Wish Upon A Dish: September 2013

September 30, 2013

Vegetable Cheese Strata

A couple days ago I posted about beans and collard greens I cooked in my slow cooker, using the same broth for both.

Today I took those greens and the remains of a batch of popovers and made a strata. While the definition of "strata" means layers, most are made like bread pudding.

OK, OK, I know this is really just a frittata baked with croutons, but I reserve the right to call it a strata.
Not having a game plan formulated, I used my general rule.....use ingredients that add lots of flavor and always have a backup plan!!!

The popovers (recipe here) where made with chives and corn, so they had flavor baked in, all I needed to do was plan on the usual agents, onions, peppers and garlic, plus a cheese or two and the bake time. While most strata's are baked in a casserole pan, I baked mine in mini loaf pans. I keep forgetting I have them but they are perfect for portion control, so, two for dinner and two for lunch.

I remember watching Lidia make a bread lasagna and this was technically the same thing. Whatever I placed in the bottom would eventually be the top and that would be a layer of egg and vegetables, so I also made a Fontina Bechamela to spoon over after unmolding.

I could just imagine the face The Nudge made when he asked me what he was having for dinner. I was not going to tell him I was just as apprehensive. If I had a better idea and something else defrosted, that would be dinner, trust me. Lately my adventures in the kitchen have been less than stellar.

Surprise, surprise.....this couldn't have been anything but delicious and it did not disappoint!

Depending on how eggy, or bready you want your strata to be will depend on the wet to dry ratio.
If you are watching your carbs, go with more egg/milk and less bread. If you plan ahead and soak it overnight, the bread breaks down and the outcome is more like a pudding.

Either way it's done, it's delicious and another great way to use up leftovers. Plus, I like eating breakfast for dinner once in a while and I love using up leftovers.

Vegetable Cheese Strata
makes 4 cups mixture

* 6 eggs
* 1 cup milk, choice (I used buttermilk)
* 3 slices bacon or pancetta, diced
* 1/4 small red onion, chopped
* 2 small cloves garlic, minced
* 1/2 frying pepper
* 1/2 cup cooked greens, chopped
* 1 ounce goat cheese
* Salt and pepper to taste
* 2 cups day-old bread or rolls, in chunks
* 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
* 8 basil leaves, chopped

* Four slices Swiss cheese
* 2 ounces grated Pepper Jack
* 1 tablespoon Parmesan, grated

* 1 tablespoon butter and flour
* 1/2 cup milk + more for thinning.
* 2 ounces Fontina, grated

Preheat oven to 350°.
1. Saute bacon, onion, peppers and garlic until the pork starts to brown.
2. Add greens and goat cheese to pan and stir to combine. Remove from heat to cool.
3. Beat eggs with milk and season with salt & pepper, thyme and basil.
4. Add cooked vegetables to the bread cubes and then stir in the egg/milk mixture.
5. Spray baking vessel with release agent. Spoon a 3rd of egg mixture into the bottom of the pan (or evenly into mini molds). Sprinkle 1/2 of the pepper jack cheese and top with another layer of egg mixture. Place a layer of the Swiss cheese next and then repeat with the last of the egg mixture, finally to with the last of the pepper jack cheese. Top that with the Parmesan and bake covered for 30 minutes for small molds or 1 hour for large pan. If a knife inserted comes out clean the strata is done.

6. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir to cook for 1-2 minutes.
7. Add the milk and cook till it thickens. Add the Fontina and stir to melt, adding more milk to get the consistency desired. The sauce should coat the back of a wooden spoon and easily drip (but not run) off .

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September 27, 2013

Pasta e Fagioli al Forno

I had an idea for a pasta dish based on one of my favorite soups, Pasta e Fagioli.
There are three ways to go about making this dish. Leftover beans, pork and greens, leftover soup of the same name and from scratch.

This dish is loaded with flavor, moist with both tomato and bechamel sauces. This was yummy as well as extremely healthy, diappropriate and will make enough for 6 solid servings.

I know your family will love it.

Pasta e Fagioli al Forno
serves 6

Notes: You could use two cans of a good quality condensed bean and bacon soup (with two cans water) to sub for ingredients 2 thru 9.

* 2 cups dry tri-color penne
* 1 can V8 vegetable drink
* 1/2 white onion, chopped
* 3 slices bacon or pancetta, uncut
* 1 large carrot, grated
* 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
* 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary or 1/2 dried
* 3 sprigs fresh thyme
* 1 can any kind of small beans, drained and rinsed
* 1 bag or box frozen chopped greens (spinach, collards, chard, mustard), defrosted and squeezed dry
* Olive oil
* Salt & pepper
* Hot red pepper flakes
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 tablespoon flour
* 1 cup milk
* 2 ounces Fontina cheese
* 1 ounce Romano cheese
* Grated mozzarella (optional)

First we have to make the soup.
Saute the bacon, onions, carrot and garlic in a drizzle of olive oil. Remove the bacon when cooked, reserve.
Add V8, rosemary, thyme and beans (or cans of soup and water). Simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the stems of herbs and puree soup. Add dry pasta and simmer on low, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Mix in the greens and adjust seasoning.

Prepare a baking pan (butter or spray) and use a large spoon to add the pasta mixture.

Melt butter in a small saucepan and whisk in flour. Cook for 1 minute. Add milk and whisk till it thickens. Add Fontina and Romano cheeses and stir till melted. Pour over pasta and sprinkle mozzarella and bacon on top.

Bake, covered, for 30 minutes at 350° and uncovered another 15 minutes. Place under broiler for 5 minutes to toast the cheese.

Serve with extra Romano cheese and a light Italian red.

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September 24, 2013

Lemon-Pear Breakfast Bread

There are few non-food magazine's food sections that I get very unique and healthy recipes from, one of them being O Magazine. You can subscribe to just the food part of her newsletter and I always find something I want to make. This bread was one of them. Two reasons, the lemon, the pear and the poppy seeds. Oh, that's three. Well I already knew that lemon and poppy seeds are often paired together, it was the use of pears that intriqued me.
I just had to bake this bread.

No, it is not full of breakfast oats or grain cereal or anything relating to an energy bar. Sorry, this is just a basic fruit bread like banana, but with pears.

I used white whole wheat pastry flour instead of regular whole wheat but I did not change anything else.
The recipe stated a bake for 75-85 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and in mine, that was at the 65 minute mark.

There are four things you need to make a decision on if you bake this bread....
-Whole wheat pastry four produced a tender crumb, but regular whole wheat flour will give you a nuttier flavor. Up to you.
-It is not a sweet bread like a banana bread can be, so if you prefer your bread on the sweeter side, add another 1/4 cup of honey.
-If you use the pastry flour, a thin slice may break when you use cold butter, so toasting the bread is recommended or use room temperature butter. If you like yours, dry and sans anything, but still want it firm, cut the oil to 1/3 cup and make sure you have hard, under-ripe pears which will produce less juice.
-Make the recipe as is and add a touch of sweet before eating with a sugar-free or no sugar added jam.

This bread just wiggled it's way into the #1 spot on my breakfast bread list.

Lemon-Pear Breakfast Bread
Makes 1 Loaf (about 8 servings)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil and 1 Tbsp. canola oil for pan
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 cup purchased pear puree (3rd stage baby purée)
  • 2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
  • 2 ripe pears , grated

Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 35 to 45 minutes

Preheat oven to 350°. Brush a 9" x 4" loaf pan with oil; line with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup oil, lemon zest, eggs, honey, pear puree, and poppy seeds. Add to dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in grated pears.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until bread is golden brown, slightly cracked on the surface, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 75 to 85 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand until completely cool, about 30 minutes, before serving.
Nutritional Information
Per one-inch slice: 355 calories, 6 grams protein, 2 grams saturated fat, 6 grams fiber.

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September 22, 2013

Tirami-Sue's Way - No-Cook Dessert Recipe Redux Challenge September 2013

It can come from anywhere. It's what you do with it after it hits you.
I write it down, immediately or it's out of my head in a NY Minute.

Yesterday I was looking for inspiration on a tiramisu I would be making for the September challenge from The Recipe Dedux. Technically Tiramisu is made with a zabaglione, and that requires cooked egg yolks. The challenge was to make a no-bake dessert but I wanted to make a tiramisu.

I must seem like a broken record when it comes to desserts, but around here cheesecake (in any form) is KING. Ask The Nudge what he would like me to make for dessert, he says "cheesecake, please!".

Gotta keep the peanut gallery happy, so I got to work thinking of a differently flavored version of a cheesecake tiramisu. Please don't laugh, but it was a bottle of Spiced Captain Morgan Rum that gave me the inspiration I needed. I Googled "Homemade Spiced Rum" and wrote down the spices and got down to work measuring and tasting until I got exactly the level of spiciness I wanted.

This turned out so good, not only did the The Nudge request to lick the bowl (which he NEVER does), he asked if I could make this flavor into baked cheesecakes for my annual Christmas gifts.
Way to go, honey, what a great idea!!
I even let him make the panned tiramisu and he did great.

So easy, it took me longer to take it's picture. If you like warm spices, like a mixture of apple, pumpkin and Chai spices you will enjoy this dessert. Extremely light (just like a regular tiramisu), it is a great pick me up for an afternoon cup of tea or coffee or the perfect ending to a brunch.

A few things you need to decide on before making this recipe.
-I used ladyfingers but the crunchy ones, not the doughy kind.
-The coffee/rum syrup which the cookies are dipped into requires espresso. Freeze dried instant will work well.
-You need at least 2-3 hours refrigerator time (overnight would be best) to allow the mixture to do the magic.
-You could use frozen Cool-Whip instead of real whipped cream or you could even omit it totally. The mixture will not be as light, but it does not change the taste in any way.
-If you do not want to buy all the spices, you could use a packet of prepared spices for making mulled wine and just add the ones not on the ingredient list.
-Decide if you want individual ramekins or a large baking sheet sized dessert.

Let's get no-cooking............

Spiced No-Cook Tiramisu
makes 1 (8x7in) or 6 (3/4c) ramekins

* 1 package Savarin cookies or ladyfingers
* 12 ounces low fat cream cheese, room temperature
* 1/2 cup fat free sweetened condensed milk
* 3 ounces espresso (three pods) or prepared freeze-dried espresso granules in hot water
* 2 tablespoons spiced rum
* 1 teaspoon Splenda or Truvia
* 1/4 cup cream, whipped
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 teaspoon orange flavored liquor or syrup
* 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/16 teaspoon each allspice, cloves and nutmeg
* 5 grinds of black pepper
* 1/8 teaspoon ginger

1.  Mix spices with condensed milk and set aside. Whip cream.
2. Mix rum with coffee in a bowl large enough to dip a ladyfinger in.
3. Line enough ladyfingers, side by side to cover the bottom of a baking pan. Double that and set them aside.
4. For ramekins: Process 18 ladyfingers until no pieces are larger than a pea.
5. Whip the cream cheese until no lumps appear and add in the spiced condensed milk. Whip until light an airy. Fold in the whipped cream.
6. For ramekins: Spoon 3 tablespoons process cookies into the bottom of each ramekin.
7. Lay a layer of ladyfingers into the bottom of your baking pan. Using a large pastry brush each cookie with enough coffee to moisten them thoroughly (I used a large spoon).
8. For ramekins: Spoon enough coffee mixture over the crumbs until they are all moistened but are not sitting in a puddle of liquid. Press evenly, using a spoon.
9. Spread half the spiced cheese/cream mixture over the damp cookies and spread evenly, making sure you press to adhere the cheese to the cookies.
10. Repeat with another layer of moistened cookies.
11. Spoon a tablespoon of cocoa powder into a small strainer and tap gently in an even layer, to cover the finished dessert.
12. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight (best).

September 19, 2013

Philly Cheesesteak Pizza Whiz Wit


Anyone who makes pizza dough knows that it is very hard to "time" the rise so that the pizza is on the table when everyone is ready to eat. 
Unless you do an overnight slow rise in the fridge, if the dough rises too long on the counter, it bubbles and well, that's not good.  
The Nudge loves a thin crust which means as soon as it has it's first rise and punched down, it must be rolled and dressed and into the oven (or grill) toot sweet. Sometimes I make it happen, other times I have a pizza that has begun a second rise and well, that's not good.
I recently was informed that I can now purchase a yeast made just for my problem with pizza dough.

Yes, it requires no rise. You just mix the dough, roll the dough, put the dough on a pizza stone (or pan), dress the dough and bake the dough. YAY for me!!
Last night I had the opportunity to see if it works. All I can say is....

Where have you been all my pizza making years?? I love this stuff!

The only problem I had, was my recipe made more pizza dough than would fit into my oven, so instead of cutting off the excess, I rolled it under, as one would do to a sweet pie crust.
The good thing was, I got a puffy edge to the crust (which is what I like) and The Nudge got a thin but firm middle crust (which was what he wanted).

I found another new product in my market. Shaved beef. Yup, just like the meat used for cheesesteak sandwiches, which is where I got the idea for this pizza.
While it tasted exactly like a cheesesteak sandwich, this will probably not ever make another appearance on the menu. I guess I like my steak sandwiches on a roll. There was nothing wrong with the ratio of meat to cheese and the cheese sauce tasted exactly like the Whiz they use in Philly, but I like white cheeses on my pizza and if I did use beef again, I would use goat or Fontina and tons of Parmesan.
But that's me and if you think your family would love American-style cheese on their pizza, then make this soon. The kids will gobble it up. It would make a great addition to the traditional food eaten while watching a football game.

The way to order a cheesesteak in Philly is "Whiz Wit". That means Cheese Whiz with onions. and well, that's a good thing.

Update: Leftover pizza toasted exceptionally well in the toaster oven.

Philly Cheesesteak Pizza Whiz Wit
makes one 18" pizza

* 1 recipe pizza dough (recipe follows)
* 1/2 pound shaved beef
* 3 ounces yellow cheese product (Velveeta, Cheese Whiz or yellow American cheese)
* 5 dashes hot sauce
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1 ounce mozzarella, grated
* 1/2 red pepper + yellow pepper + green pepper, chopped
* 1/2 onion, sliced into half moons
* 5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
* 1 tablespoon soy sauce
* Freshly ground black pepper

1. Saute onions, peppers and garlic in a pan sprayed with a release agent until they become soft. Add soy sauce and season with pepper.
2. Brush olive oil around the edge of the crust and spoon the vegetable mixture evenly over the crust, leaving 1" border.
3. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the vegetables and then lay down the meat. Season with salt.
4. Heat milk and add the yellow cheese until melted and pourable.
5. Spoon the cheese over the meat, and bake for 10 minutes in the middle of your oven.
6. Turn on the broiler and move the pizza to the top rack of the oven. Broil for 5 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and the crust browns.

Pizza Dough
makes 1 large pizza or loaf
* 1/4 cup water
* 1 cup milk
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 1 packet dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
* 3 cups bread flour
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 teaspoon salt
* bench flour

1. Microwave milk for 1 minute. Add honey to water, mix into the milk. Add yeast, stir and let it sit for 5 minutes. Once foaming it is ready to use.
2. Place flour, salt, olive oil into a bowl of a stand mixer or a bread machine.
3. Using the hook attachment, set the machine to #2 (or knead on machine) and while machine is running, slowly pour in the yeast/milk mixture. Once everything is incorporated, turn on to #5 (start on the machine) and run for 5 minutes.
4. Remove dough and make a ball out of it. Oil a bowl and place the dough into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place. I put mine next to my baseboard heater. It should double in size in an hour.

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September 16, 2013

Smoked Pork, Collard Greens and Bean Stew with Polenta Dumplings

A few months ago I picked up a netted piece of pork. I immediately thought I got lucky and there was a cut of pork shoulder that was small enough for two. I was half right. It was a chunk of pork shoulder but the label said it was smoked. I thought about it for a minute and figured if it was smoked like a brisket, this would be good so I plopped it in my basket.

When I got home I gave it a closer look and read the directions and was then informed that the whole package, netting included, should be boiled in a pot of water for 2-3 hours until a skewer could slide easily into the meat. I was getting the sinking feeling this hunk of meat was not just smoked like a brisket, it was corned like one too. Oh, what the hell. Too late to go back, I put up a pot of water, threw in a few bay leaves, some peppercorns and a quartered onion.

2.5 hours later, my meat was tender and sitting happily on a plate to cool.
Since I have no patience, this wasn't easy to do, I so wanted to cut into that netting and see exactly what I had. Please tell me there are others of you out there that are the same way. You know, can't stop yourselves from cutting into that banana bread while it is still warm, or eating a brownie before it's time? Oh, and how many times have you burnt your mouth because you just had to have that slice?? Ha, I got ya!

As I cut into the hot meat and tried to remove the netting without burning my fingertips, I did see meat that looked like a corned beef brisket, smelled like a smoked ham hock and shredded like a pork butt. I honestly had no idea what to do with it, so I broke it in thirds and put them in the freezer.

I eventually used a piece for hash, another found it's way into a Jambalaya and the last bag was used to flavor this dish of beans and collards.

I used the same crockpot for cooking both, but I did them separately, not sure if I wanted the beans for a soup and not wanting to pick them out between the greens. Easy enough, I did the beans overnight and the collards the next day.
Once the beans were cooked I spidered them out of the broth and replaced them with a bag of washed and chopped collards.

I took a spoonful of each (including the highly flavored broth), steamed cornmeal dumplings and an egg joined the party and dinner was served. Last week for one day the temperature dipped into the 40's and since The Nudge was traveling, I had a great little healthy dinner with a nice glass of Pinot Gris and slept with a warm belly, a blanket and my two guard cats.

Red Beans, Collards and Cornmeal Dumplings
Made 6 dumplings, 4 cups of bean and collard mixture

* 1 ham hock or three slices hickory-smoked bacon
* 2 cans pink beans, rinsed and drained
* 1 cup onion, chopped
* 2 large cloves garlic, smashed
* 2 cups chicken stock
* 1 cup water
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 bay leaf
* Pinch red pepper flakes
* 1 (16oz) bag chopped collard greens
* 3.4 ounces all-purpose flour
* 1/3 cup green onion
* 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into pieces
* 1/2 cup buttermilk

1. Place meat, beans, onion, garlic, chicken stock, water, bay leaf and pepper into the crock of a slow cooker. Set the timer to start at bedtime and end in the morning (low for 8 hours).
2. Strain mixture into a large bowl and pour the broth back into the cooker.
3. Add the collards and set the timer for another 8 hours, on Low.
4. When ready to serve, add broth, collards, and beans a stock pot. Turn stove on low to heat.
5. Mix the flour, green onion, cornmeal, soda and butter in a processor until the butter is the size of peas. Add the buttermilk in and pulse until mixture starts to turn around inside the container.
6. Spoon golf ball sized dumplings into the stockpot, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
7. Break one-two eggs per person, into the broth and cover and simmer ten more minutes.

Season with salt & pepper and serve.

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September 13, 2013

Vegetable Paté Crostini with Caramelized Grapes

Forget about that pricey fig jam. I can show you how to make something that is just as good for pennies on a dollar. Yes, that's right.

Caramelized grapes.

OMG, you have got to make these TODAY!!!!
I made a whole cup of them for a little over $1.00.

They just made this appetizer over the top good.

Not that the Paté is anything to yawn about, it is good on it's own, but the sweetness that is a grape, just intensifies as they roast. A small amount of cognac to deglaze the sheet pan and you have the fruit equivalent of caramelized onions. Oh yea, baby. Add a drizzle of honey and some goat cheese....sigh

I will tell you a little secret. My family demands I make chopped chicken livers during the holiday and this year, I am making these. The perfect solution to those who do not want the cholesterol or meat, this is a great vegetarian alternative and at this time of year, when we are getting busy with the holidays, can be made in minutes and not only will it store in the fridge for a week, it freezes exceptionally well. The grapes will keep, in the fridge, for weeks. Drop-in guests, no problem. Defrost in the microwave, grab a package of goat cheese and by the time you hang up their coats and you get them comfy, you have a wonderful appetizer to serve with that bottle of wine they brought.

Grapes from California are now at their peak (available every season May – January!) That’s why The Recipe ReDux and the California Table Grape Commission are challenging us to share with you, my readers new ways to “Fall in Love with Grapes!”

The sweet, satisfying fruit that you enjoyed all summer can be a part of your fall and winter healthy eating routine too! Everyone enjoys Grapes from California fresh off the vine, but they can also be added to your favorite fall snacks and recipes for a colorful twist and nutritional boost. From salads and smoothies to sandwiches and sweets, Grapes from California are the one ingredient that can change everything for the better this fall!

Not only are they sweet but did you know that....Grapes of all colors – red, black and green – are a natural source of beneficial antioxidants and other polyphenols. One serving of grapes (3/4 cup) contains just 90 calories, no fat, no cholesterol and virtually no sodium, and also provide potassium and are a good source of vitamin K.

“By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Table Grape Commission and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

Vegetarian Paté Crostini with Caramelized Grapes
makes 2 pounds of spread

Caramelized Grapes:
* 2 cups California Table Grapes (white or red)
* 1 teaspoon rosemary, minced
* Pinch salt
* Olive oil
* 2 tablespoons cognac

* 1 can white beans, rinsed
* 1 can red beans, rinsed
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 1 large carrot, chopped
* 4 cloves garlic, minced
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 2 tablespoons cognac
* 2 eggs
* 1/4 cup parsley
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
* 1/4 teaspoon coriander
* Freshly ground pepper

* Salt to taste
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 5 dashes hot sauce (optional)

* Drizzle good honey
* Sea salt
* Minced red onion

Preheat oven to 400°.

Mix grapes with rosemary, olive oil and salt. Bake for 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 275° and bake for another 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven and pour in the cognac. Scrape off the browned bits by swirling the pan and scraping with a spatula. Remove to a bowl (can be made up to a week and stored in the fridge).

In a skillet, add the butter and saute the onions, carrots, garlic until softened and starting to brown.
Deglaze pan with cognac and cool. Add to the bowl of a food processor along with the eggs, parsley, all the spices and seasonings.

Process to a rough mixture and add the beans. Process until it is smooth, if it becomes to thick to puree, add a tablespoon or two of water.

Prepare a 2 pound loaf pan and spoon in the mixture. Bake, covered at 375° for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Cool to room temperature, serve with toasted bread slices and garnishes or cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

To serve:
Invert on a plate and slice or press into a crock and top with grapes..
Toast bread slices and spread with goat cheese.
Place a slice of pate on bread and top with grapes.

Drizzle with honey and serve.

Gorgonzola Stuffed Gnocchi

The original post was published two years ago and I thought that this dish deserved an update....

On our vacation in Key West, we tried to vary the types of restaurants were we ate dinner and towards the end of the week I was craving Italian.
There was this little place on Duval Street with front row window seats to the parade that walks endlessly up and down that street. While The Nudge thought that was the best part of his dinner, I had, hands down, the BEST gnocchi ever!!

They were stuffed with a small piece of blue cheese, like a baby ravioli. Took me five months to replicate them but when I did, I hit it right on the mark.

I served them with a steak in a port sauce, but these would work with any sauce you chose. See the bleu cheese when you cut into them?

The key to stuffing a gnocchi is to line the pillows up on a board, and using a melon baller or round teaspoon measuring spoon, press down to make an indent and add a Gorgonzola crumble.

Yes, they have preservatives and yes, that goes against my grain also, but that actually makes them easier to work with when stuffing a piece into a gnocchi. Very good blue cheese will melt in your fingers, making it impossible to use. Gorgonzola is lower in sugar and average compared to other cheeses. My thought is get the best bang for the nutrition that you can. Buying indulgent ingredients with huge flavors will allow you to use less while still getting that big bang of flavor. It is a fact that we tend to eat more bland foods to satisfy our taste buds and that is not necessarily a good thing.

Roll each gnocchi in the palms of your hands as you would a meatball and place them on a sheet of parchment paper.
Gnocchi can be made a day or month ahead. Freeze them on a sheet pan and then put them into a freezer bag. Make plenty, pull what you need and throw them into salted boiling water right before serving. I would not suggest storing them in the fridge longer then 1 few hours, as they tend to get gummy and adding more flour is not an option. We want them as light as air.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Gnocchi
Makes about 100 gnocchi

* 1 1/2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
* 2 eggs
* 3/4 cup chickpea flour
* 1/2 cup AP flour + extra for the board
* Blue cheese crumbles

1. Mix the potatoes with the eggs until combined. Add flours and mix until almost combined.
2. Roll dough onto floured board and knead in as much flour as it takes to not stick in your hands.
It should have the texture of a wet cement. Little bubbles all over.
3. Cut the dough into 1 " thick slabs and roll that into a 1" rope.
Cut that into 1" pieces and using a 1/4 teaspoon, indent each piece.
4. Drop one crumble into each intent and roll them like a meatball, making sure there are no large cracks.
5. Poach them in gently simmering water until they float to the top. Spoon some sauce on them and serve immediately.

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September 12, 2013

Chicken and Grape Biryani

I never realized how many dishes I am not enamored with. Curry is one of them. Yes, I have made curry, Indian, Southern and Thai.
Nope, nope and nope.

I like the spices in Indian cuisine, just not curry powder. I also like the condiments that usually are associated with Indian dishes and I figured if I worked my way around the curry and went straight to the condiments, I would be happy.

I picked a favorite and famous dish to start my journey and since I had a case of table grapes in my fridge, instead of raisins I would add the grapes. I totally love this dish. The crunch of the grapes, the sweet juice that mixes with the spices and the chew of the chicken. What's not to love?

I know this isn't a traditional Biryani and I apologize right now for that, but not only did I like this version, The Nudge was enamored with the whole concept.
That's a win-win in this house.

Grapes of all colors – red, black and green – are a natural source of beneficial antioxidants and other polyphenols. One serving of grapes (3/4 cup) contains just 90 calories, no fat, no cholesterol and virtually no sodium, and also provide potassium and are a good source of vitamin K.

When I was reading the information about California Table Grapes, I did not know that the peak season was May to January. I just assumed the grapes on our annual Thanksgiving table centerpiece were not from the US and boy, was I wrong!
That’s why The Recipe ReDux and the California Table Grape Commission are challenging me to share with my readers new ways to “Fall in Love with Grapes!”

I am here to tell you that the sweet, satisfying fruit that you enjoyed all summer can be a part of your fall and winter healthy eating routine too! Everyone enjoys Grapes from California fresh off the vine, but they can also be added to your favorite fall snacks and recipes for a colorful twist and nutritional boost. From salads and smoothies to sandwiches and sweets, Grapes from California are the one ingredient that can change everything for the better this fall including an appearance in savory dishes. Go figure, huh? I have made them roasted with sausages so I guess the Italians also knew they were good with spicy foods. Now that I know, you know.

This dish was so simple. the hardest part was carrying all those spice jars to the counter. I got a great hint for cleaning chicken thighs....use your kitchen shears to safely remove all the pockets of chicken fat. Just snip here and cut there, BOOM!

“By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Table Grape Commission and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

Chicken & Grape Biryani
makes 4 servings

* 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cleaned and cut into 2" pieces
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 2-4 slivers cinnamon stick
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
* 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
* 1/2 cup chopped onion
* 5 garlic cloves, cut in half
* 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
* 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon cumin powder
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1/4 teaspoon Garam Masala
* 1 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
* 22-24 grapes, sliced lengthwise
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
* 1/2 cup tomato based vegetable juice
* Sliced scallions for garnish
* 1 pot cooked Basmati rice

1. Heat oil in a skillet until hot, but not smoking. Add cinnamon sticks and bay leaf. Saute for 1 minute. Add the fennel seeds and saute 1 more minute.
2. Add onions, garlic and turmeric. Saute until onions are softened.
3. Add chicken and ginger to skillet. Cover  and cook over low heat until the chicken is partially cooked.
Add the pepper, cumin, salt, coriander, cardamon and cayenne powder. Stir well to coat chicken.
4. Add tomato juice and stir to deglaze the spices from the bottom of the skillet. Add grapes and continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked through and tender.

September 11, 2013

Ambrosia Cheesecake Tart

I have never eaten an Ambrosia salad. Not a big fan of marshmallows (yes, I have also never eaten a s'more). Minus the marshmallows, I thought the components would make a great tart. Nothing wrong with a vibrant tart in the coming fall months.

The California Table Grape Commission sponsored a challenge to The Recipe Redux to share with our readers that grapes, that satisfying fruit that we enjoy all summer, can be a part of our fall and winter healthy eating routine too! Everyone enjoys Grapes from California fresh off the vine, but they can also be added to our favorite fall snacks and recipes for a colorful twist and nutritional boost. From salads and smoothies to sandwiches and sweets, Grapes from California are the one ingredient that can change everything for the better this fall!

“By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Table Grape
Commission and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my

I always oooh and ahhh at those magnificent fruit tarts that are in the glass cases in bakeries everywhere.
They can be pricey so I decided to make an easy version that can be whipped up in just a little over 30 minutes. I choose to use three fruits because I made four individual-sized tarts and used the three most popular fruits that an Ambrosia salad is known for, grapes, pineapple, Mandarin orange slices with a dusting of toasted coconut.

This may look decadent (and it is!) but it is also low fat and pretty healthy with the fruits.

Still not convinced, how about some persuasion? Grapes of all colors – red, black and green – are a natural source of beneficial antioxidants and other polyphenols. One serving of grapes (3/4 cup) contains just 90 calories, no fat, no cholesterol and virtually no sodium, and also provide potassium and are a good source of vitamin K.

Not being a baker, I am always happy to create desserts with the least amount of preparation as possible and I totally succeeded with this version. A press in crust that requires no rolling or refrigeration and a mere 15 minutes of bake time. Yes, it's that easy AND flaky and flavorful. How is that possible?

You can bake off the crusts ahead of time and fill them just before serving.
I have two in my fridge right now. They are dessert for us tomorrow when The Nudge gets home. He's gonna love this! You will too.

Ambrosia Cheesecake Tart
makes 4 (4") tarts or 1 (8") tart

* 1 (8oz) brick 1/3 less fat cream cheese
* 1/2 cup fat free sweetened condensed milk
* 1 crust (recipe follows)
* Can of Mandarin orange slices, drained on a paper towel
* Pineapple tidbits, also drained
* 12-16 white grapes, cut in half width wise
* Maraschino cherries
* Toasted coconut

1. Press crust mixture into tart pan (1/4 for small tarts) and place a piece of foil along with pie weights, into the crust. Bake for 12 minutes at 350°. Carefully remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Remove and cool completely.
2. While crust is baking, place the cream cheese and condensed milk in a stand mixer and beat on high until combined. Pour 1/4 of filling in each of small tarts and all of the filling into large tart. Evenly spread to edges.
3. Decoratively place the fruit on the top and sprinkle with coconut.
4. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Buttermilk Crust
makes enough crust for 4 small tarts and 1 (8") tart

* 1 cup AP flour
* 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 cup lard
* 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 2 tablespoons buttermilk

1. Place all the ingredients for the crust into a food processor (or hand mixer) and pulse until a ball starts to form. Remove the dough and with the help of plastic wrap, press the dough into an 8" tart pan and up the sides or divide the crust dough into 4 equal parts and press each one into 4" tart pans.

Since I always have the ingredients to make these at a moments notice, I can add and subtract any fruits I have on hand but I always have grapes in my refrigerator. Add a little color to your holiday meals this winter and if it makes you feel better, I give you permission to add a few miniature marshmallows.

September 9, 2013

Grilled Pork Chops with Sautéed Apples

Sunday mornings we have a ritual. The Nudge brings the paper to bed with a cuppa for me and we slowly get ready to start the day. It is the only day a week that we sleep in.

I get to watch my foodie show until his Sports Reporters is on and every once in a while I catch the Best Thing I Ever Made/Ate on the Food Network. The other day The Nudge caught the end of a recipe for grilled pork chops with apples. He looked at me "can you make that?"

I had boneless pork loin chops trimmed and tied in the freezer and all I needed was the apples.

"Sure, this week OK?"

And here we are......
I changed a few things because I know what we like and the changes did not alter the objective of the chef.
I brined the chops for 4 hours and gave them a rub about one hour before grilling.
I used five spice powder instead of the star anise and used a pinch of ground cloves. I also used brown sugar on the apples and made oven-braised endive as our side.

Grilled Chops with Sautéed Apples
Serves 3

3 teaspoons salt (omit this if chops were brined)
1 teaspoon ground fennel or anise seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon pimenton
Pinch of ground clove
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
3 boneless center-cut pork chops (6 ounces each)
Vegetable oil
Mix ingredients to rub on both sides of each chop. Brush chops with oil and grill for 4 minutes on each side.

Sauteed Apples:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 Gala apple, cored and sliced into 6 wedges
1/8 teaspoon five spice powder
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brandy

Place everything in a frying pan and simmer, uncovered until the apples are soft and the sauce has thickened (about 15 minutes).
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September 5, 2013

Estate Verdure Gnocchi - End of Summer Gnocchi

Do you like your gnocchi made with ricotta cheese or potatoes?
People will tell you they love the ricotta ones because they are lighter than the potato gnocchi.

Gnocchi on a whole, is often served with butter, cream, tomato sauces and the majority find themselves tossed with pesto in the hot summer because pesto is not cooked.

I love them both and I will usually make them with what I have on hand when the craving hits me. I have made gnocchi stuffed with blue cheese and made with puréed cauliflower, squash, sweet potatoes, cornmeal, spinach, broccoli and even asparagus when it's on it's last legs. I recently bought mushroom and tomato powder and am planning to use them in pasta doughs this winter.

These were made with leftover mashed potatoes and normally I would make ridges but I could not find my butter paddle and was too lazy to roll them off the back of a fork.
As far as I am concerned, properly made gnocchi should be light as air no matter what it's made with and perfect at any time of year.
In this case I made them with end of the summer produce. I did not go crazy with every vegetable I could buy, I chose mine based on seasonality, color, texture and yes, price.

Fresh corn off the cob (yellow), carrots (orange), beans (green) and tomatoes (red).
Food should be bright and colorful in the summer, there are enough cold months to cook with the spice ones.

When I do make mashed potatoes I make extra so I can whip up a batch of light-as-air gnocchi.
Each vegetable cut to the same size as the gnocchi, that are bathed in a light olive oil, veggie flavored sauce, with just a light dusting of grated cheese and basil.
Simply perfect and perfectly simple.

If you do not want to make your own gnocchi, I beg you to buy fresh made not the ones in the vacuum packed box. The ones in the box are perfect for dropping into a soup or covered in a heavy sauce, but in the wintertime.
That's a rule we all can live with.

Estate Verdure Gnocchi
Makes 4 servings

* 1 batch potato gnocchi (recipe here)
* 1/4 cup olive oil + extra to finish
* 1 large clove garlic, minced
* 2 medium carrots, julienned
* 1 cup fresh green beans, 1" pieces
* 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and cut into large dice
* 1/2 yellow squash, half moons
* 1/4 small sweet onion, sliced in 1" pieces
* 1 cup corn off the cob
* 2 tablespoons white wine
* 1/2 cup vegetable stock
* 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated on a rasp, over the finished dish
* 4-5 large basil leaves, chiffonade

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Saute garlic until you can smell it. Add the green beans, carrots and onions and cook for 2 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and the squash and saute for 3 minutes until the pan develops some browning.
3. Pour the wine into the pan to deglaze the bottom and add the stock. Simmer for 1 minute. 
4. Add the gnocchi and continue to simmer until everything is hot and bubbling.
5. Spoon into serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, top with cheese and basil.

I promise this will not be the last time you make this dish. Pick the colors you love and get cooking.

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September 4, 2013

Plum Tart

I just made a plum tart. An easy one, courtesy of Ina. I bought 3 beautiful plums at a farmer's market that recently opened, on our way to my Supermarket. It was packed and that makes me laugh, when not one driveway further would be produce at half the price. Goes to show you how horrible the fresh produce has become in chain store markets.

Did I tell you that the stupid government here in New Jersey (which is named the Garden State, by the way) tried to eliminate the Department of Agriculture? I will be so happy to retire in North Carolina.

One thing you should know if you make this tart. At the 60 minute mark the interior was bubbling with juice. Instead of pulling out the tart and letting it cool, I made the decision to move the pan to the upper portion of the oven (from the bottom rack) and bake it for another 10 minutes.

WRONG decision!! Ina was right. 60 minutes was more than enough. When I make this again (and there will be another time) I will start the tart in the upper third of the oven and bake it for no more than 50 minutes. I did use a smaller pan. While cooling, the juices will firm up to a jam-like texture and the crust will stay chewy and not cookie hard.

Other than the wrong baking time, the rest of the tart was perfection and very tasty. I did sprinkle demerara sugar over the top for crunch and shine. This tart rocks!!

Italian Plum Tart
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa, 2010
How Easy is That?
Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 8 servings

* 3/4 pound Italian prune plums, quartered and pitted
* 2 tablespoons Minute tapioca
* 2 tablespoons creme de cassis liqueur (I used blackberry liquor
* 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided  (1 cup + 3/4 cup)
* 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
* 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan (I used an 8" pan) and place it on a sheet pan.
Place the plums, tapioca, creme de cassis, and 3/4 cup of the sugar in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and remaining 1 cup of sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder.
With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture until it forms small, dry crumbs. Add 1 tablespoon of cold water and continue to beat for about 30 seconds, until the mixture forms large, moist crumbs.
Set aside 3/4 cup of the crumb mixture and pour the rest into the springform pan. With floured hands, lightly pat the dough evenly in the bottom of the pan and 1 inch up the sides. Arrange the plums in concentric circles on the crust. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly on top.
Bake for 1 hour, until the fruit is bubbling and the crust is golden. Cool for 15 minutes, then remove the sides of the pan and serve warm or at room temperature.

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September 2, 2013

Chicken Bulgogi and Korean Fried Rice

Hope everyone is having a great Labor Day!
Although not in time for tonight, it would make an easy weeknight meal and a good tailgate dish.

Bulgogi, a Korean classic BBQ, usually calls for slices of rich beef, I used chicken. There was so much flavor in this marinade and brushing it as a glaze while it grilled doubled that. Not an overly sweet glaze, this would also work with chicken wings, on shrimp and salmon.

I love to shop on Wednesdays. All the Manager Specials are priced to fly off the shelf and I am happy to do my part. I had a package of boneless chicken breasts in my cart when a few sections down I spotted a few packages of skinless bone-in breasts. Perfect for the grill, the bone helps keep the meat juicy and the price made my debit card happy. The Nudge loves his chicken cooked on the bone, he doesn't have to know I bought them because of the sale and not because I do everything with him in mind.
Now, everyone is happy, happy, happy (name that show).

A perfect weeknight dinner, I bought a bagged broccoli slaw which I will saute with leftover rice for a loosely translated Korean fried rice (I had no kimchi).

The part of this meal that took the longest was heating the coals in my Weber, but that gave me the time I needed to make my Korean-Style fried rice and yes, I took liberties on the substitutions.

Chicken Bulgogi
makes enough marinade for 6 breasts

* 6 chicken breasts, which ever kind your family likes
* 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
* 2 tablespoons toasted-sesame oil
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* 3 scallions, thinly sliced
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
* 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
* 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast cutlets, pounded 1/3 inch thick
* Vegetable oil, for brushing

    In a resealable plastic bag, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, vinegar, pepper, scallions, garlic, ginger and 1 tablespoon of the sesame seeds. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 4 hours.
    Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Oil the grates. Remove the chicken from the marinade (reserve to flavor the rice and will be cooked in the rice) and brush lightly with oil. Grill over moderate heat, turning once, until lightly charred and cooked through, 5 minutes each side. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds. Serve.

Korean Fried Rice
makes 5 cups

* 1 large egg, scrambled and cooked (optional)
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 cup onion, sliced
* 2 cups kimchi or slaw mix (chopped small)
* 4 cups day old rice
* 4 sprigs green onion (sliced & chopped)
* 1/4 cup reserved Bulgogi marinade
* Toasted sesame seeds (optional)

1. In a large frying pan over a medium high flame add 1 tablespoon butter and allow to melt then add  in onion and mix well. Continue to fry for about 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Next add in 2 tablespoons of butter and add in chopped kimchi (or slaw mix). Fry in pan for about 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Once that is nice and soft add the day old rice. It will take a second to break it up into the vegetable mixture. Mix well.
4. Once the rice is combined lower the flame to a simmer. In a separate pan make some scrambled eggs then add to the rice, then top with green onion and reserved marinade. Mix well.
5. Lastly sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with Sambal!!!!  Eat with the chicken or by it’s lonesome.

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