Saturday, December 3, 2011

Going Dutch

I love to travel.  I've mentioned before how my 2 best friends and I try to go on vacation together every year, both to spend time together and to visit a new city or country.  A few weeks few months ago (wow I'm so late posting this... *embarrassed*), Boyfriend and I spent 10 days in The Netherlands.  

Boyfriend and I have never gone on vacation together alone.  Never.  Seriously.
I KNOW!!  Crazy right?

I loved it there.  The people?  Wonderful.  The windmills?  Charming.  The bikes?  Inspiring.  The art culture?  Refreshing.  The food?  Meh.

Yeah, I hate to say it, and I hated admitting it to myself, but there isn't much of a "food culture" in The Netherlands.  Now, don't get me wrong, we ate some good stuff... but just not "dutch" stuff.  The bars are where you find the most "dutchy" foods, which was fine with me because to be honest that's where we spent most of our time.  What is this "dutchy" food you ask?  Well...  "-wursts," fried balls full of a hot gravy-like substance called "Bitterballen," and fried tubes of cheese called "Kassenballen" or something like that.  Lots of fried things that are like molten lava when exposed to the roof of your mouth, only to be quenched with a huge gulp of beer.... those tricky Dutch!  Making us drink more beer!!  For shame!!
Note the amount of fried foods and sausage on my "dutch sampler platter"
So, about that beer... The great news is that what they lack in food, they more than make up for in booze... HEINEKEN to be precise.  And I know what many of you are thinking, but honestly, the Heineken is SOOOOO much better there.  Honest!

We spent the first part of the week in Leiden, which is about 45 minutes southwest of Amsterdam. The city's logo is a set of keys and hence, it is called "the key city."  It is a major university city and is home to Leiden University and Medical Center, which resulted in a small change to the town's motto, now called "the key to discovery".  For me, this was the non-vacation part of the trip since I was there to attend a conference.  I'm not complaining though, the conference was amazing and I couldn't have asked for a better city to travel to for work.

Fun Fact: Leiden is where the Pilgrims first settled before eventually departing for the New World and landing here in Massachusetts.  At least the lack of timeliness of this post allows it to coincide with Thanksgiving and I can, at least in my mind, pretend it was on purpose.

We spent the rest of our trip in Amsterdam (obviously), which defied ALL of my expectations.  It was amazing.  I would live there in a heartbeat.  I expected it to be like a European version of Las Vegas, with the "coffeeshops" and red-light district.  NOPE.  I can't stress that NOPE enough.  Amsterdam was: Clean.  Friendly.  Safe.  Beautiful.
This is the "red-light district".... pretty nice, huh?
We did some of the classic touristy things like visiting the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House.  I recommend them both, but the Ann Frank House was incredible and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Amsterdam.  It was a sad reminder of how inhumane people can be, how far we still need to go and how far we've come toward equality for all.

The other thing I recommend?  Remember those two friends I mentioned that I always travel with?  And remember how I said that Boyfriend and I had never gone on vacation alone before?  Well.... I'm a big fan of compromise so Boyfriend and I took the first half of the week to ourselves, but couldn't possibly see a new city without throwing a Best Friend in the mix.

Yep.  I recommend having your best friend fly over from London to meet you in Amsterdam and spend the rest of the vacation Three's Company-style.  This was the icing on the vacation-cake.

So, in a nutshell, that was our trip to The Netherlands.  Anyone want to go back with me?  I'm thinking I could open a restaurant there and live a pretty happy life.... hell, they could use some better dining options, I think I'm a pretty decent cook and Boyfriend has his MBA.  Dream team!

With that, I leave you with two random yet adorable pictures from Amsterdam:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup

Soooo, you know those days where you are either A) too hot to cook, or B) too lazy to cook?  I have those days.  All the time.  And sometimes, you just want to throw a bunch of s#!t in a blender and call it dinner.

So I did.

And it was amazing.  And easy.  No heat required.

Ingredients (serves 2 larger portions): 
2 cucumbers (from my CSA), peeled and seeded
2 avocados, peeled
1 C lite cocount milk
1 tbsp thai green curry paste
2 scallions, diced for garnish

I know.  Its so easy.  You're welcome.

First, prep all the ingredients.  

The cucumber:

Then the avocados:

I love avocados.... hello gorgeous....  yeah, you know who you are.... stop playing coy....

Moving on.

Throw these beauties in a food processor and whiz around until pureed.

Move the puree to a bowl, add the coconut milk and green curry paste and mix.  Top with scallions and serve.
 Try it.  It was fresh, light, healthy, refreshing, surprisingly filling, AND EASY.  So, so easy.  Seriously, if this takes you longer than 10 minutes, I think we need to have a talk.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Got a New Camera!!

Holy Crap!

I'm so excited... after over a year of wishing, saving, ogling and researching, I finally bought myself a new camera.  What did I get?

A Canon EOS Rebel T3 DSLR:
I'm really looking forward to learning more about this beauty.  And I really hope you can tell the difference in my photos, too!!  Wow.  Seriously.  Wouldn't THAT be embarrassing?!?

Maybe I'll even try to take some pictures of the same meal with the old camera and the new one and see if anyone can tell which is which.  >please be obvious, please be obvious<

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Boyfriend made me sushi

I am continually amazed by Boyfriend.  As I'm sure you could have guessed, I am usually the cook in our house.  However, a few months ago we took a sushi-making class together.  I assumed that I would rock the class, and end up adding sushi-making to my culinary repertoire.  

It feels good to be wrong.  It tastes good to be wrong.

Boyfriend was a natural.  I was terrible.  I blame my tiny hands.  I have miserably tiny hands.  Like a 4 year old's hands.  I wish I was kidding.
I call him, "Big Hands"

 I'm telling you what, I'm really looking forward to years of sushi.  Actually, I think that what I'm really looking forward to is the occasional night off from cooking!
Philadelphia Roll - Smoked salmon, cream cheese & cucumber
We had quite the meal.  He was on a roll... get it?  On A Roll!  Get it?  
Seven rolls in total
Smoked salmon (right) and a jumbo roll (left)
Spicy salmon with carrot and cucumber
Another shot of the Philly roll
As you can imagine, we could not possibly eat seven rolls between the two of us.  Boyfriend had sushi for lunch the next day.  Happy problem.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Martha's Vineyard Vacation

 Boyfriend and I just got back from a week on Martha's Vineyard.  It was a wonderful (and much needed) vacation with lots of food, family, and rose'.


and one other thing.

Amazing buttery hot lobster roll
Fresh, delicious lobster.

We drove out to Menemsha one afternoon and hit up the fish market for some lobster rolls.  They had two options - hot and cold.  We got both.


And lobster bisque.

What?  Don't judge.

They were both delicious, but I tend to favor the hot lobster rolls.  Nothing but lobster and butter on a top-split hot dog bun.  The cold lobster roll is the more traditional version, very little mayo or celery or other unnecessary fillers.  Also delicious.  See for yourself.
Traditional cold lobster roll

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pistachio Pesto Potato Salad

Ahhh, the ever-present summer picnic and BBQ staple - Potato Salad.

I gotta be honest, I feel like I've been blog-free for so long that I've forgotten how to type!  I was so excited to be able to actually participate in this month's Daring Cook's Challenge despite all the craziness.

Boyfriend and I were invited to a BBQ last weekend and it hit me, "OMG, I'M MAKING POTATO SALAD!"  Boyfriend was confused at my excitement, especially since the invite also read, "you bring the booze, we'll provide the food."

I didn't care what the invite said, I was bringing potato salad dammit!

And I knew just what little twist I'd put on it to make it "mine": Pistachio Pesto.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been doing a ton of "pantry cooking" in preparation for what will soon be known as "the move that never happened."  One night, I wanted to make something quick and simple, yet fresh reminiscent of spring, so I threw the only nuts I had (pistachios), some garlic, Parmesan, lemon juice, olive oil and basil into the food processor and gave it a good whiz.  I tossed the resulting pesto it with capellini, white beans and sauteed swiss chard.  It was AWESOME.

So here goes, my rendition of a healthy potato salad - PISTACHIO PESTO POTATO SALAD (ha! say that 5 times fast!)
Blog-checking lines:Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!
The first thing to do was to make the pesto.  I've made pesto from just about any herb-nut-cheese combination and I gotta admit, they were all pretty amazing.  My love of pistachios might have taken this version to the top o' the pile for me though.

Pistachio Pesto:
2 cloves garlic
1/2 C toasted pistachios
1/4 C grated Parmesan
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 large package of fresh basil
1/2-3/4 C extra virgin olive oil, depending on your tastes
salt and pepper, to taste

1) Add the garlic, pistachios and Parmesan to the food processor and whiz it around to finely chop everything.
2) Add the basil, lemon juice and some of the olive oil, then whiz it around again for a few seconds.
3) With the motor running, slowly pour the remaining olive oil into the processor in a nice stream until the pesto comes together.  Some people like their pesto with lots of olive oil, I prefer mine more "dry"... add and taste until it fits your personal preferences.
4) Add salt and pepper if it needs it and give it one more spin to mix thoroughly.
** Make ahead: You can easily prepare this up to 3 days ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, or store it in the freezer for longer.

Potato Salad:
2lbs small potatoes (I used Yukon Golds), chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/4 C rice wine vinegar (any acid will do, this is what I had on hand)
Pistachio Pesto
2 sweet Italian red peppers
1 C white beans, cooked (or you can used 1 can of drained, rinsed beans)
1 1/4 C nonfat plain Greek yogurt (feel free to add more depending on how "creamy" you like your potato salad)
1/4 C mozzarella cheese, shredded

1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the potatoes.
2) Roast the red peppers, peel off the charred skins then dice into 1/4" pieces
3) Once the potatoes have cooked to al dente (beware the mushy potato!), drain into a colander and sprinkle with the vinegar.  The potatoes will soak it in, giving them a little flavor and adding some depth to the final dish.  Let the potatoes cool to room temperature before adding the other ingredients.
4) Once the potatoes have cooled, add the remaining ingredients and mix using a spatula, trying not to break up the potatoes too much.
5) Allow the potato salad to rest for a few hours so that the flavors can come together.  If you have time, let it go overnight... it is wayyy better the next day!
With a little chiffonade of basil on top for garnish
We never actually made it to the BBQ (it rained all day... sad), but we grilled up some hamburgers anyway and had a nice indoor picnic while we watched the Bruins pummel the Canucks in an exciting Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Sports.  Burgers.  Potato Salad.  #WINNING

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Dear Everyone,
I need to apologize for being absent for nearly 2 months now.  Life has been weighing heavily on Boyfriend and me these days and although I've been cooking and creating some great meals for us, finding additional time to take pictures and write up blog posts seems almost irresponsible with everything else that has been going on.

Every night when I go to bed I hope that things will go back to normal, whatever that is!  Haha!  Please be patient and hang in there, I promise I've got some great, easy summer meals to share with you soon. 

Bonus: my summer fruit and vegetable CSA is starting in a couple weeks so be prepared for some yummy seasonal recipes.

Thank you for your support!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Date Night: Sel de la Terre

Friday, Boyfriend and I went out to dinner to celebrate.  What you ask?  Something dumb and girly.... obviously.  I'll be the first to admit it, it was a pretty lame thing to do, but I really wanted a date night so I kinda created an occasion.

Laura (Friday morning, big unnatural smile): "Hey honey, guess what today is?????"
Boyfriend (still mostly asleep): "Uhm, Friday?"
Laura: "Nooooo.... " (unnatural smile getting creepy at this point)
Boyfriend: "What? What is today?"
Boyfriend: "What?  Huh?  You aren't seriously excited about this are you?"
Laura: "Yayyy!  I made dinner reservations for 7:30p at Sel de la Terre to celebrate!"
Boyfriend: "Wow Laura, a new low...  a new low. I guess I still love you, even though you're dumb.  Now stop smiling like that, you're creeping me out."
Please don't judge me.

I don't have awesome pictures because it makes me uncomfortable to whip out my camera while people are eating dinner around me.  I decided that using my phone's camera would be less intrusive, however, the photos are pretty grainy.  Again, I apologize.


To start, Boyfriend chose the Pepper Soup, and I got 2 items off the Charcuterie list, handmade Burrata and Pork Pate de Champagne.
Pepper Soup
The Pepper Soup was a hit.  The base was roasted red pepper, finished with creme fraiche, black olive tapenade and cilantro.  Boyfriend LOVED it and I might try to do a recreation at home.  It had a light but decadent flavor, and tasted like summer.

I forgot to take pictures of the burrata and pate, but they were both outstanding.  As a rule, I only trust a handmade fresh burrata.  I don't know what it is, but the creamy interior has to be fresh to taste right, and because of this, I don't get to eat it very often.  I refuse to buy it at Whole Foods because god knows how long ago it was made.  It was served with orange sections and a light citrus drizzle, which perfectly cut the richness of the creamy interior.  The pork pate was.... well, porky.  I never know what to say about pate.  Some people love it, some hate it.  I happen to LOVE it.  Rich, fatty, porky goodness.  The essence of pig with some homemade pickles and grainy mustard.  Perfection.


Everything looks amazing doesn't it?  We saw the burger go by and HOLY COW... seriously, it was a vision.  Boyfriend go the Rabbit Leg, which was served with a perfectly soft-boiled egg over silky grits and fava beans.  This must have been delicious because I wasn't quick enough and Boyfriend DEVOURED it before I had a chance to get my fork in there.  I'm shocked I was able to get a picture off in time.

I was pretty full from the first courses, so I chose the Razor Clam soup as my entree.  The waiter explained that they don't get to offer this regularly and its only placed on the menu when "the fisherman" calls that morning to say they got some Razor clams in the nets that day.  Lucky me.  Especially since I hadn't ever tried Razor clams before.  All of the seafood (Razors, littlenecks and squid) were cooked perfectly.  Creamy and briny, the first taste transported me directly to the beach.  The tasso ham and saffron broth were a great contrast to the clams- smoky, deep and complex.  Awesome.
We were both way too full to even think of dessert, but the menu had some great selections.  It was reminiscent of spring, which is a nice fantasy when its barely 40F outside.

All in all, it was a fantastic date night.  I ate some amazing, fresh LOCAL food with the man I love, and he didn't even make fun of me for creating a fake occasion to get my way.  Sel de la Terre provided a great meal, attentive service, and well-made cocktails.  I'd definitely go back, especially to try that burger!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pantry Cooking and some News.

This won't be news to everyone, but Boyfriend and I are finally making the big step and moving in together.  Yeah, I know, this isn't really the shock-and-awe statement I'm sure you were expecting, but the only man I've ever lived with was my father and I had originally hoped it would stay that way until I was married.  This topic used to be a pretty huge deal to me.  So what changed?  Hmm... I'm older, theoretically wiser, and living in a fairly expensive city.  Oh.  And I love Boyfriend.  Can't forget about that little fact! We spend nearly every night together as it is, and I've finally decided that it would make a whole lot more sense for both of us for me to discard my silly inhibitions on living together so that we could start saving a little money.  We're not in our 20's anymore and having a savings account sure would be a nice change of pace.

So that was the news.  Do with it as you please.

And what does that have to with this post?  Well, in my super-nerdom, I've made a spreadsheet inventorying the contents of my pantry, fridge, and freezer.  My goal is to eat up as much of it as possible, as deliciously as possible, prior to the big move.  I've already got enough junk to haul up to our lovely 4th floor walk up, and boxes of pasta, 4 jars of Dijon mustard (what? I don't have a problem....not at all) needn't be part of it.

Best pantry meal of all time?  Pizza.  You can put ANYTHING on a pizza.  Hell, Todd English got famous off what was probably a late-night drunk/high concoction, now famously known at Olives as the Fig & Proscuitto Pizza. I can see it now:

TE: duuuude, I'm hammered, let's get pizza....
TE friend:  yeah, man... wait, you're a chef, why don't you make one, Mr. Chef-y Pants?
TE: Can't, all I've got is some fig jam... 
TE friend: and bacon....
TE and Friend: ...>mischievous smiles<.....

A legend was born! That's how it goes in my head anyway....

Sooo, yeah.  That's the long, mostly made-up story about how I decided to use what I had in my pantry to make a pizza for dinner.  Way more interesting than had I just started this post with, "So I made a pizza", right?

Dough: See here.

Sauce: In a saucepan, heat 1 small can of tomato paste, 1/4 C water, 2 chopped roma tomatoes, 1 tbsp sugar, a splash of red wine, chopped garlic, salt, and pepper... and cook until nice and thickened.

Toppings: Whatever you have.  I used chopped mushrooms, kalamata olives, onions, and some cooked Italian sausage (from my CSA meat share).

Cheese: Ricotta (see how to make your own, here) and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan. 

Bake on a pizza stone or cookie tray for 10-15min in a 425F or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is nice and golden brown.

To plate: A sprinkle of red pepper flakes and basil makes it perfect.  A salad lets you pretend its good for you.

Not the most interesting of dinners, I'll admit.  But damn tasty nonetheless!  Continue checking the blog over the next couple of weeks as my pantry gets thinner and the meals are forced to become more... uhm, how you say... creative?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Seared Ahi Tuna with Vegetable Glass Noodles

You know how most of the time when you go to grab Chinese take-out or sushi, you walk into the restaurant and it just SMELLS AMAZING?  You think to yourself, "Dammit, why can't I ever seem to reproduce that taste/smell at home?"

I have 2 answers to that quandary:

1) You don't use MSG at home,
2) Vegetable oil + a splash of sesame oil + high heat

I'm one of those people that primarily uses only 2 fats on a regular basis - butter and olive oil.  I usually only use vegetable oil for deep-frying.  MISTAKE!  Holy cow did my apartment smell fantastic last night.  In fact, this was so good I'm storing this gem in my "repeat recipe file", a rare honor.

In honor of full disclosure, this is NOT my recipe.  In fact, the glass noodle recipe is almost entirely Hosea Rosenberg's, which you can find here.  Some of the vegetables I used might be a little different, but other than that, its all his.  I purchased the tuna from Trader Joe's Freezer section, so yeah, that's not really "mine" either.  Basically, I was looking for a quick weeknight dinner that wasn't boring.  Wow, I was blown away by this.  So easy.  So delicious.  Especially the noodles.  I beg you to try them. 

For the Tuna:
I just pan seared it for a minute or so on each side for a nice rare middle.

For the Glass Noodles:
Follow Hosea Rosenberg's recipe to a T, it'll make your apartment smell like [insert your local greasy chinese take-out here].

And the creme de la creme, if you like spicy condiments, I highly recommend this little number:

Sriracha Ginger Yogurt Sauce 
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 grated ginger (fresh)
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 C rice vinegar
1/4 C orange juice
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp white wine
1 tbsp Sriracha
2 tbsp greek yogurt

In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the ginger, onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 min. Add the vinegar, orange juice, mirin, wine and Sriracha and simmer until the liquid is almost evaporated and the sauce is thickened, 10-15 min. Turn off the heat and add the yogurt. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

I need to make this sauce again, and put it on EVERYTHING. On burgers? Oh, I bet it's amazing.

Final plating: Thinly slice the tuna and fan out on the plate around a pile of glass noodles.  Dollop some Sriracha Ginger Yogurt Sauce on the side and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallions over the whole plate.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lamb Chorizo Sausage over Orzo with Roasted Peppers

Have you figured out yet that I. LOVE. CHORIZO?  Usually, I use the soft soy-based stuff from Trader Joe's because it has a nice flavor and texture that goes well with some of my favorite chorizo applications (chorizo & eggs, chorizo tacos, etc).

However comma.... When I picked up my meat share last weekend I got a very VERY welcomed surprise. 

Lamb.  Chorizo.  Sausage.  (>squeeeeee!<)

This lamb chorizo is so special to me that I couldn't imagine mixing it with anything that might mask its flavor (i.e. eggs).  Oh no, these little links of joy needed to be in the spotlight.  The first dish I chose to make with one of those links was a simple pasta-salad type thing, with grilled chorizo on top for a little kick.

    ~ serves 2 as a main dish
1 link (approx. 150grams) lamb chorizo sausage from Stillman's Farm, sliced into 1/2" rounds
2 oz orzo pasta
1 oz quinoa
2 bell peppers (I used red and yellow)
1 onion, quartered
2 oz reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled
2 small scallions, chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

1) Roast the peppers and onion in a 400F oven until the skins are charred, about 30 min, rotating once or twice during the roasting.
2) Place the roasted peppers in a plastic back or tupperware container to cool (this makes removing the skins SO. MUCH. EASIER.
3) Let the peppers cool for about 10min, then peel off the skins and chop the peppers and onions into bite sized pieces.
4) While waiting for the peppers to cool, start a pot of boiling, salted water.  Once at a rolling boil, add the quinoa and cook for 7-10min, then add the orzo and continue boiling until the orzo is al dente, about 8-9 more minutes.
5) Drain the pasta/quinoa mixture and add the olive oil and red wine vinegar.  Toss to coat.
6) Add the peppers, onion, garlic, feta and mint to the pasta/quinoa salad.  Toss it all together and let it sit for at least 30min, stirring occasionally, to let the flavors incorporate.
7) Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet to medium-high heat.  Add the lamb chorizo and cook 3min on each side or until cooked through to your liking.
8) Put the pasta/quinoa salad in a bowl and top with the hot lamb chorizo.  Enjoy immensely. 

I loved this and could have easily woofed down a second helping.  Boyfriend's only suggestion was that he would have liked more meat and more feta.  Predictable.
And, not to preach, but this just goes to show AGAIN why it is so amazing to be a member of a Community Supported Agriculture program.  Not only do I get a chance to enjoy fresh, handmade, LAMB chorizo, but I personally know and support the people that grow my meat and vegetables.  Yeah, I said "grow" my meat, because the environment that my lamb was born into and GREW up in is in stark contrast to other poor animals who live in the stressful, inhumane environment of factory farming.  I wish that everyone could experience the personal joy I get from eating locally and supporting my community and a local small business.  If you are interested in joining a CSA, trust me, its worth it.  If you don't know how or where to find local, sustainable food, check out Local Harvest and learn about what's available in your town.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Moroccan Lentil Salad

Sorry I haven't been posting much.  I've been cooking plenty, but most of the time the meals are tasty but not extraordinary, and therefore I haven't felt like you'd be interested in them.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I felt like if I wasn't all that into them, you wouldn't be either.

With that said, I've had a mini-creative streak and have whipped up some serious deliciousness lately.  I'll try to post more often, and if you see something you like, please comment on it (everyone needs a little positive feedback now and again).  I've started to learn that this "being a blogger" thing is a bit of a mind-fuck.  I create these little tidbits about me and my food, send it off to cyberspace, and am left wondering if it ever reaches or inspires anyone.  Its a lot like talking to yourself.... you wonder if someone might be just around the corner listening, unbeknown to you.... or if you're just plain ol' crazy.

Ok, blathering on about myself... on to the cooking!

Always in search of a vegetarian meal that Boyfriend will enjoy, I decided to make a lentil salad using stuff I know he likes - grapes (check!), feta (check!), pistachios (check!), and arugula (check!).

The result: I loved it (had it again for lunch today actually).  Boyfriend thought the ratio of lentil:arugula was a little heavy on the arugula side, but he liked the spice it provided.  Boyfriend also decided to throw in a small (and predictable) comment, "You know what would make this better?... MEAT!"

Gotta love the guy.

1/2 lb dry lentils
2 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced and washed
2 tbsp sherry
2 tsp spicy brown mustard
1 1/2 C red grapes, halved
1/4 C chopped roasted pistachios
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 dried fig, diced into small pieces
1/4 C mint, chopped
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 oz reduced-fat feta, crumbled
3 C reduced sodium chicken stock (or use vegetable broth for totally vegetarian)
1 tsp olive oil

1) Cook the lentils in the chicken stock until tender (~15-20min). 
2) Drain lentils, keeping any remaining cooking liquid. 
3) Heat olive oil in a medium skillet, add the leeks and brown for about 5min.  Add the leftover lentil-cooking liquid (no more than a 1/2 C) to the leeks and allow them to braise until soft, approximately 10min.
4) When the leeks are tender, remove from heat and stir in the sherry and mustard.
5) Combine the lentils, leek mixture, grapes, fig, pistachios, sesame seeds, mint, and parsley in a large bowl.
6) Season with salt and pepper if needed.  Top with crumbled feta.

I served this warm on a bed of arugula.  Boyfriend and I opened a Malbec and enjoyed our light dinner in front of the TV.  He watched the Celtics destroy the Sixers, I graded papers.  So romantic, right? 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ceviche with Spanish-inspired Papas Rellenas

Talk about "just in time"... This recipe from The Daring Cooks hit my apartment right when I needed it the most.
"Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra."
Boyfriend and I just got home from a BEAUTIFUL wedding in Miami. Get ready to become very jealous (if you live in New England anyway):

Yes, you're seeing that right, I got a wee bit o' sun before the nuptials

Oh how I miss the sun, warmth, sand, and pimped out cars.  Now, to be completely honest, and most of my friends know this about me, but Florida is very high on my list of hated states.  "America's Wang" I used to call it (snerk!).  Don't ask why, just trust me, I have my reasons.

But this trip to Miami was just in time as well.  It felt so nice to pull on my shorts and have them actually fit. We are just barely starting to thaw out here in the Northeast, but all that means is that temperatures are hovering between 30 and 45F.  "Thaw" and "warm" (or "Spring" for that matter) are definitely not the same thing up here as they are in other parts of the US.

Ceviche de Pescado (serves 2)
1 large tilapia fillet, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined, cut into 1/2" dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalepeno pepper, minced
juice from 7 limes, freshly squeezed (squoze?)
juice from 1 orange, freshly squoze
4 cubes of Trader Joe's fresh frozen cilantro (or used ~1 tbsp fresh if you have it), finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

For Garnish: lettuce and Salsa Criolla (recipe below)

First, make the marinade/cooking liquid for the fish. 

1) Force Ask Boyfriend to juice the limes and oranges for you.  He has bigger, stronger hands and hey, its the least he can do while you're prepping dinner and he's watching ESPN SportCenter.

2) Add the jalepeno, garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper to the citrus juice and add you seafood to the mixture.  Try to pick a container that will allow the seafood to be completely covered by the juice.  The directions say to give it 10 minutes.  My fish was still pretty raw at that point so I just let it go until dinner was ready.  All in all, about 1.5 hours.  And even after that, I still wasn't 100% sold on the half-cooked half-raw mixture, so I zapped it in the microwave for a minute.  Sue me, but I'm too busy to take any food poisoning risks.  I'm sure if it was sushi-grade fish I would have been less nervous.

3) Make the Salsa Criolla.  Let it macerate for at least 30 minutes or as long as you need before dinner is ready.  It will last in the fridge for a day or two if you want to make it early.

Salsa Criolla
1/2 medium red onion, sliced very thinly in half-moon shapes
1 small jalepeno, diced
1 tbsp vinegar (I used rice vinegar because its all I had, but white would work fine)
juice from 1 lime
salt and pepper, to taste

1) Soak the onions in cold water for about 10min to remove some of the bitterness.  Drain.
2) In a small bowl, combine the onions with the rest of the ingredients, season, and let sit at least 30min or until you're ready to use them.

To plate: 

The next part of this wonderful dinner was to make Papas Rellenas. 

Boyfriend's first words were, "Sooo, what does that mean?"

L: "Well," I reminded him, "remember when I made Chiles Rellenos?"
B: "Yeah, yum."
L and here goes me being a teacher: "Ok, so what were those made of?"
B: "Stuffed, battered chiles... get to the point!"
L: "Right, so if 'papas' means 'potatoes', what would you guess 'papas rellenas' means?"
B obviously annoyed with me for being so patronizing: "GOT. IT. (grumble)"

So the point of that little exchange was to say that yeah, Papas Rellenas means basically, stuffed potatoes.
This part of dinner took me a lot longer than it should have, and I'm not even sure why.  None of it is particularly difficult.  I made quite a few changes to the original recipe, which made my papas rellenas more "Spanish" than "Peruvian".

First, I decided to use a mixture of sweet and russet potatoes for the dough.  I thought that the sweet potato would lend a little sweetness (and nutrients) to the final dish and contrast nicely with the sour notes in the ceviche.  Instead of the typical ground beef, raisin, and olive filling, I used chorizo (soy-rizo since we're honest on this blog), kalamata olives, and marcona almonds as the base flavors.

Papas Rellenas
For the dough:
1 large sweet potato
1 medium russet potato

For the filling:
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 C Trader Joe's Soy-rizo (use the soft-style chorizo if you can't get the soy version)
6 kalamata olives, roughly chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped (from my CSA farm.... soooo yummy!!)
3 tbsp crushed marcona almonds (toasted)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalepeno, minced
2 tsp cumin
pinch cinnamon
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 C dry white wine
salt and pepper

For the final prep:
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water
1 C flour
1 C bread crumbs (I used panko, but any unseasoned ones would work)
oil, for frying

1) I decided to roast my potatoes for 30min in a 400F oven to try and get rid of as much moisture as possible.  I think boiling them would have been easier and I'm not sure we would have noticed a huge difference in texture.  Do whatever floats your boat, you are basically making "mashed" potatoes when then are done, just don't add any butter or milk.  Let the mashed potatoes cool in a bowl while you prep the filling.

2) In a medium skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add the onion garlic and jalepeno.  Cook over medium heat for about 5min or until the onions start to turn translucent.
3) Add the chorizo and brown for a couple minutes.
4) Add the cumin, cinnamon, and paprika, stir to combine.  Let this cook for about 2-3 minutes more.
5) Add the white wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up all the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
6) Add the olives, cook for another minute or so, then remove from the heat and fold in the hard boiled eggs and marcona almonds.
7) Let the filling cool while you get everything ready to make the "papas".  Add an egg to the potato dough and mix well.  Here's the line-up for preparing the final dish:
8) Make a flat, round "patty" in your hand using the potato dough, then put some of the filling in the middle and carefully fold the potato around the filling, making a ball where the inside is all filling and the outside is all potato.  This was not as easy as I thought it would be, but not impossible.  I'm sure with more practice it wouldn't be nearly as challenging.
9) Once you've made the papas ball, drop it in the flour and coat, then into the egg mixture, then into the breadcrumbs.
Papas ready to go into the fryer
10) Heat an inch of vegetable oil in a skillet to 350-375F. 
11) Fry the papas (in batches if necessary), rotating, until the entire outside is golden brown and delicious.  Drain on paper towels.
To serve, I put down a bed of lettuce and topped it with the Ceviche and some Salsa Criolla.  Place a Papas Rellenas and a wedge of manchego on the side (because originally it was supposed to go in the filling but OOPS... I forgot).
This was so refreshing and a nice throw-back to our weekend in Miami, especially since it was gray and gloomy back here in Boston.  If I wasn't in the middle of detoxing from said vacation I think a Mojito or dry Rose' or crisp beer would have complemented this very nicely.  Next time.  And yes, there will definitely be a "next" time for the ceviche since it was SO EASY and SO DELICIOUS.
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