tablespoons butter
3/8 cups flour
2 cups whole milk
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp paprika
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
½ cup shredded Fontina cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped white onion
10 oz fresh spinach
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 (15 0z) can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, and julienned
1 tablespoon butter, chopped into small pieces
½ cup parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon pepper

Seasoned Dippers:
round loaf of bread
olive oil
cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Warm the two cups milk. Melt butter over medium heat and stir in the flour to make a roux. Whisk in the milk and season the liquid with salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne. Whisk the liquid for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the liquid is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cheeses. Set the sauce aside.

In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in handfuls of spinach at a time, until all the spinach is incorporated. Add the garlic and artichokes, and sauté for 2 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne. Remove the vegetables from the heat and turn into a mixing bowl. Fold the cheese sauce into the vegetables. Turn the mixture into a baking pan. Sprinkle the pieces of butter on the top. Sprinkle ½ cup parmesan cheese and about ½ tsp of pepper of on the top as well. Bake the dip for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

To make the dippers, I like using a round loaf of bread so that I can use the hollowed out loaf as a bread bowl for serving. Chop up the bread from the cut-out part of the loaf into bite size pieces. Place in a mixing bowl and coat with oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne. Turn out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until they get toasted.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting

Making zucchini bread and muffins always seems bittersweet to me, a symbol that marks the changing of seasons. With the end of summer nigh and the festivities of fall right around the corner, zucchini bread is a yummy way to mark this transition.  Using shreds of summer produce in warm, spiced bread brings summer and fall together, if just for a moment.

Zucchini Bread
1 1/2 c flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 zucchini, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)

8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  In another bowl, mix the sugars, vegetable oil, eggs, Greek yogurt, orange juice, orange zest, and zucchini.  Gradually incorporate the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, being careful not to overmix.  Bake in a greased loaf pan for 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

To make the frosting, beat softened cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, orange zest, and orange juice.  Once the bread has cooled, spread frosting.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Broccoli with Garlic Sauce

This dish is a personal one for use, a dish we make to transport us back to a specific time and place.  The place was Philadelphia, and the time was college.  Whether it was a quick lunch between classes, a brief chance to see each other during the day, or an evening in the labs working late, this Chinese food cart had us covered day in and day out.  The Styrofoam container held a familiar, comforting meal, stir fried broccoli smothered in spicy garlic sauce, laid on a bed of rice.  For three dollars a piece, it had everything we needed to be happy.  Here is our attempt to recreate it.

3 tablespoons oyster sauce
3/8 cup chicken broth
5 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons chili paste
1 and a half heads of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon peanut oil, plus 1 teaspoon
splash sesame oil
4 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
3 bunches of broccoli

In small bowl, whisk together oyster sauce, chicken broth, soy sauce, vinegars, and chili paste.  In another small bowl, whisk cornstarch and water and set aside.  Heat peanut oil in wok and cook broccoli in peanut oil, a splash of sesame oil and just a bit of water until the center of stalks become only slightly translucent yet remain crispy.  Remove broccoli and remove any water or oil that is left from cooking.  Heat a teaspoon or so of peanut oil and the splash of sesame oil on medium-low heat and cook garlic for about a minute (don’t let it burn).  Turn heat to medium low and add sauce.  Stir in sugar and bring sauce to a boil (continue to stir).  Add cornstarch and water mixture and cook on medium low for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add cooked broccoli to sauce and toss.  Serve with rice.

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