Thursday, March 31, 2011

Greek Chicken Salad

Particularly as the weather gets warm, main-course salads become a staple in my diet. Aside from the fresh, crunchy, healthiness of salads, I love the blank palette they provide for my culinary creativity, as well as the opportunity to use up small amounts of odds and ends of ingredients. This recipe started with nothing more than the goal of using up some of the black olives leftover from Mediterranean Tuna Pizza and the notion of making a salad without having to go shopping for any more ingredients. This palette of Mediterranean flavors is an excellent choice for dinner or lunch, weekday or weekend, whether the sun is shining or the skies are gray and the rain is pouring down.

Not only do these ingredients make a great salad, but they also make for a fantastic wrap. I cooked an extra chicken breast, chopped up extra olives, tomatoes, and cheese and put all these ingredients into a couple of tortillas for some delicious wraps for my husband and I for lunch the next day with minimal extra effort. I'm always a fan of a recipe that makes leftovers or can do double-duty and be made into something new for lunch the next day.

Greek Chicken Salad
serves 2

8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast
4 oz. baby salad greens
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup chopped olive-oil packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salad dressing, for serving (olive oil vinaigrette works well)

1. Cook chicken breast until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F. Let rest for at least 5 minutes and cut into bite-size pieces.

2. Meanwhile, assemble the rest of the salad. Divide the greens evenly between two plates and top each with half of the olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta cheese. Distribute the chicken between the two plates, drizzle with your favorite dressing, and serve.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mediterranean Tuna Pizza

I try to make a point of eating fish at least once a week, and even if I have no salmon or tuna steaks or tilapia in the fridge or freezer, I always have canned tuna in the cupboard. I'll admit, it's not fine dining, but I still love a good, old-fashioned tuna melt...but as much as I love them, it's nice to branch out and find more creative ways to use canned tuna, like this pasta or this pizza. The comforting, melty qualities of a tuna melt come together perfectly with a host of vegetables for a fun and healthy dinner made from ingredients in a well-stocked pantry. This nontraditional pizza is absolutely packed with flavor, but if these ingredients are a little too eclectic collection of pizza toppings for your taste, throw all these ingredients together between a couple pieces of crusty bread or roll up in a tortilla for a sophisticated tuna melt or wrap.

Mediterranean Tuna Pizza
serves 3 to 4

One 12-ounce prepared pizza crust (I like whole wheat Boboli or Rustic Crust)
4 oz. homemade or store-bought pizza sauce (I like Rustic Crust)
2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press or finely minced
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup chopped artichoke hearts
1 5-ounce can water-packed tuna, drained and flaked
1 cup shredded provolone or mozzarella, or other good melting cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spread sauce over pizza crust and top with garlic. Distribute peppers, olives, and artichokes evenly, then top with tuna, finishing with an even layer of shredded cheese.

2. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and just starting to brown. Remove from oven and let stand for a couple of minutes, then slice into 8 slices and serve warm.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Individual Fallen Chocolate Cakes for Two

My husband and I just celebrated our three-year wedding anniversary, and while our big celebration was a positively decadent and unforgettable meal at L'Etoile, the finest restaurant in Madison, I would be remiss if I had let the occasion pass without preparing a special meal myself as well. I served Berkshire pork chops from Willow Creek Farm with a salad of local greens and Snug Haven spinach topped with Hook's gorgonzola cheese, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts, finished the meal with these decadent chocolate cakes. I love both cooking and eating desserts, but can't make the variety I'd like because there's no way my husband and I could go through such an ample supply of sweets. I was absolutely thrilled to find this recipe because I could make a special dessert for two for just one night, and I'll be able to repeat it any night I choose because everything I need for these delectable cakes is always in my cabinets. My baseline baking chocolate is Ghiradelli, which is high-quality and not prohibitively expensive, but you may want to splurge for Scharffen Berger or another premium chocolate.

Keep this recipe in mind for the next time you're celebrating a special occasion or had a hard day at work and just to treat yourself a bit. The gooey, decadent center floods your mouth with deep chocolate flavor that continues into the dense, moist chocolate cake, turning any meal into an indulgent experience.

Individual Fallen Chocolate Cakes for Two
from The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011
serves 2

Cocoa powder, for the ramekins
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
Confectioner' sugar, for dusting (optional)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter two 6-ounce ramekins and dust with cocoa powder.

2. Combine the butter and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until melted, 1 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the vanilla.

3. In a large bowl, whip the egg with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip the egg to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually whip in the granulate sugar and salt' continue to whip the egg until very thick and pale yellow, 5 to 10 minutes longer.

4. Scrape the whipped egg mixture on top of the chocolate mixture, then sift flour over the top. Gently fold the mixtures together with a large rubber spatula until just incorporated and no streaks remain.

5. Divide the batter between the prepared ramekins, smooth the tops, and wipe any drops of batter off the sides. Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and bake the cakes until they have puffed about 1/2 inch above the rims of the ramekins and jiggle slightly in the center when shaken very gently, 10 to 13 minutes.

6. Run a small knife around the edges of the cakes. Gently invert each ramekin onto an individual serving plate and let sit until the cake release themselves from the ramekins, about 1 minute. Remove the ramekins, dust the cakes with confectioners' sugar (if using), and serve immediately.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mushroom Barley Soup with Mini Meatballs

I'm anxious to embrace spring, warm weather, and all it has to offer, but I will be sad when soup season comes to an end, so I'm sneaking in a few more winter weather recipes before I dive fully into the fresh ingredients of spring. I've had a bag of barley in the cabinet since I made a different mushroom barley soup a while back and I when I stumbled across this recipe when searching for ways to use it I was more than ready for another batch of mushroom barley soup. I just love how the savory, earthy, tender mushrooms complement the nutty and chewy barley-this soup is so deeply hearty without being heavy. This soup will have the most flavor with homemade beef stock and a variety of mushrooms, but will still be delicious with good canned stock and white mushrooms. If I make this again I'll make 32 meatballs instead of 16, and brown the meatballs in the pan with the mushrooms and shallots before adding them to the soup for extra flavor. Serve it alongside a crisp green salad and piece of freshly baked bread (like a delicious multigrain loaf from Batch Bakehouse) and you've got a well-rounded, highly satisfying lunch or dinner.

Mushroom Barley Soup with Mini Meatballs
from Food and Wine
serves 4

4 cups beef stock or low-sodium broth
1 cup water
1/2 cup pearled barley
1 large thyme sprig
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound mixed wild and cultivated mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced (or 3/4-pound presliced mushrooms)
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/2 pound ground sirloin
1 large egg
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Sour cream, for serving (optional)

1. In a large saucepan, combine the stock, water, barley and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the barley is nearly tender, about 18 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms and shallot, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat until tender and browned, about 8 minutes.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the sirloin, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Knead the mixture until blended, then roll it into sixteen 1-inch balls.

4. Add the meatballs and mushrooms to the soup and simmer over moderate heat until the meatballs are cooked through and the barley is tender, about 8 minutes. Discard the thyme. Stir the parsley into the soup and serve in bowls with sour cream.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Provolone and Broccoli Rabe Panini

I am a great lover of grilled cheese (and cheese in general) so recipe jumped right out at me when I saw it. Essentially a veggie-packed, grown-up grilled cheese this panini is sophisticated way to eat your broccoli and cheese. Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, actually has little in common with broccoli probably and is in the same family as the turnip. Quite similar to turnip greens, broccoli rabe is likely descended from a wild herb in China or the Mediterranean.  Broccoli rabe has a bitter flavor and is complemented well by strong flavors like chili, anchovies, and garlic. Broccoli rabe has a robust texture and can hold up to a strong palate of flavors, but if it's a bit too bitter and assertive for you, this could also be made with spinach.

Provolone and Broccoli Rabe Panini
adapted from Gourmet
makes 4 sandwiches

1 lb broccoli rabe, tough ends discarded
4 flat anchovy fillets, minced
2 garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic clove
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing bread
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 slices high quality Italian, whole wheat, or multigrain bread
1/2 lb sliced provolone

1. Cook broccoli rabe in a 4-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well in a colander, then chop. 

2. Cook anchovies and garlic in 2 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until garlic just begins to turn golden, about 1 minute. Add broccoli rabe and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. Heat a panini or sandwich press according to manufacturer's instructions until hot. (Alternatively, heat a well-seasoned ridged grill pan over moderate heat.)

4. Spray the panini press with olive oil cooking spray or brush one side of each piece of bread with olive oil. Place four slices of bread of a work surface (oil side down, if bread was brushed with oil) and divide broccoli rabe mixture evenly between the four slices. Top each with cheese and the second slice of bread (oiled side up, if applicable).

5. Put sandwiches on press, then pull down top onto sandwiches and cook until sandwiches are browned and crisp, 4 to 8 minutes. (If using grill pan, put a heavy pan on top of sandwiches and cook, turning sandwiches over once.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Carrot Soup

I always have carrots in the fridge. I like them raw, roasted, glazed, sauteed, stir-fried, in salads and soups, a versatile enough ingredient that I can transform them into a side for dinner when I'm in a pinch. As much as I eat carrots, I've never made them the featured ingredient in my dinner until I made this carrot soup. As the cookbook this recipe came from would indicate, this recipe is extremely simple, but by no means boring. This is the perfect recipe for farmer's market or CSA carrots, which will be the most full of flavor (and nutrients). This is a sweet simple soup appropriate for cold winter days clear through hot summer days, where this soup would be quite good thinned with additional stock or water and served cold. If you don't love carrots, this clearly isn't for you, but it is a great way for carrot-lovers to chow down with abandon.

Carrot Soup
adapted from The Art of Simple Food
makes 8 servings

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 onions, sliced
1 thyme sprig or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced (about 6 cups)
6 cups broth

1. Melt butter in a heavy-bottom pot. Add onions and thyme and cook over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add carrots and season with salt. Cook for 5 minutes. (Cooking the carrots with the onions for a while builds flavor.)

2. Add broth to carrot and onion mixture. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. When done, season with salt to taste, and puree if desired.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Whole Wheat Couscous with Feta and Dill

I always have whole wheat couscous in my cabinet because it's one of the quickest cooking grains out there and is a great palate for all different kinds of flavors. This dish was created one to accompany garlic shrimp on a busy night where I didn't have time or energy to search for recipes or put together anything complicated. A quick scan of my fridge revealed the irresistible flavor pair of fresh dill and feta, which I perked up with a bit of lemon juice and tossed in with the couscous for a quick and flavorful side. If you don't have any fresh dill, throw in whatever other fresh herbs you happen to have in hand. Tired of peanut butter and jelly for lunch? This is also a great make-ahead dish that is nearly as delicious the next day, warm or cold.

Whole Wheat Couscous with Feta and Dill
serves 4

1 (8-ounce) package whole wheat couscous
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Bring 1 1/2 cups water and olive oil to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat, stir in couscous, lemon juice, and lemon zest, cover, and set aside for 5 minutes.

2. Fluff couscous with a fork and mix in dill. Divide couscous mixture among four bowls or plates and top with feta cheese and additional dill. Serve warm.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pasta Alla Norma

If you're looking to cut back on the meat in your diet, but don't want to sacrifice hearty, savory flavor, this dish is for you. While it may seem like anchovies are a somewhat strange ingredient, those two tiny fillets add a tremendous amount of umami to the dish and greatly enhance the overall flavor. The eggplant provides a really satisfying texture in lieu of ground beef, deeply flavored  by the traditional Italian flavors of garlic, tomatoes, and fresh basil and topped with savory, salty cheese. This rich palate of flavors is well-suited for the last throes of winter, so give it a try before it's time to turn to the crisper lighter seasonal flavors of spring.

Pasta Alla Norma
from The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011
serves 4

Note: This recipe calls for both regular and extra-virgin olive oil. The higher smoke point of regular olive oil makes it best for browning the eggplant; extra-virgin olive oil stirred into the sauce before serving lends fruity flavor. If you don't have regular olive oil, use vegetable oil. We prefer kosher salt in step 1 because it clings best to the eggplant. If using table salt, reduce the amount to 1/2 teaspoon. Do not stir the eggplant more often than called for in step 2, as doing so may cause the eggplant cubes to break apart. Ricotta salata is traditional, but French feta, Pecorino Romano, and cotija (a firm, crumbly Mexican cheese) are acceptable substitutes. Our preferred brands of crushed tomatoes are Tuttorosso and Muir Glen.

1 large eggplant (1.25 to 1.5 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 anchovy fillets, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 pound ziti, rigatoni, or penne
6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 ounces ricotta salata, shredded (about 1 cup)

1. Toss the eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Line the surface of a large microwave-safe plate with a double layer of coffee filters and lightly coat with vegetable oil spray. Spread the eggplant in an even layer over the coffee filters. Microwave the eggplant, uncovered, until dry to the touch and slightly shriveled, about 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through. Cool slightly.

2. Transfer the eggplant to a medium bowl, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and toss gently to coat. Discard the coffee filters. Heat 1 tablespoon more olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the eggplant and distribute in an even layer. Cook, stirring every 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until well browned and fully tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, transfer the eggplant to a plate, and set aside.

3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic, anchovies, and red pepper flakes to the empty but still-hot skillet and cook using the residual heat so the garlic doesn't burn, stirring constantly, until fragrant and the garlic becomes pale golden, about 1 minutes (if the skillet is too cool to cook the mixture, set it over medium heat). Add the tomatoes, return the skillet to medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add the pasta and 2 tablespoons salt and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta, and return it to the pot.

5. While the pasta is cooking, return the eggplant to the skillet with the tomatoes and gently stir to incorporate. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is heated through and the flavors are blended, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir the basil and extra-virgin olive oil into the sauce and season with salt to taste. Add the sauce to the cooked pasta, adjusting the consistency with the reserved pasta cooking water so that the sauce coats the pasta. Sprinkle with the ricotta salata and serve immediately.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Baked Steel Cut Oats with Apples and Currants

The piles of snow are slowly fading away and the sunrise is bleeding into my early morning walks with the dog, so I finally feel like spring is truly on the way. While I'm anxious for warm weather and the reappearance of lush green foliage, I'm not quite ready to let go of my winter weekend breakfast staple, baked steel cut oats. When rearranging my baking supply cupboard I came across a big bag of organic currants that I forgot I purchased a while back. I tossed them in my old-fashioned oats this and on top of my yogurt and granola, but I was most anxious to put them in my steel-cut oats when the weekend arrived. You could substitute raisins, although I don't think they'd be quite as good, and top with some toasted chopped walnuts (or other nuts), but I like the simplicity of steel-cut oats, fruit, with a touch of maple syrup. Starting the day off with a delicious healthy breakfast like this one gives me the energy to get all my weekend errands and chores done and just generally makes me happy and optimistic for the day ahead. I never understand how people skip breakfast on a regular basis (I can't even make it to lunch without a morning snack) because it's how I start my day off on the right foot. So pop these steel cut oats in the oven, linger over the paper with a hot cup of coffee, and get ready to start the weekend!
Baked Steel Cut Oats with Apples and Currants

serves 1

1 small apple, diced
2 tablespoons currants
1/4 cup steel cut oats
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place diced apple and currants in the bottom of an individual-sized oven proof dish.

2. Pour steel cut oats over the fruit, then add milk and bake for 30 minutes.

3. Remove from the oven and drizzle with maple syrup. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dill Tuna Melts

I make it a point to have fish once a week, sometimes in elaborate preparations, but often in something as simple as tuna salad. But just because tuna salad is quick and easy, doesn't mean it has to be boring. This flavorful tuna salad came together as I was poking around in my fridge and tossing in ingredients on pure instinct. I knew this recipe was a success when my husband asked where I found the recipe-I know when he thinks it came from a professional that I did a good job. Dill is the most dominant flavor in this recipe, a pure injection of freshness that also pairs extremely well with salmon, so feel free to substitute salmon for the tuna if you like. I gave a range of amounts for the mayo and dijon mustard because the intensity of flavor of the Dijon mustard can vary widely and there is a range of preferences on the chunkiness of tuna salad. In general, I prefer two parts mayo to one part Dijon mustard, though the overall amount of sauce I prefer changes from day to day. So the next time you make a tuna salad sandwich, take a couple extra minutes to throw in some delicious add-ins and make it something a little special.

Dill Tuna Melts on Whole Wheat Pitas
serves 2

One 5-ounce can chunk light tuna (or salmon)
2 to 4 tablespoons light mayo
1 to 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Two whole wheat pitas
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella or other good melting cheese
Lettuce leaves

1. Preheat regular or toaster oven set on broiler setting. Combine tuna, mayo, mustard, shallots, and dill in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Spread half the tuna mixture over one half of each pita and top with shredded cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and just starting to brown and tuna mixture is warmed through, 3 to 8 minutes, depending on the strength of your broiler (which can vary widely, so keep a close eye on it). Place a lettuce leaf on each pita and fold in half while still warm. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lighter Cauliflower Soup

It's a well-established fact that I have an obsession with roasted cauliflower-I love it plain, roasted with dijon mustard, and in pasta-so when I saw a roasted cauliflower soup recipe there was no way I could pass it up. In this soup the cauliflower is roasted with onion, filling the kitchen with the extraordinary scent of caramelized vegetables so enticing that it's tempting to take the vegetables out of the oven early to get on with putting the soup together, but the longer they remain in the oven the deeper flavor the soup will have. The flavor is so rich and developed that a small amount of half-and-half is all that it takes to make this soup deeply rich and luxurious. If you have one, I recommend using an immersion blender to blend the soup right in the pot, which simplifies things and reduces clean-up. If you want a super-smooth soup you'll probably still want to opt for the blender, but I prefer a slightly rustic texture in this soup. This soup is also a pleasure to eat for leftovers the next day after the flavors have had a chance to marry and develop further.

Lighter Cauliflower Soup
from The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011
serves 4

1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), trimmed, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch florets (about 6 cups)
1 onion, halved and sliced 1/2 inch thikc
4 teaspoons canola oil
Salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Toss the cauliflower, onion, 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl, then spread the mixture in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until the cauliflower is softened and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.

3. Combine the roasted vegetables and remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a large Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is very soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover, stir in the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4. Stir in the wine and bay leaf and cook until the wine has reduced by half, about 1 minute. Stir in the borth and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

5. Working in two batches, process the cauliflower mixture in a blender until smooth, about 1 minutes. Transfer the cauliflower mixture to a clean Dutch oven, stir in the half-and-half, and cook over low heat until hot.

6. Season with salt and pepper to taste, ladle into bowls, and sprinkle each portion with some of the chives before serving. (The soup can be cooled and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw is frozen and reheat over low heat; do not boil.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Shredded Carrot Salad with Cilantro Dressing

I decided to try out this recipe because one, I really loved the other shredded carrot salad I tried from the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook, and two, I spent so much time thinking about my gyro recipe that I totally forgot to find a side to serve with it. (It also didn't hurt that I still had cilantro leftover from making Chickpeas in Spicy Tomato Gravy). I eat tons of fresh green salads, and I admit that it would probably do me some good to change it up a little bit and try something different. Shredded carrot salads offer all the satisfying crunch of a green side salad and can hold their own with boldly flavored dressings, which I love. Granted, shredding carrots isn't my favorite culinary task, but it's well worth it to shake up my side dish routine. Lime juice would also work really well in the vinaigrette, making the dressing reminiscent of Thai flavors; if going this route, a splash of soy or tamari would also be a nice addition.

Shredded Carrot Salad with Cilantro Dressing
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics
serves 4

2 1/2 cups peeled and grated carrots

Cilantro Dressing
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Place the carrots in a serving bowl and set aside. With a whisk or in a blender, combine the rest of the ingredients for the dressing.  Pour the dressing over the carrots and toss well. Serve lightly chilled or at room temperature.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gyros with Yogurt-Tomato Sauce

I bought some mutton blade steaks from a local apple orchard last year and they spent many months lingering in the freezer with no real plan. I've been on a mission recently to clear out out my pantry and freezer so I knew I had to figure out a way to cook the mutton, which I had never cooked before. The first dish I think of when it comes to lamb is gyros, so why not try it with mutton? Since mutton is just older lamb, the obvious difference between the two is the toughness of the meat, which I overcame by marinating the meat for 24 hours (and it probably would have benefited from even more time). The mutton was obviously tougher than lamb would be, but by no means did I feel like a caveman digging into these delicious gyros.This recipe is based on gyros made with pork tenderloin, but I could even see happily preparing this dish with chicken thighs or breasts as well, though they would not need to marinate as long as the mutton. Although these aren't the same as gyros from an authentic Greek restaurant, they are packed with flavor and will definitely be making more appearances on my dinner table.

Gyros with Yogurt-Tomato Sauce
adapted from Epicurious
serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons dry red wine
2 garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
1 small bay leaf, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound lamb or mutton steaks or chops

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt or whole-milk yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon drained capers, chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed through a garlic press
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

4 whole wheat pita breads
Sliced cucumber, for serving
Thinly sliced red onion, for serving
Crumbled feta cheese, for serving

1. For lamb: Combine first 7 ingredients in large resealable plastic bag; shake to blend. Add lamb to marinade; seal bag. Chill overnight, turning bag occasionally.

2. For sauce: Stir first 7 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill until ready to use, up to 1 day.

3. Preheat a grill or pan over medium to medium-heat. Grill until thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat registers 125°F (for medium-rare) or 130°F (for medium), turning every few minutes to ensure even browning. Transfer to a cutting board; let stand 10 minutes (temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees). Slice thinly.

4. Grill pitas until warmed through and softened, about 2 minutes per side.Spread pitas with sauce, add cucumber slices, red onion, and cheese, and top with lamb. Serve, passing remaining sauce separately.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Baked Steel Cut Oats with Apples, Blueberries, and Walnuts

Ever since I discovered how to make steel-cut oats in the oven, I've making them for breakfast once a week, usually on Sunday morning. I use whatever fruit and nuts I happen to be in the mood for and when I saw the handful of fresh blueberries left in the fridge, I knew they'd be perfect in baked steel cut oats. The juicy blueberries pop when you bite into them, and are a great contrast to tart, slightly crunchy apples and nutty oats. I tossed some toasted walnuts on top for some richness and crunch, drizzling homemade blueberry syrup over top just to gild the lily a bit more and creating the perfect lazy weekend breakfast with a maple latte and the paper.
Baked Steel Cut Oats with Apples, Blueberries, and Walnuts

serves 1

1 small apple, diced
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup steel cut oats
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts
1 tablespoon blueberry syrup, honey, or maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place diced apple and blueberries in the bottom of an individual-sized oven proof dish.

2. Pour steel cut oats over the fruit, then add milk and bake for 30 minutes.

3. Remove from the oven and top with toasted walnuts and blueberry syrup. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chickpeas in Spicy Tomato Gravy

Is there anything better than a warm bowl of soup or stew after a long day at work? Although I realize it isn't the case for everyone, chopping vegetables and stirring a big pot of something delicious is a great stress reliever for me after a long day at work (although that's not to say a big bowl of ice cream can't also fill that role sometimes too). Ginger and cumin are a couple of flavors that instantly make me feel comforted, so cooking and eating this dish was the perfect stress reliever after a long work day.

While I love the heat of this dish, if you aren't a fan of spice, remove the seeds and ribs of the jalapenos and cut back on the cayenne or add yogurt, which is traditional, or sour cream when serving. I'd also recommend serving with whole wheat naan, if you can find it, or pita bread, to soak up all the delicious smoky, spicy tomato gravy.

Chickpeas in Spicy Tomato Gravy
from Food and Wine
serves 4 to 6

8 garlic cloves, chopped
2 jalapeƱos, chopped
One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes
Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups water
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves

1. In a mini food processor, combine the garlic, jalapeƱos and ginger and process to a paste.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook over moderately high heat until sizzling, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browned, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and simmer over moderate heat until thickened, about 6 minutes. Add the chickpeas and water and simmer until the chickpeas are flavored with the gravy, about 8 minutes. Season the chickpeas with salt, garnish with the cilantro and serve.