Friday, April 9, 2010

Food Revolution: Salmon with Chickpea Ragu

A couple weeks ago my husband and I tuned in for the premiere of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. A show about food and nutrition? Of course I was interested! The images of five and six-year-old’s being served pizza for breakfast hasn’t left my mind. I’ll admit to enjoying a slice of leftover pizza occasionally on a Saturday morning, however I never follow it up with a lunch comprised of mystery meat, French fries, and flavored milk. I admire Mr. Oliver’s passion to change this community and am hopeful that we’ll see some results.

If you haven’t seen an episode yet, I’d encourage you to check it out. The show may raise your eyebrows about what children are being served to eat in the public school system, and what kind of food is being consumed at dinner tables across America.

On that note, I’d like to share with you a new salmon recipe I tried a few weeks ago. This is a healthy recipe that combines your protein and veggies in a one-plate presentation. We really enjoyed it, and it is definitely a dinner you can feel good about eating!

I'd like to send a huge congratulations to my friend, Sunny, who, at 38.5 weeks, delivered two healthy, beautiful baby boys on Wednesday!

Salmon with Chickpea Ragu
(From Ellie Krieger’s So Easy)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 large zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 (15.5 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup basil leaves, sliced into ribbons, plus more for garnish
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
(Kate added a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes)
4 (6 oz.) skinless salmon fillets

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the onion, and cook until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the carrot, zucchini, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the carrots are firm-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stirring to incorporate completely. Add the chicken broth and chickpeas and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, until the liquid thickens slightly, 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the heat, and add 1 cup of the basil and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper (and crushed red pepper flakes, if using), and stir to incorporate. Cover to keep warm while you cook the salmon.

Preheat the broiler. Season the salmon with the remaining ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Broil the salmon for 8 to 10 minutes per inch thickness, turning once.

To serve, spoon 1 ½ cups of the chickpea ragu into a shallow bowl or rimmed plate. Top with a fillet of salmon and garnish with the ribbons of basil.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

No Foolin’ Here: Mushroom Risotto with Peas

While it’s April Fools Day, today was anything but foolish. We have temps in the high 70’s, bright sunny skies, and a sunset that just filled the sky with majestic pinks and purples. I love food, and I also love to be outside. Not the get down in the dirt kind of outside, but the sipping a glass of white wine while eating a Salmon Caesar Salad kind of outside. My husband and I dined alfresco this evening and even stopped at his favorite ice cream shop for a cone on their opening day. Today is also my dear friend “J”’s birthday, and I would like to wish her a fabulous day and a happy year ahead!

Yesterday was just as exciting when my new Giada cookbook came in the mail! My husband ordered Giada at Home off Amazon for me on Sunday evening. After paying the price for regular shipping, the cookbook made it to our house by the time I returned home from work yesterday! I flipped through it late last night and am already overwhelmed with which recipe to try first! In honor of her new book’s release this week, I’d like to provide you with one of my favorite recipes of hers. (Yes, I know, all of her recipes are my favorites!)

This risotto is from her first book, Everyday Italian. It is a deliciously hearty vegetarian risotto. The recipe makes a lot and can work as an accompaniment or an entrée. Risotto needs some TLC, so make sure you take your time when adding broth and stirring. You’ll be very satisfied with the end result! Your risotto will likely turn out darker than the one in the pictures. The porcini mushrooms I used were lighter than I’ve seen before, but my risotto usually turns out a medium-brown color. Enjoy!

Mushroom Risotto with Peas
(From Everyday Italian)
8 cups canned low-salt chicken broth (Kate uses vegetable broth)
½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
10 ounces white mushrooms, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ cups Arborio rice or short-grain white rice
2/3 cup white wine
¾ cup frozen peas, thawed
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, optional

Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the porcini mushrooms. Set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.

Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the white mushrooms and garlic. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the porcini mushrooms to a cutting board. Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the saucepan. Saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes. Add the wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 28 minutes (the rice will absorb 6 to 8 cups of broth). Stir in the peas. Mix in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A New Chef in the Kitchen: Sausage Stuffed Jalapeños

My brother-in-law has been in my life for over half of it. He and my sister have been together for that long, and thinking about that statistic is wonderful, but it also reminds me of how old I am! He’s never been one to join in on the cooking marathons my mom, sister, and I have together, although he’s dabbled in some adventurous cooking, like brewing his own beer and making bacon.

When we gathered last weekend for my mom’s birthday, he showed up with his own contribution to our spread. He made stuffed jalapeños for the first time. While I couldn’t try them myself, the entire batch was devoured by three adults before dinner was ready. He didn’t have any parmesan cheese, and substituted with cheddar (his favorite cheese) instead. I think that I could try making these myself by substituting some sautéed veggies for the sausage. I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next time!

I would like to give a shout out to my friend, Sunny. She and her twins have made it to 37 weeks - full term - with the past couple months spent on bed rest. She is a total rock star, and her mom is an angel for flying across the country to spend the past couple months with her, looking after her 2-year-old son.

Sausage Stuffed Jalapeños
(From AllRecipes)
1 pound ground pork sausage
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (Kate's brother-in-law used cheddar cheese)
1 pound large fresh jalapeño peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 (8 ounce) bottle Ranch dressing (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Place sausage in a skillet over medium heat, and cook until evenly brown. Drain grease.
In a bowl, mix the sausage, cream cheese, and Parmesan cheese. Spoon about 1 tablespoon sausage mixture into each jalapeño half. Arrange stuffed halves in baking dishes.

Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until bubbly and lightly browned. Serve with Ranch dressing, if desired.

Monday, March 22, 2010

B's Birthday: Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

It seems to be a big birthday time! We celebrated my mom’s birthday over the weekend, my maternal grandmother’s birthday is this week, my friend Sunny’s son just had his second birthday and she is anticipating the birth of her twins. By the way, I ‘d like to give a huge round of applause to her for handling bedrest like a champion and making it to 36 weeks!

Last week was my colleague, “B”’s birthday. She and I began working together in September and became fast friends. It’s been a rough time at work for both of us, and to complicate things further she is now hobbling around on crutches with a broken leg! She was in definite need of a chocolately birthday treat!

I made Chocolate-Chip Pound Cake to bring in to work on her special day. This pound cake comes together easily, and gives you chocolate cake that is filled with chocolate chips and topped with chocolate sauce. A chocolate trifecta! You can dip the bread in the chocolate sauce, but I like to pour it over the top and allow it to harden for a few minutes in the refrigerator. Oh, and this makes two cakes! Eat one and put one in the freezer, because it freezes really well!

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake
(From Giada's Kitchen)
5 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup water
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
2 ¼ cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

For Homemade Chocolate Sauce:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9x5-inch loaf pans.

In a small saucepan, combine the unsweetened chocolate and 1 cup water. Place over medium-low heat and stir constantly until the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool for 2 minutes, then whisk in the mascarpone until the mixture is smooth.

Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl for 30 seconds. Stir in the chocolate-mascarpone mixture. Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of each loaf comes out with no crumbs attached. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. (If you plan to freeze the cakes, wrap them well in aluminum foil once they are completely cool.)

To make the sauce:
Place the chocolate chips in a small heat-proof bowl. Combine the heavy cream and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until small bubbles appear at the edges of the pan. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate chips. Stir with a fork until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Drizzle the chocolate sauce over the pound cakes and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes to set the chocolate sauce. Return to room temperature before serving.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom: Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

We celebrated my mom’s birthday this weekend with a family dinner at our house. My sister, our mom, and I divided up cooking responsibilities, and we all contributed a few dishes that resulted in a Sunday evening feast. We even had three desserts! My mom blew out her birthday candles with the help of my nephew and niece, and then we enjoyed some carrot cupcakes (courtesy of the birthday girl herself), and a few other treats! It was an enjoyable evening spent with a wonderful family and good food! Happy Birthday, Mom!

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
(Recipe by Ellie Krieger)
¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup canola oil
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup natural applesauce
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups finely shredded carrots (about 2 medium carrots)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
4 ounces 1/3-fat cream cheese
¾ cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Sift together the first 6 ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, brown sugar and eggs until well combined. Whisk in the applesauce, vanilla and carrots. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in ¼ cup of the chopped walnuts.

Divide the batter between the muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

With an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and lemon zest until smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts. The cupcakes should be stored in the refrigerator.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Supper Salad: Roasted Sweet Potato and Orange Salad

This salad combines so many flavors that I love, and includes ingredients that provide a lot of nutrients. The recipe makes a lot, too! My husband and I have been eating this one all week. (I have all of the pieces refrigerated separately and toss together individual servings for us each night.)

If you're looking for a filling, yet light, entrée salad, this one will do the trick (perfect for a warm summer night!). I roasted the onions along with the sweet potatoes, and recommend doing the same if you can't handle a lot of raw onions. Roasting brings out the sweetness of the onions and also flavors them with rosemary and garlic.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Orange Salad
(From Cooking Light, December, 2005)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled and crushed
1 1/2 pounds peeled sweet potato, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
3 cups orange sections (about 6 oranges)
1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 (6-ounce) bag prewashed baby spinach

3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

Preheat oven to 400°F.

To prepare salad, combine first 4 ingredients (Kate also roasted the onions), tossing well. Place potato mixture on a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400°F for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven; cool. Discard garlic. Combine potato mixture, orange sections, onion, pine nuts, and spinach in a large bowl.

To prepare dressing, combine orange juice and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle dressing over salad; toss gently to coat.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sister's Pork: “7-6-5” Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Chili Glaze

It has warmed up a lot here over the past few days. The sun has been shining, we're not wearing gloves and hats, and the snow has melted off our grill. So we fired it up on Sunday and grilled the pork tenderloins my sister makes that my husband loves so much.

This recipe takes a bit of preparation, as you let the pork brine for 45 minutes. That gives you time to make the chili glaze, and put the rest of your dinner together. He really enjoyed this. You can serve it with a fruit salsa, but he enjoyed it with just a little more glaze drizzled on the top. Here's to hoping that we're able to keep grilling outdoors until next winter!

“7-6-5” Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Chili Glaze
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 pork tenderloins (about 2 pounds total)
1 recipe Sweet Chili Glaze (recipe follows)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Brine the tenderloins: In a medium bowl, mix salt and sugar with 1 quart cool water until dissolved. Trim the tenderloins of excess fat and silverskin and submerge them in the brine; let stand about 45 minutes. Remove the pork from the brine, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry.

Grill the tenderloins: Rub the brined tenderloins all over with the glaze and then season with the pepper. Or, season to taste with another flavoring of your choice. Heat a gas grill, turning all the burners to high until the grill is fully heated, 10 to 15 minutes.

Put the pork on the hot grill grate. Close the lid and grill for 7 minutes. Turn the pork over, close the lid, and grill for another 6 minutes. Turn off the heat (keep the lid closed) and continue to cook the pork for another 5 minutes. At this point, an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the thickest end of the tenderloin should read 145° to 150°F. (If not, close the lid and let the pork continue to roast in the residual grill heat.) Remove the pork from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes before carving. Cut across the grain into 1/2-inch slices and serve immediately, (with a fruit salsa or sauce of your choice, if desired).

Sweet Chili Glaze
2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup frozen pineapple juice concentrate, thawed

In a small saucepan, heat the oil, chili powder, and cumin over medium heat. When the mixture starts to sizzle and the spices are fragrant, add the concentrate. Simmer until the mixture reduces to about 2 Tbs. Set aside to cool slightly.