Wish Upon A Dish: March 2017

March 24, 2017

Butternut Squash Cannelloni with a Sage Walnut Sauce ♥ Pasta for Two

Every Fall my local small chain Italian restaurant puts my favorite pasta dinner back on the menu.
What I thought was butternut squash stuffed large tortellini (called tortilacci) actually turned out to be pasta stuffed with a basic cheese mixture who's sauce was butter & spiced roasted cubes of butternut squash. Still very good but in the back of my mind I made a mental note to make homemade squash stuffed pasta.

While checking out my daily Pinterest recommendations, I spotted a pin for Butternut Squash Cannelloni with Walnut Sage Cream Sauce from Martha. I immediately pinned it.
I just had to make this yesterday.

Before I cook a recipe, I checkout the ingredients and then I hit the reviews. If the reviews are not favorable but just nit-picky and I could adjust easily, it goes on my menu & the shopping list.
I usually don't print the recipe until right before I start the cooking process because I learned the hard way when it took me a full week to file less than half.  

Two things I did change. I added Parmesan to the top right before baking and hit the broil for some crunch.
While the Nudge would never pick this in a restaurant, he has become more tolerant of my vegetable main meals. Heck, when he has lunch out, he's been known to order the avocado eggrolls!

This was a thumbs up! Very rich and filling. Would I make it again. Yes, most certainly but the next time I would save a few steps and use the filling for jumbo shells.

Butternut Squash Cannelloni
makes 6 cannelloni

* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 1 to 1/2 pound butternut squash meat, 1" pieces
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon cumin
* 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* 1/2cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
* 2 cups chopped spinach, chard or other greens
* 2 tablespoons EVOO
* 6 sheets no-boil lasagna sheets
* 1 teaspoon dried sage

1. Heat 2 tablespoon butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.
Add onion & squash and saute for 5 minutes, flip over and repeat 2x more.
2. Add 1/2 cup water, a lid and steam for 3 minutes or until squash is soft. Remove the lid and continue simmering until the water is almost gone.
3. Sprinkle spices (up to pepper) over squash and mash mixture. Transfer to a bowl. When cool, stir in ricotta and Parmesan.
4. Add remaining tablespoon butter to a saute pan and cook greens until wilted and liquid has evaporated. Season with salt & pepper. Cool and add to cheese mixture. Refrigerate until ready to use.
5. Heat water to a boil & add a tablespoon of salt. Cook pasta for 6 minutes, drain and lay the pasta on a cookie sheet that has been drizzled with olive oil.
6. To assemble the cannelloni: Lay a pasta sheet on a wooden board. Spoon three tablespoons of cheese mixture down the middle, lengthwise <---------------->. Add 1/6th of the greens mixture over the cheese and fold the top part of the pasta towards you, pat down to adhere and roll again, seam side down.
7. Spoon half the sauce into a 9x13" casserole pan. Lay the rolled cannelloni seam side down, side by side. Spoon remaining sauce over cannelloni and bake immediately in preheated 425° oven or cover and refrigerate.
8. Right before baking, sprinkle additional Parmesan on top (optional).
8. Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly and browned around the edges.
Sage-Walnut Cream Sauce
makes 2 cups

* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 2 tablespoons AP flour
* 1 cup milk
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 1/2 cup white wine
* 1 tablespoon ground sage
* Salt & pepper
* 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
* pinch of nutmeg 

1. Heat the butter in a a large saucepan over medium heat. When bubbling, add flour and whisk until all the lumps are gone. Add milk, cream & wine to butter/flour mixture and simmer on low, whisking continuously until mixture is free of lumps. Add walnuts & nutmeg to sauce and salt & pepper to taste.

March 22, 2017

Pantry Pickin' Chicken Shawarma ♥ #RecipeReDux March Challenge

If you are a food blogger, you will most certainly have one recipe (or 20) in your blog post section that has been delegated to the draft pile.

Without even counting and at the top of my head, I can honestly say my drafts are well over 100.
So, once a year I go back in and clean them out, that is, except the few that I still want to blog about but just never get the chance too.

Meet one from 2011.

I have been trying to make shawarma for years. Why now?
A few reasons, one being I have an abundance of pita in my freezer, the other is the acceptance of The Nudge to try new ethnic cuisines that I have always wanted to explore but wouldn't dare put on our menu.

This month's theme was picked with me in mind. We are challenged to cook with three ingredients already in our fridge & pantry.
Besides the chicken thighs, everything in this recipe came right out of my pantry.

If you open my pantry door you would swear that I snapped a pic of my store's spice racks and recreated them in the over-the-door storage rack that leads to my pantry.
I am not kidding.
What better way to take a trip around the world from your diner table?

Last week I printed out well known spice mixtures from around the world and made a whole bunch. You have to figure that there will be no more excuses for all those drafts.

Ras el Hanout

With all those pre-mixed spice blends, the one I did not make was, yea, you got it.....shawarma.
I can now add it to my list.

What I love about this recipe is the ease and quickness.
When I cook chicken, I always try to leave the bone in and remove the skin myself.
Takes me all of 2 minutes but remember we are a family of two and four thighs are easy work.
If I needed 10-12 thighs I would buy them already prepared.

First thing before I start my day, is to marinade or spice that nights dinner. If I was working I would do it the night before. If this was a liquid marinade I would minus the pan and just put everything into the bag but if I have the room, and it is a dry rub, I prefer to leave the meat flat and side by side.

Then I bag it, suck out as much air as I can and pop it into the bottom drawer.  

By laying them flat and not touching, the spice mixture stays in place and evenly flavors the meat.

While I prepare the salad garnish, I heat the grill and remove the pan.
Never cook meat straight out of the cold. It will seize and never relax. I got into the habit of taking the food out of the fridge as soon as I walked into the kitchen.

The vegetable salsa is as simple as this dish is. Chopped tomatoes, lettuce, red onions and a yogurt sauce. I would place a bottle of your favorite hot sauce (sriracha here) for those who like a kick.

Chicken Shawarma
makes 4 pitas

Spice blend (exactly enough for four thighs but an be easily doubled):
2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
1/2 lemon slice, wedged
1 tablespoon olive oil (recommend light)
1/4 cup apple juice

Yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon tahini
1/4 teaspoon mint
1/4 teaspoon dill
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon honey
Squeeze lemon juice
Salt & pepper

4 pitas, wrapped and warm from the oven
Julienned lettuce
Chopped tomatoes
Sliced red onion
Hot sauce
Yogurt sauce
Guacamole (optional)

1. On a grill or in a cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the thighs for 5 minutes on each side.
2. Add the apple juice, cover the skillet, lower the heat and steam the chicken until the apple juice thickens.
3. Remove the skillet from the heat and cool. Using 2 forks, shred the chicken from the bones.
4. Pour any juices over the chicken and serve.


March 19, 2017

Secret Surprise Chocolate Bundt Cake ♥ Baking for Two

I suppose telling you I subscribe to Smitten Kitchen would be tantamount to confessing that I love food.
No surprise there. Actually she was the first blog to introduce me to blogging, way back in 2009.

I recently saw a mention on her blog about this famous chocolate cake made with a secret ingredient (mayonnaise) about the same time as I was just about to open my Cooking for Two cookbook to see if they had a pixie-sized decadent chocolate cake.

Yes, mayonnaise. Don't knock it. I grew up on that cake, it was superior! I had completely forgot about it.
Thanks Deb!!!

I decided to try to marry the mayonnaise part with the ingredient list of the Cooking for Two chocolate cake recipe.
I have to say the first try was pretty darn good, and it disappeared in two days.
I knew I heard a leprechaun, I think his name was Dave!

I love when something comes together quickly since I confess I waited until the last minute.
I wanted to flavor it all with Irish Mist and I wanted it in time for a St.Patty's Day treat.

This recipe makes enough for two small layer cakes or one small 6" bundt. You can get a really nice frosting here that you might want to halve.

If you decide to make the bundt style, you will want a pan that serves 4 (Nordic makes a nice 6 cup sturdy one). I happened to luck out with a clearance sale on an aluminum one but I know you can get one made of silicon. 

Irish Mist Chocolate Bundt Cake 
4 servings

Preheat oven to 350°.

* 1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
* 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 teaspoon instant espresso pr instant coffee powder
* 1/2 cup Irish Mist (or water), boiling
* 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar or low sugar baking blend equal to 1/2 cup (mine is 1/4 cup)
* 1 large egg, room temperature
* 1/2 cup mayonnaise

Whipped cream, whipped topping or powdered sugar glaze flavored with Irish Mist.

Prepare the pan with release spray. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 25 minutes for two round cake pans or 30 minutes for a bundt pan.

March 12, 2017

Margherita Frittata ♥ #Sponsored Toufayan Recipe ReDux Challenge

"I received free samples of Toufayan Pita mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Toufayan Bakeries and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time."

I did not grow up eating pita. Growing up there was no pita bread. My Mom was a nutritionist and growing up there was the usual oatmeal or eggs for breakfast, prepared sandwiches to take to school and a well balanced meal for dinner. The one thing that was always on the dinner table was an Italian salad.
Every dinner, every night.

What does a salad have to do with pita bread?
My first exposure to pita was on the job. When you live paycheck to paycheck, you bring your lunch from home but when you can't you buy the only thing you can afford, a basic ice burg/tomato/cucumber salad. Back then that salad came with a free packet of salad dressing and a piece of bread.
One day I spotted a pita in with the breads and before they could realized the mistake, made my salad and stuffed it into the pita. It was an instant hit. Filling, big enough for a substantial amount of salad, light and most of all, affordable.

I think I ate that lunch for the next 4 years.

When this challenge was presented to the Recipe ReDuxers, I loved the idea of creating another healthy dish using pita but a pita recipe for today's advanced palate.

Toufayan Bakeries is a family-owned bakery and get this, they are right here in my home state of New Jersey!
I love that.
They offer a full range of flavored cholesterol free and trans fat free pita breads and chips, bagels, croissants, wraps, flat breads and rolls.

Nowadays, meals often have to be portable, eaten on the go whether at work or at school.
Of course they should be nutritious, affordable and satisfying but updated to fit with the adventurous palates of today.

Tough assignment so I decided to stick close to what I know and am comfortable with, so that means something of Italian origin.
I would make a one dish wonder....a frittata.
Frittata's are quick and easy. All you really need to know is how to beat an egg.

While I could have used the pita as a container for the eggs, I wanted a dish that would fit right at home on a holiday brunch table.

Baked eggs = frittata.
Baked eggs with bread = strata.

Tomatoes, ricotta, herbs = in the Margherita style

From start to finish, 30 minutes. While I used my 8" cast iron skillet (made for two), the recipe was created to serve 4 using a 10" skillet, cast iron or non-stick as long the non-stick is acceptable up to 450°.  Can be successfully doubled to serve 8.

If you are serving a crowd, it can be assembled in a casserole, ahead of time, covered and refrigerated the night before. It should be brought to room temperature then baked for 30 minutes before serving.
Portion off for lunches, microwave 1 1/2 -2 minutes.

Margherita Frittata
makes 4 servings

* 2 tablespoon olive oil
* 6 cloves of garlic, minced
* 1 pita bread (I recommend the sweet onion), cut into 1/2" cubes
* 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
* 2 teaspoons Italian seasonings
* 6 eggs, beaten
* 1/3 cup Greek-style plain yogurt
* 1/3 cup rated Parmesan cheese
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
* 2 teaspoons prepared basil pesto
* 1 tablespoon shopped fresh parsley
* 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, chopped

* 1/3 cup ricotta cheese

Preheat the oven to 450°.

1. In an ovenproof 10" non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until you can smell it. Do not brown.
2. While the garlic is cooking, mix the Italian seasonings, the ketchup and the cubed pita in a large bowl. Pour onto a baking pan and toast for 5 minutes. Remove to cool.
3. In the same bowl as you mixed the pita cubes, whisk the eggs with the yogurt until there are no white specks. To the eggs, add the Parmesan cheese, salt, black pepper, pesto, parsley and the tarragon.
4. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet with the garlic and sprinkle the toasted pita evenly over the eggs. Cook on the stove for 2 minutes, or until you see the edges start to set.
5. Remove the skillet from the heat and using a spoon, place six dollops of ricotta evenly spaced and not touching into the egg mixture. Place the skillet into the oven and bake for 12-14 minutes. The eggs should shimmy slightly but not firm. It will continue to cook off heat.
6. Portion and serve.