Monday, April 28, 2008

Cookbook Challenge: Goat Cheese Tart

Things have been busy around here, and this is probably the only real blog update I'll have for the next two weeks. I have a good excuse, though... we're moving! Joe and I just bought our first home, an adorable condo here in Chicago. It has exposed brick, a fire place, great bedrooms... and necessary things we've been lacking in the past, such as air conditioning and a washer/dryer. It goes without saying... we're really excited! And I'm already used ellipsis (ellipsi?!) three times... so that was the last time, I swear!

Moving is exciting, but also time consuming. Since we closed on the condo last Friday, I've pretty much spent every moment packing, painting, cleaning, or thinking about what needs to be done. I planned terrible meals for this week, just to allow myself to start packing the kitchen. Last night was ground turkey tacos with a packet of flavoring, tomorrow night is pasta with jarred sauce and Italian sausage. Oh, and frozen veggies for some extra nutrients. Fancy, huh? I did make one exception on Sunday night, though, because I've been dying to try this Goat Cheese Tart for weeks now, and just couldn't wait any longer. It was the last hurrah before I packed up a lot of the kitchen stuff, and it was a great way to end my cooking at this apartment. It was buttery, cheesy, and absolutely terrible for us, but so worth it. My husband summed it up when he said, "You should put this on the list of recipes to keep... but only for a special treat". He also sent me a text message the next day at lunchtime, after he finished eating the leftovers. So if you want to keep your significant other happy, this is the recipe to try.

Goat Cheese Tart
From Barefoot in Paris, by Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board

Kosher salt
13 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
3/4 cup chopped shallots (3 to 4 shallots)
10 1/2 ounces garlic-and-herb soft goat cheese
1 cup heavy cream
3 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, put the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Cut 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) of the butter into large dice, add to the bowl, and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, add the ice water all at once and process until the dough becomes crumbly. Don't overprocess. Dump the dough out on a floured board, gather it loosely into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough on a well-floured board and fit it into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable sides, rolling the pin over the top to cut off the excess dough. Butter 1 side of a square of aluminum foil and fit it, butter side down, into the tart pan. Fill the foil with rice or beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and foil from the tart shell, prick the bottom all over with a fork, and bake for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small pan and saute the shallots over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tender. Place the goat cheese in the bowl of the food processor and process until crumbly. Add the cream, eggs, basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper and process until blended.

Scatter the cooked shallots over the bottom of the tart shell. Pour the goat cheese mixture over the shallots to fill the shell (if the shell has shrunk, there may be leftover filling). Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tart is firm when shaken and the top is lightly browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve hot or at room temperature.

And in case you're wondering, here's a picture of my new kitchen! I can't wait to get it set up so I can start cooking again! And this really will be the last blog post for the next two weeks, because we won't have internet in our apartment for the first week we're living there. But I'll try to keep reading other blogs on my lunch breaks, and I promise I'll post again once we're settled!

I think I'll do one of my Giada cookbooks for next month's cook book challenge, but then I promise to branch out from the Food Network cooks. Any suggestions of other cookbooks you recommend?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cookbook Challenge: Tomato Rice Pilaf

I tend to buy a lot of rice. Seriously, I think there were either 6 or 7 types of rice in our fridge and pantry a couple weeks ago. My problem is that after I buy it, I tend to only prepare it in really boring ways. I will see recipes for rice pilaf or mix-ins, but usually I dismiss it for extra ingredients or too much hassle for a week day meal.

That's why I'm loving my Cookbook Challenge, because it's forcing me to try recipes that I might otherwise neglect. This recipe only had one "extra" ingredient-- saffron. Lucky for me, there is a Trader Joe's near my house and they sell saffron for $4.99. I don't know that it's the best quality saffron, but it does the trick and is a steal at that price! The rest of the ingredients were things I had on hand, and half the recipe easily served 4. It was still tasty the next day, reheated with leftovers. This was a great way to dress up the rice a little, and I am sure I'll make this recipe again.

Tomato Rice Pilaf, by Ina Garten from Barefoot in Paris

4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
2 cups white basmati rice
kosher or sea salt
4 cups chicken stock, heated
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1 Tbsp chopped garlic (3 cloves)
1 (28 oz) can whole plum tomatoes, drained and large diced
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a small dutch oven or large saucepan, add the onions, and cook over low heat fro 10 minutes, or until translucent but not brown. Stir in the rice and 2 tsp of salt and cook over low heat for 3 minutes. Add the hot stock and the saffron and cook, covered, over the lowest heat for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Meanwhile, in a medium saute pan, heat the remaining oil, add the garlic, and cook over low heat for 30 seconds. Add the drainned diced tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. When the rice is done, add the tomato mixture, 3/4 tsp salt, the pepper, parsley, and Parmesan. Stir with a fork, season to taste, and serve hot.

Serves 6 to 8

Restaurant Rave: Orange

I picked the title of my blog for a specific reason, because I didn't want to only focus on the food in my own kitchen. Chicago is full of amazing places to eat out, and I want to tell you about them every once in a while. A lot of the amazing places cost more then I can regularly spend, though, so I have to limit my eating out. We try to spend our eat-out money wisely, though, instead of going to lower quality places more often.

This Saturday my husband and I decided to treat ourselves to some brunch down in the South Loop, a great area of Chicago that we don't visit very often. We happened to be down at my husband's office in the loop, and I remembered a breakfast place that I've wanted to try for a long time. It's called Orange, and it's a juice bar and brunch restaurant. I first saw it on Giada's Weekend Getaway about 8 or 9 months ago, and I knew I would have to get there at some point. This was the perfect opportunity.

As soon as we walked in, I knew this was my type of place. Bright colors, young crowd, and great smells. Even though it was prime time for brunch, we got a table immediately. The menu had a lot of tempting choices, including "frushi" (fruit sushi), fresh squeezed juices, creative omelets, and tempting baked items. I had to try the pan-seared oatmeal, which they're known for. It was steel-cut oats cooked into a solid patty... hard to describe, but really interesting and satisfying. It could have been a little sweeter, but really felt hardy and healthy. I had to add some fat to the meal, though, because the rosemary sausage was just calling out to me. Joe had Chai french toast, and it was freaking amazing. It was ricotta stuffed, with a chai tea reduction. They also had pancake flights, with four servings of different flavored pancakes. I was jealous when I saw them brought to the table next to us, and will have to go back to Orange again to try a flight.

My only regret: I didn't have my camera with me! If you're in Chicago, check Orange out. Turns out there are two other locations, too, in Roscoe Village and Lakeview. You won't regret it!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Baked Artichokes with Gorgonzola

Lately I've been really wanting to make whole artichokes. I've never made them before, but love to cook with artichoke hearts. They are intimidating, though, so I kept putting them off in favor of simpler dishes. Last weekend, however, destiny intervened by way of one of my favorite food network chefs. Giada was making artichokes when I turned on food network, so I was able to get a confident boost while I watched her prep the artichokes. It really isn't even that complicated, so I don't know why I was worrying too much. These artichokes were delicious, with the rich gorgonzola oozing all over the place.

Baked Artichokes with Gorgonzola and Herbes

from, by Giada De Laurentiis

4 artichokes
3 lemons, plus 1 lemon
10 ounces mild Gorgonzola cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons cream
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus 1 tablespoon
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Trim the artichokes by cutting off the top 1-inch or so. Cut the stem close to the base of the artichoke so the artichoke can sit up straight, and remove some of the bottom leaves. Using kitchen shears, trim the sharp points off of any remaining outer leaves. Add the artichokes to the boiling water. Halve the lemons and squeeze the juice into the boiling water. Toss in the lemons. Cook the artichokes until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain the artichokes and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir together the Gorgonzola, cream, thyme, 2 teaspoons parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. In another small bowl stir together the bread crumbs and remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the center choke of the artichokes using a small spoon. Stuff the cheese mixture into the center of the artichokes. Place the artichokes into a baking dish. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the artichokes. Drizzle the tops of the artichokes with olive oil. Bake until the artichokes are heated through, the cheese is melted, and the bread crumbs are crisp and golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer the artichokes to a serving dish and serve.

Cookbook Challenge: Vegetable Tian

This was one of those meals that I wanted to blog about as soon as I cleared my plate, just because it was so good I had to tell someone about it! I focused the meal around a Barefoot in Paris recipe for vegetable tian, and made swordfish spedini from Giada's Family Dinners to go along with it. The vegetable tian was fantastic! Very fresh and spring-like, and will be delicious in summer as well. It was a beautiful layered dish of tomatoes, zucchini, and potatoes, roasted with fresh thyme and some cheese on top. My only change was using Parmesan instead of Gruyere, and that was only because I was cheap and didn't want to buy yet another kind of cheese (I have about 8 varieties in my refrigerator at the moment). But I will have to make it with Gruyere if I'm serving this to guests, because I imagine the taste of Gruyere would only make this more delicious. It was pretty simple, too, since most of the time was spent roasting in the oven.
The Swordfish Spiedini is also really easy to make. I was excited to make this dish because it gave me an excuse to use the herbs de Provence that I bought on our trip to Europe a few weeks ago. I buy swordfish at Trader Joes, and I think the frozen steaks they sell are good quality and also a great value. This recipe is so simple, and would be even better on a grill in the summer. I had to use the broiler, due to my landlord's strict no-grill sentiment, but it was still tasty made this way.

Vegetable Tian from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris

Serves 4-6

Good olive oil
2 large yellow onions, cut in half and sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound medium round potatoes, unpeeled

3/4 pound zucchini
1 1/4 pounds medium tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh
ly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs
2 ounces Gruyere chees
e, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with olive oil. In a medium saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the onions over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.

Slice the potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes in 1/4-inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly, making only 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and thyme sprigs and drizzle with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Uncover the dish, remove the thyme sprigs, sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake for another 30 minutes until browned. Serve warm.

Swordfish Spiedini from Giada de Lauretiis' Giada's Family Dinners

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds swordfish steaks (at least 1-inch thick), trimmed
6 short, thick wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
6 thin slices pancetta (about 2 ounces), unrolled so that you have a strip
6 lemon wedges

Whisk the oil, herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper in a large bowl to blend. Cut the swordfish steaks into 1-inch cubes and toss in the oil mixture to coat. Thread the swordfish cubes alternaetly with 1 slice of pancetta onto each of the skewers, wrapping the pancetta around the fish cubes as you go.

Prepare the barbecue for medium-high heat or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the swordfish skewers until the swordfish is just opaque in the center and the pancetta is crisp, turning often, about 8 to 10 minutes, brushing often with the remaining marinade.

Transfer the skewers to plates and serve with lemon wedges.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Blogging with a Purpose Award

I was honored this week to receive a blog award from Laura, of Laura's Paris Cooking Notebook. Laura is a cook in my favorite city, Paris, and she teaches wonderful classes in her home. I took a class with her when I was in Paris in March, and it was such a fantastic experience. Her blog shows tasty recipes and exciting experiences she has around France. I am obsessed with anything French, so I always check her blog to see what she's up to! Now it's my turn to pick five blogs I read that are examples of Blogging with a Purpose.

1.) Ally from Culinary Infatuation. Her blog is full of tasty recipes that I always want to try.

2.) Nicole from Art and Aioli. Her blog not only shows off her cooking skills, but also her adorable kids and her interests in art and design.

3.) Sarah from Sensible Suppers and Decadent Desserts. Yes, another food blog! I can't help it, I'm obsessed with cooking, and this is yet another blog with the purpose of inspiring me to cook more. Yum!

4.) Blake of Blake Makes. This one's a little different- it's a food blog, but he does a lot with giving away food to his bloggers. His site has gotten huge, and you must check it out!

5.) Alekka from Give Sugar. She's a chef I have gotten to work with a few times, and she's awesome! Her classes are so fun, and she has a catering company that does all kinds of stuff. I love checking her blog to see what she's been up to lately, like hanging out with Tom Colicchio.

Award-winners, here's what you should do:
1. nominate 5 blogs which haven't had this award before
2. each of the blogs must have a purpose
3.the nominated blogs must make a link back to this page
4. the logo from the award must be put on their blog and it must link back to this blog!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cookbook Challenge: Lemon Chicken with Croutons

This roast chicken recipe was another one from Barefoot in Paris, my Cookbook Challenge for April. It was a great roast chicken, but I don't know if that had anything to do with the recipe. It was a lemon roasted chicken, which mostly just meant there were lemons inside the cavity. Isn't this an old trick? It was roasted on a bed of sliced onions, which were a burned mess by the time the roasting was finished. The chicken was served with croutons, which I was open to trying. They were kind of boring, though, and I didn't really understand how they fit with chicken besides for presentation.

The chicken was incredibly moist, which made it a treat to eat. I think that was mostly because I've gotten better at determining when to take a roast chicken out of the oven, and I'm sure to let it sit for at least 10 or 15 minutes before cutting into the bird. I would roast a chicken like this again, but I wouldn't bother with the croutons. A basic recipe, but it was a treat to have a meal like this on a Monday night!

Lemon Chicken with Croutons from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten

1 (4 to 5-pound) roasting chicken
1 large yellow onion, sliced
Good olive oil
Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, quartered

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 cups (3/4-inch) brea
d cubes (1 baguette or round boule)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Take the giblets out of the chicken and wash it inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers. Toss the onion with a little olive oil in a small roasting pan. Place the chicken on top and sprinkle the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper. Place the lemons inside the chicken. Pat the outside of the chicken dry with paper towels, brush it with the melted butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.

Roast for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. Cover with foil and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. (The onions may burn, but the flavor is good.)

Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until very hot. Lower the heat to medium-low and saute the bread cubes, tossing frequently, until nicely browned, 8 to
10 minutes. Add more olive oil, as needed, and sprinkle with 1/2
teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place the croutons on a serving platter. Slice the chicken and place it, plus all the pan juices, over the croutons. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.

I ended up making my chicken into a salad, since I was serving salad on the side of the dish originally. I guess I just couldn't get away from the idea of croutons being part of a salad. I served it with these beets, which I always enjoy.

This is a blank post that was sitting in my "edit posts" section for a loooong time. It messed me up, because it made me think my 99th post was my 100th. Stupid, I know, but I'm putting this random post up so that my 100th post is accurate :)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Pear Muffins

I had a few pears sitting around this weekend, so I decided muffins would be a tasty treat. They were a little dry, but I think that was because my oven is terrible and is always too hot. The pear taste was great, though! I will make these again, no doubt.

Low Fat Pear Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 tbsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp ginger

  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

  • 3/4 cup non-fat milk

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • 2 tbsp canola oil

  • 1 large, ripe pear, peeled, cored and chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper muffin cups.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and spices in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, combine milk, egg and canola oil.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add milk mixture. Stir until just moist. Fold in chopped pear. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling them 2/3 full, and bake for 20 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

Chocolate Espresso Cookies

I have been having some major baking urges lately, but I never seem to have the right ingredients and equiptment to bake the complicated desserts I crave. Really, I just need to buy a few new kitchen tools (like a tart pan and some round cake pans), and plan ahead a bit. For now, though, these cookies did the trick. They were easy to make, super rich and chocolatey, and used only ingredients that I had around my kitchen. And even if you go to Target to get a metal bowl and they don't have any, you can still use a wok as the top part of your double boiler (see below). I tend to get creative if the baking urge is strong enough!

Chocolate Espresso Cookies
From Gourmet Magazine, March 1997

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons finely ground dark-roast coffee beans, such as Italian-roast
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease 2 large heavy baking sheets.

In a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup chocolate chips, and butter, stirring until smooth, and remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs, sugar, and ground coffee on high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when beaters are lifted, about 3 minutes, and beat in chocolate mixture. Into mixture sift in flour, baking powder, and salt and stir until just combined. Stir in remaining chocolate chips and walnuts.

Drop batter by heaping tablespoons about 2 inches apart onto baking sheets and bake in batched in middle of oven 8 to 10 minutes, or until puffed and cracked on top. Cool cookies in baking sheets 1 minute and transfer to racks to cool completely.

Barefoot in Paris: Eggplant Gratin

This was my first recipe for my cookbook challenge. It's from April's cookbook: Barefoot in Paris, by Ina Garten. I should have read the recipe closer when I choose it, because it turned out to be pretty unhealthy! Eggplant soaks up the oil, so it had to have a ton of fat and calories. I used reduced fat ricotta and fat free half and half, which helps. I would love to play around with the fried eggplant, because I did really like the taste of this recipe. I might also do less of the egg/cheese combo, so you taste the eggplant a little more. It really did seem like a recipe you would eat in France, with some Italian flavoring, too. I made it in an 8 x 8 Le Cruset baking dish, since I didn't have smaller dishes like she suggested. I served it with a pesto chicken sausage, pasta w/ marinara sauce, and some sauteed dandelion greens (which were gross!). Great dinner overall.

I salted my eggplant, to make sure it wasn't bitter.

Eggplant Gratin from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten

Good olive oil, for frying

1 1/2 pound eggplant, unpeeled, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup good bottled marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat about 1/8-inch of olive oil in a very large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add several slices of eggplant and cook, turning once, until they are evenly browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Be careful, it splatters! Transfer the cooked eggplant slices to paper towels to drain. Add more oil, heat, and add more eggplant until all the slices are cooked.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, half-and-half, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

In each of 4 individual gratin dishes, place a layer of eggplant slices, then sprinkle with Parmesan, salt and pepper and spoon 1/2 of the marinara sauce. Next, add a second layer of eggplant, more salt and pepper, half the ricotta mixture, and finally 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan on top.

Place the gratins on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the custard sets and the top is browned. Serve warm.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Cookbook Challenge

I've noticed a bad habit forming since I started my blog, and my whole cooking world has begun to revolve around the internet. I discover (and recreate) beautiful recipes I find on other blogs, and googling ingredients has become my strategy for finding new recipes. For instance, when I wanted to make something with balsamic vinegar, I went to and searched for balsamic chicken. The resulting recipe was a hit, but there is a problem with this new reliance on the internet. My poor collection of cookbooks has become sorely neglected.

Does anyone else have this problem? They are full of good recipes, but I don't always know what recipe is in which book, and I don't always want to take the time to look. Lazy, I know! So I decided my blog would be a perfect place to challenge myself to use the cookbooks more. I'll still find recipes online, I'm sure, but this plan will push me to try new recipes from my cookbook collection. So here you have it: starting this month, I will pick one of my cookbooks to focus on every month. My goal will be at least a recipe per week, but hopefully I will go above and beyond that. I have a feeling I'll end up finding more recipes than I even have time to cook! And an extra bonus-- once I actually start using the cookbooks I have, I'll be able to justify buying a couple new ones :)

April's Cookbook Choice: Barefoot in Paris, by Ina Garten

This is a beautiful cookbook that my mom gave me. I love Paris, and Barefoot Contessa cookbooks are wonderful resources. This one is full of advice, stories about Paris, and drool-inducing recipes. I've been really happy with recipes I've made from this book in the past, and there are some great looking options that I'll be trying this month. Stay tuned for updates!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Whole Wheat Pasta

Last night I made this pasta for dinner. It was really tasty, and very healthy as well. I used Trader Joe's whole wheat flax pasta, and was plesantly surprised. I haven't liked some whole wheat pastas I've had in the past, but this was tender and had an interesting flavor. I really liked this pasta. I didn't take any pictures, but check out Bridget's blog for the source of my recipe. Her blog is fantastic all around, and full of recipes I'd love to try!

Whole Wheat Pasta with Greens, Beans, Tomatoes, and Garlic Chips (from Cooks Illustrated November 2005)

Serves 4 to 6

CI note: If you can’t find a 13.25-ounce package of Ronzoni, the winner of our tasting, use ¾ pound of a whole wheat pasta of your choice. If you like, pass extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling over the finished pasta. For a vegetarian dish, substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth.

Variation: Spinach can be substituted for the greens. Replace kale or collards with two 10-ounce bags of crinkly-leaf spinach, trimmed, chopped into 1-inch pieces, and rinsed, water still clinging to leaves (about 16 cups), and reducing chicken broth to ¾ cup. After adding second half of spinach to pan, cook for 2 minutes, until spinach is completely wilted. Continue with recipe as directed.

3 tablespoons olive oil
8 cloves garlic, 5 cloves sliced thin lengthwise, 3 cloves minced or pressed through garlic press (1 tablespoon)
Table salt
1 medium onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
14 cups kale (loosely packed) or collard greens (1 to 1½ pounds), thick stems trimmed, leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces and rinsed, water still clinging to leaves
1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (14½ ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¾ cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
13¼ ounces whole wheat spaghetti
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup), plus additional for serving
Ground black pepper

1. Heat oil and sliced garlic in 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring and turning frequently, until light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic to plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

2. Add onion to pan; cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Add half of greens to pan; using tongs, toss occasionally, until starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add remaining greens, broth, and ¾ teaspoon salt; cover (pan will be very full); increase heat to high and bring to strong simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, tossing occasionally, until greens are tender, about 15 minutes (mixture will be somewhat soupy). Stir in beans, tomatoes and olives.

4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add spaghetti and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is just shy of al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add greens mixture to pasta, set over medium-high heat, and toss to combine. Cook until pasta absorbs most of liquid, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup Parmesan; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, passing garlic chips, extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmesan separately.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Carolina Cole Slaw

Last weekend Joe and I started up with our CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) program again, and we had a great box of produce to pick up on Saturday. I love the challenges I get from having different fruits and vegetables to work with each week, and two ingredients I got to work with this week were cabbage and celery root. I wasn't so sure about the celery root (I don't like celery; turns out celery root tastes pretty much the same), but as part of the cole slaw it did add a nice flavor. I loved that it was light tasting, instead of a mayo-based slaw. Very fresh! I also made sweet potato fries with homemade aioli (which will be a future blog topic), and we had awesome turkey burgers. It almost tasted like summer as we ate, but I think that was just wishful thinking!

Carolina Cole Slaw

From Bon Appetit magazine, March 1996

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 teaspoons dry (Dijon) mustard
½ celery root, peeled and grated

1 cup grated carrots

1 medium cabbage (about 1 1/4 pounds), thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced (I omitted)

Combine vinegar, sugar, oil, mustard and celery seeds in nonaluminum medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and dressing comes to boil. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper. Cool completely.

Combine cabbage, onion and green pepper in large bowl. Add dressing; toss to coat. Cover; refrigerate until cold, tossing occasionally, at least 2 hours. (Can be made
1 day ahead. Cover; keep refrigerated.)

Braised Balsamic Chicken

Sometimes whole meals take shape around one ingredient in my kitchen. For this meal, I was determined to make something using the bottle of balsamic vinegar that I picked up at the market in Liege, Belgium. There were numerous Italian stalls at the market, and after much debate I settled on this bottle of vinegar as a treat to bring home with me. I knew I wanted to use it with chicken, and after searching on for a while I found this recipe, which sounded perfect. The only thing I changed was using boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken. I served it with goat cheese mashed potatoes, and since there was so much beautiful sauce I ended up serving it all on one big serving platter. This tasted like comfort food (great for this last bit of cold weather), but still was nice enough that I would serve it to guests. And the potatoes with goat cheese mixed in were a subtle but flavorful addition. I could use more of these leftovers right about now...

Braised Chicken with Shallots, Garlic, and Balsamic Vinegar

From Gourmet Magazine, October 2001


6 bacon slices (4 oz), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips
1 (3 1/2-lb) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
1 lb shallots, thinly sliced
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar


Cook bacon in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain and reserve bacon fat in skillet.

While bacon is cooking, pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Brown, beginning with skin sides down, in 2 batches in bacon fat over moderately high heat, turning, about 8 minutes. Transfer chicken as browned with tongs to a plate and pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet.

Add shallots to skillet and cook over moderately low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and pale golden, about 10 minutes.

Remove lid and cook shallots, stirring, until deep golden, about 10 minutes more. Add garlic and 1 cup water to skillet and boil, stirring, 1 minute.

Return chicken to skillet, turning pieces to coat, then arrange them skin sides up and gently simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through and garlic is tender, about 30 minutes.

Transfer chicken with tongs to a serving dish. Add vinegar to sauce and boil, uncovered, mashing garlic with back of a spoon, until slightly thickened. Season sauce with salt and pepper and pour over chicken, then sprinkle with bacon.