Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bourbon Pecan Tart

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I love spending time with my family, eating great food and of course Black Friday shopping! After a short school week last week I headed to St. Louis where I spent my Thanksgiving break with my family. Thursday was a day full of cooking, eating, and eating some more. Instead of a classic pecan pie we used the below bourbon pecan tart recipe from Cooking Light. I have made this recipe numerous times and it never disappoints. This is super easy recipe that is perfect for any holiday (or regular day) dessert.

Bourbon Pecan Tart
** from Cooking Light

1 c. light brown sugar
3/4 c. dark corn syrup
3 T. flour
2 T. bourbon
2 T. molasses
1 T. butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
2/3 cup pecan halves (you may want to add extra)
refridgerated pie crust
1/2 ounce bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 10 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in pecans. Roll dough into a 13-inch circle; fit into a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray. Trim excess crust using a sharp knife. Spoon pecan mixture into prepared crust. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Place chocolate in a Ziplock bag; microwave on HIGH 1 minute or until melted. Stir until smooth and cut the edge of the bag. Drizzle chocolate over tart.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Perennial Virant

Last night Brady and I celebrated my birthday at Perennial Virant in Lincoln Park. We had an amazing meal; for about an hour and half I even forgot that I am no longer in my 20's! I loved everything that we ordered. The menu is designed for sharing with small, medium and large plates which I am a big fan of. We ordered 2 small plates, 1 medium and then we each got a large. It sounds like a lot of food but it was the perfect amount for the two of us, we both left satisfied but not stuffed. I still had plenty of room for the birthday cupcakes my friend Thru brought out to the bar later!

For our small plates, we ordered the Crispy Carnaroli Rice which was fried cheese curds served with a sweet onion vinaigrette and pea shoots. Think a more sophisticated version of mozzarella sticks! Our other small plate was the special for the day, Nantucket scallops caramelized in a sorghum butter and served over wilted spinach and candied walnuts.

If I was forced to choose a favorite, I would say our medium plate was the best. We ordered barramundi served over a sweet potato puree and brussel sprouts with a bacon and cranberry vinaigrette. I love brussel sprouts and the combination of the cranberry and bacon made them beyond good. This dish was so good that Brady has now been converted to a brussel sprout fan!

For our large plates, I had grilled pork with wheatberries, broccoli and mushrooms and Brady ordered the sturgeon. I really liked my dish but Brady's definitely got extra point for being interesting. His sturgeon was served with braised beef and was a unique play on surf and turf. I was very impressed with all of the flavor combinations in the food that we had and I loved how the chef incorporates local seasonal ingredients from area farms. This is definitely a restaurant we will be going back to. I am thinking that this would be a great place to bring my parents when they come visit before the holidays!

Sorry, no pictures of the food. You'll just have to trust me that it was all blog worthy! But here is a cute picture from the bar where we continued the birthday festivities :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pasta with Corn, Burrata, Pancetta, and Chilies

I love it when you can make a great dinner on the cheap and quickly. There are days (usually Sunday's) when I like to make something that's a little more time consuming, but sometimes it's really nice to be able to make a great dinner in under 20 minutes. Last Friday night, Brady and I made the below pasta recipe and it was perfect- cheap, fast and tasted great!

Picture taken from Une-deux Senses- mine didn't turn out well.
Pasta with Corn, Burrata, Pancetta, and Chilies
** adapted from Une-duex Senses

Serves 2-4 (depending on how much you eat!)
Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes

1/2 pound dried or fresh pappardelle or fettuccine ***
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, plus extra to garnish
olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta, diced
1/2 can corn (or if it's in season, 2 ears of fresh corn)
4 dried red chilies, seeds removed and cut into small pieces
1/2 c. Parmesan, shredded
1/4 pound burrata

Cook the pasta according to directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

While the pasta is cooking, place the bread crumbs, basil, and a little salt in a food processor; grind until smooth. Drizzle the bread crumbs with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and process until incorporated. Using a non-stick skillet, toast the bread crumb mixture until lightly browned and dry, set aside.

For the sauce, heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the pancetta and cook for 2 minutes or until slightly browned. Add the corn and chilies and cook on medium for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cooked pasta, Parmesan, and 1/2 cup of pasta water. If needed add the extra pasta water. To serve, garnish the pasta with a sprinkling of the toasted bread crumbs, a couple of chunks of burrata, and torn basil leaves.

*** I would highly recommend the Trader Joe's brand of lemon pepper pappardelle, it added so much extra flavor to the dish.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lamb Tagine with Chickpeas and Apricots

I recently came across the below recipe for lamb tagine while flipping through Bon Appetit magazine at the airport. The recipe reminded me of a great halibut tagine dish that I had at a cooking class in Sonoma and I knew I had to give the recipe a try. It was beyond good. Brady and I absolutely loved this recipe. I know lamb sounds a little intimidating and expensive but this dish was so cheap and easy to make. I made the whole dish for under $20 and while it may cook for awhile (almost 2 hours), all you have to do is brown the meat and throw everything in the pot to cook and 2 hours later you have a restaurant quality dish.

One thing to point out, Ras-el-Hanout might be a challenge to find. I looked at Whole Foods where I bought the lamb and they didn't have it. I ended up having to go to a spice shop to buy the Moroccan spice blend. It can be made at home if you have a spice mill but if you have a spice shop around you I think that's the best way to go. I got a small baggie for about $2 plus it was fun to check out all of the spices available.

Lamb Tagine with Chickpeas and Apricots
** adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 4
Prep/Cook Time: 2 hours

1 can chickpeas
4 garlic cloves (2 whole, 2 chopped)
2 T. olive oil
1.5 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 large onion, diced
3 tsp Ras-el-Hanout spice blend
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp chopped peeled ginger
1 cup canned diced tomatoes with juices
2 cups (or more) low-salt chicken stock
1/4 cup halved dried apricots
steamed couscous
chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in a large heavy pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Working in a couple batches, brown lamb on all sides, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer lamb to a bowl and set aside. Add the chopped onion to the pot; reduce heat to medium, season with salt and pepper, and saute until soft and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic, Ras-el-Hanout, cinnamon and ginger. Stir for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and lamb and any juices from the lamb. Bring to boil. Add the stock and return to a boil, reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer until lamb is tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Make sure to stir occasionally.

Stir in chickpeas and apricots; simmer until heated through, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon couscous into bowls and spoon lamb over top. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.