Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 3 didn't count.... Day 4: White Bean and Sausage Salad

Day 3 of the "LGRFSaDaB" diet was a blow-out.  Why?  Because it was Girls & Grapes night (my wine club).  Not that it was "unhealthy" per se, since the theme was "Earth-Friendly Wines" and we all know that wine is good for you (in moderation, but who's counting?)... but let's just say there was a lot of cheese involved.


Day 4: White Bean and Sausage Salad
Now, I know what you're thinking... "Sausage? Healthy? I think not!"  Please, let me explain - 4oz of dried italian sausage is roughly 400 calories and 16g saturated fat... not the greatest if you plan on eating the whole thing.  But I used that 4oz to make 4 portions (leftover lunches!).  Let me know if I'm wrong, but 100 calories, 4g fat and TONS OF FLAVOR is A-O-fine in my book.  Plus, all the great fiber and nutrients from the beans and veggies has to count on the "plus" side, right? 

On with the recipe:

1) Make hard-boiled eggs: Seriously, if you don't know how to do this yourself I'll cry a little... but here's what I did anyway.

* boil water
* add 2 eggs
* return to boil, then immediately remove from heat
* let sit ~10min or until you're done with the rest of the recipe
* when ready to eat, dump out the hot water, add cool water and ice cubes to the pot, let eggs cool down, crack the shell, peel, and chop into quarters.

2) While the eggs are hard-boiling, mix the following in a bowl:

Small white beans - I used dried 'cuz they're cheaper, but 1-2 cans is probably equivalent
4oz dried sausage (chorizo would be awesome but I couldn't find any)
1/4c diced red onion
1/2c diced red bell pepper
10 chopped Kalamata olives
1/4c chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp dried oregano
1-2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp cumin
juice of 1 lime
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

3) Make salad:

I thinly sliced 2 radishes for garnish & peppery crunch. 

Final step, I lined bowls with the rest of my Boston lettuce from Day 1 and piled 1-1.5 cups of the bean salad on top. Garnished with sliced radishes and hard-boiled egg.  Yum! 

I enjoyed this with a Marlborough Sauvingnon Blanc, but I think it could have stood up to a spicy but light red as well (Zinfindel or Grenache perhaps?). 

Reed and I really enjoyed this.  Very filling, very flavorful, and decently healthy!  I can foresee many delicious variations on this too... black beans with corn, red onion, green chilies, avocado, chorizo and mexican spices.... or cannelli beans with tuna, red peppers, onion, balsamic vinegar, oregano and parsley... the list goes on and on :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fish Tacos with Esquites - otherwise known of as "Day 2 of the LGRFSaDaB diet"

Hi everyone (and by everyone I mean Mary and Bryon... apparently the only 2 people who read and follow my blog...).

Sorry I haven't done any posts lately, but I haven't been cooking much... instead I've been entertaining a visiting friend, taking her around the city eating and drinking everything in our path (ooohhh so much lobstah & chowdah... no complaints here!)

The real horror of this story is that I feel like I've gained a thousand pounds during all of the traveling, weddings, visits, etc... my man claims to feel the same way.  So I'm putting us on a diet.  Not a boring salad and baby carrots diet, more of a "Let's Get Ready For Summer and Detox a Bit" diet.  Although, I'd like to note that I think summer is already here, seeing as we've been having record highs lately... it was 87F yesterday and 85-ish today... in MAY!?!  Unheard of, but again, no complaints here.

On with the food talk, I mean, this is a food blog, no?

Day 1 of the LGRFSaDaB diet - I made Bulgogi-style marinated chicken, served with Boston lettuce leaves, sliced cucumbers, kimchi, and brown rice.  Wonderfully delicious, super low-fat, high in probiotic (thanks kimchi!), fiber and lean protein. What's lacking you might ask?  A picture.  Yeah, I forgot to take one.  Oops!  You can, however, see a picture and the recipe here, where I got my inspiration.

Moving on...

Day 2 - Grilled Fish Tacos with Esquites

First, the Esquites.  Esquites is basically a mexican-style corn salad.  It's been so hot the past couple days that this menu seemed perfect to me... plus, it really took me down memory lane... oh how I occasionally miss the sweltering heat of an Arizona summer... occasionally :)

On with it! I thawed and drained some frozen corn kernels, mixed in some greek yogurt (1/4 cup?), 1 minced garlic clove, a heavy pinch of chili powder, diced red onion (1 tbsp-ish), juice from 1/2 a lime, cheese (artisan mexican cheese blend from Sargento... couldn't find cojita or ricotta salata anywhere but would have preferred one of those), salt and pepper.

Next, I made some creamy guacamole by mashing together 2 small avocados, 1/2 a diced tomato, 1/4 cup greek yogurt, some more red onion (maybe 2-3 tbsps), a fistful of fresh cilantro (chopped), the juice from 2 limes, some cumin (tsp?), salt and pepper.  Man I loooove me some guac!

For crunch I shredded the last of my napa cabbage (leftover from dumplings, spring rolls, etc... I tell you what, this stuff lasts forever) and tossed it with a little vegetable oil and more lime juice (1 lime).

The fish. The grocery store had a sale on tilapia so that what I got and used.  Any "sturdy" white fish would do as long as it can stand up to grilling (snapper, sole, etc).  All I did was sprinkle the fillets with salt and pepper, thrown them on the panini press, close the lid... done in 2-3 minutes.

After the fish was done I heated up some flour tortillas and began the taco-making assembly line:


Plated the tacos with a lime wedge (lots of limes in this recipe, eh?) and my Esquites.  Hot sauce on the table.  Glass of Chardonnay would have been perfect - we drank Harpoon's Leviathan Imperial IPA instead (it's just so good!)


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Leftover Lunch - Spring Rolls

I used the leftover Miso-Glazed Shrimp from last night's dinner to make spring rolls for lunch.  I love spring rolls, the light, chewy wrapper, the crunchy insides, the various dipping sauces..... .

To make these I just chopped up the shrimp from last night and mixed them with the leftover spicy yogurt sauce to make a "spicy shrimp salad" type concoction.  To add to the filling, I shredded some napa cabbage (left over from the lemongrass chicken dumplings) and carrots, and  I cooked up some mung bean noodles/vermicelli.

Spring roll wrappers take a little getting used to when you're first learning.  Basically, I take one at a time out of the packaging (to keep them from drying out and cracking) and put it into a skillet filled with warm water to soften (maybe 20-30sec).  Then I carefully pull the wrapper out of the water, place it on the counter or a damp cloth, add my fillings, and roll like a burrito.  Usually I try to put a decorative mint or basil leaf toward the outside, too.  Here is a good "how-to" video.

My dipping sauce is just equal parts rice wine vinegar & soy sauce, with a splash of mirin and a splash of sesame oil.


Miso-glazed Shrimp Skewers

I was in the mood to cook something healthy last night.  Shrimp were on sale during my last grocery store run so I grabbed a pound of medium sized guys (& girls... no sexism here!).  Reed loves shrimp and I could have probably just steamed the whole pound, put them on a plate, and he'd have been a happy camper.

I need more pizzazz than that.... So I decided to try this recipe from F&W. 

Step 1) Make marinade:
2 tbsp lime juice (I hate measuring so I just used 1 juicy lime)
2 tbsp miso paste (I doubt it matter whether you use the red, white, or yellow to be honest)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp grated ginger
2 tsp light brown sugar
1 large clove garlic, minced

Add 1 lb of shrimp to marinade.  I let mine sit for a good 30min in the marinade to soak up the tasty juices. 

Step 2) Make spicy dipping sauce:
1 tbsp sambal oelek (use less if you are sensitive to heat... 1 tbsp = HOT)
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 C nonfat greek yogurt (can substitute mayo if that's your thing)

Step 3) Skewer & Grill:
I threaded the shrimp onto skewers punctuated by scallion pieces.  Since I used my trusty panini press as a grill these babies were done in 1 minute (or less).  I served this with rice (for Reed) or salad (for me) and some grilled lime wedges.  Set the spicy dipping sauce on the side (in the back).

Last but not least, I paired this with a 2009 Brancott Savignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) - PERFECTION!

Monday, May 10, 2010

More Dumplings! Lemongrass Chicken

I had a very productive kitchen this Sunday.  Especially considering I didn't wake up until noon. 

First order of business: Make a HUGE batch of dumplings to store in the freezer for those night when I need a snack and have nothing in the house.

I used the same basic method that I described before here with Pork & Kimchi.  This time I made a Thai-style lemongrass chicken filling instead. 

1 lb ground chicken
1+ cup finely shredded napa cabbage
1 egg
1 1/2 tbsp chopped cilantro (I would have used more but that's all I had)
1 tbsp dried chives (use fresh if you have it!)
2 tbsps finely diced lemongrass (I got mine in the freezer section of my local Asian market)
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp salt
** optional: I added 1 tbsp sambel oelek for heat

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Use 1 tbsp filling per dumpling.  I substituted gyoza wrappers (thanks Katie!)  this time instead of making the dough.  Worked fine, but I didn't get the same shape.... they look more like ravioli than dumplings.... oh well.  This recipe made approx. 40 dumplings.... SWEET!  I froze them separated on cookie trays then piled them into a freezer bag for later snacking.  Again, cook as mentioned before here.

Second order of business: Make bread.  I am challenging myself to learn how to make bread.  I'm sick of paying $2 for bread filled with chemicals and/or $5-6 for a loaf from an artisanal bakery.  It costs $2 for 3 packages of yeast, $3 for a bag of flour, and water is "free".  That's at least 6 loaves of bread for $5 plus some elbow grease minus chemicals, additives, and other needless synthetic ingredients.  Oh, and THANK GOD KATIE HAS A KITCHENAID STAND MIXER ... it really cuts out the "elbow grease" part of the equation :)  I'm going to have to get myself one of those if we ever stop living together.

Loaf #1: followed Julie Child's french bread recipe mostly... she calls for like 4 rising steps and I'm sorry... I just don't have ALL DAY to be watching bread rise.  I had serious issues with her recipe.  First, my dough was so so so wet when I (read: kitchenaid) was kneading the initial ingredients together.  I couldn't even really get it out of the mixing bowl.  I kept adding flour until it freed itself from the mixing bowl (with hesitation, I might add).  It DID rise though.  When I attempted to punch it down, however, it swallowed up my fist like quicksand.  Stupid Julie Child recipe!!  I let it rise one more time then POURED it onto a baking sheet and threw it in the oven (450F).

Loaves #2 and #3: Since I was convinced that Loaf #1 was a complete failure, I started another batch with this recipe off the internet.  This recipe worked great, makes 2 loaves, and took 1/2 the time of Julia's.  So where did it go wrong?  I was engrossed in watching "America: The Story of Us" and forgot about my bread in the oven :(  I caught it before both loaves were ruined, but since I missed the egg-wash step they didn't get that nice golden brown crust.

RESULTS:  Amazingly all 3 loaves turned out completely edible, tasty, and that first loaf wasn't nearly as dense as I had predicted.  In fact, between me, Katie, and Reed... we almost finished the first loaf last night.  Oh fresh baked bread... it gets you every time!

I forgot to take any pics, but I'll make some sandwiches for lunch this week to showcase my lovely yeasty creations.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Seafood Paella

So, I don't have any saffron... which probably means it's illegal for me to actually call this "paella".  Oh well.  It was tasty, and its my blog, and I can call it whatever I want.  So there.

This is another "adapted" recipe from Food & Wine.  I just love that mag!  Coincidentally, they apparently adapted it from Jose Andres at Jaleo in Washington DC.  I've been there!  Awesome sangria :)  It's a must-try if you're ever in the DC area.

This recipe only took about 30min to make and requires very little attention.  Yay for that!

Ingredients (4 servings... for leftovers):
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 bag of mixed seafood (from Trader Joe's; includes shrimp, squid, and baby scallops)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup arborio rice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 cups homemade shrimp stock (you can use bottled clam broth from the store as a sub)
2+ cups water

In a large, deep skillet, I added the oil over med-high heat until shimmering. Added the seafood next and seasoned with S & P. Let this menagerie cook over high heat until lightly browned on one side, ~2 minutes the transferred the seafood to a plate. Now, I neglected to defrost my seafood ahead of time so it didn't "brown" per se and I ended up with a little more "liquid" in my pan at the end of it... but no matter 'cuz the rice was going in next anyway. 

Next I added the rice to the skillet and cooked, stirring, until opaque, ~2-4 minutes. Next in goes the tomato paste, paprika, garlic (and saffron if you have it) and cook, stirring, until the rice is toasted and sizzling, about 2 minutes. Added the shrimp stock and water, brought to a boil and cooked until the rice was still a bit crunchy and about half of the broth was absorbed, 10-12 minutes. I then lowered the heat to a simmer and continued to cook, presumably until the rice is tender and the liquid is soupy (F&W claims another 8min).  This is NOT what happened for me.  I kept having to add more and more water because the rice was absorbing it all but still seemed too crunchy for me... at least 10-15min later.  I finally got too hungry to wait (and I felt like my sauce was losing flavor) so I decided to just be done with it at this point.  I stirred in the seafood mixture and continued the simmer until everything was cooked through ~2 minutes longer.  I topped it off with some chopped cilantro.

This was very flavorful, but all the additional water seemed to mute it far from where it started.  Also, I still think I could have cooked the rice longer.  And next time I will add some sliced red bell peppers and peas to boost the nutrients and colors.  Reed had a glass of the 2009 Carelli 34 Malbec.  I had water because I'm still recovering from some kind of horrible stomach bug that left me violently ill Wednesday.  Both beverages were delicious with dinner :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Marinated Chicken Breasts with Tahini Sauce

I made this for dinner the other night because it seemed super healthy and light, something that fits nicely with the excellent weather we've been having lately (knock on wood).  I adapted it slightly from this recipe out of my Food & Wine magazine.

Step 1: Marinate Chicken Breasts (this is for 2 servings):

1/2 C plain nonfat Greek yogurt (I used chobani)
2 tbsps cider vinegar
2-3 tbsps fresh lemon juice (I squeezed a half of a BIG lemon)
2 garlic cloves, minced (mine were tiny cloves, use less if you have normal garlic)
Salt & Pepper (tsp each?)
1 tsp crushed cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I like spice, adjust accordingly)
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

I mixed everything together in a large plastic zip-top bag because I planned to marinate the chicken all day while I was at work.  Feel free to do it in a large bowl however, and marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Step 2: Make Tahini Sauce:

1/4 cup tahini paste
1 clove minced garlic
equal volumes greek yogurt & lemon juice (until sauce is a good consistency, not too thin or thick)

In a small bowl, whisk the tahini paste with the minced garlic and the yogurt and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Tahini paste can be found in most grocery stores, either with the "specialty" ingredients, the peanut butter(s), or the prepared marinades & mustards.  Tahini is similar to peanut butter, just made with sesame seeds instead of peanuts, a benefit of which is seasame seeds are rich in essential minerals. I had found that the measurements in the original recipe yielded a super thick sauce... more of a paste really... which is why I advised you to adjust your volumes of yogurt & lemon to the consistency and flavor you perfer.

Step 4: Grill chicken: 

I was worried that the "all-day marinating" it would be overkill but these babies turned out perfect.  I grilled them on my multi-purpose panini press (thanks mom!) and in 4min or less they were done.  I let them sit for 2-3min to redistribute the juices and cool off... turned out very moist and flavorful.  If you are using a regular grill or grill pan, adjust the time.... the great thing about a panini press (or Foreman grill) is that you don't have to flip them and they cook much quicker :)

To serve, I sliced the chicken into strips and plated them with a light salad, some pita and the tahini sauce.  Along with one of my favorite Pinot Noir's of all time, the 2007 Orogeny, this dinner was complete. Yum.

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