Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Creamy Pasta 3 Ways

I bought heavy cream for the first time last week ("40% heavy cream"- whatever that really means). I was in the mood for a creamy pasta dish, & was excited to find it in cholov yisrael. Anyways, in the matter of a week I used it 3 times :-)... A little goes a long way, & really boosts up the flavor & texture of any pasta dish. It was AMAZING, & I'll have to buy it more often!  My real inspiration was to make vodka sauce but I didn't have vodka- oh well. The first dish was penne with leek & artichoke cream sauce, the second was a quick pink sauce, & the third was a cheesy baked farro. As I usually am, I made these recipes without an actual recipe, rather just what came to me at the time, & so I am educatingly guessing (yes!) the measurements :-)

Penne with Leeks & Artichoke Cream Sauce
-2 leeks, sliced the long way, & cut into semicircles
-1 can of artichokes (in water, not marinated)
-1 clove garlic
-1 heaping tbsp. Earth Balance
-1 tbsp. flour
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-3 tbsp. parmesan cheese + more for serving
-Salt & pepper
-1.5 tbsp. lemon juice
-Minced parsley
-Zest of half a lemon
-Cooked penne (I only used a little less than half of the whole box of cooked pasta)

-Soak the leeks in lukewarm water with a bit of white vinegar (helps to release the dirt)
-Drain the can of artichokes & cut them into thirds (strips), & let drain well in a mesh strainer
-In a large saute pan, heat the Earth Balance (you can add more if you feel it needs)
-Grate the clove of garlic straight into the pan (or finely mince), & then add the leeks. After a minute or 2 add the flour, mix. Saute it until the leeks become tender, sprinkle in salt & pepper. Add the artichokes & then slowly pour in the heavy cream & then the parmesan, all while mixing it with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle in a little nutmeg, black pepper, & a little more salt.
-Add the lemon juice towards the end, & toss in the pasta. Sprinkle 1/2 the lemon zest and parsley on top
-Serve topped with more lemon zest, parsley, and a sprinkle of parmesan on top.

Penne with Pink Sauce
2 friends gave me this idea (shout out- M & D!) & on Saturday night I was starving so whipped this up in literally a few minutes. It's really a take on vodka sauce- minus the vodka, but it tasted great, without the ADDED alcoholic calories!!
-This is the same process as the above recipe, with the Earth Balance, a little flour, then streaming in the heavy cream. Make sure you season with salt & pepper, you don't want a bland pasta! Since I only did 1 bowl of this, it's just the ingredients that matter, not the measurements. The EB & flour usually take on a 1:1 ratio, & then just use as much heavy cream as you would need for however much you will be making. It will thicken because of the flour/butter mixture ("roux"). I used a little nutmeg, it's great in pasta dishes. Sprinkle in a little parmesan, & then stir in marinara sauce= this is the pink!
-Garnish with basil & that is one heck of a bowl :-)

Cheesy Baked Farro
The idea for this one came from Giada, but she goes through like 10 other more complicated steps. What I did was exactly what I usually do for mac & cheese, just I used heavy cream to go with this whole creamy pastas idea.

-Prepare farro according to the bag's directions (Avi did this for me very well). Make sure to season the water with salt
-Preheat the oven to 425
-Finely chop kale or spinach & set aside (1-2 cups should do)
-Make the cheese sauce: saute a tbsp. of EB with 1 tbsp. flour. Slowly stream in 1/4 cup of heavy cream & around 3 tbsp. milk (it can be thinned out a little because you'll be adding cheese). Then stir in 1 cup of shredded cheese blend (I used N&K's Mexican blend) until melted. Sprinkle in some nutmeg, & black pepper
-Combine the farro & kale or spinach in a bowl, & then pour the sauce over it, mix it to combine
-Transfer to a baking dish or tin, & sprinkle a little more shredded cheese over the top
-Bake until set, 15-20 minutes

These are perfect recipes for the 9 days, now that I'm heavy creamed out!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Blueberry Orange Muffins with Streusel Topping

I'm not sure if I ever posted a dessert on my blog??? Less than a handful that's for sure. Anyways, most of those who know me know that I don't love baking (I love eating baked goods though, does that count???) I make challah, and I do love making cookies, but nothing super fancy or anything like that. I had 2 pints of deliciiiiious organic blueberries in my fridge and did NOT want them to go to waste because I would hate throwing that good stuff away. So I decided to make these blueberry muffins, which I've made before, but forgot just how good they are! The orange complements the blueberry so well, & the juice makes them so moist. Since my kitchen gets SO hot, I decided to refrigerate them for the week, & pop one into the microwave when I wanted one. I even gave one to Rosie- she loved them! & I loved watching her eating them (though i can't admit I loved the mess it made!)

P.S. This is a great, quick recipe to make & share- my first batch went so quickly, me and Rosie each had 1 out of the oven, & I sent some to a friend who had a baby. I ended up buying more blueberries & making another batch when my good friend had a baby girl, so I sent some to the hospital for her. They are the perfect thing for new mommies!

Blueberry Orange Muffins with Streusel Topping (adapted from "Meal Leani Yum"- an amazing health food cookbook)
-1 egg + 2 egg whites (or 2 eggs)
-1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup brown sugar)
-3 tbsp. canola oil
-1/2 cup orange juice

-1 tsp. vanilla
-1 tsp. orange zest

-1.5 cups flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
-1.5 tsp. baking powder
-Pinch of salt
-2 cups of blueberries
-2 tbsp. sugar
-1 tbsp. flour

(I did this all in a mixing bowl & used a whisk and spatula to mix)
-Whisk the sugar & vanilla into the eggs. Add the canola, OJ, zest, & vanilla
-Combine the flour, baking powder, & salt & add in 2 additions to the wet ingredients, mix in between until just combined. Rule of thumb with making muffins- don't overmix (yes I know some rules of thumb when it comes to baking!!)

-In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the blueberries, 2 tbsp. sugar, & 1 tbsp. flour & mix. When combined, add it to the batter, & mix.
-Using the same bowl, make the streusel topping:
-1 tbsp. margarine (I used Earth Balance)
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-3/4 tsp. cinnamon
-1/4 cup flour (again, I used the white whole wheat)

-Mix with your fingers for a few minutes, incorporating all the ingredients into the margarine, until it becomes a crumb-like mixture.
-Pour the batter in a 12-cup muffin tin (or a 6-cup large muffin tin), and distribute the streusel evenly over the tops. Bake at 350 for roughly 20 minutes, more or less depending on your oven. Rotate the pan in the middle. Check with a toothpick for doneness (comes out clean)- my oven is not the most even baker so some muffins were done before others so I took them out first, as not to over-bake them. Take the muffins out of the pan immediately and set on a wire rack to cool. Keeping them in the hot muffin pan will just cause the residual heat to keep baking them.

You really don't need to feel THAT guilty about these. Feel free to cut back on the sugar a bit, if you want, especially if the blueberries are sweet, these were. Even if you cut the sugar to half, and they end up not being so sweet on your own, you can make up for that by having a muffin with a spread of peanut butter- healthy fat, & adds great flavor without the guilt.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lamb Sliders with Beer Battered Onion Rings

Salivating can begin... now! Not to toot my own horn, but-- amazing dinner alert!!!!!! Besides for the onion rings being SO addicting (it's a good thing I didn't double the recipe- thank you for only having 2 onions at home), the lamb sliders sound like they are all fancy & complicated but were SO surprisingly not.. like 5 ingredients, and they cook up SO quickly. I never bought lamb before, but was at Aron's in Queens & saw lamb stew- and it made me think up great recipes until I saw the price, so I put it down and right next to it saw ground lamb, greatly priced. I totally should have gotten more than 1 package (did I think I wasn't going to like it on the first try? I like practically everything!)- oh well. Next time I go there I'll stock up. Anyways, the slider idea came together when I saw a package of slider buns sitting right next to the meat counter calling my name. My go-to burger uses ground turkey, & they are so delicious you don't miss the red meat. My only reservation is the amount of time it takes to cook big burgers on my grill pan, & making sure that they are fully cooked (there is no scale when it comes to poultry)! So sliders are really the PERFECT solution!! They cook up so quickly, & there's no poking and prodding them to see if they are done. If you don't like mint, you can add whatever herbs you want. It's that easy.

When I think of lamb, I think Greek, or Mediterranean. What goes with Greek? Feta, yogurt, MINT...- mint! The only one of those ingredients I can  actually utilize with this. So I decided to take the yogurt concept and make a faux-yogurt sauce using light mayo- a mint, garlic aioli if you will (aioli is just a fancy way of saying garlic mayo. The real chefs make aioli/mayonnaise from scratch: eggs, olive oil, garlic- I wasn't exactly going there for a simple weeknight dinner).

As far as the onion rings go, it was totally a whim, aka attempt at using up a lone bottle of beer that was in my fridge for a few months taking up space! Obviously this recipe didn't just come out of my cooking brain, trusty Google lead me to a Cooking Light recipe that I put my own spin on (of course). I HATE beer, but it just gives the batter, and the onions a light texture- I imagine you can substitute the beer for seltzer/sparkling water, it will probably give it the same effect, minus the dark color. A recipe for beer battered onion rings in Cooking Light??? Yes- I was drawn to this recipe because it didn't call for 2 quarts of cooking oil with which to deep fry these bad boys. No, they are par-fried in a tsp. or 2 of oil, then finished in the oven- genius! Ok, I won't exactly hail this recipe to Weight Watchers or anything, but it definitely helps. Of course I was inclined to serve this whole meal with sauteed garlic kale- it goes with everything & immediately boosts the meal up to another level in terms of adding nutrients. Here are the recipes. Make the onion rings first, and while they're baking, tackle the sliders.

Beer Battered Onion Rings
-2 medium sized onions, sliced
-2/3 cup flour (I used white whole wheat)
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/4 tsp. paprika
-1/4 tsp. onion powder
-1/4 tsp. black pepper
-1 tsp. garlic powder
-1/3 cup beer (measure out 1/2 cup and then stir until it becomes flat- it will go down to 1/3 cup)
-1 egg white, lightly beaten (SAVE THE YOLK for the slider buns)
-1 tbsp. canola oil

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set a baking rack sprayed with nonstick cooking spray on a baking sheet & set aside.
-Cut the onions into semi-thick slices (not too thick, not too thin), choose 16 of the "best" rounds, and set aside the rest to use a different time.
-Combine the flour and spices in a large bowl. Stir in the beer and the lightly beaten egg white (just whisk it for a minute with the fork). The batter is meant to be thick, but I added a little more beer (water would do) because I felt it was too thick to work with.
-Heat half the oil in a pan (save the rest for the whole process, if you need to add more for next batch). Working with 5 or so onion rings at a time, add them to the batter, using a fork, shake off the excess (catch the ring with the fork and tap it against the bowl to get rid of the excess). Fry 2 minutes max on each side, then transfer directly to the rack.
-When all of the onions are done, spray each one and put in the oven and bake for 15 minutes until they're crispy. Using a baking rack definitely ensures crispiness! Transfer to a bowl, yes they will stay crispy! Indulge! Use the extra mint aioli (see below) for dipping. Double dipping is encouraged!

Lamb Sliders with Mint Aioli
-1 lb. ground lamb
-1 tbsp. light mayonnaise (my moist factor for burgers)
-1 large scallion (2 if they are very thin), finely chopped
-A handful of chopped mint
-1 tbsp. chopped parsley (I'd say a 3 or 4:1 ratio mint:parsley)
-1 minced garlic clove
-salt & pepper
-Shredded romaine
-8 slider buns
-egg yolk & sesame seeds
-Mint aioli (see below)

-Season the meat with salt & pepper, and add all the ingredients. Lightly mix with your hand until everything is incorporated- do not over mix it. It will get tough.
-The pound of lamb can make 8-10 sliders, depending on how small you make them. I made 8. The easiest way to portion out the meat so that all of the sliders are of equal size, is to score the meat in the bowl with your hand into 4 equal portions. Then score each one of those into 2- now you've got 8. Roll each into a ball and flatten slightly. Set aside for a few minutes.
-Heat a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil or a coating of spray. When the pan is hot, add the sliders. They only need 4-5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness. When they have a nice golden brown color, flip. (Obviously if you have an outdoor grill- do it there).

-Toast the slider buns in the oven until warmed through (I added sesame seeds by brushing yolk on each top bun- the yolk from the egg white that you used for the onion rings, and then sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds). I did this on the rack that I used to bake the onion rings on.

Mint Aioli
-1/4 cup mayonnaise
-Juice of half a lemon
-1 small garlic clove, grated (on a Microplane)- [first grate half the clove, mix, and taste test. If the aioli takes on too strong of a garlic flavor, add a little more mayo.]
-Pinch of salt
-Chopped mint

Combine all the ingredients. Assemble burger- spread a dollop of the aioli on the bottom bun, then shredded romaine, burger, more aioli, and then the top bun. Push down slightly on the burger so that it stays together. We each had 3 & then I froze 2 for another time.

The finished plate:

This is a real steakhouse meal- minus the cost! Obviously it could be done with any kind of ground meat (turkey, chicken, beef) but the lamb was juicy & couldn't be simpler. They came together so fast. I can't promise I'll be making the onion rings a staple, because it did take some time (first times a charm!), but they were a treat nonetheless.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Herbed Chicken Fingers

This is a great and quick recipe for your Shabbos table, especially for the summer because it doesn't require a lot of oven time! When one says breaded, the mind immediately thinks fried, heavy, etc. However, the use of herbs & lemon zest in this recipe makes it less heavy on the breading, & I baked them instead of frying. There's no art to dredging, but it is important to have 3 distinct dishes or plates to put all the ingredients on separately:
There are a few rules of thumb for dredging. One being the following 3 ingredients:
1) flour
2) eggs
3) breading of choice
I like to dredge with my hand's so I keep a dry hand and a wet hand. You can just as easily use a fork or tongs.

-12 chicken tenders
-1/4 cup white whole wheat flour seasoned with salt & pepper, on a plate
-2 eggs, well beaten in a bowl
-1.5 tsp. Gran Gusto sun-dried tomato basil sauce or pesto (Gourmet Glatt)
-1/4 cup each plain panko crumbs and cornflake crumbs, seasoned with salt (prepared herbed bread crumbs are good for a rush, but I love making my own with fresh herbs.
-Zest of half a lemon
-Chop the herbs of choice: I used dill, basil & parsley

-Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
-Add the Gran Gusto sauce to the eggs and whisk until well incorporated
-Add the herbs, lemon zest, salt & pepper to the crumbs and mix well on a plate

-Set a baking rack (cooling rack for cookies) over a baking sheet and spray with nonstick cooking spray

-Dredge the chicken tenders in the flour, then the egg, then finally the crumbs & lay them out on the rack. Spray generously with cooking spray, & bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. They don't need that long, as tenders are small and thin. You don't want to dry them out.

Be creative with your breading. No boring white crumbs here! Have a good Shabbos & stay cool!