Mascarpone and Sun-Dried Tomato Puff Pastry

December 25, 2013

Just trust me on this one.  It’s a great little nibbly-treat for any occasion.

The goods:

1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry, thawed

1 tub (8oz) mascarpone cheese, softened

handful of sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted (soaked in warm water for at least twenty minutes), drained, patted dry, and chopped

shredded parmesan cheese

extra virgin olive oil

dried oregano, thyme, basil

coarse kosher salt (optional)

 

There’s a couple different form factors you can use here – and these work for any sort of puff pastry treat. I’ll go over both.

THE BRAID:

– Unfold your puff pastry on a lightly floured surface or a sheet of parchment paper.  Press the seams together and smooth it out.

– spread a generous amount (roughly half your tub) of mascarpone onto the middle third.

– sprinkle on some sun-dried tomato.  press it gently into the mascarpone.

– sprinkle on some parmesan.  You don’t want a huge mound of filling, so be gentle.

– make slices in the other two thirds of the puff pastry, perpendicular to the filling, about a finger’s width thick.  you should end up with two fringed sides, and a slab of filling in the middle.

– alternating sides, fold each slice of puff pastry over the filling so it ends up looking like a pretty braid.

– brush a little olive oil over the top and sprinkle with oregano, thyme, and sea salt, if desired

– Place on greased cookie sheet, or if you’ve been working on a sheet of parchment paper, put the whole thing, paper and all, on a cookie sheet

– Bake in a preheated oven according to package directions, until golden brown and crispy.

– Let cool, then slice up and enjoy

THE SWIRL

– Unfold pastry, pinch together seams, smooth out

– spread mascarpone (you might need a little more than half the tub here) over entire sheet, leaving 1 inch at the top and bottom

– sprinkle on tomato, pressing gently into the cheese

– sprinkle on parmesan, oregano, and thyme

– starting at the top, roll the whole sheet towards you

– smooth out your pastry log, then slice into about 3/4-inch slices

– place cut sides up onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets

– bake in preheated oven according to directions until golden and beautiful

 

Enjoy =)

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Breakfast Carbonara – Not for the faint of heart!

November 30, 2013

This came about as I was rooting in a friend’s fridge for something to eat – I am trying to do more of the “invite myself over and I’ll cook for you” because it gets me out of my house and hanging out with people, and also because I can scam a free meal out of it. =)

Measurements are completely approximate, and honestly this is a pretty simple dish so feel free to play with it.  What I made was 5 good-sized servings.

The goods:

6-8 slices of applewood bacon, chopped

8-ish links raw breakfast sausage links, casing removed (I think what I used was some sort of maple flavored sausage)

about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of chorizo (or chourico, depending on where you are), ground or chopped

1 large onion, peeled and sliced thin.

1 small head of garlic, peeled and minced (Yes, I said a HEAD of garlic.  All of it.  I like garlic, okay?)

1 lb pasta – any shape you like.  Traditionally carbonaras are done with long noodles, but I like tube pastas better for holding sauce.  Penne would be great, so would rigatoni or fusili.  This time I used “campanelle”, which came out to be a very pretty flowery shape.

Seasonings: salt, pepper, dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, paprika, crushed red peppers, whatever you like

4 eggs, beaten

Some cheese! (Parmesan would be lovely, of course.  I had some sharp cheddar and provolone.)

The method:

Get a big pot of water boiling to cook your pasta in.  While you’re waiting for water to boil, you can be doing all your chopping.

In a big skillet on medium-ish heat, cook your bacon.  Go relatively gently on it to render out all that lovely bacon fat, because THAT is what you’re cooking everything else in.  Cook the bacon until it’s good and dark and crispy, then remove it from the pan.

Oh, at some point in here, hopefully your water will be boiling, so go ahead and add your pasta to it.  Give it a good stir and cook it to al-dente, so somewhere around 10 minutes of boiling, but check the instructions on the package first to be safe.

Crank the heat on the skillet up to medium-high and add your onions.  Cook onions until soft and lightly caramelized, then add your garlic.  Saute for about a minute.

Add your sausage, breaking up the chunks with a wooden spoon or spatula. Do the same with the chorizo/chourico.  Once the meat is cooked through, add the bacon back in.

Hopefully by this point your pasta is done cooking and drained (reserving the pasta liquid).  Add the pasta into your pan (This is why you always use the biggest skillet you have!) and mix everything all up.  Add some of the pasta water if you want things a bit looser.  Add some salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, and dried thyme (or whatever herbs you’d like) to taste.  Stir and heat through, adding pasta water if it’s too dry (You honestly shouldn’t need to add more than a cup/a cup and a half of liquid)

TURN OFF THE HEAT.  Then add your beaten eggs to the pan and stir it in.  The residual heat from the pan and pasta will cook the eggs until you have a lovely gooey sauce.  But you know what?  If you have too much heat and the eggs scramble, it’s totally cool.  It is breakfast, after all.

Scoop this lovely mixture out into bowls or plates and top with cheese.

Enjoy! (Though perhaps pair it with a nice salad; this is an AWFULLY rich meal.)

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Garlicky Collard Greens

November 28, 2013

So okay, I will admit, for a very long time I thought the only way to prepare collard greens was the southern way – stewed for like DAYS (okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration) in an intensely flavorful, salty broth that involved ham hocks and a whole lot of love. A few years back I discovered Brazilian and Kenyan cuisine, in roughly that order, and lo and behold, collard greens were simply sauteed and they were DELICIOUS. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good helping of stewed collards (and the resulting pot likker) but sauteed is much faster, and as I’m so busy these days, anything that gets food into my mouth faster?  It’s a good thing.

The goods:

1 bunch collard greens

minced garlic (I get mine from a jar, but even if you mince your own, the amount is up to you – and I use a fairly ridiculous amount)

salt, pepper, to taste

olive oil and/or butter

The method:

Get that stem out of the leaves any way you see fit (I usually just rip it out by hand, but you can cut it out if you like that better) and chop your leaves.  I usually stack a few on top of each other and finely slice them – think like chiffonade on basil, but with GIGANTIC COLLARD LEAVES HOLY CRAP.

Heat a few glugs of oil and maybe a pat of butter in your biggest skillet until the butter is melted and the oil is barely shimmery.

Drop in your garlic, stir furiously for a few seconds.

Add your shredded/chopped greens in handfuls, stirring between each addition.  This gives your leaves a chance to wilt down a little before adding the next batch.  Also, I’ve found that spring-loaded tongs (with silicone tips, if you’re worried about the surface of your skillet) are fantastic for sauteeing greens.  Stirring with a spoon or spatula invariably results in my flinging food across the stovetop, but with the tongs I can toss, mix, and stir to my heart’s content and the food stays inside the pan.

Sautee to desired level of doneness – I’ve had them just barely wilted, cooked all the way through, and limp-on-its-way-to-stewed.  I’ve liked it in every form.  Add salt and pepper to taste. (And a bit of red pepper flake, if you’re me, because why not?)

This also works delightfully well with kale, by the way.  I like to punch up the kale by adding a little splash of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar right at the end.

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Eggplant Relish

October 6, 2013

Okay, so before we get any further, let me reassure you that this is in no way related to that bright green pickly goop you put on your hot dogs.  (Though this eggplant relish *would* be fantastic on a hot dog, just sayin’)  I’m calling it an eggplant relish because… well, I don’t know what else to call it.  It’s somewhere between an agrodulce and a caponata (and I’m not entirely clear on the difference between those two to begin with) so to me, it’s now a relish.  Let’s just roll with that, shall we?

So I made this some time ago, as part of a “make your own bruschetta” spread for a party.  It went with some homemade basil pesto, sliced tomatoes, sliced bread, and sliced fresh mozzarella.  It was so good.  Eggplant is just fantastic for soaking up flavor and bringing out other flavors.  And getting lovely and mushy and DELICIOUS.  So, here we go.  Apologies for lack of any sort of measurements, but you’re probably used to that by now.

The goods:

1 medium-ish eggplant, diced into little bitty pieces (I’d say no bigger than 1/2 inch cubes.)

1 large yellow onion, diced

salt, pepper

balsamic vinegar

sugar

red wine (optional)

extra virgin olive oil (okay, you can use any, but I have a fondness for the EVOO)

The method:

You need your biggest skillet/frying pan.  More surface area = awesome.

Get that heated around medium, drizzle in the oil two or three times around the pan.  Add your onions and caramelize them til they’re light golden.  Add your eggplant, turn up the heat a little, saute until it starts to brown.

Splash in a good amount of balsamic – don’t cover everything, but seriously some good glugs.  Don’t be afraid if it looks like you’ve overdone it – the longer it cooks the more it reduces to a lovely syrupy sweet awesomeness. Heck, splash in some wine too if you feel like it. Sprinkle on some sugar, just a little on top. (Use a bit more sugar if you’ve also added wine.)

— Optional extras at this time: dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme.

Stir it all, and simmer, stirring occasionally.  Simmer until everything has reduced practically away.  Simmer until everything is mushy and soft and you just can’t TAKE it anymore because your kitchen smells like onions and balsamic and love.  Simmer until there’s almost no liquid left in your pan.

Cool it down, add some salt and pepper if it needs it, and go to town.  Great on bread, fish, chicken, crackers … well, pretty much anything, I’d say.  Enjoy!

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Lazy Comfort Food: Chicken and Broccoli Rice

October 2, 2013

Listen, I have nothing against those Lipton Sides things (you know, rice or pasta, seasonings included, just add water and butter).  But every now and then I think… you know, it’s not that hard to make for real, and then at least I can pronounce most of what I’m putting in my body.  I’m also INCREDIBLY lazy, and oftentimes after a long day of cooking at work – I don’t want to make anything that takes actual effort.  You’ve been there too, I’m sure.  In the past, that’s when I’d just order takeout, but times are a bit lean for me right now, and again, with the “being able to pronounce what I’m putting into my mouth” – yeah, cooking at home is the right option.

So I happened to have some leftover fried chicken.  I also had rice, broccoli, and chicken base.  See where I’m going with this?  Good.

The Goods:

1 cup (ish?) rice

several handfuls of broccoli, trimmed to bite-sized pieces.

2 (cooked) chicken thighs, skin and bone removed and meat shredded

chicken base (2tsp ish?) (or chicken stock)

The method:

Grab your favorite saucepan and whack it on the stove.

Add rice, cover with about an inch of liquid. (So – chicken stock, if you have it.  Or water, if you’re using chicken base/bouillon)

Cover and heat on medium-high until boiling.  (At this point, if all you’ve got in the pan is water and rice, add your chicken base/bouillon)  Stir.

Replace cover, turn the heat down till it’s at a simmer.

Shred your chicken, trim your broccoli.  Stir it in as you finish each thing.

When the rice is cooked and everything is heated through, you’ve got dinner!  Stir thoroughly, dish it out, and chow down. (I ended up with two very generous portions)

Also fantastic topped with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

 

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Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

August 11, 2013

I feel like so many people are intimidated by chocolate dipped strawberries because they’ve heard the stories about how hard it is to work with chocolate, or they just automatically think – “eek, it’s candy, it’s too complicated” when really none of that is true. Yes, chocolate can be temperamental, but if you go gently with the heat and don’t try to make it fancy, you’ll be just fine.  Honest. So I urge you to try chocolate dipped strawberries on your own sometime.  It’ll be great, it’s fun, and then you’re not paying ridiculous chocolate-store markup for something so easy.

The goods:

1 11.5 oz bag semisweet chocolate morsels (A heck of a lot easier than chopping chocolate.)

canola oil or shortening – 1 tablespoon, TOPS (and this is optional, but I find it gives my chocolate a bit more smoothness once it re-hardens)

2 pounds strawberries

parchment paper

The method:

Okay, so I used to swear by a double boiler for melting chocolate (or just a bowl set on top of a smaller pot with about an inch of water simmering in it, but don’t let the bowl touch the water) but honestly – yesterday I melted the chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave and it was still fine.  What you want to do is keep stirring, no matter what heat medium you use.  So that means that if you’re being lazy and using the microwave, stop EVERY MINUTE and stir the tar out of that bowl.  Around minute 2 or so when everything’s actually melted but maybe not totally smooth, you can add in your oil or shortnening.  But remember, go easy on it.  A little goes a long way, and if you add to much your chocolate will never set up right.

So once your chocolate is all nice and velvety and smooth, start dipping your berries.  Here’s the important thing: Make sure your strawberries are DRY before they get anywhere near the chocolate.  Water will cause your chocolate to seize up, and it will ruin everything.  So use a towel or paper towels to blot your strawberries if you have to, but they have GOT TO BE DRY.  Okay, so grab the stem/stem end, gather up all the leaves towards you, and dunk your berry gently into the chocolate.  Shake off the excess as best as you can, and get it onto some parchment paper (parchment paper spread onto a cookie sheet is the best.).  Now go ahead and do that for all your berries.  If your chocolate starts lumping up or generally not behaving the way you want it to, you can reheat your chocolate until it behaves itself again.

Once all your strawberries are dipped, you want them to set.  If you are at all able to, get them into the fridge (still on the pans, so you need a whole lot of flat surface to get them to.)

Give them a few hours, until the chocolate is set again, and plate up and enjoy. =)

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Sweet Potato and Corn Hash

August 3, 2013

I was over at a friend’s house for dinner last night, and she was kind enough to let me raid her kitchen and iron-chef us a quick and simple dinner.  And, really, who am I to turn down sweet potato?  Oh, and just to note – there are NO measurements or amounts in this recipe because you can and should scale it to how many people you’re feeding, how much you want, and any other considerations you might have.  It’s a simple recipe, really, folks, so do please play with it.

The goods:

– sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch ish cubes.

– corn (i really prefer fresh, if you can get it – it’s not hard to cut the kernels off the cob.  in a pinch, frozen will do.  avoid canned.)

– garlic, minced

– onion, peeled and julienned

– herbs: i like sage, dill, and rosemary, but feel free to also play with thyme, and oregano.  dried or fresh, up to you.

– salt and pepper to taste

– maple syrup (optional)

– good olive oil

– eggs (optional)

The method:

– before you do ANYTHING else, process your sweet potato and cook it.  You can either boil it or roast it.  I really love the flavor that develops when you roast it (toss with a little oil first and for god’s sake, grease your baking sheet) but if you don’t want to heat up your kitchen that much, boiling is fine.  Either way, cook it until a knife goes in and out easily from any ol’ piece.

– Caramelize your onion with a smidge of your olive oil in the biggest dang cooking vessel you have.  Wok, giant skillet, electric griddle, whatever.  You want a LOT of surface area.

– Add your corn and garlic once your onions are nice and brown and sweet.  Keep everything moving.

– Add the sweet potatoes once they’re cooked.  Add salt, pepper, herbs to taste.

– If you want to punch the sweetness, splash in some maple syrup.  The real stuff, please.

– Once all the ingredients are incorporated, let it sit.  Seriously.  You want to develop a little bit of a crust on the bottom of the food.  Or at least, I like it that way.

– Serve with fried or poached egg (My preference is to keep the yolks runny so you can create a glorious oozy hodgepodge on your plate)

Enjoy!

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Slow-Cooked Turkey Chili

July 28, 2013

I have a very unhealthy relationship with turkey chili.  It’s one of my favorite things ever, and I pretty much crave it all the time.  So I figured it was about time I actually figured out a recipe for it.  So chili is a very touchy subject for many people, depending on whether you like the kind that’s more like a soup, or the kind that’s very thick and is basically just meat and seasonings.  I like it to be somewhere in between – if it’s too soupy, it’s no good, but I do like vegetables and stuff in it.  So take that how you will.

The goods:

1 large red or yellow onion, diced

2 green peppers, seeded and diced

1 entire celery heart, leaves removed, trimmed and diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 14.5 oz can tomato puree (crushed tomato is just fine)

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (or diced tomatoes with chilies)

1 package ground turkey (I think they come in like 20-oz packages these days?)

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 or 2 cans diced chilies (I think I used 2 4 oz cans)

salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, crushed red pepper, paprika, ground chipotles

a dash of ground cinnamon

The method:

In a big ol’ skillet or wok, brown your turkey.  (This is particularly pleasant if you’ve got a nonstick wok, because you don’t really even need any oil.  If you don’t have a nonstick, heat up a tablespoon or two of oil before you add your meat)

Meanwhile, dump your canned stuff into your slow cooker.  Once the turkey’s cooked, drain off any fat that’s accumulated and add the turkey to the canned stuff.  Saute your veggies and garlic in your still-hot skillet/wok until the onions are translucent.  Add those to the slow cooker as well.

Add a couple heaping tablespoons of chili powder and cumin, and dashes of your other spicy stuff as you see fit.  Stir the whole lovely mess together and cook on low for 6ish hours or high for 4ish hours.  Taste, re-season as desired.

Serve topped with sour cream or shredded cheese, over rice, or with cornbread.  Enjoy =)

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Summery Panzanella

July 14, 2013

This is a great salad for a hot day, when the thought of turning on any cooking appliance just makes you want to flop into a pool and stay there until the winter freeze.  All you need is some patience and a knife.

The goods:

vine-ripe or heirloom tomatoes, chopped.  I leave them in fairly good-sized chunks.  As long as they’re bite-sized, they’re good enough.

cucumber, chopped (to about the same size as the tomatoes).  I prefer seedless English cucumbers, but go with whatever.

green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

celery, chopped

red onion, diced (since onions are so strong, I would cut them up quite a bit finer than everything else.)

kalamata olives, cut in half

capers, drained

red wine vinegar

extra virgin olive oil

salt, pepper, dried oregano, dried thyme

croutons (used bagged croutons if you like – I’m awfully lazy these days, so I certainly did.)

 

The method:

Mix however much you want of each of the veggies into a big bowl.  Drizzle with vinegar and oil, toss to coat.  season to taste. Just before serving, mix in the croutons.

Variations: punch up the flavor with a little caper brine.  Add protein by mixing in chopped chicken or chunked tuna.  Make it really pop with some minced fresh basil.

Enjoy!

 

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Chicken Tortilla “Soup” – Slow Cooker Style

July 14, 2013

So Rachael Ray has this term she uses: “stoup.” It’s a soup that’s thick enough to be a stew.  I like that.  Broth-y soups are great, but honestly, if the soup is my entire meal (which it often is) then I want it to have some body, have that “stick to your ribs” kinda feeling.  Yeah, so this recipe – at least the way I make it – is a “stoup.” And I love it.

The Goods:

– 1 lb (or so) cooked chicken breast, shredded or chopped

– 1 15oz can crushed tomatoes

– 1 10oz can enchilada sauce (I know, I know, I always make my own mole for real enchiladas.  But this is a soup.  And I’m getting lazy.)

– 1 large onion, chopped

– 1 large green bell pepper, chopped

– 2 cloves garlic, minced (or go with more if they’re little or you just like a lot of garlicky goodness.  I think I ended up using 4)

– 1 10oz bag frozen corn (use canned kernels if you like, just drain them first)

– 1 14.5 oz black beans, drained and rinsed

– 7-8 corn tortillas, or a few handfuls of tortilla chips

– 1 4oz can tomato paste

– 1 14.5oz can chicken stock (unsalted/low sodium if you can get it)

– 2ish cups water

– chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, black pepper (about 1 teaspoon of each except for the black pepper.  I eyeball it, and go with just a few grinds of black pepper from my pepper mill… maybe about 1/4 teaspoon ish)

– red pepper flake/chipotle powder/cayenne pepper (optional, and to taste.  I used all three because… well, I’m me.)

– 1 bay leaf (totally optional)

 

The method:

Everything in the pot, except for the tortillas.  Stir well and cover. Cook in your slow cooker on Low for 6 to 8 hours or High for 3 to 4.

About a half hour/45 minutes before serving, crumble/tear your tortillas or chips into the mixture.  It’s okay if it’s chunky, the tortillas will dissolve beautifully and thicken your soup up perfectly.

 

At time of service, stir well, and dole out into your favorite bowl.  Top with sour cream, fresh chive, fresh avocado, and/or shredded cheese.

I love this soup.  It’s hearty and rich and tasty, and this batch fed me for an entire week.  Enjoy!

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