Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A New Guest Blogger: Sarah C. and her Clean Food recipe with a twist

The Graduation Gift Cookbook

Our nephew Tom's girlfriend is contributing to the blog for the first time.  Welcome!  Here's what Sarah C. had to say: 

I recently made one of  the many delicious recipes from the Clean Food cookbook. Since graduation, I've looked through the cookbook multiple times so I was very excited about making my first meal for my house-mates yesterday.

I knew that my first meal had to come out of this cookbook -the only problem was narrowing it down to one recipe because they all looked so good! In the end, I decided to make the cucumber, mango, chickpea salad over couscous and added a few twists. It was a huge hit and everyone went back for seconds. Below is the recipe plus a few twists:

4 medium cucumbers, peeled and diced
4 mangoes, peeled and diced
2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 cups black beans
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 1/2 cups whole wheat couscous
1/2 cup dried apricots (optional)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small shallot, minced
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine cucumbers, mango, chickpeas, black beans, craisins and cilantro. In a separate bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Pour over salad, toss and serve over couscous.

Serves 8

Clean Food is now my house-mates' new favorite cookbook!

            ---- With a smile, Sarah C.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Catch Up Monday

The summer days are flying by.  I can't believe that July is almost here.  It has been hot and humid here.  Too hot and humid. So, most of our meals have mostly been grilled.  Tom has perfected his circle of potatoes and green beans -- and has now added white button mushrooms to the mix, with great success. 

Preparing the packet of veggies for the grill ---

We tried Colleen's Chimichurri Sauce over steaks, too.  Very good.  Very bright and clean tasting.  A nice change for us.  And very simple to do.  A good way to use up your parsley-- ours is flourishing in the garden this year.

We've been having lots of salads, too.  I saw Jacques Pepin on TV recently --- he showed how to use the dregs of the Dijon mustard in the jar for mixing a week's worth of vinaigrette.  So, I tried that, too.  Jacques is one of my favorite TV chefs.
Making vinaigrette with the dregs of the mustard jar---

When you near the end of your jar of Dijon mustard, just add vinegar (I used balsamic) and extra virgin olive oil, lots of salt and ground pepper, then screw the top back on, and shake it all together to emulsify the mixture.  I also experimented with adding sun dried tomatoes to the vinaigrette because I was out of regular tomatoes, and it provided a rich, intense tomato flavor.  So, I guess it would be called Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette.

Sarah visited, so we celebrated her birthday (and also Father's Day) with one of her favorite meals:  grilled flank steak, using Tom's Flank Steak Marinade.  Tom made her favorite cake, too :  a chocolate cake with white frosting, but I forgot to take a photo.  

When we had Cindy's Arugula Salad with the meal, Sarah mentioned that her Wegman's in Buffalo did not carry the Bella Rosa grana padano Parmesan cheese.

 I should have been on alert because this weekend I learned that our Wegman's is not going to carry it anymore!  I can't believe it.  I am bummed.  So, I talked to the manager, with no avail, so now I am going to have to see if I can track it down at the larger, perhaps more sophisticated stores, in Ithaca and Canandaigua.

Tom demonstrating the proper way to hold a knife

Which reminds me --- we took a knife skills class together a few Sunday's ago at the Canandaigua's New York Wine and Culinary Center which Mary introduced me too earlier in the year--- and it was amazing how much we learned in a hour and a half!  We plan to go back to take more classes there together.  It was fun.

On the days when it is not too hot --- I have been practicing making no knead bread---

using Jim Lahey's book and his no knead technique.  His recipe was in the NY Times a few years ago and it became a food fad, but I only discovered him and his technique this past winter.  The bread dough sits for 12 -18 hours, then you turn it out, form a ball, let it rise again, then ---

it is baked in a pre-heated dutch oven at 475 degrees.  This photo is after the top of the dutch oven is removed for the final browning of the crust --

and I think I have finally got it right. 

An early attempt

It sounds very easy to do because you don't have to knead it, but I have little to no experience with working with yeast, so it took many attempts.

I also destroyed one pot in the process. (I accidentally melted a plastic colander inside the pot during the preheating step.)  I have been joking about how expensive this bread is, once I factor in the cost of the book, the two cast iron enameled pots and the various tools.  But that's part having a memorable food adventure...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Basil

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil

Well, this turned out to be an interesting recipe.  On the first attempt, the poaching step did not work because my plastic wrap disintegrated.  On the next attempt, I put the chicken roll in a plastic bag and it survived the poaching but did not look so great.  Nonetheless, the flavor combinations are very good. And Tom and I thought it worked well as a cold salad for dinner.

I had lots of basil which prompted me to make this recipe.  As you can see, the transplanted hydroponic basil plant is doing just as well as the one I bought in dirt.

The ingredient list was minimal and I like that feature of a recipe this time of year.

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil
from Tony Valenti's "You Don't Have to Be Diabetic to Love This Cookbook"

4 ounces goat cheese at room temperature
1 ounce dry packed, finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (about 3)
8 large fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
pinch of coarse salt
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 6 ounces each)

Combine the goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes (I used jarred because I did not have dry on hand), and basil in a bowl, season with the salt and pepper.

And mix together well.  This is your filling.

Sandwich each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy pot or pan to gently pound it to a thickness of about 1/2 inch.  This was a very noisy step, but lots of fun!

Place a clean 12 x 18 inch piece of plastic wrap in the center of the work surface.  Arrange the chicken in the center.  Spoon 1/4 of the filling in the center and roll the meat up around it.

Wrap the plastic tightly around the chicken and wind the ends of the wrap over and over, as if wringing out a towel, until the chicken forms a cylinder and the ends of the plastic wrap don't come undone when you release them. 

Don't do this!  My plastic disintegrated.  Instead, put each roll in a heavy Ziploc plastic bag.  Make sure it is very well sealed and as much of the air as you can get out is removed (or your chicken roll will float instead of poaching in the water).
Fill a large pot three quarters full with water and bring to a simmer.  Poach the wrapped breasts in the water until the chicken turns opaque and is firm to the touch and any juices in the packet are clear, about 15 minutes.  Internal temperature should be 165 degrees using an instant read thermometer.

Remove the breasts from the water, using tongs and let rest for 5 minutes before unwrapping.

Cut away the plastic, taking care not to cut into the meat. 

Slice into 1/2 inch slices and serve hot.   Or let the rolls cool, like I did,  and keep them in the refrigerator until dinnertime, then slice them for a salad.  I drizzled balsamic vinegar on top.  The next time I make this salad I will put toasted pine nuts on top, too.

The filled chicken can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours or frozen for 3 days.  Thaw in refrigerator over night.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tuscan Salad by Mary

Thanks for sending in this recipe, Mary!  Can't wait to try it ---

My daughter, Maddie, actually discovered this recipe either online or on the Food Network. It is a Giada De Laurentiis salad. I make it frequently because it has lots of protein with the cannellini beans and it combines some interesting flavors with the green beans, cannellini beans, olives, and lemony dressing. I often make it as a potluck dinner salad because it is healthy and friends seem to like it.

Tuscan Salad
from Giada De Laurentiis

8 ounces green beans, cut into 1- 2 inch pieces (about 2 cups), or can use microwaveable beans
1 head Romaine lettuce, torn
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup pitted black olives
½ red onion, cut into slivers
1 lemon, juiced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Cook green beans in a pot of salted water for about 2 minutes, until tender. Transfer the cooked green beans to a bowl of ice water and let cool for 3 minutes. Drain the green beans.

In a large bowl, combine the green beans with the lettuce, cannellini beans, olives, and red onion. Toss to combine. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Top with shaved Parmesan and serve. If you are making the salad in advance, put the lemon juice and olive oil on just before serving.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Our Favorite Marinade for Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb

iPhoto of Butterflied Leg of Lamb when it came off the grill

We've made this marinade for leg of lamb many, many times over the years.  Lately, we have be finding smaller packages of leg of lamb -- in one pound versions --- so we can make it for ourselves, just the two of us, and not for just special occasions.   Just downsize the marinade accordingly.  On Sunday, we made two of them so that we would have leftovers during the week.

Butterflied Leg of Lamb
from Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, page 187

1 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup soy sauce
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
2 T. fresh rosemary, or 1 T. dried
1 T. coarsely ground black pepper
1 butterflied leg of lamb (about 4 to 5 pounds)

Combine the ingredients with lamb in a plastic bag and marinate for at least 6 hours, or preferably overnight, turning frequently.

Drain the meat, but reserve the marinade.  Grill over medium high heat for about 20 minutes on each side, basting frequently with the marinade.  Check the lamb for doneness after 30 minutes, as butterflied leg of lamb varies greatly in thickness, and you do not want to overcook the lamb.

 Be sure to let the lamb rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing it or you will lose all of the good juices. 

You can saute the asparagus while you wait.

Lamb is best served medium rare, and sliced thin across the grain.
We served our lamb with Lundberg wild rice and sauteed asparagus.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sauteed Sherry Mushrooms

Sauteed Sherry Mushrooms

If you'd like a simple technique that elevates a tub of sliced mushrooms into something special, then try sauteing them with dry sherry.

We serve them as a side when we grill steaks.  Two tubs of mushrooms will serve 4 people. 

This technique takes about 20 minutes to develop the flavor.  Start with a little olive oil in your pan.  Then add the tubs of cleaned, sliced mushrooms.  Add salt and pepper.  Let them cook down, on medium to low heat, for a while, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Then, add about 2 tablespoons of dry sherry.  Let mushrooms continue to cook down until they begin to turn dark brown, and the liquid has evaporated.  The alcohol in the sherry cooks off and you will be left with flavorful mushrooms. 

You can also add thyme, when you add the salt and pepper.  Thyme and mushrooms also go well together.