Wish Upon A Dish: June 2014

June 30, 2014

Bacon & Shrimp Pasta Toss ♥ Comfort food when comfort is what you need

I will use any excuse to fire up the grill.
This recipe calls for all cooked in a skillet and I chose to grill my shrimp and then add them to the pasta and bacon. I sprinkled them liberally with a Cajun spice blend.

Yes, it's extra work but it gets me out of the house on a beautiful day which I spent sitting in a car dealership getting all four rotors and pads replaced. Oh, yeah. Heads will roll on this one. I should have be told, "ma'am, you need new brake pads" and I would have been OK with that. Instead I was informed that I was driving on metal and no pads where even  in existence. How does that happen when you get regular scheduled maintenance every 3K miles?

And this day started out with what I thought would be a simple battery purchase and a call to AAA.
OMG, $600 later and I still had to repair a rip in my exhaust pipe because with all the snow it destroyed the old one and oh, forget about the dead battery, it was fine. WHAT!?!?
Not only did I NOT need a new battery or starter (which I think secretly they wished it was one of them, at least to justify my being there), I now sound like the teenagers car up the street.

I need to smell the fresh air and I was going to pour a glass of wine and stand by that grill if The Nudge knew what was good for him (it was his car!!!).

I had all intentions of buying my flats of vegetables and planting my garden. Tomorrow they predict rain and  the next day and oh poo, this was the best day of the week. Do you hate your life sometimes?

The thought of pasta always makes me feel good and this needed to be a pasta night!
Bonus.....it was so nice out we ate al fresco.

Bacon and Shrimp Pasta Toss
Makes: 4 servings, about 1 3/4 cups

* 8 ounces uncooked orecchiette or other small pasta
* 2 applewood-smoked bacon slices
* 5 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 5 cups baby spinach leaves
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt + more for the pasta water

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions until almost al dente, omitting salt and fat; drain, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid.
  2. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat 10 minutes or until crisp, turning once. Remove from pan; reserve drippings. Crumble bacon. Add garlic to drippings in pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add shrimp; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove shrimp from pan; set aside.
  3. Add reserved 3/4 cup cooking liquid and oil to pan; bring to a boil. Boil 30 seconds, stirring with a whisk. Add pasta to pan; cook 1 minute, tossing to combine. Stir in spinach, shrimp, and salt. Top with bacon. Serve immediately.
 Nutritional Information
  • Calories: 396
  • Fat: 11g
  • Saturated fat: 2.1g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 5.1g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.2g
  • Protein: 26g
  • Carbohydrate: 48g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Cholesterol: 148mg
  • Iron: 3mg
  • Sodium: 570mg
  • Calcium: 101mg

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June 27, 2014

Outside-In Pork Wellington ♥ Start to table in less than an hour

If you ever get the chance to eat Beef Wellington, you should do it.
I got the chance to prepare a Beef Wellington many years ago when I did not know any better. The beef steamed in the pastry and well, it tasted good but it looked like crap. Back then there was no Internet to get all the tips on what not to do. You guys have it so easy nowadays.

While I could have made this pork version exactly like a traditional Wellington but I was going for gluten-free and lower carb. Omit the bread you say? Well, I decided that the mushroom duxelle needed something to bind it together so the inside would not fall out when slicing.

I used a mere 5 gluten-free crackers and it was perfect.
Now you can make this easy bake oven version and see what all the hoopla is about.

A Wellington requires layering of ingredients that not only taste great together they serve a purpose in the scheme of things. There is a layer of horseradish mustard to act as the glue for the next layer, which is a pate, but we are using three slices of good liverwurst (I recommend Mother Goose). The last layer (or middle) is the mushroom duxelle and cracker mixture.

That's it. Roll the tenderloin as tightly as you can, and when it is all rolled up, tie the pork in five places, salt & pepper and grill or oven roast until the interior temperature registers 135°. Remove, cover in foil and rest for 10 minutes. If you do not allow this to rest the layers will fall apart and you will have done all that work for nothing. Trust me, it will stay hot long enough to get it to the table.

Make a beef or pork gravy using your favorite homemade version or do as I do when in a pinch, I grab a packet of Knorr's Pork Gravy.

This was exceptional!! I can only describe it as rich, complex, textural and tender beyond words. Not one ingredient stood out, they all melded together. Now I know why this dish has stood the test of time.
I think this version will renew interest.

Wellington Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
* 1 pound pork tenderloin, butterflied and pounded to an even thickness
* 4-6 slices thin prosciutto
* Pork or beef gravy

Mustard Mixture
* 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
* 1 tablespoon Dijon, spicy brown, or hot English mustard

Mushroom Duxelle
* 1 pound mushrooms (button, cremini, shiitake, portabello, or a mix) cleaned, trimmed, and roughly chopped
* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 2 medium shallots, finely sliced (about 1/2 cup)
* 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh thyme leaves
* 1/2 cup cognac or other brandy or barrel-aged spirit such as bourbon
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 2 teaspoons soy sauce

1. Melt the butter in a skillet and saute the shallots until tender. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook until the mushrooms are done and all the moisture has cooked out. Add the cognac and reduce by half. Add the cream and soy sauce and cook until there is about 2 tablespoons of sauce left. Add the cracker crumbs and stir to mix well. Remove to cool.
2. Place the butterflied tenderloin on a cutting board and spread the mustard/horseradish mixture evenly across the meat from end to end.
3. Lay the slices of liverwurst towards the bottom half of the meat. Press to adhere. Add the mushroom stuffing to the top of the liverwurst slices and start to roll from the bottom to the top, ending with the seam at the bottom of the roll.
5. Cut 5 strings of kitchen twine and tie the middle. Working from the middle, evenly space two ties on both sides. Rub with olive oil and season with salt & pepper.
6. Set the grill to indirect grilling and the temperature to 400­°. Place the roast on the opposite end of the coals, close the lid and grill for 30 minutes or until the internal temp reaches 135°. Remove and tent in foil.
Oven roasting: Place the roll on a rack set into a baking pan and roast at 400° until the internal temp reaches 135°, about 30-35 minutes.

If you feel you may ruin the meat if you have never butterflied one before, just cut in right down the middle but not all the way through, leaving about 1/2-inch still attached, open the meat and pound it as well as your can. It will be just fine no matter what you do. You could always go to a butcher and have him do it. I cut a slit in mine and all I did was cut a piece off one of the thicker sections and used that as a patch.

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June 24, 2014

Watercress Mustard Grilled Chicken Breasts ♥ Not just for soup anymore!

If you do anything this summer, it must be this marinade. Not only did it tenderize the chicken, it added great flavor. It isn't a bold flavor, but a subtle, smooth taste that complimented the chicken completely.

It was a dish that Art Smith created when he was Oprah's private chef and it could not have been easier.
I ate watercress for the first time last week. You've heard of watercress soup, right? The first course soup served at ladies luncheons for the nouveau riche?

I always thought it was just another lettuce with green flavor but besides being on the top of this list it has a wonderful flavor. Who woulda thunk? When I buy a large package of food that I know I will only use a spoonful of, I try to do research on what else I could cook it with.

This was perfect. I marinaded the chicken breasts for only about 2 hours, and grilled them, which added more flavor. The Nudge went back for seconds, he never does that!!

Seriously good with a nice bonus of being oober healthy. I would make a batch of this and freeze it in individual snack bags. This would also be great on seafood.

I did not have access to the specialized watercress mustard but Art's suggestion of watercress and Dijon was a great sub.

I made an Ultimate Caprese Salad for a side and we had a great low carb, easy dinner.

Watercress Mustard Chicken
Adapted from Art Smith
 Serves : 6
* 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
* 2 tablespoons minced watercress
* 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
* 2 teaspoons fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried
* 2 cloves garlic, chopped
* 6 thin boneless chicken breasts
* Salt & pepper to taste

1. Process all the ingredients except the chicken.
2. Pour over the chicken in a zip bag and store in the fridge for as long as it takes to get the grill hot.
3. Grill the chicken about 3 minutes per side.

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June 21, 2014

Thandai Panna Cotta ♥ Floral Flavors - Recipe Redux Challenge June 2014

When this post is published I will be at my family reunion and from there we leave on a cruise to Bermuda. At first I thought I would pass on this month's Recipe Redux challenge but when I saw the theme, well I just got busy.

Last year I got the idea to make Baklava so I purchased a bottle of rose water, at least I think that was why? It has been sitting in my spice cabinet since then and it was about time, don't you think? What to make that will make four servings. I certainly don't want to put food into a fridge I am trying to pull food out of.

I stumbled on an India recipe site and saw a drink that they consume during a fast when solid foods is not allowed. It had a ingredient list of a combination of spices that was very unique to me and that is always a catalyst in the push I need to give it a try.

Have you guessed the challenge theme yet? No, it's not Indian food now that I mentioned it, that would make a good theme, a food from a country never eaten.

The theme is - ta da......Floral Flavors - Nothing brightens up a dish like a real flower! Whether you live in the northern or the southern hemisphere, edible flowers can add flavor and aroma to salads, breads, spreads, desserts or dips. Make your recipe bloom with rose water, flowering herbs, floral teas, dried lavender blossoms or even fresh flowers like nasturtiums, violets, borage, squash, sunflowers or pretty much any blossom in a vegetable garden.

I decided to take that milk drink and make it into a Panna Cotta.
Panna Cotta (cooked milk) takes 10 minutes to prepare and only a few hours in the refrigerator. Because of the paste this recipe requires just a few more minutes of your time. It starts with soaking raw almonds and then pureeing them with seeds and saffron to make a paste that is then added to milk. The flavored milk is strained, unflavored gelatin is added, dissolved and then refrigerated.

You might think this is similar to Chi but it's not. Tough to describe exactly what it tastes like, it has that mysterious undertone that the orient is known for. I liked the taste but not sure The Nudge will enjoy this. The success of this dessert depends on the sauce I serve it with.

I took the basic sugar & water syrup, added cardamom, more rose water and the juice of one lemon. The pink color? was from a jar of Maraschino cherries.

While The Nudge took one bite and decided the cat was more fun (no surprise there!!), I loved it.
It wasn't the spices that turned him off, it was the consistency (this from a man who ate Jello every night during his grammar school years!!).

The best part is you can use a low-fat milk, or a non-dairy milk, and a sugar substitute to make this dessert very healthy and perfectly diabetic-friendly, vegan, gluten-free and low carb.

Thandai Panna Cotta
Makes 4 servings
* 1/4 cup almonds, soaked, drained and peeled
* 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
* 10-12 whole black peppercorns
* 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
* 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
* A few strands saffron, dissolved in...
* 1 tablespoon warm milk
* 1 tablespoon rose water

Other Ingredients
* 2 packets unflavored gelatin
* 1 quart milk, dairy or not
* 1/2 cup powdered sugar

* 3/4 cup granulated sugar, or 1/2 cup sugar sub
* 1/2 cup water
* 1 teaspoon rose water
* Pinch of ground cardamom
* Juice of 1 lemon
* Splash of Grenadine, Chambord or food coloring (optional)

1. In a spice grinder, food processor or morter & pestal, make the paste.
2. Add the gelatin to 1 cup of the milk; stir and let it rest for 2 minutes. 
3. Bring all milk and the paste to a simmer, stirring but do not boil.
4. Add the powdered sugar and strain into a 1 quart pitcher.
5. Line 4 (1 cup) ramekins and evenly fill each ramekin. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until the mixture is a jelly.
6. In a small saucepan add the syrup ingredients and boil to reduce by half. Cool completely.

To serve: Run a knife around the inside of the ramekin and tilt onto a dish. It should plop right out. If it does not, use the knife to get some air into the bottom of the panna cotta. You will hear it release.
Spoon the syrup over the panna cotta and serve cold.


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June 19, 2014

St. Louis-Style Margarita Pie ♥ From bowl to table in 30 minutes, no bull

You know when you are having 'one of THOSE days' and the last thing you needed to forget was to defrost something for dinner.

This is the perfect dinner for those days. No need to call for delivery or to pay money for restaurant food.

Crust needs no yeast so no rise time, it is made in a bowl, so no dirtying the processor, uses that one last tomato sitting on the shelf begging for attention and the mozzarella can be grated from a half frozen state.

Yes, you can add meat but in this house, the margarita is boss.

Have you ever eaten a St. Louis pizza? Well then, you are in for a surprise. The crust is crunchy, but not crackly crunchy but it has flavor and bakes well in an oven with no stone.

Set the oven racks to top and bottom. Broil on the top rack until the cheese browns on the edges then move to the bottom for about 10 minutes to cook the dough. Remove and serve.

I have posted a St. Louis pizza before but it always needs a sales pitch from time to time.

The beauty of this crust is that it can be pressed on a sheet pan or a pizza pan or you can make them into individual personal pan sizes and let the kids decorate them with anything they wish.
I like that this is a good way to use up all those small containers of foods that by the end of the week, instead of throwing them all away, you are using them for another meal. Now, give yourself a hug.

St. Louis Pizza Crust
makes 1 (24") or 2 (14") pizza crusts

* 2 cups AP flour
* 2 tablespoons cornstarch
* 2 teaspoons sugar
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water
* 2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Mix the dry ingredients and add the olive oil and the 1/2 cup water. Take a small piece of dough and press it between two fingers. If it comes together without crumbling, no need to add the remaining 2 tablespoons of water. If it is crumbly, add 1 tablespoon, mix and feel it again. Repeat until the dough sticks together when pressed but does not stick to your fingers.

2. Place the dough on a board or place and invert a bowl over it. Let it rest for a few minutes, while the oven pre-heats. Can also be refrigerated up to 3 days.

Margarita Topping
* large tomato, sliced and salted
* 1/2 a pound packaged of Biazzo mozzarella, grated
* 1/4 cup Locatella cheese, grated
* 6 basil leaves, chiffonade
* Olive oil and sea salt

Coat the crust with the olive oil, sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the oil and then place the slices of tomato around the pie. Broil for 4 minutes on high or until the cheese starts to bubble and brown. Move the pizza to the lowest rack, adjust the temp to 425° and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is cooked and crisp.

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June 16, 2014

Anniversary Lobster with Sweet Ginger ♥ Wolfie says.."Don't Mess With a Good Thing"

We have eaten in our share of  "Celebrity Chefs" restaurants, never a bad choice but never a choice to one of Wolfgang Puck's. Was right across from it in Caesar's Palace, but we were there for Emeril's Raw Bar and  B.Flay's Mesa Grill. You know the old saying, next time. After 7 trips to Vegas, there may never be a next time. We are entering the last phase of our travels and there are so many places yet to explore.

I do know he is famous for his lobster dishes, so when two things happened at the same time, I knew where to go for inspiration.

What am I yabbering about? What else, but my anniversary and a sale on lobster tails! Who wouldn't take that as a sign of good things to come. I'm surprised you didn't guess that!!
The Nudge is on a lobster kick this month, from lobster mac n cheese to lobster and crab cakes, so it was only natural he quickly agreed to lobster tails for our Anniversary dinner.

I knew right where to get the recipe for a very special lobster dish, Wolfgang's site.
His Lobster with Sweet Ginger is famous, so that was what I was going to cook.

For all of you who think I should have been fair to let him pick the dish, I did give him him two choices, this one here and this one there. Both were different enough but sounded delicious nevertheless and the best thing of all, I had all the ingredients either way, no trip to the store in a torrential downpour (but if not, he would be worth that trip).

Instead of whole lobsters, we bought 4 ounce tails (included the shell). Unless I need lobster shells for a bisque or am hosting a New England clam bake, we both feel whole lobsters are a waste of money.

As with most of Wolfgang's recipes, it requires a few steps but if you prep your ingredients ahead of time and read the recipe a few times, the whole process comes together easily and a few things can be done ahead of time and while the lobster is in the oven, the final sauce is done when the lobster is done.
The whole process takes under 30 minutes.

The sauce sounded to die for so it was only natural to make a small amount of brown Basmati rice to soak it  up and simple grilled zucchini slices...yum!

If you are wondering, I made a Bailey's Irish Cream Chocolate Mousse for dessert.
I only wish it was a better weather day.

Lobster with Sweet Ginger
Makes: 2 servings

* 1 piece fresh ginger, approximately 1- inch
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 3/4 cup plum wine, divided (I used sake)
* 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
* 2 tablespoons peanut oil
* 1 (2-pound) lobster split lengthwise (I bought tails)
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
* 4 scallions cut into 3/8 inch slices
* 1 teaspoon curry powder (we don't like, so omitted)
* 1/4 cup dry white wine
* 1/2 tablespoon chili flakes
* 1/2 cup fish stock, clam juice or base
* 1/2 cup cream
* 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
* Salt and black pepper, freshly ground

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

  1. Peel the ginger, reserving the peels, and cut into fine julienne strips. Cut the peels into coarse strips and set aside. 
  2. In a small saucepan, cook the ginger and garlic with a 1/2 cup of the plum wine and the rice vinegar until 1 tablespoon of liquid remains. Remove from the heat and set aside. 
  3. Place a heavy heatproof 12-inch skillet over high heat until it is very hot. Add the oil almost to the smoking point. Carefully add the lobster halves, meat side down. Cook for 3 minutes. Turn the lobster over and add 1 tablespoon of butter.  Continue to sauté the lobster shells until they are red and the butter is a nutty red. Transfer the lobsters to the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the lobster is just cooked. Remove from the oven, remove the lobster from the skillet and keep warm. 
  4. Add the scallions, ginger peels and curry powder to the skillet. Saute the mixture lightly for 15 seconds, then whisk in the remaining plum wine, white wine, stock, chili flakes and the vinegar. Reduce the liquid to about a 1/2 cup. Add the cream and reduce by half, then whisk in the 1 tablespoon of butter. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. 
  5. Crack the lobster claws with the back of a large chefs knife.
  6. Spoon the sauce over the lobster and remember that 1 tablespoon of ginger sauce in step 2? Spoon just enough of that glaze over the exposed lobster meat. It takes this dish to the over-the-top, OMG level.

Wolfgang Puck: This dish will dazzle your guests and make you look like a superstar in the kitchen. The flavors are strong and complex. When you present the lobster you can either place it on individual plates or on a large platter for family style. It’s the type of dish that you reserve for a really important night.

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June 14, 2014

Afghan Noodles ♥ The Mushroom Council's "The Trend is to Blend" Recipe Redux Sponsored Contest

When the Recipe Redux joined with The Mushroom Council's "The Trend is to Blend" promotion, they asked us to show our love of mushrooms by sharing recipes that blend diced, chopped or minced mushrooms in place of some portion of meat or other lean protein using the "blendability technique" to make a healthier dish OR swap out all of the meat protein in a recipe to make a vegetarian dish featuring fresh mushrooms, I knew it was time to showcase this mushroom blended recipe. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more. For an excellent source of all things mushrooms, you should visit this site.

"By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by The Mushroom Council and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time." 

Lately I have been expanding my foodie horizons and moving into areas I dared not visit before. One good reason was because I knew The Nudge was just not into all those unique spices. Over the last few months I seem to have awakened something in his attitude that has changed from "no, I have never tasted that but I know I won't like it - to - Let me taste it first, then I will let you know". He has been very adventurous in the kitchen as of late and except for one small disaster, he's taken leftovers for lunch (that is my indication he likes what he has eaten!).

Tonight we traveled to Afghanistan with a dish I knew he would like. I always thought that Afghanistan food was like Indian (of which both of us are not fans), but after researching the cuisine, I found out, quite to my surprise, that there is nothing that they cook that can not be found in a good market here in the US. They love meat (beef #1) and spinach and squash is a big part of their diet. They also make dumplings and noodles, like mild spice, love coriander and use yogurt like most of the Mediterranean countries. The only spice that was not something I am exposed to often is fenugreek but after a whiff I recognize it as something I have found in Greek foods. While India uses it the most, it is prized by most arid-growing countries and travels along the spice trail to Morocco.

Turmeric (which most of us recognize today), is used in almost every dish that the Afghans eat. Today it has been found to have nutritional benefits that goes beyond the tell-tail bright orange color. While India uses ginger, that is one spice not found in the Afghan diet because Muslims do not cook with it (or alcohol of any kind). I imagine that just like India, there are many areas of cuisine that change depending where you live and how close to the spice trail that territory was. Needless to say, I am intrigued with that whole area in relationship to food.

This dish is something I created that might seem more American in nature due to the known ingredients that we can find here in the US, but a dish like this (in one version or another) is found in every home in Afghanistan. Always trying to 'sneak' more vegetables into our diet, the mushrooms were the perfect choice. They are like little sponges, soaking up the juices of all the ingredients that they are cooked with. I was actually able to use more than a 50-50 swap with this dish because lamp has a powerful presence and I needed less meat, making this extremely healthy.

Lamb is most often the meat of choice for this style dish but a lean beef can and does act as a suitable replacement since the Afghans do raise beef and quite enjoy it. I went with the lamb and to keep it healthy, after cooking, I drained it well in sheets of paper towels to whisk away all the fat. I then added minced onions, garlic, mushrooms and tomato sauce.
The rest was all herbs and spices. It is topped with a yogurt sauce that is flavored with garlic and lots of mint.
There isn't anything to not like in this dish. I wanted it to be red pepper hot so I added red pepper flakes and a good squirt of Sriracha just before eating but that is something that is optional, as is the fenugreek. If you have dried mint in your cabinet that will do just fine.

It is amazing that I could not ascertain that this mixture was a 30% meat - 70% mushroom blend. You will not taste an overwhelmingly mushroom flavor and you will swear you are eating all meat. I am amazed that the meat acts as a flavor component and not just the main ingredient. I also know this is very kid-friendly due to the natural sweetness of the tomato sauce, onions, coriander and the mint.
The yogurt sauce has a nice hit of brightness with the lemon juice and feel free to add more.

You will love the simplicity of this recipe and what the mushrooms contribute to it, and it got two thumbs up from The Nudge. I am extremely happy to have participated in this contest, but more importantly, I learned so much by doing so and my cooking will be better because of that. I call that a win-win any day.

Afghan Noodles
Serves 6

* 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
* 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or 1/2 teaspoon dried
* 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
* 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1/3 pound ground lamb, beef, pork or poultry
* 10 ounces Baby Bellas, minced
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1/2 sweet onion, minced
* 2 garlic cloves, chopped
* 1 teaspoons chili powder
* 1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
* 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
* 1 cup tomato sauce
* 2 1/2 tablespoons of fresh mint or 1 1/2 teaspoon dried
* 4 cups dried yolk-less egg noodles, cooked

To prepare the sauce, combine the yogurt, 1 1/2 tablespoon fresh mint or 1/2 teaspoon dried, the lemon juice and the garlic.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft. Add the mushrooms, the meat and the chili powder. Saute until the meat is cooked and the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Add the paprika, coriander, turmeric, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
Add the tomato sauce, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer until all the liquid had cooked off. Add the mint right before serving.
Spoon the noodles on a platter, add the meat mixture and top with the yogurt. Pass the Sriracha around.

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June 13, 2014

Chicken Marsala Crepes - Served Two Ways ♥ The Mushroom Council's "The Trend is to Blend" Recipe Redux Sponsored Contest

When the Recipe Redux joined with The Mushroom Council's "The Trend is to Blend" promotion, they asked us to show our love of mushrooms by sharing recipes that blend diced, chopped or minced mushrooms in place of some portion of meat or other lean protein using the "blendability technique" to make a healthier dish OR swap out all of the meat protein in a recipe to make a vegetarian dish featuring fresh mushrooms, I knew it was time to showcase this mushroom blended recipe. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more. For an excellent source of all things mushrooms, you should visit this site.

"By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by The Mushroom Council and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time." 

I think that Chicken Marsala has gotten a bad wrap due to those chain restaurants making a gloppy version with cornstarch sauce and rubbery formed chicken breasts. When made right it can be good enough for company. I have to say it is one of my Dad & mine's favorite dishes and when we can get a well made version, we both order the same thing. It's easy to prepare, has a great wine sauce, tender mushrooms and perfectly sauteed chicken breasts. A great example of simplicity and I would say the Italians invented the 5-ingredient way of cooking.

There really is only one way to make Chicken Marsala, so it is not recommended when creating dishes for a recipe contest that you would love to nail, but putting a spin on something that uses those beloved flavors and still maintains my Italian pride might just impress the judges.
So, what exactly does a spin mean? Well, I made chicken flavored crepes (crespelle), a mushroom ricotta filling and a Marsala sauce. Instead of rolling the crepes around the filling and topping with the sauce, I stacked them and made a crepe cake. For keeping in line with an Italian preparation, I also made Fazoletto (a French undertaker wearing a head scarf) or my favorite, Fazzoletti (Nonna's Handkerchief's).

Same recipe ingredients served two different ways. Both easy to make. The cake does require access to a 6" baking pan (spring form, souffle or casserole) for the cake but I think that's doable. I thought about stacking the crepes free form but I wasn't sure the ricotta would not create a mud slide while baking.

I did make the crepe cake two days before I was planing on serving it for dinner. I also wanted to see how well that would work. I always like to know if the food writer takes that into account, especially with a dish that would be perfect for a Sunday Brunch that allows the host to do enough ahead so to enjoy the guests.

The recipe here made 16 (6") crepes. I used 8 crepes for the cake. The rest was made into fazzioletti.
Any leftover filling was added to the sauce. This was not only over-the-top excellent, The Nudge was full with this slice. Mushrooms can be extremely filling.

This whole week of working with mushrooms has done good things for meal planning. The Nudge has gotten the chance to see that vegetable dishes, with the right ingredients, can be as satisfying as a main meal instead of as a side. Salads will always be considered "lite" food and a steak a steak, but there are those blended dishes that really trick the taste buds into thinking one is eating something with meat.
Mushrooms have that 5th taste called "umami" that gives a dish not only a meaty texture but flavor as well.

Chicken Marsala Crepes
Makes 16 (6-inch) crepes

* 2 large eggs
* 2 cups AP flour
* 2 cups low fat milk
* 1/4 cup Marsala wine
* 2 no-sodium chicken bouillon powder
* 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
* 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
* 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
* 1 pound Baby Bellas, minced
* 16 ounces low fat ricotta
* 4 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
* 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Roman cheese

* 2 cups half and half
* 1/4 cup flour
* 1/4 cup chicken stock
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 8 ounces button mushrooms, chopped
* Salt & pepper to taste
1. In a mixing bowl with a spout, whisk the eggs, milk, flour, wine, bouillon, thyme, marjoram, salt and pepper until smooth. Let it rest for 30 minutes. The mixture should be the consistency of pancake batter. If it is too thick, add more wine to thin it out.
2. Using a 1/3 cup measure, spray a non-stick skillet with a release agent and pour the batter into one side of the skillet and twirl round and round until the bottom is covered and the liquid stops moving. Use a spoon to fill in any holes. Flip it over with a spatula and cook for 1 more minute. Slide the crepe off the pan, onto a paper plate, placing a small piece of wax paper between each one. Repeat until all the batter is cooked.
3. In the same skillet, saute the minced mushrooms until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are dry. Cool.
4. Using the same skillet,heat the olive oil and cook the mushrooms. Add the flour to the cooked mushrooms and continue to cook for 1 minute, stirring. Whisk in the half and half and the chicken stock until the mixture thickens and is smooth. Remove to cool.
4. In a large bowl, add the mushrooms to the ricotta and season with salt & pepper. Using an offset spatula, spread 1 1/2 tablespoons mushroom/cheese mixture onto one crepe.

For the cake: Spray the bottom on the baking pan and spoon 1 tablespoon of sauce onto the bottom. Cover with a crepe that has been spread with the cheese mixture. Spoon a tablespoon of sauce over the cheese and 1 tablespoon of grated Fontina cheese & 1 teaspoon of Parmesan, another crepe, ricotta mixture, sauce & Fontina/Parmesan cheeses. Repeat until you have the amount of layers you desire. There is more than enough filling and cheeses, so be on the side of generous.
For the Fazzoletti: Spread crepes with a generous tablespoon of ricotta/mushroom mixture, a tablespoon of Fontina and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Fold crepe twice to form a triangle. Spoon enough sauce to cover the bottom of a lasagna pan. Lay the filled crepes in rows, starting with the point up and laying the next crepe about 1/2-inch on the first one (see pic). Repeat, making three rows. Spoon the sauce over the middle of the crepes, sprinkle paprika over the sauce (optional) and right before baking, some more grated Parmesan.

Preheat oven to 350°. Place the crepe cake pan or the Fazzoletti pan on a sheet pan, cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the top with a good amount of Fontina and the rest of the Parmesan. Place the sheet pan right under the broiler and continue baking until the top gets golden brown and bubbly.
Heat the sauce and pour a puddle on a plate, serve one slice of cake or two handkerchiefs.

Can be cooked, stored in the fridge, brought back to room temp (about 1 hour) and reheated, gently in a 300° oven for 30 minutes.

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June 11, 2014

Gorgonzola & Port Macaroni & Cheese Stuffed Portabella Caps ♥ The Mushroom Council's "The Trend is to Blend" Recipe Redux Sponsored Contest

When the Recipe Redux joined with The Mushroom Council's "The Trend is to Blend" promotion, they asked us to show our love of mushrooms by sharing recipes that blend diced, chopped or minced mushrooms in place of some portion of meat or other lean protein using the "blendability technique" to make a healthier dish OR swap out all of the meat protein in a recipe to make a vegetarian dish featuring fresh mushrooms, I knew it was time to showcase this mushroom/pasta blended recipe. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more. For an excellent source of all things mushrooms, you should visit this site.

"By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by The Mushroom Council and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time." 

I was standing in front of the mushroom section of my market, trying to determine how many packages I wanted and of which kind, when I saw the Portabella caps. I grabbed a package, then I grabbed two. I entertained a thought about stuffing but not a new thing in the mushroom arena, that is, unless I was to stuff them with something completely off the grid, like a macaroni and cheese but not just any macaroni and cheese, I wanted one cooked in port and baked with Gorgonzola. Think about it, what goes better with mushrooms than a fortified wine and what goes better with a fortified wine, than a blue cheese? Yes, I had it.......I would blend all those flavors into one dish.

Completely genius (well, this house thought it was but you be the judge). It was also the best macaroni and cheese that I have eaten in a long time. Not a weepy, cheesy, goopy macaroni and cheese, it was just enough of everything and not too much of anything. This was "grown-up" macaroni & cheese.
The best part? you can eat the macaroni and cheese and the porta"bowl"a (sorry, The Nudge insisted I put his 2 cents in).

In this dish, the macaroni and cheese would not have tasted as good without the mushroom. They just compliment each other completely.

Totally versatile, the macaroni and cheese can be cooked up to a week ahead of time and then baked in the caps right before serving, or you could bake them off and store them up to a few days before reheating the day of serving. I made these 4 days in advance while The Nudge was traveling and heated them for dinner last night.

A wonderfully easy dish for a dinner party or, use Baby Bellas and have a cocktail party.
People will be talking about these for years.

Gorgonzola & Port Macaroni Stuffed Portabellas
Servings: 4 large Portabellas
* 4 Portabella caps, cleaned, stemmed and gills removed
* 1 cup dried Acini de Pepe or any small soup pasta
* 1 cup Tawny Port, divided (1/2, 1/4, 1/4)
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil + more for brushing the mushrooms
* 1 shallot, minced
* 1 tablespoon flour
* 1/2 cup low-fat milk
* 1/2 cup chicken broth
* 2 ounces wedge Gorgonzola cheese (not crumbles), divided (3/4, 1/4)
* 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 1 teaspoon honey
* 2 tablespoons dried bread crumbs
* 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Pour the oil into a saucepan. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are transparent. Pour 1/2 cup of the Port into the pan and which slowly; add the milk and the broth, whisking after each addition, till it is smooth. Gently simmer for three minutes. Stir in three quarters of the cheese along with the mustard, honey and the pepper. Continue stirring until the cheese has melted.
2. Meanwhile, cook the macaroni in remaining 1/4 cup Port and 2 cups of water. Add the salt and cook until the pasta is almost done but still chewy, about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta, saving the water for the baking pan; add pasta to the sauce; reserve.
3. Place the cleaned Portabella caps in a baking dish. Spoon a tablespoon of Port into each cap. When the wine is absorbed into the mushrooms, brush with the olive oil and season with salt.
4. Spoon 1/4 of the macaroni and cheese mixture into each cap and sprinkle each with 2 teaspoons of crumbs. Top the crumbs with 1/4 of the remaining Gorgonzola cheese. Top each with 1 pat of butter.
(At this point the caps can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.)
5. Pour about 1/4 cup reserved pasta water into the bottom of the baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the tops are bubbling and crisp.

Think you have a great blended mushroom creation? The Mushroom Council is running a contest on their Facebook page. Just visit them for the entry form to submit your recipe for their Swap It or Top It Contest and good luck!!

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June 10, 2014

Stuffed Italian Sweet Peppers ♥ The Mushroom Council's "The Trend is to Blend" Recipe Redux Sponsored Contest

When the Recipe Redux joined with The Mushroom Council's "The Trend is to Blend" promotion, they asked us to show our love of mushrooms by sharing recipes that blend diced, chopped or minced mushrooms in place of some portion of meat or other lean protein using the "blendability technique" to make a healthier dish OR swap out all of the meat protein in a recipe to make a vegetarian dish featuring fresh mushrooms, I knew it was time to showcase this mushroom/meat blended recipe.  Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more. For an excellent source of all things mushrooms, you should visit this site.

"By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by The Mushroom Council and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time." 

My husband forbade me from messing with my meatball recipe and for years I tinkered with using a three meat blend (he did not like that at all), adding oats (oh boy, no way!) and I even ground my own strip steak meat. I never tried again .......... Until now.
Since my meatball mixture follows the same basic preparation as what I use to stuff peppers, stuffed peppers was what I started with. I thought it best to up the odds in my direction without daring to breathe the word "meatball".

I will say three things......he devoured these!!
Before I could take a pic of my plate he was fare la scarpetta (scooping the last morsel with bread), it was that good.

When I prodded him for more information, he told me he tasted only meat and the spices and they were great, as usual. Then he asked me why I wanted to know. I usually like my own cooking, but I even surprised myself how out-of-this-world-good and when I did the calculations, how oober healthy they were. I can't wait to share this recipe with everyone I know!!

BTW - I had to stop him from taking these for lunch, just in case I got a bad picture. He will be happy to know that his lunch for tomorrow has been packed to go.

Stuffed Sweet Peppers
Makes: 16 Stuffed Mini Sweet Peppers or 4 Large Bell Peppers (4 servings)

* 1 package of button mushrooms, roughly chopped (about 3 ounces cooked)
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/2 pound lean ground meat (white turkey or chicken, lean ground sirloin beef or seitan)
* 1/4 cup quinoa flakes or 1/2 cup leftover cooked quinoa
* 5 crackers with flax seeds or your favorite (I use gluten-free, about 1/4 cup crushed)
* 1/4 large onion, grated or 1/3 cup minced
* 1 large garlic cloves, grated
* 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning blend
* 2 tablespoons ketchup
* 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
* 1 teaspoon salt & 1 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
* 2 teaspoons chia seeds (optional)
* 1 large egg
* 2 ounces pureed carrots (1/2 small jar of baby food)
* 16 mini sweet peppers (2-lb bag or 4 large bell peppers)
* 2/3 (15oz) can diced tomatoes with garlic

1. Place the mushrooms in the bowl of a processor; pulse until a fine mince. Remove to a saute pan, add the olive oil and over medium-high heat until the mushrooms start to brown on the edges. Remove pan to cool.
2. Using the same processor bowl, add the crackers and pulse them to a crumb. Scrap the crumbs into a large bowl (big enough to hold all the ingredients). Reuse the same processor bowl to process the raw onion and garlic and also add them to the crackers.
3. One by one, add the meat, quinoa flakes, ketchup, Dijon mustard, egg, pureed carrots, the cooked and cooled mushrooms, the chia seeds (optional) and the salt & pepper. Gently mix with a large spoon and allow the mixture to rest (in the fridge), covered for 30 minutes. This will allow the flavors to come together and the mixture to firm up. It will still be moist but hold it's shape.
4. Slice a horizontal piece off the mini peppers and the top of the large ones; spoon in the stuffing. Lay the peppers in a large baking pan, touching side-by-side and spoon the tomatoes evenly into the spaces between the peppers and the pan taking care to not cover the stuffing. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes at 350°. Check for moisture and add water to the tomatoes if needed, then uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes more at 375°.
Serve with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan and spoonful of sauce.

June 9, 2014

Bucatini with Fava Beans, Red Cabbage and Crispy Prosciutto

I'm not sure why my local supermarket does not carry all the seasonal vegetables that I see around the blogosphere. I found ramps but only when I went to a Whole Foods (which is almost 30 minutes away) and garlic scapes but the one thing I wish I would see stocked is fava beans.

If you are not familiar with favas, they look like large, dark green lima beans, or broad beans.
I recently won a cookbook called The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook. A wonderful book filled with local, sustainable, delicious foods and chef's recipes that use them. I want to make every dish in that cookbook but it seems some of the sustainable products are not always available.
I was going to have to make substitutions but I consider that a challenge and I can do that.

The recipe for this dish used guanciale and summer favas. Now, I could use pancetta for the guanciale but I recently viewed a TV chef crisp up prosciutto in the oven for her pasta dish and immediately thought that crispy prosciutto would make a nice counter-texture for the creamy favas. Crispy prosciutto it was going to be and frozen favas would have to do.

Next is the pasta. For diabetics and those on WW, it is recommended that they eat no more than 2 oz of dried pasta per serving but if you use Dreamfield's spaghetti, you could up that to 3 ounces and even better yet, whole wheat angel hair would be the best choice. I like Bucatini, which is an unruly, non-swirly, stiffer but fun pasta. Italians love fun foods and The Nudge won't eat hay pasta.

I always like to bump up the vegetable quota, so I julienned red cabbage. Goes well with the green, don't you think?
My work here was done.

Bucatini with Fava Beans, Red Cabbage and Crisp Prosciutto
Makes: 4-6 servings

* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 5 pounds large, starchy fava beans, shucked (about 2 cups)
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; more for garnish
* 1/2 cup diced guanchiale or pancetta (I baked 4 slices of prosciutto)
* 1/2 cup julienned red cabbage (optional)
* 2 cloves garlic, smashed
* 2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus leaves for garnish
* 1 pound fresh or high-quality dried bucatini
* 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
* Pecorino Romano, for grating at the table

Bring a large pan of generously salted water to a boil over medium-high heat and blanch the shucked fava beans for 30 seconds. Drain and transfer to a bowl filled with ice and cold water to stop the cooking. When they are cool enough to handle, peel the beans, removing the outer skin.

Refill the pot with water, generously salt, and bring back to a boil. Warm the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan, add the diced guanciale and cook slowly over low heat until the fat is rendered and the guanciale is crispy and golden brown (bake the prosciutto at 350° until crispy, break into pieces).

Add the cabbage (optional), garlic and 1 teaspoon of the parsley, continuing to cook and stir for about 3 minutes. Add the shelled fava beans and 1 cup water. Season with a pinch each of salt and black pepper, increase the heat, and cook until the water begins to evaporate and the starchy beans begin to break down, about 10 minutes. Add more water to the pan if it starts to dry out.

Drop the pasta in the boiling water and cook until almost al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain and transfer the pasta to the pan with the fava bean sauce. Add a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water and the remaining teaspoon of parsley and continue cooking the pasta in the sauce until it is al dente and the sauce clings to the pasta. Add the Parmigiana and a drizzle of olive oil and transfer to serving plates.

Grate the Pecorino Romano over the pasta at the table, and finish with a few grinds of black pepper and a scattering of parsley leaves.

Review: What I liked the most was the crispy prosciutto. It was a nice crunch to the tender fava beans, the soft cabbage and the toothsome bite of the pasta. I probably will not make this combination again because even The Nudge, when asked, declined a lunch container, but I do see many more slices of crispy prosciutto garnish in my future. Can't you just see it on eggs, a quiche, even a hot dog, and maybe sometime in the future, and I urge you to join me, on a bowl of Pasta Carbonara.

June 5, 2014

Corn, Bacon, Caramelized Onion, Glazed Figs, Blue Cheese & Mozzarella Flatbread Pizzas

Sounds like a mouthful, huh? It was...literally. OMG these were so good I was sorry I did not make extras but The Nudge was in meetings all week and did not need lunch.

I have seen flat breads topped with fresh figs & blue cheese, some with caramelized onions, but none of those with corn and bacon. So where did I get the inspiration for the toppings? Grab a seat.

I have to admit I found a reality show I could get into. Not sure if it qualifies as a true reality show but it is a series of shows that chronicles a NYC chef with her leaving the NY scene to raise a family & open a restaurant with her husband in rural North Carolina. I think I watched the first episode because North Carolina is where we are heading in a few years. I wanted to see how rural, rural really is. What I did find out was, I think we are retiring at a good foodie time. Large cities are so overgrown with restaurants the pressure to make it is tremendous and the average restaurant that opens is gone in three years.

If I was an up and rising star chef with no where to go, I would move to the "lite" Southern ones (on the fringe, not in the deep). The ones where the Yuppies (Young Urban Professionals) are retiring to in droves. They appreciate good International flavors and creativity in the kitchen, I know we do.

What I like the most about this show, is the fact that the chef takes traditional Southern foods that she grew up on (like a tomato sandwich), twists them just enough to be familiar but in a way that ups the game a few wonderful notches.

The inspiration for my flavor combination is something she serves in her restaurant.
  "Grits really are a blank canvas, so don’t shy away from combining a sweet element with this grain. One of our most popular grit creations at the restaurant is a Pimped Grit with stewed figs, caramelized onions, bacon, and blue cheese." - Vivian Howard , A Chef's Life - PBS

How good does that sound. I love grits but The Nudge can take or leave them. I thought I would take those flavors, reinvent them and make a pizza. In amongst the gourmet cheeses, I stumbled on a package of glazed & roasted figs imported by Mt. Vikos, you know, the authentic Greek Feta people. I could have made a nice cheese platter with some goat cheese, nuts and blue's, with maybe a paté but I wanted something more, something completely different, but easy.

Pre-made flat breads can be found in just about every market across the country and the thought of topping them with corn, figs, caramelized onions, bacon, blue cheese and braised rapini, well, just didn't get any better than that. Let's see, we have sweet, salty, bitter, tart, crunchy and creamy.

This is what I did.........

I caramelized one large Vidalia onion. I chopped some pancetta into lardons, added blanched rapini and lots of garlic, some honey, pepper, olive oil and beer to halfway up the food. I covered, lowered the heat and braised that for 45-50 minutes, until the pancetta was melting away, the rapini with sweet and softened and the garlic was roasted to perfection. I sauteed the corn with a balsamic glaze, broke up a wedge of Maytag blue cheese and added that to a grated medium ball of fresh mozzarella. The flat bread will be painted with the fig sauce and then it's just a matter of layering all the goodies.

Top with grated Romano cheese and bake in a 475° oven until the cheese is bubbling and browned. Right before serving, drizzle each with very good olive oil.

It may seem like this pizza has lots going on and you be right, mon... Salty, sweet, spicy crunchy and creamy, it was exactly what I wanted. Serve with a good Rioja or Chianti.

So tell me, what are you having for dinner?

Pimped Up Flat Bread Pizzas
Makes: 3 individual pizzas

* 1 small sweet onion, sliced thin
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 (1/2-9nch) slice pancetta, chopped
* 2 cups blanched broccoli rabe, cut into 1" pieces
* 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
* Splash of beer or wine
* drizzle of honey
* 1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
* 1 medium ball fresh mozzarella, grated (about 3/4 cup)
* 1/2 cup corn
* 1/2 cup glazed figs or fig jam
* 3 10-inch flat breads
* 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

1.  Heat a heavy bottomed stock pot, melt the butter and add the onions. Cover and on low heat, stirring every 20 minutes, cook the onions until they are browned and sweet, about 45-50 minutes. Makes about 1/4 cup.
2. Saute the pancetta in a small saucepan, add the garlic, the blanched broccoli rabe, some honey and about 1/2 cup beer or wine; bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, cover and braise on low for 25 minutes.
3. Spread each flat bread with an equal amount of figs for fig jam.
4. Top the figs with the braised rapini, then the corn, the caramelized onions and blue cheese crumbles.
5. Heat the oven to 475°F. Sprinkle the mozzarella on the breads and top with the grated Romano.
6. Drizzle olive oil right before placing in the oven.
7. Bake for 15 minutes, then broil until the cheeses brown.

One flat bread per person. Top with extra grated Romano cheese before serving and an optional drizzle of good quality extra-virgin olive oil.

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June 2, 2014

Grilled Flank Steak with Smoked Corn, Greens and Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette

I recently won an Internet giveaway for a new cookbook (TY Zester Daily), so this summer you will probably see quite a few recipes come to life like this one last week.

It's all about sustainable foods and local produce and I love, love love it. Did I tell you that I love it?
I want to make every dish in this cookbook and that does not happen all that often. So many times I have great expectations about a cookbook and then when I finally get it in the mail, rip open the shipping bag and sit down to devour the guts, after a few pages I often find myself flipping quickly through the remaining ones.

So sad.

But this cookbook (The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook), OMG it's a vegetable, spice and sauce lovers dream. There isn't anything in this book that I do not want to cook, it is that good.

While the ingredients of this salad are fairly easy to source, I like to take liberties and throw in my two cents worth.
Take your own liberties and buy what you love, I get the impression the vinaigrette is the actual featured recipe and the salad ingredients were meant to inspire. This one screams, "pick me and make the dressing, the rest will come together".
Pick a lettuce you love, a fruit you adore, a cheese that will make your mouth smile and a steak that once grilled will slice to perfect pieces of juicy tenderness.

The dressing is to die for. Easy to make and will keep for a few weeks in a bottle in the fridge.

I set up my grill and on a sheet pan, placed a bag of frozen shoe peg corn, a half dozen baby red onions and garlic cloves, two jalapenos (for another recipe) and olive oil, salt & pepper.

I soaked a couple of cups of apple wood chips and once the coals were lit, I tossed the chips on the fire, the sheet pan on the opposite side of the coals, shut the lid and smoked everything for 45 minutes at 325°.
The only thing I needed to do was to assemble the salad because yesterday, I roasted the shallots and made the dressing. This composed salad will show up in many different forms throughout the summer. Maybe with shrimp or pork tenderloin and surely with sliced chicken breasts. 

The best part was the smoked corn. I can't wait to smoke all sorts of vegetables as they come into season.
I might even smoke a few fruits on that grill.

Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette
makes about 1/2 cup
* 1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
* 3 shallots, thinly sliced into rings
* 2 teaspoons sugar
* 1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
* 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
* Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, reduce the heat, and simmer until they are evenly golden brown.
Allow the shallots to cool slightly, then put them in a blender or food processor with sugar, mustard and vinegar. Blend until smooth. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the vinaigrette has emulsified. Add the thyme and season with slat and pepper.

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