Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Seared Scallops with Tomato Cream Linguine

Last night Brady and I accomplished something that we are both very proud of, we successfully made scallops for the first time. To be fair I should say that Brady cooked them and I watched as he pan seared them to perfection. He didn't overcook them, under cook them, burn them, or mess them up in some way that would have caused disappointment after shelling out $14 for them.  Let me just say it again, they were perfect.  Maybe it was the fact that Brady watched various tutorials on how to cook scallops (kind of nerdy but apparently helpful), whatever it was, they turned out great.

Apprehension about cooking the scallops aside, this recipe was incredibly easy and quick to toss together.  Plus it was adapted from a Cooking Light recipe so it's relatively healthy.  The sauce on the pasta is a very light cream sauce with a hint of lime and ginger which really compliment the sweetness of the scallops.  What we realized and what I think the real key to the success of this dish is, plan to under cook the scallops because they will continue to cook once you take them off the heat and in turn they will be cooked perfectly!

 Seared Scallops with Tomato Cream Linguine
** adapted from Framed Cooks who adapted a Cooking Light recipe.
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Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

1 c. dry white wine
1/4 c. minced shallots
2 T. fresh lime juice
1 T. fresh minced ginger
2 T. whipping cream
1 T. butter
1 plum tomato, chopped
salt and pepper
1 1/2 c. linguine
3/4 pound large sea scallops
chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Combine the first four ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, start boiling a large pot of water for the linguine. Once the wine mixture is boiling let it cook till reduced to about a 1/2 cup (about 5 minutes).  Drain mixture into a bowl, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids.

Once the large pot of water is boiling, add linguine and cook for about 8 minutes, or until al dente.  While the pasta is cooking return wine mixture to the saucepan and add cream, cooking over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add butter, stirring until melted.  Add chopped tomato and season with salt and pepper.  Reduce to low.

Heat a large skillet, adding enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Pat scallops dry with a paper towel and then season with salt and pepper.  Once the pan is good and hot arrange the scallops in the pan and cook for about 2 minutes on each side.

Drain the pasta water, leaving about 1/4 cup water remaining in the pan. Stir in the tomato cream sauce.  Dish pasta into bowls, top with a few scallops and garnish with chopped parsley.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Greek Stuffed Chicken

The other night Brady and I both wanted to make dinner but we were not in the mood for anything too labor intensive.  Brady found a recipe for Greek Stuffed Chicken on the We Are Not Martha blog and it sounded perfect. Their recipe used words like "a handful of," "a bunch of," and "a splash of"- no measuring required, just tossing stuff in a bowl and spooning it into a piece of chicken.  This recipe is about as easy as it gets, in terms of effort level it's just a step above opening the freezer and pulling out a Lean Cuisine.  Besides being easy to prepare the stuffed chicken tasted great!

Greek Stuffed Chicken
** adapted from We Are Not Martha
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Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 40 minutes 

half a red onion, chopped
small roma tomato, chopped
a handful of feta cheese, crumbled
a bunch of kalamata olives, pitted and halved
handful of parsley, chopped
splash of balsamic vinegar
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Set aside while you prepare the chicken.

Cut slits in both chicken breasts, being careful not to cut all the way through. Spoon the onion/tomato/cheese mixture into the chicken breasts. Season the chicken breasts with pepper. 

Cover a small pan or baking dish with foil. Spray the pan with PAM cooking spray. Place the stuffed chicken breasts on the pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pozole Verde (Tomatillo and Hominy Braised Pork)

Recently my brother and I took a cooking class at the Chopping Block.  The Chopping Block offers two types of classes, Hands-On or Demonstration.  We opted for the demonstration class so we could relax with a drink while the demonstrating chef prepared the food for us.  I really like this option because in watching the chef I can pay more attention to what they are doing, ask questions about the products and techniques and just enjoy a night out of the kitchen!

We took the Slow Cooking class which was great because all of the recipes could be used in a crock pot for all day cooking or on the stove on low for a few hours.  The Pozole Verde was by far my favorite dish.  It was hearty and perfect for a cold winter night. The demonstrating chef showed us how to make this on the stove using a Le Creuset pot but also said that the recipe would work in a crock pot for 8 hours.  I like the idea of using the crockpot but there is definitly some prep work beforehand, this is not one of those dishes where you can toss everything in to the crock pot, turn it on and 8 hours later you are ready to go.

I made this dish last Sunday, opting for the stovetop version. I can't imagine spending $200 on Le Creuset so I used my fake Le Creuset pot from Marshalls and it turned out great!  My only problem with the dish was that there could have been more sauce. When we had the dish at the Chopping Block it was a bit soupier so I have slightly modified the directions so you have a little more sauce. 

Pozole Verde (Tomatillo and Hominy Braised Pork)
** modified from the Chopping Block Cooking School
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Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes or up to 8 hours in a crockpot

For the Sauce
3small onions
3 garlic cloves
1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
1 to 2 jalapeno's, quartered (leave the seeds in if you want more spice)

2 T. grapeseed oil (or canola oil) ** Don't use olive oil because you need an oil with a larger heat factor
2 pounds pork shoulder or butt, cut into 2 inch cubes (I had the butcher do this for me)
salt and pepper
1 tsp cumin

2 poblano peppers, roasted and cut into strips
1 28 oz. can hominy, drained
1/2 c. cilantro, roughly chopped
salt and pepper

To prepare the sauce set the broiler on high. Place onions, garlic, tomatillos, and jalapeno peppers on a baking sheet. Place under the broiler and cook, turning occasionally until nicely charred, about 6 minutes.  Remove the tray from the oven and transfer items to a blender and puree until smooth.  Set the sauce aside.

To prepare the pork, heat a heavy pot over medium high heat and add oil (just enough to cover the bottom).  Season pork with salt and pepper and sear on all sides until golden brown. Once brown remove pork from the pan and set aside. You may need to do this in multiple batches because you don't want to overcrowd the meet, I did three batches.

Once the meat has all been seared, reduce the heat to medium low and deglaze the pan with the tomatillos sauce, scraping up any bits of pork. Stir in the cumin and then add the pork back to the meat. Allow to cook on medium low for 2 hours.  Or if you were using this crock pot, this is the point where you would add everything to the crockpot and set on low for 6-8 hours.

To roast the pobablo peppers, set the oven to broil.  Cut the poblano peppers in half and place on a baking sheet.  Broil the peppers until slightly charred, about 6 minutes.  Place the peppers in a paper bag for 10 minutes and then take them out and remove the skin.  Cut the peppers into strips and set aside.

After 2 hours, or a 1/2 hour before serving if using the crock pot method, add the hominy and poblano peppers. Right before serving fold in cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pretzel Rolls

I am a huge fan of pretzel rolls.  I honestly deem some restaurants as better solely on the fact that they have pretzel rolls on the menu (having sweet potato fries is also a huge plus). Jerry's, my favorite sandwich shop here in Chicago, serves over 100 different types of sandwiches, all of which can be made on a pretzel roll and they have sweet potato fries, can't beat that!

Last year I came across a recipe for pretzel rolls on Smitten Kitchen and knew I had to give them a shot.  The first time I made the recipe I was pretty certain it would be a failure, everyone talks about how hard it is to work with yeast, my expectations were definitely very low.  I was pleasantly surprised when they worked and tasted exactly the way they were supposed to.  Plus they were incredibly easy and require only basic baking ingredients. I have made these about a half dozen times since then and every time they work. I am going to make a very bold statement and say this is a no-fail recipe, if you follow the directions, you will end up with perfect pretzel rolls!

Pretzel Rolls
** found on Smitten Kitchen, originally posted in Bon Appetite
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Serves 8
Prep/Bake Time: 1 hour 30 mins

2 3/4 c. bread flour
1 envelope quick-rising yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 c. plus 2 T. hot water (125 to 130 degrees)
8 c. water
1/4 c. baking soda
2 T. sugar
1 egg white, beaten
Coarse salt

Combine bread flour, envelope of yeast, teaspoon of salt and teaspoon of sugar in food processor and blend. With machine running, gradually pour hot water through feed slot, adding enough water to form smooth elastic dough. Process one minute to knead. Grease a medium size bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a towel. Let dough rise in warm area until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.

Clear area of counter and sprinkle with flour. Lightly kneed dough on floured surface until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces. Form each piece of dough into a ball. Place dough on baking sheet, flattening each slightly, and then use a serrated knife to cute X in top center of each dough ball. Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes. While you are waiting for dough to rise, boil 8 cups of water in a large saucepan.

Preheat oven to 375. Grease baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Once dough as risen, add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up) to the boiling water. Add 4 rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Use a slotted spoon to flip and then transfer the rolls to the prepared baking sheet, arranging X side up. Repeat with remaining 4 rolls.

Brush rolls with egg white glaze and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake rolls until brown, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pomegranate-Ginger Pork Chops

I'm shocked I am just now posting a pork chop recipe.  Not only are pork chops healthy, but they are great for weeknight dinners because of the short cooking time and are incredibly cheap.  Brady (a huge fan of pork chops) recently found this recipe on We Are Not Martha and not only was the dish a success but the recipe provided some much needed instruction on how to remove pomegranate seeds.  

Last week when I made the Pomegranate White Chocolate Chip cookies I could have really used the instructions that We Are Not Martha provided on how to remove the pomegranate seeds.  My kitchen honestly looked like a crime scene, and the white sweatshirt I was wearing (not smart on my part) did not fare well.  To view the instructions click here.

Pomegranate-Ginger Pork Chops
** modified from We Are Not Martha
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Serves 3
Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes

4 oz POM juice
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 T. light soy sauce
3 tsp ginger, minced
3 tsp garlic (3 cloves), minced
3 boneless pork chops
1/2 fresh pomegranate, opened with seeds removed

Over medium heat, mix POM juice, sugar, cornstarch and red pepper flakes in a medium size saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until a thick syrup forms (about 10 minutes). Set the syrup aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, ginger, and garlic and set aside. Open the pomegranate and remove seeds (use the instructions provided above). 

Add some olive oil to a medium size skillet and heat on medium-high.  Add the pork chops and spoon half of the soy-garlic-ginger mixture on top of each.  Cook for about 4 minutes. Then flip and spoon the remaining sauce over each pork chop.  Cook for another 4 minutes. Remove the pork chops from the skillet.  Turn off the heat and add the syrup mixture to the skillet, stir for a couple of minutes to thicken and scrape up any pork bits.

Spoon the syrup over each of pork chop (you'll have more sauce then you probably need) and sprinkle some pomegranate seeds on top.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I may have failed to mention this, but I love soup. I have tossed around the idea of opening a restaurant serving primarily soup for years- my only dilemma, what do you do during the summer???  Because of this concern and a million others I don't see my business plan coming together anytime soon...I think for the time being I will stick to working on the menu for my imaginary restaurant- that part sounds like the most fun anyway!

If I were to open a soup restaurant here is a soup that I would most definitely include on the menu.  My mom passed along this recipe and it's great.  I love that the dish tastes hearty yet it's also healthy and easy to make.  Serve with a salad and some crusty bread and you have a great winter meal.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
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Serves 6
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

8 c. water
5-6 chicken bouillon cubes
3 c. diced chicken
2 c. diced carrots
2 c. diced celery
1 box instant wild rice
2 T. butter
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 bunch green onions, chopped

Boil water and bouillon. Add carrots and celery and cook until done. Add the wild rice and seasoning packet and cook accordingly to directions on box. In a skillet, cook mushrooms in butter and then remove. Add chopped onions to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, onions, and cooked chicken to pot with broth and rice.

* To give soup a more homemade taste you can use a roast chicken, remove the meat and then boil the bones in the pot of water with the bouillon cubes, this will give the soup more flavor. Just make sure to remove the bones before adding in the vegetables, rice and chicken.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chicken Quesadilla with Cranberry Salsa

I was so happy to come across this Cooking Light recipe a while back.  Chicken Quesadillas with Cranberry Salsa was a favorite dish of mine at Coyote Grill, a Southwest-inspired restaurant in Kansas City. I had tried to recreate the dish but it just never turned out quite as good.  Then I found this recipe and honestly it is just as good, if not better!

Chicken Quesadillas with Cranberry Salsa
** Adapted from Cooking Light
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Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 15 minutes

1 c. whole-berry cranberry sauce
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
2 T. chopped green onions
1 T. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 Anjou pear, cored and finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1/4 c. sliced green onions
3/4 c. shredded light Monterey Jack cheese
4 (8 in. four tortillas)
1 cups chopped cooked chicken (or turkey)

To prepare salsa, combine first 7 ingredients. Cover and chill.

To prepare quesadillas, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add 1/4 cup sliced onions to pan; saute for about 3 minutes or until tender. Remove onions from the pan.

Reduce heat to medium and coat skillet with cooking spray. Add a tortilla to the pan, top with half the cheese, half the chicken, and half the green onions, and another tortilla.  Cook for about 2 minutes and then carefully flip and cook the other side for an additional 2 minutes are until the cheese is melted.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.  Cut each quesadilla into 6 wedges and serve with the cranberry salsa.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pomegranate White Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's holiday baking season!  I love this time year and all of the good food and fun festivities it brings. The other day I came across a recipe for these cookies on Two Peas and Their Pod and I thought it sounded like the perfect recipe to kick off my holiday baking.  I made them last night and brought them into work for a friends birthday and came home with empty tupperware, a sure sign that they were a winner!  The cookies were soft and chewy and the combination of the white chocolate and pomegranate seeds was unique and a nice change from the typical holiday cookies I usually make. 

Pomegranate White Chocolate Chip Cookies
** from Two Peas and Their Pod
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Makes about 2 1/2 dozen
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. old fashioned oats
1 c. white chocolate chips, or white chocolate chunks
1 c. pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

In bowl, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.

Stir in the oats and white chocolate chips. Spoon dough, about 1 tablespoon per cookie, onto the cookie sheet. Tuck about 6 pomegranate seeds in each cookie.  (I know seems tedious but it's the only to keep the dough from turning pink). Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are golden on the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool on cookie sheet for two minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Grilled Halibut with Fennel Puree

During our recent trip to Seattle Brady and I ate at the excellent restaurant Tilth. Chef Maria Hines, a winner of the prestigious James Beard Award, menu focuses on organic sustainable foods. We had the Chefs Tasting Menu and everything that we ate was absolutely delicious.  One of my favorite dishes was grilled halibut served over a fennel puree. I have been wanting to recreate this dish ever since we had it back in September, we finally made the dish on Sunday night and it turned out great!

If you haven't checked out the William-Sonoma site they have a huge collection of recipes. I recently came across a halibut dish on their website and thought that it would be similar to what we had at Tilth. The William-Sonoma recipe included a recipe for fennel puree but I already had a Giada DeLaurentis recipe that  I had been meaning to try.  I mixed the two recipes and while it wasn't quite the same caliber as Maria Hines dish it was definitely a success.

Grilled Halibut with Fennel Puree
** Adapted from Williams-Sonoma and Food Network
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Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

Grilled Halibut
2 skinless halibut fillets, each about 6 oz. and 1 inch thick
1 T. olive oil
1 T. chopped fresh chervil, plus more for garnish (or parsley if you can't find chervil)
1 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
Grated zest of 1/2 orange
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Fennel Puree
2 large fennel bulbs
1 medium potato
2 garlic cloves
2 cups chicken broth
1 cups milk
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese (you could substitute light cream cheese)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Brush the halibut fillets with the olive oil. In a small bowl, stir together the chervil, fennel seeds, orange zest, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture over the halibut fillets, distributing it evenly so that all sides are seasoned. Set aside while you prepare the fennel puree.

Trim the fennel bulbs of their stalks and bottom root. Halve the fennel and slice each half into 1/4-inch thick slices. Peel the potato, halve, and thinly slice. Place the fennel, potatoes, garlic, chicken broth, and milk in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and continue cooking until the fennel and potatoes are soft, about 20 to 30 minutes.

When the fennel is about cooked heat a grill pan and lightly coat with olive oil. Grill the halibut fillets, turning once, until opaque throughout, about 4 minutes per side.

Once fennel is soft, drain the liquid. Place the fennel mixture in a food processor or use an immersion blender and puree.  Add the mascarpone cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish the fish with chervil and serve immediately with the fennel puree alongside.