Friday, February 24, 2012

Braised Lentils with Roasted Asparagus & Cabbage

Lentils are my favorite of the legume family.  They are wonderfully high in protein, easy to prepare and absorb flavor incredibly well.  I often use red or yellow lentils when making mashes to serve with fish, and I like using the green or puy varieties in soups and like this dish salads. 

When I go to the store, I usually go in without a plan, looking around for what looks fresh and create a menu from whatever inspires me.  This hearty, vegetarian recipe came about just this way and while the ingredients can be swapped for whatever you prefer, there is something about this combination that I love and this is why I make it using the same ingredients every time. 

Ingredients

2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and picked through
1 cup garbanzo beans, canned or dried
3 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp tomato paste
Small head of purple cabbage, halved then sliced
1 bunch asparagus
2 lemons
Grapeseed oil
Salt & pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a roasting tray; lightly drizzle the asparagus and cabbage with light oil such as grapeseed (just enough to coat), squeeze the juice of a lemon, season with salt and pepper then roast for 30 minutes or until crisp tender.

To prepare the lentils, put them in a deep sauce pan, cover with vegetable stock, add the bay leaf, cumin and garlic.  Then bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer covered until tender.  For al dente lentils, this should take about 20 minutes [this is how I prefer them] or 25 to 30 minutes for softer lentils.  Once cooked, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the asparagus into fourths and toss into a bowl with the cabbage, garbanzo beans and lentils.  To make the vinaigrette; zest and juice the remaining lemon, season with salt and pepper, thenslowly add about two tablespoons of grapeseed oil while whisking.  [You can also use extra virgin olive oil but, I like the lemon to shine and find that using a neutral flavored oil works better.]

This recipe will easily serve six hefty portions or eight side portions, and is best served at room temperature. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Red Pepper Chicken with Cous Cous


This is my play on Poulet au Paprika .  A dish of chicken braised in a sauce of onions, fennel, spiced with paprika then finished with cream.  It is beautifully rich and tastes amazing.  Keeping these flavors in mind, I wanted to come up with a lighter version adding fresh red bell pepper to intensify the sweet smokiness of the paprika.  I added chick peas to add an extra element of texture and heartiness.  While not a lot of liquid is added, once cooked the juices make quite a bit of sauce.  I find that serving over this over cous cous is perfect because it not only holds flavor to every bite but, also keeps the dish moist. 

Ingredients

2 bone in chicken breasts
1 onion, sliced
4 red bell peppers, sliced
3 tarragon sprigs
4 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
1 garlic clove, minced
1 to 2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp pimenton (paprika)
1 bay leave
¾ cup white wine
½ cup stock
1 to 2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup cous cous
1 cup vegetable stock

Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper, brown in a heavy bottom pot, remove and set aside.  Add the sliced onion and sauté until just tender before tossing in the bell peppers and garlic, season with salt and pepper, cover and allow it to cook for about 8 minutes. 

Next, add the bay leaf, wine, stock and herbs, stir in the pimenton and bring the sauce to a boil.  Add the chicken back to the pan, reduce the heat, cover and let cook until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes. 

Once cooked remove the chicken and set aside to rest.  Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce by one quarter.  In a separate pan, bring 1 ¼ cup vegetable stock to a simmer, stir in the cous cous, turn off the heat and cover.  Let stand 5 to 8 minutes then fluff with a fork.  For serving; I like to remove the chicken from the bone and slice, then put back into the pot and toss in the sauce before adding the cous cous.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Swiss Chard Pretzel Dip



Happy Valentine's Day!!

Here is a recipe that I meant to post awhile back that I almost completely forgot about. 

Remember the filling I used in my Pollo Bracole recipe?  Inspired by the need for something savoury this is a little late night snack I conjured using the left overs. 

I LOVE pretzels!  They act as a great deterrent for me when it comes to satisfying a craving for something savoury by steering me away from potato chips and many other not so healthy snacks.  I'm also a sucker for a good dip.  Something that has substance and amazing flavor is right up my alley.  This dip came together spur of the moment, with no plan, scouring my refrigerator pulling out random items I thought would work well together and to my surprise they did!

*The measurements here are an estimate of what I used to make one portion.

Ingredients

2 tbsp low fat ricotta cheese
2 tbsp low fat sour cream
1 tbsp shredded mozzarella
2 tsp freshly grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl mix the filling, ricotta, sour cream and mozzarella (reserving a little for the top) then pour into a 6 ounce ramekin, top with the parmesan and remaining mozzarella then bake until golden and bubbling about 10 to 15 minutes.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cake with Orange Scented Buttercream

Layers of indulgent dark chocolate cake and light, fluffy blood orange buttercream.

Cake

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened, Dutch processed cocoa
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
¾ cup sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp espresso powder
2 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar
1 cup sour cream
1 cup hot water
½ cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat two 8-inch cake pans with butter and cocoa powder.

In a mixer, using a paddle attachment; cream together the eggs and sugar until fluffy, then add the vanilla, sour cream, vinegar and oil.  Once thoroughly combined; sift in the baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and espresso powders with one cup of all purpose flour, mix well then add the second cup of flour and the cup of hot water.  Mix until the batter is thoroughly combined, then pour into evenly into the two 8-inch prepared cake pans and bake for 35 to 45 minutes.

Blood Orange Butter Cream

1 cup butter, room temperature
3 ½ to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Pinch of salt
¼ cup blood orange reduction


To make the reduction; take four blood oranges, peel and segment squeezing all of the juice into a sauce pan, add ¼ cup of agave nectar, bring to a simmer on medium heat and let reduce by half.  Let cool before using in the butter cream recipe. 

*This reduction also makes a great sweetener for iced tea.*

In a mixer, using a whisk attachment; beat the butter with the vanilla bean paste, blood orange extract, reduction and salt until fluffy, then start adding the confectioners’ sugar *sifting* one cup at a time until thoroughly mixed and fluffy.  If you notice the butter cream is too soft, refrigerate for 20 minutes before spreading.

To assemble the cake I like to evenly distribute the butter cream in the middle and on top leaving the chocolate cake layers exposed.  Drizzle the top of the cake with a little bit of the blood orange reduction and top with a slice of candied blood orange.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Simplicity At Its Finest


When it comes to cooking simplicity is always the best practice in my book.  Using minimal additives that enhance the natural flavor of ingredients without covering them up, I feel is absolutely necessary in creating an amazing dish.  I spent two hours in the market the other night just looking around, and finally found myself at the register with nothing more than a bag of brussel sprouts and a bundle of beets.  Both of which were  stunning, thus why I picked them up without having any idea of what I was going to do with them.  It’s the simplest of ingredients that often spark the most interest, the best challenge and offer indescribable appeal, and it is these ingredients I love working with most.  I have two tasty vegetable side dishes that are minimal on the seasoning but, offer maximum flavor, and honor my favorite cooking method, roasting.


Beets Roasted with Honey & Tarragon


4 beets
1 tbsp honey
Tarragon, fresh,
 leaves picked
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp grapeseed oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.


Whisk the honey, white wine vinegar, honey, grapeseed oil, salt and pepper together, quarter the beets, toss in the dressing then spread on to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Roasted until the beets are caramelized, and tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.


Spicy Garlic Roasted Brussel Sprouts


one pound of brussel sprouts
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
grapeseed oil
salt & freshly ground pepper

Peel and trim the brussel sprouts by removing the outer layer of leaves and trimming the stem, and then blanch them for one minutes in salted boiling water.  Toss the brussel sprouts with the red pepper flakes, grapeseed oil, salt and pepper.  Roast in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20 minutes, add the garlic and roast until the garlic is lightly golden [be careful not to burn!] and the brussels are tender.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Roasted Artichokes with Lemony Beurre Blanc

Tradition usually calls for this appetizer to be served with some sort of dressed up mayonnaise but, I prefer the tang of beurre blanc.  My recipe calls for less butter leaving behind a more prominent vinegar flavor, which is set off with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a little zest and fresh picked thyme.  The combination surprisingly balances the vinegar and adds a wonderful freshness that compliments roasted artichokes so well.

To prepare the artichokes, simply cut the stems, peel off the outer layer of tough leaves then cut the tops about an inch to an inch and a half in.  Rub them with lemon, and then blanch in salted boiling water for about 8 minutes until a knife pricked into the base penetrates easily.  Remove from the water and let drain upside down for 5 minutes before drizzling with olive oil, sprinkling with salt and pepper then baking in a 425 degree oven until fully tender.

Beurre blanc is one of those amazing french sauces which name translates to “white butter” – it is best served hot, and is traditionally made by reducing vinegar, white wine and shallots together then beating in cut up whole butter off the heat until emulsified.  In this instance, water and oil blend beautifully together creating a light, almost crisp sauce that is complemented by the addition of fresh herbs. 

Ingredients

½ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup white wine
1 small shallot, minced
½ cup butter, cold and cut into cubes
2 tsp fresh thyme, leaves picked
1 tsp lemon zest
Juice of half a lemon
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

In a small sauce pan bring the vinegar, wine and shallots to a boil reducing to about three tablespoons in volume.  Once reduced, remove from the heat, and start whisking in the cubes of butter (no more than two at a time) until completely incorporated and emulsified.  Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice, lemon zest, thyme, salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Chipotle Chicken Stew

This 30 minute stew is easily thrown together with simple ingredients, and tastes as though it has been slow simmering all day.  A short cut I take often during the week is purchasing a rotisserie chicken from the market as the main component of throwing together quick, easy, and healthy meals.  Sometimes I pick one up without having an idea in mind then as I browse through my pantry come up with something new and exciting.  This is exactly how this stew was created, pairing pantry items with a beautifully moist store bought rotisserie chicken.

Ingredients

Rotisserie chicken
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp chipotle powder *alter to taste
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 bay leaf
15 oz can black beans
15 oz can cannellini beans
15 oz can garbanzo beans
15 oz can corn, drained
Salt and pepper

Start by sautéing the onion until tender, then toss in the minced garlic, chopped bell peppers, spices and let cook until fragrant.  Next, add the bay leaf, beans, corn and stock, bring to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.  In the mean time; remove the skin from the chicken, then using a fork (or your hand) shred the meat.  Stir the shredded chicken into the soup and allow it to simmer a few minutes to heat through, adjust the seasoning as needed and serve.  Yes, it’s that simple!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mixed Berry Oatmeal

A quick compote of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, sweetened lightly with agave nectar, and then slow cooked with steel cut oats.  This is another tasty oatmeal option perfect to have on hand during the week for a quick breakfast.

Ingredients

4 cups milk
4 cups steel cut oats
1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup strawberries, quartered
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tbsp water

For the compote, combine the berries, agave, cinnamon, vanilla and water in a large sauce pan, turn the heat to medium low and slowly bring the mixture to a boil, allow it to reduce by a third, and then turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.

While the compote cools, in another pot, bring the milk to a low simmer, this will take several minutes so be patient.  Then add the compote, while stirring, until fully incorporated into the milk, stir in the oats and allow the oatmeal to cook, stirring often, for 15 to 20 minutes.

This recipe easily yields five plentiful servings.